The Casual Blog

Tag: Gabe Tiller

Sleep walking, coming home, and good lies

Lately I’ve been feeling more-than-usually pleasantly aware of the world of the senses, such as fall light and colors, sounds of people walking, and even just breathing. There’s so much variation in perceptual engagement, both among people and for each person over time. I like to think yoga is helping to shift my perceptional experience towards greater engagement. But the changes are not uniform and consistent.

A dramatic case in point: I had a sleep walking experience a few nights ago. My only evidence was waking up with a badly bruised and scraped left shoulder. Seriously, I was hurt! I’d taken an Ambien, as I do now and again for insomnia, and attribute the bizarre incident to this usually reliable little helper. What did I do while in my altered state? Go to Fight Club? Could there be an outstanding warrant for my arrest? Could I defend based on lack of knowledge? Sleep walking unsettles the usual assumptions about intentional behavior and personality.

Gabe and Jocelyn Tiller flew in from Telluride, Colorado this week for a holiday. We hadn’t seen them for several months, and it was wonderful to be together again. But Gabe quickly put my fatherly affection to the test by asking for a loan of the 911 (Clara, that is) to go to Boone overnight to see an old girlfriend. I hesitated. I have feelings for Clara — if she were injured, I would be distraught. But I knew Gabe to be an excellent driver (I trained him). And I knew it would be good to share some my happiness with him. So I gave my blessing, and off they went. I experienced some separation anxiety, but Gabe brought Clara home safe and sound.

Jocelyn is blossoming. She’s gotten more blonde, and beams. Her work as a bartender seems to have enhanced her comedic skills, as well as her skill with a cocktail shaker. She made us a delicious green drink with creme de menthe for dessert.

Before and during dinner, Jocelyn, Sally, and I had a lively conversation about truth and lies. We found ourselves in agreement that absolute honesty was not only impossible, but also a bad idea. The social world as we know it depends on some degree of dishonesty. We all are taught that lying is wrong, but this is a lesson that would wreak havoc if taken literally. Could social life even continue if we always insisted on telling each other exactly what we thought of each other? In fact, there are important exceptions to the taboo against lying, Although there is no standard manual of exceptions, most of us eventually learn them. With experience and practice, we can distinguish between social lies that support and advance relationships, and those that undermine them.

Credibility and trust are vital to human relationships. The lies that undermine credibility and trust are the dangerous ones. As Jocelyn observed, it is puzzling and unsettling when one comes across an otherwise appealing person who is a habitual liar. Why don’t they see their lies as hurting themselves and others? Jocelyn theorized that this is manifestation of a mild species of sociopathy. They seem lack of empathy for others, and an unusual need for attention. Their lack of empathy and difficulty in forming human connections is distinctive, but not so dramatically so that the problem is easy to spot. I think she’s on to something.

Twenty-seven, headed down hill fast, and a note on healthy eating

Gabe Tiller at Telluride (February 9, 2011)

Gabe turned twenty-seven this week. I called to wish him a happy birthday, and felt more than usually happy myself. How wonderful to be twenty-seven! Particularly if you’re healthy, bright, athletic, good-looking, agreeable, upstanding, and employed, what could be more wonderful? Of course, that’s leaving aside all fears, insecurities, and uncertainties, of which there could be any number. But still, how marvelous to have traversed the perils of childhood and the agonies of adolescence, and stand no longer on the verge of adulthood, but actually there, strong, in your prime.

I told Gabe that it’s all down hill from here, but I was kidding. His first twenty-seven are, of course, my last twenty-seven, and I have to say that in many ways I feel healthier, more energetic, and happier than when he was born. How stressful it was to be a new parent. Also to be a grizzled veteran parent. And now, all that stress is gone! After all those years of parental anxiety and self-doubt, now he inspires me.

The picture above (which is Sally’s screen saver) reminds me of some of our skiing together the last couple of years. Even more vivid is his first POV ski video made at Telluride last March, which is exciting but I’m sure not nearly as hair-raising as the reality (such as that narrow chute). Seeing these images reminds me that I need to stay in really good shape so we can share more adventures next winter. As I mentioned to him this week, I’m thinking we should try heli-skiing (accessing backcountry powder by helicopter). He was definitely up for it.

The possibility of new adventures helps keep me focused with my continuing project to take good care of myself and eat healthy as much as reasonably possible. I’m trying to approach everyday eating in the spirit of doing a good, nourishing thing for my body — an act of kindness to my physical self. I’m steering clear of junk food, fast food, soda, and most processed food. It’s going pretty well.

Most days for breakfast I make a smoothie with dark green leafy plants (such as spinach, kale, collards, swiss chard, dandelion greens, etc.) and fruit (such as bananas and strawberries, or, this week, fresh pineapple and blueberries). In fact, I recently wore out our blender pitcher, which started leaking just outside the one-year warranty. Here’s a shout out to the good folks at Kitchen Aid, who did the right thing and agreed to replace it anyway! My smoothies are different every day and are mostly tasty (though sometimes less so — the mustard greens did not work for me) and always very green.

I’ve organized a system for addressing hunger pangs with healthy snacks such as unsalted cashews and almonds, apples, bananas, oranges, low-fat soy yogurt, and celery with peanut butter. For lunch, I typically have something like a microwave vegetarian Indian meal (Amy’s organic is good). And most nights Sally cooks a delicious vegetarian dinner, which just this week including Thai noodles with tofu (with whole wheat noodles) and Mom’s zucchini pie. She and I have gotten in the habit of having smaller portions. So my diet is mostly organic plant food of many types. I enjoy it very much.

Technology, new art forms, food, and ballet

I’m fortunate to have a ring side seat as information technology is transforming the world, but it doesn’t always look pretty. It makes me wonder, at times, whether, as machines get smarter, humans on average are becoming more and more like the race depicted in the wonderful animated picture Wall-E: fatter, lazier, and dumber. But I haven’t given up all hope, and there are some signs pointing the other direction.

A case in point: this week when my son Gabe (pictured here at Alta last week) sent along his first self-produced short video, which is here. He shot it with a tiny body cam over the course of 3 days skiing in Telluride, CO. The finished product reminded me strongly of some of the beautiful skiing we did together. It’s hard to describe the complex sensations and emotions of skiing far from away from the crowd when its steep and deep, but Gabe managed to convey some of it. The flamenco score heightens the sense of edginess — wild joy with stabs of fear.

Good skiing sometimes seems like art, almost like dance, but the work is seldom shared with other humans by the skier-creator. Until recently, filming the experience was a costly and difficult undertaking. In the past couple of years, though, video cameras have gotten much cheaper as well as tinier, and easier to use, and the software for recording and editing has become highly accessible. The tools for communicating the work instantly and almost cost-free over the internet now exist. The learning curve for use of all this technology is short. And so a new class of artist is being born — the skier-auteur. Technology advances are likewise enabling new types of musical expression, and undoubtedly many other artistic expressions. Perhaps the day will come when everyone will be an artist.

Is food art? I argued about this years ago with my friend Tom, a gourmand who took a strong position that great chefs were artists. Over the years, I’ve moved closer to his position. A great restaurant is a multi-media experience, with sets, lighting, sound, and actors, and also smells and tastes.

Last night Sally and I tried a new Thai restaurant off of Moore Square — Fai Thai. It has replaced the Duck & Dumpling, an Asian fusion spot that was one of our favorites, and that we were sad to see close. The emphasis is less on standard Thai fare than on local ingredients and variety. The decor changes involved colorful parasols and lanterns, which were engaging. The menu had fewer vegetarian options than we hoped, but enough to get started. We found the three dishes we tried each quite different and delicious. The spiciness hit the Goldilocks point — not too much, not too little. Our waiter was friendly and attentive, and the manager took some time to talk to us about the aspirations of the place. He appeared to take on board our suggestions for more attention to vegetarians. Thai food fans should try it.

After dinner, we saw the Carolina Ballet perform Carmen. This is the third time we’ve seen the company do Weiss’s ballet, which is one of our favorites in the repertory. Bizet’s music is unforgettable, and the story is sort of perfect for ballet — love, jealousy, death. For all my admiration of Peggy Severin-Hansen’s great talent, I had my doubts about her as Carmen, who is a sensual, cynical heartbreaker. Peggy’s long suit is purity and innocence — the perfect Firebird. Her Carmen was sweeter than normal, not completely cynical, but this turned out to give the tragedy a new bit of bite — more tragic in a way. Richard Krusch as the Toreador was highly serious, and convincing. He’s a fine dancer who keeps getting better. As always, the story ended with a violent shock, but the production was wonderful.