On the rocks

A man of two minds walks into a bar...

...And he's kind of a joke. A couple months ago I went into a local bar after dinner, alone. I'm not sure, but I may never have gone into a bar alone in my life; certainly I never have at night. Once I was there, I didn't know what to do with myself. I wasn't especially interested in anything on their TVs. I chatted with a few people but mostly sat there. Eventually I found myself talking to an ex-mil guy my age. When I paid my bill, I expressed surprise to him, and the bartender, that I hadn't been charged for one of my drinks. The bartender didn't say anything, but after she went away, Ex-Mil said something to me. He said sometimes people are going to buy you drinks. He said it like it was obvious and there was something wrong with me for not getting it.

Probably there was. I was driven there by the need to get out of the house. With my wife out more, I'd been entertaining myself with hobbies, but I'd had it with being home alone. I was bored and a little frantic, confronted with the realization that I had no life, no friends in this town I could call and just go hang out with. There wasn't even a bartender here who knew my name. That, at least, I could remedy with the steady application of money while killing time. And that bartender knew it: as I was leaving, she slipped me a poker chip with the name of the pub stamped on one side and "ONE FREE DRINK" on the other. "I hope we see you again," she said.

Between what the Ex-Mil said, and the bartender's siren song calling me towards the rocks, I was scared shitless. It was still early, but I went home hyperventilating.

Things have changed since then. Things have been changing fast. As it stands, I now have the first friend I've ever had that I wasn't thrown in with - all my other friends were schoolmates, coworkers, all people I had to be around for one reason or another. I've never had the tools to make friends with strangers I met once rather than people I had to talk to all the time. That seems to be changing. 2008 has seen a lot of upheaval in my life, a lot like 1999 did. That was a big year. In 1999 I finished my Ph.D., got divorced (it wasn't my idea), moved out of the state I grew up in, got my first job, and met and fell in love with my second wife. Then, for whatever reason, things slowed to a crawl. This time it can't. It's vital that I learn to sustain a constant low level of novelty in my life. I cannot let myself get into a rut, no matter how much mental effort it seems to save me. Because if you save all your mental effort for more important things, without ever realizing that those important things are totally absent from your life, then there's no reason to get up at all, and on some level you know it. There has to be a little challenge to every day, something that forces you to think in a new way. I say "you" but I mean me. I don't pretend to speak for anyone but myself, and for myself only to the best of my imperfect knowledge.

This is exciting. This is my future past, this is about today. Today I get a chance to improve. Today I get a chance to transgress, or to laugh like a toddler, or to fuck like Henry Miller. Maybe all three - maybe even all at once.

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