Category Archives: Thoughts

Brother, can you spare some small stuff?

Small moments make me happy.  Like the other day when it was 4pm and I hadn’t left the house yet, so decided to walk to the corner to put a Netflix in the mailbox.  Just to get out.  Just to be able to say, “Yeah, I got out today.”  And on the way back, I saw a man drop a one dollar bill, so I said, “You dropped a dollar!”  As he picked it up, he said, “Oh, I appreciate that.  That’s gonna be my lucky lottery dollar.”  And I thought, wow.  If I hadn’t left the house, that man would have lost that dollar forever.  Someone else would be in possession of that dollar.  Thank God I exist.  Thank God I make such an impact on the world.

Small moments make me incredibly sad, too.  Friday night I saw a one-man performance in Brooklyn.  It was really good.  It’s about AIDS and being about the same age as AIDS and it’s profound and funny and deeply personal and contemplative.  I greatly enjoyed being in the audience.  The show wasn’t even the thing that made me incredibly sad, though.  It was when I got lost in Brooklyn after the show.  I hate having to ask for directions.  I hate not doing it all on my own.   But finally I saw a woman who looked like she wouldn’t judge me for needing directions at 10pm in Brooklyn, but when I said Excuse me, she just looked at me and shook her head and kept walking.  So I called after her, in this sad, little girl voice, “Do you know where the closest subway is?”  She didn’t pause, she didn’t call back, she didn’t do anything.  She’s so jaded by life and the city and life in this city that it’s safe for her to assume that everyone wants to harm her or take her money.  She can no longer be bothered.  I can’t really blame her.  But it still made me cry.  (Though maybe it was also a delayed release of emotion about the AIDS epidemic.)

I guess the thing about small things is who’s to say they’re small.  Who’s to say that small things are not sometimes the biggest things.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Don’t cry over spilt milk.  I don’t know.  In my experience, if I’m crying after spilling the milk, it’s usually because that small tragedy brings into focus all the bigger tragedies I’m dealing (or not dealing) with.  Sometimes the biggest stuff is too big to wrap our heads around.  You need to lose a dollar to even realize…fuck.  If I don’t get a job soon I’m going to have to beg on the streets.  You need to have one small shot of liquor too many to realize I have a big problem. 

What am I getting at.  Mmmh.  You know, someone wise probably said, “Life is nothing but small things.”  Or, “Sweat only in moderation.”  I saw men on the street make a cardboard sign that said, “We want money for beer.”  I saw a man in the subway holding a sign that said, “Unemployed college grad, cum laude, #Not Winning.”  And I thought, you referenced a Charlie Sheen catch phrase and Twitter hash tags on your cardboard sign.  That’s an odd choice for a cardboard sign.

I don’t think I’ll make a point.  Maybe I already made one.  I’m not sure.  But the library closes in 30 minutes and I need to apply for some jobs before then…

Advertisements

Tell me I don’t have to have sex out there.

A group of boys, who look no older than fourteen, talk on a crowded New York City subway car—loud—about bitches, and fucking, and fucking bitches.  They carry tennis racquets in zipped cases.  I assume they’re teammates.  The loudest and youngest looking one says, “I could’ve fucked two bitches the same night.  I had them both at my place.  But I didn’t, because one of the bitches was on her period.”

I look around, wanting to see if anyone else’s ears have unwittingly become victim to this conversation.  Some people have headphones on.  Some people might not know English.  I make eye contact with one woman, but her neutral expression doesn’t change.  If anything, she seems to communicate, “Are you really upset?  Are you really surprised or offended?”  Yes.  I am!  I’m upset that these boys boast and talk about female peers that way as if it’s okay.  Or, knowing it’s not okay, making it more appealing.  I don’t care if they’re insecure pubescent boys just making things up or repeating overheard things.  I’m upset that I sit with my book open on my lap, not reading it, listening to them instead, saying nothing.  If girls they have sexual feelings for (if not romantic) are called bitches, what would they call me—some 24-year-old girl scolding them?  Surely they wouldn’t politely apologize.  How would that boost their apparent status as big, sex-havin’ men?

Yesterday was one of distasteful sex-related happenings that made me question the world and the people in it.  Everyone’s entitled to say what they want, do and think what they want.  But that freedom can seriously hurt others.  It can make you think, Man.  This is how so many people approach sex, this is how the media makes sex out to be?  I don’t want any part of that. It’s scary.  Who really wants to be the subject of a nonchalant recap between buddies—“Yeah, I fucked her.  It was all right.”   

When I woke up late yesterday morning I had a notification that I’d received a Facebook message just after 8 a.m.  It started, “Hi, how’ve u been?”  But the sender’s name was one I didn’t recognize, so I assumed it was a spam message.  Someone trying to get me to attend an event, or buy a product, or support some cause.  Turned out to be something very different.  The message was from someone I did vaguely know—a security guard of all things.  You know.  Someone whose job is to make you feel more secure.  I’d forgotten that this man and I were connected on Facebook at all.  He guards a building I used to regularly enter and was someone I would say hello to and small talk with occasionally.  I stopped the small talk, though, after we bonded about our mutual interest in making music and he invited me to see the recording studio he uses—inside of his apartment. 

I hadn’t thought about this person or heard from this person, and then, all of a sudden, a message.  It’s pretty crude stuff and the only reason I’m sharing it is to make a point.  Skip it if you don’t want some graphic imagery in your head.

Hi, how’ve u been?  I don’t mean to be forward, but seriously I’ll like you to know that it’ll be a pleasure to munch on your shaven apple pie haven. If you give me a chance I promise I’ll lick and suck every drop of crease all around and inside of it like no one has ever done b4.

Now am guessing u might have a boyfriend and since I wouldn’t want to be that guy that comes between you two, for the fact that I wouldn’t want the same to happen between me and my girl, that is why I have requested for this alone and nothing else.

However if ever you turn the opposite cheek to this once in a lifetime opportunity, I’ll also like you to know that I will hold no grudge against you and I will still cherish the moments of friendship we shared at [omitted]. Take care and bye for now.

[Name omitted.]

P.S.. Let me be that very private guy in your life that turns u into that glowing mature woman every girl wants to be like…

How kind of him to not hold a grudge against me if I turn down his “once in a lifetime” proposal.  How unselfish, too, to consider my boyfriend (and his girlfriend) in this arrangement!  And how opposite of presumptuous of him to suppose how I groom my “apple pie haven” or that I need to be transformed from a girl into a “glowing mature woman.” 

Granted I probably shouldn’t have even allowed myself to be connected online to this semi-stranger.  My mistake.  I can be naive.  It just wouldn’t occur to me that people might take the time to craft such a message. I would never think of this as everyday, normal fare for a man to send a woman at 8 a.m. on a Monday. 

I’ve watched a lot of romantic comedies in my day, which, admittedly, have probably given me some skewed ideas about heterosexual sex and relationships.  But after watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks ride off into the sunset, or Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, I’ve never approached a male love interest and said, “Hey, how’ve you been?  Will you meet me on top of the Empire State Building and kiss me long and passionately and marry me and raise my babies?”  Maybe some people do hold those expectations.  And maybe some people develop their own expectations after regularly watching certain porn, listening to certain music, or talking to certain people.  Just like kids playing violent video games makes them more likely to shoot people, right…?  It’s more than possible that a person would predominantly see inappropriate or unhealthy social and sexual behaviors and use those cues in their own life.  Because inappropriate and unhealthy can be relative concepts.

I told a male friend of mine about the Facebook message.  He advised me to use the block function, but to first send the guy a picture of STD-ridden female genitalia.  “Speaking of which,” he said, “there’s a guy I know who’s HIV positive.”  He went on to say that the person, before settling down with a partner, claimed to regularly have unprotected sex without broaching the subject of any risk.  And apparently, if questioned, would outright lie. 

There’s a scene in When Harry Met Sally after Harry and Sally have sex with each other for the first time.  Neither are satisfied with how it went.  They individually call their best friends, Jess and Marie, who pick up their individual phones from the nightstands of the bed they share as a couple.  Jess listens to Harry.  Marie listens to Sally.  When they hang up, after hearing their friends’ most recent dating disappointments, Marie turns to Jess and says, exhaustedly, “Tell me I never have to be out there again.”  Jess looks her in the eye and firmly responds, “You never have to be out there again.” 

Yesterday, after the things I was told and the things I overheard and the things proposed to me, I felt similarly exhausted.  Out there felt like a scary place.  A place that will compromise physical and emotional health.  A place where women are just vaginas and men are cads.  A place where very few ride off into the sunset.

Library Finds. Library Fines.

I paid off a collection of library fines this evening that totaled $15.75.  A lot when you consider that libraries, by design, are meant to be free.  But not a lot when you consider just 1 hardcover book can run you upwards of twenty-five bucks.  That $15.75 comes from a total of 13 different books.  Thought I’d share some of the highlights from the list. 

The smallest fine came to twenty-five cents.  That because I neglected to return The World According to Mister Rogers.  I have no regrets about this fine or this book.  I borrowed it to complete research on the one-man play I was writing about Mister Rogers.  I’ve since sold the two year rights to that play and they paid me more than a quarter, so I came out in the black.

The highest fine is also my most recent one.  $2.25 for an overdue copy of The Best American Essays: 2010.  I actually called to refute this fine because I thought that I had returned the book.  I spent about fifteen minutes looking for it in my apartment, purses, shelves–nothing.  Then, several days later, I found the book inside of a bookbag I hadn’t used in awhile. 

Most unfortunate fine: 75 cents for a book titled The Hidden Power of Dreams.  I don’t think I read more than three pages of this book.  I picked it up because I saw the spine and said to myself, “Yes, I do think there is hidden power in dreams.  I will read this and affirm that thought.”

The receipt the library gave me after I paid is almost 19 inches long.  I was worried that the guy at the circulation desk would tsk me.  Tell me I’m a lazy, irresponsible person for accumulating fines I could have easily avoided, as well as keeping materials from other library patrons in doing so.  But I don’t care.  I look at this long receipt and I feel a distinct sense of pride.  To me the receipt and the fines say–You read.  You’re literate.  You like ideas and information and the written word.  You like them so much, you hoard them.  You carry them around with you everywhere and you know you have to return them at some point, but not today.  Or, maybe it is today, but what can ya do?

I hope the NYPL appreciates my money.  I could use that money, but I know they can, too.

When life gives you rotting food…

Last night at 11pm I walked to the grocery store and bought cake mix, milk, and butter. The cashier said, “Are you baking a cake?” And I said, “Yeah.” Then she looked up, started shaking her head, and mumbled, “Please don’t come to my line, please don’t come to my line, please.” I turned to see who had excited her and saw a scraggly looking man heading from the entrance into the produce aisle. “He smells awful,” she sighed.

It’s a hard thing, I think, knowing when to just ignore or complain about something and when to step in and try to make it better. In the “Village Voice” this week, the big feature is called “Ten Worst Tenants.” They recently did their “Worst Landlords” feature, so I was excited to see who they’d compiled on the flip side. Here’s their clever cover graphic:

I was especially struck by the write-up on the Hoarder.  It goes into detail about a woman, Dolores, who moved into an apartment with the leaseholder.  Then, that leaseholder developed dementia and went to a nursing home, but Dolores stayed.  She began hoarding furniture, clothes, and food.  Neighbors began complaining about the smell, the fruit flies, and a “black sooty substance…creepy-crawling” on Dolores’ door. 

Without a doubt it’s bad for everyone involved.  Apparently it took the landlord seven years to get Dolores and her mass of rotting food and stuff out of the one-bedroom apartment.  But that’s when it got sad for me.  It’s easy to empathize with the landlord and the neighbors.  I can easily imagine being in their shoes.  But what about Dolores?  A reporter asked her about the mess after she’d been evicted and, according to the article, “She replied that living with obsessive-compulsive disorder was difficult.”  It goes on to say that after her eviction she found herself in a homeless shelter.

The part that really got me, though, was the quote from one of Dolores’ former neighbors that ended the write-up.  He’d peeked in her apartment after she left and had this to say of what he saw: “‘Once you saw the living conditions…you realized that this is a person who needs help.  She never got the help that she needed.'”

On that note, I’m going to go eat a slice of my cake.  Because what else can I do?

Pigeons, Mike Tyson, and me

There’s an ambiguousness to this blog.  For a whole year I think it had a tongue in cheek tone to it.  And more lately it’s been pretty personal.  More contemplative and serious even.  But something that’s remained constant in its two and a half years is pigeons–and how much I love them.

The About page has described me as “a pursuer of creative outlets with a deep love and curiosity for all things pigeon,” which I think sums me up pretty well.  If I could only tell people two things about myself, I’d feel pretty satisfied if they only knew about my creativity and my feelings for pigeons.

All this is on my mind because I’m in countdown mode for the new Mike Tyson show on Animal Planet that debuts THIS SUNDAY, March 6th–“Taking on Tyson.”

“The first day I fought I must’ve been a ten year old kid.  This is the most frightening day of my life.  The reason for the fight was because the guy ripped the head off my pigeon.  This is the first thing I ever loved in my life.”

I don’t want to get too excited for this show.  I don’t know a whole lot about pigeon racing.  I don’t know a whole lot about Mike Tyson.  But I think this show is going to be an interesting look at a sensitive, provocative man.  Probably a lot of people will tune in because it’s a little strange and funny–but that’s okay.  The things we laugh at have truth in them.  And often the things we make fun of are the things we don’t want to take the time to consider–because they challenge something we’ve always held to be true: fighters are mean, men like Mike Tyson are tough, pigeons are just stupid birds.  I don’t think any of those things are true.  And that’s why I’m excited to watch.

Life and the Academy this year

I really love awards shows. In the past few weeks I’ve watched the Golden Globes, the SAGs, part of the Independent Spirit Awards, and last night the Oscars.

Last year I posted part of an acceptance speech that inspired me.  This year I  recorded the broadcast, but I couldn’t bring myself to fast forward through any of the speeches because I kept thinking of last year and how if I had fast forwarded through the Best Original Score category, I would have missed something pretty great. 

Pretty great this year was when David Seidler won for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech.  He’s an older gentleman and when he got to the stage he had to ask Josh Brolin where the microphone was.  And one of the first things he said was, “My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer.  I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award.  I hope that record is broken quickly and often.”

He went on to mention his own struggle with a stammer.  I think I loved his speech even more than Tom Hooper’s when he thanked his mom for making The King’s Speech happen.

After I finished watching I thought for a moment about why I love awards shows so much.  I find myself smiling through most of the 3+ hours.  If you haven’t placed monetary bets on the winners, most people agree that these shows of excess and ego are boring.  So why do they leave me feeling so…good?  I mean, I even love the In Memorium segment–honoring deceased people I usually have never heard of.

If I’m really honest with myself, the reason I love these Hollywood awards shows is because I think I’ll be there one day.  I don’t particularly have a plan on how that will happen.  And I won’t be bitter or resentful if it doesn’t happen.  I don’t want to live a life of excess or ego or celebrity, but I do want to live a creative life and a passionate life.  So, you know.  Why not.

“What I am is a writer…” (taking comfort in the insight of others)

George Orwell means a lot to me.  I don’t know more than the basics about him, and I haven’t read all that much of his work.  But I credit him, in part, with helping me realize I am a writer. 

Writing for me isn’t everything, but it’s extremely high on the list of the things that define me.  The things that make me feel like a worthwhile person.  The things that I think about and mean to do each day.

I suspected I was a writer for a long time, but it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that it felt like a confirmed fact.  That was the year my English teacher assigned Orwell’s 1984.  Even though I was an avid reader, I often didn’t finish the books teachers assigned (A Tale of Two Cities).  I was a big fan of the mystery novels I regularly took out of the library at the time, especially Mary Higgins Clark.  Fast-paced intrigue and sex and crime.  I think I might have actually read too much as a teenager.  Often I stayed holed up in my bedroom instead of making efforts to lead a fulfilling social life.  I guess I’m not much different today…

Anyway, I did read all of 1984.  And at the end of the semester, my teacher gave our class options for the final project.  We could either write a regular essay about some of the themes in the book, or, we could opt to do a creative project.  It was 2004 at the time, so the creative project would be a twenty-years later epilogue to 1984.  Which is kind of brilliant and makes me think my teacher actually enjoyed being one.

I was one of the only ones who chose to write the epilogue, I think.  But my excitement toward the assignment made up for the rest of the lack of enthusiasm. I got really into it.  It was the first time I’d ever sat down and composed a legitimate short story.  The assignment required only 8 pages, font size 12, double spaced.  In the end, I wrote 20.  There was intrigue and sex and crime.  I read it over and over again I loved it so much.  And I titled it: “2004: The Love Child.” (Because Julia has a baby. And Winston is the baby daddy. Sex! Crime! Intrigue!)

I don’t think I still have a copy of that piece.  It probably disappeared along with an old hard drive.  But I remember the feeling it gave me.  If I had to pick one word to describe that feeling, it’d be empowered. 

I’m reminded of all this because I recently took a copy of George Orwell’s Why I Write out of the library.  Held in the hand it feels like a chapbook, which I guess is what it is.  A chapbook of essays.  I haven’t gotten very far.  I’m on page 9 out of the 120.  But Orwell writes something in these early pages that struck me.  He writes about the “four great motives for writing.”  Reading it felt like getting a long awaited diagnosis from a doctor and finally, finally knowing what’s wrong.  Only in this case, just what is.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to reprint this much of the text, but I’m going to do it anyway in light of how much I love it and want to share it.  He writes:

They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.  They are:

  1. Sheer egoism.  Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. etc.  It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one.  Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen – in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.  The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish.  After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition – in many cases, indeed, they abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery.  But there is also the minority of gifted, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class.  Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
  2. Aesthetic enthusiasm.  Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.  Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.  Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and not to be missed.  The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or a writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc.  Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
  3. Historical impulse.  Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
  4. Political purpose – using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense.  Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.  Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias.  The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It’s like the Myers-Briggs personality test for writers. At this point, I think I’m mainly motivated by aesthetic enthusiasm, secondarily by ego, a pinch of politics, and history lastly. I’m curious what other identified writers feel about this. If they think there’s truth to it and what motives they identify with.

I know this post is already long, but writing this reminded me of something else I recently read. It made me feel better about the periods in my life when I haven’t been productive or creative. It made me feel glad that there are people out there who understand the solitude and introspection and idleness that often accompany the days of a writer.

It comes from Emily Fox Gordon’s new book of personal essays, Book of Days:

What I am is a writer, and during the twenty years when I was producing nothing, covering my existential nudity with an inadequate garment composed of patches of housewife/graduate student/mother, I was serving the writer’s apprenticeship, letting the world trickle through me to leave behind sedimented layers of impression.  All through my protracted apprenticeship I felt anomalous and apologetic, subject to fits of self-loathing and panicky self-consciousness, inclined to take refuge in the comfort of grandiose fantasies.

I confess, sometimes imagining that I’ll truly live the life of a writer (my version of it) feels itself like a grandiose fantasy. But it is comforting. And it’s one I badly want to be my reality.