Saturday, September 15, 2012

11 Arguments In Favor of Isolation and Loneliness

Recently, I had the unique privilege of living out in the wilderness - alone - in a little tent - for five weeks. Here I recount my tremendously favorable experience with isolation and loneliness and whether or not I survived. Much of this post was written (originally in blood) from the notes I took out in the bush. If I seem a little eccentric at times, I assure you I am not... The wealthy are eccentric, whereas the poor are crazy.

11. Begin to Notice the Little Things
"Tourist Attractions, Always the First To Go"
2012 Colored Pencil on Graph Paper
As I sit alone in my tent contemplating the meaning of life, I begin to notice things I'd never have noticed before. I begin to notice the little things: 'if I solely breathe through my nose I only have to open my mouth to eat, and if I puréed all my meals there'd be no reason for such a big hole in the middle of my face.' Even smaller observations begin to form like: 'why do my fingernails grow so quickly? I estimate they grow three, maybe four, times faster than my toenails. Is that typical of the fingernail?' Lastly, the minuscule can't even escape my observation. 'These tiny insects in my tent seem to be growing at an alarming rate. The little guys appear to be doubling in size daily. I swear they were a measly 1 millimeter a day ago, a minute 2 mm now, and tomorrow an undeniably miniature 4 mm. However at this current rate, after a week they'll be the sizable size of 6.5 centimeters and in two weeks a hefty 8.2 meters (roughly the size of a killer whale).' So here I am, sleeping beside Earth's next Armageddon, and I highly doubt they were planning on delivering the eviction notice from my own tent anytime soon! I now know it is my obligation privilege to kill "Gnatasaurus" "The Un-Gnatural" "Gnatstrosis"  "G-UNAT" while I still maintain the upper hand. Squish... Nobel Peace Prize.

10. Enjoy the Peace and Tranquility of the Night
There is no light pollution or the sound of TV and outside traffic. The night is quiet and pure. The stars are twinkling, there's a cool breeze blowing, and the angelic song of crickets are chirping off in the distance "Crick-Crick". The Moon is slowly setting illuminating the western horizon "Crick-Crick". The soft hooting of a barn owl satiated from her dusky hunt "Crick-Crick"...hmmm (silent pause) nothing to worry about. The last bits of a crackling fire slowly waning "Crick-Crick" whoa what the... alright Sam calm down 'breathe through your nose, wiggle your toes' (pause pause pause). A faint mist creeps methodically over the lake in the mid sum"Crick-Crick" What the Efff! Is this mother fucking cricket hunting me? Where is it? My tent, did I zip it up all the way?! Oh shit, maybe it's hopped into my sleeping bag!! Ehhhhhh, Show Yourself Demon Cricket!!!
P.S. You think Crickets get their name from the sound they make?

9. Let Nature In
I never would have believed it could happen to me, but I allowed nature to take me into its loving, fungal and nasty arms. It all started fairly quickly, only a week into my experience and I made my first huge step towards natural... I took out my Bluetooth. After that things progressed at an exponential rate, by day 10 I'd removed most major pieces of jewelry - my watches (plural), anklets and bracelets, and even some of my less gaudy and valuable chains. And as the two week mark approached, I began to wane off the cocoa butter. (I've been applying cocoa butter to my belly and torso to minimize stretch marks in early preparation for Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays.) By the end of my stint out in the wild, I was a naked man wearing nothing but boxer briefs, slacks, a white beater, an undershirt, a collared shirt, my argyle sweater vest, wool socks, suede shoes, and my fedora. Nature-1 Sam-0!

Muscle tone and blurred out region may
be exaggerated.
8. Evolve
The Southwest coast of Oregon is surprisingly chilly in July and August. The summer heat has to battle fog, cold breezes, and rain; and heat is the perpetual loser. Because of this climate and living outdoors, my body evolved to the conditions. Some people reading that last sentences might want to correct me and say that my body adapted to the conditions, but they would be wrong. I'm quite sure there has been a change in my DNA structure that will be passed down to all of my offspring as a result of my isolation in the wilderness. This evolutionary change is hair...everywhere. And unfortunately unlike the Dashboard Confessional song, this hair is not screaming infidelities but rather screaming vagrancies. I've always had a thick head of hair and a fairly furry chest, but now all my bare parts have become more like bear parts. The hair starts at the uni-brow, continues down below the nose and chin, here it gets especially thick in the neck to chest region, it branches out to cover "all" limbs, and doesn't stop til the toenails. Watch out ladies there's a new man in town, and he's not afraid to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks in the summer time!

7. Time to Create and Let the Imagination Juices Flow
Isolation provides abundant amount of time to think. I utilized this time to create the next great screenplay, and without further ado... "Love for Real" - There is an English man, a writer, who recently finds his wife cheating on him with his brother. To cope with this betrayal and shock he buries himself in his work and begins to write his next novel. He moves out to a lake house in rural Spain a lake house in rural Portugal to free himself from distractions and love. Alas, there is an attractive Portuguese woman (she won't speak a lick of English) taking care of the lake house and the man as he focuses on work. At first, the man does not particularly notice this woman or have that "electric" interest in her, but with time and a few quirky mishaps (say... some of his work blows into the lake and she dives in to retrieve it) he starts falling in love with her. Eventually the man's work is done, and he must move back to London, but all he can think about is this mysterious Portuguese woman. He know's this is his "soul mate" and proceeds to learn Portuguese, find this woman, and propose to her in her tongue. His proposal, in broken Portuguese in a crowded restaurant, is genuine and heartfelt; her response, in broken English, is the same and an unhesitating yes. This is a love story that can stand on its own and not be muddled by various other subplots. So there you have it, when isolation provides the time, anyone can create an absolutely unique tale. I also came up with an idea about aliens and cowboys fighting each other, but it never really pieced harmoniously together.

6. An Escape from Pop Culture and Social Media
When roughing it out in the wilderness without a TV, one has little choice but to withdraw from the pop culture world... and withdrawals can be a good thing. It was especially pleasant to take a break from social networking and media. Of course occasionally I used the 4G on my smartphone to access Facebook and Twitter, but that's a far cry from having my laptop and internet at the ready. But aside from the occasional Facebook status updates and Twitter observations, I really had the opportunity to free myself from the mindless media. Except when I was eating breakfast... lunch or dinner. Is it even possible to eat without reading a little Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly? And you can't expect me to do my "business" without working on a Peoples crossword! But it was really nice to escape from that mindless gossip and trivial banter for a little while.

5. Senses Enhanced
The foliage is filled with vibrant greens previously only seen in Pushing Daisies episodes.  The early morning fog is layered in gray (maybe 50 different shades), sea foam green, violet, and blue. The setting sun sends sheets of pink and orange streaking through the sky like Seekers on Nimbus 2000's. I can hear the fluttering of a butterfly and the belch of a bullfrog miles away. I can feel a storm brewing before the visible signs in the clouds. I can smell a... well I guess I would say it's a mixture of grapefruit and corn tortillas. Wait! Grapefruit and corn tortilla? Certainly this is not a natural or choice combination. And quite potent. It seems to be everywhere like it's following me. Oh boy, it may actually be... me. The colors now seem to be fading. I'm becoming deaf to all sounds. I'm numb. All that I'm aware of is Grapefruit and Corn Tortilla! Grapefruit and Corn Tortilla! Grapefruit and Corn Tortilla! Grapefruit and Corn Tortilla!!!

4. Become a Skinny Wiener
Tony Perkis: [over the loudspeakers] Time to wake up, campers! Today is evaluation day. The key word here is 'value.' Do you have any? Not yet! But before summer's over, this camp's gonna be filled with skinny winners! 
Roy: "Skinny wieners?" You hear that, guys? 
There are so many benefits of being overweight (at least 11), but losing the weight can also occasionally be beneficial. Living in the wilderness and fighting the elements, I (despite my best efforts) lost some weight and discovered some of the skinny benefits. Although my buoyancy diminished, I discovered the ability to move my arms and legs in a rhythmic motion through water. This motion allowed me to stay afloat and transport myself without a current, which is particularly useful on a current-less lake. Normally these movements would have drained my reserves (reserved for eating) but I found I had much more in reserve than before. Getting skinny also made me a less desirable target for carnivores. I can now swim or run away from danger (and we all know a predator is not looking for an annoying chase) and because there's less of me I'm less appetizing. That's what we call in the business a double whammy. Don't ask me what business!

3. Get to Know Yourself
Being out alone, isolated from humanity you don't get a lot of company. So you make friends with Yourself or "Yosef" as he likes to be called. He's really a great companion. He understands your jokes, he laughs to make you feel better when your down, he's even hungry when you're hungry. Yosef is always there for you... I mean literally always. I'll be trying to get some sleep and right next to me there'sYosef, pretending like he's also trying to go to sleep... as if I can't tell that he's not actually tired. And why is he in my tent? I mean common man give me just a little space. The other day I even caught him creeping into the bathroom with me. The guy's beginning to come off a little bit creepy- he was talking to himself about how he wouldn't need such a big mouth if he solely breathed through his nose and pureed all his food. Yikes! Conclusion, Yosef seems genuine  at first, but he doesn't understand or respect boundaries. Andddd he's always waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and screaming. He's really starting to scare me.

2. Bronze
Because of all the fog and cloud cover, Southwest Oregon doesn't see copious amounts of sunlight. It typically reaches it's high of 65 around 3:00 pm during the couple hours gap between the dissipating morning fog and the slow approaching evening fog. Yet, despite the lack of direct sunlight, Papa (that's me) got bronze. Not like a white girl who was asked to prom way too late to properly prepare and quickly jumped into a tanning bed for 15 minutes bronze, but like Freida Pinto on a tropical island, caramel mocha bronze. Now what you need to know is that out in the wilderness there is no dress code but there are practical guidelines, like closed toe shoes and socks and in general durable apparel. And when one follows those guidelines while also unknowingly tanning, a very peculiar thing happens.
"Tan line: noun: the division between skin that has darkened or tanned from exposure to sun and skin that has not been exposed to sun."
Soooo, in exposed areas I looked like an Indian God (not the blue and four armed kind, but like the 'I have a choreographed dance and never quite kiss the girl at the end of the Bollywood movie' kind). In the unexposed areas - a Troglolad (patent pending).
Troglolad: noun: a male Homo sapien who resides the majority of his life in caves or similar dark places. Troglolads contain very little to no skin pigment and can often times be blind or even lacking of eyes at all.

1. Independent of money
Wise man once said: "You're either rich or you're poor." This may be true, but the wilderness doesn't consider monetary wealth in it's definitions of rich and poor. There's not much use of a "Jackson" or "Benjamin" when you're bartering with the squirrels. And it's pointless making it rain when the only strippers are a herd of elk stripping the bark off a birch. In the wilderness I became a wealthy man with the use of my fully functional brain and peanut butter. Everybody likes peanut butter, but none more so than squirrels. However, the squirrel is also a very cunning businessman or woman or I guess businesssquirrel. In order to get on their good side I had to "butter" them up. Once I had them as a trusting partner, the squirrels provided me with all sorts of goods: dry wood for fires, safe routes to fresh water, densely foliated areas for an afternoon siesta, and most importantly meat... juicy, sweet, fatty, peanut butter fed meat!

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