Discovering the Relevance of Words
I cleaned out my car yesterday. It’s been disorienting.
The interior of my sedan is usually a charming clutter of empty travel mugs and fast food napkins, anchored by half-full water bottles and unmatched flip flops. It creates around me a landscape of useful and reachable items which I’ve always found strangely comforting. I act embarrassed about it when others get in for a ride, or rather as they stand outside the passenger door and watch me cram garbage under the seats. I used to try and stammer out an excuse or make a probably hilarious joke, (I’m really funny, you see) but now I just stare my passengers in the eyes while I gather empty Gatorade bottles and various dog toys from the area where they now must be warily contemplating putting their feet and ass.
I won’t make excuses for my clutter anymore. It calms me. It’s my security blanket. Like Pigpen, from the funnies.
Did I mess up that Peanuts reference? I think I did. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Pigpen was the dirty one who went on to play keys for the Dead.
Then who was the one with the blanket?* I don’t remember.
My references are totally off today. My car is too damn clean.
I’m forced to make big obvious connections between the state of my outer life and that of the interior. I’m sure you all saw it coming. It must be pretty clear at this point to anyone paying any kind of attention that my mind is like nothing so much as an airplane hangar full of boxes of crap no one could ever need. If I were to describe it, it might be like all those nostalgia shows they used to show on VH1 got together to have a yard sale. Like Hal Sparks and Andy Dick and the rest of the “I Love The ‘80s/90s/00s” crew brought over all the stuff they deemed too obscure to joke about and dropped it off in my psyche. It’s not easy to pick your way through there in the dark, but your eyes adjust eventually.
And, folks, this is exactly how I like it. Yes, I will watch all five seasons of “Kids In The Hall” and call it time well spent when I decide to name the hipster indie cover band that exists only in my imagination after Rod Torfulson’s Armada featuring Herman Menderchuck. What’s that? Martin Mull put out a bunch of musical comedy albums in the Seventies? I won’t listen to them but I will memorize their titles and then sprinkle them into conversations like it’s no big deal. Orca. Remember that movie? It was like Jaws, but with a killer whale. This crap pops into my head all the time. References just appear before me like a gas receipt that floats up and out of the cup holder in your car while you drive with all the windows down on a hot day. It dances before you for a fleeting moment and you watch it like it was that bag in American Beauty and you were that kid with the camera and the creepy eyes.
Seriously, it’s always like this in my head. No. Actually, it’s worse. I don’t share the ones I deem to weird or embarrassing. I’ve already filtered out two possible references to Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs and a couple that featured Lorelai from “The Gilmore Girls” for just those reasons.
So, why did I clean out my car? If I love my own cluttered mind and its outward expression and refuse to make any more excuses for it, why am I now driving around in a freshly scrubbed vehicle?
It’s because, and I am going to be totally honest with you guys right now, I’m taking it in tomorrow to have the brakes looked at and I don’t anyone who might have access to the car thinking I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t pay attention and wouldn’t miss the change from his ashtray.
Yup. I know I’m not right in the head, but it’s too late to fix that now.
And I would miss that change. That’s coffee money.
Until the rise of the modern age, the horse nomads of the vast Eurasian steppes were among the biggest threats to the great civilizations of the east and west. When they stopped fighting amongst themselves and united their strength into focused armies under strong leadership, they proved time and again over history to be unbeatable on the field. There was something about the way these people lived that made them more suited to waging war than the settled peoples around them. They were tougher and faster than these societies could believe, and those advantages among others helped incarnations of these steppe nomads, from the Huns to the Xiongnu to the Mongols, reach out and touch nearly every culture in the known world with their power.
But there is something unique about civilization. It civilizes. China especially is famous for assimilating conquerors. Within a generation or two these formidable nomads who seemed like something out a nightmare when they burst through the walls now seem like any other Chinese rulers. By moving from the harsh steppe to the fleshpots of the world’s largest cities, they had lost that which made them special and able to do what they did. Their secret weapon was the way their lifestyle shaped them, and once that weapon was lost their fearsomeness was seriously diminished. Am I saying that whatever it is about me that allows me to carve something even mildly entertaining out of the hodgepodge of nonsense that exists in my consciousness is something akin whatever made those cruel nomads able to conquer the world? I’m not not saying that.
Most people wouldn’t be able to concentrate in a room as messy as my office. Which is fine. No one else has to. I’ve cluttered this room with things I find inspiring, and being surrounded by those things that I find inspiring inspires me, for some reason.
And explaining my lack of organization makes me sound like a smartass. I shouldn’t snap at you guys. You didn’t ask. I just started talking.
I guess my point is that this chaos is the only thing that makes any sense to me.
And when my car is this clean my water bottle has no empty travel mugs or flip flops to hold it in its proper position between the gearshift and the passenger seat, and it ends up rolling all over the place and the top comes loose and water gets everywhere. It’s a disaster.
*Was his name Linus? I think it was, and that’s gross. It sounds like a euphemism a little kid would use for genitals. They should’ve just called him Genitals.