If I could live anywhere
I’d live in the chorus
Of “Semi-Charmed Life”
With my friends, singing out of key
Every broken note
An extension of some Indian Summer
Fighting the inevitable Fall
And I want nothing else
Do do do
Do da do do
If I could live anywhere
I’ve decided I’m going to try and write something every weekday this week since I can’t leave the house on account of the snow burying me alive in my home/coffin. The problem is – and I have this issue with a lot of blog’s I “follow” – that this is self-serving. Sometimes there just isn’t anything that needs to be said, and all you’re doing is typing to hear the sound of your fingers hitting keys. That’s only satisfying to one person. That’s masturbation.
What we don’t need is another “think-piece” on Kanye. What we don’t need is any more “think-pieces” or people who use the term “think-piece.”
So as I was coming up with this self-serving idea, I was listening to Decoration Day by Drive By Truckers; specifically the song “Outfit.”
The thing I admire about Drive By Truckers is that a lot of their songs tell nice, concise stories. “Outfit” has a tone that matches its subject matter; there’s an endearing world-weariness to it. And the singer’s Southern accent only adds to it, especially when he sings the line “Don’t worry about losing your accent; a Southern man tells better jokes.” Every line of the hook and chorus functions as (largely good) advice from a father to son, but the line that I absolutely love is this one:
Well, I used to go out in a Mustang
A 302 ‘Mach 1′ in green
Me and your momma made you in the back
And I sold it to buy her a ring
I love this line, and not just because I love Mustangs. Four lines, less than forty words, and a complete story. And not just a story, but a layered one. You get a full picture of this relationship – and, sure, you call it cliche, but there’s an inherent honesty in cliche. The fact this story of reckless abandon-cum-responsibility is told within a song about fatherly advice to not be a shithead just makes it more impactful.
There’s the thing about great lines. They’re great on their own; in their context they’re life-altering. And no great line was ever a lie.
The only line I ever memorized from a book is from The Great Gatsby, and it’s the conclusion:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
There’s something about a truly great line that sticks with you, even when you don’t fully understand it, and – believe me – when I read this around 16, I had close to no fucking idea what it meant. Those great lines can be read many different ways by many different folks. Usually based on how many drinks they’ve had.
My first girlfriend grew up to be a psychiatrist. Which I guess makes sense.
There’s a quasi-famous piece of writing advice, “kill your darlings.” It means you should strike out any particular lines or phrases you absolutely love. I’m not one in a position to criticize writing or advice, but that doesn’t make this advice any less of bullshit. You are your darlings. Without darlings you’re just retelling the story of Jesus, or Odysseus, or Hamlet, or Cinderella, or Icarus. All the stories are told; all that’s left are darlings. Kill your darlings, kill your voice.
Shit, even Hollywood can’t tell any new stories.
That one is one of mine. And through all the bad teenage poetry and aborted short stories, only the darling remains.
Not Be an Asshole Be Less of an Asshole in 2015
Ahh yes, New Year’s. A holiday whose only value is its proximity to Christmas, making it okay to take multiple weeks off from work. I hate New Year’s for a myriad of reasons, but foremost among them is the pressure and shaming to “have a good time” on New Year’s Eve and then “start doing something” on New Year’s Day and continue doing whatever that is the rest of the year. Compared to other holiday’s that’s might presumptuous and fucking demanding. You don’t own me, New Year’s!
Anyway, in my quest to be less of an asshole this year I actually started yesterday… by not posting my anti-New Year’s screed until after you all had a chance to shame yourselves into doing something. I was in bed with my dog at 11, because I’m recovering from a cold and because fuck New Year’s. I also didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions until the New Year, but that’s mostly out of laziness.
I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions. I think the idea of picking a relatively arbitrary starting point to better yourself is… well… dumb. But, I can get down on the idea of a clean slate. I’d prefer it to me a little more absolute, though. See, we’re all still carrying our baggage into 2015, we’re just trying to stuff it deep into the back of our minds to curdle and fester, but whatever. This is clean enough to eat off of, so let’s go for it:
Resolution #1: Get in Shape, Fat-Ass
I am both lucky and unlucky that the “best shape of my life” is readily attainable, mostly because it was never all that impressive. I also never let myself slip quite as far as I originally did when I was skirting two-bills. 200 pounds on a 5’9″ frame with zero muscle, does not a pretty picture make. Which brings me to 2015’s motivation: St. Croix. Last July I went to Sanibel for a beach vacation with some friends, and let’s just say that I was less than pleased with the pictures of me (because I am vain, but also fat). So this year I’m taking a trip in March with my family to St. Croix. That gives me about two and a half months (or roughly 10-12 weeks) to drop about 10 pounds and 5% bodyfat. That’s my goal.
Resolution #2: Read a Book, Dumb-Ass
I plan to read
100 30 12 10 books in 2015. There are people who do this almost by accident. Fuck those people. I read someone’s resolutions were they successfully read 100 books in a year. I started crunching the numbers on that and it’s about a book every three-and-a-half days. No way I could do that. A book every ten days? Probably not gonna happen. A book a month… maybe. A book about every 36.5 days? Okay, sure that’s doable. So 10 is the target.
Resolution #3: Stop Abusing Alcohol, Drunk-Ass
I’ve rambled about my relationship with alcohol in the past, and I don’t want to dwell on it here, mostly because I think it’s self-indulgent and belittling to people struggling with real problems. This is not a “quit a vice” resolution. I enjoy alcohol, but I have centered too much of my life around drinking it. Aimless drinking, like aimless snacking, is a waste of booze and time. Later this year, I will turn 29 and enter my 30th year of existence. It’s probably high-time to face my problems instead of attempting to drown them under a wave of tequila and Fireball. Also, stop drunk tweeting.
Resolution #4: Eat Healthier, Junk-Ass
There is a family-sized bag of Smartfood, a bag of honey mustard pretzels, and two quarts of chocolate peanut-butter ice cream in my house at the moment. There will come a moment this year where I will have to eat some, if not all, of those things because I paid money for them and I don’t believe in wasting pseudo-food. My goal is to not buy any more junk food unless I’m entertaining (ha!). I’ve recently started to cook myself vegetarian meals. Don’t get too alarmed, I don’t plan to give up meat any time soon (like, ever), but I do think I’ve been neglecting a lot of veggies and fruits in my diet. So my goal is to have a more balanced diet in 2015, and to limit red meat to post-workout meals when it’ll be most beneficial. Ditto to non-fibrous carbs (i.e. no veggie carbs). I know that just because of laziness I will definitely miss the mark on this multiple times (a week), but it will still be healthier for me than the “meat at every meal” diet I’ve been on since 2004.
Resolution #5: Get Published, uh… Fuckstick
I didn’t expect to have this many resolutions, so I ran out of self-deprecations. This is one of those long-shot resolutions that I will cheat on if it gets down to Christmas 2015 and just self-publish. The goal is, more accurately, to finish a short story I’m working on and making it fucking good enough that people will read it. I don’t give a shit if they like it, just have it no suck so bad they stop after three paragraphs (which is, coincidentally, 2.5 more than I’ve written already). My purpose here is to suss out whether my delusions of being a writer are just that, or if maybe I don’t suck. Maybe.
I’m closing in on 1,000 words here so let me wrap up. I expect to revisit these resolutions and be embarrassed by how shamefully off the mark I was. So look for that blog post in December. Until then, good luck being less of an asshole.
I had a conversation last night with someone I’ve met a few times before, and she kept saying “I really want us to be friends,” and all I could think of is “God, why?”
This is partially a testament to what a bleak piece of shit I am as a human, but I sincerely do not understand the appeal of having me as a new friend.
As I mentioned, I’ve met this person numerous times in the past. We don’t have each others’ phone numbers. If after meeting someone you think “I want to be friends with this person” you probably have some common interests, you exchange phone numbers or become Facebook friends or whatever, and when you’re engaging in said common interest, you contact that person to hang out. That’s pretty much 90% of what being someone’s friend is (5% holding hair while puking, 3% posting bail, 2% weddings and birthdays). I don’t really have any common interests with this person. She’s a nice girl, and she’s attractive but we’ve both got along pretty okay without being friends to this point, so I’m not sure what the appeal is. Every time we’ve hung out, is when we’re drinking heavily, i.e. when I’m acting like a pile of human garbage. Again, not exactly my most appealing side even when I’m struggling to be on my best behavior.
I’ll address it here because I know you’re thinking it: she doesn’t want to sleep with me. From everything I can tell this is/was a request for a strictly platonic relationship. Because as much as I call myself a no-good fuckstick, I’m a quasi-decent lay if the Yelp reviews are to be trusted. So I’d at least get the appeal of that. But no.
What exactly can a 28-year-old guy with a lot of bad habits really offer you when you’re old enough to buy booze and cigarettes for yourself? In the abstract I’m literally of no use to you or anyone else who doesn’t require a friend with a working knowledge of homebrewing and/or a quasi-decent lay.
So if that person ends up reading this: just take a knee. There’s no use throwing a Hail Mary when you’re down by this much. And I’m probably not going to meet you halfway either; I don’t have the effort or inclination to explain to another person that I have shitty impulse control, drink too much, and if these blog posts were a cry for help, I’d be shouting much louder so stop looking too deeply into my shit.
Give up on being my friend, because this shitty behavior – it’s probably gonna get worse before it gets better.
(That would be a horribly, perfectly glib way to end this post but there’s one other thing I want to address: I do like making new friends. Shit, I met someone online invited them over and spent the next few hours drinking beer and shooting the shit. It was awesome. But I’m not willing – and possibly not able – to change my behavior at the moment. 2014 has been a shit year. I lost my girl. I lost my first dog. My best friend is going through some shit that I have to just sit and watch because I can’t do fuck-all to help him. And all the minor shit that makes getting out of bed in the morning seem like a shit idea. So I’m not saying not to try and be friends with me if that’s a dumb idea rolling around in your head; just know what you’re getting into. All the Yelp reviews say I’m a pretty decent friend, but the bathrooms need to be cleaned more often.)
“Depression is a thief.”
That’s how this was initially going to start. This post was going to be my usual quasi-poetic prose, laden with analogies, attempting to suss out whatever cognitive dissonance is plaguing me today. Today’s particular brand, as it has been for a little while now, is depression.
And as my analogy was to go, depression is a thief that steals time from you. It steals motivation. It leaves you staring at a wall, mentally picturing the growing pile of “things I should be doing besides staring at this wall.” Pretty soon four hours have passed, and oh shit, I didn’t get anything done today.
For me, my depression is more socially engaged. I’ve been out drinking every night for two weeks (tonight marks day 14). This week I went to a holiday yankee swap with my brew club, saw my friend perform downtown, played hockey in the North End, and tonight I’m going on a brewery tour with a friend from out-of-town. On the surface, these are all fun, engaging activities. That’s the crazy part about it; it doesn’t feel that way.
Drinking tends to cloud things further. Sometimes it ritual: I always have a beer after a hockey game. Sometimes it’s the primary reason I’m out: beer club swap, tonight’s brewery tour. It’s those other times; like if I drink enough this underlying malaise will be washed away and replaced by someone who magically appears and wants to fuck my drunk ass.
A lot of that sounds like the confession of an alcoholic. It’s not. Last night, for example, I made a conscious effort to switch to a lower ABV beer and take it easy so that I wouldn’t be a useless mess today. Achievement unlocked. My view of alcohol is that of an amplifier. If you’re in a good mood and you drink, you’re probably going to stay in a good mood. If you’re depressed; vice versa.
So if I know this, why am I fueling my (self-diagnosed, it should be noted) depression? Because, like a thief, depression is sneaky. It often comes disguised. When I went out to my friend’s show, I was excited to see him, excited to see some other friends, excited to meet new people… and then it came unraveled at the end of the night. And I woke up with a hangover and a heavy case of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?”
This is all to say that that initial piece I’d planned didn’t come to fruition. I sat down and wrote that first line before lunch, as I was in the process of cleaning my house and listening to the Serial podcast. Then I made myself some lunch, fed and walked the dog, realized there was something else I had to write that was more pressing, then I had a work meeting, and now we’re here. And oddly enough that deep throbbing sadness isn’t.
So I thought I’d write about battling depression by keeping busy. But that felt incredibly disingenuous given everything I just felt/did. So here we are at the ending of a long, rambling journey without much of a definitive position; much like the end of Serial.
In truth I don’t know any more (or less) about depression than the next person. I spend a lot of time thinking about it and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the problem is all of the stuff my ex left at the house that keeps reopening wounds I’ve been trying to close for almost seven months now. Maybe it’s just part of the process that I stalled out on and trying to maintain strict radio silence is just exacerbating (or ultimately healing). Like I said, I don’t know.
I do know the dog helps. I know he forces me to get out of bed every day, and to get outside. He forces me away from regressing to a responsibility-shunning hermit. And he has the capacity to make me happy. Not that full-body happiness, but the nice fleeting kind that brings an easy smile. But I also know I long for that full happiness, somewhere off in the future. For now, I’d just like some time to escape. Escape the thoughts, escape this desk and computer, escape importance (self-inflicted or otherwise).
There used to be some of that at the bottom of the bottle; but 14-days of trial and error has got me thinking maybe I need a new method.
I don’t usually share any poetry that I write. This started as a regular, straight-forward, overly verbose blog post but the words weren’t coming out right. So I took the dog for a walk and this poem started composing itself out of half-remembered lyrics. The first two lines – I didn’t realize until this was finished – are from a Gaslight Anthem song. They were actually slightly different, but I changed them to match. Anyway, this sort of captures the essence of what I was trying to say better than the prose did, so…
There are ghosts in this house
Leaving shadows of the past
Where they came, where they slept, where they left
In the groves of the couch
And nestled in the crooks and corners on the floor
On the side of the bed
Where I still do not sleep
Cold and empty
Next to the clock that drifts further out of time,
It was never right.
There are ghosts in this house
They leave reminders behind
Though I’ve never forgotten, I don’t like being reminded.
They haunt the walls
And the pictures, and the rooms left unfinished
Like the promises
And the unfinished lives
And my fears,
That these hauntings will never stop,
And that they will.
I don’t know why I thought of this today, but I did.
This is the story of, hands-down, the sickest burn I ever received.
I was in computer class in, I believe, fourth grade. This was the class where you’d play Word Racer games and other crap on old Mac computers. If you were lucky, you got to play Oregon Trail and subsequently die of dysentery. Anyway, we were doing some pointless busy work in the form of a survey about ourselves, and one of the questions was “Would you prefer to live in the city or in the country?” For reasons unbeknownst to my current self, I picked the country.
Sitting next to me was Laura Fields. Laura leaned over, read the answer on my screen and said: “Go milk the cows, farmboy.”
Then she just turned back to filling out her own stupid survey. And that moment is forever seared into my memory. Oddly enough, it’s there as a happy memory. Possibly because it marks the last time a girl spoke to me for 8 years, but more likely because it is the simplest, most straight-forward and yet totally cutting insult I’ve ever received. A Beethoven’s Fifth of grade-school put-downs.
Well played, Laura.