Too handsome to be so sad

Posted: June 11, 2012 in Comedy Journal, Nonfiction

I’ve been stuck in my hometown for the last couple of days, and as such, I’ve been thinking about killing myself a lot.

Mahatma Ghandi’s famous quote is “be the change you want to see in the world.”  That would make a poignant suicide letter. Ghandi never actually said those words of course. He wasn’t in the bumpersticker or candle making business, but, I still like the idea.  A skull scattered across a bedroom set, or a corpse swinging from a doorjamb, accompanied by those bullshit words, makes me laugh a sick sweet laugh like rotten fruit.

It’s funny, because those words are only encouraging if you assume too much. If you assume we all want to be here. If you assume “the change” we want is something positive… and not something Ugly.

The change I want to see is the atom bomb, or the fourth horsemen, or a violent strain of terminal herpes.

I know it’s stupid to get caught up on a place and let it become the manifestation of all your own insecurities and fears, and I know everybody hates where they’re from. I’m logical enough to know that this place isn’t any worse than anywhere else really. I don’t want you to think I believe my perception is accurate. I know it can’t be.

But. It is awful here. And I do hate it.

I hate it for what it is, I hate it for what I imagine it to be. I hate it that it’s part of me. And most of all, I hate it that it will be here long after I’m gone.

Your hometown is your microcosm for the world, and when I’m here, in this shoddy place full of the chronically non-curious, the world is bad.

It’s mean and it’s dumb and it fucks on my boat.

I went “out on the lake” two days ago. My town has a lot of lakes. 101. As such, it has a little bit of money. White folks from Ft. Wayne, a dirty little almost city near my home, come up over the summer and buy lake houses and Affliction T-shirts. It’s important to our economy. And the most influencing factor to our “culture.” Getting drunk on the lake is the highest of accomplishments here. People put up with 9 months of lousy weather and 12 months of lousy company to get at it.

The lake is really “the sand bar.” A spot where people moor their boats and walk around and drink. It is a gorgeous place really. Trees line the beach in a sharp incline on all sides. It gives a nice nestled in feeling that is beautiful and safe. The lake is big and blue and forgiving. It’s lovely. The greatest of places to slam 12 Bud Lights and finger fuck a drunk girl.

A couple of hundred people come out on about fifty boats and gather around and play a weird amalgam of Toby Keith and Flo Rida. They all wear aviators.

It’s pretty much like every bar in the town, except you’re up to your waist in water, and people don’t judge you for being black out drunk by 4. Also, High School girls can get drunk there, and that’s really the primary draw.

During my day there, I heard a dozen friends tell me how “these girls are just getting sluttier every year,” and how they “can’t believe they do that shit in public” with either feigned outrage, or the genuine shock of a villiage idiot. All the while never venturing out of eyeline from the 12 or so grinding nearby.

They recycle their dad’s old lie that, “15 year olds didn’t look like that” when they were kids, conviniently forgetting that they fucked 15 year olds well their into their college years. I don’t know if they’re misremembering how attractive girls were, or just trying to distance themselves from the fact that they know better.

Oiled up meatheads bounce around the lake posturing to each other and drinking cheap beers. They travel in packs of 3-6 and compliment each other on their Scripture tattoos.

It’s a homoerotic display of machismo I understand… if don’t appreciate. It’s highschool bullying. Nipple twists and drinks tipped up to make you spill down your chest. Some short thick chested idiot grabbed my chest hair and tugged at it. Apparently upset I hadn’t shaved it off… you know… like a man would have? When I smacked his hand away and looked at him the way somebody should look at a stranger who grabs your chest hair, his friends, and mine, stepped in to make sure we weren’t fighting. “It’s a joke, It’s a joke,” they said. I still don’t get it.

People drank and laughed and drank and drank.

I’m not comfortable here. But I can deal. I have a pocket full of dick jokes, and can rhyme “faggot” with almost anything. So they accepted me… I guess.

There was a moment of awkwardness, when I made a gay joke that wasn’t overtly hateful… and when they still laughed at it… it scared them into thinking maybe they were queer. I assured them it didn’t… and they left just a little bit frightened and confused.

A couple of guys mis-identified me (or possibly embelleshed to make themselves seem cooler) as the guy from Bob & Tom, a radio program that used to matter in cities, but now’s mostly good for filling Elk’s Lodges. Guys brought me up on their boats and offered me beers. (I wasn’t drinking… a secret I kept by resting my soda in a can coozie… the exact opposite of the first trick like that I’d learned.) They introduced me to their batch of drunk girls and offered up their best racist jokes.

Even the chest hair puller identified me as “kick-ass” after hearing I was on the radio program that they listened to at work release.

I left with a sunburn… and a nasty aftertaste in my mouth. It wasn’t the actual event. That was pleasant enough: I walked around a lot, I saw some folks I used to know, and got to see how they had gotten fat. (I’m a fat guy too, but I’ve always been fat. And old fat is like old money, we look down on newcomers. We’re like The Buchanan’s looking down at that hillbilly Gatsby.) I got to make some people laugh. I probably wrote a joke. It was fine people watching.

What spoiled the day. What put that rotten taste in my mouth, was realizing… this wasn’t a joke to anybody else. After about 3 hours, after I’d walked around, and said hello to the guys I played football with or that sold me grass back in high school, I got bored. Straight up bored. They didn’t. They were having fun. They weren’t people watching… they were “peopleing.” It made me sad. This is what they did. Next week they’d do the same thing. They’d drink the same 12 beers or 6 glasses of vodka and date rape drug. They’d fire up the same lies and tell the same stories.

That’s as good as it gets here… and I’m the asshole. Because I don’t get it. Clearly.

This is all they need. This is high times in Stuepid County. I hate not understanding things. Especially when I’m sure they’re simple.

I watched my friends drive home drunk, and that fucked with me a little, hearing their self-satisfied recaps of the day grossed me out worse: but what made me ill was something bigger than that; it was the fact that Hundreds of people can so look forward to drinking in a group and not talking. It was the fact that alcohol and sunlight can so completely sate people’s needs. The community I tried so hard in vain to incorporate myself into as a youth is too simple to hold my attention… but too loud to ignore, or to be heard through.

This town has 8 places to buy lake floats, and nowhere to buy a comic book. Nowhere to buy an actual book unless you’re looking for something by Sarah Palin. (to be fair, Stueben has a very nice, underused public library.)

That night, the sadness bled through and got into my frontal lobe. It got worse. Way worse. Worse than I expected. Worse than I know how to deal with. I got angrier than I know how to be.

A got angry over abstracts and hopelessly futile battles.

China made an announcement that day that they’ll send a manned spaceship to dock at a spacestation this month. But in way more important news, Lebron James beat the Celtics. I knew which one of those two stories would matter on the Lake tomorrow. Humans are going to send other humans past the sky, in a ship powered by fire… but… 5 guys beat 5 guys at basketball.

No one is to blame for this. It’s not exploitation of the masses. It isn’t. The news isn’t lying to us. It’s presenting stories… and we’re picking the wrong ones. We’re not misinformed. We’re misinterested. This is corruption from the bottom up, not the top down. I got angry that things so basic, so puerile, could make so many people so much happier than I seem to be able to be.

It made me wonder… how did this type of monkey come out on top? And if we should have?

I read somewhere recently that scientists are arguing we didn’t kill off the Neanderthals, we just won out through interbreeding. I think I believe that hypothesis… I just worry that we called the game too early.

In my state of ennui… possibly trickling into rancor… I got into a fight with my sister, my sweet Christian sister who regularly uses the term sand-nigger and prays the gay out of strangers. She asked where I got off thinking I was better than people just because I read books… and that a lot of people can read. I explained that I knew they could, and I was just upset they didn’t; and that curiosity is not a trait we hold in much esteem here. She didn’t understand. She only cares about the one book, and it’s not so much for reading, as it is for carrying around.

She said she’d pray for me. Which is good. The more time she spends talking to Jesus, the less time she can talk to me… and that’s aces. It sucks for Jesus though. Talking to her is awful. And wether he’s a Wizard or a Zombie or the Son of God… He’s suffered enough.

Between the stress of the day, and the drive and the sun, plus the general funk the town leaves me in. I was overwhelmed.

I had a bit of break.

I stayed up all night. I couldn’t sleep. Some of it was family, some of it friends, the heat, dehydration… Maybe it was that I hadn’t smoked pot for the first night in… a lot of nights… but I went out on the porch and cried.

A bunch. I cried and I smoked cigarettes.

I was staying at my folks. I didn’t have any gigs booked that weekend, and thought a trip home would be good. I was wrong. I was sitting on my parents porch chain-crying and trying not to smoke.

Dad came out in the morning. Around 9. He saw me. I didn’t hide my cigarette. (I know it sounds silly, I’m a 31 year old man, and both of my parents know I smoke… but… they don’t like it, and I’d rather not offend them, but, that morning, I was too tired to even gesture.)

He peeked his head out of the back door, “are you alright big guy?” he asked slowly.

“No pop.” I said, “I’m not.”… “I’m just real sad.”

He stepped out and leaned in my direction. My dad was never a particularly wise or insightful man. He knows things and would share them, but I don’t remember ever recieving much guidance aside from “never take any advice from a man with a ponytail.” That beings said my dad is a sweet man, and he certainly loved his kids and never let any one of us feel like he didn’t. “You know… that runs in our family.” he said. “Being real sad.” “Your gran’ma and her sister both…” He put one of his thick fingers up to his temple and cocked his thumb.

“I know dad.” I said.

He rubbed is hands against his skull. Old hands now, But hands that used to be so strong. Strong like God’s hands were.

“Do you think you’d like to,… talk to somebody? …get some help for it?” He asked. It wasn’t easy for him. He came from an era when therapy was just for lunatics.

“Why dad?” I asked.

“So I can get better?” I gestured up to the sky. The smoke rising from one hand made me look like a plane who’d blown an engine.

“So I can be happier? So I can get along?”

“That sounds fucking terrible.” I said, laughing and crying at the same time.

He left me alone. But him asking helped.

I spoke to my mom when she woke up. After I’d washed my hands and brushed my teeth so I didn’t smell like cigarettes.

I just told her the truth.

I was down. And that I still am.

She was less supportive than dad. She still thinks sad means weak, and maybe she’s right. But, she didn’t write me off or scold me, like she has in the past.

She told me things she believed. Weird things that don’t make complete sense. When I told her about how I felt about space and time and how most of us are garbage, she didn’t “tsk” a single word… she just started talking about how much she always wanted to know more about the bottom of the ocean. And how she thought there were things down there that were beautiful. Things that would answer a lot of questions.

I hope she’s right… and I hope it’s got great big tits… so we’ll try to fucking find it.

  1. DJ,

    I don’t like the truth of this post–that you’re down and don’t see any relief on the immediate horizon–but I do like the way you wrote it. You articulated very well those little nags that buzz around in the back of the brain, refusing to let up. They’re the things that weigh on us the most, I think.

    I hope your mom’s right, too.


  2. Shannon B says:

    I feel the same way about our hometown. I actually tried to send you a message on Facebook and it failed marvelously. I’m going to try again in the morning so watch your inbox : )

  3. Snatchy McPants says:

    Ouch, that one stings. While once again you’ve blown me away with your incredible writing, it sucks to know it was essentially written about me. Hope you get feeling better buddy, and sorry to put you in such a tough spot.

  4. lordluzr says:

    “You can never go home again.” You can burn a lot of calories trying to recapture that sense of home and sometimes the fact is you can’t. Once ou’ve left, that ‘place’ disappears. And when you return to the locale it’s frustrating and depressing because you see, almost exclusively see, all the differences from where you’ve grown since leaving. It’s like arriving at the wake of your former life when you were expecting a party.

    And actually, I don’t think the location is all that important. I had a similar experience in Cancun of all places. Never been before but after three nights of bars, beach and…. bars I guess, I found myself sitting on the shore watching the sun come up and being absolutely hollow. Totally drained of fun and, while not ‘sad’ now that I look back on it, I was full of ‘huh?’. I was confused about why this was supposed to be fun. Why I wasn’t enjoying it as everyone around me seemed to be doing to the hilt. Some places, well, we’re not made for some places. Doesn’t mean we’re wrong, or that the place is wrong. I finally came to the conclusion that what I was feeling was ‘lost’ or ‘lonely in a crowd’. You can be surrounded by people and share no connection with them and it sucks.

    But it’s temporary if you want it to be.

    • DJ Dangler says:

      Thank you mister. I know you’re right. It’s weird becoming disconnected. I felt like the pressure difference between inside and outside of my head was so severe an explosion, or implosion (I don’t know which, I’m bad at math) was inevitable. I’m glad this is all that came out. Thanks for reading it though. And more than that, just thanks for being awesome. I hope I’ll see you again sometime soon.

  5. mikebftw says:

    Not to excuse, but to at least partially explain: Wages have either been stuck in the same place or declined over the past thirty years in this country. Meanwhile, productivity and working hours have increased pretty dramatically. Not only that, but those of us who didn’t lose our jobs over this past depression spend the better part of each day fucking terrified that we’ll be the next on the chopping block. Whether the job is physically demanding or mentally tedious/meaningless, we’re getting worked like retards, so we tend to relax like retards. That’s not to say I want to stand around getting drunk in piss-water whilst ogling underage girls. I give my wife no small amount of shit for watching Bad Girls Club, but at the very core, my watching Downton Abbey isn’t terribly different. We want distraction; to turn our brains off. Again, that’s me explaining, not excusing. I think we need smart, funny people calling attention to the absurdity of what we do for entertainment. Hopefully, that eventually leads us to realize what the rest of the developed world already knows about working to live rather than living to work.

    I don’t know if you were looking for advice, but here’s some anyway: Don’t kill yourself. You’ve already done the “dead” thing for billions of years. Checking out this early in the “living” thing would just be idiotic. And Jesus Christ, man, if you must kill yourself, don’t do it over disappointment with Steuben County. That would be TRAGICALLY idiotic.

    I think that writing with this level of sincerity has moved you a big step closer to the likes of Carlin and Hicks. I just wish it hadn’t taken such an emotional toll on you. You’re gonna need that emotional strength, too, because the next big step involves murdering Daniel Tosh.

    Like Hicks said, Love – not Fear.

    • DJ Dangler says:

      I think you’re spot on Dr. Butler. I really dig that point about productivity and wages. (I’m going to shoplift it and use it) Thanks for the advice. It’s pretty good.

      Also, Thanks a lot for the encouragement… and for not letting me get away with too much bitchiness. I appreciate both, and (I really mean this) I appreciate them equally.

  6. Josh says:


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