Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Acting your age

Raving fans and gentlemen,

My name is Chris Lauer, and I am freezing. For the last two weeks, nature has visited a bone-shivering cold snap on Alaska, of all places, and us unfortunate denizens of the 49th chamber have had to suck it up and deal with the sub-zero temperatures. To celebrate the blistering cold, I went for a midnight run in minus-35 temperatures: my eyes froze shut. The heater in my car stopped working. 400 miles away, in hyperboreal Fairbanks, my friend Brett froze his hair at a hot spring.

To celebrate the season, I'm loading up a shopping cart with aerosol spray cans and investing in a sturdy beach chair.

While we're on the subject of ozone depletion and summer recreation, I'm leaving the hemisphere. Don't take it personally: you're all fine people with interesting lives and dirty secrets, and I'll be back to see you all again in early July. But, starting Feb. 9, I'll be communicating with the northern world between spider bites and late nights from Brisbane, Australia.

I'm terrified of poisonous things, which makes Australia a great place to hyperventilate and die. Even the mammals are poisonous in Australia (specifically the Platypus, nature's felony). Despite my deep fear of Australian fauna, I'll be roaming into all corners of the outback to test my mettle and confront my fears. Or be murdered by them.

I worry too much.

When I was four years old, I was scared shitless of growing old and dying. See, I watched "Bambi" for the first time and was forced to deal with the grim reality that even timeless, anthropomorphic cartoon deer--mother deer!--die gruesome, violent deaths. Naturally, I was distraught. Luckily for me, mom and dad were around to offer words of consolation, if not encouragement. "If we lived in Australia, you could get bit by a spider and *bam* be dead before you felt the bite," said dad. Mom slugged him in the arm for sewing the seeds of many nightmares to come. Ever enamored of slapstick comedy, I croaked pulses of hysterical laughter before remembering the awesome gravity of my situation. As a little boy in Alaska, thousands of miles from the nearest poisonous animal, I convinced myself that I was in immediate danger of sudden death by funnel web spider. In my teen years, "Arachnophobia" and its cinematic ilk would not help matters.

Years later--when I was six--I saw a commercial for an energy utility. "The sun will last another eight billion years. So... you should buy energy from us." The advertising message was thin, but the prospect of not living to see the end of the sun--or worse, being consumed by the resulting supernova (I knew of such things at this age)--was simply too much for my precocious little ass to handle. There were tears.

More recently, I developed an obsession with house prices and average salaries. See, for every five college students who become hopeless idealists, one becomes a statistical fatalist. Fatalists are addicted to figures and will site case studies at the most socially inopportune times. We fatalists are the meth addicts of the intellectual world. They're gaunt, thin, have bad dental hygiene, and smell like cat urine. Determinism is a cruel mistress. Statistics have become a touchstone for normalcy and have done too much to inform my notions of success. Though I can't say I've lost weight, chewed through my lips, or ever smelled like a litter box, I do care waaay too much about statistics and place an inordinate amount of faith in them.

Or at least I did. A week ago, I brushed up on an old staple of parental wisdom. Usually meant as a frustrated admonition, the adage "act your age" gave my 21-year-old self pause. Have I been acting my age? When I answered this question, while driving on the highway, I slammed on the breaks. Holy samoleons! For better or for worse, I'm guilty of not acting my age. I don't do the things 21-year-olds do. I don't think like a 21-year-old. This must be the reason I'm never pleased with myself. A sedan screeched around me on the right, horn blasting, the driver no doubt muttering all kinds of colorful expletives. Fuck him: I just found enlightenment. For the last 21 years, I hadn't been acting my age at all. See, I insist on simultaneously being 15, 30 and 45. Obviously, I am none of these ages. And I was never particularly good at being 15. What I realized, parked in the fast lane of the New Seward highway, was that I'd been importing stress from all over the span of human life and processing it into the contentious little cancers of anxiety. That night, I dumped those stresses: the fear of sudden death, of the eventual heat death of the universe, of the small mortgage I'm taking on to finance my education, of the much larger mortgage I'll one day take out to buy a house, of the family I'll one day have, of the job I'll one day hate, of the money I'll one day make, of the place to where I'll one day retire, and of the ailment that'll one day end my life. All of it, gone. Not to say that I've gone all Tucker Max on you: I still care about more than booze and pussy, but now I get to busy myself with the life of a 21-year old college student. No more will I export the moment: I'm here and my life isn't going anywhere without me.

However, the baggage of anxiety is still terribly real. I need to convince myself that I will not be tied down and gang-raped by a legion of funnel web spiders, which will not be easy. I need to delete my list of potential retirement destinations, which will be ridiculously easy. I need to go on dates, which is less difficult than warding off horny, drug-crazed arachnids but much harder than deleting links to overpriced beach front property. I'm sure I'll manage

Raving fans and gentlemen, I'm Chris Lauer, and I will write you all again very soon.


  1. Chris I want to cohost this blog with you. I will be the monster character. Or just the anti-hero/chris lauer's mentor.

  2. How about you make your own blog, and then we duke it out with each other. It'd be like Spy vs. Spy. You're the white one.