Friday, October 19, 2007

I Am Not The Stuff Of Which Buddhists Are Made

Once, a very long time ago, I lived in a very small town on the border of Colorado and New Mexico and I was the reporter for the finest weekly paper in town.

This was my schedule:

Monday I would wake up at 5 a.m. Sometimes 4. I would drive over the mountain pass into New Mexico. Usually the sun wasn't up yet and I would smoke cigarettes out the window of my car and listen to Roxette or Willie Nelson and worry about the day ahead and whether or not I was going to hit a small animal. Sometimes I would brush the snow off my car first.

Then a period of hubbub and fast and frantic typing and people grouching at each other and the paper would be all ready to go and printed out and I would drive home. Smoking, again, out the window of my car. Usually I would stop at Taco Bell.

When I got home I would sit on the floor and watch old episodes of Northern Exposure which would bleed into Magnum P.I.

Tuesdays I would go to the County Commission meetings in the morning and the City Council meetings in the evening. There would always be a break in the City Council meeting where we would go outside on the balcony and smoke and shoot the shit. In between I would read police reports and talk to people and try to find things to take photographs of.

Wednesday and Thursday were all trying to talk to people, trying to find things to write about, fielding complaints and making sure the obituaries had come in.

Thursday night and Friday morning I'd write up my stories. Four or five, usually. Friday afternoon my editor would send me a sketch of how the front page should look and details on the ads for the rest of the paper and Friday night or Saturday morning I'd put the layout together.

Usually I screwed it up, which is why I had to get there so early on Monday morning.

Sunday was my day off. I had developed this fixation on the Sunday New York Times, a hobby that would wax and wane over the years. Unfortunately, the New York Times couldn't be purchased anywhere nearer than an hour and a half away. So my mother bought me a subscription, which still ranks up there with any present I've ever gotten.

But since I was probably the only person in town with such a subscription, delivery was erratic. It would come one week, and you would think that the problem had been solved, and then it wouldn't come for the next two weeks and it would take endless phone calls from both me and my mother to get it to show up on the third week.

On the weeks where the New York Times came, no matter how bad and bleak things were looking, I felt better. The New York Times was something to cling to in a dark and menacing world.

The names change. Sometimes I really want coffee from a particular place, sometimes I want this one kind of potato chip and no other. It makes me feel safe, to be invested in a brand name, a certain product, it makes me feel autonomous and in control, a person of discrimination and taste.

And when that product is not available, there can't be a substitute. If the New York Times is the magical object, what goddamn good is the Denver Post going to be to me? Even if I really like the comics?


Noko Marie said...

Mm. Uh-huh. The New York Times has been a magical item for me too at various unhappy times over the years. In addition to the autonomy, comfort, and taste things, for me there's even a sense of community with stuff like this... the feeling that there are other people who like the things I like, who care about the things I care about.

As you know, CC, when I first moved to Canada I moved to a relatively small city in Canada. Of course, brand-wise, it was a nightmare, being a different country and all. I'm all, "Where are the Goya chickpeas?!!"

I remember my rage over the fact that I couldn't buy any decent pasta in a regular grocery store -- something I had come to think of as such a basic, basic item. All the pasta was made in Canada and was weird and tasteless. I'm not talking fresh pasta or anything nuts, just a nice imported brand like Barilla or DeCecco. I felt so alienated. Who are these people, who don't even care enough to eat good pasta?? What are they, from Mars?

I've never really understood the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. I mean, I see how non-attachment helps you avoid suffering. But it's always seemed to me like getting attached - to other people, to places, to things - is one of the nicer more admirable things we humans do. I'm for it.

hithere said...

I do not practice non-attachment, but I know people who do. The weird thing about it is that it's like rubbing-the-belly-and-patting-the-head:one seems to be more connected, morethere,more amused, by hanging out with whatever's going on, rather than being desperately connected to some outcome. but what do i know.