Dispatches from the Pacific Northwest. This blog started out talking about trail running but lately has been more about music. It's boring to always stay the same.
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So like I said, I need space in my life for it to work right. This includes not overscheduling, because I start forgetting things. For the last 2-4 weeks I have had way too much going on as a result of trying to move and start multiple jobs and go out of town all at the same time. It’s all positive stuff, but it’s been crazy. There are just a lot of details involved in all of those things. I was miraculously doing a pretty good job of keeping everything in order - packing, painting, direct deposit forms, uniforms, cat sitter, server permit paperwork, plane tickets, keys - and I had finally made it through, and right on time at 3pm today, an hour before my scheduled departure, I stepped out of the cab at Portland International Airport. I did it! It worked! I’m on my way to Texas!
Then I was checking in and the airline check-in counter person was like, “Your flight doesn’t depart at 4pm. It arrives in Texas at 4pm. It departed this morning.”
And then I was like, “…”
But THEN she was like, “We can put you on standby on another flight. You don’t want this one though, because there is a stopover in Oakland.”
And I was like, “OAKLAND?”
My mom lives in Oakland. Somehow, the airline let me fly to Oakland today and do the second leg to Texas tomorrow. Which meant I got to have dinner with my mom. And feel the chill of fog. And see the glitter of the City across the water. I had never been so happy to screw something up. Sometimes things turn out really good out of an accident. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.
I’m moving tomorrow, little more than a year since my last move. Moving stokes my chronic obsession with getting rid of all of my stuff. In the end I always run up against nostalgia: There are certain things I can’t part with because of their sentimental value. This used to feel claustrophobic, but now I respect the out-of-style clothing and old notebooks for what they are: reminders of other lives. If I got rid of EVERYTHING, I might not remember where I’ve been. I have a bad memory and I don’t take photos, but when I found an old notebook from my language immersion course during my first two weeks in France in 2006, it brought back in tiny detail the bewilderment of being at once in an overwhelming, foreign place and exactly where I belonged, down to the leaves glittering on the trees in the warm blue September sky.
But despite the boxes of random memories, I think for the most part I do a pretty good job at living without a lot of junk. It’s not like I’m living in Dwell Magazine. Precious, overexamined minimalism kind of bugs me and kind of misses the point: You end up just as obsessed with things, if not more so because you need every single one of your few objects to be perfect and super cool. My friends make fun of me because I am not fastidious enough for it to come off as chic minimalism all of the time, and instead it’s more like chronic bachelor pad, with bare walls and more often than not a mattress on the floor.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. Where other people see a lack of things or of style, I see the luxury of space. I need quiet space in my life - spatially, socially, and temporally - to be able to be myself. Some people have big, strong personalities that take up spaces and make them their own. I am the opposite: I absorb the qualities of my surroundings. Only when my surroundings are pretty blank do I feel like I can see the shape of my shadow against them.
People talk a lot about how the most important thing in terms of sustainability, and also community building, is where you live. If you can manage to live in a walkable neighborhood where you can walk, bike, or take transit to work and other routine stuff, it supposedly does way more than all the other stuff like buying organic, getting a hybrid SUV, etc.
But what about what you do for work? I always felt gross about working in roles where it was my job to convince people to buy things they don’t need, get them to build relationships with brands instead of people, and entice them to spend more time at their computers instead of outdoors. I felt like I was undoing everything I tried to accomplish with the way I live my life. Can choosing to work in a role that makes a difference, or at the very least, choosing to opt out of a job or an industry that is harmful, create a positive impact? What would happen if even a fraction of the creative people with anti-corporate or environmentalist values who work in advertising decided to step away and do something that actually mattered to them?
It’s a tough choice to make. For me, it took a little push from external factors. But now that I’m not in advertising/marketing anymore, I feel like I have stopped contributing to the problem in a major way.
The Atlantic: It sounds like you’re saying that literary “talent” doesn’t inoculate a writer—especially a male writer—from making gross, false misjudgments about gender. You’d think being a great writer would give you empathy and the ability to understand people who are unlike you—whether we’re talking about gender or another category. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Junot Diaz: I think that unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations. Without fail. The only way not to do them is to admit to yourself [that] you’re fucked up, admit to yourself that you’re not good at this shit, and to be conscious in the way that you create these characters. It’s so funny what people call inspiration. I have so many young writers who’re like, “Well I was inspired. This was my story.” And I’m like, “OK. Sir, your inspiration for your stories is like every other male’s inspiration for their stories: that the female is only in there to provide sexual service.” There comes a time when this mythical inspiration is exposed for doing exactly what it’s truthfully doing: to underscore and reinforce cultural structures, or I’d say, cultural asymmetry.
This guy articulates so well what I keep trying to say about music and stories and culture in general.
“I come from a generation whose soundtrack helped empower the listener, helped people to be all they could be and revelled in individuality. I’m living proof that music has that potential. Today many of these ideas have been lost as we increasingly become passive consumers, slaves to the rhythm who are emotionally detached from the planet. There used to be an element of manipulation on the part of the record companies and the media, but nowadays it seems like there’s a strange complicity. When I was starting out, music was an anti-establishment thing. Now people get into music to be part of the establishment. I mean how radical can you be if you want what the man’s offering? It’s all about new values.
The current cultural climate feels as if punk never happened. Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame has become a nightmare of people that can’t justify three. During the punk days we used to say never trust anyone over thirty, nowadays I sometimes think never trust anyone under thirty! For the most part Western culture has become increasingly conservative, if not darn right stagnant.
Nevertheless I remain optimistic. The punk spirit is like the force in Star Wars - you can’t stop it. There’s always something going on, you just got to look in new places and like Strummer said, ‘Make sure your bullshit detector is finely tuned’. Look to the amateur and the naïve for the new ideas in the future, everyone else is reading from the same book. Punk attitude still serves me on a day-to-day basis. As I’ve said all along, a good idea attempted is still better than a bad idea perfected and I’m still turning my problems into my assets.”
- Don Letts, “Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers”
This resonates with me so much. As I get older, I find new ways to be punk and keep struggling to remain true.
When I drink a bunch of liquor I inevitably wake up at like 5 am and can’t go back to sleep for an hour or two, or I drift in and out of thoughts and semi-lucid dreams. No longer quite drunk, not yet hungover, dreamy thoughts taking on the magical quality characteristic of early, blue-washed morning. I used to hate it but now I kind of like it, the way I like running on 5 hours of sleep once in a while. When you try so hard to optimize your mental health sometimes it works too well and you can become dull. When my sleep gets out of order my nerves get raw but it’s not always a bad thing; it’s a pleasant and supple rawness smoothed by exhaustion.
I love the design and subject matter, as far as I can understand, of this cover. This picture is how it felt walking in Forest Park yesterday for the first time in some weeks. It had become so lush and juicy-green with new spring growth.
“I work really hard in life for one reason, so I never, ever have to be around the people who would get on my nerves. And that is success to me, being able to live your life so you just don’t ever come into contact with the people you hate. And I almost never do anymore. So I guess that means I’m successful.”