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Dec. 21st, 2010

Colombian mountains

Santa’s Cynical Solution to Gift Delivery

Every Christmas I hear, usually from some Math crazed nerd, about the physical properties Santa’s sled and his tugging reindeer should have in order to drop billions of tonnes of presents around the world. The latest one I heard was that Santa’s sled would have to go so fast, Rudolf and company would disintegrate into the building blocks of existence. Well, I am here to give you another perspective on how Santa may solve the issue of spreading Christmas consumerist cheer to millions upon millions of expectant humans. He uses the magic of policies and regulations.

First, let’s think about how many people Santa has to visit, not how many he should visit. Christmas, being a Christian holiday, immediately drops the number from 6.5 billion people to 2.2 billion. So, even if little Amir behaved well throughout the year, obeying his parents, praying five times a day and doing his shores, Santa will not drop by his house in Lebanon and consume his baklava and goat milk.

2.2 billion Christians is still a staggering number. Rudolf may still need to work out the theory of relativity before leading his compadres on their holiday mission. However, being Christian doesn’t automatically put you on the list, it merely gives you the right to grab a number and wait for your turn.

For one, you have to be the right type of Christian. Jehovah Witnesses – Michael Jackson when he was alive notwithstanding – do not celebrate Christmas, so Santa doesn’t have to go to them. The Big Jolly guy can scratch 7.2 million names. Furthermore, if you adhere to the Orthodox Church, your present is delayed due to a technical discrepancy hundreds of years old. Minus 300 million, and counting.

Santa, however, is also able to outsource his work and pay private contractors to do the job. For one, in many Latin American countries Santa is never expected to bring gifts. In Colombia, Baby Jesus does the heavy lifting, so that’s 40 million souls off of Santa’s list. Then take Mexico and Venezuela, for example, where, Santa not only contracts out to the three Magi, he prorogues the delivery to January 6th. There goes another 137 million.

Whether,baby Jesus or the three Magi stick to regulation and deliver presents to those who deserve, or even if all funds are spent responsibly, are out of Santa’s hands. He contracted them and passed on responsibility. He is lucky the Auditor General Sheila Fraser won’t come after him; even she expects a present.

Santa also has to be concerned about safety otherwise he may have to pay for WCB and other insurance expenses that would make his job a total misery if not impossible. All Christmas gift production and delivery personnel must strictly abide by the safety code which seeks to keep all staff safe from bodily or mental injury. This eliminates war zones, health risks, places struck by natural disasters, and areas deemed too dangerous due to high criminal activity.

Taking the Christian populations of the biggest war zones, Congo, Sudan and Iraq, plus those of the biggest risk of going to war – South Korea and India to pick just two – Santa can ignore 98 million people. China, though in peace, has suffered a combination of civil unrest, natural disasters and draconian policies that disqualify its Christian population – dock 53 million off. Add the top 5 most dangerous cities (Ciudad Juarez, Caracas and Mogadishu have already been eliminated based on other criteria)and you can subtract another 3.4 million. And that is not counting places like Rio de Janeiro. Finally add health and natural hazards of the year – Haiti, Chile, and Iceland – and voila, Santa has to worry about 25 million less.

Wow, with a few simple rules and convenient private contractors, Santa has reduced his load from 6.5 billion to 1.536 billion. The number still needs to drop even further if he is to accomplish his goal. So, he goes to the naughty or nice list.

Let’s start with the obviously naughty: the prison population. These unfortunate souls are undeniably naughty, or are at risk of being forced to do the naughty. In the US alone, that means 2 million souls that go without presents this year. If we take the prison populations from countries that are predominantly Christian (non-Orthodox) from the Americas and Europe alone, that means 3 086 612, are ineligible for a gift. All lumps of coal are either delivered via Fed Ex or are strictly metaphorical.

Then are the accused of committing a crime. This number is terribly hard to obtain with my limited resources, but, to give you a small idea, in Canada 2 million crimes are reported each year. So Santa cannot put them on the list at all until their situation’s sorted out. So all suspects whose name’s been cleared have to fill out the Delayed Christmas Cheer Classification Form and attach all necessary documents.

Being a Christian, Santa will likely use religious dogma to decide who gets a lump of coal and who will enjoy a brand new iPhone 4G. Now, this gets dicey because official statistics on sin are unreliable at best, which means I cannot get you an exact number. All I know is that it must be huge.

Santa could be really strict and eliminate countries based on their laws, thus disqualifying jurisdictions that approve abortion or homosexuality – in other words most of Christendom. He could also disqualify people based on the Ten Commandments or on the milliard of contradictory rules hidden in volumes of religious rules. Clearly, this is in Santa’s best interest, for he has presents to deliver and the laws of physics are the only ones he cannot break – flying reindeer notwithstanding. How he decides is beyond me, but surely he has found a way to eliminate a long list of names from the Nice List based on morality alone. After all, as Mathew Good says, if heaven is for clean people, it is vacant.

If Santa and his yearly mission were real, I would bet my soul that he is more likely to use a library full of policies and regulations to keep his number of target houses to a bare minimum. The way he would choose his targets would have to follow very cynical yet real aspects of life on Earth.

Lucky for us who celebrate Christmas, the fat guy with questionable fashion is as real as Zeus on Mount Olympus. Those who believe in him still, are able to enjoy the dream without worrying about the logistical aspects of the operation. For the rest of us, the cheer and love – along with the gifts – comes from pure human effort, and the intangible yet very present feeling of love among family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all! And I really mean ALL, Christians and non-Christians alike, for what I wish you is the happiness this holiday symbolizes, not the rest of the baggage.

Enjoy the holidays.

César Agudelo


Oct. 4th, 2010

Colombian mountains


So I’ve been thinking lately, why am I so blue? I have noticed it for a while and it baffles me. I still have a great life; I even have new, albeit material, additions to this life (car for example). Somehow, though, I feel less compelled to do anything, as if the energy that usually drives me has suddenly left me.

I started writing, but it drifted off again. I have a new and challenging job, but I am not as much into it as I wish I was. I have a new hobby, my harmonica, and it seems to keep my mind off of things when I actually play it. I am going to the gym, but this weekend I was discouraged. I have a renewed – I guess recycled – goal, which is, I want to go to Law School. My family still loves me, my friends are still there and I have my health. So what is missing?

I feel very peaceful sometimes and unexpectedly. Earlier today I heard the crows caw and I looked outside. From the angle I was, the basement, I could only see the tree in our backyard and a light grey sky in a quintessential autumn evening. That felt peaceful. I snapped out of it quick, though and sank into my books, the only thing that distracts me lately. The only thing I can count on to keep me happy and in the moment.

Even when I read, though, my thoughts drift and I feel sad. I have been paying more attention to my thoughts and realized many of them have to do with me being lonely and how I constantly fail to make deep connections with a significant other. I am scared of making them, actually. There are many reasons why, and some of them have to do with what I see in other people’s relations. The pain, the irrationality, the soul stealing, the lack of confidence, the lack of real love. Ultimately, though all these are true, it boils down to the simple fact that I don’t know how to start, build or otherwise maintain a relation.

When it comes to starting the relationship I am simply terrified of rejection. I usually play it cool or aloof until the person I am interested in asks me out or the opportunity is lost. Its always been that way and I hate that about myself because it is simply cowardly. I am scared of being rejected simply because I fear what others may think and the reasons why I was rejected. Am I not good enough? Luckily I have learned to deal with those kinds of feelings fast, rejecting them as mere fantasies that ought to go away pretty soon. I regain my usual self-confidence and off I go into the world as if nothing had happened.

When it comes to building the relationship I always start with the right foot. I am caring, because I genuinely care. I am playful and attentive. I am full of good qualities, yet pretty soon they stop. Pretty soon I begin to lose that confidence. It always begins with me being unsure of why I don’t feel the same anymore. Rationally and based on some of the usual commentaries about relationships, I would think that the original feeling of infatuation has worn off and that this is the time to build the real thing. However, amidst the confusion and questioning I have one recurring theme at the back of my head: you are bisexual and you need to tell this person.

My sexuality is something I have kept hidden for a very long time, too long in fact. That secrecy has atrophied some of my relationships, or at least it has contributed. As I write this, I feel it is not entirely accurate to blame it on my hidden sexuality, but it affects me because I have a secret and the person (so far only girls) may not accept me for who I am.

I recently came out to my closest friends. Family and most other friends have yet to know. The reason for not telling them is material for another blog entry. However, I find that since I came out, I am unsure of how to start a relationship. If it is with a girl, I have to gauge her acceptance on LGBT matters and her open mindedness. When it comes to guys I have to consider coming out completely, which, truth be told, is something that is not far in the future.

So there is the problem of The Secret, if you will, that detracts from my ability to form relationships. I also have high standards, although I don’t think that is truly a problem. I do ask for a lot, though: pretty/handsome, intelligent, conversational, adventurous, caring and confident. Not too long ago, I found someone like that, a former colleague of mine and a woman who fit every single characteristic. I was head over heels for her. It was one of those rare occasions when I had a big crush and the feelings were more powerful than my self-doubts. She rejected me, albeit nicely and we still talk. But rejection is rejection, and for me that has always been hard to swallow.

Her rejection gave me an opportunity to really analyze myself in a situation like this one. The last time I fell for someone this hard was at the university, a girl from my Amnesty International class and a Muslim. Guess the underlying reason why I got rejected! Interestingly, I have had a couple of girlfriends since, both great and who fit all the requirements, but somehow I never felt so strongly about them. Weird. I really can’t explain it.

Anyway, back to my analysis. So I paid attention at how I handled the rejection. I noticed right away I was not her type. Handsome though I may be when I shave and I beat my hair into submission, I wasn’t fit. Also, I was not financially successful, although I am clearly on the way to a great career. I also wasn’t the manly type, not that I am effeminate, but I don’t play a lot of sports and I shy away from too much testosterone. This prevents me from talking and acting like a ‘real tough guy’ who is capable of showing his sensitive side. I am nerdy, geeky, funny and yes I can be sensitive.

I noticed that as soon as I got rejected I was more perceptive of my flaws. I noticed them because I wanted to impress her and to do so I paid attention to the type of guy that she naturally gravitates to. So as soon as I saw her type, I saw my flaws and became insecure. In my head, my flaws seemed bigger. In the mirror I was no longer the good-looking, smart guy I know myself to be, but a wimpy, bisexual, insecure young man. Yes, at that moment I saw my sexuality as a flaw, and let’s face it, in a world that is still trying to come to terms with a fluid sexuality, being bisexual can prove a disadvantage. The point of the story, however, is that it made me realize I am really insecure and that I need to work that out.

When it comes to guys it is a bit different. I think because of the many years I hid in the closet, I find it hard to click with a gay or bisexual man. Interestingly, I can be more self assured when courted a guy. Still, it is hard for me to click. I usually like making friends first and then asking out, I can’t simply pick them up at a bar, and that is true with girls too. That, too is something I have to work out.

I need to work on three things:1) how to come to terms with m sexuality, not just accept it, but not be afraid to tell others, especially prospective partners (particularly females); 2) How to be more confident; 3) Self-confidence around gay people.

Sep. 12th, 2010

Colombian mountains

The Waiting Place

The Waiting Place

I don’t think I’ve stopped staring at it since I found it. I’ve counted seven text messages and three phone calls since. Likely most of them are from my girlfriend. I wish some were from my friends, but I doubt it. Not that it matters; I didn’t pick up the phone, so transfixed was I.

I just never knew it was there. The door in the closet is made of light wood and has a simple knob without any locking system on this side. It is also unlocked, I checked. The knob turned with a rusty, unaccustomed squeal, but it opened. I shut it right back thinking, “what if there are mice on the other side?” Then I wasn’t sure that was a good reason not to open it. Unsure of what to do, I took every precaution in case opening it brought forth something unpleasant. I moved away the boxes of my high school and first year university notebooks that hid the door in the first place. I also moved the wrinkly, old clothes that hung from rusted coat hangers thinking there might be mould or insects behind it that could get on the clothes. Under a thick layer of dust, I also found the guitar I used to play back in grade 10 before I started dating Amy. I thought we had gotten rid of it in a yard sale, so its presence was almost as surprising as the mysterious door.

Finally all the junk inside that cluttered closet came out and now it litters the stained carpet of the guest room. Amy won’t like this I know. “I asked you to paint all the walls and you made a mess,” she will say. She was right. During my clearing the guest room I got distracted by the closet. “If I don’t paint inside the closet Amy will have a fit!” That was the exact reasoning of my looking into the closet in the first place. But as I shifted things around and began moving the junk, I encountered things that lay hidden for some time and I couldn’t help but take a peek at them. For example, I found a high school graduation gift from a friend, Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. “Everyone gets one of these,” said Amy when I told her about how meaningful the book was.

It took a lot of effort to move all that. The sun had risen only a few hours before I began preparing the room to paint it. I got the north wall and the wall by the window done before four o’clock. I went downstairs to the basement to have a cold one, after which I came back to paint the south wall, the one interrupted by the gliding closet doors. By the time I had finished emptying the closet it was five thirty, the sun still far away from setting in this long summer day. I was sweating; all 200 pounds of me were wet. I sat back to take a breather, but to be honest, I wasn’t tired. I could tell Amy that all this effort didn’t make me tired. “Uh huh,” I can hear her say, “good for you!” Then she would put up her thumbs and smile sarcastically. I don’t think I sat back to rest. Maybe I just wanted to look at it long enough to prove it wasn’t some kind of hallucination.

The change of lights did what the texts and phone calls couldn’t: it brought me out of my stupor. I get up and decide it is safe enough to open the door. In the golden rays of sunset the dirty junk yard that has become our guest room, never really used as one except when first we bought the house after I dropped out, looks like a labyrinth I have found the exit for. I take one, two steps, tentatively as Dedalus must have done after narrowly escaping the Minotaur, stiff with disbelieve and exhausted from being afraid. My phone vibrates once more and out of habit I pick it up. “Probably best,” I think, “to put Amy at ease.” “Where the f*** have you been,” I read the text, “I’m coming home. Hope room is done.” The sun has fallen under the horizon and the room, cluttered, dusty and only half painted, has lost its lustre. The door is barely visible in the grey of nightfall.

Sep. 8th, 2010

Colombian mountains

What is Proper at Twenty Five?

What is proper at twenty-five? The train is moving and the cars near me do too. Many things pass us by, some registering in our brains; traffic signals, other motorists, a pedestrian or two, the sign of a store you keep meaning to buy from but leave it for another day, for manana. Other things, we remember and internalize: the car that cuts us off, the light that turned a spiteful red just as you approached, the speed and the odometer, the vehicle`s funny noises.

My radio sings, it communicates with me. I take a left turn with all precautions, opposing traffic still far away, or maybe I take a slight chance, impatient and unwilling to wait. I hear a good singer. Tonelessly but loudly I sing along until I forget the lyrics. I change the station mercilessly as soon as they play an artist I dislike, or the annoying commercial break comes on. I search and press the tune button, only half my attention on the road. Stop signs near, a pedestrian walk, the crossroads of courtesy where lack of morals cause wreckage. I break instinctively, my finger frustratingly searching for the music I like. I act politely, I wait for my turn before pressing on the gas again.

The music is horrifying but I leave it because suddenly and rather shamefully I remember my responsibility. Hands on the wheel, both for a change, constantly checking my rear-view mirror. A motorist shows his displeasure at my speed, at my choice, at my driving skills. He wants out fast. He wants to pass me and be first, so he roars his terrifying roar and dangles his penis close to my bumper. Fear comes in and sits right next to my frustration with the radio. What is proper at twenty-five? I ask. My foot responds to the fear, it presses down even before my frontal lobe finishes its analysis: he wants me to go faster or he won’t get off my ass. The speedometer rises five, ten, fifteen above the speed limit by the time my brain observer shouts an order, stop it! My foot leaves the gas pedal, muscles twitching at the conflict; fear says press, logic says not a chance. I negotiate until logic convinces ego, puts some perspective into it, changes the fear: if you let him bully you, you are a push over. The foot muscles tense in their position, they tense against going above the speed limit. I puff my chest; I stand my ground at 50 an hour.

I turn again, this time seeking a major artery, one that’s fast and will take me places. My phone rings as I make another left and I pick it up despite it sucking away my attention, risking collision. A friend has called me from his home, back, back, back some miles from where I am. He wants me to see him and party with him. The artery has sucked me in, my car fast, my foot loose on the pedal. I could turn where the artery shrinks away into places of play, work and life, and go to where my friend beacons. My blinkers flash, my wheels take me to the right lane where I can easily access the upcoming exit. What are we going to do? I ask. The same as always, he responds. The exit approaching, I debate it. Should I? I want to. Is it proper at twenty-five? I miss the exit. Over the phone I say sorry I can’t to my friend. He says no worries, but he is clearly annoyed. I hope I can go back another day and do the same as always, but only after this, after getting to where I go.

Night begins to fall. Day’s grey blue departure mixes with the suns of my car’s eyes. Ahead of me I see the city having a stroke, all red and white, pressure and loud. The artery was a bad choice. I lower the speed and resign myself to the traffic jam. The radio station has changed again, something informational comes on. The frustration built up earlier goes. I become serene and oblivious to the congestion around me, the physical entrapment. I’m taken elsewhere, a place beyond the here and now that helps me through the present.

I approach the clot. I know it because the colours change. No longer is it a confusion of grey-blue silhouettes against the reds of brake lights or the white of headlights. Flashing before all of us in deceptively joyful blue, white and red, first responders pick up the pieces of tragedy. Being furthest to the right I am treated to the spectacle. A van with a family missed the exit. Fire trucks block the view and in the distance an ambulance flies, parting traffic like Moses parted the sea. Another one begins to leave the scene, lights quiet and the cabin dark. I swear never to have a family, never to risk losing it, never to risk losing my self. I think this with my car picking up speed. Is that proper for twenty-five?

I decide the artery is not for me. Careful not to miss the exit, I move into a residential area. All the houses look similar: similar lawns, similar fronts, similar cars, similar windows, similar sizes. They pass by me unnoticed, holding little or no interest. A yellow sign brightens with my approach. It warns me to slowdown to 30 kilometres an hour to protect children playing in the playground. But night has covered the area. I maintain my speed, in fact, I go a little faster. It is all permissible in the darkness once innocence has sought shelter and us creatures of the night come out to find each other, our eyes reflecting what light’s left, the contours of our forms sensitive to the roaming hand, the boundaries of light invisible in this welcoming pit, the embracing jowls of Sheol.

I leave the dark, racy playground unrepentant. The city does too, brightening the sky in an artificial explosion of colourful fear of dying. I begin to enjoy it for its complex nature. Crazy motorists speed by quiet darkening hospices. Loud music for the sleep deprived and escapist pumps through my windows. The sense of fear and joy and expectancy in office buildings alight and empty remind me this part of the city will not sleep, it cannot die. I see the homeless hunkering in corners, cigarette smoke signalling their continued existence the way lights announce presence in a seemingly empty house. I see the youngsters, restless and inquisitive, probing and poking the night, inciting her to give more, to tell more, to show more. I am delighted with the risqué, with the promise and the fear, the escapism, the ultimate fiction.

The center grows distant in my rear view mirror. True night, like the one I encountered at the playground, tinges my windows. I am now a ghost in the city, a traveller on the road. I look back and see it disappear the way details of a dead loved one erase over time. The sky is cut and it bleeds. The earth emits its last moan from the contractions of our collective fear of night and terror of the next day. No one holds our hand, but we give birth to a new day anyway. The blood spreads explosively. We open our eyes and see it dye our life. But soon light changes. The colours change and it is time to brew a cup of java. My foot speeds in the open road. It is free to do so. Other cars are there with me. A van comes close to me. I notice it is the same make of the one that crashed and clogged artery, but of different colour. Another family. I look in my rear view mirror at the empty seats and then at the absent passenger. The family passes me. I continue, hoping to see another city, go through another town where we savagely dance with each other hoping to finish the number, hopefully with a partner. But I don’t bother to see if there is another town. The map stays in my glove box. I speed up. Is that proper at twenty five?

Mar. 8th, 2007

Colombian mountains

The Howling

At night, in the middle of curses and delayed essays, I fear for my life. Focusing on my writing unhinges the rest of my consciousness. I find the dreaded illusion of finishing soon, when the digital numbers change to two in the morning. My milky eyesight stares restlessly at the base of the word processor finding the page number. Weakened muscles curve my spine and dip my head closer to the keyboard. And yet I labour on like the miner fatigued and dizzied by the underground fumes.
When the zombie like rhythm of my work reaches a constant march through the paragraphs, I hear the cry that stops it all. My bones then feel like a tree branch in an ice storm. My foggy eyes regain their diurnal capacity. I check over my shoulder at the window of the studio. I stare at this transparent barrier, so weak it is and susceptible to the outside weather. From the outside this bellow barges through my crystal illusion of a wall.
The cry goes off again, and I recognize it in all its diabolical intensity. Decibels high and thin, penetrating me iron cold. The sound is sad and desperate, the terror of tortured innocence. That is the sound of a dozen babies crying! It is a cry for help loaded with warning, for why would babies cry at night and out side my door? Only some horrendous work could cause such a scene.
Minutes later, after enduring the tearing of my heart and the puncturing of my nerves, I walk toward the door. The screaming is intense, but the innocent need help. Though cold, I do not reach for a blanket, thinking it might become a liability in the event of a fight. In front of the door, hand on the knob, my wild imagination races through the possibilities. How can I confront the psycho engaged in such horrible deeds? What if I too become a victim? I gather the courage to open the door.
The otherwise calm night has a breeze that cleans my sidewalk of the fine coat of snow.. Through me ghostly breath, I recognize the silhouette of Nose Hill park. The shinning clouds covering the moon outline its curvy hills. At the top I find the culprit’s companions. Miniature dunes of snow are disturbed by the footprints of the culprit. I follow the footprints with my eyes. In front of my house I find him. Showing me its side, but turning its head to me, the coyote freezes me with its eyes. He utters his tortured baby howl.

Feb. 24th, 2007

Colombian mountains

Love, With a Taste for Coffee (Part 3)

I inhabit the world of Spirits, that which Plato called the world of Ideas (how flattering of him, such a good sport). Krad, and people like you, populate the world of the Material. For reasons unknown to you and known to me only through lore, our worlds are entangled. You feel us; experience us in feelings and thought. We are consequential to your character, to your social life. Ours is a marriage unusual in nature, just like that of Coffee Maker and Krad.
Mrs. 3000 FA, our darling Coffee Maker, is a creature of both our worlds. She is the first of her kind, but I know what she is. Before Krad promised his love to her, the only tangible, inanimate objects that reached Coffee Maker’s level of spirituality were the story books read to children. Since the invention of print, and particularly since fantasies were put down on books, children have breathed into their stories a life familiar to us spirits. Only when kids bask in the possibility of making a Prince out of a frog or saving a princess with a kiss, does new life exist in Spirit World. It is always a joy when new, temporary sprites roam our world as they spring from a child’s head. They are lively like squirrels playing catch-the-nut, charming in the way baby mammals tend to be. These children-bred spirits are the animals of our world, and because of them we adore the kids who put their imaginations at full potential. But these sprites’ lives are as short as the lives of birds. To us immortal spirits, their existence is but the swift flight of a chickadee passing from tree to tree.
Imagine then how great it was when we saw Coffee Maker burn with life at the moment Krad promised eternal love. She lighted our world as strongly as she lighted Krad’s eyes. A new, more enduring sprite was born. Her coming to life was what brought Hope back into Cupid’s apartment. Hope’s bright eyes gave a drunken Cupid the smile he longed to have. Indeed, in spite of my wisdom and scepticism, Coffee Maker made me think of joyful new loves ahead.

Feb. 21st, 2007

Colombian mountains

Walking out of "Terabithia"

Movies that stir an uncontrollable stew of emotions in me, are the ones I consider the best. I just came out of the theatre from watching "Bridge to Terabithia", choking up, but most importantly, I walked out of it with my mind racing on all directions.
The plot is simple enough. Jess, the main character, is a farm boy who encounters bullies on his way to and at school. They are everywhere! Obviously, Jess is a taciturn, moody kid from the 6th grade who wishes his way through the day. The environment in his family is not helpful at all. Though his parents a loving and his youngest sister, whom Jess shares a room with, is an adorable child, the household is barely making ends meet. Furthermore, Jess’s dad is too down to earth, too serious and too preoccupied with the reality of life. So he tries to transmit that seriousness onto Jess. For Jess, his only escape is the drawings he makes on a sketch book which are a hint to great artistic talent.
One day, an eccentric daughter of writers comes to Jess’s school and proves her worth. Not only that, she is also Jess’s new neighbour. School is as cruel to Leslie, the girl, as it is to Jess, which quickly binds the two kids into a friendship of overreaching fantasy. Leslie pulls Jess out of the real world, teaching him how to leave his mind wide open. They both begin the construction of a fantasy world only they can access; it becomes their afternoon game. This world of fantasy is for Jess and Leslie their door away from a life neither one enjoys.
Their game is in fact the type of game I used to love playing when I was a kid. Apparently a psychologist once told my mother I had my own little world. She was wrong. I had several.
As a kid I was very much like both Leslie and Jess. I found bullies everywhere, even in my soup. The happiest afternoons for me were when I was engrossed in epic battles or endless travels. Since I have always been a city boy, my 4 meters by 4 meters room was my enchanted place. When I was left to play on my own either at the family cottage, or at a park, these too became worlds of their own. Action figures were my favourite toys for they could embody any persona I chose for them. I would play my life away, enjoying the thrills of near defeat, the warmth of imaginary companions, the cold of foggy forests and the satisfaction of victory. My favourite scenarios were of mountains and valleys, but from time to time I would travel into space. These were simply the joyous lands of my imaginary choosing.
Unlike Jess or Leslie I had no friend with whom I could share these wonders. José Vicente was the only friend I could sometime play with, but our games consisted of re-enacting our favourite movies. Besides he lived far away from me and eventually we parted ways. Mine was a game of solitary.
I mostly played alone for I quickly learned not all kids enjoyed imagination quite as much as I did. I played only if I could avoid being seen while playing. For that reason I never went to the park when my parents said, “César, there are kids out, you should go.” When forced to go down, I would stay for a short time before finding the remotest place where I could enjoy my games. Sometimes a kid a few years younger than me would come.
One day, I asked a new kid to play with me. He was new to the apartment condominium I lived in, which in Bogotá are enclosed and open only to owners. I heard he was a gentle boy with good manners, quite different from the other rascals. I concluded he was someone I could safely ask about joining me in one of my games. He answered, “I don’t play like that. I like soccer and sports. So no, thanks.” Indeed he was better than the others, but his answer hurt.
"Terabithia" brought back to me more than just the memories of my games and bullies. When Jess met Leslie, I recalled the days when I dreamed of finding that one girl who would like me for who I am. I longed to have a friend like her. Interestingly, my desire for such a friend began when I saw "My First Kiss", which in some ways resembles "Terabithia". There would be moments when I would lay on my back imagining the different ways in which I could meet the girl I wished for. In those day dreams it was always a new girl uncorrupted by the other kids; unlike the other girls who stood by or plainly ignored me when I was in junior high. Among my favourite ways in which I would meet this girl was me finding her sitting, crying by the door of one of the classrooms. Her reasons for crying would vary from dream to dream, but what was important is that we both bonded. At other times, it would be she who would rescue me from the pit. We were both each other’s knight in shinning armour, just like Jess and Leslie were in "Terabithia".
"Terabithia" it is an amazing production which changed my life a little bit more. By bringing back those rather sad memories in me, "Terabithia" taught me something I should have known from the beginning. Today I am a happy university student with great ambition. My friends are the best thing that has happened to me. I now have a girlfriend who came when I least expected, but whom I care for nonetheless. My relationship with my parents, who, Like Jess’s dad, used to be overly worried with matters of the material world, is great. I have no complains. But I look back and I see a César looking over the brink at the age of 14. Bullying and the stress it caused managed to pull me away from my imaginary worlds almost permanently (only now am I reviving the flame of my imagination). Luckily, at 14 I made some amazing friends that kept me away from any craziness. However, I now understand what kept me emotionally alive during those years. I have learned that the imagination is a magnificently powerful tool.

Jan. 14th, 2007

Colombian mountains

Love, with a Taste for Coffee (PART 2)

"Of course I was going to attend such a wedding,” answered Cupid to my question, “in my years of providing my valuable service, this has got to be the most outrageous couple I ever got the pleasure to introduce!” He continued explaining, “in fact, it was a matter of chance. It happens every other century or so. I’ve got outstanding aim as you can see from the scar I left on Krad’s heart.” He pointed at the mystical scar we all bare from Cupid’s arrows, and that now lay plainly on Krad’s heart. Cupid and I have the capacity of seeing those wounds doctors and psychologists always miss. But don’t blame them, they work on the empirical realm, we work on the spiritual – all our souls have a heart. Doctors, psychologists and you are still capable of sensing what we openly see. Ever heard someone say that they no longer seek love out of fear they might be hurt again? Those are what Cupid calls, “the chronically heart-scared people, or CHSP for short.”
Cupid went on with his reasoning for attending the Krad and Coffee Machine 3000 FA wedding. “In my trade, I’ve seen everything. Do not, by any means, think I see the world through rose-coloured glasses. I am like a police officer or a paramedic, I see the shit people are,” he said and paused at my puzzled face expression. “Dear friend,” he continued, “I see people for what they are, but I love them nonetheless.” He then cracked at the redundancy of Cupid loving something. I understood the joke immediately. “Krad and Coffee Machine 3000 FA, or Coffee Maker like she likes to be called, are a breath of fresh air for me, and believe me when I say this: I have never considered a mistake of mine a good thing.” He again paused to analyze why I had a confused expression. I did not know what he thought was his mistake. When he caught on, he added, “dear me! Didn’t you know? I got Krad in the heart alright, but I released the arrow a bit too soon. You see, I wanted him to fall in love with the girl at the register, but his eyes fell on Ms. 3000 FA,” he saw I understood and said, “by the way, did you know FA stands for Fast and Aromatic? What a cheap marketing that company had.”
Indeed this wedding was different, but I doubted it would be a breath of fresh air, as Cupid put it. Poor love sprite, that Cupid. His trade has changed; he works for the money and art of his profession. I see the vulgar marks this change has caused in this sprite’s body. His physique went from that of a Michelangelo to that of any average Canadian man. He still had muscle; those arrows take skill and strength, but he had developed somewhat of a gut. The most affected areas where his legs and wing muscles. Ever since he got a car, and especially since he drives a Hummer, he has forgotten how to fly. He no longer takes those fast sprints, speedy as sun-light, that would gather the air he needed to take flight. He no longer beats his wings fast and hard in hopes of striking the right person at the right time.
Oh I remember those days when Cupid arrived a millisecond late, when two people perfect for each other walked by without noticing their compatibility. Those were the days the world went love crazed. Cupid, in his fury at the failed opportunity, would just fly around striking anyone. The world would be so love high it became hilarious to watch, sometimes. I had to intervene to stop him back in the sixties when his arrows were causing more harm than amusement.
I would consider Britney Spears' blitz wedding the culmination of Cupid’s hope for the true use of his love potion. That woman rolled over Cupid’s sensibilities like a tank over the Maginot line. that wedding also made me realize how badly people treated the concept of love. Ironically, I felt they needed it more than ever. Cupid attended that wedding, knowing full-well it meant the clearest picture of how low his trade had gone. I’ve never seen the poor fellow so drunk. He cried like a desperate whore whose baby boy just got lost in another pimp’s territory. My sympathy for him was great. He said to me, “Love’s butterflies have turned into maggots and its diamond-like endurance rots like a bloody corpse in the tropics.” Yes, his once respectable job, the spreading of love, has become the making and collecting of putrefaction.
That day he probably put on a few kilos and developed a prominent beer gut. Cupid was still drunk when the famous couple filed for divorce, and nursing a hangover when the tabloids were printing the ‘news’ for the fourth day on a row. I admire Cupid. In spite of that bitch-slap he received from Mrs. Spears, he has developed a good humor to deal with his problems. I just hope I stop finding bottles of scotch in his apartment.

Dec. 22nd, 2006

Colombian mountains

Love, with a Taste for Coffee

Rainy days have a nack for bringing love to a person. You would think otherwise because it is hard to imagine Cupid flying, with his fluffy white-feathered wings, in the middle of a storm. But somehow he manages to do it. I am of the thought that he left his traditionalist mannerism and finally got a car. Either way, it doesn't matter how Cupid gets around in a stormy day, just that he does.
Krad, an idealist with earthly customs, gives it a logical argument to why rainy days brings love. He thinks Rainy days keeps people inside; that it takes away the need to go outdoors. So those who wish to go to work, don't feel like it, and those who find excuses to leave the house have none. In his mind, rainy days force people to huddle around, collect some thoughts, and observe those close to us. When you are sitting with friends in a café, or alone but with friendly stranger - the clatter of rythmic drops on the windows- then you are vulnerable to love. It is like granulated coffee beans inside a maker with water being poured over it, so that in the heat and steam of the mating, aromatic coffee can come out in the end. His is a logical thought dressed in beautiful idealism. That's Krad for you, an idealist with earthly customs.He strongly believes the soothness of rainy days equates to vulnerability to love (I still think it is Cupid in a Hummer defying Mother Nature).
Krad found himself reviewing his thoughts on rain and love, when Cupid struk in a drive-by shooting. Darn was Cupid good at aiming while moving; that heart-shapped arrow-head struck deep into Krad's heart. His chest was pierced as he turned his head toward the counter next to the lady who was going through a transaction.
When he felt the sting of love at first sight, Krad nearly stains his pants with the caramel mocchatio he was drinking. No woman had ever caused such vibrations in his being. Stopped like paused movie, Krad uttered the words that only rapid heart beats can pronounce truthfully. "Te amo y no puedo vivir sin ti," he said in Spanish, and then, as if he thought that his new found love new only English, he translated and said, "I love you and I cannot live with out you."
Krad's eyes reflect the beauty he contemplated agape with awe. That light that shone from her fair skin formed a protective aura about her; a shield to guard her beauty from the rust of time and use. She exposed only enough of her to make anybody's heart jump. From the angle Krad watched, her curve was smooth and toned like the body one a Michelango Greek goddess. Her mouth, opened like a spout or kiss in slow motion, made Krad kiss the air. She was beauty incarnate.
A very long moment passed before Krad made a move. So long it took that Cupid was already involved in more shootings, generated thus more headlines for the tabloids. But Krad rose to the occation as soon as the numbness of his chest turned into fuel for action. Like a bolt he was up from his chair, managing to stain his pants in the rapid move. He strode to the counter where his love awaited. His plan was a daring one, reserved only for teenagers like Romeo with suicidal instintcs. His pace was as firm as that of a soldier toward the ecstasy of battle.All he wanted to do was to marry that wonderful being.
In what seemed like a nanosecond, Krad reached the counter. He looked at the lady at the cash register and said, "Ma'am, I wish to buy that coffee maker."
And thus began the tragedy of Krad and his dear wife the coffee maker

Oct. 29th, 2006

Colombian mountains

(no subject)

A problematic of otherworldliness
en par with the unreachable
quest for the desirable
envy of the intelligent flesh.
That is he who we chastize
for a problematic of otherworldliness.

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