Instruments of destruction/ Tools of foul play/ It’s a vile interruption/ Existence drifts away; or “Oh shit, what are we gonna do now!?”Posted: August 8, 2016
On August 10, 1986, I saw Transformers: The Movie. It immediately had an impact, but over the years, judging from its position in pop culture, I think it was a more profound experience than what I remember. Here is my brief recollection.
During the last week of July and the first week of August of 1986, I found myself in Florida. It was a family vacation. I was nine. I was really into certain cartoons, television shows, movies, video games, etc. Now, of course, at this age, most kids are probably into this kind of stuff, but when I say I was really into things, I was REALLY into things. If I’m into something, it’s never casual. I really try to know as much as I can about whatever it may be. This has been by M.O. ever since I can remember. Anyway, enough of this shit.
The trip took us from the Atlantic coast (to some goddamn real estate pyramid scheme thing — more on this later) to Orlando (gee, I wonder why) and, finally, to the Gulf coast. Overall, the trip was memorable. My family is pretty fucked up, but in a good way. I hear so many people say this about their families. Then, after meeting these proclaimed crazy-ass, eccentric families, I’m completely disappointed; they always come across as fairly bland and not funny in the least, much like a family that would be in one of those goddamn fake documentary sitcoms. Lame. People tend to think they are more odd, strange, and fucked up than they really are. It kind of pisses me off. Okay, once again, enough of this shit. Let’s get back on track.
We got two free nights in a hotel if my parents attended some conference about buying real estate and investing in some company. My mom and dad’s combined income was probably around $30,000 per year. They didn’t play the goddamned stock market, and they sure as hell didn’t have enough to buy a fuckin’ condo. It was a total scam anyway. My parents went to the meeting, and we got the two nights in the hotel. They weren’t falling for this shit. The Atlantic side, in my opinion, sucked. I wasn’t feeling it, and moreover, my mind was definitely on other things to come.
The next stop was Orlando. We did the Disney World thing. I remember it as being kind of fun, but I thought the amusement parks we had back in Ohio — Cedar Point and King’s Island — were superior (way better rides). Disney World had far too many cheesy performances from various high school kids across the county. Other than the parents of those involved, no one gave a shit about any of this, and there was way too much of it. I did leave the park with a Randotti skull, so that was something. However, once again, I was preoccupied and was not fully enjoying the moment (fuck, who am I kidding — preoccupied or not, I’ve never been able to be in the moment).
The Gulf side was far better than the Atlantic. The water seemed cleaner. It was less crowded, more relaxed/laid back, and, at least, during the mid ‘80s, seemingly more working class. As a family, it was a better fit for us. We somehow got a good deal renting this hotel room that was much larger than my current apartment. A private beach was just yards away. Long walks admiring aquatic wildlife were taken, elaborate sand structures were built, blue crabs were caught, stingrays were almost stepped on, and my dad’s swimming trunks split in half and flew off into the abyss while on one those high-speed waterslides, leaving him entirely nude at some waterpark near Tampa. I enjoyed this part of the trip more than the other two, but I still couldn’t wait to get back home. Why?
Yes, that’s right. On August 8th, Transformers: The Movie was going to be released. For some reason, I was worried I was not going to be able to see it if we didn’t make it back home by that date (like they didn’t have movie theaters in Florida). I don’t understand why I thought this, but I did. My theory is, up until that point, the only movie theater I ever been to was the Wheelersburg Cinema, so for some sort of psychological comfort or something, I needed to see it there. I kept on reminding both parents that we needed to get back home. They told me not to worry. We were going to be leaving and would be back home on the 9th. In my head, I was all “fuck you, that’s not opening night” but outwardly I was all “then, we are seeing it Sunday, right?” I was assured that Sunday would be the day. I was far more excited to see this film than going to Disney World.
The trip back home was met with all kinds of complications. I-75 near Atlanta was congested and took about two hours to get through. My brother had to piss, but there were no exits for miles; he pissed into a large empty Wendy’s cup, overfilling it and causing a mess. We stayed at a motel in Cleveland, TN that had bloodstains on the sheets, and I think a human turd was found under the bed. The next day there was a three-hour delay just miles into Kentucky from Tennessee. Once returning to Ohio, I went directly to bed. Tomorrow needed to come as soon as possible.
The next morning, my parents, my brother, the neighbor kid, and myself were off to see a matinee. We weren’t a religious family, so Sundays were almost always reserved for going to the theater. Sunday mornings also seemed to be the only time my parents had the same time off of work. Anyway, I can’t recall if this was the one o’clock or three o’clock showing. I’m fairly certain it was the one o’clock screening. Why is this important? It isn’t. Not at all. Fuck it.
My brother and the neighbor kid were not into The Transformers as much as I was. They were casuals and — for the lack of a better term — normal about this kind of shit. Both of them didn’t seem to get into anything with the same fervor that I did. (Looking back, I don’t think they gave a fuck about seeing it at all.) We got our tickets. My parents went to see Top Gun, which had been playing at this theater since May. I swear that Top Gun’s run at the Wheelersburg Cinema may have been a record holder. Our screens were on the opposite sides of the theater; we parted ways.
For the next hour and a half, my mind was blown. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I just saw. It fucked me up good and proper. Death was suddenly in the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t like I never thought about before, but this forced me to think about it. Before I go there, however, I’m going to discuss some other things (it will be brief — I just don’t have the time to write these things like I used to).
The movie took chances that I don’t ever think will happen again for an IP aimed at children. Let’s start with the music; none of it was recognizable. They didn’t use any of the orchestral pieces heard in the television show. Instead, we got a bunch metal songs, two Stan Bush songs, a “Weird Al” song, and a great prog rock score from Vince DiCola. Not what I was expecting. Other than the metal version of the theme song, there wasn’t a single note that was familiar. Pretty bold.
Another thing I noticed was the quality of animation was definitely a step above the show. There were some scenes that really stood out. For example, the opening scene where Unicorn devours the planet. That looked good. Really good. However, it seemed like they were running out of money and time toward the end of the film. Some of that looked bad. Really bad. That said, I’ve always thought the G1 designs were the best. I still do. Also, I miss hand-drawn animation so fuckin’ bad.
The voice performances were also a step above the series, particularly on the Decepticon side. Frank Welker plays Megatron as a genuine threat, a force to be reckoned with. Chris Latta gives us the definitive Starscream. Leonard Nimoy was also very good as Galvatron. These performances were definitely aided by some good writing. I felt that was the film’s secret weapon.
The screenplay was scary good, and I’ll argue this with anyone. Ron Friedman — I believe he currently teaches screenwriting somewhere in California — wrote the script. It’s so tight. Seriously, there’s no filler. It keeps moving at a satisfying pace, hitting all of the story beats with accurate precision. If you want to learn the three-act structure of screenwriting, I think this is one of the best examples (the other being Robocop).
The movie is so bleak for a children’s film. They could have easily kept the old characters alive and simply shifted focus to the new ones, but no, they killed them off — almost all of them. The first death that really hurt was when I saw Wheeljack’s dead body for a second of two. Here was a major character that didn’t even get a death scene. He was just dead. Pretty ballsy. Again, to have death and grieving as a main theme of a children’s film in such an unapologetic way was just crazy.
The Prime/Megatron fight was handled very well. The scene really felt urgent and tense; there was a lot at stake. Having Megatron essentially win the fight by cheating was such a nice touch. It was true to the character. Also, seeing the Deceptions regroup after the fight was also great. Never unified, various loyalties begin to reach their tipping points. When Megatron begs Soundwave not to leave him, that was gold. The subsequent scene as Soundwave carries Megatron’s severely wounded body with Rumble close behind, struggling to carry Megatron’s fusion cannon was quite touching and an animation cel that I would love to own.
The television spots foreshadowed Prime’s death, but I just thought it was marketing. There’s no way they would kill off Prime. Boy, was I fucking wrong? There has been a lot of good articles written about this, so I’m not going to go into it much. Instead of analyzing the scene, I’m going to be blunt and to the point: it fucked me up. I was not alone. Optimus Prime was a father figure for millions of kids (and no, this is not an exaggeration — just perform a Google search on the topic). Ultimately, though, the death of Optimus Prime had some positive effects. It put me in touch with the darker side of existence and helped me prepare and cope with every form of death.
About year and half later, in December of ’87, at age ten, I had a complete breakdown — a little young for such a thing. I can’t say for certain, but I think Transformers: The Movie may have had something to do with it. If it did, I’m all the better for it. It prepared me for the hard realities of things yet to come and shaped my taste in art and pop culture. For example, in ’88, I saw Robocop for the first time, shortly followed by Taxi Driver. The darker the subject matter, the more I liked it. This continued throughout my life. As a teenager, I always thought of myself as a living, breathing Nine Inch Nails’ song (fuck, I still think of myself as this). As an adult, I live in a constant state of disappointment — a disappointment, not only concerning myself, but with the world in general. I don’t read, watch, play, or listen to things to escape real life; instead, I engage in those things hoping to learn something about real life. Even in my fantasy, I prefer a healthy dose of horribly reality. I just can’t escape that.
I suppose the most important thing about the film is that it didn’t sugarcoat things. People die and you have to deal with it. My fictional dad died August 8, 1986. I wasn’t prepared for it. If fucked me up. My real dad died June 4, 1992. I was prepared for it. It fucked me up less. My grandmother (dad’s mom) died on November 29, 1985. She was arrogant, boring, creepy, shitty, bossy, sucky, actually just list every negative adjective in the English language and call it a day. It didn’t fuck me up all. I didn’t give a shit. See, I’m pretty dark, right? But, seriously, that death meant nothing to me. A cartoon robot meant more to me than my own grandmother. If that makes me a terrible human being, I’ll own it.
Galvatron Costume; or It Could Have and Should Have Been Better (I’ll Be Modifying in Prep for Next Year)Posted: November 3, 2013
Part I: Bugs, Blood, and Jack Klugman; or Potentially Dying Can Really Wreck a Person’s T.V. Watchin’ Schedule
The year was 1982. I was five years old. Brood V was emerging from the ground. I was fascinated by this occurrence. It left quite an impression, and even though it only lasted—at most—six weeks, because I truly lacked any knowledge and concept of time, it felt like it lasted for years. I think about it to this day: their tymbals producing a never-ending song that quite possibly caused some of my hearing loss, the sheer sight of what seemed to be hundreds of them visible at any given time, the feeling of having one land on your bare skin, and, upon gazing down to your arm to verify the sensation as being one them, losing yourself in those beautiful, but frightening red eyes. Yes, the cicadas were an event for me. I loved every second of it. Their short visit back in ’82 remains one of my most vivid and cherished childhood memories—one that’s been on a constant loop in my head ever since.
However, while an early and beloved memory, it was not my even close to my first one. My first memory is being rushed to the emergency room in Pink Panther pajamas while presumably bleeding to death from a cut on my head, resulting from an argument with my dad about where I could hang a picture of a rabbit I had drawn (my clever idea was to hang it on the television screen since I knew it would always be seen there … you can see why this was causing problems). While arguing, I got so mad, lost my balance, fell, and sliced my head open on an unusually sharp corner of a normally placed nightstand. The next thing I knew, I was in a speeding car. My brother was in the backseat, crying. My mom was driving, running every stop sign and red light. My dad was holding me in his arms, using a beach towel to put pressure on the wound and was constantly talking to me, making certain I was still conscious. Me, I was profusely bleeding and scared shitless. Like the cicadas, this is also on a constant loop in my head.
What a shitty first memory … it was rather traumatic and probably explains why I can’t stand the sight of blood and become uncomfortable even discussing anything related to it (I have a strange reaction that causes me to bite my wrists whenever the topic comes up). It may also even give an insight into my personality and outlook on life, which predominantly features hopelessness, despair, anxiety, and meaninglessness as its bedrock tenets. (If the first thing you remember is being injured and afraid that you’re going to die, let’s see how you would do.) It was a truly frightening and terrible event, yet I think of this one much more than my wonderfully pleasant and purely magical cicada memory. I believe that we tend to remember the “bad” rather than the “good”; in fact, it’s been proven. For me, however, the worst part of it was not almost dying, but the guilt I felt (and still experience) that the incident made my mom miss an episode of Quincy M.E.; she fuckin’ loved that show.
Part II: Let’s Actually Go Outside, Take Risks, and Live Our Fuckin’ Lives; or I Was a Bad Ass (When I Was Four)
Traumatic, near-death experience in my very early years aside, for the most part, when I was younger, I was fearless and confident that I would not be hurt in any way. I would touch and handle everything I came across, everything I encountered. Anytime I saw an insect, a snake, or a spider, it made it’s into my hands and up to my nose. Yes, my nose. I don’t know why, but I loved to discover what things smelled like. (Lightning bugs and daddy longlegs [harvestmen] smell like fuckin’ butthole, by the way. Really, thinking about their odors is making me gag as I write this. It’s some foul shit.)
I wasn’t alone in my courage. My brother and I used to catch bees with our bare hands, placing them in jars for closer examination. We would throw balls at hornets’ nests and see who would be the last one of us that would run away from the angry swarm. We would hunt for snakes, hoping to stumble across a rattlesnake or a copperhead; we wanted things to be dangerous and exciting.
Sometimes, it got really fucking dangerous and exciting. We used to do shit that I wouldn’t even dream of doing now. After a heavy rain, we would take one of those plastic wading pools (that, after a few days, would always turn into some sort of southern Ohio summer stew, made up of the following ingredients: freshly cut blades of grass, bumble bees, mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, and an occasional garter or ring-necked snake), bring it down to the rain-swollen creek behind our house, and use it to ride the rapids caused by flash flooding. Very dangerous. Very exciting. Very fun.
Another time, while driving home from the grocery store, my brother spotted this breathtaking ice formation that was about four miles (when you’re eight and six years of age, that’s a long distance) west of our house. We went on this long trek only armed with a camera to find and photograph this beautiful ice formation, starting with the icy creek behind our house (that fuckin’ creek got used) and using only other frozen streams we stumbled upon along the way to guide us; we had no knowledge as to how deep the water actually was or if the ice was even safe for travel, but that wouldn’t have stopped us … we didn’t care. We were going to do what we wanted to do. The adventure and risk of the journey were the only things occupying our minds. We had a goal, a destination, a purpose. We encountered many problems along the way, had scary moments, but, fuck man, we felt alive. We had to see this fuckin’ thing before it melted. We did. It was well worth it.
Like all kids, we would play with fire, but I think we were a bit more extreme than the average kids. We took it seriously; it was like a job, one that we really fuckin’ loved. I remember on several occasions sneaking around to obtain a medium Slush Puppie cup full of kerosene or, even better, the highly coveted gasoline (as a kid, having any amount of gasoline was the equivalent of having a million bucks as an adult). One of our experiments with gasoline ended with setting the small grove of pine trees next to our house on fire, almost catching it on fire as well. Mom and dad worked hard putting out that fire. They threatened to get the fire department involved, but my brother and I were very aware that doing so would get them in trouble: “Why the fuck were your kids playing with gasoline?” We knew we were safe, but would have to endure a heated lecture about the dangers of fucking with things that shouldn’t be fucked with (it worked—we didn’t mess gasoline after that). However, matches, knives, power saws, electric drills, fireworks, log splitters, vice grips, kerosene (hey, it’s not gasoline), and various household chemicals were still going to be fucked with … and fucked with often. Basically, our behavior didn’t change.
For instance, there was something supremely invigorating about shooting bottle rockets at each other, which, somehow, became a family tradition for several years every Fourth of July. My brother took it seriously and built this bottle-rocket-launching device that backfired and caught his neon pink, nylon shorts on fire, melting pieces of those shorts onto his skin. He didn’t stop, drop, and roll. Instead, he ran as fast as he could into the house, only making it worse. (I don’t remember how the fire was put out; I’ll have to ask him, but I do remember him soaking in the tub for hours.) You would think going through something like that would put an end to reckless behavior, but, just a couple of weeks later, he mixed some bleach and ammonia together; we had to air the house out for a month. Mom and dad were really pissed about that one, more so than the potential house fire.
Our precarious nature spread throughout our neighborhood, which, since we lived in rural area where houses are yards apart, the “neighborhood” consisted of only one other kid. Without any effort, the three of us would always think of the most potentially deadly way to spend time. It was amazing how many dangerous-ass things there were to do. We would ramp our bikes off of natural formations that led to rocky ravines and, sometimes, places were people would dump garbage (the neighbor kid fucked himself good and proper on this one). We built unsafe ramps out of whatever jagged, sharp, rusty, or rotten materials we could find. After we got bored with that, we would set up a Slip ‘n Slide that emptied out into a creek that was full of garbage and human waste, which resulted in a lot of cuts, busted heads, and strange infections. Man, we were fucked-up, brave little shits.
However, my brother was clearly more of a thrill-seeker than any of us. Yes, all three of us did some stupid shit, but I always felt my brother always turned it up to eleven, took things to the nth degree. One time, he decided to have what he called a “feast” that was composed of only wildlife and other “things” he found in the same garbage and human waste invested creek mentioned above. He would catch crawdads (crayfish), gather up some algae and fungus found alongside the creek bed, and used the refreshing water from this highly polluted creek to wash it all down. To be fair, while he did fry up the crawdads and arranged the meal on a rock that was used as a plate, as if it were for some uppity fine dining establishment, he didn’t actually eat it, but he did drink a toy teacup full of that fucking dirty-ass water. The next day, he was hospitalized with a viral infection that almost killed him.
We lived dangerously back then. Sometimes, I think the reason I never got into drugs or any kind of reckless behavior as an adult or teenager was because I got it out of my system at such a young age. Now, I’m so fucking boring that the biggest thrill for me is trying a new kind of soap or masturbating on my side and not on my back.
Anyway, things have changed. Now, I don’t even pick up things that I should pick up and inspect: laundry, garbage, and old fruit (I just bite into it without thinking). Now, I’m full of fear and doubt … about everything, not just what I’m currently smelling. The sight of a spider leaves me paralyzed. Stinging insects make me leave any room I happen to be occupying with them at the same time. However, this is normal, right? We have to realize that world is mostly a dangerous and cruel place. Most things are out to hurt us or, at least, fuck with us a little. You have to realize that worst thing that could happen is probably what will happen. As you age and gain knowledge, you should become fearful of all kinds of shit and not be so certain about your own opinions, or delusions.
Part III: Shit Ain’t Working Out; or ALF, Keep Watch and Let Me Know if Someone is Coming
Recently, I turned thirty-five. It’s surreal to me to think that I’ve been alive for as long as I have. Like I alluded to earlier, when you don’t understand the concept of how we measure time, it seems non-existent, passing by so slowly that every day seems like an eternity, but, once the concept is understood (which sadly happens far too early for most of us), time, for whatever reason, passes by all too quickly. For example, when Brood V emerged from the ground in 1982, I thought they were around forever. When they emerged in 1999, it was a blur, over in a day.
I can’t believe I’m at the start of being officially middle-aged, part of a new demographic that is no longer as relevant to advertisers or represented much in pop culture, and since we live in such a youth-based, media-saturated, consumer-driven society, my relationship with the outside world and my place in it is starting to fade. In other words, once advertisers decide that you are no longer their target market, you don’t exist; your media representation is reduced to being background characters in shitty sitcoms. The greatest tragedy, however, is not the end of the advertising media inflating your importance to the world and everything in it. Instead, it’s when you start to notice your contemporaries changing their tastes about what they find “cool” or “funny,” basically embracing things that they should, by this time, be media savvy enough to know “suck,” unknowingly or knowingly becoming the same stupid fucks they were criticizing in their late teens to mid-twenties. When people who used to listen to Nine Inch Nails start diggin’ LMFAO, when people who used to be radical in their political beliefs think Obama best represents what passes as “left” in this country, when people who used to be caustic, brutal, and edgy in regards to their humor just over a decade ago laugh out loud while watching How I Met Your Mother, you know something has gone terribly fucking wrong; it’s fuckin’ over. It’s like they have moved backward, not forward.
I don’t get it. I thought that as you go through life and gain all kinds of knowledge on a variety of topics and are faced with harsh realities of just trying to exist, the natural result would to become darker, sharper, smarter, and demand a certain amount of realism and insight in just about everything that you read, watch, and listen to … your entertainment should be just as smart and fucked-up as you are, as the world is. Instead, people seem to have gone soft, have become easily offended, and some even still believe things are going to be okay, reverting to some sort of childlike, idealistic state of thinking (I don’t blame them, but the denial of reality and the desire to always want to escape can’t, in the long run, be a good thing). I think it’s kind of sick and pathological. You should know better. You’re too old to buy into such bullshit. They seem to like things that paint life as one big delusional party of never-ending happiness and not the poverty-striken, hopeless, sad parade that it really is.
Life is fast, expensive, and redundant. Aging, just like everything in life, kind of blows. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was sitting on the toilet, yelling for my mom to come wipe me. However, it’s not necessarily the aging process itself that bothers me. It’s the years I’ve spent believing that I’ve been moving toward something worthwhile only to realize that I’ve been treading water, running in place, and tilting at windmills. I have been paralyzed and have not been able to make any progress. I am stuck with no directions or map to any destinations I actually care to visit. I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of years preparing for something that’s never going to happen. While I know that’s vague, I think you get what I’m trying to say, and many of you probably feel the same way. I thought life was going to be different, maybe even exciting. Instead, for me, life has just been a series of things that I don’t really want to do, but have to do in order to survive in the same life that is just a series of things that I don’t really want to do. It’s a shitty circle of futility. Yeah, once reaching an adult age, you have moments of joy and happiness, but seriously, are they worth it? No … not really. People, all the time, state that these moments are worth it beyond question or debate, but shut up. You’re all lying to yourselves. Years of pain for a few moments of joy. Not cool, man … not cool.
It’s no secret that I’m miserable, but I always wasn’t this way. It started around eighteen or nineteen—that’s when I first started to realize that just about everything I have been told by just about everyone was a complete and total lie. I realized that I wasn’t as smart or talented as I’ve been led to believe. I wasn’t able to be anything I wanted to be as long as worked at it, stayed focused, and believed in myself. That was all bullshit. Geography and economic class play a huge role in determining one’s life. Also, how much are you willing to compromise your values and ethics is another big one. Anyway, the last seventeen years have been spent trying to reconcile the lies of my first eighteen. It hasn’t been easy. It has fucked me up pretty good.
Since this realization, I’ve been in a perpetual state of profound disappointment. I tried to remedy this by focusing my thoughts more on issues pertaining to things other than myself. I started reading a lot of non-fiction about the global economy and politics, which have always been an interest of mine. At first, it was working. My thoughts and energy were focused on other people and global problems that are affecting us all. There’s a lot of horrible shit out there and it’s good to be informed. Quickly, however, I realized that most of us are stuck with the lives that we have. I’m not the only one that was told that I could do anything. Moreover, I realized that this isn’t going to change. The worst of us will always win. Things are set up to keep things structured a certain way, and there’s nothing we can do about it, leaving most of us stuck living lives that we really don’t have much interest in living. This isn’t hyperbole. The (for the lack of a better word and for the sake of being purposely vague) bad people have won. They always have, and they always will.
I think this “profound disappointment” would have been easier to take if I desired a more normal life, but I never wanted any that shit. My biggest problem is that I was very ambitious and really naïve: a fucking terrible combination, a recipe for disaster. Desiring things, situations, careers, and all kinds of other shit and not being able to obtain these “things” creates misery. Now, I know this is nothing new; Buddhism has been around a long time and kind of nails this aspect of existence. Desire is the cause misery and suffering. These desires don’t even have to be lofty in nature either. They can be simple things that are considered basic needs for survival. If you’re hungry and you don’t have any food, you’re going to be pretty fuckin’ miserable. If you desire to have success at something that you struggle with or have no talent in whatsoever, you’re going to be miserable.
Sometimes, I wish that I didn’t have any ambition at all. If I didn’t, I would be a lot happier and my mental health wouldn’t be so shitty. Instead, I had to have unattainable goals and shit. I had to want things. I had to be ambitious. And most damaging, I had to believe things. Belief in anything that exists only as ideas, comfort, and emotions is, in my opinion, fucking dangerous. My problem is that I desired things that were out my reach, means, circumstance, and ability. Knowing that you’re never going to do things that you really want to do and, even after having this realization that they are not attainable, still having a strong desires to achieve such things is a real asshole; therefore, as the title suggests, self-awareness is an asshole. I wish that I could be satisfied with a seemingly normal life. However, none of that traditional shit interests me that much, and I’ve even done some of it.
Now, I don’t think that I am special by any means. Most of us wanted our lives to turn out differently than what they have, and most of us come to these realizations with minimal damage. Also, from my experience, most people seem to be able to accept these disappointments much better than myself. It’s killing me. I feel like every decision I’ve made has been the wrong one, but I don’t think I’ve made any major mistakes. My biggest mistake, which is something that I don’t have any control over (it has always just been there), is my desire for things that I can never have, and my complete lack of interest in what I consider the consolation prizes: a job that pays the bills, but you don’t really dig; a marriage you got into because … well, that’s what you are supposed to do; a family started by denying harsh economic realities because you really wanted babies and shit; and blah blah blah … you get what I’m trying to say. Now, many people see some those aforementioned things as wonderful, life-affirming reasons for existence, but I’ve yet to meet anyone that seems like they are happier or are actually better than before settling into to these situations. If anything, there have been a few people who seem even more and sad and defeated than me after taking these plunges, which is saying something. However, there are other people who actually seem content, happy, and without a care in the world by settling into a traditional life. I’m perplexed by it all. Yes, I make fun of it and shit, but I don’t fault them for such things. If it works for you, it works for you. It’s just that I don’t understand it. It wouldn’t work for me.
Sometimes, I think my problem is that I’m just fucking nuts, but when I really sit down and confront that possibility, I don’t really think I am, not even close. I’m just not wired to for a conventional life. I can’t help it. Anytime I try to be a bit normal, I feel like I’m living a lie. Eventually, the lie just mutates into dread, anxiety, and finally into a rather deep depressive state.
For example, the grind of going to work and coming home is destroying what little bit of hope I had left, and, overall, I even like my job. None of us are really made for this kind of existence. We are creatures of leisure and pleasure; all of us are. Our ancestors spent their days in the shade, eating berries, having sex, and sleeping. This whole “work thing” seems more like the aberration, not our wonderful, natural propensity for laziness. I was always told that when you achieve a certain level of independence that my mood would change, that I would feel better. Currently, I kind of have a decent job (again, I even like it), but I feel fuckin’ worse than I’ve ever felt. On a basic level, my needs are met, but that creates comfort, security, and to a certain extent conformity. I feel like this is it. I’m beginning to fall into these patterns that make my life mundane and boring. I’ve never been this type of person. I’ve never liked schedules or planning. I’ve always kind of hated myself, but lately, I’m really growing to hate myself even more. Really, the person that I am becoming is a real lame-ass. I’m beginning to feel like I could turn into a semi-average white guy. I don’t want that to happen at all. The more normal my life becomes, the more my life falls in compliance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more I think my life sucks. Fuck that noise! I have to fight this, don’t I?
Let’s take a look at Abraham Maslow’s little creation. Let’s see if it makes any sense or is just some bullshit put into writing (kind of like what you’re reading now). I just want to state that this will not be an in-depth analysis by any means. Instead, this is just some basic, primal reactions I had since looking at this thing for the first time since 1995.
The most basic category of this hierarchy is labeled “physical survival needs.” According to Maslow, these include things like water, food, sleep, health, and sex. Sex? Trust me, you can survive without sex. If you don’t count whackin’, I’ve been celibate for most of my life. However, the other things listed I can’ t argue with; of course, they are needed for survival. So, this section is pretty much accurate … not much to say here. Other than including sex, I don’t have any criticisms with this section.
The second category is called “need for safety and security.” This category includes: physical safety and economic security plus more abstract concepts like comfort and peace. Okay, physical safety is a given. Also, in our current economic system, economic security is also a must, but I don’t think many people truly have this. Moreover, most people who believe that they do have it are probably unaware of just how fragile this illusion really is. Losing your job is reality that many of us know all too well, which leads me to the next concepts listed in this category: comfort and peace. These two ideas seem far too abstract and subjective to be included. Again, I have most of these basic needs met, but I don’t feel any comfort or peace. I feel like, at any moment, I could lose my job and be out on the street. This is a very real possibility, meaning unless a person knows that their job is a permanent situation, one they would have until their death, how the fuck could they ever feel any sense of comfort or peace? Also, people may have different concepts of where and what constitutes these emotional states and ideas. I feel that they are not concrete or defined enough to be included, especially in only the second tier; these concepts seem more like top of pyramid kinds of things to me.
“Social needs” is the next category. This is where I think this thing begins to really unravel. Acceptance, group membership, association with a successful team, love, and affection are all listed in this category. My biggest beef with this tier is that they don’t account that some us are lone wolves. I’ve never really wanted to be associated with a successful team. For me, it doesn’t matter if team is successful or not. What matters to me is if I agree with this team’s objectives, goals, politics, and worldview. Success, in this case, is totally irrelevant. More importantly, I don’t think of myself as ever wanting to be on a team proper. If, organically, a group of people come together for something, that’s one thing, but, if something pre-exists as some sort of “official” organization, I’m highly skeptical of it. I’m not saying that all things of this nature are inherently bad. I’m not Scott Walker attacking unions. I’m just wanting anything that I would be a part of to be sincere and earnest … no bullshit. I just want things to authentic. Most people I’ve met will be part of something without fully understanding it, or just because they feel like they have to. Bad idea.
Next, we have the “need for self-esteem.” This includes important projects, recognition of strength, recognition of intelligence, prestige, and status. Okay, this tier just pisses me off. More and more, this thing sounds like it’s part of some sort of corporate conference or self-help seminar. What exactly does it mean by “recognition of strength”? I’ve never desired such a thing. Of course, I’m not strong mentally or physically, but still, I don’t quite get it. Recognition of intelligence? What? As crazy as this sounds, we are at a point where someone’s intelligent is another person’s stupid. Often times, people who are pretty bright are called stupid, and people who are kind of dumb are considered brilliant. If you don’t believe me, take a look at American politics. Also, several times in my life I’ve come out of a movie that I thought was great, had a lot to say and was smart about saying it only to overhear an overwhelming majority of the crowd complain that didn’t understand and thought it was stupid. While I know there are actual ways to measure intelligence (some of which I’m unsure about), this concept of intelligence is too subjective and abstract. However, my biggest problem with this tier is the inclusion of status. Again, I don’t think everyone desire status. I certainly don’t. If anything, I tend to mock those that have it, not out of jealousy either, but rather out of a lack of enlightenment to realize such pursuits are bullshit to the nth degree. The idea of wanting to elevate yourself above others by achieving or buying things is fucking strange. Now, you could make the argument that because I expect people to like the same movies or whatever that I considered smart is hypocrisy; however, I just want all people to be able to think critically and abstractly, which is the opposite of wanting to elevate myself above others. I want everyone to be on relatively the same level in regards to education. Yes, tastes and interests will be diverse, but I truly think things would be better in almost every way and maybe more people would see how fucking dumb it is to desire things like status and prestige. It just divides us. No time for that shit, especially when everything is falling apart.
Finally, the last category is the “need for self-actualization.” Again, it’s moving into more abstract concepts. Challenging projects, opportunities for innovation and creativity, and learning at a high level. Well, I’ll get into this tier after this anecdotal story.
The strangest thing about Maslow’s Hierarchy is that I know people who don’t really have any of these things that seem to have a stronger desire to live, an enthusiasm for life, seem far more hopeful, and, in some cases, way happier than myself. I’ve met homeless people who fall into this category. I like to go on long-ass walks, especially in major metropolitan areas. Of course, when you do this, you run across homeless people. Sometimes, if one approaches me for money, I’ll offer to pay for a meal. A few years ago on the Ohio State campus, I took a homeless guy to McDonald’s, and rather than just buying is meal, giving it to him, and running off, I sat down and ate with him. Why? Well, that’s the kind of motherfucker I am. He was rather chatty, and I was in the mood to listen; we made great dinner partners. He told me about his life, which basically boiled down to this: a very normal guy who suffered from depression and was an alcoholic, but no family or friends, which meant no support system. He lost his job and then his apartment. (Most people will make judgments about his depression and alcoholism being the cause of his homelessness, but hardly anyone will go into the cause as being the outsourcing of jobs overseas for cheaper labor by the capitalist class. So, they can grow even wealthier while this guy is barely making it. Also, if you that think severe depression is nothing, obviously, you have never been severely depressed.) He said that his depression came on as a result of not really having anything and was tired of feeling like nothing is going to change his situation (déjà vu … see, I told you self-awareness is an asshole). I don’t understand what keeps someone like this going. I would have cashed in after a few weeks on the streets. Of course, I knew what was coming. I knew what his answer would be … and then, he said that he knows that it will get better, that ultimately God wouldn’t let him down. Of course, I don’t believe in such things, but what kind of a dick would I have been to fucking grill him over that? I let it slide, and we talked a little more about Columbus, life on the street, and OSU students. It was interesting. We parted ways, and I never saw him again, which is strange because I would roam that section of town all the time. I got to expect certain faces when venturing out for a walk. Who the fuck knows where he is at now? Probably dead.
What I find interesting about this situation is, here is a man who doesn’t really have anything mentioned in Maslow’s Hierarchy, but seemed more “okay” with existing than myself: a person that, according to Maslow, has most of my needs met, yet, comparatively, I’m the more miserable one. He was still optimistic that his situation was going to change. Not once did this homeless man mention suicide; conversely, I fucking think about all the time. Therefore, I don’t know how true Maslow’s Hierarchy really is. It seems very flawed. Also, upon doing some further reading, his research is questionable. He only studied highly successful people, which, if true (Wikipedia was my source), distorts the results, don’t you think?
One thing that I do agree with is at the top of the pyramid: having a desire to engage in challenging projects and opportunities to create is something I long for and want very much. However, let me modify that statement a little bit: having a desire to engage in challenging projects and opportunities to create something that actually has some sort of impact (or is even experienced by more than my family) is something I long for and want very much. For some reason, this is a big deal to me. I don’t know why, or from where this desire comes, but goddamn, it’s a strong desire. Perhaps it’s at the top of this hierarchy because it’s something very few people actually achieve. Is self-actualization even possible? That said, while I think Maslow’s Hierarchy is flawed, I don’t think it is without merit.
Currently, I don’t feel like I have accomplished anything in my life. I am far from being self-actualized. Every day, I feel like I am letting myself down. Something feels off and wrong. I should be doing more. So far, I haven’t done anything I feel that is worthy of doing. With that said, if my life’s goal were to masturbate more than any person in the history of the world, shit, I achieved this the summer before fifth grade. Of course, for whatever reason, I desired more from existence—not really content spillin’ my spermless, pre-pubescent, clear-ass seed on my ALF doll, which was strategically placed near my dong and used to obstruct the view of anyone that were to walk in on me in the event that the lock failed, or, on the rare occasion, I forgot to actually lock the door. Luckily, ALF’s effectiveness was never put to the test, but I had to play it safe; paranoia forced me to be thorough when it came to my second favorite activity (video games first, of course). It was a different time back then. Kids today have the Internet. We really had to search things out. I remember watching The Price is Right, hoping they gave away a hot tub, boat, or some tropical vacation just to get a glimpse of one of Barker’s Beauties in a bikini. After The Price is Right, ESPN an hour of workout shows. BodyShaping (I had a thing for Jennifer Dempster—yes, even over Kiana Tom) was wonderful show for those of us going through puberty. Thanks, ESPN. The show actually did make me a bit more aware of health-related issues. Who the fuck am I kidding? I had no interest whatsoever in fitness or health. This was pre-Internet, so you had to use what you had.
Part IV: Madness; or The High Cost of Living Delusion-free
“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.”
– Sigmund Freud
“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.”
– Eugene O’Neill, The Iceman Cometh
“We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it.”
– Bob Dylan, “Visions of Johanna”
It’s hilarious that we need delusions and lies to make life even bearable. If we gave them up completely, we would go utterly fucking crazy. I have, for whatever reason and not by choice, been living without any delusions for some time now. I have completely lost the ability to lie to myself. And fuck, let me tell you, it’s killing me. Seriously, I feel like I am on the brink of a breakdown or breakthrough … my money is on the breakdown.
Like I mentioned earlier, I started to feel truly miserable in my late teens. This was around the time I became depressed, started having suicidal thoughts, and gave up on my own delusions concerning the world and myself. In other words, I started living in reality. I felt that things were not as they seemed earlier than that, but this is when it really hit. It hit hard, affecting my mental and physical health. My first week of college, I had some sort of mental breakdown and had to withdrawal. It was an explosion of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness that caused me to go limp, lose feeling in my fingers and toes, and throw up constantly (there was also some crying, but not much). It was fucking terrible. Since then, I have only had a handful of these attacks, but when they do happen, it’s some scary shit. It usually happens when my ideal of something is shattered in an extreme way. (It hasn’t happened in years because I have no more ideal left to shatter.) I have spoken with other people about this, but no one seems to truly understand it. Again, most people deal with the disappointment of life much better than me.
A vast majority of people still have their delusions in tact. They have some sort of vice or something that they have deemed important and worth living for in order to get them through life. I don’t have any of those things. I am free of delusions. I don’t believe in anything that isn’t knowable anymore. I have lived in this dark place now for about seventeen years. I’ve gotten used to it, actually. I own my misery. I have, on occasion, tried to change. However, as soon as I try to break out of it, attempt to fight the odds, or take up a project, I realize that it’s just a waste of time, and, even if I achieve whatever I set out to do, nothing will come of it—fuck, I’ll probably even hate it. Yeah, I’m stuck here, but luckily, people with this sort of mindset tend to die early.
Religion is another delusion many people have. It’s an entire system that tells you how you should live, and if you do things correctly, you get rewarded when you die. I’ve always thought this was one truly stupid mass delusion. Nothing about it seems even remotely possible, and I’ve always had a seriously difficult time trying to understand why so people buy into this shit. It really bothers me that people believe thing without proof. Basing your entire existence on something that isn’t real is very, very dangerous. Of course, people argue that there are some positives about it, but I don’t think lying to one’s self in order to feel better is a good way to go through life.
Another thing people use to cope and to keep one’s self in a constant state of delusion (perhaps even enhancing delusions) is alcohol and drug use. I’ve never been a fan of either, never understood their appeal. I’ve always found it rather boring. Even though I kind of hate life, I like to be as lucid and as cognitive as I possibly can be. However, I understand this much more than religion; at least, beer is actually real. Anyway, I tried these things a handful of times, but it’s not for me. I’m just not a drug person.
Now, I suppose that I do engage in some activities that may shield me from the harshness of reality. I do read lot, listen to music, watch movies, and play video games to pass time, but a lot of what I like is just a constant reminder of how bad shit is. Moreover, even when I’m enjoying myself, I realize that the moment will be over while it’s actually taking place—not since childhood, have I ever been able to enjoy or live in the moment. Kind of sucks, but that’s me. Self-awareness is truly an asshole. That said, I am not an anhedonist. There are a few things I enjoy. Also, I laugh all the time, about how fucking terrible everything is.
If I could, I would go back to braving flash floods, throwing balls at hornets’ nests, playing with gasoline, and may even drink some creek water this time around. Back then, I believed that anything was possible and had my entire life ahead of me; now, I know that hardly anything is possible and have about forty more years left to deal with it. Life ends at puberty. That’s when it all starts to suck. If I could (but for whatever reason my mind won’t allow it—I’m so self-aware that I realize when I’m lying to myself [the plus is that it makes lying to other people just as impossible]), I would go back to having all my old delusions, living a life where anything is possible, everything is going to be okay, and summers feel like lifetimes.