Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome to LA?

Two posts in three days? Shocking.

Another recent shock:

I returned from Los Angeles last week, and the next time I go it might just be for keeps.

You see, ever since I was in gradeschool LA was a faraway dreamy land of giant donuts, giant apes, giant princess-castles, giant breasts, and egos... I visited family there from time to time, sunbathed and sushi-dined for a weekend of two, but I always returned dutifully and shivering to the NorthEast. To the real America. The place where you suffer through winter to deserve the spring.

Well now that I am no longer bound to the shackles of academia, I realize that I deserve the spring all the goddamn time. Why not? Isn't there enough bullshit in life without the added hassle of wind giving you perpetual icy smacks whenever you walk down the street? Do you think I'll grow jaded without a seasonal reality check? Take for granted the tender crocus blooms, the ever-present, effervescent verdigris of fragile life emerging from the wintery clutches of February frost? Will I lose my soul in sunny California sacrilege?

Perhaps I will...Whilst my soul is contemplating how many layers it will need to survive the icy trek to the mailbox, the rest of me will be at the beach. Suck it. Manifest Destiny baby.

But then again, why should my migration stop in California? I definitely wouldn't have the funds to get back, but hypothetically I have enough pocket change combined with waitressing, crude juggling, haggling, busking, whining, and top-secret ninja capabilities to get me from here to Tuxson, Tunisia or Tasmania by next Thursday.

Still, the smart money is on my being exactly where I am right now by next Thursday. Namely, sitting on my ass, staring into this magical technology box and typing. It will be the day after my first big final-revision meeting with my editor. And it will mark an intense edit binge in which I will attempt to make all 200 some-odd pages of Everything Sucks not suck at all. There, I fixed that word. Only 87,947 to go.

Recently I've noticed that every now and then, my aunt looks at me like I'm some sort of delicious pastry. Thousands of impossibly thin layers of the finest filo filled with the yummiest, juiciest, sweetest-ness there ever was. "You can do anything you want," she muses wistfully whilst balancing a tray of mini pizza bagels as one of her small children shoves a dinosaur-shaped crayon up their nose while another lobs a crayon-shaped dinosaur at the other one's forehead.

She's kinda right. I have no kids, no mortgage, no husband... people like Obama have the entire free world to juggle. And compared to the entire free world, no matter what the fashion magazines may say, I'm a pretty light load.

Which makes the unrealized potential all the more weighty. I could move to Tahiti and be a scuba instructor. I could move to Timbuktu to get a Masters in Mansa Musa's Malian mosques... why am I sitting here talking to you?

Because I don't really know what I want to do. I know plenty things that I like to do, but I'm pretty sure you can't get paid for most of them... or at least not in the way you'd want your grandmother to find out about.

I read an article in the NYT magazine recently about the "facebook generation," and how having a perpetual anchor to our past-selves, past-relationships, past-fashion-disasters, might be some sort of albatross for future re-invention. And maybe she's right. Maybe for all of our touted photo-tele-interwebbing connectivity, we're actually more isolated than before, just by virtue of the fact that we can never truly escape our before.

Not that we every truly could. But at least before you could bundle up your before into subconscious insulation and gallop off into the sunset without everyone you ever knew getting a front row seat. I know that nostalgia is like those icky chalky Valentine's day candy hearts though- always looks better than it tastes. But still, don't you long for the good ol' days when you could completely sever ties with everyone just by hopping in your horse and buggy and heading due West? Rob banks without security cameras and invisible laser beams ruining your fun?

But alas, in these days of social security numbers and Google-earth satelites and reality TV shows, we are nothing if not kept-tabs-on. "Truth" aside, (because what does that mean anyway?) the world appears to be more of a stage now than it has ever been before. Marketing experts want to know all about your buying habits. Medical experts want to know all about your living habits. The government is keen to eye your political leanings. Join a facebook group. A panlist. Cringe in horror when someone from your distant past uploads a photo of you in the peak of your adolescent awkwardness for all the virtual world to see.

I don't really know where I'm going with all this. Waitwait I do, but it's a forked path so let's do one of those Choose Your Own Adventure dealies:

If you want to read something uplifting, scroll to conclusion 1.
If you want to read something cynical, scroll to conclusion 2.
If you want to read something ambiguous, scroll to conclusion 3.

1. Maybe it's not a bad thing that we're moving away from the once-traditional smalltown "community" towards a Big Brother-esque mixture of complete isolation and complete transparency. Sure, increasing the critical strike change of your WoW death coil to help your guild isn't the same as bringing a ham home for family dinner, but you could argue that some people who would never have found any outlet or community before the internet are now surrounded by like niche minds. See: ferret-lovers. beanie-babie-lovers. sneeze-porn lovers. etc. And with the confidence to know that you're not alone in your insanity, maybe you'll find some insane calling in an insane locale and be insane enough to move there and do it. Maybe you'll have the confidence to envision and then enact insane things like happiness , cooperation, and peace. An island made entirely out of marshmallows. A great job with health insurance which revolves around kittens and cartoons and sunshine.

2. Gen Y is fucked. The economy is fucked, the education system is fucked, and this very obvious fucktitude is underscored by the subtle but constant crescendo of a soon-to-be devastating spiritual bankruptcy rooted in our ever-increasing alienation from nature. Political upheaval, famine, war, some sort of dark overlord... all of this only slightly mitigated by the possibility of a Water World-esque post-apocalyptic landscape. Gunna get me some swimmies and goggles and have a splashhappy time. Everyone is watching you and nobody cares because we're all going to die, so move somewhere hilarious to do something that doesn't suck before you get too old to go to the bathroom by yourself.

3. The universe as you experience it is an illusion, is always in flux, and yet it is always connected, as it all originated at the same moment in time, keeping in mind that time is also an illusion, just like integrity, privacy, and this thing:

So it doesn't really matter where you go because you always were where you're going to be......

I'd like to amend my previous post. I think everybody's goal is to do stuff they like in a place they like with people they like. If you've got even one out of the three, that's a damn good start. And if you're tired of chilly darkness nipping at your heels for half the year, and have always dreamed of making stories come to life, you might have to be brave and take a plunge in the form of crammed-full U-haul barreling towards the Pacific. Or at least that's what my gut's been telling me when it's not delirious- drowning in delicious, anxiety-soothing dairy products... ah to be giddy and gassy and on the verge of forging a new trail.

That's all I got folks. Mostly I don't know what the f I'm doing with my life, but I think I'm in good company. Tell me what you think. And think about what you would do, where you would go if you knew that nobody you've ever met, nobody who's ever even a vague acquaintance of your distant facebook friends, would be able to know about it. Also, where's your crazy dream-relocation? I'm thinking tie between Thailand, Burma, and pre-Miraz Narnia. But not the bloody freezing part that's close to the stupid wardrobe please.

Keep me posted.


Monday, March 16, 2009


These are all real things I did today in an attempt to justify not writing this:

Voluntarily cleaned the kitchen (unheard of.)
Extracted a tick out of my cat's neck (also unheard of. Their gross little jaws make me nauseous.)
Ran up and down and up and down and up the hill, exhausting entire Thriller album.
Made a new running playlist.
Researched Siddhartha, Monsanto, Bullfrogs, and the history of toothpaste.

I don't know quite what it is about the blank page which is so anxiety-provoking. I've mentioned before and will repeat (if only to affirm a twinkle of writerly sanity) that when I finally get through all the hemming and hawing and Billy-Jean-Is-Not-My-Lover sprinting, I usually am pleased with at least a kernel of what I end up with. And yet, the sitting still seems a Herculean undertaking.

And I don't use that adjective lightly. Gazing into vast and utter incompleteness of a project is daunting, but infusing that barren landscape with all of the intention and story and artfulness and humor you know that it should have often seems positively preternatural.

That's because it is. You're making something where once there was nothing. It's a fucking headache. Even God got tuckered out after six days of the whole rigamarole.

I've been thinking a lot about my brother lately. Mostly because we are stuck on this godforsaken hill together with Russian-Roulette-on-wheels as the only escape vehicle. (what'll it be today? faulty brakes? blown tire? a gruesome death-squeal every time you flick the blinker?) He took the year off from college and has four years of collegiate requirements ahead of him. I cannot believe. CANNOT BELIEVE. That I am a teensy bit jealous.

See, back when I was in school I had this really great catch-all excuse for anything that ailed me creatively. If it weren't for the Man, I'd have the freedom to make my Opus. Damn the Man, with his busywork and finals and required readings (which I didn't do, but which the stress of not doing undoubtedly clogged my creative pores with guilty, Ivory, heteronormative, puritanical junk to the popping point... seriously. Being bossed around is super hard. Poor me poor me etc. etc.)

Hmmm..... Cut to post-Man.

Now that I am both Manless and Opusless I'm feeling more hopeless by the moment. Because if all that's standing between me and those amazing pet-projects I dreamily envisioned during loooooooong, poorly organized psych lectures is me, then what was stopping me in the first place?

No, shut up. The answer is not me. Shutupshutup. I mean, it is me, of course, but I'd like to take a moment to expound upon the possibility that "me" is less the answer than the problem.

When I am scribbling in my notebook, I write all sorts of bullshit that nobody, including me, will likely be able to understand. When I sit down to write a blog post, I have a certain expectation for myself. For you, the reader.

When I sit down to write a book, this expectation is launched into hyperspace with the help of all sorts of combustible anxieties ranging from "are people going to buy this?" and "can I really get away with doing this for a living?" to "what defines my existence if not my actions? and shouldn't I be maximizing my self-creation by soaking in all of the scholarly brilliance of minds past instead of watching Gossip Girl and writing for teens? or does the transitory nature of life point to ultimate understanding as a transcendence of minutia into a broader acceptance of the unity of everything? Should I cast off all worldly possessions and go move to Varanasi? Do they get Gossip Girl in Varanasi??? [Enter every hysterical doubt about Love, Art, Religion, my Purpose, my Body, my Brain, my Sanity, etc.]

[All afforementioned players strike up a blaring ticker-tape parade across my prefrontal cortex complete with bagpipes and tubas and confidence confetti. ]

Even when I'm being super nice to myself, when Ethel* is tied up in some cerebral cellar somewhere, I psych myself out with...myself.

Anytime I sit down just for the fun of it with absolutely no expectations, without narrating my own creative process as it's unfolding, without freaking out about how much I haven't done, and how much I have to do, and what this process implies about my worth as a human being and my ability to function in society and find meaning and avoid being run over by my own shitty car... stuff gets done. And really, can we ask anything more of ourselves than to get some stuff done? Even if it's not the best stuff, the perfect stuff, its stuffliness alone should suffice in the face of nothing. Procrastination. Endless potential without followthrough...

I think if Old Testament God had thought too much about the longterm repercussions of his creation-binge he wouldn't have bothered to get past light and dark. Who needs all that water and wind and all those beastly seagulls shrieking around all over the place? Not to mention man and sin and Cain and genocide and totalitarianism and zealots endlessly trying to put words in God's mouth... figuring out what he was thinking... though if God is omniscient then he knew that would happen... knew that I'd be thinking about his thinking from the very first thought... in which case what sort of divine wisdom am I supposed to be gleaning from this cyclical-

NO. Enough meandering. Back to business.

I'm sorry I haven't been more active on the blog recently. When I finish a post I can't wait to start a new one, but with each passing day it gets more and more difficult to live up to my own expectation of what would justify and ameliorate such an extended absence. So let this be a lesson to... me. Just do the stuff and worry about what it means later. Because even after all that brooding you're not really going to know what it means anyway, and interesting work is absorbed and torn and tasted and digested by a million different people who won't give a damn about what you thought it meant anyway, so you might as well just get going gone.

Gone from where? More like gone from whom. I think.

(therefore I waffle.)
[and want a waffle.]
(and have no discipline)
[or future.]
....or talent or time or tact or grasp on reality or
Rinse.. Repeat..

There's only one conclusion and it's agonizingly short: Do stuff. Do. Stuff. This blog post marks my emergence from a (truth be told) pretty depressing bout of unproductiveness, and it sucks to feel like a shmuck. Sucks even more than the possibility of failing miserably at doing the stuff that you're not doing. Logically this makes sense, but I don't think logic has ever been man's most closely heeded advisor, so don't beat yourself up for knowing and not listening to this. Every day is a new day with new stuff to be done. So do some easy stuff or some hard stuff without worrying which type it is and what it will mean, it's just stuff all the same. Do let me know how you're doing. Do reward yourself for little victories.

And do know that the do-itude of yesterdays has no bearing on domorrow...

Much Love & Productivity,