Cop in Bike Lane

I’m being unfair. This absolutely did not happen to me. Today. | via CitySpoke

Today was glorious in New York City. It was a very nice change from last week, which left us in an early summer swelter that made riding more of a chore than a joy. It was cooler today, and much nicer.

I had to buy a new hat, since the one I typically wear at work got dropped in the toilet. I’m… less than inclined to wear it now. I did so, and on the ride home from that stop was thinking about how much I hate it when people salmon on a one-way street. That led to me thinking about a utopian vision, wherein the police, drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists were not always in conflict with each other. In this world, it would not instantly appear a bad thing when a cop stopped a cyclist for failing to follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world, and I find my anger with people who break the rules of riding overridden by the inherent distrust that a rider feels vis-a-vis the cops. This distrust, of course, is not something I have directly earned. In fact, for the most part, I’ve been well treated in the cases I’ve had to deal with them.

I don’t have to think too hard about the sociological reasons why that might be.

Digression aside, an irony occurred. Literally as I was thinking this, I came to a traffic light. It was red, but there was no traffic, so I rode through. I paid no mind to the fact that there was a police car first in line at that light. It turned, and I heard the siren.

Damn it.

In the end, there was no real trouble. I pulled over behind a parked car and the officer told me that I have to stop at red lights, just as a car does. This is true, and something that I know. He was very polite and let me go with just the admonishment, not even bothering to ask my name. I could only shake my head and smile at my good fortune.

Again, I didn’t have to think too hard about the sociology of it.

The lesson here is obviously one that we’ve all learned endlessly in our lives: be careful for what you wish. Also, be careful with your grammar.

The worst.

Such a mundane thing to be a bane of my existence.

I really, really, really don’t like doing laundry.

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Justin Timberlake by Tom Munro

And he wears Tom Ford. | via toobaditsgood

So, Justin Timberlake.

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Droste effect

It has to stop eventually.

I admit, it seems a little weird that I would post just a few new entries to my blog after so long away, only to then disappear for over two months. Again.

The thing is, this time, there was a reason.

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I am worried about the state of my creativity. I am very good at starting things, but not so good at finishing them. I take it, from something that has recently come to my attention, that I am not alone in this phenomenon, but I don’t like it.

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Fucking faggots

You’ll understand it in a minute, probably.

Picture the scene: it’s mid-November, the middle of a gorgeous fall in New York City. (You know, except for that whole devastating storm thing that happened a couple of weeks earlier.) It was not yet cold and wintry enough for me to talk myself out of riding my bike to work, so I hadn’t. It was midafternoon and I was on my way home, walking my bike across the street onto the bridge.

Sometimes, many people don’t know how to drive in NYC. Annoyingly, one of the things that these people like to do is stop in the middle of a crosswalk. This is maddening in any situation, but it is especially galling when that crosswalk leads onto the Brooklyn Bridge. I assume that this guy had never heard of it before, because that’s the only reason I can imagine for his failure to stop at the proper place.

I had to cross the street in front of him, in a space that was narrowly large enough for my to fit through with my bike. Sadly, I miscalculated, and accidentally nicked his bumper with my pedal.

Apparently that showed him that I am a fucking faggot.

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Drive is what happens when Lost in Translation and Oldboy have a baby.

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Those were the droids you were looking for.

The mind trick wore off. | from Very Demotivational

My personal philosophy has long been to not regret. My basis for this is fairly simple: given the assumption that the total outcome of your life’s decisions has led you to where you are, if you are happy, then you have nothing to regret. After all, even the bad or “wrong” decisions you made were part of what got you to a happy place, so there is no reason to regret them even if you recognize that they were incorrect.

I certainly don’t mean for this to be the sort of thing that everyone takes to heart; there are dozens of reasons for any given person to disagree with me, even if they are by my standard perfectly happy. However, for me, it has worked. I have made plenty of incorrect decisions in my life, but the place where I resided was, after a fair number of bumpy spots, generally happy.

I never really considered the flip side of that coin, though, which is that if you are not happy, then you are going to be filled with regret. I had just kind of assumed that regret was something I could forget entirely, when I was actually setting myself up to be crushed by it.

I had never really thought about it before, because I have been unhappy at times since I decided to think this way. However, in those times, there was always something particular to point to, a specific reason that I was not doing so hot that I could sort of hold onto, like a life raft that would float me back to normalcy once I overcame it. That always worked for me, and maybe never appeared to be contradicting my basic stance. Sure, things sucked, but they would be all right soon enough.

Now, though? Not nearly so simple. The past year or so has been a series of (I guess) not-so-good things, made in series, not always related to each other but each compounding in my head, drowning out the good things to a point where I… I don’t think I’m depressed, but I am certainly edging in that direction.

The short answer is that my personal philosophy is a fucking nightmare if the problem in my life is, well, me.

I feel like such a fool complaining about this. I know that people have it far worse than I do, and I also know that there are tiny things that are taking on major significance that they do not necessarily need, only because my mental makeup is a mess.

I’ve started working as a barista again in the past few weeks, and that has helped me see just how much of a regretful mess I have been. The things that are giving me psychic comfort these days are enough to drive any sane person to melancholy; while one should definitely take joy in the little things in life, those little things should not be the only joy tucked into a veritable orgy of self-destructive thoughts. I mean, at the very least, I should be able to listen to music on my walk back to my apartment without losing myself in dark thoughts.

I’ve always had a propensity for a sort of negativity in my thoughts; when I started writing seriously, a friend asked me what I wrote about, and my pithy response was “love, sad endings, and the idea of home”. While that has changed some (not as much as I would like), the basic idea that I don’t think much about happy endings has remained. I mean, at its most basic level, the greatest number of happy endings a person can get is one. There are many more opportunities for the sad ending, and some people, maybe a lot of people, never even get the one happy one.

The counter to this is that whether an ending is happy or sad depends on where you stop reading the story. I concede this argument and respectfully disagree.

So, if I’ve even been sort of negative when I was happy, what the fuck did I expect to happen when I wasn’t? And the answer is, I didn’t expect anything. I just sort of assumed that I would be happy, insofar as never considering the alternative is assuming. The problem there is obvious: we all know what assuming does.

So here I am, filled with regret for the first time I can remember, over decisions I’ve made and conversations I’ve had and job interviews I’ve blown, and I am literally at a loss as to how to get out of it. And, irony of ironies (if you’re into that sort of thing), I regret that most of all.

I Wonder by Natalie Dee

This is a wonder with which I am familiar. | by Natalie Dee

[This entry is the fourth for #reverb10, an online initiative to reflect on the year and manifest what's next. Today's prompt is to write about what I did to cultivate a sense of wonder in my life this year.]

Wonder is such a strange concept for me. I do not usually feel wonder in any sense that I think of the word; my idea of “wonder” is that sense you get when you are a child and you find out that something you did not know was possible is, in fact, possible.

I am amazed, I guess, by things like flying cars and new forms of life and Jupiter Jumps, but I don’t class those feelings as wonder.

Probably the closest I get to wonder is the feeling I get when I read or see something that makes me want to create. The feeling I get in those situations, whether it’s my 30th or 40th rereading of Gatsby or watching A Single Man for the first time and understanding all the little tricks that make it so heartbreaking, is dangerous, in its way. I get dreamy and distracted, thinking only about what I could be doing, how I should be better.

Given that this is, of course, me that we are talking about, this is oftentimes followed up by crushing depression brought on by the fact that I end up doing nothing with the lightning strike flash of inspiration. Many times, this is practical; if I’m two stops from getting off the train, starting would be nonsensical, and inevitably by the time I get through the door of my apartment and complete the process of settling down, the inspiration has passed.

Other times, it is less defensible. Indefensible, even. I will be at my apartment, sometimes even by myself or alone late at night (as I frequently am), and I will get that flash, but I will not follow the compulsion. I know I should, I really do; the laserlike focus that I am granted on these occasions is good for (writing-wise) a few pages that I will reread in the morning and actually enjoy. If I followed the flashes of wonder, I would write about pretty girls that smell of powder sitting in a swing strung under a tree in the fall when it’s really too cold to be outside, and she will break my heart again in exactly the same way when I read about her later as she did when I was making her.

I wish I felt wonder more often, in the childlike sense that I miss or the literary way I consider it, but I think I might have damaged my ability to feel it. Most of my teens and early 20s were spent doing everything I could to inure myself against getting hurt. I put up walls, withdrew, learned to use my charms not as aspects of my personality but as things I could deploy in the right situations, to defuse or disarm or, more literally, to charm. I thought for a long time that this would make me happy.

We think a lot of things when we are young and stupid that turn out to have absolutely no fucking bearing on reality. I have tried to open myself up more, to let go of trying to make everyone happy and protecting myself, to be the real me. The problem there is that in a lot of ways the me that I showed people was more likable than I really am, but then again, I was able to cull people who didn’t belong in my life, or maybe let them drop me, and gather friends who actually like me for me.

That is worth something, and has on occasion been wonderful. Even still, I am afraid as always to open myself up any more, to allow a sense of wonder to sneak past the cynical, knowing half-smile with which I usually greet new information. I fear getting hurt more than I am usually willing to admit.

What is it holding me back from?

You know, there is a really easy answer to this question, “what did I do to cultivate a sense of wonder?” I should have said I watched Double Rainbow, all the way.

Now THAT is wonder right there.

Peanuts: Good Writing is Hard Work

Wisdom on writing by someone who would know. | from Paulo Izidoro’s Flickr

[This entry is the second for #reverb10, an online initiative to reflect on the year and manifest what's next. Today's prompt is to figure out what gets in the way of my writing and what I can do to eliminate it.]

To wonder what I do each day that does not contribute to my writing is to wonder what it is, in fact, that does contribute to my writing.

My problem is primarily that in my fiction writing (which is my favorite kind), my subject matter, or at least my themes, tend to be fairly narrow in scope. I write often about love, but hardly ever the happy, life-affirming kind. It is typically the kind that fucks you up but leaves you confident that next time it will be different.

I never get to the different, better next times. I have not written a happy ending in a long time; I am not one hundred percent sure that I would know how to do so if it the possibility even presented itself. That rarely happens, unfortunately; my characters tend to be doomed from the start.

As far as contributing to that writing goes, well, my job is not helping. I work as an office monkey for a small firm; I don’t even get to observe any clandestine interoffice romances, because my only coworkers are a man in his early 40s and his mother, who is nearing 70.

Any romance in that office would be awkward as fuck.

Additionally, in the much less abstract sense, I do not get many opportunities to actually write while I am working. It does happen sometimes, but I’m much more apt to be distracted by conversations with friends or the internet or a game of Spider Solitaire or even occasionally my work-related duties than I am to spend my free(ish) moments writing. It’s not useful or smart, but I feel like I can’t help myself sometimes.

Then there is my after work life, which is to say my real life. It is hardly conducive either to actually writing or to getting inspired for it. No matter how well or poorly any relationship in which I may be involved is going, one of my past ones is going to provide me better fodder for anything I choose to do for at least a couple of reasons. For one, I like to think (like Rob in High Fidelity) that I’ve just been through enough relationships now that I know better than to let myself get fucked up like that. For another, if I were to write about anything going on in my present life, I would most likely get in trouble in one way or another, and getting in (more) trouble is not my preferred method of functioning.

There’s also the greater problem of me just frequently completely failing to enjoy the process of writing. I’ve had a few good ideas, somewhat limited subject matter aside. Some of them have come to fruition, after a fashion. At least the writing portion of the story was finished. Unfortunately, in the cases of things that I have completed, the writing portion was only the first part of the story.

The form in which I have written the most in my technically adult years is screenplays. I am very visual by nature, but like Richie Tenenbaum, I failed to develop as a painter. Writing, however, is something that I like to humor myself that I am good at. The best combination of these things, I thought, would be to write screenplays. The real problem with writing screenplays, it turns out, is that they need to be turned into films to get the full effect. I’ve written two features and a slew of shorts, each with an eye toward filming myself. Unfortunately, for a whole host of reasons ranging from a source of money to buy a camera disappearing into thin air to an assistant director quitting on me out of nowhere, it has not happened yet. The reasons have been many and varied, and it has taken a toll on me, even if ultimately some perseverance would have pushed me through.

This has trickled down to all of my creative endeavors. There have been long stretches of time in my life where the mere idea of sitting down to create was paralyzingly depressing. Other times, it has just been that this video game I’m playing feels way more compelling.

Regardless of the “reason”, the thing that ultimately gets in the way of my writing the most is that I won’t make myself do it. Sometimes, it is really fun, the words just flow out and all you have to do is go back later and make sure you spelled everything correctly when your hands were dancing over the keys (or you were dragging your pen across the page, or whatever). Other times, it is like pulling teeth. From a charging rhinoceros.

Those times are less pleasant.

The fact is, part of the reason I am doing this exercise, and part of the reason I did NaNoWriMo, and part of the reason I did 30 Days of Music over the summer, is because I do much better when I have a compelling reason to write other than helping me get my own insane neuroses off my chest.

Are all neuroses insane by definition? I’ll have to check that out.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: the thing that most often gets in the way of my writing is my own idiot self. I can and should correct that. Starting…