April 2003: Alienation

It’s ironic that the month I lose all my real life college friends, and then some, I get an invite to Friendster:

“It’s hotter than yam…. cooler than icb. Check it out. How are you? What’s
up? Do you still hang out at the cafe on cole? I was thinking of dropping by
there do some writing.” That’s what a friend wrote on my invite.

March of 2003 began a pattern of losing friends in a negative way that didn’t really stop until 2008.

Writing now, I see that I didn’t support all that killing. I was alienated and alone. I didn’t have anybody to really hang out with during the day.

I was frustrated. I would go to all these cafes and talk to all these people and never really made a connection. I had been back for a year, and didn’t even have a girlfriend. I felt worthless, but seeing things philosophically made me feel invaluable. I felt a toxic combination of self-aggrandizement and self-loathing. If only someone understood me.

All my college friends that I held dear no longer talked to me. They gave me a chance to recant, but I didn’t. Why? Because if I did, it wouldn’t change the alienation that I felt. It wouldn’t change the fact that maybe they weren’t real friends.

In this depressed sort of mood, I took a job that I no longer felt beneath me, working at a copy center making copies of documents and CDs. Let’s face it. I needed the money. I had squandered the year pretending to be a writer and really had nothing to show for it except a few poems and one review of the Yoko Ono exhibit in print.

Looking back, I sort of regret all the idealism. It was misplaced. If instead of pursuing philosophy and poetry, I pursued building the website of my dreams, I would’ve been rich now. But I am pretty sure I would have inherited a different set of problems….

The new, menial job was the kind of place where you got hazed. I got spit in my coffee. They loved playing practical jokes on me. You’d never know that I worked with some of the best coders in the world when I lived in Italy.

March 2003: Iraq Invasion and Friends Lost

If you’ve wondered why I don’t hang out with friends from my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz (or rather why they don’t hang out with me), the Iraq War and the disagreements with alumni is why.

I won’t recant my opinions in the face of left wing pressure in San Francisco. But I also lament the fact that so many innocent civilians have died. I have family and friends who are Moslem, so don’t lecture me on being detached from it.

You can always identify a free thinker: no friends if any because his or her version of truth is chosen over personal gain.

This is the email I sent to in reply to a call to protest and oppose the war in Iraq:

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2003 03:04:00 -0500
From: barce
To: UCSC Alumni, Berkeley Bicyclists and Soon-to-be-ex-friends
Subject: Re: Fwd: [Berkeleymass] CALLING ALL BICYCLISTS!

Why should I oppose a war that intends to free 24 million Iraqis
from tyranny? Simply because those in charge are doing the right
thing for the wrong reasons?

Personally, I think all the protests have been useless spectacles,
and that the left has been more reactionary than pro-active since
the Reagan Era. For the most part, I’m pretty disappointed in the
intolerance and unwillingness to compromise that the left breeds.
There isn’t any united discourse or common metaphors that unites
the left in a way that is compelling and meaningful as the right.

What has been appealing to me as far as politics on the right goes
is this: lower taxes, moral clarity, and an acceptance of the United
States as both Empire and Police Man of the World. The right’s emphasis
on winning greatly appeals to me, and I’m pretty sick of being on a
losing side.

I know a lot of your feel alienated. What better way to get over
that than by joining the winning side.

If you don’t want to be a loser, you won’t go out and protest on
your bicycles. Instead you should cut loose, go to a sports bar
and watch the war: More booze, more booty and more fun.

Yours truly,
A free thinker

PS I’ve read Howard Zinn, and I’ve read tons of Chomsky,
too. I’m a San Francisco native, who went to UCSC and has heard it all.
Plus, some of you know me as a bridge biker, so please don’t
think I’m in need of your special leftist enlightenment.

February 2003: Nothing Like the Coast

Nothing like the coast
To tie the land and the sea,
To manage the soil’s daily greed…
To greet the pounding
the sounding
The rush, crush, crash and fall for every wave.

Far away from the coast
There is no in
That can be thought
Defeated sinks so easily.

The coast remembers everything,
Who has drowned, or been floundered,
Yet it has no permanent measure
Like an ever shifting interpretation of an ancient myth
Sung new.
Morning and evening tide.

Music: Don’t Know Why by Nora Jones

January 2003: Who stops partying after New Year’s Eve?

The first weeks of 2003 are a blur to me. We didn’t stop partying for quite a few weeks.

This was a party invite typical of the time because not everybody was using Evite yet:


A VERY happy new year to all of you, and here’s to hoping that all ya’ll have frighteningly fine 2003s.

This here’s to let you know that there will be a party at my house on Friday night, JANUARY 3rd, 2003. this party is primarily to celebrate the birthday of my roommate St. Matthew Arnone, whom some of you may know, but it is also Tim “Rex” James’ day d’naissance & if neither of those events tickles your fancy, it’s strategically planned for three days AFTER the inevitable New Year’s Eve hangover has dissipated into the realm of already-forgotten “I’ll never drink again” promises.

The party will be at my house:
[address deleted]
and start, you know, at night.

It’s somewhat BYOB: we’ll have a little, but we’re all pretty poor. The other essential piece of information for you to know is: it’s in theory a formal party, so put a tie/dress/your personal notion of “formal” on and prepare to launch inebriation.

RSVP if you care to, and bring WHOMEVER. This is short notice, so I’ve no idea what sort of posse might be rounded, but it’s destined to be a good time so

in any case, here’s hoping ya’ll are feeling hale, and keep in touch!
rev. b

I wrote this on January 4th, 2003:

“Last night at Brandon’s party, I danced w/a beautiful woman in a black slip dress that draped wonderfully over her perfect hourglass body. I couldn’t help myself. My eyes locked with hers, and without ever speaking a word, or even knowing her name, soon we were dancing with each other. Her body molded itself into my legs & torso and we moved together joined that way for quite some time.”

“Her name is Tasha and she was a professional dancer for 4 years. She danced as a ballerina in the San Francisco ballet. She injured herself and hasn’t danced for a few years. Her favorite ballet is Profokiev’s Romeo & Juliet. She belted out the music for the entry of the knights for me. I tossed and turned in my bed last night. I woke up in the middle of the night… Her presence at the party was like some sort of grace, a gift… Her look was passionate, fierce, and sure of itself…”

I never saw her again. I kicked myself for not getting her contact info. I asked everywhere about her.

For the rest of January, I went on a bunch of random dates. It felt like people were just going out in January for the sake of not being alone in February.

December 2002: Reductionism is Monochromatic

I wrote this in my journal on Christmas:

‘Hegel is more poet than philosopher. He calls reductionism thought that “culminates in a style of painting that is absolutely monochromatic.” (Phenomenology of Spirit, 31) Reductionism has lifeless determinations, but the universe is a living thing. No, it is more than a thing. Whatever the universe is, it is alive.’

This beautiful thought was my Christmas present to myself. To me it means that a philosophy that is worthwhile and meaningful has many colors. Science is one color; poetry and music are other colors.

November 2002: Opera

Music: Die Meistersinger
Book: Aristotle’s Ethics

The first opera I saw was not my favorite opera. I was hoping to get some sort of ecstatic experience out of it, but the whole time I was listening to “Die Meistersinger” in Covent Garden, London, I thought, “I need to get a job. I need to get a job.” That’s basically the message of the opera, so ya, the genius of Wagner at work.

London wasn’t exactly fun. I went out a few nights, got into a few random conversations, but didn’t make any connections.

Like any large city, if you can’t unlock its secret handshake within a few days, it’s really not worth the bother. You move on… in my case, I went up to Manchester…

I returned back from London feeling that I needed to find some sort of work, something that I was passionate about and that would pay the bills.

October 2002: Planning for Travel

Reverse culture shock hit me. I was so happy to be back home, but now I was starting to see things I didn’t like. Unemployment sucked, especially since I didn’t qualify for any. Also, the wonderful social life I was hoping to have never came to fruition. I thought that by really spending the time to pursue my passions I’d have awesome people to hang out with, but I found myself reading alone a lot in different cafes. Sure I had my Tuesday nights with Spinoza’s Coat, but during the day, when most people worked, there was nobody to hang out with.

I started taking Greek lessons from Ken Quandt with about half of Spinoza’s Coat. He gave such an awesome description about Wagner’s Die Meistersigner and how it’d give balance and meaning to life as well as rock my world. His description was so awesome, that I booked a flight to the only place in the world performing it: London. My flight would leave in November.

Books: Aristotle’s Politics
Music: Fallin’, Alicia Keys — so nails my love and not-so-much love for San Francisco

September 2002: 10 Year Critical Mass Anniversary

Things that happened in September of 2002:

  • The 10 year anniversary of Critical Mass
  • 1 year after 9/11
  • Benjamin Hollander reads his “film noir” poem, “Levinas and the Police,” on the 22nd.

I don’t recall exactly what the turn of phrase in the poem was that I liked so much but it went something like this:

Levinas said it.
You cannot plan it.
Raison d’etre. Tibet.

For the 10 year anniversary I brought a bouquet of daisies to give out to cyclists.

August 2002: A Mentor Dies

It was really hard for me to right this one. It was a busy month. I started dating again. I started working again doing Perl work for $15 an hour. Yes, the web industry crashed that bad. A mentor of 5 years, Hal Sarf, passed away from cancer.


  • The Symposium
  • The Phaedrus
  • Aristotle’s Politics

On-line dating sucked so bad this month that I swore it off forever. One of the last things Hal taught me before he died was how to get a number from a waitress, which impressed me from a 68 year old.

Also, if it wasn’t for Hal, I wouldn’t’ve gotten to meet Richard Rorty. His lecture on why Hegelian language can do nothing for social justice really impressed me. He read a newspaper clipping about a Jacquard loom worker who died and left his family in abject poverty and then went on to read some Hegelian non-sense about the progressive march of history towards the wellspring of Being. Okay, I’m convinced. Obscurantism in philosophy is a crime.

July 2002: Milk and Cookies

For my birthday, I had just milk and cookies. It was interesting to see who was “struggling” because they seriously needed booze to have a good time and folks who really enjoyed the occasion.

Money worries started to creep in, so me and a pal got it into our heads to drive to Reno and bet $20 on black jack. If we won, we’d stay, but if not, we’d drive back. We drove back.