Speedboat

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I always listen to Lloyd Cole in the summer.”

I feel the chill of it – the words, actions and interactions feel like the movement of a speedboat, racing effortlessly over just the glistening surface of the water. I am watching from the firm ground of the shore – he waves as he becomes a remote speck. The interaction is one-sided and fragmented, much like the speedboat’s glide, interrupted by occasional bumps, as it flies across the water.

What feels like a purposeful distance is created, preserved and extended, the boat traveling further out of reach by the second. What is it that makes this so? The not knowing where to take a deeper discussion? Avoiding having an unpleasant conversation? An inability to know where to plunge your anchor? Too many things going on at once? From the edge of the water, I can only wave back meekly, knowing I won’t actually be seen, and anything I could say or ask cannot be heard. And for some time, seemingly forever, standing stock still in the bitterly cold wind, which isn’t much time at all really, I wait and wonder.

Pierced by this whole experience, shockingly brief as it is – I am changed and restored to a better version of my truest self, but this imparts no magical wizardry – I am unable to make anyone else feel the same way as I do or to feel anything at all, really. And am likewise unable to know exactly what it is that another feels because I doubt he even knows with any clarity, or if he does, he’s sailed so far away that he can’t convey it to me. Which is part of why he is out on the lake skimming lightly across the water, possibly going so far out that there’s fishing to be done and lures to cast.

It’s strange how the more, and more deeply, you feel you love someone (and consequently want to be with them), the harder it is to tell them that – or tell them directly exactly what you feel – or talk about it in any way. Especially when you feel certain you bear your feelings alone – there is nothing mutual or shared about it.

In response, I embody a second, separately functioning person from myself, involuntarily splitting into two parts – the one I allow to feel, be open, be vulnerable and to question, and then the one I preserve for logic and analysis. Maybe this is an astrological trait (dual roles), maybe this is, as the New Age book I read cautioned, the “Loyal Soldier” who went to war for me in immature ways to foster self-preservation as a child (and whose tactics continue to drive emotional life in an immature way now that the “war is over”, as the book put it*).

Either way, both identities are paralyzed and don’t say one direct word about real feelings because revealing comes with not only the possibility of being destroyed but also feels like an imposition. Saying things aloud makes them not only real (and unerasable) but starts to force an agenda on the other person, influences them unduly, may pressure or oblige them to take on something they don’t want, are not ready for or even inveigle them into a conversation they don’t want to have. I have no desire to set a trap or inadvertently create an environment in which it’s possible to feel trapped.Thus the whole matter becomes a blizzard in the brain and heart, obscuring the words and actions that should be realized, or becomes something that is haphazardly regurgitated in circuitous, erratic, piecemeal blog posts here or there.

…And yet after some time feeling as though a part of a curious speedboat détente, he, rapidly speeding away from me and disappearing into the horizon, and my daily life returning to normal, one of the parts of the split identity, the non-feeling split, begins to dominate. It becomes a lot like the time I advised a dear Australian friend that if she wanted her American boyfriend to show more interest, she had to pretend she wasn’t interested. To which she replied, “But by acting less interested, won’t I just actually lose interest?” To which I enthusiastically exclaimed, “Well, yes! That’s the beauty and the whole point of it!“At least for the emotionally stunted! You do it initially, ostensibly, on the surface, hoping to be seen, acknowledged and missed (knowing this will not be the yield), but the real underlying and long-term aim is to lose interest yourself so that any outcome is a manageable outcome. Or it will be an outcome that does not hurt, at least not the part of the personality that pursued this savage, self-sacrificing strategy.

The analytical part that remembers and looks at all the words that have been said, all the clues and hints dropped (even if there weren’t really clues or hints – all words once spoken are now being processed and interpreted that way in this part of the brain) ascribes a unilateral verdict to the situation and moves on accordingly. Move on. It feels logical, familiar and comfortable because it pre-empts most possible pain. Move on. It soothes the mind with the casual way it gives birth to an indifference that grows day by day, so that I no longer even look to the water to see the speedboat buzzing, making its rounds, or perhaps no longer even walk to the shore at all. Move on.

Eventually feigning disinterest leads to the promised land of real disinterest and – bonus points – boredom. Moved on. At least the logical half of the self can buy into that, offering itself sterile congratulations for not getting its hands dirty while nevertheless doing the dirty work of crushing the feelings of the other half. It does not matter that it was early days; it does not matter that I knew what I was getting into and that this was always where it could lead or end.

The heart – the crushed part – has no response to this logic. It does not even speak this language, but the heart is not driving, so it has no say.

Ella Mi Fu Rapita! (She abandoned me) – Gavin Ewart
“Die Liebe dauert oder dauert nicht.” –Brecht

Her boredom took her away. So simple.
She just became bored with me. No other rival
experienced the entrancing smile with the dimple
or put down his drink in joy at her arrival
or loved her in taxis that stream like ants
through London, fingers under her pants

caressing her holy of holies. Oh, no,
it wasn’t someone younger, bigger or better.
She went because she had the urge to go,
Without a phone call, telegram or letter.
From our last meeting she just walked out –
a few pretexts perhaps. What were they about?

Nothing too serious. A red bow in her hair,
as she lay naked on the bed, knees-raising,
stays in my mind. I know I had my share.
Love is all programmed, it’s all phasing,
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
A lover’s life is not that of a friend,

who by and large is able to take it or leave it.
For love there’s a critical path – it goes on.
It can’t go backwards or sideways, believe it,
That’s all; a dream, a tremendous con,
And when it’s over, you’re out on your own.
Most life, they say, has to be lived alone.

And what can the lover do, when the time’s come,
when THE END goes up on the screen? Yelling,
rush into the street, lamenting her lovely bum?
Get friendly with men in bars, telling
how sweet she was, praising her statistics,
or admiring his own sexual ballistics?

No, that’s no good. Love lasts – or doesn’t last.
And all the pink intimacies and warm kisses
go into Proust’s remembrance of time past.
Lovers must never crumple up like cissies
Or break down and cry about their wrongs
If girls are sugar, God holds the sugar tongs.

It may even feel somewhat comforting to let go of the idea of being in love (“it’s so hard to love when love was your great disappointment“) because I think we all know that when you are in love, no one wants to hear about it. They want your misery. Misery loves company.

Photo (c) Paul Costanich – not quite a speedboat, but it will suffice. (It’s a “ski jet” according to S. Haha)

*From Soulcraft – Bill Plotkin:

“Each of us has a Loyal Soldier sub-personality, a courageous, creative and stubborn entity formed when we needed somewhat drastic measures to survive the realities (sometimes dysfunctional) of childhood. This sub-personality’s primary task was to minimize the occurrence of further injury, whether emotional or physical. The Loyal Soldier’s approach to this task was – and continues to be – to make us small or invisible, to suppress much of our natural exuberance, emotions, desires and wildness so we might be sufficiently acceptable to our parents (and/or other guardians, siblings, teachers and authority figures). The Loyal Soldier learns to restrain another sub-personality we might call the Wild Child, our original, sensual, magical, untamed self that has an essential relationship to the soul and is not interested in limiting itself in any way.

Common Loyal Soldier survival strategies include harsh self-criticism (to make us – the ego – feel unworthy and thus ineligible for Wild Child actions that might bring further punishment, abandonment, or criticism); placing our personal agenda last (so as to not displease or arouse anger or envy); other codependent behaviors (e.g. caretaking, rescuing, enabling) to stave off abandonment; pleasing but immature and inauthentic personas; partial or complete social withdrawal (to minimize hurtful contacts); adopting an unpleasant or downtrodden appearance (to protect us from criticism); restricting our range of feeling by encouraging us to always be in charge, busy, angry, ruthless, withdrawn, and/or numb; and suppressing our intelligence, talent, enthusiasm, sensuality, and wildness by locking up these qualities in an inaccessible corner of our psyches. … The Loyal Soldier’s adamant and accurate understanding is this: it is better to be suppressed or inauthentic or small than socially isolated or emotionally crushed – or dead.”

“The Loyal Soldier did, in fact, keep us safe (enough) in childhood. The problem is that the Loyal Soldier’s strategies become bedrock to our survival and are defended to the death – even after the war is over.”

Random Gum – Anti-Valentine Signs – Spring Dump Soundtrack 2014

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As to what I think of the void that is Valentine’s Day

I and Thou
Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia)

Your lips have never kissed me, you’ve never
drunk snow. You melancholy moment, frigid
under these snowdrifts. Let me ask a cruel question –
do you still heat your igloo? I cast a spell on you

and tore your limbs off. And those creases deepening
in what was once a godlike brow, perhaps you’ve even lost
your right to them. You haven’t hurt me more, you haven’t.
Little mummy, aborted flower, the memory of you fades.

Oceans divide us, and you’re jaded. The hard stone
hopeless, smeared with silicate. We shall yet make love,
and I shall grease those beehives yet. My desire has weakened

now, you’ve won, you are indeed a void. And I,
the tree-lined path of countless others, contain your red heart,
gone rigid, too. I have gurgled with happiness only in you.

Valentine Signs – Spring Dump
Random Gum – Winter/Spring 2014

The complete Spotify playlist – where the songs exist (not all are available on Spotify)…

1. Brenton Wood – “Gimme Little Sign” …if you don’t want me/don’t lead me on, girl…
A great way to start. Driving the icy roads of the Swedish 172

2. Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine” …ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone/and she’s always gone too long…
My friend Terra and I used to laugh at this one for the repetitive “I know I know I know I know I know” lyric.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – “My Wife and My Dead Wife” …and I can’t decide which one I love the most/the flesh and blood or the pale, smiling ghost…
This has a bittersweet quality – does one’s long-lost love keep appearing after they’ve passed on? “You know I don’t take sugar”. Somehow makes me think with love of my friend Jared, and his late wife, Hulda. RIP

4. Mojo Nixon – “Elvis is Everywhere”
After writing about people’s tendency to quote Bill Gates (“content is king”) I set the record straight; “Elvis is still the king”.

5. Primal Scream – “Country Girl” …Country girl take my hand/Lead me through this diseased land/I am tired I am weak I am worn/I have stole I have sinned/Oh my soul is unclean/Country girl got to keep on keeping on…
January day in Oslo: mistakes, forgiveness, love. Thanks to Stephen. My Oslo-based Primal Scream connections.

6. The Legendary Pink Dots – “I Love You in Your Tragic Beauty” …You always wore the same dress/always bore the same expression/It’s a loveless world/So what’s the point of looking?…

7. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” …and one day we will die, and our ashes will fly/from the aeroplane over the sea/but for now we are young/let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see…
Letting go of trying to control things that logic has no hand in. For SD, ZM

8. Cass McCombs – “Sooner Cheat Death than Fool Love”
“I wish I never met you, of that I’m sure, I ain’t any better off than I was before…”

9. Laurie Anderson – “It Tango”
For my dear Jill.

10. Amanda Palmer – “Runs in the Family” …business is business/and business runs in the family…
With love for Roxane.

11. Hot Chocolate – “Every1s a Winner”
Something relentless about the sound of this song that makes it impossible to stop listening. It is an “activity song”, whatever that means.

12. Liz Phair – “Fuck and Run”
Thinking about Lóa, and “Fuck Mattresses Anonymous” (an imaginary AA-like organization)

13. Calvin Harris – “Acceptable in the 80s”
As my brother wondered, what was acceptable in the 80s? Shoulder pads? Cocaine?

14. Tom Tom Club – “Genius of Love”
“All the weekend/Boyfriend was missing/I surely miss him/The way he’d hold me in his warm arms/We went insane when we took cocaine.”

15. Grace Jones – “Pull Up to the Bumper” …just pull up to my bumper baby/drive it in between…
We can blame Grace Jones for the fact that Dolph Lundgren has/had an acting career.

16. Robyn Hitchcock – “Your Head Here” …I walk a thousand miles to be alone…
“Everyone you care about/say you’d never do without/walk away, forsake or doubt/see them fade and flicker out/faces on the phone/Everything that you rely on/tentacles of blood and ??/pillows that you want to cry on/promises that you get by on/Life is all I own…”

17. Pulp– “Pencil Skirt” …when you raise your pencil skirt/like a veil before my eyes…
For Stephen, who knows what a pencil skirt and heels are all about. “Oh it’s turning me on”

18. Lyubov – “Fire” …but forever was a day/and we just ran out of time…

19. Stevie Wonder – “I Don’t Know Why” …I never knew how much love could hurt til I loved you, baby…
“Always treat me like a fool/kick me when I’m down/that’s your rule…”

20. Robyn Hitchcock – “Sixteen Years…Sixteen calendars with nothing in the frame/you said you’d pencil me in/but you don’t know my name…
“You pegged me for a fool/but I’m the one to blame/I played a pretty neat fool for you/but you don’t know my name”

21. The Everly Brothers – “Bye Bye Love” …Bye bye love, bye bye sweet caress, hello emptiness, I feel like I could die…
RIP Phil Everly

22. Gary Walker & the Boogie Kings – “Who Needs You So Bad?”
Bittersweet end of the tv show Treme.

23. Pascal Pinon – “Ekki vanmeta”
Missing Iceland and my friends there. “Hann á heima nær en þú heldur/Ekki vanmeta fjarlægðina”

24. Os Kiezos – “Saudades de Luanda
For Kristie and the inexplicable “saudades

25. Minor Alps – “If I Wanted Trouble” …this growing up it never ends/the same mistakes come back again…
Last days as a tram rider, ending the Gothenburg period. And repeated mistakes!

26. The Bluetones – “Slight Return”
For Stephen.

27. Robyn Hitchcock – “Old Man Weather”
Madly in love with Robyn Hitchcock – as usual, as always, hence the elaborate presence here.

28. John Lennon – “Nobody Told Me”
Reflecting on the fact that the Liverpool airport is named after Lennon.

29. The Smiths – “William, It Was Really Nothing”
For the Smiths-quoting, dirty storyteller. “How can you stay with a fat girl who’ll say, ‘Would you like to marry me? And if you’d like you can buy the ring…?’”

30. Thin Lizzy – “Bad Reputation”

31. Robyn Hitchcock – “Ordinary Millionaire” …I don’t know where you’ve gone from me/I know you don’t belong to me/I only know you’re there…
“I always find a reckoning/always find you beckoning…” A nice song from Hitchcock & brilliant Johnny Marr. “I’ve got no love/’Cause it’s not in my DNA”

32. Mekons – “Sheffield Park
One of the nicer memories of junior high/high school.

33. Terakaft – “Imgharen win ibda”

34. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” …I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting…
For Stephen. “I’m so above you, it is plain to see, but I came to love you anyway…”

35. Girls in Hawaii – “Switzerland”
For Jared and the love for Switzerland.

36. Sam Phillips – “Pretty Time Bomb” …it’s easy to change your name/but hard to change your life…
“Start counting, everybody/it’s gonna blow/Pretty time bomb/You’re a mirror of your time”

37. Big Summer – “Do It Alone

38. Sarah RabDAU – “Self-Employed Assassin…you should have loved me…

39. The Male Choir of Valaam Singing Culture Institute – “Riga Advising Stockholm
I can’t explain the presence of this song. Its sound just overpowers.

40. Cowboy Junkies – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
For Stephen and the sad, longing sound of old country & cover versions that are even sadder than originals

41. Robyn Hitchcock – “Harry’s Song”…Nothing wants you like tomorrow…/Nothing tortures you like how it could have been…
“But I don’t know anything about you/Anymore”. The end of the Gothenburg li(f)e.

42. The The – “My Heart Would Know”
Dug out my old copy of The The’s album of Hank Williams covers – the marriage of two greats.

43. Os Kiezos – “Muxima”

44. Dionne Warwick – “Walk On By”
Song for coming to work on a holiday without knowing it was a holiday (set off all the alarms). Happy new year to me!

45. La Luz – “Easy Baby” …but in the evening/how things change…

46. Tanga – “Eme n’gongo iami”

47. ABBA – “Voulez Vous”
For Gary and the uncomfortable sexuality of the 1970s.

48. Paula Cole – “Feelin’ Love”
Probably the first song S. told me to listen to and I did not do it for weeks afterward; it’s fitting.

49. Peggy Lee – “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In”
All the songs that sound ridiculous – as in, my life can’t begin til my man comes home from the war. Opening the door to my would-be 1950s lifestyle.

50. Elvis Presley – “Love Me” …break my faithful heart, tear it all apart, but love me…
Reminds me of Kevin circa 1996 but no longer makes me sad. Memories of other lifetimes.

51. Patsy Cline – “Crazy”
For SD my Glaswegian firewall

52. Cowboy Junkies – “Mariner’s Song” …The last of man’s great unchained beasts lies/lapping at my door/I would give it what it wants, but I do know,/it would just ask for more…
For Mark and all the things we could not be. “In the storm you are my/destination, in the port you are my storm/But I would weather you my love, if you would be my guide,/if you would be my stars in the sky tonight”. I am no one’s port in a storm.

Ring It In – Happy New Year 2014

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The new year is here. Isn’t it required to reflect on what the previous year held? I do this frequently enough in my near-quarterly letters/life soundtracks, but year-end reflections aren’t bad.

Last year someone kept trying to tell me that I am his port in a storm. The problem is that I don’t think he knows what that means. He is someone who gets himself into trouble – or at least into unwise, uncomfortable situations – and panics, and then wants to press the red button to eject and land safely in my port.

The other problem with this “boy crying wolf” thing is that it also takes advantage of me and my willingness to be, as he drunkenly put it once, “the easy option”. I am neither the port in anyone’s storm nor the easy option. I suppose this is in large part where all my cynicism comes from – especially in recent years. I always had the “consolation prize complex” but it grows worse as people actually, blatantly try to use me. I look at every interpersonal situation and ask, “What’s this person’s angle? What is s/he looking for?” I would in 2014 very much like to meet a person I can instinctively trust without questioning their every action and word. And dispense with those who do not fit these criteria.

To get away from this doubt and take a few steps back from the cynic who always steps out in front of the more understanding “real” and unfiltered me, I will have to cut out the existing influences that always leave me questioning. Some people cannot be trusted – on so many levels – and there are just certain elements that I don’t want in my life.

An extension of this is my approach to friendship. I have always considered myself a good but vulnerable friend – sometimes extending myself way too far for people who ultimately don’t care that much (or as much) about me. Friends, as much as I love and treasure them in the moment, do come and go. In earlier life, people were fickle; we all change and can’t cling to the past. It does not mean that I don’t miss some people from 20 years ago who have disappeared and become the types of people who do not exist online (thinking here of Terra – I came across the Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” video and laughed, thinking about how she and I used to joke that she wanted to stick her tongue between Roland Gift’s crooked front teeth. Checking out the video again now, I am struck by how the other band members look like blokes who might work at a gas station or tax office). Memories.

I have become a lot better at letting go of the past, or so I imagine. But the “port in the storm” guy is evidence that I don’t completely let go even when it is the best thing for me.

Therefore, in 2014, I need to start thinking about what is really best for me in the long run. Not what fills a few hours of loneliness in the middle of a Saturday night, not lingering on things that are dead just because there is not something else to replace it. I need to devote that attention to the friendships that are very much alive and want the nourishment.

I would like to embrace sincerely the whole “age isn’t everything”/“you’re only as old as you feel” concept. I give it a lot of lip service, and I genuinely feel like other people at my age are still young but experienced – the best combination. But because I have been feeling like I was 72 since I was 8, I feel positively decrepit now. It does not help that my body has betrayed me in such underhanded and uncontrollable ways – in ways that are actually fairly devastating to me, even if in all the cliché ways. The healthiest thing I can do in 2014 is give up on dreams that are next to impossible – and even if they could be within reach, they come at far too high a price. I am happy with me and just have to be happy being only me, whether I feel 72, my actual age or 8.

On a related note, I came across a brief article on CraigConnects.org about things Craig Newmark did after the age of 35. There is a lot of emphasis placed on youth, especially in the world of fast-moving start-ups, as though only people under 35 are creative and risk-taking enough to put it all out on the line. But maybe other attributes matter more – I agreed with Newmark’s points about experience making a difference, and life’s greatest rewards coming when you accept and embrace who you are. I know that I am and always have been like a 72-year-old lady who bakes a lot of stuff, writes a lot of old-fashioned letters and postal cards and can be a nerdy librarian type with a head full of all kinds of references that no one needs. And I like it – I like me – like that.

Beyond this, I have written before about how it is never “too late”. Nothing is too late until you are dead – and if this year slapped me across the face in any way at all, it was to remind me that death comes suddenly, unexpectedly. We all know this in an abstract way. But most of us don’t confront it – with our young child or young wife snatched away from us without warning. It is a cliché to say that we should live our lives, each day, as though it is our last. It would also be irresponsible to advocate that kind of complete reckless abandon. But these sudden losses are cause to evaluate seriously each part of our lives. There are things we must do to get by, but for example, if you are miserable in your job – you have to find a path to get out. If you have a business idea, find a way to start it. If you always dreamt of getting a master’s degree in architecture, what’s stopping you? If moving to France was your dream, what steps can you take to move toward your Gallic future? I am fully aware that people have debts, obligations, family, legalities and a laundry list of other obstacles to doing whatever they want. But you can make almost anything happen if you really want it. It’s said that nothing worth doing is easy – and usually this is true. You can make a change.

As a woman for whom “change” is a mantra, I learned in 2013 that even if one can make a change – or a lot of changes – change is not always the answer. Make change judiciously. As I have written elsewhere, I made a lot of life changes, which were needed because I needed to get out of the complacent rut I had been in. But the changes I made were made more because they were the options I had in hand – not because they were the right choices or things that would make me happiest or most fulfilled. Important to note and remember – just because you make a change, regardless of how big it is, does not mean you cannot reverse it. Almost nothing is absolutely permanent, so you can always make another change. I try to advise people along these lines quite frequently because people are often paralyzed by fear, and fail to change as a result, too scared of things not working – possibly scared that they will work – or scared of the things that may change as a result of the first change. Indecision can kick your ass and drag you behind it. As long as you don’t decide, you are floating and never taking your life into your own hands.

I started this new year doing something out of character for me, and I think it is important to test your boundaries sometimes – even if you don’t enjoy it. It is the best way to find out how well you know yourself and sometimes whether you can grow and become more than you imagined. Life is, after all, about the experience, which includes both the good and the bad.

If you can, start every new year with a kiss. And finally, don’t settle for stale crumbs when you could have the whole cake.