Yet another reading from the book "Internal Combustion," written, illustrated, and clumsily read by our own esteemed Ashley Holt. Feel my pain come to life through the magic of 19th Century technology.
Well, it's technically a video anyway, even though there's only one image. Think of it as a talisman for meditation, this single image. It's a nice break from the usual online blinking and twitching, don't you agree? This sad tale is, of course, from my wildly successful new book, Internal Combustion.
Delivered from my very own knotted gut, the musings and doodles which chronicle my anxious existence, collected in what scholars of ancient civilizations refer to as a "book." Click hereabouts to find out more:
My dream for the house had always been new wall-to-wall carpet. This seemed luxurious, yet essential to me. I’ve spent a good deal of my life on the floor - writing, drawing, playing guitar, sleeping off a bender –and quality carpeting had padded my cheeks through these low-level adventures in my youth. So I was spoiled. Forget fixing the faulty plumbing, the gas leak, or the refrigerator that sometimes catches fire. I wanted new carpet.
Every now and then, while picking up trash in the front yard, I find a pack of cigarettes, almost full. I do a quick scan of my limited Biblical knowledge to remember if Revelation mentions anything about a plague of Pall Mall’s, but I know what really happened here. I live on a busy highway, which means my yard is the receptacle for the garbage our mouth-breathing motorists believe simply vanishes from existence when they toss it out of the window. And sometimes, among the Burger King and Trojan brand refuse, there is a fresh pack of smokes. This indicates that someone just “quit smoking.”
I think it’s clear to anyone who has beaten me senseless with a crowbar without fear of retribution that I am not a violent person. While others were studying the physical arts of ju-jitsu or boxing in their youth, I busied myself perfecting the sort of intellectual wit that encouraged those other little ninjas to demonstrate what they learned in karate class. But I never cared for physical violence. Why bother inflicting fisticuffs, I rationalized, when I could undermine someone’s confidence about their purchase of a Kajagoogoo album? A black eye can heal in a matter of days, but an emotional scar could require decades of therapy. I still think I made the right choice.
There’s something vindicating about outliving your doctor. It gives you pause, certainly, to consider the fragility of life, as someone’s death always does. But in a perverse way, when the person advising you on your health keels over from a big, greasy heart attack, it means you win. All those lectures about diet and exercise are instantly nullified. What the hell does a dead guy know?
Sometime around 1990, my friends and I were hanging out, doing precisely the nothing with our post-teenage lives that had become standard procedure, when the TV did something strange. Late in the evening, there was a broadcast of something called “Superargo,” a particularly terrible Italian super hero film from the ‘60s. It was still common in those days for local stations to kill time with some wretched old B-movie after midnight or on Saturdays when the ballgame got rained out. And since cable television was something only responsible adults could afford, my loser friends and I caught a lot of these crappy local broadcasts while huddled around crummy little portable sets, sequestered in attic bedrooms where Mom couldn’t smell the smoke. Sometimes we’d catch an unscheduled Three Stooges short or, if we were lucky, something with Harryhausen monsters in it. Most of the time it was “Sorry, Wrong Number” with Barbara Stanwyck. We got to know that one by heart.
It’s bad enough the women featured in all those health and fitness magazines are completely devoid of excess fat. Bad enough they insult the average stuffed-crust American with their perfectly shaped buns and abs. And bad enough they seem to have several employment-free hours a day to devote to full-release quad crunches with a half-turn thrust. But do they have to look so damned TOGETHER? The chicks in these magazines all have this sparkle in their eyes, this look of perfect, alert contentment. Their look says, “I have attained optimal health and well-being at a level once exclusive to Buddhist monks and select Osmonds.” There’s an inner fire to these gals – probably applied with a Photoshop filter not available to lesser mortals – that indicates that they’re eating all the right organic foods, bicycling regularly, and focusing healing energies to any potential trouble spots. It’s a look I vaguely recognize as ... “happy.”
I was wandering through the neighborhood, having just gotten out of the shower. A group of protesters were parading outside a small, suburban home, yelling at "Bill."
"Bill, where are the market reports?" "Bill, why did you shred the documents?" Etc.
I could see "Bill" inside his house, trying to ignore the protesters so he could watch TV. I began to yell at him, too.
"Bill! I just got here! I don't know what's going on, but you're an evil man, Bill!"
I took a look at his living room through the front window.
"Bill! Get some art on those walls! That's what walls are for, Bill!"
Bill seemed to think I was funny.
Bedbugs is the dream diary of Ashley Holt.
You know the guy. Hell, you may even be the guy. He’s deeply entrenched in a mid-life crisis, radiating stress over his job and his home life. He’s buying status symbols by the truckload; a sporty new car here, a 3-D smell-o-rama flat screen there. He’s got a personal trainer, a mistress, and a golf pro. He’s joined the country club to schmooze with his supervisors, but he hangs out at the House of Blues to stay loose. He won’t stop adding on to the house.
Because she is one of the few people still speaking to me after all these years, I spend a lot of time with my wife, Melissa. And my desperate need for her constant attention means I tag along on routine excursions I might usually avoid, and that would surely have gone more smoothly without me. In essence, I am a clingy, needy pain in the ass, inviting myself along to food and clothes-shopping trips to quell separation anxiety – trips that my presence invariably complicates. Fortunately for Melissa, she has become adept at ignoring me.