Well Thanks For That, But No One Cares

Image result for proust questionnaire vanity fair
vanityfair.com

 

I answered the Proust Questionnaire. Vanity Fair has famous people take it when they’re desperate for material. Seeing as I’m in the same boat, I had myself take it.

If you’re a writer (and I know you are) and you like talking about yourself (and I know you do!) then give it a try too.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A perfect sentence. Preferably I’m the one delivering it.

Failing that, tits will do.

  1. What is your greatest fear?

Never writing something perfect. Which sounds trite. But it ties into my deeper fear of never being seen the way I want to be.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Persistent, creeping pessimism.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Bland conversational predictability, which I also deplore in myself.

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Myself in the near future. I never quite become him, though.

  1. What is your greatest extravagance?

A debaucherous food and beverage intake on par with Emperor Nero’s.

  1. What is your current state of mind?

20% Hopeful, 15% Sorrowful, 65% Drunk.

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Patriotism.

  1. On what occasion do you lie?

Never.

  1. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Well, I look like a really tall mouse.

  1. Which living person do you most despise?

Me, in the recent past. I don’t mean like, me in September 2016 but me always in the past. I’ve always felt that way, always broken down the game film and agonized over everything and thought you could have done that better. I’m self-absorbed, basically.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Awkwardness.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Non-American. American girls are princesses and they live inside apps. That, and they have a grating accent, which to be fair is the same as my own.

But familiarity breeds contempt, and goddamn, if I’m gonna be stuck on this planet until the lights go out, I’m gonna go see what else is at the buffet, ya feel me?

  1. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

The word “hashtag,” as in, I use it verbally. But I’m safe because that is always funny and it will be funny forever.

  1. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I have to get trite again, but it really is creativity. And the development and struggle therein. It’s an unrequited type of arrangement, because I get it right so rarely.

  1. When and where were you happiest?

There were seven weeks in China in the summer of 2007. I was traveling with the funniest people I’ve ever been around. The dynamics and alchemy were a happy accident, and we all came alive. I didn’t stop laughing the whole summer. Life and the world itself was just a dumb little game back then.

Oh, and then a few years later when I discovered beer.

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

I can’t shuffle a deck of cards. Is that a talent?

  1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Joke answer: My hammer toes.

Real answer: I actually would change myself so I’d have more of the same. I’m pretty driven and have fewer friends and experiences than I should because of it. But it’s paid off a little. I just want more drive.

  1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In high school, a friend threw a Starburst at me from the other side of the library and I caught it in my mouth. That’s also my best memory from high school, because I didn’t get laid in high school. Or kissed!

  1. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A penguin.

  1. Where would you most like to live?

Outside America.

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

Well, I’m sort of an international hobo. I have nothing. I rent a place with Winnie-the-Pooh sheets and no AC for a pittance and the motorcycle’s a rental. I can bag up my shit and be on a bus in 20 minutes.

Wait no, I have three tailored suits. They’re my children.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

True loneliness.

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

Does it have to be an occupation I’ve held?

I’m not funny enough to be a comedian but I’d love to have been one. I like listening to podcasts (Joe Rogan Experience, etc.) where they discuss their creative process, slowly building joke after joke until it’s a bit – and it turns out comedy’s similar to writing in a lot of ways. So the answer is: comedian.

Either that or a really sick rapper.

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?

Being the tallest guy you know.

  1. What do you most value in your friends?

Humor.

  1. Who are your favorite writers?

Stephen Hunter and a little Murakami too.

  1. Who is your hero of fiction?

Jesus.

Oooohhhh!!!

#shotsfired

  1. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Jesus. Haha!

Because I feel like a widespread cult won’t form around me until after I die, when news of my death will drive people to my blog.

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

Tom Brady, Bill Burr.* Also Drake.**

*see “comedian,” above

**see “rapper,” above

  1. What are your favorite names?

I really like Chinese and Japanese names. To me they sound exotic and stately. Which I guess is the same thing as a Chinese man marveling at the regality of the name “Bubba Sparxxx.”

But I have a Japanese friend who calls me “Fred-san” and fuck, it sounds badass.

  1. What is it that you most dislike?

Young, attractive people really bother me.

  1. What is your greatest regret?

Any time I’ve lacked empathy while on my conquest for kicks. (I don’t mean sneakers).

  1. How would you like to die?

Painlessly, in the epicenter of a nuclear blast, before the age of 40.

  1. What is your motto?

Make them count (I’m referring to hours).

 

Son of a Bitch

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I should come to terms with my own villainy, that is, if my ego will allow.

“You’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met,” she told me, “but I still like spending time with you.”

(And I’m only like this because women like it. If you women could all get your shit together and, I don’t know, change your wiring and wean yourselves off dark triads, maybe I could be a nice guy and have a nice polite life again.)

But wait, I’ve been there done that – and was it really that great? Does the fact that I don’t miss it mean something? Yes.

***

It gets dark at 6 pm in Vietnam. We met at 6:15 because after dark felt like the right time for that sort of thing, and I drove her up and around the lake. The hidden road that no one knows about, or at least I imagine they don’t. I just like knowing things other people don’t, so I pretend. On one side of it is the monument to where they shot down John McCain; on the other side is a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

She was on the back of the motorcycle and nibbling my shoulder. I felt the engine vibrations jiggling her pale thighs. At stoplights I put my hands on them. We drove and talked because we couldn’t do anything else. She has a boyfriend.

She didn’t tell me until we woke up last weekend, so how was I supposed to know.*

(*This is what I’d like to say. But it’s a lie, I actually knew before.)

You’re a good guy, people have told me.

Well no, I just look like one, only because I’m descended from one or two and wear collars often.

She did tell her boyfriend about the time when it happened, when I had her in my sweat lodge of a bedroom until 3 pm, and he had a bad week. Must have. I tried to conjure up and feel his agony, but I couldn’t replicate it, even though I’ve felt it before.

But even if I’d been able to, I wouldn’t stop trying to see her. Every man proclaims preference for the right thing, right up until he sees how nice the wrong thing is.**

(**I hope that’s true, anyway, so I won’t be the only one.)

This situation is Exhibit A of selective empathy. If my students aren’t doing well, my heart really hurts for them; I see the guts, and the push, and how they’re literally willing themselves onto a higher plane.

But then this other guy, who made himself vulnerable to a woman and surrendered himself into a love story: fuck him, apparently. I’ve let in the animal and the Darwinian sinner with his killer instinct. So I’m actually a bad guy.

I actually do want her, because she’s ultimately his, and the concept of any man in the world being with any woman in the world deeply annoys me. Any man and woman under the age of 40, that is. After 40 you’re dead so who cares.

I want her because she’s funny, and also I want her because I’ve already had her, and it doesn’t count unless you do it twice, because the second time is confirmation that the first wasn’t a mistake. Every conversation we have is fast and graceful. Makes me think of a nice tennis volley. Her friends hate me though, so it’s game over.

***

I would be something like a sad indie movie character, a stumbling hero or a redeemable villain, if the situation were actually as clear-cut as I’m selling it. But I want more than her. My portfolio is diversified – this other girl and I send GIFs to each other all day.

The happiest time is now, while we do this great circling dance, getting ever closer like planes settling ever lower above the runway. The best time is now, when they still mostly exist in my phone and I mostly exist in theirs. She’s 20, she looks like Ke$ha. She’s witty but I can keep up. When we see each other and talk I think of it like chess. Her friends hate me too. They’re babies, and I’m a scary, scarred old beast with a bad rep.

***

At least I keep my mind otherwise engaged.

The book. I don’t tell anyone about it now because I want it keep it in the chamber for when it comes out next year. Surprise, and then watch no one give a fuck. But I’m trying to savor the process, because who knows if I’ll ever get another deal.

I get it, if not. I wouldn’t hire me either.

Endless amounts of work. I interviewed a photographer, and we were talking about local crime. She’d had a vintage film camera stolen.

Did they catch the thief? I asked.

No, she laughed. But I don’t worry about him, because we believe in rules and respect, and no one can break the rules forever.

When I left the coffee shop, there was an origami bird on the seat of my motorcycle. Blank white paper, no note. No note, so I was supposed to infer something from the mere presence of the bird. But I was missing a piece of the puzzle, because I didn’t know who it could have been from.

They probably got the wrong bike. Probably a sweet gesture meant for someone else. A nice little thing someone else should have had, but I got it instead.

Alpha Male, Part II

Image result for patrick bateman
deviantart.com

 

I. They Use It On Horses

Friday night, bad trip on K.

A South African guy proffered two fat Everests of it on the tip of his bike key and I killed them both. Let’s go dance, someone said. I wanted to but it felt like I was a walking paraplegic. My feet felt like nothing, like prosthetics. I couldn’t push myself off the bar. If I’d fallen into a kiddie pool I’d have drowned. I also couldn’t talk. To organize a sentence felt like trying to solve a crossword on shit I’ve never studied. My dick was dead too. I paid 300,000 VND to turn into an unfuckable mannequin. I tried to act like everything about the trip was great and interesting but I was actually furious.

Who invented drugs? We don’t need them. Have you ever been drunk? It’s really great. Why get weirder than that.

The night’s a scratch. Fuck you all, I’m out.

II. Backslide

After the spell broke I went back out and saw the ex at the market. We ignored each other. She was with friends, and I was ashamed because of the Rubicon I’d crossed earlier in the night. Actually that’s not true. I just didn’t want to exchange pleasantries.

I’d seen her the day before. We’d had to team up and play hardball with the realtor of our old place over a lease clause. We lost, and had to pay more. Vietnamese can be slimy weasels when there’s money on the line. I’m saying that as if they’re the only ones who are like that. I know they’re not, because everyone in the world is like that. But I was angry enough that I needed a racist stereotype to process the loss.

When he left we fucked raw on the couch because well, what did you think was going to happen. Did things we never had before. She put on a show. We dove into new levels of filth. It was hotter, because we don’t own each other anymore.

We’re cool now. I love myself and being alone more than anything and anyone. But she’s the one I’d call if I were dying. When she finds a better version of me, I’ll say that that previous line was sarcastic.

III. Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting

Saturday night I put up 700 words on the manuscript and threw on a suit. At the party an Italian kid mixed up a jar of glitter and water and poured it all over my jacket and tie and pocket square. If you’re friends with someone, maybe this is acceptable, maybe. Maybe. But we’d never met before. So this was as acceptable as 9/11.

I tossed my beer in his face, he danced back and threw his vodka in my eyes. Vodka really burns when it hits your eyes. Who knew. I couldn’t see but I broke for him anyway. In movies when something like this happens, everyone opens their mouths and stares. In real life this happens too. I got my right fist ready but his friend got in my way. Laughing about the whole thing. As if what I was doing was just ridiculous and unfounded.

These guys won. That’s the genius of glitter. It’s so silly and twinkly that you can only lose if you retaliate for it. And plus, I can’t fight. I’m from New Hampshire; I’m as white and soft as cream cheese. So I definitely can’t fight two people at once. I let it go, because I had to. Be cool and be the bigger man, said the pussy within, the voice of the guy who can’t fight.

I made a crack about how handsome I looked in glitter. They said something back, but it was funnier than what I said, so I don’t want to write it here. They won.

So I walked over to the pool and listened to my buddy’s fuck story from that morning. Pretended to listen. Stood there pretending to listen for ten minutes. The emotion wasn’t ebbing.

I gotta get another drink, I said, and went back to the bar. Came up on the Italian from his blind spot as he was making a circle of beautiful cosmopolitans laugh. He’s a funny, handsome, popular kid. He gets away with everything. But he’s a foot shorter than me. Be the bigger man, my inner voice said again. Well I am the bigger man.

I was going to sucker punch him in the back of the head but I didn’t think I’d be able to hit hard enough to drop him. Instead I clamped his shoulders. Got a wide stance and launched him with everything I had. I tried to put him in orbit. He was gone. Tripping and stomping and staggering, arms flopping and slapping cups loose as he hit knots of people. He ended up all the way back where I’d just been. Bounced off my buddy, who was still telling his fuck story.

You want a drug, try giving someone a righteous hit. Everything went movie-party quiet again, and what I said was perfect: You were in my way, Luigi.

He charged back. I stood ready to pop him with the right. Never done it before, but this was a good time to start. Then his buddy railroaded in from the side, got a fistful of my tie and another on my throat. Caught me off-balance and jacked me back into the bar. The Cuervo bottles tinkled into each other and I wanted to grab one to lay flat into his temple. I wanted to hit him so hard his brain shot out his other ear like a cyst popping.

I didn’t have time for that because I saw an opening; I grabbed at his neck to get a nice choke on him, but I missed and got only collar, fumbled, tried to shove him back but didn’t have the footing for it. By then the first kid was almost back on me. Then the birthday girl was there, breaking it up, telling me: You ruined my party. I don’t know who the fuck you are, but you’re an asshole, leave my fucking house.

I did ruin her party. I wanted to fight. I wanted to break tables. I wanted to see teeth sprinkled among glass shards. But then again — you don’t go 9/11 on an American and expect a picnic after. I hate Cheney and Rumsfeld and the whole gang. But now I’ve been in their loafers.

The Italian kid was restrained and screaming at me. Too angry to use English. The cool Milano sheen was gone. I winked at him and said: Have a good night, little boy.

I walked out, still in a movie, feeling fifty eyes on my back as I straightened my jacket. I was so glad I’d had the cinematic presence to actually wink. I don’t always get things right. But sometimes I accidentally get them perfect.

Fuck. Wait, no. It actually would have been perfect if I’d winked and said have a good night, little boy in Italian. Wait, no! It would have been 1000% perfect if I’d winked and said have a good night, princess in Italian.

Whatever, life is a first draft. Let it go.

I kickstarted and roared off on the bike, found a dark gap between streetlights, killed a street beer. Drew the phone and got the link on another spot.

IV. Slicker Than Your Average

Occasionally, years of random hobbies and interests culminate in a brief flash of glory. That’s what happened at this next party I rode to.

You might be surprised by this, but being 6’7” and in a tailored suit covered in glitter gets you a lot of attention at a party. It was me and one other guy. And fifteen feminists. And not the green-hair kind. The pretty kind, with shaved armpits.

You want attention from fifteen feminists, try being the visual manifestation of the patriarchy when they’re drunk and have their axes out. I got sniped from all sides with barbs about male privilege, and white male privilege, and white male American privilege. It was Californication-level banter, in both speed and content. It was P90x for the wit. You handle the battle like this: every time someone digs at you, you agree with them, and then amplify it with a better joke. I’ve had fun things happen before, but this was beyond fun. He has an undentable ego, said one girl, when she thought I couldn’t hear.

3:00 am and I was under siege at the dining room table, five of them screaming at me because I said I wasn’t going to vote. And because I also said that Hillary was not the same thing as Jesus. I had an answer for everything. Years of mainlining political and historical trivia paid off fully and absolutely. I have never stood on top of Everest. But I’m pretty sure that proving a woman wrong while making her blush at the same time is better.

The dust settled. One of them had the eye-fuck on point and said: that suit is a very good look on you. I wanted to do it, wanted to begin pre-coital negotiations. But it was politically and strategically impossible. I’d already tagged another girl in the room, a little while back. If I hurt her then she’d stop inviting me to shit like this. You can’t have everything.

What’s the moral of the story. Basically, be a tall handsome college-educated white male. Basically, nothing you can be proud of in 2016. Unless you’re proud on a blog no one reads, which is what I do. I’m really cool.