Detroit

I left the hotel, turned right on W Lafayette Boulevard, and followed my feet.  I wandered around Detroit alone, and learned a lot about the city.  The sleek new buildings and revitalized stalwarts turned into construction zones and eventually, emptiness.  With no planned route and no knowledge of the city, I got slightly lost.

DSCN1044-

You know that feeling when you’re in a known dangerous place, and you end up meandering down a street?  And the burnt out buildings, the fragmented sidewalk, the fact there’s no cars around, broken glass underfoot, trash fluttering in the breeze, and a pervading sense of desolation convinces you that you shouldn’t be here?

DSCN1047-

On my travels, I was asked for $5, $1, my credit card, and drugs.  An enterprising gentleman tried to sell me a gold necklace as I was crossing the street.  I saw some good graffiti but mostly bad graffiti.

DSCN1052-

There are so many abandoned buildings, empty lots, and quiet streets.  It reminded me of a post-apocalyptic world, when nature starts to reclaim the forgotten cities.

DSCN1057-

And I’d still like to live there someday.

DSCN1064-

DSCN1039

Garbage Picking

I rescued an old road bike from certain death.  It’s a 1983 Fuji S12-S LTD made of rust and grime.  I hope the diseased brake hoods aren’t contagious.

DSCN1037

DSCN1039

DSCN1040

It’s good to have a project again.  I plan to repair the existing 18 speed drivetrain and roll around on this vintage Japanese steel frame.  This is what it looked like 31 years ago.

Young, Wild & Free

I’m not young.

I have many grey hairs and my back hurts.

My knuckles have always looked wrinkled and my elbows click.

I’m not wild.

The drunkest I ever got was at a casual get together with some co-workers back in college.

I’ve never stayed up all night, been to a concert, or done any drugs.

I’m not free.

But there’s no shackle on my ring finger nor an intrusive space heater taking up half the mattress, so I’m freer than some.

I live behind bars individually labelled: Debt, Obligation, Weakness, Fear.

Eat Pray Love

Contains the best description of the life-changing effect good pizza can have:

So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered–one for each of us–are making us lose out minds.  I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.  I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.  Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm?  Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?”

The book is such a good example of throwing oneself into pleasure, devotion, and balance.

Now I’m on to “The Remains of the Day,” another book recommendation I’ve received.  I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I couldn’t find things to read.  Now the pile just gets bigger.

Humanitarian / Hip Hop

Both require that you pour your whole life into it.  Both require you to do it for free (in the form of either mixtapes or volunteering) until you can convince a major label/NGO to pay for your efforts.  Both have a powerful effect on the larger world and change the lives of many.  Both demand hard work, sometimes in difficult circumstances.

Neither is necessarily a well-respected career choice.  Neither guarantees stable progression.  Neither can be done halfway.  Neither requires formal accreditations, although they can be helpful.  Neither will let you stay where you are forever.

Both draw people who wouldn’t want to do anything else.  Both require heart.

Español

[It took me a while to figure out how to type the ˜ over the n]

As you may have already surmised, I’m trying to learn Spanish, not French.  And I built my own syllabus of free online coursework instead of spending all that time and money I don’t have on the Open University MSc program.  In short, my life plan hasn’t really changed, but it has adjusted.

Spanish is first since it seems to be the most applicable language in an International Development sense.  French would let me communicate with about 1/3 of Africa, some islands, and France.  Spanish opens up all of Central and about 1/2 of South America.  And Spain I guess.  But with any luck, I’ll learn French too.  And Arabic.  And Chinese.  Hindi.  Russian.

So far I’m moving right along with some Duolingo lessons (free language learning course), and I just finished reading “Fluent in 3 Months,” which discusses how to go about learning languages.

The goal is a B2 level of proficiency, which should be sufficient for communicating with almost anyone about almost anything in the target language.  C1 and C2 get into Mastery levels, which might be a bit ambitious for the foreseeable future.

Once I get a better handle on Spanish, I’ll get started on a long list of certification courses.  Everything from social work and construction to public health and teaching.  The reason behind this adjustment is that the MSc in Development Management seemed to lead to more of a policy-making and program-evaluating position.  Since that’s not really what I want to do right now, I thought a more on-the-ground-usefulness type of thing would be a better idea.

Shantaram

…Is probably the best book I’ve read.  I just finished it an hour ago and it’s difficult to write this; I can’t summarize a 933 page novel in a satisfactory fashion.

I loved the feel of the story, it was so gripping and compelling and unfamiliar that it pulled me into the crime-ridden paradise of Bombay and wouldn’t release me until I was sufficiently enamored.  I’ve never read a book with more great sentences.  There were 10 or 15 times when I stopped and re-read a section to fully appreciate the wording.

Prisons are the temples where devils learn to prey.  Every time we turn the key we twist the knife of fate, because every time we cage a man we close him in with hate.

[More quotes here]

I cannot recommend Shantaram highly enough.  Read it if you aren’t afraid of long books.