Just returned from fourteen consecutive hours of plane travel. Flew from Valdez to Anchorage to Chicago to DC with about three connection mistakes at each stop. Had the distinct feeling we were going to land sometime in October 1947 -- I stopped counting the hours-gained/hours-lost. After hitting Seattle, and the above two Alaskan outposts, and doing the show thrice in three days at three different remote venues ... I think my metabolism has vanished into some frequent flyer wormhole along with my emotional baggage, which usually arrives two weeks late anyway.
Absorbed most of David Foster Wallace's book of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and I think I've found my new favorite American writer under 40. One choice sampling:
So then how have irony, irreverence, and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling in the culture today's avant-garde tries to write about? One clue's to be found in the fact that irony is still around, bigger than ever after 30 long years as the dominant mode of hip expression. It's not a rhetorical mode that wears well. As Hyde (whom I pretty obviously like) puts it, "Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage." This is because irony, entertaining as it is, serves an almost exclusively negative function. It's critical and destructive, a ground-clearing. Surely this is the way our postmodern fathers saw it. But irony's singularly unuseful when it comes to constructing anything to replace the hypocricies it debunks.
That, from his essay "E Unibus Pluram," puts it better than any Neil Postman parable I've read. Postman's good, but I gotta thank Wallace for pointing out, once and for all, that "poststructuralist is what you call a deconstructionist who doesn't want to be called a deconstructionist." Anyway, these well-wrought vivisections of po-mo stupidity go down well as you careen across the continent in an airplane, trying to suppress comparisons to the airplane sequence in Fight Club -- the last hurrah of pre-9/11 American sophistry (which, to the relief of conservatives everywhere, has been faithfully resurrected as a sign that we're winning the War on Reality).
So I was standing at the Designated Smoker Area at Anchorage International Airport, watching the midnight sun before I had to hop on my Chicago flight, chatting with trusted side-kick Jimmy Flannagan, when two stoned frat-boys from Miami walked up to bum a light from us. I'm gonna try to capture the experience here because, as usual, I couldn't resist lying to them. Incidentally, I don't know why anyone tells the truth to anyone at airports. After being stripped down to my body hair by security and given the shiatsu pat-down for the umpteenth time to verify my identity, I really don't feel like being honest with anyone else in airports. Besides, the two Miami frat boys -- which, for the sake of avoiding libel, I will call "Crawford" and "Fuckwit" -- didn't really deserve it.
(Jimmy and Karl stand watching the midnight sun in all its glory when Fuckwit and Crawford approach. Fuckwit has a plastic visor on his head that says "cockwear.com")
FUCKWIT: Dude, you got a light?
ME: Sure man.
FUCKWIT: You local?
JIMMY: Naw, we're from DC.
ME: Washington, DC.
ME: Makes sense when you put them together, I guess.
ME: Spring Break!!
FUCKWIT: What you doing here?
ME: We're working on a bill.
ME: ANWAR. The pipeline thing?
FUCKWIT: Oh. Yeah, that. You're working on it?
ME: Well, if you count chaining yourself to endangered trees so the bulldozers can't get through "working," then yeah. We are.
CRAWFORD: You know where the women are?
ME: There are two of them, as near as I can tell. They're both downtown. And taken.
FUCKWIT: (genuine terror) Shit.
ME: I know. We're heading out right now.
CRAWFORD: Anything to do here?
ME: Well, there's the midnight sun going on right now. That's pretty cool, huh?
FUCKWIT: What, that?
(Fuckwit points to the sun.)
ME: Yeah. The sun. It's midnight. Isn't that cool?
FUCKWIT: (checking his watch) Yeah. You're right. It is about night-time back in Miami right now! Look at the sun!
ME: Well, now, technically that doesn't count, see. It's night many places right now. Including here.
CRAWFORD: You know where the Sheraton Hotel is?
JIMMY: Um, downtown?
FUCKWIT: There it is!
(Fuckwit points to a building about twenty miles off in the distance. Needless to say, there's nothing about the silhouette of Sheraton Hotels that is at all distinctive enough to prove him right.)
CRAWFORD: Naw, I think that's something else.
FUCKWIT: I'll bet you fifty bucks that's the Sheraton!
CRAWFORD: I'm not betting you nothing.
FUCKWIT: Let's go find out, bitch.
ME: You know, any cab driver could probably --
CRAWFORD: (to Fuckwit) Dude. Why don't you let me do the thinking okay? I'll do enough for both of us.
CRAWFORD: Check out this fly-fishing pole I stole from that guy on the plane!
(Fuckwit and Crawford vanish into the concourse. Jimmy safely bursts out laughing.)
Valdez was wonderful. On about three different levels. More soon.