Animals. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim and his fellow escaping American POWs are accosted by German civilians who point out that the escapees’ horses are dying of thirst. “The Americans had treated their form of transportation as though it were no more sensitive than a six-cylinder Chevrolet.” When I read that I felt bad for the horses, but I also empathized with the Americans. You look at a dog and see a beautiful, complex creature; I see a throw pillow that barks and pisses.
Food. A fancy steak dinner is great, but the sense of satisfaction I have while eating it is not qualitatively different than the satisfaction I feel from scarfing an entire box of Cheez-Its. Cooking is fun as a social activity, but the only way I would spend an hour of my solo personal time chopping, zesting, and parboiling would be if it was for one of those YouTube shows where you cook while drinking heavily and talking to your laptop.
TV. True, there are specific shows that I love—but for a lot of people, TV is a cherished everyday companion. They wake up with Today, they come home to 2 Broke Girls, they go to bed with Fallon. My mom has TVs in the kitchen, the bedroom, the study, and the porch. I’ve seen through the writing of my co-blogger Marcus Michalik—with his encyclopedic knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes and behind the behind the scenes—that the appreciation of TV can be an art, but the further I get from my TV-binging childhood, the more the TV section of Entertainment Weekly looks as esoteric as the stock reports in the Wall Street Journal.
Cars. My dad still drives a Camry that he bought used in the 90s and that’s now so old, it’s eligible for collector plates. If he has any ability to do anything to or with it beyond filling the tank and putting air in the tires, that ability has remained hidden to me. The point is, it runs. When it stops running, he takes it to Randy at the Sinclair station, and Randy fixes it. My own attitude towards cars is the same, except that I wouldn’t put up with a broken stereo for as long as Dad has.
Sports. Here, Dad and I differ. Dad loves sports, but I took a contrarian attitude towards sports from a very young age. I was so indifferent to tee-ball that my parents pulled me off the team out of mercy to everyone involved, and when my uncle generously gave me a nice Minnesota Twins jersey for my 13th birthday, I rolled my eyes and threw it aside. I stayed up in my room while my family watched the Twins win the World Series, and I professed fandom for the then-dismal Seattle Mariners on a purely ironic basis.
Plants. House plants I sort of get, because they live in the house. I have a rubber plant that—surely to its own surprise as much as mine—I’ve kept alive for four years. When it comes to gardening, though, I have no patience. Life is too short to pull weeds, unless you’re growing pot.
Card games. Games in general, I enjoy—especially the ones that involve driving tiny cars over little bridges or answering trivia questions about Neil Young’s discography. I’m down for a Mille Bornes marathon any time. Any card game, though, that requires me to remember who’s holding what and what was played when and almost anything involving a “trump,” I hate.
Clothes. A new sweater or pair of pants is always nice, but men’s magazines just make me angry because they all make me feel like if I’m not wearing a tailored suit, ladies will hold me in deep contempt. Maybe that’s true, but it’s probably mostly true for women who read women’s magazines and therefore know THE SEX MOVE THAT WILL MAKE YOUR MAN YOUR SLAVE, which sounds kind of terrifying. Or maybe I’m only justifying wanting to schlump around in dirty sneakers.
Puzzles. Jigsaw, crossword, and the more arcane varieties of both. I can go through a jigsaw puzzle and make the Snoopy head, or glance over a crossword and fill in the answers that have clues like “star of The Poseidon Adventure” instead of “a scant aunt”—but then I’m basically done.
Living space. Some people get into houses as soon as they can possibly afford to, but I’m fine in my studio apartment until such time as I have a family, or until my mom moves out of the house I grew up in and forces me to store all the possessions I’ve ever acquired since birth, none of which I’ve thrown away because those Transformers and sci-fi novels and amusement park souvenir mugs bring me great joy.
– All the money that Jay Gabler saves on the things above, he proceeds to blow on coffee, Bloody Mary bars, custom framing, Apple products, fountain pens, and name-brand energy drinks.
Photo: Freaky Deeky