Pipe Dreams

I do not like flying. Flying makes me anxious. For as long as I have been alive I had this fear. Right after college I seemed to have got over it but it came back two years ago or so. A solution I have found is to take three capsules of NyQuil and let the sedative do its work. Not a healthy solution but it is effective. On my most recent flight, barely an hour long, I opted to do my usual routine and take the medicine.

Usually I would take the capsules about a half hour before I boarded to let the medicine kick in just before take off; and just be unconscious or apathetic for the duration. But I was caught with the rapidity of the boarding, the plane carried about 40 passengers total, and I took the NyQuil a few minutes before getting on board. I was kind of out of it for the flight though I suspect that feeling was more placebo than physiological. Arriving in SeaTac I took the train to Chinatown to get some lunch, thinking I would get lunch then start heading home to Olympia. Eat now, travel later is preferably to travel now, eat later. After my plate of noodles I started heading back to SeaTac to catch the first of two buses. The train was nearing Othello and I realized that I was not going to make the first bus and would not even start moving to Olympia until 3:00. The full effect of the NyQuil also began to hit me.

Deciding that I did not want to be standing in the rain, semi-sedated for two hours I got off the southbound train and got on a northbound train. Helpfully I discovered that working on a gondola for four years has granted me the ability to stand on moving objects (trains, gondola cabins, buses, etc.) without having to hold on to anything. Even more helpfully I can do this even while tranquilized. Taking the train to Capitol Hill I figured that the best bet was to wander down to Elliot Bay Books and wait for a friend of mine, who had offered to take me home as he traveled south that day, to get off work. I am sure I mildly amused some onlookers as I meandered through the book store, eyes wide and deliberate. Through out my stay there I had the debate in my head of should I get a book, what book should I get, which of these three books do I want, how much do I want to spend?

After picking out two books and doing some recon for my friend in finding books about the Holy Roman Empire (fun fact, as it only coexisted with the United States for three decades or so and played a minor role in the history of the British Isles, there are not many books about the Holy Roman Empire in English in any given bookstore) I left the store. Having processed most of the drugs out of my blood the effect was diminishing. Around the corner from Elliot Bay Books is Molly Moons Ice Cream. Ordering a single scoop of Earl Grey ice cream in a waffle cone I set out walking north through Cal Anderson Park. I regretted the ice cream soon after I bought it. Been trying to avoid sugar and exercise more. After my foolish decision I set out walking through the drizzle to Volunteer Park, a little farther up Capitol Hill.

Trudging through the muddy grass, trying to justify the ice cream with some light exercise. Made it up to the southern edge of Volunteer Park. Throughout the summer I used Volunteer Park as a place to park for free while I visited my friend. But today I did not enter the park itself but just went along the edge and heading down one of the residential streets back south. Looking at all the seemingly nice homes I thought about where I am. No idea how much these homes cost but I imagine with what I know about the housing market in Seattle; they are quite dear. Thought about what it would be like to live in one of those houses. Seattle is my home and even while I was in Colorado for most of four years I officially lived in Washington (experiencing the joys of paying sales tax on every Steam Store purchase). I came back here and have been rudderless since. The pattern of my life has been more or less unchanged since I was enrolled in Kindergarten. The year began in the autumn, with school, college or lifts. The year ended in the spring, with summer vacation. Going into the last week of October and into November without having to pack and prepare for the journey back to a mountain valley was surreal. Nostalgia for the good parts of working lifts came to the fore. But upon reflection I remembered why I did not want to go back and I wanted to move on.

Standing in the grey damp, it rains less in Seattle than Chicago, but it does drizzle and is damp plenty, I thought about where I am. Personally I enjoy the climate here, traditionally never too hot, not too cold and the only natural cataclysms that hit are earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis and the infrequent cyclone. The week before I saw a live taping of a podcast, The Dollop, which is hosted by two comedians based in Los Angeles. They took the soft ball jokes about the weather in Seattle and asked that we send them our water. Last I checked the Pacific Northwest was in a drought too. It is possible to have a drought and have it rain. But the fact that the city I want to live in and the world I do live in is changing rapidly. Seattle appears to be following the trend of many cities around the world. Increasingly cities become playgrounds for those wealthy enough to live in them; and for those necessary to maintain their function they are becoming inhospitable. A tragic refrain I use is “At least the slaves lived in Rome” to describe the situation many of my peers have found themselves in.

Living in one of those houses seems ever more remote for me. Living in an apartment in Seattle sometimes seems like a pipe dream. I studied history and economics in college and I led a small team of lift operators for three years. But I fear that my education, which was more about how to think critically and how to explain myself in words will not suffice in the world. Economics has seen a trend over the past five decades towards using math. Maths, interminable maths, equations and algorithms, all designed to obscure what they mean. Why use words when you can use numbers? The end result is a rarified knowledge that leaves a privileged few anointed into its secret rites and meanings and leaves the populace illiterate and enthrall. As overwrought as that is the end result is a school of humanities masquerading as a science department. History also is grim precedent for recent events. I do not fear quite as gravely as others, Churchill observed Americans eventually do the right thing, after they have tried everything else. Still the idea that in the long run the Whigs are right is cold comfort to the pains of today. In the long run we’re all dead, as Keynes said.

My fear is more for myself. Something that seems to happen quite regularly is that once someone manages to pry me out of my innate introversion they come to a familiar conclusion: I am quite intelligent/well read/smart/knowledgable/etc. I even joked to a supervisor at Vail that the vicious rumor of my intelligence was spreading throughout the department. My education, experiences and habits have cultured a sharp memory. When I worked lifts in the summer, some operators seemed to enjoy working with me because I could blather on for hours about various interesting topics, full of minutiae and humorous anecdotes (including that one time that several Roman Legions broke and fled the morning of a battle against other Legions because the opposing legionaries had served in Anatolia and Syria and thus had adopted the eastern practice of welcoming the sun every morning. Seeing this the western legions thought they were welcoming reinforcements and proceeded to flee). When most of our day was spent waiting for things to do, anything that made that time faster and entertaining was valued. In my freshmen or sophomore year of high school, when I was 14 or 15, we read Animal Farm. To give a basic context of the book I somehow persuaded my English teacher to allot me a day to teach every class, not just my period but the entire day, a rough outline of the history of the Soviet Union. A strange sight it must have been, to see a child teaching children. Reflecting on it I cannot fathom how I managed that. Not the teaching, that wasn’t too difficult, but persuading an adult to let do it.

But now when anyone can look up anything. When the Catholic Church’s argument that the Scriptures are not meant to be read by everyone may not seem a bad idea. When what is true is subjective and a tool of political machinations, it does not bode well. My ability to spout off analysis and curios of history seems to be of little utility. Partly because anyone can just poke around and find information about anything. And it seems we sneer and denigrate things that are not hard sciences. Unless of course it is politically expedient to ignore the science. Everyone is supposed learn STEM or learn how to code. Context is irrelevant and precedent antiquated. Discouragement and doubt are part of the reason I have not been employed for months. Discouraged because nothing seems to be available or viable. Doubt because I fear that I am making a mistake, I should be doing something better. Growing up, I was thoroughly middle class. A more accurate description may be upper middle class. And I carry that with me, I have a patrician attitude towards my habits. Try to avoid unnecessary expenditure but go for the prestigious option when I do (a paltry explanation of pride and arrogance). But for the first time in European history since the French Revolution the most recent generation is not on track to outperform their parents. You could argue that the trend has been true since the Fall of Rome, but for the majority of the population of Europe (and the whiter populations of the world) the fact children live better than their parents has been more or less true since 1815. But I hear my friends grimly resigned to the fact that they will never own a home. Bouncing from contract job to another, unable to save money without great sacrifice. The news brings dire reminders of the 1930s but with the added knowledge that we fully possess the ability to end our existence, not merely the potential.

Mud spattered on my boots and jeans. Rain having fathomed out my raincoat and dripping through my hood. I walked past those houses and thought about what it would be like if I lived in one. Would they be spartan and stark as my usual domiciles? Would I have that ridiculous setup I imagine sometimes: a TV mounted on the wall, a gaming console connected to it and a treadmill in front of it. Would my computer be set up in a nice room with a window or would the room be shrouded in darkness as I fear the sun? How would I come into possessing this place? Is this dream even attainable now?

I do not drink. I don’t smoke, tobacco nor cannabis. My genes, I suspect, are a minefield and I have decided that it is for the best to just avoid the things that can kill me. After surgeries I hate the opioids I have to take. The goal for me is how long can I go without taking another dose? Once I stopped taking them entirely while sutures were still in my hand. The result was an intense burning sensation in my hand. Relief was only found in either constantly icing my hand or taking the pills again. The reason I say this is that wandering around the streets of Seattle while my veins were flooded with doxylamine had an affect on my thinking. Reflecting on my default method of dealing with my anxiety with flying is not the wisest choice. Going to try better solutions that are kinder on my liver.

The combination of depression, isolation, medicine, anxiety and the literal weight of my backpack culminated in my melancholic thoughts. But in the intervening days I have written this piece, worked another upcoming piece about a game and brainstormed a comparison of storytelling in two games with similar plot lines. Having a moment of despondence is not an uncommon experience for me. But I have found that it is not without value. You hit a point where the fever breaks, things turn around and you move on.

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