“How ya doing? Your energy level OK? Everyone all right?”
Our children, treading water in Trunk Bay just as I was, signalled to me that they were fine. Unlike their doughy father, my beloved children are athletic and strong, and they have the kind of stamina that makes a lengthy snorkeling adventure a pleasure. Like their father, however, they are sanctimonious about going au naturel and not relying on fins for their exploration like some of the obese Americans we witnessed.
My beloved kids have the same love of nature that I do, and we had several explorations during the past week that got us close to all manner of reptile, bird, and fish life. As a child, I cherished animal life far more than human, being somewhat of a misanthrope (surprise!), and my daughter in particular inherited this gene from me in abundance.
After our adventure was over and we collected our gear, we all got into the Jeep which I had mastered as a driving-on-the-left kind of guy and headed back to the ferry dock (after a quick stop at a homemade ice cream shop).
At the dock, the cars line up single file, waiting for the attendant to guide them on, one at a time, as they parked backwards into the designated lane on board. I was waiting my turn, and I noticed the car in front of me wasn’t budging. The attendant looked inside it, saw no one there, shook his head, smiled, and waved me forward. I drove around the (parked) car and got onto the ferry. My family and I ascended to the topmost deck where the breeze was pleasant and cooling.
As our twenty minute voyage across Pillsbury Sound began, this young couple (I’m guessing in their mid-20s) got onto the deck too, and I noticed two things about the male half of the couple instantly, without even looking: One, he spoke in a very, very loud voice, and Two, the things he said were moronic.
He was trying to be neither loud nor moronic, yet he succeeded at both. It also turns out this fellow didn’t want to wait at the ferry dock, so he parked his car, took his overweight wife to a bar within easy walking distance, and slammed down a few beers. I gather the beers gave his voice another twenty decibels. My children and I kept exchanging glances with one another at this boor. There were only about ten of us on the deck, and this guy was striking up a conversation with another guy about the same age (and mental acuity).
One fact no one could miss about this fellow was the fact that he was from Oklahoma. The reason this was easy to deduce was that he offered this information, unsolicited, no fewer than eight times. At every opportunity, apropos of nothing, he would declare he was from Oklahoma. For some reason he felt this was important for the strangers on the boat to know.
He also told his fellow nit-wit that he was a “foodie” (I suspect in his head it was spelled “foody”, but none of us can know for sure). He backed up this claim by mentioning he went to the Sunset Grille for dinner (a middling place I did not bother to try, even though it was located at my resort) and the waiter gave them an “amuse booth”. In case you missed it, this poor ass was meaning to say “amuse bouche“, but it’s clear he’s never understood that.
I would also add the “amuse booth” he enjoyed so much (calling it “spectacular”, the only superlative he seemed to know, as he used it repeatedly) had something to do with cucumbers and cream cheese.
You may be thinking to yourself what a snob I am. And, yes, you’re right, being a snob comes easily to me, but let me be clear about something: I don’t want to be in a position where I have these snobby feelings. I don’t want to be the smart guy in the room………or the savviest………or the most erudite. On the contrary, I want to be at the low end of the spectrum. I want everyone in the room to be smarter than me, not the other way around. I feel more comfortable being the nimrod.
And why would this be? Well, I might learn something, being surrounded by better minds. I might meet some people I really admire. I might meet some others I look up to. I’d much rather be filled with feelings of respect, awe, admiration, and even envy than being tempted to jump off a car ferry into the water just to escape loudmouthed imbecilic yammerings of some ill-bred buffoon.
This has been on my mind quite a bit, because I don’t get my jollies out of cringing at people. Living where I do, I normally get to be the low man on the totem pole, which suits me just fine. For one thing, it meshes quite nicely with my low self-esteem, since being in the 10th percentile of a given group helps me reconcile reality with my self-perception.
But these thoughts aren’t just about the way-too-loud Oklahoma foodie I had the misfortune to briefly encounter. It has more to do with the human condition, which is something I think about far more than is healthy. Allow me another anecdote from last week.
In St. Thomas, there is a flea market which caters, I suppose, to the fatties that waddle off the cruise ships. The flea market has all manner of tacky junk, from shirts to hats to license plates to bags – – it looks like this:
During our time there, mercifully, there was no cruise ship in town. However, the vendors in the flea market had a dearth of buyers, and they were really trying to push their wares as I strolled by.
The thing is, it was hot as hell outside, and that’s pretty much the way it always is. And I thought about what it must be like to be a vendor there. You’re in the heat, day in and day out. You are at the mercy of tourists, who are pretty gross themselves. You have to be pushing wares on them that are pretty much junk. There’s no opportunity for growth, advancement, or intellectual challenge. You’re just in a goddamned chair in the goddamned heat pushing crap on people, trying to make enough to get by.
I am reminded immediately of the Norm & Dave video I posted recently, in which Norm MacDonald wonders out loud how it is that half the people walking down the street don’t do so with a noose around their necks. Letterman’s serious reply was that deeply depressed people are the only ones seeing life with true clarity, and that a hodgepodge of chemicals in our brains masks the true horror of living. In other words, these two successful men (Letterman being mega-successful) agree that most people would kill themselves if they were allowed to see reality with, as Dave put it, “20/20 vision.”
Isn’t that extraordinary?
Of course, we have more than brain-based chemistry to seduce us into continuing life. Our culture has created all manner of distractions to aid in this endeavor – – professional sports, mindless celebrity-watching, vacations, drugs, television………the list goes on.
Something beyond these trifles occurred to me, however: novelty. We humans seek out newness as a powerful form of distraction. I was reminded of this looking at people during meal times. On one hand, I would see newlyweds that were insatiably chatty (and probably couldn’t wait to get back to their bedrooms). On the other hand, I’ve seen countless couples that have been married for years and had absolutely nothing at all to say to each other and were clearly just dying to get to the end of the meal so they could stop looking past one another in stony silence. Couples like these I’m sure would prefer to put a bullet through their heads than sit there any longer.
So what do we do about all this awfulness? For me, the most liberating realization was simply this: there is absolutely no point to any of this, nor could there even be a point. By embracing the futility and meaningless nature of living, I have been able to preserve some core of sanity. Accepting meaninglessness gives me space to create meaning.
Further than this, I think those of us who wish to remain truly sane have to find out for ourselves our own personal light within the darkness. For me, it is creating. The creation could take many forms………a blog post……..a screenplay………a book………a particularly good tastytrade broadcast. Anything in which I’m permitted to express myself. And that includes this very post. A quote I’ve shared before that remembers a life well-lived:
Finally and above all else, he was marvelously alive; and mankind, dreading boredom even more than anxieties, is grateful to those who make life throb with a swifter, stronger beat.
We are surrounded by darkness. We are surrounded by oafs. We are surrounded by meaninglessness. Find your own light, and do not let it go. To do otherwise, I believe, is death.