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THE THOUGHT ORPHANAGE!
- an elan gale nightmare - a blog - a disease - a problem - a dog without a home

What Do You Want

"Do you want anything?" asked Molly, as she rubbed his leg with her foot.

Jim was staring at the ceiling, half-asleep. Their new sheets felt cool and starchy against his skin.

"Of course," he said.

"What do you want?" Molly sighed.

"That’s the problem, Molly," said Jim. "I want too much. I want it all. I want everything I can think of and I want all the things I can’t even think of and I want the ability to think up things I haven’t even thought of yet so that I can want them."

"What?"

"I have all these goals and I chase them. You can’t ever really reach your goals. Did you know that? You can’t attain a goal because as soon as you reach your goal it isn’t a goal anymore. It’s just a thing that you wanted that you now have. The minute you reach your goal you’re just grasping for more goals because you can’t accomplish goals. That’s the definition of goals. Not a lot of people know that."

"Okay."

"And I want you and I want to want you more than anything and I sometimes want to lose you just so I can get back that feeling of finding you again. Back when you were a goal. Back before I had you. I want everything, Molly," said Jim. "I want everything."

"Sorry," Molly said. "I just meant I’m going to the kitchen and do you want anything."

Jim nodded. “I want a glass of water.”

100 Sober Days

When I realized that I hadn’t had a drink in over 100 days the first thought I had was that a celebration was in order. As I daydreamed about popping a bottle of champagne, I laughed, knowing that 100 days isn’t really all that long. 

But it’s long enough to notice some differences. And having been asked now a few times, I feel it’s a good moment to share a few observations about what 100 days of sobriety has been like for me, a guy who didn’t really think it was possible:

I have lost 28 pounds. This is great in theory, but actually it’s insanely expensive. All the money I’ve saved on alcohol I have spent on new clothes. 

I find it much harder to get in touch with extreme emotions, which is something I really thrived on. I loved indulging in pure bliss or endless agony. I loved alternating between laughing and crying between verses of a song. Things “feel” a lot less, but man, when they do, you’ve earned them. It’s different. It’s slower. 

I make different mistakes. These mistakes are mine. I have made them. Things don’t happen to me the way they used to. I happen to things instead. I have no excuses for any of my actions. I can’t dismiss a night as just a passing memory because I was there the whole time and I did all the things I did. My apologies mean more, but I have fewer apologies to make. 

I can drive anywhere, at anytime, for whatever reason. 

My energy is manic and I feel like I’m going crazy a lot. I chew whole coffee beans, impulse-buy everything on Amazon prime, and move my limbs erratically. I am a real fucking joy to be around.

Dating is hilarious. It is crazy in concept and I am bad at it in practice.

I like fewer things, but I like them more, and with more furious passion. Same goes for people. 

I have dread before going to bed at night instead of when I wake up in the morning. I have gotten much better at flossing. I am great at it.

I’ve been to my first concert, gone dancing, eaten meals, flown around the country and the world, went to music festivals, performed before various audiences, and screamed into the wind that tries to silence me as it storms the sands of Venice beach. 

I want more and I want more of it. I’m no more happy or unhappy, but I think I will live a lot longer, and I’m at least 60% sure that’s a good idea.

Some of my friends say I’m more boring. I appreciate their honesty. They’re not wrong. 

I wasn’t going to write this until someone told me that my first posting about quitting drinking helped him make the decision to quit drinking himself. I don’t care if people quit drinking, but I do care that people do what they think is best for them, and if I have any part of that, I am happier than I was a moment ago. 

I suppose I helped inspire him to quit drinking, but he inspired me even more. What he doesn’t know is that my first entry about quitting drinking was the first thing I really wrote with a sober mind, and by reading it, he gave me a reason to go on. 

Dreams

Tom woke up in a panic. About nothing in particular. Everything was fine, as far as he could tell. The oven was off and the dishes were in the drying rack and his alarm was set for the morning. 

His wife was asleep beside him, silently breathing. She never remembered her dreams but he could tell she was having one now. In her dream she was walking through her old high school, unable to remember the combination to her locker, but she wasn’t too worried. There was nothing too important in there anyway. 

Tom got up and walked into the bathroom and made faces at himself in the mirror. He wondered if anybody had ever seen him make these faces and wondered what they would think if they could see him right now. There were so many things Tom would do in his life that wouldn’t be seen by anyone. There were so many swirling thoughts he would never be able to grasp and express. He knew that life wasn’t what he wanted it to be but he didn’t know why.

Expensive hand soaps lined the bathroom counter and he smelled them all and wondered if his wife would notice the scent of geranium on his hands when he returned to bed. 

She walked into her English class and was immediately asked to open her book to page 42. Obviously, she couldn’t, as her book was in her locker, but somehow she managed to keep up, knowing the answer to every question.

Tom wondered if he would die in his sleep and he wondered if dying in his sleep was really as peaceful as everyone says it is. He wondered if he would wake up dead and realize he had died in his sleep and be disappointed that he wasn’t doing something cooler. Tom splashed water on his face and even though it looked like regular water, like all water, he remembered that even though all water is the same, this water was his and his alone, and as the drops slowly made their way down his cheeks they were disappearing forever, or becoming a part of him. Either way, this was their final moment. 

She smiled as the bell rang and she walked out into the street in front of school and got in her mother’s car. She didn’t mention that she had forgotten her locker combination. She told her mom about Josh and how Josh had barely paid attention to her all day. Her mom reminded her to be patient and that everything will work out if it’s supposed to.

Tom wanted to scream so that something happening in this bathroom would have an effect, but he knew it wouldn’t be the effect he wanted. He slowly returned to the bedroom and crawled under the covers, doing his best to not disturb the dream that would soon disappear anyway.

When he woke up in the morning, he remembered all his thoughts. His wife didn’t remember her dream. They were even though, as neither his thoughts nor her dream changed a damn thing.

Wanderlust

Michael wanted adventure and looked for it everywhere. If there was a river he wanted to cross it, not because the grass was greener on the other side, but because he didn’t like the grass he was on. Anything was better than the grass he was on.

He didn’t think about it that way, of course. He wanted to live life to the fullest, to experience it all, to see all that could be seen with his two eyes, to hear all the noises people could hear, to smell the flowers where they grew. 

Eventually Michael had seen all the things and smelled all the things and crossed all the things and climbed all the things and eventually all the different trees just looked like trees because even though they were different, he was still the same person seeing them.

So he bought a small house in the woods and he tried to think about all the things he had done, but all of his memories felt the same because he was in all of them. The spiders that hid in the corners of his home built their webs without worry because Michael couldn’t even see them anymore. Webs were webs and it didn’t matter where they were.

Michael met a woman who had also seen all the things and they began to spend a lot of time together. They talked about the trees and the rivers and they understood each other because they could relate. Soon enough, they were married and they were happy because they wanted the same things. 

Many years later, the spiders had all but taken over their home. There was barely a square foot that was left unwebbed around them. Their hands were bound and their eyes barely opened. They were mummies, preserved in their lives, full of the memories they had each collected and shared and there wasn’t a reason to stand up anymore. 

Many, many years later, a young couple was wandering through the woods when they stumbled upon a giant white cabin. As the approached, they realized there were no windows or doors to be opened. This wooden home had been completely engulfed in spiderwebs.

And the young couple held each other and stood in awe, because they had not yet seen it all. 

People who die should get to stick around for a day or two so they can find out how much people love them

Way to go, humans!

The thing that’s so amazing about animals is that with just a few quick grunts, or snorts, or whistles, or barks, they are able to communicate exactly how they feel and what they want and what they like or don’t like.

One of the greatest achievements of man is language. We have developed thousands and thousands of words and expressions that we could use to do the exact same thing with even more precision?

And is that what we do with it? Of course not.

Of course we don’t. Instead, we use our thousands and thousands of words to delicately dance around all the things we actually want to say. 


We look at animals and think they’re less developed because all they can do is make these prehistoric sounds to demonstrate their thoughts. Meanwhile, we hem and haw and fancily run circles around the points we would like to make, if only we had the guts.

We’re so brilliant as a species that we have managed to take communication and turn it into a completely unusable series of noises that are no better at expressing our desire than a simple whimper from a hungry puppy.

Way to go, humans!

Angry Rant v. 113

Why are people so insistent on being proud of where they are from?

You’re not “representing your city.” You’re just a person who happens to be from there. Unless you’ve done a tremendous amount of work improving the lives of all the people in your hometown than you are really more a product of your environment than a representative of it. What if a city doesn’t want to be represented by you? What if other people don’t want to be identified as part of your stated identity?

And what are you really saying anyway? My city is the best and I am a representative of my city and therefore I am the best? What are you even talking about? Why do we let people talk like this? Why don’t we roll up newspapers and smash people across the face for this kind of nonsense? 

Why?

Stop thinking of new cloaked ways of telling people how much you love yourself and maybe just do something useful once in a while.

Or just go “rep your hometown,” you stupid idiot. You’re waving a flag that would burn itself if it found itself in your hands.

I am full of rage.

The Things You Can’t Do

The day I decided to stop drinking I remember thinking: 

"I can’t do this."

It’s been a little over two months since then. I have my moments of weakness where I just want to say “screw it all” and just go back to how things used to be. 

But then I remember that I wasn’t particularly happy back then. I’m not even saying I’m much happier now, but I know a return to drinking wouldn’t be a return to some greater life for me. It would just be a return to what was easy.

Things aren’t perfect, but they’re better. I sleep better. I look forward to more. 

I really enjoyed the hell out of drinking. I really did. It was great. And there’s nothing wrong with drinking. There was just something wrong with ‘me and drinking’ together. 

So, what have I learned from this so far?

Well, I’ve learned that for me quitting drinking wasn’t about quitting drinking. It was about facing my biggest fear. It was about saying no to myself. None of this is about drinking for me. It’s about doing what’s hardest and about doing what feels impossible. 

Here’s my advice, for what it’s worth. Do whatever you think you can’t. That feels good. That feels really good. It tastes like the best glass of wine I ever had. 

Whether it’s drinking, or commitment, or talking to your estranged family, or learning how to parallel park, I just recommend doing the thing that is hardest because as soon as you do everything else becomes easier. 

I’m not really sure if I’ll last, but I’d rather fail at something difficult than be really great at the things that don’t really matter.

Thank You, Robin Williams

There’s an irrefutable sadness in the air today and we’re all feeling it.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know the name “Robin Williams.” I’m sure that’s true for many of you as well.

I’ve known that name longer than I’ve known most people. He was with me as a child, speaking to me through speakers in a darkened room. He was with me as a teenager, helping me laugh with my parents for two hours at a time. He was there with me as an adult, inspiring me to try to be better, to be funnier, to work harder. I’m sure that’s true for many of you as well.

He never left me. He was always there. He was the genie in the bottle who wanted to give the lost kid a shot at love. He was the dad who loved his kids so much that he was willing to do anything. He was the teacher who wanted a better life for everyone. He was the doctor who know that laughter was the best medicine. He was the funny man who made other people want to be funny. 

And now he’s gone, and it’s terrible and it’s sad and it’s unfathomable.

But he left behind a tremendous gift: millions and millions and millions of people who feel like me: we feel loved. I feel loved by a man I barely knew. And that love will live on when I show my kids the movies of a man who really gave a shit about making people happy. 

And they will stare at the screen in a darkened room and they will laugh the way that I laughed and I will sit behind them and I will smile and I will cry and I will be glad that there will never be a time when they don’t know the name “Robin Williams.”

Thank you, Mr. Williams. You made me smile and you made me laugh more times than I can remember. I can never pay you back but I’ll never forget how you made me feel. 

I’m sure that’s true for many of you as well.

How To Beat Your Neighbors

You can pick your friends. You can pick your job. You can pick your religion.  But you can’t really pick your neighbors. 

Neighbors are a terrible thing from hell. 

This is a really negative way to think. You shouldn’t think of your neighbors as enemies or as bad people. You should think of them as what they really are:

ANIMALS.

And when an animal gets out of hand you don’t call the police. You just outsmart them.

My neighbor Gary is a real piece of shit. His favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings is to open his garage door at 7am, play some weird country music, and spend 2 hours dragging all of his used garbage out onto his lawn for an impromptu yard sale. Old sweatshirts, crappy vinyl records that nobody wants, and toys his three dumb-looking kids got tired of playing with.

Sure, everyone has a yard sale now and again. But every Saturday? Not cool, Gary. He rarely seems to sell anything, anyway. I think he’s just bored. But it’s tremendously annoying. People drive slowly on our street and he talks loudly with them on his lawn. It’s really unbearable.

I’ve asked Gary on 4 separate occasions to limit his yard sales to once a month. I’ve even offered to help him set up a table and put out signs. He told me he would consider it, but he hasn’t stopped. Last Saturday he told me to “put a sock in it.” 

Okay, Gary. I’ll put a sock in it.

On Tuesday I knocked on Gary’s door and told him I was sorry I had bothered him about the yard sales but in doing so I had noticed he was parking his car on the street instead of in his garage. I told Gary that I was buying a second car and I wanted a place to store it and asked if he would be willing to rent me his garage. I offered him $250 a month and I even offered to pay 6 months up front if he agreed to let me keep it for a year. He asked for $300 and we settled at $275. 

I had never seen Gary happier. Not only had I “put a sock in it” but I was even now paying him to rent his garage. What a loser I am!

This morning at 7am Gary started collecting all of his house garbage on the lawn to sell to passerby. Another yard sale? Oh, joy! 


Well, today, Gary had a very special customer: Me.

I asked Gary how much money he thought he would get if he sold all of the things he had out. He told me everything was worth about $75.

I offered him $100 for everything. It’s Gary’s lucky day! He gladly accepted my offer and asked me if I wanted help getting everything into my house.

What a kind offer. He helped me put everything in paper bags and then asked me if I needed help carrying them. It was like 20 bags! I politely declined and pulled his garage door clicker out of my pocket. I opened his garage door and, bag by bag, put all the things that used to clutter his garage back into his garage.

"Where are you going to put your car?" asked Gary.

"Oh, I decided not to get another car," I said. "I’m just going to use this place to store all the crap I don’t want. Have a nice day, Gary."

I closed the garage door and walked back to my house. 

Right now, Gary is probably still on his lawn, without anything to sell, and a garage full of trash. He won’t be alone for long though. I’m doing laundry now, so later today I’m going to go back over to my rented garage to “put a sock in it.”

Looking forward to next week, Gary.

Practice Smile

John was sitting at the bar practicing his smile. Everyone always told John that he would look more approachable and meet more women if he smiled more often and so that’s what he was doing: practicing his smile.
Obviously he wasn’t trying these practice smiles on women he was actually interested in. That would be far too risky. He flashed a smile to the man with the very high pants and the man with the very high pants looked behind him to see who John was smiling at.

No. John was smiling at him.

The man with the very high pants walked over to John and said “Were you smiling at me?”
“Yes,” said John. “But it was just a practice smile.”
“A practice smile?”
“I’m trying to look friendly.”
“So, you’re not friendly?” asked the man with the very high pants.
“I have a girlfriend,” said John, lying.
“What are you talking about?”
“My friend said that if I found myself talking to someone I didn’t want I should casually mention I have a girlfriend.”
“So, is that your way of telling me you don’t want to talk to me?” asked the man with the very high pants.
“Yes. Like I said, it was just a practice smile.”

The man with the very high pants shook his head and walked away. John watched him and looked disgusted. Who wears pants like that? What a creep.

Later that night John decided to try his smile on the woman with the underbite. He didn’t see her underbite as a problem. He saw it as kind of weirdly exotic, like dating a woman with an accent. The only thing he was worried about was if he smiled at her with his normal teeth she might feel he was showing off the fact that he wasn’t deformed like her. But he decided to give it a shot anyway.

He slowly walked over to her, past the man with the very high pants who was still at the bar looking disgusting with his indiscernible waistline and exposed ankles. John jutted his lower jaw out a little bit as he prepared his smile trying to make his mouth look slightly less perfect and more like hers.

“Hello,” said John. “My name is John.”
“I’m Mindy,” said the woman with the underbite.
‘I hope you don’t find my smile intimidating.”
“What?” laughed the woman with the underbite, her dummy-like jaw flapping open and shut.
“I just don’t want you to feel like my smile is better than yours even though it is, objectively. I just want you to feel good about yourself because I’ve been told that is a good way to get started with women.”

The woman with the underbite instinctively closed her mouth. She threw her drink into John’s face and walked away.

That was the night that John realized that he had gotten really good at smiling. His smile was pretty intimidating, objectively.

The man with the very high pants was laughing very hard. The quick contractions of his stomach slightly loosened his belt and his pants slowly lowered to the appropriate place on his body. He immediately was less revolting and John knew he had done a great job tonight. He was happy to have helped.

No one approached John for the rest of the night. His smile was just that good.

New Friends

Someone recently asked me “Why don’t you try harder to see the good in people?”

I replied “Because that’s not my job as a person.”

Why is it my responsibility to search for the value of other people in my life? Why is it yours? Well, quite frankly, it isn’t.

I have surrounded myself with people I love, people I respect, and people I admire for various reasons. For that reason I have a very nice life. If someone new wants to become a part of that life, the burden of proof is on them. If they want to take part in my existence, they are going to have to prove to me that they are in some way enjoyable, interesting, admirable, or in some way add value to the group of people I have already chosen for my life.

Why don’t I try harder to see the good in people? Because it’s an unbelievable waste of time. I should be spending my time enjoying the good people I have already discovered rather than sifting through countless strangers and digging deep trying to find their value.

This goes both ways, of course. If I meet someone and want to become a part of their life, it is my job to show them why they should spend time and energy including me in their world.

And if you don’t like this approach, I can guarantee you that you will add no value to my life. So, we’re all done here.

My Last Break Up

Darling,

The thing I miss most is the comfort of being with you. I thought about you all day, every day. You were the first thing I would see when I would come home from work and you were always waiting for me to come home and spend time with you. We had dinner together and we would just sit in silence, enjoying each other, being together. And every night when we would crawl into bed I knew that everything was going to be okay. In the mornings, your scent reminded me of the night we spent and I would face the day with lingering thoughts of and from you still heavy on my mind.

But a month ago you left me.

I was alone and cold and couldn’t imagine going a day without you. You were my other half. You completed me. You made me the best version of myself. I was funny and interesting and handsome and alarmingly charming. And without you, who was I? I didn’t even know myself any more.

Nights were long and mornings were cold and quiet.

But the longer you stayed away, the less I missed you. The more I realized that you didn’t really make me the man I was. Actually, you took away small pieces of the person I wanted to be. Also, you always gave me a fucking headache. And you were expensive. You really were a nightmare, weren’t you?

Why didn’t I see it? Why was I so blind? You’re a nightmare and I loved you? What does that say about me.

Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t text with stupid emoji and long meaningless ellipses.

I was wrong about you.

We should never have been together. I wish I could say I have no regrets in the way that stupid people do. I wish I could say “I’m the man I am now because of you” but that’s silly. I could have been way better than the man I am now.

Long story short, you’re a nightmare.

I hope all is well with you, but actually, I don’t really care.

Love
Elan

Tail Lights

As soon as you realize you’re dead, it’s probably too late to care.

I looked up from the back seat of the car just in time to realize there was no way we weren’t going to crash. I felt the tires underneath my feet desperately try to cling to the elusive ground below them.

I’m almost out of fingers, I thought, from the times I’ve tried to grasp fleeing moments, only to have them snap back at me and make me regret having tried. That last kiss before the packed car pulls away. The wave as it turns the corner, forever leaving the street you lived on together. The look back as you walk down the street you live on alone. The texts you read aloud to yourself ten times before hitting send.

The red lights, unwavering and unapologetic, were just getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer. I could feel my body tense up. Hello, tail lights.

Replaying happy moments over and over again and convincing yourself that those were the ones that mattered. Giving up only to be given hope again. Finally forgetting only to be reminded.

What will this sound like? What does it sound like in the movies? Am I screaming?

Light reflecting off her skin, moving slower than the air. Dust particles frozen in space as time stands still.

The tires aren’t moving anymore but the road underneath us is. Time is still moving at the same speed for everyone around us. A second is a second like the other 59 in this minute. I’m at full pause.

A year can take a decade. By the time it’s over you look back on the hundred years you spent with her that night and the thousand years you’ve spent thinking about those hundred years since then.

We’re about to collide. We are so close I can hear the metal folding before I can feel it. If I can feel this before it happens how will I know when it does?

She’s facing the other way and her posture tells me everything I need to know. She never needs to turn around.

The seat belt tightens around me and holds me in place. Everything is loud.

I’m still where I am but the car has rounded the corner and no amount of stretching can bring my fingers closer. Goodbye tail lights.

The car is stopped. Forever.

I get out. Ten seconds have passed since I first looked up but it’s been several lifetimes. I consumed the time. I ate it and I savored it and I turned it into something else. But all the other cars keep going by, adding 50 seconds to my ten and feeling very much like the last minute was exactly a minute long.

Nothing lasts forever, except for the end.

The end of everything is the only thing that lasts forever.

Why I Quit Drinking

I love drinking.

I love the way alcohol tastes and how it feels and how it makes me not feel. Or over-feel.

I love the way it makes people more tolerable or less tolerable and I love how it makes me less tolerable to other people. You find out who your friends are really quickly when you’re drunk. And you find out who you’re attracted to almost instantaneously. You don’t waste a whole lot of time thinking about what things mean in the morning because right now it is night and night is all there is and all there ever will be.

And then after a while it extends into the day. And then the morning. I’ve been drinking almost every single day for about 10 years. When I moved to college, I kept a handle of gin in my desk drawer. When I moved to my first apartment I made sure a dive bar I could afford was within walking distance. I became a whiskey connoisseur and had to try every single malt, every blend, every rye. I joined wine clubs. First one. Now twenty.

About two months ago I met a doctor and he told me that I was marching towards death. Worse, actually. He told me that if I didn’t make some serious changes my liver was going to fail and what I would experience would make me pray for death.

That night I drank an entire bottle of tequila. Because fuck that guy.

And then the craziest thing happened. After more than ten years of relentlessly shoveling alcohol down my throat, my body decided to react. One night, after doing 12 shots of mezcal by myself in an abandoned hut on a remote island, I woke up and my skin was turning yellow.

So I stopped drinking.

And let me tell you something about not drinking. It’s terrible.

The first thing you ask yourself is, if this is what it takes to survive, I mean, do I really want to live? Is this really worth doing? You have to feel everything and you have to listen to people and you have to act rationally and you actually have to be attracted to the people you sleep with. But you no longer have the confidence to walk up to the people you’re attracted to that you’d want to sleep with.

Not drinking is easy, actually. All you have to do is not put alcohol in your mouth. It’s actually not hard. Most people are doing that at this very second.

The hard part is not quitting drinking. It’s learning to do other things sober.

I’ve never not had a drink on a plane. Or with dinner. Or before bed. Or at work.

It’s terrible. It’s a terrible terrible way to live. Your memory comes back. Do you have any idea how awful that is? Suddenly you wake up every morning and you remember every detail from the night before. You wake up every morning and you feel okay! I’m not kidding. This is something I don’t know how to do.

And then you tell some people that you’re quitting drinking and they start telling you how proud they are of you. And they mean well, but it’s so infantalizing. People are congratulating you for not making stupid decisions because for the past ten years they’ve just accepted that you’re the kind of person who makes bad decisions. I’ve finally worked my way up to neutral and I’m being told that people are “impressed” by my newfound ability to do what most people already do. No, thank you. Not for me.

Everything about quitting drinking is bad. And almost everything about drinking is great.

I love drinking.

But I’m not going to do it anymore.

At least not for a while. I’m not quite done living yet, but I’m also not done making mistakes either.