Friday, December 10, 2010
Just another Saturday in a life more ordinary
I always wanted to live a life less ordinary; to be the sort of guy who freed tortured political prisoners from the Congo and disappeared on to the next assignment. I wanted that thrill of regularly waking up in a far away city with the morning mist hanging over the river and knowing it was mine to explore.
I suppose I wanted to be Lawrence of Arabia.
The reality is more prosaic. The reality is Saturday and routine, followed by another week and another Saturday. It might seem more valuable if I could take it apart like Ian McEwan in his novel Saturday which dissects the day by the minute. If an everyday Saturday suddenly exploded into unexpected violence and I rescued it from the brink, I might appreciate Saturday more.
Is this why men who have gone to war sometimes miss it? Do we miss the adrenaline rush of the threat of death? Surely those soldiers who lived and died in the mud and blood of the trenches, in a festering hell on earth peopled by sardonic rats, can't have missed it afterwards.
And yet my grandfather used to delight in telling me his wartime stories. His eyes used to mist over as if contemporary life was a pale imitator of those days of purpose and strife.
So the highlight of my week was the move of my office from the second to the first floor to allow for the removal of asbestos at the place I have been working for three years. The first floor is Pepto-Bismol pink. I can only imagine someone had the bright idea to paint it this way back in the days when it was populated by advertising reps. In those brave days they may have thought it would inspire someone to sell. Or maybe it was just meant to be so garish they would get out of the office.
Today the first floor reflects the newspaper industry in general. The ad. reps have been swallowed up in the acres of empty space and occupy a few cubicules across the other side. Pepto-Bismol World is ours to inhabit; an unchartered territory on which we can construct a brave new society.
Either that or we can do the usual; drink too much coffee and moan, of course.
But Saturday is a world away from the pink, which is one good thing to be said for it. It's another day to webcam the folks back home and meet a woman in the deserted parking lot of the local daycare, who will give me my wine samples to tempt customers at a superstore that's about as empty as Pepto-Bismol World before we moved there.
There will be the normal grim financial calculations and we'll stress out about the fact the tenants are about to move out of the rental house and there will be no way of paying the mortgage; prostituting myself wouldn't even cover the gas money to the rental house and my wife's efforts to raise money on ebay proved spectacularly unsuccessful because she ended up buying more jewelry than she sold, as usual.
So, once again, Saturday will be a predictable succession of minor skirmishes and chores half done. It will be bereft of ideas or mystical expeditions from virgin shores. If we do get to the country it will be as it gets dark and we'll quit after 10 minutes in a muddle of strollers and forgotten bottles and go to Wal-Mart.
Still I hope to find time to look beyond the new plastic fences that some of the neighbors already want replaced to think of a certain church in the hazy afternoon sunshine and an embrace and the words of Patrick Henry will ring loudly like some kind of rallying cry across the ages and the strip malls and freeways: "Give me Liberty, or give me Death."
Or failing that at least give me a sprinkling of glory. Speaking of which, Glory Days by Pulp has always struck a chord with me. Listen to it if you get the chance.
Come and play the tunes of glory -
raise your voice in celebration
of the days that we have wasted in the cafe
in the station.
And learn the meaning of existence in fortnightly instalments.
Come share this golden age with me
in my single room apartment.
And if it all amounts to nothing -
it doesn't matter,
these are still our glory days.
Oh my face is unappealing and my thoughts are unoriginal.
I did experiments with substances
but all it did was make me ill
and I used to do the I Ching
but then I had to feed the meter.
Now I can't see into the future
but at least I can use the heater.
Oh it doesn't get much better than this
cos this is how we live our glory days.
Oh and I could be a genius if I just put my mind to it
I could do anything if only I could get round to it.
Oh we were brought up on the Space-Race,
now they expect you to clean toilets.
When you've seen how big the world is,
how can you make do with this?
If you want me I'll be sleeping in -
sleeping in throughout these glory days.
These glory days can take their toll,
so catch me now
before I turn to gold.
Yeah we'd love to hear your story
just as long as it tells us where we are -
that where we are is where we're meant to be.
Oh come on make it up yourself -
you don't need anybody else.
And I promise I won't sell these days to anybody else in the world but you.
No-one but you.