31 December 2014

It Just Might Be a Happy New Year

I have just gone through my list of 52 goals for 2014. I might have been a little over ambitious. I suppose I had every right to be. 2014 was my return to The World. The End of Exile. I had grand plans, and like most grand plans, they didn't come to pass. Well, most didn't. I did read a-freakin'-lot of books, and I am quite proud of that.

Lengthy lists aside, what I really needed was for last year to be better than the years before it, and it was. That, however, was a pretty low bar, and that is why I am ready for 2015 to be even better. I'm ready for things to be more than "not bad". It is nice to look back over the last year, and not see any (personal) Horrible Things, Tragic Mistakes or Terrible Let Downs, but its disconcerting not to see too many Wonderful Surprises, Glorious Victories or Unforgettable Escapades. Actually, all I see is a lot of Unnecessary Capitalization. No downs, no ups. The year just was. I accept that.

I also know that it doesn't have to be that way.  There's a lot I don't have control over, but there is plenty I do. I know this year end/beginning fervor never lasts, but that doesn't change or cancel out the fact that I do want things to be different, and that I think I can do it.

Besides, its not like I'm buying a gym membership.

While it is relieving that I don't have lines of bad things in my ledger, that, in itself is pretty boring. Bad things are still experiences. They are still stories, and tests, and whatever other metaphor you can think of. They are still the stuff lives are made out of. A rough year at least gives one the hard earned trophy of having survived it. I didn't survive this year, I just happened to wander to the end of it.

(I want to make is abundantly clear that I am speaking strictly about my own life here, and about hardship on a personal level. I know that a lot of people, on every scale, had a hard, horrible year. I would assume that all of those people who are suffering are not glad things happened that way, for the sake of the experience. Nor, am I romanticizing struggles, tragedy, loss or hardship.  I know that in many, many ways I am very lucky and privileged to have had a boring year.)

My year wasn't totally wasted, I suppose. I got a new job I love, I hurt myself rather severely. (Those two events were completely unrelated to each other, by the way.) I won NaNoWriMo.  Out of context, those are certainly experiences. But I know there could have been - should have been - more.

May 2015 be a year of things. Of experiences. Of victories and failures. Of tragedy and celebration.

I did make a new list of goals. It's shorter than last year's, perhaps a little more practical. And even though one of them is to post to this site more often (weekly, even), its entirely possible that the next entry I make here will be in about one year from now. I hope I have things, good, bad and otherwise, to reflect upon.

01 December 2014

Adventures in Human Interaction, Vol 1 of ???: Amanda Fucking Palmer

Last Sunday I went to the Tattered Cover bookstore to meet Amanda Palmer. I had never seen Amanda Palmer live, and I had never seen any artist I cared so much about in such an intimate setting. We got there earlier than planned, and that was almost too late, as the basement was already filling up with an incredibly broad swath of the population, all waiting for Amanda.

When she came out, she was short and beautiful and wearing pajamas and she was real. I've noticed that Amanda can look so different in various photos. "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?" Amanda looks quite different from "Dresden Dolls" Amanda, who looks unlike "Theater is Evil" Amanda. And I noticed that today, at some angles she'd look like one version of herself, and at another angle, a different one. And sometimes, she didn't look like any version I knew. She just looked like... herself. That's when it hit me. This was a person. A person who gets up, gets dressed, and has a life; and part of that life is creating the art that means so much to me. That art didn't come from on-high, from some mythical, unknowable place. It came from this woman, who decided to visit my town, to play songs for us, and tell us her stories.

It was not unlike what Amanda herself talked about, that she when writing her own book she came to the realization that every book she had ever read had been created by a real, live person. It was the same thing for me. This woman standing not ten feet from me wrote the songs that got me through the hardest times in my life. But, it wasn't a song that helped me, it was this person. She pulled out her ukulele, THAT UKULELE RIGHT THERE, and created those songs, and gifted them to us. And now she's here, playing them again, right here, for all of us.

The simplest facts are sometimes the hardest to accept. And these "discoveries" of mine are even more ironic because Amanda Palmer is one of the most open and deeply connected performers out there. She shares so much of her life with her fans. That's one of the reasons her fans are so rabidly dedicated to her, because of that personal connection. But although I've been one of those rabid fans, I've always shied away from that connection. Sure, I'd watch it through the filter of the Internet, see it happening live, but I always felt it was Not For Me. No one else ever made me feel that way, it was something I decided on my own. I was like "that guy" at the party, standing awkwardly alone, and if someone would ever ask, Wouldn't you have more fun talking to people? I'd say, No, no I was having fun just watching. And I guess I was. But maybe it didn't have to be that way.

And yet, when I got in the signing line, and (a little too quickly for my sweaty-palmed liking) was ushered forward to kneel before the majesty of Amanda Fucking Palmer in a blanket fort, all of my discoveries and epiphanies melted away and I was star-struck and dumb at the feet of The Author and The Rock Star and The Artist. It was all a blur. I don't know what I said, if I said anything. Photographic evidence shows me looking like I was about to awkwardly propose marriage or something. But she signed my book, smiled at me, and I walked away.

Oh well.

I don't regret any of it. Yes, I was terrified. Yes, I was certain everyone, including AFP, had seen me and thought, "What a weirdo." But then I realized that there were 500 people in line, and that despite her gift of intimacy with her fans, I was just one of a massive, strange, and wonderful horde that descended on her that day. And then I remembered that it wasn't some inhuman machine of a An Author or Rock Star down there. It was a woman, an endlessly kind and loving woman, inviting 500 strangers into her blanket fort, and taking the chance that some of us might short circuit and hyperventilate.

Six hours later, she was still there, staying for every single person that came to see her. This is because she is an amazing human being. Its statistically probable that at least a few other people also got stage fright, and behaved like Troy Barnes meeting LeVar Burton. That comforts me.

Seeing Amanda Palmer hit me at just the right time, when I need to feel like an artist more than ever. Reading her amazing book, The Art of Asking, helps me nurse that feeling. So, check out her book, support an artist and be nice to each other, okay?

PS: I also bought a ridiculous pair of sunglasses I will be wearing every day from now on.