Thursday, December 28, 2006

Plot Line

Plot Line
Current mood: chipper
Category: Life

Only the story of my life involves chance encounters the moment before I'm meant to catch an airplane; then drives me head-first into Colorado characters-turned-business men and strangers I already know; my story careens me into dark humor, the jokes of which I just barely get.

You gotta love falling in love all the time with laughter and stories and people. Lucky me for living in the thick of it. Makes me want to climb a tall building or water tower or mountain and welcome myself home. What awaits?

I'm wondering about the possibility that I create the universe with my consciousness. Can it be, that all I deem as real is real only to the extent I can imagine it to be? Can that "tree falling in a forest" question possibly have an answer? Too, is it to be believed that each action has infinite possible reactions; all simultaneously playing out? How do so many people worry about celebrity weddings and eating disorders when we could be figuring out (at least, discussing) quantum theories related to being itself? I'm begging the question of whether something only becomes real when we lay our peepers on it. Some tell us we only perceive inanimate objects as still; in fact, their very composition is of millions of hurrying, flipping, folding atoms. And if you could speed the molecular composition, you might find cans of soup, a sock, a conch shell, a spoon and a stick walking along a highway out west under the bright orange fireball. I digress.

I'm also thinking about age and the strange mechanics of a mind; how like computers humans can seem. A little dust of age settles like a fog over certain transmitters and blowie!—you no longer know what you had to eat (indeed, if you ate at all) or to whom you last spoke. Are we all doing this incessantly throughout life? What makes some memories stick? Why does dementia in the old affect memories in reverse order? What makes consciousness any different from automatic synapses, when one sees how vulnerable the psyche is? Or is consciousness part of a higher level of being; something separate from brain wiring all together? I think it's more than bah-humbug coincidence that so many things overlap.

No answers so far; I'm working on teasing them out. Ah, so very much to wonder about as I sit here surrounded by ghosts.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

String Theory

I sat in the back row of a Greyhound bus two months ago, trying to determine whether everything happens for a reason, or if up until the final moment there is choice, or if only in reflection we can say everything happens perfectly, in the only way it could, or if it's all really just about the string theory. I thought then this problem would be decipherable over the course of the next 28 days. How wrong a girl can be.

I'm reminded of this brain athleticism each morning while commuting through the delicious early-fall air on another bus, which is similar to a Greyhound but with 100 percent less socializing and story fodder.

Besides fate, I've been working on articulating, in the words of James Joyce, "imaginable itinerary through the particular universal." In English, that's thoughts and sweepy feelings (gasp). Tried figuring a way to talk about my own theories regarding found objects (belts strewn on sidewalks, plastic jewels in the street, discarded letters, food scraps); the millions of memories each nook of Manhattan holds (sites of lovelifedeathandothershenanigans); attempted to tell a friend he has traits not possessed by another human; or to her, that as a duo we know invincibility; or that I still miss those friends in such a specific way; or that the laughter I summon from memories is what I most fear losing.

But all I've said so far comes out sounding like maraschino cherry paste. On second thought, maybe that ain't half bad.

But more than that, it seems this conversation also turns to the damned string theory: someone leaves something behind and someone else picks it up; we try relaying our dreams and consequently spread or reduce confusion; we overlap, spread the love. Like a big heapin' knot of string.

Does everything come back to that? Here's to hoping so.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Redwood trees have shallow but long roots. They stretch great distances underground, seeking out fellow redwood roots. Once found, the trees sort of embrace and hold each other up. Walking among the giants, keeping watch out for Bigfoot, I think of all these trees holding onto each other for dear life just a few feet below my step.

Two weeks on a Greyhound bus will do something to a woman. She'll play cowgirl to Nashville's honky-tonk, and by the next day she'll be dancing at a Laredo nightclub. She might sweat it out in the desert while locals moan and wail into karaoke machines, or sit poolside among saguaro cactus and so much sand. There's the beaches of San Diego, with body-building cancer-crusaders and street kids with eccentric stories; LA county with its studio lights and mechanical bulls; and Santa Cruz: ah, Santa Cruz.

All that, to find oneself nestled in a bunch of ancient trees at an overnight Yurok tribal dance intended to heal a sick child. Ceremonial fires, regalia dating back hundreds of years, chants as old as the salmon running in the rivers. And for tomorrow, a protest in Portland to shut down Klamath River's dams; the dams that make the salmon float belly-up in too-shallow and too-warm water. It's a grab at the old ways, at the sacred life-cycle and livelihood of an ancient people who know these trees, and those fish, and the river. I'm just along for the ride.

And what can there be, after that?

Monday, June 5, 2006

Hoffa's Body

The search for Jimmy Hoffa's body is on again, even after 30 years. Digging at a ranch in Michigan yields no results so far, but there's always hope in the Meadowlands.

Sometimes (it seems to be true) one needs little more in life than reconnecting.

Walked to the beach. Sun shone. Toes burrowed through sand. Went to the country. Sun shone. Toes burrowed through grass.

It was a moment that led me to now (or then), drunk on romantic wine, thinking it could be so over, and over, again.

Salinger said the "most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid." So, begs the question:

Q: Is humanity breathing or drinking?
A: It depends on what is in the mug.

I forget my point, but can feel its essence. Metaphors abound.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spring in New York

So begins a blank slate.

Sometimes, being in a routine makes you forget where you are or have been. Fast-paced walks across town, forgetting about work for a few days, and taking chances are surefire cures. Snap-back to a new season, with some new resolutions.

Noninjury (ahimsa) is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body. But can it be done?

In a cab, the driver rocks out to loud, slow, romantic Hindi music. "You know what this song is about?" He asks. I say I don't. "It's a pathetic song," he says. "The man knows he is no good for the girl. And she knows it. But she loves him. And he loves her. 'How do you not know?' He asks her," the cabbie explains. "'How can I tell you I love you? I think of you all the time,'" the cabbie lamented for the song-writer. "They do not see each other, but they love each other and never should have let one another go."

A really smart person once said relationships aren't true or false or even multiple choice questions: they're essays. It's springtime in New York. Air is fresh. Windows open, music gets a little louder. My feet are bare and their soles turn into blisters that turn to callouses in preparation for summer months. Blame the booze. Blame the fire in the belly. Blame the sunshine and story-telling. I wonder how long this sense of empowerment and freedom will last.

I used to be in cahoots with a leftover, flighty belief in something that could be so out of bounds it would be beyond sense, beyond matter, all-consuming and exactly what I'd always needed - something more complete than even I myself was. I thought that holding on for dear life might make it so. But am I still so sure about this or that as to gamble with this time of mine? And then what'll it be? Twilight Zone is the only thing I can stand to watch for now, but it makes me dream about time travel. And so on.

These are the mysteries. And today, I'm filled with a strange new kind of thing. Cheers to new beginnings. First kisses. Sunroofs. Wing-flexing and old tapestries spread in new grass.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Stuck at Prom

Are all those prom dresses starting to look alike? Here's an alternative: Duct Tape

By Nicole Caldwell

After visiting every mall within a 50-mile radius, you claim you've exhausted your prom gown search. Oh really? Have you tried...Staples? Because that infamous silver adhesive known as duct tape makes for some mean formalwear. Create a gown out of the sticky stuff and you could walk away with more than just a stand-out prom photo; you could also snag some cold, hard cash.
The 2006 Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is offering a $6,000-per-couple prize that you and your prom date can use toward the respective colleges of your choice. All you have to do is get creative.
Read the rest of this post here.
[Originally published at, April 2006]

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Brooklyn Papers: Faith Issue

[Click on article for enlarged image]

[Select images in collaged title by Nicole Caldwell

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Pencils Down

Is there anything worse than spending your entire Saturday taking a test that allegedly is going to determine your entire academic future (no pressure...)? How about being one of 5,000 students nationally whose SAT scores were marked incorrectly this school year? Yeah. That sucks.

Two students in Minnesota received their SAT scores in December and immediately knew something was up. According to the New York Times, the teenagers protested their results and demanded their tests be rescored by hand. Sure enough, the scores had been graded incorrectly the first time around. The board then began a scramble to see if other students' scores had been mishandled. The short answer? Uh, yeah.

In March, The College Board announced to a stunned public that about 4,500 students received SAT scores lower than what they earned when scanners missed some lightly-filled ovals. According to the
New York Times, the biggest discrepancy found was a whopping 450 point-differential. That's enough to change scholarship eligibility and, at some schools, enough to mean the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Read the rest of this post here.
[Originally published via, "In the News" segment]

Kids in the Hall

Here's a scary fact: about 10 percent of American teenagers drop out of high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And while teachers, government officials, and parents are busy sorting out what drives them to leave, one organization thinks the problem might be as simple as a change of scenery. How do you make students want to stay in school? In a word: decorate.

Publicolor, a non-profit organization devoted to both improving the dropout rate and creating an energized young work force, provides tools and training to inner city students, allowing kids to visually transform their beige and monochrome schools into a place they actually like to come.

"When we started painting the school, everything fell into place. Everybody was, like, actually happy," says Dios Belti, a 16-year old from Manhattan who describes her school as "drab" and "boring" pre-makeover.

Read the rest of this post here.
[Originally published at, "In the News" segment]

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Body Exhibit Draws Crowds and Criticism

Writer Janna Winter, Photography Nicole Caldwell
Columbia News Service
Mar. 29, 2006
Photo caption: Dr. Todd Olson, chair of the Anatomical Committee of the Associated Medical Schools of New York, stands with a cadaver under a sheet at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y.

NEW YORK -- Reflexology students Siobhan Bedell and Sandy Kovan walked through the black-walled gallery stopping in front of a body lying in repose, deboned like a fish.

They made their way through the exhibits,
past a fetus hanging from a sliced-open belly, following the crowd to another dimly lighted room of nameless cadavers. And they pondered the idea of donating their bodies to such a show when they die.

"I wouldn't do it on the spot," Kovan said. "I mean, who are these people?"

Bedell and Kovan were at "BODIES...The Exhibit," at the South Street Seaport in New York City, one of at least five competing exhibits touring the country that display cadavers in various states of disassembly. The first one, launched in July 2004, was Gunther von Hagens' Body World in Los Angeles. The South Street Seaport show, which opened in November, has drawn crowds of the curious. But it's also raising concerns among medical education experts who fear these museum exhibits are flouting antiquated or lax laws regarding the possession and transportation of human cadavers.

Read the rest of this post here.