Ask Uncle Dave
I'm Coveting My Neighbour's Life. What Should I Do?
I just read a wonderful story of a married couple that travel around the world, stay outside, ride bikes and take amazing pictures. I used to get inspired by these stories accompanied by absolutely wonderful pictures, but the older I get (and I am only 35) the sadder I get. I actually felt depressed. I have a great wife, smart, energetic healthy children. People like to talk to me, girls laugh at my jokes, random folks call me to have beer with them. People at work appreciate what I do and how I do it, clients seem to like me, tell me I am good. I have a great bike, I consider myself as a relatively good rider and when the seasons kicks in I ride at least 3 times a week. I keep up with fastest dudes in town, I am always at the head of the pack on group rides. Some people ask me to come and ride with them. But… that article just killed my self-esteem and made me hate all of the life choices I have made and put me where I am with whom I am. What should I do? Should I quit internet to avoid exposure to such painful stuff? Should I watch a lot of videos where bad riders crash in an embarrassing manner? Or is that normal and it will go away? Or should I leave my family, go on a 5 year long roam, get an expensive camera and take a lot of pictures?
Filled With Doubt
Oh man. Here comes a real crowd pleaser. Thanks a lot.
I remember a few years ago, I was sitting in front of a computer reading BoingBoing. I can’t remember what the story was, and it probably doesn’t really matter, but I remember that it made me incredibly excited. The initial story had run, and then within a few minutes, somebody with first-hand knowledge of the situation got involved, and the story kept just getting better, deeper, more interesting and closer to the truth. I started thinking about how great a world it was going to be that we would have such free access to “the truth” and that felt pretty great. All hail the Internet.
Not to be too crude, but what a fucking idiot I was. This tool, this beautiful object that could and does create so much good…fuck. I mean, just look at where we’re at. Of course something that widely disseminates information instantaneously can be used by the forces of evil. Of course it can be used by people trying to sell us oodles of shit that we don’t really need. Of course these downfalls should/would/could have been obvious.
Now, I know this sounds more like a derision of our alternative fact based present, but just think for a minute about how all of this is related. Really, how different is a story about Obama wire-tapping Trump Tower, from your friend posting that one cherry-picked image of their vacation on Instagram? We’re learning that through careful curation, or through outright lies, we can use the Internet to create just about any picture of ourselves, or the world, that we want. And we read these highly sanitized accounts of the best selves of other people and we assume there is nothing more to it. It’s nothing but vacations and fantastic meals and happy kids and people living life better than we are and what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-me?
Right after I read your e-mail, I stumbled upon this piece by Brent Sopel in the Player’s Tribune, which everybody should definitely take the time to read. It talks about how his entire life as a professional hockey player covered up his challenges with alcoholism and dyslexia. And the bottom of that story linked to a piece by Corey Hirsch about how his entire life as a professional hockey player covered up his challenges with OCD.*
Now, I’m not in any way trying to suggest that the happy couple in your story are hiding a depressed, substance abusing side, and warrant our pity and derision (they seem like wonderful people with very fulfilling lives). I’m just trying to suggest that there is probably more to those lives than can be presented in one article, and if somebody were to cherry-pick your greatest events and achievements and cram them into one place complete with a dozen professionally taken photographs, shit, people might be pretty jealous of what you have going on. Because even those that are wealthy, famous and “living the dream” have things that they have to deal with. The majority of the people that you admire and envy, probably have a lot of things within their own lives that they wish were different (and if they don’t…there’s probably something wrong with them and they shouldn’t be trusted).
There was a comment at the bottom of my tubeless tire inflator article, expressing gratitude for presenting the issues that I faced while building the stupid thing. And all I could think was “well what good would it be if I didn’t tell people about what I actually faced?” And I’m thinking now that we really need to start extending this further. What good is a story if it only talks about the good parts of what happened? What good is it if we turn people’s stories into impossible-to-obtain myths? Our obsessively curated social media feeds probably aren’t helping our own mental health, and are certainly causing a mild amounts of consternation and grief to those on the other end of it. Life is not only about bicycles that are too expensive for the regular person to buy, or globetrotters strutting around the world without a care in the world. Life is challenges. Life is ugly. We need to embrace that ugliness. We need to get into the gutters and start seeing and showing the parts that people don’t want to see. We’re all flawed and we need to stop convincing ourselves that life would be great if only…
And that's not even considering the billions of people living in poverty under repressive regimes that would probably be pretty happy living through your worst day. But that makes for a terrible Instagram feed, and should probably be saved as a topic for another day.
*Maybe this is some sort of weird schadenfreude that I have, but I love seeing people’s flaws. During his years as a Canuck, Brent Sopel was just the weird looking guy with the mullet. Once I read his story though…man. What an amazing person. If only I’d known this about him back in the day, he’d have been my favourite player. Flaws are endearing. Flaws are interesting. Flaws are human.
Uncle Dave's Music Club
I've been protecting you guys for a while now. But I think it is time to start exposing you to some weird shit. And there aren't many weirder than where I am going today.
I can't actually remember who the Fiery Furnaces were opening for when I first saw them, but my memory is still fresh of Eleanor sauntering out, messing around with her microphone and taping down her set list. She oozed an effortless hipster cool, and was the kind of girl that you would never approach, and assume had something exciting at some place you had never heard of planned for the rest of the evening. And they played and the music was good enough that I paid attention. This was a couple of weeks before the release of Blueberry Boat. So when that was finally released, I strolled down to Zulu and picked up a copy.
Let me tell you, this release is not for the faint of heart. It's a commitment. An adventure. You absolutely will not like it the first time you hear it. That would be impossible. It's just too weird.
But then maybe 5 or 10 listens in (I had way more free time and patience in my youth) it starts to grow on you. It burrows in and starts to make a lot of sense. Well, as much as it can.
But we're not there yet. We'll start with some Eleanor Friedberger/Fiery Furnaces songs that you can actually listen to.
"He didn't mention his mother" is some pretty straight-forward, catchy stuff from Eleanor.
"When I knew" is kind of like above. Which suggests that Eleanor had the "catchy" genes in the family.
Okay. Enough of that. Let's get to the weird shit.
"Tropical Ice-land" - There is a video for this, but I much prefer the album version. It's a bit slow, sad, and kind of pretty. Like they're holding something back.
And it's even better when you flow it into "Rub Alcohol Blues", as happens on the album. "The only thing I've surely owned is a worried and troubled mind." Amen.
And now we're in to Blueberry Boat.
"Chief Inspector Brancheflower" is like a novel for a crazy person who can't read and takes all their information in via song. So many transitions, like six songs jammed into one...there's something for everybody, really. Wonderful.
And then, finally, we're in to "Blueberry Boat". Man. I love this bloody song. It's just so weird and epic and poetic.
Honestly, just put the whole damn album on some time when you're feeling a bit weird and not paying a lot of attention. There's just so many magical moments scattered about, and so much work required to find them, it feels special once you do. I'm not even going to tell you guys about the album they made with their grandmother.
Congratulations, Fildo, Dave has bestowed an NSMB Loam Ranger upon you. It may not cure your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but it will help you jazz up a few of your Instagram posts. Now go chop some wood and slug some maple syrup in your new North Shore Dinner Jacket.