Defending Your Life

by MATT STOKES | JUNE 2, 2011

But wherever I have gone, I was sure to find myself there.
You can run all your life, but no go anywhere.

-Social Distortion

So every once in a while I like to do sort of a State of the Union Address for this blog. The last time I did one was, I think, in October, or something. I don’t know because I have this horrible aversion to going back and re-reading old stuff. It’s similar to the way I can’t look at pictures of myself. I go to painful lengths to avoid these pictures, and if I happen to catch sight of one there’s a chance I’ll never stop vomiting. Even if it’s a picture from five years ago, and I look nothing like I did then, still. I can’t explain it.

Conversely, I have an obsession with not repeating myself here. You may balk at that, but it’s true, I spend an inordinate amount of time brooding over ideas for this dumb little blog, and if I can’t come up with anything I’ll get depressed and not write for months. See, for example, the past two months. I haven’t written shit. I suppose I have some legitimate reasons—I’ve been working pretty hard on my book, for example—but they shouldn’t stop me from being able to throw something together every week. Sometimes my brain just shuts out and I put all this out of my mind, chalking it up to waiting for inspiration to come and drop-kick me in the shins. (It never does.) These two traits have the unintended consequence of causing me to unknowingly end up writing the same blog post twice, but a year apart. Like the time I wrote about how FUCKING COLD it was this one time (“It’s Cols” – January 12th, 2010) and another time I wrote that it was COLD AS BALLS (“And What’s So Stinking About It?” – February 6th, 2011, see number 9). Yeah. Somehow I forgot in that year’s time that sometimes it gets cold, and that it always pisses me off, because this is Louisiana, and we have lava for 10 months interjected briefly by the sub-Arctic, and that this weather dichotomy irks me and causes me to write.

ANYWAY, let’s get to some housekeeping notes. Yeah, I haven’t written in two months. Sorry about that. I’d like to say I’m going to try and get better about it, but I know myself pretty well and no how easily I can fall out of my routine. How easily my routine becomes “take nap on couch while watching Seinfeld.” I also don’t like the word “try.” It’s a meaningless word to me.

[How does one try, exactly? “Hey, I know I shoot black tar heroin every day, but hey, I’M TRYING TO GET BETTER!” I don’t know what “trying” in that instance means, unless you’re talking about that move where you are about to inject, and then your arm shakes violently, dark blue veins suddenly protruding out of your forehead, and you stare at the accursed needle and then fling it across the room, screaming “WRAGHGHGHGHHHHH!!”, and then you gasp for air, breathing heavily for a few minutes, before finally pulling yourself together and get up to leave the room… until you see that needle on the floor, beckoning, and you stare at it in stunned silence… then the screen fades to black, and we all know what that means… Is that trying? I don’t know, but I’m not sure it matters. Just do things or don’t do them.]

So I’ll say this instead: I plan on updating this blog four times a month again, starting today. This has been a pretty good year for the blog. It got by far the most traffic its ever gotten, I branched out and tried doing a podcast, and we finally got ourselves a real-life logo, designed by my great friend Laci Jones—a million thanks to her. And finally, I learned how to make links that open up in a new tab. Can you imagine a world where all links opened up in a new tab?

Second thing: I’m moving to New York, which will hopefully lead to many more fish-out-of-water blog posts, which are my favorite. “What kind of crazy hijinks will Matt get into today, when he visits… a Turkish bathhouse??” and so on.

How lame is that, by the way? I’m doing the cheesy old, “Drop everything and head to the Big City” cliche. Like Kerouac. Taking only an acoustic guitar, my laptop, and a pocketful of dreams. And this coming at a time when it’s never been more pointless to have dreams. Me, part of the first generation of Americans that is expected to do worse than their parents, part of the epic post-graduation malaise of the 2010’s, of twentysomethings in perpetual arrested development wandering around searching for something that doesn’t exist, but we have to because we’re indoctrinated by Sesame Street and the public school system from the earliest age to chase that rainbow. To never settle. That I AM SPECIAL, DAMN IT. I will never settle, can you hear me?

But yeah. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I love Bruce Springsteen, I love the American Dream, and if that doesn’t convince you, then how about this:

Temperature, New Orleans, LA (6-2-2011): 106 degrees
Temperature, New York, NY (6-2-2011): 78 degrees

Third thing: I stand by just about everything I’ve ever written for this blog. But there is one thing I wrote last summer that I wish I could take back. It was a blog about LeBron James, and it was actually pretty well received. People enjoyed it, but I feel weird about it. “The Once and Future King,“ from July 11th, 2010, was one of three or four things I wrote about LeBron from the time. I was pissed at him. He sort of wrecked the way I view sports—he put the final nail in the, “Hey, athletes really, truly don’t give a shit about you” coffin. So LeBron left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat, and the basic thesis of my blog post was, “The reason LeBron doesn’t understand how bad a thing he just did is that he doesn’t understand what sports mean to people. And the reason he doesn’t understand that is because he grew up with an absent father, and fathers are the ones who pass on sports to their children.”

Now, that seems like a perfectly reasonable theory, except that, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. I know nothing substantial about LeBron James’s upbringing other than the mere fact he was raised by mother, and in rampant, reckless speculation, in my ridiculous armchair psychological babbling, I’m just being one of those bloggers in their eternal basement who’s throwing out darts and seeing what sticks. I’m embarrassed. Not even to mention the racial baggage implied by decrying absentee African American fathers, I wish I hadn’t written it. It was dumb, mean, and uninformed.

But the past year I’ve thought about James a lot, and I’ve paid constant attention to just how hated he has become, and… I’ve started to come around. I’ve even started to admire what he did—joining up with Dwyane Wade, by choosing to not follow the acceptable, traditional model for how a basketball player achieves immortality (Which is, you “put a team on your back” and lead them to a championship; to join forces with a near-equal like Wade is basically sacrilege, because, you know, that’s just not how it’s done!). I admire it because it was a decision made in spite of the inevitable backlash, because, ultimately, the backlash didn’t matter to him. And why should it? Why the hell should LeBron James care if Skip Bayless yells about him every morning on ESPN2? Is it going to affect LeBron’s happiness if, 30 years from now, Bill Simmons ranks him lower in his basketball pyramid because James “couldn’t do it alone”? I still get to win a ton of championships and have fun and live in Miami and make hundreds of millions of dollars? And my friends and family will still love me? Hmm. Okay, let’s do it. It’s ballsy. It’s admirable. He’s sort of a pioneer. Still a douche (for THIS, obviously), but not quite the douche I once thought.

And the point is, I don’t know why we spend so much time obsessing over the noise that ends up not amounting to much. Our time is short. We’re each of us born to die, and we live with this knowledge our whole lives, and yet we put it away, and let our fear of irrational danger, failure, and judgment rule the day. Why, exactly? What’s it going to matter, in the end?

The answer for why we do that, as is usually the answer for why we do anything is: It’s easy.

I don’t always want to do what’s easy. I do that enough as it is. Every once in a while I want to do something a little difficult. So a few weeks back I quit my job—a good, comfortable, well-paying job, and then wandered around the streets of uptown, listening to “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan on repeat, and thinking, over and over again, “The FUCK did I just do?” This story’s old, I know, but it goes on and on.

And I often have this urge not to write. I don’t want to give into that urge so easily. I’ve been writing so long, been training and practicing to do it for so long, that it’s alarming how easily I can just push it away. I don’t like that about myself. I want to get better. So, the State of the Bat for 2011 is: Expect better things. Better blog posts, better podcasts. Cause they’re coming. I’m pretty sure.