[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
You greet the beginning of the end-of-year slowdown with gentle anticipation. You think of all the time you'll have to do what you want. Time to think big thoughts, read voraciously in a well-lit room where days stretch into incredible lengths of languid, stress-free eternities. Those massive music box sets will be listened to, all bonus tracks enjoyed to their fullest, the booklets' pithy essays consumed, the information gleaned leading to myriad epiphanies and countless pages of handwritten notes barely containing your boundless energy and enthusiasm.
This is the holiday season, the magic time of the year. Certainly, this will be the best end-of-year ram's horn of freedom's mead ever hoisted to your lips. It won't be anything like last year or the year before, when you wanted to do all the aforementioned things but somehow never quite got there. Not even close.
Suddenly the long march to the sea is complete, and your multiday respite from the mind-killing grind of employment has been temporarily paused.
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In retrospect, probably those first few hours are the best. The newly uncorked Champagne bottle of your holiday ejaculates an effervescence that makes you feel calmly ecstatic. All that time to just “be.” It's going to be amazing, and when it's over, you will be more than refreshed — you will be a new person.
And this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart. It's like watching a train derail at the slowest possible speed. You are not only the conductor and the train but also the track.
The whole year, after all, has been leading up to this. Now is the time for the déjà vu dogs of holidays past to start howling.
This is when you realize that Sartre was correct, that hell is indeed other people; but this time, they're all you. This is when you reconnect with your inner adult and core shittiness. Your diabolical wretchedness and self-annihilating proclivities have all the time they need to consume you.
Mild desperation sets in as old girlfriends/boyfriends become possible hookups for a mutually assured destructive rendezvous of claustrophobia, performance anxiety and regret.
This is what Facebook is for. This is why Prohibition was repealed.
This is a different kind of loneliness. This is pathetic phone messages left on servers that are easily made into MP3 files and copped by dipshit DJ roommates and flown into their lame “holiday mash-up” posted online.
This is the holiday season, and the very fact that you are alive makes it your own private J.G. Ballard-esque atrocity exhibition.
Go ahead, sleep as long as you want. You call the shots! As you doze, somewhat aware of the winter sun's rapid nosedive, your dreams center on one thing: death. You. Are. Dying.
So many have died before you, and they seem to be doing just fine; what makes you so special? It is not a feeling of restfulness that causes you to sit up in bed in the early evening. No, it is the swooping sound of the Reaper's scythe whistling past your ear!
Quickly now, no time for a shower, you've got to get out there! You have a lot of life to live! But you'd better order a pizza first. A big one. This is what I remember contemporary philosopher and astute critic of the human condition Patton Oswalt referring to as “a pity meal.” The pizza wasn't that good, but that didn't stop you from eating it all. The beer helped.
Bloated and in shock from the sudden thickening of your blood, you consider your options.
The night is young, the city glitters outside. The potential for fun, adventure and romance is incalculable. Gotta go! But first you'd better check the email and other social media. Better check out Netflix, you know, for later.
Three episodes of Scandal later, you become aware of some cold horror on the couch with you, like Jack Woltz waking up with the horse's head; your leg has fallen asleep. With slight revulsion and a few-parts-per-million sense of panic, you lift the surprisingly heavy limb, vaguely remembering the urban legend of Eddie Money (!) who passed out on his leg for 14 hours, causing lasting damage. Leg now tingling, you notice the laptop is ever so hot, but they're built for that, right?
You see yourself in the Grove parking hive, trying not to trade paint with some texting driver so you can go to the Apple store like a dumbfuck and tell the future NSA operative that you fried your computer watching 15 episodes of the aforementioned show. He laughs in your face.
Plans. You'd better make 'em! Set up meets with your “friends,” the ones you text more than talk to. You have a lot of catching up to do! You connect at a mutually agreed-upon coffee place, and 10 minutes in, you can't wait for it to be over. There's nothing to talk about, and texting across from each other is just too sad.
As you consume your sugarfied coffee drink, you look over your text pal's shoulder to see a gray-haired man writing in a notebook at great speed with unnerving intensity. That's me, you dumb bastard! I've been there for hours. In fact, it's my second shift. I was at the Starbucks in Burbank because they open at 0430.
Do you know why Albert Camus was so prolific? He wrote to keep from screaming.
Just when you acclimate to the unrelenting misery of it all, New Year's comes along to smash you into the coral one more time. It's not a celebration. It's a dance of death!
Soon after another year has been obliterated, you will stagger back into the workplace, brought back to your cubicle like a fish summoned to the surface of a lake with a stick of dynamite. I am so glad it's all over.
Mr. Nose, say hello to Mr. Grindstone.
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