Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thirty Day Hiatus

The winter intersession at my school was bullshit. That is just too much time for me to not be doing anything.

Tonight was one of those nights where a little bit of sleep went a long way. That happens to me about ten times a month. Does that ever happen to you, you get three or four hours of sleep and then you're good for the day? I woke up somewhere between 4 and 5 after hitting the sack around 1, maybe a little earlier. I figured I might as well make the most of my time.

First of all, those of you clever enough to effectively follow me from my old URL to this one deserve an apology. I change URL's, post a rather negative piece about someone I really do love and respect like a brother (though I wish his negative attitude about everything would subside), and then disappear for thirty days. Let's just pretend this was a voluntary hiatus and not me being a lazy turd.

Second, January has been a busy month. It's felt like it couldn't have gone by any slower. Makes me dread February. In spite of Shelley's birthday, my brother's birthday, and Valentine's Day, I've always hated February. Hideous weather, grey skies, and the painful aching for verdancy and the distinct smell of spring all make February the closest thing to Hell one can experience in life.

I won't lie, I've also been a little depressed of late. At the airport, amid her tearful goodbye, my mom told me if I couldn't land a job by semester's end I would have to go home for the summer. Look, I love my family and I love seeing them, but I hate everything about that region of the country. I hate the backwards politics, I hate the fact that religious diversity out there means Presbyterians breaking bread with Methodists, and I hate the soul-crushing reality of the job market in the pseudo rust belt/agriculture-heavy economy. There isn't even a bookstore.

The things that really make being home worthwhile is the interactions. Those little conversations with Dad when nothing good is on the TV that turn into long discussions of life, culture, and art; the late nights when Eric and Maddie would be over, Mom and Dad had gone to bed, and we'd just sit and talk. Even the little things, like when both Joe Boxman and Joe Bray knew I was going to be back in town I get texts from both of them saying "Call me, we need to hang out," or Forrest asking if our yearly tradition of China Buffet for lunch on either 12/24 or 12/26 was still on. My answer was a resounding 'Hell yes.'

Aside from a brief (too brief) encounter with my old middle school friend James Hare and his wife Jackie in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I didn't see anyone else. Just seeing him had me thinking about the old gang from middle school. I don't know what happened with me and James, we just sort of stopped hanging out. We never had the same lunch period or something. Regardless, he finally joined Facebook. So did Josh Bowman. He was the ringleader, daredevil extraordinaire...made me look like the Cowardly Lion by contrast. This kid would streak in the dead of winter if it meant he'd get a laugh. He would...and he did. But then he moved away before high school. He's now married with a kid and living out in Arizona. Mutual visit offers have been extended.

Then I think about my high school friends, and how despite my Facebook status advertising my return home for the first time since August, not even so much as a "Scott Johnson likes this" or a post from Brett saying, "Cool, man. Give me a call." People I'd shared so much with for so damn long...I bet Shelley that Johnson wasn't going to try and get in touch. She plead no contest. And he didn't.

This all sounds like me playing a violin into the wind, but all last summer no one from Seymour seemed to appreciate or understand that come August, I would be gone. The exceptions to this standard were the usual suspects, people like Joes Boxman and Bray, Forrest, Crowley, Jordan, and Graham. Hell, those last two were home (CA and MA, respectively) the entire time I was home. That blew.

Just another one of those things, you know? Realizing your true friends. We had fun with Boxman and his lady Jocelyn, and seeing Forrest was great. Catching up, talking about our latest plans and projects was a blast. Crowley coming down for New Year's Eve and spending the night was awesome, too. I wouldn't have guessed in a hundred years he would have had breakfast with me at my parents' house, but behold the mysterious ways of the Great Magnet.

Still, as with my rather harrowing week and a half home in August, the MVP award goes to Joe Bray. Ever since the summer of 2006, he's been one of those guys who's always been there when I needed it. Our bond doesn't stem from the shared experience of high school. We had different experiences then. Maybe we'd be in a class together (10th grade geometry) and raise some Hell, but we never hung out. Never ate together at lunch.

To start, he and I have in common a key factor that has made the other Joe and Forrest such good friends in the time that's passed since 2005: we all grew up. Whether we learned our lessons early or just knew better, it wasn't all about sex, booze, and rock and roll. (It can be, mind you. There's a time and place, sure...just not all the time.) We all took our work seriously. College wasn't just unsupervised freedom, it was a new period of growth.

They're all different sides of me, too. With Boxman and Forrest, we have our in-jokes, we have memories, we have similar tastes (and can agree to disagree otherwise). Boxman is the quintessential bohemian, Forrest is the unheralded talent of a writer who is proud of his roots but ready for the world, and Bray is the cosmopolitan who knows how to make a mean sandwich and mix a cocktail to wash it down with.

What sets Bray aside, though, is that we're both intensely spiritual people. Do we agree on everything theologically? No. Not on a lot of points. He is pursuing Orthodox Christianity, and me...well, we'll get to that later. He can make crass jokes and is capable of bad behavior as much as the next guy I chalk up as a dear friend, but when it's philosophy time hang on to something. Beyond that, he was in the know regarding my situation(s) at home, having me over to get me out of a bad environment, not just to share company over wine. To that end, you can look at him and see God.

It's one of those things probably best left unspoken. The kind of compliment you'd give after your third glass of wine, certainly not something said while reveling. Unless of course stopping all activities in the middle of the evening to say, "You know, I really value our friendship. I see God in you, my friend!" is your idea of fun.

Back to my original point, about jobs and shit. I have full confidence in landing a job. Let's face it, between my experience in retail, DJ'ing weddings, my video editing skills, and the academic junk I have under my belt, I'm not a bad catch on paper. I guess it's just that even as a graduate student, a week before turning 23, my mom can still put the fear in me.

Speaking of turning 23...I know I'm not old. Nowhere near it. But I'm sensitive about aging. I worry about things unaccomplished, projects unrealized, dreams waylaid. The whole day, I was just kind of depressed. I spent the afternoon finishing one of my dumb little pieces in my PC game The Movies. Snicker if you'd like, but I'll have you know as someone who once dreamed of a career as a filmmaker, it's not only a great outlet creatively, but my own little way of pursuing a pipe dream I thought I'd buried in 2007. Shelley wanted to take me to Chuck E. Cheese, as sort of a sweet half-joke. I passed, citing that they probably serve really bad pizza.

It wasn't just that, though. I just wasn't in the mood. She kept asking me what I wanted to do to celebrate...and I couldn't conjure up anything. Nothing that was realistic or feasible. A day off someplace with good food and tropical weather? To have a massive box in my front yard, open it, and have the six guys (Joe, Joe, Forrest, Graham, Jordan, Andrew) from back home worth a damn to me jump out and say, "Surprise! We moved here!"? A visit from my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my parents?

That's what I wanted.

I settled for Vietnamese food in Chelsea and some bush-league sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. The best part was that I figured we could go to the grocer's next to the theater after the show, get some cake or something. As per my tradition of searching the drink aisle in hopes of finding Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, there it was. In an electric green can with mustard yellow lettering. I might as well have been stumbling upon a photograph of the second gunman at the grassy knoll near Dealey Plaza.

I don't even remember what Shelley got me...a CD and a DVD, I'm wanting to say...but the can of celery-flavored soda I guzzled down as we walked through Chelsea was wonderful, second only to a good ginger beer as the best fizzy drink of all time. Bonus points, though, to Andrew Crowley for getting me something, never mind Television's Marquee Moon and The Replacements' Let It Be.

We both got a little fussy waiting three and a half years for the goddamn 2 train somewhere under the city...and that was it, aside from a phalanx of Facebook wishes and a check-less card from my grandparents. Not that beggars can be choosers, but the yearly tradition used to be a birthday card and a check ranging from $25 to $50, maybe some t-shirt or sweater I wouldn't be caught dead in to boot, other times a surprisingly thoughtful bio on Lennon or The Beatles. But this year? Just a card.

I don't even want to talk about my gift from home.

Eric claims he sent his presents my way. Frankly, I can't wait. We have the sort of connection where we know just what to get. We had a polite discussion that while gift cards are nice, I had thinking someone else's hard-earned money is going down my gullet in the form of coffee and/or pastries. This inevitably led to us revealing to one another that we still look at certain CD's/DVD's/books and go, "Oh, yeah, I got this from so-and-so, Christmas of 2004!" I'm cooking up something nice for him on what will be his 26th.

Maybe it's the weather, being nervous about jobs, new classes, but my own personal happiness is infrequent. Makes me a real joy to be around, I'm sure. My great fear is that I'm becoming anhedonic...but then I put on some music (lately it's been The Clash, although there was plenty of Zappa in my ears, especially the Sleep Dir LP - NOT the CD mix, though) or see the sunlight and I crack a smile.

Both watching Anthony Bourdain on Netflix and the late-night drama was a fascinating way to pass the time, though, I must say. As a culture junkie, I pretty much have to write an essay on it, right? I will later. I promise. Till then, I love how Conan ended it. Beyond taking the high road, he said in his farewell speech what my entire generation needed to have told to our jaded little asses, never mind something I was desperately yearning to hear:

"Please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism, it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."

Anyway, it's been 90 minutes. I shouldn't spend much more time here. I need to shower, as Shelley and I have someplace to be this chilly late January morning. We are going to a Sikh worship service in New Jersey. One of our friends at the Sikh Coalition offered, so we wouldn't be blindly showing up at a gurdwara not knowing what the Hell was going on. So, yeah, thank you Satjeet!

That all said, after a dipping of the toe into Liberal Quakerism (too quiet!) and the Baha'i Faith (again, another entry for another day, friends), my urge to further inquire about Sikhism led to a slot volunteering my services as a video editor with the Sikh Coalition in Manhattan, plus my own cautiously-paced investigation of what gradually revealed itself to be a philosophy I completely and utterly agree with. The only conversion is a simple declaration of faith. I'm not there yet...but close. More on all that later, too.

Word of the day: sahajdhari.

Peace,
Alex

3 comments:

Forrest said...

Thanks, Alex. Unhearalded, perhaps, but that may be changing in the very near future!

Shelley said...

I enjoyed going to the Gurdwara today. Very inspiring. I kind of want to learn a little Punjabi so I can better understand things. I definitely would like to go again.

I was able to tell you were a little down on your birthday. I was just trying to cheer you up a little. (By the way, I got you Mystery Disc and Head).

This weather does blow.

And you will get a job - a good one at that.

The British woman and I were talking at the Gurdwara after someone mention Haiti. She said that it makes you appreciate what you have in life and realize that we have a lot to be thankful for. I agreed. And it's true.

Things do suck sometimes, but when I take a step back, I feel lucky. It's hard to do/say that, but sometimes I force myself to tell myself that I have it good. And then I believe it.

I love you no matter what.

Andrew said...

February is a shit month.

The only thing I like about my birthday is that Who recorded "Pinball Wizard" on that day and The Beatles arrived in America. I also share a birthday with some cool people, Eddie Izzard, Emo Phillips,Charles Dickens, and Ramone Mercader.