The Inventor Of A Place Where The Place Is Not

I am an inventor of a place where the place is not.

I am pleased with the results of my invention.

Outside my back door I have simulated Northern California.

Outside my front door is the suburbs of Southern California.

I grew up in Northern Califonia. I currently reside in the suburbs of Southern California and experience a kind of subtle homesickness the moment I walk out my front door. This homesickysickness has forced me to become an inventor of a place. I call it a homesickysickness to reduce the painfulness of the expereince.

Homesickysickness creates a longing in a person to be somewhere they are not. It is a painful experience, especially when the longing is for a radically different place than the place in which one is.

Southern California is not that far from Northern California. An ambitous person could drive a car back and forth between the two, twice, in one day. But still, North and South could not be further apart. They are two totally different universes with absolutly nothing in common. I often state that a person should need a passport to go from one to the other. They are that radically different.

Make no mistake about it, California is a bipolar state.

The Southern California suburbs are even more radically different than Northern California suburbs. Even the birds, driveways, parks and mailboxes look different here.

In Northern California there is green. Green everywhere. And water seems to be more prevalent. And clean air. The light is different. The food tastes fresher. The lifestyle is more laid back. Artists and readers are not in hiding.

In Northern California I would often spend my days reading and felt fine about it. I would see other prolific readers around town. In Southern California I feel like I am doing something wrong when in a book for too long.

In Northern California my attention span and diet seemed to flourish. In Southern California there is too much distraction to care about these things.

In Northern California the culture is much more progressive and the people are slower, more bohemian and, well I hate to say it, but more well read. I lived in Northern California for forty years and never met a white person proud of their guns. In the Southern California suburbs white people are proud of their guns everywhere.

Televisions are everywhere in Southern California suburbs. It is probably the same up North but I like to think more channels are on public televsion networks up North. I could be wrong.

In Southern California there is brown and some green. My eyes spend an entire day searching for a significant patch of green in LA.

People here move too fast. People work too much. Facades masquerade for the real person. Image is king.

Heat and sun are constant. Style counts most. Culture is visual. Education levels are mediocre and general at best. The norm is found everywhere one looks. Those who are radically different are either in hiding or do not exist.

I never, ever, ever, ever see people reading books in Southern California but everyone is on phones. People tend to dislike each other a lot more in Southern California. It is a hostile place. The political zeitgiest is conservative.

I am a stranger in a strange land.

As a result I have become the inventor of a place in my backyard. I have grown trees and plants that are specific to Northern California. I have created an atmosphere that is Northern California. I even have a small redwood tree that refuses to grow.

My backyard is a laid back place with plenty of different areas to read and a teardrop trailer to nap in. I water constantly to maintain the green. I have built fire pits and hung hammocks from trees. I have captured several birds and squirrels from Northern California and set them free in my backyard. Most have gone back up North, despite being well fed.

I have stolen road signs from Northern California and placed them around my yard. I have taken these road signs down because seeing them just makes me too sad. I always end up putting them back up. And then taking them back down. And then putting them back up.

I am continually at work on creating a place where the place is not.

It has become an obsession. It is what I do to keep myself from becoming too depressed.

My wife gets mildly frustrated that I do not go out my front door as much as she would like. I tell her to please go run free in the world out there but she always prefers to stay with me. Okay then, lets get wine and smokes and go into the backyard, I say.

Why would I go out there more than I must? There is little I want to see, smell, taste or hear out there. Everyone is moving too fast. Normalizing Capitalistic Propaganda has been most successful here and everyone is pissed off about it happening to them. No, I prefer to stay in my backyard where sanity can be found.

Visualizing a landscape in Northern California can put me to sleep in under two minutes. I have not had the same result with my various Southern California visualizations.

I do almost everything in my backyard. I love my backyard in the same way a person loves a beloved dog or a penis or an iPhone. I only go out my front door when I must. I try to go for walks but always return home depressed. As a result most of my life is passed in the Northern California of my Southern California backyard. I prefer things this way. I feel home here. My anxiety is diminished and homesickysickness dissipates.

I am able to invent a place which is not the place I am in by creating an environment which allows me to forget the place I am in. This is the most important aspect of being an inventor of a place where a place is not- the invented place must be good enough that it enables forgetfulness and as a result encourages the imagination to become real.

Come visit me sometime in Northern California if you are ever in LA.

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Making It As A Writer And/Or Artist

The first trick is to not let the depression of not making it kill you. Everything else is easy in comparison.

I have no idea how to make it as a writer and/or artist. I have been trying for over two decades and am only a bit closer than I was ten years ago. I have tons of unfinished novels and graphic novels and short stories just sitting there waiting to be edited and sent out into the world. But for whatever reason, I have not been able to finish any of it.

I write these blog entries (or what I like to tell myself are essays) because it is an easy way to create something and be done with it. But at the end of the day self-publishing these blog entries (essays) amounts to nothing. I am no closer to reaching my goal of making it as an writer and artist than I was decades ago. If anything, blogging just slows that process down.

So who am I to write about making it as a writer and/or artist? Nobody. I have no idea how to do it. For me, it is like trying to solve a crossword puzzle that is in a language I do not speak. I just can’t seem to figure it out.

But if I do know something about something, what I know something about is the process involved in making it as a writer and/or artist. I know this part of the work very well because I have been stuck in the process for the past twenty plus years.

The one and most important thing that I want to say about the process involved in maybe one day making it as a writer and/or artist is that it is a real son of a bitch. It will never leave you alone. It is like an itch that you can’t scratch. You will always feel like you should be working on something. That is ok though. As annoying as it is, when that goes away, you are done.

As long as you still have this unscratchable itch to write and/or make art, to be somebody as an artist and/or writer, the hardest part is keeping that itch alive. To keep the itch alive you must be fully committed to it. You may become a doctor, a business manager, a real estate agent, a psychotherapist, a waiter, a police officer, a teacher and on and on. After all, we all have bills to pay if we want a decent life along the way. But you must see these jobs as just a way to buy time. You are never able to fully commit to any profession other than that of being an artist and/or writer. Whatever you do for money or whatever schooling program you may be in, if you want to ever make it as a writer and/or artist, you have to always see these things as just a way to buy time.

Everything the writer and/or artist does prior to making it as a writer and/or artist is just buying time. You are just fooling people just enough so they will pay you to do something but your heart is never really fully in it. The moment your heart is fully in doing whatever it is you do to make money, you are finished in your process of ever really making it a writer and/or artist.

This is the hard part. Hard because most will never, ever make it as a writer and/or artist. You will just be buying time for your entire life. Some, the few, will make it and even if they are in their sixties when they do, it will feel great. But most will never make it. I am probably one of them who never will. But by just living a life where you are buying time so that you will not be fully suffocated by economic demands and end up giving up on your dream of one day making it as a writer and/or artist, I think is worth something in the end. In the end, what will matter most is that you stayed true to yourself. That you continued to try. That you stuck with it. And even though a lot of depression will come along with your lack of success and the hardship involved in continually trying but not getting anywhere, the depression and despair will ultimately (if you are lucky) be the fuel that keeps you true to your vision.

This is how I guess one makes it as a writer and/or artist. You must remain true to your vision. You must buy time and be prepared to lose everything. You must find ways to cope with the depression so it does not end up killing you (and your vision) too soon. And if you keep at it, if you keep slaving away and are lucky to live long enough, maybe you might just make it as an writer and/or artist someday. Maybe not. But that is not what will matter in the end, I suspect.

Buy time.

The Wall of Lonely and Unstable and Strange Men

I recently finished a project called The Wall of Lonely and Unstable and Strange Men. It is a wall drawing that I used black ink pens to draw, over the course of the past year. The idea came from a group of mentally challenged men who walk past my house, several days a week, on their outings. They are some of the less fortunate members of society, the one’s who have dropped out of the game. I thought I would pay tribute to them in some small way. It was a pain in the ass. The first few days were fun but after that I kept thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” Now that it is finally finished, I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy and thank you for your support.

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Notes From The Present Moment, Part Two.

Are you kidding me? Do you really believe this present moment bullshit? You got to be joking. Oh I stay present and just watch my depression like it is a cloud moving across the sky. What a bunch of bullshit. Do you really want to soften your personality like that? Do you really want to not deeply feel? Do you really want to become some new age, enlightened meditor? You would lose so much of who you are.

Maybe it is good to not be so reactive. Maybe it is good to not be so stressed out. But there are other ways to go about it than engaging in this New Age speak. The Greeks and many philosophers gave us much more intelligent solutions to the problem of suffering than mindfulness ever will. Do you really need to use mindfulness? Cant you find more intelligent ways to get through life?

Nothing wrong with emotions man. Nothing wrong with being caught up in negative thinking all the time. It’s what makes great art. It is the soil from which most creativity grows from. Life is suffering. It is a difficult thing and the creative person deals with this truth by making some kind of art. The moment you just become present and let thoughts and emotions come and go in a detached and mindful way- you will become less interesting to yourself and the world.

Don’t do that!

Struggle. Feel pain. Get pissed off. Cry. Be depressed. Be miserable. This stuff gives you character. It gives you personality. It brings forth the interesting art that is within you. Stop being a sissy. Knock it off with this mindfulness, new age mythology. Stop it with the Buddhist rhetoric. It is so cliche at this point. Get on with your life. Feel like shit if you feel like shit. Get depressed if you want. Have some courage. Deal with the hard shit head on. Your favorite writers and poets went deep into despair, they did not just breathe around it.

Get your head out of your ass. Life sucks. It has its brilliant and beautiful moments as well. Embrace all of it. Don’t use bullshit excuses and meditative practice to try and deal with it. Just make art. Read. Feel it. Write. Live life as fully as you can. Living life fully does not mean being happy and fully present all the time! It means feeling what it means to be you. Really feeling it. Getting lost in it. Going deep into your darkness. Working things out within yourself and coming back up to the surface with some kind of interesting, insightful and engaging art. That is the best any human can do.

Why I Quit Being An Artist In America

I am not happy about it. It is the source of a feeling of daily defeat and frustration for me. I have yet to reconcile myself to a less creative and more economically driven life. But I had no choice. I gave it all that I had for many years, but I was getting older. I was reaching a point of no return. I had to make a choice. I chose to go back to graduate school and become a “professional.” Is there anything more antithetical to being an artist than being a professional? I don’t think so. It is the ultimate insult to a creative life.

But this is what America does to people. It turns them into professionals of one sort or another. America forces a person to specialize in order to make a legitimate income. Most people go willingly. They prefer to specialize and live a more comfortable life. Life certainly is easier this way. Get a degree, a license, and start a business of some sort and you are on your American way. With enough commitment, anyone can get there because this is the American way. There is nothing more normal in America than a degree, a license and a business. It is just what the vast majority of people do.

But in one way or another, the artist resists this kind of normalization. This is why they have chosen to be an artist in most cases. They want to live a different kind of life. They want to live a life not defined by degrees, licenses and business transactions. Artists are searching for a different, less specialized, more creative way to live a life. But America does not like this. America wants everyone to do what it believes is culturally and economically correct. America wants everyone to conform and for those who don’t- they will be punished. They will be punished by having to work marginalizing jobs, live in undesirable conditions, experience disappointment from family members, receive no government or family support, constant public shaming/disregard and a chronic feeling of failure that often will not leave the artist alone. To be an artist in America requires an immense inner strength, conviction and courage that most Americans have squeezed out of them by the time they are handed their college diplomas.

I still make art. I hope I will always make art. But I no longer make art in the way a person needs to make art in order to earn the title of being an artist. An artist is not someone who makes art on the weekends or when they can. An artist is committed to art. This is what they do. They make art all the time. 9am until late in the evenings. Almost every day. I cannot think of any other profession or line of work that requires more time and self-discipline (with as little economic and societal reward) as being an artist does. Being an artist is a remarkable thing but it is also brutal. When you are in the process of making the art there is nothing else in the world that feels more meaningful and rewarding. You are doing exactly what you feel you should be doing with your life. But when you step out of the creative process, life can feel pretty bleak. You need to figure out how you are going to pay that bill or you need to bundle up because the room that you are renting or the apartment in the ghetto is freezing cold. Make no mistake about it- being an artist in America absolutely sucks.

Look at who the vast majority of Americans admire. It’s men in suits, hard working professionals slaving away at their jobs. People in the military or government jobs. Bureaucrats and athletes, doctors and lawyers. When have you ever heard a newscaster or a politician say the word “artist” outside of when a bunch of them tragically perish in a terrible fire? Most Americans think that these American Idol winners or high grossing actors are artists. These pop stars and Hollywood actors have colonized the word artist but they could not be any further from what an artist is. Instead, they are just cut out figurines posing as artists. They just end up making life even more punishing for the real artists at work in America.

An artist in America is usually a poor person who works day after day at their art with little or no recognition in return. An artist is someone who is doing what they are doing not for the money but because they love the creative process. If they make money from the creative process, great. If not, great. Either way they are committed to the creative process in a way that makes most other people’s level of commit to their work look flakey in comparison. But to be a professional in America you do not have to be that committed. You just need to show up and do your work with a smile, no matter how painful it feels. You need to be able to fake your commitment really well but when you go home at night you can enjoy the comforts of a warm home and talk lots of trash about how much you hate your job. An artist never does this. They are in love with their work, even to the extent that their work has forced them to live in the freezing cold.

Fuck America for doing this to its artists. This country should be ashamed of itself. We are all slaves to the mighty dollar and anyone who is not- we punish. I could no longer hang with the punishment, so I quit. I called it a day. I threw my brushes out. I couldn’t take being demeaned in my bartending job anymore. I couldn’t take the feeling that I was a failure every time I sat down to a family meal. I could not take not having enough money to support myself. I could not take other people’s disappointment in me. I couldn’t take knowing that I was possibly going to still be broke at the age of fifty five. I couldn’t take the immense amount of silence that I received when I tried to get my art out into the world. I could not take the feeling that being an artist in America really had no point (unless you are willing to completely sell out and become a professional artist).

I now have a warm house. I have some money in the bank. I don’t have to ask my parents for cash (thank god). I have several dogs and a few cars. I run my own business and have a profession. I have the respect of some others and my family seems proud. I am grateful for all of this but I am no longer an artist. This is a source of a lot of pain for me and I cannot seem to make this pain go away, no matter how much I meditate and do yoga.  I am just one more victim of the out of control, anti-creative, American money obsessed machine. Ultimately I have no one else to blame but myself. I jumped ship. I allowed other people’s concern to get the best of me. I chose to go back to graduate school. I am the one who after years of resistance and conviction, became afraid and gave up. The American punishment worked on me. There is no person who I respect more than an artist over the age of 40 in America. The fact that they are over the age of 40 and still fully committed to the process of being an artist is truly a remarkable thing. In my eyes, they are heroes. Despite the harsh conditions and public disdain, these people have managed to continue to stay the creative course and remain artists in a country that resents them for it.

I’m Mad

My wife just asked me, “Are you mad at me?” I said, “No, I’m just mad.”

I am mad about everything right now. What is wrong with anger when it is a logical response to a terrible situation? I am mad that a man like Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. I am mad that I live in a country where the majority of people voted for a man with OBVIOUS and SEVERE Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am mad that all the white, male, power hungry men have won. I am mad about what this will mean for the values of freedom, intellectualism, peace, non-violence, creativity, equality, social justice, integrity, honesty, sharing, environmental consciousness, non-authoritarianism, independence and autonomy that I believe in. I am mad that police officers and the military will get more praise, power and prestige. I am mad that there will be more conformity and worship of money and business. I am mad that people who are not cool will now be in power. I could go on and on, but I am just mad.

I realize that anger is an emotion that arises and then gradually dissolves. This too shall pass. I am mad about this because I want this anger to remain. How else will I be able to continue to oppose and not give in to this catastrophe? The society in which I live will be forever changed. I am mad that American nationalism has now taken over. I am mad that people think that a multi-billionaire is the fit leader of a working class revolution. I am mad at the degree of stupidity and arrogance that has become confused as the way to “Make America Great Again.” America has never not been great but I am mad that it just got a lot worse. I am mad that America is only going to become dumber and even less tolerant than it was before. I am mad that racism and sexism has just been normalized. How does a man who said all the awful things Trump has publicly said get elected to be President? How does a woman who seems like her husband’s puppet get to be first lady? I just do not get it and I am mad about this.

I have a long day at work ahead of me. How am I going to go to work feeling so mad? I was supposed to exercise this morning but I was too mad. I can hear ringing in my ears. I don’t want to leave my house. I feel afraid of anyone who thinks that it is a good idea that Trump has been elected as President. I hope I will be able to control myself if I am confronted by someone like this. I am mad that after having one of the better, cooler and more intelligent Presidents in American history (Obama) we end up with far right, extremist, Republican, uncool, opportunists seizing control. People who actually think building a wall and shooting dissenters are great ideas are now in power. I am mad about this. I am mad that uncool people are now seen by the mass of Americans as being cool. I mean look at Trump’s Vice President. He is a robot. As uncool as a person can get. I could go on and on but I won’t. I know I already said I would stop but when I am mad sometimes I keep going on and on even when I know I should stop. But even my dogs are mad. They have been barking all morning.

*Sorry for any grammar errors. I am too mad to care.

The Countercultural Icon, #2

I’ve always failed at work. I have been failing since I began working. My first job was at a Straw Hat Pizza place in 1987. My high school friends had come in for a slice of pizza and to play Pac-Man in the small arcade inside the pizza establishment. I stealthily poured a pitcher of Coors beer when the manager was not looking and served it to them. They drank beer and played Pac-Man until they were noticed by the manager. Like all supposedly rebellious teenage kids, when the manager threatened them by saying he was going to call the cops, they told him I was the one who had served them the pitcher of beer. I was asked to leave right there and then and told never to step foot back in Straw Hat Pizza.

I hated work from the beginning. I never understood why I had to work. I always felt like work was a waste of time. A waste of a life. To me work has always been a place where someone goes to be miserable and stuck; to be told what to do and pretend that they are happy to do it. I understood that I needed to earn money through working in order to have a non-homeless lifestyle, but I have never been happy about it. I also have always hoped that eventually I would find work that I at least kind of enjoyed.

Life is short. We hear this cliché saying again and again, but it is true. It may feel long when you are living it but the moment you come to your end, life always feels way too brief. So why waste your time? Why do something you do not like and is not in alignment with your values? What is the point of that? Isn’t that what it means to waste a life? Because Adam ate the Apple now that means that I have to slave way at a job that I am not happy at? I have to just suck it up and accept this is the way that work is because of some bullshit Christian myth?

I’ve failed at every job I have had. By fail I mean that I have failed to really be happy about work. To accept it and make the best of it. To feel grateful that I have a job. I always end up resenting my work, as if work is preventing me from doing what I want to do. I have worked as a shoe salesman, a barista, a waiter, a mortuary assistant, a bartender, a Macy’s retail salesperson, a high school teacher, a college professor, a fast food clerk, a modern furniture salesperson, a meditation teacher, a record store clerk at Tower Records and a psychotherapist. I am sure there are jobs that I am forgetting about. Oh yeah, I worked at a bagel place. Every morning I would slice and put cream cheese on the bagels of men and women heading off to their beloved Silicon Valley tech jobs. I always felt like I was on the outside. Why couldn’t I find a dignified job I liked?

I hate authority. I hate people telling me what to do. Fuck you. Anyone who tells another person what to do, anyone who bosses another person around because they know that person needs the job, is not a good human being as far as I am concerned. What kind of person would want to be in a position of authority? Not a good one, in most cases. It is usually a person who is arrogant and on some sort of power trip. They feel so small and insignificant in their own life that they need to be in a position of authority. This is why I have always thought that if I could become a countercultural icon, I could avoid ever having to deal with people in positions of authority. Sure, I would still have to deal with cops and the government, but I could avoid that trap of being dependent on following the rules of authority, in order to get paid.

Being a countercultural icon would involve work that is more self-determined. I could continue to be a rugged individualist without having to have my balls cut off. I could work from home and do what I want to do and actually get paid for it. A countercultural icon creates their work rather than being dependent on other people to create work for them. A countercultural icon’s work is almost always of a creative nature and they get to be themselves without the fear of losing their job or business or reputation or positive Yelp status because someone else does not like them. More or less, countercultural icons get to do what they want. And doing what I want has always appealed to me. Life is just to fucking short to only do what you want on the weekends. Fuck that.

But I have failed at being a countercultural icon. It does not seem to be happening for me. I am beginning to believe that I am doomed when it comes to the working world. No matter what the work is, I will fail. Because my first working experience at Straw Hat Pizza was such a negative one, I was condemned (before even turning 18) to a life filled with failing at work. Even though by many standards I now have a good, well-paying, culturally legitimate job, I am still unhappy about it. I have my own office, I make decent money, I get to help other people, I do not really have an authority figure watching over me, I make my own hours, but still I am miserable. The work I am doing just does not feel like me. I am not a countercultural icon. I am just an average, professional, suburban worker making his honest and unrecognized way in the world. I am a slave to needing others to like me in order to get paid. Maybe I should read more of the way too many positive-thinking-conform-your-mind-to- being-happy-about-being-an-average-person-in-the-system-blogs. But something about all of this really pisses me off.