That Tasty Middle-Class Angst

After 72 hours and several calls to technical support, an issue I am having is nearing resolution. All of the human beings I’ve spoken with- some of whom simply could not help me- have been polite, attentive, and expressed what felt like genuine concern.

It’s not the people, but the broken systems and tools they’re forced to work with. And this in a company with a market value of 16 billion dollars.

I’ve been reading, lately, books about Wall Street (which just goes to show you how good the writer of said books is, as it’s not a subject I otherwise have much interest in). Talk about a broken system. Talk about tools that don’t work.

Consider, also, what’s going on in American politics right now. Nominees, duly selected, and utterly reviled at the same time.

My own brain, even. A few days ago I wrote about short-circuiting my own natural tendency to get bogged down in pointless, fruitless thoughts. These damned heuristics.

I see the appeal of shortcuts and tools, obviously, but they take on a life of their own. We go for efficiency, but there’s no escaping entropy. I’m trying to do more writing lately, right? But I end up spending more time playing with novel-organizing software, reading advice from so-called plot-masters, moving my manuscripts from Word to Scrivener to Google-docs. These processes can be emotionally satisfying—but they’re also absolutely unproductive. Maybe I get a burst and do some actually writing, but nothing’s getting finished.

Maybe this is why people tend towards a zen of simplicity. And urge to throw it all away. I’m all for self-reflection, and blog posts like this one are simultaneously the very problem I’m talking about and a kind of impetus to discover a solution. A kind of koan? I don’t know. I’m just trying to say I get why people are so gosh-darned smarmy about finding a way to “just be.”

That’s an excuse I make for myself, anyway, when I’m frustrated by what I said above, about how “nothing’s getting finished.” At least I’m writing. At least I’m being. And yet and yet and yet. All these tools, all these algorithms, all these soul-less artifacts.

When I climb into bed at the end of the day, with a book, I’m not thinking “let’s get lost in another world.” I’m thinking “let’s finish this and write a review and make note in my diary of my writing word-count and get on to the next book.”

Meh.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Ignore ‘Em

I’ve been getting this jones to do some writing lately. Fiction writing. I’ve gotten literally dozens of unfinished pieces in different folders and at different stages. I don’t know that my urge is to finish them; I just want to get lost in the process.

So I’ve dipped my toes when I have time. But a few days ago this happened: I was in the kitchen, mulling some ideas in my head while I put together a bottle for the baby. A newspaper was on the kitchen table, and in it, yet another article about Trump. My brain started doing what it always does: arguing with imaginary people.

I know better than this, and forced myself to stop after a few minutes. I tried to return to those thoughts from before, ideas for the stories I’m working. Gone. Utterly gone. The idea of sitting down and writing felt like a chore, and a Sisyphean one at that.

And I realized: this happens all the time. This has been happening to me for a long time now. No wonder I never write nuthin’.

What I’m getting at here is not supposed to be any kind of political stance or discussion about the looming election (although, you have to admit: it sure does loom, doesn’t it.) Instead, I want to mentioned a different epiphany I had today. Because I was on the internet, on Reddit and Facebook, and the articles about Trump: they were legion.

Somehow, instead I ended up watching some YouTube videos. First I watched The Robert Randolph band play Squeeze and Voodoo Chile. Then I watched a short video on how to play the Black Lion opening in chess. Then I read an article about a guy who paced a 3:55 marathon for a bunch of people.

And it was back! The urge to write. The desire to get in there and pound some keys and make up whacky stuff. It was like an antidote to all the… what do you call it (ha, here I am, an urge to write, and I’m at a loss for words). All the cynicism and bitterness and doom and gloom, all of that weight was just gone.

It seems so obvious, I know. But it’s easy to forget the obvious when your brain is more or less constantly trying to solve the complicated puzzles of saving your soul from the degradations of the world. So call this a reminder Find things that delight you, immerse yourself in the awe of witnessing genius, and use it to erase the malaise of all this dreck that seems to earn so many page hits and generate ad revenue.

And then go write about it!

Do These Pants Make Me Personality Look Fat?

A friend posted some pictures on Facebook and she looked like she had lost some weight.

At first I wanted to make a comment. “Have you lost weight? You look great!”

Then it occurred to me that this friend looked pretty great before, too. Most of my friends look pretty great. Most people look pretty great. Sometimes people get sick, or are going through something, and don’t look so great, but at those times, looks don’t matter.

Then I realized, for the most part, looks never matter. This friend, in a particular, has a heart of gold and is one of my favorite people.

But then I thought, well, all you’re trying to do is make her feel good. You just want to compliment her so she knows you noticed the hard work she (maybe) put into staying healthy.

nice-personality-weight-scaleBecause physical appearance is a socially acceptable topic for comment. Sending someone a comment that says “Hey, just wanted to mention that I saw your swimming-suit pictures and was reminded what a truly wonderful personality you have,” is not only borderline creepy, it has connotations of saying a person is unattractive, ironically!

Then, of course, I decided to say nothing, because who cares if a 44-year-old man thinks someone lost a few pounds?

And after that I got sort of mad that we live in a world where this much thought and anxiety goes into a stupid picture on some stupid social media site.

Then I had a beer and watched you-tube videos of babies playing with puppies, and felt lots better.

What I learned from all of this is that while may I have been socialized to evaluate people by their looks, I still have the choice to articulate that evaluation or not. And that’s where my power lies, that choice. Next time I see that friend, instead of mentioning her weight, I’ll ask her what she’s been up to. I’ll lead the conversation towards exercise or food choices or whatever. I’ll let her say as much or as little as she wants. I’ll tell her I am inspired by her dedication and hard work.

Then we’ll have some beers and I’ll show her those you-tube videos.

Father’s Day—Ok

me-n-the-kid,-footI’ve never been one much for holidays. It’s not like I hate them, as such, I’m just usually not all that enthused about whatever is being celebrated. I know other people get excited, though, and I’ll join in; I’m a cynic, not a curmudgeon. But for me, by myself, holidays are usually a take-em-or-leave-em kinda thing

This is my first Father’s day as a father. It kind of snuck on me, and true to form, all things considered, it’s really no big deal. I mean, I love my son to pieces. He’s almost nine months old, and he’s wonderful. He’s hilarious and demanding and beautiful and exhausting. All those cliché’s about having kids that make you roll your eyes? Yes, apply them to me. I like being a dad. My boy pushes me to my limits, and those limits have even been exceeded at times, but I’m a dad and that’s a permanent part of my identity now, a title I wear with pride.

I don’t think the title is worthy of a whole heck of a lot of celebration, is all. I mean, every day is a celebration, right? Something like that. As I write this, I’m watching the kid, via baby monitor, roll around in his crib as he decides to wake up. When he does we’ll have some breakfast, play for a bit, take a nap. Then we’ll eat again, maybe run to the store for a few errands, sleep one more time. Another feeding, make dinner, give mommy a hug when she comes home from work. Take another nap, etc.

It’s the etc, you see. Being a father, to me, is the etc. I don’t see the point of celebrating et ceteras. I breathe, and when I go for a run a breathe harder, and when I go to sleep I breathe deeper, but do I celebrate the wonder and joy and pleasure of all that breathing? Nah.

For what it’s worth, along with this being my first father’s day as a father, it’s also my 45th father’s day as a son. I love my dad to pieces, too. He’s my best friend, and like my kid, he’s hilarious. More cliché’s: if my son is going to turn out like anyone, and he turns out to be like his grandad—intelligent, thoughtful, creative, hard-working—well then, I’d say I was an exceptionally successful father.

I totally respect everyone else who wants to celebrate fatherhood today. Whether it’s a companion holiday to mother’s day, or because, let’s face it, not all dads are awesome and the ones who are deserve recognition. I get it and I will click like on all of the Facebook posts. But for me, it’s just another holiday. Just another day. I guess I’m saying I’d rather be happy every day, and when I look at ym son, and think about my own dad, I realize that I am.

Staying Sexy Takes Imagination

daily writing exercise, 750words.com

People often say to me, “Jason, how is that you are able to maintain such a fit physique? You hardly ever exercise, you eat like crap, and your genetic background is not exactly conducive to having such a smokin’ hot body, at least not at your age– or, if we’re being frank, any age, really.” Well, I have two secrets, actually, and I’ll tell them both to you right now.

The first secret is how I take off my shirt, if I’m going for a shower, or perhaps a quick change because the baby spit-up all down the back of what I was wearing. You see, most slobs will grab the collar of the shirt, and yank up, pulling it over the back of their head like some kind of Neanderthal. “But Jason, correct us, if we’re wrong, but Neanderthals didn’t wear shirts.” You are right. However, give the right collection of anthropologists the right mix of cocktails, and the truth emerges: if Neanderthals had worn shirts, this is how they would have taken them off. Like pigs. “But Jason, pigs don’t-” oh shut up.

My method, the extra-sexy method, is to cross my arms in front of me, and grab the bottom of the shirt. I then pull up, uncrossing my arms as I go. You’ll realize this is the way male models, attractive actors, and strippers “do the deed” as it were. And in that moment, when the belly is exposed, I am, indeed, a male model, an attractive actor, a sort-of stripper. There’s some kind of magic there, having to do with confidence. For example, even though my head goes through the neck-hole, somehow my face is never obscured during this process. How is this so? Magic, as I said.

It really is that simple, and as a result of this magic I don’t really have to exercise, eat right, or be incarnated as the offspring of air-brushed, photo-shopped parents. I can sit in front of my computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and so long as I’m wearing a shirt that I can later take off, the sexiness remains.

An open robe works too, but that’s more of an advanced technique- one I wouldn’t suggest you try just yet. Stick with the shirt thing for now. Give it a couple of tries. Practice slow, try it fast a few times, and think about the post-off shirt-throw that can, in the right moment, add a real touch of fire.

That’s basically it. My other secret is that I make up people in my head who ask me questions about how I stay so sexy. I then answer those questions in a rather convincing manner, and most of the time, the people believe me. And what’s wonderful about this method is that, since I made those people up, that they believe me means only that I told them the truth. For them, taking off my shirt from the bottom up really does make me a sexy person.

Now, if that’s all of the questions for the time being, I do, in fact, need to go take a shower. I’ve been on the computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and I’m exhausted. “But Jason,” and there is a pause. “Go ahead,” I say. “Um… we didn’t really have a question this time. Unless you want to make one up for us? Since you made us up anyway?” Very well then. The shower can wait.

Why don’t you ask me how I’m able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off my pants before my socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation. “Yes, that,” you say. Go ahead then. “You want us to say what you just said?” Yes I do. I may have made you up, and I may have made up the question, but I’m doing my daily writing exercise, and I need the word count.

“Sigh. Okay. How is that you’re able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off your pants before your socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation?” I’m glad you asked. “Will this have something to do with ancient races of human beings?” No. I mean, not directly.

Because the answer this time is genetics. I have enormous calves. Socks on me look like graffiti on a mighty pillar holding up a gigantic, sexy building. In fact, some, and yes I do mean people I’ve made up, would even say that such calves are at risk of distracting any erstwhile observers from the sexiness thing when I take off my shirt the way I do.

“Really?” Yes, really. And we’ve hit our word-count, so that’s all for this exercise.

There Are No Conspiracies is the Biggest Conspiracy

Today Facebook told me I could buy a t-shirt from Danny Carey, the drummer for Tool. It features of a picture of “Asmodeus,” a devil, which Carey snapped on one of his visits to Rennes-le-Château. Carey is (allegedly) a student of the occult, numerology, mysticism, conspiracy theories, etc. Rennes-le-Château is a church were some 19th century priest priest went bonkers and now people flock there to unravel his secrets and find his buried treasure.

I looked up Rennes-le-Château on Wikipedia, which lead me to reading about Priory of Sion, which led me to read about ludibrium, which led to an article about Robert Anton Wilson. There’s a quote from him, which goes:

“Is”, “is.” “is”—the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything “is”; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.

I’m not sure how reading bones works, but I imagine it’s nothing more than a kind of Rorschach test. Seems to me that a link-walk through Wikipedia might be a ultra-modern equivalent. Last night I was talking to a friend and trying to describe the inadequacy of the word “is” in the sentence “despair is…” I’m no closer, but Danny Carey and Pierre Plantard and Robert Anton Wilson make for fun flatmates in this stupid half metaphor.

Self-Pity (Don’t Read)

Daily writing at 750words.com. About 18 minutes: 5 150-word paragraphs.

Wrapped up in a snuggie. An honest to god snuggie. A snanklet. Some people will tell you they’re different, but they’re not. They’re both blankets with arm holes and sleeves. They’re a good example of how the middle class has survived so long. Did you know nothing great ever comes out of the middle class? Actors and artists and multi-millionaires, all of them started ahead of the game or so far behind sheer momentum carried them past the hard parts of becoming successful. The middle class are born nearly comfortable. They strive for, strain for comfort, and when they get it, they becomes complacent. The rich won’t use snuggies, as they’re too tawdry. They will use snuggies, but will overused them into worthlessness, and then go back to regular blankets. Or just being cold. Only the middle class will use a Snuggie to watch a movie or read a book.

A knitted stocking cap, an old busted zip-up hoodie, with the hood up. Maybe a bathrobe too. And fingerless gloves, that match the hat. An old t-shirt, was once nice, sort of, now is not so nice, is the kind for sleeping in now. Thin work-out pants. Thick cotton socks, entirely ineffectual. All of my heat, draining out of my feet, onto the floor, to crawl in tendrils towards the heating vent, to curl around it and wait until the heater turns itself off, and then when its off, to seep down and lovingly caress the throat of the heater and choke it to death. A belly full of cheap-ass candy. Headache, back ache, everything ache. If you put a gun to my head right now and said “make an effort” the only thing that might save me is not being able to make enough effort to say “no, go away.”

Ate something the other day. Who knows what it was. Could have been anything. Could have been bad garlic. Could have been a twice-frozen nutella cookie. Could have been just too many carbs in general. Could have been meningitis. Or a kidney stone. Or an iodine deficiency. Or an iodine overdose. Or an accidentally swallowed thyroid medication. Could have been losing a lot of weight very quickly, or not getting much sleep, or some germ from some little kid at a one-year-old’s birthday party. I ate no cupcakes at that party, drank no beer, and now look at me. Snuggie, old clothes, aches n pains, bad food, tired, bored, stabbing this stupid keyboard out of some dumb obligation to write everyday. All wrapped up and crapped out and eyeballing the word count and it slowly so slowly ticks up. Sick as a dog and twice as ugly and hating every word I write.

The smell of something fried, coming from the other room. Nasto, or some word in some language I can’t speak. A generic word, that means “snack,” I think. So it could be anything. It smells good, to my nose, and absolutely evil, to my stomach. Two days without food and all my brain can think to do is shovel pure sugar down my throat so it has the energy it needs to think. And weird dreams all day yesterday, a mixture of fantasy and reality, every image a visual portmanteau of desire and disgust. All wrapped up in a metaphorical snuggie, blurry and short of breath. Choking down a few half-ounces of boiled seaweed, not out of any kind of need or want but just to placase my caregiver. Thats how I say thanks to my caregiver: I choke down the vile slop slapped into a bowl in front of me.

And on the music player thing, some funky jazz. Not sure of it’s funk with a jazz influence, jazz with a funk influence, or something else entirely and it’s my lack of experience in both genres that leads me to their labels when a wholly different label would be appropriate. Its just what came on when I started the music player, and me too lazy to change it, no idea what to change it to; its just there, anyway, to mask somewhat the clicky-clack of the keyboard, beetle’s feet on tile magnified and multipled a hundred times. A snuggie and belly a sickness a smell and clicky-clacky and some organs n guitars on top of slap-happy drums, me with my aches n pains and self pity, you with these words you probably wish you hadn’t read, and if we’re both lucky you didn’t read at all.

Compulsions

When I’m bored or sad or depressed but mostly when I’m bored, I fantasize about living in a tiny house someplace tropical. A place where I can sit outside, drink beer, eat Spam sandwiches, and read books. Write occasionally, go for long slow runs.

What’s funny is, except for the tropical part, I can do any of that whenever I want to. But I don’t. So what’s the “fantasy.” I used to think it was “having nothing else to do.”

But when I really think about it, it’s not freedom for responsibilities and obligations—it’s freedom from compulsion. Having nothing else to do means I don’t HAVE to do things like see that amazing movie, or eat at that amazing restaurant, or go to the amazing museum.

I know, first world problems. And here’s an even worse example. Steam is having their winter sale right now. I can get A-list video games dirt cheap. $75 titles for 5 bucks… I mean, I HAVE to buy them, right? What an opportunity! And then, I HAVE to play them, right?

I’m 50% through Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the Castle. I HAVE to finish it, right? We’ve watched three episodes of the second season of Homeland… we HAVE to finish the series, right?

All these god damned compulsion. I know, it sounds shallow. But it feels so good to say “no, fuck it” and not feel guilty.

I don’t know about you, man. But sometimes I think I load myself up just so I can say “fuck it” later.

139 Lies Down, 226 to Go

Postaday for May 19th: State of Your YearHow is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.

Well, let’s see. Some things I can’t disclose because there’s a very off chance that the wrong person will read this and we can’t have that. Suffice it to say that soon, if you need a home loan, call me.

That’s a lie, by the way, purposefully vague and enigmatic. Or was it? Trust me, it was.

And yes, I appreciate the irony of saying “trust me” just a two sentences after confessing to having lied.

Also, I appreciate the smug nature of saying I “appreciate” something that I, in fact, wrote.

Otherwise, this year has been, more or less, 139 days long. Went to San Diego, so that was good. Twice. Went to Las Vegas, but just the once. Went to Woodinville, drank a lot of wine. Ran a half marathon, and when I say “ran” I mean eight miles of it. I’ve got a new nephew. I’m going to a bachelor party. I’ll be having egg slad for lunch today

Challenges? Need to lose weight. Need to run more. I’ve challenged myself to write more. And to not let boring topics like this one stop me— and I don’t mean the prompt is boring, I mean the reality of my life is boring. But that shouldn’t keep me from writing.

For example, this year, so far, I’ve earned well over three million in illicit profits. Now, this, too, is a total lie, and may or may not have anything to do with the lies I told above. The point is, since there’s no point to really doing any of this, I’m kind of allowed to do anything. Like confess, finally, to all those cars I stole. Another lie. Or is it? It is.

I swear it is. And if you happen to drive a blue BMW 3 series with oyster-leather interior, and it’s missing, and you live in the greater King County area, don’t come to my house and look in my garage because it’s not there. I did not steal it, nor was stealing it a kind of gift to myself after having stolen 100 other vehicles, a milestone if you will, and it is certainly NOT the case that said grand theft auto was in part payment on a debt I owed to drug lords.

I don’t do drugs, or sell drugs, or buy drugs. I don’t steal cars. I don’t hardly ever even drive my own! So when I tell you that this year has been pretty good, averaging about .8 stolen cars per day passed, I am lying, because my life is otherwise not worth writing about very much.

Certainly not from the back seat of this Lexus is250, on “my” iPad, hiding inside a warehouse, waiting for the police helicopter to go away.

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Your Time

Today’s NaBloPoMo Prompt: When was the last time you asked someone to take a picture of you?

Can’t recall specifically. Other than selfies, which means I’m asking myself to take the picture. I’ve probably asked my wife to hold the camera. “Take a picture of me doing something stupid!”

It’s been touched on before, how much I don’t like being in pictures. Aligned with that is my displeasure in asking people to do things in general. And strangers especially! I just don’t like putting people out. I’ll spend 15 minutes balancing my camera precariously on a rock before I’ll ask someone to squeeze the trigger a few times.

My wife’s not so shy. She’ll grab any old person walking by and ask them to take our picture. And you know how people will take the picture, and kindly say, “is that good? I can take another…” I die inside whenever my wife says, “Yeah, can you take it again?” Aaaaah!

But they don’t seem to mind, And my wife has one of those faces that makes people smile— I’m sure the walk away (eventually) thinking “I did something nice today. I’m a good person!”

For what it’s worth, I, personally, am always flattered when some strangers asks ME to take their picture. So you’d think I’d get over myself, and ask others if needs be… but then, I don’t like being in pictures anyway, so…

Today’s NaBloPoMo Photo Prompt: Your Time

Nice little yard-work break.

A photo posted by Jason Edwards (@bukkhead) on


My time is leisurely. I work from home. I spend time on con calls, and puttering around the house with the laundry, the dishes, making the bed. Occasionally I get outside and do yard work. But no matter how much work I do, I always break it up and spent as much or more time doing nothing. You tell me if blogging is “leisurely.” 🙂