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It’s Cold Out There

February 13th, 2014 by Dustin Parmenter · 2 Comments · General, Thoughts

It’s been a while, huh? Lots of changes on my end since 2013 – how about yourselves? I’m sure you’re still waiting with bated breath on that Clarice Lispector review. The book is coming along, albeit slowly, but it’s shaping up to match my expectations pretty squarely. That is to say, it’s starting to rattle the ole cage. In the meantime, read on – if you care for semi-personal updates from the author of this blog.

If one thing is certain about living in New York City, it’s that things are never not changing. I jumped ship from my old apartment on Bleecker Street in Bushwick just after the new year, due to general landlord shakiness – see the article clipping below; I just happened to chance upon this in a Williamsburg coffee shop, and I have to say I’m not surprised to see his name in print – and moved out to Fort Greene in an apartment right across from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Surprisingly, the rent is $150 / mo cheaper, and the neighborhood is infinitely better. If I can survive the winter here, the area is going to be paradise in the summer – Fort Greene Park is gorgeous, and it’s a totally different stretch of Myrtle Ave than in Bushwick, not to mention the proximity to DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn. Definitely an upgrade, all things considered.

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(Avoid renting from JBI Management at all costs)

Apart from that, I also left my job at the welding shop. I’ll refrain from publicly disparaging my former employer, but suffice it to say that she wasn’t easy to please, and circumstances had been changing rapidly over the past couple of months. Imagine working in a small room with the air quality of a chimney, the temperature of an igloo, and being surrounded dozens of screaming power tools that’re pretty much always ready to make you bleed. When I wasn’t being yelled at, I was probably getting myself cut or burned. I’ve still got metal splinters in my hands, and only just got over the sinus infection I got from working there. I was still blowing out black metal dust snot a week after I left. I don’t have a job now, but student loans are disbursing tomorrow – I was only holding on to this job until then, even in spite of the upcoming trip to Israel I was supposed to take – and I’ve been interviewing over the past few weeks for what looks likes very well may be a dream job (aside from writing, of course). But it’s been five weeks since the initial point of contact, and the process has been exhausting to say the least. It’ll be over by the end of the week – or at least it should be – and no matter how it ends up, I’ll be glad to have it resolved. It’s been driving me to distraction, calling to mind all sorts of questions; if I were to be offered this job, I’d almost certainly have to leave the QC MFA program, resign this blog, and put my writing on the sideline for a while. On the other hand, it would provide me the kind of financial security that I’d previously only been able to dream of, while giving me the opportunity to do meaningful work at the same time. Would that make me a sell out? Or is that line of thinking just the height of naivete? Having little or no financial security is almost always more oppressive than liberating; I’m tired of surviving on hard boiled eggs and peanut butter sandwiches. But if I’m working 40 hours / wk, can I still call myself a writer? All things to consider, but they’re still all speculative questions. I haven’t been offered anything just yet. I’ll keep you posted on that too. Any way you slice it though, definitely another upgrade for the 2014 life forecast.

With all these changes, both present and pending, combined with the rising tide of free time and increasingly indoor living, I’ve been forced to give perhaps too much time to my thoughts and anxieties about what exactly it means to be a writer, both within and without the context of an MFA program. Throughout the past weeks I’ve found myself losing and regaining degrees of faith in what I’d previously considered my best intentions – moving halfway across the country to “start over”, to get my dreams down on paper in hopes that they might connect or even resonate with an audience of one more people, in lending credence to the possibility of meaning in what I’m striving to create with my words. Then I found myself thinking of a quotation I used to rely on to bear up during such crises – it comes from Alejo Carpentier’s prologue to his novel The Kingdom of This World, where he took a stand in addressing the nascent Surrealist movement, which in his opinion was producing art borne out of little more than empty, juvenile shock-posturing:

“There is clearly no excuse for poets and artists who praise sadism without practicing it, who admire the supermacho because of their own impotence, who invoke spirits without believing they answer to incantations, and who found secret societies, literary sects, or vaguely philosophic groups with passwords and arcane goals that are never achieved, without being able to conceive a valid mysticism or to abandon their pettiest habits in order to risk their souls on the frightening card of faith.

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Faith is a small word with enormous implications. But if you don’t claim it for yourself and your own art, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone else who will do it for you. It’s essential, I think, to not only surviving in a world that doesn’t do any favors for talented people who have yet to prove themselves, but to keeping your own artistic vision intact. Believing in yourself, and in your art – in things that, for all intents and purposes don’t exist, at least not in the forms that you want them to yet – seems to be its own kind of mysticism, requiring an enormous wager on seemingly impossible odds. But to not make that bet is to give up before you’ve even begun; it is to admit defeat. Faith might be a gamble – but what if that’s the only way to realize your vision? Let me know what you think. In the meantime, stay warm – it’s cold out there, and a storm’s coming.

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