I’ve cracked the code.
Well two codes, actually. Maybe even three.
One: ABBA’s songs aren’t just goofy fun, they are melancholy at the core. “Waterloo” is absurdist, but trenchant too. Consider these damning lyrics behind that up beat:
The history book on the shelf/Is always repeating itself
Two: I had a DMZ in me long before I went to South Korea — before my colleague Carolyn was murdered by our mutual friend. This is both a troublesome and redemptive realization. The trick is to relish and relinquish the paradox.
I am divided by the world as well as my place in it. And that demarcation line keeps changes. As soon as I jump over it, there’s a new one waiting to define me.
I was a swimmer for 20 years, then suddenly I wasn’t. I sought out ways to get my adrenaline fix on land. Those early efforts were fairly clumsy. I am more sure-footed these days though no less awkward.
I was a drinker for 35 years, and then not-so-suddenly, I’m sober. Un-buoyed by booze, I’ve had to stare down old and new anxieties. Like ABBA’s songs, I’ve found myself to be remarkably morose behind my big grin. But my unhappiness is often very ridiculous and hilarious.
As I near 50 — the great half-mark of life — I’m glad to be on this side of a lot of things. One that thing that won’t change, and never has, is my desire to see how people on the other side of the world are coping with their own ambiguities.
Armed with coffee and angst, I plan to keep up the paces and investigation until something slows me down. I’ve managed to navigate away from alcoholism, but I’m not so sure I’ll escape Alzheimer’s. I feel a heaviness and a blur in my brain function that wasn’t there before. It feels like an anchor pulling me under waves of thought. But I’ll go on because that what’s people everywhere do.
Funny that I spent the first half of my life trying to drown my sorrows and I may spend the second half trying to remember them. That may be the real 38th Parallel in me.
Even though I refused to believe it for three decades, South Korea showed me the meaning of courage: How to get on with life despite its harsh divides; and, how sometimes the best you can do is call a ceasefire on the wars that bind you.
Funnier still is that I’m finally facing my Waterloo here, in the Middle East. ABBA’s song scoring my final days and thoughts in Abu Dhabi. Although it’s not unusual to come to this part of the world looking for hope and finding yourself. Moses did. Jesus did. Lawrence did. Heck, even Napolean found comfort with Cleopatra in Egypt. There are answers here for questions you don’t even have.
So where next, Bercaw? I have decided on a travel destination to celebrate my 50th birthday and all the discrepancies that come with life on either side of that age.
A location half way between continents. A place where sailors took up life on land. Where hot water bubbles up in cold temps.
Code name: 64°08′N 21°56′W