Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spiced Tea and Regret

I was at this Ethiopian restaurant in Oakland that I really like and haven’t been to in a while, catching up with a friend from LA who was in town. I took her first to my favorite coffee shop where she compared the area to nice suburban area a few miles away, meaning she found it quaint and quiet and cute. In a stifled rage I explained that Oakland had nothing to do with those things and that she needed to drop it. I didn’t know how defensive I could be of my hometown. “You got pretty miffed backed there,” she said to me when we walked out. I promised to prove to her that though the particular stretch which I get my coffee at and crash one friend’s apartment or another is pretty “cute,” its juxtaposition to the grit of the city, to all the tensions of an odd place like Oakland, an international port city with a history of free speech and civil rights and the black panthers and crack wars and so on and so forth, makes it a whole other kind of “cute.” I probably just needed caffeine.

Whenever I get Ethiopian, I get spiced tea. And it just so happened that somewhere towards the end of dinner I knocked my tea all across the table and down onto the floor. I wonder why you feel like such an idiot when you make a mistake like that. Probably because you awaken the entire restaurant to your clumsiness with a big clink and thud and louder-than-intended “dammit,” because there is so much pressure instilled in us all our lives to put that infallible face on over our imperfect bodies and self control, our imperfect knowledge of the consequences.

I was talking with a friend the other day about regrets, and he told me he had none that he could think of. I figured that it was best to just drop the conversation rather than explain to him that regret was that feeling when you had done something that you wished you hadn’t, like treat someone poorly or let someone treat you poorly, that as far as I could tell, such things are unavoidable. Though maybe if you’re happy with the moment you’re in right now, there is nothing to regret. If all the ups and downs cumulate into a singular pleasant feeling, then maybe it’s okay. If I hadn’t spilt the tea, I wouldn’t be enjoying writing about it now.

I wonder if at some point a big sigh of regret will echo across our entire country. I don’t really pay too much attention to politics. I’m effected by it in my daily life as much as any other person I would say, but I get the feeling that one day we’ll look up and realize that we aren’t headed towards a society without freedoms and without expression and privacy and the ability to be yourself without fear, but that we are already living in it, and have been living in it for some time. It bums me out so much that the people who are in control can just get away with anything, that the average person feels so uneffected by it, and is content to throw his or her money right back to those few that have it all, to sit and watch the inane reality shows that kill time between commercials, to eat the same crop at each meal just processed in a different way, to be satisfied with fitting the standard.

If we keep the discussion on Britney’s shitty VMA performance then we wont be thinking about torture or health care or education or invading Iran or the strange weather. Everyone might be happier living in 1984, having everything structured for them, not having to make decisions. Can you really say anything you want now? Can you be anything you want now? I think so, and I think that the only way to make sure it lasts is to be creative and express yourself, to write and sing and paint and share it because its so easy to share these days.

I just get focused every now and then on the ever-changing tide and I get the feeling that our generation will, for better or worse, be witness to a really interesting time. There are so many forces pushing in so many directions, multiplying exponentially. Really heavy things are happening so quickly on such a grand scale while the world is shrinking into something that you can carry around in your pocket. I’m sort of morbidly curious and excited to see what happens. It could be something scary or it could just be spilt tea.

I think about this sort of stuff from time to time