Upper Lower Middle Class

Categories Half of Myself

I’m upper lower middle class and on good days I lean towards the lower middle middle class. I have a roof over my head, I drink lattes, I can’t afford Apple products. On most days I can’t afford anything that isn’t necessary, which is of course subjective. My mind rebels against challenging a $4 purchase. I’m fortunate because the beach is free and I have a car with gas that can drive there. I avoid the Beverly Center, 3rd Street Promenade and pretty much every mall in Los Angeles. I refuse to shop at the 99 cent store.
I’m average, the middle, the median, medium. So is my friend whose idea of a good deal is to pay $350 for a $500 pair of Cole Haan boots. So are all my friends who go on vacations, and say “let’s get dinner”, and argue the virtues of various tablets, without doing complicated math in their heads that never adds up.

***

One day, as a girl in a bleak suburb of Detroit, I went with my mother to a music shop that sold used instruments. It was down 9 Mile, in the direction of the zoo, in a shopping center with a Fantastic Sams, a 99 cent store and numerous boutique fashion stores whose window mannequins always looked to me to be waiting for salvation. The parking lot for the shopping center had parking meters, a novelty in suburbia.

The music store was a dim place, mysterious, sacred almost, the light from the street through the display window barely effective. Bells tinkled when we walked in. A layer of dust glistened over everything in the gray-scale light from the window. We were looking for a guitar for me. My only reference was the one from WalMart that sold for $100. In that price range.

Above us, on the wall tp the left, guitars hung from the ceiling, each at an angle like they were posing for a family wedding picture, hips to the camera. My eyes roomed over the wooden curves of the guitars. There was one guitar, different from the others. I hardly remember it now – only that its wood was darker, the color of brewed coffee, a warm brown. I can see where it was on the wall, about a third of the way through the lineup, and I can see its flared curve which I would not then, but do now, associate with the lines of a woman. I pointed at it, afraid of voicing my admiration.

The owner was a small man, gray hair, a face that wasn’t afraid of aging. He wore large glasses and was in shirt sleeves. He was small, he moved quickly, spoke easily in an accent, and paused frequently. “That one?” he repeated, he pointed his finger at it. Yes. He laughed, a friendly laugh that forewarned something.

“You have good taste,” the owner said. “That guitar cost $2,000.”

I looked at the man. Another customer was running his hand over a piano. The door opened and the bells tinkled and there was classical music playing discreetly in the background that I hadn’t noticed before. I noticed it now, heard the isolated notes of a melody that wouldn’t stop moving, and I followed it.

“Thank you,” I said. Because it was polite, and also for the compliment, for making it okay that the $2,000 guitar was out of my reach because I had something better. An appreciation for beauty, and quality.

I’ve repeated that to myself many times, when there are beautiful things I can’t afford.

***

There’s a ludicrousness inherent in the range of middle class and how it has to be broken up into three – middle, upper, and lower, and then each of those divided again into threes so that in the end average actually means unique. It’s your own point on an infinite line of lower upper middle class. It means having a love-hate relationship with things and beauty, with owning and having and wishing, and a necessary worship of upward mobility.

Single in a Big City

Categories Bookshelf

Office GirlOffice Girl by Joe Meno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s whimsical.
The story, and the writing style.
I like the idea of art terrorism, but not if it hurts people.
I like the exploration of twenty-something aimlessness, of the lonely single in a big city, of life and success being less interchangeable than we realize. It’s okay that there’s no real resolution, maybe because when you’re twenty-something, oftentimes things aren’t yet resolved.
It could still go either way.
You might find a calling a passion, you may end up being okay with the status quo, you might find belonging and acceptance in love or in community, and then maybe the does-anything-really-matter won’t matter as much.
Or not.
If you’re twenty-something it may feel vindicating. If you’re past that stage (I imagine) it’ll be either nostalgic, or I’m-so-over-that.

In terms of writing – it is a fun style, different, and there’s some great imagery. There are lots of sentences beginning with so or and so or and then, and the pacing from one page/chapter to the next is like taking a lot of quick breaths. Overall it feels amateurish sometimes, too conscious of itself.

All in a Day

Categories Half of Myself

So many amazing things  happened today that I have to write a list:

  • I woke up with a headache which inspired me to make an appointment to get the root canal I’ve been avoiding
  • Almond butter smoothie with the addition of cinnamon. Yumm.
  • A potential new client
  • I discovered lynx, how to disable CSS, and how to SEO grade a WordPress theme
  • The best Mediterranean quinoa salad ever, made by moi
  • I bought a basil plant because it was only 50 cents more expensive than fresh basil, and could possibly outlast the fresh basil. No promises.
  • I spoke to my little sister and heard about her baby and her Canadian emergency room visit
  • Sent in job application that’s been stressing me for weeks
  • Dinner with friends at La Siene
  • Thirty Fifth drink at La Siene (aka sake bourbon lemon amazingness)
  • Talked about the 21 species that are the exceptions to the rule that females invest more than men in reproduction, with my super-rational-smart-athiest friend, while sitting on the front lawn int he middle of the night
  • Being happy

Thank you to the powers that be.

Kierkegaard

Categories Bookshelf, Religion

I found Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher from the first half of the 1800’s, and was immediately intrigued.

I was surprised to find his work so religious, and to find that it was lyrical and searching, not rational and a dissertation.

I know that when I listen to the lectures on it, and understand more of what I’ve read, some of the magic will be gone. But for now I’m still at the stage where what I’ve read has validated and articulated some of the things I always knew but always questioned. I feel less alone.

On faith:

Love,after all, has its priests in the poets, and occasionally one hears a voice that knows how to keep it in shape; but about faith one hears not a word, who speaks in this passion’s praises?

Faith, according to Kierkegaard, is the next step after philosophy. It’s more than rational. In Chassidic terminology, למעלה מטעם ודעת – higher than reason and knowledge.

On choosing the finite over the infinite:

But to be able to lose one’s understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast (amazed).

The mind can take you as far as the infinite. It can lead you to reject this world for something more. But only faith, or what Kierkegaard calls ‘the absurd’ can bring you back, can make you recognize that the true challenge is to find meaning here. That’s the existentialist in him. Forget the spiritual, live in the temporal.

Existentialism should be incompatible with religion and faith. But not in this case. The Chassidic concept of Dira B’tachtonim, bringing G-d here, and not just G-d, but the ultimate essence of G-d – what is it not a celebration of the temporal? Of course according to Dira B’tachtonim, it’s a meeting of the finite and infinite, not one one over the other. Nevertheless.

And my favorite:

What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. (In his personal journal)

He says that every life has one content, in Hegel terminology ‘an unconditional commitment’ to an all encompassing purpose, that provides the content, the direction, the meaning of his life. Until it’s found a person won’t ever truly be a self. Some people never do find it, or commit to it.

Thoughts on ‘Fear and Trembling’ by Soren Kierkegaard, and the lectures on the book by Hubert Dreyfus at UC Berkley, found in iTunesU.

I’m glad I look like my reflection

Categories Half of Myself

It’s what I saw in the window of the coffee shop as I entered.

Inside I was shredded, I was yesterday and tomorrow, I was stungunned by blue eyes, and guilty and broke, but not so broke to have hit bottom. I was something to some people, but nothing to myself. The things that mattered couldn’t matter, and every music note was so sharp that I couldn’t tell it apart from beauty, and more than anything, I wanted there to be someway to make it stop.

The reflection had short brown hair and a face that was both innocent and honorable. She approached herself and almost smiled, a bag over her shoulder, a blue and gray striped scarf stark against fair skin and naturally pink and pale lips .

“One tall coffee,” I told the girl behind the counter. She saw the girl in the window, and I wasn’t her. She talked for me. I waited for my drink, I was invisible. The people moved through me. Their faces and their hair color and the books they read and the short black dress of the girl behind me and the carefully chosen boots.

The boy on the couch opposite me sighed. Another in an artfully ripped wife-beater and tired military high-tops walked with shoulders rolling in swag.

The green-aproned barista called my name but even the coffee couldn’t reach me. I was stashed away in trees, in closets, under bangs, under covers, somewhere where being human wasn’t so desperately isolating.

There is far more to feel in this alternate reality where I am right now. The music isn’t louder but I hear it more vividly.

Serendipity

Categories Half of Myself

There are so many syllables in that word that in the amount of time it takes to say it, maybe something will change.

I keep waiting for it.

Wise people have advised that to awaken creativity, it is necessary to break with routine, play with children, take the bus, let possibility in.

But what if that’s the only thing you have? The chance that something could happen. You stay open, unattached, uncommitted. Scattered and alone, watching the eyes of each passerby to see if they are the one. Today you will meet your savior, your mentor, your lover.

Is it a societal phenomenon? Can it explained by post-modernity or consumerism or is it simply the living in Los Angeles where everyone is well schooled in dreams?

The days come and go. Shadows, and darkness, and sunlight, and shadows again. He is not coming, you realize. He will never come.

All the strangers you’ve met on Twitter, at the bar, in the airport, at the coffee shop. They’re just whispers, and now they have long since passed.  What’s left of this hope then, but the naive foolishness of it?

There’s only  a hole now, where the possibility used to be.