Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cousins Night and the Dangerous Morning Double-Header

The evening of December 23rd, punctured and tired from a lot of couch wrestling atop a minefield of savagely pointy Barbies, ping pong paddles and randomly discarded shoes, we were ready for bed.

Ahead of me, Tom crept through our quiet, darkened bedroom illuminated by an eerie glow. It took me a minute to realize someone had abandoned a lit flashlight under a fort of blankets and mounds of Mardi Gras beads. Nerf gun ammo began static clinging to the bottoms of my feet which is why I noticed the stuffed raccoon under the small pile of silverware. Our bedroom was like a woodland refugee camp after a Fat Tuesday dust up. 

The finger points to a certain set of culprit cousins. All under four feet tall and high on Christmas. That’s right. December 23rd is one of my favorite nights, otherwise known as Cousins Night. The niece and nephews sleep over and we make them wear safety goggles so we can properly shoot them with submachine nerf guns. We also play a little ping pong.

Most parents out there are probably shrugging all jaded and cynical and no big thing right now, but fuck you. You would probably write a blogpost if you happened to be sitting in a Kielbasa joint at 3am in Gramercy and noticed a whole bunch of old frazzle-haired baby dolls coyly strapped onto decorative pine boughs and dangling from the ceiling over the bar where you are surrounded by drunken Germans pounding pints of eisbock and singing at the tops of their lungs. I would also write such a blogpost except I never got around to it.

We’ve hosted two or three Cousins Nights so far and each one has left me in a buoyant spirit that is slightly wrinkled due to exhaustion. Mostly because one of our nephews has slept on an air mattress at the foot of our bed and he has this Christmas habit of giggling at odd intervals the whole night.

Then of course there is the crack-of-dawn celebration. This sunrise event is always the same. Our bedroom door slams open, high-decibel shrieking ensues as well as a thorough pummeling by a flail of skinny little elbows and knees. Luckily I sleep through most of it and wonder where the bruises came from later. Tom, sadly, is a much less skillful sleeper. He gets to get up and play High Card for hours.

Nothing for nothing, but this year I had another excuse for my bedraggled condition. The morning before, i.e. the morning of Cousins Night, I dragged my ass out the door at seven thirty to make a breakfast meeting. As if that weren’t bad enough, the cops pulled me over almost immediately. This was quite taxing even though the cops let me go with a verbal fingerwag not to drive around with a wildly expired registration and no registration card.

It’s dangerous out there before nine AM is all I’m saying. Two days in a row proves it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

One angry mammal thing I put a finger on in 2014.

I was listening to this podcast where James Altucher interviewed Sam Harris. Sam Harris said anger burns off really fast. It’s like Sugar Smacks: you get a short sharp jolt and then it turns into nothing before lunch.

So, says Sam Harris, if you want to stay angry, you have to re-up. How you re-up is to run through the sequence of events that made you angry. Again. And again.

This is probably why they say love and hate are only a whit apart. Because in order to hate, you have to invest a lot of effort. You have to nurture that righteous anger, every day. You have to nurse it and fondle it and rub its belly. Meanwhile, your life slips by.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life"?
- Isadora Duncan

It is so ironic that people who uncompromisingly refuse to get over it for years aren’t winning any fights. They aren't winning anything. By wasting untold hours stewing in their anger, they sacrifice their lives to their nemesis. And that's why I believe that people whose upset has a long tail or a frequent case of the trots really need to find themselves a fucking hobby.

I was reading something about binge donut eaters. It’s easy to become addicted to donuts because donuts squeeze a tiny little drip of dopamine out of brains. Even if donuts turn into flab and everybody knows it and hates themselves for eating donuts, people eat donuts.

I made this up myself but I think it’s possible to get addicted to upset and anger. Maybe upset and anger squirts a little dopamine, I’m no scientist so I wouldn’t know.

But I do know that we humans are sociable mammals. We like to feel a connection with fellow members of our herd. Firing off an angry, upset or sad salvo is a fast way to connect. It forces someone else to fork over a dollop of attention or show the love. And when I say "fast way", I mean fast as in fast food. As in we're fooling ourselves if we think what we've got there is good for us.

Dredging up a spoonful of anger or upset might also spice up what David Foster Wallace called the “actual life routine, day after week after month after year. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides.”

David Foster Wallace committed suicide. Maybe he needed to practice transforming his anger and upset into golden strands of genuinely real human connection. Please note for the record I really have no idea what I'm talking about.