July 8, 2009

Sixty-seven ways to feel alive

Hold an ice cube on your belly until it melts. Learn to identify 20 trees by looking at their leaves. Over-tip in an outrageous way, perhaps leaving the garbage man $100 or adding $100 to your $20 bar tab. Thinly dice a scotch bonnet pepper and snort it. Haggle over the price of your groceries. Get rid of half of everything you own.

Find your oldest, rustiest, dullest knife and trim your pubes with it. Find the grumpiest person you know and compliment his smile. Ask a young child what her imaginary friend looks like, then listen carefully. Go an entire day without eating.

Rap Ovid’s poem “He Upbraids His Mistress Whom He Has Detected Acting Falsely Towards Him” to the tune of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Snoop Dogg. Draw a picture of joy. Learn to say “shall we take off our pants now?” in 10 languages. Fart, as Benjamin Franklin advised, “proudly.” Try to top the Guinness world record for Most Commandments Broken in One Hour.

Invite your friends over for tequila pong. Think about your closest brush with death, trying to recall how you felt at the time. Try to go a whole hour without thinking about sex, Facebook or alcohol. Befriend a homeless person.

Wear a pair of underpants made out of poison ivy. Shotgun three Mountain Dews and read “As I Lay Dying.” Go to church and ask loudly if anybody has a gun you can borrow. Mentally tour your elementary school. Grow something.

Turn off your cell phone for a week. Turn off your television for a week. Turn off your computer for a week. Research 20 saints and memorize what they’re the patrons of. Hold your breath for one minute. Change your password to the name of the first person you ever kissed. Start a preposterous argument. Here’s a topic: “Bob Dylan is OK, but he’s no Neil Diamond.” Stick to your guns.

Think back to that time when you were 12 and you walked out to the end of the high-dive and paused, terrified, while everyone looked up to watch and you bounced twice and, squinting your eyes from the bright sun shining on the impossibly blue water, dove headlong into the never-ending air above the pool, hoping that if you somehow survived the impact, at least Angie Wentworth, in her black-and-white polka dot bikini, would be the lifeguard who, sacrificing the glob of sunscreen on her nose, would resuscitate you. Recall how, dripping and triumphant yet somehow disappointed, that resuscitation wasn’t necessary.

Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Festoon something you’ve never festooned before.

Watch a sporting event you’ve never watched before. Hold a saltine cracker in your mouth without chewing until it tastes sweet. Get to know a Muslim.

Put a penny on the train track. Run through the sprinkler. Climb a tree. Jump on the bed. Camp out in your backyard. Top your personal best at chin-ups, days without bathing and hours without cussing. Has your religion grown tiresome and implausible? Lose it! Is something missing from your spiritual life? Find it! Eat a bug. Bake your mortal enemy a chocolate-bourbon-pecan pie.

Spend a whole day blindfolded, contemplating: 1) the fact that blind people spend every day like that; and 2) that our eyes don’t actually show what’s in the physical world but instead construct a virtual reality that is entirely different from that seen by X-rays, the electromagnetic field, microwaves, ultraviolet light and as-yet-undetected ways of understanding the world. Factors to dwell on: 1) We have no idea what the physical world is really like; 2) My blue could be your yellow; 3) Chico Marx really nailed it when he said, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Research your family tree until you find someone who was criminally insane due to diet or environment. If you’re a pitcher, try catching. If you’re a catcher, try another position, such as the Republican super-friction, career-forfeiting, T-square thrust.

Learn to identify 20 birds by listening to their songs. Start saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the obesity.” Listen to Patti Smith’s album Horses. Reject fashion. Laugh at yourself when you realize that rejecting fashion is itself a fashion. Read “Laughing Song” by William Blake. Motivate yourself by making a list. Here’s a topic: “Sixty-seven ways to feel alive.”