Category Archives: Life

Breakfasts You Wait Up All Night For

Film poster for Diner - Copyright 1982, MGM
Film poster for Diner – Copyright 1982, MGM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there any place packed with more nostalgia, laced with greater laughs, or drenched with more classic memories than that of the town diner? Every American community has one of their very own; a little neon building with a menu ranging from eggs to lobster, ready to be cooked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

How many movies and TV shows feature such an establishment in their storyline? Cheers is all about that particular hot spot. Barry Levinson’s film Diner centers on it as well. And while finishing the first season of the FX series Louie today on Netflix, I saw my own day’s events mirrored in the end of the season finale when, after returning home from a disastrous night on the town trying to pick up girls, Louis C.K. is greeted by his young daughters who are awake and alert and wanting to go get breakfast at 4:00 in the morning. The series ends on a beautiful note with the audience watching Louie and his daughters through a diner window as they eat together.

The scene captured a very simple, rich, bonding moment between a dad and his daughters that perhaps sunk a little bit deeper for me because I shared a similar moment with my mother early this morning.

I returned home after a genuine “night out on the town” complete with before and after parties in a hotel overlooking the Philadelphia art museum, topped off with just enough luck to find rides to and from the bar without paying for a cab, and a nice enough valet parker willing to let me forgo the $35 parking garage fee and store my car on the hotel’s entry ramp until his shift was over at 3:00 a.m.

Upon returning home late that night, around 5:00 in the morning, my mom was already awake. We’ve had strange sleeping schedules the last few weeks. I was far from tired and she knew it. So the idea came about to take each other up on an offer we’d been trying to fulfill all week: to grab some breakfast at the diner down the street. Until this point, we were unable to find time to do so since I’ve been sleeping late most days. But now, with the blue morning sun peering in our apartment windows, this seemed to be the perfect time.

In a little plastic booth fitted with its own individual electronic game machine, my mom and I both ordered Western omelets with eager anticipation. And although we didn’t talk much in this early hour; my eyes slightly singeing with sleepy acids, my thoughts still swimming in left over alcohol, I think we both enjoyed the moment as we quietly ate our eggs and soaked in the atmosphere of the diner we’d been coming to for years.

It was truly a magical moment. If my life was a syndicated program, one of the ones like The Wonder Years where an older, wiser me narrates the tales of my younger, goofier self, I’d have had some kind of eloquent closing line synced up with that breakfast that would lead right into the closing credits.

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Gone Fishin’: How to Catch Big Ideas in Deep Water

English: David Lynch, photographed on 10 Augus...
David Lynch, doing his signature spirit finger motion when discussing ideas floating around,photographed on 10 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like quotes. I have spent many hours copying and pasting quotes from artists I admire into my Evernote app for further handheld inspiration. Recently I’ve been diving head first into the work of filmmaker David Lynch. I seem to find I have some things in common with Lynch, at least I perceive so. Specifically, I hold a great deal of admiration for his imagination and his idea generating process. In many interviews, Lynch refers to ideas as fish and his extended conscious-mind as a pond where these idea-fish are swimming around, waiting to be caught. Lynch says:

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

 

I’m not embarrassed at all to say that quotes like this send me gushing like a teenage girl at a rock concert, (or a Justin Bieber/Taylor Swift festival. Is that what teen girls gush over now?)

Lynch’s rationale that we all have great ideas swimming around in our subconscious, waiting to be found and explored, is enlightening and liberating. He admits to not knowing the best way or even if there is a way of locating these ideas and bringing them to the surface. They just kind of come, sometimes when you least expect it, and you have to be ready for them. A forgotten idea can drive an artist mad, so keep your pen and paper (or trusty Evernote app) handy.

This journey into the “deep water” of one’s soul is not necessarily a Lynch original. I can recall a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” I love that quote. Writers must pain themselves and even torture their souls in order to squeeze the pulpy prose from their juicy brains. Good writing is about feeling something on a very deep level and having the courage to push forward, through the emotion and onto the page.

Even before reading this Fitzgerald quote, my first encounter with the term “deep water” came in a creative writing class where I met my current hero and greatest teacher, poet Christopher Bursk. Chris, whom would be agitated to be referred to by his last name in this post or in the classroom, spoke regularly about the importance of paddling out into deep water in order to write beautifully. Our assignments were often exercises in swimming in deep water; write a poem about something you regret, write about a person you would benefit from being dead, or the self-indulging, soul scrutinizing personal “Song of Myself” that we’d have to write and share in front of the class.

The greatest advice from Chris on writing about deep water was a story he’d tell us about taking his son to swimming lessons. The swimming instructor said the best technique for swimming out of deep waters and to the shore was the dead man’s float; where you put your head under and trust the water to keep you afloat as you paddle forward.

This is of course true for writing. Much like Fitzgerald’s quote, sometimes you have to trust that the pain or longing of the deep water will keep you afloat and just start paddling, start putting the words on the page, and eventually you’ll make it ashore.

These quotes and this advice have helped me channel emotions into some of my best writing. It’s a constant struggle though but I’m content with battling every day. It’s a compulsion to want to strike out every day in hopes of getting that good idea, catching that big fish.

I was thinking of myself, Lynch’s quote, and came up with an analogy. If you’re ever uncertain of why you can’t come up with a good idea, look at the process as you would look at fishing. When you go out fishing, they don’t always bite. Fishing is all about patience. Staring at your rod or checking your hook constantly won’t make the fish come any quicker. Sometimes you just have to lie back and let your thoughts drift when all the sudden you see your line bob and you scurry to your pole, your pen and paper, and start reeling the fish in.

Some people are better at coming up with ideas than others, just like there are master fisherman in the world. In this regard, I think I’d say I’m a talented idea fisherman. I get ideas, sometimes several ideas, every day and I try to be a work horse in order to get them all into a project, down on paper. For the analogy’s sake, I’m good at getting fish to take the bait. But I will say that I have trouble catching the big fish. I’m young and still learning to explore myself and be honest with my emotions.

If I do manage to hook a big fish, a great idea, I often find I have trouble reeling it in and getting it onto the boat. Or worse, sometimes when I do get these big fish onto the boat, adapted into a story or script concept, my ship sinks before I land safely ashore. Sometimes my emotional state implodes unexpectedly and my ship, my safety, submerges with all the ideas and ambition onboard.

So what’s left when I hit the water, away from the safety of the vessel? Usually I panic and suck in a lot of water. But then I remember the wisdom of my heroes, I put my head under the current and start paddling towards land. And sometimes I’ll find I’ve carried one of those big fish along with me as I step onto the sand.

Musical Enlightenment

On my television is an example of what the VH1 station does best; pack a bunch of low-rent comics and pop culture “experts” (whatever that means) into a studio and have them comment on a list of songs or events. That is exactly the type of wonderfully mind-numbing entertainment that The Top 100 Greatest Songs of the 00’s offers. But the other, more personal thing that this show presents to me is the fact that I am and have always been really out of touch with current music.

That’s something I want to change. Over the last few years I’ve taken steps to becoming more musically relevant. It’s still a slow process for me. The main thing I do is keep my ears open around friends whose musical tastes I trust. If they bring up a band they like I try to go home and listen to them. This method has turned me onto Best Coast, Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys, who I’m happy to say I actually listened to before they skyrocketed to stardom.

I won’t give VH1 the credit for bringing this realization to light because I’ve been thinking about my inept current-music radar for a while now. I’ve been wondering how I’ve drifted through high school, clubs, and the 90’s without ever falling prey to the radio station. I couldn’t name you a Nickleback song until I saw “How You Remind Me” on VH1 just now, although I could tell you that I know everyone on Earth hates Nickleback despite the fact that they’re immensely popular.

“Like meeeeee.”

I was never much into the grunge movement nor could I claim to anything more than the slightest appreciation for early Green Day songs or their puss-punk sound. And due to my great love of rock n’ roll of yesteryears, I hold a lot of contempt for Nirvana even though I appreciate what they’ve done for music. Unfortunately, they’ve done nothing for music that I like.

To put things in perspective, it is well known amongst my circle of friends that I’m an immense, well read, intense fan of the last great hard rock band of all time, Guns N’ Roses. I’ll hear no criticism of anything Guns, including Axl Rose, who is arguably the greatest rock singer since Freddie Mercury. Seriously, they’re great. End of story.

You still there? Are you still reading? Hopefully you haven’t thrown your laptop into a wall, fused your keyboard with your monitor, or shattered your cell phone or tablet into a million pieces with hatred for that last paragraph. I’m sorry if it upset you. It’s important that you know that fact about me to understand why I’m kind of out of touch with music.

I was born in 1990, at the height of GNR’s fame, and only a few years before the original band lineup would split for good. Having been an infant when they were huge, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that I have such a strong bond to their music or can relate with their lyrics the way I do. The members of GNR’s original lineup are like dinosaurs in this post-grunge, pop-music kingdom that we live in today. With names like Axl, Duff, Slash, and Izzy; these band members are like cartoon characters from a strange, low-fi 1980’s TV program. The excess of Guns was everything Kurt Cobain and Nirvana looked to destroy…and succeeded in.

Let that last sentence soak in. Reread it if you have to. That is why I hold Nirvana in such contempt. They had a revolutionary hand in destroying what I love about rock n’ roll. And my personal beliefs aside, citing facts only, Nirvana never held a candle to the musical juggernauts of Guns N’ Roses.

As I got older, I pursued music with a hunger like any normal teenage boy wearing a black band t-shirt while growing his hair out long. Only instead of feeding off the influences of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, or even Metallica (whom I’ve always liked) I looked into what inspired my favorite band. This turned me onto wonderful glam rock bands like the ridiculously underrated Hanoi Rocks and the phenomenal English band T. Rex. I downloaded lots of New York Dolls albums and had a Motley Crue phase after reading Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries.

Most of these bands are greatly unknown or highly forgotten these days. So listening to them and telling all of my friends about them only ousted me more and singled me out. I built a wall around myself to block out current music.

Now I’m ready to dismantle that wall.

I still love those bands. I’m just ready to drop my attitude that all new music sucks and add variety to my iPod. I’m taking input from all of my friends and now with this blog post, the entire internet community. I want to know who you like to listen to. I want to give new artists a fair day in court. I know what I like and if after a song or two I decide the artist isn’t for me, no worries. The only thing I’ve sacrificed is a little bit of my time. At least I tried.

With the flux of new songs in my ears, I’m discovering new feelings and connections with my music. Now I’m finding songs that speak to problems I face as a youth today, not dated problems or lifestyles from thirty or more years ago. New music is giving me new inspiration for my writings and new understandings of emotions. GNR is all about telling authority to “fuck off!” and metaphorically coming in the face of adversity. It’s an empowering message but with the angst brought upon by grunge music, listeners have discovered that it’s ok to not always act so tough. We can be in touch with our emotions and be sad if need be.

I’d like to find some bridge between both messages. I’d like to have that rank stench of cool on my cowboy boots and leather pants while rocking the understanding and worldly vibe of a flannel shirt. Most importantly, I want to listen to new music.

What Do You Do When Everything is Right in Front of You? or How Do I Capitalize on Each Day?

Mark Doty, poet author of the book Atlantis

My first assignment in my Intro to Poetry class was to read Mark Doty’s 1995 book of poetry titled Atlantis, based mainly on the death of his partner to AIDs. In the poem “Long Point Light” a lighthouse speaks and says, “The morning’s the size of heaven. What will you do with it?”

As we went over the line in class today, it made me think about what my days have consisted of; nothing worth commenting on and basically the exact problem with my life and that quote.

When the first day of the semester came around I was thanking God for giving me something productive to do with my days. I lost my job at the beginning of August and went through a few good weeks of consistent reading and writing which is ideally how I’d like to spend my time. But then, while reading the depressing Sylvia Plath novel The Bell Jar, I hit my own slump and didn’t do much of anything for a while. School will hopefully put me back on track.

Back to the Doty quote, how can I treat every day like it’s the start of some kind of paradise? I’ve been able to do this from time to time. On a good month, I can have one or two gloriously full and productive days a week. But how can you be more consistent? I would like to be able to treat every day this way or at least most of my week.

But it just doesn’t seem plausible. In order to tackle a day fully I need to be optimistic and have some sort of idea of what I’ll be doing. I need to have a story to write or a good book to read and be inspired by. I need my creative juices to balance out with my optimism and I need the time to pour myself out onto the page.

Sometimes that is too much to ask. My moods shift. I have work or other obligations. Then it’s like I don’t get anything done at all let alone a full day. Excuses are our enabling friend.

The first half of the Doty quote suggests that there is great potential at the start of every day. There is literally no end to what could be accomplished in a whole day. However, the second half brings a twist; in order for this unlimited potential to be harnessed, you will need to take charge of it and command its reward.

I’m wondering how I can. And I’m open to all suggestions.

I suppose like all major projects, preparation can play a big part in the process. I shouldn’t wake up with no game plan and expect great things to fall in my lap. I was thinking about searching the internet and finding a bunch of writing exercises that appeal to me and stowing them away. If I can’t think of something to write one day I can reach into the pot of random poetry and short story exercises and get to work.

I’ve been meaning to limit my time on mind numbing activities too. Hours are lost and time truly melts in the presence of TV, Facebook, and the vast brain tumor that is the internet with all of its cat pictures, sex, and random pleasure generators. Hours are precious. They cannot be returned.

A constant battle I have is whether or not I should actively try to wake up early. I’m naturally a night owl, so Doty’s quote would have to be altered for me to say, “The late afternoon’s the size of heaven.” I do believe I’m more productive when I get up at a reasonable hour but those hours after midnight, when the rest of the world is sleeping and I’m left undisturbed with my writing, are when I’m really at my zenith.

So I suppose we’ll have to start with those options for now and see if they help me to carpe the hell out of some diems.

  1. Have game plans for your days. Prepare ahead of time.
  2. Do not waste time on things that numb the mind (Facebook, TV, and internet).
  3. Sleep less. Wake up early. Go to bed late. Best of both worlds.

“What is the Purpose of Life?” or How a Small Bit of Character Info from Kurt Vonnegut Helped Put Getting Fired into Perspective

 

Getting fired from a job is one of those moments that make you stop and take stock of your life. Even if you’re not that big of a fan of the job, it’s still the basic idea that you were forced to stop performing when you weren’t ready because someone else said you weren’t doing a good job. It’s like having sex with someone who you’re not remotely attracted to, someone who you know you’re too good for, but still you keep pumping away sluggishly as you go through the motions. But then all the sudden, this person who should be thanking God that you’re giving them the time of day, taps you on the shoulder and says, “I think it’s best if we part ways.” Then you’re left fumbling to put your pants back on and wondering what you did wrong to upset this beast you previously loathed.

“We’ve decided to part ways,” is how they say it.

I walk into my office and there’s my General Manager standing with another GM from the market who was summoned for backup. The other GM knowing my shift’s start time and probably showing up fifteen minutes early to be there standing, posing as I walk through the door. I knew what was going on before they even began talking. At least it was a nice day out.

This is an asshole.

I can’t say I was very surprised by the termination. I had gotten some poor reviews, which although were never for anything substantial, I knew the procedure since I’d seen the same thing happen to other employees; I was aware they were getting the documentation they needed to ensure a legal termination. That’s how things are done in chain businesses that are run by home offices in other states by people who see you only a few times a year for a walk through, the only thing on their mind being to find something wrong with how you’re running the building. It’s really quite disturbing when I think about it too much.

But the great thing about being canned is I have a lot of time to do all the writing I claimed to be too busy to catch up on. Thankfully, I’ve actually been making good on it and writing daily. When I’m not writing I try to read. I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, the humorous tale of beloved Vonnegut character Kilgore Trout, a recurring side character who this time gets to be the lead on the black comedy stage. Trout is a fictional science fiction writer who pens hundreds of novels and short stories which are usually sold in pornography stores with dirty pictures printed along with the text. His stories, which are unique and otherworldly, are merely vehicles to peddle smut.

In Breakfast of Champions, a small character description struck me. Trout walks into a porno movie house when they’re trying to close for the night. Vonnegut writes, “Nobody was there but the manager, who was also the ticket-taker and the bouncer and the janitor.”

It’s quite a small sentence which isn’t detrimental to the story. In fact, this theatre manager is only around for another few pages as he walks with Trout before being assaulted on the dark New York City streets. But it struck me as remarkably true and hit home, having just been fired from my position as a movie theatre manager, (unfortunately not of a porno theatre.) Being a manager in an AMC chain theatre consists of little glory or prestige. Working at a smaller multiplex as opposed to a megaplex leaves managers with less payroll and more tools needed on the belt. In one shift I would be needed as projectionist, usher, concession and box office cashier all while trying to fulfill my managerial assignments and ensure guests had a good visit. It is a thankless business. Long hours, weekends, and holidays are a requirement. And at the end of six and a half years I just get fired anyway at the ripe old age of 22.

Something about Vonnegut’s description of the poor, porno theatre manager having to clean up the dirty theatre at the end of the night in addition to all of his other jobs made me realize even more that it was probably for the best that me and the theatre “parted ways.”

Just before Kilgore Trout walked into the house he was in the bathroom of the porno theatre and read a question written on the tile wall. It said: “What is the purpose of life?”

To which Trout wanted to respond, but he had no pencil to write it, “To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.”

With all the self reflection that comes along with getting fired from your job, the purpose of one’s existence is sure to poke its head up at some point. Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout made the valiant effort of trying to answer that question. And to him, it’s quite simple and a foolish thing to be questioning.

We are only here to retort this life to others. We are merely a vessel for which to comment on what life has in store, for each of us individually. For it always surprises me that each of our lives are so unique, so original, and yet so connected to the paths of everyone else on Earth.

Vonnegut would say that there is no superior answer to the purpose of life. We are simply here. For no other reason than that we are allowed to be here. And once you can accept something like that; that life is so vulnerable and that our individual lives are so minute to the great wide intertwining world, then you are truly living specially. You are seeing clearly.

In one of my favorite passages from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle he says:

“God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”
“See all I’ve made,” said God, “the hills, the sea, the
sky, the stars.”
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look
around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God.
Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly
couldn’t have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to
think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and
look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
I can hardly wait…
To find out for certain what my wampeter was…
And who was in my karass…
And all the good things our karass did for you.
Amen.”

What a lovely way to live if we all admit that we’re just mud that got up to look around. This applies to you, me, President Obama, millionaires, prostitutes, the Pope, your grandfather, cops, junkies, a collective universe of chaotic, flawed beings capable of nothing more than taking a breath and looking around.

 

 

Like Beer and Liquor, Or Possibly Certain Types of Recreational Drugs, You Shouldn’t Mix Certain Literature

Cover of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:...
Cover via Amazon
Cover of "In Our Time"
Cover of In Our Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last two days I’ve completed reading two novels of distinct interest to me: Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time. Both were phenomenal reads. Both can be related, in their own ways, to the American Dream. But perhaps they should’ve been spaced out a little bit in my reading schedule.

I’d been loaned a copy of Fear and Loathing from a friend a little over a month ago. Thompson had become pretty inspirational to me over the last year as I researched his work. I’d watched Terry Gilliam’s film adaptation but never got around to reading the actual novel. When I was lent it, I had to practice a good deal of restraint from reading it since it was the end of my semester and I had a list full of books to finish for my American literature course.

Ernest Hemingway in Milan, 1918

One of my final books in American lit was an extra credit read of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises which I fired through with awed vigor. Hemingway has become one of my favorite authors since the 2011 fall semester when I read his short story “Soldier’s Home” and did a research paper on the main character Harold Krebs’ motivations. So I was very eager to read his novels as quickly as possible. Or I guess in respect to Hemingway, I should say: I liked “Soldier’s Home.” I liked The Sun Also Rises. I was happy when I read them. Nothing seemed to make me more happy. (That’s a little prose humor for you.)

During the end of the semester, I was mixing my required readings with some pleasure reading of the short stories of In Our Time. I put it down half way through to finish my final book for class, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

As of last Tuesday, school is over and I was left to do my own reading. And I’ve begun to assemble a nice list of books I want to get through. First up was Fear and Loathing. I breezed through the majority of it yesterday and finished late last night. Once the drug-fueled craziness kicks in full swing, which is pretty much at the beginning of the novel, it’s too much of a page turner to be put down. And like Thompson says, “you can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when it’s waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.” In my case, I couldn’t turn my back on a book full of Samoans puking into shoes, waitresses being petitioned for sodomy for a few laughs, and a few premium American automobiles getting more banged up then the drug-bingers driving them.

When Fear and Loathing came to a close I made the odd decision to pick up In Our Time the very next day. As I finished the final stories featuring Nick Adams realizing his maturity in the middle of a two-part finale that goes nowhere but touches on everything, I started to feel a little disoriented. In a matter of hours I went from 1971 Las Vegas, full of its acid induced hallucinations to 1920’s Europe and America as disillusioned Americans do their best to cope with harsh realities.

Both books had stated tough truths about the American dream. That’s the one unifying theme that ties them together for me. In the same way Thompson sought the location of the American dream in Nevada’s deserts, I’ve been searching for it in literature.

Each book spoke to a different generation that found itself asking “what’s the deal?” in its own way. Both books present people transitioning from prosperous and enjoyable decades in American culture to times of confusion and disappointment. Hemingway’s Adams returns home from WWI and fights to come to terms with masculinity, relationships, and values. When the reader leaves Adams, he has isolated himself from people to ease his confusion with the help of nature. For Krebs, protagonist of “Soldier’s Home,” the self-realization is a little bitterer as he’s forced to adapt to societal norms he no longer cares for to avoid confrontation.

Hunter S. Thompson, Miami Book Fair Internatio...

Thompson tells his own tale as a living, breathing survivor of the hippie counterculture of the 1960’s who was left stumbling into the 70’s, hungover and blurry eyed from a decade of heavy recreational drug use only to find that their rebellion was fruitless. Politics got weirder and times weren’t changing for the better. This sense of disappointment in these people’s fates was summarized beautifully by Thompson in arguably his best passage from the novel:

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

After reading both of these works I’m left fumbling around in my bedroom on a particularly humid and rainy night at 2:00 a.m. I am as confused and disoriented as the world and war weary WWI veterans of In Our Time and the self-destructive drug abusers of Fear and Loathing. Gertrude Stein called Hemingway’s folk “the Lost Generation.” Hunter S. Thompson didn’t seem to have the right map either in the 70’s. Over forty years later and I couldn’t tell you where I should be going. America has been at war for over a decade and I can’t find a decent song on the radio. If Hemingway’s time was the “Lost Generation” then I want to know who was ever found. All I can think to do is put on an Acapulco shirt, rent a convertible only to drive it to the ground and abandon it at the edge of the woods before submerging myself deep into isolation and nature for some trout fishing and a little bit of nothingness.

Feeling like Patrick Bateman Every Time I Shave, Exercise, or Dress Nice

 I find it interesting how society loves bad guys. The same way Jimmy Conway was the kind of a guy that rooted for the bad guys in the movies, men have idolized villains for generations. For example, there are swarms of urbanites walking around with black and white Tony Montana pictures on their shirts. There are dozens of rappers referencing Scarface, which is a prime example of nothing other than an immigrant suffering an early death after experiencing short lived success as a drug kingpin.

It’s fun to fantasize about the bad guys. They live by their own rules, answer to no one, and are seemingly devoid of society’s rules. While most of us are slaving away at jobs we hate, taking shit from people, and just barely scraping by in life; it’s easy to see why we enjoy watching a character that doesn’t do any of these things on the big screen.

I’m no different. I happen to hold the main character from American Psycho, Patrick Bateman, as played by Christian Bale, in high regard. I have realized that I think about Bateman when doing normal things like shaving, maintaining personal hygiene, exercising, and dressing. I use the characteristics of this lunatic as a way of motivating myself to stay in shape and look my best. I’m aware of how odd it is but I think the outcome is worth the strangeness.

When I exercise in my bedroom I take regular breaks between sets to look in the mirror and examine the tightness of my muscles, often marveling at myself as Bateman would. It helps keep me going. It helps me to break through the barriers of finding the time or motivation to exercise each day.

Can you blame me for trying?

After a vigorous exercise, a shower is in order. My American Psycho fixation does not leave me as I take joy in scrubbing my body and exfoliating my skin. When I shave I often think of Bateman’s tips on shaving which I cannot recall precisely from the novel, but are somewhere along the lines of always shaving in the direction the hair grows, saving the chin and sideburns for last in order to let those tough hairs soften, and to not use any alcohol based aftershave because it makes you look older. In fact, I’ve often mentioned not doing things for fear of it making me look older.

“I don’t work very hard on Sundays because it makes me look older,” I’ll say.

I would love to find a face wash that has to be peeled off after use.

Patrick Bateman’s meticulous narration of his attention to detail in dress is in the back of my mind whenever I wear a tie. When I go to restaurants and see a sign proclaiming its “Zagat Rated” I make sure to reference it to my girlfriend.

When I go to networking functions for my film gigs I’m always at a disadvantage for not having a business card. When I began looking through Vista Print’s templates, all I could wonder is why I couldn’t find a nice simple bone color. And I surely was going to put the title of “Vice President” under my name if I could.

   As weird as it is to go about my day thinking of myself as the murdering, womanizing, psychopathic Pat Bateman, I refuse to stop. It gives me a reason to take care of myself. And if staying in shape means preferring to refer to my gym as a “health club” then don’t try and stop me. But if I start looking in the mirror rather than my partner when making love, I’ll admit to having a problem.

Right back at you, Patrick.