This essay, which I expect few to have interest in, is a compilation of the thoughts that went through my head as I prepared to move from an apartment I have been in for 20 years. Initially I was going to publish each part separately, but then I decided to join them together. What the hell. Ultimately, this is a piece about change. I wrote it to sort thoughts in my head, but if it resonates with you then I am very glad.
Part 1: Madonna Released
I am moving.
I have not moved in 20 years, so I don't remember much about how to move. I know that "moving" is involved, but what else other than that? How does one actually move?
The funny thing is that the move is less than a mile away from where I am now. So maybe I am really "budging" instead of moving. Nevertheless, something is happening that I have not done in a long time.
The other day, in preparation for the move, I gave away a large bin containing magazines with Madonna on the cover that I have been collecting for nearly 30 years, starting around 1985. I think I stopped doing so about 5 years ago, mostly because Madonna is on fewer magazine covers these days, but also because I think I care less than I used to.
In 1985, however, pretty much all I cared about was Madonna, and the magazines were a way to track her ascension in pop culture and as an influence in my life. In 1985, I was 23 years old, and I badly wanted what she had: looks, confidence, style, attitude, sex, talent. Who didn't? As a gay man navigating my identity and manhood amidst the collage of templates in 80's culture, Madonna offered the whole package, and then some. In fact she created many of the templates herself. I cared very much about all of that back then.
But in 2021, at 59 years of age, not so much.
If you happen to be over 50 yourself, I wonder if you notice your priorities shifting? I have with mine--not all at once--but slowly over time, like sand dunes manipulated by a gentle wind. Things that I used to care very much about don't mean so much to me anymore, and things that I did not value so much as a younger man are becoming more important. My Madonna magazines reside in the first category.
When I started collecting the covers, I was very much influenced, like many young folk, by pop culture. When Madonna hit, she was both in and out, hot and cold, master and servant, slut and virgin. With her as inspiration, I realized that I didn't have to settle for just one way of presenting, or experiencing, myself. She helped me to reconcile, accept, and ultimately celebrate the dualities within myself.
She offered so many variations of herself that it was dizzying at the time, but they were all pretty damn perfect and so believable that every time she morphed I would question whether the previous incarnation were in fact a false version the whole time. Magazines documented all of it, with great lighting, and I would buy and keep them as a sort of record, I suppose, of something happening during my time that had not happened before (and has not happened since, I would argue). She graced so many magazines, because Madonna on the cover guaranteed an audience. She was a goddess in our midst. She was both one of us, and above us, a much more appealing example of the divine than the catholic god I had grown up with (who was not one of us at all, despite, you know, Jesus).
The other day, a man who found my ad on Craigslist showed up in a truck and took the whole lot from me. It was over and done with in minutes--30 years of carting that bin everywhere I moved, and now they are in the custody of someone else, to be offered to those who currently care more than I do. And that is okay. I no longer need them to anchor or guide my identity. Let them go to those who do.
Part 2: Letting Go Of The Shoeboxes
In Part 1, I wrote about letting go of my collection of magazines that feature Madonna on the cover. If you read that part, you may have come to the conclusion (understandably) that it is "easy" for me to let things go. You would be wrong, of course, but don't feel badly--I think most would come to the same conclusion. Truth is, it's as difficult for me to let go of things as it is for many people. So when I need to do this, I simply extract the emotional component from the decision and allow myself to be guided by practicality and rationale.
We all do this whether we realize it or not. It's a crude example, but every time you flush the toilet you are letting go of something that was very recently a part of you. Most of us never even think about it, nor do we question the decision. It leads me to suspect that when it is difficult to let go of something, it has less to do with the something, and more to do with the meaning we have assigned to it.
I was talking with someone the other day who was had been going through old letters and pictures, deciding what to keep and what to toss. This person does not have children, which adds a particular emphasis to the deciding process. He was concerned that if he tossed something out, the memory might be lost forever. I think he may be right. If we discard our past or there is nobody to whom we can pass on the record of it, does it disappear? And if it disappears during our lifetime, what impact does that have on present-day us? In other words, how much of our present-day self is reliant on our past self?
Do you ever think back to a year of your childhood and wonder how much of it is lost to memory? We forget much of our lives, because there is really no reason to remember that much of it. Journaling or keeping a diary is no guarantee we will hold a memory, because I have read some of the journals from the past and cannot remember living through what I wrote about. This makes me wonder something else: is memory what makes a life, or is it something altogether different?
When I was in my 20's, I was trying rather hard to not be gay, or at least not to be thought of as gay, and a female friend of mine tried to help me with this doomed project. We decided that it would be best to discard any written evidence of the gay in my life: cards, letters, correspondence from men I had gone out with that I had kept as mementos (I think I wanted evidence of being loved). We gathered many of them up and threw them out a dressing room window in the dance studio where we both studied ballet (I know, right?). The window emptied into an alley that was closed off from the street. Anything that fell into that alley would probably stay there for eternity.
I remember watching the letters and cards of my love life float down to the ground, and wondering if I were making a mistake by throwing away my (gay) history, the written memories of my romances. At the time I (we) thought we were doing the right thing. Today, I can say in hindsight that it was a mistake, because those cards and letters would have meaning to me now--they were a record of my emotional and sexual past, a roadmap to my adulthood. At the time, they were a record of a past I was trying to forget.
The Madonna magazines were less a record of my past and more of a record of the past--a past that is accessible anywhere on the internet today. So letting go of them was really only letting go of a physical record. I can look up any of those magazine covers online at anytime. The magazines themselves have lost meaning to me--my identity is no longer influenced by how Madonna lives her life--I find meaning elsewhere these days.
My partner has more trouble than I with letting go of things. In preparation for our move, I told him that I would go through his closet and toss anything "unnecessary". Not things he needs and wants, mind you, but items such as empty shoeboxes, for example. He objected to this proposal, telling me that "You never know when you are going to need a shoebox." While this may be true, I responded, "When you need one, I am sure we can find one." Today I threw out several of them while he was out of the apartment, sparing him witnessing the carnage. I also changed out his mismatched clothes hangers for ones that match, because if there is one thing I can control, it is whether or not the clothes hangers match.
I take my wins where I can get them.
His challenge with letting go of things seems to be different than mine. He is less concerned with losing memories, and perhaps more worried about having future regrets. In this regard we are certainly cut from different cloths--I have confidence in my ability to pivot in the future. He would rather make the right decision in the present moment. I feel that my skill is more useful for the world we live in today, but of course I am biased...and also right. Fortunately, there is room for two perspectives in our household.
As long as I get to throw out the shoeboxes.
Part 3: Keeping the IKEA shit
Who has not bought IKEA furniture? The trick to doing so successfully is to know what to get, and what not to get. Trust me, there is more of the latter, so perhaps that is more important to know. Over the years I have purchased items from the store, but not too many. I am one of those people who can walk into IKEA, take a carry basket rather than a care, and not actually fill it up. But of course I can't completely live without their products. I currently have some furniture items from IKEA that have been in my apartment for 20 years, and they still hold up, perhaps better than I.
As my boyfriend and I prepare to move 3/4 of a mile away to a new and larger apartment, I decided that I would be taking the IKEA furniture I currently have with me: a large cube bookcase, and a dining room table with extensions and chairs. I decided that I want these items to last through one more apartment before I let them go. Our plan is to stay in this new place for a couple of years, then hopefully buy something in either San Diego or Portland.
I don't know if this is a rule or not, but I will not be taking the IKEA shit to the place we buy.
I know someone who has a few million dollars. Actually, I know a few people who have a few million dollars, but this is Los Angeles, so that is not unexpected. Anyway, one of the people I know who has a few million dollars told me that when he moves to his new home, he will not be furnishing it with anything from Pottery Barn. According to him, you cannot get good furniture at Pottery Barn, or at least not furniture good enough for a million-plus dollar home. If you want good furniture, you have to buy if from a custom store or from Europe.
I see his point.
I wonder what he would think of my IKEA cube bookshelf and dining table with extensions? I wonder what he would think of my desk made with pressed wood, the one where the pressed wood is already peeling on the edges?
I don't know what he would think about them, but I know what I think about them. They are what you buy when you don't have millions of dollars. They are what you buy when you are in an apartment instead of a million dollar house.
I don't take great pride in the furniture I have, but I did take some pride in it back when I first purchased it, because it was mine, and I bought it new as opposed to getting it at a thrift store. Buying new furniture, at one time, was as important to me perhaps as it is to some people to buy quality pieces from Europe. I don't blame either of us one bit, not one bit. Don't we all do our best to make ourselves feel good in our homes? And we do it within our means.
I am not ashamed of my long-lived IKEA pieces, because they represent the best I could do at the time, and they have served me well, and will continue to do so through one more apartment. Once we buy a place, I cannot promise that I will buy European furniture--I may in fact take a look at Pottery Barn, but you never know. What I do know is that it won't be a million dollar place, but that is just fine. For me, it is the same as I suspect it is with those who have a few million: we are both interested not in what it costs, but rather how well it will fit.
It would, however, be nice to have a desk that does not peel on the edges.
For the apartment we are going to, I am keeping the IKEA shit. In my book, IKEA is fine for an apartment, but not for a home. I am aware that it may be different in your book, and I respect that. We are all entitled to have our own books.
Part 4: Goodbye, cunt!
Have you ever wanted to call someone a cunt? If you have, I would imagine that you thought very carefully about doing so, because once you call someone a cunt, you cannot take it back. There is no way to "accidentally" call someone a cunt--it is an intentional affront in every instance of usage. I have thought about calling others cunt much more than I have actually done so, which is a good sign or a bad one. I am undecided. But I do wonder what it says about my life that there are people I consider to be cunts, without a sliver of doubt, in my world.
What exactly makes someone a cunt? Well, they must be mean, and by mean I mean they don't care much about how others feel. But wait, there's more! To be a cunt, one must not only be mean, they must also feel justified in being so; in other words, they can't see their cuntiness because they are too busy playing victim. For these people there is no turning back from cuntitude, because they have already decided that they are right and the other is wrong, end of story.
I like this passage by Hannah Croft from this page that defines cunt compared to other words used to describe female genitalia:
"While vagina describes part of the interior sexual organ, and vulva describes the exterior, the word cunt encompasses the whole thing – it’s the only word that describes the whole shebang. More than this, vagina literally means “sword sheath”, in other words, a “dick-passage”, so you could say cunt is actually the nicer and more anatomically correct word to use.
Semantically speaking cunt is simply the female equivalent of dick, as both are signifies for a sexual organ, and when you look at it like that the whole hoo-hah surrounding the use of cunt in conversation does seem somewhat strange."
It does seem strange, doesn't it?
What's the difference between calling someone a "dick" and calling someone a "cunt"? I guess it depends on what country you are in. In the UK, cunt is used more frequently, mostly to indicate that someone is being a jerk, whereas in the U.S. the word is seen as reprehensible and offensive primarily to women. Perhaps, beyond the meaning ascribed by the receiver, the aggressiveness is because of the hard "c", which practically begs the user to spit out the word. Americans have a hard time with hard consonants, I notice. They generally prefer soft consonants, words like prayer, flower, and lasagna. The one exception is the word God, which is practically all hard consonants, but that does not seem to bother the fussybutts. Strange. I suspect that the hard consonants are the reason that so many scream out "Oh God!" during sex--it is a primal utterance!
"Dick" has a hard "c", and is more acceptable in society, still I find it odd that so many insults are about labeling others as sexual organs.
My "neighbor soon to be ex-neighbor", who is also a "tenant soon to be ex-tenant", is definitely a cunt extremis. She is mean to the core, and only cares about others feelings when she is being treated well, or when she is playing with other cunt-victims like herself. When she is not getting what she wants, she turns on you, fast. And when you call her on this, she feigns shock, as though her wonky brain cannot fathom her own bad behavior. She is a cunt.
She has been a cunt, off and on, for the 20 years I have known her. When I first started managing this building, I remember she came over and knocked on the door, and demanded that I unlock the electric meter panel for the power company. I asked her why this needed to be done, and she replied, "You don't need to know, just do it!" I laughed at her and slammed the door. And there you have the root of cuntiness: entitlement. Entitlement is always, always, a coping mechanism enlisted in the task of protecting one against a fear of loss.
A couple years after the electric panel incident, the police were called on her when she dragged her then-boyfriend down the street a bit as he held onto the door of her car. He wisely flew the coop, never to be seen again.
The sad part is that, for much of the time, the cunt and I were able to achieve a sort of détente in our interactions. We greeted one another with pleasant words, and I did her favors like taking her packages in when she was away. But the civility was, in hindsight, condescending of her. She tolerated me because it worked for her to do so, until it didn't.
Fortunately, I will never have to see her again after I leave Hudson, and hopefully I will think of her less and less. There are too many people like her out there, the funcional mentally disordered, who act like toddlers throwing tantrums but in fact are far more dangerous. The neighbor hides her cuntiness behind the veil of "social justice warrior", which justifies her meanness, because, after all, she is fighting for the oppressed! The problem is, I don't think she really cares about anyone but herself. I suspect she only helps the oppressed as a way to validate her cunty ways.
There are so many things I would like to tell her, but I won't, because I am invested in my peace of mind at the moment more than I am invested in disturbing hers. But if I did tell her things, I most certainly would tell her that she is a cunt. The cuntiest of cunts. The Cunt Queen. Cuntilia of Cuntsville. A cunt through and through.
I am moving away and moving on. She will have to wake up to the reality of herself for the rest of her days, and I can't imagine that makes for many pleasant mornings. No matter. I am leaving Hudson, and her, behind.
Part 5: Hello Mansfield
The grass is rarely "greener" on the other side, but one could not be faulted for hoping it is at least green. That is all I want with this move. Anything more will be "gravy", as they say. Green gravy.
The other day I had to speak with the manager of our new apartment because the electricity had not yet been turned on. A technician from the power company was there, and the manager called to assure me that all was good. But wait. He then handed the phone to the technician so that I could speak with him. "Hello", I said, "do we have juice?" (I was trying to sound cool.) He responded that there would be juice in about two minutes.
But wait. The manager got back on and asked if they could go into the apartment to "test" the lights. I agreed to this plan. But wait. He called me back from inside the apartment and assured me that the lights were, in fact, now working when turned on. He then wanted to put me back on the phone with the technician to "thank him again". In the background, I heard the technician say, "Tell him that all is good and to have a nice weekend." That poor technician!
But wait. The manager then proceeded to reiterate why it was the right decision for me to take the apartment, because with him as manager, I will be "safe" there. He then told me for the millionth time that he trusts me and I am a good guy and a "gentleman". He continued on until it started to wear on me, and I finally had to say to him that I had to go.
But wait. Earlier in the week, I got a text from him that said, "Do you miss me?" I assumed he was thinking he had texted another person, but it concerned me nonetheless since it came to my phone. I responded, "Excuse me?", after which he then called me to profusely apologize for sending it by mistake. I tried to ease his discomfort by joking, "You probably thought you were texting your girlfriend!", and we both had a good laugh. Ha ha ha!
New street, new apartment, new nonsense. At least the nonsense at the new place amuses me. I prefer amusement to annoyance.
I have never been a fan of "starting over". While I understand the romance of thinking that way, it's a fool's illusion. We can't start over! But we can change directions and head toward a new destination. Though I am only moving 3/4 mile away, I am hoping that it will be a huge change in direction for me. In fact, I am counting on it. There is no way I would have put myself though the difficulty of moving if I thought it would be otherwise.
One thing that eased the difficulty of the move was when I just pretended that instead of moving, I was doing a "deep cleaning".
I have always had a certain confidence about changing directions. I feel very fortunate in this regard. I have read that some people, especially those with certain types of Attention Deficit Disorder, have no confidence in changing directions. Where I see fresh possibilities and the ability to adjust course if needed, they often see only negative outcomes and the potential for regret. Had I been born with a mind that worked this way, there is little chance I would have had the life I've had, because my life has been all about changing directions with confidence.
Wherever I go, I find a way to make it work. And wherever I am, I will stay as long as I can make it work. Hudson has not been working for me for a long time. Mansfield Ave., you're up.
It is perfectly okay to walk away from a situation that is not serving you anymore. But walking away is only half of the action--walking toward is the other half. I have walked away from stress, walked away from judgement, from guilt, from disrespect, walked away from being treated as a means rather than an ends. I have walked toward peace of mind and greater control over who takes up my time. And all it took was three months of hard fucking work and a shift 3/4 of a mile northwest.
Sometimes the biggest moves are just 3/4 of a mile away.
I wonder, at times, if my desire to keep moving in some way is caused by a fear of death or a zest for life. As I write that, I realize that a true zest for life can only spring from a healthy fear of death. Fear of death does not have to mean a literal fear of dying--it could mean a fear of not living anymore. The difference is that the former is about avoidance, and likely rooted in the future, while the latter is about embracement, and rooted in the present moment.
When one is embracing the present, regardless of what is happening, why would you want life to end? Even in painful moments, there is an aliveness to present experience when experienced in the present. This cannot be done when one is dead, obviously.
Perhaps my desire to move from Hudson is a little bit of both fear and zest. Perhaps. Now that I think about it, maybe saying goodbye is always both fear and zest. Maybe. I don't mind a bit of fear as long as there is some zest in the mix.
Saying goodbye. I have done this before, and I will likely do it again. I have said goodbye to the Naval Academy, Starbucks, my brother Mark, my niece Summer, my cousin Patty, and others. It is perfectly okay to say goodbye when you are not treated well. Goodbye, Hudson. Goodbye, Madonna magazines. Goodbye, cunt.
|A Dining Room fit for dinner parties|