Things My Mother Taught Me

I am back. For the few people who have been following my irregular blogging efforts over the years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; every now and then, I go through an emotional outbreak, get depressed, deem whatever life stories I had plans to share in public totally worthless and throw in the towel, only to pick it up again months later, pretending nothing happened and brushing the whole incident off with a half-smile.

This time around, though, the situation feels slightly different. This comeback is the result of various recent events coming together; a combination of realizations and flashes of insight that affected me on so many levels that left me with no other choice but to do something about it. Right now.

I think it all kind of started when my mum asked me to send her pictures of my birthday party and my holidays in France. I had spent most of my time wandering around Paris and Montpellier on my own, and for some reason I didn’t take any pictures on my birthday (which I decided to spend in London, with some of my best friends), so I mostly had snapshots of old buildings, charming alleyways, sandy beaches, crowded parks and street art. Not a bad mix, really. The beach pictures were particularly nice and summery so I made a quick selection of my best Instragram shots and sent them over Whatsapp. A few minutes later, she replied back: “Yeah, that place is beautiful… but I meant pictures of you. Don’t you have any?” What? I don’t have any pictures of me, I was on my own! And yes, I could have taken a selfie, but I hate selfies. Hate them. Why couldn’t she take my lomography-like beach shots as good-enough evidence of my holidays? It bothered me a bit so I texted back some insolent bullshit. Shortly after, she kindly replied: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I just think that when you grow old, you’re going to wish you had more pictures of you and your friends, and you will not have any.” I took a few seconds to read those lines and then it hit me, like a fistful of steel straight to my stomach. Blimey, she’s right. She is so right.

I stayed with that thought ringing in my head for days. I kept thinking how many things I can’t remember about my life, and how much I can remember about someone else’s. Like my friend Ross’, for example. I met Ross 12 years ago and have been reading his diary on a regular basis ever since, which is why sometimes I could reassure him we had a particular photo of your favourite rockstar, somewhere in a hard drive or hidden between thousands of contact sheets. I knew he had shot it because I remembered reading about it. I knew in which city, or had a vague idea of the year/tour in which many of his photos were taken, just because I had kept track of his work over the years through his diary. I suddenly realized that I could remember more details about Ross’ life than I could remember about my own and that, my friends, is seriously fucked up.

Then I came across this post by Holly Brockwell (who I would love to date if I could) and it was then when I decided that it was time to start a diary, once and for all. I had been toying with the idea of starting a diary for quite a while but I just never put that plan into action, maybe because I always thought my life was way too mundane to be documented on a daily basis. I still kind of do but after reading Holly’s post, I thought: yeah, why not? I opened a 750words account, determined to start my journal that same day, logged in and quickly realized it was going to be impossible to pull it off on that platform. I know you don’t have to write everyday, that you can stop before reaching 750 words if you feel like it, but still, I knew those empty boxes were going to haunt me forever. You see, I’m the kind of guy who can’t have unread messages on his inbox lingering for too long, it makes me anxious. If I get a comment on Facebook, I have to check it. If I get a mention on Twitter, I need to find out what is it about. Having those little red notification circles on my phone distress me, so the idea of potentially finding a long line of unticked boxes – a reminder of how good I am at not sticking to my promises – was a little bit off-putting.

I wanted to find a balance between the strict day-by-day format that 750words encouraged and my erratic blogging pattern, a middle ground between writing every day a set number of words and not writing a single word in months. In the end, I decided to settle with a Ross Halfin meets Mick Wall meets Doogie Howser format, only that I don’t travel as often as Ross, don’t write as good as Mick and I’m probably not as smart as Doogie. I bet you can’t wait for me to get started.

The decision to keep a public diary instead of a private one has been influenced, partly, by a a blog post, a web project and couple of books I’ve been reading over the last few months: “Why go out?” by Sheila Heti, 40 Days of Dating by Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, Russell Brand’s “My Booky Wook”,  and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown, a writer and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. After watching her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability, I decided to give one of her books a try and despite my general aversion towards the self-help genre, I have to say the book is quite insightful and some of her observations fascinating, particularly if you are interested in human behaviour and social interaction.

In addition to the diary, I will also try to take more pictures. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see me in them. With the ubiquitous camera phone, hundreds of photo-enhancing applications and photo-sharing services available, gadgets and whatnot, I fail to understand why is it that I don’t document my life with photos as much as I would like to. And I don’t mean the things I see around me but the things I do, the strangers I meet, the people I hang out with. Just to give you an idea: I have met Jimmy Page, one of the greatest and most influential musicians in history, at least 12 times in the last 3 years. For a Led Zeppelin fan, that’s a big fucking deal. Ross introduced us back in 2010 and since then, just out of luck, by chance, only because magical things happen in London, we have been out record shopping, eating burgers and attending concerts together, I’ve been to his house, I’ve got a Led Zeppelin II red vinyl and a guitar pick as a present from him, and YET I don’t have a single photo with the man. Not one. Nothing. And you know what? I have never asked for it, either.  I wish we had a photo together, just so I can tell my kids and grandchildren all about it one day, but the fact is that I don’t and somehow I’m OK with it.

This detachment might have been fueled by a short speech John McCrea gave between songs the day Cake played at The Troxy, back in 2011. I have checked on YouTube and there seems to be no evidence of that particular rant but apart from giving away a tree to a member of the crowd in one of the most amusing guessing games I’ve ever witnessed (remember kids, say no to vertical video!) and performing a killer version of Short Skirt Long Jacket, at some point that night John addressed the audience and imparted a piece of advice I will never forget. And when I say I will never forget I don’t mean the actual words (which I have indeed forgotten and won’t be able to quote for you now), but the meaning behind them: when seeing a bunch of hands in the air, taking pictures and making videos, McCrea said something like: “Stop taking pictures, you don’t need to prove to anyone that you are here. You know you’re here, I know you’re here, that’s all that matters.” I was struck by that statement. It made wonder why exactly is it that we take pictures these days. Are we taking pictures to document precious moments we probably would cherish in the future or are we taking pictures just to have solid evidence we can throw at other people’s faces to show them how oh-so-cool our lives are? I don’t know, maybe a little bit of both.

In any case, I will try to take them more often. And I will try to write regularly, too. My relationship with Copenhagen (a city that after 6 months I still haven’t quite figured out), my current plans and this kind of midlife crisis I seem to be going through at the moment might be just the kind of encouragement I need to push this forward.

Just keep your expectations low. I’m just an average bloke, after all…

PS: Like Clockwork… Best Queens of the Stone Age record to this date. Period.

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2 thoughts on “Things My Mother Taught Me

  1. Quico says:

    Me alegra mucho que vuelvas a la blogsfera, y más con un proyecto tan interesante como un diario!

    Sólo te falta volver pronto por Madrid y nos hacemos muchas fotos todos juntos, para que tu madre vea que a pesar de tus esfuerzos por ser un tipo solitario que viaja de un país frío y con gente borde a otro aún peor (Supongo que tu próxima mudanza será a un bloque de hielo a la deriva por el ártico) hay mucha gente que te quiere.

    Un abrazote Gus!

    P.D: Si te sirve de algo, yo recuerdo tu anécdota de cómo conociste a Jimmy Page mejor que muchos de los acontecimientos que han sido relativamente importantes en mi vida. A todos nos pasa en cierta medida lo que describes en el texto ;)

  2. gustaborracho says:

    Gracias Quico! Si soy honesto, lo del diario me resulta un poco intimidante pero tengo ganas de hacerlo y me hace ilusión ver hasta donde me lleva.

    En cuanto a Madrid… pues puede que me veas por allí más pronto de lo que imaginas ;)

    Fuerte abrazo, amigo mío!

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