Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Middle-Aged Woman's 'Parking First'

Laugh if you will, this actually happened a year ago, and I'm still pretty proud. I sent it to the local paper, but they must have had a lot of juicy stuff that week because it never got printed. Any Californian will tell you that the first paragraph alone contains a Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-standard shocker: a middle-aged native Californian who has just gotten her driver's license isn't something you happen to find every day. In truth, a reporter did not interview me, but everything else happened just the way I've written it. Sadly, I still haven't managed to further my goals, but I never stop trying.

Ms Mary Witzl, a middle-aged native Californian and driver’s license holder of some four months, successfully parked her car in the public car park in the middle of Loch Maben’s High Street this morning at 9:48 A.M., just before the arrival of the first bus to Glasgow. Ms Witzl, who was seeing off an old friend from university, was particularly pleased with her efforts, as she managed to park her car between two cars, both of which were correctly parked.

Bystanders were amazed to note that both Ms Witzl and her passenger were able to exit the car through their respective doors, with absolutely no risk of a dent to Ms Witzl’s car or the other two vehicles, even though both doors were opened to their fullest. Several witnesses were present, though sadly none had cameras, so no photographs were taken.

“I’m feeling very pleased and proud,” Ms Witzl said. “We’d been worried because there didn’t seem to be any places free. Someone was right on my tail and all of a sudden I spotted an empty space. Up until today, I’ve had to pass by similar empty spaces and drive around the car park a dozen times until two adjoining spaces became vacant, but we were pressed for time and I decided to go for it. I just checked my mirror one last time, flicked on my left indicator and parked – just like that! And the best part is, I did it all in one go!”

“I’ve been doing a lot of parallel parking recently,” Ms Witzl told reporters, “and my family and quite a few of our neighbours have been concerned because I haven’t made much progress. But after this, I’m not going to give up. In fact, I might even try parallel parking between two cars. Maybe even uphill.”

Neither Ms Witzl’s driving instructor nor her husband could be reached for comment.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Dime in the Cement

I like to think I have a pretty impressive long-term memory.

Mercifully, my teens went by in a dizzy blur, but much of my toddlerhood and early childhood is with me still.

I can remember standing in the kitchen, watching my father fiddling around at the stove, trying to make scrambled eggs in a skillet my mother never used. He was wearing a pale blue terrycloth bathrobe and he was terribly crabby; the scrambled eggs he made were watery and raggedy, and my sister and I refused to eat them and he got cross. Not long after, my mother came into the room with a blue blanket and something white sticking out of the top: my baby sister's cotton-candy, eiderdown hair. I was just over a year old.

I can remember the rows of books in book cases, the chipped varnish on the wood, the thin film of dust on top of the shabby books with their peeling bindings; the sharpness of the grass in our front yard, the yearning I had for the New York subway that my older sister insisted ran directly under our sleepy, dusty Southern Californian street.

I remember walking home from school when I was in kindergarten: I saw a small boy try to hit a cat with a hoe; the cat gave the boy a good raking with its claws and I felt like cheering as the boy ran bawling into his house.

Half a dozen houses down from us, there was a house with a bright red mailbox out in front: the mailbox appeared to be supported by a large, thick, curving chain. I could never figure this out: it appeared so counterintuitive that I would stand and stare in awe every time I passed the mailbox. One day, my older sister showed me that the mailbox support, though cleverly constructed to look like a chain, was actually a lot of fused bits. I pretended that this wasn't the case: I would still stare at the chain every time I passed and tell myself that it was standing up all of its own accord, a regular phenomenon.

There was a dime imbedded in the concrete of our cousins' patio next door; my sisters and I were driven near to distraction trying to get it out and would lie awake at night concocting plots on how best to do this. One night I remember fearing that we might actually do it: we would manage to prise the dime out of the cement, spend it on something extravagant like a large Hershey's chocolate bar with almonds -- and then what? After we had eaten the chocolate, the dime would be gone: all that would be left would be a ragged hole in an endless expanse of ugly grey concrete. Lying there in the dark next to my still-scheming sister, I was seized with the hope that we would never, ever manage to get that dime out of its concrete bed and lose the wonderful promise of a treasure to come.

Many decades later, on a rare trip back to our old neighborhood in LaPuente, my younger sister and I saw the mailbox on its improbable chain support, our old house -- looking very much the same -- and the bunch of low shrubs under which the New York subway had once, I had been assured, rumbled and rushed to exotic, sophisticated destinations I could barely imagine.

We got out of the car and walked around the neighborhood, but we didn't want to bother the new owners; we never checked to see if the dime was still in the cement.

I'm so glad I don't know whether it's still there or not. In my mind, it is.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Scotch Moss

I've been out raking our lawn, and I see that the moss is back.

Two years ago, I made a point of getting rid of it. I won't use moss killer; my strategy is to use brute force, repeating this as often as possible until the weeds or moss or whatever green thing I'm pitting myself against is finally forced to give up. Of course, most green things never do give up; usually I am what gives up -- and out. Still, two years ago, I went out there armed with rake and intent, and I expended great energy. I went over every square centimeter of our little patch of grass out in front (our garden is, weirdly enough, divided into several different segments), and I raked out every single smidgen of moss until hardly any was left. In fact, after I did this, hardly anything was left: our lawn, I quickly learned, was over 75% moss. For the next several weeks, I stared out at the great brown patches and it just looked awful. Finally, I went out and dug up as much of the bare naked ground as I could, then I reseeded it. The robins were thrilled: I'd made their worm-finding a lot easier. The cat was thrilled too: more robins to try and catch, plus a whole new toilet space had been created for her.

I stuck bamboo poles here and there to keep the cat out; she sashayed right past them. My only consolation was that she did manage to scare away some of the £$&%*@ing birds that ate up half of my seed. The grass, when it grew in, was a pitiful thing. The moss, when it grew back in, was strong and vigorous.

I'm not sure when it clicked, but at some point it did: Moss is my friend. Not only is it wonderful, springy stuff that is pleasant to walk on, but it is pretty: you can only tell that it isn't grass when you accidentally rake some of it up with your autumn leaves, especially if your vision doesn't happen to be 100% anymore, which mine certainly isn't. It offers a comfortable padding for those with arthritic joints, myself included, and is a natural thing that costs you nothing. Perfect, really.

It is also something that I longed for as a child. When did I forget that?

When I was nine years old, I went with my father and sisters to the local county fair. Usually, I found county fairs tiresome events with boring displays, too many people, and far too much heat. Invariably my father would get caught up in some riveting conversation about avocadoes, citrus grafting and irrigation techniques, and I would stand there in the sun bored out of my mind, but on this occasion I was fascinated by a display of lawn turfs and groundcovers. There were little patches of individual turfs with labels explaining what they were and how they should be cared for. My absolute favorite was something called Scotch moss. It was a rich, verdant lime green, soft and springy to the touch (speaking of touch, you weren't supposed to, but as soon as the lady's back was turned I stuck out a greedy finger and fairly gasped at the luxuriant texture of it, the delicious coolness).

Please can we get some for our lawn, daddy? Pleeaasse! I whined, as soon as I was able to drag my father away from his fascinating discussion of the merits of different fertilizers and show him the turf and groundcover displays. He and the turf lady smiled indulgently. This one isn't practical for Southern California, the lady told me. You'd have to plant it in a shady area and water it non-stop and it would still probably die. My father echoed her sentiments, but it took him at least twenty minutes to drag me away from the display.

Once home, I stood in front of our house and balefully regarded our front yard, hating the parched, bedraggled look of it. I pictured Scotch moss growing abundantly, a delicious carpet of moist, plush green under my bare feet. What we had instead was grass that had to be watered all the time and still looked pretty pathetic.

Amazing, isn't it? For a while there, with a whole garden of the stuff I was raking it up like nobody's business.

Catch me ever doing that again.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Facing The Music

On Wednesday, my husband and I, being of sound mind and body, took our kids to see their favorite Visual K thrash rock / heavy metal band, Dir En Grey, in Sheffield. Dir En Grey performed in the U.K. last year and our eldest was in a sweat to travel down to London to see them, but we ruined her life by nixing this plan. This time, though, one of the clubs they were to appear at was within spitting distance, in Sheffield, and the idea that they might go back to Japan and not tour again for perhaps a year was too much for our besotted girls to bear. To make a long story short, we permitted them to go. The catch was that we would come with them -- we would even drive them there.

The things you do for your kids.

What is Visual K? You may well ask. I wish I could tell you. Suffice it to say that Visual K is a Japanese fashion trend largely represented by men who dress like women and women who dress like men who dress like women. No, I'm not making this up. Think essentially humorless Japanese Eddie Izzards who do music. Very loud music. Think Linkin Park but far noisier and showier, with clothes that are more stylistic and girlie. But don't take my word for it, get a load of this neat little graphic I got from images/dir-myaku.jpg:

Am I lying? Exaggerating? No. I am honor bound to inform you that when we saw them, they had toned this down considerably and appeared in jeans and tee shirts. But you get the idea.

It was a four-hour trip and we hit Sheffield during rush hour. Once we arrived at the venue, we stood in line over 45 minutes, shivering as we breathed in cigarette smoke and listened to the most appalling geek-speak from a young man with a far-too-attentive girlfriend who really should have known better. (And on the off chance she ever happens to read this, my dear, we thought that what you had to say was infinitely more interesting, and why in the world did you let him rattle on so?) We were repeatedly enjoined to Move back, move back! by a bossy young woman with multiple piercings and a voice that could have cut metal, then after our bags were searched, we were allowed into a large, drafty building stuffed full of colorfully dressed kids. We felt old, awkward, and as out of place as a gigolo at a child's birthday party. For our two girls, in a fever pitch of excitement, heavily groomed, hair-straightened, combat-booted and mini-skirted, it was Shangri-La.

I've forgotten the name of the opening band, and I wouldn't mention it here even if I hadn't. They were just awful. No matter how hard I tried, I could see no redeeming features: a handful of ill-favored young men who will surely develop serious problems with their vocal cords if only they live long enough -- which seemed doubtful. The sound was so loud you couldn't tell how well they could play or sing, every single one of them brought to mind the Aryan Nation, and all of them were given to posturing and stomping about on stage in an uncoordinated and ungainly manner that would have been funny if it hadn't been so acutely embarrassing. The one touching thing about their performance was the way the lead singer thanked Dir En Grey for inviting them just as they were leaving the stage. "We fookin' love you guys!" he cried passionately, and as I am a sucker for grateful youths who have the good manners to say 'thank you,' something inside me went Awww!

Then Dir En Grey came on.

Bear in mind that on their genre is mainly known for displaying the ponciest looking Nancy-boys you have ever seen: a highly made-up, hyper-groomed, exfoliated bunch of cross-dressing posers that I wouldn't have looked at twice in my salad days. Also bear in mind the fact that I am not all that keen on heavy metal, and the whole Visual K appeal sails right over my head. But the minute they started up, one thing was certain: Dir En Grey are damn good.

Their screaming, screeching blast-of-noise like a thousand donkeys dying in a lumber mill actually had a melody much of the time. Their drummer could drum, their lead singer could sing, their guitarists played the hell out of their guitars. And while none of them might have attracted my fancy way back when, once they got going, their tall, willowy bass guitarist -- well, he took my heart entirely. I just wish that he had taken his shirt off in the height of the performance rather than the pint-sized bandy-legged lead singer -- who incidentally slashed himself across the ribcage and drew (my daughters insisted) real blood. Personally, I thought his blood looked a lot like food coloring and it didn't seem to coagulate either, but maybe that was because he was sweating so freely.

Yes, they were good, but after fifteen minutes my husband and I had had enough. I was using first-class ear plugs but still longed to cover my ears, and I couldn't help reflecting on my own magnaminity: hell, I couldn't even get my parents to listen to the Beatles! Selfishly, part of me was hoping Dir En Grey wouldn't give more than one encore, but they were generous, to the obvious joy of the crowds -- and our rapturous daughters.

Finally, it was over, though, and the stars bent down to wave to their fans, smiling in a slightly bemused way as though they were delighted, but surprised, by the adoring hordes. They began to throw their drumsticks and guitar picks to the crowd, also spraying everyone with the remaining water in their bottles. I have been assured that this is a tamer version of what has happened in the past and I was heartily grateful that they toned this act down: I have quite enough laundry as it is. My eldest had managed to retrieve a guitar pick -- obviously used, to her endless delight -- and my youngest insisted that the tall willowy bass guitarist had looked in her direction a time or two. Clearly, we both have the same tastes in men.

My daughters happily told us about the obnoxious blonde who had pushed and clawed them away from the stage, and the beautiful Chinese fan who had screamed her head off with them. "How did you know she was Chinese?" I couldn't help but ask.

The eldest gave me a scornful look. "Duh. She was speaking Chinese."

All in all, it was a night to remember. A happy, cosmopolitan bunch of young people wildly entertained by a hard-working band that did nothing worse than moisten clothes and ruin everyone's hearing. My daughters are now eagerly discussing the chances of Rammstein, a German heavy metal group, in case you didn't know, coming to the U.K. to perform.

Is it too much to hope for, I wonder, that in another 65 years my great-grandchildren may be passionate fans of Iraqi musicians?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Miss Personality

Our eldest is what they call an Alpha type. This is a nice way of saying she's a bossy little so-and-so with a penchant for ordering others around.

When I was her age, I was unassertive and all too easily cowed. I would like to think that I was not the type who is easy to influence, but the awful truth is that I was so meek and shy, I probably would have been a follower if anyone had given me half the chance. No one did. I was so timid, insecure and slavishly humble that most of the time no one even knew I was there. I was easily offended and hyper-sensitive, and I might as well have worn a big placard on my back inviting bullies to come and give me grief.

I look at my eldest and am awed by her confidence. I was fully conscious when she was born; I saw them clamp the same bracelet I wore on her wrist and ankle. She looks just like my mother and she has my legs and thick, bushy hair. In short, I know she's mine: no one mixed her up with anyone else's baby. But in personality we are so different that I can only gaze at her in wonder -- and hopeless longing. I wish I'd had half her self-assurance.

When she was a toddler, she led her class at the nursery school, quickly monopolizing attention and making sure that she ran the show. At first, we thought she was merely capitalizing on being the odd man out -- the only Caucasian child in the entire school. But the teachers assured us it wasn't this. "Your child is a natural leader," one of them remarked. "When there's a fire drill, she helps us organize the others." Two years later, another teacher said bemusedly, "Your daughter even bosses us teachers around." I saw her in action once when I had come to collect her. There was a new teacher who was still unfamiliar with the protocol for putting away the bedding after naptime. I caught my daughter imperiously telling this woman exactly how it should be done and I didn't know whether to be proud or ashamed. Frankly, I was a little of both.

When she was four, we worried that she might be bullied, but her teachers laughed this notion to scorn. "She doesn't have much humility, but she's got a tough core," one pointed out. "And she knows how to stand up for herself, so you don't have to worry about that." Although our child's obvious lack of humility was mortifying, my husband and I were greatly reassured.

When she was around six, she suddenly realized that she was a big fish in a small pond. Her class was now old enough to go on field trips and my child quickly learned that although in her own school she reigned as queen, outside of our own neighborhood she was simply a foreigner. This took her down a peg or two and it was heartbreaking to see: when the others came back from field trips they were still happy and excited, whereas my daughter was obviously shell-shocked and reflective. "People cat-called her and pulled her hair," one teacher sadly reported. "And the children from the other schools talked about her in Japanese. They ran away when she tried to talk to them."

The transition from nursery school to elementary school was relatively painless, and during her first year our daughter did well. The fact that she was a head taller than even some of the children a year older didn't faze her in the slightest. On her first day of school, she proudly announced that she was the tallest and strongest girl: she could pick up every boy in her class. Better yet, she crowed, only one of them could pick her up. All I could do was stare at her in wonder. I had been the tallest girl in my class too, and this had mortified me no end. What I had seen as a humiliating affliction, she saw as a natural advantage.

During her second year, things started getting harder. Academically, there was little to worry about. Like most children in Japan, my daughter had learned to read the basic Japanese syllabary in nursery school, and she did well at picking up the more complicated Chinese characters. Socially, though, she was beginning to lose ground. There were other Alpha types, especially among the girls, and they vigorously competed with her for the position of class leader. Moreover, only a few of the children from her nursery school were her classmates, and those who had not known her from babyhood saw her as a foreigner rather than one of the gang. She had her work cut out for her learning to cope with those who bullied her and treated her as different. She became a little withdrawn and less gregarious.

Most of the time she kept all of this to herself. Like a lot of children who grow up in a foreign culture, she identified strongly with her peers and saw her parents as the true foreigners. "Don't say anything," my blonde-haired blue-eyed child used to hiss at me, "Or they'll know you're a foreigner." Gradually, the awful truth dawned: not only were we her parents foreigners, but she was one as well. My husband and I began to worry that she lacked the skills to cope with bullies and the children who shut her out, that her natural confidence and resourcefulness might never recover.

Then one day when I was walking her home from school, she started talking about all of these issues. Clearly she was being tormented by one boy in particular, a bully by the name of Hiroshi, and I was horrified. "He calls me gaijin!" she exclaimed indignantly. "And he claims I look funny!"

Wanting to offer her support and inspiration, I began a long-winded and impassioned story about Dr Martin Luther King, about the children in Arkansas who had been racially taunted and bullied by both children and adults and who'd had to run a gauntlet just to get to school every day. My daughter listened politely, then interrupted. "It's okay, Mom. I know how to take care of Hiroshi!"

Amazed, I stared back at her. "You do?"

She nodded eagerly. "See, no one is supposed to call me gaijin. But I don't want to be a tattle-tale, so I just pretend I can't hear him. That irritates him and he gets louder and louder until he's actually shouting. And then the teachers hear him yelling gaijin and he really gets it." She smiled happily. "He's not all that smart, so he hasn't figured it out yet."

I decided to save my lecture for later. I knew her teacher was right: what my child lacked in humility she more than made up for in confidence. She really didn't need my help at all.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Girls And Boys and Boys and Girls

The other day my youngest reported that she had talked to a boy in her class on the way home from school. "He's really nice," she burbled. "Not like a boy at all."

This sort of comment from her always amazes me. I'm not given to kneejerk anti-male statements. I've almost never indulged in the Women are smart, men are stupid cracks that some women are prone to make, and I have always tried to treat the whole gender issue as fairly and reasonably as possible. I make a big fuss about how happy I am to have daughters, but I know that if I'd had sons I'd have loved them as tenderly and deeply as I love my girls. A lot of the boys in our neighborhood strike me as being pleasant, and I've always encouraged my daughters to make friends with boys and girls. And yet they both have this Ewww, boys! attitude. Why?

I am convinced there is a natural antipathy to boys, particularly among girls who have grown up without brothers, and always when girls sense they are being treated as second class citizens. I was one of three girls myself, and my sisters and I feared and loathed boys beyond reason -- even, at times, our two cousins who lived next door. We had learned several things by the time we entered elementary school:

1) Boys were mean. They tended to tease animals and others mercilessly.

2) Boys generally got away with it. I used to grind my teeth in anger and frustration when I heard my aunt's indulgent "Boys will be boys" response to some broken toy or other gross insult. My cousins' grinning Nyah, nyah, nyah hardly helped.

3) Boys were greedy and never shared. They were also, on occasion, served more food. Because they were boys.

4) Boys made fun of things we held dear. Our dolls and stuffed animals were scorned and savaged. Cute clothes we prized were scoffed and ruined when they kicked mud at us.

5) Boys tried to hold us back. We couldn't climb into their tree houses because we were girls. They wouldn't let us play in their games, and they mocked ours when we started them. Infuriatingly, though, they often tried to poach on what they viewed as our territory. I'll never forget a smug neighbor telling me that he had made brownies. That he might grow up to be a cook some day, better than any woman. Because as everyone knew, men were the most famous chefs. Ooh, that one rankled.

Once, on my way back from school, a boy stopped me. "Hold out your hand," he demanded imperiously.

I was too smart for that, of course, and refused to do this. "You'll hurt me."

"I will not!" the boy protested.

"Promise!" I said, and the boy promised.

Once he'd made that promise, I was fine. I knew that if you broke a promise, God saw. Looking down from heaven, God would frown and smite anyone who broke his word. In perfect trust, I extended my hand. The boy seized it in his own grubby paw.

Starting with my thumb, the boy began to count, working his way down my fingers: "Davey -- Crockett -- never -- said -- "

"Ouch!" I screamed, as the boy bent my pinky all the way back.

Well pleased, the little shit ran off laughing. Trivial though this incident might seem, it made a huge impression on me: Don't trust boys.

I could end here, in which case you would think that our hatred of boys wasn't really beyond reason; plenty of them obviously earned it. But to this day, I remember another incident with equal clarity.

I was perhaps seven years old, my older sister ten and my younger sister just six. We were walking along a dusty road, on our way back from the store with a jar of pickles we had been sent to buy. A boy about my older sister's age stopped us.

"Hello," he said. We nodded and eyed him warily.

"Want some candy?" the boy asked.

My sisters and I traded glances. We knew all about the candy ruse, but this boy was a boy, after all -- not an adult with a car.

"What kind?" my older sister bravely asked.

The boy was carrying a paper sack we viewed with deep suspicion. What might it have inside? A fake cockroach like our cousins had? Rubber chocolates? A plastic snake?

Reaching into the bag, the boy extracted three mint patties. Not the small kind you sometimes get after a meal at restaurants, but great, huge patties as big around as a teacup. Our jaws dropped.

"Thank you," my older sister breathed. My younger sister and I chorused our own thanks, still wary, and the boy went on his way.

"Do you think they're poison?" my little sister whispered.

My older sister shook her head. "They're wrapped too well," she pointed out.

We saw that this was true: the patties were obviously still perfectly sealed. We unwrapped them and began to eat. They were delicious, and we didn't drop dead.

Five minutes later, as we licked the candy off our lips and carefully folded up the wrappers and tucked them into our pockets, my older sister shook her head in amazement. "I guess some boys are good," she said.

Honestly, it was a revelation. And she was absolutely right.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Pain Of Production

First of all, I have to make a confession: given half the chance, I tend to eavesdrop.

I put this down to my fascination with conversations and my hobby of people-watching. I don't eavesdrop in a mean-spirited or gossipy way; I don't take any information I may have gleaned and spread it around the town. I listen for accents and dialect, clever uses of language, and the politics of interaction. I try to guess at hidden subtexts and past histories, the interrelationships, the degree of affection or respect among interlocutors. And once in a while, when I am out with friends myself, I spot others that I'm certain are eavesdroppers at work. Needless to say, I do not begrudge them; I only hope they're as entertained and enlightened by the conversations I'm involved in as I've been by the ones I've stealthily monitored. As long as they obey the Eavesdroppers' Code of Honor like I do (in essence, 'Do it discretely and courteously and never even dream of joining in unless invited'), as far as I'm concerned they are more than welcome to indulge in their hobby.

Not long ago, I overheard a woman in a coffee shop compare getting a book published to the agony of labor. I too have written a book I am hoping to publish and like other would-be published writers I have learned that waiting is very much part of the deal. Up until I heard the labor comparison I'd been mentally smiling and nodding to almost everything I heard this woman say. But comparing the pains of labor to the pains of getting published? Oh no. Nooooo.

"You forget the pain," a friend of mine once commented, by way of explaining why she'd had four babies. Do you? I sure as hell never did, and I can't even remember where I put my coat. Yes, I know the woman was just speaking figuratively, but I still won't allow it: the pain of childbirth is on a rarefied plane of its own and it cannot be referred to so lightly. The walls have ears, after all, and who knows what impressionable young women may be out there listening?

For any women out there who have published, but have yet to reproduce, please believe me: going through labor hurts more than the process of getting something published. I would not want you to go into childbirth imagining a lot of frenzied, late night head-scratching, long, tedious conversations, and ages and ages of waiting. There will be waiting, there may well be lots of frenzied late night stuff, but that's pretty much where the similarity between producing a baby and producing a book stops, though I can easily imagine that the sense of pride and achievement is a pretty close match.

But the comparison that really works is going through pregnancy and writing a book. There are real similarities here -- or at least I have found that to be the case. Consider the following:

1) You start off starry-eyed, not really knowing what you're getting into. It can't be all that hard since so many other people have done it you tell yourself smugly.

2) You can easily become cloistered, and hence slovenly in your personal grooming.

3) You are in danger of becoming a bore; of answering every kindly meant And how are you doing today? with a tiresomely detailed response, forgetting that the world around you is not desirous of a blow-by-blow description of every tiny new development.

4) Housework becomes all too easy to neglect.

5) You are dependent on the expertise of others to help you achieve your goal. Only those with uncommon fortitude can go through this entirely on their own.

6) You start losing sleep at night wondering if everything will turn out okay.

7) You know that there are no guarantees that everything will turn out okay, but what can you do?

8) The further along you go, the more impossible it is to contemplate termination.

9) You wonder why you went down this road in the first place. To leave something of yourself behind? To show the world what you can do? Because in a weak moment you gave in? Because your friends and family kept telling you it was a great thing to do?

Sitting there in the coffee shop, I thought all these things and more, but of course I kept it all to myself. It's not always easy, but the Eavesdroppers' Code of Honor must always be rigorously observed.