24 Lessons That I Have Learned In The Past Year
1) Some nights, sleep will come. Other nights, it won’t. Accept it. This feels especially true right now, as the previous sentence was written on a sleepless night. There are times when there is nothing on my mind at all. The whole universe is at ease. I may even be tired. The second my head hits the pillow, I know what’s about to happen: I am either going to sleep effortlessly or just lay there for a good 6 hours. During that given tossing & turning time, I am a miserable wreck. I count to 10,000 in multiples of 13. I try to think of nothing but moving trains. There are times when I don’t think at all. In fact, 2 out of 6 hours are spent with a completely blank head. Sometimes I feel like I am sleeping, and dreaming of myself laying in bed sleeplessly. On those nights, drifting off becomes the ultimate goal. All of my thoughts and actions are directed towards it. Once or twice during the laying period, the feeling will come. The entire body numbs up and my head starts swimming wonkily. I’m about to fall asleep, and it’s fantastic! There’s only one big problem with this. Your mind is not very keen on letting you fall asleep while you’re aware of it. For all I know, the feeling isn’t falling asleep at all. I could be something entirely different. So then I just lay there some more, tired and bored out of my mind. And what is it that eventually causes me to fall asleep? I’m not exactly sure. I doze off and forget.
2) There are some activities that a minority of the population do every day. For everyone else, it’s frustratingly impossible. Tying a bow tie is one of those things.
3) Goodbyes take forever. I was leaving for months. It could’ve been years. Time blurred together as if it was all one long moment. An endless day of soaking sun at the beach. Countless nights of dancing for the last time. There we are on the stoop, a bottle of bourbon deep. This is where we confessed everything. This is where everything became okay. And yet, there I am on the porch. Unemployed and frightened. And there we were with empty boxes. And there are the boxes that magically filled up. And there she is taking my chair away. And there’s my crew, watching my back from afar as I make a high-profile transaction. And there he is, sleepwalking with me to the diner. And there I cried. And there she cried. And there is the kitchen where everyone asked me if I was gone yet. And there we are, downstairs, professing our love of the Beastie Boys and how fucking perfect they really are. And there is the expression on her face that tells me that he is going to miss me, but she is more than willing to console him. And there he is, standing in my driveway shirtless with a cigar. And there he is, drunkenly rapping about me as we all looked around trying to capture the moment. And there is when the moment lasted forever. And there is the disc golf course. And the trips to the hospital. And the truck in my driveway. And the truck leaving. And the people waving goodbye. And the sounds of the entire universe moving around and settling in as I slowly merge onto I-196. And the goodbye that is still happening. And the goodbye that will always be happening. And the end.
4) If a girl doesn’t respond to your texts, it is not because she is either too busy or too shy. It’s because she could care less whether or not you contact her. Just give it up.
5) If it’s really late, don’t tell a stranger what time it is. I’ve got 2 minutes before my bus comes. If I miss it, it’s going to be another half hour before the next one sweeps me away. I have to make it. My tired legs are prowling down the sketched-out streets of Knickerbocker Ave, and I’m rapidly approaching 3 people. 2 girls and a dude, to be exact. One of them is wearing nothing except bicycle shorts and a bra. I found this to be really odd, but hell, they call it Summer for a reason. The other girl has a cane. Also odd. I breeze past them and get about half a block away when I hear the shout. “Hey mister! Mister!”. The dude jogs up to me as the girls keep pace behind him. “What time is it?”, he inquires. Me, being the dumb bastard that I am, pull out my phone to check. It’s 2:23. I have one minute before the bus comes. He tells me to check again. My time is allegedly broken, and he knows this because his clock says 10:41. But it’s obviously not 10:41. He puts his arm around me, as if to give me important advice about the science of time. Instead he asks me what time it really is. It’s 10:41. Wrong answer. His fist goes straight for the jaw and I stumble to the curb. He kicks me a couple of times demanding “all of my money”. But of course I have no money. Then he wants my cell phone. But my cell phone is on the brink of destruction, even moreso after the fall I just took. Then he wants my money again. This man surely does not understand. So he gives me to the count of three before he knocks my lights out. As he counts, I just sit there while he nervously goosenecks the empty street. He gives me the three and walks away. As if was all some joke with no punchline. But of course, I’m bleeding profusely from the fall. I stagger up and the girl in the bra turns around. She apologizes on his behalf. I assure her that it’s “cool” because really, what else am I supposed to say? As I approach DeKalb St, the bus flies past me. Of course it does. There’s an unspoken vendetta between me and Bushwick. One that will never get resolved, even if the entire territory is renamed East Williamsburg. We will never learn from each others downfalls.
6) There is still life after running out of Skyline Chili.
7) In any social situation, having a partner in grime is key. There was a long period of time in which I felt naked. In fact, I probably still feel this way. I’m reeling from not having a partner in grime. Somebody who’s willing to go out at the drop of the hat. You should really see me trying to socialize when I go out alone. It’s pathetic and awkward and everything else in between. I’ve spent many nights sitting in the back patio of Union Pool, zoning out, staring endlessly into the expressway. Every now and then, I can get a few words in with someone, but it doesn’t take long before they pretend that I don’t exist. In a city chock-full of peers, I have a terrible struggle with finding someone to relate to. Every girl thinks that I’m trying to lay game. This is probably not the case, as I don’t even know when I’m flirting or just being an ass. Really, I’m just trying to connect to another human being. Making friends seemed a whole lot easier back when I had a sidekick to be sidekick to. Nobody is intimidated by two dudes hanging out. But a dude sitting around alone, that’s a different story. That dude has baggage. He has issues. There’s a reason why he’s sitting there by himself. He won’t stop lighting cigarettes. He has a beer in his pocket. He is a social deviant. A loose cannon. A cowboy without a horse. A Coze without a partner in grime. A lost Coze. A dead Coze.
8 ) No matter how hard you try, you will never “figure out” Brooklyn.
9) Never take your surroundings for granted. There was a time when I was young enough to think that the village I lived in was a vast city. I couldn’t comprehend what actually made up a city. When I rode my bike at dusk, I saw buildings. Those buildings were lit up, with people inside. Those people were living. It was all so romantic to me. As I got older, I realized that you could throw a stone from one edge of the town to the other. I needed something bigger. Something more grandiose. So I found it, and the cycle started over again. I would always get goosebumps while entering I-196 from Lake Michigan Dr. The panoramic view of Grand Rapids was always a distracting one. But then I became bored again and I moved to an even bigger clusterfuck. These days I have spent countless amounts of free time trying to keep the magic of my surroundings alive. Since I moved here, I have walked across a bridge once a week. Sometimes through stifling heat, torrential downpours and blizzards. But my desire to embrace the city remains and as long as I live here, I will be walking bridges. I still spend time reminiscing about the places of my past. The cobblestone streets of Easttown and the infinite factories west of the river. The Drink Ultralounge and the riverwalk. The strange division of uptown and downtown Chesaning. The dumpster at the Knights of Columbus hall that may or may not still be on fire. All of these images will be burned into my head forever, because I took the time to fall in love with them. And I know every waking moment of my life that the surroundings love me back. Some things are unconditional.
10) Stop drinking Four-Loko. Just stop.
11) I’m paying for a roof over my head, and it’s a good roof. I’m at Penn Station for no reason at all. I’m never at Penn station for a reason. I’m walking towards the entrance of 34th Street and 7th Ave. There’s a terrible smell in the air. The homeless make a nest out of these corridors. They all stick together, and they all find solace in the dim lighting and elevator music. Except tonight, many of them appear to be upset. Distressed beyond consolation. There’s a group of cops casually standing in a circle. At their feet is a derelict, face down on the floor. There are blood smears and putrid smells. I overhear slight static from what New York’s Finest are discussing. Apparently the man attacked first. He must have lost the battle quickly. Onlookers are taking snapshots on their cell phones. Many say it was brutal. From the looks of the scene, they were probably right. As I walk up the stairs, there are 3 more derelicts on the side of the building. One of them is in a wheelchair. An officer comes and tells them to move aside. They’re blocking the escalator. They are nowhere near the escalator. Being a police officer in Midtown must be quite similar to herding cattle. I may have problems in my life and I may not have a place that I can lovingly call home. But at least I have a bed that’s in a room with a ceiling hovering over it. Sometimes you have to embrace the essentials.
12) If your flight departs at 3:55, you better fucking be there by 3:40. They will not let you on the plane. And it sucks.
13) Not having a car is like not having a child. It’s awesome. I have spent the last few months hopelessly in love. Not with an actual person, but with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. While most New Yorkers whine incessantly about the Subway system and all of its flaws, I am nothing short of smitten whenever I see my train rolling in. I never once thought it was possible to go to so many places by public transportation. It takes me wherever I need to go. In my mind, any place not accessible by transit is not worth going to. Plus, I don’t have to worry about a single thing. Late for work? It’s not your fault, it’s because the C train was running slow. No biggie. Too drunk to drive? You don’t need to drive! There’s sober people that are paid to take you as close to home as possible [although getting from the station to the front door is your own problem]. Car broke down? In the shop? Can’ find a parking space? No money for the meter? Gotta move it to the other side of the street? Wait, that shit doesn’t happen when you’re not a car owner! Losers! I have spent a handful of sleepless nights researching the Subway. I’m writing a short story about it. I have dreams about it. I fantasize about being whisked away by a defunct JFK Express train. I want to catch that train. I want to make out with that train. Hell, I even went through the effort of staying on the 6 train after the last stop, just so I could get a foggy glimpse of the abandoned City Hall station [and it’s beautiful]. I’ve already been to the Transit Museum, but now I’m itching like mad to go back. I watch videos on Youtube of old trains pulling in. I’m counting down the days until 2016 when the T Train starts service. I have only gone one day without swiping my Metrocard. It may be an unhealthy obsession, but who really cares? At least I’m going somewhere!
14) If you ever feel low about yourself, just go on Facebook and see the wretchedly fucked up lives that your old acquaintances are having.
15) It’s possible to reverse the process of burning out. I really hated my job at Meijer. Even though I only worked part-time, there was still this engulfing feeling that I was burning out rapidly. The line of work is repetition, and every face I saw was the same. After I moved, I knew I had to get a job quickly and cashiering was the one thing I knew I could do easily. So I land a gig at Gourmet Garage, a small little place pocketed away in a strange Manhattan neighborhood. For the first couple of months, things are business as usual. I greet people, make things go beep, take their money and they’re gone. It took a while, but eventually faces started to become familiar. There are some people that come in 3 times a day. With a store so small, it’s hard to not see everybody that comes in and out. After building rapport with a few customers, I start to become much more comfortable, which is something I have never been able to achieve in the workplace. The comfort in the job made me realize that, for the first time ever, I have the unlimited freedom to be myself. So it starts out with alliterations. Instead of saying “Have a good day”, I’m saying “Have a thrilling Thursday” or “Have a satisfying Saturday”. The customers ate it up completely. This is how I became “The People’s Cashier”. After a while, the alliterations became redundant, so I cut it out. Now my casualness is more subtle. I make observational jokes [although some of them are cringe-worthy], animate my movements and scan & bag groceries in a fashion that would make Thomas Cruise jealous. There are some days off when I just want to be at work [and sometimes I do just go to the store to hang out]. The way of which I reversed my burning out is both comforting and frightening. It’s good to know that I can make monotonous activities seem interesting, but what does that say about my future? Did I really get a Bachelor’s Degree just to be a cashier? It’s scary how comfortable I am with working there for the time being. My attitude might change in a matter of months, but for now I’m just waiting. Waiting patiently and having a ball in the meantime.
16) Being drunk on a G train with a notepad in your pocket is never a good thing.
17) Wandering around while talking on the phone is just as good as taking a stroll with someone else. Sometimes my restless legs get the best of me. I’m still convinced that if I was given ideal weather conditions, I could theoretically walk forever. But most people do not share this sentiment and walking alone is, well, lonely. That’s when I call up old friends. Therefore, my activity is not only good for my body but also good for my soul. As of today, my record is walking 8 miles while talking for 2 and a half hours. I may break that record someday, but I better have a lot to talk about.
18) Comedy can ease any tense situation. Especially when the comedian is homeless.
19) In a city with over 8 million people, it’s still possible to go somewhere and be alone. We had to get out, that’s the only way of putting it. But with the price of gas and a lack of desire to ride the Long Island Railroad, our options were limited. So on a beautiful March afternoon, we made the trek to Coney Island. Everybody knows of Coney Island, but most probably don’t know that it still exists, or ever existed. It’s a long-forgotten piece of Americana and it shows. This is what happens when the Carnival closes down and the workers go back to Wichita. The land is desolate and moldy. Next to the abandoned skating rink is a garden filled with tarps and garbage. Next to that? Another abandoned building. Someday soon, this wasteland will be filled with people again. But for that slice of time, the boardwalk was ours. It’s hard to say whether or not there was a time that Coney Island wasn’t such a sordid place. It’s like Atlantic City, if it were run by hot dog vendors and ghetto klowns. Housing projects jut out into the sky in an unorganized manner. Who in the hell designed these buildings? Was this once a prison or a nut house? Why is there a gated factory with a junkyard in the front? Why is it so quiet? Who lives in these abominations? Is that really Staten Island in the distance? How are we still alone? We walk the beach over to the Brighton side of things. Take a Q train to the Roosevelt Island tram. Not many people know about this little piece of land. Somewhere underneath the Queensboro Bridge is a little Island that New York forgot. In width, it’s about the size of a football field. But there is a bodega, a supermarket a thrift store, a gym, some housing and a retirement community. And it’s also one of the most clandestine places to enjoy a frosty Coors Banquet out of a paper bag. We sat on the edge of the island, near a lighthouse or a mock-lighthouse. We looked at Manhattan listlessly and wondered how the chaos could abruptly diminish in such a short distance. It’s only one city block away, but the East River functions as the moat protecting our castle. On the other end of the island is a Smallpox Hospital. It has been closed up for just about half a century, but yet there was a light inside still burning. Sometime around midnight, we took the tram back into the concrete jungle. Hovering above 2nd Ave, you can’t see any break in the lights. It’s just an endless grid. We ducked out to Central Park while discussing different tactics to taking down hoodlums. This place is allegedly infamous for its crime rates at night, but from what we could see, it was all a thing of the past. Not once did we pass by any suspicious individuals, or hardly even anyone at all. The land was ours, and we seized it for what it’s worth. It wasn’t until after leaving the park that we realized how successful our day was. There we were, still under the jurisdiction of the 5 boroughs, but yet we still made our escape. We had found the perfect route for all of those wishing to take a break from the hustle and bustle. We found our center.
20) You can enjoy life a hell of a lot more if you’d stop being in such a hurry.
21) There is a place where vinyls go to die. They all go to Greenpoint. In the basement of a dusty junk store. There has to be over 2 million of them. Stacked up on shelves and shoved into crates. Most of them are positioned to their side, so you can’t even browse without pulling absolutely everything out. There are shelves that aren’t even accessible, as they are blocked by other shelves. Nothing is organized and most shelves are so stuffed that you can’t even go through with the effort of pulling one record out. And it probably isn’t even worth the effort. It’s nothing short of a nightmare. It’s a sensory overload and I found myself having to shut my eyes tight for long moments of time. I could never possibly fathom where all of these records came from. Or why I can’t find a single one that’s worth buying. This basement is armed to the teeth with bargain-bin 80’s-90’s R&B. It’s one thing to find an album that I recognize, but a whole other beast to find one I would shell out $2 for. After spending a good 90 minutes in Vinyl Hell, my attitude started to change. I was in a stupor, desperately ripping records off the shelf. How many single did Kriss-Kross actually have? Pointer Sisters? The Thompson Twins? Somebody kill me! Wait, there’s MORE Kriss-Kross?!?!? After a while, I wasn’t even phased by stepping on the records. Nobody would buy them anyway. Hearing the crunch under my feet was actually quite fun! I started to get delirious. Delirious enough to consider buying a Fat Boys album [a LATE Fat Boys album]. My brains reels for hours afterward. I had to go straight home to take a shower. But I will never be able to wash away the memories of the terrible things that I saw in that basement. That’s something I have to take to the grave.
22) “When in doubt…surf!” – Corey Anton’s Doppelganger
23) Sometimes your pitbulls really need to go for a walk. But they won’t beg you. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.
24) Having goals is essential to living a fulfilling life. But most goals are extremely ambitious and time consuming. The easier you make your goals, the less disappointed you become with life. With that in mind, here are 24 goals that I will strive to achieve this year:
1) Sit in a boat
2) Eat a good sandwich
3) Ask a question that has no answer
4) Have a tall glass of Sun Drop
5) Make money
6) Meet a nice girl that likes me
7) Kiss said girl
8 ) Go to the Aqueduct Horse Racing Track
9) Watch a movie without a gun in it
10) Watch a movie with lots of guns in it
11) Buy something for a dollar
12) Stay caffeinated
13) Write like a motherfucker
14) Ride a Z train
15) Get plenty of sunshine
16) Stay alive
17) Figure out why I am not attracted to Julia Roberts anymore
18) Be less of an asshole
19) Write less lists
20) Give somebody directions
21) Convince someone that Tim Burton is a hack
22) Take my vitamins
23) Prepare to quit smoking in 365 days
24) Wear hats more often
On March 21, 2012, I will report back to you and let you know if my goals have been accomplished. Until then, I’m going to go and see if pizza tastes the same way now that I’m older. I’m betting it will.
Originally posted 3/21/11