Most of the interesting and memorable people I've encountered have been vice-ridden maniacs.
July 11, 2001 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Most of the interesting and memorable people I've encountered have been vice-ridden maniacs. Through a slightly inebriated misposting I made recently, I wandered into succa's profile, and from there to his blog, where I found this post today. I offer it as a sort of coda to this MeFi discussion, and wonder if people agree with the thought. I sure as hell do, even if it gets harder to do so with the advancing years. (I note too that there are tons of other great sites by MeFi'ers out there too, but today this one did it for me.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken (48 comments total)
In a similar vein, Rageboy is damn near two decades older than me, but still manages to work up that holy indignation, and inspires the hell out of me. Christopher Locke's Rageboy persona matches up pretty well with the kind of people described in the link.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:44 PM on July 11, 2001

and to think.....I was going to quit smoking tonight....
posted by jaded at 10:53 PM on July 11, 2001

I think this is kind of a stereotype. I've known interesting, life-embracing people of all stripes. you don't have to be weird or self-destructive to be creative; you don't have to be crazy to be an artist; and you don't have to be a rebel to take chances.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:58 PM on July 11, 2001

wow. i have to admit that succaland is quite the tasty place.

rock on with your bad self.

(so good, i won't even pimp. check that out.)

"you don't have to be crazy to be an artist"

nope, but boy-howdy does it help! ;)
posted by jcterminal at 12:36 AM on July 12, 2001

I don't know Succa personally, but the people I've met who make such "git up off yer asre and live, son! Damn the torpedoes!" type of statements usually are the most milquetoast of all, otherwise these things wouldn't strike them as such an epiphany.

Fine website, however.
posted by dong_resin at 12:38 AM on July 12, 2001

I think you're right, rebeccablood, and I've also met a lot of not-out-there folks who were interesting and memorable.

But I always come back to the fact that the handful of people I've run across in my wanderings that have truly inspired me and changed my life have all been....well, kind of bent, if not full-on maniacs. Maybe that's more a reflection of my personality than anything else. But MeFi has introduced me to a number of people that I think I'd like to sit down and drink a bottle of whiskey with, and I suppose I was wondering how many people might feel the same way as the Salon article author, succa (apparently), and myself seem to.

A related consideration, which has been on my mind of late, is that I would have gone "Yeah! Rock!" ten, or five, or even three years ago, but now as the lip of the downward slope towards 40 is looming up out of the darkness, I'm not sure if it still makes as much sense to me...

dong_resin :The perspective I'm coming from is having lived for the last 20 years or so out there deliberately teetering on the abyss as much as possible, but growing older now, and fearful of losing the holy fire...

Whatever. This is not my personal blog, this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife....

This is, however, my beautiful beer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:49 AM on July 12, 2001

In that case look to William Burroughs, who was interesting right up `till his death at age 83, or George Carlin, who only seems to get sharper as he goes.
Neither of whom indugled in any sort of chemical refreshments. Cough.

The holly fire of creation seems to be the one thing in life that can benefit from age.
posted by dong_resin at 1:00 AM on July 12, 2001

Just once I'd like to post without a typo.
posted by dong_resin at 1:08 AM on July 12, 2001

On writing and insobriety:
You'd feel like an idiot telling a famous drunk like Ernest Hemingway that "drinking is bad for your liver", because hey, how many influential novels have YOU published? - The Great Writer = Drinking Writer (Faulkner, Hemminway, Fitzgerald, etc) myth is soundly debunked in a book called 'The Thirsty Muse' by Tom Dardis - sadly out of print. He argues pretty convincingly that Hemmingway's later work was negatively affected by alcoholic brain damage and that pretty much everything Hemmingway wrote after his mid 30's is forgettable. The Drinking Writer was a persona that the Lost Generation writers created for themselves long after their talents had faded and alcoholism had consumed their lives.
posted by twitch at 1:10 AM on July 12, 2001

Yeah, dong, personal (and considering the 'hero' discussion that went on here recently I hesitate to use the word but I'm a wee bit drunk at the moment and thus not as keen as I might otherwise be to find the *exact word* I'm looking for) heroes, Burroughs and Carlin both.

Of course, I'd add Charles Bukowski and Henry 'Fishing' Miller, both of whom were old(er) bastards when they were truly great, but both of whom I loved madly (in a platonic and enthusiastically intoxicated sense) when I was younger, and of course good ol' Jack K and the whole Beat crowd, because even if they missed the point, their random shots in its general direction were a joy to behold (and I oughta make some sort of nasty joke about Burroughs' wife here, but I'm not gonna).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:13 AM on July 12, 2001

"some sort of nasty joke about Burroughs' wife"

Hey, sometimes they just won't be quiet.

Even I'm a little disappointed that I made that joke. Twice in as many weeks, too.
posted by dong_resin at 1:20 AM on July 12, 2001

I love crazy people. Vice-ridden maniacs have that edge sometimes, they're just willing to go where others won't for that experinece. I think they are useful to have around just for the sake of perspective: I love to have they way i look at life challenged every once in while, just to test it's integrity.

Nice to have sane people around, too, to remind you of just where that line you crossed was. Good ground control.

The key is to keep it all in balance. Ah, life.
posted by Hackworth at 1:36 AM on July 12, 2001

dong_resin: Just once I'd like to post without a typo.

Well, mathowie just unveiled this new feature when posting comments, called "Preview". You might want to check it out- seems pretty bug-free when I've used it so far... ;)
posted by hincandenza at 2:19 AM on July 12, 2001

(Please ignore the previous thread-killer post. Discuss it here if necessary.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:30 AM on July 12, 2001

"Forget the lowlife, tourist, squeaky clean middle-class bad boys who call their sex-depravity in blunt prose, fine writing. Forget the copycat girls who wouldnt know the end of a dildo from a vacuum rod. They are only chintz dipped in mud and we are after real material. What is forbidden is scarier, sexier, unnightmared by the white-collar cataloguers of crap. 'Don't do that' makes for easy revolt. What is forbidden is hidden. To worm into the heart and mind until what one truly desires has been encased in dark walls of what one ought to desire, is the success of the serpent."

Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects. Part of my personal manifesto.
posted by spandex at 3:32 AM on July 12, 2001

oh, yawn. those who indulge in vices just for the sake of doing so, or for the sake of puffing up their egos to make themselves feel 'creative,' are frequently as boring, and more often more so, than the automatons they decry. i mean, have you ever been to an orgy party thrown by theater majors, where all the revelers are trying so hard to be 'rebellious' -- where their tools for supposedly fucking up the system are taken chapter and verse from the works of the rebels of previous years, where everyone looks like they're trying really hard to have a good time?

how is being 'crazy' in the generic, look-ma-no-brain sense "creativity"? how is that "originality"? i ask you. sure, you might die quicker, which i guess is fine, since there's nothing more irritating than someone who's sanctimonious about the fact that they're more outside the system than you. because by lording that fact over whoever's around, it's totally apparent that the attempt to "rebel" is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to be noticed by the system that spurned them for whatever reason.

those who are truly creative usually achieve true originality by letting their work do the talking.
posted by maura at 5:27 AM on July 12, 2001

I've been thinking about this and the earlier thread, and what it is that doesn't seem to ring true, to me. I suspect this is going to be lost in a welter of responses to maura (with whom I largely agree - I think she(?) identifies people who are out of balance in either direction - more below).

The Big Problem, in my eyes, is how to live my life. How to find balance: how to be happy. I don't think that's easy, and I assume it's what others are searching for too (and what they look to other "memorable people" to provide guidance on).

I used the word balance because I think being happy is largely finding the right trade-off between freedom and security. Many of the comments here seem to regard the "vice-ridden maniacs" as exemplars of freedom.

But will emulating them produce balance?. That seems to imply oscillating between a safe life and chemical-induced freedom. To me, it seems to lack integration. There should be a way to find freedom within security, not bounce between the two.

Freedom to take drugs, yes. But freedom via drugs?

Maybe I'm misjudging people here, but the emphasis seems to be on the drug, not on the freedom.

Or maybe people want pure freedom? I guess that's possible, but it's hard for me to understand. And even then, drugs don't seem to provide that (unless you're happy for that liberty to be ugly and short). So again, you seem to end up with oscillation, not balance.

Anyway, no, I can say I've been positively inspired by people with "crazy" lives. That's not the way I want to live.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2001

PS can -> can't; the emphasis on drugs is because I thing there have three threads here recently all discussing the same kind of thing, but the same goes for freedom from constraints in general. It's not about having a normal life and then a crazy week. It's about having a good life every week.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2001

It's important to note that Succa isn't starting a rallying cry for people to act crazy just for the sake of acting crazy. In fact, he explicit warns against it in this paragraph:
It's somewhat upsetting that true eccentricity is endangered nowadays. We meet people who act disturbed, like my roommate's coworker who eats canned dog food and pretends to genuinely like it to garner a reaction, but these people aren't crazy, because they make a big deal about being crazy, as if it's something you can learn by reading a textbook.
He's just saying don't restrict yourself because of all the saturday-morning "The More You Know" encouragements to be a productive and responsible member of society.

Think about something other than your mounting responsibilies every now and then, and realize that planning for a secure future isn't everything that there is in life. Kick back, enjoy yourself every now and then. Be stupid, it's good for you!

Let your freak flag fly, as they say.
posted by cCranium at 6:36 AM on July 12, 2001

Wow, this comes as a Thursday morning surprise, to say the least...

I should point out that I wrote another article in the same vein over at bareSquare (scroll down and read your way up), but with the intention of giving a little more insight as to why I wrote that rant.

Nobody's expecting anyone to go out and smoke crack cocaine or gamble away all your rent money, unless you were comfortable in doing that. All I'm saying is to find the limits of your personal "comfort zone" and crank up your lifestyle a little more so that it meets the threshold. All we worry about is "everyday life", and frankly, everyday life sucks.

It's a bit preachy, but I needed to get it off my chest. Thanks for listening, and I appreciate your comments.
posted by Succa at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2001

I still think a monk has a better life than a frat boy, overall.
posted by jragon at 6:48 AM on July 12, 2001

the attempt to "rebel", "from what"v she says. "whatta ya got?

"even if they missed the point" did they miss the point. and which point would that be, i refuse to believe that statement. Leave it to dong to raise a funny point "Val honey, shift to yer left, i just got this thing re-calibrated---Val?" Burroughs has much to say on the topics mentioned in previous threads. Hemingways problem was trying too much to be THE character in his books. He could never just observe hence the use of 'the' so friggin much in his work. Pappa was the ultimate method writer.

Fitzgerald to hemingway: "Rich people are different from you and me."

Hemingway: Yes...they have more money."

by the age of 21, Kerouac had over a million words under his belt. Jack gave us one of the best narrative accounts of post-war america...the problem is, like Bill points out, is this. Neal for instance, chatter box-hero of sublime what ever, drilling Dexadrine and women like a speed queen. Bill tells us that jack caught that side of Neal, but what about the Neal that would be silent for 8 hours, have moments of clarity that were not within the mainstream persona that Jack set down. as far a succa? when someone says "Im in a place were generations...." well, youth. The slid to the edge is almost always about the view. Burroughs, to me, is more fascinating in the biographical. His tangier period. Getting rejected by the OSS."How to find balance: how to be happy" true Mr.Cooke. I dont care for G.B. Shaw to much but what he said about reasonable people adapting to the world not the world adapting to people rings true.

"Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think/
neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices/
are fathered by our heroism. Virtues/ are forced upon us by our impudent crimes./ These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree."
-T.S. Eliot, from 'Gerontion'
posted by clavdivs at 7:17 AM on July 12, 2001

If anything, that monk is braver than the frat boy. Anyone can smash beer cans against their head, but how many people have the guts to dedicate their lives to <.insert cause/creed/deity here>?
I hate to do a 'me too' at Succa and maura, but 'me too!' Rebellion is only valid if you've made an attempt to understand the social structures you're rebelling against; just lashing out blindly against The Man is just as much of a trap as unconditional acceptance is.
posted by darukaru at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2001

Nobody's asking you to smash beer cans against your head, or take to the streets combatting The Man's evil forces. You don't need to rebel against society just for the sake of doing so. Instead, people need to rebel against themselves.

I'd say the monk and the frat-boy are both better than the 9-to-5 tech worker who goes home and watches DVD's all night long every single day of his life. Where are the lasting memories, and the "life experiences" in this lifestyle? Nowhere.

(Unless watching "American Pie" counts as a life experience. Then, feel free.)
posted by Succa at 7:29 AM on July 12, 2001

I do like spandex's quote a lot. That goes straight into the commonplace book.

Jacques Lacan came up with something more sweeping: "be eccentric to yourself." Challenge your internal preconceptions, no matter how mundane the manner.

Frankly, I don't give a shit about "lifestyle". Lifestyle is buying cutlery based upon photos in Wallpaper*; it's Pepsi Max adventure. It's bollocks. It's just a style, a set of stylistics. Where's the substance? T S Eliot wrote The Waste Land while working at a bank. Nuff said.
posted by holgate at 7:39 AM on July 12, 2001

Regardless of what you think of his music, Iggy Pop is maybe the perfect model of rebellion. He's an intelligent man who, while gearing up for college, looked at what the everyday word had to offer him and rejected it wholesale, a trend he continues to this day.

Give "I Need More" a read.
Even you're uninterested in Iggy's music, it offers about as much regarding rebellion as you're gonna find.

Btw, you're unlikely to find a man more at ease with his advancing years that Iggy. He's been there, he bought the tee-shirt, and he regrets nothing.
posted by dong_resin at 7:40 AM on July 12, 2001

True risk is cutting our cherished mental thresholds

"I got more images than any hick poet ever shit out! Millions-uh, and mbillions of imuhges, of meeeeeeeeee, meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" That has to be one of the creepiest scenes in Burroughs' work, that dwarf briefing.

I believe it was John Giorno who paraphrased someone in saying:

"I'm a thief in an empty apartment, and I'm giving it all away"
posted by mblandi at 7:45 AM on July 12, 2001

But I always come back to the fact that the handful of people I've run across in my wanderings that have truly inspired me and changed my life have all been....well, kind of bent, if not full-on maniacs.

This has been my experience too, but I have to add to the thought that in every case, the characters in question were not off-center or in outerspace by some sort of affected lifestyle choice, it was just the way they were. That highly creative people tend to be nut-jobs who do crazy things does not in any way mean that doing crazy things will make you a highly creative person. How many music scenes have been wiped out by people who thought heroin would automatically give them the talent of Kurt Cobain?

Still, I'm all for living your life the way you see fit... do what you think is fun, and if you aren't hurting anybody, it ain't nobody's business. And I think that's even true if you like to live your life in a cubicle by day and a gated subdivision at night. Someone's got to do it... and it won't be me!
posted by spilon at 7:48 AM on July 12, 2001

To thine own self be true, as the fucki;ng hypocrite two-faced father Polonious said to his sonny boy Laertes, who was heading to Paris to get laid.
Ps. When Hem. said the rich have mnore money he was being the smart ass realist but in fact Fitzgerald was right: the rich not only have more money they have also a way of life (prep schools, coming out parties, long vacations in Euorpe etc) that makes them different. Though not better.
After all, Bush went to Yale....
posted by Postroad at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2001

"I'm a thief in an empty apartment, and I'm giving it all away"
YEAH. like burroughs with his love for 'you cant win'
holgate, ah, true but Tommy then went on to Faber, are you referring to T.S....clarify please. oh i see, the ability to work in a 'normal' job should not effect to quality of work.
posted by clavdivs at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2001

I'll have whatever clavdivs is having.
posted by Skot at 8:08 AM on July 12, 2001

posty, im...compelled to do what others have done to others within MeFi...i.e. your linking the 20's rich life style seems to have little bearing on polonious...the perks are only to be had BECAUSE of the money... but i know what you meant and i agree.
posted by clavdivs at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2001

If he's having the Salvia Divinorum, at least it will only last an hour.
How about we all act like wild, creative geniuses who can spell and write in complete sentences with actual punctuation?
posted by hazyjane at 8:22 AM on July 12, 2001

like gertrude stein hazy?
posted by clavdivs at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2001

no, like ourselves.
posted by hazyjane at 8:36 AM on July 12, 2001

Succ can give all the "drink and live wild" monologues he wants, but at one point all artists commit to their craft. Period. Sure Hemingway knocked back a few and lived life, but then he STOOD at his typewriter for weeks at a time doing battle with his art. People couldn't even approach him when he was engaged in creating. Not even for a drink.
posted by girard31 at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2001

Signs I need a new ISP: both times I was linked to from Metafilter, my site went down.

posted by jragon at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2001

All I'm saying is to find the limits of your personal "comfort zone" and crank up your lifestyle a little more so that it meets the threshold. All we worry about is "everyday life", and frankly, everyday life sucks.

But that's my point. My everyday life doesn't suck. I've found my balance (maybe I sound like the most arrogant smug cunt in the world, but my life is pretty damn good). What you're encouraging me to do is lose it...

I kind-of-assumed that other people have found their balance too. But from what you write, and what others agree with, it seems otherwise.

So maybe I better shut up! :o) Happy searching...
posted by andrew cooke at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2001

Faulkner, according to several accounts I've heard (and I'm from Mississippi and have lived in Oxford) drank mostly after writing, not while he was writing. And he is thought to have done so because it was so hard to come down to Earth after writing. Walker Percy has some interesting things to say about the latter in, "Lost in the Cosmos." In any case, Faulkner's drinking life was not a big, crazy riot. The story is, on the contrary, depressing.
posted by raysmj at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2001

Most people do find balance very elusive. I spent five years doing something I wanted to do more than anything in the world, that I thought would make me very happy, and ended up on antidepressants. You just never can tell.
posted by kindall at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2001

Succa can give all the "drink and live wild" monologues he wants, but at one point all artists commit to their craft. Period.

Who said that the two were mutually exclusive? Cut-and-dried statements about art and artists are usually, to my mind, suspect in the smell-test area. Try that line out on Brendan Behan or Auguste Rodin.

Of course, that's just the opinion of a drink-and-live-wild actor who gets enough work to avoid disgruntlement.

Absolutism sucks absolutely.
posted by Skot at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2001

"artists commit to their craft" or the craft commits them. (shepards hook-entrance stage left)
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2001

kindall - yeah, I can understand that (hope I wasn't too offensively smug). My mum was depressed when I was a kid (it took ages before they found the right anti-depressant, but when they did it was a miracle) and I think that influenced me a lot - I'll fight like *crazy* if I feel my life isn't "right", perhaps to avoid the same thing (but of course, I don't really have a clue what to do to avoid something like depression; I guess really I'm just lucky).
posted by andrew cooke at 10:11 AM on July 12, 2001

There is no vice merit badge.

I have managed to divest myself of a host of vices. It cost me a friendship at one point. I have tested the waters of chemical insanity. I used the buddy system and while we managed to screw up time and time again, we didn't drown.

I avoid recommending anything. I never tried half the things my friends did, but there was a time in my life for experimentation. I would never deny anyone the same privilege.

I have held my friend's hands as they crawled back from chemically induced insanity in the bleached halls of mental wards.

I know why they got themselves there in the first place. Some people are haunted by their past and just as stressed about their present. Seeking succor with drugs is a dubious undertaking at best. There are those that don't get support from their family and control of their life is something foreign.

To this day the only thing I would consider taking is pot and I would only do it rarely. Other then sailing and mountain biking there is nothing else that relaxes me as much. I don't need drugs and I doubt I ever did.

I know insanity. I have seen it and have walked its edge. I am more intimate with it than I wish to be. I am in fear and fascination with it.

It's nice that the crazies are so entertaining to people. I try and laugh because I'm afraid. I try and laugh because I can imagine being crazy.

I have friends that court madness and those that hold on to sobriety with both hands on the wheel in the recommended position. I don't require my friends to provide me with entertainment. We share the exciting along with the mundane. That's what friends are for.
posted by john at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2001

Andrew: no smugness was detected...

The reason I ended up depressed was probably that I turned out not to be as good at the writing business as I was at writing. It's a common mistake made by entrepreneurs of all types.

And my depression was rather mild, really. The drugs did help me over the hump, though.
posted by kindall at 12:45 PM on July 12, 2001

here's what makes you whole: testing your own limits. what that comprises is very personal, and might not seem like a chance at all to anyone else.

but to do something scary - cook a meal, hang glide, try out for a play, fall in love, quit your job - brings you to life and helps you to know yourself.

risky behavior doesn't always (usually?) = genuine risk.

authenticity is what we're after.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2001

Morning over here in Oz - all I can say is thanks for the feedback, folks. Man, I love this place.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:49 PM on July 12, 2001

mornin sunshine. stwc, At dinner the kids were bitchin about the punishment they had to endure today(knocked off ANOTHER liquor store)soo..

Eldest Daughter: "no outside, no playstation, no movies(i dont let them watch t.v.) no nothing. just a slurplee and you picking up the Ford(hailourford)((shes 10))

Clav:"thats right and finish the corbel vault after dinner and after you flush out the badger out back"
(protest continues) fine..ok..imagine if the police came and took you away..
youngest daughter: "not me"

C: Fine mommy...
ED: Not mommy
C: "fine me then...the police take me away, and keep me in jail, asking me questions and the police never tell me why they hauled me away, lets call him joe.
YD: "I like Carcalla"
ED: "no, call him bill"
C: "no, its joe"
ED: "what happens, what did he do and why wont they tell him anything"
C: (laughter)"I dont know"
ED: "what happens to joe"
C: "well its not a pretty ending"
YD: "is joe a con?"
C "no sweety. no, rake the tumblers on that Yale, sweety, where not lookin to impress anyone"
ED: "what happens to joe"
C: "well, as far as i can remember, he keep going"why am i here, why are you holdin me" they where gonna let him go. but he just keep at it."
YD: "and?"
C: "well... he dies"
ED: "they killed joe?"
YD "how"
C (grimace)
ED" Did they hang him"
C: "Your close"
YD: "They shoot him"
C: "cold, third tumbler sweetie"
ED: "They stab him"
C: "Ya they, ah, stabbed him"
YD: "thats wrong"
C: "Eat your dinner"
good thread and good morning. for what its worth, im watching Weirs"Picnic at Hanging Rock".Su-real yessir.
posted by clavdivs at 8:44 PM on July 12, 2001

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