Let me tell you something about Los Angeles: things are possible in Los Angeles. Just ask that beauty queen fresh off the Greyhound. Los Angeles has a way of making you think big, even when you like to make fun of people who think big. I guess because when things are so clearly constructed, and artifice is not only employed but expected, it is easy to feel like you can carve out a place for yourself. A mock-palatial, multi-storied, fabulously furnished place for yourself. With fuck-you hedges and a security gate.
Los Angeles is like a beautiful, glossy magazine filled with luxury goods that you fall in love with even whilst suspecting–nay, even though you know all of it is heavily photoshopped.
There is something about being in LA, even if it is not my favorite city (it isn’t), or even my second or third or fourth favorite city (it’s not one of those either) that makes you feel like you are at the center of things. And that is a powerful feeling. So sometimes I forget, when I talk to people, that not everybody is under the delusion that everything is possible, just as long as you find the right angle.
Which is a flowery, roundabout, overdetermined and indirect way of saying that I am having a hard time navigating this whole public/private sphere divide.
One of the things that appeals to me (creatively) about a blog is the potential for innovations in genre that it presents. A blog blurs the traditional lines of fictional character and real-life person, and does away with some of the limitations presented by more traditional forms of writing and other creative expression. These formats are challenged by hypertext: here, you can literally weave other texts into your work, making it multi-dimensional in a manner that is accessible to everyone, not just people who are well-read or make it their business to know literary allusions and critical theory. Plus, you can play around with photography, add music and art to your entries, comment on popular culture, and interact with your audience. Etc. Etc. The production goes on forever and is potentially without limit. I truly believe electronic media will be studied someday just as we study the novel today.
But what is annoying is the fact that every time I sit down to write here, I keep tossing aside material–GOOD, choice material, because I worry about what people will do/think/say if they read it and figure out I am using them as inspiration. I have an understanding with Mr. Right-Click that I will run stuff past him before I publish it, and we have mutually decided to protect his and Mini’s anonymity to the extent that it is possible on this website. This is fine by me.
But what about everyone else?
Oh, the stories I could tell. But are they mine to tell?
The person I present in these entries is me, really and truly, but it is me in my own idealized form–undoubtedly I exaggerate and aggrandize, and what your perception of me is from my writing does not necessarily match what you would think were we to meet in real life. Kinda like the people from reality shows who say they are “edited” to be bitches or whatever.
Except I’m my own editor. Wait.
But I do wonder how much of my real life material I can/should use on this blog. Is it fair for me to discuss things that happen with my friends and family in a public space, even if nobody who is reading this actually knows my friends and family (with a few exceptions), or who they are, or where they are?
For example, I do not think my dad reads this blog. Or perhaps he does, but sporadically. [Hi Dad!]. I hesitate to call my father a luddite, since he does own a computer, but by way of introduction I should tell you that I don’t know that I have ever received an email from him that wasn’t in all caps, even though I HAVE TRIED TO EXPLAIN TO HIM THAT IN AN EMAIL, THIS IS CONSTRUED AS SHOUTING. Then again, he writes the same way on paper, and with heavy strokes, so perhaps this is intentional after all.
But like I said, though he has a computer I don’t see him randomly surfing the net, except maybe to look at stamps or something like that. So, is it fair for me to discuss him here? Will what he doesn’t know hurt him? Is my “take” on him really him, or is it a character? Would he recognize himself if he were to read it?
Dooce wrote a hysterical entry the other day that I could have seen myself writing, if I were not such a chickenshit. I suppose she has had a bit more experience in navigating this divide, but I thought–this is so funny and honest, and that is what makes it worthwhile to read. But what does her dad think? Does he care? Does he read it? Does it matter? And if he does read it, do they have an understanding about how to handle these kinds of things? Maybe that is also part of the appeal–feeling like what she is saying is risky or likely to stir shit, even if I never hear about it.
These questions come up because the other day I was fielding questions from some people–let’s just call them two acquaintances of mine–from someplace else. I know these two friends know about my blog because Mr. Right-Click emailed them about it a few weeks ago. But I had not heard any kind of commentary from either one of them about it, and so I assumed they were not interested. Or hadn’t got the email. Or whatev.
But then, they’re over at the house the other day and they’re saying, “Tell us about your blog,” and so I do and I find myself doing my very best to not sound excited about it. I am being very blase about it, in fact. This is good, too, because in the face of my explanations I am getting mostly blank, confused stares and, as my tweets reflect, questions like, “Why would anyone want to read that?”
So I keep on playing it down, changing the subject, dismissing it. This is not the first time I have done this with people in real life when discussing the blog, or anything I am doing, or trying to do, either. It is a learned response. Learned I don’t know where. I keep my dreams quiet, my expectations low, and my public confidence level even lower, because the less you share of yourself with everyone around you, the less they can tear you down later.
Is this a healthy way to go through life? No. But you are talking to somebody who used to snort crystal methamphetamine in order to spend all night reading Absalom, Absalom! So “healthy” is relative here.
I don’t want to sound excited or enthusiastic about anything because I have a picture of certain people in my mind, towering above me in a tight circle, pointing and laughing at my failure at . . . something, whatever it is that I really wanted to do and couldn’t. Like these people could shapeshift into Nelson from the Simpsons in the wake of my disastrous foray into [insert name of endeavor here].
So, yeah, I guess you could say that I live my life in fear of being the target of a Heh-Hah.
When I think about things I can do with my life, it is always handicapped by that small feeling. Keep it small. Like anything I dream will be unrealistic and–let’s face it–most people’s dreams do go unfulfilled. Things are not possible, so why try? When I first joined AA, they were all about “be a worker among workers,” and this philosophy suited me for a while, in fact. I thought, “Yeah, I just do the very humdrum work that is put in front of me, and do my best to be of service to others.” And I was happy for a while, because it was novel, and there was a security in that.
But fuck that.
I am not a worker among workers. Unless the rest of the workers have BAs from Stanford, two masters degrees and a PhD. So what the fuck am I doing with myself here? I have spent the last few years kind of lost in terms of my career ambitions. I used to be happy with the prospect of staying on the academic track, revising and resubmitting, eventually putting myself on the job market, crossing my fingers, and praying for a job somewhere, anywhere–hopefully not too far away from some kind of metropolis. The work itself I found to be interesting and fulfilling, and in some ways it seemed attainable. Like it was a grandiose goal just because why in the hell would you stay in school that long.
Then I moved to Los Angeles.
So now, I find myself trying to explain to people who do not care or understand what it is that I want to do. And it is big. Without revealing to them that any of this might be important to me. And they are looking at me blankly, not understanding? doubting? or just pensive? However they react I will assume the worst. And I start thinking one day I will show them, like I am in fourth grade again, and somebody stole my argyle printed pencil from Salzer’s. Because I cannot think big around them. And thinking small to suit them brings out the latency-period child in me.