Remembering the past

You can’t argue with the future. My one friend has these visions of the future that she swears by. At the moment I am not quite sure what to think of one she had involving me, because it doesn’t exactly reflect my vision of what I want, but then again what I want evolves and changes. Some of it, at least. I always say that if I could know the future I wouldn’t want to, because it would take all the fun away. But sometimes I do wish.

Great quote posted on facebook last night: ‎
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” ~Mark Twain (This dude was stupid smart, though. Like for real real.)

The stupid smart bit is not me, but I love it. Sometimes if you make a bed you must lie in it. Sometimes you must stand up for what is right, and what is fair, even if it’s hard. I am trying to get better at these things as I get older. I suppose the best lesson is not to make beds you don’t want to have to lie in later. Be careful how you do what you do, what you say to whom, and who you associate with.

One of my biggest regrets, like many such regrets, is for something I didn’t do. A long time ago, in a place very far away, I didn’t quit on principle even though I should have. That’s sad, actually. If I wouldn’t stand up for a small injustice in my own small way, I wonder what I would do when the stakes were higher? Well maybe that’s where I would man up, or where maturity comes in. Well, I was young, and more scared of the unknown than I am now.

As I mentioned, last week I came into contact again with the dynamic Caitlin Sparks from my Ask Jeeves days. This past weekend, I was visited by Matthew Temple, a dear co-worker from my days at Ask Jeeves International. Those were the days: jetting around the world, getting to work with an amazing team of people, having LA and London as second homes while still living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (San Francisco), and practicing the art of persuasion and office politics at HQ. Oh, and hanging out with computer nerds, beautiful people, angel investors, and famous rock bands (Caitlin was dating one of the guys from Cake). The dotcom boom: it was a time when everything did seem possible.

But it was an illusion of course, and saying it like that makes it sound like everything is not possible now. Both of which, of course, are silly. Read the above and all that’s really missing from my current life is the jetting around the world, but you can add dimensions of sport and the expat experience and social enterprise to the mix. Oh, and reduce the drinking. Man, we used to drink…

Saturday morning I woke up early and hit the open gym to practice muscle-ups (had some issues with false grip even, so practicing jumping up to the rings and getting into position). Then a shoulder-taxing workout of ring dips, light weight high rep overhead squats and bear crawls. Love-hate goat days. But on this one I was in a hurry to go pick up Matthew and take him to the Biscuit Mill. By the time I arrived where he was staying I realized that he was not in the hunger-induced hurry that I was. He was staying in his friends’ house. And by house I actually mean mansion. I had heard about such places existing in the Southern Suburbs (actually I’d been to one before, but not one as dramatic as this one). Although it did feel a bit like a dark, dank museum. Not a place I’d want to live even if I could afford to.

Matthew loved the Biscuit Mill! I loved that Salvin had some exciting selection (kudu boerwors and duck breasts!), and that the burger guys gave me two for only R10 extra. Afterwards we headed down to Kalk Bay and back via Chapman’s Peak. You don’t need to do much on a beautiful day to have a good time other than just drive around and talk! He was saying most of the weekend how the really cool part was just to get off the tourist trail and do ‘normal’ stuff. Which, in the evening, involved watching Jeremy Loops at a private recording session at the studio where he’s been recording. That was quite cool both because of what it was, and to watch Misha watching Jeremy something like a nervous and expectant parent. And I got goosebumps more than a few times and when that happens you really must not complain.

Except that it took longer than expected and we had to rush off because we were insanely late for dinner with the family who is staying in the house of Matthew’s friends. The wife had unfortunately gone to bed by the time we got there, but we had dinner with Triple S, who is a minister with a background working for a very large international corporate, and in CSI no less. An interesting conversation followed, including such topics as education, politics, Malema, Zuma, the scorpions, and the DA. He’s a very smart and insightful man, Triple S. And I was also thinking it’s interesting how people will bring things up in a round-about way and while you can’t actually necessarily tell where they are going, you can pretty much always tell that they want to talk about something other than where they start the conversation. 

Sunday dawned bright and early with a Lion’s Head hike. I hadn’t hiked the darn thing in far too long, so it was nice to get up there again! Afterwards we went to Sandbar for breakfast, then I took him to get some ice cream, and afterwards on to check the rugby World Cup at Forries in Newlands. I mean, when in Rome, you’ve gotta check the Springbok fans! Happily, the Boks won over Wales although only by one point in what turned into a very tense game. What the heck, a win is a win. After another filling lunch with Matthew, Triple S, and his wife, I was about to drive home when who pulls up in the lane next to me but Mona! So instead of going home and working, I went to her place and we hung out for the afternoon. I think she’s a bad influence though because I wound up eating chocolate and more ice cream and watching some absolutely ridiculous Hollywood movie. I guess that’s what girls do on a Sunday afternoon. But the good news is that this was such a binge that I am now not likely to crave sugar for at least a month!

The over-indulgence came the day before a planned re-commitment to diet. I’m going to start experimenting with different modes of eating, recording what I eat, and tracking how I feel training-wise. Apparently there comes a certain point where the fundamentals become even more important, so it’s time to stop taking a haphazard approach to my food intake and start actually figuring out what works for me.

A bit of a discombobulated day at work today. Maybe it’s the weather (it feels like winter again). No matter, moved the ball a little further along the field in a couple of areas, and tomorrow is another day. Should be a good one; I have two important meetings, and what should be an interesting catch-up lunch.

Yesterday was also September 11th. While I quite enjoyed being in a place where the top of the news was a ferry crash in Zanzibar, news item #2 was about the upcoming Springboks game, and only then was 9/11 mentioned. It was actually the only time all day I heard anything about it from anyone other than, well, me. In some ways I liked this, in some ways it just serves to remind how the U.S. is so not the center of the world that we sometimes think of ourselves. Just like we as individuals are the center of our own world but we are not central to others.

 Like probably almost all Americans, I remember exactly where I was on September 11th. I was asleep in my apartment in Berkeley, California when I get a call from Rob around 5:20am. The conversation went something like this:
“Are you watching TV?”
“No. I’m asleep.”
“Well, turn on the TV! A plane just hit the World Trade Center!”
“Why’d they do that?” (I wasn’t fully awake yet, obviously…)
“They think it was terrorists.”
“Oh. Yeah. That makes more sense.”

I remember watching until about 8am local time (11am Eastern). I left to take the bus to work right when the first tower collapsed. I remember thinking at the time that it looked like it had collapsed but surely not; by the time I got to work I found out that indeed it had. The internet was literally down from too much traffic so I went home, and I’m pretty sure I watched TV alone by myself until pretty much midnight, in stupefied horror. At least that’s what I remember: I don’t remember going out to join anyone else on that day, although I have vague memories of cell phone calls. It was a crazy day trying to separate out fact from fiction: I remember rumors of fires on the National Mall that turned out not to be the case.

What went through my head on that day? How could ‘they’ (any ‘they’) hate ‘us’ so much? How must it have felt to be in those planes? In those towers? I wanted to move to New York, to be part of whatever sort of healing and rebuilding. Or join the police or something. Then again, that was most likely a reaction to the media coverage: that marketing machine messaging of us against the world.

Then there was the aftermath: the war in Afghanistan (which I supported), the war in Iraq (which I did not). I remember long arguments with Rob at a Japanese restaurant in Newton Center about WMDs, moral hazard, and pre-emptive war. I remember visiting Manhattan for the first time since 9/11 and seeing that the towers weren’t there, and how that felt like a personal wound even though I have no particular personal connection to New York (and in fact I find it a bit overwhelming and uncomfortable). I remember classroom discussions at Harvard involving suicide bombers, Aristotle’s ideal form of government, conspiracy theories, a multi-polar world and the degree to which it was impossible to have such conversations without considering the context of 9/11. I remember the Howard Dean phenomenon, getting within shooting distance of John Kerry on two occasions in Florida while working for the advance team, then the rally in Copley Square in the rain to which I was so proud that I’d gotten rock star tickets, that felt more like a wake as the evening went on. I can feel the crispness of how the air is supposed to feel in mid-November, and I think of another person I know who was supposed to have been on one of those planes. How must that have felt?

As an American this is deeply rooted in my psyche, I’m sure, in ways I don’t even know. A lot of the discourse bothered me a lot but it’s very difficult to step back from the context in which you evolved, or learned. I’m not going to say anything here that someone else hasn’t said way more eloquently. But as much as I was glad to be in a place where a huge deal wasn’t made about 9/11, it actually upset me a little bit, because there was sort of an expectation that it would get more coverage than it did. The one article I saw mentioned other pivotal events that had happened on 9/11s: one in Joburg and one in Allende’s Chile. As I said, as much as we sometimes want to believe we are, America is not the center of the world. And thank goodness, actually, it takes a village, and it’s that diversity of worldview that is part of what I love about South Africa. Of course there are many things I love about South Africa. Today happens to be the 34th anniversary of Steven Biko’s death, which, of course, is more poignant in South Africa than 9/11 can ever be.

So, because in the same way that a picture tells a thousand words, a statistic is brought home by an image. Lindsay Morehouse, SPS ’96. I didn’t know her well, but she’s what makes the event somewhat personal for me. She would have been 34.

 • “That’s a great opening line: ‘You don’t look like you could possibly have trained today, so why are you dressed like that?’” – Matthew
 • “And you have to keep a straight face while they are saying that?” – Matthew
 • “That’s a good answer. It’s a safe answer.” – Ellie
 • “Oh Ellie, you’ve chosen well.” – Matthew
 • “I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that a white government would be better than a black one. But now … I can conceive of such a time.” – Triple S
 • “This is huge! How many eggs are in this?” – Matthew
 • “She should be a fish, or a mermaid.” – Triple S (water consumption)
 • “There are no knights in shining armour. They don’t exist.” – Ellie (kind of like unicorns)
 • “You can’t just say no. It’s not polite. Plus it’s malva pudding.” – Ellie (explaining the beginning of my sugar binge)
 • “One thing age brings is an understanding of how useless vanity is.” – Caitlin
 • “We’ll have to celebrate a little bit … carefully.” – Nathan
 • “You are visualising your hands into not ripping?” “No! I’m using grapple cream!” – Kerry & Ellie


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