fraternal Santa Fe line locomotive twins with a-thousand-and-one cars each call mournfully to each other with their C minor seventh horns, like the last two musicians on stage at that old piano bar El Chapultapec (closed permanently, I'm afraid) on a sunday night, languid and pensive as they humbly toe melodies and countermelodies back and forth to each other without eye contact, thoughtful nods and stretched fingers and slow tapping feet.
the queen city of the plains cools some in september. you ought to tug that too-big L.L.Bean cableknit over your head and hold the clean-after-rain air deep enough in your chest that you can feel the Atlas arms of your diaphragm outstretched beneath your lungs. Denver might try to convince you of her big citydom with those big glass towers and those prefab public markets and shuttered jazz bars and luxury 1-and-2-bedroom apartments, but you don’t have to be fooled: she’s got a heart of Idaho Springs gold and there’s not yet so many bright lights down here that you can’t still see the stars.
well it’s late in the summer again, and the internet’s been less of a wonder.
instead i’ve been slow-rolling the slow-rolled hills of my hometown, pushing bicycles through the late June heat and then late July heat and most of all in the late August heat. it’s that sort of fever that makes you look different at your own overworked eyes in the mirror; the kiln of late august that makes you start to feel a little more prideful about the quirks of your repaired-not-replaced, built-not-bought vintage personality, kintsugi cracks gleaming gold under a big desert sun.
the kerouac-tongued streets of denver widen, lazily spilling out before handlebars. you can take virginia ave over to the shade of cool franklin, north to the teen avenues, and maybe you can take sixteenth over to east high — it’s that big farmer’s market every saturday morning, overflowing with parents shipping their young children by cargo bike, and folks that look just like their dogs and queers that look just like each other, and a four-deep line of older men walking like much younger men, dressed impeccably and wielding canvas totes full of western slope peaches. they open dry punchlines for each other like the corks of crisp Muscadet wines, and you smile along with them even though you can’t hear exactly what they’re laughing about.
you can ride out from the market with the spoils of that war of cold brew queues and nervous birkenstocks, your hard-fought Saturn peaches, your moody Black Krim heirloom tomatoes, those great bulbs of Killarney Red garlic and those fistfuls of basil. the sun will be high up the ladder of the day now, and it feels good and free to squint and sweat and languish in the dry air.
you keep riding — the scent of the air is a ballroom, crowded with those paired dancers construction site diesel and asphalt, the mown St. Augustine grass of fascist lawns and the butterfly bushes and lilacs of liberated ones, hot rod exhaust and motor oil, golden pine resin and white sage. when the sun dives past the peaks on the horizon, the acrid and aperitive scent of block party barbecue smoke becomes tobacco and backyard bonfire. the sounds of the day fade, the sighing twilight decrescendo, until it’s just you in the cooling air under the full moon, and the consonant pulse of bicycle tires on the road.
a summer of friendship with you is outside of time, past moments and nows and about a thousand imagined futures; it’s piloting a 40-foot cutter — with its shining waxed red cedar deck and sun-white sails — through sparkling seas of the reflexive curiosity and clear-sighted discernment in your eyes when you take on the world.
a summer with you is setting my watch to the slow, deep rise and fall of my own lungs, out-of-breath from spending the whole season sprinting to chase the brightening of your face and the crumpling around your eyes that happens when you laugh.
a summer of friendship with you is standing at attention with practiced pride atop castle walls amongst the heraldry and flags of your house; watching you journey on horseback and in gleaming armor back out into the world on another quest with your carefully-chosen company, because i learned so quickly that you always return victorious.
a summer with you is kneeling before the dizzying mandala of countless kaleidoscoping plans for coming days, and it’s the thrill of realizing each of those imagined futures will be ours, because you’re spirited and sure and willing to adventure and to try and to live.
a group chat is a place of worship. it’s where i come to fall humble to my knees and marvel at the lore and impossibilities of closest friends, that secret and sacred cadre. it’s where we gather when a push notification chimes like a village bell for new stories and sermons, and i sit next to you on the pews and another of our friends stands at the pulpit, waving their arms in a whirlwind; the frenetic evangelism of How Did Your Date Go Last Night or I Finally Did That Thing I Was Telling Y’all About or Can We Hang Out This Weekend.
i sit right next to you on that bench and you and i share irreverent mutterings or approving and prideful glances, and soon we’ll get carried right away and soon our mutterings are hollerings, and soon the whole chat is stamping feet and yelling in the old latin of the group. we’re heart-reacting and dancing and waving like our lives depend on the inertia of the spin because it really is so pure and good to know Your Date Went Well.
a group chat is a gift, a kaleidoscope of hope and stories and stale memes and fresh ones, a gift of the afternoons we’ll spend with 1000-piece puzzle heartbreaks, a gift of the laughter of some someones i love so much that it shakes the cage of my chest, a gift of days made and favors done and punchlines crafted and ribs jabbed and rare hearts brought close to share. thanks for that.
today we watched the sun set on the longest day of the year at the radio tower down from la sal peak. we stared down the immolation of the horizon and cracked dry kindling jokes, bright staccato laughs snapping in the atmosphere among the steady ignition of the clouds.
we’re sitting in the resulting ashen dark of a full day, critiquing each other’s log placement on our sophomoric bonfire; we’re um-actuallying any attempt to identify constellations, and then we’re losing ourselves and our conversations to astronomy lulls, necks tilted back and breathing subalpine air and quieting solemnly to make room for the percussive and seminarial chatter of the fire.
today i was at church, devotional to new and old friendships, kneeling at altars of columbines and shrub oak, praying in silence to a thousand stars in the deepest night south utah has to offer. in days like this, how could anyone not believe in god?
i’m afraid i can’t stay out too late ‘cause you and i have to get an early start — we’ll load up the car and head deep west over the passes to the maroon bells, or one of the via ferratas, or gore lake or emerald lake or the ice lake basin, and we’ll cook dinner tomorrow night over a real campfire.
you and i will shake the doom of the big city’s latest end-of-the-world loose with deep breaths of cold air on the pass, with the scents of percolated coffee and propane, with eyes drifting over wispy, pulled-cotton fog off the lake at dawn. with speckled, deep-blue enamel mugs and the doubtful, soulful, furtive eyes of mule deer — we’ll shake the old from our bones with warm sunlight emanating through a reluctant canopy of exhaling, after-the-storm clouds: sunlight like an old friend who can’t stand it that you make them laugh so hard with such a stupid joke.
so now i’m up on the rooftop, watching a storm pull the blue from the mountains and the grey from the clouds, and if you were here you could turn your head from the left and watch the front range vanish, swooning melodramatically to the fainting couch of the eastern Colorado plains.
the storm clouds carve shocks of deep grey out of the sky and wrest sheaves of mute indigo from the faces of the hills and loom them into closer and closer shades, and if your gaze trends far enough to the north and west it is no longer possible to tell where the tumult and tumble of the heavens end, and where the sure solemn earth begins.
rise to stand in the mornings in the deserts of the american west and look to the edge of sight — see the reds and browns of the earth bleach steadily into blue, and then into nothing. the brush in the hand of god that blends uncertainty and infinite possibility, that paints hope and adventure and big-R Romance into plain view; that shade that turns the horizon into the sky.
it’s silly and self-defeating to pretend my peace and well-being are entirely beholden to the location i’ve put down my bags in
but i spent this last week eating dinner with dear old friends, breathing deeply, and watching the sun yawn and roll itself contentedly into those mule-kicked sheets on the unmade bed of the rocky mountains
and what i do know is that right now, i don’t feel like a ghost anymore.
i don't ever want to see your power-washing, slime-squishing, pimple-popping, domino-dropping, paint-mixing, hydraulic-pressing ✨ Content ✨ again. my attention is raw from the mechanical chafing of feeds and for-you-pages and infinite wells of engineered psychological anesthetic.
i want to stand and take a deep breath at the start of the day and put down my coffee and roll up my sleeves. i want to teach my smooth and scroll-poisoned brain once more how to seek and earn satisfaction by will and dedication; the methodical pursuit of craft mastery, the meticulous untangling of narrative in a great novel, the tending vocabulary practice in a new language until it blooms into a garden of fluency.
through this friendship i see my own immortality. moments disintegrate into lifetimes; timelines and horizons surrender their weight freely through the shutters of an upstairs window. in every story we share, in every deep wake-the-neighbors laugh you give me, in every “listen man i really need you to be here for me tonight”. our love makes us outlive centuries.
is what you know i meant when i said
ha ha ggs bro gn
the disc spins to a stop. unbeknownst to you, this is the last time the two of you will speak. the bits and bytes you two carefully arranged together: all the memories, all the Really Useful Links you swore you’d return to, all those digital tears in rain. today, something in the drive’s alignment has shifted, and stories once freely exchanged will now be held captive behind the high walls of file corruption and other spells. maybe you bumped or dropped it too many times or plugged your computer into a particularly disagreeable outlet, but whatever the case, you and the drive are no longer allies. the realm of the drive will overgrow with vines and clandestine glances and secrecy; a new country to which there will be no visitors.
that is, until such a day that you encounter a new sort of sorcerer, who promises an end to The Drive’s tyranny, at a steep cost. it will be dangerous, and results will not be guaranteed, he says, but there is a chance those unfinished school projects and family photo backups will be yours once more. he will wield strange tools to alchemically blur the lines between hardware and software, working by electric lanternlight late into the evening.
as dawn comes, the skin of your palms is raw with impatience, your eyes fixed forlornly on the door of the sorcerer’s workshop. after countless hours of teetering uncertainty, however, the symphonies of whirring and clicking behind the door reach their codas and fade into mechanized fermata. another lifetime passes, and the sorcerer emerges, haggard, and bearing a crisply-folded anti-static shielded pouch. his hat sits crooked upon his head and his glasses dare to slip from his nose at any moment, but after a deep exhale, his forehead pulls his face back into a warm smile. he holds the shielded bag out to you, and the chromatic gold of a new drive (a new world!) bearing all the tales and lore of its debased predecessor glints furtively from within. today is a new day, and you are a new convert. a believer in the dark art of data recovery
listening to new wave and photographing wyoming sunrises at treeline and downshifting into every curve in the road and smelling ponderosas and piñons and being sure you know the difference, and watching a tense cowboy standoff between the two peaks at opposing ends of the valley while they dare each other to make the first move, and looking up from the trail and breathing out into a sky that really is bigger here, somehow, and taking off your sunglasses at the sunset even though it’s still too bright because you’ve never seen colors like this before.
you’re just dying to be lost in the west, again
i think there was once a version of me that was so assured, he could wield his confidence and resolution like a claymore; the heart, the backbone to raise the blade and the conviction to bring it back down, but tonight i watched that young knight felled by naught but a clumsily-flung text message.
there’s a comfort to be found on the occasion that i manage to have a bad day on the same day a friend is having theirs. it’s so easy and right just to toss my stuff into the back of the car to make room in the passenger seat; let’s talk about it, what happened, how are you feeling about that? i think it’s the same comfort one finds in paying for lunch — no no, let me get it this time, no no, i insist. of course, i’ll let you get the bill next time we go out.
but truthfully it’s an honor to make this one piece into something you don’t have to think about. it feels better to hold the space to care for you than it does to take it for myself. it makes me feel like maybe i didn’t need that space at all anyway, if it was so easy to throw it in the trunk. i don’t think i‘ll ever let you pay for lunch.
i sometimes worry, when i choose calm nights in over late nights out, over opportunities for wild adventure, over the unknown, that i’m letting an older version of myself down. i’ve seen my future. i know my path leads ultimately back from the concrete canopies of the city into the hushed breeze, fir tree, mule deer, muted steps, evergreen forests i grew up in. i know that old man finds the kind of peace i have been desperate for since i was young, and he will hold it in his arms and carry it with him as he wearily and contentedly and dutifully ambles along his mountain trails. he will hold close that peace and contentment with a steel and quiet sureness cultivated over uncountable years of seeking it. an inured master in defending his composure.
i love that old man very much. i think about him often, and while i do covet his soulful peace for myself, i aspire to make him feel as proud of me as i feel of him. i’m learning new ways to care for the body he’s loaned me, and i do my best to act with his sureness — with passion but without reaction, with logic but not without emotion.
but i am still young, still temperamental and neurotic, and i am often scared of feelings or experiences when i cannot imagine how the old man would face them. i fear i have boarded many doors in case i didn’t like the solicitor behind them. i’m embarrassed of my timidness; as of yet i will give him few stories of dancing, of sex and crime, of drinking and swashbuckling and brigrandry. the stories he will recount of the time i’ve spent for him are of nights of video games and thai takeout and reading books on the subway and clicking through menus on a television. i’m not proud of this lore. it’s not what i want to give him. i couldn’t bear it if he turned back to witness the life i’ve lived for him and felt regret.
it will be a balance to craft better stories for the old man without being unkind to the heart of the young one. but i will learn that balance — i will borrow his peace without hoarding it; i will feel exhilaration without terror in moments of risk and uncertainty. i will not let him be restless and resentful of his younger self for not living enough when the body was able. i will give him the serenity of having earned his quietness of soul.
i shouldn’t be solving for all of these frictional and angular feelings, like some tired old mathematician draped over his battle-worn chalkboard. i should be in the wilds of the rocky mountain north, examining bellflowers and fireweed and potentilla and heartleaf bittercress and alpine larkspur (not to mention subalpine larkspur!) aside the trail up to some unnamed mining peak. i ought to be watching the evening sky stretch its deep blue yawn over the world, revealing the luminous astral heavens beyond our daytime and preparing next morning’s soft shimmering dew.
when was the last time you felt the kind of overwhelming, reverberative joy that quiets every frenetic thought of life beyond that moment? one which comes at no expense; one you may feel wholly and safely and freely — when was the last time you felt a joy that took days to fade?
i’m walking along sidewalks and
i’m dog ear-ing books and i’m certainly not here to make friends
i’m holding hostages to tell sophomoric stories with neither plot nor punchline
i’ve all the anxious insecure energy of a man raised a small town fire sign, preening and self-absorbed and superior, and
i’m spending it in shops like it's a soho salary
so that i may narrowly afford the chance to attend the worst parties in new york city and be
a nice outfit with nothing to say
in loving you, i don’t want you to feel (as young lovers often do) that i’m The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened To You
rather i want to follow you around endlessly and leap over myself to open every sort of door for you, just to be by your side through so many diverse and wondrous experiences that i may witness each of countless Best Things That’ve Ever Happened To You, as they happen, time after time after time.
in loving you, i want to get to watch these Best Things widen your eyes and shift your perspective and re-sort your priorities — the endless minor moments that will feel like movies, the conversations that will collapse into euphoric, delirious tears and laughter, the collated startings and endings of innumerable stories, and so many Best Things that you won’t even be able to recall them all. i want to get to watch each day change you into someone new,
and in loving you, i want to love that new someone too.
i don’t want to be remembered as funny, like a dog with a bark that you’d cleverly remark to your friends is almost human. and i don’t want to be remembered as bright, or sharp, like the blade of a curving knife twisted between teeth… i want a legacy of eager observation and humility, of knowing nods and favors done and errands run.
i’d like for my advice, if ever sought, to be sought because when given, it is built like a brave ancient fortress on the promontory — its strong walls hardy and compassionate and reasoned enough that any man may find guidance and guardianship in that courtyard. its mighty doors held open ceaselessly, so that any man may leave or return to its welcoming bones without fear of judgement or retribution.
i’d like for my heart to be a sunny little art class, a course on sculpture. where everyone who visits upon it can feel encouraged to chisel or hone or carve their name, see how they have shaped it, see how it was shaped by each comer before. each student given opportunity to see how every mistake they inflicted, be it clumsily or with cruel curious intention, was forgiven, and how it might inspire their future efforts to be patient and sure. each seasoned sculptor i meet would swell when they see how swiftly and fluidly the heart transforms, with each story they tell or lesson they impart, better and better and better each time.
i’d like my head to hold those thoughts not of a hard worker, nor a fierce wit, but those of a quiet and kind listener; a rememberer of tiny details and a guider to insight. i’d like to have it reflect that incidental sort of tidy that alchemists keep: though there may be rumblings of storms or moods or distractions that disturb the sediment of organization, i’d like to trust that every thing will settle in its rightful place.
i don’t want to be remembered by my old name, in solemn or tearful silence at a gravestone in some sprawling suburban cemetery (no matter how peaceful a resting place it might be), but rather in the holding of a slow moment under a stand of aspens, near that excited, waifish mountain brook. a moment that feels perfectly designed, as if by fate or grace or fairies, to be somewhere you can reread a beloved book. maybe soon, your mind will wander a little bit further up the trail to the summit, where you can see the fortress and the university and the alchemist’s library, and start to wonder how you’d like to be remembered.
i don’t want to “hang out”, i want to know a love so calamitous & deafening that far distant poets must take cover from our ensuing avalanche; diving under desks to attempt approximate couplets, desperate to echo even a fraction of the fusillade and thunder they saw in our hearts
i want to lean too far into an embrace, lose my balance and tumble endlessly with and into one another down the slope, gathering tailings as our descent accelerates to a breakneck plummet, until it’s impossible to sort through which pieces were mine or were yours when we started
some personal news: i’m moving!
far, far from the intersection of Art & Technology — i’ve found a little ranch up at the end of Route 287 between the towns of Care & Consideration; there’s a little diner where you can sit and drink coffee from an off-white victor mug that never empties.
you can while the day there, meeting quiet neighbors and kind, chatty strangers; drifters all, who don’t ever need anyone else’s time, but are happy when it might be spared. you can listen if you want — watch threads loomed into illustrative anthologies that may be donned year-round, and will always fit as if meticulously tailored; you’ll never need to say a word.
here, patience grows untended among bright Wyoming wildflowers — it makes the morning air feel crisp in your lungs. the streams this time of year are just beginning to shake ice free and mutter to themselves, and you may see the water is well-stocked with wild, untamed composure and equanimity.
i don’t think i want “equity in the form of vesting options and a clear path to promotion”, i want a well-organized kitchen with open cabinets, so when the sunlight pours in through the large bifold window over the sink, it shatters into millions of prismatic shards on each glass
i want to let in the morning early spring sun & its crisp breeze chaperone to glance across neatly stacked white ceramic plates and mugs, like a kind older couple at a gallery opening, and i want to watch a curious parcel of mule deer flirt between the forest and nearby clearing
if by “open to new opportunities”, you mean the infinite number of warm new days and quiet frontiers hiding in every golden plain and conversational creek in the rocky mountain west; if you mean never choosing same-day shipping or nervous meetings or unkind car horns, then yes,
i don’t mind if after all of this, my life amounts to anything by the yardstick of capital; if i don’t quite make it into the photo finish of the rat race. i think if at the end of this, all i’ve done is opened the door for strangers and lost count of sunrises, that’d be okay.
instead of redesigning your portfolio
try carefully folding it into the shape of a sailboat, letting it drift off down the creek, and enjoying the rest of your walk through the wild woods, unafflicted.
breathe deeply from your lungs,
perhaps for the first time
in a long time.
i don’t want to “carve out a few minutes to connect about this role”, i want to carve out a little plot of land in the wild western united states and watch the sun rise over the rockies and watch the steam from my coffee drift up to intermingle with the cool mists of the morning
i want to sleep in a subalpine field among the elephantella and the limber pine and the wildflowers, running out of numbers to count the stars with,
no sound but the wind and your heartbeat
i find myself once again at the gate of the rocky mountains, the bold defenders of the western coast. the golden gaze of the sun lights the path from these quiet plains to the patient and sacred evergreen woods.
in the words of our poet cy warman,
“i just feel good all over.”
why concern yourself with "developer experience" when you ought to be concerned with "the human experience"? what is autocompletion in the face of the exquisite, spectral agony of realizing you’re falling out of love? what is a “build time” under the glare of impending, relentless mortality?
one day, you will die, and your legacy will be washed away when someone forgets to renew the DNS.
i’m on the search for a monumental, destructive, tectonic, soul-awakening, heart-shattering, immense, immersive, inundating, once-in-100-lifetimes kind of love and for some reason i have decided i will find it on a mobile phone app