Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Extraordinary

When I was very little, I was going to be a fire truck when I grew up. That didn't pan out. Later, I decided I would be the paleontologist who discovered an unknown ancient civilization. The marine biologist who figured out how to talk to dolphins. The first pop star to win a Pulitzer prize for her song lyrics. I wouldn't say it out loud, but all my life I really did believe I was destined for something out of the ordinary.

I was a smart kid. Didn't always get the highest grades, but I was pretty… awake. Still, by fourteen, I had figured out I probably wasn't going to be talking to dolphins. So, I settled on a less flashy kind of extraordinary. Maybe I wouldn’t do extraordinary things, but I would feel extraordinary feelings. Think extraordinary thoughts. Have extraordinary ideas and desires and insights. My inner life would be spectacular.

Three months ago I bought an All-Asia Air Pass because I was 22 and still waiting for the extraordinary to kick in.


Went to Zapata's last night, an expat hang out in Shanghai. I wanted to be able to speak English again for a little while. All around me, people were talking about how moved they were by the Great Wall; how peaceful they felt rowing a boat in Taoranting Park. Saying all the things I had thought were special and private and amazing. 5000 miles, and just as ordinary as I was back in San Francisco.


So I ditched Zapata's and stumbled into this Internet café. To be here with you when the countdown hit. You get it, at least. (I don't even try to explain about llovebees to most people these days. Not exactly something you can bring up with other backpackers, all eager to tell you how touristy your trip has been compared to their way more authentic experience.)

So I sat in this café with you. Watched the first reports come in. Fast and furious. And that's when I finally got it. Right here. This. You.

You are my extraordinary. Near strangers — brilliant, kind, loud, mean, methodical, wildly creative, above all passionate. I don't agree with all of you… no surprise, you hardly agree with one another. But your energy. This community.

By sheer fluke luck, this blog has become a way station for amazing, brilliant, compassionate, crazy people. A clearinghouse for an extraordinary phenomenon. And I don't mean the AI.

I get it now. And I'm here, I'm all in.

P.S. I'm posting a summary of what we've figured out so far in the sidebar. I'll keep updating it as we learn more.