PictureJack Johnson, THE guy who takes it easy.
To: Ruby
From: Dad
In Re: Thongs

When I was a kid, we called flip-flops “thongs.” Flip-flops are shoes without any top. They typically have a series of straps – one that crosses over the top of the foot, from the inside sole to the outside. Another strap, attached and perpendicular to the first one, attaches to the sole between the big toe and the second toe. 

I’ve worn them a lot in my life, even though I find them somewhat inappropriate. I’m very complicated, Ruby. These are the kinds of contradictions in us that will never allow robots to feel love. 

Anyway, a thong currently refers to underpants that similarly use a system of straps. It’s one strap, really, that connects the front to the back. This strap goes between one’s legs and gets buried deep inside one’s buttcheeks. 

I’ve never tried on a thong, but I’ve been told that they are “surprisingly comfortable.” It is surprising. Flip-flops are also surprisingly comfortable, despite their lack of support.

As of this writing, thongs are primarily – but not exclusively – used by women who want to avoid something called “panty lines,” which are exactly what they sound like. Sometimes men’s thongs are called “banana hammocks.” My sense is that men who wear banana hammocks generally work in the adult entertainment industry, or are Germans on vacation.[1]

I started calling thongs (the shoe) “flip-flops” when I was in college. I met people who called them that, and I learned about the other type of thong, and I made the change. There was a time when I considered wearing only flip-flops, all year long, for every occasion. It was an aesthetic choice. I wanted to be seen as the guy who took it easy. There were a couple of problems with this, though. One, a lot of people in Lawrence, Kansas, exclusively wore flip-flops, all year, for every occasion. I wouldn’t be seen as the guy who took it easy, I’d just be lumped in with the dipshits.

Two, there was this singer named Jack Johnson, who was a handsome surfer and who sang sleepy little pop songs that sounded like they were recorded on a beach at night around a cozy bonfire. In any case, Jack Johnson was THE guy who took it easy, and he didn’t wear any shoes at all. None. I’m not kidding. 

As it turns out, I was probably lumped in with the dipshits no matter what flip-flop choice I made. I think I might be going through a similar thing now. 

I’m on a bus for the city. It’s early but not early enough to make me a respectable working adult. It’s autumn. You just learned that concept. Autumn. You’re going to have a little sister in a couple months. Your mother is tired and worried. Your mother said yesterday that if I disappeared I’d disappear alone. It seemed odd, like she’d thought about it. We were having a discussion. I’m not saying she wants me to disappear – I know she doesn’t. But it feels like she is expecting it, somehow. 

Your mother says a lot of things. Last week she said “the sweetest Uyghur.” I don’t really know what she was talking about – I stopped listening after she said “the sweetest Uyghur.” She was saying something about China. Uyghur is pronounced “Weeger,” and refers to a people who live in China, and who are being squeezed by the government over there. It’s a complicated situation.

I’m starting a band called “The Sweetest Uyghur.”[2] The first single will be a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me.” 

I don’t think your mother was ever lumped in with the dipshits. I bet you won’t be, either. Is this good? I don’t know. I sort of like the dipshits. 

I think it would be easy to disappear. I’m not going to disappear. You don’t have to worry about that. I could try to disappear, but it wouldn’t work. I’d have to take you and your mother with me, and your new sister and Beatrice, the dog. And that is the definition of failing to disappear. I’d also need to keep in touch with all our friends and family. Fail![3]

Your mother likely could have chosen any number of Jack Johnson types. She’s a beautiful woman. And very smart. Really, she has a lot going for her. But she ended up with me. Jack Johnson has a lot going for him, too. He’s the guy who takes it easy, you know? But he probably has loads of money, too, and I bet he can talk to a woman and make her feel some kind of magic for a little while. His music is…you know? It’s fine. 

I might not be the dipshit I’m making myself out to be. But I’m no Jack Johnson. I’m sorry for that. Maybe your life would have been easier if I was. 

Or, maybe. 

Maybe no matter what you have the important thing is to have it. That’s what I keep telling your mother, anyway. I might decide tomorrow to throw away all of my proper shoes and wear only flip-flops every day of the year, for every occasion. I’ll get lumped in with the dipshits. But I’ll be your dipshit and you and your mother will have me every single day. 

And on that beach, when the sun sinks below the ocean, and Jack Johnson and his bare feet and his guitar become gold and blue silhouettes against the light of that magic bonfire, and his lonesome strumming goes quiet, where do you think he goes? 

Jack Johnson just disappears. 

[1] I’d like to start a band called Germans on Vacation. The first single will be called “Banana Hammock.” If you are reading this memo in a mansion on an island somewhere, then good news! My band made it. I’m sorry for any pain my Germans on Vacation fame has caused you. 

[2] I’m sorry for any pain that the success of The Sweetest Uyghur has brought you. My intentions were good. I just wanted to rock. 

[3] “Fail!” is this shitty little thing that people are saying now, although it’s getting kind of old. It’s used as a noun, instead of a verb. “Your Cosby sweater is a total fail!” I think this usage will go away in the near term. Coincidentally, I find the usage antagonistic. It’s like calling someone stupid. "Look at your stupid sweater, stupid." It’s rude. If my friend has a bad Cosby sweater, I’d rather say something like, “That sweater’s a real humdinger.” “Humdinger” can mean many things. It could be negative, or it could be positive. It could also just imply my utter consternation at the style of the sweater. 

Your mother loves shoes, but she’s not in love with them.

You may ask yourself, when you’re 13 or so, What is love? You may also read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is a book that people my age read when they were teenagers that made them feel smart. Perhaps there’s another book that will cleverly address philosophical matters in a way that teens find approachable in your time. If not, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was written by Robert M. Pirsig. You can probably find it in an online library, and read it on your electronic book device.

Speaking of electronic devices, Steve Jobs died yesterday. That’s big news, although you won’t know it when you come around. Your mother is almost 33 weeks pregnant with you. That means that sometime in the next 7 or so weeks, you’ll be born. Could be today for all I know. Could be ten weeks. If Michio Kaku[1] is right, it could be in a billion years and on the planet Edelstein[2]. Take that, Robert M. Pirsig.  

I’m sitting in the car again. There’s a school bus parked beside me, and kids from the school next door to our apartment are boarding. They are going wild. The kids on the street are throwing things at the side of the bus saying things like, “Suck my dick!” to the kids who are on the bus. And they’re threatening the people in the cars who are stuck behind the bus, and who are honking. “Shut the fuck up, motherfucker! I’m gonna fuck you up!” These kids are probably 13 years old. They’re bouncing around the street, pulling up plants from the planters and throwing bottles and kicking trash. They have a long road ahead of them.

Do you think when they’re home alone they wonder, What is love? I bet they do. They’re just kids.

Anyway, I’m glad your mother isn’t in love with shoes, and that she only loves them.

I saw her buy an $800 pair of shoes once. We were first dating – it was her first trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I was living at the time. I was shocked but also impressed. I was living in a 200 square foot apartment with a Murphy bed. A Murphy bed is a bed that folds up into the wall when you’re not using it, so that the bed doesn’t take up your whole apartment, like it did in my apartment.

Why did your mother decide to date a guy who lived in a 200 square foot apartment in Minneapolis when she was capable of buying an $800 pair of shoes, you might ask. I’ve asked myself that same question.

Physics of the Impossible[3], my dear.

I haven’t seen her buy shoes that expensive since, but maybe by the time you read this she’ll have bought a pair of shoes for $1,000. Maybe a she’ll have bought a pair for $10,000. If so, it’s likely that she’s come unhinged and we’ll be moving into an apartment with a Murphy bed in the near term.

When I moved into that apartment, I hoped that my friends would start calling me “Dr. Murphy” because of my success with the ladies. It didn’t happen.

Anyway. I’ve gotten off track. The point is that some people wear comfortable shoes exclusively, while others only wear uncomfortable shoes that they think are attractive. Most people divide their time between the two – again there’s a broad range of normal. In any case, like anything, you might want to consider the context.

If the context is that you are going for a run, then you’ll want to wear running shoes. If you are going to a formal affair, like a wedding, most likely you’ll wear more attractive, uncomfortable shoes. If you work at a pizza place, like I did when I was your age[4], you’ll want to wear old tennis shoes.

Some people like to go against context with their shoes to make a statement. For example, some people choose to get married on the beach without any shoes on at all. The statement they are trying to make is something like this: We’re so in love that shoes aren’t important at all!

It’s an odd thing, though, because who cares?

And I guess that’s my point about shoes. I’m pretty picky. Lately I’ve been buying shoes about a half size too small because they were on sale – my last two pairs, in fact. This brings me terrible anxiety because I’m afraid my cheapness will give me bunions, which I hate. I name all of my shoes. I have a pair that are very spongy, which I call my Lil’ Hugs, because when I put them on it’s like they’re giving my feet little hugs. I have a pair I call my ninja shoes, because they look like the kind of shoes a ninja would wear. But who cares? None of that is important at all.

It’s just not important.

If you want to wear expensive, uncomfortable, beautiful shoes all the time (and you can afford to), then do it. If you want to wear running shoes to everything, that’s fine, too. If you want to get married barefoot, I’m all for that. None of it really matters, so long as you’re happy. And if shoes are all you have to worry about, you’re a lucky girl.

I will say this: there are these shoes out now that look like feet – each toe gets its own little sleeve. They’re like gloves for feet. I hope to god these “shoes” aren’t around when you read this. They are an aberration.

[1] Michio Kaku is a physicist who writes popular books about physics. People my age read them to feel smart.
[2] There is no planet Edelstein as of this writing.
[3] This is the title of the last Michio Kaku book I read. It’s also what I like to say when I can’t explain something.
[4] Assuming you’re 15 when you read this. 

Picture*My senior pictures. Peacocking.
There are these birds called peafowl, that most people just call peacocks. This isn’t totally correct – the peacock refers to the male only. The female is the peahen and the little babies are peachicks. The peacock – again, the male – is known for its extravagant, eye-spotted tail plumage, which is hard to describe in words. It’s bright and opalescent and brilliant and, well, extravagant. When the peacock sees a peahen with which it would like to have intercourse[1], it stands tall and spreads its extravagant plumage in an effort to attract the female.

“Peacocking” is the human version of this. It’s when a human man puts on airs and makes some extravagant attempt to persuade a woman (or another man) to have intercourse with him.

The Iranians – your people – are famous for their peacocking. It’s possible they invented it.

One of your uncles told me that Iranians also invented backgammon, math, etiquette, and that they were the first in flight. If I had been a woman, your uncle telling me that would have been a good example of peacocking.

Peacocking can also mean wearing a lot of cologne, or a flashy or stylish suit, or driving around in a brightly colored or large or expensive car, or showing off a lot of chest hair. This is the Iranian way.

When I was your age, assuming you’re 20 when you read this, my style of peacocking was slightly subtler. I took guitar lessons, listened to the Indigo Girls[2], and wrote a lot of poetry. I should say that peacocking is almost never successful, as you might have already concluded. Not for anyone. I don’t know why women decide to have intercourse with men, but it’s generally not because we listen to the Indigo Girls (although maybe?).

Men/boys your age wake up peacocking (so to speak) – our whole lives are dedicated to trying to persuade women to have intercourse with us. When a boy tells you about camping in Zion, that’s peacocking. When a boy brings you flowers, that’s peacocking. When a boy likes dogs, that’s peacocking.

That’s all fine.

Peafowl behave this way because their species depends on it. It’s unconscious. They don’t think to themselves, “If I display my plumage, perhaps that peahen would like to have intercourse with me.” Human’s peacocking is similarly unconscious. If men didn’t have some innate urge to have intercourse with women, there would be no offspring. In other words, our peacocking isn’t malicious. We’re not trying to own or destroy you. We’re trying to impress you.

This isn’t always the case, of course, and you should always keep that in mind.

[1] I’m not sure that sex between two birds is called intercourse. I’m taking some creative license here because I think it’s funny to say when two birds have intercourse. That’s the power of personification, which is sort of the point of this memo.

[2] The Indigo Girls were a folk/rock music duo consisting of two women. They were popular starting in the late 1980’s, and are now, in 2011 – the year you will be born – are self-releasing albums. Read more about them in the memo titled “College Lesbianism.” 

Some people are allergic or sensitive to wheat gluten. Gluten is this globby goo that binds bread together. I guess I can understand why it would make people sensitive - eating it in its natural form would be like eating a racquetball that’s been in the microwave – but I really like it. I like rolls – hot rolls with butter – and biscuits with butter. Some people can’t eat butter, either, because they can’t digest dairy products. Generally speaking, dairy products are things made from the milk of cows. Also – speaking generally again – the people who can’t eat dairy are often the same people who can’t eat gluten. I can’t drink full-sugar pop, so I can empathize.

Pop is what people like me[1] call soda, or Coke.

There are two types of people in the world: those who claim that there are only two types of people in the world and those who understand how ridiculous that statement is.

If I drink full-sugar pop I’ll boot. That’s not a metaphor. I will literally boot the entire contents back into the can almost as soon as I drink it. The can will be full, as if nobody had ever even had it in his stomach.

I doubt you’ll have much experience with pop. Gramma Sue kept a lot of it in the house when I was your age.[2] I drank a lot of it. I also threw up a lot. Anyway, your mother and I don’t keep pop around, so you’ll have to get it at your friends’ houses, or at school. We’re not anti-pop, exactly, we just don’t care for it. This is also why you might not have much experience with beef jerky. I just don’t have the taste for it.

In any case, pop sensitivity is not recognized by any medical association, and I’m not going to fight for its recognition. Like I said, I don’t really care for pop – perhaps because it makes me boot – but still.

But I love bread and butter, and those poor suckers who can’t eat it are some sad sonsabitches.


[1] Simpletons from certain areas of the Midwest.
[2] Assuming your between the ages of 0 and 18 when you read this.