Not on-brand.

If your question is, “Is it easy to be a trendsetter,” the answer is complicated. It’s not a quick yes, certainly. The question of whether or not it’s rewarding is difficult to answer, too. I don’t usually think of myself as a trendsetter - more a roguish iconoclast - but I have recently come to understand that I’ve had an impact on society I didn’t expect, or necessarily want. This may require a brand-readjustment; including the way I phrased this very sentence. Look, it’s complicated.
I consider a mild disinterest in reading to be a part of my brand. When people think of me, they think of an uncultured boor/frequent candidate for national office. I prefer this. It’s not just that I’m a populist hero for my insistence on being less-well-informed than the next person; it’s also that I rarely sink below people’s expectations for me. This is one of the many things I apparently and unfortunately have in common with Rick Santorum.
So when I heard that this idea - not reading - was catching on, I had hoped it was among cool people, like Brad Pitt or Janelle Monae. But that’s not the case. Recently, The New Yorker ran a piece about the publisher of a new blog for women. The blog is called Bustle, a term the publisher was unfamiliar with until he began hiring interns to be his entire writing staff. That kind of practice is rampant, and a great money-saving technique, especially if you consider your own value as semiliterate publisher greater than the people creating the content you publish. And who wouldn’t? Some of us are not smart enough to become publishers, alas.
In this article, which was very critical of him in that distanced way that is The New Yorker’s house style, this publisher notes that, “Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read. When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it?’” Honestly, I broke out into a sweat.
Had this man read about me? Had my ideas just disseminated through the upper echelons of New York’s bored, wealthy exploiters of writing labor? Could I somehow turn this to my advantage?
Honestly, I doubt it. If even The New Yorker thinks you’re out of touch, you have a real problem. And to be honest, I don’t especially want to be associated with this kind of guy. He seems pretty obnoxious, and I’m already working overtime to distance myself from a certain Pennsylvania politician named R.S.
To make matters somewhat worse, I can’t even describe this as a rebranding. It wasn’t that long ago that Hugo Schwyzer, that beacon of integrity, described cheating on his wife as “off-brand for me [him].” Putting aside for a moment the fact that, if you are a professor who has pathologically slept with students throughout your career, infidelity is almost your ENTIRE brand (with some racism and misogyny thrown in, of course) - maybe describing your personality in terms of your brand is not the cool behavior I was brought up believing it was.
If you, like me, remeber the 90s, you recall how cool it once seemed to be branded. You could be like a race car driver! Or like Times Square! But now it seems that if I describe my “brand” as “confused by the printed word,” I’m going to remind people of these - frankly - copycats, who are winning themselves no fans with their behavior.
So it may be time to move on. This will be a difficult transition, to “change my personality” to “not celebrate ignorance.” I may fail. I will almost certainly fail. But I must try - it’s just not that easy to be a trendsetter, and if it’s not easy, why would I do it?

Not a bad neighbor.
I love my dog. I am aware of the rumors, that I got him to keep away my neighbors, and they are a mischaracterization of my attitude toward my new dog. To be completely candid, what people are saying about me and my dog is offensive to me, and unkind to my dog.
When I was released from the hospital a couple of months ago with two working kidneys, my roommates decided the time was right to get a dog. We adopted Reverend Jim, a basset hound/Australian shepherd mix, and brought him home that day.
Several of our neighbors have dogs, and I’ve often spoken to them while they’re out walking. The neighbors, I mean. Until I had a dog of my own I felt speaking directly to a dog was silly. Now I find myself in the middle of long conversations with Reverend Jim, unable to recall when this started or how to stop it. When my neighbors heard we were getting a dog, they were excited by the prospect of our dogs playing together. I was less so.
Here, I think, is the origin of the nasty rumors. I am on record as having little to no interest in meeting my neighbors. My feeling is that I have enough friends, and I do not need to let people into my life based on physical proximity. Just one of the many lessons we learn from Natasha Lyonne’s character in Slums of Beverly Hills.
When I was a child, we had neighbors on either side of us, who wisely wanted nothing to do with me. I had friends who lived within walking distance and within biking distance and short driving distance. I never needed to borrow any cups of sugar, and nobody sat on their porch commenting on the passersby. When the local paper decided to publish a map of my home county with every gun owner’s house labeled, we were surprised to learn that the man who lived across the street owned a gun. He never mentioned it, when we would occasionally say “Good morning” in the morning. Now that I know this about him, I’m not any more likely to try to get to know him better, unless I need to borrow a gun.
As we were about to leave the animal shelter, one of the employees pulled me aside. “Just so you know, he’s very reactive to dogs.” I didn’t know what he meant by that (allergies?) until I took him for his first walk around our neighborhood. Across the street, a stranger was walking a dog. As soon as Reverend Jim saw the dog he lunged, barking and growling, at it. He is reactive.
We can’t know what caused this. He’s seven years old, which, in human years, would be about the age he would get really interested in golf. In his long life, I cannot know why he hates other dogs, but if dogs relate to one another the way people do, I can kind of understand it.
Now, when I see my neighbors walking their dogs, I cross the street to get away. It’s not that I dislike my neighbors, despite what they may think. They’re probably fine. I don’t care. I’m not interested in hearing more about which Showtime series stars live within two miles of our apartment complex, but that’s not why I’m avoiding them. I’m protecting their dogs from my dog.
We’re trying to make my dog less reactive. It’s difficult, because dogs are notoriously complicated and inscrutable. Anyway, he’s housebroken, which was my biggest concern. I am also housebroken, incidentally. So maybe all of Reverend Jim’s friends are human beings. Maybe my friend is a dog. I love him. But I did not get him just to keep neighbors away from me. For one thing, he was harder to acquire than a gun would be.
Not a man of art.

I have never considered myself to be especially a man of art, so I was already apprehensive when my friends suggested going to an art gallery to look at some art. Why would I want to look at art in a second location when I can be at home, not looking at art? Tanya was part of the planning for this outing, and she sent me a pdf of all the art we’d be looking at at the gallery. I appreciated the gesture, but it made the whole thing make so much less sense. We can look at the art on our computers? Why are we going anywhere?

I had always thought of myself as the kind of person who would get thrown out of an art gallery. For example, I don’t wear long pants much anymore. I live in Southern California, where people dress casually and don’t care if you haven’t shaved too recently. I try not to clear that bar if I can help it. Art galleries are full of hoity-toity art-lover-types, probably wearing casual cravats and sipping wine. I don’t know, I don’t go to art galleries. I did go to an opening once in a comic book store, but I don’t recall what the opening was or even especially what an opening is. I think I bought a zine.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to get thrown out of this art gallery, but I still was. The gallery was in a tiny side-street in Chinatown full of art galleries. I doubt I could find it again if I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, except for vandalism purposes. Incidentally, I wasn’t ejected for vandalism. I wish I had been. That would have been even more exciting than what actually happened. We met up with two friends, Zirwat and Duncan, with whom we’d been planning to spend more time. I suspect it was their fault, actually. That we were there, I mean, not that I got kicked out. They’re both highly educated academic types. When we suggest hanging out, they suggest art galleries. That type.

We wandered around the gallery for a little while, taking in the art. I liked it. Zirwat didn’t. Tanya loved it. Duncan is a bit of a mystery. I had to use the bathroom, because I always have to use the bathroom. I spotted a bathroom, its door ajar, in one of the gallery’s wings. When I finished, I opened the door and saw Zirwat on the other side. She brought a finger to her lips and shushed me. I cannot adequately describe what I thought when I opened the door and was told to be quiet, but “confusion” comes closest. Then the gallery owner walked up to us. He looked like a big hairless phallus with a hideous phallus face, and I’m not just saying that because I hate him now. He informed me in a tone that must have been audible from galleries away that the bathroom was private. He pointed to a sign that read PRIVATE and wasn’t visible when the door was ajar. He thanked me for coming to his gallery (not sincerely, I think), and told me to leave. I waited outside for my friends, who joined me a few minutes later, informing me that they had been told to leave, too, for knowing me.

I wish I had been kicked out for something cool. One piece of art involved packing peanuts. I could have made a snow angel in them. Or I could have set fire to the joint in protest of something artistic. I don’t know what cool art things are. Maybe I could have cussed too loud? But going to the bathroom, in a toilet, is not a cool thing to get kicked out of a gallery for, unless the toilet is actually a found art piece by Marcel Duchamp (could that be the case?). After leaving the gallery, we went to a bar that Duncan knew about. Other than us and the bartender, it was empty. I put three songs on the jukebox for a dollar: Night Moves, Thunder Road, and You Shook Me All Night Long. Now that’s art I can appreciate.

Not a man of music.

I have a friend, named Shaun Grey, who doesn’t like music. He lives in DC, but when he and I lived in the same county, I only ever saw him in the basement of the Giovinco household. My own connection to the Giovincos was pretty sketchy already, and for a period of time, I thought Shaun Grey was related to them. I once asked him what his favorite band was, and he explained:

"I actually have this weird inner ear thing that I can’t hear the difference between tones. It makes music really uninteresting to listen to, but, ironically, it gives me perfect pitch." I was interested, and had followup questions. "No, I’m just kidding. I’m just not that into music, sorry."

It occurred to me recently that I may have a similar affliction. I genuinely can’t get into new music unless I can connect it to an experience, like a movie trailer, or a Bar Mitzvah party. This, according to Nick Hornby (he is, I am told, an author), is the opposite of liking music. In the introduction to his Songbook, he explains that to like a song because you heard it in a movie doesn’t count. The only music appreciation that counts is seeing a band live twenty years ago and then recounting it to your children until they realize how their legs work.

I have been riding shotgun with my friend Tanya lately, and she listens to a lot more top 40 radio than I expected. I don’t like any of the songs. Not because they’re new and I’m old (of course, few songs are as good as Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” both before and after its release), but because I have no context for them.

A few days ago, I put on an album I’d been listening to lately. It wasn’t until Tanya said something that I realized I’d been listening to the album on repeat for hours. While people like Tanya require new music in their lives, I am afraid of hearing something I’m not attached to. It gets even worse than that. A quick perusal of my indicates that yesterday I listened to the same Nina Simone song six times in a row, and on April 20th I listened to a single Against Me! song eight times in a row. This, it occurs to me, is how children process music. It’s why children are so annoying.

This is probably why I love mashups, and in particular those of DJ Earworm. At the end of every year, he creates a single song mashed up from the top 20 singles of the year. In four minutes, I have a touchstone whenever I hear any of those songs on the radio. Is there a version of this for other media? Imagine the time we’d save if every year the best books were all mashed up into a single short story? I wouldn’t read it, but still. At the very least, it might help people get where I’m coming from. Right now, I find it hard to explain. Honestly, I might just claim to have an inner ear thing.

Post script: I listened exclusively to the song “Ashtrays and Heartbreak” while writing this piece. About nine times.

Not a gifted storyteller.

My friends tell me they’re growing tired of hearing about my wounds. Well, the exact thing one said was, “We’re tired of hearing about your wounds.” So there’s a tidal shift. Once upon a time, people gathered into cramped rooms, excited to hear about my latest injury. I once swerved to avoid a car door opening (the car door didn’t hit me) and fell off my bike and messed up my ankle, in Boston. It’s true! People loved that story, probably. But now? What’s happened?

I’ll explain my second-to-most-recent injury, the one that prompted this change. My most recent wound, of course, occurred when I dropped a fork onto my foot at a Game of Thrones watching party. I don’t watch the show, but everyone I live with does, and so do (apparently) 15 of our closest friends. By the time the show started, I was more party and less Game of Thrones watching, so I didn’t notice that when I dropped a fork onto my toe, I started bleeding. My toe still hurts a little, but it’s mostly fine, I think.

Around three days earlier than that, I returned from a trip up to Palo Alto, where I have family. We were celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover and I brought, among other things, my shaving supplies. When I returned to Los Angeles, where I live, I reached into my bag to grab a pack of gum. A pack of gum! What could be more innocuous? What I didn’t realize is that a blade had slipped out of my blade-containing-device and was free-floating in my bag. The way I realized this was that when I reached my hand into my bag, I pulled it out and my right index finger was bloody and in pain. This was my first clue. I had to very carefully remove the blade from my bag to avoid further injury, and was terrified to reach in again even though I knew there were no more dangers in that bag (my gum is sugar-free). I don’t know that I’ll ever comfortably reach into that bag again.

I put some Neosporin on the wound and wrapped it in band-aids and rejoined society. I was continuing to contribute to the world as much as any person possibly could - I did some dishes and put on a record - and casually mentioned that when I put pressure on my wound, it kept bleeding. That’s when my friend Beckers lashed out at me. “We’re tired of hearing about your wounds! You never take care of them correctly and you’re always surprised when they take forever to heal! Enough! Just treat them!”

Needless to say, I was shocked. I know all my friends consider me a weaver of great narrative tapestries, and that’s something I take a great deal of pride in. There are those who call me the Bard of White Plains, NY (my home city). Probably. I haven’t heard this name bandied around or anything, but I am pretty sure people talk behind my back a lot, and I’m pretty sure it’s all positive. But this idea, that the tales of my wounds are getting tiresome? What else about me is getting tiresome?

So I’m going to start opening myself to suggestion. I’ve started asking my friends what stories they’d like to hear more of. I can tell them stories about times I’ve ridden my bike successfully, or reached into bags without injury, or held a fork in my hand for an entire meal. I’m asking repeatedly for feedback. People are starting to roll their eyes. Uh oh.

Not ashamed.

I confessed something to a close friend last night and she was appalled. Her specific wording was, “Does the shame cause a burning sensation?” When I told her I wasn’t ashamed, she shouted, “You should be, though! I will not stand idly by and let you succumb to self-destruction.” Well, we’re not that close. But to avoid surprising the rest of you in the future, I figure I might as well just explain this whole thing and hopefully we can move past it. I mean, I’m genuinely not embarrassed. But I wouldn’t say I’m proud.

I love compilation videos of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Love is actually not a strong enough word. I laugh harder at these videos than at anything, ever. There are books, movies, television shows, and plays I have found hilarious. But I have never laughed-until-I-cried so hard that I had to pause something to breathe. But I regularly do this while watching AFV (what we all call it, right?).

A little background: I cannot stand the show as it airs on television. It’s too much filler. What we want is the videos. The commentary, too, is completely insipid and asinine. The jokes essentially break down as “[“funny” voice] I hope [the thing that’s about to happen] doesn’t happen!” [thing happens] [laughter] We don’t need this. We know these videos are hilarious. That’s why the best form of these videos is the compilations made by a mysterious, possibly European man named Cryptic999.

A few years ago, my friend Miles and I had some time on our hands and access to youtube. I don’t recall whose idea it was, but one of us decided to search for “gymnastics disasters.” What we found was so much greater. Cryptic999, who changes his username once every few months because it seems that what he does violates some kind of copyright law, posts compilations of between 10-20 minutes of AFV clips - sometimes grouped thematically, sometimes not. They open with his logo and theme song (yes, really), then it gets straight into the videos. He finishes every video with an inspirational quote. It’s a whole experience. But one of the best things is that the clips are taken from Funniest Home Video shows from all over the world. What this means in practice is that the same batch of billions of videos shot in the United States between 1988-1993 are dubbed over into one language and subtitled with another. But the are all audibly American English speakers. And they all appear to have been filmed during the run of Saved By The Bell.

None of this quite goes to explain what it is I like so much about the videos themselves. And frankly, I don’t understand why more people don’t see this. These videos play out with all the essential elements of great storytelling - they follow Aristotle’s model, probably. These videos all begin with an act of unthinkable hubris: “I am going to jump my skateboard over this cat,” or “This branch will support my weight,” or “I can smash someone’s face into a cake and the table will not collapse.” As my barfly attorney, Dr. Joel S. Sucks, pointed out the other night when he found me watching Cryptic999 videos at 1a.m., “Even in a best case scenario, all of these videos would end up with tragedy. This guy’s bike ends up in a pool no matter what.” And so, from the outset, all the wheels are in motion. We see the tools necessary to this drama, and it is merely a matter of watching them elegantly click into place, until a child has fallen onto its butt. It’s beautiful comedy that works perfectly, and just makes sense.

Here are some things I have learned from watching Cryptic999 videos:

  • Pinatas are always dangerous. Do not use pinatas. Someone always gets injured.
  • Children are terrible at basic tasks, like walking or staying awake for an entire meal.
  • Cats and dogs have poor understanding of windows.
  • Trampolines are a mistake. Don’t.

Although, I suppose there’s a case to be made for making the same mistakes we see made in the Cryptic999 videos. Without people to make these mistakes, what would we have to enjoy? Nothing but Moliere, and Arrested Development, and Richard Pryor. Funny. But not THAT funny.

Not intimidating.

I’m 6’2”, okay? That’s tall. I mean, it’s not NBA tall, but for regular humans, it’s pretty tall. I bump my head on door frames a lot. It’s a height thing, okay? I’m also not slender. I’m a big person. I stink at hide-and-seek when I’m hiding. I’m also bad at seeking, but that’s not related to my size. I also have a pretty thick mustache. I’m saying I can be a little intimidating.

It’s true that I worked once as a bouncer. Well, maybe not exactly a bouncer. I worked at a movie theater that, after 4pm, was 21 and over. This was so they could serve drinks in the theater. I know this is stupid. I worked there. But someone needed to be at the door, checking ID. This was the worst job in the theater, and I often had it, possibly because of my unpopularity with the management (I created an aphorism, “Minimum work for minimum wage” that spread around the rest of the staff). Once or twice I had to inform some teens interested in seeing an independent movie that they could not get into the theater. I never had to physically move anyone, but I think my presence at the door let people know I could move them if I had to. I was a bouncer, okay?

So I sometimes think of myself as pretty tough. But apparently I’m the only one. A friend of mine mentioned her plans to work for a union, and I idly suggested that I would make for a good union thug. The two other people in the room - Belle and Tanya - glanced in my direction and immediately started cracking up. What gives?

I am not a survivalist or someone who is paranoid about a zombie apocalypse, which puts me in a minority among my friends. Rarely has a week gone by without a discussion of who would be tasked with what when the power’s out. I was at my friend’s apartment the other night - Monica, herself a union thug - and the conversation turned to zombies. Monica confessed that she has given this a lot of thought, and looked at me nervously. I asked her what she saw me doing in case of emergency, and she collected herself before saying, “If zombies took the streets, I would offer to kill you so you wouldn’t have to deal with what comes next.” The other THREE people in the room nodded in agreement. Does everyone agree with this?

It’s true that Belle once threatened to destroy my phone if I ever get drafted, out of concern that I would check in on Foursquare as we flee the country. I can see how social media could make me a liability. But surely people know that I can rise to a challenge, right? I once impressed a high school gym teacher by my decisiveness during a team-building exercise. Okay?

My barfly attorney, Dr. Joel S. Sucks, took a very pragmatic view of it. “You have no useful skills and you’re terrified of violence. For the rest of us, the choice is either waste resources protecting you only to eventually see you perish anyway, or let you pass with a little dignity.” Everyone solemnly nodded. Are they talking about this when I’m not around? Do they have a Google Doc spreadsheet for whose job it is to distract me while someone puts a sympathetic cyanide capsule in my breakfast cereal? Whatever. I bet I could take them. I’m pretty big. I mean, not huge. But 6’2”. That’s not nothing, okay?

Not poaching eggs correctly.

I have been informed that I probably poached eggs incorrectly. As you can imagine, this was quite the blow, and I’m not quite sure how to recover. The eggs in question were poached by me about six years ago.Tanya, my friend who doubts their correctness, was not present. She didn’t even know me then. What does she know about my poached eggs? What do I have to prove?

During the brief period in my life when my adulthood overlapped with my living in White Plains, NY (Westchester’s County Seat!), my friends and I spent a lot of time going to diners. Westchester, at the time, had lots of diners, and we had a lot of time to explore their menus. My old friend Bobby discovered that the Coach Diner in White Plains could serve him a main course of french fries with a hot dog on the side. At the Mirage Diner in New Rochelle, my friend Mordecai always ordered the same thing: a tuna melt with American cheese and a tomato under the cheese, with the cheese melted over the tomato. He was very particular. I never got quite so picky, but I did discover that I loved Eggs Florentine almost anywhere they were made. For those not in the know, Eggs Florentine are Eggs Benedict but vegetarian. I don’t recall what they use in the place of bacon. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered this. I was a vegetarian at the time. I’m a vegan now. This information will be important in a moment.

At some point I decided I couldn’t be bothered to leave my home to get Eggs Florentine every time I wanted them. For one thing, I was rewatching one of the six Thin Man movies daily. This was a weird point in my life. So I looked up recipes online for Eggs Florentine, including Hollandaise sauce, and set to work learning how to make them. Once I had the recipes somewhat down, I invited five friends over for a dinner of Eggs Florentine. It was a very fancy dinner party. I invited a professional chef whom I happened to know personally.

The high point came right before dinner, while I was still preparing. My friends came into the kitchen and were genuinely impressed by how well I was poaching eggs. “Poaching eggs is very difficult,” the professional chef noted. I had no idea it was supposed to be difficult. I just looked up a recipe online. Now, as an older person, I am terrified of all recipes because I assume they will be very difficult. But then, in my salad days, I would try anything. Except for salad, which I never ate.

The dinner was a big success, although the two couples I invited didn’t last. I don’t think this can be blamed on my eggs, honestly. But I held this night in my mind as one of my great culinary successes, along with the time I learned how to make grilled cheese, and the time I made a pasta for a shiva visit (my grandparents are STILL hearing from relatives about how well-liked my pasta was).

I became a vegan about a year or two ago, and eggs are not really a part of my life. I don’t eat food that contains egg, and I don’t cook with eggs. But the other day, I was talking to my friend Tanya about poaching eggs, and I casually mentioned that I was fairly known for my poached eggs. Tanya looked at me, and said, “Poaching eggs is very difficult.” I shrugged. “Not for me, I don’t know. I could do it.” She chose her words carefully. “I mean, it’s very difficult to do correctly.”

I have no rebuttal to this. I don’t remember enough by what process I poached eggs. I could not describe it to Tanya to get her approval. And I had no plans to poach any eggs in the future, ever, so my skill was to remain undisputed. Until this moment, apparently. Tanya pressed on: “Did you do the whirlpool thing?” I didn’t know what she meant, so I nodded my head yes. Tanya didn’t believe me. Are there other foods I can poach? I might have something to prove.

Not metaphorical.

I’d like to share something with you that not many people know. This is something about me that began in my high school days and has carried through, but I haven’t found cause to discuss it much since then. This issue has been an albatross around my oak tree neck as I trudge through the deep mud of my life. I am referring to my distaste for metaphors. It seems so fitting that a big metaphor would be entering my life of late, a killer stalking me through the London streets.

I was in an English class in high school reading The Great Gatsby. It’s possible you don’t recall this novel and have not yet seen the forthcoming movie adaptation. In brief: The Great Gatsby is a novel about a man named Gatsby who moves next door to a billboard with two big eyes on it that flash with green neon lights all night, keeping him awake. With the help of his old high school girlfriend, her new husband, and a man named Nick Carowow, they murder the mechanic whose shop the billboard advertises on the eve of December 31, 1929. It has been some time since I read this novel, but its story has resonated with me since. My English teacher, a terrific woman whose last name included two verbs, encouraged us to explore the meaning of the green neon eyes, and of Nick Carowow’s obsession with boats beginning in the book’s last paragraph. I was frustrated by this line of inquiry, and wanted to spend more time with the story itself. So I declared war on the metaphor. Words were my weapons. Any time our teacher attempted to get us to understand one concrete noun as another, I’d turn the classroom into a foxhole where people were either inside with me or getting attacked by me. As it turned out, I was lonely in the foxhole. I was a terribly lonely fox.

I got to college and mostly avoided English classes (also math and science and history and so on) and found that most of the people I knew had no interest in discussing metaphors. In that way, college was an idyllic bicycle ride. I am now several years out of college, and have had a challenging couple of months (never you mind why). It happens. But the other day, something came up that reintroduced the metaphor to my life, allowing it to once more rear its ugly head.

I live in Los Angeles, where it rains infrequently. The sidewalks, it seems, were not designed for rain, so when it has rained, they are very slippery, especially when I wear the pair of flip-flop sandals I found in my apartment about two years ago and began wearing when nobody lay claim to them. It took me a while to get them to fit, but now I can wear them comfortably for up to a half hour at a time. Except when it has rained, in which case I nearly always slip and fall on the sidewalk. There are those in my life who have strongly recommended that I wear different shoes when it’s rained. I have taken this under advisement.

In any event, I was on my way to the general store to pick up some sweet iced tea. I stepped delicately the entire way there, but let my guard down as  I was about to enter the store, when I slipped and scraped up my elbow something awful. I purchase the sweet iced tea, headed home, and treated my wound. That was about a week ago, and the wound has not really healed in any meaningful sense. It was only yesterday that I began to think of the wound as relating to my challenging couple of months. This wound existed, and seemed to be better one day and worse the next. Was my body giving me a physical metaphor for my attitude? My roommates suggest this wound’s idiosyncratic healing process is less indicative of its representing something and more indicative of my cavalier approach to cleaning and dressing the wound regularly. They believed in the metaphor. It eluded me then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow my wound will heal faster, and I will stretch my arms out farther… And one fine morning—

So I walk on, flip flops to the pavement, borne back ceaselessly into high school.

Not fun.

I struggle to recall what Belle and my barfly attorney, Dr. Joel S. Sucks, were doing when I walked in, but I suspect they were watching an action movie. I love a few action movies (I liked Premium Rush, for example, but largely because it was bicycle vs. car and working person vs. racist cop), but in general it’s not my favorite genre, and I have been known to fall asleep during some action sequences in movies. I’d like to confess here that I’ve never actually seen the entirety of The Incredibles for this reason. But in any event, I must have expressed a lack of interest in the movie, which caused Dr. Sucks to observe, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot that Harry hates fun.” Do I?

It’s true that I told Dr. Sucks and Belle that I was looking forward to watching West of Memphis, because it’s a sad story with a sad ending. I did insist that I hate documentaries with happy endings, like Man on Wire. And movies with happy endings, like The Incredibles (probably).

They listed other things about me that indicate my apparent antipathy toward fun. For example, I hate bars. I can’t deny that. I do hate bars. I can get drinks at a convenience store and drink them while I watch 70’s car chase movies (always an exception to my dislike of action movies) in the comfort of my own home. Why on earth would I prefer to go to a second location, spend four times on drinks what they cost at convenience stores, and be forced to listen to loud music and look at sports on TV? I presume that’s what happens in bars. I don’t really go to them.

I also like getting up very early in the morning for a bike ride or a hike. My friends are always happy to go on a hike or a bike ride, they say, but they never want to wake up at 6 am to do it. I had no idea people didn’t find this fun. I just thought they kept accidentally oversleeping. But the joke’s on them: they’ll never get to feel it get slowly warmer as you climb further into the Hollywood hills. It can get up to the high fifties by sunrise!

In any event, I’d never considered the idea that I hate fun, but it’s sticking. Belle, Dr. Sucks, and all our friends have begun writing off any of my peccadilloes with, “Oh, don’t worry about it; Harry hates fun.” When I refused to go out at 10pm to buy a friend Oreos, it was because I hate fun. When my friends wanted to watch The Avengers, I took the opportunity to run some errands. And I chose bread and soup for most of my meals this week. Do I need to change?

What would it look like for me to enjoy fun? What are things that people enjoy fun do? Do I have to watch action movies in bars? Hike at mid-day? Buy my friend Oreos? That might not be worth it. I’d honestly rather re-watch The Queen of Versailles. Everyone’s welcome to join me, as long as the don’t try to enjoy themselves.