Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"when the fun stops"

This American Life did an episode last week called "Blackjack," focused literally on the casino game. Although the first part of the broadcast was on the romanticized skill of card-counting, the second half delved rather surprisingly into the world of gambling addiction, and whether casinos have a moral obligation to help addicts (or at the very least, not overtly tempt them).

It's this second part that hits close to home, pretty precisely. Las Vegas absolutely benefits from enticing gamblers to its casinos, and it's hard to hear about the actions of casino hosts, considering that so many people I know are involved in these marketing techniques. But the line between "I am having fun" and "I am having a problem" can be crossed almost imperceptibly.

I used to tell those from outside the city that you can't live in Vegas with a gambling addiction. Unfortunately, that's only partially true. You can live in Vegas with a gambling addiction. However, it isn't much of a life, and we do a poor job of supporting those with a problem handling our livelihood on a personal level (as opposed to the pervasive professional cynacism). There is pressure to keep this tucked away, secret, lest we have to face the guilt that just by living there, someone's free will is being compromised. Because let me be absolutely clear about this: there is no free will as an addict. You have free will as an artist formerly known as Addict. And getting from one place to the other is a ruinous, lonely journey.

It has taken me years to understand what it means for someone to be an addict. Initially, I spent a lot of time being frustrated with what I perceived to be a character weakness. If only this person would stay away from casinos. If only this person had another, more productive hobby to fill the time. If only this person would just wake up and realize that they are being dumb. If only this person would Just Pull It Together. If only...if only.

Dealing with an addict is a painful, crushing experience. And no matter how rational and objective you try to be on the outside, your insides ache with guilt and shame. You want to give the person everything they are asking for, because they are pleading with you, they are promising you that this will never happen again, they want to quit, that they hate themselves like this. You want to believe them and fix things and have the person that you love back in your life again.

This piece from xoJane, "On Dealing With Active Addicts" focuses primarily on drug and alcohol addiction, but the characteristics of an addict seem universal. It is giving me a surprising amount of comfort.
Having [an addict] in your life eventually begins to feel like dealing with a monster, something inhuman that terrorizes you. It’s impossible to reason with or negotiate with the addict, because the person you are talking to, that black hole of resentment and rage and ego and pain, is not your friend, or sibling, or co-worker. It’s the addict, and the addict’s only concern is placating you so they can keep filling their need.

You can pour everything into an addict, and they will keep taking it until you shrivel up and die. There will always be some new excuse, some new problem to explain away their actions, and instead of trying to fix it for the millionth time, you must remember that the real problem is always addiction. You cannot save an addict. You can rarely even help them.
(ht: Jezebel for the latter piece).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"democracy is not a spectator sport"

People who get comfortable in their spirit, they miss what they were created for. They were created to magnify the glory of the world.

Newark mayor Cory Booker (see also: America's boyfriend) gave the Stanford commencement address today. The theme, "Conspiracy of Love," was incredibly moving (and performed in the black preacher motif, including the telling of modern parables, persuasive syntax, calls to action, and intermittent brow wiping).


What his dad would say when Booker was "getting too big for my britches":
"You need to understand something. You drink deeply from wells of freedom and liberty and opportunity that you did not dig. You eat lavishly from banquet tables prepared for you by your ancestors. You sit under the shade of trees that you did not plant or cultivate or care for. You have a choice in life. You could just sit back, getting fat, dumb, and happy consuming all of the blessings put before you, or it could metabolize inside of you, become fuel to get you into the fight to make this democracy real. To make it true to its words that we can be a nation of liberty and justice for all."

Lesson one of conspirators:
In my city, I see that conspirators know you do not go through life comfortable. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is a difficult, hard, challenging, full contact, competitive, participatory endeavor.

Lesson two of conspirators:
To stay faithful in a world that can be so cruel. To stay faithful in a world that justifiably emotes cynicism.

Lesson three of conspirators:
Conspirators are the ones that show up...we go through life all the time but we don't always show up. We may be there in body, but we are not there in spirit. And we begin to erode the truth of who we are; we fail to live our authenticity. A great president, Lincoln, said that everyone is born an original, but sadly, most die copies. Because they don't show up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"the fulfilled life is a consequence"

In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it... Now it’s “So what does this get me?”...Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.
-- David McCullough Jr's commencement address at Wellesley High School, June 2012.

People are all over this speech because of the "you're not special" messaging. I am finding the "do things for the experience, not for the accolades" more resonating for myself.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sigur Rós, "Varúð"

I always feel like I've had a good, cathartic cry after a Sigur Rós song.

Monday, June 4, 2012

mexican wedding

My first trip to Mexico may or may not have been the typical one. We stayed at this place:

...which is by far the most luxurious living I have ever done.

We went explicitly to attend my old housemate's wedding. Ben and Gabi met and started dating when we were all still living in the house together, so I got to watch that relationship develop from the start. It was really fun to celebrate this next step with them.

Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding

It was even more fun to celebrate it with a stunning view of the Pacific ocean.

Ben and Gabi Wedding

When we made the travel arrangements, I wasn't yet pregnant, and had been looking forward to the tequila tasting the resort offered. Despite having to refrain from the actual tasting, I did end up learning a lot from our awesome tequila sommelier, Tony.

Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding

Totally fantastic experience, even though I felt like an ass for not knowing any Spanish. (Yes, I have lived in Nevada and California for a combined total of 28 years. Yes, I also think it is ridiculous.) Viva Mexico, and congratulations to Ben and Gabi!

Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding
Ben and Gabi Wedding