The Past is an Embarrassing Animal

By tully | "Boredom at Its Boredest" by Michael Tully October 27, 2008 at 2:47AM

The Past is an Embarrassing Animal

I have been in Maryland for the past few days rummaging through all of my old stuff at my parents' house to relieve them of that childish burden. By tomorrow, a truck will be loaded with boxes and furniture so that my lovely girlfriend and I can turn our current squatter's pad into an actual home. I would have rather painted the place while it was relatively empty, but that wasn't meant to be. My goal is to be all the way finished by Election Day. At that point, we will be able to either celebrate in coziness or commit suicide in coziness.

Speaking of Election Day, it has been a constant shock to my system to drive around Mt. Airy and Frederick and Westminster and encounter a constant barrage of McCain/Palin signs. The McCain part is fine. It's the other name that baffles me. If this were a sign for a local counsel seat, or even the race for mayor of Frederick, it wouldn't seem so strange. But we're talking about Vice President of the United States of America. All I can say is that I hope the polls and general prognostications are accurate, for in my current situation, driving around and seeing all those signs, absolutely nothing feels different from 2004 or 2000. Hurry up, November 4th. I just want this to be over with.

But back to my own embarrassing past. I spent the weekend scouring through hundreds and hundreds of cassette tapes, and it flooded me with memories of the person I used to be. I had planned to bring my collection of hip-hop tapes back to Brooklyn with me, but in a fit of spiritual and mental weight-lifting, I decided to add them to the growing pile of trash. I can't even be bothered to place an ad for them on Craigslist or Ebay. I'm sure I will regret this at some point in the future, but it feels so good to say goodbye to so many things.

In more personally embarrassing news, I had the discomfort of listening to old four-track recordings, as well as reading a ton of writing I did from the years of eighteen through twenty-four. While I was impressed with my output, almost everything I encountered made me cringe with embarrassment. I know we are the last people to appreciate our own work, and revisiting past creative endeavors is a particularly doomed exercise, but for the record, I can safely and objectively admit the following: I am not one of my generation's chosen voices. There's a reason all of that material is sitting unread on an ancient Brother word processor. That's because it belongs there. Now it belongs in the trash.

In many ways, this connects with my disappointed reaction to Synecdoche, New York (at least after a first viewing). If I had seen this film even five years earlier, I would have been wowed into a puddle of awed submission. As it stands, it came off to me as a pleasant and quite hilarious—though overstuffed and exhausting—satire of a self-absorbed artist with a crippling case of emotional juvenile deliquency. As for actual profound weight and drama, really? Were we actually supposed to feel this character's sorrow, or feel a sense of all-encompassing sadness with regards to the universal concepts of creating art as well as aging and death? If that is the bar of measurement, it simply didn't get there for me. To quote my sister Carol (one more time) in reference to reading Ayn Rand: "It's like going to Mardi Gras. If you don't do it while you're still in college, don't bother." Not to sound condescending, but I didn't find the overtly expressed philosophy of the film to be revelatory or poignant or challenging. The longer it wore on, the more I kept thinking, "Is this fifty-whatever year old person really having these moral and ethical quandaries?" I might have bought it more if it was someone in high school. Ultimately, though, my reaction came down to one important (and supremely subjective!) thing: while I wanted to feel Synecdoche, New York in my stomach and heart, it never left my brain.

This article is related to: Miscellaneous