Monday, November 11, 2013

Howdy Neighbor, or A Nightwalker on Elm Street

Here's your playlist for today:

Best of Jill Hives - Guided By Voices (live in Austin)
Devil with the Green Eyes - Matthew Sweet (for all you green-eyed she-devils out there)
Almost Crimes - Broken Social Scene ("We've got love, and hate, it's the only way.")
Love Me Or Leave Me - Nina Simone (Excellent advice.)
Photobooth - Death Cab for Cutie (Because some relationships are just plain shitty. But at least you have pictures.)
I Will Survive - Cake (Funny cover.)
Total Eclipse of the Heart - The Dan Band (Very funny cover. And for-fucking-ever really is going to start tonight.)
Girl in the War - Josh Ritter (No comment.)
Anybody Wanna Take Me Home - Ryan Adams (Been there.)
Lover in the Snow - Rivers Cuomo (This song makes me think about what it might be like to find out your de facto wife has been fucking your best friend. Yeah, it's pretty much like that.)
Something I Can Never Have - Nine Inch Nails (A sleeper from Pretty Hate Machine, for true fans.)
The Perfect Song - The National ("I'm looking out the window, sittin' there, sittin' there just fuckin' drinkin'.")
66 - Afghan Whigs ("You walked in, just like smoke, with a little come on, come on, come on in your walk.")
Free - The Martinis (Nod to freedom, whatever that means.)
Fatal Wound - Uncle Tupelo (Nod to fatal wounds.)
Place to Be - Nick Drake (Nod to Nick Drake, and the weakness of the palest blue.)
Dear Chicago - Ryan Adams ("I've been thinking some of suicide, but there's bars out here for miles.")
Femme Fatale - Velvet Underground ("You're written in her book, you're number thirty-seven, have a look." I miss Lou Reed already.)

This morning when I left my apartment building to grab a cup of coffee, I stumbled upon a flier sitting on the ground outside the front door. I glanced around and noticed more copies wedged under people's windshield wipers. At first glance it appeared to be just an ordinary sheet of copier paper, with an unfamiliar URL printed across the bottom and three grainy black and white photos of a pretty blonde running down the right hand side. Then I noticed what was clearly the intended message, in oversized bold font: "FYI Your neighbor {name withheld, by me, not by the helpful informer} is a PROSTITUTE!" (Emphases his, or hers.) This announcement prompted me to look more closely at the rest of the flier, and, sure enough, it turned out to be a printout from the "female escorts" section of an online personals page. There you have it, then: one of my neighbors is a prostitute. Thankfully, it's not one of the old ladies who sit in the lobby in their bathrobes, swapping disappointments.

I've never met the woman in question -- I haven't met any of my neighbors, actually, not even the old ladies in their bathrobes. I haven't met her, but I've seen her around. She has a young daughter of indeterminate age, maybe pre-school, maybe kindergarten, maybe just a bit older. For a brief time it looked like she had a boyfriend, as I saw her walking hand-in-hand with a guy a few times. Beyond that, she just seems young and sort of pretty and kind of dumb (in her ad she offers a "100% Satisfaction Guarenty" -- plus I've heard her speak). And she has sex for money.

But that's not the story, or at least it's not the part of the story that I find compelling. No, the real story is who made and distributed those fliers, and why? That's the question that intrigues me. I suppose it could have been some nosy, self-appointed moral crusader who takes it upon him- or herself to let everyone else know what's good for them (and apparently living in proximity to a prostitute is not good for you). Or -- and this is the only one that delights me -- maybe it's one of her competitors. I can tell you, from having done some impressively exhaustive research, there are a lot of female escorts in this zip code. They're decidedly similar: same heavy make-up jobs, same series of revealing outfits, same poses in their photos, painfully similar grammar and spelling skills. So how do you set yourself apart in a tight market? Why, eliminate the competition, of course. Obviously, the most likely scenario is that it was a guy, some jilted dickhead who, sadly, knows where she's vulnerable and was bitter enough to act on it. And so he told her neighbors what she does for a living, which is a pretty shitty thing to do, if you ask me. I've said and done some pretty lousy things in the wake of bad breakups, but that's a bit much, even for me.

Which takes me to my topic for today: relationships. I've had occasion of late to think a lot about relationships, and I suppose the playlist above, which was plucked from several hours of iTunes shuffle time, is reflective of those ruminations. I've seen too many friends lately going through circumstances that fall on the spectrum between aggravating at the better extreme and devastating at the other. The best of the bad has reminded me why I prefer being single (and more than once I've said so, out loud, to the person venting his frustrations). The worst of it has stirred up, from a deep, dank place, a host of unpleasant memories.

Relationships fail for a vast array of reasons, but more often than not the way in which they ultimately blow apart is that one of the two participants starts to behave like kind of an asshole. They pull away, lie, blame the other person for everything that's wrong. Honestly, it's pretty grotesque. And yet it seems inevitable, doesn't it?

I'd like to state for the record that I am not, nor do I consider myself in any way, an expert on relationships. I am, however, a bit of an aficionado. I had a relationship once that, it's fair to say, bestowed upon me a double-major in batshit crazy and whatever is the opposite of logic, with a minor in lingering self-doubt. It was a perfect microcosm of the prominent stereotype that suggests that men are rational and reasonable while women are emotional and, well, crazy. I don't happen to believe in this stereotype generally: I think rational people, regardless of gender, are rational, and irrational people just fucking suck. The most stunning example of our specific disconnect, hers and mine, was the way in which she could somehow justify the shitty things she did by asserting I was too this or too that, and in the next breath insist that I wasn't entitled to blame the way in which I reacted (back then, a lot of yelling and some pretty choice curse words) on anything she did. She practiced a sort of Alice in Wonderland logic, which works like this: I wasn't angry because she'd been fucking my best friend, I was angry because I was just angry, and I needed to not be that way. Curioser and curioser.

Sins on all sides, though. We were both unhappy, we just played it out in different ways. She wanted to close her eyes and not open them until everything felt alright again, while I didn't want to close my eyes for even a second until I'd fixed the whole goddamned thing. That's who we were -- who are now, in fact. Except that she's still out there looking for love, while I'm content with the notion that I probably won't love any of them, so instead I'll love as many of them as I can and leave it at that. And for better or worse, I'll tell you this: my way makes it a hell of a lot easier to waste an entire day listening to music, drinking beer and writing a blog. At no point did anyone ask me if I wanted to go to the container store. And for that I am grateful.

Hope you liked the playlist. I'm going to go get to know my neighbors.

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