Pays au dela

"As to the natural parts I have, of which this is the essay, I find them to bow under the burden; my fancy and judgment do but grope in the dark, tripping and stumbling [wobbling] in the way, and when I have gone as far as I can, I am in no degree satisfied; I discover still a new and greater extent of land before me, with a troubled and imperfect sight and wrapped up in clouds, that I am not able to penetrate." Montaigne-"On the Education of Children"

My domain name, "Pais au dela," is the original French translated here as "extent of land before me." My goal for this page will be to explore, in an ambling way at times, the great land before me hoping to find clarity as I advance. I will focus centrally though not exclusively on mental health issues in my stumbling march forward.

Monday, January 13, 2014

BCS Fail and Anhedonia 1: Anhedonia

Early in the third quarter in a tie game against sixth ranked LSU, Cam Newton takes a snap near midfield. He puts the ball in Mario Fannon's belly headed left. Newton, who gets little credit for being a very intelligent athlete, looks left to see what the defensive end is going to do. If the end stays to the outside, Newton will leave the ball with Fannon. If the end crashes down to tackle Fannon, Newton will pull the ball back out and run it himself. Watching youtube replays, it has taken me ten minutes to write this up. For Newton, it all happens in a lighting flash while some of the biggest, fastest, baddestass, young athletes in the country chase him and try to rip his head off. For anyone who thinks football is a sport for idiot meatheads, I guarantee you’d have trouble learning the zone read and deciding in half a second whether to give or keep on this option.

The end crashes. Newton pulls the ball and heads right. Six yards up field, the first LSU defender gets a hand on him. A defensive tackle, a giant, a man who weighs 300 pounds but who could still out sprint most anyone reading this post. Newton runs through him and makes him look tiny. He cuts toward the boundary and runs through a defensive back. He’s doing this against a top 10 defense loaded with NFL talent. Ten yards up the field, he’s left about half of them groping for air on the ground.

Newton heads back towards the middle of the field. Two more defensive backs have a chance to make the play. Newton cuts twice. Both DB's graze him with a fingertip and flop to the turf. The last man with a chance is future All-Pro Patrick Peterson, who ran the 40 in 4.34 the following spring at the NFL combine and tied the NFL record for punt return touchdowns in a season as a rookie. He is a very, very fast man.  Newton accelerates and sprints away from the defender, and Peterson rides into the end zone piggyback on the future Heisman winner. Touchdoowwwwwwn Auburn.

I fell in love with sports at a very young age. Jim Fiffe screaming out each Auburn score was a familiar thrill before I went to elementary school. I remember arguing with a kindergarten friend about whether Bo Jackson or Mike Shula was a better player. Think I won that one. That same year, my older brother and I sent little kid drawings we'd done of Bo and Tommie Agee playing football to their dorm in Auburn, in the last days of my brother’s stint as an Auburn fan. He flipped, turned his vest on us in the second grade, and became a lifelong Bammer. For a girl! Oh the betrayal. 

The world made sense to me, even as a very small child, in terms of football. I amused preschool teachers with my specialized approach to learning arithmetic. 30? Yeah I know what 30 is. That’s four touchdowns and a safety. 23? Two touchdowns and three field goal. Or a field goal, three touchdowns and a missed extra point.

Cam Newton’s run against LSU in 2010 is probably the most exciting football play I’ve ever seen. I’d waited nearly 30 years for this championship run. It was finally happening. Auburn was beating great teams with stunning feats of raw and beautiful athletic talent. There’d never been a greater moment in my lifetime to be an Auburn Tiger. Seven hours ahead of the 2:30 Alabama kickoff, I was up late watching Newton’s run live on the internet in my apartment in Paris. 

I felt absolutely nothing.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Babysitters of the World, Roll your Eyes!

"[Elle] me le paiera! Je lui passerai ma plume au travers du corps!" —Balzac responding to Sainte-Beuve's review of La Recherche de l'absolu.   

The other day I was procrastinating and trolling around the internet looking for nothing in particular that might satisfy my moderate epistemophilia. Somewhat distracted by the Dollar Tree Ode to Mediocrity Bowl playing in the background, I planted ankle deep in Jan Franciso's flaming dog turd of an article about the going rate for babysitters. My soul in a flash bubbled over with piss and vinegar as I read astounded the Huffington Post would print such tripey drivel. This Mother/Blogger/Hack wants to pay your kids 5 bucks an hour so she and her husband can share a Blooming Onion and catch the latest installment of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit sextilogy. She is upset that some neighborhood teens rolled their eyes at her when she recently attempted to shake them down.

I won't even bother taking down the specious reasoning of a statement like "I expect them to watch a movie with my kids and feed them a little pre-made dinner. Probably almost exactly what they would be doing at home for free;" or the ridiculous extrapolation that gets us from "My father-in-law is a remarkably tenacious worker. When he was ten, he decided that he wanted a horse" to the stupid back-in-the-dayist claim that these damn kids nowadays are ruining everything. A single workaholic pony lover does not a solid inductive argument make.

This post is for my nieces and nephew who I love dearly. Because I never, never, ever want them for a single second to consider believing or even listening when someone with more power and more resources than they tries to convince them that their limited time on this planet isn't really worth all that much. I wish there were a word in the English language to describe a fundamental socio-economic relationship where those with limited means, like teenage babysitters, have to work for reduced wages for the benefit of those who possess greater resources. KIDS! YOUR TIME IS PRECIOUS! DEFEND IT WITH TENACITY WHENEVER SOMEONE TRIES TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM YOU! And while I would never condone teen on teen violence, it might be worth knowing—when Suzy the kissass accepts Ms. Francisco's substandard wage—that sometimes scabs get bricks put through their windshields. 

When I was a teenager, I got my first job at a notorious chicken sandwich chain restaurant. I spent hours breading chicken breasts, scrubbing disgusting flowery milkwash gunk off giant sifting baskets, and cleaning women's restrooms. I made $4.75/hour while a reprehensible homophobic family lined their pockets off my time and effort. I could have been learning Spanish, woodworking, or auto-repair. I understood nothing about the value of time.

I think back to my good old teenage days as beer-funneling, whipit-stealing, pot-smoking, mailbox-bashing, meathead, and I watch in awe as my niece spends hours on a Sunday studying for Algebra exams. She finds recipes on the internet and makes delicious deserts for Christmas dinner. She swims competitively, gets up at ungodly hours to go practice, works on her high school's yearbook staff, drives herself to church on Sunday mornings, works two jobs during the summer, puts her money away responsibly, and brings much joy and vibrance to our family. My blood boils at the thought of Ms. Francisco reducing such a beautiful young existence to "well kids just sit around watching movies and making pre-made food these days. I wish we were back in the day when everything was still great."

Babysitters of the world, roll your eyes! Roll them in unison and with gusto! You have nothing to lose but your time. Which is to say, you have everything to lose. Eyerolling is the proper response when the old hag down the lane tries to trick you into believing your time doesn't matter simply because you are young. Hold out when you get offered shit wages. Play the long game. Stay home and study your SAT words. You'll get more out of it in the end.

And if a mother/blogger/hack really wants to have a serious discussion with you about value, ask her how much her child's safety and well-being should cost. Surely the 9 bucks she might save by low-balling adolescents on her kids' behalf can't actually be worth it.