June 24, 2008

Rock Bottom in the Desert

My pendulum continues to swing. A few nights ago, I hit rock bottom and was quite upset. I am over that now. The new David Sedaris book helped a lot. I am tired of taking my life and myself so seriously. But before, I get to that; let me share with you what I wrote a few nights ago. I am not super pleased with it, but it is what it is, the ramblings of a frustrated person after a horrible night in the nightmare that is Doha on a Friday night. Fear not there is joy and hope and a smile at the end:

I am standing in a muddled line waiting for the besieged South Asian man behind the counter to fill two brightly colored paper container pints full of ice cream. Between us an overweight Arab kid, who probably has more money in his tightly balled fists than the man behind the counter has ever even dreamed of having, is screaming that he wants, “too much” butter scotch topping. My face is taut with hatred and self-loathing, pretending to be patience and understanding, as I wait my turn. For the first time in my life, I understand homicide then suicide in that order. I am consumed by hatred so strong that I nearly choke. I scan the crowd looking for the source of this revulsion, but finally rest on myself. It is me I hate. It is who I have let myself become.

I try to knock the brat over with a look of disgust, but like a mirror his pudgy face says, “Who the fuck are you?” He looks me up and down, like a rabid animal, his eyes filled with fear. He spots the dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in my bag, next to the two Pizza Hut pizzas. Don’t judge me his little troll eyes scream. I look away defeated by his precision. I am entangled on the very web of corporatism I constantly deride, but am doing nothing to free myself. On the contrary, I find myself behind me a group of clean, shaven men casually bantering about the different sizes of beverages available to them at this Baskin Robins. “Are you really getting a large Cappuccino Blast?” Their muscular arms and crew cut blond haircuts, tell the world that they are America’s best. Four days ago these poster boys for the new Global Economy sat in the cockpits of million dollar jets dropping death disguised as freedom on Iraqi children made numb from five years of shock and awe. Now, we are, for all intents and purposes, the same people.

I have never been this close to men like this. My Venn diagram has never incorporated soldiers. They laugh and joke. A group of buddies, in their best khakis and polo shirts; they are out on the town. Even with their backs to me, I can hear them say, “We allow you to stuff your face with the fruits of the American Dream. If you want Pizza Hunt, Krispy Kreme and Baskin Robins on a Friday night, bought from a mall in the desert with an ice rink and a canal with gondolas, then you lose the right to think you are any different from us. You, the Arab brat, and us are the same. The man behind the counter, no matter how much you feel sorry for, or no matter how much you romanticize is just waiting for a chance to stand on this side of the counter and order people around. He wants to fly the planes and drop the bombs. Given a chance he would step right over you and join us.”

They are right and I know it. My arms are weighed down by the symbols of the very ideas I hate. But they are not symbols, they are real, so real that I will ingest them and they will fuel my confusion. I have never hated myself more than this moment. I have become my own worst enemy.

I take my ice cream and head for the car. It will be another hour before I am home. I will sit in unbearable traffic, awash in self-loathing. This is not who I was meant to be, will be my mantra. It will not soothe me in any way. This is not where I am meant to be. How did I get here? How will I get out? I will blast my music trying to erase myself and start a new, awash in the acids of the belly of the beast.

But as I said, David Sedaris has saved me. After finishing his latest book, I have come to realize that life need not always be taken so seriously. Our lives are filled with infinite incidents which are sweet and funny and poignant and simply real. I am sure I will fall off the wagon and continue to write about how my own hypocrisy makes me nauseous, but I hope to revive the Intrepid Flame a bit with short, simple, daily observations. I know I am by no means a David Sedaris, but I want to see if I can find the joy and ridiculousness in my life. Perhaps it will afford me, as well as my readers with an insight that I haven't been able to find wallowing in my own poorly made choices.

Having said all that I have been reading some great books, and they are seriously affecting my worldview. More on that soon.


  1. I hear you. But, we are all products of the world in which we are raised. We start to hate ourselves once we venture out and grasp the pain that takes place around the world (or right next door). Don't be too hard on yourself. Hypocrisy is a human trait. In some ways it just reflects human complexity. Desire (or wanting stuff) is also human. It's one reason why consumerism is so viral. We should all be a little more mindful. You're already there.


  2. Corrie1:27 AM

    According to this summary, there were no airstrikes in Iraq on June 20. There were several strikes against "anti-Afghan forces" in several locations. Perhaps the brave Taliban arhabi were once again hiding behind the skirts of women and children? If Time Magazine is to be believed, that may indeed be the case.

    Iraqi children, Afghan children, no matter, though. But it makes a very big difference if they die as a result of a NATO airstrike, or as a result of Taliban-imposed horrors. The former is some kind a war crime, right? The latter is collateral damage in the fight against Western hegemony, right?

  3. The Air Force website and Time magazine huh? Next time just send me some data from the White House.

    Just for the record Time magazine should seldom be believed and any time a child is killed it is a war crime.

    I leave you with this:
    I'm addressing you.
    Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
    I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
    I read it every week.
    Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
    I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
    It's always telling me about responsibility. Business men are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.

    It occurs to me that I am America.
    I am talking to myself again.

  4. Okay, so having read back in time a few days, I see that maybe you should read Derrick Jensen after all. He is hard to read. I mean, his writing is good, and entertaining, and he uses few really large words...not that kind of hard. I mean hard like it's hard to let someone punch you in the gut and then let them do it again because you know that you are growing for it.

    But here's the relevant part for now: Abusers create complicity. In any abusive system, the abuser creates a system wherein the abused has to "opt in" to the abuse. So then the abused can't object to the fucked-up system because they have helped to create the fucked up system. Right? So you can't complain about the clearcutting of rainforests because you use toilet paper made out of trees. And in crisis counseling centers all across the world, people are trying to convince people involved in abusive relationships that it doesn't matter that you're complicit. The fact that you've been manipulated into opting in does not make the system good and it doesn't make you bad. It is still right, and okay, and just for you to object to the fucked up system. Even though you still use toilet paper, and drive an air conditioned car, and eat at Baskin-Robbins. That's just one way that you know it's an abusive system. You are not the abuser.

  5. some deep stuff which is supposed to mean a lot and to be taken seriously right? ;-)