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Record of my Failures

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Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
8:31 pm - Late Bloomin' Onion
Stuck in a culture that celebrates precociousness with creepy ferocity, I think I am a late bloomer. Regardless of talent or entertainment value, youth is prized as a virtue, rather than an accident of time. Honey Boo Boo is a phenomenon with which far too many people are familiar, but instead of being overweight and overbearing and more or less ignored/disregarded, the culture exploits her youthful naivety, and the dumb fuckery of her guardians, for a cheap laugh.

My youth is slipping away, and I'm beginning to feel it in the way I'm treated by others. On one hand, I'm granted authority and gravity by others which immediately lends weight to whatever I opine. On the other hand, relinquishing my youthful sexual indiscretions to the past seems to have robbed me of the energy and magnetism of the same. Long story short, I don't feel pretty any more.

Time has moved on. I have gotten married, lost my father, adopted a puppy, moved more times than I care to recall, started travelling around the world more frequently, and have stopped wearing Chuck Taylors everywhere. Adulthood is exhausting. I work too much, and despise the sameness. I'm upending my life for a new opportunity, and I dread the change. I have spent so much time being unsure of myself and self-deprecating, I now struggle with enormous overconfidence marked by pocks of devastating doubt. My wife more or less dresses me. It's too much trouble to fight about it, most of the time. I don't even have a decent hoodie at this point.

Not that this is a passionate argument for couture or anything, but I feel that without my power items, I'm less comfortable, less confident, and less... myself than I would be otherwise. I've always been subject to and the source of many contradictions, and now that I'm starting to pursue an advanced degree in a very image- and status-conscious field, I realize that which would make me feel powerful is contraindicated by the prejudices of others in that field. At the same time, fuck a big bag of them.

Being this age, and feeling more constrained by circumstances than I did 5 years ago is fucking absurd. Feeling this isolated is also unnatural; between a workplace almost entirely filled with people in whom I am uninterested, and no time/opportunity to hang out with the exceptions, I'm drowning in guilt and responsibility. This s exactly the life I was running away from when I moved to Allston goddamned 15 years ago.

Back to school this autumn, I will take this as an opportunity to adjust the compass, re-set my path, and reacquaint myself with myself, and if someone doesn't think that I can be effective in a black zip-up and a shitty attitude, I'd like to be able to throw my GPA in their face. Won't be easy, but not much that's worth doing is. Being yourself while succeeding in a challenging profession-- now that is pretty fucking punk.

current mood: Frustrated or lonely or angry or something

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Monday, April 18th, 2011
8:10 pm - Welcome back, Kotter
so, a lot of time has gone by. When I started writing this, I was in my mid-20's, really loved drinking, punk rock, and chicks. I mean, I loved reading, I was just really educating myself about politics, injustice, environmentalism etc., but I felt incredibly boxed in by financial constraints, contentious family issues, and not having any direction. But mainly, I loved going to bed with girls I barely knew because it made me feel better about how much I disliked certain things about myself. So it goes, and so it went.

In that time, I've come a lot closer to a degree (looks like I'll graduate in a month, with a totally respectable GPA nonetheless), have a soon-to-be-wife, and just can't bring myself to drink like I used to. I mean, it's fun hanging out, but if I'm not cruising for ladies (which I'm not, to be clear), what's the point of spending all night at the bar when last call doesn't have the same significance, the same promise?

It saddens me that I had, at one point, a pretty tight community of friends, a really great circle of acquaintances, and lived in a place that fostered getting to know people. I made some bold decisions, some which worked out, and some which didn't. I left a job with people I loved because I needed to try doing something else. I miss that little community more than I ever would have guessed. It defined everything that made working in a restaurant great, but I just couldn't be static for any longer.

The next job was a lot harder, with people less similar to me, but oddly enough, they have, over time, become fixtures in my life as well. I honestly didn't think we'd ever really connect, and it is indeed a different set of relationships, but I am thankful to know them.

The next job left me a little colder, a little further away from old friends, and while I definitely met some great people and cemented some friendships, I still found myself isolated by a long commute, shitty pay, and the aftermath of the fire.

As a result, I am embarrassingly alone. Despite having a terrific relationship, and coming a long way in terms of personal growth, I somehow lost a lot of the people I had along the way. Isolation, lack of communication, and the people I was closest to now largely live a minimum of 3,000 miles away, and we don't talk nearly as much as I'd like. It's sad, but I don't even have a best man at this point, because my main candidate lives in nuclear-devastated Japan. My high school friends are really pleasant acquaintances that I see on Facebook, but I don't know them in day to day life. My college friends live all over the world, the few that I've kept up with, and have wives and families that keep them occupied and fulfilled. I talk to some of my post-college friends, and we see each other from time to time, but very little in my life resembles that intensity, that hitting the bars a few times a week, even that fucking kickball game on top of Mission Hill and drinks on Calumet before, during, after.

Is it normal? Is it advisable? I mean, I'm writing in a fucking journal, because this is really bothering me, and I don't feel right about it. It's sort of private, sort of personal, but at the same time, it's a really public forum, because as much as part of me just wants to vent, another part wants answers, suggestions, something.

I look at my friends lists on Facebook, and it's a mix of friendly professional contacts, favorite places/celebrities, and a history of people that I've cared about and somehow disconnected from over the years.

Talking with one of my best friends about how we aren't really friends anymore brought a lot of this home. We were at one point inseparable, but a lot of things changed that. Nobody is faultless, nobody is entirely to blame. The saddest, most cringe-inducing part of this conversation, for me anyway, is that it is the best talk I've had with anyone outside my fiancee about anything. People still talk, debate, discuss, and now that I actually have a little education, I feel like perhaps I could keep up and contribute a little better. But those old opportunities are gone-- the world shifts, we can only try to keep up.

The thing is, I used to know exactly who I was. What I hated, what I loved, what I wanted and what I rejected-- I knew all of it like a recitation, a poem. Now so many of those ideas have evolved, or are in flux. I still believe in much of what I've learned, but I have also learned not simply to accept but to dissect. I am typically good at dissecting, theorizing, finding flaws. Perhaps this is part of the problem. I write, sometimes, and then I lose it, or hide it, or simply walk away from it. Part of me wants to write a book detailing my own emotional development over time, giving it to my kids (if and when they occur) to help them through the protracted existential crisis that is life. The person who was me at 25 has been built up and kicked down more than a few times, and bears little resemblance to the old me. I don't even know how I'd feel about myself, were the two of me to meet. I don't think love or hate, acceptance or rejection would capture the subtle politics of negotiating with a past version of myself.

Something funny: at one point, I would have paid far more attention to the language, flow, nuance and rhythm of this piece. I would have wanted to include poignant metaphors, maybe alliteration or painful-yet-insightful irony. This was partly natural, as I loved a certain kind of spare-yet-lyrical style, and partly purposeful, as I wanted people to read this, and think to themselves "hey, this person's uncanny ability to capture a feeling and devastate me with well-chosen phrases makes me think we should give him a book deal and lots of admiration."

Instead, this is plainly speaking. In a way, this little dilemma of mine (because honestly, those suffering from nuclear meltdown, tornadoes, political persecution and torture have something very tangible and very real to concern themselves) is the most soul-baring thing I've done in years. I have a few more issues to vent, but at this point, I'm boring myself with being sad or whatever this is. I have homework to do, so I'll concentrate on that, and try to figure out just who the fuck I am now in the meantime.

"Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they're turned around."

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Saturday, January 1st, 2011
2:47 am - NYD
I see fat girls, ankles barely holding straight with the strain and slip of dirty, icy Boston thoroughfares, clambering on their dates for support. I see hot drunk girls, undies flashing and long legs akimbo as they shove fingers down their throats, or cross against greens, or makeout out with the calculating sleaze that have bought their drinks tonight.

I see the homeless, constantly with cups rattling, mumbling, bold stares and awkward exchanges, surly clerks, who honestly don't give a shit if you're polite or not to them; they are that far removed from humanity.

I see the reckless piece of shit who almost rammed his car into mine as he blew through a red. Young, drunk, and behind the wheel, I'm glad i don't have a gun or the new year would have started with a bang.

I see the year I've wasted at this job, this opportunity lost and time pushed forward. This excursion was healthy at one point, or at least a steppingstone; how did I end up underneath it?
I graduate in May, and may I put this kitchen behind me, strap on a tie, and try to do some good in the world.

What I can't see is who I've been, where I've gone, and how I got lost along the way. I feel like I'm living someone else's life-- I'm pretty sure I can do better than this.

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Sunday, December 27th, 2009
11:46 pm - hm
Saw Sherlock Holmes. Entertaining enough, largely forgettable, and at no point did I see the part where Rachael McAdams prances about in thigh-highs, which I was really looking forward to.

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Saturday, November 28th, 2009
10:58 am
I do not find Malin Ackerman attractive.

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Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
9:59 am - hmmm
strange things are afoot at the circle K...

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Monday, November 9th, 2009
1:09 pm - I'm watching
an episode of Simply Ming, and I swear to god, he's drunk.
See if you can find the "Thai Basil, Butter" episode, and listen to the slurring.

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Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
1:07 pm - changes
new job today, part time times 2... scary, but I hope worth it.
We'll see.

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Friday, September 18th, 2009
10:01 am - transport
I like things I can't afford. Yet, when I think of jobs I can do that pay a lot, I gag.
My options:

1) Back to computer programming. Ok, well, it probably doesn't pay less than when I did that, but likely not more, and what with outsourcing and a larger pool or qualified applicants, I'd have to fight like hell for a job I hated. Um... no.

2) Male Prostitute. Well, the hours aren't great, and work isn't necessarily steady, but I think with a 6-hour-a-day regimen of running, yoga, pilates, and weightlifting, I could probably firm up enough to be a passable male prostitute. I'm not sure my gf would be thrilled with the idea, and I'd have to let all kinds of standards drop, but assuming $100/h (I have no idea what one would actually get, but that seems safe enough for illegal escorting) I could work 8 hours a week and be totally comfortable.

3) Media god/punk rocker/writer/poet. The only problem is, I'd actually have to FINISH something I worked on. My dead laptop, if recoverable, is a goldmine of interested and sometimes tuneful half-finished ideas.

I dunno... maybe back-to-school for little Robertchik?

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Thursday, September 10th, 2009
11:34 am
I just want to make MORE money. What is valuable to people? What would you pay for voluntarily? There are plenty of ways to get in trouble involuntarily... hm. Hm.

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Monday, September 7th, 2009
9:06 pm
I've been really emotional lately. There isn't a rational explanation for any of this, I think, but it's pretty intense. I've been reading a lot more, which is terrific, I've been unsure of my job, which is normal for me, I've been super-affectionate toward my gf, which is also great, but little triggers are setting me off and I'm feeling on the verge of tears for no real reason. I have gone huge lengths of time without crying. I mean, I'm a guy, These stretches go for like 5 years at a time.

What the fuck is happening to me? Do I have brain cancer? Prostate cancer? WTF is going on? I'm seriously concerned about this, because honest to god-- sappy movies, love stories, fucking John Denver songs are getting me all worked up.

I'm a lot more isolated, which is a less pansy way of saying, I'm lonelier than I've been in a while (outside of my terrific gf, but that's a totally different type of interaction. I only want one person to fill that romantic emotional need :) ) but I do feel socially less adept than I have in years.

That said, I think it is a contributing factor, I definitely don't think it is the root of this. I'm seriously afraid of finding out I have some sort of tumor on the emotional part of my brain.

In other news, I'm sick of eating. I can't find anything that drives me wild, yet it is a daily need. I need some exciting food.

In other other news, anyone remember Monica Potter? She was in like 50 movies in 2 years, and I haven't heard from her since. She was pretty without being gorgeous, did some comedy, some drama, but I had utterly forgot about her until I randomly thought of her. Then, today, I see "Along Came a Spider" on Flix.

I hope my moment is still ahead of me.

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Friday, September 4th, 2009
11:52 am
I've been reading "Sophie's World" and enjoying it (Thanks, Default!) and realizing that I want to go to school for the sake of it. It's too damned bad that real life gets in the way of that which you'd like to do in order to grow as a person.

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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
1:08 pm
I'm not entirely sure I want to cook anymore. I like cooking, but honestly, I look around, and I see people like me are sous chefs, I know a couple of chefs, and then the field disappears-- what happens to all of those driven, talented, ambitious cooks who worked their way up the ladder for a bit? Is it really such a huge gap between sous chef and chef that there is nowhere to go, nothing to do? Where do all of these ex-sous chefs, these ex-chef-de-cuisines go? Do? What working world makes the next sensible step?

I'm just not happy in such a low-paying industry. Of course, once you hit chef, even a shitty job pays comfortably into the middle class, but it's strictly poverty-level wages until then. As much as I hate to admit it, even though I enjoy the work, the directness, the simplicity, the artistic and athletic potential, I don't know that I care about it enough to deal with such limited options financially...

So now, what next?

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Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
6:01 pm
I've been having some weird dreams, some nightmares. I saw "The Time Traveler's Wife" yesterday and even though I read the book, even though I knew what was going to happen, even though it wasn't the most perfectly adept at extracting emotion, it totally got to me. I was a misty-eyed little girl at the end. I mean, there are parts of the book/movie that I find to be kind of cheesy, I mean stereotypical women's dramatic novel writing (not that I've read her work in any depth at all, but what I take Jodi Picoult to be), but that probably keeps the books moving and the numbers up. The way she deals with mortality, however, displays a deft touch with the most profound experiences most of us will experience.

I don't know; I've been really low, really moody lately, with little manic bursts of ok and productive. I try to throw myself into work, which usually hides my issues if not solving them, but I'm just not that into it. I don't feel like I'm on the track I'm supposed to be on, and it definitely doesn't feel like the "leadership role" and "management training" that I was led to believe a month or two earlier. I think my work is filled with people that want to do a good job, make some money, and feel ok about the food they make. It's not a bad situation at all. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do next. I've become a much better cook, but not at all a better chef; my brain is starving for stimulation. I do like what's been happening in terms of the pure athleticism of cooking, but I read books that should take a week in a few hours; I pore through books I've read and get super-anxious, and I dismiss fluffier reads with actual anger.

I want to go to what I always imagined school to be, but not what it really is. I wish there were schools for people like me, but they would probably be far too indulgent of me even if they existed. Actually, that would sort of be the point of them: tell me that I am special while putting me through the paces of actually getting better and learning more, and perhaps, how to effectively APPLY some of that learning. I'm like a sponge that doesn't wring out-- sort of semi-useful, but definitely only doing half of the job.

I went to the library to get books on:
cooking, basic electrical devices, refrigeration, whatever I could find by Neil Gaman because I really enjoyed American Gods, maybe something basic on philosophy, because quite honestly, I read a page or so and then all I see is "unprovable bullshit on repeat" but that is largely my own ignorance, house repair basics, fashion history, and everything else that caught my eye.

The nearest branch closed yesterday for repairs. I stood outside, and felt a disappointment so profound I almost sat down and gave up. I wish there were some point in giving up-- some statement, some rebellion. I thought there was; I gave up on economically prosperous work because it reeked of corruption and greed and exploitation. I've given up on more relationships than I care to count, and of course every hurt or hardship I've put other people through is weighing heavily on me. I'm racked with a constant low-level guilt. I've given up on completing my education, partially because even if I do finish, what good will it do me? Will I be a more whole human being? Will I make more money? Will I be intrinsically better? I am kicking around ideas of going back, but probably in CA. There is less and less keeping me here, as friends and lovers and acquaintances all slip away.

Giving up hasn't actually gotten me anywhere, but it did at least get me off the track of misery that I'd been pursuing. That was a long time ago. If you want things to happen, you have to make them happen. Perhaps magic and magical thinking work for some people, but I am not one of them.

It occurred to me that games we play as children-- Monopoly, Risk, etc., aren't pastimes. They are training manuals for dehumanizing and un-moralizing our thinking. I wrote this somewhere, but possibly in a short story I started but will likely not finish. Games teach us to hurt others in order to win for ourselves. I hate games, and always have. It revulsed me to do sketchy things in order to beat my sweet mom or little sisters in a game, but that is what is required to win. This is why gentler nations die off and are taken over. We love violence, and trickery, and dishonesty. There are a lot of reasons to be good at these things. I'm not innocent of that behavior, and I feel like shit most of the time because of my own exploration of those qualities.

I don't care who, if anyone, reads this. I feel a little better for having written it. I'm going to mope and ruminate and try to kill some time and find some happiness.

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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
12:39 am - bkbbnm
This has been one of the most emotionally exhausting days of my entire life.
At least as of 39 minutes ago it is over. My sister is now a mother, my personal life is in semi-turmoil, and my professional life is still murky.

This is the shit journals were made for.

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Friday, July 31st, 2009
11:15 am - Trudging slowly over
wet sand? no. ten years or so-- yes.
They say it's always darkest before dawn, and while that's a horrible cliche, don't you think that people eventually start to notice patterns? It's worse when you half-adapt to the patterns you see, and you see signs for something, recognize it as such, and then remember some adage and react inappropriately anyway.

Every day is a big day.

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Monday, July 13th, 2009
10:57 am - Saw Bruno last night
It was weird--
it wasn't a good movie, but I felt laughter being almost involuntarily ripped out of my body by the extremity and absurdity of the situations presented.
Painful, but sort of worthwhile. Very well paced, if nothing else.

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Thursday, July 9th, 2009
3:26 pm
I wonder how life would be different without headaches.

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Saturday, June 13th, 2009
1:47 am
ok one more thing--
Sex Decoy- Love Stings
Ridiculous, exploitative, nonsensical reality show
this woman runs a detective agency/sting operation
(1: Entrapment)
with her daughters
(2: worst parent ever? No, but top 100, definitely)
named Jasmine, Kashmir, and Xanadu
(3: ok, top 10)
the fattest of whom seems to be a stripper.
(4: No comment. Seriously, what can you say to that?)

Dear Fox,
get off the fucking air.

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12:28 am
So my gf is gone for a couple of days. I am working, and I got 2 cookbooks so I am fairly well entertained. I need to find someone with laptop expertise, because I want to see if my Dell can be salvaged, but Microcenter wants 2 weeks and $70 to even look at it. I don't blame them, but if it's a total loss, I don't want to add $70 to the total loss.
I'm having an identity crisis. This may seem lame, but it's a cooking identity crisis. It seems that all roads lead to France, but some of the food/technique, I'm just not feeling. There are things done to vegetables that don't seem right sometimes, and even Michel Richard (very French background, but the cooking style is all his own) said something along the lines of in French cooking, a potato can't just be a potato-- you have to turn it into a mushroom first.

So on the one hand, extraordinarily fussy food is less appealing to me, especially as honestly, it will all turn into poop anyhow. I honestly find it depressing that my best work will someday end up in a sewer someday. On the other hand, while I love rustic, regional cooking, with big flavors and interesting vegetable/meat choices, it can degrade quickly into mediocrity. A little laziness and suddenly, your braise is overdone, your veggies poorly cut, your sauces not seasoned correctly. Your senses are overwhelmed by garlic, cheap wine, and ridiculous folk costumes. There is no happy ending here, unless you like big women and vicious regional limitations.

It is frustrating: shortcuts like lemon juice, garlic, parm, truffle oil, and even butter, can take ok or mediocre dishes and make them palatable. Same for shallots, chives, caramelized onions, and smoking anything. Don't get me wrong-- I like all these flavors, but they are an easy answer to the complex question of "What tastes good?" Cultures outside of the Western canon are inspired and flavorful, but no less immune to the disease. Scallions, garlic, and ginger are a fabulous combination, but when you start with that, add a sweet/spicy sauce, and maybe add mushrooms, then you are falling into the formulaic rut that makes food that appeals to the palate just fine, but leaves the brain and sense of adventure a little flat.

Am I like the porn addict, so desensitized by indulgence that he has to find weirder and weirder things to stay turned on, or the drug addict who tolerates more and more in order to chase that first high all over again?

The first thing that springs to mind is to stop eating, and humiliate myself with some unpresupposing food.
Well, I've tried that. Crappy food still pisses me off. I could not eat for 3 or 4 days, but if breaking my fast with a McDonald's hamburger was my only choice, you know I'd resent it. I mean, I'd eat the hell out of it, along with 5 or 6 of its brothers, but I'm saying, I'd critique the sweet/salty/cheese flavor, too much sugar and not enough beefy umami, and how utterly unsatisfying it is on its own.

The New American thing, which in my mind, has roots in Italian cuisine maybe a little moreso than a lot of others, can be the simplest, purest, most succinct expression of great ingredients to whom justice has been done. Sometimes, though, it's a random fish, a lot of corn, and $30 per plate price tags for something that I more or less could have done at home with a cookbook and a little patience. Again, not always true by any stretch, but it's so hard to not throw in the bad with the good when you never know what a particular dish at a particular restaurant will end up being.

So the question is, what now?
I'm not sure I'm patient enough for Japan, parochial enough for Italy, fussy enough for France, or humble enough for Buffalo. I have so goddamned much to learn, but I know that what I have learned has some value. I just wish I knew which direction to go in next. I know I need to get out and eat. When I was dating Sarah, we hit a lot of places, and between the two of us, had a pretty good idea of who was doing what, where. When I dated Kimberly, we elevated each other's insights and figured things out that would have been damned near impossible for either of us to do on our own. We were best as a team. Chelsea has a good palate, and her ability to embrace the basic, as well as find the flaws in the pretentious, keep my seasoning and technique under constant scrutiny, in a good way. It's like finding out what people think, right or wrong, without the gradual brainwashing that can happen after too much restaurant food, where of course berries are served with sweetened creme fraiche, and that summer squash is used as much as possible (because it takes up space and is really, really cheap) and by adding (balsamic reduction, truffle oil, outlandish aioli, rare evoo) some middle-of-the-road dish is transformed into that special meal that never turns out quite right when you try it at home.

I'll probably burn lots of potential bridges with this line of thought, but honestly, do you ever imagine that with a little technique, a lot of thought, and a whole shit-ton of trial-and-error, a more daring, honest, and slightly alienating cuisine is possible? Or perhaps, many of them? I say alienating because as flavors becme more distinct, they become less universal. Of course, if meat tastes like garlic, tomato sauce, and parmaggiano reggiano, it is universally easy to love. Once these meats start tasting like themselves, some will love, some will be indifferent toward, and some will be mildly disgusted be them. But they will know.

Ok, time to go to sleep and do it all again tomorrow.

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