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Caffeinated Magic: The Uber Bastard Effect

I've been suffering from Weblog Writer's Block during the past couple weeks, so I read a few previous posts and found one where I mentioned my coffee fetish, saying it was a subject for another post. Today's a fine day for another post.

Truth be told, it's not so much a coffee fetish as it is a caffeine addict-, err, fetish. "Fetish" sounds rather more desirable than the "a" word. Of all the drug dependencies, though, caffeine is the most socially acceptable. Consider a few other addictive substances: Crack cocaine? Too dangerous. Nicotine? Grounds for social ostracization. Heroin? Collapsed veins are out this year. Quaalude? That's for heroin addict wannabes. Amphetamines or barbiturates? Nope, everyone'll think you have no control. Marijuana? No one smokes that past college. Alcohol? Come on people, even alcoholics don't think alcoholism is acceptable.

How many misguided Google searches do you think that paragraph will send my way? Over the past few months, I've risen to be the number one hit for "scatterplot" and "funtongue," thanks to all the links out there named "funtongue scatterplot" pointing back here. You see, Google not only ranks a site according to its content, but what other people have to say about it - this phenomenon is well-known and feared by many former disbelievers. Perhaps for my next act, I should try to wrestle the number one hit for "crack cocaine" from cocaine.org, but what would that prove? There used to be a funtongue.com that specialized in, umm, shall we say, "adult entertainment," and a search for "funtongue" would return hits precisely for that genre. I've pushed all those links to the bottom of Google's results. Isn't that enough? Must I also lay seige on "crack cocaine?"

What about my caffeine fetish? I have one, dudes... and it's a serious one. If I don't find a rich caffeine source within 2-3 hours of waking, the blood vessels in my head begin constricting. That puts a serious hurt on my style at work: instead of being my usual immersed in work, do not disturb, reserved self who tolerates interruptions from clients with occasional manic outbursts, I undergo "An Incredible Hulk"-like transformation to become Uber Bastard, an evil twin who looks like he hasn't slept in two weeks, scowls at everyone as if they're to blame for it, and communicates only in grunts, under-the-breath curses and one line emails. I'm not exactly a social butterfly who's fixated on being everyone's favorite bud at the water cooler and office parties, but I recognize my Uber Bastard persona is more than anyone should have to endure - even Uber Bastard himself knows it, but it can't be helped.

It's a chemical addiction, people - it's not something that can be turned off! (There, I said the "a" word) My need for caffeine is no less vital than your need for oxygen, so before suggesting to Uber Bastard that he should "chill" or "get over it, already," try holding your breath for a few minutes first and see just how cordial and focused you can be. If you can successfully overcome your oxygen addiction, then I promise Uber Bastard will respect you and not step on or kick your face, but instead will step over your dead, asphyxiated body in the aisle on his way to get water for his first pot of coffee of the day.

Coffee and I go back a long way, at least since I was 10 years old, and I suspect we're going to go forward even longer. As a child, adults told me coffee would stunt my growth, but I knew better - coffee was my friend, it would never betray me like that. Plus, even as a child, I knew human growth hormone and a well-balanced diet were the overwhelming contributors to growing taller.

I learned at any early age that some adults lie to children unceremoniously, but tend to do it using a certain tone of voice. I remember once when I was six and asked an adult what went on in my stomach to digest food. She told me in a particular tone of voice there were "choppers" in my stomach, like bunches of little knives, cutting up the food into little pieces. I believed her for a while (hell, I was only six), then found out the truth about a year later. That scarred me for life - I still have flashbacks to this day when the subject of digestion comes up in daily conversation - no joke. She may have been speaking metaphorically - the "little choppers" were enzymes breaking proteins into amino acids - but young children are incapable of abstract or symbolic thinking. She should have known better.

Her tone of voice, though... when I found out the truth about digestion, I remembered the tone of voice she used, and I immediately distrusted anything an adult using that tone said to me. Adults spend a great deal of time using that tone when talking to children; the most common examples include:

  • Coffee stunts your growth!
  • Uh-oh, I hope Santa Claus doesn't find out about this.
  • God loves good little boys and girls who are quiet in church and don't ask questions about dinosaurs and monkeys.
  • Did you see that? I just saw the Easter Bunny hop across the road; he must be checking to make sure you're buckled up.
  • Don't let the boogeyman catch you!
  • The tooth fairy doesn't leave a dollar if a tooth has a cavity, so you'd better brush!
Well, you get the idea. I must have been a difficult child.

My caffeine use was very moderate throughout high school. Things changed my freshman year in college with the approach of fall semester finals. One Saturday morning I drank a whole pot of coffee (10-cup size) and spent the rest of the afternoon all jittery-like with frequent heart palpitations. What a welterweight I was! But something about my biochemistry changed after the experience. I worked as a summer intern for my current employer between my junior and senior years of college and religiously drank several cups of coffee each morning because starting work at 8am was a bit of a bummer. That fall when I returned to the routine of college with the first class of the day at 10:30 or 11:45, I started getting these huge headaches before lunch, which went away after I ate. It could have been blood sugar, except I ate breakfast every morning. It took a few weeks of experimentation before the connection was made between the Mello-Yello I had at lunch and the cessation of my headache.

That started my tea phase, which was fortunate, because it would soon give me an excuse to invite Rachel to tea one afternoon after Bacteriology lab, for it was my passion for tea and the whimsically philosophical rants in which I went on about its pleasures and wonders that led her to the realization freaky, eccentric people are amusing and make wonderful partners, and that I was one of them, even if I couldn't make up my mind about her at the time. Tea is great stuff. I infused a pot today at work, and even now a tingling, relaxed sensation washes over me. Jasmine tea is my favorite, and I am proud to say I discovered and enjoyed chai before it became fashionable in the United States.

These days, though, I'm an avid cafe latte fan. I've been known to drink as many as three triple lattes in a day, which works out to nearly 1,000 milligrams of caffeine - that's like taking 5 No-Doz, folks! When I first embarked on this new plateau of caffeine consumption, I went to the dentist and the hygienist offered to take my blood pressure (just something she does to pass the time after she finishes cleaning while waiting for the dentist to arrive), and naturally, it was borderline high. Six months later my body had fully adjusted to such megadoses, and my blood pressure was back to normal on my next visit to the dentist. What my hygeinist didn't notice, however, was that I had lost nearly 30 pounds, thanks in part to the caffeine - but that's a story for another post.

So take it from me: with proper training, your body can learn to cooperate with caffeine and appreciate it for the miraculous chemical compound it is. The measure of any human's metabolism is its ability to utilize caffeine, befriend it, and ask for more. Personally, I worship that wonderful molecule - it's even on my coffee cup - so if you're looking for a great Christmas present, think caffeine and more caffeine... and don't forget this or this from a previous post, either.

And whoever said Christmas shopping for me was hard? Seriously, dudes, just think "caffeinated products," and you can't go wrong.

:: Bryan Travis :: 11/27/2001 @ 19:51 :: [link] ::

Thanksgiving Postlude

Thanksgiving is over, the turkey's proteins now circulating as so many trillions of tryptophan molecules. The drowsiness induced by the lovely tryptophan helped me catch up on sleep, which was fortunate, considering I had to exercise the reclaimed credit today by going to bed at 3am and waking up at 7am to meet my MBA group this morning. Tonight will be a repeat performance of last night, making another three hour withdrawal against my account balance.

Let's see... hmm, by my calculations, that should put me roughly where I was last Wednesday. Yeah, that's about par for the course. Doesn't Alexander Hamilton's First Law of the Debt state "an object in a state of debt tends to remain in that state unless acted upon by the Powerball Jackpot" or something to that effect? As long as sleep deprivation is the only kind of debt I'm in, except for the small matter of that home mortgage, I probably don't have much to complain about.

Well, okay, I'll let it go. Note a "subscribe" form has been added below the title bar for subscribing to and unsubscribing from receiving funtongue scatterplot update notification emails.

Interesting news:

  • Time's 2001 Inventions of the Year. The inventions are grouped into six categories: Health, On the Go (Transportation), Household, Back to Basics (essentially an extension of Household), Robots and Clothing. The two most important (IMHO) categories are health and transportation; major developments in them have a greater potential to make a significant impact on our lives.

    Among the health field inventions were an artificial liver containing rabbit cells separated from the patient's blood by a semi-permeable membrane (what brilliance - the liver was my favorite), the AbioCor artificial heart and NuvaRing birth control device, although the birth control patch was missed because it received FDA approval only last week.

    The transportation category was a mixed bag. Some were cool: Ford's City Car, Gyroplane and Irisbus' electric optically-guided bus because they add to the trend of cleaner (and safer) vehicles gaining critical mass against the previous generation of gas guzzlers. I'm not against increased energy consumption; it follows progress and it's going to happen, period - but petroleum cannot sustain this growth, certainly not for 100 years, and probably not even 50. To sustain the growing energy needs of industrialized and developing nations, a cheap, clean and plentiful energy source is imperative, but I digress.

    Other transportation inventions were vapid: Ginger (yadda, yadda, yadda), a motorized surfboard and a pogo stick cushioned with air instead of springs.

    Other inventions include a smoke detector that's temporarily disabled with any IR remote control when the biscuits are burnin' (instead of removing the batteries), a UV sterilizer for drinking water, a hand-cranked cell phone charger, an ingenious water- and sand-based food cooler for undeveloped regions (my second favorite because it's so simple, it's simply genius!), a heat-generating jacket and stink-free shoes (these would make wonderful Christmas gifts for a few people I know).

  • Scientists Build Tiny Computer From DNA. The biological computer revolution is about to begin. Are you ready?

  • And while we're on the subject on computers, FBI Software Cracks Encryption Wall. But it gets better than that, folks! FBI Pushes Telcos to Ease Monitoring. 1984 is a bit behind schedule.

:: Bryan Travis :: 11/26/2001 @ 03:37 :: [link] ::

Five Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving

In all likelihood, this weblog post will be the only time today I'll make an honest assessment of what I'm thankful for. That's truly pathetic. (Speaking to my fellow United States citizens...) As Americans, we have much to be thankful for, but yet as humans, we have an infinite capacity to take it for granted. Compared to people living in medieval times, the average American lives like royalty; why, this very day, for example, many of us will join with our families for what is, by 13th century standards, an immense feast. We will eat until heartily content and sport an enormous grin afterward while rubbing our bellies with both hands. In the middle of the afternoon, the football fans in the family will gather around the television to watch the game, and at least one will be asleep by halftime, as their full bellies sing the lullaby.

And during all that contented time, the closest many of us will come to the true meaning of Thanksgiving is the prayer before we line up along the kitchen counter to adorn our plates and consume a cornucopia of food that most of the rest of the world couldn't afford with an entire month's wages. I'm not trying to be holier-than-thou - I'm sure I'll be doing the same thing. Shame on us all. Shame on me.

So, five things I'm thankful for today are:

    1.) The relative wealth Western Society has blessed me with, and...

    2.) ... this weblog. By providing a soapbox from which I may vent about my problems and concerns, however real or imagined they may be, my weblog helps me simultaneously work through issues, and express and discover myself. This has saved me a small fortune in therapist fees.

    3.) Astounding moments of clarity which help us figure it out before it's too late, and...

    4.) ... the second chances that save us years of regret.

    5.) A sense of smell for after she goes home, so I can swoon in the comfort and joy of her presence from the fragrance of her perfume on the sofa.

:: Bryan Travis :: 11/22/2001 @ 13:08 :: [link] ::

Weblogs showing "True Colors"

This post is about three weblogs and their authors who have, in my opinion, achieved something only a handful of "everyday people" ever manage to do. They have shown their true colors, captured something universally human about themselves and those around them, and presented it on a webpage. In a word, they have found a way to reflect and express themselves with their art which strikes me, in a word, as absolutely "brilliant."

Usually I'm a slave to my own aesthetic tastes, getting pulled in by stylish flair, flashy graphics and other such eye candy. I'm also a grammatical perfectionist to the extreme of utter analness, subscribe to the "Word of the Day" mailing list and think smart people rock, all of which combine to occasionally make others perceive me as some sort of intellectual elitist (even so, I'm always caught off guard when someone calls me a snob). My goal has been to put aside such frivolous demands in favor of those whose thoughts and feelings connected with my own on some level and made me reflect. You might disagree and even think I'm off my rocker after clicking the links and reading them for yourself, but you know what? I've made this point several times before, I'm going to make it now and undoubtedly will do it again at a future date: it's my weblog, and I'll bloody-well proclaim as cool anyone I damn-well please. So there.

I'm finished ranting and feel much better, as if I've taken my first dump in over a week.

  • Henry's Diary - I'm glad to have stumbled onto Henry's Diary this morning while idly surfing around. Many fortuitous discoveries are made early in the morning, making me wish I was more of a morning person. The weblog is a journal/scrapbook chronicling a father's reflections as his son grows up; as his father says on his own website, "I'm raising a boy. He's four. Someday I won't be able to remember. This is for then." Wow, that just about sums it up.

    Even though I'm not married, someday I probably will be. And if so, it's entirely likely I'll have children of my own. I hope I can be as devoted a father as Henry's dad.

    And my children will probably never know my cat, who's nine years old. That's probably a good thing. Or maybe they will - cats are living longer these days.

  • What's in a Gen? - Her weblog is irregularly updated, but the weblog isn't what caught my attention, unless you're interested in knowing she scored 1390 on the SAT, but not me, since I've put my penchant for such things aside, remember? What I found unique and cool about Genelle were her poetry readings and music, available on mp3.com. Her poetry, which is also available in the traditional form on her website, flows smoothly and some even seems to possess a natural rhythm. Her language is unassuming (the use of obfuscated words in prose can alienate readers) and covers a variety of themes. For those who are somewhat thematically clueless like myself, poems with deeper meanings end with a line to sum it all up. When reading them, I got the impression these summary lines were more or less optional, and in her readings, she pauses before saying them in a not-for-poetry-reading voice.

    Another thing I liked about her readings was her accent, which is something of a Mississippi-Arkansas-Texas mix. It's always there, subtle, beneath the surface, but in "Nevermind," she explains the poem's format in a conversational voice, and then it's unmistakable. Now, I'm from Kentucky and have spent years purging my own detestable accent, so you may consider my opinion "certifiable" when I say her accent is not at all distracting - I'd liken it to salted butter on an ear of corn.

  • standing in the rain... - I discovered this weblog in the first week of September when she was still posting. The weblog journals just under two months in the life of a pregnant 20 year-old woman after problems arose in her relationship with the unborn baby's father. What impressed me most was how in touch she was with her emotions - anger, fear, hurt and confusion - and her ability to think through them. She strikes me as reasonably intelligent and more emotionally self-aware than others around her, and the resulting loneliness inspired her to write as she worked through problems.

    When she began writing in mid-August, she was 15 weeks pregnant. She would be 7 months along now. I wonder how things worked out with the father, and hope her and the baby are doing well.

    :: Bryan Travis :: 11/15/2001 @ 23:11 :: [link] ::

    Fairwell to Zehnder and Zehnderisms #3

    My MBA class' days with Tom Zehnder, ABD (All But Dissertation) are over. His entertaining teaching style pulled us through the Saturday afternoon post-lunch doldrums for four sessions, but alas, he is gone from us, perhaps to drink beer with the crew of the St. Matthews fire department or take a nap.

    Taking his place is another professor who is incredibly less engaging. Let me call a spade a spade and put it bluntly: he's somewhat of a bore, and Zehnder's precedent makes it impossible to ignore. Last Saturday a couple folks didn't bother returning from lunch and no less than 5 of my classmates dozed off - the most extreme case was a woman whose head tilted back, her nose pointing at a spot on the ceiling directly overhead. When the professor asked a question and the guy next to her answered, she lazily rolled her head over as if to look at him, but her eyes remained closed. This sort of thing never happened to Zehnder. Ben and I spent the next five minutes shaking with suppressed laughter, trying to restrain an outburst. Tip: watching others nod off during a hideously languid lecture or meeting is often the easiest way to stay awake, and there's no doubt it's the most entertaining way to pass the time.

    We knew we'd miss Zehnder, but never expected it would be like this. Even though the joker slipped in a take-home test at the last minute, we'd gladly have him back if it meant we could spend a Saturday afternoon in class without cursing our parents' loins.

    For his finale, I leave you with the final installment of Zehnderisms:

    • Oh, so your husband married into money? Well, MBA-CPA, that's worth two shackles.

    • You don't want a doctor to tell you you have cancer. You don't want a doctor to tell you you have AIDS. You don't want a politician to tell you he's going to raise your taxes. That's the third rail.

    • Inflation is kind of like booze. You have a little inflation and people are happy because their paychecks go up, but then they go out to buy something and it's more expensive. Now they have a headache.

    • The three biggest lies:
      My check's in the mail.
      Of course I'll marry you.
      I'm from the government and I wanna help ya.

    • That's the good thing about being a teacher. A former student sees you and says, "Hey, Zehnder! Hey, let me buy you a beer! Let me buy you a beer!"

    • I never go shopping with my wife. Well, once in a while, I gotta go buy pants, and she goes with me to make sure she can let them out.

    • My wife leaves me at the bar and doesn't worry. I sat in the bar an hour and a half and no women talked to me. I'm just a harmless drudge.

    • I ask a 25 year-old woman why she's dating a 42 year-old man. Well, first she'll tell me it's none of my business, then she'll tell me to look where all the men her age are. Sure enough, I go into BW3's and there they are, playing pinball with their gut up on the table. Mama calls her son "Sonny" because of how bright he is!

    :: Bryan Travis :: 11/14/2001 @ 20:56 :: [link] ::

    Miscellany - Asian Princess, Reverend Smith, System Toolbox and More
    • A prince in search of a princess, indeed! It's amazing what a little mascara or PhotoShopping can do for a woman; I never realized there was such a large underground community creating fake user pages, but "Asian Prince" is the most talented I've seen - (s)he even offers 3 MP3's for your listening pleasure and an online journal. There are others, but none approaches the charm of AsianPrince213@yahoo.com.

    • The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith. Bow down before the one you serve. Should I retire early or become independently wealthy, Reverend Smith is who I wish to emulate, for I am no more than a conforming, eccentric eclectic. The Reverend is a dynamic individual - among other things, an Internet meme, independent musician (needed a third link), LEGO maniac and filmmaker of Vendetta: a Christmas Story. I wonder if he's accepting applications for disciples?

    • Multi-platform goodies for geeks await you at System Toolbox. Well, it's not the best there is, but it has articles on NT/W2K command line scripting, a sadly dying art.

    • The aurora borealis is the most beautiful natural phenomenon I've ever witnessed, bar none. Northerners share their awe at Space Weather's Aurora Gallery. Sadly, I was driving when the display occurred, but never looked up.

    • Defunct dotcoms courtesy of disobey.com.

    • Ah, here comes my favorite holiday.

    :: Bryan Travis :: 11/11/2001 @ 17:48 :: [link] ::

    Life by Pictures

    With the long-winded story-telling kick I've been on the past couple weeks, there hasn't been much said about what's going on in day-to-day life. Now's your chance to exit without a pop-up window...

      Recently there have only been a few noteworthy items and a handful of photo keepsakes.

    • We celebrated Halloween at work with a potluck lunch. A lot of people brought in crockpots of chili, but there weren't enough electrical outlets to plug them all in. Trust I/T ingenuity to come up with a solution this elegant. Check out the lights - this little baby is fully loaded. At home I have 7 PCs and 3 monitors plugged into an identical UPS, and I have to turn on all that equipment to make all 5 load lights glow!

    • A co-worker and I accept a dare to eat an jalapeño pepper. Look for the pepper juice squirting out of mine - nice!

    • Peppers are just the thing to put me into a mood to proselytize about something or another. You'll note my employer's corporate logo has been obscured on my ID badge - I've discussed this before.

    • This is entitled simply "The Morning After." I visited a friend who lives in an apartment whilst her upstairs neighbors were having an all-night party. The aftermath, although spectacular, was mild in comparison.

    • Several different kinds of towers came together in my camera's field of view.

    • What's going through her mind? I'd give nearly anything to know the answer... however, I don't think she's completely sure, either.

    • It's the little things. Closeup of lichens on a granite boulder.

    • The world would be a much happier place if everyone heeded such signs.

    • I thorougly enjoyed autumn this year. There were plenty of sunny days, the temperature was awesome and this year had some of the best colors I've ever seen, and plenty of them.

    • I found a comfortable nook to recline in amongst some boulders and admired the view for a while.

    • I met a tree with toes.

    :: Bryan Travis :: 11/09/2001 @ 00:47 :: [link] ::

    And I Would Bike 27 Miles

    There's a song stuck in my head. It's been there for a while, and since I haven't written for a few days, I'll take the liberty of blaming the absence on the song. It's just a song - it can't put up a fight, although it can stick in my head for the better part of a week.

    The song stuck on continuous repeat is "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers, which may help you understand this post's title. Why the song has been going through my head is a story for another post. I'm here to tell you a story about something the song reminded me of from my past, a story that took place long, long ago when I was barely in high school, a story I thought about numerous times over this past weekend during the long hours spent driving.

    This is a story about Julie, my first crush. Remember your first crush? It awakens something in you, releases a Pandora's box of emotions, and your outlook on the world is never the same. When the emotional flood washed over me, I was taken by surprise - I had never known such feelings before. These new emotions were so foreign and powerful, yet pleasant, and I had to fight the urge to walk around with a big, dumb grin on my face lest the steady stream of drool ruin my leather tennis shoes. It had that kind of an effect on me!

    As far as personality goes, I have to say Julie was really cool. We grew up in Kentucky, but compound that with living in Spencer County, which was and still is exceptionally rural, and you'll soon find yourself wanting for stimulating conversation. Bucolic it is, think tank it ain't. Here's an example to sum it up for you.

    Farming is a major economic activity in Spencer County, especially tobacco, and both of my parents grew up on farms. You've probably heard the American farmer is an endangered species facing brutal competition from an international marketplace and increasingly unable to make ends meet. The effects can be seen in Spencer County as farms are sold and carved into subdivisions to make way for the sprawling suburbs of Louisville. Farming is hard work and demands long hours, leaving little time for leisure and other such frivolities. That's why many male farmers in the midwest have a difficult time attracting wives - many women want nothing of it and move to the cities in search of a less agrarian lifestyle. I completely understand.

    Farming is its own way of life, it's own culture. When farms are sold and divided up into little pieces of suburbia, the former farming families are left with a lot of time on their hands. Without long hours working in the fields, a cultural vacuum forms, and the kids find new ways to pass the time. The same holds true for the families who flee the cities and move into the country, much to the detriment of their children. Cow-tipping, demolition derbies, bashing mailboxes with a baseball bat late at night, tractor pulls, and "cruising" become popular ways of passing the time. Egads, the insanity, I tell you! Having little in common with my schoolmates, my childhood was spent anxiously waiting to go to college so I could get the hell out of Spencer County.

    With that, you hopefully have a suitably adequate mental image of my impressions of rural life, which isn't to say the countryside's not beautiful, green, serene, peaceful, and full of sweetly scented fresh air, because it is, but unless you're the next Thoreau and have plans for a better Walden, one of that dying breed of successful farmer, a technophobe, or have severe tinnitus and can't endure the bustling sounds of the city, a life in the country will drive you batty. To invoke a cliche, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Plus, I'm pro-environment, but require a substantial amount of technological infrastructure to support me: roads, automobile, electricity, cell phone, broadband Internet, coffee shops, sewers, theatre for the performing arts, airport, commercial centers - the list goes on, but the point is the countryside is defaced when we drag along all of our support infrastructure, so my philosophy is to live in a city to minimize my environmental impact and let the virgin forests keep their virginity.

    Dudes! I've done it yet again! I've completely wandered off the subject, so much so that the only effective way to get back on course is abruptly ceasing the tirade, calling myself out like I'm doing right now, and getting on with the original storyline in the next paragraph. With such a penchant for loquacity, you'd never guess I was an introvert, huh? I surprise even myself at times.

    Let's backup to where I said Julie was cool. And so she was, and still is. After high school we lost touch for eight years (I'm bad about writing letters), but she found me on classmates.com and we've been emailing since March. It's good to find lost friends. She has a family, which she wouldn't have thought possible in high school, and is a dedicated mother. She had a fierce sense of loyalty and protection for those she cared for, one of the qualities I admired most about her, and it was good to see it alive and well after all this time.

    Let's backup even further. Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine for 1989 so we may visit a younger Bryan in the thralls of heartthrob numero uno. Another thing I admired about Julie was her ability to express herself in words and writing. She not only had the gift of self-expression, but also to understand and think abstractly in metaphor. To this day a woman who can express herself elegantly with words is a wild turn-on for me, the truest indicator of inner beauty I know of.

    Having just said what I find to be the most alluring thing about a woman's personality, this is an opportune time make a profound observation about rural life:

    Upon arriving in a rural community, the uninitiated quickly discover metaphorical self-expression is not commonplace, and that it may even bolster the disapproval of the masses.

    Julie was the first girl I met in Spencer County (excluding family members - make an incest joke and incur my wrath) who could express herself by going beneath the surface, who had a steady supply of original thoughts, and who appreciated those things in others. I don't know what it is about the country - maybe all the exposure to nature and fresh air overloads the brains of the natives and they become resistant to it, rendering them incapable of recognizing the beauty around them so that it gets taken for granted. For some, the overload must be excruciating, which certainly would explain all the beer cans and discarded furniture one finds littering rural roadsides and yards. Remember what was said earlier about dragging our infrastructure with us when moving to the country?

    Resisting the temptation to wander off the subject yet again, I was mesmerized by this kindred spirit, and naturally, I knew she had to be the only other kindred spirit in all the world, and I felt so lucky to have found her. Well, come on, how else is your first crush supposed to break your heart so you think it's the end of the world? Duh! I may be taking the quote slightly out of context, but Thomas Jefferson said it so well: "I find as I grow older that I love most whom I loved first."

    Julie asked me to go out with her on the last day of school and gave me her ring - she was a woman of the 90's, bravely defining a decade a whole year before it began, or perhaps she knew she was dealing with a hopelessly clueless, sensitive New Age guy. I don't know which she was, but I'm sure the females out there will agree whole-heartedly when I say it takes a smart woman to be either of the two, and a diva to be both.

    Living on opposite ends of the county and in different telephone exchanges made it difficult to maintain a summer romance. In those days, email had not yet come to the masses. We hadn't heard of the Internet, and in the 1980's the idea of connecting over 70% of America's households to a global computer network was still something out of Star Trek or an Arthur C. Clarke novel. Julie lived 131/2 miles away, but it might as well have been 370 miles, or 500, or even the far side of the moon.

    When the inevitable happened and she called it off, I felt it my duty to return the ring. I considered potential alternatives. For some reason, it never occurred to me to ask my parents for assistance, probably because I expected them to tease me. It was not safe to mail jewelry, and walking was out of the question. The next day I got on my bicycle and rode to Julie's house. Boldly marching to the house and knocking on the front door required at least an additional 20 feet of intestines and a spine, neither of which I could produce as I rode back and forth on the road in front of her house in quarter mile circuits before turning around to ride by again. Fortunately, her sister came outside and stood at their mailbox, relieving me both of the ring and the need to find the guts and backbone I knew didn't have in the first place.

    Sad story, huh? What's more, it had a way of repeating itself on an annual basis, usually in the springtime a few weeks before school ended for the summer. In a fit of satirical wit after my second crush on Julie in 1990, I found a calendar for April 1991 and wrote "time to fall for Julie all over again" in anticipation of the third round. And sure enough... But 1991 was the final cycle - third time's the charm, as they say.

    In 1992 I went to GSP, the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, a 5 week summer camp for gifted students entering their senior year of high school. When discussing reasons for and benefits of GSP, I frequently used to quip, "Because smart kids in Kentucky need a break from the rest of the state." Needless to say, it wasn't well-received by other Kentuckians who hadn't been to GSP, and since I was the only one in my class who attended, that meant most everyone. Yeah, GSP made me arrogant, but I think I did a good job of keeping it to myself. I knew I only had to endure one more year of Spencer County High School before heading off to college to reunite with my GSP cohorts and new friends. I was suffering from my own private strain of senioritis, but after going to college and experiencing a life more normal, my attitude improved overnight.

    Back to Julie for some closing thoughts. She was the first to stir my heart, and I gained a treasured form of self-expression that would be with me through college - poetry. The first 10 or 12 poems were about her, but they were enough to get me started and reason to dedicate the whole collection to her. Ah, the women in my life have done so much for me! They've seeded long quests of self-discovery, inspiring deeply emotional self-reflection - why, even this weblog must someday be dedicated to a woman in my life. But as for Julie, 120 poems later, I can definitely say it was salve to sooth the soul. Thank you, Julie, for everything. You are a lifelong friend.

    :: Bryan Travis :: 11/06/2001 @ 14:12 :: [link] ::