THE IN BETWEEN

As I sit and look at the people from my own restaurant seat booth, I see myself as a part of the world, and yet completely apart from the world. I’m delighted by the smiling faces of the family at a table not ten paces away from me. They have aligned themselves in the most stereotypical of ways—the women on the left, and the men on the right. Yet they couldn’t be happier. The family members poured in one by one, and the whole room was filled with cries of “Hey!” and “So good to see you!” and they have yet to stop laughing. It is something quite beautiful—so few people live their lives to enjoy each other. So many live to simply enjoy themselves.

Take the couple across from me for example. I had expected an older couple to enjoy each other’s company more than my technological youth, but they are instead sitting, staring at their phone screens. They are leaned over, scarfing down their food like ravenous wolves. Their phones in hand—I don’t think they have spoken a word since they got here. They even sat on the same side of the booth. Perhaps they simply appreciate each other’s closeness. Perhaps at that age, there are simply no more words to say—but I would certainly hope not.

And then there is me. I sit in the in between of life. There is a void of silence that lingers, impenetrable, for feet around me at all time. Even the waitress, whose brimming smile roused the old couple to life for a moment, quieted as she took my order. My life has become all business, and they can feel it. I had been working diligently at the spreadsheets I had brought with me. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask someone to breakfast with me. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am an invisible man—not the Ralph Ellison kind, but invisible nonetheless. For all the words I say, the people I meet, and the lives I change, I am forgotten.

That is, to everyone but her. You remember her, don’t you? We don’t say her name anymore, because she is gone now, but for a short while we spent all our time together. We went off, sailing away into the distance, with champagne, sunlight, and smiles. You know the one, don’t you? We have all met that person, who changed us. Who made the world feel whole and the frigid winters a little less frozen.

But she is gone now, and I sit in the in between. Between this cold, awful world, and whatever comes next. There is too much to lose in reality, yet too little to cling to for me to stay grounded. I am a mind without a body—moving through the world with complete awareness of self, yet no desire. I’m told desire stems from the gut. Perhaps that is why the office has come to call me gutless. It doesn’t matter. They will be long dead, and I’ll still be here: watching, listening, and waiting for her return.

——

 

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CLICHE POST-GRAD FAMILY THANK YOU NOTE

Graduation just passed, and this weekend I had a million things to talk about. Planning. Hard work. Hating the morning. Good food. Family. Stress. Over eating. And so on…yet somehow today my mind has pulled a blank. Probably because I was up until nearly 3:00 am giving life (relationship) advice to a good friend of mine, and I am now understandably sleepy. But I’m sure as I am typing, something will come to me.

Speak of the devil, and you will be rewarded in kind. Let’s talk about family. Family is a great and terrible thing. Somehow they are always there for you, yet also removed from your being (at least, this is true for me). Don’t get me wrong—I love my family. In fact, I think deep down, I would fall into the “family before country” group. Though, the caveat to this would be that this doesn’t apply to ALL members of my family. I don’t know my second cousin once removed who lives in wherever of wherever. I honestly don’t think I would jeopardize my life success over them. My mother, brother, sister, father, aunt, and/or immediate cousins though? Yeah probably. Actually not probably—definitely. Those are the people who keep up with and care about me, and I care about them.

Which is like…duh, Cassady. Of course you would care about your mother. Who doesn’t? I mean maybe it is a bit obvious, but at the same time I am not as sold. Perhaps it is due to the stresses of my life, which have been in many ways caused by certain family members, and I have seen people that I once would have placed on a pedestal fall into the depths of contempt. I also have family members that aren’t technically related to me by blood, yet they mean more to me than the biological grandparents on my mother’s side that I never knew. I have family whose image and ideology has influenced me long after their death. In part, I attribute the success of my life to their life lessons.

But again, like…duh Cassady. Of course you are shaped by your family and their teachings. You ranted about this when you talked about religious upbringings. Eh. Yeah. I suppose so. But what exactly is life without a little thankfulness. I don’t currently believe in an afterlife, which is perhaps my nihilism seeping through. But I do believe in life after death. I’ll explain quickly, since this post is getting a bit longer than I’d like. After we die, I don’t see much reason for us to actually have much going on after. If you disagree, that’s fine. It just doesn’t make much sense to me in the traditional sense, since if we have life after death, why shouldn’t the cat, or the dog, or the dolphin. What makes us so special? Because we claimed it? That sounds like vanity.

Regardless though, we can live after death through things. Images are a common one, but those don’t really impart the idea of life. Through our family we can live on, in the sense that our ideas will continue to flourish and develop. Thoughts we once had will find their way into the minds of brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and so on. Heirlooms seem to carry a similar quality, which is what makes them so…irreplaceable. You know what I mean? Let me know what you think! Is your family that important to you?

——

 

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A LETTER FROM MY FORMER SELF

I received a letter from myself the other day. My high school biology teacher had my entire class write a letter to ourselves for our last assignment as seniors back then, which she then mailed out during these last few weeks of college (Yay! I’m graduating). Reading (or I guess technically rereading) that letter left me with a lot of mixed feelings. At the time I wrote it, I didn’t really know where life was taking me. I knew I was going to Cal Poly Pomona, though it was not my first choice of schools, and I knew I was in love with my (now ex) girlfriend. That was about it. I didn’t know I was going to be interested in writing. I didn’t know I would be working two jobs. I didn’t know that the grass really is greener from a distance than it is up close.

But all that aside, here we are today. I once again have no idea where I am going, or what I am doing. In some ways I have even less of a grasp on reality than I did then. Yet I know a lot more today than I did four years ago. I find it curious that, for all this reminiscing, the problems of my life are completely different. In that letter, I wrote about my love interest, my issues with my relationships, and my certainty of my own greatness. Today, I would write about the monotony of daily activities, the debilitating incapability that my generation faces, and the omnipresent desire (and impossibility) of being an individual in an ever-growing social world.

I recently watched an interview with Morgan Freeman, where he was asked if race plays a role in succeeding in one’s dreams in the present. He said no, which I found interesting, because in a way he is correct. It is true that, if you really try hard enough, eventually something is going to work. But at the same time, I’ve been at this blogging thing for a year, and I have only found minor success. Of course, I am a straight, white male. But to say race has no role in success is a bit unfair, don’t you agree? I mean, he said “we are proof” that race is not a major role player, which to me seems a little short sighted. There are only so many roles in Hollywood available, much like how there are only so many spaces available on a basketball team. To say someone can be a part of that miniscule percent of successful black actors “if they try hard enough” seems like a bit of a load to me. We can’t have 3 billion fulltime actors. It simply wouldn’t be sustainable. We would starve to death.

But success does seem like it is within all of our grasps if we can redefine success for ourselves. Perhaps success isn’t being famous, or accruing a fortune, but instead perhaps it is simply being happy with life. And while for many of us, that seems like it isn’t somewhere we are at currently, it is somewhere that we can strive to get to. Ok. Hopefully this somewhat sappy story has helped you in some way (I’m sure it has been a nice form of therapy for me somehow). Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

——

 

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THE KOI

The cold, dead eyes of the koi

Make me wonder. How exactly

Does such emptiness also carry

Such infinite wisdom?

 

They vacuum away at pebbles

In stagnant, green waters,

Hungry for their feed.

Their pillowy tails look

Like silky clouds, drifting lazily

Through an empty summer sky.

 

My eyes get lost

In their broken speckles

Of orange and black and white.

Do you think we will ever learn

To see past color

As they do?

 

It is almost as if

The hardship of time,

Who pillages our human lives,

Was repulsed by their intricate scales.

Scales, not unlike those of Themis,

Who rebuffed the wicked

In olden days.

 

Oh, what I would give

To know what they know;

To see what they see;

To live as they live.

For I too am a fish,

One from a bigger pond,

And faster currents,

And if I’m not careful

They will suck me away

As they have many others.

——

 

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TONE IN LITERATURE AND LIFE

From time to time, my father and I talk about a variety of subjects. Anything from alcohol, to weight lifting, to…well, really anything. Yesterday, my dad finished reading Honored Enemy, a book by a (slightly) lesser-known fantasy author: Raymond E. Feist (at least, compared to George R.R. Martin), and we were considering it in comparison to the Game of Thrones series (yeah I know it’s called A Song of Fire and Ice officially, but everyone calls it Game of Thrones). My dad asserted that Feist’s characters were more hopeful, which I thought was an interesting perspective, since at many times throughout his book, they knowingly face and fear certain doom.

To contrast, the characters in Game of Thrones, while often times very dire (I mean, the Stark’s house words are “Winter is Coming,” which is indicative of a fear of death, rather than an enjoyment with life) also hold a sense of hopefulness at various points, it just doesn’t seem hopeful. Think about it. Tyrion is hopeful in his own way—in the sense that he thinks he can overcome pretty much anything with his own wit. Renly is hopeful in a way too. He is very fun loving, and clearly represents some amount of goodness in the world. Vars, in his own way, is hopeful that things can go well, and Littlefinger is hopeful in his own schemes. Though I would categorically say that Game of Thrones is far less hopeful than most books.

Which takes us to the point of this post! Tone! The whole tone of the story frames the perspective it takes. And I like to think of stories as an allegory for life. This one is that the tone you take can change how you look at life. If everything you think is hopeless, then the world will seem that much darker. But if you can look at the things around you, and find some greatness in it, suddenly you might be able to enjoy it a bit more—even in dire straights.

Alright, well I’ll leave it a bit shorter today, but don’t forget that life can be really great, just as books can be really great, even if there are many points where the world seems too big, and the battles you are fighting seem hopeless. Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject. Is life better when we view it as better? Or does the pessimism lead to better successes in happiness?

——

 

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PUZZLE PIECES

Life is like a puzzle:

The middle pieces always fit together

In unexpected ways—

Though the edges are clearly defined.

They come in all different styles;

Grasslands, city life, and oceans.

Each its own perfect picture

Filled with little invisible cracks.

But the missing pieces

Always are more noticeable

Than those snugly in place.

 

They are

Like a flash of lightning

In the heart of darkness;

Like blood in the water

Of shark infested seas.

 

They may blind those who oppose me

Or they may tear me limb from limb.

But if I lacked those holes, I wouldn’t be

More than a sack of flesh and brittle skin.

 

And to remind me of my strife,

With its missing pieces and all,

I would frame my puzzling life

As a picture on my wall.

——

 

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RUSH TO THE AIRPORT

I was trying to decide what to talk about today, and then I realized I was super short on time (in fact, I’m typing this in the car as my superior drives us to a meeting)! Which gave me an interesting topic for discussion: rushing. Have you ever rushed? Probably. If not in your adult life, likely as a child your family rushed you at some point, right? And rushing is absolutely the most stressful thing you can experience in the moment.

I have a story to provide an example. My family had decided to go to Montana for vacation, which would end up being an absolute blast. We got up early, packed our bags, and left for LAX. Now, if you’ve ever driven to LAX before, you know how much of a pain that trip is. Regardless, we were about halfway there, and were running just fine on time, when suddenly I look back and realize my suitcase was not packed along with everything else. And that’s got all my clothes in it. For the whole trip. So we turn around, drive the half distance we were out back to our house, and get my bag. At this point, our plane leaves in an hour and a half, and it’s a forty-five minute drive there AT BEST. We’re speeding and bobbing through traffic, have to park in the expensive parking at the airport, and run into the lobby. And the receptionist chides us for being late, and says theres a chance that we, or our luggage, will not make the flight. But we insist, and she lets our bags through their machinery, and we take off toward the security checks. We wait in line, with everyone tapping their feet and what not.

Tick-tock tick-tock. Every minute feels like and hour, and we finally get through the security line and sprint to our loading zone. They’ve already called finally loading, and when I get to the lady taking tickets, she looks as though she were just about to turn away from the desk to close the door to the plane. Luckily for us, she lets us on, and everything worked out. BUT that was exceptionally stressful. And if you’ve ever experienced something stressful like this, you probably know the symptoms. A minor headache, increased heart rate, the feeling that you want to snap at anyone who slights you, even in the smallest way.

So how do you control that? Well, it can be hard, but the best way is to stay calm. Don’t tell yourself to stay calm, because that literally never works (have you every TRIED to relax?! It’s a paradox). Talk yourself through the logic of the scenario, and accept that not everything works out. I mean, we were running through an airport at full speed. Security could have tackled us out of nowhere, or shot us. They don’t know the situation. We could have gotten stuck in traffic, or the plane could have left on time. Or that lady that took our bags could have not let us on the plane. But we were lucky, a little insistent, and it all worked out.

Do you have any tips to dealing with rushing when it happens? Let me know!

——

 

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APPEASEMENT

People take life

Too seriously.

 

They turn a two-dollar

Discrepancy

Into a two hour

Discussion.

Sure, I was late.

Give me a break,

I made a mistake,

Get over it.

 

It’s not like I haven’t

Sacrificed before;

Gone on late lunches,

Passed up breaks,

And

Strained muscles

Before.

 

But they don’t care

About the sacrifices you’ve made.

They only care

For the hours you’re paid.

 

They only care

That you accommodate their whim,

Paying no mind

To the pain in your hymn.

 

And the minute you

Stand up

To speak up for yourself

They immediately make up

An excuse

For their self.

 

And when all’s

Said and done,

A good worker knows,

That instead of

Escalating

The problem to blows.

It’s easier to quit

And start again

Than it is to remit

And keep appeasing them.

——

 

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A MIDWINTER NIGHT

“Please come to me,” the old man whispered. His words were spoken out into the dark, quiet sitting room. He was seated at his wooden work table; a worn down candle was lit next to him. The dim lighting pushed feebly back against the night that surrounded him. Before him was a mess of papers—half finished lines, empty stanzas, unbalanced sonnets, and scrawls of other accounts. All of them stopped short.

“Calliope, Euterpe, Erato, please…help me.” But there was no answer. The man’s sad eyes stared through the window to his right. There was no moon. No clouds. Not even stars that night. Just empty blackness. He turned again, this time to the tomes on his left. His tomes. Perfect accounts of the greatest tragedies, the most tremendous comedies, and other master works that had changed how the world thought about writing. But tonight was different. Tonight the ink in his quill had seemed to dry up; the paper sat there stagnant, and his muses had abandoned him. The wax from the candle bled down onto the edge of the table, adding to the pattern of waxes already there.

Once, he would have reminded the weary world of the good deed that little candle did, shining out as a beacon against the darkness, but tonight no words came to him. He felt choked, as if his throat had been ripped from his throat by the bear from the theatre the night before. He had not been there. His legs were too weak, and his body was too frail to endure the cold these days. Even now, with his body enrobed in layers of clothing, he could feel the chill air prod at his heart. The very air he breathed felt like knives in his lungs.

He himself, beneath those layers, looked like an infant—too tiny to move his own body. Yet somehow, he had found his way to his desk. But even now he could feel the weight sinking into his shoulders, immobilizing him. The whites of his knuckles pressed against the table as he tried to rise—to breathe a breath of fresh air, and renew the pictures in his mind. He could almost taste the crisp frost of the air. The physician had told him fresh air, even if cold, was good for him. Still, as he tried to rise, he felt his tiny legs shaking beneath him. He was trapped at his desk, lest he wish to shed his only protection from the winter cold. Trapped, by the works he couldn’t finish. Trapped by the dried well of language that once flowed from his immortal hands. That is what they had told him at least: that he would be immortalized.

But tonight he did not feel immortal. He could feel the coiling in his lungs; every heartbeat like a popping balloon. He reached out, as if some entity—some beautiful woman—stood before him. He could almost see her. So perfect, so young…yet so aged and mature. He was so close he could nearly touch her. His arms trembled beneath the weight of his cloths. Three inches…two inches…then his body gave out and he crashed into his wooden table. The candle sputtered out, and he was left in the dark.

——

 

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A YEAR IN THE BOOKS

Hello everyone,

 

Today is a good Tuesday for a discussion. It’s cold out, I’m at work on spring break…just a perfect day. Wait…that’s not perfect at all! Then again, nothing can really put a damper on my mood today, because today we (I?) are celebrating one year of blogging! Technically, cassadyblog turns one year old on this coming Thursday, March twenty-third, but as discussions are on Tuesdays, it seemed most appropriate to put this “year in review” segment today.

As you may or may not have noticed, I started out writing this blog pretty exclusively as a discussion of my ideas. I’ve talked a decent amount on just about everything—politics, gender, race, global warming…the list goes on. But then things took an interesting turn as I started trying some creative writing here and there. I realized I adored it—specifically, I really liked poetry. It called to me. The rhythm was like a siren calling out to a sailor—beautiful and irresistible.

Likewise, writing short snippets of stories is something I took up after a few attempts at it. I realized that writing short stories was something that let me focus on really getting into the nitty-gritty detail of things—which is something that sonnets and such often are forced to leave a bit more broad. I mean, how does one fit the details of scenery, complexities of dialogue, and development of character into one-hundred forty syllables? It’s pretty hard—I mean, isn’t that why Shakespeare wrote plays too?

Anyways, I wanted to do a couple things with this post. First of all, I wanted to thank all of you for reading. I had a friend recently check out what I had written, and she was kind enough to tell me how much she liked it. I don’t write for people—I do it because I enjoy it. That being said, I can’t pretend like there haven’t been days where I wanted to bail entirely. There are always doubts, misgivings, and fears about a project, but the happiness, the smiles, and the support are all things that have kept me going when I’ve felt like quitting. So thank you.

The second thing I wanted to do with this post was provide a list of my top 5 pieces of work for the past year. I know, based on WordPress statistics, what everyone likes most of my work, but none of you know the works that I have liked the most. With that in mind, here is a list (with links) to my top 5 favorite works from this past year of writing (and of course, I ranked them because who doesn’t love ranking things?):

 

#5 – Views from the Coop

 

This is one of a few haikus I wrote, and has been followed by several after it that I’ve enjoyed very much. But somehow, relating chickens to people is something that I have found an everlasting appreciation for, ever since I wrote it.

 

#4 – Stand Up Citizen

 

This was the poem that actually sparked my desire to continue writing poetry. It was the third original poem I posted on my blog, but the first born from personal experience and real, current emotions. I can still see myself, on the rooftops of L.A., sitting and waiting in disbelief and anger. In retrospect it’s a little…well, it could be better, and, like my emotions at the time, it’s a little rough around the edges, but I like it just the same.

 

#3 – An Eternity in an Instant

 

Similar to Stand Up Citizen, this was one of the first short stories I wrote. After a thought experiment of smiling at everyone I saw, I recognized that the people that smiled back were often people I would never see again, and that moment between us was so meaningful, yet completely intangible. It has been a memorable experience for me in my writing, despite how short it was.

 

#2 – A Stroke of Red Ink

 

I have a soft spot for haikus alright?! Though this is a poem made up of several. I think A Stroke of Red Ink is probably the most interesting poem I have written so far. It has aspects of cultural differences with both the language difference in some actual French words, and the abuse of the black girl (and the character’s inability to help her). It has powerful imagery with the lake of red ink swallowing the dreamer, and it has allusions to other aspects of literature—all of which is juxtaposed with a certain irony.

 

#1 – Camouflage

 

Do you ever unintentionally make a rhyme, and it sticks with you for…like months? That’s what the last two lines of this poem have been for me. I’ll be standing in the shower, or walking through the halls, and BOOM “why is it that you / Hide behind that suit of red, white, and blue?” hits me like a bullet. I wrote it in December, after the results of the election had finally sunk in, and the hypocrisies of various nationalistic characters began to show their ugly faces. The “I Want You” poster kept popping into my mind, and I decided to write a poem applying that image to our current political climate.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Where would I be without a myriad of honorable mentions? Many of these I think about regularly—things I could have done better, turning points in my life, and so on. I encourage you to check them all out, though if you have read this far, I’m sure there is no need for me to tell you that.

 

A Choice

Tweedle-Dee-Do

Off Ramps

Chapters

I Wrote You a Poem

The Morning After

Visitors of the Mind

Train Stop

Harnessed Lightning

Connecting Hillary’s Two Faces

——

 

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