Monday, November 03, 2003

My brain's been churning lately, chewing on items crucial and trivial. Anyone of them could be a blog post on their own, but they're not quite resolving themselves out in any kind of useful way. So instead, you're getting a bunch of thumbnails:

1. Aging: A few weeks ago we had an awards ceremony at work, and I got my Five Year Tietack. It was a very touching moment. It is rapidly becoming obvious that, to the folks I work with, I am something of an institution. A go-to guy. And, increasing, an Old Hand. In my head, however, I'm still The Young Guy, so this is requiring some mental adjustment.

On a related note, my birthday is this Saturday. Last year I celebrated with a migraine and the year before I had one of those "what's it all about" conversations with my then soon to be ex wife. Of course, I don't really remember what I did the year before that, so if my recent birthdays have been painful, at least they've been memorable. Still. I'm a little nervous about what 33 has in store. And then there's the whole fact that I'm going to be 33. This is directly related to:

2. Planning: I learned from reading a dorm room door many years ago the life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. But I ignored that advice for many years, hitched my wagon to a star and ended up face down in the gutter when I flew too close to the sun so that she got the gold mine and I got the shaft. Or something like that. Actually, I'm doing all right, but I did get my heart broken and probably learned a few of the wrong lessons. Anyway, I quit making plans, and just concentrated on living life. It's been a fun two years, but there are some things it's better to do while you're young, and while I don't yet feel old, I'm starting to feel like I'm running low on young. So maybe something like a five-year plan would help. It might, for example, help me figure out what's going on in my head with things like:

3. Kids: I won't say it's an epidemic or anything, but if I go through my married friends in my head, half of them are expecting kids in the next 9 months. Of the other half, all but one couple already have at least one kid. At least one of those couples is in negotiations for another. For many years, my wanting kids was outweighed by my awe and terror at the responsibility of it. I'm a pretty seriously selfish guy, and I've always had a sense that having a kid would put a damper on that. But, selfish as I am, I don't think I'm much more selfish than your average bear. And when I go to the mall and look out over the great reproductive biomass that is the midwestern Target demographic, I am struck rather strong with "Hell, if these people can do it, how hard can it be?"

So my wanting kids is gradually growing, while the awe and terror is shrinking. In fact, it's approaching a tipping point. What the hell happens then?

4. Love: The last time I was in love, I was very, very sure of myself. This was It, she was The One, life made sense, happily ever after, yadda yadda yadda and blah blah blah. As should be obvious from my tone, things didn't work out. And I haven't been sure of anything since.

Now, there's Christie. She's funny, smart, sexy, cool, crazy in all the right ways, sane in all the important ones, likes to work on the house, play in the woods and sit on the couch, looks great with paint chips in her hair, and she looks at me like I'm the only real man on the planet, and all the rest are pale imitations. She's not snobby, bitchy, mean, impatient, shallow, self-centered, flighty, or fake. She's interested in everything, has a fully functional bullshit detector but knows when to turn it off, talks trash like a sailor when she's playing Tekken 4, then giggles like a Manga schoolgirl when she wins. She's a better fit for me than anyone I've ever met in this life, and when I'm around her I feel happy and safe. But I'm not Sure, and when things get quiet, I can hear that doubt, like the tinny rhythmic grinding of a mouse gnawing on a floor joist, the sound echoing through the vents.

5. Work: I promised myself five years, long enough to be vested, to prove to myself I could stick it out, and now I wonder what, if anything, is next. But there aren't that many places here in town where I could do the kind of work that I do, so a change in jobs would generally mean a change in towns, and that's some heavy shit. But my brain seems to think, hey, as long as you're evaluating everything else, why not look at your job, too? And there's so much crap floating around in our culture that says that if you're not moving up, you're not doing anything. And then there's the whole city thing. I've never lived in a big city, and part of my wants to see if I could cut it in New York, Boston, Seattle, London, or wherever, in spite of the fact that I love my five minute commute, don't like crowds, and get stressed out every single time I spend more than about 3 days in a city of more than a million people. And while we're on the topic of work, let's talk about:

6: The Novel: I know where it wants to go, I've got an ending, and something that'll do as the beginning. I've got most of the first third figured out, and little bits here and there throughout. I can hear each of the major characters' voices in my head, and they still have plenty to say. But I started rereading Cryptonomicon to be ready to read Quicksilver, and that's a sum total of 1,800 pages. That's quite a break from writing. And then there are the usual projects around the house, which keep taking up time and energy. In other words, it's been a couple of weeks since I worked on it, and the characters are starting to nag me. I can hear the little bastards rolling around up there, muttering to one another. No fights have broken out yet, but given their history, it's inevitable.

Part of the problem is that I haven't found a good Third Place yet (warning: Columbia-centric post to follow). Lakota's got comfortable chairs, but the coffee's not that great, and the scene is too distracting. Das Kaffeehaus, on the other hand, isn't distracting enough. Coffee Zone is too smoky. Amsterdam closes early, while Cherry Street Artisan keeps doing those Dinner and a Show things that aren't conducive to just hanging out and writing. I'm on the verge of resorting to the chains. But is it possible to write an interesting novel at Starbucks? I doubt it. There's always the library, I guess. But I feel bad eating in there, and I'm an inveterate muncher. Any Columbians still reading, feel free to offer suggestions. My preference is for downtown, but I'm open.

So it bothers me that I haven't taken the time to write lately, and I know that's going to bite me in the ass, but I've started a lot of novels only to have them die out of boredom, so I'm happy to still be interested in this one.

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