Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Weird Tales

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Most of the stories I have are so twisted that you'd assume I made it up. But that's the thing abut real life... it can never be more bizarre that the best fiction ever written. Sometimes I flip through the TV and come across absurd reality shows and start drowning in depression because my own mind can never compete with this rubbish. America has turned into a horrendous car wreck, and we're all rubberneckers. It's so gruesome, but we cannot help but look. Why do we have a morbid curiosity to see a dead body? To remind ourselves that we're alive.

It's easy to forget that we're alive. Some days are so banal and routine that we're sleepwalking through the day as if our brains are on autopilot. I'm lucky I have this blog and archive my early morning writing sessions (the shit I don't delete) so I can go back and remind myself what I did, or how I felt at any particular moment, because for the life of me, I am unable to conjure up instant recall of that specific day. I mean there are 365 days in a year. Some moments are more vivid than others, but even if I try to remember, it's almost impossible to recreate an exact day in my head that happened 35 days ago, let alone 1,000 days or 3,500 days.

Professional athletes analyze endless hours of game film to find their weakness and then improve them. When I played a ton of online poker, I employed tracking a software so I could capture every hand I played so at the end of each night I could analyze my session and find out where I fucked up and how to prevent future fuck ups the next time I played.

Normal people do not have a system in place in which they can go back and see where they fucked up. I'm fortunate I have this space to re-read every once in a while to see if I could make fewer mistakes and make better decisions. Looking back, it doesn't matter the situation, bit I always waste too much useless energy getting anxious about things out of my control.

Control what you can control and forget about the rest.

That sounds like something you'd hear at a AA meeting or a motivational speech, and it's just a re-phrasing of "Don't sweat the small stuff", but it's one of the most sound pieces of advice you'll hear that actually works. The easy part is knowing this... the hard part is trying to focus your energies into the right activities and forgetting about all the rest of the bullshit.

Every few months I review the past to see if I can grok anything that I can use in the present. Mix tapes help jog the memory, or rather mix CDs. I have a couple of boxes of Grateful Dead bootlegs in storage at my mother's apartment, but aside from that I had not seen a cassette tape in years. It's the 21st Century and I have a bunch of mixes on CDs, or these days I have multiple "playlists" on iTunes. I usually label them by dates, so I can go figure out what I was listening to at a certain time in my life. Some of those playlists are embarrassing, others hold up under any circumstances, and still other offer up a few clues into the past. Perhaps a fleeting obsession with a particular artist, or a dabbling in a new genre, or re-visiting previous favorites, or delving into a specific year from the Grateful Dead's live archives.

Sifting through these playlists is sort of like investigating a murder scene or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the playlists seem too formulaic, but that's when I do a closer inspection and try to find the one or two songs that stick out. These playlists are essentially the soundtrack to my life at that particular moment. It's the music I'm listening to the most either while writing or in the background while hanging out. It's the music that inspires me, or helps get me through a tough day. It slowly changes and evolves. If I never had these playlists, or if I didn't go home for the holidays and look through old spindles of CDs, then I'd never have a bread crumb trail to my inner psyche.

It's impossible to maintain the same circle of friends for more than a few years before the circle starts to shrink or you move in a different direction (socially, financially, geographically, etc.). But it's interesting to see how different circles of friends (or ex-girlfriends) influenced your daily listening habits. Typically these playlists are like a greatest hits version of all of the music that friends recommended and I cherry picked my favorite songs from a collection of newly added bands/musicians. In a way it's sort of acknowledging the fact that you like some of the things your friends like.

Then again, I can go weeks and months without digging anything my friends were listening to. I had a slump of a three or four months and I couldn't figure out if I was in a weird mood in which nothing impressed me, or if my friends were all simultaneously delving into weird shit that didn't mesh with me whatsoever. It's those desperate times when I head to the "cloud" to see who the buzz is about these days. That's almost like musical suicide.... letting the Twitterverse trends dictate your listening habits. Man, so glad that drought is over. The last few months have been a lot of fun because I keep coming across tons of music that is sticking. I'm a little more excited than I should be but I also know that the tides could turn tomorrow and then I go into another down cycle in which I'm bombarded by bad music.

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