Oh, hello there. It’s A Dude here. Not THE Dude. Just A Dude. Obviously I’m not Jeff Bridges, the star of The Big Lebowski. I don’t bowl, drink White Russians, wear a robe with Jellies sandals, smoke herbal cigarettes, or say “man” all the time. So on this point we must be clear. At least that’s what the lawyers tell me, in order to keep a certain pair of famous movie mogul brothers off my kiester. or Tuchus. Buttocks. Ass. Back (as in “baby got…”). Behind. Bottom. Butt. Backside. Derriere. Fanny. Fundament. Pooter. OK, there sure are a lot of synonyms for the Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus aren’t there? Actually, I’d love it if they read my blog and hired me to be a screenwriter, to star in their films, or to work for them in some other capacity. Well, I guess it’s not clear where this post is going. You might say I’m dude-ling. (Get it? Like doodling?) I digress.
These are the waning days of December, which are supposed to be at least somewhat cool in Central Texas, but today it was 77 F. The resurgence of summer and shorts weather is fine with me, but adds to the disorientation at this time of year. Omicron COVID-19 is surging. The politicians in Washington, DC hem and haw, point fingers, and fight endless games with each other — all allegedly over the public good. They carp and crap on the Constitution, the truth, or both. But follow the money, as they say. I think the whole world has the doldrums. The Buddha said life is dissatisfaction. Buddhism says the way out is to meditate. BORING!
Here in Austin, it’s not at all unpleasant. The students leave town. Lights and shopping and seasonal music abound. The holiday hustle and bustle. Wind blows, leaves fall, there’s a quiet below the din of the city. I’m just tired from doing all my activities, trying to take care of business, health, my future, i.e., life. There’s a meeting here, a Zoom call there, a lab test, another doctor’s visit, helping to keep the ghost bike project going, doing the dishes. I can’t complain, although I suppose just did. Probably I’m doing too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things. I think I’m experiencing what’s best described as ennui. It’s best summed up by the chorus of a song popularized by Peggy Lee:
Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is
It’s been a long, strange, and frankly not great year for many of us. Life is not so neat like in a television sitcom’s 22-minutes, or a drama’s 44-minutes. A problem is introduced, dramatic or comedic tension is used to explore it, and then there’s the denouement where it’s resolved. I don’t know about you, but real life is seldom if ever like that, at least not mine. It’s in fact ofttimes it’s downright messy.
Sure, I have my consistent habits of biking, walking, yoga, reading, writing, and flute that are touchstones. Oh, and usually I watch some of those televised comedies and dramas. That all keeps me busy, and it can be a real (if somewhat privileged) struggle to get them all done, and of course no one’s paying me for any of it. Habits take time and effort, but a job soon will change a lot of things. I’m not happy about it.
I mean, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve got the same 24 hours as everyone else. For the able-bodied, there’s the getting up, performing one’s daily ablutions, and then moving on to a take care of a job, or the kids, or a farm, what have you. But for those sans portfolio, what to do next is always an issue. Especially if you’re a Libra like A Dude. Clean? Write? Exercise? Make calls? Study for a job? While I’m well-off in time, actual resources are quickly dwindling; some days I think I can see the precipice of homelessness not too far away. Especially in Austin, where rent is up A LOT (mine DOUBLED this year).
There’s trouble all over. Inflation means paychecks and purchasing power usually are not keeping pace with the cost of living. Compared to many people in developing nations, I would be considered to be rich. There’s privilege behind being able to even have electricity, plumbing, a laptop, the internet. Don’t forget the literacy to write, sufficient food, a bicycle, a car, and much more. Compared to many, though, I’m on a low budget, near the brink if not poverty, downward mobility. So it’s a matter of perspective. I’m not complaining as much as saying life it tough all over, just in different ways for different folks.
Most of A Dude’s days are not like sitcoms. When you’re an unemployed slacker bum like moi, the days tend to become their own organic things unto themselves. Take a recent example. A good chunk of the day revolved around an appointment. Getting ready for it. Going there. Waiting. Having the appointment, in several stages. Talking, listening, go here, go there. Then there’s the ending. And finally the returning. So the appointment part was fairly structured and predictable. (It went ok, thanks for asking.) But the rest of the day? Pretty much a total crap shoot. Why? Because while I have a calendar and to do lists, I tend to do what I feel like and avoid what I don’t feel like. And many days, for various reasons, I’m not doing what society deems productive. I’m not griping about my freedom, it’s just that freedom is expensive.
There’s always something that throws you a loop. “If something can go wrong, it will” is Murphy’s Law. For example, yesterday I was biking home (from another appointment, natch), when I heard something get stuck in my spokes. I stopped immediately and saw that my portable air pump hose had came loose; the top was ripped off. I picked it up and headed straight towards Clown Dog Bike shop. The fellow there looked at it and saw what part was missing and tried to find something to work. It didn’t. He suggested I contact the maker. I biked back to the spot and searched for the piece, to no avail. Add 30 minutes to my day and another chore, or an expense if I have to buy one. And the next time I have a flat, I’ll hopefully be near a bus since I won’t be able to fix it. These are often called “first world problems.” Often not a big deal. They’re still problems, though, and when many are compounded, that’s stress, which is a killer.
Another example: after two flats two days in a row, I took Sophie into The Peddler where it was confirmed that my rear tire was shot even though a few weeks ago another guy said it should last for months. But I ride daily and Austin streets are full of debris, so I bought a Gatorskin Black. They were out of the regular style, and this one has a bit more puncture resistance. Of course it costs more. And I wasn’t thinking and before I knew it they had replaced it, which was another charge. Loops get thrown.
A bicycle gets used, a part breaks, then you fix or replace it. A body ages, things break down, you see a doctor who usually tries to force drugs down your throat that cause other problems. Or a shot or a procedure. Because that’s how they get their hooks into you, and bring you back to make more money. I think a lot of the time they’re just guessing, because they don’t like to be questioned or admit that they don’t know. “Well, medicine is an art as well as a science,” they may say. If doctors were bike mechanics, you’d sure as shoot get a much straighter answer, most of the time.
I don’t mean to kvetch, but I suppose I am — but about myself really. My values, priorities, choices, actions, and habits — they all add up to form my days. Sure, fate, genetics, the environment and the times all have their say. And some days are better than others. Life goes on. In some ways it’s good, in other ways it’s a Stephen King horror novel, a dumpster fire, or even a shit show. Still, I try to be grateful for all I have. Many people can’t even afford to own a bicycle. Some people don’t have legs that work. Or they’re working two or three jobs and have no time or energy. I just keep pedalin’, like a shark, I must maintain forward momentum or I’ll die. Even if I’m tired, or having aches and pains (which I most definitely am these days, though sometimes I’m just fine; biking is like that). I have many miles to go before I sleep.
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