January 1, 2020

It is nine a.m. on New Year's Day, and it is cloudy. I woke up at about 7:30 still drunk and tossed and turned for a while, hoping to return to sleep, but our God is a merciless one.

I want to tell you about a Van Gogh exhibit I went to in Montreal, because it opened my eyes to a couple of things.

First, we bought weed from the Canadian government. They run the dispensaries and the liquor stores up there. I don't understand the politics of it, but socialism can be quite nice. The Canadian government was very forthcoming and specific about the various contents, chemical percentages, strains, breeds, and admixtures of the weed they were selling. The clerks were friendly, knowledgeable, and able to fully explain your weed options in both English and French. After considerable debate, we bought a pre-rolled joint of Blue Dream, which is funny to look back at now, because I've always thought that blue was the color Van Gogh used most effectively, and one might say that his paintings are dreamlike.

The exhibit was in a refactored warehouse about a thirty minute walk from the center of town. We left from Old Montreal, where the buildings are tall, stone, terraced, and French over the narrow cobblestone streets. To picture Montreal, imagine if New Orleans had never been a part of the Confederacy. Our walk took us through a big business district with sleek and shiny buildings, and into a working-class industrial neighborhood where old plants and storerooms were being knocked down to build big new high-rises. J. and T. were impressed by the rate of development in the city, the number of cranes and half-finished buildings all around, but I didn't even notice. It was cold, maybe fifteen degrees without the wind and five with it.

We arrived, and J. and I smoked le joint in the surrounding neighborhood. It was nice because we chose one with a moderate THC level which allowed us not to be put on the moon by a couple hits. I did realize, however, immediately upon re-entering the building that I was too high to take off a sweater in a crowd. T. helped me with this. I demurely handed my coat to the coat-check woman, and I saw the packaging for le joint poking out of my pocket.

The first room of the exhibit contained twelve hanging plaques or signboards spaced throughout the room, each about half the size of a schoolroom chalkboard, hanging from dark rafters three stories overhead and impressively lit from below. The illuminated signboards were almost the only source of light in the room, drawing them into sharp and reverent focus. They had simple and elegant gold frames. The text was in a beautifully serifed white font on rich backgrounds of flat cerulean and burgundy. "It can't be," J. whispered in my ear, desperately holding back a laugh. "No." I looked at the various signboards around the room and said, "It could be, J., and it appears to be so." Every sign was in French.

I stood there for probably ten minutes, staring at the first sign as though understanding French is a matter of how hard you focus. I actually was able to make out maybe a third of the words from Spanish, and from already having read a lot of museum signage about Van Gogh, but for the most part I was just appreciating the beautiful spelling and linguistic tricks in written French to string letters together in an aesthetically pleasing way. It's a language with style.

Eventually, T. came around from another board with a smile on his face and told me that the reverse sides were in English, and then my understanding began. I'm getting to the point now here, I swear.

Most of it was stuff I already knew, but the writing was pleasant, considerate, and thoughtful of its subject. The most interesting sign was about Van Gogh l'écrivain -- the letter writer. It praised Van Gogh's prolific letters to his brother Theo, his constant expressions of gratitude and concern for whether he was worthy of his brother's patronage, his understanding and analysis of the contemporary art scene, and his consciousness of and reflections on the fact that to follow the life of a painter is to sacrifice a normal life for art.

Thinking back to this now, I'm reminded of that quote: "No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place."

This last point was the one that impacted me. . . . It made me look at myself. I have a "normal life" right now -- steady job, room for advancement, good pay, own apartment, records and books on the shelves, food in the fridge, etc. etc. And this year I am going to give that up. . . . I'll probably never be more stable than I am right now, and I have to sacrifice that on the altar of this whole writing thing. I may never be successful in any way, never get published anywhere, and never . . . write as I want to for a living. I couldn't even tell you what "write as I want to" means right now. I may even find that . . . I'm not even productive enough to justify it. . . . But it is to the prospect of peace, of knowing that I'm trying.

I'm afraid that this is a ho-hum expression of insecurity and banal fear of change. People figure shit out, these woes are not unique, and I'm at a better starting point than most. I am my own Theo. I am Tommy Wiseau.