When one has nothing left make ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them – The Road
I’m skeptical – wait that word is not strong enough, read: see absolutely no point – in a lot of the official ceremonies and rituals that get foisted on people by institutions, (my main experience has been with schools and the government) and I guess by extension just question the value of a lot of the things people are always telling me I’m supposed to do. Note that this is mostly not the scientific skepticism of the intrepid truth-seeker, nor am I a devout challenger of authority – I love authority. In theory it keeps everything running smoothly and in order. I cross the street when the crosswalk tells me to and do what cops say because they are cops and jail is scary. This is primarily a disclaimer; whatever I’m saying here is not the inspired polemic of a voice for individualism and freedom, but instead the lazy and disconnected musings of someone who wants to wear sweatpants at parties because they are comfortable and skipped his junior and senior convocation to watch soccer.
One issue that holds a special place in my heart is that of a work dress code. Both of my first two jobs had a business casual thing going – wear decent shoes, pants, and a nice shirt. What was the point? The first, I was an internet fact checker. I didn’t interact with a single person besides my supervisor, and him I only talked to via email. My group (I hesitate to say team) was away from everyone. Why couldn’t we wear t-shirts? We were as far out of the way and unimportant as could be. Why do you give a shit? Everyone of us could have showed up naked and the only people it really would have affected would have been us so long as we had the decency to wear coats or something past the front desk lady.
Same way with my job sophomore summer, I was a phone bitch for a local copy-machine company, which is just as glamorous as it sounds, and spent all day calling/emailing clients asking them for information we then used to bill them. Considering that, imagine how excited these people were to talk to me! Boy was that job a fucking blast. On the first casual Friday, I showed up in a nicer pair of khaki shorts, and on walking in my coworker Nestor Grullon (anyone named after Homeric kings I try to hang out with as much as possible, and if you don’t get this you were not paying attention when you read Homer) broke out laughing, “what’re you doing with shorts kid?” “Nestor it’s casual Friday…” “Casual is jeans, you can’t wear shorts to work anywhere! What they teach you in that college, kid? Go home idiot.” “This is bullshit Nestor.” I drove home, raging against the man, who wouldn’t even let me wear a good pair of shorts, put on jeans and came back to work.
The following summer I was a file clerk at a very large and impressive law firm in Boston, where I was subject again to a business casual dress code, because I never interacted with any clients. On the one hand, that was awesome because I did not have to wear a suit. On the other hand, says the little part of my brain that likes to think about things, what the fuck do people wear suits for in the first place?
Ostensibly, from what I can see, it’s in the interest of appearing as professional as possible. You wear a good suit (the more obviously expensive the better), your potential clients think that you are professional and are more likely to hire you. Beyond that though? I’m not seeing it, besides the psychic value of knowing that wearing a suit makes you look good. I feel like the marginal impact on intelligence of every added piece of professional clothing is zero. Do you think if Bain or Mckinsey’s people showed up wearing sweatpants people wouldn’t hire them? No, you hire them because they are brilliant, and if everyone at those companies started wearing sweatpants it would probably start a trend. The only difference would be that when you prostrate yourself before them you don’t have to undo as many zippers before you can suck their dicks in hopes of them fixing your problems.
As a corollary to this, any asshole can put on a suit. Suit stores are everywhere. Suits are eminently accessible. I could have bought a suit at any of four stores on my way to work this morning. And in a world where any asshole can put on a suit, it would seem that whatever intrinsic value lay in a suit is totally debased. And given all these facts it would seem that the cult of the suit is mostly just perpetuated to drive business to suit stores and enable business execs to circle jerk each other over how great they look in their suits. It’s a whole lot to do about nothing and the sooner everyone realizes that the sooner they can stop wasting their money on suits and start spending more time focusing on making their product better and less on whether their clothes look nice.
Another example of these false necessities are a lot of the ceremonies we go through, generally serving as rites of passage, e.g. convocation, graduation, etc. I don’t like taking time out of my day to be told I have done something that I know I have done: it’s redundant. Did I need to sit in 95-degree heat last May for 5 hours in order to pick up my diploma? Nope. I did all the work, I know full well I was a graduate. The smart kids skipped and picked that shit up in the mail later. As I said earlier, I skipped the two convocations that actually applied to me (junior and senior year) to watch soccer. It’s their own fault, who expects me to skip a champions league final to wear a goofy gown and hear some guy I’ve never interacted with lie to me about what a great job we’re going to do when we get out there in the real world. What’s the point?
This feeling is mostly derived from a healthy spiritual questioning of what is important. Who are you to tell me that something is important? To extract me from my couch, see me clad in appropriate raiment and at your whim force me to stand attentively to your designs? I’d be more than happy to do whatever you want, I love being told what to do. It gives me a sense of purpose that i can’t give myself. Just give me something whose fundamental purpose holds water – until someone can give me something that I cannot reduce to inane bullshit in a few easy steps, I’d rather just keep laying down and watching storage wars.
I think it has something to do with the time period I live in, which may or may not have fostered my development as a heathen. Every spectacle I have ever witnessed, however noble or profound its origins, has long since become something hopelessly constructed and artificial. Are sports free of this? Hardly. The Olympics is a pale imitation of the Ancient Olympic games, where being an Olympian meant more than just potential endorsement deals and attempts at world records and entry to the quadrennial Olympic village orgy, though that more was naught but fame and a laurel wreath. Now? Massive corporations vie for plum advertising contracts, and anyone not associated with the games in some official capacity gets fucking crucified for putting Olympic rings on their shop windows. How about politics? Less fucking (or at least less good looking young people fucking), change the names of the money bags trying to run the show, and make everyone involved either a little smarter or a lot more cuntish and you’ve got a similar situation.
Religion? I went to a funeral and saw name brand coffins and mass-produced communion wafers, and I’m pretty confident whatever metallic instrument the priest was using to arbitrarily bless shit was built in Asian sweatshops. The priest used a bible I haven’t looked at in 15 years and an obit to extol the virtues of a man whose name he could not pronounce and whom he had never met, and to cap the spiritual farce I read a passage (chosen from 20 available passages) from the Old testament that meant nothing to me or anyone listening to my sermon. Whatever meaning there may have been seems lost, what remains being an empty ceremony clad in the shredded vestiges of the church’s sense of occasion.
Times were that animals and humans were slaughtered on altars to divine the future and appease vengeful and bloodthirsty Gods. Were they real? Probably not, but everyone sure fucking thought they were, and at least the rites had a seemingly profound impact on the lives and fates of the people celebrating them. I’m not sure if I’m advocating regression to the pre-plumbing era, because life was immensely shittier for the majority of those humans than it is for me, but I think there’s something to be said for simplistic profundity ahead of the sterile and commodified official functions I’m supposed to attend. Then again, maybe everyone looks at their circumstances with a skeptical eye. Maybe a young Roman child 2000 years ago watched his father bludgeon an ox to death with an indifferent eye, bored by the religious duties of their elders. Maybe, even longer ago, young Britons walked, eyes skeptically peeled at the so-called “sacred groves” that to them appeared naught but trees but to their religious superiors were unparalleled places of worship. Maybe those same children watched their spiritual leaders ritually drench themselves in the blood of their enemies with a blasé eye, the “are we killing this prisoner? honestly we killed a dude last week and the weather stayed the same, maybe we’re going about this the wrong way…” the “are we done yet” expression perfected by teenagers of every race and culture since the dawn of time. So what am I saying exactly? Maybe nothing. Maybe I have indeed (just like a lot of people, to be fair) indulgently created a past far superior in my head to reality, and everyone has always thought that everything is full of shit, and if so that just means that I’m nestled comfortably into the status quo. I almost hope so.
maybe I’m just looking for every excuse I can to ignore things and stay on my couch and everything is perfectly fine and I just suck.
Is this a month and a half late? Yes. Do I apologize? No, I’ve been doing shit. Ha, lie. As a card-carrying member of the unemployed (to be fair, the now underemployed) I am an infrequent doer of things. I could have written probably 20,000 words since I last did something. And I’ve got plenty of shit to write about, a lot of weird things have happened.
Why haven’t I then? Well it’s hard to persuade myself to spend my valuable me-time writing when I could spend it watching tv and/or yanking on my penis. As someone who doesn’t do transitions, here you go.
The following morning we again boarded that winged mechanical harbinger of luxury and shipped on down to Austin, Texas. The three of us were being put up in the Hyatt, which may consider itself a quality hotel but any institution that considers free internet such an onerous cost that it shovels it on to its customers and makes you pay as you go is full of shit. This faux-hotel was now littered with bicycling and cancer-fighting enthusiasts, and the mood was as hopeful as some of the larger mens’s decision to go with the anti-flattering spandex bike outfit was ill advised.
The highlight of the evening was going to be the Livestrong 15th anniversary gala, and we killed the afternoon waiting for that hypocrisy-fest to begin. I spent most of the time examining my new home for its charms and deficiencies.
As someone who lived in Main for two years, the speed of the elevator was a selling point. People seeking emergency attention have died waiting for the main elevator to go from the 4th to ground floor and it takes at least 15 seconds longer than it should. While that doesn’t seem exorbitant, proportionately that 15 seconds doubles the amount of time the trip should take. If something is supposed to last an hour and ends up lasting an hour and 2 minutes, the marginal addition in time over the initial investment is minimal. But when something is supposed to last 15 seconds and ends up lasting 30, it takes fucking forever.
Further, I hope there is a special place in hell for every asshole without a serious physical handicap – and this is serious, mind you, I’m talking wheel chairs – that gets off or on the elevator at the 2nd floor. Take the stairs you useless piece of shit. Not to mention that Eli, my execrable Hebrew housemate and former neighbor in Main, once, half naked, hammered and without a Vcard to get upstairs, resigned himself to sleeping in the elevator, either because he was too embarrassed to go to the bottom floor and ask for help or because he is super dumb, and, upon the urging of his bladder, successfully pissed in it. I can only hope that the statute of limitations on that sort of thing hasn’t passed and he can be found and prosecuted.
Nothing about that elevator is good or decent, and the Hyatt’s elevator was its polar opposite. It was a vessel of incredible swiftness, a veritable Shadowfax of an elevator, and the back wall panel was all glass so you could look down upon the peons congregating below as you rose to the heavens.
A serious negative note was my room’s lack of a mini fridge, because it is impossible for me to raid a minibar that I do not have. While going down to the bar in the lobby and bringing drinks back would be the problem-solvers route, there’s a certain poetic image behind the lonesome kid drinking nips alone in his room tapping away on his computer that would get lost if a bartender was introduced to the equation.
Eventually it was time to go to the centerpiece of the whole trip, the Livestrong 15th anniversary charity gala. We outfitted ourselves in appropriately formal attire (my pockets, perhaps also appropriately, packed with nips of whiskey) and were herded into buses outside, which then drove us to some large concert hall-type-thing in the middle of downtown Austin.
To add to the sense of ceremony, there was an actual red carpet rolled out from the entrance, and camera crews were taking pictures of would-be entrants at the entrance. We walked to the back of a growing line, all throughout which I could hear earnest looking people sharing stories about cancer survival and their own fundraising efforts, which cracked me up. Not, obviously, because cancer is funny but because I believe most people were invited due to the large amounts of money they raised that year in the name of cancer fighting. Considering the clientele, I was at the height of my unemployed existence there, as not only did all of these people likely have decent jobs, but they also spent their spare time raising large amounts of money to fight a terrible disease. Thus, there, amidst a veritable sea of decency and hard work, lazed a simple Leach, the youthful and unemployed scion of his house, whose infinite hours of leisure were spent in the employ of his own self-indulgence rather than the betterment of either himself or his fellow man.
It was fucking awesome. The three of us: a rich poker game-winning uncle, his Canadian cycling enthusiast nephew and his son’s retarded fake-blog-running friend, somehow insinuated into the lives of cancer-fighting warriors deservedly enjoying a night celebrating the fruits of their onerous labors. A running theme in my life has been dissonance. The disparity between what I do and what I think is smart; just a general sense of being perpetually out of place, a puzzle piece that is always slightly too small or large or fucked up looking for whatever space it seems like it should fit into.
If there was ever a place I did not belong, it was at that event. I was a Bostonian Idiot in Cancer’s Court, and if anyone there had any sense of propriety they’d have tossed me in the stocks for having the temerity to attend. In that light the highlight of the evening was when the three of us reached the front of the line, where the cameramen dutifully bade us pause and look important before snapping commemorative photos of the three (unbeknownst to them) imposters.
In an almost all-too-fitting moment, when the three of us went in turn to the front desk inside to confirm our presence, my name didn’t clear as a guest with the lady at the front desk. I frantically called over the benefactor, who somehow smoothed everything over. I’m not sure what he did but I think he used money to make my problem go away. I was soon whisked inside, and after a quick word with a passing waitress – “would you like wine sir?” “of course!” “red or white?” “Alcoholic.” “What?” “…White” – I sauntered towards the silent auction, ready to look at all of the things that my zero dollars would not be able to purchase – mostly a bunch of signed memorabilia from all the major sports.
The most entertaining was certainly the stack of Lance’s seven Tour-de-France-winning yellow jerseys, with the word “priceless” stenciled in under the expected value section on the auction ticker. I didn’t see anyone laughing and pointing at it, but considering Armstrong had just days prior been outed as having run “the most professionalized and successful doping program” his sport had ever seen, and only days later would have his name struck from cycling’s record books, the value seemed more than a little tongue in cheek. I made the obligatory “Priceless today, worthless next week,” joke and circled the room.
The Gala proper started soon in the next room. Behind the stage jutting out from one wall were a dozen massive television monitors, and facing the stage were a hundred or so (ballpark estimate, no idea) tables seating 8. Behind these tables on the far wall were a series of large stereo things that worked in conjunction with the television so people who weren’t in the front row could hear and see the shit happening on stage. If I remember correctly, as we took our seats an intimidatingly loud countdown started playing, at the conclusion of which a 5-10 minute video lauding the genesis and growth of the LiveStrong foundation began.
The video, like the rest of the evening and weekend, was VERY on point. Did it mention Lance? Well yes, it had to, considering the organization only existed because of him. It mentioned that he rode a bike and that he got cancer, and that he kicked cancers ass enough to ride a bike again every once in a while. But there was NOTHING about his career, no pictures of him triumphantly cycling through France in his gay little yellow leotard. The awkwardness was compounded a few moments later when the man himself ascended the stage to address his charity’s minions and told a tale of hardship and woe, again without reference to his career. I’ll give some more on this later, I’ll just leave this line of thought at the moment for a bit later, because the rest of the night was a treat.
Stephen Marley came out and sang to me. I’m not a huge reggae fan but that’s fucking cool. Norah Jones also came out and sang don’t know why directly at me. She was so pretty and perfect and I wanted her to not sound so sad. Robin Williams came out and told me jokes, and that was a personal highlight of my life, as I’ve been a fan forever. Him and Eddie Murphy just have to look straight at me to make me laugh. Yes they’ve spent most of the last decade starring in one horrific movie after another, but that doesn’t make them not funny it just means they have terrible taste in parts.
And then Sean Penn came out. Sean fucking Penn. I don’t know why but I hate that guy. On the bus in when I saw the nights itinerary I joked to the Benefactor that I was going to kick his ass, “Because fuck Milk.” The benefactor followed that by noting in all seriousness that Penn looked like a pretty tough dude, and that he wasn’t certain I could win that fight, and I must admit I got pretty upset. How could I not kick Sean Penn’s ass? The dude is over 50 year old and he’s like 5-8. I’m 6’, 22, a former NCAA Varsity Athlete (did I get off the bench? Not really, but I was on the team and that sort of counts), and I used to do karate.
I pressed my case a little, and just for good measure shot out a text message to a friend of mine mentioning that if I played my cards right I had a decent shot at kicking Sean Penn’s ass. A few minutes later I get back something like “are you sure you could do that? He looks pretty strong man.” That was almost too much for my already fragile psyche.
Am I missing something here? He’s an old man! It’s one thing for one guy to conjecture that I might have a tough time with Sean Penn but for two separate, totally unrelated people to have the exact same response within minutes of each other, either I wasn’t aware that Sean Penn is some sort of symbol of rugged manhood or I clearly exude some sort of natural weakness. This isn’t to say that I think of myself as a fighter, but I’d like to think that I carry myself like a creature capable of holding his own against old people. Opinion amended.
The rest of the night was nice but uneventful. The food was good, but the kind of obnoxious food that high-end chefs produce. Further a different chef produced each course, and while I get that they were trying to show off their knowledge to each other and impress people, I’d have preferred it if they abstained from the intellectual cuisine circle-jerk and just made me a fucking burger.
When the night ended we shipped off to a couple bars. The first one I remember mostly for the absolutely perfect girl I met there. She was beautiful and liked Confederacy of Dunces and Bukowski “even though I probably shouldn’t.” That’s all I can remember about her besides the fact that she had a boyfriend, and I’m pretty sure when she dropped that conversation killer her words cut a tiny notch out of the cockles of my wasted little heart. She was a paragon of womanhood; possessed of the kind of ethereal beauty rarely gifted to the more peasant-type women I’m usually forced to deal with. Granted, as perfect as she might have been, when I took my leave it reminded me of a comedian who asked how long one had to continue a conversation in the spirit of politeness before walking away from a woman who acknowledged being off the market – I gave her about four seconds.
I don’t remember much about the next bar, but according to Trevor I was speaking to a couple of young ladies and, after one complained that I looked bored, I vigorously flipped them off and stalked away looking super cranky, which sort of perfectly illustrates why I don’t get laid very often anymore.
The next morning Trevor and the Benefactor woke up early to go on some gay bike ride with Lance, and I enjoyed a luxurious free hotel breakfast. The day was uneventful, but the evening was full of fireworks, though sadly not for me. As The Benefactors +2 on the day, I was sadly not invited to the dinner being held at Lance’s ranch for the big money donors/poker game winners.
While I was sent several pictures messages “It’s almost like you’re here!” from the Benefactor, I left to my own devices while they dined in spectacularly hypocritical luxury, around a “$40 Million” house. And that’s the bullshit part, that while the world can and did take all of his titles, they cannot take any of his money. I don’t know how much of his wealth was accumulated post-fraudulent career, but after a quick wiki-scan of his life I’d be willing to bet that most of it was. While he may be a sporting outcast for cheating, and as much as that may spiritually hurt him for the rest of his life, he gets to be psychologically wounded while still enjoying the fruits of his fraudulent labor. He gets to cuntily tweet pictures of himself sitting on a leather couch in his manse, his walls bedecked with yellow jerseys, an elaborate fuck you to his naysayers. I don’t know if or how his wealth should be redistributed to more deserving parties or whatever, but something about that screams bullshit.
The following morning I went home, and circling the entire journey were spectral, ominous signs that I was being returned to 5% land. The taxi I took to the airport caught a flat tire and while he still made it there he parked a hundred yards away and I had to walk all the way in. On my flight home, I was sat between two fat people in business class on a commercial flight – this was certainly no longer 1% camp. And now I’m getting bored of this.