Getting There is Only Half The Fun If Being There Is Any Fun At All

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Image: Ian Sane via Flickr

“I’m traveling a long way home for Thanksgiving. What makes the time go faster?” —Traveling Tim

I try to sleep through whatever traveling I have to do. I don’t have a driver’s license. So it’s no problem for me to be asleep in the front seat of the bus or the dining car of a train. I really got good sleep when I used to ride in the trunks of cars. You get a little sleepy from the car vapors back there anyway. And it’s dark as Hell. That combined with boredom will put me out like a light, of which there is none.

But I can sleep anywhere now, luckily enough. Subway seats. I slept in a hammock in my friend’s basement for a while. That was pretty great, if you can find a hammock to sleep in. It curls around your body like a chrysalis, it’s warm and womb-like. Planes are great to sleep on. You just need a really boring book. Or a really complicated magazine. I suggest Foreign Policy or The Economist. They will make people think you are really smart. But in fact, they are filled with some of the most boring and unreadable nonsense you can ever imagine.

Even when The Economist does cover something interesting, like German DNP or guestworker programs, they write about it in the most obtuse, boring-seeming way. This is probably because they don’t let their writers have bylines. So who gives a fuck whether you read their anonymous horseshit article about The Kurd Problem in Southern Turkey? They’ll never get any credit for it. That’s why it puts you to sleep.

If you want a book to put you to sleep, you have to get one of those celebrated tomes by important white guys. Those will put you out cold. I have them all downloaded onto my Kindle device thing, which has been dropped on the floor due to my sudden unconsciousness about a million times. I have The Recognitions by William Gaddis, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. No novel needs to be longer than 200 pages. And definitely no novel should be 1000 pages long. That’s what 5 novels are for.

I have never read past the first page or chapter of any of these books, because they immediately put me to sleep. My favorite novel ever is probably Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina. Because college was the best decade of my life. The book is told simply and a lot of fun, doesn’t take itself so seriously. Any book that takes itself too seriously, like our old aforementioned marble boys, is one worth sleeping through. This is why I like poetry so much. You can read like 3 or 4 poems and then use the book as a pillow.

If you find yourself flying the plane, driving the Corvette or captaining the pirate ship home this Thanksgiving, congratulations. You are in charge of all of the fun. You probably also control the music. And the heat in the car. So you can turn it all the way up and put everyone else in the car to sleep. That will definitely make the ride easier. As we can see, democracies rarely move in straight lines. They mostly just do donuts in the parking lot. But being in charge can be a real drag. Responsibility, in and of itself, is not something to wish for. It might seem like being in control of things is great. But you’re always envied and always outnumbered. If they start mouthing off, lock them in the trunk. And keep on sailing in whichever direction you wish.

Whatever you do, do not take your google device or car direction machine too seriously. That thing almost got us driven off cliffs in Central California. Everyone instinctually knows their way home. Even if it doesn’t make sense on a map. Or to the laws of physics. Or actually takes longer. What are you in such a rush to get home for? Half the fun of going home is not actually being home. It’s being nearly home, eating a sandwich you used to get all the time, drinking a weird regional soda they don’t sell in the city. Robbing a bank you always meant to. You’ll be glad to arrive late, and possibly drunk, to whatever stuff you have to do this Thanksgiving. And also leave early because of “the long drive” or “the long trip.” Or “scurvy.”

No matter how long it takes you to get wherever you’re going, be grateful that you still have places to go and have people that will drive you nuts in those places. I kind of thought our world would be pocked by nuclear craters by now. Every day before that happens is a blessing, even if the blessing is annoying. At the end of our lives, it will be these people, these Thanksgiving Day people, who will be staring down at us as we lay waiting to croak. They’re not the friends we would chose for ourselves, but they can’t just walk away from you either. We’re stuck with them and them us. It’s our shared fate that we will have to spend hours in relative peace with them but once or twice a year. So don’t freak out.


Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and will be spending his Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, NY.