Setting aside the fact that song is the worst 70s coke-and-Ludes-and-Harvey-Wallbanger fern-bar easy-listening tripe ever, not to mention its hellish gag-gift-of-the-Magi ending, I will do as Guardians of the Galaxy did and exploit the theme of the title. Today, kids, we’re talking about escape.
This is a topic that’s on my mind a lot this summer. Work sucks, out loud, and that’s basically a third of your waking life or more. I don’t much care for the nature of life in Silly Con Valley these days, as 650 gets colonized by Googloids and the axis of yuppie-techie-hipster continues to infect the entire Bay Area. (Does Castro Street in Mountain View need a third new artisanal bakery?) The wider world is a shitty, shitty place, especially for people who didn’t have the presence of mind to be born rich white and male. Speaking of, there are over a dozen candidates for the GOP nomination for President, and the only viable Democratic alternative is the same one who was “inevitable” in 2008 and for whom support – for me – is more a matter of “to hell with enthusiasm, just do your duty because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.” And the heat just won’t quit. Like everything else, it seems to get less bad for just a little bit, enough to give you hope, and then comes back worse with a vengeance. There is no timeline in which the Bay Area should rightfully see four consecutive daily highs in the 90s in September.
So what are we going to do to escape?
First let’s get rid of those pina coladas. And the Quaaludes and cocaine, and that bottle of Galliano belongs in the trash anyway. God knows that after being shot up with hydromorphone, I can totally understand how people get hooked on drugs, because that shit – five time stronger than morphine and an ingredient of Ohio’s lethal injection cocktail until 2009 – basically turns you into Jay Cutler. DOOOOOONT CAAAAAAAAARE. Escape via substance is not practical, legal or sustainable, because at some point you’re going to need to fall asleep at night without benefit of opiates, alcohol or over-the-counter melatonin. Chemicals can’t actually make it better, so away they go.
Speaking of substance abuse, what about Burning Man? The sort of people who walk around naked in a desert with a bouquet of feathers tied to their Lou Holtz are the last people on Earth I’d want to socialize with, but they do make an awfully big deal about “going home” and having that as their true focus in life. And God knows there are all kinds of ways to craft another identity for yourself if you like, but that’s a temporary respite, even when it’s not inundated in creepy crawly bugs. You have to come back from Black Rock City fifty-one weeks a year. God knows I’ve come to love Disneyland, but that’s as temporary as anything else. If you have to come back, maybe you escaped, but you got caught and returned to general population.
“Change your circumstances!” So goes the ethos of Silicon Valley, where if your job is making you miserable, that’s your own fault for not following your bliss and monetizing your joy. Problem is, modern life calls for a lot of jobs that don’t exactly lend themselves to that sort of thing. Nobody ever followed their bliss into academic IT support, and I suspect the bus drivers and short-order cooks and and checkout clerks of Santa Clara County aren’t all fulfilling a lifelong dream. Too, the modern tech sector seems optimized for high turnover; the average tenure at Amazon is famously 14 months and much is made of the notion that if you’ve been at a company more than a couple of years, you aren’t sufficiently motivated.
Looking around the job market, I can tell you for a fact that five years in the same job and a college graduation date in the 1990s are a poisonous combination unless you’re willing to lowball or contract – but to be honest that makes perfect sense, because there’s a constant stream of fresh graduates just thrilled to be making money and convinced they’re loading themselves into the catapult to wealth and success. The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing workers they were professionals because they had a desk and a computer. So it’s probably foolish to expect that you can find joy pulling down a paycheck – if you do, then God bless, but it’s not something to expect. “Do what you love” is advice for the privileged who can afford to have their parents or spouse or lottery winnings support their artisanal boutique handcrafted heritage heirloom concept (whose letterpressed business card undoubtedly reads “Fart & Washbasin” with a handlebar mustache logo or something similarly ridiculous).
In the end, for now, it’s going to come down to this: take the things I hate and stop doing them. Unplug from college football. Stop commuting on overcrowded and underfunded transit. Work from 8-ish to 5-ish and when I’m not at work, put it in a box and don’t let it cross my mind without crossing right back out again. And then identify the things I enjoy doing, the things that make me feel better, the things I love, and do them every chance I get. We’ll get on a train and go. We’ll fly to Hawaii, we’ll experience Birmingham without my relations hovering nearby, we’ll stop faffing about needing to go somewhere else first and just go back to London. Maybe I won’t go down the pub that much, but I’ll make sure there’s enough for a pint or two at home and take Sunday night to get lost in a good book while sipping my drink and relaxing in the recliner (which itself sees precious less use than it should). If I want to buy the $10 Nerf gun, I’ll stop wittering on about it for months and waiting for some sort of pay hike to roll around and just !-ing do it already. I will stockpile the resources for the life I want so that when the opportunity to live it comes, I’ll be equipped and ready.
And if that’s all I can do for now, so be it. Tomorrow I’ll try to think of something else.