I did a double take after seeing my bedhead in the bathroom mirror the other morning. I must’ve slept hard, because my hair stuck straight up on both sides yet down in the middle, and with my raggedy unshaven face and sideburns, I swear to God I looked like Wolverine (or the dude from Flock of Seagulls–you be the judge).
For one brief shining moment I considered keeping my hair like that, putting on a wife-beater, and going out to kick somebody’s ass. But then I realized it was too cold to go out in a sleeveless undershirt, and whose ass was I going to kick at eight o’clock in the morning anyway? So I settled instead for putting on a pot of coffee and trying to figure out where to go for a haircut.
Truthfully, every once in a while I wake up with incredibly ridiculous hair and seriously contemplate keeping it up like that just to mess with everybody as some kind of pseudo-punk act of defiance–two middle fingers and a hearty “fuck you” to the stuffed shirts who think they have it all figured out, like Sid Vicious did when he “sang” Frank Sinatra’s My Way (which, by the way, happens to be in an Acura commercial now, begging the question, “What in the HELL were they THINKING?” The absolute last thing the Sex Pistols should be identified with is a luxury Japanese sports sedan). The world seems to be short on Sid Vicious-types nowadays, which is probably a good thing considering he was a psychopathic drug addict and a murderer, but I think I could definitely use a little more of that “piss off” attitude. Film producer Brian Grazer proudly sports Sid Vicious hair, and I remember reading an interview with him several years ago in Esquire where he discussed why he wore such an absurd hairstyle:
“I put my hair up like this about eight years ago by accident. My daughter happened to be in the room with me and she went, ‘Hey, I like that.’ I liked it, too, but I also quickly realized that it was a test to the world. People either liked it — thought it was courageous — or else they thought, Who the fuck do you think you are? So I left it up like this to quickly discern the truth about people I meet.”
I’m not in the habit of admiring Hollywood producers, but I’ve gotta say, I respect the hell out of Grazer for that (though it still doesn’t atone for Cowboys and Aliens–I want my eight bucks back, Brian). I wish I had the moxy or the chutzpah to wear my hair like a crazy person and not give a damn what other people thought of me. I used to have that kind of courage and self-assuredness, but that was a long, long time ago.
We’re supposedly living in an age of rampant individualism where letting your freak flag fly is something to be proud of, and yet even the most ardent individualists can be accused of more or less conforming to whatever culture or subculture they identify most with. Hell, many subcultures have even winded their way into the mainstream in some form or fashion. I almost shot my television a while back when I saw one of the kids from One Direction wearing a Ramones t-shirt. How can a manufactured boy band get away with identifying themselves with the Ramones? When did punk turn into Broadway musicals by Green Day and fashion accessories at Hot Topic? And when did everyone suddenly have tattoos? Damn near everyone I see, whether it be on television or in line at Wal-Mart, is covered in tattoos (full sleeves, necks, everywhere). When the hell did this happen? When did counter culture become mainstream? I’m not entirely sure, but I blame MTV. (I blame MTV for a lot of things, come to think of it.)
Despite what you might believe, you must understand that no matter how low you may be feeling or how much you might be hurting, in the grand scheme of things, you don’t have it so bad. There is always going to be someone who is worse off than you are. There will always be someone who is hurting more–suffering more–than you are or ever will. You must put things in perspective if you are to survive. This is essential, as I’m learning firsthand.
So cheer up, because it’s not the end of the world. Not yet, anyway. Just when you think you’re ready to walk the streets wearing a sandwich board declaring “The End is Nigh” in bold red letters, know that there is light somewhere. Whether it be a smile from a gorgeous girl or a kind word from a close friend who cares, there is light somewhere. Look for it. Know it. Embrace it.
There was a distinguished professor, now deceased, at the University of Arkansas by the name of Dr. Leo Van Scyoc (pronounced “Van Syke”). He was a mentor to my parents, and in all likelihood he was the catalyst for my being named “Hotspur” since he was the one who taught Shakespeare to the both of them (his forearms were as big as Popeye’s, as he was notorious for teaching straight from his edition of The Riverside Shakespeare, holding the humongous tome in one arm as he taught). Dr. Van Scyoc was fond of giving the following advice: “One must retain one’s sense of humor.” I’ve found myself heeding that bit of wisdom more and more in recent years, and I think it just might be the single best piece of advice I’ve ever received.
Speaking of laughing, I’ll leave you tonight with a poem from that brilliant dirty old man, Charles Bukowski. I get so pissed sometimes when people discount Bukowski and write him off as a degenerate, because when he wasn’t busy drinking and gambling and whoring and writing poems and stories that served to reinforce his image as a degenerate, he was crafting some of the most eloquent and accessible poetry ever written about the human heart. This is one of those poems.
The Laughing Heart
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
And if you’re not much for readin’ poetry, then feel free to give a listen to it being read by Tom Waits, the patron saint of coolness.
You ever listen to the same song eleven times in a row? Well, I hadn’t until tonight.
Please to enjoy Davina and the Vagabonds’ cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
I swear, I’m bringing this lady to Linus’ pumpkin patch come Halloween, because she fuckin’ means it.
I don’t keep up with professional football much anymore, what with the shenanigans that have dogged the league for the last several years (no pun intended). From Vick’s dog fighting to Favre’s dick pics to Randle’s panty raiding to Hernandez’s murder trial, the NFL looks more like the Jerry Springer Show than a legitimate sports organization. Throw in the recent domestic abuse horseshit (aka the passive-aggressive condoning of violence against women and children) and, well, it’s hard to be a fan nowadays. But I happened to catch the end of the Seahawks/Packers game on Sunday, and I must admit that it was the single most exciting three minutes of football I have ever witnessed. Seattle was dead in the water after having been thoroughly outplayed all game, but after converting a fake field goal for a touchdown late in the third quarter and then scoring 15 points in only 44 seconds within the final minutes of regulation, those scrappy bastards put themselves in a position to win in OT. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I doubt I’ll ever see anything quite like it again–I reckon I was fortunate to have been flipping channels at just the right time. I had a similar experience in 1990, tuning in to HBO just in time to hear, “Down goes Tyson! Down goes Tyson!” as Buster Douglas knocked out the nigh-invulnerable heavyweight champ: “Iron” Mike Tyson. (This was before he went bat-shit crazy and started biting people’s ears off.)
Of course, the post-game interviews were chock-full of sports clichés including “never give up,” which got me thinking about perseverance and the virtue of sticking with something even when all hope is lost. When the odds are stacked against you and defeat seems all but certain, that is your time to rise to the occasion and make the impossible possible–that can be your moment of heroic triumph. But only if you allow it to be. Sometimes it’s far too easy to give up, to simply fold a lousy hand and concede defeat, or to throw in the towel like Roberto Duran did as he was being humiliated by Sugar Ray Leonard in the ring (“No más, no más,” he famously told the referee). When what you’re giving up on doesn’t really matter, if it’s of no consequence, then that’s fine–no harm, no foul, I say. But when you give up on something you truly believe in, something that you feel defines you or is an essential part of who you are or who you aspire to be, then you have effectively given up on yourself and you might as well go ahead and give up on life, too.
(Leonard vs. Duran II, November 25, 1980)
I once had a friend who found herself blindsided by an unfortunate life event, and she was in such shock and disbelief as to how she’d been mistreated that she didn’t know what to do with herself. Full of pain and anguish, her first instinct was to lash out and strike back, but she ended up running headlong into a pattern of self-destructive behavior instead. I remember giving her the following advice: you’ve got to pick yourself up and dust yourself off before you throw a punch. The point being that when you suddenly find yourself sucker-punched full in the mouth and knocked flat on your ass, it’s in your best interest to take a moment to compose yourself before you stand up and take a swing. Otherwise, you’re likely to wind up on your ass again. And now I find myself in the strange position of having to heed my own advice. All I want to do is to jump up and hit life back with everything it has dished out to me, like Ralphie did to the yellow-eyed Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story, bloodying the bully’s face with haymakers and all the while cursing like Yosemite Sam. But I know better than this. I know that if I were to try such a thing, I would only find myself back in a heap on the ground.
In the spirit of perseverance and boxing metaphors, I’ll leave you with a link to the music video for “Ali in the Jungle,” a song by the English rock band The Hours. Just by chance, I stumbled upon this video a few years back whilst drinking and looking for the footage of Muhammad Ali knocking out George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” and I have since adopted it as my aphoristic anthem (“Everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you going to get up? Just how are you going to get up?”). In the song are references to famous instances of men and women persevering in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe this song as my kind of music, it is somewhat catchy and the video is worth watching for the psychedelic art direction alone. Oh, and don’t be afraid to read up on some of the folks mentioned in the lyrics if you’re not familiar with their stories. Learnin’ is fun, dammit.
The next time you find yourself inexorably wallowing in your own self-pity, knock it the fuck off for a moment and take a breather to look around, because there’s beauty to be found in even the most unlikely of places. And no, I don’t mean sunsets–sunsets are by their very nature inherently beautiful, and anyone who can’t find beauty in a good sunset is either blind or completely void of a soul.* Rather, I mean that I got to see this particular sunset today at the library where I work because I took a moment to step out for some fresh air at just the right time. Fayetteville is regularly blessed with amazing sunsets, but had I not been in a place where I didn’t want to be (both emotionally and physically) then I would have completely missed out on this one.
Here’s a closer look:
(Unprocessed snapshots taken from my iPhone — click on photos for full size)
One of our regular special needs patrons at the library was also outside enjoying the vista, and he turned to me and smiled and said, “God’s work.” I smiled back and nodded my head–couldn’t really argue with him there, I reckoned.
*so yes, if you’re wondering, even Ray Charles could have found beauty in a sunset because that cat was FULL of soul
Here’s your learnin’ for the day, kiddos:
“Root, hog, or die” is an early-American expression whose origins lie in pig farming. You see, it used to be common practice for farmers to turn their hogs loose in the woods to forage (or “root”) for their own food, thereby saving the farmer the time and trouble of having to feed and fully care for the animals themselves.
The expression has become a Southern idiom for self-reliance, meaning that you must fend for yourself if you want to survive because no one else can (or will) do it for you. And ain’t that the fuckin’ truth.
I’ve begun this blog because I have recently found myself clinging to this idiom for dear life, and I intend to use this site as a forum to document my journey into (and hopefully out of) the abyss that is the giant gaping hole in my life. I hope to repair my broken heart and renew my sense of purpose as I take up writing again, and I invite you all to come along.
So let’s call them hogs: WOOOOOO, PIG! SOOIE!