Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Blog Post About Gold & Shit

Apparently 29 is the age where you start telling teenagers sitting and blocking a narrow stairwell that "maybe this isn't the best place to sit."
Hot yoga 3x/week, 3 mile run 2x/week,
lift intermittently.

I turned 29 a few weeks ago, but my girlfriend says I'm actually thirty now because since you are born at age zero you are really celebrating the completion of the previous year. Whatever the case, I'm older than I was yesterday and younger than I am tomorrow but still just a missed breath or misstep from not existing at all.

So I guess I'm not growing out of my neurosis... or my asthma. 

Which is good because I'm able to afford private insurance to cover both medicines to manage my flaws: Xanax and Advair. In fact, I'm able to afford a lot of things nowadays that I couldn't three years ago when I was a Bohemian in New York City and decided to leave "the biz" in pursuit of travel and financial freedom.

Now I find myself firmly established in another "biz" having learned that it's all biz and while I'm good at this biz I miss the old biz but am scared at returning to the old and failing but the new biz has become sad and morally taxing and I look at my unfolding adulthood wondering, Is this it? Is this what the next five minutes or five days or fifty years of my life will be like?

Because the things that I've touched that have turned to gold are not necessarily the things I want to be touching. But still, it's fucking gold. And I know I'm fortunate to have it, but man, I'm tired of covering terrorism. I've learned a lot on this beat and it's provided me with ample opportunity, but it's hard to smell the fruits of your labor when you're constantly wading through a septic tank of the shittiest aspects of "humans."

So I'm not gonna wade through it anymore. I'm going to swim in it. Because this is my life. And while sometimes all I want to do is go home to Minnesota, I know that isn't the answer. I have read enough and had lived far too many places to know that. 

I have to swim in shit because while I've been dodging drinking poop milkshakes, it provides me the means to take class and write for myself. And somehow, miraculously, that energy I've been using to trudge through diarrhea water has given me the grit to do more of that and do it better. The universe has responded.

In April, an old agent of mine emailed me a request for an audition for a new play. I booked it. And last week, I finished my book I've been writing for the past six years, Samson's First Haircut. All things I wanted to do before I was thirty (or celebrate the completion of my thirtieth year, whatever, Belinda.)

Thoreau wrote in Walden, "It is surprising and memorable, as well as a valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time."

I may have spent the last couple years in Willy Wonka's scat fetish uncle's Poop Forest, (who wants that golden ticket?) but I've been swimming in fertilizer. 

Let's find some seeds and make shit grow.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Blog About Jihad

You know you're getting old when you don't know any of the performers on Ryan Seacrest's Rockin' New Year's Eve.

#crossfit2016 became #ouchfit2016 in two weeks.
I haven't felt much like writing lately. Months even. Which is difficult because both my income and happiness depend on it. The way I write is also non-traditional and possibly Darwinism in action: I walk around Manhattan, earbuds in with music on, and tap away in “Notes”—like right now somewhere in Midtown West, dodging cars, 37°.

I don't mind the cold. I don't even feel it. And therein lies my problem. I don't really feel anything nowadays. I get up at six, make coffee, and work until later when I have plans with friends or the girl I'm seeing.

My life is sane, stable, and affluent. And I hate it. Because the serendipity of what New York has to offer is lost on someone with a growing savings, a mortgage, and a $50k unused credit limit that offers airline miles for free travel.

And no I'm not trying to show how big my dick is. (It's big enough.) I'm trying to sort it all out mentally right now for me because every night I go to bed with a headache and when it comes to pushing pen to paper, or at least continuing the motion of fingers on a keyboard, the desire is not there. Which is sad because writing used to be like sex to me, where I used to get this sensation when I'd write, free and open verse that seemed to resonate with people because it resonated with me. Like some fucked up Tibetan singing bowl after a bomb ass yoga class with a hot girl (or guy for some) in downward dog in front of you.

But now when I write, or at least try to, I get this weird headachey feeling in my third eye that stares forward waiting to be inspired by something it sees but it sees nothing and as I wait for that sight I decide I should probably be working and making more money. And then I come across something about the Syrian Civil War and ISIS, since that’s my beat, and begin to write about that but not for me, and end up covering up that new headache and the fear I’m losing my creativity with a glass of wine with a Xanax mixer.

Except this time the headache did not go away. This time when I went to work instead of write, the word "jihad" was used a lot on this terrorist Twitter feed I was following and it got me thinking: that's how I feel.

And no, I don't mean I feel or have any terrorist inclinations or sympathy for the Islamic State. I'm a proud and happy American (USA! NSA!) who just happens to work in extremism journalism and right now actually know the traditional definition of “jihad”:  the struggle for one’s self, for one’s own soul. It's the same sort of feeling Thoreau had in those Massachusetts woods when he tried to break into Eastern esotericism, or if you want to stay in the more familiar Judeo-Christian sense, the same sort of feeling Jesus had when he sat and contemplated God in Gethsemane. (“Why are you sleeping?”)

If everything was going so well, why didn't I feel well?

Because I wasn't living up to my true potential. And to write that, to say that, on paper for me is the same as having it tattooed on my forehead like some prayer bump on an Islamist zealot.

"Are you unhappy? Depressed?" My doctor asked me at my latest physical.

"No." I said flatly.

"Good. Drop your pants."

He massaged around my balls, checking for a hernia. “So you want the Advair refill,” he said, making small talk about things we’ve already discussed for no reason other than he was an assumedly straight man currently jiggling another man’s genitalia. “Do you still want the Xanax refill?"

“I wouldn't be able to fly without it,” I said, referring to the fact I am usually on a transcontinental flight about every other month.
There's some good shit in this book.

But then it hit me: I can't fly with it.

The headache at the end of every day that I managed with a glass of wine and the panic of impending doom I squashed with Xanax were manifestations of real emotions, but not my traditional ones that inspired me to write.  But they were still emotions that I could write about.

And now here I was at the end of the day contemplating writing and all I wanted to do was crack a bottle of wine or pop a Xanax but I knew that wasn’t the answer. I had read enough and had lived far too many places to know that. And still, the same question lingered in my head: If everything was going so well, why didn't I feel well?

The Quran says, “And he called out within the darknesses, ‘There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.’” And I’m going to say what I think it means as a Midwestern-raised, middle class, white, American, male, with no Islamic theosophical knowledge other than that I realize I’m one who’s forgotten to question the darknesses.

I think it means I’ve got to get my ass in gear for 2016.