5 Things


Inspired by smashfizzle:

1) I have precious little opportunity these days to write things for myself, for my very own sake, so I have decided that I need to start taking a short amount of time on Sundays for this exercise (this Monday is my first Sunday, in this case). I am in a bit of a cycle where I have a lot of writing obligations that I’m not being paid enough for, and I feel a bit weary of this permanent apprenticeship. I want to be paid the right amount of money for things that I write.

2) There was a protest this week in Boston where a major highway was shut down with college kids attached to oil barrels. It stopped traffic for hours. There was something about this protest that hit me the wrong way. I felt angry seeing it, angry thinking about how it affected my parents — seniors who need that road to get to work (since they haven’t retired, because they can’t afford to) and need that road to get to chemo appointments. It also felt like college kids — usurpers, people who had the privilege of living in the Boston area, decided to protest in order to show every frustrated commuter that the whole system was corrupt and we’re all guilty, man. It didn’t help that the two people I know who are the most “involved” in this current round of activism are dudes with trust funds who have decided to use their money and privilege in order to pursue activism. Which is good and on the average I admire what they do, but they have that weird zealous mix of self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement that makes me want to change that old Margaret Mead saying to “Don’t ever doubt that one red-headed man with a trust fund, who bought a condo before 30, can change the world — in fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It also smarted more because it was an action directed at the people I know from my hometown; the bulk of people who have small, middle-class lives, and who live where they live because they can afford it. It’s not the people who control things, trust me. People who could be convinced to be on your side as long as the argument’s presented reasonably. People who just don’t have the chance to understand that their attitudes may be shaped by division from social and economic structures because they’re too busy surviving and not getting a liberal arts degree. 

But the people I know who are calling this action “so brave” are the very people who moved to Boston, can afford to buy apartments there with help from their parents, driving up prices and displacing people (like myself) who don’t get any help from their parents. I can’t afford to live in Boston. The group of friends I had when I was 26 can afford to live there, and while I didn’t know it at the time, it’s because they get help with their parents. At one wedding, my friend said to me, “oh I don’t know anybody who hasn’t gotten help from their parents.” I wanted to scream in reply, to be like, oh really? And this is why I don’t live here, why when I take the time to go home, I visit my family, and not you guys. Out of this group particular of friends it should be noted that the bulk of them came to Massachusetts from other places.

This particular round of activism annoyed me because it got me in the “I want to protect my parents” spot and the “I feel some anger about the fact that I can’t afford my hometown” spot. It had very little to do with the activism myself — I want the energy in this country to influence change right now. My suspicion is that it may be slow. I wonder if these men that I know should maybe use some of their money and energy to make sure that people are able to effect change through voting and candidates who have people in mind, not corporations.

3) This financial disconnect is also why when Girls premiered, and the first scene had Hannah being “cut off” from her parents at the tender age of 23ish in New York, I couldn’t get on board with the show. I wasn’t funded by my parents, and I had to have a series of terrible jobs in order to be able to put a life together. The only thing they could offer me was time at our family house. That first scene in Girls was a bit of a Woody Allen-ish statement of intent: this class is the one that we’re writing about, and they’re blithe and obnoxious and unaware of their good luck and money. 

I always approached the profession of media and the people in the profession with a certain naiveté, but perhaps some of the reason Girls got very good reviews off the bat was that, for some people, the idea of an awful person bemoaning getting cut off by their parents was funny and absurd, a little bit like life. I’m glad that I stuck with Girls — it got better, I liked it more, I’m impressed with Lena Dunham as a writer and a director — but I think the pilot’s stakes said a bit more about the bougie competitiveness anyone in media is dealing with on a day to day basis and that I remained stubbornly ostrich-like about on average.

I think talent does find its place; I also think that there are certain things in your life that put you way ahead of your peers in your twenties, from money to beauty and the surprise is that talent is actually the least of it unless you’re obviously a genius. When you are young and poor and walking on a wire, these advantages are reason to assume people are evil and shitty and awful, but it gets better, it evens out in some form or fashion, and you can deal with it, eventually.

It’s been fun, sometimes, talking to friends in other cities, telling them just how terrifying people in New York can be: brilliant, well read, great writers, occasional part-time models, and they’re also gorgeous to boot. On top of it, they’re very nice, too! Maybe I say that in order to get some shine off the drag.

It’s different from Boston, where on average you’re more surprised that the dirtbag you met at a bar is also a rocket scientist and knows their shit when it comes to books.

4) There is a cafe that I like in Brooklyn that I haven’t figured out the wifi password yet. I don’t know if I’m ever going to. As a result, I have been getting quite a bit of work done there. 

5) Along those lines, I’ve been thinking a bit about brains. I do not know how to put this on in official, neurological language, but it seems to me that there’s a certain division in the way that brains work these days. I find that my work requires a sort of quick, analytical, intelligent mind and I don’t always naturally access that state, because sometimes I want to be writing from a place that’s bigger, wilder, more comfortable with ambiguity and spaciousness. It’s difficult to feel between the two.

I want to cultivate more of a dreaminess, a way to think beyond the limitations of my everyday life. I think this requires a strain of thought that’s more inspired by the transcendentalist movement, inspired by Emerson and Fuller and the incredible brains we have in American letters. I want to read more writing coming from that spaciousness. Too much daily writing is just clever clever, saying hey, I’ve been to college. I get that. I know. The net result a lot of the time feels like rooting for a particular sports team or something. Black and white, team x or y. Nothing in between, and that’s no home for someone like me. I want to find the space in between.