Who Does He Think He Is?

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I’m Jeremiah. I’m a middle-aged white man in America, so that means I’m over-represented in the media and in the workforce. I’m also a pretty good writer. You can find out a lot about me in this journal, going all the way back to 2005.

For example, my day-to-day life is normal but interesting. What I consider my best slices of life are here, though sometimes things happen that are beyond insane. Speaking of insane, I’m bipolar and have ADD, and these things are so deep a part of me that I have to spend a lot of time making sense of it. I sometimes find myself thinking about the past, and I get a little nostalgic, sometimes sad, but I think about my friends and things are (usually) okay. I’m deeply steeped in pop culture, and I have some pretty serious opinions, though you’d never know that by talking to me. As I said, I write, and I reflect on my unusual process as well as my successes and failures at it quite a bit.

Basically, I like to write little essays that aren’t, with one or two exceptions, too long, and these are hundreds of them. Stop on by, take a look around, tell me what you think.

Mixology

In 1996, I cobbled together the most awesome, ambitious mix tape for myself. It was four sides, two ninety-minute cassettes full of my favorite songs at the time.

I can’t describe how much care and attention I went through to document the length of every song so that I could cram every one into each forty-five-minute side while minimizing the amount of dead time at the end of the tape.

I had to consider tone—the last thing I wanted to do was put a kick-ass rock song next to a gentle love ballad, unless the juxtaposition was my conscious goal.

When finally doing the actual recording, I had to sit there and play every song from beginning to end, making sure I didn’t accidentally include some of the next song in the album.

I also had to write out every song and artist on the paper insert in the tape case, and I had to make it perfectly matched the other cassette in my series.

And finally, I decorated each side identically with inappropriate stickers my friend Jeff had liberated from the pharmacy where he had worked.

Those mix tapes, as well as the mix tapes I made for other people, were a work of art, and I have never felt the same level of accomplishment or satisfaction with any CD I’ve burned or any of the dozens of playlists on iTunes I’ve put together as an adult.

I wish I knew what happened to those tapes (or the tapes others have made for me).

Carbon Dating

When it comes to the things I swore I’d never do again, I changed my mind last month when it came to dating. I hadn’t been on a date with a stranger since 2004, so I was curious to see how it looks out there. I’m not really very serious about it, but I am devoting time and money, so maybe I am a little bit serious.

It’s been a mostly mediocre adventure. The app I use (the one I’ve had the most success with) doesn’t allow men to make the first move, so I’ve had to impress them with my profile. There’s an art to making a good internet-dating profile, and I haven’t the slightest idea how it works. I know I need to take better pictures of myself. Other than that, I have no clue, so I’ve just sat back and waited. The women on this app aren’t really my type, and my potential relationships with almost all of them will last only until she sees the two Doctor Who-toy bookshelves in my bedroom. However, the occasional off-center one will come knocking at my door.

From there, it’s the messaging. Since you have to wait for her to write the first message, I almost always start out having to answer a question. One woman asked me what my ex’s Amazon review of me would look like (Kate would generously give me 3 stars). Most women who’ve reached out to me don’t make it past that first answer. Other women I’ll be enjoying will stop messaging me suddenly, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where the conversation took a turn. If we really like each other, we can move onto a video chat, of which I’ve done a couple, or a physical date, on which I’ve been on two, as of yesterday.

As both dates and I went our separate ways, I muttered under my breath, both times, “I had a splendid time! I’m never going to see that woman again as long as I live!” Because there is a way of saying good-bye that clearly communicates, “I had fun, I really did, but this is going nowhere,” and I clearly heard it from them. I’ve wondered what about me that didn’t inspire a second date, but it could be anything. Because I spent my thirties in a non-conventional marriage without kids, I’m not where most people my age are, financially, employment-wise, or in maturity.

My recent “Weekly Update” project reminded me again that, if this were twenty years ago, I would have been devastated by these results. But forty-five-year-old Jeremiah is saying, “I got to spend an hour or two with an exciting woman I never met before and answer a lot of questions about myself while learning about the life of a stranger.” I didn’t get into this dating thing to find love; I got into the dating thing to go on dates. I want to meet people. I don’t need a relationship, I just need a conversation with someone.

However, if I do find love and/or a relationship, I’m not going to brush that off, I’m just not looking for it.

In conclusion, on the quest for romance, this has so far been a failure. But on the quest for somebody to talk to, even if it’s just through messaging, this has been a roaring success. Is it worth the subscription fee? I’m not sure, to be honest. So I’ll just stick with it and look forward to meeting the next interesting person.

An Autopsy of my Nostalgia 

I finished my typing project. I was only going to do 2002-2004, but I kept going backward, all the way to April 1999. I typed up a total of 162 entries, and there were only about a dozen between 1999 and 2001.  It turned out to cover almost my entire life in New York, give or take a few months here and there, and what a journey it was.  

Things I learned. 

1) I was really smug at times, and it was kind of hilarious, like watching a fourteen-year-old in his dad’s suit. 

2) My life in New York wasn’t some solid stretch of time. I went through several different phases where I was a different person throughout: a fish-out-of-water, a lonely single guy, a boyfriend, a rock ‘n’ roll bar fiend, and those all break down into subcategories.  
 

3) I had no idea how good I had it, particularly during that party guy stretch at the end. I had a solid, diverse group of friends, a city that was wide open with possibilities, and a comic book to illustrate. And I was so unhappy. It just goes to show that you don’t appreciate it until you don’t have it anymore.  

4) There are some friends who were real rock stars in that period of my life, some of whom are on Facebook, some of whom actually log into Facebook every once in a while, and one who is not on Facebook or really anywhere on the internet (I tracked down his email address a week ago and sent him a note, but he hasn’t responded, so that’s one door that’s thoroughly closed). If you’re one of these rock stars, you will likely be hearing from me soon; please don’t mind me, I’m feeling nostalgia.  

I don’t want to say I peaked twenty-three to seventeen years ago. As I mentioned above, I was pretty unhappy through all of it, looking for romance and not being satisfied when I found it. During my marriage, I traveled the world and properly treated the mental illnesses that plagued me, becoming a much happier person overall. I never want to go back there again. However, New York was a vibrant, exciting time in my life, and, as I approach retirement and the weeks kind of bleed into each other, I don’t think I’ll ever have that much fun again. What’s nice about these updates I’ve found is that I go into such detail that I am finding about dinner parties that I have no memory of, as well as the discovery that I went on TWO dates with that unusual girl I met at another party, not just the one, and just how much of a jerk one of my ex-friends could be.  

This was also a nice break from writing novels, which I’ve been doing nonstop for four years, and a little bit of inspiration for my next one. If I had to grade this little project, I give it an A+.  

Back in the Day

If you’ve been paying attention to me, you’ll recall that I’ve stopped writing for a while to work on my current project, typing up the “weekly” updates I wrote to my friends across the country from 2002 to 2004, and hoo boy is it making me nostalgic. I’m under no illusions, however—I know how utterly miserable I could be at that time in my life, and it really bleeds through onto the updates. Obviously, I was bipolar the whole time and I didn’t know it, so my pattern was a few months of hypo-manic behavior, when I was about what most people would consider normal, if slightly tipsy (i.e. you know how you think, after a drink or two, that you’re particularly charming, funny, good-looking, and the coolest person in the room, even though you’re clearly not?); followed by a deep depression that was on the verge of crippling me. I could see this pattern in the writings I’ve gotten through so far—I’ve been working my way back from the last entry in April, 2004, and I am currently in November, 2002.

I’m finding all kinds of weird, sometimes life-changing adventures I had that I have no memory of, like one I ran into recently about how I went to the apartment of “Prince Nabi II of Persia,” who thought that I was a “beautiful man” but was not hitting on me. I’m also finding adventures that I lived through that I documented fully and in rich detail, such as the one I’ll know as “The Love Pentagram” (ask Barry about that one sometime). I’m also finding moments in my life that I will never forget, like the one where I’m pretty sure I got alcohol poisoning at a Halloween Satanicide concert and passed out on a friend’s couch and coated it in vomit, but I devoted maybe a paragraph to them. This has been quite the ride.

I’m seeing friends whose influence in my life I’d underestimated, and I’m seeing friends who were important to me being unrepresented entirely. There’s one in particular who was a really good friend during that period, and I’m not in touch with him anymore, at all. My attempt to reach out to him has been met with crickets, so I’ll just have to let that go. The other friends I have this unshakable urge to reach out to, and I may get to that, we’ll see. There’s one person I really want to say hi to and tell her how important she still is to me, but I know full well she won’t appreciate that, so I’ll have to let that one go too. This is nostalgia, folks.

What it took a while for me to notice was that, if you’re basing your idea on what you read in these updates, I quit smoking forever in November of 2002 and never looked back, when, in reality, I went right back to smoking by December of that year and kept on until May 2007.

Not to mention the drinking.

Imagine the kind of energy it takes to a commute the better part of an hour, work full day, then have an early dinner and drinks with a visiting friend or relative, then catch a movie (with or without a companion), then go out to drinks with another group of friends, then go to a rock concert in a bar with yet another group of friends, then ride the trains home longer than it took you to get here, and smoke a bunch of marijuana before going to bed. That’s the busy end of my schedule, but that kind of thing happened enough times that I’m exhausted just reading about it. Some weeks, I’d be out five days with people, eating and getting drunk. Add in the six months in 2002 and 2003 that I had a girlfriend, that was another person to spend time with. Seventeen-to-nineteen years was a long time ago. These days, I’m going to a Hall & Oates concert this Saturday, and I’m anticipating spending most of Sunday recovering from being out past my bedtime.

In the end, I have to say that I am extraordinarily grateful that I did these updates. They may have annoyed a lot of people who received them back then, but this was a brief, important part of my life, and I’m getting the chance to relive it. After April 2004, my next journal entry (when I started my Livejournal) was in September 2005, and it wasn’t very consistent after that. I didn’t blog or email about my move to Indiana or my wedding ten months later. I don’t really pick up any sort of regularity again until 2013, when I moved to Qatar, and, even then, I don’t really start doing it frequently until December 2018, and we all know what happened then.

I don’t know if this has inspired me to write more about myself—I’m not a very interesting person anymore—but it’s got me appreciating more what I have written and has encouraged me to relive my live at various eventful points and reminds me that I have lived a very exciting life. It’s dull now, but it doesn’t have to me. Maybe I’ll start looking it through that lens that I was wearing almost twenty years ago. Yeah …

I can go for that. (Getting worked up about tomorrow.)

A Gift of Platinum and China

I struggled for a year about what I should do for the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The most obvious thing to do would be to go to New York and be there for it, but I really can’t. It’s not because of money or finding a place to stay or anything but because it’s not my New York. My New York is trapped in amber from 1998 to 2004 when subway fares were $1.50 and the Freedom Tower hadn’t even been conceived yet. My New York doesn’t exist anymore, just like the Jeremiah of 2001 doesn’t exist anymore either, and that is a mixed blessing. I thought of myself as a New Yorker for years after I moved on, but not anymore. I’ve lived in the greater DC area for thirteen years (minus the two-and-a-half I lived in Qatar), far longer than I lived in New York, or even New Mexico, which I consider my home (I won’t be going back there either). I made the decision I would stay home for the anniversary of the day the world ended.

New York has always been a city in flux, so it’s not only unrecognizable from 2001, but it’s also unrecognizable from 2014, the last time I was there. I think that really showed itself in the weeks following September 11, 2001. The Twin Towers had dominated the skyline for decades, looking like, as Donald Westlake described them, an upside-down pair of trousers. Suddenly, it was gone, and all that was left was wreckage that was still recognizable as the World Trade Center. After we finished running away, screaming, and when the dust settled, we had to return to our lives. There was an updated subway map on September 17. By September 24, I was back to work a block and a half from a smoking crater, having to take a ferry there from Hoboken because the PATH train went directly into the World Trade Center. We got used to the Towers’ absence really quickly, and life went on.

Except life didn’t. I was in a relationship at the time that was irreparably damaged by the events of that day and limped along for another five months out of sheer inertia before falling down and dying. The problem was she was shaken to her core by the attack, and she needed comfort. I was unable to give it because I had shut down my emotions to get me through that day, and they didn’t come back on for a long time. It didn’t help that I was drunk and high constantly for the two weeks following the incident. Not dealing with it was how I chose to deal with it.

As a sidebar, I met someone who would become one of my most fondly remembered friends as a result of that day. At the end of the month, someone threw a party for all the September birthdays that didn’t get celebrated that year, and I met this really cool young woman and wanted to be her friend right away. She was celebrating because 9/11 gave her the kick in the pants she needed to divorce her terrible spouse. As with everything, there were good side effects.

The vaccine-denying, election-overturning, polarized hate-fest that is modern America has a lot of roots in this day. There are a lot of milestones on the road to where we are now—the nomination of Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, the ascension of Newt Gingrich to Speaker of the House in 1995, and so on. However, as a result of being president on one of the worst days in American history, George W. Bush, who was well on his way to becoming a one-term president, became a two-term president, and the Republican Party really got the hang of hateful polarizing tribalism. Rudy Guiliani would have been a footnote in history had he not stood on the rubble and started barking orders. Do you remember flag pins? Do you remember what would happen to you politically if you didn’t wear one?

On the twentieth-anniversary year, we finally left Afghanistan, the country we destroyed in retaliation for the attack. When we first invaded in 2002, the Taliban was in control. In 2021, the Taliban is in control. As much dread as I feel for the people stuck there under this oppressive regime, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder what the fucking point of all of it was.

Osama bin Laden has been quoted saying he wanted to bankrupt the United States, not conquer it. People who were watching American troops loot Saddam’s palace a year and a half later were thinking, “U! S! A! We won! Take that, bin Laden!” But we have gone trillions in debt occupying countries and not actually helping anything. All of the precious freedoms President Bush said “they” hated were being signed away by the PATRIOT Act and other bits of legislation. Dick Cheney’s company Halliburton robbed the off-the-books budget and didn’t even pretend they weren’t doing it. Osama bin Laden wasn’t a stupid man. He accomplished his mission.

September 11 is a formative chapter in my life as a young man. I’m not a young man anymore. In the 2000 election, George W. Bush and Al Gore fought like gladiators over prescription-drug benefits for seniors. The summer of 2001, the most front-page headlines were about Gary Condit, a U.S. Representative who was suspected of killing his aide. America has not been young for a long time, but in 2000, 2001, the stakes seemed a little lower. We can’t go back to those days again. I can’t go back to those days again. I could go to New York, but it will be as foreign to me as San Francisco was when I went this summer. It would be like going back after a while to that coffee shop you frequented until you left the neighborhood, and the barista who knew you by name doesn’t recognize you anymore. In fact, we’re going to let Pearl Jam play us out with a little number from 1993, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”

I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar yet
I can’t seem to place it.
Cannot find a candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me

The Matrix Rehashed

I just saw the first trailer for Matrix Resurrections, and I am excited. I thought the original three movies were a tight trilogy that wrapped everything up neatly, and they would have to do some serious contorting to squeeze another movie out of it. I was skeptical. But now I’m actually hopeful.

A lot of it has to do with the tone and sluggish pace of most of the trailer. It’s mostly Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson sleepwalking through life, and weird shit kind of happens, and then the action starts. I think this is a good sign because it might be about more than CGI and kicking.

The Matrix is my favorite movie. It’s not the best movie, but I’m in love with its questions about control and consciousness. It was a philosophical question with action and special effects grafted onto it. The Matrix Reloaded, however, was action and special effects with a philosophical question grafted onto it. The Matrix Revolutions was just action and special effects.

What I liked about The Matrix that was completely missed in the sequels were the people. The Matrix as a computer program was lived in. There were homeless people, dirty trains, sleazy hotels, stark office buildings, and a place where you can get “really good noodles.” When we find out that this world, so much like our own, isn’t real, we’re shocked. Of course, the movie breaks down in the end when the heroes just shoot everyone.

In the preview for Matrix Resurrections, we see Keanu living in the world, riding in elevators, taking antidepressants, going to coffee shops. It looks like it just might be grounded, like the first movie, and I, for one, can’t wait to find out if I’m right, or if this is another shameless cash grab like all of the other sequels made over twenty years after the last film. Will this succeed, like Bill & Ted Face the Music, or will it suck like all the Die Hards and Rambos that keep getting churned out? I guess we will find out in three months.

The Spirit of The Post

I used to work at the New York Post as a copy editor. I was only part time, and I only worked two days, then one day a week, but it was still a big part of my life that shaped me. I had a great boss, and if he wasn’t a surrogate father figure (I had a father, and he was doing the job nicely, thank you very much), he was, at the least, a surrogate uncle who really cared for me and looked out for my well being. I was a floater, so I took the desk of anyone who wasn’t working the particular day I came on, and, on Sundays, that put me on the other side of the cubicle from Dominick Marrano.

Dom intimidated me at first because he’s pretty much central casting for Brooklyn Mafia (so much so that he attempted to try out for the Sopranos when they were doing a casting call in New York), but I quickly learned that intimidation was the wrong reaction to have to him. He’s friendly, kind, and generous, and most of all, full of mirth. He’s laughing in all of the pictures I’ve ever seen of him, and that’s perfect because that’s how I remember him.

Probably my most vivid memory of Dom I had was one day when the pagination printer next to his desk was on the fritz, and it kept letting out this horrible beep/squeal noise. I muttered, “I think it’s backing up.” Dom heard this and thought it was the most hilarious thing because he told anybody who passed by his desk what I said. He’s louder and more boisterous, so if that joke was going to spread around the newsroom, he was going to be the one who did it. And here’s the kicker: every time he told that joke, he made sure to give me credit for it. He was big that way with not stealing. Him delivering my jokes to a wider audience than my shy self would reach was something that happened a few more times during my evenings there.

Dom passed away on Sunday after a long battle with lung cancer and emphysema. The New York Post page I follow on Facebook, as well as his friends and coworkers making the announcement on my feed, have been inundated with comments of mourning and praise for this man. He retired twelve years ago, but he hasn’t been forgotten. I barely knew him, and I’ve been sad all week. He was always there the six years that I worked at the Post, and even his retirement came as a shock to me. I guess I just assumed he always would be there.

I don’t know what you believe about the afterlife, but I like to picture him somewhere comfortable, drinking a coffee, maybe the alcoholic beverage of his choice, and laughing. He taught me that things are hilarious, and you need to embrace that.

Goodbye, Dom. I miss you.

Confronting the Sphynx

As I am about to enter this screenplay-writing competition, and, as I’m expecting to lose, it’s got me thinking a lot about the process of trying to get accepted for my writing. My screenplay will likely get passed over because it doesn’t follow the five-act structure, and there’s even more reasons that I don’t know about because there are loads of books on how to write a screenplay, none of which I’ve read. With my novels, I know that there are several technical reasons my queries are getting rejected, despite the fact that, when people read them, they really like them, as is evidenced in my modest number of Amazon and Goodreads reviews (except for that one guy on Goodreads who gave me a mysterious 1-star, as well as that 1-star guy on Amazon who really hated what I wrote).

If there are people so strictly enforcing quality control for the written word, then why is there so much garbage out there? I don’t mean like Two and a Half Men, which was a terrible show but popular enough to last for around ten seasons. I mean the cancelled-after-half-of-a-season kind of shows. The ones that are not well-plotted and lack any memorable or likeable characters and doesn’t connect with an audience, but they still impressed someone enough to hire directors, producers, actors, special effects, and various crews. I’m talking about the dreary, repetitive, badly written books that have made it through an agent, a publisher, and an editor. The first ten pages are what sells your books, so these bad writers must have amazing first ten pages because the rest is just horrible. They’re awful works of entertainment, but they knew the right code words to make it past the gatekeepers. I feel like, if I could figure out how to do the steps precisely, I might have a chance. That means I have to learn the steps intimately, and I don’t really have the patience for that. That’s not why I write.

What does that mean for me? I can’t afford to buy slick covers anymore, so no more self-publishing. Even though she ghosted me, the agent I talked to in April made me think I had at least one book worthy of sending out, and I might get to that later this year. But mostly, I’m going to write. When a contest like this comes up, I’m going to enter, not because I’m expecting to win, but because the challenge of it will appeal to me. Who knows, maybe I’ll do the right dance move and get in the door someday. If I don’t, I’ll keep writing because it gives me joy in a difficult world.

Fat Load of Good

You can’t tell because I don’t put pictures of myself online, I put on an incredible amount of weight since the divorce. It all came down to diet, I just ate garbage, and a lot of it, three meals a day. I was actually pretty active, taking a 2.5-mile-or-more walk six days a week. That’s where the problem started. I started getting a burning pain in my legs as I went longer distances. It got worse and worse, until finally, in January, I couldn’t just suck it up anymore, and I called a doctor. They told me it was a vascular issue related to obesity, and I immediately got rid of all the garbage and tried to eat better. I’m pretty sure I lost weight in this period, but I hadn’t weighed myself since 2018, so I have no way of knowing.

In April, I physically went to the doctor, and she told me that my ideal weight shouldn’t be my age plus 200 pounds, so I downloaded a calorie-counting app and hired a weight loss coach. This was mid-April. I’m happy to say that I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past two-and-a-half months, but I’m still quite fat—I can’t see the difference in the mirror yet. However, I’m within spitting distance of my weight goal (when I hit that goal, I will set another, but for now, I just want to be 200 pounds again), and for the first time in a really long time, I feel like I don’t have to look like this forever, and I can’t begin to tell you how good that feels. I have felt repulsive for a long time, but oddly at peace about it, accepting that this was the way it was going to be forever.

The reason I’m sharing this today is that the last day of the month is weigh-in day, and the scale gave me the great news that, despite some slip-ups, I’ve lost eight pounds in June. I honestly can’t believe the kind of shit I used to eat, but that’s behind me. I’m feeling lighter and ready to go.

What’re YOU Lookin’ At?

Random memory: This was in New York in the fall of 1998, and Shane and I were relaxing out by a construction sight that would become Trump Tower (or was near an already constructed Trump Tower—that part’s pretty hazy). We happened upon a large piece of broken drywall, and Shane decided that this was art. He always carried around his pastels, so he set to work bringing it to life.

Wearing shirts and ties, and me in my trench coat, Shane observed that I looked like a goombah, and, with nothing else to do, I put on a really bad Mafia accent and started harassing passersby, saying, “What’re YOU lookin’ at? What’d’you think this is, an aht gallery?” I started telling anyone who would listen about the artist and the drawing, using as many gangster cliches as we could think of, such as, “Look at that linewerk, it’s pretty good considerin’ both his thumbs are broken. Hey, he owed me money,” and “See the woman he’s paintin’? That’s Angelita, his one true love. Killin’ her was the hardest thing he ever had to do. Maybe next time you’ll keep it in yer pants, Angelita! You too, Joey, God rest yer soul.”

Eventually we had to go to work, that’s what we were doing in the Upper West Side to begin with, so we left his art leaning up against the fence of a construction site, with no illusions as to its fate. We chatted about it for a while, and we thought it would be fun to actually do the schtick in an art gallery, where Shane would actually paint something and I would taunt the gallery-goers. Keep in mind, this was when The Sopranos was just starting, and Analyze This (or its sequel) was a huge hit at the box office, so mobsters were huge at the time. That was one of many dreams that Shane and I had together those first few months I lived in New York, and like many, it just lived on in our imaginations.