I think a lot about the best drink order I ever witnessed.
I was at the late, great Alcatraz, a metal bar on the corner of St. Mark’s and A one evening in the mid-1990s, and a disgusted looking gentleman walked in and slumped down on the bar stool next to me.
“Glass’a shit on the rocks”, he grumbled to the bartender.
A moment later, the bartender grabbed a bottle of the cheapest whiskey they had in the place, threw some ice in a rocks glass, and poured the gentleman his drink.
Before drinking even a drop of it, the look of disgust had disappeared from the gentleman’s face, replaced by a smile, the kind of smile a person gets when they feel truly understood by another person.
The older I get, the more I come to realize how impressionable I was when I was younger. I think I still am. People who know me may be stunned to read this (either that, or they’ll laugh a hearty laugh and say “No shit, Sherlock!”), but I think it’s pretty true, thinking back on how my personality was formed, the things that influenced me, the traps I fell into. I don’t think it’s all bad. I think I’ve had some remarkable experiences by way of my being more easily led than I realized I was.
As is often the case these days, if you put me on the spot and asked me to cite an example, I’d have a hard time, because my brain doesn’t work well within those parameters, but I know myself a little, and as I review the events of my life, my lack of originality and independence is kinda glaring in a lot of ways.
Younger Me would’ve hated me for saying this, called bullshit on it all and so forth, but he’d eventually know that I had him found out. Younger Me would’ve despised me for all sorts of reasons, truth be told, but I’d hope he’d actually learn something, were he and I ever to meet.
Pretty much whenever I walk into a restaurant or any sort of public place, I case it to see where I’d be least likely to be shot. Damn near every time, if not every time. If I don’t do it or think about it, it’s because I’m really distracted, possibly by something more stressful than the thought of being murdered. That’s the world I live in.
I close my bedroom door in my house before I sleep, because the process of opening it creates an additional layer of sound that could wake me up before someone walks in and shoots me, assuming they don’t use the windows. I didn’t close it the night before I wrote this, as an experiment, and while it could be a coincidence, I slept horribly.
I don’t ever want to be the person who has the weapon ready to shoot back or shoot first, though, because it will run the risk of turning me into the type of person who did this to me.
From time to time, I’m told that I give good, helpful advice. While I’m certainly glad when I’m able to help, and appreciative of the compliments, I also think about a few things whenever this comes up.
First, I wonder why my own life is so screwed up, when I’m apparently not so bad at helping others out. I know it doesn’t work this way, but you’d think I’d be a little better at keeping my own shit together and saving my own ass, if I’m not so bad at helping other people figure it out. It’d be good if I did figure it out, because I am certainly going to need to save myself sooner than later. While I have great friends and some family that care deeply about me and do a great deal for me, even collectively, they lack the time and the resources necessary to see to it that I’m kept safe indefinitely. It’s really not their responsibility to do that, anyway. Someday, I will be truly and totally alone, so it’d probably be a good idea to figure out how to apply any of these talents that I may have to my own life before that happens. Also, just in case it comes up, I don’t buy the idea that I’ve done damage to my own life by being selfless. For one, my life was pretty screwed up before I even got half a clue about how to behave selflessly, and for two, it’s the kind of thing I usually hear from the “Atlas Shrugged Is The Word Of God” crowd, to borrow from Frank Miller for a second.
Moving on, I also wonder if people are aware of how screwed up the person they’re taking advice from really is. For instance, I have not worked a steady job on even a part-time basis in what will be 13 years next month (and frankly, that may never change), but I just spent two goddamned weeks working on getting the village drunk in one very small part of World Of Warcraft to be my Best Friend. Oh, it wasn’t solid time (though that’d be pretty funny), and there are a great many other examples, some far uglier, that I could use to illustrate this point, but I’m still gonna give us all some time to let that one sink in, because it happened while I was writing this.
(And yes, I’m the first one that’ll tell you that our ability to work for a living in the modern version of the straight world does not and should not define our worth as human beings, but still. Two weeks? Jesus Christ.)
Additionally, as something of an extension of that last point (the screwed up part, not the Best Friend in World Of Warcraft part, though they’re clearly interrelated), I think about all of the times in my life that I’ve acted in ways similar to whatever negative or disruptive influence the person I’m giving advice to may be trying to get away from. Part of how I am able to understand some of these interpersonal situations is that, while I’ve been on the receiving end of bullshit more than my fair share, boy howdy, have I also been the person dishing it out in a serious way at times. The impulses that have led me to do so are still, and may always be something I (mostly) quietly struggle with. Now, some people never get wise to the shit they do, those who do don’t always bother to attempt to improve themselves, and some of the ones who do never really get any good at it. I’ve no idea how I do, if we’re being honest here (and please don’t tell me how you think I’m doing, because I’m neither fishing for compliments, nor am I looking for my I’m Not A Bastard Anymore merit badge here), but I do make an effort to pay attention to how I act, and I do try to improve on it. Some people in this world have talked to me more than once, and some who stopped talking to me over the years have eventually started to again, so I guess there’s that, but what’s happened in the past, and what I’m always actively working to prevent from happening in the future are still a helluva cross to bear.