Day 191: an update

Q at Cadillac Ranch.


Day 191: Bury a treasure.

Just west of Amarillo on Interstate 40, there’s a place called Cadillac Ranch.

It’s not, as I half-convinced one of my colleagues, the place where they grow the baby Cadillacs. It’s an art installation, consisting of Cadillacs half-buried in a field in the middle of the Texas panhandle.

It’s also a great place to bury deposit treasure.

…except I didn’t actually deposit the treasure. There are several reasons for this failure on my part, none of which are acceptable. First of all, the Ranch was crawling with people, and hiding a treasure in front of a crowd of strangers isn’t the best idea. Then, the place we stopped for lunch wasn’t where the map said it was — and the map said it was right down the road from the Ranch, which would have been quite convenient — it was, instead, five miles back the way we’d come, so we had to turn around. Also, we were in — not a hurry, exactly, but we weren’t making unnecessary stops on the trip out, and are planning on stopping when we drive back through next Sunday.

…I’m not sure that all made sense, but I don’t care. Why should I bother making unacceptable excuses when they’re prima facie unacceptable?

Next Sunday, crowds or no crowds, I will deposit the treasure. I won’t reveal what it is until then, but I will say that it’s something small and plastic and from my childhood, and it’s not — I hope, anyway — going to track me down and kill me.

Day 178: Go through a phase.

This task has been at the back of my mind for a week or so — I scan ahead every few days, to mentally prepare myself for what’s coming — and I have had no luck in deciding what “phase” to go through. Also, don’t phases last more than a day? Wouldn’t a day-long phase just be a mood?

I was no closer to deciding on a phase when I woke up this morning, and by about noon had said “fuck it, self, let’s go bowling” — there would be no phase, just some bullshit about a phase that didn’t happen.

Well, as the fellow once said, some are born for phases, some achieve phases, and some have phases thrust upon them. Today, I had a phase thrust upon me: I went through my “misdemeanoring” phase.

I had to drive down to campus today, to accomplish two tasks: to put a rug down in my (shared, not-a-closet) office, and to pick up my laptop from OIT.

The rug in question is large enough that I didn’t want to carry it far, especially in the middle of the afternoon in the summer in Texas. I don’t have a campus parking permit, because I take the train almost exclusively, and the parking I usually make use of on those rare occasions when I do drive is further from my office than I was happy about, because of that rug-carrying thing. So, I made use of one of the few metered parking spots that’s within a hundred or so yards of my building.

I fed the meter an hour’s worth of quarters — four of them — and made a mental note of the time, which I promptly lost, because I didn’t expect my two tasks to take up more than an hour, even with the milling about the office and the printing of things for last Saturday’s task that I haven’t done yet, about which more later—— anyway, I expected to be back in the car in an hour, and so paid little attention to the time.

As it happened, I did not return to the car for an hour and twenty minutes, or perhaps an hour and a half, and there was — of course — a parking ticket on my windshield. Thirty dollars for an extra twenty minutes of parking, on a summer afternoon when nobody was on campus anyway.

This made me angry. Unjustifiably angry, I know, but angry nonetheless. I contemplated sending in a scathing letter or dead cockroaches or a photograph of an abnormally large penis instead of a check, but eventually talked myself out of it. I may or may not pay the ticket — I’m feeling misdemeanorlyish, after all — but I’m not going to subject an innocent desk jockey somewhere to my vitriol.

Really, though, this isn’t a misdemeanoring phase at all, but a taking minor inconveniences that are my own fault and trying to turn them into occasions for righteous anger and not succeeding and then being generally crabby and unpleasant to be around phase — which is how I am all the time anyway, and so I don’t think it counts as a phase at all.

Once again: fuck it, I’m going bowling to bed (after another bourbon).

Day 148: Leave a note on someone’s car windshield.

Notes that get left on car windshields are always mean – passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive, or frighteningly violent – and I didn’t want to leave that kind of note. What to leave, though? Something “affirming,” but not too affirming.

“You’re doing a fine job. Keep it up.”

My friend Nathan and I say this to each other. If I remember correctly, it’s something his boss or a co-worker used to say to him – or maybe something he used to say? At any rate, it’s both affirming and sarcastic. The adjective changes: “adequate” is my favorite, I think, and occasionally one of us will use a “terrible” or a “pathetic” or something like that. We also only use it when the other is doing something really simple, like putting forks on the table or making coffee or just walking down the hall.

I made nine or ten of these. I put one on Carl – Carleton Livingstone Butterworth Goldsmith I, Duke of Somerset – who lives with my brother and his wife. I left a few on random windshields around Hampden, but windshields got boring pretty quickly.

I left one in a copy of Machine of Death in Atomic Books. I left one with (not as, because that’s not right) the tip for our waitress at 13.5% Wine Bar, where we drank beer instead of wine, because bottles were half off, and they had good bottles (I had a Brewdog Hardcore IPA and an Orkney Skullsplitter; my brother had a Petrus Aged Pale Ale and a St. Bernardus something-or-other). I left one on a bicycle – a nice vintage Peugeot – in front of a Rite-Aid (when I came back out of the Rite-Aid, the owner of that bicycle was preparing to ride off; the note was gone, so he’d obviously seen it, but it would have ruined the effect to have said anything).

I have one left, which I’m going to deploy somewhere in NYC tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

Day 99: Experience Christ’s plight for yourself…

…by constructing a cross out of two-by-fours and taping yourself to it.

I totally did this. Sort of. And not today, but years ago …holy shit, more that a decade ago. Anyway: when I was younger and more reckless, I saw one of those dudes who was walking across the country with a cross on a wheel. Do people still do that? I don’t know, but people do still re-enact the crucifixion on Good Friday, here in Sherman-by-God-Texas. Why they do it, I don’t know: does seeing some dude who isn’t Jesus hanging on a cross – and not dying, to boot – convince people to become Christians? If not, why do it? Is it fun, like autoerotic asphyxiation? Which kills people, by the way, so I’d recommend avoiding it.

Where was I? Right: dude with the cross on wheels. I was out for a drive somewhere, saw the dude walking down the road. Asked the dude if he wanted a ride.

“No,” says the dude.

Really, I says to him? It’s hot. You’re in the middle of nowhere. You have no water.

“I’m punishing myself for your sins, like Jesus would have.”

What? Seriously, dude, it’s hot. Let me give you a ride into town, get you some water.

“I’m walking in the heat, with no water, to punish myself for your sins, like Jesus would have.”

Alright, fuck this. How is some dude walking in the heat like an idiot with a cross on a wheel going to have any affect on my “sins”? It’s not, that’s how. So I pulled the car over, knocked the guy down, took the cross, put it in my trunk – thank God Ford for backseats that fold down – and drove off. Dumped the cross in a creek in the next county. Never saw the dude again.


Yeah, okay, so that didn’t really happen. I’m an asshole, but I’m not that big an asshole. And, as my friends like to point out, this Book is about weaseling out of all the tasks, rather than actually doing them – and today’s task is no exception.

I did eat a fucking stick, though: that has to count for something.

Day 89: Primal scream day.

Holy balls, I needed this today.

Yesterday morning I had one of my moments of despair — an hour or so of gnawing, crushing hopelessness, of absolute certainty that I will never be able to get done all the things I have to get done, and will therefore be politely asked to leave the PhD program that pays my bills and makes my life worth living.

I have one or two of these a semester. They’ve gotten easier, in some ways, because I know that they will come and pass; I can usually see them coming, even, and sort of brace myself. Of course, each time there’s more to lose, because I’ve invested another half a year each time.

It all got done: the paper proposal, the reading, the writing of the response to the reading, the grading, the writing of the response to the paper presented in class today by the dude who’s teaching the class (which went well, so that’s good). Didn’t sleep much, and by that I mean I went to bed at 5 a.m. and got up again at about 7:45. Listened to the final round of presentations my students did, handed back their papers – some of them freshly graded – and called that unit of the course over, finally, and good fucking riddance.

Anyway. A long two days, at the end of which I was tired and drained, and in need of some primal screaming (I had, in fact, been looking forward to it since Monday morning, when I flipped ahead a bit to see what the week had in store).

I like a primal scream now and then; I do them almost exclusively in my car, and usually when I’m stuck in traffic. They’re usually of the “AAAAAAUUUUGH” variety, though there’s also an occasional “FUUUUUCK” that is mostly the “uh” sound.

I expected traffic, today, since I was driving home at rush hour; I needed it, really, to give me the energy to let out a few primal screams, because I was content to just zone out and smoke my pipe on the way home. There was no traffic, though – amazing! stupendous! wonderful! – so I had to make a conscious effort: take a deep breath, brace myself with both arms against the steering wheel, and scream.

It felt great. I’m going to start doing it more often.

Day 82: Sit in the lotus position for 30 minutes.

I did this yesterday, actually, because my Wednesdays are full enough that I don’t have a half-hour anywhere in which to sit in an uncomfortable position and not do anything else. Also it meant that my wife was around to witness my completion of this task, should her testimony prove necessary.

The first five minutes were fine, though they went slower than I thought they should have. After the five-minute mark, though, my back started to hurt: a fairly acute cramping in the right-middle section of my back, which eventually settled into a dull ache. Once that hurdle was passed, things went smoothly until about 23 minutes, when my left leg started aching. It had fallen asleep by 25 minutes, and at 27 minutes I was ready to quit, but my wife shamed me into toughing it out until the end.

Aside from the physical discomfort, though, it was actually an enjoyable exercise.

Okay, so “enjoyable” is probably too strong a word. At the time, I found it refreshing to spend thirty minutes both not doing anything and not trying to distract myself with technology, which is what I normally do when I’m not doing anything. It was a space of time in which I was engaged in the present (because it required engagement and effort to stay in the correct position), and free at the same time to let (part of) my mind wander.

When I phrase it like that, though, I realize that I do that twice a day, three days a week, driving between Sherman and Plano – and it’s (at least) forty-five minutes each way, not a mere thirty. Why do yoga when you can drive around?

Something like that, anyway.

It was not, at the time, anything like my commute, despite the fact that the two activities can be described in similar terms. The difference – one of them, anyway, and an important one – is that commuting involves motion, even though the body remains still relative to the vehicle, while the lotus position involves stillness, relative to all of one’s surroundings. I was in the same place when I stood up and tried to walk as I’d been when I sat down and contorted myself into a passable imitation of the Buddha.

That was what made it refreshing: being still, intentionally, consciously. Of course, the kitchen was clean, the towels were folded and put away, Lorna was doing the laundry – so I could justify taking half an hour to not do anything. Sort of, anyway, because there’s always something to do, and never enough time in which to get it all done.

Being uncomfortable just for the sake of being uncomfortable is not a luxury I can afford on a daily basis – which is why I don’t do yoga.