This is what life feels like: out of the four or five different roles I play in a given week, two distinct minds arise most often: that of the experienced man who’s endured a few roadside ruts, and who’s ever tempted by cynicism; and that of the optimistic-leaning kid who feels the burden of life to be light and its outcomes mostly good. The older I get, the more the cynical man shuts out the optimistic kid, but I did notice a tendency toward the latter while staying up late last night watching Fred Armisen on the Netflix comedy special, Standup for Drummers.
Armisen is more endearing than outright funny, and I found that I wanted to keep watching him the same way I’d want to keep listening to a quirky and amusing friend. It was obvious the room where he performed was feeling it, too. The audience’s faces reflected affection rather than incredulity (like what you might find at a Dave Chappelle show, where the common reaction is “I can’t believe he said that!”). Where many comedians depend on outrageousness, Armisen exudes friendly irony; he could be Kurt Cobain’s mild-mannered and sanguine half-brother–just as capable of snarling social commentary, but with a delivery that wouldn’t be out of place on NPR.
Fred Armisen analysis aside, there was a feeling I had watching him (not exactly sure why) that felt like youthful optimism–a feeling that people are generally well-meaning, that there is still room for civility and lightheartedness among those who may not agree on everything but still place one another’s humanity first–first before, even, the need to be right, and while respecting each others’ capacity for figuring things out themselves. But then waist-deep in this blog, the old man (my other mind) comes slogging through, grumbling about the impossibility of this fragile scaffolding we call society. And all I can do is turn up my music and stare at the clouds.
Have you ever driven off with something on top of your car? If you’ve done this, and had the pleasure of hearing said item slide back and down off the roof at sixty miles-per-hour and counting, realizing too late what was happening, then you know the feeling that drops into your gut like dead weight. The feeling hits, and on its heels is the fear that the item is now, quite possibly, irrecoverable. Well, I was able to find my wife’s keychain. It was in the gravel and dry grass of the median on Saturn Parkway (so named for the former Saturn car factory, not the planet), where I nervously searched as vehicles blew past about ten feet away. Finding the keychain would’ve felt like a victory, except most everything previously attached to it was either missing or obliterated.
That was over a year ago. Yesterday, however, the feeling hit again, this time from a different thing feared irrecoverable: this very blog. Doing a little site maintenance, apparently I deleted a file I shouldn’t have. I knew I had no business tampering with those files, but I figured I’d learned enough that I wouldn’t make any fatal mistakes. Wrong! There’s a reason WordPress offers templates: because people like me have no business tinkering with code. Long story short: whatever it was I did to my website removed access to every single post I’d ever published at alandrue.com. I panicked. So much work lost, I thought. This was a minor tragedy. Since I’ve yet to publish with any outside entities, my blog is essentially my writer’s portfolio, and I’m quite happy with some of the posts. But I thought I’d blown it. I thought I was going to have to start over. Thanks to the friendly, understanding, and level-headed technician at GoDaddy (I wish I remembered his name), my site is running flawlessly now, like I never once got trigger-happy with my sacred files. And as I often do, I learned a lesson the hard way. But at least I learned it.
**Clarification for those who’ve never owned a blog or website: GoDaddy is the service that provides both my web hosting and my domain security (put simply, they provide my virtual real estate); WordPress is the service through which I built and continue to maintain my blog. There are other approaches. This just happens to be the path I took.
People in Nashville don’t expect to see a grown man on a skateboard, at least not in the suburbs. That’s what I deduced on a recent outing with my boys. They had their bikes and I had my longboard (which is exactly what it sounds like, for those unfamiliar with skater lingo), and we pushed and pedaled around the parking lots and walking track of my oldest son’s school for a couple of hours. The clear, cool day brought out other people, too, so we had a little company: walking middle-aged couples (probably close to my age, actually); a teenage kid blasting hip-hop in his headphones and doing basketball moves with no ball; a man giving his daughter a driving lesson. The basketball kid paid us no mind, and the father giving driving lessons checked to make sure we’d be in a different part of the parking lot, but the walking couples stared. Rudely stared. Some said hi, but others had this bemused look, like they thought I was kidding about being a longboard dad, or that any moment I might break into a Rodney Mullen street routine. It got a little awkward.
I’m jealous of two kinds of people: really tall people, and people who don’t care what anyone thinks of them. As hard as I try, when someone outright stares at me, I can’t ignore it. I may not look at them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel their eyes burning whichever side of me happens to be facing them.
The longboard stayed, of course, because thankfully I’m too stubborn to let a little awkwardness deter me. But it would be nice if the stigma of skateboarding being only a thing for kids would go away. I can’t see why it’s any less a legitimate activity than riding a bike.
Anyway, that experience has me thinking about the awkwardness and vulnerability artists undergo for the sake of their work. It’s risky to take something you created and place it in front of others. It’s risky because an artist’s work is built from the raw materials of his own life; to put it simply, it’s intimate. The best artists hold nothing back. It terrifies me to think of holding nothing back. Yet to be honest and to be good, artistically speaking, that stuff has to come out. Like a longboard.