100 Days of Misery Project: Chunk Ten, the Final Chunk. This Time It’s Personal.

#100daysofmisery #day91 : Ten days left of this project. People want to know what I will do next. I could do 100 days of posts about how miserable I am that I can’t think of anything anywhere near as good as the last one hundred posts. I could do a second 100 day project that introduced an adorable and precocious child who wrote smart ass rejoinders to my posts that while they stung also revealed a wisdom and erudition beyond his years. There’s a lot of pressure here. I think of the classic and always correct advice, “Leave them wanting more” and how that advice could not have been thought up by an ultra needy egotist and how anyone in need of that advice is almost certainly an ultra needy egotist who will know it’s good advice but would absolutely die twice before taking it. Oh, and spoiler alert? The 100’th day? I have not been holding back a super good story. We are already at the bottom of a very dry well. Sorry.

#100daysofmisery #day92 : When I was five or six, my Grandparents took my whole family on a trip to Italy. We rented the Villa Rufalo, a 14’th century castle on the Amalfi coast. We visited Pompeii, Herculaneum, Mt. Vesuvius, The Vatican. I know people who claim to have detailed memories of their lives from when they were as young as three. Sadly, my brain is not wired that way. I recall very little of the trip. Here is my most vivid memory. I woke in the middle of our very first night in the Villa with a painfully full bladder. I wandered out into an enormous hallway and in short order was totally lost. I am told that on that vacation I beheld Michael Angelo’s Pieta. I don’t remember it. I do remember standing in the dark in a puddle of my own urine howling until I woke up several family members, and I think some staff.

#100daysofmisery #day93 : This was in third grade, maybe. I had a substitute teacher and I don’t recall the exchange that lead to this moment, but she asked me what was on my shoulders. I looked at both shoulders, saw nothing and told her so. She asked again, what is that on your shoulders? Was there visible dandruff I was missing? I checked again. No. Nothing. I told her again, there was nothing on my shoulders. Your head, she said. Your head is on your shoulders. Use it. I replied: My neck. Is between. My shoulders. My head. Is on. My neck. And then I got sent to the principals office.

#100daysofmisery #day94 : When I was about twelve, the most exciting activity imaginable was a “Raid”. This meant my brother and I having a friend or friends sleep over, staying up well past my parents bedtime, sneaking out of the house and doing something bad, probably involving spraypaint, pretty much the limit of badness we could imagine. The night of the first “Raid” I was beside myself on a heady mix of adrenaline, terror, delusions of grandeur and a near total lack of knowing what girls were. By 7:30 in the evening I was contemplating throwing up and the sun wasn’t going to set for another hour. We waited, no hyperbole, seven thousand years for it to be late enough to sneak out. Was Eleven late enough? Absolutely not, any ”raider” would get bagged by the cops the instant they opened the front door. Midnight? What were we, children? 2:00 AM was not late enough, but we were now running the risk of falling asleep at the dinning room table. Time to “Raid”! It took hours to get to the end of our driveway, because awesome stealth cannot be rushed. Once on the street it was too dark to tell exactly where we were. We walked in silence using only hand signals to communicate for over an hour, well out of our neighborhood into unfamiliar darkness. Had we gone far enough? Best go further. What time was it at this point? What the hell kind of “Raiders” did not posses even one watch with a luminous dial? When did the sun rise at this time of year? We could not risk daylight on the return trip, it was time. The spraycan was deployed. A naughty word was written on the street in day glow orange. The brave “Raiders” hightailed it home, flush with brigandry. The next morning, my father was quite angry. McGovern bumper stickers and being the only Jews in town was apparently an open invitation to the local moronry. Someone had spraypainted a big orange ‘F*CK’ about ten feet from the end of our driveway.

#100daysofmisery #day95 : I think the best jokes contain metaphorical lessons about the nature of life. My favorite ends with the punch line “Order the Potato Soup, because you’re going to get it one way or another.” Perhaps you know this one, but if not, let me just say that it revolves around a well known inn with a famous restaurant, a case of mistaken identity and a violent, forcibly administered enema. I had initially intended to deconstruct the joke for you and reveal all that it teaches about being alive in the world, but having reread this paragraph, I just feel sad.

#100daysofmisery #day96 : I spent several years of my life working in the incoming call center of a museum, mostly selling tickets. I know, I could stop right there, couldn’t I? There’s more, though. At some point in almost every call, I’d have to ask the caller for their credit card number and then they’d…you know… read me their credit card number. But one time there was a long pause and the caller said, what, the whole thing? And I said yes, thinking perhaps they thought I’d only need the last four digits, or maybe they didn’t know if I’d need the expiration date, yes, I will need the whole number. There was another very long pause. Finally they said okay, uhm… four… Quintillion… quintillion? Four quintillion, two-hundred-thirty-six… Quadrillion…

#100daysofmisery #day97 : I needed costume supplies for the big Halloween ‘social’, which is what the dance/bacchanals were called at Reed. For those of you keeping score, this would be the first time I tried to do college, in Portland Oregon. I wanted to be the King of the Cats, a figure from a folk tale (or maybe it’s just an old joke) that featured prominently in Peter Straub’s “Shadowland”, my book of the moment. I had a bowler, but needed a jazzy walking stick and some black and white greasepaint. Why did I think the King of the Cats needed a bowler, a jazzy walking stick and black and white grease paint? Because of the person I was at that time. You see how sad this story already is, and I haven’t even gotten to the point yet. A trip downtown by bus was necessary, something that may not seem like much to you, but required all my psychic wherewithal as I was very short on wherewithal at that point in my life. I found everything I needed and did not get lost, so I was quite proud as I boarded the return bus. At the next stop, the man seated behind me began to struggle to his feet. He was very old and was using an aluminum crutch. Hey, he muttered hey! The bus was starting up again, the old man was going to miss his stop. I stood and waved my newly purchased jazzy walking stick so the Bus Driver would see it in his mirror. I was wearing my bowler (Of course I’d brought it with me, how else was I to know if my jazzy walking stick went with it?) Stop, I said stop! There is an old man back here who needs to get off! I felt a sudden sharp pain, and before I could determine what had caused it, I felt it again, and then again. The old man was beating me with his crutch. He glared down at me and said ‘Don’t f*ck with me, boy. I am a hustler.’ The he slowly made his way down the aisle and off the bus. I was not able to parse his statement then. I still can’t. That night I spent more than an hour applying my black and white grease paint. I attended the Social for about twelve minutes before it made me too anxious and I returned to my dorm.

#100daysofmisery #day98 : On one of my very first gigs with the improv comedy group ‘Guilty Children’, we were met in the parking lot by the club manager. Okay, she said, I want to be very clear up front, there will be no jokes about female beheading. Hours later it occurred to me I could have said, well, scratch the Anne Boleyn bit. What I did say was, uhm… okay. Some comedian. As the years go by, though, it’s not the missed opportunity for a snappy comeback I regret. It’s that I didn’t ask for any explanation. Had there been a run of female beheading jokes at her club? Was it some kind of controversial comedy trope I just wasn’t up on? Had someone actually been beheaded at her club recently? I can’t imagine I wouldn’t have heard about it. Her one instruction was so clear, she seemed certain we knew what she was talking about. It’s been more than twenty years and sometimes I still find myself thinking, what the hell?

#100daysofmisery #day99 : The 100daysofmisery project has been a lot of things. A chore, a responsibility, a nonsensical commitment to an invisible taskmaster, a hideous, soul crushing burden… Mostly, though it has been a daily discipline, suggested by my bride to combat a very long case of writer’s block. It began (as so many things do with me) as an irritation. I had noticed a phenomenon on Facebook, #100daysofhappiness, or the 100 days of happiness challenge. Here are two things that ‘stick’ in my ‘craw’: Being ‘challenged’ by the vast blind zeitgeist beast that is the Internets (or anyone or anything, if I’m honest), and contemplating happiness. I may have mentioned this to my bride at some tedious length and by way of shutting me up she suggested I write 100 days of misery. Voila. Thinking about, mulling over, considering, pondering happiness has always made me distinctly… unhappy. On the other hand, really zeroing in on pissyness, crankiness, negativity and yes, actual downright misery has always made me laugh. Messed up, right? But laughter makes me happy. So is this misery or happiness? Also? Go check out the 100 days of happiness challenge website. They use a lot of multiple exclamation points!!! I totally don’t trust that crap. Multiple exclamation points are for car salesmen and serial killers. You can drive this car off the lot today!!! I ate his liver with some Fava Beans and a nice Chianti!!! Multiple exclamation points may indeed indicate the happiness of the user, but the bared teeth in that smile are also a clear sign of threat and aggression.

#100daysofmisery #day100 : Here is an event that shaped my life. I was in my late teens, living in my father’s house in New Hampshire, on the west shore of Canobie Lake. I awoke suddenly and fully in the middle of a January night. The house was completely still. I had a strong sensation that something wanted me to go outside. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. But I was supposed to go outside. I was supposed to be outside, for some reason, some event. Something was going to happen. I was compelled. I got up. I dressed. I slipped through the hallway, eased the front door open and stepped into the night. There was no wind. The moon was almost full and it’s light turned the snow and my breath the cornflower blue of the crayon from the sixty-four-count box. I stood and I waited for a thing to happen. I waited for a while and then a long time. The certainty that something momentous was going to occur leeched slowly away with my body heat. I got very cold. I went back inside, back to bed.

Disappointment aside, it is always nice to go back to bed.


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