“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
I dragged this gravely handsome phrase into many dark bars in my twenties. Although a false introspection on my part, it predictably generated a sexual eagerness in most women who equated words, they did not understand, with all the preconditions for the love they had earlier memorized while pouring through romance magazines.
Men wage war, watch sports, and pursue a wildly adjustable standard of beauty grounded entirely on availability—our only inherent pities are for unattractive women who involuntarily exhibit desperations that are readily identifiable in dim light. Some women wail about this while carping pointlessly about the injustices biology has arranged for them. Men are keenly aware of this gripe but do not care.
Everybody’s feelings have little to do with me. I don’t believe that every veteran is a hero. I think that some are. I don’t believe black people are all good. But I know there are enough good ones to solve their problems. I am not proud of white people. And I am very sure that nobody dead has contributed to my reputation. I know that wearing pink does not make me more aware of breast cancer or homosexuality. My mind rarely wanders far from breasts. I don’t believe children, academics, or pretty girls on TV should try to tell me how I can avoid insulting them. People should realize that I will not stray out of my way not to offend them. It is the only way I have to find out if they are insecure idiots. That is how I pick my friends. It is why I have a few good friends
I bought a new car, I make excuses just to look at it in my closed garage. I don’t drive it because it is new and factory clean. All men know the feeling. I do this kind of shit. All the time. Yesterday our power went out. The electrician rewired our house. He installed a gleaming new fuse box next to the car in the garage. Now I go to look at that. The car has no feelings.
When my parents fought, they could quickly turn into bitter, screaming, wrestling scrums that I was too little to understand. Sometimes I would hide in the dining room, not ten feet away crying and praying they would not divorce. I made side deals with God about keeping them together. He paid up, and I did not. I guess our country is divorcing, and it worries me because I now realize that I can’t petition the Lord with prayer anymore. After all, He is on to me, so I am going to be of little use in any final national settlement. Most of us grew up figuring we would go with our moms in the split of our parents. We would vote for her when asked by the judge to pick between them because she always said yes. Most times, dad would say no to stuff we wanted. In my way of thinking, it is much the same as our nation now. The Democrats give us good things, and the Republicans try to take them away. A dad now I can see the unfairness of this division. I can’t avoid being harder than my wife, and she knows this and relies on it. In the same way, I depend on her kindness to all of us.
It has been two years since my war of resistance against my daughter’s getting a tattoo ended. The struggle of wills was an effort I am not that proud of, caving to her as I did in little over the time it took France to capitulate to Hitler’s blitzkrieg in the Battle of France in 1940. Both France and I left that struggle scarred and a little bewildered how we could have lost so quickly and utterly. Of course, in my defense, France lost its entire army and sovereignty while I suffered only minor ego chaffing. Further defending me was that I was a first-time father, and the French had been surrendering to loud noises since the Magna Carta. My daughter’s crusade over a tattoo may have been just a high temperature, feverish misunderstanding. For all I knew, she quietly wanted a small, barely noticeable tattoo of “Dad,” which would have been difficult, ( although not improbable) for me to contest. Nevertheless, from the first mention, I cast her as a five foot two “Queequeg“, the prophetically tattooed South Sea Islander from “Moby Dick”. A dad is like being a boy with a new girlfriend at an amusement park. He had better win that girl a stuffed animal if he wants love, so limp agreement if not total surrender is always the wisest course. There are more storm clouds on the horizon for me, though. My wife is threatening to get one now, of a gold nugget and a shovel.
James Joyce’s editor calls on him early one morning and finds him with his head in his arms on his writing desk beside his typewriter.
The editor says, “James, What’s the matter?”
The great writer looks up at him and says, I have been at this all night and I only have six words!”
The editor looks at him and says “But James that’s great for you,” and Joyce looks at him and says
“I know, but I don’t know what order they go in”