I’m going to Burning Man this year.

Ten days in the dust and the wind and the heat and the cold and the chaos. Ten days of thumping base and lunacy and love. Ten days of…. I have no idea what.

Many conflicting words and feelings spring to mind- solitude, isolation, adventure, companionship, evolution, degeneration, transcendence, freedom, inhibition, self-consciousness, self-expression… the list goes on.

I’m a Burning man virgin and (due to a recent compulsion to drive myself completely mad) over the last few weeks my excitement levels have waxed, waned, teetered, tottered, disappeared entirely into a pit of anxious fear and then returned, tentatively, dressed up as clowns and hookers.

Perhaps I need to explain…


Several years ago I had a depression that almost beat me. It’s a long and arduous tale and something I try to make light of as much as possible even if the residue is sometimes sticky and dark. The illness changed me. When the hopelessness receded I was a nicer, more empathetic and gentle person, but I was also more timid, I had become frightened of putting myself in situations that I would once have embraced without caution. Now I sometimes have The Fear. Adventures that I would never have thought twice about have become things I have to consider. Plans have to be made, things have to be clear and understood and there is little room for spontaneity in case I am ill-equipped to cope.

Or so I imagine.

So I let myself believe.

At some point in the last few months my Burning Man adventure turned dark. The Fear crept into me and the over-thinking began. I rationalized my over-thinking as ‘being responsible’ and, as a consequence, thought longer and harder about the myriad possibilities for disaster and became more and more tormented. Should I go? Could I go? Where will I camp? What about this? What about that? But, but, but……..

A few days ago I decided to put a stop to it.

Enough already.

A wise woman I know gave me the gift of a beautiful and clear metaphor “…If you were planning a trip to, say… Thailand… would you spend the whole time worrying about getting home safe? Or would you just go and enjoy the adventure?”

The answer was easy and it applies to everything in my life. My love, my work, my creativity, my soul.

In the last year, despite my worried efforts, locks and bolts (or perhaps because of them) The Fear has crept with insidious stealth through the bedroom window of my heart and left a big steamy poo on the fluffy white flokati rug of my soul.

It’s time to clean it up.

How do you clean up a metaphorical dump on an imaginary carpet?

Why that’s simple, boys and girls, you just… relax.

And so I went to Shmoo’s house.

And together we went hiking up Mount Tam in Marin County… in our Burning Man outfits.

What follows is a pictorial of our adventures. I hope you enjoy.

THE DAY SHMOO AND LADY BANDIT CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN AND LET IT ALL HANG OUT. A NINE STEP PROGRAM WITH GUARANTEED RESULTS-

STEP ONE. Find the perfect hiking outfit. Take your time. Be adventurous.

STEP TWO. Get in the car and put on some thumping beats.

STEP THREE. Get thee to a place with really big trees….

… and beautiful trails.

STEP FOUR. Look at the magic that surrounds you.

Soak it up.

STEP FIVE. After an hour of happy meandering reach the bottom of the trail. Think “that was easy!” and sit down for a minute….

… then start to climb back up.

STEP SIX. Stop a lot to catch your breath. Feel free to use the excuse ‘I’m just looking at the view’, it is, after all, a really nice view. It’s hard to see views if you’re always climbing up and puffing a lot.

STEP SEVEN. Admire yourself along the way. You’re doing good!

(Even if you are feeling like an old lady with lungs the size of pine nuts).

STEP EIGHT. Get to the top. Realize that for all your huffing and puffing and sweating and wondering if you were going to make it…. that you actually did. Celebrate it.

STEP NINE. Keep on walking. One foot in front of the other. Alone or together. On different paths or shared tracks. In bare legs or crotchless fishnet stockings…. just keep on walking.

It’s good for you.

But always remember this cautionary word from your sponsor.

When trees attack…

… just hug them.

THE END. x

Working in Manhattan can be an exciting, thrilling experience, but it doesn’t have to be. For the first year of my legitimate-office-job-having life, I worked in a building entrenched in a cozy block of 7th Avenue, spitting distance from two of the most impressively banal landmarks in this city: Times Square and Macy’s. Now, things can get pretty hectic in busy digital media what with the constant barrage of emails, IMs, phone calls, and that woman from accounting shrilly dictating lists of numbers into her speaker phone. I soon learned, therefore, how valuable it was for the mental health of any office worker to unwinch one’s shoulders from their hunched slump, peer away from the computer screen, and make one’s way out into the city.

I highly recommend an afternoon stroll through the western gutter of Midtown Manhattan to anyone who complains that the city has gotten too gentrified, or fancy, or clean, or pleasant. Nothing quite lifts the spirits like battling one’s way down a narrow sidewalk shrouded in complete darkness at 3 pm on a summer afternoon. I took a walk like this during my lunch break on my last day at my job, and maybe this was why everything seemed already tinged with nostalgia, why the dim streets seemed particularly elegiac. How I would miss spending my days here!

People are friendly in this neighborhood – from the delivery men saying “hello” by tapping gently at your legs with their overloaded dollies or bolts of fabric, nudging you like cordial goats, to the slow-moving herds of tourists who envelop you in their fanny-packed midst, sweeping you inexorably towards the luminescent glow of the Applebee’s in Times Square. Seven-foot-tall teenagers stalk by with modeling portfolios tucked under their arms, directing their doe-eyed gaze at you in what might be welcoming greeting, but also could just be hunger. Every time you exit your building or turn a corner, rest assured you will run smack dab into someone, perhaps even someone (as happened to me on this particular day) who will take hold of your arm and forcibly shove you out of the way (of danger, I assume). Plus, there is a cornucopia of interesting lunchtime options, representative of the breadth of New York’s international cuisine: from salads and sandwiches to sandwiches and salads. The brave of heart may choose to venture down Board-of-Health-defying alleyways marked with handmade signs promising cheap tamales or glatt kosher falafel; the iron of stomach can graze on the urine-yellow halal meat offered up by the street vendors.

Meander a little further west, preferably down 40th street, flanked by the Port Authority bus terminal on one side and the local parole board office on the other, towards the peep shows, and keep your eyes peeled for the authentically “gritty” characters this city still has to offer. There – a stumbling fellow with a face like gristle leers openly, calls out in a nonsense language something I can only assume means, Hullo, friend! There – a man peeing in a doorway looks up and grins, waggling his flaccid member in cheerful greeting. Hullo!

I came to find that after my lunchtime strolls it was largely a relief to make my way back towards the office building. What a relief to sink back into that office chair, though it seems to be ergonomically designed to make me slouch – how tranquil the office seems after the chaos of the street. The soothing hum of phones ringing, the quiet clatter of web copy being typed into ancient computers, the mellifluous singsong of the woman from accounting dictating numbers into her speaker phone. And yet, there’s something wonderful, I mean really wonderful, about such a dose of chaos.

Now I work in the Conde Nast building, where the hallways seethe with the seamy lights of Times Square. I don’t get back to the old neighborhood much anymore. It sounds nutty, but I actually really do miss it in all its filth and bustle. Maybe one of these days I should make the 5-block trek down to the Garment District and watch someone peeing in an alley just for old time’s sake. After all, I don’t want to become one of those office drones who only leaves the building to go to Starbucks, with that baleful cry, “Anyone want anything from the outside world?” Because you know what? I do want something from the outside world. And it’s not a latte.

Well, not just a latte, anyway.

August.

The ass end of summer.

The time of year when I’m slogging through the drudgery of everyday life: the commuting, the second-only-to-L.A. traffic of Atlanta, the smog, the latest Mexican drug-trafficking hub that is Gwinnett County, the belligerent assholes in their giant SUVs with the faded “We’re Proud of You” and “Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbons, the tragic irony of which is no longer worth criticizing or satirizing.

I’ve always preferred the muted light of an overcast day; everything looks calm and friendly in the filtered light, which is strange since I lived in Florida for the first 28 years of my life. You’d think I’d be accustomed to sunshine. But in Florida we had afternoon thunderstorms that scuttled in from the gulf every day like clockwork. I adored those gray cumulonimbi.

I’ve lived without a television for just over two months now.

At first I panicked.

I come from a family who firmly believes that Katie Couric and Alex Trebek are immediate family members and should be laid places akin to Elijah’s at the family dining table.

When I still lived at home, my parents’ Christmas card list should have included Bob Newhart (with Larry, his cousin Darryl and his other cousin Darryl), Sgt. Frank Furrillo, the Seavers, the Huxtables, the Carringtons, the Ewings, and the entire staff of St. Eligius Hospital for the amount of time we spent with each other.

For some, talk about television shows is considered merely a ‘water cooler conversation’ at best. For us, it was like my entire house had one giant Britta filter on it. We rarely talked about the world or our place in it. Literature was homework (unless you include Danielle Steele, which my mother absolutely did), Politics was verboten, as Momma was a Democrat and Daddy was a staunch Republican and Religion was reduced to the Walter Cronkite defense: “Because ‘that’s the way it is’.”

We didn’t do much else as a family otherwise. Oh, I mean sure, there was church and the thrice-annual trips to Walt Disney World, but mostly, when we convened, it was around the T.V.

So as a rebellious teen, when I left home for college, I eschewed all of it to try and find my own way. I started reading Proust (in French, no less). I gave up Catholicism for Lent, I embraced radical liberal politics and I devoted myself to the theatre (pronounced á là Danny Kaye in White Christmas: “The thee-uh-tre! The thee-uh-tre! What’s happened to the thee-uh-tre?”)

Most of all though, I pronounced my disdain for the absolutely pedestrian habit of watching television loudly and to the masses.

Those were the years that 90210 and Melrose Place hit big. Seinfeld and Friends were making T.V. a “must see” and Twin Peaks made my good friend, Laura Palmer (no, the real one) a household name. But I would have none of it. I was all about Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg, Shepard – the usual suspects. Bochco, Griffin, Wolf, Lynch – morons, all.

But no matter how much I have publicly poo-pooed it, I have always had one. I’ve never had the cojones to get rid of it. Something about having that little glowing box in my house turns me right into Carol Ann the minute it beckons.

It’s comfort. It’s family. It’s home.

And sometimes, it’s all I need to make me feel a part of something bigger than myself, since Religion escapes me, Politics usually bore me and Swann’s Way, from what I can understand, (in English, since it was fucking IMPOSSIBLE to read en Français), is just one long pretentious, narcissistic, misanthropic, dump.

Which brings me to yesterday.

* * * * *

I moved into my new apartment less than a week before I started shooting a new film. I had absolutely no time to unpack anything, save the suitcases I had been living out of while I was between apartments.

Luckily, I discovered that one of my neighbors had an unprotected wireless internet feed, so if I balanced my laptop on my left knee just-so while sitting on the Northeast corner of my bed, I had free wi-fi.  So I was covered. Hooking up the cable was the last thing on my mind.

And oddly, I liked it.

On my days off, I went out, I read, I went to yoga classes, and I slept soundly: many of the things that T.V. keeps you from doing.

But as time progressed and the empty screen became increasingly dark, I found that something was wrong. I was betraying my upbringing, disowning my family, wrecking my home.

Just like my family, television and I don’t have much in common and we don’t visit often, but I like knowing that it’s there.  And as much as I tried to ignore it, without it, there was a hole, a need, a void that just had to be filled.

* * * * *

The appointment was Thursday, between 12:00 – 4:00pm. I got no less than three precursory calls from Time Warner Cable to assure them that I would be home for the installation.

At 1:15, the buzzer rang and I sang gaily into the little box, “Be right down!”

I sailed down the two flights of steps, anxious to greet The Cable Guy.  I was wearing my little “it’s-my-day-off-and-I-don’t-give-a-shit” dress, which is short, blowzy, and doesn’t require too much understructure.

This is important, because he took one look at me in that dress and graciously let me lead him up the stairs.

Feeling his eyes burn on my ‘inter-diameter slope’, I immediately knew the kind of guy I was dealing with.

Ahem.

My suspicions were cemented when he said to me:

“So what do you do to stay in such good shape? You look fit, mami.”

Nevermind that I’ve just spent five weeks eating catered food from a film set – a whole different kind of Omnivore’s Dilemma. He made it apparent that he was willing to fill my ‘void’, and how.

Oy.

After assessing what he would need to get the cable and internet installed, TCG announced to me, “I gonna go get my things and then I gonna use your bathroom, ok, mami?”

“Sure.  Of course. Make yourself at home.” (Yes, I said it. I’m Southern. I can’t help it. It’s ingrained.)

He goes to his truck and I quickly tidied the bathroom. Hide the tampons, close the shower curtain, wipe down the sink. Just because he’s The Cable Guy, doesn’t mean he should think me a slob…

So the buzzer blares again – this time with a fat and sleazy bleat. The first time ‘round I told TCG that the buzzer didn’t work, hence my personal greeting at the bottom on the stairs. So naturally, he didn’t pin open the door and thus required me to go down a second time to let him in.

Figures.

So under the “second time, shame on me” theory of single-girl safety, I made him go up the stairs first. He did his installation thing and got everything taken care of pretty quickly.

Almost.

He says Nextel/Sprint has no reception in my apartment, so he needs to use my phone to connect with HQ and finalize the install. I offer him my iPhone and have to walk him thru how to use the touch screen.

“Ooh. You smell nice, mami.”

I hadn’t taken a shower in two days.

I question his lack of reception; both his phone’s and his own of my unbathed, unkempt, undressed and otherwise un-appearance.

He makes his call, completes the install and then says to me (again):

“Now I gonna need your bathroom.”

Right. Okay. I had said “Make yourself at home.” It would be rude not to oblige.

I show him the way and start checking my email at my desk for the first time in months.

After a three full minutes of silence, the door remained closed.

Fuck. He’s either masturbating or releasing his bowels in ways unfathomable.

Six minutes in and I’m suddenly really uncomfortable with some stranger in my house, locked in the bathroom doing God knows what. It’s at this point that I really begin to miss my dog; nevermind that she was a beagle-mix and would sooner kiss you than attack.

I look through my iTunes collection, searching for the most aggressive music I can find. Motörhead.  That oughta do it. The umlaut is very threatening.  I crank up the volume.

He finally emerges; the door to the bathroom conspicuously closed.

TCG exhales deeply while rubbing his paunch – a huge sigh of relief – and plops down on the couch.

“I gonna test the channels now. I can sit here, mami?”

Knee-jerk reaction. I say: “Make yourself at home.” (Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!)

He flips on the T.V. (mind you, the Motörhead is still playing in the background) and begins to surf. The channels work fine, but he’s clearly not going anywhere.

The remote stops on the Olympics.

He lays back and nestles himself into my chenille sleeper sofa.

It’s obvious to me that his task (of many) is now fully complete. “Well,” I say, “is there anything else you need?”

“A pillow.  And a beer?  I had such a long day.”

The time is 1:50pm.

I grab his clipboard and a pen and point to the bottom of the work order.

“I sign here, right? I’m sure you’ve got plenty more folks to visit today.”

He finally gets the picture (in-picture) and reluctantly lumbers off the couch. He takes his clipboard, gives me my receipt and with his Commerce Bank pen, he taps the patch on his shirt; his name, Peter, embroidered in bright blue.

“Axe for me direkt if you ever need anything, mami.”

He picks up his tool box, blows me a kiss and goes.

* * * * *

I blame my parents.



In Vladimir Nabokov’s short story, “Signs and Symbols,” the narrator says of one character that, “Living did mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case—mere possibilities of improvement.” I have always found that line to be profoundly depressing and if you’re reading this, I wish with all my heart that your life is not an acceptance of the loss of one joy after another.

My own life, I have realized, can partially be characterized by the acceptance of one embarrassment after another. I have decided to chronicle these embarrassments (the list will never end as long as I am alive and participating in the world) starting with the Blue Ribbon for the Most Embarrassing Thing Ever:

My first husband and I had just moved to Toronto from the Bay Area. We were renting a basement apartment with no kitchen. We used the window sills, where the winter temperature hovered around 20 degrees, to keep milk and juice, and ate all our meals out. I had no friends, no job and nowhere to go. I spent a lot of time reading in the apartment and a lot of time walking around and looking at things.

And then I joined a gym. It was a yuppie place near our apartment with lots of good-looking twenty and thirty-somethings’ who thought they were cool because they were at that point in life where they had just started to make a lot of money but didn’t yet have kids, dogs, ageing parents and the things that remind you that you are not really that cool and that the world around you needs less cool and more hard work. My husband and I were young enough and dumb enough to think that we were cool, too.

The first day at the gym I went to a yoga class where I stretched and twisted and roped up my very limber body with the thought that no one in Toronto could possibly be as flexible as someone from California. In short, I was showing off.

After the class, I followed the other yoga students into the locker room where they proceeded to take off their clothes and step naked into the hot tub (it was a single sex locker hot tub). I took off my clothes, too, and also stepped into the hot tub even though I’ve never really liked hot tubs. They’re too hot for me. I like warm tubs.

About ninety seconds into the soak, I began to feel light headed. I sat on the edge of the tub for a moment, then stepped out and started to walk toward the bathroom, as I was feeling a little queasy. Before I could make it to the bathroom I unexpectedly hurled a shooting stream of vomit onto the gym floor. As the vomit was coming out I could feel my vision shutting down, like a computer screen turning off.

I passed out on the vomit on the floor.

This little episode is the Blue Ribbon of embarrassment because it combines the three most humiliating human events into one tidy, pool of shame. It has, 1. Public nudity. 2. The projectile externalization of a body fluid in public. And 3. Passing out in public.

To have done them simultaneously, and then to have so perfectly lain my body atop the vomit was, in my opinion, quite a spectacular feat.

I called the gym the next day and cancelled the membership. And then we joined the Y.

August 12, 2008

Mr. Statler and Mr. Waldorf

Shady Sunrise Retirement Home & Gardens
Room 22
Terrace Pass Road
Naples, Florida 34102

Dear Mr. Statler and Mr. Waldorf:

This letter is to serve notice of your eviction as residents of Shady Sunrise Retirement Home & Gardens.

Not too long ago, I had a shot at enlightenment. And despite the fact that I live right outside of Boulder, CO – the enlightenment capital of the universe with the exception of Sedona and perhaps the chocolate aisle of the World Market – I cannot say that I have yet had the privilege of sitting in God’s palm. So when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.

I was living on Lamma Island, just outside of Hong Kong – already the consequence of playing chicken with Fate – when I met Jack. Jack lived down the street from me and was the friend of a friend. He is of medium height, has sandy blond hair and comes from Liverpool. (Read: cute with an accent).

He looks me over, waiting for our mutual friend to arrive and extends an invitation that would change my life.

Bachelor Party

By Rob Bloom

Humor

I haven’t showered in three, maybe four, days. Not that I have anything against showering. It happens to be an activity I engage in regularly and one I encourage others to do as well (hear that, NYC taxi drivers? Yeah, YOU, the ones whose cabs smell like a combination of feet, spoiled cheese, and the dirty water left in the vase four days after the flowers have died).

Anyway, there’s a perfectly good explanation for my shower hiatus: I’m a bachelor again. See, my wife Julie has gone on vacation with her friend Allison to Sarasota, Florida. The reason for this (the vacation, not Allison who, from what I understand, is quite lovely this time of year) is that Julie’s job provides her with ample vacation days and by “ample” I mean “enough for her to accomplish something great, like building a spaceship or acquiring a taste for caviar.” My job, on the other hand, provides substantially less vacation time, as well as strict criteria regarding said time, namely “vacation cannot occur over consecutive days.”

So Julie took off for Sarasota while I stayed behind to assume various bachelor duties, such as ensuring the survival of the Trans Fat economy. It’s not as easy as you’d think. With the health kick our country’s on, the supermarket is filled with products that say things like “Fat schmat!” and “Made from cardboard!” (WARNING: May cause anal leakage). The whole ordeal makes it very difficult for a guy like me to find bachelor-appropriate foods, such as:

* Wings
* Beer
* Beer-flavored Wings
* Neon-orange crunchy things
* Any product with artificial coloring, ingredients that have been processed a minimum of twelve times, and that when consumed, I actually feel myself getting fatter.

In other words, I’m looking for the foods from my first bachelor run. Back then, I was living in a Georgia town called Smyrna with my buddy Steve. Now that was a bachelor’s apartment! Steve and I had it all, starting with the two essential bachelor food groups: beer and Doritos. For additional sustenance, we’d frequent the neighborhood restaurants that met our strict dietary requirements of a dollar menu and drive-thru window.

Our philosophy towards food (“Who needs utensils?”) was complimented by our philosophy towards cleaning (“What’s that?”). Cleaning was something we just didn’t do. Instead, we adopted the bachelor-tested philosophy of letting our dirt work for us. For example, what’s the point of folding and putting away laundry when you can just as easily let it pile up in the corner of your bedroom, where it can flourish and grow, eventually morphing into a surprisingly comfortable chair where a bachelor can sit and engage in a number of activities involving beer, Doritos, and the scratching of a certain body part exclusive to bachelors. Naturally, this cleaning philosophy was also applied to the bathroom or, as we referred to it, “The Experiment.” This room, particularly the “sink,” “shower,” and “toilet” regions, was home to several different species of insects, mold, and other live cultures, all of whom were far more active than we were. Though in all fairness to Steve and me, these creatures had way more legs than us.

Now mind you, we didn’t not do these things because we were lazy. On the contrary, laziness only had, like, 10% to do with it. The other 95% was simply because we didn’t have the time or math skills. Truth is, the life of a bachelor is complicated. It’s also pretty darn hectic (what with foosball tournaments and Twilight Zone marathons) and therefore requires some heavy-duty time-management skills. Besides, you’d be amazed how productive a bachelor can be when he doesn’t waste time engaging in trivial activities like cleaning or looking for a job.

Speaking of productive, I’ve been mighty busy myself the past few days. Take Saturday, for example.

8:30 AM. Wake up. Eat a slice of cold pizza. Go back to bed. 

11:45 AM. Shuffle to couch. Fall asleep 20 minutes into Will Ferrell movie. 

3:05 PM. Can’t decide between Mild and BBQ wings. Weigh the pros and cons of both while drinking a beer.
5:40 PM. Wake up surrounded by several empty beer cans. Detect foul smell in the house. Embark on detailed search of the premises to find the source.

5:41 PM. Doritos break. 

6:01 PM. Remember I never decided on flavor of wings. Take a break to figure it out.
8:25 PM. Finish wings (why choose one flavor when you can get both?). Notice smell has gotten closer. 

9:10 PM. Suspect the smell might be me. 

9:39 PM. Think about showering.
10:18 PM. While flipping through the channels, find documentary about the Nathan’s hot dog eating competition. Decide showering can wait.

As you can see, I’ve been involved in some very important activities! Unlike Julie who, every time we talk, tells me she and Allison are doing “girl stuff,” which I can only assume means shoe shopping, painting each other’s toenails, and watching Lifetime.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun reconnecting with my bachelor self, but between us, I’m looking forward to my wife coming home. I might even shower for the occasion. If I have time, of course.

I remember quite clearly, when I was 10 or so, a television commercial for Tylenol. The message went something like this:

“Extra Strength Tylenol has more pain-relieving medicine than Regular Strength Bayer Aspirin.”

I was only 10 years old. I shouldn’t have even been paying attention to the commercials. I should have been playing with my Rubik’s cube while I waited for Magnum, P.I. to come back on. But that commercial pissed me off.

How can they think people would be that stupid? I wondered. Any human being with half a brain isn’t going to be fooled by a statement so clearly misleading.

It turns out people are not only susceptible to misleading marketing, they seem to be drawn to it. Unsubstantiated superlatives appeal to our inner nature. But what nature is that, exactly?

Or consider a study done recently on human adaptive behavior, where groups of people were placed in a room and given a special thermostat to regulate the temperature of the room. The thermostat was set up in such a way that it was not immediately obvious how to regulate the temperature. Most groups did not set up a test to try different methods and use logic to arrive at the correct method. Instead they began to develop almost superstitious beliefs about the thermostat, like if they held it in a certain hand it worked better than another hand. Or if they tapped it three times it would set off a special chip inside that would correctly regulate the temperature.

There are people in this world who want to know how things really work, and they have developed logical ways to arrive at good answers. Many more people, however, just want to feel their way through life. Why is that?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by people that I think too much, analyze too much, that I am too literal. I’ve always been this way. In school I was excellent at math because the methods to arrive at the correct answer were clear. I also took advanced English and composition classes, and I was good at that, too, but when it came to interpreting literature I was not as good, because the answers weren’t discrete. The answer was smeared across a range. The truth could change depending on your position, and this did not come naturally to me.

So, of course, instead of becoming an engineer I decided to be a writer. What? What sense does that make? Well, I always loved to read and was naturally good at composition, and doing math all day sounded really boring to me. But even though I’ve had a little success, I’ve struggled to create great characters because I seem to be missing some understanding of how to render the “feel” part of life.

It’s not that I don’t have emotions. I do have them. I feel them. I often have to look away from people
during sad movies because they make me get all, you know, teary and whatever. But that looking away doesn’t just happen in the movies. I control my emotions in real life as well. I don’t know why. They just seem to add unnecessary complexity to a situation. You ever had a moody boss? An angry parent? Wouldn’t you rather have had rationality in those situations?

When I was single I used to go to bars with a friend of mine who had moved here from Austria. This guy was really literal…I’m talking Vulcan literal. We would have these long conversations about the inherent absurdity of picking up a girl in a bar. Either one of us could chat up a girl in a normal life situation, where there was some inherent subject to discuss. But in a bar there is no context other than “Hi, I’m going to try to pick you up.” We knew the idea was to make small talk, but that was the problem. Neither one of us cared to make small talk. If you didn’t have a concrete reason to talk to someone, why would you? Eventually, of course, I would have enough drinks that I finally would talk to a girl, about whatever, nothing, anything. And it was fine. But why did I have to wait for alcohol to kick in before I could disregard my need to be literal?

To me, information is the most valuable commodity there is. It’s the currency we use to interact with
each other, with the world at large. Without information you can’t do anything. All the stimuli that are
processed by your senses are comprised of information. Without information you don’t even know if you exist.

But when is it good idea to have less information?

I play my best golf when I stop thinking about the mechanics of the swing and just feel it.

We can probably all agree that you can’t have good sex when you think too much.

You can’t enjoy a slice of pizza if you’re worried about how many calories are in it.

There isn’t a math equation to describe love.

Does that mean there are situations in life where we willfully suspend our disbelief?

Love exists in our brains, after all, and while a lot of people may not believe it, there will come a time when that electrochemical process can be mapped. Unless you think God is yanking the strings of the universe and routinely breaking the laws of physics, everything we know can be described by a physical process. Which means everything could eventually be known.

I can hear you right now: Well, I don’t want everything to be known. I don’t want love to be understood discretely even if it’s possible. I want there to be room for magic.

But you must agree we want some things to be known. Before we had knowledge of pathogens, people routinely died for reasons that today would seem absurd. So that sort of information is good, right?

We used to believe the sun was drawn across the sky by a guy in a chariot. We used to believe the Earth was at the center of the universe. But when scientists suggested we weren’t at the center of the universe, they were tried for heresy. Heresy!

Even today there are people who reject mature fields of science like evolution and geology because it doesn’t jibe with their religious beliefs.

I suppose this need to occasionally blot out rational thought emerges from the way our brains are wired. In some ways we are like computers, passing and parsing bits of information, but we also incorporate emotions, which current computers do not. Those emotions can completely override normal information processing, like when you have an orgasm, or when your favorite team wins the Super Bowl. In the most literal sense it may seem absurd to rub your private parts against someone else’s, it may seem ridiculous to watch a bunch of strangers on television throw a ball to each other, but no one can deny the euphoria that can be produced by these activities.

Which is one of the most interesting conundrums of being human. You can try to reduce the world to a
discrete, measurable system, but your brain will always rebel against you, because it cannot divorce itself from emotion.

And what would life be like if it could?

Yesterday I bought some Nike golf balls, and the girl at the cash register asked, “Why are these golf balls so expensive?”

Normally, I would have answered her literally, something about the attributes of the golf balls, or just
smiled and said I didn’t know. But instead I said, with a gleam in my eye, “Because I’m so good.”

She got a kick out of that.

Which I suppose is a small but fitting example of what it means to be human.