Real Mammal

By Caroll Sun Yang

Essay

He snorts Ritalin all night and chases down the white dust with Old Fashioned Sidecars. He asks me to take pictures of him wearing my sheer black panties with striped ruffles and pink-lemonade colored ribbons laced through. He asks me to do this with my cellular phone so that I might later “text” him the “good ones”. He says has plans to save them for some later date, maybe for use as “jack-off material”. I am reluctant at first. A smidgen hurt at the thought of being replaced as his masturbatory focus. I try not to let my face show disinterest in this project, a disinterest verging on disdain. What will be achieved by this activity? He is not gay. He is not usually prone to high narcissism. He is infrequently frivolous. In fact, he harbors contempt for operatic displays. But here he is cut a little loose on pills and Cognac, retrieving my makeup bag and hand mirror.

Listen. Happiness? It just looks different on people like me.

                                            —Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

 

 

In Ithaca, New York, Tibetan prayer flags hang from the eaves of rambling Victorian houses, and quaint little carriage houses, and dilapidated A-frame houses with Pabst beer cans lining porch railings. Their lilting red, blue, orange, white, and yellow squares make no sound in the breeze, so thin and soft is the translucent fabric. On Aurora Street, in Ithaca’s Fall Creek neighborhood, the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies sits nestled in a nondescript turn-of-the century house painted a deep burgundy with gold trim. The prayer flags alight the house like year-round Christmas decorations. Down the narrow alleyway running just behind the monastery, Cascadilla creek burbles over shalestone, plastic bottles, discarded road signs, and outposts of tall, thick grass that curve like spider plants.

Ever feel like the Internet has become void of significant social dialog?

That would be because you are correct. And by “the Internet” I mean “Facebook.”

It’s not so much a social networking site as it is a tool built for pushing (and absorbing) corporate media.

As part of a series of ongoing efforts to better serve our community, a large portion of individual users will be asked to submit returns this year.We refrain from using the word “taxes.”Suffice it to say that if you are reading this, you have the good fortune of being a part of this exciting new initiative!Please take a moment to complete the following.Our sincere hope is that, one day, ours will be the only annual form of its kind you’ll need to file!

1) Were you aware that you would be asked to pay for your 2010 use of Facebook’s services? If no, check all lines below that apply:

Jee Leong Koh is a New York poet hailing from Singapore via Oxford University where he took his degree in English Literature before moving to the US for an MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2009, defying the conventions of the professional poetry world, Jee self-published his first collection, Equal to the Earth, and has successfully managed to independently promote and distribute it against the odds. Not since the days of William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf has self-published poetry been taken as anything more than the work of amateurs publishing their purple verse at vanity presses. Now, with the strategic use of social media, the landscape of poetry publishing might be subject to change. In the following interview, Jee Leong Koh shares the secrets of his success.

Some of you may have become familiar with Storm Large when she was a contestant (and finalist) for lead singer on 2006’s Rockstar Supernova, which, according to Wikipedia, was “a reality television-formed supergroup consisting of drummer Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), bassist Jason Newsted (Voivod and ex-Metallica), and guitarist Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses).” As many of you know, Storm has continued to build a name for herself as an independent musician, stage performer, and, soon, as a novelist. Storm’s 2009 one-woman show, Crazy Enough, which featured the song “8 Miles Wide,” was a smash hit, with all shows sold out.

On April 30, 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Storm Large and TNB contributor Quenby Moone at a local taco joint here in Portland. Storm, who showed up in a pair of jeans and a well-worn white hoodie, sans makeup, was gorgeous, gregarious, generous of spirit, foul mouthed like a long-haul trucker, well-spoken, and hilarious. Storm gave me over an hour of her time, answering any question I asked with tremendous honesty peppered with frequent F-bombs. We discussed her music, sex, her recovery from a heroin addiction, growing up with a mentally ill mom, her book, the future of the publishing industry, sexism in the music industry, boob jobs, an amazingly simple recipe for pot candy, and so much more.

This past summer one of the richest and most famous people on the planet committed Facebook suicide.

“It was just way too much trouble, so I gave it up,” said Bill Gates at an event in New Delhi. Gates deactivated his account upon being inundated with more than 10,000 friend requests. He then expressed his aversion to certain aspects of new media, stating that “some tools can waste our time if we’re not careful.”

Let’s start with the Twitter advice for you, since the majority of you fit into that category. If you’re Johnny Depp or Mary Lynn Rajskub, you can skip to the relevant section.

Scenario: You are you. You’re on Twitter. You’re not totally lost, but you still aren’t sure why you’re there.

Well don’t worry. Because Twitter is a site where people type what they’re doing into the Internet and then nobody reads it because nobody cares.

Hello.

My name is Zoe Brock and I am a MySpace addict.

Wow. That’s embarrassing.

If you’d like to run me over with a train right now I’d be more than happy to lay down and oblige.

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Like most addictions my MySpace dependency took time for me to notice, acknowledge or declare.

It was not an addiction I anticipated.

Most addictions are so anticipated that they’re downright boring by the time they kick in.

Weed?
Yawn.

Various psychedelics, uppers, downers and sidewinders?
*whistles innocently and looks towards the heavens*

Cigarettes?
Fuckity fuck fuck.

Booze?
Hello? I’m Australian.

Sex, drugs and rock n roll?
Hello? I’m human.

Strip clubs with performing dwarfs?
Hello? I’m twisted.

Expensive shoes, raunchy lingerie and designer jeans?
Hello? I’m a big titted female with a shoe fetish and an ass made for Marc Jacobs.

Social networking on the Internet????
Ummmmmm……

NO.

It all began last year when a complete stranger, some author by the name of Listi, preyed upon me when I was bored, incapacitated, and unable to walk for three months, and encouraged me to
join MySpace in order to read his blog. Listi lured me with promises that I might potentially write for him on his new writers website “thenervousbreakdowndotcom”. At this stage I was ignorant, I didn’t know what a blog was and nor did I care. But, like an absolute twat, I reluctantly followed instructions… and now look at me. This Listi character must pay for his evil ways! He is nothing short of an enabler! HE MUST BE STOPPED!!!!!!!

The symptoms of my dependency kicked in shortly after my first attempt at a blog. The immediate responses and instant gratification fueled me to write more, to spend more time on the site, soaking up the praise and, while the knee injury I suffered from kept me inert, my fingers tapping on the keys were my only form of physical activity. Hours spent blogging and commenting quickly grew and began to usurp aspects of my life. At first I was able to brush off this inordinate amount of time as “research for my impending documentary on Internet social-networking”, an idea I conceived of shortly after joining, or “a sociological experiment”. I tried to file my addiction under “work”. But the sad truth is that I was hooked on attention and positive feedback after a life lived with little confidence and a desperate need for creative validation.

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The more I wrote the more people loved it, and the more they told me they loved it, and the more I wrote.

Easy.

Not so much.

The more people read me the more they wrote to me, and the more involved we became in each others lives. There was no symbiotic distance between reader and writer, but an uneasy truce between pseudo-friends and not-quite-strangers. I became enmeshed in relationships that weren’t tangible, were elusive and undefinable, and no matter how hard I tried to justify them as friendships they weren’t REAL to me a lot of the time.

A dangerous path.

It’s hard for me to understand how I could grow to care about so many people I’d never met, because I did care. I still do.

It’s hard for me to understand how my life became public knowledge, at my own behest. Does honesty have it’s limits? At what point will I learn to draw the line?

It’s hard for me to pick up this computer and not check my MySpace account to see how everyone is doing.

It’s hard for me to cancel my account.

It’s especially hard for me to cancel my account because I don’t know the password anymore. In a fit of enlightened pique, I forced my dear friend Sara to change it for me so that I couldn’t log on when I felt compelled to. And I am COMPELLED, kids, I’m jonesing like a common crack whore.

I’m sitting here in the midday sun with a snarl on my face and a twitch in my eye. Furious. Annoyed. Wanting on. Refusing to succumb. Conscious of the seductive power of feeling connected. Missing the people I’ve grown used to communicating with every day. Wondering how they are, if they miss me, what they’re doing, writing, saying, feeling.

But the truth is… life goes on.

Without wanting to diminish my time on there, or negate the several remarkable relationships I have forged, the ones I HOPE will be lasting, the question remains… if I left MySpace tomorrow would I even be missed? I’m unconvinced. Perhaps I’d be noticeably absent for a few weeks, but then I’d slither into the back of people’s consciousness, a gradual subside, before fading to black. Poof. See ya.

Very few people would care. Very few people would be even remotely affected. Why should they be?

Knowing how intermediate most of these connections are could make saying goodbye very easy.

I would never be so bold as to presume that I’ve made an impact on anyone’s life. There will always be fresh slants on humor and culture and news and random idiocy to rise up and entertain, better writers, prettier faces, funnier girls. There is definitely a market for it, a need. People are hungry, bored, unsatisfied, lonely. They are crying out for stimulus and love. They should be, it’s a cruel and crazy world out there, I’ve seen it. Human beings, further disconnected from each other by long roads and longer hours or work and stress, are crying out for companionship.

But so are my friends here in close proximity. And they also need physical contact, hand-holding, attention and love.

They need the thing I was in danger of losing touch with – touch itself.

In the last six weeks I’ve traveled America, eight-thousand grueling, exhausting, uplifting miles of it, meeting a lot of the people from MySpace that I needed to meet in order to begin solidifying those relationships and understand them.

I’ve experienced a journey far above my expectations, and also far below. America is sprawling, spreading, filled with sameness. In the midst of that sameness are a few hundred million individual, all different, all trying to find each other and connect in new, exciting ways. Ways that aren’t physical, ways that are safe and sheltered, ways that are semi-anonymous and easily controlled. I know, I’ve been out there… I’ve talked to hundreds of people on beaches, streets and sidewalks, in cafes, hotels, motels, bars and homes.

I’ve made my intangible friendships real ones. I’ve pulled and dragged and danced my unreal people into my world. They’re real. And they’re wonderful.

And now I can take the friendships that mean something and nurture them without a computer – a truly glorious feeling.

The journey is over and it was a trip.

I’ve come back to my life to find it in substantial disarray. Friends seem distant, I feel disconnected, relationships have taken strange turns. And yet, outside the sun is bright. Hummingbirds do their hummy thing. The beach beckons, friends call, and the world awaits.

And so I’ve taken a small break from all things MySpace. I ponder the likelihood of canceling my account, but am reluctant to commit. I tell myself it’s a great marketing tool for my movie and my writing. I tell myself it’s a great place to practice being a writer, to build an audience, to grow as an artist.

I also tell myself that to stay on MySpace now would be a distraction to life, an excuse to not further my dreams, a time waster.

I’m very confused.

MySpace has given me a great gift, and for that I should thank that Listi sumbitch. I can write happily these days. My readers and their criticisms and praise have given me that ability. I have no excuses, no lack of confidence, no insecurities to hold me back, no dedication to procrastination. I know I can do it. Look. You’re reading this now.

And so I sit here at my laptop. I smile at the screen. I click the application FINAL DRAFT and begin a fresh file. And I type.

SCENE ONE – EXT. NEW YORK APARTMENT BUILDING. A TOO-BRIGHT SPRING AFTERNOON.

And I’m writing a movie, not a blog, and I can see it’s characters move and swell and trip and fall and get back up again. And I laugh as I write my ‘comedy canon’, hoping it will blow people out of their seats.

I’m home. I’m homeless. I’m broker than a smashed plate. I’m jobless and carless but certainly not aimless. I have twenty weeks of post-production ahead of me and a deadline called Sundance. I have no idea what is going to happen, no idea what the future holds.

Life is bittersweet but it’s all I’ve got.

My name is Zoe Brock, and I am a recovering MySpace addict.

Are you?