Thoughts from a deceased conversation

Last night I was talking with some friends and on multiple occasions each of the writing proclivities of my friends in the room and I go brought up. There was sort of a pre-approved consensus that one friend was the poetry guy, one guy was the short story/fiction/narrative guy, one guy was the song writer and I was the anecdote/essayist/non-fiction prose guy of the lot.

This wasn’t to say, “Oh, well you’re this and he’s this, there is no way you guys can or ever write anything else,” but the general point or acceptance seemed to be that we each tend to write in these mediums because they are our strengths and the mode we prefer to write in.

In the brief span of some hours, I’ve managed to find the time and energy to think on that some more. I don’t remember consciously thinking about it, which must mean that it has been eating away at my brain for a little while. Something about it didn’t resonate properly with me. It is only as of an hour ago that I realized I disagree with the sentiment.

It kind of relates to something Dr. C went over today in Venture Planning about virtue. Virtue is basically the active representation of ones character, thus (and in this case, in business) actions and decisions people make are defined by virtues. These virtues aren’t something that is a conscious process, but something that has been cemented as part of that person’s character over a lifetime of previous decisions and actions. In the case of the class, the example was people who have conducted poor business practices (like a Madoff or Enron crew) didn’t have the entire internal process before deciding it, they likely just did it, because that is how they’ve done things throughout their entire lives.

I don’t think the previous paragraph will relate a whole lot to the rest of the writing, but I think my thought there is that I wish the concept of virtue applied to productive output. In this case, I don’t believe it does.

I don’t write in a narrative format very often. Though I did with moderate regularity when I was younger, I rarely write poetry anymore. Even when I do, I don’t consider it poetry. Only recently in my life have I started writing songs, despite it being part of my lineage, but just because I don’t do these things, doesn’t mean that I don’t gravitate for them.

Let me drill straight into the core here: I don’t think the format that you usually see me write on this blog, or other avenues is my strongest point as a writer. In fact, I think it is one of my weakest. Maybe my best practiced, and also the one I have easiest access to, but not my strongest. If you asked me what I thought my strongest suit in this deck of cards was, without any hesitation I’d say it was narrative. The thing is, I almost never write in that format. When I do, I don’t often finish what I start (even if I finish a draft, I don’t revise, rewrite, etc.). And even when I get that far, I almost never let anyone who doesn’t have my set of eyes see it.

Maybe you don’t agree with me and are thinking, “Well, James, if it really was your strongest area, you would involuntarily do it more often.”

Look, I don’t know if I could accurately identify why I don’t, I think there is an element to these other forms that is much more personal than just writing personal accounts and and egotistical essays. In this format, all I need are a couple of ideas and a vocabulary and I can express everything I need. It isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but I do enjoy it. In something like a narrative, I still have the foundation of ideas, as far as themes go, but I also have to have ideas for the narrative, as well as direction and an entire different set of tools for structure.

When I write something like this, it is like someone giving me a box of bike parts and saying, “You. Build 2 wheel machine!”

When I write a narrative or anything of the like, it is more like someone giving me a couple tools and a gun to rob people and dropping me off in the unnatural median between the forest and the city, then instructing me, “You! Go build something resemble spaceship. Use what find around you,” (don’t ask why I decided to make this part in stereotypical caveman speech). Definitely more daunting.

So now you might be arguing, “well, James, that is my point. You aren’t better at it/suited for it because you don’t want to undertake all of the creative and structural responsibility involved.”

I still disagree. Sure, I tend to write like this because it is convenient, but that isn’t the ultimate factor by any means. I might have said this above. If so, I reiterate, it is more personal. Not just for me, but for the audience (even if there isn’t any). If I write a story, the person reading it can immediately be turned off because they don’t like how I decided to tell it, or a ton of other reasons that come down to taste. If I write an essay on my opinions on planking, you can conclude that it isn’t well-written and my ideas are crap, but even if you have a strong negative response to it, you aren’t really going to take force against the creative decisions I made, because my entire purpose was the spread ideas and opinions. Like I said, assembling the bike. I can invent just about anything and call it a spaceship with the world around me, and maybe if it doesn’t resemble something from Star Trek, you won’t like it.

I almost feel like the act of reading profusely, as well as considering yourself as member of a particular craft skews your expectations of things. Oh wait, I absolutely believe that, and I think most sane people do. That, unfortunately, is just really annoying. Over the past few years I’ve changed a lot in my perspective on how I react to creative craft. There is still a part of my that will always have an emotional reaction to what I consume, but there is an equal partner in that which acknowledges the risks that person took to craft something, let it leave their head into something that others consume and ultimately (and most crazily) share it with someone outside of themselves. I’ve watched, heard and read things of which are qualitatively bad from both perspectives of refinement and whether or not there is anything in there I can personally enjoy it, but you’d best bet your house that I still appreciate it.

Who am I to judge anything?

I’m really tired and I lost a lot of stream from my first couple paragraphs from now, and I also have to wrap this up due to time constraints, but I think I got a couple points across enough.

I don’t think that my actions define who I am creatively, because my actions are gated. As the gatekeeper, I choose who sees what part of my creative estate. You could say that I am flawed in my abilities as a poet, lyricist/songwriter or anything else if I don’t choose to be confident or comfortable enough to share that part of myself. I won’t agree with you nor will I argue against that, but the point still stands, I don’t think you can necessarily bracket someone in to something because of the unseen. Maybe you do see all there is to see, or maybe there are other hidden strengths. The point is, there is no way of telling. Even as myself, I don’t know all of my talents and hopeless faults.

It is a shame I only had 40 minutes and a poorly functioning mind to write this, but this is the medium that I feel comfortable ‘settling’ with.

cast into the deep blue

It is almost a new week. For me, the weeks have never started on Sunday. I’ve always considered Monday to be the true start of the week and Sunday to be the secret bastard child that is masquerading as heir to the throne.

This won’t be an ordinary week. I feel like this week will be a new genesis of my life, a restarting of what hasn’t been for a long time. This can only mean that it will not, by any means, live up to what I expect it to be.

Let me briefly cover the daily life I have known for a few months shy of a year now. I go to sleep congruently with the sun’s rising. I shiver, shake, sweat and suffer through twisted dreams that are a shade too close to reality until I wake up in the early afternoon. Almost immediately after ascertaining my reacquired consciousness, I get yanked off the ledge as if I had two huge stones tied to my ankles and sleep inertia reels me back in for another hour or two. At this point, it is usually mid afternoon when I truly enter the game. The remainder of the sunlit day is met with lethargy. Occasionally, I have something I actually need to do, or am able to do and like an eager, yet mistaken Houdini wannabe, I violently struggle to break out of the binding lethargy and take care of the things I need to do to re-enter society. This might entail bathing and grooming, something I am increasingly become adept at. Sometimes I need to go outside and workout, or do some chore such as mow the lawn, or maybe tend to some sort of life administrative task. At that point, I barely manage to get on my way in time, and almost always end up cutting corners on these things I usually afford to sloth my way in doing.

Usually, though, I do just slog about, because usually, I have no pressing matters or obligations of time to meet. So I slowly gain charge throughout these hours until the sun has almost completely set. At this point, I start to feel alive again. It is at this time, that most people are starting to wind down, but I’m wound up. Maybe I do one of those tasks I mentioned earlier, but I likely only sit around, bounding from my bedroom to my living room to my porch or back deck, watching TV, scouring the entirety of the Internet, playing guitar or just staring at the clouds and the treetops. I do these things as long as I can until my body tells me that I need to do something; until my subconscious tells me that I missed out on daily human interaction. Then, I try harder to distract myself.

Somehow, I manage to keep myself distracted until the arrival of the 3 to 4 AM hours. At this point, my body usually starts to wind down, out of boredom and disappointment, of course, yet my brain trades the body’s excess energy for fatigue, and uses it for its own purposes, thus ramping my brain activity beyond the nimbus clouds. This period of time, I try to produce, process or absorb as much information and knowledge as I can until the brain sputters out and I plummet to my bed like a fallen angel meeting the hardened Earth. Repeat, ad nauseam.

That is the gist of my existence since last November, a life which became even more consistent when I broke up with Kara in January. I guess I was being generous by calling it an existence. I think calling it a holograph of life is more accurate.

That changes this week.

This week I am going back to school. If I am lucky, I may even find myself soon employed, too. One of those elements is enough to register a 9 on my personal Richter scale. It is only now that I’m realizing that I have an irrational nervousness about it all.

It have been unplugged from everything for so long that I have nearly convinced myself that I’m going to fail miserably at being plugged in– everyday. That’s how this stuff works, though, right?

For instance, every time I’ve suffered a significant injury in basketball, I have always been paranoid that when I get back to playing I won’t have as much as I used to have, or that I will be much more prone to hurting myself again (likely from rolling back in full steam too soon). There is an element to it all that is true. I spent a few days last week flinging myself back into things. Waking up early for about 5 straight days, living off of power naps, being plugged in to the outside world on a regular basis– pretty depressing when anyone can say that about themselves in a notable manner. It is almost as bad as being able to say, “Oh yeah, I am getting back around to giving that whole breathing thing a try, but my lungs are still pretty out of shape!” Nobody should ever have to go through a near total removal of society. Those things are usually labeled rehab, inoculation or imprisonment. I wouldn’t say I underwent any of those things, unless you wanted to use the term ‘rehab’ very liberally. I kind of had a personal rehab of restructuring my life and getting back onto my feet, but that is stretching it.

I guess I never expected to ever be at a point in my life where I thought to myself, “it’s gonna be ok, you can do this, you’ve been a regular member of society your whole life. School? Work? Leaving your house every day.. every week.. yeah, you got this, kid.” That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever thought, and my brain impulses usually play to the beat of absurdity, but it is reality.

In my fear I admit I am afraid I won’t be able to hack school anymore. I am afraid I won’t have the competency to handle a job. I am afraid I will shell up around people and live the life of an unentertaining mime. When I think about it consciously, I know that is stupid, but as soon as I lose the power consciousness has over fear, I curl back up, sweat, quiver with weakness and feel my stomach and throat crawl towards each other, engaging in the most awkward, uncomfortable dance since Lindsay dances with Eli in the pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks (ok, ok, Millie dancing prior to that was more awkward.)

I’d wager the true roots of this fear, beyond just simple atrophy, stem from the fact that a lot of these fears were things I recently failed (or felt I failed) at. I quit school. I couldn’t get a job that wasn’t part of an MLM scheme, over the course of several years, I drifted away from almost all of my friends and didn’t make many new ones, and I cut ties with the best friendship I had so I could be selfish and young.

I think back to childhood fears that were never conquered. For instance, those certain kids who always tended to pick on you, or just seemed to be cooler and better. I had a few friends like that at our old church. It was always just a kids being kids thing, and I never had anything against them, but now that we are all adults, I still can’t help but see or think of certain people in that light. I guess it is almost like Abuse Jr., conceptually; well, I take that back, more like Abuse V– it’s too far down the line to be considered right under it.

Speaking of which, here is a crazy story from last week, which is somewhat related to that last paragraph.

I don’t usually share these weird collusions of thoughts and reality I experience. I find them too personal to really reel them off like a deep sea fisherman casting a helpless minnow into the deep blue. Anyway, it relates to a family, of who’s kids I always felt inferior to growing up, but it was one of those things where our family’s were relatively close; at least close enough to go on a spring break together once when I was a kid. These kids were always cooler, much better looking, bigger and stronger (well, I guess that doesn’t apply so much since there was only 1 son?), and so on. I don’t know why that even matters to a 10 year old, but it did for me enough to intimidate me thinking about it today.

Basically, I was never personally close with any of them, likely in part due to my quietness and shyness (aided by the intimidation), and also because our paths diverged at the prime years of youth, from about the latter middle school years through high school and beyond. So with an exception or two, I haven’t had any personal interaction with any of them for nearly a decade at this point.

Thus arrives last week, before my ankle imploded on me. I was headed out to Brentwood for a basketball game, an event, might I add, that I looked forward to for weeks. I’m easy to please. As I’m about to pull in to this place, Christ Church YMCA, I get barraged by a flurry of thoughts. The first being that I knew where I was at, but wasn’t confident until the next thoughts hit me.

“Oh yeah, this is where Horse interned. This is where we filmed Jazzercise

Some more thoughts follow. Each of them were increasingly more insignificant and random.

“Man, this beat on ‘No Church In The Wild’, wait, that’s a frickin guitar dude!”

I was disappointed it took me two days of listening to it to realize. The inner monologue continued.

“This place is forever far from my house. I’d like to have the trees out here in my yard. I think I’ve managed to get lost again– in a parking lot.”

On and on the hit the hull of my consciousness, until the final one hit and, due to its sheer randomness, snapped me out of it and I left the meteor shower of thought.

“I’m going to see X here tonight.”

About 15 seconds transpired as I idly drove my car around this parking lot and smacked myself on the head, in my mind, that is. With the same innocent candor of a subordinate timidly questioning the judgment of their boss, I asked myself, “Did you really just think that?”

I guess I did. Never could figure out why. That is just how thought works sometimes. I wake up some days and my brain convinces me in the first 5 minutes that I’ll have my head will fall of my shoulders if I leave my room. One time, I woke up in a half-awaken state of delirium in dark Tel Aviv hotel room, convinced with a conviction almost as heavy as the Holy Spirit that terrorists were going room to room, knocking on doors pretending to be room service and then executing people as they answered the door. That delusion lasted a couple hours. So I am not stranger to odd, stray thoughts. I merely shrugged this one off and tossed it into the mountainous pile.

A bit later, I was shooting around, trying to get warmed up in about 5-10 minutes, which is one of the most displeasing things to do. I’d rather have absolutely no warm up, at least that way adrenaline kicks in quicker and helps out. I wasn’t feeling in sync at all. I am very ritualistic with my warm ups, even if I am just playing pick up outside at the park. If I don’t feel it is working, I’ll do something to reset my mindset. A good way I do this is going to get some water, which I did in this case.

On I go, out the gym doors to the water fountains located right outside. On my way, I punch the doors open and almost run into two young women. Typical James move, actually. I’m spry and aloof enough to have a strong propensity for such things. I did my weird freeze, pause thing, where my balance teeters around my body, sliding up from my feet to my head, like a reversed hula hoop motion. Eventually this chaotic, yet subtle motion drops back down to my feet and I hop as excessively far out of the way as possible and mutter out an apology I likely don’t really mean.

As I’m having an intimate moment with the water fountain, I get hit by my dulled, blunted, primitive spidey sense as I realize:


I consternate.

“Was that X?”

It couldn’t have been. The thought was already random enough, I don’t need any sort of psychic justification messing with my head any further. I initially put my faith in the fact that I hadn’t seen this person since I was 13 or 14 (assuming memory isn’t failing me), at some youth camp. I assured myself I must have been mistaken. Chalk it up to some sort of bizarre thought fueled pareidolia. Of course, my mind was already raped at this point, and the train wasn’t ending any time soon.

I was mostly preoccupied with playing basketball for the next few hours, so I honestly didn’t put much into confirming or denying any sort of bizarre coincidence, but what little thought I did siphon away to figuring out if it was who I thought they were (the Bears), led me to sit at about a 92% confidence interval that it was.

In retrospect, I probably should have just asked and been done with it, but beyond my primary physical preoccupation I mentioned, I was too bothered by the way things actually unfolded in my head. Coincidences happen daily, constantly. Sometimes they are just overwhelming though. I must have my biggest ones when involved with playing basketball, though. For instance, my longest breakout of deja vu was 2 minutes long, in the middle of a summer tournament in high school. Imagine two minutes of competition, where people are trying to stop you from doing what you want to do, realizing you’ve seen what is happening before, thus dictating everything that happens in your head right before it does– for 2 minutes.

This stuff messes with me. This strange anecdote has little to do with what I initially wrote about, but I guess there are a few tie-ins.

Everything messes with me.

Certain people and things in life will still intimidate me for the same reasons, until I am given and take an opportunity to show myself that I am working myself up over nothing.

Weird things happen. That’s life.

Pretty girls are people too. That’s life.

Nobody will always succeed the first time or how they want to. That’s life.

Some people will pick on you. That’s life.

Any heart is susceptible to being broken. That’s life.

Ankles get sprained. That’s life.

People wake up early and force themselves out of their own shells every day. That’s life.

On and on it goes. In the end, all I know from all these things is that as long as I am alive, I have an infinite number of moments to conquer in my life.

I’m scared as hell about this week, despite it being something I used to do effortlessly, but I’m going to force myself to become a conqueror a few hours from now and not look back. At the least, I will play one in my very own story about my own life.

I already cast out one minnow into the deep blue, now I am diving in, myself.

– James


Also, in the veeerrry rare event that anyone involved in any of the events, whether directly of indirectly, ever happens to read this, well, uh, Hi? Jajajaja

Finally, apologizes for doing weird things with verb tenses throughout. I’m tired and don’t care to proof read/fix.