Jul 29, 2011

Why I Write Better When I am Homeless

I write better when I am homeless. I write on napkins and in the margins of the Village Voice. I write curled up in a seat on the last car of the Q train. When I am homeless I like the Q: reminds me of "queer." As if the only place I am going is a queer destination.

When homeless I am uprooted. But I have money in my pocket.

Why do I write better? Because it is something to do to fill in the emptiness. When Maslow's needs are met I think we are less prone to be creative. It is the pang of hunger and thirst that spurs us on to aesthetic heights.

The hungry artist is the short-lived artist but his art is intense. I think Arthur Rimbaud was such an artist. He wrote till he exhausted himself. He wrote first then ate later. Even then it was not so much as a need but visceral. A part of creativity. His eating became his aesthetic.

I cannot be an Arthur Rimbaud. I enjoy creature comforts. Take-out. Lunch on a subway bench. A gin and tonic after work.

They do not make me more creative. I could say something pretentious like the life of the middle class intellectual deadens my creative sense. But that sounds wrong. I am a creator because I am a middle class intellectual. And I am not even sure if that label fits me. A lost boy is perhaps a better descriptor. A stranger in a strange land. A man who happens to have a degree who happens to teach Plato, Aristotle, Virginia Woolf and Camus to community college students in Brooklyn, New York.

I am a man who loves the color of apples. But I like stiletto heels as well. I like the religious ritual of going to the movie theater on a Thursday evening after work. I eat lightly buttered popcorn with the same laconic motivation of receiving the holy eucharist on my tongue. The darkened theater and the womb-like cavity of stadium seating -- where there is always less people and more space feels like an experience of daily Mass.

Since abandoing religion, I have taken up art.

I go to the museum more than I attend church or temple.

It's not the transcendent I am after but rather something to do in the in-between hours.

When I was a church-going man I went to church on Sunday because it was the day of rest. I allowed myself to stop labor, to stop grading papers so I could sit, immerse myself in an arcane ritual. To escape the everyday? Walker Percy would have liked me to say it that way. And I will admit Walker Percy is the prophet of the everyday. So is Kierkegaard or somesuch.

I go the Metropolitan Museum of Art every fortnight. Why? Because it seems the right thing to do. I may go to hell if I don't.

I never buy the same kind of orange juice at the supermarket, at least not in the same order. In the fridge sits a carton of mango guava. Before that was bananna cherry and before that was limeade.
I aspire to be like my friend Bonnie who only shops for pretty things.

The practical side of me likes books because of the content they contain but the whimsy in me goes for the design of the dust jacket.

The practical man in me likes the ease of typing on a computer and the simplicity of file transfer and digitial archivization. In rough hewn notebooks (Moleskine, mostly) lie unfinished business and coffee stains.

My biggest stumbling block is focus and lack of a thesis statement.

As this entry doth show.

A biento. See you soon. Inspire me with your comments.

Subscribe to stones of erasmus by Email

Search This Blog