Monday, February 27, 2012

Wake up Mr. West--I have a problem

Whenever I run on a track, I make sure that Kanye is there to narrate my attempt at physical fitness.  A movie montage breaks out in my head with the song “Last Call” playing in the background.  The camera angle cuts back and forth from the first person perspective to a side view of my stride.  A feeling of invincibility rushes over me as the song builds up to the chorus.  Everyone in the gym starts to feel my heart rate increasing, the burning in my gluts, and even the bittersweet irritation of my nipples chaffing against my cotton t-shirt.  A sizeable crowd begins to mount behind me as they cheer me on to a successful workout.  It is almost as if everybody is listening to the exact same song I am at the exact same time.  And we all have this incremental boost in our swagger, which materializes into running that much faster. It takes every ounce of my self-restraint to not yell out “Mayonnaise colored Benz—I push miracle whips!” as I finish mile one.
I am a self-diagnosed Kanye-A-Holic.  If I go longer than four hours without hearing a song off the College Dropout album I get the shakes.  But like a heroin addict who can get by on xanax until their dealer comes thru, I am able to settle for a crappy synthetic radio jam like 808 and Heart Break in a pinch.  I often find myself trying to parallel his lyrics in conversations ranging from the meaning of life to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The question is why?  I do not have the slightest idea what its like to stunt on a jumbo-tron, or to be the owner of a 20,000 dollar Jesus piece, or to have bi-weekly brunches with Jay-z and Beyonce….but by god I would love to. 
Music panders to every emotion imaginable and when an artist pours his soul into a rhythmic, cathartic release, it is beautiful.  The beauty of any art is this: we continuously harbor painful/triumphant memories, and the crippling self-awareness of our shortcomings and vulnerabilities—that we need an escape from ourselves.  We become bored with the trite voice inside our heads so we live vicariously through someone else’s description of the human experience.  Sometimes we can directly relate with the message of the artist and other times we cannot, and yet we do not care.  The latter is exactly how I feel about Kanye West.  
Who else has the bravado to shit on america's
sweetheart? And still bounce back.
I cannot directly identify with what he is saying but I respect the way he carries himself.  He speaks with confidence, candor, and consistency.  Too often, I let social norms and the status quo dictate the person that I am but Kanye is not shackled by the rules of normalcy.  I suppose when you are rich, famous, and talented you can get away with just about anything but Kanye does this with an attitude and style unlike any other artist.  I wish I could go through life like Kayne but I would be perceived as cocky, arrogant, and thick headed.  But that desire is the empirical value of his music: he personifies a demeanor we wish we could all ostensibly present but instead we can only embody him internally, and by ironically imitating his lyrics at house parties or in the privacy of our vehicles.  His music describes the human experience through his eyes and its kind of romantic to try and imagine the lens with which he sees the world through, if only for a moment.
Art, in any capacity, has a lot of value to me because it’s a means of expression, escape, and it has an eerie way of unifying people.  For example, many people think that Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” accurately describes their romantic plight, just like their are those who believe daily horoscopes accurately describes the essence of their lives.  It’s a self fulfilling prophecy in the belief that “we are never alone”.  Social interaction is driven by the fear of loneliness and the silence that is associated with it.  Music solves both of these problems because fans connect with other fans and thus are not alone as the music fills the silence.   
The perfect example of this is of course concerts.  Concerts alter our moods, inhibitions, and confidence. We have a chance to be around people who all came to see the same person purge their emotions into a symphony of theatrics.  There is something rather comforting about having at least one thing in common with thousands of people in a single area.  This comfort allows you to relax, release, and enjoy.  I specifically remember my knees bending in ways that they never have before while listening to the sweet live guitar rift of Blink 182’s “What’s my age again”.  Similarly, the first and last cartwheel I ever did in my life was when I heard the live sax-a-phone solo in Dave Matthew’s song “The Warehouse”.  I was hardly myself and I never felt better.  
I suppose as a white male I can identify with somebody like Dave Matthews or Blink 182 more than Kanye but they do not evoke nearly as much emotion out of me.  I don’t even want to know how I would act if I ever got the chance to attend a Kanye concert but my guess is I would have a hard time reverting back to reality after having my swag gland artificially stimulated for two straight hours.  Music is so important because it gives you a chance to either affirm your reality with a new perspective or temporarily escape it, while simultaneously connecting with both the artist and the people around you.

I bought my whole family whips, no volvo's

Next time I'm in Church please no photos,
Police escorts, everybody passports,

This the life that everybody ask for

Sorry, that was the last Kanye reference --Watch the throne while I am in Kanye Rehab.   The cure? Two hours of Jason Aldean’s Pandora station followed by one hour of Garth Brooks, followed by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played continuously until I stop referring to myself as Ye’.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruise-Ships & The Banality of Relation-ships

Cut to a setting at a coffee shop near the Miami coast.  The weather is gorgeous, the crop of people trekking thru the area are youthful, determined, and ignorantly oblivious. 

Gerald: (sets down his chi latte) Yo! buddy its good to have you back in God’s country.  How was the Caribbean cruise? Tell me everything.  What was the spread like?  Did you meet the indigenous people of Disney Island?

(takes a deep breath and stares off into the horizon) Gerald, you have no idea what I have just been through.  In the weeks leading up to the cruise I found myself loathing the very thought of it.  My preconceived notion of cruises was based on that one Cuba Gooding Jr. movie where he mistakenly boards a gay singles cruise. I thought the boat was going to be littered with overweight tourists who wanted nothing more than to eat buffet food, drink to excess, and tan their pasty white complexions into a lobster tail red.

Sounds like heaven, what chu bitch’n about?

That’s just it man, I thought I was going to hate it but it was heaven.  It may have been the greatest week of my life….until I arrived at the realization that it was all an illusion.  Cruise ships are like being in a relationship. 

Gerald: How is cutting through the Caribbean on a 80,000 square foot vessel that has an Old Country Buffet every 10 feet like being in a relationship?

Think about any girl that you’ve ever dated in your life.  When you are getting busy the excitement stems from the unknown.  What is she going to do next? Whoaa was that her tongue nearing my ahhh…is she really going to let me hit it from behind?
But it doesn’t have to be sexual, maybe she blows your mind intellectually or emotionally in a way a girl never has before.  It’s the honeymoon phase, you know? She can’t do anything wrong because it’s all new.  You want to explore every inch of her body, every fold in her brain.  You cannot get enough.

            The first day on the cruise ship was just like the euphoric feeling of being with a new woman.  The cruise staff greeted me with a pineapple cocktail the second I walked on the ship.  I didn’t even need to pay cash, they just asked for my room number.  I felt compelled to explore every crevice of the ship initially but I got caught up at the self-service ice cream machine that was located on the ships upper deck.  I grabbed my cone and dipped my toes into the wading the pool while the multi-cultural staff tended to my every need.  I have never been so happy in my life.  The breakfast buffet, in particular was like nothing I had ever seen before.  The lox were fresh, the bagels were soft, and they even had bacon wrapped honeydew topped with a sliver of brie.  Bacon wrapped honeydew with a sliver of fucking brie!  Can you imagine? Every corner that I turned there was something new and exciting. Bacon wrapped honeydew is to the cruise ship what stand up 69-ing is to a relationship—an unbelievable perk.

Gerald: You’ve seriously dated a girl who doesn’t let you hit it while stand-up 69-ing?

Arnold: It’s a metaphor you jackass…keep up.  The honeymoon stage went on for a couple of days and things just kept getting better.  You know the little things.  It’s the way the wait staff fluffed my pillows every morning.  It’s the way they made sure there were fresh towels in my cabin at precisely 9:30 am.  It’s the way they looked at me sincerely every time I passed them in the hall and said “how are you today sir”.

I had dinner every night at 5:30 at one of the five premium restaurants on the ship.  The same wait staff would rotate each night to the restaurant that I was eating at so they began to get to know me.  Well, not the “real me” but rather, how I like my steak done and the fact that I prefer desserts filled with chocolate vs. fruit.  The little things add up and I had a growing sense that these people cared about me. Then I instantly grew bored with them.  At that moment, I realized that there was nothing left to discover.  The cruise staff spoiled me rotten and I found myself growing progressively disgusted with the whole thing.  The only means of excitement left on the trip was when the boat docked for “day trips” on an island. But it was a controlled and contrived excitement because the cruise line planned everything that I did in advance.  Part of me was turned off by this contrivance, but the other part liked the comfort of not having to make decisions for myself.

The boat stopped at a total of three islands and I did the exact same thing at each: para-sailed, went to the gift shop (strategically placed close to the harbor) to purchase a neon cutoff t-shirt that said something like “I was here: Key West 2012!” and a post card to send back to my friends as proof of my vacation….before B-lining back to my place of comfort—the boat. Sadly I went to three exotic Caribbean islands and all I have to show for it is six fucking neon t-shirts and a half smoked faux Cuban cigar.  At the time, I saw no purpose in venturing any further than that because I just wanted to get back to the boat where people knew how I liked my steak!

Gerald:  Thanks for sending me a post card asshole….

Arnold: By the fourth day, I had sampled nearly every drink on the menu and I had devoured every type of cuisine.  In order to keep things interesting I began to test the limits of the wait staff’s hospitality.  The more I pushed the more accommodating they were and the more frustrated and bored I became with the whole thing.  I ordered 4 cheeseburgers with 2 sides of fries from room service at 4:30 in the morning and the food arrived 20 minutes later.  I didn’t even eat it. I just let it rot on my desk in front of the vanity mirror for the wait staff to clean up in the morning.  I wanted someone to express some real emotion to me. Discontent, jealousy, frustration, anything!  But they didn’t…they took everything in stride with a smile on their face.
Every night at dusk I would go down to the boat’s 3rd floor deck to run laps.  As I circled the boat I became infatuated with how beautiful the horizon looked and how deeply blue the water was.  However, the infatuation soon faded into lust and romantic fantasies about leaving the boat behind.  I just wanted to get into one of the rescue boats and trek off into the horizon but where would I even go—there was no land in sight.  Who would I even be without the comfort of the cruise?
Gerald:  So you are saying that your identity entered a temporary state of paralysis while you were on the cruise?

Arnold: Exactly, a cruise ship is like a pressure cooker for simulating the stages of every relationship. At first, everything is exciting and euphoric.  After the excitement fades away, the basis for the relationship becomes the established comfort zone.  Exclusive relationships exist solely because they are efficient, easy, and predictable.  It’s much more efficient to spend time finding one person who embraces your strengths, hobbies, aspirations, and overlooks your faults, than it is to convince multiple people that your life has some sort of value. You use this comfort zone as a crutch to avoid any scenario that threatens your perceived well-being and in the process your individual identity is compromised.  The identity of you and your significant other begin to meld into one indistinguishable, interdependent being.  Suddenly you find yourself only associating and socializing with other people who are also in relationships, thus eliminating the possibility of ever lusting for someone or something else.  This leads to complacency.  When you feel completely satisfied with who you are in terms of someone else, it’s easy to abuse the relationship, either consciously or subconsciously.  That’s the precise point that a relationship begins to erode—when you know someone too well to the point that you exploit them.  The longer you rely on the comfort of someone else, the more difficult it becomes to reenter society as an individual. When you are locked into a long-term relationship life becomes a calculated set of destinations, rather than an aimless, yet, organic journey of finding yourself.
On the last day of the cruise, I awoke and went down to the accounts payable office to settle my outstanding bill.  I left the wait staff a generous tip for their service over the last week.  After that, I headed towards the breakfast buffet one last time before docking on land.  As I approached the buffet, I was astonished to see that the bacon and honeydew were in separate trays.  Why are they not wrapped around one another?  And where the hell was the brie!??? The wait staff had already been tipped out, what was their incentive to impress me? Their hospitality was an illusion, their sincerity was an illusion, the whole goddamn cruise was an illusion that I grew to depend on over a week.   Although at times I tested their affection just to keep myself entertained, having the option of neglecting someone is more appealing than having no one who cares enough to let you neglect them.  The second they stopped caring, I realized just how much that week meant to me--even if it was an illusion.  With them, I was a needy, selfish human, and without them, I was a lost, torched soul who did not know where to turn.

Gerald: So, much like a woman, the wait staff neglected you after your perceived value had diminished.  You have been back in America, on solid ground for three days now …how are you holding up?

(Staring off towards the Caribbean Sea) I would kill for some bacon wrapped honeydew with a sliver of brie wedged in between…

Gerald: Wait.... are you talking about the food? The standup 69-ing? A woman? The cruise wait staff????

Arnold: Its a metaphor Gerald, life is one big metaphor....