The other day I decided to watch the Leonard Cohen documentary on Amazon Prime, Marianne and Leonard. It illumated so much about Leonard Cohen that his music and even his poetry only really hints at. A colossus of sensual imagery, heartache, desire, longing, and bittersweet loss, Leonard Cohen’s work first struck me in the early 1990s as I was on my journey towards young adulthood, finding myself in a rivalry with one of my best friend’s for the affection of possibly one of the first girls to pay attention to me. What later became her game nearly ended a friendship that had endured to even today. I just wished him a happy 43rd birthday just the other day. I haven’t spoken to the girl really since she chose a third out of a selection of equally stupid and hormonal teenaged boys she had to choose from.

But as we both sat on either side of her in 1992, the only three people in her mother’s house, with her bare legs stretched across my friend’s and the rest of her lounging across my lap, we watched Pump up the Volume. It was a movie about teenaged angst, rebellion, censorship, and Samantha Mathis’s naked body. Quite possibly the first R rated movie I watched with a member of the opposite sex featuring nudity and atraction. At the center of it all was this song, a deep, resonant voice that began every pirate radio broadcast in the movie. Nothing really risque, other that than rumble of a voice that somehow evoked eroticism. It was a song about contrasts, betrayal, and irony; it was at the time Leonard Cohen’s most popular song: Everybody Knows. Since then I’ve seen this song played more times in strip club movie scenes than Pour Some Sugar on Me. Years later, a Jeff Buckley cover of Halleluja would overtake Everybody Knows as Cohen’s most recognizable song.

Later on, I got into Cohen’s music even more, with my favorites becoming Take this Waltz, and later the likes of Anthem, Suzanne, and the deceptively cheerful So Long Marianne. Marianne in the documentary is the same as the woman from the song. She was his Muse while living on the Greek isle of Hydra for a number of years throughout the 60s and 70s, all the way up until the end of their romance, as he ascended to the level of banging the likes of Janis Joplin and pretty much anyone else who feel for that velvety voice with the lyrics of a poet driving them.

The interesting thing about Marianne Ihlen was that she wasn’t just Leonard Cohen’s muse, but that of many artists and singers she encountered. Back in the extremely sexually liberal 60s, she had many lovers, some of which at the same time as Cohen. But as a tale as old as people have scratched each other’s names into stone walls or tree trunks, over time they drifted apart, though Cohen was involved in her life to some degree all the way up until the end of her own life. He even supported her financially as she drifted around the world like some unbound spirit, offering inspiration and encouragement to many she came into contact with.

Watching this documentary, I thought of the importance of the Muse to many artists. I think in my own process, I have had moments that have flooded my imagination with color, but no central person that has provided me with a continual source of inspiration. Unless you count the pain that has resulted from their loss. In which case, they aren’t really a Muse, are they? My muse would be like the ones I saw in the British Museum. Cold and broken figures carved from marble, existing now only as a pale semblance of what they once had been thousands of years ago. Headless. Fragile.

That’s okay, I guess. I do have good people in my life who continue to encourage me as I work. Some days I really don’t know what I’m doing or why. The words are just here and they end up on the page. Sometimes they don’t stop until I am exhausted, refusing to allow me to sleep, and even going as far as waking me early the next morning to start all over again.

The hardest obstacle I am facing now is wondering why I’m telling these stories. I think maybe because of those times I have spent around old people. Their skin translucent with age, the whites of their eyes spiderwebbed, the sheen of their pupils now glassed over a little bit with cataracts as they stare off into the distance, reminiscing about a battle they survived, or some great love affair. But now they have begun to wind down and they no longer tell the stories. They will eventually bring all of those tales with them to the end of their lives. You can’t take money, property, or wealth with you, and the same is true for the experiences we carry. Unless you tell someone about them.

So, I stay up late to tell the stories. They were wonderful to live, frightening sometimes, stupid even more often than that, but one day when I am gone, they will evaporate along with my spirit. Might as well write them down.

I don’t have a Muse like Leonard Cohen, not even the one whose suede jacket exuded the scent of her perfume like a storm cloud of flower blossoms wherever she went. Those are just the details that give everything dimension and life. But I do have the support of a few people who continue to follow my misadventures. I have those moments that I have lived and felt that my life was ringing like a bell, deep and resonant like the blown out voice of the Man himself, and those memories ignite something in me that should have been put out cold long ago. Those moments when someone has touched your perfect body with their mind.

Maybe that’s good enough. Sometimes this is more difficult than it seems. Those days when I question whether or not to write the stories down. These tales of heartache and love and sex and all the rest. Maybe those old people are right to let their memories die with them and I should just remain silent.

For now, I keep going. I think not putting those stories down would kill me faster than anything.

Like a runner’s high

I haven’t been sleeping lately for a variety of reasons. One of them is that it is hot as hell as we approach the first days of summer here on the Front Range. I just lie there in a pool of sweat, sticking to everything that comes into contact with me until I finally black out at 3 or 4am when it gets cool enough–yes, I have A/C. The other reason is that as I work towards my goal of writing full time, I have realized that something happens to my brain, and somehow I have to deal with it.

I am having a hard time finding a middle gear these days. This week I had some paid assignments which had definite deadlines that were coming up. I had 17 posts to get done by the 20th. My procrastination lobe of my brain kicked in for a few days and I was only writing a few each day. I would balance out that productivity by working on the book, which often took me into the small hours of the morning. 2 even 3am. It felt good to get that writing down, but the next day was pretty rough.

Like a hangover, the day after a big writing night feels like hell. For me, the brain keeps going, coming up with idea after idea, ways to phrase something just right, pieces I know I won’t remember in the morning. It keeps me up like there is a lighthouse outside my bedroom window, blazing 10,000 lumens worth of light complete with fog horn with each passing minute. Sometimes I have a drink before bed for the brain to latch onto and numb itself a little so it can let me sleep.

The problem with drinking before bed is alcohol gets converted into sugar and after a couple hours, you might wake right the hell up.

I have tried to take medications like Benadryl or Zyrtec. The added benefit of an antihistamine during the height of allergy season is something you would think would be a win-win. But not with me. Nope, last night I was in a shame spiral for having only written two articles for pay and even with Cetirizine, I woke up a couple hours later after some seriously messed up dreams. I was up for a few hours, sweating. Pacing the house. Feeling stoned from the effects of the medicine. I am not a fan.

I slept in this morning, and maybe I finally got caught up with my sleep.

Today, with deadlines looming, I put my butt in the chair and I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. I only planned on doing five or six assignments (really piddly nickle and dime assigments too) but I wound up finishing just a few minutes ago with 10 completed. My total for today with all ten assignments was probably right around 4,000 words. I also picked up two new 1,000 assignments on short order, which I hope to get done before the weekend.

Now, 4,000 words might sound like a lot, but you are also reading this. Which I am writing even after I thought my tank might be empty. No, right now I’m working on something of a runner’s high. I know that if I decided to jump into the book, I could write for another two hours…but then I would probably just drive myself crazy with my brain not shutting the hell up until nearly morning again. And I have two deadlined pieces I have to finish tomorrow.

So, I’m sorta trying to figure out how to maintain. There are days I feel like I’m burning the midnight oil and other days I am so worn out by the day and night before that I just want to throw up. I’ve been taking some time for self care, such as picking up the house, doing laundry, making my son meals, and even going on a walk. But what sorta sucks is writing is my self-care. Especially my personal writing. My fiction. My shower thoughts. And yes, this blog post actually. I’m not writing about bumpers or trailer hitches or slip and fall injuries. I’m just getting the words down out of my brain while I can. Before they dance around in my head all night and drive me mad.

The craziest thing I am learning these days is the more I write, the more I want to write, and the easier it is. When I put the words down, I feel like I am fulfilled. It is exhiliarating, whereas my former day job was exhausting. But getting the motivation to sit down and do it is often difficult. It’s a lot like going to the gym. As you bend over and lace up those running shoes, you just don’t wanna. Until that endorphin rush hits you and you feel so damn alive. Then you don’t ever want to stop.

You start to look at things like sleep and sitting down to eat as an impedement. I think I need to work on some kind of routine, to keep myself physically healthy as well as give my brain a way to calm down at the end of the day. Lately I haven’t even had any desire to nap. My depression seems to be waning too. I’m just too busy for it. I am just ruminating on the next idea. How to start a paragraph.

And right now, I feel reluctant to let the moment go and just try to chill. Because what if it doesn’t come back? What if I can’t sleep? So many variables. Writing is a good distraction from the things that have been keeping me up nights. And as long as I don’t look there, I stand a chance at sleeping.

Like mourners at our own funerals

Last Friday the University President announced that they will be laying off upwards of 65-70 UNC classified employees.

So today, everyone is walking around like a zombie, just numb, stunned, despondent.  Lost.

Everyone is whispering about the layoffs, which of course the upper admins know full well who they are going to cut.  And they also expect anyone who is left to pick up the slack and do the work of 65 people who take with them on average about 20 years experience.   For no more pay.

The University is getting rid of the Classified system too, which used to be sorta our union, since we aren’t allowed to unionize as state employees.  Well that is until this year.  It used to protect employees from at-will firing.  It actually used to mean something.  Now it just means they can hold layoffs over our heads, while the mucky-mucks and faculty get raises.

The rest of us can pound sand apparently.

The only thing that scares me worse than being laid off right now, is the possibility I won’t be.  Those getting the axe are getting two months of severance pay, then they can draw unemployment.  Those who remain will be “Restructured.”

Sometimes I rant about how this place is like a model for a Socialist state.  Honestly, I’ve been talking about that since my Freshman year of college.  Here at this same school.  I graduated 22 years ago.  I worked 30 feet away in a computer lab which I helped turn into a classroom.

In the last five years, I have seen so many changes.  The university got “Woke”.  They spent a hundred thousand on making “All Gender Bathrooms” which nobody uses.  Well, I do, because they are clean.  Because nobody uses them.

The former President got a $400k bonus when she left, and she also ran up a $75million debt for a new building on campus.  Our President went from making $86k per year to nearly $300k.  Our faculty have been leaving like rats from a sinking ship and we can’t hire new people on because we have nothing to offer them.

Such a little closed system, filled with faculty who just continued on from High School to College and never left.  We have our own police, our facilities, IT department, and movers all bill each other, like a nice little closed off economic system.  The place is so out of touch with reality it isn’t even funny.  And the funniest part about it is while they are spreading their Marxist dogma to these poor students, they are also whispering in corners, hoping that someone doesn’t hear about how unhappy they are, or what black market hustle they’ve got going on just to pay the bills.

These names of the 65 are written on a piece of paper someone is keeping on their desk, I am certain.  I hate that everyone is tiptoeing around, worried about who is next.  We all shuffled in to work today and sat down and dutifully started our day, just like always.  I think about how easy it actually is to herd people into box cars.  We just all do what we are told until that final moment of panic, when finality is realized.

The faculty are getting a pay raise at our expense.

The truth be told, not many people here actually do much work.  For the most part, they only do what they are told, they don’t question where something is going or where it came from.  They do the bare minimum and the rest of the time is spent shopping online, eating snacky treats, side hustles, schmoozing, double-crossing, covering one’s ass, and pretty much ticking down the hours of a dull day in quiet desperation until retirement because everyone’s dicks get hard over PERA.

Yes, because having cuts and layoffs and inept coworkers and scumbag upper administrator bosses and throat-cutting co-workers are so worth that retirement.

So you can have enough money to sit on your ass at home and wait to die.  Just like you sat on your ass all day at work, slowly killing yourself with stress.

Sounds perfect.

Today, the Dean came into the office and said, “How is everyone today?”

I answered, “About as well as can be expected! hahaha!”

I got the side eye for that.  Yes, because one of the biggest things I have been reminded of as long as I have worked here, as long as I dated a faculty person, as long as I have a used car and live hand to mouth, while the mucky-mucks complain about the service they got on their last “Conference” trip abroad…

My place.

I am continually reminded of my place.

Well, the place they want me to be in.  They know nothing about me or how getting out of here might be the best thing that ever happened to me.  But I’m sure if they did, they would hold me so close to their hearts it would smother the life out of me.

I am the help.  I am the faithful servant who like in times gone by would stand as the loyal footman or valet for his master, giving up his life in Service to the manor.

This idea strikes me as completely preposterous.