PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

Repressing His Grubins

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I finished Independence Day earlier this week. Surprise, surprise, however, as I’ve exhausted Frank Bascombe’s appeal. Possibly, reading The Sportswriter and Independence Day back to back wasn’t a good idea—especially in addition to reading Richard Ford’s short story collections, plus Wildlife, in the same time span. That is, I haven’t started Lay of the Land, and won’t indefinitely. This is understandable, isn’t it? You tire of a character just as you tire of actual people.

So, I’m in a transitional phase, a pause before I read what I began reading Ford in order to read. Read! A few nights ago, then, I required the reading salve before bed, and to whom did I turn? Good ole Jonathan Ames, w/My Less Than Secret Life, a collection of his NY Press columns from 1999-2000, and best of all, I found an essay I hadn’t read, “The Curse of the Fried Plantain”! Occasionally this happens and it’s like unearthing treasure. This part made me laugh:

I was suddenly aware of how many socially inappropriate things I want to do to other people. Just as the poets and the painters of the nineteenth century depicted the mist over the River Thames and thus revealed it for the world to see (according to Oscar Wilde), I had revealed my own mad impulses to myself and they were driving me nuts. I gave them a name, Grubins, and I divided them into three categories: men, women, and dogs.

Toward men, I have hostile thoughts. When I pass one on the street, I mutter in my mind to him, “Watch out!” And if I’m sitting in a restaurant and a man walks toward me I want to strike him in the stomach. It is something about being eye level with the abdomen.

Toward women, I have sexist impulses. If from a distance I see an attractive woman, I say to the locker room in my mind, “What have we got here?” And then when she comes alongside me, I say to her in my mind, “Hey, baby.” And then when she passes me, I want to smack her rear. This compulsion is particularly strong if I have a newspaper, then I really want to give those beautiful butts a good swat.

And toward dogs, I have unbridled affection. I want to get down on my knees and wrestle with them and rub my face in their necks. If there’s more than one dog present, I say to them in my mind, “Hi, guys.” And whenever I pass a dog and it’s not appropriate for me to cuddle with him or her, which is just about all the time in New York, I make secret eye contact and whelp silently. I must have been a canine in a previous life, and also as a boy, I was molested by my uncle’s sheep dog, Oliver.

My Less Than Secret Life, Jonathan Ames

I’m reluctant to quote more for fear of copyright infringement. The rest concerns his day in the city, as all the Grubins pop out and he fears for his sanity. In the quote above, I most like his mutterings in response to the Grubin stimuli. “Watch out!” “Hey, baby.” “What have we got here?” “Hi, guys.”

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Written by patiomensch

February 23, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Books, Jonathan Ames, Quotes

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