8 08 2009


My trip to the DMZ was sobering and scary. Imagine signing a waiver that says you you can be killed or tortured. No guarantees. And knowing that two journalists are locked up in a North Korean jail (I went the day before Clinton arrived to free them) doesn’t ease your mind. But I wanted to see North Korea, so I signed the waiver and hopped on the military bus after listening to all the warnings: Don’t wave or point or make any sudden movements in the direction of the North Korean guards. No taking photos in certain places. Stay together in a group.

So I stepped into North Korea inside the building where it was allowed. Then we were herded outside to stand on the steps of a building where we could stare at the North Korean soldiers who were staring at us. One had binoculars trained on us, another a gun. And I had the uncontrollable urge to wave. But I didn’t. I also had a strong desire to step across the concrete barrier no higher than a speed bump and set foot in forbidden territory. I resisted that urge too, but I truly wanted to do it. If I’d known Clinton was coming the following day, I might have. So I was herded back into the bus and driven to other points where I could “see” North Korea, but that’s not the same as experiencing it.

I guess that’s why the writer in me is disappointed. Seeing is not doing. Tasting, feeling, touching–that’s where the real joy in writing comes from. I didn’t fill the deep well within that longs for sensory detail. But I suppose I can imagine what the inside of a North Korean jail is like. Or maybe I can’t. And perhaps that’s just as well.

I’m Off…

13 07 2009

My itinerary has changed, so I’m off to San Francisco much sooner than I’d planned. Now I must rush around and get ready to take off early Tues. morning. I thought I’d have a lot more time to get things done. Instead, I’ll need to squeeze a ton of chores into a short time span.

Whenever I have lots of time, I get little done. Conversely, when I’m pressed for time, I usually manage to accomplish an almost superhuman amount of work. Hmmm… If there were a way to put myself under practically impossible deadlines every day, would I get all those tasks on my to-do list done? Or would I collapse with a heart attack or stroke?

My procrastination stems from a habit I developed in school. I hated homework, so I avoided it until the last minute. I often did it in the class before it was due. And I never started term papers until after midnight when they were due that morning. I usually studied for tests by going to class a few minutes early and asking one of the studious early birds what questions they thought would be on the test. They were almost always right. And I’d had a refresher on the answers shortly before the test started so I generally aced the exam.

Now that I’m older, you’d think I’d have learned to use time more wisely. My freelance writing life has become rather predictable. I know, for example, that from mid-December to early February, things are slow. But from May to August, it’s hectic. So why did I ignore my own writing during the winter months and plan an extended trip during the busiest months of the year?? And why did I decide to start a new business at the same time? Am I crazy? A glutton for punishment? Or is this my subconscious’s attempt to force me to get a lot of work done? Hmmm… that subconscious may be much trickier than what I thought.