Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up to pee and can’t fall back asleep—and then, lying there in the dark with my mind half-conscious, I compose urgent, ambitious essays. I never write them down at the time so I don’t wake up my wife. But a few hours later, after I wake up for the day, I can hardly remember even the topic of my profound essay. And when I try to actually type up that essay later, I struggle to squeeze out even one coherent sentence.
For example: one night last week I got up to pee at around 4am, stumbled back to bed, lay awake for a while, at which point my mind decided to write an essay about the “Asian American identity.” I had such eloquent and compelling things to say it was as if I were possessed by Zadie Smith. Later in the day when I tried to write that essay, all I could come up with were lines like Who came up with the “Asian American” label? I can’t identity with it at all, it’s stupid. Race is made-up and stupid.
Maybe I have forgotten all my brilliant ideas and to I need to keep a notebook beside my bed to record my late night inspirations. Or maybe I have brilliant thoughts but lack the skills to translate them into coherent sentences. Or maybe I never have any profound ideas and my half-asleep brain imagines it all, like how I used to imagine myself as Latrell Sprewell when I practiced jump shots after school.
This morning a sentence in Jenny Offill’s novel, Weather, captivated me:
Sometimes your heart runs away with someone and all it takes is a bandana on a stick.
The fist time I read it, I thought it said a banana on a stick. Not until my third read of the sentence did I catch my mistake, but by then it was too late—I spent the morning thinking of a banana on a stick.
Grilled corn on a stick is a thing, so is corndog on a stick, and there’s candied apple on a stick. You can certainly put a stick through a banana but why bother? Maybe a banana dipped in chocolate (with sprinkles?). Or a frozen banana. Or fried banana? I’ve heard you can fry anything and it’ll taste good—in some places people even eat fried butter (on a stick?).
Or perhaps it’s a metaphor—of what, though? I guess it doesn’t need to make sense if it’s from a writer like Jenny Offill. The reader would give her the benefit of the doubt and think, How does a metaphorical banana make one’s heart race?
The other day as I was walking down Smith Street, I saw a sign outside the Lululemon store that read “Be Yourself.” My mind asked, What if you’re an asshole?
I thought that the point of trying to be a civilized human is to tame that horny, violent, impulsive monkeys in all of us. From the time we’re young, we’re conditioned to resist the marshmallow, fall in line, control the urge to curse and kick whenever things don’t go our way, and to say the polite things even when we don’t feel like it. If I were to be myself, I would’ve picked up that Lululemon sign and thrown it against their storefront and taken a piss on it—but I didn’t do any of that, because I’m a respectable middle-aged man who has my ugliest desires under control and my truest and most honest self locked in a cellar. You’re welcome.
I have hoarder tendencies. So I’m once again surrounded by objects on my desk in the living room. A stack of just-delivered Neophyte 10. Two beanies that I should put away (but where?). A pile of recent mail to sort through. A small accumulation of business cards, stickers, and design ephemera. Four small bottles of black ink for drawing. A box of 6” by 9” Premium Quality envelopes for Neophyte. A photo book by They Might be Giants designed by Paul Sahre, with excellent photos by Brian Karlsson. Underneath that photo book: several issues of comics and magazines for collage (that I’ll probably never get to). Three piles of comic books to read: Portrait of a Drunk by O. Schrauwen, Promethea (Book 1) by Alan Moore, MacDoodle St. by Mark Alan Stamaty, Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Daredevil by Frank Miller, et cetera et cetera et cetera.
I think I know what I’ll be doing during the upcoming holidays.