Days of waiting have added up to weeks now. It’s been a cold so bitter and biting that I’m pretty sure my next reflection will show me that my nose is, in fact, no longer present. I suspect the northerly that blows so consistently these days sank its icy teeth and ripped it off sometime last night but without any feeling left in my face, I’m left to speculate. Oh well.
With the nights colder and the days getting shorter, it takes a little more determination to do the things one must do to survive this life of uncertainty and constant travel with no end in sight. Music, exercise, socializing — life. You know.
It takes real effort when the sky is grey and flies drop like weighted-down clumps of lint from the sudden loss of temperature. Sitting down at a desk next to a window to write means taking off gloves, something I’m averse to in an ice age apartment littered with the corpses of frozen mosquitoes. And writing like this takes more than inspiration; it takes determination, a combination of will power beating up on creativity. It takes balls. Also, it takes something I lack at the moment, and that is a space heater.
But discipline is a very valuable thing, and it’s malleable, since you can pound the hell out of it and eventually get results. Creativity, though, is a much larger bitch altogether and you can’t beat her to death with a stick – like a woman that’s worth having, she comes when she wants to, not when she’s called.
But discipline is what’s important and if you beat it for long enough, creativity tends to come out – not as a general rule but statistically the odds are there. Even Mark Twain had to write copy to pay the bills, and HST wrote a lot of shit that would’ve found a more comfortable home in a recycle bin than on the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. And these things are worth remembering in times like this. It builds character and gets you through the troughs. Fortunately, whiskey also works well enough and my friend Jameson always goes to bat for me in the face of desperation.
It seems only weeks ago that I moved to Europe and became stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for my employer to figure out where to send me. Days and days went by with nothing produced but the paycheck stubs…they were rolling in on schedule and as planned, and thank God for that, since it’s all that justified my continued existence for a while.
What amounted to weeks of time went towards facebook, writing blogs for an audience of unknown size or demographic, and planning the end of the year party. Sometimes they blamed it on the commitment from the sales folk but whatever the reasons, there were those who noticed and took the time to describe my life as some kind of fantasy camp of doing nothing, receiving a steady paycheck and being told that you’ll travel next week. Sounds great, right?
Sure. But if doing nothing persists and next week never comes, the situation slowly becomes toxic. All kinds of pestilent and toxic things fester in stagnant, standing and idle waters. When no winds blow to dis-branch the leaves and ruffle the feathers, to ripple the waves and spread tourist trash, deadly things build up, and so it is with men. Like a frog in boiled water, it’s easy to adjust to what’s killing you, so long as you’re ignoring it. I almost got stuck in that trap once.
But these people know nothing of boiling frogs. Doing nothing for extended periods of time is an endurance trial; it’s the most exhausting and physically draining activity you can engage in, next to cab driving or soccer.
So I try to endure. Remain dour and steadfast – hold out. Man is a beast of very few actual needs; an incredibly stalwart and resilient animal. Man can survive on astoundingly low quantities of food and water, comfort and shelter; he can push the limits of rest where sleep is concerned, intoxicate his body beyond reason and even watch entire marathons of Kirsten Dunst movies, if it came to that. But he needs validation; he needs purpose. Without it he goes insane with ennui, and that’s just the best case scenario. Sometimes a man will snap, and that’s when you get things like serial killers, tractor pulls and Miss America pageants, and eventually, in extreme cases, Scientology.
I was on the verge of crossing this line.
Yet now, as I continue to observe the city, its people and its tourists, I am reminded that I am not one of them. I may walk among them now, but I am not one of them no matter how much I want to be. And so the old question burns me more than ever.
I no longer wonder whether to move abroad, of course – it’s a little late in the game for that kind of hesitation. I’ve already peaced-out, closed accounts and paid foreign taxes. It’s not about moving because that’s just logistics. And when it’s on the company dime, I eat logistics for breakfast. After all, here I am, sitting canal-side, watching boats go by with “Amsterdam” written on their aft, and admiring myself for having taken the game even this far. But where does it stop? When do you go back?
I’m starting to suspect that it doesn’t stop; that I don’t go back. It’ll go on until I collapse or do something stupid like get married again. And we can’t have that, can we?
No, no we can’t. And now we know better.
I guess the itch, the question in question was never so much about Can it be done but rather: Can I see this through? Can I make this work? Friends, on this side of the pond permanently now, I am that much closer to something that I can describe as redemption & validation at the same time. Stay tuned for a more finalized judgment. But know that Europe and I — we’re working.