June 20, 2006

The Coldest Winter Ever

I feel... desolate. I'm staring out over a barren, lightless prairie. At the core of my soul, where the feelings are supposed to go, there's nothing, a black hole that keeps trying to suck the rest of me into it. Once there was hope, a faint flickering hope in spite of all the scars, in spite of the long odds and all the times that have gone wrong before, some little corner of me that dared to believe, however quietly. Last night, though, that fledging little sprout of hope was crushed, flattened by the Mack truck of reality, crushed so badly that it mocks you for having ever dared to hope in the first place. It hurts to have your hopes crushed, but crushed so hard that you feel stupid for having hoped at all? That was last night. I want to wave the white flag and crawl back in the bunker of resignation and cynicism, perhaps permanently.

I find myself trying to concentrate on work, but it's useless, and so am I. I try to hum tunes, think of dump jokes, type long and rambling blog posts, anything to cover up the fact that I'm dying inside. No, that's wrong. I'm already dead. Nothing can cover up the emptiness, not really; I can only paper it over for the sake of the outside world and my own pride. I am folded, spindled, and mutilated. At some point, I imagine, I'll pick myself up off the floor and carry on, but just at the moment I can't imagine it. My chin sinks instinctively to my chest when I walk. My shoulders feel as if they're bearing hundred-pound weights. Call me Mister Blue.

Am I sad, though? No. Angry? Wish I could be, but I can't. I should have known better than to hope. I'm just... empty. I'd jump off a bridge, except I'm too numb to find one. I wish I could feel something, anything, for a while. Instead, there's nothing but cold. It may be sticky, sultry June on the outside, but inside it's an eternal Alaskan winter, where the sun stays down for months. You want to take it on faith that the sun will return at some point, but faith is out the window right now.

I have no right to be this down, I guess. I had no business getting hopeful in the first place. I should have known how it would turn out. But, fool that I am, I let myself believe again, and what did it get me? A big sucking void in my chest. I won't let that happen again. What happened last night broke me.

I refer, of course, to the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup last night.

As a friend of mine put it, "I can hardly wait to see Lord Stanley's Cup filled with...Cheerwine."

It's not all bad. Although I'm perfectly digusted about the Stanley Cup residing in Carolina (should be Hartford, Peter Karmanos, you bastard), I'm happy for the players. The Canes have a lot of veterans who deserved this victory (Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley, Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, Bret "Mr. Kristi Yamaguchi" Hedican, and others). And that kid Ward is an amazing goalie... I look forward to seeing his career develop.

That said, I still want to vomit in the toilet bowl that is Carolina's logo.

I offer a tip of the hat to the Oilers for a tremendous effort. I figured they were toast after they blew the lead in Game 1, especially when Dwayne Roloson got hurt. After they got stomped in Game 2, I was ready to pack it in. But they hung in and made a series of it, the first 8-seed to make the finals, much less come within a game of the Cup.

The Oilers gave it everything they had, and my hat is off to them. Cheers especially to Jussi Markkanen for not self-destructing after Game 2, and to Craig MacTavish for putting him back out there the rest of the series.

Thanks for the ride, guys.

In the spirit of warmth and joy that I'm not feeling, I want to share a couple of things that, on another day, would make me smile.

The first is an article from the Slate vault, re-published in connection with their 10th anniversary celebration, which is one of the sweetest things I've ever read. He describes his experiences sitting in front of the Kennedy Center in DC, watching married couples walk by:

I look particularly at the women in those couples. They are not glamorous. There are no Marlene Dietrichs, Marilyn Monroes, or Vivien Leighs among them. (It is a sign of my age that I can't think of the name of a single living glamorous movie actress.) Some of them are pretty, but many would be considered plain. Since they are on their way to the Kennedy Center, presumably to attend a play, an opera, or a concert, one may assume that they are somewhat above average in cultural literacy. But in other respects one must assume that they are, like most people, average.

But to the man whose hand or arm she is holding, she is not "average." She is the whole world to him. They may argue occasionally, or even frequently. He may have an eye for the cute intern in his office. But that is superficial. Fundamentally, she is the most valuable thing in his life...

I can hear you saying: "How do you know all this? You are only an economist, practitioner of the dismal science. You aren't Ann Landers." That is all true. But my wife and I walked up that hill to the Kennedy Center many times.

(These snippets do not do justice to the article, which flows so beautifully that it's almost impossible to excerpt. Read the whole thing.)

Herbert Stein, who passed away in 1999, was a brilliant economist, served on the Council of Economic Advisors under Nixon and Ford, was on the Wall Street Journal's board of contributors, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was a polymath and a voracious intellect, one of the eminent thinkers of our time. But there was another side to him, which comes out in this article. It was not Stein's first contribution to Slate; he had been, of all things, the writer of the "Dear Prudence" advice column for several years. A man who is equally at home, and equally adept, advising presidents on economic policy and counseling the lovelorn is a man who should be remembered as a giant. But, because our culture wouldn't know greatness if it bit Jennifer Lopez on her sizeable caboose, he is perhaps best remembered for fathering the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The other item I wish to share is a song by Warren Zevon, from the album "Life'll Kill Ya." Although Zevon's terminal cancer was not diagnosed at the time this album came out, he clearly had death on his mind, as evidenced by songs such as the title track, "I Was In the House When the House Burned Down," and the elegantly-named "My Shit's Fucked Up." However, the last track, entitled "Don't Let Us Get Sick," is a gentle, warm, and hopeful song, a rose sprouting out of the volcanic ash. It serves as a reminder that, for all Zevon's darkness and cynicism, there still existed an inner peace and stillness, and perhaps even hope.

Don't let us get sick Don't let us get old Don't let us get stupid, all right? Just make us be brave And make us play nice And let us be together tonight

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

Of course, listening to the song now and remembering that we couldn't keep Zevon from getting sick and old, tears you apart. But it's still a wonderful song.

Eventually, I'll get over the fact that two straight Stanley Cups, and three of the last four, have gone to the Confederacy. In the meantime, I'll use the above-mentioned article and song to help me crawl out of the abyss. Just make me be brave, Lord, and make me play nice. And let us all be together tonight.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at June 20, 2006 12:23 PM | TrackBack

The hockey world jumped the shark when Tampa Bay won the cup. Ever since then, we've been living among the flaming embers and pillars at the gates of Hell. When you're living in total condemnation, a team like the Carolina Hurricanes winning the Cup makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things.

Now all we need is the Thrashers to complete the trifecta. Join in with me and Angus...

"We're on the hiiiighway to hell..."

Posted by: PapaShaft at June 22, 2006 06:50 AM

I've been told, by people who do not understand, that I'm taking this far too hard, that it's not the end of the world, and that I should drop the hysterics. I'm glad to see that you share my calm, sane, rational outlook on the situation. I'm singing along with you and Angus as we speak...

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at June 22, 2006 08:40 AM

Oh, and a question about the Thrashers: if a hockey team wins the Stanley Cup and no one watches it because they're all at Georgia Tech's spring football game, did it really happen?

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at June 22, 2006 08:41 AM

I question whether Thrashers "hockey" ever really happens. Unless, of course, that's meant in the sense of an outbreak of, say, ebola happening. In which case, I can see that.

Posted by: PapaShaft at June 23, 2006 08:20 AM
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