Speed freak

Driving around Indianapolis looking for a house and a job. My sister needs her car but I need it too. Can’t stay at home. I love my parents and the house where I grew up but there’s nothing to do. I’m not a tradesman so I can’t start a business, can’t live at home and fix people’s plumbing or install electronics. Also don’t want to work in a gas station or a stone mill.

Specialty coffee is all I know. It’s a luxury good, a frivolous expenditure. But this is how we live, beyond our means with inflated, unsustainable tastes. Desire buries need; enough is never enough. We could all drink toilet water coffee for twenty cents a cup but once you get that taste of sweet orange in a shot of espresso you can’t go back.

The cheap commercial brands, the stuff you make at home tastes like charcoal and exhaust. Your intestines convulse and you sweat. It’s unclean energy, gut rattling swill good enough for the common man, the laborer, the manufacturer, the man who shapes matter with his callused hands.

I’m not that man. I built my muscle in a gym instead of hauling logs and carrying cinder blocks, tussling with steel and concrete in dangerous conditions. I tore my hands gripping iron bars in a surrogate struggle with weight and gravity. In this hyper developed world there’s no such thing as scarcity, only frustration. And there’s a limit to what’s lacking but no end to the upsetting. The irritating is infinitely expansive.

Highway 37 is under construction and the speed limit is 45. Orange cones lined up for miles. I’m driving and thinking about how the orange is psychologically straining. Driving in a car that isn’t mine that I could never build or fix if it broke down on a road I also didn’t build and would hate to work on and my thoughts center on what I find inconvenient and stressful about my magically smooth and unearned journey. The easier everything is the more anxious I become, the harder I look for difficulty and disturbance. If I were paid to complain I’d be a wealthy man.

I’m in downtown indianapolis in a renovated theater with a coffee shop. I need a job to get a house but I need a house to get a job. The only way this will work is with a lie. Yes I have a job or yes I have a place to live when I don’t. Hope the landlord doesn’t call the boss I don’t have. It’s a structure of impossibility. You need years of experience for an entry level position, you need to already know people to get to know the people you need to know.

But you have a degree, they say. That’s important, that’s relevant somehow. You can work in an office doing data entry. I can’t even imagine that as a daily activity. What is data entry. What are these office jobs, sitting all day in front of a computer, working with files and typing and consulting and talking to people on the phone. Going to meetings and spacing out, taking notes or pretending to take notes, writing poetry and doodling on scrap paper while a manager drones and points at charts.

The service industry is dirty and stressful and it pays poorly but you make tangible goods with your hands. There’s something to be said for that. You see the effect of what you do immediately. You’re present for the reaction of your customers and you know if you’ve done a good job or not. You have the power to change a person’s day. Otherwise it’s typing and and entering data, hours and hours of doing something that leaves no trace, that feels like nothing by the end of the day. There’s more money in your account and less time left in your life and that’s all you know for sure.

It’s like writing anonymously on the internet. There’s no feedback and you have no idea what you need to do to become better. People want to give you advice on your life but the point is how do you get better at writing, how do you write well, how do you develop a voice and perfect the craft. It’s just silence on the other end. But that’s what you deserve because it’s not like you’re teaching and encouraging other people either. Give what you get, so you get nothing.

It’s gratifying to help someone enjoy a little bit of luxury before they’re back in their office, typing and talking on the phone doing the thing you think you should be doing because you have a degree. You went to school to learn about history or literature because you thought you cared about those subjects and everyone encouraged you to do what you loved. Now those subjects don’t matter and you don’t need to know anything about them. You can start a blog and blather about elizabethan poetry or the real roots of fascism, what you think trump should do or what he shouldn’t do. Try to write literature without creating characters or thinking up plots so you lift material from your life and pretend it’s a story.

40,000 dollars, insuperable debt to know more about early modern philosophy and poststructuralism than the average person. Good luck having a conversation with anyone about what you learned in school that doesn’t make them want to punch you or make you want to punch yourself. Knowledge is power except for everything you happen to know, then it’s just annoying and depressing.

When you get a degree you show prospective employees that you’re compliant and dependable. You finish what you start even if it’s worthless, even if it’s an elaborate scam sucking up resources and precious non-renewable time. Trade away at least four years of your life to show people you’re serious about being told what to do. You show those companies you don’t care what you do as long as they’re willing to pay you until they pay indians or mexicans or robots to do it for less.

I’ve had too much espresso and I have nowhere to go. This is the last day I can borrow my sister’s car and then I’m stuck at home. What do people do when they don’t have money. Better prepare myself for my new life as a gas station attendant. I worked at a gas station when I was 20. It was a third shift job and I remember coming home at 7 am and watching everyone else waking up and getting ready to start their day. The sunrise was my sunset. I smoked weed out of an apple and slept through the day. It should have propelled me towards a real career but at 31 I’m on my way back to that mean existence. Ten years to work my way back into an old rut.

With all the time in the world

It’s a painfully beautiful day. Sunlight shimmering on tremulous leaves, fluffy white clouds painted on a piercing blue canvas. The sky stabs me with its indifferent brilliance. In these tranquil moments I transcend my worries, my merely human concerns. And I wonder why it’s not enough to eat, sleep, fuck and die like everything else in nature.

Because there’s status and envy and desire and all the tormenting, soul twisting passions. Mortality, awareness like a wound that doesn’t heal. We’re born sick, sentenced to aimless freedom, every step haunted by the arbitrary. Why this and not that, why now and not before, why you and not someone else.

As a child I would lay awake and puzzle over my identity. I couldn’t understand what made me this particular person and not someone or something else. At an early age I sensed separation within myself. There was a part of me in nature, a natural being, a body with organs and functions, a history and a name, an object visible to other people. And then there was another part that wasn’t a part at all. It had no precise location but it seemed to come from somewhere inside my head. It watched the solid, material part of me and introduced uncertainty into every moment, into every act.

But I couldn’t see the source of my vision. I wasn’t outside myself in objectivity, in action and reaction, and neither was I at home inside, in thought, consciousness and contemplation. A body cursed with spirit and a spirit soiled with a body. I felt like a passage, a movement between reality and unreality. Not from here but with no destination either.

You don’t solve these mysteries. You stay alive and become insensitive, you forget. I can barely articulate the philosophical speculations of my childhood, when I was a precociously penetrating thinker. I know much more about the world but I can’t feel the intensity of those meditations anymore.

Nature is heavenly to behold but hellish to be a part of. I no longer feel the loss of who I was, instead I note it like a piece of history. The sun is setting on this tauntingly pretty day and I can’t find the words to describe those old questions that used to keep me awake in the middle of the night. I’m too tired to be an insomniac; I sleep so deeply I don’t remember my dreams. I’ve failed to say what I want to say yet again. My only consolation is knowing it doesn’t matter either way.

Scandal and sloth

Since I’ve moved home I’ve become sedentary. I wake up and sit in front of the computer and then I sit in a car when I can borrow one from someone in my family. That’s life in the midwest, in a small town where everything is miles apart. A gimmicky gas station with elvis memorabilia is up the highway from my parent’s house. I drive there to get dill flavored potato chips and candy bars. Then I drive back to my basement room where I sit some more and gorge on carcinogenic snacks. I don’t have a job and I don’t have enough money to move.

When you live in a city, you have to walk and it keeps you fit. And dc was an especially walkable city without much obesity. People are fat here because they don’t have to move. They sit and stuff themselves with unholy facsimiles of food. They subsist on gas station hot bars, deep fried mozzarella sticks and 64 ounce big red polar pops. From their recliners to their trucks, to their feedlots and back to their recliners again. An orbit of obesity. I’m becoming one of them. I feel my joints stiffening and the lard collecting around my waist. I’ll be waddling from my quad cab truck to the gas station soon enough.

Even though I’m going to the gym again. But I’m driving there, sitting for twenty minutes each way. At the gym I walk for half an hour on a treadmill and then lift some weights. I hate the gym and my body screams at me to leave the entire time. It’s usually uncrowded but the music is annoying. I don’t have a portable device so I can’t block it out and listen to inspirational podcasts or beatdown music.

When are we going to get over classic rock. The same 15-20 songs have been playing on these stations for 30 years now. Who’s still pumping themselves up listening to back in black. The earth is teeming with unknown musicians playing to no one while these outdated radio stations maintain a death grip on their stale rotations.

That’s one of the minor problems with rustic folks. They never want to hear anything they haven’t heard before. When you work out in a redneck gym you’re going to hear led zepplin and ccr and pink floyd. While it’s better than the soundtrack to a gay orgy they’re always playing in big commercial gyms, tired old rock songs still grate on my ears.

At some point we need to admit that rock music isn’t good. When those classic, quaint bands were first breaking out people thought it was the end of the world. Those people were right. They condemned the harsh, abrasive tones, the eardrum shattering volume, the vulgar lyrics and primitive, befogging beats. Rock music celebrates drug use, promiscuity and rejection of the dominant culture. It promotes adolescent rebellion and lifelong self absorption. The protest songs are petulant and uninformed, myopic and self righteous.

Many people balk at what plays on contemporary stations now. They take offense t0 the juvenile perspectives, sexually crude lyrics, the repetitive themes and the formulaic song structures. It’s not like it was back in the day when the rolling stones were coming up, when we had good old fashioned meaningful rock and roll from ac/dc and def leppard. That was music for a healthy society.

The mainstream assimilated the counter culture and now we’re all rebels and nonconformists. As corporations gained power they encouraged deviancy to increase consumption. They adopted the image of the iconoclast to attract the attention of misfits and pander to narcissistic delusions. A fractured, defiled society needs gadgets and goods to distract itself from its crumbling comity.

Progressive causes dovetail with dehumanizing economic imperatives. Racism, sexism, xenophobia and cohesion might be good for communities, but they’re bad for business. Independence from family and tradition collapses into dependence on government and universities; functionaries replace fathers and lesbian professors tower over priests and preachers.

We all have tattoos, drug problems and mental disorders, we’re all in intersex, interracial polyamorous relationships. We’re queer scientists and radical feminist scholars. Vegan bodybuilders, transgendered beauty queens and 500 pound swimsuit models. In theory no one can tell anyone else what to do. In practice that’s all anyone ever does. The building blocks of reality have been swept away in an aids infused torrent of denial and outrage. We devise our own standards and impose them on the rest of the world rather than adapt to the needs of others.

Yesterday Trump banned trannies from the military. Right thinking people everywhere are horrified, shocked, disgusted and inconsolable. They’re vomiting and crying and shaking with rage and disbelief. It’s another act of bigotry that tramples on our sacred constitution and universalist ideals. It could even be treasonous and is probably collusive in some way.

No fighting force is complete without a fair share of deranged fetishists. Nothing is more formidable than an army of drag queens. Why spend money on state of the art missile technology when you can spend it on sex reassignment surgery? Why build bombs when you can build artificial dicks and auxiliary anuses?

Everything must be diverse, inclusive, tolerant, non-judgmental, radical and revolutionary. Especially the military. A group of trained killers should open their doors to everyone. Only a bigot would think that black lesbians, asian trannies and straight white men shouldn’t kill people together. And besides, the nature of warfare has changed. Who cares about your mangled genitals when you’re just pressing buttons in a bunker?

The aim of progressives isn’t inclusion, it’s humiliation. They bleat about acceptance as they build their identities on the scathing rejection of everything decent, normal and established. Gays don’t want to get married, they want to degrade marriage. Trannies don’t want to defend the nation, they want to parade their pathology. Leftists despise the military and everything it champions. Loyalty, duty, honor and courage are anathema to progressives.

But pushing trannies on the military is another opportunity to spread their sickness and demoralize their enemies. They get off on forcing normal people to accept their warped agendas. It’s not about strengthening an institution. No one thinks that gays improve marriage or that trannies give the military a strategic edge. They don’t care about what happens to the morale, productivity or unity of a group once they’ve infiltrated it. The organic health of a social body should be sacrificed to support their diseased impulses and inane philosophies.

There’s a groucho marx quip, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” The progressive version would sound like this: “I insist on belonging to every club that wouldn’t accept me as one of its members.”

They hate you but they want you to love them. Hierarchy is unjust unless they can be on top. We all have the right to free speech unless you say something they don’t like. They refuse to serve until you refuse them; then they demand to participate.

Uninvolved nitwits pretend to be patriots when it suits their need to feel included. The military murders their precious brown people but if trannies want to join the carnage then no one should stop them. They will salute an imperial juggernaut of oppression as long as it features a committee approved mix of minorities and protected classes. As long as the death machine is run by freaks and mutants then the slaughter may continue.

Everyone will talk about this for another three to five days. And then it will recede from our memory, surpassed by another heinous blunder, threat to democracy, insult to good taste, terrifying burst of tyranny, etc.

Jobless days stretch on. I have no focus and no vision for the future. I’m going to end up working in a kitchen and living in my parent’s basement forever. I should have learned how to do math.

To move you need money, to get money you need a job, to get to your job you need a car, to get a car you need money. How did anyone ever do anything, I wonder at 4 pm in sweatpants.

A few minor concerns

I don’t know how I feel about ambiguity.

And I have mixed feelings about ambivalence. When I act, I doubt. Things could go one way or they could go another. Every decision is a radical rupture, each act opens up a new infinity. And you’ll never know what could’ve been. You don’t experience your alternatives, you can’t embody your shadows.

The longer you live the more unrealized possibilities you carry. It gets heavy unless you have the strength or stupidity to become a new self, born again in every moment. Bearing yourself in every moment.

Or your memory could integrate your past into your present. Then you could see your life as a long arc. You could look into the future and build on who you’ve been and what you’ve done.

So many decisions I’ve made were denials of the future. As if I were holding out for nothing. I went to school to get a liberal arts degree. I chased casual sex with a grim zeal and shredded my psyche with drugs and depressive speculations.

After all, the future was a fantasy. All I had was the present. For a long time I kneeled before the now. I squandered the wealth of the future on the momentary and dove as deeply as I could into the infinitesimal intervals of my sensations.

(Most of those impressions, no matter how vivid and dazzling they were when they happened, are now buried and unreachable, and even if I could recover them they’d fail to shine as they once did. Unless we write or record our experiences on an unchanging surface they sink into impenetrable depths.)

The future will find you ready or unready. It takes effort to hold yourself together when the universe is pulling you apart. When your body wants to dissolve. When the rational choice is to unravel. We all know it feels better to be dead.

And you can kill yourself without pulling a trigger or kicking a stool out from under your feet. It doesn’t have to happen in one instant. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic event. A theatrical gesture of renunciation, a headline, a cinematic end.

You can do it imperceptibly, moment by moment with every decision you make. You can kill yourself with despair. By defaulting and deferring. By turning yourself down, drowning yourself out. It doesn’t shock society. There will be no stories on the news about it.

Sometimes things change because we haven’t evolved. What fails to grow doesn’t remain the same, it disintegrates.

This is painful to write but it doesn’t fix the problem of time. (It also doesn’t make me a better writer.) There’s no lifting ourselves up from having fallen into this mess. Where we’re simultaneously stuck and running along, idle and out of breath.

I tell myself it’s okay if I write nonsense now because I can always make sense later. But how much time do I have to make sense of time? What if this is all I can say even if I’m not out of time yet?

 

Sojourn in the country

It’s been two weeks since I moved home. The rain is falling and the sky is grumbling. A soothing start to a sunday. I’m sitting in my basement room, drinking coffee and listening to the storm, observing the elemental power of nature from the safety and comfort of a sturdy dwelling.

I didn’t build this house or pay for it but I’m grateful to have been born into a family that could provide a stable home for its children. Even now they take care of me while I sort things out. A supportive family is of inestimable value and I take care to remind myself whenever possible. Despite my gratitude I don’t want to tarry here and become shiftless.

I visited my girlfriend and her family in northern indiana, a place of flat, straight roads disappearing into the horizon in every direction. There are no curves or hills. The atmosphere is serene and there’s little noise. Population density is low and the psyche has room to expand without getting engulfed in anonymous crowds. Fields of corn and soybean connect scattered silos and barns.

The people move a little slower but they love fast, gleaming cars. Motorcycles and scooters, too. They’re farmers and mechanics, masters of crops and cars. They build and fix things with their hands. The culture celebrates and ensures technical competence and production, family and cohesion. It’s a wildly different environment from a place like dc.

My girlfriend’s dad, my girlfriend and I went to a scooter show in a nearby town. It’s not something I’d seek out on my own but I try to be a good sport about other people’s interests these days. And it was fun. The sun was ferocious and the humidity stifling. The air was a rancid mix of hot mud, brackish standing water and gas fumes from sputtering motorbikes. There were concession stands selling buttered corn on the cob and elephant ears. Tents and campers and rv’s lined the roads and dirt paths snaking through the fairground.

Sometimes people say whites don’t have a culture. But white culture is real, rooted and multifaceted, and I saw one side of it at the scooter show. There are many white cultures that spring from different regions and economic classes. These people love their machines and their manufacturing prowess. They love trading old pieces of equipment, rifling through scraps and parts, customizing and restoring, buying and selling.

And they love the communal, festive aspect of these events. Sitting in rocking chairs under the cover of canvass and nylon, drinking miller lite and talking cars with relatives, friends and affable strangers. There’s an inherent trust and comfort in these communities. It’s a product of familiarity and homogeneity. There are no blacks in these parts, no inscrutable browns and yellows, no conniving jews and atomized urbanites.

There are no foreign, questionable elements, no racial and ethnic tension. The landscape is seamless and the population is unified. Recognition among similar stock is automatic and effortless. There are no whores and hobos sullying the streets because the environment doesn’t permit that sort of vice and dysfunction. Not that these people are perfect. Some of them have drinking and drug problems. There are probably instances of abuse and neglect. But the rhythms of life, the web of relations and material conditions preclude many forms of degeneracy and squalor.

The people here stick together. They stay where they were born and raised and take pride in their habits and customs. They protect and care for each other. So you don’t see the blight of selfish indifference or the garish extremes of wealth and poverty evident in tumultuous cities. The ugliness of segregation and stratification, the eyeball searing disparity and soul crushing density have no place here. Mixed populations and chaotic urban environments lack the aesthetic coherence and simple beauty of homogenous, small-scale communities.

We went to a famous ice cream shop. When I looked around the room I noticed how white and friendly everyone was and it took me a second to process. I’ve lived the last two years among poor blacks and individualist strivers of varying ethnicities and orientations. But that evening in the ice cream shop I saw nothing but intact, unblemished, pristine white american families, moms and dads and well behaved children spending another evening together in a quiet, sparsely populated farming town. It was a wholesome and restorative vision. Just what I needed.

What color are these glasses

Feeling more positive today. Worked out at the local redneck gym this morning. Deadlifts make you feel alive. I don’t want to be another meathead rhapsodizing about the man-making power of the iron but it’s undeniable. Lifting heavy things clears your head and calms your anxieties. Your testicles brim with testosterone.

You pick up hundreds of pounds and sweat out the sadness. Your muscles don’t have much to do so you force them to work and you trick your body into believing it’s fighting and winning. In the absence of conflict and embodied engagement we create artificial stressors to remind ourselves of our fleshly existence. It’s easy to forget. Comfort is deadly so we contrive threats and obstacles to stay vital.

Depression is metastasized thinking. Curbing depression requires changing your thoughts but also changing your body. Or taking drugs. If you can’t make the changes yourself then you’ll need institutional assistance. I don’t fault people for seeking help. It doesn’t necessarily make them weak and culpable.

If it’s not so bad that you need psychiatric care then you have to move around more. You have to struggle and overcome, even if the struggle is imaginary. Hold your head up and force yourself to smile. Work out and straighten your spine. Use every trick to convince yourself that you’re strong and capable. Mantras, affirmations, laughing like a lunatic, writing out lists: it’s all cheesy and you feel like an ass but it works.

People program themselves into believing anything. Their environment programs them too. Think of all the different beliefs people have held and the barriers they’ve placed in front of themselves. It starts out as what you hear from others and becomes what you say to yourself. And once it’s in your head it’s all you see out in the world. I’m miserable and the world is a miserable place. I’m happy and the world is full of beautiful people and wonderful things.

Our mental frames set us up to repeat experiences which then reinforce our frames. We establish feedback loops between ourselves and our environment, getting out of our surroundings exactly what we ourselves add to them. We tend to think that environments condition organisms when it’s just as true that organisms condition environments.

Natural selection runs both ways. I’m not a big nietzsche fan anymore but he makes the point in an extreme form. What we call an environment is nothing more than the expressive power of an organism. There is no neutral space out there separate from the shaping and forming activity of the individual.

A belief might be factually incorrect or impossible to confirm but it can produce real effects. Telling yourself that you can do anything in the world might sound silly but it can empower you to do something you would have otherwise never attempted. Some people want to scientifically test a belief before accepting it when all you need to do is examine the behavior it generates.

There are innumerable examples. People believe in an afterlife because it makes them feel good and improves their quality of life in the present. What is the payoff for being factually correct about your destiny as a decaying corpse? Congratulations, everyone is dead forever and you were right all along. Of course the afterlife idea is also dangerous because it sometimes influences people to act destructively in this life for the promise of a better beyond. But hey, what are you going to do.

The real challenge is remaining interesting and funny when you’re happy and powerful. But we know it can be done.

Early morning melancholy

Yesterday I applied to jobs in Chicago and Indianapolis. My dark suspicions have been confirmed. There’s nothing to do here, no way to make money other than managing a taco bell. The co-op where I worked for years is declining. The coffee here is godawful and no one is hiring. I thought that being around family would be enough. But I was wrong, as I so often am.

If I’ve ever been right about anything, it’s about being wrong. It’s a start.

The midwestern small town is a wasteland. I romanticized it. From a distance it seemed cohesive and comfortable. Up close it appears arid and hopeless. The people are portly and plodding. Poor whites are marginally better than poor blacks. Less murderous but still depressing to behold.

I’ve been thinking of tradition and continuity and rootedness but you can’t make up for what you never had. At some point you have to accept your condition, the real roots of your existence. And for me, those roots are individualism, cynicism and anomie.

My tradition is rejection of tradition. My history is discontinuous, jagged, subtractive, a project of the piecemeal. Succession without progression. Alternation without improvement. Serial but unserious.

I’m modern and postmodern, inconsistent, a product of my time, a solitary stream of consciousness. A natural deconstructionist picking through the scrap heap of a crumbling civilization. I grew up in a casually liberal, atheistic home, a secular island in a sea of holdover christianity. The west is no longer christian, they say. When I was a kid everyone I knew was a christian except for me and my parents.

I never decided to be faithless. There was nothing rational about my unbelief. It was always a feeling, a mood, a deep foundation I couldn’t examine or change. My rejection of religion was a reflex, not an achievement of reason.

When I contemplate death and nullity my soul cries out for god, for wisdom and redemption. I feel the vacuity of modern secular life and its sterile pleasures, its senseless sensations. And then my attention wanders. Distraction is a defense against terror. Entertainment papers over an abyss. But even knowledge is a diversion, and reading scholarly articles in american affairs serves the same purpose as hemorrhaging hours with netflix. It’s all to forget, to defer.

I remember reading Pascal, who berated early modern man’s dim disregard of his eternal destination. For Pascal, what’s unbelievable is unbelief. What’s absurd is the refusal to confront absurdity. I remember thinking his wager was bullshit because you can’t force sincerity. You can’t calculate your advantage when it comes to faith.

But I missed the point. It doesn’t matter how you acquire faith. What you feel is irrelevant but what you do is important. And when you kneel and pray you act from faith even if you don’t feel it. Over time the feeling will match the act, and then your initial acts will have retroactively come from a place of earnest belief.

Maybe I’m still missing the point and I’ll never get it. Maybe there’s something funny about that. Life can at least force a wry smile out of you.

Coming up with titles gets old

It’s sunday morning and I’m drinking coffee in my parent’s basement. My grandmother, sister, brother and nephew are here for my birthday. It’s good to be among family.

I’m 31 now. There’s nothing notable about being 31. Growing old is banal. It’s not moving forward as much as it’s getting dragged along. Aging and death are given; everything else has to be taken, ripped from someone else’s arms.

You’re always younger than you will be but I’ve always felt older than I am. When I was 25 I wanted to be 21 again. When I turned 30 I wanted to be 25. Rather than lamenting what’s lost I should be grateful for what remains. Because there’s still so much to lose.

I don’t know pain. But I have a good imagination for it. I’m the source of my suffering.

(This isn’t true. I grew up impotent in an age of deregulated sexuality. Struggled in silence for years, alone, not knowing what was wrong with me. I watched my body fail. Few men experience this in their youth. They’re out there but no one talks about it. Who would admit that.

I finally had surgery a year and a half ago. Now I’m cured but the damage was done. And I’m still paying off hospital bills. I’ll need surgery again someday to maintain my artificial ability. Human engineering counteracting the curse of god.

All my grandparents except for one are dead. My grandpa on my mom’s side had alzheimers. He deteriorated for years. It’s maddening to see someone lose their mind. My grandpa on my dad’s side also wasted away. I didn’t know either of them well enough. Most of my memories of them are from after they became sick, when they were shadows of themselves.

And no matter what happens to you, life is pain. No one knows why we’re here or why we suffer and die. It might be for nothing and the possibility is haunting. The alternative, that we’re made in the image of an all powerful creator who has a plan for us, is equally if not more disquieting.

But I’m trying not to soak in sadness. We’re slated for the grave but in the meantime we should make the most of it. This is what books, podcasts and successful men tell me. I need to change the words that flow through my ditch of a mind. My sentiments are bad habits, not essential truths. What do I even know. Nothing. Then why do I always have a reason for why I can’t do something.)

It’s fascinating to watch my five year old nephew. He’s brilliant. He reads and writes, counts, adds and multiplies. They want him to skip kindergarten and start first grade. He could do it but then he would be one of those kids. A precocious child is a target, an outcast. It will be difficult for him to make friends. My hope is that he’ll be one of those hard science or math savants with a cheerful disposition. The type who’s always calculating and investigating and working with numbers and never succumbing to self doubt and despondency.

The beginning of life is bursting with promise and potential. My nephew could do anything. But if he wants to make money he needs to be prudent. I hope he doesn’t make the same mistakes I did and waste time with music and literature. Or if he does, I hope he’s better at those things than I am. Or at least finds fulfillment in them.

If he can compute and code and build robots he’ll have a place in the new economy of human obsolescence. Otherwise he’ll be poor and insecure, jumping from job to job serving food or wiping windows and scrubbing counters. But regardless of what he becomes, right now his future is open. And that’s worth something. What we could be is more precious than what we become.

And then my grandma is at the other end of life. She’s 82 and spry. She travels and goes to the theater and plays cards with friends. A model senior citizen. Children and the elderly have an innocence and joy often missing in adults. They’re free from the burdens of work and sex. The things that we spend the bulk of our lives doing or pursuing. What saps us of our creativity and wonder.

To be free from work and sex is to transcend the world. We begin life above the toilsome earth. And then we fall into habit and forgetfulness. Repeating what we don’t want and losing everything we love wears us down.

In old age there’s a chance to be young again. If you have money and health. You can return to a state of wonder and purity and happiness like a child. Unless you’re a miserable old crank who never let go of disappointments and dogma. People will abandon you because no one wants to hear an old fool rant and complain all day long, and distracted caregivers will serve your pap and gruel.

My surroundings are peaceful but I’m feeling antsy. I’m in my prime and living with my retired parents in a small town with few friends and few opportunities. It was a good birthday, though.

No one said life is fair

Unemployed. Borrowing my sister’s car so I can find work. I’m sitting in a coffee shop and it’s as still as a cemetery. No one is talking. They’re all on laptops. I’m doing the same thing. I’m another silent typer in a public place where people work on private projects.

No one goes into a coffee shop to talk to another physically present person. I’m avoiding more pressing tasks. I should be talking to people, applying to jobs, renewing my license. My bank in dc doesn’t have a branch here so I need to close that account and open a new one.

I have 300 dollars to my name. When that’s out I will be stuck at my parent’s house, in their basement, permanently pajama clad, vacant and directionless. I need to find work in this small town I left two years ago. There was no work then and there’s no work now.

Living in a small town is strange because even when you don’t know someone, you know them. You’ve seen them around, they know people you know. You should have introduced yourself years ago and now it’s too late. You both know you should know each other but neither of you will make the effort now.

I stopped by an old friend’s place. He’s an improv jazz drummer who tours all over the country, plays shows in chicago and st. louis. He lived in vietnam and cuts records with experimental bhutanese guitarists. The music he plays is unlistenable but there’s an audience for it. He could go anywhere in the country and people would pay him to play for them.

You can make it as a free jazz drummer because there are just enough people scattered around the world who’ve convinced themselves that free jazz is enjoyable or challenging or ennobling. There are enough people in pockets here and there that have the grit to sit through 45 minutes of spastic nonsense.

He’s poor but he has recognition within a cloistered culture of avant garde enthusiasts and artists. I’m happy for him but I can’t talk to him anymore. The whole conversation is just him spewing out a flood of obscure musicians; this guy played with that guy who played in this band who did a record with this label and on and on and on. Have you heard this band? No. Well they have members from this other band. Don’t know them either.

When it’s not who played with whom it’s more leftist politics. He also works at a community kitchen serving people who repeatedly ruin their own lives. So everything is institutional and systemic and racist and sexist. It’s all the conservatives fault. It’s those callous midwestern republicans and their refusal to dump more tax money on derelicts. People have no will. Institutions shoot heroin directly into their veins. Structures force them to abuse their children. And if you’re not rerouting your extra money and attention and affection towards their sinkhole lives then you’re a monster.

The addicts and abusers and retards don’t have enough money and support to get up out of the gutter. If they just had more money and love they could overcome generations of bad breeding. I’m an idiot now and with my life up in the air I don’t care about any of this. It’s all tiresome and unproductive and no one ever convinces anyone of anything except that the other person is an asshole. Everyone else is either an idiot or a selfish bastard.

My friend’s delicate sensibilities have been disturbed by Trump. I had to listen to another person work through the life shattering trauma of a presidential election in a free country. Another person whose fragile psyche couldn’t bear the hideous horrible truth that large segments of the population have different beliefs. How could the white working class have interests of their own outside of severing their scrotums and calling for their own displacement.

We were on the verge of an ethnically indistinct consumer technotopia of interchangeable designer sex organs and life extended egalitarian pleasure seeking until Trump and his band of bigots dropped an atom bomb on the whole enterprise. In a single day the left, which had nearly established an enduring order of mottled, muddled, androgynous nu-mans without roots and religion, was throttled into a state of hysterical bewilderment and free falling failure.

It’s all different now. It’s all crashing down around them. They need therapy and medication, protests and chemsex coping parties. I just a need a job.

Notes from my mom’s basement

I need to unpack. My books are in boxes, my clothes are in trash bags. The laziness is in my dna. The sluggishness is cellular. My molecules don’t want to move. I don’t want a job.

Why is it always your mom’s basement? Why not your dad’s? The dad owns the basement just as much as the mom, but the mom always gets the credit for sheltering the failed adult children.

When you want to discredit someone on the internet you accuse him of living in his mom’s basement. Because no one ever said anything credible from their mom’s basement. We should only listen to people who don’t live in the basements of people who brought them into the world. Only the people who move away from their loved ones are right.

What is the measure. You don’t live in your mom’s basement but you live in a tin shack on the hill. You converted the barn where your dad kept the lawnmower into a bedroom and it smells like gas and wet mulch.

You’re 30 and you live with other 30 somethings in an old ranch house on the outskirts of town. 4 of you share one rusted out 97 chevy cavalier and if someone else has the car then you take the bus to your job as a line cook in a diner. You come home everyday stained with vegetable oils, smelling like fried meat.

What if you made a bunch of money and had a nice house but then you got a divorce. Your wife left you. You were exciting until you settled down. It’s nature; when you’re married your testicles shrink and your scrotum shrivels and your wife hates you.

Nature doesn’t need you to be a roving seed spiller once you wed yourself to a single woman. But having just one woman isn’t attractive to women so the one woman you had sees you as a castrated wretch. You still have the nice house but it’s empty and the spacious rooms reverberate with the regret of every bad choice you’ve ever made.

I don’t think I’m getting better at this. They say you have to practice. You have to put in x number of hours, sweating and straining with clenched teeth and then you’ll be competent. They say this to make you feel better. And life is about nothing if not feeling better. But you won’t improve. You either have talent or you don’t.

Just try to say something original about trump. Try to say something clever about sjw’s or political correctness or fake news or neoliberalism or fascism or cultural marxism. The people who are recognized for talking about these oversaturated subjects have skills and connections you’ll never have no matter how early you wake up in the morning to practice your prose. Good luck with promoting your take on the decadence of democracy or the corruption of elites.

Drop a stick of butter in your coffee and recite your winner’s mantra and strike your power poses. Improve your posture and take russian nootropics.

Work for weeks on a smart, well researched essay. I’ve read so many smart essays by smart people and none of them got anything from me. I paid them nothing and didn’t even say anything nice to them.

Well then, labor out of love. Do it because you love it. I love typing into the void and then wondering what it means. Passion has taken me to my mom’s basement. You read about those people who find success later in life. The struggling single mom writing on napkins after putting her children to sleep. Some publisher discovers her relatable stories and then everything changes.

That won’t happen to you. Start a podcast because your friends laugh at everything you say. Read more books by ceo’s and mystical cognitive therapists. Visualize the opportunities. The last ten years don’t matter because all we have is the present and you can change right now.