I have been trying to write this for the last 24 hours. Pick it up, put it down, erase, erase, let's try again, now from this angle, let's talk about this. Let's look forward, let's look back, let's watch as Randall exits 2010 as he entered it, with overblown hyperbole and a self-deprecating wank-fest.
No, we musn't dwell. Not today. I can't look back. I mean, I can, I do, regularly, but it all blurs together, the laundry list of unfulfilled promises, missed opportunities, and broken hearts stacking up far beyond the past twelve months, into this, these times I hope one day I'll be able to look back on, and label my "lost years." That time when my effort, enthusiasm, and ambition refused to make nice, when I sacrificed my wants for others, because dammit, it's not like I knew what I wanted anyway. And then I'll look back, and laugh at myself, for being on the cross, for taking myself too seriously, for not taking myself seriously enough.
Today is not that day. Today is the last day of the year of our lord, two-thousand and ten, in the first part of the new millennium, and in lieu of looking backwards, or anticipating what is or isn't to come, I'll just say what's on my mind, in this moment, and hope it won't seem as trivial in a year, or ten.
And what's on my mind is concern, concern for my brother, who yes, I hardly mention here, who is eighteen now and headed into the service, newly enlisted in the army, and whose call I, not feeling well yesterday, missed, putting off a little longer the conversation I don't want to have yet. When he tells me himself [as his mother -- our mother-- told me before], and I ask why, and he says what he'll say, and I'll say he has to do what feels right. Because, let's face it, all he has to do is what feels like, not listen to me, not pay any mind to the laundry list of objections I won't voice to him, that I haven't even put together in my head. It's his life, and this might well be what's best for him, and just because I had a hippie-phase, a "damn-the-man" tie-dye upbringing, and a left-wefty, wibbly-wobbly, art-school... thing, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with serving one's country. In fact, if I wanted anyone defending me, it'd be a kid as sharp as him, and swift and savvy. Perhaps he's the start of a new renaissance, a Hemingway who just really doesn't like to read, so... a Hemingway, really.
I love you, baby brother. And I'm proud of you, proud for you.
And what's on my mind is Balbao, and Arizona, and what I can only imagine was the depression-fueled or restlessness-fueled writer's jag that made Eric decide, as I imagine he often does, not to wallow, to do something, and set out to print Normal, which somehow set Ander on me, to send me an e-mail and suggest a collaboration from half a world away [farther? Geography was never my strong suit]. A collaboration which gave me something, sure, something small, but something finished, a project that, for a change, actually worked out, a Hail Mary pass for my shriveling, neurotically-hindered output, never really finishing anything. And yet it happened, happened in the same spirit that pushed me to start linking the works of others from Twitter this past year, in the same spirit that Sarah Marcus wrote about in "Girls to the Front," how "being in the company of other restless, ambitious minds helped motivate" but could "also be discouraging," but how we can "all be brilliant together..." And yes, what Sarah wrote about, it didn't quite work for the riot grrrl feminists like they hoped, but who are we to say it can't ever work, creatively? That we're surrounded by these brilliant people, who we can work with, instead of compete with. Raise up instead of hold down -- and doing that won't hold us back too.
Thank you Eric, and Ander, and Sarah Marcus.
And what's on my mind is a picture, one I saw just a few days ago, of a girl I hardly know, though I feel like I know exceptionally well, if not superficially well, from her writing, from the face she puts out there, who in this picture was standing in the parking lot of her personal wasteland. A place she thought she wanted to be ages ago, a place she got away from, first through success, and then through actual success, when she realized what she wanted ages ago just wasn't what she wanted anymore. So she packed up, and moved to Austin, and when she went back to that place, and someone snapped that picture of her in that wasteland, she didn't look like Lear -- she looked beautiful. Like she didn't have to stay.
I hope that's true for all of us, Lauren. That we're not all merely players, that there is life beyond the blasted heath.
And what's on my mind is the passion, the passion of a friend to work on something massive, a list of, of all things, wrestling matches, capped off at a fitting one hundred, the best one hundred of the year. Something he loved, that he still loves, that I saw him struggle and get frustrated with, because this wasn't work that paid, this wasn't for anyone other than him, and yet, it no longer felt so much like it was for him. And I got frustrated too, that it through off our schedule, that I missed things I might have wanted to see -- and he will read that, and be more hurt by it than all the praise I can heap here, but I hope he can look beyond it, and know how much I respect what he did. About how he didn't let little things like money, or health, practicality dictate what was important, how he reminded me that sometimes what's important has nothing to do with any of those things, and how what's important sometimes just looks and feels like wasted time.
I waste a lot of time, John. I needed you to remind me how much of that wasn't actually wasted.
And what's on my mind is Twitter, how such a little, trifling thing has given me just a little boost of confidence, how writers I respect have sent me well-wishes [on occasion] there, how artists whose talent I drool over will actually engage me, how musicians I'm over the moon for actually follow me, and how for every @ ignored by people I might actually see in real life, occasionally, at four in the morning, Emma-Lee Moss will joke with me about fake-IDs and fake Wikipedias, and remind me of something that has nothing to do with Twitter or the internet, or anything else.
Except for that song I sent to that girl I know. And how we stayed up one night and watched Emmy the Great bounce around to a few bars of "Hallelujah."
And what's on my mind is The Social Network, which I just barely watched in time for this year to be over, and which, for review after review of hearing it's overrated, or deficient, or negligent, for a guy like me, who pounds out line after line of dialogue sleeplessly in the morning, watched as Aaron Sorkin strung words together like poetry. And how for a moment I got as close as I think I ever will to feeling what the groundlings must have felt while listening to Shakespeare at the Globe. And while yes, I know, I studied under the best, and in movie-making what the characters say is only part of the artistry, but... for me I was reminded what I aspire to. In comics, in movies, in everything.
That rhythm I chase... that rhythm with no music. Nasty, blunt-headed things, put wonderfully.
And what's on my mind is Dad. How could I think about movies without Dad? How often do I see a preview for something, and point and almost say "Oh, he's gonna love that," and then in my head I adjust the tense, and think, kind of spitefully, "Really, Dad? You couldn't have hung on just two more years? Jeff Bridges in True Grit, how can you -- you of all people! -- be missing that?" And then I laugh, because really, what a stupid thing to get angry about, what a trivial thing, in comparison to everything else he's missed. How going out means getting stopped, no matter how I look, how I'm dressed, to "You're Nick's son, right?" and how sorry they are. And such an eclectic cast of characters, everyone who asks.
How often I feel like supporting cast in your story, Dad. But the protagonist's gone now. I miss you.
And what's on my mind is how I miss everyone. And how glad I am that so many time differences line up with my insomnia. And how I have so many reminders of everyone, here with me, tangible things stacked to my ceiling, paintings, letters, and comics and postcards and books, the Joan Didion I'm reading -- "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" -- and the Communist luchador button I'm still trying to find a place for. Things should not replace people, but as prompts, in a solitary life, where sometimes I can even forget what day it is... it's all right.
Happy New Year, my friends. I hope you all have someone important to you nearby tonight, and that you will forgive this gimmick, and my sentimentality.
And here's to 2011.