Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.
— James Joyce
I’m finally going to read Ulysses in 2017.
I won’t use any supportive critical texts. I’m just going to read it.
I took this approach with Shakespeare years ago, and the plays became much more enjoyable and comprehensible once I stopped overthinking everything.
I’m also going to read the last volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I read the other five volumes a while back and loved them. I need to finish this year.
Oh, hi! I do plumbing work real good.
OK so yeah, no.
The other day my wife and son and I identified all the nuisance areas of the house — those little irritations we’ve learned to mostly ignore but that secretly accrue to a general unidentified dissatisfaction with our surroundings.
The storm-door handle that’s hard to open.
The loose stair rail.
The cruddy handles of the upstairs bathroom faucets.
We resolved to fix them all and accrue a general unidentified satisfaction with our surroundings. I started with the storm-door (replacement part ordered and en route) and proceeded to the faucets.
The “universal” handle replacements weren’t so universal, however, which I discovered after Dremelling the stripped screws off the current cruddy faucets. But honestly, the faucets were all-around cruddy and needed to go, so we went out and bought entire new faucets.
I removed the first of the old faucets and got the replacement in place. After struggling way too long with the always-finicky pop-up drain-stopper adjustments, I was ready to reattach the drain’s elbow joint and finish up.
The new drain pipe was too short, because of course it was. Plumbing is about pieces not quite fitting, and chaos-theory water just waiting to dribble out the not-quite-fitted pieces.
But this pipe was 1.5 inches too short. Not even close to not-quite-fitting. It was straight-up not fitting.
See the photo above: the gray thing needs to go way farther down the white thing, while still allowing the other white thing to connect to the white thing I’m holding.
(P.S. I don’t know what’s going on with that brick wallpaper inside the sink cabinet. It’s nowhere else in the bathroom. The previous owners made some really weird decor moves.)
I went to the hardware store and bought a universal extender piece, which wasn’t universal. So I swore for a while and felt like my whole afternoon had gone — if you will permit me this plumbing analogy — down the crapper.
Tomorrow I’ll drive to a larger hardware store and buy a bunch of pipe bits, poly washers, drain nuts, a longer waste seat, and some other double-entendresque plumbing parts to finish the job.
Because I do plumbing work kind of good. As long as the water turns on and doesn’t spill everywhere, I’ll get an A+.
Yesterday I woke up scattered and anxious. This happens some mornings. I get overwhelmed by things I ought to do and simultaneously worry that I’m incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile. The day feels shot before I’m out of bed.
Maybe I’m waking out of bad dreams. Maybe certain mornings are simply more death-haunted and gloomy.
Doing anything helps. I often forget this. Yesterday morning I did stuff, starting with my daily general-knowledge reading. I learned about protein, Phyllis Wheatley, Socrates, Solon, Cy Young, and ancient carvings, including the Mayan death god pictured above.
I recognized the Mayan death god. Not the carving itself, but the dread of those vacant, bottomless eyes. I saw that carving and a poisonous little swamp bubble came out of my subconscious.
In those difficult mornings of mine, I get a similar feeling, as if I’m about to make eye contact with something dark and unnamable. It’s creepy as hell, and it’s that vague, hypnotic dread that makes me want to fall back asleep instead of getting up.
But I’m beginning to understand there isn’t some external force threatening my mornings. Inertia and despair don’t come from the death god. They are the death god.
Which is why forcing myself into activity — even minor activity, such as light reading — works so well. Doing things is the anti-death god. Almost anything ends inertia and despair, because they’re essentially voids or lacks, and making something of a day is mostly about filling minutes with life instead of not-life.