Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Different Backdrop

I didn't think I would be back in PA for another hunting season. But here I am. First one in a few years.

Things have changed a little bit since 2009. There was the whole natural gas boom/bust. Thanks to that there's now a giant drilling pad in the middle of the 20+ acre windrow field to the west of my house. Unexpectedly, this has actually been a really good thing, because it forces the deer to stay between its 15ft. earth walls and the pine forest––meaning that they get seen by me––not the trespassers who inevitably end up on Saxons Knob, across the road. 

There are also more deer than there were in 2009. There aren't quite as many as when I was a kid, nor are they quite as big. Still, there are many more than there have been in the recent past. My brother and I have already had several fairly good opportunities to shoot, even if they haven't been prizes.

And there's the other thing that's changed. I had hunted with my brother one year before I went to Tennessee, but it's a lot different now. He has more experience, and I feel like we work as much more of a team. Oddly, I think some of this is because of how much we play video games together. It's pretty weird, but it's almost the same––only we aren't getting shot at. 

So between my brother, the expanded deer population, and the new gas pad, I feel a lot more hopeful about this hunting season that I can ever remember feeling in the past.

I also feel like there's probably probably something problematic about using a drilling pad with tanks and a pipeline containing thousands of cubic meters of explosive pressurized natural gas as a backdrop/blind while you're shooting high-velocity rifles. That sounds bad, but somehow it doesn't seem at all scary when I'm actually doing it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seven Years of Misadventure

Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. The actual date was November 29, but the spiritual anniversary is today, since today is the first day of Pennsylvania hunting season. It was this day seven years ago  that I wrote an email to a good friend detailing a misadventure early that morning in which I came the closest I ever have––consciously at least––to getting shot.

I had had a blogger account for a month or two to comment on other peoples' blogs, but had never thought of a topic to write my own post about. The next day though, I had the idea to adapt that email––which didn't take much work––to be my first blog post.

At the time, my blog was named Bradford County and I supposed that it would be about hunting and other things related to life in a rural area. The name has changed––several times––and my days of posting about hunting disasters and crazy neighbors were short-lived. One topic that has steadily endured though is misadventure.

I've always been enthralled by the idea of adventure. So it isn't that surprising that several years ago, I began to model my life––and by extension this blog––toward seeking adventure. In the end though, I feel like a great deal of what I've found––and an even greater deal of what I've written about––has actually been misadventure.

Whether it was getting shot at while hunting, hopping a train in Italy––to a city I wasn't trying to go to, running around naked in the snow in Latvia, getting stranded at an intersection in Beirut, having my camping plans in Wadi Araba interrupted by Bedouins, writing a newspaper article that made half my college hate me, driving 700 miles without a muffler or getting the very flesh cooked from my body on Nassau and then accidentally taking a girl to eat conch salad from a drug dealer under a bridge, just to recount a few, the last seven years have been full of it.

Even this summer, as I've supposedly been relaxing at my parents house and trying to "figure my life out" I somehow ended up entangled in a police brutality protest, hiking the steepest mountain in the Adirondacks with the worst hangover of my life, getting stuck on the wrong side of the Hudson by an unplanned Navy Parade, and inciting Google to briefly delete this blog––proving that even it is not immune to misadventures.

Of course not everything that I post is about adventures-taken-a-wrong-turn. My entire life hasn't been like that, so it wouldn't really be honest to portray it that way. I have found though, that of all my posts, the ones that strike the strongest chord with the most people (something I wasn't even interested in doing in the beginning) have been those that were somewhat discordant––but not too discordant. Basically adventures with just a bit of the "mis" prefix in them.

I've had many of my readers (that sounds so effing pretentious *makes slightly post-ironic face and says in overly enunciating accent somewhere between Oxford British and North-Eastern-American-metropolitan-liberal aka. NPR host: "My readers...."*) independently make the comment that after reading my blog, they didn't know "whether to laugh or cry." And I guess if I had a goal for how I wanted people to feel after reading, that would be it, because in the end I guess, that's how I feel about the world most of the time.

And besides that, I think if you look at literature in general (*face and accent again* "if you look at literature in general") from The Sun Also Rises to The Hobbit you find that in the end, the greatest adventures are almost always really misadventures.

So it's been seven years full of misadventures. And until one of them kills either this blog or me, I look forward––if a little bit apprehensively––to writing about a lot more of them, and hopefully continuing to connect, possibly (emphasis on possibly) inspire and at least entertain along the way––and I say those last three things with much less apprehension than the first.

Thanks so much for reading!



Monday, November 19, 2012

10 things I ask myself while driving home after midnight

For a somewhat complicated and not entirely logical series of reasons, I have ended up living in rural Pennsylvania, while almost my entire social, political and religious life is in Upstate New York. This rather precarious and inefficient arrangement involves lots of commuting. Thus, it is not an uncommon thing for me to find myself two or three nights/wee-hours-of-morning a week driving  the treacherous, twisting route back from Corning or Horseheads, NY to my house in northern PA.

This evening was one of those nights, and aside from listening to music as usual, I also found my mind mulling over a series of deep questions that has slowly evolved over countless nights of driving. I thought it might be interesting to list them here. Perhaps someone out there has answers.

  1. Why must deer look so much like mailboxes?
  2. If privatization would be good for our country, then why is public radio so infinitely better than pop radio? And for that matter:
  3. considering the fact that I hate pop[ular] anything, why the heck do I believe in democracy?
  4. Why must mailboxes look so much like deer?
  5. If LCD Soundsystem spent years planning to break up just so they could feel nostalgic about it, should I really feel nostalgic listening to them?
  6. Considering that coffee and beer were both really acquired tastes for me, why couldn't I have acquired a taste for Folgers and Bud Light instead of Starbucks/artsy[expensive]-local-coffee-house-of-your-choice and Belgian White Beer/concoction-of-artsy[expensive]-local-brewery-of-your-choice? I would be so much richer. 
  7. If the amount of time I spend driving on these back roads late at night raises my probability of hitting a deer, shouldn't I drive faster?
  8. Why are Metric and Passion Pit not on pop radio? I mean really, I understand why most people don't like most of the music I listen to, but I don't understand how more people can't like those. Maybe a government program is the answer. We could call it: "The Department of Good Music," and the Secretary of Good Music would be a cabinet level position––at least whenever a Democrat is in the White House.  
  9.  Why don't I have any friends where I live?
  10. Why don't I live where I have friends?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One of those weeks

It has been a frustrating, disappointing and generally demoralizing week.

Everything that I was afraid would happen in my post a few weeks ago happened with the exception of this blog being deleted (Google actually did delete it, but I sent them a complaint in which I laid out the same case I made in the afore-mentioned post for why it was ridiculous that they delete my blog, and the next morning they actually sent me an apology of sorts and un-deleted it).

While I suppose that may mean more to me in the distant future, it's a small reprieve compared to losing the YouTube channel––my only anything-like-consistent source of income––and knowing that all the hundreds of hours of work I did on my other channels over the last couple months was probably pointless.

And then there was the election. That was disappointing.

I just finished applying to work at a hospital––in public relations, that is. I figure as long as medicare is around, healthcare is one industry that will be growing. And medicare won't be going anywhere for the next four years.

I don't care much for hospitals, and I always swore I'd never work in one, but this job listing was literally the first job listing in my field of study that I have seen within 80 miles of my home since I started looking in May. So I figured I'd better apply.


This whole living 20 miles from everywhere with no car and almost no money was kind of relaxing for a few months, but it's starting to wear on me now.

Listen to me complain. I mean really, such first-world problems. Most people out there don't have cars, don't worry about not being able to find jobs "in their field of study" and have political leaders who are far worse than ours in many ways.

Still––relative to my own culture expectations––it's been a pretty sucky week.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The closest I'm going to get to saying something political

So it's election day in the U.S.

I'm not going to go into a long tirade about who should win or who I voted for. I just think it's interesting to reflect on how different this voting experience was from the one four years ago.

I've changed quite a bit, and while the way I voted back then ended up being similar to how I did today, it was with much greater reluctance.

Back then, I think my fundamental guiding principle was that everyone should be basically financially equal. No one (at least almost no one) states that as their platform for election, but if you really think about it, it's a basic under-girder of much of the policy out there. That was my chief value, and I felt it was the government's responsibility to enforce that value.

I think that stemmed from the fact that I'm at least a somewhat empathetic person, and the massive inequalities that are out there in this country––let alone the world––lead empathetic people to look for solutions. Government is a solution.

Over the last four years though, I've slowly realized a number of inconsistencies with looking to government as a solution to inequity. At least for me looking to it, that is.

Ever since I was an adult, I've taken a pretty libertarian view of most issues. I think if people want to do drugs, the government shouldn't stop them. I think if people want to marry someone of the same sex, they should be able to. I think if people want to home-school their kids, they should be allowed to. I think if people don't want to get vaccinations, they shouldn't have to. I think if people want to grow their own food, they should be able to.

I DON'T necessarily agree with all of those things personally, but I don't feel it is in any way within the government's right to keep other people from them.

So what of the question of empathy? Because I see inequality in our society and feel bad about it, does that mean I can legislate MY empathy onto those who don't?

Over the last four years, I've slowly started to believe more and more that I can't.

How can the government force someone who doesn't feel empathy to give a large part of their possessions to endeavors that are basically charitable any more than the government can force a gay man to marry a woman, or an atheist to celebrate Easter? I don't think it can.

So if we look at our world and feel empathy, then I think WE should do something about it––not force other people to do something about it.

I'm not going to say who I voted this morning, but I can tell you that I did vote, and with a lot more confidence than I did four years ago.