November 18, 2009
Hear that? That’s the sound of the holiday clock ticking toward C-Day. Another week and you’ll have to beat the dust out of your flashing Bobbie Brooks Rudolph sweater and plug in the string of Christmas lights that’s been permanently attached to your house for the last three years. Sure, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but what used to be a gentle road bump on the superhighway to material excess is now a big, white, one-way arrow. After all, if you don’t have any things, what are you going to be thankful for? Health? Happiness? Love? This is Austin, Texas, America, not an ashram. You might be able to somehow monetize your health – say, if you’re a day laborer or a sex worker, but love and happiness aren’t going to put spinny rims on your Hummer or crust your grill with ice. Really, what good are love and happiness if you can’t rub them in other peoples’ faces? After all, happiness in the absence of external validation is very often mistaken for insanity. You can’t just wander around in a state of bliss for no reason without checking someone else’s opinion. You’re not Kierkegaard. Life is much uglier and meaner than that. You have to occasionally check in with friends and neighbors and complete strangers to make sure they recognize your happiness as genuine happiness and not some freak chemical imbalance. When you proudly open the door of your crawl space to reveal the piles of corpses, it’s probably a bad sign if your friend recoils in horror. It’s an even worse sign if you don’t have any friends with whom you can share your crawl space. People need people … if only to make sure they haven’t gone off the deep end. This system of external checks and balances doesn’t always work. Sometimes abominations slip through. For instance: People still engage in hardcore, sloppy tongue-kissing sessions at shopping malls. They still take out second mortgages to lease PT Cruiser convertibles. They still wear nugget jewelry and Ed Hardy prints. They still launch into tedious long-form soliloquies about their fitness regime at cocktail parties. Actions such as these are basically cries for withering social criticism. It’s how society evolves. Sure, solitude has its perks. Everyone needs a little downtime – but not everyone is John the Baptist, Hank Dave Thoreau, or Jeremiah Johnson. Increasingly, people are forced to show their asses 24/7 whether they like it or not. These days you never really know if your innocent, back-alley beer piss is going to end up going viral on YouTube or whether you’ll be tagged in a Facebook photo with a wrinkled nutsack resting on your sleeping forehead. Welcome to the fishbowl. “All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players” … with no green room. Will it force us into a morally homogenized lifestyle, or will it simply make the aberrations seem commonplace? Stay tuned, the plot thickens. If you want to catch a little old-skool theatre, you can find it at the Hyde Park Theatre this weekend as Capital T Theatre continues its run of Sick, Zayd Dohrn’s comedy about a family of germophobes trying their best to retreat from the dangers of the outside world. Spoiler alert: People mess it up.