12.19.2013

I do try but I might...

Burning out.

I guess the gist of that thing I wrote a few months ago about writing and the "next step" is this: I am not a genius. I am not god's gift. But this is a fucking waste. It's not about money, or fame or status, it's just. I can write. I can DJ. I can make music (well not amazing stuff yet but the potential is greater, trust). Do I really have to be judged on how well I can rim salt on a glass? Because in my real, "meatspace" life, that is how I am being judged. It sucks.  If I don't excel at doing something that I don't care about, that doesn't really matter, and takes me away from doing whatever it is I can do to make this world a better place, I can't pay my rent. Capitalism is simply not efficient. I actually have this weird theory that if money were taken out of the equation, if all tasks were compensated equally, life could constitute itself in exactly the same way as it does now, all options still available, all arduous tasks still completed, without anyone actually disliking what they do for a living. Crazy? Hmm, I dunno.

… Among the many pieces that I can't seem to write, here's the theme of one: the restaurant industry sucks. It's over. It's not a hiding place for the maladjusted anymore. Expectations are high. And getting untenable. Customers are entitled. Capitalism. Yeah. But here's the hard part, and this is coming from someone who hasn't made it out yet.

I mean, yeah, you could be twenty-five and reading this and thinking "yeah I wait tables now but...". But what?

Here's the thing. Next time you are on the floor, or behind the stick, or whatever, just look at the person you are serving and realize that it makes sense to them that you are there.

Consider that. The ramifications. It makes sense. But does it? Does it really?

(and here's where this is no longer an essay but just brain hemorrhage)

As much as I hate it, I take it seriously. My standards of service are really, really high.

No individual request is unreasonable. Really. But once the ratio of requests to time falls too heavily towards the former… 

I could go four or even for hours without a sip of water. If customers keep coming all night, I could lose my chance to eat. I arrive at 4pm. I get home after 2am. That's a long time without food. And what's available after 2am? The nice organic healthy shit you spent too much money on? Nope. Let's just say, there are meats, there are cheeses, and there are various ways to combine them, and I pick one.

But again, no request is unreasonable, but here's the thing:

It's my job to treat you like you are the only customer, but it's your job to not act like the only customer.

"Your job"? Aren't you on a very short vacation? Someone else cooking? Someone else cleaning? Someone else making your drinks? Someone else cleaning up the pieces of what used to be a coaster?

Restaurants are a paradox to me. There's something satisfying about the simplicity. I make a drink, you tip me. If I work, I get money, if I don't, I don't. Somehow weirdly Marxist, though not quite. And yet.

Restaurants are the purest expression of capitalism available in the sense that they express most simply, one of the biggest problems:

the responsibility of the person who pays ends begins and ends with the payment, and there is a strict segregation between the time being payed for and the "other" time. Personal time.

The money can be good. It can be. But it's only useful outside of the time which earns it. You are paying me to not act on my own behalf.

I get it. You probably spent all day being paid to not do what you want to do so that you could do what you want to do at other times. But here you are, bitching about your job, and not realizing that you are now doing to me what you are complaining about because it was done to you, right? Except it's even worse.

How much did you work today? Eight hours? Ok. And was each hour paid at the same rate? Yes? Ok. Well, was each hour you worked today equally as valuable to your employer? No? Did they watch over you and change your rate of pay based on your productivity? No? Huh! How would you feel if that were the case. Bummed, I'm sure. After all, you are not a morning person. It takes an hour in the morning to ramp up to full productivity, say, from 9am to 10am. From 10am to 11:30am you work well, but then it's time to sort-of-half-work while considering what to each for lunch. And then you eat. No matter how many things you have to do, you eat. Because it's lunch, right? What else would one do?

So lunch from noon to 1pm and then there is the after-lunch food coma and the early-afternoon post-after-lunch-food-coma coma and then it's 3:30pm and your rush for a bit and then it's 5pm and then you sort of wind down and maybe browse Amazon and then it's time to go home. How much real work? Could you decide at various times to work harder or more slowly, even if amount of total work to be done didn't change? And again, did your rate of pay change based on the actual quality of the time you offered at various points throughout the day? No? No.

So here's the thing, you come to my restaurant, and you are the boss. You command my time, and you can decide how much to pay me for it. 

(Let's be clear. At all but the very best and fanciest restaurants, your server is getting paid around two dollars an hour, all of which goes to the IRS. I have been working at my restaurant for almost two years and I have yet to open a weekly paycheck. There is no money on them, they are just pieces of paper worth less than the cost of printing them.)

So you decide how much to pay me. There is a social contract. I work harder, I get more, but all of that action is taken on faith. I don't even know how much my time is worth until after you have left. And, and I speak as someone who actually gives a shit, and for all of the people who give a shit, who care about offering good product, who assume your job sucks just as much as mine and that you are treating yourself because you fucking deserve it… you know what affects the quality of the work I do for you, boss? Other bosses. It's not a question of, if I am not getting you water, I am getting it for myself. It's not a question of, well, if you don't order food, I eat. Nope. All you are doing when you walk up to my bar is dividing the time I can dedicate to my employers. You and everyone else. That's it.

When you make your special requests, when you ask too many questions, when you feel entitled, all you are doing is taking time away from other people. It's not my time. I can't make music or do my laundry or count the hairs growing on and around a vagina with my tongue. It's all your time, except not you, but ya'll. 

Here's a little secret. If you consistently get bad service, not at one place, but at all of them, the problem is you. Yup. You. Your ratio of time to money is off. You think you actually deserve more time per dollar than all the other people I am responsible for. (And since I am good, I feel responsible for all of them. I mean, fuck, I am the bartender, but if I happen to be running food to a table [not my job, and uncompensated work] and see you sitting there with empty plates in front of you and your companions, I am taking them [not my job, and uncompensated work].) Which means you tip less. Either in absolute value (which is generally true, as any experienced server will tell you), or, well, let's say I am waiting on two parties of two (two two-tops in industry-speak). All four people involved order exactly the same thing, let's say a $15 plate and a $10 glass of wine. So two $50 tables. Each tip $10 on their checks. If your table takes twice as much of my time compared to the other table, the work per dollar is much greater. The absolute value of the $10 becomes relative. Of course, if all I had to do was wait on four people, I wouldn't care. But that's rarely the case. As I have inferred, even if actual dollar amounts remain constant, the actual value become relative. At a certain point, there are too many people, too many requests, too many demands. The time you are taking from other tables actually affects the income from those tables as the quality of the service necessarily decreases once the amount of tasks to be completed over a given time period actually exceeds the capacity of the server.

I am rambling and this is not going to be edited.

Let's try this again. If you are actively preventing me from giving good service to other people, your tips become less valuable because they are weighed against the loss of tips from others. The more you ask of your server, the more money you are taking out of their pocket as the tips decrease from the dissatisfaction of the people your server is not helping. So even if you tip the typical amount )which the most demanding people generally don't, as their sense of entitlement is ontological), the actual income for the server is a net loss. So the smart server abandons you. You are stress and less money. Which is why you get bad service.

This all might sound cynical. Let's put it another way. A server can take care of, let's say, twenty people an hour, and has twenty-five people to deal with over the course of a particular hour. Either all twenty-five people get compromised service, or some people get better service and some people get worse service. From a strictly moral standpoint, who should get the inferior service? Simply put, the five people who think, ultimately, that they should be able to take more of the server's time relative to the actual ratio of service time versus absolute time. I'm not a technical writer. 

I dunno. I could have said something innovative here. There is a lot more to explore regarding the idea of multiple bosses and the insanely quick decisions that a server, ultimately, a contractor for possibly hundreds of people a night, makes regarding the relative value of labor in relation time. Could there be some sort of larger analogy here? After all, it's all speculation, it's a weirdly pure form of market… but I dunno. Ask me some questions. But try not to ask too many. There are other people waiting.

Back to work in twelve hours.

Don't seat yourself at dirty table. Don't arrive at or before opening time. Don't arrive ten minutes before the kitchen closes. Read all of the materials you are provided before asking me questions. If you want to make a substitution, confirm that the actual thing you want exists as a menu item as part of some other dish (assume the cooks only have the ingredients listed on the menu available to them). The more complex your substitution, the more likely your dissatisfaction. And now that you know that, if you are unhappy with the dish you have constructed, it's your fault. The mark of a good server is to limit options. He or she knows what can be done, and what can be done well. If your substation request has been turned down, even if all the things you want are available on the menu, your server knows something you don't. Why not trust that person instead of waiting twenty minutes, being dissatisfied, and then blaming someone else for your mistake?

Lastly, if you are a party of five or more, call ahead. Unannounced large groups are the epitome of the kind of insensitivity to others that has been described above. A party of a certain size, well, the work involved, it becomes exponential instead of arithmetic. There are eleven of you, and it's 8pm on a Saturday? Setting up your table just killed the service to everyone else, and once you order your food, everyone else's food will take longer. Of course, this could have all been prepared for. Had you called.

Oh and don't even get me started on large parties. Like you are doing me a big favor by holding your birthday party in my section. Thirteen of you? Reservation (thanks, seriously) at 7:30? That means the six tables we put aside for you stop being sat at 6pm. They are not making money for the house or employees for almost two hours before you even arrive. And of course, you linger. So really, the tables are dead from 6pm-10pm. Four hours. You spend $20 per person. That's $260 total, or $65 per hour. In  one hour of that four, I could seat and turn six two-tops, or twelve people. If they only spend $20 per person, which  is unlikely (smaller groups tend to spend more per person), that's already $240 per hour. Let's talk tips then. Twenty percent of that $260 is $52. $52 for four hours for the server. Even if there are only two turns of all of those two-tops, the $480 in sales (at minimum) is $96. If shit is busy, and those tables are occupied for all four hours, we are talking $192 in tips versus the $52. No-brainer there.  And even though one scenario involves the server waiting on a whopping 48 people over four hours instead of thirteen, parties of two are significantly easier to deal with, both technically (all your drinks and plates can be brought out and then later bussed in one trip per task), and also on a human level (i.e. no waiting until everyone is paying attention to read off specials, a higher likelihood of two people being ready to order at the same time as opposed to thirteen, etc…).

Um. That's it for tonight…

Love.

12.18.2013

12.07.2013

Day In Boston

Man I needed it. When was the last time I was in a major city? DC, almost two months ago.

I don't know how to drive. Partially, this is because of my parents having had a car whose brakes would have provided excellent source material for the music of Neubauten when it was time for me to learn, part of it some idealistic youthful sympathy towards the environment and good urban design practice, and partially because I never expected to ever live anywhere where I would need one. The last year and three quarters is, outside of my stint at college, the only time I have bothered to even consider vaguely deciding to entertain the notion of even trying to imagine recriminating myself for it.

I didn't need one Tuesday.

Walked to the train, got one, and… well, you get it.

I've never loved Boston. I can't explain why. As various members of my extended family have lived and continue to live there, it should occupy a larger space in my heart. I've certainly been there enough. Some random thoughts. It's really American, somehow. White, complacent, educated but not always intellectual, and the intellectuals that are there seem somehow more self-satisfied and aloof. There's a lot of designer clothing stores (and I like nice clothing - I just never spend any money on it) yet, if I had the money, and lived there, I wouldn't shop at any of them. Because why bother? It's Boston. And I say that living in an even more casually-dressed city.

As in many American cities, there is a lot of culture, but it feels imported, learned secondhand, studied instead of felt. A mark of distinction, oriented around the consumer instead of the creator. It's worn like an ill-fitting suit, impressive initially but deeply inauthentic upon closer examination. Aspirational but empty of a desire that exists outside the gaze of others.

(OK I am being really harsh here, though this next part is true)

Also all of the black people I have ever been friends with seem to like it least of the major cities they have spent time in.

And yet, it'll do for now. Meaning it's cheaper and quicker than NYC and maybe I will buy a nice pair of jeans there some day and save them for wearing somewhere else.

I started my day with a bit of wandering, then went to the Institute for Contemporary Art.

It was only my second time there, and my dislike of the building has only increased since my first visit in 2008. To the uninitiated, it is a post-Modern modern building, I guess, in the sense that Modernism is an aesthetic, signified but the use of certain materials, etc., not a praxis of rigor (does that make sense?). Like a lot of buildings trying to look contemporary, it has aged badly.

The first time I went, I resented the building because it faced away from the street and towards the water. A pedestrian trying to reach it must traverse a large parking lot, all the while staring at the "ass" of the building, which has no doors. Nothing was different today, except that the building was dustier, like a glass cube left in the middle of a room where drywall is being installed. But it's really the orientation that bugs me the most. Remember what I said about Boston above. Typical that the building looks it's best to whomever lives across the water and can stare at it, not the people, you know, actually going inside.

On to the art, though. Or Art, oops. Or?

The first exhibit was entitled "Expanding the Field of Painting" and, even though I have not been a regular museum goer for years, I feel like I have seen this before. Not hard to picture. The blurb on the wall always says something like "people keep thinking painting is dead but it's not". And all the artwork used to bolster this argument is empty formalism. Today was no exception, sadly. Nothing sucked, nothing made me care, either. To all the artists worried that painting is losing or has lost both its pre-eminence within the world of art and also within culture and society at large, the solution is not to glue last night's leftovers on to the canvas (if only I had seen something like that today [DIBS]). The solution: instead of painting paintings, try painting something else.

The second exhibit was of photos (and some videos) by LaToya Ruby Frazier, all depicting the wreckage of the formerly relatively prosperous town outside of Pittsburgh in which she was raised, now decimated by the disappearance of steel industry jobs, and also the effects of that industry on the women in her family, including herself. Some of the photos were formally excellent and moving. The one frustration that I had: the artist herself states that she was influenced by Dorothea Lange's work, and perhaps that is why she chose to shoot in black and white. It could also be because black and white photography still seems to possess a certain authenticity and gravitas that meshes well with the subject matter. However, in this context, I found it frustrating.

For instance, some of the pictures were of a hospital that served the town until it was demolished for financial reasons. The pictures were technically excellent, if a little boring in terms of composition. But here's the thing. The hospital was demolished in 2010. On the one hand, yes, the past, but, on the other hand, not. "Not" because the photographer was not only concerned with the literal destruction of the hospital, not merely trying to depict an event, but is also concerned with the larger social, cultural and economic issues that lead to the demolishing, and the ramifications of that action. These issues are not specific to that town, they are emblematic of late capitalism. At least for me, using black and white made everything too specific, too resigned, somehow; the more expansive commentary was somehow foreclosed upon.

After Frazier, a show dedicated to Amy Sillman. I can't say anything negative or positive. I just didn't connect, and I think it is my fault.

After the art of others, I picked up a tool to further mine. Got a massive discount purchasing it secondhand. 

The place where I picked up the pedal happened to be across the street from a record store, so… guess what? I threw a hard drive filled with MP3s through their window.

Of course not. Digging, of course.

Though I'm actually getting sick of it. Not records, digging. Back before eBay and Discogs changed the market completely, I used to love digging. There were always gems, and they were always cheap. Especially since, well, most shops were run by old rock dudes who didn't care about anything after 197x. Now, deals and lucky finds are much, much more infrequent. The prospect of looking through 500 unsorted 12" singles becomes more daunting when the rewards have already been picked out and placed on the wall for inflated prices. At a certain point, I start to feel like an employee, paying for the privilege of sorting through the shop's records, or worse yet, not even paying, not even finding anything after all that work

And yet, I did find three great records for two dollars apiece. Two classic post-disco jams by Kano and Loose Ends, and a classic house record from the early 1990s.

Once I gave in to lust, I went all the way.

Next was Barnes and Noble. Forgive me or don't. Barnes and Noble seems like mecca at this point to me. I wanted specific things, they had them, though I ended up buying something I hadn't known about when I walked in, Ben Davis' 9.5 Theses On Art And Class. Yes. Do it.

For those who remember my reading list from August, well, I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to read anything but criticism. I've already made more progress in a few days on my new book than all the other things (history, fiction) that I have been trying to read. What does that mean? I don't know.

Then, then, then, then. Linear narratives are boring.

Then I bought more records (DNA On DNA, the repress of Kraftwerk's Computer World that has been, for some reason, much harder to track down than all of the other albums that were repressed at the same time).

Then I wandered. Surprised? You? Nah.

Then I ate at Wendy's because it was all I can find (Boston, you are so cosmopolitan with all of your kitchens closing at 10pn),

Then, a beer at a hotel bar, which is my favorite kind of bar, where nobody knows my name.

Then train then home. Blah blah blah. I guess if I wanted to be a real writer, I would have stuck to the Art, would have used more formal language, and would have tried to offer some real insight. Has the phrase "then I ate at Wendy's" ever appeared in Frieze?

Regardless… 
Love,
;-p

11.29.2013

Mystified

Apparently, there is a band called HAIM.

I guess I've been reading about them for a while but now I am trying to listen and figure them out. Why do people like them? Why do critics like them? Why are they considered indie?

This is how I picture their average listeners, based on the music (I'm not being a snob, either - I am jealous of this person's life).

My name is Jamie. I am male or female, it doesn't matter. I really love living in America and I am a little sad that I haven't gotten married yet as I am in my late twenties and it's time for that sort of thing. I do have a nice condo in the suburbs. It's not that fancy, but then again, I have only worked at my job for five years. I hope to get a raise soon, especially as my diligence these past few months has helped my company hit our quarterly sales targets.

I remember when I first started at my job. The economy was in bad shape and I was nervous at my interview. My boss seemed reluctant to hire someone new and yet he did have an employee leaving and the position had to be filled. We talked a bit over the state of the economy and our mutual concern that Obama was too liberal to ever really meet the needs of average Americans like ourselves. I wonder if my willingness to discuss such matters so openly helped me win the job. Sometimes it's worth risking having an opinion.

Regardless, the job was mine and I was finally able to move out of the apartment I shared with my friends from college and into a place of my own. I also sold the old beat-up car I was driving in favor of something newer, safer and more practical. Initially, I considered moving towards the center of the city, but I realized it was sort of pointless, and really expensive. Everything I need is out here in the suburbs, and it's also where my job is located. It's true, I don't always like being in the car, but the new mall in my area is an outdoor one, and is designed to look and feel like a downtown. I can park in the garage, stretch my legs, grab some lunch, do some shopping, and then meet up with my friends for a few drinks and snacks in the afternoon. That's usually what I do on Saturdays. Sundays are reserved for cleaning and the gym.

When it's warm I go walking in the small wetlands area that is part of the development in which I live. Preserving this bit of nature was part of the deal the developers of the project and the county worked out before construction could begin (my condo is only a decade old!). I'm glad I have access to it. It's great for pets. I may get a dog soon, but I am not sure which breed to get. I like bigger dogs but they need more exercise and I work late and worry that it wouldn't be fair to the dog to be stuck at home all day. I know I am good with animals, though. My neighbors John and Christine have a husky that I take care of when they are out of town. I really enjoy helping them out and playing fetch with the dog, Jake.

I like music. I mostly just listen to the radio. There are two stations that I listen to. One station features electronic-sounding dance music like Katy Perry. I like to listen to that one on the weekends and when I am working out (besides Sundays I also go to the gym after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays). The other features rock and pop that is really catchy, stuff like Maroon 5. Last Friday, I had the latter station on when I was driving to Applebees to meet up with some of my coworkers to celebrate hitting those targets I mentioned before. I usually listen to the dance station on Fridays, but I was giving the secretary, Alice, a ride (her car was being repaired) and she wasn't in the mood to listen to something too crazy.

Twenty minutes into the drive, we got stuck in traffic. It was a bit of a bummer, as we were both really anxious to get to our destination. Alice was also feeling sad because the repairs on her car were going to be more expensive than she had expected and she was going to have to postpone the trip to Florida that she had been saving for since her divorce. I was sad for her and also feeling a little lonely. I should have been in a better mood (after all, we were going out!), but the radio played a song by Train that reminded me of someone I was in a relationship with a few years ago.

The Train song ended and the advertisements reminded me that Christmas was coming soon - time to start thinking about presents for Mom and Dad and my sister Anne and brother Robert. I was looking forward to going home for Christmas, and I could feel my mood starting to turn. Then, as if by some miracle, the traffic started to move and a great new song came on the radio. It was a positive song with a good message about not giving up and it really inspired me. Later I found out it was a song called "Falling" by a group called Haim (I had to Google the spelling).

It's funny. I don't usually like "indy" music. It mostly seems like it is made for people who don't have jobs and who want to try and be weirder than everybody else. I don't get it. But Haim is something different. Every time a new song of theirs comes on the radio, I get excited. The songs are all easy to listen to and have good messages and they sound like they were made by, well, I guess it's weird to say it like this, but all the songs sound like they were made by healthy people for healthy people.

I guess that's why I usually don't like "indy" stuff, when it comes down to it. Sure, we all have our rough days, but why complain so much? Why try so hard to be different, to not fit in? You'll never get anywhere with that attitude. It's like "indy" people are trying to fail and then get sad when they do. And what is really wrong anyways? Nothing as far as I can tell. And I think Haim agrees.

I miss the future

I was almost tempted to start playing video games again, though it's sad to see, after a quick browse, that there really haven't been too many releases set in the future, and nothing has come along to beat Deus Ex at it's own game (no pun intended) except for maybe the sequel… blah blah blah...

Was going to write more, but what to say? What happened to cyberpunk? When did the internet start to suck? You've heard it all before….

Here's a piece of music:


11.19.2013

I don't blame Youtube

I blame Philadelphia for many, many, many lost hours sitting at the computer. Philly soul might be my favorite music and also the most under-represented sound in my collection of records. I've reached that point as a record buyer where I walk into a store looking for the records I can't find easily, not the records I want the most. It makes sense, but it's stupid. How many Stylistics records have I not bought? In favor of what? Well, lots of other good records, but: damn.

Here's two of a thousand:





11.12.2013

11.11.2013

33


Man I'm fucking up. Hope it's entertaining at least. Love you all.


11.04.2013

Retro Again

Little thought:

In the postindustrial economy, college plays the same role as the factory or the corporation did in the industrial economy in the sense that it disciplines behavior across time. But whereas the disciplines of the previous era was based on the future, i.e. work this hard, produce this much, and you will get a raise, the discipline of the school, or rather, the debt incurred by education, is one based on the past - possible futures are conditioned and or eliminated instead of created. Working to pay as opposed to get paid, undoing instead of building.

10.31.2013

Unrelated

To the last post. I think. Or not. Regardless. I just heard this at work. And it was nice. Space. Space. Space.

10.29.2013

OK OK OK

Next phase? We'll see. The next city must come through the internal logic of living as opposed to being imposed upon life. That scares me, but it's the only way.

Sometimes planning is the fear of not getting what one wants by doing what one wants.

Had a good weekend. Out of town. Lots of records purchased. Too many to for me to even list. Sorry.

Lots of really nice house music and disco music and also a box set of one of the better performances of Tristan und Isolde (Bohm at Bayreuth in 1966) in practically mint condition for $4. I still don't like opera, but the prelude, you know what I'm talking about. Beautiful and historically important and beautiful.

Someday I am only going to listen to classical music. Even if I live in a trailer in a trailer park, I am going to decorate one room with wood paneling and a couple bottles of fine liquor and just listen to classical and disown my "hip" past. If classical music, at least the non-hip non-avant-garde stuff, stays cheap, I should have a lot of great music by the time the paneling is installed.

There's a certain pleasure. Wagner hated us Jews (well I'm half Jewish, which is certainly enough Jewish for him) and he is dead and I am alive and I get to listen.

So some records in Western Mass and then dancing in upstate New York. You can guess where if you have been paying attention. Drank way too much. Met a girl. We wandered through an abandoned building and kissed a little and passed out at her friend's house and had a nice morning of awkwardness and asking each other about the things people generally might know about each other before kissing. And also Wire and Roxy Music, both her choices (this could be dangerous) and delicious food. And awkwardness. Surrounded by people I don't know drinking coffee and knowing they are wondering who I am and what happened and I can't reconnect with my friends and I can't discuss the previous evening and I can't tell if people are being legitimately nice or just putting up with me and this doesn't get easier with age (quite the opposite) and I wish I could have heard what she said after I left and I don't really care as long as she was and is honest with me.

Finally we part, she to her crew and me to mine and they think they know what happened and I tell them who and they are impressed. She is really cool. Not only in that I think she is but also impossibly hip attractive Brooklyn artist who can handle her drugs whose last guy supposedly looked like Johnny Depp and acted that way too and now I have kissed her. But for all the looks of admiration in their eyes I know the truth of the drunken fumbling and stupid things said while watching a movie slipping in and out of consciousness and two weird people just being themselves in a way they aren't amongst others. I know the truth of my loneliness and her isolation and touching her head for a moment as she slept facing away from me wondering if acts and feelings and words did and could ever possibly match. I am not a conqueror and she is not a piece of land.

I like her. She might even like me too. Her dog likes me (can he talk?). Only 186 miles away in the mountains and I have no car. Typical.

10.25.2013

Why I Am Nuts

If I seem unhappy with myself, here's a good example of why, a pattern that plays out constantly: now that I have written about moving, have vented, have gotten it all off my chest, I start to think about staying. Time to sleep.

It's almost over. Thanks for your patience. I love you all.



Edit:
And then I put on a record. Back to NYC again. This is fun. Fuck. House music is my life. Who I am kidding? Just me, apparently.

Deja Vu

Almost done with this personal shit. I hope. It's no fun. I feel like I am messing up by writing about it. I feel embarrassed, even.

I've decided that I have to move sooner rather than later. I've been warned against this sort of thinking in the past. Wherever you go, there you are, etc. I don't think moving will solve anything. At least not internally.

A friend of mine used to let me use his computer when I didn't have one. He is another smart person who has struggled to realize his potential. The password for the computer, at least a few years ago, was "newstart2", which I always thought was funny yet poignant.

I don't expect a new start, don't expect that all that I dislike about myself will be magically healed. But I've had enough. Providence is ultimately my fault. Everything that I have disliked about this place is present everywhere else. I didn't make my best effort. It was a waste, and I apologize, both to the people I have met and to those who have read this blog and have gotten a bad impression of life here. It's nice here. It's not what I want. It's a relationship that, for me, has always been temporary, and staying longer only ensures more pain.

I keep running into the limits of my capabilities as a person wherever I go. I am imbalanced. Every ability I have intellectually and musically, abilities not yet fully manifested, still pregnant with potential, are counteracted by major inadequacies elsewhere, and those inadequacies are ultimately what keep me from pleasure, from simply enjoying life. I can't deal with other people. The freedom I felt in Washington was a freedom contingent on freedom from other people, from the context and limitation of myself and my actual life, which allowed me to reconnect, ultimately, with life itself. The thing that exists beyond the limits and boundaries and frailties of any individual.

What I found in both Washington this past week, and New York when I lived there, is the satisfaction of being there itself. It was something to hold on to, something to be proud of. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt less detached. As depressed as I can seem, let's be clear. I am not suicidal. I like life, just not me (yet) or my life. But what I do like about life is barely present where I currently live, which makes everything seem pointless. 

I read almost all of David Byrne's How Music Works in DC. It's alright. Worth reading. I found myself agreeing with him most when he was critical of the ideal of the isolated genius whose creations arrive seemingly out of nowhere and sui generis. The Romantic ideal is bullshit. Context matters. In fact, what we regard as genius may be just a celebration of a person's capacity to understand and speak to a context better than others. Maybe the work itself is done in isolation, but the statement needs context to be heard. It's not a tree/woods situation. It's more akin to language.

I speak one and hear in one, and I feel the people around me speak and hear in another.

And it is hard. Hard to work on music with no audience in mind. Frustrating to write, sometimes, just knowing that there is nowhere for this blog to go. It's never been about money, though the idea of someday doing what I would do for free and getting paid for it instead sounds fantastic. Nor has it ever been about fame. In fact, fame sounds like hell to me - hard enough for me to trust people as it is. I think I'd just like to mitigate the prostitution in my life as much as possible.

Still there is something wrong. Something lacking. To paraphrase Neruda, I feel like I am crossing a sea towards no arrival. I can't embrace nihilism, especially one that derives from a recognition of mortality. I can say life is pointless, and yet, could I say that Martin Luther King shouldn't have bothered? Not that I am comparing myself to him. Not at all. It's more that, to validate the nihilistic sentiment, one must think of a really positive example of someone working tirelessly to improve the condition of humanity and then still come to the same conclusions about the worth of life. I can't. I sometimes worry that utopia would be boring, but it will never arrive in my lifetime, and there is no way of knowing anyways unless it actually comes about.

If there is one critique of Providence that I do think is valid, it is that all my concerns seem so distant here. This is not a grand stage where the competing ideologies of our times clash in dramatic fashion. This is not a place of change. There was a certain pleasure in even going to bad parties in New York, a sense that I was connected to the leading edge, even if the edge was leading in the wrong direction.

I don't even know where I am going with this essay. There is no conclusion, no insight. All I know is that I am a dreamer. I must feel that there is more to life than life itself. Otherwise, why struggle? There must be a reason simply beyond my own pleasure to not sell everything I own and move to a tropical island somewhere to dissipate in a pool of rum and rain and the rays of an ever-present sun.

I ask again, why struggle? The real shame of our current socio-economic system, the losses that so many have incurred since the collapse of the "Fordist consensus", well, millions and millions of words have been written, but it comes down to: after years when, outside of the (sadly) usual racial and sexual prejudices of our society, it became possible for a substantial portion of our society to move beyond mere subsistence as a goal, now, with no real loss in total wealth, we are moving against that tide back to where millions now have to think in a manner that was foreign to even their own parents.

And the main critique I have of the restaurant industry, an industry I may be stuck in again for some time, is that the possibility of thinking beyond subsistence is very tough. You simply don't know how much money you are going to make, and it is easy to get stuck in the near future, and the worries of your own life. Even as broke as I was in New York, when I worked my shitty day job, I knew how much money I was going to make, could think of the future, both in terms of my own life, and in grander terms as well. While I hesitate to make any argument towards causality, I can't help but think there is a relationship between the kind of temporary and insecure working lives of so many of us in "bohemia" and the nature of the culture produced which seems to shy away from grand statements and grand ambitions.

That reminds me of another frustration about my life in Providence. I think I idealized the idea of moving to some sort of proverbial "woods" to focus wholly on music. And yet, even with the lower rents and the general ease of life here, the sense of escape and detachment I was looking for was impossible. As long as fulfilling one's responsibility to oneself includes fulfilling responsibilities to others, there is no escape. The cost of living will never be low enough. In fact, the feeling of exploitation somehow seems worse. There are fewer jobs, smaller variances in pay. To bring back an analogy, there's simply not enough "johns" here for a prostitute to be picky, or to price him/herself out of relatively and potentially unpleasant experiences.

I'm scared, even as I type this. It's going to be tough to move. I'll be putting myself through a lot of pain again, on faith. Maybe I can't even do it. Maybe it's even premature to write about it. Am I really doing this AGAIN? And yet I already feel the anger of having wasted more precious time on this experiment of living in Providence. Today I spent my shower shouting at myself. I knew I should have known better.

I went to a boarding school for high school. It's a long story, and one I won't tell. I had the opportunity to choose amongst a few schools I was accepted to. I chose the most rural because I thought I would be able to concentrate better. It didn't work. Providence was me trying this logic again, and with the same result.

I feel the shame again. I'm hard on myself, if you hadn't noticed. I keep starting over, keep being just at the cusp of starting a life, of having one, without being able to achieve it. I'm sick of doing it. For all my "searching" malarkey, there has to be a base from which to work, a place to come home to after the night's wandering is over. Because if one truly wants to wander, one can never stop. Because what one chases when one wanders is the the sense of possibility borne of the anticipation of arrival. What one seeks is the freedom from the attachments that place context and constraint around life. To wander is to constantly replenish the stores of the unknown.

And that is why leaving will never solve anything. Because once one settles, what is open will gradually close. Certain apples will be picked, others will be left to rot, and the tastes untasted will become only phantoms, haunting in perpetuity.

Only: the fruit I've left behind is more delicious and it is still there to be picked.

10.23.2013

DC Coda: I'm a cliche








(PS iPad camera suck)

DC 3 + 4

DC 3
(mostly written last night, but suddenly iPad wouldn't let me scroll to the bottom of the page to keep writing)

First: dear Google, fuck you. I don't want to use your social media application. Fuck off.

Slept in again, this time exclusively due to the allergies.

In a rush, train to Gallery Place. Austin Grill because fast. National Gallery.

Modern Art really feels like in belongs in a museum now. Fewer and fewer paintings seem to be able to take me anywhere. Now that the line has ended in nowhere.

I could just be narrowing my tastes as I learn more, though. Rothko, Pollock, maybe I only cared when I did just because I was impressed.

Going to go to the West Wing tomorrow. All things being equal now, I think I may appreciate Italian paintings of Jesus and Mary more than ever.

After painting, walking. Oh so much. Walked through L'Enfant Plaza, then West, to Georgetown again. Wisconsin Avenue all the way up to the Friendship Heights metro station. Metro back to hotel. Well-needed rest and reading.

Here's the interesting part. Train back to Gallery Place, quick pizza at Matchbox. Walk to L'Enfant Plaza. Pictures taken around midnight. Walk all the way back to UDC metro station, with a quick stop for one beer at, you guessed it, Pharmacy.

Am tired. I might actually get up early and "do something" before I head back to Providence.

You may have noticed that I don't seem up to much besides wandering, eating, drinking, and sleeping. It's true. There are reasons. First off, I'm from here. All the touristy things I have ever been interested in doing have been done. Secondly, I am kind of broke. The most astute comment ever, said by a random girl, and overheard by me as I walked behind her and her friend in Georgetown years and years ago now: without the shopping, there'd be nothing to do. Thirdly, most of the people who made my life here are long gone. There were only a few people to contact and, well, for various reasons, no plans could be made. And lastly, the corny part.

I'm trying to find myself.

There, I said it, and it sounds stupid. But hear me out. I barely have a family, have been without love for a long time, and my friends are spread all over the country. I think, on some level, and, especially given the solitude of my childhood, DC itself has played the part of a person in my life more than people themselves. The city itself allows me to understand my own narrative, to place myself in context.

Here, in Providence, where I have lived less than two years, where I don't go to museums or art films with anyone, where I have never played as a DJ, where I can count on maybe two hands the truly satisfying meals I have had, and probably need only one hand to count meals of quality shared with others, I really feel that I am not known in any way. I'm just the bartender who works on music nobody has ever heard. Sometimes I go our for drinks. That's it. Nothing formative or memorable. At all.

Going back to DC has allowed me to feel that I, at least that "I" that is important to me, still exist. All the alienation vanishes. At least, the alienation, from politics and mainstream/mainstream independent culture, remains, but I can integrate, at least, with myself, with life itself. That feels nice.

DC 4

Back now.

Woke up earlier but not early. Check out.

Train downtown.

Quick hop into the National Building Museum. Cool exhibit on the Gustavino Company and their, seemingly, previously unheralded importance in creating beautiful, tile-based ceilings for some of the most classic buildings built in America at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. I resist my own middle-class taste sometime, and have been tempted to write a defense of the existing Penn Station in NYC, but there is something really, really exceptionally beautiful about this era of American architecture and design.

After that, the LA exhibit. Drawings and pictures of some cool vernacular architecture but also a lot of mediocre postwar Modern and even International style atrocities. And tract housing. Yikes.

Like the Le Corb exhibit I saw at MOMA, or rather, barely wandered through seething with disgust, I found it a bit, somehow, disingenuous. Aesthetics isolated from political and social context: frustrating. With architecture: immoral.

Then lunch.

I complain about working in restaurants. Most nights, it's actually not that bad. What bugs me is that I just don't want to do it anymore. Have I mentioned that the best thing about the restaurant industry is also the worst? You don't build anything. It's clean, it gets messy, you clean again, and start over. Regardless, I find my job easier to deal with when: a) I feel I can be myself and contribute somehow and, b) I like what I am offering.

Today I had a delicious dessert, on top of an already-indulgent meal at one of my favorite places. Thoughts of my job here in Providence barely crossed my mind while I was away, but they did again after lunch. The dessert I had today was perfectly executed in every way, from preparation to plating, and was $7. The desserts at my restaurant are usually significantly less creative, are smaller, are less fresh, are less delicious, and are generally unsatisfying. They cost $7.

Now I could just say, well, I went to Jaleo, Jose Andres' mecca for Spanish cuisine. A nationally-known and locally-beloved institution. But so what? Is not being good an excuse for not being good? Jaleo is a larger space, yes, and I think the kitchen is open a little later, fine. The ticket averages are higher. So more sales, yes. But the restaurant (I ate at the 7th St. NW location) pays, I'm sure, exponentially higher rent, has a much, much, much larger staff, and shoulders the burden of having higher food costs. So what is my restaurant's excuse?

While I'm distracted. They have been tightening the screws at work. All on the front-of-house staff. Sales tracking. Cameras. Measuring all alcohol pours. Efficiency expert (oh, and the owner with the drug problem and a history of stealing tips is no longer banned from the premises). All this tightening, to try and raise sales, to try and squeeze every little drop out of everything, and dessert sucks. Also the regular food too. I didn't even want dessert when I went into Jaleo, and the bartender didn't have to do anything to sell me dessert. Nothing at all. No pitch. No reverent descriptions. He just handed me the menu. The savory food was so good that I got seduced into it. Didn't want the pleasure to end. The food sells the fucking food. Stop blaming the front of house.

Whew.

After Jaleo I felt like I was on opium and drifted lazily over to the Hirschhorn. You can buy totebags decrying consumerism now. So I left the shop empty-handed. Most of the museum was cordoned off, being prepared for an exhibit not yet open. So, permanent collection. Dubuffet, Bacon and De Kooning in consecutive rooms. A beautiful Clyfford Still that I don't remember seeing before. Perfect. Happy. What did I say yesterday about Modern art? Who cares.

 Hustle to the West Wing of the National Gallery. Free museums are the best.

I only had forty-five minutes left. Wandered through the Italian rooms. Felt love in my heart. Knew everything was going to be ok. Eventually.

Metro back to hotel to pick up bags. Metro to Union Station. MARC to BWI. Last meal. Plane. Cab. ATM. Driver paid. Bank balance: ouch.

Walked past my restaurant, didn't even think twice about going in to talk to anyone. My life is between me and you. For now.

Love,
;-P

10.22.2013

Not yet

Posting from an iPad sucks too much to continue. See you in a day or two.

10.21.2013

DC II

Woke up late. You can imagine why. Alcohol and allergies.

Booze seems to turn up quite often on this blog, but I have to say, I really don't drink that much. In Providence, I'll drink my allotted shift drink on the nights I work, and, unless I am visiting a certain person, I don't go out on my nights off. I don't keep alcohol in the house.

Regardless. Another walk down Connecticut Avenue. Kramerbooks. City Lights of China. More walking. Metro to Alexandria. Emotions. A profound sense of belonging. A reminder that I had a home. One that I can't return to.

Metro to Pentagon City. Lebanese food. Metro to the hotel. Nap. Nightmare about my job. Walk to U Street. One quick drink at Pilar. One of my closest friends used to work there. She wasn't there. She must have finally moved, like she had been threatening for so long.

Back to Pharmacy. More free drinks. Stone Roses no longer on the jukebox. The thing about Pharmacy is that it is actually for drinkers. They don't try and distract you into thinking that there is any other reason to be in a bar.

Cab back to hotel. The cab driver asked me about living in a cheaper place. I told him that the money scales with the cost of living. He will stay here. He should.

I sent an email to the girl I've been afraid to contact for so long. The account no longer exists.

There's so much more I want to say, but using this device to say it... no way. When I get back north. Yes.

Suffice it to say, there isn't much to life, is there? I want to move back here but I don't know that I should. I don't want this to be all there is.



10.20.2013

DC day 1

I wasn't planning on doing any sort of a recording of my trip but since there is at least one person who wants to know...

(This is me on my iPad  - less articulate)

The day started off badly. I have been fighting off allergies and worked very late last night and, consequently, woke up with less than fifty minutes to make my flight. I rescheduled, and spent too much money to do so...

But I did.

Because. This trip had already cost too much money, so I had to spend more.

I took the bus to the airport. I ate a burger there. The bartender showed me a video of himself skydiving in Tennessee. I've never felt compelled but now I do. Fear has destroyed me. Time to overcompensate.

The flight was un eventful. When I got to BWI, and walked outside, even just the smell, home.

Bus to Greenbelt. Green line to Fort Totten. Transfer to Red line, Shady Grove. Van Ness-UDC.

Already overwhelmed. A long walk down Connecticut Avenue to DuPont Circle. Couldn't even remember where Moby Dick's House of Kabobs was, or at least the location in that area. So. Fuck it. M Street to Georgetown. Combo number II. Orgasm. Providence food is a fucking joke.

More walking. Lot's of walking. Chinatown. Searching for cigarettes. Found.

A bar, The Passenger, named after the Iggy song. Named by former coworkers. Two fabulous cocktails, no time to catch up with old friends. Too busy. Good for them.

 More walking. All the way to Adam's Morgan. Fucking Pharmacy Bar. Haven't been since at least 2008. Haven't been a true regular since 2006. Recognized immediately. Six beers eleven dollars. Oh, and great conversation with people I did not know before I walked in. As always. Best bar in the world. Best. Bar. In. The. World. Not. Hyperbole. Even. Given. This. Pretentious. Style. Of. Writing.

Jumbo slice, formnostalgia's sake. Cab. Sleep.

Or almost.

Feelings.

First off, I like being alive again. For a change.

Still a bit hard to parse. I left for a reason. What was it? Thought I could do more. I was right, am right. But does it matter where I am when I do it? Yes. No.

DC not ideal. Brooklyn not ideal. Nowhere I have lived is ideal. Providence is worse. What next?

Something. 

10.16.2013

Next Step?

Ok. So I can write. A bit. Sometimes. What's next?

I think I've always said that I have no aspirations to be a professional writer and it's true. But let me explain what I mean.

I worry that I can't be depended on when there are deadlines. I don't want to write things I don't want to write. Money or no money. I don't ever have any sense beforehand whether I will be inspired when I sit down. All my best and worst writing comes just as easily, and with the same amount of premeditation. There's little editing involved. I can't imagine myself writing for Pitchfork or Resident Advisor. For a millions reasons. Some: I hate short word counts, or the idea that what a piece of music could symbolize or engender on a social level is beyond the purview of a review. Especially since I think I am pretty bad at describing music itself.

Also the hype cycle. The fact that every publication, even the ones the publish good stuff, is ultimately full of shit. People actually like Haim. What fucking world do I live in?

I also realize I am much more disillusioned than most. What new records would I write about? If I wanted to go the regular route, I would put together a portfolio of reviews. Of what records though? Or rather, which ones recorded after 2005? 

Also, I should say, I don't want to ever depend on my writing in any way, to have any of my sense of pleasure and autonomy taken away from me. I wish more people came to this blog, wish more people gave a shit, but I haven't done anything about it for a reason. This is my space outside of anyone's expectations but my own. I like it that way.

I had an offer once. From the sadly-defunct Stylus Magazine. Some of those guys used to hang out on the same music message board I did. They liked my writing. I got sent an album. I had nothing to say. That was it. I felt horrible. Still regret it, though I still have nothing to say about that album; haven't even listened to it since. Didn't enjoy the pressure of trying to have something to say I didn't have something to say about. Didn't enjoy being relied on or disappointing others, though, most likely, I was more disappointed in me than they were.

It doesn't help that I can name more than a few people smarter and more talented than I who write and don't get anywhere. I look into the future and I can't see myself in it, to quote somebody else, somewhere.

Insecurity, too. How many books must one read, how many records must one have heard, how many films, etc.? Never enough as far as I am concerned. I only know what I know, if even that

But I do write. So is the next step just being more formal about it and sending things out to people before putting them up for free here? I feel like I've hit a wall, somehow. Feel I can do better. Feel that I want to challenge myself to do better. Feel like there is a difference between working at a bar and being a bartender. I may always have to do the former. But I don't want to be the latter anymore.

10.15.2013

Brain Data Offload

First off, fuck life. I remember now why I spent so much time lowering both what I expect of myself and what other expect of me. I'm a day away from having finished all of three books since my post this past August soliciting reading material. That's it. At this rate, I may get around to your suggestions someday in 2014. Which is actually not that far away now but still angers me because 2014 was further away when the suggestions were made.

It's funny, I could go months in New York not getting anything done at all and not be as mad because I was looking forwards. Now I am not. I do waste less time than I did then and yet, because I invest more meaning in time now, my actions still can't seem to catch up with desire. I need to fucking relax.

It doesn't help that it gets cold up here quickly. It's been less than two months. I need to fucking relax.

I can't really be scared of death at 32, can I? Must be something else. What?

It's not that time is moving faster, only that so much of it needs to be ignored.

That's what scared me about 9-5. Being glad a day was done.

This is not about sadness.

The other thoughts.

I haven't read and am not going to reread my posts from last February where I realized I couldn't establish any definitive structural "need" for retro culture in late capitalism, but I think, at least, I have the beginnings of the hypothesis. Maybe I had it then too. Maybe I am repeating myself. Maybe somebody else had them. Just in case not.

Let's just say (and here's the relationship back to cities, gentrification):
Retro culture is the reinvestment of surplus capital. 

That sort of explains away the "need" inasmuch as the need is inherent to the system, the aggregate result of seemingly-diverse agencies underpinned by a hidden, subconscious, yet shared goal.

Both reissues and bands that sound like other bands are basically either maintaing or expanding the reach of a market or markets.


So the challenge may now be to define the terms "surplus" and "capital" in the context of "economies of culture".

More sentences:

What happened to raise the effective demand for cultural "product", the demand that requires the expansion of markets?

I don't have an answer but here's a hint: identity is the social manifestation of the "coercive laws of competition".

Per Houellebecq, the collapse of enforced monogamy means we can never recuse ourselves from the market as long as we desire pleasure/profit. The need for individuation and innovation is now constant.

Tasteful consumer choices, choices of "conscience", require fuller engagement with the marketplace compared to "lumpen", "big boxes", "brand names".

Capitalism is ontology.

None of this is new. Can it be put together in a new way, though?

10.13.2013

Have so many issues...

...with alt-coutntry as an idea, genre, scene, etc., and occasionally get really pissed about it. Especially not being in DC or NYC any more. I could write a lot, a LOT, but it all comes down to something simple: there seems to be a huge segment of the American "left" that has a problem with cities, that still locates authenticity in some halcyon era before, I dunno. It never existed (at least without lynching [too much?]).

Sometimes in Brooklyn, looking around bars filled with wood and taxidermy stocked with all sorts of "handmade" ryes, it felt to me like the goal was to literally create a retroactive history in which ethnic white working-class people never left the city and blacks and immigrants never moved in. This scares me. A lot.

This feeling really inverts my sense of "guilty pleasure" in music. I love horrifically maudlin, "plastic" freestyle records unabashedly. I keep the small handful of alt-country songs I love to myself. Here's one, one of the best ever written. Songs I mean, of all time, for me, at least. Not for any cannon that exists outside of my late night solitary listening.


10.08.2013

Plus More Of The Same

Just saw this. Can't believe I missed it, and, I must add, not to defend Cyrus nor her detractors nor anyone at all, really, I just have to say, I noticed something a while back.

Is it me or is the new fight against fear of cultural misceganation not against those on the far right but on the near left?

Or have I just been in New England too long already?

10.07.2013

Little Joke

Person 1: So I watched that documentary Sound City last night.
Person 2: How was it?
Person 1: Oh, it was all white.

10.06.2013

The Eyes Have It

I've been to strip clubs a few times in my life.

It's always been depressing.

The most recent trip happened sometime between 2006 and 2008. I can't even remember, that's how important the experience is.

This particular place was in Arlington, VA. I went because a coworker had never been to one and wanted to go. It was a topless place, almost more a dinner club than a strip club. I was bored. I stuck with it, though, for the sake of my co-worker. I was barely in my late twenties, but I felt already like an adult compared to the person I went with, who was just over twenty one.

We sat, we drank beer, we watched. The girls came around, solicited drinks, etc. I already knew. He didn't, but he learned, and in the hardest way possible.

This guy, Paul, lived with his mother in one of the nastiest houses I have ever been in. The glass case where his snake was kept was the cleanest space in the whole house. We would grab some beers and play Guitar Hero after work occasionally. We could smoke cigarettes inside. Of course.

I think I could have been a better friend to him. Or rather, I was a good friend at the time, but after I left for New York, well, the past was the past. What did we really have to talk about? Life sucks, retail sucks. We ended up going to a Skinny Puppy show together. I liked it more than I expected I would.

A particular confusion of mine. I am, still, and have been, just as angst-ridden as any Tool-loving teenager from the suburbs, but, the educated, urbane aesthete in me, hard to shake, even as that same angst prevents me from taking my place amongst those who I "belong" with.

Regardless, topless place.

The girls came and went, money was requested, drinks were bought. At one point, a young girl sat down next to Paul. They started talking. Much was discussed. Broken homes, tough lives, tough jobs, and, especially, more totemic bands of disillusioned young white suburbanites everywhere. It could have been a conversation anywhere, in any context; it was going well.

Of course. But not really. We bought her a drink. A professional, she didn't touch it. She got up and left. A deep connection was broken. What could have been the love of Paul's life up to that point went to talk to someone else, about something else, for more money. I could see in his eyes that he really believed, if only for a brief moment, one that ended with her exit from our booth.

Before that, I had gone to a strip club at some point in 2004. A friend was getting married. He had never been. It was silly.

There were, and may still be, two strip clubs on M Street NW in Washington, DC a few doors down from each other south of Dupont Circle. We went to one. The bouncer was having a hard time reading my friend's ID. My friend stated his year of birth, and the bouncer asked him to repeat himself, looking affronted. My friend obliged, and the bouncer decided, for some reason, that we were too drunk to come in.  We had had one beer already that evening.

Perhaps this is not funny by itself. I should add that my friend spoke with the same sort of earnest and friendly tone of voice that someone proud of their small town and of a hospitable nature might offer directions.

We walked a few doors down and got in to the next club, easily.

And, other than the fact that, of course, the drinks were too expensive, that's all I remember. Not because I drank too much, but because it felt so pointless. There was, of course, as my friend had suspected, no epiphany to be had.

When I went to the club in DC it had been five years since I had been to a strip club.

That club, the first club, was somewhere in Ohio near Cincinnati.

I was living in New York in 1999 during a year off between high school and college and was living in a one bedroom apartment in Park Slope with two girls, both of whom I had known from my previous school. My dad was, ludicrously, proud, even though nothing happened, and we, the girls and myself, were all better off because of it.

They had a lot of shoes.

I don't mean that to sound sexist. I just tripped. A lot. There were probably at least thirty pairs of shoes on the floor at any time. It was a small apartment for a married couple of below-average height and perfect physical fitness. Yuppies on yoga. I'm sure, given the neighborhood, that our residency was followed by precisely such a couple.

A guy called Jason was a friend to us all. But why? I'll never know. I guess I can credit not having ever found a place for myself in this world for most of the misery I have experienced and continue to experience, but I've met a lot of interesting people, if only because they wanted to be friends, even if there was absolutely no sane reason for us to actually be friends. I think I may have hurt some people because of this, but never intentionally.

Jason was into the Dave Matthews Band and had his parents buy him the same model of guitar that Dave Matthews played. I knew some of the songs, but was way too cool to be in to that music, especially in 1998, though I did end up "jamming" with Jason every so often. He was a year behind me in school, and stuck there while I moved to New York. He was attracted to one of the girls with whom I lived.

That became a problem. She was manipulative. She told him she was pregnant with his kid. She wasn't. I was stuck in the middle of that situation, compelled to clearly explain to Jason the truth, which my roommate would constantly contradict. I lasted in this apartment for six months. I stopped paying my bills at the very end and started buying records instead.

The mother of the girl who lied about being pregnant showed up to the office where I worked one day drunk, before noon, to scream at me. Apparently, what I was told I had to pay for rent by the aforementioned girl, and had always paid, was not the same amount I was supposed to be paying. It was news to me. Thankfully, due to the mother's behavior, should I have ever forgotten in subsequent months exactly how much money I was meant to pay, I would have had at least thirty people from which to solicit that information.

I should add that the most awkward conversation I have ever had with management soon followed.

While I am still not talking about strip clubs: after I moved out, I began receiving threatening calls from another boy who was enamored with this girl promising physical harm should I not pay back the few hundred dollars for utilities that I still owed. And calls from Jason about pregnancy.

But before all of this happened, I made the thirteen hour journey from New York Port Authority to Cincinnati. It was summer, right after my graduation, and before Jason had to return to school for his senior year. Jason had guilted me into coming all the way out there for his birthday, which he did not want to spend alone, or, better said, without at least someone from school. He had plenty of friends in Cincinnati.

I got there, and nothing was as I expected. Apparently, Jason had to attend summer school. I had not known this before getting on the bus. I spent the days playing video games in his parent's massive home while he was off at school. In the evenings, we would tool around the suburbs, me smoking, most likely, at this time, Galouises Blondes, and him, his pathetic Marlboro Ultra-Lights. We were in an SUV, with the greatest hits of the Steve Miller Band blasting through the stereo.

Early evening were spent doing nothing, getting stoned, drinking beer, playing video games at his friend's apartment. Chili, Graeter's ice cream. The late evenings were something different.

We went to the same strip club every night for almost a week.

It was misery.

Jason, he who would soon be convinced that a certain girl was pregnant, was, at this time, convinced that he had a chance with a certain stripper. So we went, every night, to see her dance.

I guess she was attractive, but, given that I had seen her naked, my ambivalence should be seen as vaguely insulting. She was certainly nice, which is, ultimately, more important. She certainly wasn't in love with Jason. This became more apparent when a crew of us went back to her place to hang out. It was, well, uneventful. I think she had kids. Sleeping in the next room.

During that week at the club, spent patiently chain-smoking and sipping water as I was underage, I developed a sad, perverse fascination. No. Not that.

I would watch the girls in the mirrors instead of directly, and would watch for the moments when the girls would see their reflections and allow one moment of self-loathing to reveal itself subtly at the moment of self-recognition. It wasn't something I enjoyed. Or rather, it wasn't something that made me happy. I guess I enjoyed it, not due to the self-loathing, but to finally get the chance to see real nudity: vulnerability. That that moment could even exist, that these women had not been completely subsumed in their objectification, was, and here's the perverse part, the only true moment of possibility, of hope there to be witnessed.

10.04.2013

Shopping As Therapy

So what.
You do it too.
This well though?

Less than $60 altogether:
Afrika Bambaataa, "Renegades Of Funk"
Bel Biv Devoe, "Do Me"
Clipse, "Grindin'"
En Vogue, "Hold On"
Evelyn "Champagne" King, "Love Come Down"
Fleetwood Mac, Mirage (TUSK is next I promise - and then Peter Green era)
Peter Gabriel, So
Group Home, "Supa Dupa Star"
Jerry Harrison, The Red And The Black ($1 penalty for being pointlessly fascinated with this one track)
The Jonzun Crew, "Space Is The Place"
Human League, Dare (again!)
Bob Marley, Live!
Mary Jane Girls, "In My House"
McFadden and Whitehead, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"
Charles Mingus, Blues And Roots
Ministry, With Sympathy
New Edition, "If It Isn't Love"
Oakey/Moroder, "Together In Electric Dreams" (god help me)
Prince, Sign 'O' The Times (out of respect for Prince, no link!)

Now on to sleeves and more techno. 2013 is a good year for music but not for records.

More on this later, but, for now, I just want to say, as a loyal supporter of music and musicians, I feel really, really fucking exploited as someone who buys records. I'd gladly pay $10 for your dope new techno single than the $3 I paid for Mirage, even if nothing on it is as good as "Gypsy", but your record was only $10 for one day, and only somewhere in Europe. Now it's $60 plus another $15 to get it shipped to me. And none of that extra money goes to you, the artist. Since I refuse to download, I guess I will never hear it except on Youtube or SoundCloud and I will never play it at a DJ gig. Does this bother you? I hope so. Not because I am the greatest DJ. I'm not, and I'm not famous, either. I just represent a lot more people than you are aware of, and we are all disappointed. Aren't you? I understand the elitist strain in techno. Except now it's linked to money. Which is something different entirely. Is that your thing? Really?

10.02.2013

Sure

The surest way to remain a child is to allow others to define adulthood for you.

9.29.2013

I will never understand

Saw someone tonight. Someone I have written about, if you are keeping track. She was walking with her boyfriend. She looked miserable, the fire in her I have come to revere extinguished temporarily. It could be I'm wrong. Who knows. Regardless. What's funny. All the relentlessness of my self-doubt, all the moments of reflection, self-laceration, it's easy to forget that others are insecure, that others make mistakes, and, what's more, stick with them, even, out of fear, out of a lack of self-awareness, out of stubbornness, out of the mind's capacity to believe in the holographs we create from reality, the simulacrum of a person that leads us astray (I may be just as guilty, walking down a path in my imagination that culminates in fantasy).

I am an only child, and my childhood was tough, and I didn't even have anyone to discuss it with, didn't even know how fucked up I was, how fucked up my family life was, for so long. And yet, having realized that there will always be, at the core of my being, a profound loneliness, never to be surmounted or overcome, the bane of lovers and wives future and past, I must say: being a beautiful girl in a small town in an unhappy relationship must be the loneliest life ever.

How to trust?

Sorry to be so, um, male, but I used to think that being an overweight and ugly female was the loneliest life ever, and it may be, but if someone wants you, they probably do, you know?

It's true I desire her, that everything above was written with bias, and yet, what she could be, she's not, and will she be if she continues to be who she is? I don't know. I don't think so.

And it's funny. Because the isolation of the pedestal. Because she is a lonely god. Because I am sure I will do more and see more, because I have lived and will live a richer life (a necessary lie). I keep thinking I would be lucky to have her, but, stuck, as she is, in this small place of small thoughts, it may just be the opposite. That's not arrogance.

The freedom of masculinity, why I believe the male gaze exists, even as I wonder, exactly how am I supposed to use my eyes if not to see, is invisibility. To only be seen when one is ready to be seen. I can hide.

The  isolation of femininity, of those not yet fully-emancipated, women whose lives are activated by switches they cannot access by themselves.

The curse of beauty. That I'll never be Dostoyevsky, or Davis, Miles, will make me sad at times,  but the pressure on her is greater.

I can walk away. Easily. And I sort of want to, but, until I meet someone whose words bring me as much peace,  I will continue to light a candle every night, devoting myself to a possible reality I still believe will be just as fulfilling enacted as envisioned.

I do.