The Canadian Club

{November 16, 2009}   omg did u hear what he just said


Russ, I know you’ve got your thing about David Sedaris, but that’s just too bad.  I am not ashamed to say that I love this passage from his story, “See You Again Yesterday.”

Potential boyfriends could not smoke Merit cigarettes, own or wear a pair of cowboy boots, or eat anything labeled either ‘lite’ or ‘heart smart.’ Speech was important, and disqualifying phrases included ‘I can’t find my nipple ring’ and ‘This one here was my first tattoo.’ All street names had to be said in full, meaning no ‘Fifty-ninth and Lex’ and definetly no ‘Mad Ave.’ They couldn’t drink more than I did, couldn’t write poetry in notebooks and read it out loud to an audience of strangers, and couldn’t use the words flick, freebie, cyberspace, progressive, or zeitgeist. They could not consider the human scalp an appropriate palette for self-expression, could not own a rainbow-striped flag, and could not say they had ‘discovered’ any shop or restaurant currently listed in the phone book. Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how much we hated the aforementioned characteristics.

So you know how some words or phrases are either self-negating (e.g., “classy” or “no offense“) or self-betraying — in the sense that no one ever wears a shirt printed with a complaint about “stupid people” who is not, him- or herself, a stupid person?  Obviously, there are millions of little cues that give us insight into whether someone is OK or Not OK.  Cues that, we hope, evolve from the incredibly silly ones we looked for when we were younger (“OMG, he’s wearing Skechers!  Ew!”) into somewhat more important and telling ones (“OMG, he yelled at the waitress/drives a giant SUV/voted for Nader in 2000“).  We’re tuned into this stuff because, at least according to the genius ev-psych people, we had to learn to categorize people into Us and Them way back in the caveman days, or we’d get, like, speared, or whatever.


Of course, some of those traits that we find intolerable boil down to aesthetics (like my ongoing appreciation for David Sedaris, whom you scorn).  Those are the ones that are ultimately forgivable, or even potentially lovable (think of the plot of every single screwball comedy).  Others, though, like the waitress example above, seem to point to actual defects of character and are thus “dealbreakers.”  And yeah, yeah, I recognize that using the word “dealbreaker” probably falls into the “dealbreaker” category.  (I’m, like, so whatever — you could do so much better.)

What I get hung up on, though, to the point of maniacal obsession — and I know you do, too, Russ, since it’s kind of the whole focus of our blog, and, let’s face it, our friendship — are the cues that fall into an ambiguous area, where the line between aesthetic and moral failings start to blur.  You know what I mean.  Excessive discussions of physical fitness, lingerie as Halloween costumes, over-use of “Any-vow-bag” cliches.  I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I love this aspect of Facebook, which is at its core just one big middle school cafeteria.  It’s so hard to resist the invitation to judge other people’s priorities, hobbies, taste and grammar (glass houses, pots and kettles, I get it).  And even as I’m scrutinizing, I know that I’m being scrutinized, and that I’m probably just about as lovely and fascinating now as I was in eighth grade.  As Russ’s Mom once said, “Nobody is his or her best self on Facebook.”  So you and I, Russ, with our fancy social networking and our blogging and all — are we, like, students of the human condition?  Or are we just middle-school brats?  Simply by virtue of our willing participation in the culture of oversharing, are we putting on the “stupid people” T-shirt?


Ty says:

Excellent post! Brava, Dave. What book is that D.S. book from? When I have time, I wanna check it out since it has your seal of approval. Honestly, I have tried really hard to like his work in the past, but to no avail. =-(


Ty says:

I meant what book is that D.S. story from. tee hee

Dave says:

It’s from “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” But hey, if you don’t like him, you don’t like him — I won’t take offense. As long as you don’t judge me for being the NPR-listening, Wes-Anderson-watching, iPod-commercial-music-enjoying, middlebrow, whitey lame-o that I am.

Ty Palmer says:

Yes! Wes Anderson’s films are always a must-see. Rushmore is my personal fav. I’m trying to find someone to go see The Fantastic Mr. Fox with me. Responses to invites have been met with a few raised eyebrows. Maybe I need new friends? Maybe Pomi and niece will accompany me. Did you get round to seeing “Untitled”? — I thought it was fairly funny, wacky. Adam Goldberg’s facial expressions (disdain; contempt; sarcasm, etc.) are pretty funny and the contemporary art parodies and adherents’ attitudes (although maybe regurgitated; a la Art School Confidential…deja vu), provide amusement. Of course, they poke fun at the condescending; the sycophantic; the pretension. I think Ellen Page would have been great in this — esp. after seeing her role in “Smart People.”

I actually haven’t read “Me Talk Pretty One Day” — It’s on my to-read list now. I didn’t care for Douglas Coupland, until I picked up “Generation X” — which I dearly love. I guess it’s hit or miss. I’ll stop babbling.

— Which reminds me that I saw this woman yesterday that wore a shirt that read “Debabelizer, Evangalizer.” I felt an odd blend of intrigue, disgust, and “no you di’nt!” Debabelizer? What the h*ll is that? I guess it is a slogan that’s meant to purposely and curtly irritate non-believers — along the lines of the irksome “G*d said it, I believe it, and that settles it” {the New Age equivalent, I think, would be “In Case of Rapture…Can I Have Your Car?” sticker quip, or “My Car Ran Over Your Dogma” — equally sickening} ). Then I remembered that, interestingly enough, amidst this supremely leftist Bay Area, there is this enclave of hard-core evangelicals that attend and coalesce around a large Baptist seminary (within a 1 mile proximity of my apt).

Oddly enough, these seminary students are usually a lot friendlier and hospitable (and not always in that ‘ulterior motive…save-your-soul’ guise, from what I can interpret. Many work in the local shops**) than many Marinites and SF folks. Many are from out-of-state; notably Texas, Oregon, and the Carolinas — those endroits known for serving up effusive, affable, uninhibitedly enthusiastic hospitality. So I chalk it up to megalopolis gruffness vs. small-town/Southern friendliness. Debabelizer woman was about the age of, say, methuselah, so I take it she was not one of the local students. Fortunately, and admirably, the ‘on-fire-for-Jesus’ associates around here keep their proselytizing, perceived intolerance for the “lost” (and Republican leanings) to themselves. On the flip, I do find it interesting that they’d choose to live in what could arguably be the most liberal county in the States*.

*In the 2008 election, Marin county was reported to have the highest percentile of aggregated Democratic votes in the nation.

**When I first moved here and realized that my local shopping center was populated with evangelical student employees, my first thought was of the 1988 film “They Live.”

Dave says:

Funny, it also took me a couple of readings to figure out what the hell “Debabelizer” could possibly mean. I was reading it as de-babe-elizer, and thinking that it was some weird feminist, modesty-fetishizing Christian thing. The apparent inscrutability of her shirt sort of makes me wonder who the target audience might be. Among Heathen Ty and Heathen Dave, she’s 0 for 2; does that mean you have to be already “in the know” to get it? Regardless of the usefulness of the slogan, though, I am so loving the word debabelizer that I want to bring it into my own vocabulary, if there’s a non-Jesus-y way to do it.

It totally makes sense that those people would set up camp in the Bay Area, which is probably second to, like, Papua New Guinea in its apparent need for saving.

The trailer for Untitled looked a little meh, but I will probably try to find it on Netflix. I do sorta love Adam Goldberg.

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