Not Quite Poetry, Not Quite Prose

Note from Leila: Happy 2022, y'all! Have been working on some new writing, but in the meantime, here is a fusion of new/new-ish/old-ish/old AF bits & pieces <3


*****


A water bottle of gin, a mansion with a waterslide’s liquor cabinet acquisition. Merging lanes was never his strong suit--turning down the radio to turn down the stimuli; the alleged high pressure driving situation was never anywhere near as high pressure as the movie script storyline. The writers hit every single plot point until ultimately fudging the ending.

It was never really anything akin to the exam notes stacked on the corner table of a coffee shop just like every coffee shop, a coffee shop like every coffee shop on the intersection of my personal erwachsenwerden.

What is a pinecrest anyway? Where are the alleged springs claimed by the namesake? How many hours were clocked at that strip plaza, timestamps included? I’d opted out of a year’s worth of knowledge made worthwhile for one day of rollercoasters, opted into exploring the chemical reactions made possible through a single table that seemingly encapsulates infinity.

He’d fumble through the motions, yet never once faltered through the exact science.

*****

There's this unexplainable phenomenon we learn about at a very young age that, over the course of 25 years, I've never once felt compelled to believe as a possibility. It's the supernatural force that highlights the resolution of most of your love stories.
It's the thing your parents tell you at a young age brought them together when they met in heaven: fate.
*Ahem*...if your parents never told you they met in heaven, let me clarify that my parents told my siblings and I they met there & we would all later discover it was the name of the club they met in downtown Pittsburgh in the early 80s. So really they met at Heaven.
It's not an inherent apathy toward a heart-melting meeting of two people that I possess; rather, it's a skeptical standpoint of destiny (although I am one who does believe we’re not the only realm existing in this universe-hell, even on Earth).

*****
I'm a little anxious & the sun is sneaking back through the screenless window of the childhood bedroom in his parents house.
The chair fell in the grass, luckily damp with morning dew & no one even stirred
He did it again, a full night of partying in maybe Prague or maybe Osaka and is back just in time to meet the shrieking busses, to help Brooklyn begin rubbing its eyes, brewing coffee, skipping breakfast at the apartment because there is a bagel slathered in shmear nearly one floor beneath us.

My dreams are starting to become dangerously lucid again, I'm finding myself returning to meta-double awakenings. Fearing the worst to open my eyes and see what I was horrified to find there. Struggling to convince my REM state to let me out, forcing my eyelids open with the strength from the pumping blood. Sharp intakes into a pillow, forcing my eyes to remain shut away from the reality of a clock revealing a time I'd much rather not see, counting to ten counting to ten counting to ten eyes shut into a pillow with the softest decorative throw on 86th street cocooning me into the comfort of darkness, convincing myself if there's a Craven keeping me from dreams than this will be my substitute for slumber.

I'm keen on insomnia for a blanket of reasons.

*****
Keys, phone, wallet, metrocard:
a welcome mat prologue to implicating a premeditated impulse--
ecstatic wonder reappropriated.

Trap the lifestyle of perpetuating extenstentions in your undergrad course load,
along with the United Caffeines of America and High Life tall boys;
if you want a wake yourself up head smack in the actual center of the universe
translate your soul into poker chips & gamble it away to Brooklyn.

Shuffle play: it’s that simple;
create that well crafted cozy corner somewhere that is properly pretentious enough to use the exception of the Vowel Rule

Patio tables & Christmas lights above the backyard where you were celebrating a new beginning a mere two months prior--
absentminded contribution to the never- ending train talk
Six train disdain for the sole purpose of the inevitable Bowling Green transfer you'll always forget about when heading downtown after lunch in SoHo
a comment on how Brooklyn that complaint is, catching you off guard

If you're in the stage of the experiment where all the variables are isolated to exclusive independence, replace the place with the city where dreams go to die & reinvent themselves:
proceed with a combination of extreme and fleeting caution.

Find yourself perpetually rushing through the metropolis in motion underground,
bodega breakfasts on benches--
your morning weariness shattered by the subway station's wall sound.

Fumble for your unlimited access jaywalking across Eastern Parkway, glide down the flights of stairs, grab your corner seat right as the conductor warns you to stand clear

We're walking past PeirHouse, a comment on reality as sparks the
"I was going to sign a lease for this place in Hyde Park..."
with an ellipses of finality met by
"But then you moved to New York.'
An adequate completion to a thought absence of a grounded intention to finish.

When your mind is figuratively living elsewhere, book a one way flight, dismiss your possessions, and get it out of your system.

Go through the worst month of your life and begin doubting everything you thought you were able to do. Stop second guessing yourself and make a point to stop winging it.

Find yourself waking up when forgetting to set an alarm after failing to realize that you've entered a life where time will escape you even if you've been clockwatching.
Forget to stop and sink in with surprise when you know you can determine the proper route without begging GoogleMaps to bail you out.

*****


It was one of those nights that felt like a scene in an indie movie that wants to capture a feeling that the English language fails to have an adequate noun for. Something like nostalgia meets infiniteness meet the feeling you get when you’ve been drinking and sitting and you finally stand up and realize how drunk you are meets the tone of a Saligner short story meets laughing so hard you forget what you’re even laughing about.

I just wanted to keep drinking until I forgot I was in Tampa.

*****

It’s a strange phenomenon that small talk is perceived as politeness. For some reason, making conversation about the weather is synonymous with how genuinely good of a person you are. You are exchanging words with somebody you don’t know about something nobody cares about. As somebody who has worked in hotels for the past six years and was born in Minnesota, where real manners are legitimate, I find small talk to be...inconsiderate. I don’t think that’s necessarily a conscious realization for most people. Herein the problem lies, and it’s complex for layers of the human psyche I am (probably falsely) convinced I have some understanding of from a combination of undergrad psych classes and general overthinking.

We’re often forced to have interactions with other human beings we would otherwise never have encountered because of things like grocery stores and restaurants and plumbing services and doctor office reception desks and the list goes on and on and on. In other words, you are often interacting with people who are working while you are not working, even though you likely work a similar amount of hours per week. In doing so, you feel compelled to combine politeness and professionalism in this interaction, which somehow results in small talk. As though just being nice during this interaction that only actually needs a few necessary exchanges of sentences isn’t good enough, you instead add another layer of the interaction to make it seem less formal and less routine. The funny thing about small talk is everybody small talks about the same thing, so even though whoever is initializing it is having an original conversation about something generic for the first time that day, the initial is having the same fucking conversation they have already had X amount of times that day, but is forced into pretending as they care.


I guess there are two more relevant points to bring up. First of all, it’s seemingly much better to be a chronic small talk starter than it is to be a straight-up asshole. It’s appreciated that an effort into being polite is being made, but the problem is, you can still be nice without faking conversation. Besides, what’s the point if you’re being nice anyway? Chances are we’ll never interact again after that minor small talk excuse of a conversation. If we do interact again and the first time we had some bullshit small talk, chances are that will be less memorable than if you had just initially been nice and not tried to force it. It’s a slippery slope.


Secondly, though, the guy who is being a dick to the stranger is never going to win. If your first instinct upon meeting somebody you have no connection with beyond the immediate interaction that will be over shortly is to be mean, then I don’t want to know how you treat people you would see more regularly or all the time. But I can’t help but play the devil’s advocate on this situation, or any for that matter. At least if you’re being a dick and you’re kinda just a dick than you’re being more real than the small talkers. You can’t trust small talkers. Their moods will shift upon any minor inconvenience. They will be pleasant until they don’t get what they want, and then the small talk goes into a more full force douchebag mode than the person who was initially a dick upon first interaction. At least with the person who wasn’t nice, to begin with, you can only expect the worst of them and are surprised when you grow on them and you get some form of genuine politeness from them.

*****

There is a phenomenon referred to as puppy love,

I'd call it infatuation.

It entails impulsive decisions, like moving into a dorm room because entrails and insomnia, Christmas lights, a remarkable iTunes selection. And drugs.

It entails irrational decisions, like moving to a picturesque town so tiny that it should truly remain in a children's book as a model of a Christmas village because nitrous oxide and insomnia, barren walls, a vast knowledge of the Grateful Dead. And pharmaceuticals.

You'll lose bits of yourself until you've lost entire pieces. Crying becomes so commonplace that your eyes feel dry if you skip a day. You feel hostage by a door that never fully shuts. In a room that will never be clutter free. You've blocked off the scene with caution tape. You maintain a level of discomfort, indicative of knowing the blueprints of an escape plan your mind is unknowingly crafting.

The memories remain in a scrapbook that your heart slowly begins removing photos from. Puppy love proves impermanent. You accidentally discard the moments. This doesn't phase you.

There's a completely separate phenomenon, spared from cliche.
I'd call it being enamored.

You won't know when it began, but chances are it can be traced back to the moment you met. It isn't love at first sight, but it is what others would qualify as love at first sight.

You'll meet by measured chance. You'll meet independent of expectation. Nerve won't influence behavior because there is no preconceived notion to impress: nerve will kick in a few years later.


*****

Two weeks until New York & my heart hasn't stopped pounding painfully into my gut for weeks:
color Brooklyn,
beneath bridges
the beer bottles.

One bar tab away from making tonight the most memorable of the week...
An air mattress, hardwood floors--
I'm running in place, chasing platforms
because I'd hit the point where I'd begin to realize there was no moving forward until I got this one out of my system.

The first thing you learn when planning to move to NYC is you won't want to tell anyone you are moving to NYC. First of all, nobody will think you'll follow through. Even if you have proof of travel information, they think you won't follow through.
If you do start spreading news, be it selectively: tell your best friend, one of your three siblings, your friends in NYC.

This reason is twofold:
1. Telling everyone will make you start fretting your ability to actually make it there. You'll begin revisiting the initial fears all writer's writers have before making the decision, the ones you mentally wrote rebuttals for (because you even had to argue with yourself about the logistics). You'll be putting them into good use once the word spreads.

2. Telling a few people who have the background story to support your decision will ensure that you will not get stuck. They will offer words of support when you don't expect them and, more importantly, when you need them most pertinently.
Tell your sister because you'll want to have someone who will make you feel like you're not leaving merely out of spite and to remind you to come home for the holidays. Tell your best friend because she will not accept you flaking on this decision. Tell your friends in NYC, shit, tell all of them. They will serve as a constant reminder that your life is about to change completely. They'll be excited about your arrival. They'll casually fill you in on their days to keep your interest sparked because living in NYC is about subscribing to a full time hobby: NYC.

The next thing you learn is your brain will break. You'll realize you have no idea how to move to NYC. The casual research will become obsessive. You will forget how to entertain small talk. You will forget to offer courtesy laughs. You'll sacrifice socializing to scour sublet listings. Your mind is lost on the MTA while your body entertains going through the motions of reality.

You'll learn how to bounce ideas off of people about the best route of action in a subtle, polite manner. You will be timid about prompting for direct insight. You'll realize New Yorkers love giving input about living in New York. Like I said, it's a full time hobby.

You'll learn the general spatial outline of the neighborhoods, you'll be able to know which avenues separate certain clusters of Brooklyn from looking at listings.

 

They Can't Close Us Down, We're Pirates

Would You Rather:
1. Sell Out
OR
2. Be Strictly Regulated by Government Officials?

 

 

It recently came to my attention that my 16 year ol nephew did not understand the concept of selling out, which made me feel both really old and also incredibly disappointed in how un-punk rock Gen Z is. For those who don’t know, the phrase “selling out” (in its most common, colloquial form) refers to a person or group of people (typically musicians, but widely applicable) sacrificing their integrity, authenticity, or morality for personal gain (read: almost always money).

Take The Money, Run, Take The Money, Run

What I found most when I first learned about the orgins of broadcast radio in the US and England was the route each country respectively took for funding. I wasn’t surprised to learn America took the advertising route or that England veered toward a government-funded program that taxed the people and gave them total control of the airwaves (presumably after they mocked America’s approach to be feeble and fruitless). I did, however, stop and think about how these choices ultimately played out for both countries.

Well You Know, We All Want To Change the World

On the other hand, it’s fascinating to consider what happened with the English model for funding broadcasting. Although I disagree with government-controlled and monitored airwaves, there is something to be said about the defiance that occurs when people feel like they are being underrepresented in popular culture or their voices are being oppressed. It’s the fuel of successful revolutions, which is kind of what happened with the BBC model. Mind you, the revolution I am talking about is not monumental on a human or social rights scale, per se, but it was one of noteworthy cultural impacts: pirate radio.

Luckily, a music loving Irishman with his own ship came to save the day. He did so by using a method that Americans who wanted to broadcast controversial ideas outside of the main broadcasting networks in the US did: sailing half a mile off the coast and no longer being subject to broadcasting laws.

Without knowing who was even listening, the first pirate radio station in England hit the airwaves and massive success followed. Pirate radio stations grew rapidly and received massive fan feedback in the form of letters or showing up at the docks by the hundreds. Eventually, England passed legislation that outlawed the loopholes that allowed pirate radio in the first place but were left with an audience of 15 million people with nowhere to listen to music. As a result, the BBC recruited these pirate DJs who probably had the best music taste in the world at that time and started Radio 1.

Beatlemania, and the Lesser Talked About Mick Jagger Mania

What makes pirate radio so epic is what it did for the music and what that music, in turn, did for culture. Part of the appeal was the rebellion, but a much bigger part was the amazing music listeners were being exposed to that they would have no way of hearing otherwise because the mainstream music scene disdained it. The only other way to find this alternative music would be living in an area where these bands were playing shows. Pirate radio exposed their audiences for the first time to bands like The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, and so on, and it would have been so much harder for these bands to get any major airplay without these illegal broadcast stations. The success of these stations came from the quality of the music and the massive popularity of rock n’ roll could no longer be ignored by the government or by the popular culture. These bands opened up a whole new world for young people to be themselves, embrace thinking alternatively and differently than previous generations, and eventually change the closed-minded societies they were living in.

To recap: America did not believe the government should regulate broadcasting stations and took private funding which perhaps became the foundation of sell out culture in America. England government officials did the opposite of America which prompted a small act of rebellion that opened the doorway to something way bigger than just the pirate radio stations: a monumental shift in ideas and values in both European and American cultures that had connections to the rise of rock n’ roll music.

My major takeaway from all of this ended up being having a better understanding of McLuhan’s sentiment that “the medium is the message.” What I outlined in this unnecessarily long blog post helped me reconsider my understanding of McLuhan’s writings. So what was the medium of the radio sending as a message? In America, the idea of free speech is so important culturally that it seems like we will do whatever it takes to defend that right, but did the system put in place with radio for funding “free speech” corrupt the idea of free speech in and of itself? Did it put a dollar value on the integrity of the Americans then, and is that still happening now? In England, the desire to imperialize the globe and control everything seemed to be the norm, so naturally broadcasting would follow suit. If they hadn’t, would rock n’ roll music have gotten so popular so quickly? Would the counterculture ideas and art that are associated with or stemmed from rock n’ roll music and the spirit/mentality of rock n’ roll played out like they did? I could very well be wrong, but even if I am, feel like it is still worthwhile to consider.

 
 

An Incomplete Retelling of All of the Things, Abbreviated

The multiverse had plans for me, scheming against me for my own good.

     If we’re being real here, though, this specific feeling had been coming back more than ever in 2019. The track on the CD that always skipped, despite multiple trials of Windex troubleshooting followed by a desperate last-ditch attempt of toothpaste repair. Snoozing became a part of my routine, sacrificing appearance for a few extra minutes in bed; a few more moments where I didn’t have to spend roughly 88% of my day faking it. Living on the edge as ordering my Uber while still lying in bed and letting the minutes until its arrival dictate the amount of time I had to get ready. 

Was the point of moving to the city to be miserable but in the city instead of a suburban Southern state?
   

     Enamored by the bright lights and stoic city boys upon my first visit to NYC, I knew it was where I needed to be. About five months BNYC (before NYC, of course), the idea was a fantasy fueled by three visits in under a calendar year and an eclectic array of pop culture obsessions:  I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, all the beat and jazz poetry I studied in college, How I Met Your Mother, Chuck Klosterman, all those indie movies I watched and rewatched and rewatched in high school.
     There was a conversation under fluorescent corporate lights in a small office of an old courthouse/now boutique hotel in downtown Tampa:

“I don’t want to burn out here. I just want to actually be happy.”

“If you aren’t happy now, moving to New York won’t fix that. You’ll just be living in New York, but still be unhappy.”

   

      The messy synapses of my mind settled on stubbornness. A few months later, there was a one-way ticket met by disbelief and an unspoken understanding of almost everyone: they’d give me a few months before an expected welcome back to the sunshine and car culture. I studied Brooklyn geography from afar, attempting to overcome my inherent lack of cardinal direction. A few carry-ons packed in the hastiest manner. 

     It wasn’t long after my arrival that the conversation struck me again. The platform paradoxes, the cement’s ungodly tolerance for sunshine absorption along with an unforeseen amount of nonexistent artificial air, a morning of too many unprecedented rooftops. A bookshelf overflowing with every canonical necessity and niche contemporary classic. How many did you actually finish?
     The darkness set in sometime between the night of a mysterious orange, a misfited fitted sheet, and 4:30pm. Frozen vegetable soup, two fleece throw blankets, one light jacket, and a season so long that even the clocks forgot how to properly tell time.

 “It doesn’t matter where you are. Where you are won’t make you happy. You have to figure it out for yourself before you can actually be happy.”

      Sometimes the primary literary cognition of my mind stumbles back into the rationality of the universe. Energy cannot be destroyed, merely transferred. It recovers from the fall rather quickly, a rapid internal poetic quip about the inescapability of gravity and a subtle glance around to make sure nobody saw that before continuing back on through the often poorly maintained terrain of symbolism, irony, allegory, and all that other vegetation that’s easy to forget the name of.
     It’s the love of music, the love of words, the love of linguistics; the understanding that language, at its core, is arbitrary. It’s the understanding that, despite the inconsequential nature of a pattern of letters or chords, symbolism is found through intangible nouns that are, at their essence, merely symbols. It’s an acceptance that neurosis strummed chords are heightened by the reverb. It would be easier to opt for a capo at the end of the guitar, shorten the sounds, lessen the sensationalism. Is it actually a choice though?

 

*********

           
     My adult life has had a surplus of interacting with communities of people trying so hard. I went to a high school that was located across the street from a cow pasture. There was literally only one two-lane road to get to the school that was essentially at a dead end. The town my high school alma mater is located in is world renowned for their strawberries.
    After that experience, the 18 year old me who was totally uninformed about the real world (but convinced I possessed wisdom beyond my years) fell victim to the need for more meaning. Something heady before I even got it. Enter: a tiny liberal arts school akin to Reed. You didn’t get grades, you got narrative evaluations.
     The first year dorms were designed by IM Pei, built upon the old Ringling Circus estate. If you were lucky one of your classes would be on the second floor of Charles Ringling’s mansion, overlooking the bay. You don’t need shoes, you don’t need your cell phone because service is shit everywhere on campus anyway; just don’t forget to always have your dorm key on you. There was a “free store” in the student center where students would leave their old junk for you to happily hoard while trashing materialistic lifestyles. There were psychedelics galore.

   

     A few years later, I ended up in Brooklyn. Add designer shoes allegedly bought at thrift shops and subtract the old wave hippie mentality. The algebra does not quite add up, but find yourself in a geographical region uniquely its own version of genuine.
     Vast is an understatement in Brooklyn topography.  A year lease equates to, say, 750 times walking the same block to and from the train, yet you’ll never be able to notice every detail. A 1000 piece puzzle completed, yet somehow you just keep finding more pieces. Layers of history impossible to ever uncover, gradually being overthrown by some hip storefronts. Appealing, yet permeating with impermanence.

     When you have the desire to steer your outdated sports car off the paved highways and test out how it will do upon a few dirt roads, you have to be prepared for the people who are on that same detour too. You have to learn that there will be some cars with their hazards on and horror in their eyes at an unmarked four way stop, driving the most recent make of their vehicle model. “It was a graduation gift from my parents, the car.”
     You know if a person isn’t trying too hard when they are driving the car on the last leg of its life--the passenger door bungee corded shut, still rolling up their windows by hand, but a modern radio they splurged on and spent hours watching YouTube videos to install on their own. 
There’s something inherently untrustworthy about the 21st century.
     We’ve reached the moment where capitalism fueled and happily expedited a long-predicted reality: all things natural cannot keep up. The world is literally on fire and society is figuratively on fire too.
     As humans, we literally have no idea what the fuck to do because big tech entrepenuers decided that a big dick energy competition was more worthwhile than letting the planet and the human race evolve at the appropriate pace. We haven’t evolved enough to navigate all the bullshit surrounding us. If you just decide to fall off the grid, what would your life be now that you’ve been exposed to the ease of being on it? Yet, by being in it, aren’t we just falling into the trap? Here we are, living through the prequel of a dystopian novel that was never written, yet immobilized into it by the constant stimulation.