"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Tangled Up In Blue

It's a heady collection of tags: authentic experience, nyc, love, sex, friends; should be a real barn-burner of a blog.

Back in Humboldt for a week now, feeling the raw world-conquering momentum bleed away into wood smoke and the smell of fallen leaves. It's not unpleasant at all, this country home of mine -- next week will be alive with family and friends; the way I fell in love in the first place -- but today it gives me a feeling of wistful sadness.

It seems I make myself a smaller person here, or maybe it's vice-versa with the Mother City making me bigger. Much as I believe the hype about the internet flattening the world, it will always be true that different things happen in different places. It was an immense recharge, to walk again the streets of Brooklyn, to feel the quick hard snap of real subway doors, the great heaping crush of humanity, densely packed ambition and excellence. I draw power from the capital of the world.

And it's not just the women, but I won't lie: they're a big part of it. I have a no kiss-and-blog policy, but this little slice from William Gibson has stuck with me since adolescence, and pretty much nails me to a T:

But Bobby had this thing for girls, like they were his private tarot or something, the way he'd get himself moving. We never talked about it, but when it started to look like he was losing his touch that summer, he started to spend more time in the Gentleman Loser. He'd sit at a table by the open doors and watch the crowd slide by, nights when the bugs were at the neon and the air smelled of perfume and fast food. You could see his sunglasses scanning those faces as they passed, and he must have decided that Rikki's was the one he was waiting for, the wild card and the luck changer. The new one.

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All My Lovers Were There With Me / All My Past And Future

As a followup to my Californication post below, I'd like to try and shed a more positive light on things. Clearly that kind of writing elicits a reaction -- hey, sex still sells, and it's some of the more honest blogging I've done of late -- but I think I may have given some people the wrong idea. Not that I don't appreciate all the ego-boosting, but I can't help but feel a little bit guilty, like when as a kid you'd fake or exaggerate an injury for attention.

So yes. Let's get down to brass tacks. In our last installment, I concluded that there was some serious Fear going on, and this was why my sex life was more or less dead. And yeah, the more I sit with that the more accurate it feels.

That's not particularly great in and of itself, but the first step to happy living is figuring out what you want. Then you have to get it, and that's another mountain to climb, but just getting some direction is a vital and necessary first start. I honestly feel better already.

When I survey the past couple years -- relatively sexless and workaholic -- they seem a cocoon. On the one hand maybe I've been gestating, and am preparing to emerge chrysalis-like in new glory. On the other hand, maybe I've been in hiding, retreating into the woods to bury my shame under a thousand layers of self-made silk. Or something.

Maybe it's both. More than anything else, I get the feeling I've been keeping myself under wraps, off the scene. It's not a new revelation, but every time it comes up it's with ring of truth. I think I've got a stronger way to say it, one that comes to mind with an anecdote:

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High Octane Nostalgia

I'm back in the Bay for a week. BadCAMP coming up, and business to conduct for our budding Cycling Empire. Also happy birthday Zacker. Good fun and a nice drive, so I'm content with all that.

Oft's the time I wonder about graphing my changes in mood and fortune, a little personalized stock ticker of the soul. Regular journal-writing is beyond me, and actually recounting the details of my daily life would be debilitatingly dreary. No one must know just how ho-hum my routine really is. Gotta preserve the mystery.

A numerical composite would be interesting, while (probably) allowing me to retain whatever shards of sex-appeal I can still muster. And what might such a life-market show? Finances flat but stable. Politics looking up and responsibility on the rise. Stress back down after peaking in August.

It's all well and dandy, and I'm especially happy that visible signs of over-stress -- e.g involuntary muscle-twitching -- are declining, but as things level out I worry muchly about the void, that it may just sit there gaping at me. Nature abhors a vacuum, and although I could really use a vaction, the kind of soul-emptying boredom that may be in the offing here seems dangerous.

The best answer seems like a long shot. Short-sellers are killing the Love index. The gut feeling: flat-lined.

This is starting to become a problem. Aphoristic wisdoms along the lines of "age is a state of mind" are cold comfort when contemplating a creeping case of cynicism. I really don't want to end up a jaded or pessimistic person. It's a shit way to live, but objectively that's the trend. Me no likey.

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Math Rules Everything Around Me

In keeping with my recent wedding-borne inquiry into default notions of romantic future, the arc of the story, and also owing to the fact that I finished my most recent book conquest -- the inestimable Mountains Beyond Mountains (we're helping out PIH w/their drupals at chapter3) -- I've been considering the possibilities.

Fact: to the best of my knowledge all but a recent few of my significant romantic interests (the "old flame" category) are now married, engaged to be married, or have been married. Some of them even have children. This would seem to suggest that the kinds of girls I've been into over the years are the marrying kind. Also it would seem to suggest that my future more likely than not lies in undiscovered country.

Counter-Fact: I haven't been in any relationships lasting a year or more, and have never lived with a lover. Also, to put it diplomatically, I don't have a strong track record of fidelity.

Fact: I really really like kids. I've always loved children, was a babysitter as a young man, and I've gotten into arguments with people who suggest that it's morally questionable to bring new ones into the world (as opposed to say adopting). I seem to have a pretty strong desire to pass on my DNA.

Counter-Fact: the particular circumstances of my life (massive work, lack of steady location, etc) are not conducive to settling down. I've also shown a particular affinity for rambling, as well as a resistance to compromising personal goals or priorities for the sake of others.

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It's Time for Josh Koenig to Get Back in the Game

New tag. Drupal set message "Power dating." Backstory on that is here, and I'll elaborate with new thoughts now.

Well, actually, first I start with self-quote, to illustrate just how sisyphusian this feels at time. From my report back from Baja, which feels like another lifetime:

I realized, for instance, just how blatantly I’ve been keeping myself out of range of romance out of fear more than anything else. Sex and love have always been intertwined in my experience, and avoiding one is a pretty good way to skirt the other. Much as I bemoan my lonely state, it’s my own choices and habits of action that render it so. I’ve been rationalizing this to myself as a kind of jaded maturity, but now I think that’s just bluster.

The truth is I’m afraid of what might happen: of getting hurt, of hurting someone else, of getting into unknown territory where the possibility of both those things just gets greater. It’s weak sauce, really, because this is what life is all about; but as they say the first step towards finding a solution is admitting you have a problem. So there’s that.

I also realized in conjunction with the above that I’ve been looking backwards a lot, for similar reasons, when really I should be looking forward. The possibilities of the future are almost literally endless, and when I begin to entertain them I feel a real true gut-level sense of trepidation — “don’t make plans; don’t invest; shit doesn’t pan out, remember?” — and it feels like it might be that good kind of Allen Ginsburg brand of fear. The kind I know I should pursue.

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Don't Give Your Heart To Any Old Ramblin' Man

I decided to take a peek at my google analytics the other day, and I discovered that by far and away the most popular post on my site over the year to date is one I'm actually rather proud of: Me And Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs Down By The Schoolyard. Almost 1000 people have seen that so far this year. Even assuming half of them were robots (and hey, robots need philosophy too), that's still immensely gratifying.

Its no secret I've been burning the candle at both ends lately. When I come down to SF it tends to get worse, feeding my workaholism. Even though this is ostensibly a thriving cosmopolitan metro area, I really have no life here, and with an office it's easy to stay at work to the point where coming home is just a trip you make to sleep before getting up to do it again. It reminds me of the MFA days in a way, or college. Any of those times when I was doing stuff for 16+ hours a day and having no sex.

Not that I'm complaining. Coming home late and hungry and unable to find a can-opener to make myself some tuna salad notwithstanding, I'm a ways away from the point where this pattern really generates any kind of meaningful irritation or negative response. Indeed, for as long as things can be kept in the power curve -- never forever, but what is? -- this isn't a bad way to exist. It makes me productive and relatively happy w/feelings of accomplishment, etc, and possibly even provides good grist for later milling when time is less tight.

And still, I can't help but feel like something is slipping past me here. I mean, the impending birthday is probably driving these feelings, sure, but I can't shake the sensation that I'm whistling into oblivion. I can't help but note the toll my current pace of activity (and past times of uber-business) put on my existing relationships, the massive impediment it poses to forming new connections.

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Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is a famous pre-expressionist German play by Frank Wedekind, revolving around the onset of puberty among some schoolchildren in a deeply repressed 19th Century community. It has a new life as a somewhat simplified or dumbed-down Broadway musical. Since I first read the text about a decade ago in College I've been borrowing the title, which has an appealing lyrical quality, as a shorthand for the semi-cyclical (re)emergence of my lust for life.

It is the vernal time again, and Humboldt County isn't disappointing. The sun is shining, and last night I went out to a kick-off party for our nascent roller-derby league. Our friend Hanna is participating (around her regular gig down in SF learning to tattoo; that's dedication) and there are a bunch of other good second-degree connections. The place was loud and full of ruckus, rock bands and dance-teams, a silent auction of art, desserts and donated items. With a minor amount of cronyism and a little but of quick bargaining, we managed to score a truly atrocious/awesome USA USA USA blanket: the flag, the eagle and a FDNY truck marked 911. Made in Korea. Amazing.

It was the first night of spring and also the full moon, the club chock full of attractive people with ambiguous sexual agendas. Mine was/is rather nonexistent. Much as I relish the return of the sun and the verdant fertility on display all around me, to-date I'm personally untouched. I'm sure that if I gave myself enough rope to get all boozed-up and wild like the old days there's an odds-on chance I could hang myself sufficiently well to at least make out with someone. It's an occasionally appealing thought, but it hasn't happened.

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Notes From the 99th Percentile

Somewhere on the edge of the bell curve is the girl for me.

Notwithstanding the fact that it's the intellectual equivalent of cocaine cut with baby-laxative -- which let me tell you really isn't any kind of fun, appealing though it may seem -- there's lately been a new spasm of comment around the crypto-racist tome The Bell Curve, a book that tries very hard to create an intellectual edifice in support of timeworn prejudices about who's smart and who's not based on skin-tone and "cultural background." Poo on that.

This isn't a post about politics though, so I'll leave the debunking behind the links above. Rather, it is a jumping off point to talk about the personal conundrums of intelligence, or more generally "capacity for life." This is a post that's filed under "authentic experience, hubris, love" and "juicy." So then, lets get to it.

First principles. Statistical metrics of measuring human capacity and/or achievement are suspect. Highly. At the same time, it's also undeniable that there are differences in people's capabilities and accomplishments, especially borne out over time. Equality is an ideal, something to be pursued in principle but impossible, even counter-productive, to enforce in practice. Different people do different things, and this is Ok, and probably Good.

Disclaimers aside, I've got good stats. Standardized general testing consistently puts me in the 99th percentile. That's one in a hundred, one of 10,000,000+ in China, nowhere unique or even really special, but certainly someone who's "talented and gifted," as they say.

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I Been This Way Ten Years To The Day

Like most of my peers, I don't much like valentines day. It tends to be an artificial creator of stress, unwanted and advantage-taking. I resent it conceptually, even though in practice it has worked out on occasion.

A decade ago a friend of mine drove me from NYC to New England where my then-girlfriend was going to an all-girls college. The first love of my life. That turned out to be a very good weekend, the cold brisk Massachusetts air and light through leaveless trees, frozen ground and beautiful old architecture and heavy quilted blankets. Probably the best valentines to-date.

Five years ago I went on a first date, out with an artsy clever brash girl, a self-described bad girl, a girl who brought me gifts from the dollar store: this garish yellow notepad I still have (and use) today, and a bar of soap called stud which set the tone but was promptly lost. We had drinks at Beauty Bar, and it was the night before the big protests against the Iraq war. That one worked out alright too, even if we didn't stop the war from happening.

This year I stayed home, begging off from seeing the cute soccer-playing girl I've gone out with a few times in the past couple months, probably signaling finis to that going-out. I didn't intend for that to be the case, but the tone of her voice strongly suggested displeasure at our scheduling difficulties, or more specifically my lack of attention and follow-through in that regard.

It's something I have some experience with, the way that women get gradually fed up with me and my half-heartedness. It's not something to be proud of, but I've learned to recognize the scorn this inevitably brings, even in trace amounts.

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The Widening Gyre

It was a slaughter. By the time I got around to buying seven shots of Kessler for the table -- "smooth as silk" -- we were all coloring well outside the lines, flirting with the ladies, shouting half-bright witticisms at one another. Yes, for the Girth's 29th birthday, after a very lovely and grown-up dinner of cayenne chicken and freshly-made pesto, we got drunk.

This is an old passtime, one that brought us together as wild young men, and still serves a bonding purpose, even if the path is now more well-worn and recovery a bit more difficult. It doesn't happen that often, this dionysian fugue, this western tradition of peeling back the civilized parts of our brains. We're more self-conscious and protective; more self-judging too. We've got better things to do a lot of the time. We worry about our health. Still, the ritual persists.

Considerable vulnerability is created, both during and after. This is part and parcel with any loss of control, and it's what we hope for I think, part of the draw. Things will be admitted, attempted, words blurted, action taken. Magical events may transpire, and in the hard light of day, with luck, truth will reveal itself.

The morning finds me shaky, giddy, mumbling rationalizations and pining away over a girl I haven't seen in more than year. The hard light reveals an empty landscape; my cupboard is bare. It's a weak kind of feeling, and I don't like it.

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