29 January, 2010

Holden Caulfield

I found the reaction yesterday to the news of the death of J.D. Salinger interesting to watch as threads appeared on various message boards I frequent.

The news first hit the message boards made up predominantly of men - this was of little surprise to me. The Holden Caulfield effect, the privileged young man rebelling against the very privilege that gives him a platform to rebel, speaks most loudly to teenage boys trying desperately to escape their fathers' fates. Many of the posts in these threads expressed true, deep grief for the man who had been virtually invisible for the last 50 some-odd years. Many touting his one novel as being the best book they ever read.

With keen interest, I closely observed another message board, one populated most predominantly (say, 98-2) by women my age or very near. This is a board of media-savvy people who often break celebrity deaths the second after TMZ or Perez has. I was actually quite surprised to find no mention of this literary great's death even thirty minutes after I'd heard. In fact, the R.I.P. thread that was finally created didn't appear for a good six hours after the first thread (of many) on the first message board - the one of mostly men. And in that one and only R.I.P. thread, there are still only seven replies, most of which are of the generic sad smilie type.

I lean more with the men on this one, than the women. Now, part of this, obviously, is that I am enamored of great writing more than just about anything in this world (with the exception of great music) so that certainly fuels a lot of my sadness. But also, I identified with Holden Caulfield, much as the men on the first message board did, when I was a less-privileged - but not unprivileged - teenager and first read the book. Adults were phonies! They dressed a role Monday through Friday and acted nice toward people they hated and thought nothing of sucking up to someone they had no respect for. I was never going to be like that! I thought Holden Caulfield was, perhaps, the greatest character ever written and hell yes, I wanted to be like him. Gender divide be damned!

I'm a bit of a tomboy. Only slightly less now than when I was a younger. And to say a bit of is actually a bit of an understatement. I'm a tomboy, even now. I have no opinion on shoes nor purses, my favorite hairstyle is bedhead and I will never understand how psychotic some women can get (although, to be fair, I will also never understand how placid some men can be, even in the face of a psychotic woman). I'm not a traitor to my gender, but I am not really a full participant in it either. A part of me does want to be James Dean or Holden Caulfield, to push out against the expectations and actually experience the parts of life that passed me by while I was too busy doing the things I was supposed to be doing. I never believed in the life track that many women dream of: college, career, marriage, kids, grandkids, etc. College, sure. Career, only if it's fun. Marriage, whatever. Kids, no thank you. Grandkids, well, see Kids. That path is too predictable. All paths are too predictable. Much better to abandon paths altogether and go where I go, when I go. Find out when I get there where it is I went. That would have been my ideal. Of course, I might have required a little more privilege to reach it, but that would have been my ideal.

Perhaps this is why Holden Caulfield had such a hold on the men reflecting on his author than the women. Why the woman merely acknowledged another celebrity death* and the men truly mourned it. The men have been fighting against pre-conceived paths while the women have been dreaming about them. Holden Caulfield took up the banner for leaving the paths behind and forging new paths of nonconformance. This is antithetical to the stereotypical dreams of little girls. I can attest to this, simply thinking back on high school and the expectations of women's wardrobe choices. And how I chose not to fulfill those expectations. Then or now.

As I've grown, I've followed a few well-defined paths and I don't regret it. I do wish I'd forged a few more, but I think I've chosen nice paths. I think it was nice to have the luxury to imagine a life wherein all the choices came solely from me, but reality bites hard. And I bet, if Holden Caulfield had been a real boy, he would have discovered that too. I guess that's the bonus to being a fictional character.

*As per usual, there are exceptions to every rule and this is no different. My friend Mel and a few other women have reflected on the Holden Caulfield in themselves and turns out, I am not alone and that is a very nice feeling. Especially when it is my friends keeping me company.

15 January, 2010

An Explanation on Markings

No doubt you?ve seen the ?s* peppering my past several ? though random and certainly not consistent ? blog postings. You can blame the I.T. department for that.

Working for the government brings with it many restrictions, one of which is online access. It?s a fluke, really, that I can even access blogs, much less post to mine ? thank you iGoogle, for doing your utmost to give me access where access should have been blocked. (Of course, part of me, the I.T. employee part of me, says shame on you iGoogle, for doing your utmost to give me access where access should have been blocked. I try not to listen to that part of me, but sometimes that droll monotone just bores into my brain and I can?t help but to listen.)

So, when I post using iGoogle, there is a bug of some sort that transforms hyphens, parentheses, apostrophes and other punctuation heroes into question marks. It may even transform my favorite ? the ellipses ? into a question mark. Let?s see ?

Sure, I could write blog posts from home, but then that takes away precious home time. Why not do my blog posts when I am here at work, desperately avoiding work? No, my boss does not read my blog. I hope. Well, we?ll find out, won?t we?

(Actually, and I?m not saying this just to save my butt in case someone is watching, there aren?t many moments that I avoid work. I spent nearly 13 years screwing around in my previous position ? not literally ? but this isn?t one of those jobs. I get to do a lot of things I enjoy doing naturally, so I do manage to keep pretty busy. I use my rare non-busy minutes of the day to post blogs which might help to explain how few and far between the postings have been.)

So, to return to the original subject, my apologies on behalf of iGoogle for the infestation of the question mark. I may or may not return to the post and edit it. If not, just know that hiding behind that ? is a ?, or an (, or an -, or even a ?

* with my luck, the question mark I typed turned into something else entirely

P.P.S. Now I?m wondering if the asterisk I typed turned into a question mark as well. Oy

12 January, 2010

The Year of Gettin? Shit Done

Okay, it?s January 12th ? I think I can finally acknowledge the new year here.

Happy New Year!

So, 2009 wrapped up with my 18th Phish show in one year ? number 80 overall, I think. I remember thinking, back when Phish first announced their comeback, that I was older now and living a more adult life with more responsibilities and that I could never tour for 3.0 (post-hiatus, post-breakup) the way I did for 1.0 (pre-bullshit).

Haha. Yea. Right. Um. Yea. Previous to 2009, my most Phish-dense year was 1998 (13 or 14 shows). Really adult there, Deb.

So, come the turn of the decade, I found myself in Miami, FL for the first time in my life for shows 15 through 18 of this incarnation. Jason secured a P.I.M.P. condo rental less than three blocks from the venue, towering over Biscayne Blvd with an uninterrupted view of the bay and South Beach across it.

I don?t know if it was luxury that surrounded us that week we were in Miami, or the delicious warm temperatures that allowed me to slip into a pair of shorts and sandals as December came to an end, or the fact that this was my longest vacation from work since my wedding/honeymoon in the summer of 2005 but something turned in me that week. Ever since then, I have been extremely anti-job.

I like my job. I like the people I work with. I think I might actually be doing something moderately worthwhile here ? unlike at my last job which often made me ashamed to admit what it was I was doing with my life since college and which eventually laid me off in the crappy economic climate, thus leading me here. In the grand scheme of things, I think I fell out of a window and landed somewhere relatively soft and comfortable.

But, face facts: it?s still a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job. I have to wake up somewhere between 6 and 6:30 in the morning, dress in clothes I?m not comfortable wearing, drive 45 minutes to an hour to work (hour and a half when it?s snowing) and earn a paycheck and 10 days vacation, 5 days personal time a year. Some people love this. I don?t. Some people tolerate this. I have. Some people find their way out. I will. I hope.

So I declare 2010 as the year of gettin? shit done. In 2009, I motivated myself to come back to writing fiction and won NaNoWriMo with just over 50,000 words written in the month of November. I?m giving myself January and perhaps a tiny bit of February to actually finish that book. The rest of February, March and April to ignore it and start on something new, May to go through for a second draft while I ignore whatever it was I started in February and June to get it ready to make the proof copy NaNo gives its winners as a reward for making it through to 50K.

I majored in writing in college not because I wanted to avoid the more career-centric paths my father wishes I?d taken but because I have always written. It?s what I do, it?s what I enjoy doing. I just need to do more of it. And consistently.

And if I get everything I want (You know what happened to the boy who got everything he wanted? He lived happily ever after ? Willy Wonka, the original), then I can return to Miami every December and wear shorts and sandals and take showers in large glass enclosures overlooking the bay and South Beach and I can stop counting vacation days and I can go to 19 guilt-free Phish shows and still have time to travel and visit my family and read and write and throw away all work-appropriate clothing.

Lots to do, time to get shit done.