10:12 AM – Pug-dog asleep on me as I read. Awakening, he stretches his paws into my face. They smell like corn chips. He is the Corn-Chip Chicken.
“Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.” – Anne Lamott, from Bird By Bird Ch. 16, “Broccoli”
The wife and I ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant where a student of mine worked as a server. And although teachers should not have favorite students, Lauren was my favorite that semester. She was smart, super funny, and words flew from her mouth that betrayed her presentation. In other words, she appeared prudish but came off bitchy, and I adored her for it.
So the wife and I ate at Lauren’s restaurant because Lauren gingerly reminded me that I had not accepted any of her “two-damn-thousand invitations” she had extended me. So we went. And LT and I were the only people in the restaurant that afternoon. And at one point Lauren came to the table laughing and said, “Mr. Still, you won’t believe what the guys at the wait-station are saying about you.” And I said, “God can only imagine. What?” And she said, “They’re all like, ‘man, look at that guy with the beard and the tattoos, you know he’s such a bad-ass.’ And I was like, guys, that’s my prof, and he totally is not a bad-ass. He’s the most opposite from a bad-ass you can get. He’s never kicked any ass in his life!” And then we all three laughed and, once again, I adored Lauren for her bitchiness.
The truth is there’s a good chance I’m the most hypocritical person I know. The “bad-ass” tattoos and the beard are just one example. Many of my students have echoed Lauren at the end of the semester: “When I first met you, Mr. Still, and I saw your beard and tats, I was like ‘Whoa! This dude is hardcore!’ but then you ain’t.” And I remind them, “And let that be a lesson to you.”
One Black student told me I was “the Blackest White person” he had ever met. I told him that didn’t make any sense and I felt sorry for him for feeling so desperate to appear relevant to a White man.
But, yes, back to my original point, I am a hypocritical person. This, I believe, is not a fault of mine because I so readily admit it. Here are five examples of paradoxes within my recent nature:
- I’ve been writing a series of emails with my lovely friend, Chadverb, concerning the state of modern American fiction, and yesterday I wrote a scathing diatribe against the literary market’s perverse control on what gets published or read. I also went so far as to proclaim how they belittle us – and our youth – by offering and promoting dumbed down, quickly published knock-offs of real literature, especially that sanctioned by the Oprah Book Club. I said all this yesterday morning, and then last night I went to Barnes-N-Nobles to purchase – with my Barnes-N-Nobles Membership Coupon – Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son, because I heard a neat interview with him on NPR, and we all know NPR is really just a higher-brow Oprah Book Club. Call me Literary Whore.
- I quit drinking alcohol so that I could solemnly break a potential addiction to alcohol, but also to explore greater sleep and dietary patterns. However, I replaced my six pack a day habit with a solid pot-of-straight-black-coffee-a-day habit, which has curbed my morning appetite from eating a solid breakfast and now has fucked up my sleep routine. Call me Glutton of Personal Punishments.
- Another set of emails with my buddies Pepe and Ian has discussed the disgusting trends of mass market production companies defining the shape and delivery modes of modern film and music. We glorified the idyllic notion that to hear really great music – that not deemed great by iTunes or PitchFork or Paste – you had to go to the local pub and rub elbows with neighbors and drink overpriced beer and hope that what hit the stage was better than what the Billboard claimed, and even if it wasn’t, you had the experience outside your house with music as a social entity, not a personalized product consumed behind wailing bugs inside your auditory canals. I pushed this conversation, but then yesterday I found myself overly annoyed with a girl playing her acoustic guitar and singing in a coffeeshop when it was obvious she had not been sanctioned to play her acoustic guitar and sing in that coffeeshop. She was just there, having a little practice, like many of the other patrons with sketchbooks and Moleskins and Beth Moore Bible studies, fine tuning themselves in much quieter ways. Granted, the girl sounded amazing, but I still thought she was either mentally retarded or at hella narcissistic (she was wearing crazy short-shorts) to just whip out the old Yahama and begin a set about the Great I Am. All this while David Crowder warred for her holy affections on the overhead cafe speakers. Call me Bastard.
- I am a fast-talker about supporting local businesses, but last week when given the option to order my Pad Thai from our locally owned Jinn’s Asian Cuisine, I instead went with Pei Wei. Also, this week when I decided I wanted pizza, I did not order from our famous locally owned Antonio’s Pizza, nor did I go to one of the three or four locally owned cafes that made pizza with locally produced and farmed ingredients; instead, I went to Boston’s for the All You Can Eat cheap deal. Call me Wal-Mart.
- During the months of April and May, I woke with fair regularity at 4:30 AM to read and write. This was also a fact I made sure everybody who knew me learned and relearned each time we chatted. This summer, however, I’ve slipped into waking anywhere from 6:45 to 8:50 AM, depending on the previous day’s caffeine intake. Regardless, when people ask me, “Are you still waking early to work?” I say, “Oh yes.” Although it’s not technically a lie – my wake-ups are still early on somebody’s scale – I knowingly allow my compatriots to have the false notion that I am Thomas Merton, awake before the sun and genuflecting on a fresh toadstools’ glimmering dew. Call me Bullshitter.
I am not alone in my hypocrisies, but I do relish these quirks as solely mine. In fact, after I die it will be these sorts of inconsistencies that my grievers will enjoy retelling as they tip PBRs and Reed’s Ginger Beers into the grass, pouring one out for their hamster-gator-bullfighter friend whose greatest heroic acts involved “keeping it real” and “shitting his pants”. As a would-be writer, these are the things to celebrate, to illuminate, to give vocabulary. These are things that make us, that make good literary characters, memorable.