I spent the last few days house-sitting my aunt and uncle’s place way out in rural, western Mass. It was very pretty, very quiet, very lonely, and very un-Netflix-y. I watered their plants and went for long walks in the woods and talked with more animals than people and tapped into my inner Ron Swanson and wrote and went a wee bit crazy. It was a great reminder that Walden retreats aren’t for me. I need comedy. I need friends. I need people—anybody, really—with whom to play and make a mess and share bad ideas, bad jokes, bad dating stories. I need a warm-up canvas to splatter paint before I get to work. I need less thinking, less ruminating, and more impulsive doing.
I’m a fan of trying any and all environments to refine where I work well (coffee shops to write, city streets to high-five, dining halls to shenanigan)—but this week was too much Emily Dickinson and too little Michael Scott. And that’s fine. It’s all relative. I need chaos mixed with solitude. I need jolts of Robin Williams and lulls of Bon Iver. More than anything, though, I need a place where I can feel loose, where I’m down to clown and look like an idiot if when I make that intuitive leap; where I’m not calculated or anticipatory; where I’m free and totally whimsical. You can find that un-selfconscious, pure-hearted, creative freedom anywhere; I tend to find it most resolutely when I’m sharing self-deprecating stories with friends.
In that spirit, I want to start sharing goofy stories of me looking dumb—events that were brutally uncomfortable in the moment but mostly hilarious in hindsight. I’ve found there’s an inverse relationship between how seriously we take ourselves and how uninhibited our art is.
This week’s theme has to do with food (going in AND out):
The summer before my senior year of high school, my mom and I did a few college visits. We’d hop in the car, drive a few hours to different small schools in the Northeast, talk with their track coach, and go on unintentionally hilarious tours. (At a certain school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the tour guide said the word, plethora, nine times. Plethora of free printing opportunities. Plethora of religious opportunities. Plethora of plethoras. I was laughing by about the fourth plethora and making a scene by about the seventh. That’s the kind of stuff I remember).
We drove up to Middlebury in early July. When we stopped at Two Brothers Tavern for dinner, my hypoglycemic blood was having a tough time. I engulfed a large pepperoni pizza in about six minutes. A few minutes later–get this–I didn’t feel so great! Crazy how that happens! I was sweating profusely. I waddled/crawled to the bathroom and sort of just hugged the toilet for a while. Eventually, we drove the last two-hundred yards of our trip to the Middlebury Inn (with the windows open, going about four miles-an-hour, my mom trying not to laugh).
The Middlebury Inn is this cute, little place with a cute, little balcony on the second floor. We were staying on the second floor. I threw my bag down in our room and, for whatever reason, ran back out on to the balcony to unleash my pepperoni pizza (I’m feeling nauseous just typing this). It hit their garden and narrowly avoided a few skateboarders below. It was the worst. Hello, Middlebury! I haven’t had pepperoni pizza since.
When I was 10, with a full stomach and an empty brain, I saw a revolving door that looked fun. I pushed the revolving door in circles as fast as I could until–you guessed it–I didn’t feel so good! My dad and I sat in Longfellow Park in Cambridge for about an hour until I came back to life.
When I was about this age,
there was nothing scarier than throwing up. My mom, being the patient woman she is, would guide me. “Into the toilet, Will. You got this! Into the toilet!”
It rarely went into the toilet. I was always so stressed and overwhelmed that I usually missed the toilet altogether. It often landed squarely on my mom. She really is the most patient person on the planet.
P.S. This is me with a Cheerio on my nose. I used to put Cheerios on my nose to get some cheap laughs. I’m way too old for that these days. (I’ve upgraded to Fruit Loops).
“In order to describe it we have to face it.”–James Baldwin
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”–Maya Angelou