The Last Few Years

Hey look, I’m not dead!  Yesterday I posted a shit ton of (like 16) poems to the site, which I’ll talk about in a minute.  Prior to that, however, I hadn’t posted anything since seeing PACIFIC RIM six months ago.  I’ve been a bit crap at keeping this place updated regularly for a few years now.  There are a few reasons for that, which I suppose I’ll talk about now, in no particular order.

First off, there are these other things that frankly get more of my attention than they probably should.  These things are called Facebook and Twitter.  I used to write fairly regular posts here that were titled “Miscellany” or “Brainspew.”  These posts were just collections of random shit that was in my head and things that were going on in my life at that particular moment in time.  You know, the sort of things that Facebook and Twitter are now used for every day.  When I first realized that my own site was losing content to social networking sites I was mildly bummed, but I honestly don’t care anymore.  I think FB and Twitter both serve a purpose in their uniquely annoying ways, and I use both of them.

I kind of think of Twitter as the perfect vehicle for useless little thoughts that I don’t mind the public (public = nieces, nephews, friends, strangers, employers, the NSA, etc.) having access to.  Shit like, “It kinda freaks me out that Tywin Lannister is shilling for Chivas on television.”  Why the fuck would I give that thought more time than that by turning it into a post here?

Facebook, on the other hand, I think of as a far-more private sort of thing (and, yes, I get the irony of using the word “private” in the context of FB…whatever).  I tend to keep FB to friends and family.  If I don’t know you in real life, I won’t accept your friend request.  And even then, you need to be someone I currently have face-to-face interaction with.  I regularly deny friend requests from people I went to high school with for the simple reason that if we haven’t spoken in over twenty years, I probably don’t feel like sharing the birth of my newest niece with you.  There are maybe two or three exceptions to this rule.  I have no idea why I just went into that kind of detail about my FB friends policy.  Aren’t you lucky?  Anyway, the point is that FB gets a lot of my time as well.

I only recently became aware of the amoral and fraudulent bullshit that is THE SECRET.  I won’t link to it, you’ll have to do the research if you’ve never heard of it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it winds up being as popular as Scientology in the next ten, twenty years.  Anyway, I watched about an hour or so of various clips on YouTube and was, basically, incredulous.  So I went to FB and promised my friends that I’d promise to try and keep an open mind if someone wanted to defend it as anything other than gibberish.  This is exactly the sort of thing that FB is good for, in my opinion.  I could’ve written a long article here, calling it out for the bullshit it is and then opened up the comments to get an oppositional viewpoint, but I’m just not that big a fan of being called names.  The anonymity that allows for that kind of shit is nonexistent at FB, primarily due to my draconian friends policy mentioned above.

So there’s that.  I also had a prolonged period of unemployment and I’ve learned in the last decade that the output here drops when my free time increases.  No fucking idea why that is, but that’s how it is.  I’ve been lucky enough to get an amazing job working at a university.  Everyone here is super laid back and friendly.  There’s never an emergency so dire that your job security hangs in the balance.  I’ve never been threatened with my life (this actually happened at my last job…more than once…really).  At first I wondered if this was just what working for schools was like, but I’ve been assured by friends of mine who also work at universities that it isn’t.  I just got lucky I guess.  Everyone is totally great, the atmosphere is pleasant and the work is actually rewarding.  I’ve never worked anywhere even remotely like this.

Mostly though, I haven’t been giving my time and energy to this site because I’ve been giving it to education for the last few years.  I spent most of 1997 to 2010 working as a computer nerd for various companies in various capacities.  It was never anything I particularly enjoyed, but the money was good.  Actually, at first, it was great but it quickly dropped to merely good and, after a decade of outsourcing, I can’t find a job that pays what I could make in the late nineties.  If I had a degree in computer science, that would be a different story.  I have no such degree.  In 2006, I started going back to school part time with the intent that I’d get a B.S. in Computer Science.  Along the way I had to take an English class to fill a GE requirement and this reawakened everything I used to love about studying literature.  I continued taking CS courses, but after a few years as a part-time student, it became apparent that I was doing the wrong thing.  Then I lost my job, which was the best shitty thing that ever happened to me.

Two years ago I started going back to school.  I’m a full-time student enrolled in the creative writing program at Cal State San Bernardino.  I’d heard good things about the creative writing program at this school, but it turns out to be a genuinely great program, filled with seriously amazing students and faculty.  I came into the program with the idea in mind that I’d focus on becoming a better fiction writer.  Halfway through my first quarter here, I reluctantly went to a poetry reading on campus and it took about thirty seconds for two profound truths to hit me in the face like a fucking plank:

  1. Once upon a time, I let a bunch of other people’s voices fill my head with shit, and I’d talked myself into thinking something I loved was stupid.
  2. These were my people.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it felt like coming home.  There is no overstating how powerful an experience this was.  The featured reader was Judy Kronenfeld, whose poetry I really liked.  After that, though, was the open mic, where the students read their poetry.  Some of it was beautiful, some of it was crap, but the thing that struck me most was how fucking supportive an environment it was.  Everyone in the room was encouraging and friendly and happy to be there.  It didn’t matter if you got up there and read something that sucked as long as you got up there and read.  This next sentence, also, cannot be overstated:  I have literally never felt that kind of support in my life.  Certainly not from strangers.  After the reading, as I walked to my truck, I made myself a promise that I was going to write a poem (something I’d never made a serious attempt at before) and that I was going to go up to that podium and read it in front of those people.  Last January, I did just that.

The work I posted yesterday, along with the handful of poems that were already posted, represent my first, awkward steps as a poet.  As of now, I’ve been writing for just over twenty years.  I’ve gotten pretty fucking good at writing the sort of thing you’re currently reading.  I’m equally good at essay writing.  I used to have this idea in my head that I could become a great writer by simply writing.  And by reading about writing.  Someone else, maybe.  It took me about three weeks to realize how full of shit I was.  Consider this:  Can you possibly know whether or not you’re doing anything even halfway original, when you don’t know what’s come before?  Yeah.  Anyway, this whole poetry thing is entirely new to me.  It turns out when you write different literary art forms, there are different rules and principles and shit.  And you need to learn them.  Well.  And then, after a very long time, you need to break them.  I’m looking forward to breaking the rules, but in the meantime, I’ve immersed myself in the learning of them.

And that’s mostly what’s been going on the last few years.