Disruptive Juxtaposition

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It is time to start having a tumultuous biography

A singer named Joseph Arthur has been chorusing the word "Freedom" at me for a while now. (Thanks, Courtney.) Granted, I've had the song on repeat for some time, and that has something to do with it. But freedom is what I have. I feel a little bit, I imagine, like Jon did after getting out the Navy, which he came to hate. (Nothing against the Navy itself, I'm sure. At least not at the present time, from where I'm sitting.) But check it out: friends of mine have been clamoring for me to visit them. I have offers to move to all parts of the country. I could go a) to Connecticut, b) home to Syracuse, c) to Las Vegas, d) someplace completely unforeseen. This afternoon I thought for the first time about embarking on a cross-country trip w/o any firm destination in mind, a Find Wil Trip. When I come right down to it, I'm not tied to any one place or thing or vocation right now. Grad school for a PhD and the life of an academic is way off in the future. Selling books and music is lame and boring and wasteful when I consider my degrees and educational exp. I realize that such a trip might be a rather indulgent option right now. I'm not married to the idea. But its romance is more than a little seductive. Crossing the country on my way to and from Oregon, I never allowed myself much time to stop and smell the cultural roses. In my defense, I did set near-records in cross-country travel time; my best was 58 hours from Camillus, NY to Eugene, OR. Besides, as the title of the post indicates, and as I remembered this afternoon, I am a poet. And poets have tumultuous biographies. Lord knows that Jon's given me a start on this, has given me a lot of tumult to start with. I'd rather have him back than have this tumult. Obviously. But as is, I now have the idea in my head to allow myself some more poetic license, if you will, in writing my own bio. Not so tumultuous as, say John Berryman's. Because Jon went the way of Berryman in the end. Huh. Weird coincidence there. But I don't want a Robert Frost-style bio, either. I want one of my own. I want to slalom those two lives, and do something new. Join the Vegas School of poets, perhaps (this amounts to a shout-out, Jeremy - take note and appreciate!).


I am so comfortable right now. I hit on the idea of outfitting this office chair with a tri-folded blue blanket, which has elevated me a crucial inch or two, and in the small of my back a pillow is nestled, so I am completely upright and tucked into the desk and the laptop. There's a candle on my right, a fan blowing at my feet, a double vodka cran at my immediate left, and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here is playing on my fantastic headphones. I re-remembered this afternoon, going through a box of Dad's old records, that he has this album on vinyl. Vinyl. Also in Dad's surprisingly-awesome collection:

o Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
o Led Zeppelin, Zoso (a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV)
o Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
o Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
o A whole lotta Peter Gabriel-era Genesis
o Rubber Soul (I mean, Rubber Soul!)


So many of you have mentioned in personal emails that you've been reading this site, and enjoying it, and even benefitting from it in profound ways. I'm trying my best to keep up with emails, and will get to you soon if you've emailed me, but I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank you all a) for reading and b) for telling me that you're reading and benefitting. I would have a harder time sitting down to write if you all hadn't told me such things. I would have a hard time indeed convincing myself that writing these posts and pasting them on the Big Brick Wall of the Internet was worthwhile. I would have a hard time thinking that such posts were anything more than self-indulgent attempts to validate the thoughts and weird feelings and outright struggles I've been having with the Event and its aftermath. Thank you, in short, for convincing me that what gets posted here goes beyond its author and reaches you. You keep me going, you do, you, the person reading this.


I want to talk about two things here. One is sincerity. The other is music and its potential for religiousity and holiness.



One. I was in Penn Station on Sunday morning, Dec. 18th. I'd gotten the news about Jon the previous night. I'd called Amtrak and spoken to a woman who helped me change my ticket from Dec. 24th to Dec. 18th. No problem. That all went smoothly. Kristin is with me. We have a bit of drama getting to Penn, as the Manhattan-bound trains in Brooklyn's 36th St. Station were suspended for a bit: a man had had a seizure on an R train. That was at about 8:50, and I had a 9:45 train to make. But, condensing here, we made it to Penn at about 9:25. I went to a Quik Trak computer terminal to print out my ticket. The data stored in the computer had my ticket as being for Dec. 24th. Recall that I'd changed this ticket the night before. I become, let's say, a little concerned. We go to the Amtrak ticket area. There's a line of about 20 people. Way more people than could be processed in the 15 minutes I would need them to be processed in. I leave my baggage with Kris and go around to the front of the line. I address the first 10-12 people in line. I say something like this: "Hi everyone, I'm very sorry to ask this of you, but I have a 9:45 train to catch [recall that it's about 9:30 now, and that I'm not a down-to-the-wire kind of guy AT ALL], and I'm trying to get home because I lost my brother yesterday, and I would be very grateful if you allowed me to hop in front of you... is that all right?" Words to that effect. And the person at the head of the line was an early-20-something in a red ballcap, the height of a lacrosse defenseman, definitely a college kid. I look at him by default because he's closest to me. He says, "Listen pal..." in a manner that I have to describe, given the circumstances, as skeptical. "Listen pal...", and words to that effect. He steps past me. I'm just about ready to cry. I look at the rest of the people. They all make conciliatory "Go ahead" and "By all means" sorts of gestures. I thank them all and scoot to the open window, which is down at the far right. I'm helped by a very understanding woman who treats my emotional breakdown (I broke down) with grace. It seems that the ticket agent with whom I'd spoken on the phone entered all of the proper information but had neglected to change the date and OK it in the Amtrak system, or whatever. So I got my ticket and boarded the train. Kris relayed, however, before I boarded, that the other people in line, whom she had had occasion to hear once I'd gotten their approval and gone to the ticket agent's window, had been discussing me and my situation. One man said this: "Well, you never know. He could be telling the truth."

Two. I've been calling the B_____ store here at the Carousel Center in Syracuse, NY to inquire about the possibility of transferring from my Columbus Circle, NYC B______ gig. Transferring between B______ stores is reportedly a major cinch. And as such, the idea was to transfer home and work in order to keep busy and save up some $ as the family got its feet back under itself. And technically speaking this is still a possibility. But listen. I'd told a few people at B_______ that I worked at a B_______ down in NYC and was thinking about transferring home to Syr due to a death in the family. OK. Anyone who's read more than one post on this site knows that I am striving to be, if I am not already, a 100% honest guy. That I am striving to shed any guile or duplicity or knack for hiding Who I Am and What I'm About from anybody. I may not always volunteer facts about my life, but I never mislead and I'm learning to volunteer said facts. I'm striving to live openly and hide nothing. OK. So. Yesterday I finally get the Syr B_______ General Manager on the phone. I give a short recap of who I am and why I've been calling him, and I'm not sure how much information he has regarding my situation from the notes he's been given by his subordinates... and here I trail off with a higher, inquisitive note in my voice. "Yes, I did get those notes," the GM deadpans, "and quite frankly I'm dumbfounded that you would share that information with anybody." Here the GM begins essentially to reprimand me, at some length, at the bad-business nature of my honesty and forthrightness. He informs me with no little passion of my profound error. He advises me that "for future reference" I should avoid sharing certain choice elements of my personal life from a professional point of view. The conversation proceeded from there once I - also dumbfounded by this point, for v. different reasons - apologized for sharing said information and wouldn't have done so if I had even once considered that it might become an issue in this way. It wasn't an issue, the GM said, it's just bad business, and for future reference I should et cetera. He asked if I liked the Columbus Circle B_______, asked what I was into and what I'd been up to education-wise, told me that the Music Dept. could use someone who knew music (whatta concept) and here I found myself talking about what I've helped accomplish at the CC B_______ in NYC with the Music Dept. there. (None of which is bunk. I do know my music and I have helped that Dept. increase the amt. of weight it carries. But still.) And the GM by phone call's end did offer me work there, and seemed genuinely jazzed to meet me and work with me. Halfway-attractive visions of supervisorship began to formulate in my mind. But those first 3 minutes of the phone stuck with me more than the other 7 have.

OK. Now. I understand that the GM felt placed in a potentially difficult situation in that, since he knew that I had experienced a death and was hoping to transfer, he might have felt an implicit obligation - not an actual one, of course - to help me out. To give me what I wanted, in other words. I understand that from his point of view, I may've seemed to be throwing around the news of my situation - i.e. the news of my brother's death - as a tool or weight in order to get what I needed. But for him to so take me to task, for him to assert that I was that wrong in my honesty, makes it seem as though he believes that I was purposefully sharing the fact of Jon's death with strategically-selected people in order to earn some crucial job-related leverage. His taking-me-to-task implies that he believes I am capable of such a thing. Likewise, the line situation in Penn Station tells me that the ballcap-wearing kid and - to a lesser extent - the more credulous people in line believed at least in part that I was lying. That I could have been lying about my brother's death in order to get to the head of the line. Or in the GM's case, that I could have been sharing the truth to some crucial personal gain. Both of which imply that the line people and the GM believe that the average person - i.e. me, for all they knew - was capable of and probably was carrying out the base, blackhearted action of lying about / using the fact of Jon's death in order to get something.

And that's the upshot. That's the most distressing part of these twin experiences. That other people, strangers, could assume the worst from another person. The Penn Station people come off worse in my estimation because they don't have any professional context by which to justify their doubt or their critiques of what I know to be my simple presentations of self and professions of fact. The B_____ GM I'm sure is a very good guy who was just conveying a businessman's POV. (POV = point of view. Fiction writer's shorthand. Handy in other contexts.) It's such a strange thought for me: that my whole new dedication to being 100% open 100% of the time would lead to critique, doubt, and indictment. It might illuminate a funny fact about human nature, though. We want to be told the truth, of course. But if we're told too much of the truth, we either lose interest, think that the speaker is mentally off, or begin to doubt that it's the truth. Yesterday at lunchtime I caught 15 minutes of so-so stand-up on Comedy Central. Laura Kightlinger (she reminds me of you, Keri B., mannerism-wise) was comparing New York people to L.A. people, etc. etc. It wasn't very funny, honestly. But she tried to hang one bit on her observation that New York people will share the most intimate details of their lives - which I don't find to be true at all - but anyway so she was standing in a deli and a halfway crazy lady behind her struck up a conversation about her favorite bagel flavor, the protocol of placing an order at that deli in question, and that she hadn't had sex in a decade. And that made me think that certainly there's a sort of over-the-top unsolicited forthrightness that puts people off.

Jon is not a bit player in these reflections. In my eulogy, I began by talking about elaborate lies and the difficulty of getting to the truth about the guy Jon was. Jon's own relationship with the truth is something I don't quite have a handle on at the moment. He liked sarcasm. It wasn't the hipster's "Am I serious or not? If you have to ask me to find out, I pity you" kind of sarcasm. It was a deliberately transparent sarcasm, one that was more intent on getting to the telltale laughter at the end of sarcasm than in sustaining the sarcasm. I think he would share my indignation, and maybe even my disappointment, that other people could think these things of me. Could think these things of anyone. Then again, Jon was a cynic, and didn't expect the best from other people. I suppose that in him, in his tendency to indulge irony as little as possible and his cynicism about the intentions of others, one might be able to locate a fundamental aspect of the human: being trusting vs. being skeptical.

But I don't want to be skeptical anymore. I don't want to be doubted, ever. I don't want to put myself in a position where I need to worry about how honest I'm being. I don't want to withhold anymore. Once I told my cousin Edward's wife Jodi that I very much liked the Frost quotation about speech being a water pump, and one should remember to retain all of the water in the well for creative purposes. I want to believe in an infinite draw of water whereby I don't need to prioritize sharing myself with others and putting words into the shapes of poems and the pages of novels. I don't want to tell the truth and have others doubt me. I don't want to keep anybody out ever again. I realize that this is probably impractical. I don't care. I want to know other people and I want to be known. I realize that there's a difference between the issue of honesty / sincerity and the issue of constant openness. I realize that we can't go around making best friends of strangers. I want to work against that realization. I want to tell as much truth as I can about myself and how I see things and listen to other people tell about themselves and how they see the world and believe them, as well.


  • I hear your voice. I see your face along with the familiar expressions. I feel so calm, comforted, peaceful and connected.
    Thank you

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:53 PM  

  • This one really touched me. I pride myself on being completely honest with people but I wonder if 99% of people that ask for honesty really want honesty or just what they want to hear stated sincerely?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:08 PM  

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