The Restaurant

(This is an old story I’d written maybe five or six years ago. I figured I’d post it and maybe that’d get me motivated to actually write some new stuff?)

“Well.” I took a sip of my beer. It was a Stella; this place always has Stella on special. It was a special so frequently I assumed it was because they couldn’t sell any. To me it seemed more like a permanent clearance sale than a proper ‘special’. Either way, Stella is classier than Bud Light (or is it Bud Lite?), so let it be a perpetual special – I didn’t mind saving a few dollars. I took another sip.

“It’s something new and something I don’t understand yet.” My friend Jeff looked around while he thought. We were at our typical hangout where once a month, more or less, we go out for food and drinks. It was a typical restaurant with the typical fare of burgers, steak, and chicken dishes, usually visited by families, couples, or friends/groups celebrating events that aren’t worth celebrating. Jeff and I were a couple of guys sorting things out, not like a couple on a date with their trivial matters or people “celebrating” some mundane event. Nevermind that our “sorting things out” never actually sorted anything out.

“You’re good at all sorts of things.” Jeff said. “Why would you decide to write?”

“It’s new and artistic.”

“You’re a good artist already. You used to draw, and you can write decent music. You could do those instead of trying to write can’t you? Build on your current skills rather than learn new ones.” Jeff is endlessly curious. Not so much curious about new, unknown things, but curious about the task at hand, the current pressing matter. He won’t go out of his way to learn about some topic on the news that he doesn’t understand, but if someone close to him brings up a topic, he analyzes it like a detective would analyze a case.

“I don’t know man. Writing seems…more mysterious – less dictated by formula, more creative in a way. I mean art, such as painting has tons of mystery to it, but telling stories, or fiction, with just words, seems crazy. That it’s so mysterious makes it even more interesting to me. But you know what Jeff? I have no fucking clue what I should write about. Like how do you just sit down and write a fucking story?”

Jeff thought about this but didn’t have to think long. Music was his life, it was his art, and putting writing and music together was a natural marriage; songs tell stories too. I knew where his line of thought would take him.

“Well, don’t you just write about what you know? That is what I usually read in all the musical biographies. They write about what they know. You know Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” right?”

He knew that I was aware of the song. I gave a quick affirmative nod. It is one of the best songs ever written.

“That is a classic song, and it’s more or less a narrative about his bar playing days. He wrote about what he knew and it was a hit.”

“Well ok, but what the fuck do I know?” I laughed. “I lead a boring life, I have a girlfriend, I work, I smoke weed, hell even sometimes I lift weights at the gym. I’m not complaining about anything, ya know I’m happy, but my life isn’t exactly story material. Maybe I should write about waking up, doing the same thing everyday and then…going to work? Fucking that would be a wonderful book, huh? I could write about being stoned and confused by music lyrics but that’s been done millions of times.” I took an aggressive drink of my beer and shook my head. “It’d be the most boring damn book ever. If anything I’d write a book about nothing, because life is pretty much nothing to write about.”

Jeff laughed and said, “A book about nothing? That’s what Seinfeld was. Well, not a book but a TV show about nothing.”

Dammit, Jeff, such a sharp person. In trying to go on about life not having anything to really write about, being about nothing, he brings up one of the best (if not THE best) show ever created. I dropped the point before he had to prove me wrong.

“Yeah, Seinfeld was a show about nothing. And somehow they made it good.”

Taking a drink of his margarita (yes, margarita), Jeff jumped right into his analysis. “Seinfeld was good because it was about nothing. I mean most people, including myself, feel life is nothing. At least partly. But Seinfeld took these nothing moments that we all know and understand and made it relatable and funny.”

“And without a strict plot too, right?” I added, trying to play an active role in the conversation. I always assumed a story would need some form of structure and a story without a plot seemed like a terrible idea.

“Well,” he paused and plotted out what he was about to say, “the show did have a plot in each episode but no real plot tying the shows together. They had their separate jobs that we constant in a season, but outside of that, you’re correct, there was no plot.”

I sighed. “But it was good. Now I can’t do the same damn thing, even with a story. It’d be a blatant ripoff.”

“Thats where you need to put your own flavor in.” Jeff instructed me.

I drank some more beer, finishing my glass and setting it on the edge of the table so the waitress knew I wanted another. She quickly and silently brought me another drink without me even being aware of it. My last beer was number two, a 20 ounce glass, so really three and a third cans of beer. Cans are the definitive measurement of beer consumption and 40 ounces equaling 3.33333 beers had been established a long time previous. I was feeling good.

We both sat there thinking of our conversation and where it should lead next. I thought of writing what I know (being typical everyday stuff) and Seinfeld’s masterpiece in turning the trivial into something special. Every artform I could think of built itself on its creator’s personal knowledge. Chekhov was a doctor; anyone could tell this by his stories. C.S. Lewis was a passionate Christian and is why Aslan was basically Jesus, Orwell had some career in analyzing politics or something and it was obvious that he hated communism, Twain knew of the river and slavery, Vonnegut was in Dresden and most likely abducted by aliens…all of these are evident upon reading their works. I found one exception, one of many it seemed.

“Ok. You say they write about what they know, right?” I set up the statement for Jeff to agree too, so I could present a counterexample. A quick flash of Socrates standing in a robe flashed in my mind.

“Yeah.”

“What about…uh…the dude who wrote Lord of the Rings? What the fuck was his name? Tole-key-an? Tole-i-kan? Something like that. I mean did he know trolls, kings, dwarves, and elves? It looks like he just pulled Middle Earth right out of his ass.”

“I seen the movies when they came out and haven’t seen them since.” That had to have been quite some time ago, my drunken self concluded. It was too hard to anchor the movies and their releases to a year, especially since I’ve watched them many times since. “I’m guessing he just used his imagination and created something new. And I bet if you dug deep enough into his stuff you’d find something relatable to what his interests were, or points he was trying to get at,” Jeff finally concluded.

He had a point. I bet if I reread his stuff again I could find something that brought the story back to his own life in someway. I nodded. “Yeah…yeah, that is a good point.” Maybe I would do that sometime soon. Too bad the book takes forever to read.

I thought for a moment and took a drink. Jeff pretty much escaped the point I was trying to prove. My drunken mind moved on quickly as if not wanting to dwell in silence for very long.

“You know what else would get me? Ok, I just read The Hunger Games, you haven’t read them or seen the movies have you?”

“Nope.”

“Well it’s a trilogy, and it covers, like, obviously three separate stories but they all tie together, like a story arc I guess. But if I wrote the books I wouldn’t know where to end the thing at. Life doesn’t really end. Katniss, she’s the hero person, she doesn’t just ‘live happily ever after’ after the end of the book. Shit in Panem – uhhh, the setting of the story – sorry Jeff, will just keep going. It’s not like shit happens to her and then she’s done. But the books are done. They finish, because they have to end. Where do you put a book’s ending when nothing really ends? I’d end up ending the ‘trilogy’ with about 20 books where the last five she just gets old, gets Alzheimer’s or some other incurable disease and dies not remembering a thing. And her grandkids hate her for being bad at technology or some other reason.”

Jeff laughed, obvious taken by surprise at my alcohol-fueled rant. He quickly recovered for his chuckle and regained his words. “I guess it’s the same as any other forms of art. You write a song and it has to end somewhere. Personally, I would end it after the main story is over. It’s obvious and exhausting when a story just keeps going on and on and just drags. I actually think it’s rather obvious when a story is supposed to end.” Jeff seemed to be losing interest in my writing curiosities while I found the topic even more fascinating the further we talked and with the more I drank.

One example jumped into my mind from high school. It was one of the two or three books I remember from way back then: the mandatory books we had to read. “Like Huckleberry Finn? Mark Twain didn’t know how to end it so it was just Huck and Tom and their slave buddy – Jim? – hanging out in a shack for months or something. Wasn’t that how it went? At least that’s what I remember. But like let’s say I write a story about us in this restaurant, where and how would it end?”

“That would be a boring story.” Jeff chuckled and took a drink of his girly drink. Damn right it would be a boring story, but what happened to the ‘write about what you know’ idea? I know us drinking and talking about random stuff; couldn’t that make a story?

“But really how would it end?” I laughed, joking around with him although being a bit more serious with my question. I knew it would take a long time to find a halfway decent ending and wanted to see what terrible ending he would throw out with some prompting.

“I have no idea, maybe you could make some people break in to rob this place…” Jeff suggested. I smiled, suppressing a laugh as my mouth was full of beer. Jeff was off to a hilarious start and my imagination quickly gave visuals to his words. I imagined the two of us with Tommy guns, wearing hats like the mobsters wore in the 30s, and pumping the walls of the restaurant with lead as we fended off the never ending army of robbers. Luckily I was able to swallow my beer halfway through my thought. “…and we save everyone. We become heroes and…”

“Is there anything else I can get for you guys today?” The waitress, as usual, did a wonderful job at sneaking up on us. Me and Jeff looked at each other, I tallied up my beers, and feeling satisfied gave a slight shake of my head. Jeff also felt the same; we were here quite a while and it was time to move on with our day. 

“Umm, nope. We should be good.” Jeff said. I usually stayed quiet and let him do all of the official talking.

“Well here’s your check guys. There’s no rush and you let me know if you need anything else, okay?” Our waitress said as she left the check and walked off. It’s amusing and pathetic to see a waitress blatantly being kind, sweet, and even flirting simply to earn a tip. It’s about as subtle as a good analogy about being subtle. Luckily, this girl today seemed genuinely kind to us with no ulterior-tips motives. These are the people that get the best tips.

I sighed. Our tasty food, intoxicating drinks, and good conversation were obviously over. I had about half a beer left and drank it down in a few large gulps. “I’ll get the check.” I figured I’d be nice and treat him this time.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, you can buy next time if you want.” I dropped a 50 dollar bill on the table giving our waitress around a 25% tip. I told myself, knowing it’s a false hope, that if I tipped like this I could change the world for the better.

“Alright. I’ll get you next time.” Me and Jeff put on our jackets. “Hey, about an ending to a restaurant story, we could just put on our jackets and leave.” He laughed, obviously joking with me. “Nah, I’m sure you’d come up with a better ending than that.”

“I sure hope so, that one would be awful. Sorry buddy. Well,” I sighed again, vaguely aware how stiff my legs were and how full my belly was. “Let’s go.”

We stood up and walked out of the restaurant.

Getting to Work or Waiting for Creativity?

Black Haired Guy thinks about what is more important: creativity or determination and hard work?

Sometimes you hold a certain set of beliefs about the world and upon inspection realize that they’re contradictory.  Both views sound good enough to be taken as fact but together they don’t make any sense. I’ve recent ran into a set of these contradictions upon thinking about goals, success, and “getting somewhere” in regards to long-term dreams. I want to be a writer, a blogger, or something along those lines. As you can guess these take a certain about of blatant creativity as well as dedication to keep working on goals and remain determined. On one hand I believe in the “sacredness” of creativity and how you simply can’t force it. In the strictest sense if you have no ideas for a story or a song (or whatever artwork you do) and you sit down and try to “force it” I think it will turn out to be shit. Like if I forced myself to write a blog post without having any inspiration behind it it will be shit. Take this for an example. I’ve been thinking of this topic for a week or two and I’m not “forcing it.” My other mantra is something about hard work being required to get somewhere, and not just hard work but that determined focus on goals and an insatiable appetite for working towards them. Trying to do anything means getting shit on over and over again and this requires some determination to keep going despite the shit. Taken separately they sound pretty good and I can give examples for both. But taken together? “You can’t force creativity but you need to fucking keep going and remain determined.” What?

That leads to some really shitty times where you’re sitting down wanting to write a story or a blog but not being inspired to write. You end up sitting there and staring at the computer or paper and just getting angry. According to my first mantra if you’re in this state you shouldn’t sit down and try to write some uninspired bullshit because it will suck. Obviously if you have an idea then you need to work on it but what the hell do you do if you aren’t inspired? Force yourself to write shit?

I think what started me thinking about this was some Stephen King quote about writer’s block being bullshit, or was it Jerry Seinfeld? Fuck. I’ll try to find it now…

Fun fact: it’s both. Seinfeld said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread that “Writer’s block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.” and Stephen King said that “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” They meant that, yes, there will be times where things don’t come easy with art where you aren’t inspired but that it is no excuse: the second mantra of hard work and determination is more important that being inspired. They use the term “writer’s block” but we know what that means; it means not being inspired. Confronted with that information from actual successful people who are considered experts I’m inclined to nearly abandon the first mantra of creativity not being able to be forced. I suppose I still think of it that way, but you can’t just sit around and wait to be inspired. Perhaps by working on something you will get your mind active and thinking of ways to be creative. Either way it seems the “hard work” part is more important and must outweigh sitting around waiting to be inspired.

Have a blockquote too. I never get to use them.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

-Stephen King

It’s Been Awhile…

Black Haired Guy reflects on the state of his derelict blog.

It’s been nearly six months (or so?) since I wrote my last post on here, and it was sort of an easy post to just toss out there; it was something fairly safe and typical. And I haven’t written a damn thing for this blog since. It makes me feel kind of sad looking back on it, as apparently I have quite a few followers and have had quite a bit of views; things were actually starting to look up for me on here and it’s sad to see how I’ve let it all sort of drift away and fall apart, especially since it was my first attempt at blogging. But maybe all of that negativity isn’t actually necessary quite yet.

What really happened was I started a new blog titled Everything Sucks that is over at the wonderfully titled everythingsucks.blog ( I put the effort into an actual domain name!). I finally figured out a theme I could run with that sounded good, and could churn out post after post that were all related to a common theme: everything in life sucking. You see, this blog here, theblackhairedguy, was my first blog and was meant as an experiment; as you all know, you need to start every journey somewhere and starting is always an awkward and painful experience. And so that’s what this blog is. Like I said in the about page, I never had much of a plan and always intended to work things out as I went along, and that’s exactly what I did. Many of these posts had a common theme — a sort of reflection on many various facets of life — and while they varied quite a bit, I think there was still something underlying them all, even if I can’t exactly put it into words.

As I said, I have this new blog over at Everything Sucks and I think it is a much more professional job and that things are tidier over there. I even have set banners for blog posts! I’m working from a single theme — everything sucking — and this naturally keeps things coherent as all posts must be from a certain point of view. Check it out and follow if you’re interested! Despite this project that I’m proud of, there are some things I write that are more reflective than statements about life and how it sucks…like sometimes you need to just think aloud write about things instead of always trying to prove a point. There seems to be certain things I write that seem to fit this blog’s perspective on things rather than showing how they suck, and while they do suck, I tend to think that this might be a more introspective blog than Everything Sucks, and that they may be able to coexist.

My main problem is that of time; it’s hard to focus on two blogs as well as the bunch of other random shit I do in my life. But coming back on here has left me with a realization that I have plenty to write about on here away from the purposeful pessimism of Everything Sucks. While I’m not promising anything, I might have to start posting some things on here again. And if you happen to read this, well, thanks for taking the time, especially since it’s been quite a bit of time since I’ve posted.

Writing as a Reflection

I truly believe that art in its most basic and general form is a window to the soul. The mere act of creating something, even if it is mundane like “creating” a freshly-mowed yard, shows the world something about yourself. This happens outside things that are usually considered the arts; I feel the only requirement for art is some form of creative input. This means creativity is in all walks of life, and you could consider many things art. And these things all say something about the person who created them.

I do think some forms of art are more obvious windows into the artist’s soul while others are more abstract – like a foggy window – that partly reflects upon the one viewing the art. Mowing the yard probably doesn’t reflect too strongly on what sort of person you are even though hints of it are present. Maybe you mow the yard in a messy fashion showing that you’re a messy and scattered person. Maybe you mow in complex geometric patterns? I’d bet your artwork would reflect the same tendencies. The visual arts and music are closer to pure art, and while they do reflect upon the soul, they don’t do it with as much clarity as writing seems to do. Even if they do, they offer much more abstraction that can make the message difficult to see and interpret. Writing seems to get down to the nitty-gritty of the soul, and that is what makes it unique.

Music does say something about the musician, but it has a chance to not be a pure form of expression. A person with only their instrument is likely the most obvious and pure form, and still this has it’s own flaws. Music is universal, but how you put all the elements together can be very subtle, complex, and not immediately obvious to what the musician is thinking or feeling. There is a lot of self-interpretation which by letting the listener’s own soul reflect back through the music can be seen as a strength of the medium. Art can still be good even if it doesn’t directly show anything about the creator of the art and this self-reflection is what makes music great. Music can also suffer from having multiple people making a single piece of artwork be it a song, an album, or whatever. This will naturally dilute the picture of the single musician into a collective, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different.

The visual arts, by having a single artist create a work (usually), is a bit closer to writing. It still has the abstraction that music does, possibly even more. You can look at a painting or drawing and draw some conclusions about the artist or their interests, but you probably can’t get a complete picture about how their brains operate. Color, texture, composition, and subject matter are complex in how they play together (akin to the complexities of music), and it doesn’t allow for an easy reflection on the artist. You can tell Van Gogh was tortured inside, but as to why you can’t really tell by the works of art alone. Maybe you could tell, but it would take a bit more thought and observation. Art’s strength seems to be in having a single artist do the creating and the visual elements that can be inspected.

Writing is a much more direct reflection on the artist than the previous two I’ve mentioned. Since I’ve started writing I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s strange because you’d think that a person should know themselves more than anyone else, but by writing I’ve realized there are things subconsciously that I didn’t know existed. I used to draw and to play music, but I never really discovered anything deep within myself. Or if I did, I already had an idea of what existed although it wasn’t very clear and specific. Writing seems to be a totally different beast allowing for intense introspection.

My writing so far seems to have undercurrents to them that tie all of the stories together. It’s interesting how a person can write 5 or 6 stories and during the writing process think, “Wow, I really write about that topic a lot. That’s strange.” It can only be a reflection of what is on the inside. For example, my last story, “A Comfy Sunday,” was about a fly that pissed off the protagonist and led to him destroying his perfect day. What is the theme there? To me, it is how a single thing can completely change your day and your life. You can call it the fly or the person’s anger which he has no control over. That’s the key point: things can happen that affect your life, and other’s lives, and no one has any control over them. A single fly can ruin your day; it’s a sad fact of daily existence although most cases aren’t that dramatic. Incidents that alter your day, and your life, happen thousands of times a day. What if you left for work a minute late and that led to a car accident that paralyzed you? The world is like a giant, complex machine that seems to be a dice-roll to everyone due to it’s complexity. I love exploring the idea of chance, or fate, and how it plays a part in everyone’s lives. I didn’t really know this until I started to write. I also noticed that all of my stories seem to feature alcohol. If that isn’t a huge red-flag warning sign about alcoholism I don’t know what is. It’s shocking to read what you’ve written and to see what you dwell on. It’s like looking in a mirror that shows what on the inside.

I love writing, and as fun as it is creating things with words it’s strange to see how this reflects on the author. I’ve noticed this in other writers and other artists in general. I don’t see how you can write and not subconsciously reflect what is inside your own mind. And if you do, it seems like it would cheapen the writing to an extent, but I’m no expert on it. Or maybe if you can escape from the prison that is your mind you can really blossom as a writer? This seems to exist in other forms of art, although I think it isn’t quite as noticeable as in writing. There are things about music and the visual arts that reflect on the artist, but they seem to be more abstract reflections that are more open to interpretation to others. These are not flaws in the other mediums, just difference that anyone should appreciate. Think of the artists, musicians, and writers you’re a fan of. Think of the ones you personally know. What do their works say about them?

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