In the Saddle

2021-11-02: Smokey

Okay there we go.

Sitting here at smokey with the purple laptop. Thing’s slow as a dog but I kinda don’t care once I get going and all.

“Why the hell is this font so fuzzy? OH right.” puts on glasses “Yeah see, that matters.”

The four day fast I did a couple weeks ago really highlighted how long it had been since I’ve done one of those exercises in will where I spend a month going without something or doing something every day. So, feeling a bit froggy I decided, late Halloween night, that I’d spend November without using my desktop computer, meditating, and writing every day.

Well…there’s something to be said for exuberance I suppose. Problem is that you can actually make promises you can’t keep. And that’s okay, all things considered. But I was going to give it a shot.

So I spent the morning cleaning the house, doing dishes and some laundry. But I’d catch myself going in and staring at my office chair before obsessively dicking around with my phone. You know, between bouts of wandering into the kitchen and stuffing my fucking pie hole with god only knows what (well…I do too: Chili, cashews, peanuts, nachos…pizza.)

About 11:00 (after the chili, before the pizza) I realized I had to get the FUCK out of the house or I’d lose my mind (shush) so I hit Opry Mills, a plain old old-school mall.

I spent maybe an hour and a half walking around the circle of the obnoxiously designed building. Unlike I think every other mall I’ve ever seen, you can’t actually short-cut through the thing. You’re stuck doing the full lap around as long as you’re not feeling rebellious enough to cut through the ’employees only’ back hall that presumably runs through the middle of the thing.

Well, okay. Fair enough. Not like I didn’t know what I was getting in to.

Between last August (2020) and this…April or so I’ve lost 50 pounds, bringing me from “somewhere between an xl and a xxl” to a plain old large. I had designs on dropping another 10-15, maybe 20 to get me under the 180 mark. But it’s been since then and I’ve stayed in about a five pound range, so I’m calling that stable.

I kept going into clothing stores. Shit, I can’t even remember them all. J. Crew, Express, Abercrombe (fucking eww), Tommy, I think a Gap, even an Old Navy (gak.) There were a couple others that bled together beyond even 24 hours of memory.

My brain kept snapping back to the days, that seem both too recent and too far, when I’d dress well and had a reason to do so. Restaurants and clubs I’d go to, a reason to look nice. Then I’d catch my reflection. My “nice new” jeans…from Walmart. The t-shirt I was wearing, probably also from walmart. A too-baggy levi’s trucker denim jacket, and the 3 year old sneakers I’d bought when walking around Manhattan the last time I was there.

It was hard to resist the…well, it wasn’t quite nostalgia. But it could also be that I’m lying to myself about it, as I’m wont to do.

Regardless of the source of it I was struck with this maudlin cum melancholy mood. I’d recognized some of what I’ve paid for moving to the suburbs of Tennessee; me, ,a city boy and not only that, a New York City boy. Dressing beneath my station then having adopted that station as a natural progression. It’s the Broken Window phenomenon of life.

I hadn’t felt so fucking low in a very long time. And sure, the whiskey and vodka colored glasses through which I view the past don’t show the whole reality. But…I don’t have that. I don’t have that at all.

I don’t love my house as much as I pretend to, though I enjoy having my own space. It’s hard to get excited about it when I pull in. It’s a shabby thing in quite the same way I feel I’ve become.

I did another lap.

The first time around I somehow didn’t see Banana Republic, an old favorite. Fuck it.

I went in and did a couple laps, looking at what they had, color schemes and price points. No, no, that’s a little much. No…ooh. Yeah okay. A pair of chinos. Well that begs a shirt, maybe two. A nice button-down in a subtle grey stripe, one in a comparatively light purple…another pair of pants. Okay okay, this can work. Belt. Socks.

Time to treat myself, not only to better clothes, but just…better in general.

I didn’t even try the stuff on. Don’t care. Flirted without intention with the checkout girl, which was fun. I ended up spending about $250, which was a hell of a deal, all things considered.

I walked out of there and straight into Ralph Lauren. But, as nice as their stuff is, it’s all plastered with fucking logos and palaponies. Not for me. Manny (of the @WellBuiltStyle twitter account) as absolutely ruined me for printed anything.

But I resolved to make it down to Green Hills (a high-end mall about 45 minutes away if I can hit the traffic right) to pick up a new sport coat and maybe a pair of shoes or two (though I do have some nice ones.) Plus, it’s time to buy a membership to Red Phonebooth.

It’s hard to overstate the feeling of having taken that weird little step. It’s not like other purchases. It really feels like a life upgrade, as though I’ve finally decided that I’m literally worth more than I’d been…more resigned to than satisfied with.

Throughout the afternoon I could absolutely feel this strange degradation in social and apparent economic strata to which I’d subjected myself. It’s been time to level jump for a while.

But it gets me to wondering when I took the real hit, from which I feel that I’m only beginning to heal.

Between yesterday and today, as I sit down to write this I’ve thought a lot about it and have finally pegged it in time.

It was 9 years ago, when I moved from Brooklyn into a house I was renting in upstate New York. That was the moment I cut myself off from my life in NYC. Sure I worked down there for another 9 months or so (with a 2.5-3 hour one-way commute every day.) But that was a disaster. Other than going to see Jennifer once a week and getting ripping drunk before racing uptown to get the last train to Beacon on Wednesday nights I simply didn’t exist in the city anymore. I’d closed myself off socially not only from that, but in general. I had a friend group by proxy. Good enough people, but, well…that’s a story for another time, perhaps never. After all the walls have ears.

The sudden clarity of it all is fascinating to me. To see something so clearly, so suddenly, having had not even the slightest intimation of its existence prior is nothing short of alarming.

I remember the feeling now, after all these years, of feeling like a frog in a pot, having taken hits in dignity and standing a slice at a time over a couple years, making excuse after excuse as to why it was okay, why I should tolerate it.

And, like all such realizations, there are two aspects of it, only one am I in to at the moment:

  • The realization itself. That sudden apostrophe (“I think you mean epiphany” – Captain Hook.)
  • The new foundation that comes as a result of the percolation and integration of said realization that brings with it the new perspective, the new bedrock from which the next realization is accessible.

I don’t know where the second stage will bring me. But the result of the first is to have seen the trailhead of the climb, the path.

I threw the baby out with the bathwater a decade ago. And, to abuse the everloving fuck out of the metaphor, it wasn’t bathwater worth discarding. I should have tolerated it. I should have met the challenge of the day, rather than taking the easy way out again and again until I’d reduced myself.

And I can feel that this is one that will stick, because it puts in order a rather vast spectrum of things that have been clawing at the back of my mind in the years since, the strange sense that something terrible and critical had been missing, but with the willful blindness that prevented me from seeing what it really was.

Well, I get it now. Years of half-thoughts I wouldn’t quite let myself have suddenly in sharp focus. There are more. There are other things. But this right here? This I see clearly.

Quite clearly indeed.

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