Friday, January 08, 2010

L00king Back, Part 1

It's a strange construct, dividing time up into 10-year incriments and reviewing what happened as if it presents some kind of narrative structure, but I maintain that it is a useful compulsion. And why not, anyway? I need to type something here.

This decade has been so different from previous ones, because of my age. I haven't gone through any dramatic change in life this time, as I did during the 70's, 80's and 90's. I started as an adult, I finished as an adult. The movies and music of the last 10 years haven't had the sort of impact on me that they had in previous decades. They aren't forever associated with moments of adolescent heartbreak, or a first year in a new situation, or my first joint, or whatever external events make us believe that movies or music was so much better when we were young. I'm pretty much the same person I was when I started, although in a better position perhaps. (I know this is hardly universal--my wife, a week younger than I am, would probably tell you that she's a completely different person than she was 10 years ago, and I'd have to agree with her.)

But the 00's work out to be a pretty clearly-defined unit of time for me: my time working a desk job, the Bush years, the years of the geek blockbuster movies, the years of discovering the internet. I can remember how it all started (cue wavy flashback effect)...

The Desk

I'll start with talking about my own personal bullshit, so if you have no interest, just skip down. I keep thinking I should stop blogging about personal matters, and maybe just pick a topic to devote the blog to, but that's just not how I write. I have a compulsion to get all these thoughts out of my head and onto the internet.

I moved out to L.A. in 1997, having spent the better part of the 90's doing nothing. On graduating college in 1991, I had moved to Athens, GA, with the vague idea that I was going to start a band, or do some writing, or maybe go to grad school. I got a job as an orderly in a hospital, just something to pay the bills until I figured out what I was going to do. Then I woke up one morning and it was 7 years later. So when Bobbie wanted to move to L.A., I really had no argument to put up. Truth is, while I was living in Athens, I was continuing to live as a teenager. In the early years of my L.A. residence, I think I finally was able to put that adolescence behind me, and by the time I turned 30, I was starting to actually feel like a grown-up. The next decade, I feel, was me putting in the hours to make my actual life catch up with my age.

The desk job thing really does line up well with the decade unit: I started working at Pepperdine in August 1999, moved to Occidental (where I did the exact same job a mile from my house, rather than having a daily hour-plus commute each way) in 2001, and finally quit in August 2009. For a while it was really nice--a job where I sat at a desk, had constant internet access, made decent money, had low stress, and could ride my bike home to eat lunch every day. But eventually, boredom sat in, so I took a few night classes, got a teaching certificate, and eventually got a steady enough job that I could leave the soul-crushing boredom of the office behind.

There had been times in the past where I had considered grad school, or some other career path, but had always balked at how long it would take, how much hassle and effort. From making the decision to actually having a class to teach took a good 4 years for me. And that's probably the biggest life change--at the age of 41, I guess I just realize how short 4 years is. 4 years is nothing, man!

So I said there had been no real change in my life, but I recently realized that that was wrong. There is a change: I have no regrets. I mean, everyone says they have no regrets, I always said it, because to say otherwise is to admit failure. But I always regretted coasting through college, blowing off opportunities, wasting so much of my life. But now, I have hindsight, and I see that I couldn't have gotten here without going through a certain process. I had to work that desk job until I was absolutely bored out of my mind in order to begin pursuing the teaching career. That's just who I am. It all seems like part of a process now. So I guess in some ways, I am a different person than I was when I started.

The Bush Years

I voted for Ralph Nader in 1999. Yep, it's true, and a testemant to how much Bush changed the way I think about politics. In the 90's, I never had a good word to say about Clinton, and never would have referred to myself as a Democrat. Clinton was the establishment, not much different from Reagan or Bush. And Gore was running as an even more moderate version of Clinton. I had no desire to vote for the lesser of two evils, so I thought I'd "send the Democrats a message" and vote for a REAL liberal. After all, this Bush guy was running as a moderate too. Who cared which of these indistinguishable candidates won?

Jesus, is that unrecognizable. By 2004, the Clinton years seemed like a mythical dream time. And then Bush won re-election. I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how that happened, but as far as I'm concerned, democracy failed. The guy did a disastrous job, and failed to be fired for it. The day after the election, I went online and changed my party affiliation from "independent" to "Democrat." I started to realize that this whole "I'm not asoociated with any political party" and "I refuse to vote for a lesser evil" bullshit was more about ego, about pumping up one's self-image as an iconoclastic truth-teller than about the real world of politics. People who continue to insist that there is no real difference between the two parties right now are simply not looking at reality. We have one party which, whatever it's faults, is serious about running the country, and another party that's a cross between a Klan rally and a bad Jerry Springer episode.

It's funny to look back at the 80's from this perspective, and the way punk bands used to talk about Reagan. I'm no fan of Reagan, but when you look back at the hyperbole being slung at him, with the perspective that the Bush administration provides, it's sort of hilarious. Bush really was the president that Jello Biafra thought Reagan was! Maybe the hardcore generation willed Bush into existence through their imagination. Which is actually a bit encouraging. In 20 years, maybe we'll have a president somewhere to the left of Noam Chomsky, willed into existence by the paranoid imaginations of the Tea Baggers!


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