Tag Archives: Solitude

A Birthday Poem

 

T’was not the career I expected

But it will serve

In good stead it will serve

I know crank and seatstay

Headset

Hydraulic disc and PowerLink

I once set sag

For a Brazilian man

Who was like putty in my hands

Respectable to strangers’ ears

A paved path toward friendship

If you can leave the bike with me

The proper adjustments can be made

 

There is too much change

And too little change

My heart still craves

One thing

(At least I believe it does

Though I have neglected

To sit still for long enough

To really suss out the truth)

A rare confluence of

Time and space

Necessity and culture

Resulting in the

Sublime appearance

Of the perfect solitude

All else is distraction

All else is suffering

Torments endured patiently

On the journey to the goal

The further I beat along the path

The more exorbitant the toll

 

I hear the cruelties

Coming through the wall again

Hard lullabies in which

I struggle to find the tune

Shaddap!

I’m not playing!

Retarded kids do that!

You’re smart now?

Don’t fuck with me!

Get up off the floor!

I will admit that I am sensitive

That I find it hard to take

But much harder

Were I a two year old

With no prospect of escape

 

Landlord!

Daimyo!

Master of the fief!

Did you get the audio I sent?

Did you hear the child

Scream aloud

As her guardian hemmed in?

That warning you admonished

Did you hear it didn’t take?

Those hinges you installed last fall

Has she slammed them ‘til they break?

When she said she was embarrassed

You believed her, I can tell

Her child must have

Had some karma

To be rebirthed to such a hell

 

I have made eyes at the Buddha

I prayed to him one night

(The other night, a tired night

When the neighbor’s abuses

Were unbearable

And my anxiety came on)

It was a halfhearted prayer

Neither fervent nor devoted

But I try to see the

Emptiness in things

And to have compassion

Where I can

I mingle the Dharma with Don Juan

Until the mixture suits my taste

So long, self-importance

Death, advise me

A practical knowledge of

Nothing

At any given moment

But alas

Someday soon

My mind will panic and cringe

My thoughts like vermin scrabbling

My mood a blood blister darkening

My heart set to self-destructing

When “reality” comes calling

 

Fantastical voyage

That no one can predict

Twists and turns beyond catalogue

Every joy a precedent

Each experience unique

The fulfillment is the journey

Not the goal we seek

 

Tired climb and endless slog

From tedium to disappointment

All the way

Then back again

All life is suffering

The simplest day’s desire

Will be crushed by stupid luck

Exploded on the roadside

Willfully ignored

By passers by

 

This is not to say I’ve given up

Or reconformed to pattern

But answer me this,

O World

Answer me this

Shall I dig my hooks and hold to dreams

Prepare to stand and fight?

Or sever ties and loose my grip

For Bodhisattva flight?

 

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Film Review – Up in the Air

I have arrived at a conflict of format, and as a result I am bringing home inferior films. Though my local library has a selection of DVDs that is voluminous and fascinating, the vastly superior picture of Blu-Ray discs almost always trumps this consideration. Aaaand so in a moment of weakness I selected Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air and removed it from the shelf. “This is a good movie,” said the librarian at checkout, ominously reminding me of my questionable choice. In addition, when I was handed the Blu-Ray case, it contained not just the disc, but also the sentence “From the Director of Juno.” The die was cast, and there was no turning back.

I thought the movie wasn’t very good. Too much quirkiness shoehorned in. Too much “whipsmart” dialogue. Too many distracting pseudo-cameos from popular comedians. Too much fancy editing. Too much facile sympathizing with the newly-unemployed. Up in the Air felt like a Wes Anderson feature, but a poor man’s version, lacking the masterful moments needed to mitigate all the directorial indulgences.

But that wasn’t what truly bothered me; there was another level to my rejection of the film. Upon reflection, I realized that Up in the Air is a cultural statement, reinforcing one life ideal as superior, while fooling audiences into believing that the dissenting ideal has made a full counter-argument. I felt that the film unfairly – and in my opinion, insidiously – denigrated the solitary lifestyle. Two things in particular stood out to me, the first being that

 

I: George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is simply a straw man, upon which the film and its characters foist their “correct” philosophy of living.

This isn’t clear at the beginning of the film, where Bingham is shown as an expert traveler, via lots of snappy jump cuts and rhythmic montages. Yea, here is a man on the move, completely comfortable in constant motion (almost like… a shark). Bingham is handsome, good at what he does, and he always travels light. Amazing, considering that his job is to travel from business to business and fire people as a hired proxy.

It is a deliberate process, but the entire mission of the film is to slowly grind Bingham down, expose weaknesses in his lifestyle and force him to realize that when all is said and done THE SETTLED FAMILY LIFE IS INHERENTLY AND INCONTROVERTABLY SUPERIOR TO A LIFE OF TRANSIENT SOLITUDE.

The film is insistent in how it goes about this. First it puts Bingham’s way of life in peril by means of obsolescence. The bringer of doom in this case is Anna Kendrick’s Natalie Keener – a technocrat fresh out of college who plans to use SINISTER MILLENNIAL TECHNOLOGY TO END THE OLD AND PROPER WAYS OF DOING THINGS. However, when Keener becomes Bingham’s sidekick, she is quickly re-purposed as a naïve cartoon character, a fawn stumbling through the woods, full of raw intelligence and theory, but completely bereft of adult wisdom. This doesn’t mean however that she can’t attempt to become Bingham’s personal judge, jury and conscience. She belittles his genuine interest in aviation, makes him out to be the villain in his exhilarating, city-to-city relationship with Vera Farmiga’s Alex (Bingham’s mirror image – “just think of me as yourself, only with a vagina,” she says), and ultimately pronounces that his entire life is an avoidance mechanism, and an infantile one at that. This despite the fact that Keener’s own monogamous relationship has just abruptly ended, exposing her obsession with finding the ideal (for millennials, “ideal” means a sufficient number of checked boxes – duh) mate at a young age.

Bingham’s sister Hara is the other tool used to chip away at his existence. Despite her own marriage falling apart during the film, she tells Bingham that he barely exists (she would know, right?), and that his absence from the family is corrosive and harmful. She guilts him into performing a number of irksome tasks for the sake of their younger sister Julie’s wedding, including a big one that will be mentioned later on.

Well maybe these people are right! Maybe Bingham is just an asshole who is avoiding the things he should be confronting, and he needs to be pulled back down to earth! After all, the supporting characters are real, and relatable. They have personal and interpersonal struggles, hopes, dreams, joys and disappointments. Not like that Bingham, who just jets from place to place in business class, driving fancy rental cars and staying at nice hotels, between sessions of callously firing hardworking people!

I could have accepted this if director/co-writer Jason Reitman and Co. could have made a convincing case. However, they dropped the ball, perhaps intentionally, in one essential place, and that place is Ryan Bingham’s character. Specifically that

 

II: Conceived with a woefully underdeveloped philosophy, and set adrift without any deep conviction in his way of living, Bingham is left defenseless against the film’s onslaught of cultural hegemony.

Bingham’s philosophy only goes skin deep. This despite the fact that he actively offers motivational seminars, using the symbol of a backpack to illustrate the heaviness of possessions and emotional commitments – and the lightness that comes with removing them… And that is the extent of the teachings we are privy to.

I’m glad Jason Reitman spent a lot of time on this!

So I recently read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, which is a sort of loose, alternate imagining of Buddhist ideals. The book follows the life of a man, Siddhartha, who initially rejects everything on his quest for enlightenment, believing that no one can teach it to him – that he must find it on his own. Our hero Siddhartha does eventually find something resembling enlightenment. He accomplishes this through living his life and reflecting on it, but the final stages of understanding call for a very simple life of semi-solitude. Many of the lessons within the novel contain a certain beauty, relating to the larger volume of wisdom contained within Buddhism, which stress meditation, simplicity, inner peace, acceptance, living in the moment, and so on.

Why wasn’t Ryan Bingham familiar with any of these ideas? What man can live in self-imposed aloneness for many years and not at least borrow one concept from Buddhism? If not Buddhism, than another school of thought? Bingham’s seminars revolved around emptiness, yet he seemed to have no deep thoughts on the matter. Where is the scene in which he gives young Keener his dog-eared copy of Letters to a Young Poet, or The Dharma Bums, or any significant work lauding the solitary, unconstrained lifestyle, and the appreciation of the present moment?

…An Anthony Bourdain DVD!? Anything!?!

Ryan Bingham should have been a happy shramana, passing from place to place, carrying and leaving nothing, severing others from their conditions of serfdom without judgment, buoyed by the freedom of movement and the comfort of solitude and self-love.

Instead, as the other characters assert time and again, Ryan Bingham is not a responsible man making an informed life choice, but a scared boy, running away from responsibility!

HBO’s True Detective also presents a determined loner as a central character. However, Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is an iconoclast, and as such, has a very robust philosophy. The years-long war of ideas between Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart – a man who theoretically values family above all – generates unique motive force, lending vitality to a hackneyed detective-story format. Cohle’s ideals are hardly bulletproof, but he values his (somewhat esoteric) code, and takes the defeats right alongside the victories – without complaint. In one scene, Cohle is chided because guys like him don’t “give things chances” (meaning romantic love). In response, he delivers a statement of purpose for the ages, declaring “That’s because we know what we want, and we don’t mind being alone.”

Bingham never speaks this assertively about his choices. In fact, he’s kind of a punching bag. Where is the scene where he paints togetherness as desperate clinging, motivated by social conformity and the fear of confrontation with the unrealized self? Instead he idealizes a silly travel mile benchmark that rings hollow when he finally achieves it (…in a dreamlike scene with Sam Elliott’s mustache – happily reminiscent of the Orson Welles scene from Ed Wood).

In what passes for an emotional turning point late in the film, Bingham must save his sister’s wedding day by pep-talking Danny McBride’s Jim back into the marriage. Sure, it’s a nifty device to have Bingham play devil’s advocate to his own views, but to watch him unravel the motivation behind the past several years of his life with the weak line “Life’s better with company,” is bad. Watching him seem to take this banal, Hallmark-card advice to heart afterward… is truly painful.

If Bingham was just coasting along before, is his return to personal relationships even worth making a movie about? Why doesn’t he offer any real resistance? Everyone just wears him down until he submits, and the result is like watching a boxing match where one fighter refuses to hit back.

By the end of the film Ryan Bingham has suffered a crisis of confidence and lifestyle. The incessant, insecure nagging of the people around him has convinced him that the conceptual framework behind his way of life was nothing but a house of cards. However, a severe disappointment and the vicissitudes of business conspire to send him back UP IN THE AIR!

This could have been a powerful story if Reitman and Co. hadn’t so blatantly rigged the contest. If Bingham had gone down swinging we might have had a meditation on the fascinating, eternal push and pull between solitude and society, between the sufficient self and the loving family. Instead we have a propaganda piece exalting modern corporate employment (none of the fired react with relief, a desire for independence, or a sense of optimism – they all want to keep their jobs) and monogamous nuclear family love. THESE ARE THE SOCIAL MORES THAT MAKE UP OUR CULTURAL HEGEMONY.

The lessons are clear. People who are alone don’t know what they want. What they really want is romantic love and an eventual family – they just don’t know it yet. Our duty as responsible friends, family and acquaintances is to project our own insecurities and inadequacies onto them, questioning their life decisions and making them feel bad, until they fall into compliance with our cultural norm. ALONENESS BAD. FAMILY GOOD. THE END.

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Greatsong Tangent – Tame Impala

I am a shy, introverted person. These may seem like redundant descriptors, but they are not! Only with the passing years have I been able to separate the two – and to begin to properly understand each of these aspects of my personality. The wisdom I have accrued by my aging has allowed me to realize that shyness represents a tremendously frustrating personal shortfall, and introversion a tremendously comforting personal strength. Shyness is a strange and embarrassing condition. It’s literally a fear of interacting with people. I feel it all the time. I often find mental ways to avoid approaching strangers, even when my intentions are pure. It’s a shameful and devastating thing to go through life scared of your fellow man and woman. If I think too hard about all the missed opportunities – all the brief windows I failed to propel myself through – I fall into a deep, despondent funk. However, when I am pushed to interact – by friends, situations, or a voice within myself – the results are often unexpectedly good. The fears that keep me from reaching out – irrational fears of catastrophic humiliation and confrontation, as well as more insidious, pervasive fears of awkwardness and being misunderstood – are for the most part, cruel and immaterial phantoms. However, on the other side of the coin is introversion. There has been some rather incisive internet scholarship about my introverted ilk – articles I was unaware of that made me jump up and say “That’s me!” (drawing suspicious looks from my then-coworkers). I do indeed feel drained when I am around people too long, even ones I like. But introversion is about more than just social interaction and the exchange of energy. Being an introvert can also mean cultivating an intense and joyful love of solitude. Some hear the word “alone” and picture a solitary, slumped figure sighing heavily in a darkened room. No Way! Solitude can mean total acceptance and love of yourself removed from social context. The encumbering thoughts of others fall away, comparisons and social codes become meaningless. Loneliness becomes a paper tiger. Sensation and thought become rich and sensuous as sweet nurturing wine. No one can touch you and you can freely enjoy the boundless possibilities of simply existing. Which brings us to Tame Impala, who have crafted an introvert’s anthem for the ages – the blissed-out, sun-dappled, psychedelic jam “Solitude is Bliss” from 2010’s Innerspeaker. The song begins innocently enough, with a phased guitar riff and spacious drumming. The narrator’s first few lines seem like the half-bitter ruminations of a jilted lover or feuding friend. However as he continues, it becomes clear that something is very, very wrong. When he singsongs

I care less and less about and less about you

He’s singsonging about everybody! This guy wants to be all alone! We can’t allow this! He continues along this dangerous path, poisonously spouting

All the kids that I can’t compare to

Making friends like you’re all supposed to

What kind of message is that? Everyone knows that loners are damaged people – unfit for society! They kidnap children and send mail bombs and shoot up schools! How dare Tame Impala promote this kind of behavior!? Kevin Parker has indeed struck a blow for those who proudly enjoy their own company – offering a potent counterpoint to what the overbearing extrovert orthodoxy would have everyone believe. Concerning the song, Parker has said:

It was the most uplifting pop song. It’s the most sassy, confident sounding song. I like to think of it as coked up Tame Impala. It’s quite overconfident. You know, most of my lyrics aren’t as confident as that song. It’s almost arrogant I guess, but it is intended to be extremely confident because it’s about being alone and how confident you are when you’re alone.” The meaning of the song is “how awesome it can be to be inside your own head, how peaceful and enlightening it can be; good for the soul.” and “like bathing in the glory of being alone, like, ‘How great is this? I’m alone!’ 1

I know these feelings well. Society can be an exhausting mistress. I can often achieve a high level of peace on my own, to the point where it seems profane and unfair to verbalize or quantify the experience for anyone else. Still, when asked “What did you do this weekend?” I look into the hungry eyes of my well-meaning interrogator and realize I have to give them something, but I’m not sure what. How can I possibly explain the bliss of quietly reading over a simple breakfast and hot cup of tea? If I rhapsodize grandiloquently, my audience will think I’m weird. If I downplay and evade, I will doing an injustice to my own worth. Perhaps it’s this frustration that leads Parker to dreamily, yet boldly proclaim

YOU WILL NEVER COME CLOSE TO HOW I FEEL

So what seems like a mellow beach-sunset jam full of horizon-wide melodic vocals, busy-yet-expansive drumming, gentle guitar and bass lines and reverb-a-plenty is actually more of a misanthropic mission statement. Kevin Parker doesn’t need your presence, he doesn’t want to live up to your standards or take part in your phony-bologna interactions. He is just fine being alone. And to be honest, many of us introverts feel the same way. Our attitude may not always be so aggressive as

There’s a party in my head

And no one is invited

But sometimes it has to be. So much of modern life – cell phones, social networking, videochat, advertising, team-building, texting, travel, holidays, TV and film – unabashedly lionizes camaraderie, love, the human touch, cooperation, warmth, family and all things interpersonal. The underexplored side-effect of all this touchy-feely togetherness is that it can make the introverted feel like pariahs, recluses, defective people lacking in warmth and human affection, people unworthy of love and company. In other words, like shit. One has to burrow deep into Buddhist thought, Carlos Castaneda and other obscure corners to find quiet solitude and self-contentment celebrated with anything approaching the same fervor. That is why “Solitude is Bliss” is such a masterstroke. It is self-acceptance cloaked in the guise of social music. There is an open subtext for introverts in the song, a defiant and potent reminder that we have the right to be happy being alone. Shyness, is a curse. I would love to be able to approach and talk to anyone. However, I don’t want to give the impression that my introversion is some kind of defense mechanism born out of my fear of people. It is not. While Introversion and solitude are ways of being that I would not have explored as extensively without the prompting of shyness, they were always there. There is a deep part of my nature that generates exquisite waves of harmony when provided with adequate space and time. If I am around people for too long it, is the opposite. I become irritable, indecisive and anxious. I want to run and hide in a place where

Nothing else matters

I don’t care what I miss

A quiet, still place. Alone. For us, the introverted, Kevin Parker’s message is right-on. For many of us

Company’s okay

Solitude is bliss

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Friendsgiving turns to Misgivings

I. Intro to Friendsgiving

As my millennial generation finds new ways to dodge the old paradigm of early marriage, a house in the suburbs, one job till the grave and 2.5 kids, we put new spins on the signifiers of the old ways. One of these is the tradition of Thanksgiving. This immaculate family holiday, second perhaps only to Christmas,[i] is an American touchstone, with a magnetic pull all its own. Commercialism and divorce have lessened the pull however, as many of my friends and peers have related to me that Thanksgiving has become a harrowing time of stepfamilies and compromise, overscheduling and face-saving. The act of giving thanks has become too politicized, too decentralized and chaotic. Hence an alternative new-age spinoff – Friendsgiving.

Friendsgiving is a time when friends can come together and enjoy the warm wood grains, cinnamon and chocolate aromas and autumnal reds and browns of the fall holiday. They can drink alcoholic ciders, fill and refill their plates, pretend pumpkin has flavor[ii] and sit blearily on couches – all without the stress, formality and awkwardness of a forced family gathering. It’s a tradition that allows young strivers to feel the contentment of food, fat times and camaraderie without having to worry about racist grandpa Jim or weird lonely Aunt Maude.

I have taken part in the Friendsgiving tradition a few times over the years. There is usually some sort of potluck involved, perhaps a viewing of a sporting event and lots of alcohol. I find Friendsgiving fascinating in the way that it represents a middle stage between childhood and adulthood. There is an inevitable play-acting of maturity that happens every time, as the host or hosts scramble to find a table on which to array the food, hustle to create enough seating for the guests, and jump to take coats and point out refreshments at the door. Even in the grimiest of college apartments, there’s a mood of earnest reflection and celebration in the air, a thankfulness of being young and beautiful, of being intelligent and capable and mobile, of having the whole world in front of us.[iii]

II. Friendsgiving Day

So when a member of the Providence fam – we’ll call him Flores – suggested a Friendsgiving at my rented house on Sunday the 17th, I reluctantly agreed. After all, what better way to ingratiate myself with my new posse, after availing myself their companionship and hospitality in Providence so many times? It was time to pay it back a little bit. And indeed, apart from a few mild snafus, Friendsgiving proceeded well enough. The house I’m renting has more than adequate facilities, with two kitchens, lots of chairs, long folding tables and many kitchen implements. The first car arrived in the late morning. I showed the guests around the house, then gave them a tasting of two of my recent beers. We sat on the deck, grumbled harmlessly about the lateness of the other group[iv] and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather until a rain sent us inside.

The other group arrived with the ingredients and the kitchen hummed into action. I set up some speakers and “Trap Music”[v] began to blare out atop the sounds of turnip chopping and ricotta-whipping. I did not assist in the preparation or procuring of the food, believing that hosting was a reasonable contribution. This may have been a fatal mistake. There was an intermittent dance party in the kitchen, accompanied by very frequent cigarette breaks on the deck and front porch.

Perhaps the most notable activity I undertook during the Friendsgiving was receive creative drafting, editing and proofreading assistance for a series of texts with a girl who had given me her number on Friday. I recently read “The Game” by Neil Strauss, which struck a very resonant chord with me. Though I have not yet learned the pickup arts, I am still pretty decent on the dance floor, which has been getting me some attention lately. However, I have no knowledge or sense of the rules of second contact – I needed the wisdom of the group. It takes a village to text a girl. Consulting the fellowship of the Friendsgiving, I was able to come up with iron-clad, focus-grouped texts that struck an elegant balance between assertion and coolness. My tendencies toward bookishness and passivity were squashed. It was a good exercise. I was opening up, getting different perspectives, becoming invested in positive outcomes and becoming closer to the group. By the time I got a positive response to my proposal[vi], it felt like we had built something together.

However, I also have to mention the ‘introvert vs. people’ battle that was silently taking place in my head. I’m an introvert through and through. I like people in small doses, and to have nine guests in my monastery was difficult at times. Sneaking away to take care of some task or other was essential. I rarely host parties. There’s some part of my personality that’s very particular and very private, and having people messing with my things, undoing my arrangements – or worse, fooling with things I am renting – can make me standoffish and indecisive.

But for the most part I was trying to go with the flow and trust the functionality of the group, another potentially fatal mistake. Flores deep fried the turkey outside under the deck, using the propane from my rented grill. Once it was complete, dinner was served! The meal was delicious, but the eating was marred when a member of the fellowship – we’ll call him Souleymane – was too drunk. He literally fell out of his chair, got into a pseudo-food fight with one of the girls – Wilma – then engaged in a disgusting, too-long, too-much-food-in-mouth slapstick comedy routine. I had to look away to save my appetite, then take my plate of seconds outside when the vulgarity failed to abate.

At the end of the evening I received a bizarre compliment from another guest – we’ll call him Quintavious – which I appreciated as much as one can. It was something along the lines of “I’m supposed to fuck this girl on Friday, but I’d rather be on the dance floor with you.” If I wasn’t dark-skinned I might have blushed.

So generally Friendsgiving was a success. At the end, there was a vagueness about cleanup, the third and final fatal omen. Flores and his girlfriend Wilma promised to come back the next morning to pick up some things. Cleaning assistance may or may not have been implied.[vii] Flores was the one who had suggested my house as the venue. The others piled in cars and left. When everyone was gone, I surveyed the damage. I covered some of the food with foil and refrigerated as much as I could. Cleanup would begin Monday. I felt socially exhausted, but I had had a good time, and the hosting had gone well enough, right? I was also excited in some primordial sense by the prospect of leftovers, that sweetest of Thankgiving side-consequences. The actual consequences of Friendsgiving 2013 would be very different, and much less sweet.

III. The Aftermath, or Black Monday

Getting up on Monday, I realized the sheer weight of the cleanup ahead of me. As I re-surveyed the damage, the mess began to leer and smack of a certain drunken disregard. There were cigarette butts on the porch and my deck table. Smokers had stubbed out their butts on the porch, grinding ash into the cement. There were empty, full and half-full beers everywhere. A full plate of food sat uneaten at the table. Basically the place was a mess. I turned on Worse Than Alone and got to work.

Flores called me and said that he and Wilma were on the way. The small actions that followed managed to enrage me in a profound way. It’s two days later and I’m still seething. I realize that I may be being a small man, or perhaps whiny and “butthurt” as the kids like to say. And yet there was some subtle cocktail of disrespect and inconsideration that got mixed up and thrown in my face that morning, angering me in a deep and very real way.

Flores and Wilma came over, took all of the unused ingredients, leftover food and cooking equipment that they had brought, and left. They did not help me clean up. They did not offer to help me clean up. Flores wanted to funnel his turkey oil back into the containers, but did not bring a funnel. He asked to borrow mine, which I use for beer and thus don’t use on nasty stuff like day-old turkey-frying oil.

“I can’t let you use that funnel, I use it for beer” I said.

“I’ll buy you a new one?” Flores said, disingenuously.

As they drove off I hurled a dish towel at my refrigerator.

“What the Fuck!?” I screamed. They didn’t even leave me a ‘thanks for hosting’ plate of leftovers. All they left me was a house full of mess and a sink full of dirty dishes. I looked out onto the deck. Flores hadn’t even hooked the propane tank back up the grill, he had just left the tank there next to it. I went downstairs and saw that there was oil sprinkled all over the bricks outside my back door, leaving unsightly dark stains that I would have to explain to the landlord.

I felt like I had been used and insulted. I went back to the kitchen and had my first Car Bomb-fueled scream-therapy rage session since I quit my engineering job in Chicago. I was fucking livid.

And as I cleaned, it didn’t get much better. I finally texted my friend – we’ll call him Mustafa – to say how disrespected I felt. He took a defensive position, saying he had asked about cleanup before leaving the night before. I realized I was attempting to drive a wedge between roommates (Mustafa lives with Flores in Providence) so I backed off. Apparently he passed my message though. Soon I received a text from Wilma.

“You’re not seriously upset that [Flores] and I didn’t ‘clean up’, right…” she snarled. “Im sorry, but you really have no right to be mad.”

Wilma is a chef by schooling and profession. I thought bitterly of the Johnson & Wales coat of arms. It has a picture of the two titular chefs standing back-to-back, arms crossed, holding knives and rolling pins. Inscribed beneath these venerable gourmands are the words “Alius quispiam facit lances”, Latin for “Someone else does the dishes”.

I realized that by only being the venue, I had put myself at a major disadvantage. I had little ammunition for protest, as I had not been an active force in the event. Had I contributed in some significant way to the meal and hosted, I could have gone on a skull-cracking rampage if no one had cleaned up. I probably would not have let anyone leave without cleaning, had I done any work during prep time. Mistakes were made, fatal mistakes.

I called upon Saint Dale Carnegie and decided with his help that if I argued I would go too hard, with too few resources and make things worse. I disingenuously texted back “You’re correct. I was being a small man.”

“I apologize if I came off rude, I was just hearing things through the grapevine.” Was Wilma’s reply. I should have been happy about this. Saint Carnegie was smiling and pushing me along toward reconciliation, but my reply had been too false. All I wanted to text back was “yeah yeah, FUCK YOU”, but I couldn’t very well write that.[viii] After all, these are the people I’m friends with now, the people who took me in when I moved to Rhode Island and showed me the good times and hospitality, generosity and kindness…

My landlord – Amos Carcetti for now – came over that afternoon to rake leaves. After the formalities, I shamefacedly told him about the oil on the bricks. This was a blow to my pride and another reason to be pissed. I am in a pseudo-housesitting arrangement, and any disrespect I show to the house reflects badly on me, and sours the relationship between myself and Mr. Carcetti. Flores had made me look like an asshole and I didn’t appreciate it. At Amos’ behest, I scrubbed Dawn dish detergent into the bricks like a colonial servant in the dying light. “Happy Friendsgiving you fucking assholes” ran over and over through my head.

I made my own dinner Monday night like a schmuck. I didn’t finish cleaning until late in the evening, at which point I started writing this.

It’s Tuesday and I’m still bitter and still holding a grudge. I am still dealing with the oiled bricks. When Flores threw out the idea of using my place, I naively thought he might take some ownership of and responsibility for the event. Instead he was many hours late, did semi-permanent damage to the bricks Mr. Carcetti had laid down himself,  and did nothing to keep the venue – i.e. me – happy or reassured.

If Flores had asked, a week or two ago, “Can we have Friendsgiving dinner at your place? We’ll leave cigarette butts all over your porch and deck, won’t leave you any leftovers, won’t lift a finger to help you clean, and bequeath you with both short and long-term messes to deal with.” I would have known what to say right then.

I suppose there is a silver lining to the whole fiasco. The feeling of being exploited by my so-called friends awakened the old misanthropic and competitive instincts that kept me burrowing into culture and hobbies whenever I felt lonely and out-of-place. A composite creature made up of Henry Rollins, Don Juan and Ayn Rand materialized and whispered reassuring things into my ear.

“You’ll show them.” it said. “Your ‘friends’ might know and like you, but in the end they’ll never understand you. If you want people to understand you, you have to get to work understanding yourself”. It felt not like a push toward bitterness and paralysis, but a call to renew my work ethic and sense of self. Instead of resting on the laurels of friendship, I should be really drilling down on the creative projects that I quit my job and rented this house to do. There has been too much socializing and not enough finished product. Too much fitting in and not enough standing out.

And yet, I’m not turning my back on the idea of social life, after all, I tentatively have a date on Friday. I only hate people sometimes. I’ll ask for advice. Should I just get over it? Should I air my grievances in a mannered and thorough way? Should I air my grievances in a belligerent and physical way? Should I pretend the whole thing never happened? Should I trim back on the socializing and dive deeper into solitude?

I have a feeling this might blow over, I can’t hold grudges for too long, but I also feel like one wrong comment could make me blow up inappropriately with rage in the future. There might be a closing window here in which I must speak soon or hold my peace. The fact is that on the whole I feel slightly negative about the whole event, like the fun Friendsgiving times on Sunday were not worth seeing red all Monday and into Tuesday. One thing is for sure though, unless someone makes an overture to me, there will be no more gatherings at Carcetti house. Now I just need to get enough balls to state why I feel the need for an overture in the first place.


[i] In fact now inextricably linked to Christmas due to the dread tradition of Black Friday, which has infected the holiday itself, creating a sort of Dark Brown Thursday Night.

[ii] This is a fight for another day, but I firmly believe that pumpkin itself has negligible to no flavor. People just associate pumpkin with the spices that are always added to it, like clothing on a mannequin, or sulfur on natural gas. This is why it’s impossible to find a really good pumpkin beer, because pumpkin is just a flavorless gourd that enjoys popularity by association.

[iii] As you can tell, I’ve been hanging with the privileged, educated or striving classes. I have yet to experience a working-class Friendsgiving, and don’t know if I ever will.

[iv] I had actually gone out with the other group the night before, but slipped away after the last bar closed, eschewing the afterparty. Apparently the imbibements continued long into the night, resulting in the lateness the next day.

[v] I thought “Trap Music” referred to those slamming Lex Luger beats that everyone loved a few years ago, with rappers shamelessly spitting drugs and violence over them. Apparently I was wrong, and “Trap Music” is just a certain kind of EDM now. “Lex Luger” drew a blank – “You mean the Superman villain? No wait, the wrestler” was one reply. EDM is like a musical Galactus, consuming and decontextualizing everything. Jamaican-style Dub and Hip-Hop-style Trap are now obscure and distant memories, cryptic and uncool as the Dead Sea scrolls. I wonder what unsuspecting genre will be overtaken next.

[vi] Drinks and dancing on Friday. This complicates things, because I promised I would bring friends. If we are at an impasse or I’m still feeling super sour, the arrangement might not go through.

[vii] I really should have got this in writing.

[viii] I imagine “Wilma” might read this at some point. Just know that I have to strike a balance between the truth and writerly ethics on this blog. I’m not out to defame or ridicule anyone, but if I was only out for affirmation and sunshine, I would have stayed on facebook.

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