Thursday, October 9, 2008
Stop driftin', get your shit together Send for some free brochures Find a line and guide your life Investing in assorted cures See the world as your stompin' ground You just gotta stomp around the mess --Dead Hot Workshop, "Vinyl Advice" I actually liked Chuck Klosterman for the first two chapters of Killing Yourself to Live. It reminded me of Killing the Buddha, at least the Sharlet/Manseau interstitial chapters about their travels through religion. But it was a travel through the religion that is rock and roll. Speaking as the guy who drove to Milwaukee on a Wednesday night two weeks ago to see Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, then dropped everything to go to Kansas City and see them again the following Saturday night, I can understand what it means. But then I was reminded about why I despise Chuck Klosterman as soon as he started writing about love. He tried to explain love while remaining a detached, ironic hipster. He even invoked the name of Dave Eggers to do it, but I don't think he really understood what he was talking about. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is detached and self-referential, yes, but it's not hip and ironic. Its power as a literary work comes from the fact that it very much is what it is and isn't trying to disguise itself as something else. If you want to understand what love is, don't send a hipster, a scenester, or an ironically detached observer of life. They don't understand, they can't understand. They're too afraid to love and too self-absorbed to be loved. I can't explain love, either. Hell, I'm not entirely sure why I'm writing about it now. I think it's the healing process coming to a close and the part of me that was fractured and is now whole saying it's ready to move forward, ready to find completion. It's the part of me that's realized I've learned more about faith from a baseball team that only won one playoff game than I ever learned from the Bible. It's the part of me that learned more about hope from the realization that I'm a screw up and it's okay, because screwing up teaches me about the things that really matter. It's the part of me that realizes I'm standing on the cusp of having everything that I've fought for, of being everything I've struggled to be, but it doesn't matter as long as there is no one to share it with. It's the part of me that realizes I can be better than I am, but only if I learn to look outside myself. It's the part of me that realizes looking outside myself is scary as hell. But it's the part of me that realizes that I can't be ruled by my fears any longer, at least not if I really want to live. Love, I think, comes when we're ready, but not when we're looking. It comes in the moment when you look across a room and see the most beautiful woman you've ever seen. And then, wonder of wonders, she smiles, shyly, a smile that says, "Are you everything I've been looking for?" This is the moment that countless songs, poems, and books have been written about. It's been the foundation of cathedrals and the first cut of the chisel to stone. It's the moment that most of us live for and the reason that the foolish ones who don't understand keep looking for it over and over again, keep trying to find that thrill of first encounter. What they don't understand is that, to quote Craig Ferguson, "Time is only linear for referees and engineers." That first moment is the one in which the noble hearts don't give way. They see that smile, they know they're gone, their life has changed, will change, is changing. The first halting steps across the room fill with thoughts, fears, dreams. "What if she's the one?" "What if she isn't?" "What if I think she is but I'm wrong?" "Am I good enough for her?" "Oh, god, what if we have kids? I'm not ready to be a father. I'll be a terrible father." "Shut up." "Hi." "Hey." All of the sudden it's over. Life has changed. There's that first kiss. It comes fast, out of nowhere. For just a second you forget your name, forget her name. For some reason you suddenly remember the name of the guy who played Col. Potter on MASH, but that's because the brain is a funny thing sometimes. It's just you, whatshername, and Col. Potter, alone in the universe. Then it's over and everything returns to normal. Kinda. Life's plans now revolve around that one person, theirs around you. You worry. It takes fifteen minutes to get to her place from yours. You know this because you've driven it many, many times. She leaves, goes home for the night. Work in the morning. You know the score. For fifteen minutes you stare at the ceiling in the dark, counting down the seconds, waiting to hear she's okay, that nothing bad happened. There, in the dark, you want to call your mother. "I'm sorry," you want to say, "For not telling you where I was going all those times. I'm sorry for making you worry." It's impossible to understand how much the not knowing hurts until it's you who can't sleep at night. Then the trouble arrives. "Her laugh is a little too nasally," you say to yourself. "Her favorite band is Ok Go. What the fuck is up with that?" She drags you to places you don't want to go, makes you watch chick flicks and gets annoyed at how vocal you are about your dislike for Grey's Anatomy. Seriously, what self-respecting guy watches that? You think about breaking it off. Someone else has to be better, anyone else. You start thinking about that shy smile from across the room, that moment of falling in love, that intoxicating scent of the new, the exciting, the fresh. The next one will be perfect. The next one will get you. This one doesn't, not really. Then you get that shy smile from across the room. From her, your perfect beloved of those months or years ago. You suddenly realize, "I am an unsufferable jerk." Maybe she doesn't want to hear the Manic Street Preachers' "Autumn Song" five times in a row, followed buy a quick jump to Oasis' Definitely Maybe, then some Waterboys. Maybe she doesn't want to hear for the umpteen zillionth time why one makes you want to hear the other. Maybe she wants to slap you every time you point out that House is a way better show than Grey's Anatomy will ever be. Maybe she doesn't want to go do the crap that you love so much and is just grinning and bearing it because she loves you, you big, stupid moron. Maybe she's having second thoughts. Maybe she thought of smiling shyly at that guy across the room last night. Maybe you should remember some good things. Maybe you should forget some bad. Maybe you should work on being what she needs instead of trying to make her in to what you want. What if you're wrong? What if you're right? What if...? Alone, adrift, together are we Slowly sinkin' in a deep blue sea But we smile and we wave And we say, "I'm afraid...and I love you...and here we go..." --RCPM, "Leaky Little Boat" I've never been a detached ironic hipster. I have, however, been detached. Somehow I decided that I could make all the right plans to be where I wanted to be when I was damn good and ready. Truth is, we're never ready when we think we are. We're usually ready earlier, but too afraid or busy to try. Sometimes we're not at all ready when we think we should be. There is one way, and only one way, to find out, though. See the world as your stomping ground. It's amazing the sort of people you might see when you're out there. One of them might even wave from across the room. Life's too short to wait for perfection. Love's to smart to let perfection get in the way, anyway.