Wednesday, May 30, 2012

standard deviation

peter bebergal tells a compelling story of what its like when the visions are unbearable. he tells a story i've seen play out in my own friends' lives and, ultimately, deaths. he tells a story i'll never understand, because i was able to bear the things that life and drugs brought me, and came out stronger in the end. he said so many things that make me so sad, because i know, that but for the grace of god, there go I.

i just witnessed a nightmare. a crazed dream of a growth based petro-civilization in which people can drive unimaginable distances to live in large houses for very little money, comparatively to regions near other people, by way of burning large amounts of refined oil in order to make it there and back every day. because god knows, no one would want to live in this place if they were unable to leave. there was no food or water for miles around, and because the owner of the house had no strapping son in law to reign in the surrounding vegetation, the house looked like it had been dropped in the middle of a burgeoning savannah. it had, really, because this particular bit of suburbia was so much worse than the one i type from now. it was in a place so remote that normal folk from the more common suburbs were completely unable to find it save for the direction of someone who lived there. this is one of the places that will become such a bizarre example of industrial growth based civilization: a suburb in the middle of the desert. there was nothing for miles around and then suddenly we were set upon by streetlights and sidewalks, and two story houses set so close to one another as to stifle you even further in the heat of the humid central texas night. an implacable tribute to the housing bubble, i couldnt believe that there were no foreclosures evident in its midst. "how could anyone bring themselves to live here?" i kept saying to my friends. when i met the inhabitants, i was able to conceal my dismay, and only asked vague questions about the location. only someone who was completely blind to the peak of our civilisational curve, those who were not in denial, but totally ignorant of the collapse happening all around them. the closest food source being a shell gas station, conveniently located next to an even larger, redundant shell gas station containing a church's chicken only a city block away in a place where the city was the furthest thing from the imagination. it was here that i fully realized the extent of the ignorance of our culture to the realities of petrocollapse and economic stagnation. it was pretty astounding. its so easy to dismiss the total ignorance of the people in your culture until you're face to face with it. all along the neatly curbed suburban streets were weeds so tall they looked like trees, and the scorpions flitted in and out of the shadows of the "lawn" in my friends' backyard, which held thistle as high as I and weeds i didnt recognize flourishing far better than the lawnmower-less single mother who lived there, suffering from liver disease as her children resided with her and smoked pot thoughtless of the fact that the place they lay was a vast savannah being slowly reclaimed by a merciless earth ready to take back what had been so exactingly cut away by developers promising green lawns and a happier life.

i also listened to stories told by a man who, as said in the episode, was just as bad as i, there but for the grace of god. we lived through so many of the same stories but came out so differently, he scarred and nigh schizophrenic, having entered the vulnerable state of ego-melt acid-opolis in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people (but at the same time, what an incredible experience it was! i could feel his ecstasy as he described it, only as someone who has taken lsd can). i always wonder at how i was able to come through the perils of drug addiction, both physical and mental; as he describes, just searching for the next "peak experience", not necessarily an actual altered state, but something which was different from everyday conciousness. i wandered through most of my adolescent life and mid 20s searching desperately for something, not really knowing what it was, but knowing that i wasnt going to find it by staying sober. by a freak chance of luck, or perhaps by the guidance of the deities that had become apparent to me, i shook away the things that were destructive even as i watched, and continue to watch, those things destroy my best friends, family, and peers. how, but for the grace of the god i was so luckily introduced to in the throes of prayer, and of psychedelic ecstasy, and of blind fate, could i have survived and almost thrived, when so many of my friends have met grisly fates, or worse, continue down aimless paths of dalliance and addiction? i never had an allergic reaction to a drug, as olga described, nor did i feel a need to control every aspect of my experiences. on the contrary, i reveled in the ecstatic states i discovered, and even now, in my more mature and experienced conciousness, value the total dissolution of my ego in the form of the blissful acceptance of death during an ecstatic state, more than the security and love of the people who care about me. i have never been so happy as the times that i have seen the end of my life and accepted it happily as the obvious continuance of an infinite existence; while at the same time, others who achieve the same state perceive it as a doomsday clock and fall into a paranoid fear state where everything produces terror.

everyday, i live with the things i have seen while in altered states, both with and without psychedelic substances. they have become a part of me and the way i view the world. i see auras and make wierd connections about events, though not to the point of circular fear paranoia. i accept the glows and events as they come, and i am a better person because of my perceptions. i look up at the sky and see flying lights and streaming colors, and yet i am unafraid, and not under the influence of any drug; although i hear other people complain of this as a side effect of their usage, and wonder why it is that now that they see all that they wanted to; that they want it to just go away. i am clearly aware of the interconnectedness of our existence, so much so that for a long time it was hard for me to eat, or watch people eat, because all i could see was organisms consuming to survive. it disturbed me, as it does so many people, to realize how much we are just like the animals all around us, fighting for morsels and fucking like there's no tomorrow while we consider, no, KNOW ourselves to be something more.

the problems i face seem to come from the broad consensus of denial of what we are, the duality of a conscious animal seeking to deny its own limits until the consequences force us to face reality. the vast suburban savannah of a culture obsessed with itself; unable to see past its own reflection and spiraling closer to an end that it knows and dreads, yet seems to embrace through the arms of plausible deniability.

peter bebergal tells a compelling story of what its like when the visions are unbearable. he tells a story i've seen play out in my own friends' lives and, ultimately, deaths. he tells a story i'll never understand, because i was able to bear the things that life and drugs brought me, and came out stronger in the end. he said so many things that make me so sad, because i know, that but for the grace of god, there go I.

Friday, April 20, 2012

melancholy manatee

how do you make someone understand something that is so plain the grasslands see it coming? how can you make clear something that is as fundamental as staring clearly through crystal? apparently that crystal is a prism, and there is more than one way to look at a problem. what angle can you see this problem from in order to solve it? further, when the prism slowly rotates, casting light at different angles, how do you illuminate permanently the shadows that are revealed?

if i want something, i make it real first in my mind. i then put it to paper, and assess the obstacles in my way. i overcome them, one by one, until the conclusion is reached. at times, the end is only the beginning of another problem, which requires more thought and application of will until the solution is found. but there is always a careful, measured approach, which results in a certain predetermined resolution regardless of other inputs. the end result may be different from the one envisioned at the start, but the result is inevevitably the same: success. absolute victory. how can this be imparted to someone who doesnt know how to solve a problem?

this could be looked at as its own equation. in basic algebra, it would probably look something like:

solution=(problem)/((steps to resolution)*(temporal variables)^(effort))

it certainly wouldnt look like

solution=((nebulous ideas)+(meandering to other subjects)*(expectations of success based purely upon fleeting daydreams))

to be honest, i used to think that the latter formula would work for me. i thought, for example, however subconsciously, that by buying band shirts and going to concerts, that i would become a musician. i figured that if i had enough albums i could be a dj. what it took me 26 years to figure out is that just hoping for something on occasion would not make it a reality. you cant just dial down the heavens and order up the life you want. you have to realize at some point that you have no idea where to begin, and START THERE. if you can take a moment to realize that all the things you want that are obviously within your grasp are escaping you because you dont know how to achieve them, you have a good beginning.

at that point you have to come to terms with a few things. you have to realize, painfully, that all the time you have had up until now has been an unfortunate waste. if only you had figured out how to begin a little sooner, you wouldnt be having this conversation with yourself now. you would have had it long ago, an you'd be well on your way to being l337. you have to understand that the only thing that can save you now and make your hopes and dreams a reality is a clear and strategic effort to achieve them.

but now that you know all this, how do you tell someone who still hasnt figured it out? how can you tell them that their time and potential is being completely wasted while they dodder around with beginning even a single solitary idea?

i guess you just fucking cant. you just have to sit there and painfully watch as they waste their time just like you did and rely on outside inputs to change what they think is a variable but is actually a constant: themselves. it sucks, and it hurts, and theres nothing you can do about it as far as i can tell. let a metaphor know that it could stray from the idiom to become a pun and it probably will stay as a metaphor. you cant teach a duck to be an eagle just by telling it how to sharpen its beak.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

what winding ways wend where

for some reason, this year has been marred so far with constant flux. i'm currently dealing with uncertainty in my employment for the near future, compounded by events i set in motion months ago that have now passed beyond my control.

i'm taking a trip back east in the coming month, and i have three job opportunities to sort through in the next two weeks. i absolutely must have a decision made by the friday after next because i'm being forced to purchase liability insurance to continue to work at the place i'm at now, which is one of the reasons i'm looking elsewhere for income.

thats probably a good place to start. within the past two weeks i've found the perfect job, seen it for what it was and realized it was a perfect mess, and kicked myself every day for agreeing to this and not turning back and running the other way when i saw all the red flags. flag one: employer requires purchasing uniforms to work for them. not so bad on the surface, but if you stop to think about it, they probably got sick of buying uniforms for people who quit right away and decided to start making the staff buy their own. which brings me to red flag number two: people quit this job RIGHT AWAY. i personally witnessed, in my first week, two people quitting without notice, a steady stream of applicants for their positions, and heard the owner recounting stories of people constantly quitting after a few days of work. had i been in the right mindset during the interview, i would have thought that through and realized that i would probably quit too. there had to be a good reason no one stayed. all i could think about however was the shitty job situation i was in that i couldnt stand the thought of going back to. i thought, "hey, i've worked practically all my life for egomaniacal, scatterbrained, obsessive compulsive small business owners. i can handle this." this last one, however, has made me realize that i dont want to do that anymore. just because i can put up with these personality types and their horseshit doesnt mean i have to.

flag 3: during my interview, i discovered that new hires pay for training in the form of $50 taken out of each check up to the amount of $400, which upon working there for a year and giving notice before leaving would be refunded in full. this flew in one ear and out the other and i agreed to it before i really thought about the consequences. that was stupid. i've even talked on this very blog about the fact that you should never work somewhere that charges you for training or requires you to sign a contract to work there. how quickly we forget! continuing education and supplementary education in this industry are not only grossly overpriced, they are in my experience not worth the shit i step on walking home from work. it takes five minutes to show someone a technique, and they master it by repetition. the amount that employers and "educators" in this industry will charge for this five minutes is absolutely unbelievable and would make your rabbi's accountant excrete his yarmulke. the fourth and final flag was that employees at this place were required to buy their own liability insurance, which i unfortunately wasnt informed of until i had already quit my other job and started working for this person. so to sum up the financial toll of taking this job, we have:

~$75 for a specific type of embroidered uniform
$25 a week for "training" which i would only get back by sacrificing a year of my life for this company
$188 to be covered by the owners liability insurance or $250 to purchase a portable policy of my own
(this doesnt take into account another cleverly hidden red flag, that all employees must contribute 10% of their tips for "supplies". maddening! also consider that we never actually see our tips, they go into a box to be counted up (by our owner, without our supervision) and added to our checks. so who knows how much i made in tips this week? i sure as hell dont!)

which adds up to $263 at the bare minimum for uniforms and insurance, plus another $50 taken out of each check for 8 weeks. thats $263 - $663 just to start working there! if that had been on my application in plain terms, i would have walked out right then and gone back to my shitty job that i hated. no matter how much indignity i had to suffer while finding something else, it was not worth a net loss of that much money. couple that with with fact that after ~105 hours of backbreaking labor over a two week period that only netted me about $550, and i was downright pissed off when she expected me to plunk down half of that for insurance, not taking into account for a moment that i work so that i can pay my bills and live a comfortable and decent life, not to pay the hidden costs of working at some disorganized day spa. i couldnt believe it when she had the audacity to impugn my integrity during that conversation and and accuse me of trying to "avoid" the insurance issue hoping she would forget. worse yet, since she is a typical tyrannical small business owner, i couldnt get a word in edgewise during our conversation, and what would i fucking say anyway to someone who holds so much power over me except "ok yes maam"?

this week the OCD has really come out. it took my old boss and his family over 90 days to show me their true colors, with this woman it only took two weeks to see beneath the thin veneer of happiness and the glowing smile and behold someone who was impatient, disorganized, frustrated and sick of it all and didnt have the first clue how to fix it or where the problems were really coming from. if you insist on being so exacting in the methods you use to do things as minute as clean a floor or dust a picture then you should either do it yourself or painstakingly hire and train someone who you know will do it the way you want and pay them enough so that they stick around.

now, i can understand the need to keep a place clean, and i know that the bigger a place is, the more work it takes to get it done. but when my commissions plus tips average out to an hourly wage of about $5 an hour, i expect to be paid at least the federal minimum wage for my manual labor. the final red flag that should have sent me packing was when i came in on tuesday and learned that "you dont clock in to clean. everyone pitches in and we just get it done." i'm ill equipped to sue anyone, but this absolutely must be illegal. if you want illegal labor, hire an illegal immigrant, not someone who put a lot of time and money into getting a certification and a license that allows them to perform beauty services as well as clean toilets and mop floors. i have never been so frustrated trying to clean a place in my life. i feel like fucking cinderella at this place, always on my knees fucking scrubbing something and when i walk back by five minutes later its dirty again. when she notices this, she tells me she doesnt believe that i did it and that i have to do it again. there are pictures on the wall that i have cleaned four times in a 24 hour period. i had to reclean an outdoor area that she said i didnt clean the day before because there was stuff on it. well if i could control the fucking wind and tell it not to blow grass on your threshold then i would, but i fucking cant. whoops.

so now i have to continue to deal with things being up in the air, all the way up until i take a trip i probably cant afford and come back to not having enough money to get by. what a way to end the first quarter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

venial variations

i think if i could wish for anything right now, it would be to be good at something i care about. sure, i'm great at some things. drinking a ton of beer at one sitting or sleeping late, for example. but the interests i've solidfied for myself such as art, music, programming, makeup, et al. i'm not very good at any of them. i find myself constantly questioning what i'm doing, where i'm going, and what i should do next. all my life i've wanted to be everything, and flitted from one thing to the next like a moth confused among candles scattered around like stars in the sky. ultimately this lack of focus has left me with shallow scratches into the things i love and no deep grooves to fall into. this year i have been trying to focus, and that is probably the hardest thing i've ever tried. time is flying by at accelerating rates and whenever i look back to check my progress i'm inevitably deflated by what i see. there are many great stories of people overcoming hardship and struggling to accomplish something and actually succeeding, but i've never come across a story of someone struggling to accomplish a bunch of things at once and making it happen.

as i meander through my morass of interests and try to get good at something, anything, im constantly distracted by something else. life for me so far has been one great anti-epiphany, a consistent mediocre stumble through situations and interests that has left me befuddled and stupefied and ultimately not very good at much of anything. when i try to do something to lift myself out of the quicksand i'm inevitably dropped into another mire.

take beauty school for example. a few years back i was working a SHIT job doing the WORST work with the most AWFUL people i could imagine. the hours sucked, the food sucked, everything just fucking was awful and i couldnt take it anymore. so i decided, "hey, fuck this. i'm not going to stand for this garbage any longer than i have to. i need to take a step up and walk the fuck out of this rat race once and for all." i knew i needed something quick because i wasnt going to last much longer in the state i was in. "beauty school only takes a year. i'll be able to look how i want and fuck all to everyone else. i could have hair, nails, wear makeup, act like a fag or a straight or whatever i want to do, and i'll be able to do it part time and make enough to get by. this is a great fucking idea!"

fast forward 4 years and i'm seriously considering abandoning the trade i worked so long to become a part of. beauty school was worse than a joke, as i've detailed here. the hair industry is fraught with the same narrow minded assholes that i had to deal with in every other field i've slaved away in. part time is not an option in this industry until you own your own shop or are taken care of by a sugar daddy. the beauty industry is so rough that most people drop out of it within the first two years (if they didnt drop out of beauty school to begin with), and i'm in serious danger of becoming part of that sad statistic. i like what i do, but i certainly dont love the way its done. to learn anything in this industry you have to put everything you have behind it financially and chronologically. skill and clientele take time, time that i dont feel like i have. the idea was to do this while i put myself through school to become a programmer so that i wouldnt be miserable through four or five years of college, waiting every day through every class thinking "when will this finally be over? when will i be FREE?"

what i've come to realize is that cosmetology will not set me free. working as a programmer will not set me free. in fact, becoming a programmer may drive me deep into debt to some overpriced institution, and debt is the modern form of slavery. freedom to me is doing what i enjoy to make a living, and having the time to pursue things that dont earn me money. freedom is being good at the things i love. the things i've done so far that i thought would bring me closer to this goal have in fact slowed or even halted progress in the areas that make me happy. i made more music working fast food than i do working beauty. i did more coding doing construction than i do working beauty. i did more makeup, looked more fabulous, dressed better, felt better and was more inspired before i put myself down this current path.

being a slave to someone else's idea of reality has only subjugated me further to the doldrums of the rat race. it doesnt seem to matter what i do to get myself closer to happiness, because as i age i only become more tuned in to the wavelength of everyone else's existence. the more i stick out the faster the hammer comes down to smash me back in.

i love drawing, but i havent drawn in years.
i love performing, but i dont have any skills worth showing to others.
i love coding, but i cant write a program.
i love makeup, but i'm terrible at it.
i love playing piano, but i cant play more than the c major scale.
i love playing bass, but i cant play anything more than a random convolution of scales i made up.
i love learning languages, but i only speak english.

there are so many things i love. and they all feel so out of reach. the minute i start to pursue any of them, something immediately stands in my way. i think that if i could go back and learn anything differently, it would be the skill of seeing something through to the end. i never learned how to single mindedly hammer away at something until it was thoroughly finished. i've never stuck with anything long enough to be really good at it. and every time i try, it either blows up in my face or sputters to a halt.

the stories go that after many trials, the hero succeeds and accomplishes his mission. but with so many missions, how can this hero ever hope to accomplish anything at all? add to that the fact that his missions are made secondary by the society in which he resides, where simply living with food in the pantry and a roof over his head requires 2/3 of his time devoted to slaving away in someone else's demented idea of an economic reality, and the other 1/3 is devoted to sleep and commuting?


there is simply not enough time in the average commoner's day to make enough money to get by, pursue the things he is interested in, become reasonably proficient at any of them, do the laundry, keep the living space clean, keep himself clean, keep his partner happy, keep good food in his belly, cavort with his friends and get a decent night's sleep. this is unsustainable and unhealthy. this cant go on indefinitely. this has to end.

i need to create my own reality. but i have no idea how or where to start.