Saturday, December 24, 2011

1 Year, 6 Months, Tomorrow-

Not that I'm keeping track.  Kind of strange how my perception of time changes the longer I'm sober.  I used to think that two weeks, heck, two days, as a reason to celebrate (and drink), and now I don't even think that one year is a long time.  I'm looking forward to two years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Whiskey is like God.

I refer to whiskey only with the proper name: Whiskey.  Honey.

There is no gender to Whiskey.

There is heavy duty fulfillment and and deep remorseful shame.

There is full in-the-moment bliss and carnal denouement.

Whiskey is my lover.

Whiskey is my penance.

Whiskey is my friend.

Whiskey is my music.

Whiskey is.

And all I've got are empty expectations for my own apotheosis, and drowned out memories of a time that can never be again.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not Drinking During the Holidays.

If not drinking is generally difficult, because of self-loathing, or because it calms anxiety, or because it is isolating, or because you find yourself at ten in the morning with a bottle of whiskey and the rabid intensity, and joy, of a live birth, then not drinking during the holidays is even harder.

And it is harder for one reason: shame.

I'm convinced that not drinking is easier if you say you're not drinking (not, ya know, just generally, but when you're in a drinking environment).  Own up to it, say it, out loud, to yourself and others, and, say that it is your preference, and don't explain anything else.  You don't really have to, even when they gawk, and stare, and worse, forget, and make you repeat yourself, and when they get loud and sloppy and needlessly stupid and romantic for nothing, and rage against the world and rage against themselves, and rage against you.  Ultimately, you are not drinking, not because of all the negative shit drinking leads to, but because you value yourself more than that, and drinking is, for you, or me, or whomever you might be, self-inflicted abuse.  You don't need to say that to anyone, but you don't need to feel bad about not-drinking, either.  Ever.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Got Sucked In.

Into an interaction that I didn't want to be in, that is.

This morning,w hen I noticed a homeless man on a bench pouring some soda into a small bottle of whiskey, I stared, thinking, honestly, that I've done that before, and thankfully I'm not on a bench at 9am doing it now.  Either way, he saw me seeing him, and his reaction was to start swearing at me.

And before I knew what I was doing, I started to talk back.

The point is only this: he knows what he is doing is wrong, at some level, but also, at a different level, protects the hell out of it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life is Limited.

Let's recognize this: for lots of reasons we can't understand, life is simultaneously more complicated and restricted than we can fully comprehend.  We don't fully control the trajectory of our own lives, much less other people's lives, and everyone generally acts out of what they think at the time is a good idea, however much we might disagree from outside.  The basic fact remains that who we chose to be vulnerable with, and who choses to be vulnerable with us (vulnerable: showing or expressing emotions that you would only look at fully alone, and/or asking for advice on key life issues, and listening, developing an ear, and offering those things) is going to play a large role in determining how we see the world and how the world appears to us.  If we're always inflated by grand ideas and unobtainable dreams, we may in fact be doing some harm to those that we're in fact closest to, and that harm might simply be the negligence of our own expansive ideals, the underbelly, if you will.  In that case, maybe it is time to roll up the sleeves and make some pot roast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Alcoholic's Best Friend: Sugar

Don't underestimate the need for appropriate nutrition.  Lacking essential nutrition, as you most certainly are if you've been drinking substantial quantities of whiskey or beer.  Sugar can be vicious and mood altering.

In short, cut salt and sugar and increase protein and vegetables.  That's simple to say.  I'm still working on implementation.

Honey is a good substitute for white sugar, especially raw uncooked buckwheat honey.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Suffering to Produce Art?

What is it about suffering that makes good art?

Let's back up, because maybe you disagree with the premise.  Or maybe it is stated too generally to disagree or agree with. What makes folks who have seemed to suffer produce good art?  Or, alternatively, what makes previously good artists who make it commercially, bad.

Alternative scenarios:

1) The artist's work hasn't changed at all, but the viewing of the work has changed

2) The work has changed in a dramatic fashion, and superceded the public's taste for the work: the artist has, essentially, advanced, or branched out, faster than allowable to stay relevant (in the current country/culture/milieu/etc).

3) The artist never suffered at all.  But mass appeal came about and changed his/her status, so that his/her work must now be taken more seriously.  Anything taken more seriously--i.e. anything we're willing to become more familiar with--will yield some forgiveness in the dance we call perception.

I'd like to propose that artists do indeed get worse if they don't push themselves (or somehow are pushed).   I don't think it is the suffering that causes good arts, but the capacity to back away from the suffering, to get through it, to have a change of perspective, that allows a certain alignment, a certain insight, and, after a lot of work, perhaps, some art can emerge built on that insight.  In short, without becoming uncomfortable, we don't change perspectives too fast, and don't produce very good art.

Disclaimer: There's a long continuum between dissonant art and consonsant art--i.e. art that drastically differs from what you expect (so much so that it takes serious amounts of time to begin comprehending it) and art that is slick, easy to digest and finds instant resonance.  However, it is assumed at times that consonant art is somehow inauthentic.  That's perhaps not the case as much as we (cynics) would like to think.  It is incredibly hard to produce a piece of very slick immediately available art.  It may even be easier, at times, to produce something aphasic, ineffable, or so dissonant that there can be almost no audience besides those sympathetic with the artist, and not because the art is available to them.  Having said that, naturally those folks who become specialized in viewing art have a different taste, by virtue simply of higher exposure.  I'm not exactly sure what role that plays in the fundamentals of the piece of art on display yet though.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Break Your Brain: the shift from manual to automatic

The hardest part of accomplishing anything, whether exercise, communication, eating, or whatever it is that involves obtaining something, is the shift from a relaxed, non-eventful state of mind to one that must give out effort.  That's hard because it literally requires mental and caloric muscle to be moved, and that means we feel some sort of struggle.

Sure, moving sucks.  But, not moving will eventually suck, too.  And I'm betting that not moving is so good right now because we just moved, and we need a break.  The point is that we can condition ourselves to do things, and that those things require rules for a little while until they become automatic.  Because, and here's the deal, you're already automatically (non-eventfully) going down a course of events, but you've been acclimated to them, so you don't notice as much.  Eating a sundae every night for dinner, or drinking a six pack, is easier because it is the norm.  We have a bias for what's here and now.  Any change isn't threatening so much as it requires some effort, and it doesn't make sense to expend energy until we have the knowledge that the expenditure of that energy will yield benefits--but to get that knowledge we have to experience it somehow, or ask someone who we trust has similar judgments and tastes.

Anyway, the point is that a lot of personal growth and insight and the core essential stuff of life, such as it is, comes not from having a lot of money, or from getting the best car or most prestigious job, but from the desire to obtain those things, and the effort we put forth to get them.   To be clear: from not drinking when drinking is easy, from not cheating when cheating is easy, from not eating cake when eating cake is easy, and from not stealing shit when it is available, not out of a need to be involved in a community (though that matters too), but because restriction begets insight, and insight allows us to realize that restriction is important, and eventually, once these two folks get into bed together, well, the genes are right for a well balanced kid, I think, so long as s/he isn't spoiled.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Year and Four Months

I've been sober for a year and four months straight, no chaser.    I've found a new job, bought an apartment, and gotten married (at city hall), in that time, so, along with getting sober, a lot of other things have changed too.  Maybe the most marked personality change is my profound understanding of my own limitations--that is, my lack of expertise in almost every area imaginable.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  More like a life thing.  Like a recognizing how small we are type of thing. 

Alcohol fuels some levels of self-bias.  It also, unfortunately, helps me to relax, at least in the short term (and without thinking of any long term costs).  So however painful that may be, since my preference is to reduce bias in the longer term, I have to deal with some levels of increased anxiety now.  That's not bad, it just is "who I am" and I'm learning my limitations on a daily basis.  Suffice it to say that I'm not considering going back to drinking anytime soon--so the idea of quitting for a year is nice, but insufficient.

I am not foolish enough to believe that my life is a mirror of sheer will.  I'm also not among those who think that we have no control over our own direction, either.  It may be that we only control 3.59% of the direction of our lives--but I want to be conscious of that aspect, however small, and make informed decisions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Self-Doubt is healthy.  The problem arises only when it paralyzes.  One of the paradoxical ways out of this paralysis to realize our utter, incomprehensible lack of importance.  I think it helps to do this for two reasons.

1) The quick emotional reaction to self-doubt is often, whether internal or the result of a conversation with friend(s), assurance.  Assurances that we're already where we should be might take away the motivating factor that some self-doubt can provide.

2)If we're not important, then doing something perfectly--that is, trying, failing, learning, and trying again, isn't put on a pedestal (given an audience), and we might actually create something--be involved in some project--without first thinking about how it will be received, or whether we're doing it right.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alcohol Is Safety.

Not because it is easy, because it often isn't, or because it is simple.  Again, no.  But because it is predictable.

It also allows, I think, a convenient way to face death, in whatever machination you want to chose (not necessarily easy, again, but possible).

Sterile dry full fledged non-alcoholic life is almost unbearable, and there's no telling where the fuck it will go, even as it is, from moment to moment, touchable, palpable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hardest Things: Guitar and Marriages

Two related thoughts (I assure you): it is hard to realize that you must learn to play the guitar by learning an immense amount of patterns that, if broken, sound bad.

It is also hard to realize that the ideal so often romanticized, that we have a true and singular "meant to be" significant other, is not true.  We don't.  We can't just pick up the guitar and make up the rules, just like we'd like to but can't copy a foreign language without learning it first (and by the way, once you learn it, you lose that damn cool essential foreign aspect, because you know--almost all of a sudden--what people are saying, so it goes from tremendously romantic to tremendously mundane, although still intractably special in a different sense (and I have a lot left to learn, no doubt)).  Every guitar solo follows a pattern.   And every relationship is hard work--worthy hard work, that is, to turn someone into a special someone, although less like a drug, and also hard work to open oneself to that other person.

And even though I haven't changed my guitar strings in years, I was only a little out of tune just now, when I picked the old instrument out of the case and strummed it into merriment and balanced [idiosyncratic] bliss/== my own.

Seeing Is Not Changing

No matter how clear we can see a personality trait, social problem, or relationship dynamic, whether in ourselves or in other people, actually changing it in some meaningful positive way is much more difficult.  Unfortunately, it is really tempting to think that comprehension is equivalent to conclusion.  It isn't.  And it is frustrating to see a problem clearly and be able to do precisely nothing to stop it. 

Simultaneously, somehow, we need to be careful that we're not deluding ourselves into the trap of clarity, and note that we only see a fraction of any reality in front of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mouth Full of Linen.

Holy shit am I not drinking.  I'm parched dry.  I'm so dry I have my own lift.  I'm so dry I've got a zip code of man-made weather around me.  I'm so dry I haven't even begun to register where day and night recede into each other, or where a year began, or whether it was a day, or where old and new friends faded into nostalgia.  I close my eyes and leaves from autumns of my childhood smell like chimney smoke in my nose, and favorite maroon sweaters paint my nails like tar, and my room-mate from brooklyn wishes me well on my first day of work, and law school professors bear down on damn clammy enema inducing questions, and the vividness of thoughts that I haven't even thunk in fifteen years stand out printed on a mountain side of fatigue and weariness, and I open my eyes and the world around me functions with the minutia and complexity that is startling, and boring, and vast and endless, and I take a dip in the water, and I'm on the toilet now, and the ground swells up, and the tiles break open at their natural seams and I'm gone, man, I'm gone right into the sewer.  And I've had that dream before, a thousand times.  And I can't fucking figure out why everyone is talking that way, or what that lip curl signified socially, until I realize that they're blind with booze, just full of it, and that entire industries center on their continual absorption of the chemical, straight into the lining of the stomach, the large intestine, no matter the bottle shape or the hand pouring it, all the same the next morning, and I make rules for myself these days because I know that I can't trust myself, man, I make decisions before I have to make decisions so I don't have to make decisions that I don't want to make.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lessons About Quitting Booze.

1. Quitting Booze is really difficult if you've become addicted.  In other words, don't underestimate how addicted you are.    Having said that, quitting booze isn't for everyone.  Therein lies the rub.  If you think you might have a problem, then you probably do.  The best way to check for this is to try to stop for a week and see how easy it is, and how much it impacts who you interact with and how you interact generally.  Another good way to check is to ask whether family members have problems with alcohol. If the answer is yes, then you have to be careful.

2.  Alcoholism is progressive.  If you don't become conscious of it now, your abuse of it will increase--and the consequent high you get off of alcohol will decrease.  And, you'll slowly (or rapidly) do damage to your emotional baseline, i.e. how well you are able to assess information from other people and events, how you process that information, and your views of things generally.

3.  Quitting drinking will change you if you've had problems with drinking so far.  At first it will be really difficult and you'll be horribly irritated.  Seek therapeutic help.  Stay away from other addictive substances.  Try to notice abusive relationships that you might be involved in, especially if you are the abuser, but also notice cycles of unnecessary drama that seem to crop up out of boredom, or worse.  You will have more money.  Eventually, you will be startlingly clearer.  You will probably seek new or different types of relationships with friends/social circles/lovers.  You may realize that you are fundamentally unhappy or unbalanced in other ways that were not as clear as before when you drank.   These are all good things, because they allow you (or me!) to start to process these real issues instead of mask them in cycles of substance abuse.   It is okay to want to be alone, but you should have someone to talk to.

4.  AA is a personal choice.  The most difficult part about not drinking, and about life, I think, is to figure out what your true emotional reactions are, which also means figuring out your assumptions about framing of events, and generally, having some descriptive accuracy.  I quickly realized the world was much larger and more complex than I ever gave it credit for.  Every thought we think is some level of reduction.

5.  Be very careful not to misalign sensitivity with abuse, or to justify your drinking with art/productivity

6.  Start to incorporate non-alcohol related activities into your life.  Hobbies are your friends.  You need not be the best at anything, or even one thing.  Subjective happiness is happiness.  Figuring our what makes you happy, going out to achieve it, shifting what makes you happy, and then trying to achieve that, is the essence of life, so long as we take a little time off and balance our oft-quoted high standards with self-empahthy.

Having said that, I wish you the best.  I like to contemplate my thoughts in words, and put them down in front of me.  It helps me organize myself, and stay sane. Therefore, I'll continue to write occasionally here, but will try to start a new blog, with a new name and everything, to be determined within a day or so.  I've come a long way from blogging about my struggles with alcohol.  Ultimately, the point is not to obsess about drinking OR about not-drinking, without letting one's guard down enough to go out and drink.  Look for a link from me soon about where to read my mutterings.  Best.

Edit: Find a continuation of my ramblings here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Mating Game: Ignore it or Not, You still violate rules

Let's not be coy.  A mating game exists out there, and as humans, we are part of it.  We seek partners to couple with, both emotionally and physically, and there's a host of realities that, whether we like it or not, come along for the ride.  For now, I just wanted to point to one dynamic that's problematic.

If you decide to overtly notice that there's a mating game going on, a market of sorts, and play accordingly, by broadening those to whom you're exposed, for instance, and increasing your perceived status as attractive (whether through physical or other means), and, importantly, you talk about the mating market itself explicitly, you may be seen as too cold and calculating, and lesson your status (ahem, price point?) on the market.  So, advice for those people who are extroardinarily calculating and trying to find a good catch: don't be too explicit about it.  People want to feel that they're unique and subjectively interesting.

Now, the flip side.  Suppose you abhor the mating market, and don't like all the usual bars and clubs and whatnot, where "normal" people meet each other, because, for various reasons, it mostly makes you uncomfortable.  Well, then you'll also be selecting out a variety of possible mates many of which, sure, wouldn't be your type, but some of which might have been, and you'll never know.  You'll also be taking yourself down a notch in status/price point if you don't dress "up" yourself.  Maybe you don't want the type of person who doesn't love the "real" you, but the news flash is that you still have to get over yourself, even when you go out of the house looking like a sloppy rag.  Because you're not exempt.  I'm not exempt.  Nobody, until they are "off" of the market is exempt (and even then....).  I do believe that a lot of young people want to come to cities not only because they are exciting, but because it increases their exposure to high quality mates.

Okay, this is NOT a topic of discussion for the office, by the way.  People do not like to talk about this topic in such overt terms.  My point is only that when we aren't overt, we lose descriptive reality, and when we are overt, we should be careful to realize that other people aren't always.  So there's a fine needle to thread here, and obviously, lots of pricked fingers along the way.

ADDITION: Now that I think about it, the point is that how you choose to see the mating market will in part determine who you mate with.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Judging Happiness

One of the perplexing parts regarding measuring one's own happiness is the fact that it cannot necessarily be measured solely by one's own standards. 

In other words, your happiness is slightly but partially dependent on how happy other people think you are, unless you are so totally disconnected from other people, and their immediate reations to you, so as to render you schizophrenic.  Even schizophrenics seem to respond to what other people think about them.

As such, you can't just "live by your own standards" even if you want to, or, maybe more importantly, even if you think you do. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fantasy and Reality

It makes sense that we can indulge ourselves in fantasy.  After all, the ability to think abstractly, that is, to conjure alternate realities that share some essential qualities to our current state, is fundamental to survival.  We're very good at asking the question: What would happen if?  If that tiger jumped there?  If I could distract him with some steak?  If we cooperated?  If not?  Those that cooperated in our evolutionary history seemed to have survived much better than others, though we can't rule out free-riders completely, even though we don't like them.  Anyway, the point is this: it is very easy to imagine a reality that so closely mimics current reality that we convince ourselves that it is the current reality and we believe in it as if it were real.  But it isn't.  But our belief is sincere, and is often the difference between living and dying.  If I'm convinced of a danger, x, and my conviction is exaggerated 10% over reality, then I will suffer some opportunity cost in my caution, true--I could have been doing something else besides spending my time/energy on my inflated worry.  However, as compared to someone that underestimated the danger by 10%, I win, in that I'm not maimed or dead.  The balance, you're mind is probably screaming at you, is to find a way to maximize energy output on useful goals, or, stated more accurately, to minimize the extent to which we frivolously worry or expend useless energy.  And that's where modern life comes in.  We've automated a lot of our survival, made it more efficient (think of your next food source), so we have more time to indulge.  We have more time to be preoccupied with our fantasy, with unreality and it poses less risk than previously [in human history, on average].  That's pretty remarkable.  It allows great reward and great risk.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Death: Stop It Already!

I'm sick and tierd of people who speak of death as if they'll know when they die.  They won't.  We won't.  We'll be dead!  There is no "When I die, I hope that I lived my life according to xyz . . ." - No.  I'm sorry, but we won't die and then somehow still be alive to be able to have a meta-view of our own lives once we're dead.  Dead means that our consciousness will be cease to exist.   It isn't pretty.  What's less pretty is that life is all we've got.  What's simultaneously pretty is that life is all we've got.  This is it.  Here, now, in front of us.  And it is neither universally good or bad or good or evil, and almost nobody can be sliced into these labels with complete accuracy, because these labels exist to justify our emotional responses to situations, to judge risk, and to justify our behavior, largely, rather than to descriptively link to objective reality in a way that can aid our navigation of it. 

Now, here's something really scary.  We're so convicned that we, individually, won't die, that it is really difficult to dislodge the notion that we'll be able to evaluate our lives from some state beyond the purview of our lives....from the grave.  If we accept that we'll die in a rational way, we'll likely be much more accurate about our chances for certain goals, and we'll also be more depressed.  I'm not justifying depression.  I'm not even sure what the best way to live is.  We struggle and struggle and struggle, and we would hate to know that our struggling is not for anything in particular, except to continue living as long as possible.  We've got a strong biological imperative to ignore death, on par with our sex drive.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Guaranteed Lie. For you guys out there.

This lie keeps guys coming back:

You're the biggest I've ever seen.

Here's a related lie; related because most guys must think brute force and size corellate to pleasure (maybe for them it does?): I just came so hard.

Granted, it is not always a lie.  But, if you've heard both of those statements recently in close proximity, well, we cannot reject the null hypothesis so quickly my friend.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Funding Your Analyst

There's a saying out there, and it is true, all of it. 

So why bother with the saying? 

Because it is already true, and some people don't know that it is true, and because we like sayings that condense the truth.

I see.  So, you feel that you should educate people who may not have proper education, and you think that this saying is a convenient and efficient way to do so?

No, I just.  I wanted to be clear that I liked the saying.

But how could you tell if the saying wasn't true? 

I'm not sure I know what you mean.

I mean: you said the saying was true.  What if it wasn't?  How would you be able to explain this?  Would there be an indicator of some sort to point to?

I suppose, well.

I think what you mean is that we like sayings becuase they are vague enough to agree to without proving their falsity, and that this allows us a feeling of communication, of connection, when it is really anything but that--it is as banal a statement as the weather.

But I use this saying all the time. 

And people are no doubt agreeing with you all the time.  So it serves you well.  I don't doubt that your emotions when they respond to you are true.  But your emotions about positive feedback don't make the saying more true or less true.

You don't even know what the saying is.

I don't need to know that's the point.

The point is only that you're used to people agreeing with you when you say this, and you don't like it when I take issue with your saying.  It takes away from your power, from your certainty, somewhat.  It makes you have to do some mental work, and that is the most difficult kind.

I beg to differ.

Then why avoid it?  Why not come up with something falsifiable and really put your dick on the chopping block?  If you're so sure that is.

I suppose I'm not so sure.  But you can't also be this sure about my saying without hearing it first.  You can't assume all sayings have this basic structure.  Aren't you the least bit curious?

Okay, tell me.

Nah, forget it.  Time's up anyway.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I just listened to an hour long radio program, freakonomics about predictions. Here's the link.  To note: we're not very good at predicting the future. We like to hedge by saying "could" a lot.  We also have an incentive to predict very bold happenings if there is no cost with getting our predictions wrong.  Worth a listen or two.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm flummoxed by one thing: Must we reduce, or can we somehow...

So, okay, okay.  The world is a complicated place.  Really, really complicated.  Even small segments of the world are, if not complicated, so rich in information, that it seems impossible for us, mere humans, mere alcoholics, mere addicts, to possibly grasp a sliver of reality in full--that is, a full data set for drastically reduced parameters on reality that still measures two things in relation to themselves.  I know, there are models, okay.  Models.  But models are not truth.  The best they allow us to do is to take guesses at possible outcomes.  And they don't tell us about multiple overlapping reasons for one observed instance.

A very recent for instance seen on my walk to the subway.  One person is balanced on a tightrope/sheet that is itself fastened to two relatively distant poles, making his dramatic walk between the poles somewhat alluring.  Why does he do it?  He likely does it to practice.  Okay, but what about an end goal?  Well, he does it, you'd say, to practice for a certain performance.  Okay, so he wants to be able to perform adequately on the tightrope on a certain date, or a succession of dates.  What's his incentive?  What about money?  Yes, partly.  But money is not always the best incentive.  Not as good, as, say, social stature.  That is, money is good: yes, we can trade it for food and lots of other things. But, as the Beatles know, Money Can't Buy You Love.

Except.  Well, maybe it can, in an indirect way.  If combined with enough uniqueness and stature.

Okay, so the dude was balancing himself and walking the tightrope partially for money, right, and then, maybe, to gain a bit of stature.  Also, the path to do that was through a relatively unique activity.  Who does that, right?  At the same time.

At the same time, he was doing it in a community full of unique acts.  Lots of people, all around him, were engaged in a motley blend of unique acts.  What was the common theme?

Well.  Maybe it was that they all belong to a community identified by uniqueness, and they were simply signaling their adherence to community norms.

No, you're right, none of these possibilities exclude the others.  So which one is most right?  Can you tell me?  Because I think if we find the answer to this question, we'll also find an answer to why we drink.

The question is: can we come up with a full-fledged non-negotiable detailed account of this man's behavior that represents the most true possible description, taking it for granted that we have overlapping temporal constraints and that we can zoom in and out of specificity regarding his acts.  Please.  If you have an idea, please tell me.  I want to know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

High Status People: Internal Monologue

Why is it that high-status people are so often weak willed and convinced of their own failures internally?  Especially when, externally, they are obviously head and shoulders above many others?  Is it that their will to succeed is only substantially bolstered by fear of failure?  If so, why do they fear failure so much?  Is failure somehow equated with death/death risks (which animates most people if they sincerely believe the risk)?  Are they afraid to give themselves credit because they are worried they'd slack off and lose their status that way?  Or--and this is what I'm scared of--are high status people simply signaling to themselves (and a few select others, like me!) that they are unaware of their status completely, and thus need to take the cues of others around them?  (And because they are surrounded by similarly statused people, they only see themselves in relative fashion).... do they simply not have enough information?  Or are they willingly blind to the feedback they have available because they need outside affirmation of some sort?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting Somewhere. Fantasy. Desire.

Very simple message for the evening/morning/cup of tea time.  Desiring something is the best way to know something, i.e. the purest way, for once we know something, it is never as pure.  It can never be that thing we imaged.  It can never join the recesses of our minds and outlast our expectations.  And it can always, always, let us down once we get used to the idea that we had it all along.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ten of My Faults in NPO (No Particular Order)

For the sake of [partial] catharsis, a partial list of my faults:

1) Double standards

2) Moody as hell

3) Insecure

4) Sloppy

5) Inconsistent

6) Petty

7) Boring

8) Introverted

9) Excessive

10) Needlessly Dramatic

11) Critical

Trying Not to Drink Isn't Easy - Don't underestimate it

In 2009 I made it six months without drinking.  In early september, to the day after six months, I decided to have one drink.  Then I decided, even BEFORE having the one drink, that I'd have to have two drinks.   Only two drinks would make breaking my non-drinking spell worth it.  If I wanted to have a drink, that is, a drink would mean having two drinks.  Besides, since I'm heavier than most people, two drinks is really like one drink anyway.  And so I did it.  And then I watched a  movie, and thought nothing of it.  After about two weeks, it became easy to indulge in a drink, or two, or four, on a weeknight, and on the weekends, if we went to a social event, I could easily have four drinks, or more, depending on who needed to drive (if we drove). By New Year's eve, I was totally smashed on a regular basis, and could drink enough, while talking to myself rationally about drinking, to black out.  If you've ever blacked out, you know how startling it is--and worrisome, but you learn, if you want to keep drinking, to pack that experience up and put it in your pocket to think about later.  Right.  So by mid-april, I felt like shit about myself again, wasn't happy in my job, and failed an important test I should have passed.  Yep, felt like spring.  That was april 2010, too, which, basically feels like yesterday right now.  And then in May friends came from out of town, and the year before I skipped out on drinking endeavors with them (though these friends certainly understood) and I made sure to catch up.  I went to work the next day hung over and dragging.  I swore that I should stop drinking for a little while again, after all, it was a year since I stopped the first time (March 2009)... and then June 25 came.  I went out, but was early.  So, I ordered the same beer I had the time with my out of town friends.  It was over-sized and foamy and german and delicious and I ordered a second even before my friends came to join me.  By the time they came I was already completely under water.  Didn't stop me from partaking for half the night.  The next day I called into work sick, and decided, half way through a stunned and aching hangover, that I should stop drinking for a good long time, like a year.  By the way, I get severe, massive, slow-moving, churn your guts out type hangovers that don't stop for about 20 hours.  Yeah, well, hopefully I won't ever get one again.  Let's keep on keepin on everyone, no matter how much it hurts right now.  All the pleasure had to balance out some time anyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Being Happy [and Faking Orgasm] and Tempo and Boredom

I'm convinced that many of us have learned that happiness is not internal, but really how we show our internal state to others, such that, if we can manifest objective interactions that profess happy indicators, we can convince ourselves that we are indeed internally sated.  Unfortunately, it is highly depressing for me to witness such interactions and know, through intuition or just plain experience at witnessing these patterned behaviors (with the utmost hope that they do not exist), that they exist and are manifestly evident.

I know it is a struggle to find one's place, one's self, or one's center, and to operate from a consistent base so as to maintain integrity.  I also know that most of us are even indirectly desperate not to be alone.

Which brings me to another nodule: happiness need not be experienced at break neck speed.  Perhaps it is due to age and insecurity, or maybe it is simple a trajectory we follow as we age, but young adults seem to act out happiness in an almost aggressive manner while older adults seem to know that happiness is more associated with something more substantial, less manic.  I'm obviously not fully sure on this point, myself.

I've Been Sober a Year. Today.

Well, I feel like I'm just at the beginning folks. Lots of thoughts and emotions, many of which don't make it to these pages.  I'm not self-congratulatory.  I don't even feel like I've accomplished that much.  I do feel that being sober is the right move for me, and I'll stay sober indefinitely.  I don't want to waste any more money or time on alcohol.  The hardest part is simultaneously over and just beginning.  I'll continue to post here, though it will be fragmentary (as always).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's Stop Drinking Together: Hear this, impossible paradox.

When we decide to stop drinking, we have to do it together.  Let's not forget that drinking has, often, become a proxy for being with other people, for being social, for being, in short, healthy.  If we're out there, we're not reclusive.  If we're not reclusive, we're okay.  If we're okay, we can keep going forward, secure in our footing.  I've become aware that a lot of you are drying to stop drinking, and that, even though I'm often flagrantly off topic, at least some of what I've said by way of not drinking might have been a bit helpful at times.  I don't ordain myself helpful, of course.  But I do want to have the courage to face tomorrow fully cognizant and, knowing that I can never be even remotely aware of everything, still have the courage to face the amorphous "it" that is, at least at times, unbearable.

So to stop drinking, we have to have tremendous courage and be very very serious.

And yet.

To stop drinking, we must not take the unbearable world too seriously, all the time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is Racism Anyway?

So, I used to think I had a really clear idea of what racism was.  Now, I'm not as sure.  I mean, my previous idea was "big" and a lot of the mechanics of how racism worked happened in a way that was not quite explicit.  In other words, the individual-actor model, whereby a single person makes a choice to exclude something or someone from something else solely or predominantly because of a physical characteristic not highly correlated with meritorious variables. . . . whoa!  What I mean to say is: malicious decisions based on race or color or ethnicity, largely.  And that's not all.  There was also a systematic or institutionalized nature to this racism too. Now, how did that work?  Well, it was more of the impact of all of the small collective decisions of all of those smaller people, and what's more, it was also, and this was the most important part, how all of those decisions kept on going even without being explicitly racial in nature.  So, in other words, it should be testable if we have the right data.  And there are studies that link race with decreased loan approval, for instance, keeping all other factors consistent.  I'm not going to go back to sources now, but can if you insist.

Okay, so hold that in your head for a minute, and consider that there are also people who have a desire, albeit slight, to live not in homogenized neighborhoods, but around people that are mostly like them. That's not quite racism.  More like a preference, right?

So, where do we call racism, racism? If we can prove that race mattes statistically but can't pinpoint a bad actor, is there still racism?

Working Out/Exercise/Manic Intensity, Pushing Oneself

Not all "addictions" are necessarily bad.  Think about an exercise addiction--one is compulsive about exercising.  You've heard of marathon runners, but there are also "Ultra" marathon runners, who do, for instance, a hundred mile run, overnight!  They must be receiving lots of positive feedback that goes beyond a) transformation of body image and b) comes from within, because I believe there must be a threshold, maybe 10 mile runs, three times a week, wherein we'll hit peak body image.  Maybe I'm wrong, and I underestimate the continuum (and extremes) of body image, and the lengths people will go to achieve a certain perceived stature.  Still, consider that some people exercise far and away more than they must to achieve the body image that they desire.  The reason must be simple discipline: they like to push themselves; they like to see how far they can get; they like to know they can get up and do something that's relatively unique.  I think these are all commendable characteristics.  I do have a cynical viewpoint about this that I'm not expressing.  Mostly, that cynical side is sitting on the couch, eating chips, or telling me something about being productive in other "more" meaningful ways, but, that's interesting: who creates meaning for us?  Why must it follow a certain framework of utility?  Why can't it exist for a moment (or a run) and that's it?


I think we've got far too much stuff.  This becomes immediately evident every time I want to move my stuff. We probably have it all because:

1) We're too lazy to get rid of it once we accumulate it

2) We overestimate how much long and medium range utility it will give us when we acquire it

3) We're stubborn about (2)

4) We're simply not aware of the accumulation of stuff because it happens incrementally

5) Even after natural disaster type situations, we go back to a sort of balance of stuff that is bloated (like when all of my stuff fit into one car load because of a fire)--

6) We compare ourselves to other people and act as accordingly

7) We think our stuff will save us from something. It will not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flip Out!

Slipped into the gutter today, and found a pleasant stay. The slime isn't so bad when it doesn't move around you, and the air down there was cool.  No, I didn't drink.  I did let go of the need to be nervous though.  I don't think it was doing anything for me, the anxiety.  I mean, one can only worry so much about so many things before a) the worry detracts from otherwise productive energy, b) the worry provides erroneous reasons for events or c) the worry does nothing.  In my case, well, it was mostly (b) and (c).  I can't worry anymore.  I mean, I'm sure that I can, if forced, or if I must.  Generally though, it is not productive and it gives me all sorts of false positives; so many so that I can't even walk around without freaking out.  I'm not a glass vase.  I'm not so perfect as to be that delicate, or to worry about it.  Something clicked.  Nobody is that aware of me so that I have to be that perfect.  I just stopped talking to please.  I want to get things done, not flatter people.  Hopefully I can minimize the latter and still do the former.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What does drinking get you?

The main role in your own stardom.  And, a fall from grace.  The trick is this: when you'll tell yourself you can't possibly fall, you'll do it from the bottom of a well.

There's enough complexity: Death and Being Single

There's enough complexity in life to absorb us all, so that we don't think about death.  And we don't think about patterns, that is, too much.  I admit I've been a little obsessed with sort of easy structural patterns to human behavior, mostly biological as of late.  It has been hard for me to see past the core instincts that I think a lot of us have whether we like it or not, and that is, mostly, an urge to impress the opposite sex while showing oneself off as selective. I know that our society tells single women past the age of 30 that there's something wrong with them because they are single. Maybe it doesn't happen at the club, or in the board room, but it does over breakfast tea with grandma, and with the gentle nudging from family members.  I mean, there's enough pressure on everyone already, right?  And yet, women are forced to sort of mature quicker because they face their own biology earlier in life.  I heard this reason the other day, and it stuck.  Women must face that they are aging, and that their aging marks them in some identifiable way, and that, mostly, if they want to start a family, they will have to do so before, oh, let's say, late 30s.

Men, conversely, don't have to face this fact so much.  They don't have to say to themselves that they're getting old.  I haven't seen men wearing uncomfortable but "stylish" shoes either.  They can realize, late into their 40s, that they've been living a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle, and then, assuming they have requisite money or looks, pick up a young 30s single woman, and start then, in their 40s.

No doubt, it feels shitty to be alone, or, rather, to be lonely when you don't want to be alone.  Being alone on its own can be refreshing and almost psychedelic.  Still, something gives me pause lately about being alone in a way that isn't about physicality.  It is about seeing patterns of life, and realizing that, perhaps, there simply is nothing more.  They are beautiful, and heart-wrenching, and I want so desperately to be thickly involved in them, fully ensconced, like some forbidden spring lake in an early spring heat wave-to be refreshed by sheer immersion.  I haven't been able to get that, though, ever, and it makes me want to isolate.  Isolate and what?  Find comfort that cannot be found.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hiding One's Non-Drinking

I'll always remember a new boss I had once, who quickly became the scourge of all of my colleagues.  It probably wasn't just the bow tie he liked to wear.  When he first arrived we had a little office holiday party, to which he promptly responded that he'd come, of course, but that he "didn't drink." This was odd.  Everyone looked puzzled.  And as young fashionably liberal outgoing anti-poverty type people we were, this was indeed appalling.  He wasn't one of us.

Yes, I'm dramatizing a single variable among many, and there were many, but so much of our social world is (get ready for a tautological statement) about who we can appeal to regarding similarly held positions, attitudes, and norms.  So, not drinking as a sign of one's identity automatically breaks ranks with others.   I guess it depends on who we want to socialize with. 

 I feel less awkward lately myself, and more comfortable with myself generally (even though I'm more aware of my limitations and lack of knowledge), though I'm still susceptible to fits of anxiety at times, especially if I've had a cup of coffee (yeah, even though I love coffee). Still, interactions are strange things, in a way.  We take it for granted that people say what they think, and, I think (pun intended), most times, people say what they think.  Except that there's a few layers going on that probably aren't realized coherently on the surface level of verbalization.  People seek certain associations, and follow certain patterns, irrespective of their specific belief systems, irrespective of their thoughts and words.  Or, the words are an outgrowth of certain undeniably human traits that none of us are exempt from. So, when we say we don't drink, we cut ourselves off from certain people--and it isn't just the extreme lush out there that will shudder--because most people do drink, and think it is normal to do so... the trick is to say it nonchalantly so that the statement isn't seen as highly bound up with personal identity--though, watch it, most people will try to get you to drink at some point, and they might do so aggressively, so this strategy has some risk associated with it. 

 Eventually you've gotta come up with a narrative for why you're not drinking.  

I guess what I'm really struggling with here is this: I don't think it is a good idea to tell unfamiliar people that you've got a problem with alcohol and that's why you stopped drinking.  Maybe I should just be open with it, and let them think what they think.  Maybe I don't want to be excluded from their group.  Maybe I already am excluded, though, and I have nothing to lose.  Still, my mind ticks off this rationale: I stopped drinking so that drinking wasn't a big part of my life. I don't want not-drinking to be an obsessive caterwaul of paranoia, either.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Okay, the past matters! Alcoholics and Group Status

Some time ago I posted that the past didn't matter. I was wrong.  It does matter, and is far less idyllic than a rosy./implicit picture that we're a good mixture of those things which we were exposed to, the experiences and people we've known and know, and how the world has generally treated us, with a strong focus on our parent's behavior.   Indeed, the past is a constellation of miscellaneous treatment and our emotional response, combined with the stories we've told ourselves about that past to find solace, and, always, consonance with our own self-perception.  Of course, like always, self-perception is highly skewed toward the groups we do or don't belong to, or perceive ourselves as belonging to, and the group of alcoholics is no different in this sense, nor the strive for idiosyncratic zeal and individual rigor, all in an attempt to "truly" be group members, and not fakers.   All of this is pasted over with an ethos of acceptability, or egalitarianism, as if we don't judge each other, when we do, and harshly. Group status protects us from the judgment of other groups and judgment is part of group coherence: we feel contempt for outsiders and connected to insiders.  As an added layer, it is probable that our alcoholism has affected us uniquely in that it brought us both insider and outsider status to coveted groups, and at times, in one evening!  Damnit it feels cool to be unique and to belong.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Courage and Time

Maybe it is harder for addicts to have courage, but this will be an encouraging (and short) post: courage means being able to take actions on faith, I think.  No, not religious faith, not quite.  It doubles with time, because it involves the ability to work hard without having all the answers, with the [faith] that we'll be able to get more answers (or at least better question) the more we work.  That takes time, see.  Very simple.  I know, I know, maybe this is all baloney.  Consider this, though: our natural state, if we give in to it, is very lazy, and wants to do the least work possible for the most pleasure.  The way to live--the reason we have standards and morals--is to push against our natural states in a consistent and managable way.  So, it isn't comfortable.  It takes courage to be uncomfortable, and to hold on and not let go of that discomfort, and it takes some time and effort for that discomfort to dissipate.  And the, redux, it takes more effort, because it is after accomplishment that we're most likely to slip.  Okay, so maybe if you scroll down and listen to Dot Allison "Courage and Time" you'll get in a more full way than I can say it.  Or maybe the tune is rolling around in my head (notice how metaphorical that is?)....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Being Busy is High Status -- Internal Dizziness Bias

The busier we are, the more we have to do, the more complex and layered priorities that pull at our time must be.  Therefore, when we say that we're busy to other people, even when it is simply our preference not to engage in a certain way with that person or group of people, we're really, in essence, trying to signal to them that we maintain a certain status. I.e. that we have high demands on our time and they haven't really met a price point to satisfy us supplying them. The trick is that we do this even when we're not busy at all, and, further, that we often do so convinced of our own high octane schedules.

Dot Allison Singeth

I've been listening to a live version of this song for so long; much faster, peppier. Then I found this version, mellifluous, thick, slower. Turns out it is the original. Funny how that works.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Jakob ran his sinewy fingers through the knotted unwashed mat that was his hair and scalp.  He wasn’t sore so much as obliterated by sleep as he lay on the maligned couch of his living room, the fire ticked down into a pile of luke-warm grey ash long ago.  When sleep finally overtook him, at nearly daybreak, it came hard, just like everything else in his life.  The misshapen room appeared flat as he scanned the remnants of his life around him, until Roofus, with her almost deep bright orange coat of heavy fur, warmed him by licking his face with the liquid muscle of her tongue, eager for affection. It was just after eleven in the morning, and a dense grey light filled the house around him—the snow fall softened and filtered the early winter through the sheer window curtains he hadn’t had the gumption to yet take down. 
He was stretched out, his jeans a pile crumpled fabric up next to him.  He couldn’t sleep in the bed anymore, though he hadn’t done anything to get rid of the things in the bedroom, including the mattress itself.  There were too many memories there.  Every time he moved one item, he found himself inexpressibly sad and immobile for days. His face would deflate even more so than usual, and his shoulders would roll, and he’d have trouble—actually have to make an effort—to breathe. Eventually he stopped trying to deal with the room, and more often than not, left the door closed. It was better that way.  When he cried, it was in intense and short bursts, and felt, somehow, both incredibly relieving and hopeless.  Crying was fresh pain, a new wound to remind himself of the old, and when the tears did dry up, however painful they were at the time they sprouted, his sense of loss blossomed because his connection to her was gone.  In a way, he felt that the tears allowed him some hope, some fresh emotion.  The reality was closer to a scar, now, not even a scab to pick at.  He was stuck.  Solitary. So.  So he walked.
          He was sure a yogurt container or two he’d left there sprouted into a field of moss and, if he were to open the door longer than to wrestle out some clothing or a hat, he’d be suffocated by a green blob of mildew so advanced that it mutated through various evolutionary stages into various subdivisions and platoons that would pour down his throat and pop out through his skin to take him over, to make him a giant chia-man or maybe, maybe, he just felt guilty.  He’d pushed for the surgery because, without it, they’d given her under a year to live.  At the time, he was scared. She was scared too, naturally.  She actually had to face her own death in an immediate way.  They sat in the waiting room clutching each other, sweating from pure nerves, and there were no answers, then.  Now, he was minus a wife, and there would never be a response to any of his calls, no matter how naturally he picked up the phone to share minute-level news with her.  He was always forced to put it down with a shrug, and let his eyes roam against the walls, order a slice of pizza, a cup of coffee, another newspaper, start a fire, finish a fire, clean.  There was no recourse; there was no way to break it.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Wrong Way To Think About Alcoholism: Paradoxical Fra La La ing.

I stumbled onto an alcoholicism-focused blog yesterday, as I tend to do at times, and an entire post--and I mean like a thousand word post here--was focused on how being an addict is a such a strong personality trait that it supersedes all others, and, indeed, results in high levels of delusional thinking, misdirected anger, and of course, heavy-duty substance abuse, almost irrespective of cost/consequences.

And I'll tell you this: I couldn't help but find myself repulsed.  Utterly repulsed.  Isn't it the hope of us addicts that living a sober life can change our fundamental condition, I thought--and the thought was one of those half-aggressive, half-speedy type thoughts that made my eye-lid twitch and heart stutter.  I mean,  the basic, old-school game revealed itself in all its glory: can we change ourselves, or, like, are we stuck?

My argument, and my post from yesterday (just scroll down a few inches), is really like this: we're stuck, but not for one carte blanche reason (We're/I'm [an] Addict(s))--no, no, no.  We are people.  People.  We've got a limbic system, an dinosaur era pleasure/reward/response sub-brain brain, AND we've got a smart ass rational reasoning neo-cortex.  Get it? I mean grey matter: have a look, from wikipedia:

  I.e.  Life is about base urges, that--let's not joke about this--drive a lot of what we do, and, Simultaneously, about the stories we tell to justify/demonize, and otherwise acquire, to make sense of, the feedback and instincts given to us from the lesser/baser emotional urges and from a more detached rational perspective.  In essence, we've got a bit of a feedback loop.  When it draws down really tight, and we can't separate out pleasure--and we justify all of our pleasure seeking, and we cannot control ourselves, and we do it in a patterned way--then we're addicts. We can't help ourselves.  We justify all our basic urges, and our brains are more susceptible to pleasure (we get more pleasure from booze, for instance), than other mere mortals.  We are powerful!  We love our drugs and booze!  And that's why it is so bad for us, because it is, we think, so delicious and wonderful and powerful.

But there's more!  The other part is this: Fairness.   We all buy it.  Why?  Well, the principal of fairness is the glue that keeps groups together.  It binds us collectively.  It makes us feel that certain things are "right" and others are not.  I'll say this, very quickly, as I'm out of time again.  Group status--both showing that we are inside of certain groups and outside of others--is important enough that I think half of the "fall" into alcoholism for a lot of folks happens at a point in their lives when they are striving desperately to figure out which group to get involved with--i.e. to figure out where they stand in the world.  Alcohol allows us to "show" who we "really" are to potential group members that we might associate with, more freely.  Kind of funny, right?  But you know about friendships, right?  I mean, they're like relationships--you show an idealized version of yourself for as long as you can (and let's face it, this is most paramount as we/you/I tell ourselves that we're being hyper organically politically correct and fully who.we.are--sounds like bullshit feels--slippery), until something happens.  Stress. A fight.  Something.  And then, either you become friends, closer, or you don't.....

The point is only this: we want to believe that we can change.  That we are fluid.  That we can become famous, and rich.  It is, paradoxically, those very thoughts of change that allow us to become initiated into certain groups over others, and to, you guessed it, justify our current behaviors as warranted.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why is it so hard to stop drinking? Signaling Group ID

There are a lot of reasons.  I've discussed a fair amount.  A good third of the reason to drink involves genetic predisposition.  Another third, I'd say, has to do with chemical dependence.  A last third, though, has to do with signaling group identity, and, importantly, allegiance.  Whether I like it or not, all of my consumption patterns are predicated on how I view myself, and who I align myself with--and many of those overt observable decisions have to do with my own wishes to show potential acquaintances and friend that I share or do not share their viewpoints and that I can therefore be trusted to cooperate or support, generally, were we to engage in a reciprocating relationship. A lot of our behavior can be seen from this model. 

Anyway, I am out of time, but, for the moment, consider those things you take as endogenous to your identity or personality.  Who you are.  Now, I'm not saying that alcohol represents one of these traits--we rarely think of ourselves in strictly, discretely alcohol-related categories.  Instead, certain drinking behaviors correlate to other traits that can be viewed positively, and idiosyncratically, when, in reality, they are very basic urges to show group identity while maintaining distinctiveness.  I'll try to figure out all of these associations and map them. But not right now.

The Weather Channel has figured out that it must survive

Particularly of late, I'd say, they have focused in on catastrophic events to drive visitors/viewers--heat wave today.  They've fashioned their main website into a kind of youtube of terror: "The storm zone" and "Extreme weather" etc.  To be fair, extreme weather does exist and does, by definition, threaten us... but their coverage, I think, has changed.  I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Top 1% vs. The Rest

So, this graph comes from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and highlights the historical gap between income of the top 1% and the bottom 90:

So, tell me: There we were in 1982-83 or so.  What happened?  Lots of theories out there.  What accounts for the most change?

Slicing Through the Night on my Bike

So, instead of taking the boring 15 year old rust bucket of a car to the grocery store just now, I took my bicycle.  It is hard to explain just how slicing through the night on a newly fixed almost completely silent bicycle changes your mind into a mish-mash of euphoria that's part ninja, part tour-de-francer, part completely outsider, but it does.  See, on a bike, you immediately realize how pointless motorized vechicles are, both in individual size and in total numbers.  I mean, cars are just absolutely everywhere, and they are dangerous when you're on a bike, too, so you pay attention to them.  A lot.  The most dangerous is when they want to make a right turn.    The point is only that cycling seems a really natural way to push oneself through ever thickening air as compared to a car, and on average--of course, cars are nice when it rains, and when you've got a lot of stuff to haul.  But I'm certainly faster, intra-city anyway, on my bike, and I made it to Trader Joes in just over 10 minutes--a typical 20-25 minute ride in the car.  So, there's efficiency.  But there's something else.  Riding, last night anyway, changed my mental state.  And this change doesn't occur--simply does.not.occur.-- when I run or walk or do other physical activities.  There's something about the speed and fluidity of the bike that makes me actually feel graceful.  I'm really tall.  So running is strange for me.  In the saddle, all of my height gets transferred into perfect counter-balanced thrust.  Around a turn, slight up-hill, an explosion of speed, 30 mile per hour straigh-away, around a bus.  Bang, pot-hole jars you awake out of your dream, but what a nice slick dream it is--definitely the feeling of doing a drug and wondering why life can't be like that all the time.  I still wonder, but I know the difference.  I've fallen, after all.  And I've been hit, too, with a door--which caused me to fall as well.  Not pretty.  Still, the elegance of the bike is not something  I've ever really found an equivalent to, and even then, I make excuses not to get on it.  I mean, shit, here we are in June.  I should have been on that thing for 2 or 3 months.  There's a simple feeling on the saddle: of being home.  Totally wonderfully home.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Being Weak-

I've been pretty weak in my life.  I don't want to use my past to justify continual weakness in my character.  I don't mean that I'm going to buy a Pontiac Trans Am:

Or that I'm going to find a can of steroids and start to race my life away in needless pissing contests.  But.  I won't shy away from awkward moments--i.e. I won't pull my punches on "being who I am" because I think that someone will disagree, or that it might produce a result that isn't totally smooth and overflowing with rosy confluence.  I mean, that just isn't life.  Most people value honesty anyway, and I can only let others go first for so long before I have a little snag of bitterness with my passivity.

I don't want to live life making excuses.  That's why I got sober in the first place.  I can't let my sobriety be used as a justification for taking the easy road in other situations.  Period.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Can't seem to slow my mind down and focus..

I'm kind of jumping from one thing to another today.  I think it is a saturday thing.  Went for a run to try to break it.  Didn't really do the trick.  At copious amounts of chocolate.  Talked to an old friend.  Played chess on-line and against my computer.  Ate more food.  Listened to a lot of Neil Young.  Picked up my guitar for the first time in months and felt, like I did on my bike yesterday bringing it into the shop, incredibly rusty and out of shape.  So many things to work on, and so little focus to just work on them one by one, at least right now.  Of course, tomorrow night, around six or so, just when I'll have to prepare for the week, I'll fall into a zen like state of perfect concentration.  Should probably just unplug the internet from my life completely.  I'm not sure it adds anything. 

I'm reading three or four books at once.  Not always a good idea.  One is

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Another is
 Look at the Harlequins!

 A third is now:

Shakey: Neil Young's Biography

 And of course, why not:

All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1)

What else could I start?  Well, the Pinker is verbose.  Sorry.  It has moments of sheer brilliance, which I expected, but it needs to be cut down a bit.  There's just a lot of duplicate ideas for no apparent reason.  I liked the Blank Slate and even The Language Instinct, much better.  

Nabakov.  Brilliant writer, especially when he's getting fractured and kind of losing his mind while he's writing it all out, because you, as the reader, can emphathize with him and, when he's on point, sort of lose your mind in the safe space between the pages.  Unfortunately, he's only really on point for about two chapters here.  The rest is kind of egomanacial.  Sort of the point, too, yeah, but still.  I'm a chapter away from finishing, and can't seem to do it.  Neil Young biography is very good, and completely unedited.  Like getting a cargo ship full of neil young anecdotes.  For the true fans only, and even then, heavy handed.  Okay, Cormac, listen: I'm sorry, but I can barely read this stuff without holding back a lot of doubt.  Perhaps I'll age into it.  Perhaps not.  I know I should, but that reason is no longer enough.

So, I'm in the process of trying to kill off these books while, simultaneously, getting totally bored with them all.  I don't generally read more than one book at a time.  It just isn't the way I work.  I like to really rip into a book and let it become who I am for a month or so.  I'm extremely malleable in that way, which is why reading usually provides me a great release.  Not lately.  Not lately, I say.  Today is June 4, 2011.  Hard to believe how fast time moves under our feet.  I wish I believed in God.  I wished I believed in high level order.  Platonic ideals.  I wish I could have tremendous thick textured faith.  I wish.  Today lasts forever.  And then, it doesn't.  Welcome.

Moja babcia i papa i wujek-grala w szachy-

Older Men and Younger Women

Now, this phenomenon could be read two ways:

1) Older men provide a bit of stability and maturity that younger men simply--on average--do not.

2) Older men have enough status and are established enough to make themselves more attractive to younger women, and some would prefer to date women half their age.

I'm not sure these are mutually exclusive.  Partial "blame" probably falls on both.  I don't think it is quite clear cut, but I do think a 50 year old woman dating a 26 year old man, for instance, would draw much more "What the fuck?" type attention than the other way around, and there's gotta be a reason for it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Settle In/Down

So, being sober for the better part of a year, I feel that I'm just at the beginning of settling in to my life, you know, being comfortable with who. i. am.  Whatever that actually means analytically (because there's a significant part of my mind that jumps up and down and wrestles itself into a frothy frenzy when it hears non-discrete items and can try to break them into constituent parts BECAUSE, the brain says, it must be obvious that if we break down everything into small little bits, then, we'll live a greater life, be a greater person, know stuff that other people don't know).  See, part of this whole settling thing is learning to relax.  And I'm a kid again learning to walk, except that, as an adult, I know what it means not to walk, and I want to walk, now.  It isn't learning because I am in a development stage of physical prowess... it is learning because I can "get" what I need to get conceptually, but cannot simply will myself into existing in the sphere that I can plainly see, or, rather, that I can understand exists outside of myself.

Sounds pretty esoteric, huh?  Well, pull up a seat to the fire, and feel how it warms your face and hands, and how the meat sizzles in the orange tinted embers, and listen as your compatriots laugh when marshmallow flows down their cheeks; all the while cold air lingers behind you, hovering in off of the creek, makes you feel bright near the flame, alive, flickering, even, and you smile, and you eat, and pass me a pork wiener, and steam me in a facebook feed and send my image out to the moon, and kill all the bugs with an electronic neon blue bug zapper that was proudly picked up from home depot in a fit of self-improvement (bug free living, get it!), and let your feet stink, and find a way into a nook of sleep for a time before the next branch thins out and fades, because we'll be riding that train together, us strangers, into and out of whatever it is that we need to find, and we won't always be able to share it with a knowing look, or a satisfied smile, and we won't always be able to sit still, either, except that, when we can huddle by the fire on a cold night in the late spring on the cusp of a cabin, and taste a little bit of the most localized morsel, we can forget about all of the big stuff that plagues us and just sit, and settle, and sit some more.

Lookout for Hope

I wanted to write a post about having hope.  About how it takes courage to have an informed hope.  Then I felt a bit like a politician. Eventually, to justify hope, and movement forward, either there's a bit of faith that rests on some premise or principle, or, simply, individual short term choices keep us from losing our lives (there would be more pain and effort associated with giving up than with going forward)--or, it is just too ambiguous to decide, and there are enough unknowns that we cannot forecast possible future pleasure as compared to possible future pain.

 Anyway, there's a lot of redeeming things about not drinking. I don't think that's in question. While I recognize that many sober people can stay blinded by their own beliefs (and seek only information that they are comfortable with), I do think that drinking--for someone naturally predisposed to abuse/lack of control--aids in one's ability to deny reality.  Which is to say that we can all deny reality all we want, if we're really stubborn about it, but drinking makes that denial much, much, easier.  And when it is easier to deny negative reality, we can become emotionally involved with that process, mostly before we are even aware that it has a hold on us. Anyway, I'm always struggling with altering states of awareness about the self: like do you "really" know what you're doing when you justify an act that will hurt someone (or yourself)--to wit, I've played coy in the past because I only wanted the benefits of my risks.  We all do this, all the time, to get what we want.  Basic question: why do we want what it is we want when frame reality in a way the excises certain previously known aspects?

Why not make fully informed decisions?

The answer is somewhere between: We can't help ourselves.  We do self-destructive stuff, AND, we're really smart about telling stories that flatter our own previous actions.

The problem is, when you get fucking sober, and you've been sober for over 11 months, you can see that most of these stories are false and that the self-destructive impulses will bring almost immediately unwanted consequences.  A further problem is that sober alcoholics are still self-aggrandizing bastards, who will seek out ways to distinguish themselves--which is probably why most of them know exactly how long they've been sober.  The justification is that, if they didn't keep track of it everyday, then they would fall back into the abyss of drinking.  The less flattering reality is that it provides an ego boost, too.  It is something to hold on to.  We want some slivers, some tendrils, of hope, no matter what we say otherwise, and we're always on the lookout for a box to stand on.  

The middle ground is this: there's nothing special or new going on.  What is going on has been going on.  We must accept life as paradoxically boring and vapid and inspiring and full of rich textured meaning.  It is a basic fact that we must make mistakes.  And they'll still hurt, even knowing that.  And when there is no more pain, there is nothing else, ether--we are tethered to our bodies--and we are tethered to more than that.  We are tethered to our minds, and they purposefully lie to us, for our own sake.  We can't escape, though.   There's no escape.  That fact is what makes life, in some core way, what it is.  Our only escape is to deny some parts of reality most of the time we experience that reality, and accept that we always live in a partial world, cleaved and fragmented, and that we do it on-purpose, because we have to keep living in that world.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honestly Not Sure Why Anything...

Ah, the aching nihilism, but I'll say it, in all honesty and with very little emotion: I'm not sure why anything matters.  I am not convinced there is a reason at all.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hose Down the Sidewalk!

What's up with the guys that hose down their sidewalks? Nothing better to do on a Memorial Day afternoon besides wasting 20 or so gallons of fresh water to make the sidewalk dust free?

I'm at a loss, really.  All I can suppose is that they really wanted to get out and couldn't think of any better excuse.  I'm typically a supporter of a "do your own thing" mentality, but this drives me up the wall. 

Three Drinking Motivators

Motivator 1:

Many of our actions are predicated by the belief of how they will help us fit in, or cooperate, with other people who we see as desirable to fit in with in the first place--what we believe, how we dress, our preference for beer, sport teams, and cars and food.  I'd say that earlier in life, it is normal and natural to feel that those people we've come to know and trust are deceiving us, or have deceived us, in some fundamental way: hence the oft-repeated complain that "my family is messed up."  What's really happened is that you've recognized the artificial (but strong) connection that family instills on one's essential group identity.  Family is hard to get away from (in more ways than one might think (see Motivator 2)

Motivator 1 and Drinking: Well, seems obvious that personal consumptive habits signal to others whether you might get along, if given the choice and lack of other restraints. Combine those positive signals with contempt for other groups and the feeling that one's been lied to, and you've got instant camaraderie.

Motivator 2:

Then there are core personality traits, which are largely genetic, though they develop in certain idiosyncratic ways thoughtout our lives, sure.  That's why long term friends know who you are, and largely think of you in static terms: because you stay mostly the same throughout your life (disagree? Yeah, I like to think I've changed a lot to, and subjectively, perhaps I have--but mostly I've become more of what I used to be earlier in my life regarding objective personality characteristics).  Family comes in here, too, because they've given you a lot of the traits you may love about yourself (but more often dislike or are even unaware of).

Motivator 2 and Drinking: Don't fool yourself: if your family members have problems with self-control, you probably do too.  It is about much more than drinking: it is about sex and giving your own vulnerable self to another, it is about patience and the capacity to wait the fog of murky water to settle and reveal something, well, revelatory.  It is about anger.  With yourself, with others.  It is about natural curiosity, and it is also about natural levels of happiness--and, about alcohol tolerance and tendency to use/abuse the sauce. The chances are much higher that you are more similar than different.  Wake up to it now and you'll be happier later.  Even though it fucking sucks to wake up to it now.  If you've ever met my dad, you'll know what I mean (pretty sure you never have though).

Motivator 3:
Couple both of the above those with a predisposition toward thinking that our own thoughts, lives--generally ours status as compared to others--is "really" higher: i.e. our intrinsic value is more important than others, and you've gone to the crux of a lot of the conflict that might cause us to feel pent in.  Incommunicado.

Motivator 3 and Drinking:  Got some data that tells a dissimilar story to the one in your head: well, time to put the bottom of the glass to the ceiling.  This is a mental state of intransigence as much as it is a chemically induced state.  Mildly depressed people are more accurate.  They are also mildly depressed and probably get less done.  Everything is a trade off.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Driving with Eyes Wide Open


I keep coming back to the startling thought that I can't escape my own consciousness.  This is startling because I have the urge to escape in the first place.  And I don't wish to die.  Exercise helps, but is ultimately just a habit or pattern, though it is a good escape.  Meditation, chocolate, yoga, in no particular order.  Conversation.  Music.  Aimless walking used to do the trick. I'm not that fascinated with my surroundings anymore, so walking isn't as unique.

Why the urge to escape, though, I wonder, and a wave of anguish breaks over my left shoulder.  I'm not sure, the answer comes.  There is nothing to escape from, except self-torment.  Even this post is more dramatic than it needs to be. We're drawn to conflict like moths to the flame.  It doesn't mean that conflict is inherently good, just that we have a predisposition to claiming some stake in the outcome of the conflict. We want to help.  Or we want to run from the danger. Weird, isn't it?  That we are so compelled to react to conflict.  It is important, so they say. It matters, so they say. It drives gossip.  It is a kind of collective self-torment that need not exist.  But there's no getting away from the rush of emotion that comes from a good story full of conflict and revealed truths that at first were not apparent.

Still, there should be something a little bit more substantial out there, less archetypal. Maybe not.  Maybe life is about finding interest in boredom.  Just finding the ability, the capacity, to sit in the lukewarm half piss infested water, and take a bath, and be.

And then there are moments that are anything but boring--like a slow motion flash.  They suck us in, and promise something more.    By the time we process it five years have gone by and another summer is here to look at us, to tell us what to get excited about (beach-oriented items), what to do, how to complain, who to address, and what makes sense. 

I'm pretty sure, these days, that life is more about being excited about the mundane, the expected, and the truly ordinary, than it is about becoming obsessed about the breakthroughs or brilliance of exceptionalism.  Maybe when you realize that you write a novel about boredom and kill yourself before you can finish it.  I'm not sure I could put myself through it, trying to find a way out like that, with obsessive detailing, and needless noodling, but it is one path, if that's what you already know.   Either way, if you're sensing my lackadaisical laissez-faire type attitude right now, you're right, and perhaps I'll try to make a coffee and get some work done instead of all this kevetching.

Creation is possible if we suspend disbelief for a few moments to work.  It is the externalities of the creative process that I'm worried about, not the art product itself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chess--have I been here before? No, no, there.

Spatial reasoning.  That's what chess calls for.  What else?  Not so much the ability to forecast your opponent's next move, although this is vital, and requires you to think about your weaknesses potentially too much, and become incompetently unwilling to take an offensive risk, or even know that one should be taken, but the ability to see how the board will change once a piece is moved.   I don't mean that lightly.

It goes like this.  You have to make a move.  Your move is predicated on the set of potential moves that your opponent may make in response.  Your question is what their most likely move is given your two best options for moves forward.  Once you determine their response, though, and this is the hard part, you must make the calculation again, this time by pretending that you've teleported yourself into the future now sit in front of a board with the initial move and response.  The error--always the error--is to think about the board in the potential future state as if you never made an initial move, and instead focus in on what your oppontent did in response.  It is the trap of binary thinking, really--either you think about your move and then their response as isolated, or having moved (in your head) you think about their response to your move, and then your response to their [response].

The problem (nay, the accident) is that you forgot all about your own initial move, often, at least, and the game you're playing is now blindsided because you don't visualize the future board with two or three changes, but just the one that your focused in on.

That's because every move opens and closes a slew of possibilities on the board.  Perhaps, based on one explicit conflict, it is easy enough to match up forces and imagine the exchange as a one-piece-for-one-piece sort of thing.  But that's precisely not what is going on.  Instead, what is going on is a potential opening and closing of sixteen piece conflicts at every move--some may appear immobile at the outset, for instance, and we use a mental shortcut by locking them out of our calculation for the first move we setup--except that, by the third move, they'll play a role!  "Revealed check" is my favorite.  You move a piece that allows a different piece to check the King, and you simultaneously threaten a third piece--you force your opponent to react to your game.

All very heady, I know.  If I was only smart enough, or had enough training, to actually understand the game.   I'll stay a hopeless beginner long into my life.  Still, that's okay.  I never had enough discipline to study it anyway.  That's the way we make cacluations.  At some point, unless I manifested a natural brilliance (which I didn't and never will) for chess, the likelihood is that I will not specialize in, and make my living from, chess.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Late May (and Powerful Men!)

Been up since four with the same old friend back pain that used to wake me up at four, like clockwork, every single night, the one that always left me bleary eyed in my recliner in some half sleep zombie shell.  Damnit if sleep could only be consistent.

Yesterday, I got my hair(s) cut by a new person.  She was really nice, and she had on talk/celebrity tv in the background, so we chatted, especially about men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, John Edwards, Arnold, Tiger, Charlie, et al.  She told me that now Woods "lost his game" and I think she's right--at least, judging by my ridiculously thin memories of television screens every few months when I get my hair cut, or go to the dentist (knock on wood).

What is it with these men?  They have, seemingly, everything any man could want.  And yet.  And yet, they just can't keep it in their pants.  They cannot resist the urge to, in most instances, abuse their powerful positions, but minimally: to gain relatively superficial but powerful immediate pleasure and ignore longer term potential harm.

Okay, repeat after me: sex makes babies, not just powerful men feel their brillo-pad like chest hair push out their 100 dollar silk shirts an extra inch, or two.    Point of fact is that there's something about sheer domination, sheer power, and sheer pleasure, that mixes to send rational minds whimpering into the closet. 

It's the same thing that causes a food binges and one night stands and alcoholics to become alcoholics.

At the end of my hair cut, she said: there's some balance, you know, some destiny.  These men get too powerful too fast and then, they get cut down. She said there's such a thing as destiny.

Of course, I'm such a cynic lately, that I think such thinking (and words like destiny) are covers for "group coherence" and mask a certain fairness attribute that all humans love to use to use, and that triggers, often, contempt--the most nasty of emotions (or close).

I'd love to believe in destiny.  Love it.  I wish I had the faith.  What I do know is that those men?  They were thinking in a fantasy land.  That's what men like to do when they get emotional and creative--think about actions and choices that are devoid of trade-offs.  There are no such actions.

Hey, let's get back to it everyone.  Remember: we can't do everything, all the time.  Me, I'm going to concentrate on trying to get one very small task done today, and gaining knowledge about the others for the next days.  If I die, at least I got one thing done.  More than many of the years that look back at me in the rear view (and probably why they made those damn things dim-able).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Are Strawberries Sweet?

The answer to this question is very simple.

It also makes me feel like my own natural instincts are false. 

Basically, it causes the floor to fall out on any and all assumptions I had on a central question: what makes me (or anyone) happy?

I'll try to explain. 

Strawberries are sweet for only one reason: to propigate.  Sweetness helps them spread and recreate themselves.  That is, the same reason that strawberries are sweet, that we like them, allows them to exist to us, and allows them a successful avenue for seed dispersal.

Applied to my own basic urges and desires: why do they exist?  Why pleasure?  There is a basic reason, and it is highly related to the pungency of nector that strawberries infuse our senses with. 

As ugly as it is.  As repulsive.

I must look at my basic primitive desires and urges, those things that crop up first in any situation.  I must not feel shame about them.  I must instead understand them as natural responses that yield recreative success. 

For the moment, assume that what I'm saying is true and makes sense.  The question shifts, regarding happiness, to what form happiness might take outside of restriction and release of restriction.  What causes deep inspiration, for instance?  And biting humor?

I can't help but feel that I've been deceived.  I can't help feel that a strong and majority stake in most of our behavioral decisions regard our these sweetness instincts. 

And why not ride the wave, right?  Why be an ascetic?  Must I be an ascetic if I'm a dry alcoholic?  It is a very good question.  I'm not sure what the answer is right now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Day I/You Won't Exist

One day, I won't exist.  But.  I won't know that I won't exist, so I won't be sad about it.  So, I should be happy now, right? 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Smother me with a feather duster

I'm reliant on whatever instrument you choose, and I know how to play dead real good.  So don't hesitate to give in and allow yourself the sheer pleasure of underestimating a good time with a layer of unrestrained tedium.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Belief Systems and Alcoholic Justification

There's probably no denying that one of our primary emotional needs in life is to have a sense of belonging.  There's nobody to blame for this phenomenon.  It just happens to be a universal truth that being alone--or excluded--almost always feels bad.  And exclusion happens in  lots of different venues and in different degrees of severity.  Gossip at the workplace, often serves to align us with other people in a strange way: by showing contempt against others in the workplace.  As a quick note, I think it makes sense that exclusion feels bad--we have greater success at surviving in the world if we work with other people and are part of larger groups when different people specialize and take responsibility for discrete items.  When we're alone, we simply, for instance, may not have the expertise, or know how, to save ourselves from a risk.

This is not abstract, by the way.  Yesterday, I had a fever.  A really bad fever.  It peaked at 104.  I was essentially delusional and immobile.  If not for two very close people in my life, who knows what I would have done alone?  They layered wet towels on my abdomen and forehead, and, for what I think was about an hour, thought of bringing me to the hospital.  They wouldn't even tell me what my temperature was (40 c) because it just jumped so fast.  I couldn't sweat.  I couldn't do much, except feel bad.  Honestly, it felt like I drank too much.  Like I was poisoned.  And I was in a sauna at the same time.  Thankfully, I'm sweating now.  And my temperature came down yesterday.  We'll have to keep monitoring it.

The point of this post, though, is to explain a very basic organizing principle among us, people.  It is only this: almost every behavior and belief we have relates to how we interact with other people: the shape and scope of that interaction, for instance, whether we will be vulnerable to them (i.e. whether we'll be expressive about what our internal voice tells us without editing it too much), whether and how much we will sacrifice for them, and, essentially, the depth of the relationship or association. 

When we're excluded--let's say fired from a job--it is often the case that we seek comfort.  We want to know that "they" were unfair and horrible, and that we were in the right.  It is incredibly difficult to do anything else.  This is also, i think, related to our highly genetic predisposition to keep on living no matter what, and that means having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.  And that is common to everybody in every culture.  We all think we're better than average, and it is logically impossible for everyone to be better than average.

So, I think a lot of gossip has to do with complaints, or viewpoints about the social or political world, that serve to form bonds or associations between people that don't have blood connection, and also don't have experiential connection (like they went through certain events together and could prove to each other that they were trustworthy).  I don't think gossip is unhealthy. 

What I've recognized recently is that our views about certain subjects, though, are completely irrelevant--at least regarding the subject at hand.  What is much more relevant is what our view says to the person we're communicating it to: it signals to that person allegiance and a potential bond: that you are empathetic to each other, and "get" where your respective positions come from.  It is very natural to do this and test out the waters.  That's why the person who always says what he or she feels unedited (and it seems like every social gathering has this person) is immediately divisive. Because not everyone agrees but everyone wants to agree.  And they can't.  So there's conflict. 

There's a funny relationship with alcohol in this mix, as well.  Alcohol.  Think about what associations you have with it.  Say the word.  What's your favorite drink?  Think about hanging out with a bunch of stiff acquaintances.  Then introduce the topic of booze.  Immediately stories will pour forth. Of course, it is no secret that alcohol is a social lubricant.  What I think is pernicious is that alcohol, like our belief systems, masks itself as something it is not.  Our belief systems make us think that we have some stake in something important when we often hold certain beliefs for the sake of association with certain groups that we favor.  Drinking allows us to have certain associations with favored people or groups, too.  It allows a certain degree of socially acceptable self-delusion. 

To be sure, I'm not saying that because I'm not drinking, everyone else shouldn't drink.  Still, there's something strange about how alcohol shifts our associational patterns or understandings.  Now that I'm writing this, I find myself less sure of the point I wanted to make, so I'll pull back and let the conclusion formulate itself in my head for a day or two.