Nine Years and Five Months Later

I feel lost because I do not know where I am going.

Does that even make sense?

The Cheshire Puss would have me walk until I get somewhere. But getting somewhere doesn’t make me less lost.

I could play with this. Mix a little metaphor and philosophy; Conclude with a paradox. Pseudo intellectual bullshit that would please Alice when she is big or small.

Now, I have cornered myself. If I cannot play with the “wherever you go, there you are” then I will have to get real and stop wondering about the wandering. Deal with the where I am instead of avoiding it with a digression about destination.

“I am in wander land.”

Nostalgia Fueled Jealousy

I miss them. Sometimes more than others. Sometimes to the point that I write about it.

It has been 9 months without. It was 45 years with.

I was expecting it to be easier by now. I’ve heard that you never really stop missing them but that you slowly get used to missing them. A new normal. … Not yet.

In February, during a ‘more’ period, I made the mistake of compensating with food. After a week, shirts were tight, trousers were losing buttons and some outfits were staying in the closet. Sparkling water compensated for the compensation. (The word to describe this, as tired as it may be, has been stolen by a tech giant. I have extended my partial boycott of their products to the word. A delightfully irrational reaction.)

A couple of weeks ago, I am seated feeling bloated. I scold myself. My tailored shirts are still tight.

I switch to self-medicating with recreational cannabis which I mix with CBD so that I can tell myself it is under control, so that I am not becoming one with the couch, so that I can feel less of a stoner.

A difficult morning but it is too early for self-medication. I remind myself how hard it has been to get here. I do not want to go through it again. I get into the pep-talk to myself. I almost forget I want to smoke a cigarette.

The song has picked up another level of meaning:

Oh No! I Got it Right.

It was a little more than ten years ago. It was a party night. I had gone to a popular club in San Francisco. I am enjoying myself. I look around. Almost everyone is 20 years younger than me. I did not belong.

Blues are my go to. The music rocks, it can be seedy and dive bars are fun places.

I am looking for a blues bar and I can only find jazz clubs. At the second place I try, my neighbour gives me a flyer for a concert being held in a town a few kilometers to the south of the city.

I am at the bar enjoying a beer before the concert. I look around. There is a lot of grey hair.

Wait Two Hours

Their autocorrect comes with a superpowered phonetics engine. It makes smarter mistakes.

Postal workers have been correcting for phonetic spelling since the beginning of mail. My insurance papers make it to me despite having the address rewritten. Rewritten because not all the names of the less famous make it to the dictionary. Regardless, the inventions of a computer do not faze the post office.

Computers come with so many scapegoats that if you are not in the mood to name something specific, like software, or bad data, or have overused too many of them, you can just say “Computers” with a pregnant pause and your interlocutor will probably make some sort of sympathetic noise.

And now everybody is reminded that they have a computer in their pocket, that cars use more microprocessors than computers and that the internet of things is coming (is here). “Technology … .”

In the late 90’s there was a joke making the rounds after Bill Gates said that the auto industry could learn something from the computer industry’s ability to increase performance and reduce prices. There were various versions of a supposed response from the General Motors CEO saying that if cars were like computers, they would stop suddenly on the highway; you would have to turn them off; check the tires, check the oil and check the fuel; and then restart the car. The glitches transposed … .

When the audio system in my car glitches it sends my onboard computer into a tizzy. Luckily the car still drives but if I want to use the onboard systems I have to park the car for the two hours it takes for the “trip” related measures to reset. … .

Lazy Memories

Zero is an important number. But is it a number? The statement assumes a positive answer to the question. It is an age old technique and I wonder if Plato ever had Socrates rant about it.

I remember once being outraged at a sophisticated example. Technically legal. A case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Trickster wording that would easily trick the eighty percent. Unfortunately the outrage overwhelmed the memory of the example.

My memory has me learning the concept of caveat emptor from the Brady Bunch. One of those episodes with a life lesson for one of the kids. One of the many with a moral. One of the two ideas I think I learned from that show.

The other idea I attribute to the series is the advice to humanize people that intimidate you. Actually, the tip from the show was less abstract. One of the older girls was trying to get her driver’s license but the examiner frightens her and she makes a comic mistake. Stepdad suggests imagining the examiner in his tighty-whities and she gets her license. These days I express the idea as even the Queen shits.

Funnily, I am not intimidated by people in positions of power. My problem with them is that I don’t show them subservience they are used to. I can show them the respect their position requires but I have a hard time hiding my opinion of an idea. Or knowing what they are expecting. Like when the CEO introduced himself and all I had to say was that I knew who he was. He ended up walking away awkwardly. Funny but not career enhancing.

Funnily because I am also very comfortable in other typically intimidating situations like public speaking yet I get very anxious about approaching a stranger. It’s like my extroversion. I am clinically extroverted, getting energized by other people, needing socializing but I can be quite the shy guy. Sometimes, I try to make sense of this. Most of the time I am pedantic about the definitions.

Doing It

I take a picture to make sure that I do not confuse my memories with my imagination. An American 1950’s pickup truck with a California licence plate in the middle of Avignon’s theatre district is surreal enough to be a scene from some art house movie. It reminds me of American Graffiti.

I change my mind. It is a trophy photo. Proof of what I found while I was there.

I’m on my way to see a play and I realize it is cliché. Been there, done that. Avignon is known for two things: its 14th century popes and its arts festival. Then again, if it wasn’t for the oversized theatre scene, chances are that I would have found something else to do.

The title, Elvis’ Kitchen, caught my attention. The blurb advertising sex, food and happiness decided me. Sex sells.

I decide to rebrand my adventure to Went there, did that.

I am still wondering if the truck belongs to a famous actor, or maybe a rock star. I could probably scan the internet to find out if one has been spotted in town. Who else would ship a vintage truck to Europe?

I throw out the star theory. The pickup is missing a paint job and there are signs of recent restoration work. There is a story behind the truck. A story that will probably be told on a motor-themed cable channel.

The theater looks closed but there are other people waiting. One is on the phone. I read the poster.

“Are you waiting for the play?”


“I just called, tonight’s performance is cancelled.”

“Thank you.”

I spend my evening in a taqueria. It’s the first authentic one I’ve seen in France. I feel the effect of the beers when I stand up to go.

“What did you do this weekend?”

Intelligent Multitudes

I once heard someone describe Don Henley as “a complex set of guys.” I was immediately jealous. It’s a description that I would like to hear of me. It is something you would say to excuse being friends with a difficult personality. It is the type of excuse I provide when a stranger starts thinking too well of me.

My line is “I’m a selfish asshole with a nice smile.” Flash a nice smile and they don’t believe me. Later I tell them “you were warned.” I could tell them to ask my exes to counter their disbelief but that would be too nice of me.

All that advertising about the little I care about my reputation and yet I leave the seat up in high traffic toilets so that the next person knows that any drops on the seat are not mine. It is like the smile, it avoids disqualification.

A friend once noticed another message in my disclaimer. She thought I was trying to say I liked self-flagellation. I confessed to enjoying the role of the martyr but that is only one of my characteristics. I think it is the smile that fooled her.

People don’t like dissonance but coat it with F. Scott or Whitman or a smile and all of sudden it is sweet.

It’s All About Hamburg

I am surprised to hear the Beatles referencing their Hamburg days so often. I have always felt that it was Malcolm Gladwell that had escalated the importance of this period in his presentation of the 10,000 hour rule. Now I am watching George, John and Paul regularly remembering lessons and sensations from those days. I wonder what Ringo thinks of their nostalgia for a good old days that he doesn’t share.

I hesitated before watching the Get Back documentary. Mostly because I had followed the hype for 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything and thought it was boomer exploitation (an exercise in motivated reasoning where any link to the year was enough: produced earlier but popular 1971, produced in 1971 but popular later, or even just a live version recorded in 1971). Get Back was getting talked about by the same people.

And then a few more people talked about Get Back. And then I hear observations about each Beatle‘s song writing process. And I have ironing to do.

The title tells you nostalgia is going to play a role. But that is a post hoc realization. There’s mention of pasts recent. But it is in the shadow of those still around that the nostalgia is strongest.

At this point in time, after all the commentary that I read, heard or watched, it is hard to remember where the shadows are been cast from. There have been quotes from the actors saying that the period wasn’t as dark as they remembered it. There are quotes from the producers saying the period wasn’t as dark for the Beatles as it is remembered. There is the selection of material.

And there is Hamburg. I was surprised to learn that it is largest non-capital city in the European Union. Pete Best was their drummer then.

Procrastination Complicated

Is it or isn’t it procrastination? Is it one disguised as the other? And which do I want it to be?

So many questions.

I can recognize the symptoms: the obviously avoiding things that need to be done by doing something else. But these are somethings that need to be done with a degree of urgency and another of importance.

Moving into a new apartment creates many tasks that normally would be done in procrastination. The new sheets need to be washed if I don’t want to sleep on a naked mattress. And the laundry needs to be started early enough so that the bedding is dry in time. This classic procrastination is, this time, not a procrastination. It is a look at the clock that gets the load into the machine.

I have a lot of experience in the procrastination game. I have my techniques to avoid the procrastination. I have techniques to avoid the techniques to avoid procrastination. I have techniques … I usually know which role I am playing in the game (being present is a recognized technique for combating procrastination).

Now I am confused. House cleaning, laundry, organising drawers: These are classic procrastination activities which my claims of experience do not allow me to even use as procrastination devices and they fill my to do list.

My weekly prose post is late.

Aren’t I Clever

I have linked three ideas and I feel clever but I am most proud that I haven’t forgotten the ideas.

It started with my imaginary conversation explaining my donation of the mini cheese grater. I suppose it would be more precise to say that it started with my grating some Ossau-Iraty (a basque sheep’s milk cheese) but, even if I enjoy parentheticals, this is about the cheese grater, not the cheese, nor the spaghetti it was destined for. Actually, the conversation I am having in my head is not even about the cheese grater but about paying it forward.

I am imagining explaining to the owner of the Airbnb that I like leaving apartments better equipped than I found them. It only takes a few euros, less than the price of a coffee, and I get the psychological benefits of paying it forward.

Like all imaginary conversations, it is developing brilliantly. Paying it forward is a concept that I think is not well know in France. I could of course be wrong – when I actually talk to other people, I discover that many a concept is better known than I had imagined. Anyhow, I imagine having to explain it.

A good explanation needs a metaphor, analogy or simile. Looking for one, I remember that gratitude is another behaviour that leads to greater happiness.

The Airbnb owner is now forgotten. I am admiring the virtuous circle I have “discovered.” Paying it forward leads to gratitude on the part of the receiver. Break out the incense! I’m ready to put on my guru hat and preach paying it forward to create gratitude and make the world a happier place.

I am pleased with myself. This doesn’t solve the world’s big problems but it plugs in positive values into the utilitarian equation. Win-win. A little bit more eudaimonia for everyone. My self-satisfaction moves up another level with the addition of utilitarianism in the mix.

I drift off to sleep, pleased that I don’t have to defend my ideas in public. Simple solutions to the world’s problems rarely work well when put to the test because the problems are not as simple as the solution suggests. Besides the rigour required would kill my pleasure and I might discover the idea is less clever than it feels.