Nine days with the artist I wish I wasn't

FRIDAY - First evening of 9-day vacation. Feel like I've been swimming through the middle of the Atlantic to reach a sand bar that will wash into the sea in a week but for now it's home. Watched "The Graduate" again with housemates and started letter to Evan about how last time I saw it I identified with Dustin Hoffman and now I identified with the broken-down alcoholic lady who seduces him. A disturbing subject that moved me deeply and the letter came out greasy awkward like something I coughed up while trying to sing. Embarassing for no reason. My journal entries have averaged two sentences long because I always write them just before bed when I'm tired and I forget that today wasn't yesterday again. Read Rolling Stone, cleaned room, arranged finances, made dinner, here I am. I write lists like this every night, trying to notate the hours and justify how I spent them so I don't feel like I'm wasting all my time. I'm not an writer, I'm an accountant.

New boss is one of the stupidest human beings I've ever met and he insists on telling me how to do my job. It's like we're both part of a dinosaur (a stegosaurus) and I'm the head with the brains and he's the spiked tail that keeps hitting the head with the brains because it doesn't know better. But that's work and thinking about work while I'm at home feels like carrying a small glass vial of deadly virus into the hot tub with me. Maybe I need to do it eventually as a step toward confronting those things that are wrong with my life, but I already know what's wrong with my life and I'm working to change it and until I do I'm keeping the vial out of the hot tub.

This vacation is for writing as if my life depends on it, which it does. I've got a real career to build and not enough time to do it while I spend eight hours a day yanking the spindle for the Great Satan of Light Industry.

SATURDAY - Did nothing today. Cleaned room, ate. I've cleaned my room for three days now and it just gets worse. I realized years ago that my room is a movie screen and my state of mind is the movie. Stopped doing sit-ups last August because I ran out of space on the floor.

SUNDAY - I fully expected that the writing I hadn't been doing would have backed up into a waiting flood to rocket out whenever I had the time to pull the cork, but so far that ain't the case. Developed theory that inspired words are like spit; I can't expect to save up more than one moment's worth waiting for the right target, since one mouthful plus one mouthful equals one mouthful if you've only got one mouth. Gotta write a little bit every day, about things besides cleaning my room and mouthfuls of spit.

MONDAY - Been sitting at the keyboard for five hours, reworking this one sentence: "The fact that you should feel free to be yourself during a date can be difficult to accept, since I believe that the average person feels free to express his or her true self only when he or she is alone in an elevator, scratching rudely or breaking into song or rethinking poorly chosen dialogue from embarassing moments earlier in the day." Started out as a short story about my obsession with Maria K. at UCSC but I tripped over the clumsy truism spelled out above and started wrestling with pronouns and verb tenses and now it's night and I'm back where I started. My time to be productive is already running out. If I'd been in a car, driving for ten miles before I realized the handbrake had been on the whole time, at least I'd be ten miles from the place I started. Writing offers no such promise. Life is cruel.

My body is cold, all the blood and energy sinking thickly into my legs as if to deliberately postpone any circulation until I get off my ass and do something real with my life.

TUESDAY - Spent seven hours recording cool new outgoing message for answering machine. Starts out with Terry Gross interviewing me about my brilliant art career and cuts into brief instrumental piece with sampled voices from TV commercials. Not sure if this means I'm creative and spontaneous or I'm desperate to procrastinate and I'm never going to be able to quit my daily eight-hours-of-purgatory job. Started recording, ate breakfast and lunch, didn't masturbate but thought about it, told myself to quickly clean room while Clash's "London Calling" album played but ended up changing tape after "Rudy Can't Fail" and reading magazine, finished recording and realized it was night and I was already having mood swings because I'd skipped dinner and so I argued with myself about whether I should bother eating or just go to sleep thinking about how short and meaningless life is. Didn't write anything. Except this.

WEDNESDAY - Day of horrible confrontations. Found a thick catalog of "Bindertek" legal document filing systems in my p.o. box and I thought the legal profession had followed me home like a pack of starving dogs. A week ago, work was work, the necessary amputation...now I see it better for what it is: eight hours a day in a spinning elevator next to a pile of burning shoes. I wretch at the thought of going back. Spent three hours rereading old stories and poems and journals and realized I'm a shitty writer with no creative future. It's days like this that breed embittered retail managers and alcoholics.

THURSDAY - Haven't showered since Sunday morning, which makes me feel focussed and committed as an artist. I'm a primative, passionate sexual creature with better things to do than scrub myself shiny and defy my animal nature. I still brush my teeth. I hope to keep my smile healthy and develop a social life after I'm published.

Suddenly I'm on catalog mailing lists. Spent an hour reading a catalog put out by Mad Magazine. Considered buying Lieutenant Uhura dress for $30. Two pages selling books teaching "How to Pick Up Women" were convincing enough to make me believe there is some proper approach to meeting females that I obviously don't know, and yet I can't believe that my social life would actually improve upon ordering an instruction book from the Mad Magazine catalog. Sank into ugly depression and went to the beach after sunset.

Now I'm realizing I've been too hard on myself, in writing and life. Islamic rug makers traditionally weave their creations with a single stitch deliberately out of place, believing that it would be insulting to God if a human being was to create something perfect. I've decided this a very useful philosophy. "So, when are you going to put away the clothes and dirty dishes on the floor or your room, Marty?" "Can't. That would be insulting to God." "Are you going to redo the sloppy guitar work on that tape?" "Sorry. Gotta respect the divine creator." Kinda leaves me off the hook.

FRIDAY - Vacation's almost over. Another Brian Wilson day, accomplishing a bit but frozen from anxiety because my time's almost up and I don't know what to do next. I have worlds to move and I'm wearing slippers. At least I haven't resorted to watching TV and napping. If this vehicle grinds its way into the granite hillside, I want to know my hands never left the steering wheel. (I get that from my mother's side of the family.) But I'm SO FUCKING SICK of this. I've had a week to do something, anything, and I'm not accomplishing shit. As my return to my job approaches like the big stinking monster that expects me to keep breaking off pieces of myself and feeding them into its swollen salivating lips like fish to an obedient seal, I'm getting more scared of never being able to get away from this trap, and I panic, and the more frantic I get the less I can do anything but sit still. I can't even clean my room anymore. I need therapy, or money.

SATURDAY - Wrote four pretty good paragraphs. Heartfelt, readable short story about the catastrophic decline of modern civilization. Feels oddly condescending to congratulate myself for that little, but it's a marathon of footsteps forward compared to anything I'd done the previous week. I really do wish there was something else I could stand to do with my life. Something constructive and involving and stable and not spritually toxic.

One more full day before I return to Worker Alienation Study Hall. Whoopee. Trying to relax.

SUNDAY - Time's up. Hereby I list my triumphs and/or excuses. Weather today was beautiful. Went for a bike ride. Couldn't focus on computer while the monitor reflected sunlight through the windows but I couldn't see directly outdoors either. Fought it all week, until today. Afterwards I made a mix tape.

I'm shaking my head. Solution will come. But not today.

It's daily electrocution, too many hours wasted turning the sludge crank to pay the bills while I hold my breath and then finally I get up to bat for my side and I close my eyes. I'm digging my heels into a steep hillside, straining to keep the locked car of my destiny from rolling into the great canyon, but the parking brake is off and the key is fifteen feet away and if I dash over to get the key the car rolls forward and I watch it tumble downwards and only then can the debate start about whether I should have looked at more sunsets and taken more walks and majored in something real so I wouldn't be in this mess. My life is shit. Help me help me help me.

OK. Time to get real. Someday I'll be dead and when I am I'll wish I hadn't whined so much.

Tomorrow is another day. I'm young and motivated. Maybe I'll get another job. Regardless, I've got work to do.

Look out world. I'm breaking the window.

Copyright 1996 Martin Azevedo

ej@templeofdominoes dot com

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