… being turned off … my phone and my …

I have become comfortably numb.

Interestingly, before I began writing this post I had intended it to be about my new-ish rediscovery of myself made possible by withdrawing from social media and tech-nections, and the why and how of that. As I started searching for a title and shaping its first sentence, as so often happens, I realized I was writing (thinking) about much more than having deleted my Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etcetera, and turning off my “smart-phone” for at least twelve of every twenty-four hours.

Thus, the first sentence. Written on my desktop (as opposed to my laptop) and with it, the ability to search the sentence on Google because – while I could sort of half-remember the tune I had no idea where or who or, well, I know, and I apologize to those of you reading who are rock fans, but I was primarily a musical theatre lover with detours into punk and new wave. So, I went to my technection and found this:

I’m sure you knew. Pink Floyd. Comfortably Numb from 1979’s double album “The Wall” – thank you Wikipedia((CLICK HERE)).

Which is to say, I’m not in the least technophobic. I love the access. I love the possibility. I love the way the ability to connect has opened up the world.

What I don’t like is that  – FOR ME AND ME ONLY – all of that connection made it too easy to distance myself from real life and real communication and sharing of emotion. And, what was worse, I was being badly affected by the public relation “spins” people publish about their own lives.

I have been talking for years about the ways in which people have been investing more energy in developing a social media footprint and reputation – the avatar they become – rather than the person they actually are. In fact, some of my deepest and most prolonged discussions about this very thing were with someone who eventually seemed (to me, from the distance at which I was put and kept) to surrender – embrace, even – a social media persona at the cost of a soul and the truth of their core.

I also noticed that person (and others) who seemed most “removed” from what I understood their souls to be, and reliant on cultivating a techno-image, a social persona – often also had substance use issues.

In actuality, once I had chosen a life of casual-hermit-dom, having my only connection to many people I once knew be the posts they made on social media gave me to believe that many people were happily abandoning the truth of who they were that they might cultivate followers and technolarity.

I get that. Life is hard. An examined life is harder. And what social media and smart phones and dvrs and the preponderance of devices that keep us connected to so many streams of information and people all the time do best is give us the opportunity NOT TO THINK, not to examine, not to be with ourselves, within ourselves, at our cores, being in the moment who we are.

And I was in pain. Not just from being disconnected from myself, but, also, from pretending that Facebook chats and texts counted as relationships with people who I still loved, who still wanted to talk to me. And watching people spin themselves and be images instead of human beings, well, that also hurt me.

So, I turned things off. And now, I also turn my phone off for hours every day. I disconnect myself (mostly) from all the outside streams, and explore – through writing and reading and exercising and being with myself and with others – the stream of this moment, who I am, who we are, now.

I have also made “appointments” with people I love. I call those people “friends” and I get together with them, face to face, regularly, and look them in the eyes and talk about the things that might once have turned into Facebook posts. And since we are talking, face to face, soul to soul, the twenty-five word post leads to a two hour discussion full of asides and explorations and discursive explosions of soul-sharing joy.

I am beginning to feel alive again. Which makes me – interestingly – numb to the influence social media streams once had on me, and, since almost all of my conversations and connections are in person, in real time, dealing with another person’s eyes and feelings, I think I am kinder (again). I like this being turned off from techno-world.

And if you would LIKE to reach me, I can still be emailed at MiracleCharlie@aol.com and I am happy to talk to people there. And, when I turn my phone on, I do get texts. And I answer. And I am still on Twitter, for now anyway, @miraclecharlie.

So, yes, that sort of turned off is good, alas, there is another turned off with which I am dealing of which I am not so fond … but that is for another column under another name which is another story … happy Friday. Love, Charlie (and a soupcon of Sebastian)

 

 

… Zeit-bites Zeitems Wednesday … in case the chickens & men in John Deere hats get me …

ZEITEM 1: IT’S FAIR DAY!

Wouldn’t it be uber-cool if “FAIR DAY meant the world was suddenly this righteous place where justice ruled and all the injustices one had suffered were undone? Yeah. Well … instead …

I live in Frederick, Maryland. Each September comes “The Great Frederick Fair” to town at which are displayed livestock and produce and cookery and 4H-y things in competition for ribbons and accolades. At the grandstand each night happen demolition derbies and Beach Boy concerts – not at once, and not that the two are that unlike one another. Such a huge deal is this fair that the Frederick County Public School System gives its students Friday off. Fair Day. I went as a child. Until I didn’t. Which was long about the time puberty hit and I realized what it meant that I never got invited to be one of the people in the cliques who went to the Fair (and everywhere/anywhere else) together. Once I realized that it was not coincidental that I was never included in such outings, and FINALLY (god, it took me forever) understood that my happy little plan about going alone and meeting up/running into people was ALWAYS going to fail (same thing happened later in life at bars and parties – and that took me EQUALLY as long to figure out) – I just started staying home and reading. Almost. All. The. Time.hot hat deere

Well, last year, my great pal, A (ANOTHER A) asked me to go – just for lunch. And she is very persuasive. And she promised to protect me. And so, after what must have been at least three decades of blessedly AVOIDING the Fair, I returned. To the Great Frederick Fair. Wish I could tell you it was a triumphal “HELLO, DOLLY!” Harmonia Gardens-esque moment – but, I had a ham sandwich. Which is – in itself – always a good thing in my world. Anyway, today, I am going again. For lunch. A will want to see the chickens and I will be hoping that the fellow I saw a week ago in the men’s hair cut place – the guy wearing the John Deere cap and logo-ed shirt and really tight redneck jeans with the chain-wallet, the guy who looked at me and then turned around and did it again on his way out the door like we were meeting drunk under a mirror ball – I’m hoping to see him and offer a ribbon.

ZEITEM 2: ZAC WAS IN RE-HAB?

Efron Zac rehabIt has hit the press that Zefron was in re-hab. It was at first reported it had been alcohol related, but now the stories say coke and molly. While he was filming the Rogen movie about being in a frat. During which he was rarely shirted. I feel SURE we are only a year or two away from a tell-all book in which he talks about the gay sex he had for drugs. Some man somewhere has had Zac Efron’s penis – I KNOW THIS – and so, anyway – that aside – here’s the thing: he looked like THIS when he was barely able to function from drugs? Uhm …how the fuck? Clearly my plan of going each day to the gym SOBER is flawed – anyone got any molly on which you can teach me how to roll?

ZEITEM 3: MORE BOOK AWARDS? I CAN’T AFFORD IT!

TWO BOYS KISSINGSee ZEITEM 1. Having had little social life as a child (adult, decrepit aging old man) I developed into a voracious reader. Part of being a voracious reader is the accumulation of more books than you can possibly EVER read in a lifetime. This is what makes me happy. Recently, the nominees for the MAN BOOKER SHORT LIST were announced (and the whole “next year the Man Booker will allow American authors to be nominated – has got me in a FRENZY – read here)  – and I have had to start ordering them. NOW … the National Book Award lists are coming out, and already I have to have the one referred to here … “Two Boys Kissing”  – which sounds as if I will weep all the way through it. What’s reallyREALLYREALLY got me weeping is that I am about to run out of Amazon credit. DAMN THE LUCK!

ZEITEM 4: MORE RUMORS AND MISINFORMATION ABOUT ME

Yesterday, I was talking to an acquaintance in the morning. We greeted one another with a “long time, no see” hug – which, as far as my acquaintances go is a pretty positive thing because – all too OFTEN – what happens when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while – they turn away and pretend NOT to see me because they have gone to the dark side of haters who have believed one or another spin about me and my past (present, whatever) – so, good thing. She said, “I love reading your stuff. LOVE IT.” And, a few minutes later, she said she needed to get in touch with me about something. I said I’d give her my email, she said, “Oh, that’s okay, I follow you and your stuff on Facebook.”

Except. I shut down my Facebook months ago.

Later in the day, I was visiting with another friend who is not – herself – on Facebook, and she said, “I have to ask you something. J – – – (a mutual friend) was wondering what she did to upset you because you de-friended her on Facebook. She thinks it’s because you must have found out she’s a Republican.”

Well, no. I’m not QUITE that shallow. I AM NOT ON FACEBOOK.

gif bateman 2So, friends and acquaintances – except the ones reading this just waiting for me to write an actionable sentence in which I slander or defame someone – I won’t, by the way, I told you I’d never tell anyone and even after you did what you did, I still keep my word, and soul, sorry about you having lost yours to Satan (or the Republicans) – if you DO ACTUALLY READ THIS (and, I guess, if you saw that – you must – this is all getting too Meta for me) and my name ever comes up and someone thinks I de-friended or whatever – I DID NOT. Even when i was on Facebook I had long since stopped de-friending even those who I knew detested me or had believed horrid spins on who I was. So, yeah. SPREAD THE WORD.

ZEITEM 5: JAMES, PLEASE, STOP TEASING ME …

Franco toiletFranco is at it again. This was on his Instagram account. He needs to stop. There is nothing crueler than someone who is never going to sleep with you doing that thing where they prove how cool and open minded they are by constantly waggling their stuff at you and caressing you lovingly and being all touchy-feely, uber sexual with you – SOME OF THEM (not saying you, James, or you, you know who you are) do it ON PURPOSE – checking every once in a while to MAKE SURE you are still hot for them – because it bolsters their self-esteem and they string you along with never any intention of making good on their seductive teasings. There is a special circle of hell for them.

I believe it is called “Fair Day”.

Later, friends. And, DE-friends.

…oh, i forgot…another dis…

Here’s a funny (not so) story from today.

After the gym, feeling a bit low, I decided I would visit the Starbucks in downtown Frederick. I used to live less than a block away so I was there almost every day. I would write there. But now, well, usually I hang at the one closer to the gym if I hang at Starbucks at all. But, today, I really needed (wanted?) the downtown Frederick vibe.

So, there I am, minding my own business in the chair I like, located in the back corner. I was making some notes, then reading my Kindle, then checking Twitter, just hanging. I realize that in a nearby chair is this fellow.

This fellow. You see, it was not last summer, but the summer before, and I was hanging at Starbucks every day and this fellow and I became acquainted because he, too, was there every single day. We started talking. We started smoking together. That’s how we started talking actually because I am VERY VERY shy – I NEVER start conversations with people, I NEVER approach people – even people I know – I don’t text or call or approach FIRST, because I am always sure I am an intrusion, not wanted, bothering a life – (don’t be like me kids, this is a terrible way to live – and, too, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or so it seems of late – as in, the last five years) –

Where was I? Right, so, that summer, I saw him every day, and soon began to notice that whenever I would go out to smoke, he would come out to smoke (now I don’t smoke, and besides, no one can smoke on Starbucks property anymore) and one day, he just started talking to me. We talked, pretty much every day, for about a month. And then, he was gone. It never went anywhere outside of Starbucks smoking – and I didn’t expect it to – it was just – you know – an acquaintance sort of outside the bounds of the life you’re leading sort of casual you can be anything without the pressures of real world history etc sort of – good time.

Then, he was gone. I assumed he moved. Something. I didn’t really think much about it. Until I saw him today, from behind. So, about thirty minutes later, he moves from the chair in which he’s seated to a table – facing me – and opens up his laptop, digs in his bag and gets out the plug/charger – hooks it all up, plugs into the wall – and then – he sees me.

Our eyes meet. We stare. I didn’t smile, because I just don’t feel like smiling lately – and, honestly, it didn’t occur to me – NOR, as I said, can I EVER say anything to anyone first – so I didn’t nod or gesture or hello – but it was clear we knew each other from the way our eyes locked and then –

He pulled the plug, closed the laptop, shoved it into his (very expensive looking) messenger bag and left.

It felt personal. I mean, he’d CLEARLY intended to work or something on his laptop – and then, his eyes meet mine – and he’s gone. Like that.

I am now being rejected NOT JUST by people who have known me personally and intimately – but by mere acquaintances – even virtual strangers cannot stand to be anywhere near me.

And the funny thing is – this happened – and I forgot about it – I meant to blog it when it happened – knew I would – but earlier – blogging – it completely escaped my thought process – SO USED AM I TO BEING REJECTED, THE EPISODE JUST SKIPPED OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND.

And, there it is. And here I am. Going.

 

. . . friends . . . a second thought for the day about friendship . . . and betrayal . . .

(Second post of the day . . . how does a person who writes 1000 words and think it’s a memo prepare himself to write a one word suicide note? Practice, baby. Practice.)

I had dinner last night with a dear friend. Well, a dear friend last night brought Thai food and her sweet company way out here where I am – and I mean that (again) in both the physical sense – as I am far out in the country – and the emotional and mental sense – because I am untethered, without foundation, far, far out somewhere.

She posted this on Facebook (she told me, I didn’t see it, because I am not on Facebook any longer): “I had a super Thai supper this evening with Charles Smith. He’s absolutely glowing with health, looking fabulously pumped from the gym workouts and lack of nicotine. At least I think the glow was from the absence of nicotine but I guess it could have had something to do with the presence of Patron.”

I had one VERY SMALL shot of Patron. And by “shot”, I mean a shot as in a restaurant sized shot, not a shot as in the tumbler from which I usually drink Patron. And I had that shot because my very dear friend – in an effort to make me feel better about something about which I felt horrible and was explaining to her – ended up telling me some things that she knew would upset me, but which she thought I needed to know so I would stop beating myself up the way I was.

It is very difficult being my friend. Evidence of this is that I am down to 3 now.

But here’s the thing; I am a bit glow-y. I’ve been sitting out in the sun here too. (I know, right?) It’s the middle of nowhere and no one can see me, so sunning seemed the thing to do. And it’s so pretty here – look:

Morning vista. Those are my imaginary friends sitting around the table.

Morning vista. Those are my imaginary friends sitting around the table.

Sophie and Judah run the vista whilst I sip coffee and chat with my imaginary friends.

Sophie and Judah run the vista whilst I sip coffee and chat with my imaginary friends.

And I have somehow maintained the no smoking thing for – I have no idea how long – I do know that today I was about two seconds from buying another pack.

The question is, what the fuck do I have to glow for? The discussion last night centered mainly around why I have made the decision not to continue my life, so it seems somewhat oxymoronic to go to the gym obsessively (by the way – I don’t look good – I still look flabby and large and not toned and old) and to not smoke and now, to have cut back on my drinking. I mean . . . I fucked up my whole life, now I can’t even do death right? Well, I made a promise today – I’m going to write everything out before I pull the trigger, because in an act of extreme irony, my final note is going to contain only one word. I swear.

What a fucking fail.

. . . birthdays . . . life, death, and all that jazz (the movie) . . .

Today is the birthday of my very best male friend. I only have a very few male friends, so, I’m afraid it’s not much of an honor being “the best” but I am quite honored to count him as my compatriot, my confidante, my companion through the journey of life. We don’t make sense as friends; he is decades younger and I have known him since he was in the single digits; and while we have much in common, we also have wildly divergent beliefs about some things, and extraordinarily different areas of interest, but, somehow, we work. And somehow, through all the decades I have known him and he me, we have managed not to betray one another. He, almost entirely alone, of all the children I have known and helped to raise, has never done the “turn on” and “abandonment” and “destroy your maker” thing. I adore him and I wish him many happily ever afters. I hope he finds the woman he deserves and of whom he dreams, I hope they find fairy tale joy and raise many wonderful children, and I hope he uses his sensibilities and intellect and empathy (and, my god, never have I met anyone with more empathy – he FEELS so much) to change the world to a better place. happy birthday, C, and finally, we can have cocktails together without me feeling like a criminal.

ImageSo, that said, today I am making birthday dinner for another relative. He requested Oreo cheesecake (which I made last night and which we have already had for breakfast!) and all-day country green-beans (lots of bacon fat and country ham and cooking until there is not one vitamin left) and mashed-potatoes (my special ones full of secret, decadent ingredients so they are like a savory dessert almost) and I am enjoying doing all this, enjoying spending a few days here at home with what’s left of my family.

About that, never mind.  Connected to which – I de-activated Facebook a while ago and I am finding – I think I am okay with this. I have retreated from what people think is reality: the shit posted on FB and Tweeted, most of the news, most TV. I haven’t been reading papers or watching/listening to news or looking at social media. I’ve been reading. Thinking. Spending time with dogs. Going to the gym.

I think I am okay with this. My life is winding down. This morning I rose and being in a home with others who DO watch and DO listen, I was greeted with the news that Trayvon Martin’s murderer was exonerated.

Trayvon and his father

Trayvon and his father

I can’t cope. He profiled and targeted the child whose only crime was being the “wrong” race and wearing a hoodie. No, I can’t cope. And Cory Monteith died. Finn from “GLEE” – not connecting the two deaths, nor comparing, but, the world is such a difficult place and I become attached to these people I don’t know personally and their lives, their tragedies, all affect me too much.

The thing is, I can’t cope with or deal with the people I DO know personally. With few exceptions, most of those relationships are what I would call – well – I’m not going to call them anything.

I’m saying this. I’m watching Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical “ALL THAT JAZZ” again and there, Miss Jessica Lange, playing death, to whom he is inexorably attracted, also calls to me.

Jessica Lange as DEATH in Fosse's "ALL THAT JAZZ"

Jessica Lange as DEATH in Fosse’s “ALL THAT JAZZ”

After all the shows and the loves and the efforts I have made, and the way I have recently been dismissed because I was inconvenient to the agenda of others or got in the way of their addictions or self-aggrandizement, or because I am too old, too ugly, too poor, too difficult, too unconcerned with the things that people think OUGHT to be important and TOO concerned with things I think matter – like loyalty and truth and love and honor and listening to your heart –

Well, a little song a little dance, I guess – BYE BYE LIFE!

it isn’t suicide my friends, it is that I am done. And I am planning on dancing with Jessica in the not too distant future, because I have had more than enough of all this jazz.

…zeit bites…my pop culture rants & raves…

A ZeitBite-sized PopCulture round-up: Justin Bieber’s non-disclosure contract, the book based on him (sort of) LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE, a grown teen-idol, Leonardo DiCaprio in THE GREAT GATSBY, season finales from BATES MOTEL to DANCING WITH THE STARS, and my new lover is a KINDLE-FIRE!

This week I’ve been catapulted to the low end of my dysthymic emotional scale, resulting in a temporary withdraw from social media, Facebook in particular, where I was seeing too many posts that shouldn’t have upset me the way they did – always a sign to take a break from the relentlessness of all that information. So, I’ve been catching up on pop-culture while Continue reading

No writing today . . .

I don’t have time to blog. I’m supposed to be turning over a finished chapter tonight and while I have pages and pages of notes and outline and pieces, I have yet to shape it into a coherent whole –

Image

it is, instead, an incoherent HOLE, down which I’ve fallen. I’m grappling my way upwards – which does not, alas, mean I am writing. Rather, I am trolling online. Tumblr. Facebook. Etc. All the while writing thousands of versions of an opening sentence. I know better. I know that my inability to Continue reading

Conversations NOT with the Dalai Lama . . . a “sort of” post…

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso was in Maryland yesterday. I know this because my Facebook feed was full of my friends posting pics, quotes, and effulgent effusions describing the nirvana-like peace they enjoyed while experiencing his holy presence and pontifications.

dalai lama

I missed that. So I liked the Dalai Lama’s page on Facebook. Whatever works, right? I confess, at first, I was envious. I quickly awakened to the realization that envy was not the part of the circle in which I should be living, and I made my way round to celebration by quoting the Dalai Lama:

“When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes — I already have everything that I really need.”

Exactly.  Nirvana is always accessible, it presents itself to us in every moment if we can just recognize it. Lessons are there for the learning in every moment. Lessons like, not only was I not with the Dalai Lama yesterday, I also wasn’t with Cheyenne Jackson and Jeremy Jordan. Look:

Miscast 2013

Jeremy Jordan with his arm around Cheyenne Jackson’s waist as they self-pic.

But wait – all this focus on what and where I was NOT, can’t be healthy. I need to… Continue reading

…zeit-bites Saturday…

It’s the weekend. But when you are self-employed (barely – as in, some days barely a self and most days oh so barely employed) as a writer, when the inspiration flows, you have to capture it. Having had lots of days when the inspiration was being coy and thus having had to sweat-discipline myself to toil using what passes as “technique” – I totally welcome and bless these days when things just seem to be clicking – the ideas and the keyboard.

Harry Houdini in Water-Torture Chamber 1912

Still, that doesn’t stop me from checking all my news feeds and WordPress and Pinterest and Facebook (have you liked me, yet?) and Twitter and Tumblr-sites and fellow bloggers. And this morning brought me a few insights and chuckles and think-prompts. Morsels from the virtual-world zeitgeist, the first of which fits right in with this theme of “inspiration versus perspiration” and so, here you are: Zeit-bites Saturday.

Here’s Harry Houdini, chained, upside down in a water torture chamber in 1912. The thing is, sometimes when it appears that we are trapped, underwater, unable to breathe, it’s a good thing to remind ourselves that it’s just a trick. We’re all magicians and Continue reading

…erase…delete…block feed…and JEREMY JORDAN!!!)

Last night (and this morning) have given me unpleasant occasion to consider the acts of erasing, deleting, and Facebook feed-blocking as life-strategies.

erasing

It started with one of those Facebook posts that sneak through the cracks of all the people whose streams I’ve blocked. Just when you think it’s safe to read your Facebook feed, someone you haven’t edited out of the mix re-posts something from someone you have. Get on that Zuckerberg – it’s a programming flaw. The sneaky little re-post sent me into a Continue reading