Look at me

I am an American
You know what I mean
But in this Turkish coffee house
In Decatur, Georgia
Women wear the hijab
They sit in a circle
Leaning in
Talking and laughing
The owner’s family is here too
With his coffee colored baby
Yes I noticed
It makes me feel
That they can feel at home
And that I am welcome
Because that’s what they sell here
They sell welcome
Maybe I can cross my legs
And be less American
And maybe they wouldn’t judge me
Even the one with the burka
Would she?
Something to be said for headscarfs
Maybe they don’t want from men
What men are like
You know what I mean
Don’t try to tell me
That American men are not like that
But the burka bothers me
If only because it reminds me too much
Of myself

I Pretend to Hate My Job

I don’t know how I feel about work. Sometimes I like it, but I seem to try hard not to admit that, as if I don’t want to like it. It’s because I’ve always dreamt of doing something else. I originally intended it to be temporary, this career, I told myself that. And then it went on and on and I have always felt trapped, like I just couldn’t get out. Maybe I lied to myself. Maybe I always intended it to be permanent. I mean, there’s got to be a reason I didn’t do enough about changing anything.

This is the best place I ever worked now. People actually do enjoy it. I enjoy it. I work with nice funny people. They are like friends. 

Do I feel completely comfortable there, like it is home to me? Am I relaxed enough to just be myself? No, but I rarely feel like that anywhere I am among people. What would happen if I did? I’m not even sure I’d act any different, I just usually feel guarded. What is it I would admit, or show people about me that they don’t already know? Would it get me fired? I’m sure they’d give me a warning first.

“A. Lawrence.  You’d better start pretending again. We don’t like this new you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

But really, I’m already an open book. I probably admit way too much shit about myself, and yet I feel guarded. Like I’m scared they’ll see something I didn’t tell them.  What?

It’s probably worth it to think about this stuff. What do I really like about my career, job, life, and what could be better. I could like it if I admitted that I liked it, and that I don’t have to be scared of anybody.  What’s the worst that can happen? I could lose my job. But that’s pretty unlikely.  And if it happened, particularly because I was being myself, then it’s probably for the best.

I think I’ll try to like it. I want to like it. This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to like it. It will help me to do a better job, which will in turn help me like the job even more.


I Don’t Want to Talk About Work

I wrote a poem this morning, inspired by the movie Paterson.  Ron Padgett, who actually wrote the poems for the movie anticipated this. In an interview with the PBS newshour he said, “Maybe a film like Paterson will help some people say, ‘huh, maybe I could write something like this too’.”

But I didn’t know that when I wrote it.

It’s 7AM.
Time to start the routine
The same routine every day

I take a shower
Brush my teeth

Put work clothes on
And torment myself
Over whether to eat breakfast

But I don’t want to talk about work
I get up at 5 or 6
I stretch or write

Who do I blame?
That’s what I want to know
That’s what I write about

Lately I’ve been having breakfast
And drinking coffee
And liking it

But I’m behind
Always behind
In my tasks

Maybe when I retire
I’ll keep a blog
And ride a bicycle

I’m Not Lazy (it just seems that way)

I didn’t go out much. I remember the few times I did hang out late in the city. Jr. High School prom night, for example. After the prom was over, a group of us just wandered the city. My date and I were ignoring each other. She didn’t really want to go with me, it was a long dance that led up to that night, complicated by the involvement of others to put us together, and an older guy that she was interested in, at least that’s what she said. She wrote in my yearbook, “sorry about all those broken dates” to immortalize it forever. I ended up talking with another girl at a swingset somewhere that we all stopped at along the way. She was someone that actually liked me, and we ended up dating for about four months.

There was a night much later when I was at Hunter College that I hung out with Raul Dennis and the Envoy newspaper entourage, they liked to call themselves that, on the roof of my apartment building before they put an alarm on the door to keep people from going there anymore. We climbed up and hung out by the chimney, and I played rhythms on the metal ladder, and Dennis was impressed. So was I, I was impressed with myself. I’m not very consistent, at anything, but I have my moments.

I thought that the roof of my building was one of the coolest places. I took people there a lot. The view was unique, if not the empire state building, or top of the rock, or the world trade center. I have pictures somewhere. I took them in 360 degrees because I wanted to blow them all up, stitch them together, and make a roundabout, where you could stick your head in it and look around and see what it was like. I had this idea that I could turn it into wallpaper and make my bathroom look like I was on the roof. Except for the notion of actually taking a shit on the roof, it was a cool idea.

I hadn’t realized there was slide film in the camera when I did this, so I never even stitched together a prototype. I’m not sure I even know where those slides are. I would never have thrown them out, but I swear it seems like I used to have a lot more slides and negatives.

But I was more of a homebody. I didn’t really like going out, at least that’s what I told myself. Either I was shy, or I really didn’t like the music most people were going to listen to, or the volume, or the crowds, or dancing. But I see now that it would have been good for me to get out, to watch life, the lives my peers lived, even if I didn’t participate. I might have understood the context in which we lived, and who we pretended to be. I imagine that it would have made it easier to be something different, or even influence what it was that defined our generation. We’ll be happier, in my opinion, if we know what we are expected to be. And also if we come to understand how much variety there is even among our peer group, then that can help us find the confidence to be unique.

My one and only reader (not really, but the others don’t SHOW  YOURSELVES) wrote recently that when you travel to where no one knows you, you can be anyone, even yourself. I’ve always embraced this idea, that you almost have to pretend to be someone else in order to shed the expectations of people who know you. To be yourself, you have to be free to be anything. But the opposite is also true. If  you know what you’re expected to be, by whatever group you belong to, that makes it easier to willfully divert from it. You need to know what society expects, if you are to rebel.  

I never really had the strength to rebel. I don’t feel like I ever really took charge of my life. I had an argument with my wife this morning on our way to the airport, she’s taking a trip. We were talking abstractly about people who are unhappy, because, perhaps, they just don’t take charge of their own lives. She said that they’re lazy. I was like, “I think that’s judgmental to call them ‘lazy’.” Then we got into a fight. I’m like, “I feel like you’re calling me lazy.”

“I wasn’t even thinking of you,”

Honestly. I’ve got issues. I lack courage. I’m shy. I lack confidence. I have trouble choosing between multiple interests. I may be over-analytical. These things affect my motivation. But it’s not just laziness.

I hate it when people call other people lazy.  I feel like, more often than not, the accusers are a certain type of person, it comes natural to them, and they expect everyone else to find it just as easy. They’re results oriented, direct. They make decisions and never look back. This is merely a particular personality type that certainly has value. But there are other personality types, which also contribute different talents.  Like the kind that triple check their answers, are more focused on getting things right than getting things done. Like those who want to bring teams together, get people to do the work collaboratively who may not really do the work themselves, but do facilitate the outcome. Diversity is grand, and needs to be understood and not judged. Calling people lazy is like saying there is no hope for them. Actually calling people lazy is lazy. Cause it’s just not that simple.

The Fame School

I auditioned for the fame school. I’ve always told people that I actually went to the fame school.  That’s because, at the time, there were two divisions of the same school, and I went to the other one, the one that wasn’t in the movie. But we had the same principal. And they used our students as extras. That was just maybe a year or two before I got there. My older brother was in the movie, and on the soundtrack, in one particular scene in the lunchroom where, like, a thousand musicians are playing at once. For awhile there he would receive royalty checks for, like,19 cents.

Used to be people knew what I was talking about when I said the fame school. But the movie may not be in the common domain of cultural literacy anymore. I’m dating myself. Young people never heard of this movie.  They made it before I was even there. That was over 35 years ago. I know there’s been a television series and a remake that was a flop and nothing like the original, which wasn’t ever my favorite movie anyway. I didn’t think it was really like that, but then again, I wasn’t really there, was I?

They both had music. But that was the only art they had in common. The one that was in the movie also had drama and dance, and ours had Art.

I went to Music and Art, for music. I also auditioned at Performing Arts for drama. It was competitive, like only 10% got in. And I got in.

I really should have gone. I’ve done well making the best of life after regrets, we all make mistakes, and I wouldn’t change anything, because I don’t want to give back what I have earned. But I loved it, acting. I didn’t choose it because I guess I didn’t fully realize how much it was the thing that engaged me. I truly believe that I would be a completely different person if I had gone there. It would have been the difference between being drawn out of my shell, or driven into it. That stark.

I didn’t trust myself. Maybe if I had a therapist then, I’d have been self aware enough to know what was good for me. I always wanted one. I still do. If I were rich, I’d go to therapy, like, a few times a week. If he/she were good, or even not. It helps just to have an excuse to say what you think out loud (that’s also what this is for). I don’t want to be sexist. In most cases, I’m not like this, but I think I’d need a he. I doubt I could  be completely honest with a stherapist.  She’d have to be particularly good. What I mean by that is non-judgmental. And I would have to be able to see it.

The audition was great. My Jr High school had a drama program, but I was in music. I acted in a community theatre outside of school.  I worked privately with one of my acting instructors to prepare for the audition. I was late, because I also had an audition for the music department, which I botched, and then I showed up, like, 4 hours late for the drama audition.

“Are you A. Lawrence?” Some girl asked.  A student volunteer. Most everyone there was a student in the acting department. They had been looking for me. I explained the other audition. She said, “yeah, I play the drums too,” and she air drummed. I didn’t believe her at the time, but it was probably true. Everyone has played the drums at some point in their lives.

They took me to a room, where I waited. They wanted me to write an essay about some shit, sounded made up.. Another student came in and did a spontaneous skit with the proctor. I was getting the feeling that this was part of the audition, so I got up and complained about my pencil.

“Huh?” the guy said. The girl helped me out.

“You heard the man,” she said.. “Get him a new pencil.”

I went back to my desk and another girl came in and asked if this was the place to audition for the drama department.

“Yes it is, surely is. You’ve come to the right place. Now we’re going to need you to do a bedroom scene with, um, that fellow over there.” he pointed at me. I smiled.

Shit like that kept happening.

I auditioned, with two solo scenes. One was an adaptation of something old into something new, and I don’t know. It was a long time ago.

Then they wanted to do something else, but it was late and they needed more students, so they asked me if I could come back the next day, Sunday. I still thought that everything they said was an act, and a test, and so I told them I had to go to Church. If you knew me and my family, you’d think that was really funny. Well, my mom actually went to this school, and this teacher knew my mom, and was like, “Church?”

“No, not really. I’m just kidding,” I said.

So I came back and they filmed us, a bunch of us, acting like animals. I wish I could see that film. I had just seen some performers on a variety show of sorts, can’t remember their names, acting like apes and I thought it was cool, so I chose an ape. I had some good play with this other kid who was a monkey. I bet he went there. We could have been friends. We could have remembered the audition together forever.

You know what else? I told them no, but they thought I said yes, somehow. I went to M&A and a friend of mine who went to PA told me they called my name in his homeroom.

I could have changed my mind, even after school started. But that would have taken guts I didn’t have.

I actually flipped a coin, I’ve always told people that’s how I decided, and it may be true. Seriously, I was leaning towards Drama, and I flipped a coin on a fluke, not expecting to take it seriously, but when it came up drums, I felt strangely compelled. I liked the drums too. And my brother was at Music and Art, and I wanted that to be the answer in some ways because of that. The coin toss allowed me to consider it, and I thought it felt like maybe I should to it. I felt a little relieved with the idea. But really, I think it was just the path of least resistance. I had my own thing.

Oh, this is such a sad story.