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 119: Sense-less day.

“Go through today without using your sense of hearing.”

I should have realized back on Day 51 that this was going to be a series of tasks, a day for every sense. While I think these are, in general, bullshit tasks, I am looking forward to having no taste

This was one of those logistically-challenging tasks: how do I simulate deafness for a day?

There’s the obvious solution: I could have worn earplugs all day, which would have muted everything, though not made the world around me completely silent. They get uncomfortable after a few hours, though, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being uncomfortable. I could have shirked all of my responsibilities and hidden out somewhere where nobody would have spoken to me, and been very quiet all day. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t do this, actually – I’m sure my students would have appreciated a day off, especially considering only about half of them showed up for class.

Because there wasn’t a good (and reversible) way to go through the day without my sense of hearing, I just pretended to not be able to hear anything. People asked me questions, and I ignored them. This was especially fun during class, because the students (who actually showed up) had lots of questions about their final papers, which are due Monday … and I didn’t answer a single one, because I “couldn’t hear them.” Probably not going to help my evaluations at all, but I think it was worth it.

Honestly, though, I sometimes feel as if my students are the ones pretending not to hear anything: blank faces, empty stares, jaws slack, drool dribbling down their chins – they’re like lobotomy patients, but they’re doing it on purpose, the little bastards. I love asking questions and getting silence as a response: it’s annoying enough when my three-year-old does it, but I expect college students – who are practically adults, for fuck’s sake – to answer questions asked of them without an undue amount of prodding.

It’s never going to happen, though, is it?

Day 111: Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.

The Book’s hypothesis is that treating a significant other like shit will keep your relationship fresh and vibrant, and recommends trying it out for a day.

Fucking amateurs.

I’ve been using this strategy for nearly a decade, and my marriage is better than as good as it’s ever been. I think the phrase my wife says to me most is “you’re an asshole” – so I must be doing something right.

I spent our honeymoon drunk and belligerent. I left our passports and plane tickets in our hotel room, and we didn’t figure it out until we were nearly to the airport. We retrieved the passports and tickets, but missed our flight, couldn’t get on another one until five the next morning, and had to hang out in the airport for 18 hours – 18 hours I spent drunk and belligerent.

A few months later, I got drunk, smoked some pot, fell in the mud, and cried uncontrollably for hours. I may have thrown up in her car. I also had the audacity to complain about my hangover the next day, and made my long-suffering wife cook me breakfast – sausage and hashbrowns, coffee and orange juice, cheesecake.

While she was pregnant with our first child, I took a weeklong road trip with some friends. Didn’t tell her about it – I guess she might have been mad, but we never talked about it. I came home, and we acted like nothing had happened. We call that our “lost week” – or we would, if we ever talked about it.

I was completely useless when that kid was born. Lorna didn’t sleep much those first few months – hey, that’s what happens when you have a baby, right? – but I still got eight hours a night. And naps. And I changed no diapers, and washed no dishes, and did no laundry. And I was drunk and weepy a lot.

There was that year I didn’t really talk to her. That’s still the norm, really – I’ve said about a dozen words to her today, maybe, which is about average. She talks to me a lot, of course, but I try to make it clear that I’m not listening. She keeps talking, but a resigned sadness comes into her eyes. I love that; she’s so sexy when she’s given up all hope of happiness.

I’m condescending, short-tempered, lazy, shiftless, shirtless, unhelpful, and I break dishes on purpose so I don’t have to wash them.

My wife’s response to all this?

“I will fucking kill you.”

…see you all tomorrow, then.

Day 98: No swearing day.

The Stranger: Just one thing, Dude. Do you have to use so many cuss words?
The Dude: What the fuck are you talking about?

Yeah. What the fuck are you talking about, Book?

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to use “bad” words with some frequency on this blog, and I use them even more in my actual speech. And today, rather than curtail my usage of them, I’m going to defy the Book’s latent Victorian prudishness and curse like an Elizabethan.

Surely you’ve noticed that most of the “bad” words have to do with the bodily-ness of our bodies? Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cock, ass, bugger, &c — they have to do with excrement or sex. The “religious” curse words — damn and hell — are comparatively mild (so mild, in fact, that my three-year-old saying “dammit” when I ask him to help me pick up his trucks is funny, rather than shocking).

I think a big part of the reason that certain words are “offensive” or taboo is precisely that those words are so connected to our bodies, and we in the West have been embarrassed by and deeply distrustful of our bodies since Plato, at least, and the Church has done a lot to exacerbate that hatred of the body.

Well, fuck that shit.

Look: we all eat, and shitting necessarily follows eating; and a fair number of us have to fuck, if we want the species to continue. Shitting and fucking are the foundations of human society – why can’t we talk about them? Because some people are so fucking uptight that they want to pretend that they don’t shit or fuck. Well, some people might not fuck – and they’re missing out – but everybody shits. Everybody.

Alright, so jellyfish and corals and whatnots defecate by vomiting, but it still counts as shitting in my book. It’s just grosser to think about, that’s all. And they can reproduce asexually, sure, so they aren’t fucking, but my guess is that asexual reproduction is less fun than the alternative. The fact remains that lots of shitting and fucking happens every day, and we shouldn’t have a problem talking about it.

There are, I admit, contexts in which the words “shit” and “fuck” and “cunt” and the rest are inappropriate – but I would also argue that those contexts are far less numerous than most people want to think. Honestly, I find “like” and “y’know” much more offensive; if the undergrads I’m surrounded with on a daily basis replaced all their “likes” with “fuckin’s” I’d be a happy man.

Thus ends my rant, but I’d be remiss not to point out a few things in passing. Geoffrey Chaucer – the father of English letters – used the word “cunt” in the Canterbury Tales, back when it was spelled more like “quaint” – so, whenever you use the word “quaint,” think about cunts. Also, he wasn’t the first to use it in print, though he was close: there were “Gropecunt Lanes” in England as far back as 1230.

Lastly: your mother is a blast-ended skank:

Day 93: Humility day.

This is, really, an impossible post.

If I had been humble today – and that’s not a negligible if – I would completely negate that humility by writing about it here. An act done humbly has, as a necessary component, the element of not-drawing-attention-to-the-fact-that-you’re-doing-it. Can’t have trumpeters walk in front of you to draw attention to your humility, or something like that.

What options am I left with? I could attempt to be funny, and talk about all of the outlandishly humble things I did today – and in such a way as to make it obvious that I didn’t realize what an ass that made me. Something like this:

Yeah, I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning to make waffles and bacon and scrambled eggs and coffee, which I loaded up on my xtracycle and delivered to local homeless people – and I gave them massages while they ate, because I’m just such a nice guy. I painted an orphanage, repaired the playground equipment at a park in the poor part of town, and saved a few kittens on my way to volunteering at the food bank. I had to postpone visiting sick children in the hospital, because I hadn’t finished making the teddy bears I take them – I make them by hand, from sustainable, fair-trade, ethically-sourced materials – and I hadn’t gotten those done because I spent the early afternoon reading to the blind at the local library. Oh, and I built four houses for underprivileged families.

That’s not particularly funny, though, and it made me feel dirty to write it – and not in a good way, either.

Fortunately, the Book’s secondary instructions gave me a way out of this dilemma: I was directed to meditate on the enormous odds against the existence of human life in general, and my life in particular – sort of the secular version of “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” – a sentiment best expressed (as are so many things) by Bill Watterson:

This sort of cosmic humility is a slightly different animal than the humility-as-action-or-service model that I think is the more common understanding of the word, at least here in the West – and our unmeasurable smallness relative to the universe at large is a good thing to keep in mind, certainly. I’m not sure it’s much easier to write about, though. How would that go? “My life is an unimportant cosmic accident, nothing I do matters, might as well drink all the time and throw golf balls at little kids during recess and wander around the grocery store in my pajamas muttering curse words and bits of the periodic table.”

Maybe. That’s funnier than the smug asshole above, at least a little bit, and more fun to write. Not sure I could do a whole post without talking myself into it, though, and I’m not sure drunken harassment of elementary-school children is a wise career move.

Look. I did some stuff today that benefitted people who weren’t me, and I’ll do more stuff that benefits people who aren’t me tomorrow. Other people have done the same for me, and will continue to do so. That’s how life is supposed to work, right? We all depend on each other, and politeness – if nothing else – dictates that we don’t make a big deal out of the things we do to help others, because it ought not be a big deal; common decency ought to be unremarkable, because it ought to be common.

I really did build four houses today, though, which is pretty awesome, and you should all admire how humble and self-sacrificial I am – because, seriously, nobody’s more humble than I am.


Day 92: Write your will here.

The Book provides a useful connect-things-in-this-column-to-people-in-this-other-column template for making a will, and a place to sign and date below: legally binding! Woo-hoo!

By “useful” I mean, of course, “useless”: I don’t have, for example, a lover, mistress, best friend, or favorite child to whom I wish to leave things, and I don’t have any secret life savings, hoards of pubic hair, space shuttles, or giant dildoes to bequeath to those I leave behind.

What’s the point of writing a will, anyway? Once you’re dead, it’s not your stuff anymore — why do you get to decide who gets what? Why do you have to decide who gets what? Why would you even care?

Maybe we should go back to the primogeniture system: firstborn gets everything, wives get nothing, younger children marry well or fritter away their lives – it’s all arranged in advance, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, so there’s no room for complaining or hurt feelings or any of that nonsense. Right?

Really, though, that system was designed for the wealthy, for monarchs, and for characters in Jane Austen novels. I’m none of those, and so must find another solution.

Do I, though? What am I going to leave behind that’s important? Maybe something, maybe nothing. It’ll all be unimportant to me at that point, though, because I’ll be dead, and therefore will have no use for any of it – and yes, I’m repeating myself – I’m going to flog this horse to death, and then it won’t have to decide which of its colts gets all the carrots – anyway, I’m dead, I don’t care, and so I don’t understand why it’s my job to sort it all out.

If it were up to me — and it’s not, which is the whole point of this post — but if it were up to me, I’d want my carcass to be burned on a pyre built out of my worldly possessions: clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils, garden tools, even my books.

No, I’m just kidding. Not the books. I mean, let’s face it, obviously my books will be important hundreds of years from now precisely because I owned them and wrote in them – like Petrarch’s, or Milton’s, or Johnson’s. I would be doing the future a disservice by having them burnt.

Everything else, though, should just be consigned to the flames.

Day 85: Release a red balloon.

Okay, I need to start by saying something that might offend some of you:

I hate balloons. Can’t fucking stand them.

Oh, sure, they’re “fun,” they’re “decorative,” they “make children happy” – and I must hate all things good and beautiful if I hate balloons.

Look: balloons are made to be thrown away. They are trash the moment they roll off the assembly line. They are inherently disposable, and that bothers me. Why make something that has no other purpose than to be briefly decorative – in the most insipid way possible – and that makes a horrible squeaking noise to boot – and that’s then unceremoniously thrown away?

Before any of you say it: yes, I know that’s what flowers do, and I can’t hate flowers, right, because I’m all “green” and “eco-friendly” and I ride my bike and tweet about it in an annoyingly smug fashion.

So no, I don’t hate flowers. But balloons are far inferior to flowers; that ought to be so obvious to everyone that I don’t need to go into it. Flowers are part of a cycle of growth, death, and rebirth – the cycle in which, as my father says, “it is the fate of every living organism to be food for other living organisms.” Live flowers provide nectar which bees use to make honey, and dead flowers are broken down by various microörganisms and feed future plants.

Balloons don’t do that; when something eats a balloon, this is what happens.

Really, I hate balloons because they represent the much larger structures of disposability and waste that power our economy and daily lives; trying to resist those structures is why we don’t buy papers towels, it’s why we put Jack in cloth diapers, it’s why I make my own laundry soap and dishwasher detergent and toothpaste, and it’s why I’m so insufferable all the time. But this post isn’t about any of that; it’s about balloons.

So: Balloons are bad enough on their own, but releasing them into the wild is like throwing trash out of your car while you’re driving down the highway – sure, you lose sight of it pretty quickly, and no, you probably couldn’t find it again if you tried, and yes, other people do it all the time, and what difference is one more balloon going to make, and whatever, but it’s still fucking littering.

Sure, fine, laugh. Littering is funny, people who get upset about littering are uptight wankers. I’ll admit that “littering” is a dumb-sounding word, and doesn’t really convey the sort of offense that throwing one’s trash on the ground actually is. Let’s have a simile, shall we? Littering is like pissing on your grandmother’s kitchen floor, at Christmas, while people are cooking and drinking and having a good time – and you ruin all that by pissing on the floor.

Shame on you. Why would you piss on your grandmother’s kitchen floor?

Lord Vader finds your lack of respect disturbing.