Monday, October 02, 2006

The Travesty of the Disconnected

I did something so old fashioned it would be hard for most to comprehend. I walked to a friends house. Brought my acoustic guitar. Sat on his couch, played my guitar while he played his(also acoustic) and had a conversation about life. Granted that may not sound like much, but what is remarkable is not what we did, its what I was thinking. I was thinking, man I love this. Conversation free from the music, free from a ringing cell phone, an overdue bill. Being connected with someone is a comfort that I know lacks in this city, and this town.

In cars, with designer labels, with 1 month old phones we are a nation, a culture, engrossed with the technology to make us more efficient. We have wireless signals, planners, cameras, phones, date books, and address rolled into one. We have fuel efficient cars, biodegradeable grocery bags, eco-conscious chemicals, steroid free chicken, kosher meat, smokeless tobacco, easy birth control, and an appetite that remains hungry for the next big thing.

I myself have bounced from art house progressive, bleeding heart liberal, Christian conservative, fiscally responsible, investor, artist, writer, filmmaker, to philosopher. The epochs of my life are inconsequential to the greater movement within organized society that highlights the fact, that our very core, that in a room full of friends we are essentially lonely but not alone.

The major themes of success in life can be quantified by the collection of trophies that justify that success. There are the toys, the house, the financial accounts, and the trophy wife. But in traffic, staring foward, our minds wander to what is next. Whatever that is.

I was at a bar a few nights ago with some friends, and as the designated driver, and a buzz from being tired and all the water I was drinking, I began to zone out in the common way one does at 1 am. I studied the strangers there at that bar. Although their appearances, and ethnicity varied in degrees that are too numerous to count. There was one thing they all had, the LOOK. The look of wondering: "Is this it.?" Meaning is this the THIS, I though I was going to satisfy by coming here tonight.

In muted lights, overbearing music that can be often lip-synced/sung a long with during chorus and the occasional nudge, jostle, and bump from people pushing their way to put in the drink order, the look of disconnect is evident. It is a look that I believe is the reflection of reality smacking in the face, that their life is here and its not exactly what they wanted. But it will do for now. It will have to do for now.

Occasionaly a smile will erupt. A raucous shout. A high five. A greeting of how have you been? A side shifting eye. Another sip. An empty glass. But in between all these moments is a point of the lonely. In this room here at this bar, the lonely come to be togther to be even more isolated. The solitude accetuated by the energy, the feeling, and vibe of a room that bereves us because: "this is the place. Now is the time. You should be loving this." And we feel none of that.

The devices of bar, internet, myspace, ipod, cell phones, cars, glass, cubicles, apartments, and text messages create divisions for who we are at our very core. Each one of those provides a place where in our fear of acceptance, in our fear of our demons, we hide in these compartments to protect ourselves from the human contact of someone in our life. As I type this into the technoverse, I am alone, my wife sleeps 26 feet from me. There is no music except the constant whir of passing cars. I feel very comfortable. I am(for now) in control. I can urinate on my tv if I so desired. I can insult ethnic groups, football teams, politicians, and the go against the grain of popular culture with a tye dye shirt and get away with it.

Where is the answer to our civil dilmemna of isolationist policy? We do everything online. A chat, a message, an email has taken the place of a porch session, a hangout under the hood, a BBQ. And I am as guilty as anything for all these and this blog. Proving first and foremost that I am a slave to being alone. And if you are reading this, than you are too.

Till next time,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Good morning, I'm stuck in the OC.

So its like 8:35 am I've been in this cafe for an hour. Scary huh. Considering it took 36 min to get down here. I like listening to loud talkers, its easy in this busy place. Seems like people like being heard. So between the lines they don't say, you pick apart their life, draw irrational conclusions, and piece together the missing pieces of what you think their more than perfect life is here in this planned community. I feel like a spy.

Partly because I happened to have stumbled upon an affluent Asian/American young professional community here, and the only thing I have in common with them other than my Eastern Looks is the fact that I'm sipping this 3 dollar coffee. Outside in the parking lot is my 98 jeep complete with 90 thousand miles, and dirty socks in the back. It sits in the oversized parking spots adjacent to the BMW's and Mercedes with model names hard to pronounce. But their owners make it not to difficult to spy it out since they keep the darn things so stinking shiny.

I'm going to go the gym today in this town, and hope they don't sniff me out for a poser from apartment life in LA. I would be hunted down like traitor among the flock, and whipped and beaten with Prada and Dolce/Gbanna belts. Maybe hogtied to the front of anyone of the SuperAwesome SUVS in this lot.

The elderly jap couple in front of my table are presently writing out a 10,000 dollar check, for what I don't know. Maybe its bribe money, maybe its a check to smuggle some poor chink kid across the pacific to live in their house. Maybe its a payoff for a cheap ransom. Or maybe they're going to buy some shoes and a pedicure here in town.

Whatever the case, I have to say as annonying as the LA look goes(if that can be defined) I feel funny because I'm not wearing a bucket hat and a keyless entry key. It seems like many of these guys were like me when I was a kid. A dork. Except these dorks ended up with tons of money, and me...well I ended up okay considering I have some confidence to make up up for the skinniest wallet I know.

I know its been awhile since I wrote. But as of late I haven't been inspired. I've been stressed. Maybe a first child is like that to some guys. I know it is for me. I feel like since I had such a rough childhood taking care of my brother and sister at such an early age that I feel like I have a lot of life I haven't lived yet. Especially since my career feels like its getting closer. Appreciating what is real and tangilbe is a gift that I don't have. Somedays I find myself dreaming of birds that are not only in the bush, but they are in bushes in different timezones.

I guess that's what happens when you lose perspective. So I'm still trying to find that, and sometimes I feel as though if I didn't have it, well then that would be okay too. The hardest part of being confused is not so much realizing that you are, but more so coming to grips with it, but making the conscious effort to reverse the confusion. "I Choose the Matrix."

I feel like many of these people here have chosen the matrix, and well in their ignorant bliss, they have succumbed to a slumbered life, in a daze to the harshness of what is real. The fabrication of a so-called existence is not only common to the OC, but to LA, NY, FL, UK, and any other state or country name that is shortened in a series of letters. The complacency of modern existence is self-propelled. It is not a by product of civilization, it is induced into the mainstream by a force that allows us to look at something dangerous and say: "You surely won't get hurt at all." And the love affair with ourselves continues to satiate the appetite of feeling of "Purpose."

The glimpses of awarness happens like speed bumps that need no slowing, an apogee of our inspiration is dashed into a corner as we muddle with whatever is inbetwixt our fingers. So as we don the T-shirt of experience it becomes evident that we have no right to wear it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Heart of the New Rome

The glass rail that I lean against, if given enough force could launch me to my certain death. And chances are the hordes of laminated paper bag carriers would not be in any position to assist me, unless I landed on the ones scrambling about far below. Instead, if the spider cracks erupted into a cacophony of crystal explosions, I would most certainly be killed by the weight of American Consumerism. But it holds for now, as I wait outside a female clothing store on the 2nd floor of a mall in Southern California. My wife in her quest to find the "perfect" pair of khakis is perusing the sale racks and new inventory intent on her grail for this weekend. The idea of falling isn't so bad compared to the fact that this stop has lasted 40 plus minutes and the fore knowledge that her two most favorite stores in the world are within visual range of the exit of this one.

I feel somehow detached but somehow apart of the orgy of spend. They pass in front of me as I lean against an uncomfortable ledge invisible to their palm video games, or the 20% off 50% markup sign that graces the doorway of an image/illusion clothing store. In each group of strolling packs, are the same entities. There are the 7th graders with the shoes that are few notches out of their price range, holding electronics, which keep their eyes fixated in a gaze of fantastic color and HD action. Their world literally is in the grip of their hands, and the message that they have control over their world has become the gospel. Some people would call that being spoiled, but that is not what their parents would think. For father and mother are glossy eyed and relaxed, satisfied just not be at work. But not fully satisfied. They also tote the latest in digital technology on their hip in the form an electronic leash that bittersweetly ties them to the rest of the world. Sometimes the order of their lives is so intense that a wireless earpiece with a flashing blue strobe is mandatory garb to warn rescue choppers, lighthouses, and other flying airplanes that they are in fact; CONNECTED to the Wireless.

"Apparently my conversation is so important that I need to not hold anything in my hands, just in case, you tell me something that I do not feel like using my memory for, and write it down, that is if I carry a pen and paper with me....wait, that's too terrible, I'd have to use up one of my free hands and take them out of my instead could you text that to me, or leave it on my voice mail?"

Their daughters are also there, complete with mandatory friends who share the same ethnicity, vocabulary, and lip-gloss. This is a more organic version of the handheld video game. She has created a nucleus of a comfort zone of what is "accepted." It is a sense of being able to control reaction and feel comfortable in the shell of likeminded spending. Because of this, converts to the new fads move faster in a more volatile frenzy of popular fashion. It is the reason why Eskimo looking boots can be popular in So Cal, it is the reason why white leather belts intended for females can be seen on males with studded wristbands and a Born to be Indie Rock tattoo and other important mantras of social rebellion. In a puzzling twist, this herd mentality from the young adult crowd somehow seems to drive the 7th grader and the parents. It is the reason why a surf culture logo can be rationally accepted on a 64 year old or 4 year old that has neither seen the ocean, let alone rode the face of a thirty-foot Mexican wave. Image and experience are unrelated according to fashion. An international equivalent would be a Mullah or Shake donning a Flav-o-Flav Alarm clock and dope gold teeth while he conducted evening prayer (freestyle of course) to the setting sun.

The normal everyday is loaded with humor, if you take enough steps back to see that we are really funny people. Funny strange, and funny ha-ha. Somehow the coffee that we drank that was a 40 or so cents not so long ago has eclipsed the inflationary dollar 400%. But maybe its because a gallon of water costs more than a gallon of gas. And that has led to the increased price of boiling water used to pass through the beans? There has to be an explanation. But even more curious to me of the actual fact is the willingness for us as consumers, simply accept it. But not only accept it, but to admonish and revere it.

It seems that maybe that's why we keep our hand free, so we can adorn our designer jacket, w/ designer stretch jeans, and longsleeve under t-shirt combo just right that our coffee cup complete with burn-proof-easy-sip-lid and ecologically-friendly-corrugated brown-paper-sleeve can match not only our fashion/trend current biohazard/dolphin safe leather shoes, but the image or status we want to promote.

It is this self-perceived image that drives the economy. Bulls and Bears will say, Consumer Spending is Up/Down, CNBC will say retail and big ticket items are on the rise, Forbes will say: Real Estate will continue to boom. But nobody talks about the one thing that fuels this obsession of spending. Somehow we have implanted in our minds that we are capable of anything. And that limitless boundary is certain death to satisfaction. It is never enough, and we continue to prove that to ourselves everyday, until the very reason for the thing has been turned into a rationale for the thing. We begin to reason why we need four wheel drive, 198 hp, w/xm, and plasma screen in the headrest. We know that this is a snowboarding jacket costing 299.99 dollars more than what I have already, but come on it has a pocket right here, how cool is that? This limitless imagination pre-visualizes us with the object, it allows us to fantasize life with it, and how much more fuller life would be with it.

This object is by no means limited to the triple deck of displays, hustling busybodies, free chicken samples and endless racks of stuff of this building. It could easily be the job, the living arrangement, the life set before you. We spend so much time in the future it is incapable of realizing the present let alone the past. This is evident by the way in which an obtained object goes from a status of the GREATEST THING EVER prior to ownership, to "oh and yeah I have this." Its because we no longer focus on it because it does not live in our fantasy anymore, it lives in the reality and since we spend hardly any time there, it is forgotten. It becomes a great room decoration, a more PETA friendly conquest without fur/hair.

The frustration from our complacency is anesthetized through amusement and entertainment. The word amusement alone broken down means: "A" =Latin Prefix meaning, lacking, without. "MUSE"= Latin Root meaning THOUGHT. We are without Thought, and that should scare us. We have become the New Rome, resting on the accomplishments owed to us from future generations. We seem to have lost our vision for purpose. No longer are we inventing things worthwhile. Our inventions are spaghetti boilers, dent removers, cell phone signal boosters. All of which are purchased in a rush of two weeks until word gets out that none of them work.

Mark Twain once wrote that we must "Want what you have." I think if we followed that advice, I think we would be a lot more content, and fulfilled. I think that would revolutionize our thinking and give rise to loftier goals than to save up for that new MP3 player. I think it would transform the American Society in such monumental movements that we really would live up to that idea of the shining beacon for the world to see. And I guess it could start with me.

My wife exits the store and I join her and she exclaims: "Oh! They have a LimitedGAPForever here, and my frustration and impatience escalates into a flurry of anger. but it is quickly quelled when my eyes gaze on the sign that reads, HALF OFF entire Inventory, and I do need a new sunglasses, because the other ones I have that work almost perfectly save for the scratch on the lens which is out of the field of view. "Okay, I'll be here." I'll save the world tomorrow after I get some new shades, come on 50% off, you can't pass that up.