My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Archive for September, 2009

Trache day: Thinking about Tender Branson

September 21st, 2009 | Category: Life,Opinions

So, I’m waiting to go for my usual fresh trache. I’m thinking about Tender Branson just now, he’s a character from Survivor, my favorite novel. Survivor is the best thing Chuck Palahniuk’s ever written, and it’s the book that showed me the way that I write today. New artists just learning their craft tend to copy other artists who’ve mastered their craft. Eventually, that copying evolves into something unique, it stops being a copy and becomes something new. I like to hope that that’s happening with what I learned from Survivor. I hope that Palahniuk’s voice is mixing with the voice in my head to create something new. I’ve been influenced by lots of books, I’m always finding inspiration from other writers, but Palahniuk’s Survivor is my foundation. Anyway, back to Tender Branson.

Tender’s sitting in the the cockpit of a hijacked 747 cruising at 39,000 feet. He’s up there alone, telling his life story to the plane’s flight data recorder, particularly the astonishingly fucked up year leading to his being alone in the cockpit of a hijacked 747. He’s up there knowing he has about seven hours to tell his story until the plane runs out of fuel, then he’ll crash, and die. He says, “The sky is blue and righteous in every direction. The sun is total and burning and just right there in front. We’re on top of the clouds, and this is a beautiful day forever.” He says, “Just for the record, how I feel right now is very terrific.”

I don’t want to die in a plane crash, or getting my trache changed, but I’d love to feel the sort of clarity that Tender feels up in that cockpit. I’d love to wake up with a fresh trache and know what the next seven hours will bring. Part of me would even like to know that this is my last trache change, and that would be that. I could sit for a few hours and write something about me that’s perfect and final. Given the last few years, a little certainty would be nice. I’ve had so many things that seemed absolutely certain go absolutely wrong, it’s difficult to trust in anything save for the idea that nothing is certain aside from death.

I’m swimming in, sometimes drowning in so much grey area. I wish that a few things would get clear. It’s so hard to write when everything that means anything is grey, everything that means anything important.


The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

September 14th, 2009 | Category: Life,Opinions

When I was in New York a few months ago i met this writer, Elna Baker. She’s behind my favorite This American Life story, Babies Buying Babies. At first glance she’s young, beautiful. Talking to her it’s obvious she’s smart, funny, liberal. What’s not obvious about her, at least right away, is that she’s a Mormon. She’s a single Mormon girl trying to make it in the big city. As I said, she’s a writer, and her first book is a memoir.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker is an intimate look into her life after leaving home and family to make a life in New York city. The memoir begins as Elna is preparing to leave home to start college at NYU. Her family’s quite worried about her, not for all the obvious reasons, they’re afraid for her immortal soul. Her mom is particularly concerned, afraid that New York will defile her lovely, overweight, completely innocent daughter. See, Elna’s family is very Mormon. Her mom’s biggest worry is that Elna will move away, find liquor, then drugs, and then become a lesbian. Because, obviously, vices lead to lots of really hot lesbian sex. Elna’s mom warns her of clubs where men pay larger women money to undress. She tells her, “don’t do that.” This is the sort of lecture a Mormon girl gets before college, don’t become a junkie lesbian stripper. Elna may be sheltered, but she’s not naive. She’s aware that her mom’s warnings are hilariously over the top, and she writes about her family, her upbringing and herself with wit and sincerity.

Being a single Mormon means Elna’s a virgin. She’s supposed to abstain until marriage, and if she wants to go to Heaven, she has to merry a Mormon fellow in a Mormon Temple. This would be fine, except for the fact that she’s a crazy romantic, very free spirited and has a good dose of sexual desire. Okay, a double dose of sexual desire. This memoir is about her desire to live life on her terms while remaining faithful to God and church. Juggling faith, and longing, and lust, it’s not an easy task. Elna writes about her stints on the Mormon singles scene, particularly the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, a room full of awkward virgins looking to find a mate. Elna’s kind of an outsider among Mormons, she questions things. She doesn’t blindly follow what others buy so easily. She plays the Mormon singles game, but she knows it’s absurd. She’s able to write about her search for intimacy with such humor and clarity. It doesn’t help that most Mormon guys, are apparently, dorks. It’s difficult for Elna, who’s very well read, intelligent and spontaneous, to find an even remotely acceptable suitor within her faith. Dating outside the faith is difficult because no matter how much she might care for a guy, being with him goes against everything she was raised to believe. Throughout the book we watch her beliefs shift, they change as she matures. She loses eighty pounds, she sees herself differently, as do all the fellows in New York. She’s young and hot, and shackled to a belief system that she might not believe. She never doubts that God exists, but she definitely questions how she was taught to serve Him.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker is a smart, funny and interesting look into the life of a young lady trying to balance passion and faith. She wants to get laid, without damning her soul.


Honest art

September 12th, 2009 | Category: Life,Opinions

So, for various unimportant reasons, I watched 27 Dresses and Bridget Jones’s Diary, pretty much back to back. They’re “up” movies, “happy” movies, two movies I wouldn’t generally watch. So, I watched both, and they ended so well. A girl meets a guy, they don’t like each other at first, but then they realize that they’re so hopelessly in love. There are some funny moments. There’s a little valley of saddneess, a point where it looks like the two might not end up together. Of course, they do end up together, and they’re so happy, and they’re going to stay happy. At the end of movies like these, I always think to myself, “wow, that almost never happens.” These movies are plastic, fake. We all want that happy ending, we want it to be real. Maybe it is real, maybe it’s possible, but it’s definitely not so easy, and it’s absolutely not guaranteed.

It hit me that I can watch a movie like, Se7en, and when it’s over think to myself, “yes, that’s about right.” I think, “that’s fucked up, it’s awful, and it’s true.” Maybe my wife’s head won’t end up in a box, that almost never happens, but that feeling of loss happens to people everyday. Lovers die, lovers leave. People die alone, and regret things they almost had, or never had. Finding something amazing and keeping it for any length of time is so astonishingly difficult. The world, I think, is a really difficult, often shitty place. Finding misery, emptiness, that’s easy. Love, happiness, contentment, those things require so much struggle, and they’re absolutely not certain to anyone. Movies like Se7ven, in a bizarre sort of way, feel so much more honest to me. Se7en is a rather extreme look at the worst things people can experience, most people will never see that particular level of Hell, but to me the film’s basic message is very true. As bad as we can imagine the world, it can turn far worse. Life is difficult, with the capacity for so much pain, so much loss. As black as things can get, as pointless as it might feel to keep struggling, as easy as it might feel to quit, don’t. Not that things are certain to get better, not life will ever make sense. Don’t quit because there are good things in the world, and those things are worth the fight.

I’ve had my share of bad experiences, visited my own versions of Hell. I constantly question why I keep going. I’ve wanted to stop, but I don’t. For whatever reason, I don’t. Part of it, I think, is dark fiction, movies like Se7en. I often hear, “maybe if you don’t watch things that are so depressing, if you watched something funny for a change, you’ll feel better.” I get similar comments about music and books. The thing is, what I watch, and listen to, and read, isn’t depressing to me. Sad maybe, but to me, honest. I feel like my head isn’t being filled with candy-coated half-truths. Acknowledging so much ugliness, or pain, or sadness, helps me to appreciate the beauty that does exist, even when it seems so far away.  When a woman kisses me, or looks at me in that way that makes me forget how to type, I don’t take it for granted, because tomorrow something could take everything away. Art is a way to externalize, and at least try to understand, things that are awful and don’t make sense.


A year ago tonight

September 12th, 2009 | Category: Life

A year ago tonight I was lying in bed next to Sara, which felt obviously familiar, and very odd. She told me we were through over two months before. I  spent the day on a plane bound for L.A. and the Emmys, and Ira Glass, and Sara. I remember telling people, “I don’t even want to go,” and that was half true. I knew that going would have its amazing moments, the Emmys, the parties, hanging out with Ira and the rest of the TAL crew. I wanted to see Sara, and I didn’t. I felt really nervous about seeing her, I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be awkward? Would she feel like a stranger, or worse, a friend who kind of remembered me? Showtime booked two rooms, I always have an entourage. Would she and I sleep in separate beds, separate rooms? Would I end up in a room with mom, and my friend, Celeste, and her fellow? “Because,” I said to myself, “that would be awesome.” I said to myself, sarcastically, “fuck it, I’ll just ask Ira if I can sleep on his sofa.” I didn’t know a lot of what would happen, but I knew that seeing her would probably end badly for me. Seeing Sara that night in that swanky hotel lobby, I felt like going right back to the car, or just dropping dead. Either way, either/or. That feeling did pass, and we fell asleep in the same bed, holding hands. It did feel good that night, but way in the back of my head I knew that being there with her probably wasn’t real contentment. It was more like morphine, a temporary fix. I felt so nice, so warm, and by the next night it would all fade.

To make things more complicated, there was someone back in Tampa, and I kept thinking about her. I hadn’t known her particularly long, just over a month, but it felt longer. I missed her, and I wondered if that was okay. I wondered if she missed me too. I woke up thinking about her, she followed me around more than I expected. Still, I’m not here to write about that morning, or the days after. I’m really not ready, even now. I’m not ready to go back and write the things I’ve never written here. I’m not strong enough, or dead enough, to write those things. I’m just here to write what happened a year ago, a year ago tonight.

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Women and tattoos

September 06th, 2009 | Category: Life,Opinions

A reader, Ariel, suggested a really fun writing topic…

“I’d like to read about your thoughts on tattooed women… do you like the art, the commitment to content, and the permanence? Or do you prefer a pristine, petal-soft, blank canvas”

I’m a fellow who really likes and gets along with women. Pretty much all my close friends are women, I find it easier to relate to women. I can talk about “guy things,” sports and whatever, I can get along with anyone. Still, I feel more like myself more often around women than other fellows. It’s definitely not my goal to sleep with every woman I meet. If that connection’s not there, it’s not there, and it’s obvious when it’s not. Being friends with a woman isn’t difficult or awkward. If that connection is there, she really can’t be against tattoos.

I happen to be rather fond of tattoos, I have twenty-six and counting. I think tattoos, and the reasons behind tattoos can be pretty fascinating. Liking tattoos as much as I do, women with inked skin definitely catch my eye, but I can’t say that I prefer a tattooed woman to a lady with pristine skin. I’m attracted to smart women with beautiful eyes. If there’s a spark between me and a woman, and she happens to have ink, it’s definitely hot, but it’s definitely not a necessity.


The push

September 05th, 2009 | Category: Attempted Poetry,Creative Flash

Drugs, and liquor, and loneliness, and ghosts.They’ll hold you close and kiss you slow. They’re forever friends, eager lovers.

They’ll hold your hand, they’ll walk you home. Drugs, and liquor, and loneliness, and ghosts. They’ll fling you toward oblivion, and you’ll welcome the push.


Here’s a question

September 03rd, 2009 | Category: Life

I have things in my head, things that are going to get written, but they’re not ready. So, if you could stumble here and have me write about absolutely anything, what would you have me write?

I’ll write anything that feels interesting, just please reply via direct comments, and not Twitter or Facebook. Don’t be shy about what you’d like to see.


Tattoo #25

September 02nd, 2009 | Category: Life,Tattoos

On of my favorite Alanis Morissette songs is Purgatorying, it’s from her Feast on Scraps CD/DVD set. To me, it’s a song about lifeless life, filing up with nothing meaningful, wandering toward nothing. It’s a song about being numb, spending so much time feeling empty, yet never acknowledging it because it’s terrifying to acknowledge being broken, and not knowing how to fix it. I’ve felt so much like this song for so long. I’ve felt it, and I acknowledged that feeling in pain and ink…


Tattoo by Colt, artist and badass at Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo in Ybor City, Tampa

So, I spend a lot of time bored, lonely, feeling empty, almost never content, but I’m putting it in writing. I’m not pretending nothing’s wrong, not as of right now. Writing this, I’m starting to feel so much wasted time, I can’t stay like this, Purgatorying until my end. Lately, I’ve been so fucked up, afraid to say things because I honestly have no idea what might happen after they’re said, both in my writing and relationships. I’ve been afraid to say what I want to say, so I haven’t been saying anything. I’ve been confusing patience with abject fear, mixed with self-loathing. I want to look back on this time in my life, I want to look at this tattoo from a good place, and truly appreciate being there because I remember what it was like to feel lost, and empty, and dark. I could also never end up in that good place, stories don’t have to end well, but I’d rather get to that end having written everything, said everything. If zombies showed up in the morning, I’d feel pretty fucking stupid, like I wasted so much.


Tattoo #24

September 01st, 2009 | Category: Life,Tattoos

There’s a song in the Nirvana With the Lights Out Box Set, Verse Chorus Verse (Outtake). It’s a song about addiction, about the love/hate relationship one can have with a fix. It’s not a sad song about hitting a fix, it’s more an honest, rational look at how the relationship with a fix can feel. It’s probably my favorite piece of Kurt Cobain’s writing, because it’s so right. It’s all about knowing that you’re ultimately hurting yourself in exchange for moments of absolute peace, perfect clarity. Kurt’s said that heroin was the only thing that ever gave him any sort of comfort. He was a nervous, depressed fellow in constant physical pain, and as awful or as wrong as it sounds, I think heroin kept him alive and helped to kill him at the same time. My favorite line in the song, “the grass is greener over here, you’re the fog that keeps it clear…” From my experience, it’s very true. I mean, after I died for a bit and spent two months in the hospital, I was high on all sorts of pain-killers as often as possible. Sometimes, I wasn’t particularly in any physical pain, I was just so fucking scared all the time, that fog was the only thing that let me relax and feel like I could be okay. I knew that I couldn’t live on Fentanyl, that it was a poisonously beautiful illusion of safety, but I also know that I couldn’t have coped without it. I think I understand how Kurt felt, I understand the song. So… I had part of it etched into my arm.


Tattoo by Colt, artist and badass at Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo in Ybor City, Tampa

There are fixes that are definitely dangerous, definitely destructive. Still, I don’t think all fixes are inherently bad. We all need something to soften the noise of the day, the week, the month, the year. A cup or twelve of coffee, a shot of vodka with dinner, a lover’s kiss before falling asleep at night, they’re all fixes. We all need little things that give some peace, that make breathing seem worthwhile. I have my set of fixes these days, the things that dull the static in my head enough to think, enough to write, enough to feel like waking up in the morning is a good idea. Fixes that damn, fixes that save, the trick is knowing which is which when you wake up in the morning.