Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reclining on the hood of a Ford/Chevy/Dodge/American-made Automobile, looking at the stars or the clouds or into your lover's eyes sounds like something from a Springsteen song that evokes in you a deep sense of nostalgia for something you have never actually done

I was trying to be clever, but, Oh wow, American-made hood-sittin' actually is in a Springsteen song – and a Canonical Springsteen Song at that.

Just a few lines into the coded opus "Jungleland" (ranked number 13 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest Springsteen songs) Bruce growls:

Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain . . . 


hot guy reclining on the hood of a truck: typical fictional summertime behavior

Certain imagery evokes in me a deep sense of nostalgia for activities in which I've never actually participated, but which seem quintessential to the American teen experience. Much of that imagery exists in Bruce Springsteen or Bob Seger songs, songs about idealized teenage behavior from the 1960s and early 70s – roughly 35 years before I sprouted my first pit hair.

When I hear those first few harmonica notes on 'Born to Run,' I can immediately conjure a glorious memory of myself at 17, sitting on the hood of my '97 Accord, staring up at the stars with a six-pack of Banquet beer in one hand and my girl's waist in the other.

Yeah, but that never happened.

I tried sitting on the hood of my car once. I pulled into my driveway a little before my 11:30 pm curfew on a warm, clear early-autumn night in 2004. I stood next to the driver's side door looking up at the stars and decided to heighten the emo romanticism by hopping on the hood.

It was hot – I had just shut off the engine like 30 seconds before climbing aboard – and my butt started to sweat. There were bugs biting my ankles and arms. I heard the kchunk kchunk of the hood denting every time I shifted my weight and I feared putting too much pressure on the windshield. After about a minute, unpleasantness and boredom surpassed any lingering Americana-infused sensitivity and I went inside, never to mount a hood again.

๐Ÿ˜จ  ๐Ÿš˜

I've spent a while looking for some fitting photos of idealistic teenagers atop hoods of American-made automobiles to convey my point here, but the majority of Google Image search results feature somewhat sexy white women lounging on F150s like they're in Viagra ads targeted at Nebraskan tractor-pullers. Just now, my wife glanced the photos and said it seems like I'm about to start watching porn.

This carsex phenomenon has deep roots. Seriously, the mass production of cars seems to have immediately ushered in the mass production of car-straddling pin-ups:

But let's get back to this week's SOT premise: We're all supposed to pretend it's normal to drive over to some secluded cliff or field that the local police have undoubtedly identified as a popular spot for necking and reefer-smoking to gaze at Orion's Belt and Ursa Major from the scalding hoods of our second-hand vehicles? No way. You've never done it either.

finally found what I was looking for. this photo is even more romanticized because it includes a surfboard

Pros: Star in your very own Springsteen song.

Or a Seger, a Mellencamp, a Petty, maybe even The War On Drugs.

Definitely a prominent trope in the fill-in-the-blank artist, country song template.

Warm your bum on a chilly night.

American exceptionalism.

Cons: Come on – the hood of a car is not a comfortable place to fall in love.

You might damage your car.

You risk locking your keys in the car

Or having your car stolen as you gaze up at the stars or into your lover's eyes, entranced by the power of the moment, unaware of the car thief bout to fling you into the dirt soon as he turns the key and propels the car in reverse.

Your cellphone was in the car, dumbass.

Stability - 3/5 The crumple zone can be delicate and then there goes your resale value. 

Cool Factor - 5/5 If you're Mellencamp enough to pull this move off. 1/5 if we're talking actual temperature of the thin metal hood, which encases a scalding hot V6.

Difficulty - 3/5 Can you shake the bugs off your legs without denting your car?

Perilousness - 2/5  Every teen hood-sat in the late-50s, but the hoods were way longer, flatter and sturdier back then

Added bonus - 3/5  Countless songs bout this lil' cliche 

Overall rating - At the very best, a 16/25 for a reliable Americana trope.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

In the morning sun or on the dock of the bay without a cellphone

Six years ago, I lived in a foreign country and used a prepaid, push-button cell phone with a 1990s interface. It didn't have GPS – I had to figure out where I was going. It didn't have an app for translating – I had to carry a crappy dictionary around. It didn't have a touch screen – I had to tap the 1 button four times to type an รก. It didn't have email – I had to note what I wanted to write later and send the email when I got home to my computer. It didn't even have a camera – I had to carry one of those around too.

I rarely texted because each message cost money – 10 centimos to send and 2 centimos to receive.

I was alone all the time, which meant I had to entertain myself by exploring the city and making art. I filled notebooks and drawing pads with some funky creations – now buried in Rubbermaid totes.

I don't really do that stuff much anymore unless I specifically add 'write' or 'draw' or 'finish project' or 'go to X' in my iCal with an alert.

I text and email all the time when I'm bored. Or I absent-mindedly scroll through sports apps to check the current National League leaders in on-base percentage for some reason.

I'm never really alone because my friends are just a WhatsApp message away, even if they're sitting next to me.

I went to a wedding yesterday and spent time during the reception watching Instagram videos that my friends took of my friends during the reception. We were all together, looking at pictures of stuff we had just done. In a way, the curated real-time social media experience exceeded the actual events because we looked handsome and carefree and we knew we'd get a lot of likes.

Before the reception, a few of us played whiffle ball in the yard at the venue and I pitched to a nine-year-old while holding my gray suit jacket in my left hand. A friend filmed us and made it his Instagram story. Watching that video, thinking how cool I looked – like I was in a J. Crew ad – and hoping everyone else would think so too, felt better than actually standing out there in the wet grass throwing to the groom's little cousin. The video delivered that little hit of superficial fulfillment.

It happened gradually these past few years, but I am now the cell phone-addicted millennial cliche I didn't expect to become. I have to hide my phone in my backpack and concentrate to zone out on the train. I watch three screens at once, rarely concentrating on just one thing at a time.

I just paused while writing this to consider checking my phone because I sent a WhatsApp message to a group thread a half hour ago and remembered that I hadn't yet received a response. Fortunately, my phone is in another room so I could more easily concentrate on Sit On Things.


I was walking home from a grocery store earlier, holding a few bags that prevented me from accessing my phone, when I started thinking about "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay."

The character in Otis Redding's classic sits in the morning sun and the dock of the bay for hours, watching the water, "wastin' time." He talks about feeling listless even after making a big change (moving from Georgia to San Francisco). He is unwilling to sift through all the advice he gets and he seems reluctant to commit to meaningful personal change beyond the geographic.

I interpret the lyrics to mean that Otis' character experiences anxiety and mild depression. He thought a drastic change from a restrictive environment to a new, more dynamic setting would ignite him, but he's starting to realize that moving somewhere new – even a cool place like late-60s San Francisco – doesn't alter your thought patterns and emotions. It's just a superficial change of address unless you start working on yourself. Like all of us, this guy would benefit from seeing a therapist.

I can relate to Otis' character because I left the US (back when I had the crappy cell phone) for the same reason – I thought a drastic change of scenery would be a quick fix for deeper growth. But I was still the same person inside and I responded to people and situations the same ways I always had. Along with two stuffed suitcases, I brought the same neuroses and fears to Spain.

I definitely benefited from not having a smart phone because solitude forced me to learn directions, the metric system and a new language much faster. I had to trust myself.

I think Otis' character uses all that alone time on the dock of the bay to probe his fears and make some decisions for himself. By disconnecting, he begins to slowly overcome that inertia and, I hope, to trust himself too.

Stability - 2/5  Emotional instability exacerbated by compulsive cell phone use, perhaps mitigated by boredom and meditation

Cool Factor - 3/5 Even though you're not gonna get any likes sitting on that dock without facebook

Difficulty - 5/5 Fear and self doubt can be our greatest obstacles. 

Perilousness -  4/5 Change is scary, trusting oneself is too

Added bonus - 4/5 Less anxiety

Overall rating - 18/25 Emotional growth

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Paranoia paranoia everybody's coming to get me

My quick Wikipedia review of Harvey Danger's classic 'Flagpole Sitta' – a song that stands out to me as easily the best track on 1997's Now Volume 1 – initiated my deep dive into the song's origin which led me to the ancient form of asceticism known as stylitoe, Latin for "pillar-hermits."

A summary: 
To impress God or to look cool in front of his monastery peers or something, St. Simeon Stylites the Elder – an ancient David Blaine regarded as the preeminent pillar hermit – fasted/pretended to fast for an entire Lent in the 4th Century. Naturally, his monastery classmates considered him a freak who tried too hard to fit in so St. Simeon – oblivious to social law which dictates that anyone who goes out of their way to seem cool will, in fact, seem like a pathetic dorkus malorkus – decided to try a new neat trick: Standing for a long time. 

But when plain old standing didn't work, Sim went even bigger: He chilled on top of column in the desert for 36 years. 

He sat, he ate, he prayed. 

But something funny happened: People began building ladders to visit him and get answers to life's big questions.

And Sim's persistence paid off. While most of monk antagonists probably died of diarrhea or the flu, Sim stayed on that pedestal. Artists started painting him, normal Romans started worshipping him and an emperor sought this dorky guru's counsel. In an early-Christian era where basically anyone could become a saint, St. Sim really distinguished himself through unwavering determination and tolerance for pain. He'd be such a sick Crossfitter. 

1,600 years later, a new pillar-hermit inspired craze known as pole-sitting went viral in the U.S. Thrill-seekers climbed flagpoles and sat up there for as long as possible. Some guy in Iowa set a record by sitting on a pole for 51 days until a thunderstorm scared him.

Many historians now posit that pole-sitting influenced a generation of Instagrammable feats of endurance and patience such as Tebowing, Planking and the Mannequin Challenge.

Pros: Get your own Wikipedia page.

Become a saint.

Become a social media star.

See who salutes . . .

Cons: But no one ever does.

It's lonely at the top.

No sex

'Cept with that pole yer sittin on

Stability - 4/5 Poles, pillars, yeah, sturdy. sure. whatever.

Cool Factor - 3/5 Bitter irony: The attention you receive for sitting on a pole for an extended period of time could get you laid, but your celebrity – and, thus, your desirability – ends as soon as you leave the pole.

Difficulty - 4/5 Yeah definitely. Boring. 

Perilousness -  4/5 Lightning. Angry nationalists who are like, "hey, wehre's are flag? what did ya do with are flag?"

Added bonus - 3/5 Excellent way for boring people to fake enlightenment, depth and eccentricity. 

Overall rating - 18/25 Not sick, not well. So hot, in hell. Not sick, not well. Sin to live well. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sittin on a bee can get you killed out here

cautionary tale about the perils of careless bee-sitting

he's restin in the sun, 
calm and placid in the pasture.
he's just a gentle one, 
but brahman's bout to face disaster

there's a bee under the tree
slurpin nectar from a thistle
and oh gee, he doesn't see.
he bout to go off like a missile

Abeja stings the cattle
and the cattle goes berserk
so farmer sends him off to battle
cuz he thinks the bull's a jerk

inside the ring, bull faces death:
torero with the power
to take away the final breath
he used to sniff a flower.

but the bull just keeps on chillin,
playin cool before the fans
so today, there'll be no killin.
the bull is a free man.

But sittin on that bee almost got Ferdinand murdered. 
Stabbed in the spine with a slender blade like all his aggro fightin peers. 

Stability - it's a teeny bee. come on. sitting on that is like when a cartoon bear tries riding a tricycle, but even more challenging because bees are generally smaller than tricycles. 0/5

Cool Factor - 2/5 It's only cool if you can play it off like nothing happened. Like you're too tough to flip out from a wimpy lil bee sting. Ferdinand couldn't handle it. Not cool.

Difficulty - 5/5 It's gonna hurt

Perilousness - 5/5 If you have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings. In fact, bee sting anaphylaxis is potentially life threatening according to a cursory Google search. So if the matador doesn't kill you, the inability to breathe through your swollen trachea will.

Added bonus - 1/5 Build toughness, I guess? Develop an immunity to bee stings perhaps? But, look, the bee dies after it stings you. The stinger rips off the bee's butt and it soon dies from loneliness or blood loss. We need bees to pollenate our flowers and resist climate change. When your careless sitting kills a bee, you're worse than Monsanto.

Overall rating - 13/25