Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back, for a Change
A long-overdue ramble by Simon

illustration by Fred Zinn

Let’s say a writer reappears after a long absence. A voice that wraps itself around you, a style you missed not just in a warm and affectionate way but maybe just a little bit in a peevish, WTF kinda way – like, what else that scribbler got to do but scribble? And how long’s it been? LONG, is how long, and him with a “blog,” which used to mean “weblog,” which once upon a time meant regular, even daily, updates, right? Maybe even some kinda PACT with the readership, uh-huh? Why, pray tell, should I now pay attention to his prosy meanderings? And hasn’t his irreligious ass got some nerve, scuttling back to the surface on the Jewish New Year like he’s begging for a fresh start? L’shana to-vomit!

I have no excuse, my sorely missed mishpuchah. But here I am, blithering blithely as though nothing has happened. Actually, I lied just now – excuses I’ve got, and plenty; I’m a major-league rationalizer, as many of you are well aware. So I might as well count off a few reasons for the absence of your MIA and, one hopes, not estranged VHJ.

  1. Clickity-clacking away at paid gigs in hopes of keeping lights on. Elbows hurt. Wrists hurt. Ice and ibuprofen. Ice and ibuprofen.

  2. Kept coming up with ideas for posts but feeling too exhausted (see #1) to reach for them as they drifted across the outer atmosphere of my weary mind like evanescent balloons.

  3. Who wants bloggy bloviations clogging up their in-box these days? Are we not all inundated by message pollution 24/7, all those maniacs vaulting over your transom with their doomsday petitions and creepy robo-calls and revolutionary new weight-loss erection pills and e-flyers for soporific singer-songwriters? Why slay a forest of virtual trees to sling one’s blogorrhea atop that festering pile?

  4. Lazy? That’s a bit judgmental. More, what, mellowing like fine old booze. Or in it.

… and what have you. But then a writer returned to me and for the first time in a long time my nose is buried in a book, rather than print-outs of client notes or Entertainment Weekly or, heaven help me, the Facebook, which is not a book at all. His style wrapped itself around me and I stopped sulking about all things I’d been missing and just let the stylus of this po-mo mystery noir passion play run across my grooves until my heart was bouncing like an old soul record. And suddenly it seemed natural as a four-sided leaf to roll up some words and pass the reeking bundle over to you.

So, yeah. Happy “New Year,” which I never intended as a new beginning but here we are: I want to tell you hello and let you know I’ve been thinking about you.

I thought about you at the party where Sera and Julia and I all had weird plastic letters stuck to our foreheads like day-glo golems (it was all Matt’s fault; long story), where Julia came over to give me a kiss and there was some dreamy Sinatra standard misting out of the iPod speakers and it was a moment of perfect and all-encompassing love and revelation and then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and remembered I was wearing a goatee made of fluorescent green Play-Doh (same long story), and it was even more perfect. Because she loves me, putty beard and all.

And my mind went to you as news cycle after news cycle was hijacked by scores of mentally ill, frightened, gloomy, racially heebie-jeebied whitefolk, whose cult-like jabbering resembled a sheet of Republican talking points after it’s been eaten and pooped out by a Rottweiler.

I thought about you also when the gnarly rot of mortality grew in my thoughts like a poison mushroom and I envisioned all that I was and all that I loved withering away – not gracefully as in a fairy tale but all at once and messily, in the fashion of Poe’s M. Valdemar.

My ruminations turned to your kind selves when I saw a Spanish music website announcing a gig by the renowned Russian jazz pianist Simon Glickman, and there was a picture of me, and I momentarily considered the possibility that my life leading up to that moment had been a dream or some absinthe-fueled hallucination, and now I was coming back to myself and must simply wait until I could remember the Cyrillic alphabet and modal scales, when I could stride onto the boards amid the Andalucian hush and dive, fingers first, into some Bill Evans etude.

And you were in my to-do pile during my 45th birthday party, as I looked around at the beautiful faces of some people who mean a lot to me, and vowed to hold onto that dazzling feeling even as I knew it would be eclipsed by the next pile of bills or implacable deadline.

So, I was, like, mind-blogging, is one way of looking at it. Telepaths: back me up!

But, oh yeah – I turned 45. So I’m “middle-aged,” if that means I’m going to live to 90, which would be incredible, but it was certainly the VHJ version of a come-to-Jesus moment, because if you’re living and working in the airless youth arcade that is pop culture, ringed as it is with botox snipers, that’s a big fuggin’ number. So I’ve been giving myself those little talks: Now’s the time. Go for it. Make your move. Now or never. No guts, no glory. Stop using so many clich├ęs in these little talks.

Change, baby! It’s what we worked for, and ostensibly achieved last November. And though we were constantly being shown a vision of change as visionary policy frictionlessly carried out for a shinier world, sung by multicultural choirs and spelled out in elegant, iPhone-friendly fonts, that isn’t really the essence of change, is it?

Change is generally painful, disorienting, even bloody and traumatic, like war or childbirth. Sometimes it’s hella weird, like what happens to Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly.” And the change we want is often accompanied by changes we don’t expect. We can have a change of the guard, but we too will change when the guard is us.

And our expectations of what society is supposed to be? Those change too: Joe Wilson? Kanye? Tourette’s-like interruptions are the new press release if you want to rule the Twitterwaves, bubby.

Our bodies change, and the climate’s changing, and what lies ahead will most likely not be utopia OR doomsday, just a lot of tumult, confusion, absurdity, silliness, poorly staged sociopolitical theater, occasional spasms of mind-blowing heroism, surprisingly good cable TV shows, really sucky weather, touchingly idealistic young people, ragingly incoherent talk-radio hosts, excellent wine, disappointing health-care legislation, starvation, charity, military “interventions,” and – in the middle of it all – Jews, who see days of awe in every year, regardless of how predictable that year’s events might be.

Yep, shit’s changing – that’s the only thing we can count on to stay the same, except that however we change, we’re still gonna be us.

Sera’s day job, I need hardly tell our regular readers, is dreaming up the apocalypse (for entertainment purposes only). Days of awe, indeed – particularly if you’re a TV exec.

And I’m as faithful a viewer as you are, but in general I’m kinda thinking the End Times are about ready to jump the shark. Maybe it’s the spirit of this holiday I don’t believe in and this pending ritual of atonement I don’t subscribe to, but contemplation, renewal, rededication in the face of change? I guess I’m going there. In other words, not to put too fine a point on the pencil: The world ain’t comin’ to an end, my friend,/the world is comin’ to a start./I feel it in my heart. (Tell me where those words come from and you’ll win our grand prize, which is a big ol’ kiss. Sorry, but our prize budget got hacked to bits this quarter.)

To recap: I missed you and I’m really going to try to be a better correspondent; I grow old, do I dare to eat a peach, etc.; I’m still Jewish; a book can still rock my world, and nobody’s more surprised than I am; I still don’t believe in an omniscient Spacegod but see some lingering value in traditions constellating around same; shit’s changing, so hang onto your hat and, if possible, values; and let’s see if we can’t put all the end-of-the-world scenarios on hold for a minute and dream up a few beginnings.

In other words: Happy New … something.