Search

A. Lawrence G.

just thinking

I Live in Alternate Realities

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I regret everything, except as a joke (and you know there’s a bit of truth in every joke) , but I do wonder about all the decisions I ever made. I dream about the alternate realities that would have been if I had made different choices.

I think, what if I had chosen to go to the High School of Performing Arts for acting, instead of the High School of Music and Art for music? What if I had remained a lit major at Bard College? What if I had stayed at Bard and actually graduated there, as a lit major, or even a math major? What if I had not quit the band I was in, in order to be the Treasurer of student government? What if, when I left, I decided to resume my music career and applied to Berkeley school of Music, instead of Hunter College where I studied accounting? What if I had committed to being a writer come hell or high water, and had never become an accountant? What if I had saved money from the moment I started working and could retire now? What if I bought a condo in NYC, where real estate has skyrocketed and stayed there instead of moving south? What if I had moved to California and pursued a screenwriting career? What if, when I got to pitch to Star Trek DS9, I had quit my job and dedicated myself to getting into that door? What if I had committed myself to politics, and dedicated my live to causes that I really care about?

What if I had not been so shy and had explored the possibilities of relationships with any of the girls who ever liked me and had gotten married to some other girl, or other girl, or other girl? Or what if I had just had more sex when I was younger? How would that have affected my confidence?  What if I had said, “what are we doing here?” to someone instead of always trying to figure it out on my own? A simple enough question. What if it wasn’t so hard for me to be conceited enough to think that someone could even like me, so that when I did try to figure it out on my own, I would have come to a more self-complementary conclusion? What if after I married my wife I had pushed back more on some of our differences, like saving money, or in how we raised our kids? Would we have been stronger or would it have driven us apart? Would we have lived in the same house, or lived somewhere else?

What if I had found a way to live in another country, and actually learned another language? What if I had not volunteered to go back to work when I was the stay at home dad?

I have answers to most of these questions. I carry these thoughts out to their logical and imaginative conclusions. I try to be realistic, at least after the initial reveries that include success and riches and, most importantly, happiness. I temper the fantasy with some logic, like “relationships are hard no matter what,” and “no one was going to save me from myself,” and “I could have been hit by a bus in that alternate reality.” But more importantly, I know that mistakes are a necessary part of the journey, because they teach you what you need to know. If you’re not self-aware enough to make good decisions, then you have to learn the hard way. We’re here to learn what we don’t know! But what if I was self-aware enough? What if I kept a journal more consistently and became more self-aware in time to act on that knowledge?

For the most part when I imagine these other lives that I could have had, they turn out great. But they’re not just great because I’m a screenwriter or because I know another language, or because I got to change the world. They’re great because the type of person I would have had to be to take initiative, would have been happier no matter what path I followed. It’s not about what path, but who I am. So, what if I could have been someone else?

Is it healthy to indulge regret, to second think everything, to delve into the inevitable depression that surfaces from these attempts to understand that I made mistakes? I’m not really living in the moment am I? OK, no. But that’s not the point. Because unlike the decisions I second guess, this is not a choice. Yes, I would be happy if I believed that I am always where I’m meant to be. If I were to act as if I woke up today in someone else’s body, as if the person who got us here was someone else, and in many ways he was, then I could be happier. A clean slate. No regrets.

But It’s futile. Because I can’t do that. If I am to accept anything, I should accept that. This is the burden of having an imagination that I appreciate and value though it has it’s downsides. If I am to be happy, I have to make that imagination work for me. Because there are upsides too. For one, I can use this imagination for good. How, I don’t know. I just can. I believe it’s a good thing. I could write something, like that people read, Something like that. For two, I can learn from my mistakes (Miles Davis said there are none) to be who I want to be.. later.

All kidding aside, what anchors me to this place is my kids. No matter what else I might wish I had done, no matter what choices I could have made, no matter what I consider to have been a mistake, given the circumstances at the time, no matter what course might have led to a more blissful existence in ignorance of what otherwise would have been, I would hate for my kids to be any different than they are. Whatever comedy of errors got them here, I wouldn’t actually take any of them back.

That’s irony. I’ve spent my entire life, practically, wishing I had done this or that differently. I dream of finding myself in my younger body and getting another chance, do overs, to do everything better, different, and more in line with what I planned all along. But if somehow the opportunity was offered to me, by some fantastical and unrealistic science fiction, I would have to decline. Because I am anchored. But they don’t anchor my mind. I can dream.  I can think. I can understand. At least I hope I can understand.

Wasn’t it Grand?

Trying something new. Happiness in the morning.

I’m going to tell you a story about a time when I was happy.

I’ve written before, here, there, somewhere, about trying to revisit the narrative of my past to remember more of the good times, even if they didn’t happen. In other words, to spin those days of lore as better than I ever thought they were. Because if I was always happy, then I’d have no reason to be unhappy now, which I don’t. It’s all about how you think about your life. And whether you think life is worth it. And whether you’re proud of who you are. And whether you can or do recall, at any moment, a memory that will make you smile.

I grew up in New York City. It was diverse in my neighborhood then. Not just black and white, but various denominations of Hispanic: Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican (not so many Mexicans). And Chinese, and Japanese. Also Catholic and Protestant and Jewish and Muslim and Atheist.

And the weather was great then. That’s how I remember it, a spring or fall day every day. I remember the distinctive smell of those Tamarind looking things (except flat) that fell from the trees and you could shake them, like Maracas. Speaking of Maracas, shaved ice! And Sabrett hotdogs. And Pizza. The Pizza was so good. Get it with extra cheese if you ever go back in time.

I remember how wonderfully dirty it was in the subways and on the streets. There was dog shit everywhere.This was before pooper scooper laws. The law was that you were supposed to “curb your dog,” which meant to let it shit in the street, where the street cleaners, that never came anymore because the city was practically bankrupt, would clean it up. But people didn’t curb their dogs anyway. The police would never enforce something like that, or jaywalking, or hardly anything those days, they left you alone. There was one street, 29th, between 8th and 9th which had buildings only on one side. The other side bordered a small green space, but there was a fence in front of the grass, so you couldn’t take your dogs in there. The residents of the buildings would cross the street and let their dogs shit on the sidewalk. To watch kids traverse this particular street was like watching them play hopscotch. I don’t know why we ever went down that side of the street, but we did. I guess because it was so much fun.

There’s this smell I remember, like it’s still in my nose. It is the smell of hot garbage piled up on the street near I.S.70, my jr. high school. Let me tell you what it smelled like. It smelled like home. And who wouldn’t want trains that were colorful and painted with Graffiti? When they solved that problem in NYC, they ruined my life. After that it was all downhill… well, just kidding. I’m still the happiest guy I know of. Seriously.

I never knew who painted the trains, but I knew guys in 9th grade who would tag everything with their own “handles” so to speak, the walls of the school, mailboxes, and the insides of train cars. Mace and Strider and Saki were some of their tags. Saki’s actual name was Sasaki, Brian Sasaki. He tagged the music room of our school with “Saki”, and the teacher asked us to rat him out.

“Was that Bruce?”

“I don’t know.”

There was this rectangular blacktop playground near my apartment building. We played pickup softball there. There was no right field so we would play that if you hit to right field it was an out.

Second base was first base, so you had to run there first. Old ladies walking on the path out in (the) right field (that wasn’t) would yell at us, scared they would be hit, but those old ladies could run when they had to. Just kidding. I don’t ever remember almost hitting any old ladies. We also got yelled at for walking on the grass, making paths where there already should have been some. We built those paths, and now they are paved. Now adults walk on them too. Well, we’re adults. We helped design the cityscape, And I’m proud of that, even if we never got any credit.

Here’s a thought that makes me happy, water keys. There were faucets attached to the buildings but they required a certain kind of key to turn them on, so that only the building maintenance staff could use them. But you could buy a key, it was really just a tool, and we all had one. It made me so happy to have a water key in my pocket. You know what else made me happy? Drinking water when I was thirsty and not because I should stay hydrated.

Was it dangerous in New York City? Well, we grew up there, so no, we didn’t think so. I got mugged a few times, but you got mad and then went on with your life. We were feral. We were free. We kids would meet at the playgrounds, and play freeze tag, or tag no touching the sand, or we would wander around, climbing fences, taking the subway at all hours with our school train passes that were only supposed to be used to get to school and back, or we would jump the turnstiles, or when we had to, we would pop a token into the turnstile. Tokens. I miss them.

We would climb on top of elevators and have our friends operate the elevators from inside. We would go to the roof of our apartment building and survey our domain. We would head down past the abandoned warehouses on the west side, past the hookers that hung out there, and go to the abandoned (after a truck fell through it) west side highway and light firecrackers. We would go to central park and ride our skateboards, or play in a pickup softball game there on a real field. We would take the train out to Coney Island and “pay one price” for all of the rides. ‘Go to the Mets games day of, and get great seats.

I’m telling you… this is what it was like.

An Assembly of Minds

I have multiple personalities. I think it is true for most people and not particularly unique especially among writers, though not everyone will acknowledge it. I was at a book festival once and someone was handing out leaflets for a writer’s group. I took one, and after a few minutes he tried to hand me another, saw that I had one, and stopped himself. “I’ll take another,” I joked. “For the others.” He laughed and told me who knew exactly what I was talking about.

It has it’s downsides. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get going because I’m worried that I’ll interrupt myself. Like I’m scared I won’t get to finish my thought. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to be disappointed because I can’t ever finish anything. But you know what? We need to have our hopes up. Without hope we can have no confidence and, confidence is all you need to succeed, according to Mark Twain.  

The exact quote is, “all you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and success is sure.”

The point I’m trying to make, is that you try.

I like to let all of my personalities out. I admit that I think it makes me interesting to others. When I simply let myself out, just go with the flow, just write whatever comes to mind, the writing already has conflict.

You may think this is just a trick that I use, to stoke my imagination. Maybe it is, but I really believe that I have to take this seriously. If I consider them a figment of my imagination, then that marginalizes them. Even if they were, even if you believed this was all a fantasy, and you were right, I still need to believe it for it to work. I need it to be true, if I am to tap into the entire team and fulfill our potentials.

Now the way I see it, no one usurps the throne. None can rule without the other. We’re either all free or we’re all in prison. Acknowledgment is liberating.

When I was, I don’t know, 13, I wanted to be an actor so bad. I think it’s because I wanted to acknowledge the “assembly” of minds inside here. If you want to let your own out, then think of it like this. There should be no distinction made between what we are and what we pretend to be. We are all of those things.

I am not some stereotypical caricature, you know, Sybil,  where all of my multiple personalities are fucked up. We’re a team. And we should be friends. Or at least co-workers.

Now, it would be disingenuous not to admit that if one has multiple personalities, then it would be unlikely that they are all the same gender. And it suggests that gender is not so black and white (neither is black and white I guess). But whatever you do, please don’t call me “they.” No offense, but it’s just a fucking pronoun. I would venture to think that even if I was majorly female, and wanted to be a female, I’d be fine being called a he. Is it because that’s what I am on the outside? Yeah. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. But even she has to acknowledge that physically we are in man form. So call us that. It’s simpler that way. It doesn’t mean she isn’t a she. It doesn’t mean she can’t think of herself as a she.

Go ahead and get mad at me and tell me I don’t understand anything, if you want. I’m not telling anyone else what to do, or feel, or trying to suggest that anyone else is exactly like me and should feel the same way. That said, I think, and I could be wrong, that if people with gender ambiguity would just acknowledge all of the characters in their play, so to speak, that they wouldn’t be as hung up on pronouns. It’s highly symbolic, in my opinion, because they think it would be easier to think of themselves as multifaceted if they were referred to differently. But what they are called doesn’t change who they are, even if they want it to. I am a he. It’s not untrue to say that. I also may be a she, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a he.

On the other hand. The demographics within a particular person could be different than mine. Is it possible to be in a male body while every single one of your identities feels like a  female? Where you don’t even have one male? I wouldn’t know, but I think it’s unlikely. Here’s why.  If you believe in reincarnation, you’ll know that the theories suggest, the evidence suggests, that we have all been male and female. That could actually be where our multiple personalities come from, they could be people that we were, but even if that’s not true, even if we were distinct people then who have combined into one body now, why would the population not be diverse? You know what they say, if two people are the same, one of them is unnecessary. Perhaps we prefer one gender over the other, but I don’t think anyone would be allowed to come back the same all of the time. How would we learn and grow? We have to get outside our comfort zones. In my view, if we have male of female parts, or hormones, or brains, or roles to play in this incarnation, we should make an effort to get used to them and to appreciate them. But we shouldn’t deny the rest of us. We shouldn’t deny any of it. We should accept everything that there is about us and stop hating ourselves. And if we want different parts, then we should be patient. We’ll probably get another chance, in another life, unless we destroy the world first.

But yours are different from mine, so you have to figure yourself out.

I can’t remember people’s names and I hate myself for it.

I am so impressed when people remember my name, or especially impressed when they remember the janitor’s name, or the guy that picks up the garbage in the office and stuff like that. I think it says so much about how much they care about people.

It may not actually say that, but it looks like it. It makes people feel good.

But I am not good at that at all. And I have this theory that it just comes naturally to some people, like the ones who always try to teach you how to do it, as if it’s easy.  Yeah, for them. I ought to invent an app.  

“Hi – I’m A. Lawrence, hold still for a second while I take your picture. Now say your name into the microphone. How do you spell that?  Let me type that in. Thanks.”

Then I can go home and study the pictures.

I met this guy in a meeting once. The next time I saw him he said, “How are you, A. Lawrence?” And I was like, man, I need to look at the list of who was in that meeting. So, I did, and none of the names rang a bell. That was because he goes by his middle name, Scott. But his name in meeting requests was William S. Foiledagain.

I met this guy from another department at some kind of corporate banquet. We had a good time, sitting at the same table laughing and talking. We still say hello. He comes by every once and awhile and we talk. I have no idea where he sits, but he has had the advantage of seeing my name where I sit, at least that’s what I tell myself. This goes on for years, and it’s way too late to ask him his name.  I’m like, “Hey, how’s it going.  How are you,” and stuff like that. I’m talking to him about his kids and all kinds of things. I am practically intimate with him. I see him talking to other people, he knows everybody, so I ask them, “hey what’s that guy’s name, I’ve known him for years but I don’t know his name.”

“Yeah, I’m in the same boat,” I’m told, again and again.

I finally find someone who knows. “His name is Bentley,” she tells me. But can that be real? Is anyone really named Bentley? I still haven’t been brave enough to call him Bentley.

I went to a wedding of a friend of my wife. I didn’t expect to see anybody I knew there, but I did. I saw a guy I used to work with, only I hadn’t seen him in a long time, didn’t expect him to be there, and was taken by surprise, so it was taking a minute for it all to come back to me and I understandably blanked on his name. Right? I remembered a lot of things, projects we’d worked on, practical jokes that we played on each other. This is stupid, I thought, a lot of people can’t remember names.  I decided to be forthright about it. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name,” I said. He went silent and vibed me from across the table the entire night. My wife had met him before and remembered his name (because she’s one of those) and could have told me, if I had just asked her. I haven’t seen him since, but I do remember his name, now. It’s Stan.

I was at a Christmas party talking to a woman that works in my office. I introduced myself, and told her, “It’s good to meet you, I always see you around, but I’ve never introduced myself.”

She said, “we had this same conversation last year.”

Now I say, “Hi Jennifer” every time I see her. It’s getting ridiculous.

So maybe I can remember names.   

But there’s a trick to it that the experts don’t tell you. You need to embarrass yourself.

I don’t know why I care. I guess I just want people to like me. What’s with that?

I’m Not Prejudiced, I Hate Everybody

I was in a team building event for work recently and the facilitator asked us whether we like people more or technology more.  Only one person was brave enough to raise his hand for technology.  When asked why he liked technology more, he said, “I hate people.”

I’ve been in a funk lately and the longer it lasts the more I hate people too. Earlier this week my daughter had a chorus concert, the second of three this month (don’t ask me why), and I arrived straight from work and a friend of mine took a picture of me sleeping and posted it on whatsapp.

She did the same thing at the last concert, and I got mad. So when she did it again, I got madder. I told her I was mad, and that it was disrespectful to the chorus and it made me look like I was the one being disrespectful. I know I used the word “fucking” somewhere and I heard her ten year old daughter say, “ooh.”

Anyway she apologized and said she didn’t realize it would make me so mad and she wouldn’t do it anymore, which is good because I’m pretty sure I’m going to fall asleep at the third concert.

End of story? No. My wife is mad at me, because she thinks I shouldn’t have talked to her like that in front of the rest of us. She thinks I should apologize, probably because whenever she does me wrong, I always end up apologizing to her.

I hate people.

OK, maybe it was good-natured fun, and maybe I’m overreacting, and maybe I’m overreacting because there’s something else going on with me. The question I have is, does anyone care about me? Does anyone care that this pisses me off, whether you understand why or not? Does anyone stop to think, Is A.Lawrence ok? What else might be going on with A. Lawrence?

Is it even such a big deal? It lasted two seconds. I said my piece. I got it off my chest. I’m not holding a grudge. For God’s sake, I had just woken up. Is that worse than making fun of people? She didn’t kill my dog, no (as my wife felt compelled to point out). But I didn’t kill her dog either.

Right now, as far as I’m concerned, I would be fine not being friends with anybody. I’m as angry, more so actually, at my wife. She encouraged it and laughed at it and now she’s giving me shit and telling me to apologize. We had an exchange over text about it, which I ended with, “when I get home tonight, don’t talk to me.”

I hope she doesn’t talk to me for days. Maybe if people weren’t in my life I could live the way I want to live, for once. I’m in a mood, I know. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it will wear off, but I don’t know if I want it to.

Faith

I try to keep my chin up, convince myself that if I get up early and write for two hours every morning that I can finish one of the many stories I’ve started over the years, maybe after whatever time I need to stretch or pee and after whatever time I spend keeping a journal to warm up to it, or to get past the despair that I write to outrun, or better yet, after whatever time I spend on the self-motivating completion of a blog post.

Maybe after that I can comb through the many different drafts, saved in google docs, of what I don’t even remember writing once, and can’t piece together into a cohesive complete work of fiction. Not without time and quiet. There are many different stories, with some good scenes, evidence of a potential we usually ascribe to teenagers. Finishing anything longer than 1,500 words seems like climbing a mountain to me, the kind of thing you only do once, if at all, and so which one is my Everest? Which story? If there’s only going to be one? How do I chose?

Why does my first work have to be my life’s work?

I can’t work creatively at 5AM in the morning, tired, sober, the clock ticking. And I can’t do it at night more tired, depressed, waiting, this time, for the house to be quiet, for everyone to go to sleep before I can go to work, knowing that I have to get up in the morning and be sharp and alert enough to be productive (or look like it) at a job I hate. I go into work and sit at a desk all day checking numbers, working in a profession I never intended to stay in.

It’s my winter now
Cold so long my toes feel numb
My head swims in blood thick
And my bones have frozen
I keep thinking about my toes
And then I dream
About friends who don’t remember me
And wake to work done at a desk
My thick blooded head
And stiff neck and shoulders
Move in shudders only and yawns
And I can’t get warm

You are what you do. It’s never just a job. We write not to make money but to be writers. But in order to become writers, we have to spend time writing, and I don’t have the time. What I have the time to be is an accountant. It’s not what I do, it’s what I am. And when I do write, the more I write, the more I hate accounting, hate myself.

I wake up early because it’s the only time the house is quiet, the only time I have to think. Then the house wakes up, sometimes earlier than expected cheating me of the peace, the small piece of that for which I sacrifice sleep (and exercise and whatever else I could be getting up early to do). Then in the evening there’s the TV, and dinner, and piano playing. There’s the dog barking and the people coming in and out of every room. Please stop looking at me.

I want to be someone else in so many ways.

I go to coffee shops sometimes on the weekend. They are noisy, playing music I don’t want to hear. I sit in uncomfortable seats. And all the fucking happy people. And the rent: coffee, the creativity limiting stimulant that only makes my mind race. 

So, what else am I to do but feel hopelessness? I have been running on fumes forever, relying on the fiction (ironic) that I can find time to do this, that I can carve out enough, that I can maintain a creative mindset when what I do all day is unimaginative except in the limited way that business people sometimes think of themselves as innovative.

I maintain hope by believing that I have a plan, despite that every plan I’ve ever had has failed. I make a new plan when it’s clear the old one isn’t going to work so that I can believe in something again. I know the new plan will fail too, I know it from the start, but it doesn’t seem to matter because it’s a mechanism I use to keep from drowning. It serves my denial, at least temporarily. I justify the farce, because I know that faith is my only chance, the only thing that will keep me going given the historical evidence that I will never do enough. I could be wrong about the new plan. Maybe this time it will work. Allowing that helps me to keep crawling, at least. If I stop completely, the game is over. But I still always lose.

That’s why I’m depressed.

But I have posted something every Friday for the last eight Fridays. Blog posts that may not be any good, maybe mildly entertaining at best. I’ll suspend judgement while they are fresh, because I may not have perspective and anyway it doesn’t matter. Thinking they suck will only lead to stagnation. I committed to myself, eight weeks ago, that I would post the best thing I could, weekly, that this would be my deadline, and I would embrace, in faith, that if I met this goal over the long term, I would improve, and that maybe the writing would even be better than I think it is. It’s an experiment, and I shouldn’t assume I know what the results will be before it runs its course. But I really expected the posts to be better than they are. I am hanging on by a fucking thread. Hanging on because I just don’t want to give up.

I’m Sure It Will Be Fine

I’m reading this book on creativity. It sounds personal, but it’s actually a work goal I set to read a book about being creative at work. A pervasive theme in it is that work can be your passion.

Like Robert Frost wrote in “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.

In the book, the author talks about how someone he knew had a countdown to retirement even though it was an entire year away. That was supposed to be an indication that the person wasn’t enjoying his or her job. It was a real tragedy, counting down the final year of work instead of living in the moment.

Only I created a formula in excel probably a decade ago or more, where I could input my retirement age and it would tell me how many days I had until retirement. I’m still 2,686 days away.

I think a lot about retirement. I wish I had thought about it more seriously when I was younger, or that I had actually done more than create an app in excel that told me how long it would take to get there.

But I’m getting closer now, and I’m past the point where I think I will escape this working world by writing Star Trek episodes, or a screenplay or even a Kindle Single that goes viral and makes me millions (well, I actually still dream about that last one, but I’m not relying on it). I’m close enough to retirement that I can actually plan for the day when I will be a full time writer not because it makes me money, but because I don’t need the money.

But I didn’t plan early, so I’m playing catch up. I think I will be able to retire at sixty, eight years from now, or sixty-three at the latest. I’m worried that I will be too old, that I won’t have enough good years left. Because not everyone ages at the same pace and there are no guarantees, even though I’ve got some decent longevity in my family history. 

I’m sure it will be fine.

But if you can plan to retire at fifty do it. It’s a good age to retire at. I would have been retired for two years already and I can’t tell you how much fun it would have been. All you have to do is save the maximum allowed into any kind of deferred retirement plan (401k, IRA etc). Save some outside of the retirement plans for contingencies too, because you don’t know what, but something will come up. And live off of what’s left, no matter what you have to sacrifice to do it. 

You can enjoy life without a lot of shit, you might even enjoy it more. You can travel (or at least visit people, stay in hostels, etc). You can eat good food (you just might have to cook it). You have to do it the hard way, but that becomes easier with practice and in the meantime helps you collect stories of failure, which are the funniest kind, at least once you have some distance.

Trust me, it will be more fun than if you do things the expensive way.

The other advantage of learning to live off less is that you won’t need as much when you do retire. For example if you spend $120,000 every year, then it’s reasonable to think that in retirement, you’ll need the same amount every year and for the rest of your life.  If you’re fifty when you retire, that could be another fifty years. That’s $6,000,000.  And the amount you allow yourself to spend needs to grow because there can be a lot of inflation in fifty years. But if you can live off $30,000 a year (I’m just making up numbers here) you’ll only need enough in retirement to live off of $30,000 a year also!!  That’s 4,500,000 less. You might not actually need everything up front because whatever you have at retirement earns for you while you’re waiting to spend it, but you get the point, you need less. So every dollar you learn to not spend saves you a dollar now and every year in retirement.  

Another important thing to remember is that the money you save early grows for longer, and once you get to some kind of critical mass of savings, it earns for you, and your fund essentially contributes to itself.

And finally, the less you learn to live on, the more significant social security seems when you finally get it. I knew a guy, a bass player in a band I was in, who was working some shit job in I.T. support that he hated. It might have been a great job for someone, but he hated it. He probably wasn’t that good at it either, cause generally we’re not very good at jobs we hate (the book I’m reading confirms this), so his boss, some insensitive young know it all whipper snapper, no doubt, didn’t like him either. Anyway, the bass player had once done better, had a good paying job (not playing bass) but he got divorced and lost his career and had nothing for himself in the end except a modest house and this shitty job. He told me that when he was eligible for social security he was going to retire because social security would be as much as he was making working. And that ain’t much. social security really doesn’t pay much, but it pays something and it was as much as he had become used to. And he did that. He lives off of social security now (I’m guessing he had his house paid off at least) and the last time I saw him, he looked really happy. 

But he lives alone. For me, social security will help, but it won’t be enough. Because my wife likes to travel a lot, and she spends money without respect to what we have. She gets good deals on what she buys, shops for bargains, and isn’t particularly frivolous, but she still spends and doesn’t like to budget. I can expect that we will need a certain amount and maybe a little extra in case we have to adjust to the market by tightening our belts in a way that she just doesn’t do. I could have quit to write full time a long time ago, probably, if I had the freedom to stay in my “castle” by myself and eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Campbell’s soup and cereal. But then I’d probably have gastrointestinal problems, and I’d be lonely.

When I was twenty I drove cross country with my best friend and we were way under budget, but I didn’t eat peanut butter after that for twenty years. I was also lonely because I was missing my girlfriend at the time who I found out upon my return had already dumped me for someone else.

Hey, but I’m counting my blessings, because if I can retire at sixty, or even work part time at that point, then I am luckier than a lot of people. And time flies fast when you get old and start forgetting things. Last thing I remember my daughter was a baby, and now she’s twenty-one and I have two other kids, who I call kiddo and cupcake because I don’t know their real names. Sort of kidding. But time does seem to go by fast, and I don’t think it really does, so I must be forgetting stuff.

Bottom line, do as I say, not as I do. You won’t be sorry. It’s good advice. The best advice. I’m really good at giving advice. 

Who I Am (Not)

This is why it is so important for me to write. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, but I don’t think well without writing my thoughts down to see how if feels to say them and to check them with their logical implications. I need this to disavow myself of all of my wrong thinking whether it be that I hate myself, my parents, my friends, the Yankees or whoever. There’s enough hate to go around. But I don’t really hate anyone (except the Yankees). I just have to write it down, so that after I die, if I were to die while any of these people are still alive, they could read it and think that I really hated them, when in fact, I just wrote it down so that I can test the thesis, and likely prove it wrong. Start with who I am, and then become someone different. Start with what I think and then change my mind. Start with bias and gain perspective. It’s a process. So don’t believe anything I write, including this.

I write to learn about myself, cause I don’t know that much about me.

My favorite scene in Seinfeld (right at this moment, tomorrow it will be something different) is when George is trying to figure out how to break up with his girlfriend. They are pitching “Seinfeld” to NBC. He finally has a job he can brag about to get girls, except that if he breaks up with his girlfriend, who works for NBC and has influence over the show, he loses the job. So he comes up with this idea.  She loves David Letterman.  Letterman works for NBC, he works for NBC. Maybe he can meet Letterman, introduce him to his girlfriend, she’ll dump him for Letterman, and everyone gets what they want.

“I’m just thinking,” he says.

“I don’t think you are,” Jerry replies.

So, I’m just thinking.

I can’t believe that I ever, like when I was 18 for example, felt intimidated by fellow 18 year olds who thought of themselves as, or acted like they did, good writers. How could they be? They were 18. Where are they now? I have no idea. I don’t even remember their names. Statistically they are not famous writers. So no one be discouraged that you are not, at some young age, great. Imagine if I sat here today and was only 20 and had 50 years to perfect my craft.  If I pushed on with persistence, I imagine I would be excelling in the first 10 years, which, if true, suggests that I’ve still got enough time because I have no reason to think that I don’t have 10 years left. I could easily have 20. That’s a lot of time. I could have 30. I could be writing with clarity at 90, or without clarity; which could be the best kind of writing, the kind that sounds like you wrote when you were asleep, like it’s more of a poem than prose, like something that came from a spirit in the sky. It could sound like the bible, or like Jesus actually wrote it and maybe he will have.

Seriously, once your mind is gone, it isn’t you talking, right? Even before that. If you don’t know yourself, then nothing you say can actually be considered to be from you. Just let it flow and say whatever and then ask yourself, does that sound like me? Yes, no, maybe so.

I think we need to forget who we think we are. Might as well, unless we’re really happy with ourselves, and I think that’s rare. I’m not happy with myself. I don’t even want to be me. Never have. So speak as if it’s someone else speaking, because it is. Until it isn’t.

 

5AM

Her mom didn’t love her, what’s my excuse? I read this and it made me think about the recurring anger I have  towards my parents, yet they aren’t so bad I can actually blame them for anything. And then someone else posted about senior projects at my old school, Bard college, and I actually commented that I wish I had stayed to do a senior project, got a few likes for my failure to achieve that, and thought about how it could have been my first novel, if I had stuck it out in lit, and still I haven’t written that first novel. But at the time I thought it would have to be good. The portent of a senior project, especially with the problems I was having late in my career there choosing a major, probably contributed to my flight. Although mostly it was because the Math department only had two professors and they both left just as I was declaring my major. Was it me? And so again, I feel like a failure, and here I am, so old already, and such a failure and whose fault is it? I guess it doesn’t matter whose fault it is because the consequences are mine and that would have made it my responsibility to do something about it.

I have spent my whole life saying I want to do things and failing at them. I got to go out to LA to  pitch ideas to star trek and then i didn’t keep trying. I may have achieved some other things, I can be proud of myself, but the things I SAY I want to do, the things I have always said are important to me, what I’ve called “dreams,” I’ve failed at them all.  At 52, what am I supposed to do with that?  I’m supposed to get up at 5AM every morning and write and not stop doing that until I am dead, that’s what.  There’s only one way to prove that it’s not too late, and that’s to do it, whether I believe that’s possible or not. Achieve something or die trying. Go out fighting.   

One of the things that bothers me about finally achieving some of these things so late is that the people who saw potential in me as a child might all be dead. These are the people I want to make proud. But I suppose the people who knew me as a child aren’t the only ones I could make proud of me. My kids could be proud of me. My friends. I need to let go of that little child, that young adult, that thirty something kid, like I still want to be that person I never was. I need to stop trying to write like that, hoping people who read me can’t tell that I’m older than that. I need to own my age and write like that’s my stage in life, honestly and authentically. I have to stop being scared that people will be turned off if I admit to them that I’ve gotten this far already and have so little to show for it.

I have lost a little confidence in my ability to write a better story by spending more time on it.  Last week I put more effort into my friday blog, worked on it every day, I even goofed off at work to spend more time on rewrites and edits because I wasn’t getting up at 5AM as consistently as I wanted to. But it got worse and worse, until finally I had to fulfill my commitment to myself to post it regardless, and it was a confusing contradictory rambling mess that I have since edited down, just to make it a bit shorter, so now the food’s no good AND the portion is small. Sometimes that happens. But the truth is that it gets worse before it gets better. Because what happened is that I had started with a conclusion and a point and the more I worked on it the more I realized things about myself that contradicted my original point upending what I thought. I was in the middle of a process in which I was on a path of self-revelation that might have landed me at a conclusion opposite the one I started with, but I was in the middle when Friday came.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑