A Host of Issues
Driving down washington st. Four grimy lanes bordered by strip malls and government assisted housing. Crackwhores withering in the sun. Men with shifty eyes and sagging sweatpants standing in gas station parking lots.
The car in front of me swerves to reveal a detached hubcab rolling down the street. I hit it head on and it shatters under my car. A flapping sound, I think a tire has popped. When I pull over I see that the tire is fine, but the hubcab has broken the rusted splash guard. It hangs lower and scrapes the ground when I turn or back up.
My driving is now accompanied by an infernal screeching sound. Groaning souls of the damned. That’s on top of the rusted exhaust system and broken catalytic converter, my car already sounding like a construction worker taking an amplified dump through stadium loudspeakers.
I should roll the windows down and play circus music at full volume. When I park I should throw a pie into my face and blow balloon animals. Or wear wife beaters and jeancos, smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, yell at my dog on my front lawn, throw half-full beer cans at squirrels, cover myself in poorly drawn tattoos of dead pets.
The hot water in my apartment went out. The landlord said the building needs a new commercial grade heater. Supply chain issues, it’s taking longer than usual to arrive. Five or six days of cold showers. Can’t wash dishes either. I’ve been told I could heat water on the stove but that’s the kind of thing I won’t bother to do. I hate little hacks, tips for getting around inconveniences, making my life easier. All varieties of it. Saving money, saving time, streamlining operations, increasing productivity.
According to the internet, these cold showers should improve my mood, lower anxiety, turn me into a navy seal. Like all supplements and motivational tweet threads and stirring youtube speeches about living with urgency or unlocking your true power, cold showers do nothing. I’ve tried every breathing method, meditation program, organizational approach, time management trick, sunning your butthole at the meridian and eating grilled elk penis, reading the stoics and the skeptics and the moralists and the church fathers; the only things that bring real advantages are hardcore drugs and knowing wealthy people.
If you don’t know anyone who wants to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on your inane enterprise and you’re not taking steroids and amphetamines, you can spend all your days trying different brands of fish oil and mushroom tea and new workout routines and none of it will matter. You either succeed or you don’t, hard work is involved but it’s mostly luck. Did the right rich guy or the attractive girl notice you and decide on a whim you were worth something? It’s in the hands of god or the clash of atoms, the chemical dance that means nothing except for the fact that some people have a lot and most have a little.
Last weekend. A flea market in my neighborhood. People from all over the city setting up tables and tents on which they lay old clothes, books, dvd’s. Lawns loaded with dusty furniture and bad paintings. Food trucks selling tacos and funnel cakes and brisket. My quiet neighborhood overrun with well-to do antique seekers and hillbilly junk hunters.
I sat out in the sun all day saturday and sold two vintage bicycles. To pay the rent for the month of June. Because I still haven’t found full time work. Haven’t done any more carpentry. Larry thinks I’m an ungainly pussy. I probably cut a line through his ceiling that was 1/36th of an inch off center and now he’ll have to tear his whole studio down. My hand shaking for a quarter of a second cost him his life savings and the next time he sees me he’ll chase me with a chainsaw.
You should learn a trade, learn to work with your hands, earn your bread by the sweat of your brow, they say, as a bob segar song plays in the background. It sounds like the right thing to do. Especially with all these ninnies zoom calling all day, writing emails and taking three-hour coffee breaks. Administrating the administrative tasks of other administrators, scheduling meetings about meetings about how to more efficiently schedule meetings.
With all the consultants and contractors, the brand experience managers, the counselors and coaches and advisers and dubiously credentialed experts, the community organizers and inclusivity engineers and diversity technicians and advertisers and outreachers, the youtube and tiktok stars and influencers and the sleight of hand scam artist street magician money making schemes, the financial system speculators, the new age wishful thinking quantum field manipulators, the drug pushers and psychiatric charlatans and self-care swindlers, the tech industry simulation spinners, the fake work funding fake lifestyle digital self-promotion vaudevillian tap dancing acts, we need the real men to return to real masculine labor, drive spikes and rip resources out of the hard dry earth, balance on steel beams and build high rises.
But I’m almost 36 years old and I spent my teenage years playing the classical guitar, my early twenties doing mushrooms and reading schopenhauer and proust. My late twenties working in coffee shops and writing a blog. I have a degree in comparative literature and I cry when I listen to Bach harpsichord concertos. I look like a man who should be able to raise a barn or work in a steel mill or break a barstool over a biker’s head but I would rather read literature by gay frenchmen and depressed germans.
The truth is that I suck at everything involving my hands except fretting a guitar or fingering a woman or tapping on a macbook pro. My favorite things to do bring immense pleasure to a select group of oddball women and men but when I try to make money with a foundational trade I end up wrenching wrongly while an old man with rotting teeth calls me an idiot.
I’ve applied to every office job and every administrative assistant position in the city. Had one interview in what might as well have been a computer-generated office building in some randomized industrial park surrounded by chain link fences and sprawling parking lots, where a fidgety man in a polo shirt and a baseball cap and cargo shorts said he’d get back to me soon. He never did. For all I know the business has been deleted in a keystroke or bulldozed to make way for a denny’s.
I’m told I’m well-spoken but I must smell like a sewer pipe clogged with dead bodies or my resume must read like I’m a syphilitic horse thief, a dangerous drifter with a dark past, because I’m routinely passed over for white collar work an intelligent monkey could perform. I’m in competition with 400-pound women with associate degrees from johnsonville tech who watch the bachelor and post glittering gifs on facebook and I lose every time.
There’s only one industry desperate enough to take a chance on me, and that’s the service industry, where the norm is 20-year-old part time college students not showing up for work because they’re drunk from the night before. Where the relentless churn and socially starved customers and drug abuse and fleeting sexual encounters exemplify in an extreme form what is becoming a pathological model of society in general.
Back to work in a restaurant where the sophistication of the dining experience veils dysfunctional systems and crumbling personal lives. The only kind of place that will give me a job is a week away from a five-star review from a television food critic with the gout and two weeks away from going bankrupt or burning down in a kitchen staff revolt.
I’m hosting part time at another nice restaurant. Just down the road from my neighborhood. I didn’t even fill out an application or send them a resume. For all they know I rob jewelry stores and molest children. I got the job by refraining from saying I intend to snort bath salts and stab anyone who walks through the door.
Evening hours, working when I have nothing left. My shifts start at 5. I’m ready to sleep but instead I’ll greet people with the enthusiasm of a game show host. Guide them to their tables, give them the a la carte menu, the tasting menu and a wine list. Fill their water glasses, buss tables, polish silverware. I only need a second-grade education to do this job, but also the temperament of someone who doesn’t fantasize about running people over with a riding lawn mower.
In Houellebecq’s Possibility of an Island, individualism brings about the disappearance of man. Climate disasters are the catalyst, but the ground is prepared by eroding social bonds and falling fertility rates. What follows man is his clone, a physical body with an externalized memory, emptied of emotion and purpose. A lone monad subsisting on mineral pills and water, perpetuating itself without dramatic events, reviewing the history of its mortal ancestor, a being that suffered and died and asked unanswerable questions.
But even sexless clones entertain thoughts of a life to come that is different from their own.
John Donne said no man is an island, but an island is what comes after man. In the present, in our own science-fiction reality, we are becoming islands in a digital sea, the waves bearing our bottled messages to no one.
By stripping a social animal to its most selfish and infantile needs, the global corporate economy precipitates a collective breakdown in the will to reproduce. Out from under the shadow of death, man is blind to the horizon of meaning, and merely repeats in automated fashion, producing exact copies rather than sacrificing himself for a future in which he lives on in a creatively evolved form. Severing sex from love and reproduction destroys sex. Without ends, the means stop working.
Thank god for good books. At least I still have literature, at least I can share the gift of art with my atomized brothers as we approach the event that cancels all other events, our regression to a spiritless eternity.