December 22nd, 2003


Is this addictive or what?

Spent today in extended weekend mode. Weekend mode is:

Wake up about nine.

Listen to NPR on the radio, drifting in and out of consciousness, till eleven.

Gag when the university station switches to local programming.

Get up.

Try to decide whether a shower is absolutely necessary.

Go sit down at the computer to see if there's any email.

Get lost in the Ozone checking out stuff on the net that seems important at the time but which won't be remembered past lunch.

Come to about 1:30 or 2:00 realizing I haven't eaten since lunch yesterday.

Go buy the newspaper and work the little crypto puzzles in my head while I eat.

Go do anything that can't wait till next weekend (watch some kid put new tires on the truck, buy some bath soap, go to a book store to find the current book group selection and get lost in the Ozone again reading the spine of every book in the place till I finally leave without the book I came for but with a crick in my neck and one or two other books I've just discovered I can't live without).

See if there are any movies I could make it to without having to rush or having to kill a lot of time.

Realize it's 5:30, blow that off, and (here's the big decision of the day) either hit the video store and spend another hour in the Ozone finding a video or two to go home and watch till midnight or just go home and stay up till 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning reading one of the books.


Repeat as necessary till all free time and/or discretionary income have been exhausted.

That's not as much of an exaggeration as it probably needs to be. I did make it to book group yesterday. A half hour late, but part of that was trying to pick up some eats at the new-age hippy-drome organic grocery emporium. A sort of hive mentality prevails there and after a while you come to the inevitable conclusion that the hive-mind is on drugs. Often referred to as The Land Time Forgot, it's not a place to go when you're in a hurry. It's really geared toward people who make grocery shopping an all-day outing, "I know, we'll spend Sunday at the grocery store!"

Anyway, I often wake up Monday morning wondering what happened. Sometimes I see that old Billy Wilder movie, "Lost Weekend" in the video store and think to myself, "What? Only one?" Hell, there are countless weekends I can't account for. I keep falling back on the fact that I do manage to hold down a decent paying job and I am making regular contributions to the company savings plan (just in case I survive to retirement). Other than that, though, I couldn't tell you what I'm doing with my life. I used to have outside interests. I still do, I just haven't been pursuing them. And that is probably the crux of the biscuit right there. I haven't been driving. I've just been driven by whatever drives me at the moment, coasting off into the weeds whenever the driving forces go to lunch or take a holiday.

There are a lot of stories told in books and movies about people who live like pin balls, just going off in whatever direction until they hit something then bouncing off in some new, ostensibly random, direction until they hit something else. In the stories, these people are drug addicts or small time hustlers or drifters or disillusioned housewives or whatever whose lives are coming unglued and are out of control.* I've known a number of these folks in real life, mostly years ago before I succumbed to the Dark Side and became "respectable". I find that sort of existence nerve racking in the extreme and I have usually ended up distancing myself in an effort to keep the chaos of their lives from spilling over into mine. But, if you think about it very long, I don't really exercise any more control over my life (assuming I have any) than they do over theirs. I just happen to be stuck squarely between two bumpers that keep bouncing me back and forth racking up points over and over and, so far, never allowing me to fall out of play. I haven't used the flippers for years. I'm just lucky enough to have a business-class ticket on the runaway train of life.

Can this mode d'existence be sustained indefinitely? Would one want to sustain it indefinitely? Could one actually do a goddam thing about it if one wanted to? "To be or not to be..." Was Hamlet a naive idiot to believe that he had any choice in the matter? Dunno.

Speaking of lost weekends, I hear the VCR calling yoohoo-ooeeoo-ooeeoo.

. . .

Random brain fart: Eris, the goddess of strife and discord. I wonder if Catholics have a patron saint of strife and discord.

. . .

*The movie, "Magnolia", is maybe the archetype of this genre (if you can call it that). It's nine intertwined stories about nine people whose lives are going along as expected then suddenly and simultaneously self destruct over a twenty-four hour period. Some critics called it rambling and bizarre. I think that was the point. Life is rambling and bizarre. The disturbing thought (if you stopped to think it) was, "Wow, could my comfy little life just someday come suddenly unraveled with little or no warning?" The underpinning of the story, I guess, was that the character's lives, as solid as they might have seemed, were built on sand and that the storm was coming, it just didn't arrive till that particular day.

Magnolia. Now there's a movie you can wear like by-God hip-waders!

I love that expression. It's from a favorite movie of mine, "Big Bad Love". I don't know anyone else who has seen this movie and I can't think of anyone who'd like it if they had. At some point in the movie the two main characters are having a rambling, drunken discussion and it somehow turns to Virgil having "stolen all that stuff from Homer, anyway." "The Illiad," says Leon Barlow, "Now there's a book you can wear like by-God hip-waders!"

There are expressions that just ring true whether they make any literal sense or not. This one may be peculiar to Mississippi where it might be commonplace, but I hadn't heard it before the movie. I have worn hip-waders, though. When I was a kid, I thought I was a fisherman and I may even have had a hand-me-down pair. To get a kick out of the expression you might have to have experienced the strange sense of comfort and security afforded you by a pair of oversize rubber pants as you wade up to your ass into a cold, rocky-bottomed river. The pressure of the cold water against the outside of the waders causes them to caress your butt and your thighs in a coolly sensuous manner. We may have lapsed into information overload here, but you get the picture.