Disruptive Juxtaposition

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Autobiographical Mix Tape #1 - Track Listings

1) Martin Sexton, "Black Sheep", from Black Sheep. No one holds a note like Syracuse hometown hero Martin Sexton, who before my time used to play Happy Endings at Armory Square. Sappy lyrics like "When I got a song, I'm gonna sing it", as soul-shouted by Martin with incredible amts. of melisma and vocal acrobatics can give the most jaded of listeners shivers. Especially when there's thematic content about not being able to come home again, and general black-sheep-type thinking about always seeming to do the wrong thing, but not being able to want or think of anything else.

2) Martin Sexton, "Glory Bound", from Black Sheep. Clearly this is the right record to be listening to right now. The falsetto'ed chorus goes: "I'm taking my chance on the wind / I'm packing up all my bags / Making a mistake I gotta make / Oh, I'm glory bound." I'm feeling very "Black Sheep" and "Glory Bound" tonight. I met the quota for Good Ground today in very promising if exhausting ways: I worked from 4 to 10 pm in 71 Irving, which is a sorta-slow rate of slightly over 800 words/hr, and turned down some pretty exciting avenues that'll give me a good chance to explore the absurdist's / satirist's aspects of my material. But while all of this was thrilling for me and made parts of my brain as I stood on the N platform feel alive and attuned to everything (this is the feeling I'm always after; this is the feeling of accomplishment and occupation of another world I'm jonesing for in writing), despite all of this, I also had to begin to face some hard financial facts: to wit:

o the bookshop gig pulls down about $1050 USD / month

o rent is $500
o electric is roughly $60
o various bills will come to $216
o monthly Metrocard is $76

o $200 dollars per month, +/- $2, to eat and live.

That's hard. That's going to be tough. Understand that as I type this I'm really hoping that it's known how lucky I am to be in this situation: I'm warm, fed (most of the time), I'm not lonesome in any sort of long-term way, I'm making headway on my poetry and my novel in demonstrable ways, I have stellar health (*knocks on wood*), etc. But good old Dad (said w/o sarcasm, really) points out that I might have to get a job that's "closer to my education." He's right on on that count. With these two degrees I should, should, be able to land something that pays 2.5 times what I now pull down.

But then I read this article in the NY Times a few days ago about The 21st Century Garret (I'm not sure how many more days the link will be good). When I finished reading this I was filled with a sense of well-being and affirmation in what I've been doing. I'm not in the close-knit social support network that these good people are, but my situation isn't too far afield from theirs. I draw huge funds of strength from knowing that there are other people out there doing this, "this" being struggling to make ends meet in the name of their art.

Even saying "art" in this context makes me cringe. Can we speak in these terms without my being a pompous ass?

Understand that I also understand how self-aggrandizing it sounds to play the "I'm a starving artist whose problems DO amount to a hill of beans in this world" card. Because they don't, those problems. I don't mean to insist on some loftier "nobility" in working a shitty day job while working on other more meaningful work. People have done this since Adam and Eve caught the boot and commenced toiling. But at the same time I *need* to believe in some nobility in this situation. Otherwise, what do I have? I'm not striving for pity here. I'm not trying to self-flagellate in order to be raised up in the eyes of anyone. I'm trying to understand what kind of attitude is the best one as regards keeping a positive, even glad outlook on poetry, writing a novel, assisting belittling holiday shoppers who 95% of the time seem to have 0 real relations with the books they buy, having no free money, being just this side of solvent debt-wise.

But anyway, I'm going to get back into the job search tuit suite. Questions about artistic sacrifice aside, I do sometimes feel a reasonable amount of restlessness with the bookshop gig. I do sometimes feel as though parts of my brain seize up as they atrophy. I do sometimes bump into grad students or profs or TAs, and I miss the life of a University of Oregon GTF/indentured servant something terrible.

3) Martin Sexton, "Caught in the Rain", from Black Sheep. I was caught in the rain myself, coming home tonight. Despite the downtrodden tone the post so far might seem to have, take heart in the fact that I wasn't slogging through the rain. I was actually roused by it, was enjoying it. Martin's line "I pray to the heavens to defend me" is tonight's best use of "defend".

4) Paul Simon, "Duncan", from 1972's Paul Simon, Simon's spectacular self-titled solo debut. "Couple in the next room, bound to win a prize / They've been going at it all night long / I'm trying to get some sleep / But these motel walls are cheap" - also, "Ooh ooh ooh-wee / I was as destitute-ah as a boy could be". A good song for commiserating with Paul as regards the Upstairs People. (See last post! - Ed.)

5) Anything by the Village People. I did laundry today, and as usual I lost patience before my stuff was fully dried. Now my jeans are sprawled out in a row over the sofa, finishing drying, and in my peripheral vision the jeans look like they've been laid out for the VP to slip into before some album cover's saucy photo shoot. Either the Village People or Menudo.

Hidden track) Paul Simon, "Paranoia Blues," also from Paul Simon. "I got the Paranoia Blues, knocking around in New York City / Where they roll you for a nickel and then stick you for the extra dime / I got the Paranoia Blues, knocking around in New York City / Yeah well I just got out in the nick of time". Too soon to play that track though, yet, I think.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Everyone should have my problems

I'm thinking about moving. Anyone know of a place / a person here in NYC in need of a housemate? I'd be a good one. The issue revolves around the families who live above me. They don't seem to realize how audible everything they do is. Plus, they have the entire upstairs, and know each other, it seems, and as a result they don't have any reason to keep their doors closed as they play music or permit their children to, like, ride Big Wheels down the hallway. They don't have the same consciousness of the noise they make that, for example, I have. When I come home at 1 or 2 a.m., I remove my shoes. (People live below me, as well, you see.) I ease doors closed. I tiptoe. I listen to all of my music on my headphones, which are changing the silhouette of my face I wear them so often. In general I am considerate as all get-out. The Upstairs People? No. Not hardly. Still I hear them tromp around: it's 12:08 a.m.

Two aspects especially affect the scale of this matter's impact on me. One, there's very little stasis up there. Take me. I start occupy a room and make noise only when I'm a) getting settled or b) getting up. For large periods of time, for the vast duration of my occupancy of a room, I make no noise. I'm occupied, doing things, busy doing quiet things. The UP don't do that. There's constant noise. Furniture-sliding-type scraping sounds. Footsteps all the time. Faster kid-footsteps, also occurring frequently. And two, the walls are very thin and I live right off the stairwell. So I'm not only getting bass through my ceiling, I'm also getting treble through my un-weather-stripped door and four walls.

Is it wrong to take solace in a double vodka tonic? I've gone so long without. Today I finally went in for some v., Svedka v. from Sweden. Normally I go with the Comrade, which is to say Stolichnaya, "my family label." (By practice, not by actual familial or business-related connections.)

Honestly, most of my frustration on this noise issue stems from the fact that I allow myself to get so bent out of shape about it. Without adequate silence I can't think straight, because I'm afflicted with this like syndrome of automatically visualizing whatever it is I hear. I can't not visualize it. So I can't write when I hear noises I can't see the sources of. (This is why I can write, and write quite productively, in cafes: all of the bustling cafe-noise has an identifiable source.) And when I can't write well, mercy does a red curtain ever descend on my vision. Those of you who know me would be surprised at some of the bleak visions I've entertained when unable to write due to inconsiderate noise. But as I was saying a good amount of my frustration can be chalked up to my guilt that I can't just deal with said noise, that I can't endure it and work through it, that I can't be better than it. Today I did the smart thing and said Screw you guys, I'm going to my favorite cafe/wine bar (which is actually really funny to say in Cartman from South Park's voice). But I shouldn't have to screw out of here whenever the UP are home. I shouldn't be so thrown off track. Music helps, especially narcotic-type guitar fuzz albums like those of, oh, Sonic Youth and certainly recently My Bloody Valentine. And I suppose deep breaths will help as well. And what else? Oh yeah: moving.

But as the post title says, everyone should have my problems. I've got a tall icy magical beverage, wrote a prose poem involving my dead grandmother and Galactus Devourer of Worlds from Marvel Comics fame, and also wrote 4,000+ words of Good Ground. Themes begin to cohere, even if the plot is still inchoate. I keep thinking of metaphors for describing my conception of the plot, but I keep discarding those metaphors. Nothing sounds quite right. It's rather fascinating though to watch, the novel. It's - ooh! - like watching a planet coalesce from a cloud of dust and gas: I know that it will, cohere that is, but I don't know which regions of dust or gas will cohere first. Everything's aswirl.

By the way, it's alright to leave comments. Who knows, maybe I have no readers and therefore no potential commentators. But I suspect not. Feel welcome to contribute, here, fellows! I don't do this for my health. I do it at least in part for your health: go listen to Stars's song "Calendar Girl" - which was the song of the last "Name That Tune" post, which no one even tried to name. S'alright. You'll get 'em next time, Champ! Ace! Cap'n! Tiger! Sport!