Got Cakes on the Griddle

I'm up early, much earlier than usual.

Since getting off my last gig, my sleep cycle has yet to settle and I find myself sleeping to an embarrassingly late hour. I miss much of the day. I'm half-afraid to make daytime appointments. I've tried setting alarms and concocting elaborate schemes to get myself out of bed* sometime before mid-afternoon but to no avail.

Taking inspiration from Buckminster Fuller, I'm trying to reset to the diurnal habits by pushing my sleep deeper into the day with each passing cycle, hoping to stop when I come full circle to daytime dwelling.

As a result, I am wide awake, practically in the middle of my day at the sixth ante meridiem hour on a Monday. I'm waiting at the door of the coffee shop, staring at a still-black sky, watching as the cars along Highland Avenue slowly accumulate towards morning rush hour.

Here's the vendor filling the newspaper dispensers with today's issue. Here's the Sysco truck making its delivery of perishables. Here's a shivering bicyclist in a business suit, barely paying attention to the road. Here's a woman trying to sugar her coffee at the traffic light. Here's jogger after jogger after jogger, all just starting a day that's already ten hours old for me.

I've never been an early riser but often days I wish that I were. I very much like seeing the day break. I like witnessing those early hours, not fuzzy, with mist behind my pupils, aching for fresh coffee, as is the case when I'm made to wake myself. No, I like seeing the day start as one wide awake, seeing people rise, observing as darkened windows light up, beholding the growing dawn and the emerging day. I like pondering what all these people have ahead, all the things that might be afoot today: the deals struck, the lives saved, the loves lost, the discoveries made, the pains forgotten and all the things said.

Like the song says, "Watching the world wake up from history."

It's only in these rare, off-circadian moments that I get to witness this, though. I've always been the owl rather than the rooster. I've watched the streets empty and the last light switched off a hundred times for every occasion that I witnessed what I'm witnessing this morning. I wish I was built to do it more. I do so very much like waking the world.

So, with a gentle shake and a sweetened whisper, "Hey, wake up. You've got a big day ahead."

*As my roomate's girlfriend recently pointed out with some distress, I don't actually have a bed. Explaining the specifics of my sleeping arrangements are beyond the scope of this post.


A Poster Girl with no Poster

Sequestered in an indie coffee house on a rainy Thursday afternoon, avoiding leaving to keep out of the drizzle, I find myself staring at a wall full of posters. From floor to twelve-foot ceiling, some forty feet from the front door to the edge of the bar, posters, two or three hundred of them, advertising concerts, awareness campaigns, poetry readings, avant-garde theatre and forthcoming 'zines. There's probably a lot going on here that I would like to see.

There's just one problem; I don't know what I'm looking at. While any individual poster is fine, taken as a group, they each lose their center and disappear in a glacier of similarity. There's next to nothing that makes any of these one-sheets stand out.

They are all one of three sizes. They utilize equivalent color schemes. Excepting the band names, all of the lettering is in the same family of fonts. A third are in black and white and all of these involve photographs and copious text, almost to the point that they might have been made with the same illustrator template. Those that are in color all invoke one of a handful or retro aesthetics, mostly from the fifties and sixties. Two are obvious homages to iconic album covers of the seventies.

Moreover, I can't tell the band posters from the film screening posters from the public awareness posters. Though, this might be the result of naming conventions. "Rabies Awareness Month" and "Campaign Against Addiction" might be bands or poetry slams and there's really no way for me to know unless I go to the event.

Only three of them stand out. One is for a film and its poster, glossy and edgeless while all the others are matte and bordered, was clearly produced by a commercial advertising agency.* One, black and white, the original clearly done by hand with pencil and ink, is a compelling piece of art, viscerally difficult to look at such is the agony that it implies. But, the font is too small and I can't tell what it's advertising without walking over and looming over the old guy with the iPad. Finally, the one that is original, legible and independently produced, the drummer for that band lives across the hall from me. I was going to that show anyway.

This is not a complaint, not expressly. A lot of this work, viewed on it's own, is probably pretty good. The composition is solid, the images balanced, the focal points deliberate. Someone with real training in graphic design could parse this more completely than I, but the point is that these posters were clearly not thrown together by an amateur. They just blur to indifferentiation when I look at them at once. They line up, edge to edge and seam to seam like some giant Rorschach test photo mosaic from which I cannot extrapolate an image.

Is there some sort of aesthetic, some agreed-upon set of conventions that governs these texts? Is there a right and a wrong way to synthesize these banners of which I am ignorant? Are they all so similar because, as students who work in the same discipline are apt to do, the illustrators and designers all approach this work from the same angle? Or, are the artists who produce these placards all caught in the doldrums of inspiration. Are there really no new ideas left?

Like my old boss would say, "Who knows? Who cares? Just show me something good."

*As I have been writing this, that film poster has been replaced by someone advertising a poetry reading and this new poster might be the worst one up there.


The Sincerest Form of Flattery.

Someone told me that the Pet Shop Boys version of Brenda Lee's* "You Are Always on my Mind" was, and I'm quoting, "a sonic abortion, a crime against music that should never have been committed." I felt similar things about Madonna's version of "American Pie," and a number of other cover tunes. Plenty of really erudite people said such things about The Wind Done Gone."

This is fundamentally bad thinking.

No matter your opinion of a given artist or their medium, nothing should be off limits. Artistically, everything should be permitted. This is not to comment on the ultimate quality of the work; some of these remakes are just plain shitty, but that doesn't mean that there isn't value in creating them. To make such evaluations is tantamount to believing in objective taste, which is pretty foolish when you think about it.

What's interesting to me is that these feelings appear oddly specific to music and movies. When someone makes a parody of the Mona Lisa or re-interprets Shakespeare, we don't get all wibbly about it, but every cover of a song more than fifteen years old meets nothing but derision from critics. Why is "Stairway to Heaven" untouchable but we can rework Romeo & Juliet with impunity?

Nothing is sacred in this regard and we need to get over it.

*The version that you know is probably Elvis Presley's from 1972 or Willie Nelson's from 1982.


Promises, of What I Seemed to Be

And now I'm back here. Just a fortnight away and the place seems so very different with its towering treeline, that close horizon, with its narrow streets, fecund scent and its deep-south attempt at winter chill.

I didn't miss it. Certainly, I was ready to come home for fear of all the things that I had left unattended, of all the obligations that I still kept to. But I didn't pine for it. There was no place within me left empty for the lack of it.

I am certain that I will return there, to that faceless place, not to stay, I shouldn't think, but because it is now so simply convenient and so barely familiar and because there are so many new obligations on the far side of the continent.

What is this, this dwindling sense of place and this lingering sense of departure from I-know-not-where? Have I been too long here? Am I searching for searching's sake? Am I just tired of the weather but afraid of somewhere that has none? Have I habituated to my expectations of my home, of my friends, of my work in the Phoenix city? Have those closest to me been right all along that I was never really meant to stay? Why, then does no other destination seem all that appealing in itself; this new one feels appropriate only out of happenstance.

Time will tell.


And Then She'll Ask Me...

I love you when your makeup is messed up.

I love you when your clothes are dirty.

I love you when you skipped your shower and when your hair is greasy and your socks don't match.

I love you whether your jacket goes with your scarf or whether you wear your specs or your contacts.

I love you when your breath is bad, your eyelids droopy and when you've buttoned your blouse askew.

I love you just the same in sandals, in flats and in your best come-fuck-me boots.

I love you when you smell good and when you reek to high heaven.

I love you utterly and completely at every moment, unmitigated, unattenuated, undiminished by the vagaries of fashion, by the caprice of clashing colors or by the juxtaposition of spring and autumn makeup lines.

I know that this isn't what you're asking, that you're not inviting a missive on the nature of our infatuation; you just want to know if you look presentable. You want to know that the time and attention you've put into yourself are noticed and valued, and they are. But, I need you to know that any love I have of your outfit is trivial in comparison for the love I have for your soul.

My darling, you look wonderful tonight.


Gold Dust Dreamers Never Warn You

When I was very small, I traded my time between three places, three parts of the world, each obvious and distinct in memory.

I went to kindergarten in suburban Milwaukee, with its mild summers, deep winters, with its wineblood leaved maples, its hard cement roads, its dapple light woods, its glacier moraine hills and its limestone enriched drinking water.

I spent summers with my grandparents in Florida, with its constant warmth, its high cresting sun, its flood plain flatness, its shoe seeping sandiness, its tropical rot flavored air and its constant warnings about gators and storms.

My earliest formative years, I spent in western England, with its hedge lined paths, its rolling mynds and towering marylins, its scent of dampness, its constantly shifting clouds, its fried food and its distinct accent.

I've spent these past few weeks on the opposite end of the continent, somewhere I've scarcely been before. And, like when I was a child, I can sense the differences here, the textures, the scents, the colors, the gait, the flow of the air, the angle of the sun and the modes of speech. I am distinctly aware that I am not at home.

But, I'm not quite sure where I am, either. This is not to say that I couldn't find this city on a map or that I couldn't give you directions. It's that this place seems indistinct, cobbled together from the effluvium of other places. It's that these textures, these scents and the angle of the sun tell me much more about where I am not than they tell about me where I am. This place has no sense of itself, no set of attributes that cry out "I am here, in this place and in no other!" I could be anywhere. I could be nowhere at all, really.

Is this a product of this place in particular? Is it that this city, in its sprawling, sundrenched, seaside-ness just doesn't have an essence of its own? Is it that the English-speaking world has become less variegated, that franchise eateries and ambient media have robbed regions of their distinctiveness? Or, is it me? Has my own experience with the world inured me to the subtleties of place? Am I immune to geography? Am I jaded about the experience of travel? Am I just not paying attention?

I fly home tomorrow. Likely, almost certainly, I will be back here, sooner than later. I've had quite the good time, even if I didn't quite know where was. Even if I don't quite know where I'm going.


By Hook or Crook

Why do so many people continue to believe in the myth of meritocracy?

It's not even one of those good heuristics. I understand why people believe in laissez-faire economic theory, even if it's demonstrably false. I get why people get so pernsnickity about their brand of computer, coffee shop or sports team, no matter how foolish I happen to think these things happen to be. I comprehend most of the common wisdom that so often wins out over considered and evidenced positions; it's just easier.

But, you get what you deserve; cream rises to the top; reap what you sew, what obvious bullshit.

These people have never had a boss that was less competent than they were? These people have never known someone who, by virtue of happenstance, got more than they deserved? These people have never been passed over in an opportunity for someone less deserving? Not one time have these people looked at someone with more money or more prestige and said, "lucky bastard"?

I mean, really?