01 Story: What’s the best story you heard this month?
I met a hero of mine, the composer David Cope. He told me a story about feeling compelled, at a very young age, to sneak out of his bedroom window and climb a radio tower near his house; he was afraid of heights and wanted to face it. Once he reached the top, he was paralyzed with fear, clinging onto this delicate structure hundreds of feet in the air, in the middle of the night. He thought he would die there. And then he heard the wind strumming the massive guide wires of the radio tower, and it made a sound so beautiful he had to climb back down and re-create it. Took him decades to get the sound again.
02 Nature: An encounter with the natural world
I have a wildflower bloom in my backyard. Last year I sowed some poppies, some lupine; we had a wild rain, and they came up in such an unexpected, almost obscene abundance. In the summer they went to seed and now they’re back again. I really enjoy living alongside such familiar life cycles. They flower, they fall back, they flower again, and with their bloom come the pollinators, the bumblebees, birds, and butterflies. On a recent trip to the south of France I gathered the tiny seeds of French poppies—coquelicots—bright red and really flappy, a fixture of my childhood. Mostly I harvested them from the side of the road but I have to admit took a few pods from the gardens of the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh waited out his madness. I sowed them in the garden among the California wildflowers and they’re beginning to grow. My mother calls them my Van Gogh poppies.
03 Art Experience: An encounter with art (in any form)
I saw Mark Leckey’s "Fiorucci Made me Hardcore" at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles recently. Usually I have a hard time with video art shown on loops in museums; I don’t like wandering into a dark room halfway through something, not knowing if what I’m seeing is almost finished or just beginning, not knowing where I am until it comes full circle. It gives me a computer tic, I want to hit spacebar. Anyway: the Leckey film is a fifteen-minute collage of British youth losing it in dance clubs over a 30 year span. The music’s removed or altered, so the only cultural cues are through fashion, hair, and movement, all of which are amazing, of course, but it mostly gave me a sense of the universality of authentic counterculture, despite or perhaps because of our attempts to individuate ourselves. It actually made me deeply sad, for some reason. I hope catharsis is still possible for young people.
04 Change: a meaningful change that impacts the way you live (either that you initiated or that entered from outside)
I started meditation. I can’t say I’m consistent, but when I manage 20 minutes a day I feel huge. Literally: my main physical takeaway from meditation is the uncanny sensation of being a tiny point of consciousness “riding” on a giant body, like a wave. Keeps me humble.
05 New Idea: a new way of looking at things or something to attempt in the future
I learned that fire alarms don’t signal that a fire is happening; they signal that it’s socially appropriate to react. People will stay in a room as it fills with smoke, if nobody else moves — they don’t want to lose face. The alarm gives everyone a shared context, something to point to and say, “this is really happening.” It strikes me that art serves the same purpose.
06 Object (new): a new object that held significance
I finally bought myself a proper desk and chair. I’ve spent my life writing in bed, or else hunched over at the coffee table, the kitchen counter, neck and back bent in that unholy arc that when you see yourself doing it in photos, you’re just like: “oh god.” It’s white laminate and has one of those panels that pulls out, for a keyboard.
07 Object (old): an old object that took on new/different kind of meaning
I’ve been obsessively going to estate sales. First it was just my own neighborhood, but now I go farther afield in the city, and earlier. It’s not even about buying stuff; it’s about seeing what people hide from the outside world. Inside these old, grandiose homes, there’s always something so very sad, so very messy. A relic of some dream; a hobby that veered into obsession. Memories long gone. I learn so much about people from estate sales. In Los Angeles especially, there are so many stories.
08 Discard: Something you decided to rid yourself of this month.
Years ago I painted a wall in my house pink; I’d wanted the insane fluo bubblegum-pink of a Luis Barragán building, but it’s impossible to find a color so bright in America. It baffled the paint-mixers at Home Depot. I settled for a bright magenta that slowly drove me insane. This week I finally painted over it, in many coats of matte white. So expansive: I felt the side of my skull open out like a garage door.
09 Gratitude: something you have been specifically thankful for this month:
All of it, man. A roof over my head. The ability to have quiet days, not to have to clock in somewhere I hate. Health. Friends. My heroic, supportive partner. Life is a gift and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
10 Proportion: A specific moment that reminded you of the scale of the universe. That you are part of a greater whole.
I don’t often feel as though I’m part of a cosmic whole, although I’d like that. What gets me is the total dimensionality of natural experience, how a tree heads straight out of the Earth and into the sky. I learned the word for that recently, it’s gravitropism: roots are positively gravitropic and stems are negatively gravitropic, or geotropic, they just want to get away from the Earth.