Day 165: Develop your very own eccentricity!

In other words: become a hipster.

The problem is that this is a game that never ends. This dude wears crayons in his beard: for a while, he’s the only one — because it looks fucking stupid — and so he gets hipster cred for being the only one. But people see him, and people talk about him, and soon there are others: not people in his circle, but people who are strangers or, at best, very tenuously connected. For a while, each of them gets hipster points for the crayons-in-the-beard thing, though the above dude, as the “OCBG” (“original crayon-beard gangsta”), gets the most hipster points.

Then a terrible thing happens: a critical mass of crayon-bearded hipsters is reached, and suddenly it’s “mainstream.” There are a variety of factors that determine the critical mass: the size of the community, the geographical area in question, the rate of spread of the eccentricity, how quickly it is possible to “fake” the eccentricity (in this case, with handmade felt fake beards with old-school crayolas in them), the first appearance of the eccentricity on You Tube, &c, &c.

Once the critical mass is reached, however, there is no going back, and the originator(s) and early adopters will drop the eccentricity faster than Julia Roberts dropped Lyle Lovett. Some may go so far as to shave their beards completely. Then they have to do something new, like bring back the penny-farthing. Or, at this point, the velocipide.

The only way to win this game is to not play, to strip oneself of all affectations and eccentricities. Of course, this is its own form of hipsterism, if done in a deliberate and conscious manner, with the goal of not being a hipster, which is why I’d be doing it.

My only option is to come up with something that most hipsters wouldn’t want to adopt, so that I can avoid the suddenly-fucking-everyone-has-crayons-in-their-beard problem: that something is manual labor.

Not just “manual labor” generally, but something specific, like laundry or deck construction or post removal. Everybody does laundry; deck construction takes too long; post removal is more work than I want to do, especially when the posts are in concrete. So I’m going to go into artisanal tree-trimming: to make it hipster I’ll be wearing cutoff shorts, too-small t-shirts, a fedora, and I’ll be drinking PBR out of a can, and I’m going to haul my tools — all of which I’ll acquire at thrift stores, garage sales, or on the side of the highway — on my xtracycle. I’m also only going to trim trees in small batches, whatever that means, though I’m going to charge a lot for it, probably twice what it would cost to hire actual professionals to do four times as much trimming.

Let’s see you do that, hipsters. Check and mate.


Day 106: “But my intentions were good.”

I intended to work on my seminar papers today.
I intended to make some progress on the reading I have for next week.
I intended to mow the lawn.
I intended to ride my bike to the Earth Day festival at which I taught people how to make laundry detergent – instead of driving, because it’s Earth Day, for fuck’s sake.
I intended to be funny, and kind, and pleasant to be around.

I intended to write a decent blog post.

Alas, I did none of those things. Tomorrow’s another day.

Today, though, I’m that much closer to hell.

Day 103: Cleanse your bowels today.

WARNING: This post is fairly graphic, even by the standards of this blog. It’s about enemas – self-administered enemas, at that – and will therefore involve the sorts of things that enemas involve. If you don’t want to read about it, now is the time to turn away and pretend I just didn’t write a post today.

We have one of those showerheads that’s at the end of a long-ish hose, the kind that is great for washing one’s feet off when one steps in dog shit, and for washing the dogs just because they hate it and one is mad because one stepped in their shit, and for spraying one’s spouse when said spouse laughs at the whole dogs-and-shit-and-dirty-feet ordeal.

The Book’s self-enema instructions require such a showerhead – or, rather, they require the hose. I unscrewed the showerhead part, greased up the hose, and – per the Book’s instructions – inserted it into my anus. Then I turned the water on.

I realized, almost instantly, that I’d forgotten to get the water to a comfortable temperature first – and almost as instantly turned the water off and removed the hose (a bit too quickly) – but I still learned what it feels like to have very cold water in one’s large intestine. Unpleasant, if you were curious.

So: got the water warm, but not hot; turned it off again; reinserted the hose; turned the water back on; allowed my bowels to fill with water. Thought: why the fuck am I doing this?

The Book recommends holding the water in for fifteen minutes before “letting it flow out” – sounds so natural and gentle, right? – but I wasn’t sure I could make it that long. I wanted to try, certainly, but I also wanted to be prepared for the worst – and so, after filling my colon with water, I stood naked in the bathtub, a timer running on my phone, ready to move to the toilet in a deliberate-but-not-hasty way when the time came.

The five-minute mark rolled by; I felt pretty good – well, physically I felt somewhat uncomfortable, and a bit like Steve Martin in LA Story – but I felt good in the sense that I thought I was going to make it a full fifteen minutes with a gallon of water in my gut. Why I felt good about that, I have no idea.

Then— well, then bad things happened. I was having to work – not hard, mind you, but keeping all that water in required some focus and some muscle control – and then something distracted me. I don’t know what; a noise in another part of the house, a dog barking, a car backfiring. It barely registered, but it broke my concentration just enough that I lost control of my sphincter.

Well, you can guess what happened: water and shit came gushing out of my asshole, all over my legs, all over the bathtub. More shit-water than I thought possible. Gallons and gallons of shit-water. My asshole produced a veritable Niagara Falls of shit-water. I ought to be dead, I lost so much fluid. Fluid mixed with shit, that is.

I stood there in shock for a bit. Half an hour, maybe, covered from the ass down in shit-water.

Then I reattached the showerhead and started cleaning myself and the bathtub. Used a lot of soap, most of a gallon of bleach, some garlic. Eventually I felt clean, sort of. Physically clean, yes; mentally, emotionally, not so much.

That shit-water is going to haunt my dreams.

Day 80: Begin eating a piece of furniture.

The Book recommends going about this task by reducing a small chunk of said piece of furniture to sawdust — by filing, which seems inefficient — and sprinkling said sawdust on one’s food, like tasteless, indigestible salt.

The only issue is that I don’t have any raw, unfinished wooden furniture that can be slowly consumed. I’m not sure I have any unfinished wooden furniture, period, and I certainly don’t want to ingest paint or stain, even in small quantities, on a daily basis. Look what happened to Caravaggio. And Goya. And van Gogh.

On the other hand, I felt like I should, today at least, eat some wood — and yes, I’m aware of the double entendre. Anything, with surprisingly minimal effort, can be construed as relating to sexual behavior or characteristics. Try it sometime: it’s all in the intonation.

Anyway: I felt that I ought to consume some cellulose. To that end, therefore, I clipped a tender young branchlet from one of the Bradford pear trees that grows on the west side of our house, chopped it up, and ate it.

It was… surprisingly unchewable, which I guess makes it inedible? It didn’t taste bad, exactly – though it didn’t taste good, either. I don’t think it would be noticeable, mixed into something like potato soup or chili or a nice hearty pasta. Why on earth one would do that, though, I don’t know. Then again, I don’t know why I ate a stick tonight.

I had to just swallow it, in the end, like it was an ibuprofen – and, like I do with ibuprofen, I took it with bourbon instead of water. Because why not?

I didn’t, for the record, eat the whole stick, just a few pieces, because getting the whole thing down would’ve taken more bourbon than it’s probably good for me to drink in a short amount of time. The last time I did shots like that, if I remember correctly, and I don’t, because I was really drunk, because I drank a bunch of liquor in a short amount of time – I say, the last time I did shots, I told a really incoherent version of the tale of Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and I may have written “I’m drunk” on the outside wall of my house, by the side door. I also had a really bad hangover in the morning, and a justly unsympathetic wife.

Needless to say, I don’t do that anymore.

Day 56: ROCK AND ROLL!!!

“Today, live the Heavy Metal lifestyle at its most decadent.”

The Book provides a helpful schedule, which begins with waking up at four in the afternoon – “to the gentle bobbing motion of fellatio from some nameless groupie” – and proceeds from there to drugs, sex, more drugs, hospitals, prisons, mayhem, and chaos, and ends at eleven in the morning, with “restorative sleep in the tour van” – a solid five hours, as the whole mess starts over at four the next afternoon.

Holy shit, people. I’m not capable of partying that hearty, even if I had the inclination and the means.

Look. I woke up at seven this morning. I made coffee, and I put neither Jack Daniels nor cocaine into it. I had breakfast with my kids. I drove in to campus, I taught my students, I went to the grocery store, I took Ella to soccer practice. We met Lorna for dinner with my parents. I read to Elanor, I took a shower, I wrote a blog post – and I’m fucking exhausted.

I go out for drinks occasionally, but I’m usually ready to call it a night well before the bars close. I don’t have the constitution for all-night carousing. If I tried this “heavy metal lifestyle” thing seriously, I’d probably be dead before nightfall.

Honestly, I don’t know how people manage to live like that – I guess the constant consumption of stimulants helps – and it doesn’t at all sound like fun. Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man in a grumpy young man’s body; maybe I don’t know how to have fun. Certainly I’m not cut out to be a rock star.

It would be nice to get a decent amount of sleep occasionally, though.

Day 37: Today, eat and run.

I have only attempted this once.

When I was younger, I used to go on impromptu “road trips” – I put that in scare quotes because they didn’t usually last longer than 16 or 18 hours. I’d go out driving, try to get lost, succeed, consult a map (a paper one – remember those?), figure out where I was, and head home.

On one of these trips, I ended up in Athens, TX. I was hungry, so I stopped in at a local diner to eat while I consulted my map. I can’t remember the name of the place, but I do remember that I had a bacon cheeseburger, fries, coffee, and the most disgusting coleslaw I’ve ever eaten.

At some point, I looked in my wallet, and realized that I didn’t have enough cash to pay for my dinner and put enough gas in my car to get home. No credit card, no cell phone (it was the late ’90s, after all) – no choice but to skip out on the bill. It was late-ish, on a Friday night, and the place was busy – so I figured I’d get away with it. Trying to act like nothing was amiss, I just got up and headed for the door. I made it into the parking lot before I heard someone behind me yell: “Hey, you! Get the fuck back here!”

I turned to look, and a few members of the waitstaff – along with a big burly dude who must have been a cook – were headed toward me, looking less than friendly. They were too close, and my car too far away (and not exactly parked for a quick getaway) – so, perhaps foolishly, I just took off running.

They gave chase. I eventually managed to lose them in a wooded area on the edge of town – one problem solved, but now I had no car. I thought about this for a bit, and decided – once the coast looked clear – to sneak back to the diner, sneak into my car, and get the fuck out of town.

I waited about an hour, I think, before heading back over. I had the good sense to stay fairly hidden once I got back to the vicinity of the diner, because they’d posted a lookout on my car. And I do mean on it: a different burly dude was sitting on my hood, waiting for me.

Athens is a small town, and this diner must’ve had a fairly regular clientèle, which would have made my car – otherwise unremarkable – stand out. However they figured it out, they did, and they apparently had decided to deal with me without the aid of the local constabulary. I was, at this point, scared shitless; after indulging in panic for a few minutes, though, I forced myself to calm down and think through my options.

Turning myself in was, of course, out of the question. I decided to wait the situation out, and watch for an opportune moment to create or take advantage of a diversion. The diner was apparently a pretty hot little nightspot – or as hot a nightspot as a place like Athens has – and I figured that, sooner or later, a few rowdy drunks would cause enough of a ruckus for me to quietly get in my car and get gone.

That didn’t happen. After closing – 1 am? 1:30? – the burly dude on my hood was replaced by another, equally burly dude (a third one, not the one who chased my ass out of the parking lot). This was a wrinkle I hadn’t foreseen. Well, alright, no choice but to stick to the plan, at least for the present. There was a small crowd of employees hanging out with the lookout, smoking, drinking, talking and laughing. Sometime not far from 3 am, though, the crowd broke up, and the lookout was left alone. A little past four, he fell asleep – still sitting on my hood.

This was my only chance, right? Very quietly, I removed myself from my hiding spot, stretched (it wasn’t a comfortable spot), and walked cautiously over. He didn’t wake up as I opened the door, or as I closed it – he came to, though, as I started the car, and looked around confusedly for a few seconds before falling off the car as I reversed it out from under him. I sped out of the parking lot, but slowed down once I was out of sight of the diner – it wouldn’t have done to get nabbed by the cops just as I was escaping – and I didn’t stop for gas until several towns later.

Most expensive meal I never paid for.

Day 25: Things you will never do before you die.

Today’s task involves going through a list – a long list, in small type and four columns, containing, in my estimate, upwards of three hundred items – and “com[ing] to terms” with the fact that I will never do most of them.

I am not going to go through the list item-by-item, either here or in the Book itself. We all have better things to do. I, for instance, have to drink some gin & go to bed.

Some of the things I have already done: grow a beard, start a fire, apologize for existing, smoke a Cuban cigar, use a semicolon. Others I will almost certainly do in the future: become grumpy when old, write a novel, jump ship, live to tell the tale, generate controversy, head a posse (well, maybe not that one). There are still others I have no desire to do: contract an STD, pretend everything is all right, implode, become Pope, grow a tail, be eaten by cannibals – really, most of the things on this list fall into this category. I think that’s the joke.

I had wanted to say that I had no trouble coming to terms with this list – that is, coming to terms with the fact that I will not be able to do everything before I die. I wanted to say that I’m happy with my life, that I have no regrets. I will never climb Everest – the second thing on the list – but there are other mountains, and I’ve climbed a few of them, and I’ll climb more before I’m done. I may never move anyone to tears, but I will certainly make people cry (my students, mostly, I would imagine). I doubt I’ll coin a new swear word, but I use the old ones often, and in what I think are new and astounding ways – and, hopefully, a few will catch on. I probably won’t ever live on a desert island, which is a little sad, but I can read Robinson Crusoe whenever I want, and then it doesn’t seem quite as appealing.

I say, I wanted to write all that, and for it to be true. But then, perhaps three-quarters of the way down the third column, I saw it: a thing I have never done, and will never do, and will always regret not doing – the four words that made my life a lie:

“Shit in the woods.”