Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paradise Fragments: middle-aged white men, The Bachelor, Paths of Glory, Dating

Dear Beatrice,

It’s easy to confuse depression and fatigue. Tonight I was laying on my couch, after watching a mediocre legal thriller on Netflix, and I wanted to do nothing, and that made me kind of depressed.

So I made myself get up and walk to Ralphs and buy groceries to make dinner. As I’m walking, I listen to Daniel Johnston on my ipod, and it’s inspiring. When I get home, I feel compelled to write. Sometimes all it takes is a walk and some good music to get me out of a funk.

I am tired. Do most people think about these things? I sometimes wonder how my day-to-day suffering compares to the average person. I heard today that one in six people has some kind of mental illness.

I suppose that’s another thing I want this book to accomplish—to help erase the stigma, the fear of mental illness. To bring my experience to light with the hope that it might help people talk about the pain they hide. To bring it into the light, and have a conversation about it. I think that might make people less lonely.

Sincerely,

Jesse


Usually, when I go outside for a smoke on my rooftop, I like to watch the drunk people outside the bars below. It’s a little voyeuristic, I know. But drunk people are so damned interesting. Sometimes. Other times they’re just loud and irritating.

Sitting at Starbucks, reading an amazing essay about the Illinois State fair, by David Foster Wallace, smoking.

Across from me, two middle-aged white men sit together, discussing religion and politics. One is fat, wearing a jacket with Ronald Reagan embroidered on the breast pocket, and an American flag on the arm. The other man has a goatee and is balding.

They each have a massively thick book on the table in front of them, next to their coffees. The fat one’s book is Plato’s Republic. I can’t make out the title of the other guy’s book, but it has the word “Christian” in the title.

I wish I could hear their conversation better. One guy mentions an article he just read in the National Review.

...

It’s kind of surreal being the only customer in Koo Koo Chinese Food at 8:30pm on a Monday.

I sit and eat my orange chicken and watch The Bachelor on a flat screen TV and I am stunned by the naivete and shallowness of the characters.

They spend ONE day together on Maui in these super contrived situations and by the end of the day they are confessing their love for each other and talking about marriage. Marriage?!

...

I watched the early Stanley Kubrick movie “Paths of Glory” tonight. I know, from later interviews, that Kubrick wasn’t too fond of this movie. But I like “Paths of Glory.”

The closing scene is especially beautiful. A bunch of French soldiers sit in a bar, cat-calling and harassing an attractive German prisoner. They sound and behave like animals.

But then she starts to sing beautifully, and her song totally silences the drunk, horny, crass soldiers. They begin to sing along, many of them crying.

I think it’s a statement about the power of art to inspire the “better angels of our nature.” To make us noble.

Maybe Kubrick didn’t like this film in his later years because it wasn’t’ ironic or satirical. It was a totally sincere moment. But I think sincerity, when it is truly sincere (and not cheesy or cliché) has a place in art.

...

When we first meet, it will be wonderful. We will have so much to talk about, like ideas for special dates we can go on and it will be fun.

The first time we attempt sex, I will have erectile dysfunction and I will blame it on the alcohol and the Paxil.

But the second time it will be great.

We will hang out all the time and be a real couple and we won’t feel lonely.

But then you will get a little “clingy” and, being an essentially introverted person, I will feel uncomfortable. When you grab my arm in public all the time, I will secretly think, “I don’t want to be your crutch.”

And after a while, our phone conversations will be replaced by texts, and you will text me way more than I will text you, and you will want to hang out every day, and I will actually start to kind of resent you, and I will feel guilty about this.

I will send texts to other girls sometimes.

I will tell you I need space.

It will take me a while to work up the nerve to actually break up with you, and I will get anxiety and stomach pains and I will be afraid you will try to kill yourself or something.

And after we break up, I will go on a two-week bender and get drunk and chain smoke and have sex with two other women who I’m not really even interested in and I will feel guilty about this too.

One night I will see you at a bar and get drunk and end up having sex with you on my couch and I will feel like a piece of shit in the morning. And we won’t talk for a while and my bender will continue until I think I have an ulcer that will turn out not to be an ulcer.

And every night, I will send increasingly desperate drunk texts to every girl I’ve ever liked, and some I didn’t, whose number I still haven’t deleted. I will text lines of sad poetry, and sometimes they will respond in the morning with responses like “What the hell?” or, more commonly, “WTF?”

I will not cut my hair or beard for a long time.

I will consider visiting a girl in Arizona, but I will not.

And eventually my life will settle back into it’s normal routine of writing and teaching and loneliness and an ever-deepening cynicism about love.

...

My car is a mess of papers, water bottles, fast food wrappers, books. My room is strewn with ungraded papers. My kitchen is full of dirty dishes. My storage room is a mess of photographs, canvases, paints, and artworks in progress. Weary yet inspired, I move forward.

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