My name's Adam.
I'm twenty-eight years
old and from Chicago
I stole this shirt while Fidel was under.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Jeff Tweedy came into the bookstore the other day. I knew he lived in the area and had been told by colleagues that he often made lengthy, Hesperus-like visits to the fiction section. Nevertheless, when he arrived early Monday evening I admit to thinking he was Chief, a Gulf War I veteran and newly-minted interior designer with whom I talk Illinois politics and Chicago sports. They looked similar. Tweedy, sporting an unkempt beard and puce waiste-length flack jacket with a German flag patch on the shoulder, looked every a bit the disconsolate vet as he circled the new releases section. It wasn't until I noticed two well-behaved, mop-topped boys silently trailing that I knew he wasn't the childless Chief. Obscured by throngs of early-holiday shoppers it took a few minutes to place him. Usually, when I meet celebrities (rare though these occurrences are), I can gauge how receptive they might be to a brief interruption by one extremely reserved, highly respectful fan. Or, what's more likely the case, someone just happy to meet ANY celebrity—whatever tier they may be. But Tweedy, languorously reserved behind mountains of Stephen Colbert books, was a little black rain cloud: emotionally ambiguous.
I figured if he came to my register he was fair game so when he eventually made his way over I asked if he was who I thought he was. He replied in the affirmative and I obligatorily told him how big a fan I was. Truthfully, even had I hated his music I would have said the same thing so I suppose I should consider myself lucky that in this instance I could be forthright. He smiled politely. I smiled back. He paid. I bagged. That was the end. His two sons lead the way out the door.
Did I mention that I took a second job at a local book store? I work nights and weekends. And never sleep.
Even though I have nothing but PURE UNADULTERATED CONTEMPT for the entire state of Arizona after their trouncing of the Cubs back in September, I have to admit to warm feelings towards the Arizona Diamondbacks theme song. Written and performed by the unstoppable Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, I've been jamming to this thing non-stop for the past 48-hours (a dubious achievement considering the tune's about two-minutes long). I've been a fan of Clyne's since his days in the Refreshments back in the mid-90's and have seen him in concert more times than I can count. True to his feel-good, western roots, the D-Backs song is pure two-dimensional fun. Good! Perhaps out of my fondness for his music, I'm willing to give the McCain state a pass on this one. Just until I get sick of the song, though. After that, they're back on my S-list along with Florida and Indianapolis. Click the link above to hear the song.
A friend of mine asked me eariler this week not to "forget her." It made me feel unworthy of anything.
Posted at 05:15 pm by: Selfindulgence
Saturday, October 13, 2007
One of the biggest problems with being overestimated is the inevitable conclusion that you will let someone down: the unfulfillment of an unfulfillable dream. This is why record labels place so much emphasis on the the marketability of a successful band's sophomore album or why politicians are so quick to play down potential fruits of any diplomatic parley, banal or quotidian though it may be. The mind may be ripe with both ambition and spiritual virility but forces of both intrinsic and extrinsic capacity attenuate and give rise to emotions of extreme disillusionment. Lermontov described the search for love as line stretching from a point in space. The pathological hunt for the heart at the end is both quixotic and pathetically human. We will never find what we're looking for and the realization of that fact is the tragedy of human existence. "The reason for this endlessness is simple, he laments. "We can never attain our goal." Overestimation is the DNA of disappointment.
For some reason, people consistently overestimate me. Or at least I think they do. What's more likely the case is that some very minute expectations are periodically placed on me and most of the time it's considered par for the course when I fail to meet to them. Nevertheless, I am continuously dogged by feelings that friends and colleagues wait patiently for me to finally fulfill my hidden potential. This lonely, disaffected paradigm is characterized by hyper-contextualized, scripted and ostensibly insane encomiums to feats I have yet to accomplish in shaky payers that are all sound but no voice. Every error I make, goal I don't fulfill, accentuates what can only be described as a paradox of unsubstantiated deferment. Although I am not so naive as to believe I know who I am (and do not trust anyone who asserts they do), I've come to embrace my limitations as stubs of grime against a fraying canvass. Perhaps this smacks of a kind of meta-cognitive appeasement—I can see validity there—nevertheless, it doesn't necessarily preclude spiritual self-growth in any tangible way. In simply means that I know where my strengths lay. Why then, do others refuse to allow me the same courtesy?
Of course the danger in thinking that way is the overtly solipistic didacticism it thrusts onto others. For example, it gives the impression that I am the only one affected by both my failings and my successes. It twists the rest of the world into little more than a recurring nightmare. Naturally, this isn't fair.
Bu then again, how can feelings of continual disappointment to others be misconstrued as solipsistic anyway? Aren't these emotions inadequacy the projection of others expectations onto myself? I keep my screw-ups to myself not because they embarrass me but because they run contrary to what others assume me capable of (and that will embarass me). It is of course axiomatic to say that the dream is always better than the reality. The illusion of the smart, capable Adam is much nicer than the reality. Adam the well-spoken bohemian is a far more pleasant concept than Adam the passive schlemiel with a C on his last report.
I have a friend who, oddly enough, shares my first name. He is consistently underestimated. Looking like greasier, less poised Chris Farley and sounding like a brain-dead stoner, he's been unfairly consigned to jobs he is far too intelligent to complete. To be honest, I envied him for a long time—it seemed like anything he did, he did well. People were always surprised by how great a how great a job he did, however menial the task. In reality though, my envy was little more than misplaced condescension. the two of us, Adam squared, may be taken as a single report of the fallacy of will as it is torn asunder by the beliefs others and the inability of the spirit to reconcile itself. Partly to shut out evidence of our ineptitude we sulk in the expectations of others. It's an incredibly sad way to live and certainly not the only way, but the path of least resistance has always been the antithesis of the staight, unending line.
Posted at 04:38 pm by: Selfindulgence
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday Afternoon in the Park
There was a farmers market below the steps leading up the Museum of Contemporary Art, and behind it, an oblong park barricaded by fir trees and wrought-iron benches. Work-weary Chicagoans seeking refuge from the white-knuckled antagonism of August in the Mag Mile flock in droves to this bucolic oasis to read, chat, or listen to music. Old moneyed nannies brought toddlers there to chase pigeons and Chicago firefighters strolled the periphery in pairs. Today, more than half munched on something bought at the market half a dozen feet away. I’d been in this park many times in my life, but because today was a weekday and because I was eating a fruit whose name I could not pronounce, the afternoon hummed with a slight kick of excitement.
Because I’d just left the art museum I was—as is always the case when I go to museums—alone. Although while parsing through a Gursky photo, I become friendly with an old couple from county Mayo both of who kept calling me a “good lad.” They followed me into the park whereupon they descended on their cell-phones like vultures on a carcass. I used that time to watch people as they decided what to do with their lunch hour. There was a sign next to me dedicating the park to a philanthropist, long deceased but who’s charitable works go on long after he left this earth. Next to the sign a blonde-haired girl of about three was mumbling something quietly to herself. She looked up at me and grinned. It was hot and humid and the minutes before 1pm snapped resolutely into action. She held up a doll and mumbled something slightly louder. I smiled back and stood up.
Slowly, I made my back to the market. Behind me the Irish couple laughed.
Posted at 12:55 am by: Selfindulgence
Monday, July 23, 2007
'Aint Nothig Wrong With It
Less than two weeks after the new Starbucks opened, the café around the corner shut it doors for good. Taped to the front window was a faint, handwritten note thanking the neighborhood for the memories and the “myriad kindnesses, Albany Park had bestowed upon us.” The first day they closed I noticed a handful of North Park University students standing outside looking nonplussed. One of them was either dancing erratically or casing the joint. Since North Park is largely a seminary school, I’m guessing the former. I haven’t seen anyone venture near the place since.
The real rub was that they just slipped out, dissolving into the night like some kind of an inverse vampire. The owners, a warmhearted pair of NPR liberals were not shy about expressing their views regarding the caffeinated behemoth descending upon them and though they never exactly vowed to fight it off, one still got the impression that at least they intended to die vocally. Maybe they’d write a litter to the Sun-Times or something. But they did nothing. The lack of Prospero’s speech and almost craven descent into the void, at first had me nervous. Did the boys from Seattle engage in something nefarious? Was murder afoot? For days I heard nothing. I’d walk past the empty storefront, stealing glances, trying not to be noticed. Then, as is humanity’s wont, I started to forget. The longer the store remained barren and the more it was masked by graffiti, the less I seemed to care.
Yesterday morning I saw my lesbian barrista friend sipping ice tea outside the new Starbucks. Reclining in a rattan patio chair beneath a green umbrella she was oblivious to the outside world. Deeply engaged in a book, she didn’t see me enter. Originally my plan was to finish the most recent issue of Commentary and then start the day’s paper in an area I liked to pretend was “my corner” was more often than not occupied whenever I arrived. But when I saw her ingesting the enemy’s bounty, I was suddenly overcome with intense feelings of shame. Not for me but for her. Was this former paragon of anti-establishment, anti-globalization unity actually drinking Starbucks? Out in the open no less? Surely she’d be embarrassed to see me. One could only imagine the dreadfully awkward scene would have ensued. Would she make an excuse? Pretend she didn’t care that she was just caught betraying her principles. Perhaps she’d act like she hadn’t seen me at all. I must admit the last option was the one I was most hoping for. She had the same uncomfortable look on her face everyone has when they’re engaged in something challenging. Only on her it looked much worse.
She noticed me in about three seconds and our conversation was predictably stilted. Although she didn’t seem embarrassed, neither of us mentioned where we were. After a few brief, “how’s it goings”, she left and I finished my magazine. Behind me an old man with a thick, gray goatee asked me if I’d gotten in a fight with my girlfriend. Clumsily, I replied that she wasn’t my girlfriend. He looked confused but smiled anyway and apologized for the interruption. She wasn’t my girlfriend. She wasn’t even my friend. She was an acquaintance and an infrequent one at that. Who the hell did I think I was deciding that she had breached some sort of personal moral code? I didn’t even know the woman. If anyone should have been embarrassed it was me.
But I wasn’t. Judging others may sound teenage and cliquey, but it is as natural as any other impulse. I won’t sermonize here, but I won’t obfuscate either. We’re judged every day by everyone we meet. We all know this. Just don’t let it elbow out room for reversals. Don’t let it close your mind.
There. There’s your $0.25 wisdom for the day.
But I was fine being human. Fine being imperfect. The air was salubrious and I took the long way home. I had to be at work in just over an hour, but still, I took the long way home.
Posted at 11:05 am by: Selfindulgence
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Chrysler and the Human Condition
P.T. Cruiser owners are the most unpleasant people on the planet.
There, I’ve said it. And let me I assure you, I derive no pleasure bringing this odious, automotive secret to light. After all, I myself am a P.T. owner. But what is it Michael Moore likes to parrot about confluences of patriotism and self-criticism? As a recent owner of Chrysler's ginchiest little intro car, I am eminently qualified to speak as to the magnitude of my comrades’ antisocial inclinations. It is thoroughly unacceptable and an affront to everyone who conflates owning stuff with belonging. So let this stand as my J'Accuse. My "Common Sense." My Trashion des Clercs. My..umm...Magna Carta! Er....
I'd been reading about how poorly Neons perform in crash tests for some time. Over the last year my dad forwarded me at least a dozen articles describing, in painstaking detail, the shape of your average Neon after a 30 mph bang-up. No of them ever used the words "tin can" per se, but in more than one report, you could tell they were itching to. And to be sure, I had grown weary of my car shortly after the third time in as many months I had forgotten to park and watched it roll, ostensibly in neutral, down an assortment of slants, bumps and inclines en route to some expensive destination. In no occasion did it actually strike another vehicle, but it came way too close for comfort. Perhaps it was time invest in another car. Maybe one that would make shrill screeching noises whenever I forgot to park.
Including the ten-minute test drive around the block, the actual purchase of the car took under an hour. I knew I wanted a P.T. Cruiser. I knew I wanted side-impact airbags, and I knew I didn’t want to pay more than 15K. There was no shopping, no bargaining and there was no cajoling of any sort. In fact there was very little of talking outside a brief conversation on the state of the Cubs bullpen. The salesman, a ruddy, thin-lipped man with a sunken chest and a strained, painful gait seemed unable to believe how easy the transaction was. He kept peering at me over his computer as if to make sure I hadn’t dissolved into some salesperson’s unfilled fantasy. He must have asked me how old I was five or six times.
Price aside, there was another reason I was excited about my purchases: P.T. Cruisers look slightly unorthodox. They may actually get noticed. And, more specifically, other P.T. Crusier owners may notice them. Visions of waving to other P.T drivers danced before me as I rode home from the car dealership that day. It didn’t take long before I spotted another one, and like an eager trucker the first day on the job, I rolled down my window and waved. I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next.
For over a month I’ve glanced longingly at P.T. Cruisers, hoping—pathetically—that someone would notice I was driving the same model car and acknowledge that seemingly important fact with a friendly gesture. But no! P.T. Cruiser owners don’t want to say “hello.” They don’t want to wave, honk or even smile at someone whose taste in automobiles runs concurrent with theirs. So I’ve stopped waving. I’ve admitted naiveté. Every time I see one, it’s another nail in the coffin of fraternity.
There’s an episode of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where David gets upset when another Prius owner doesn’t wave at him and he follows the dude around the L.A. area. And while that belies deeper faults within the fictional character, it’s indicative a much larger, human need to belong. We all have it, it just manifests differently. Still, why censor ourselves at a time when there is so much that divides and keeps us from any remote sense of unity? Heaven only knows.
Posted at 05:03 pm by: Selfindulgence
Saturday, June 23, 2007
According to their website, there are no less than ten Starbuck stores within a two mile radius of my house. Six in fact are within one mile and two are so close I could crabwalk there and arrive in less than ten minutes. Of the ten in my area, five of them have parking lots, four have drive-up windows; three are open until 11pm, and one is managed by a guy who looks an awful lot like that curly-haired kid from "That 70's Show." Clearly it is safe to aver that Chicago's 39th ward runs no imminent risk of becoming decaffeinated anytime soon.
I think you all know where this is going.
Don't get me wrong. As I've mentioned in at least one previous post, I am not anti-Starbucks. Ya' know, "free people, free markets" and all that schmutz. Nor do I think there's anything particularly wrong with the snob-effect endemic to the no-fat, half-caramel, blah, blah, blah, latte. Hell, if it helps someone feel a little better about themselves, why not? And I don't plan of regurgitating any of Lewis Black's now famous anti-Starbucks material. There's a place for that stuff: free magazines in designated-hip areas where people born in 1986 gather to go thrifting. Personally, I find it all a little boring at this stage. You want to go to an indepdendent cafe, fine. Just do it to hit on the lesbian that works there like me, not becuase of some sociological sense of duty imbued in you by editorial board at "In These Times."
But I did want to comment on something. Wednesday evening at about 11:30, I stopped by the new Starbucks going up LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET from me to check progress and asses how soon it would be until I began ignoring my lesbian barrista friend in favor of coffee burns and two-day old chocolate chip scones. Since it was a weeknight, I figured the usual phalanx of ooglers would have retired and I'd have leeway to peruse the half-spackled walls and exposed ductwork without having to make requisite chit-chat.
I think you all know where this is going.
No less than half a dozen people stood ritual-like around the front of the store assessing everything from its aesthetics to its chances of success. At first I decided to keep walking so as prove that I was beyond pretending to be a Chrysler-driving yuppie with vainglorious albeit not-entirely-inaccurate beliefs that holding a Starbucks cup elevated an undefined ingredient of urban self worth. This idea was, however, quickly punctuated when a man with a goatee and a Wilco t-shirt called out and asked me "if this wasn't the smallest Starbucks I'd ever seen?"
I replied that it wasn't, and guessed that the Starbucks they built into Great Wall of China may in fact be smaller. He felt it was have been bigger. Eventually, we just decided to agree to disagree. At this point it was close to midnight and I had be awake in five hours. Behind me cars braving the gulch between the Kennedy Expressway and Lake Shore Drive, drove slower and less determinately as if the cooling evening air had stripped them of direction. They had apparently been standing together for a while, my new companions, and their conversation moved so fluently I could hardly get my thoughts into it and when I did they sounded simple with air of the feigned cynicism most try candidly to ignore.
Standing at midnight in front of a half-completed Starbucks, is always a humbling experiencing. I shifted, silent, aching to leave yet compelled to stay. What does it say about our society that a group of seven seemingly normal, well-composed professionals were willing to gawk at commercial property until after midnight and dream openly of empty calories they'd consume a few weeks hence? What does it say about me that I was filled with an unspeakable desire to both impress and push off my nameless friends and neighbors? Conflicting ideas tumbled through my mind at breakneck speeds. I glanced at my accomplices trying measure them up but came away with little more than cursory sketches. I wondered how long I'd stay, lost and unraveling, a half a mile from home in the cool summer night.
Posted at 02:54 pm by: Selfindulgence
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Sunday nights have not gotten any less scary. Even though I am twenty-eight years old and pretend to be in command of this misshapen clump I call my life, Sunday nights shine the harsh light of reality onto my pseudo-yuppie self image. Literally, mild tremors of anxiety are darting through my forearms and fingers as I type. I look at the clock and wonder what fires I'll be putting out twelve hours from now.
Like always, my day will start at 5 a.m. But unlike most days, caffeinated mediation will be held to a minimum as I will need to finish sorting through Friday's paperwork by 7 in order to have everything ready for the two seminars we're hosting no later than 8:15.
Sunday night. Its ghost swims beneath the week, bobbing periodically up and down, a grim reminder of the helplessness and lack of control we all exude.
Posted at 09:37 pm by: Selfindulgence
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A couple months ago, I read an article about a man who compiled lists of deceased myspace users and uploaded their information onto his personal website. Supposedly it was the largest (and most likely only) collection of teen-angst poetry on the planet (that was bad, I admit it. Sorry.) I think it's called mydeadspace or something, but a quick Google search yielded little more than a handful of Grateful Dead fan sites. It sounded pretty cool and counter-culturish at the time, and now that I have an account, it feels all the more so. When I come to an end, where will my words rot? I have these wild, Kubrick-ish visions of giant monitors over my casket flashing images of all my many "e-friends" like the workings of a ghostly Rolodex.
Last Friday I was forced (yes, forced) to open a myspace account by the powers that be at work because they felt it offered an opportunity for members to communicate openly and bounce ideas off staff in less restrictive environment and a more ambient atmosphere.
I suppose that makes sense...Literally speaking….
Myspace would, to quote one board of director, "foster a free exchange of ideas, encourage professional interplay and augment our value as an institution" In essence, folks could bounce ideas, any ideas, no matter how fantastic, off me and I could get started banging my head against in the wall. Clearly, additional stress alone wasn't enough to compensate for my raise.
Cynical? Noooo. Since starting the damn thing last week, I've received no less than six invitations from people who presumably are not myspace-created androids, asking to be my friend. (This is bullshit of course, as my page consists of little more than my name, age and organization I work for, leading me to believe that they are in fact little more than binary automatons designed solely for purposes of selling you things.) Each of them, it should be noted, are busty blondes with low-cut shirts and raccoon-eye makeup jobs. Great. Exactly the sort of woman I'm least attracted to. Thanks, myspace!
So anyway, it's for work, so as much as I know it's killing you, I will not divulge the URL. Ummm..actually, I don't even know the URL. Not a clue. Does anyone know how figure out what their myspace URL is?
I ask the all the 8 year-olds out there who know this stuff much better than me. How's it work, kids? Tell me quick. There's a army of ones and zeros simply dying to meet me.
Hades (I guess)
Posted at 09:49 pm by: Selfindulgence
Sunday, June 10, 2007
What Can I Ttitle This Post so as Not to Sound Trite?
It does not embarrass me to admit that I've been flirting with the lesbian waitress at the café down the block precisely because she is a lesbian and I know nothing will come of it. This is the same reason why I sometimes flirt with married women—another fact I'll readily cop to. Nor does it embarrass me to concede that I often go there strictly for that purpose, lugging issues of Commentary or The New Yorker, or more recently, the 42nd Parallel like so much costume jewelry. No, what embarrasses me is the fact that out of the half dozen times I've flirted with her, I've never really flirted with her. All I usually do is comment on her choice of music (Rufus Wainright, over and over again) or ask her which cookie best pairs with the super free-trade Nigerian blend, or whatever's in the decanter that day. The worst part is, had someone with an ounce more urbanity than I done any of these exact same things, it may have actually resembled flirting and not the banal, coffee-chatter I produce. And it probably wouldn't even have mattered if the woman was a lesbian, subtlety being the petrol of the omni-sexual.
Although I normally don't notice it, this is probably the most alone I've been in my entire life. I've head a steady stream of girlfriends since October of 2002, with sometimes as little as twenty-four hours separating them. Each beautiful, kind, crossing chambers of my heart like Israelites over Jordan, on the way towards the infinite cityscape relationships become when they cease being relationships. I still speak with most of them. They've helped identify me more than anyone else in my life. And though it is not my intention speak of them as if they were some kind of collected mass, the concentrated element they have become cannot be undefined. Lovers. Saturday-night dinner companions. Perhaps it's crass to measure one's relationships by the restaurants that buttress it, but these things are always bigger than the sum of their parts. G-d, I miss, I miss, I miss.
I feel most achingly single at a bar with my friend Chris on Friday nights. Hardly unusual. Two guys nursing Rolling Rocks and watching Cubs games reeks of the type of singledom one expects from a bad Vince Vaughn movie. We sit there, complaining about our jobs, complaining about women, complaining about Carlos Zambrano all the while pretending we cared about any of these things. Last Friday, a bored thirty-six year-old mother of two found us eager ears as she picked apart the messier detials of her most recent divorce. She was Australian and kept calling us her "young mates", which kept conjuring up visions of the Artful Dodger asking young Oliver to consider himself his "mate." Not very attractive.
After an hour I stopped listening and started watching Rachel Ray on one of the bar's many video screens. What kind of sports bar plays Rachel Ray at 11:30 on a Friday night? Worse, as the night dragged on I felt the attraction I once had for her begin to seep from my disinterred body. I never want to see her again. When, an hour later, we were hailing a cab for our disheveled, Aussie "mate" I placed the entire blame on Ray's $40 excursion to Palm Springs.
That's where I feel most alone. Where I feel second-to-most alone is the corner of Kimball and Foster, just slightly west of my condo. There's nothing on the corner of any particular sentimental value: a gas station, a gift mart full of brass, six-dollar tchotchkes, and the Albany Park branch of the Chicago Public Library where my dad heard John Kennedy had been shot. But passing the intersection every day, I feel a surge of tenderness. I'm walking next to someone. We'll cross at the light. Maybe we'll pick something up at the Columbian shop down the road. I stand between her and the street and we move gracefully, in quiet unison. But compassion quickly melds into loneliness. I'm always alone on the corner of Foster and Kimball. On any other intersection I can feel the impulses of a dozen other Chicagoans who, for whatever reason, are traversing the same road as I. I see them. They see me. And we agree, at least momentarily, to let each other be. Not so Foster and Kimball. There all is silence.
Which brings me back to the lesbian waitress and my feckless attempts at chitchat: to say things that sound right. That me appear someone worth knowing. Worth talking to. Because in the end, what is loneliness but the absence of sound? Happiness, depression, anger, malaise, they're all unique, disparate feelings incapable of existing independent of context and nuance. But loneliness, that's the universal emotion. It's quiet—quiet for everyone. It defines us. Outside, there are college kids playing basketball and I am trying not to let it define me. A mile from here there's somebody I want to know and I am trying not to let it define me.
Posted at 03:13 pm by: Selfindulgence
Monday, May 21, 2007
They say the place down the road has the best gyros north of Greektown. I tried them yesterday. They tasted like the same scaly slabs of lamb they served in my high school cafeteria.
I think there's something wrong with me.
Posted at 09:37 pm by: Selfindulgence