30 September, 2007

For Years I Labored Under the Delusion that I was a Sword Wielding Varmint

Since living at Mount Hermon I have spent a lot of time watching squirrels. We have an amazing front porch to our house that looks over sea of trees and these trees serve as a romping ground for the squirrels (the fish of the trees). They are quite deft at leaping from branch to branch and precariously lowering themselves to the furthest fruit of the twigs. What’s more, they are territorial little buggers – whenever they see a squirrel that doesn’t belong, they chase it straight out of the trees all the way to the street bellow. You know what else? They make the most bizarre sounds! I don’t really know what I want a squirrel to sound like, (other than a British person) but it certainly was not an angry bird-demon.

But I’m not here to write about squirrels today. Whatever woodland creates I see – be they squirrels, skunks, rats, mice, raccoons, or moles – transport me to the wonderful world of Mossflower. For those of you who had depressing childhoods, allow for me to explain. From the genius of Brian Jacques (story-teller, mouse at heart) comes a world where woodland creatures live together in peace (usually within the confines of Redwall Abbey). However, at times even the most peaceable of Woodlanders (as they refer to themselves) need to take up arms against vermin (such of Cluny the Scourge) and defend freedom, but you can be certain that their will be laughs, feasts (where do they get their milk from?), and riddles along the way. Basically, the Redwall books are some of the greatest fantasy novels ever written.

For a young boy (and later, high school student) a masterful fantasy world is not simply woven together by the author’s word on the page, but also in his heart and mind. I would often daydream about obtuse conversations with moles, teatimes with hares, and the most daring of battles alongside badgers. These daydreams wanted to find a voice, and since I was not about don sable coats and dart about the streets of Milpitas wielding a sword (simply because my mother wouldn’t let me), I did the next logical thing and sought the help of Danny Henson.

I will not go into a lengthy explanation of who Danny Henson is here – as I truly ought to write his biography one of these days – but I will give you a few quick facts:

1. Danny is one of the greatest friends who ever lived
2. Danny loves all living things
3. Danny can take a hit to the head from a cake pan
4. Danny is a big nerd

Danny, thinking that the two of us were popular enough to step away from the social scene for a while, decided that the two of us should participate in a Redwall PALS (Pall ALong Stories) group called WARESS. He went by the moniker of Dacoe and I Scren (a stoat). Oh what glorious online adventures the two of our weapon-touting companions went on – it really was quite fun.

However, what was fun for a sixth grader need not always be the pastime of a sophomore.

We continued writing for WARESS through our junior high careers, but it sort of tapered off in the early years of high school. However, the end of WARESS was not the end of Scren the stoat. For years following the conclusion of our PALS journeys, I continued to receive mail at an email account named after my furry friend – I actually still check it to this day.

Upon moving up to Washington during my freshman year, I began living out my fantasies more fulfilling way than I ever could by writing them. I inherited three acres of forest (or trespassed upon them) from my neighbors, and I set about making them safe. There were many a fern felled and path cleared by my machete, thus ensuring freedom for the Woodlanders… but not always. You see, stoats were never really on the side of good, but generally acted more like someone pursuing the American dream of financial success and dominion over others. Granted, Scren was a decent fellow – for a stoat anyways. So, my mind rarely stayed with making paths, but rather dwelled more upon massive battles and sneaking through the brush in pursuit of some tasty vittles that I might pillage to satisfy myself with until I had time to set up camp.

Scren became such a dear friend to me that I even toyed with the idea of getting a painting like that of Jimmy Stewart with a giant, visible, Harvey standing behind him with paw on shoulder. I wanted that painting to be of Scren and me.

So what happened? To tell you the truth, I’m not certain. Perhaps I stopped thinking about Scren when I moved back to California and no longer had a forest in my backyard. Perhaps I realized that girls aren’t particularly attracted to boys who wish they could feast with mice. Or maybe I became too highfalutin to write fantasy and decided to participate in more serious literature. Whatever it was that eventually forced Scren into hiding, I sort of regret it. I do not mean this as some clichéd explanation of losing my innocence, but rather I just want to express that I miss Redwall. Redwall, Narnia, and Middle Earth will always be those safe havens of my childhood that I believe I shall always return to.

So, thank you squirrels for reminding me about the wonderful feasts at Redwall Abbey, but be warned that at any moment your larder may be raided by a more mischievous than evil stoat.

27 September, 2007

Identi-tea Crisis

Aside from being a terrible pun, I realize that I have yet to mention tea on a Blog that allegedly calls tea ‘friend.’ And to remedy this, I will once again make a confession to you. I am a tea-junkie.

My tea consumption has been referred to as ‘snobbery,’ ‘obsession,’ and ‘pathetic,’ but truthfully it is more akin to an addict waiting for their next hit. I believe this to be a genetic flaw on my part – all throughout my childhood, I can clearly recall images of my mother preparing a pot of tea for herself in the morning. And while at the time I was more enchanted by the porcelain animals that came with her boxes of tea, the seed had been planted for my own abusive relationship with tea.

Incase you’ve been living in a cave your entire life, then I ask you for a moment to turn away from your shadows and allow for me to introduce you to tea. All true teas (be they white, yellow, green, oolong, black, or pu-reh) come from God’s gift to plants; tea is Camellia sinensis. The tea plant grows naturally throughout Asia (predominantly in China and India, and to a lesser degree some fine teas such as Genmaicha come from Japan, Sri Lanka, or Korea) and has been enjoyed by East Asian cultures for centuries. Tea was introduced to the Western world in the Seventeenth Century and helped carry mysticism through the tumultuous Enlightenment.

Now a days teas and tisanes (herbal teas) are now widely enjoyed throughout the world; however, most American tea drinkers sip in fear due to the anti-camellia sentiments that were wedded with nationalism during our Revolutionary War. The clearest example of this deliberate persecution can be seen in 1773’s Boston Tea Party, but other instances in American History (Milwaukee Tea Riots, Brookline Teabag Wars) have also served as watershed events that lead tea drinkers to think of themselves as second-class citizens.

All of this in mind, I have continued to drink tea despite the risks of persecution. Tea has sat by my side when my heart was broken. Tea has warmed me up when I did not have money enough to heat my home. Tea has introduced me to many of my dear friends. Tea will be present at my wedding – at my funeral. Tea has been a loyal friend, and so shall I be loyal to tea.

My most recent gestures of love towards tea may seem a tad bit excessive, but I do after all have a Blog named after tea. There is a tea shop in Santa Cruz that I am infatuated with that is owned by the biggest tea-nerds I have ever met – it is a real treat talking with them – and they have been introducing me to the wonderful world of pu-reh tea. Pu-reh (or as Joey calls it, ‘poo-trees’) is the most snobbish tea that you can drink. Much like wine, pu-reh matures with age (ironically, it is the only tea that you do not ferment). It is really quite lovely! A mature pu-reh is full-bodied and idiosyncratic. Before I get too far off subject; I am infatuated with pu-reh. In fact, I am so irrationally in love with tea that I recently purchased a rather costly wafer of it that was pressed in 1999.

Where does this leave me, aside from a bit poorer? I think I have reached junkie status. I know one thing for certain, if ever I’m down on my luck, I know that tea won’t be far away, ready to give me a boost and help me out until I’m okay again.

26 September, 2007

This will not be My Final Rant on Hair

I am a vain person. This Blog has in no way decreased my narcissism, but rather has given it another venue to present itself. This is not the first (nor shall it be the last) time I have written on my pointless hair adventures.

I find myself doing stupid things with my hair on a semi-regular basis. Some people try to give me an out by claiming that I do things ironically, (see this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/43032) but I know that this is overly generous. I do stupid things with my hair because I enjoy it. Ever since I emulated my friend Daniel in what his principal called a ‘wild attention-getting haircut’ by spiking up my hair, I have enjoyed silly hairstyles. I’ve had everything as tame as sideburns to as gross as rattails to as controversial as Hitler moustaches and as dated as civil war chops. However, none of these have captured the hearts and imaginations of my friends and family like the times I’ve had a Mohawk.

The Mohawk has a proud heritage stemming from the Iroquois Confederation back in the Eighteenth Century. Iroquois warriors (specifically of the Kanien’Kahake tribe) would cut off all of their hair with the exception of a three-finger width strip down the middle of their heads before going into battle. When the French and English encountered these warriors and gave them (for unknown reasons) the name Mohawk (In the Mohawk language “man-eater”) the name stuck for the haircut. I have included here a portrait of the famous Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant.

The haircut has been a favorite of those angry with the English and French ever since, (or is that angry English and French ever since?) and so here I am today! I am not angry, but I am possibly mad, (like a fox!) so please bear with me a while longer.

Sufjan Stevens, musician extraordinaire, inspired my first Mohawk – but it was also for the entertainment of Jr. Highers.

I kept my Mohawk long enough for it to make an appearance with my family at Thanksgiving time, but it quickly departed thereafter. A problem arose with the disappearance of my Mohawk – people loved it! I was shocked at how many complaints were leveled against me in light of cutting off my Mohawk. A friend whom I became close with while having a Mohawk almost considered it a blow to our relationship.

Let it never be said that Eric Garner does not hear the cries of the people! From that moment I began re-growing my hair so that I could keep the (proverbial) customer satisfied! After all, even nature likes hipsters.

And so, for the concluding portion of my time in San Luis Obispo and the initial months of my life in Santa Cruz I was proudly crowned with a Mohawk atop my head. However, as previously stated, I do silly things with my hair, and nothing lasts forever.

25 September, 2007

Don't Make Waves - Make Bubbles

I have never been very good at rebelling, which has always served as something of a frustration to me. All throughout my adolescence I made meager attempts at defying my parents’ sensibilities (sideburns, obnoxious music) but nothing to warrant the name ‘rebel.’ Sure, this may not seem like all too big of a problem – a teenager who gets along with his parents – but I had a deep-seeded desire to revolt!

Fortunately, I have never been one to take problems lying down, (with the exception of insomnia and a sprained ankle) and I vowed that I would rock the boat. A critic from a young age, I had my eyes set on revolution (yes, this often was my understanding of adolescent rebellion) and the vindication of the marginalized of the world – who knows, my selfless actions may even warrant children a day off of school in my name! I didn’t really have a programme, per se, but I did possess enough gall to believe that I could make a difference.

Enter problem number two: I’m not really good at anything. You’d be surprised at how hard it is to start a revolution without any marketable skills, charisma, or a car. So, I did pretty much what I had always done, day-dreamed about doing good things and pretend that this was the first step.

“But Eric,” you might interject, “I can see that you were impotent to affect change and therefore did not ‘make waves,’ but where does this bubble nonsense come in?”

Well, thank you for your concern, (albeit a trifle rude) and allow me to get to my next point.

I found the means for rebellion not in the material world, but in my mind. Upside: rebellion is very easily carried out because it can be done with something as simple as an ironic turn of phrase. Downside: often times no one realized that I was rebelling. I could do something some monumental that it ought to have been recorded by future historians (or, if I dare be so bold, my biographers) as a pivotal turn in my life, but it was dismissed as ‘one of those strange things Eric says.’ This could have become emasculating rather quickly had it not been for the all importance of my rebellion. (We’re getting to the point, I promise!)

For a while in the art world, it was hotly debated how a bubble ought to be painted. Fortunately a brave soul finally took a stab at creative genius and composed a picture with a bubble that carried a skewed reflection of a window on its surface, conveying the shape and properties of the bubble. From that point forward other artists included windows in their bubbles (even when no windows ought be present) in commemoration of this brilliant stroke. The name of this valiant artist from the Netherlands is unknown to me, but I include here a picture like his (or possibly his) called Vanitas Still Life (1603) by Jacques de Gheyn the Elder.

I include this story because this is how I feel about my rebellion. I am not the type of person who will create giant changes in the system. I will most likely not even add some little element to the discussion that blows people’s minds for a while. However, I will continue to rebel in my mind because I need to search out truth and beauty as best I can. So, while I was never any good at breaking-free as an adolescent, hopefully I’ll do better at clarifying who I am (or am becoming) now.

24 September, 2007

Despite Popular Belief, I don't have AIDS

I was recently reminded that there is a vicious rumor being spread by the American Heart Association that I have HIV antibodies. Due to this unprovoked attack on my character, I am not in fact infected with HIV, nor do I possess antibodies, nor do I have AIDS. I take this moment to clear up this matter once and for all:

Back in the fall of 2005 I donated blood at San Luis Obispo’s Tri-County Blood Bank, (either to save lives or pay off vampires – I don’t care which) and after being poked in both arms and having the plasma sucked out of me I was released with meager compensation (sticker, grape juice). I did not go for the rewards; however, I would now like some restitution for my slandered name. Two weeks after donating my very life-blood (namely: blood) to the Man, he took an unwarranted stab at my character.

A letter from the Blood Bank arrived in the mail with two stamps as red as the fluid they work with, one reading “URGENT” and the other “CONFIDENTIAL.” I hungrily opened this letter, only to feel my hands grow cold and see them turn white. My heart began beating quickly as I read: “You have been diagnosed positive for HIV antibodies […] we must permanently defer you from donating blood […] we have included several numbers for you contact for information on HIV/AIDS.” I was terrified. I ran around the house informing my roommate about my cruel fate – stigmatized forever. Finally Johnny calmed me down and made me realize that it was next to impossible that I would have contracted AIDS since the last time I donated blood (which is in fact true). After re-examining the letter, it stated that mine was most likely a false-positive test.

Apparently false positive tests happen relatively frequently while false negative tests are nearly impossible.

While I believed I did not have AIDS, I endured a grueling year possessing the knowledge that I may actually be carrying HIV antibodies until World AIDS day finally rolled around when I could get free HIV testing from the Cal Poly Health Center. Many people have commented that I must not have been too concerned as I did wait a full year prior to being tested, but I still call foul!

Naturally I tested negative, (hence the picture below) but the thought of having HIV still haunts me.

This brings me to the present. I was recently in a group that I was asked if anyone had ever tested positive for a serious illness, and (as I am not accustomed to telling lies) I fessed up to the truth – I have tested positive for HIV antibodies.

So for all of you who think that I am engaged in elicit activities and thus have contracted HIV, let me inform you now that I am HIV-free! The tests came back negative and I am still the same Eric you have (or maybe haven’t) come to love.

A Quick Disclaimer

If you have spent any significant amount of time with me, you may have observed that I have a tendency to get carried away in the moment and mislead people. I fully intend to do that with this Blog.

I am not accustomed to keeping a journal, and as such, this will not be a logging of my days, but rather I hope to give a true accounting of what my life is like – and unfortunately that does not always deal with reality. And so, in this realm where accuracy may not be my best guide, I will report on my happenings via my (perhaps unwelcome) gusto and charm.

And with this not particularly helpful preface, I leap unabashedly forward. Maybe just a little abashedly…