"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Back In 'Merica!

Well I have returned to American soil, LAX to be specific. I've got a nice four-hour layover before I can catch a wing up to Portland, hop in my truck, drive down to the Euge to crash out at my mom's house, then get up at 7 and hit the road for the HC on Monday.

My handMy hand and arm are healing steadily. It's looking more gnarly than ever as you can see, thanks to the fact that we've reached the "crack n' peel" part of the process. I'm trying to keep the outer layer on as long as I can but all it takes is a bump or jostle to create a new grisly-looking sting spot. I'm covering these with ointment as they appear, which is helping, and the areas that came exposed yesterday are showing promise. It just needs some more time, but I feel increasingly like a freak walking around with my hamburger-hand here in the first world.

Speaking of the first world... some thoughts from Baja

My experience with medical care, where I was able to roll into a clinic at 8pm, get treated right away, get antibiotics and a prescription anti-inflammatory, and walk out paying $14.50 total stands in sharp contrast to your typical US ER experience. I wouldn't want Benito to perform surgery on me -- until he's finished his studies, that is -- but the truth is that the majority of urgent healthcare concerns aren't on that scale. In spite of what Michael Crichton's brilliant TV series would suggest, not everything you'd go to the ER for really requires a hospital. Throughout Baja I saw lots and lots of small "24 medical emergency" clinics; storefront type operations, really. This decentralization of urgent care seems like a good idea. Jamming everyone who needs quick attention into one place creates all sorts of problems. Maybe there's something to be learned here.

I was also struck by the much greater feeling of fraternity in Baja than I'm used to in the US. It may have something to do with being out in a rural area -- La Ventana/El Sargento is pretty remote -- but even though we were a bunch of gringo kids I felt like all the people we met and dealt with looked at us as equals, from the taco stand lady to the guy who helped us get our pickup unstuck from the riverbed.

It's true that when I visited Cabo, down on the Mexican Rivera, the more traditional tourist/service-industry paradigm took over, and it was really kind of a bummer. Many of the gringos there seemed to fit more into the ugly American stereotype, and I felt guilty by association. Also, in Cabo the disparity of wealth is writ large in a way that the simplicity of our little desert hamlet masked. Sure we were in one of string of million-dollar properties lining the beach-front of what was (before the properties) just another fishing village, but there's something different about palatial resorts and the franchises and tourist traps they spawn. It increases the distance between peoples.

A favorite local custom of mine while driving was hitting the hazard lights when there are cows near the road. The whole area is pretty much open ranch territory, and those cows (and the odd burro) are pretty adventurous and/or stupid. The not-so-infrequent road-side carcasses are a testament to this, and to the necessity of giving your fellow drivers a heads-up as to the potential for a spontaneous bovine crosswalking.

One thing Baja doesn't have going for it is the lack of water, and water-treatment technology. It's cliché that you "don't drink the water," but living that out (and thinking about it) gives some perspective on just how much real Freedom there is in having potable water piped to wherever you are. There aren't as many sayings about it, but you also don't throw your toilet paper into the toilet because of septic issues, which is a tricky habit to break, let me tell you.

All in all I have some mixed feelings about the trip. It was pretty awesome that we pulled it off, and the hurricane crew who were here the week before have some great stories to tell, but I'm not convinced it was really the best use of resources for the business. I'm all for teambuilding, but being in constant contact with your coworkers for 168 hours (or twice that) can be a bit much, even producing tension. I like that we're all friends, all passionate, and share a number of interests, but given that I already have concerns over workaholism/work-taking-over-life, it made me wish there were somewhere else to get away to in the evenings sometimes. I also don't think we were really 100% productive, which is understandable, expected even given the setting and everyhing, but considering the energy and expense outlaid to put ourselves there, why would we accept anything less than 100%?

That said, it was a great experience personally. I certainly got out of my comfort zone a couple of times, and even burning up my hand had some positive aspects. It forced me to reflect more than I would have otherwise, and the environment was pretty good for that. Coming on the heels of a the otherworldly experience of Burning Man (which is still getting its own write-up, though sadly now not really in true gonzo fashion), it produced some good-feeling insights.

Things I Have Realized

I realized, for instance, just how blatantly I've been keeping myself out of range of romance out of fear more than anything else. Sex and love have always been intertwined in my experience, and avoiding one is a pretty good way to skirt the other. Much as I bemoan my lonely state, it's my own choices and habits of action that render it so. I've been rationalizing this to myself as a kind of jaded maturity, but now I think that's just bluster.

The truth is I'm afraid of what might happen: of getting hurt, of hurting someone else, of getting into unknown territory where the possibility of both those things just gets greater. It's weak sauce, really, because this is what life is all about; but as they say the first step towards finding a solution is admitting you have a problem. So there's that.

I also realized in conjunction with the above that I've been looking backwards a lot, for similar reasons, when really I should be looking forward. The possibilities of the future are almost literally endless, and when I begin to entertain them I feel a real true gut-level sense of trepidation -- "don't make plans; don't invest; shit doesn't pan out, remember?" -- and it feels like it might be that good kind of Allen Ginsburg brand of fear. The kind I know I should pursue.

Back when I was a kid, I remember one time I was being a real prick as only a kid can be. I remember Bilbo sat me down and made me write out the mantra I will face my fear and slay the dragon and darkness shall be turned into light 20 times or something. I think I was about eleven, and even then I thought it was hokey, but it stuck, and more than just being a perfectly awesome example of his idiosyncratic-yet-effective style of parenting, it's also good advice. I'm not ashamed to go back to the well.

I've also been feeling pretty down on the whole politics tip (as my 9/11 anniversary post below will attest), which is a real drag on my spirits. For better or for worse I am a revolutionary at heart. I really do attach my own happiness and success to the fate of humanity as a whole, and I'll never be truly content just making my own corner of things as nice as can possibly be.

Re-realizing that, I am forced to accept responsibility for my own feelings. The idea that some knight in shining armor is going to ride in on a white horse and lift up my banner (and ergo my heart) just isn't rational or pragmatic. The core ethos of the New Freedom Movement obtains: move lateral. If something's not working, switch up. Don't beat your head against the wall. The most important thing is to stop struggling.

To that end I think I'm going to have to go back to the old book idea. I probably won't write a book for publication, but I might write a similar number of words for free. The idea is to lay out the bigger ideas in a punchy and persuasive format. I envision these becoming a force similar to what "communism" was before the cold-war solidified: a set of social and political ideas which are subterranean to existing institutions, infiltrating the halls of power, fellow-travelers, all that jazz. Hopefully there wouldn't be the kind of persecution we saw back in the day, but I think that's a risk one has to be willing to take.

And in the mean time I'll remain active in conventional politics of course, though for the most part I'm happy to have Matt and Chris as my proxies in that world, and with aiding extremely awesome causes through my profession.

Welcoming the Harvest

Autumn is upon us, a season of production, of reaping, of renewal. School is back in session, and I'm looking forward to getting back to class, so to speak. Work is going to be packed tight over the next two months, and I'm hoping I can turn that into a high and heady flywheel of energy rather than a just another beast of burden. Get up on it like in the old days and let the flow drive me. A frenetic dance of genius, not a workaday slog. We shall see.

I'm hoping this because, as per the above, I want to get moving again. I've been bounding all over the fucking place all summer, but it feels like I've been stuck in first gear the whole time. Revving the engine and burning tons of fuel, but barely creeping along. Lots of wasted energy, unfocused and frail.

It's my favorite time of year really. It's romantic. I think of New York and the crispness of the nights and turning of leaves and the newfound appreciation for everything that the relent of summer's smother brings; makes me envy my sister a bit. She's loving it though, so I can't help but be happy for her.

And so I'm looking forward to misty-morning coffee, to steamy hot tubs, to sunsets at the beach and rainy runs down highway 101. It's going to be a good year. It's got to be. I can feel it.


Yikes, that looks really, really bad. Burns....yow.

Re. health care, check out MinuteClinic. It was founded by a guy who needed a new antibiotic prescription for his daughter's earache. Since he had to go to his doctor's office it ended up being about three hours plus $150 in various copays and med charges, etc. to get it taken care of, and a few years later he founded a chain of fast, cheap clinics. You go and see a nurse practitioner and it costs you a set amount. Not the same as urgent care, but would have been nice in my uninsured days when I caught a wicked throat bug and spent $150 to see a doctor. MC was bought by CVS last year, and they plan to expand it dramatically in the next three years. Currently I think there are a couple hundred.

That minuteclinic thing sounds cool, and like a winner in business too. Just imagine if everyone had a universal service health card they could swipe and any savvy entrepreneur could set up a chain of places to serve them...

Well, one key to making it work was waiting for the regulations to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe drugs. Which makes perfect sense, and also made it possible to keep costs down. I definitely think it's a good model, and you're right: with universal healthcare it would definitely make sense. Keep costs low, avoid expensive doctor or hospital visits when you just need antibiotics for a sinus infection or whatever. It's also much more efficient, time-wise, which was the original goal.

BTW I'm working full-time again, at a consulting firm in Boston. I'm on IM with the same name as in my e-mail address if you want to catch up some time.

A short while back Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/) was looking to hire folks interested in politics and could write well (you obviously do both). I think they have a huge readership. You might check them out as an outlet for these essence interests of yours.