Life is too short

Really. Life is too short…

  • to deal with people who don’t make you happy if there’s no real reason to do so.
  • to spend it being perpetually outraged and/or angry..
  • to be apprehensive about doing things by yourself.
  • to eat at Applebee’s.
  • to watch stupid reality shows (including the RNC).
  • to listen to the Eagles. Or Nickelback. Or Kid Fucking Rock.
  • to have the cheap swill rather than the extra-bitter IPA.
  • to have too much of either after you hit a certain age.
  • to sleep in a bed that’s too small for you.
  • not to turn the AC down to a comfortable temperature.
  • not to mute some of your friends on social media during the RNC.
  • not to have the baba ghanoush, even if you’re eating alone and ordered a really hefty entrée too.

This is just today’s list. Additional thoughts welcome in the comments

 

The lost boys

Me, seventeen years ago:

My definition of geekiness is based more on an active intellect combined with an almost childlike enthusiasm for a few really esoteric subjects (one of which may or may not be digital in nature). The “childlike” part is very important; a good geek is first and foremost a big kid.

I like to think that on some level, I’ve never really grown up. I think anyone who knows me would agree that I can seem a lot like an eight-year-old when I get excited about one of my obsessions, and it remains something I very much value in others. It was one of the things I found most attractive about my ex-husband, and I think it’s something my friends find appealing (or at least somewhat amusing) about me. And anyone who was online in the 1990s would probably agree that it’s a personality characteristic that defined much of the early development of the internet.

It’s something of a stereotype that a certain subset of gay men take that whole “childlike enthusiasm” and a youthful viewpoint (not in itself a bad thing) to an extreme, dressing like seventeen-year-olds long after they starts looking ridiculous, clubbing and partying way past the time when their bodies are able to handle it, and pretty much refusing to acknowledge that there is a future that probably should be considered.

This is kind of understandable, really. A lot of us had really unpleasant experiences in adolescence–exponentially worse than the standard teen angst, particularly if you consider both homosexuality itself and a sort of geeky and non-mainstream outlook in other areas as well–and it’s tempting to devote some of your adult freedom toward reliving that adolescence in an attempt to “get it right.” And I speak from experience here. I did this myself on some level, although “party boy” is maybe too strong a term in my case. I think I always maintained some basic functionality and at least worried about the future, even if I didn’t do much about it for quite some time.

I was lucky and I always had friends who wouldn’t have let me get away with throwing my life in the toilet, and ultimately I actually did manage to grow up at some point, at least as far as managing my life goes. Childlike enthusiasm about specific things is attractive.  Not knowing how to live your life as an adult is sad, and it’s impacted a lot of the friends I had earlier in life–gay ones disproportionately–in some very negative ways. I’m thinking about one particular friend in general, who now finds himself with no job and no prospects, and with basically no life as he exits his middle fifties, but there are a lot of people like him.

I’ve known Jack (not his real name and he won’t be reading this, nor will any of his local friends who might recognize him) since 1982 and we were really close friends for fifteen years or so. He spent most of his twenties working in clothing retail, because he was interested in fashion and because the flexible hours allowed him stay out late drinking and partying. Clubbing basically became the primary focus of his life and his career choices, which is not really all that unusual for someone in his twenties, I guess, but the problem was that he never exited that stage of life. At age thirty-five, he was still living in his parents’ basement, and any initiative or ambition from his earlier years had largely vanished. At this same age, he got a DWI, which was followed by additional DWIs. He hasn’t driven in twenty years, which is probably a good thing for the rest of us but maybe not so good for him.

By age forty, he had moved out of the basement, but had also largely stopped working in any sort of legitimate “day job” and was exclusively working in bars, most likely under the table. There were two big issues here: (1) this was the start of his exit from the world of the employable since it was the end of his traceable “paper trail”, and (2) it simultaneously exacerbated his substance abuse issues and shielded him from any sort of “reality check” that might have forced him to examine what was going on. His life became more and more about interactions with sketchy characters and becoming dependent on their assistance and on (ahem) untraceable sources of income.

Then the bar jobs ended, and Jack found himself unemployed and middle-aged, reliant on alcohol and other substances, and without a car or a license in a city where these things are almost required. He landed, with roommates, in a little house owned by his parents, where he currently lives rent-free, mainly because the house is likely not up to code and is therefore not rentable. The roommates have since moved on, and he’s on his own there, living on food stamps and a few bucks a month he gets for taking care of his parents’ yard, and relying on (mostly) sketchy friends for assistance. Somehow, though, he always manages to have beer. It’s been this way for several years and the really sad thing is that he now seems to think this is a somewhat normal way to live, as a recent issue I won’t detail here demonstrates. I guess he’s making the best of it, but its sometimes seems reminiscent of the hoarders who don’t think there is anything unusual about their lives and homes.

And I have no idea what I can do for him. I’m pretty sure there’s not much. I don’t want to give him money and be an enabler. His parents seems a bit wary of him, but I’m sure they wouldn’t let him starve as long as they’re still around. That may only be the case for a few more years, though. For a while after I moved back to Greensboro, I tried to spend more time with him and be a “role model”, which I guess was probably pretty presumptuous of me. I tried to get him in touch with some resources like Family Services. But it’s really gotten difficult to be around him–particularly when he wants beer money, though that has fortunately not happened all that often. And to be honest, I don’t want to be his only “stable” friend, because I’m not ready to be the one to pick up the pieces when the inevitable implosion happens. I don’t want to bail hi out of jail if it comes to that. And I’m not good at taking in strays; i don’t think Jack would be comfortable sleeping on the deck like my feline friend did.

There are a lot of lost boys like Jack in my life, both here and in San Francisco, and most of them were very intelligent, capable individuals who made really bad choices in life. I’ve lost touch with some of them. A couple of them have died. I fully realize there are vey complex issues with mental illness and substance abuse, a repressive society that doesn’t deal well with variation, etc. But at some point, it has to come down to taking responsibility for the consequences your own choices about how to deal with it all. And to be fair, I think Jack does this. I don’t think he blames the government, his parents, or anyone else. But this recognition needs to be followed by action, and that’s where he’s stuck.

I wish I knew how to help because I see how easily I could have gone down that path under different circumstances. I also know that I can’t really help until he decides he wants it. And I’m afraid that time may never come.

Whitherstream

Always hated those “I have nothing to say so why am I still doing this?” posts that have been so common on blogs the past few years as even the most committed among us have moved most of our (ahem) commentary to social media platforms or abandoned it altogether. But this is probably going to be one of those posts. Deal.

I find that I don’t want to write about current events, because current events are too horrifying and require much more analysis than I can or will give them at this point. I don’t want to write about my own life because even though I find it quite satisfying and amusing, I can’t really imagine why anyone else would. When I want to quip or to share something with “the world” I’m more likely to do it via Twitter and if I want to communicate something with my friends and colleagues, I use Facebook as often as not (although I could see myself being off that platform except for work before too long).

Actually, I’m creating a lot of content in other venues. In addition to two Twitter accounts, I’m adding content to Groceteria with a frenzy not seen in over a decade. My work (the thing I get paid for, that is) has resulted in a significant body of content, for which I’ve been awarded almost $350,000 in grants over the past five years. And I’ve published three articles in professional journals this year, one of them in perhaps the most prestigious journal in my field. I’ve also been traveling quite a bit and developing crushes on new cities–Louisville being the most recent–and I’m planning trips for August and October. I may do the traditional Toronto and/or Montréal journey a bit earlier this year to accommodate a trip to Dublin (or Seattle and Anchorage, or Winnipeg and Chicago) in the fall.

So it’s not like I’m sitting around doing nothing. I guess this platform is just the one that has to suffer right now.

Thanks again to those of you who for some reason still drop by from time to time.

And I actually am planning a “crushes on cities” post soon. A very introspective one. Really.

Still alive…

I’ve just been saying more on Twitter than anywhere else because I’ve been really busy. A lot going on at work, plus I made a weekend run to Baltimore a few weeks ago.

And I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on Groceteria, both on research and on the site itself. It feels really good actually having the time and inclination to do that again. I didn’t realize quite how much Id been missing it. I’ve been doing things here and there over the past couple of years, particularly for the past six months or so, but my activity level is way up now. And it really helped keep my mind occupied this weekend while all the shit was happening in Orlando…all of which just gets weirder and weirder.

And speaking of surreal: Der Fuhrer is in town tomorrow night. I’ve already planned ahead so I can avoid leaving the house till all the buildings stop burning and the street fights end.

Sigh. Should’ve emigrated when I had the chance…

June. Soon.

I’m not sure exactly what to do with myself starting in June.

For context, it’s been a a really hectic year. I hoped to take it a little easy once the tenure stuff was done, but I ended up doing an extra consulting gig and taking on an entire semester-long class I hadn’t planned to teach. In the midst of all that, my mom fell and broke her neck (which was not quite as serious as it sounds) and had to move to a new facility for the second time in a year. I’m also chairing a  search committee, I have a grant application in play, and I’ve published three articles this year. And then there’s that whole “selling my house, dealing with the $22,000 oil tank, and moving” thing.

But somehow, all the major stuff seems to be ending pretty much simultaneously over the next few weeks. I’m not quite sure how to react.

Vacation will be a good start. I haven’t decided on the ultimate destination. I thought about going back to Pittsburgh because I enjoyed being there so much last weekend for my conference presentation. I’ve also considered Toronto and/or Montréal, because I probably won’t be headed that way this fall like I usually do. I may go somewhere I’ve never been. Or I may just sit on my ass watching “Cagney and Lacey” reruns and Criterion films on Hulu.

But it should be lovely…