Saturday, July 29, 2017

Alone vs. Lonely / Talk 2 Ppl

I have been going to this terrific coffee shop in the mornings; I'm generally there at opening, 6am, though I try not to be actually loitering at the doors as they're unlocking them because that seems weird/annoying.
Here is the coffee shop, much as it looks when I arrive in the morning. I'm not sure how to credit this picture; it's not mine; it's from the website. The restaurant in which it's embedded is also good (I think); true to my rigidities, however, I've marked it as a place I go to for coffee and (usually) a freshly-baked good in the morning, and by the time the restaurant starts to fill up and the kitchen is open I'm out. Also, to be fair, I've basically gone off places where another human being takes your order and brings you food (unless I'm out with friends).
This morning, my rigidities were disrupted. I'd had this whole conversation with myself starting at 4:56am about what to eat, based on a delicious-nutritious thing that I'd baked (in the fridge), temporally proximate baked goods at the coffee shop, less temporally proximate but also relevant other good food because today's Saturday which means the Calabasas Farmer's Market will open up at 8am right outside (right outside; parking lot) the coffee shop, PLUS the fact that the Topanga Library opens at 9am today which seems like a nice thing to take advantage of and is relevant to what I'm eating at 5am because...well it's all part of a plan, right?

Let me pause: I think I come off as crazy in the paragraph above in a way that I am, but not as much as it may make me seem. A narrative schema that I often admire in novels and plays is when you're put inside the lived reality of a protagonist and themes strongly emerge--anguish, suspicion, fixation on clouds, whatever--and you're given no explanatory exposition for why this theme should be so central (because the point of the story is the story, not some book-cover summary bullsh1t approximation of the concept of the shape of a thing like a 'story') until maybe some glancing reference 2/3s of the way through.

I admire that a lot in novels and plays, but it's maybe not so super-great for blog posts so let me be clear: there's backdrop lore here that's useful to this post (and, perhaps, others). My living situation is in transition, in an accelerated and unexpected way, with some stressors attached. This is not a big deal; even mentioning it, I feel silly. But I guess I'm weak enough that it is in some ways acting on me, and that's a relevant backdrop and good to acknowledge. It's affecting productivity, logistics, mood, etc.; certainly, it's relevant to why I'm loitering outside coffee shops at 6am.

Anyway, so this morning, all my plans came to naught because I'd taken the delicious-nutritious snack from my fridge with me when I left the house at 5:30am (see backdrop lore, above) but not eaten it, on the promise of temporally proximate baked goods at the coffee shop, and--reader, brace yourself--there were no baked goods at the coffee shop. Not only that, but there was some new guy behind the counter who didn't know all the stuff (and: didn't know me) and we had a not unfriendly but y'know static-y interaction re: baked goods and coffee. Again, to make the story actual, let me be clear. I wasn't like, "Dude, where are the fucking muffins?" It was more like one of those things where we each had to say things twice; we both misunderstood each other a couple times. Static-y.

And when I went back for my refill I decided: basta, not good enough, slimb. C'mon. So I tried to be a little more of a viable human being. I was like, "Hey, are you new? I'm here lots of mornings and haven't seen you, I'm" etc.

And he was like yeah no, I worked here for awhile but then I was gone for a few months but now I'm back, I'm etc.

And I almost let this conversational offer pass (I often mess things like that up; sometimes consciously, sometimes not). But I didn't! I was like, "Oh was it a fun trip or what?" This question isn't quite as anodyne as it may seem (although that'd be fine, too: anodyne questions make the world go round). This coffee shop, for those who did not hit the link at the top, is part of this interesting complex that is coffee shop / restaurant / bike-shop. It serves lots of people in lycra with fancy bikes, and some people who work here are into that too, so I thought maybe this young hipster/granola- lookin' dude might have gone on a big bike trip or something.

Interruption: a guy with a charming and shambling sheep dog of some sort just came in the front (the entrance to the restaurant, not the coffee shop); he saw me brighten and mark and, as I took off my headphones, launched into an apology about how they were "just going straight through to the coffee shop" which trailed off at once when he saw that I was just happy to see his cool dog. He and I (the man; not the dog; don't know the dog's sex) had some bantering about the water backpack the dog had on, how he could now go and fill it with coffee. 

I'm actually a little confused about the breed of his dog because it was strikingly (gorgeously) hetero-iridiatic or whatever the right dogword is for that thing with the eye color. It was white with black speckles but kind of long-haired;
what the heck kind of dog is that? Beyond a good one, I mean. Clearly.

Anyway long story short, nope the young guy had not been on a long biking trip; he was on tour with his band, which he's in with his brother and another guy and whom I went and listened to after we talked, as I started this post, and then I went back to him and was like, "dude, you guys are grand!" and he thanked me in a way that I immediately recognized: very much over the idea that every time someone compliments your work that means you owe them some kind of performance (cuz, um: you know that your work is good. you have known this for years. it's like: the one non-objective fact that you know, beyond loving your friends and your family), but at the same time: it is, in fact, nice every time someone says something nice re: your stuff.

So now this moment of static and (absurd, privileged ⇐ duh) disappointment had become a nice small moment of connection. And I flipped from one feeling to another. Which--what is this, two-thousand words later?--is what this blog post is about.

I spend some time being "lonely", and I think I've written here about what that word means to me. Maybe you feel this sometimes, too; for me, basically, it is not net-net a bad thing. We're dealing with functions of margin, and the bad side--occasional loneliness, falling over the line--is like an inevitable overflow function of a very good side: solitude, focus, governing my own time. So in fact, if I never felt lonely, it might be a good diagnostic that I'm doing something wrong, and indeed there are times in my life when I've sure not felt lonely and man it's not good. So, in fact, "loneliness" takes on a bittersweet niceness, in memory for sure and even in the moment, because it's an acknowledged part of a whole that is, on balance, a blessing and full of very very good things.

But then there's "alone". Which is totally different, as I experience and understand it.

Here's a physical metaphor for this whole thing. I like to move my body and do fun, sometimes taxing things with it; the fact that I like to tax my body (and mind, I guess; or my fear, or whatever) means that I'm sometimes in physical discomfort or low-level 'pain'. But, just like loneliness, that 'pain' takes on a bittersweet niceness. Everyone else in the world has observed this as well ('no pain no gain'; 'pain is weakness leaving the body'; blah blah blah) so while I'm not into the fetishization of pain I'm also not into the shying fetishization of not-pain; I accept and to some extent even embrace a certain kind of pain and discomfort as the indicator that I am at the right margin, pushing the right limit.

But pain injury, this example. Pain doesn't equal chronic, sustained pain. Both of those things--injury, chronic pain--are really hard things. I don't want to say anything flip about them. They're hard and people managing them deserve deference and respect. If I could do away with discomfort, with the 'pain' of pushing yourself while training...I probably would not. But if I could do away with injury and chronic pain? Hell yes. Hell yes. Erase it forever, 4 u & 4 me.

So let's SAT analogy this whole thing (the "analogy" section was part of the SAT that...y'know what nevermind):

loneliness : alone
no-pain-no-gain type 'pain' or discomfort : injury or chronic pain

Do you see? The thing on the right is a sh1tty bad thing -- I'd free all of us from it forever if I could. The thing on the left...mmm. Life's not perfect! Maybe we need it. And obviously it's a continuĆ¼m: exposing yourself to the thing on the left is a gateway risk to the thing on the right. But again, tradeoffs; so...

So here's the point. It actually brings in every thing that I've said in this ramble-a$$ post, which is kind of a pleasant surprise.

The retrieval of my glancing interaction with the musician (whom I encountered as a barista: we've all gotta do what we've gotta), from a static-y interaction to a kind-of-nice interaction, underscored for me that I've pushed past the margin a bit on the lonely vs. alone thing. Because of stuff with the housing, mainly. The difference is safety, security; when I feel 'lonely' I don't feel at all unsafe or insecure--in fact it often accentuates feelings of safety, in a cozy kind of way. 'Alone' is different. And again, #JFC, this is not a big deal; I know I'm writing all this but I'm not a deranged narcisso-solipsist. But it's also how I feel, so I am writing about it.

And if you read it, all these words: thanks you.

I hope you have a great weekend with lots of good things. And perhaps a sprinkle of some not-great things, just to balance the mix. But none of the bad things. No bad things for you, ever.

last beat: The young dude setting up the bar (different dude), 
is having trouble with beer taps. They're stressing him out. 
I hope, for his peace of mind,
that he is able to forthwith resolve them.
Although I also hope, tbh, that those taps don't need use for a good many hours.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Supercut", a Lady, the blue Pacific Ocean

"Supercut" is track 9 on Lorde's fantastic album, Melodrama. It's that song right at the end of a great album (Melodrama has 11 songs [don't give me sh1t about that "reprise" meaning there are only 10; that reprise is like a totally different song from the song it's reprise-ing]) that's like "oh u thought I was done? WH-HWAM: not done. Ur welcome."

What you probably should do is just go listen to Melodrama, or at least "Supercut", then come back to this post.

The song (sorry if you just listened to it! now I'm describing it--anyway), "Supercut", is one of those spectacular songs that are probably my favorite kind of song: it is poppy and catchy but it is about sad things. It has some driving plonky-plonk stuff that builds; at one point Lorde's voice cracks in the most surprising burst of emotion I've heard in straight pop perhaps ever (the first time I heard the song I was cooking; I stopped when she did that, went and rolled the track back just to hear the bit again; I couldn't believe what I'd heard, how great it was). So it's like a feel good chill-roll jam that you shout in your car but it's about...y'know who knows exactly, this is a pop song (in a good way), but it's about loss and a relationship that once was and the images she holds in her mind of that person? At least that's what I think it's about. I'm happy with what I think it's about.

"Supercut" was playing as I came up on the Parker Mesa Overlook in the middle of a Long Slow Distance (LSD. lol) run today; I was doing an LSD as a total audible; I called the audible mid-run, and instead of doing a shorter run-and-then-take-a-yoga-class-later type plan I redirected my whole day around the LSD as part of ongoing efforts to figure out how to master myself and my time.
This isn't the most interesting pic of the Overlook, but it's clear and representative. The Lady was on the bench on the right; I was on the bench on the left; I took her picture in that gap in the middle.
As I came up, no music in my ears, the only other person there was an Attractive Lady.

"You ran the whole way?" She asks this before my headphones are out, but I'd smiled at her so it doesn't seem weird.

I nod-smile and  she asks me how long that was.

I don't know how I know, but I know--from the manner of her taking pictures, from I don't know, I just know--that she isn't a trailhead.

My response to this realization is to give her, of course unintentionally, the most convoluted trailheaded answer possible to her question, based on the fact that I don't know where she's come up from and there are all these different...anyway. At one point I interrupt myself with "sorry this is way more than you needed" and she says something like "No I asked" which I thought was nice because it was friendly, but it also acknowledged the clear truth of the situation, which was me failing Casual Social Interactions 101 (I am a bad student in this class, in general, and have mostly stopped trying unless someone else's reputation or well-being are involved in my behavior).

Then she approaches and with what feels like summoned pluck says, "Well you're going to take my picture." She holds out her phone. It's in a pink case that perhaps even has a sticker or something like that.

I laugh and start wiping my hands; she says "so...that's all sweat" which I can tell she does not intend in a mean way but is a's not so much calling attention to the fact of my being sweaty (I'm, like, so sweaty) but the way it sort of focuses both of our attention on my combined semi-nakedness and sweatiness. She is not that naked at all, for a person on these trails; she has an ordinary summer dress on that is not short/revealing, and a hat.
I was this sweaty, with this much clothes on. (I had shoes on. Such as my running "shoes" are, at this point.)
So I take her picture and I suggest that she take her hat off and I think for a second she thinks I'm either hitting on her or being artistic and then she relaxes and is like, "Oh for my face."

And I'm like "Yeah, so we know it's not a body double."

And she's like "Yeah, ha, that's me." The way she inflects 'that's me' makes me realize that she's playing on the idea that what I was saying was a compliment or comment on her body or something, and I feel bad about that but she doesn't seem upset (not that this means she isn't upset; she just doesn't seem it) and we roll on.

I take a few more pictures of her; she does things with her hair, which (her hair) can only be describes as being in 'tresses.' She does things with her tresses, floomping them out to the side, I think because they were all kinked up inside her hat.

Does anyone ever have a tress? There is a singular form of that word.

I hand her back her phone

and we have a few volleying back-and-forths;

she offers information about her not coming to LA very often; she says a thing about where she's from (in the totally sensible format of comparing this hike to hikes she's familiar with, in her local geography).

I'm friendly, I think; I guess I don't offer equivalent information about myself but I felt I offered a lot answering her as I did, showing up as a sweaty half-naked man on this hilltop in the middle of the mountains.

Anyway it's a positive interaction. Or, y'know.

And then I say "have a nice walk down"

and she smiles and says something I don't quite make out through the music, but it's a wave-goodbye type of thing,

and I'm back down the trail towards home
and "Supercut" plays again: building beats, tight melody line, words about who knows but I think:
having once been with someone and how that was nice and you're not anymore but you have the sad beautiful pictures left in your memory.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Entries Past #3: "Valiant Hearts: I liked this game"

Title Valiant Hearts: I liked this game

Much has been written

i add only




gameplay - yeah, silly

but i've played worse.

Date Lost to history, but must be around April 25th, 2015

Rating 11/10. Would blog-review this videogame again

Notes First of all, if you want to check me on this or any game, check me here. Now, to this post. I think I was moved to write it because I thought this game was flawed but had real heart? I guess? I don't really exactly know I thought I should write a blog post "reviewing" this game; the whole idea seems super-crazy to me now.

That said, I admire my choice to write the review in free verse prose poetry. Very brave.

If you haven't played Valiant Hearts, I do recommend it. It is an unusual game, more than anything else, on both merits and flaws.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Entries Past #2: "Europe is great. So is America."

Title Europe is Great. So is America

BodyI was walking around Zurich tonight with D------, an amazing old friend. And it was rainy and wet which is unusual, so everyone I'd encountered was telling me how I'd picked the worst day to be there. But it was still beautiful; it's a beautiful city.

At one point, we were looking across the Limmat, the river that snakes up from Zurichsee ("Lake Zurich") and runs through the city. And D------- pointed across at a group of stately old buildings, and told me how they all belonged to the guilds. And how the guilds (Zunfte; organizations of various tradecrafts and professions) used to sort of run the city, but have faded in influence since an actual strong representative government has been put in place. And I thought of another friend, with whom I just in fact stayed, who is a member of something not really similar, but reminiscent in my limited American understanding: The Mercer's Company, the "Premier Livery Company of the City of London." D------ mentioned that there is still a festival at which the guilds get to parade and do their thing, and that membership is rather exclusive osed on alss

Date 02/23/15

Rating ******* / *****

Notes It is a real loss to the world that this post was not published. It contains both important original research and a novel engagement of the "old" / "new" world dichotomy. I think the point of the title was...I think it was going to be something like "it's super-cool that Europe has these cultural forms and traditions that are built on an edifice of hundreds of years of history; that's like a cool thing that the U.S. doesn't have. But then also those things are like a weight, a constraint." No one has ever made this observation, so it's a shame I did not.

I am a little interested in what kinda went down right @ the end, there. I'm thinking probably I fell asleep at the keyboard. That happens a lot.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Entries Past #1: "Holy Crap, Part One"

My New Year's Resolution in 2015 (i.e., going into 2016) was to tell no lies ever to anyone. I knew that I'd fail (and recorded my failures, whenever they inevitably came), but it felt and feels like a good goal.

Unsurprisingly, it's most challenging in semi-trivial social situations. Like--I hope!--most of us, I don't go around lying to my friends, or even chalking up the small misrepresentations that under this rubric do get tagged as 'lies'. But in semi-trivial social situations--not totally trivial, where you just breeze through, but with people who aren't quite friends either--I found I had the frequent impulse to lie ("absolutely! dinner soon!" ⇐ This is a lie, if you know it won't happen).

It was important, from the start, to establish a sense of the line between 'omission' and 'lie'. The best example of something at the line is answering "How are you?" It's probably obvious that it's not a 'lie' to answer that question by barfing up every single thing about 'how you are' at this moment to whatever poor person has unwittingly put themselves in the cross-hairs of your radical transparency. On the other hand, a bright 'yeah, great!' when really you're not is probably kind of a lie. What a lot of it comes down to, to me, is the intention; 'how are you?' is a pretty reflexive question -- in most day-to-day situations the person is explicitly not saying, "unburden yourself unto me." BUT, in most day-to-day situations, they probably are saying, "hey, person that i know: what is up?" So that's where the measure of what an 'honest' answer to that question comes from.

Why am I talking about this?!? Because! This is a space that I perceive to be between me and my friends. While that's literally true, it's also figuratively true: like it is for many people, the act of writing this stuff out is an act of friendship for me. NOT LIKE I THINK I'M DOING YOU SOME SERVICE!! Oh my gosh that'd be hilarious. No: but I think the space, if you will, of this blog is a friendship space defined mostly by your presence here right now as a reader, and it is a solace and relief to me that I'm grateful for.

So I feel bad that I've lied to you.

Remember the line between 'lies' and 'omission'? I was looking over my drafts of unfinished blog posts--these go back years--and my sense of it began to push from the (okay) to the former (not). The issue was the volume and scope of things I have left unsaid; things I have wanted to say but--and here is the crux HERE'S WHAT'S HARD ABOUT NOT LYING MOSTLY (unless you're a nefarious thief)--lacked the skill or time to say in a way that was worthy of reading, rather than some simpler lying way that fell back onto established scripts that shield the speaker and obscure the essential specific truth of a given instance.

Buuuuuuuuuut...also, these are posts from years ago, and a lot of them are not "good" ideas, or "good" posts. I certainly do not want to spend hours writing up bad ideas I had six years ago.

Thus, this series: "Entries Past".

In "Entries Past" I will give quick and rough treatment to each of these drafts. There will be a format, perhaps fine-tuned over time but outlined quite clearly in the first entry, below. And that's it! Will cruise through 'em! Sometimes, I will not remember what the heck I was getting at. These will be the best ones.

Title Holy Crap, Part One

BodyLast Tuesday I mistimed a dusk run out and back on Westridge, a trail in the Santa Monicas that runs about 3.5 miles (during which time you do about 500 feet in elevation). I was 25 minutes later than intended, and my dusk run became a night run in its latter half, for which I was unprepared, particularly in that I had no light. Running along the Westridge fire road - a trail wide and clear enough for a car -  is pleasant and challenging during the day, and nice enough at dusk except that apparently there are invisible rattlesnakes who want to kill you. At least this is how my predicament who was explained to me by a woman running ahead of me on the way down, by which time it was quite dark.

Date 10/16/11

Rating 11/10

Notes I totally remember this run. I hadn't lived in L.A. that long (I moved here in March of 2011, but volleyed back and forth between the coasts that summer and didn't start to settle until July (6 years ago!!!)). I remember being on the Westridge fire road as dark descended more quick and dark than expected; I remember losing first the fine then the broad contours of the trail, my pace slowing and step getting more careful in fear of twisting an ankle. And I remember this lady, who 100% got way up in bizness as I passed her, about the snakes and the lateness and how unsafe it was to run at night without a headlamp.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bearded --> Not; But Really: Erra

I've been feeling caught in the time suck of Hotel California (you will not be surprised by the link, don't...fine. welcome back). I've been feeling as if I've been doing the same thing for years, spinning through a cycle of seasons that blend. I feel this way because it is taking so long to finish Erra, of course.

And I am right. It's true.

It's also not THAT true.

This post is about that. Because in a series of pictures taken almost exactly one year ago, I recall that just one year ago I had that preposterous freaking beard -- in fact, I'd had it for months! And, and, just one year ago I was in the midst of mending my psyche after getting rolled by a ♀. And, just one year ago, some neighbors who were always very generous to me performed one of their most-generous-ever services: improving my face by removing that beard.
What preposterous beard, you ask?
It would be disingenuous of me to be like, oh, WHAT I was thinking?! that thing looks so stupid! I mean yes: it looks stupid. But I mostly thought that throughout the period that I had it, too. I know exactly what I was thinking. (Did I explain here, ever? I can't remember -- I said it to so many people. Sorry if I did.) What I was thinking was: I am obsessed all the time (Erra). My obsession is 'captivating' in both good and bad ways. In order to be in good faith with those around me, I should wear some mark of this obsession, some aspect so that people can know--even if they do not know what I'm obsessed with--that I am a person deranged and obsessed.

Also, I was thinking that I look dumb with a beard--it grows strange on my face--so yeah basically I'm punishing myself to get this thing done.

And what's a little...okay, "interesting" is a stretch; what for me is interesting is that these pictures of me and my idiot beard, recalling the thinking and actually having the thing on my face, help me recall more about the arc of the process with Erra.

What I remember is swims. The swims of the summers of 2016 and 2015, and how they were different.

Here we are, now: 2017. I will withhold account of what my swims are/were/will be "about" this summer. Let's see!

The summer of 2016--that's the summer you're looking at pictures of now; the summer during which I had then shaved off this dumb beard--I was spending long ocean swims kind of zoning out (not like that, mom -- don't worry; very attentive to surroundings). My brain would lapse into rhythm and pace and stroke count. But, in that state, I would also kind of roll around with thoughts, considerations. And the essence of these thoughts/considerations was VERY uneasily slipping into the idea that making Erra as good as I believed and believe it could/can be is going to take way too long; that this crazy notion I'd had a few months earlier (Jan/Feb 2016), this idea of going back and reworking Column 5 just a bit, was a good idea in that Column 5 needed it, I wasn't futzing around.

But it was also a very bad idea in that...well, it is now 2017. I'm working to finish up Column 2, having taken this approach all the way back to the beginning. So, y'know: bad idea as well, clearly.

Then, if we go back another summer--to the summer of 2015--I recall different swims. In these swims, 2015, my mind was wandering in ways that seem funny to me, now.

I was trying to figure out the story.

I knew the story, but I wasn't satisfied with it. Crucial elements of the first draft that I'd written...almost two years (?!?) before that were just not clicking. NOT "in need of reworking"; I hadn't found quite the right things: events, plot widgets. Plot widgets, mostly. And I would spend these swims trying to find them: feeling a rush as I attached myself to some idea that occurred to me, even as I knew elsewhere in my mind that this idea wasn't it

stroke-stroke ocean ocean "there's a pelican, that's so nice"

And plot widgets, again.

I don't remember the summer of 2014 in this way, one way or another. I'm not sure how much I was swimming then. I did not have a beard. I've only ever once had a beard, during this latter part of 2015/first part of 2016 that we're temporally dancing through here.

My point is, I guess, that the maddening incrementalism of most kinds of progress--at least "progress" such as I'm currently able to achieve it--might sometimes obscure ways that things are indeed changing, progressing. Perhaps improving, although honestly that seems a bit much.


game on.
This was a fun for, like, a transitional day