Apr 28 2006

Slow Learner

Thomas Pynchon, on writing:

Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything – or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance. Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person’s mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. So as a corollary to writing about what we know, maybe we should add getting familiar with our ignorance, and the possibilities therein for ruining a good story.

I believe that applies to more than just writing, but to life in general.

Apr 23 2006

High Fidelity

After the craziness of last weekend, I wanted something a bit more subdued for this weekend. After a family dinner on Friday, most of my weekend, aside from studying and training, was spent nose-in-book. I finished Gravity’s Rainbow (my god, amazing, it cannot share a post with another book), Pynchon’s early stories in Slow Learner (holy shit, some of his early stuff was so bad – and some brilliant), and re-read High Fidelity. I’d spotted HF in a used bookstore when I was selling off a bunch of books, and thought it’d make a good one-day re-read. I forgot how similar (and so dissimilar) I am to the protagonist. Choice quotes:

Me, I’m unmarried – at the moment as unmarried as it’s possible to be – and I’m the owner of a failing record shop. It seems to me that if you place music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can’t afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You’ve got to pick at it, keep it alive and in turmoil, you’ve got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you’re compelled to start all over again. Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship. Maybe Al Green is directly responsible for more than I ever realized.

“I’m sorry to go on about it. But, I don’t know, there’s a lesson in here somewhere, and I want to make sure you get it.”

“I get it. You like Sting but you don’t like Junior Wells, because you’ve never heard of him.”

“You’re being deliberately obtuse.”

“I am, actually, yes.”

She gets up to go.

“Well, think about it.”

And later on, I think what for? What’s the point of thinking about it? If I ever have another relationship, I’ll buy her, whoever she is, stuff that she ought to like but doesn’t know about; that’s what new boyfriends are for.

“So what should I be doing?”

“I don’t know. Something. Working. Seeing people. Running a scout troop, or running a club even. Something more than waiting for life to change and keeping your options open. You’d keep your options open for the rest of your life, if you could. You’ll be lying on your deathbed, dying of some smoking-related disease, and you’ll be thinking, ‘Well, at least I’ve kept my options open. At least I never ended up doing something I couldn’t back out of.’ And all the time you’re keeping your options open, you’re closing them off.”

“Who’s it for?” Laura asks when she sees me fiddling around with fades and running orders and levels.

“Oh, just that woman who interviewed me for the free paper. Carol? Caroline? Something like that. She said it would be easier, you know, if she had a feel for the kind of music we play.” But I can’t say it without blushing and staring intently at the cassette deck, and I know she doesn’t really believe me. She of all people knows what compilation tapes represent.

“But it does, you see. Just because it’s a relationship, and it’s based on soppy stuff, it doesn’t mean you can’t make intellectual decisions about it. Sometimes you just have to, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. That’s where I’ve been going wrong. I’ve been letting the weather and my stomach muscles and a great chord change in a Pretenders single make up my mind for me, and I want to do it for myself.”

Apr 20 2006


Chris, Frenchie, and myself are in some Tahitian-themed bar in the Village at Mammoth, sucking down drinks after a rough day on slopes. The snow had been great, but the wind was hellacious. At mid-mountain, there was so much snow blown around we had a maximum of 10-feet visibility. You couldn’t tell the ground from the sky and the drafts were strong enough to push you uphill when you thought you were going downhill. Never before have I felt so disoriented and isolated. A complete white-out.

As it turns out, we’d all eat shit near the top, but none of us would see each others’ falls (which is always good for a laugh), and we’d get separated on this run. I slid off a catwalk (that I couldn’t see) while carving left, slamming my head sideways into the snowpack. By the time I got up, I didn’t know where anyone was, so I followed gravity, albeit a little more carefully. Not finding them at the bottom of the lifts, I ventured off on my own to the leeward side of the mountain for some fresh snow and tree skiing. (I did have one incredible back-scratcher drop-in from the top of a six foot cornice – enough to get cheers from the liftline – but ended up with face-first belly-up yard-sale slide for the next forty feet. I’d scoped the site earlier, though, and it was pillow soft. Great fun, great snow.)

Eventually we met up for some powerbars and water before finishing up the day on the slopes and dropping in the hotel hot-tub to relax our muscles. Dinner and a few beers later, and we cut to the present: shooting the shit at a soon-to-be-happening nightclub. Until the cougars walk in. Big cougars. And damned if they don’t think we’re the hottest and/or easiest guys in the bar.

Big, Big, Big, Cougar opens it up with “Want to see me pole dance?”

“Um, not really, thanks.”

“No, really, I’m a really great pole dancer.”

At this point, I’m thinking she has a custom-made reinforced pole at home. It sounds mean, but really, she’s huge, way to big to swing from some brass pole – perhaps high-grade aluminum. Fortunately, there are no poles in the bar, but unfortunately, she doesn’t let that stop her. She mimes holding a pole while slamming her body against it, and proceeds to spin around onto the dance floor, and shoves four fingers in her mouth before sloppily massaging her crotch while gyrating. God, is that image ever burned into my head, despite turning as soon as possible.

Another cougar in the group takes advantage of her absence to pounce and tell us, at least three times in the course of a conversation, how she can hang a coathanger from her erect nipple. Okay, I call her and her ample breasts on the bet, and fashion a little hanger-esqe triangle our of bar straws. Right there in the bar, she flops her breast out, ices it up with a cube from her drink, and hangs the triangle from it. Twice. Once from each nipple.

By now we’re trashed, they’re trashed, and we’re torn between finding some cute girls our own age and watching the trainwreck of a spectacle in front of us. But we don’t really have a choice anymore, it’s coming fast and furious; it’s hard to keep up or even disengage. One of the other girls has her hand in Chris’s hair and is asking if he “trims his hedges,” while another one, one seemingly normal aside from the rich patchouli scent, pulls me forcibly out to the dance floor. After about thirty seconds of standard run of the mill dancing, she grabs my hips and slams her crotch into mine ten times, then stops, apologizes, and says, “had to be done,” before walking off. I’m completely shocked. It’s so violent I think I may have pelvic bruising.

I stumble back to the bar where one of the girls has grabbed one of Chris’s or Frenchie’s legs and is attempting to rub her crotch against it while whoever it is that’s getting molested is trying to pull away. Chris gets mauled by Patchouli Cougar – literally, she’s clawing his face and biting his ear – BBB Cougar is up on stage grinding an imaginary pole beckoning to Frenchie, Irish Cougar is slamming my fists against Coathanger Cougar’s breasts King-Kong style while Coathanger Cougar is has a Kung-Fu grip on my crotch.

Eventually, I get to tab out.

I awake hungover as all hell. It’s even colder and windier and dumping snow. I have to pull my beanie cock-eyed down over my smashed goggles, and the wind is even worse on the hill, but the snow is fresh and continual. Never has the mountain seemed more inviting.

Apr 18 2006


Okay, over at Bad Girls Guide – which I find to be both informative and entertaining, and occasionally voice my objections – there was this little meme going on: List 5 things that you absolutely LOVE/admire about the opposite sex. (For full details see the linky. Go ahead, click it.) Here’s a rough breakdown of the 40 or so comments:

  • 12 regarding us showing appreciation of our girls
  • 5 regarding our arms/snuggling/human pillow qualities
  • 5 regarding our soft spots and protective natures
  • 3 regarding how we can distance ourselves from negative emotions
  • 3 regarding our problem solving and knowledge (or at least faking it)
  • 3 regarding our strength/bodies/utility
  • 2 regarding our smell
  • 2 regarding killing bugs
  • 1 very favorite response: “One word: boners.”

It should common sense, but there’s at least one lesson to be pulled out of this: the thing women most love about men, on average, is that we show our women that we love them. I know this wasn’t a scientifically rigorous research project with a large sample size, but I believe the results would extrapolate, particularly since I think it’s what most guys want in a long-term relationship. I’d like to expand this, but my friend karenika already has done so wonderfully, so go read it. (She’s got a ridiculously cute kid to boot.)

So, I’ll push this meme along with some things I admire/love about (good) women, in no particular order:

  • They can make you act like a total fool and you don’t even care. You actually kind of even enjoy it.
  • Their soft skin and Naughty Bits.
  • The waft of a lightly perfumed girl as she breezes past.
  • How they can turn your day around with just a glance or a touch.
  • They’re cute even when they’re being dorky.
  • They’re the only creature that will make you crash you car into a mailbox in order to get a better look, and you’ll think it’s a fair trade.
  • Both their independence and fragility.
  • When you’re out dancing with your girl, it doesn’t matter how poor of a dancer you are. She’ll forgive you. Probably.
  • The complete and utter trust and commitment they provide.
  • Tickling.
  • They can always surprise you, for better or worse.
  • Eyes. Big Bambi baby-doe eyes. Or bedroom eyes. Or both.
  • They can support and challenge you like no other.
  • How they involuntarily dance or wiggle their hips when a song they like comes on, even when just waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Two words: multiple orgasms.

Apr 12 2006

Undercurrents Redux

Interestingly enough, the undercurrents post generated more mail than any other post I’ve written. (Even more than the “bizarre dating stories” posts!) The responses range from “yup, dude, that’s you,” all the way to this gem (excerpted) that gave me a nice warm fuzzy:

Oh, and I always liked your lack of expression … wait, that doesn’t sound right. I wouldn’t characterize it as a “lack of expression”, but rather, (as I perceive you, anyway) a lack of drama that hints at something deeper beneath. A realness. Like the courtyard within the gates of a Japanese house.”

Thank you, T——, that mean a great deal. I just wanted to thank you public, ‘cause you know, sometimes the little comments mean more than you expect. (And I wouldv’e used your full name, I’ve I’d been kind enough to ask you for permission to reprint. But I was lazy.)

Apr 11 2006


During the break in Japanese class last night, we were discussing how you can’t have a sensitive personality if you’re going to learn a foreign language. Even the best student in the class, whose wife is native Japanese, observed, “If you can’t stand looking like an ass 80% of the time, you wont get very far. And that’s if you’re good.” This little theme has cropped up several times in the last few days, and as it turns out it meshes with another piece I’d written – from a journal that doesn’t get published, the private side of my martial arts journals. So, here’s an excerpt from reflections on our last retreat, where we’d done some ropes course work:

“… it turns out I really enjoy ropes activities and climbing, enough so that I’m investigating avenues to learn the technical aspects of climbing. While part of the attraction is appreciation of the technique and physics, there’s also a part of me that relishes the height and potential danger. Internally, it reveals there’s a part of me that needs to walk closer to the edge on occasion, to get to be a ‘white belt’ again and see a whole new world open up. I’m allowed to be the new guy, to make mistakes and have every action and thought be a revelatory experience. Applied to those things which I’m more confident and experienced in, it indicates I’m not being mindful enough: every action and thought while practicing martial arts, photography, working, or anything else, still has the capability to be a learning experience and I need to increase my awareness of this such that every breath is appreciated as something new. To realize I’m always a white belt. To really experience the orange, so to speak.

The ropes course also crystallizes the notion that the things I currently enjoy doing I enjoy not for the fruit of the activity but for the process, the journey. I’m not looking for the ‘best photo’ or ‘perfect dance.’[*] I don’t want to stop, I want to continually improve and evolve. There are some activities I’ve engaged in where I was continually looking toward the destination, and invariably ended up sloppily concluding or even aborting. These are not the things I truly enjoy, and I can distinguish between the feeling of greed and pride in ‘completing’ something, and a purer form of just ‘doing something well.’”

I’m not implying that things should never be finished, but there is some sort of impurity, some desire for fame or notoriety or externally provided accolades that goes along with “finishing.” But just “doing something well” seems to imply some sort of understated humility, that hey, you’ve practiced and practiced and did the best you could – and that may have been phenomenal – but you’re not about to brag about it, and you’ll probably do it again later, and you might do it even better. I find something beautiful in that.

[*] For those who are a little lost here, in our school what we call dances others would call katas or forms. There a long and interesting explanation as to why, but that’s not for me to get into. Rest assured, our art is extremely martial (and so much more), not just prancing around, but this nomenclature may have thrown you off….

Apr 10 2006


As I said last post, there’s a light side to the deficits I enumerated. It’s not in my nature to look at them as negative unless I see them as something to be modified or corrected, so now I’ll delve into the yin and yang.

Superficial, aka Visually Oriented: No doubt about it, this is something that needs modification. The only upside is that this informs my photography and art appreciation. It assists my composition and allows me to tell you exactly how and why I like or dislike a piece of art. When applied, it allows me to dress and carry myself with aplomb. However, I definitely need to work on the distinction between necessity and th inessential, that which is required for a composition to work and that which is an ornamental splendor.

Consumed, aka Passionate: I genuinely love all sorts of activities, which means I naturally connect with a wide range of people and personalities. I’m never at a loss for conversation, or having some new interest sparked in me. I have pursuits that lie outside of whatever inter-personal relationships I’m involved in, and if some event, date, or occasion falls through, there’s always something else I can do that I love. I’m not clingy.

Elitist, aka Knowledgeable: When I’m talking about something I love, I usually know my shit. I don’t assume knowledge about things I haven’t trained and/or studied extensively in, and am more than willing to ask for information, opinion, advice, and insight. But when you’re in my world, I’ll generally give you damn accurate info.

Lack of Expression, aka Genuine: When I do express myself with words, what I express is my complete and utter truth, it is an unfiltered slice of myself. I never bluff, I never fake it. And if you’re aware of my actions, you’ll see more expression than most.

So, who wants to hang out with a visually oriented, passionate, knowledgeable, genuine person? Line forms to the right….

What are deficits? How can they be viewed as assets? Enemies versus allies? Can you determine when which is which? Yeah, there’s always a lesson in there somewhere.

Apr 9 2006


Ok, so I got this anonymous email (which makes me wonder if it’s someone I actually know, although readership has bumped recently) regarding many of my posts demonstrating my “perfection.” That I’m frequently proselytizing as to how to act, how to respond, or in general, how everyone except myself is always wrong and inappropriate.

My first response was a hearty “Hell no.” I mean, all these lessons I’ve related are due to the fact that at some point, I did the exact wrong thing, and have since learned from it. If you do everything right the first time, you probably won’t remember the other options. When you mess up, that’s what tends to stick with you, and hopefully, prompts you to keep from doing that in the future.

My second response was to initiate some introspection. What do I still need to work on? With that in mind, here’s an incomplete list of personality defects, hopefully in the decline:

Superficial. I’m still extremely visually driven when it comes to girls. I like hot girls, pretty girls, cute girls. I want to go out with them, all of them, and I probably don’t even notice the one’s that aren’t that may like me. Hell, I want it all: beautiful, smart, sexy, passionate, funny, all that good stuff. Of course, everyone wants that, but I have a tendencies to cut off relationships if the girl isn’t smarter, prettier, and wittier than myself. (So am I looking for the girl that has all this, but is looking for someone that much less than herself? Quite a double-standard; requiring so much more of a girl than I have to offer.) Which kinda of leads to…

Consumed. I have a lot of hobbies/passions/activities, which you’ve no doubt noticed if you read this blog with any regularly. Not only the sheer number of thing I enjoy, but the depth to which I pursue them. I have a habit of placing my passions first, which leaves precious little time for friends, family, relationships, and all that other good inter-personal stuff. This has lead to the demise of several relationships. Because of this study-in-depth attitude, I tend to be…

Elitist. I’m horrible at taking advice. In one ear and out the other, even with the minor things. I get so into whatever it is I’m doing that I have a difficult time allowing someone less impassioned than myself on the matter contribute useful information. I think, “I’m the guy that’s been doing this in depth for X years, why should I listen to the dabbler?” Well, the dabblers have good advice as well. I remember one time a friend recommended a band to me she’d just heard of, Portishead, and I completely dismissed the suggestion because “I already knew what I liked,” after all, I’m the guy with vacuum tube mono-blocks and a separate transport and DAC, who chases down local bands at various dirtbag venues to catch the latest CD release. Of course, Portishead eventually came to be one of my all time favorite groups. I don’t even know if I ever told that girl how spot-on she was; I had a…

Lack of Expression. I don’t express my emotional as much as I should, or that social graces say I should, be it positive of negative. Despite what I feel, I don’t tell people I love them enough, or tell others to fuck off when they’ve crossed that line. I’ll try to demonstrate either of the above, as I believe the adage that “actions speak louder than words,” but frequently, words are all that is necessary, and may be more appropriate.

Now, there’s benefits to all these characteristics, depending on how you cast the light, but that’s not for this post. This is a refutation of “perfection.”

So who wants to hang out with a superficial, cold, unavailable elitist? Line forms to the left….

Apr 8 2006


I was out supporting G—— in a trunk show at the downtown Martini Ranch. After I’d help her load up her gear, we stopped back inside to grab a drink before leaving. She was headed out to House of Blues with a friend for a show, and I was trekking back down to PB to meet up with some friends. While she stepped out to meet up with her friend, I wrangled a spot at the bar to order drinks.

It was busy, but not crowded, and there really wasn’t an excuse for the very large girl next to me to keep bumping into me and grinding her XXL behind up against me. I kept trying to back up, sliding further and further down the bar, until her friend catches my arm and initiates drunken introductions.

“Whew!” she exclaims, shaking her body to the dance remixes of otherwise good songs “What’s your name?”

“Barclay, nice to meet you.”

“I’m [some name I already forgot]. This is [some other name I also forgot]. What are you doing here all alone?”

“Actually, I’m here with someone, but she’s out front right now.”

The large girls shoots a disproving look to the doorway. “Not the girl in the white boots?”

“Yeah, the girl in the white boots.”

She scrunches her eyebrows up and spits out something I assume was supposed to be a compliment to me. “Hmmf. You can do so much better than her.”

Wow, that was incredibly rude. I give the Mean Large Lady an exaggerated once-over with my eyes and blurt out an “Uh, yeah, right.”

Shit, now I was completely rude. Dammit, should’ve just let that slide. Since the Mean Large Lady and G—— don’t know each other, I can only assume she was judging based her on her looks. To be fair to G——, I think she’s hot:



Man, I’m glad I’m not a girl. I’d hate to deal with that sort of shit on a regular basis.

Apr 5 2006

Laughing to Tears

Click Me. You won’t regret it.