For you, the dress code is casual.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Carlin and Growing Up / Figuring Shit Out

George Carlin's death has hit me more today.

When it comes to celebrity deaths, I tend to be pretty unflappable. Not a lot of them hit me all that much, because, you know, everyone contributes a little bit to this fabric of life, but most of their contributions are not entirely unique or irreplaceable, if you don't mind my being a little crass about it.

George Carlin, though. There's a handful of people like him in any given century, I imagine. That rare kind of person who says whatever they want, whenever they want, and has little regard for the consequence.

I have a tendency to fly through life somewhat oblivious to consequences, but only because I know people like Carlin spend a lifetime getting away with it, and when my life cashes out, I hope I get to say I've got few regrets, like I know Carlin had.

Speaking truth to power, stirring up shit, that's what I admire in people. People who really do stand up for their principles, don't feel compelled to apologize, and just do whatever they feel is the way to go.

But as few as those people are, the ones with the genius insight, the stunning comedic timing, the effusive physical performance, and the brilliant grasp of how to be charming... god, that's once a lifetime that someone pulls all of that into one whopper of a package. And that was George Carlin.

I have to admit, although I'm a big fan of Carlin, I've seen only a fraction of his work. I live in Canada, sans HBO, and until this week, my computers have always been too slow to watch streaming video on the web. My video shop doesn't carry his concerts, and I've never bought the DVDs nor read his books.

And it pisses me off, too, right, because I've been telling myself ever since the movie Dogma, and seeing him doing all the press back then, that I needed to study his work more.

As a writer, it's people like Carlin who really, really hit home the most because they can combine humanity, insight, angst, rebellion, humour, and hope all into one package, and I think, at the end of my time here, if I can say that's how I've written in my life, I'll be a very proud person. It's what I strive for, but I seldom reach it.

Well, thank God Carlin's body of work is out there. I think I'll try digging up some of his writing soon and see where that takes me.

It really pisses me off that we lose two such amazing truth-to-power speakers in nine days: Tim Russert and George Carlin. Two guys from the opposite sides of society, both calling it like they see it, and not apologizing for using their position to do so.



This may get heady but I want to write about it right this second, so here goes.

I'm going to be 35 this fall and I've been kind of going through a lot of "Am I getting old?" kind of moments of late. I've felt a little anger at how much my life's felt consumed with Ordeal in the last decade. A very unhealthy relationship that left me on the floor, followed by my mother's sudden illness and death, followed by a couple years of quasi-alcoholism and the depression that came with it all, then three years dealing with recuperating from accidents and injuries and chronic pain, followed by two years of employment hell that, in retrospect, is kind of all my fault because I lacked a little thing called faith.

And it's begun to dawn on me that I'm at pretty much exactly the right age to be realizing there's a different slice of pie I'm craving, that I want more. Not from my job, I'm cool with what I'm doing for the short-term, and can't see myself working anywhere else in the corporate world, but I ultimately want to write what I want to write, and do it for a living.

I want to be paid to write, but I'm at a loss as to which avenue's the wisest for me to go down right now. I can't decide. Do I write a book, pursue the blogosphere, try to do both? Freelance?

Truth is, I know it's the first two I need to pursue and the third is a write-off, pun intended, but I'm sort of feeling a little lost right now. I realize, too, though, that I have so much else I'm sorting out (money, weight, health, home, etc) that my mind's pulled in a million directions right now, but that it'll all start sorting out over the coming months.

I guess I'm coming upon the "what next?" phase of things, since I feel like I'm making enough progress that it's time to be getting things prepared for the next stage of development.

I can't help but think that this Carlin-dying thing is life giving me a nudge to go looking through his immense body of work as a direction for where I want to go.

I know I raise "freelance" as an option, but the reality is that I couldn't make it as a freelancer, I don't think, unless I already had some cachet. I'm too much of a loose cannon and too riled up. Editors would need to rein me in. Editors don't want to waste time on unknown variables that need to be reined in, and I don't want to waste time being something I'm not. I've spent too many years excelling at that already, and I'm fucking fed up.

Blogging is too fickle. My worry on blogging is similar to my worry for my brother when he's working casual labour without any job-provided health insurance or paid sick time: What happens when things go south?

Blogging, I've already found out the hard way what happens to a semi-successful blog when its owner falls victim to situational and chemical depression that takes the better part of 18 months to climb out of: Oblivion.

It freaks me out a little.

But at least I feel like I'm not past my prime. I'm on target. The average age of a first-time novellist is 34. Then there's the idiocy of the publishing world, since book one of the Thursday Next series was apparently reject 76 times before it was published, so what do they know, eh?

I can't mentally sort out what it is I want to write, in terms of books, though, just yet. I have an idea, but I'm not entirely clear how I should begin it, so I'm doing my mental-swimming thing where I let an idea float around in my head for a while before I tackle it, but it's time to start doing the tackling. And that's the problem.

Blogging I like because of the control it provides. As to my would-be success at it, I know where I'm going wrong, but I also know why I'm ambivalent. I just need to get over a few mental hurdles, but then I'm gonna get on it.

The thing about blogging is, summer's always slower -- people aren't at their computers as much, evenings and weekends plummet for traffic -- so I just need to figure things out and have a plan of attack underway by September, when traffic begins to soar as kids return to campus and weather begins to turn on us all. (The plan of attack is ready, but it's more complicated than that, which I guess I'll write about as the months progress.)

Blah. Every now and then the idea of being 12, living on an allowance, having a great bedroom, and being fed and clothed by the parental units seems like such a wonderful life. This being a grown-up and finding-one's-place-in-the-world thing is overrated.

Speaking of places, mine's about 12 kilometres away from here for the next eight hours, so I gotta fuck off to work!