I often can’t sleep because of things like this. Thoughts run through my head, or I get a song stuck in there. Not even a whole song, just one fragmented lyric that just runs on a loop. Sometimes, I can’t stop thinking about conversations I had years ago. This is one of those times.
I had an awkward conversation about reading several years ago. Comedians usually tell stories and say it happened “a few days ago” or “recently,” but it really wasn’t, if it really happened at all. If it really happened, it was at least a few years ago and they are just now comfortable enough to talk about it. But I had an awkward conversation about reading several years ago, like, maybe six years ago? Maybe more? Jesus, where does the time go? Anyway, it was an awkward conversation, one of many awkward conversations I have had over the years, and this one was about reading. And truthfully, it was only awkward for a brief moment. I was in a pub on a Tuesday afternoon because I’m an alcoholic, and the pub is usually empty on a Tuesday afternoon, and so, with no one to bother, I was reading a book. And a woman walked over to the bar to get something, and she saw me, and she said, “Well, it’s nice to see someone reading a book rather than looking at their cell phone.” Never mind Kindle or anything, I guess she just liked traditional books, as do I, so we hit it off immediately. We began discussing our favorite reading material. And I said, “I’m currently into Bukowski,” and she gave me a disgusted look and said, “Ugh! You get off watching guys cum on women’s faces?” This caught me a bit off-guard, partially because how the hell did she know that? But mostly because it was an odd thing to interject into a conversation about books. Caught out, I stammered, “Uh… Charles Bukowski? Alcohol-fueled poet and novelist? What the hell are you talking about?” And we laughed, and I learned something that day. In hindsight, I guess I can see how the word “Pulp” on the cover of my book could have been misleading. She said she liked Vonnegut. I also like Kurt Vonnegut, as he was one of the first writers that lit my interest in reading.
Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Robert Anton Wilson… Vonnegut is the author you mostly discuss with your literary college friends at booze-fueled parties off-campus. I got so bad, my speech would slur and I would call him Kurt Bunnyguts. “Kurt Bunnyguts is the greatest living… (because he was living back then. I’m old.) … living author of our time and Breakfast!” Because when I ran out of words when I was drunk, I would just do this weird word-association thing and shout out the word I was trying to connect to whatever it was I had been saying. And people would slowly move away from me at the party, and I would fall asleep on the stairs. That was college. I wasn’t popular. So I read a lot. Because in my mind, I WAS popular, and I had cool friends, like Zaphod Beeblebrox and Gandalf. I like movies, too, or as we in the literary circles call them, “films.” I like going to see films that are based on books that I have read, and then bother my friends with long explanations of what the films got wrong or left out of the story. Never mind that a book or a novel is an all-day, if not several-day, exercise at least, there’s a lot of detail and background and emotional insight that you can’t fit into a film. A film is only two hours, maybe three if you get a really pretentious director. And I would need to fill in the blanks so that my friends could enjoy it on the level that I did. I need to lecture you about why they didn’t just fly the eagles to Mordor. And my explanation will last longer than the movie itself. And you don’t care, but I do, and that’s the important thing here. I need for you to know what I know because the insights are powerful and drive me to stupidity. I knew Dumbledore was gay long before J.K. outed him to the British media! And I’m betting you want to know how I knew that. I like to say I like the classics, but I don’t, really. A lot of them just don’t hold up well. To me, a classic is S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. If I read it when I was a kid, it’s a classic. I’m the same with classic films. I mean, I do enjoy watching old movies. I really just like them for the style, the old-fashioned telephones, the clothes, the mannerisms, the decor in fancy restaurants… because it makes me feel superior to think, “Wow, that was such a long time ago and all those people are dead now! If I showed them my cell phone, it would blow their fedora-wearing, telegram-sending, pie-and-coffee-for-a-dime minds.” I do like the old style of the 1920s to the 1950s. Then in the 1960s shit got weird. Films went color, and all the people got ugly. And dirty and smelly. Seriously, for some reason, everyone I see in movies from the 60s, they look like they would stink. I don’t know why. Women from the 1920s to the 1950s were beautiful, but then in the 1960s… I don’t know, shit just went downhill somehow. And in the 70s, did you ever notice how many men had weird bumps on their faces? Was that something from the Three-Mile Island disaster? People didn’t get pretty again until the 1980s. And then they just kept getting prettier as I kept getting older, and now I’m a creep. I mean, I’m not gonna do a Joe Biden or a Donald Trump on anyone, but I’m still going to notice a girl is pretty, even if she is only twenty years old. I know it’s the #MeToo era. I’m still gonna look. I’m still gonna appreciate. I’m not gonna keep looking, I won’t leer. It’s like they said on that one episode of Seinfeld, “It’s like looking at the sun, you just glimpse, then you look away.” I’ll just go back to reading my book to forget about how old that quick look made me feel. Old and creepy. I used to be young and fun, now I’m old and creepy, and inside, I don’t feel I have changed like that, but I have. And that’s what sucks about getting old. You’ll see. And then you’ll be sorry! Here’s a song about trains to get stuck in your head.
I won’t even talk to girls anymore, because it seems times have changed, and if a woman wants you to bother her, the ball is in her court to bother you first, otherwise leave her alone! I won’t even ask a woman for the time, because if a man asks a woman what time it is, obviously, he’s hitting on her because men only want sex, right? We don’t want the time! We know what time it is. It’s time for sex! At least, that’s the prevailing perception now, thanks to Mr. Grab-em-by-the-pussy president and the dickheads that are like him. Ruining romance for everybody. That’s why I like the forties and fifties, that was a romantic time. And yeah, I know, more men beat their wives back then, and women didn’t have as many freedoms, and everything sucked because it was all black and white and racist, but come on — you can’t tell me it’s really gotten any better today. Look at us, at our society. Sixty years on, and we’re still struggling with these bullshit issues. We’re an embarrassment. Women still get groped, and we elect the gropers to the highest offices, women still don’t get paid as much as their male counterparts… and I don’t like Hillary Clinton, let me make that clear right from the get-go, that bitch is evil. She wears the women’s struggle like a mask, but she’s ruthless and cruel. And that’s just my opinion, I know, but that’s what I see in her. Aside from that, women are still struggling, racism is still a big problem, and they still haven’t told us about the aliens. I mean, come ON. It’s the twenty-first century, and the wealthy have their boots on our necks ever heavier than they did in the dark ages, and that’s where we’re heading, into a new Dark Age. Hell, we’re already there and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon, and soon the earth is just gonna kill us. And good fucking riddance. I’m old and creepy anyway, I may as well drop dead from heat exhaustion and dehydration. What do those rich fucks think they’re gonna do anyway, to escape the hell they have brought to us all? This world is never all good, but it’s never all bad. We have Heaven, and we have Hell, and we have everything in between and it’s all right here, and all of us are trapped in it somewhere. So maybe we should stop pointing fingers at everyone else and start helping whoever is within arm’s reach of where we are, and unite against the common enemy — the goddamn aliens. I’m just kidding, the aliens are like us, some good, some bad, and everything in between. But they aren’t going to help us until we get our shit together.
And what was I talking about? Oh yes, books. Go read a book. Don’t read this crap. In fact, I’m going to stop writing it.