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. 

11/11/2013 01:02:37 am

I sometimes get Jack Johnson mixed up with Josh Ritter. This isn't terrible. What's TERRIBLE is when I mix either of them up for John Mayer, whom I don't care for at all.


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