Thursday, October 24, 2013

The art of listing, or, falling in love with the ephemeral

This week, I saw Janelle Monae so close I could have touched her.  In fact, my friend did touch her, as she crowd-surfed. I watched her get the entire audience to sit or kneel on the floor for at least 10 minutes. ON THE BEER SOAKED CONCRETE FLOOR. (Ew.)
The entire time, all I could think about was how if I were on stage, I could never get the audience to do the same for me.  Her stage presence and theatrics were matched to the greatness of Freddie Mercury, James Brown, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Prince (who was rumored to attend the show, but we never saw him).

Moments like this make me fall in love with Minneapolis, over and over.

I've seen a lot of music in Dallas.  I've seen music in Seattle.  I've seen music in New York.  You might think you see the same show in Dallas as you would have in Minneapolis, but it's not true.  Like all performances, these experiences are strictly ephemeral.  The terrible iPhone photos and likely video recording will never, ever capture what happened at Skyway Theatre in Minneapolis, and the show can never be done again. Nowhere else will you experience an entire room of hearts skipping a beat when a Prince song begins to play and the lights go dark. Obviously, that must mean that Prince will perform as the un-named "guest artist" to The Electric Lady.  Nowhere else will you experience the collective disappointment and simultaneous excitement to see that the "guest artist" is Strange Names, not Prince.

This month has been full of ephemeral experiences that are indescribable to those not witness. KT Tunstall playing 7 Nation Army in a room that only seats 300. The Blow creating performance art on "the void" to an audience of just over 70.  And the joy of attending all of these for free.

Some of my favorite moments are much more intimate, like talking about the greatness of breakfast cereal for at least half an hour.  This followed by an argument: which is better, beer or cereal? No drugs involved. Just a healthy love of sugar, carbohydrates, and milk.

I like to focus on these experiences. I need to remind myself that when it comes to big decisions like the one I made 2 months ago, there is no such thing as the wrong choice, just a different one. I have to remember that no matter the choice, I would still be struggling in similar ways.

I choose to laugh at the absurdity of being hired on the spot, promoted in three days, and fired a week and a half later for a job I hated. If I don't laugh at that, I'll cry at the hopelessness I feel for that being the only interview I've had in 2 months.  In all honesty, sometimes I do both.

I find it comforting that the experience of "the twenties" is a collectively experienced heap of awfulness filled with uncertainty and awkward turtles. At least we're not alone, right?  I also find it terrifying that every decision you make in your twenties affects how you live your thirties. It's like choosing I-80 or I-90 to the west. Once you're on I-90, you can't just hop on I-80 for fun. You're on I-90 for a LONG TIME. Either way, you'll have an adventure filled with some cool sightseeing, but one includes the badlands, and the other has glacier national park.

With all of this time to myself, I not only come up with weird metaphors about the terrifying future, think about cereal a lot, and watch glorious 90's TV.  I also make lists. Listing is an art, one that I've perfected.

Some are productive, like this one:

Call Intermedia and Forecast Public Art
Hang up paintings
Apply for MCTC, Second Harvest Heartland, MCCA

Some....much less productive:

KT Tunstall
The Blow
John Hodgeman
Surly Darkness- Boom!
Janelle Monae!!!
Eau Claire
Halloween. Duh.

Nobody needs a list like that, but I did it anyway.

Some things that I write down look like lists, but are actually my grandma's "recipes"

Notte Kakke (nut cake):
Crushed Almonds
Flour (1 kg)
White Sugar
Brown Sugar
3-4 eggs
A little milk
Oven at 350

That might as well be a grocery list.

Speaking of.....

Stew meat
root veggies

Lists like the ones above are ephemeral.  They are for the moment.  They will make very little sense years down the road (as painfully experienced by my grandma's "recipes").

Other lists I make are less temporary.  While the moment you write the word passes by, the experience of the full list continues.  What I write is less like a list and more like poetry, begging me to speak them out loud. Writing these lists and reading these lists help me decide whether to take I-80 or I-90, or if I should head east instead of west, or just fuck it and fly to Iceland.

Places I want to go before I die
South Africa

The list continues from here, but I'm stopping short.

What should I do with my life?

Things that matter to me
Seeing the world
making a difference
Cooking and Food
New adventures

Things that don't matter to me
Being a mother
Eating perfect
Online dating
Mad Men and Breaking Bad (sorry.)
Owning stuff

I've written lists like this my entire life.  Old journals were often filled with lists and weird abstract poetry more than they were ramblings of my day-to-day. The consistency of some things and the disappearing of others help me understand what really matters in my core. Art has always mattered. Travel has its own category. Whatever career thing is on my list focuses on making a difference.  Material objects are never on my lists, except for food.  I seem to be obsessed with the experience in the moment, but also have a real concern for those experiences in the future.
By the standards on my lists, I'm living my life pretty well.  Despite being entirely broke and unemployed, my lists remind me that I'm still on the right track to happiness in my thirties.  At a really tough mid-twenties, that's really all I can ask for.