My Week of Living Bigly: T-Minus Four Days

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Now Playing: I Get Wet by Andrew W.K.

Thank God it's Friday.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I hear someone say this. I hear no excitement when its said, but rather mourning for the week that's gone by. You say, "Thank God it's Friday," and I hear, "I hated this week and want it to be over." That's sad to me, and I wish it weren't this way, but this week... this fucking week... this week I think we all need to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and say not just "Thank God it's Friday," but "Thank God it's almost over."

We're so close. So very, very close to this thing being over. There's no guarantee that things will be wrapped up in a neat little bow in the late hours of Tuesday evening, but what is certain is that the campaign will be over and the votes will be cast. No more pandering, no more swapping scandals, no more rallies. This weekend is this campaign's final hurrah. This campaign has turned us all into monsters. Let's spend this weekend doing stuff that makes us happy.

I'm trying to put together a list of all of the things that unfailingly make me smile. Art, food, activities, whatever it might be, I want to make a list of the things that work to make me happy. I know that I'm a better person when I'm happy, and I know I'm at my worst when I focus on politics. So this weekend, apart from these blog posts, I'm going to work on being a happier person by engaging in some gold old fashioned hedonism.

Let's start with the Patron Saint of Hedonism: Andrew W.K. Is Andrew W.K. a good musician? In the sense that he can play music, yeah, he knows a thing or two. Are his songs good? I mean, define good. Is he a poet? The first verse of "Party Hard" features an A-A-A-A rhyme scheme, but who says poetry has to rhyme? (Actually, that first verse doesn't rhyme so much as have every line end with the word "right", which is fine by me.) All of these questions are aside the point. Andrew W.K. writes feel-good music. The album I Get Wet is a feel good album. It's asinine, tounge-in-cheek, beautifully self-aware, catchy as catchy can be, and goddammit if it those synthesizers don't make me happy.

So I Get Wet will be on repeat this weekend, and I'll only turn it off to watch The Sopranos, the only TV show that I can watch over and over again. I think I'm on my third watch-through right now and every frame makes me happy. I come home after a day of work and reading about how Hill is this and Trump is that, and I put on The Sopranos, and suddenly the only thing that matters is who's short on their take this week. The only thing that matters is that I'm smiling.

Skipping rocks makes me smile. Playing with my brother's dog makes me smile. Writing plays makes me smile. Intoxicants in moderation make me smile (more on this at a later date). Getting lost in a new neighborhood makes me smile. Being with other people doing the things that make them smile makes me smile.

And the good thing about these things is that they are not going to stop making me smile. I know that under a Trump presidency if I'm ever feeling down all I have to do is skip some rocks by a lake and I'll feel okay again. If Clinton fails to deliver on her progressive campaign promises, I know that watching Tony play with the ducks in his pool will make it hurt that much less. This isn't a matter of escapism or denial, but rather a necessary step to take in order to maintain sanity and keep calm. You cannot properly effect change if you are so unhappy that you can't breathe. You cannot possibly have the energy to engage with the world around you if all of your energy is spent yelling at the TV. Either way this election goes, each and every one of us must make it our duty to protect each other and to hold our politicians accountable. We have to make sure we're all going to be okay, and that starts with making sure that you're going to be okay.

I'm going to be okay, at least for this weekend. Thank God it's Friday. It's time to party, and when it's time to party, we will always party hard.

MY WEEK OF LIVING BIGLY: T-Minus Seven Days

Thursday, November 1st, 2016.

Now Playing: That's the Way that the World Goes Round by John Prine

Let's talk about what solidarity means.

I'm going to be blogging every day for the next seven days until this godforsaken bloated whale of an election finally explodes, covering the beach of Democracy with its stinking entrails until we the electorate decide how to best clean it up. That means that every post is going to be more topical than political and more scatterbrain that topical. I have not updated my bloggy-woggy as often as I had hoped, but if this past summer was any indication elections have a way of making me want to write. My girlfriend calls me "more of a newsletter guy" because I prefer long posts to short social media outbursts. I'll take it.

Speaking of short media outbursts, let's get back to solidarity. The past two days have seen Facebook do its Facebooky thing by taking over the hive-mind with a meme that leaves me more conflicted than it probably should. The long and short of it is that people have been checking in to the Standing Rock Reservation to ostensibly interfere with police targeting protesters there on social media. On its face, this is a wonderful show of solidarity with a group that is underrepresented at best and criminally ignored at worst by the MSM. Once you dig a little deeper, however... it's still a wonderful show of solidarity. There are no two ways about it. I'm usually a contrarian when it comes to social media, especially social media mixed with politics, but I do feel that this meme, if nothing else, raises awareness. Plus, representatives from the camp have given this meme their seal of approval, so really who am I to judge?

Who I am is someone keenly aware of the difference between telling and showing. I write plays, which are blog posts you shout at people in dark rooms. In plays, you would never have a character enter a room and say "I AM THIS WAY. BELIEVE ME." Instead, you would have that character walk into a room and act in that way, whatever that way may be. I think that checking into Standing Rock is a great way of entering a room and saying, "I stand with the protestors." Except you're not really taking a stand. More likely, you're sitting it out, cheering from the sidelines.

Of course, this is your right. Not everyone can donate to the Standing Rock Sioux, and fewer still can actually make their way to North Dakota to show their support. What concerns me is the way that so many of us conflate shows of solidarity with acts of solidarity, and this meme is effectively just a show. Flooding Facebook with false-positives will no more effect change than screaming at Donald Trump through your television screen. Announcing a position is not an act of solidarity, it is a show of it. Shows are important. Symbols are extremely important. Showing something is a way to address a need for change. But action - real, look-what-I-can-do action - is how we effect that change.

Checking in at Standing Rock is only one example of this dichotomy, but it has gotten me thinking a lot about what we talk about when we talk about politics. It also has me thinking about how in this election, that dichotomy might not be as clear cut as I think it is. When someone writes an angry status update about Trump or Clinton, isn't that as much of an action as anything? If our social media is an echo-chamber, then no. If we are actually reaching people of differing view points, then maybe. Voting blows this dichotomy out of the water because it is at once showing and telling your solidarity with a certain candidate; however, you only get to vote for President once every four years. What do you do with the rest of the time?

Here's what I do: on November 9th, I am showing where I stand by actively taking a stand. On November 9th, I am switching party affiliations. I do not believe that I am a Democrat anymore. I am a liberal, I am a progressive, but I am not a capital-D Democrat. I will vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th, and starting no November 9th I will do everything in my power to show her that putting her into office is not the end of her campaign, but the beginning of it. I feel no solidarity with the Democratic Party, an organization as corrupt as it is opaque. Right now, I am effectively "updating my status" when it comes to the state of the two-party system. Once this election is finally, mercifully over, I'm putting that status into action.

In the meantime, I'll be here every day until November 8th. This is where I stand: someone conflicted, confused, and yet committed to seeing this week out. We'll see what happens after this week is through.

A Short List of Things That Officially Bug the Fuck Out of Me

  • Guns don't kill people. Yup. So long as they're not fired it's a goddamned party. But not a cool party where we get to shoot guns. A boring party where all of the dishes have flax seeds and everyone has an opinion about Jonathan Franzen.
  • Why won't Obama say the words "Radical Islamic Terror"? Because he doesn't want to, doesn't have to, and doesn't need to. You could just as easily ask, "Why won't Obama say the words 'Pinkerton' is a modern classic?" and the end result will be just the same: everyone will think you're an idiot.
  • Republican leaders who voted against background checks should be killed. No joke, this little gem showed up on my news feed this morning. Read your shit before you send it out to the world and the world will thank you for it.
  • We need to fight them over there so that we don't fight them over here. Admittedly this one has fallen out of fashion since Bush Part Deux, but I still hear people say it every once in a while and the logic just eats itself. As soon as we start fighting them over here everyone's going to ask "Well, wait, then what was that whole war business about?" Either we're fighting them everywhere or we're fighting them nowhere. First things first: let's scrap the whole idea of us vs them.
  • My heart goes out to everyone effected by this tragedy. I know this sentiment comes from a genuinely good place, but don't tell me you have empathy, show me. The people effected by tragedy, especially tragedy that is the result of something systemic like easy access to guns or homophobia, couldn't care less that your thoughts are with them. Before you share your thoughts, share you actions.
  • We need to call it like it is. - Do we, though? Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe. Truth and honesty are two very different things. Avoid anyone who speaks like this, and especially avoid anyone who follows someone who's main credential is their calling-it-like-it-is-ness.
  • Don't make this political. Isn't this one just code for laziness and ineptitude? Isn't this just a cop-out? If we don't make this political now, when will we ever?
  • And you actually want to VOTE in November? The lesser-of-two-evils argument especially bugs the fuck out of me. "I don't want to vote for the lesser of two evils." Why not? Would you rather the greater of two evils? You want your voice heard? Make it heard. Don't posture behind your self-righteousness and either vote or show me how your abstention is more effective, because at this point I remain unconvinced.
  • We all need to respect each other. Nope. This is a different kind of posturing and it's equally destructive. We should all listen, we should all engage, but courtesy and respect are two different things.
  • I told you so. Good for you. I'm sure you did. You're so smart. I respect you so much because you told me so. That makes you better than me. Thanks!
  • Fuck it all. This one I get. It's hard, man. It's super hard to do anything at all, let alone reasonably try to effect positive change in a world that seems determined to change only for the worse. You wake up to news that fifty people are dead because someone who wanted to kill them was able to kill them, "Fuck it all" is as reasonable of a thing to say as anything. But that's not how you start a conversation, that's how you end one. Let's start talking. I want to hear what you have to say. But if you say any of the above, you're going to bug the fuck out of me. Having said that, I can get over being annoyed. I have to. Let's talk.