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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Le Petit Mort (Part I)

From Car Crashes to Bike Rides (And Also, Hello)

"Hi kids
Do you like violence?
Would you like to see me stick nine inch nails through each one of my eyelids?"
-The voice of a generation, 1999 

I’ve been putting this off for a while. But it’s generally best to just sit down and get it all out. Then you at least have something to work with, and it doesn’t seem as daunting as a blank page. Which is why I often end up with leads that sound like a drunk trying to stall while he remembers how to frame his excuse for why he’s six hours late to your wedding reception and why the overwhelming odor of freshly pickled herring emanating from his shoes is nothing to be alarmed about. “Yes, that is my car parked on your azaleas. And no, it does not need a bumper. Funny, story, actually…” You get the picture. It’s just a way of softening you up for the conversation to come. Leaning into it. Establishing a tone.

Been a while since we’ve had one of these conversations; where you sit and listen, in your head, to the sound of words that were never uttered by mine. I think that’s what suits me so well about writing. It’s like saying, “Here, you say this for me. I’m not gonna get it right.” I so rarely do, when I try to say it out loud. That’s a separate, unrelated skill, and one I have never been drawn to developing. If you ask me, oration’s for the birds.

Where has the time gone? It’s been over a year since we’ve sat down, at two separate times, to have this kind of one-directional discussion, which we agree will mean something totally different to each of us. It’s funny that we understand that, when it comes to the sharing and interpretation of art; they’re two discrete acts that have separate and distinct meaning to the creator and the consumer, and that’s OK. And yet, while the same is often true for real-time conversations – everything from the overall significance of the debate to the meaning of individual words and idioms can mean something different to the participants, depending on context and perspective – we so rarely admit that, in real time or retrospect.

But it’s true of every conversation I’ve had, with friends, family, coworkers, and antagonists alike. I’m always getting something different out of it than they are. Maybe it’s because I’m a narcissist. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but it feels as though I can see a much bigger drama playing out between and behind the things people say to me, than in the content of their messages. Maybe we all do that to some extent. Maybe I spent too much time reading internet forums as a developing mind. Maybe that’s why I now write how I write, where my point is buried somewhere deep within a maze of non-sequiturs and appropriated colloquialisms; a sort of parody of how I think everyone else talks, like I’m an exiled alien trying to fake it to ease the social dissonance of not fitting it. I guess that’s not far from the truth… Whatever the reason, something about the fact that we agree that writing and reading are two discrete undertakings with a definite wall of impersonality between them makes it easier and more rewarding for me to be very personal and candid in this medium.
That’s not just from my perspective. It’s true for you as well (or the people you talk to, if we’re gonna make this about you). When someone asks you, “How’s it going?” how honest is your standard answer? How much time do you even take to consider the facts of how it is going before snapping back the verbal high-five that is, “Fine?” If you’re too honest, direct, or god forbid detailed, you can watch their eyes glaze over with regret, subconsciously wondering why they opened this can of worms with an “over-sharer.” But if you’re anything like me, giving the stock, societally accepted meaningless reply to the greeting feels like opening every interaction with a deflective lie. But that’s what’s considered polite.

So I tend to roll with the unassuming enigma that is, “The Dude abides…” It disarms folks who recognize the line, while giving very little information beyond the objective facts of my situation, and rounds it all out with the air of a religious greeting. It’s somewhere between “You don’t need to see his identification,” “Whatever you think,” and “Bless your heart,” all rolled into one. I figure, if we’re gonna be vague, let’s do it right. I get to say nothing, you get to react in whatever way you choose, and I get to learn about you from your reaction, without either of us feeling like we’re over-sharing.

Now that we have the greetings and pleasantries out of the way, I suppose it would be wise to get to the meat of the issue. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why I called you here today,” and all that. I don’t really have anything specific. I guess I missed doing this, and can’t think of any other way of getting back on the bicycle other than hopping on and taking it for a spin around the new neighborhood. If we’re talking geographics, that would, as of recently, be the Denver Metropolitan Sprawl – Zone 80207. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about it yet, which I suppose is fitting for the name of this blog (Thanks, Spider), but I’m honestly starting to come around to the notion that this has little to do with geography. Over the last few years, I’ve come to better recognize the cycles of my psychological horse-blinders and the way in which my surroundings are not only determined, but also then shaped by my perspective.

In that sense, Denver feels like the perfect place to be at this point in my life. Everything I hate about this place and (primarily) the people in it is a direct personification of the fight I’ve been having the last few years with my own sense of identity. I was chatting with a friend last week whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, and he asked me what I’ve been up to the last few years. “Turning 30,” I laughed in response, without having time to realize how directly that answer cut to the core of everything I’ve done in that time. I had unwittingly nailed it.

That’s where I’ve been for the last year or more, for those of you who wondered. I’ve been saying goodbye to the person 15-year-old me spent a decade creating, and never really figured out how to enjoy in the moment. It turned out that, by the time we had him finished and tuned in to all the right settings, I had realized how pathetic and unsatisfying the dreams of a 15-year-old stoner feel to someone twice his age. But there’s still a part of me that wishes it was that simple; that being that person felt like “enough.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t for some time now. Worse yet, being that person requires a specific skill-set and list of priorities, which are the only ones I’ve developed to any great extent, and don’t conveniently transfer to many more dignified lifestyles. But maybe that’s just the nature of change: It’s like moving. It’s never convenient.

Coming in Part Two:

  • ·         Overgrown children playing with fire
  • ·         Liberal use of big, loaded words, like gentrification
  • ·         The Scum of the Suburbs, and other local wildlife