Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hedonist Year in Review

Perhaps it’s because I have a January birthday, but I tend to push my time of reflection on the past year in the space that comes just after New Years but before my Birthday.

I have to say on the surface It was a difficult year to be a hedonist. I lost a few things – partial hearing in my right ear, my gall bladder. My job almost got added to this list but that will go in 2014. Clearly I spent way too much time in medical offices this year, first with the hearing loss, then the gall bladder attack where pre-surgical tests forced me to confront my mortality in a new way. It seems I have an irregular heartbeat. It amuses me that I should of course live at my own and irregular rhythm - it only seems right. Unfortunately it seems an irregular heart beat is also an indicator of having had a “Silent Heart attack.” Personally I thought if I had a heart attack and didn’t realize it, I’d just be dead. Which quickly distilled to the thought - "oh, I should be dead already - the next time, I won't be waking up."

During the time before finding out I actually did not have a silent heart attack, I did some serious hand-wringing over how much shorter my life seemed to have gotten. At the outside I gave myself about 10 years - forget about that retirement thing. Some things didn't seem so important anymore. On the plus side of this psychic hand-wringing, it got me motivated to start putting my things in order and create a “death file” – A place Lisa could go to point the way to various documents, accounts, and other resources she might need in the event I should go and die on her. Having no kids it’s an easy thing to overlook, but I’d hate to make anyone wade through all my crap in the hopes of finding the important stuff. 

Work wise this has been a year of waiting and speculation. With the bankruptcy much of my work assignments went on hold  - and as the new company takes over I’m not certain there is a place for me. This has lead to some ambivalent job searching and somewhat obsessive networking. Without any workplace funding, I took a chance jumped in my car to crash a professional conference in Vegas last October. I got to chat with my industry peers, and touch base with many of my professional colleagues. I don’t know if this will pay off in any material way but it was good to feel a part of my industry - even if soon to be an unemployed member of it. It also felt good just to be on the road driving across the state. A stale metaphor perhaps, but I was moving and had some direction which otherwise has been lacking in my work life this year.

Travels remained close to home this year, but Lisa and I had an exceptional time turning a nephew’s wedding in Salinas into a two-week California adventure. Road trips with Lisa are among my favorite adventures. We rarely follow a plan, taking detours and stopping at any unusual place along the way that catches our eye. There’s a certain hedon-inducing giddiness that comes on exploring new places and making accidental discoveries. We drove along the Monterey bay and then heading east into the Sierras. Yosemite may have been closed due the Government shutdown, but nothing was more fun that crossing the state through roads we’ve never traveled on before. 

Familiar trips to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs were also made. These desert retreats are always great for recharging and getting fresh perspective. We go with a familiar cadre of friends and it’s like taking your personal support group along on vacation. The intent has always been to make some space to fill with creative activities, but honestly for me they have become opportunities to clear my mind to enable the creativity to come.

It seems my main creative endeavor this year was creating a tumblr account taking pictures of things “seen on my dog walk.” I thought I’d do this sporadically but it turns out I managed to take over 300 pictures this year – clearly some are better than others, but the activity itself kept me in a creative frame of mind. Otherwise I was happy to contribute to my friend's creative projects. I continued to appear in  Roger’s Scavenjester videos - amateur clown, collaborator, and co-conspirator.

Of course thanks to Roger, we found our way to many great performances this year. We started in January attending the New Fangled Opry – a vaudeville burlesque review that we quickly fell in love with, now miss, and hope will soon return in some form or another. As I recounted in an earlier post, I attended an Alien Fight Club workshop with Butoh Masters Koichi and Hiroko Tomano.  We also managed to see three Lucent Dossier performances, including two private parties where our pleasures were certainly indulged. Thanks again Roger.

Music this year was limited, to a few old favorites – Stereo Total the band I never tire of seeing live, Exene, the Blasters, Pere Ubu – and the Godfather of Welsh soul himself, Tom Jones. Thanks to the attentive eye of our friend Heidi, we were treated to seeing Mathew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, but I think almost as fun was the evening after where we re-expressed our feelings of awe and delight taking in a rotating 360 view of LA at the Bonaventure – nothing quite like cocktails, conversation, and art.

Speaking of Cocktails, 2013 was the year of Rye, as we returned to the Carthy Circle at Disney’s California Adventure to enjoy numerous classic Rye Manhattans. Unfortunately, this was the year that we were finally priced out of Disneyland’s annual passports – so we’ve expanded our horizons to hotel lounges, restaurants, bars and occasional speakeasy. But the love of Rye has made the standard Maker’s Mark Manhattan unpalatable, as well as anything with a cherry that isn’t Luxardo. The year spoiled us, but we are all making much better cocktails.

Some things that have excited me this year include photographer David Gueringer and his portraits of LA personas "A Curious Collection of Uncommon Individuals"– of course knowing a number of them has it’s own appeal, but I love how they are captured just as I’d expect to see them at a Lucent party, Art Walk, or some other vaudeville burlesque – in other words the places I would love to be.

My other discoveries seem to flow out of Brooklyn, starting with photographer Clayton Cubbit – whose infamous Hysterical Literature videos caused a bit of a stir. I love his work, and am intrigued by the creative ways he’s using photography that challenge the erosion made by the ubiquity of camera. From him it was easy to rediscover Molly Crabapple who’s “Dr. SketchyAnti-art School  I once followed in the MySpace era. Now turned graphic journalist documentarian, I find her opinions fresh, intriguing, and right on – she’s become a curator to my intellectual core as I follow most of her links on her twitter feed to find still more exciting discoveries.

Looking to the future, there is still so much uncertainty. I don't know who I'll be working for, or where. So far though, I'm comfortable with their foreseeable outcomes, we will do well, if its an adventure in a new place, or rediscovering our old home. I’m still focused on my mortality as that keeps me focused on the things that really matter. I even acquired a nice little ap (thanks to following a link from Molly Crabapple to Chelsea Summers) that reminds me of how many days I have left to live (8779 on the day this was published). You think differently when you put a finite number on the days you have left on this earth (see the third paragraph above) I’m not really worried about my job. The possibility of a move, means a focus on getting rid of clutter and shedding the objects that have no special meaning to me. A psychic move is already taking place regardless if a physical one follows. Here's to 2014.