Saturday, August 02, 2008

These Modern Times

Ever get trapped in the whose more San Francisco game? Fun, isn't it? It gets played a lot in the Marina at trendy new restaurants and in the mission at hipster cafes and the Sunset in donut shops. Stay here long enough and you will end up playing it too.
I finally found the answer that shuts everyone down instantly no matter what anyone else has said.
"I buy pot on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate park."
Good for you. But my answer is better.
"I am third generation born and raised in San Francisco."
Way to never get out there and see the world. Nope. I still have a better answer.
"I'm homeless."
That does it. That ends the stupid conversation in a hurry. Try it sometime.

In a Walgreen's recently, I came across this odd site. Behind an old woman pushing a shopping cart, a young girl furiously texted.
She had one of those phones with the fold out key board. The young girl was the old woman's helper I think. When ever the young girl looked up, the old woman stopped. Only after the young girl went back to her phone did the old woman move again. For a second though, it looked like the girl had this old lady on remote control.
I literally did a double take.

I understand text messaging is not going away. I use it. Just not on the level some people do. What drives me crazy is when I am having a conversation with a person and in the middle of a sentence, they pull out a phone they had on vibrate. They nod their head at you and throw in a lame, "Uh ha" but their thumbs are pumping away at a tiny key board as I wait for our conversation to resume.
It does. But then, right on cue, another text message must be answered. Sometimes, when I have asked, they tell me they are having a conversation with 3 other people as they talk to me.
Does all the medication people take for ADD make this possible? How can you have any meaningful connection if you are trying to keep three other conversations straight in your head? I can barely remain coherent during one conversation let alone three!
I don't want to sound like the old man here, but is anyone experiencing anything in real time any more? TiVo lets you zoom past commercials. Great.
Texting lets you have multiple conversations in play with a media that is largely hard wired to be passive aggressive. Awesome.
That is what I consider most text messages to be by the way, passive aggressive.
I still think that TiVo is witch craft. How do they stop a live show and then let you pick it up again? What alternate universe do we get shunted off to when that happens? I am only half serious here. I will watch the commercials because I feel like I am connected to other people by virtue of the fact that we are all experiencing this together. It's sad. I know. It's sad mostly that I feel connected to people because I watch the commercials. When I am in a group of people and I am not comfortable, I don't think of commercials or anything like that, it's just that you can imagine what is happening in millions of homes at once when a commercial comes on. I can't explain it. Just know that TiVo is evil and will be found to cause cancer just like cell phones do now but no one wants to know.
Have you thought about that? I asked myself one night what I would do if some giant well researched warning came out that cell phones, the backbone of modern communications, caused cancer. I would keep using mine. I would. People smoke and everyone understands what a hazard that is now.
I already have to go outside to have most conversations on my cell. I can keep the smokers company.
All this communication technology we have built has only succeeded in removing personal interaction. Cell phones, e-mail and text messaging is a way to avoid conversation. Not help it. And when we find that our world is lonely, we sign up for computer dating. Call it whatever you want, but it is computer dating.
We have removed poetry from the world. Do you know what I mean by that? Nothing is allowed to happen naturally anymore. When was the last time you heard of a friend meeting some in public? It's almost weird to hear such stories. Internet commercials for hot girls wanting to meet me flash by in the margins of myspace and facebook, my spam folder is over flowing with pleas from other hot girls that want to meet me. All the girls they use to market these services do not look like they need such services. They are always young hot and sometimes partially dressed.
You can't meet a guy?
I tried it once. It was a long process, but eventually I had a "date." I put it in quotation marks because we were not physically in the same place. It happened entirely with the aid of a camera and our computers. In the middle of the conversation she picked up her phone to text message someone. This is intimacy now? This is what passes for getting to know someone?
The goal of the second date is no longer the blow job. Nope. The goal of the second date seems to be seeing them in person.
"Dude, last night I got to third base with this new chick I am seeing."
"Third base! She sent you a photo of herself on her phone? Damn!"
"If I play my cards right, I might get to see her live!"
This is modern romance now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No Longer Angry

I don’t know when it happened, but recently I woke up and the anger I had carried around toward my X was gone. I don’t know why either. It just wasn’t there anymore. That place inside me where truths that are too painful for the light of day was simply less heavy.

It just burned out I guess. Anger like that bleeds heat like radiation. It takes effort to maintain. I nursed it. As time moved on and I didn’t, it became the last thing I had that connected me to her. It is so clichĂ© and so ridiculous. I would go on walks where I would deliver a well-rehearsed speech about all of her betrayals. A speech that got better and better every time I gave it alone in the dark, but a speech that would never be heard either. For so long it was just a part of me. I didn’t fight it or question it. It consumed me like a cancer. For a while I was simply a wound. I did not hate her but my anger at her could not be resolved let alone dissolved. So I carried it with me. It became as familiar to me as my eye color or a mole I have had since childhood. Then one day I was sitting in a cafĂ© on the weekend drinking coffee and I realized something was missing. I could not say what was missing. I just felt different. Only after sorting through the inner architecture did I notice it. My anger had spent itself. It had gone out in the same way it had started.

I remember three distinct times in my life when I woke up on a morning and realized I was in love with someone. Not having that fire inside me anymore felt the same now. It was a revelation, a relief in everyway. Now what? I think I kept the anger for so long because it allowed me to not look at my own shit. It wasn’t really denial; it was just a louder voice at the table inside my head. No matter what was going on, that anger was present. Yelling, screaming, demeaning words at a ghost. That’s all I was doing; belittling a ghost that wasn’t giving me any thought. It didn’t matter how many times someone pointed this out to me. It didn’t matter that I knew that I was inflicted with a disease I did not want a cure for. All that drove me in the course of my day and every choice I arrived at came through that anger. Not a wall or a cloud, nothing like fog or sadness, it was acid. I had done all the crying and was done with that. But the anger would not leave.

She contacted me a few times at random intervals. Always e-mails. When I first responded I told her I was angry. I told her why I was so angry and told her there was no reason for me to speak with her. We weren’t getting back together and I certainly don’t need a friend I can’t trust. She responded with a sarcastic e-mail about my e-mail response to her! She said it vibrated with anger. No shit. What made me more pissed was that she never even thought I had a right to be angry. Then I thought, that whole year we spent back together, she never once sincerely or otherwise tried to apologize for cheating on me. There was the occasional sorry when the conversation strayed toward the topic, but it was always an abrupt sorry. I should have understood; there was no future for me with this woman. Love has a way of blinding you though.

Those occasional e-mails I would get from her always lacked a basic awareness of the harm she had done. I wasn’t looking for some elegant fall on my sword apology, but not once did she ever make the attempt to understand why I would be so angry. My God! We moved in together down in L.A. and with in six months it was over. I was broke, depressed, had no car and now my girlfriend didn’t want me anymore. She was cheating too. Something I found out after the initial shock of being told she didn’t love me anymore and didn’t want to live with me. It was like a movie where the bad shit just didn’t stop happening. The entire breaking up process was dragged out and made more difficult by her. If there was a way to make things more humiliating, she found it. Try figuring out what you can take with you in a rented car while your X girlfriends best friend and Father sit on a couch you bought as they watch you do this. Keep in mind the only reason I had rented the car and was now trying to figure out what I could take and what had to be left behind, was the night before she text messaged me. Even though she had agreed to let me leave my until I could get them, she now wanted everything of mine gone or she would throw it away.
Stuff like that is like radiation. It will keep burning you and burning you from the inside out long after it has happened.

She would hint at the fact that I did not seem angry in that year we were back together. True. I was happy to be back together and since we still lived in separate cities, we agreed to wait till she moved here to do the hard part of sitting down and working this shit out. But that’s the thing. We didn’t sit down and work this shit out. For a year, I held my anger. It was stupid. A good portion of that rage was at myself for being like that.
As time went on all that remained of our romance was white-hot anger. I told her so in her last e-mail. She did not bother to write back or ask why. Then again, I asked her not to contact me anymore. The biggest reason I was angry, the unforgivable sin she had committed besides the obvious one, was her good-bye to me the second time around.

It came down to this. She agreed to move to San Francisco and a month latter she was calling me with anxiety about our relationship. All that talk of someday and moving on had sunk in. She realized that she was moving to San Francisco. Her career would be far more difficult to start in this city. There would a lot of shit to work out between us. She didn’t talk to me about this. I am sure it caused her a great deal of inner turmoil. I say that, because on my last visit to see her in L.A. I found a girl whose size double zero jeans hung off her frame. She had stopped eating again. She was now burning instead of cutting. At night, she would drink wine and smoke with a roommate who made our drama look like a comedy. Every negative behavior she had ever done had come back and then some. Of course I was concerned. Of course I was worried. What could I do?
Here are the two groups of people I would split the world into. One group tells you what they are thinking and gives you some idea of the actions they will take. The other group takes actions and lets you figure out exactly what that means inside them and inside you.
She was the take action type.
Her large brown eyes, now sunken and dull, implored me to stay. She wanted to be taken care of. She didn’t want to come here or deal with all that needed to be dragged out into the light. She was now asking me in action to do for her what she could not do for me when I needed help. At one point, without having directly talked about it, she said to me, I don't want to ask you to stay.
But you did.

She was putting me in the position of having to stay. My feelings for her were now a trap. A trap to get things the way she wanted them. I would stay with her in L.A. to get her healthy again. But I didn’t. You have to understand that after our break up I came back to San Francisco. It was awful. I felt suicidal for at least the first month and remained in a dark dark place for well over a year. I rebuilt myself though. I came to terms with the loss and went about the business of getting healthy. Good things flowed from that. I had a legit job with benefits and the biggest paycheck I ever got on a regular basis. Gigs were coming in too. I had managed to save money, buy a car and make myself relevant again in the San Francisco comedy scene. Now she wanted me to come back to L.A. and help her. I couldn’t do it. It struck me right there in that moment as she silently prepared herself to drive me to the airport. She told me she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t leave the house and I would have to find some other way to the airport. I knew then. I knew it like you know there is going to be rain. You feel a slight awareness inside. That’s all. This one registered.
After I told her I was going she left the room and called her grandmother. Of course retired rich Grandma would come to town and save the day as she had before. She didn’t even wait with me for the airport shuttle. Only when I gathered my bag to wait outside did she follow me out to the gate. When the van came we kissed good-bye. I think she knew it then too. I did not make the choice to leave out of anger, but I was amazed at her lack of understanding. Did she see the situation she was putting me in? Did she see that I was in this condition and was given no choice when she asked me to leave her life? At the time I was not angry. I was hurt with the knowledge that things had ended again with someone I truly loved. It would take time and a few fumbled attempts at contact from her for that to finally come out in anger. Maybe she wasn’t trying to trap me. Maybe. But after I left she made a rapid recovery. In fact, she would meet another man and decide to live with him when they moved to a new town together to start a life.

The thing is, if I didn’t have what I had rebuilt here, I might have stayed. But I had rebuilt my life. She was asking for so much without even allowing me to be angry at the original situation. How was that suppose to work? We would sleep together in the same bed and on the days we were not in couple’s therapy, she would go to the doctor for help with her anorexia?
A year latter and everything was reversed. Kind of. I wasn’t kicking her out and being unresponsive to talking about things. I wasn’t throwing her away because she was broken. I just needed to have my anger acknowledged. How do you ask a person literally starving them self to death that you need time to be mad at them? It was an impossible situation. There was no way it was healthy for me to stay and no way to keep her in my life if I left. More than anything else, even the cheating, this became the ember that never died out. I have played that day over and over again in my head. I wasn’t going to yell at a sick person.

Writing this, I feel the edges again. You can never hope to close a wound of this nature completely. Just as you wake up one morning and realize you have fallen in love with someone, I woke up one day and wasn’t mad at them anymore. Now what?