There are only 24 hours in a day and not all of them are completely useful.
If you know Jack Bauer, or a recent fan of his like I am, you probably love Jack because he might be the only human ever to really make the most of his day. He takes 24 hours and really jams them full of activity, every minute of which is so emotional, so physical, so...sexual?* If he's not fighting terrorists, he's making important calls on his cell phone, or discovering important facts, and goddammit if he ever takes a minute to eat, or pee, or breathe. Heroes don't need that shit, and I love him for that.
I guess I don't love him as much as I love the idea of him. He's just so productive, you know?
And now that I have a job and spend most of my day on very unproductive things, I find that now more than ever I want to maximize my free time. I really do. Truly, madly, deeply do. It is a precious gift, to be spent wisely. So a few weeks ago I decided to watch all of the first season of '24'. Because it makes sense. Also because spending (not wasting) time watching '24' doesn't feel counter-productive. It feels like I'm helping, so it may as well count as community service, which we all know is very productive.
If sitting on the couch for hours at a time witnessing one man save the world from mayhem and destruction is wrong, then I don't want to be right.
Of course, while exercising my talents in voyeurism can be both stimulating and fulfilling**, there are times when even I, the most dedicated of TV on DVD viewers, can step outside of Jack and his swashbuckling world to realize that Hmm, maybe my muscles haven't been used all day, and whatever alcohol remaining in my system will probably be converted to fat before my very eyes. Maybe actual exercise is actually necessary.
So I get up, and I run.
Or jog. Whichever. I don't have enough money to join a gym.
This familiar cycle of TV-induced anesthesia followed by guilt followed by exercise most recently happened over the weekend. At 2:00pm on Sunday I was halfway up 26th Street, jogging my way back toward San Vicente, pondering the nature of time... what it means to spend it, what it means to fill it, to use it wisely, to waste it. Is 24 hours to me the same as it is to a child laborer in Indonesia? Is time a discrete series of snapshots, or do we all exist on some sort of continuum the way Kurt Vonnegut writes in 'Slaughterhouse Five'? Am I real? Is any of this real? Am I still high?...
I continued jogging.
I was proud of myself for choosing genuine productivity over my distorted version in the half-world I had created on my sofa, right in that perfect ass-shaped dip between the cushions...Right where I wanted to be sitting.
I needed to know what happened between the hours of 6:00pm and 7:00pm on the day of the California Presidential Primary.
Jack, I'll never let go...
This is where I noticed something quite peculiar. So what if I was busy philosophizing the nature of time and existence, far be it from me not to notice the details. It was fascinating: All up and down 26th Street, on every electrical box, every manhole, every available non-concrete surface, written in what appeared to be industrial strength whiteout was this simple phrase:
'What.. the... fuck?' I asked myself; the first in series of questions, followed by, 'Why, God, did this person choose to tag his name in whiteout on every available surface for the full length of this Santa Monica street?' 'Who is Satchmo?' 'What does he want, and why has he declared '07 to be his year?'
I'm pretty smart, but I had a hard time with this. Ordinarily I guess I'd just overlook something so retarded, chalk it up to a crazed jazz enthusiast trying his damnedest to make sure the legend of Louis Armstrong lived on forever, and focus on the pain in my hip. But something bigger was happening inside my pretty little head. What this phantom tagger made me realize was how selfish and pompous I had been. Here I had spent all this time congratulating myself on finding new and exciting ways to waste time, when really I'd missed the boat.
Whoever this guy was, whether his name really was Satchmo or Bill, or Ted, He had figured it out. Not me. I thought that spending the best years of my life plopped on a caved-in sofa in front of a pathetically small television fighting off feelings of guilt while an overpaid actor pretends to stop humanity from ending itself was the time-waster to end all time-wasters. What I had attempted, he had achieved, and all I could do was bring myself to a reverent stop in the middle of 26th Street and thank Jesus for creating a human who truly knows how to waste this precious gift we call
*Did I take it too far with that? I don't know anymore.
**Ah. I wish everything was both stimulating and fulfilling.