Saturday, November 1, 2008

CLUTTER

Ideally, I'd be living in a concrete box with high ceilings, polished concrete floor (or real hardwood), and enormous windows to let the sun expose with bright exclamation the fact that I own only three pieces of furniture. I want to live in a space that would make Mies van der Rohe complain, "Goddamn it's stark in here." I want to own near nothing. But I am so so far from that goal. I own more furniture than my crib can handle. I've kept a pair of nifty wooden crutches that were left over from a tenant before me. I own four televisions, all of which are in no shape to televise. I own a judy -- or a Judy, depending on how desperately I crave the company of that torso and wish she weren't fabric. But my legs are not broken, I've quadrupled my bad reception, Judy judy is as useful to me as a mannequin of a yam. So why do I keep them? Because they are interesting. I enjoy curios. But curios and clutter are synonymous and contradict my quest for austerity.

Those objects of unfulfilled function belie a greater problem of mine, a problem so deeply psychological yet represented so innocently: I can't get rid of shoes. Many shoes. Many jackets. I have bags and bags and racks and racks of clothes that I have not touched in at least six years. Some, ten years. More. Jeans made for seriously fat men but I wore them in my youth because I was all hip-hop. T-shirts that are XXL, and yes, I proudly wore them like I was drowning in a lake of cotton. Jackets caked with grey dust from lack of movement over years of hanging in a closet without doors. Shoes that cut into my Achilles tendon so I wear them maybe once every leap year. Why do I keep these clothes? Because I might need them later. Because later, if I decide I want to wear my Fila track jacket that is bright and loud and exploding with Italian slogans and would be most appropriate if I had a Kawasaki Ninja between my thighs, I'll be thankful that I had the foresight to keep it. All XXL of it. Even if I hadn't worn that jacket since 2000. I keep things beyond their utility because I might need them in the future. I've cluttered my life in case tomorrow happens.

My problem extends beyond physical flotsam to intellectual jetsam. I'm a dedicated taker of notes. I'm a jotter. Every time I get an idea that is halfway useful, I write it down. My habit got to a point in 1999 where I invested in a small but chubby Mead Five Star notebook into which I would jot down thoughts. Maybe a snatch of conversation I eavesdropped on while riding the Sky Train. A sensation I had while eating a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. A phrase that sounded like a striking title. If it was a thought that was worth exploring, I would record it in my Mead, this poor kid's version of a Moleskine.

That book became books. Jot jot jot. If I had an idea in the living room and was too lazy to go to the bedroom to fetch a notebook, I'd grab whatever scrap paper was next to me and record the note. Or if I was out, I'd write notes on transit transfers, flyers, receipts, whatever paper was within reach. My folder of scraps became folders. It's not that I was bursting with thoughts and ideas -- it's that I had no organisation. I have pieces of ideas in several cities, in several books, in several folders. There's gotta be a better way. Now I write notes in my laptop, but again, they exist in numerous folders in numerous directories and oh my god how the hell am I gonna conglomerate? Right now, next to my laptop, is a torn yellow scrap with notes on Matisse and Dali that I jotted at MoMA (the first note reads: -Matisse, "The Piano Lesson", "The Red Studio": with my characters and composition --> oil, acrylic?). Underneath that yellow scrap is another paper with a doodle of my head with ellipses radiating from the forehead like electrons travelling around the nucleus (it's hard to explain, hence the doodle). And beneath that doodle?: notes about editing this very blog post that I'm writing now... My notes and thoughts are usually not important -- they're mostly superbly stupid -- but seem important enough at the moment that they warrant noting. My mind is in miscellaneous pieces scattered anywhere I sit long enough to form a thought, and I'm losing track. There's gotta be a better way, and that magical way is not different technology or different methodology, but different psychology. I need to clear my head, collect my mental detritus. Call the feral thoughts home for dinner.

It's a hardcore pain in the ass to take notes all the time. I jot down maybe five thoughts per day, sometimes more. I'm at the point now where if I get a semi-interesting thought, I roll my eyes. I'm sick of taking notes; recording ideas has become a chore. I constantly have to interrupt my work to write them down for fear of forgetting. Despite the diligence, I can't say my note-taking is an obsession. Rather, my note-taking is an act of optimism: I have hopes that I can use those notes later.

I do re-visit the notes. They are a resource for whenever I need to perk my mind. A source of inspiration, even. My muse is my Mead. Sometimes, a simple phrase that I jot will evolve into a project in which I invest great care and innumerable hours. Sometimes years will pass between the moment of jotting to the start of a project based on that scribble. The notes have proven fruitful, even if I've actualised only 0.03% of them. The fact that the notes are eventually used is the reason why I keep everything from a portable toy turntable to an enormous football jersey (I am neither enormous nor a grid ironer. File under: hip-hop). In June 2008 I resurrected a pair of Adidas after a five-year hiatus and all I can say is, "Goddamn I'm glad I didn't Smithrite you." I was happily shell-toed all summer long.

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Excerpts from my Mead Five Star:


April 10, 1999
Maybe I got fed up. Maybe I smartened up. I think I've gotten more observant, and realised just how much of my experience can be turned into a film, a play, a story, or simply merits recording. Too often have I been on the bus, noticed something wonderful, promised to write it down later... and didn't. All those ideas...
This is my immediate, portable, spontaneous companion to my "Good Ideas" pages at home. This is called "Thoughts".

April 10, 1999
I think I got my first hard-on walking by the store fixtures store on Kingsway. The shelf brackets, the clothes racks. The naked mannequins.

August 15, 2000
Life is like a wet dream. It's all good and pleasurable, then at the end, you realise: "Fuck! What a mess!"

November 26, 2000
My psychologist friend, when she calls things retarded, I'm not sure if she's being colloquial or clinical.

January 21, 2001
I've been interested in perversion since I was a perverted little boy.

April 10, 2003
This is so typical of me:
Last night, before going to bed, I convinced myself to have an erotic dream involving a girl at school I fancy.
And in my dream, I discovered that she has a boyfriend. That was the whole dream.

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