The Existential Bowl Crisis


Dear D,

Apologies for having not written in a bit. I say that, rather, I write it and then I turn the page back and find that my last entry, was, in fact, yesterday. I can’t bear to read it if only because it’s a reminder of how little I’ve done with my life in the time it took me to try to think of new ways to express old thoughts about it.

For all I know, it’s saying the exact same thing, starting with a fantastically inaccurate apology and ending with some apoplectic nod to tomorrow which offers, on the surface, some glimmer of hope for change but really is just another reminder of the harrowing oneness I have with yesterday -or- a congruous detachment I have with the day to come. The hope of the blank page ahead only to be filled with the regret of not having the substance necessary to fill it with anything but a sepia-toned and stylized mess of what might have been had I actually tried.

Actually tried. As In there are things I do D. Important things. I sign credit card slips. I pick up rental cars and return them to a space that is designated for me. I am able to pack seven work shirts, four pairs of slacks, one set of casual Friday jeans and cardigan combination, some socks and a toothbrush that doesn’t ever quite feel like mine once it’s in my mouth, into a single case just slightly bigger in width than my high school binder. I put it politely in the overhead bin. I don’t have to shove it in with a crowbar and I sit next to the lady whose skin is the color of the belly of the dolphin that lives in a tank and does flips for people in wetsuits three times a day at five minutes after the hour.

The other day, I think it was, I locked myself in the airplane bathroom. It sounds funny, right? Because everyone locks himself in those bathrooms. It’s a prison of my own choosing where I am both prisoner and guard. Just after I shuffled the lock and it made that “click” sound I realized, it was just me in there. In this tiny chute. Just me. And suddenly, it was there just after I tried to escape feet first flushing myself down the blue water. That can-you-be-more-…oh-just-more-this face in the mirror, I poked at it and pinned it back to see if I could find a teenager in there. The guy who wouldn’t know how to fold his shirt or who would do donuts in the parking lot for an hour during his lunch break, just because. The guy who spread his cheeks on the buffet sneezeguard when nobody was looking, just because. That skinny little imp, that surrogate. Was he currently up sitting in first-class? Had he escaped one evening: jumped from my mouth and taken the car and ran away to the big city and left me — just to occupy and engorge his abandoned shell. Left me with all this?

Was he drinking at the kind of bars you drink to meet people not to be alone? The kind they photograph in magazines with girls whose mouths were frozen in genuine laughter. Was he eating without warning or the gift of guilt ornamental pieces of food tenderly cultivated and prepared using searing techniques and snippets and truffles and colorful round accents punctuated from a garden nearby?

Were there friends of his, friends I wasn’t allowed to ruin? Acquaintances into confidants he’d been careful to groom with kind handwritten notes and the gift of well-stitched fabric and pens that quiver with steel and the might of strong prose humming audibly with anticipation perched between the index and thumb?

Did he leave me the empty of this to spoil those days with repetition and token nod to a desire for greed, but a real life walk into the same wall over and over, while he went and explored?

Or was he simply the embodiment of that invisible when we’re supposed to be present. That chance on the subway car observing the girl across the aisle trying to catch her eye with your grin and phone and watching her exit one stop too early. Your missed opportunity enveloped in the street exhaust of another gently nudged dead-end timeline. Because maybe, just maybe, me and, you know, that will never hook up. …And maybe it’s because I’m always late.

But there is no marker of time, no passing of season when there’s always sunshine beating down on the silent roof above this cell. And now another year draws the sheets up around its face and yawns nervously as it leans half back in a chair and tries to justify it’s own salary, its own simple being as extension.

And it reads, impassively, the 35 bowl matchups and the scorn of a lover revealed through messages unsent. And if I, if I were to start a company, it would be called Intermni or Terra …just so I could have my own bowl product to reflect whatever it is I’m selling to waste your time as I have mine.

…Which brings me to this reflection of season, D. This walk-through of the inevitable. This dress rehearsal with no promise of an opening night. The slow, slow crawl of another year to the last day’s halt of the mournful, drunken upturn of the soil to try to find hope in what is …simply the next day. Rather, the final entry of now — that tiny lilt at the end of a sentence which signals (s)he no longer wants to talk to you. The grand gesture of the grayed out ellipses and no text actually sent.

And all of this scattered …driftwood and parody, straddling years, marking time, reflected in the object that defines our now and the sting of emptiness of lost days not ours the privilege to pilfer even in close memory.

Should then we all raise a glass and suffer from these excruciating bowl movements:

The Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by PlainsCapital Bank, Jan. 1 (ESPNU, noon ET): UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4)
I always try to start the new year by eating a really good sandwich. Just something simple with sourdough and provolone. I will not do this year’s sandwich this indignity of having to be put in my mouth this. Dallas has no heart. UNLV is a basketball school. I guess they might win because there is a net in football. It’s behind the field goal thing.

The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg, Dec. 23 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET): East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5)
I dreamed recently of packing my childhood suitcase. I remember how excited that process made me feel. As if for the first time, I was going somewhere. The case was from a Goodwill and it was plaid on the outside and had a zipper that used to get caught in its own thread. I could never quite get it shut and used to worry all my things would spill out. One day I found it in my mother’s garage. It was empty. I was right all along. The Bobcats will probably win their third bowl game in a row and still, my case is empty.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET): Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)
My uncle used to have this incredible record collection because uncles are put here on earth for the singular reason to have incredible record collections and beards that small like bananas. This game is a lie. The Terrapins are better liars. All turtles are.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET): Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
Minnesota’s coach is named Jerry Kill. He has seizures. Somewhere, right now, someone is watching a CSI rerun. I don’t think the world is better for any of it.

GoDaddy Bowl, Jan. 5 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): Arkansas State (7-5) vs. Ball State (10-2)
I once spent actual money on the URL Look it up. I am no more ashamed than of that than proud of the names I’ve resisted from registering. Ball state has a good quarterback. There is no shame in that either.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET): Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
When I read “Little Caesars Pizza Bowl” the first thing that came to mind was “Little Caesars is FINALLY making a pizza bowl.” Bowling Green sounds so pretty. I should’ve at least gone there to visit before I came of age. It wouldn’t seem the same now.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET): Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
Someone, somewhere said this is the first time Ole Miss will go to this bowl since 2000. I can’t remember the last time I had a lollipop but I know whenever it was I had the feeling that all I’m doing is sucking on my own flavored spit. So I stopped. Cold turkey, right there.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET): Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
Sometimes when people speak my native tongue I try to blur the words together to hear how it sounds to someone who doesn’t speak it. When I do it sounds like “AvocareV100bowlarizonavsbostoncollege”.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET): Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)
I was at a water slide park one time for the last day of school. My friend and I were going to light some fireworks in the parking lot but our teachers left early, so we just drank Sunkist and waited for our moms to pick us up. This is how Boise State must feel.

Fight Hunger Bowl, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET): BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)
I once visited the BYU hall of fame on its Provo campus. There was a picture of Wally Joyner on the cover of an Angels press guide standing next to the fictitious Marty Moose Mascot from National Lampoon’s Vacation. I knew Marty Moose was fiction and Wally Joyner was real, but there they were, sharing the same cover and I was in Provo. I stood there staring at it until it seemed like I could see through it all the way to the Danny Ainge exhibit. It blew my mind to the point where I was going to grab some food on the way out of town but didn’t. That’s real hunger. (No, it’s not).

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 6 Baylor (11-1) vs. No. 15 Central Florida (11-1)
People laugh now at the Branch Davidians but they’re no more crazy than any other religion, other than the fact that they were the only ones sponsored by Nike, which made them smart. All this reminds me of why Waco should never be in the national spotlight. Smart never trumps crazy.

Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET): No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
People sometimes ask me what it was like to go to school at Oregon. Actually, they don’t. I volunteer the information hoping they ask me what it was like to go to school at Oregon because I want to say something like “The campus is beautiful, like an Ivy League school” (even though I’ve only been to one Ivy League school and the campus wasn’t that beautiful, but I imagine that Indiana Jones works at an Ivy League school and that campus is beautiful). But they never ask. Oregon is used to getting never asked.

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 3 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2)
When Michael Jackson’s Dangerous came out I decided I would start to stop caring about Michael. Now I find the album to be one of his best. I don’t think the same thing is going to happen with this game twenty years on.

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET): No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2)
I wonder if during the Rose Parade when they say things like “Twenty-two thousand sunflowers were used to make Cookie Monster’s tongue” that they’re just flat-out lying, like an old guy who claims to be a veteran. Because, who’s going to call them out on it? Stanford could win back-to-back Rose Bowl games for the first time since they’re already winning back-to-back in life.

Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 12 Clemson (10-2)
I took German in high school and they got rid of the program halfway through, so I had to travel across town to the rival school to continue my studies in a combined class. This girl from the other high school was in the class and I had a crush on her but I didn’t know how to behave so I never talked to her, in German or English. One Friday night she appeared at MY school dance. We danced and she kept looking for someone else to talk to. I wasn’t embarrassed but probably should’ve have been. The next Monday we went back to never talking again as if nothing had happened. This is how the Buckeyes feel, I think.

Vizio BCS National Championship, Jan. 6 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1)
At this point in the year there will be 359 days for redemption, to find something. Maybe it’s just simply changing your route to work. Maybe it is looking up from your mobile device to see a real person smiling in front of you. Maybe it’s tipping the server who gives you terrible service not because they mean to, but because they’re just a terrible server but are terrible at everything else too so there they are. And there you are. Watching, waiting for this to get better, for this to be something else. But it’s not. It’s Florida State. It’s Auburn. But YOU don’t live in Florida State and YOU don’t live in Auburn and you can go outside instead. You can go look at the ocean and see the point where it meets the air and sigh and laugh and laugh and go get Thai food and that will be your day instead. That will start the year. Because, it is — after all. A new day and even if it isn’t yours per se. It’s there.

…And all this was supposed to be a post about which Star Wars movies would be better to watch than the aforementioned games.