What next? What next!? What next, indeed. I haven’t written here in awhile. I’ve been avoiding it, not to say I’ve been afraid of it, but I just haven’t known what to say. I can’t very well share this with people. I might just have to start over or do some editing. This last week has been rather odd. I’ve tried to keep busy and Nathan has been obliging. He’s reached a stage where he’s very demonstrative, there are words that he knows and he’ll say these on cue and they’re mostly identifiable, and then there are complete sentences of jibberish. He speaks so earnestly and looks at me with such gravitas, he can be quite intimidating. In his mind, he is saying something very important. I can only imagine what it is.
We’ve been going out a lot, meeting people in the park and I’ve even started taking him to an organized play group. We went yesterday and he had a great time playing with the other toddlers, flirting with the little girls, mooching snacks from whoever brought them. The play group is organized by the city and meets at a local school. There are toys and a small plastic slide, a rocking horse and seats for both parents and kids. Yesterday they brought in a counselor to talk to parents (all mothers except me) about dealing with stress. She said we should make time for ourselves, be sure to set aside some “You Time,” and also to try to go out with your mate alone, find a babysitter and get away. You Time. I liked that. The last thing I’ve wanted lately is time alone. As soon as Nate goes down for his nap, I’m outside mowing the lawn or pulling weeds, basically doing anything that keeps me occupied, that keeps my mind from wandering.
The counselor also talked about staying “in the moment.” Ironically, because of something I said. I forget how we got there, but I was talking about watching Nate and noticing the little things he does, how fascinating it is to see him identify small objects and learning the connections between things. This was basically a lie, or at best an exaggeration. I’m constantly NOT in the moment. He’ll be playing with something and I’ll be staring off into space and five minutes later I’ll tune back in and he’ll have rat poison in his mouth or he’ll be juggling steak knives. Yesterday he swung a 3-iron into our living room window (thank goodness for tempered glass, no harm done except for another near heart attack).
The easy way out of those moods is to get in the car. I have fought the temptation most days because if I go out in the morning he’ll invariably fall asleep and that steals time from his afternoon nap, which is (as I have probably mentioned) time for me (searching for a job, sending out resumes). Today, I really did need to go shopping (Soo’s parents are coming up and we needed sodas, beer, coffee, Hoody’s Unsalted Peanuts, you know, the staples), so I strapped him in and we were off to Silverdale (or Consumerdale as our mortgage broker calls it). Silverdale has a Costco, a Walmart, a Target, it’s home to the Kitsap Mall (with a Mervyn’s, a Bon Marche [which is Macy’s, as far as I can tell], and permutations of everything else in every other mall across America. To get to Silverdale you have to drive through Poulsbo. Poulsbo is fighting the arrival of its Walmart. To give you a fairly good idea of the progression of communities, Las Piedras Island would never (EVER) have a Walmart (McDonald’s snuck on the island just before a city ordinance was passed effectively banning chain stores). Driving through Poulsbo I saw a sign on a Real Estate office that read “Some View, Needs Work.” All the way to Silverdale I played with that in my head, until I was convinced it was there to describe me. Some View, Needs Work. Some view he needs work. He has some vision, but he still needs work. In Berkeley there was a guy that would set up a little Mr. Microphone on Bancroft right at the entrance to Sproul Plaza, probably the most trafficked area on campus (if not the whole city). He’d set up a handwritten sign that read, “The Rick Starr Show,” and he’d sing for hours, mostly old Frank Sinatra songs. He’d croon. He’d wail. His singing was unanimously considered crap. He did it for years, all the years I was there at least (slightly more than four). Finally, “The Daily Californian” did a story on him. He lived with his mother, who had always wanted him to be a performer like Sinatra. She paid for singing lessons. He practiced. He tried to find an agent. It never happened for him. And, yet, here he was looking well (really unwell) past 40, begging for recognition and spare change from people who mostly pitied him. Some View, Needs Work.
It makes me think of the signs the Nazis put over the entrances to the concentration camps: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (Work sets you free). Forget your dreams, forget what you wanted to do, you probably weren’t that good at it anyway (Look at Rick Starr!) just do the work and you won’t have to think. Do what you’re told. That’s what I keep hearing in my head. Just do what you’re told. Ignore the distractions and just get a job. Take care of the kid and the family, get health benefits, don’t play golf north of Las Piedras Island, get a job.
But, I just can’t help but wonder. I mean, I’ve had other moments where I thought I’d seen things that I hadn’t. There was a time once when I couldn’t sleep and I heard noises outside (this was as a teenager at my parent’s house), and I thought I saw something in the yard. So, I went out to look and it was like a dull, glowing brown orb. It disappeared, floating away from me when I walked towards it trying to get a closer look. Another time, (again plagued by insomnia), I went for a late night walk while I was on vacation, and I could have sworn I saw stars in the sands of a beach, and not just a few flickering grains of sand, I’m talking a realistic representation of the Milky Way, deep multidimensional galaxy-in-a-dune sort of thing. And, these were the instances when I was stone cold sober. Granted, both were at night and the light could have just been playing tricks on me. They could easily be explained away as mere physical illusions. I have never imagined entire conversations with two people I’d never met before. Of course, I’d had conversations with people and walked away with an entirely different idea of what had been discussed than the person I had just spoken to, but then who hadn’t. There was that time I thought I was a modern day John the Baptist, but that could be written off as a garden variety (albeit in a mutated form) Christ complex (nothing twelve years of Catholic school couldn’t explain). Full blown paranoid delusion has to be more complex. This started me thinking on the way home from Silverdale about Sylvia Plath and “The Bell Jar.” If you really are clinically depressed is it possible to write such beautiful prose. And, if you can write that well (and be acknowledged for it) would you really off yourself? But then one can’t ALWAYS write that well. That is the rub.
When it’s all over
I feel I don’t exist
The visions desist
I’m left to subsist
And what’s leftover.
So then I started thinking, well, what do people do if they occasionally have odd experiences, or odd thoughts, or if they can on the off chance express those thoughts and experiences in an interesting way. I guess what I’m getting at is, what makes them an artist? What makes Sinatra an artist and Rick Starr a joke? A friend sent me an article on Blogging, web logs, where people chronicle what they do, oh, what the hell, I’ll just insert the whole email (skip it if you want, oh imagined reader):
“Blog article from my sister....
What ever happened to the Barbie diary with the little key? Why keep your private journal on the internet? The answer is obvious. You don't want it to be private. I'd warn anyone related to, involved with, or contemplating becoming involved with a blogger about the possibility of their personal life being opened up to the world. Yuk. Maybe I'm just getting old, but this concept makes me sick.”
May 18, 2003
Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It
By WARREN ST. JOHN
Rick Bruner's awakening to the power of the written word came by way of
A throwaway line, typed one afternoon in the cerulean glow of his I.B.M. ThinkPad. Mr. Bruner, a 37-year-old Manhattan marketing consultant, keeps a Web log, an online diary known as a blog. After coming in for some sporting abuse from a friend who told him blogging was a waste of time, Mr. Bruner wrote in his blog that the friend "was fat and runs like a girl," adding that he was sure the friend would not be offended "because he doesn't read blogs."
With a push of a button, the comment was published on Mr. Bruner's site, www.bruner.net/blog, and accessible to anyone with a computer. A few days later, though, that friend's curiosity about blogs was awakened after all. He quickly found Mr. Bruner's site and was "deeply aggrieved," Mr. Bruner said. Their friendship barely survived the episode. "It was a big wake-up call," Mr. Bruner said. "Sometimes it's good to have an editor."
Mr. Bruner's experience is typical of many who have waded into the
thrilling and sometimes perilous world of blogging, a once marginal activity of Internet enthusiasts that has become squarely mainstream, with an estimated three million active blogs online, according to Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media, a blog publisher. While blogging journalists like Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and Eric Alterman get a lot of attention, a vast majority of bloggers are average
citizens like Mr. Bruner, who draw from their personal experiences -
and often the personal experiences of relatives, friends and colleagues – to create a kind of memoir in motion that details breakups and work and family issues with sometimes startling candor.
While personal blogs have been around for years, their proliferation has caused a wrinkle in the social fabric among people in their teens, 20's and early 30's. Inundated with bloggers, they are finding that every clique now has its own Matt Drudge, someone capable of instantly turning details of their lives into saucy Internet fare.
"It's like all your friends are reporters now," said Douglas Rushkoff,
a blogger and author of "Media Virus" and other books about the impact of technology on society.
In the rush to publish, many bloggers are running headlong into some of the problems conventionally published memoirists know too well: hurt
feelings, newly wary friends and relatives, and the occasional inflamed employer.
"All writing is a form of negotiation between the reader and writer
over what constitutes responsibility," said David Weinberger, author of
"Small Pieces Loosely Joined," a book about the Internet. "Because blogs are a new form, the negotiation can easily go awry."
Mr. Weinberger said the confessional nature of many blogs had "redrawn the line between what's private and public."
Heather Armstrong, a 27-year-old Web designer from Utah whose blog is at www.dooce.com, might be the ultimate example of blogging gone awry. Her parents are devout Mormons, she said, but because they are also technophobes, she felt perfectly comfortable publishing an entry on her site in which she harshly criticized her Mormon upbringing.
Unfortunately for Ms. Armstrong, her brother in Seattle stumbled across
her Web site that very day and alerted her parents to the entry. After
that, Ms. Armstrong said, "all hell broke loose." "Next to my parents getting divorced 20 years ago," Ms. Armstrong said, "it was the worst thing that ever happened to my family. It was shocking for everyone."
Ms. Armstrong's run-in with the perils of self-publishing did not end
there. She also wrote about her job and her co-workers in her blog, often hyperbolically. When her bosses were alerted that Ms. Armstrong was writing about her office life, they fired her, she said. She is now much more careful about what she publishes in her blog, and she had a word of caution for bloggers who write furtively about others. "If you're publishing under your own name, they'll find out," she said. "I was extremely naïve."
Being found out is no deterrent for 18-year-old Trisha Allen, a blogger
from Kentucky. She has been blogging for roughly a month, and spends most of her time reporting candidly on her friends and on her relationship with her boyfriend.
A recent entry reveals that the couple are not quite ready for children
- though "we have had two scares" - and that Ms. Allen's preferred form
of birth control is the pill, even though, she wrote, "I am starting to
hate it, because it has screwed up my menstrual cycle wickedly."
"There's not a lot I won't put on there," Ms. Allen said by telephone.
Ms. Allen said her mother was aware she keeps an online journal, but does not know how to find it, and added that she relied on a doctrine of security by obscurity, hoping that in the vast universe of personal Web sites known as the blogosphere, she will be able to preserve her anonymity behind all those other blogs.
Ms. Allen said her motivation for posting personal details was simple:
"I love to be the center of attention."
Indeed, for many bloggers being noticed seems to be the point. John M.
Grohol, a psychologist in the Boston area who has written about bloggers, said they often offered intimate details of their lives as a ploy to build readership.
"It's like, `How do I get people to read this?'" he said. "Then you
want them to keep reading it. It becomes a snowball rolling downhill that becomes very rewarding for the blogger because they're getting feedback from their friends and from random folks."
Deirdre Clemente, a blogger from Brooklyn who is now a a student at the
Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, frequently uses her
relationships as fodder for her blog, www.deirdreclemente.com.
That became an issue for a recent boyfriend of hers, a 34-year-old
Manhattan hedge-fund manager who feared that having his name in the blog could compromise his business relationships.
During his eight-month stint as a nameless regular on Ms. Clemente's
site, he said, "it was an odd feeling that there was a camera on me." Friends and relatives who knew about the site followed his relationship online, he said.
"On occasion my mother would send me an e-mail saying, `How was the
play?' or, `Sounds like you had a nice weekend away,' " he said.
But as a literary trope, the boyfriend worked well. Ms. Clemente said
she frequently received e-mail messages from strangers who followed the ups and downs of their relationship on her blog.
When the relationship ended, she said, "I had totally random people
e-mailing me saying they were sad we broke up." She described the
experience as "totally weird," but added, "As a writer, having anyone read your stuff is a compliment."
With so many self-publishing reporters out there, some say they feel a
need to watch themselves, for fear that casual comments made to friends
might make tomorrow morning's entry.
The proliferation of personal bloggers has led to a new social anxiety:
the fear of getting blogged.
"It's personal etiquette meets journalistic rules," Mr. Denton, the
blog publisher, said. "If you have a friend who's a blogger you have to say, `This is not for blogging.' It's the blogging equivalent of `This is off the record.'"
Jonathan Van Gieson, a 29-year-old theatrical producer from Brooklyn
who sometimes writes about friends on his site, www.jonathanvangieson.com, said he gave his friends pseudonyms "to
toe the line between simple harmless betrayal of trust and nasty
actionable libel." Before starting his blog, Mr. Van Gieson said he drew a comic strip based on his friends for his college newspaper, and in describing their predicament he summed up the current lot of many in the age of blogging.
"My close friends are used to having their lives plundered," he said.
Do we all just think we have something remarkable to share? Or is it an evolution in publishing, ensuring a gem isn’t missed. Maybe they’ll find the next “A Confederacy of Dunces” before the author’s dead. Although, the Hope Diamond could be rolling around in the surf with a million common stones and no one would be able to find it. What compels us then to write this crap down? If I’m honest about my desire to just get a job, I’d walk away from this computer right now. Forget about “Agents” McMahon and Perry, forget about driving towards Kingston just to see what the truth is because, well, if I might paraphrase the words of Ken Kirsch and Ronald Miller as sung by Charlene, truth is “that little baby you’re holding, and it’s that (wo)man you fought with this morning, the same one you’re going to make love with tonight. That’s truth, that’s love.” Isn’t the Internet great. You just think of a song, type in a few words, and presto, you’ve found the complete lyrics and who wrote them. If only secret government agencies weren’t using it to spy on us.