When I'm Old

Catch-22, Kingsland Road
I think a lot about what I'm going to remember when I'm old—like, proper-old, like, 90—because that's the only way I'm able to wrap my head around the question of what's meaningful. And I try to think about what's meaningful because that's how I can, sort of logically, sift through my days and decide what to devote time and energy to.

I used to think about this more in terms of people in my life I'd still want to know and be close to when I'm old, but people drift in and out of the picture so easily. Once in a while I'll get to know someone I think I'd like to still know when I'm old. But somehow I think memories are more reliable.

Here's a brief, non-exhaustive, vague, and badly-explained list of random things I can think of that I'm pretty sure I'll still remember when I'm 90: standing in the Persian Gulf and marveling at its incredible blue-ness; buying 21 loaves of bread at Sainsbury's to feed ducks with Andrew; rolling backwards down a hill in Karak in a Hyundai hatchback; Petra; getting lost in the desert and winding up 40km from the Saudi border; that underground supper club in Beirut; hysterically crying over a woman who'd been disowned by her family and died of AIDS at Mother Teresa's Center in Kingston; flying home from Dahab and back again in the same day to hang out with Soren and Lars; that time one of our flatmates thought a man at a bus stop gave her a cigarette laced with heroin; when the Finnish guy fell into the canal behind our house and lost a piece of his nose; my Scandinavian goth-metal phase; the last time I saw Braden; walking down the street in Kyoto trying to convince an old man on a bike that I wasn't joking about not speaking Japanese; those very weird four hours in Tallinn; going out every night to Catch-22 with Maria; the Old Cataract Hotel; Louise; my first trip to Miami when I ate coconut cake at Cat Power's house.

I miss Miami


Chicago cab driver wisdom

When I was in Chicago last year, I went to Whole Foods and, when I came out, it was raining. So I hailed a cab to take me back to my hotel.

My driver told me that his brother—also a taxi driver—had paid an extended visit to China a few years back and had fallen in love with a woman who worked in a restaurant somewhere in a small town in the middle of nowhere. She didn't speak English. The brother, being American and, obviously, an infomercial aficionado, told her about Rosetta Stone. She was into it. So the brother wrote to my taxi driver and asked him to buy and send the $500+ software to China—which he did.

The only problem? This woman didn't have a computer—in fact, she'd never even used a computer before. No big deal, says the brother, who then has my taxi driver buy and ship a laptop to China.

Here's what happens next: The woman teaches herself how to use a computer, nails Rosetta Stone (English) in two months flat, marries this brother guy, moves to Norway (?) with him, gets a college degree and a masters, pops out two kids who turn out to be math geniuses or something like that.

The lesson, according to my Chicago cab driver? If you want smart kids, marry a smart woman.

"Observe Everything. Always think for yourself. Never let other people make important decisions for you." — from Bad News by Edward St. Aubyn