April 7. Crystal Ball.

You and this other guy who do standup have a seat at the venue, each with a drink, and he says he’s reached two conclusions about you. “And you tell me if I’m wrong.”

“Sure.”

“The first is that you’re pretty smart.”

“Thanks.”

“Second one, no offense, is that you’re probably the least successful of your friends.”

April 6. Hungover with a Guest.

Wake up before dawn because the house is getting tented in a few hours (termites) and you need to pack.

Last night you hosted an event in South Miami, took an Uber to the venue because you always have a few drinks during the show. A friend drove you home when it was over and after a quick argument she fell asleep in your bed.

Four alarms have gone off since 5 am and you’ve snoozed every one and lain awake the whole time, not wanting to get up. She’s a mannered sleeper who doesn’t snore, drool, toss or sprawl or mumble.

Take the dog outside where it’s quiet and the sky softly blue, kinda navy, getting brighter even just in the couple minutes you’re standing here.

Go inside, feed the dog, use the bathroom, start cleaning up a little. Shower.

Your friend wakes up and comes out and her eyelids are heavy and red, she never took her contacts out, and she’s holding her elbows and her shoulders are perked up to her jawline like she’s cold but really she’s just uncomfortable. Strange to see her in a dress and wedges at  7 am.

When she sees you she smiles but it’s tense. She makes a remark about her hair being a mess and you get her some water and then walk her out to her car and trade goodbyes.

Listen to a podcast while the hangover wanes and drink lots of water and write that letter you promised a friend last month and eventually make your way to the door, bag looped over your shoulder and a box in your arms with all your clothes in it, feeling like a nomad with the dog whining and circling on his leash beside you, excited about getting to ride in the car. But then you just stand here for a while, thinking you’re forgetting something, until finally you say fuck it, and leave, and later that night, as you’re sliding a key card into the door of a $105 room at a La Quinta in a shady part of town, a bag of fast food bleeding grease in your hand, your toothbrush will come to mind, and you’ll sigh.


In the morning you find a plate from room service with a lid on it. A receipt beside it on the platter says $4.24.

Reach for the lid and lift it up slowly, carefully, and find beneath it, on a bed of lettuce, a gateway to Thousand Movie Project.

April 5. Fans, Cooling Off.

Wouldn’t have thought college basketball was this popular but there’s a game on between Duke and some other school and everybody’s pretty tense about it, focusing on the massive TVs over the bar, even the servers and the bussers pausing to look, trade remarks. Everytime somebody’s closing in on a basket you’ll hear a chorus of muted “come on come on come on” and two bussers pause right beside you and one of them’s gripping his hair and sighing and talking about his bracket.

Whenever somebody makes or misses a basket the reaction is explosive, disappointment or joy, and all the tension along the bar melts off in a loopy uneven way. Like ice cream in a microwave. Then it all picks up again, just as slow.

It’s 7 on a Sunday and you’re only halfway through your first beer but you feel like this’ll be the only one and then you’ll go. Nothing to do with the game or the shouting. This just happens lately, in a way it never did in your early twenties. You’ll look at the remaining half of a beer and something in your stomach, some vague overhead cloud with mixed-up silent words about sleep and the next day’s responsibilities, tells you in no unclear way that you’re done. It’s time to go home.

And so that’s where you go.


You find a safe behind the painting.

04 left, 24 right, 91 left.

Pull the door open and you’re transported to the Thousand Movie Projects.

April 4. Keep it to Yourself.

Lunch with dad at an Argentine restaurant that the family hasn’t been to in years but that once upon a time was maybe a monthly staple. Early on a Friday evening we’d come here as a family and complain about the bread being stale and as a kid I’d get the cherry off my mom’s tres leches. One night when the manager noticed the trend he started bringing me a plate of cherries for dessert. You were little then but not very. All through the meal you’d be checking your watch because you didn’t wanna miss ABC’s Friday-night kid-centric programming. Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a show about a genie that you can’t remember the name of.

Dad asked a few minutes ago if you were upset about something but you’re not and you tell him you’re not but he doesn’t believe you. Drink a beer and now you seem fine. Have another beer and you’re finer still.

He follows you to the house afterward to pick up some stuff. He hasn’t been here in weeks and asks lots of questions about it. In the driveway he seems sad for a minute and then starts saying indiscreet things to make that sadness clear. Hugs you too long, says he misses having someone to drink wine with.

Leaves.

Did This to Yourself

There’s a young guy here about your age who parts his hair in the back-right corner of his head and he’s got sunglasses on inside, taking hits from an e-cigarette, an air of austerity and entitlement about him and, internet being what it is, you wonder if he’s famous somehow, or if his parents are rich, and then a minute later you notice you aren’t even entertaining the idea that maybe this kid is independently wealthy for doing something honest and practical.

He’s having coffee at a table with an older woman in nice clothes who’s talking about somebody who lost $9 million. She gets to the end of her explanation: the person who lost it and how they lost it and the consequences. Then she looks into her coffee and shakes her head, pitying. Cocks an eyebrow. “May’ve even been ten million.”


More of this upstairs, in the Thousand Movie Project.

April 2

Three bar tenders having fun tonight, it’s not that busy for a Saturday, and after you’ve ordered and been here reading for a few minutes one of them comes and sets a bowl of ice cream in front of you and says, “Here’s the ice cream you ordered.” She’s wide-eyed. You’re supposed to go along with it.

Touch the rim and pull it toward you. Say thanks.

She walks away.

Don’t eat it. Keep reading.

Couple minutes later she comes and takes the ice cream and starts eating it at a crouch, grinning. “I went and scooped this cuz my boss was outside but when I came back up she was right there. Had to pretend it was for a customer.”

You smile back and nod, tell her it’s no problem, decide not to rhapsodize about how flattered you are to be considered dependable. Just drink your beer and keep reading.


Be sure to check out Thousand Movie Project

April 1

A few years ago I started a blog that focused on stuff I saw and overheard at bars, and I had lots of fun with it, but, for a handful of reasons from the past couple years, I’ve let it languish. In those couple years since I was actively posting I think I’ve changed and that I have a better sense of how to write these things.

For the month of April I’ll be posting to View from the Bar every night at 10 pm (DST). They’ll be quick entries for somebody who, getting out of work late like I do, might be sitting at the bar, alone, and for lack of company find themselves in the mood for it. My hope is that it does catch you when you’re by yourself, whether in bed or on the couch or at the bar, and that our solitude, paired, might mix well.

“I’m Trash Just Like Everyone Else”: A Conversation with Sophia Benoit

Sophia Benoit is a comedian living in Los Angeles. In her five years on Twitter she’s amassed nearly 40,000 subscribers. She’s 23 and has apparently been working on a book for two years now. She knows every line of dialogue in The Grinch.


You’re prolific on Twitter and attract lots of trolls, mostly men, who get in touch to either compliment or insult you or to send pictures of their dick. It seems like they’re trying to get in the way of your performance, or to wedge themselves into it. If you were doing standup, we’d call it heckling. Trolling seems more sinister, though. An aspiring comedian can read advice from generations of comics about how to deal with a heckler. With trolls, however, there’s no rule book. This is the first generation of comics (of artists in general) who have to deal with this phenomenon where, emboldened by anonymity and distance, people are so quick to throw out not just the most aggressive criticism they can write but also threats. Do you see a difference between hecklers and trolls? Do the comedians of our generation talk much about it?

People love to give advice on what to do with trolls; honestly I think it’s just that the people who do shout that unwanted advice don’t have their own trolls and wish that they did so that they could prove that they would know what to do. That they wouldn’t put up with that. Or they would ignore them better. Or they wouldn’t be phased. In fact, I used to ignore them. I used to block them immediately, feel incredibly shaken, and try to move on with my day. And it did nothing because it didn’t change the fact that I was a woman online. Do I want them to leave me alone? Sure. But more than that, I want them to leave everyone alone. For a long time I was afraid of encouraging trolls even more. Eventually, I realized that I was right. I was right to exist and not expect or accept harassment. Not that all my opinions are good or even correct. I have shitloads to learn. But I don’t harm people. And if I do, I own it and I fix it and I apologize even if it wasn’t my intent. Once I felt “right,” or as right as I could be at the time, I stopped being scared. Which isn’t to say that I’m not wrong all the time and that I don’t have miles more to go — I do. But I know I’m not harassing people and if you are doing that, I’m automatically in the right. I’m on my timeline sharing positive things and if you come to me and bother me (and yes I get to set the arbitrary boundary of what is bothersome) I get to respond however my little heart desires. I’ve never been heckled on stage despite doing comedy for years and I have no idea why that is. In person I rarely confront even people I know well. But if you come to me with blatantly stupid, harmful, or cruel stuff and drop it off on my timeline: I’ll go full mama bear on you. That is a woman’s timeline. It just so happens that woman is me. I hope somewhere along the way, people feel like they can speak up and call that out themselves, if they so wish. I also hope they feel like they aren’t alone in calling out male behavior– that there is a phalanx of women who have their back.  If that happened one fucking time it would be so worth all the people I piss off by tweeting too much and too loudly.  

benoit tweet B

There was a New Yorker profile of Leslie Jones earlier this year in which she talks about taking ownership of her body, her height in particular, by making it the first thing she mentions on stage. It gives the audience less to attack her with. Then, toward the end of her set, she’ll go into the aisles and she’ll sit in an audience member’s lap, or hover over them, and start ridiculing them. Or she’ll get them to talk about something they find uncomfortable. Aziz Ansari had a routine for a while where he’d read people’s romantic text messages aloud to huge audiences. It always seemed humiliating — but people were volunteering for the opportunity. When fans of Jones or Ansari buy their tickets they probably know they’re at risk of being picked out, teased, mocked. It seems like the same thing when your followers (men in particular) try to respond to one of your tweets. You repost and make jokes about a lot of them. They must understand the likelihood of this. Do you think they kind of pine for the debasement? If so, why?

When I do standup I never never never go into the crowd at all; I never call out a weird laugh I hear. I never call any audience member out. It makes my skin crawl when people do that because the aim seems to be humiliation, not participation. But as I said above, the goal of someone who responds to my tweets is frequently to humiliate or take time from or disgust a woman. That’s sick. That desire, even if it is tied to the desire for attention (WHICH I GET! CRAVING ATTENTION IS NORMAL) is vile.

One of the defining characteristics of your Twitter persona seems to be shamelessness, and yet you’ve got hordes of trolls who are constantly trying to shame you. Do you consider it just a gender thing or do you see shame, and the confrontation of shameful things, as playing a larger general role in comedy?

Of course I’m shameless! I’m trash just like everyone else: I’m just willing to embrace it! Comedy is a great tool of reclaiming things. You can’t shame me for being loud: I’ll just love that part of myself. You can’t shame me for being a feminist: I love that part of myself. Recently, I even started tweeting about how much I love my stretch marks.. Not because I do,  but by god I’m going to protect my flaws from shame. It’s a little easier when you absolutely don’t care about Online Strange Men’s good opinion of you. Is it always men…well, usually yes. Society doesn’t shame white men too much.benoit tweet A

So, do women get more shamed than men? Of course. But shame, like most societal constructs, is very intersectional. Shame is also worse for people of color, for foreign citizens, for LGBTQ people, for disabled people. I’m fine if white dudes get a little shame for a bit. I’m fine if it helps them recognize their actions and their complicancy.

Is there ever a desire to show something like affection to your audience? If so, how might that manifest? Because based on some interviews you’ve done, Twitter persona aside, you do seem like the kind of person who, in your daily life, would send somebody a random affectionate text or maybe broadcast your gratitude to a roomful of people.

Hahaha I am the cheesiest person you know. I paid for hundreds and hundreds of 30 racks of beer in college because I had a job and my friends didn’t. I don’t drink beer. I’m anxious all the time and grateful for every moment someone spends on me and in my life. That’s another reason why I’m so militant online, I think, is because I believe so deeply and have invested so deeply in a familial love for other people. The kind where if a friend called me in the middle of the night and said cut off your arm, you can’t ask any questions, I would find a chainsaw at 3:48 am and get to work. That’s probably the Italian in me, but that’s the level of connection I want to have with people, otherwise what the hell are we doing? We don’t have long on this planet–none of us– and I don’t have room for the bad. I answer every single non-dick pic DM I get. People keep telling me to turn my notifications to Only People You Follow, but I can’t do that! I love people. I love twitter. I’m terrible at both, but by god I love them.

benoit tweet 2

A highlight in Benoit’s experience on Twitter: being denounced by Earth.

The Twitter persona seems at this point to be nearly autonomous. Like the voice just exists in your head and steps up to the plate whenever you want it to. How was it in the beginning? Were you modeling it after any particular source?

I did a comedy set one time and my ultra-conservative grandmother found out about it, and found out that I had been “saying bad words.” Which in and of itself is kind of precious, since she didn’t even watch the video. Well she was “disappointed” in me. I told my dad about how she was upset and he said, “well perfect. That’s exactly the kind of person you want to piss off isn’t it?” And he’s right. She’s bigoted in so many ways, and frankly if I lose the good opinion of a bigot, that sounds perfect to me. After that, it was a slow process of moving the needle further and further over to stand my ground and not give a damn about losing the good opinion of ignorant or cruel people.

I started on twitter much in the same way: very afraid of pisssing people off, of saying the wrong thing. It was really a process of listening more than anything. I watched the women of twitter say things that I thought were so daring: things that would lose them jobs or friends or followers (as dumb as that sounds). These women were magnificent to me, but at the time I really just wanted to tell jokes and be left alone. If you listen long enough, you’ll hear the truth behind why these people are standing up and saying this: there’s concrete suffering for women and people of color and people with disabilities and LGBTQ people and those in a lower financial stratum and on and on. If you listen to other people and care about other people’s experience at all, if you don’t bubble wrap yourself in a space of middle-class white comfort, you get that this stuff is real and it matters. I mean, it matters if you have a heart at all for people outside of yourself. I’m certainly not a feminist for myself. I’m doing pretty damn fine. Are there small gaps between my experience and that of a white middle class man? Sure. But the real disparities are so much larger and more life-threatening than being called names online. I hope I don’t sound like I’m minimizing that. What I’m saying is if I can help to amplify the voices of people who do have it a lot harder, well that’s what I’m a feminist for. If you see any of this as sticking up for people or caring for people, it becomes pretty easy to be audacious. What do you have to lose? Just the tacit approval of shitty people.

benoit default

 

FOLLOW SOPHIA BENOIT ON TWITTER: @1FOLLOWERNODAD

VISIT HER WEBSITE

READ HER WORK ON THE GUARDIAN

 

 


View from the Bar on Twitter: @howlingdecorum

View from the Bar on YouTube

Escaping One Thing or Another Until Eventually It’s You

Take your beer outside when it gets too cold at the bar and the rain is off-and-on, there’s been lightening all day, so the turnout is weak and you’re standing among just a handful of smoking regulars when a woman walks up to you, out of the rain, with a glass bottle of Perrier jutting out of her purse that she touches now and then. She’s soaking wet and asks you, “And the collapse of the penny? The American penny? It’s happened overnight.”

You tell her it hasn’t.

She asks if you’re sure about this and you confess that you aren’t, but then say that the odds are slim, and she sighs at this, relieved, and walks off under a row of storefront canopies, muttering, satisfied.

#

The shops and bars here are clustered in a three-block stretch, a nice little area where families spend their Saturdays, and there’s a man here, young, who walks the entire stretch back and forth all day. You sit at a bar for a long time, by the window, and see him pass more than a dozen times, talking to himself, and sometimes he’s on this side of the street and sometimes the other. He pauses often to smile and to do this one quick dance move. The luau thing where you make little waves of your arms in a certain direction and match the rhythm with your hips. He’s dressed all in black despite the heat.

When you ask the bar tender he says that this guy is twentysomething and friendly, chatty, and that he claims to have been raised in Atlanta and that his parents put him on a southbound train to Florida in the interest of riddance with a bag full of clothes and a small bit of money. He’s schizophrenic too and has twice been taken by police for collapsing into tearful prayer at the intersection.

Right now though he’s smiling, walking, dancing.

#

An overweight bar tender is working her hair into a bun and telling an equally-overweight regular that “I said to her, ‘Fine, I’m fat, whatever. I can lose the weight. But if you’re gonna be so rude that you say something like that to a total stranger, then I know that you’ll always be ugly.’ So…”

The regular nods at her, then nods into his drink. “Yep.”

She says, “Am I wrong?”

He says, “Nope.”

#

A friend is reverential over her evening’s only beer in telling this story of a student whose arms had been severed neatly below the elbow. Marveling at his dexterity, at the capacity to evolve, she talks about having seen him at a computer in the lab one night typing gracefully with his stumps. Then, with his stumps, he stops typing, takes the wallet from his pocket, removes a stick of gum, unwraps the gum and puts it in his mouth and tosses the wrapper and continues to type.

She’s shaking her head. “Can you imagine.”

Today You Are 25

If there’s a defining sentiment to your 24th year it’s probably shame — although not necessarily in a bad way, if that makes sense, just that you got drunk and did this, did that. You misunderstood a million things. Most of what you remember from this year, as you approach the end of it, makes you cringe.

Realizing this, you buy a book about shame and learn that porn stars, after retiring from film, often pursue work in hospice care, or nursing, given their comfort with the body.

They’re hard to embarrass, and they laugh a lot.

#

Your first novel is finally done after three years (congrats!) and it gets rejected by 36 agents. Excerpts that you try to pass off as short stories get rejected by a dozen magazines but then one short story does get published. Which is nice.

#

You go out on what you think is a date (in a bar that will soon be shut down for having cockroaches in the ice machine), but it turns out not to be a date, and after sharing a basket of chili fries with this very pleasant woman, after she’s had one shot of Fireball and you’ve had four, she reveals that she’s always wanted a vibrator but (to your surprise) has always been too shy to actually go into a sex shop and buy one — at which point, in a gesture of gregariousness by which you hope to cover up your mistake about this being a date, you pay the tab and slap the bartop and tell her that you’re gonna be her wingman right now in buying a vibrator.

At the sex shop, a few minutes later, your accomplice stands behind you and hugs her elbows while looking around like she’s in a cathedral, some holyplace with secrets, and a salesperson adorned with pigtails, two noserings, and blue lipstick tells you that if you’re looking for something with simultaneous g-spot and clitoral stimulation it’s gonna cost no less than $60. Eventually your friend joins in on the conversation and before long the two of them are talking amongst themselves.

You wander off.

An elderly man is drinking a Fanta in the DVD room, entranced by the poolside orgy that plays out on a cornermounted TV. He looks at you, eye contact happens, and he nods in a grievous way.

You go find your friend.

She buys a $75 vibrator and you feel a little guilty about the extent of her buyer’s remorse. Several hours later you drive for 90 minutes to a birthday party in another city (where you get lost in a shady area and eventually have to pull over and charge your cell phone in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant in whose parking lot you find bullet casings) and when she texts you at around eleven to say that she just had her fourth consecutive spin with the vibrator, and that she loves it, you raise your glass to her, a hundred miles away.

#

A lot of people cry in front of you when you’re 24. It happens at a bar in South Miami, a patio restaurant downtown, the doorway of a utility closet in Kendall. It happens at your dining room table. At one point you are the lone audience to a woman crying at a podium in a small room.

It starts to seem like everybody has something going on in their life that they’ll start crying about if you ask them an open-ended question and listen attentively.

A server who leans on the bar and talks with you sometimes, when the restaurant’s quiet, says one night, while you’re fretting about the future, “It’s a blessin to be stressin. Means you’re on the right side of the grass.

#

The Ages at Which Some of the Writers You Admire

Published Their First Book

 

Jonathan Franzen: 29

Stephen King: 27

David Foster Wallace: 25

Jeffrey Eugenides: 33

Philip Roth: 26

Norman Mailer: 25

Martin Amis: 24

Cormac McCarthy: 32

Kurt Vonnegut: 30

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon: 26

#

You’re having a beer with a friend one morning in October on the first floor of a five story building. The friend is telling you about relationship trouble, you’re talking about the frustrations of trying to get published, and eventually someone jumps off the roof and hits the pavement outside.

It happens around the corner, so you don’t see anything until you set out to walk her to her car. The body’s been removed and there’s a light rain falling. The janitors are sweeping big rain-swirled gouts of blood into a storm drain.

Your friend drives off but you hang around South Miami for the rest of the day. You spend $50 on beer and later that evening, after receiving a terrible email, you go to see Goosebumps by yourself in a theater packed with families.

One kid shrieks at the yeti onscreen.

#

Creed comes out in theaters and you think, at the time, that this is gonna be the last on-screen appearance of a character with whom you’ve always felt a strangely heartwarming kinship. You have a couple of shots beforehand and you cry from pretty much the first frame to the last.

#

It feels pretty laborious to go on and on about the submission process, the rejections, and so you dodge the subject pretty well among friends and family but it’s really the only thing that crosses your mind. You’ve got no girlfriend, you’re on autopilot at work, your routines are set in stone. If your thoughts aren’t hushed in total meditative suspension then they’re coiled like a frigid hermit at this little flame of hope in the center of your brain where no light comes in and the only motivation is the same as what fuels the hypothetical prisoner who chisels at a wall whose thickness he can only guess at, may indeed be endless, and that thing that fuels him and fuels you is the near-religious conviction, the faith, that there must be a way out.

Or in.

So yes there are themes of ambition and failure and shame and regret, of hope, that characterize your 24th year but really this is the (first) year of SUBMISSION (in more ways than one) and it’s hard to conceive of a life taking shape around this pursuit of yours, this struggle to be published, and but if, in your 25th or 26th or 38th year, you’ve allowed this goal to be eclipsed by the taste or pursuit of something else, something more sensible or fiscally responsible, know that I’m standing here in the past with my arms folded, looking ahead at you, and I am so fucking pissed because if I endured all of this only for you to bail because you’re too tired or embarrassed or whatever…

Like I can’t even imagine how much that would suck but I know you’re an asshole and that you love money and you can be guilted into anything, so I worry.

#

You’ve always seen osso buco on menus at fancy restaurants but this is the year you finally have it. Twice.

                                                                                                  Sweet Jesus.

#

Two of your closest friends marry each other outside on a day where rain is forecasted but never falls, the sky actually clearing up to allow a good bit of sun for the ceremony, and — as will happen — you drink too much, end up sleeping in your car, but this is one of the better nights you’ll experience. Everybody so friendly, the booze as constant as the hugging and dancing and laughing. Before the meal and throughout it you sit talking with an aspiring veterinarian at her education’s endpoint who, for all of her knowhow and passion and promise, is pretty worried about the future too. This is the person you click glasses with during the toast.

#

Somebody lights a fire at your dining room table one Sunday in January. The firestarter takes you for a series of lunches in the ensuing months with hopes of explaining.

Someday, in the future, somebody will say, “Alex, what’s the angriest you’ve ever been?”

So you’re gonna have to learn how to talk about this.

#

Another regular at this particular bar is a little drunker than usual and even though you’re not writing at the moment, just sitting and watching TV, she usually sees you with a notebook or a novel and so when she comes up to you now, for the first time, she leans an elbow on the bartop, gives you this head-to-toe look of appraisal, and in a caustic tone that’s also probably supposed to be flirtatious she says, “You realize how much of a stereotype you are, right?”

And later that night when you’re home, getting into bed, your dog comes up and coils himself at your hip, this fourteen-year-old toy poodle with a beard that was once black but has now gone sage’s gray, and he slings his head over your stomach to look at you for some reason and he says, “I know you’re not so keen on taking advice about how to conduct yourself in public, especially when it comes to bars and books and whatever, but if you’ve found a routine that works for you, that helps you get shit done, then fuck it. Do you.”

Your dog is right.

#

An Englishman at the bar of a BBQ joint alerts the bar tender, with honest angst, to the ease with which he gets drunk. He then orders a Sam Adams with his sandwich. The bar tender takes a pint glass out of the cooler and goes over toward the tap.

“Woah!” He lurches forward. “Can I have it in a smaller glass?”

Bar tender eyes the glass, then the Brit. She says, “This is the only size we have.”

“Well you see I get drunk very easily…

She stares at him.

He relents. “OK, then.”

She pours.

“Nothing is small in the United States, is it?”

#

The therapist you’ve been seeing for eleven years says, “I’ve got some bad news.”

“OK.”

Cringing: “I’m moving away.”

A few months before this he told you, wincing, “Don’t judge me, OK?, but my politics lean toward socialism.” He’s a fan of Hamlet, of Freud and film noir, and he seemed a little bummed that you wouldn’t read those geography books he recommended.

You’ll have occasion, once your dining room table’s on fire, to think of him a lot.

#

Toward the end of your 24th year there’s a day where, as in the past, one frustration piles upon another and you say fuck it, and you bail on your responsibilities. You take a notebook to a bar in S. Miami and three hours somehow evaporate, which is nice, but your problems are waiting for you, unresolved, the moment you step outside.

Later that day you’re watching this video online about a guy who’s allergic to bees. One day, while fucking around in a neighbor’s yard, he splits an entire hive open by accident. The bees come out in a swarm, they’re fucking pissed, and they chase him. Panicking, the guy runs for a bit and ends up jumping into his swimming pool to escape them. But it’s no escape. The bees just wait for him, hovering in this noisy static cloud over the water’s surface, probably just getting angrier.

The metaphor is hard to avoid.

#

A stranger sends you an email and invites you, for some reason, to a private event on South Beach where Bret Easton Ellis will be doing an informal Q&A. One of your heroes from when you were growing up. You’re psyched. Get there and find that there’s an open bar: eight or ten bottles of Bombay and a spectrum of mixers. You get a drink and talk with Ellis on the balcony for a while about horror movies, about Eli Roth and Tarantino, and then he gets swept into the crowd.

It’s a weird experience to have at the end of this particular year and when you’re finally seeing, in person, just how lauded this writer is, how respected and appreciated, you find yourself standing hermetically in the most shadowy corner of this lavish penthouse, sipping your long sequence of complimentary gin & tonics, and you study the whole scene (this parade of dapper sophisticates all smiling and hugging each other and drinking responsibly) and you feel this thing inside yourself like violence, like those science videos where a windstorm is created in a mason jar, and it takes a few hours for you to cool off but eventually, when you do, you realize that this thing that had consumed you in your drunken idling was the rapacious, remorseless, decidedly unfriendly core of your ambition suddenly coming up to the forefront of consciousness. Like when the svelte and dapper Bond villain steps aside to unleash his monstrous right-hand man. You want to take all of this. The fame, the respect, the money. The gin.

You spent an hour and a half trying to park your car for this event, had to walk two miles along Collins Avenue in dress shoes under a soft rain in order to get here, received an $18 parking ticket for your troubles and a lot of indignant stares from the other attendees on account of being

  1. Sweaty
  2. Under-dressed
  3. The youngest person in attendance.

And so you’ve confronted the strangely huge portion of your ambition that runs on spite and aggression.

You feel like Clubber Lang.

#

And now it’s done. On to the 25th. There’s stuff to complain about, reasons abounding for discontent and grudges and whatever, but you’re here. I know, in retrospect, that the cumulative disappointment of those rejection slips did nothing to dim the joy of seeing your friends get married, or of talking to and toasting that veterinarian, or of Creed or of waltzing those two lesbians through a patio bar at last call. Certainly stole no flavor from those two osso bucos. You watched Dressed to Kill and fell in love with it. Talked horror movies with a childhood hero. Got to taste Blue Label.

All these little in-the-moment pleasures that echo in your chest and warm you for days. Think of these. Accumulate and remember them.