May 17, 2013 § 2 Comments
A friend recently came to me with a broken heart. I gave him some advice or at least tried to talk him through the difficult time. That’s what sparked this recent quest to see if I could give advice to anyone else or at least… help talk you through it. Before we get started, this is the story that started it all.
This all started recently with a co-worker who was telling me about a girl he was talking to on instant messenger. We have offices all over the world you see, and certain people have to communicate with other people in the company over instant messenger. It’s funny how we can meet strangers in this current era of humanity, people we would have otherwise never known existed; sometimes I wish it was still that way.
I’m certain that at this moment my co-worker, “Sam”, wishes the same thing.
I remember him telling me about her (over IM of course) right from the beginning. ”So there’s this girl “Diane” over in San Francisco and I can’t tell but I think she’s flirting with me.” (Yeah, I realize what I just did there with their aliases, what of it?) Of course, when me and Sam talk, it’s always something along the lines of “I think this person is flirting with me!” When in reality its more like “Kate asked me if she could borrow my pen and when she picked it up she said “Oh cool pen” so you think we’re like going out now?”
Yeah, I don’t think that my friends and I have matured past the fifth grade quite yet.
But in this case, there really was some serious flirting between Sam and Diane. What I thought was just another “Yeah okay sure you’re gonna hookup with the girl that lives a few hundred miles away by winning her over on work instant messenger” (why do I write “another” as if this happens all the time?) it was in fact instead another case of “Yeah… okay! You’re gonna hookup with the girl that lives a few hundred miles away by winner her over on work instant messenger!”
Of course I never thought that
Romeo and Juliet (wait, mixing up my aliases) Sam and Diane would be able to develop a real relationship when they were separated from Los Angeles to San Francisco, especially doing so while they had to first talk about work, let alone being a Montague and a Capulet.
But mostly I can’t believe that two people would ever have romantic thoughts while they talked about the mundane bullshit we do at our company. (I can’t get into much more detail than that to protect the innocent, but I can tell you that this place doesn’t build flying microwaves that drop hot pockets into your mouth automatically.)
And so Sam and Diane built a ship together and sailed away on it. There are several different kinds of ships:
- Friend ships
- Relation ships
- Kin ships
- Partner ships
- Ghost ships
Definitely stay away from the last kind of ship, unless you wanna get got, but the other ones are always fun. Sometimes people will mix friend ships with a singles cruise, which can be fun too, but the most important thing to know is that when you go on a ship with someone that you’re both on the same ship. Otherwise you’ll risk being stranded in the middle of the ocean, and your best hope is a peaceful drowning.
Early on, they were both getting onto a friend ship and they both liked that because they had a lot in common and talking to one another was so easy and natural. It got to the point where they were even going to be the kind of long-distance friends that traveled many miles to see one another and Diane came to Los Angeles to visit and they kissed and junk. (Just like in the romantic movies!) And then Sam went to San Francisco to see Diane where they could drive across the Golden Gate Bridge in a red convertible with a baby in the backseat, roll down hills, and take Comet for a walk down the big hills.
They were also “doing it” on their friend ship, which can have a lot of benefits, but the easiest part about that perhaps was that it wasn’t complicated. ”I am here. You are there. That’s the way it is!” and Diane had made it clear that she wasn’t a relation ship type of person. Sam was okay with this.
And then all of a sudden, Sam’s best friend Woody got a job at Google and was moving to San Francisco. And now Sam saw an opportunity to move out of LA (which he was interested in doing) and going to the Bay Area with his best friend (which he thought would be fun) but also be closer to Diane (which seemed like a good idea at the time.) But then things started to change between Sam and Diane once she found out that he’d not only be moving to San Francisco, but transferring within the company. They’d go from long distance lovers to seeing each other a minimum of 40 hours per week plus weekends if it all works out okay. They’d possibly even hop off of the friend ship and onto the relation ship, a boat that Diane wasn’t very comfortable with.
Diane started to distance herself. Sam got worried that she had become more aloof and less talkative and cancelled her most recent plans to come to Los Angeles. The story of Sam and Diane… was starting to go from a fairy tale of “how easy love can be” to the realities of it all: That relation ships are the hardest ships to navigate.
Let’s face it.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go:
- Where nobody knows your name
- And they’re indifferent as to whether or not you came
- You wanna be where you can see, that nothing in your life will change, you wanna go where nobody knows your name.
(doo doo doo doo do do)
Now what you’ve already read, all 1000 words of it (jesus christ I need to learn brevity), isn’t even getting to the point where I started to give advice or talk it out with Sam. You see, for a couple of weeks, Sam held all of this inside of him. The parts where Diane would go an entire day without talking to him for the first time in months. The parts where he’d wonder why she’s not quite being the same person she once was, causing him to stress out over if he had done something wrong or if the “ship” that he’d held so dearly was sinking and un-salvageable. The parts where the “Good morning” texts had disappeared.
(Side note on “Good Morning!” texts — In the year 2013, this appears to be the number one symptom or trigger(?) of a broken heart. I think what many people want, what I’ve always looked for and cherished in my 30 years, is that you’re a person’s first and last thought every day. Because you’re bookending their dreams, which might as well mean that you’re that person’s dream. You’re that person’s everyday and everynight. You now care about that person at least as much as you care about yourself or anyone else, and the balance in the universe is that they feel the same about you. But then when something goes wrong, the universe is out of balance. Because they’re not texting you “Good Morning!” anymore, or they’re not responding for three hours after you know they’ve woken up. You’re not their first thought anymore. You’re not the last thing they think of as they unknowingly make the shift from awake to asleep. And that kills you — because you still care about them at least as much as you care about yourself, but more importantly you don’t feel that anyone now cares about you either. You feel like an empty shell. All your love is with them. And all of their love is… with them. Or even worse, with someone else. The universe is out of whack. It kills you. And it all boils down to…
But then finally Sam broke down and typed to me over instant messenger that Diane was very distant lately. That he wasn’t sure if things were going wrong because she was “busy” or “sick” and he didn’t want to come off as being weak and vulnerable if he had flat-out asked her if there was something wrong.
(While I was in the middle of writing this story, I found out that what was once supposed to be a little intro has now become over 2,300 words and I’m not done yet. Y’all don’t wanna read a wall of text right now, so let me break it out a little bit. Coming up next:
The #1 rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club, but a little known fact is that actually the #2 rule of fight club is that you don’t ask the person you’re dating if something is wrong.)
April 6, 2013 § 6 Comments
Last time on Sub-Standard: After a less-than-pleasurable experience at two different Subways awhile back, I wrote this letter to Denise in customer service. It was fun and funny. I was hardly upset with the sandwich conglomerate, just a minor setback in our decades old relationship, but now I’ve got to say…
I’m a little perturbed.
I never did hear from Denise again. I imagine her sitting on a beach somewhere, maybe Cancun, and she’s just happy. Living the life I had always dreamed for her to live. I really wish I had though, because Subway pulled the absolute worst move that a food chain can pull when they’re trying to make up for mistakes gone by; a phone call and an appointment for me to pick up a free sub.
“But Kenny, you’re getting a free sub!”
“But reader, I asked for redemption, not an errand that I have to run!”
The “come in and ask for the manager” move is the absolute dregs of customer service in this society we live in. If it were in the Brat Pack, it would be Judd Nelson. What if I don’t feel comfortable talking to a manager at the Subway that I complained about trying to get something for free? What if, and I know this is impossible for you to believe Subway, but what if I don’t even want Subway for the next month or two? Oh, and by the way, what if they don’t believe me?
Bingo! Now you know why I couldn’t drop this complaint, a minor setback that would have been better solved by silence than by giving me a chore to do. You’ll be hard-pressed to get me to go to an appointment at the doctor or the dentist, let alone a fast food chain for a free $5 footlong. But that’s what they did when I got a call from some guy telling me that I could come in and ask for the manager (whose name I don’t recall because it’s not my job to recall names when you fu*k up my order. I have cousins whose names I don’t know) and that I would get a free sub of my choosing.
I took them up on their stupid offer anyway. That was a mistake.
It’s time for another edition of “My complaint to Subway”! By the way, I love that above the box on their “message customer service” box on the website are these words: This is where you write your message
Thanks. I would have never figured that one out. It’s a wonder that I ever managed to interact with society long enough to order a sandwich without shitting my pants and stripping off my clothes.
Here we go:
First off, I want to congratulate you. After years of escaping custody or detection it appears you are finally on to me. Yes, it is I, the Sandwich Bandit! Also known as the Sandit! All I have to do is go into any of your 1,000,000 locations across these grand United States and tell your employees that I received a phone call from a manager telling me to come in and get a free sub after they had screwed up, and they would give it to me. Unbelievable! I mean, we aren’t talking about just any free item here, we’re talking about a sandwich. Thanks to this scam, I haven’t had to work for 13 years.
But that’s not why I do it. It’s not about the tens of dollars I save on sandwiches, though it is nice to know what Donald Trump must feel like. No, I do it for the thrill. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have adrenaline rushing through my veins as they are unwittingly toasting a sub that I will get for free even though I am totally fooling them.
It was all as my dad taught me to do from the time I was a little kid. You see, Curly Sue wasn’t only based on a true story but it was based on me and they changed it from a boy to a girl because Alisan Porter was too cute for words. I didn’t mind though, and I got a free signed six-inch meatball sub from Jim Belushi. He was kind enough to give me a free sub, and so to have you been doing for all of these years.
But today was perhaps the final day for me. I walked into your Subway on National Blvd and told them what I’ve been telling thousands of artists for years, that I had an issue with my last visit and was told I could get a free sub. As I waited for them to apologize and work it out, you can imagine my surprise when they didn’t comply.
“Look, I would have much preferred just a coupon but I was told to just come in and say what I am saying right now.”
She looked back at me deeply, silent, speechless. I wondered what her life must be like, what her hopes are, what she dreams of, and for that moment we weren’t a customer and a sandwich artist; we were one. We were friends, soulmates, lovers, dreamers, children, animals, we were wind and water and fire and stone. But only for a fleeting moment did we hold this glance of perfect understanding.
And then she told me that she couldn’t help me because she didn’t know what I was talking about, and so I paid regular price for a sub. Regular price?! I guess I’ll have to get a job again. I took out a loan just today to make up for buying a whole sub.
I’ll try again tomorrow and see if perhaps the dream isn’t dead. I just pray that never the day comes when a person makes a minor complaint and you simply send them a coupon, not much different than the millions of coupons you send out in the Daily, rather than make them go talk to a manager to make up for their last unpleasant experience at one of your 1,000,000 Subway restaurants in these grand United States. Please, don’t ever ever ever do that. It would be too sensible. I’ll just be here, finishing my full price sub and waiting for the day when Prince Charming comes along and simply buys my subs for me.
And now, we wait.
Here is a little bit more to the story, because that wasn’t detailed enough. I walked up to the Subway nervous because I felt like maybe they wouldn’t believe me because why would they? But that’s what I was told to do. I leaned in closely to the sandwich artist and whispered softly, “Yeah, I had a minor issue last time I was here and they told me I could come in and get a free sub?”
Then she sort of stared back at me like, “What the heck are you talking about?” Then she asked the other girl making a sandwich for someone else and when she stopped making the sandwich for the other customer, I was like “no no no, go back to her sandwich it’s no big deal.” I was embarrassed that I had to go into a Subway and ask for a free sandwich but THAT’S WHAT I WAS TOLD TO DO. After minor quibbling, I told her to just make me a sandwich (that sounds so misogynistic even if you’re AT Subway) and if it didn’t get worked out I would just pay for it. Because here’s the secret that I dare never tell anyone but I’ll reveal it to you just this one time.
I can afford sandwiches.
I don’t go around trying to screw over major corporations by stealing all of their sandwiches. But as a company providing something to a customer, when you fuck up, make up for it. Have make-up sex with me, in the metaphorical sense. Bang me hard with your cold cut combo and tell me it’s free and I’ve been a bad boy. Don’t give me a chore to do and then when I do it, make me pay for another sub. Which is exactly what I did because I felt like a FOOL in the first place. You do this to us because you know that a large percentage of people that complain will never take you up on your offer. The right thing to do would be to send me a coupon and tell me to go to hell if I don’t like it. Want to save paper? Great, you had someone email me in the first place so have her email me a one-time coupon. It’s so easy to do, even a moron like me that wouldn’t know “Where the message goes durr duh duh duh” would be able to do it and figure it out.
What could have been ended weeks ago rages on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go tell a wealthy widow that I’ve got a great investment for her and that I love her.
March 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
I don’t have much to say today. If you’re wondering what Subway’s response to my complaint was, so am I. Denise apparently did not take my email very seriously, which is bullcrap because what if the world is completely robbed of Sub-Standard? All I’m asking for is one chance, lady-who-responds-to-Subway-customer-complaints.
I just want to point out a quick observance of something we are all probably familiar with but something I also have never put much thought into. For the purpose of… there is no purpose. Appreciate it with me because I’m lonely? Yeah, I guess that’ll do.
I was seven when Kindergarten Cop (1990) was released. When you think about it, Kindergarten Cop is a great movie because it’s one of those movies that should transcend at least a couple of generations. I enjoyed it when I was 7 or 8 and saw it. I feel like it should also appeal to someone that was in high school at the time, or older, but then again this is completely untrue for me to claim because I am totally biased. I will never be able to see Kindergarten Cop in the way that someone born in 1960 is able to see Kindergarten Cop. I watch it now and I still love it, so that’s why I feel like it’s something for adults, but a lot of that is based in nostalgia.
Yet I have no idea how an Arnold Schwarzenegger-Penelope Ann Miller vehicle would be anything but a hit. Not to mention Miko f***ing Hughes, the most child actor of my generation. And it was Hughes that stole the show by delivering the line of the movie, the quote that should bring down the house whether it’s full of 7-year-old’s like me, or older people like my mommy and daddy.
I was sitting here today thinking of stand-up comedy and joke-telling and came back to one of the classics: The differences between men and women. Of course, “Women be shoppin’!” is one of my all-time favorites, with Dave Chappelle delivering the classic line in The Nutty Professor. It’s simple comedy (terrible comedy when not done ironically, which obviously it was here) that gets to the base of “what’s the joke about the differences between men and women?”
Women like to shop and men don’t!
Not much different than “black people walk like this…. but white people walk like this!” We laugh at our differences and that’s all observational humor is meant to do, laugh at who we are and what we can relate to, but “Women be shoppin!” was very, very simple. But you can get even more shallow than that.
I never thought about the joke in Kindergarten Cop as anything more than that, just a joke, and perhaps it could be said that it’s even a “lazy” attempt at humor, but now I see it as more than that. It’s more like the most perfect joke there is, because it points out the differences between men and women. No, it points out the difference between men and women. It’s exactly, to a tee, who a kindergarten student would do for observational humor if he was giving a stand-up routing to his class. And now I love it more than ever.
Boys have a penis, and girls have a vagina.
Indeed they do, Miko. Indeed they do.
March 4, 2013 § 15 Comments
On Saturday morning I got up at around 8 AM in a bad way. (I don’t see this phrase “in a bad way” used a lot so here it is with my first usage of it.) We got superbly hammered on Friday night and I didn’t eat very much so the hangover was especially worse and my cure for any hangover is usually “way too much food” because how much more damage could I do to my body?
I decided on Subway. I went to a Subway that I don’t usually go to because when I started driving I didn’t know where I was going then I said, “Subway b-fast is pretty good actually” and I probably actually said “breakfast” and not the shorter version in my head but I said it shorter there to save time. See how much time I saved? I decided on a six-inch something on flatbread. I don’t remember exactly what but it had egg (yellow) and other things. Use your imagination! I paid for it and left. No, I paid for it and also spend over $4 on a frappacino at the next door Coffee Bean. I’m not good with money or eating habits or drinking habits. So far this story is incredibly unflattering.
It gets worse.
After I demolished that six-inch sub (the size choice of six inches because I decided “I don’t need a whole damn foot of breakfast sub”) I went to a different Subway and ordered another six-inch breakfast sub. Damn it damn it damn it damn it. The first sub was okay, but mostly I was still not feeling well and just wanted to eat more things. I went to the other Subway and ordered a different six-inch breakfast sub. After we were wrapping up (pun) the order, the woman asked me if I wanted coffee or soda. ”No, I’m good” (which is code for, “I would love some more stuff but I’ve spent like $14 already on this random morning breakfast outing”) ’twas my reply. But there’s more she explained:
“Oh but it’s the same price.”
“BWAH!?!?!” because I probably did have an audible freakout over free soda or coffee. But mostly I was concerned that either A) The first Subway did not inform me of a free soda or coffee or B) that one of the Subways was just giving shit away without rhyme or reason. (Or maybe C) Different store policies because this is a franchise, but I just doubt that explanation.) I’m not mad at the first Subway, but I was curious as hell as to what was happened. I had to contact Subway and keep them abreast about the situation and what’s going on with some of their Los Angeles area Subways.
(by the fucking way, when I did a location search for Subways near my zip code, the below image is my result. There are more Subways than there are McDonalds, and holy shit that must be true. This is maybe an example of one square mile…)
It sort of reminds me of what maps will look like when a zombie invasion or virus outbreak happens in the world. ”This is what the country will look like after one hour. /next slide. After 1 day.” and then it keeps growing except in this case it’s just more and more Subways until the whole world is covered in Subways except for the oceans, in which only about 15% are covered with floating Subways.
I sent Subway an email through their website, which I sadly do not have anymore. It was kinda funny but I basically just wanted to know which Subway was right and that the woman at the second Subway did an excellent job of informing me of this free soda, unless there wasn’t supposed to be a free soda in which case reprimand her I guess? I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble!
Oh, the flatbread at both places was also stale and I did not even finish the second sub. This was 75% because it turns out I only need 2 more inches (lol!) of sub to satisfy myself but 25% because the flatbread was so stale that it was sort of like eating a sandwich in which you’ve used cardboard as the slices, which I guess you would call a “Hobo Sandwich” trademark.
Denise at Customer Care sent me this response:
Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us.
In order to better assist you, I will need to know the exact location of the SUBWAY® restaurant that you have visited so that our regional office can investigate this properly. Would you please reply by e-mail or by calling me at 1-800-888-4848 ext. 8201 to provide me with a complete address of the location you visited or a nearby landmark. Please refer to the Customer ID listed below when replying.
I appreciate that you took the time and effort to contact us and am looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Fair enough! I was honestly wondering if Subway was going to respond because it had been two days and conglomerates usually have an entire nation of customer care people but then I realize now that it was the weekend and they also get a lot of complaints. I guess I’ve been soured too because I sent Apple an honest-to-God “this is Bullshit!” complaint a little while ago and they ignored me… twice!
I am actually a pretty sweet man to customer service people. Their jobs suck and they’re doing the best they can and it’s not their fault and they can only do so much. So on the phone or whatever I will try and make their day and be a fun-loving customer that’s had a rough interaction with their company. I am not mad at Subway, their reputation for stale bread precedes them anyway, but I decided to have fun with this one. I ended up having maybe too much fun, but could also have an Emmy-award winning show on our hands. Here is my response to Denise:
Hi Denise (that’s my mothers name too!)I looked up the locations on your handy website. Man, you guys have a lot of locations! Not a problem, everybody needs sandwiches and that kind of convenience certainly doesn’t sub me the wrong way.Subway #13028 was the second location. That girl should be given a raise, but I don’t know her name so I guess give all the girls there raises. They’ve always been nice to me. Oh wait, except the flatbread was so hard that I didn’t finish half of it. Keep everyone at the same payscale actually.Subway #13477 was the first location. I think that they should just know “Hey, free drinks!” if there really are free drinks when you order a certain breakfast sub, because that’s a great deal. If it really is a deal, you should be advertising it more. It could go, “Free. Free dollars. Free dollars driiinkkkss! Come on down to Subway and get a free coffee or soda with every sub sandwich purchase before 9 am! Can you believe we’re just giving this stuff away? Tell ‘em Jared” and then Jared comes on and says, “You guys should really just be getting water anyway.” And then McKayla Maroney is all “I’m not impressed, get me a diet coke!” and then the two of them, Jared and McKayla Maroney stand back-to-back with their arms folded and a look like “This guy!” Maybe it could even be a sitcom this fall on NBC? The show could be called “Sub-Standard” and it’s about Jared from Subway and he’s dating McKayla Maroney and he’s always trying to lose weight or gain muscle and do better for her but always falling short and her catchphrase could be like, “Oh brother!” and his catch phrase after she burns him with another mean look will be “I didn’t ask if you wanted it toasted or untoasted!” Is she 18 though? Look, I haven’t thought this all the way through yet, I’m just spitballing. Tell me if you think that will work Denise.Also get back to me about the stale bread I guess, but mostly your thoughts on “Sub-Standard”.Thanks and have a wonderful day!Kenny (writer and creator of Sub-Standard. Also plays the whacky neighbor ”Mr Fundek”)
February 26, 2013 § 10 Comments
This is my experience throughout school: I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with the cool kids. I wasn’t nerdy enough to hang out with the nerdy kids. I wasn’t popular enough to hang out with the popular kids. I wasn’t old enough to hang out with my grandparents. That’s basically how I became a “floater” in high school. I had acquaintances everywhere, I had casual friends all over, I changed best friends every year just like I changed the first day outfit every year.
I never felt like a loser because of this. Never. And I still don’t think that it made me a loser, because it wasn’t like I had a bunch of people that disliked me, I just didn’t have a bunch of close friends. I wasn’t picked on or anything, I wasn’t made fun of (that I know of) and I didn’t get wedgies or stuffed into my locker. Partly because I was twice as big as everyone else, partly because I was more of a harmless class clown than the subject of ridicule, but I keep in contact with very few people that I went to school with from the K-12 years.
Some of my best friends from middle school started drinking and doing drugs in high school, and since I didn’t really do that, we grew apart and I couldn’t hang out consistently with them. I had a group of friends that I hung out with that were a year younger than me, and that didn’t always work. I had another group of friends that were a year older than me, and that didn’t always work. I could never get too attached to anyone, but I would never want to drift too far away either.
I played sports for awhile, but I was terrible. No, let me re-phrase that: I played sports for awhile. Football, baseball, basketball, and track & field, and I was the worst athlete you’ve ever seen in your entire life. If you tried to imagine the worst athlete you’ve ever seen in your entire life, you still didn’t go far enough into just how bad of an athlete I am/was. So playing on the football team didn’t help me become popular. Spending life at the end of the bench of the sophomore basketball team didn’t get me dates with cheerleaders. Throwing a javelin 8 feet didn’t land me “Most Likely To Be Awesome!” in the yearbook.
So I wasn’t cool or popular, but could I at least find a home? Not with the nerds.
I loved movies, and I loved Star Wars, and I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s not like I could keep up with a conversation of an actual Trekkie (offensive terminology I believe, not that I would know for certain) or Star Wars nerd. I had some Magic: The Gathering cards, but I don’t know that I actually played in any real games. I played some video games, but not intensely. My hobbies, watching movies and reciting sports statistics, didn’t really make me a part of any group of people in high school and by nature can be rather isolating. Even being a “class clown” (some would have probably just called me a “clown”) doesn’t necessarily help you either. People would rather laugh from afar, and then stay afar as I’m being sent to the principal’s office. I spent so much time in there that eventually she did become my pal. The mnemonic device really works! (I always remembered to spell mnemonic because of the episode of Full House where Stephanie incorrectly spells mnemonic. How meta.)
“Hey, remember when Kenny said that thing about the teacher?”
“Want to invite him to the party?”
By college, things were able to change a little bit. I made a few friends that I’ve had ever since and now that “cliques” and “cool” have not become a part of your societal status, I don’t have to worry about where I stand among my peers now that I am 30. Still, it doesn’t mean that most people still don’t like to think of themselves as being “cool” once in awhile or having people that see value in you where others might not have. That’s what I used to have with somebody. That’s what I think I lost recently.
I grew up with one sister, one half-sister, and one half-brother. My half-brother and half-sister are more than decade older than me and we never really lived together. We have relationships, but it’s distant. My sister is four years older than me and we did grow up together and the only three people that know for certain what our childhood was like are me, her, and our mother. That’s not a bond that can ever be replaced, but still we aren’t that close. She could not wait to move out of the house as a teen, and she never hid that fact, and she absolutely bolted when she could. Being four years older than me, no teenage girl wants to be associated with their four-years-younger brother. You would have thought that would be mostly a teenage girl thing, but since the time that she moved out of the house over ten years ago, I don’t know how many times my sister has actually called me. Maybe five times? None of them were to just see how I was doing. And I don’t know how many emails I’ve received “just because”… Maybe a couple.
I was the youngest sibling of all, and most of the time I’ve still felt like an only child. I know that all of my siblings would be there for me when I needed it, and vice versa, but none of them have ever really needed me. I just wanted someone to provide some value to, maybe even to look up to. Finally after college graduation, I became closer to some extended family and found some of that peace. but even that could only last for so long.
My mother’s cousin was not someone that I saw very much as a kid. I remember going over there once, I might have only been thirteen or fourteen, and playing with her kids (or maybe just the one kid at the time) for awhile. ”E” must have only been a tot back then and “B” might have either been a newborn or a very young toddler at best. (It would make the most sense if she was a newborn, hence giving me a reason to go over there with my mom at the time.) But fast forward to after college graduation, when I was now 23, “E” and “B” were both young ladies and over the years the family grew closer and I spent more time hanging out with my mom’s cousin and her kids. For the first time, I felt like I had someone that needed me to be a brother, that needed some guidance maybe, and that I was actually going to be the “cool” older person that wouldn’t judge you and that you could confide in.
Me…. cool?!? You’re darn tootin’! that i’ve already lost my “cool card” haven’t i? aww nuts. /kicks dirt.
When I showed up to their house, I could see the excitement on their faces that I was there. When I talked to E on the phone, I could hear how happy she was to be talking to me. The same with B. With this “new” extended family, I felt more like I had a purpose within a family, and that I could finally beat up boys for someone and give advice and be a cool dude. In high school I thought it would make me a cool dude to do freestyle raps and sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with perfect pitch (that’s perfect-pitch, mind you) but no? Does it not make me a “cool dude” to say that I have won two karaoke contests, know the lyrics to every song on the Boyz II Men “II” album, and have seen every episode of Saved by the Bell at least ten times? If that doesn’t make me cool, then I don’t know what does.
I don’t know what does.
But to them, to E and B, I was just cool. I didn’t have to prove anything, I didn’t have to be anything other than myself, I was just a second cousin that loved my family unconditionally. We never got to spend too much time together, I moved to Los Angeles from Seattle only a few years after college graduation and have been back sparingly since, but when I was back up in Washinton we always have a good time. Most recently we got together at a Thanksgiving function where I totally kicked ass on a Wii dancing game for tween girls and if that doesn’t make me unconditionally cool then I really am completely lost on the meaning of cool.
A few months ago, E told me that she wanted to come down and visit me in LA for her 19th birthday. I don’t exactly know how to host a teenager in LA, but somebody actually wanted to come visit me! She was very excited for the trip right up until the time that I picked her up from LAX and I could still hear that same “you’re cool to me, Kenny” in her voice that morning. It just didn’t seem like long after that though when I started to switch from feeling like “cool older bro” to “lame Dad” or “weird Uncle” and NOBODY wants to be seen as an uncle. I even hope that my actual niece and nephew see me as something other than an uncle. Friend? Sure. Confidant? Yes. The kind of guy that if you threw a party would give you the biggest gift and the card attached would say “Thank you for being a FRIEND and NOT an uncle!” Hell yes. But never a weird uncle.
We spent all day Friday at Disneyland, and by that I mean we were at Disneyland from 8 AM to 11 PM. Now I really started to feel old. My feet and back had given out when there was “only” nine more hours left until the fireworks display. But none of that bothered me as much as watching the look of admiration from my cousin evaporate and turn into a distance of “we ain’t got shit in common” that might be too far to travel; Even further than the 20 or so miles that we had trekked in Disneyland that day. And it’s a reasonable reaction for her too because just what exactly do I have in common with a person born in 1994?
I said “Let’s go on the Roger Rabbit ride!!!” (with at least three real-life audible exclamation points indeed) and I don’t know what could be cooler than a 30-year-old man wanting to go on a Roger Rabbit car ride, but she hadn’t even heard of Roger Rabbit.
She hadn’t even heard of Roger Rabbit.
She wouldn’t know of Boyz II Men. She’s never seen Saved by the Bell. Golden Girls? Get out of town. That’s when you realize that an eleven year difference isn’t just eleven years; it’s a generation. Maybe on some level this really did make me more like a “brother” figure, since I’m not close to my own actual siblings in that way, but on another level I also felt like I lost one of the last people that might have thought I was cool in the whole entire world. For a time when you think family could bond, instead it seems like getting closer can sometimes pull you apart.
When I sent her off back to Washington and said “Goodbye” I knew I wasn’t just saying any regular goodbye. I was saying goodbye to the kid I had once known and saying hello to the next phase of her being a young woman that didn’t need me to beat up any boys or provide any advice or be a big brother. Maybe B would need that one day, with another four years of being a high schooler still ahead of her, but I also won’t be around for much of it. Sometimes you just have to accept the situation you are in and find a way to mold it into the situation that makes you happiest. I never had a group of kids growing up that I ever felt fully accepted me, and I never had a sibling that I felt ever really needed me, and I never had a label of being the most popular, or the smartest, or the coolest.
But labels don’t define you. Labels are like the difference between “infer” and “imply.” You could be inferring that I am lame, but I’m trying to imply that I am cool and if you didn’t notice my “ALF” t-shirt that’s your problem. If you can’t tell that I’ve got LA Looks in my hair, sorry pal move along. Maybe I’m not the broad definition of cool, maybe I’m not James Dean or Marlon Brando or AC Slater, maybe I can’t ride a motorcycle or even cite to you every character from Star Trek, but I’ve got other things that make me cool because cool is what you make of it. Cool is being yourself and not giving a heck. Cool is doing what you do because you love it, not because someone else does.
I’ve got family that’s there for me, even if we don’t talk all the time and even if they insist on growing up and getting older. I’ve got friends that accept me for who I am and actually enjoy my jokes about politics and fart puns. And I’m not going to shy away from showing my insecurities to the world in a blog post, even if it leaves me bare and exposed, because maybe it’ll relate to just one other person and let them see that they weren’t the only one.
I actually think that makes me pretty cool.
/breaks out into Adele “Someone Like You” in perfect pitch. Perfect. Pitch.
February 11, 2013 § 6 Comments
This article won’t attempt to answer too many important questions or anything.
I found myself trapped in another internet rabbit hole on Sunday, back to the “Universal Drawing Board” of trying to gain a better understanding of the vast blackness and spots of light that surround us. I will never actually understand it of course, but we can always understand it better and I don’t think there’s really any point in doing anything else right now as a species. Because in the long run, the only way for humans to survive the demise of Earth (perhaps sometime in the future when the Sun becomes a Red Dwarf and says “It’s gettin’ hot in here, so consume the f***ing Earth!” billions of years from now) is to escape Earth. Stephen Hawking basically says that the escape from Earth is going to happen and to not even worry about Red Dwarves, since we’re doing an awesome job of killing ourselves.
But even if we managed to survive the death of Earth and survive a galactic road trip with our families to colonize another planet, whether it’s Mars or an extrasolar planet, we’ve still got to deal with things like the Milky Way colliding with the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years or just the fact that the Universe itself will one day die out, even if it’s trillions of years from now and even if we think it’s improbable to see humans survive it. However, even though humans may not make it even another billion years in this universe, it doesn’t mean that we might not be able to leave the universe. String theorists hypothesize that we live in a multiverse, which is more like being the Russian doll inside of the Russian doll inside of the Russian doll and so on and so on forever. Michio Kaku, who you might know as “The Asian guy that is literally the guest talking head in every single documentary special about space”, talks a great deal about the simple things that make up the universe and our planet and how we got here in this video. It’s worth your time.
I’ll wait the 42 minutes until you come back.
Pretty interesting stuff, huh? I wonder what I was doing in that 42 minutes in my life while you were watching the video. Probably nothing that important. Probably not getting closer to helping anyone find out what dark matter is. Probably- Hey look, Chris Brown is on the Grammys.
Because despite how important it is to find out how to get from here to the next solar system at warp speed, or how we could possibly create a wormhole (which is sort of like Alice’s “Wonderland Rabbit Hole” that got me here in the first place) to find other dimensions (and pray that it’s not like the dimension crossover we saw in The Mist) we would much rather read 50 Shades of Grey. Or watch Real Chopped Champions of Macon County: SVU. Or give an award to Rihanna for “singing good and stuff”. And many other countless things that don’t matter. Is it wrong? Well, not necessarily and I am as guilty as anyone else. But we should still recognize just exactly what entertainment is:
Entertainment is how dumber people cope with the boredom of being helpless to advance humanity.
Not to say that most of us are necessarily stupid, because I wouldn’t want to sit here and tell you that I am an idiot, but I’m certainly a lot stupider than Kaku. Or Hawking. Or Newton and Galileo and Einstein and a very large number of people that have done something important for humanity even though those names make up a minuscule percentage of people that have ever lived. You must understand that literally anyone can have an impact on, or effect the very fate of, humanity. From me to you to Abraham Lincoln, but only a few of us make important changes directly. It took us until Christmas Day of 1642 A.D. to get Isaac Newton, some 200,000 years since the first known homo sapiens, some millions of years since we could trace back to our original ancestors, some
6,000 4.5 billion years since we got this planet, and then finally we got the guy that defined the basis for modern physics. That set the stage for what could finally get us off of the planet. And yet every domino during that 4.5 billion years still played a role, whether minor or major, in giving us Newton and then without Newton, we wouldn’t have the other geniuses that got us to the moon and continue to travel deeper and deeper into space. The people that are doing important things for the rest of us, while we sit here and think of new ways to keep ourselves busy – whether it’s Arrested Development or a Carly Rae Jepsen concert (does she do concerts or only YouTube videos? Who is Carly Rae Jepsen?) - for hopefully another billion+ years.
Ummm… Thanks, guys! (And girls. I’m using “guys” in the general sense here.)
Unfortunately for many of us, we are left with so many unanswered questions. Not only are they unanswered but we are helpless to find the answers. Because we’re too stupid or too lazy or too overwhelmed by the question itself. It’s not an insult, we’re talking about questions like “Is there intelligent life on other planets?” and “Is there a God?” You almost certainly should not know the answer to those questions, and if you do, please use the contact button on this website to tell me or send me a DM on Twitter! I’d really like to know, thanks. :)
Having these questions is sort of like spending every day of your life feeling like you’re a bird even though you are a human. That nature is telling you that you MUST walk outside, spread your arms, and fly above the clouds because it’s what you are meant to do. Except that you can’t. Because you’re a human. You can not fly and naturally, you likely never will. At least, not without some help. Maybe one day you’ll invent a metal box that does put you in the air and allow you to travel in the skies or perhaps even into space. A workaround, if you will, but an accomplishment of the urge given to you by nature. There’s still hope yet that we can find intelligent life, cross
swords universes, fold space, and maybe even travel through time. I might not be the one to answer any of the questions but perhaps we all play some small part in that and I know I still have so much left to ask.
Is there life on other planets? Yes. Hell yes. By definition a theory is not a fact if it’s wrong even once. In this case, I actually have zero facts to support the theory that there are alien lifeforms. But Jesus, man, there has to be. There are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone. There could be 100 billion galaxies. Who cares about doing the math at this point, that’s just “a lot” of planets. Some will support life. In fact, some may not even have any reasonable reason to support life according to the life-supporting features that we are used to on Earth (water, oxygen, McDonalds) but actually might support some other kind of lifeform. Even here on this planet there are species that should not survive but do anyway, called extremophiles. A Tardigrade is a polyextremophile that lives right here on Earth and can survive: Subzero temperatures, boiling temperatures, all kinds of radiation, can go 10 years without food or water, pressures deeper than our deepest oceans and yes… they could live in the vacuum of space.
We might look at a gas planet like Jupiter and think it doesn’t support life but like hell that I’d be surprised if you told me that there were mole people in the middle just livin’ it up! It’s even easier to imagine that there could be life under the icy surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Or on Mars. Or on Titan, a moon of Saturn. If we can find just one other place in the solar system where any kind of life existed, we know that life on Earth wasn’t a freak occurrence.
So is there life out there? Yeah, I think so. Is there intelligent life out there? I would like to think so. One of the only problems with that, whether or not there are people like us out there in the Uni, is that we are rather young. The Big Bang happened some 9 billion years before Earth formed, twice as long as Earth has been around itself. Meaning that Earth has been around for only like 33% of how long the universe has been around and yet other planets, solar systems, and galaxies have been around for plenty of time to have bred a human-like species of intelligent life and theoretically, those people would have had the same questions about life that we do. They would have eventually wanted to meet other intelligent beings and they should be more advanced than us. Possibly to the point where they have everything we ever dreamed of and so much more. It’s conceivable that if humans could travel outside of the solar system within 100 years, or even 1000, that other intelligent beings would have already done so since they could have a head start of 1,000,000,000 years or more.
So where are they?
We couldn’t possibly be the first right? Are UFOs real? Is Ancient Aliens real? Are humans themselves the aliens? Did the aliens find that it was a bad idea to contact other lifeforms? Are we really the smartest people in the Universe*, or at least, the galaxy? Please tell me that the smartest lifeforms in the galaxy aren’t also responsible for Honey Boo Boo. As you can see, even one question, like the one about life on other planets, just becomes its own “multiverse” of questions. An infinite amount of more questions we must ask, like the child that just says “Why? Why? Why?”
*It simply does not compute that we could be the most intelligent life forms in even our own area code of the Milky Way. You realize that we are failing right? It makes perfect sense that the biggest cancer killer of Americans is actually the one we knowingly do to ourselves: Lung cancer. I mean, I smoked for ten years before quitting (still going strong) and I can tell you first-hand that there is absolutely no point in smoking despite the fact that it kills 150,000+ Americans every year. You could say that “God” gives you every other kind of cancer, and yes also sometimes cancer of the lungs, but most of it is us just saying “F*** it!” because “you’re going to die anyway.” And so goes the human race, killing the Earth at a faster rate every single day because it’s going to die anyway too. Hell-to-the-no are we the smartest beings in the M.W. Galaxy and if we are, God help us all.
And so we are left with exploring other possibilities about why we have no record of being contacted by aliens, and then if you subscribe to something like ancient aliens or Roswell, you are branded as a fool. Hey, don’t lump every believer in aliens in with this guy:
I don’t know if we have been contacted by aliens but based on the mathematical evidence of how many planets there must be out there, shouldn’t we consider it? I find it interesting that we can know how ridiculously large the universe is, that it’s packed with amazing images like different nebula that you would swear aren’t real pictures but in fact is an actual photo*, that we can live and breathe and think and have no idea why or how we are all here, that the Earth is just one of many literal miracles, and yet thinking that maybe aliens came and chilled on the planet some 50,000 or 50,000,000 years ago or something and then moved on makes you a crazy person. If you equated the history of Earth to a 24-hour day, the time that humans were alive would be the last few seconds. What’s to say that aliens haven’t come by a bunch of times but just not in the time that we were either A) here or B) had video cameras rolling?
*Crap, look how crazy the Ant Nebula is:
If we stopped and thought intelligently for a moment, it would be so blatantly obvious to us that we aren’t the only intelligent ones out there. Hell, we are really only intelligent relative to other Earth species. Our Sun is big as hell – to us. It’s more like a medium-sized star relative to other stars. For all we know, Earth Humans are the Honey Boo Boo’s of the galaxy. Maybe we haven’t been visited by aliens because they are too embarrassed to be seen with us. And could we even blame them? Do you go hang out at the house of the neighbor that doesn’t mow his lawn for 10 years and has two cars on blocks in the front yard?
I didn’t think so.
Which is another good reason that we need to be spending all of our energy on finding a way out of our solar system and being able to reach other Earth-like planets in our relative neighborhood. It’s the only way for humanity to survive (if it even should) and possibly get the answers we’ve been seeking for the entirety of our existence. Maybe even the answer to the most important question: Why are we here? Luckily, while us stupid people bet on the Oscars every year, there are people working to find the answers and possibly escape the solar system.
The James Webb Telescope replaces the Hubble in about 2018, nearly 22 years after the project was set in motion during the Clinton administration. (Unfortunately, important change takes time but we have to start somewhere, sometime.) The Hubble’s successor (which is 100x more powerful than the Hubble, the most powerful telescope we had ever invented) will hopefully answer many questions about the formation of the galaxies, planets, stars, and life. It will be positioned so far from Earth that we won’t even be able to service it and it may only last 5 years before breaking down, but it will be phenomenally important to understanding ourselves and our galaxy. And yes, this shit is coming while you are probably still alive. Amazing things should be known in the next 5-10 years. That’s not all. The ATLAST telescope is even more impressive.
ATLAST (Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope) is Hubble 3.0 and it has one specific mission: Find life on other planets. That’s a sick freakin’ mission. Though it is still in the conceptual stages, a potential 16-meter telescope sent out into space could photograph more planets than you could ever believe possible. The hope is to have ATLAST out there “at last” between 2025-2035. Just imagine if you gave birth to a baby boy today, he might only be 12 or 13 when we found out that there was life on other planets. Even if the concept of sending a giant 16-meter telescope millions of miles into space to see light years away and take voyeuristic naked photos of aliens in only 15 years sounded “stupidly ridick” to you right now, try telling a computer technician in 1965 that you carry a computer in your pocket that’s 1000x more powerful than the one that takes up an entire floor of his office building.
Technology doesn’t advance at a steady rate, it advances exponentially. That’s why it took thousands of years to get from point a to point b and yet it took like ten years or less to go from “everyone finally has a cell phone” to “literally nobody is looking at each other anymore because they’ve got mini-computers – that I guess also have a talking function? – in their hands 24/7.” We will probably have a mission to Mars in the mid-2030s and it might actually happen after we have found life on other planets. (Though it’s a longshot to happen that soon. James Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2007, not 2018. It also went from a $300 million project to an $8 billion project. Damn “inflation.”) To go from Hubble 1 to Hubble 2 to Hubble 3 and possibly Hubble 4 someday, it’s incredible to think about how advanced that technology could be. A large scale technological advancement version of going from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. Would you have believed that the original iPod could someday be a grandmother of the iPad?
Just imagine if instead of spending any money on wars, humans spent taxpayer money on space exploration. Just to think that if we could stop spending a single cent on crime prevention, we could funnel all that money into education. Of course, that’s an “insane” idea, right?
And still, after billions of years of the development of Earth, planetary species, and homo sapiens, you might actually be living at a very exciting time where many questions once thought “unanswerable” will be answered. We’ve already had the Large Hadron Collider possibly find a Higgs Boson particle that could answer many questions we’ve had for a long time. The Kepler Mission is deep in space looking for (and finding a ton of) new planets. We could possibly learn hundreds of answers to how our galaxy and universe was created with the launching of James Webb. Maybe eight years later we will launch the device that takes pictures of aliens. Shortly after that we might be walking on Mars. Maybe within your lifetime we will even be planting the seeds of true space colonization or other “science fiction” concepts like time travel and teleportation. Black holes were “science fiction” not too long ago and many “crazy” ideas were born out of some truth.
I have to believe that anything is possible just based on everything I’ve already just mentioned on how amazing and complex the universe and life really is. At some points in my life I find it impossible that a scientist could ever believe in the existence of God, while at other times I find it even more unbelievable that he couldn’t. Most of us are just lucky to be observers and have the answers given to us by the genius few. We have had certain questions for millennia that might actually be cleared up within our lifetime, but those answers will probably still only lead to more questions. That’s actually a good thing because what’s the point of being alive if you don’t have any questions?
Even if most of us are just biding time with stupid entertainment because we don’t have anything better to do, I know for a fact that we are all still bound by the same curiosities and quest for true Universal Knowledge.
It’s funny that during my Rabbit Hole vacation, I also came across a Tumblr site that is just photos of “Awesome People Hanging Out.” Random famous people that were photographed together. I started to look at the “Notes” section under each photo that shows you how many people commented or reblogged the photo. Some were as low as 600 “notes” and others might get as high as 3000. That’s a lot of people sharing a photo. And then all of a sudden I saw one photo that dwarfed all the rest as if they were non-descript asteroids orbiting a massive star. The fact that this photo had over 81,000 notes gave me so much hope in humanity at that moment that even if most of us are relatively stupid, and even if we want nothing more than to be mindlessly entertained because of the boredom of living a dull life, we still respect the hell out of the grand quest to understand this universe and just what the hell we are doing here. We are mostly just the drones, but we thank and admire the people that have helped get us from a planetary creation 4.5 billion years ago to sitting in front of our TVs or computers today. These 81,000 notes were proof that most of us all just want answers and respect the hell out of the Newtons, the Einsteins, and even some of our modern day scientific heroes – specifically the ones that have married science and entertainment. We know you geniuses are still out there, and we support your everyday mission for knowledge.
81,000 notes on Awesome People Hanging Out is my proof:
Now, can we please stop killing ourselves?
January 28, 2013 § 8 Comments
I put off quitting smoking for a long time really because of one reason and I am not ashamed to admit it: It seemed like it would be a really hard thing to do. I could hardly go four hours without a cigarette as it was, and “forever” is slightly longer than four hours. How could I possibly eat another meal without nicotine dessert? How could I drink another beer without a stoagie in hand, complementing the hops and barley so beautifully? How would I get through a day of work without my consistent and necessary breaks… from work? Well, two weeks since my last cigarette and now I must say…
I thought this would be harder.
That’s not meant to sound like I’m some awesome person that has great special powers when it comes to accomplishing seemingly difficult tasks. Quite the opposite, since I will do whatever it takes to avoid tasks if anything. Most people say that they hate going to the dentist because they don’t like the idea that a person is mucking around in their mouths, drilling and needling your teeth and gums. But for me, I literally just hate going to the dentist. I hate making appointments and then having to show up for those appointments. If the dentist came to me, then he could drill and poke all he wants (some sort of sex joke goes here) but it’s the actual act of going that I hate the most. So I am not even the guy that you would use as the example of a person that is great at doing stuff, and yet (my dentist will be happy about this) quitting smoking hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
That’s not to say that it has been without difficulties and obstacles. Indeed, the last fortnight has been interesting and at times, annoying, but cigarettes have done little to sway me back into the fold of being a smoker. Here is what the last 14 days has been like and what I have so far learned about quitting smoking:
Coughy, like the drink only spelled different
You would think that the worst “smokers cough” would come when you are actually smoking, but for almost two weeks I have not been able to restrain myself from a terrible and constant need to evacuate phlegm from my lungs and nurture a tingling sensation in the back of my throat. So why am I being punished for doing a good thing and quitting?
For ten years I was killing the cilia in my lungs. That sure seems like a silly-uh thing to do! (Well, there’s nothing left for me to accomplish on the internet. Goodnight, everyone!)
But seriously folks, those cilia help clean out the lungs and smoke puts them out like a candle in a very smoky wind. As soon as you stop trying to murder your own cilia with cigarette smoke, they awaken from a deep coma and start cleaning the chimney chim-chim-charoo in breathtaking fashion. Unfortunately that means that they are working overtime because I kept killing them and let garbage build up in my lungs, so it’s time to evacuate the lung waste and start from scratch, which might mean a scratchy throat, but I won’t bitch about this itch. I think it’s pretty cool that I stopped killing those little guys. It really makes you think about how your body is alive. Weird, huh? How bodies are alive.
I don’t know if my coughing is going to end today or go on for several more weeks, but it’s normal. If I start coughing up blood, contact my doctor immediately. (Call 555-2424 and ask for Dr. Tanner.)
I’m a former smoker, I’m popular
It used to be that the cool kids were the smokers but now you’re not cool, you’re nothin’ but a fool. I actually would never judge a person for smoking, as I have said before, but it’s certainly not the popular thing to do anymore. At least as of 2009, there were more former smokers (49.9 million) than current smokers (46.6 million) in the U.S. Almost half of smokers had tried to quit and failed in the last year, which is exactly why I never tried to quit until I was ready.
Will I succeed or am I being way too cocky right now about quitting after only two weeks of cessation? That’s a good question, because 90% of people fail upon their first attempt to stop! I also assume that many of them did not quit cold turkey, like I did, but I simply didn’t want to switch out one addiction for another and also end up paying more money to not smoke than to just smoke. Thanks to the ~$75 I have saved already in two weeks, I was finally able to purchase the Red Ryder BB gun and shoot my eye out.
The fact of the matter is that while nicotine may be one of the most addictive substances known to man, the chemical is basically out of your body entirely 48 hours after your last cigarette. In reality, nicotine addiction is no match for habit and it’s the habit, routine, and cravings-linked-to-association-of-cigarettes that really make it difficult to quit. When you stop smoking, it’s basically a 24-hour cycle of feeling like something in your life is missing. It feels like you went on vacation and know for a fact that you left the stove on, completely unable to do anything other than think about how you left that damn stove on. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that I have finished a meal and thought, “Time for a cigarette” only to remind myself that I had quit. It’s that self-denial of something that feels so naturally right that really makes it hard to say no to giving yourself a cigarette. That association that a smoke has with food, beer, sex, driving, talking, walking, or reading the news. You’ve cut off an arm and you just want that arm back and you’ve conditioned your brain to think that you can’t have one of those things, whatever it is, without a cigarette. It’s a habit, so how do you break the habit?
They say that it takes “21 days” to make or break a habit, but is that really true? I trust How Stuff Works more than I trust my President, so let’s take a look at what they say about 21 days:
For most people, staying away from a bad habit is a lifetime effort, backed up by the fact that those well-worn synaptic pathways never go away. There’s no apparent scientific reason why it would take three weeks to break an old habit or make a new habit. Depending on your unique physical and psychological make-up, it could take three weeks, it could take five days, or it could take nine months.
Everyone is different. Maybe I could really break my smoking habit (for the most part) in two weeks. Maybe I have another four months. In reality, I’ll probably still have smokicidal thoughts in 20 years. But the actual habit, the innate “natural” desire to have a cigarette every time I do something, like eat or drink, will subside more and more each day. It’s already mostly gone, for now.
Cancer? Sorry, no, Sagittarius.
Nobody has ever said this before, but smoking causes cancer. It’s one of the hottest new ways to cancer up yo’ body! ”Kenny, my body is completely clean. How can I get cancer?” ”That’s easy: Smoke!”
I would be lying if I said that the risk of cancer was in the top five reasons of why I quit smoking and I honestly think that “You’ll get cancer!” anti-smoking ads are the least effective. Frankly, people do not really care about long-term benefits and risks of anything. I can’t even watch a DVR’d television show without hitting the FF button four times during commercials. And you’re telling me that now I have to worry about whether or not this thing in my hand is going to give me lung cancer when I am 75 years old? Or maybe even never? I am sure we have all heard of the people that smoked until they were 100 and most people don’t have all that much interest in living to be 100. We will hold more onto the fact that a few people can live for a long time as smokers than the fact that most smokers are gonna die from it. That’s just the way it is.
No, I would list reasons for quitting more like:
- That woman with the hole in her throat
- It’s cold outside
Most people are going to live their life how they want to live and not think about the long-term consequences, because I think a lot of people live in at least some fear that they might not live to see the day that smoking kills them anyway. I can’t have this cigarette because it might kill me in 40 years? Yeah, but I also might die in a freak kazoo accident so who gives a crap? However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that the benefits of a longer life, or at least the possibility that I’m not going to be the one to kill myself through smoking, aren’t very cool.
The risk of heart and lung disease for a former smoker and a non-smoker are just about the same 5-10 years after cessation. Which means that I got to live a little and be free to smoke in my 20s and could completely get away with it! Ha! All you never-smokers really missed out. And by quitting at age 30, I have reduced my chances of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by 90%. Not only that, I have increased my chances of dying from sex-related accidents by 400% because now that I don’t smell like smoke and have some extra money in my pocket, I will need to fend off droves of ladies with brooms and fencing gear.
The desire to smoke and the desire to eat are sadly very similar
One thing that I have noticed and that I will need to stay aware of, is that it is very easy to gain weight when you quit smoking. Not only does the body literally gain water weight when you quit, but there’s a need to fill that desire to smoke with something, and oftentimes that something is food. It’s especially hard for a person like me, because I was already having ZERO problem gaining weight!
Just this morning as I drove to work I felt a major desire for something. It was an empty stomach, but I used to smoke a cigarette bright and early and this would curb the appetite for a significant period of time. I can no longer do that, so I need to find other ways to get past it without smoking and without overeating. Trust me, I’m going to keep eating, but I don’t want to trade out one negative for another and in addition to that, I am back to going to the gym on a regular basis. (Seriously, I feel so bad for males in the Los Angeles area. Sorry dudes, K-Arthur is here for the ladies and there is nothing you can do about it unless you sabotage me with cigarettes and Snickers Ice Cream bars mmmm cigarettes and snickers ice cream)
The most important thing to remember for anyone quitting smoking is that cravings will continue to happen but when you consciously think about the cravings you will notice that they never last for more than a couple of minutes. Over time, those will get to be less and less and I can honestly make it through most of a day already without a single craving. At least, not for cigarettes, but when those cravings come for food, its just important to remember that moderation is key and that the desire will still go away in minutes.
(Though when I went to the grocery store yesterday, I said f*** it and went to the yogurt aisle which seems like a legit place to go nuts without getting a bunch of food that’s bad for you, so I went down the row and got 12 different kinds of yogurt. That seemed like a good way to live out the dreams of some millionaire rock star. You know, because I can afford 12 cups of yogurt of all different flavors and styles.)
In addition to more food cravings, you also have an increased sense of smell and taste when you quit smoking. I can honestly say that my mouth feels incredibly clean and I would totally make out with my own mouth if I could. It’s like a hotbed of naturally warm spring water and I want to go skinny dipping on my tongue. Try to get that visual out of your mind now.
But these are just a few of the benefits I have already found to quitting and enough reason for me to never smoke another cigarette again. I also get improved circulation and the ability to breathe, which should also make working out more beneficial than what it was when I was a smoker. Seriously, I didn’t know what this “breathing” thing was all about until recently but it seems pretty cool. I don’t know why I have not found it difficult to quit smoking but so far it’s been a breeze, I can only hope that it will continue to be that way.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to find out what the big deal about quitting was in the first place. At least there’s still plenty of time and opportunity to make up for it.
(Edit: I don’t know why I didn’t originally include this because it’s the most annoying part of quitting so far but maybe it’s because I’m just too damn tired. I literally have been waking up at 3-4 AM every single day since. I am not one who usually sleeps in but this is ridiculous. Smokers are heavy sleepers and so when you quit, the sleeping is lighter and it’s very hard to get a good night’s rest. Eventually I will be sleeping like a normal human being again, but definitely the restless nights have been the most difficult part about quitting. Though, not an enormous deal.)
December 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
To understand a person and how they came to be the person that they are today (though you never truly understand a person) you have to trace back to every day of their existence. Every day is a brick, a chair, a room with a trampoline as a floor since my lifehouse can have that, its my lifehouse metaphor. You may not understand the theme of this article by me only giving you a little bit of background into my upbringing, it simply will not suffice, but I can try.
I was raised by a single mother from the time I was 3, though I am sure she was always raising me alone from the time I was born, since my father had other places to be. I have one sister, four years older, and she was cursed with a curse that all sisters have: She is a girl, and girls, especially ones that are four years older, do not want to hang out with their brothers. When my sister was 10 and I was 6, she wanted to be 16 and I wanted to be 6. That’s just the routine for young boys and girls and so I did not play with my sister very often.
In fact, I can’t recall a single time that I did so without her feeling forced to do so.
So what is a boy left to do during his formative years without anyone telling him how to form? Watch movies. And when there is no television, as we canceled cable several times for financial purposes, make shit up! I spent countless hours jumping around the couch shooting imaginary bad guys with my imaginary guns. I put my action figures into action. I will never forget the time that I was having a funeral for one of my toys, a G.I. Joe lost in battle that was being given an epic send-off, and humming Taps as the other action figures carry his body to the grave, except for one fatal error: It turns out that I did not know Taps, or at least I had gotten confused, because my mother came by and asked why I was humming the wedding song.
*pulls tight collar away from neck and says ‘oh. boy.’*
But that was my childhood. Not the part where I accidentally passed a gay marriage bill for my action figures, but the part where I was living in a reality made up of either movies and television half of the time, or whatever war, adventure, or game-winning sports play that I deemed to be possible for the rest of the time. It’s not that I, at the age of 4 or 8 or 16 or I-should-probably-stop-now, actually believed that I hit the game-winning shot for the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (or that they actually allowed me nine attempts to hit the shot) because I am not a psychopath or completely delusional, but I did live with the idea that the world is whatever I want it to be.
I did not choose the reality as we know it. I did not create the Earth, the Sun, the Oceans or the iPod. Those realities are out of my hand. But whenever I want to, I can create a different world, a world where anything is possible and I can be anybody. Who would not want to live in that world?
In movies like Pan’s Labyrinth or The Science of Sleep, these imaginary dreamscapes are better described than what I could explain, but it’s something like that except without really seeing these worlds, settings, or characters. You just have to believe it. And so when I had time to myself as a kid, which was plenty often, I could be whoever I wanted to be and live where ever I wanted to live and the rules of science and math and physics only exist as I allowed them to exist. I don’t live in these worlds much anymore (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t caught a few game-winning Seahawks touchdowns in my bed over the last couple of years) but that does not mean that I don’t still believe. Whereas I created these Universes* as a child for the purposes of entertainment and passing the time, now I use these same principles as a means of coping with the many unanswered questions that turn the Sun and our very existence into an enigmatic Rubik’s cube for which I will likely die before solving.
I am a logical and rational human being. I don’t want you to think that I have completely lost my shit. I know that the laws of physics seem rather legit. I don’t doubt that E does equal MC squared, even though I could not tell you how Einstein got there or how it makes my popcorn pop in the microwave, but I have no reason to think it’s bullshit. (I mean, I heard that nutrinos could fuck that up, but once again, not my field of expertise.) However, why do we, as people, have to stop there? Why do we have to accept anything and everything that has been told to us? You once told me motherfucking Santa Claus was real and THAT was bullshit, so why should I just bend over, look over my shoulder, and say “Sure, shove the laws of gravity up my butt, I’ll take it.”?
Yeah, gravity seems VERY legit. But what if I told you that tomorrow, there would be no gravity? Or that it would be like Moon gravity and we raised the NBA hoops to 25 feet? You can tell me that it won’t happen, but I will reply, “Why not?” And you would give me a verifiable 100% scientific answer as to why it wouldn’t, but that’s not really the point of what I’m trying to convey.
Here are some questions I would pose to you:
- What if time travel is real? How could you ever really know for certain? The life that you are living right now, what if it didn’t exist until a second ago? What if before that second, someone from the future went back in time and shot Abraham Lincoln and so now you’re Tim Carter instead of Tina Leone? What if Marty McFly was a real person?
- What if the Matrix is real? Fuck, how should I know??
- What if tomorrow you are eating Haagen-Dazs and watching Family Guy and then all of a sudden a vortex pops up behind your couch that leads to God knows where? Would you go through it? You most certainly would at least throw in the ice cream first or eat it all first.
- What if you weren’t even you until this very moment? What if you were transported into this body at this second and implanted with all of your memories that you think are real? What if you’re Quantum Leap but if Quantum Leap didn’t know he was Quantum Leap and what am I trying to stop from happening? Who do I have to stop from getting married or killed?
I am not trying to say that I necessarily believe all of the above because I pretty much don’t. I know that tomorrow I will wake up and go through my regular routine. The sky will be there, the Earth will be there, episodes of Sweet Valley High will still be around somewhere. I know this. But damn it, it doesn’t mean that I am absolutely and utterly against the idea that anything is possible. Please, for the love of Sweet Valley High, tell me that anything is possible.
Tell me that we will all be able to fly tomorrow. Tell me that one day I will get to jump in John Malkovich’s head. Tell me that I can be Limitless like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. Don’t we all sort of get by on hope? Don’t we all sort of get out of bed for a reason and not only because we have to (because hey, you don’t have to do anything), not only because we want to, not only because of what already is, but we also get out of bed because of the things that don’t exist.
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”
GET OUT OF BED!
“I need to pay my bills.”
GET OUT OF BED!
“I can’t walk.”
SOMEBODY HELP HIM OUT OF BED!
Everything we do in life should at least hinge somewhat on the idea that we are going to get something today that we did not have yesterday. Is today the day you fall ass-backwards into a windfall of cash? Is today the day that you look in the mirror and are satisfied with your physique? Is today the day that new episodes of Arrested Development are released? We need a little something to motivate us to go on. We need a little something to believe in. Maybe for me, that little something is the ability to fly, to find a vortex, or to travel back to the day when stock in Microsoft was like $10 a share.
Maybe when I was a bored little boy whose sister wouldn’t play with him I created these worlds and beliefs to pass the time and make the day a little better, but even as an adult I still hold out hope that anything is possible- so that I may pass the time and make the day a little better. It makes the morning more palatable. It makes existence more fruitful. It doesn’t make the Universe more understandable, but perhaps easier to cope with since we know we don’t know very much about it anyway.
For me, that’s all I need to wake up. That, and an action figure wedding.
*Side-Bar About Creativity, Writing, and Comedy
People often attribute creativity to some inherent attribute that never had to be worked on or molded. Many people think that if you are an adult writer, director, painter, musician, or likewise, then you are just one of the “lucky” ones. I have told people that I write and they immediately say “Well shit, maybe I should write too!”
I can probably weave a quick tale, story, subplot, or narrative together for you right now but it’s not because that shit is easy to do. If everybody was a good writer, then 99% of screenplays wouldn’t wind up in a: Fireplace, waste basket, shredder, Recycle Bin on your desktop, or turn into emergency toilet paper. And guess what? If I turned in a screenplay to Hollyweird right now, best be sure that it would wind up in the same place. Maybe if I keep working on it for 8 or 10 or 15 more years, we will see what happens, but where I am today at 30 wasn’t because the writing fairy tickled my nutsack when I was 2 days old and said “You get to be a writer!” No, do you want to know how people become creative? They were really fucking bored for a really fucking long time and so every single fucking day they worked that muscle. For me, I did not work it with the purposes of turning it into anything; it was a means of survival. I watched 1-4 movies every single day. I made up shit every single day. I spent all day in class scribbling and doodling and making up villains, heroes, space battles, and monsters on paper because the I was more interested in that than I was in math. (Maybe an occasional pair of boobs.)
What did a scientist do in class? Probably spent all day in the lab because he or she couldn’t get enough of the beakers and such.
What did a philosopher do in class? Wondered what the fuck he or she was doing there.
What did LeBron James do in class? Probably jack shit because he was great at basketball, but hey, he was/is great at basketball!
Everybody everywhere gets something out of something. You are where you are at least partly because of the shit you enjoyed when you were a kid and how you spent your days. You: Perhaps a musician that picked up a guitar when you were 5 or 9 or 14. Me: Kind of a loser actually. I always had A friend, but I never had like 30 friends. So I coped with my childhood by making shit up and watching TV. You know how funny people are funny? They coped with the society of bullies or feeling that they needed attention or not feeling like they were good at anything else. I was a child that thrived, no thirsted, no hungered, no needed-or-i’m-going-to-have-a-fucking-fit on laughter. Nothing makes ME feel as good as when YOU are having a laugh. Comedians can go through 10+ years of stand-up before making any kind of names for themselves. The first few years are even rougher because you bomb a lot and frankly that’s no different than a classroom. You have to re-live the days when your first *fartnoise* joke causes rolling in the aisles, but dead silence because “Hey we’ve heard that one before, Kenny. Say some shit about crayons!”
I know a lot of people that read blogs, especially on WP, are writers or bloggers themselves. I’m not saying you, yes YOU /reaches through Laura’s computer screen/ are a person that would say that writing is something that comes natural to people, but a lot of people seem to have that inclination. Fuck no it does not come natural and neither does comedy. This is something you live with. This is how you cope. This is something I have been working on before I knew you needed to work on shit to get good at it.
It just so happens that writing for 40+ hours per week has only happened in the last two years. But there was a pretense of over two decades in which I fine-tuned and worked and molded that muscle. In retrospect, I should have been a doctor. But instead, I am a person that likes to write and make jokes. It was not natural.
*Side-Bar Over* *Overruled*
December 12, 2012 § 5 Comments
Yes. Or at least I think so. That or some weird genius has hacked my OkCupid and made my profile 100x better. Let’s start from the beginning…
I was not much of a drinker as a teenager. I wouldn’t say it’s because I was a “good” kid but I wasn’t really a bad kid either. Sure, I wound up in the principal’s office about once a week, but for a person that thrives off of making people laugh with witty interruptions, Sex Ed class is basically entrapment. Other than that, my weekends basically consisted of trips to Hollywood Video with friends, popcorn and snacks, me eating most of the snacks, very tame stuff really.
This was not always the case though and at one particular party I had shown up late and decided to “catch up” with a bottle of whiskey. (I can’t pinpoint the exact age I was when this occurred, but I believe it would have actually been around 18 or 19, after graduation. I don’t know why I am adding this tidbit, except that my mom will probably read this and she worries. Even about things that happened years ago. She probably believes that I will still get an MIP ticket in the mail for even writing it now, ten years later. #Moms.) Moral of the story: Don’t play catch up with a bottle of Black Label whiskey if you aren’t a qualified drinker, or ever really.
Next and last thing I know, I’m running around the backyard with my shirt off and spinning it around over my head like I’m Petey Pablo. I raise up the following day, sitting in a lawn chair the next day, a total mess, and I’m hungover but fine. Until the psychological mind-fuck of being told that I did things that I do not remember doing. ”What is this concept of ‘blacking out’? You mean that alcohol erases memories???” It’s a pretty scary situation to think that you can do things and not remember, but I honestly had no idea that I had fallen down that chasm of having too much to drink. It scared me to the point of never wanting to drink again.
And then I went to a school notorious for over-consumption of alcohol and blacking out became activity du jour. I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic that anybody should be concerned about, I gave up drinking for 3 years without even having a necessary intention to do so but only because I was in a relationship with someone that rarely drank. It was not hard. What is hard is ‘H.A.M.’ and that’s how I drink. I’m not ashamed of this and I won’t sugarcoat it.
Flash-forward to this week when I check in on my OkCupid profile and realize that everything has been changed. I have a vague recollection of going onto the site a few weeks ago and perhaps thinking that I would “mix it up” but that is all I remember. The words that I read though were not ones that I recognized. I don’t remember writing any of this, really, but holy shit do I love it. Either some very funny person has written over my profile and hacked into my account (for what purpose, I could not even fathom) or when I black out I become some weird genius.
Let me begin by saying that I no longer associate OkCupid with finding a girlfriend. The site is a joke if you are looking for an honest relationship. It is a free site aimed at under-30s (of which I am dangerously close to not qualifying for anymore anyway) and as I’ve written here before, it is mostly for people looking to sex one another. Not being the most attractive guy, needless to say that my success rate wasn’t that high and therefore I run ramshod on my answers. There is no need to be genuine on that site about who you are, what your desires are, and what you’re looking for in a girl or guy. In recent months I’ve changed it from normal into one that I purposefully designed to be “the worst profile on OkCupid” (a la ‘I love pooping my pants, etc’) to a site that said “I want to meet girls that absolutely hate my fucking guts only” and the like. Guess which two of those three profile themes were the most successful?
The site is a joke.
Thankfully my profile is the best joke I’ve ever read and if I really wrote this when I was drunk, I should only be writing when I’m drunk. Be forewarned that weird, nonsensical, anti-humor is my favorite kind of humor right now. Maybe you do not find it funny.
But I think I’m drunk-fucking-hilarious and if I really did this, I can’t believe how clever and coherent most of the writing is. I really think I must have been hacked by Odd Future or something.
I do not know who Jerry Osguando is, but he actually seems pretty insightful. A modern day Yogi Berra.
A couple of typos help support my blackout theory, as does any Pauly Shore reference, but were the typos intentional?
Let’s just get this out of the way: That last line is better than anything I’ve ever written sober. Which makes me question if I did write it.
Not the best but weird as shit.
Some of the following though is amazing:
Tonto: More like Pronto is definitely my style. I’m actually working on Sky Scrapers 6. We Make It Hot: Best Hot Mixes is in my CD player.
Two suspicions here: I absolutely love this song by Brian McKnight. Not kidding. 2. ‘Buck’ is actually a term my friends use for drinking. ”Getting buck” aka “Get buck wild.” Did my friends screw with me? Not likely, they don’t know that Brian McKnight song. I possibly used the term buck here and I could understand why. My case for me writing this is getting very strong.
Again, the thing about NASA going on a team building trip and trampolines is also better than anything I’ve ever written. That’s next-level weird shit.
That thing about babies is just weird, but also kind of sweet because it implies perhaps that I am a cancer doctor for babies. Then I continue to talk about doctors here, this time a dumb doctor that believed my theory on the world, but then improperly use the word “hear” instead of “here.”
And here is the grand finale:
No, I don’t REALLY want someone that is into beastiality. But that joke is fucking great.
I am going to go ahead and take credit for this profile unless someone dares to stop me and say that they did it instead. If you did, great, please step forward because I’d like to meet you. Most of these jokes are right up my alley though, I just didn’t know what I was capable of until I turned into a blacked out monster. As far as getting any responses from it?
No. But if any girl found this to be as hilarious as I do, I need to put a ring on her dazzlefinger.
November 19, 2012 § 7 Comments
I made a new friend at work. He is much smarter than I am and insists to discuss topics that I had not dared to discuss with others. Perhaps it is not fair to say that I “dare not” because I did, in fact, dare, but rarely did I have to cite examples or quote authors in most of the day-to-day conversations I have. Deep discussions I have lean more towards the philosophical and rarely the factual. As much as I would like to say that I am a smart guy, I have no empirical evidence to prove this point.
I’ve fought too hard to be known as anything other than what I am: A lazy, drunken, immature, silly, goofy, fuck-up.
However, that doesn’t mean that I have entirely given up on bettering my education. I consider going back to school quite often, usually fantasizing about a degree in Astronomy thanks to my recent fascination with the Universe and what makes us so totally us. If I could actually learn facts about the stars and the blackness and combine that knowledge with my passion and experience in writing, then perhaps I could actually make a difference. Perhaps then my life would have a meaning greater than the meaning I have spent most of my life work towards: Making people shoot milk out of their noses with dick jokes.
One of the ways that my new work friend has encouraged me to expand my proficiency of what it is to be an intellectual is through the work of David Foster Wallace. My first initial thought when my friend, we’ll call him Matthew (because that’s his name), said the name of this author was that Wallace was definitely a name I had heard before. That he must have written poetry or perhaps a great novel of the 20th century. Just the fact that I had no idea that he grew to popularity in the 90s, that he was not yet 50 when he committed suicide a few years ago, or that he killed himself at all, is undeniable proof that I am so far removed from the world of higher learning that it might as well be as far away as the planet that is not a planet, Pluto.
I ask Matthew, “Should I read Infinite Jest, then?”
“Oh no. Definitely not. Try his essays first and work your way up.”
“What could be so hard about reading a novel?”
I didn’t have to get through (or attempt to get through) many of his essays before realizing exactly what he meant and why so many have perhaps tried and failed ‘David Foster Wallace’. Not because he was not genius, but because he was operating on a level above most of the rest of us. The part of him that so apparently made him one of the best authors of his generation and perhaps decades from now will be held in a regard higher than what he already is, his prognostications and feelings towards the world seem almost too perfect to not hold true. Now, I say that like now I am some sort of David Foster Wallace expert and that’s about as true as me being an expert on the climate changes of Jupiter; I’m neither of those. But I do have an early fascination with both, a preoccupation with fostering this need for more knowledge on each subject. Not because I have to. Not necessarily because I even want to. But only because I feel like there’s going to be a certain way that we all spend the rest of our hours here, and that seems like the best way I can fill mine. Even if we’ll never get an understanding of why we are here, we can at least attempt to get a better understanding of why we are here.
So I trudge through Wallace essays one by one, trying my best to attain knowledge and not only knowledge on the work of Wallace, but knowledge of everything. That’s the best part about it, his essays are a double-edged sword that bring you enlightenment on both the author and the subject. A rare quality indeed.
As such, I was reading this essay on television, entitled: “E unibus pluram: Television and U.S. fiction”
Could a title be a more fitting representation of it’s content? E unibus pluram; Out of many, one. The Latin phrase might be on the Great Seal of the United States, but if you polled 100 people on the streets of the Great United States, how many could tell you the meaning? For Wallace, it was likely as simple as an average American of 1999 saying, “He had sex with my MAMA!” It was at the tip of the pen for him, at the end of a Google search for many others. And so too would be half the words in the essay, to the point where each “difficult” word would be highlighted so that you could scroll over for definition. Except for me, not nearly enough words were highlighted. I was still befuddled.
Megametrically. Deus ex machina. Phosphenes. Turgid. Elision. Fecund.
I grabbed a few example (it only took a few dozen seconds) words that I would need the definition for. Words that half of which still have squiggly red lines holding them up above this sentence, so that they would not fall down below and crash into other words. Yet I can’t deny the beauty of them. How I long to work ‘Megametrically’ into a sentence of my own one day, besides this very one. How I yearn to create descriptions such as this one, one of the most perfect sentences I have ever read:
“Fictionally speaking, desire is the sugar in human food.”
Oh fuck you, DFW. Damn you for having the ability to write something so incredibly apt, complicated and simple. It’s the perfect description. The words stand side by side like the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. And best of all, I have seen, read, and defined all of the words in that sentence. It’s like getting Final Jeopardy right after having a terrible night at answering answers from the first two rounds. I know these words. That doesn’t make it a better sentence, just because it appeals to the non-intellectual like myself, or a wordsmith that’s not even amateur. It just makes it a beautiful sentence that I can read over and over again, without referencing dictionary.com. That’s all.
To be one, that would seem to imply that I’ve made an attempt at being a wordsmith at all and I absolutely have never done that. When I was a kid, I once tried to read the dictionary, as many kids are wont to do. Perhaps I made it a couple of pages. How many kids in the country have ever read the dictionary definition of Aardvark? It must be the most-read definition in history. But that’s as far as it goes. I didn’t read a lot of high-brow novels, I never pushed myself to seek answers beyond the page. If I read a word I didn’t understand, I did what most kids do and used the context to get the gist of it. How many of us have gotten the gist of many big words without ever getting a full understanding of it’s meaning?
Megametrically… I get the gist. I know ‘Mega’ and I know ‘Metric’ and I understand what ‘ally’ does to a sentence, plus I read the words around it. This has something to do with ‘MegaMan vs Metroid’!
And that’s when I told Matthew how much I have enjoyed reading Wallace, and also just how damn difficult it is. Now I understand why reading Infinite Jest would be instead like reading through the ‘Infinite Gist.’ I wondered to myself, “Can this be done?” Not now, this much I know for certain. But could I be ready some day? Will I ever have the acumen to get through a thousand-page science fiction novel filled with words that I don’t understand and also because pages on a book don’t grant you the opportunity to hover over for definitions? That’s when I had to come to this conclusion:
I’ve already learned words. I don’t know how much more I’ve got left in me.
It’s funny how as children we learn so much and yet have no memory of doing so. I can tell you where I was when I learned the story behind Olympic cheater Ben Johnson, because I watched a documentary on ESPN a few weeks ago. I can tell you where I was when I first watched Vertigo and learned more about the catalog and style of Alfred Hitchock. I can tell you where I was when I first told a girl that I loved her.
What I can’t do is tell you where or when I first learned that green is green. Or what the state capital of Virginia is. Or that a cow says ‘Moo’. Or that I’m 100% sure what the state capital of Virginia is even today. (I want to say Norfolk. Oh shit, I am wrong! Sorry, Richmond!) And I certainly can’t tell you anything about how I learned the definition of any of the words that I am typing now or when I learned how to use these words. It just happened. It’s like how your computer downloads an update in the background without you ever being acutely aware that it ever happened. All you know is that your computer is up-to-date or that you’ve got a virus and ‘Lots of sexy ladies in your area want to meet up now!’ We can’t go back and expound on the moments, typically, of when we learned a word just like we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how we learned to eat or breathe. We just do. I don’t know how I know the word ‘the’, I just do. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn what a ‘deus ex machina’ is or that I don’t want to know what it is since it sounds so sexy, it just means that retaining new information like that is so much harder now than it was when I was six.
When it comes to learning something so mundane and simple as words, am I eternally doomed to ignorance?
Of course not. There is just as much opportunity to learn new words as there is to read the Harry Potter novels, to see a play, to finish a crossword puzzle, or to find out the mysteries of another galaxy. If I can pretend like it’s possible to go back to school and become an astronomer, then it is absolutely possible that I can expand my vocabulary from a few hundred words (which I assume it is) to a few thousand (which I assume is the maximum possible.) It’s only a matter of taking the time and exhausting the effort to do so.
I just have chosen not to exhaust the effort. Not now, but not not ever. By reading through David Foster Wallace, I am committing myself to a life that won’t be ignorant of the existence of the words, even if I sometimes choose the gist over the total understanding. Eventually the gist will have to make way for the truth, if I were to ever dream, or dare to at least, to make it through a 1000-page opus like Infinite Jest or another several years of schooling. Such is the course we must decide to take on the remaining hours of our journey here.
For whatever that may mean to each of us, megametrically and otherwise.