Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Usually Friday nights go: nap/exercise, shower, frantic dinner, even more frantic drinking, bus to some bar or another for continued drinking.

And it's fun. And I have no complaints.

This past weekend, though, after a productive week at work spent reading up on SF-based blogs, I decided something more cultured was in order. A friend and I bought tickets to an appropriately mysterious event at an appropriately off-the-map location called Audium. I knew we could expect an experiment in sound, which was to take place in complete darkness, and that's about all she wrote.

Friday night rolled around, and while I was excited for whatever I'd just paid $20 to attend, a huge chunk of my gut was nagging for a return to my more familiar Friday night shenanigans. The vodka! and the Rock Star! (My gut nagged.) Instead, I silenced it with a slice of pizza in the least shady bit of the Tenderloin our trek to Bush and Franklin provided, and by the time we arrived approximately at Audium's intersection, I would have sworn we were lost had our phones not declared otherwise. And then there it was.

We were kind of being tailed by this awkward hipster kid who couldn't seem to match his pace with ours, resulting in his being right on our asses until we stood directly in front of Audium's entryway. As such, what was already a bit of an ominous moment was made even more off-kilter by the fact that we were flustered by this kid's presence, seeing as he was the only other one in sight on the dark street with us, and we didn't know whether he was following us inside or what, and so instead of taking a moment to orient ourselves we were kind of thrust unceremoniously inside, which to me is a big deal in terms of establishing a mood and a pace. If that makes sense. Fuck, I'm crazy.

The lady in the ticket booth immediately inside the doors was dressed in strange vintage garb that was just a little too costume-y to take her as a serious human being. She looked like a background extra from Altered States, and her mannerisms only confirmed this harsh judgement. Beyond her, around a dark corner, waited the lobby. Honestly, I could have just hung out in the lobby for the entire length of the audio performance and been content: it was stark, smelled like 1973, and featured strangely placed art pieces bathed in moody red and blue lighting. About two dozen other people milled around, waiting, and I immediately wanted to know who these people were and what the fuck they were doing at Audium on a Friday night. Some had on suits! Then I thought about the veritable parade of Friday/Saturday night performances that had taken place here since the 1960s, and how many countless hundreds of thousands of people had been in the exact same lobby, and I felt a lot less special. Still, it seemed as though I'd entered one of those pockets of our current reality that might have a portal to another one behind a curtain in the basement somewhere, if you know what I mean. Let's just say the air was charged.

After a while this old guy in an interesting tweed suit emerged from the pitch-black octagonal doorway that led to the sound theater. He gave a little speech that meandered in a distressingly memorized way, like "oh I'm just giving this off-the-cuff speech for the 4,000th time, let's see how subtly I can veer into a totally controlled tangent." Then we followed him through the octagon into a long stretch of pitch-black hallway, which soon bent back on itself into another long hallway, which then opened up onto the theater, which let's just say a picture says a thousand words:

We all sat down facing each other, and within two minutes the old man had entered a control booth and dimmed the lights lower, and lower, and lower - until I couldn't see a damned thing. In complete darkness, the sounds began. After a while my mind started to wander, and I forgot I sat in a room with two dozen strangers who were all probably unwittingly starting straight at me through the dark. I thought it would be an ideal setting for a pervert to routinely show up at, wait until the lights went black, and then sneak his pair of night vision goggles out from a backpack so he could observe everyone who had no idea they were able to be seen. Then I realized the old man in the control booth must have night vision goggles himself, a suspicion he confirmed when he thanked us an hour later for being "such an attentive audience." Ah!

My only complaint is that the sounds themselves were a bit (read: lot) outdated, and it was kind of apparent that this musical composition of raindrops, laughter, creepy piano riffs, and bouncy-ball sound effects that took place all around us (even in the floor!) were the machinations of a drug-addled ex (?) hippie. But he was nice and gave another little speech in the lobby afterward about how he creates his works (this is his 9th iteration), so I'm going to focus instead on what a wild overall experience Audium turned out to be. Definitely recommended, even if you do feel leaving dazed and confused.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hobbit Hole

My new place is fantastic and cozy, with one problem: I never want to leave. When I'm headed out the door to work, everything looks so quaint and delightful in the morning sunlight that I nearly shed a tear, and when I get home from work, the low-domed ceilings and ornate (read: wavy) woodwork surrounding all doors/windows/arches practically begs me to sit on the couch, drink wine, and not get up until it's time to fall into bed. I know I should go climbing, and I know I should eventually get around to vacuuming the kitchen floor, but from the couch it all looks so warm and perfect that how could I have the heart to do anything but sit and stare? Especially since it's mine. All mine.

Let's just say I threw out the bathrobe during my move.

Today's a balmy 72 degrees here in SF, and I'm inside an office. Normally now would be about the time I post an annoying picture of myself sitting in a park sipping on a Forty, but that's not the case these days. Instead, I run outside for lunch, speed walk specifically on the sunny side of the street to whichever restaurant, and then half-jog back feeling guilty for having taken a whole 15 minutes to purchase a salad (but, more likely, a burrito). And it's not like I'm swamped with work. I just have this Catholic Guilt going on still. Man, this shit's bad.

I have to say that my new location in the city has turned virtually every day into a brand-new SF experience. I take new buses (I would say the 38 can go to hell, but that's clearly where it's always stopped at the end of the inbound half of its route, and I don't want to be redundant), Alamo Square Park (complete with the Full House houses) is 30 feet from my front door, and my favorite neighborhoods are all within short walking distance. Just the notion that I'm on my own is almost too much to handle, let alone the rest. This is the big time, people.

On Sunday I stepped out onto the sunny front patio of my place to assess the weather. The patio is elevated a good 12 feet off the ground, and just as I was standing there stretching, one of the big, topless double-decker tour buses stopped right in front of me so everyone on it could take a picture of City Hall (which my street dead-ends into). I was on the same level with them and only like four feet away from the side of their bus, so I awkwardly stopped stretching and started waving. Thirty grinning tourists waved back. I would like to start every day that way: "yes, this is my life, now go on and continue snapping photos of it."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

V Day

Time accelerates. I am a man on a rocket ship.

Today is February 14, and I'm pretty sure yesterday was January 3. Or something.

No matter. I've spent the past four days at work holed up with a head copywriter and a creative director coming up with slogans for a relatively cool company's ad banner campaign. I estimate having written approximately 250 slogans since last Thursday, which is fine by me because it's partly what's fueling this TimeSurge (what I'm labeling the whole rocket-ship feeling). My boss here moved me out to the big common creative room where everyone else who writes and designs sits, and they're fantastic company. Everyone plays music, discusses TV shows, throws paper airplanes, and generally acts like fools until it comes time to sit down and produce something. And even then, Whitney Houston is playing in the background.

Although the office isn't anywhere near as sleek as the one in Mad Men, and the clients aren't quite so exciting, the daily conversations, dramatic presentations, and interpersonal dynamics between creative and account people is near identical. I'm having a great time sitting and observing everyone wisecracking and swearing at one another and then get really surprised when I'm called into the action, because I tend to forget I'm not just an audience member sitting on his couch yelling at Peggy for being such a pushover. And the even crazier part is that even though I'm interning, any changes the directors want to make to my copy has to be approved by me, so whenever they come for my permission to chop a word out I get really unnecessarily excited.

This rule doesn't apply, however, to works in progress. I have seen SO much copy I've produced either completely thrown out or ripped nearly in-total to shreds, with just one or two compelling nuggets remaining for me to restructure and build upon. It would be devastating, but two years of creative writing in college turned my skin to dragon hide (and by that I mean: super tough). Also, I keep getting reassured that I'm actually doing a really great job and this is just par for the course, especially when it's your third week writing copy. And these aren't the kind of guys to bullshit, so I believe them. More later, yo.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Night on the Town

Part I (In Which the Protagonist has a Glorious Night on the Town [and also, just so you know, there won't be a part II]):

Last week my dear friend Alex and I met up at House of Shields in San Francisco's Financial District for some after-work cocktails. House of Shields is a chandelier-y, wood-paneled, airy establishment frequented by attractive suits who need a stopover between the office and a fancy dinner. Every other time I've been there the drinks were bought for me (the perks of being a poor intern at Wikipedia), so I was surprised to discover my meager Greyhound cost a whopping $6 (which, for the record, is about $3 more than I'm used to spending on a well drink). Then I had this fantastic moment of realization where I was all, "wait a second. The price of this drink literally doesn't matter: I made me some money today!" The sad truth is I've grown so accustomed to never having extra dough to throw around I don't know what to do with myself now that I'm earning a modest hourly rate. I've tried twice to buy some quality clothing in order to project an air of stylishness and authority, but I can't justify spending $190 on a sweater. I did, though, happily upgrade from Gilbey's to Smirnoff during my latest vodka purchase at the corner market.

Then we ran into my old boss from Wiki, Jay. The encounter was everything I imagined future encounters for myself to be, wherein I'm a non-awkward adult who thinks nothing of running into people I used to work for, and who can say something totally normal and engaging and not get flustered when the conversation ends just as abruptly as it begins. When we parted ways, I thought back 1.5 weeks to when I still interned at Wiki, and it already seemed like it had happened way too long ago, but instead of feeling sad or nostalgic I kind of just went, "oh, so now I'll be seeing him at bars instead of the office. Huh." And that was that. And I felt wildly sophisticated. And I also had a brief glimpse of the next forty years of my life, during which events and people and situations and run-ins will pile up and twist together and morph into a life so completely foreign to the one I know now that I may as well not even think about it, because it's all going to end so unpredictably that even just trying to puzzle the next week out is enough of a clusterfuck.

At any rate, after our drinks we moseyed through San Francisco's teeming downtown crowds (seriously, they teem) to Spoke Art, a small gallery debuting Tim Doyle's "Surreal Estate" series, in which Doyle has reinterpreted iconic landscapes from some of television's popular shows. The gallery was small, but free beer flowethed, and I'm a huge fan of Doyle's artwork, so I willingly suffered close proximity to so many fancy hipsters for a chance at one of his limited edition prints. Soon, though, with a beer in hand and my unease put to rest by a nearby rendering of the Bluth family's banana stand, I actually started to feel just the tiniest bit like I belonged there. Alex and I stood close to the door, looking at everyone and commenting on how strange it was for us to just be standing there, in a hip art gallery in San Francisco drinking free beer on a Tuesday night, and how we'd scarcely received even a single hostile glance. All at once the situation turned magical. "This is it," I thought, "this is what it's like to start feeling like you've made it." But then if you'll recall my previous post, which actually happens after this one chronologically, you'll start to understand how perilously up-and-down my weekly emotional agenda goes.

So I ended up buying a print of the Seinfeld diner (titled, "The Big Salad"), which a lady at the bus stop an hour later ended up telling me allll about (she went to school right down the street from the "real" exterior used in the show), but not before Alex and I finished the evening with some Thai food at a gloriously random restaurant somewhere in the Tenderloin. When I finally flopped onto my bed that evening, art in hand, and thought about the ad agency, the bar, the gallery, and the restaurant I'd circulated through since I stepped out of bed that morning, I felt incredibly accomplished. Like when I first started college and would leave my dorm room at 1 am to have a late-night burrito at the 24/7 mexican restaurant across the street, mostly just to be able to sit there knowing it was 1 am and I didn't have to get anyone's permission to be doing this and my mom was fast asleep and had no idea that her son was braving the streets of Eugene for a burrito.

So I lay there, feeling dirty from the bus and clutching my art and thinking about how it was only Tuesday night, and everything very nearly fit together into a coherent sort of existence. And it was all terribly exciting, just so long as I didn't let my brain drift too far in any one direction. And now I'm hoping there never comes a time when I'm unable to excite myself just by accomplishing totally ordinary feats.

Mah Brain

I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about the state of my consciousness, and how I need to work on bridging the gap between what's going on with my physical self (like, eating pizza and talking with a friend) and my nonphysical mental processes (like, my brain kind of sitting twenty feet behind me, assessing the situation and making observations similar to a vindictive narrator). I've mostly maintained that living in the present tense and enjoying situations as they unfold takes a certain talent for shutting off one's thoughts, which was why I believe I've never enjoyed small moments as much as other people might. The remedy for this, of course, has always been drinking. But sometimes I just don't wanna!

Then the friend suggested that the only way for a person like me to truly live in the moment, and not constantly worry and project and assess and panic, is to commit myself to really coming to terms with who I am as a person, and to find comfort and a sense of strong identity in all the quirks and unsavory bits of character that are themselves the very motivations for my frequent moments of self loathing. Now, I'd heard the first chunk of that piece of advice several times before, but the section on viewing a lot of the things I *don't* like and want to change as simply unchangeable aspects of myself that should be embraced for their role in defining my character was staggering. This friend is several years older than myself, and hugely intelligent, and also majored in philosophy before law school, so I think listening to what he has to say and really trying to apply it might be worthwhile. He put it this way: "you're here and you're going to live your life, and one day you'll be dead, and you're all you're ever going to truly have in between, so why would you put yourself through unnecessary grief if you could love yourself completely and be that much more fulfilled?"

But hold on! Isn't this exactly what happened when I came out to everyone three years ago? If so, why is it still just as relevant today? How did I learn so valuable a lesson the first time around and then *not* continue to apply it?

If, in the past, I was able to proclaim something as then-difficult as my homosexuality and stick with its consequences, I'd like to think myself capable of similar feats in the present. Personal growth is tricky, and I get restless when I don't know from which angle I should approach it, but this weekend's conversation was a much-needed kick in the pants. So I suppose the purpose of this whole post is to have it in writing somewhere that I'm going to work hard to stop doing anything that remotely resembles apologizing for any actions/words/behaviors that emanate from my being unless an apology is truly in order. And maybe if I stop doing that then I'll stop feeling the need to analyze every situation for reasons to apologize. And then maybe if I analyze less then I'll be more capable of enjoying the present as the person I am. And then this whole post will be irrelevant! And I'll be happy. Or at least happier. Either way, I'm counting it a win.

And I should also be clear that I'm not sitting around everyday moaning and groaning and wishing for everything to be different. On the contrary, I'm usually whistling. I also realize this isn't the most exciting shit to write about in a blog setting, but I feel these are questions and (pseudo) answers that a lot of people can make use of, even if they've been asked and answered before. Sometimes we just need people to remind us that doing nothing but spinning our wheels is a surefire way to get nowhere. And I would much rather end up somewhere. Starting today.