Tara sat on the floor in the corner of a little restaurant in Greenwich Village. Carmen walked in and saw her sitting there. She laughed and sat at the table next to her. She crossed her legs and looked at a menu. “Hello, Tara,” she said. “I’ve got to get out of here,” said Tara. […]
So damn bright these days in the morning. My life is a calm and tepid puddle somewhere in the unused parking lot of a superannuated mental hospital.
If I could be excited about anything right now, I would be excited about being a part of Conceited Crusade. I was sure I’d slipped from one bizarre dream into the next when I was awoken by one of the world’s last great bloggers, the inimitable and elusive Fred Colton. I wasn’t even angry that he drank the last of the bottle of Don Papa I had been clutching in my sleep.
He wiped his mouth and tossed the bottle into the pile in the corner. “Babe says you’re OK.”
“Yeah? Haven’t heard from her in a while.” I tried to reconcile Fred’s tuxedoed aura against the funereal closet I apparently treated as a bedroom. “Is it Friday night already?”
“Clean up this mess,” he suggested, pointing at me. “Give me a call.” He handed me a card.
It smelled like fermented cologne. I looked up at him.
“Nevermind that,” he said. “Chicks dig it.”
There’s the part of the winter day where you feel good about the day and then there’s that other part where you feel bad. How to break the cycle? The cycle goes something like this: you wake up, you feel good, especially if you can go back to sleep; you wake up again, you feel ok, if you went back to sleep you feel maybe less good, maybe lazy; you do something for the morning, you feel good, plenty of time to do something else; you hit the afternoon and you feel like god damn it there goes another day; it gets dark outside, and you melt into a morose puddle somewhere in your apartment until you decide to watch TV because fuck it, take a nap because really what am I going to do, watch fucking TV?, drink, because you deserve it, or go outside because there’s something you were actually supposed to do and you somehow managed to put on clothes; at the end of the day depending on what you did in the worse part of the day, you feel bad or drunk; you go to sleep, you feel good if only because you’re in bed again.
I actually did everything I ever wanted to do in life today, which is read and write. I wrote for three hours on that essay I recommended to you yesterday. But even so, I knew this moment would come. The dreadful afternoon, where everything sucks, I am a worthless pile of atoms, and outside the window and inside my atoms, the gray is darkening into nothing.
I will write again later, I hope, on what I learned by reading deeply through this essay, which as it turns out was not as well written as I thought. I’m not saying it wasn’t worth reading, especially for me, but it wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve read this year, and it’s only been fourteen days. So.
But I just wanted to say before I left this damnable gray box of an apartment for some damnably cold brown one room coffee shop, that the predictable ennui of a long day inside has yet to deter me from trying have a perfect day inside. I wish I could give it up, but by the end of the day, I will realize that this bad part only lasts for half of it, and I have progressed in writing in reading in ways I could not have if I had spent the morning preparing to have a better late afternoon.
Anyway, see you in a couple three hours [sic].
How can you reconcile bitter disappointment over trivial things with a zest for life and an attitude of gratitude?
You can’t, that’s the whole point.
In that case fuck a zest for life and that other cliche.
Wrong choice, dude.
Shut up, dude.
Well, I’m leaving for now. I’ll come back when you’ve had something to drink.
Wow you found the high ground fast. You’re pathetic. Just because you’re not here doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for what happens.
Then make the right choice, keep me around. Fuck disappointment. Disappointment comes from expectations. Since when have your expectations been a reasonable guide for what happens in your life?
Well, I think you bring up a good point, about expectations, and the Tao Te Ching and all of that. But, you know, we tried doing that shit before and we just ended up here. Broke. We need uppers, we need caffeine, we need to get active. We need to improve, compete, evolve, do, act, go, accomplish. We need money.
Some of that is compatible with a Taoist perspective, right? I mean, as far as we understand taoist philosophy.
There’s always a disclaimer with you. Fuck man, can’t you just say something without…
Alright, focus, dude, because attacking my rhetoric isn’t going to get us anywhere.
Alright first of all, bro, we’re not attacking your rhetoric.
Look, just answer the question.
Letting go of control doesn’t mean you stop being active.
Sounds like it does to me.
It doesn’t have to, right?
I don’t know, just fucking tell me already, Christ why do i have to agree with everything? Just tell me what the fuck you think, good fucking Christ I’m going to agh fuck. Alright. So what are you saying? We should go read the Tao Te Ching again? That’s what you’re suggesting?
How much coffee did you drink?
Now who’s slowing us down with shit that doesn’t matter?
Huh? Nevermind. Look here’s what I’m saying. You’re sitting in bed. You just made this bed. It’s fucking sweet. There are a hundred things that brought you here, but none of them are good or bad. Some of them may be important or instructional, but they don’t need to effect the way you feel right now. You acted today, accomplished what you needed to accomplish, there is nothing more for you to do today, and there’s no reason to be angry or disappointed. You’ve done all you could, and however anyone or anything acts because of or in spite of those actions isn’t something you control. So let it go. Act again tomorrow.
Alright I guess that makes sense. But what happens if we start letting everything go? Like we did last time? Who’s going to pay our student loan then?
I don’t know man. Don’t fuck it up, I guess. Just do what you’re supposed to do every day. Be better. Spend less. What do you want me to tell you? We’re in debt. A lot of it. But keeping working and we’ll be out of it in twenty or thirty years. Anyway, what’s the point? Why even struggle to get out of debt or whatever? What are you even going to buy? Is it going to make you happy? What’s the point of any of this shit?
Oh, hold on…shit. Now I’m depressed.
Yep. Depressed as fuck. Nothing matters.
God damn you. God damn me and God damn this horrible meaningless universe.
Dude, fuck this. Let’s get that drink.
It was a cold black morning in the northern hemisphere on an island created by a volcano. In those days it was always cold and black in the morning and there was a man who tended to the ashes of last night’s fire. He came around before you’d wake up, your feet were exposed near him and he would cover them with a thick scratchy blanket. His mother had given him the blanket before she died. She died a horrific death.
You wouldn’t want the blanket, you’d leave notes for the man, “Please, keep your blanket for yourself.”
But the man would never listen. He didn’t want you to die, for some reason, maybe because if you did, he’d be out of a job. And his mother had died from a case of cold feet, or that’s what he’d been told. He’d taken it literally, basically because he was a little slow in the head, and that’s why the only job he could get was tending the ashes of your old fire.
You’d wake up to a roaring fire and a scratchy death blanket.
You don’t remember that you watched TV for hours every night. That you squandered all those free nights on TV and arguments. That you came up with weird plans for writing that took everything into account but actually writing shit down. That you got hot with alcoholic headaches, that you ran after busses and stayed in bed and had sex in the afternoons.
A few people in those times went willy-nilly into the night like dragon faced gargoyles with no self respect. They came back later to confirm their dental appointments. One of the guys was experiencing the sensation of chewing on nails whenever he drank fruit smoothies.
But maybe that happened to everyone eventually. Maybe that was the point of it all, to realize your capacity for savagery, and to take steps to end your life before it all got too damn depressing and you found yourself sleeping on a pile of dead cats.
I dreamed of a coffeehouse full of toys and couldn’t find a place to return my dirty dishes and when I did they had all become screws and it was necessary to sort them into specific compartments. I dropped them on the floor and a fluffy white dog went to eat them so I picked them up but they multiplied like hydra heads and my wife was waiting outside with arugula in her hair.
Yesterday I went to Central Park for the first time since moving here. My good friend came with me and we stopped at a mini book fair on the way. He bought a book of Japanese Poetry and I wished I could commit to reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I couldn’t commit because here in my apartment sit a small detachment of my army of books, the rest of which I’ve locked in storage on Fulton Street in East New York, and I’ve decided not to move until I’ve read all of them.
Good Friend found a copy of On the Road and handed it to me and I remembered why I haven’t read either Good Omens or Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. It’s because I keep rereading On the Road and Catch 22.
We walked through the park for about half an hour, took some pictures and threw a few loose quarters at a guy playing an Erhu. There were two guys actually, in separate parts of the park, but the first sounded like a train derailment shrouded in sackcloth and ashes.
Then we walked out of the park and I said, “I’m unimpressed.”
Good Friend said he thought it was great but I could tell he thought it was good.
We walked up the west side of the park looking for a bodega to get some stakeout coffee without realizing that we were in the one place in the world least likely to contain a bodega. This fact became apparent after a few blocks and I looked at the map on my phone to find a more likely location.
We were surprised to see that the blue dot indicated we had covered only about one percent of Central Park. Richard Feynman said, “Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deep enough.” Gordon Flanders said, “Walk around dispassionately. Nearly everything is really a waste of time if you go into with the right attitude.”
Fuck the dumb shit man it’s time to get active. Easy to get pissed off when you’re drinking whiskey and reading other people’s success stories so fuck em let em read their own shit. I’d rather read about other people’s depression.
I’m getting back in the “I’m going to write shit for money” mood so I am writing a lot today. I wrote a lot yesterday, too, so that’s a writing spree right there.
When I was walking through the city yesterday on my way from one job to the next, I was thinking about that bitch at work who always yells at me for some dumb shit. And then I realized I shouldn’t think about that bitch on my own time so I didn’t. I also realized I should stop thinking about shit while I’m walking through the city and think about walking through the city instead and I’ve wanted to live here for a while so might as well enjoy it.
The city smells like shit and when I woke up this morning my apartment smelled like shit because Sister fed her cat and cat food smells like shit. But fuck it, it was a good morning. I saw a three piece mariachi band on the subway yesterday.
I didn’t even drink yesterday. I came home and went to get beer and ended up in the shower and then my ass was sleep. I guess a byproduct of waking up early but I think the whole thing is I’m ready to write some shit down that forms a cohesive pattern. Some kind of story.
Robert McKee, who until recently I only know from that movie Adaptation, says in his book Story:
Mere occurrence brings us nowhere near the truth. What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.
I never thought I gave a shit too much about truth but I think I just had the wrong idea about the definition.
A certain amount of dreaming is good, like a narcotic in discreet doses. It lulls to sleep the fevers of the mind at labor, which are sometimes severe, and produces in the spirit a soft and fresh vapor which corrects the over-harsh contours of pure thought, fills in gaps here and there, binds together and rounds off the angles of the ideas. But too much dreaming sinks and drowns. Woe to the brain-worker who allows himself to fall entirely from thought into revery! He thinks that he can re-ascend with equal ease, and he tells himself that, after all, it is the same thing. Error!
Thought is the toil of the intelligence, revery its voluptuousness. To replace thought with revery is to confound a poison with a food.
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
I have been reading Les Miserables and I am a little over halfway through now. It is the first book that I downloaded on my iPhone back at the beginning of August. It is 9,000 iPhone pages long.
I think I have been confusing thought and revery for a long time. I never really want to think about anything because thinking is working and I strive to avoid working.
Today I want to create a post with substance. Something that is actually useful, enlightening, or at the very least interesting.
My underlying life goal has always been financial independence. At times I have wanted exorbitant amounts of money and a enough material possessions to embarrass a shah, at other times I have wanted only enough to not be forced to do anything against my will (e.g. go to work). No matter what form it’s taken, it’s been there all along, even as far back as my earliest memories.
At the same time, I’ve always written. I was always told I was a good writer. I won contests and I enjoyed writing. I tried to write many books throughout elementary school. I always wrote more than the required amount. The first time I tried to write a book was when we were assigned to write a little story about a picture. I turned it into a novel length project about a man who travels to every country. Of course I never finished or even got close.
Currently I am in the midst of one of the best financial seasons of my life. I am earning decent money and I have nothing major to save up for (e.g. wedding, honeymoon, move). If I stay on this track, by this time next year I’ll be in the highest cotton I have ever seen.
I guess I am trying to nail down why I am not dancing with happiness all the time. I am trying to put into words a conflict between the good things in my life and the bad feeling in my head.
I read these articles once in a while about self published authors who make a lot of money and I always think, I could do that. And then I don’t do it and that makes me question whether I even care about being a writer. And then when I get lazy about even thinking, about writing anything that’s not right on the top of my head, I really question whether I like writing at all, or if I am just trying to use what people have told me I do well to accomplish my overarching life goal of financial independence.
The Hugo quote at the start of this article put this internal conflict in focus for me today. I fancy myself a thinker, but I’m really more of a dreamer, a day dreamer. I like staring out of windows. I could stare out a window for hours and hours, without thinking a god damn thing. Today Wife asked me what I was thinking while I stared out the window at all the humanity passing below us and I said I was thinking about over the counter generic drugs, and I really was. I usually say ‘nothing’ to avoid looking weird and/or boring her, but I was feeling more specific.
I remember watching the documentary Happy People. It seemed to me that the main Russian guy was living an honest life. He was working to support himself. He had no one to answer to but the elements. When I go to work as a waiter, I bow to everyone. Managers, coworkers, customers, the chef…it seems like everyone is my boss. I always think there must be a way to do the job honestly, with dignity and pride. I think there must be a way, but I don’t know what it is. I remember this guy I used to work with, he was always happy and energetic. He had huge muscles and a Mustang convertible and I never saw him take anybody’s shit. He seemed like he worked an honest job. I always wondered how he did. I’m good at my job and I take pride in it but people give me shit constantly. I’m always getting talked down to by everyone, it seems. I feel, without justification for the most part, that I am at the mercy of fools. Even people I respect, I feel like a bitch because of the way we interact. I feel like I’m being walked all over, like I’m letting myself be walked all over. Maybe it’s just my personality. Maybe I’ll never do an honest day’s work.
I remember all I wanted to do was chop down a tree with another tree, go to sleep inside a moose, wake up, and there is nothing. I have this fixation with chopping down trees. With being alone with a job to do and no measure of how well you did it besides whether or not you are alive the next day. And that thing about going to sleep inside a moose has to do with that documentary, Happy People, where they are working it’s so cold that you might have to cut a moose open and sleep inside for warmth. No one does it in the movie but I expect that it happens.
Wife is always asking me what do I want to do with my life and I usually make some reference to chopping down trees. I really like trees, by the way, I don’t know why I want to chop them down. I guess that’s the epitome of honest work for me. And for some reason I’m obsessed with honest work.
I guess it has little to do with work. I guess i hate my own personality. Hate that I’m so submissive. It’s definitely the path of least resistance, just doing whatever anyone else wants, and a lot of people certainly do like me, and I like that. But I guess at the end of the day when I’m sitting in bed thinking about my life I am unhappy with it because I am unhappy with the way I am living it.
I really like House’s personality. He likes confrontation and hates social niceties. He’s intelligent and he does meaningful work and no one tells him what to do. Everyone knows he’s an asshole and he doesn’t mind. He’s miserable I guess. He’s also not real. I really like Roger from Mad Men, too. He’s rich and old enough not to give too much of a fuck. He’s miserable, but not as miserable as House. He has sex and gets drunk and writes silly books about his life for no reason. And he’s witty and charming. I guess everyone worth knowing is miserable.
I like that part in Annie Hall when Woody Allen asks this couple on the street how they make it work and the girl says, “I have no ideas or thoughts really and I’m very shallow.” And the guy says, “And I’m exactly the same.” And that’s how I always think of people that are happy, but when I saw it in the movie I realized that that’s really not true for anybody. No one would honestly describe themselves that way, because we are all so complicated, we all contain a multitude of worlds, as Neil Gaiman says. I would say I have shallow qualities, but I wouldn’t honestly say I am a shallow person. I have always believed that shallow people exist, that some people walk around with one thing on their minds, that some people just want to sell you a car, or just want to make “that’s what she said” jokes, or just want to have the loudest laugh in the restaurant, but when I saw that scene with those people in Annie Hall for some reason it just clicked that no one is really like that. I used to know this beautiful Russian girl who never said anything that interested me, but she was so beautiful I just wanted to watch her say things, and I thought with a face like that there was no need to ever have anything to say, so why should she develop a personality? She, I thought, was shallow for sure, through no fault of her own. She went to parties and she talked to dull people and she did some modeling and she talked about her cat and I was sure she had not a whole lot going on upstairs. But I think inside her head she was probably just as interesting as anyone else. She must’ve been through a lot to come to the United States from Sakhalin Island and learn a new language and all of that. I suppose.
I guess everyone is miserable, really.
I was reading through some of my old posts last night, before I went to bed, and then in bed I had this idea of a blog as a kind of front porch, or a stoop as some would say. It’s a place where I can sit down and just kick some old bullshit with whoever walks by.
And what more does a person need in life than a boiled potato, a sprinkle of salt, and somebody to kick some bullshit with? Maybe some music.
I started to think about what a person really needs in life to be happy and I think it’s really just some good food on an empty stomach with some music. You can be happy for at least five minutes with that, and if you’re happy five minutes a day, well you’re pretty lucky.
Thoreau, that old bastard, he got me thinking of this. Check this out:
I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, simply off a dish of purslane…which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted… And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet corn boiled, with the addition of salt.
Yes, but even that old bastard wanted a bit of salt.
But seriously, that is real. I used to think, back when I had two or three jobs and was constantly working, that if I only had time for a shower at the end of the night, then I was living the high life. And God knows that’s true. Jesus Christ, that a mother fucker could stand under a spray of hot water, how fucked up is that? Mother fuckers can’t even drink water in this world and here I am just standing there. I’d work a whole week to take a hot shower. Ha, that’s funny to say, too, because poor bastards without hot water work their whole lives and never have a hot shower.
But anyway, back to the analogy of the stoop. I was getting pretty down as I always do about what the fuck am I doing with my life and so on, and on top of that having zero-view days, I don’t know. Shit was fucking me up. But then I thought last night, well, if it’s like a stoop, what does it matter if one good friend comes by or a thousand strangers walk by? One doesn’t go out on the front porch with an appointment. You don’t call a bunch of your friends up to go sit on the porch. If you call people up you go sit in the backyard. So you sit your ass on the porch to watch the world go by, and if someone happens to have the time, they might sit down, too. And maybe somebody will make some sun tea.
Yesterday I went to church with GF’s parents. They are catholics. Then we went to lunch at Bon Chon Chicken. I ate a lot of chicken but exercised admirable restraint. Then we came home and went out with our neighbors upstairs to get some plants for the herb/vegetable garden we are going to grow in the back yard. Then we came home and dug up the plot and turned it all over and got rid of all the green stuff that was in there. It was hard work. Then we went and got some beer and cheese and ate and listened to Ella Fitzgerald and talked about all kinds of interesting things.
Today I started reading Walden, which I’ve had lying around for over a year but never actually started.
I’d rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
That’s not an exact quote I don’t think, but that made me laugh. Words can be funny sometimes just when they surprise you. The word pumpkin is just inherently funny. And then someone sitting on a pumpkin is funny, too, I don’t know why, it’s got some kind of fairy tale connections. You can just picture Thoreau sitting on a pumpkin with his arms crossed, or that’s what I did, while there’s a party going on all on top of a velvet cushion.
This post on Rara’s blog reminded me of Hyperbole and a Half and how those drawings really make me laugh. The stories are so funny but the pictures are even funnier. I told GF about the one about depression which I thought was hilarious, but she just thought it was sad because depression is sad. I can’t stop laughing every time I see that shit. “Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up? A sad person holding a fork?” Ha! And “Hey is that a chair? Go fuck yourself!” Ah well it’s just not as funny when you just write what she is saying in the pictures. Those drawings are priceless.