Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new leaf

So in America, we always seem to be screwing up, then trying to get a fresh start, or a second chance, or a new opportunity. I'm sure there are self help type books about why that is, and why it's right, but I'm not real keen on second chances, myself. In my own life, I'm constantly making mistakes, poor attempts, bad judgements, and so on. I'm also getting some things right, and, crazy as I may be, I think that's a better path. Not all one way or the other- you might be a drug addict who's a brilliant songwriter, or a great accountant who's lousy to women, or whatever, but rather than looking for a "do over" what you need to do is concentrate more on what you're good at, and less on what makes you suck. Oh, you'll still suck. We all do, all the time. But by trying to do what we do best, we make up for it, a little bit. That strikes me as far more reasonable than some mythical "second try".
So, why am I getting all 'Dr Phil" on you? Because I've been reading biographies in the past week. I've been reading "American Demon" by Jack Grisham, "Violence Girl" by Alicia Velasquez (Alice Bag) and "My Booky Wook" by Russell Brand. All three approach the issue of screwing up in different manners, and, well, you'll be able to tell which one I like best, easily.
I know Jack. I wouldn't call us "friends", because I don't think he'd know my name, but he'd recognize my face. Jack supposedly has written the fictional biography of a demon living in America. What's closer to the truth is these are his story, based upon how he sees himself these days. On the one hand, he joyfully accepts responsibility of all the horrible things he's done. Yes, some are horrible- attempted murder happens fairly frequently. Like I said, I know Jack, and yes, he really has been one of the most dangerous guys around, so please don't think he's exaggerating. He's also witty, funny, a brilliant front man for any band he's in, and a real romantic who really wants to see the world as a better place. He isn't looking for a second chance, as it were, so much as he's looking for a chance. Half the time, that's a chance to do real harm, but other times, it's a chance to do real good. He's exploiting the trope that we all write fictions of ourselves, and that's very true. Whatever I am, I'll never know the objective truth about myself. But, there's still a distance between him and the awful things he's done, because he's fictionalized it as this "demon'. The truth is that he's a thug, with a good mind. An entertaining thug, but a thug, nonetheless.
If you look over to your left, you might note that I know Alice/Alicia. We have met face to face, and she might know my name but these would be separate events. I saw The Bags, and the Alice Bag band at places like the Vex in Los Angeles, in the late 1970's and early 1980's. They were amoung the very first tastes of rock and roll of any stripe I ever had. You have to understand, I'm in my mid-forties, now, so mathwise, that means there weren't a lot of concert opportunities for me pre-1977, in that it was still unacceptable for pre-teens to go unaccompanied to arenas or bars, in those days. Fortunately, I was very tall at a relatively young age ( I was almost adult height by 10, and the same height as now by 13) so, when I was 13 I did start passing for 18 and could go to places on my own. So, I was a face in the crowd at that time, and ran into her on the internet, only in the past few years.
So, why the diversion down memory lane? Because I've already read "Violence Girl' as blog posts on her blog of the same name, and I've now read it as a book, and what's more, I saw a few bits of it, firsthand. I think her truth is the closest to my truth of the three. Things happen, both good and bad, and while some bad things get punished in subtle ways, and some good things get rewarded in tiny ways, mostly things just play out. Hers is less a tale of redemption than it is of re-invention. She learns along the way to concentrate on her strengths and play less into the hands of her weaknesses. She doesn't exactly forgive those who have wronged her, but she learns to understand them. Definitely no 'second acts" here. I like that. It's all the first act. I only wish I'd been a bit more of her type, and a bit less of a wallflower when she was a real wild child, because while were both in good places,now, etc- it'd be really cool to say that I knew her back then- even if we both still have regrets about those times, I think she's never been anyone's regret, and I wish I could say the same, but I think she's able to make even a loser freak like me come across as more interesting. So, yes, better written, as well. Easily the best of the three books, and that is a matter of perspective- her perspective. It's better than Jack who avoids the typical "new leaf' cliches, but still excuses and distances himself.
Then, there's Russell Brand. I actually like some of his comedy, and I think he's interesting and smarter than expected for a celebrity. But he traffics in the worst of the cliches. Oh I was terrible, but it was terribly fun, but I'm all right now. He even called a comedy show 'Better now". So, why did i read it? Because he can be funny. That's it, really. I wouldn't want to know him. His life sounds like Jack's minus the violence, and, not to be too American, but I am of the sort that Violence was always a more likely sort of trouble for me than Sex. Even so, if he enjoyed it all so much as he very apparently did, as he rhapsodizes about his drugs and paid-for sex, then how am I to believe that he's "better', now? It's bullshit, one way or the other,and I think both.
See, that's the thing with these "new leafs"- it's bullshit one way or the other. Either you weren't having any fun, or you aren't having any fun, now. I had very little fun when I was doing things I don't do now- that's why I don't do them, now. There's no change in me, as a person. No sudden epiphany.
Let me give you an example because it's most recent ( if only very petty and minor). I gave up coffee. Were there times when I loved coffee? You bet. But, I have a lousy gut, and I gave up coffee because it was no longer any good to drink a cup, and have wrenching gut and chest pain for 3 hours afterwards. No fun in that at all. So, I gave up coffee. There's no wistfully thinking about the days when I drank coffee. There's no admitting that coffee was more powerful than me. No tearful confessions about what my love for coffee made me do. I just got sick, and quit. There you go. Done. I didn't need a new life, I just needed to have more fun.
So, it's New Year's eve, where I'm typing, now. That's my thought for New Year's eve- Auld Lang Syne. You know the words- For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne- we'll take a cup of kindness yet- for auld lang syne. That's the way I see the world-we are little but our memories, and if we cannot accept our memories, we cannot accept our lives. If we cannot accept our lives they become painful fictions- they will be fictions in any case, but the real goal is less about truth and more about minimizing pain. Yeah, I'm deep like that, yo....