Playing yourself on stage or in writing is bizarre, but I think it’s the only genuine way to make art. Art is a way to let the uncomfortable ramblings in your head out without being considered schizophrenic or, at least, friendship-numbingly self-absorbed. It’s a way to say “listen to what I have to say and I promise I’ve practiced this self-indulgence long enough to make it worth your while.” As artists we demand your attention, and in return offer you nothing but the hope that we will have enlightened you enough to turn that attention back inward with a new set of eyes.
People pay to perform.
It happens all the time. You can say it’s product of the american dream – a method of investing in your future – a method of putting the money down to practice so that later people pay you to perform. But you’d be saying incorrect things. People pay to perform because it’s cheap therapy. If you come away from an open mic with any other conclusion, you went in and came out blind.
This attitude towards art is what gravitated me towards storytelling – a supremely narcissistic concept. Storytelling becoming an artform can seem as rational as chugging out of a beer pong as an artform. Both were done by that kid you wish didn’t show up to your party in college. But looked at from another angle, and we can see that it’s the only artform that makes any sense. It’s the only artform where you honestly describe the process that created a situation where you thought that it was important that people pay attention to you. You are explaining the exact details that happened in your life that compelled you to demand that everyone stare and listen to you create art. If all art comes from life (and it does) then storytelling is the only artform that’s honest about that. Even stand-up operates under the guise that some of this might not be true – some of this might be my imagination running wild with truths that might have been, but storytelling is not lying.
What can be beautiful about this honest is that with it comes no assumptions about what you are supposed to “get” out of this art. As an audience member, you “get” what you “get,” and as an artist I am not at liberty to change my art in order to change its meaning because doing so would be betraying your trust. This relationship is freeing.
I guess in the spirit of honest I should be open about my intentions. I want you to come to the show I co-produce:
It’s something I care about deeply. I will be getting therapy on stage and I need an audience otherwise no one will consider it art.
Laundry, and my hatred for doing it is my most written about subject. It is the bane of my existence is the most cliched way possible. Tasks that are meant to be mindless turn my mind inward and I get very distracted by what’s inside and therefore fuck up my laundry a lot. Laundry is not mindless. It is a multistep task based on remembering times and tools that is totally too much. I can’t focus on other things while I do my laundry, but it seems so easy when I’m not doing it that I let my mind wander as I forget to bring the quarters, laundry detergent, clothes, and myself down to the laundry machine in our basement. Then I forget that I left clothes down there for days and find my robes strewn across the cement floor awaiting their owner or a cold rodent depending on which one finds it first.
This invented story invites no happy ending, and therefore I resent its conclusion so much that I refuse to begin it. Instead I let the rotting, mildewy pile of cotton and polyester build upon itself in the corner of my room. As stray socks creep up the side of my bed and towards my desk I start to wonder if the shirts have mated with the pants and created little underwear children because I don’t remember having that pair that’s resting on my pillow before.
Two weeks ago I brought the wrong detergent down to the laundry, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn around. I said: “soap is soap, right?” Wrong. All my clothes came out with white streaks of crusty powder.
When the story becomes about my garmets instead of myself I start to get jealous. “This is my room! Get out!”
I guess I’ll have to do my laundry.
When I was 12 I drew up a plan for what I thought would be the best, most fun, basketball team to watch ever. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, and Marcus Camby. Right now four of those five players are on the same team and they easily have the resources to trade for the fifth. The problem is that it is not 1998, and the 13 years I’ve aged since then has corresponded to 13 years of aging for each of these players as well. The Mavericks are my 6th or 7th favorite team. But purely out of nostalgia. Despite their plethora of late ’90s powerhouse players, their leader is an ugly German who shoots silly shots and yells at the fact that he’s angry. He’s one of my least favorite players. It’s incredible how nostalgia can make us look past the awful and seek the good, as if out of defiance of change. The Mavericks play my least favorite type of basketball – slow moving half court offense waiting for old people to move into the correct geometric shapes until one of them is open, but I will root for them over most NBA teams because I remember the days when four of the players on their team who play 20-25 minutes each used to have names synonymous with alley-oops and fastbreaks.
I’m not sure what this is an argument for/against. I think it’s an against Rick Santorum as a popular political personality. Nostalgia can be a fun exercise in understanding where we come from, but it should not be used as a template to determine where we should go in the future. Vince Carter can’t jump over a man, Shawn Marion is less Matrix and more Matrix: Revolutions, Lamar Odom second position isn’t PG it’s reality TV star, Jason Kidd can’t get triple doubles any more than he can get senior citizen discounts, and the US can’t bomb countries to “protect” Christian capitalism – that was the Vietnam War.
I love to sit on the subway next to the girl listening to Nicki Minaj too loud on her headphones. I get to share a pleasurable experience with a person without them having to give me consent to share. We’re friends in my mind without her even having to be aware of my existence. I bob my head to her beat, mouth lyrics in my mind as she mouths them in reality. Of course this delusion is steeped in problematic elements of racism, classism, and sexism through fetishizationism. My beautiful dark twisted fantasy is that for a brief moment me and this WOMAN who grew up marginalized because of her RACE and kept in check by the man because of her CLASS and I, who have been forcefed the power that is inherent within my white male inheritance, are not simply singing a duet of mental karaoke, but also cultivating a friendship based on the content of our character – defined through a mutual love of Young Money.
This subway ride is becoming stressful.
I’ll just post something about Lady Gaga on one of my gay friend’s walls. That’ll make me feel better.
The expiration date on the almond butter was 3/04/11. It’s over a year later, but the ingredients are almonds, oil, and salt. Oil and salt can’t go bad and almonds can only get stale. I’m fine with a mildly stale almond butter and cinnamon agave and raisin sandwich on flatbread. I should have something more substantial for breakfast before I go to court. I’m going to need energy to fight the man. All I have in the fridge is spinach and homemade pickles. So now I’m going to have an almond butter, agave, raisin, pickle, and spinach sandwich on flatbread. That’s when I realize I have granola. I feel like “I always find the granola too late” could be a good metaphor for my misfortunes if it were accurate. The truth is that granola and the things it metaphorically represents are some of the few things that I don’t come across too late and I am surprised at the absence of crunchy oats and clusters in my pre-court snack/breakfast. A handful of granola later and I’m realizing that the expired almond butter was wholely unnecessary.
An hour into waiting for my legal representation to explain to me how boring my fight against the man was going to be and I was wholely regretting the expired almond butter that was making a concerted effort to become almond butter of the butt. My power struggle with the powers that control had turned inward as I fought my innards for the power to control my bowels.
There is a lot of waiting when you are trying to fight the man. I wait in a room full of scruffy beards, sewn on patches, pins, and cool hair while sitting in pews facing an empty throne behind which reads the words “IN GOD WE TRUST.” I’m waiting to go into an indentical room that is filled with selection of similarly dressed/appearenced people and a selection of uniformed individuals whose job is either to sit and record or stand and menace. I think about whether or not to write about the fact that uniformed and uninformed are simply one letter apart. I decide it means nothing and is simply a distraction from my point. The recorders are given pens, and their uniform involves a tie. The menacers are given a gun and their uniform involves a badge. We’re all waiting for the day to be over.
“The people move for an ACD”
“The defense refuses”
“Trial moved to May 7th.”
“Trial moved to May 7th”
In the age of email attachments, facebook events, and googleplus hang outs this feels prehistoric. Things move quicker nowadays. Phones and all recording devices have been left by the security checkpoint in an effort to transport us back in time. We read books, and write with pens, and nap, and wait. The patience required feels like punishment enough and I want to scream out: “What do we want?!” “Modern Technology!” “When do we want it?!” “NOW!” and by “now” I mean this instant not “now” according to this absurdist representation of rural southern life that it feels like we are parodying now. i do not need sweet tea and a story before “now” comes. The almond butter is pushing its way out.
I can’t stop looking at the uncerimonious way in which “IN GOD WE TRUST” is written on the wall behind the judge. Though in gold it is not celebratory. It looks as though it is a reminder – dry wall somewhat peeling around it, only illuminated in shadowy flickering florescent. It doesn’t say “God is a great and trustworthy figure who we must envy” it says “we have no one else, let’s let God make the decisions. It just seems easier.” It is a deceleration of laziness and conformity. It proclaims relinquishing self empowerment for the ease that comes with giving THE MAN that power.
It takes patience to tear down the powers that be and start over, and it’s hard to have patience when we’re given the option to know exactly how long our pizza is from our doorstep. But waiting is important. Rome wasn’t built in a day, fuck, that shelf I thought I could build took longer than a day. Our country has made a mistake. You could call that mistake capitalism, imperialism, puritanism, xenophobia, globalization, or the Reagan years, or whatever, what’s important is that we’ve made a mistake. I ate expired food from my cabinet and now all I can do is wait for it to exit me. I’ll eat healthily in the mean time as I try to expel the expired almond butter of the butt.
I’m leaving to do this show. I think I’ve spent each hour contradicting my first hour more and more – finding ways to try to “say something” by only talking about my life. I need to focus less on how the world relates to my life and more on how my life relates to the world, but I’m 25 years old and I live in Brooklyn and my laundry doesn’t get done. I don’t think I’m ready to fix that equation yet.
Come to the show tonight, maybe I’ll have fixed myself by then.