Why I love Greyhound.

Normally, I am an environmentally conscious person. I like doing things that don’t gouge the land. At the same time, I am also cheap. Sometimes these two things work together, as in forgoing the convenience of a car in favor of public transportation. Sometimes however, the cost to convenience outweighs the benefits, such as when they are working on the Longfellow Bridge every single weekend and what should be a straight shot train ride into the city becomes a train + shuttle + train ‘adventure’.

My recent weekend trip to Maine is a case in point. I had a wonderful time, of course, and the ride up, despite a little traffic, was pleasant. The return was less so. The driver was young and inexperienced, two qualities which I can understand and forgive. I myself was at one time inexperienced, and even my current level of know-how has not equipped me to drive a bus. However, he was also an hour late. Meaning if there was any traffic, I was not going to make the last train to the last bus back to Belmont. Still, I wasn’t terribly worried. I do have friends with cars who stay up late and could probably be coerced into driving me home. If not, there’s always taxis.

Once we left the bus terminal, the unpleasantness was far from over. I don’t know if many of you are familiar with bus terminals, but one feature that tends to be universal is proximity to an interstate, or at least a highway. There also tend to be giant signs telling the driver and others how to reach said highway. In Massachusetts these signs might be placed behind even larger trees, but in general they are still there. My bus driver decided to ignore the signs placed directly for his benefit as well as the directions given to him at the bus depot and take us on a tour of Portland.

After about 20 lefts, the driver pleaded with us for help. Did anyone know Portland or how to get back to the highway? Fortunately, somebody on that bus full of cranky, tired, and now severely annoyed patrons knew his way around. Unfortunately, the route back to the interstate went under two very low train trestles. Although I am a Christian, it is rare for me to truly reevaluate my life on a Sunday. Clenching my teeth and wishing I could shut my eyes as my inexperienced bus driver barreled under each too-low bridge marked one of the rare occasions.

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my trip. I loved going to Maine, especially to be able to afford going to Maine. And I’m sure I will someday take the bus again. In the meantime, I may just have to check out Amtrak.

Lost in ether, lost in life.

Peter Gabriel is putting out a new internet survival tool called ‘The Filter’. By visiting an online site and inputting preferences, this little tool will make suggestions as to what you might like in film and music right at this very moment. The idea is interesting to me, and I hope to explore just how the thing comes up with its suggestions. However, it has one serious drawback – I enjoy the search more than the results. True, there are times when i just want to hear music in a particular vein, but when I want to find something new, I typically want to find it by myself, rather than relying on friends or tools. I want to dip my hands into the wriggling, writhing life of art, music, and film, and see what my dirty fingernails can dredge up. I I don’t have to wade through the trash a little bit, I feel like I haven’t accomplished as much. And besides, I like drifting online into different vaguely related areas. It allows my mind to jump like it’s meant to.

The feeling of being ‘lost’ in web surfing or blog reading or any of the other ways to spend countless hours sifting online is not necessarily one that feels like a loss to me. True, I am most likely not normal in that regard. I have the intense focus, the kind of mental blinders that could keep me engrossed in the Weather Channel or even static on television as a child. True, it can cause your body to cramp in uncomfortable positions and even for meals to be missed, but so can 14 hours working on the next big studio project for my undergrad architecture major. At times, this focus allows me to concentrate exclusively on what I need to get done. And anything I’m focusing on that intently, whether online or in real life, has to be interesting.

Almost exactly opposite to this online losing of oneself is another pastime I admire, sitting by myself in the woods. I’m not talking about Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek observing and thinking and speculating to the extreme. I really mean just sitting. Maybe observing a little, maybe feeling the wind and hearing animal sounds or the movements of tree branches and streams. Maybe even thinking about profound things. Mostly though, just sitting still and letting the world move around you a bit, thinking in an experiential way that lets the moment pass and fade as a natural order of things. Here there is a losing as well, a sort of loss of conscious thought or at least a sense of progression in those thoughts. Again, like the search for new music and film should, it invokes a sense of path rather than start or finish.

Perhaps the desire to have these experiences is a female thing, or a lack of restlessness, or a strange way that my mind works. However, it seems I am more interested in the way filters work and my own non-logical filter of a brain than those others propose, no matter that I enjoy their music or appreciate their attempts to access technology in new and meaningful ways.

The Sound of the Sea, the Sound of the Wind.

In the late nineties (or, at least, I think it was then) there was a sudden upsurge in the popularity of a variety of New-Agey musical interludes.  There were sounds of the ocean set to wailing flutes, harmonic wind chimes mingled with the calls of sea birds and whales, the sounds of rushing waters and streams and even rainstorms mingling with quick-moving drums.  Exotic sunrises and mysterious forests were pictured on a  variety of CDs promising the ultimate relaxation and respite from a harsher, more urban world.

While such mood music is not bad for writing, and despite the fact that I probably enjoyed more of it than most, I’d still rather listen to a live band than any compilation of fantastical melodies.  These CDs were, after all, not very interactive.  However, when something like the Sea Organ comes along, I will stand up and take notice.  Not only is it a revitalization of the coastline in that area, it’s also an interactive, experiential play of the waves.  It allows for comfortable viewing and interaction with the ocean, as well as adding additional sound to the mix.  Of course, i like the sound of the waves on the shore too, but this adds a fuller dimension to that.  And I like the idea.  Let’s add more conscious awareness of touch, taste, and smell into our daily lives.  Let’s get some really interactive art/living stuff out there.  Let’s take the concept of really hearing our world further.

What if we could hear the rumblings of tectonic plates moving?  What if we could listen in on the static-ridden fire of the Sun?  What if the whirring of gnat’s wings was knowable, or the soft, slight movements of skin cells against each other and you stretched out your fingers?  What if the wilder inventions of OM (both the spiritual exhale and OddMusic gallery) were present in municipal installations around the world?  What if everyone thought like Zumthor, or if I could find multiple Swiss Pavillions here in Boston?  Just thinking about it gives me the shivers.