Saturday, February 3, 2018

I Am Not A Completist

I knew a man who collected comic books amongst other pop culture arcana.  More than once he professed, "Thankfully, I'm not a completist."

One of the last times I saw him, he came into my then-work and asked if it might be possible to plunder the collectible postcards from a used Twin Peaks boxed set.  The boxed set had been sitting on the store shelf a good two months.  After liberating the postcards, I fabulated some lowball charge, sold them, and re-priced the DVDs 'As Is.'


Philip Roth's American Pastoral details the decline of manufacturer Swede Levov's middle-class existence.  

The central incident involves the bombing of a rural post office.  Merry, Swede's daughter, flees after the anti-Vietnam War protest act claims a life.

Swede hunts for Merry a fair share of the book.  Years later he discovers her destitute, dedicated to extreme asceticism, not even daring to eat plants, horrified that her steps might kill unseen life.  


My former roommate referred to herself as a one-and-a-half star lesbian.  Roxann enjoyed relationships with both genders.  She preferred falling in love with women but since most relationships had been with men, it ate into her self-evaluation.  


As a kid, I collected Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.  All three characters featured in The Avengers - a title I never bought.  

I collected Superman and Action Comics but skipped Justice League of America, World's Finest, and DC Comics Presents -- even though the three latter titles featured Superman.  

I adored John Byrne's Fantastic Four.  At the same time, he wrote and drew Alpha Flight each month.  I didn't hop on the Flight until it was announced Byrne would be taking over The Incredible Hulk, by far my favorite comic book.  


When she started college, my sister attended a private religious school.  Each day her freshman roommate prided herself on reporting back the instances in which Satan had tempted her and the ways in which she'd hopped out of Old Scratch's clutches yet again.  


Brentano's bookstore employees were expected to maintain a healthy Preferred Reader card sign-up percentage.  5% of transactions had to include a customer forking $10 over for an annual discount card.  

Right around the time the company and I parted ways, I'd stripped my sign-up rate down to 0.92%.

Trying to cause the least amount of harm to animals, I always keep Merry Levov's extreme form of restrictive consumption in the back of my mind.   

Typing these words I might be quashing bacteria.  Shifting the desk chair, the wheels might roll over a teeny tiny spider. Walking down a dark hallway, I have stepped on cats incorrectly believing I owned an ability to see in the dark.   

In the mornings, I give the cats their food.  I stare at a computer screen quite probably containing animal cholesterol.  I cook the wife's vegetarian sausages and her egg.  I interact with a cereal box and a Silk box, both potentially so waxy and bright from the injections of animal material into the packaging before the hop-skip-jump from production plant to store aisle to home storage.  

The wheat bread and wheat hamburger buns and wheat hot dog buns I buy proclaim themselves 'Suitable for vegans.'  The suitability of the slick clear plastic containing the product suitable for vegans remains at question.  


.366.  Ty Cobb's career MLB batting average.

66.9.  Drew Brees's career NFL pass completion percentage.

43.4.  Diana Taurasi's career WNBA field goal percentage.


Tina (we have to call her something other than 'my sister's freshman roommate') wanted 100%, every day.   Satan dangled the opportunity for an extra doughnut at the cafeteria, she ignored it.  Satan whispered illicit thoughts into her head watching Jim or Joe or Ricardo moseying along campus in some tight acid washed jeans, she slit her eyes shut and furrowed that brow until the unseemly tingling dissipated.  

Roughly, Mr. Not A Completist and my comic book buying habits hover in a 'percentage-by-feel' territory.  We've got a bug and the bug wants to be rubbed but the bug's definition shifts.  This day the beast arrives in the form of Log Lady postcards.  Tomorrow, missing issues of Grant Morrison's run on Batman.  I don't remember really ever liking Alpha Flight but I needed to understand John Byrne completely before he took over the exploits of the gamma-radiated goliath.  

Roxann's self-evaluation seems in the realm of Ty Cobb's unapproachable benchmark.  A player at bat knows there is a chance they might get a hit, go down swinging, earn a walk, or hit a woeful dribbler down the third base line.  

Relationships and sex are variations on the theme of quieting aloneness.  Cultural narratives maliciously produce the quest for perfection.  A soul mate.  Your 100% guarantee against loneliness.  

At best you find someone willing to enter an unspoken agreement towards mutually beneficial detente.  No one knows 'me.'  No one knows 'you.'  Artifical fulfillment arrives in drinks after work, oral sex at holiday parties, marriage proposals after three dates, Sunday brunch year after year, or selfies of engorged manhood, of yoga pants filled in a manner inarguably the peak reverberation stemming from the moment God hit the 'ON' button.   


Somewhere in America an overly concerned parent tracks their child's meals and the resulting bowel movements.  The time of the bowel movement.  The density of the stool.  The color.  The odor.

A high school classmate kept track of his successful sexual interactions.  

Each time I finish reading a book or graphic novel or a short story I write it down in a notebook.  

Evidence.  Facts.   All kinds of percentages and averages awaiting unveiling.


I wake up and the unspoken intent of the day is to cause the least amount of harm possible.  I start the coffee, I stretch my neck and shoulder, and then I pop the pull tab on a 3 ounce can containing chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, pork broth, natural flavors, etc.

According to the label's 'Guaranteed Analysis' the 3 ounce can contains 78% moisture and 3.5% ash.  

Which is great.  I hear 'ash' and I think Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen.  For the animal activist inclined, a comparison not wholly unfounded.  Your typical grocery store aisle pops to the conditioned eye with a well-spring of product sourced from a tremendous amount of pain.   

The thought of lampshades made from human skin or soap made from human fat chills most sensible people.  And come Super Bowl Sunday, most sensible people will ingest flesh and dairy while large men slam into each other all towards determining the fate of something called a pigskin.


I love me some Julian Barnes.  Most of it comes from his writing.  He also possesses one of the most 'British' speaking voices imaginable.  It hits the ear as proper and dutiful and altogether sane.

His new novel is available in a London Review Bookshop limited edition.  Some of the specs:

Numbers 1 to 75 (plus two hors-série) have been quarter-bound in Harmatan Green 16 goatskin and green Dubletta cloth sides with letterpress label to front, and contain one facsimile page of the author’s initial notebook entry. Numbers i to xxv (plus three hors-série) have been fully bound in the same leather and contain a folder of six facsimile pages of holographic notes, night-time jottings and draft typescript with corrections.

For a few pounds more, facsimile pages bound in flesh.


Theoretically, a vegan supermarket could open.  I could shop there.  And I could ask pesky questions about the authenticity of the products and the product packaging.  Or I could trundle in and out on a regular basis believing I was a warrior for the animals while unaware that the supermarket backroom kept drawing in rats and mice.  Each week, dozens of the little buggers getting their necks snapped in the dark while the self-congratulatory lot circled the aisles, practically high-fiving one another with the fervor of the evangelized pleading for forgiveness after a ten minute stray into the devil's playground known as Google images.

Years ago, arrived at work before anyone else, I entered the darkened break room.  Turning for the light switch I didn't hear a squeak.  The ceiling lights revealed a mouse I'd stepped on.  

Last fall, walking to work in the dark, the shadows hid a dying crow, smack dab in the shadow of a curbside tree.  It was like stepping on a convenience store paper bag stuffed with an empty Big Gulp cup.

Courtesy a spray nozzle and the heel of my sneakers, I killed some 250 wasps entering and exiting a nest built in the house walls.  A Shop-Vac run for hours on end eventually starved out the nest.  We caulked the gap between siding and foundation.  I dumped the vacuum out.  It sits three feet to the left of my legs and it's highly likely wasp body parts remain inside the belly of the beast.

We could've waited for fall to kill the wasps naturally.  Used the back door instead of the front.  

But percentage-wise, the alternative wasn't convenient.  


Wanting books is different than wanting information. Most of humanity within range of a cell tower pursues the latter.

Recent visits to one of the few "new" bookstores in the area are dispiriting. The building is old but the shelves and floors are clean. The clerks look exhausted trying to formulate busyness from dud ingredients. You expect to see tumbleweeds rolling through the aisles.

Clean sneakers, fading denim or thinning khaki, a jacket recently absolved of food stain, and a pinched, self-involved mug ride my clan's bones. By and large, the book-obsessed radiate introversion with a hackneyed glaze of snobbery, a woefully uncalled for good old boy's club exclusionary panache.

These are the 100%. They enter knowing they will be leaving with something. If not a physical item they still retain certitude tomorrow presents an opportunity to return and be tempted. Every book bought is the perfect book. The one book we've been looking for. The book that solves the case and seals the entrance to the abyss.


I think my record for removal from the church of onanism is a little over two weeks.  But there's masturbation and then there is masturbation.

Every day I think of books.  The ones I'm trying to write.  The ones I want to read.  The ones I already possess but still haven't read.  

I aspire to be the only adult in Cascadia without a cellphone.  I look down my nose and behold addicts, addicts everywhere.  

Virtually zero nutritional value to the links visited, the videos watched, the Tweets tweeted.  All the lonely people, all their nomadic devices withering traditional communication, eradicating the interpersonal skill set.

These hands are clean.

And yet, according to the Chrome search history, from 11/5/17 through 2/3/18 I've visited  1071 times.

1071 visits.  91 days.  11.8 visits per day.  I figure 30 seconds per visit.  353 seconds of each day spent on the website.  Roughly, .004 percent of the daily 86,400 seconds spent on bibliographical arcana.  

My brain rewarding me for the activity.  For clearing the self-drafted hoop.  For completing the task.