In college, during the worst of the bad times, there were several warnings that were all trying to tell me that what I was feeling was not going to go away by itself, not without help. One of the saddest to me was when I was daydreaming about the idea of having some kind of magical skip button, and to just skip the next three months of my life. The fantasy made me really happy, and then crushingly sad at the idea that it would seem so nice to throw away three months of my life.
When I started writing in this space again at the beginning of the year, I was hoping to do three things. First, I wanted to redirect my daily journaling so that I begin to keep a creative notebook that was purely inspiration and ideas. Second, I wanted to practice the daily act of creativity and vulnerability through this real time memoir. Third, I wanted to encourage the daily act of noticing, of treating each day as a new thing, a new script, new raw material.
I forgot what it was like to not want to notice each day. To reach the end of the day exhausted at having made it to the end, grateful for the chance to be asleep and to forget, to be invisible even to yourself.
I woke up confused as to why I had a slight headache and I was grumpier than usual before remembering that I had technically had enough to drink to have a tiny hangover. I couldn’t quite tell if I was up earlier or later than usual because of the time zone, but I decided to get myself up and showered because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Joanne was still downstairs where he had slept, and I tried to invite him to breakfast but he was showering and after waiting a few minutes for him to finish decided I’d rather be alone anyway.
After the apocalyptic rain and flooding last night, the bright blue sky outside was totally weird. All of the massive puddles disappeared, and despite crazy scenes like in the video above, everything seemed to go back to normal, as though everybody that was inconvenienced by the storm had overreacted.
Since I rolled in a little earlier than usual, the bagel shop was busier than usual. I spotted friends but quickly realized that they were deep into an intense conversation that I didn’t want to get near. I ended up sharing a table with a guy with a t-shirt that had letters made out of bacon spelling out “BAE.”
I pulled out my computer and Kindle and continued my project of straightening out the metadata to my ebooks, the kind of bread and butter activity of someone with the digital collectors personality. I’ve been an ebook reader since I got my first smartphone at the beginning of college, but I didn’t understand how different a reading paradigm an e-ink book reader would be. The device’s storage versus the fairly small file size of an ebook means that it’s totally feasible to keep every book that I own on the device and never have to think about managing the library. It’s built in dictionary and Wikipedia tools mean that I don’t have to pull out my phone to look something up, but it’s browser is clumsy enough that i’m not tempted to waste time surfing feeds on it.
The first book that I chose to read on my new gadget was Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. I’ve been getting interested in Gary Snyder for a little while. He was a Reed College graduate, and I have affection and nostalgia for the generation of students that he represents (a great many students have been thusly trapped, I am not alone). After coming to Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity through Brain Pickings, I’ve had a tremendous appetite for writing from the first wave of Buddhism in the West Coast. After a conversation with David where he described being impatient with writers from that time for their superficial engagement with Buddhism, I felt compelled to argue against him but also like I was on shaky ground. This is a long wind up to get to this: I was prepared to read Bums and be taken with the Gary Snyder character and thus be able to go back to David and argue that, yes, their understanding of Buddhism might have been limited by their cultural inflexibility, but they were engaging with sincere questions in a sincere way.
I was not expecting to find the fucking Magna Carta Holy Grail of hipster manchildren. Japhy Ryder “learned Chinese and Japanese and became an Oriental scholar,” “got interested in old fashioned IWW anarchism and learned to play the guitar and sing old worker songs,” “lived in his own shack which was infinitely smaller than ours… with nothing in it,” clothed in “hand-me-downs bought secondhand with a bemused and happy expression in Goodwill and Salvation Army stores,” and, of course, smokes rollies.
If that perfectly describes like eight guys and two women that I’ve met since moving to Portland, that’s almost certainly no fault of Snyder and totally lame of them. But it kind of put a damper on my affection for him, especially when I started coming across totally earnest speeches like this one after offering up his not-quite-girfriend up for a foursome with his two buddies–
You know, when I was a little kid in Oregon, I didn’t feel that I was an American at all, with all that suburban ideal and sex repression and general dreary newspaper gray censorship of all our real human values but and when I discovered Buddhism and all I suddenly felt that I had lived in a previous lifetime innumerable ages ago and now because of faults and sins in that lifetime I was being degraded to a more grievous domain of existence and my karma was to be born in America where nobody has any fun or believes in anything, especially freedom.
–and I began to imagine that he was the kind of guy that would insist on not using a condom because “it’s just not natural.”
I’m still going to finish the book, it’s entertaining enough and Kerouac is just so stylized and of a time that I think it might be worth my while.
When I arrived home after breakfast, I read and watched Natalie candy some jalapeños and said hi to the landlords who stopped by to look at the carpet in the downstairs room that flooded a little bit last night. The smell of hot vinegar was starting to reignite the dying embers of my hangover, so I decided to go out and shop for clothes.
I wasted an hour at Goodwill. I should have remembered that nothing there ever fits me, and in the changing room I realized that it was both true that I had picked out the things I most liked, and that they were all hideous. I changed tacks and drove to Target in Clackamas while I had a long phone conversation with Hannah.
I cooked dinner and listened to the Longform podcast while I ate. I am addicted right now to the theater of creativity, and I worry that it’s yet another upstream stage of what is pretty much consumption. I envy them their projects and passions, and I hope that the fact that I look up to them like I did high school seniors when I was a freshman means that one day I will feel as capable as them.