The other day I was getting dressed, and I experienced something unfamiliar, something I couldn’t remember ever experiencing before.
For this to make sense, I need to explain something first. I’m a sensation seeker.
Some people with this personality trait call themselves “thrill seekers,” but that’s not really appropriate in my case. I don’t feel the need to jump off bridges and go snorkeling with sharks. I’m not an adrenaline junkie — I simply like to experience new things.
And if you have my peculiar type of curiosity, there are new things all over the place. This is part of the reason I like meeting people and going places. It’s why I like reading books, which is like meeting people and going places except you don’t have to take a shower and find your pants first.
Hmmm…. I still feel like I might be giving the wrong impression. I’m not talking about going anywhere exotic. A few years ago I really enjoyed visiting a small town called Amherst – population: not much. They had a great river, and the locks on the public mailboxes were really cool. New York was interesting too, but despite all the museums and landmarks I saw, the thing that I liked the most were the pigeons and the sidewalks. The sidewalks in Soho are really great.
It would probably be fair to say that I’m a thrill seeker with simple tastes. If you’ve ever been driving around central Wisconsin and seen someone running his hands over the bark of a tree, or staring intently into the water that’s running along the gutter and into a storm drain, it was quite possibly me.
The point of all this is that I am tuned to the sensation of a new experience.
So a few days ago, I was getting dressed. I was halfway thought putting on my socks when I realized that I was experiencing something new…. But for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
It took me the better part of a minute to figure it out: I was sitting on my bed while I put on my socks.
The socks weren’t the new thing. The new thing was sitting on the bed while putting them on. Normally I put my socks on standing up. Part of the reason I do this is because I have ninja-like balance that I use at every opportunity, lest I dull my keen fighting edge. But the main reason I’ve always done it this way is that for the last 15 years I haven’t owned a bed.
Where do I sleep? Well, with the exception of a few years of futon while in grad school, I’ve usually just slept on a mattress on the floor.
I use sheets, mind you. I’m not an animal. I just never bothered getting all those other parts that go together with the mattress to make it a bed.
While I was sitting on my bed, thinking, “Hmm. This is different,” I realized y’all probably have a terribly inaccurate idea of what my life is like. You’ve come in at the end of the story, so to speak.
It would be reasonable for you to assume that my life has always been this luxurious, full of beds, posh coffee drinks, and Chinese food delivered directly to my house. But the truth is, for most of my life I have practiced simplicity of living. As a philosophy, it is very appealing to me. And, as a bonus, when you aren’t worried about making a lot of money, it frees up a lot of your time for writing.
Simplicity has come naturally to me over the years. It’s easy when you don’t have much money. I live cheaply, move often, and don’t focus on frippery. Please don’t compare me to Thoreau. While he made some good points, Thoreau was kind of a poser.
No. Ever since I studied the Greek philosophers, I’ve done my best to follow in footsteps of Diogenes. The man who threw away his bowl after seeing a boy drinking out of his cupped hands. The man Plato called, “Socrates gone mad.” Brilliant, bitter, barefoot Diogenes.
This means for most of my adult life I’ve only owned one pair of shoes, one coat, and one pair of pants. I’ve eaten a lot of ramen. (Chicken Maruchen ramen, given a choice.) Before selling the book, I never paid more than $250 a month for rent, or more than ten dollars for a piece of furniture.
No, wait, that isn’t true. I paid 80 bucks for a desk back in 1998. It was one of those plywood assemble-it-yourself kits. Two years later I moved, and when I realized it couldn’t be taken apart, I just ripped the top piece off and laid it across two filing cabinets. That’s what I still use for a desk. That’s what I’m typing on right now.
Do I have a point? No. Probably not. Except to say that life is strange. I have lived most of my adult life happily poor. (Though I have never been truly desperate or destitute by any means.) Now I have a bed. A real bed with a box spring and a frame and everything. I recently bought a dishwasher. I have a house — or at least a mortgage in the shape of a house.
I’ve been up all night, writing and thinking. And before I lay down in my new bed in my new house and catch a refreshing day’s sleep, I’m going to go out and buy a couple copies of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. This is another thing I’ve never done before. I wonder how heavy three copies will be? How much does the Times cost?
I’m buying a Sunday paper because there is a full page ad for The Name of the Wind in there today. A full-page color ad. And though I don’t know the specific numbers, I expect this ad cost the publisher more money than I made in a year of teaching at the university. It is terribly flattering. It is a glamorous gesture of faith and support. It shows that they really believe in the book.
Today I have a full-color ad in the New York Times, and my life is strange. This is not a bad thing. After I post this up on my blog, I will take a shower, put on my only pair of pants and walk downtown to buy a Sunday paper for the first time. Spring is finally here in Wisconsin, and though the trees are still dark and leafless, the ground has thawed. It is almost fifty degrees out. More luxury. More than I deserve. I will celebrate by leaving my only pair of shoes at home and make my way barefoot, pretending for a while that I am still following Diogenes.
Take care everyone,
First off, it turns out it isn’t a color ad. That makes me feel better, actually.
Secondly, they reallydon’t want to let you into the grocery store if you don’t have any shoes on. Even if it’s just so you can buy a paper. Even if it’s just for a minute so you can buy a paper that has an ad for your book in it.
If it wasn’t for the authority of my majestic beard, I don’t think they would have let me through….
(Click to Embiggen)