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Friday, September 26, 2008

Stephenson, PostSecret, and Greece

Right before I left for the stupendous Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Laos-Southern-China SuperTrip of last January/February, I was in Hong Kong, and I stopped by my favorite bookstore, flOw ("the organic bookstore") to see what they had in the way of road reading. I found a breezy 300-page paperback called Quicksilver by an author I had read and enjoyed in college, Neal Stephenson. I had read Snow Crash, a cyberpunk postmodern mish-mash of cyberspace, Mesopotamian language-virii, country-owning corporations and mobsters, and pizza delivery. I saw that "Quicksilver" was part one of "the Baroque Cycle," and I figured I'd be digging in to a neat little trilogy. Despite its glacial pace, deliberate anachronisms, and choking on an overabundance of history, economics, science, and math, I enjoyed it. I found part two of this cycle (King of the Vagabonds) in Bangkok, and so, having made my way back to Hong Kong two months and 600 pages later, I stopped back in at flOw looking for the third and final chapter.

I found book three, all right. Only problem: it was book three of Volume One, and sitting there in front of me at flOw was books four and five (Volume Two) and books six, seven, and eight (Volume Three). I walked out of the store with over 3,000 pages to read. And I actually read 'em, geek that I am, and enjoyed them, something I can only imagine a small, small number of people would ever actually attempt, let alone accomplish. I've since picked up another Stephenson novel, Cryptonomicon, which is another thousand-plus page endeavor that links a Marine fighting in World War 2 and a genius mathematician cryptographer working in some fictional wasteland of an island in England cracking German codes with a internet-savvy capitalist in the early 2000's laying fiber-optic cable in the Philippines. Where will the stories intersect? Why does this guy need a thousand pages to tell a story? I don't know, but I'm enjoying it. Oh yeah, his new book came out in early September, and yeah, you guessed it: damn near 1,000 pages. Again.

What else? Last week I went to visit Deirdre at West Chester, and we went to see Frank of PostSecret fame. What is PostSecret? Well, click that link and see. He talked about PostSecret as a "community art project," its origins, and all that he's seen and done because of it. Very interesting concept, mildly interesting speaker, incredibly interesting show. At the end of the show, Frank set up two microphones, and invited people to come and share their secrets. It's truly saddening that so many people came to the mic and shared secrets of pain, isolation, suicide, and depression. If this small sample of West Chester had so many sad and unhappy people, what does that say about our country as a whole? I didn't get up to share anything, neither did Deirdre, and after the show we went in the lobby and read the post cards WCU students had sent in during the last few weeks. Walking back to Deirdre's apartment, I shared my secret: in Cambodia, in 2007, I was traveling alone, and I was in Siem Reap, this small tourist town just outside the Angkor temples. There was literally nothing to do in town but see the temples by day and party at night, and being there alone was an incredibly lonely, isolating experience. Well before I even know PostSecret existed, I took out a postcard, wrote a sad lonely little message for whomever, and left it there at a restaurant table. I guess the secret is that I feel that alone pretty frequently.

And one more, how's about some pictures? This time I want to share Athens with you.


There she is ... the Parthenon, the crown jewel of the Athenian Acropolis.


Listening to our guide.


The Temple of Olympian Zeus from afar.


The Acropolis.


I fell in love with this Cyclades woman, this strange sleek white statue from ancient Greece.


Temple of Zeus up close.

Hmm. That's it? So many great memories of Athens, from gyros to heroes, I can't believe I don't have more to share. Well, I do, but ...

I'll share some pics of the Greek islands next time. Now, off to see They Might Be Giants!

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that you've ever felt that alone. People will tell you that you're not alone and that you're surrounded by family and friends that love and care about you, but really that's all just bullshit. Coming to terms with that is difficult to do, but in these times of feeling lonely, it's then that you accomplish something great or push through when you never thought you could. Sometimes it's when your creativity peaks, and somehow beauty can come out hitting rock bottom. Life isn't beautiful, but ride can be. I hope you get everything you're looking for out of life, because you deserve it.

Matthew Fitzgerald said...

Thanks. Life can be beautiful, the ride and all, I've seen it and felt it. It just doesn't feel particularly beautiful at the moment.

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