For the MLK holiday weekend, I traveled up to the mountains with some friends. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Traveling up to the mountains or any number of variations on that theme – heading to the coast, hitting the beach, running for the hills, goin' south, eating quinoa – is one of those things I'll occasionally find myself doing or yearning for out loud in an effort to trick myself into believing I need nature to live a more meaningful life. As if I honestly still think there's some void in me that cannot be filled with 24-hour access to falafel sandwiches.
I know I'm supposed to like nature and I do, sort of. But not enough to buy special boots for it, or one of those Lexan® water bottles. (Actually, enough to buy one of those water bottles, for novelty's sake, but not enough to use one.) It's just that I'm very comfortable living among the filth and organically grown rage of a city, and sometimes I suspect my "need" to escape is just a little act I put on to prove I'm more human. Kind of like pretending to agree with a misogynist electrician because you have this irrational need for him to like you. (It's something I haven't been able to shake since childhood. I never care if squares like me, and I'll rarely try to accomodate them, but I'll transgress even my most rock-solid principles if it means some middle school drop-out installing my cable will greet me with a friendly fist-knock.)
But then you get out to the mountains/coast/Trader Joe's and oh my God. It's perfectly still out there, and the sky is exploding with stars and you can even identify some of the constellations – like Orion's belt and The Green Lantern – and the air is so impossibly clean it tastes like salad and there's not an advertisement within miles. And you're taking it all in and all you can think is, "Good Lord, The Arcade Fire is playing at Bowery Ballroom tonight...and I'm fucking missing it! Fuck you, mountains, and your glaring absence of Vietnamese takeout. Right now I could be at a burlesque show where I'll feel too old and surely hate everyone, most of all myself, and I'm stuck out here with these bullshit stars? If I want to see stars I can go to Star Bar on the Lower East Side, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Strip Club. Enough!"
And the truth is, I am deathly afraid of the mountains, which is patently absurd as I live in NYC, a much scarier place, statistically speaking. Just yesterday, on my way home from Manhattan, there was a woman in my subway car screaming (inexplicably, without provocation) at the other passengers. "Come on down!" she yelled. "I'm about to kill all y'all!! Anyone step to me I beat you crazy with a pillowcase filled with hammers and AIDS – don't tell me I won't!!" That should be scary, but it was just a nuisance. I turned up the volume on my walkman, and carried on.
I go to sleep every night to the sounds of car alarms and sirens and gunshots and ninja stars and vorpal blades going snicker-snack and babies being tossed through plate glass windows...and I sleep like a baby. But if I'm up in the mountains and I hear a single twig snap, all of a sudden I'm thinking, "ZOMBIES!"