“Drew. I need you to come back to me, Drew.”
I snap my eyes open. My therapist, a middle-aged white woman with too much jewelry, is sitting across from me with a clipboard and pen. She’s been expecting me.
“You did a great job, Drew. I’m very proud of you and I appreciate you.” I roll my sleepy eyes and look past her- past the framed degrees on the wall, past the fake fern in the corner, past her politically correct jargon. “You’re in a safe place now.” She puts a cold, wrinkly hand on my forearm.
Apparently, she had just guided me through what I’m told was a small childhood trauma. It’s part of her psychoanalytic treatment: going back into the past to see where certain issues originated. I’m not really sure what kind of progress we made though.
I was just imagining what it’d be like to fuck two girls at the same time.
Repressed memories must be a lot like not being able to cum, only for years on end. I look at the clock. There’s ten minutes left in our session- enough for a quickie.
“Alright. I need you to do one more thing for us before we leave, Drew. I want you to go to the special place we talked about on that worksheet I gave you. Go there and describe it for me- how peaceful and happy it is.” She says this with gushing sincerity.
It’s the summer before my junior year in college. My behavior has been “odd” the past couple of months, so my parents got me five sessions at a local therapist to figure out why I’ve been acting strange.
I’m Dr. Sitzer’s last client of the day, so I imagine by the time she gets to me (after a morning full of rape victims and recent divorcees), I’m sort of a cake walk. My problems are normal white suburbanite problems, meaning they’re not real problems at all. I figured I’m probably an open and shut case: maybe a lack of closure from someone’s death or some body image issues stemming from being a chubby adolescent. We even have a shot at convincing me I’m gay if she gives me enough worksheets about it. Nothing concrete yet though, no skeletons in the closet- just a wishbone or two. My routine these days is pretty much equal parts masturbation and Xbox- what could be the problem?
“Close your eyes, Drew. I want you to describe your special place to me. What’s it look like?”
I decide to humor her.
“I’m in a field in the farmland outside my house. There are cows in the distance mooing.”
“Cows?” she interrupts.
“Yes, cows. This is my happy place and I want to have cows.” I retort with my eyes closed.
“Sorry. Continue,” she says.
“It’s dusk in October or early November. The air smells like grass and cinnamon. There’s a cool breeze blowing through the tall grass. There’s no one around for miles and no one needs me for anything. I’m alone. There’s an abandoned barn with a halfpipe inside down a dirt road. I’m walking to it. I’m going to skate it till late at night then sleep under the stars. Everything is serene. Everything is calm. Everything is peace.”
Everything is okay.
“Wake the fuck up, princess!”
I snap my eyes open. A young, grizzled line cook is squinting at me like I’m some kind of alien. He slides a bowl of cheese covered tater tots across the stainless steel server window. I can’t imagine how someone’s stomach can break this down.
He shoves a paper ticket in my face. “Stop fingering yourself and get this shit to 415.”
I watch as he turns around and stands in front of the fryer. Braydon, the cook, is a few years older than me: sinewy, with a mop top of silky black hair stuffed under his yellowed Florida Gators hat. Sometimes I believed that the hat was a part of Braydon- that if I managed to knock it off somehow, he would crumble into dust. I’d be the one who’d have to sweep him up though. I’d get the broom from the supply closet and collect his essence alongside stale Italian bread crumbs, then dump him in the alley behind the restaurant. It would be an oddly befitting funeral rite, but Braydon would have wanted it that way.
Braydon turns back around. “Why are you still standing there, Shakespeare? Looking for literary symbolism in that food ticket? Oh wait, nah, I know what you want,” he grabs his crotch with the bottom of his apron. “You want some of this dick- don’t ya, baby?”
I shake my head and stab the ticket. Braydon is telling the other cooks how grande his cajones are in broken Spanglish as I swing the door open into the dining room.
Everywhere I look- bodies. Not people- bodies, fucking flesh on flesh. Legs, guts, asses, tits, dicks, heads- parts. They seemed to be stacked on top of each other, how Picasso must have seen them. They seem to spawn from everywhere. Dense. Loud. Bodies. Raleigh’s middle class in concentrate form- like the industrial tubs of garlic powder in the pantry downstairs.
This isn’t my happy place.
I try and sift through the nooks and the crannies- through the starched sleeves and the BoHo blouses of the dining room. Every now and then one of those sleeves and blouses belongs to someone I knew and they’ll stop me. Perhaps we had graduated together or lived in the dorms sophomore year. They’d introduce their girlfriend, they’d tell me about how they just started at Cisco, they’d ask what kind of beer this is. They’d remember me: the smart one in class, the creative guy, that person everyone always liked. The one who’s going to get you another beer, the one who’s going to clean up your girlfriend’s vomit, the one who will be sweeping Braydon’s ashes in an alleyway while you’re getting a blowjob in your condo.
Food dropped off, I return downstairs. The kitchen has died down now- no orders, no smoke, no profanities in whatever language. It’s 11:45pm. I grab the mac n’ cheese Braydon begrudgingly gives me- “fucking vegetarian,” and eat next to the water heater in the basement. Table for one.
I come back up and wash my plate against the dishwasher’s insistence: “No, Maria- es nada. Nada.” My back against the counter, I watch the kitchen- chef taking off his apron, Francisco idly talking to Eduardo as they chop cabbage, Danny blasting dubstep on the little radio perched precariously above a bowl of raw ground beef, Braydon trying to push my buttons about something.
“You know, believe it or not, Drew, I actually like you,” he says.
“Tough love, right?” I say.
He chuckles to himself. “Aww, you’re the only guy on the server staff who actually has a brain in his fucking skull and can take a hit. You know what arugala looks like and you work like a Goddamn Mexican- I admire that.” Francisco and Eduardo stop to leer at Braydon. “That’s a compliment,” he says to me before addressing the two in the back. “Un cumplido, hombres. Un cumplido.”
“Yeah. Well, apparently no one else seems to care much about that,” I say.
“Oh, are we gonna fiddle our dicks about how bad we feel now?” Braydon wipes his hands on his apron.
“I’m not trying to get sympathy, man. Just saying.”
“You came to the wrong place if you want sympathy, veg head.” He puts his apron on the counter and leans through the window. “Here’s your situation the way I see it: you’re working here. So, strike one. You have no real contacts here in Raleigh- and despite what they told you, that means you don’t have many prospects- doesn’t matter what shit they wrote on your degree, Good Will Hunting. The reason that fucktard from your psych class is getting fifty k a year is because his dad knew someone. Now you may know a lot of shit, but it ain’t about people- so that means you don’t know shit. Not your fault. You probably got some friends that have your back though, maybe there’s even a girl out there who’d actually want to fuck you more than once or twice, but for the most part, you’re also rolling solo and you’re starting to feel it. I know you don’t have money cause you make less than me and I’m broke.” Braydon bites his lip as if he’s doing the math in his head. “Yeah, man- you’re kinda fucked.”
For some reason his assertion awakens a deep insecurity inside me- something Freudian that I actually remember from psych class and fucktard doesn’t. Maybe it was something my therapist was trying to tap in to. “Why is all this happening to me? I played by the rules, man. I studied hard so I could be in the top ten percent of my class. I volunteered at homeless shelters. I never took shortcuts to anything. I always try to be the good guy. I did what I thought was right. I even put the fucking seat down when I go to a unisex bathroom. I did what I was supposed to do but nothing seems right.”
I look off into space. I’m trying to find my happy place, but I don’t hear any cows. “Why?”
Braydon smiles reassuringly, then leans in, “Cause fuck you.” He walks out of sight.
For the first time, I had no real retort. Braydon’s words landed so heavy in my mind that my mouth couldn’t open. People had told me that before, but for some reason, I felt it hit me in the gut, right where my mac n’ cheese was beginning to fester. It was a back room sermon.
“Cause fuck you.”
The more I thought about it, the more that phrase grew to mean so much me. It became my “om”- my affirmation of faithlessness. I could imagine myself rocking back and forth holding a string of beads, counting how many times I said it- prostrating myself on piss soaked concrete to revere the fry cook’s gospel.
“Cause fuck you” became part of my vernacular. It got me through more of those treacherous nights at the bar- my safety word for when circumstance was whipping my ass too hard. It got me through days where I saw how heavy the world is- seeing homeless men sleep in church vestibules, wiping snot from some wheelchair confined kid’s nose, seeing people arrested in front of me. It answered all of life’s questions, at least to the point I could carry on- whether it was mass murders or getting cut off on the Beltline, the answer was reduced to the same tao- “cause fuck you.”
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Cause fuck you.
Why can’t I seem to get anything right?
Cause fuck you.
Why did my grandpa have to die that way?
Cause fuck you.
Why can’t I be with her?
Cause fuck you.
Why do I feel this way?
Cause fuck you.
Why am I so angry?
Cause fuck you.
Why am I so sad?
Cause fuck you.
Why do I not feel anything?
Cause fuck you.
My happy place is fading to black. No cows, no clandestine half pipe in an old barn, no cool autumn nights- just cold hard reality where people struggle, fuck, starve, bleed, and die. Where there’s war, rape, famine, fraud, and addiction. No cows, no reasons, no hope.
So then why continue, why go on- why live?
Cause fuck you- that’s why.
“Drew. Come back to me, Drew. Your session is over.”
Listen to This: “Incense and Peppermints”- Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Tears of a Clown”- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “Let It All Hang Out”- A.D.O.R.
Well, I haven’t written much on here in a while. It’s gotten about as many updates as a MySpace page. I considered this blog dead to me, and I really had no intention of writing on it again. Oh, now there’s been stuff to write about, there’s been plenty, but I didn’t write it here. It was confined to personal letters, notebook pages, and the back of my mind. I’m blowing it, but I’m that kind of guy who can get away with blowing it for longer than most. To be honest, I didn’t think I could write any more. I truly believed I had no longer had the ability, the ideas, or the drive. Why write?
It’s a good question. This first little chapter is going to be about asking ourselves questions.
Yet here I am, writing on the blog again- pouring my soul into paper cups for you all to sip while you wait for your Amazon order to go through or your porno to buffer. I appreciate your time- I really do. Below is the preface to a series I’m starting called “Disposable Hero.” I feel it describes me and a lot of other people like me very accurately. It’s about life. It’s about my life more specifically, but I hope you find it’s really about your life too. There will be updates on this series along with new posts and new fiction pieces as well.
So here it is, the first installment of Drew St.Claire’s “Disposable Hero.”
I walk into an elevator. There’s a man a handsome, middle-aged man in a suit. The doors stay open longer than normal and the man smiles. This whole scenario reminds me of when you get to the front of the line on the Tower of Terror- a little bell hop smiling as he helps you on. I step inside and the doors close.
“So what do you do?” the man in the suit asks me.
He looks like my dad. All middle-aged men in suits look like my dad. Everyone says how much I look like my dad. I am a middle-aged man in a suit.
“Sir?” he asks again.
I pause for a bit. ”Honestly…I don’t know.” I say it like I just learned English earlier that day.
“Excuse me?” he asks, bewildered.
The doors open and I jump out like the elevator is going to plummet behind me. I imagine looking at the security tape later and finding out there was no one on the elevator.
I missed a key opportunity to give what’s called your “elevator speech.” If you were on an elevator with someone for about thirty seconds and had to introduce yourself and what you’re all about, this is what you’d say. It’s basically an obituary you write for yourself. Whenever I can’t think of what to say for my elevator speech, I imagine a man in a ski mask holding a gun to my head yelling to me, “Why shouldn’t I fucking kill you right this minute?” It’s a perfect writing exercise. Lately, I can’t help but feel that ski mask dude is following me around asking that same thing. When I wake up, he’s sitting across the bed from me. He’s sitting behind me as I eat my hipster granola cereal, he’s sitting next to me on the bus, he’s pissing next to me at the urinal. He’s tucking me in at night and reading me stories from a big pop-up book about the ways he could off me. He’s always asking that question too:
“Why shouldn’t I fucking kill you?”
He’s the best life coach one could ask for.
Needless to say, it’s hard to keep your cool when you feel like you always have a .45 pointed at the back of your head- but I’m trying. We’re all trying. Each of us filling out applications, sitting at desks, blowing paychecks. Hell, maybe some of us don’t even have that to preoccupy us. But all the while, that guy is following us around asking us why he shouldn’t kill us, like he’s some kind of fucked up guardian angel. He’s our malevolent spirit animal- and the funny thing is, he has a point and we should listen to him. So, just to reiterate:
“Why shouldn’t I fucking kill you?”
I’ve been thinking long and hard about it, but I still can’t think of an answer. I’m living on borrowed time, like the other seven billion of us. I want to do so much- to learn, to create, to help, to love…to live.
“I want to live!” I yell back at the ski mask guy. He smiles, his mask smiles. He pulls the trigger. It wasn’t loaded. Then he’s gone, just like the man in the suit on the elevator.
So, remind me again:
“Why shouldn’t I fucking kill you?”
At the request of one Vallyn Murphy, the blog is coming back like the living dead. The writing may have stopped, but I haven’t. Check back soon for this site’s new lease on cyber-life.
It’s about time for my phone to be upgraded. That may not seem like much, but when you consider it, this is a pretty sizable milestone all things considered. I remember getting this phone, an iPhone 3GS, at the very end of junior year for my 21st birthday. Since I’ve gotten it, it’s become an extension of me- despite the fact I never thought I’d use it. Well, I did use it- and I used it a fair amount. It’s captured a lot of moments- graduation, girls, bonfires out in the country, lonely walks in downtown, everything. Our phones have become our little worry stones- Generation Y’s baby blankets. So, as I thumbed through these pictures, I decided to blog one of them every few days until my new phone comes in. So here’s the first installment of “From the Vault.”
Here’s the third ever photo I took on my iPhone. I figured it’s a good one to start with. It’s one of those pictures you’re really proud of simply because you captured a rare moment, something that you probably won’t see again. It’s not often you see a fucking storm trooper walking around downtown after all.
To understand this photo, you have to go back to the night before.
It was my 21st birthday- the day the government deems you mature enough to drink alcohol and the day you prove to them by your actions that you really aren’t. I came back to Raleigh to get my first legal drink at the Raleigh Times with some friends- something I said I’d do since I first got to State. I don’t remember much about getting to the Times (not because I was drunk, but because I’m a space cadet and can barely remember someone’s name), but I recollect getting a bottle of Christian Brothers brandy from the liquor store because I thought brandy was classy. Somehow we end up at the bar- a renovated newspaper building that has since become the hipster mecca of the Southeast. I look at the menu and it becomes obvious what my first legal beer is going to be- Lucifer. I don’t care what it tastes like or who makes it or what sort of food you pair it with- this beer is called Lucifer and I have to drink it just because of that.
It’s strange the clarity you gain from a few pints- despite the fact that your physical coordination sags, often times your mind focuses a bit more on reality, as hazy as it may become. This is prime time for talks about politics, religion, and how people really feel about each other. A fifth of whiskey absolves sins and affirms lovers like few things in this world do. It’s strange that these discussions have to come under the influence of the booze or the bong (I’m guilty of both from time to time), but perhaps that’s the only time we feel safe to truly express ourselves- when we feel everyone else is off guard. We’re so selfish with our true emotions.
Acquaintances drink coffee. Friends drink beer.
Anyways, back to the insight you get from putting on the beer goggles. I noticed things differently after these first few beers. This was my first time getting drunk after all, despite my assertion that I was seasoned from glasses of dinner wine and an Irish heritage. I noticed lots of things I didn’t like. I noticed the way one of my then friends was flirting with my then girlfriend and realized that this was going to be the last birthday we’d celebrate together. I noticed half of the people around me I didn’t even really like all that much. I noticed that my mustache looked a little creepy after all. I noticed that more drinks made me forget all those things.
Somehow I end up in a parking lot later that night to be driven home. I spot a parking barricade and, in my state, know that I simply must vault over it. I remember hearing my friend Kieran’s voice telling me not to do it, but when you’re hammered, voices of reason sound like car alarms- you hear them in the distance, but you never check to see if it actually is meant for you. I fall like a sack of bricks onto my hand. I don’t feel a thing though and I could care less about the pain this is going to bring me later in the morning. Caring about fair weather friends, a cheating girlfriend, and sprained wrists stops somewhere around seven beers for me.
I spend the night in my friend Mel’s room because my then girlfriend doesn’t want to sleep with me- something “three beers Drew” would find odd but “seven beers Drew” just sees as more room to sprawl out on the bed. This is by far one of the most hellish nights I’ve had. Mel has this sort of hippie chic to her room, so there’s a million Indian and Arab inspired pillows and rugs around the room and all of them itch. The AC is out too- because why the fuck not, you know? I take off everything but my boxers to stay cool (I figured having my balls on Mel’s bedspread would just make it awkward), but that doesn’t help. I lay staring at the ceiling fan spin, in a hot itchy room and I realize Dante’s Inferno has been updated to fit modern life.
I get no sleep and am woken up by the girls wanting to get donuts and coffee. I stomach a few cream-filled’s and sip a white chocolate mocha as we drive back to the house. Then I spot it. I can’t believe my eyes. Has sleep deprivation and alcohol fucked with my senses enough to cause me to hallucinate? No. For one of the few times in life, it isn’t too good to be true- there’s a fucking storm trooper standing on the corner of Fayetteville Street across from a souvlaki stand. This is the cosmos’s way of telling me it has a sense of humor. I found a glitch in the matrix.
And there you have it.
Two years later I’m writing about this photo. Two years later that storm trooper has unwittingly made themself a book end in one of the most pivotal periods of my life. Two years later I’m smiling more at this photo than when I took it.
Check back often for new installments in “From the Vault.”
I’m a member of the Flying Saucer’s UFO club and that explains a lot about my life right now to be honest.
The Flying Saucer is a bar downtown with a vaguely Germanic/Nordic flair to it. Cute girls in short plaid skirts take your order for one of the 200+ beers available at any given time. On the walls are these gold plates with people’s names and witty sayings: “Carpe Beerium”, “All the Rum’s Gone”, “I’m with stupid”, and every other tired slogan someone somewhere thinks is ingenious. You get one of these plates by joining the UFO club and drinking 200 of those various beers. I figure “what the hell” and forked over twenty bucks to get a T-shirt and the chance to destroy my liver. Last night, I’m casually sipping number 186 with my roomie when I bum into an old friend from the early years of the skate club. He tells me how he loves the blog- that what I have to say is so insightful and raw. I’m always surprised just to hear anyone reads it, let alone that they like it. I figured I need to update it, so, here I am, writing a quick post with a pimento cheese sandwich sitting in my belly soaking up beers 188-185. I still haven’t thought of what I want to go on my plate. That’s serious stuff too- it’s pretty much the only goal I have in life at the moment. It’s a more worthwhile goal than many of the ones I hear other people have.
There have been some changes since the last post. I’m now (mostly) a vegetarian, I work at a bar called the Busy Bee on the weekends to make extra money, and I’ve bought lots of shit I don’t really need off of the Internet with that extra money.
I think it’s not so much the actual item we like getting in the mail, it’s the act of waiting for something. We’re guaranteed to have our patience rewarded. We know the end result of our virtue won’t be in vain. We get a knock at the door and someone wants us to sign for something- it’s a taste of being a celebrity without the pressure. It’s about as thrilling a feeling you can get these days.
The other day, I pick up my tips from the bar. I do this on Monday because I volunteer at a place near Busy Bee and I have a break for lunch. I like watching the businessmen while I eat my veggie sandwich or spring roll- it’s the closest thing you have to bird watching in Raleigh. You can tell which ones are more important by the color of the tie on their chest- just like birds.
I walk through Moore Square on my way back to the volunteer place. Moore Square is where the homeless in Raleigh hang out during the day and it’s pretty stupid to walk through here with 150 bucks cash in your back pocket but I’ve never claimed to be smart. It’s worth the potential mugging. I’ve seen guys in FUBU jerseys preaching the Gospel, girls beat each other up, and a guy try to fight a lawnmower here. Today, the weather is overcast and windy. It’s just the right temperature too- if you think hard enough it can feel cold or warm, depending on what you want. It reminds me of the beach. If you don’t think too hard, the buses sound like waves crashing and the car horns sound like sea gulls. I imagine the water is just behind the parking deck, that I could climb up to the top and dive in and swim to the NC State Bell Tower. I pick up one of the Ice House tall boys lying on the ground next to a sleeping homeless man to see if I can hear the ocean, but all I hear is crying.
At work, I sneak into the refrigerator when I need a break. It’s cold in here obviously, so I try to stay in as long as I can, sort of like a reverse sauna. One day, while I was resting against an industrial size block of cheddar cheese, I come up with an idea. Hallucinate with ideas is a better phrase to use actually. I decide that I’m going to try and make this hallucination a reality because I have nothing else to do besides dodge work in a refrigerator, so I enlist a few others that vibe the idea, teach myself various job skills by watching YouTube, and get to work the following weeks. You’ll hear about it soon, but I can say it’ll be the biggest thing I’ve ever thought up thus far- bigger than this blog, bigger than the HYPE Collective.
I came up with this cool little saying too: “Failure is the raw material of success.” That’s fortune cookie material.
That’s all I want to write now.
Listen to This: “Coast to Coast”- Elliot Smith, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”- Melanie, “Murderers”- John Frusciante, “Mother”- Danzig
Here’s the conclusion of “Why There Aren’t Any Wolves in the Chinese Zodiac.”
I had been looking forward to the first weekend in February for some time. This was “best weekend ever” for all intents and purposes. Thursday I play pool, Friday I go downtown, and Saturday I have a party for the HYPE Collective. It’s the best kind of busy you can be. To make for an interesting story, we’re doing to skip around to different points in time.
“You know, me and Alanna were talking about you the other day, Drew…” I look up at my friend Molly as she talks to me. I kind of look through her because I’m sleep deprived. You can look through anything if you try hard enough. Behind her, a local folk rock band is setting up and testing their microphones.
“…and we both we’re like, ‘Drew just does so much- he paints, he skates, he writes, he starts things, he goes here, he goes there, he does this, he does that…’” There’s an upright bass playing a lick and a banjo playing chords. Molly’s voice sounds like the intercom in a grocery store.
“…you just…you do whatever the fuck you want.”
Everything’s in tune.
This is a huge compliment- probably the best thing anyone’s said to me in over a year. That’s as good as “I love you” as far as I’m concerned right now.
I thank Molly, telling her it’s not really like that, that I don’t really do whatever I want- but I don’t mean that entirely either. The band starts playing. It’s an indie folk rock outfit- what me and my friend Special K call whiskey town music, or Raleigh rock. Acoustic guitars, maybe some fiddles, and crooning about loves lost or drunken fist fights- it’s nice, honest music. The band and I are both here (at Tir Na Nog Irish Pub) for the same reason: 88.1 WKNC’s day party. Every year the student radio station does a big concert, Double Barrel Benefit, and this year they decided to have local artists, bands, and craftspeople come out in addition to the bigger name bands playing that evening.
But I’m out of place.
Everyone here is legit- they’ve got pamphlets, they’ve got T-shirts, they’ve got business cards. I have a loose-leaf paper sign I made with a sharpie in the parking deck. I can’t compete with pamphlets. I’m in over my head. I’ve got everyone believing I’m a painter and a business owner- that I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve missed my calling as a con man. I stay here at Tir Na Nog for the next five hours watching bands play and watching the other businesses hand out their pamphlets. One of the people in our collective comes by, Kim, with her boyfriend Ryan, who I know through skating. They go a whole five minutes without making out and that’s probably the most successful part of the day party in my opinion. Better than the people who come by and look at my paintings and Kim’s drawings. They like the “Raleigh” one, the “Friendship” one is funny, and the “Origami Crane in a Cage” is cool- that’s the consensus. That’s what I’d write on my pamphlets if I had any. But my business cards come in 16×20 sheets of canvas or thick stacks of 8.5×11 office paper. I do whatever the fuck I want, right? I now realize the only difference between advertising and graffiti is who pays for your paint.
“Thank you for coming to Food Lion. Your total tonight is going to be…” the cashier stops for a second to comprehend the number.
It’s already come up on the debit card machine and I’m smiling. It’s probably as close to lottery numbers as I’ll ever get.
“…six dollars and sixty six cents,” I finish for her. Apparently, all I need to summon Satan is bag of Solo cups and two Easter egg Reese’s cups.
That’s not a number you just pass over, so I interpret it as a sign. Tonight’s HYPE art party will either be wildly successful or spectacularly horrible. Satan is a “go hard or go home” kind of entity.
First Friday. I feel stupid whenever this day rolls around. I try to round people up to go look at art and drink with me and ride bikes. I try to just get people outside. Every now and then it works. Most of the time it doesn’t and I just sort of walk around downtown, but that’s cool too. I usually have more fun by myself anyways. You always have a way of making yourself laugh. This First Friday I manage to get an avowed disliker of First Friday downtown though- my roomie Charles. I even get him to ride our bikes down there too. We pedal around downtown. It’s nice. I like being mobile. Apparently, my mom kept a baby book of me for a little bit, and one of the entries said I was fascinated with anything had wheels or moved. I guess that’s followed through into adulthood. I take point on where we go. I lead the way here and there- and over to Visual Art Exchange, where one of my paintings is hanging up. Everyone’s milling about outside- either middle aged couples or hipster kids- people that drink Chardonnay or people that drink PBR. I go to the door and it’s locked. I’m bummed for a second, because I’m not going to see my painting (I could see it through the window though.) However, then I think about one of my favorite rappers or death metal bands in the same situation. They wouldn’t have even cared. It’s even cooler that you didn’t come to your own show- that’s boss. The rest of the night goes like this: the Fish Market has a “tell your deepest secrets” board and one girl admits to having a thing for skaters. I see tons of people I know. Everyone is hyped on HYPE which gets me hyped. I ride over to Neptune’s to meet up with homies. One girl just hauls off and makes out with another dude on a dare. One girl is hula hooping around the bar pissing Special K’s girlfriend off. The rest of us dance. My sea captain’s hat gets passed around. We go over to Busy Bee, but we never make it inside.
“Alright, hey, everyone shut up for a second!” The trance music cuts out and about forty people look in my direction. I can see everyone’s faces despite the whole room being in black light. I soak in the fact that everyone is listening to what I have to say- that feeling never gets old. “The keg is out. Which one of you wants another one?” Everyone cheers. The music comes back to life and everyone resumes what they were doing: chatting, making out, smoking, drinking, dancing, waiting in line for the bathroom. The HYPE Art party is successful beyond my expectations.
“You know, you’re responsible for all this,” my friend Hannah yells in my ear as we’re leaning against the living room wall.
I look around the room. She points to a couple making out on the couch.
“That guy is so happy right now. He probably heard about this party, came with his friends, and look at him now- making out with this cute girl. He owes all that to you.” Hannah looks back to me. “If they make a kid tonight- that means you’re a godfather, buddy.”
The thought of being a godfather freaks me out. The thought of being anything freaks me out, really. It’s easier to pretend. In your mind, everything has a one hundred percent success rate and all the effort takes place instantaneously. You can take the standard package of successes and problems. I’m stupid for making my daydreams come true.
Hannah and me get to know each other a bit better (turns out we have a lot in common) until the party gets out of control. I can’t really recount it properly since I know family and friends read this blog, but let’s just leave it as “out of control.” There are people spray painting outside, there are people making out on the lawn, there are people just coming from off the street into the house. The idea of HYPE has made the long journey from idea to fruition. I’m one hell of a con man. I’ve created something and changed the course of history, however small a change it may be.
I do whatever the fuck I want.
That concludes “Why They Aren’t Any Wolves in the Chinese Zodiac.” I have to go get ready for a reading I’m doing at Irregardless Cafe tonight for Windhover’s Open Mic Night. Check back soon for more posts.
Listen to This: “Rock You Like a Hurricane”- the Scorpions, “Habla Paisano”- My Dad vs. Yours, “Organism”- Tommy Guerrero, ”Do You Remember”- Sweet Apple, “All the Bodies”- U.S. Bombs. Check out my Spotify account for my personal playlists.
I’m finding that the best way to assess your life choices is to play with death. There’s nothing quite like an oncoming Ford Fiesta to help you identify what’s important in your mortal existence. Near death experiences are the poor man’s therapy sessions. I came to the conclusion that not a lot of stuff matters much as I hurtled down Hillsborough Street dodging cars on my skateboard the other night. Girls, salaries, people’s perceptions of you- who the fuck cares? They’re just problems you chase down willingly (well, sort of.) And I also realized those aren’t really problems either, they’re sort of illusions of problems- things people tell me are supposed to be problems. Few people really have that many “real” problems- like being violent or deceitful or greedy. Those are the real problems to me. When I was younger, I came to the conclusion that everything in the universe was just something to do until you died. Maybe I was right. I don’t know why I was such a little nihilist back then, but I found this assertion rather clever for a fifth grader. I’m way more optimistic now- I’m too optimistic I think. People can be “too optimistic” and “too nice,” but I don’t buy it. How can virtues have any limits or even any contexts? How can goodness have any limit? How can evil? I also had this idea that the moment you thought of a truly unique idea, you’d die instantly, because that was life’s highest purpose: to think of something totally new. I assumed that’s why old people died- that they had enough experience that they eventually put together some new idea. That also explained why super creative people would die so soon (MLK, Jimi Hendrix, etc.), but now I know better. That being said, maybe I’m very unoriginal- maybe we all are. I know I’m sounding really convoluted right now, but basically what I’m saying is this: fuck everything and live life on the edge of a knife.
Living life on the edge of a knife means throwing them at pumpkins. One cold day I go over and skate Rachel’s backyard ramp. I try to get out of the apartment as much as possible these days because it makes me feel lazy and claustrophobic. Even if it’s thirty degrees, I’ll go out so I can remember what weather feels like. Comfort gets boring to me pretty quick. I don’t think life was meant to be comfortable all the time. That day was fucking cold though- or maybe it was cold as fuck. Which one would be colder? I sweep some dead leaves off the wooden ramp and climb up to the top. As I’m about to drop in, Rachel holds up a cloth pouch- “Guess what I got?” She opens the pouch and three stainless steel objects glint in the sunlight, “throwing knives.” You don’t pass opportunities like this up. On the opposite side of the ramp are three pumpkins in a triangle- mangled from previous throwing sessions. I pick up a knife and throw it with as much ninja style that I can. It hits smooth and on the money. I imagine time slowing down like a movie, the pumpkin gasping for air, then dying in a pile of his own sweet tasting flesh. We continue throwing knives for a bit until we start losing them in the woods behind the house. It got dark so early that day.
I’m not going to lie, after this point, I’ve completely forgotten about what I was going to talk about. There’s so much that’s happened, I don’t know where to begin quite honestly. It’s a common theme for me these days. In general, I’ll say that how my life is now is completely different from, let’s say, three years ago. That’s not necessarily bad or good, it’s just how things progress- they usually move to the side as opposed to up and down. This whole transition sometimes leaves me shell shocked, I’m not going to lie. Recently, I’ve really become “an artist”- and not just in the traditional sense either. I’ve really embraced a lifestyle, and not some kind of Martha Stewart lifestyle change where it’s just about what I wear or what music I listen to- like a whole way of being a human. It’s sort of scary. Just this embracing of the unknown. I feel sort of alone- that few if any people can even identify with me anymore. It’s hard. I had a pretty easy life up until about year or so ago- easy in the sense that it was pretty predictable. Predictable accomplishments, predictable romance, predictable adventures, predictable fears- predictable everything, but I played along with the charade. I didn’t know better- sometimes I wish I could go back to it. I’m going to sound arrogant here, but sometimes I wish I could just have a regular type of existence. Something where I can turn my mind off. A Tupperware life- everything laid out for me until death, and even have the afterlife situated to the last detail, like a boy scout camping trip. I know that’s not my path though. Sometimes I get mad about that, because I feel I never really had a choice. In Catholicism, it’s a sin not to use your talents- like if you can play guitar really good, it would actually be on par with stealing to not become a great guitarist. Lots of things are sins in Catholicism. I don’t remember them all. I’ve done a lot. Blogging might be one. But, I guess there’s really no way to explain this feeling of becoming something. The best way to equate it is to wrapping up all your strange experiences into one tight knot, placing them in your chest cavity, and keeping them going at a steady pace. Losing your virginity, your first time getting high, the first time you had to lie, the first time someone you knew died- just all those feelings maintaining inside you at all times. You feel exposed, awkward, and lost. You start wishing you could just trade it in for a simple life where an adventure is trying a new ethnic restaurant or maybe getting a quickie in your car. I think this is how money comes to rule us- the experience of being truly human is pretty fucking scary, but the illusion of humanity is pretty safe. I don’t think you’re understanding me anyways, so let’s just move on, stream of consciousness style.
Bombing down Hillsborough Street at night. The wheels are finally getting a workout. I ride my trucks way looser than most- it allows me to turn really quick, but it cuts down on my stability. It’s a fair trade-off for me. It’s kind of like driving manual and automatic in my opinion. Skating isn’t just about tricks though. Riding downhill is one massive trick when you think about it. This is usually where I feel most happy. All the senses are engaged. You’re fighting for your life- cars, pedestrians, rocks. The feeling is beautiful. I like that I’m the only person in most of my groups of friends that skates, because I feel like I know a secret you don’t. Bleeding for some stupid little trick or downhill ride- it sounds stupid to you, but to me I can’t see how you’d want anything else. A trick is yours, a hill cruise is yours- truly yours. You can’t buy it. You made everything. It means something.
I’ve been playing pool a lot lately. I skate down the street with some people and snag a table every Thursday night. I try not to get many beers because I mainly just like the ride down and playing pool and the music the bartender plays. The bartender knows me. My first games I straight up wreck people, but I get worse as time goes on. Pool’s one of the only sports where you can stop and think, walk around and look at it from every angle and think of every possible scenario before you set things in motion. Life isn’t like pool. Life is more like being a pool ball.
Riding a bike isn’t like riding a board, but it ain’t bad. I feel like a warrior with my board strapped onto my bike, like it’s my sword. I’m a pretty careful warrior though, I’m pretty new to bikes. It burns my legs, but it feels good.
I meet a girl for coffee. She’s wicked smart, sarcastic, and has big brown eyes. We walk to the counter. She’s not sure what she wants, so I go first, but I know that’s a lie because all girls know what they want. I get mine for there. She gets her’s to go. I look her the in the eyes. She looks at her phone. I’m in a flannel shirt. She’s in a suit jacket. I should have gotten mine to go too. Actually, I should have gotten mine to never come into the coffee shop in the first place. I feel completely stupid. I imagine there’s a commentator in the back of my head: “And St.Claire just cannot get a break here. Despite Wikipedia’ing everything from Hindu deities to recent primary polls, he just isn’t prepared for this girl. His best bet now would be to fake some kind of rare illness in hopes of getting sympathy from the other team. That whole nice guy, be yourself strategy just isn’t going to work for St.Claire today.” She’s a cool girl though. It’s no big deal really, but maybe it’s best to sit on the bench for a while.
I’m not sitting on any benches in the physical realm though. I’m straining my body it seems. My legs burn and are sore all day and night. I had to go buy Icy Hot. I skate like it’s going out of style. I ride my bike places instead of driving sometimes. I do crunches. I lift weights. I stretch. I cook most of my meals and I eat vegetarian for four or five days at a time. I try not to drink soda (except for root beer- I love root beer.) I try to get outside every day. I try to stay outside as long as I can. I realize how easy modern life is- how far places are from each other and how much effort it takes to make something to eat.
I’ve picked up whittling recently. This is mainly because, due to the lack of consistent work, I need things to occupy my mind or I go insane. I figured this would be fun- relatively cheap and somewhat practical. I’ve got this idea in my head that I’m going to be so self-sufficient. I’m going to spin my own pottery to make my own plates, grow some of my own food, basically a white male suburbanite’s attempt at transcendentalism. Whittling is hard and sort of nerve racking though. You make such little progress for the work you put in, but it’s an important lesson in patience. I’m making an incense holder now- it’s almost done. I painted some stuff then picked this whittling thing up- maybe it’s another Southern thing coming out in me. I try playing guitar and violin too, but I’ve hit a wall recently where I think I’ll need lessons or a lot of determination to get to the next level. I haven’t been writing much, but I’ve got some good ideas. Ideas don’t pay bills though.
People tell me things about myself. It’s a curious thing when I hear that. In writing class, we have critiques. Most people hate them. I fucking love them. I take notes and ask questions at the end. When people tell you things about who you are or what they think of you, you perk up. “You’re…(whatever)…” It never wears off on you I think, because you’re getting critiques on your performance- your customer satisfaction survey. I’ve heard good things lately though. That reaffirms me, but I’ve learned that affirmation comes from me. Despite who you’re around, you are always going to be the person you see every day- that’s the person you need to be the most stoked on.
What I was stoked on was the HYPE Art Showcase, but that’ll have to wait for part three.
Listen to This: “I Don’t Believe You”- the Thermals, “Knock, Knock”- the GZA, “Louhen Yhdeksas Poika”- Korpiklaani, Valient Thorr, “If I Should Fall from Grace with God”- the Pogues