Non-Required Reading

I’m listening to “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi. Apparently this is good for your brain. Apparently, classical music is good for your brain. But what do I know? I know next to nothing, really. I know a little about surfing, a little about travel in Latin America. But, really, other than that, I know — what’s the expression again? — jack squat.

But I regress. I regress and relapse. I relapse often. I’m probably going to relapse later today. I imagine the relapse will look something like this: I’ll be sitting at my apartment, bored out of my little homonid skull, and the beer in the fridge will start sounding like a mighty fine idea. So I’ll get the beer. I’ll drink it, etc. etc. And then I’ll start thinking about the ice cream cake, how it would feel in my mouth, how it would taste. It’s got chocolate and vanilla, for Christ’s sake. It’s a veritable bombardment for the palette. So there you go. Next thing I know I’ll have ice cream all over my face and my boxers will be on backwards. I’ll feel slightly confused and ashamed. That’s more or less what the relapse will look like.

I haven’t eaten anything all day. But this is fairly standard. I don’t eat anything in the morning. I don’t know any men worth their salt who do. Men are hunters and we also have no self control so at night we eat all the meat we’ve killed and then the next morning can’t eat until we’ve hunted. That’s more or less how it goes. So in the 21st century you must simulate this, and simulate it by not eating in the morning until you’ve done your work. My work is writing. I put words on paper, or rather, on one of those ghastly screens. It’s titillating work, though. I get to express myself, as they say. But anyway back to the hunting. Writing is a bit like going after a gazelle. The way they leap you have to keep your finger poised just so on the trigger. Don’t squeeze too hard! Throws the aim off. Any gazelle hunter worth her salt knows this. Any salt collector worth her salt knows this. And I do like salt. Sea salt, Tibetan sea salt, the pink stuff.

God, I’m getting fat. I’m getting obese. What happened to my svelte, tanned, 18 year old body. The women used to swoon. I’d walk by and they’d say, “Who is that boy there with the high cheekbones.” And of course I’d blush and say thank you and then sometimes we’d start talking and sometimes we’d even go lawn bowling together, me and these young women, and all the time we’d be lawn bowling they’d be thinking about whatever it is young women think about — crocheting? — and I’d be thinking about tracking hippos through a swamp, and when I could finally get back to Malawi, or Burundi, back on the savannah, God that’s where the true freedom is, knowing that later that night you might get disemboweled by a leopard in your sleep. Which is how I want to go. I know it would be painful, but it’s still how I want to go.

5 things you need to do before you die (and 5 you don’t)

Do:

Be on a boat with no view of land in any direction (cruise ships don’t count)
— It’s good to feel small.

Lounge on a lake in midsummer in Scandinavia
—The sunsets last for hours.

Walk the Camino de Santiago (the northern, coastal route)
—If you don’t find yourself on the walk you may forget about yourself, which is just as good.

Hitchhike through Argentina
—It’s good to trust others.

See a bear on foot in Alaska
—It’s good to feel your heart pound.

Don’t:

See Machu Pichu
—It’s Disneyland.

Go zip lining in Costa Rica
—It’s cheaper and less crowded and commercialized in other countries.

Take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower
—Selfie sticks were born here.

Go to Rome
—Go someplace you’ve never heard of. Your experience will be more significant.

Visit the islands where The Beach was filmed.
—The town feels like a 7-11.

The Sturgeon Smile

The sturgeon smile is one of my least favorite things about living in Seattle. This unique facial expression is sort of like a smile but more like a frown. To doit, you purse your lips together and let the corners droop. The net result resembles the visage of the great leviathans who roam the bottom of the Colombia River or any other large body of freshwater.

The sturgeon smile is usually seen when passing someone on the street. Neither party wants to take the trouble to actually smile, but neither party wants to be “rude” and ignore the other person. The result? A strange half smile that leaves both people unsatisfied.

What alternatives to the sturgeon smile are there? Well, you could actually smile. You could smile a real smile and says, “Hi!” or “How are you?” But this is not ideal. The ideal thing is to do nothing. Look at the person if you want, but don’t smile. Don’t give them any of your fake niceties. If you’re going to adopt any expression at all, adopt one of bewilderment, as if to say, “Where am I and who are you?”

The sturgeon smile is of course indicative of a larger evil: the desire most Seattleites have to be liked by everyone but connect with no one. Civility at the cost of humanity. The keeping up of appearances at the cost of a slow death within.

Next time you pass someone on the street don’t give them a sturgeon smile. Give them a real smile or nothing at all. Or do everyone a favor and laugh like an ape. Fish or primates, we’re all just advanced animals in the end.

Tuesday Thoughts

1) We live in a generation of “do-ers”. “Can I do a venti americano?” “Can I do a single shot mocha with extra chocolate powder, non-fat, double tall skinny with whole milk and six shots of soy lecithin?” These are the same people who “do” countries. “Well, we just got back from Southeast Asia. We did Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. We wanted to do Bali  but there wasn’t enough time. And yeah — now we’re back in Seattle. This morning I’m going to do a breakfast bagel and then do I-5 on my way to work and then in the afternoon do Greenlake. Tonight I hope to do some gnocchi.”

2) Instagram is at once the largest collection of creativity and unoriginality in the world. Some of the posts are breathtaking and original. But most are not. My favorite is when people say, “Words cannot describe….” followed by another banality like “….how much I love you guys, how much you guys mean to me, how fun this was, etc etc.” But here’s the thing: It’s not that words can’t describe it, it’s that you don’t have those words.

Another one I like is, “Couldn’t ask for…..” followed by: “…a better group of friends, a better weekend, a more perfect fiance, a better trip, etc etc.” What better place to express your heartfelt gratitude than on Instagram! And what better way to do it than by saying something that sounds like it was cut and pasted from a Hallmark card reject section.

3) It’s been raining all morning. However, after many years of living in or near Seattle, I’m finally prepared.  I have on: rain boots, a rain coat, and a waterproof backpack. I almost want to be in the rain.