that is all.
I’ve been on this kick recently of feeling stressed out about recording/remembering stories from the past. It is painful to feel that I’m supposed to have recorded them in some fashion while realizing that I don’t really remember a lot of the details so that the output isn’t really the memoir of recollection that I want, it’s more the memoir of pollen drifting in meadows.
But why do I even want this memoir to begin with? I’ve been wanting to collect these stories as part of a book I want to put together: How to Become a Failed Artist in Five Years. The book is meant as sort of a collection of writing/journals/emails/work from the period of 2013 - 2018. And I think I’m slowly coming to the obvious realization that what I wrote at the time is all I wrote a that time; the material that makes up the firsthand account is already done, because there’s no such thing as making a firsthand account of something after a certain amount of time passes. (Although there’s a painful period of transition when I realize that the first person has left, and a more prose/poetic person has taken his place.)
Part of me is scared that I’ll never put this thing together at all and that I’m just saying I’ll make this book in fear that if I don’t, a part of me disappears with it. But I think I’m realizing, like all creative endeavors, making expectations in my mind about what it NEEDS to be, versus WHAT IT IS, is mostly what adds to my anxiety. The joy of making most things is the times of figuring out where the middle ground is between me and the object. A certain playfulness and curiosity to an unknown. But when suddenly my mind switches to having to make a certain aspect of the experience be realized in a specific way, everything goes downhill.
I’ve probably mentioned it here before, but I love this quote from Henry Rollins:
That’s why I never say, “I’m a writer,” because I don’t want to shoulder that. I just want to do some writing. “What would a writer do in this situation?” I don’t know, man. Ask one. And don’t tell me what he said, I’m busy.
(You can read the whole article here)
Needing to be seen as something versus being something is such a tricky balance. I think a lot of culture advocates for visibility and the awareness others have for you, which, while possibly beneficial to opportunity, doesn’t have a lot of weight in creating a sense of self and one’s own vision of success.
I’m reading this interesting book right now called In Over our Heads by Robert Kegan. I originally came across an essay he wrote about consciousness and culture that reminded me a lot of ideas of Godel and encapsulation of systems, which I really liked. He frames culture as basically an ever-present school. Culture teaches us what others expect of us if we wish to live in step with those around us. This outlook allows Kegan to make some really interesting points about why we pursue certain cultural norms when overall we state our desires to be something quite different.
I wrote to someone recently about one of my favorite examples:
I just finished this part of the book on adolescence and Kegan (the author) talks about how we miss out as a culture in using the birth of sexuality as a teaching moment. His argument is that culture is the ultimate school, and that we need to apply it to maintain what our expectations are of those within it. In sexuality we shouldn't be focusing on penetration, due to our fear of pregnancy and stds: basically pushing our fears of a teenager's irresponsibility into what the outcomes will be. Instead we should be talking about sexuality as being the creation of climax through touch. Tell teenagers to explore the area of touch that feels comfortable, but penetration should be avoided because of the risks outside of what they are actually looking for: getting off.
Babies come to the world startled, laughing, and crying to whatever their immediate environment is. Eventually, people can start to think of categories abstractly and relate their categories to others’ categories. And above and beyond that I’m not sure… I haven’t read that many pages of the book yet. But I like the thought that our self contains all the instruments of our past self (I can still react to impulses like a child), but also contains this mechanism that allows me to evolve. It’s like RNA/DNA. A record machine that plays a record that makes itself.
And it makes me think about how we can construct internal structures that are consistent to a self but will not fit cultural paradigms, resulting in a person seen as being broken in some fashion. Or lacking. It’s sort of like mathematical constructions that can exist in theory but don’t exhibit themselves fully in the real world. If you’re an intuitionist mathematician, you’d state the Real Numbers themselves are such a construction.
I guess I’m just fitting together how to make parts of myself in a story part of a structure that feels authentic, but also fits in the world. This whole rabbit hole started while trying to remember all the details around meeting this woman Magda, who is a friend of mine in Prague. I wanted to write details about the place we met and what we talked about. But I don’t really remember. And that’s okay, because all I want to actually remember is the feeling. The desire to talk about what it was like to first meet her. Her flat billed baseball hat and throaty laugh that sounded like a half growl and half dare; our mutual love of Peaky Blinders and handbags.
That’s part of the story I would like to tell someday.
Going to Whole Foods these days in DTLA is a bit like being in a real life dating app. As you line up outside, people done up in the way only LA people can be, stroll by to get into the back of the line waiting to enter the store, which is limiting occupancy due to the virus. Everyone is putting on a show, and the collective group’s head swivel from left to right as if we’re at a Wimbledon for hotness. In each persons eye you can see if they swiped left or right based on how fast they lob their gaze back to where the next person is most probably going to enter the scene from.
I guess there’s not a lot of places to get noticed when you are locked up all day in your apartment, so grocery shopping is sort of like heading to the club now. Walking up and down the aisles I’m bound to see more flesh than heading over to the deli. It also makes me think about how this time of coronavirus is a bit like having a lot of casual sex. Anyone who has never had a slutty period of their life can at least now feel some of the emotions associated with it.
Much of social distancing relies on your trust in another person and about them being upfront about who they have been around and how careful they are. My decisions on who I hang out with is not only about keeping myself safe — maybe I’m someone that doesn’t care if I end up with an alphabet soup of STDs — but also making sure that others are aware of my views on the virus so they can take precautions and have ownership over their own health. I can’t wander into someone’s space these days, maskless and ready to talk 6” from their face, since that’s basically like a new form of non-consensual contact: I’d be taking up a persons space and putting them in danger based on my own willingness to take on risk.
I guess if you want to run around as some biological weapon with no mask on, do it, but don’t feel you can detonate wherever you want: coughing over all the fruit in the grocery store and trying to shake my hand. That’s like failing to tell me you have herpes before sleeping with me.
I think in preparedness for this situation, I accidentally created the perfect fragrance, which I named Cat Fancy. This occurred on my friend Rebecca’s birthday, when I took her to The Institute for Art and Olfaction in order for us to make our own fragrances. I know a lot of people say “I think I got coronavirus back in February”, and I don’t want to be another person jumping on the “I already had it” bandwagon, but back in February when we went to this event, I had a fever and no sense of smell. I was very perplexed by these symptoms as not a lot was being said in February about Covid-19 and I didn’t hear of any cases in California, so I went ahead and tried to make a scent while sweating profusely (sorta normal for me) and not being able to smell (not so normal).
For some reason with these systems I was certain I could still make a great scent. It reminded me of when I was in 8th grade band practice, forgot my trumpet on composition day, and thought I could compose a piece of sheet music from my incredibly tuned inner sense of music. I had no such inner ear. (As a side note I think my friend Dan Davey’s had such an ear, and I remember his trumpet being shinier than everyone else’s trumpet and having a lung complicity of two small weather balloons. He played waterpolo and seemed to skip and hover across the water like a dandelion seed refusing to come back to earth, which I think was due to his enormous lung capacity.) But on this new occasion, at The Institute for Art and Olfaction, I believed I had an inner nose of some sort, I guess.
Rebecca walked away with a delicious tobacco/wood creation, while I apparently picked 5 materials (that’s what they call, in the industry, the different notes of a scent… the MATERIAL that is used to build the home of scent. Although, maybe this is a good use of vocabulary since memory seems to find its place within the walls of scent, so eluding to materials which can be fabricated into structures make sense as the basement vocabulary of fragrance) that when mixed together perfectly replicated the smell of cat piss. What I love about this experience is that I was very enthusiastic, as was Rebecca, and she was incredibly supportive as I dug deeper and deeper into my unbenounced alchemy of cat piss.
In this time when some people don’t give proper distance, what is a better deterrent than cat pee? For marketing, I’m obviously going the route of calling it Cat Fancy. Perhaps the logo will be of a cat spraying a person’s face in a sea of other’s wearing masks.