In his most recent book (but who can keep track?) Slavoj Zizek writes, “…who needs direct repression when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse?” Which is so true! To which, I would like to add: And who needs a vacation when one’s life is already a vacation from nowhere? I’m one of those unluckly people (or lucky, I’m never quite sure) for whom vacation, as it is traditionally understood, has never made any sense. Why would someone, with a need to escape the stress and routine of their everyday life, choose to pack up their things, travel thousands of miles (in order to pay a small fortune to stay in a tiny room with entirely uncomfortable beds), surrounded by people from around the world – who are doing the exact same thing – rushing to catch flights, taxis, etc. all along the way? To me, this is the opposite of what a vacation should be: Lying entirely prone, in bed, smart phone and laptop turned off, no appointments, no plans, etc. In short, doing nothing (i.e. being irresponsive to oneself and to others) is the greatest vacation of all. (Oh, wait. I just described death.)
In any case (let’s get to the point!), I’ve recently had the horrible misfortune of being taken on a trip to Mallorca, a small Mediterranean island, located to the southeast of Spain – home of the sling-shot; home of thousand year old olive trees; home of Raphael Nadal! I couldn’t help but think of David and Goliath on my trip, and, quite honestly, I felt sorry for Goliath: He got shot in the eye with a sling-shot! Who does that? And those thousand year-old-plus olive tree orchards! I can only imagine what serious Old Testament shit went down beneath their ancient eaves…
A Few Brief, Random Notes From My Week in Mallorca:
-On our first beach outing, my traveling companion convinced me to urinate in the ocean, an idea that I was initially firmly set against. “That’s disgusting,” I said, “I’ll contaminate the water!”
“It’s the ocean!” she shot back, as if addressing someone dumb or hard of hearing. Once I tried it though, I couldn’t stop, and found myself peeing in the great waters of the Mediterranean as often as I could. The fact is, I never felt so at-one with the ocean as when I was emptying myself into her. I can only hope she felt the same way.
-We watched Spain defeat a clearly inferior Dutch team for the World Cup in our little white-boxed room overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (which looked, at sunset, like a perfect mirror reflection of the sky). Unfortunately, I downed an Ambien and a couple of beers at about the fifty-minute mark and was fast asleep before the game was decided. But I knew Spain would win. Not only was their coach far cooler-looking and more trustworthy-seeming than the Dutch coach, but the octopus chose Spain to win, and the octopus –as everyone knows – enjoyed an uncanny 100% success rate with choosing World Cup winners. Incidentally, after the tournament, the octopus received several job offers from various Connecticut-based private equity groups.
-While swimming in the otherworldly turquoise waters, in the private beach near our hotel, my traveling companion and I were maliciously assaulted by jellyfish. She screamed. I screamed. “Pee on me!” she cried. “Pee on me!” I can only imagine what the other beachgoers must have thought. I thought about the jellyfish stinging me on my exposed penis.
“I can’t!” I shouted over the tumult of the ocean.
“I just can’t.”
We flopped our way onto the beach where the fat, naked, leather-skinned tourists stared at us like we were idiots. Fortunately, we met a kind British woman (an author of thirty-or-so children’s books, incidentally) who happened to have anti-jellyfish sting cream on her.
-Lebron James announced his decision to take his talents to a beach. Which is fine. I’d just like to warn him against going in the water.
-Met a crazy psychotherapist, Natasha, on vacation from London, by the ocean one day. She was probably in her late-fifties, lonely. She saw me reading Zizek’s new book.
“How is it?”
“It’s good.” Then I thought about if for a second. “I liked the part about authoritarian capitalism.”
When my traveling companion came back from the ocean, Natasha started asking us questions about our trip – where had we been, how we like it – and then about our nightlife – what we do, where we go. And it seemed weird how quickly this woman gained an interest in our itinerary. Before we knew it, we had told her everything. And before we knew it again we were giving her a ride back to town and, as we did so, Natasha felt it necessary to tell my traveling companion how to drive, where to drive, when to turn, when to break. She basically broke every rule in the How To Be A Decent Car Guest When You’ve Just Asked Some Complete Strangers For a Ride book. As if that weren’t enough – completely oblivious to fact that she was driving us crazy – Natasha insisted that she give us a tour of the town’s church. I told her my stomach hurt and that I was about to have severe diarrhea. Problem solved. Fortunately, we never saw her again.
-The Delta Force, starring Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin (one of my all time favorite childhood movies), was on at the local pizzeria one night, dubbed in Spanish. I haven’t seen or thought about The Delta Force for years, but I should write a piece about it. It’s a fictionalization of the 1985 Hezbollah TWA hijacking, a brutal, tragic saga that played out over a week, televised for all the world to see. The movie’s got everything. It’s super current: You’ve got Islamic Fundamentalists hijacking a plane of western tourists (Jews and Christians); you’ve got American Special Forces training to kill and then killing Islamic Fundamentalists; you’ve got pro-American Jewish rhetoric (comparisons to the Holocaust, Jewish passengers telling their Islamic hijackers that they’re survivors); you’ve got a Christian missionary in Beirut (where the hostages are taken) who sends a secret communiqué to Washington via hidden ham radio in his pew (he’s later discovered and executed); the main bad guy looks like a cross between Saddam Hussein and Ricardo Montalban, and yet, for all his evilness, he is portrayed as a semi-respectful freedom fighter from the other side. (His lackeys though are a mish-mash of lunatic Arab stereotypes.) Also, it’s got a gnarly ending: the last scene is of the hostages coming home, exiting the plane, greeted by ecstatic crowds, as the Delta Force members load the casket of their fallen brother onto a nearby C-130. Then Chuck Norris gives Lee Marvin a high-five, some cool guitar rock starts playing and the C-130 circles to take off. I almost cried. And I don’t even understand Spanish!
-I read Cesar Aira’s The Literary Conference, recently translated and released by New Directions, in one day while intermittently taking dips into the pool and lying out under the sun. It’s like an adult fairy-tale – whimsical, smart, well written. I only wish there were more American writers writing 100 page-ish weird-o hybrid fiction/non-fiction books. (Hint-hint.)
-Prince announced that the internet, “…is over.” Let’s hope he’s right.
-Though I’m fully aware that jellyfish are single-celled organisms and do not therefore attack anything, I felt personally wronged that day in the coean and will gladly hate jellyfish for the rest of my life. When I googled jellyfish to find out more about my new lifelong enemy, I discovered a strain of jellyfish which is apparently, according to some scientists, immortal! Yes, by reproducing with another jellyfish, just before natural death, this unique breed are able to, essentially, replace their dying cells with brand new ones, guaranteeing another life-cycle!
-The telephone booths located here-and-there on the stone walls around Deia (the tiny northwest coastal town where we stayed) come up to my crotch, which is, as I remarked to my traveling companion one night over dinner, “a good height for oral sex, but a bad height for telecommunications.” Which is also, incidentally, the name of my new book about the politics of ergonomics, due out this fall from Routledge. (I just made that up). But still. Everyone knows penises and vaginas don’t make phone calls. What gives?
-Visited the home of poet/translator Robert Graves where he lived, for many years, with poet Laura Riding. At the beginning of the tour (which is really just a self-guided stroll the house) there’s a short BBC documentary about the life of Robert Graves, narrated by Robert Graves. Or that’s what I thought until the Robert Graves narrator announced, “And then I died. My body was cremated. And my ashes were thrown out to sea.” His home is lovely. It seems like he and Riding came close to attaining that absolute romantic ideal: Man and Woman running away from it all, building a home, living off the land, in an Edenic wilderness for two. But, according to the documentary, Riding got sick of it and tried to kill herself by jumping off the fourth story roof, but managed only to break her arm. Riding left Graves several years later when she fell in love with another man. As the fake Robert Graves narrator said, “I was utterly heartbroken. I didn’t know what to do.”
-One afternoon, as we returned to our hotel in the midst of the utterly stupefying heat, my traveling partner went to the local market to buy some water while I stumbled back to our room, barely coherent. As I approached our old, stone hotel in the middle of town, I unsuccessfully tried to stick the large, metal key into the infinitely smaller keyhole.
Fucking piece of shit Roman locks, I thought.
I shoved the large metal key into the tiny black keyhole ever harder. Nothing. Then, remembering how easy it is to barge through these old metal locks (I had to break in our room several days before), I slammed my 6’9”, 250 lbs. body into the door once and then twice, knocking it wide open. I barreled into the lobby which, at that moment, was completely empty and unlit. I looked around. That’s weird, I thought, where is everybody? When I moved left towards the stairs, the stairs weren’t there. When I spun around to see the check-in counter, I saw a grandfather clock. When I spun around again in a panic, I realized I’d broken in to someone’s home. I leapt out into the full light of the street where, to my right, four old farts, townsfolk, were sitting on a stone ledge (just as they did, day after day, utterly humorless, like the four toads of the Spanish apocalypse), watching the whole thing. I paused, looked at them, looking at me.
“Wrong house!” I yelled, trying to do my best Harrison Ford. For some reason, whenever I’m being a dumb American on foreign soil I try to do my best Harrison Ford to get out of it because, I guess, unconsciously, I must think Harrison Ford is the perfect representation of a Modern American. This is also a disorder known as: sociopathic.
-Remember that Emerson quote about how traveling is for fools? I always hated that quote. But now…I get it. I really do.