"Siberia 2007" story # 5

Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA           March 21, 2007

Once I'd returned safely from that epic eight-day Spain trip, to my home and my mom and bed, the black airport gunk soon left my lungs and I stopped coughing. And I shaved off the beard I'd grown to go to Algeria with.
     Beautiful, deep, fluffy, white snow covered all the green areas of my city. (And there are a lot of those, because people in Grand Rapids, Michigan - in comparison to foreign cities - live very, very, very spread out. Even poor families live in houses with yards.) One day, snow was dropping profusely all day as if a big duck had exploded into little stars, and I went out in our huge yard and sat up amidst a pine tree's branches and had my breath taken away, meditating.
     February: what a month! Sorting through a mess of phone numbers I'd gotten while waiting tables late- night at Steak'n'Shake, I called people to hang out. But ... if it wasn't for my good ol' best friend, Chris Gray, I practically wouldn't have hung out with anybody. There was no one to go ice skating with. No one to go snowboarding with. No one to provide Chris and I with a third for sled football, or even cards. At least my Grandpa Breen and I went ice fishing.
     The people I telephoned were eager to talk to me for hours and hours, but getting together in person was another thing. I've often thought: people in Grand Rapids, Michigan live too far apart from each other. It's easier to walk and meet a friend in a tiny town in the Czech Republic, for example, than to drive fifteen or twenty-five minutes to meet someone in Michigan.
     -- Interjection: while in college, I developed the theory that complaining was a sign of stupidity, because it meant the person wasn't smart enough to make life what he wanted it to be. Maybe I was overlooking something. Maybe I was calling the wrong people? Maybe Americans value work over fun? Maybe Chris and I should just do everything as a two-some? ha ha. Maybe I should do like a lot of single Grand Rapidsians and smoke a joint or drink four beers each day so I forget about wanting to do something real with someone? --
     Any way, each day I didn't play sled football killed me. And, a good social life had been the basis for my coming home. What to do?
     I didn't want to just give up and leave. I loved the people of Grand Rapids. Many of them are friendly, with good senses of humor. The city's people don't put up many fences - which is a sign of a good place. Amidst those damned private yards are a lot of public parks, with baseball fields and basketball courts - though, they're mostly empty due to video games and tv.
     This called for a - dah dah duh da! - revolution: more specifically, a "Romantic Revolution." Dah dah da ...

"To be a revolutionary is the greatest expression of love." - Che Guevara

I buried myself in heavy clothes, grabbed a hundred "Romantic Revolution" flyers my mom had printed for me, rode a bus downtown to the colleges, and began recruiting.
     This was a big step for me. It took a lot of confidence to go and stand there and spread a new idea to strangers. But, I was proud, and I envisioned good things to come.
     Presumably - interested people would read the flyer, call me, join a philosophical social experiment (based on the principles of the "Romantic Revolution") that aimed to bring people together, with virtually no commitment, and go on living their mostly normal - but freer and less selfish - lives. Unfortunately, though I handed out 130 flyers to clearly very interested people in two days of recruiting, we didn't get past the "call me" part. Zero strangers called me.
     But, oh well, I was excited! This was why I'd traveled, why I'd studied people and life and happiness in so many places. I could barely sleep at night, I kept thinking of new strategies to utilize to get the social experiment begun. And once it was begun, people around us would see our happiness and join too. Grand Rapids was gonna be a better place!
     ... but, then, a dark shadow entered the room. My dad came back from vacation. And when he found out I'd ignited a revolution under his roof, he was mad. He had reluctantly given his okay to the proposed social experiment in the past, but now - while it was at its beautiful, lofty peak - he forebade it. For, he not only didn't support revolutions, he ate them.
     -- Interjection: Why was I in my parents' house at age twenty-seven? Firstly, I like my parents - though they don't understand me. Secondly, I was dependent on their car. But ...... I was at precisely this time teaching myself how to get around Grand Rapids without a car. And, I planned to move out on my own once I saw that the "Romantic Revolution" was feasible in Grand Rapids and it'd be worth my staying. --
     With my fatherīs forbiddance, the wind was out of my sails. The bubble was burst. To coin a phrase: my dinosaur's neck was broken. I could've halted the experiment, moved out on my own, and then re-started it, but I lacked the personal energy and outside support to consider this an attractive option. Instead, I would consider my greater options and probably move to another part of the world. Not only was I crushed, but all those zero other members of the revolution were probably pretty crushed too.
     The proposed revolution was probably hurt by those long, spread-out Grand Rapids distances - which are counter-productive to bringing people together. Not much revolution-making experience was gained, but something was probably learned. The revolutionary "Romantic Revolution" isn't as appealing to the average American as I'd thought; it needs people who 1. strongly value personal freedom and integrity, and 2. prioritize the greater good of the community (which, in clear reality, is the best thing a person can do for his own good).
     I'll end by saying something good about Grand Rapids: that its nightlife is a blast. Two nightclubs innocently hop to "80's Night" on two different days, dancing to David Bowie, Prince, Madonna, The Violent Femmes, and Billy Idol. Cool cats strut and bounce to young Michael Jackson or Marvin Gaye at "70's Funk Night." Elsewhere, live bands entertain loyal fans, and salsa nights or tango lessons bring gliding couples together elegantly. Open and un-biased people meet new people easily on these nights.
     ... But, I'm not sticking around this time.

peace and love and togetherness,
Justin Breen

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