Sunday, August 27, 2006

I wish I was a monkey or talking recliner on a children's television show, or my sad story in song

I realize it's become "incorrect" to quote Charles Bukowski since every creepy aspiring alcoholic hipster since 1973 worships his worst qualities as a human being and wildly overrates his worth, but since every pseudo-intellectual turbo-douche wildly underrates the man's work, I am going to take a chance on looking foolish (not such a stretch since I look foolish nearly every hour of my life) and offer this quote, which I believe to be the most poetically accurate summation of having a job (as opposed to doing some real work, which is something else entirely). Also, I can relate so much more to a middle-aged man who had a series of degrading jobs until he achieved success than I can to someone in the fucking Arctic Monkeys (t-shirts of that band seen on several middle-aged men notwithstanding). Here it is:

"How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?"

I'm in a slump, career-wise, and it seems to be poisoning most other aspects of my life. I'm a real selfish asshole sometimes, and hard to live with. However, I do have a tiny shred of optimism and a strong belief that life is mostly worth living. The sheer narcissism of being depressed by a continuous stream of shitty, boring, unfulfilling jobs (especially post-college degree) when it could be so much worse (victim of genocide, terminally ill, etc.) is embarrassing, but what can I do? I feel what I feel, and lately I don't feel good. Life is too often boring, embarrassing, and degrading. I don't want it to be that way, but I unfortunately need to eat, wear clothes, and have some shelter so I can continue being degraded until I catch a lucky break or die. Houses are too expensive, gas is too expensive, horrible people are running the world, and my cholesterol is probably too high. Larry the Cable Guy and Karl Rove are highly paid. My parents divorced three or four years ago, and that sucked and continues to suck in ever-mutating ways. People at my job tell me I'm too quiet, but they don't know that I'm not quiet at all. I just don't have anything to say to them. It's hot and the air conditioning in my car is broken. I accidentally watched five minutes of "Smooth Jazz TV" on Saturday night. I had to attend two hours of stress management training on Thursday, which consisted of one hour and thirty minutes of a random series of catch phrases, fifteen minutes of my coworkers nodding their approval and taking notes on each catch phrase, and fifteen minutes of wearing a blindfold and bouncing a ball. Who am I and what am I doing? Is this what it's going to be? Free will? I don't know what that is. Adults are a continual source of disappointment. They/I are/am stupid and boring and small and petty. Only small children have honest relationships with themselves, others, and the world. Thank god for music, books, and movies. And my wife. And my friends. And my family members who aren't annoying and perfunctory. And drawing, painting, photography, red meat, Mexican food, jokes, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Labor Day, kicks in the crotch, death, gin, nipples, the expression "don't that beat all," every pizza topping (with the exception of broccoli), the cancelled TBS video program "Night Tracks," Ric "the Nature Boy" Flair, and that girl I really liked for years who didn't go out with me. Also, hotel bars, the word "cocksucker," and the Sparks song "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us." The rest of it, I can do without. I need a new job.

Here are the lyrics for "Free Will and Testament" by Robert Wyatt:

Given free will but within certain limitations,
I cannot will myself to limitless mutations,
I cannot know what I would be if I were not me,
I can only guess me.

So when I say that I know me, how can I know that?
What kind of spider understands arachnophobia?
I have my senses and my sense of having senses.
Do I guide them? Or they me?

The weight of dust exceeds the weight of settled objects.
What can it mean, such gravity without a centre?
Is there freedom to un-be?
Is there freedom from will-to-be?

Sheer momentum makes us act this way or that way.
We just invent or just assume a motivation.
I would disperse, be disconnected. Is this possible?
What are soldiers without a foe?

Be in the air, but not be air, be in the no air.
Be on the loose, neither compacted nor suspended.
Neither born nor left to die.

Had I been free, I could have chosen not to be me.
Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill.
Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill.
Let me off please, I am so tired.
Let me off please, I am so very tired.


Anonymous said...

I feel you. I frequently struggle with these same things. Unfortunately, I struggle with them most in the morning, which makes me late for work, which makes my co-worker very unhappy. There's really no way around it, though. If suddenly I was "appreciated for my talents" and "respected in my field" I know that I would resent everyone who praised me and cry out in the night about how I just want to be left alone. Hell, if we had trust funds and never had to work would we be cool with that, or would we just find no direction, purpose, or role?

So I propse this: A heinous job where I work 12 hours a week for $100/hour.


kristykay said...

When you walk around saying "don't that beat all," it is basically the funniest thing of all.

Also, while watching even one second of Smooth Jazz TV can disable you for life, the theme song for Smooth Jazz TV should be on your list of things that are good. I'll sing it for you a few times tonight to remind you how good it is.

I'm going to go work that heinous job with junie.

steiger said...

Well, for the time being I have a job that I kind of like sometimes (although I have to drive two hours each way to get there two days a week, and with those crazy gas prices ... well ... the pay is only passable), and unfortunately I spend a lot of time feeling EXACTLY the same way.

Does commisseration even help? Oh, well.

But really, I am commenting because I have been thinking about Bukowski lately, as he seems to be mentioned a lot in things that I read. I saw Matt Dillon on The Daily Show the other day talking about Factotum. I was dubious. I like Matt Dillon and all, but somehow he doesn't make too much sense in that role. He's too hip and good looking and well-off. I guess I'll have to see it.

Anyway, I spent my late teens and early twenties being a huge fan of Bukowski and read everything he wrote. I haven't read any of it in nearly fifteen years, but I was noticing that some of the kids who are fans these days seem to use him as a way to justify bad behavior: like they celebrate his drunkenness and don't really look much further than that.

I was thinking of reading some of that stuff again to see if I actually pretended to like him for that same reason when I was a kid, since I did tend to romanticize drunks and addicts and criminals, or if the stuff I remember liking is really there. I recall that I liked the combination of working-class misery and misanthropy and physical decay and self-loathing with this intense love of Literature and Beauty and Humanity. I guess I liked the contradiction. And yeah, his unabashed extreme inappropriateness was definitely appealing. And I got a little kick out of the fact that, being a girl with the beginnings of some kind of feminist leanings, I supposedly had no business liking him.

Anonymous said...

40,000 flies

torn by a temporary wind
we come back together again

check walls and ceilings for cracks and
the eternal spiders

wonder if there will be one more

40,000 flies running the arms of my
I met a million dollar baby in a
5 and 10 cent

arms of my soul?

what kind of shit is

it's so easy to be a poet
and so hard to be
a man.

The kid next to me in law school dresses up like Tucker Carlson every morning, complete with bow-tie and the haircut I wore for Halloween 1986 when I trick-or-treated as Alex P. Keaton.

In approximately 600 days, he will be considered a failure for making only $100 an hour. He wouldn't understand a fucking thing about this poem. Nor, really, anything else.