Resolved: Get Out More
Asian Bride Or The Boys At Table 8--Either Way, 1999 Is Bound To Be A Real Fun-Fest.
By Jeff Smith
JANUARY 11, 1999: ONE OF THOSE days between Christmas and New Year's Eve--I disremember which, since they all rather melded into a sort of post-partum gloom--I was shoveling down some frijoles at Isabel's and a friend was on her way out after paying the tab, and she paused to ask if I'd made my New Year's resolutions yet.
Isabel's frijoles aren't real cohesive, so I didn't choke, but the question did give me pause: Do I strike you as the kind of guy who makes New Year's resolutions? Maybe she was just making polite noise.
That night at home, alone, as is my lot in life, my mind meandered back to the incident and I gave it a more measured perusal. What, I asked myself, is so wrong with the quaint custom of making promises to oneself--even if they are little white lies--on the turning of the calendar's last page? I have just made it through another Jesus's birthday, a time of joy and misery, family togetherness and aching solitude, 15-year-old Miller Beer commercials that made my mother cry for my father who had left her widowed for a decade, peace on earth and war over Baghdad, playing Santa Claus in Janos, Chihuahua, and sitting in a darkened house December 26 wondering how I could have made such a hash of my life. Such sentimentality keeps me going and damn near kills me.
I am the perfect sap to be making New Year's resolutions.
And the one I'm making here and now, scout's honor, is not to spend the rest of my life alone. Like I've lapsed into these past seven years, four months and 13 days.
This is not to say I'm heeding the wisdom of my daughter, Liza, who offered some years back that I'd be smart to steal a copy of Field & Stream or some such, and answer one of those ads in the back for Asian mail-order brides.
"You'd have some company around here," Liza said, surveying the cavernous barn I dwell in and the unpopulated vastness that surrounds it, "plus you'd get a lot of rice in your diet, somebody to get the dog hair out from under the furniture, and sex. And don't forget, there's the language barrier."
My daughter is a pragmatic feminist. But still a bit of a dreamer. Neither one of us takes this FedEx wife notion seriously.
What I mean by not spending the rest of my life alone begins with not watching Law & Order on A&E until 2 a.m. This is a fine television drama, even if it is reruns, but watching telly until 2 keeps me asleep until 8 or 9 in the morning, then lolling around in front of CNN or ESPN until I can get all the parts moving, which postpones the first cup of coffee until 10, which makes it too late to catch the boys at Table 8 in Patagonia.
Table 8 is where the old buzzards light in the morning for coffee and oatmeal and general bellyaching about Bill and Hillary and the sorry state of world affairs. Compared to the jaundiced view of some of these old bulls, I am a veritable ray of sunshine. I leave Table 8--when I am up and spry enough to make it there on time--positively brimming over with comparative optimism. One has to be a relativist when it comes to matters of optimism and sunshininess.
The point here is that one must not become a hermit. This may not seem like a point worth making to those of you who live in the city, but out here in the weeds where I keep house, solitude is a palpable presence in the lives of a majority. And coupled with the high divorce rates present through American society, even urbanized society, this results in a majority of my friends living lives of detachment and loneliness.
I have pondered this at length and am not prepared to say that domesticity is the natural state of humankind, but neither am I convinced that hermitage is. As is so often the case, comfort can be found in compromise.
Clearly we must couple if we are to continue as a viable species, and the raw numbers indicate that we are indeed continuing. We couple with great alacrity, if not skill or genuine warmth, but the synergies the act once generated seem to have lost their energy. Not more than a generation ago, once a couple coupled a couple of times, with the usual results, the twin intertial impulses of rest (Well, we're together: we might as well stay this way) and motion (Hey, we're breeding: we might as well keep it up) conspired to keep them together until death them did part.
Not so today.
Today, with scarcely more fanfare than "Honey, I'm going to the store for a quart of milk," the bored and disaffected half of the once-happy couple is outta here.
They're off seeking some imagined fulfillment but more often than not sewing the seeds of discontent, loneliness, and ultimately empty husk of an existence.
Well, one might conclude, if there was no more substance to the partnership than could be cashiered and abandoned this cavalierly, nothing of significance is lost after all.
And one might have a valid point there. But to say that this failed partnership of man and woman did not have the legs to last, is not necessarily to say that neither this man nor this woman, nor any other Dad or Mom, hubby or hausfrau does not have the atavistic need and desire for company, for help and helping, for sharing a joke or a tear with something other than a television set or a fish-tank.
Anyway, that's my thinking as of New Year's Eve.
First off, I'm heading up to Flagstaff to welcome 1999 with a bunch of folks from Alcoholics Anonymous. They're a dull bunch, in the main, but there's this one lady with a rack that makes me swoon, and my best friend Jones is reliable for hilarious social commentary. Somehow the idea of not waking up New Year's Day with a hangover sounds like a splendid plan.
Then when I get home, I'm getting up in time to join the surly old bastards at Table 8, and I'm going to find a way to keep busy and in the company of people this year, even if it means actually doing some kind of work.
Happy New Year.
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