Listen to the music
August 15, 2020 § 8 Comments
One of the big realizations I had about life came when I was camped out three days in Marblemount, and not simply because they host the annual Sasquatch/Bigfoot Conference, this year Sept. 5-6 at the community center. I even texted Jack from Illinois (not his real name) to see if he was doing the keynote again. He confirmed, with the exciting news that Sasquatch would be attending via Zoom.
So this little town has things going for it.
What my little RV camp site had going for it, aside from the highway and malt liquor enthusiast kid beaters camped next door, was an available spot. It was pricey, $20 a night, but came with the one thing you can’t get at hiker-biker sites at the local state parks. That is, it came with music.
Not the kind that people play from their stereos, but the music that comes when you lie in your tent, all zipped up, and listen to their conversations, and the music that comes when they ask you where you’re going and what you’re up to, and you them.
Three days was a perfect break. The constant work of coffee, breakfast, break camp, ride, set up camp, eat, blog, sleep is reduced by orders of magnitude when you remove “ride,” “set up camp,” and “break camp” from the equation. The next few days featured nonexistent to spotty wifi-cellular coverage at best, so it was imperative to catch up on emails, comb my hair, and at least think about doing laundry. Which is overrated, I’ve found.
The myth of camping and the outdoors, that it is a place you go to get away from people, is an inverted reality. Camping and the outdoors are where you go to find intimate proximity with people. Individuated, cubicle-ized, glued to the screen “normal” life works to wholly cleave us from others. Nowhere is life more isolated than urban life, nowhere is life more glued to the sounds and farts of others than the outdoors.
At the campsite you are in their face and they are in yours. I was walking out of the public toilet when a man stopped me. Everyone had noted that I was on a bike. “Where are you coming from?”
“Wow. Where are you going?”
“I’m not sure. At first I was going to ride to Seattle and then take the train home. Then I was going to ride the Cascades-Sierra route down to Tecate, then over to San Diego and home. Then I realized I don’t technically have a home. So I dunno. Argentina?”
There was that brief pause where he scanned to determine the percentage recommended daily allowance of bullshit that was contained in my answer. “Wow,” he said.
“How about you?”
“I live in Longview, a couple hours’ drive from here. Camping and backpacking with my wife. Didn’t sleep great last night, though.”
“Yeah. A bit much partying going on to ever really fall asleep. These places …” he trailed off.
“That’s the music, man.”
“The drunks. And everyone else. You. Me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I left home, or non-home, thinking I was going somewhere, a place where I’d be mostly alone on my bike with my thoughts. About Mile 800 or so I realized that I wasn’t the first person to discover the coasts of California and Oregon, the redwoods, state parks, hiker-biker sites, wild camping. Not only that, but the roads and parks are filled with people doing a bit of discovery on their own.”
“So much drinking, though.”
“The alcohols are part of their journey. Used to be part of mine. There was a real alcoholman named Jacob in one of the parks who taught me a lot as he cycled through The Program.”
“The Real-Anon Program.”
“It’s a program for people who suffer from sobriety, from an unhealthy attraction to reality. Billions of people are born with this disease, it’s genetic, causing you to seek out smells, sights, the touch of the real world, causing you against your will to seek spiritual fulfillment with your five senses, your soul, your mind, and the community of the other realiholics around you.”
“You’re yanking my chain.”
“But realiholicism pulls you away from the true reason we exist, which is to hunt for, kill, bottle, and drink the alcohols. So the Real-Anon Program exists to help realiholics stay away from all the messiness of reality.”
“What is this program?”
“It only has one step, a stagger, actually: Drink the alcohols.”
He laughed. “You’re trying to be funny, but it’s kind of true.”
“I’m not trying to be funny. Real-Anon meetings are held hourly all over America. The entire refrigerated side of most convenience stores is dedicated to Real-Anon sufferers, there to speedily help them get back on track with The Step. I mean, the stagger. They call that side of the store the Alcowall.”
“It is kind of omnipresent.”
“It has to be. If you are a realiholic, you can without warning fall into literature, poetry, music, or dog forbid, healthy relationships. Sobriety sneaks up on you, you say you’ll only be sober for an hour or two, or until lunch, and next thing you know you’re a Mormon. Real-Anon is there to make sure you are never more than two stumbles away from a ten-day bender with blackouts and unprotected sex. In The Big Black Book they’re called the alcosprawl and the alcoball.”
“So you think we are a nation of drunks?”
“Absolutely not. We are a nation of realiholics, desperately trying to feel, see, and make sense of real phenomena, including our own lives. The only way to effectively combat this is with a program that makes sure you are always able to quickly consume the alcohols. Work, church, cycling clubs, hunting buddies, cheerleader moms, they all exist to help the realiholic stay shit-faced from dawn to dusk.”
“Who started this program?”
“He was an anyonymous realiholic named Robert. He had literally come to the last house on the block. He’d ruined his life with marriage, family, kids, grandkids, and a chubby 401k. Nothing to look forward to. All of his hobbies were fulfilling, he had an ideal BMI, only ate whole grains, and even did yoga … better than his wife.”
“Wow. That is a living hell.”
“Oh, yes. And he constantly broke the Women’s Rule of Men: “Your partner may never be skinnier than you.” Anyway, just as he was about to die happily, he discovered the alcohols. And it saved his life. Within a month he was divorced, broke, homeless, and mostly unconscious in a gutter. But he somehow wrote the Big Black Book, which sets forth all the stuff you need to know.”
“Well, first, The Step. I mean, the stagger. Then just a list of basic concepts since, once you’re on the program, you can’t really read or remember anything anymore, nor do you need to. For example:
- Alcofall: What you do after imbibing enough of the alcohols.
- Alcohaul: Scoring more alcohols after the stores are closed.
- Alcocrawl: Making your way to the place where you deposit your used alcohols in the porcelain tank to make space for the fresh ones.
- Alcostall: This is a twofer; means toilet and is also what you tell someone to delay a task you’re supposed to do so you can drink more alcohols.
- Alcoball: Taking off your clothes with a partner but being unable to do anything.
- Alcosmall: What happens to men after alcoholing.
- Alcopall: Permanent face color. Most pronounced in the mornings. Also called “Camp Face.”
- Alcothrall: Vacant gaze of bliss that goes over your face when you catch your first alcohols of the day, usually before 8:00 AM, always before 9.
- Alcogall: Dual meanings. The taste in your mouth the next morning; also, outrage when realiholics criticize your drinking of the alcohols.
- Alcotrawl: Looking for sex partners who are also sufficiently alcoholed to consider you as a potential hookup.
- Alcodrawal: Physical reaction to being deprived of the alcohols more than 90 minutes.
- Alcobrawl: Altercation that results when one person has drunk up all the alcohols while you were doing an alcocrawl to the alcostall.
- Alcomaul: Vicious beating after saying something incoherent to another alcoholer.
- Alcoscrawl: Signature at the admissions desk of the rehab center.
- Alcodoll: Appearance of all women after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.
- Alcodrawl: Incoherent muttering after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.
“There are a lot more,” I said. “But once you’re on the program none of them matter.”
My interlocutor walked off. Later that afternoon I saw him emptying his beer cans in the sink.