Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Case for Being Selfish

“What do you want to do?”

It’s a simple question.

We ask each other it all the time. Then we lie about it.

This year I was looking for a Jerry Maguire moment, and it was as simple

as being a kid again. The more I thought about it, the more I became

convinced that all of us actually know what we want to do, and that we

know it all the time. Right now, I want a beer and a couch. Maybe a movie.

Maybe talk to you. Maybe not.

Maybe I don’t really need to explain myself.

What I want sometimes has very little to do with anything or anyone around me, and that

is perfectly okay. I was trying to track when exactly it was that I was supposed to start

caring about everything except for me, and I can’t remember when that particular

programming started–that’s how good it was.

Parts of it went like this:

You can’t just do what you want.

That’s insensitive.

That’s selfish.

What are you doing for others?

Let me suggest a new direction: let’s actually do what we want.

Think back to when you were a kid. You had a thousand ideas a day for what you were going to do

when you were older.

Did you do all of them?

I didn’t.

I sure as hell have done a lot of them this year, though.

And I don’t care about anyone’s opinion about it.

The way I figure it, I spent an awful lot of time in my twenties and thirties

thinking about how to please others. I’m not sure why I did that.

I like helping people. I like certain causes, and I find it exciting to be involved in something bigger

than me.

However, I want to do what I want. And I want to do so whenever I want to. And I don’t know why it

took so long to come to this realization. It’s like it’s 1988 again. I should be riding my bike to play

Golden Axe in the convenience store next to Pool #2, with half a box of Lemonheads in my mouth.

I don’t really care what you’re into, and it’s fine if you aren’t into what I like. I don’t expect to convert

you. I don’t actually know why you’d want to convert me. Think about the thousands of days that

went into the creation of what you like, or what you’re about. Do you think that translates to me?

I doubt it.

You know what? That’s okay. Do what you want, man. It’ll make you happy. Then you can go right

back to worrying about what other people think.

I doubt very few of us are doing what we want to do. I hope we start asking the question more

frequently, though. Let’s answer it honestly.

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two: far afield

The bottom dropped out in December.

In January, I decided that I had to go further. I paid $500 to (try to) learn how for four months.

No matter what anyone says, everyone likes to think he or she can fight. To be tough. To endure. Maybe that’s so. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. The reasons don’t matter. The necessity is what matters. The drive.

The first day, in five minutes, I learned my cardio was garbage. Ten minutes in, I felt how ineffective was my punch. My stance was sloppy. There was more that was…less.

It was funny, almost–how in a fraction of an hour you can grasp your limitations.    

If only we could be conscious of that while at the same time understanding to what we may strive.

Routine is important. On command, I jumped rope for three minutes, concentrating intensely on the (casual) timing of my jumps such that the weighted rope might pass easily under my soles and loop up toward the back of my head before I had to (gently) lurch upward again, while making all of it smooth. And monitor my breathing. And keep my head clear. Sure.

It’s a hell of a thing when you admit to yourself when you maybe have overshot your aim. 

It’s even better when you know you have done exactly that, but you keep going anyway. 

My stance was sloppy, my footwork was garbage, my cardio was pathetic, and my mind was unfocused. I kept going.

A local pro with neck tattoos and a long, lean, ridiculously powerful build had a zen-like calm as he corrected our physical mistakes. He counted briskly and quick-slapped our shoulders and elbows as we wove through the Maze. I watched his serpentine head/shoulders/torso shift from his hips with my peripheral vision as he stood on the edge of the mats, modeling ideal movement. 

Heavy bags swung in ouroboric arcs as sweat poured down our brows. Our muscles burned as we twisted our hips and breathed arrhythmically, attempting to right the ship and exhale effectively while extending at our elbows with a snap. I continuously pressed forward from my rear heel with a final twist of my wrist for each impact, momentarily pleased with a slight packing sound, but not happy enough with the sound to gloat. More. Always more.

A quick inhale through both nostrils (ignoring the growing glow of pain within), a seemingly unnatural continuous sway, and four more contacts with the bag in quick succession. 

There is much to learn from realizing how much we have yet to learn.

The weeks passed quickly. There were two of me. I did not find a balance, but I saw the scale. I measured its reach, felt its pull.

I know where to find it. I’ll see it again. Soon.

weeks

the only way to slow the day down is to watch the sunset reflecting in the lake

and even then I am complaining

while the seconds are passing and I feel the old dread

start the tide moving in

when all I really want to do is let it take me back out there

 

way out there

 

where art and music overpower and stars twinkle into existence

to remind you and me and us that the daily does not matter

 

the journey is all

and used to be

and will be again

 

this is temporary and indeed

the waves come and go and there is a Tai Chi flow

that makes me think if only I could breathe

the right way

exhale with a healing force at the right moment

as an Energy passes through me

 

if only

 

it looks like I will have to keep working at it

while Suboxone ads are popping on a playlist meant to

distract and increase the gravitational pull

 

initiate the tides

 

please

The Sound Bled For Us

–It turned out that I bought tickets to the wrong show, so we’re going on a little trip.

Virginia Beach.

Almost no downtime. More of a drive-down-there, see-the-band, and-drive-back-the-next-day kind of thing.

Cool, you said. Your eyes twinkled that way they do. I felt warm.

The drive down was easy, and I talked about a lot of things that already happened, but you were such a good listener. We drove through my temporal neighborhood–an apartment complex inhabited for all of five months. We bought a lot of road snacks. Listened to a lot of streaming music chosen by algorithms designed to analyze the kind of Likes we thumbed-up. It was perfect.

After checking into the hotel (not bad at all!), we walked to the venue. A giant bouncer raised his eyebrows when asking for your I.D., to my delight. I thought it was great that he thought you weren’t old enough to drink. “My man,” he said, handing back your card, “I’m only looking out for you. You guys have a great night.”

The stage was indie-small, and the band was studio-perfect, but it was the light display behind Paul Banks that really did me in. Images and video overlapped and layered in time, creating transitions that were the brainchild of an arthouse college student. Daniel Kessler’s fingers sped across vintage frets, and Sam Fogarino somehow pulsed percussively with cosmic energy. The sound bled for us.

We drank a few craft beers and I even ventured a few dance steps your way. Eyes twinking (always), you swayed with me. It was another beginning .

 

We took the long way home, and drove winding backcountry coal roads. You had never seen them or driven them, and since we might never again, the twisting was worth it. Three days total. That’s all the further we were from a new world.

 

Traverse the Rise

What I was before all that time passed:

A singular breath in an autumn sky,

a thousand dreams rushing forth

born of optimistic expectation,

the branches of a tree stretching since

the beginning of light, roots strangling stone

to bury deeply in the earth.

Continents drifting back together,

my energy radiated outward, and

I scattered to the streams and the stars.

You only see glimpses of me now, but

I am there. I always have been.

It is time again.

 

Return on Investment

After midnight in the neon catacombs of The Venetian was my favorite time to observe. Glassy-eyed dealers stretched exhausted thin smiles at us across empty tables, longing for end of shift. Progressive slot cabinets with multiple touch screens and Bose surround sound crept up the walls, while curved LED displays loomed over guests’ heads like garish fronds. We slid a few twenties into penny machines, but as usual, nothing much happened outside of Max Bet. I got a few dings from old IGT reel games, but I knew the risk-reward imbalance would hold: I am not built to mash money freely. It takes too long to make.

The Forum shops and those of the sprawling Sands complex offered high-end retail. All sizes, shapes and colors of roamers wove in and out of winding marble-tiled walkways. More than once I looked at the simulation ceiling, wondering if the painters lay flat on rickety scaffolding to put the finishing touches on the sky. Everywhere we walked, people looked like caricatures, arms lazily snaking at their sides, sandals slapping arrhythmically with frequent fluctuations in footing. The pattern was that there was no pattern.

To my thinking, the fountains and lights were best: they at least offered a state of Being. No one questioned the significance of water trickling or lights shining. I wondered how many of us could say the same. Every time we went outside, the rush of convection-oven air declared an adjustment to breathing. I did not think it would be something I could get used to–“dry” or not. Homeless men with coal-colored feet wrapped their arms around themselves and lay against tempered glass panels. The lights shot upward above them, turning them into silhouettes. Scrawled letters on small rectangular signs assured that anything helped, God Bless.

Nineteen years ago, I drove through the desert in a green Lincoln Town Car, remembering only a brief stop at Circus Circus, where I won a stuffed animal by throwing darts into balloons. No children were allowed in gambling areas back then; I do not understand why now a toddler needs to wander through the cacophony and flash of a gaming floor. More than once, I stood in front of a virtual blackjack dealer (Azure brand?), wondering how long it would be before we donned Aristocrat VR goggles, nodding our heads in programmed reality to activate bonus features.

The best moments were events, and did not come from machines. The money spent most quickly on Chance felt hollow, while the moderately priced tickets to a show or display of artifact bought experience. The difference in value is disproportionate, explaining why some who visit never pull a slot handle or touch a card during their stay, while others chase fortune from random number generators without cease.

no diving


I liked it best as weightless as possible. Floating with nostrils just above water, and letting my eyes slide along the lunar landscape, I forgot about the early mornings and long afternoons for a bit. The sun set quickly, and wall lights lit up the cobalt top tile. The slow jets moved my makeshift raft close enough for me to see the copper streaks that forked through the tile in odd patterns. I lifted a ladybug onto a leaf and set it at arm’s length back from the edge. 

It was still far too hot during the day, but I didn’t have any windows anymore. The passing daylight hours didn’t have much significance until Friday. Workday patterns alternated between bearable and terrible, with inexplicable, sweeping flights of hope. 

I walked half a block to the pool, marveling in the ability to leave the rest of the day behind for twenty minutes. An inflatable dolphin hovered in the shallow end, its right eye watching as I leaned back on two pool noodles far enough to submerge the top of my head. I lay that way for a few minutes, long enough to encourage a slight disorientation and invite a curved panoramic view of the night sky. I turned in slow circles, and felt the slight chill in the night air, which made me happy for autumn, but a little sad for the end of a summer that sifted through our fingers faster than we could grasp.