Sunday, March 28, 2004

Web Vigilantes

Reading an article in the NY Times today about people who have taken it on themselves to police the corners of the web, I followed a link to this site, in which individuals pose as (very) underage girls in regional chat rooms, and see what sort of seedy characters solicit them. They arrange for a place to meet, but instead of a young girl awaiting these men, they find cameras to take their pictures. For each "wannabe pedophile" there is a photo and, more interestingly, the transcript of the chat session in which they were lured into the sting. The gullability of these men is astounding: "Hello, I'm Nikki, an unbelievably hot and innocent yet decadent 14 year old. Do you have any photos?" (man sends real photo to her email address) "Wow, no way! I'm always turned on by fat, bald 45 year old sweaty perverts. Let's meet for sex!" Guy: "Sounds good to me. I always knew that deep inside I'm a chick magnet."

    Link: Perverted Justice

Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Association of Things

Unfathomable to me is the vastness of memory that each person holds of his life, reclusively cumulated in the corridors of the brain, unindexed save for thin threads tying various disparate packages together. Entire chains of these recollections can lie dormant and forgotten for years, but then when a chance occasion brings but one of them to the surface, the rest rise in its wake, their impressions striking one's consciousness with tangible force. Looking through my medicine cabinet this evening, I found a pink tube of organic lip-balm. My buying organic lip-balm? Then I remembered the sunny afternoon in Cambridge in the spring of 1999, when a group of Whole Foods employees gathered at the crossing of Massachusetts Avenue on MIT's campus, distributing paper bags filled with various goods that would supposedly addict us to the natural and organic way of life. I can recall the sound that the arching tree branches made above my head as the temperate wind blew through them on its flight to the Charles River, and the sound of my friends' voices joking about the hippie qualities of our handouts, and the ineffable feeling of the energy that we had at that time of our lives.

It seems that the more atavistic the sense that invokes a recollection, the more complete one's immersion in the memory will be, as though maps of our animal awareness can be drawn from our bodies and stored whole, waiting. If I see a photo or read a once-familiar line, I can consciously send my mind's eye to the past and revisit the minutes of that vanished day; but sometimes I'll hear a snatch of sound, or catch a scent, and without warning my whole being is transported---often I do not even consciously know what history of mine I am re-experiencing, but I feel it throughout me, and for a moment my sense of location, time, and spatial awareness inform my brain that I am there. Only when the possession, as it were, has subsided can I turn the programmatic parts of my mind to scouring the sheaves of memory to find what it was that I just felt. On occasion I feel a sense of lost time, for it is as though I woke up from a dream to find that years and years have passed, and the day is gone.

One of the propitious aspects of aging is the richness that the world acquires from the populous vault of connections and interconnections held in one's memory, a depth that those too young to remember much can feel. Having known for oneself the history of a place, even if not consciously pondered, makes that place more intimate. When I walk around my neighborhood on Long Island, it has a presence for me larger than its superficial representation would suggest, because it exists in my mind as a montage of the ways I've known it throughout the changes that accrued in the years since I was a wee lad. The little junior-high kids that I pass cannot have such a knowledge of time, and indeed my own historical vantage is shallow compared with the old-timers who remember when the streets were pasty little things passing through the farming communities that lay here in bygone decades. But all of you, my classmates who may be reading this, you who have strayed far from Boston: when the years grow long and you come back perchance to visit, even the steps of Stratton will seem to be more than they are, resonating with all the times you sat there with a Tosci's ice-cream as summer drew near. Tosci's has been gone for a number of years now, and can those fledgling engineers who eat at the crêperie which has ousted it, appreciate the place quite so much, never having known what came before?

My body is telling me that if I don't want my varied years to end now, I'd better go to sleep; so with that I bid you all a good night.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Old Writing

Cleaning out some of our dusty archives today, we came upon this page that I wrote for school, a number of weeks ago:

Jesse Nov.1, 1985

November is a month with thaksgiving, eleksion day and another one, I fergot what it is. November is a nice month. It's starting to get cold and people are starting to were heveare clothing. the kids were long sleevs and long pants. People are starting to think of holidays and other things. The leves are falling from the trees.
and yet another piece titled "My Family", enclosed in a nice folder that I made for art class:

My Family

My family has three people in it. My name is Jesse Nickolas Pavel. I am seven and a half. My birthday is March eighteenth My mother is thirty nine years old. My father is thirty three years old. My mothers name is Tina. My father's is an engineer. My Mother doesn't have a job yet. I don't have a pet now. I had a pet. His name was Puff. He ran away. He was a dog.

My house is white I have alot of trees at my house. My family isn't big at all. It only has three people in it. My house is big. I have many friends at school. I like my family very much. My father is an engineer. He likes the job. My mother wants to be a computer programer. She has to study very hard. She even goes to school two days a week. She has to send me to my grandma's.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Old Man

My mother has a routine of going to the gym early in the morning, when the only other people there are quite squarely in their golden years---even the lifeguard at the pool is a man of 80. He told her this story: "I recently got a pacemaker, and I felt so vigorous and full of energy. And I thought that I had fallen newly in love with my wife again, because when I saw her, I felt my heart stir in my chest. Ah, but I found out that my pacemaker was just out of whack, so I got it fixed."

Thursday, March 18, 2004


One more birthday of mine has come and passed, and now I am 26 years old, drawn presently by propinquity towards the momentous age of 30, as if I were a ball rolling up and over a hill, with 25 as its peak. In a month and a half I will be the exact age that my father was when I was born. But though turning 26 seems significant if I consciously consider it, I don't actually feel any different than I did last March, and encouragingly, the year passed no quicker to my perception than did the one before it---so the lament of the old that "the years rush by faster and faster" isn't yet chanting for my own life.

In a book today I read a fragmant of Tennyson's "Tithonus", in which a man who does not die, but yet grows older each year, grieves of his fate:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
a white-haired shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.

* * *

One driving incident that continually gives me chortles when I think about it, was the time that some guy through a clod of dirt at my car. Unlike New Yorkers, Bostonites (particularly Cambridgians) seem to feel that pedestrians own the road, and that if some pedestrian a mile down the sidewalk is even thinking about crossing the street, all drivers should stop and wait while he strolls peacefully across the lane. Anyway, I'm rolling down Windsor St. towards Mass Ave, and some trendy, scrawny twenty-something art-head, with black-rimmed glasses, disheveled hair, tight red and white T-shirt, and Converse high tops below pants that are too short for him; this guy is walking down the sidewalk pondering his navel, and I just fly right past him and hook a right on Mass Ave. He apparently took such umbrage at having a car come within ten feet of his shoes, his dander was so raised, that he picked up a ball of dirt from the street and flung it at my passing trunk. To his credit, he did make contact. Maybe now, with so many people playing Grand Theft Auto III, he would think twice before entering the Man vs. Car Challenge.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004


John Bayley wrote in Elegy for Iris of the significance of place in Iris Murdoch's mind, and this sense of the spiritual potency of a location carries over into The Bell. From the detailed description of Imber Court and the adjacent abbey with which we are presented near the beginning of the novel, we draw a vivid picture of the small grounds upon which nearly the entire drama of the story is acted out, and though the lands themselves are composed of conventional features---no Mount Doom towers over the English countryside---Murdoch invests certain scenes with a poignancy drawn from the experiences of the characters in those areas, and the characters' own memories of other events that happened there in the past. In that sense, she captures the method by which places in my own life have acquired an elegiac beauty: I think of the stars wheeling above Ames Street on MIT's campus not because the view from that spot is in any way particularly dramatic, but because on many nights in college when I was full of dreams I walked across that roadway on the way back to my dorm, and the power of my life on those clear evenings has imbued the place in my memory with moment. A place in which one has resided during passionate times of life, or where one has been long enough that one's character and outlook changed from the beginning to end, and thus has seen from a perspective that cannot be recaptured: such a place sparkles in one's mind with a phosphorescence that is like magic. With time, everyday places can be infused with a deep exoticism borne of all the experiences that happened there in the past, which, as time flows by, become more unattainable than a fertile garden in any Caliph's girdled grounds.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Dog Path

In her fourteen years living with us, my beagle-dog used to walk the perimeter of our yard sniffing the various grungy bits that accrued against the fences, and scouting for intruding wildlife. Over time, her constant tread wore away the flora along a narrow path beside the yard's edge, leaving this dirt trail by which one could mark the dog's rounds. This past weekend she died, and already when I wander through the yard now, in the afternoon on a day at the leading tip of spring, the path is being subsumed into its surroundings, dried leaves accumulating and creepers of grass beginning to wend their way into the unoccupied dirt. Eventually, within a few weeks or months, the path will be completely gone, and with it any trace in our yard that the dog roamed there for so long. That thin dirt line seems a more tangible expression than most, of the way one's mark on the world fades slowly with time in absence, other life and other problems filling in the space---physical and in the minds of others---that one used to occupy. My dog's place in our memories is much more lasting than her imprint in the grass, but the visceral strength of our recollections will diminish over time, and in the gray years of the future I'll probably remember her more in the abstract, as my dog when I was young, as opposed to the sound of her feet padding in the hallway, or the feel of her warm fur when she lay in the sun on summer days. But dogs have none of the longing to be remembered in posterity that drives some people to complete a magnum opus or erect a monumental tomb, and so we'll mark her passing in a simple way that she would herself have appreciated, by having Taco Bell burritos, with extra meat and sour cream.

Here's a 40 oz. (steak) for you, dog.

Winnie Pavel
September 8, 1989 ---
February 28, 2004