On Time, Attentiveness, And Concern Trolling
This past handful of days has been sort of an odd one on the internet if you even pay a passing nudge of attention to social networks. It started with some dick reality TV producer bullying a rowdy older woman on a busy flight during one of the most stressful times of the year for many people, resulting in him being hailed as a hero for getting in the middle of someone else’s shit, telling her to put his dick in her mouth, and making the situation worse when there were people who are trained and paid to handle the situation right there to diffuse the outrage.
Then Paul Walker died, and tons of brave souls took to the internet to mock people for caring and to tell them where their concerns should really be placed. But is any of that really healthy? Is there any point to those doing the chastising in any of these cases other than to be self-aggrandizing in a sense and play yet another round of “Look How Much I Care About Things/Look How You Should Spend Your Time” Olympics? Is there really anything to be gained from telling people what they should or shouldn’t give a fuck about?
Helpful hint, gang: That’s not what’s happening. These blogposts take exactly maybe 30 minutes to crank out, if even that. Facebook or Twitter posts acknowledging that a thing happened? Maybe two minutes at the most? I mean, yeah, that half-hour could have been better spent dragging children from a burning orphanage, starting a LET’S FIND KONY AGAIN Kickstarter, or playing videogames to distract myself from everything else, but that’s not how it was spent.
There are many, many, many times where I’ve just not bothered arguing with someone either in person or on the internet because it is legitimately a waste of my time trying to convince them otherwise. But that’s not me telling someone else what to do, it’s me deciding that I’d rather talk about Paul Walker or call Elan Gale an asshole or make balloon animals while masturbating to illustrations on Greek pottery. It’s my shit, and for someone to come in on a pretty tall, stoned-looking horse and trivialize that is sort of unfair.
But, then again, I don’t want to come across like I’m telling you what to do. Do whatever, but be fully prepared to be ignored at your own peril. If you really don’t care that much, act accordingly. In the end, to quote a skilled yet largely fraudulent asshole protagonist from a popular TV show, the universe is indifferent.*
*This Tumblr post took exactly 20 minutes to type, in case anyone was worried about how I was budgeting my time.
I woke up this morning a little out of sorts. I hadn’t slept well all night anyway, as it was just fitful bits of rest punctuated with terrible nightmares, one involving my cat, Bronson. Somehow he just up and disappeared, and I went on the hunt for him. I was walking around my neighborhood at night, calling his name, and I could hear him crying for me, but I couldn’t find him. I was filled with a sense of dread. It sounded like he was in pain, like he was scared, like he just needed me. So of course I woke up with a jolt and got out of bed, went to the bathroom still feeling a little nervous and confused and kinda scared, and decided to leave my girlfriend’s place and make the (brief) trek through the park back to my place to make sure he was okay. She protested sleepily, wanting me to stick around, telling me that she didn’t like waking up without me, but I promised her I’d be back and told her to get some more rest since she’s still been wiped out from the double-header of spending a week at a conference out of state and then our jaunts to AFI Fest. As I stroked her cheek with my knuckles and gently kissed her forehead, her own cat thundered into the bedroom with a tail the size of a raccoon’s, all hyperactive from the cold weather outside and the fact that something else in the house other than him was awake at the moment. I needed to go check on Bronson.
Passing through our neighborhood park, I tried to clear my head a little by enjoying what was around me. There were herds of kids playing basketball on the courts. The air was crisp - just chilly enough for a hint of warm breath to show, enough to slightly tinge your cheeks with red numbness. The sun was just starting to peek over the building and tree line on the east, and the dewy grass sparkled with a glittery golden hue. It was sort of awesome, but of course the thoughts came back. On the other side of the park is a 7-11. It’s not much, but it does the job. It’s frequented by all sorts of shady characters, but it’s always there when you need it. Still buried in my own head, I trudged inside to buy a cup of coffee to hopefully help and shake out the cobwebs. While milling around, looking at tired blue-collar workers with rough hands and tired faces as they got ready for a day of labor that most of the people in my neighborhood couldn’t even fathom, I jokingly thought to myself “Which flavor of 7-11 coffee best suits my mood today? Am I going to be a cinnamon blend guy? A Brazilian blend?”
I get a lot of grief for getting coffee at 7-11 so often, but I really don’t mind. Much like that 7-11, it does the job and it’s always there when you need it. It’s cheap, it’s warm, and it keeps the system buzzing even though it doesn’t measure up much to a triple-meta-whatthefuckever on ice. An unemployed guy doing handyman work on the side can’t really spring for $10 coffee drinks all the time. As I poured my extra-large cup of life juice, a guy came in yelling at the clerk about wanting some fucking food, then looked at me and asked me for money. I apologized and said that I only had cards. He sneered at me and stormed out the door. I shook it off and went to the register. As I went to pay and the clerk asked me if that would be it, I looked over at the warming cabinet to see a row of spicy chicken biscuits for sale. $1.00 each. Of course instead of saying “Oh, chicken biscuits” and going on with my day, I bought one. I didn’t even want the fucking thing, but I wanted some sort of distraction. Something to fill my stomach and make me not worry about my stupid cat, about my family, about not drinking anymore and dealing with my anxiety and depression without getting shitfaced, etc.
So of course I bought one. As soon as the clerk placed the creepily moist, spongy, paper-wrapped monstrosity into my hand, I felt a sensation of familiarity. Growing up a fat kid and having food be my solace, various taunts and ass-kickings and the duplicitous nature of other, more fortunate kids being slightly muffled by the comfort of something unhealthy. Much like booze was for me over the past several years, food was my first vice. I hastily stuffed the biscuit into my pocket with a mild sense of shame and walked back outside, my exit punctuated by a warm belch of disinfectant-smelling air from the store heater. I started to crave the biscuit. Memories of Chik-Fil-A breakfasts slowly digested in my grandparents’ car to help stem the tide of impending dread from the potential builying of the day ahead, helping me not think about being called fat or poor or white trash for just a few seconds per bite. Burger King French Toast sticks to distract me from noticing how ratty my uniforms were compared to those of the other kids, being made fun of for having a scholarship instead of rich parents. Caloric vacations from how shitty reality could be.
I pushed open the weird squeaky gate across the street and walked into my sprawling apartment complex. It’s comprised of a swath of towering buildings and townhouses smack near the middle of the city and it’s actually pretty nice, all things considered. It’s definitely a place I never envisioned living when I was growing up in a trailer, heading off to an expensive school 30 miles away every morning and then proceeding to get busy having my face shoved into the dirt and being called a queer because I’d rather hang out with the girls and read Archie comics than get bullied by the same kids who called one of my only other friends “nigger”.
Needless to say, money doesn’t buy you class, but it does buy you a terrible spicy chicken biscuit. It can get you a fifth of something that burns to get you away from everything else. It can help you cope in a very half-assed manner until you don’t have it, and then it’s just you and your life.
I got to a relatively secluded area inside the complex, pulled the increasingly soggy mass out of my coat pocket, and turned it over to see a small sticker that read “11/26”. Today is November 17th. I was about to willfully put a $1 hunk of “food” that could live in a fucking wrapper for nine days from this today. This hunk of reconstituted meat, carbs, and chemicals has a price point of essentially $0.11 per day, and I paid that for some sense of what I perceived to be “normalcy” in the past. That one sticker made me realize that my satisfaction had a price point.
Anyway I ate the fucking thing and it was exactly as unappetizing and unsatisfying and inspired just as much self-loathing as one could expect for a dollar, so there’s that.
I continued on, sipping my “it’s okay, I guess” coffee and watching people jog past, families walking with their kids, all that you’d expect from a fairly bustling cluster of apartments in the city, all the while wishing that I’d had the dollar I spent on the dumb biscuit in cash so I could have given it to that guy. At least he wouldn’t have felt as weird about it as I did. Approaching the door of my place, I removed my keys from my pocket and they jangled as my fingers searched for the texture of the right key. A plaintive mew pierced through the door and I sighed with relief, my breath clouding the air. He was okay. Everything was okay. “I’m here, buddy, hang on,” I said as I fiddled with the front door locks, and he wailed louder as soon as he heard my voice. I felt a sense of warmth that the cheap coffee and biscuit couldn’t provide.
The door cracked, sunlight flooded his little gunmetal-grey face, and he immediately started crying and rubbing against my legs, purring like a motorboat. I shut the door, picked his little warm vibrating body up, and cuddled him to my chest, taking him upstairs as he licked the remnants of my shame-breakfast from the corners of my mouth.. His food bowl was a little low, so I gave him more kibble and plopped down on my bed to lay back and think for a minute, only to be immediately interrupted by him hopping up onto my chest and nestling in, happy and snug with the fact that I was still a thing in his life. I was happy that he was still a thing in mine.
I didn’t pay a goddamn red cent for that cat, save for vet bills and food and such. Something that I initially expected to be a brief pain in the ass in my life is now a fixture, and I’m grateful for that. He’s my best friend, and I’m his. I haven’t had a pet of my own in so long that I forgot how great it can feel just to have that connection with something that loves you more than you could even imagine. He makes the bad things go away. He makes me laugh. And he was free.
I feel the same way about Ariel, incidentals for her aside (vet bills, mostly, and dinners and such). I never really expected to meet her and how it happened was largely chance, but we clicked powerfully from the beginning and I love her dearly. And she was free.
I’ve wasted so much money over the past several years struggling to be happy. And I had the money to burn. I had a really well-paying job and benefits and all of that, and I was absolutely fucking miserable for most of it. I was drinking my life away because I hated the monotony, I hated walking in every day and seeing the same sad faces of people who had been there for decades, worried that I’d end up like that. And then one day it was gone and I was scrambling. But I wouldn’t trade anything in my life right now to have any of that back. The day-to-day is a little intimidating, but I’m incredibly lucky in a lot of ways. I traded financial security and stagnation for an actual life. All of those dollars are now excellent flesh-and-blood relationships with other people and things that were sort of glassed off to me when I was in the daily grind.
I’m not as sad as I used to be. I no longer hunger for food that doesn’t sate me. It’s just a past routine that I’m still working to shed, but for now, for what I have, I’m content.
And that’s enough.
Once More Into The Fray
Okay. First off I want to thank all of you who helped the last time around when this came up. You guys saved my ass and got me out of the house and gave me some stuff to keep busy, and I appreciate it and hopefully my work didn’t suck too badly (it didn’t, I don’t think, but I’m biased). Unfortunately, I’m not out of the woods yet. And of course the wheels of the state turn incredibly slowly, especially with the government shutdown and apparently a huge glitch in their systems that caused a bunch of claims to be delayed in the first place. I’ve also had work opportunities that have been held up or just not materialized due to bureaucracy. I’ve performed work that still has yet to pay out because the places in question are notorious for taking a long time to pay.
I’ve been applying for work and have been hot on EDD’s heels for over a month since I initially filed on 9/14, and finally got fed up and went to their offices today only to be informed that my payments are pending and will remain so until they contact me to arrange a phone interview. Apparently my previous employment as a state university employee requires that I go through an arduous phone interview, which isn’t so bad - the problem is that they’ll contact me at their own convenience and I was completely, absolutely stonewalled by the EDD representative that I spoke with this morning who basically told me that I just have to wait.
Unfortunately, just waiting doesn’t take care of my basic needs, so here I am stuck again until they decide to call me. Again, I need your help.
I want to re-iterate that this is NOT a plea for free cash. I did get some donations last time around which were highly appreciated and were all used for bills and rent and not dying, but I’m not begging for that. If it’s something you want to do, that’s fantastic and highly appreciated, but I want to earn it. The jobs that I was contacted for got me out of the house and moving around and doing good stuff for cool people, and it was great!
It really sucks and I hate doing this. I hate having to ask for help, because I’m stubborn and try to do everything I can myself. I don’t have the luxury of having a family with money or any other means, so it leaves me with this. It’s intensely frustrating to ask, but it’s not as frustrating as being worried about having to couch-surf while waiting for something that may take a long time. It’s frustrating being on persistent hold. It’s frustrating to send out tons of job applications that never get answered. I’m on the verge of taking dishwashing jobs (and even then they wouldn’t pay what I need) and so forth if I don’t get a call from the EDD soon. Just anything, at this point.
I didn’t apply for unemployment because I didn’t want to work, I applied because I didn’t want to be homeless and stuck with no resources except for the goodwill of my friends. And thankfully, I’m lucky in that regard.
Again, like last time, I can do the following:
- heavy lifting
- house cleaning/laundry/car cleaning/detailing
- light handyman work & construction
- put together furniture from, say, IKEA or something similar, repair furniture
- dogsitting/catsitting/petsitting (I’m amazing with goldfish)/babysitting
- gardening (if provided with the tools)
- errands (within walking/bus distance or with the use of a car)
- cataloguing/arrangement (DVDs/books/music/whatever)
- Any odds and ends within reason (and some above and beyond reason, at this point. Try me.)
And if you don’t need anything done but know someone who does, let them know. I’m fine with referrals and can give a list of references if anyone’s unsure.
If you want to make a loan, I’ll be glad to eke out a reasonable payback plan, just email me at email@example.com
Can’t donate money? If you have any suggestions for anything, let me know. I’m at a loss, frankly. I’d like to keep a roof over my head and at least keep a phone so that I can be in touch with EDD and potential employers, and not having a landline really sucks.
Bare bones, straight up: My rent is $780, and I’ve operated under the assumption that I’d receive my unemployment benefits with no hassle whatsoever, and of course assumptions led to me making an ass out of me. That amount is what I need, bare minimum.
Paypal is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you have any work opportunities that you would like to discuss, please email me there as well.
The Horror…The Horror…
While fiddling around on social networks earlier today, I read a post from someone saying something about how five year-olds watching horror movies was “plain terrible”.
I couldn’t really disagree more.
I was talking with people a while back about horror movie VHS art and how the concept of having interesting, eye-catching covers has sort of been tossed to the wayside over the past few years, and I recounted my old horse of an anecdote about how I used to go to the local movie store with my mom/grandparents/whoever and ogle the horror VHS section and marvel at how creepy the movies likely were - I never really watched them, because as the kids say these days, I was kind of a chickenshit. I was the kid who hid in the back of the living room, peering around a corner, terrified at whatever was lurking on the screen. I remember once having to go home from a friend’s birthday sleepover because Tales from the Dark Side scared the bejesus out of me, and no amount of cajoling could get me to stay. The next day, on the playground, a kid that I thought of as a friend walked by me and scoffed “Pussy” right in my face.
I cringed. Scared again.
Growing up in a super-religious part of the country sort of ingrained a lot of fear into kids. Black Sabbath was a scary band. Marilyn Manson totally porked a goat onstage at a concert and removed his bottom ribs so that he could blow himself. There were cults out there in the woods. The old wives’ tales that my friends told me to scare the shit out of me were true. I was scared of my own shadow. Not exactly the bravest kid to begin with, but all of this stuff having a very taboo spin on it both terrified and allured me.
All of this was palpably real, until it wasn’t.
Cut to a year and some change later, where I sat in my grandparents’ bedroom, watching the Friday the 13th TV series. Carnosaur on Cinemax. Whatever I could find. A bowl of popcorn that my granddad had made for me (and he made the best popcorn ever) sitting on the bedcovers, teetering on the edge of flying everywhere once I yanked the covers over my eyes in terror. Of course there was simpler horror fare, like Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and other things that were a bit more airy and not as gory/suspenseful/etc., but I lost interest in those really quickly. I wanted the good stuff.
As I got older, the fear went away. Things that I found previously horrifying were almost a joke. Life took over and became scarier than movies at times.
Years later, I look back at all that and grin. I remember looking at the back of the VHS for Dead/Alive and being completely freaked out. Luther the Geek. The Boogens. Ghoulies. All kinds of stuff that’s now laughably not-scary. You tend to drop your fear of rolling alien furballs with teeth after you eventually have a crazy drunk redneck brandishing a real live loaded gun at you. You’re not as scared of a doll possessed by a serial killer once you’ve held your granddad’s hand and watched him take his last sip of air. The silent buildup of a person walking down a darkened hallway, ostensibly waiting for a cat to leap out of a closet doesn’t make your heart jump as much as hearing a twig snap while walking through a dark forest late at night.
But horror still holds that sway over me. I still get a thrill from being scared, from having the hair on the back of the hair on the back of my neck stand up, from that little adrenaline rush when you witness a solid scare, all of that shit. Halloween’s still my favorite holiday ever and I kinda feel sad when the night winds down and the witching hours end.
So to hear someone say that having kids see horror movies is terrible sort of breaks my heart. It’s not terrible. It’s fucking great. It’s titillating, it gets your heart pumping, and you get your boundaries pushed in ways you didn’t expect. I loved it when I was a kid, even though I was scared shitless a majority of the time.
And I still do.
I might get cynical about the overabundance of zombies and vampires and whatnot, I might voice my own hangups with how women are treated in exploitation films, etc., but I’m still open to all of it. Even a bad horror movie can be super cool on some level. I don’t really plan on giving up on the genre, because I grew up with it and have adored it for almost all of my life, even when I kept my love for it tucked away like a deep, dark, bloody little secret. Now I’m not so worried about it. I’m not exactly the gorehound type and my knowledge of the genre itself is profoundly dwarfed in comparison to that of many of my loved ones and friends, but the affinity is still rock-solid. Some of my favorite moments of my adolescence were when I’d stay up late and sneak horror movies on Skinemax/Showtime/HBO. I still like watching horror movies late at night, all alone (though company’s always nice), curled up in bed, waiting to be freaked out by a tap on the window or a creak on the staircase.
Sometimes it’s great to be scared.
The Comedy: A Perspective
So here I sit at 8 AM on a Sunday, in the midst of probably my fifth rewatch of Tim Heidecker’s THE COMEDY.
I still can’t really articulate whether or not I even honestly like this movie or why I am drawn to it in the first place, but I’m going to try.
No bones about it: Heidecker’s character in this is a profoundly irredeemable asshole. If I heard him talking in public, my clenched fist would gravitate to his crotch so quickly that physicists would study me for decades trying to figure out how someone broke the sonic barrier with something as simple as a rage-fueled dickpunch. He’s a flabby, whiny mess of an entitled shit who just mills around, being as offensive as possible while just fiddling around in other people’s lives just long enough to wreak havoc, and then popping out of the frame just as soon as they start to react.
He makes terribly racist jokes. A LOT. He openly wants to pork his sister-in-law, who’s clearly dealing with a lot more adversity than his scrubby ass has ever seen in his life. Openly harassing his dying, rich father’s caretaker while devouring cookies (in a scene that made me more nauseous than the intro where you see his beer-soaked balls as he drunkenly wrestles in his underwear with his friends) and drinking whisky. This guy just seems like such a gigantic pain in the ass that I’m surprised nobody killed him before the point that the audience is made aware of the fact that he exists.
But he still manages to be compelling, somehow. He and his motley crew of equally aging, entitled “hipster” (christ, I hate that word) buddies comprised of his TV cohort Eric Wareheim, corporation-harassing Tweeter and stand-up comic Neil Hamburger, and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame run around fucking with everyone from cab drivers to entire churches without a care in the world, never really having to deal with much in the way of consequence or repercussion. These are the sorts of people whose lives suddenly careen into yours one day like a bad car wreck, then they just shit up your life and make you deal with it as they waddle away into more misadventures and go dick around on Heidecker’s character’s boat for a while.
And a lot of the scenes in this movie are deeply uncomfortable. For example, there’s a simple scene where he’s post-coitally fiddling with a young lady’s eyelid as she sleeps, completely passed out and oblivious to his actions, and it’s weirdly harrowing to the point of being somewhat suspenseful.
In short, this guy is an absolute fuckhead, but he’s still weirdly interesting. And it’s the same with the movie itself - all of these scenes seem to be a string of incredibly awkward and borderline sociopathic vignettes, held together by the thread of Heidecker’s existential semi-crisis, but it works on a level that I still find hard to explain. We watch this fat manchild warbling at the black clientele of a dive bar and we hate him, but we still want to see what happens. In a strange way, it’s almost more spectacle than anything else. “What will he do next? What will he say next? It’s crazy, right?” Meanwhile, he seems to be in the midst of the world’s highest swan-dive straight into a concrete pool. He’s clearly a dude with issues, who’s grasping for some sort of meaning, but he can’t get out of his own way long enough to really enact any changes, and he really doesn’t want to, in the long run.
I guess I find it compelling because I’ve been there. I’ve been THAT GUY, in a way, though not as rich nor as nauseating. I spent a lot of time over the past few years just getting schwasted with friends, not having any goals or knowing what I was doing, and just sort of taking everything for granted.
So maybe that’s why it works, on a level. It speaks to a certain degree of aimlessness and entitlement that some parts of our generation are mired in or willingly take part in as almost a punk-rock “fuck you” to everyone who asks us where we’re going or what we’re doing. To the entrenched people. To those with loftier aspirations who, when pressed, are equally directionless yet are still shooting for whatever they were told to do because, you know, what the hell else are you going to do?
Or maybe I’m totally reading too much into this. In fact, I know I am. But I’m still trying to make sense of why I’m drawn to this very well-shot movie that features mostly utterly reprehensible characters - probably like the characters are trying to make sense of where they are in life and where they’re headed.
Life can be a pain in the ass. I know that I joke that “life is a prison” fairly often, but I finally just came out of a bout of unemployment and a lot of fiscal insecurity, and it’s almost like nearly drowning, but coming up for that one precious bit of air that makes you remember that everything is worth it.
I know a lot of people who are dealing with a lot of adversity lately, but at the same time the past several months have taught me to keep an eye out for the silver lining in the clouds. You might be having a bad day, but then a pretty girl gives you a glowing smile. Your friends still give a shit about you and want you around them and seem to genuinely enjoy your presence. You read a good book or hear an awesome song that blows your mind. A fat, floppy-eared dog runs at you like you’re the best thing they’ve seen in ages and you brush off the owner’s apologies because it’s great. A baby grins at you. You take off your shoes and walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes as the crashing waves splatter you with saltwater.
Your friends put on great, free rock/comedy shows and are overjoyed just to have you around. A phone call from your mom brightens your day. One of your old professors calls you to invite you back to sit in on classes for free. An exhilarating bike ride makes you feel like a million bucks, the wind buffeting your face and the sun in your hair that feels so good that you don’t care about some jerk honking at you. Making someone laugh. Watching stupid movies with a bunch of people that you’re glad to know and eating junk food until you want to barf. Fiddling around in a library for hours.
I’m trying to not take all of this stuff for granted anymore, and it feels good. Apologies for being so self-deprecating for a while. I guess they were right when they say it gets better, because it does.
You think it will never happen to you, that it cannot happen to you, that you are the only person in the world to whom none of these things will ever happen, and then, one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else.
Your bare feet on the cold floor as you climb out of bed and walk to the window. You are six years old. Outside, snow is falling, and the branches of the trees in the backyard are turning white.
Speak now before it is too late, and then hope to go on speaking until there is nothing more to be said. Time is running out, after all. Perhaps it is just as well to put aside your stories for now and try to examine what it has felt like to live inside this body from the first day you can remember being alive until this one. A catalogue of sensory data. What one might call a phenomenology of breathing.— Paul Auster, Winter Journal, 2012 (via mythologyofblue)