Blogging, like walking a tightrope, is best done without looking down. Otherwise you glance down and have a second thought or two. You wonder what the hell made you think that tiptoeing over a canyon was such a bright idea, when the world is full of less ridiculous activities. You…well, this metaphor is running out of steam, so let’s drop kick it and move on.
Moving to another city solves certain problems. Going from 80 billion people to 700,000 is a move in the right direction, as far as I’m concerned. Getting my dog back. Buying a car with a moon roof and getting a pleasurable sunburn on my scalp. Also nature, which I sort of dig. While I was gone the landlord had my back deck redone, and now I wander the aisles of Bay Area garden centers at all hours of the day and night, simply because I can. A pot of lavender is going gangbusters below my bedroom window, next to something called Kangaroo’s Paw, which hails from Australia, in case you were wondering. They’ve taken up residence beside an assortment of cacti that the previous tenant (my Ex) left behind, a dozen neglected cacti which I refer to as the Bad News Bears of the succulent community. Their health and well-being have become my personal mission. Blame it on the two years I spent holed up in my Upper West Side cave. The pendulum, it swung. This is what happens when people move from the East Coast to San Francisco. Investment bankers turn into yoga instructors, art directors become dog walkers, software designers join a landscaping crew, and everyone turns a bit soft. Perhaps you might even call them ineffectual, in the grand machinations of capitalism and power, but then you’d be a cynic, and you’d get run out of town.
But certain problems are loyal companions, no matter the distance you cover. Tennessee Williams had what he called “the blue devils.” This was long before the days of Paxil and Zoloft, and I’ve come to prefer his term over the clinical term of depression. The blue devils suggest an active, almost supernatural force, dogging you despite your best efforts, a far more malicious and tenacious foe than depression, which only suggests an emotional wet blanket, one you could cast off with a little effort.
The blue devils dogged me in Manhattan, but surrounded by a billion overambitious people and faced with a hundred books to read, I could only give them the most cursory attention. Now, in the relative peace and quiet of Bay Area garden center aisles, without a job or academic routine to tether me to the ground, the blue devils are throwing me a party, sort of a Burning Man of the Endless Night. I wake up every morning thinking, “what’s the point?”
I’ve faced more mornings like that than I could count throughout my life, so by now it’s less troubling than, well, dull. It’s so boring, thinking “what’s the point?” Take it from me, it’s not the kind of mental attitude that gets you invited to parties or the social circles of the chronically content, the bastards who think they’re doing you a favor by suggesting that you “lighten up!” or advise you that, surprise, you could just “choose to be happy!!” Yes, folks like this deserve to be chased through the streets with a pellet gun, but what if they’re right? How much of the blue devil dance is genetics, how much of it is the result of two-hits-of-ecstasy-and-a-bump-of-tina-every-weekend-for-two-years, and how much of it is just the comfort of old routine, the soft flannel shirt you slip into on Sundays? How much of it is fueled by self-pity? Or a lack of purpose and routine, easily fixed by a daily schedule of cardio and scribbling the rest of your thesis on coffee shop napkins? Second thoughts followed by thirds, questions that bring you no closer to an answer, a spun-out, strung-out path of consciousness, a rocky, rambling road to paralysis.
Overcast light reflected off a hill full of pale houses through your bedroom window. The dread of an open, cloudless day. Offers of friendship that feel like threats. The staggering weight of a telephone. The hopelessness of an afternoon TV court show, the sassy black-robed judge weighing your slender contributions to life. The bitterness of a locker room, the tyranny of a perfect deltoid. Covering your body in shapeless clothes, repeating a mantra leave me alone leave me aloe. The exhaustion of a room filled with laughter. Wind spinning a soda can in the gutter. A whore in bunny slippers climbing out of a pick-up on 17th Street.
Do you really think you’re in control?