Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Week 1, Day 3/4: Night Shadows

Tuesday morning, score for the week so far (were I keeping score), with a 1 point per day scale:
- Sunday: dancing Japanese man, . 61 points
- Monday: Dave Zach, internet hyperliving guru, .92 points (.08 docked for internet-only)
- Tuesday: NOBODY. .00000000000000000000 POINTS. I LOSE.

Which basically means I have some work to do.



One of the things of which I've been most surprised by this week is the number of people that have reacted with surprise or even disappointment over my choice of challenges for this week. "Talk to strangers? I do that shit everyday!" I've heard. Today it even went as far as, "At first it seemed like you were gonna start with all sorts of crazy things, but then this??" What's surprised me most about these reactions is that, honestly, not even for a heartbeat second was I considering that other people would feel this way, because right now I'm feeling like I've chosen one of the hardest challenges I could have possibly imagined.

Ok, some hyperbole. But.

I know it should be, "How hard is it to just come up to a person and say, 'Hey, how's it going? I'm ______. What's going on?'" It seems like it shouldn't be hard at all, but every time ths week I've stood around folks I don't know, I've been reminded that for me it's absolutely deep-pit-in-stomach tough. I just do not feel comfortable walking up to random strangers and putting myself out there. To put it in context, normally if you asked me, attempting to write poetry would be one of the least comfortable things I could imagine doing. I will explain all about this on Sunday, but for now just take my word for it. However, last night I was dying for Sunday to come, when my only obligation for the week would be to try and string words together in an a slightly erudite fashion. [Another weird reminder of the power of the mind to scale everything in context.] Again, it all harkens back to weird, mythically "crippling" insecurities that are a part of me and which I have allowed to stand in my way of accomplishing goals over the years. Because the truth is that writing good poetry should be much harder than talking to (not befriending, deceiving, or beating at gambling) strangers. At worst, they act annoyed that I've spoken to them and they walk away from me, but big deal. Right?


I tried to keep this in mind last night as I left the house looking for blood, determined to overcome the feelings of humiliation and self-doubt that had swarmed me all day as I took time to reflect upon the fact that already, in week 1, I had failed to uphold the mission I'd sworn to accomplish. My failure ate me alive, but I tried to keep in mind points 2-4 of the manifesto:

  • I shall do these tasks as best I can, and when I cannot succeed, I will reflect to the point of consideration and then continue moving forward to the next task.
  • I shall not be tripped up by fear or uncertainty.
  • I shall not be deterred by failure, because the only failure in this game is giving up.
Tuesday, failure? Shitty, yes, but just think about why I failed and how I can move forward in success and then keep going, dude.

So I held on and I was lead to Wednesday, victory.

Polish Nights

I met Wednesday night's stranger standing outside a bar near my neighborhood. I had decided I'd go out and get a drink and then wander the streets of Williamsburg until I found someone that looked worth pestering. As I was about to walk into the bar, I was approached by an Eastern European man. "Hey guy," he said, "Can I have $2? I wanna get a beer for me and my friend to split and I only have $2." It was a little odd because though I have been approached for money in New York many times, it's not usually regular seeming 20somethings asking for money, and never does the asker reveal that the purpose of the money would be for alcohol. I balked for a second and he repeated his request, this time a little more pleadingly. "I'll get you back next time, of course." I thought for another minute and then said, "Fuck it. Ok," and handed him $2 and then started to open the door to head inside.

As I stepped one foot inside the bar, I realized that I was literally walking away from my goals. I stopped, turned around and began to speak. "What's your name?" I asked. "Michael," he said, adding, "Thanks so much man, you are great." And then, turning to his friend, he said, "I'm going inside to get the beer now, see you in a minute." I felt crestfallen for a second, but his friend was still standing there, smoking a cigarette. I pulled out one of my own and reintroduced myself.

What followed was not what I'd expected: the man, another Pole named Andrew, immediately began apologizing for his friend. "You're probably looking at me now and thinking, 'Oh he's a bum, he doesn't have a job and he ain't got no money.' But that's not true, I have money. I just can't tell him I have any or else he'll never stop asking for more."


Andrew, shadow in the night

He told me about how he had only met the guy a week before and they were working on a construction job together in the neighborhood (he continued to reference this over the course of our conversation). After I reassured him that I didn't think he was a bum and that I hadn't been judging him, he opened up a bit more. He grew up 6 kilometers outside of Warsaw. He moved to America ten years ago with parents, but not his sister who lives in Russia (his mother is Polish but his father is Russian). They live in Ridgewood, which he likes but which is also far out of the way and lacking attractive women ("Man, the girls on Bedford Avenue--you must go and see the girls on Bedford Avenue! They are just standing there and it is so much!"). Though he loves Poland, he said he moved here to have a better life and it is (though “Now of course you can for example have a very good life in England or Ireland or even Czech, but I have been here ten years so that is that”). He asked me where I was from and what I was doing here. He then looked over at my friend and said, "You are Arabic, yes?" and looking at me, "After many years of seeing people, you get to know these things." (My friend is not Arabic.)

I then noticed a scar running down his face, beginning immediately below his eye and continuing downward until disappearing into his jacket. "Is there an interesting story behind that scar?" I asked. He stopped inhaling his cigarette and looked me in the eye quizzically, before then smiling and saying, "Yes, there is always a story. And you would like to know?"

He then proceeded to tell me about a summer afternoon spent in a park in Ridgewood:

“There were all these people outside, drinking beer, and music was playing. And this one guy says somethings do another guy, and they aren’t so ok. But the other guy just goes and punches him and he falls down. I want to help and so I step in and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that’—but the next thing I know, the guy pulls out a knife and cuts my face,” Andrew says, gesturing by running his hand down his face. “And then he takes the knife and stabs it at my chest from here to here,” he says, pointing a huge area on the right side of his upper body.

“Blood was pouring all over me, and I started running, but I was getting sick and dizzy. And then I feel hands on my shoulders and it’s cops—‘You’re under arrest,’ they say. What the fuck? I am innocent but they are trying to arrest me. Sometimes life is crazy.”

A minute later, Michael returns from inside the bar. “Linus!” Andrew exclaims. ??? Michael/Linus speaks: “Those fucks. No beer. They would not sell to me because I have no ID.” He then looks over at me and says, “Thanks man,” and turns to Andrew and says, “Let’s go get some beer, man.” And Andrew says goodbye, and they depart off down the street. Michael/Linus does not offer to return the $2 I gave him to buy a beer from the bar.

I thought to myself that I had no idea which, if any, of the pieces of information I had just been told were true or not. It didn’t really seem to matter though.

- Wednesday: Andrew and Michael/Linus, 1 point, winning again. Forward march.

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3 comments:

e-bad said...

Everyone has something challenging inside that other primates can't wrap their little carbon filled minds around. Mine, for example, is that I can't touch metal without becoming incredibly disgusted. I don't know if I've mentioned that before... if so, then I've repeated myself. Go find your strangers.

hotdoorknobs said...

For the record: technically you gave him $1 and I gave him $1...but who's counting? :--)

Nihilist Loves Hate, Hates Everything said...

Yeah but I bought you beers though so we're like even i think.

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