The Bohemian Experiment

Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The Folly of Certitude and Other Tales

Posted by beckert10 on July 3, 2010

(This piece was written for The Nervous Breakdown)

As the U.S. soccer team desperately played for an equalizer in the waning moments of extra time against Ghana, I thought that the outcome of the game and my reaction to it might make for an interesting essay. In fact, I was already quite certain of the general tone and themes that would be presented in a piece about either a win or a loss. They went something like this.

Scenario #1: Victory

In this version of the essay, Team U.S.A. ties the score and goes on to win in a penalty kick shootout. I describe the victory with cheesy, predictable platitudes such as: you have to keep on believing in yourself despite seemingly insurmountable odds and success ultimately trumps any hardships one must endure.

The essay then diverts into a deep, introspective tangent, in which I have the epiphany that life trudges forward with predictable monotony no matter how joyous a single accomplishment is. I go on to describe how unadorned moments comprise the essence of existence, not the occasional supernova of the ego. I end this section by stating a maxim, for example: After the flames of temporary glory have turned to ash, one must resume the search for contentedness in the small, poorly-lit corners of life.

This version of the essay concludes with me witnessing something outdoors, for instance, a bird landing on the feeder and pecking at the suet. I smile and bask in the enlightened perspective that no great achievement can replace such a moment of simple beauty and connectivity with the universe. And then winning a soccer match doesn’t seem so impressive anymore.

Scenario #2: Defeat

In this version of the essay, team U.S.A. loses. I am crestfallen, which prompts a comparison between following a sports team and being in a relationship. I talk about how, with both, there is a strong tendency to root your emotional well-being in an externality. Then, I equate winning with being in love and losing with heartbreak by writing something to the tune of: When times are good, you feast with the gods. In bad times, all the world casts long shadows. I complete the metaphor with a witty one-liner, such as: But with love and sport, even when you direct a string of obscenities at your beloved, throw the remote control at them and storm out of the room, vowing that this time you’re tuning out for good, you sheepishly return and give things another shot.

After a weak transitional paragraph, the piece assumes an angry tone and I lash out against the profit-driven, mainstream-media-controlled consumer culture. I construct a pointed argument about how the sporting industry is just bread and circuses and Team U.S.A. is a bunch of gladiators used to distract people from the issues that really matter.

I can barely contain my rage; I seethe and flecks of spittle fly from my mouth as I write about America being currently engaged in the longest war in its history, the thousands of lives that have been ruined by pedophilic priests, and the millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, among other topics.

In the following section, the tone shifts from angry to somber. I realize that, in a way, this loss is an awakening. I declare that I now understand the proper function of sport is to deflect reality and will never again buy into the corporate-hype advertising machine. The essay ends with me characterizing the masses as bovine for continuing to be duped by the sporting world’s high-production stagecraft.

Scenario #3: What actually happened

Team U.S.A. loses. My friend shuts the TV off quickly, before we are forced to see the other side’s victory celebration. We sit in tense, awkward silence for a few moments and I break it by saying, “Fuck it. Good thing I bet on Ghana.”

On the ride home I can tell I’m a little tipsy because whenever I drive drunk the car’s hood appears superimposed on the road. When I operate the vehicle in this state I’m not really driving, but rather guiding the hood in the appropriate direction.

I arrive home tired from drinking midday beers so I take a nap. When I awake the sting of defeat lingers. To deflect it, I go for a bike ride, channeling my frustration into climbing the biggest hill in the area. It is a 15 minute uphill charge of pain and sweat and grimacing.

Upon cresting the hill I turn right around and fly down at breakneck speed. I yell out, “Fuck you motherfuckers.” But I don’t really know who the motherfuckers are or why I’m mad at them.

As I’m riding I wish I had a pen and paper because I have a wonderful idea for an essay. I want to write about the absurdity of predicting how you’re going to feel about something before it happens.


Posted in Essays | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Three Stages of Man

Posted by beckert10 on April 30, 2010

A little boy wakes up
lies in bed
wipes sleep from his eyes
stumbles into the living room
Mom prepares breakfast
he eats
lies on the couch
watches TV
plays inside
and outside
pulls the dog’s tail
Mom lays out his clothes
combs his hair
Ride in the car
mom makes lunch
cuts off the crust
wipes his face coarsely
with a wet sponge
he makes a face
pulls away
Dad comes come
watch him barbeque
pajamas laid out
one piece with feet
playtime with Dad
prayers with Mom
tucked in
kiss goodnight
I love you
sleep comes quickly

A young man wakes up
alarm screeching
pours a bowl of cereal
half asleep
crunching echoes in his groggy head
pick out an outfit hastily
competing with mom and dad for the bathroom
kiss on the cheek from mom
love you
have a good day
pack your own lunch
same every day
crust still on
Dad drives you to the bus stop
talk radio
awkward silence
running late
bus ride down back roads
picking up disappointed faces
last bit of freedom before the bell rings
burned out teachers
waiting for summer vacation
kids alike
turning the pages of outdated textbooks
thinking of playing
of freedom
of pretty girls in the back of the class
of passing grades
should I get braces
walking between classes
seeing the same faces
in the cafeteria
seeing the same faces
miss being a kid
bell rings
almost freedom
but first practice
kicking a ball around
bald man blowing a whistle
reliving dreams of aborted stardom
whistle blows
bus ride home down back roads
Mom’s car waiting
how was your day
Dad comes home
looks tired
looks old

A man wakes up
alarm wailing
he lies for minutes
wants to sleep
guilted into rising
clean, pressed suit
sleek sedan parked outside
so weary
good day for fishing
for sleeping
talk radio
should quit smoking
destruction of the self
to save the self
Johnson has a new car
fake smiles from coworkers
stale air
smells like paper and air freshener
staring at a screen
phone calls
bad jokes
weak coffee
good day for fishing
for sleeping
greasy lunch
stomach ache
maybe an ulcer
no bell
miss schooldays
stay late
might get ahead
probably won’t
sun is down
good night for fishing
sleek sedan still parked outside
deserve it
stiff drink
predictable sitcoms
leftover pasta
miss mom’s cooking
one more drink
destruction of the self
to save the self
so weary
late night news
tomorrow’s weather
good day for fishing

Posted in Poems | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »