Freaking Out Squares

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Movin' Out

I'm thinking of moving again. I believe I suffer from what astrologers call a "geographic," which is one who believes his or her happiness lies in location. Or to put it another way, "Wherever you go, there you are." And since I'm not too thrilled at the moment to be, well, with myself, my geographical clock is ticking overtime.

Of course it's all fantasy at this point, because I am not one of those people who can stuff everything she owns, including her cats, into a knapsack and hie off to parts unknown. I have too much emotional baggage and far, far too little gumption, not to mention a loving but immensely overprotective dad who would not let my whereabouts stay unknown, I can assure you. And while many would disagree, I consider myself far too decent a person to do such a thing to my poor dad, whose life revolves around me, the cat, and his business, in that order. Besides, I'd miss him.

So there's that, and there's my penchant for staying in abusive relationships, tiptoeing around like a geisha, hoping if I'm nice enough and quiet enough and say just the right things at the right times, I can fix everything, because it was my fault in the first place. (Thanks, Mom!) I cannot honestly say New York has treated me well. This hardly makes me an anomaly, because, after all, you don't come to New York to be treated well. You come to New York to divide and conquer, and you'd better have the hide of a rhino. Alas, I have the skin of an onion. I may have the mouth of a rhino, or at least of a stevedore, but on me, it's like building a house over quicksand. I can be bragging about how I don't take no crap from nobody one minute and be bawling the next because that man over there in the green suit gave me a dirty look, and he obviously can see through me to my awful, evil inner core even though he's never met me in my life. (FYI, I no longer brag about not taking no crap from nobody. Instead, I brag about having the skin of an onion and the emotional resilience of a sponge. Or rather, I don't brag, I just tell it like it is, but I do it in a way that a friend once described as "arrogantly insecure." Like, "I have the emotional skills of a three-year-old who's been locked in a closet her entire short life, and what are you gonna do about it, motherfucker?")

It occurs to me that perhaps I should not use such a public forum to admit the full degree of my codependent spinelessness, as I fear it might well send a plethora of assholes scurrying to my door. But that's been going on my whole life anyway so really, what's a few thousand more? Bring 'em on!

Anyway, back to moving. Where were we? Mouth of rhino, skin of onion, eye of newt (heh)--right. I am also good at deluding myself, particularly when said delusion materializes in the face of opposition from others, particularly elder others. Like, when I was thirteen, I actually convinced myself that living in NYC with no money, working crap jobs and starving for my art would be fun or something, because those who asserted otherwise wore puff-paint sweatshirts, worked as secretaries in the PA House of Representatives, and went to holy-roller churches every Sunday. And guess what? They were right! It's not fun! It's humiliating and degrading and soul-crushing--all the qualities endemic to an atheist childhood in East Jesus.

You could argue that at least I get to be humiliated and degraded and crushed in New York City, which is far superior to experiencing the above in PA, and you'd be mostly right. But dammit--and stop me if you've heard this one--New York just ain't what it used to be, people! The New York in which I expected to humiliate and degrade myself sounded the death knell when Disney bought out Times Square in the mid-90's, and from there it's been a slippery condemned path toward Yuppies and "hip" restaurants and goddamn motherfucking chain stores that I could go to in, like, my own hometown--or at least in the Philly suburbs, since I am sure those on the Harrisburg city council would dismiss such stores as Anthropologie as "too high-end for people like us." It's lonely as hell to be humiliated and degraded in a city where everyone else is striving up, up to god knows where and for what--another "hip" restaurant? More chain stores? No wonder my confrere the Pirate never leaves the house. I suppose I can include myself in that, too.

The Pirate has been talking lately about moving to Vancouver, which has less to do with the state of NYC than it does to do with the state of the Union, although perhaps last night's House victory will buy him some time. But I'm betting he doesn't move. I'm betting I won't, either, as much as I dream about bartending in Barrow, Alaska or, shit, even moving to a smaller, cheaper city like Baltimore or Atlanta (the latter of which is home to one of my favorite authors, Hollis Gillespie, and maybe if I move there she and her sideshow freak friends will take me under their wing and we'll all live happily ever after). If there's one thing my mother instilled in me, it's how to survive a crappy relationship. I never got to come out on top with her, nor with the vast majority of the other dicks, male and female, who've passed through my life, but call me deluded or sick or just plain too fucking lazy to move my fat ass elsewhere, it looks like I'm in this relationship for the long haul, and I'm still clinging to the belief that I'll come out on top.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Work Ethics

I've been working for the past week in a commercial real estate office on Park Avenue in the 50s. I can think of few things more soul-crushing, mind-numbing, brain-draining, and a whole host of other synonyms for boring than commercial real estate, and yet as a temp job, it's not so bad as far as these things go. For one, I don't have to interact with panicky Upper East Side mothers calling in and demanding their son's Lamcital, so that leaves me a lot of time for spacing out and constructing Walter Mitty fantasies in my head. Two, it's only three days a week, so that leaves me time to "write," except I've been using that time I should ostensibly be using to further my so-called career as an excuse to stay in bed and moan about how awful a writer I am, and how when I was ignorant of my ignorance, I could easily and arrogantly dash off twenty nonsensical but lovely-sounding pages and call it a short story. No more. Now I have to work at it, and I'm not sure I know how to.

I've never been much of a worker, unless I knew that I would succeed at whatever I was working on. When I transferred to a college preparatory academy in sixth grade and the straight A's I'd plucked like strawberries in elementary school suddenly stopped falling into my lap, with the encouragement of my classmates, I declared myself stupid. When I discovered that the cello required talent and effort far beyond my childish capabilities, I decided it was pointless to practice unless under threat from my mother to throw me out the window. I've never minded working at acting, because even in the darkest of times in the worst of productions, I somehow knew we'd all pull together in the end--or at least I would, and to hell with everyone else.

It helps, too, if I don't particularly care about the work I'm doing. That's the beautiful thing about temping--no one expects you to care, dammit, they just expect you to do the job well enough that it gets done and no one is killed or maimed along the way. But I do care about writing, almost too much, if there is such a thing. I care about it so much I can't even look it in the face and say, yes, this is really, really what I want to do with my life. It scares me to work on a piece and then have to chuck it because it's the complete opposite of what I wanted to say, or because it ended up coming from a place so far removed from anything in my particular human experience that I can't bear to let anyone read it, because it must be a truckload of bullshit and apple butter.

When I was a teacher, I cared a great deal. I was teaching mostly black and Hispanic kids from the inner city at a two-year college, and I wanted to do the proverbial Right Thing. I came home physically and emotionally exhausted every day, terrified of being exposed as the fraud I was, a messed-up kid with an MFA. What did I know about life, or literature? What business did I have inflicting myself on these kids? They'd already been through the worst in education NYC has to offer; they didn't need me in there fucking it up worse. When the layoff came (due to budget cuts, not because of anything I did), I was at once dismayed and relieved.

Two members of my acquaintance have recently declared their desire to become college professors. I envy them that. I don't think I could go down that path again. I either need to find a job that doesn't bore me to death but in which I'm not emotionally invested, or somehow get over this fear that I have no business putting myself out there. That's where I'm at right now, straddling this line between curling up in my bed and hiding for the rest of my life or throwing myself out there and risk getting hit in the face with an axe and I tell you, I can't think which is more terrifying.