Guidance Counseling: Saul Williams

Published  September 2012

saul-williamsWe’re super lucky to get globe-trotter, genre-bender, word-wizard and all-around boxthinker-outside-of artist Saul Williams to listen to our problems this month. He’s just the kind of multi-tasker with a philosopher’s heart that can soothe our troubled minds. Supporting two releases in two mediums—the book of poetry he curated, Chorus: a Literary Mix Tape and Volcanic Sunlight, an album that’s also available as a stand-alone play button— Williams will be passing through New Orleans on September 28th, stopping at the House of Blues, Parish room for a spoken word performance. Speak on it, Saul.

It seems like my upstairs neighbor is always moving furniture around at 2 a.m. Whatever they’re doing, it’s loud as hell and wakes me up all the time. I don’t want to be that leave-a-note person but I can never catch them in person. What should I do?

Your desire to not be that “leave-anote person” is understandable, but sometimes we’re confronted with situations that force us into becoming exactly who we don’t want to be. Luckily, in this case you’re not being forced to become violent or even absurd. I live in Paris, where the complaining neighbor is a persistent reality. The couple that lived beneath me left notes asking me to install thicker carpets, as they could sometimes hear my girlfriend walking in heels after-hours. Loud music after 10 p.m. was sometimes a problem as well. They even complained about me washing dishes late at night. True, I found the notes annoying but they did actually serve to make me more considerate in the long run. Unlike you, I always bumped into them in the hallway and elevator and to my surprise they were always super kind. And on the winter morning when my toilet exploded and flooded the apartment, they were quick to run upstairs and help me clean up the mess. I guess what I learned is that, although it’s not fun to feel reprimanded or to be put in the position of having to reprimand, it is sometimes the only way to protect one’s space and sanity. I think the thing to remember is that there are several tones that you can take in your letter that can allow you to be the asshole without necessarily being an asshole about it. More than likely, your upstairs neighbor is completely oblivious to how sound travels in your building. I would suggest writing a kind note informing them of your problem and asking them to kindly mend their ways. You might even ask them to be more mindful after a specific hour, which may help them structure their routines a bit differently. If that doesn’t work, then it will truly be time to become “the asshole” and rightfully so.

One of the regulars at my restaurant often leaves me very generous tips and is always flirting with me. She’s a lot older than me, though, and it would be kind of a ‘Mrs. Robinson’ situation. Should I go for it? xx Well, that depends on what you’re thinking of “going for.” That fact that you bring it up, in the way that you have, implies that you might be the slightest bit curious and attracted. Are you open enough to put yourself in a situation with someone who may be slightly more experienced than you? If so, I’d say go for it. Everyone needs a good teacher. If she’s gentle with you (ha-ha) it may build confidence and strengthen your resolve. You may learn to be considerate in ways (and positions) you may have never imagined and this may prove useful in the long run. I don’t mean to imply that the benefits may simply be sexual. The fact is— the norms and traditions of society cannot always be applied evenly to love. If you are open to the full possibility of experience, then that is not random; it is rather a direct effect your already-shared chemistry with “Mrs. Robinson.” On the other hand, if it is simply a matter of conquest, I might suggest going for that too—but I think it best to be playfully open about it, in that case. Older women are just as capable of feeling hurt or abused by deceitful lovers. It’s an age of transparency and it sounds to me like maybe she’s put her cards on the table. And if you play your cards right, those hefty tips may lead to a few good pointers.

My boyfriend and I just went through our first hurricane staycation together and let’s just say it didn’t go so well. We were pretty sick of each other after a few days and I’m wondering if it’s a bad sign of things to come. What do you think?

Hmm. It’s always interesting to see how lovedones respond to crisis situations. Sometimes panic can be a flat-out turn-off. Your situation sounds more like a case of being in a confined space, in a stressful setting, without any way to get away for some much needed alone time. Regardless of our relationship standing, it’s common for a person to feel the need to spend some time alone. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we do not love the one we’re with; it simply means that we are individuals before we are anything else. I’m hesitant to tell you whether it’s a bad sign or not. In fact, my personal belief would be more along the lines of—the fact that you’re writing into a column asking about something that you, obviously, have intuitively felt is a sign… The strongest relationship we can ever develop is with our own intuition. If it prompts us to ask questions, that’s a good thing, even if the answers to those questions may not be exactly what we want to hear or, subsequently, feel. Learning how to communicate our fears and doubts to those closest to us is necessary in terms of fostering open and clear communication. If you feel that you have indeed glimpsed something from this situation then I would encourage you to act on it by simply bringing it up for discussion. Maybe you were both operating on different patterns of expectation. Maybe there’s an unimagined mood shift or “button” that prompted the fall-out. Whatever it is, you’re better off trying to find a way to openly discuss it. And if he dismisses it as nothing, listen closely. He may be giving you your cue.

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