Friday, March 10, 2006

Mindfulness

I would like to simplify things in my life by devoting the bulk of my time and energy to the few things that are really important and no longer wasting time on things that are not. I would like to better understand myself and my behavioral patterns. Ultimately, I would like to connect the dots, the currents running through my head, because I believe they are part of the same thing. I would like gain some measure of control over my appetites. I would like to feel like I am living my life, and not like my life is living me. I would like to be useful. I would like to be happy. I do not want to want the things I do not want.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

the family you choose

As is true of most anyone, I would imagine, there is a short list of people who have saved my life. Here are a few words about a couple of them.

I was limping toward the finish line at the tail end of 14 when I met my friend Aaron. 14 was, for me, a daily punch in the gut, and in this I realize I am not so unique. Like the man says, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through, and I was intensely aware of every second of every oppressively sunny Southern California day. Not a hopeless case, by any means, not donning a trenchcoat and stealing an uncle’s gun, but in hindsight that may have been more a happy accident of biology and conditioning than anything else. Suffice it to say I had never before and have not since been in a position where I more deeply and immediately needed…friends. And right before I gave up I found them. God only knows what I’d be if I hadn’t.

Aaron brought warmth, laughter, fun and spontaneity back into my life in one fell swoop. He reminded me that I was a kid, and that kids are stupid, but adults are even more stupid, and that it was possible to wink at the stupidity in the world instead of hissing and spitting at it. Most importantly he helped me build a world I could bear that saved me from the one I could not, and in so doing I learned the survival skills that keep me afloat to this day. Your friends are the family you choose--we chose each other, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Jessica came later, in the middle of a different but no less severe bout of my own self-pitying malaise. She was a bright, beautiful presence who wafted into my social circle on the arm of a no-good lying sack of shit I still, at that point, considered a friend in need. Jessica brought an open heart, an undefeatable spirit, and an infectious joy and kindness into the self-imposed darkness of my insular world. In so doing she taught me, among many other things, the power of will, optimism, self-confidence and, not inconsequentially, the difference between a no-good lying sack of shit and a friend in need. She became my friend quickly, naturally and deeply, and when I had only known her 3 months it already felt like we had been connected for a lifetime.

To my great delight, Aaron and Jessica discovered the beauty in each other, fell in love, got married and remain two of my wife and my closest friends. We lived blocks away from each other for much of the past 7 years and spent countless nights laughing, drinking, fighting, commiserating and sharing the perils of creeping adulthood. We moved about an hour away few years ago and began to see them less frequently, but that only made the times we did get together all the more enjoyable and precious.

It fucking feels like everything is changing lately, as everything is wont to do, and on Sunday morning my friends are packing up and moving 1700 miles away. I am 32 years old and I have never had better friends than Aaron and Jessica, and I know I never will. We’ll stay in touch, of course, and those bonds will never break, but godamn I’m going to fucking miss them, and before they go I need to thank them for saving my life. I’m not sure I ever have.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

if i ever was myself i wasn't that night

Been a long time since I've posted...I guess I'm just not the blogger type when it comes right down to it, which kind of surprises me. You'd think I would be considering everything else that is true about me. But you'd be wrong.

Anyway I'm not closing down shop or anything but I'm not going to force myself to write anything if I ain't feeling the vibe. I do enough card punching as it is.

I am struggling to resist the chrismastime blues and all the bad news december always blows back into my head somehow still catches me by surprise every damn year when I start out the season still expecting cheer.

December 1996 was the worst month of my life (so far--and I ain't asking for more, let me make that perfectly clear). It's nice to know that. What was the worst month of your life? Do you know? Has it happened yet?

Along with my 2 musketeers and aids to modern living, one of the things keeping my chin up(ish) these days is Kicking Television, the new incredible live CD from Wilco, the best rock and roll band on the planet right now.
How about these lyrics from Handshake Drugs:

"It's okay for you to say what you want from me, I believe that's the only way for me to be exactly what you want me to be. Exactly what do you want me to be? Exactly what do you want me to be?"

Please tell me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The God I Believe In Doesn't Kill Presidents, Mister


He was misunderstood, the poor bastard. There is, after all, a lot of ambiguity in this direct quote:
"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

It really could mean anything. Damn liberal press, always assuming "assassinate" means "kill."

God bless you Mr. Pat.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Greece is in Ireland

One of my crazy (but great) friends is fond of saying his ideal life would be that of a "wandering hermit" with no emotional attachments who exists in the world but is not in any real (read: painful) way of the world. (It occurs to me in hindsight that perhaps he's a Buddhist in waiting and has been giving alms at the wrong temple, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.) What he more or less claims to aspire to is the role of permanent eavesdropper, taking delight in other people's engagement with each other without engaging with anyone himself and thereby living an entirely meta-life. It may go without saying that this guy watches a lot of TV, but I should also point out that he's wicked smart, as the Massholes would say, and very clever, witty and fun to be around. And I think we probably all have similar tendencies. Who among us doesn't want to live in the world but deny the world the power to destroy us? Who wouldn't like to take away the sting of rejection and loss and, ultimately, death and float by in a straight line landing softly and gently at the end of our journey on a billowing cloud? But most of us in the end choose attachments, choose the here and now and the wild rollercoaster of human relationships and love and real, messy and occassionally joyous interaction with fellow humans. I have certainly chosen that path despite my fair share of the normal course of human agony (on the low end of the curve I'll admit happily), but that doesn't make the urge to just check the hell out any less enticing.

Being the guy alone at the end of the crowded bar is a postion with which I am very comfortable, is my point, and that's one of the reasons I love to read the Overheard in New York website. The snippets of (allegedly) real conversation are hilarious and provide a full dose of wandering hermit-ness for the eavesdroppers among us. One of my current favorites:

Guy #1: Naw, you's retarded! That's Greek, yo!
Guy #2: Where's Greece?
Guy #1: Dude, Greece is in Ireland.
Guy #2: No it ain't.
Guy #1: But they look the same, man!

Check it out. Then go hug your mother and kiss your dog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

This is Texas

Quote of the week from this Washington Post article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/15/AR2005081500146.html

"I ain't threatening nobody, and I ain't pointing a gun at nobody," Mattlage said. "This is Texas."

This is from the guy who fired a few shotgun shells in the air outside Cindy Sheehan's protest camp miles from the W Ranch in Crawford, Texas.

My passsionate and enthusiastic support for these heroic protestors aside for a moment, I have to stop to appreciate the simplicity of this statement. "This is Texas." Translation: We shoot guns in Texas, son, and that's just the way it is. Put your little tape recorder away and go back to your little rental car and get the hell on down the damn road before you step in front of the wrong rancher.

The whole godamn world feels like Texas since that 5-4 supreme court decision back in 2000. We ain't threatening nobody, we ain't pointing guns at nobody, and we sure as shit ain't gonna abide no pansy-ass proterstors who want to know why their sons are dead.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Way We Miss our Lives

There are two upcoming books I await with a Star-Wars-fan-lining-up-months-in-advance kind of fervor. One is the fourth volume of Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson biography, which will cover the presidency, and the other is the third Frank Bascombe novel by Richard Ford. I have no idea when (or, shudder, if) the Caro book will be published, but the Ford book is due sometime in the early fall. Ford is one of the handful of truly great American novelists writing today, in my humble opinion, and if you haven't read "The Sportswriter" or "Independence Day" you should click over to Amazon and rectify that problem. (I know this recommendation may seem a little strange coming right after the last post about Bobby Brown, but hey, I am vast, I contain multitudes.)

The main character in both books is Frank Bascombe, a former writer turned real estate salesman with a failed marriage and a troubled son and what I think is a distinctly American set of flaws and strengths. The books are beautiful in many ways but the second one, "Independence Day" is especially powerful and well-written and has become more important to me as I've gotten older. Among other things the book is about coming to terms (or not) with the basic sadness of life, struggling to find a way (or the will) to connect with the things and people you love, discovering who you maybe really are when all the things you thought you might be turn out to be wrong...The daily fabric of American life.
A particulary poignant and piercing passage that has stayed with me:

“A sad fact, of course, about adult life is that you see the very things you'll never adapt to coming toward you on the horizon. You see them as the problems they are, you worry like hell about them, you make provisions, take precautions, fashion adjustments; you tell yourself you'll have to change your way of doing things. Only you don't. You can't. Somehow it's already too late. And maybe it's even worse than that: maybe the thing you see coming from far away is not the real thing, the thing that scares you, but its aftermath. And what you've feared will happen has already taken place. This is similar in spirit to the realization that all the great new advances of medical science will have no benefit for us at all, though we cheer them on, hope a vaccine might be ready in time, think things could still get better. Only it's too late there too. And in that very way our life gets over before we know it. We miss it. And like the poet said: "The ways we miss our lives are life."

Godamn right.