20/11/28 – Changes

It’s a tough thing to watch people you care about running in to walls, repeating self-defeating patterns over and over again, confused at why they’re not getting the kind of results they think they should be getting, given their actions. The impulse to correct someone else’s behavior and ideas is a pretty tough one to resist.

Fortunately, perhaps, it’s an effectively impossible task to change someone else. They have to do it themselves, or at least be intentionally receptive to the idea, in order for it to work. It’s why, I suspect, Alcoholics Anonymous has such a dismal success rate. Psychiatric treatment is predicated on the patient seeking out the treatment to begin with (compulsory therapy is remarkably unsuccessful.)

Now let’s leave aside the purity of intention with regards to the desire to change someone else, because it’s pretty much always suspect and that gets deep fast and wasn’t really where I was going.

You can’t grab someone and shake them hard enough to force new information into their head. Learning something new and deciding to change who we are as people is a very dangerous prospect. You can’t REALLY learn something new without unlearning something you already know. And the idea of having someone else try to change you intentionally is almost laughable in its naivete.

So we can’t really even talk about changing someone else, since it requires that person to actually do the work of unlocking doors and taking out the trash. Or at least, I can’t. There are smart people out there who I’m sure can address the topic.

But this is something Peterson hits pretty hard. If you realize you’re wrong about something, you have to unmake a part of your identity in order to internalize the new information. Otherwise…well there is no “otherwise.” In fact, once you’ve realized you’re wrong about something you’ve already taken a step in fragmenting your identity, if not the fundamental reality of who you are.

There are of course people who hold on to ideas they know to be wrong with both hands, creating a schism in their own mind. I’ve watched this happen with people and it’s really quite frightening to behold. When someone knows they’re wrong but have SO much invested in a particular idea that they can’t let go of it. I suppose it overlaps with cognitive dissonance.

But to really complete that progression you’ve got to let yourself go. You HAVE to stop identifying with your identity. The amount of yourself that you identify with has to necessarily shrink. It’s a strange process “Oh, that’s not ME. That’s just something I think now.”

I’ve gone through that cycle enough that I know what it feels like. I get angry in direct proportion to the strength with which I hold an idea to be true because I literally consider said idea as a part of who I am. I remembered this starkly and recently a few years ago when I read both Mike Cernovich’s “Gorilla Mindset” and Robert Glover’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” They made me angry as hell. I sulked and grumbled and whined to myself. Then I sat with those ideas fuming around in my skull for…shit it was probably months.

I realize now that I was cutting off what I thought was a mental limb from my body. But when I realized they were right about at least most of what they were talking about.

I’ve had a lot of hard lessons in my life that have resulted in sharp direction and identity reassessments. But I think this was the moment where I learned the meta-lesson, which I’d been exposed to a hundred hundred times before, that I’m not my thoughts, that I’m something much smaller in diameter yet much larger in scope than I could possibly have imagined.

I know I learned it because upon internalizing it, the lesson was a peaceful and reassuring one. And it’s not an inexorable step forward. I backslide into the convenience of resting my soul on the hatrack of interesting sounding ideas from time to time. But it’s with much less strength each time.

So now when I talk with my mother, as a poignant example, about not watching the news and she says “But how do you know what to believe?” I can look at her and say “Why believe any of it? Why would you pay any attention to people who are paid to make you think and feel something?”

I had a friend, who seems to have retreated entirely who, at the depth of a bender sat me down at my side of the bar and after some conversational foreplay said “Hey man, I have a question.”

“Sure dude, what’s up?”

“You seem to be…” He wobbled drunkenly as he groped for the word “…a discerning person.”

“I like to think so.”

“Well…how do you know you’re right?” It was really out of left field and at first I wasn’t at all sure what he meant.

But he went on to try and sell Socialism and some of his favorite thinkers on the topic, pointing me to some website I wrote down in a notebook someplace, quite dishonestly, crowing about their elocution and how they handled every argument against socialism with aplomb. He claimed they’d thought of and countered every objection. Except, apparently, reality.

“Man, ever heard of The Marquis de Sade?”

“Wasn’t he that sadist?”

“Yeah that’s where the word comes from. Anyway in a former life I read a LOT of de Sade’s work.” He looked a little shocked. Fair enough. I don’t seem the type who knows much about ‘The Divine Marquis’. “He wrote a piece that was a refutation of the existence of Christian God.” He nodded, wide eyed. Superficially familiar territory for a 28 year old socialist wannabe.

“So it’s an argument between a hedonist and a priest in prison and it ends with the priest abdicating his beliefs and almost certainly diving face first into a babble of young girls. At the time I thought it was brilliant. But here’s the thing…he wrote both sides of the argument. Of course it was going to go the way he wanted it to go. He planned the whole thing that way and made himself look smart in the process.”

He teetered in his chair as he sank another glass of whiskey.

“You can’t go to one source of information for anything. And even if you do, you have to consider strong arguments outside of their contrived context. Do they hold together in day to day life? Are they USEFUL arguments? Do they have exceptions? What kind? Does that invalidate the truth of them? You have to be able to do this with all the information you hear. So beware the temptation to become enamored of a thinker or a speaker, owing to his elegance and erudition. Even…ESPECIALLY if their arguments seem to hold true across the board. And if you have access to them as people, watch them. Watch them closely to see if they behave in concert with their espoused beliefs.”

Well, who the hell knows if I said all of that. But I ranted thus on the topic for some time. I was half in the bag myself.

“But how do you know you’re RIGHT?” He said with some pleading in his voice. And I had a V8 moment as I realized quite suddenly he hadn’t been arguing with me this whole time, but looking for help in his ongoing argument with himself. He’d taken half a step off the cliff.

“I’ve been exactly where you are, philosophically and developmentally, and I know there isn’t anything I can say that can help bring you out of it or through it. The best I can do is tell you to be courageous with yourself and be a complete bastard when it comes to your safe ideas. Invite Kali into your life. You have to sacrifice yourself. IF you’re right you’ll come out all the stronger for it. If you aren’t, well… you’re pretty damned smart and you can break through it.”

Well, he liked the implicit compliment but was otherwise unsatisfied. He’s a good person with a refreshing mind among a world of dullards. But I haven’t heard from him since.

I can’t save you man. I can’t even save myself.

I don’t know where I heard this. I can’t imagine for a moment it’s original. But I’ve no recollection of having ever heard anyone else say it and I don’t remember having read it anyplace. Probably just a selective self-serving failing of my memory. But there’s a way you can help people IF they’re poised to receive help (that includes yourself of course.)

“Ask yourself this question: If you were wrong, how would you know? Don’t answer me, because that’s fraught with social difficulties, egos and such. People are inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear. But in your heart of hearts ask yourself what would have to be true for you to be wrong. There’s only one wrong answer: But I’m not. Because if you ask, and you have to really ask, you’ll come up with something. That starts you on the path to discovery.”

It’s one of only two gateways to the underlying wiring of my head I’ve been able to successfully employ with any consistency (the other being journaling.) Watch your mind. Are there things about yourself and what you think that you won’t even ask about, where you can’t even form the question? Ah…begin there. Well…okay, maybe don’t begin there. That’s pretty rough on the ego. Begin with something innocuous so you can get used to the process.

We treasure our identities. We love who we think we are. It’s the closest thing to a real home we have for ourselves. The thing is, even when you put that at risk and abandon some of those thoughts and facets, you still HAVE an identity. You still HAVE a home in your mind that is you. Sure, it’s not what you thought it was. But that doesn’t make it less you. It doesn’t make it less of a home. Hell, it makes it more of one because you’ve cut away some of the dead weight of what you thought you were.

It’s quite like dispensing with friends who drag you down; the bucket crabs and narcissists. Get rid of 80% of your “friends” who serve your life ill and the other 20% do more than take up the rest of that space. Those friendships improve, have more value and you gain some pride in having standards, really being who you are. All this entirely independent of the benefit from cutting away the draw down on your life.

There’s so much coming at us all the damned time from all quarters: People, ideas, marketing, products. And we unthinkingly take on so much that we become mired in this horseshit, literally unable to recognize ourselves in the media and mimetic soup. And I’m not convinced, not at all convinced that the only defense to it isn’t to add to yourself by subtraction of the superfluous and dangerous, but I repeat myself.

2020/11/18 – Smokey – Water Under the Bridge Continued [HHC N+1 of M]

I just took that previous post, collected the HHC posts and built an HhcIndex post (out of an older intro post) and added it to the Index Posts post then, having posted and updated all of that, I posted it to twitter.

While I was there I saw a “like” notification of one of my tweets from a few days ago about a topic that keeps coming up and it struck me all over again.

These platforms are so fucking ephemeral that we’re losing our minds trying to keep track of things.

When I tell people I’m a heavy twitter user they almost always have the same question: “How do you keep track of conversations?”

And the response is a simple one: “The same way you walk in to a bar and keep track of what’s going on there. You don’t. You don’t walk into a bar and say ‘everybody hold up. Can we replay the last couple hours?'” People’d think you were insane. You catch what you can, jump in where you can and keep it going from there.

It’s everywhere. All of the short attention span social media platforms, instagram, facebook, snapchat, twitter, telegram, slack, discord, etc. They all suffer from this horrid design deficiency.

Even newsletters just kinda…drift off in to the past, rather than build on a body of work. And yeah yeah “you COULD go back and archive them” yadda yadda, fuck the bisque.

There are a lot of people out there who have something fascinating to say, and have said it. But if you missed it…oh well, it’s gone in all practical ways.

27 years later, we’ve missed the point of hypermedia, using it to build fucking apps and other assorted horseshit.

Jordan Peterson makes a fascinating point about The Bible being the first hyperlinked document, what with its massive amount of cross-referencing. Somewhere he posted, or displayed in a lecture of his, a diagram of the interrelationships and cross-referencing in the bible and it’s absolutely startling. As a body of knowledge it’s really quite singular.

What if what we were able to bring together the things we post online into a cohesive whole, treating these forums less like an ongoing casual conversation and more like a single crafted…thing?

I know that’s not going to appeal to everyone or perhaps even to a lot of people. But it sure as fuck appeals to me. If I could easily harness the interrelated nature of my accumulated thoughts over time I’d sure as fuck get an awful lot better at thinking itself. I’d refine my ideas, my ideals, and the ways I expressed them. It would take me places and I daresay it would be interesting to at least some other people as well.

There’s something here and maybe it starts with a simple software project like the blog/wiki hybrid. It’s tough to see where something like this would really GO. But I’ve got the sense that taking the steps to get there is fundamentally required in order to actually see around the next bend. Then, a few iterations past, perhaps there would be sufficient data to plot an actual trajectory and extrapolate a bit.

After all, the tech required to do this is utterly trivial.

If I built it, would people use it? Who the fuck knows. I certainly would. Hell I’ve got pieces of this kind of thing all over my servers. A common format, some creative conventions and managing the impedence mismatch between a couple/few different platforms would be all it would take to have the full body of functionality together.

I’d have to let go of the idea of the static post in favor of “evolving documents.” But I don’t have much of an issue with that. SOME documents should be “living.”

The document of someone’s life especially so.

2020/11/18-Water Under The Bridge [HHC: N of M]


Nah. Not that kind of water under the bridge. I’m not the forgiving type. Well…that’s not strictly true. I just don’t make the same fucking mistake of trusting the same person twice after I get fucked. But that’s still not what this is about.


Since the original days of my first blog: The Universal Church of Cosmic Uncertainty (Radio Userland blog 0108194) I’ve been endlessly frustrated by the blog format, the way posts are just chronological. That’s fine if you’re just journaling….no, even that’s not okay.


The problem is that it’s really tough to find things that you’ve posted after they’ve disappeared off the front page. I suppose if you had the right keywords it would be easy. But you’d still have to know to go look.


I like to go back and reread my writing. I don’t know if that’s weird or not. But it brings me back to familiar places in my head, visiting old rooms and thinking “oh shit! I forgot all this was back here!”


That’s why I’ve done things like create the index posts for ongoing multi-post topics.


But it’s not really enough.


The original WikiWikiWeb, by Ward Cunningham (not that piece of trash people think of when the word Wiki comes up) was a great little platform, truly elegant in its simplicity.


All you did was, when you were creating or editing an entry was create a WikiWord, which was 2 or more words jammed together like that. The engine would assume that was a link to a page with that title. If it existed, it would automatically turn that WikiWord into a link. If it didn’t, it would render it with a little hyperlink question mark next to it. If you clicked on that question mark it brought you to the “new page” form to create an entry with that title.


So what you ended up with was an authoring system that would let you link to pre-existing pages or new ones ad hoc. Then you or someone else (the original wiki was open to editing by all) could create that page and automatically, any reference to that page title would be subsequently rendered with a link to that page. It was fucking magical.


Imagine then, writing a long entry about a topic with a bunch of things that needed clarification or extended references. You could just pepper the document with WikiWords and hit save. Lo and behold, if you were generally on topic (the WikiWeb was centered around object oriented software development, complete with the predictable level of tangentry) then when you hit publish, those links would just light up.


More than once I’d put a bunch of WikiWords in a post, thinking I’d have to go back and create the pages only to find out that a lot of the topics I was referencing already had pages dedicated to them out there.


Then there was a “RecentChanges” page that was different in that it just showed a timeline of pages that had been created or edited recently. So you could use that as a FrontPage if you were just looking to see where currently active conversations were going.


Fascinating stuff. I’m not sure if it’s still up. It’s certainly not still editable.
But it made it easy to build a body of knowledge that would let you jump around in an extremely powerful and intuitive way, unlike the current mess we have, which represents a conceptual and semantic, if not technological, backslide.


There were two other very important and simple properties the wiki had, one by design, one as a side effect.


If you were on a page and you clicked on that page’s title, it would return a search of every page that had a link to it. So it was easy to see who was talking about a particular topic and scan back references and such.


As a result of that people would tag posts with category names. So this would, for instance, have “CategoryWiki CategoryBlog” at the bottom. Then, as long as people had added Category tags to pages, you could get a category index.


The CategoryWiki post would have a little blurb about what a wiki was, etc. At the bottom of THAT there was usually a “CategoryCategory” tag. Click on CategoryCategory and you’d get a top-level list of all categories/topics where people had obeyed the convention. Great stuff.


But that’s all gone in the dated blog format, which has more the “river of news” format that current social media sites have, where things just disappear into the past as soon as enough new content was posted to push it off the chronological front page.


Sure it’s still there. But how the hell to get to it?


So one of my software projects that keeps getting pushed to the back burner (in a self-referential bit of irony) has been to take the blog format and build a hybrid, either through a wordpress plug-in or by building something new from scratch that would mix the approaches.


That way I’d be able to navigate the map of things I’ve already written about easily.


I do most of my writing on a desktop wiki system that I’ve wrtten that’s…kinda there. I’ve got to make some changes and add some more interesting handling of titles (more on that later.)


But now that I’m doing an awful lot more writing (lately about 30x what I had been at the beginning of the spring) it’s becoming more and more important to me that I’m able to skip along the wavecaps of these topics. It’ll help me go back and develop “older” content, bringing it up to date and stop me from writing posts that, most of the way through them, seem….hauntingly familiar.


I can’t imagine it would do anything less than sharpen my thinking.


Because right now I’m finding myself going over old topics and rehashing them from scratch, knowing that somewhere out there I’ve already hit these points.
Hell, I can do THAT just by talking to myself. The trick is to reaccess the old rooms in my head where projects are half built and continue them, after some familiarizing, from where they were, rather than form the first half of the thought every eighteen months.


Once I get that nailed down the format of this site will be changing quite a lot. I may end up just generating a static site offline and re-uploading a re-render of changed entries


Like this. I’m absolutely positive that something close to EXACTLY this post exists both on this blog in at least two places and in prior incarnations and other platforms.

—–

CategoryProject CategoryWiki CategoryBlog CategoryProgramming CategoryHhc

2020/11/18 – Smokey – Who knows

So I was tooling around online today at about 2:00, having just finished the dishes, the laundry, and my big bowl of chili lunch (no hot dogs), setting up my development tools for a day of coding and the music in the kitchen stopped, the UPS started screaming.


Ah well. Power’s out. Grabbed my jacket, my laptop bag, stuffed my pockets with knives and such, grabbed my glasses, hitched up the horse and buggy and headed into town to sit at the cigar lounge. This was tomorrow’s plan. But no plan survives contact with the enemy.


So I get here, drop my laptop down at my table (I have a table and a seat pretty much wherever I go.) I hit the humidor and picked up 4 cigars and two Diet Dr. Peppers. It’s more than I’ll smoke in one sitting. But I’m trying to build up my reserves and I don’t mind paying these guys the brick & mortar premium on good sticks. The Diet Dr. Pepper is a nice happy medium between cola and something fruity that goes great with cigars. In a perfect world I think maybe a good Diet Root Beer would be best. But they don’t have that. It’s not much of a concession.


I set up the power cable, got my bits and bobs in place (glasses, headphones, phone, microfiber cloth for the screen and my glasses,) moved the ash tray to it’s final position (as a southpaw it’s always in the wrong place) and got to work.


Logging in to the damned electric company website (after two failed password attempts and an initial delve into the wrong password file) I saw what I pretty much expected:

Service terminated due to lack of payment.

OY

The great thing about having everying being automatically paid is that you don’t have to think about shit like this, which is my Achilles’ heel. It’s never a money issue (anymore) but I can NOT keep on top of shit like that. Before this weird age of man I was constantly worrying about (among everything else) what was paid and what wasn’t. When this or that was due. It felt like a damned near full time job just to stay on top of my fucking utilities. Now I can take all the bills and just stick them in a box for never.


The biggest problem with having everything being automatically paid is that when your primary debit card expires, things just…stop. I thought I’d had everything under control. But without any other notification, there wasn’t really any way to tell. Yeah yeah I should have a fucking checklist.


So I updated the damned thing, checked “$35 reconnection fee” (which I read as “$35 stupid tax”) and hit “Pay Now.”


Now I know the power’s back on at the house. God only knows what the clocks are gonna say when I get home. But what kind of geek would I be if I had accurate clocks?


But I’m here. So blathering into a word processor over a couple great cigars seems like the thing to do.

Had a funny little interlude yesterday I probably should’ve folded into yesterday’s post.


I’d been dragging my ass on changing the address on my driver’s license and the registration of the truck. So I got all my ducks together and made a couple calls yesterday to plan on doing all of that today.


But by the time I was done with that it was only about 2:30 so I figured “fuck it. I can probably bang that out.”


I went to the emissions inspection station (which is a drive-through thing down here in Tennessee, like a jiffy-lube. They do it in 2 minutes and it costs $9. Fine.)


The guy made me stand outside the building (rather than just stay in my truck) presumably because I wasn’t wearing a mask.


I asked for directions to the County Clerk’s office and it was about 2 miles away, right past the Walmart.


Realizing that if anyplace was gonna be strict about the mask mandate it was going to be the county clerk’s office I stopped in to walmart and picked up a few $1.97 bandanas. I keep my hair up in them in the workshop anyway so I can always use a couple more.
That way if I was actually forced…I could wear one.


GPS had me drive around in a circle twice before I figured out it was lying to me. I pulled in to the right building the third time around, realizing what was going on, and went to walk in to the building.
A woman stopped me…


“s’cuse me. I gotta take your temperature.”


“O…kay” I said, making as if I was gonna pull down my pants. Got a laugh out of her as she aimed some laser thing at my head.
I started to walk in.


“Excuse me sir?”


“Hmm?”


“Do you have a mask?”


I pulled out one of my new bandanas, snapped the tag off of it and held it up.


“Okay good. Go ahead.”


I put it back in my pocket and walked in.


She made a vowel movement of some kind as I walked in.


Nobody in the building gave me a second glance.


The whole exchange ended up taking about 4 minutes, with smalltalk.
I walked out past her, my documentation in tow, smiled and winked as I walked by.


She just shook her head and chuckled a bit.


Still have a perfect record.

Don’t wear the masks kids. They’re more of a lie than the cake.

2020/11/17: And now, a word from our sponsor [1 of ?]

So… Cigargoyle’s been reading my stuff on his nightcaps AND I’ve been posting more regularly, so the number of hits on this sight has gone up..well, technically infinitely from none to not none.

Having had a particularly productive day I got myself a head of steam and thought to myself “Self? What ELSE can you get done today?”

Well…I use statcounter.com to track web site hits. It puts a little one pixel invisible image on the page so that, when you hit the site it goes to statcounter to load that image, and statcounter registers the visit. No biggie. I can’t see anything personal or detailed.

The problem is that in this day and age, web browsers and consumer routers have ad blocking plugins that look for things like statcounter (which is admittedly pretty innocuous) and filters them out. So if you have that kind of tech engaged, it stops your browser from grabbing that little image. Thus, the visit doesn’t register.

I know this is causing most page views to go unregistered because I’m getting FAR more direct response and interaction with people from my posts than I’m getting hits. So I have an engagement rate of approximately 430%.

Stay on the line and I’ll sell you my SEO techniques.

So I realized that to really see the actual logs, I’d need to upgrade from this goofy little “managed wordpress” site to something that actually let me see the native web server logs.

No biggie.

I call up GoDaddy and go through the Shibboleth tree.

After some serious confusion about which of two nominally separate accounts I was talking about (more on that never) I talked with a “tech” who wasn’t a tech.

“Aannd who am I speaking with?”

“Michael Wilson”

“Ooh from Nassshhviillle.”

“Actually no. From Brooklyn, living outside of Nashville.” Fuck your IP logs.

“Okay Mr. Wilson, how can I help?”

“Hey man, got a problem I expect is going to result in an upsell conversation.”

I went through and explained to him that statcounter doesn’t really work well anymore because of all the DNS filtering and COULD I, with my CURRENT level of service, get to the native web server logs. (Note: I know I can’t. But there’s a chance, so I figured I’d serve it up.)

“Well what you CAN do is use a WordPress plug in that will help you see traffic patterns.”

“That’s not gonna work for me Brooke.”

*insert half a dozen rounds before he gets it*

“Okay so in that case I’d recommend going up to our superdeluxe wordpress hosting level, that gives you cpanel access AND an ssl certificate for free!”

“I don’t give a shit about that.”

“I know you THINK you don’t. But they really can man in the middle your wordpress site.”

“Yeah I really don’t give a shit about that.”

“Well, your login. They could…”

“Yeah I really don’t give a shit. If they want to read my 20 year old bar stories and shit they can. I’m not going through the bother.”

“Ohh…” he paused “I was just scanning over your site. You’re a friend of Bill!”

I just laughed in the poor guy’s ear.

“Me? No. I’m no fucking quitter!”

*uncomfortable silence*

Ruhroh Raggy.

For those of you who don’t know. Alcoholics Anonymous was formed by “Bill Wilson” (ironically my father’s name as well.) And AA members sort of use “Friend of Bill” or “Friend of Bill W” as a code to identify each other.

I’d put together the first part, but…not the obvious implication. Not for a couple seconds anyway.

The fact that the guy scanned my blog, this blog, and with a couple additional words decided it was a perfectly safe bet that I was a “Recovering Alcoholic” is just one of the most unintentionally hilarious fucking moments of the last few months. He was SO sure that he outed himself, which is just fucking gravy. Delicious delicious gravy.

Once my brain backtracked over the poor kid’s unspoken train of thought it was too late. I was just chuckling to myself like a fucking maniac.

Getting back on track I reconfirmed with double platinum diamond level of service would give me cpanel access and checked the prices, which end up working out in my favor.

“Plus, you get that free SSL certificate.”

“Yeah I don’t care about that.”

2020/11/13 – Gratitude: Addendum


Let me give a shot at what I was talking about in the C&C 5 post.
Like so many realizations I’ve had about the cogworks of my head, this one was precipitated by a Jordan Peterson video, long lost among his amazing library of content, where he talks about honesty. But I’ll get back to that.

For decades I had a remarkably low self-appraisal. But as I’ve been emerging from that particular nightmare I’ve started to put together the whys of it all. Now, digging around in my childhood is an ancillary concern to fixing my damned head. It’s got to be.

If you try to spend your life tracing your motivations for every attitude you have and every action you take and word you speak, either to yourself or out loud, you’re DOOMED to madness.

You only remember what your brain filters about what you remember through the weird subjective lens of the kind of thought patterns you’re trying to get to the bottom of.

But SOMEtimes someone says something and it reframes a piece of the past and you get a glimpse from a different direction.

Without going THERE, it’s like when I learned about “Survivor Guilt” a few months after 9/11. All of a sudden my brain reindexed what I was going through and I was able to say “Oh, THAT’S what that is. Okay I can put that in that box and just ride it out.” and while it wasn’t overnight, it eventually worked its way out of my system.

Well what Peterson said, and I’m going to fuck this up beyond all recognition was “There are people who grow up in a home where no one ever tells the truth. Everything is a lie.” A lie to knit the fabric of the family environment into a facade.

Now…mine wasn’t THAT bad…I don’t think. I mean how the fuck would I know? We (my sisters and I) knew something was truly fucked up. But we thought we had a bead on it.

But that line, about that even being a possibility, unlocked some puzzle pieces in my head. Of course I don’t ever believe anybody when they say something nice. History has taught me that people who are saying something nice are either doing it because they feel they have a familial obligation to do so or because they want something.

The worst job I ever had was at Credit Suisse First Boston, back before the fucking ’08 madness (I think it was 03-06 or so. I’m fuzzy on 15 year old job details.)

One thing about bad jobs is that they inevitably have the greatest esprit de corps.

We hung out together. Hell we were there so damned many hours in a week that it was inevitable.

I don’t remember what precipitated it. But a girl I should’ve married once dressed me down for dressing myself down. She talked for a few minutes and frankly I don’t remember much of what she said. But one line shines through 15 years:

“Mike you don’t get it, YOU’RE the guy everybody wants to hang out with. YOU’RE the one people are hoping will be going out when they decide to get together after work.”

It was a few months later that one of my five favorite people on the planet, “my bartender” at the time went outside for a smoke break and called me to come out and sit with her.

Not knowing what Meghan had said, she opened with “You’re not allowed to say a word until I’m done.” I started to make a snide comment and she held up a finger “not a word!” She proceeded to (admittedly a bit more forcefully) rip me a new asshole about much the same thing. Having been tired of listening to me run myself down she just wasn’t fucking having it anymore.

I’m sad to say I don’t remember much about what she said. But the why of her doing it. The gesture of putting herself out there, dragging me outside (away from my blergh Original Sin cider) because someone needed to hammer this shit into this idiot’s head was far more important.

The gesture itself was the communication because it necessarily spoke to her fundamental honesty.

So, technically speaking, EVEN if she was wrong about my actual value (I really don’t remember what I thought about it at the time, other than a kind of social shock) the DOING of it meant something that I didn’t have room for in my head. It gave me something to contend with that I simply had to make room for.

I was wrong about something.

It took years to internalize what they both told me, as far as I have.
Like Amy Alkon says in her spectacularly underrated book “Unfuckology”:

“You have the right to take up space.”

Since then I’ve been collecting data about the way people react to me and, while I think I’ve gotten severely lazy and backslid a bit, the conclusion is an inevitable one: I’m FAR better than I give myself credit for.

Still, friends of mind chuckle and shake their head about how hard I am on myself. I play it off with “Yeah SOMEone has to be” or “If I’m not, I’m not going to get any better.”

And now, rather than trying to come up to a level of acceptability, I think I’m really embracing that kind of Neurosis as a tool for self improvement and advancement. Sure it’s misguided as fuck now and again. But it’s working.

And yes, I have a lot of areas of my life where I need to employ that kind of ruthlessness. It’d be a bit too embarrassing to say where, aside from things like weight loss and such.

The trick, I think, is to figure out how to balance these things. How to take a deep breath and let go of the anxiety and just fucking run with…whatever and when to aim that fucking lens on myself.

Dammit…this follow-up was supposed to be about the value of honesty. Hell, maybe it still is.

In reference to my previous post: Is it too much to ask of my family, who’s never really expressed ANY positive emotion, to express some gratitude? It may be.

This might be an indication that I’ve moved beyond those familial role-playing modes.

Huh. That’s an interesting, if self-congratulatory notion. But to paraphrase the immortal words of Ronaldus Maximus “There I go again.”

Yeah, that’s okay.

I’m gonna post these, close up and go across the street to Johnathans and sit at the bar, maybe just for one. Maybe…not.

But this is going to end up being a series wherein I work this shit out.

o7

2020/11/13: Gratitude

I was musing online about Christmas Shopping, something that I would ostensibly enjoy were it not for my brain being the fucking way it is.

I place some significant importance on getting people something they actually like, maybe do my part to bring some Christmas wide-eye to the people in my life.

But I don’t live near any of them. In fact I’m a good 900 miles away from my family. That shouldn’t be SO much of a problem. But I just don’t get enough of a picture of their day to day lives to see between the cracks of what they say they want for Christmas into what they’d actually be delightfully surprised by.

So when I talk with them on the phone (rare as that is), or pass facebook messages back and forth I’m hypervigilant for opportunities.

After the panicked madness that was 2018 I resolved that in 2019 I was going to make gifts instead of just buying them. Give them a personal touch.

Now we’re pretty much all foodies of one form or another.
For the last couple years I’d been experimenting with making home made hot sauces and, by experimenting on my officemates I’d really dialed in an intuition of what works and what doesn’t.

So last May or June I set a shitton of peppers to a several month fermentation. I know a lot of people ferment veges for a couple/few weeks, but a byproduct of procrastination was me finding out that an extended ferment worked really well.

It was a couple weeks before Christmas before I had them all ready to go. Then I started experimenting. Jalapenos, Chilis, Habaneros, Poblanos, etc. I blended them, cooked them down then ran them through the saucer (which is like a hand-crank meat grinder that separates liquid from solid components.

So, with those four pureed pepper ingredients (saving the solid remains for another experiment) and a bunch of other ingredients including pureed fruits of different kinds, sugars and honeys, vinegars, lemon and lime juices for acidity (to keep them shelf stable) coconut milk, yadda yadda, I set out on my alchemical journey.
I take little plastic (ostensibly disposable) pipettes and ingredient bowls to make little mixtures of combinations and taste test them without drawing overmuch on my ingredient stock. BASICALLY it comes down to: A pepper, a fruit, and an acid for shelf stability (also acids balance out the sweetness.) There are other treatments I apply to some of the ingredients.

Anyway I work too damned hard for these little secrets to just hand them over in a blog post.

I came up with 4 hot sauces. One was really hot. One was really sweet, and the others were interesting, if nothing else.

Then I took the dried component from the peppers and ran them through a food processor to really just wreck them before laying them out on a cookie sheet and popping them in the oven at 200 degrees for a couple/few hours. Then back into the food processor.

I went through that a couple times then spread the result on the trays in my dehydrator and let THAT go for 18 hours or so. Back into the food processor then back into the dehydrator.

Sounds like a lot of work, and I suppose it was. But getting the size down to where I wanted them and keeping them as dry as I wanted took a lot of iterations.

But I ended up with some great chili flakes. I went to Hobby Lobby and got these little cork bottles with a little wooden spoon that fit in the side of the glass. Cute and held a bunch, probably a little shy of a cup.

Okay, 4 hot sauces, pepper flakes, and a chili lime beef jerky (because what the hell, I had my dehydrator in rotation, why not?)
I had little gift bags and little trays, decorative bottles, etc. I made these little gift bags for all of the adults, put them in the back of my truck and treked up to my sister’s place for Christmas.

At the moment of truth I brought out my little gift bags and handed them out to the adults in the room and sat back while they went through it all, read the labels on the hot sauce bottles, looked at the cute little jars.

“Huh. These jars are so cute. Where’d you get these?”
“Oh I bought the jars at Hobby Lobby.”
“Seriously those are adorable.”


They looked at the bottles of hot sauce and put them back in the bags and put them aside.

By the time the madness of Christmas morning was over I saw a couple bags overturned amidst the mess. They’d been instantly and utterly forgotten.


The rest of my couple days was mostly overshadowed by the ring of what might as well have been my tinnitus as voices seemed quiet and I just hung out in my own mind.

Okay maybe it’s me. It’s certainly at least a BIT me, right? A gift with expectation of a reward isn’t really a gift. But the reward I expect was that they would at least enjoy them. Or…shit.

Look, I don’t need people to like the things that I make. God no. That would be…I don’t even KNOW what that would be. Narcissistic? Nah, that’s not even right.

Well, I figured I’d test it out. I’d made a lot more than I needed to give away as Christmas presents.

So I did what I do. I took them to bars and handed them to friends.
First it was: “Holy shit you MADE this?” almost uniformly.

Then: “Hold on, let’s get some chips and try them.”
Then, after 15 minutes of people tasting this with that and going through combinations: “Yeah I don’t like these, but THIS one I love” discussions of what people liked about which one, questions about how I made them all.

Yeah. See, it was like when I brought my experiments in to the office. Hell, one day I brought I think 14 combinations I was testing out, adding the caveat that “I’m not sure if these are any good. But these are the ones that held together enough for me to bring them in and see if anyone liked them.”

Months later I went in to one of my bars, after some time away and the bartender said “DUDE THERE YOU ARE! We need to know what the hell is in that hot sauce you brought us. We’ve been putting that shit on everything!” With a nod and a wink to the Frank’s commercials.

“Dude, which one? That was months ago. I might not have any idea what was in there.”

The other bartender went into the kitchen and came out with the big, almost entirely empty mason jar of brown sludge that was one of my attempts.

“Man, I don’t know what to tell you. I have NO idea what that one was. Okay give me the bottle, a glass of ice water and a couple drink stirs.” I sat there taking a little dab at a time on my tongue, of course it was one of the hot ones (Confession: I’m a bit of a scoville bitch.) I tried to put it together but I had no damned idea. It was nice and smokey, a little fruity and just smacked you like a fucking dominatrix on a rough night.

“I don’t know what to say guys. I’m just not sure. I’ll tell you what I generally do and maybe we can put it together.” and I went through the process I described above, albeit in more detail.

I also make rice wine. It’s the one brewing thing that I’m going to keep doing. It’s as easy to make as it is to drink.

When I make a batch, I put a mason jar in my bag along with a bunch of those little shot glasses I buy at Walmart that look like little red solo cups. They’re like a buck eighty for ten. Then when I’m at the bar I’ll say “psst…” to the regular suspects and flash them the jar.

“Ooh, is that the rice wine?” and we drink some.

And if I end up talking with a bunch of people at the next table over I’ll offer them some. Sometimes they accept, sometimes they don’t. Usually they like it, rarely they don’t. It’s all good. Rarely they’ll say

“Yo can I buy a bottle of this?”

Now, I’d be inclined to doubt their sincerity if it weren’t for the absolute preponderance of positive results I get from people. If I didn’t show up weeks later and people didn’t introduce me as “Oh this is the guy I was telling you about, that makes that rice wine! OMG it’s so good.”

I don’t need people to fucking gush over me. I don’t believe it when they do.

But SOMEthing. Maybe I’m reading this whole thing wrong somehow.

But the data just lines up in a very particular way.

It quickly becomes a matter of casting pearls before swine.

This year I started by asking everyone for their amazon wish list. But they’re even recalcitrant about that. My sister sent me hers. It’s full of vacuum cleaners and other assorted stuff.

I love it when people get me stuff off my wish list. There’s a common complaint that it lacks thoughtfulness. But I use my amazon wish list for myself. So there’s not really a more pure indication of what I want than…well…things I actually want.

There are a couple people I have ideas for. But usually if I think of something that someone needs I just send it to them.

I know what I’m going to get my niece and a nephew or two.

But the rest of them? Yeah they’re getting amazon gift cards.

Fuck ’em.

I’ll unlearn this lesson next year I know, after I’ve spent a few months at the forge and in the shop, dialing in my skill set.

2010/8/07: Blast from the past: Russian Lunch

[I’m going through a lot of my old writing, buffing some of it up and posting it here. There’s a LOT of it. Aside from grammatical editing and spelling, the only changes I generally make to these are the addition of notes in square brackets like this one. Those are ‘Notes from the future’. All names have been changed to protect the smoking hot…and everyone else.]

Yesterday:

A little bit of background (I’ll post these as needed.):

I work in BigFinance a couple blocks off Wall Street with 4 Russian women (one of whom is my boss, one of whom is her boss), a Russian guy, 3 Chinese guys, a Pakistani, one Croatian and an Indian. For my part, I’m the whitest motherfucker who’s ever drawn a breath.

Needless to say, I’m a programmer.

Now, I generally don’t refer to people by ethnicity but I’m not going to spend three days trying to come up with fake names for everybody.

Well we get an email on Tuesday from fearless leader, Mika with an hour and a half lunch meeting on Friday. Me, being me, wonders what the big announcement is going to be.

During a subsequent status meeting we find out that there’s a bad bit of planning and our Pakistani team member wasn’t going to be with us.

“Cool! Then we can go out for pulled pork!” I cheerfully blurted. He and I laughed, everybody else turned nearly as white as me… but not quite.

A few days go by and on Friday at about 12:00 Mika comes around and asks if we’ve ever had Russian food.

“I wouldn’t even know what Russian food was.”
“That’s the point.”
“Well then I’m in.” I smile to myself as familiar triple entendres involving Mika rip around through my twisted little mind.

There’s some corporate headcount type stuff, the usual litany of “who’s a vegetarian today” as we have a lot of that. Apparently, not only can some people not eat beef, they can’t eat chicken on Fridays..but not all Fridays, just this one. Sounds to me like someone’s religion lost a bet.

So there’s some back and forth and I noticed Mika sort of rocking back and forth on her feet.

“What?” I ask with an eyebrow raised.
“Well, this place. It’s…mmm…It should be ok.”
“What?”
Grigori, the Russian guy pipes in “Is good.”
“It’s in a bath house.” Mika blurts, unable to contain her secret surprise (or perhaps a crawling suspicion that she might be held accountable if it all goes awry. I’m not sure which.) “But it should be ok. It’s not IN the bath house.”
“Where…hmm… Where is there a bath house?” I asked.
“Oh, right on Fulton Street; across from where Strand book store used to be.” Grigori pointed in the air.
“Been there?”
“Is good dinner spot. I go for lunch. Is not bad.”
“Date spot?” I asked.
Grigori nodded, grinning broadly from behind his newly donned sunglasses.

I’ve walked back and forth on Fulton street for 20 years and never noticed. But that’s NYC for you.

Xiao comes back from fetching his tea and Vladik, the Croatian guy, asked if he remembered his towel.
“Eh?”
“Your towel. The restaurant is in a sauna.”
“Seriously? You’re going to call that a sauna?” I asked Vladik, who waves at me to shut the hell up.
“No, I uhh.. I don… I don don don have a a a towel.” Xiao stutters. He’s a good sport and knows we’re just fucking with him, so it’s not like we’re picking on the retarded kid…much.

Eventually we assemble for the 5 minute walk and descend in the elevators. We’re all there. Immediately upon exiting the elevator there’s a passive ego war. Mika tries to herd us to follow her. Grigori and I know where we’re going. Mika’s boss, Alena, totally oblivious to the fact that her authority ends at the elevators, doesn’t understand why people aren’t just lining up behind her. Katarina, the one who makes me walk in to walls, decides at first to set off with Mika and mob, but quickly changes her mind and comes with Grigori and I. I’ll take it. Yes, she’s married with two kids, but a boy can fantasize.

“She just wants to go, can’t maintain a conversation while walking.” Katarina complains, referring to Mika’s single-mindedness. We talk about nothing I remember on the way there. Her perfume smells like someone from my past I should’ve married. Between that and looking like someone I’d like in my future, I have an awfully hard time focusing on a word she’s saying, coated richly it is in that accent. Eventually this leads to me segueing into how defenseless I find myself against Russian women. Real smooth, jackass.

We start coalescing in front of the place which sure enough is right there with a big sign out front, plain as day. Russian and Turkish bath house. “Spa 88.”

In the narrow doorway. Down the steep flight of stairs, around the corner and there sits, behind a ‘front desk’ is a predictably sexy brunette with conspicuous after-market endowments (not a fan), propping her head up on her hand. A little discussion and a wave with Grigori and we turn, go through a narrow hallway, into another room that’s acting like a catwalk. We can see tables and other rooms below. It’s like a maze in there.

All told it looks like it’s set up for a video game firefight. Coming up half a flight of narrow stairs into a twenty foot square room with a couple long tables. One of which is full. The eleven of us sit down, filling up the other one after some squunching and negotiation.

I’ve got the gunfighter’s seat. The Chinese guys (who I’d taken to calling The Triads) sit to my right and across from me. Katarina to my left, Mika to the left of her, and everybody else down the left half of the table.

We pick up our menus and immediately the “what’s authentic” conversation starts. It’s a $12 lunch menu. I’m not SO interested in a midday adventure in culinary anthropology as everyone else seems to be.

Quarters are tight. There’s one increasingly flustered waitress.

One peek at the menu and I’m done. Katarina immediately leans over the front of me, entirely, to talk to the Chinese guys about their selections. I can’t move back, I can’t lean to the side. I just have to sit there and endure ambrosia smelling married Russian hotness rubbing up against me quite indiscreetly. Now, I fantasize she knows what she was doing. But it’s not necessarily true. [Note from the future: She did. Boy did she.]

So I’m sitting there with my hands between my knees (because ANYplace else I try to put them, by my sides, anything, gets me a slap along the way [another note from the future: No it wouldn’t.]) and I look up at the TV on the wall for distractions. It’s tuned to CNBC which is having a special called “American Greed” which is profiling some insider trader who was put in prison a couple years ago. I can’t hear what they’re talking about but they spend 10 minutes going through a lifestyles of the rich “and therefore corrupt.” Fuck those fucking fucks.

All of a sudden I see, flash across the screen, on CNBC the sign that says “Wall Street Bath” that I walked past on my way here. In fact, I walked under it to get in here. They did a five minutes on the decadent life of the bathhouse frequenting big finance insider trader featuring the rooms we’d passed not twenty minutes earlier. I pointed it out to the assembled crowd (vocally, my hands still tied to the chair by cords of discretion) and nobody seemed to pay attention. It was my own kind of synchronicity anyway.

Ordering was a scream. Russians took care of themselves. Mika ordered for all non-Russians on the left half of the table (whether they needed help or not.) Katarina ordered for the triads (leaning all over me, hair in my face, sending me into silent convulsions. [Damn my rules about married women.]) I ordered for myself.

The harried waitress came around and Mika leaned over and tells me I should have a glass of Kvass. “It’s like coke.” Grigori adds that it’s not. Katarina looks at her quizzically. (It turns out I’m not such an illiterate slob as they think. I’ve never had it, but I know full well what kvass is.) So I say sure and they nod at the waitress, point at me and say “Kvass” as though I somehow couldn’t have managed that.

[Reflecting now, they were so happy to “get me” to try it. I didn’t realize how well I was liked back then.]

The three course lunch deal was, fair. The food was mediocre at best (I had a generic salad, mushroom soup and chicken strogonov.)

People are eating away and I notice the strange energy that is Mika’s attention. Chick’s got a psychic blast radius of about a hundred yards. I realize I haven’t touched my Kvass yet. Looking up, I realize that the entire Russian contingent is starting at me. I survey the table and realize everybody but me has this red sangria looking thing.

I take a sip and let me tell you, kvass is… foul. It tastes remarkably like what you’d expect the by-product of beer making to be. It’s as though they took some kind of waste product from the process then filtered it (a little) before serving it. I was assured it was better when cold.

“I’m sure we can get you something else if you can’t HANDLE it.” Mika smiled at her own entendre, nearly bouncing in her chair.

Forgetting for a moment that she’s my boss and who I’m there with, I said “Sweetie, you’d be surprised what I could handle.” Laughs around.

“I pick word exactly right.” It’s nice to see her smiling.
“I wasn’t aware I was quite that transparent.” I said, playing along. “But yes, you pick word exactly right.” Sigh. Russian girls.

The stroganov needed a bed of noodles or something. Generally the food wasn’t spectacular and I wouldn’t really go out of my way to go back there, but for a cultural experience I generally am not looking for.

Settling up was a nightmare. Apparently a “lunch meeting” does not mean “being taken out to lunch” and I’m glad I had cash on hand.

Fortunately the walk back to the office, while distracting, was uneventful. I ducked in to the half-assed bodega in the office basement and picked up a red bull to get the taste of the kvass out of my mouth (which somehow had lingered over the top of decent stroganov and mushroom soup.)

A fun time. I work with a good bunch of folk, as long as they don’t splinter off and start talking shit about each other, something I’m able to bear less and less as time goes on.

Yeah, there should be a punch line here or something. But I’m sick of writing, so fucking deal with it. Besides, I’ve still got Wednesday night’s notes to get through tonight.

2020/11/09: The Ofay Challet, Silver Bullets and Rage [Creativity and Committment: 5]


Trying out the Q10 distraction-free word processor. It’s…well, I’m only one line in to it. But so far its a damned dream.


It’s got some kind of recorded typewriter sounds for each key click, is amber on black, and has a carriage return bell as well.

Perfectamundo.

Sitting here now my brain flashes back to the White Lodge, a time in my life that’s been on my mind of late.

In my early 20s I had roommates. We shared a house in upstate New York for a couple/few years. The social group’s patriarch (wow, yeah I’m gonna need to do a whole thing about Duncan) had lived there with his…err…wife I guess. But when he moved out we figured we’d move in. He pretentiously dubbed the house “The White Lodge” as a Twin Peaks fan, as this was about 1992-1993.

After his departure it became a monicker of self-aware mockery. After all, not ALL pretentions of the past earn authenticity in their futures. Not very many at all.

But hell it was a few acres of land in the middle of no place for $750 a month. The landlord was in Florida.

I don’t remember if anybody’s name BUT mine was on the lease, but I was the one who was in charge of getting the rent to the guy. The other guys tended to be pretty lax about having the rent at all, much less on time. So tensions were higher than they otherwise would be. It was a valuable set of lessons, expensively learned. Aside from a girlfriend or two, I’ve lived alone ever since.

There were between 3 and 5 of us, depending on the season. The White Lodge stories are vast and insane. But we had one guy living with us, Jeff, who was a good 12 years older than us. He was an excellent guitar player and had a reasonable voice, but a construction carpenter by trade. He was easily the most narcissistic piece of shit I’ve ever known, chasing around my guitar playing girlfriend (who thought it was as fucking adorable as it was ridiculous) and generally being a snide cunt at most opportunities. Plus he had the added Achilles’ heel of being exceedingly anal retentive.


He was smarter than everybody he’d ever met and once declared, out loud with his face that there wasn’t anybody at the New York Renaissance Festival who’s ass he couldn’t kick. This is the kind of gem of humanity we’re dealing with here.


I had a magentic poetry kit on the fridge and one day I, knowing how it would play out, alphabetized the whole thing. Jeff came home one day and, seeing the arrangement, let out an audible sigh of relief.


“I’ve thought about doing that.” He smiled and nodded.
“You know why I did that?”
“No, why?”
I put my fingers on the fridge, above the top of the magnets and just raked them down, upsetting them and ripping them all out of position.
“So I could do that.” and I walked away.

I could balance out the story from my own filters by talking about his better qualities. But the hindsight of about 30 years doesn’t really leave him with very many.

One day, Fletcher and I were playing chess, listening to the self-titled Bloodline album on the house stereo. Bloodline was, I think, a one-project band with Joe Bonamassa on guitar and a bunch of other guys who all had famous musician parents. Don’t quote me on it. I don’t know.

But the damn music was excellent. I recommend it still.
Jeff came in from work, up the split-level stairs behind me and started commenting on the music. “Yeah these guys are never going to be famous. It’s all just kinda rock 101. Basic 12 bar stuff.”
Fletcher was watching me shaking, my back to Jeff, and got wide eyed at the expression on my face.

I.
Had.
Had.
It.


I looked at Fletcher, stood up, I’d like to say I winked, but I wasn’t that together.

I turned around and said, in my Outside Voice:

“That 17 year old kid plays guitar with more soul in one note than I’ve EVER heard come out of yours in the 4 years I’ve known you.”

He…stopped. No last word, snippy Lord Baelish quip. Nothing.
Just turned, walked into his room and closed the door.
We literally did not see him for 3 days (he had the master bedroom with a bathroom.)

I’d LOVE to say “I turned around, sat down, moved one chess piece and said ‘checkmate’.” But…I’m pretty sure Fletcher went on to trounce me in my emotional imbalance. Not that I had more than an even shot at beating him otherwise.

I really suck at chess. Always have. I think much too broadly to “do the math” the way I’d need to in order to be any good at it. Chess is a narrow and deep process.

Hell I think it was a week later, after life was more or less normal again, that Jeff approached me when I was doing God knows what in the garage and said “Boy, what you said….that…really got to me.”
I could’ve brushed it off. I could have given him the apology he was looking for. But god dammit he deserved it.

“Huh.” was all I could muster, without eye contact.
He went away.

Call it a massive side-effect of insecurity on my part. But I’ve always, with just about anyone I’ve known that I’ve had any doubt of, had a silver bullet with their name on it.

That’s the only time I’ve ever actually deployed something like that, ever. It’s a security blanket of a sort. Just…something in the chamber that I could call on that would rip someone’s self-appraisal to fucking shreds.

It’s interesting that I’m now far more sparing about who I’ll do that with. It’s the first time I’ve overltly thought about it in years. But there are more and more people I know nowadays that just…don’t require such things. Oh I still DO it. There are a couple people I have now whose psyche I could dissolve as surely as if they were dropped in a vat of acid with a single short sentence.

It’s equal parts an improvement in my personal emotional landscape and the resulting discernment in not associating with people I might feel the need to fucking destroy. Plus, moving to The South hasn’t hurt matters much.

…fast forward past 40 minutes of dicking around on twitter…

The problem with this process is that as much as I enjoy it, I’m…handling it wrong. See, I come sit at the cigar lounge and just blast out a couple thousand words. And it’s good. Pull over the cthar I’m getting ctharthic.

But it’s just the beginning. I read what I’ve written and, posted or not (I only ever post about 1/3 of what I put down here) it’s really the beginning of an idea, almost always. It’s scraping the surface of these ideas that I know have some more depth to them, but being satisfied with any blog-post achievement that I leave them alone, patting myself on the back for hitting publish and posting the subsequent link to twitter.

What I need to do is take some of these pieces and constrain myself to writing more on the topic. What will end up happening is I’ll thrash around, saying the same thing over and over again in the word processor until I find an escape from the foyer of the idea into the next level down, like some twisted psychological version of the old game Rogue.

But…I’ve committed myself to go drink this over this evening, which is rapidly approaching. So I’m going to read this through and post it as is.

20201103

20201103-Smokey

Election Day.  I’m staying the FUCK away from it, or trying to.  Every website. Every television is blasting this shit into your head. Doesn’t matter if it’s social media, games, shopping sites.  All of it. It’s fucking insane.

The blank page is getting to me something fierce today.  Hell I’ve been here 45 minutes and have only written this much.  Listened to the Far Cry 2 tapes a few times in a row.  Just switched over to my writing playlist, hoping it’ll help snap my brain in to gear. 

The amount of caffeine ripping through my system on a largely empty stomach has got me positively twitchy.  So, you know, that’s not really helping today.  Plus this damned Hemmingway is plugged as fuck. 

It’s all I can do to stop myself from grinding my fucking teeth.

I made a deal with myself this morning that if I did all the dishes I could come here, smoke a few cigars and get some words down.  So, of course, I blasted through my dishes with “Cut The Cord” by Shinedown on repeat, in about…15 minutes tops.  Score.

Check out this thread: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320971632144363520.html

In case it’s not there, it’s about Worf from Star Trek who apparently didn’t grow up with Klingons (I’m not a TnG guy.  Kirk > Picard) but understood “Klingonness” through their image, their mythology.  So he, in an attempt to be authentic, spends his life trying to live up to that ideal, though he discovers over and over again that the ideal he’s trying to live up to is “just” mythology, that the heroes of that culture fall short continually.  But because he can’t (or won’t/doesn’t) let go of his image of the “True Klingon” he manages no small amount of success in striving to live up to that mythological stature. 

This reminds me of something I encountered quite starkly the last time I was in NYC, a couple years ago. 

I’d flown in to NY to meet my sisters and deal with the issues of my Father’s estate. We had The Meeting on Friday morning at 9:00 and all met there.

Liz showed up at 8:30 where I was waiting, on the street corner.  She called Laura, who said she was still driving in.  We looked at each other and shook our heads.  Liz, like me, is a frenzied neurotic mess.  Laura takes life as it comes, rolls the dice and shit SEEMS to just fall in to her lap. Well, 8:45 showed up, we’re looking at our watches and pacing around.  She found a parking spot a block away and wandered up at 8:50 something. Liz and I just shook our heads.

“How the fuck does this always HAPPEN?” I wondered aloud.

“I….I don’t know. It always does though.”  Liz said. 

And it was in that moment, 26 months ago, that I realized my middle sister had the right of things and it was the two of us who were wrong.  All that anxiety. All that “preemptive worry” was nothing. It was just taking up cycles, aging us prematurely, and getting in the way of everything we thought it was helping us do better.  As opportunities flew by, even sometimes stopping to check in and see if we were interested, we were too busy worrying about the downstream effects to actually just get off our asses and follow or take them.

Well we get out of the meeting, go grab something to eat and Liz says “So what time is your flight?” meaning my flight back to Nashville.

I smiled… “2:30.”

Laura noticed the twinkle in my eye and said “Wait…what DAY is your flight?”

“Tuesday :)”

“You’re just gonna hang out in the city for four days and you weren’t gonna tell us?”

“I…don’t think you’re going to want to come with me where I’m going.  But if you want to hang out I’m definitely in to it.”

They demurred.

Well, the plan was to hit a bunch of my old haunts, get ripping drunk and just reconnect with My City.

Rewind a decade and a half.

I used to take my notebook and head to the Chinese Calligraphy section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sit on a bench and write.  Sometimes I’d go to the little garden they had set up right there and write…there.  It was fun, quiet, meditative, and pretentious as fuck. 

So on that Saturday I did.  I went to the met, drank deep of the Arms and Armor exhibit (which is exquisite, by the way) and made my way up to Chinese calligraphy.

I sat down on a bench in one of those dark quiet rooms, having spent an hour just staring at and photographing brushwork and I pulled out my notebook.

I was struck, a couple pages in (I don’t know what I was writing about. I s’pose I could find it) at how THIS time it was an absolutely honest experience. 

The pretension of the past became the authenticity of the present.

I was living up to the mythology I had created for myself so many years ago. 

So when that Worf thread came up last week it struck a chord.  It was kinda the same thing.  A story, roughly told, interpreted over time by people trying to live up to it. 

It reminded me immediately of two things:

“Authentic Recipe” gatekeeping.  Think about pizza, hot dogs, philly cheesesteaks, or chili.  People will go to war arguing about what makes an authentic New York pizza, or REAL chili. 

But those recipes didn’t come from anything like that. They’re just what people made, the way they made them.  And sure, it’s all a little too contemporary to say “because that’s what they had.”  But the point is the same. 

The pattern emerges and it’s then taken as gospel, given FAR more power later on than it ever had in the moment. In that moment, it becomes mythology…

WHICH brings me to the other idea that’s kicking around in my head about it all. 

Is this not LITERALLY the mechanism by which myths are created and become religion?  To say people have religious wars about the right way to make chili or pizza may not even BE a fucking metaphor.

It’s admittedly a half baked thought. Or, more properly, a thought half baked into language. But it seems the exact same mechanism: Repeated iterations of a story becoming more and more strictly codified and…becoming more of an ideal than a story over time, eventually crossing a threshold where people hold up the story as an ideal.  It becomes myth, completely independent, if not in spite, of it’s reality.

What I need to do is finish Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” where he talks (among everything else) about the evolution of mythology.  I expect he’s done more research on the topic than I’ve done thinking.

See, it seems to me that I should have more than a paragraph or two to say about that. But… I don’t.  That’s the idea. 

Is it not the case the aspirations of humanity is to a necessarily mythological ideal? 

I know people get pissy when you take the wind out of their religion. But the story of the resurrection, for instance, is a couple thousand years older than 2.  Christianity is just the latest iteration. If you’re a believer I envy you. I say that with no snarkiness or scorn. Really. It must be amazing.

But I’m not. I don’t. And the likelihood that I ever will be is functionally zero.

But I wonder if it matters, if it matters at all.  The value of a religion isn’t in whether it’s true or not, but in how it inspires us to behave, in what it is we strive towards.  Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Taoism.  At their best they’re cultural appropriate templates overlaying personal ideals, no?

I’ve admittedly done more agonizing about the meaning of life than I have just grabbing something and running towards it and life is about doing rather than knowing.  So, as nice as it would be to be sure of something regarding the ultimate truth of the universe, I’m not sure it’s…important.

See that turns my mind to Alexander Cortes’ continual, dead on admonishments to stop worrying about deciding and just pick something. 

Pick the mythology and strive to fulfill the ideas it exemplifies.

So…if my conclusions are correct, insofar as they go, and Nietzsche was right when he said:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

(which he unarguably was)

then does picking a damned mythology to replace what we have lost not remain our best hope for an ideal we can strive to?  All these kids out there pretending they’re jedis or wearing star trek officers uniforms.  They’re easy to laugh at and…I personally believe they deserve some derision.

But…can we really blame them? Do they not have a point?  They’re not pretending it’s all real.  Well, they’re pretending it’s real, but not in that they’re deceiving themselves. 

I can’t help but think about the modern mythology of Iron Man doesn’t present an amazing example. Is there a better hero in modern fiction for our modern age?  Self centered narcissist, humbled to turn to his late father for answers, striving always to make the most of the Promethean gift, to redeem himself against his past failings, at the very least, then to finally sacrifice his own well-earned peace for all life?

I submit, no, there’s not.

Scorsese can eat a dick.

(Surely you didn’t think I was gonna end this with an “I am Iron Man” reference, right?)