Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yup, I Might Be a Yuppie

The Midwest has safety permeating its scenery. Creeks meander through farmland, hills rise and fall, and even the mountains hug the ground instead of reaching for the sky, as if they are stooped out of concern for your safety.

The Southwest is all sharp edges and spines. It sometimes takes awhile to fully appreciate the stark, dangerous beauty and the careful delineation of rusted shades, but it's lovely nonetheless.

As far as I'm concerned, Colorado has the best parts of the Southwest and the Midwest. The mountains stretch up to the sky as if they just drove through Kansas and need to chase the numbness from their limbs and minds. The forests of aspens and firs even surpass anything that rural Missouri can display. The boulders sit as if only resting for a moment before rolling down further. Arizona's desert sands look upon the rocks, shake their heads, and mutter, "You won't be so big or so proud when you reach our age." If you equate conservatism with security and family values, well Colorado Springs, with a little poetic license, actually is a "City Upon a Hill." If you prefer the dangers of damnation, Boulder is a liberal bastion.

And I loved every minute in Boulder.

The day before her birthday, Cara and her mother picked me up at the airport. Cara has a unique ability to not only get me to play devil's advocate in an argument (which anyone can do), but then to stick to the side I picked completely out of pride, even when I have no actual desire to continue the argument. In Mongolia, we started to "discuss" which airports are the best in the U.S. after I made a flippant comment about hating DIA. Who talks about stuff like this? Who actually cares? But before I knew it, I had to prove that Lambert-St. Louis was superior to Denver International. This went so far as to result in me researching Blucifer, and before we were in the car, the argument began again.

Thankfully, Cara's mother was a great sport and made sure to point out the hideous statue as we pulled away from the airport and got on the highway headed towards Boulder. Long story short, I finally conceded to Cara that I have no real problem with DIA, and even the giant blue statue reminds me of Joyce Carol Oates' view on art:

"My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment, and one another. Art should provoke, disturb ... expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish."
The 32-foot tall statue that killed its creator certainly does provoke and disturb.

For ten days we only returned to Denver once, before I had to fly back out. On my birthday, Cara gave me tickets to go see a performance of Swan Lake. It was the first ballet I've ever been to and it meant more to me than the tickets or even the ballet itself.

The rest of this post I have typed and re-typed about five times, before realizing that there was no way I could post everything I needed to say. It's personal, and I want to keep parts to myself to treasure. The ballet was a perfect present for reasons that I can't quite capture in words. While in Boulder, Cara thoroughly showed me the city and her sister, Megan, put it best when she warned me against trying to describe the city until I have lived there for a while.

What I can say is what I liked: A Tajiki tea house gifted from Boulder's sister city, Dushanbe, the Shambhala meditation center where a nice lady who knows nothing about hattuks sometimes leads classes, Southern Sun Brewery (their S.O.B. burger is everything I hoped for), and a tiny catholic church near Mary's Lake, about thirty minutes from a gorgeous state park on the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

I've got more to write about the ballet, but if you want to read that, you'll have to check out the article I'm writing. Which reminds me, my last bit of boasting or whatever for today, but while I'm still waiting for the next issue of WorldView, I got a different article published with Role/Reboot. It came out today, and you can chew on it while you wait to see how I compare ballerinas to automobiles.

Enough writing for today, time to give myself a 24-hour congratulatory break,

- John

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Which I Do Not Talk About Colorado, Yet

 The title is a slight tip of the hat to Hilary, who has been great these past couple of weeks with editing.

I have been back from Boulder for a while, but blogging has taken a back seat to real life. Before I talk about Colorado, which was incredible, I have good news which will hopefully excuse the lack of writing here. While in Boulder, I found out that the editor for WorldView was interested by my query letter. I got back and immediately sat down to write about living in a ger. The result was quite different from what I originally intended. Here are some excerpts from the article I originally intended to write:

            Once upon a time, Pre-Service Training was a domestic affair, taking place on campuses and in the woods throughout the United States. Now most, if not all, programs have PST in the host countries, and within host communities. I could not possibly debate the merits for or against either approach, but mention it only to bring up the greatest difference between the two. In either training style, volunteers will ultimately deal with the same issues, from culture shock to necessary lifestyle adjustments, and so forth. (Difference is that one gives you a sneak peak at actual habitation arrangements, leading you to believe you might have an opinion on where you want to live) BAD. New Start:

            To be called a Peace Corps Volunteer or Returned Peace Corps Volunteer is often seen as synonymous with hippy. Some might be indignant at that remark, and rightfully so. When forming Peace Corps, President Kennedy expressly endeavored to create an opportunity for service that was not opposed to military service, not an escape from the Vietnam draft but rather an option alongside the military. In Mongolia, in addition to liberal arts majors like myself teaching English, we have former EMTs working at hospitals and Kiva Fellows working with banks. They are about as far removed from the stereotypical hippy as I can imagine.
The final article looks pretty much nothing like this and should be coming out in the winter issue of WorldView. Pick it up for a couple bucks if you're interested, my article is worth it. It sounds prideful, but then I do take a lot of pride in the amount of work that goes into my writing and the finished product that comes out.

Since then I have been applying to jobs and writing non-stop. The acceptance was simultaneously exalting and horrifying. Afterwards, I realized that a part of me definitely wanted to fail. I love writing, but it's terrifying. I think subconsciously I wanted WorldView to reject me. If they didn't want me writing about Peace Corps service, then no one would, and I would just have to eventually make piece with putting on a suit and working in some job where I would be completely interchangeable with any other cog. Now, I have proof that someone is willing to take my writing and throw it around the country with their masthead on the cover.

So I am running with it. Today I just had an article accepted by the incredibly kind people at Role/Reboot, which I will link to after it gets final edits and put on the calendar. I have two more articles which I am working on and hope to send out by the end of this week.

One of them compares ballerinas with cars, which occurred to me while watching Swan Lake in Denver. Cara took me as part of the best birthday present I have ever gotten. Hopefully, that's interesting enough to make you check back later this week for a quick recap of my time in Colorado.

Seriously, the tutu now makes sense to me,

- John