New

f6cf7a081d6e11e38f4222000ab5bca1_7

 

My back is wet when I get off the subway at Union Square, my bag sticking to my shirt and my shirt to me. The stale, muggy air of the subway stations is always significantly warmer than the air above, laced with old scents and stale stink. No one seems to mind, though. To live in New York is, apparently, to learn to turn off your nose at given times.

Every morning is just a little different, from the subway musicians to which train I’ll get on (usually the N or R locals instead of the more convenient Q express) to which door I’ll exit from (still trying to get the hang of that) to the multitude of languages I’ll hear from my fellow passengers. Now, starting my second week living in Manhattan, I’m starting to get a routine down and the variances seem fewer and fewer until eventually, I’m sure, one morning will blur into the next, leaving no fingerprint on my memory of how that sequence of rote motions was different than the day before, or the week before, or the month before.

My trip from Times Square to Union Square is much shorter than my commute in Los Angeles, even when on the 704 Rapid. Within ten minutes I can arrive at my destination, so half the time I don’t even bother taking a seat and choose to join the “real New Yorkers” holding on to a bar and rocking gently with the sway of the train as we careen from point to point, letting our bodies softly lean into each twist and turn. I’m sure one of these days I’ll get my “subway legs” but for now I have to place my feet separated, one slightly in front of the other, in order to more easily shift my weight in all directions as the car not-so-gently navigates its track, limply riding the waves.

When I exit the subway station, it takes me a moment to reorient myself to where I am, for an underground system doesn’t allow one to update one’s internal compass en route. Even though I’m no stranger to subways, having taken them in multiple cities around the world, I wonder if people who grew up with a subway system have this same hitch?

Union Square is not like a familiar piazza from faraway Rome, which I miss from my time studying there in college. Instead, it’s more of a park, albeit mostly on concrete or brick. At all hours of day are people sitting, meandering, conversing. Chess players wait for passers-by to challenge them. On certain days, a greenmarket springs up on the sidewalk. The morning, in general, tends to be pretty calm. If there’s rain, activity will be muted, the chesshustlers gone, though leaving their boards and pieces in ready stance.

I walk down Broadway towards the office and after just a few minutes I’m there.

The day is… unstructured. As I’ve only started with the company two weeks ago, I’m allowed a great deal of flexibility and autonomy to learn the technologies and fully verse myself in order to do what my position requires. It’s quite a change and shock to the system to undergo such a change of culture: not only am I now on the vendor instead of the client side of the table but I also am in a startup environment where people support each other. Numbers of deals are public knowledge. The company works together, instead of as silos of information. And that doesn’t even take into account the humorous animated GIFs that circulate regularly on company emails.

Each day progresses nicely. Sometimes there is an in-face client meeting. There are always phone calls, most of which I simply audit. Every now and then I’m called upon to relate my experience in implementing our company’s technology while I was at my previous company. I still haven’t gotten my spiel down so I ramble and circuitously extoll the virtues of the technology. Having been the implementer of my new company’s second large deal and the only engineer to transition from client to employee, I’m seen as something of a unicorn. The thought process that I can see in others’ minds is that my standpoint from being on the consuming end of the product will prove valuable in pitching our technology to new clients, and this isn’t without fact: the numbers the company has to demonstrate its value (which I provided them years ago) are valid. The metrics for success are there, and I can speak to them first-hand. The implementation pains I can speak to directly.

Yet…

Did I make the right choice? Should I be on this side of the table? One may argue I’m just having cold feet at making such a career move and geographical move at the same time, and that’s true: I’m definitely suffering a bit of homesickness and nostalgia for my prior position.

But yet…

Something else nags at me. I was accustomed to being at least one person who could say “no.” Granted, this didn’t happen often, as usually the dictum for an initiative would come from above, but I never had to subscribe to the belief that “the customer is always right.” Now, lest I misconstrue my company now, I don’t believe my colleagues believe that either. But yet, I’ve never been on the vendor end—it requires quite a mindshift.

So after a day of phonecalls, meetings, and/or playing on my own to learn the SDKs and APIs, I pack up my laptop (at an insanely early hour, compared to my last position: usually between 5 and 7) and head back to Union Square. The trip back is the same, but usually I don’t get quite as sweaty. More than once, I accidentally took the closest vestibule to the NQR, ending up further downtown, instead of uptown. I think I’ve finally gotten that part solidified in my brain and I continue to the NQR platform uptown and wait. Usually it’s the N or R; I have yet to take the Q back home.

Times Square is a clusterfuck, as always. Some of the other stops in the City are a bit more orderly as the people using them are more natives than tourists, but Times Square is always packed with tourists. Once again music from a subway performer guides me out of the station as I weave my way though the various exits of the station, eyes firmly set on the “41st and 7th” exit. I retrace my morning steps through the station and climb the two flights of stairs to street level.

At last, fresh air (well, as fresh as the air in Manhattan can be considered.) For some reason, it’s more noticeably welcome than in the morning. Maybe I’m tired.

I begin the walk from 7th Avenue to 10th Avenue, trying to moderate my pace. Over the past week I’ve nearly given myself shin splints as I’ve tried to walk too fast in my dress shoes, slowing down and resting occasionally because of the pain. So lately, I walk slower, not trying to match the New York pace, and trying to sink in my surroundings.

The walk to my temporary apartment is uneventful, and I take the elevator to my eleventh floor studio.

Then the evening begins, and I find myself at a loss. Here I am in a city of multa et mira, yet without a companion with which to explore it, I default to being a hermit. I refresh my Facebook feed every few minutes, I chat with anyone who’s online, and in general have a pathetic evening.

This will change, I tell myself: meeting people in New York is much different than Los Angeles. You’ll make friends and have a social life.

But for now, the glowing rectangle of the laptop invites me in and, apart from serving as a communications conduit to geographically far-flung friends, it simply is a placebo for life.

I go to bed early, knowing I’ll toss and turn, wake up at regular intervals, and have to pry myself out of bed in the morning when it comes time to go to work.

Alone.

Finale

I feel like I’ve been hibernating lately, moving through the world softly without making any waves. It can be kind of peaceful, just navigating quietly through the world, not exerting much energy one way or another. For me, work has been stable and life has been… stable enough. I feel as though I’ve been asleep for a while, and only recently have I awoken. There are a couple reasons for this solitude and slumber, but I shan’t go into that now. I will, however, say what’s awoken me.

In the fall of 2003, I went to Rome with a good several score of my cohorts from Iowa State University’s College of Design. We 30-40-odd budding graphic and interior designers and fine artists bedded down in The Eternal City for a semester unlike anything we had experienced or were even prepared to experience. What followed was a whirlwind of art history, whether in lecture, field trips, or just wandering around the city and tripping (sometimes literally) over Roman ruins, Gothic architecture, an Renaissance paintings.  Traipsing across the cobblestone streets all over Italy, we engaged our youthful imaginations and desires and lived la vita bella to the best of our ability (and our pocketbooks’).  During this time I saw an incredible growth in my classmates: many of them, coming from small-town Iowa, were experiencing the great abroad and navigating through a major city for the first time. Pretty much all of us, regardless of our travel experiences, were actually living in a major world city for the first time.

Before we settled down in Rome for the semester, I traveled through much of Europe for a few weeks with several of my friends from the program. We went to London, Barcelona, Paris, Munich, Stockholm, Geneva, Prague, and possibly others I’ve forgotten over the years. For the majority of these cities, it was not my first visit – I’d traveled through Europe twice before, so in many of these places I was tourguide and translator. I’ll never forget my experience of visiting the Sagrada Família in Barcelona during this trip. It’s an amazing building, even though it is still under construction. As we ascended from the Metro stop, I knew that once we reached street level their first sight would be this amazing church, with its amazing, organic architecture conceived by Antoni Gaudí . As we neared surface level, I turned around on the escalator so I could watch the reactions in the faces of my companions upon laying eyes upon this awesome structure. It remains to this day one of the most rewarding moments of my life: I felt as though I was truly sharing in the first experience they had, and my breath was taken away with theirs as if it was my first time there as well.

Every student in the College of Design at Iowa State University is required to take a component of art history, and it was the rich tapestry of Roman art history that was the main draw for the department  to have this Rome program. From its place as the caput mundi of the Roman world to being the center of the Roman Catholic church, the art and architecture  of Rome and its surrounding cities is unique to anything found in the entire world. The pure level of saturation of art is phenomenal: turn a corner and you see a church you saw in your Gardner’s Art Through the Ages; turn around again and you see a postcard-worthy view of the Spanish Steps; turn around again and you’re in the Vatican Museum, peering up at the private chapel of the popes, the famed Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel).

During our time in Rome, I served as a T.A. for the art history course. Our course was divided into three parts, ranging from ancient history to modern times. During these, I assisted in advancing slides, distributing reading material and, assisted by my knowledge of Italian, mapping out field trip instructions for the rest of the students (the web interface for ATAC Roma in English at the time was still a little shaky.) It was not very glamorous work, but it provided me with a few euros in my pocket and the opportunity to get to know the art history professors a little bit more. And it was this last part that has prompted this memoir.

Terry Kirk was the third and final of our art history professors that semester. His scope was the Counter Reformation Era era ‘till modern. My experience with Terry started off on a non-standard note: my ex Curt, a former student of Terry’s from the same program, came to visit me (and la bella città di Roma) during that time. After my first or second class with Terry, the three of us went to lunch and during that time, teacher became human, humans became art, and art laughed and rejoice in the shared experience of soldiers of light in a tenuous existence between the world’s love and hate.

Terry was amazing and engaging. He was beautiful and vibrant when discussing the art, architecture, history, and philosophy that were his professional life. He was passionate when discussing the books he was writing, the finer points of Baroque architecture versus Renaissance, and hundreds of other points of discussion that arise when art geeks get together.

That third of the semester went swimmingly, for the most part. I was still reeling from the loss of a close family friend towards the beginning of the semester, so my design projects may not have been up to snuff, but I was able to absorb the art history knowledge that was being imparted to me and do well. The details of what I learn escape me, but I recall one thing in particular: when we went to see the Ecstacy of St. Theresa, Terry did what I did at the Sagrada Familia. As we approached the ædicula of the sculpture, Terry turned around so he could see the expression on his students’ faces. Of course, we’d seen the image, perhaps a hundred times before in books and slides, but seeing it in person was… sublime and amazing.

A few years later, Terry was here in Los Angeles for a conference, and we met up for drinks one night. I showed him one of my favorite places and gave him a ride back to the place he was staying that night, where we continued our conversation. The next night, I brought my friend Brad to The Standard Hotel downtown where he was then staying and we enjoyed a great dinner with lively conversation during which Terry tried to make sense in his own way the virtual reality/animation work that Brad does with Terry’s knowledge of art history and human experience. Afterwards, he graciously gave us his two passes to the rooftop bar, a prime spot in L.A., to experience what has been written about in so many travelogues. Though we’d both lived here for a while, neither Brad nor I had experienced the rooftop before.

Terry and I had a few email exchanges afterwards, one of the most memorable being a relation of his time in L.A.: “I enjoyed too just driving on the freeways for hours.  That may have been the most authentic experience I had in LA, unique.  Except for having spotted a star, of course, Jude Law in all his ferret-like intensity.  The most real thing I saw in LA was a person whose profession is creating images of other people.  Perfect.”

Then a couple days ago I received quite a shock: I was informed by former classmates that Terry had committed suicide. His lifeless body was discovered, after a friend called the police. His car was found, a note. He had parked, walked for an hour, and then slit his wrists.

That last sentence was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to type. I’d looked forward to seeing Terry perhaps ever few years, whenever he was in L.A. for a conference again. And now I shall never have that experience again. The several times we had lunch while student and teacher, enjoying a small carafe of wine over genuine Italian food at a simple trattoria or a €0.70 cappuccino at a local café, the discussions, the enlightenment… shall never be again.

I try to honor Terry in this memorial essay, but there’s nothing really I can do. It all is the past now, and now I regret not staying in touch more, as we are wont to do when our time with someone is cut short. He was too young, too vibrant, and too caring to have left us so soon, but he must have been in incredible pain to do such a thing. While the idea of suicide is no stranger to me, I’ve never been so far gone as to desire it.  Knowing what I’ve experienced in my time, his life must have gotten to an intolerable point where nothing could have resolved it. And this I must understand and accept.

All I can say now is this: Terry, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Cooling


Cooling—Tori Amos

When I leave work now, the sun has already hidden behind the horizon. Summer’s death knell is softer here in California than it is back in Iowa, but it’s still palpable. The air is a little cooler as well, and my Midwestern bones are firing rapid signals to my brain telling me to start hunkering down for the winter. Even though here, in California, Mother Nature doesn’t blanket us with snow like back in Iowa, we still have a tendency to turn inwards during the cooler winter months, more frequently choosing nights in with friends and wine than nights out on the town. Or at least so has been my experience.

I tend to also notice a subtle shift in peoples’ demeanors… a slight change in their mood. Maybe it’s the fact that the gray skies evoke the winter season very strongly to those many people here who are, indeed, transplants from the Midwest and who are feeling the same emotions affecting me. Perhaps they have associations with this minute change in the environment and are also feeling the need to hunker down a bit. Perhaps they, as I, feel the need to turn inwards a bit more as one stays indoors more often, even here in California.

Living in Los Angeles presents an interesting viewpoint of winter, though, because the summer never seems to want to officially let go of its hold on the season. Even last week there was a heatwave, even after two weeks of rather chilly climes. But the Los Angeles winter exists, even in a place that has few seasons.

Unfortunately, winter also brings with it intense mood changes for me. While I don’t technically suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I think all the years of winter equaling school and evaluating my self-worth via grades has imprinted themselves upon me, causing me to always doubt myself and what I’m doing with life. So thus, I tend to have rather violent mood swings, from hating myself and everything I stand for to being on top of the world loving where I am in life. It’s a rollercoaster I don’t wish upon anyone else. Don’t get me wrong—I know that everyone has mood swings, but I’m particularly prone to them and mine are not fun.

In a previous essay I said that winter is the Midwest is as such: “In these places winter’s teeth are more than just a figure of speech but jaggedly adorn every house’s eaves, icy spikes both beautiful and menacing, and the wind cuts through every shirt and sweater and scarf and coat in one fell stroke.” It’s not really hyperbole—but yet, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia associated with such winter.

Such bitter, bitter cold yet such warm, warm hearts of people.

Strangers

There’s a woman who rides my bus. We always get on the 704 or 4 (whichever comes first–we know that the time it would take to wait for the express bus in lieu of the local would negate the speed of the bus) shortly after nine o’clock in the morning. We’d wait at the bus stop together, but never say ‘hi’ or otherwise acknowledge each other. Sometimes she’d be sipping coffee, struggling not to nod off on the bench. Sometimes she’d do her makeup. And sometimes she just simply waited. She never talked on her mobile phone at the bus stop, though, as I’ve seen countless do. We get off at the same stop in Century City, at Avenue of the Stars (announced by the recording on the bus with exuberance, but not quite as much exuberance as when it announces “Hollywood!” Boulevard.) More often than not, we’d also catch the 6:32pm 704 (or sometimes the 6:38pm 4).

It’s interesting—in a city of 3.8 million people, one can see the same people every day. Of course, the randomness and extreme size of the city is mitigated by the fact that one always has one’s daily patterns from which we (tend to) rarely stray. It’s thus that we connect with people, even in just a familiar-face manner. The old lady at Whole Foods who walks slightly tilted, the familiar cashier at said Whole Foods who doesn’t need to check your ID since he’s seen you a million times, the crazy guy on the bus every now and then, the daily commuters, the regulars at the bars… they all contribute to reducing the anonymity of one of the largest cities in the world. When I used to commute on the 405 (the most congested freeway in the country during rush hour) I used to see the same people most days as well. If I didn’t see them at any point during my drive I’d wonder about them. Did she finally get in an accident for doing her makeup in the car? Him for checking his BlackBerry (maybe the stocks?) Did he get a better job (like I wanted to) even though he was obviously doing well as he was driving a Lotus?

But now she’s no longer on the bus. I wonder where she is. Was she just temping at one of the banks down there? Did she get fired? What happened to her? Granted, I haven’t been keeping quite the same hours—I usually catch the 9:10am bus and the 6:05pm or 6:18pm bus back. But I’ve been erratic with my schedule the past month and I haven’t seen her once. What happened?

I think it’s the small things like this—the checkers at the store, the passengers on the bus, the familiar bus driver, our coworkers—that make the anonymity of the city bearable. If we never saw the same person twice, I think we’d go insane.

Or would we be freer? What if we were free to be a different person to everyone, without any chance of being caught in a lie? Would we make up stories about our lives, aggrandize ourselves and our situation? Would we humble ourselves and seek empathy or pity from a stranger, just for the fun of it? Or would we still be ourselves, true to our situation and being?

But it’s not that way. We have our patterns and we have our modi operandi. And thus, we have more human connection from the nameless familiar faces we see on our life path.

Housewife—Jay Brannan

two bodies pressed together
two boys are falling hard
the smell of sweat and leather
a kinky greeting card

crazy about each other
we both have fucked up pasts
but when we are together
we have a fucking blast

i wanna be a housewife
what’s so wrong with that
i wanna be a housewife, yeah
and that’s just where i’m at

i’m making guacamole
he’s working on the car
when he grills turkey burgers
he knows i like them charred

i like to wash the dishes
i like to scrub the floors
don’t mind doing his laundry
what are boyfriends for

i wanna be a housewife
what’s so wrong with that
i wanna be a housewife, yeah
and that’s just where i’m at

i wanna have his baby
i wanna wear his ring
he drives me fuckin crazy
i am his everything

i wanna be a housewife
what’s so wrong with that
i wanna be a housewife, yeah
and that’s just where i’m at

i wanna be a housewife
what’s so wrong with that
can’t wait ‘til he’s in my life, yeah
cuz we haven’t met

we haven’t met yet…
we haven’t met yet…

Past Lives


Only Echoes—Stuart Davis

Our past lives have been on my mind lately. I don’t mean this in a reincarnation sense; rather, I refer to the many phases of our lives that we have each gone through and how one phase can be so completely different from another that it really seems like another life. We’ve all used the phrase “It feels like a lifetime ago.” Maybe there’s some more literal truth to that. In essence, isn’t it possible that, fundamentally, we are different people when we experience a different part of our lives as we grow older, circumstances change, careers progress, childhood falls away. We’ve each been taught different lessons in the different parts of our lives, molding, shaping, forming us into who we are in this current life.  Every few years we experience a rebirth, phoenix rising from the ashes of our lessons. Or maybe it’s that we cycle through butterfly stages, recreating a cocoon periodically to emerge ever more beautiful.

Childhood is a very obvious past life. Those formative years set us up to be who we are today—or rather, they formed the framework of how we will grow and change as we got older. I’ve heard it said more than once that the liberal arts are less about learning facts and figures and more about learning how to learn. I think the same is true of childhood—it’s not about growing up, but learning how to grow. By experiencing so many radical changes over the course of some fifteen, eighteen years our method of rigidity or flexibility to change is formulated and solidifies. From there on out, we have developed the base from which our personality will be hammered against the anvil of life and whether we are malleable or brittle and how we learn the lessons. Any little word from parents or teachers or friends or enemies at this formative time can, unbidden, resurface at any time in our life, throwing us back into the point of life where we were when we heard it. Sometimes this can be affirming but it’s more likely that these thoughts will be the negative as the negative sticks in memory far more tenaciously than the praise and affirmations that we received. I work through these thoughts constantly; small, inconsequential actions I took, words I spoke, insults traded flit and float through my mind, sometimes surfacing in dreams and sometimes commandeering my entire conscious until I deal with them. Twenty years later, a derogatory word can still sting.

But childhood, once we’ve entered the world beyond high school, still seems so far away—truly, a past life. Everything about what we do is different. The daily routines that are “life” have completely changed. All that remains the same is some sense of life, how we grow, how we learn. Each laugh we laugh, tear we cry, joy we share, sorrow we feel, must somehow affect us and slowly by slowly change us into a different person with a different life, right?

The next phase of life, after high school, is an obvious one. It’s then that we begin to grow into our skins. College was the place where I developed my ethics and morals, discovered drinking and sex, informed my life via my study of philosophy, dove into the world of politics, separated ideals from idealism. And then it was on to my first life in Los Angeles, my life in Chicago, and now my second life in LA… so separated and different from the first. A different job in a much more healthy environment has served to permanently remove myself from the lascivious world I was living in before. Much more stable and healthy and sound, I navigate through the daily world more secure in myself and my future.

I was reminded recently of the cyclical nature of our lives, though. I was reminded by a friend of the myth of Persephone, and how the story can be interpreted as:

“It is a circle structure that is cut in half. The bottom half is in the underworld and the top is in the ‘real’ world… The story begins with a crisis, a build up and then it isn’t until you work your way into the underworld where you begin to do your healing and finding the ‘magical objects’… before she finally emerges at the end back in the world with a return to the community.”

He put it beautifully. Life in LA began on the top half and descended into the bottom half. Chicago was my underworld where I healed from the scars both inflicted and self-inflicted upon myself during my first life in LA. And now I have emerged from that life and returned to the community, to myself, to the world at large as a stronger, healthier person.

Each life signals a rebirth. Each life brings with it its challenges. I will be healing, learning from the scars for several years to come, but it’s almost as if I’m working off the karma of a previous life, seeking to restore the balance and free my soul from the trappings of the world. I’ve been told I have an ‘old soul’ by more than one person, and perhaps that’s true. Perhaps my analogy of past lives carries with it far more truth than we can ever reveal or verify as true. We can only strive to feel it, to touch it, to seek harmony between past and present.

Lessons learned and lessons yet to come.

Rebirth.

I Don’t Know What It Is—Rufus Wainwright

From Want

I don’t know what it is
But you got to do it
I don’t know where to go
But you got to be there
I don’t know where to fall
But I know that its comfortable where
I don’t know where it is

Putting all of my time
In learning to care
And a bucket of rhymes
I threw up somewhere
Want a locket of who
Made me lose my perfunctory view
Of all that is around
And of all that I do

So I knock on the door
Take a step that is new
Never been here before
Is there anyone else here too
In love with beauty
Playing all of the games
Who thinks three’s company
Is there anyone else who wears slightly mysterious brusies
I don’t know what it is

Take a lookin around
At friendly faces
All declaring a war on far off places
Is there anyone else who is through with complaining about what’s
Done unto us

So I knock on the door
And I am on the train
Going god knows where to
To get me over
To get me over

Give me heaven or hell
Calais or Dover

I was hoping the train
Was my big number
Stopping in Santa Fe and the Atchison-Topeka
Though I’m chugging along, put away by the crossing hand
We’ll be heading for Portland, or Limburgh or Lower Manhattan
Find myself running around

I don’t know what it is so get me over
I don’t know what it is so get me over
I don’t know what it is so get me over
To get me over
You gotta do it.
You gotta be there.

Zen


Do What You Have to Do—Sarah McLachlan

Every day we have to do it. It’s an unavoidable, inescapable part of life, modern or otherwise. We try to minimize how much of it we have to do, but no matter what walk of life we’re in or what our occupation there’s always going to be an amount of it.

I hate waiting.

Waiting, it seems, is one of the scourges of the world. There are so many ways in which we wait: in line, in traffic, for coworkers, for the bus… and it’s this last one that factors significantly in my life. When dependent upon public transit or other people for transportation, you do a healthy amount of waiting. Whether it’s five minutes for your friend to get there or thirty minutes for a late bus there is waiting. Sometimes we’re lucky and time things just right so there is no waiting—from bus stop to bus. But then there’s still the waiting on the bus to arrive at your destination. This one’s the same the world over, public transit or no. There’s always transit time, if nothing else.

More waiting. And within that period of time, there are a flurry, plethora, smorgasbord of emotions we can feel. Nervousness, anticipation, boredom, anxiety, restlessness… or maybe peace. Maybe we can find zen in waiting instead of making it out to be some great stress or punishment in our lives. With a portable music player you can rock out at the bus stop and pass the time. In the car on a road trip, I find singing along to music always helps pass the time; good conversation always does this too. There can be many revelations between driver and passenger during even a short car ride—unknown shared interests, aligned desires, shared secrets, personal growth.

But sometimes can there be simply zen in waiting, without any distractions? Maybe it can be nice, in this frenetic modern world, to simply exist in a time and place with nothing to think about, worry about, or stress about because in that simple act of “waiting” we are acknowledging that at that very moment, there is nothing we can do to change our lives or our surroundings or location. We are waiting on the rest of the world to catch up with us. We are waiting on so many things and maybe that’s the key. Instead of frantically trying to change things, wishing the bus would hurry up, that the traffic jam would clear, that the trip is over… maybe instead, we should find a moment of peace in a small moment when even this crazy world has no expectations of us.

Responsible


Last Dance—Sarah McLachlan

I’m irresponsible. To a fault. I’ll freely admit this, as it’s something I’ve had plenty of time to adjust to and accept. Whether it’s laundry, cleaning, taking out the trash, bills, freelance projects… anything, really, I procrastinate until I get so overwhelmed that I just don’t know where to start. Then I procrastinate, this time so emotional and panicked, until it becomes intolerable and I slowly by slowly start taking action to do the responsible things of my life. Maybe it has something to do with being the youngest child, spoiled by overbearing parents. Maybe it’s my wild moodswings that can leave me incapacitated for weeks at a time. Maybe it’s just the plain fact that I’m lazy. Who knows. The fact remains that, at 28, I’m as irresponsible as I was as a naïve freshman in college.

Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much, as I’ve had a very long time to accept this fact. However, something’s changed in my life to highlight that I’m at an age where I should at least be in charge of my finances and not overdrawing nor bouncing checks constantly. (I don’t even want to know what my credit score is.)

I’m now an uncle.

Born May 23rd, Rhia and Rohan Nagale (yes, fraternal twins) are my first niece and nephew. I was ecstatic to hear the news, which I’d hoped for for a long time. But then…

But then? What can trump the pride and joy of an uncle, especially considering the recent burst of exuberance resulting from Colden’s birth?

Uncle. Uncle. Can that word be applied to me sans “the gay fuckup…” prepended to it? My brother and sister, ten years older than I am, are much more established and stable in their lives, both with solid careers and spouses. Even at my age they were (probably) the same puritanical, responsible beings. I can’t know this for a fact, of course, but reason suggests such. But now that I’m an uncle? I’ve dreamt about starting a trust fund for each of my nieces and nephews to present to them on their graduation from high school—“fuckup money,” as I’d wanted to call it. Money with which to do what their parents expressly didn’t want them to do, the eminently practical folk they are. Backpack around Europe for a summer. Buy a new car. Buy books or musical instruments. Just plain not work for half a year, spending the time on writing and reflection. Going to college where their parents didn’t want them to. Who knows. It’d be up to them. Pretty much the only rule I’d have is that it couldn’t use it on practical things that their parents would pay for. I think, knowing that they’ll all have a fairly restrictive upbringing, that they’d be appreciative of this.

I was actually hoping that I’d become an uncle sooner, very shortly after my sibs got married, so that by now my first niece/nephew/both would be some seven, eight years old. A little more fun. Then when they’d be turning twenty-one I’d still be in my early forties, still young enough to be the cool uncle that took them out and got them smashed for the first time. Hopefully I’ll still be the cool uncle, though closer to fifty by the time Rhia and Rohan (not to mention whomever may follow) are adults.

But what smarts is that I’m in no financial position to start those trust funds. I’m still (and probably forever, whether I get my act together or not) the black sheep of the family. Maybe I have an inflated thought of what “uncle” entails, since mine were definitely older and established by the time I was aware of such things, since I was the big baby of the family and all. Maybe I’m putting too much importance on such a simple biological/familial fact.

Or maybe I’m just being pessimistic. Maybe I’ll be a great uncle.

I can only hope.

Crush

The crush of humanity pins me to one spot in the crowded bar. I can’t move, I can barely breathe. Maybe my tolerance for crowds is diminishing—maybe I’m just not up for crowded bars any more. Maybe it’s the people there—they’re not my typical type that I tend to encounter when I usually go out to crowded places. These people are more “real” as some of my friends would say. “Dudes” as one would quip.


The crush of humanity shoves me into one spot when we go elsewhere. Though it’s more my type of crowd, I’m still not feeling it. I’ve been off all day; maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I leave early.


The crush of humanity on the bus is depressing. I just want to sit down and nod off on my morning commute, but they’ve run a small local bus on the route instead of the large two-part bus. I stand with the other people and get pressed into the same position for the whole ride. My feet hurt by the time I reach the office.


The office is quiet, a slight buzz of activity. The TV is on, showing the finale of the show and we’re frantically making sure the website doesn’t have issues. It does, of course, and by the time we get to the VIP afterparty, which we were all really looking forward to, it’s dying down. The food being served is old and stale; we only have time for two drinks before the close the bar down. The crowd is light, though I’m told there was a crush of humanity earlier.


In my room, alone, I do a postmortem on the past few days. It seems as though I’ve had an emotionally turbulent few days, mostly on the low end. But I remember the crush of humanity with a different view this time. I remember that at least it reminds us that we’re not alone.

Pieces about my life and other thoughts, for better or for worse. Mostly for worse.