A Million Bucks in Dog Dollars

Dog Dollars. That’s not a concept I came up with (thanks yet again, Troy and Abed), but aside from its inherent simple charm, it speaks to a theme I’m embracing more and more as I get older. And while I can’t really say to what end it becomes a thing I am and do, I will say the lessons of Life of Pi continue to resonate with me the older I get; embracing the world as I want it to be, in a way that isn’t in conflict with my fundamental self. I feel like the happier I get, the more content I get, the underlying foundation to it all seems to be some combination of no longer shaking my fist at the sky and no longer attempting to convince people that I am correct.

It’s like this: This past weekend, I cooked the best chicken marsala I’ve ever made. And I have made that dish for years. I even proposed that perhaps I should now retire the dish, as a future step back from this perfection would surely disappoint me, crushingly. Of course, given my nature, this will probably only make me want to cook the dish again and again, invite people over for a weekly “Chicken Marsala and Board Games Night” or offer to make the dish for a pot luck that I actually underhandedly manipulate into existence for the purpose of finding a chance to offer to make the chicken marsala. Truth is, I’m sure the dish will come again, and will come in different, and perhaps even better incarnations. But you can’t imagine the look on my face as it pulled together, as the finished, plated beauty was fork-split and popped into my mouth, where deliciousness had an orgy, and everyone was coming. In my mouth.

Or perhaps you can. I actually imagine that’s a version of me that everyone seems to now know. The fast-stammering, energetic, too-much-hand-gesturing version of me who gets incredibly excited about some thing.
By the way, anyone interested in a pot luck? Perhaps some kind of dinner and a board game night? I’ll try to come up with a good recipe to cook …

Anyway, I was riding high on my chicken marsala victory (recipe may follow in a new post if anyone is interested; please comment below to let me know) when I arrived at the beach house to spend my brother’s birthday with the family. Long story short: They have a boat. We were enjoying my homebrews and decided to take the boat out for a spin. Dad was untying the back end of the boat when the boat began to drift away from the dock, where he was standing. He did not have the wherewithal to simply let go of the rope and remain on the dock; instead, he chose an opposing and unexpected tack of continuing to hold onto the rope and letting go of being on the dock. Fully-clothed splashlarity ensued, even my dad laughing his wet ass off. And then we continued to joke about it, and laugh about it, and drink more homebrews, and then make references to “Remember that time when dad fell into the bay?” which, as many of you know, is truly a “classic” joke I make. And overmake, if we’re being honest.

But the reason this particularly struck me was the complete joviality that surrounded not only the moment, but the aftermath of the moment. Here, with my family, we could be certain of one thing: A grown-ass man waving his arms in a cartoonish-yet-genuine attempt to somehow stop himself from falling into the bay, followed by a grown-ass man falling fully-clothed into a body of water … its fucking hilarious! And we laughed all night. And for some reason, something so obvious and simple, some pure form of loving this moment and this type of humor, and coupled with my beaming pride I had felt over the simple task of making a food well, or making several beers that my family genuinely enjoyed (they kept going back for more DESPITE the ample Coors Light around) … Sometimes the very best and most profound insights you’ll have about your life and your place in the universe come from the most mundane, simplest things.

Also while taking a poop.

I have found, in recent years, that the fundamental version of me, the simplest version of me, is apparently enough to continue to make new bonds and strengthen the ones I have. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. And it turns out, I never really did. I am a man with an apparent and (somewhat disconcerting) genuine affection for the things that I enjoy. There is no affectation or sarcasm beneath it all, no Swiftian or Kauffmanian joke to never actually reveal.

A bittersweet insight occurred to me; I am Carrie Bradshaw’s jazz-loving boyfriend. I am sometimes incredibly, disarmingly passionate about life. I get all worked up into a lather about things, and I beam a giant smile as I do my best to impart my own joy about that thing to anyone who will sit and listen. I will begin a tirade that somehow links the thing I love with some form of emptiness that existed in my life until I found that thing; some memory of childhood, or some nostalgic moment, or some missed friend or pet or lunchbox or stuffed animal, some smell or taste or tacit feeling. I will exude pure affection for that thing, for all to see.

And then, that’s it. There is no deeper level. There is no insight to be gleaned about me, no mysteries to be uncovered, no potential for danger. I’m a dude who really likes Doctor Who, and Secret of Mana, and being an attorney, and my nieces. In a way, that’s really all there is. In a way, I am very simple.

The bittersweet part, by the way, was the realization that I found an apt analogy for my own life through my working knowledge of Sex and the City.

The best friends I have in life, the best moments in my life, are those where we share an unspoken agreement to believe something absurd. To embrace something imagined and to own it as our own. Because: would you rather live in a world where there wasn’t such a thing as Dog Dollars? A world where Henri didn’t want to receive non-dick-pics? A world where adults didn’t drink keg beer and play dungeon crawl board games? A world where slapstick isn’t hilarious, and Science Fiction doesn’t speak more to the heart and the mind than anything else is even capable?

I think I’m beginning to digress, though. What I meant to say here is that as the layers have been stripped away, and as the years have humbled me more, and impressed upon me a level of understanding how little I truly know, and how little anyone else knows, and how control isn’t even an illusion so much as a self-defeating fallacy; as it all pulls off and floats away, what’s really left underneath is someone with a genuine affection for a lot of things and for a lot of people.

Its a wonderful place to be; being able to love a thing or a person without feeling a need to prove the value of that love. I like to believe that this is what truly defines me, and perhaps all of us as individuals: a capacity to feel for things. To feel, not despite what others might think about that same thing; rather, to feel, regardless of any externalizing at all. I am not defined by the list of things that I declare as my own. I am defined by my capacity to make that list grow. To have that list at all.


2 thoughts on “A Million Bucks in Dog Dollars

  1. I really enjoyed this! And it’s absolutely true. I love how passionate you are about the things you love. It’s one of the things I’ve always really liked about you Jon!

    (Also I totally immediately got that Sex & the City reference, so you’re not the only one with such a working knowledge.)

    Also finally, I would love to see that recipe!

  2. “working knowledge” = Sex and the City themed potluck dinner. Did someone volunteer to make chicken marsala yet? I have a great reci–oh, it’s off the list already?

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