Some friends and I yesterday were talking about George Carlin. We had been discussing language and arguments and Carlin came up because that was much of his act: the politics and use of language. (One act involved a serious rant about the “pussification of the English language.) Anyway, I came home and was still thinking of George Carlin and so I watched some clips of his. I’ve seen his performances so many times now that the jokes aren’t what hit me; it was his energy and his brutal honesty. That’s really what a comic is–at least a good comic–right? An honest person who can, through poignant observation, cut to the core of our culture and humanity and poke fun at the hypocrisies. It’s half the reason I think our current obsession with each new study saying that we’ve learned this and learned that about human interaction, food, intelligence, whatever, isn’t just ridiculous but also an incredible waste of time. The studies aren’t saying anything George Carlin or some other artist hasn’t been saying for centuries.
Anyway, so I’m scrolling through clips and I come to a George Carlin tribute clip involving Louis CK. You’ve probably seen it before. Near the end of it, Louis talks about what happened when he decided to follow in Carlin’s footsteps and scrap all his material and do something new each year. He says:
When you’re done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs, and you throw those away, what do you got left? You can only dig deeper. You start talking about your feelings and who you are. And then you do those jokes and they’re gone so you gotta dig deeper. So then you start thinking about your fears and your nightmares and doing jokes about that and then they’re gone and then you just start going into weird shit and you eventually get to your balls.
It wasn’t a new realization. I’ve thought about this on and off for awhile and have sort of struggled to articulate it. Essentially everything I’ve done here, nearly everything I’ve written explicitly for an audience, has been nothing more than dog and airplane jokes. Garbage. There’s always something I hold back.
The reason why I hold back is pretty clear to me. I’m fucking terrified. I’m freaked out by my parents reading it and being weirded out. I’m freaked out about going to work and hearing shit from some friend about it. And of course it’s terrifying. Balls are ugly and weird and gross, who wants to show the world your balls. But I’ve been like this my entire life. Honest to a degree, but not brutally honest. (All of this is probably a bit premature. I’m terrified the five or six people who actually read this might judge me.) But if I don’t do it, what is even the point? And, frankly, I’m sick of the alternative. Spitting out middle of the road piddle made to not offend the bulk of an audience I don’t even have in the first place. It’s not being afraid, it’s being an idiot.
If I’m here to talk about travel and adventure and backpacking it has to be more than just a simple platitude, some bullshit positive reinforcement quote you could put on an instagram pic. I don’t want to be that. You can get a travel log literally anywhere. And so I’m here to tell you now that if you do come back, dear reader, I’m going to promise you that I won’t do that anymore or ever again. I won’t give you hallmark quotes. I won’t talk about good times and whiskey, or freedom and drive. I won’t tell you about how beautiful it is to learn about another culture, or about the friends you’ll meet during your travels. I won’t talk about nature. I won’t talk about beauty. I’m going to give you the balls. The sweaty stains. The shit you don’t see till you’ve been with someone for years. The weird stuff. All that is more interesting and honest, wouldn’t you say? And so all I ask of you, is if you catch me slipping, please let me know. A slap to the back of the head should do the trick. Please leave the balls alone.
We’ll start with the next post. Why I travel. And I’ll try and be honest and say something I’ve never said before.
© 2014 Christopher Dart