Thursday, May 29, 2008

Time, Money, Energy

You can never have all three.

Today, I went to a Rain Garden/Bioretention Symposium in New Brunswick where I met an 80 year old man. Since he is retired and essentially unoccupied during weekdays, the Montgomery Township (Robbily Bobbles Connacher's township!) Environmental Commission selected him to go as their representative. The man had just returned from Paris. He said that after converting euros to dollars and liters to gallons, gas costs over $9.00 per gallon there. Rather than driving, he said there was a nifty rent-a-bike service. It's as simple as: you swipe your plastic, the bike unlocks from the rack, you ride it to your destination, dock it, and swipe again. And the rental converts to something like 50 cents per hour. Exercise, no carbon emissions, convenient, and inexpensive. What a concept!

"Why did you choose Paris?" I asked the man.
"Because I likes it there," he slurred slowly in a viscous eastern european/russian accent.
"And I am retired so I haves the time and money," he added.
"Well, where should I go?" I asked.
"Anyvere...go anyvere...but do not go by yourself. Go with friends."
"Have you been to Europe?"
"Go dere. Go soon while you are young." His grey eyes were shiny and he put up three fingers.
"Time, money, energy," he said counting them off. "In life, dere are three things--but you can never have all three. Ven you are young, you have time and energy, but no money. Ven you are older, you have money and energy, but no time. Ven you are even older, like me, you have time and money, but no energy."
I laughed and asked, "So which one is the worst?"
"The last one," he said matter-of-factly.

It was hard to take him seriously though. His off-kilter tuft of combed-over hair had a distracting, comical personality. Tuft aside, I like his insight. We all know the mantra of economics 101 even if we've never been to a lecture: Time=Money. And you can't have both.

This old man brought energy into play. Cherish the energy we have. Expend it everyday for the common good. We are young.

With boundless liveliness,


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Leave the Light On

OK, I've been remiss in my duties as a blogger. But I am back now.

For starters, there is Hillary Clinton. She is running until the end. It's like a game of poker and you know you should fold, but then you think maybe the river card will bridge the gap and you'll get that unlikely straight. But let me tell you, I think her staying in the race is a good thing. First, it's getting more democratic voters registered. Young people, black people, educated white people...yeah all of those and more. And Hillary's campaign message has sort of changed. It's not all about Obama being inexperienced and how she's the stronger candidate. It's more about how she'll support the democratic nominee in November and a positive shout out for the the Dems. Having Obama and Hillary campaign in all these states is like double the press for the democrats--a wonderful, liberal two-headed monster.

I should just say here that I enjoy John McCain's hunch. No, not his political instincts, but rather the terrific hunch on his back. I just find his posture and gesticulations to be hilarious.

I got this book from the library, Mythology by Edith Hamilton. She says in the intro how the Greek Gods were corrupt. "Almost every one of the radiant divinities could act cruelly or contemptibly," she says. I mean, the Greeks worshiped these misbehaved deities. But shouldn't the Gods be perfect? Shouldn't they be role models for the mortals? This makes me think of other notorious people that we praise, like Benjamin Franklin and most of our other lauded forefathers. By indulging in booze, sex, partying and drugs does that make us God-like? Personally, I have this overwhelming moral compass that just pours on the guilt if I do all that stuff. To me, the instant pleasure isn't as satisfying as the assertive sense of self-control and the ability to abstain. I guess I'm a mere mortal.

I went to Gettysburg twice since my last post. The first time was for Springfest--alumni get free beers. I met my bud, Agatha, in her extravagant office in the admissions building before going to a Faculty Social Hour in Weidensall. The wine and appetizers were for free and I certainly had some. From then on, the night was good. It was like old Gburg times, bouncing around from room to room, bar to bar, just walkin' all over town and campus. Springfest, with featured act Rahzel, was just alright. I was more happy to socialize with my younger Gettysburg friends. The fact I still knew a large handful of people confirmed that I belonged there. The visit was legit.

I cruised right on back to Gettysburg the following weekend, my first time doing all the driving, all six hours. I was content to get a smoothie and a coffee at my beloved Ragged Edge and buy a bottle of local red wine from this odd antique shop annex, but this weekend was different than the last. All my lovely acquaintences were all shut up inside their rooms pounding out papers or pulling their hair out over final exams. Rob, Liz, Morgan, and I saw The National at Messiah College that Saturday night. Best show in quite a while for me. Whatever potential music has or whatever it's supposed to do, The National accomplished just that that evening--busted through the sound barrier and took me to another place. That night I crashed at Morgan's Quarry apartment. It was kind of her to let me stay.

Those last visits, I feel, were the capstone, the lid screwed onto the jar of my Gettysburg life. My only connection to Gettysburg now is a few people and a few professors, but both parties know it's not really worth six driving hours to see each other. The town will forever have a charm about it, but the chief Gettysburg legacy is undoubtedly my relationships with the people I met there. And maybe Steve Gimbel's blog, too. But that's all.

AmeriCorps is almost up. I plan to be done before the end of July. All I have left requirement-wise is about 20 stream monitoring assessments ( you can bang out 4 in a day) and a couple volunteer trainings. My problem is that I sign up for all these other things like field trips at Duke Farms, the Envirothon, the BioBlitz, the Rain Garden/Bioretention Research Symposium, etc. These are all welcome, awesome distractions, but I really ought to get my priorities straight and just do what's asked of me. They'll stop sending stipend paychecks on July 20th.

On Thursday night this week, Sam and I had the privilege of sitting in the second row of a Chris Smither concert at the Trenton War Memorial. The man has a most expressive face and a most impressive finger picking style, not to mention his wowzer philosophical lyrics written with a dash of laugh. He was out shaking hands with everybody during the intermission. Mr. Smither even signed a CD for me! He loves his fans. What a guy, that Chris Smither. I'll leave you with some of his words...

If I were young again I'd pay attention,
To that little-known dimension,
The taste of endless time.
It's like water,
It runs right through our fingers,
But the flavor of it lingers,
Like a rich red wine.
In those days we were single,
We lived 'em one by one,
Now we hardly see 'em,
They don't walk, they run,
But I got plenty left I've set my sight on,
Don't wait up, leave the light on
I'll be home soon.

Forward-looking and hopeful,