On February and friendships

How much do I appreciate the very well-timed visits from two of my oldest and closest friends last month? Lots. It’s quite amazing the perspective that nearly thirty years of history with a friend (or two) can provide and how being together with them can help you get reacquainted with the person you really are and the things that you really value. And also to remember that the person you really are is one of the main things that you really value.

For keeping me in touch with my sense of humor, for helping me reexamine my priorities, for understanding the confusing place I’m in right now, and for generally helping me remember that I am a pretty damned OK person, I offer my thanks. And my apologies for the fact that I probably haven’t been as available for you over the past few years as you have for me. That will be something for me to work on. In fact, I have a lot of stuff to work on right now, but that’s near the top of the list.

Incidentally, it was nice to have so many excuses to overeat, too…

Population implosion

I can’t help thinking that it probably doesn’t bode well for the Triad that there was only about 20% population growth here over the past ten years. By way of comparison, Wake County, where Raleigh is located, has added the equivalent of the entire population of Greensboro since 2000. Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, has added almost the entire population of Winston-Salem to its headcount in the same period of time.

Interestingly, the really big growth was in Fayetteville, where Fort Bragg is actually one of the nicer neighborhoods. So I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

Unrelated: happy birthday to the Pasadena Freeway.

Maybe it’s coming back

My attention span, that is. During and after grad school, I feared I was losing the ability to read books for pleasure (I may even have written about this, but I can’t be bothered to look). I seem to have regained it in the past few months, though, and I’ve actually killed off three books in the last two weeks. This can only be a good thing.

This one, spotted in the “new arrivals” section at work is strangely tempting:

Speaking of random photos, look over to the right. There’s a new feature here (OK, on flickr, really) that I’m calling Dailystream. It’s pretty much a “photo a day” kind of thing, which is not really innovative or exciting at all, except to me because this time I’m doing it rather than someone else.

Love

Shortly after we moved in together in San Francisco, Mark decided to sell his car. He posted on Craigslist and made a big deal of the fact that he still had the original window sticker and owner’s manual that had been with the car when he’d bought it new in high school. He even included pictures of them in his posting. And I think he was genuinely sort of disappointed that no potential buyers seemed to care.

I don’t think I ever mentioned it to him, but I’ve always remembered that as a time when I felt even more overwhelmed than usual with love for this wonderful, geeky, adorable boy.

Relationships

One of the most disturbing things I’ve realized about myself over the past few months is how very few close personal relationships I have anymore. In the past few years, I’ve let a lot of very important friendships just sort of slip away and I’ve become more and more isolated. And that’s a little scary, especially when I recently realized that I very much needed some¬† friends.

I’ve never been a social butterfly. It takes a lot for me to consider someone a friend. I don’t like having a big entourage and I’m not comfortable at parties and in large groups. But I’ve always had a few very close friends I stayed in touch with on a pretty regular basis. I have a lot less of that now, particularly locally. I don’t think it has much to do with geography because it was happening even before the great move of 2005, although I did leave some very close friends in SF. And the big issue is not that I’m not making new friends, which is frankly a fairly common thing among people in my demographic, but that I’ve let so much of my existing social network slip away over the past few years. That’s the part that really concerns me. I’m not sure exactly how it happened.

OK, I do sort of know how it happened. A little of it has to do with being in a relationship. A lot of it has to do with pure selfishness and laziness.

I’m a person who needs a lot of time to myself. Upon entering a relationship, I found myself with much less of that. And I began preserving as much as I could at the expense of other friendships and relationships. It started innocently enough, an unreturned email message here, an avoided phone call there, and before I knew it, there were incredibly important people in my life that I was never really talking to. Eventually, I found that I wasn’t getting in touch when they had important things going on, wasn’t keeping up with their lives, and generally wasn’t “being there” for them. These friends would still keep up with my life, and they’d reach out to me. And I’d respond by making apologies and vague unfulfilled promises to stay in touch. And at some point, I realized I’d lost touch with a lot of people who had really cared about me (and the feeling was mutual, despite my behavior) and that I was suddenly without much of a social support network.

But I did have all the precious solitude I needed. I probably still had the friends, too, but I was reluctant to reach out in my time of need when I’d been so unavailable to them in the past.

And here I am. The way my life has evolved over the past few months has forced me to examine almost every aspect of the way I deal with other people and relationships, and I’ve found some things that are seriously lacking. As I try to reassemble my life, fixing these things, being more available to the people I love, and doing the work necessary to keep these friendships alive are big priorities for me now.

I am never going to be a terribly social person. Misanthropy is still very appealing to me as a lifestyle choice, and “community” remains a term I’m very wary of. But I don’t want to be completely alone, either. And I want to try to be a little more giving toward the few people I really love. I have given up on or otherwise frittered away too many important relationships in my life. Fortunately, a few of my closest friends have stuck with me no matter how little I may have deserved it, and I’m determined not to lose any of these few I have left. And I’m going to work on rebuilding some (if maybe not all) of the ones I abandoned.

Yes, I understand that it looks like I’m broadcasting things I should be saying to people face to face. I do that sometimes, but this time it’s because I thought this one was worth publishing. And because I’d like to be called on it if I don’t deliver.

Videolog: China

Red Rockers
China (1983)

So before life interrupted everything last week, the Translator post was going to be the beginning of a set of videologs saluting 415 Records, a label started by Howie Klein in San Francisco over thirty years ago. I used to talk to Howie from time to time in my role as music director of WUAG and didn’t realize at the time that he also was one of the original rock and roll homos. He later became head of Sire Records and now blogs–but doesn’t everyone over age 35?

Videolog: I’ll Do You

Wire Train
I’ll Do You (1983)

The 415 Records salute continues in lieu of any other substantive content today. Once again, I invite anyone who can do so to explain to me just exactly what the hell “I could make a horse’s head of all your friends” is supposed to mean. Any takers?

Previously: Translator and Red Rockers.

Unhappy house

Thing that doesn’t make me happy: spending hours cleaning and scrubbing the house for a Sunday open house that’s attended by exactly one person (and my real estate agent suspects he was a curious neighbor rather than a buyer).

I need this house to be sold. Soon. It’s such a great house and I used to love it so. Part of me still loves it. But the the thirty-mile commute is only going to become more and more of a problem. Worse still, the place is just too big, too expensive, and too maintenance-intensive for me to handle all by myself. Factor in the fact that I’m a little depressed every time I walk in the door these days and you’ll maybe understand how the house I loved has become something of a giant albatross.

As many of you may have deduced, yer humble host is single again after nine and a half years. Mark and I decided a little over two weeks ago that it was time to call it quits. There’s no animosity between us. We love and care about each other and we’ll always consider each other “family.” It’s just that we’ve grown in very different directions over the past few years, and we’ve developed very different views of what we want out of life. Eventually we hit a point where we realized that the incompatibility–and the lack of communication about it–had more or less strangled our relationship. That’s the short version. There’s a longer version, but it has the same basic plot and the same exact ending and I’m not going to share it here.

It would be an understatement to say that this is the single most painful thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. I’ve shed more tears than I knew I was capable of producing. It doesn’t get much sadder than realizing that you’re not going to spend the rest of your life with the person you’d planned on spending it with. The way I’d envisioned the next phase of my life has been drastically altered just when I was expecting to be happy and excited about how successfully I’d “reinvented” myself in the past few years. This has magnified every little insecurity I’ve ever had about myself–I have a lot of them, thanks–and it makes the standard midlife crisis look like a fucking walk in the park.

However, I’ve finally arrived at a point where I’m managing (with some exceptions) not to wallow in it. That’s significant for me. I have a history of being fairly self-indulgent in my depressions and I’m not going to let it happen this time. I can’t let it happen this time, because a depression of this magnitude might break me if I let it take hold. Fortunately, I have my work to focus on now; I love it and frankly it’s really sort of all I have right now.¬† And I think that may be what ends up saving me. Anyway, I’m going to live. I’ve not yet managed anything resembling optimism about the future, but I think I may arrive at “neutral” one of these days.

So anyway, if you know someone who needs a really nice house in Winston-Salem, I’m willing to make a deal. You get a free home warranty and I get to maintain my sanity. No pressure, though.

A little addendum: I apologize for this mass announcement. I haven’t talked with many people about this, because frankly it’s not a terribly pleasant thing to repeat over and over again. I appreciate your support but this is personal and not really subject to public comment. Thanks to all of you for being here for me, even though I may not really want to talk about it that much for now. And thanks to Mark for nine of the happiest years of my life. I never thought I wanted a relationship like this, but I’m damned glad I had it, even if it didn’t end up lasting forever as we’d hoped.