Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog's Tails

This is a page of wonderful and inspiring things! Everything you see here is something to behold for its beauty, creativity or wisdom. It is never never my intention to trespass on the creativity of another - please let me know if I have and I shall acquiesce or give credit when due.

Ice Bucket Challenge

I first found out about this whilst sitting on my friend’s porch people watching from above the bakery next to a market on a dusty road cutting through the jungle along the beach here in Samara. Two friends rode up on their bikes, and we gave the appropriate holler from above. We noticed the girls had a bucket with them and began squabbling over the proper term for bucket in the local Spanish.

One friend went in to buy mac’n’cheese and the other came up the stairs to explain the bucket. She showed us the video of her dumping ice and seawater over herself on the beach and explained that the trend was going strong on the east coast of the US. She or a friend or a friend of a friend had ALS and she was doing it because she had been elected by someone to do the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and/or money for the cause by dumping the ice on her head, choosing three more people, and posting the whole thing on FB.

Oh cool! I thought it was a fun idea, and then demanded that she explain the deal to our friend in Spanish. The girls left and we moved on to discuss that bucket was indeed valde in Spanish in these parts.

Over the next week, a few other friends from here in Samara posted videos of themselves doing the challenge. Each video shows the volunteer stating something like “I’m Bernard and I’m doing the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. I nominate Susan, Kathy and Jake to take the challenge or donate $100 to ALS organization within 24 hours.” Cool… viral thingie spreading all the way to our little beach town in Costa Rica…

Then another friend posted a response to the movement. She spoke of the absurdity of promoting awareness for a cause by unabashedly wasting fresh water when so many millions lack access to it. And she pointed out that by taking the “challenge,” supporters weren’t even donating money to support whichever foundation.

I was surprised by the passion behind the response she wrote because it seemed to hold true contempt for the concept of the thing that multiple mutual friends had participated in. She related in a later post that perhaps she had judged the movement too harshly and that perhaps indeed it had done some good.

Now, a week or so after all this, the movement has gained momentum - it’s drawn in celebrity volunteers, and it’s created a bit of controversy for the reasons outlined by my outraged friend.

The phenomena has lingered in my mind enough to warrant this post so I’ll now explain my ideas. I’m struck by the profound sweep of support for and the tragic absurdity of the thing and how its existence plays out from whatever obscure beginning to the sticky current segment to the inevitable forgotten spot it will occupy in the near future. Here are some ideas I have, however unrefined they may be:

1. Yes, we do need to raise awareness and support for ALS. It is a little understood degenerative nerve disorder that results in death for those who have it. I didn’t know as much about it until the movement sparked my curiosity and subsequent research.

2. Social media is a fantastic vector to spread the word about any cause, but often we become desensitized to the gravity of these situations due to the general frivolity of the majority of our interactions within the channel.

3. Promoting waste of (anything, but especially) clean water is a careless way to promote any cause.

4. Broadcasting outrage over the waste is almost as absurd as the Ice Bucket Challenge itself.

We (even those of us living a minimalistic and sustainable lifestyle here in Costa Rica) all waste. I think about all those who have no access whatsoever to clean water while we have enough to drink, water plants, and operate our toilets. I’m using a collective “we” to include anyone who chooses to identify with the concept, not to vilify America or western culture in general.

It’s great to make the effort to be a part of something, and not even “we” all have enough to make those financial contributions that are meant to make the real difference. And that’s why I can’t rationalize taking either side! Many of the organizations we believe are using our monetary contributions for good are not in fact utilizing the full potential of that privilege but rather use the capital for self-promotion as part of a broader campaign to benefit other individuals or organizations. I just won’t get on board with financially driven “non-profit” organizations.

I hope to be making a difference in my day to day life by showing kindness and generosity, when I can, face to face with the people in my community. And I hope, by talking about causes with people, that I can have a similar effect to that of social media. It may not reach as many people as fast, but there is power and stamina in real life human interaction. Affecting people’s lives on a person to person level can have an even stronger effect than a high-profile viral social media campaign.

So, I guess I’d just like everyone to take a step back from this controversy and think about how we can act individually to build an even greater result. I’d like to make a small difference and pass it along to someone who will make a small difference who will pass it along to make another small difference until the chain travels back and forth over itself. It’s the kind of movement that doesn’t lose power through public controversy. Let’s create the changes that will endure the controversies and will build a better world to come by giving our time and energy instead of publicity and money.

Yoga

Dudes doing Yoga

I tried yoga for a few weeks about 5 years ago… I always wanted to just go for it and jump in. I’d never been flexible, and I’d always wanted to be. That was about all I thought I’d get from it. Several friends of mine started frequenting Yoga Hour at a convenient and trendy spot close to where we all lived in downtown Tucson. So I went. I filled out the obligatory first timer form, dropped my dollars in the big brass bowl on the counter just inside the door, left my effects in a cubby, found a dirty used mat and found myself a place next to my friends in the front row of about 25 people who had already found their spots.

It was comforting to see that in attendance were yogans of all shapes and sizes. And the woman who came to guide us through our hour was chill and she had been at the counter when I did my form so she knew I was a beginner. The whole experience was pleasant overall. I did enjoy it. I felt stretched, expanded, worked out, peaceful and cool. I did not enjoy sweating into my glasses upside down in a room full of strangers. At first. The sensei or yogi mistress or whatever the term is was pregnant, calm and friendly. She would stop by my filthy mat and help me with posture… usually telling me to spread my fingers and toes farther apart. I really did enjoy it, and I felt relaxed afterwards… but after three or four or however many weeks the schedules between my friends and I didn’t match or something - I don’t remember.

After that, I never went back. I flat out refused in fact when friends would invite me. To this day I still flat out refuse my roommate when she wants to do some basic yoga stretching in the morning, and I don’t know why the hell why! I think for a while I was too self-conscious to get back in that room because I had put on some weight. In fact a year or so ago while training for a 5k, my best friend would guide my cousin and I through some yoga stretching scenario she had created to keep our legs nice and nimble so that we could keep training without getting sore. But I still refuse it - I think I don’t have faith in myself that I will be able to keep my practice up long enough to see results and thus decide to treat the mere subject with disdain. Or perhaps I’m not brave enough to do something I know I won’t be good at immediately.

How can I convince myself that Yoga will benefit me in long-term and meaningful ways?

I’ve read benefits and such, but maybe I just need a crowdsourced encouragement. “How embarrassing,” I thought as I typed the last sentence. Oh well. The picture above looked like something I might be able to do Haha, but certainly not for long.

I guess I must rediscover the things about Yoga that appeal to me and use them as my fuel.

Rillito Downs

I love my family, and in the last few years I had the pleasure and privilege of experiencing the horse races in Tucson. (I believe now that the city has shut down the historic race track in order to build soccer fields). I didn’t know much about the track as a kid; we never went until we (me and my cousins) were adults, but we learned of a rich Tucson tradition through great stories from the family. One of my favorites involves a certain Grandmother (my grandma) and her best friend allegedly being ejected from the park for “whooping the jockey’s ass” for the inexcusable crime of falling off (throwing the race) the horse of said friend.

We always entered the dirt parking lot on Springtime  Sunday Mornings a little hungover from the night before. We would play our favorite music until we pulled into the spot in the dirt lot and trek to the gate where a family member would meet us with passes to get in.

It was a run-down looking 2 story corrugated tin building with the clubhouse, snack bars, and betting on the second floor. The ground level afforded more freedom: more snack bars and freedom to roam, but most importantly - smoking… and better people watching. We would go and meet my parents and cousins (meaning 1st, 2nd, and all the others in between and beyond and their respective spouses and kids) and some friends. And Grandpa and Aunts and Uncles would be there too to enjoy first and foremost the family social life second to drink booze in plastic cups and gamble on the races.

I didn’t really care for the gambling - I’ve always felt like I work too hard for my nickels to risk them. But, it didn’t matter because we could all hang out, watch the horses stampede by, drink budlight or toxic margaritas and enjoy the community of family and friends. All of this, of course, while discussing the hideousness of nipply ostrich leather boots  or the brazen exposure of the communal urinals arranged “trough-style” in the men’s room.

And if anyone (Grandpa, Auntie MaryLou, Mom and Dad) won, we split the winnings to cover entrance fees and beers!

No matter who won, we would head up to Mom and Dad’s house for more food and drink, and usually cap off the night with a round or several of cards.

Life gifts us many experiences. It’s a shame I won’t receive this one again.

Spornosexual

What the hell is it? I’ve been reading the name for a few weeks now, and I haven’t really known exactly from where the etymology is derived… until now. According to my failing memory, every article [and by article I mean snip of gossip blog splooge] in which I’ve encountered the term ascribes it to a hunk of man! My initial understanding was that it is a class of man evolved from the metrosexual - which was basically the first label created to describe straight identifying men who groomed and behaved in a traditionally gay manner.

Okay… so what the hell do I even do with that? From the beginning of the existence of the term metrosexual I thought: Why the fuck can’t men be as “gay” as they fuckin’ please?

Well, they could and they can. Obviously. Nobody of import really gives a damn. Note, however, that looking back at old episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy yields some pretty tacky fashions, but who the shit cares? I don’t.

I’ll get back to the topic at hand. It turns out, according to this Gawker article, that according to the person described as an “occasional anthropologist,” Mark Simpson and who allegedly coined the both of the terms “metrosexual” and “spornosexual”, the new term is …

{Living in Costa Rica can sometimes be a hell for internet access… as I write this, the power surged, cut out and came back three times before stopping for good}

prefixed by a marriage of both “sport” and “porn.” Basically, Spornosexual refers to the buff, gym obsessed, narcissistic, bi-curious (my assessment) dude-bro who spends more time on the body than on the wardrobe.

Well shit. After all this research and wonder… I’ve concluded that it just means a bunch of buff, gym-rat dudes who have fewer sexual barriers.

I really don’t believe the term will permeate like metrosexual, but even if it does… who gives a good god damn at this point in our society and culture if some big group of dudes, across all ethnicities and backgrounds, goes for a particular look or identity as such?

From the modern and global perspective, it seems generic. Basically, every guy in my 10th grade weight training class was a spornosexual before his time.

Throw away the attempt at a new term and embrace the reality that we’re all taking advantage of the fact that nowadays we get to be and fuck whomever we feel we are and want. No dumbass label is needed because no one gives a damn. Straight dude-bro can workout and tweeze his eyebrows all he wants, and gay me can grow out my body hair and sweat my balls off living in Costa Rica all I want. There is no normal. There is no typical. There is no need to further describe the individual human circumstance. Done.

Friday Night

So I work for a school that certifies people to teach English as a foreign language in Costa Rica. Tonight was the graduation of the most recent group of teachers, and we always go out to a bar on the beach here in town owned by our Director’s husband. It’s one of the happening spots in town so Fridays are always exciting. We spent the night drinking and chatting and dancing and the whole bit. Costa Rica won a world cup match against Italy today - it was a total upset and everyone was celebrating. One of my best Tico friends here crashed his motorcycle after too much drinking and a fight with another best friend of mine (his girlfriend). He took off down the beach too drunk to ride and crashed into a huge log that was washed up. Flipped the moto, broke his foot and cut it up. Spent the night helping him push the moto back to the main street to park it and trying with his sister to convince him to leave it in the center of town rather than try and take it back to the house. Now I have about an hour before I get ready to walk to the bus stop to catch the 5:30 AM bus to head to Nicaragua for the weekend with friends to renew our visas. This is my life!