Rory Cleveland is Just a Man

Rory Cleveland has started posting his wisdom (of sorts) in a Blogger account. Take the time to check it out, starting at the beginning. Slowly but surely, more posts will pop up. Here, Rory shares the first entry from his blog.

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3.01.2008

La Cucaracha

When I lived in the Hispanic part of town I was content—more content than I had ever been. Musicians call it harmony. (So do regular people.) Buddhists call it self-awareness. Hippies called it peace. The rest of us don’t have a name for it, but know it feels good. For me, it had a sound. It went like this:

Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Dah Duh Dah Da-Da Duh!

Sing it. The song is “La Cucaracha”. It’s more than likely you’ve heard it coming from a car horn. That’s where I heard it. Every night between the minutes of 9:45 and 9:50, the faint squawking of that song echoed through the streets and up to my bedroom window.

Around that time I usually found myself lateral on my bed, either sleeping or thinking about sleep. (It’s a little known fact that the best method of falling asleep is to actually think about sleep itself.) Sometimes it would roust my resting, while other times it would simply prohibit it from happening in the first place. The noise was distracting, to say the least. It took some nerve for that honking man or woman to do such a thing at such a relatively late hour of the night!

I got in the habit of waiting until ten o’clock before I started to think about sleep. On one evening, my thoughts consumed by the waking threat of the automobile opus, I was able to trace back to my first memory of the song.

The television was on and I sat in front it, seven years of age and plump. My mother allowed me to watch cartoon shows on Saturday mornings, so long as I promised to do my chores as soon as they were over. It was a reasonable compromise in my estimation, so I always followed through with my end of the bargain.

Tom and Jerry were a cat and mouse I loved. Eventually I fell out of love (as tends to happen with hobbies, spouses, and things not connected directly to one’s self), but at the time there was nothing better in the universe to me. The episode featured a Latin American setting. Jerry had made a friend, a fellow mouse of Hispanic heritage whose name was not revealed to the audience. Jerry and Mexican Mouse ran and ran and ran. Tom chased them. With capture eminent, the mice leapt into an arc-shaped hole, narrowly escaping Jerry’s not-so-threatening paws. Unfortunately for Jerry, his focus on the passion for the kill, he slid into the hole himself, though only his head could fit. He stuck. In a mocking and fantastically entertaining gesture, Jerry and Mexican Mouse took his whiskers in hand and played them like guitar strings. Jerry sang lead vocals. Mexican Mouse sang back up. Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Dah Duh Dah Da-Da Duh! It sounded more like a sped up forty-five than a car horn, but there was still a distinct similarity.

Another night. 9.31 PM. Surely it was coming again soon. Particularly restless that night, I decided to go out and find the source of the perpetual disturbance. Out the flat, down the stairs, through the front door, and into the streets. Directionally, it was clear that the honking resonated due east of my apartment, so I walked to where the sun would eventually rise.

A few late-nighters meandered about the sidewalks, gently caressing their lovers or carrying bags of groceries that they were unable to collect during the work day. In the same way I felt, they all seemed at ease with the general state of things. Not to say they were polite or even smiling, for that matter, but I could tell. It was good to know that everything was alright. Everything was fine.

I ticked along with the clock as it neared the time of the chime. Approximating the location of the noise, I stopped between a mailbox and a palm tree about three blocks from home. With nothing to do but wait at this point, it gave me time to make specific note of my surroundings.

An alley cat. Cracked sidewalk. A homeless man. The mailbox, as mentioned before. A gentle breeze. Stomped out cigarette butts. Parked cars. Chalk drawings for hopscotch. A newspaper tumbleweed. Crab grass. It was all very regular, very comfortable.

There was a calm. For a moment, it was as if all things ceased to move or breath. Even those things not known for moving or breathing—the mailbox, for example—ceased to do so. It happened the same way an animal reacts to the presence of seismic waves. Stillness. Then. . .

Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Dah Duh Dah Da-Da Duh!

Life resumed.

It was louder than I was used to hearing it, but not loud enough. I was off by a block or so. Considering the mission a positive step in my search, I returned home and thought about sleep, then dreamt about dreaming.

There I was again. 9:39 PM. I didn’t have to leave quite as early this time, for I had already picked my next vantage point earlier that day. It was a residential street two blocks further east than my previous location. Something about this place felt right. My ear was most upset about this whole debacle, so I trusted it when it told me to test 3rd and Manhattan. At last, I could confront the honker and get to rest without disturbance!

9:47 PM hit. I started to worry. Of all the nights for the racket to end, why tonight? Was it because I came searching? Obviously this was an undue reaction. Moments after I asked myself these two questions and before I could ask a third, I spotted a man walking to his car with keys dangling from his index finger. I knew it was him.

He was of a stout build, reaching his mid-life, and had hands thick as the leather on a football. His white undershirt was tucked into a pair of plaid boxers. He was shoeless and Mexican. I found out through a later conversation that his name was Saul.

As he reached his car, Saul took slight notice of me, almost as if he was expecting me to be there, or like he’d had this encounter before. He unlocked the door of his four door pick-up truck, a modest American model with scraped paint—a laborers automobile. Casually, he hopped in the driver’s seat and closed the door behind him. His leathery left hand pushed the lock back down.

A moment passed and right on schedule, the calm came. My heart raced, then stopped.

Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Dah Duh Dah Da-Da Duh!

Thank heavens my bedroom wasn’t situated on that street! The cry of “La Cucaracha” was nearly deafening and seemed to last longer than it ever had before. I stepped to the flat bed of the car and rested on its dented bumper, back to the cab, waiting patiently. The door opened and a great weight was lifted as he returned to the pavement. My feet no longer touched the ground with him. They dangled as they do when one sits on an examination table at the doctor’s office.

Auditory senses were in charge at this point. Had he been wearing cowboy boots, my ears would have been in tune with the crackle of the hard soles scraping along the rocky surface beneath them. Instead, they heard the almost silent pats of his bare feet.

Saul faced me as I sat on his bumper. I attempted to formulate my inquisition as succinctly as possible:

“Why?” I asked.

He left. Not far, though. I craned my neck to watch him go back to the driver’s side door and once again insert the key. He had forgotten to lock it back up. Click.

Saul returned to me with the knowing saunter of a monk and put his arm snugly around my shoulder. Strangely, it didn’t seem strange. Had I not needed my own arms to balance myself on the bumper, I would have reciprocated in the embrace.

“Why?” I asked again.

“What would you think if you didn’t hear the horn tomorrow night?”

It was a calculated and unexpected response. I was looking for answers, not questions. Despite this, I answered his query honestly, surprising myself with the answer.

“That something was wrong, I suppose.”

It was true.

“And you heard the horn tonight, no?”

“I did.”

“Well then I guess everything’s alright, isn’t it?”

Saul gave my shoulder a firm pat, knocking me off the bumper and onto the pavement. He meant no harm. Tucking his shirt back into his plaid boxers, that horn-blaring Mexican walked back to his front door and disappeared inside. He didn’t need a key for that one.

Harmony, peace, self-awareness, contentment. Since I moved, it’s never been quite as easy to obtain. However, I’ve never had to think about sleep to reach it since then, either. I just have to hear that sound.

Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Da-Da Duh DAH! Bah Dah Duh Dah Da-Da Duh!

And everything’s alright.

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Read more Rory at http://rorycleveland.blogspot.com

We’re tiny white specks on a bright blue planet

For a guy that was pretty early to the game with this whole internet thing – (if you call 1997 early), I’m still sort of slow to hop on this 2.0 trend. Sure, this site’s got a couple of modern conveniences (RSS, ahem..ADD US IN YOUR AGGREGATORS), but I’m still trying to grasp all this new technology.

Not too long ago, I registered us over here at obviate for a Flickr account. For anyone that knows me, I’m a bit weary of posting my photos in an open environment after reviewing Facebook’s creeptacular privacy policy.

Flickr’s actually pretty cool. You can make sets of different pictures and share them with groups of your peers, and they can grab the pictures in full resolution (not the watered down Facebook versions, natch.) Site has a nice clean look too.

Anyways, I’m trying to understand all this stuff still.. but if you want to check out our page, go ahead and click here. There’s not a ton of interesting stuff yet, just a lot of personal photos right now, but it should give you an idea about how all this works.

A Left-Turn Lesson for Louisiana Drivers

Let’s get this out in the open: I know how to drive.

It’s a benefit of hailing from the greater Chicagoland area.
Moving to Baton Rouge for college has been a trip in more ways than one. After my yearly 14-hour drive, I must become reacquainted with the people, places and climate of my education’s subtropical backdrop.

I like all four seasons – autumn’s changing leaves, white winters full of snow days, heart-warming springtime and not-quite-as-humid summers. I prefer my public transportation to be abundant and reliable. My homeland’s geographic locations begin as corn and soy farmland and grow into small towns with Dairy Queens, shopping mall-studded suburbs, respectable cities and finally the urban utopia that is Chicago. My closet thrives on H&M.

I support da Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Barack Obama. But most of all, I support good driving.

Katie, my Californian roommate of almost three years, has driven me around since she was forced to live with me in Broussard Hall. And for the past three-ish years, we’ve wondered why so many southern drivers don’t pull out in the left-hand turn lane. Such inactivity at a stoplight in our respective home states would warrant angry honking, swearing, death threats and other impolite behavior.

To avoid an embarrassing plea of ignorance to a Louisiana police officer if pulled over for pulling out at a light, Katie has succumbed to the irritating trend of – sigh – waiting at the line. Better safe than sorry? Not in this girl’s “Prevent Violence” dove-plated automobile.

I’ve got things to do, people to see and people who want to see me.

Not only am I incredibly busy and important, but I am used to being on time – whether I’m driving or not. I grew up surrounded by proper public transportation: Metra, Amtrak and Chicago Transit Authority – oh, my!

In the rare occasions, Louisiana’s left-hand turn-lane occupants do enter the intersection, why don’t they always turn? Maybe it’s a good resting place. Perhaps they need some iPod time. Or, if they’re old-school, this is quite the opportunity to skim the CD case.

But why, sweet Sears Tower, why do some people reverse back into the turn lanes after they have already pulled into an intersection instead of – oh, I don’t know – turning? I’ve asked several residents of Dixieland if such a turn is illegal. The results point to a unanimous “I don’t know.”

Thanks a lot, guys. Well, I’ve got brains as well as beauty, so I Googled Louisiana traffic laws to help Louisiana’s drivers. Believe it or not, I ended up at proper Web sites with the pertinent documents and everything. LRS 32:232 states that “only the colors green, red and yellow shall be used” for traffic signals. Good to know.

On a more relevant note, LRS 32:232 states in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (1) that “vehicular traffic facing a green arrow signal, shown alone or in combination with another indication, may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow, or such other movement as is permitted by other indications shown at the same time. Such vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.”

But what about when the light changes? I hear there are two other colors allowed.

That’s where paragraph (2), sub-paragraph (a) comes in.

“Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal alone is thereby warned that the related green signal is being terminated or that a red signal will be exhibited immediately thereafter and such vehicular traffic shall not enter or be crossing the intersection when the red signal is exhibited.”

And when the light turns red, you stop. Preferably at the line, but sometimes there isn’t a line. Then you stop before entering the crosswalk.

What if there isn’t a crosswalk, you ask? Be a reasonable human being and figure it out. But check out the bottom line – pulling into the intersection for left-hand turns is A-OK with the state of Louisiana.

Try this at home, Texas Tigers. Texas Transportation Code Chapter 544.007 totally agrees with its neighbor to the East.

Just make sure to be safe when entering an intersection. As in, don’t hit people, animals, other cars, inactive objects or anything else. And don’t endanger them either.

Let’s not be tacky, guys.

I made you a muxtape…

A friend showed me this really cool site yesterday called Muxtape, located at muxtape dot com. (I’m going to refrain from linking today, we’ve been having spamming issues.)

Anyways, the site works like this. You register with the site, create a username – all that jazz, and then you upload twelve mp3’s. Then, after you are done, it creates a website streaming the mix you just made and you can share it with people online. Pretty cool stuff.

Enjoy!