The bargain bin at Half Price Books in Berkeley has yielded some literary treasures but since our "In" stack of books is a formidable reading challenge, prudence dictates that any additions to the unread pile should be chosen very judiciously and so, recently, we were leaving the store empty handed. We were wearing some jeans with holes in the knees and must have looked a tad like one of Shattuck Avenue panhandlers which may have inspired a local citizen to engage us in conversation. He quickly cut to the chase (as they say in Hollywood) and delivered the essence of his philosophy of life: "If you want nice things in life (such as the books being sold inside the store), get a job and earn the money to buy them."
Rather than take a pragmatic approach and respond with some logical facts and statistics about how the nation is in the midst of The Great Recession and jobs are hard to get and hold, we challenged the validity of his premise. What's wrong with the old song's belief that "the best things in life are free"? In the specific case of the World's Laziest Journalist that would include: a ride on the Goodyear blimp (Bucket list item since high school days), a ride on a B-17-G WWII bomber (dittio), a chance to cover the Oscars (ditto again), a 1965 ocean voyage to Casablanca and various European ports of call, and talking our way into a closed automobile museum. Total expenditures: Nada.
He was flummoxed. He had failed to shame us into a painful admission that we were an abysmal failure in a capitalistic society. We travel around having a shipload of fun and are too dumb to realize that we should have embraced Oscar Levant's concept of the treadmill to oblivion.
There's an old adage that says anybody who has kids has given hostages to fortune. We may wind up with an anemic memorial service (such as Jay Gatsby's) but we console ourself with what Hunter S. Thompson said: "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"
Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson wanted to become world famous writers. They got what they wanted and it made them miserable.
The Berkeley Public Library offers a tool library service and the library in Boulder City in Western Australia offers a toy library. Don't kids go through toys like a voracious reader goes through books? Buying toys keeps the toy factories ("made in China"?) busy and if a kid is going to obsess on his Hoppalong Cassidy holster and cap gun for just a short burst of time, why do the parents have to buy it? A toy library is logical but basically a Communist concept, n'est ce pas? How often do you use the sander that you got for Christmas several years back?
A happy-go-lucky bachelor is the antitheses of family values. A vagabond who can throw all his gear under a hostel bunk and explore exotic locations can easily identify with an Apache who can pick up all the necessities and move on at a moment's notice but for the father of a modern family, life demands an unchanging home and social structure.
When the (future) World's Laziest Journalist was warned about the hazards of indolence, we (being of Irish heritage) immediately assessed the value of lazy slobs in society. For one thing, it gives mothers an example for what can happen if a kid doesn't strive for excellence in kindergarten and all subsequent educational endeavors. Then again, it also reinforces the moralistic message that all good little boys grow up and become responsible citizens and a cinder block for building a solid social structure.
Nonconformists might do more for helping the proles become assured that they have made the correct life decisions than the possibility that they will inspire dissent and unrest.
Who, in their right mind, would want to experience what it is like to stand at a forlorn highway intersection, see no traffic, and realize that a thunder storm will soon leave you cold, wet, and miserable? On the other hand, what diligent father wouldn't want to read a passage about such a dismal night on the road (at this point hipster know that the disk jockey will play Red Sovine's song "Phantom 309") to his kids? There's a line in a Waylon Jennings song that cheerfully reminds listeners that when life serves you a sh*t sandwich "at least you got the makings of a song."
At this point, as the column is being written, the columnist recalls a debate among three neighbors in South Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1970 that tried to determine which is more difficult: life "on the road" or the challenges of working the same job year after year just to provide for a family? The red or the black? Family or Adventures? The Lady or the Tiger?
There is one very dangerous aspect to picking the Jack Kerouac trail to fame and forturne. Well, two, actually. First you might not become rich and the author of best sellers and two: you might become so addicted to the process of collecting material for the greatest autobiography ever written, that you don't actually write the damn thing. It would be a case of contraccting the wordsmith's version of "White Line Fever." WHAT-ev-ah!
One thing is for sure at this point in life. We know we aren't capable of writing a column that clearly outlines the parameters of the turmoil in the Middle East, let along write a column that (somehow) ends it. Sooooo? This weekend we will not post a week-in-review column, but will provide tour guide service for a fellow who will be visiting the San Francisco Bay area.
You want more? Google "The Myth of the Unbiased Media," by Robert Gammon in the latest editor of the East Bay Express (dotcom).
Recently a political activist in Berkeley (Ironically the home of the world's best weapons lab happens to be a city where the peace symbol is ubiquitous) asked us: "Are you in favor of World Peace?" We responded "F*** no! War means jobs." It also means that we will feel obliged to reassess the situation again next week when the Forever War will again instigate a need for perceptive and insightful (and cynical?) commentary.
The World's Laziest Journalist realizes that Howard Beal was spot-on in his criticism of the way things are going, but we also realize that if after many years of producing criticism of the system we can get our closest friends to "share" the link to our latest column on Facebook only on rare occasions. We have concluded that the best we can do is adopt the throw the glasses into the fireplace and imitate the philosophy in the "Is that all there is?" song and try to have an "eat, drink, and be merry" fling that would have made the Red Barron proud.