Thursday June 17th 2010, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Boozy,exit pursued by a bear,friends,reminiscence Tags:

Or, better, fortior. A comparative, really. I think I was better at the 90s. Aesthetically and poetically, that is, but interestingly, not politically. That might be the crux of what I’ve tried to put into words for a very, very long time. In other news, it’s been old photo week here in the ‘hood, in case you haven’t been following. One, a set of three of us (four, really, but one checked out entirely) from Halloween in San Francisco many, many years ago, exploring some confusing dark fairy tale/goth line before it was quite ok to admit that not only was the rabbit hole compelling, but that Alice was hot, and there were all sorts of unspeakable things you’d like to do to her. Of the three, though, one said of the other “she was better at it than we were.”. And the object of that comment replied to my description of the photos as “amusing” with “amusing but slightly terrifying.”. Most amusingly, however, is the photo i have of her from a very drunken evening just a few years ago, well over a decade after the photos under discussion were taken. And the head tilt, the averted eyes, they’re exactly the same. Not so much with the burgundy crushed velvet dress or the thin braids or arabesques of eyeliner (curroesque. Fuuuuuck. It’s been a while since I’ve obsessed over the adjectival forms of proper names. Hey Curro. Some day I’ll show up in Madrid and we’ll drink. And maybe, Clara, you’ll pop up out of the proverbial wood works. It took me a long time to find she who dumped me. Anyways.) But, the same. Trust me. A private amusement, not at all terrifying, that i carry with me, made slightly more public here, but whatever. And in that delectable not quite irony, in that exquisitely poignant and pointed moment of connectedness, of the failures of self-perception alongside the successes of self-construction and presentation, in a pose that was a pose and yet isn’t one, I’m reminded of conversations in a London kitchen, on whether the self is created, or is continuous. And, Ms Efferevescent argued she knew who she was, and always had, and i rather imagine to this day has no doubts that what she’s done and who she is connect up very directly to who she has always been. And so, too, the posed non-poser, she who always played the game without thinking of it as a game, without thinking through the moves or countermoves, but just acted, or better, just lived. Not acted. And therein my 90s crux. I never had that, really, although in the last stretch I’ve been more of that, if only because I’ve been less of the other. Less of the incessant processing, analyzing, intellectualizing, scheming, measuring, metering, and monitoring. But this me who is as authentically me as I’ve ever been? Not really me, boys and girls, any more or less than the me who had massive and repeated crises of faith, or wondered if I was responsible for My actions, or went to yosemite with a stranger or Poland with a friend. Stable, sure, but the product of a long Mexican stand-off between facets and factions, and it’ll all go tipping or skipping down the rabbit hole again some day.

Wednesday June 16th 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: can't make that shit up,damn,HelLA,memory Tags:

It will always be associated with the summer before college, my sister’s college boom box with her small handful of college CDs. Sitting on that cream couch with tasteful stripes, listening to bolero, to cat Stevens, to sting, and a few other CDs, just barely beginning to make sense of the lines between the classic and the banal, the great, the good, and the popular. Cue the Arthurian epic by marion zimmer bradley, so epic, in fact, that not only did I need to google her to spell her name correctly, but the mental blind spot I’d hoped would resolve itself before I came to that sentence was answered readily (the title of the vague “epic” above, the mists of time….) it was like teenage crack, that. (Much like Ayn Rand, actually. Best suggestion I’ve seen for fixing the bp oil leak remains filling it with the works of Ayn Rand…). Anyway, the doubled teenage crack of bolero and the mists of time, of the musical repetition that scratches the lizard center of the brain while offering just enough variation to keep the intellect from noticing how, well, repetitive it is. Add a sweeping fantasy novel (and, alas, in my pre-college days, i was a sucker for such – the suspension of disbelief could be carried back into my life, salve for that which lacked a solution.) and it was amongst the best shit I’d ever smoked. Not that I smoked, then, either. It must have been a single day, i think. It didn’t take very long to read that rather thick tome, sprawled on the couch with my neck aching and arms tired and eyes blurry and bleary, reading well over a hundred pages an hour in that rapturous consumption of fiction that has always been my secret shame and great talent. And bolero, on repeat. No one else was home, which was probably for the best, as amazon reports 912 pages, which probably works out to eight hours, give or take, of reading. And bolero, on repeat. Thinking about it now, I’m glad I’m not there, to watch this skinny kid consume this thick book in a single day, to bolero, on repeat.

filling time
Tuesday June 15th 2010, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,friends,memory,Rubbish,tired Tags:

I’ve gotten better at filling the time, at allowing myself to fill it. I never used to fill time, but rather felt the desperate imperative to do something with the time. Maybe because time has stopped seeming quite so precious? Because there’s been so much more of it, relatively speaking than at 18, 19, 20, that I accept the Hum(e)an fallacy that there will continue to be more of it? I was so bad at being alone that i trained myself to be very, very good at it, as she once observed. A minor but substantive difference from the Interpol lyrics, “training myself not to care.” I always care. It’s in caring that the rage, the despair, the apathy, and the love all happen. I suppose I filled time then, too – witness the days upon days that i lived that I can’t quite figure out what the fuck i did with them. Pre mobile phones, pre Internet beyond the odd dialup, what the fuck did I _do_ with all that time? I read my socks off, i listened to music like it was air to breathe, i wrote in journals, and fell in love, in Like, and spent endless hours with friends….talking? What did we talk about? Evenings of sky vodka shots and swapping tracks on stereos with cd changers, and what did we talk about? Days at wall berlin, endless cups of coffee, reading the newspapers and books and playing chess and talking about…..? Why can’t i remember what social time was, unstructured social time, precisely that thing that seems to fade as you become an adult, lose control of more and more of your time, make unironic plans for small events months in advance. Dinner in august? Sure, let’s pencil that in. A letter in yesterday’s haul thanking me for listening, for letting her cry on my (once [in]famous) bony shoulder, for evenings when she talked and talked and I was the one to reply, with that “ticking tricky mind” (thanks for the description, babe. I’ll cherish it, though I haven’t thought of you for even an instant for years and years.) Really? I don’t recall. Literally half my life ago, but it feels more recent, the scale skewed by childhood vs. adulthood. But, really? I don’t recall.

what i knew, part 2

The archaeology of my existence continues this evening. There’s a folder in the box, a lumpen, misshapen folder, over-stuffed with the most precious pictures, letters, notes, postcards, mixtape liner notes, and some random random shit. A folder of the much better known, but this evening’s slightly more careful excavations had some major surprises. Letters from an ex-friend that are still too painful to read, lengthy testimonies to one of the few bridges i burned, burned, burned to the ground without having meant to do so (and, incidentally, much more effectively than those i did intend to eliminate.) A note from an oxford friend and a picture of us together mid-laugh, saying my days were suddenly a mystery to her but she was calling my name on the wind, and wondered if I’d hear it. I wonder if I cared, then – I do, emphatically, now. A long letter from an ex-idol’s ex-girlfriend (though he probably was still my idol then, and she was certainly still his girlfriend), a graphic description of a night I almost remember, though it resembles so many others, and is largely over-written by a later night she and I had, same intensity, same red wine, same pretentiousness, but this time with bad (and, thank the gods of stds, good) decisions.

The pictures from Wisconsin, and from Michigan Girl and her Van (GHV henceforth), include one of her as a child with a tarantula on her hand. A black and white photocopy mounted on brightly colored construction paper (unlike Cat Eye Glasses, who sent me, long after it was imaginable or excusable to do so, some of her most precious childhood photos. I have them safely, but they’re a burden.) I didn’t know her (GHV, but either of them) as a child, didn’t know the little girl in this photo, but it’s no less compelling for that. We were children, really, me 20, her maybe 22, but I recognize the girl of 13 or so in that photo. I don’t have any other photos of her, but the woman she became is clear in the child she was. Months later i would sit at a fold-out table on a fold-out bench in a perfect Victorian apartment, wondering how the young man with ink permanently injected under his skin and piercings in his ears, nose, face, burns on his arm and hands, scars that ran deep and were still angry red, could be the child who had loved books with a fierceness and willfully myopic innocence that seemed implausible impossible, let alone maintained through sheer force of will those many years. Wondering what I knew then, even then.

The summer must start before the year ended, with a woman i never understood, but never really cared to, much, either. There had been some others before her, and after Her. (She shares her name, and middle initial, with a celebrity, which rendered her functionally invisible on the web for many, many years. “what ever happened to so-and-so,” we would ask. And now, they don’t ask, with Facebook and the web so deeply integrated in the world. Our generation, it’s a bit harder. Not impossible, but harder.) Of those before but after, some were crazier (or, less neurotic) than I, some not so crazy. Now-Runs (why not?) was a nice girl, a good girl, right? Right. Not that she didn’t have something of a darker streak, but I think i was determined to keep it a bit lighter for a while, a shockingly unselfindulgent approach. There’s a picture of us at a party (that surfaced on the web not too long ago), her arm around me, me looking back at the camera, grinning. Toothy, eyes bright, vibrant, fuck yeah, smiling. There are very, very few photos of me smiling, let alone like that. I worked very hard over many years to eliminate that smile.

Now-Runs was the first of the three week girls. There were other girls before her and after Her, as the letter postmarked January 25, 1995, with “Lolita” as the return address, suggests. That story stretches out to the next apartment, however, so needn’t concern us quite yet. Speaking of which, there’s a he that needs to be worked into all of this also, and though the genesis was the weird/good summer, the denouement was fall and even winter, so I’m going to hide behind the vagaries of the academic calendar and clarify later. Three weeks. One gets into a rhythm, whether playing a solo, walking down the street, writing or talking or shucking or jiving or painting a wall or doing the fucking dishes. There are rhythms. And I fell into a rhythm that summer, one that would last me for years and years and years. A week to fall in love, a week to be in love, a week to break her heart and leave her. A week of perfect, passionate, incessant, unsustainably bright, pure, intense love, a week wondering what love was while going through what suddenly felt like motions, and a week to get up the balls to break up with her, not knowing what I wanted or who I was but believing that it wasn’t it. And yet, what I knew then….

what i knew, part 1
Sunday June 13th 2010, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,can't make that shit up,inner-polish-teenage-girl,memory,nostalgia Tags:

I wish I could tell myself now what I knew then. Powerful waves of nostalgia have long been a forte of mine, but the box of memorabilia and memories and a fair amount of rubbish, that lived (pointedly?) in the garage for 3 years, is back inside the house. Unpacked as we are, as I am, the box is readily accessible, and I went browsing through the stacks of pictures there. Mostly, they’re of nature, art, and buildings. Seriously. My cluelessness as to what to do with a camera, and more pointedly, why to do something with a camera, was remarkable. But amidst the landscape panoramas of Yosemite and the architectural shots of Paris, between the pictures of people looking at art with their arms crossed (so clever, that) and the still-life with backpack, book, and journal, there are more pictures of people than I had expected, if fewer than tell much of a story.

A weird summer and a good night, or a good summer and a weird night. Not that I can actually recall the night supposedly in question, and the summer itself has become rather hazy as well, but that phrase, that question, that crux of interpretation, remains firmly remembered. One forgets that the four years of college only come with three summers, plus the awkward summer-after-graduation, which often conflicts with the rest of the world’s refusal to exist solely on the academic calendar. So, it wasn’t the summer of balmy Berkeley evenings, young love, coffee and cheesecake. Nor was it the summer of the move to The City and The Girl with the Cat-Eye Glasses (which rings better than “crazy art history girl ” or “chick in black tights” or the various other overly revealing names I may have used for her in the past). Which means the weird/good summer must have been the other one.

There are two photos of her (different her – keep up, now. They’ll keep coming, as well, but I promise eventually to resolve any pronoun uncertainty.) from our trip to Yosemite. Both, of course, unearthed in the intentionally unproductive over-unpacking of the memories in a plastic crate. One, I sent her today, a picture of her taking a picture, wisps of red hair on her face as she concentrates, focussing, the rusted pipes of what must be the protective railings at the top of the trail for Yosemite Falls in the background (and when I say that’s a whole different story, trust me.). I didn’t send the other photograph, though I did try to scan it at first. It’s quite dark, probably underexposed, given my general photographic incompetence. There’s a waterfall, a bright blur of white, occupying most of the background. She stands in the foreground at the left edge, her hair clearly wet, looking up at the camera with an expression that can be read in so many different ways as to be unreadable. We had known each other less than a week. She stopped to visit friends on her way to Yosemite. Somehow, smitten with the overwhelming, unpronounceable, unimaginable desire that filled those years, I went with her. Sharing a sleeping bag and a tent and the grubby intimacy of two 20 year-olds camping for a week, particularly as we were both emphatically citykids, that look up at the camera, teenage slouch and denim jacket, speaks more words than I understood then, and certainly more than I can interpret now.

I never lacked for intensity then. No one would have said, “Oh, him. Yeah, he’s easy going, a good time, a mellow guy.” I’m sure, in fact, that me then would have irritated the fuck out of me now, unless I caught myself (keep up) in a particular mood, mode, or moment. There are no photos of me from that Yosemite trip (or, none that I have; I wonder if sending her the photo this afternoon will elicit a reciprocal photo.) There are very few photographs of me from these years of my life, something i took great pride in at the time and for years after. I wrote my journals in pencil, wanting them and willing them to fade, to disappear, to avoid claiming permanence or lasting meaning. An inscribed copy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, wanting to sign “love forever”, but instead writing “love, I wish I could say forever, but we both know better than that.” She (different) reminded me of that, handing me the book not so many years ago, but what hadn’t faded since has. What I knew then…

The summer can’t possibly start there, though that’s certainly early in the moment. There are other pictures from that summer in the box, this time people rather than landscapes, groups of early twenty-somethings on a biodynamic farm in East Troy, Wisconsin (which, as you might gather, is itself a long story). I didn’t go swimming the first week, as I had recently gotten my first tattoo, a large design on the center of my back. But I was still living in a shared apartment when I got that ink, as I recall awkward semi-showers in the foul, foul shower in the place that two college boys who never cleaned called home. I must have been living in that apartment for some part of the weird summer, putting me on foot rather than on motorcycle, in Berkeley not Oakland, alone but not working on the Art of Alone as I would do over the coming year. But, at some time that same summer comes the sublet, of a friend’s girlfriend’s place not far from campus. If there are pictures from Wisconsin, then there’s a girl from Michigan with a yin-yang tattooed on the back of her neck, who took one of the very few photos of me from this period, of my tattoo as I sleep, naked and sprawled in tangled sheets, exhausted from working the night shift painting a retail store, living with a one night stand who became a lover. She showed up in a beat up van with a skinny red headed boy from the Wisconsin outing and another girl. She stayed long after they’d left. What I knew then….

To be continued…..