It’s 5 a.m. and something hairy and heated is atop my chest, gnawing at my mouth. Slurp. Slurp. Nibble. Nibble. Wake up, wake up, wake up … .
“Did you have a bad dream?” I ask the giant dog. “Are you scared?”
Of course White Fang is scared. We’re all a little scared. If you’re alive, you’re slightly scared. Get over yourself. Move on.
I was telling someone the other day — someone who would listen, which is rare these days … a true listener — that if you can knit together enough tiny pleasures that you can almost outrun life’s relentless drumbeat of duty and frightful developments.
You just string together these tiny pleasures — a cheesy chunk of cow for lunch, or a neon martini at a very swanky bar — as a fence against the worries of the world. Wad these joys together, if you will; crumple them up till you have your sturdy fence.
Maybe it’s the spring air, maybe it’s the sweetness of Easter, but lately I seem to be on a small-pleasure hunt. Damn the grief and the existential crises. Full speed ahead.
Never mind that I am behind on life, that my dogs don’t understand me and the kids don’t really seem to care the way they once did.
As Jim Morrison said: This is the strangest life I have ever known.
The cars are filthy, the beagle needs a bath and the same socks and T-shirts have been in the dryer for seven, eight months. I am thinking of sealing off the laundry area with police tape, as you would a crime scene.
This, of course, would help solve my problem, lured as I would be by the sight of a crime scene in the house, stepping over the yellow tape, as I did as a young reporter … entitled, curious and a little stupid.
Obviously, I am behind on my “adulting,” as millennials like to call it.
I just paid my taxes with drugstore vodka and a MasterCard that expired 25 years ago. We’ll see how the IRS reacts. I suspect they will be impressed, as bill collectors generally are, that I am finally showing any sort of initiative.
“We’ll see where all this leads,” an IRS agent will tell cynical colleagues. “But he’s burned us before.”
Really, the only thing the IRS could seize is three pollen-covered cars and an ancient Yamaha stereo, which a guy up the street dumped on me the other day because he was moving on.
I seem to be the collector of old cruddy things, the stuff my daughters left us after college, skeletal and lame IKEA lamps, and tubs and tubs of sweaters, still candied with college perfumes.
There are also the Christmas tree stands that I have accumulated in the basement — three of them — none of which work. In December, I was forced to wire the tree to the wall again after it fell face-first in a rattle-whoosh to the living room floor.
“Get out the police tape!” I yelled to the little guy, which is what passes for a warm holiday greeting at our house.
Anyway, the IRS is welcome to all of this rubbish, and a leaky 300-pound beagle that demands to be fed 14 times a day. Take my freedom, seize my savings, but most of all please take this maddening and defective dog.
“Come get me, coppers!” as my buddy Wilson says while waving a chubby cigar.
In April, a little civil disobedience always feels right, a gentle pushback against thrumming politeness and thankless obligation.
At the Los Angeles Times’ book fest, I was especially struck by a panel exchange featuring essayist Heather Havrilesky.
In her panel remarks, and in her book, Havrilesky says her party experiences have become almost too adult, too tame.
“No music is too loud, no lipstick is too dark, no food is too spicy, no drink is too strong,” Havrilesky writes in her terrific book, “What If This Were Enough?”
“I can’t do it,” she writes, “the small sips, the half smiles, the polite pauses, the autopilot nodding.”
So don’t. Just don’t.
Come to my parties, Heather. My buddies and I are undergoing a mild second adolescence, which can be insufferable and inspiring all at once. At the last party, one guy seduced a giant potted palm. They left together, discussing marriage.
My buddies and I are a little older, see, and we don’t much mind causing a stir — or curating life’s small joys, one after the other. Or shaking up too-quiet parties.
Getting older is really underrated. With age comes courage — and wisdom, small joys and a bit of reborn swagger.
Come get us, coppers!