Monthly Archives: October 2012

Seven hundred and eighty six

Sometimes you just have to sit down at the computer and type. That’s what I do when I can’t think of anything to write about. I think about sixty percent of my blog posts start the same exact way every time. Something about how I don’t know what to write about, and then it usually leads to something else, and then eventually I wind up with a big chunk of text that I can put up on the Internet. I should probably just wait until the whole blog post is finished, and then come back and erase the first paragraph. It really doesn’t add to anything, right? But then I feel like I’ll be losing something, something that’s unique about my writing. And I’m also superstitious, like if I start deleting the, “I don’t know what to write about,” words, then they’ll lose their magic, and as I continue to write in the future, they won’t work at all, and I really won’t have anything to write about.

Everybody’s heard of that John Cage song where it’s just silence for four and a half minutes, right? I wish that I could do something like that. Like I’ll write a book but it’ll just be blank pages. And everyone will applaud me and ridicule me at the same time, which is fine, I’ll take the ridicule, as long as I’m famous, as long as they talk about me in high schools in the future.

But most people will only look at the first twenty or so pages of my blank book and they’ll dismiss it, think it’s just a novelty, a fad. But my real fans will actually read the book, they’ll look at each blank page and they’ll lick their fingers and turn the pages and really try to understand what I was trying to say by putting out such an unorthodox piece. And then they’ll get to page fifty. There won’t be any page numbers either, so they’ll have to be keeping count. But that shouldn’t really be a problem because there won’t be any text to distract them.

And they’ll turn the page and it’ll say “Page Fifty. Congratulations.” Because there actually will be text, and there will be a whole book written inside. But I won’t want just anybody reading my masterpiece. I won’t want my work to be cheapened by mass consumption. And so that’s what I’ll be after by starting the book halfway through. I’ll pretend to write a book with no words but … yeah, you get it right?

But then what if word spreads about my book, that it really starts on page fifty? People would buy the book and then flip right to where the writing starts, bypassing my trick, skipping past all of those blank pages. And it would have the opposite effect, because people hate being tricked or told what to do. And so by me making it harder for people to read, they’ll naturally gravitate to it more, in defiance of my plan.

But that won’t happen either, because at the end of my book I’ll tell readers not to tell anybody else about what they’ve read, to keep it a secret, something between the reader and me. But what if they tell people before they get to that part? Well I’ll just have to make sure that whatever I wind up writing is so compelling that the reader is unable to put the book down, that the whole thing will get read in one sitting. But what if the book is lying out on a coffee table and some guy starts absentmindedly flipping through all of the pages, accidentally coming across my text? Well then I’ll just have to push the start of the book back even further, one hundred pages of blank text, five thousand pages. You’ll really have to get through it.

I’ve never listened to that John Cage song. I don’t even know the real title. I just know that the title is how long the blank track is. I don’t think anybody’s ever listened to it. It’s too boring. Why would you go through all of the motions of pressing play when there’s nothing that’ll ever come out of the other end? I bet you Cage tricked everybody just like I would have. I bet you after a minute or two of empty noise he starts up with a song or a speech. He has to. He’s like, “Hey everybody. This is D-D-D-D-D-DJ Johnny C. coming at ya with a secret track. But don’t go telling anybody, you hear?”

I just tried to listen to the whole thing on Youtube, but I only made it through fifteen seconds. It’s really boring.

I’m kind of a daredevil

That guy just jumped from orbit. Everybody’s calling him a professional daredevil. I guess I have to give some credit where it’s due; I would never even jump out of a plane, so imagining this guy riding a balloon up into outer space and then just jumping off. Well, it’s causing me to have a physical reaction. But daredevil. Without detracting from his accomplishment, I think the word daredevil is being completely manhandled here. I’ve always considered myself a daredevil of sorts, but now all I’m reading about is how this guy is a daredevil, and it’s making me feel like less of a daredevil knowing that I’d never put on a spacesuit and do what he did.

But there are a lot of things that I’ve done that I bet you Mr. Professional Daredevil would never consider. Like one time last summer, I went to a bar with my friends. After a few drinks we went out to their patio out back to enjoy the afternoon weather. The table we sat at was made of planks of wood nailed together. One of my friends said, “Ew gross,” and pointed to a gap in between two of the planks. A single french-fry was wedged right in the crack. It looked like it had been there forever. And it was a really hot summer, so this thing looked double-fried by the sun. So I picked up out of the crack and ate it. And I didn’t even get sick. I’d love to see the jumping Joe or whatever his name is try something like that. He’d probably make one of those fake gag-reflex sounds and then insist on finding a new table.

But try telling that to Red Bull, to CNN. There’s no way anybody over there is paying attention to any of my emails. The whole world thinks that this guy is a daredevil. And so I guess I lost. It just kind of sucks because I always thought that while professional basketball player, Mr. Senator, and Your Excellency were all titles that would be forever out of my reach, I could always take comfort in the fact that I had my own title, that I could always look in the mirror and say to my reflection, “Looking good daredevil.”

I’ve pulled off plenty of stunts that could have warranted their own Internet specials. Like one time I ran across a highway. Or another time I ate thirty dogs in an hour and a half. Or this other time I … I can’t remember everything right now. There’s too much stuff that I’ve done. And besides, I feel like if I’m forced to list everything off, like a list, it just sounds too cheap, like I’m trying too hard to prove how much of a daredevil I really am.

All I’m saying is, I used to call myself a daredevil. And now I can’t because this guy totally upstaged me. It’s just how I used to call myself an artist. One time I did this painting. It took me forever. I thought it was pretty good. But then a few weeks later this rich mega couple draped the entirety of Central Park in curtains. “Oh that?” they told the news media, “We’re artists.”

But really, I have no idea how that guy floated up there. One time I was at this college upstate and there was this really weird looking building. On one side there was a dent in one of the walls. It was a planned dent; it wasn’t a defect or anything. I’m just having trouble describing it. It was an indent in the wall, maybe three feet in and four feet across and it ran all the way straight up. Anyway, I pressed my body in there and pushed my arms and legs to both sides to the point where I was off the ground, just pressed in between this indent. And I started climbing up, really slowly. And I got up to like fifteen feet and I just got freaked out, just imagining the possibility of me climbing all the way up to the top, and then getting even more freaked out, to the point where I couldn’t even move, where I couldn’t come down, and everybody on the ground would eventually call campus security, and they’d have to call the fire department, and what if while I was waiting up there to be rescued, what if I ran out of strength and slipped? Because I don’t think I could maintain a position like that indefinitely. And this was all in my head. In reality I was only maybe twelve feet off the ground, and I started freaking out, and I couldn’t come down. I was stuck.

But I felt pretty dangerous there. Kind of like a daredevil.

Go ahead and try not to laugh

I love it when I make a bad joke but somebody laughs anyway. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and you don’t enjoy your meal at all, but you don’t say anything, because that’s not something that you normally do, but the waiter can totally tell, he can see just by the look on your face, he knows because he knows the menu, and he knew that you probably shouldn’t have ordered that dish in the first place, but he didn’t object, and why would he? It’s not in his job description to discourage people from ordering food. But still, he feels bad, and he wants a tip, so he knocks it off the bill. The food sucked, but you still ate, so you’re not hungry anymore, and it was free.

All the time I’m thinking of stupid jokes to say, especially when I’m around other people, but a lot of the time I get so excited by the idea of me telling a joke or trying to be funny that I’ll start laughing to myself even before I’ve opened my mouth. It’s terrible, because I’ve drawn attention to myself. And I’ll calm myself down to the point where I think I can give it another try, but usually, especially if it’s a really funny joke, maybe twenty-five percent of the way through I’ll start laughing again. At this point I have no choice but to try to finish, so I press on, and somebody else will eventually start laughing, and they’ll say, “Rob, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.” And that’s kind of like that free meal. I was looking for a laugh and I got one.

Or sometimes I’ll just fire off joke after joke, none of them funny at all, and finally after like the sixth or seventh try, somebody will laugh. And it won’t be a fake laugh, either. It’ll be like a, “I can’t believe he’s still talking, still making bad jokes,” kind of laugh. Which I’ll still take. It’s even better if I’m laughing to myself throughout all of these bad jokes, because then I’m not just getting laughs for telling bad jokes, but it’s more of a performance, a funny little show that I’m imagining I’m putting on for everybody else.

It’s kind of like this one time when I went golfing with my friends and after the third hole it started to rain. So we went back to the clubhouse and the guy gave us most of our money back. And then we sat at the clubhouse bar and drank beer for like three hours. It wasn’t exactly what we were going for, but we still had a great time.

Would you believe me if I told you that one time I golfed a hole-in-one? Of course you wouldn’t. And it didn’t happen. But imagine you were golfing with me and I was loudly insisting on shooting a hole-in-one all day. The first joke you’d probably try to ignore, maybe give me a polite smile. The second time you’d think to yourself that I can’t be serious, that I maybe I should just give it a rest. But halfway through the course I’d just find more and more blatant ways to throw them in there. You’d eventually cave. You’d have to laugh. We’d drive up to the green and I’d say, “Hey, did anybody see where my ball went?” and everyone would pretend not to pay attention. And then I’d move closer to the green and start saying stuff like, “No. It can’t be. I don’t believe it. Guys!” and then I’d rush over to the hole and I’d bend down and I’d slip my hand in my pocket to take out a ball and I’d put my hand in the hole, pretending to pull it out, and I’d look around to everyone else with a face of mock surprise. But I’d have a stupid smirk on my face the whole time, so clearly full of shit, and everyone else would be trying not to laugh, because I’d already done the same exact joke on every single hole, and nobody thought it was funny the third or fourth time, so why laugh now? But eventually someone would laugh. We’d be riding from one hole to the next and I’d make a big deal out of taking out the scorecard, asking everybody how they shot, and then finally saying, “And Rob … one.” And I’d mark down a big number one, every hole a number one. And I’d say something like, “Wow, I’m really golfing well today. I hope I can keep it up.” But I’d probably start laughing in between those sentences, and I’d have been drinking, so my laughter would be just out of control, just way too hard.

But like I said, someone would break and eventually start to laugh, if even just in admiration of how far I’ll see through a joke. It’s kind of like when you go to a bakery and order a cupcake and right before you take the last bite you find a big roach baked right in there, and it’s not even a whole roach, it’s just the end part, with little bite marks and everything, but you’ve been eating too fast, so there’s nothing to spit out, because you just thought that crunchy part was like coconut or something, so you complain to the clerk and he gives you your money back, and he throws in a free cupcake, and so you think it’s not all that bad, because you got two free cupcakes, but as you’re eating the second cupcake, you find the same thing, another roach, and you’ve already eaten the majority of this one also, and so you complain again, and the clerk gives you a free dozen, and then you take the dozen back home, and your mom or your wife or whoever you happen to live with goes, “Cupcakes? What’s the occasion?” And you say something like, “Oh, you know. Just wanted to do something nice for you.” And that person goes, “That’s so sweet!”

And it is sweet, because you didn’t have to spend a cent. But then when that other person takes a bite you start laughing really hard, because you’re thinking about how funny the whole situation is, and you’re trying not to laugh, but you’re practically choking because you’re laughing so hard, and so you have to say something, anything, so you try to explain that hole-in-one joke, but that makes you laugh even harder, and now this other person is just staring at you like you’re crazy, and so you just say something like, “You had to be there. Another cupcake? Eat up!”

Is it too late for me to be a doctor?

I wonder if I could, if I put my mind to it, decide to drop out of waiting tables, study really hard, reenroll at a college somewhere, take all of the physics and biology and stats classes that the school offers, go to every single class and spend all of my free time studying, get an A on every test and quiz and homework assignment, start studying for the MCAT (MKAT?), spend all of my time studying for that test, going so far as to take prep classes and to hire an expensive MCKAT tutor, ace the test, apply to medical schools, ace medical school, ace my internship, ace my interviews, ace my residency, ace not only every single test that I take but also tests that I give out to patients, get awarded these ridiculously high level doctor awards, set unbelievable records, like, doctor who sees the most patients a day, everyday, in the world, and another record like, only known doctor in human history who has never made a mistake, never lost a patient, never sees anything less than a one hundred percent recovery on every single person who even so much as steps foot in the hospital where he works, work every single day to the point that, towards the middle of my career, the American Medical Association decides to change the Hippocratic Oath with a new Oath of my own writing.

I’m sure there is a path for me to whatever I want to do in life. I’m still in my twenties, I theoretically should be able to fulfill any dream. Like becoming a doctor. You just have to put in the hours right? You just have to set a schedule and not stop for anything, right? You just have to sacrifice everything else in your life and devote every single breath and heartbeat to working towards that dream, to making sure you’re completing that goal, right?

I just spend way too much time f’ing around. And while it would be amazing to get up in the morning, look myself in the mirror and think, goddamn it Rob, you did it, you’re a doctor, a real doctor, I don’t think I’d be really into it. It’s like, if somebody came into my house, with a gun, and sat me down at my kitchen table, and, with the gun to my head, pulled out some textbooks, opened them to page one, and told me to start studying, and then he kept doing that, every single day, every page he’d turn and make me read, out loud, and he’d make me run all of these memorizing drills and force me to use flashcards, and he’d have to hold a pen in my hand and force me to apply to all of the best medical schools, to really concentrate on writing the very best application essays, and if he kept doing that, just threatening to kill me if I even so much as stopped studying and working for one second, well then I think I wouldn’t have a choice but to become a world famous doctor. I mean, I don’t want to get shot. That’s what happens when somebody comes up to you with a gun, right? You do whatever they tell you to. “Do as I say or it’s curtains!” I never got the curtains phrase, like I know it means “I’ll kill you,” but what do curtains have to do with getting killed? I’m sure the answer is out there, somewhere, in some history of the English language textbook, but I bet you it’s probably really straightforward and boring.

I wish I had that in my life, somebody with a gun to make me stop wasting so much time, somebody to really make me commit myself to doing something all out, professionally. I wonder if I can hire a hit man to do it. That would probably be pretty expensive. From what I’ve read about hit men and have seen about them in the movies, they’re pretty expensive, and that’s just for killing somebody. How long does it take to kill somebody? From a professional point of view, if I were the hit man, I would want it to be as fast as possible. Like, kill this guy. OK, give me the money. OK, BAM! Dead. That took like two seconds. The longer you take, the less money you’re making per hour. And so for me to hire a hit man to follow me around, twenty-four seven, making sure that I’m working hard, sticking to my goals, that’s probably going to cost a lot, like way more than I can afford.

And what if after a couple of weeks we start to grow attached to each other? Like we develop a friendship. And we start cracking jokes. Like he’ll start using the gun to scratch my head when I’m studying something especially hard, and we’ll both laugh, but a really controlled laugh, only for a second, because he’ll realize that the laughter means a bond is developing between us, so he’ll straighten up quick and say something like, “All right, back to work, knock it off.” And I’ll get quiet and serious and he’ll be quiet and serious but then maybe ten seconds later we’ll both start cracking up at the same time, like we couldn’t hold it in at all, and this time the laughter is really intense.

So yeah, once that happened, I’d start to doubt that he’d actually kill me if I stopped studying, even if only for a second, and I’d test it out, and maybe he wouldn’t shoot me. After all, I’d be paying him a lot of money, and if he actually shoots me, then I can’t pay him any more money, and so he’d have to go back to being just another contract killer, which, after not killing anybody for a couple of weeks, he’d realize he like the non-killer life a little better. And so yeah I’d stop studying for a second and he’d let it slide. And then it would be a full minute. And then just one episode of Community, come on, just one movie, let’s go out for pizza. And then we’d both be sitting around my living room watching online videos and eating snacks, and I won’t be a doctor, and eventually my money will dry up, and he’ll have to leave, not because he wants to, but because, hey, a guy’s gotta eat, right? And so yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever be a doctor. An MD. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some bullshit PhD someday. But probably not that either. Dissertations sound awful.

I’m kind of pressed for time here

Every once in a while I’ll be really out of ideas for stuff to write about. Like right now. But at the same time, I know that I have to write something, otherwise I won’t be able to put something up everyday. People always say “quality over quantity,” but I disagree, I think quantity is clearly superior to quality. How else can our most popular TV shows make it all the way to seasons nine and ten without eventually just forgetting about quality and focusing strictly on the quantity?

But right now, unfortunately, I don’t think I have the luxury of neither quantity nor quality. I’m working a morning shift and for some reason I can never get out of bed early enough to get my writing done during the day. Today was supposed to be different. And it was, but only marginally different, because I only got up slightly earlier and gained like fifteen minutes of time. What am I supposed to do with fifteen minutes? Usually these things take me much longer to write. I’m not at all suggesting that I put a ton of thought into them, but generally I like to at least read the sentences back to myself to make sure everything’s legible.

But not today. I only have fifteen, well I guess now it’s more like ten minutes, to write about something. But I can’t think of anything. It doesn’t really matter, because I’m already three paragraphs deep and I think I’ve sufficiently wasted enough of everyone’s time already. The only thing I have here is me trying to beat the clock, to get a full blog post on the page before I really have to get out the door.

Getting out the door in the morning is the worst. I just switched jobs like two months ago. It’s the same gig, I’m still waiting tables at a restaurant, but whereas at my old job I could show up to work basically any time right down to the second before we opened, here I have to be responsible and show up forty-five minutes before service starts, making a good impression, looking people in the eye and saying stuff like, “You got it boss,” when the manager points to a stack of plates and makes me move it across the restaurant.

And so my morning routine just feels a lot more forced. Like I have to really be out the door at the same minute, which is probably the hardest part of the day, that conscious decision where you say to yourself, OK, my time is over, I’m now willingly giving myself up, walking out the door, to work for somebody else, at your service, you got it boss, how about another Diet Coke sir?

It’s not that bad. I read that back, OK, I didn’t read it back, but only because I don’t have any time, like I said, but I’m imagining reading it back, and it may or may not have sounded a little bitter. I’m not bitter. I don’t mind working in a restaurant. I like moving around. I like grabbing handfuls of food when I think that nobody’s looking and shoving them into my mouth. I’m sure the bosses have caught me, because it started out as just a piece of food here or there, but nobody ever said anything to me, and so I just upped the frequency, to the point where there are hardly any spaces in between bites. My whole shift is just one giant snack.

And then the chefs put out a staff meal before every shift. And I used to approach it with caution. Being the new guy, I didn’t want to just dive in, out of my way, here’s my elbow, I’m getting food. But that only lasted like a week, because I was being so timid with my regular snacking, I’d be famished by the time staff meal dropped at four in the afternoon. Can you imagine, like six hours without a bite to eat? If you’re reading this from a developing country, I’m sorry, that must have sounded completely insensitive. But if you’re reading this from America, am I right or what? Six hours without food? Please.

So now it’s like I’m constantly in and out of the kitchen, I always go in pretending that I’m looking for a stack of plates to move, but what I’m really doing is checking out the chef’s progress with the staff meal. As soon as it hits the window, I want to be the first person to throw an elbow to that other person who thinks he or she is going to be first. The first time I went for it, some other employee was all like, “Hey Rob, you’re supposed to let the night crew eat first.” And so I put down my utensils and waited for the night crew to eat. And then there was nothing left. You think I’m ever going to make that mistake again? Listen, there’s one thing I want in life. Snacks. That’s it.

Well, are you happy with what you just read? I did it. I wrote the whole thing in about twenty minutes. I’m not exactly proud of what I’ve produced, well, scratch that, I am proud, you know why? Quantity. Quantitatively speaking, it’s all there. And really, centuries from now, English will have evolved as a language to the point where anything written today is all meaningless gibberish. You ever try to read Shakespeare? No way that’s English. And so I would argue that quality is all relative. Or something like that. I really have to get to work.