Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Things That Make Life Worth Living, Part II

Before picking up where yesterday left off, I'd like to respond to those currently saying, "But Chris, I'm a generally negative person. What is so horribly bad that it makes life not worth living?" I'm glad you asked.

Cold cars:
Hands-down worst aspect of winter, an already painful and useless season. "Cold car" occurs when you find that it's as cold inside your car as it is outside your car. You then have no choice but to drive on, miserable, knowing that the car will only begin to heat up the moment you reach your destination. You typically spend the trip scowling at every red light, cursing God for allowing such suffering in his world, hoping that the blasphemy will send you straight to hell, where it is always nice and warm.

Nick Cannon's Wild N' Out:
The only things missing are Keenan and Kel. Truly awful.

Why exactly am I supposed to like this sport again? There are 162 games in the regular season, which gives every game before September an overwhelming whiff of worthlessness. The players' use of anabolic steroids is widespread and well-documented. There is no salary cap, which means smaller-market teams have no realistic shot of even competing. The Red Sox won, ending the last intriguing storyline. The MVPs are usually either uninteresting (Vladimir Guerrero) or unlikable (Alex Rodriguez). The Sportscenter highlights consist of homeruns, strikeouts, and the vaunted double play. Go to Canada, baseball, you're not my pastime. And take hockey with you.

Whew. I'm glad that's over. Onto everything that makes up for those, and then some.

Southern accents:
Everytime I hear "how y'all doin'?" I think, "better now." Appalachian twang, Georgian drawl, the rougher cadences of Memphis, Birmingham, and Little Rock, even that Cajun hybrid in Louisiana, all can make the harsh sound sweet and the uninviting sound welcome. It is built almost musically, streamlined for comfort and ease, and seemlessly mellifluent, proof that it's not what you say, but how you say it.

Guilty Pleasures:
Things you like despite yourself, things you enjoy even though you know better. These keep reality television in primetime, You Got Served on HBO, and Gwen Stefani on the radio. This is the explanation for why NSync sold twenty-million albums yet I didn't know anyone who owned one. If you're like me, you actually have a "Guilty Pleasures" folder in your computer's music collection. If you're really like me, you listen to it when your roommates are at class and the headphones are handy. And if you're exactly like me, you guard that folder like Fort Knox, for its contents are far too guilty, far too pleasurable, and may or may not include Mr. Big's "To Be with You."

Christmas Coke cans:
According to the people at Coca-Cola and my brother, it was Coke who outfitted Santa Claus in red and white, so that he could match their smartly-marketed carbonated beverage. That, combined with the fact that Coke simply tastes better at Christmastime, make the cans a holiday staple. In fact, seeing Santa's ruddy mug on Coke products is always one of the first signs that Christmas is around the corner, or that it's June and Captain Kroger needs to restock.

Germantown Methodist Church on Easter Sunday, Memphis, Tennessee:
If the sun is out and the beds are in bloom, the trek across the street (from the OLEC to the church proper) is always a walk of perfume and pastels. Men in light suits, little boys with clip-on ties, girls in sundresses, all greeted with "Good morning!" at the door, and this time the greeter means it. Not even the cramped space or heat from the balcony seats can compromise the view of the sunlight through the stained glass, the the first, resounding chord of the organ, and a few hundred, smiling, familiar faces, all remarking what a good morning it is. A religious experience, with or without the sermon.

"The End of Something," Ernest Hemingway:
Only Hemingway had the facility to introduce the delapidated mill as a symbol for a failed relationship, and the gall to have the woman in that relationship point it out, unaware of its significance. This story is about a breakup, but its influence on short fiction is unmeasurable. Between Hemingway's characteristic sharp, spare, and gorgeous prose, and his unparallelled ability to negotiate text and subtext (especially in dialogue), this story might be young Ernest at his finest. There is something simply perfect about the story's framework, from Marjorie's attempts at reconnection, to Nick's dismissal of them and (ultimately) the relationship, to Bill's fascinating appearance at the scene's end, suggesting his influence as the catalyst for the break-up. In the end, Nick is unsatisfied with her and lonely without her, and the reader is grateful that his masterful story of loss is our gain.

Michael f*ing Vick:
It can't be coincidence that the finest athlete on the planet hails from my home-state and quarterback-ed my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies to their first national championship game. If you've ever seen Vick play, you understand that he's the reason we watch sports: to see somebody surpass human capability. If you've never seen Vick play, I don't know if we can be friends. He simply exists in an athletic realm where anything is physically possible (even probable), and nothing is predictable. Though I joke with my friends that Vick is actually the risen son of God (do we know what Jesus did from infancy until age 34?), he is an almost supernaturally gifted athlete. To watch him run in open space, throw a frozen rope against his body 55 yards, or effortlessly dodge linemen no normal man would've even seen coming is to see something more than human, and not far short of divine.

The "False Alarm":
There is one brief, glorious moment when your alarm wakes you up with its shrill siren, you gather enough strength to sit up and focus your eyes and, doing some quick math, realize that it's Saturday, and you have nowhere to go but back to sleep. This feeling is so good, in fact, that I purposefully set my alarm on Saturdays in high school, knowing that I would still fool my sleepy-self the next morning. And if you think that's more than a little weird, well, you're not alone. (Side note: the False-False Alarm is equally bad. This occurs when you think it's Saturday but it's in fact Wednesday, and you just slept through your first three classes.)

"Nightswimming," REM:
One of those songs that never needed radio airplay to become widely recognizable and universally enjoyed. Between Stipe's imagistic lyrics, the flawless piano performance, and the expertly-arranged string melodies, there is something emotionally pitch-perfect, unerringly gorgeous, and incommunicably true about the song. If music, at its best, communicates somehow what words cannot, then this song exists on an elite artistic plane. Maybe it's Stipe's humbly-executed cracks and swells, or the hopeful tone of "what if there were two/side by side in orbit," or the self-contained anxiety of "September's coming soon," or the instrumental countermelodies that bounce off and soar above each other. But something indefinable puts you right there, at the end of summer, under a dark, open sky, lonely but not alone, submersed in memory and the beauty of youth.

That's all the living I can handle, folks...

Same place, same time,

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