Thursday, January 24, 2002

Naked Truth

Everybody else is talking about food for this issue. I wanted to talk about food too. Unfortunately, after two weeks of concentrated thought on the subject, the only thing I've come up with is that you can't buy domestic Limburger cheese in the supermarkets anymore (how come?), and that canned raviolis can be eaten cold.

So instead I've decided to talk about nakedness. For example, I'm not wearing any pants, right now. In fact, all I'm wearing is a pair of socks and a scruffy beard that barely covers my neck. That's because I'm nearsighted, so when I use the computer to write I don't need to wear my glasses. Otherwise, I would be wearing glasses.

When I was growing up I made myself promise that I would never be the kind of guy who sits around the house in his underpants all day. I felt sorry for kids that had dads like that, kids who couldn't invite you over until dad was notified and suitably clothed. Or worse, they would invite you over, and dad wouldn't do anything. There'd just be a man in his underpants in the middle of the living room. Yuck.

I'm am proud to have kept that promise to myself. I dispense with the underpants.

Some of you are probably wondering, "Wes, what does this have to do with homelessness?" Well, lots.

You see, if you have ever been homeless, you have probably found it impossible to be naked for long stretches of time. Or if not impossible, then extremely risky.

Let's say you're camping in a public park illegally, for lack of any alternative. Do you wear your clothes in the sleeping bag or do you strip down? If you wear the clothes all the time you'll probably develop a rash. If you strip down, you can bet that's the night you get busted.

One time when I was homeless I was lucky enough to have an office where I could pretend to work at night. I slept on the floor. I trained myself to wake up whenever I heard noises. That way I could be up and dressed before anyone reached my door, which was on the third floor.

After doing this for a few weeks, I learned the night watchman's schedule. I became overconfident. One winter's night, I judged that not only could I safely sleep naked, but I could even make a run to the bathroom on my floor in a naked state and make it back to my office without being caught by anyone. Actually I wasn't completely naked, I was wearing shoes and socks. This will turn out to have been my salvation.

I was absolutely correct in my judgment for as far as I judged. My mistake was not in misjudging the time but in forgetting that, as my naked body has no pockets, I was not carrying my keys. Therefore I should not have closed and locked my office door behind me when I ran to the bathroom. I should have included that factor in my considerations of my actions.

Recently I heard of another story of a naked man. In this other story, which may not have happened, the naked man is running around in the snow in some residential neighborhood banging on doors and begging to be let inside. Nobody opens their door to him. All the neighbors are afraid of him, so eventually he enters one house by breaking a window, cutting himself in the process. Then the owner of the house comes upon the naked man and "thinking he might have a gun" beats him with a golf club.

My case ended much better. I found an open office, climbed out its window onto the third floor ledge, crawled along the ledge to the window of my office, used my shoes to break the window and get inside uninjured, got dressed, and left for a warmer office.

My guess is, the other story did indeed happen and that the poor man was just some guy who had been sleeping naked in his car and thought he could make a bathroom run without getting caught.

At any rate, now that we aren't homeless, we will indulge ourselves.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Easy Poems The Angst-Driven Way

Let's talk about existential angst!

Existential angst is my favorite kind of angst. It is much preferable to being-bombed angst or starvation angst or any of the other kind of normal everyday angsts that leap to mind.
Wes, what is this thing called existential angst? Where does it come from? How will I know it when I have it? Will it help me to write easier poems? What else is existential angst good for? What should I wear when I'm having existential angst? How old should my children be before I teach them the facts about existential angst? These are just a few of the existential angst related questions that can be asked.
Existential angst is that feeling you get when you discover that you aren't a drill bit or a box of white-board markers or an anti-fungal cream or any such similar thing. You weren't made for any evident purpose. This makes you feel left out. All the other things have meaning to their existence. You don't. Why oh why couldn't I have been born as a socket tool kit?
You have to wonder how this ever got to be important to anyone. The answer to that is easy. Two words: chronic underemployment. Existential angst is the whine that societies generate whenever a critical mass of its people are over-qualified for everything they can do. Look out, Seattle!
Let's say you have a degree in philology and the guy interviewing you for McDonalds doesn't know philology from stamp collecting. You may have existential angst. Are you 52% brain in a 20% brain world, assigned to pushing a broom for a 9% brain employer? If you don't have existential angst yet, just you wait, Bunky.
Existential angst is great for writing poems. If you get stuck you have lots of cool words to fall back on, like "abyss" and "nausea". Always wear lots of black. The following illustration has been graciously supplied by one of our avid readers who wouldn't be caught dead wearing white.
Life Stinks Somewhat
by Poetry Legend and Excellent Rodeo Clown
Melissa "Missy" Schmertzgarten
No one can relieve this churning dread
that's fastened itself inside my head.
Not that I would ever sincerely complain --
since without my dread I would go insane.
A little dread is such a happy thing!
I feel just like a harried king.
Questions & Aids for Further Discussion
Do you think socket tool kits have their own kind of angst? What would that be called?
Which of the following famous people do you think have experienced significant amounts of existential angst: George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh? Which of them do you think could use some? What does "use" mean in this context? If existential angst can have a purpose, can Carrot Top be far behind?
Everyone set down your pencils and take five minutes to fret over the meaning of life. Then, compare your reflections with those of your neighbors. Did you all see the same gaping abyss? Did any of you see down a garbage disposal? Because that would be weird. Give yourself 5 extra points if you felt fear, and another 5 if you experienced loathing.