Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My apple cores, my snot tissues

"I've been here now for some days, groping my way along, trying to realize my vision here. I started concentrating so hard on my vision that I lost sight. I've come to find out that it's not the vision, it's not the vision at all. It's the groping. It's the groping, it's the yearning, it's the moving forward." --Chris Stevens, from the Northern Exposure episode "Burning Down the House."


I know it is wrong, but sometimes I'm so damn relieved that I feel no real need to hold myself accountable to my own goals. Before you think me lazy (as true as that might be, I am loathe to be perceived as such) hear me out. It isn't that I don't see things through...well important things...well consequential things anyway. It is just that I silently (or quietly) make these demands of my future time and effort, particularly when it comes to writing and I rarely fulfill any of them. Here's a classic "me" example: last Friday, after getting out of work early, at the same time as I have done every Friday for the last six years, I actually wrote quite a bit. I came close to finishing something I started which is quite notable for me. Pathetic? Sure. But I had promised myself a cocktail in reward and I was going to write like an alcoholic so I could earn it. (It was a kiwi caiprinha in case you care and it really was worth every keystroke).

And while it was happening, I tried not to think ahead or say or think anything that might interrupt the flow but I'd be lying if I wasn't boosted by my usual notion of "I can do this EVERY Friday! Fuck I can do this EVERY DAY!" I had a breakthrough about a future breakthrough, it is my M.O. I get so ahead of myself but I do it in such a quiet, no one knows kind of way that there is no one to talk me down from the ledge. And while that is good for my ego later on when I fail to do what I spontaneously plan, it is really terrible because I have no one to talk me down from the ledge. I can usually be stopped from doing something stupid with even subtle cues from someone else, a glance askance, a distinct clearing of a throat, for example. But the dumb thoughts, the silent goals...they no a stop.

And,when I find myself still in my pajamas, playing a video game on my phone or watching the umpteenth marathon of the umpteenth show (even if it's bad) on one of a million websites, I usually think of this one janitor that works at my full time job. He's been working there, doing that job for as long as anyone can remember. And his job is to clean and do general maintenance, both things at which he fails spectacularly. To wit: everyone in my office has caught him vacuuming in the dark. There have been reports of him eating food from the garbage and I have seen him take the garbage from the pail in my office with his bare hands. He touches it all, my apple cores, my snot tissues. (When asked about that in particular, why he never wears gloves when handling garbage, he responded that he has a strong immune system. I can only assume he also has the ability to ignore everything disgusting about everything he does in life.) He's famous for showing up right smack in the middle of parties we have in the office and parking his huge garbage pail and accouterments right in the center of the room where everyone is gathered, chatting. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Anyway, periodically he'll talk about how he's going to get his doctorate. He's never been to school past high school but he's routinely said he's not even going to bother with community college...he's just going to go all the way right away. He's never clear about what course of study he'll pursue but he's going to do it, any day now. Someone in my office once found out that he ran for mayor of NYC one year and even found proof on video that he had officially announced his candidacy. That guy. I feel like that guy on days like today. Instead of organizing my thoughts and finishing one single thing, I'm vacuuming in the dark, sucking up all the little bits of I don't know what to store in the bag with the rest of dirt, dirt I'll sift through later with my bare hands, avoiding the extra work, ignoring the disgust. And that will exhaust me and whittle what's left of my own confidence that I can write anything at all, that I'll just skip right to the caiprinha without earning it. Until I get bored of living without vision or chronicles to remember it all by and the cycle starts over again.

Sigh. Nothing to see here. Just some more of my neurosis, getting out the front door before I can close it.

And then I take to the blog to write about how I can't write. I write to distract myself from the fact that I'm not writing. But really, that's all I feel able to write about: not being able to write. Groping through the brambles, looking for a vision. And along the way I make these dramatic proclamations (to myself), hoping that if I do that, it will stick. It will take. As of this writing, it's all still apple cores and snot tissues.






Monday, April 7, 2014

Undercooked egg

Oh life! How like an egg you are! Such a delicate balance between delicious and disgusting! Sometimes you satisfy, sometimes I have to scrape parts of you from the bottom to get anything good. I sop you up sometimes and other times you bite back with an errant piece of hard, jagged shell. How, like eggs, I only enjoy you and everything within you under very specific circumstances.

Enough of that. Let me tell you how much I've matured. I've reached yet another signpost that reads, in fading spray paint on ratty old piece of driftwood, haphazardly nailed to the base of an old power line at the edge of a mostly abandoned, dusty town called "Adult Hood". It reads, simply, "DRINK LESS." I came upon the sign at 3am on Saturday night after drinking too much wine and trapping a good friend at my front door with morose talk of dying and meaning and being adrift in nothing. I think guilt and embarrassment floated into my room in the dead of the night and ripped off my down comforter and said nothing. It just floated right above my head, staring. And I can take feeling a lot of different things but guilt mixed with embarrassment and chased with the just the faintest traces of leftover hubris is something I simply cannot abide. Strangely that perfect storm of bad feeling, that first forkful of undercooked egg has only happened in recent times when I've had just slightly too much to drink.

When I first started drinking, I was always among my peers, also just starting to drink. I was assured to do and say stupid things in tandem with at least one other person. Being stupid, talking stupid just feels so much better when you aren't doing it alone. At the very least, there is an understanding that drinkers have among themselves, a kind of stupidity kinship. There's real empathy when you are around people who have done dumb drunken things before. Also, all those sentences were punctuated with the unspoken fact of my age. It was a good excuse for me when I was feeling low to simply say, well, I'm young. I'll be better when I get older.

Yeah, I got older awhile ago.

Inevitably, no matter how much fun I had (and I DID have fun on Saturday night), I'll stumble into my bedroom with the low hum of my room's own nightlife ticking away and settling in. And I'm already so susceptible to faint dread in my sober state. Faint dread, by the way in case you are wondering is way worse than actual, obvious dread for the sheer stealth and stamina it has. And crawling into bed intoxicated assures I'll be up in about two hours after passing out and after the thirst induced dreams of filling ice cube trays and drinking cold water from them. That's when the deep dark night will feel so dense and black and I'll be feeling so bad, even if it is a brief, quiet kind of feeling bad and for all my waking pessimism, I have to admit that it only happens that way after some booze.

 It isn't a quadratic equation. Just simple, elementary subtraction. A basic process of elimination.

And maybe a white noise machine? Or a dachshund puppy?





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Help Wanted

I have some time management, organizational and motivational problems. And by "problems", I simply mean I am incapable of doing anything. Apparently. I've had more free time and the only thing I'm actually doing "more" of is sleeping. I feel just like the best rested gal on Long Island.

Excepting this morning. Maybe it was a mistake to listen to Beck's new album on the way to work. One of the songs has a chorus that just repeats the word 'isolation' over and over again. For someone who already feels a little dead during rush hour, putt putting along among faceless blobs incongruous to the natural order of things, inside their little metal cages (to which they are slaves), it was not the best choice. Geez. Could it be possible I need MORE sleep?

But that's not how I want this entry to go. I'm not feeling morose or even particularly panicked about my mortality. In fact, I've been riding a pleasant wave of contentment lately and despite distrusting it, I'm enjoying it immensely. As I was typing this I got an instant message from my brother saying, in a totally unsolicited way "I've been meaning to tell you something. You are like a different person now that you've left that one job. Keep it up." I'm often so inside my own head that I never even consider what I'm projecting to everyone else. It was nice to hear. Shit, it is nice to feel.

The trouble is, I have time now. And I'm superb at making plans to make plans and projects to give projects beginnings. My closets and my drawers and my surfaces overflow with clutter and I'm positive that all I need to do is hack through them all with sheer determination and perhaps a machete and I'll find...er...something. Something that will get me motivated to do...something? Am I really going to do this, dear reader? Am I really going to channel all the erstwhile negative, complaining energy into sleep? Worse yet, misdirect it into nothing?

No. No I am not. I will however take applications for life coach, time manager, and motivational speaker. Requirements: A pleasant, optimistic demeanor that is stalwart in the face of my unrelenting pessimism. You should be available for me at most times, though I suspect I'll mostly want you to watch movies with me and talk about season finales. I like my coffee French pressed and then I like that press cleaned and NOT after sitting for two days in the sink. I require someone to talk  me out of holding on to dresses that are too big for me, shoes that are too uncomfortable and party purses that have been rendered wholly unnecessary by my increasingly quiet lifestyle. I'll need you to empty out my spam folders and sift through online dating profiles, separating wheat from chaff from psychopaths. You'll have to stop by unannounced during quiet hours to make sure I'm writing and not falling asleep to old episodes of Family Guy and it would help me greatly if you could go to the supermarket for me once every two weeks to do big shops instead of the 10 times a week for two items at a time that is my current flow chart model. I mean yesterday I had to go to buy one potato, ferchrissakes! Mostly, I'll just need you to give me that warm feeling, on a Tuesday morning, say, that what I'm doing is okay and that plenty of writers never wrote anything worth a damn until they were older than 40 and that you've taken care of clipping the cats' nails and that you'll have an ice cold kir waiting for me when I get home.

Only serious applicants please.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

You can't go home again but even when you do, you try to figure out how to go on tour with a band

I've spent an inexcusable amount of time lately trying to figure out ways I can follow Arcade Fire on tour for the rest of 2014. It turns out they are playing in many cities that house people I know and can crash with, however, the one minor snag in my plan to spend my life dancing to my favorite band in the world is that I have yet to figure out how to finance such a venture and how to justify that existence to my parents. I may be almost 40, but unless I was to spread out my life beneath the haze of an umbrella made of umbrella smoke, I wouldn't be able to look into my mother's disappointed eyes like mirrors. Haven't I done enough by denying her a grandkid??? Over the weekend I met a lot of new people and two of them were a couple who literally said the following: "We don't know what we'll be doing this year yet because the Phish schedule hasn't come out yet." I chuckled and thought my judgey thoughts but honestly, it was only because I'm jealous. I might be safe for now because Arcade Fire doesn't have a Phish-ish following. Yet.

In unrelated news, this happened in January. Without fanfare. And I just found out about it this morning when someone shared the link to that article on Facebook. I found out about the shutting down of 7A in exactly the same way, also a few months after that happened and also because someone randomly posted it on Facebook. (Facebook. Erasing my past, one link at a time.) I actually teared up. Not because I'm a big hot dog fan or anything but because that place used to be across the street from the Barnes and Noble bookstore where I worked in 1999, freshly arrived to NYC with no money and no plans. I ate there when I was truly broke which was always. I was so sad to hear that Barnes and Noble closed last year and after I made yet another visit to a Greenwich Village that has morphed into something wholly unrecognizable to me, I think I finally understand that Thomas Wolfe was right. You can't go home again. It is just one more shuttered place in a city that, while always kinetic, has been in hyper drive the past decade and is barreling headfirst into a future I don't recognize and won't really be a part of and that kinda hurts.

And the thought of that book was a diving board. I heard the reverberation as I belly flopped into a handful of memories from that time in my life. I was reading "You Can't Go Home Again" when I first started at Barnes and Noble. And even though I didn't finish it and the pages of my copy have yellowed, I associate that book with commuting from Washington Heights on the A train alllll the way down to West 4th and that dirty, loud tunnel that greets you when get there. I talked about that book with the tall beardy Russian art school kid with whom I shared a Grey's Papaya hot dog with once, coincidentally enough. And it wasn't some deep analysis of the book or anything but because I had the hots for him, I've made it so in my memory. What more than likely happened was he asked what I was reading and then we likely made out in a booth at the Slaughtered Lamb. (And I can't bring myself to look up whether or not that place still exists. It was a hangout for me because they were lax about underage drinkers there and even though I was of age, most of my friends weren't.) Then I spent, like, an hour cringing because of how that whole debacle ended and I actually am craving a hot dog right now. But I can't justify eating one. Had I known the place was closing, I'd have gone for one last recession special. I'd have gone across the street to buy a book from the bargain bin and who knows? I may have run into a familiar face or two. Honestly, all of that would have depressed me even more, in a tangible way so maybe it is better that it depresses me from 50 miles away.

See, if I'd been following Arcade Fire on tour, I never would have even read that article! The cure to mild, depressing nostalgia is clear.

Meh. What's going on with you? Want to go get a hot dog?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Moron, at the very least

I've lately been settling into my life in a way that sometimes sends me into a panic. Panic brought on by contentment? I'm a walking oxymoron. Or moron at the very least. It's just that  I've grown so accustomed to whatever the opposite of contentment is...malcontent discontent, agitation, that looking around me instead of looking over and above me is having a strange effect. I am not used to not wanting more. I guess my subconscious is dealing with these calm waters by inventing things for me to be anxious about. This morning, in the middle of fretting about something that literally had no consequence whatsoever on my or any one else's life, I stopped myself. I was in the car at a red light and I just turned up the music and sang along and blocked out whatever it was (I totally remember what it was but it really is so stupid that I can't be bothered to relate it) and got to work, feeling really good.

Yet I distrust good feelings, rare as they are and even typing this, I grow frustrated and just how stupid I am sometimes. I tend to go from feeling good, to feeling distrust about feeling good, to feeling bad about not just feeling good, to your everyday standard stasis of existential dread. Right now I still feel really good but I had to blog about how I am not enjoying feeling good. Sigh. I'm okay with being a neurotic person; I just hope I'm at least a little bit amusing about it.

And so my brain has arrived in a place that looks not unlike the aftermath of every New Year's Eve party I've ever attended: everywhere there are clues that I had fun at some point but all I'm left with is a feeling that I should be ashamed, that I've said or done something embarrassing, some unease with unknowable origins. Because how can I just feel good without paying for it? What sort of unsettled thought will visit me any moment now? Is this residual Catholic guilt or does everyone feel this?

Every morning lately, I wake up with determination. I will get X, Y and Z done today and I will be able to file it away inside the COMPLETED folder. I will have a long day full of sunlight. But then I get out of bed and see it is still dark out, still time to meditate on things rather than do them, still time to sleep. I want to feel spring but I find myself fighting the faint echoes of winter in an involuntary, truly irritating way. And because I am still thinking, thinking, thinking instead of DOING, I'm starting to let the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy. I'm ignoring my contentment and instead projecting imagined agitation onto the world around me, seeing patterns and connections in the utterly arbitrary. On Monday I awoke to to light flurries falling from the dark sky. Simultaneously, there were birds chirping. The world had been reborn into daylight savings time just one day before. The days are prepared to be longer but the morning is so black...

I'm comforted that sometimes I can find "proofs" of identity crisis in nature.

I spend an unhealthy amount of time wishing we could will things into being, speed them along somehow. I'd have finished my novel (or started it in earnest).I'd be settled and really feel and appreciate it, just because I wanted to be. I'd have my days organized and to do lists with guaranteed completion or my money back. And Persephone, would have come back up weeks ago because we've all just missed her so much around here.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscarz Par-T

I had a late night last night and for the first time in a long time, I overdid it with the wine intake. Unlike most times when I find myself overindulging in the sauce, I didn't expect to nor did I set out to. I'll use my favorite explanation, which just happens to be the truth here: it just happened. I saw a wine I liked, and I went for it.

I volunteered to work at the Oscar viewing party at my local theater. This was the second year they had this event which is just what you imagine it is: the Oscar ceremony on the big screen, raffles, prizes, gourmet bites and unlimited booze. It is a great event that promotes the theater, brings together the community and gets a lot of support from local businesses, and one really famous local face, Isabella Rosselini (she is ethereal and a type of beautiful that is unreal). I had a great time last night but if I'm still living here next year and if they ask me to work the party again I will do it and I will take the next day off from work.

I had to get up at the ass crack hour on Sunday morning to help with set up and decorations for the evening. The theater was turned into a sleek dining room, covered in stars and our own giant picture of Oscar. I was cranky and unshowered but the whole setup took about two hours and was helped along by Louisiana blues being pumped through the speakers. I may start doing all my chores with blues in the background. Anyway, after we were done we all went home to get gussied up and returned, red carpet laid down, lights turned low and wine bottles opened. My mistake was having a glass early. It was like turning on a spigot.

My job was coat check girl. It was an easy enough responsibility: greet the guests, get their coats and direct them to check in at the back of the theater. I embraced so much fur and wool, inhaled so much perfume and felt a perma-smile forming on my face over the course of the evening. I deeply dislike fur and about 95% of perfumes on the market but damnit if I didn't feel just like a little girl hiding behind the sofa eavesdropping on her parents dinner party. I decided I liked that feeling and I liked working the coat check. Everyone was so happy to be out and about of an evening. I liked seeing couples dressed up,wives adjusting ties on their husbands, husbands helping their wives out of their coats...that I liked best. It seems like such a simple, thoughtful gesture. I may be worn out from this winter which refuses to quit, from shrugging in and out of layers upon layers over layers under coats. But it occurred to me that no one has ever done that for me. I carry fierce independence around with me all the time and by no means do I need any help with that sort of thing but I felt the tiniest hairline fracture in my heart. From...what? Regret? Jealousy? Wine buzz melancholy?

The ceremony was overlong but it was amusing. I had seen most of the nominated films and performances and most awards went as I expected them to. I didn't really expect Gravity to be so divisive a film. Some people in attendance really hated it and that is beyond me. I mean I hated American Hustle but I can see why people liked it. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The people in attendance last night who hated Gravity seemed to just hate it without seeing any redeeming quality. It's worst offense was that it was "boring" which perplexes me. Are we all so jaded now that a space adventure is boring?? In fairness, I had a pretty good buzz going so I may be misremembering the conversations. After about hour four, things begin to get hazy in my brain and if I was creating a timeline for last night I'd skip ahead to waking up this morning, fully dressed, my pillow my own personal shroud of Turin. I barely got out of bed in time to make it to work this morning and I've felt listless all day.
I can only thank winter (as unlikely as that statement feels to say) for sparing me the need to shovel my car out this morning. I would have turned around and come back inside.

Ironically enough, I got quite a lot of work done at work today. I had lunch with my grandparents, newly arrived from Honduras after a few months away to escape the cold and it sure was nice to see them. But by 4:30 I was checked out mentally and ravenous. My body made my decisions for me. Thai takeout, a few Law and Order episodes and cat cuddles. That's what it could handle and that's what I let it do. And it is now 9:30 and it is time for me to go to bed, in pajamas this time.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sprain

It is definitely March 1st. March is one of those months that teases you into expecting an instantaneous end to a long season but never really delivers. It always promises green grass and green beer and white shoes but usually just barely coughs out the sun and even when it manages that, it usually hides behind a phlegmy gray sky. April is usually where it's at. I always forget that. Considering it is unbearably cold today, as it has been nearly every single day this entire winter, it is business as usual. I am trying to get past it all by reading ee cummings, working (just what in the hell else is new) and thinking about soup.

In true uncharacteristic fashion, I've outlined my budget for the next three months. It was like being inside a bouncy house. Correction: it was like ME at 10 years old, being inside a bouncy house: nauseated and with the full expectation that I'd sprain my ankle at some point. In terms of my budget, ankle sprain=going broke. But if my calculations are correct, I'll be ok until the end of June. By the end of May, rumor has it that my full time job will let everyone know if they can expect to be employed in the coming fiscal year. So, I'm not saying that is a looming doom that hangs over the heads of everyone in employment but... I personally have been envisioning all the book shelves toppling over one by one each time I walk through the library. So there's that.

I'm reaching back to the small corners in my memory for information to compile a status report on the first two months of 2014 and all I can come up with is how cold I've been. I can't remember not being cold. Even when I'm snuggled up in my bed under layers of clothes, two cats and three blankets, including a down comforter, I feel cold. Yet things did happen this year so far. After five and a half years, I left a part time job with little to no fanfare.  My director did not even acknowledge I was leaving. So, GREAT use of five years of my life there. I don't like to burn bridges, much less in a public blog, but there was only a fraction of ounce of love lost on my side of things. I'll miss a few people but honestly, I am so glad to be out of there. I already feel lighter and happier and, if not optimistic, then not totally negative. And all despite the fact that I am making a lot less money now.

And I started a new job, too. And things here are 180 degrees away from where I left and so far I love the absence of pessimism. It does feel like I imagine a second marriage to feel: you're still excited and hopeful, but it is tempered. I feel very even here. Feeling even is a welcome respite from my natural state of feeling slightly Tower of Pisa (so please, be kind if I'm a mess) and I'm grateful for a port in the storm.

As usual, I feel full of ideas at the moment. This is the 11am me. I would like to get into the habit this month of being the 11am me at 6pm, but only because my free moments usually land around then. Also, for the past few years, when the sun goes down, my body and brain transition automatically into "useless" mode after dinner. Considering I'm not getting younger, even with my projected death date being sixty one years away (give or take an hour), I feel the need to take each moment and use the crap out of it.

And on that eloquent note, it is lunch time. Happy March.