three. two. one. go.

13 February 2011 § Leave a comment

While driving Friday night I had two things on my mind, and neither of them was the road. I passed the street I was headed for by forty quick blocks, so I got off the freeway to turn around. 76th Street invited me down its icy surface, and I was not careful to creep along it to the stoplight. When I tried to slow down, nothing happened. Turned the wheel. Nothing. Downshifted. Nothing. Highbeams and car horns and a subtle flash of what was to come, as soon as the read end of the Dodge put a stop to this nonsense sliding. Just before my beloved Nissan’s hood accordioned, before the Dodge’s bumper forcibly raped my headlight at twenty miles an hour – or in total stillness, depending on how you look at it – and something made its way inside my battery, I rolled my eyes and probably said ‘fuck’.

Normality ensued. The other driver was kind and civil, partially because he suffered no injury and virtually no damage, and we talked in the warm cab of his truck while the tow truck and the cop made their way to the empty parking lot we sat in. We talked about music and radio – he was a broadcast engineer, I was an audio engineer. He offered me a possible internship at the place he worked.

The cop was an asshole, didn’t ask me what happened. Told me to stay in my car while he ran our papers and plastic cards through the system. David the Hawaiian came in his tow truck and my car was ready to make its final journey home before the cop handed me the ticket with some bullshit written in the Offense column. It was as if I called 911 and ordered a hundred-dollar-ticket on a silver platter.

This is why I’m indecisive. Very often, when I decide to decide and then decide on something, it has the worst possible outcome. Even more than if I had decided to not decide one way or the other. That way, if I’m passive and let someone else make the decision, the responsibility is not with me, and I didn’t insist on making the wrong decision. I’m forever thinking that I haven’t done or seen all the things normal people have, and thus have no experience or basis on which to make my decisions. And yet I’ve been out in the world and been through quite a lot for the time. But nothing I learned about being homeless or responsible-for-everything or an ambitious-but-hopeless workaholic helps me now, because I tend to avoid them all now, probably so as to not have to show myself that I wouldn’t make any better decisions this time around.

But now things happen. I go into bars without getting nervous. I get into car crashes. I go to the grocery store and have no idea why I’m there (and then spend more time criticizing the society that created this place than shopping). I meet someone new and start the makings of a friendship based on some common interest that I’ve never really indulged in before – and I don’t know what to do. Sure, these feel like new experiences, learning the world and all that. But this is the me that isn’t supposed to fall apart. I don’t fall apart when I’m Out There (well, not that I’d admit, anyway). It’s Here that I have problems.

The next day, knowing that because I didn’t have insurance to cover my damages or the other driver’s, I reinstated my insurance because if I didn’t have it at the time of the accident, and didn’t send in the paper the cop gave me, they would revoke my license in 15 days. Translation: I now have useless and expensive insurance for an undrivable car. Decisions, right? Let’s keep the ball rolling.

Because I had an idea of how much the damages to my car would be, and because this amount is 1) far more than I have to spend and 2) more than the car is currently worth, I decided that looking for a cheap, temporary alternative was a good idea. (Let’s go back to the ‘learning from the past’ subject: this is something that I have done before. Twice. And both times, the cheap and temporary alternative was more temporary than it was cheap. Read on.)

I trolled craigslist, of course, because I’ve found many solutions on craigslist for various situations: jobs, apartments, bicycles,, cameras, instruments, snowboards, rides, and a hundred other things I probably shouldn’t have gotten in the first place. There was a sale post for a 1990 Suzuki Swift – a bare bones engine-and-cab on wheels that doesn’t belong in the American Psyche of driving, let alone in an Alaskan winter. It leaked oil but ran fine, the ad said. Okay. I need something, I decided.

Twice it started without issue. After that, I found that not only was the five-year-old battery dead and that it was nearly out of oil, but the alternator wasn’t passing power back to the battery. The cat I bought it from probably had to jump it all of the four times he drove it.

I made it to Anchorage for our Saturday night musings at the Dessert First café. We wrote and talked and read and argued and forced each other out of denial and confusion. “Do what you’re supposed to be doing,” says Trey. “If you’re not the best you you can possibly be, everyone else is missing out. If I’m not being the realest me I can be, you’re missing something important.”

It goes on like this all the time. We throw philosophy and style around like footballs, and sometimes someone takes a screwdriver and stabs one of them, and offers a perspective that makes the idea into something new and exhilarating. Breathtaking. Fresh. Worthwhile. We toss poems at each other like hot coffee brewed in the most inaccessible crevice of our bodies and minds. “Hey,” we’ll say afterward. “What’d you think of that?”

Trey jumpstarted the Swift for me and we sat in his truck and talked about jumpstarting the poetry scene, too. It’s happening. He knows what he wants – he’s the grandpappy of Anchorage poetry, or will be, at least, when there are grandkids – and I wonder if it’s something I want to be a part of. I didn’t see a place for me in the vision he’s obviously rehearsed in the mirror, as confident in his pitch for grant money and sharing his vision as he is on the mic, indomitable and fierce, and he’s never given a shit what you, the audience, thought.

The Swift accelerated to a very unswift 60 mph on the highway and I was loathe to push it any harder. The sputtering lawnmower motor couldn’t handle the highway life, and by the time I got home an hour or two later, faded and contemplative, I decided that this was not for me.

Three days ago, I had one perfectly good car that I loved and took care of. Two days ago, I had one trashed car that I would likely never drive again. One day ago, I had two trashed cars that will likely never be driven again, especially by me. Today, I’m cutting my losses. Get rid of them both, make out with what you can, and be done with it. Clean slate. Start over with the vehicle business. Or not.

But it’s bigger than just the car. Much bigger. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I haven’t been for a long time. I’ve been making excuses and surviving, sometimes barely, to scratch at the horizon again the next day. My flakiness, as my brother calls it, is not the fact that I’m not willing to take responsibility. It’s that I take responsibility for the wrong things, and then try to fly with them on my back. Inevitably, it fails.

I’m not who I can be. Sometime in the past year or so, I took happiness and told it I didn’t want it, that I could make do without it. I decided to make decisions again. Without the thinking part of making them. It seems I thrive with the seasons – for every lovely winter, the next is my discontent.

“The world is full of people doing what they need to do,” Trey told me, “and no single act is more important than another. What happened in Egypt is no more important than what’s going on with you. The difference is that they’re there and that’s what they wanted, and you’re here. What do you want?”

I’m working on it.


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