Sunday, September 9, 2007

Not a sell out, but a warm up

I have a recent phone message from a friend who has (I assume lovingly) called me a sell-out for starting a blog. This one’s for you S:

I am sitting in a café in upper Manhattan. There is jazz on their stereo, but I only hear it on the breaks from my Pandora “Shout out Louds” station. I am writing a blog. I am picking at an egg and cheese on a bagel, thinking about how I would like another cigarette, and another, and another. The music I am listening to is poppy and thick, summoning nostalgia from deep within my belly (most of my feelings come from my belly—the curse of an empath: belly aches). My boyfriend lives in Brooklyn, he is the co-owner of a T-shirt company whose hope is to inform youth culture about important political figures. We are working on a proposal for teaching underprivileged children art. We work at an art school. We, and all our friends, struggle daily with our vaguely hipster-like identities. Am I a sell out? I am not sure, I think I am just a member of a generation that yearns to make a difference in the world and also wants all the privilege that comes with living in the most liberal city in the most “free” nation. And most importantly, we don’t want to sell out. We want to get money for just being ourselves. And we hope that when someone starts paying up, we will still be ourselves and not relinquish on our promise like our hippy-cum-yuppy parents.

My brother is a rock musician. He lives in western Pennsylvania, but Brooklyn is waiting for him. The hipsters worship an absent figurehead, who is busy stocking groceries on Mill and Blair. He may be on a smoke break now, but he may have quit. He may be working on his novel, or he may be playing video games, but he remains unaware of the throngs of plaid shirted, tight-jeaned, just slightly tattooed, purposefully grubby-looking, messenger-bag-carrying, lost boys looking for their Peter Pan.

But, these are only images and then there is the reality. I digress. I am a digression, this is where I am my digressive self. Is that selling out? Perhaps, but then, when does the selling begin. Where’s my money?

Am I like everyone else? God, I hope so. I am so tired of the throngs trying to assert their difference. The rush to discover the band before they are a free iTunes song. The rush to find the white boots you wore in sixth grade before they are on the cover of Elle magazine…or Marie Claire, or whatever the fashion magazine that isn’t so fashionable.

And along comes another digression--I was in Lucky magazine. Yes its true.

Was I a sell out for that? I would love to say absolutely, but again, I didn’t receive any of that coveted cash. They dressed me up in clothes that didn’t really fit (big metal clips held them in the back), plucked my eyebrows, cut my hair and painted my face. Then they interviewed me about my life as a full-time administrator at a university art school, a part-time student, and a sometime painter and writer. The article was printed. I was misquoted and reduced to a corporate-like employee without all the dimensions of me that I love (no artist, no student, just a single, 30 year old career girl, fade-up Mary Tyler Moore theme music). All my digressions were left out, including the fact that I couldn’t even afford the clothes they put me in--the bag I carried would have cost me 8 months rent. And I didn’t get to keep one thing. Nada.

I did get a free haircut, 5 copies of Lucky magazine, endless embarrassment, a proud mother, and loads of giggles. But they made me look a lot richer. People who don’t know me think I am faking my thrift store chique look. Students in the school where I work now think their tuition is paying for my $5000 bag. What I want to know is when did selling out become such an unprofitable business?

Why should I begrudge those lawyers and hedge fund managers I know? They are only conforming like the rest of us, it just happens to not be as fashionable among that lot to wallow in what is wrong with the world, to feel the drive to make a difference—again, these are images and erroneous ones at that, as I know a slew of bleeding heart corporates, and just too many jaded trust-fund hipsters to count. Regardless of the wardrobes of the company you keep, disenchantment comes with a price, not a salary. And yet, I am hopeful that I’ll get mine. That someday I can really sell something, and people will buy my paintings and buy my stories. And what will be the price? They will have to listen to me about what is wrong with the world, and what is really important.

So, S, there it is, my warm up. Now, I close down the blog to work on one of my short stories. If you would like to read one I will gladly sell out. Just send me $15.95 and an SASE. With love from the sea.


Kate said...

hallo. you motivated me to dust off this old thing. i miss you, but i do not have a functioning phone to call you. love you.

ingrid griffin said...

I know I'm not working but I think about you guys. This is beautiful I love your sincerity and pasion. Good work sweety, kisses and hughes
for you and the boyfriend, I hove you guys are behaving.