I tried, really I did. And it was sunny in the early afternoon, and I was outside, at least some — but then it got cloudy and rained all day.
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a lizard. Lizard loved the sun — this is as nature intended, as Lizard, being a lizard, was an ectotherm, and Sun gave Lizard warmth. Sun gave warmth to many things, and Lizard especially loved large rocks, which held the warmth Sun had given them long into the cool of twilight.
One day, as Lizard was basking in the afternoon sun, the sky filled with clouds. Lizard was troubled; clouds blocked the warmth of the sun, and Lizard relied on that warmth. As a cool rain began to fall, Lizard retreated to his nest under the ground. It was warm enough in Lizard’s nest, but the warmth of the dirt was far inferior — in Lizard’s opinion, anyway — to the vibrant and powerful warmth that Sun provided.
It rained all evening, and into the night. Lizard slept fitfully, and awoke at dawn, to find the sky still filled with clouds and the rain still falling.
The rain fell without ceasing for six days, and Lizard seldom stirred from his nest, and then not for long. Lizard began to fear that Sun would never again appear, that the rain had quenched its fire, and that all warmth would soon be gone from the world — and then what would Lizard do?
But the rain did stop, in the small hours of the sixth night, and the next day dawned bright and clear. Lizard went out, and rejoiced, and spent the day in the sun. When the afternoon was waning, he sought out his favorite rock, and basked in the warmth that came down from Sun and the warmth that came up from the rock. He drifted between sleeping and waking, and stayed basking on the rock longer than he ought —
— and Owl swooped down on him, and devoured him, and Lizard was no more.
Imagine yourself in early 18th century London. You’re a domestic servant in some inn or other, and one of your duties is emptying the chamberpots. Where are you going to empty them? Into the streets, down the centers of which ran open gutters.
In 1710, Jonathan Swift published a poem — titled “A Description of a City Shower” — which describes the “Filth of all Hues and Odours” that rainwater running down a gutter carries with it: “Dung, Guts, and Blood, / Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud, / Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.”
As filthy as all this is — and it’s definitely filthy, and a paradise for infectious diseases of all sorts — it’s preferable to littering.
Shit, piss, vomit, blood, guts, kitchen scraps, dead animals: all of this is organic, part of the enormous and perpetual process of decay and growth that we call life. Shit in the open sewer is going to be eaten by whatever it is that eats shit, and eventually that shit is going to end up in some sort of plant, which will be eaten by some sort of animal, and at least some of it will — after a long and transformative journey — end up eaten by a human being.
(As an aside: anytime you smile while eating, you have a shit-eating grin on your face.)
Think about the litter you’ve seen recently: what was it? Piles of excrement, dead animals, discarded entrails? Probably not. Rather: beer cans, glass bottles, wrappers of various food-shaped substances, styrofoam, cigarette butts. Diapers. Pieces of tire on the highway. Plastic. Rusted metal. Things that aren’t food for anything.
The fact that we throw away so much that isn’t edible — so much that, being inedible, just accumulates — is only part of the problem with littering. I’m not sure I can go in to the rest of the problem, though, because — at least as I look at it — littering is a synecdoche for everything (or most things, anyway) that are wrong with this country.
Laziness. Apathy. Disrespect. Self-centeredness. Vapidity. Stupidity. Cupidity. A total lack of concern for one’s fellow humans, and — worse — a complete and fundamental failure to realize that there are things on this planet other than human beings that have as much right to live and thrive as we do. People who litter are the same people that kick puppies. People who litter urinate on babies. People who litter are like Stalin or Pol Pot, except worse. People who litter should be forced to eat the shit they throw on the ground, and then they should be forced to eat actual shit.
In all seriousness: I don’t like people who litter. I especially don’t like people who litter deliberately. They are bad people.
And, for the record, I did actually pick up some litter today, in addition to writing this tirade.
I’m comfortable with the amount of body hair I have — happy with it, even, even the hair on my feet and toes, though my feet aren’t as hairy (or as hardy) as hobbit feet. Mostly I ignore my hair, because I try to be as low-maintenance (at least with regards to my appearance) as possible. I get a haircut — the same haircut, as it were — every six to eight weeks. I trim my beard every three or four weeks. All the other hairs get left alone.
That’s not entirely true. I trim my nose hairs. I don’t do it for aesthetic reasons, but because longer nose hairs, especially during allergy season, which is all the time when what you’re allergic to is plant life — anyway, long nose hairs accumulate mucus (boogers), which impedes the flow of air. Honestly, I know it’s time to trim the inside of my nose when I have trouble breathing through it. Now you know.
I also trim my ear hairs: I have them in the valley between the tragus and the anti-tragus (and I’m not going to lie, I had to look that up), but I also get them on my goddamned earlobes. I’ve only recently noticed them, and I am not exaggerating at all when I say I had earlobe hairs that were four inches long.
Trimming my ear hairs is — and I can say this honestly — my one act of appearance-related vanity. I mean, I like to look good, and I put a minimum amount of effort into it, but not that much. On an average morning — including the mornings of the days on which I teach, an activity for which I have to look reasonably presentable — my rolling-out-of-bed-to-dressed-and-ready-to-leave time is five minutes, and that’s only because it takes me three minutes to find my shoes. I spend more time making my morning espresso than I do on my appearance, and I’m still the most attractive person in the department (as well as the most humble, as ought to be obvious — and I’m a bit ashamed of myself for making such an passé joke, but I’m going to let it stand).
Where was I? Right, right, body hair. I’m not sure I have anything else to say. Body hair is awesome, let it grow, embrace your inner primate, &c.
Also: don’t do a google image search for “hairy” — or “hairy [noun]” — and that includes “hairy noun,” for fuck’s sake — and yes, I did
several a few —— don’t search for “hairy” and expect to get much besides porn.
Now you know.
I can’t talk for an hour under any circumstances without notes and a fair amount of preparation, and then I can only talk for about twenty-five before the “space madness” kicks in. Talking off-the-cuff to a fucking plant for a fucking hour was out of the question.
I did talk to a plant today, though; several plants, actually: nine tomato plants, four basil plants, a pepper plant of some sort, and a half-dozen squash plants — my garden, which is small, and so far not particularly fruitful, although we came home from our trip to Baltimore to find lots of little green tomatoes and little yellow squashlets, so we might be eating things from it soon.
I don’t have a green thumb. It’s not that I kill any plant life I interact with — although I do kill some of it, usually on purpose, and with a chainsaw when possible — I’m just supremely indifferent to most of it.
I’ve never really been clear on the distinction between good grass and bad grass, or between bad grass and weeds, and why it matters. I have no idea what the grass in my yard is, or whether its “grass” or “weeds” – it’s all green, and it all looks about the same when I mow it (which is not as often as my neighbors would like, probably). I certainly don’t ever water my yard: I’m not going to coddle groundcover that can’t handle heat and drought when there are groundcovers that can, and that will do the job without my having to do anything about it. It all does the same thing — covers the ground — and I want the job done with as little help from me as possible.
The problem is that I take the same approach to my garden; I shouldn’t, because I actually want something from these plants (I don’t want to hurt them, I just want to eat them), but I mostly ignore them anyway. Sure, I’ll water them, probably not as often as I should, and pull up the weeds occasionally, but I don’t love them, and so I get fairly meager fruit from them.
Several of the squash plants in my garden are transplants from my friend Caleb’s garden — he plants from seed, like a real man, and so had more plants than he needed, and brought some to me — and his plants, the ones in his garden, produced large-enough-to-be-edible squash a week ago, while the plants I adopted from him are only now starting to think about making squash.
He talks to his plants, though.
That’s not all he does, of course: he’s a better and more knowledgeable gardener in general, but one of the things that makes him better is that he talks to his plants. When I was planting the squash he brought me, he told them to be good and not embarrass him. It was the last thing anyone said to them.
Until today, that is. I spent twenty or thirty minutes this morning weeding the garden, checking the plants, adjusting how they were growing in the cages, watering — and I talked to the plants the whole time. I told them a little about our trip, but mostly we talked about the weather, because weather is important to plants. I asked how they’d been, but didn’t get an answer, or at least not one I could understand as an answer. I’m going to talk to them on a regular basis, I think — twice a day would probably be good, but once a day is probably more likely to be the case. I might also actually remember to water them regularly, if I’m talking to them — although it’s not like I’ll notice if they tell me they’re thirsty, because I don’t speak plant.
They’re probably all going to die on me anyway. Damned plants.
I have nothing to say to you.
You’re all either living in thatch-roofed huts and scraping by on squirrel and wild apples, because society collapsed under its own weight between us and you, or you’re all cybernetic super-people with no senses of humor, and you won’t get any of my jokes, which are both numerous and quite funny.
If you’ve all been swept up by the Singularity and turned into prosthetic-enhanced Nietzschean super-people, good for you, I guess. It doesn’t sound all that awesome to me, but I’m a Luddite and I don’t like things that are fun or exciting, either.
My guess, though, is that you’re all living in huts, because western civilization is probably going to crumble any day now. Too many people, too much stuff, not enough vegetables, bad television, ugly shoes, poorly-designed cities, and not enough beer. It’s like someone built a model of the Empire State building out of dominos, and then put it on top of a slightly-rotten orange: it doesn’t make sense in the first place, and it’s a pretty bad idea on top of that, and there’s no way it’s going to work. So in light of your post-disaster existences, I have some advice for you:
- Build your hut near running water.
- Don’t shit upstream.
- Skin the squirrels before you cook them.
- If you don’t have a gun with which to defend yourself — and you’ll want one, because you’re living in a Hobbesian state of nature, and everyone is trying to kill everyone else — I say, if you haven’t got a gun, kill someone who does and take theirs.
- You should have stockpiled seeds and gardening tools.
- Enjoy yourself while you can, because you’re probably going to die in your early thirties (if you make it that far) from a minor infection that is totally treatable now, but not in the future — your now — because there are no antibiotics.
- Nobody likes you.
Alright, that last bit isn’t really advice, in the traditional sense, but it’s still a good thing for you to keep in mind.
I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to stop the collapse while there was still time — but honestly, there’s not really anything I could have done, and I had better things to do, anyway, like drink beer and watch bad television and look at pictures of cats on the internet.
Those cat pictures aren’t going to look at themselves. Speaking of which, I’ve wasted as much of my time on you as I’m going to, future people, and now I’m moving on to something more important: sitting at the airport, staring into space, thinking about how awesome and meaningful my life is.
Some dude from the past.
“Go to your local natural history museum and make sure yours is properly displayed.”
This one prompted an existential crisis: do I actually have a favorite dinosaur?
After Jurassic Park, the raptor is everyone’s — and by everyone, I mean males in the early-20s to late-30s demographic — favorite, and so, as much as I like them, I have to pick a different favorite dinosaur. Raptors are too mainstream.
What about T-Rex? T-Rex is pretty awesome, especially this T-Rex. Also, I have a stuffed green T-Rex — “green” is probably redundant, because it seems like all T-Rexes (which is an incorrect pluralization, I know) are green — anyway, I have a stuffed T-Rex from my infancy that is still around, on loan to Jack. T-Rex is a cool dinosaur, but even more mainstream than raptors, really. Maybe they’re so mainstream they’re underground again? Not the ones that have been excavated, obviously, but the ones that haven’t been found yet.
Apatosaurus is pretty damn big, which is cool, but I’m not sure how I feel about having an herbivore as a favorite dinosaur. Vegetarians are cool and all, but not violent enough. Triceratops is a much more bad-ass herbivore, and I wouldn’t say this to a Triceratops’s face, but an herbivore is an herbivore, and anything that doesn’t eat animals is not quite good enough.
I’m hanging out with Lorna and my brother and his wife, drinking Pimm’s cups, and I asked the room at large whether people had favorite dinosaurs. Lorna said no, but Celia’s favorite is the Triceratops — also Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus) and Stegosaurus — and Jeff’s is raptors in general. Jeff also told me, in the blunt manner that a younger brother ought, that I was a dirty fucking hipster for not just embracing my liking of raptors. He’s right, really: they’re awesome, and T-Rex are awesome, and if I didn’t have a perverse need to not like things that everyone else likes, I’d have no problems. The whole point of this blog, though, is that I have problems. Stupid problems, and strong opinions about ridiculous things like water and peeling potatoes — I admit it, I’m well aware of it, but that’s how it is.
I’m not going to get any sleep tonight. Existential crisis not resolved. Life is terrible.
“…by spending all of today underwater.”
This was tough.
I didn’t have easy access to a body of water that I could spend all day in — no swimming pools, no ponds, no stock tanks — so I spent all day in the bathtub. And by all day, I mean about an hour and a half.
It was the most boring ninety minutes of my life. The water was nice and hot for about twenty minutes, and lukewarm for another fifteen, and then it was cold. I turned into a prune, and then into a mummy, and then I began collapsing in on myself like a black hole. I wasn’t in a sensory deprivation chamber — I was in a bathroom, with the lights on, and with people knocking on the door and asking what the hell was going in there — but I started hallucinating at some point: flying monkeys and talking rocks and faceless men in bowler hats.
I don’t feel like a fish. I don’t feel like a walrus. I don’t feel like a shark, or a dolphin, or a clam, or a krill, or a giant squid.
I don’t like large bodies of water, and I don’t want to “reconnect with my aquatic origins.” Water is a necessary element — you can’t make beer without it — but it’s somewhat inhospitable in large quantities. If I’d spent all day (ninety minutes) in a larger container of water, even something as big as a hot tub or a children’s wading pool, I’d probably have drowned, or lost my mind and set something large and wooden on fire.
If you were to get dropped, alone, just yourself, in the middle of nowhere, a hundred miles from the nearest town, on land, you’d have a decent chance of surviving and getting back to civilization (at least if you’ve ever been outside in ‘nature’ before). If you were to get dropped in the ocean, a hundred miles from land, you’d be fucked. If you had an inflatable raft, it might take a little longer for you to die, but you’d probably still die.
Water doesn’t like you. It puts up with you, when there are small quantities of it, but when enough of it gets together you’d be wise to steer clear of it. In this, it’s like fire ants: if you find eight or a dozen walking along the sidewalk, you can stomp them or jeer at them or piss on them or whatever, but if you fuck with a colony they’re going to eat you alive.
What fire ants have to do with a bath, I have no idea. I guess I’m still recovering.