Imaginary Destinations

There are imaginary places that call to us. Illyria. Macondo–though be careful of that one, friend. The Invisible Cities that Polo reports on to the Khan. And Cocaigne.

And so, at the end of the day, when I have spent the precious fortune of my wit and energy, spent it for what? Money? Success? Some recognizable residue that others may tout as virtue? I return to the nearest country I can find–the one adrift in the books on my shelves, or the sea of my imagination. Return traveler, with ships once more laden with waking dreams.

Until such time as I may board a ship, an airplane, or some contrivance to carry me into strange and wonderful streets, I have this. Baudelaire…

L’Invitation Au Voyage

There is a wonderful country, a country of Cocaigne, they say, that I dream of visiting with an old love. A strange country lost in the mists of the North and that might be called the East of the West, the China of Europe, so freely has a warm and capricious fancy been allowed to run riot there, illustrating it patiently and persistently with an artful and delicate vegetation.

A real country of Cocaigne where everything is beautiful, rich, honest and calm; where order is luxury’s mirror; where life is unctuous and sweet to breathe; where disorder, tumult, and the unexpected are shut out; where happiness is wedded to silence; where cooking is poetic, rich, and yet stimulating as well; where everything, dear love, resembles you.

You know that feverish sickness which comes over us in our cold despairs, that nostalgia for countries we have never known, that anguish of curiosity? There is a country that resembles you, where everything is beautiful, rich, honest and calm, where fancy has built an decorated an Occidental China, where life is sweet to breathe, where happiness is wedded to silence. It is there we must live, it is there we must die.

Yes, it is there we must go to breathe, to dream, and to prolong the hours in an infinity of sensations. A musician has written l’Invitation a la valse; who will write l’Invitation au voyage that may be offered to the beloved, to the chosen sister?

Yes, in such an atmosphere it would be good to live—where there are more thoughts in slower hours, where clocks strike happiness with a deeper, a more significant solemnity.

On shining panels or on a dark rich and gilded leathers, discreet paintings repose, as deep, calm and devout as the souls of the painters who depicted them. Sunsets throw their glowing colors on the walls of the dining-room and drawing-room, sifting softly through lovely hangings or intricate high windows with mullioned panes. All the furniture is immense, fantastic, strange, armed with locks and secrets like all civilized souls. Mirrors, metals, fabrics, pottery, and works of the goldsmith’s art play a mute mysterious symphony for the eye, and every corner, every crack, every drawer and curtain’s fold breathes forth a curious perfume, a perfume of Sumatra whispering come back, which is the soul of the abode.

A true country of Cocaigne, I assure you, where everything is rich, shining and clean like a good conscience or well-scoured kitchen pots, like chiseled gold or variegated gems! All the treasures of the world abound there, as in the house of a laborious man who has put the whole world in his debt. A singular country and superior to all others, as art is superior to Nature who is transformed by dream corrected, remodeled and adorned.

Let them seek and seek again, let them endlessly push back the limits of happiness, those horticultural Alchemists! Let them offer prizes of sixty, a hundred florins for the solution of their ambitious problems! As for me, I found found my black tulip, I have found my blue dahlia!

Incomparable flower, rediscovered tulip, allegorical dahlia, it is there, is it not, in that beautiful country, so calm, so full of dream, that you must live, that you must bloom? Would you not be framed within your own analogy, would you see yourself reflected in your own correspondence, as the mystics say?

Dreams! Always dreams! And the more ambitious and delicate the soul, all the more impossible the dreams. Every man possesses his own dose of natural opium, ceaselessly secreted and renewed, and from birth to death how many hours can we reckon of positive pleasure, of successful and decided action? Shall we ever live in, be a part of, that picture my imagination has painted, and that resembles you?

These treasures, these furnishings, this luxury, this order, these perfumes, and these miraculous flowers, they are you! And you are the great rivers too, and the calm canals. And those great ships that they bear along laden with riches and from which rise the sailors’ rhythmic chants, they are my thoughts that sleep or that rise with the swell of your breast. You lead them gently toward the sea which is the Infinite, as you mirror the sky’s depth in the crystalline purity of your soul;—and when, weary with the rolling waters and surfeited with the spoils of the Orient, they return to their port of call, still they are my thoughts coming back, enriched from the Infinite to you.

London Thoughts

History is a story of discontinuous events—events that collide like weather systems or galaxies, having barely understood origins, and even less decipherable records. All the witnesses were destroyed in the collision. What they saw, what they thought, and what they felt—even if they recorded their observations on stone, paper, steel, or silicone, have been destroyed along with them. We are living in the age of delusion, in which we believe in the sanctity of our recorded history—either self-scribbled or captured by another.

This thought is brought about by two things. First, wandering, quickly—this time—through the British Museum (or Westminster Cathedral, or almost anything else in London), what becomes painfully obvious are the gaps. All these artifacts, so painstakingly arranged create an idea that history is continuous, and has flowed in a linear pattern. And then a closer inspection shows that over and over again, things haven’t come that way. There are sudden breaks in history, when entire empires vanish, or when they change—seemingly overnight—religions, or methods of governance, or technologies, and the old gets swept away, almost as if it was a betrayal of the new.

England as it shifts back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism bears these marks hard. Or, reading through the story of Ashurbanipal and the claims of glory made by this king reminds me of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”

Thinking of history reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of punctuated equilibrium—evolution proceeding in long quiet periods of little change, and then having sudden outbursts of change. I know, we are taught that slow and steady wins the race, but, we are also taught to believe in the nature of story as an overarching “way things are.” We see things through that frame, and it doesn’t always support the picture inside—or outside—the frame.

Second, in the musical Hamilton (which was also part of this trip to London), the character of George Washington warns Hamilton that we do not control who writes our stories. He’s telling this to a man who believes in his power to literally write his own story—and to use his words to cement his reality. He can’t—and doesn’t. His wife, Eliza, sends his legacy forward—and Lin Manuel Miranda brings us her legacy. But, as Miranda admits in interviews, even this moment for Hamilton—and therefore, for him as well—is provisional and subject to changing tastes and critical opinion.

Does everything disappear? No. There are 2000 year old Roman walls in London. But Rome? Everything can disappear. And we will tell stories that soften the loss.

I wonder, I can’t help but wonder, what I am doing when I write: whose story I am writing? It isn’t my story. Of course it’s my story–as if it could be anything else. Nonetheless, as I write about characters who are 5000 years old–older in some cases–I think about history, because they think about history. How can they not? How can any of us not? It is everywhere–in the streets, and in the faces, here in London.

Reading and Writing

At some point—and it happens fairly quickly—the life of an English teacher becomes more about re-reading than reading. This is a preposterous change from the life of a graduate student, when everything is reading. As a student, there may be a handful of books that one reads a twice, but those are also the books with which one spends an engaged period of time—there is an essay in the offing. If you read them twice, chances are you read them a half dozen or dozen times. By the time you start teaching, the repetition is no longer driven by your desire or directed curiosity, but by a curricular roadmap that more often than not, you have not decided.

Because of my background, my friends will often ask what I am reading, and I know that they mean, “What are you reading for the first time?” It’s a “tell me what is good” question. At this moment in my life, most of what I read, I am reading for the 7th or 8th time. Or I am reading student work. I can admit that neither fills my sails the same way that exploratory reading does. Part of the joy of exploring is not reading important books—or rather, it is discovering that the books I read were important (to me, to the world) as I read them.

There is something thrilling—yes, thrilling—in finding myself in an entirely new stream of thought, full of images and ideas that had not occurred in my mind in that specific way. I love the feeling of being in an entirely foreign mind. I brought home new avenues and new approaches to my own work from nearly every book I read as a student. And, yes, I am still a student, and I still find new ways. Early on, the novelty that most easily enchanted me was setting and plot. Novels set in strange places (Vietnam, Middle Earth, Geatland, London) and with characters who did strange things (solve crimes, fly dragons, uncover moles, turn into monsters) drew my attention and appreciation. I still appreciate a mystery, horror, or fantasy novel; Michael Chabon tethers genre to literary merit with alacrity.

But most works of literary merit tend to eschew genre elements. The strangeness is found more in how the characters think and feel, and how those thoughts and feeling serve to reveal the deeper ideas that the novel walks out into the world. The thrill comes from reading along as characters struggle with complex thoughts and feelings, and the novelist struggles to portray a world that is, more often than not, contradictory. Contradiction is the single provenance of literary fiction. Woe to the mind and heart that seeks a generously reductive answer to life’s troubles in literature. Unless one learns to love ambiguity, irony, and contradiction.

I think that the rush of all the new work I read while I was still a full time student, blunted the more mournful aspects of contradiction. As I read through libraries, it seemed as if there were a million ways to get things done. I continue to champion diversity in large part because I found comfort in the breadth of possibility. However, the habits of re-reading drive me to emphasize less possibility. This occurs because if contradiction is the provenance of literature, then what happens in the land of contradiction is too often sad. Characters are too often caught, like Odysseus, between Scylla and Charybdis—the chance of losing everything and the certainty of losing much. Where is the gain—other than hard-earned self-knowledge? Where is the dinner and conversation and new-forged friendship with people who had been, only moments ago, strangers?

I feel the loss keenly. I am dissatisfied with the too morbid outcomes that serious writers propose, and with the deathly insistence on disconnection and disappointment. And I am dissatisfied with trudging over this same ground over and over again. There must be the possibility of joy, and please, for gods’ sakes, there must be discovery. Which means new works. In “Seymour: An Introduction,” Salinger allows Seymour to give his brother, Bruno, the single best piece of writing advice—and by extension, life advice—I have ever read. It is hopeful. “Imagine the book you most want to read… Now write it.”

It is time. Finally.

The Writing Process (this time)

This time, I have little idea where my writing is going. I have some vague notion, but with each chapter, I am surprised. Something happens as I write. A snippet of speech. An image. An action. They are there, already waiting for me, like a message underneath a thick film of dust—everything gray until it gets brushed away. And then…

I have struggled with longer work. My head was always full of plans and themes and rumination. I wanted so much, and could never trust the words—or myself. It was always easier to write short things. They were all fire, and almost extinguished before the fire spread. And perhaps that is how I am writing now. Not worrying about the longer vision (even though it is there). Letting each chapter be its own part.

Of course, as I glance back at the early chapters—which I do only fleetingly, let the rewrite come later, when the whole draft is done—I see that I have changed course, developing  elements that were nascent in the first few chapters. But there! Everything tumbling out unbidden.

Fortunately, I don’t look back too hard. And when I do, I see that I have opened pathways to correct my initial steps and bring them in line with where the work has headed. That happened today. I exclaimed, out loud, when a few students were in my classroom, “I know what to do! It was there the whole time!” And it was. And it is.

Is it writing itself? No. I have to carve out time to work at the thousand word chunks. And it takes work and time. Sometimes the chunks are smaller. Sometimes I skip ahead when I get bogged down, but rarely do a few chapters follow before the way through the snarl becomes at least a little more obvious.

Mostly, I feel as if I can just write into the void. It is like letting go of the bar in trapeze. I trust that the story will catch me—or the net.  And if it is the net, then I know the way back to the slender ladder up to the platform.  Once more, and into the air.

Time to Fly

I begin easily enough. Before I know it, a length has passed in the pool—most of it underwater as I dolphin kick on my back until the flags at the far end of the pool pass over my head. Or a new job begins, with all the attendant paperwork and the meetings with people who think they know my job better than I do. They know something better, and I try to learn, as quickly as possible. Or a new romance, which is like falling, and is as easy as falling, the way falling is entirely effortless. What comes next?

The grind of workout #89, when the music on the waterproof MP3 player fails to inspire a quickened pace, and the bottom of the pool is endless. Or the month after the initial set of grades are due, and the fourth set of essays come across my desk. Not again. Not the same mess of misspellings and three page paragraphs. Or when the obligations of work and family eat into the blissful times, and bliss becomes quotidian. Imagine that, quotidian bliss.

In every aspect of my life, the transition from beginning to middle happens almost by accident. Like tripping over a carpet. I get used to the puckered places on the floor—or tug the whole thing up, and set it back down again, flat, until the gremlins shift it around again. And then I tug it up again. And again. One time will not do. One run of the vacuum. One load of laundry. Another set of tests to grade. Another and another and another.

But some things bear repetition, even improve. Like love. While it is hard to make the transition from falling to landing, it is better still to learn to fly, to find the joy. The old joke about, I just flew in from Los Angeles, and boy, are my arms tired. I would live for my arms to be so tired with the effort of flight. And it would be worth the effort, each fluctuation of my unseen wings, soaring in unison with my love.

It is the same with writing. I have used this blog as practice off and on for the past few years. It has been a way to scribble and not to worry about the duration of longer effort. Longer effort—let me call it what it is, a novel—can be daunting. What if, like falling and flying, one mistimes the creative leap and ends up hobbled or broken, with months of work sent to sea like Icarus? I only I can think about something longer as, well, 1000 word spans. 1000 words is nothing. 60 days at that pace, and… But let’s not get ahead.

Is writing something longer romantic? For me, yes. I have fallen out of love with several novels that I have begun. The ideas and characters have soured, or I have not loved them well enough to let them live beyond my narrow conception of them. For me, as much as writing is a commitment of ass to chair (scribble, scribble, Dr. Brennan), it mimics the action of reading—a generous engagement with a book. Seymour Glass’s best piece of writing advice ever— “Imagine the book you most want to read. Now go and write it”—has always resonated with me. And until now, other than some shorter pieces, no longer piece has fully met that criteria. Or, I was not up to the flight.

In the end, really, I don’t write because I have something to say, but still, because I want to discover something. Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and I still love to read. The same way that I love to travel, I love to discover ideas and characters in books. It is flight into unknown places. I love discovering what I do not know. Somewhere along the way the creative process seduces one into intention—I get caught in the web of intention—thinking about what I want to say instead of praising what I see. And letting my words find a way.

I take refuge in Michelangelo’s vision of the sculpture already extant in the stone—we aren’t creators so much as revealers—discoverers if you will. So too, with flight, while there may be a destination, there are also loops and rolls and fields long enough to land, and walk to an untended apple tree, pick a ripe crisp fruit, and eat. Discover this on the journey.

How many other aspects of my life follow this impulse—reveling in discovery more than intentional design? I think too many. Most people still live their lives primarily by design. There is security and satisfaction in the sense of agency that willfulness bestows. My students clamor to know what they need to do to earn an “A,” or a higher score on an exam. How unsatisfyingly do I answer, “Discover more.” That is no way forward, at least no specific way. It is an attitude and not a route.

And frankly, in romance, I have scuttled relationships because I have fought against others’ plans, not happy to simply follow the natural stages of things, and unhappy when a relationship settled into a routine. Of course, life is routine, a series of repeated rituals, a hundred thousand undulations of wings. But that routine, those rituals, can, should, must help one reveal what is hidden in the marble, or what might be found when gloriously in flight.

Perhaps, what I wanted, without knowing it, was someone who was willing to fly with me. And in my writing, something that had the chance of slipping the bonds of my intentions. A goal I could fly toward, that would transport me the same way that love transports and transforms me.

There is a little secret though. I do have at least one intention, and that is for this longer work to last, for it to remain engaging and vital, even when the effort strains my arms. And so, I take small flights. And share these flights, for now, with one who flies with me. I discover something new, one winged trip at a time.

Two Sides: Ambivalence Part 2

When we are young, we change.  The hurtling forward into growth exhilarates us. We learn at full gallop, disastrously adding new ideas before old ones have taken shape. We are gluttons, and the table is richly laid out and endless. Our Apollonian and Dionysian sides eat together—the only rule is More, and more we do have. We learn and learn, good gods I hope we do, like gods.

rr-apollo-quiz-apollo-lyre_23f7551cSome people, most people, grow up, and cast their lot on one side or the other. Apollonian selves dream into an idea of logic and order—think a sonnet by Shakespeare, glorious in its arrangement of rhythm, rhyme, and idea. This is Apollo brought to earth, walking firmly on the ground. Dionysian selves trumpet feelings and instinct: Ginsberg’s “first thought, best thought” is as much a dictum as can be borne.

180px-Dionisio3

Rule three thousand one hundred and sixty-two: if you are one, do not marry the other. And do not ask about the other five million rules.

And recognize that just because one is Dionysian, do not think there is a lack of rules about how to go wild. A little Apollonian memory slips in.  You need to party like this, or you aren’t really partying, dude.  On the flip side there may be a wild inconsistency built into that Apollonian logic—call it hypocrisy if you feel like it but know that wildness finds a way.

A few people never settle into one side or the other.  The two halves bristle within like ions in a storm cloud. Ambi-valent: charged in two directions, fire in both hands.  We don’t grow up, but out, finding hidden paths through the forest, wanting one last opinion, and reassessing as we charge into conflict. Yelling at our superiors and demanding a reckoning.  Being schooled by our students and admitting our blindness. and always, always learning.

I bemoan my ambivalence; I cherish my ambivalence. It’s a dirty little secret about my life. I hate being fenced in, and I love the elegant symmetry of a well written novel. You point out chaos, and I will chart the forcelines that create paisley swirls. I want to love someone and build a life with them and I want them to dance right out of the picture on their own. I want to lead the way, and I am happy to chase comets.

Oh, it’s the worst. And the best. Or the other way around. And the other way around.

Some folks tell me that I’m too strict, or not enough of an adult, or that I have too many rules, or that I don’t follow their rules. Dude, this is how we party. How am I a teacher? How could I be anything else? How can I not shake up my life and take my daughter along for the ride: reassuring her, giving her the foundation she needs, and teaching her that when the earth shakes, the ground still loves her. And that everywhere I am, I will love her.

coin_flipping_by_uroskrunic-d36x79rMy youngest brother has told me many times that I am too serious. And of all the boys, I am. And not. My wildness is serious, and my seriousness is wild. Flip a coin, and watch the light glint off side after side after side as it tumbles through the air. Heads or tails, the glinting wins.

Wrestling with ambivalence

jacob-wrestling-with-the-angel

My younger daughter randomly pronounces “I’ll miss you, papa,” or “I’ll miss you, daddy.” We could be doing anything: folding laundry, driving to the store, watching a video about geysers. It tears me apart every time.

My daughter stays with me three nights a week, which has been the arrangement with my ex-wife for the three years we have lived apart. We live blocks from each other, so I have seen my daughter between times as well. In a few weeks, I will move three hours away, and our comfortable schedule will change. We will spend weeks and months together throughout the year, and manage weekends, but I will not be the nearly daily presence I am now.

So why move? Why tear the central chamber of my heart to shreds? I don’t see myself as a horribly selfish man, which kind of negates the entire, “I’m doing this to be happy” argument—or belies it. Maybe I am a selfish man.  Wear that feather in your cap for a bit, and feel how heavy the crown really gets.

“You can’t let yourself think that way,” I will be, have been, told. And that’s fine, but when Socrates trots out “The unexamined life is not worth living,” this is the kind of thing one is meant to examine—not every sandy beach in the Caribbean or every dive bar in Baltimore.  Saddle up for self-examination, or get off the trail.  And yeah, keep your eye on the trail, greenhorn. See them rocks over there?  That’s ambivalence, and we’re here to fill your packs with it.  Get digging!

So many things—too many things? –pull in opposite directions.  Half of life seems a paradox, and the other half I just can’t make my mind up about which direction it’s headed. And I don’t simply throw my hands up and say, “Oh well.” I wrestle, intently, with the angel of ambivalence.  In “The Waking” Theodore Roethke states, “This shaking keeps me steady.” Damn right.

I don’t hold with those who don’t engage ambivalence—being of two minds about things.  People who insist “you’re either with me or you’re against me” give me a serious pain. People who say such things and then claim, “It’s okay if we disagree,” help me find my way to the exit tout suite. You cannot claim an absolute and then say it doesn’t matter—or vice versa. Be afraid of those who claim an open mind while harboring a stone heart.

I cannot claim that this is an easy path. I think a reasonable amount of comfort and privilege makes it possible. I have walked away from the comfortable certainty of doctrine, in large part, because I felt that a life without doctrine would be neither dark nor disastrous.  I knew that the monsters hidden in the chaos were as deeply entrenched within the staunchly defended halls. Beowulf never had to go far beyond the mead hall to find adversaries as deadly as Grendel.

While I understood what Obama was getting at when he talked about economic insecurity driving people to cling, I knew that there were plenty of secure people who traffic in certainties and verities.  Maybe that’s what helped make them secure. Or maybe there’s something else at work—a digression for another time.

As for me, now, this decision, to leave my secure and certain life, has immediate repercussions. I may have reasons, and good ones, to move.  But I know that I am unwinding the steadiest relationship in my life for uncertainty.  Of course, it is not as uncertain—my daughter and I have a firm bond.  And a happier father will, in the end, be a better father. Or so I hope. Nonetheless I make this move with a serving of ambivalence, and perhaps, that will be enough to keep us steady.

Play time

I’ve been sucked in. It’s true. I have played an inordinate amount of Pokemon Go, although “play” seems like an exaggeration, since all that the playing involves is taking walks and swiping or tapping incessantly on my phone screen. Strategy? Pidgies: collect them, evolve them with a lucky egg when you’re ready to level up (but only in the 20+ levels). The game is gleefully simple (and relatively stupid): collect stuff, collect more stuff, and then collect even more stuff. The player is “rewarded” with greater strength and ability as he or she “levels up,” but let’s be honest: the stuff and the rewards are imaginary; the only thing real is the time one spends playing. So, why do we play?I explained the old rat-reward experiment to my daughter while we watched people paw at their screens. B.F. Skinner showed in an experiment with rats that variable interval reinforcement leads to a higher rate of response than constant rate of reinforcement, and that both were significantly more effective than punishment (which, it turns out, swiftly ends the impulse to work—or play). Well that’s a lot of mumbo jumbo. Here’s the skinny: rats work (or play, for the purposes of game play) harder when rewarded; they get turned off by punishment; and they work hardest and longest when the rewards come consistently but unpredictably. Surely, rat brains and human brains are different, but just try to run such an experiment on people. Wait, let’s track all those Pokemon Go players and see what that tells us about how they play.

Short story long, we are built to be frustrated. The brain likes rewards (and hates punishments), but only so often—too many and it gets bored. Of course our complicated brains find connections and correlations around causes and consequences. So, it’s not a surprise when my brain gets caught up in figuring out if I received that reward for bringing my girlfriend flowers, finishing my annual report, or catching a wild Gyarados, and that’s just if I got a reward for doing something in the first place. My rat brain tells me: just keep working and something will come.

The cool thing about being human (and not a rat pressing a bar in a cage) is that the rewards come in all shapes and sizes—M&Ms, Mazda Miatas, sailing ships in bottles, shoes. We can turn those cash/work rewards into whatever we like. And I will not overlook the reward of the view out my office window, or the company I keep at work, or at home. The world seems designed to reward us—all these surprises. The Clash sings, “I fought the law!” That’s right brothers!

I do believe–and when I started writing this last week (before I reminded myself of all the rewards that I have strewn before me, like a reverse trail of breadcrumbs into the future) I believed it a little more—that games like Pokemon Go offer a fairly consistent diet of rewards, and that in spite of their frustrations (and because of them too), they are bright little respites from the “thousand shocks that flesh is heir to.” If we lead, as Thoreau asserts, “lives of quiet desperation,” we lead them because too often we think that our human brains need punishments to convince and cajole them into agreement or good behavior or harder work. We beat ourselves and each other like mules bound to work until they stop. We preach about “tough love” and manly determination as values that have meaningful positive consequences. My rat brain says, “I’m done.” My human brain says, “No thank you. I’m off to play.”

 

The Schedule of Life at Home

Those of you who know me know I lead a fairly busy life. I work 3 part time jobs, none of which is really part time. I have 7 day work weeks, and this makes me, by all accounts, fairly normal in the working world.

I enjoyed the time in China getting my daughter, in large part, because I was not working (or only working a very small amount), and I had scads of time to spend with my family. My only limits were sleep related during the initial bout of jet lag.

Now, at home, I am back of the world of work commitments. I went to work within 24 hours of arriving back at home. Jet lag would have to wait for days when I could afford a satchel full of half hour naps while my circadian clock got back on track.

I cannot say that my work schedule is fully appreciated by those with whom I live. Work often gets in the way of spontaneous outbursts of family activities, and if I beg off for prior (paid) commitments, I get more than a little of the hairy eyeball. I understand why, and I desperately wish for more time.

However, the paycheck helps the family world go around too. Our China expenses reached well beyond 30 thousand dollars, and that doesn’t even fully take into account the money we had spent on the previous plan that fell through when the adoption agreement between Vietnam and the United States four years ago. Yes, a small chunk of that will come back to us when we do taxes next year. Nonetheless, money does not buy happiness, it only opens the door to the park. Happiness comes when you play inside.

So, I look forward to a few months in the summer, when I get to be Superdad. And while I bemoan the current situation, I plan for some time in the park–as much as I can get.