Friday, September 24, 2010

A View of Something Beautiful

There's always a temptation for me to be pessimistic. I'm a glass half empty person, historically and it's taken a concerted effort for me to vocalize and act optimistic. Changing my behavior patterns to ones that favor and foster optimism is hard work. (It's more often Fuck my life and hardly ever Fuck! My life!) So, when my roomate, a ditzy gay kid maybe 4 years my junior, clogs the sink in the room while cutting his own hair and leaves it filled, 80ish percent with water and then is about to leave to go dancing for the night, I immediately feel the years of my age on my back.

(I make him clean it up, which requires he find a cup and literally scoop out the water and pour it into a trash can. That's how much water was in there.)

So that's not good, but on average, this is a fantastic change and something that I have really to thank globalization for. Case: I was listening to the new record from Envy (called Recitation, below), a Japanese screamo band, while reading 2666, by a South American and Spanish author translated into English, in an Italian bistro where I would soon get gelato.

It is hard to argue with the thesis of these months. Sure, I recognized that I am incredibly privileged, five or six times over to go on this trip, but man, this couldn't have happened thirty, twenty or even five years ago. Yes, I am immersing myself in many other cultures and seeing what works out. I am so very cosmopolitan.

Or am I?

2666 is a book nerd's book, Envy's a screamo band that is loved by maybe 10,000 people tops in this world and both of those pieces of media are things that are intimidating to people who want to interact with me. The headphones shut out verbal communication and if there's movement meant for my consumption, I'm too absorbed in the book to see it.

Even as I'm supposed to be absorbing new culture and different ideas, I'm still listening to the same bands I was before and as opposed to changing my behavior, becoming a little less obviously anti-social and interacting only in a way that is prefunctory (Can I buy a coke? Yes, it will be 2 Euro. Okay, thanks.) Yes, I'm not going out to the usual bars for entirely mediated behavior where expats and dudes looking for American girls speak the language.

Am I just contributing to the rise of the American mono-culture around the world? Am I an unknowing agent of the societal chlorine that is Americans abroad? Okay. Societal chlorine might be going a little far and is extremely insulting to the kids going out who are a) trying to have a fun time in a familiar-ish setting, but also b) didn't sign up to be a kind of post-globalization punching bag.

Still, we're all caught up in systems, few of which of are our choice. And now that I think I see the system and the ripples of my behavior, I can't look away, right? I am far more fettered than it is fashionable to admit. But even including fetters, this is an incredible opportunity, one that I'd do well to take advantage of. I'm not entirely sure I am, and even if I were...I'm not sure I know what it means, which sounds like a great subject for another blog.

A friend, however, IMed some sense into me: you're in fucking rome. I'm somewhere beautiful. I have friends in and outside of the screenbox of my laptop and I'm comfortable. Life's good, but I still wonder about what's obscured in the view....

The song comes from the Canadian punk band, the Flatliners, off of their reinvigorating 2010 disc called Cavalcade. Lyrically, the song is about accepting your faults while being in a world that is more fantastical and wider than you can believe. Also, they rep Chicago in it, so there's a little bias on my end. But still: It's a song about being on tour, seeing crazy shit and realizing that it's awesome.

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