Inexplicable Thoughtskipping

Today sprinted through the calendar like a gazelle accelerating across the savanna, attempting to outrun hungry cheetahs. The day was a blur, though in occasional stop-action or slow motion. My intent (always good) was to spend the morning on the deck, scraping and sanding and shaping boards in preparation for what will one day be a painted beauty. Instead, I sensed from early on that my wife was in no mood to drive, alone, to Little Rock for an appointment to have periodic maintenance done on the Subaru. So, I offered to go along with her. I really would have preferred to work, but now that the day is almost over, I’m glad I spent it with her, instead. It sometimes works out that way.

After our brief car maintenance appointment, we visited an Asian market on University Avenue, where we bought miso paste and a monstrous piece of ginger root. And more, I suspect, but can’t recall. Then, we went to lunch at Kimchi Restaurant, a tiny and remarkably hidden Korean restaurant whose outward appearance suggested, in capital letters, DIVE. And it was, I suppose. But we liked it. My wife had bulgogi, which was excellent. I had what the place called Kimchi Stewpot, which was an interesting assortment of veggies, meats, and literally boiling liquid presented in a bowl. The bowl, which I think was ceramic only recently removed from a 500-degree oven, sat atop a molded stand. It bubbled and bubbled and bubbled for a good five minutes before it settled down. Our meals were delivered with what I thought were side dishes for my meal; a later review online suggested they were meant to accompany my wife’s bulgogi. No matter. I loved every one of the side dishes; my wife tolerated all of them, but liked none of them. And she wasn’t fond of the flavor of my stewpot. But I was. Thus both of us were happy with our meals. Our waiter, who we figured was the son of owners, was extremely polite and competent. We were happy with that.

From there, we visited Colonial Liquors. Again. We bought wine, including a couple of bottles of red wine our neighbors like and which, based on a friend’s comments about wine, we think she might like. But we bought other wine, too. A cabernet sauvignon and, perhaps, a sauvignon blanc. Did we buy the latter? I don’t know. Within the morass of mass and data that forms our universe, it doesn’t matter. But we did buy some Scotch. I haven’t bought Scotch since I was younger by at least a year, perhaps three. Tonight, I have a couple of sniggles of Scotch. If you don’t know sniggle, it’s about as much as I drank tonight, divided by two.

Before drinking tonight, though, and after we returned home from Little Rock, I went to the post office and the Suddenlink office. You see, when we got home, our phones, internet, and “cable” television were on the fritz. The visit to Suddenlink yielded a promise that we would be visited by a repair person on Monday afternoon. So, when I returned home, we sat and watched the final episodes of The Americans. But during the finale of the final season, a truck zipped into the driveway and the doorbell rang. It was a Suddenlink contractor, here to fix our broken conduit to evening entertainment. After considerable time and testing, the guy got our internet to work and our phone is, off and on, functioning. But still no “cable.” He says the “tap” is broken and he cannot fix it, so someone else will visit us soon, within a day or two, he thinks. I was happy with that.

We finished watching The Americans. I would have given it an Emmy, had I the power. Alas, I have no power in such circles.  Since then, I’ve been Scotching and watching of The Mayans, a follow-on to Sons of Anarchy. Though I’ve watched three episodes of The Mayans, I’m not sure whether I’ll continue. It’s not horrible entertainment, but I keep comparing it to SOA. Not even close. It got to the point this evening that I almost switched to recorded episodes of HGTV real estate shows. But I have never recorded them, so that wasn’t an option.

It occurred to me today, while we were enjoying Korean food and after we had visited an Asian market, that one of the privileges we Americans have is to be given the opportunity to experience other cultures in the comfort of our own. We don’t have to abandon ours in order to experience another culture; they come to us. And do we truly not understand why? Do we not realize we are the culture that others came to see? And we are the culture that came to be when other cultures became too hard to bear. I’m not talking about today; I’m talking about how we became who we are. Our ancestors left other countries behind to pursue possibilities here. A little like today’s immigrants come to our shores.

I am so fortunate that I can experience not only other cultures but their foods and their way of experiencing ours simply by allowing myself to watch, listen, and be compassionate. I am embarrassed when this country shames immigrants, shouting that they are not coming here “the right way.” As if we did? Let’s kill a few aboriginal natives and call it a homeland, shall we?

I hate being so frustrated and angry and utterly despondent at who we are and, at the same time, feeling privileged and happy at my good fortunate. There’s some serious dissonance in that sensation. I hate myself for being as happy as I am at the misfortune of others. I realize it’s not their misfortune that makes me happy, but it contributes to it. So I cannot, should not, feel happiness at my good fortune, knowing that it comes at a steep price someone else pays.

Some days, and today is one, I wonder if my mood swings even within a single post might be symptomatic of madness. I don’t know. Just a thought. How can I be so deliriously happy in one moment, able to rationalize all the good things that have fallen into place for me, and be utterly demoralized the next, knowing my good fortune was bought with human life and suffering? I know, it’s absurdist bullshit. But it’s my absurdist bullshit, the absurdist bullshit that occupies my brain.

And then I find myself beating myself up for allowing myself an hour or two or three in which I can forget my brother’s hospitalization and its impact on his life. It’s not unreasonable to want to forget for just a while. But when I do I feel guilty and utterly inadequate as a brother. But then I realize such a sense is absurdist bullshit and I’m fine. At least for a while.  After over-thinking this stuff for long enough, I don’t fault myself for drinking my pain away sometimes. Too much? Too often? Who knows. I just know I like Scotch. And wine. And beer. And hugs. Hugs are better than beer any time. But being alone is sometime the very best medicine. Now it is, anyway. It’s the only medicine.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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