Monthly Archives: August 2012

there’s only you and me, and we just disagree

8/29/12

Pretty much from the time you’re born, you can be categorized as being in some crisis state or another. In chronological order:

• The Screaming Newborn Thing that Ends at 6 Weeks

• The “Terrible Twos”

• or if you’re a late bloomer, the “Terrible Threes”

• the 7-10 year-old Obsessive Years

• PUBERTY

• Post-Puberty Metabolism Change

• the “Saturn Returns” thing around 28-30

• MIDLIFE CRISIS

• Existential “What Does It All Mean” Quandary

…and so on. Admittedly, it’s an awful large brush to paint with, but I’ll say this: there should be a category between Saturn Returns and the Midlife Crisis for the craziness my particular cohort is going through right now. For the sake of argument, I’ll go ahead and call it the Early 40s Reboot (E4R).

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Extrémité thermorétractable

Yes, I know back in the Reader’s Digest era, they would’ve called it the Midlife Crisis, but we’re living a lot longer now, and besides, I always think of the Midlife Crisis having to do with valium and Porsches.

I would not have considered the E4R, were it not for overwhelming evidence that something is going on in my general sphere of friends. Unless it’s a remarkable coincidence (which is totally possible), many people I know are finding themselves in VASTLY different positions than they were three years ago.

Let’s take a look at the subset of folks who have visited us at the farm since June. I have changed everyone’s names for the obvious reasons, so don’t jump to any conclusions.

– 3 years ago, James G. was in an unhappy marriage fraught with guilt and turbulence. He remarried, had a baby, and visited with his wife who is pregnant again(!), which is awesome, but has thrown open the doors to untold amounts of anxiety.

– Sally H. and Tom A. came here together in July, which is amazing, since they were both married to other people nine months ago. They are ravenously in love, but have to tiptoe carefully.

– Patricia L. was an investment banker making high 6-figures, in a relationship with another woman. Now the woman is gone, she had a baby alone by choice, left her job, and she broke down at our kitchen table sensing that she was reaching the end of her money and her clarity.

– Clay K. was in a stable marriage a year ago; since then, he was in a car accident, and he is separating from his wife. It is all going amicably, but it has thrown open a scary world full of new possibilities.

– Violet M.’s partner died, in dire fashion, a few months ago. She visited with her daughter, and is considering leaving her community, and the state where she has spent all of her life.

– A couple of years ago at the age of 40, Tara Y. discovered a new art form that she has become world-renown for. She has broken things off with her former mentor, and has begun her own teaching course, traveling around the entire country.

– Brad B. thought he was going to marry the girl he was dating in March. When he was here in July, they had broken up, and he was devastated. He is at the top of his career game in a high-stakes business, and he still feels like a failure somehow.

OKAY. As I was writing this, I realized I could put at least four more people on here, but some of the circumstances are too specific, and I don’t want to venture into the salacious or the macabre. But there’s definitely something afoot.

Is it the general depressive zeitgeist of the USA right now? Is the polarized, agitated nature of things not giving people enough normalcy to draw upon? Or is it the economy, which seems like it will never get better, dragging people into toxic mindsets?

Or is it truly a new phase, the E4R, where people are coming off the highs of their first career phase, and having revelations about themselves personally, insights they can’t hide from themselves anymore? Is the E4R where you realize who you really are all along – and now, so much of your past world doesn’t fit anymore?

Remember, we all thought we were doing it right, at any given time. We all swore we wouldn’t be like our parents, that we would wait for the right relationship and the right job, and we’d always have our irony and sarcasm to protect us. Everyone’s wedding day was full of hope; nobody was faking, and everyone knew the pitfalls.

And yet, the smartest of our hundred-wide circle, the ones who did everything right and had it all together, ended up where they swore they wouldn’t. Even those of us who are still deliriously in love after all this time – yes, we can say the things you say – “it’s all about communication” or “you have to laugh with one another” or “it’s the little things”. But as much as we find ourselves unwavering in our dedication to one another, we watch our loved ones in crisis, and we’re forced to admit that we have almost no idea how any of it works.

clockwork orange eyelids

8/28/12

Okay, spurred by an email suggestion, I am going to come clean with a list of works that I have to admit were “tl;dr” for me personally.

So here you go.

TL;DR

• “The Brothers Karamazov”

• “Far From the Madding Crowd”

• the Bible (specifically Judges, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Leviticus and Numb3rs)

• “Finnegan’s Wake”

• the “Twilight” series

• “Ivanhoe”

• the instructions for our propane generator

• “The Mill on the Floss”

• “Infinite Jest” (although I plan to make that happen someday)

Have I forgotten any, or sold any of these short?

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sexy George Eliot

cats afforded nine; you’re allotted one

8/27/12

I’m all for English being a living language and all, and god knows when you start complaining about Things These Tweens Keep Saying™, you really should just buy some black socks and sandals and rent VHS tapes of “Matlock”. That disclaimer aside, there are a few utterances of internet dialogue I’ve come across lately that give me a case of the motherfucking Mondays.

Let us start here…

tl;dr – For those of you who have never trawled message boards since 2007 or so, “tl;dr” stands for “too long; didn’t read”. It’s usually placed after an internet post that exceeds two paragraphs, or following a heartfelt screed written by someone passionate.

It’s actually worse than meh, despite its clever (and sorely needed) use of the semicolon. The writer of “tl;dr” not only has to scan enough of the entry to conclude that is is “too long”, but scroll to the end of what he “didn’t read” in order to post a comment about how it was “too long” so he “didn’t read” it.

It is anti-intellectualism distilled into four letters, and serves only to belittle the writer and make the commenter feel superior. And if you put it in the comments section at the end of this, I will shove a “dr” up your semi-colon.

YOLO – Sent microbial by Twitter over the last 18 months (but feels like years), YOLO stands for “you only live once”, although the intent is more like “You Only Live Once!!!! :) :)”

At one point, it might have been a “you go girl” sentiment with the yearbook-signature complexity of “carpe diem!” – but now it’s a hashtag acronym used by two kinds of people: binge drinkers about to do something stupid, or tee-hee pussyfarthings about to do something mind-bendingly pedestrian.

In the first case, I always took “you only live once” as proof that you should be vaguely careful with that one life. And in the second case, I can’t believe I spent part of my one life reading your tweet about “cutting my hair shorter this time! #YOLO!!!”

“content” – Even 9+ years ago on the blog I had expressed both disgust and surrender on the word “content” as meaning “anything you read or watch on a website” but even now, a decade later, it still pisses me off.

Perhaps now I see it in proper perspective; it’s a semantic disease from the top-down. The day someone defined all writing, music and pictures on the web as “content”, it was instantly devalued, and no doubt helped fuel the long, slow, conservative-backed death rattle of the arts in general. “Content” as a word is as bad as “partial-birth abortion” – both are oddly inaccurate and have an agenda.

I’d generate more content today, but #YOLO and this is already “tl”.

garfieldcat.jpg

*sigh*

fucking Garfield.

worshington slept here

8/26/12

This is the sort of question someone usually tweets or puts on their Facebook timeline and begins with “Anyone got any good suggestions…”

You know the drill. But I actually do need to know the general opinion on renting a house online, whether you were landlord or tenant. The usual suspects are HomeAway/VRBO (now owned by the same company), Airbnb, somewhat lesser-known Flipkey, and the original Couchsurfing. All have their strong points, but which ones have any of you used, and which have you liked?

Full disclosure: I’ve rented the farm and barn in the Berkshires for about seven years using one of the sites above. 99% of the time, the renters have been gracious, wonderful, full of compliments, and in some cases, left the house better than when they found it.

However, we had an incident 18 months ago that turned me off renting so wholly, so full-bodiedly, that it has taken me this long to reconsider. I won’t go into all the details, but I’m now well-versed on what a pack of 12-year-olds will write on antique furniture with a permanent marker once they know your daughter’s name. Even now I’m still discovering things that were stolen, or broken for no apparent reason.

So I’m coming at this anew, with a carefully-rebuilt armament of trust… any advice?

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this year’s cows have some nice pompadours

 

resolutions pixelated

8/23/12

Right around Christmas I started using Evernote on my iPhone and Mac – first as a way to keep track of Xmas presents, but soon thereafter for pretty much everything else. I’ve got song snippets, lines of dialogue, bad band names, Lucy quotes, even bits of audio that Soundhound couldn’t identify. One of the first lists I made, however, was called Things I’d Like to Change for 2012.

Tonight, as the summer winds to a close, I looked at the list to see how I was doing, and here’s how I fared:

• spend more time as family, going places with Tessa and Lucy, kid parties, etc.

This was in response to my increasing shut-in-ness of 2011. I think besides my silly-ass surgeries, I have done this one.

• one day a week special after-school time with Lucy

Lucy and I spend awesome amounts of time together, but it’s always random and unplanned. When she starts school again, I want to set aside a specific afternoon of the week just for us!

• opting in more volunteer time with school

Good lord, did that. I played guitar for four different assemblies and rehearsed the kids for weeks beforehand.

• no beginning or ending projects until daily writing for work is complete

Still guilty as charged. But our jobs are so weird. And I love my projects.

• get rid of all detritus under stairs and by the stereo system

I’m a big believe in resolutions that combine the overarching themes of life with picayune bullshit. I happen to have completed this particular slice of picayune bullshit.

• be more present and contented and counted on and accounted for

I give myself an A-minus on this one, which was obviously the hardest thing on the list. I’ll have to ask Tessa if she thinks that’s too lenient a grade.

• meditate once a day at least for 20 minutes

Very sketchy on this; it comes in waves.

• physical exertion once a day for at least 30 minutes

Surgery fucked this one up.

• finish upstairs office, getting all boxes emptied and all unfiled filed

Yes. Sort of. I mean, yes. Basically.

•start garden early this year, both raised bed and back potted plants

Yes! Yes! Yes! Even though my seedlings have been BIZARRELY INCONSISTENT.

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The Lucy & Daddo Tomato Seedling Center

• deal with frustration of being beholden to pills and come to grips with it

Still a work in progress. Every time my alarm goes off (meaning time for some pill) I feel like frisbeeing my phone into the fuckin’ woods and hunting bison.

• get back to NYC every two months or eight weeks

Solved largely by being here in NY all summer long, which is something we didn’t know when I wrote the list.

• clear my dresser area in bedroom totally

Oh, that motherfucker is clear.

• get all tools in garage airtight and table clean and everything put away

That has SO not happened yet.

• understand that you are not your feelings, people are capable of change

This has come largely true, but I wonder if it makes any sense as advice – I’m beginning to see depression (at least MY depression) as a chemical manifestation, like being drunk on despondency, and very few aphorisms can penetrate it. In a way, accepting the neurological foundation of profound sadness has been liberating.

• “yes and…” instead of “it’s not my fault”

A little bit of Del Close and improv theater in my list. I am still a defensive fuck, though.

• when traveling, be ready the night before

Totally done this! I have been packed and ready for trips BEFORE TESSA on occasion this year, which should be accompanied by a SHREDDING GUITAR SOLO.

• nap if necessary

I find naps very disorienting. I know people love them, but I feel like I miss enough shit as it is.

• each day make a list of what gives me joy

Well, I’m still writing this, aren’t I?

breaker one-nine, can i get a radio check

8/22/12

So maybe I accidentally inhaled a batch of black mold and now I’m back to a massive post-surgery sinus and throat infection. So maybe I have a temperature of 100º during the summer.

So maybe I tried to invite seven guy friends to go fishing a few weeks ago, and not only did nobody say “sure”, nobody even responded. So maybe Facebook has cannibalized so much of the old xtcian discussion audience that it’s only a matter of time before I’m sitting here drinking my own piss.

But playing Words With Friends today with an old buddy, I imparted this gem to the online gaming experience:

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Screw those WWF and Scrabble setups that get you oxyphenbutazone. This was between two dogged opponents, rocking the board the best they can, so fuck it… I’ll always have “squelch”.

 

for the rowers keep on rowing

8/21/12

I’m in bleary end-of-summer lazy mode until Labor Day (as are most of you, I suspect), but I really don’t understand the surprise and hand-wringing surrounding Todd Akin (the Republican Senate contender from Missouri with absolutely hilarious ideas about rape, for those of you reading this from the future). What exactly about this story is remotely shocking?

Like I’ve said before, when you’ve got an cruelly insane platform of disastrously misinformed policies shaped by Dark Ages-style Christians… you’re going to get insane, disastrously-misinformed religious nutcases as your candidates. My brother Steve had a phrase for it during the early computer days of the late ’70s: “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

I mean, I dearly love some of you Republicans I count among my friends and family. I’m not being patronizing or smug. But at this point, you really do have a lot to answer for.

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first and last months’ up front

8/20/12

Renter: Our landlord is a fucking control freak. He has a list of all these rules, and some of them are downright bizarre. Seriously, “antique white”? Why can’t I just paint my room whatever color I want, as long as paint over it later?

Landlord: Our tenants are garbage. They have seriously devalued our house with all the shit they leave outside, and bags full of spent kitty litter all over the porch. We bought this place so we might finally have something that earns income, but we’ve lost thousands on it every year.

Renter: We have a list of things to be fixed, but he never fixes them, and when he does, he does it half-heartedly. The washing machine is from the late 1960s, and when it spins, our bed vibrates. Only 4 of the 6 burners on the stove work, and none of the doors close without a dead-blow hammer.

Landlord: They’re late with the rent check EVERY SINGLE MONTH. They burn some kind of incense that will seep into the walls. And their cat actually attacks the mailman. I don’t get it. Their references were solid. They seemed so nice when they moved in, and then morphed into these feral creatures.

Renter: When we moved in, he was all like, “it’s a totally relaxed atmosphere, we like having a creative atmosphere”, but what he really meant was “do whatever you want as long as it’s what I want you to do.” If his vintage movie posters are so precious, why does he leave them hanging in the living room, rent out the place, and then forbid you to move them?

Landlord: It’s like they turn into infants the second they assume the role of “tenant”. All of a sudden, I’m the fucking bad guy all the time. They’re like turtles on their backs, their legs flailing. They can’t change a light bulb, they’ve never used an extension cord, and they find a plugged toilet utterly mystifying. What the fuck? Grow some skin, people! Don’t be so goddamn helpless!

Renter: It’s like he thinks we’re a different class of people, but the truth is, he’s just lucky. He had some cash from somewhere and bought the place when you didn’t need to be a fucking billionaire to buy a house. We’re no different, just a few years behind him, so we’re stuck renting for the next fucking decade. Which makes us hippies.

Landlord: If something isn’t yours, you treat it like shit. What happens when you scrape a rental car against a parking meter? You say “Fuck it! It’s a rental!” I swear to god, I bet right now they’re in our house, taking giant shits on the living room floor, setting fire to their farts. Goddamn flaky nickel-and-dime morons with their moron friends, wiping their noses on the drapes. Fuck them.

Renter: He’s such a prissy, needle-nosed dick, so short-sighted he can’t see past his own entitled circumstances. And the holier-than-thou smugness, I swear – you put people in charge of something, and it’s like they suddenly fancy themselves in a higher caste. I’ve had it with the arcane rules, the constant feeling of being in trouble every day. Fuck him.

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song of summer in his hand

8/16/12

This weekend I’m going to sit in the river and let it take me where it wants to go.

This river is metaphorical, of course. I could never sit in a real river, as I have far too many control issues.

This weekend I’m going to lie in the grass with my daughter, and look up underneath the 125-year-old maple tree, and we shall spot the individual leaves among thousands that have already turned bright red. She will ask why some leaves turn red two months early, and I’ll make up something.

This weekend I’m going to sit in the hot tub that I have meticulously brought to a PH of 7.8 and that will have to be my river.

This weekend I’m going to slap my wife on the ass as she walks by, because she understand the spirit in which it is meant: both ironically and because I really love her ass.

This weekend I will be in the midst of conversation, and a cliché will truly be called for. I will fight the urge to say the clichéd thing, then relax, and let it come out – but at the last millisecond, I’ll change it to something better.

This weekend I will plant the willow tree I got for Tessa for our 9th anniversary. Or actually, we won’t, because that’s a lot of work. I will also ask my brother Sean to help me put the floor on the treehouse I’m building for Lucy and Barnaby, and he’ll say yes, but we probably won’t do that either.

This weekend I plan on being content, on having an overall sense of well-being, of casting away those long, awful August days I had as a kid, wracked by free-floating anxiety, and instead, just float and have the day I was supposed to have all along.

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Monet’s willow tree

got to wait here for your moon to turn blue

8/15/12

scritti_politti.jpg

Wait, is all this talk of lying bumming you people out? Or is it just August and nobody can muster a fuck?

Let’s take a break today and just simply name a pop song that ALWAYS MAKES YOU HAPPY.

I’ll go first: “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti.

You?