Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Without you I’m nothing

good grub, bad name: Pretty Good Jesus VI

Looking up from a slice of chicken pie in the local diner, I catch a couple of minutes of soap. The soaps start en masse around 6pm and run until 10pm, to make way for the footballers. How anyone can undertake professional football at such an hour (or undertake any professional activity, for that matter) is beyond me. But wait they must, for the torrid plot lines to play out. Girls before boys.

The younger actresses are impossibly beautiful, while the older “stars” cling to roles they would much rather not have; their plasticized faces devoid of all expression - lower lips merely quivering Thunderbirds-style as they utter their lines. Pure unintentional comedy, but one which seems to be appreciated by much of the nation (or, at least, much of the bar, judging from the patrons’ fixated expressions).

A man enters. The attentive barman shouts an order to the kitchen without the man even having to utter the usual. And I ponder on what it means to be known. On moving to Gotham in 2004, a friend wisely noted that being a resident opens one up to privileges that a mere visitor could never experience (no pressure to visit tourist black-spots, having a “usual” place to have coffee, etc), but there is something more than mere attendance. It is a sense of belonging which we often use, in turn, to define ourselves and our rôle.

I guess that there is no other place that gives us this sense of belonging than our place within a family. That club where membership is obligatory, but whose members (at least for the boys in my care) are not always regular attendants.
As always after a paddling, I returned to my room vowing never to talk to my father again. To hell with him, to hell with my mother, who’d done nothing to stop him, to hell with Amy for not taking a few licks herself, and to hell with the others, who were, by now, certainly whispering about it.

I didn’t have the analogy of the stovetop back then, but what I’d done was turn off the burner marked “family.” Then I’d locked my door and sat there simmering, knowing even then that without them I was nothing. Not a son or a brother but just a boy—and how could that ever be enough? As a full-grown man, it seems no different. Cut off your family, and how would you know who you are? Cut them off in order to gain success, and how could that success be measured? What would it possibly mean?

David Sedaris,
Laugh, Kookaburra
BONUS footage:

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