How to hypnotize a lizard (transcript)

Published April 7th, 2018

Wait, wouldn’t you rather listen? Reading is so 20th century, and besides, this is a transcript of an audio presentation that was meant to be heard with your ears. Follow this link to podcast happiness.

Here we are ladies and gentlemen. Rocking and grooving, stomping at the Savoy and swimming to Cambodia. If you’re hearing the sound of my voice that means the world is still turning and we’re all still clinging to it as it hurtles through space. But really there’s no such thing as space, there are only particles and forces that act on those particles. So here we are, a lot of particles arranged in certain specific orders that give us the ability to walk around and look at the other particles that make up the other people and the sky and the tires on your car. If you have a car.

Greetings from the land of the still unemployed. March was the month I was going to look for a new job, and here it is April, and I have not. Looked for a job, that is. I have not really looked for a job or done anything else either. You’d think all of this free time would be such a gift. Such a blessing from the baby Jesus, but it hasn’t been. I haven’t even cleaned out my inbox. I feel a bit aimless. I wander around this new place with a hammer and a drill and look for things that need to be done, and there are no shortage of those kinds of things, even though we’ve already been in this house for six weeks. There’s more stuff in this room now, so hopefully the empty room sound from last time is gone. But as far as doing anything other than random stuff, I don’t have a plan or a schedule or any kind of logic working anywhere right now.

All the things I never had time to do – I have time now and I’m not doing any of them. So maybe they don’t need to be done. I think that may be the lesson here, assuming there’s a lesson to be had anywhere anymore. I’m not one to shy away from free time, believe me. But this last chunk of time that I worked a regular job – well it was 15 years. 15 years of going into a place every day and doing the things I did and seeing the people I saw and 15 years is a long time. The day I left the building for the last time at this last job, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and hapiness. I didn’t have any money, and I knew I’d just have to find another job, but I just felt like it was the greatest day of 2018 so far. But those 15 years of working fucked me up. My rhythm is all off now. Hence the wandering around. Like, shouldn’t I be somewhere, doing something? Why didn’t the alarm go off this morning? I’m not taking advantage of this time. I’m not maximizing my potential. Ha.

I never worked more than seven years in a row at any time in my life without taking time off. And by time of I mean, like a year or two. Those seven years were my first real job, and that ended in 1984 when I left to come out here to the land of sunshine and avocados. From 1984 to 2002 there are five years where I had zero income. because I was taking a year – or more – off. Now I’m not going to lie, a couple of those breaks were involuntary, but I made the most of them. I just never really cared enough to do whatever it is you have to do to stay gainfully employed for your entire life. But I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now, or something, and a year off isn’t likely in the cards this time around.

So yeah, I’m not maximizing my potential. I think it’s because this shit I’ve been doing for the past couple of decades or so – I don’t want to keep doing it. I fell backwards into the tech world, and they didn’t kick me out, so I just kept doing it. But tech companies, despite what you’ve heard, are no fun. It’s just a constant slog through a bunch of shit that’s all going to be obsolete in a year and a half. Working for companies that won’t be around in 10 years, or 5 years or 5 months. It’s a dumb world, but I’ve been doing it since 1996, so I’d be stupid to throw away that track record, that experience, right? I’d be stupid to turn my back on something I know how to do, that I’m good at.

But good at for what? For who? It’s like being good at hypnotizing lizards. Who cares? Everyone may be hypnotizing lizards now, and you may be in demand, but a year from now no one will want a hypnotized lizard, and you’ll have to learn how to train chickens, or wax dolphins. Or something. I’m not saying that I crave some employment with meaning or purpose. Or porpoise. I don’t crave any employment. I crave to not be employed, but maybe you’ve noticed, they haven’t exactly set the world up that way. You know, to accommodate people such as myself. Which probably explains my lack of excitement or motivation when it comes to finding a new gig.

Not to mention – well, you know how it is looking for a job. You start out the search all confident and cocky and after a few hours of reading the million requirements for each job you start to feel like you don’t know anything, and all you’re qualified to do is drive a milk truck, and they don’t even have milk trucks anymore. “Oh, look at this one…I’m perfect for this…wait, I’m supposed to bring in my own industry connections? Two degrees preferred? Must be expert in Atlassian Confluence? What the hell is Atlassian Confluence?”

The truth is, those job descriptions are loaded up with a bunch of shit that you’ll never have to do, and requirements that no single person could ever meet. I know because I wrote some of those kinds of job descriptions. And the truth is, most people are not qualified for the jobs they get, but they bullshit their way into them and figure it out as they go. Which I’ll probably end up doing, but it’s not something I look forward to. I think I just want to do something different. Life is short. But we get stuck in these pigeonholes and they become cages and it’s hard to bust out. Which is probably why my rhythm is off. Why my mojo is absent. because I just don’t give a shit about the possibilities. It’s all more of the same.

Before you say, “Why not start your own business?” I should admit here and now that I’d rather live in a leaky tent under a bridge in Pasadena. Business – business is not – I can’t even do my taxes, I’d be a horrible business owner. Like I was a horrible manager of people when I did that. Here’s me managing a tech support staff: “Okay, you guys all know what to do, I’m not going to bother you.” You know, that’s one philosophy of management, but not a terribly common or usually successful one. Business – I’ve never liked business and I never thought I’d be involved in business. What does it even mean, business? I’ve said it so many times it’s become abstract now. Does that ever happen to you? You’re talking about a word or a concept and you repeat it so many times that you can’t even remember what it means? Or maybe we didn’t know what it meant in the first place.

But I think I know what business is. It’s buying and selling, right? Well I’m tired of selling. I’ve been selling for years, and I know how to do it, and it’s not even that distasteful if what you’re selling is good and useful and a quality thing or service. But it’s exhausting and stupid, and at the end of the day all you’ve done is make more profit for some business, some company, and companies and businesses don’t care about you, no matter what size they are. You are just one of the gears that works the machine that fills the bank account, and every business knows a gear is just a gear. There’s nothing extraordinary about any one of them. When one breaks or doesn’t work anymore, you just stick in a new one.

But I’m old and I need money. When I was a teenager I listened to Joe Strummer sing, “It’s better than some factory, now that’s no place to waste your youth,” and I heard that. I heard it and took it to heart and it was – and still is – absolutely true. So I didn’t waste my youth, all of it anyway, in a factory. But the factory catches up with most of us eventually. As free as you can manage to make yourself in your youth, there comes that point where you have to figure out how to stop sleeping on that flat old stinky futon and get yourself a handbag and a decent pair of shoes. And then – well, here we are.

I don’t know what happened anyway, I was supposed to be a rock star. I mean, that was my plan and my goal when I was considering Clash lyrics words to live by. That changed as I got a little older, and instead of being a rock star I just wanted to be in a Reggae band and make a living playing music while everyone else went to an office. That was the plan, and somehow it got derailed by the reality that making a living playing music is a really hard thing to do, almost like a regular job, only more difficult and perverse. Especially if you want to play something as wildly unpopular as Reggae music. Oh, I know, everyone loves Reggae, right? No, everyone loves that one Bob Marley song that they first heard in college. They don’t go out to see Reggae bands. Some people do, but it’s hard to make a living off some people.

I’m rambling. Someone stop me. Anyway, that’s what’s happening here in Lake Woebegone, or Homer Alaska or one of those other places radio storytellers used to do monologues about before two companies bought every radio station in America and installed advertising robots and 50 song play lists. See, still rambling. Why haven’t you stopped me? Maybe you have and I just don’t know it. Like those stories where the narrator is really dead but no one told them yet.

I think I’m just about done with Craigslist for the time being. I was on there a lot trying to unload things when we moved, and today I just unloaded the last of it. For now, I suppose. It’s so convenient, Craigslist, for selling things to people who live in the same city, but then you have to deal with people. Which is bad enough in and of itself, but the people who lurk around Craigslist – it’s a population that’s about 10% okay and normal, and about 90% drooling freak jobs. Just like the rest of life, I suppose. Just kidding. I don’t think 90% of the people walking around are drooling freak jobs.

Though, be honest, doesn’t it feel like it sometimes? Don’t you feel like you’re in a bad movie when you turn down an aisle at the grocery store sometimes? Like, “What planet am I on, and when is the ship coming to take me home?” Anyway, these Craigslist people are just awe-inspiring sometimes. They’re the same kind of people who would show up at your garage sale, you know, back when those were a thing, they’d show up an hour before it’s supposed to start, and dig and paw through things you haven’t even put out yet, and when you tell them to come back in an hour they throw whatever they’ve got their idiot hands all over down onto the ground and yell at you. You know the type. It’s a certain very specific kind of mental illness: people who make ridiculous requests or asinine assumptions and just generally behave like feral pigs and then lose their minds and lash out when they meet logical and inevitable resistance.

And Craigslist is full of them. “Can you drive” – this thing, whatever you’re selling – “Can you drive it over to me in the San Fernando Valley?” No, I can’t deliver it. “Well I can’t pick it up.” Okay, that’s too bad. “Are you sure I can’t take it apart and put it in my trunk?” I’m sure you can’t take it apart. I put it together myself, and you can’t take it apart. “Well then are you sure you can’t bring it to me?” Yes, I’m sure I can’t bring it to you. “Wait, will it fit in a Yugo station wagon?” I have no idea if it will fit in a Yugo station wagon. “Why are you being such a dick?! Don’t you know someone who’s coming this way? They can bring it and I can give them $10 for gas.” Jesus Christ.

Or, “I really want it, but I’d have to drive 45 minutes to get to where you are, so would you take $50 less?” No. “Well, it’s pretty inconvenient for me to drive all the way to you, I’d need some kind of deal…” How did your drive become my problem, partner? “If I get it home and it doesn’t fit in the corner of my bedroom next to my Dodgers bobble-head collection, can I return it?” Ahhhh. Well, I’ve bored you with Craigslist stories before, no need to swim down that never-ending river of shit again. And yes, I know I’m the idiot for putting my hand back into that flame time and time again. But that’s my burden to bear. If I knew how to learn a lesson I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, would I.

I almost just asked if Ronald Reagan was still the President. Of course what I mean to ask is, is Donald Trump still the President? I guess that was a Freudian slip or something, but really, what’s the difference between those two? In the 80s, if you were of a certain mind set and disposition, you would have thought Reagan was the dark apocalypse come to life in the form of a 1940s-style human. Remember all the anti-Reagan punk songs, and even entire bands that sprung up just to scream about Reagan? Reagan was a destructive old white man cunt, just like Trump is, but Reagan didn’t manage to destroy the world. He did all he could to destroy this country, and he came close, but we’re still here, holding on and waiting for better days.

Which goes to show you – what? I suppose that politicians can make us suffer and generally make things suck more, but they can’t kill us. Well, that’s not true, is it. They can kill us, and they do kill us, but they haven’t killed us all yet. Reagan, Trump, Craig of Craigslist – all very bad people, but we somehow we continue to survive. If there’s one thing humans are good at, it’s surviving. There were three billion of us when I was born, but there are seven-and-a-half billion of us now. That’s a lot of handbags and shoes. A lot of particles whirling around. And I’m still figuring out the best way to hang these old barn wood shelves that are leaning against the wall here behind me without tearing the wall down. Mr. Gorbachev – hang up these shelves!

Keep tearing down the walls, my friends. Keep kicking at the bars, and keep passing the open windows. The sun shines anyway, and when the rain falls, it don’t fall on one man’s housetop, remember that. When you’re feeling down, just remember, Hootie and the Blowfish haven’t made a record in almost 13 years. So there are still small victories to be had.