Monday, December 29, 2008

my current mood, v2

I'm listening extensively to Beirut; Gulag Orkestar and Lon Gisland EP in general, and Elephant Gun in particular. I am looking at a painting by Andrew Hem of a prototypical hipster girl on a bike on a European street. The girl and her bike are oversized for the street and surroundings; you can see the individual cobblestones beneath her feet, but she's nearly as tall as the cathedral that engulfs the block behind her. She is calm and poised, as if posing for a photograph by a friend. The traffic appears unfazed by the giant in their midst. The painting is called "larger.than" and it's my new favorite image.

I'm also thinking about a couple articles I just read. One discussed Obama's smoking habit, and various journalists (including Tom Brokaw) attempting to "trap" him into admitting he's still smoking despite promises to his wife to quit, as if this issue is somehow as weighty as the economy, the current Middle East conflicts, or--god help us--the Puppy Decision. The other is about the Obama camp's dismissal of the idea of a gas tax now that gas prices are lower, and why this should also be a non-issue, since the lower gas prices are spurring Americans to start buying SUV's again instead of hybrids, and this is universally agreed to be a Bad Thing. But we are a nation obsessed with irrelevancy and minutiae ... so it's not really surprising.

I hope Obama decides to raise the gas tax, because it's certainly a good idea. But mostly right now, I'm struck by the fact that his smoking has humanized him in a way no other politician has for me. I identify with him. When he talks about the smoking, I know how he feels. I know how hard it is to quit, even for a short time, perhaps more so because I've failed every time. At my best, I could claim Obama's record of quitting but "falling off the wagon" occasionally, which always devolves back into a pack a day for me.

And of course I'm thinking about this while I'm thinking about smoking. So it leads to a host of other issues, from my own struggles with smoking, to my struggles with other areas of my life, like writing. With an inability to stick with it, or see things through. And then, my brain working the way it does where every thought becomes an essay, and the essays work their way into volumes of thought on particular subjects before I ever put pen to paper, I write this:
I would *also* smoke if I had been elected President of the U.S.

Mind you, I fully realize that this comment carries little weight since I am, in fact, a current smoker. But the more I read about the state of the world, and the more I realize just what Obama is in for come January … the less I understand why anyone is shocked or surprised that he’s had trouble quitting.

My personal and professional life has been a special kind of hell the past few years, and I’d be a liar if I denied that taking periodic smoke breaks has been part of how I’ve gotten through it.

So I sympathize with Obama, as a human, on a level I never have with any politician. Even when you’re standing on your porch, thinking about how your mouth tastes like crap and your hand will smell funny no matter how many times you wash it, you’re also thinking about your life, and how you’re going to handle being unemployed, or how you’re going to handle the rest of your country being unemployed, and those moments of rest—and occasionally clarity—are a hard thing to let go of.
This is how it is for me. My stream-of-consciousness is a touch more literary, I think, than most. I tend to think in bodies of writing. I process things by writing about them. The issues I am avoiding are the ones I'm not writing about. The simple stuff is on the front page of my myspace.

In a point I've made to my brother often, my favorite music writer is a fella named Adam Gnade, who wrote for the Portland Mercury for a good chunk of last year. He described a band once, saying their music was the kind of thing he'd put on on a lazy sunday afternoon, while lying on his living room floor looking up through the window at a ceiling of grey clouds. Beautiful shit. He didn't fall for the typical music-critic trap of describing Indie-Band-A as a freak love child of Indie-Band-B with Indie-Band-C doing a solo project with the lead singer of another-goddamned-band-you've-never-fucking-heard-of. He wrote about how the music made him feel, and I loved that so much. I wanted many times to write Mr. Gnade and let him know how much his writing meant to me, but I didn't want to display too much earnestness in a scene-obsessed town like Portland, let alone at it's hipster-central-enclave, the offices of the Mercury.

But it's a valid point, which is why I've made it several times, and why I think about that review often. Because I could write this post in a handful of sentences and link you to the articles and the painting and let you listen to the same song while looking at all of it, and perhaps that would fit the web2.0 mode of user-participation better, but even if I told you the order to read everything, and what brand of cigarette I'm currently craving, could you recapture that moment? Could I?

The dilemma I face, currently unemployed and wondering what to do with my future, is that this right now, this parsing of my life's experiences through the written word, if I'm honest, if I speak truthfully about my own abilities, is The Thing. I am good at a great many things, many of which are cause for gainful employment. But the writing ... it's the shit I am best at. And I think there's legitimate cause for wonder how a person like me is supposed to find Truth and Meaning in the new world, as we deal with Burst Culture and oil wars and the fact that my daughter may not have a proper society to help her along when she grows up.

I mean, I can sit in a coffee shop like anybody else, tapping out my self-doubt and earnestness to a keyboard and blogging the shit out of it all to anyone who will listen, but at some point I have to pay for the coffee.

No comments: