Ghost in the Machine

In 2009, a friend of mine tagged me on some kind of facebook thing where you’re supposed to list 25 things no one knows about you, or something like that. I’d forgotten all about doing this until a friend of mine posted a response to it today. I have no idea how he found it, but I’m glad he did.

1. I’ve been to Japan and all over western Europe. But it wasn’t until I traveled in India and cried in the arms of an eighty-year-old woman in a tiny village that I understood what it cost me to live in America.
2. I put on a disposable rubber glove the other day when my husband and I were cleaning out one of our cars. I looked at it on my hand and couldn’t believe he could wear them while working on cars – it was so oddly tight and uncomfortable I couldn’t hold my sponge. Then I realized I had it on backwards.

3. I once had sinusitis, strep throat, bronchitis, and scurvy at the same time. I’ve also had Epstien-Barr and dysentery (at different times). (Or I’d probably be dead.)

4. I read The Chalice and the Blade in my junior year in college because I thought it looked interesting. The idea that history is influenced most by the societal outlook from which it is studied dismantled everything I thought I knew about “objective fact.” Since then, I have been working through the bibliography of that book, and the bibliographies of those books, and so on. There is only one thing that has remained steadfast: every “fact” has more than one context. And the context can change the fact.

Calvin and Hobbes knows all

Calvin and Hobbes knows all

5. I can’t spell worth a danm.

6. I’d never lived longer than 2 1/2 years in any house until I moved to Crockett.

7. My sister was visiting us in Crockett a year ago. We were in the back yard and we kept smelling cat poop. The smell was coming and going and we were looking all over, in the yard, on the chairs, on the kids, over and over, and we couldn’t find it. Finally, mystified, we stood next to each other, our hands on our hips. I looked at her. “Hadley, it’s you.” “Gross! No it’s not!” “It is! Lift your shoe.” She lifted her shoe. There it was. It was a long time before we could draw breath.

8. I am actually quite shy. It’s hard for me to talk to people I don’t know and I sometimes get a stomachache before I go over to people’s houses.

9. I went into my boss’s office in Atlanta, Georgia, to tell her I had some news. She said she had some news, too. I told her to go first. She said she wanted to send me to Greece, with a free apartment and a car, for four years and possibly indefinitely to teach her staff English. My news was that I was moving back to California because I had gotten back together with my boyfriend. I sat in a cafe for a long time before I remembered that, in the movies, they always pick the career, and they’re always wrong.

10. I like to drive fast. Really fast. But I don’t anymore, unless . . . I’m in the right context.


11. I subbed at a high school in a tiny Southern town for a semester. On the first day, in my first class, all my African American students sat on the right, there were two empty rows, and all my white students sat on the left. This happened in the second and third classes as well. In the fourth class, I asked them, “Does anyone see anything weird about how you’re sitting?” They had no idea what I was talking about. They also had an African American prom court and a white prom court. They didn’t see anything weird about that, either. It was then I realized “weird” carries no inherent moral judgment – it means “not what I do.”

12. I toured the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Afterwards, I sat in a small cafe, staring at my lunch. I looked up and realized I was on the same street I had seen in a picture in her house, where a Nazi parade had passed through, filling the street with tanks and infantry. I looked from building to building, seeing where the Nazi flags had fluttered in the breeze. I started crying. The cafe owner came and put his arm around me and gave me my lunch for free.

13. I really love playing jacks.

14. I felt lonely throughout high school. I knew a lot of people but I wasn’t really close to anyone, except a few boyfriends. One of my ex-boyfriends, one I would have expected to understand me the least, wrote in my yearbook – “Courtney, Courtney, Courtney . . . we all call you friend and yet, I feel like none of us ever really knew you.” It blew me away. So much so that, even though I lost that yearbook long ago, I can still remember what he wrote.


15. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now I am. Tonight I was playing “Sympathy for the Devil” and it felt great.

16. When the sky and earth, gods and mortals, come together, when all the people that should be there are, something else arises, and that is a thing thinging. Heidegger got that right.

17. Socrates’s words “Anyone can be angry. The trick is to be angry at the right time, in the right way, in the right amount, for the right reason, and at the right person” are the work of a lifetime. Or more.

18. I still remember where I was when I heard Kurt Cobain had killed himself.


watercolor by michael tompsett

19. On our first date, my husband raced a Camero over the Richmond/San Rafael bridge. When I peeked over his shoulder, the bike’s speedometer was pegged out at 120 miles an hour. Two years later, riding through the desert on our way to Colorado, he did the same thing. A fighter jet, headed in for a landing at Fallon, wagged its wings at us.

20. On that same trip, we stopped in Green River, Utah, for dinner. We were in black leather and my hair was burgundy. The server came up and asked us what we’d like. He said, “I’d like a beer.” Silence descended on the tables around us. “We don’t serve alcohol,” the server said. He stared at her for a moment, then looked back down at his menu. “Allllllrighty then!” We laughed so hard we cried.

21. Just about everything I thought was true about myself I’ve found to be wrong.

22. I majored in Philosophy at Berkeley because I wanted to learn wisdom. I didn’t find wisdom. I found knowledge. But over time, I’m learning how to turn that knowledge back into wisdom. One of the first steps was understanding the difference between these two things.

note what comes between knowledge and wisdom. i would add "empathy" to understanding.

note what comes between knowledge and wisdom. i would add “empathy” to understanding.

23. I have a small stone carving that is over one thousand five hundred years old. I hold it in my hand and feel it weigh me down.

24. One time, while looking at pictures taken on Mars, I was thinking that it looked like the desert here. I stared at the horizon – at the endless expanse of sand and rock – and I realized I was filling it with human things just out of sight. Over the next hill there was a gas station, a highway, a sage bush. I realized that beyond that hill was another hill, and another one, and another one, and there was never going to be a road, or a gas station, or sage. I saw the miles and miles of nothing and something in me cracked, and for a moment, I touched the infinite existence of a world which does not mark the passage of “time”. I was swallowed by the endless silence in which no voice, human or otherwise, exists. The land in the picture expanded in every direction and everything – every known thing – in my life disappeared.

There is a vastness that exists independent of us and is almost beyond our comprehension to imagine without going insane. Such sacred ferocity is not a thing to be trespassed upon lightly.


25. I am The Stig.

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