Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The adventures of Dr. Mystery
I hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving. I did, though I regressed back into some bad habits. Three weeks ago, I finally got around to my New Year's resolution to live a healthier lifestyle because, as one of our country's finest poets, Kirk Hammett, has told us, "my lifestyle determines my deathstyle." I'm a fan of drinking to excess, eating rich foods, and sitting on my ass, but my sausage casing isn't. I want to get rid of my beer gut, improve my circulation, and refrain from stuffing delicious foodstuffs inside other delicious foodstuffs and frying the whole works and topping it with cheese. I also want to avoid the alcoholism that plagues males on both sides of my family. I once had an uncle who passed out drunk with a bloody nose and bled to death. I never met him, but I assume we shared a love of the epicurean lifestyle. (Oddly enough, Epicurus was hardly an advocate of the lifestyle bearing his name.) Zaz! Whoop! Honk! Anyway, I started running three weeks ago, drinking a lot less, and eating better and smaller portions of food. I've dragged myself in and out of shape a half dozen times in the last half dozen years, but in a very lazy way. This time, I really did it right. And I felt great. And I'm going to continue to attempt to make steps in this direction as soon as I finish these four glasses of vodka. (Rimshot!) But seriously, folks, I have been plagued with the curse of the formerly lazy. I have shin splints from the running. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I bought expensive and comfortable running shoes, I didn't overexert myself, I stretched after each run. The shin splints were inevitable, though, considering my previous exercise regimen included challenge pissing and competitive taco-eating. My shins are puny and ill-mannered. So I took this last week off to let these jerks heal. I also drank a lot and ate many, many foods in one sitting, but I was visited by my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister, and it was a holiday, so nuts to you. I'm a man who enjoys the pleasures of life, and since these pleasures are few and far between, I must take advantage.
Other exciting news flashes about me:
1) I had to have a biopsy because I have nodules on my thyroid. Fortunately, the biopsy was later cancelled because the nodules are too small to give an accurate reading. Nodules are fairly common, and 95% benign, but I have family history, so they have to keep an eye on them. Worst case scenario, I get the most treatable kind of cancer, have my thyroid taken out, and miss a couple weeks of work. That actually sounds really good. Two weeks off. I wonder what kind of drugs they'd give me. Good ones, I bet.
2) I've decided that working in an office is unacceptable for a man of my ill temper and constant sadness, and that my journalism degree has the cachet of a homeless man's diarrhea sample. I've also decided to get a teaching degree and teach high school English. So many people think this is a bad idea that I'm convinced it's a good one. (So many people thought a journalism degree was a good idea.) It's been in the back of my head for about four years and has grown to such a loud buzzing I can't ignore it. I have no fantastical, idealistic illusions. However, there are too many shitty high school teachers, and kids are receiving messages everywhere they move that the purpose of American life is to move piles of money back and forth while everything around us (landscape, culture, family, interaction with people, art) decays. All I need to do is reach a couple of kids each year, make them feel like reading is a worthwhile thing to do, and I'll be content with that. I also love having summers and holidays off to travel, write, sit on the couch in my sweatpants drunk watching "Tyra," eat a donut at every donut shop in the city, etc. The so-called low pay is not a problem, either, considering how much less I'm making than Austin-area teachers with my prestigious journalism degree. I make really shitty money. I don't care about status, impressing anyone, blah blah blah, but it would be nice to answer the question "What do you do for a living?" without my stomach sinking into my knees. I think teaching is an honorable profession. I think I could be at least moderately decent at it. I like having my summers off. I like kids, believe it or not. I even like the idea that I may be shot. I really, really, really need to do something with my life besides proofreading in a motherfucking office. I need something that is not going to be the same every single day. Academia's not for me, I'm not a famous celebrity millionaire, so what do I do? This may be a way out of my unsatisfying working life.
3) I had a goddamn religious experience last night when I was lucky enough to see my favorite movie, John Cassavetes' Love Streams, on the big screen at the Texas student union. Every time I see his films, particularly that one, it's a life-altering experience. I drove around aimlessly afterwards, eventually getting an extra-large cheese Coney at Sonic. I also got a parking ticket I'm not going to pay, because fuck 'em, that's why. What I'll never understand is how his movies never, ever play the same way twice, how I'll never understand them even though they feel like extensions of my body, how open and free and mysterious and bottomless and infuriating and wild and elusive and beautiful and tough they are, how these movies I've seen dozens of times continually surprise and invigorate me, how anyone who doesn't like them is wrong, how this guy was a Shakespeare, a Van Gogh, or a Picasso. I saw it by myself because my wife was tired and had a lot of stuff to do and another Cassavetes freak friend was out of town, but I'm glad I ended up there by myself because it was such an overwhelming experience that I don't think I would have been good company. I can't believe how much his movies mean to me. I can't put it into words. I try and I just sound like a big sissy. It's a goddamn abomination this movie is not on DVD and out of print on video. Why don't people want to see good things? Why does TV and newspaper world reinforce such lonely, pathetic emptiness? There are so many ways out. Go and find them. This is a world worth living, and hope is something worth having.
4)Lecture over. I was proofreading a book two weeks ago that was published in the 1950s and is being reprinted exactly as it was then, with the exception of the now-dead author's contact info. He was an old cowboy who wrote about the proper way to bridle horses, California-style. In his author photo, he is ancient, leathery, slight, wiry, and scowling like every other person in the world infuriates, disappoints, and exasperates him. I imagined him yelling each word of the text at an unappreciative younger horseman. If I walked on to his property, he would have asked me to lasso something. I would have failed. He would have spit on the ground and walked away, muttering under his breath about my perceived lack of proper masculinity. These are actual quotes from the book:
(from the introduction) "All of the information contained in this book is important. There are words and groups of words that are more important than the others. These words are in dark print to make them more noticeable. It is written in a style that is conducive for a clear understanding of the information given in this book."
(on the back) "It is as different from the average 'horse book' as bourbon is from skimmed milk."
(from a foreword by a ranch owner who knew him well) "He is one of today's old timers."