18 December 2009

Hotel Indigo

I love this place. I even bought stock in it (and it's gone up!). I know that I technically bought stock in the parent company that owns this and many other chains, but as far as I'm concerned, I bought stock in Hotel Indigo specifically. Yes, it's a profit-oriented business. It's goal is to get me to stay there and pay them for the privilege, pay their bills, all the usual corporate stuff. The difference (and I believe that it is a monumental difference) is that when they have you there, when they have me there (which may contribute), they don't just "pamper" you in exchange for your ample payment (which is significantly less ample than many "pampering" chains); they challenge you, if you're paying attention. Take the Indigo on West End here in Nashville, for example: around the edge of the raised ceiling above the front desk are painted two popular, cliched verses ... backwards. There are competing explanations for this, but in a nutshell, it's an homage to DaVinci, who wrote a lot of stuff backwards, and his association to the golden ration, or golden mean (also compelling the name of the hotel cafe, the Golden Bean - ha).

At this point, what you should be thinking, at the very least, is that whatever any of it means, of all possible explanations of any given decorative element in any hotel lobby, this is easily the coolest. Add to that the haikus that find their way into every nook, cranny, and hotel amenity, and unless you're in a coma, you should leave this place at least slightly elevated from the intellectual (and emotional) position from which you entered. You might even discover a little poetic flair in yourself. Substantive brevity is not just for Twitter.

28 July 2009

The Enlightenment Spectrum

I was half-watching television this afternoon while I dug for information about the 1968 presidential campaigns and election. I had been diligent about hitting the “mute” button at the beginning of every commercial, both due to the usual absurd content and the program-peak-matching decibel levels. Then one such break caught me off guard, and what a gift!

There is a wonderful commercial promoting the Discovery channel (which I was already watching, but whatever) that features all imaginable “types” of people, in an array of settings of both hobby and profession, all equally joyful and up to their armpits in life. It was beautiful, intelligent, and inspiring. “I love the whole world...it’s such a brilliant place! Boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada....” It made me weep a little, it was so good.

It was followed by a Coors Light commercial with a guy who gets hit in the back of the head by a baseball while his attention is on a critical beer purchase. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

“The world is just awesome.” Indeed.

01 July 2009

The Bared American Voter

Here’s what I think.... The elections of 1980 and 1984 were actually what they call “deviating elections.” I believe that people (human beings, not Democrats or Republicans) actually favor the typical Democratic, moralistic sociological perspective (people’s theoretical operation). People also tend naturally to be afraid of change or the unknown or “unmet” in general, which creates a natural conservatism (people’s practical operation). Ronald Reagan was very human and yet conservative at the same time, subtly progressive in many ways but nothing “too” risky, and had the Republican/conservative level of organization behind him (a valid preference) that soothes people’s fears of losing control, and not “having enough.”

Reagan was not a Republican like Nixon was a Republican, or even like the Bushes were Republicans. I suspect that has something to do with why Bush Sr. wasn’t reelected to a 2nd term; and the only reason Bush Jr. was reelected was because of that inherent fear of change and a lack of solid evidence that Kerry could do anything notably different, much less better.

It explains the howling over President Obama’s policy implementations to date, even though a quick look back at history shows enormous similarities between his and FDR’s first 100 days in office, which were successful enough and popular enough overall to get him reelected another three times after that.

This shows how right James Madison was in Federalist #10 about the whims of the masses. They (the masses) are generally possessed of good intentions, but filled with fears and there-derived passions that necessitate the need for those smarter, calmer, and more courageous to hold positions of authority. The heads of the governing must always be up, as the heads of the governed are almost always down.

21 June 2009

I call it a "cheer-ku"

Pride, Pride, needs a guide
Nashville doesn't think outside
Our cause nullified

07 May 2009

Haiku of Generosity

If I kept it all
for myself, and no one else,
what good would I serve?

06 May 2009


Argument is good for the soul; or at least a little good, old-fashioned debate can be. And perhaps not even good for the soul, necessarily, but definitely good for the thought structure. "Oh no," you might say, "conflict makes me so uncomfortable." Me, too, gives me the hives. Then why seek out an argument? Well, to find out you're right, of course. Or wrong.

You must test your beliefs, your views (or at least be open to having them tested for you), to know if they're worth having, or, for that matter, to know if they really are your beliefs. Argument--sincere, respectful argument--is the light to which you hold up a belief, like you hold up a piece of glass to check for flaws. It's scrutiny invited and welcomed by those who know to place less value on "belief" than on "truth" of the kind which transcends experience, points of view, and opinions; and by those wise enough to know how much they don't know, and what wonderful opportunities such a position has to offer.

If your belief holds up against argument, not only just holds up, really, but deepens, hardens to judgment, and is able to genuinely defeat the criticisms and challenges laid out in its opposition, then it becomes more and more likely that it is, in fact, the truth. At the very least, it becomes a more comfortable belief, with the hope of someday being accepted as truth, an outside creation delivered into your perspective by grace and your willingness and existing independently of any "belief" whatsoever.

Such a profound gift, to be truly appreciated, warrants being clarified, questioned, and refined, worn the way you wear the plaid, flannel shirt that belonged to your grandfather, until the elbows are threadbare but always holding, and the soft, perfectly weathered fabric feels indistinguishable from your own skin. It is of you and for you. Whatever nugget you're privileged to uncover, as beneficial as it might be to others who seek your direction, is never to be used as a weapon, nor should it be expected to serve as the dial in anyone's moral compass but your own.

28 March 2009

Fashion in England

The others are still in the living room watching tv. Somebody mentioned Auburn, and it reminded me of a dream I had last night. I stuck my head around the corner and said, "I dreamed last night that I got accepted to Auburn. I don't want to go to Auburn."

Christy asked, "You'd rather go to England?" (following a hypothetical conversation about Oxford University)

I said, "I don't know that I want to go to England...I might like to go to England."

Kira added, "I'd like to go to England...and correct their fashion mistakes."

Kira is definitely "on" tonight.

Cake is Everything

The others are in the living room watching the SEC gymnastics championship on tv while I do school work in the kitchen. They are alternately awed, shocked, and somewhat disgusted.

After some discussion about the equipment and pads and such, Kira said, "Sometime I want to have my birthday party at one of those places, so we can play on all that stuff."

Seth pointed out, "You had a birthday party there already."

Kira replied, "Yeah, but the cake was terrible."

20 March 2009

Academic Honor and Capitalism

Apparently, cheating is on the rise. It isn't any surprise, when you look at Enron, Bernard Madoff, the use of the bailout money, the salaries vs. performance of what appears to be every major corporation that's having any financial problems whatsoever at this point. You don't cheat that big your first time out, and you don't get that good at, or that comfortable with, sliding things around enough to get that ethically out of balance, even if you're still on the light side legally.

If you're going to stop it from happening, you have to stop rewarding it.

Clearly, we have to work our way backwards. I really believe that, as with everything, the first thing to do is STOP it where it is. Take away the carrot. You can implement all the earlier interventions in the world, but you're never going to get people to believe what you think is best for them to believe by force. One belief is simply no stronger than another.

Academic dishonesty isn't any different from selling your shares the night before an unfavorable court ruling you know will crash your stock value. Lying is lying, cheating is cheating. All of it is about getting yourself further ahead by any means possible. In America, we call that "capitalism." All this whining and crying about socialism confounds me.

First of all, we are a million miles from socialism as practiced in Cuba, the old East Germany, North Korea, or China. There is no private industry in socialism. But theoretical socialist ideals of equality, universal health and education benefits, less class distinction and more focus on the collective are GOOD THINGS. Obviously, the actual practice of it has been beaten all to hell by the previously named countries, but American practice of capitalism isn't exactly a paragon anyone decent anywhere else in the world should be pushing to emulate either. Seriously, people, look around...I mean, now that the election is over and these words aren't just for hysterical button-pushing anymore.

Who are we?? First answer: If we're poor, nobody. If we're rich, some kind of damn deity. Look up our census data. www.census.gov Read the information on income, the medians, the lowest, the highest. Look at the poverty level, and the number of people in the family who are existing on those numbers, and then go up, up, up, until you get to where your income is, and you still don't think you have enough. Look at exactly what percentage of our population really does make more than $200,000, and recognize that it wasn't just part of the democrat propaganda. Look at the people waiting for the city buses, even with our supposed "defeats" of racial bias. Take the damn steroids away from pro athletes, for God's sake. Then you can talk to me about cheating, about how to get kids, adolescents, college students, and adults to stop thinking like common predators, how to convince them that there really is plenty for everybody.

Honor "codes" on college campuses have some chance of influencing some people, simply by virtue of pointing out honesty as a favorable quality, as well as by the community focus and involvement. But you can't fix the rearview mirror on a rusted out shell of a car sitting in the middle of a corn field and expect to drive it out of there.

01 March 2009

Nature vs. Nurture

There are some subjects in my life that even I have had a hard time figuring out, largely because I was not yet far enough ahead to have a good view looking back. I've learned a fair amount, and a lot of it the hard way. I have heard the debate over "nature" versus "nurture" on several topics, but the one that affects me most directly and personally, and therefore that I have the most business responding to, is the one about the "origin" of sexual orientation. Nobody likes to be told "the facts" about themselves, as though someone else knows better and can think their thoughts and feel their feelings. Even the deepest empathy can't actually take someone out of their own skin and put them into yours, so why is it up for debate at all? I can't speak for everyone and realized long ago that I ought not even try. My beliefs alone have no more weight than anyone's. It is possible, however, that I, Kristin, may have some potential for changing minds based on generalizations that do not describe me.

The gay marriage wars have brought this subject further into the public light than ever before, and the votes taking place on various amendments around the country are putting some people in the position of figuring out their true opinions about it, presumably so they can decide first of all if they have "a dog in this fight" and second, how they think that dog should act. Many have realized that they really do not have any idea what defines "gay," or what in the universe makes some people gay and some straight. At the very least, they have determined that such a truth prevents them from stating with any certainty what "should" or "shouldn't" be considered acceptable, much less legal. Others are determined to continue declaring themselves authorities on things not only beyond their experience but beyond their existence. They openly judge things as right or wrong about which they don't even realize how little they actually understand.

I must reiterate that I speak with certainty only about myself. I have definite theories about others' circumstances and motivations, but theories are all they are. Many people make many choices about a great many things, but the reality for me, the absolute facts of me as only I can possibly see them, include that I have never in this lifetime NOT been gay; that I wasn't tempted or coerced toward it by any person, practice, or event; and that is very simply part of the DNA that makes me who I am. There were little bits of evidence all along the way, starting when I was very young. I also was raised in a very small, conservative town, where any divergence from the "norm" was so discouraged and suppressed that any natural inclination toward anything else would have been very difficult to foster, even with anyone's effort. I don't have a particularly "broken" history. Most importantly, the part of this that most people misunderstand or overlook is that it has nothing to do with the act of sex, that despite whatever choices some people do make directing their individual behaviors, your actual orientation is not one of those choices.

I have never felt any differently than I feel now. I have thought differently, absolutely an aspect of how I was "nurtured," not only by my family, but by my church, friends, teachers, neighbors, and society at large. I thought, as some would suggest is correct, that I was just supposed to go with boys, that the magical pull toward someone just wouldn't happen until the right one came along. For as long as I can remember (and I can remember back further than anyone I know), I have felt my feelings on this point consistently. I have never been drawn to boys, felt more like one than not, always imagined and fantasized based on what I'd have to call a "male" viewpoint, what kind of girl I liked, how I might ask one out, dating a girl, marrying a girl, etc. I did not know any gay people. I saw no gay characters on television. It came from deep, deep inside me, with no external explanation whatsoever. My mother dressed me in cute, frilly little dresses and treated me always like a little girl...and wondered when it would "take."

The kids in school teased each other about being gay if one caught another wearing green on Thursdays. They didn't even know what it meant, but still they worked overtime attaching a negative meaning to it, which did bury it very deep, but didn't drive it out as I would expect that kind of effort could, if in fact it was something shallow enough that it could be driven out.

I was from a broken home, but with no extraordinary trauma. I was not physically or sexually abused. Sex wasn't even addressed, that I can recall, only that girls and boys grow up, get married (girls to boys, boys to girls), and have babies together. No other options were even introduced, much less encouraged or discouraged. There were no contributing "factors" to my gayness at play whatsoever. In fact, as I stated above, the only "nurturing" that took place should have guaranteed my eternal heterosexuality.

I agree that a person's early environment and treatment can contribute to many different areas. A girl treated like a boy, encouraged to throw balls and get dirty, maybe one raised by a single father or with several brothers, is often a "tomboy." She may be tougher than other girls, more aggressive, more interested in highly active hobbies and the like, but all the little girls I grew up with who knew such environments grew up to very happily and comfortably date and marry boys. A little boy raised by several women or with only sisters may adopt more "sensitivities" about and toward girls, may even be made to try on dresses, wear makeup, be living mannequins for their female counterparts. I've known a few of them, too; none are gay or have had any confusion about it.

I also have known many people, countless people, who do regularly make choices to "experiment" with different recreational behaviors. I've known many straight people who've experienced great hurt at the hands of the opposite sex and hoped for less with an "alternative lifestyle." I've known many gay people who've felt the same hurt and turned instead to members of the opposite sex. These are actions, behaviors, things people DO. They reflect experience, personal history, and are clear manifestations of however they've been "nurtured." But they have nothing to do with simply BEing whoever or whatever you are.

There are many things that affect people in different ways, in different areas of their lives. I have made innumerable choices on an endless list of subjects. I have struggled with years of confusion about a million things and come to many realizations and many decisions. My orientation was a realization; to live my life openly and honestly was a decision, and a damn brave one, if I do say so myself.

11 February 2009

Film as a Medium

The venue of the movie theater and the medium of film are separate things for me, so I have to talk about them separately. Theaters have gotten continually more commercialized, with only the very rare, hold-out, old-fashioned theater, and some taking advantage of modernization in more fun ways, like the chain with the theater where I saw a movie when I was in Austin, TX, that put a row of tables in front of every row of seats; full restaurant menus, complete with beer and desserts; and quick, quiet servers who dart in and out of the rows with orders and checks more covertly than you would think possible. I can't, for the life of me, think of the name of those theaters right now, but that was fun, and it's a brilliant idea.

Film, however, for all of its seeming changes, such as its growth and regression, and its trends of bigger effects, minimalist story-art, and big-star oversaturation vs. unknowns, is as strong as ever. As a "business," I think that the "film" industry has suffered some at the hands of the "theater" industry, but I also don't know the costs of getting and running a film, so I'm open to the fact that it could be the other way around. However, given at least the obvious motivations of both parties, it seems more likely that it's the former than the latter.

Whatever the obstacles, on which I hope it is never completely dependent for survival, film remains the best and most intimate way to tell a story. Some would say that television is more intimate, because it comes into our homes, but so few people stop their lives to give their attention to even the best story on tv, that by definition that communication is more superficial. The communication between a movie and a theater-goer, even among 100 others in that theater, is like having an intimate dinner with a friend, never interrupting, just sitting and listening and being totally engrossed in that friend's joys or troubles, compared to television-watching being like the communication you would have with several friends at a party you were hosting yourself. Your attention is everywhere; you have tasks to complete, and messages coming from and going out to a dozen different sources the whole time. One is quantity; one is quality.

When I was young, before several years of self-realization and peace-making, and a few more of therapy, in other words before I had any ability to know what I was feeling, much less how to feel it in any healthy fashion, movies were often my savior. I could safely and openly feel the feelings of a well-written and well-acted character, comparatively isolated and "cushioned" in a dark theater for a couple of hours; and it was undoubtedly an outlet in me for whatever feelings would otherwise have just collected and grown and done more damage than they did. They may have been "borrowed" feelings, but I used them well.

Even when I was a small child, as much as I loved some of the Disney animated movies, like "Lady and the Tramp," "The Aristocats," "Bambi," and "The Fox and the Hound," (note my preference for even cartoon animals over cartoon people), I remember vividly seeing movies like "The Gypsy Colt," "The Three Lives of Thomasina," "Forever Young, Forever Free," "Rocky," and "Star Wars" before I was ten. They represented a reason to believe that anything was possible, that other experiences did exist, somewhere, for someone, and for me, in my hometown of 700 people and change, teased terribly at school, parents divorcing and remarrying, and feeling utterly disoriented, disconnected, and often miserable, movies were one of the things that made the necessary difference.

My love of them only grew, and I don't feel like that was misplaced or misguided in any way. As I grew up and broadened my movie horizons, I was never any less aware of the potential wisdom to be gleaned from them, the exposure to other cultures and the various points of view available on any point. There are far corners to this world of which I would never have known had I not seen them on the big screen. There are so many stories of so many different kinds of people that are told in films, in attention-getting and -keeping ways of which, as I said above, television just isn't usually as capable. I have no complaints about television, and happily credit the shows from my childhood like "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Bionic Woman," "Charlie's Angels," "Love Boat," and "Hart to Hart," on up to "Cheers," "Frasier," "Empty Nest," "The Golden Girls," "ER," "The Big Bang Theory," "Brothers and Sisters," and the recently and tragically departed "Boston Legal," (one of the most stunningly written and acted shows in history) for adding volumes of inspiration to my life. I wish I could have seen them in the theater, without commercials.

I could be in a coma, hear the theme from "Rocky," and come to and run a marathon. "Schindler's List" should be required viewing, not just in schools, but, for example, to be able to vote or some other equally broad application. "Kramer vs. Kramer" is a gift to all, but especially to anyone affected by a divorce, in the way that validates all the hurt and confusion real people usually feel, that I felt when I saw it at the age of 9. "The Champ" will remove every last stored-up tear from you that "Steel Magnolias" might have missed; and the "Star Wars" trilogy (especially the original three :)) is awe-inspiring, not just in special effects and music, but in possibility and in the power of good over evil, faith over fear. "Boyz n the Hood," "God Grew Tired of Us," "Central Station," "The Last Days," and "The Deer Hunter," "Kolja," and "Once Were Warriors," among others, introduce you to people you need to meet and possibly otherwise never will.

I was fortunate enough to work as an extra on a few productions when I lived in L.A. in the mid-90's, and even seeing the sets and several re-takes of a critical or hard-to-get scene took none of the magic away from it. This is possibly because the magic, for me, and therefore the truth, has always been in the heart of a film. I got to spend some time with some really gifted people, like Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo on "Outbreak," that only underscored what it is about them that makes them gifted and what they bring to the characters they play. The first time I saw "ER" in color was when I actually stepped onto the set. (Those were lean days in material ways, and I had only a 4" black and white tv). I waved a sign in one brief scene in "The American President" that was meaningless to me out of the context and didn't even include me in the shot, but that made me so proud to have been even remotely part of when I saw that wonderful movie in the theater.

We need films, and it would behoove us to recognize that before we manage to do away with them and then, in our typical human reactivity, cry because we've lost it, lost something that was always within our power to keep and preserve. It would be a shame to add the medium of film to the long list of other resources, natural and otherwise, that we have taken for granted and abused and neglected until we managed to destroy them.

Going to the Movies

Have you ever seen a movie at Hollywood's Chinese Theatre? A lot of people include it in their sightseeing when they're visiting the area, to put their hands and feet in the cement prints of their favorites and see how they measure up, and snap pictures of the ornate red towers at the entrance. But most people just passing through don't stop to actually see a movie there. They should.

It's more beautiful on the inside than it is on the outside. It's enormous, like theaters used to be, before they got divided up into the multiplexes that exist today. The center row is about 25 seats across, and the walls are covered with giant wooden Chinese carvings, and top-of-the-line speakers, front to back. The screen is about the size of a basketball court stood on its side, and is covered until the start of the show, as in the old days, by a huge red velvet curtain. It opens about 3/4 of the way for watching the previews, then closes again and reopens to full width for the start of the feature. The Chinese does it up the way theaters used to, when going to a movie felt like the event it still is to me, instead of the cheap, easy, compromise it has become, with not only previews but commercials that tack a half hour onto your time there, which is already more time than many are willing to take out of their daily "busy"-ness, whatever that is.

I don't get it. I don't take the time I used to for movies, but I like to think that it's just where I am, and that my "busy"-ness has at least a finite term length. Even now, I go to the movies more often than many people I know. I wish that the experience was always as great as it's been the few times I've seen a film at the Chinese, old-style presentation with absolutely modern sound and picture technology, but I'm happy just to have a screen roughly the size of an outside wall of my house. I try to time my arrival to miss at least most of the commercials (which never should have been allowed to breach the tv/movie theater threshold), although I do love to see a couple of previews. I trade being spared the ads for seeing the theater darken, but it's worth it. Commercials are irritating on a small screen, at normal volume, and many people cite them as one of the main reasons they've been "turned off" by movies in recent years. The marketing is especially annoying because it's just another way to squeeze more money out of people, which never should have taken priority above the theaters' integrity and taste, and the customer's experience. Splitting two theaters into 12 multiplied their profits by almost six times (allowing for increased procurement costs) without even raising the prices, which have also at least quadrupled in most cases. And that's before figuring in the cost of refreshments, which were always higher than on the street, but have multiplied along with ticket prices.

Personally, I also wish they'd left the floors on gradual slopes instead of turning everything into stadium seating. I understand that on the rare occasion that really tall person sits in front of a really short person, stadium seating works better for the really short person, but I don't like sometimes having to sit not only close, but below, the screen; or not only far away from it, but far above it.

Still, I wouldn't give it up. Even on a multiplex screen, a fifth the size it used to be, at $9 a ticket, it's still an experience I can't get any other way. The smallest movie screen is still bigger than anyone's entertainment room screen (unless you're a pro ball player or a movie star yourself), and the two hours in the dark, commercial-free (once it starts), story-absorbed subreality with outside distractions and stresses prohibited, is a necessity to me. I love it. It does me more good than an annual physical or vitamin supplements, and I hope they can hang in there, and wait out the people who haven't yet figured out that they won't be able to stay sane their whole lives if they can only watch a movie if they can also spend that time texting and emailing, balancing their checkbooks, checking their eBay, talking, cooking (for those who still do), and making to-do lists for the stuff they're not doing at the moment.

02 February 2009

Picture's Worth a Thousand Words...

Images can be extremely powerful. Sometimes one image can conjure thousands of lives and experiences, sometimes millions. Consider the swastika. Nothing but a few intersecting lines, but that image represents one of the greatest tragedies committed by humans against humans in our history. Hatred and prejudice beyond comprehension, and millions persecuted, tortured, and killed. There was no more sane or logic reasoning than about as much as can be contained in those few black lines, but that symbol was enough to inspire many, and to horrify generations, because it represented the words and ideology of Adolf Hitler, the man who made the swastika famous, and his odious Nazi party. That image, along with an image of a gaunt, hollow-eyed man in a striped uniform of a concentration camp; the star of David, sewn in yellow on the coat of a young German girl; the black "SS" on the collar of a German soldier...any single image representing that time is likely to make me cry.

As many people as show pride in their Southern heritage by displaying the Confederate flag, others get the same chills as when they see any of the images mentioned above. Some see it and think only of where they came from, the history of both challege and progress; some see only slavery and decades of prejudice and inequality.

The cross is another familiar and powerful image, one of the most simple, and at the same time, most profound. It means hope and promise for many, endurance, grace, and love. For those who believe in what it represents, it means that the one true God, creator of heaven and earth, sent his son to walk among us; teach us about the concepts of forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternity; be executed by crucifixion; and actually rise from the dead, all as a message to us as a species, to make a point about what is possible, what is expected, and how much we are treasured by this God. That is some message to be carried in such a simple design, even in its multitude of sizes, colors, and materials.

The peace sign is another charged image that can mean a theory, a practice, or an era. A pink ribbon commemorates the victims and survivors of breast cancer, a yellow ribbon soldiers whose return we await. The Iwo Jima Memorial statue sends waves of emotions and memories across the hearts of many who see it. The eternal flame marking the gravesite of John F. Kennedy has moved people for generations, as did the picture of his son saluting his casket.

Innumerable stories have been written to accompany just the few images I've named, and there are so many that spring to mind that I could easily fill my hard drive with them. They are like magic buttons, time machines that in a breath take you to that place, that moment, and fill you with the sights, sounds, and feelings of their subjects. They're virtually universal in their communication, transcending language and station, which is something that cannot be said about all mediums.

28 January 2009

Haiku MTSU

Great twisted trees stand
Watching over all of us
Protective and wise

18 January 2009


I write to think. I write to feel, and to express my feelings when I can't find another way, and to sort through my experiences to figure out what I feel. Because writing is my best voice, and because I sometimes need to write when I hadn't planned to, my environment and tools can be much more or less conducive to it at one time than another.

I can type much more quickly, and therefore legibly, than I can write, so my thoughts get laid down more as I have them if I'm in a position to open my laptop and start or continue some file that's just for that purpose. Otherwise, I'm fine with whatever I have on hand. There are some writing instruments that are more comfortable than others, but, while I do prefer ink to lead, and ballpoint to gel, I don't have a favorite pen. I did, in replenishing my stock for this semester, buy a couple of packages of the same kind of pens I used last semester, only because the memories of them were fresh enough to do so.

Decent ballpoint pens have become less plentiful than the much-touted gel pens, for which I have no use at all. I don't know who started the business about them making documents harder to forge/tamper with, but if they got a cut of the profits, they should be doing very well now. The truth is that if someone wants to mess with your stuff, they're going to mess with it; and if they're any good at it, gel ink isn't going to be the thing that shuts them down. It takes forever to dry, comparatively, and if it's on an envelope mailed when it's wet, you'd better not be crying to the post office when it doesn't get there.

I don't have any location that's better than any other, although the less I care about what I'm writing, the more quiet it has to be, because my brain will be looking for a way out. If I do care, if there are things in my brain or my heart screaming to be put on paper, then it doesn't matter where I am, what I write with, or what's going on around me. Nothing can drown out those words. I've been at a bar, listening to music I love, loud music, and been struck by some haiku, lyric, or topic for something bigger, and ended up coming home with two or three napkins, filled with uneven lines scratched out in the darkness with a pencil borrowed from a bartender.
If I care, my thoughts are my best outline, making it difficult to conform to academic standards that call for such things first. When I'm so lucky as to be assigned writing that calls on my passions, it must be allowed to just run out of me until I'm empty, and then I'll be able to tell you it's form. If I'm assigned something less "natural" to me, I can benefit from an outline, a sketch of what I'm supposed to draw, and then I frequently learn to care as I write, as I color in the picture I've been asked to show.

Often I need to "write my way into my story," as my last English teacher put it, after I produced a five-page rough draft for a two- to three-page essay. I write what probably amounts to a story about the story I'm trying to write. Then I go back and work my way through it, looking for the point, sort of a "Where's Waldo" in words, finding the best, most relevant piece of meat on the plate, cutting away more and more until there's nothing left that doesn't sustain the effort on its own. Sometimes I can't walk away until I've found it, extricated it from the surrounding noise, and preserved it carefully, so I know that I've said what I meant to say and won't have to start over, lost, another day.