I guess, looking back on it, 2004 was the year, in which I learned how to not get what I want. How does one gain skills at doing that? “She’s becoming an expert loser.” “You know, you really wear defeat well.”
I bought myself this tan coat right at the start of December, when it started to become clear that I actually wasn’t going to take home the romantic prize that I wished for. I have worn this coat around like a consolation prize, like a cloak of socially acceptable melancholy. The coat has made it possible for me to pull the sadness off with a bit of grace. Trying to do it in my skunky black and white puffy coat with the stains on the sleeves would have been just completely depressing, totally lacking that bit of style-oomph that you need to help you pull your footsteps forward.
I have wanted to write a column here on my blog for weeks, but I have been unable to offer any words to the world. I have felt that way in general, on much more than just the word front: I have nothing to offer. Wide flat plains and my body just standing there on them. Nothing. It suits the times. The sun is on vacation, and the day is just tiny enough to allow through the minimal window of waking life. Just the basics for this time of year. Just survival. But, solstice passed, Christmas passed, New Year’s passed, the bleak nothing days of the beginning of January passed, and now the new year is starting. And it feels like time to get started up with it, better that than to let it leave me behind. So, reap the spoils of the year that passed, and get ready to plant up some new months.
The interesting thing about last year is that, along with totally not getting what I wanted at certain points, I have watched my ship come in in some pretty major ways. I guess that it has worked in the way that everybody says it does, all the zen dudes and Sting, you know, “if you love something set it free, if it comes back to you then you can be psyched, and if it doesn’t, then you’ll deal and, seriously, something else really mind blowing will most likely happen on another front in your life.”
POP MUSIC GEYSER (Getting to make music with Jona Bechtolt of YACHT) A few years ago, I said to my friend, “honestly, I would actually rather find somebody to make music with than somebody to date. I mean, if we could make really good music together, that’s what I would rather have. Fuck the sex.” I have a habit of saying my bravest and loftiest ideas to this friend, and then finding that my actions fall short in the courage department. But the universe held me to it, and I got to record songs with Jona Bechtolt. This is new. This is big. Something about us recording together feels like our songs speak five languages or something. Whereas my older ones spoke maybe one, plus a rare dialect. I don’t think that the new songs are necessarily better, but they can certainly travel to places that my just-me songs never could. That’s cool. Could we say that it’s the music’s fault that I don’t get love-romance? My own fault for having made such a ballsy proclamation to the universe? Jona Bechtolt’s fault? Ha ha. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s what I said that I really wanted. And it probably really is what I want.
For example: FRANCE ON A PLATTER (Meeting Bordeaux and Paris Mo Fo Festival ) I got flown to France, and I met the whole awesome french musical mafia, and that was wild. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t even know that I could have asked for it. And it was niiiiice.
For example: PORTLAND INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART (Everybody grows up). Somehow, all of a sudden, I got to be the artist in residence with the The Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), with an office in Weiden + Kennedy Advertising Agency. PICA commissioned me to do a piece for their big festival. And then, once I started working on the piece, everybody whom I asked for assistance said yes. Everybody. And I asked a lot of people. It was bizarre. I approached some strangers on the street and asked them to be the main characters of my video, and they said yes. They took me out for high quality Italian food. The project was a yes-fest. Like big mother earth was pushing me out through her loins, trying to convince me that my efforts were important, that I should keep working. Yeah. Large unexpected packages arrived with my name spelled correctly on them. It happens, you get things. And you also happen to get the shit kicked out of you.
I have a vision of myself sometimes when I am walking around in my coat, with my beaten sneakers. I feel closer than ever to getting to be one of those meditative sorts of skateboard dudes. You know, the ones who manage to balance a combination of being really wild and carefree, with the muscles and the perfectly fucked up hair, while also maintaining this extreme tenderness and sensitive vibe to how everything feels. The air as it curves along the sway of their body. The vibe along the streets they’re carving through. Those dudes seem to lean in a perfect ratio between being very humble (moved by gravity, not fighting it, don’t even need to brag) and being cocky enough to do whatever they feel like at any time (hold pain in their hand, hurl it with a force over the building, draw it on a wall). When I’m feeling like one of those boys, I feel like I’m fine with the pain. I’m not tuning it out or pitying myself, I’m just kind of letting the heat from it build up in my forearms like a strength. I feel wily and brave and intricate, but not complicated.
Of course, one of those boys would never spell out how he felt about it in a blog like this. Well, man, this is as cool as I can get. We’re going to have to just make do with a certain (large) percentage of nerdiness. I mean, that’s the point of the past year, right? Loser, baby. The significant difference about last year (because believe me, I have been a spaz for as long as anyone can remember) is that for the first time I started to be okay with not being the absolute winner of every situation. In the past, I have done a lot of squirming.
Old procedure: Okay, it looks like I’m not going to get my way, carefully follow these steps:
a) use every ounce of force to try and manipulate the situation so that I get what I want (you know, get the boy, get everybody to go to the restaurant that I want to go to, whatever). If that doesn’t work, and I still don’t get what I want, then,
b) talk at a high volume about what I wanted, and how I didn’t get it, and how crazy it is that I didn’t get it, and how unfair, and how crazy, and how wrong.
c) grab a firm hold on the next best thing.
d) shove anybody out of my way who threatens my contact with the thing (next best or otherwise).
New procedure: Feel how it feels to not get the thing that I want. Curl up on my bed, and shut up about it as much as possible. (When I can’t take it anymore, call a friend. Once I have a little nugget of perspective, write about it on the internet.)
There was a young man who I used to think of as being mine. I watched him get married this year. It wasn’t easy, for sure. Especially in the months before the wedding, when the fiance character was first in the picture, and I had to accept that this was now real. I had told the young man that I didn’t want to be with him, and he had found somebody else that he wanted to be with, and right at first, secretly, I was a little bit of a poor sport about it. Just because I couldn’t deal with having him for myself, didn’t mean that I didn’t still want to be the winner with him.
Ay ay ay. It actually didn’t last very long, my period of stupid feelings about not getting to be the absolute winner. My friend M. Ritchey helped me make a therapeutic video about my stupid feelings, and by the time of the wedding party, I was ready to attend with as much authentic cool-skater-boy presence as I have ever mustered. It was done in my style, though: with me and all of my friends dressed up as animals or bags of candy, me in a dapper little suit with a homemade otter on my head, dancing wild with my eyes shut all night long. Eyes shut in the very best way. I danced just with myself, and I was one hundred percent happy for the newlyweds, for their good fortune of having won each other.
The marvel to me has been that once you let go of the thing that you are not going to be able to have, (and this includes letting go of the aftermath and all the complaining about not having gotten it) it becomes possible to see what you do have aside from the desired and unattained object. It’s just weird, how not getting something makes it more possible to actually have whatever you have — you kind of end up having more. It makes it more possible because it makes you more aware. I feel like this in one of the great consolations of existence- that inside of the practically unbearable loneliness, there you are. All of you, all for yourself. It is funny, in this past year I think that I have gotten all the things that I wanted, really. Not the things, which I had written recently right at the top of my wishlist with color-sparkled pens, like for Brad Rice to ask me out, and to win a new bikini. Those ones I didn’t get. But the ones that I had more firmly established as long term wishes really did come through.
Did you ever have a friend, particularly a girl, who said something like, “I don’t know, I think I just really need to be alone for a while, you know? I feel like I need to get into my own groove, and figure out what I like to do when I’m by myself instead of always relying on having a sweetheart to help me make sense out of things” ? And then the girl hooks up with somebody about a week and a half later. Okay, raise your hands. I am raising my hand. And so, I guess the universe really heard me for once, and delivered to me the opportunity to be alone with myself, for real. And it’s not the way this time where I try to spend time alone because it seems like the good thing to do. The universe effectively pushed me to a place where sitting around by myself is the only thing that makes any sense. I really do lay around looking at the intricate porn of my own feelings, and it is so fascinating. Distractions feel embarrassing and not even distracting enough to be satisfying. Thanks Big U!
While I was working through my stupid feelings about my friend getting married, I opened up a book of essays to see what page I would land on– you know, kind of a cheap and fast way of reading your fortune. The spot where I opened up to was a quote from Burl Ives, which read:
As you go through life, make this your goal,
keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.
The quote felt particularly relevant, because somehow donuts had already become a big metaphor– (the fiance had told me that there was a song that they sang to each other about donuts, some charming inside joke, which only made me feel mildly terrible). However, even without the donut context, I like the words, and they still feel useful to me. Donut: me, my clothes, my house, my ideas, my sneakers, my friends, drinking a milkshake at the counter with a magazine. Hole: what is my ex doing and who are they doing it with. It’s not even a thing, it doesn’t even exist.
I just came back from playing a show tonight, and while I was singing the song ‘Hey Boy’, I realized that it is totally the Learning to Be a Loser Theme Song. It is the soundtrack to this entry. I wrote the song in February of last year, in Los Angeles, after suffering a few days of feverish disbelief over the fact that a boy was dogging me. I had been writhing in agony over the fact that he wasn’t calling, like the inside of a blister rising underneath of my skin; pulling my phone out and looking at it again, asking all my friends why they thought this could be happening, debating whether I should try giving him just one last call. And then before catching my plane home, I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, put a comb into my hair, and realized that this boy was truly never going to call me. And the words came falling out of my mouth in tune.
Man, I had been stuck there in the hole, turning around and around in a circle inside the void, when suddenly I saw my donut. What had been a painful nothing turned into a juicy something, a something that I could actually have all for myself. I stuffed it into my bra and ran.