Day 194: Surprise Sober People

Sometimes you get a nice surprise when sobriety just pops up out of nowhere. Surprise sober people are the best. Especially when it’s just no big thing.

I’ve been messing around with Stitcher Premium, because I love me some comedy. So pretty much a blind choice, the other day, was Dan St. Germain. “Bad at the Good Times.” Great comedy album; he definitely works blue, if that sort of thing is important to you.

Near the end, he just drops “I’m a sober guy”, and then riffs on sobriety for a while. It’s good, funny stuff — and just kind of nice, culturally, to have that dropped in.

Because it’s a thing, for me, that sober should not be a big deal. Half the problem with drinking is that it’s such a thing. And not drinking is such a thing. So I just appreciate it when somebody who has cultural capital kind of drops sobriety in there. Like it’s no big thing.

Surprise sober people are everywhere!

The longer I’m sober, the more sober people seem to pop up in my life. And the longer I’m sober and semi-public about it, the more comfortable people seem to be “out sober” around me.

But surprise sober people surround me. Some are vegan, some are religious, some are people like me who don’t drink for non-dramatic reasons, some are people who Really Can’t Drink, and that’s cool too.

It’s just interesting to see these people… accrue over time. And some of it is confirmation bias, I know. And I feel like a “maybe the really cool thing is to get good grades” dork talking about this.

But it does feel a bit rebellious to just flat out not drink. It certainly puts you in a different space in the adult Western social contract.

Day 121: Some People Can’t

Some people can’t do some things. That’s kind of obvious, right?

So why isn’t it with drinking?

I made dinner for some friends last Saturday; it was a welcome challenge in the kitchen, as one of them had a condition that severely restricted what they could eat and was on an autoimmune diet.

Which, combined with veganism, creates a hilarious intersection of can’t-eat foods. But it was fun! Being creative within constraints is really interesting.  I wound up making zucchini noodles with a lemongrass-coconut milk sauce, and a kind of shredded sweet potato — I digress.

The point is that my guest couldn’t eat some things, like legumes. So no beans. That was fine. It wasn’t an issue, I didn’t think less of them as a person, I just knew they couldn’t eat beans and that was that.

Some people can’t drink.

So why is “I can’t drink” such a hard pill for me to swallow, and for others to accept? It’s not that weird. Some people can’t eat mushrooms. Some people can’t drink milk. There’s not that much distance between “if I eat a tree nut I will swell up and die” and “if I drink alcohol it will have a deleterious effect on my brain.”

I think alcohol, and alcoholism, have built themselves mythic niches in our culture. But it’s flat out weird that if somebody says “I can’t drink,” other people take that as a value statement. Or judge them on that.

Some people can’t do some things, and a subset of that is some people can’t drink. How does that become weirder, or less acceptable, than “some people can’t eat cheese”?

It’s a weird world.


Day 112: Do Easy

I’ve been thinking about Burroughs’ “Do Easy” philosophy for a little while now. It’s basically a very Zen-ish idea. Figure out which tasks are routine in your life. Then practice them with mindfulness until you can do them perfectly and unconsciously.

Which you’d think comes naturally, but it doesn’t. I flirted with DE back in my post-student days, but haven’t thought about it in years. It’s actually a recent album by Canadian artists Tasseomancy that have brought it back to mind.

(Incidentally, volunteering in community radio is great in some ways — a constant influx of new stuff.)

This isn’t a commitment.

Do easy is hard.

I’m not committing to Do Easy because my life is already pretty full. Taking an hour to zip and unzip a windbreaker doesn’t seem like a benefit. But the idea of that kind of simplicity is seductive.

Our life kind of resembles a weightlifting regimen. Weightlifters bulk and trim. They put on mass: eat a lot, lift a lot. Then they cut, losing weight to get rid of fat and define muscle.

This is kind of what my wife and I do. We “bulk up” with new ideas, trying new things, taking on new hobbies. And then we trim. It turns out that fixing small appliances is not in my skillset. Okay. Dabbling in photography hasn’t been super productive. All right. Home fermentation? Not our bag. But we’ve really gotten passionate about radio. Vegan cheesemaking is now my wife’s thing. I’m slowly improving on the banjo.

Do Easy is a great philosophy; I’m hoping to apply a little more mindfulness to some routine tasks this week. But our actual landscape shifts pretty often in terms of interests. So above and beyond baseline tasks, “do easy” may not be a good investment.

It’s a fun idea to explore periodically, though.

And now I have stray cats to feed and my class at the Leprosarium. I hope I find my way; the address in empty streets.


Day Ninety-One: Spending Time (and Iron Fist)

How am I spending time? How am I blowing time?

I recently finished watching Iron Fist on Netflix. Well, kind of second-screening Iron Fist. I knew it would not be good going in. I knew it was not good while watching it. It wasn’t particularly compelling, but I watched it to the end.

I am going to die someday.

Why in God’s name am I watching Iron Fist?

I wish I had a good answer for that question. There’s been a thing rattling around in my head for a decade now, which becomes truer every year. Media consumption used to be defined by access: physical access (is the movie playing here?) and financial access (can I afford a ticket?).

Things have changed.

If you’re in a developed nation, and have a stable Internet connection, your media consumption driver is not access. It’s time management. I used to say there was nothing on TV. Now my wife and I have routine conversations to triage the shows we watch. We divide things up and report back to each other about whether something is good (I’m the canary in that coal mine — she reads a lot, I second-screen a lot).

Spending time when time is your media currency

So it’s hard to feel good about spending time on something you don’t think is worth it. I could have been building something, or climbing a tree, or cleaning my toothbrush collection.

And it’s hard sometimes to distinguish “leisure” from “waste.” I kind of feel okay about video game time. It’s at least engaging and either a way to work on my reflexes and/or puzzle solving skills. But the Netflix thing is just so… inert.

But I need to relax, right? And bad TV is a form of relaxing… right?

It’s hard to know what to feel okay with, and what to feel guilty about, sometimes.