What’s the point of having an open mic in your basement?
Cousin Stacey had me over for dinner. Just before we sat down, her Boyfriend John brought-up Aaron Swartz. He read my blog and wanted to remind me Aaron Swartz could have accepted a plea bargain, and gotten off having only served 3-months in jail.
I don’t bring this up to disagree with John. I bring this up because I was completely caught off guard. In a million years, I never thought he’d bother to read my shit.
In the few conversations we’ve had about politics, it became clear we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. So I did everything possible to maintain my new approach to dealing with someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum…back-peddle and apologize.
On the radio, I was combative. In my writing, I’m all-in. But when it comes to the people I’m lucky enough to sit down with, and have dinner, I’m no longer interested in letting my opinions get the best of me.
I’m not good at this.
It’s a blind spot, which falls under the false premise of being allowed to say whatever’s on your mind as long as it’s cloaked in truth. This premise makes for great radio and compelling reading. But it also makes for a terrible life.
I’m not interested in winning, not anymore. I’m interested in working with people who are respectful of what’s clearly important to me. And casting out the bullies.
At this point, if you can’t tell the difference between being a grown-up and being a fucking child, I’m not interested in whipping out my dick to prove I’m the bigger man.
Incidentally, I might not be the bigger man. But I’m the pierced man. So back off. This is my open mic. This is my basement. There is no audience. There is no sponsor.
Every now and then, I’m surprised by someone who posts a comment or pulls me aside to share their opinion, just before dinner. Incidentally, that night, my dad was at dinner, making pizza.
When Aaron Swartz was brought-up, dad turned into Brutally Frank, all but calling Aaron Swartz a pussy for killing himself, and bashing him for doing the crime but not being able to do the time.
Even if they agreed with me, even if they shared my compassion, my outrage over the injustice of Aaron Swartz being prosecuted to death had alienated me from the people I was about to sit down with and break bread, literally.
The next day, I sent my dad an apology. I told him I was sorry for talking to him the way I did, especially in front of other people. I told him it was unnecessary. I told him he deserved better from me.
This is what he said, “No Problemo.” But it is a problemo.
And it’s one more reason I try and stay away from my family, these days. I’m not interested in having a conversation about anything other than how good the crust is or what movie is worth seeing. In case you’re wondering, you’re missing the moment if you haven’t seen “Silver Linings Playbook.”
I’m always the one who ends up apologizing. You know why? They’re not my audience. They’re my family.
Ever go see a regional theater play? Ever take a look at who’s in the audience? It’s not fans. It’s friends and family. And it’s unfair.
It’s up to the performer to build an audience, not drag friends and family to another miserable fucking play in another miserable fucking room where you’re 2-inches away from people on stage; and you’re supposed to sit there, quietly, not talking, not drinking, not indulging homicidal fantasies, while you make believe you enjoy watching someone you’d rather be having a drink with play make believe.
It’s the same thing with my blog. If you’re coming here because you like my writing, if you’re coming here because you want to tangle it up or share your ideas, I appreciate it. If you’re coming here because you think you’re helping me out, by giving me the illusion of an audience, do me a favor, stop doing me favors.
Yes, I’m swirling in the shitter. But I’m okay with it. What else am I gonna do, golf? I don’t like golf.
My brother and father only wanted to write when there was a guaranteed audience, which is exactly why we got fired from Chicago Now. My brother and father aren’t writers, and so when we were given an opportunity to actually tap into a pre-existing audience, they alienated the audience, and the editors, because their writing was crude.
It would be like me trying to poach 200 eggs at Max’s Deli on Sunday Brunch or advise my Cousin Stacey on how to renovate her basement. Crude wouldn’t begin to describe the arrogance of me “taking it on.”
You have to know what you are.
I’m a writer. Maybe not a very good writer. Or maybe one of the best writers in the history of ever. One things for certain, at this moment, as I type these words, I’m an unknown writer.
It’s not for me to judge. It’s for me to do, thankfully. I spend enough of my time judging people and songs and movies and politicians and what’s missing from the sauce and what an immature asshole Prince is for not speaking at The Grammys.
I have no business judging. But I do it anyway because it’s easy, as long as it’s cloaked in truth. Or is it?
The more I think about why I write, the less I write. So this tells me to get over myself, and write, damn it. This is my shit. If you like it, great. If you don’t like it, great. If you can think of something better to do with your time besides watching me figure it out, in real time, letter by letter, word-by-word, blog by blog, by all means, go do it.
That’s your shit. This is my shit. Leave it to the judgment of a toilet paper salesman to tell us the difference between what grade of paper is easy on the ass, and what’ll wipe you bloody.
Thanks for coming to the open mic in my basement. Tips are appreciated. And by tips, I mean currency. I’ll gladly take devalued currency over poorly delivered truth.