I love books. I love to hold ‘em, I love to smell ‘em. I love taking them into the bathroom and having a long, relaxing poop. I love riffling through their pages and letting the gentle dusty breeze of received wisdom waft across my face. I grew up with three or four paperbacks splayed open on the floor beside my bed at any one time, and shelves and teetering stacks of them all around my room. As much as anything else in my life, the books I’ve read form the threads that link who I am today back to the boy I was. Reading has, for nearly 5 decades now, probably been the one unalloyed pleasure I have had, and the pleasure is undiminished today, even though there are so many more things to invade and occupy my mind. I’ve always said, half-jokingly, that I felt uncertain if I could trust someone until I drank with them, but I think my real Voight-Kampff test is whether someone is a Reader or not. I need to read.
When left Canada in my 20s, there was no public internet to speak of. Laptops weren’t — unless you count the suitcase-with-a-7-inch-CRT luggables. If you were a reader, you read printed words on paper. At any given time during my wander years, I was lugging around a few kilograms of books in my backpack, and I read whatever I could trade with other backpackers in hostels and bars. Hell, I picked up a copy of the Bible in Glencoe, Scotland, when I was there, to read through it again, even though I was (and remain) utterly uninterested in being a Christian. (Well, with one brief and odd exception, which is a tale for another day, perhaps.) Back in the day, when you were a wanderer, what you read was a matter of serendipity, and you learned to feel a deep love and gratitude for people who had left behind Actual Good Books in whatever tatty hostel common room you’d washed up in.
No, it’s not the booze. Been 5 months since I had a drink. Not the ponies, or the ladies, or the intoxicating, forbidden allure of naked living room dancing, though I have been known to indulge in the latter from time to time.
No, I am addicted to making ever-more-elaborate websites: the twisted desire that is killing the youth of today.
Actually, no, that’s not true. The youth of today are telling the world what they just dug out of their nose on Twitter, or Farmvilling their way to true friendship on Facebook. But more power to ‘em, I guess. I was drinking rye and falling off the tops of fences at their age — not notably nobler pursuits.
Anyway, without further old-mannery, here’s the latest Fun Internet Thing from Wonderchicken Industries™: Gamefilter.net. Share and enjoy.
I have operated on a few simple principles for more than two decades now, with good success.
First, do no harm. Or as little as possible.
Second, do not suffer fools or Bad People. They will rob you of your life.
Third, make choices with an eye to minimize future regret. In other words, imagine you were on your deathbed looking back – live your life to make that old bastard as peaceful as possible about dying.
Fourth, learn and wander. We may or may not be hairless monkeys, but there is wisdom out there. It may be an evil world, but there is beauty. Find it.
There is no meaning — in anything — but what our minds create. To search for meaning is to make the same mistake as those who search for happiness : both meaning and happiness are mental constructs superimposed by your mind on top of the actual conditions of your life. Seeking them in externals will drive you mad if you’re smart, or guarantee you failure if you’re persistent.
I wrote that in response to an AskMe question, almost 5 years ago, and had completely forgotten it until tonight, when I noticed that it had been favorited out of the blue, all these years later. The question was “Do you know what you want out of life? How do you know? How did you figure it out?”
I’ve been angry and silent lately, at least in terms of my own writing. I’ve been doing all sorts of other stuff online, sure. Built and run my own busy community over here, a bunch of other stuff. But I’ve decided tonight that I need to start stringing those words together again, laugh and glare ironically and textually dance on the graves and all, and tamp that anger down, or at least direct it productively, before I become the kind of old bastard I’ve always hated. I have no choice about getting old, but I do have a choice about what kind of old man I become.
Ain’t makin’ no promises, mind you. But maybe it’s time to write some stuff again, and widen that circle out, again, a little.
‘Cause what the world needs now is another active blogger. Like I need a hole in my head.
The nails didn’t hurt nearly as much as I’d expected going in, but the pain bombshell blossomed as they dropped the post into the hole and levered us upright.
My brother’s head was wobbling a bit on our shared shoulder as I glanced over, but he felt my eyes on him and snapped back into his customary 200-watt anchorman idiot grin and winked. “It’s not like we didn’t expect this, eh?” I couldn’t argue. We’d had a pretty good run.
Raising his face to the sky, still grinning, he bellowed “Father! Why has thou forsaken us, dude?” My conjoined brother, the son of god. Smart-ass to the last.
They beat him hard hauling him out of St Paul’s after he crapped in front of the High Altar, but he barely felt it through the hockey pads and the exhilaration. Light rain was falling in London, and it cooled his face as they kicked him to the curb. One of them spit on him as they walked away, dusting their hands. He was alive and unhurt and shaking as the adrenalin ebbed.
The first skirmish had ended in success. His war on god was underway.
[Sometimes entire paragraphs just appear in my brain, right before I fall asleep. It happens a lot. I'm going to try and start remembering them. So, this.]
The exploratory committee has come back with a dog-choker of a bar bill, the Portobello market magic 8-ball has come up with a big och-aye, the goat entrails are vermiformally encouraging, and the Voices of The Peoples have been heard.
VOTE WONDERCHICKEN! (You know, eventually.)
I inhaled. Read my lips: I did have sex with that woman. I’ve torpedoed more companies than you’ve had hot meals, I avoided military service, I never did stop the drinking. And the Alzheimer’s, well, you know what Nancy says. I am a crook, and I’ve had lustful thoughts about other women.
I am a donut.
But I swear by the Vengeful Bearded Deity of The Midwest, I will emerge from the media birth canal triumphant, only mildly crumpled and sweaty, and wiping god-goo from my forehead, stride manfully forward into the cleansing light of the television cameras.
…so in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty, I think of Dean Moriarty.
A Poetry Break brought to you by the fine people in the AudioVisual Division of Wonderchicken Industries™
I agree that Dave’s “What are five things I don’t know about myself” is more interesting than “Five things you don’t know about me”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Hell, any meme in a storm, in these root-withering Latter Days of Blog.
- I don’t know if my growing suspicion that reproducing is in some important senses what we are for, and my feeling that my reluctance to do so has been to say ‘no’ to life (something I swore decades ago I would never do) are enough to overcome my bowel-loosening terror (and unusually for me, I do not exaggerate for effect, here) at the very idea of having children. Or if they should.
- I don’t know if the childhood demons I thought I’d exorcised long ago have been defeated as completely as I had hoped.
- I don’t know if I’m a good man, or just a (garden variety enlightened) selfish one with people skills. I’m not sure what it means to be a good man, anymore.
- I don’t know if I’ll ever write the things I’ve always wanted to.
- I am 41 years old, and I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Rumours of my demise have been much exaggerated. I haven’t been eaten by the hogs, I haven’t sold out to the Man. I haven’t quaffed the hemlock, I haven’t screwed the pooch, I haven’t jumped the shark. OK, maybe those last two, but that’s it, officer.
What has happened, apparently, is that I’ve been killed, cooked, and incorporated into a delicious sandwich.
Kids, let this be a lesson. Live right, or it could happen to you too. [via]
Update: Apparently the marketing team that made the ad had never heard of my nom de blog, but thought it was pretty funny once they had. Cool.
My two-week visit to back to Canada, by the numbers.
- years since previous visit: 4
- kilometres driven: 3270
- members of personal pantheon of heroes (of 5 surviving) drunk with: 4
- percentage doing better than last time I saw them: 100%
- percentage of them who believe they are dying: 25%
- percentage of them with whom manly tears were shed about one thing or another: 75%
- ways in which I might well have died while rolling ATV into icy bog: 4
- number of beers consumed before said accident: 4
- number of hours before getting some dry clothes on: 3
- number of beers subsequently retrieved from mud under chest-deep icewater: 18
- cameras ruined: 1
- fresh moose carcasses manhandled: 2
- teeth chipped on shot embedded in Canada goose breast: 1
- average price of Canadian cigarettes:$9.50
- approximate price ratio, Canadian/Korean smokes: 4:1
- packs of duty-free Korean cigarettes given away, despite people claiming they didn’t like them: 8
- teeny bottles of maple syrup brought back for coworkers: 11
- number of new cocktails discovered with unrestrained glee: 1
- number of new cocktails discovered whose ingredients cannot be bought in Korea: 1
- car-battery-sized blocks of cheese consumed: 1
- hamburgers eaten: 18
- number of days free of alcohol consumption: 0
- kilograms of weight gain: 3
- unexpected pleasure at returning to Korea, which now feels like home: unlimited
Everybody(1) probably remembers the episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza, newly-single thanks to the timely expiration of his fiancee, celebrates his rebachelorization by lounging sybaritically, half-naked, in front of his TV, with a block of cheese, the symbol of manly freedom.
Jerry: (stares into coffee cup and looks back at George) Problem?
George: The Rosses have started up a foundation, Jerry, and I have to sit on the board of directors.
Jerry: Hey, board of directors. Look at you!
George: Yeah! Look at me! I was free and clear! I was living the dream! I was stripped to the waist, eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery!
Jerry: Before we go any further, I’d just like to point out how disturbing it is that you equate eating a block of cheese with some sort of bachelor paradise.
George: Don’t you see? I’m back in.
Jerry: All because of Wrath of Khan?
Jerry: Well, it was the best of those movies.
[The camera is over George's head and spins around repeatedly as George screams.]
Now, the furthest thing from my mind is any desire for the demise of She Who Must Be Obeyed. I love her dearly, at least when she’s not premenstrual.
But I’m going to Canada this week, for the first time in four years, for a two-week visit. And the wife, she decided that she wasn’t really up for it this time, and quite happily gave me her blessings to do it alone. We are very rarely apart, and never for more than a couple of days at a time, and though I will miss her, this trip, [this is good]. A fella (particularly one with a past as spotted and a present as buttoned-down as me) needs some time to go stupid sometimes, or at least stupider than usual.
The thoughts of many men — and almost all Korean men, if the nudgey-winky questions of my students and male colleagues are any guide — might turn to matters illicit and concupiscent, perhaps, in such a situation. Not me. I am and always have been a one-woman man, in large part because I simply don’t have the energy that the alternative would require.
Me, though? My first thought (after, of course, sugarplum-fairy dancing spectral images of the dog-choking quantities of quality booze that I’ll be able to drink and fine tobacco I’ll be able to smoke, without the mild concomitant guilt brought on by the presence of a well-meaning but disapproving spouse)?
I pictured myself shirtless, driving a rental car that glorious roadtrippy thousand kilometres between Vancouver and my home town, with Mötörhead cranked up, gnawing on a block of cheese the size of a car battery.
Oh, yes. Oh my.
I may write some updates from the road, if I have the time. On the other hand, I just might have a myocardial infarction. But it’s going to be fun.
1 And I mean that literally, of course.
[Update:] I’m baa-aack. Proof of a time well-had: