Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Roach Motel

photo of old notebook the roach motel

I’ve been keeping little notebooks for a long time.  I never wrote a long entries, just little thoughts.  Roaches. That’s why I called this one “the roach motel”.  I bought pocket size notebooks so I’d always have one around.

The notebook above is from 1992, and it’s got a  post-it picture scotched taped to the front by my friend Todd Bonne.

From time to time I’ll  post stuff from old notebooks like this.  They are really old.  Here are a few deep thoughts c. 1992 (Italicized commentary is from today):

•The failures of nihilism and angry violence make the only honest target of true revolution myself.
You can imagine how well that revolution went.  Or you don’t even need to imagine.  Just look around.

•seX:  By Any Means Necessary
A succinct distillation of my typical mental state circa 1992.

•Art is never dangerous without an audience.
And it’s never bad without a critic.

•I’m a street crossin’ man.
I’m making this my new motto.

•Sometimes a hat is your best haircut.
That is for real.

•Many people see their long held fantasies become realities – I’m headed the other direction with the tide – I’m watching my realities turn into fantasies.
It’s as if I could see the future with 20/20 vision.

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Googling Words of Wisdom, Let it Be, Let it Be

A few weeks ago I felt like crap.  I had a  communication breakdown with some friends and ended up feeling screwed.

I found myself googling descriptions of the kind of wounded pride that I felt, and I found some good thoughts that helped me to navigate the sting. Mainly Marcus Aurelius.  Ever since I read his Meditations his words have been a comfort in times of trouble.

“When anything tempts you to be bitter:  not, ‘This is a misfortune’ but ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune.'”

I like his advice because it’s my understanding that most of it was not directed towards others, but towards himself.  He suffered the same hurt and indignities the rest of us do, only he also kept a written record of the means he used to deal with his problems as a way to remind himself to stay on the right course despite life’s obstacles and calamities.

I like that many of his best approaches to resolving problems are based on finding ways within oneself to re-frame the problem – a cognitive jujitsu that, like the quote above, turns problems into opportunities to prove one’s character .

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Cursing, cursing under my breath

I was really pissed off at the end of the day today.  Nothing got done, people got in my way, I got in my own way.  Finally, giving up, I went outside to walk around, and walk off some of my anger.  I began cursing under my breath.  And then a little bit out loud too.  Wow.  It  felt good.  It made me really relate to crazy homeless guys who spend a lot of time walking around cursing out loud to themselves.  It’s fucking therepeutic, that’s what it is.

If you don’t have health insurance, and can’t afford prozac or whatever other anti-depressant might work, get outside.  Walk around.  Cuss your ass off. That shit works, for real.

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newark, NJ

If you take the train out to Newark, and walk from Newark’s Penn Station to the Newark Museum, you might pass this old abandoned building surrounded by a lot of weeds and overgrown grass. I love the long, straight rope coming out of the crooked black hole on the side of the building. I imagine a hideout, a home for the homeless, a pirate’s lair, or simply a primitive portal into an alternate universe.  All of these possibilities seem reasonable when confronted with the reality of a jagged hole-in-the-wall and a knotted rope ascending from bright sunlight into the deepest darkness.

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The Doctor Will See You Now

scary teeth sculpture

my teeth according to my dentist (click pic for source)

I’ve had to go to the dentist far too often lately, and I’ve been thinking about the ritual before I go – how I always make a point to do a super duper intensive flossing / rinsing / brushing ritual that probably takes off a few millimeters of gum all in some odd effort to make my teeth look so much better than they are.  As if there were some point to that.

And then I started thinking about whether or not people prep this way for other doctors.  Like psychotherapists for example.  Not bragging about my sanity, which is self-evidentally questionable to non-existent, but the fact is I haven’t spent too much time in psychotherapy.  If you have, is it like going to the dentist in the way I described above?  Do you try to spruce up your mind, dial back the neurosis for the visit?  Or is it more often the opposite – you amp them up a notch so you can be sure the doctor appreciates the full range of your issues?

If it is the latter case, as I imagine it is for some, can you imagine doing that for the dentist?  Purposely eating spinach and all other kinds of nasty crap so your dentist can see the kind of dental patient you really are? But you would never do that, because who wants a dentist to care about them? And besides, unlike psychotherapists, dentists have x-rays.

I think my extra teeth cleaning is just a way of magically hoping the dentist won’t catch any of my problems, and I won’t have to get that root canal / crown/ gum surgery, etc.  Maybe I oughta just ease up on my pre-dentist brushing a little.  It’s pretty neurotic to be honest.  I could probably use a shrink.

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Can’t Sleep

Charlie Brown

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’  Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’

Charlie Brown

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Bioluminescent Morality


our inner goodness shines forth

Me and S went to a talk given by Jack KornfieldTara Brach, and Mark Epstein about the ways in which Eastern psychology can augment or be included in Western psychological practice.

During the presentation Tara Brach repeated a story from Jack Kornfield’s book The Wise Heart about a huge old clay buddha in Thailand that was revered not for it’s aesthetics, which were unremarkable, but for it’s size and the fact it had survived for more than 500 years.

One year there was a long dry spell in the area around the temple, and large cracks began to appear on the dry clay form of the Buddha.  An inquisitive monk shone a flashlight into one of the deepest cracks and saw a golden glow reflecting back.

It turned out that underneath the thick clay coating was one of the largest golden Buddhas in Southeast Asia, and Tara used the story as a metaphor for discussing our own golden glowing Buddha nature that we cover up and hide to protect just as monks long ago covered their golden Buddha statue to preserve it in times of strife and conflict.

I was thinking about this story today, and about the idea that human goodness might sometimes actually manifest itself as a glowing light or spiritual bioluminescence. You often see the idea of  a morally positive bioluminescence in movies, typically with aliens.  “Good” aliens (i.e. not the aliens that burst out of your chest) are often luminescent – I’m thinking about the aliens in Cocoon or the ones in Steven Spielberg’s brilliant A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and of course the oh so good and harmonious Na’vi people of James Cameron’s Avatar.

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Silent Mixer

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a “Silent Mixer” at Cabinet Magazine in celebration of my brother George’s new book, In Pursuit of Silence.  I went to support my brother, out of curiosity, and also to shoot some video, the results of which you can see above.

To be perfectly honest (and hardly surprising to those who know me) the idea of a mixer in any shape or form is disagreeable to me, and a silent one seemed to hold at least the possibility of moving from being just disagreeable into some horrible inner circle of social hell.

As it turned out, I was glad to have the job of videographer, because despite the advantage you might imagine for a quiet person at a silent mixer, it turns out that one still sticks out like a big thumb if you aren’t busily engaged in the social activity of the event, which in this case is writing back and forth with other guests.

I found myself doing things like writing opening lines on an index card, “Hi…What brings you here this evening?” and then not having the courage or fortitude to walk up to anyone to bring my card to them.   Or, I saw someone I wanted to talk to, and by the time I wrote out my opening, they had started to write with someone else.

Somehow, though, I managed to overcome my slow writing style and got in a few conversations here and there, and once engaged in the process, it was interesting, and you noticed a lot of different unique characteristics to silent mixers.

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I Never Questioned This

I saw a homeless looking woman on the steps of the 14th Street subway station belting out a Judy Garland standard with a really nice voice.  A passerby stopped to watch and she paused briefly to tell him, “Alcoholics are talented.” and then went back into song.

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Shut Up So I Can Hear What You’re Saying!

“O.K.  We don’t have a lot of time.  So we have to work very slowly.”

Josephine Abady quoted by her friend Laura Linney on Studio 360 a couple of weeks ago.

This is one of those quotes that is really beginning to resonate with me.  I never feel like I have enough time.  But more and more I am finding that the fastest way to get where I want to go is to slow down.  Slowing down allows you to bring more focus, attention, and care to your tasks. You’re less likely to screw something up.  Counterintuitive lessons like this invariably piss me off in the process of learning them.  Mainly because they tend to be really obvious only after repeating the same mistake about a thousand times.

I know I’m not alone in this – I see people who hate counterintuitive knowledge every time I read the news.  Groups are constantly getting into conflict because it’s so counterintuitive that someone you despise might have a good idea or a truthful insight.

It’s so much easier to hang onto a logical or reasonable conviction and deal with the consequences of failure and conflict than accept a counterintuitive suggestion that actually makes the world a better place.

I suppose in some ways that’s a natural outcome of a world grown so complex that in many ways our convictions have become the most reliable compass to guide us.  Or it’s simple intellectual dishonesty and laziness.  Probably like everything the world is made of, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Maybe there really ought to be national opposite day.  We might get a lot done.

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