Late Night Thoughts and Shit #2

One of my biggest fears is that I might one day live in a bubble. Not an actual bubble — although, shit, that could be kind of cool — but like a bubble bubble. You know the kind. A bubble where you kind of only see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear. Where your worldview is reflected in your day-to-day life. That’s the kind of bubble that will have you surprised by Donald Trump’s popularity, or just how insanely poor most of America is, or how little anyone actually cares about your favorite band.

I don’t ever want to be in that kind of bubble. I don’t want to drink that kind of kool-aid. I don’t ever want to be too detached from how the average person is living. Not because I desire to be average, but because the most glaring downside to being in the bubble, so far as I can see, is how insanely boring it is. Maybe once, years ago, I flirted with the bubble. I may have even gone inside it for a bit. But after I was in for a while, I realized, man, this shit sucks. There’s nothing happening in here. It’s just a bunch of boring ass people trying to one up each other with even more boring stuff. It’s average too, but in a different kind of way.

I think you can get the temperature on how people feel much easier when you’re an outside kind of person. Not outside like you live outside, but just, you’re a person who is in the streets. You’re out there talking to people, observing, maybe even participating in some way or another. When things actually affect you, you can get a better sense for how they really are. To see, to feel — that is a key to understanding. Otherwise, you’re kind of just a spectator. Not saying you can’t have an opinion, but you take people a little more seriously when they have some skin in the game.

I thought it was cool how, on July 4th, Cinemax was airing “Malcolm X.” Whoever does programming for Cinemax, that was smart. You obviously picked up on the fact that July 4th really doesn’t mean shit to a whole gaggle of people, and that instead of all that patriotic stuff, they might want to see a different point of view. At the very least, it’s an entertaining portrayal of a very important person in our nation’s history, at a very important time in our nation’s history. I can never remember who won the Oscar over Denzel Washington that year — was it Clint Eastwood? — but talk about being robbed!

I’ve seen “Malcolm X” a million times. I remember going to see it in the theater with my father, crying at the end. Man, when Mandela comes out. Wow, that shit was heavy. Watching it the other night, I thought, isn’t it crazy how everyone turned on Spike Lee? With “Chiraq” last year, Spike couldn’t catch a break. I thought “Chiraq” was really good — the way Spike got treated over it was embarrassing. Two weeks ago, I was watching “Mo’ Better Blues,” thinking: Spike really had a great run. I’d put his first couple of films up against almost any other celebrated director and he’d either hold his own or come out on top.

I’m digging these late night journals. Nothing of importance gets thought about before midnight. Or, maybe it does, but the world seems so noisy, and it’s hard for me to focus. At night, my mind is kind of going wild, and there isn’t much else to do, so I have more time to write about it. When I used to drive home at night, it was even better. There’s something about the world whizzing by that just gets you thinking about shit.

The one risk you take with doing these things is needlessly offending people. Take it from me: there isn’t much to gain from writing your thoughts, unless you are specifically being asked for them. And even then, you’re probably going to offend people. The nature of having an opinion is that people will disagree with it. But these days, everything’s so damn politicized — people really read into what you write to the extent that it can come back and do you real harm. To be successful, I think, you need to just parrot back whatever other people are saying. People like to have their thoughts validated. They want to be congratulated for feeling how they feel. They want to be in the bubble.

Most successful people I know, they don’t really have too many thoughts about things. Well, I guess it depends on what you call successful. But they aren’t outwardly vocal about how they feel about shit. If anything, it’s the complete opposite. They are incredibly private, almost to the point that you wonder if they are thinking about anything at all. Do they even have opinions? I don’t know. Once you turn 30, you stop having opinions. Your opinion is basically in support of whatever helps pays the bills and if you’re thinking about anything, it’s some shit about Netflix or like…gentrification. Even that, I don’t think most people give as much of a shit as they say they do. The only people who care about gentrification are gentrifiers.

Speaking of gentrification, there is a great Malcolm X quote that I came across the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it a bit. He says:

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.

I’m not very political but I’m just going to let that one sit there for a second.

Today I was out running, listening to some presently-unpopular rock music from the 70’s and 80’s. Like Meatloaf, who I’ve never listened to. I rather dug it — it was so shlocky. Like Lady Gaga or even that band FUN, but a lot better.

There are definitely some genres of music that you’d be surprised to know I like. For example, heartland rock. Springsteen. Mellencamp. Tom Petty. Heck, I once went to see Springsteen by myself! I love that stuff. Probably because I have the least heartland rock kind of life anyone could have. I get off on the fantasy. When I listen to the songs, momentarily, I am in the heartland. And that’s cool.

A lot of folks in big cities these days — especially people who write about music — are actually from the heartland, which is why they not only look down on that music, but those people too. It’s not fantasy to them. It’s real. They spent their whole lives in some little ass town and being able to get into a cool city and a cool neighborhood and wear cool glasses and talk about cool bands over beers with cool names, that’s what life is all about.

I can dig it.

That’s maybe how I feel about hip-hop. I grew up in New York, so I don’t get off on urban fantasy at all. At no point in my life have I been the goofy white person listening to Geto Boys in their car and pretending I’m not, like in “Office Space.” That doesn’t mean I don’t think “Office Space” is the best movie ever made, because I do. But still, I have never listened to hip-hop in that kind of way.

I also try to listen to stuff that was popular at one point and for whatever reason, no longer is. That’s because I grew up in a household where there was an unwritten rule — no popular music allowed. My father listened, almost exclusively, to jazz, blues and soul. Basically, only black music. Maybe at one point, after my parents got divorced, he got into other stuff — the Stones, the Kinks, the Stooges, 60’s garage rock and whatnot. I think even that, he was more so just listening to revisit his youth. You do that when you get divorced.

So, in a way, it’s like I’m trying to educate myself. That’s the thing about music. There’s so much of it, and every day it’s like you can just dig into a whole different genre, different bands, different discographies. I probably know more than the average person, but I wouldn’t call myself a scholar on John Mellencamp. It’s not like I’ve been following him for years. I know “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.” Shit they play on classic rock stations.

There’s so much music to listen to and it all sounds so good to me. Sometimes I just want to jam every piece of recorded music into my ears all at the same time. I guess I kind of feel that way about life itself, really. That it’s so fucking pretty and terrible and amazing and tragic that I just want to feel everything all at once, do everything all at once, and the thought of not being able to depresses me.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.