Random thoughts at 10:57 P.M.

Being whipped in the head by something that isn’t physically there, and being hit over and over again until throbbing emerges: that’s what I’d call an existential crisis. Or maybe the right word is boredom.

Thinking back to the time when I did study solipsism and phenomenology and all that other stuff, it’s come to my attention that knowledge of anything doesn’t really lead to a more satisfying ends. Life is arbitrary and you can’t measure your existence based on whatever is in the books. You’ll be given news that’ll shatter your heart. You’ll hear things that change the way you see life.

Why am I picking on knowledge? Because it’s what compels us to know anything or do anything. You certainly couldn’t have woken up today without the knowledge of the waking world. Perhaps it adds to the question of whether or not waking is an inherent thing. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But if the dream world was all you knew, then I envy you.

In this day of one up-manship, knowledge leaves you wanting more to feel better about yourself in comparison to a peer (or the guy or girl you hate really). You have to know this or that in order to feel competent. Growing up never sounded so cool. But I’m only half kidding.

Call this a philosophical jibe, a throwaway, a stream of consciousness, but let me be more specific. I’ve tried to learn as much as I can in order to amuse myself and convince myself that it’s worth noting. If anyone has the knowledge to defeat the absurdity, the angst and tension of life, let me know.

The dynamic mind knows no bounds!”

The truth is I’m okay with scratching at the surface of a boundary. It reminds me that I need to go from my comfortable state and explore a scary dark territory, I.E. being a grown up. It also tests me to work within a framework. Except that’s something a labrat would say. It’s summer all I want to be as free as a Sunday lunch for children at the Greenstreet buffet.

As a sidenote, boundaries. Boundaries are interesting. They could be as simple as the minimum word count on an English paper. There’s an incentive to go over a limit in any given paper for brownie points and to squander the other 29 competitive students in your class, but sometimes writing the 1500 word minimum could test one to find the answer without rambling on to 3000 words. Hell, a thousand word limit to this blog could be condensed to 500 – but setting a goal is sometimes healthy.

Which leads to the next point. What is the goal in defeating boredom? Is it to exceed your state of being? Is it to break even with the negative feelings that one is feeling? Is there one static point of defeating boredom or are there a dynamic set of options to beating it. One thing’s for sure, there are many different results.

Sometimes it leads to arrested development: for example, skateboarding; no matter how hard I try to learn all that technical, flippy, insane stuff that kids do nowadays, I can only manage with the basic tricks.

Some times I am led by my own motivation into a false sense of accomplishment. I’ll film a video (without any screenplay or words to help) thinking that it will be an artistic achievement that’ll make Kubrick rise from his grave to want to shake my hand for finally succeeding him. But in all honestly, a two minute film about me brushing my teeth, reading a book, lounging around, and eventually staring out of a window is a harrowing look into the reality of my mundane life.

Some times I read a book that is interesting at first, but I am stunted by the fact that the novel takes place more inside the protagonist’s mind as opposed to the external setting that he encompasses.

No matter the amount of literature, film, music, and image that gets me through the day, it all becomes dust the moment something, or rather nothing, is there to pester me. The knowledge of voracious reading and participation is zilch. Sometimes, most of the time, it’s always there to bother me despite my attempts to find peace within myself. Maybe that’s the goal. Find peace in one self.

Just have fun” most will say. “Have fun and it becomes less about growing and advancing and more about being in the moment to feel the air hit your face, or the idea touch your brain.” Sure, this would work if it weren’t for all the adult responsibilities that are breathing down my neck. Hence, the purity of time – the most perfect gift that you could give to yourself or anyone that you love. I need the time to have fun first.

These activities, might I add, supersede the idea of bad faith: the fact that I practice good faith in trying to do as much as I can with as little time given is my little morsel of trying to find humanity – what Truffaut would probably label as defeating boredom.

More specifically, observe the following.

In response to his wife, Christine Darbon, being bored, Antoine Doinel responds:

What do you mean, bored?” he says with disbelief. ”I don’t know what boredom is. . .There is always something do do. I can cut the pages of a book, or do a crossword puzzle, or make notes. I wish each day had 30 hours. I’m never bored. I can’t wait until I’m old so I’ll only need five hours sleep!’”

               – Antoine Doinel (Canby)

Perhaps the reason of doing anything is to combat boredom and find humanity. Maybe because I’m a bloody writer, it’s an attempt to forget that I’ll never find glory in a postmodern society that emphasizes meritocracy. Of course, many others would disagree and say meritocracy doesn’t exist, but to an existentialist that doesn’t mean shit. Ideally, the self is above institution . . . but it is never above the reality of the institution. You’re still going to get the boot to the head. Everyone at one point of their life will be subject to crunching numbers, tapping keys, and having unimportant conversations. 

To be honest, what does this even all mean? 

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Point B

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I had a dream last night that I had met someone without a face. Surrounded by a glow everything about it was alluring. What was most satisfying was knowing that I reached it.

Of course the bells rung and I opened my eyelids. The image stays plastered on the chambers of my memory, which would resonate with me throughout the day.

I put my hands on my lips. They’re dry. I squint in the morning dark. The 5 A.M. shadow envelops me. I can only see the blinking coming through blinds. Drivers in their cars below are headed to point B, forgetting about point A. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Forgetting.

Comfortable commutes are nonexistent. From the time a person wakes their Point B is somewhere else. The bumps are sure to be there.

In the back of my head I kick myself for sleeping late, because I had a train to catch in less than an hour. I didn’t know what was going to happen that day except that I would fall asleep to repeat the next day.

Which is why I’m thankful that I didn’t die today. At least that’s what the point of waking up is: the opposite of death. I don’t know when I’ll die. But I’m comfortable with lounging my legs at the end of the bed, feeling the fan blow against my toes. Somewhere in my mind I’m on Deer Mountain, trekking against a gust.

I still remember when I first climbed on Deer Mountain. I held my head up high with my chest out. I had thought I had become more of a man for the day. Of course physically I did not have the mountain man beard. In my mind I’d look like a Paul Bunyan and have my own folklore about how I overcame treacherous conditions.

Yet it’s the morning. I’m still here in bed wasting time. I still have to get to where I have to be later on.

I get up and walk to the window. All cars stay still. Traffic becomes a war of attrition. I feel the pull of tension. There’s a great responsibility in driving those little machine machines. You have to take care of yourself and make sure that no one is trying to cut you off too soon. The rear view window might be fogged up because your car’s heater is zilch.

Sometimes it’s good to live in a city with a train. You wouldn’t have to drive the car again. Still looking out the window the train zooms past the traffic, forgoing any cluster.

I still remember stepping onto the platform for the first time. It’s a weird feeling like a conqueror setting his foot on the sands. My first days in New York. At 75th Elderts Lane, I took a Jamaica bound train towards the east. I had not driven for the last year and New York was an opportunity to be careless.

My legs felt like jelly, as if they were a wobbly table. No seats were available. I stood at attention like an enlistee. And since then it was the same each and day. The delays, the bumps, and the wait were not in my hands. It taught me a great lesson.

My train would be coming soon. I closed the blinds and fixed my bed. It was the first time in days that the room temperature stayed still. I opened my door and walked to the restroom. Flicking the light, I see that my face is unkempt. There’s a hazy shade.

It had become apparent how departed I was from those days.

I still remember combing my hair for the first day of elementary. I’m rehearsing for a job interview. I’m looking at the pimples on my face. I’m writing on the mirror. I’m wondering if my face would ever be good enough for another person. I’m stepping out of the bus station in a new city wondering if she was still awake.

Almost instinctively I put my hands on my face, wondering why it looked this way.

Thinking about what had happened the other day I stared for a long time wondering how it happened. The best thing to do was to forget. Maybe I’d bring a book to read.

That one time I almost missed class

Writer's Note: Listen to Eric Clapton's Writer's Note: Listen to Eric Clapton's Reptile while reading.  while reading. 

Writer’s Note: Listen to Eric Clapton’s Reptile while reading.  while reading. (Photo by Samantha Neudorf)

I waited right outside the establishment that she interned. The guard stared at me from behind the glass door entrance. He must have thought I was crazy standing outside in an uncharacteristically humid autumn day. I pulled out my phone and scrolled through old messages as if I had an important email to answer.

When she got out, we walked up towards 34th street so that she could catch the LIRR bound towards the East. She lived out in Hempstead and attending Hofstra, which was accessible by blue beetle every hour only during the commuting peak hours in the morning and in the afternoon. Her class was at 6 in the evening, so you could imagine the rush that she had to go through every Tuesday and Thursday she came into the city.

“How was your day today?” I asked.

“Same old thing,” Sam said. “I ran around and did errands for the editor.”

Since she always had to catch a train within the half hour she told me about her day as we walked uptown. If we were lucky, we would be able to stop by the corner store to pick up a few goodies that would get us through our evening classes.

On this particular day, the Flat Iron on 23rd did not gleam with a stern brightness that could be seen from a few streets up. The wind picked up, bringing a certain heat that was not uncommon in the autumn. It was the same kind of humidity that followed you underground and made you sweat like a pig before its death.

I wiped the beads forming on my head with the sleeve of my coat. I turned towards her and noticed that she kept walking with an urgency. As always, it slipped my mind that we would be going our separate ways in just a matter of minutes.

“Did anything else happen?”

“Well, I talked to the other intern. Did you know she commutes all the way from Jersey?”

“Is she in school?”

“She’s taking a break.”

We stopped at 25th and waited for the green man to come on the scene. I checked my phone to see what time it was. It was 4:30, which meant I had an hour to get to my own class.

The crowd started to pick up the more we walked up. From 23rd to 30th the convenient stores emerged. Sam and I walked past the Trader Joes on 6th, and when the automatic doors opened I noticed that the line wrapped around the inside of the store. There was a YogurtLand further up that whispered for my attention. I stopped and asked if she wanted to grab a cup to eat. Then I looked at my clock again and realized that it wouldn’t be feasible.

We crossed two avenues over. Unlike uptown, there weren’t many trees that stretched over our heads. Old tenement buildings that rusted since forever ago stood like stoic statues. They were witness and testament to the history of the city.

As we approached Penn Station on 34th, we both held on tighter. The swarm of people flocked towards the underground station in hopes to find a seat to sit in for the lengthy commutes. Sam had hoped to snag one, because it took her a good hour and a half to get to her school.

I led her to the LIRR station and waited with her for the track announcement on the overboard ahead. When her station started to blink, she leaned in and gave me a smack.

“I’ll see you this weekend, okay?”

“Okay. Have a good class.”

“You too.”

After I bid her farewell, I exited the station and headed to the nearest E train, which was just a transfer and swipe away from where I stood. While I floated towards the turnstile, I thought about the readings that I had for today and whether or not I took the time to actually take notes. It was a good thing that the class consisted mostly of discussion, and if I was lucky, I could get by without saying a word.

The train would arrive soon and whisk me away to 59th street. From there I would walk nine streets up to my school. On my way, I could also grab a slice if I wanted to I thought. I leaned on the pillar and put my hands in my pocket. I felt the air hit the left side of my face. The screech of the train shook the pillar, and I straightened my posture.

As usual, the 4:30 commute proved to be as crowded as ever. I entered and went to the nearest open spot. I put my earphones in and let the music take over the sound of the train zipping through the city’s wormhole.

I changed the track and the music picked up on the next song. I let go of the rest pole that I was holding onto. Feeling the floor beneath me, I got a grip of my soles as best as I could, balancing the weight of my backpack with the speed of the train. The train jolted and jerked and eventually slowed down.

The voice over the intercom began to speak. I stopped my music and took out my earphones to listen.

“Someone ahead of us just pulled the Emergency Break. So everybody has to get off at 42nd street. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. But please do transfer to . . .”

The train car felt more humid than usual. I felt a full sweat bead slide down my back, and I knew that something wasn’t quite right. Deep inside of me, a little voice in my head started to scream.

I pulled out my phone. It was now 5:01. At this time I didn’t have any time to think about anything else but getting to class.

I jolted towards the next C train that was just a transfer away. If I went downtown one stop, I could transfer to the F that would take me to 63rd street. Then I would run five streets up to get to my school.

I tossed my leg into the door just as it began to close. The voice over the intercom began to speak.

“This is a Uptown C express train. The next stop is 103rd street.”

If it weren’t for the crowded car, I was going to toss my pack across the aisle towards the driver’s direction. The train rumbled at a fast pace and in between the coughing passengers, the rickety rackety of the train doors, and the crying babies, I checked my clock for my status. By the time I reached 103rd it was 5:15.

I scampered to the downtown C train across the track. When the doors closed, I felt the walls of train close in. The humidity had been chasing me since 19th.

The train arrived at 59th street Columbus Circle 5:20. From there I transferred to the F towards Queens.

But when finally got onto the train, the doors wouldn’t close. For what felt like an eternity, me and the sea of disgruntled men and women began twitching and fidgeting. The intercom began:

“Everyone step into the train so we can get a move on it!”

Still the doors stayed open.

“Everyone step into the train so we can start to get this train moving.

Still, it went on.

“STEP INTO THE TRAIN!”

The train became more humid. I looked at the doors close and never felt so happy to feel the smothering warmth of the outside world and its millions of people.

The F ran like a track runner at the last leg of a race. Although it is a crippled train in many ways, it trekked on towards 63rd like it was any other day. The doors opened, and I pushed my way through the blocking crowd. I saw that the platform was empty.

Clutching my bag, I sprinted towards the escalators at the far end of the platform. I ran up the first set and bolted through the second and third sets of escalators. The humidity welcomed me back to the surface, where I raced against the pedestrian lights. Whether it was a green man or a red man, I ran through.

Once I saw the sight of the school, I took bigger strides, and I even pulled out my ID to swipe in in time. Without thinking, I tapped my card on the sensor and ran up some more escalators in my school. To this day, New York’s love affair to the beloved escalator has never been more apparent.

My class was in the north building, which meant I had to cross bridges between the school. I ran past the crowd of students and even did a spin move that would make any professional waiter proud. The last obstacle, 4 flights of stairs proved to be the most crucial moment. I boosted myself up on the first step, and within 30 seconds, I was on the 4th floor. I turned the corner like PacMan, and ran towards the end of the hall where my class was at.

I crossed the ribbon and burst into the room like a messenger. I went to my chair and launched my bag to the floor. I pulled out my phone and read the time: 5:29. A number of messages were also on my phone, which I could not access underground. They must have been from Sam.

Looking around, Some of my classmates were not in class. I sighed and began taking out my notebook. My professor walked in with his usual demeanor and asked us “What’s up?” And for the very first time, I really did not have the breath and brevity to answer such a wonderfully broad question like that.