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Why There Aren’t Any Wolves in the Chinese Zodiac: Part 2

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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

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Written by dstclaire

February 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

Posted in Fiction, Non-Fiction

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