Secret Pop

Dec 21, 2013

The music. There it is. The music.

On my way to Beulah's house today, I had some time to kill, so I took the longer route. A jaunt into Carmel Mountain Ranch, passing my parents' old house, where I lived right after college, and then the nearby neighborhood where I had an apartment for a few years. Some things have changed, certainly. But it's largely the same. And it all ends up being -- to me at least -- mostly a series of markers of points in my past where I felt either wonderful or terrible. I've decided it's the amplitude. The peak-to-peak. It's not how happy you ever were or how sad. It's the difference between how happy and how sad you were. (Way to make everything about math, Mary.) This is the geography of the times in my adult life when I was the very most happy and the very most sad. So the distance from peak to peak is the greatest. I've certainly had other periods of great sadness. Perhaps even deeper than any of the San Diego days. But during those seasons, the happy highs weren't as high. And I'm certain I must have had happier times, as well. But the saddest points in those spells were never so low. It's the times when the extremes were the furthest from each other that leave the most lasting and colorful bruises.

I'm beginning to think that the reason I thought I was so happy back then is that I knew who I was. I wasn't anything so amazing, and I'm certainly prouder of my accomplishments since. But at that time, I wasn't wracked with angst over what was to become of me. I am loathe to admit it, but I think the drearily commonplace reason for that is that I belonged to someone.

We're watching Toy Story 2, which I have seen easily 40 times in the past month, on account of we watched all of the Toy Story movies repeatedly on in-room pay-per-view when Beulah and Stellan and I were vacationing at the Kahala last month. It's a long story. Well, no. That's pretty much the whole story. Anyway, it was very expensive.

So, we're watching Toy Story 2 now, as Beulah is making Beef Stroganoff and Stellan is nibbling on cucumbers, and the only reason it matters is that this whole ongoing theme of the toys having no purpose unless there's someone to own them, well, it always hits a little close to home. There was an après break-up period when I couldn't even watch the Jessie reminiscence montage with the Sarah McLachlan song, lest I burst into sobs or write another check to the ASPCA. Some of us are just like those toys, waiting for someone to choose us -- to love us and play with us and write their name on the bottom of our shoe. I presume some of us are like that. Otherwise I feel especially pathetic and lame writing about it.

Side note: Having something to look forward to -- and having some sense of what that something would be -- was also an intoxicating elixir. Whenever it was present. There's something about knowing what to expect that makes one feel vaguely godlike. Where uncertainty may invigorate and entice certain people, for me it is as salt on a slug.

Don't misunderstand me. It's not about being in a relationship. Although it often seems like that's the answer. It's actually about having someone to answer to. I would point at this if asked for the greatest flaw in my personality matrix. I'm very good at doing things for others. I'm actually exceptional at it. But I'm terrible about doing things just for me, unless there's at least ancillarily a way I can attribute it to pleasing someone else. In the past few years, I have really made an effort to step out on my own. That's probably where the confusion comes from. The more I strive to not be accountable to anyone, the less I know what to do with myself. I'm the bird that doesn't go anywhere when you leave the cage door ajar.

Sometimes it feels as if there's something I've lost and need to get back. And I'm a bit out of sorts at the prospect that this is just how it's going to feel for the rest of forever.

Sep 22, 2013

The Neverending Mixtape

I began writing this post on May 18, 2010. It was just a couple of song lyrics I never got around to explaining. But here's the story.

In 2010, my birthday fell on a Friday. I gathered my friends at the Seven Grand for an evening of making this face.
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Also this face.
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Also this face.
Glazed doughnut!
And of course this one.
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And this one.
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I had fun that night. Even when we had to drive all around Downtown trying to find the forgotten spot where Jessie had parked her car. I had fun even though the weeks leading up to that night had been filled with confusion and consternation. And the night before had been filled with being broken up with by phone over a problem that wasn't actually the problem. In such cases, the problem at issue is seldom the actual problem. Even then, I knew that. Instinctively. Anyway, that night, I put all of that out of my head and had my birthday, because it was my birthday and fuck all that other nonsense. And I was wearing that vintage dress I had bought at Shake Rag, and Beulah even had fun running the pool table for a while.

The rest of that weekend, Beulah stuck around and kept me company. We went to see Iron Man 2. We went to some of our favorite places. One of which is Happy Six in West L.A. And while we were shopping for the cute there, I heard an Owl City song for the first time. And even though it sounded kind of stupid and poppy, there was a line that stuck out to me and made me want to sit by myself somewhere where no one would see how ashamed I was of being sad over the stupid loss of something that never was.

I spend my coldest nights alone, awake and thinking of the weekend we were in love.

Later that summer, I put that song on a mixtape. That day, I bought a silver jacket. Here is a picture of half of it.

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I took this picture on another day that ended in sadness and shame. This time involving a meet-up at Swingers that should never have happened. I did get my Breaking Bad DVDs back that night, though. So.

Around that time, I came across a Psapp song that also ended up on a mixtape, on account of this:

Don't make me a chapter. I want to be the whole of your book.

And then I heard Orange Shirt by Discovery, and it was these lyrics that mattered:

Sleep on the train to Tokyo. Google yourself when you get home.
All this love that you're keeping. And me I've got a crush.


I put that song on a mixtape, too. Jessie was in my car when we were driving to the City Attorney's office the week after my birthday to deal with other nonsense, and when it started playing, she said, "What's this?" And it sounded like what she meant to say was, "What the fuck is this?" But I don't know. I sometimes think some of my friends think I'm so square, they don't believe it if I mention any singer outside of Fred Waring.

And then there's the Gomez song that came about as close to being one of those "this is our song" songs as it could have. And then there's that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. The playlist is long. And now that playlists are no longer limited by the amount of tape on the spools, I just append and append. The songs keep getting written. And the lyrics keep making me want to make ill-advised phone calls and just play songs into people's voice mails in a very postmodern-Say Anything kind of way. There's that Shiny Toy Guns song. And that Salem Al Fakir song. And that Manchester Orchestra/Grouplove song that Beulah got me hooked on. There are all of these songs that I really like but prefer to skip when they come up in the mix. Because it's all well and good to feel something, but I'd like to be just a tiny bit in control, please, okay?

Anyway, if I can admit to once having my heart broken by an Owl City lyric, well, there's a lot more you can do is all I'm saying. On our deathbeds, we will curse the many things we were ruled by. I guarantee it.

It's very, very late in New York City, where I am sitting up very, very awake in my hotel room, allowing this old iPod to play playlists from years ago. If you need an explanation, that is why.

Sep 15, 2013

The Remembering Self

I learn a lot when I'm driving.

I was driving back from Beulah's house a couple of weeks ago and I caught an episode of the TED Radio Hour about memory. There was one segment in particular that poked at me with special persistence. It was the segment featuring Daniel Kahneman called "How Do Experiences Become Memories?" The idea is -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- that a wonderful experience can be ruined if it ends badly, because the way things end is more significant or more intrinsically valuable when we form our personal stories. Because our memories of our experiences are more meaningful than the experiences themselves, and also because if something ends badly, it's more important to remember that fact than to traipse down memory lane, lingering on the parts of the experience that were idyllic. If idyllic ends in shit, it's the shit that counts.

It was posited that this is part of a species survival mechanism. That we have limited space in our brains, so nature wires us to remember the important takeaways -- and if something was terrible, it's important that we remember that fact so that we can protect ourselves from that same terribleness in the future. By the same token, if something painful ends in joy, the joy is the part that sticks. Take childbirth. Women often say you forget the pain. Labor ends in the arrival of a wonderful little gift, so that's the part of the experience the brain places in the time capsule. This certainly makes strategic sense in terms of survival of the species, because if women always remembered the pain, it's far more likely they wouldn't sign up for it again.

I am blessed and cursed with a very good memory. It seems my brain works the way that is most effective in forming memories in that I visualize everything. I remember the way things looked. I remember the weather. I remember what I wore. But it's fair to say that I also -- pretty much without fail -- remember how things ended. And usually in painful detail. And the problem with that is that that pain is very portable, and I take it with me wherever I go.

I have allowed a lot of experiences to be ruled by the memories of their failings and their endings, and I have experienced a lot of endings that ruined the experiences that preceded them. I guess there was some comfort in hearing that this is the way the human brain works and not some sabotaging tactic of my cruel inner self. But still.

The biggest problem with this process is the statistical reality that, if you live long enough, the majority of your brain space might be occupied by memories of unpleasant things that, by design, eclipse any of the pleasantness that may have surrounded them. Growing older is so much more complex and nuanced than Aspercreme commercials would have you believe.

I used to live in my memories. They were my fuel. An often bitter, poisonous fuel. Sometimes, I am actually nostalgic for times when I was living in the melancholy throes of nostalgia. I treasured memories of sadness because they were so much more powerful than any other kind. Now, that's a snake eating it's own horrible tail. For instance, I used to listen to a cassette we bought when these two guys from Canada came to sing at our church. And I remember the night that we saw them perform, one of the women in our church passed away. They announced it at the end of the concert. And my 4th grade heart went out to her two young children, who had come over to swim in our pool while their mom was in hospital. And every time I listened to that cassette, I would remember feeling sad that night and feeling my heart going out, and it was a feeling I went back to again and again.

But this is more about the parts we remember than it is about my specific habit of forcing myself to relive pain. And thinking about what we remember and what it means and how it shapes what we do next happened to be especially relevant to me the day I heard the piece. As it continues to be.

The TED Radio Hour piece I referenced can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/09/182667116/memory-games

Jun 1, 2013

Syzygy

When three objects are in alignment, one of them is going to be eclipsed. When you let something come between you and wherever it is you're looking, you cease to be able to see all that's there.

There are many, many lessons to be learned from astronomy.

I recently tweeted a more succinct version of this, but this was the thought in its entirety.

May 25, 2013

Ever long is the looking back

Memorial Day weekends have not been particularly winning for me in the past few years. There were moments of painful meanness and inscrutability. There were beginnings of things that turned out to be irreparably damaging. There were ugly exchanges and unfair recriminations. Accusations of every sort (mostly the undeserved sort). And when I take stock of all that, it's hard not to think there's something seasonal about all this sturm und drang.

At the same time, it's my habit -- and perhaps not the healthiest one -- to look for patterns and to follow paths of reasoning, and maybe I defeat myself with this thinking. Maybe there is no magic equation that will spare me the various hurts and harms that happen in something that feels like it could look like a pattern -- if you squint a bit.

But it happens at the end of my birthday month, and it feels like a seasonal gateway that everyone looks forward to. I mean, barbecues. Am I right? And also, in my case, usually some time by the pool and usually a little too much sun and usually too much contemplation and too many songs that make me think about things I'd be better off not thinking about.

The thing I realize most pointedly this weekend is that I have a habit of looking back on things through a filter that sometimes diminishes context. I think about happy times or hopeful interludes, and it's only if I think too long on them that my brain will fill in the blanks, and my sentimentality will be offset by the ballast of things that were less happy, less hopeful. The ballast of truth. Every time it happens, I can't help but feel as if my brain is slapping my hand. It's a lesson I never seem to learn.

People will tell you that the past is your enemy and that thinking about things that hurt you keeps you anchored to that hurt. They're not entirely wrong. But the past is also where all of your most painful lessons live, and forgetting them sends you barreling into your future unarmed. We craft our personal carapaces over time. And there is a difference between that shell and the notion of baggage. There is a difference between hurt that we are unwilling to let go of and the outerwear we don to keep off the rain. Who on earth would fault you for wearing a raincoat when the rain is coming down?

I've learned important lessons from every loss. Even if I haven't always heeded those lessons in the subsequent go round. It's frustrating, sure. If I look back over my years of posts -- many of which were greatly informed by this topic -- it seems I learn at a glacial pace. If at all. I'm a smart girl. Anyone will tell you that. But you'd have to be pretty smart to be dumber than me. And that's the gospel truth.

May 16, 2013

Into Darkness We Go, For No Apparent Reason

I saw Star Trek Into Darkness last night. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a Star Trek fan, and I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to movies. So it won't surprise you to learn that I won't be adding this title to any list of favorites. But let me begin by saying that it's not the actors' fault. I love Chris Pine as Kirk, even though he seems to only ever get the shit kicked out of him and has none of the wry confidence of Shatner. I love Zachary Quinto as Spock, even though the friendship between him and Kirk is only apparent in that the dialogue says so. I even love Karl Urban as McCoy, even though he has never played the practical, emotional role he is meant to to be relevant in the friendship triad between him, Kirk, and Spock. But since we're given no reason to believe there is any friendship there in the first place, this issue is moot.

And, yes, it's important that the franchise is finally being given budgets that allow for the kind of epic sci-fi storytelling that fans have craved for decades. But there's the rub. Even with a very respectable budget and a fine cast and a fan following that is willing to accept less in hopes of getting more -- even with all these things, the failing of this movie is in the hopelessly terrible storytelling. Despite its urgency to stick its head up its own ass, this movie can't even figure out which hole that is. It is a mess. A mess that I will refrain from going into, because you will have things spoiled for you. And even though once you know what those things are you will want to kick something, I afford you the right to be disappointed on your own terms.

I will also say that -- for his years of mantra-like insistence that he never liked Star Trek -- J.J. Abrams signed off on an embarrassing amount of fan-targeted hand-jobbery, all of which still misses the point. The way I described it last night was that it's as if there is a deck of Star Trek flash cards that was used to populate the film with references and species and memorable quotations in a completely context-free and haphazard manner, to the point where, if you actually know the context that is being ignored or care about the story that is being co-opted, it's difficult to not be offended.

I will clarify that I don't think J.J. Abrams needed to be a Trek fan. I don't dislike him for not knowing the series. Nicholas Meyer wasn't a Trek fan, and his was the finest of the franchise features. It's not the fandom that matters. It's the desire to make a movie that doesn't suck. Whatever his intentions may have been, the movie J.J. Abrams made is a pastiche of formidable elements that does not coalesce into anything significant. And that would be easier to excuse if he hadn't had at his disposal all of the necessary resources to make something great.

If you know me, let's talk about this in greater detail over drinks, because you won't want to talk to me about this without them.

May 13, 2013

Sunday Wormhole

"Sometimes we think we want to hear something. And it's only afterwards when it's too late that we realize we wished we'd heard it under entirely different circumstances." Or perhaps not at all. At least that would be my edit to the statement made by Tyrion Lannister on last week's Game of Thrones. I've not yet gotten to watch this week's. As has been the case for four or five weeks running now, I never seem to be home to watch my various Sunday programs. I end up watching them sometimes days later. Sometimes weeks.

I think of Sunday as the seam of a circle. The beginning and the ending of a cycle we just repeat until -- eventually -- we don't. Not everyone's weeks are templatized. Mine certainly didn't used to be. But even when I had a great deal of freedom and a work life that never began or ended on any particular schedule, Sunday was often a pivot. A way of at least marking that something is over and something is next.

When I was in school and later working a very regular office job, Sunday began with the sad, looming dread of unavoidable Monday with its alarm clock demands and its homework deliverables. The entire day was clouded with it. It cast a pall over anything that Sunday might have been, just knowing that eventually it wouldn't be Sunday any longer. Sunday was the day-long buffer you had to recover from whatever trouble you'd got into on Saturday. And if you hadn't managed to find any Saturday adventures, well, then Sunday was an accusing reminder of what a wasteful sin you'd committed. I always loathed that Sunday anxiety. And even when I've -- at certain times in my life -- managed to free myself from it, I realize that a great many of my friends are servants to that persistent Sunday master, and that has its impact on the making of plans.

And Sunday nights have been fertile ground for programs I've loved over the years. Programs I've watched with people I've cared about. Programs I've rushed home to see. Programs I've recorded ON MAGNETIC TAPE. Programs that have been my companions through periods in my life that have been by turns nice and not so very. I can always tell when I'm in that place. That stuck-in-my-thoughts-and-ruminating-on-the past place. Every line of dialogue is a gateway to a feeling and every song lyric has the potential to be an extinction-level event, emotionally speaking.

So maybe it's a mercy that I seldom let those former Sunday appointments happen on actual Sundays these days. Maybe it's my subconscious way of keeping my calendar so unpredictable that my brain lacks the time to puzzle through the various problems a lifetime of Sundays can create.


May 11, 2013

Reset to Pilot

Back when I was a freelancer working from home, I used to leave the TV on USA Network or TNT pretty much all day. They would play various procedurals and one-hour series, usually in blocks of two or three episodes back to back. And they would play the episodes in order. So if you watched frequently enough and for long enough, you would watch a series in its entirety, in order. Then, at some point, you would go from the last episode of a series -- where the characters have developed and the cast has really found a pace -- to the first episode of that same series. It's jarring. The pilot episode of a show that gets any amount of wind at its back is always just a shade of what the show becomes. The show runners haven't yet decided the fates of these characters, and the actors haven't made the characters their own. The voices are even different sometimes. Watch season one of The Simpsons, if you don't believe me.

So, one minute you're appreciating the subtle relationships and interpersonal nuances of a show you've come to know, and the next minute you're watching two cops rolling their eyes that THIS is going to be their new partner, and no one yet knows about whose mom was raped and whose wife is fed up with cop hours or who's had an affair with the captain. And if you like the show -- or if, like me, you can't be bothered to change the channel unless a basketball game or a wrestling event suddenly interrupts the procedural parade -- you'll get to watch those relationships develop with a certain prescience. You know what the future holds for these hardworking groundpounders. You see it as clearly as if it were synopsized in your cable guide or written in a script you are holding in your lap. You are a god of television.

It might make you wish you could reset to one in real life. Even if you had to just relive all those episodes without ever being able to alter the script. It might make you want that. For a minute. At least you would know why everything goes the way it does. At least there would be some context. At least you would be able to resign yourself to your fate without having to go to some church.


May 7, 2013

Every Story Has Its Sequel

I saw Iron Man 2 the day after my birthday in 2010 with my sister and her boyfriend. I was not completely occupying my mind that night. The night before, I'd had a birthday party at Seven Grand, and many friends were there to make my evening lovely. And the night before that, I was excused from the dating situation I'd been in. So that was a bit of a drag. And maybe my mind was stuck on that more than it was on the movie, but I recall being not-entirely-bowled-over by the film. I remember complaining that it felt very loose. Almost improvised. I also remember laughing at Sam Rockwell's orange hands.

Well, I went to see Iron Man 3 this evening. And it was enjoyable enough. There is a certain simplicity to the Marvel storytelling method. It's all varying degrees of our hero saying, "I didn't ask for this." And the success or less-than-success of each of the films is largely predicated upon how well that problem is managed. How much we care about whom our hero loves, how much we yearn for the resolution of his crises, how much we will tolerate button lines involving puns or clunky plays on words -- all of these fluctuate based on how well the unfair-yoke-of-super is painted for us. I agree with my friend Jennie, with whom I saw the movie, that they did it best with the Cap. Maybe it's the fact that that story happens in the past, which allows for a certain license with the cartooniness, but I cared for Steve Rogers' plight, and I had easy sympathy for his disappointments. Maybe that's because he's the least-complaining Avenger. A chip on even the broadest of shoulders is such a turn-off.

The trailer playlist was as follows: Hangover 3. Star Trek Into Darkness. The Lone Ranger. Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Thor: The Dark World. I had lots of thoughts about those, too, but I've stopped carrying my little Moleskine notebook, in which I used to scribble all my thoughts in the dark without fear of bothering other moviegoers. These days, I mostly make notes on my phone. And that just doesn't work in the cinema. And, after all, most of what I would have written would have been some form of verbal eye-rolling. And maybe a note about how the second film in any given series seems to be required to be about something dark or harrowing. I can provide a list of examples beyond the three in this paragraph if that helps.

In any case, I saw the film, and I'm pleased I did. It's been hard to go to the movies lately, and it's been a great while since the Grove was my regular haunt. A lot has changed. Every moment that passes, I'm learning to adapt.

Incidentally, on Friday, I arrived at the Disneyland Hotel just in time to receive a call from the Glendale Police Department letting me know that my home was in a mandatory evacuation area due to a fire that had kicked up very close by. The amazing thing is that -- whether I believed my house would be destroyed or not -- I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't even go back to try and grab the important things. And in a way that was freeing. I just floated on an adrenalized cloud of suppressed panic and fake fortitude and enjoyed the weekend I'd planned to enjoy as best I could. Said weekend included Club 33, 1901, and Bats Day at Disneyland. It hardly seems acceptable to complain. And the wrap-up last night was just an unstoppable juggernaut of serendipity, where everything fell into place except my quest for a turkey leg. And turkey legs are readily available at Vons.

Apr 29, 2013

From Apotheosis to Apostasy

There's something about belief that isn't quite properly summed up for me in the actual word. I have believed a great many things. I have believed in a great many things. I have believed in a great many people. I have believed those people. And I have had my beliefs betray me.

Pain and disappointment do leave scar tissue. They leave behind a tougher substrate that is less penetrable, less flexible. I catch myself wanting to undo or not acknowledge these things. I want to pretend that I'm still a wide-eyed child without all of those cautionary impulses overriding my more naïve instincts. I vacillate on which of these is my better self.

My work life has begun to present certain repetitions. I'm at a rehearsal right now that makes me feel as if I'm sitting in the theater of the Guggenheim two months ago. It's the same voices and the same work. I was looking forward to different things back then. I was operating under different rules. Snow has been replaced with jacket weather. But today, the feel of it approximates the other.

I wish it wasn't necessary to feel badly about having believed. But being wrong is so distasteful, I have to think of it as my having been right about how wrong I was.

Something gets lost in the translation from pure truth to the code language of my online self-expression. Everything I'm saying is obscured by everything I'm not saying.

In a vast field of order, anomalies are the only thing you see.

Apr 23, 2013

"Waiter, three whiskeys."

The very first night I slept in my house, I had been moving all day, and I was thrilled to be able to take my first shower, and before actually climbing into bed, I went downstairs in search of a pair of slippers, because the floors were kind of gritty from the move. But before I could make my way to my slippers, I found that the downstairs shower had overflowed and the bathroom, the hallway, and two of the bedrooms had an inch of water on the floor. Well, that was an adventurous first night.

I've spent the past few days in an especially gorgeous San Francisco. Anxious to get back home, realizing that I was only able to half deal with the second downstairs flood I discovered in my house just before I left. I'd left area rugs drying outside. Perhaps someone stole them. Perhaps a family of raccoons spent the weekend shitting on them. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

There's something familiar about this brand of uncertainty. A return to a once nearly constant state of not knowing what new frustration was going to reveal itself, what new discovery was going to emerge to ruin my day. So recently I've been walking around with a kind of blinders on. If I'm going to be destroyed, I'd rather not see it coming.

But I'm home now. And the rugs are still here. And my DVR successfully captured the shows I couldn't watch while I was away. So whatever other disasters may befall me, for tonight, I'm just fine. Wanting things to be fair and lovely is just the curse I was born to.

"One whiskey. One wine. You are with the tourists."

Apr 15, 2013

The secret to running is to just keep going

These are not new realizations. I've been learning the same lessons over and over for as long as I can remember, sad as that sounds. But these days, it feels more like a veneer. I'm not feeling the actual pain of remembering when I heard that song playing, while I was trying to get it together in the bathroom of a speakeasy and all I could feel was dread and hurt and anger and sorrow. I'm not feeling that pain. I'm just remembering feeling that pain because that song is now playing on a commercial. I remember how provocative that song was, but I no longer feel the actual provocation.

I woke up on a Monday morning a few weeks ago -- it was the day after St. Patrick's Day, if you must know -- and I told my little sister that it was as if a weight had been lifted. I was suddenly -- at last -- convinced that things were going to be better. And I felt good that day. And things were better. For a little while. But then they got unpleasant again. And it felt as if everything had melted down to a murky liquid that was draining away, and my hope that things might not be unbearable circled the drain with it.

I woke up today -- a Monday -- and it was like it was that other Monday. Like a weight had been lifted. Like I was waking up for the first time in the absence of crippling dread. I could suddenly appreciate the gloomy weather and get some work done and tidy up my office and maybe even see myself, at some future date, no longer really feeling those tender remnants of bruises past.

Then I was at my computer, and I saw that bombs had gone off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and it made me feel all the things that tragic things do. I think it was best summed up by Alex Blagg in this tweet, which I saw this evening and recognized to be spot on. These things steal focus, as they should. But no one knows how long we're supposed to engage these coping mechanisms or when we're supposed to leave it to the people who handle these things for a living and just hope it all pans out.

My little sister and I talked about an article she shared with me from the Chicago Tribune. We mourned runners who literally lost their legs, knowing that some of them had probably waited their whole lives to cross that finish line. It seemed so cruel. It's hard not to let one's imagination spiral out of control in the face of these morbid descriptors. There was a point, during the Sandy Hook nightmare, when I had to just stop listening, because I wouldn't be able to get those thoughts out of my head, and those thoughts were so awful.

We keep experiencing these horrible assaults on our humanity, and most of us survive them. And in my moviegoer's mind, I imagine that a runner who lost a leg today will end up recovering and taking on the Boston Marathon again, and it will be a triumph of the spirit and a symbol that we can't be snuffed out like some single-wick candle. People survive. Amazingly, sometimes. People survive things I feel quite certain I could never survive myself. I always say I'll be one of the first to go in any kind of apocalypse. Zombies. Pandemic. Asteroid. You name it. I'm not the surviving type. Especially if you give me half a minute to think about what the world will be like without plumbing and refrigeration. So I have plenty of room in my heart to hold admiration for others who can hack it. I have sometimes wondered if I could get through tribulations so trivial I'm embarrassed to describe them. Of course, at the time, it was everything. And anyone who told me otherwise was my sworn enemy.

Anyway, I guess my point is time passes, and things get better. Even if you try to keep them from doing so.

Apr 8, 2013

Lies

I've saved a lot up. And I'm so much out of the habit of writing that the easiest way to poke a hole in the inspiration sac and encourage something to leak out is to go back through the various half-written bits and the jotted-down notes and the song lyrics I must have found very meaningful at the time and hope something is still relevant or that I remember what I was originally trying to say. It hasn't been a terribly fruitful pursuit so far.

But it is also a sort of emotional archaeology. Which maybe has some kind of value, I guess. I hope.

You can go back through old photos -- it's even easier now that you can just keep scrolling downward, as opposed to having to open a shoebox or scour an old hard drive -- and the same kind of thing happens. Well, it happens to me anyway. Photos in my various online albums are like the rings of a tree. Little clusters of the time when my hair was that color or when I was on that beach or with that guy. I can look back to a specific date with surgical precision and rocket speed just by looking for a specific outfit. Because I always remember what I was wearing.

I got a stone where my heart should be
And nothing I do will make you love me

Apr 7, 2013

It ends with a reference to Memento.

I dreamed that I was out on an expedition, exploring the ocean with my friend Kim. We were swimming amongst mostly undersea mountains -- literally MOUNTAINS -- of guano, and I couldn't believe how deep we swam or how long I could hold my breath. At one point, it felt as if I had fallen asleep while diving ever downward. And when I came awake (in my dream), I had a sudden concern that I wouldn't get back to the surface in time to breathe, and I might end up drowning in water that was clearly at least partially made up of dissolved bat shit.

But my lungs held, and the resurfacing was like something out of a movie. Just a lot of glorious sunlight reflecting on rippling sea and that feeling in the legs that I suspect mermaids get. But not in the legs, obviously.

When we were back on dry land, we went back to our hotel, which was apparently in Japan. And Kim knew instinctively to light a pilot in every single plumbing fixture and appliance, while I mused about whether this was efficient.

I've learned and unlearned and relearned and re-unlearned the same lessons so many times over that I'm thinking of tattooing instructions on my body so I won't forget. Sometimes it helps to write things down.

You see one crowded, polluted, stinking town...

There's something about Comic-Con. Something that populism does. A kind of infiltration of cleverness and irony into what would otherwise be sincere and earnest. It's as if regular folks -- you know, the kind that tease the truly nerdy and ostracize them from their cliques -- can't allow themselves to unironically attach their passions to something fantastical. They can't BELIEVE in superheroes or apocalyptic mega-monster threats. But if you mash up something they can't believe in with something that a jock or a prom queen can relate to, all of a sudden, those jocks and prom queens are Comic-Con fans, and they're putting vinyl character decals on the rear windscreens of their SUVs. And they're standing behind me snarkily commenting on everything with haughty scholarliness and a certain air of entitlement and understanding. As if steampunk came to us by way of the New York Yankees and a Sergio Mendes song. And frankly maybe it did. What do I know. I almost never wear brown.

I guess I'm talking about the t-shirts with a hipster mustachioed Captain America or Hello Kitty as Cthulhu. You know: the shirts your mom would wear. And wearing them would make her feel like she relates to you*.

I love cute. I love super. I love sci-fi. I love robots. I love anime. I love cartoons. I love video games. But I think I prefer them in their separate rooms. And maybe part of it is that when my tastes in entertainment might have caused me to be an outsider, I chose that path brazenly. I watched Star Trek in high school. I read science fiction with a vengeance. I never ever had a poster of a TV actor in my locker. I never wrote popular guys' last names after my first name on my Pee-Chee folders. I owned my otherness. And maybe on some level, I felt superior because I had chosen something different and unexpected.

But now that it is all broad and mainstream and populist, where is the hard-won badge of geek honor? Everyone goes to Comic-Con now. And everyone watches superhero movies. And everyone dresses their toddlers up as Wolverine.

The true test of course is how a Comic-Con attendee reacts to die-hard expressions of true genre fandom even when it's empirically distasteful. It's one thing to take a picture of the mercenary booth babe dressed as Catwoman who probably has no idea whether she is modeling Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar. But what do you mutter under your breath when you see an extremely large sweaty man dressed as Ultra Magnus and you can't help but note that through the damp white spandex you can see more ingrown hairs than you knew a human chest could host? Do you applaud his commitment? Or do you wince and wonder aloud about his Type II diabetes? [Side note: I saw the guy in this not-at-all hypothetical costume every year for a long time. And I have long suspected that the curtailment of that faithful yearly sighting can only have been brought about by death itself. Or the inability to afford a Hoveround.] Anyway, the point is, popularity has an uncanny habit of ruining things, and it sometimes saddens me.

We all get this. We all have a little over-precious possessiveness about a band only we know or a show only we watch. Or a convention only we -- among our friends -- ever used to attend. There's badge value in "first." Especially when the thing becomes extremely popular and mainstream, and suddenly no one remembers that you were on board in early days. No one rewards you for liking that song before it ended up in a Target commercial. Once it's in everyone's playlists, it doesn'y belong to you anymore. Once it's in everyone's playlists, frankly, it's probably not going to be in yours for much longer. Right?

Anyway, I'm grateful for Comic-Con. I truly am. But I miss the days when it was an exclusive-if-somewhat-foot-smelling club that I could attend without ever feeling unwelcome or ineffectual. I miss the days when I didn't feel the need to take umbrage when overhearing someone who is not a Comic-Con familiar explaining what Comic-Con is but clearly does not get it at all.

It's strange to feel superior to people because you have what you perceive to be a more authentic connection to geeky stuff. Ironic, even. There was a time when one might not volunteer the admission that one had played role-playing games. Or that one had been vexed on account of not knowing HOW Psylocke got Jean Grey's telekinetic powers. One might have kept such things under wraps. But today, when virtually everyone flies their geek flag proudly -- ersatz though it may be -- it's hard not to be iconoclastic about it all. I mean, how will children of the future know the character-building pain of being an outsider if everything geeky is cool? Well, I guess there will always be acne.

I began writing this a short time after Comic-Con 2012. And if I even go this year -- which depends mostly on whether I can get a hotel room for the love of Pete -- I'm sure I will have even more of these thoughts crystallized. The noteworthy thing is that I'm still planning to go. I invite you to wish me luck, snob that I clearly am.



*It should be noted that the "you" in this scenario is actually me. And my mom would never wear a t-shirt of any kind and has no desire to relate to me. She is perfectly comfortable giving me advice from Judge Judy and second-guessing my menu choices.