or, my ars poetica.
Foretold is forewarned: You'll probably notice I swore in the title. Just so you know, I'm going to keep doing that. I'll also mention in passing: classism, Bud Light, masturbation, infomercials, and not trying so darned hard.
Proceed with caution.
I want to build a life out of not trying so darned hard.
I want to build a life where when a dear friend, dance partner, and former dry humping accomplice, asks me “What are you up to?” and I can say, “Not much,” and smile, because I'm telling most of the truth. I'm not doing much, and I'm doing everything I feel like doing. And when he follows up with his classic, wonderfully attentive follow-up question, “And how’s that going for you?” I can say “Wonderful. My life is a shithole masterpiece.”
A little background on this –
The other day, I went for a long ass walk around the “block,” which is actually an oblong vaguely dick-shaped oval of rural road that goes down a hill, along a creek, past what my father affectionately and probably regrettably classistly refers to as a “giant shithole he can’t imagine anyone could possibly be sleeping in.”
The thing is, I think most people would agree with him. It’s just that they, or at least my social-justicely-minded friend group, wouldn’t say it. Not out loud. Maybe not even in their own minds. They wouldn’t think it, but they would agree.
Junky VW bug, old style, rusting out in the yard, caddy corner from a trailer with mostly windows on the actual dwelling structure busted out, waterstained white drapes flowing out like entrails. There are piles of demolished brick, more car parts, probably a defunct boat, rusty wire. It’s a classic rural Pennsylvania shithole. It does not aspire to be more than it is. The aforementioned friends might call it "dilapidated," or "a bit run down." Too many syllables for the place. It is simply a shithole. No perfunctory Home Depot garden department potted plants huddled under a mildewed awning. No kitschy seasonal lawn gnomes. No evidence of aesthetic effort of any kind.
This is how I like my writing. Let me tell you about my process: I type exactly what is in my brain, or as close to that as I can stomach without cringing myself into an early grave. Sometimes too much commentary about poop or masturbation or my banal and understandable desire to kiss dear friends on the face and have them pay close attention to me—though only as much as I want and never more than that—until the day I die—Yeah. Some of that swims the moat of my unconscious, and all of a sudden I’ve got to self-censor for The Good of The Order.
Okay, for The Good of My Own Pride. The Order is thinking the exact same shit, they’re just not typing it out loud for all the world to see. The Order, in fact, probably finds revelations of my disorder, comforting.
Honestly, I think most people are living lives that are at least as messy as the shithole by the creek, but most of us put up potted plants and lawn gnomes before people can vote us off the island for being a horrifyingly animate corpse possessed by a human soul.
All of this is to say, I am giving up normalcy for Lent*.
And by Lent, I mean permanently.
*For those who don’t know, Lent is a Christian holiday season of pathetic first-world-problems and self denial that takes place each spring before Easter. People give up chocolate, or ice cream, or booze, or gossip—or they say they’re gonna give up those things but don’t—and it makes some people happier; makes others go through withdrawal, then maybe, hopefully get happier; and for some people it just spices up the parade of mild tragedies that was going to be running through their lives anyways.
You see, I’m making fun of my religion, which is probably going to anger some people, and be too niche for others. But for some – I’m looking at you, Nicholas, Will, and Rachel – it’s going to be a source of mirth. And that third group comprises the majority, though not all, of my intended audience.
This whole collection of assembled paragraphs, is a shithole masterpiece. Good ole' Chuck Bukowski is a shithole masterpiece. I’d like to be and create and get paid to create shithole masterpieces, like him, while having slightly less rage, and no drinking problem, unless we’re talking about seltzer, the shithole masterpiece of the carbonated beverage world.
Does it taste good?
Do I compulsively buy cases of it like some people buy other shithole beverages like Bud Light or Diet Mountain Dew.
What do I have to say for myself?
The anti-corn-syrup lobby got to me and my tastebuds now have Stockholm Syndrome (which coincidentally, was made up).
I mean - does seltzer even know whether it’s water or fruity soda?
It’s its whole own thing,
while also being wildly derivative.
And also like seltzer, once the world of Whole Foods moms finds out about me, they’re going to adopt me as their own. I will be stocked in every fridge in America before you know it.
You see, people scoff at shitholes, but shithole masterpieces, located just a fine property line away—people love that shit.
They love them, because they reflect the stunningly gorgeous mediocrity of their own souls. Messy. Complex. Self-satisfied. Strange. Slipshod.
Shithole masterpieces are the strange roadside attractions that everyone secretly loves, that no one can look away from, or directly at. They're the single digit morning infomercials for knives that can cut through human femurs and workout programs that will turn you into white Beyoncé in a week or less. They’re the scammy carnival museums that cost a little too much. You know what I am talking about – the things that cause scrupulous citizens among us to mutter about the perils of exploiting the stunning beauties of human strangeness for fun and profit—which I’d argue, at this point, is a defining challenge of my life, and perhaps every life.
Consuming shithole masterpieces, in the form of essays and art and other aesthetically arranged bodily secretions, allows some people to feel superior and helps others feel less alone in their oddities and brokenness.
Looping between feelings of superiority, isolation, and belonging is pretty much my whole strategy for piloting the precarious unicycle of my life. So I’m happy to assist others along the path.
Call it self-care.
Call it schadenfreude.
Just read my stuff, and ideally let me know if it helped.
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