The Stranger

crosswordI don’t know if I’ve ever completed a crossword puzzle, which is strange, because I’ve tried to do so dozens, if not hundreds of times. Even the easy ones, like the New York Times’s on Monday, still trip me up sometimes. Ever have only one space left to fill in, but you can’t figure out which letter goes there? You cycle through the entire alphabet multiple times and still have no idea what the word is. That’s happened to me many, many times. I have no idea why I’m sharing this now.

A lot of people I know are still getting their education. If I remember right, my father didn’t stop going to college until he decided it was time to have kids. He likes going to school. He’s also boring. Depending on which quarto of the play you are referring to, Hamlet could be anywhere from seventeen to thirty. He strikes me as one of those guys who spends all of his early years doing nothing of interest before deciding to, you know, get on with his life by ending it. So I always did picture him as being in his early thirties. Maybe the reason I’m thinking of this is that I’m tired of people my age acting like they’re already old. There’s a lot of backwards thinking going on with people my age. They think they know how their future is supposed to look, so they reshape everything right now in accordance with what their life is “supposed” to be when they’re older. You can’t see your significant other as representing maturity and your friends as representing the past. The future you envision will never exist.

It’s still hard to get out of bed in the morning. I think of myself as a morning person, but I rarely get up early anymore because there’s no reason to. I get home from work and still need to unwind, but it’s already 11 due to my schedule. No, I’m not going to get a 9-to-5 job, don’t you even suggest it. I need to find more things with which to fill up the rest of my schedule. Maybe I should try getting outdoors more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a hike or anything of the sort. I saw What If, that Daniel Radcliffe romcom a little while ago, and before the film, I saw a trailer for that stupid Hector and the Search for Happiness movie with Simon Pegg. It might as well have been called Self-Help Clichés: The Movie, because the instant the words, “Sometimes in order to find yourself” came up onscreen, I turned to the person next to me and said, “You have to get a little lost” just before those exact words appeared. Actually, I didn’t say it out loud because I have no friends and see movies alone, but you see my point. Talking to people is weird.

I’ve never understood people who are obsessed with fitness. I know working out releases endorphins and shit, but why focus your whole life around it? I guess some people just love that feeling of self-betterment and pushing themselves to see what they are capable of. And on that level, I guess it makes sense. All I know is that I can’t imagine monitoring every calorie I eat and spending three hours in the gym every day. I’m not going to say that I don’t drool over guys with perfect Abercrombie & Fitch bodies, only that having 0% body fat and eating nothing but chicken and eggs is not all that healthy. In the long run, it’s probably better to enjoy the occasional dessert, although that could just be me rationalizing my own vices. I should probably be proud of the fact that even though I don’t go to the gym three times a week like I used to, I still go around once a week or so. So I haven’t completely fallen off the wagon, but getting motivated is tough.

I read something interesting a little while ago. Apparently, the definition of “happy” that Thomas Jefferson refers to in the Declaration of Independence is a little bit different from how it is conventionally understood. Happiness isn’t so much a state of constant positive emotion as it is the feeling of having a pursuit of some kind. I can get behind that. I don’t think you have to be a good person to be happy, and I don’t think you have to be a happy person to be good. The world is messy and complicated that way. But as Tig Notaro said after having a really, really rough year, it’s useful to have something to look forward to. Dr. Joyce Brothers once talked a woman out of killing herself by telling her that she should stick around to see one of her former students (the suicidal woman was a teacher) get married. Of course, when you put all of your stock in your future, it tends to fall through. Life is shitty that way.

garfield

I could use a little bit more comfort in my life. I kind of feel like I’ve earned it. Unfortunately, even that has to come on my terms. One thing that I’ve been thinking I should do sometime soon is watch more educational programming. I notice that the original Cosmos and David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds are available on YouTube. So I’ll have to get around to that at some point. Also, because Halloween is coming up, I’ve been watching more horror films. Updates on that to follow. By the way, does anybody remember the Garfield Halloween special? That scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. It’s fun to play dress-up, but I haven’t done that since high school. Maybe someday.

Sleep well, my children.

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Bad Day

As I write this, I’m feeling a little bit more “in my head” than usual. I’m not sure what to do about that. My first impulse when this happens is to travel to the ends of the Earth and, I don’t know, look around or something, but that is unfeasible for reasons that should be fairly obvious. I had a night like that my second semester in grad school. I couldn’t sleep, so I left my apartment and just started walking. Eventually, I turned back, getting to bed around three in the morning. You ever feel like you’re just being pulled apart at the seams? It’s like there are two yous, one of whom wants to go far away and live a completely different life and the other of whom wants to stay right where he is? Grad school was like that a lot of the time. A lot of my life right now is like that. If I can save up the money, I will absolutely spend a week or two in NYC early next year. I need to see that city again. I had to leave so suddenly, and my parents still don’t seem to have fully accepted that I have every intention of moving back there someday. Maybe someday long after that, I’ll leave and find a place in rural New England. I don’t know. I’m not purely a city boy.

I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on YouTube. It’s hard to stop. The videos are usually not that long, and once you’ve clicked on one, it’s almost impossible not to sit there for five minutes, then click on the next. But I am definitely getting bored with some of them. It’s funny: Coming out of the closet is supposed to liberate you and make you feel like you can be whoever you want to be, but so many people, after doing that, seem to adopt a prepackaged identity that comes with the label “gay”. And you had better believe that they are the same people who say that they don’t believe in labels because they’re constricting. What’s so scary about labels, though? They tell you what a person is, not who they are. It’s not that a person’s sexuality is the first thing you need to know about them, but it’s pretty hard to say that you know a person well if you don’t have an inkling as to their gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, politics, etc. They’re facets of your identity, nothing more, nothing less. But sexuality and gender identity trip a lot of people up because they are so damned political. You can say it’s only a part of you, but when people are trying to take away your rights, it becomes a very big part.

will & rjThe thing about YouTube is how closely it is starting to resemble other forms of media. Everybody on TV is pretty, and wouldn’t you know it, most of the successful YouTubers I know of are conventionally attractive. If they’re not movie star beautiful, most of them are at least cute. Maybe people like that are more inclined to go on camera in the first place. I don’t know. What I do know is that a lot of YouTubers are starting to appropriate the tropes that make certain TV shows and movies successful. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that some of the vloggers out there rehearse some of their shots or even retake them if stuff doesn’t go right. It’s not surprising. Since YouTube is, for so many people, a form of escape, it makes sense that a lot of the people who do it care more about putting on a show than they do about being honest. But I take issue with some of them presenting what they do as a raw and unfiltered look at their day-to-day lives. Most people’s daily lives are boring. I can’t even imagine what daily vlogs from me would look like, and I’m interesting.

I am immediately suspicious of anyone who considers themselves a go-getter. Anyone who thinks that the secret to success is pursuing what you want as aggressively as possible is probably a douchebag. I had to turn down a prospective living situation a little while before finding the new place because the dude asked me not only what time I get up in the morning, but whether I used a hair dryer or any other hygienic appliances. Unless you are sleeping in the bathroom, that really shouldn’t be an issue, should it? I suppose a light sleeper could be awoken by somebody using a hair dryer in the next room, but even that seems like a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, the dude also added me on Facebook because he wanted to get to know me better. Um, no thanks, dude. I sent you a link to my LinkedIn profile because you said that a link to a social media profile would help on your Craigslist ad. I rather pointedly didn’t want you to seek out my FB profile, and I thought you’d get the hint. To give you an idea of what kind of guy he was, he listed The Secret as one of his favorite books and Fight Club as one of his favorite films. Ugh. (I like Fight Club, actually, but you see my point.) Basically, he struck me as a real-life version of the douchey businessman whose car Walter sets on fire in season one of Breaking Bad. (The dude who had “KENWINS” as his license plate, because everything is about winning to these assholes.) His profile picture was a professional looking shot of him giving a big, wide smile in front of a white background. He probably gets up every morning and accomplishes a whole lot of absolutely nothing. Fuck that guy.

I don’t have a conclusion here. You gotta find the people you can be you around, I guess.

Orlando

I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, for a couple years now. It’s a good blog, but there is something, I don’t know, provincial about John Scalzi’s worldview. Maybe it’s because I’m young, but I really can’t let go of this notion that no matter what age you are at, you should be striving to learn new things and have adventures and shit. Scalzi will do that, but only if it doesn’t rock the boat too much. Please don’t read this as a takedown. I think Mr. Scalzi is an engaging writer and a fine human being; it’s just that when he writes stuff to the effect of, “This life is all we get, but I have my family and my friends and my work, so I’m happy”, I find myself agreeing with each individual point, but somehow not liking his conclusion. On one hand, his desire to accept the limitations of his own existence and live in the present has an almost Zen quality, but on the other hand, it seems like a cop-out. Who wouldn’t like to live forever? Who wouldn’t like the thought of an afterlife? I’m not saying I believe in one, only that I have to admit that the thought is rather seductive. And there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of etc., etc.

I think for a lot of people, the need to believe in a Kingdom of Heaven or whatever is less about getting to take what they have with them than it is about contextualizing this life. There are so many Big Mysteries and shit that it seems almost a shame to live so short a life and barely even scratch the surface. As Christopher Hitchens once said, the discussion about what is good, noble, pure and true is the only conversation worth having. So I try not to obsess too heavily over the meaning of life and shit. Because it’s been my experience that all that stuff about God and infinity has a way of working itself out. But of course, that’s only conditionally true. There are no preordained conclusions, only what you have the power to make happen. And honestly, it can be such a relief to let go of something that you thought you needed, but now realize that you can live without.

It’s funny: I don’t consider myself a believer, yet in debates, I often find myself more sympathetic to the Desmond Tutus than the Richard Dawkinses. It’s not so much that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead or disagree with Dawkins about how preposterous and silly that is, only that I don’t understand why he, Bill Maher, and their ilk are so intent on seeing religion as the enemy rather than fanaticism. I’m not sure if there are too many isms that I would consider inherently evil (maybe fascism, but that is definitely the exception that proves the rule). My worldview is fundamentally about how we are all one but not the same (and yes, I did just borrow my philosophy from a U2 song), so it seems like kind of a waste of time to argue that it’s impossible to separate a person’s religious views from their professional life, even though we all do that to some extent. I’ve worked in a coffee shop despite not drinking coffee myself. Why is it so much harder for a creationist to study evolution? Sam Harris’s latest book is about separating spirituality from religion. I feel like he’s coming at it from the wrong angle. I respect his goals; I’m just not sure if those two can be separated, at least not completely.

There are some changes coming my way right now. I just found an apartment and am coordinating the move-in details with my prospective roommate. He seems okay. The hardest part of moving (I might have said this before) is finding my places. Where do I go for sushi? Where do I go for a burrito? Where do I go if I just need to get out of the house for a while? There’s a shopping center not too far from the spot, and due to its convenient location (it’s right next to public transit), I’m taking the place even though rent plus utilities comes to slightly more than I make on my current job. I guess I’ll have to find a second job soon and live off of my savings until then.

crispI heard a story once about the writer Quentin Crisp. Crisp was an effeminate gay Englishman who was an actor and storyteller in addition to writing. The story goes that he would talk to anybody who called him up, even if they were calling to wish death upon him. I guess he was just curious about what made them tick. He could have gotten an unlisted number or screened his calls, but he decided not to. I feel that no matter who or where you are, you have to be willing to engage with the people whose lives are completely alien to your own. Saying, “Oh, my time is limited, I have to focus on what’s really important” is one thing, just don’t confuse that for leaving everything the way it is. And acknowledging the existence of something transcendent and divine does actually mean admitting that you have had religious experiences. If you want to say that you believe in a higher power, but you don’t think it’s God, fine, just don’t argue that everyone who identifies as a skeptic or a humanist is by necessity an atheist. I had to put aside The God Delusion because that’s all Dawkins did for the first chapter or two. What an insecure man.

Most things exist on a spectrum: race, gender, sexuality, and apparently, religious belief. It’s wrong to force people into dichotomies, but it doesn’t mean that the labels are themselves meaningless. We are, after all, only human.

I Want More

There’s been some drama at home lately, but I prefer not to go into that. It’s the same petty domestic nonsense that has been a thorn in my side for years running now. I don’t know if I’ll ever escape it, but I figure I should at least give complaining about it a rest. Anyway, I’m almost done with season six of 30 Rock. It’s very difficult for any show—let alone a sitcom—to keep its edge that long, but I think that even late in its run, that show is (almost) as fresh and funny as it was in its second season. And Jane Krakowski owns every second she’s onscreen.

Rural Juror

This past week has been kinda weird. I’m stuck living at a place I don’t much like, but I can’t find anything better. I wonder if I’ll ever make it back to NYC. I’m starting to get out a little more, which is nice. It’s frustrating how many of the roommate wanted ads I look at specify “light cooking only”. I mean, as long as I clean up after myself, why should it matter how much cooking I like to do? If the kitchen works, I’ll use it, and I’m pretty good at staying out of everyone else’s way. I kinda feel like cooking is something of a lost art anyway. Most people these days know how to microwave shit and get takeout, but that’s about it. To me, a roommate who makes sausage and bow-tie pasta Florentine is a plus. It fills the house with a good smell, and if you’re nice to me, I might even share some. So what’s the downside? People are weird. I mean, I am pretty good at keeping to myself, but I still need my space. And not everybody gets that.

As I wade into the dating scene, I’m starting to wonder if it’s that much like the apartment-hunting or job-hunting scene, in that you have to wade through a zillion assholes to find one who’s worth keeping, and people all bring their own weird little biases and conditions to the table, so you have to deal with that. Or maybe I’m being pessimistic. I’ve had one or two run-ins with assholes now that I’m finally getting serious about the whole thing, and one thing that I have learned is that, just like with looking for a living space or a job, you can’t go looking for a partner just to escape the dating scene. I am reminded, of all things, of that stupid Nia Vardalos movie years ago in which her character refuses to get into relationships, only going on five dates with each of her beaus because that way, you can preserve the fun and excitement of meeting new people forever and avoid feeling trapped. You can see where this is going, right? If you can’t, I’ll give you a hint: the male lead is played by John Corbett, the same dude she married in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In real life, a person like her would end up miserable and alone. And deserve it.

I didn’t actually see that movie; I just read a rather amusing takedown of it. I spend a lot of my spare time reading stuff like that. Nothing wrong with it, really, but I have to wonder just how best to integrate other shit into my lifestyle. The thing about dating is that I’m not sure if most people want what they say they do. Society expects us to get our ya-yas out when we’re young, then meet “the one” and settle down into a boring domestic life with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids and all that bullshit. And a lot of people say they want a committed, long-term monogamous relationship even though they don’t. I don’t like kids, personally, so it’s probably good luck on my part that I didn’t grow up in a part of the country where people are expected to marry at age 20 and start cranking out babies almost immediately. The whole notion that it’s okay to sleep around when you’re young as long as you stop doing that by the time you hit 30 is such nonsense. Some people aren’t made for monogamy. Some people aren’t even made for relationships. Some like relationships, but not marriage. I like all of those things, but that’s just me. I’m not passing judgment. For once.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to settle into your typical 9-to-5 job. For one thing, rush hour traffic makes me murderously angry, and for another, no. Just…no. So while my current job may cut into my social life (not that I had one to begin with), it probably beats the alternative, which seems so dull and stifling. You may say that I’ll change my mind about that someday. Don’t count on that. Not everything I believe can be chalked up to inexperience. Most of the people who say it can didn’t mature so much as stop trying.

I’m trying to wrap this one, so I’ll just say that maybe the reason I get so annoyed by all of those ads that say “light cooking only” is that I thought that learning to cook was a part of growing up, kind of like learning to drive or to tie your shoe. Who wants to eat ramen noodles three times a day anyway? Eating out all the time can be both more expensive and less healthy, and I say that as somebody who eats out regularly. I sometimes feel like I’m both an overachiever and the black sheep at the same time. I dunno, I guess I just do my own thing. I just don’t know what, exactly, I’m working towards. Besides world domination, obviously.

I never saw Pitch Perfect, but I’ve seen a million covers of this song. This one’s my favorite.

Trouble Will Find Me

I’ve been watching some commencement videos on YouTube lately. There’s that Neil Gaiman one I’ve posted multiple times and can practically recite from memory. There’s Stephen Colbert’s—which is fairly cliche, actually, but contains one salient point about how achieving your dreams doesn’t mean you “won”. And then there’s Steve Jobs’, which is characteristically direct and essentially says that you won’t be around forever, so do what you need to do. The Gaiman one and the Jobs one are probably my favorites so far, but I’d also give a shout-out to David Foster Wallace and Bill Watterson, both of whose speeches I have posted or quoted before. Jim Carrey’s speech is also on YouTube. I don’t feel like watching that.

Because I harp on this conflict so much, let me just say that my parents, for my money, have already lost. Their arguments are getting increasingly desperate anyway. I think they know they’re holding me back, because what they’re doing is throwing a tantrum. Dan Savage said that after LGBT kids come out to their parents, they typically throw a shitfit that lasts about a year. For that time, the kid in question has to be the adult in the relationship, because their parents are just angry that they can’t have everything their way. I guess this is, in a metaphorical sense, my coming out. I’ve been out for years now, but it’s only fairly recently that I’ve started pushing back. No, I’m not going to go to the doctor for regular checkups if I don’t feel like it, and the fact that I don’t like discussing my health with you does not mean that I need a lecture about the importance of having a good healthcare plan. This is the only way they know how to relate to me. What a shame.

Some people lose their edge as they get older. Some people never had any to begin with. If there is one hope that I have, it’s that I never lose whatever I have that rubs people the wrong way. A friend of mine described me as having a “difficult” personality. No, I don’t, and I’m not even sure what that means anyway. Another described me as having a “polarizing” personality, and that, I can live with. I don’t believe in destiny. I think it’s people who make our own way, and even if there are forces in the universe that are beyond our comprehension, the way that they make their presence known is less in showing us the path than occasionally meeting us halfway. Change takes time. You can resolve to turn over a new leaf, but habits are hard to break. I spend marginally less time dicking on my laptop before getting out of bed every morning than I used to. I’d like to say that I’ll be back at 100% soon, but I doubt it. Besides, dicking around on your laptop can be fun.

I sometimes bring my checkbook with me when I go to look at apartments. The last person to offer me an apartment on the spot was Psycho Queens Guy, so in retrospect, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But I keep doing it because I keep wondering if the problem is just that I’m not assertive enough. The people at my new job all seem to think I don’t talk much, which is true about 95% of the time. The people at my previous job thought the same thing. I don’t know how to say things in a way that people will understand. A lot of the time, they just don’t get it. And if there’s one thing my enemies all have in common, it’s that they think they’re on my side.

I got very angry at a dude whose place I wanted to look at a few days ago. I called him up after seeing his Craigslist posting and, before he had even asked my name or set up a time for me to come look at the place, began bombarding me with questions about where I worked, how much money I made, how old I was, etc. When I told him the general location of the restaurant I work in, he asked me to be more specific. I guess he thought he was helping me determine whether or not I really needed the place, but after a while, I began to wonder if he actually wanted to rent the place to anyone. Because I kind of think meeting somebody in person is the best way to determine whether or not they’re right for something. When I told him I lived with my parents, he told me I should just stay with them because that’s free rent. I don’t have to explain why that upset me, do I? The kicker was that I realized very early in the call that I had looked at another room in this guy’s house several months ago. He was a total dick then, too, giving me misleading directions so that I arrived two hours late and giving the place to somebody else because I took a day or two to get back to him with my credit score. Fuck him.

I still go to the movies pretty regularly. I saw Gone Girl and enjoyed it, although I found the ending a bit of a stretch. (SPOILERS, naturally.) Yes, the Nancy Graces of the world would probably jump on that case and milk it for all it’s worth, but the Jon Stewarts and John Olivers would likely point out all of the things about Crazy Amy’s story that don’t fit. Because when you really think about it, there’s a LOT that didn’t fit. Maybe I’m just averse to endings where everything is “back to normal”, even if “normal” is actually really fucked up. Change happens no matter what. And normal is not what most people think it is.

Always wondered about this.

Always wondered about this.