Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Grasping at straws to stir this drink

A few weeks back my girlfriend and I hung out with some friends, and at one point in the conversation I told a tale from years ago (but still when I was well into my 30's) of going to a blues bar near where I live and drinking more than I should... on a weeknight. Once.

[Gasp! Shock!]

The story involved me going there by myself on a Tuesday evening after a particularly bad day at the office, intending only to stay for the band's first set and then returning home, but ending up there so long that the bartender was giving me free beers and closing the place down. This resulted in me going to work the next day somewhat hungover, although not really that bad (no one noticed, and it was really no worse than had I not slept well).

For some reason this act imbued me with a sense of rebellion, as though I'd gotten away with something; my straight-laced upbringing was not so strict that I needed to still act out well over ten years after I'd stopped living with parents, but going out by myself to a local blues club on a "school night" seemed to fall into the imprudent category.

Perhaps that straight-laced upbringing planted the seeds for latent compensatory rebellion, but such that it held absolutely no consequences (save a bit of a headache). There is no justifying it to someone who wouldn't understand. However, more important, there is no convincing anyone with an actual life where this not uncommon that the story is worth telling.

There are those who are the age I was at the time (early 30's) who go out every night, and who would have many better stories of debauchery. As I noted toward the end of relating the tale, I have very few stories, but those I have I milk for all I can.

Why would that matter? Surely it implies that there's some empirical standard for what constitutes an interesting life, and going out and having a time that wasn't necessarily that enjoyable at the time (and, as one of the friends interjected, could be seen as kind of pathetic—going to a bar alone) will be compensated later by the enjoyment of having the anecdote to tell; the point of what one does is less about the moment itself and more about portraying the moment later.

Being around other people necessitates having something to talk about, and this sort of tale works better than trying to make what one does at the office seem interesting.

Somehow mildly irresponsible behavior makes one seem more relatable (at least I presume that is its appeal), as it reveals flaws that make others not feel so bad about their flaws. An occasional step down off one's high horse achieves a humanizing effect, or something like that.

It's insecurity, ultimately.

As Halloween recently passed, it made me think of the destructive things that adolescents and teens do on that night, ostensibly out of that same aspiration toward rebellion as what I concluded was behind my midweek drinking incident. Why would it be funny to go around and set Jack O Lanterns on fire by spraying them with something flammable, or to throw rolls of toilet paper over a house and lawn, or stomping on the way someone decorated their house? It's not, of course. However, years later it makes for a delightful anecdote that, with the perspective of having grown out of such juvenile behavior, becomes amusing, and a story one can tell over and over, to make one not seem like such a worthless desk jockey.

It's something to do.

Life is only really good in retrospect, I suppose.

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