I’m a mess. Seriously, I’m all over the place and ragged around the edges.  My apartment looks like a tornado went through it.  I’m behind on a million projects (both personal and professional) and have a laundry list of deadlines I’ve simply blown past without even the slightest attempt at getting something in for them.  Hell, I can’t even keep up with updating this blog or working out regularly (two things I should have mastered and do without much thought by now).  But the Pièce de résistance of my deteriorated state is that for the past week and a half, I’ve been sleeping on dirty sheets while a set of clean bedding lay folded on the bed with me.  Why?  I just couldn’t get around to changing them.

guyHow did this happen?  What could have led to this downward spiral?  It’s actually pretty simple.  I’ve been really busy.  It seems strange to make this argument: but for a little over a month now—I’ve been running around with stuff to do and places to go.  From weddings to a somewhat working vacation, I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast.  And the chaos of the past few weeks has thrown my routine completely off and I just let things slip into disarray.  This is nothing new and I’ve gone through this song and dance a million times before: my life gets hectic and crazy, I end up neglecting certain aspects, things get messy, and then I work to get my shit together, get organized, set up a routine, fight to stick to it, things get back together, and then the whole process begins again.  I feel like I go through this cycle every few months and I’m beginning to suspect that I like it.

I’m just realizing that it’s easier to pick up the pieces than to keep everything from falling apart.  There’s direction and energy that comes on this wave of excitement to fix everything.  Whereas when things are organized and you’re following a laid out routine, it’s kind of dull and aggravating to stick to.  The thing is—it’s continuing to follow though on that monotonous routine and keeping your shit together that gets you to your overall goals.  It always the actual work, not gearing up and setting to do it.  So I’ve got a new goal:  I’ve got to stick to the boring grind that I set up and not let it slip away.  Maybe this time it’ll work.

[Pic via about.com]

writingThe title of this post is a Latin phrase that translates to “no day without a line.”  It’s generally attributed to Roman writer/philosopher/historian Gaius Plinius Secundus, also known as “Pliny the Elder,” who himself credited the Greek artist Apelles for coining the expression.  It’s meaning is pretty simple: create something, anything—no matter how minuscule, everyday.  For a writer, it should be a commandment to live by—write at the very least one original sentence everyday.  I have a note card with the saying taped just over my computer.

To be completely honest, I’d had this quote around for years, but never truly lived by it until very recently.  There was always the advice given to me, and seemingly every young writer starting out, to “write everyday.” But the reason I think that I didn’t take it to heart, the same reason I’m assuming everyone else ignored that great pearl of wisdom, is because it turns the act of writing into work.  When you first realize that you love to write, it comes in spits and spurts, these sudden and quick fevered moments of creativity that sit you down in front of the computer, typewriter, or paper and pen.  It’s a fun addictive rush, but you can’t dictate when it happens. And if you try to write without it,  the process is daunting and not that much fun.  Unfortunately, it’s the only way to ever finish anything that you start writing.

Now, no matter what I do, I always make sure that I write something everyday. It can be anything from a blog post (yeah, yeah, I know I only posted twice last week… Lay off!) to an addition on a current draft of short story, even facebook status or something on twitter.  As long as it’s creative and original, I’ve done my daily writing duty.  Of course, one or two snarky sentences posted online isn’t exactly what Pliny (or Apelles) had in mind, but it gets the job done—and trust me when you’re curled up, hungover, on the couch watching the Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time on Spike, tweeting “Han Solo is an intergalactic pimp that the ladies love and he knows it,” is tough.  The point is that it’s like exercise; even a little bit is better than nothing. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you get.  You not only find that you can write something pretty decent without those surges of creativity, but that a lot of those times you make yourself sit down to write, you get inspired and they come along anyway.   Living the rule of “no day without a line” has opened something up inside of me and made me a better writer.   I’m glad I finally started following  it.

[Pic via Flickr.com]

bush_confusedIt’s Monday. I’m tired and regretting not calling in sick. I also want to get a post up before noon, but I’m having trouble thinking up what I what I want to write about. So I’m staring at a blank screen while my brain sputters and skids—searching for something, anything, to pontificate on. I could cop out and just write up a list of something funny, like “Things I don’t care about” then copy and paste the current trending topics on twitter with a smarmy sentence or two for each entry [editor’s note: lists are super easy to write because they don’t require the hardest thing to work out on paper, transition of thoughts]. Or maybe I could just dump some embedded videos in here and leave it at that. The thing is: I didn’t start this blog to write those types of posts. I started this because I wanted to challenge myself into not just writing regularly, but with depth and aimed at some semblance of quality.

It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. I’ve got a whole Word .doc of things I want to write about. From something in a current events type of vein, like a rant that’s been building up inside of me about how stupid newspapers are for wanting to charge for online content, or something personal, like how I am physically unable to piss if someone is at the urinal right next to me. I can write up another review for my most recent completion off the Summer Reading List or do another Profile in Awesomeness. Or go in a new direction, like exploring the recently discovered pleasure of watching classic 80’s cartoon shows on YouTube. It’s just that all those posts would take more time than I have to write today.

I’ve posted here before about my problems with procrastination and I feel like maybe I should have prepared something to write ahead of time, but I’ve been crazy busy lately and have a lot more to do today for my day job (and other stuff). Basically, I just want to quickly crank something out that I don’t need to do a lot of research or thought to put together, but is still a memorable post.

Maybe I should write about how I’m trying to come up with something to write about?

[Pic via ScienceFaster.com]

I'm so close to 30.

I'm so close to 30.

Last weekend, I turned 26.  It was gruesome.  There was a nice dinner with the girlfriend and then a whiskey soaked night partying with friends that is now just a very blurry and gap filled memory montage somewhere in my brain.  I’ve basically been recovering until yesterday (i.e. drinking lots of water, swallowing lots of aspirin, and returning a goat to wherever my friend Kirch was able to rent a goat).  This explains my lack of posts, as well as the sick day from work, my suddenly appearing limp, and the notice for a court appearance in regards to an “indecent exposure with a farm animal.”  But as the nausea and pounding headache subsided, something hit me: pure and utter anxiety about where my life was going.

I find myself doing the math whenever I read the profile of someone successful or a celebrity, trying to figure out how old they were when they got their first big break. Thoughts like “When did they do it?” or “How much time do I have?” run through my head.  It’s as if I’m trying to figure out how much longer I can afford to not really accomplish anything substantial, to just seemingly dick around with my life.

It’s not that I think I’m a loser or anything. I just always figured that by this point in my life I’d have reached a higher level of success.   Growing up, I imagined a moderate level of fame, warranting a magazine cover or at least a profile on a major network news show.  I always thought my life would be filled with adventure and some danger.  I mean come on, I should be solving the occasionally murder or wrangling the slimmest of escapes via my trusty pocketknife and knowledge of science.  I should be getting into fistfights on top of moving trains or battling wits with a crime lord of some kind.  Today, my most exciting days are the ones where I can afford to buy my lunch and eat it at my desk (I’m a big fan of those $5 foot long sandwiches over at Subway).

Call it narcissism. Call it an identity crisis. Call it another poisoned mind of a generation that was told since kindergarten that they “can be whatever you want to be” and then met the cold reality that not everyone can be astronauts, rock stars, a-list actors, or crime solving geniuses.  But then there’s the realization that I came to this on my own.

Whatever turned my life into whatever this is, didn’t happened overnight. I made the many decisions that led me here.  And maybe I’m just looking for the wrong accomplishments.  Maybe I should remember that since my last birthday: I’ve quit smoking, gotten a handle on my personal life, reached some level of financial security (for the moment), and even began making progress (measurable in molecules of length) in my career.  But seriously, how cool would it be to solve a murder?

China MarketsI’m not generally a positive person, but has the news about our current economic situation grows bleaker and bleaker, I’m starting to wonder if there is possibly a silver lining or two to the whole thing. Though I’ve lived through a wide variety of financial crises, the recession of the 1980’s, the burst of the dotcom bubble, and the absolute collapse of the Beanie Baby market, none were while I was full-fledged adult living on my own. And before I end up standing in line for a soup kitchen, I’d like to point out a few shinning points of light we can be happy about and thank the recession for.

• At least now all those pricks I went to school with that ended up working in finance can finally stop quoting Michael Douglas from Wall Street like its scripture. Greed isn’t good. Maybe they can sit down and watch it again to finally understand that Gordon Gekko is the villain. It’s not like they have to go to work anymore.

• It could quite possibly be the end of Tyra Banks on television. Honestly, when you’re worried about how you’re going to afford to buy groceries how do you manage to care who is going to be America’s Next Top Model? What…She has a talk show too? Damn it!

• This will toughen our generation up. The same age group that waits in-line to audition for American Idol and come out screaming that Simon will regret rejecting them “Once I’m famous!” needs to struggle a bit. We need to quit whining and take some hardships to be better people. It’s going to suck, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

• New York’s going to become gritty again…and cheap too! Expect graffiti to be all over the place, people urinating EVERYWHERE, bums sleeping on park benches, crime at pre-Giuliani levels, and Manhattan apartments renting at Brooklyn prices.

• We can also expect an increase in hobos and prostitutes. I’ve always had soft spot for hobos, those lovable scamps that are the quaint embodiment of American homelessness. I like hookers more though. Maybe we can even hope to see, dare I suggest the unthinkable, a hybrid hobo-hooker?

• You can pretty much get away with anything now and blame it on the economy. Why just the other day I was dumping the body of a hobo when a police officer discovered me. “What do you think you’re doing?” He demanded. I just a shrugged and said “recession.” To which, he just nodded and told me to “move along” when I was done.

• Every year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas my grandmother regales us with tales of surviving the depression and the hardship of struggling after the stock market crash. Well, now the old bag can shove it! Oh, you’re little brother died from Polio? Do you want me to show you on my iPhone how low my 401K is Nana?! Do you?!!

The best thing about the recession is that we don’t have to learn anything from this experience. Like how you should live within your means, know the value of a dollar, or understand that widespread fraud in a “free market system” can lead to systemic toxicity within the said market and eventually cause its collapse. God, this is going to be the best financial downturn ever!

originaleusticeI like to think that I’m not just a funny guy, but witty as well (cough while point to tagline for blog). One way I express said wit is by shouting snide remarks during films at the movie theatre—can you think of a more humorous commentary on modern female body issues than hearing someone yell “Show us your boobs!” at a projected Judy Dench? I also like to make a statement about out societal expectations of storytelling by going up to people reading murder mysteries on the subway and saying things like “the butler did it” or “the serial killer is really the detective while he’s sleepwalking,” even if I’ve never read the book. And of course I try to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest every week.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the contest: on the back page of every issue, the New Yorker publishes one of it cartoons without a caption. Any US resident 18 or over can then go online and submit their own caption. The editors select three finalists and readers vote on the best. Authoring a winning caption has become an obsession of mine, much like Bruce Wayne’s need to rid crime from the streets of Gotham as Batman or Owen Wilson’s compulsion to make mediocre films.

Now, some may claim that there are specific rules on how to win. But I believe that the caption that fits the cartoon the best will make it, no matter what. It should reflect you as a writer, as well as have universal appeal. In September, I was sure I had a winner. I’d spent a week starring at the below cartoon, stumped on what to write.
lobster-cartoon
Then, lying in bed the night of the deadline for all contest submissions, it came to me. I jumped up, ran to my computer, and sent in my submission. “The thing is: we’re not just looking for any giant lobster, but a giant lobster with experience.” It commented on the hardship of job hunting, the absurdity of the job interview, and clichés of everyday office culture. It was funny, it was deep, it was perfect…it wasn’t even a finalist.

For weeks afterwards, all I spoke about was the injustice of it. I railed against the New Yorker, accusing its editors of not knowing true comedic genius if it fell on them. Even the owner of my company, who doesn’t know the names of anyone in my department, began referring to me as “the kid who got rejected from the New Yorker.”

I don’t think I would have minded so much if the winning caption wasn’t “So why did you leave Red Lobster?” Really? That’s lamer than Drillbit Taylor. A friend pointed out that maybe I had missed the deadline. I’m sure I’d made in on time, but I’m willing to give the New Yorker the benefit of a doubt.

So back I went to grinding out submissions. Some were okay, but most were of a quality that we’ve all come to expect from a certain “comedic” actor with a much talented younger brother, blonde hair, and a nose that was definitely broken at some point. Then this week, inspiration stuck once more. I was staring at this cartoon:
cats
When it hit me. “I’ve got to go, my cats are forming Voltron again.” It’s genius. It’s quick witted. It makes a 1980s pop culture reference (which is so hot, right now). It had better be at least a finalist.

sickFirst off, sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been busy puking my guts out. This leads me to my second point: I’ve been sick.

After an amazing Valentine’s Day weekend with Kate that included catching an evening show of Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush, a lovely dinner at a tiny neighborhood restaurant, Sunday brunch, and an afternoon wandering around the American Natural History Museum, I awoke early on Monday, President’s Day—a national holiday. I love waking up early on my days off, yet it’s something I rarely do. But as I slowly became conscious, my eyes adjusting to the hazy sunlight coming in through the window, I became aware that something was wrong. My mouth had a bitter taste, my throat was dry, and my stomach felt bloated. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, falling to my knees right at the toilet.

“Are you okay?” Kate sleepily called from the bedroom. To which I gave the only known universal reply of “no” to such a question—the sound of vomiting. Once year I get really sick and this was it. By the end of the day, I’d thrown up the wonton soup (which I suspect as being the offending cuisine that put me in the predicament) along with half a tube of saltines, and several glasses of ginger ale, as well as e-mailed my boss informing her that I would not be in the next day. I need to note that Kate took care of me for the whole day—always an important moment in a relationship.

I love taking sick days. Well, okay, I love taking sick days when I don’t have to stay in bed due to the room spinning or an uncontrollable cough. Taking sick a day when I’m actually horribly sick, just plain sucks. To me, a proper sick day (or not-so-sick day) should be spent sleeping in, watching reruns (or old episodes of your favorite TV shows online), and not changing out of your pajamas. But instead, I used my actually-horribly-sick day to nibble on crackers at my girlfriend’s apartment until I was strong enough to walk her dog and survive the trip back to my place, where I collapsed on my couch and debated if the next day should be a not-so-sick day.

I decided to go to the office. As tempting as a not-so-sick day was, it wasn’t worth the hassle of being behind at work. I made the more prudent decision, which is actually kind of strange for me. Just a little over a year ago, I would have called out and taken the day off to watch some House on Hulu without a second thought. Maybe this means that I’m growing up, that I’m becoming a productive member of society.

Or maybe it means that the recession, with its poor job market options, has forced me to cling to my current employment by having an honest work ethic. Yeah, that’s probably it. Damn this economy!