Please Don’t Put Your Life In The Hands of a Rock and Roll Band

I’ve been re-reading Bill Drummond’s 45 lately, off-and-on, and feeling the strange effects that come from revisiting something that has such a strong sense of place and time attached to it in my head.

As I’ve written before, 45 was something I discovered pretty much by accident when I was nearing the end of my art school career and already thinking of myself as a writer instead of any kind of graphic designer or visual artist; I liked the packaging of the original release, when I found it in a bookstore by chance — a 7 inch square book, just like the dimensions of a vinyl single, which would need to be played at 45RPM. I bought it after skimming the first few pages, having no idea just how much the mixture of pop history and personal digression would both appeal to me and form a basis for the kind of thing I wanted to write myself in later life.

I met Drummond not long afterwards; he came to do a talk at the arts organization I was involved in, and I remember just being afraid of speaking to him, because I was that in awe of him. The idea that he could make a living writing like that seemed impossible, and something I desperately wanted for myself.

More than anything, it’s been that meeting that I’ve been thinking about through this re-read. I remember clearly thinking that Drummond had everything figured out, and that this only made sense because, as I thought then, Drummond was in his mid-40s! Of course everything had fallen into place by that point! Of course he had all the answers!

From childhood through probably my late 20s, honestly, the idea of being 40 or above was some kind of marker of adulthood that defined having sorted your shit out. I remember my parents turning 40 when I was a kid, and how it seemed like “parent” age. Drummond was writing about hitting his mid-40s exactly, and so I just put all this pressure on him in my head to be an avatar of artistic success, projecting all manner of… everything onto the poor man.

Looking back at it now, I realize that he probably wasn’t making a living from his writing, but from making personal appearances and whatever royalties he was getting from his musical career; I read the stories again and notice his failures and failings in a way I didn’t the first time around, and see that he was writing about his flaws and his own anxieties and fears about throwing his life away on pop… something I only was vaguely aware of before, but now feel all too clearly.

45 is a book that’s growing with me, although perhaps that’s because I wasn’t smart enough to pick up what it was putting down before. Either way, I’m glad to be older and wiser on this go-through.

Gone Fishing

It’s literally too hot to blog. (Or to write in general, although I just completed a draft of something while sitting directly in front of a fan and hating every moment of it.) Here’s why.

(Really, it’s difficult to properly explain what it feels like, beyond simply saying very hot. I’ve known the heat before, but I’m not sure I’ve known it for this kind of sustained period before — it’s not dropped below the mid-70s since Thursday, so there’s no chance for it to cool down at all, and we have no air conditioning. It’s just hot.)

The Most Traditional Blog Of All

It’s been quite a couple of days. This is literally just me venting, be warned.

Work wise, a story that’s been in process for the last couple of weeks finally went live, prompting a social media breakdown for one of the sources for it — not because of anything he did, but because a promotional tweet for the outlet made it look as if he was the writer, meaning that he got an entire furore of fake outrage that should have rightfully been mine. (Yes, I feel very guilty, thank you for asking. I also feel a little relieved, which just makes me feel more guilty.)

It also got the company at the center of the story complaining that they’d been blindsided by it, and also changing policy but claiming that the changed policy had always been the case, it was just worded badly… except that the story was, in part, about how the original policy was a problem.

Yesterday was spent, in part, messaging both of the above parties to try and sort things out, while also messaging the editor of the outlet to fix things, make edits after the fact, and so on.

While all of this was going on, I was also writing a story that’s supposed to go live today that kept changing as I was writing it. (About the return of Warren Ellis to comics, via a new Image Comics series.) No sooner would I write a section than I’d have to either dump it or change it as new facts came to light, all while getting messages from sources either giving me new information or promising something would arrive momentarily, probably.

Suffice to say, my focus was scattered, and I’m not sure that anyone necessarily felt as if they were getting the proper attention they deserved. Worse, they were probably right, which just leads back to the feeling very guilty thing again.

Of course, that’s just work: on top of all of that, Portland is headed into a record-breaking heatwave this weekend, which has me all kinds of worried in addition to being all kinds of uncomfortable and clammily sweaty as temperatures already rise. I’m sure that (and the fact that it’s kind of ruining my sleep cycle) aren’t contributing to my feeling of being utterly overwhelmed by everything, right…?

Thankfully, the weekend is around the corner. Even with the heat, a break’s going to help somehow, right…? Right…?

A Cat Calls

There are a number of animals in this house. I can even put a number to that number: right now, there are seven animals in this house — three dogs and four cats. (Surprisingly, they all get on.) That number isn’t a consistent one, though; two of the dogs are shared with my ex-wife and so only part-time residents, and one of the cats is… well, not our cat.

It’s actually a joke, that he’s not our cat. He officially belongs to a neighbor, but he all but lives here. He started coming around more than a year ago, and spent more and more time here — initially just on out front porch, before asking to come inside, and then spending more and more time here — to the point where we’d have to say, he’s not our cat. Except, he kind of is.

That last part was underscored the other day, when his actual owner appeared at the front door, to deliver food for him and try to give money because we’re taking care of the cat.

It was, as you might expect, an awkward and uncomfortable conversation, not least of all because both of us kept apologizing to the other and talking about how bad we felt — me, because we didn’t mean to steal her cat, and her because she felt as if we suddenly had new responsibility and expenses because of her cat. It felt as if we were talking past each other, honestly, both of us trying to emphasize, no, I’m uncomfortable with this conversation and how the situation has turned out, too, I promise you without just being blunt enough to say that.

She was clearly, understandably, heartbroken that her cat had to all intents and purposes, moved out. She talked about it feeling as if he’d broken up with her, but that he’d “made his choice” (a phrase she used multiple times) about where he wanted to be. We talked about the fact that we keep letting him out and asking him to go back and see her, but that he rarely does. It was this horrible conversation for both of us, and one that felt as if it went on for several years.

I feel bad for her, and how upset she clearly is about the whole thing. But. But I can’t deny that I kind of love not our cat, and I’m happy to see him every day when he decides to come visit.

Time Traveling While Standing In Place

Perhaps it’s the nostalgic value, perhaps it’s the feeling that there’s something to be gained by such an exercise, but I’ve had the recurring thought in the last few days that I should look back at old comic strips I created when I was in art school and, where possible, rework them in some manner.

As only befits someone who (a) is a big comic fan and has been since as far back as I can remember, and (b) went to art school, I was heavily into writing and drawing my own comics all the way through my mid-20s; the subject matter shifting as I grew older and my interests shifting too, as did my influences. (There was, I’m only part-ashamed to say, a period where Jim Lee was drawing the X-Men and I really tried to recreate what he was doing; so, so many lines and people gritting their teeth.)

Most of this stuff is lost to the ages now, thankfully — no-one really needs to see me work out obsessions with everyone from Walt Simonson to Dave McKean, entirely failing to fully understand why their work left such an impression on me, trust me — but some of it remains, at least digitally; the final things I did in art school as part of my final projects. They’re somewhere on a CD-Rom, and I’m pretty sure I could access them if I wanted to.

I’m sure the very sight of them would embarrass me were I to look at them today, but there’s also the hope that they’d seem as if they were the work of someone else entirely, because they were created so long ago; that I’d be able to look at them afresh and see if there’s any value there. (Probably not, I suspect they’re very “early 20s and very earnest” in tone, but that might just be self-consciousness talking.)

There’s something in the idea of going back and touching them again — not updating them, or even really changing them significantly, but fixing things that never worked out the first time — that is what keeps bringing me back to the topic in my head. The kindness of reaching back in time and offering a hand to the person who was me, in some weird but sincere way.

Soon, perhaps.

Make Note Of It

I was thinking the other day about notebooks and sketchbooks, and my obsessive need to maintain both when I was younger. When I was in art school, I always had at least one sketchbook on the go (in fact, usually two; I don’t know why, but they had different purposes in my head at the time, so it made sense to me). They were an integral part of how I navigated life at the time, how I processed what was happening to me and what I was feeling at any particular moment. Well, maybe not that up-to-the-minute, some pretty close.

They were filled with everything; with sketches and comic strips; with abstract experimentations in mark-making, or collage; with hastily written-down quotes from books, magazines, TV shows, or conversations — with everything, like I said. The scattered nature of the whole thing was the point, though; these weren’t intended to be finished documents, or even anything that was meant to be seen by anyone that wasn’t me. They were me downloading my brain in pieces to see what happened.

(I still write like that now, as is obvious on this site; I start with a vague idea or direction and then discover what I’m doing as I go, finishing with a sense of oh, so it was that all along! Honestly, I think it’s the only way that I can actually work my way through an idea. The notion of not sharing it in writing in real time as the thought process is happening feels almost comically wrong, to me.)

I kept hold of these sketchbooks as I moved from place to place, through the 1990s; I moved apartments, I moved cities, but I still had them all, ready to revisit and make new discoveries and come to new conclusions. When I moved to the U.S., I made the last minute decision to leave them behind — almost literally last minute; I decided a few hours before I left, when I was reconsidering luggage costs — and, to be blunt, I’ve regretted it ever since.

I pretty much stopped keeping a notebook or sketchbook when I moved countries, and sometimes I wonder how things might have been different — been better — had I managed to stay in that practice. Just imagine what I could have learned, years before I discovered it the hard way.

Lose It To The Music

Yesterday, for no particular reason I can think of, I remembered how my best friend in college danced. It was a whole thing; he became quietly famous — or infamous, perhaps — for the way he did it in the local clubs, and people would occasionally come up to him to ask, with a mixture of caution and excitement, if he was really the guy they’d been hearing about. (He was, he’d admit, with a similarly complicated mix of pride and embarrassment.)

It wasn’t a John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever situation, I want you to understand; it wasn’t that he danced with such grace and skill that crowds parted and encircled him, in awe of his moves on the dancefloor. Instead, it’s that, when he danced, he did so with such passion that it was unmistakable, and somewhat hypnotic — he swung himself around the dancefloor with complete conviction, arms flailing and with a face that was part anger, part pleasure, as if the music had taken him somewhere else entirely and he was powerless to resist. It really was a sight to see.

This wasn’t the case with every song, of course; there were some where he’d just move like the rest of us, all anxious and uncertain late teens and early-20s with a self-consciousness and a desire to be noticed by the right people for the right reasons that overwhelmed everything else in our movements. (Oh, the nervousness that was going out at that age, all the hope and need hidden inside our very bones…!)

But with certain songs, with certain bands — the ones he felt the kind of love for that you can only feel at that age, as if their lyrics are speaking the words you could never quite manage to come up with yourself — he was a sight to see, and seemingly unstoppable as he lost himself in the music. Looking back a quarter century(!), I realize that I’m glad I was there to see it as it happened.

⌘ + R

I’ve written before, I’m pretty sure, about my feelings when it comes to waiting for a phone call that you know for sure is coming. It’s a particular flavor of horror — the slow dread of waiting for it to happen, while being unable to bring it to fruition any sooner, or really do anything else to distract yourself, for fear of missing the damn thing when it eventually comes around. For someone with any level of social interaction anxiety, it’s a genuine terror.

I’m currently living a different incarnation of the same problem — waiting for emails to arrive. As of writing, I have something like four or five different emails out with questions needing answering before I can move forward on any number of projects, freelance gigs, or stories that I need to write: some of them are waiting from statements from publishers, some are from editors giving me notes, or responding to pitches, some are from publicists who need to confirm or deny specific things I’ve asked before I make a story live.

The one thing connecting them all, though, is that I need a response before my next step… and, until I get that response (and ideally a response that actually responds to what I’ve asked for; I’ve had one publicist send a number of messages that promise a real response soon, but that real response is nowhere to be seen, five days later), I can’t really do anything. I’m in limbo.

The problem is, I’m really in limbo, right now — I have so many of these messages awaiting answering that I’m running out of alternate things to handle in the meantime as I wait, without overcommitting myself to things that deadlines won’t support. (As it is, at least a couple of things are running very, very close to deadline and I’m more than a little nervous.) But I can’t actually do anything… except wait. And stress about it.

Maybe if I refresh my inbox one more time, that will help.

You Say I’m Putting You On

As the weekend slowly comes over the horizon, I’m left to consider the fact that I’m tired. Not in the sense of sleepy tired, I hasten to add, although there’s a small sense of that in addition to everything else. (I suspect that I’ve been sleeping poorly the last few days purely because the weather has been so changeable; we had a heatwave last week, and now the temperature is in the low 40s at night, somehow. Portland’s summers are a strange trip every year, but this year, even more than usual.) Instead, it’s a tired that lives deep in the bones, resting quietly but firmly inside everything around me.

Part of this is that it’s been a full week in terms of work — in good ways, I hasten to add, despite a couple of drawbacks on things that I’d happily have done without — and I’m realizing relatively late in the week that I’ve been mentally “on” for so much of the time that I just, simply, need to take a break before I overheat. I’m not sure if this is something new since I stopped doing so much work for THR, or if I was just able to pace myself better when I wasn’t thinking about searching for work all the time; either way, it’s a tiring existence, and I’m ready for a weekend to put it behind me for a couple days.

There’s also just the exhaustion that comes from recovering from the past year — the past few years, really; every now and then, I pause and think about the fact that it’s been more than a year since everything went into lockdown, and that I can’t really remember the last time I went to a restaurant to eat there, or went to the movie theater. (Or even shopping for something that wasn’t groceries.) I know we’re headed toward something better now, even with the Delta Variants and everything else, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still in recovery from it all.

There are things to do this weekend: tasks to be handled, errands to be accomplished. That tires me out too, in advance. All I’m really ready for is watching Legendary and In The Heights; that is the kind of thing that’s going to take priority for the next couple days.

Ain’t Got No Skills

I had the joy recently of reconnecting with an old friend, someone whom I love dearly but had, for reasons I couldn’t even begin to explain, lost touch with to such a degree that I hadn’t even spoken to them in years. (Chloe asked me why that was the case, and I genuinely had no answer; we drifted apart, I suppose…? But it was something that happened entirely by accident, and which I’d actively regretted at multiple moments in the last few years, even as I did nothing to change it.)

What makes things odd is that this friend reappeared in my life just days after I’d been thinking of her, wondering if I should reach out, and immediately telling myself that it had been too long, that it would be awkward, and all that manner of self conscious ridiculousness. I didn’t do anything, and then, she sent a message out of nowhere. Perhaps fate or kismet was at play, or maybe this is just an odd coincidence. Who can tell?

We played phone tag for a couple days across the weekend, following up on that message, and as we did, my anxiety grew back: sure, she’d reached out and then suggested I call anytime when I said we should catch up, but what if she was just being polite? What if she didn’t really mean it? What if, when we spoke again finally, it was just going to be awkward and halting, the years of non-contact having made us unable to have a conversation?

None of that was true, of course, and when we did manage to speak, it was the cliche of talking as if we’d last spoken just the week before; our rhythms were the same, the shared sense of humor and affection still entirely present. It was a thrill, a pleasure, and a sign that all my nervousness and anxiety had been entirely misplaced. But I keep thinking about just how strong that anxiety had been, and wondering just what else that might have kept me away from, elsewhere in my life…?