I woke up in a dingy Super 8 motel, not quite sure where I was. I took a look around, searching my memory for a moment, and realized that no, I hadn’t been double-crossed by a dame in a Chandler novel, I was with my friend, Doug, who was still soundly crashed on the opposite bed. How did we wind up here? I had a vague recollection of being persuaded the night before to drive into Georgia to get tattooed, skin ink being illegal in South Carolina at that time. I had been drunk enough to agree, and crawled into the back seat. This was as much as I could recall.
When the wife and I moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina a few years ago, I knew what I was getting into. I knew that this was desolate hill country, with only the barest hints of civilization. I knew the locals rejected all efforts at cultural encroachment by outsiders, and that the only community activities that held their interest were Sunday school and high school football. I knew there would be no music scene, no alternative newspaper, not even an FM radio station. I knew that Spartanburg did not produce great composers, Pulitzer-winning journalists or pioneering footwear. Being a Carolinian from birth, I accept the typical Southern disdain for interest or effort as a given.
I was browsing in the bookstore not long ago, thumbing through the various Kardashian bios that constitute our modern literary offerings, when two teenage girls came dashing around the aisle. They were adorable; rosy-cheeked, sporting sweatshirts and Converse, all wide-eyed and excited about life in a way that adults can only attain by prescription. The first girl stopped in amazement as she spotted the wall of identically-sized manga paperbacks. Her big, brown eyes flashing behind her glasses, her widening smile revealing her parents’ excellent dental plan, she squealed to her friend with girlish glee.
“Oh my GOD!! They have COMICS here!!!!”
Over the years, with my kneejerk rebellion in full jerk, I’ve resisted adopting any overarching philosophy of life. I don’t think the Golden Rule applies in every situation, I don’t twelve-step my way towards anything and I don’t believe that the world is divided into two kinds of people. I don’t make lemonade out of life’s lemons, I don’t stop to smell the flowers and I don’t hang in there, baby. In fact, I’ve found just about any advice on how to live one’s life usually turns out to be crap. Playing hard to get doesn’t work, and neither does taking it one day at a time. I’ve been faking it until I make it for decades, and not only did I never make it, but felt like a phony in the process. Looking back, I find there’s really only one methodology that I’ve been able to effectively apply to life’s many hassles, and that is to Be Cool.