32 and Into the [Midly Depressing] Wild

Kristin woke me at 6:15 this morning to make sure I had breakfast with her and got my birthday present before she went to work. I was up reading till about 1:30 and was pretty slow to respond. She looked nice all dressed for work, but there was something missing. I inhaled deeply...

"You didn't make any coffee?" It was more of a question and an accusation. She said she had, and that she would meet me downstairs. I stumbled into the closet to get dressed but was still puzzled as to why I didn't smell fresh coffee. And why I didn't wake from the sound of the coffee maker -- the built in grinder sounds like a jet engine taking off. It's woken me on many a weekend morning.

The answer became clear when I got downstairs: she had gone to Starbucks and got us each a pumpkin spice latte and an apple fritter. The perfect fall breakfast -- I look forward to the return of pumpkin flavored everythings all year long. So we sat and drank our breakfasty-desert together and talked about things in the paper (most notably the beat-down the Seahawks gave the 49ers yesterday!) and eventually she left for work.

The paper has an interesting article on the current state of the hi-definition format wars between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, which you can read here. It was interesting that it was in today's paper as Kristin and I spent the past week going back and forth on whether or not to get an HD-DVD player. The prices have come down and rebates offer between 5 and 8 free HD-DVDs by mail. Add in the incredible picture quality and audio and interactivity of the content, it was hard to say no. But I eventually decided that saying no was the more prudent thing to do, especially since the prices are only going to fall even further in the next couple months to entice Giftmas shoppers. And that we are trying to save up a bunch of money for a trip, after all.

Originally, Kristin wanted to take me out tonight to a Brazillian restaurant in the city but I really just wanted to watch the game and was able to convince her to celebrate on Saturday. So, instead of going shopping for this, we bought me a new pair of pants at the absurdly-named LuLuLemon Athletica shop in the mall, which I had never heard of before. My sisters-in-law will be pleased to know that yes, they're wicking pants. Naturally. We then went to Gordon Biersch for an Oktoberfest dinner and then to see Into the Wild. It was a good night.

The movie was as good as the subject matter allows and stayed very true to the story and what I know from other reading (minus the Hollywood white-water scene). But, naturally, this is a rather polarizing story. I happen to love it, but there are those who have equally strong, but opposite opinions on this true story. One of the more common complaints about Chris and his Alaskan adventure was that the kid was an idiot and that his death-by-starvation was well deserved. I never really felt that way and was pleased that the movie didn't take that approach. Instead, the movie showed Chris as the idealistic college grad we knew him to be from the book, but also as one heck of an industrious adventurer. And while he may have suffered from being a bit overzealous in his minimalistic planning, I really don't think he took so few provisions out of ignorance, but rather as a way of upping the ante and making it that much more challenging. And lets face it, nobody goes 100 days in the Alaskan backcountry with a 5 pound bag of rice if they don't know what they're doing. The models on Survivor can barely go a week. Ultimately though, it was his impatience that lead him to eat the wrong plants and his lack of a map that prevented him from knowing about the cable-cart down river. So, yes, I guess we could call him stupid for those mistakes. But who among the name-callers would have lasted even that long? I very much think this is one of those times when people would rather dish insults than admit their jealousy. He took chances that nearly all of us are scared to take. And he probably lived more in his year and a half on the road than most of us have in the fifteen years that have passed since his death. But it's easier to call him stupid than to explain why we are so afraid and so unwilling to follow his lead.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the "top ten" list I made at the end of the year last year. In it, I listed my top 10 favorite memories of 2006. I've been thinking about it because aside from a few obvious biggies, I really can't really come up with much for this year. I asked Kristin her thoughts and she couldn't come up with 10 either. Now, I know we have a good and fortunate life and I know plenty of people that probably can't name even 2 or 3 truly memorable moments from the year, but I find this inability to do so very depressing. A whole year goes by and not ten stinking memories? We work hard. We live in a nice box and drive reliable cars and have all of the accoutrement of the typical middle-class American lifestyle, but if we can't name ten really memorable moments from the year, then what's it all for? Are our standards so high that what qualifies as "memorable" overlooks the simple joys of living? Quite possibly. After all, I probably enjoyed dozens more bike rides through the mountains and forest this year than the majority of people, but I can't say many of them are really quite memorable -- doing those things has simple become commonplace. Or is it that we are so busy working for the so-called good life that we're not finding much time to really live at all? Is everyday just a routine we follow so as to maximize a balance between earning money and finding adequate time to relax? If so, then what's the purpose of our even being here? Or do we notice the simple things, begin to smile but then immediately have that feeling erased by a buzz-killing newspaper headline or a rude person on the sidewalk or perhaps just the general overwhelming amount of negativity and hostility on the internet, radio, and tv? I often think this is it. But, of course, I don't have the answer. All I do know that it's all really starting to bum me out.

Kristin says I need to start volunteering to counter the negativity. I think she might be right.


Jackie said...

I would say that the negativity comes from the negativity around you (and me and everyone else). It seems that every time something great happens, something else not-so-great happens and I think negative emotions are somehow more salient in the brain as well (which I think may also be supported by neurophysiological evidence...). But anyway, HAPPY Birthday! :-)

Maarten said...

I hear ya. Habituation has that effect: when you get enough of a good thing, it starts to feel commonplace. And generally we're so busy thinking about the next thing to do and what's ahead that we don't savor what's happening and how cool it is.

I think there are two things you can do to brighten things up: seek out new challenges (e.g. volunteer somewhere with a real impact on other people), but also stop and notice the things you are already experiencing. It's a cliche, but at the same time things like Mindfulness Meditation are aimed exactly at paying more attention to life around you.

Maarten said...

PS:Oh, and happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Cousin!!


Anonymous said...

and i must give kudos where they are deserved.. pumpkin spiced lattes are the only good thing about the fall


Anonymous said...

oh and 3 comments in a row might be a little obnoxious sorry.. but on this side of the country were excited the giants beat the eagles =) happy birthday again!


Doug Walsh said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes everyone!

Criscipline said...

To be honest, I don't know if you'd really enjoy volunteering. I won't go into all the reasons now, but it's just my gut feeling. I'd recommend what Maarten said and possibly try some meditation. You know I'm really into appreciating the little things and believe it or not, it's not because I have nothing that big in my life and not because I've forced myself to value these little things but because I think I'm just naturally stoked about silly stuff.

Additionally, you've set the memorable experience bar pretty damn high so I think experiencing truly memorable events for you may become more and more difficult. It might not hurt to try to lower that bar a little, not in experience of course, but perhaps in expectations. It is possible for a trip to Germany to be just as memorable as a wonderful day of pumpkin picking and playing in the leaves if you allow it to be.