Dialogue: Reader of Dictionaries

I first meet with the Reader of Dictionaries in a clean, well-lighted place. Across from me, the Reader reclines in a defective desk chair, hands behind his head, stories of the history of words and dictionaries pouring from him like the sun’s light pours in through the wide windows around him. No, don’t read the collegiate dictionaries, he advises. The Oxford English Dictionary, Johnson’s, Webster’s Second Edition, etc.; that’s the stuff…

It takes two meetings before all of the questions have been asked and answered. On the second afternoon, we sit at a picnic table amidst a quiet quad. It is winter in California, and the sky is a rebellious blue, the sun stubborn in its shining. With one hand, the Reader of Dictionaries shades his eyes from the brightness while his other hand rests on the table, tap, tap, tapping along to the almost imperceptible rhythm of life.

How are you today?

I’m fine… My conscience is bothering me. My conscience always bothers me a lot for small things, in most people’s mind, but to me, it’s not a small thing if I betray somebody’s trust, and I feel I did that. Now, I have to clarify this is not some salacious secret– it’s not. To me, I mean, to most people, it’s a rather mundane thing I’m talking about. I’m not going to give the details, but most people would think nothing of it; but to me, it’s heavy, and I think it’s a sign of my Catholic upbringing, where I took it very seriously, if not the religion, but the threat of punishment, I guess, for violations of trust when I was a kid. And I take it moreso than ever to this day. I just think it’s very, very important, if somebody trusts you, that you always maintain that trust.

If you could have witnessed any event in person, what would you have wanted to see?

I’ve thought about this many times. I have many, many things. Certainly, I would have liked to have accompanied a Roman army on their march. And I think I particularly would have liked to accompany them to their first battle with Hannibal as he came out of the Alps. Of course, they got decimated, so I wouldn’t want to be amongst their number, but I would’ve liked to witness that.

And another one: the guy who wrote the first dictionary, Dr. Johnson, used to be a member of a club (clubs were very fashionable in London), and they attracted playwrights, artists, politicians, all kinds of people. I would have liked to have been at one of their dinner-and-drinking meetings where Johnson was talking with his friends. I think it just would have been so much fun. So much conversation. But I could go on and on in that vein. There are many things I would have liked to have witnessed.

Do you have a favorite word?

No. I have many favorite words, but that doesn’t make sense; no. I like words, so I don’t have a favorite.

I think it was [Ambrose] Bierce who said that “cellar door” was one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. Cellar door. And, you know what, I kind of agree. It’s rich. I mean, it makes you think of many things. It makes you think of shady summer days. It makes you think of fruit, like apples stored in the cellar and the smell that comes out of it, making wine. It’s really… I see his point. Cellar door. It is a really nice phrase. But if I were to say “cellar door” is my favorite word, you would correctly point out that it’s two words, and I think you need both.

Is there a person you looked up to as a child who helped you become the person you are today?

Yeah, of course, there are many. I certainly see my dad’s influence in my values. I see my mother’s influence, not necessarily all good, in the way I am, but I certainly see my mother in me. I see my brother in me. Again, not all good, but certainly some is good.

I think a more conventional answer is that I had a cross country coach in high school who was a model teacher to me, and I think I pattern my style after him. One characteristic of him that I always admired, in fact, we all admired, was that he would treat everybody the same. Whether they’re the fastest, the slowest, whether they were another coach, he never had a voice and a manner that was geared down for students. Everyone was the same, and we really appreciated that. He never valued the fastest over the slowest on the team. We were all part of the team, and we really liked this guy, and we’ve kept in touch. We’d take him to dinner. Yeah, [we] liked him.

What is the worst injury or illness you’ve ever had?

(Sighs.) Depression. That was the worst. As far as physical, well, I’ve been pretty lucky, but I know I got mononucleosis after I graduated and was working. I don’t know how I got it. I was also married at the time, and I was running, and I was doing a physical job in a mill. All of a sudden, I just had absolutely no energy, and I even would lie on the floor and think about climbing into bed, and then deciding it was too much work, I would just stay where I was. I’ve never been so completely physically debilitated as that. I also lost a lot of weight, which was good, and I remember, after getting it over, preparing a meal that was what I was used to preparing and being totally inable to eat it because I had [been so] reduced after months’ time. That was probably the worst, but I don’t mind it. I didn’t mind it. It’s not like depression. That horrible, horrible thing where you cannot rouse yourself to take an interest in anything. That was the worst.

Do you believe honesty is always the best policy?

No, but I do practice that, not because I believe in it, but because my conscience will not allow me to do otherwise. I really do think, Is what I’m saying the truth? I think about this a lot. I do think, for me, honesty is the best policy. Of course, I’m not so ignorant of rhetoric that I don’t realize the many ways you can tell a lie while also speaking the truth. You can omit the truth to give some shade or some color to your answer. That’s why, in court, they ask you to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s a pretty good line. And yet, I’m so conscious of it that even when I’m not telling the whole truth, I then try to correct myself.

I’m going to give myself away, but when I’m teaching and I realize that I’m expressing my opinion, I try to point that out, and I try also to say, “Do not believe me. Hear me, but go and look for yourself and trust your judgement.” I have to keep saying that because it’s a heavy responsibility to give somebody an impression that something is true when it’s in fact, maybe, my total opinion. I totally believe it, and yet, I don’t feel exactly right giving that out for a student, for instance, to believe. Now, I’m very much conscious of honesty being the best policy for me.

Is there a particular life lesson you feel you’re still learning?

Oh, yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m always learning things from my students. I’m learning things all the time. I certainly need to improve my quick temper. I don’t know that I want to, but I should. Actually, my quick temper sometimes serves me good rhetorical purpose, as you may well know, but at the same time, it bothers my conscience. And I know I shouldn’t [get angry], and therefore that’s something I should work on.

Certainly, my self discipline; that is something I honestly believe in and yet don’t practice enough. Whether it be eating, pushing myself away from the YouTube and the internet and [getting] something serious done, keeping up with my work, my grading; these things. I surely hope I can learn enough to change. Whether or not I will, well, I guess that remains to be seen. But I also know it won’t happen unless I forcefully make it happen, so I’m perfectly aware I’m not being totally honest with myself when I throw it off, saying, “It remains to be seen whether or not I will acquire the discipline I need.” The fact is, I know the only way to do it is to do it, and to say anything else is a cop out.

Do you have any stories in mind that you would love to write?

Yes. All the time, I’m thinking of things to write. All the time, I’m thinking of characters to remember to put in those stories. I meet characters all over the place. I meet them in school; I know plenty of them. I have a very developed sense of how life is dramatic and interesting, and I get a lot of pleasure out of the drama, not high school drama, but rather the drama of history and life. I’d like to share that, if I could, through storytelling. I need to practice writing more to be able to develop my style better. Again, a discipline problem. But yeah, there is plenty.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

I see somebody who’s a heck of a lot older than what I feel. I’ll say, a heck of a lot [more] out of shape than what I remember. That’s what I see.

What is your greatest fear?

I think I could probably come up with greater fears than this, but the everyday fear is of humiliation in front of a crowd. I think that is a highly motivating thing. I know I often mention the Jerry Springer audience. Being jeered is something that scares me, you know, because I don’t know how to react about it. I need to be around rational people to feel even keel. So, perhaps to say it, to be under the mercy of irrational people is a major fear of mine, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

Can you offer any profound advice?

I like to think so. You’re asking me to offer some? Read and backpack. The two things together, or at least, go off into the wild. Learn to love the wild lands and experiences of being in the wild. There’s a lot you can learn about many things there. I mean, not only the way the ecosystem works, the way the weather works, how to find yourself, how to keep yourself from getting lost, but you also learn important things like you don’t have to have a perfect temperature to be comfortable; you don’t need to be perfectly dry to be comfortable; you don’t need a comfortable bed to sleep comfortably. That’s a very important thing to understand in life.

The second was the reading business. Reading gives you contact with other people’s thinking. Of course, you also can get that through conversation, but most conversations are mundane, frivolous, and especially if they come in the form of a Tweet; so in fact, what a book is, is the recollection of the thoughts of a person condensed. Of course, there’s a lot of inane books, but there’s a lot of books that are really worth reading, and those are the ones to seek out.

Dialogue: Bill Hill

“Give me coffee and no one gets hurt,” reads a sign beside the paper-laden desk at which Bill Hill sits. The blue bookshelf behind Bill houses an array of items (mostly not of the literary variety), ranging from a bike helmet to rubber-banded stacks of paper matching those residing on the desk. It is sometime after 11 AM, and the monster appears to have been fed; all is calm.

How are you today?

Well, I got some sort of throat thing from this occupation, so my voice is probably pretty shot. My throat is literally, like, closing in on itself. I got some Nasacort. Hopefully, the steroid will help my throat. At least, that’s what it said online.

Do you have a pump up song?

Oh, I don’t know. I used to like Sick of It All, a band from the 80’s. A lot of their songs, “Uprising Nation” and stuff, were intense.

What did you want to be when you were 18?

When I was 18, I wanted to be in law enforcement. I majored in criminal justice with that goal and changed my mind later when I was in college. About four years in, I decided to pursue history theory and go into law, but I changed. I didn’t want to go into law; I wanted to go into [teaching] instead.

Are you a daydreamer?

No, but I get easily distracted when I’m not 100%-committed to something, when I’m just not in the mood really to do something but I’m forcing myself to. I’ll tend to somehow distract myself by looking up something on the internet [or] watching a video instead, so I guess you could say it’s like internet daydreaming.

Can you tell about something that made a big impression on you and contributed to you becoming the person you are today?

I had a moment in college where my grades weren’t the best, like sophomore year. College was really hard for me, and I realized I needed to do everything I could to get my grades up because I was having all of the fun and stuff that college brings, but the ultimate goal [for why] you’re there is to do something with your life after, and I realized that I needed to do something with my life after, and so that sort of moment when I ended my sophomore year of college [and] really focused on getting my grades up [made a big impression]. I just put everything else, all the distractions, aside until I got my work done for the week. I used to be a big procrastinator, and then I stopped because I realized that all it was getting me was subpar grades.

Do you have a favorite place?

There [are] a couple spots I used to hike to in Mission Trails in San Diego that I liked. There were a couple peaks up there that are just kinda cool to sit down and not even think about anything. And here, I would say a couple of the peaks up in Las Trampas. There’s this one that I found, I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but it’s like the highest point. It might be Las Trampas Peak. I definitely like going up there a lot.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

By this point, I don’t know. You could find everything on the internet. I’m trying to think of something that would actually be fun to know about me rather than just the (serious voice) “It took me six years to do college.” In high school, I wanted to major in film. I really liked making movies, but then I realized that unless I went to UCLA or USC, it’s really hard to get in that industry to make it big, so what I decided to do was to get into the other thing I wanted to do, something in law, because I realized that’d be more like “Pick a major that’ll get you a job and then minor in something fun,” you know? I realized that what would get me a job would be something in law rather than film. I mean, I could be successful, anyone could be, but I realized that there’s not much security in that. Financial security is very important. You realize that when you’re 26, and you’re like, “Oh!” You have to pay for things [like] rent in the Bay Area. (Laughs.)

I still watch a lot of movies. That’s mostly when I’m not going out on weekends. I don’t like movie theaters. That’s something else you don’t know: I don’t like going to movie theaters. I like the dynamic sound and all of the other cool things about movie theaters, but I hate watching movies with people I don’t know. I just feel like I can’t control my environment, and I can’t pause [the movie] to use the bathroom; or if I want to eat my food, I usually eat it quietly, but [if] the guy next to me is making old man noises, I don’t want to hear that. Especially if it’s a mumbling movie, you can’t put the subtitles on for the couple minutes that you can’t hear things in a movie theater unless you get one of those devices that I feel weird using because I’m not deaf or disabled.

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you care what others think of you?

It depends on what environment. If it’s here, I have to [care], so it’d be a 10 here because their perception of me is basically what keeps me here, so I’m very careful, [or] at least I try to be. But otherwise, I don’t really care, so probably like a 3 or 4, just so I don’t make a scene or get in trouble. I don’t really care as much.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Ah, that’s… I think a song by The Warmers, which is not a punk rock band… (Laughs.) I don’t know, myself? I mean, in a more figurative way. I’m not trying to be like, “Literal person.” Now, I don’t really have issues with myself anymore. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not, like, you know, you fall flat on your face in highschool or college sometimes. You sort of grow out of that in college. I don’t need a fake persona anymore. I guess I never did, but (laughs) I don’t know, I was just trying to get ahold of myself, so it’s good to see myself be myself at my most best state.

What is your greatest fear?

If we go with [what I said last year], emus. Emus are just vicious creatures. They’re like raptors. But in seriousness, not having security, like financial security. I [wouldn’t want] to go years without employment and stuff like that. I think, at this point in my life, losing security [is my greatest fear]. I always have backup plans, so if this doesn’t work out, I’ve got this (motions, using hand to symbolize another venture) next. If I don’t really want to do that thing, there’s gotta be something.

Can you offer any profound advice?

I always like telling, at least high school, students: Major in something that will get you a job [and] minor in something you love. I think a lot of people [pick things that they think] they want to do when they’re older and then realize that they’re not going to be successful doing that, but I think it’s really hard, especially in the job market today, to not do those kinds of “cut-and-paste” type of jobs. It’s not that you shouldn’t pursue those dreams, but always have that back up plan. Like business might be the most boring-sounding thing ever, but if you have a degree in that, you can get a job somewhere at a company, and then you are establishing yourself in that other career path. You know, [something] like art is a cool major, and I say go for that, but also double major in something that you know will at least get you to a point where you have enough financial security, or whatever, in order to establish yourself in that other field. So that way, you’re not working at Chipotle, making 8 bucks an hour, trying to sell something that is doing well on the market today. I think that’s like every parent’s advice. (Laughs.)

Dialogue: Adelaide Kings

The cinema is mostly empty on this cloudy Monday afternoon. Those who do filter in walk in pairs or trios, talking quietly as if a loud sound would disrupt the stillness and sanctity of the theater. This crowd of movie-goers is very different from the weekend crowd, we observe. It’s a welcome change. As the screen above us flickers to life, displaying bright advertisements for everything from preschool to Coca-Cola, Adelaide Kings and I sit down for a chat.

How are you today?


Have any songs been stuck in your head recently?

Yeah, there was a song yesterday… “Down to the River [to Pray” by Alison Krauss] from O Brother, Where Art Thou? and “I’ll Be Good” by Jaymes Young.

What is your favorite type of plant?

I like dahlia flowers. They’re really cool. Oh, and I think it’s called the “naked purple orchid,” the “purple man orchid,” or something like that. Those are really cool too.

Is there something you wish you knew a year ago?

I wish I knew a year ago… The answers to my finals. (Laughs.)

What is your biggest pet peeve?

You’re asking the queen of pet peeves, man. When you have to sneeze, but you can’t sneeze. I hate that. Or just annoying people; don’t be annoying. Girls who don’t blend their foundation, and then they have a line down their jawline [and] you can see where they stopped; that’s gross. I don’t know. Just fake people; that’s annoying. (Laughs.)

Do you have a favorite time of day?

Food time. Or nap time. Nap time is great. That’s around, like, 3:15 [PM].

If you could relive any moment, which would you choose?

I think when I got to hold my baby cousin for the first time. That was really great. He’s really cute and small and little, and he does little muscle things [that’re] really cute.

Is there a skill you would like to learn?

You know, I’ve always kind of been into archery, and I took a class that was not that great. I was not that great. I have this weird elbow thing where my arm sticks out, so I always hit that (motions to place on forearm) with the bow. But other than that, like a skill I’d actually use would probably be… I’d probably wish I was better at school. Just in general, I’m not good at studying. I’m not good at homework. I’m not (laughs) good at it, but I would like to be better somehow.

What was your last dream like?

I don’t really remember the beginning of it. I think it had something to do with school and the show that I’m about to be in. But then, at the end, I was laying in my bed, and somebody came in, and I don’t know who it was, and they were all in black, and the face was blacked out. And then they grabbed my ankles and pulled me down, and I woke up feeling like I was being pulled down; and it was just really creepy because it felt like somebody pulled me. Physically, I could feel it, but nobody was there. It really freaked me out.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

I don’t know. Just an average person; just somebody that’s there.

How would you describe the person you want to be?

I think maybe courageous without trying too hard and intelligent without being aloof. I kind of wish I wasn’t as closed off as I was… I don’t like meeting new people, or I’m not good at it, and I kinda wish that I was brave enough to go out and do things and that I had enough courage to go out and talk to people who I think are interesting and who I want to have a conversation with.

What is your greatest fear?

I think pain, in a way, is my greatest fear. Not necessarily emotional pain or anything, but physical pain. Great amounts of pain or dying in a painful way. Not the dying itself, but the pain that comes along with it. I think it’s either that, or it’s being completely numb emotionally, just not being able to feel anything. I think that’s terrifying.

Can you offer any profound advice?

Stop giving any shits about what anyone else thinks.

The Caption Collection (vol. 1)

You did it. You survived another Monday. Best case scenario: You had a wonderful day, and everything, from the time your alarm prompted you to get up on the right side of the bed this morning until this very moment, has been going swell. Worst case scenario: You woke up late, and then your car broke down. You forgot to complete an assignment. Your boss got mad at you. Your sister won't talk to you. You failed a test. You're swamped with work. Nothing is going according to plan, and you didn't even get enough sleep last night in order to really process what is happening right now. No matter the case, remember that some days will be good, and some days will be bad. You will impress and disappoint yourself, sometimes simultaneously, impressed by the sheer depth of your own disappointment. But do not fear failure; for it is inevitable. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged in your low times. There will come great days where you will be early enough to grab a coffee before heading off on your way, you will be recognized for your hard work, and you will return home in time to watch your favorite show without the looming shadow of a crippling amount of homework. Every day is a clean slate. With the right mindset, every moment itself is a clean slate. Stop letting your fears and doubts keep you from achieving your true potential. Dwelling on the amount of "suckage" of your current or past situation won't make your present suck any less. Have hope. You are capable of so much more than you believe. No matter if you had an awesome day today or a less-than-awesome one, tomorrow can be amazing.

A photo posted by Sam(antha Singh) (@girlinink) on

Who we are; who we were; who we want to be… Sometimes these people, these versions of ourselves, overlap and blur together, coinciding for just a moment before slipping away. But most of the time, it can feel like we're on one side of a window, looking out. It's dark, and we're searching for the way through so that we can join the party on the other side, but the window won't open. For some, those bright lights we're looking at are from the past, and we are trying to find our way back to something that felt like happiness. For others, we're seeing who we want to be, but we're not sure of how to reach that point from the here & now. I've got news, folks. As Nick said to Gatsby, "You can't repeat the past." There is only one direction in which to go, and that is forward. When we stop fixating on windows, we enable ourselves to journey forward and discover new doors. What lies behind those doors? We dunno yet; but let's get there and find out. -{Hey, if you're reading this, I just want to say thank you!, & I want to get to know y'all. What's your story? Do you have a particular song that really speaks to you? Are you an artist? Do you do photography, or do you write? I want to know! Send me your stuff, or just drop me a line and say hi! It doesn't matter if we've barely spoken or if we've been homies for years. You can contact me through here or by shooting me an email at girlinink[at]gmail.com. There's no deadline on this; it's just whenever you have time. Thanks for supporting my stuff! #perspective #window #life #youcantrepeatthepast #writing #dontgiveafolk #keepmovingforward #gatsbyreference #identity #doors}

A photo posted by Sam(antha Singh) (@girlinink) on

Dialogue: Kekoa

It is around half past noon when Kekoa steps into the church’s coffee shop and bookstore, longboard in hand. The service has just ended, and people lounge among the tables and couches in the shop, sharing sips and smiles over scripture and recent life happenings. I wave Kekoa down, and he joins me at a raised table by a wall of long, tinted windows. We speak of emotion and identity among other subjects that are essentially as transparent as the wall beside us. To a person attempting to peer inside, or one seeking to understand a particular subject, all that is visible is a reflection of one’s own self; yet from within this space of thought-sharing, much more about the outer world may be revealed. The only object separating the two modes of perception is the window of conversation.

How are you today?

Actually having to answer this question is harder than the generic “good” [or] “alright,” which all point beyond themselves anyway. If someone says, “Good,” it’s very generic, but then “alright” [implies] there’s something behind there.

I’m pretty tired. I had a long weekend. I had a speech tournament all weekend. Do you ever get those times where you just want to be alone? That’s how I am today. I want to be not necessarily alone, but invisible. Like around other people, but just a part of the crowd. No one looks at you, but you’re there. That’s how I am today.

Can you name a song that speaks to you?

“Tree To Grow” by The Lone Bellow. The first night I heard it, it was like 11 PM, and I stayed up until 2 AM, just smashing the repeat button, listening to it so many times over because it shook the insides of my body so much. It’s an amazing song. Go home and listen to it.

[It speaks to me] because the passion of the delivery really sends home the message of the song; and the song is about love, and the depiction of love is incredibly beautiful. It spoke to the kind of person that I want to be, insofar as someone that loves. At least to the chorus… I don’t fully understand some of the verses.

Is there something you have always wanted to do?

(Pauses.) That I haven’t done yet? How long is always? (Laughs.)  I guess no one thing eclipses the others. There [are] small, pithy hobbies that are things that I want to do, like climbing. I want to learn how to tie every knot. I want to finish learning the song on the piano that I’m currently learning. But then there are big life goals. I want to raise a son, dude. That’d be insane. I want to find a companion for the rest of my life, like a wife. Things like that. But it’s tough to find one that eclipses all of the others, one that would truly answer that question, putting out all of the other ones.

Do you have any regrets?

Yeah, a lot. [My friend and I] were just talking about this the other day. There’s something to be said about “#NoRegrets” or “#NoLookingBack,” stuff like that, but when I look at my life, it’s like… There was a distinction between the two. The distinction was [that] there are decisions that I have made that I didn’t like, it was the wrong decision, but good things came out of it anyway, or some kind of growth came out of it, or I became a kind of man afterwards that [is] better than I was before. But that doesn’t make the decision right; you can still regret the decision even though something good might have happened from it.

The most recent example was yesterday. In the final round of this one speech to entertain, I did so terrible. I guess I can regret not prepping that, because there was very little preparation for that speech, it was super last minute, but I learned a lot about how to follow through with something even when you’re not totally prepared. There are beneficial things that happen with a failure like that, so you can regret the decision, but still be okay with the result. I think that’s what a lot of people mean when they say, “No regrets.”

What is your highest aspiration?

To become a man whose identity is defined by easily and naturally behaving in the way that Christ did. Discipleship, at a certain point, won’t be something that you do; it’s someone that you are. And so, if somebody tries to imagine, “Oh, I could never do this part of Christ’s identity or become this kind of person” because they can’t see themselves doing it now, [they] have to sort of work there. When it’s been achieved, it won’t feel like you’re doing it because it’s someone that you are.

Who would you thank first in an acceptance speech?

Well, shoot. Probably the first thing that [would come] out would be family, depending on what I’m giving the speech for. And also depending would be thanking God in some fashion, but I might be too self-conscious about that. Hopefully, I would because that’s the kind of person that I want to be, to acknowledge God’s success through me in my life in any setting. But honestly, I don’t know if I would, which I guess is kind of a pithy thing.

It’d probably be family, and then if it’s climbing, I’d thank Dustin; if it’s piano, I’d thank my cousin Isaac. Depending on the subject, there [are] lots of different people that have played keystone roles in any one endeavor in my life that I’d probably thank in a specific fashion.

Do you have a motto?

I guess you could call it kind of a motto. In Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, Eddie Aikau was a legendary surfer and lifeguard, and he and his brother were lifeguards on the North Shore, which gets the biggest swells on Oahu, and it’s notoriously dangerous. He became sort of a local legend around the island for paddling out into the most harrowing conditions and saving surfers when nobody else would go. When his life was at risk, or conditions were so bad, it was more likely that he would die along with the surfer than he would save them, he’d do it anyway. He was there for a long time, and he never lost a surfer. There became this mantra that arose around his name, “Eddie would go.” Actually, my dad knew Eddie because this wasn’t super long ago. This was our parents’ generation [when] this was happening.

A group wanted to see if they could navigate using the stars to get from Hawaii to Samoa because Hawaiians are descendents of Samoans, [and] that’s how they think they got there. So they attempted this feat, and the ship capsized not far outside of Hawaii, and Eddie was the only survivor that washed up on the shores of Oahu. He immediately grabbed his surfboard, and he paddled out into the horizon, searching for the other survivors, and no one ever saw him again. But every other member of the crew was found.

There’s an annual festival in Oahu in his honor; it’s a surfing thing on the North Shore. But that became a phrase that me and my friend, who really digs that story, sort of rose up around. “Eddie would go.” In any instance in which we wouldn’t [have gone] or were hesitant, it was like, “Well, Eddie would go.” My friend actually made me business cards. On the back, it says, “Kekoa would go.” Kekoa is my middle name. These business cards are actually one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever been given. It just says, “Friend” and then my contact information.

What would you title your memoir?

Probably Various Musings because that’s what I already titled a book that I write all my thoughts in, although each book kind of has a subtitle that might be specific. I would carry a moleskin [notebook] in my pocket, and on the cover I wrote, “Various Musings” because it would just be random thoughts. And then it kind of turned into something else… Your mind is organized in a certain fashion, memories here, emotions there, I guess, in the abstract sort of way, and that’s kind of what the book was for me; I’d keep thoughts about these things here, ideas here, things to think about later, reminders[, etc.] So then it would have subtitles, but I’d always call it “Various Musings” if somebody referred to it by name.

Which of your experiences have been the most life-changing?

Experiences are so manifold, and also, your perspective of experiences changes over time. Experiences that are fresher may have a bigger, “Oh, this is changing cuz it’s changing right now!” than things in the past, so it’s really a tough decision. And a lot of times, there are not singularities of experiences that will cause a change, but more so, strings of singularities, epochs rather than an experience, that are the most life changing. Or at least, that’s how it’s been in my experience.

I’ll just give you experiences that have been life-changing. So, the day that I met my best friend, Dustin Jang, I was sleeping in my friend’s bed at a going away party. There were four of us in the bed; we were watching It’s a Wonderful Life. I was wearing a sweatshirt, and I was under the covers, and I woke up cuz it was like two hundred degrees, and I was like, “Why is it so hot!” There was an Asian dude in sight, and I was like, “Who is this guy?” People were hugging him and talking to him like he’d been away for a while, [so] I was like, “Oh, I guess my friends know him.” This was in a new group of friends, and I don’t remember how we started. That was the first time I ever saw him, and it’s like we’ve known each other out of the womb. I’ve only known him for a year and a half, but that was a big, life-changing thing, this companion that I didn’t have before.

Reading the whole Bible, cover to cover, was a big, life-changing thing. It didn’t happen on a day, but it was all of the process, and that played a big part in my [actually] becoming a disciple of Christ. You know church kids who grow up in the church, but there is a certain point where it becomes you. It’s no longer just something my parents told me when I was young.

The day that my most recent girlfriend said, “Yes” when I asked her out and then the day that she broke up with me were two very large, life-changing events.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would you choose?

If I could change one thing, that would be every human’s heart [so] that every human would be enraptured by this palpable, visceral love of Christ.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Human. Probably two eyes, if I was looking at the eyes. If I look into a mirror, I see the mirror, the glass. That’s not what you’re asking, [but] that was immediately where my mind went, just the literal things that my eyes are seeing and the brain perceiving.

Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. I shaved recently after having a big beard, and I was like, “Who is this dude?” Yesterday, I wore a tie instead of a bowtie. It was a nice tie, my friend gave it to me; it was amazing. [I] didn’t recognize myself.

For this one [speech forensics] event, I have a character, and our coach was like, “Your character needs to have an identity. Write up a background, everything about him. What does he like to do? How old is he?” I pretty much wrote myself into this person’s bio cuz it was pretty much myself anyway. I don’t want to go into the whole bio. It would be pretty literal. I’m twenty-one years old, six feet tall… (Laughs.)

Is there a particular life lesson you feel you are still learning?

So many. I sat in my car the other day, and I didn’t want to be memorizing this speech because I didn’t like the speech, I didn’t think it was good, and I didn’t want to do it; I wanted to do many other things, but I sat there, and I was like, “What kind of a man do you want to be? Well, there [are] a lot of kinds of man that I want to be that would sit here and memorize this speech even though it sucks, I don’t want to do it, there [are] so many other things.” To become the person that you want to be takes a lot more effort than one might realize, and every decision counts, as far as identity development goes. Little things like memorizing a speech even though you don’t want to would take you closer to being the kind of person that has the work ethic that you want, that you do things even when it sucks.

What is your greatest fear?

That’s one of two questions that I ask other people frequently and myself semi-frequently. Every time, I think the answer’s changed. The two questions I’ll ask are: “What is it that you want the most?” and “What are you most afraid of?” Often, the answers to those questions will point at each other. If you’re sure about one, but not the other, you can look at one and it’s pointing at the other because you’re moving towards something, but also away from something else a lot of the time. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced.

And did I have an answer for this the last time I asked myself? I can’t remember. I just asked my friend three weeks ago. She answered; I can’t remember what I answered back. It’s hard to say, at least right now, because fear is often associated with some kind of emotional reaction, but not always. I guess the greatest kinds of fears aren’t associated with an emotional reaction because it’s so intrinsic that you avoid it to such a core part of your identity that you’re not even afraid; you just don’t. If you’re super afraid of public speaking, being onstage, you might feel that fear, but if you’re so afraid of it, you’d never get there. That’d be the truest form of fear.

[I’m] still not a hundred percent sure. I can give you previous ones that I’ve had. The only one that I can remember is of becoming the kind of person that I used to be, sort of like a remission of identity back into a very insecure, wussy high school [self], to put it very simply. It’s more dynamic than that, but in essence, that’s what it would look like: insecure, wussy, placing all of my identity in what other people thought of me, things like that. That was something I used to be afraid of, but not anymore because I can’t think of what I’m the most afraid of off my mind at this moment, but hopefully, that’ll give you some kind of idea.

Can you offer any profound advice?

I think, no, I don’t have any profound advice. Not because I don’t have things that I think would be good for other people to know, but because what advice I would give would be specific to the thing that the person is seeking, and it would have to be asked of. I would never just give somebody advice; they would have to ask me.

A very day-to-day example would be in the gym, where I live, you will see people doing things at a suboptimal level at an optimal level, and they’re just doing it straight-up wrong. You’ll see lots of different things, but you won’t ever correct someone else unless you worked there. If you had a t-shirt that said [whatever gym name], you’d probably have the authority to tell them, “You’re going to hurt yourself very quickly,” and they’d listen to you. But if you’re not, and you’re just another lifter, if you attempted to give someone advice, they’re not likely to listen to you because it’s very disrespectful because what you’re telling them is, “I know what’s right, and you’re doing it wrong, and you need to do it like I’m doing it.” And any time that you do that, people are very often unreceptive to it.

First, you’d have to build a relationship with them; you’d have to care about them as a person first, and then if they asked you, because then you know that they’re seeking and they actually care about the subject, then it would be proper to give them advice or wisdom. And I think something similar would be true to this kind of profound advice that you’re asking me about. Maybe about life, about Christ, discipleship, you’d need somebody that was already seeking a question rather than giving someone an answer to a question they might not have.

Dialogue: Silence Dogood

“[HOME]- 49, GUEST- 0.” Under a warm September night sky, the bleachers buzz with excitement. It is the beginning of the fourth quarter. Football fans, spirited students, and patient parents are gathered here tonight, around this field, to witness a taste of victory.
A little ways beyond the bulk of the crowd, Silence Dogood and I sit at a green bench planted in the blacktop. Before us lies a view of the field itself, “where the magic happens.”

How are you today?

I’m alright.

When are you happiest?

I’d have to say I’m usually happiest when music is incorporated, or when I’m playing cello or guitar.

Do you have a favorite place?

Not particularly. I like seeing new places all the time, so I don’t really have a favorite.

If you could take a few days off from your regular life, what would you do with that time?

Nowadays, probably sleep. I don’t get a lot of sleep. I have a lot of dreams of traveling to places, so as I get older, I [would] like to travel to Switzerland or other countries in Europe.

Would you consider yourself to be an honest person?

Yes. Mostly, yeah.

Can you name a song that really speaks to you?

(Pauses.) [There are a] bunch of songs, and none of them quite get it right, but one I’ve been liking lately is “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin.

Do you believe that everyone has a divine purpose?

I like to believe in free will. I know there are certain events that are uncontrollable, so I feel like fate has a role, but it’s more of a backstage one, so everyone has their own choice, but they’re somewhat narrowed by fate.

What are you most proud of?

My relationships with people. Just friendship, really. I’ve always considered what my dad would think of me, and I think he’d be proud of how I present myself and how I relate with people.

If you could relive any moment from your past, which would you choose?

(Pauses.) Innocence is always an interesting thing, so going back to my early years, my years when I didn’t have so many responsibilities and such, would be ideal, I think.

What are your passions, and how did you find them?

Typically, just cello and guitar. The cello was introduced to me through elementary school, and guitar I just picked up because I liked the music.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

(Laughs.) Well, I’d like to say it always depends on when is the last time I’ve shaven, but I don’t know. I see someone who’s helpful for people, but he could still use some work.

What is your greatest fear?

Typically, what I feel worst about is disappointing other people, so I guess that would qualify as my greatest fear.

Can you offer any profound advice?

(Laughs.) I don’t know what to say without being clichéd or using a maxim that everyone uses, but… Like I said, we all have our own free will even though there’s fate in the background, so just follow whatever you think is best.

Dialogue: Valentina Bianchi

The forest looks different under cover of darkness. It is only 10 PM, but the thick shadows surrounding our campsite suggest that it is later. The world is quiet; for it is the stars’ time to be admired. Valentina Bianchi and I perch in foldable chairs around a bonfire, wrapped in layers to stave off the cold. We steal glances at the sparkling corner of the universe in wondrous display before us and watch as the fire crackles and spits tiny, glowing embers that shimmer like the stars above before disappearing into the abyss.

How are you today?

I think, over the past few days, I’ve been really considering my feelings towards how I am right now, going [into] junior year especially, and, as of this very moment, I’m just happy. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy in my life up until now, but at least the past couple of days, whether it’s going to be this tiny little gap of pure happiness, or if it will span throughout the year, who knows, but [I’m] happy.

If you could relive any moment, which would you choose?

This is so difficult. (Pauses.) I think I’d have to say… This is so cheesy, especially because you’re the one conducting the interview, but meeting you and [another friend] in the summer that one year because I remember it happening, but I can’t remember the actual feelings or the specific emotions correlating with it, and I’d like to go back and see how I feel in comparison to everything I know about how friends work now (laughs) and why we’ve become such good friends.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people insert “like” unnecessarily within their diction (laughs), or when people are rude. I just don’t think there is a real excuse for it. I feel a moral obligation, at least on my part, to act cordial towards others unless they give me a reason not to. So [I don’t think] being rude to someone, or anyone really, in your life, is okay.

Do you have a “pump up” song?

It used to be “Dirty Little Secret” by the All-American Rejects, but as of now, it’s “Riot” by Mikky Ekko. It just sounds like I’m a rebel when I’m singing along to it. (Laughs.)

How do you feel about the group-thinking (also known as the mob) mentality?

I think that, in some circumstances, being able to rally behind one opinion or one thought makes it a good resource or option for what you’re doing, but in general, it takes away people’s individuality. I think that people get too caught up in trying to act as if they have that same opinion because, a lot of times, it’s not as if they have that same opinion because they are in consensus with whatever “group thought” we’re talking about as much as they want people to accept them for thinking the same way. And in doing that, we lose ourselves or what it is we stand for.

What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?

I don’t lie often because, not that many people are in avid support of it, but I’m really against dishonesty. It seems like it would have had to have been a lie to my parents, but I don’t know. (Pauses.) Oh goodness, okay, I think I have one.

Freshman year… I’m a responsible student to a point, to a certain extent, and in my English class, we had a project due on the day of the final, and I do well on projects, it’s just that procrastination is a horrid issue with me. (Laughs.) Everyone’s going to think that this [is] lame, but either way, I told my teacher, because I hadn’t finished the project yet, that, because the majority of the work was to be completed on Google Docs, [which] obviously is an online platform [that] requires internet, my internet was down and that we’d just switched, or that the repairman had had to come in, and so I wasn’t able to complete the project and I needed at least a day more. (Laughs.) I still cringe about it to this day just because, it seems silly, [but] so many people might not think greatly of it, but because of the beliefs I have as a person, it felt so wrong.

Is there anything you’re embarrassed about being a fan of?

Yeah. I think I used to be, just for a little while, embarrassed of liking 5 Seconds of Summer just because they’re almost directly associated with One Directions since they opened up for them on their tour, and it’s really how they got their name out there. Not that they’re unworthy of it, but without having been on that tour, I don’t think they would have gotten their name out quite as well, and because I used to hate One Direction and I thought fans of One Direction were petty and too “fangirly” and so on, I was a little bit embarrassed to be admitting I liked 5 Seconds of Summer. There’s bound to be other things, but I don’t think they’re worth going into right now. Nor do I remember them. (Laughs.)

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think you care what others think of you?

It’s all very dependent on [whom] the person is, but if we’re talking about the public as a whole, I’d say 9. (Laughs.) I shouldn’t care half as much as I do, let alone at all, aside from my own evaluation of how I feel and what I think of myself, but we’re being honest, and it’s the truth; I would say a 9.

What is your top priority?

There are so many things I could say [such as] being successful… I do want to have a family and things like that, but if I’m talking about a top priority, it would be making sure that, in the end, I’m ultimately happy with everything that I’ve done and that I’m happy with who I’ve known and how I went about doing whatever I have in my life, so I’d say happiness. If we want to put a title on it, the Pursuit of Happiness just because it really is something I believe in.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“We’re too young to be afraid to fly like burning doves.” [from “Burning Doves” by Mikky Ekko.] And I would say [it is] because just having a fear of what’s going to be in the future or of what I don’t know about so many things in life, or just having fear in general, whether it’s about something abstract or something concrete [and] in front of me, is a big issue, and I don’t know if it’s really that it helps me through as much as it sympathizes with how I feel.

If you were in a band, which instrument would you play?

I’m torn between [electric] bass and drums. Because I love the ripping, low sound that the bass makes, but drums are almost equally as cool for me. I respect electric [rhythm] guitar and lead guitar and so on. When I think about it, [I’d like to play] electric bass and [be] lead singer on some songs, but not the main [singer] in general.

What do you think is the most important trait a person could have?

Not that I don’t value intelligence now, but I think, just to go into a little mini history on it, I used to believe that intelligence was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, determining factor in whether I should be friends with a person or not. I used to judge people a lot on how intelligent they were, at least in comparison to how [intelligent] I thought I was and maybe how they fell on a scale. And I realized how wrong it was [at least in my eyes].

Now, I would say how [people] handle things that are thrown at them. It sounds odd and a little bit obscure, but how you go about dealing with a situation you hadn’t expected or meeting a new person; just everyday situations, the way that they go about it, and in the midst of it, how they treat other people while doing it. I would say thinking outside of yourself because when someone is all about themselves and doesn’t consider anyone else, it’s not something that I find acceptable, at least [based on] my morals.

How do you deal with disappointment?

That’s a tough question. Not well, I would say. Usually, I associate disappointment with that of it being in myself, and generally, that stems from something that I consider a failure on my part. And a lot of times, it might come with my performance in a [sports] game, or did I remember to do this type of problem on a test, or how could I have handled this situation better, or why did I say this in a conversation. I think I end up going over whatever I’m disappointed in again and again in my mind, on replay, and eventually, not that it’s a huge ordeal, it might just be for ten minutes after whatever’s happened or a while later when I actually have time to think about it, I realize that, basically, there’s nothing that I could have done to control the situation. Talking about whether it’s disappointment in someone else or myself, I have to accept that because being able to manipulate occurrences isn’t something in my power, and if I’m disappointed in that, I have to deal with it.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

There [are] different aspects of things that I see: what do I see emotionally, or what do I feel emotionally when I see myself in the mirror, and what is actually in front of me as a concrete, physical being. I think I see someone who wants to be happy and for the most part, thinks she is, who wants to be everything her parents expect, but at the same time wants to do everything she wishes in her life. I see someone who does her best with all types of relationships, whether we’re talking about platonic or romantic. I think I see someone who should be happier with herself, but isn’t for some reason. Someone who is more than what they think.

What is your greatest fear?

Maybe that I’m too safe. That even though I claim that I like spontaneity and doing things on the spur of the moment, that redundancy will become too comfortable for me, and that I’ll end up being in this safe space and thinking that anything outside of it is only going to harm me when really, anything I experience outside of it can only help me in some way or another, and that by the end of my life, I’ll look back and think, Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I talk to this person? That I’m too worried about, not physically staying safe, but feeling comfortable; that I’d have missed out on everything I thought life would be.

Can you offer any profound advice?

(Pauses.) Be open to others and their opinions and what they have to say while maintaining a balance of recognizing that opinion, etc, but staying true to what you believe in. Just because someone might have a strong argument or belief doesn’t negate yours. If you let fear and feeling intimidated by somebody else control your thoughts and beliefs, you’re not really you anymore.

We talked earlier about how much I care about what other people think. I want people not to [care so much about what others think of them]. It’s very trite to say your opinion is the only one that should matter to you, but I think it’s a very true statement. Once you get your [own] approval, [you might] wonder things like, What do my friends think of me? and you have to realize that your friends are there for a reason, that they’ll value your opinion.

As a separate piece of advice, don’t let fear rule everything, ever. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, and maybe you won’t ever really let it go or forget about it, but if you don’t at least try or rebel against it, then you’re not living, and you’re not going to be happy.

Dialogue: Gary John Edwards

It is 12:03, and I am late for my meeting with Gary John Edwards. Instead, I stand in the queue for a vending machine, alternating between gazing dreamily at the water bottle I wish to buy and bitterly at the line before me. From the window, I can spot Gary leaning against an off white stucco wall. I send him a text message along the lines of “I can see you.” He is donning a windbreaker, and now he also wears a slightly confused expression as he scans the area, searching for me. We meet up shortly and sit at a planter beneath some palm trees. The sky is a picturesque blue that would better suit a weekend or vacation day, but now it hovers above our school, mocking students and teachers alike.

How are you today?

Doing alright. Kind of tired. That’s about it.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

(Pauses.) Well, assuming I knew the language, I’d want to go somewhere foreign with a drastically different culture than what we’ve got here [in the U.S.]. It would be more enlightening, probably, about our culture and how our society’s built. There’s this book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [by Douglas Adams]; it does a great job of making fun of the way that our society and government is set up, so if I could do something like that, that’d be great.

In the event of a fire, which objects would you save first?

Let’s see… If I’m not going to get all religious, then I’d save my phone, [my] laptop, and the books I could grab.

Would you consider yourself an optimist, a realist, or a pessimist?

I would consider myself an optimist. I try really hard not to see the downsides of what’s going on. I feel confident about who I am and what I stand for which makes me feel optimistic in most of the situations I find myself in.

Is there a person you go to for guidance in matters of your daily life?

Parents are great; choice friends are sometimes great too.

What is your favorite sound?

I can tell you that it’s not any of the alarms that I’ve used over the past few years. I like the sound that my [flute] makes. Pianos are great. Music is awesome, so there’s that.

Can you name the first book title that pops up in your head?

Considering I just talked about it, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Imagine you could change one thing about the world we live in today. What would you change?

[I’d] make all of the people who have the ability to declare war and whatnot a heck of a lot nicer.

What is the last thing you lost?

(Pauses.) I don’t remember. If I had, then I wouldn’t have lost it.

Do you have an ultimate life goal?

[Jesus] Christ had some pretty good goals that you should strive for, so I’m going to say: be nice to other people.

Can you identify a life lesson that you’re still learning?

Well, I mean, there’s that one. [And] don’t be so self-centered. I get nailed for that one a lot.

How do you handle disappointment?

Depending on what it is, [I] try and avoid thinking about it [and] replace whatever I’m disappointed with, whatever hole it made, with something else that can fill that. Oftentimes, listening to religious music off of Spotify really helps. (Smiles.) If you don’t have Spotify, go and get it. I may or may not be paid to say that.

What is your greatest fear?

Ronnie Shakes has a quote that goes something like, “I fear that one day, I will meet God, and He will sneeze, and I won’t know what to say.” In all seriousness, probably being unable to communicate my ideas. I come into contact with that fear a lot, more and more recently.

Can you offer any profound advice?

Language is a really big gift that people have. Communication is really important when you’re building any kind of relationship. Use it wisely.

delta means change

Fantasies blur into
the harsh realities
that keep me up at night and
haunt me in my wildest dreams.

We are all victims of
the cure to our disease,
pushing each other down
in striving for equality.

The cause without a name,
their labels all the same.
We run in circles round the people
who will take the blame.

“Your memory’s no good.
Save it for those who could.”
But we are capable, so therefore,
we are those who should.

Dialogue: Isabelle Lightwood

The sun does not save us from discomfort; instead, it envelopes us all in its hundred degree embrace. Students wander about the campus in flocks, contributing their laughter and animated conversation to the layers of sound which compose the symphony that is lunchtime in the quad. Beside me at a table shaded by an overhang sits Isabelle Lightwood, surrounded by a group of chattering friends. We decide to brave the dry heat and take a walk.

How are you today?

Tired, but I’m okay, I guess.

If you could time travel, which year would you like to visit?

(Pause.) I don’t have a specific year, but some time in the future because the past kind of sucks for anyone [who] wasn’t a white male.

What’s the first thing you notice when meeting new people?

Their eyes, sometimes. Or if they smile at all. Their facial expressions.

If you came out with a musical album, what would you title it?

“[Isabelle’s] Half-Assed Music.” (Laughs.) I honestly don’t know.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular?

Getting married and having children, hopefully.

What are you proudest of?

(Pause.) I like to think I’m a pretty decent person, so I guess the fact that I’m genuine.

Do you have any heroes or role models?

My grandma is pretty awesome because she always puts other people before herself, and she’s super-duper smart. Also, my aunt. Even when she had cancer, she still wanted to be a nurse because she wanted to help other people.

What does the perfect day look like?

A day with no homework.

Who is your favorite author at the moment?

I really like Megan Whalen Turner. She wrote these fancy books, [and] they’re super-duper-duper good.

What is a skill you’d like to learn, and why?

I don’t know if this is something I could learn, but I wish I could be more artistic. Like, if I could draw better. Art’s really cool.

How is the person you are different from the person you would like to be?

I wish I was more outgoing and not as awkward. I would like to be more confident in myself.

How would you define a “good” or “successful” life?

Just a life where I’m happy, honestly. As long as I’m happy with my career and my family, that’s all I care about.

Do you have a life philosophy?

As long as what you’re doing is not hurting yourself or other people, physically or emotionally, then why does it matter what anyone else thinks?

What is your greatest fear?

This is really cliché, but death.

Can you offer any profound advice?

Always be yourself, and don’t ever let anyone force you into something you don’t want to do or [into being] someone you don’t want to be.