Recently, I was bidding farewell to a number of my Los Angeles friends, and I ran into the interesting if awkward situation of hugging someone goodbye with whom my relationship was never truly hashed out. By this I mean it was always a bit uncomfortable hanging around with this person - for both of us - but for no immediately obvious reason. We should have gotten along, as we shared interests to the point where most of my new friends were his old friends, but when we were together it was always "touchy", with neither of us really certain how the other person would react.
You know what I mean - there are a few people out there who you just don't understand at some basic level, and who you are uncomfortable around because there is this very fundamental lack of connection between you and them. Sometimes, it's someone who is a prick, in which case you can just write them off, but sometimes it's someone all your friends like, and you should like, but you just have this weird vibe whenever the two of you try to talk to each other.
Anyways, I've been thinking about it, and I have come to the realization that the difference between us that is getting in the way of the riotous, road-sign vandalizing, policeman mooning, midget-tossing ferret-legging sort of camraderie we should have (he's a red-haired Scot) is our approach to risk. I like to manage risk. He likes to indulge in it.
Of course, that's my point of view. Another way to say it is that he has a happy-go-lucky come what may sort of approach to life, and I have a planned, roadmap sort of approach. You could also say that he is a reckless, unpredictable risk-taking son of a bitch, and I am a controlling, manipulative bastard. Note that each progressive sentence is less correct, yet more humorous!
It's not that he likes risk for the sake of it, or does stupid things. Or that I don't like risk, and am cold and calculating. It's just that he is okay with leaving the future up to itself, and acting on impulse, which makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I prefer to circumscribe risk, to know what the possible outcomes are and that I can deal with them, and I think he would say that this annoys the hell out of him.
Basically, he prefers to the Sailor on the Seas of Fate approach, and I prefer the Engineer on the Rails of Fate approach. I want to know where I'm going. I might plow into a Cow of Fate or a School Bus of Fate, but I'm not going to wind up in a Small Malarial West African Nation of Fate or God forbid the France of Fate. ("Oui! Wehlcahm to Your Destinee!" "Nooooooo!")
Let's make this a little more impersonal. If you have two small children (such as certain columnists do), and each had a different temperment as described above, and you put them in your bedroom with instructions to behave themselves, and there was a can of red paint in the bedroom, here is what would happen. Both children would immediately find the paint. The first child would amuse itself by flinging the paint around the room - onto the walls, the lamps, the bedspread, the other child, itself, and you, when you came in and, surveying the carnage, desperately hollered at it to stop.
The other child would be sitting around, quite innocent looking, as it would have filled all of the shoes in the closet with red paint, and all of the pants pockets, and probably the pillowcases. God forbid you had any condoms in the nightstand, Red Willie.
What does this tell us? Not much, aside from the fact that children (of which the Cant authors have been providing for themselves recently) are vast shitloads of trouble. And that they should never, ever, be given paint. Ever. But it also tells us that there are two very different approaches to life, the "this is fun now and the future can take care of itself" approach, and the "I have to consider what will happen if I indulge myself" approach. More fun now in the first case, but the second approach lets you eat dinner before being discovered and paddled within an inch of your life.
At least, that was the theory.
And both sides get their own highly dubious aphorisms: "Look before you leap" and its evil twin, "He who hesitates is lost". (And my favorite, "He who writes the column chooses which twin is evil.") They're both right, some of the time. Indulging in more wild generalizations and outright lies, the first sort of kid is the sort that everyone wants to be, and the second sort is the sort that everyone wishes they had been. At least, so Hollywood tells us. And I've been to Hollywood - Hell, as of last week, I've been to Hollywoodland! Which pretty much nails down my ability to call myself a Southern Californian.
Therefore, it's off to Washington DC. The movers arrive at 8 am tomorrow to take away all our stuff. I would just like to observe that living in LA has, on the whole, been pretty good, and this is largely due to all of the friends I've met down here, most of whom can be lumped together as ENIGMANS. Thanks guys. I'll miss you.
Even those of you who are dangerously unpredictable.
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a boy, of glue, and paste.
When I lie I grow a long, long nose
But to be real I must keep my faith.
- excerpt from "Sympathy for Pinocchio"
Columns by Sun Ra