Saturday, August 19, 2023

In the Pursuit of. . . .

I have such good intentions. . . and such bad habits.

I have good habits, too.  I eat very well.  I go to bed early and go to the gym when I get up.  I am amiable and try to get along with everyone, even those I don't agree with or like.  But when it comes to drinking water, I'm a failure.  I intend to.  Sometimes, I'll be conscious of doing it. . . for a day or two.  I try to stop drinking alcohol at night and start brewing tea, but that doesn't always happen.  I've read, though, that my morning consumption of coffee counts, so maybe I'm doing better than I thought.  

Last night, my evening cocktail was a New Zealand Sav, one of those citrusy things.  I often take a bottle with me when I dine with my mother.  I thought she liked it.  Nope.  She told me so the other day.  I will switch back to Chardonnays with her.  Because that's how I am.  I accommodate.  

It's not always easy.  There is a fellow at the gym who is known to be "a successful attorney."  We all know what that is code for--he has made too much money.  The fellow, in my opinion, is, in the vernacular of the past, a douche.  He bought a new Porsche 911.  The good one.  If you are anything like me, kids, you'll have to look it up.  But. . . I'm a "dirtbag."  That's vernacular, too, for someone who hasn't made enough money.  And I've never been into cars.  

So when the successful attorney came in, the Big Boys quit exercising and started talking.  Oh, lord, it went on and on and on.  When they were finished talking, they all had to go out and see it.  I didn't go, of course, but it was reported that several of the fellows got erections.  I can't and don't wish to confirm this, so it is just secondhand anecdotal information that shouldn't even be reported.  Still, it makes an unusually satisfying visual.  Were I a cartoonist. . . . 

My town is full of "car enthusiasts."  You can find them on a Thursday or Friday night at one of the Boulevard restaurants and bars where the "attractive Russian women" go.  Code.  I assume they are not all Russian, but the innuendo is clear.  These men are ones who lead with their "success."  They got Bling!

So. . . where am I going with this?  That I am an amiable and considerate man.  I know these fellows and am nice.  I don't like what they like, but that's o.k.  I'm sure it's ditto the other way 'round.  The thing is, though, they give me perspective.  I have too many colleagues and friends who "can't be around them."  Personally, I would never be able to analyze them from afar.  I feel like an anthropologist sometimes spending a year living with "the natives" in order to "understand" their culture by cataloging and categorizing. 

It's just taxonomy.  

It is not set in stone, of course.  Over time, taxonomies change.  I have a degree in zoology, but the taxonomies I learned are no longer valid.  There are more Kingdoms than when I was in school, and this, my unlearned friends, is at the macro level.  More Kingdoms leads to more Phylums, and so on down the line.  

One must be able to adapt.  

But we, as humans, have categorical brains.  I put the successful attorney in the "douche" category, and he puts me in the "dirtbag" pile.  It's just a matter of privileging.  

Last night, I was talking to someone about the current state of education.  She is a college professor who has been asked to change her curriculum so that it aligns with new state guidelines.  She was in a department meeting where they were all told to do so, told that if they did not abide, there would be no support from the college when the shit storm began.  My friend said everyone in the department was dismayed, but they all rolled over like obedient dogs.  Nobody wanted any trouble.  

I'm cataloging these people, too.  

It is common to hear now that it is a waste of money and time to go to college, that the trades are where all the money is.  I am beginning to agree, by and large.  Education has become so watered down by the demands of the state that they might as well put degrees in Cracker Jack boxes.  College isn't so much about becoming an intellectual now as it is becoming a success.  

Woe is me. . . I wanted to be an intellectual.  Books, art, politics. . . you know, the old Bohemian thing.  

Maybe I only succeeded in not becoming a success.  


I read a book review of Richard Ford's new novel today, the 5th in a series of books with the same narrator.  Ford has been considered an important writer since the 1970s.  I liked his early work, but I quit following him long ago.  Still, if I don't enjoy reading him so much now, I still respect the work.  And, of course, the chutzpah, too.  Putting yourself "out there" in writing is like putting a target on your back.  Sooner or later, you're going to get popped.  

After writing brightly about Ford's legacy, the critic ends with this:

“Be Mine” isn’t shoddy, exactly, but it’s the thinnest and least persuasive of the Bascombe novels. The seams in these books have begun to show.

Too many strangers break into unprompted, and sometimes hokey, soliloquies. Ford’s penchant for summing up every other paragraph with a cracker-barrel bromide has begun to grate. A book derived from “Be Mine” called “The Wit and Wisdom of Frank Bascombe” would include throw-pillow slogans like “Fatherhood is a battle in any language” and “It is the thought that counts.”
As I said earlier, taxonomies can be altered.  

Mr. Tree called me a couple nights ago.  He wanted to go to dinner, but I had just eaten.  Still, he wanted to chat.  For reasons both unknown and bewildering to me, he told me that he made close to $600,000 last year.  That is not for a year, really, as he does not work winters.  I think he just wanted me to pay him because his accountant was readying his taxes.  

Mr. Tree is, I would guess, a "successful arborist."  

He never went to college.  

My friend last night was lamenting her lack of "success."  

"But you wanted to be an intellectual."

"There aren't so many intellectuals at the college.  I get better conversations sitting in a bar in New York."

"I think it is because so many of them now want to be a "'success.'  Administrators make much more money.  They'd rather suck up and go along than become a 'dirtbag' revolutionary.  It is maybe just a product of living in this town."

I kidded my mother last night as I often do when I am departing.  

"What are you going to do tonight?" I asked her.  She laughs.  Then I shake my head and say, "Me, too."  

I had thought I might go out for a cocktail and dinner at the bar in one of the local places, but I changed my mind.  When this was a smaller town, I could walk in and get a seat easily.  The barkeep would know me and usually I'd see someone I knew.  Now going to a bar or restaurant here in my little village is like going to Disney World.  Crowded.  Everything is crowded.  People come from everywhere to eat and drink.  With the expensive cars on the street and the high priced drinks, it must feel like "success."  

"We went to the Village last night to that place that just got the Michelin star.  Oh my god.  It was fabulous."

Nodding to a recent post, I just didn't think I was going to get my money's worth.  Selavy.  I'll not shake my head about going home to have a cocktail and dinner on the deck, to read and then to watch something on television.  I'll leave the "attractive Russian women" to the car boys.  

But, you know, I'm generous about things.  It's the way things work, the way things go.  As I reported yesterday (I think), I might quit pursuing happiness and just try to have more fun.  And you know, maybe I should reconsider all this "My Own True Love" bullshit, too.  I'm not looking down my nose at anybody.  Maybe one should pursue pleasure instead of love.  Mr. Tree wants to take me to Cuba, Thailand, Malaysia. . . . 

I am amiable and try to get along.  I have such good intentions and such bad habits.  And I've noticed that taxonomies can be altered.

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