Dear Dust

I’m bored silly. With this site. With my boyfriend. With food. With movies. With the world.

Seriously.

Stacy

 

Dear Stacy

In my twenties I used to think anyone claiming to be bored was either constitutionally weak or a dullard. There were women to be met, drugs to be taken, friends to make, music to play, a lifetime of books to read, a lifetime of movies to see, the entire world to visit. How could one possibly be bored?

Now, at my advanced age, I’ve come to empathize. But I think what I occasionally have glimpses of is less boredom than acedia. A leaching of certainty. A dearth of ambition. Is there, for instance, a point to following politics anymore? To being ground down by the ugliness of it all? To being lacerated by how many people are suffering around the world? To being outraged about injustice, cruelty, avarice? To rail against the stupidity of pop culture and cell phones, or rudeness and casual cruelty? I am no longer sure. Despite the stanching power of a diatribe over dinner, or a deft sentence on a blog, these things will continue unabated. We as a species are just as weak, selfish, and perfidious as we were during the reign of Sumeria. Neither have our principles much evolved since the dawn of the industrial revolution, dictates of conscience remaining less dictates and more obstacles around which money can be accrued. As a country we purport a superior national rectitude, mostly due to our founding documents and actions in WWII, the deposing of Hitler still the locus of our moral self-regard. And we have worn this badge over the last six decades, using it as papal dispensation for both dubious and disastrous foreign policy initiatives. But we remain the same people who dropped nuclear weapons on two fully populated cities as we are those who liberated Dachau. In other words, we are just as Tuskegee Experiment as we are Live Aid.

Yes, I too am bored. By the oppressive weight of everything I will not accomplish. I cannot read all the books I wish. And each I do leads to another five that I am desperate to. I will never see Ankor Wat or the Galapagos. I will never again be ridden by a randy coed in a messy dorm room. I will never again be giddily drunk on canned beer. In fact, my body aches, as its inner mathematical functions tell it to slowly begin shutting down. The Dust Bodega may have a few decades left, but what is twenty years in the face of all that is to come, and everything that is yet to be understood? Soon, my shelves will be bare of snack cakes and rubbers, and I will be shuttered, like all those who came before, coursing with invincibility, impossibly young and strong. Or who at least felt they once had something lasting to say. And like all of them, I will cease to say anything at all. Can it possibly matter? Can I retain my delusions of consequence while tethered to a paltry collection of articles and a few lightly read novels? Even the greatest writer’s works will fade over time. Even the greatest dozen authorial names will be irrelevant in ninety years, and the hundreds of thousands of writers who are not among them may as well have never existed. Whether in 2023, or some androidal eon beyond imagining, humanity will cease. This experiment will be over. There will be glacial silence as the planet turns, frozen, in a sepulchral orbit around a dead sun. All the things we once were and arbitrarily valued will have no meaning. If that will be true then, why is it not true now? If there is no god, and no future, and no measurable weight to our actions or totems or desires, what is there not to be bored about?

The world, therefore, can be seen as one long, beige stripe. A line up to which you may toe, but not cross, because there is no difference on either side.

For me, though, this inevitable line of inquiry always results in a stroll down to the Jewish deli on Fourth St., where I select a mammoth kosher pickle from the gamey wood barrel in back. I do this every few months. My Orthodox friends lovingly wrap the just-delivered pickle in a square of wax paper. I tote it back to my office and take tiny bites over the course of a long afternoon, eschewing all other food. By dinner, due to the wondrous properties of this sour gherkin, everything else has been re-calibrated. Suddenly, the bland seems delicious again. And even if it doesn’t, at least it tastes like something. And therefore feels like something.

It’s akin to magic. Except there are no sawed torsos, capes, or goateed legerdemain.

At bedtime my son will cry. I will hold him on my lap and push his bangs behind his ears with calloused fingers while my wife smiles from behind her book, and the remnants of my pessimism will clear away like stink over a dead horse on a brisk afternoon.

At that moment I will love life in whatever iteration it chooses, without any external need to qualify or parse.

You, Stacy, need to avail yourself of a pickle, whether it be actual or metaphorical.

Almost all truths can ultimately be fished from a leaky barrel of brine.

 

 

 

Dear Dust

I love my girlfriend. I’m in a band that’s actually starting to get paid to play. All the guys are cool, even the drummer. I like my parents. We live in Memphis, which is really a great city, and have an awesome loft that is crazy cheap. Beer costs nothing here. My dog shits in the dirt lot out back, tiny contained turds that I’m not required to pick up. I ride my mountain bike through the streets at night with my headphones on, listening to our demos or maybe Charlie Parker, and pretend it’s actually the wind that is causing the tears in my eyes.

I am happy. Really happy.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Brian

 

Dear Brian

Your happiness is my happiness, and I am sincerely pleased that you took the time to send me this letter. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who is reasonably satisfied with their lot. Of course, few people tend to ask for advice on how to handle their good fortune, so it’s not surprising that my mailbox is clogged with woes and fears and blinkered disdain. But your letter was like an angioplasty, surgically clearing the cynicism which has crenellated my mailbox’s happiness valve.

You know, I was thinking of my great grandfather just yesterday. He came to America on a boat, wearing a suit with twelve dollars pinned to an inside pocket. He spoke not a word of English. He bought a bus ticket and got off when his money ran out. That bus left him in a small town in Pennsylvania. He immediately found work in a munitions factory, toiling long hours and performing incredibly dangerous tasks. At night he read voraciously, teaching himself English. Within two years, he was a foreman, and a few years later, a manager. When the factory closed he opened a furniture store, becoming a prosperous businessman mainly because he sold good merchandise at reasonable prices. He carried people on credit for years. He married, had six children, and ate a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch every single day. He and his friends played pinochle and drank Schaeffer beer on the porch, Dean Martin dripping from the radio. He spent his declining years reading the classics in a leather Barcalounger in my Grandmother’s front parlor. His favorite book was The Brothers Karamazov. At his funeral, people stood outside the church in the hot sun because there was no room amongst the pews.

I feel a mix of pleasant warmth and melancholy when I think of him. When I imagine the hardships he endured uncomplainingly, his willingness to take risks, to work hard, to be the most ethical and honorable man he could. Then I think about my life. The ease of it. The profligacy. My whining at the most minor events or deficiencies. I think about our society, what we value, the rage we express when our every need is not immediately met. Our political system. The entitlement. The ignorance. It is perhaps a foolish nostalgia, but I do think we are in many ways a weaker and less honorable people than those who lived a few generations before us. Not because of the ease we enjoy, but the comfort we expect. And, strangely, this ease has not made us more giving and aware of the struggles of the less fortunate. It has made us harder and more entitled and more cheeseparing with our vast possessions.

My point being, Brian, I am always heartened to hear from someone who has made their way, found their calling, enjoys their family, sees the myriad possibilities in small contentments.

Not to mention the genius of Charlie Parker.

There is nothing at all wrong with you.

Extract everything you can from this moment, and strive to share it with others.

 

Most sincerely,

 

The Dust

 

 

Ask Me Anything.

Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.

Go ahead, I know it hurts.

[email protected]

 

All contact info is entirely confidential.

 

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J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

36 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 28”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    But I think what I occasionally have glimpses of is less boredom than acedia. A leaching of certainty. A dearth of ambition. Is there, for instance, a point to following politics anymore? To being ground down by the ugliness of it all? To being lacerated by how many people are suffering around the world? To being outraged about injustice, cruelty, avarice? To rail against the stupidity of pop culture and cell phones, or rudeness and casual cruelty? I am no longer sure.

    Next time someone someone here on TNB whips themselves into a froth at my alleged moral/ethical indifference and cynicism (in the new, derisive sense, not the old, righteous sense), I’m going to tell them you said this.

    I’ve been banging this drum for years, only to be called a nihilist, a libertarian, and just about any other word people learned from HuffPo about allegedly evil philosophical bents.

    But they love you, and now you’ve said it, so they have to get the fuck up off my case about it.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Becky Palapala! Mr. Dust says:

      “It’s possible ‘they’ love me, but more importantly, do you?”

  2. dwoz says:

    An occasional near-death experience makes a good metaphorical pickle.

    It doesn’t necessarily cure the ennui, it may make the sensation of too much/no time worse, but it does boost the overall appreciation level.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Dwoz! Mr. Dust says:

      “True. And costs even less.”

  3. I think Brian is suffering from mania, that’s what wrong with him. Wait until he becomes depressed. It’s not pretty.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Patrick T. Kilgallon! Mr. Dust says:

      “We need a pill for rampant ebullience.”

  4. Henry says:

    this is the worst fucking ask the dust column i’ve ever read.

    • dwoz says:

      no farting and no sex. What was Dust thinking?????

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Henry! Mr. Dust says:

      “Pretending to have actual emotions is the new big thing. I read it in a magazine and decided to try it out. Eh. Next week? Pure bile.”

  5. Gloria says:

    Letter 1: Great response. And I love Becky’s response to your response.

    Letter 2: First, your grandpa sounds amazing. Second, this has finally convinced me that I have to just fucking read The Brothers Karamazov already! And third, I don’t think you lose any credibility if you endure hardships while also complaining. Hardships are hard. You know? Complaining is underrated. It can be like a kiyah in Karate or growling when lifting heavy weights, just less macho maybe.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Gloria! Mr. Dust says:

      “Thank you. He was. And you really should read Bros. K. The amazing thing is, although you may half be dreading it, once you begin you’ll realize it’s actually wonderful and will have a hard time putting it down. Such is the power of one of the greatest books ever written.”

  6. Quenby Moone says:

    Dear Dust,

    I’m impressed that you wrote so intently about ennui without ever using the word “ennui.” And that must be one helluva pickle.

    To get out of the funk inspired by the endless tides of soporific crap oozing out of every electronic doobob and billboard, I stare at the soil. Or pull out power tools. If I can build something or make something grow, the mindless chatter of millions of lonely voices fades away and you can hear the chimes of the universe again, if only for a while.

    Maybe our great-grandparents hung out together; my great-grandfather was an illegal immigrant hiding in the boroughs working in the schmatta business. You never know.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Quenby Moone! Mr. Dust says:

      “Very astute. It’s true, I am not a fan of the etymology of ennui, or its over usage. Schmatta, on the other hand, is wonderful.”

  7. Greg Olear says:

    1) “She said she usually cried at least once each day — not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.” – Brian Andreas

    2) “They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.” -William Shakespeare

    • There’s a line from a Terry Pratchett book where a group of barbarian heroes get told of Alexander of (somewhere not Macedon), who wept because there were no more worlds to conquer.

      And they stand and think about it and finally the leader says ‘So… he was a bit of sissy, then?’

      • fabian says:

        Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Greg Olear! Mr. Dust says:

        “That quote is attributable to many sources. It’s possible that some of them were sissies. As usual, Billy Shakes says it all in 15 words.”

  8. Michael Reed says:

    A few observations:

    Most of what you said I agree with absolutely …a few exceptions:
    You were too easy on US foreign policy – it has almost always been arbitrary, indifferent to the consequences of its actions on the lives of the people in the countries with which it has dealt, and foulest of all – utterly hypocritical to its own citizens…
    What happens to this orb ultimately should be a matter of complete indifference as we need all our concentration to deal with the here-and-now.
    If what passes for civilization continues to exist in a form akin to the present (which is considerably doubtful and not necessarily to be desired), many Grandfathers will relax and gain strength from reading The Brothers Karamazov, as well as the works of many more than a dozen presently thought to be great authors.

    “To being lacerated by how many people are suffering around the world? To being outraged about injustice, cruelty, avarice?…”
    Being lacerated and outraged are all well and good but their opposing reactions can cure boredom and help diminish some of those woes.
    A dear friend of mine who has begun to gain considerable wisdom now that the many rough edges have been somewhat abraded says that all one has to do is: Show Up, and I think that is true. If we show up for each moment and take positive steps to help partially relieve some of the above vices, by our own actions, living entirely within one positive moment at a time; we will also replace boredom with self-actualization.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Michael Reed! Mr. Dust says:

      “It’s wonderful when a dear friend acquires some perspective, isn’t it? They usually take about twenty years of smashing forties against brick walls before they do.”

  9. Oh, Dust, you are tender and tart with the right amount of bite… just like that pickle.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Robin Antalek! Mr. Dust says:

      “Robin Antalek is welcome to visit Castle Dust for Popsicles and sitting in lounge chairs by the moat any time.”

  10. Darian Arky says:

    I dunno. I might have replied, “Stacy, stop putting so much energy into being pretentious.” Or perhaps, “Stacy, try putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. I’ve never actually gotten to the squeezing part, but everything leading up to it is exciting.”

    But, yes, indeed, dropping the atomic bomb is the tried and true indictment, isn’t it? The ying. Or the yang. Or whatever it is. It might have been simpler to go with the observation that humans didn’t just liberate Dachau, but they also built, staffed and operated it.

    So, just for yucks, between pickles and all that, what’s the alternative you’re advocating when you’re not bored by the question? Operation Olympic? A remote demonstration? I don’t want to get all practical and whatnot with the foreign policy thing, but it always comes down to these messy choices that you actually have to, you know, choose. Like the pickles, if you will. Only squishy instead of crisp.

    And that beating Hitler syndrome. Man, I’m with you. Enough already with the whole postwar thing. You hang out on a French beach for a few hours and that’s supposed to be the excuse for all the rest of it? I don’t think so. Don’t even get me started on that Constitution. Bunch of guys in powdered wigs? Puhleez! Now, Live Aid — that’s really something!

    Paying attention to any of it really doesn’t make sense. It’s all beige, right? Be Hitler. Be Madonna. Build the camps. Liberate them. Drop the bomb. Be incinerated. It’s all the same. What’s the point? It’s best to ignore all of life’s little pickles that you can’t eat.

    I’m sure Hitler wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Darian Arky! Mr. Dust says:

      “I can’t help but notice if you remove the Y from Arky, you are left with Ark. Can my wife and I board your craft as the deluge from the forty days and forty nights of your sarcasm overwhelms our humble abode?”

      • Darian Arky says:

        If you exchange the D in Dust for a B, there’s your answer. (Or you could just add the B to Arky.)

  11. jonathan evison says:

    . . . i’m a little worried about you, dust, i had no idea you were given to such existential ennui . . . might i suggest a little rubdown from fabian?

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Jonathan Evison! Mr. Dust says:

      “Jonathan Evison, you always know just what to suggest. It’s true, I’ve been assailed of late with what sniffly Rhinelanders sometimes call Der Blands. I think I’ll head down to the boxing ring I had installed in the basement of Castle Dust many years ago, lay on the bench, and warm up some liniment.”

      • jonathan evison says:

        . . . first, may i suggest that you let fabian do the liniment warming?. . . that it pleases him to serve you, is clearly fabian’s greatest attribute (though i’m crazy for his disarming smile, his eyebrows, and his unerring tact) . . . that said, i would gladly give you a warm liniment rubdown myself, if only to live on the borrowed light of your genius for a few slippery minutes . . . but alas, castle dust is so far away! . . .

  12. Joe Daly says:

    Letter 1: Agree and enjoyed the true empathy that you conveyed. Something about the way you doled out equal measures of sincerity and respect made me read your response twice, deriving an unexpected sense of satisfaction from your reply. Well done.

    Oh, and some of my buds worked in a deli like the one you mentioned. They regularly micturated in the pickle barrel. Not sure if that’s how they roll in your neck of the woods, but well, there’s that.

    Letter 2: Agree.

    • dwoz says:

      why, thank you for that, my dear Joe! Just the image I needed on this fine morning.

      I had a friend back in college that worked in the chemistry lab on the evening shift, running the equipment, cleaning up, sterilizing, etc. One evening he got bored, so he put a sample of Budweiser brand “beer” and a sample of urine through a 5 million dollar spectral analysis apparatus. The report from the two samples was that they were precisely identical, but for the fact that the alcohol component of the beer was replaced by an identical molar mass of formaldehyde in the urine.

      I chose to not draw any conclusions from this experiment, about the results or the methodology itself.

      • fabian says:

        Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Joe Daly! Mr. Dust says:

        “Thank you for reading it a second time, Joe Daly, let alone finding some satisfaction within. Honestly, you can’t ask for more in the cutthroat world of advice.”

  13. Dust,
    You crack me up! What is your advanced age, by the way?

    • fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Jessica Anya Blau! Mr. Dust says:

      “Helmsman Listi would not only be furious, but might well dock my pay were I to answer that question to the year. Suffice it to say I am over 35 and under 60. And twenty-odd years older than Candy.”

  14. Rachel Pollon says:

    Hi Dust. Hi Fabien.

    About to hit the hay. Glad I read this before falling off to sleep. I think I’ll have sweet dreams.

    Possibly about pickles.

    I’ll write again if I need you to help me psychoanalyze it.

    Looking forward to your next,
    Rachel

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Rachel Pollon! Mr. Dust says:

      “I hope it acted more as lavender tea than Robitussin. I am here to analyze any dream you care to share. And the next is live, no need to look forward. Except, of course, that it’s a wise way to navigate the world.”

  15. Erika Rae says:

    And here I thought pickles were just cucumbers soaked in evil.

    Dear Dust,
    You are magic.
    -Me

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Erika Rae! Mr. Dust says:

      “You are much closer to the truth than I, as it is most certainly correct that cucumbers are soaked in evil, just as Baudelaire’s flowers were soaked in Vlasic juice. Thank you for your kind words, Miz Rae. I have hoped most of my life to measure up to Heart’s ‘Magic Man’ and here you have me halfway there.”

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