Monday, January 28, 2008

A bad case of the hollows.

Yeah, this band is rad. I love new music that gets under my skin. Angry words about how fucked-up stuff is. Makes me wanna burn it all down. Singing at the top of my lungs … before I cough up a ball of phlegm the size of my head. Calls me back to Berlin, to that basketball court where it all began. At 11:11 (or was it 3:32?) last night I fell asleep only to wake up within 20 minutes. I read some Gadamer. Watched porn. Went back to bed more frozen than when I first laid down. Sometime around 2:00am I woke up to the sound of Spic-O-Rama, but without that adorable John Leguizamo. I dialed 9-1-1 on speed-dial to report the disturbance. Today’s shot. Tomorrow probably too. It’s now 4:00pm, and I’m only thinking about the things I should’ve already done by now instead of the things I have to do next. Can’t use the sink downstairs because of the leak. Don’t know when I’m going to get back to the gym that overcharges me on a monthly basis. Sick of the scams all utility companies pull with new service contracts. The bruises up and down my arms have finally faded from the boxes and boxes of books I moved. Ordered two new books from Amazon today. Eventually I’ll bruise myself by moving them as well. Benjamin’s greatest fear was losing his library. Before I slip away into nonbeing, I wanna pile everything I still possess into a gasoline-soaked mound and flick a match in its general direction. Just to see what would happen. Dreading Friday. Not because it’s my birthday but because it’s the anniversary of when the sky over Texas caught fire and rained down on our heads. Dead astronauts and all.

Listen when your hair gets pulled. Don’t get caught. It’s gonna be alright. As soon as the embers die.
As I lay me down to fall asleep
with my demons dying and my pilot light weak.
I curse the last six months I’ve been hiding behind a mustache.
To those last ten years I’ve been howling at a paper moon: Fuck you.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pitstop on the Way to Mensa

My popularity has soared over the past several months, while my faith in such things as popularity has plummeted.

When I was in high school, I always thought it strange that I wasn’t invited into the honor society until the end of my sophomore year. I had been earning the highest grades of my class since my family moved into the district when I was in third grade. And of course I was destined to be the valedictorian of 1986.

Even though I knew I was “the smartest hillbilly in Hillbilly Town,” I really received an education with the politics of popularity because one, after all, had to be invited into the honors club; one could not merely join based on one’s merits, or grades, or intelligence, or aptitude, or IQ, or any other factor. One had to earn it, ostensibly by being noticed by those already accepted.

But I too was destined to obscurity, especially among my peers. I think eventually enough of my teachers or perhaps the honor society’s advisor probably felt awkward enough to convince the popular kids to invite me in, even though my gpa had always been and would continue to be several points higher than theirs. It would’ve been scandalous, no doubt, not to have the soon-to-be valedictorian as a member.

I did join. And I also briefly toyed with the idea of not joining just to prove an already over-proved point. By “accepting their invitation,” I also proved that I could play nice even when the cards were stacked against me. That lesson, I’m certain, was lost on my smart (in a popular sense) classmates.

I’ve always felt clumsy and shy when people noticed my intelligence anyway. Just in the past couple of weeks several of my friends, colleagues, and professors at the university have made very flattering comments about how I stand out on campus as “the smart one.”

I’m even more flattered by the fact that I really value the opinion of those people whom I respect as some of the smartest people I’ve ever known. It’s like an ungainly feedback loop of smarts and flattery falling back upon itself as if upon a black hole. But lessons learned at sixteen temper too much egoism.

That said, I’ve always been jealous of Stephen’s graduate school cadre of geniuses who would spend hours sitting in coffee shops having fabulous and articulate conversations for hours at a time. I’m not sure if it was the number of people in the group (popularity) or the quality of their conversations (intelligence) I was most envious of. But now it seems I have some of that for myself. Finally. After how many freaking years in school! I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years working with these people.

To quote an email I sent just last week: “P.S. Do you think Andy likes me?” And no, I'll never join Mensa.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The New 30

I think it’s fairly telling that I should lose my earrings just a couple of weeks before I turn 40. I had to remove them at the doctor’s office while they were taking an EKG. I wanted to get my heart a little look-see since midlife is fast approaching. I put them in my shirt pocket, joking with the nurse that I couldn’t remember the last time I had removed them. Afterwards, I sat at Nodding Dog Coffee Shop in Bishop Arts for an hour working since I haven’t had an Internet connection since Friday afternoon and I’m supposed to be teaching an online section of philosophy this term. When they closed, I returned to the old apartment to do some more gathering of my things to move them to the new flat. It seems most of our things are finally here, and there are even some books already on the bookshelves! Today we finally got phone and DSL. (And AT&T sucks absolutely, but that’s another post altogether.) It must’ve been while I was cleaning and packing that my earrings slipped out. Perhaps I’ll find them when I go back for that last transport of framed art and a vacuum cleaner. So, my heart is healthy. The doctor said I have the heart of an athlete. That’s good news, especially since both my maternal grandfather and my father died of heart disease. No diabetes. No high blood pressure. And he’ll send me the results from the thyroid tests once they return from the lab. Another year. Another decade. Another (new) home. (It wasn’t until we were saying goodbye to Mary that I realized I spent my entire 30s at my last home: I moved in when I was 29, and I just now left—not counting a couple of years in Japan and Europe.) My 30s were good, and so much better than my 20s. I’m looking forward to the future, no matter how short that may prove. This is probably the first time in 17 years that I don’t have any of my rings in any of my 7 holes. I miss body jewelry. I miss the sleepless nights that turned into blissful decadence instead of exhaustion. Now it’s off to bed. Or to work.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What part of “don’t fuck with me” do you not understand?

I’m fairly mild-mannered as I move through my days. And although patience is not one of my virtues—blame my sonofabitch father for passing along that characteristic—years of meditation, qigong, and deep thinking all play a part in keeping my heart rate lowered while confronting “difficulties.” I’m never a dick … unless pushed to extremes. And yesterday I had to rely quite heavily on my coolness as I encountered several people bent on pissing me off.

Eating at Luby’s always stresses me out: I’m never quite sure which (or how many) sides to order. And the servers are rarely under sixty and (even less) display any serenity of their own. The first woman behind the counter didn’t grasp my order of coleslaw (pronounced “coleslaw”), so she ended up repeating it three times before finally spooning some in a bowl for me. Not too much of a problem, but it was enough to put me on edge for the next station.

My order: mashed potatoes. The server grabbed a plate with a huge chunk of pork on it and began slinging mashed potatoes. I asserted, “That’s not my plate.” Most people who know me know I haven’t eaten meat in 22 years. Since the server didn’t know me from Meat-Eater Marvin, I could certainly understand (and overlook) her mistake. But then she scraped the mashed potatoes back into the serving bowl and started slamming dishes around.

The next server asked what else I wanted, and before I ordered broccoli, I looked the previous woman straight in her 65-year-old face and said, “I could use a little less attitude.”

It was enough to make Stephen’s day, I think. He was still laughing about it later at night. The best part about it for me was that I said what I wanted to say, what needed to be said, and then let it go. Usually I’m worked up afterwards, but I was fairly calm while eating my coleslaw (pronounced “coleslaw”), (angry) mashed potatoes, and broccoli—hold the attitude.

After a stressful first day back on campus, filling out paperwork, meeting with students, attending orientation at the college, commuting for more than an hour, dealing with Surly Magpie at Luby’s, and trying to move into an new place, I was looking forward to relaxing a little once I got home.

At some time around 10:45pm, the flipping Filipinos—since I don’t know any racial slurs for Filipinos—started vacuuming. That is a common occurrence, and an issue that has been addressed by both the old management as well as the new. Since the last time I had to walk upstairs to tell them how to be decent neighbors and instead had a door closed in my face (after I was forced to knock three times before they deigned to answer), I decided I was above such face-to-face confrontations. So instead I crawled under our building and turned their electricity off. Fuck you, stupid fucks! Start making unnecessary noise when I’m getting ready to sleep and you’ll stumble your ass around in the dark.

Needless to say, I slept like a baby until about 6:00am, when I turned their electricity back on. Oh, did I say, “Fuck you”?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Nothing to say about love...

This interview suffers from the “Dance, Monkey, Dance!” Syndrome: flaccid American asks the world's greatest living philosopher (at the time) to perform for the camera on a topic he clearly isn’t interested in. But Derrida, in his generous generosity obliges, indulging the weak-minded question with a somewhat articulate—particularly for being impromptu—response about the difference/différance between/among the who(s) and the what(s) of love.

Do I love you for who you are? My friend? My lover? Or for what you are? Intelligent? Sexy? Do I love you because of what you do? Because you love me too? Do I love the absolute singularity of who you are? And when I stop loving you, will it be because of who you are [not] (no longer my lover), what you are [not] (no longer sexy), or for what you have [not] done (not loved me in return)?

Or can I love you purely because of your replaceability? For the fact that I can choose anyone else at any other time—knowing full well that the metaphysics of identity and time collapse just as fully and unequivocally as all [other] metaphysical systems in the end?

But can the modality of love bring us even closer together by helping to eradicate the notions of I and you (and us) altogether? That is, if—in the same way that each word engulfs an equally and conterminously unsayable silence—the I and the you embrace the not-I and the not-you (mere placeholders in an attempt to say something (which remains not-a-thing) real about the irreality of love in the first place)—we finally move beyond/through the metaphysics of identity which we sorely cling to in the West, especially as it perpetuates itself [gets perpetuated] through language, and approach a pure modality of love wherein no I and no you [and no us] exist, at which point existence itself—neither it nor self—ceases to ex/ist.

Or maybe we should just spend the rest of our lives searching for the “true love” Charlene sang about all those years ago:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Scars & Wrinkles

Several years ago I blogged about scars. Here is an updated engagement with that post as prompted by a question that came to me out of the blue (from where all interesting questions arise):
As for “fetish,” it’s definitely a bit too loaded for me to fully embrace. If we use the term not in its Freudian sense—I’m not sexually stimulated by scars—and probably not even in an anthropological sense, but rather in a purely “pop cultural” sense, then yes, I have a scar fetish ... in that I am at times mesmerized, enchanted, and intrigued by them. I’m also not sure I find scarred people more beautiful; probably more often, I find them ugly(-ier) ... or at least their scars. But I perhaps feel a bit more compassion toward others with (visible/revealed) scars.

What fascinates me is the scar as trace—what remains from something/someone in a person’s past that is brought forward and carried over into the present/future. “Embodied” or “incarnate” in a fundamental way. It’s much more narrative than, say, a wrinkle. Every scar has a story to be told ... or hidden.

And the entire ethos of scars—their permanence, for example—means, at least for me, that they must always be confronted/regarded; in some ways, it’s as if they open up a space (for the possibility) of pure self-acceptance: they’re never going away no matter how you may try to hide them; they will be with you “till the end.” So maybe I’m much more interested in what the scar hints at instead of the scar itself.

That said, I do tend to like scars in the brow—little lightening bolts that disrupt the hair growth, and I find abdomen scars kinda sexy … on the right abdomens, of course!

Perhaps I was just trying to draw attention away from the tribe of wrinkles that have colonized my face over the past several years: scars have stories to tell! Pay no attention to the wrinkles!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Year of the Whirlwind

In honor of a Japanese tradition I recently learned about, I have chosen sempū as the kanji to represent the passing year. Sempū means “whirlwind” and is written thus:

From teaching new courses to conducting some of the most advanced research of my academic career, from hitting the gym up to six times a week to beginning to learn German, this entire past year has whirled about my dizzy, complicated, overly complex, and insomnious head.

My wish for 2008—itself admittedly a silly designation that has nothing to do with science or any other respectable metaphysical system—is for the wind to continue to whirl but that the center to remain forever (and always already) still.

Other things to look forward to this year: the first major move in more than ten years, the fortieth anniversary of my birth, a vacation to Istanbul, completion of my coursework and exams and the beginning of my dissertation, teaching new courses, conferences, writing projects, relaxation and meditation, better health (and less of me to love), and—the gods willing—more than a few nights of blissful sleep.

Happy New Year.