I come across the same leather skinned, salt bleached, perma-stoked sixty something year old barnacle sitting by himself at every single beach on earth that has proudly won the war against his evolutionary urges to settle into a life of tame cohabitation. I give him the same loose grin and side eyed nod of approval every single time I see him. I prize the idea of it. Never cutting your hair, living by your own rules until you perish, letting the sea batter your lifeless body until you bloat and you rot and your organic matter biodegrades and you literally become the ocean. Leaving no children or belongings behind. Leaving the earth as you found it. That unrecorded triumph over our hardwiring to fulfill our biological purpose as humans. I truly wonder how it’s attained. The longest directionless rambling stretches I’ve ever been on always seem to grow old after a certain amount of months. They make me crave something resembling a home, a routine, a steady woman. I’ve seen it happen a thousand times. What is it inside of us that is fighting for the edge we once so deeply identified with to be subsequently jaded and rounded out by the comfortable life and love we’ve also always craved deep down?
Domesticated house cat or beach rat? I swear i can feel myself morphing closer to a creature closely resembling the domesticated house cat option by the minute when I’m out here. It’s pleasant and civilized and peaceful and very far from my societal gauge of anything i’ve ever considered normal. I don’t drink, smoke or take any drugs and its been that way for four years since my seventh or eighth and worst, (hopefully final) concussion was sustained. I took a boot to the back of my head, fell asleep at a red light on my moped then got blacked out drunk off a few dozen coronita lights while donning a plastic horned viking cap in the concrete hell of downtown honolulu, and was subsequently brain damaged for the next eight months. It was a dark time to say the least. Even after the brain scans and a load of different types of testing the doctors didn’t know if id ever get better. It was a hazy eight months. An irresponsible, selfish, really fucked up eight months. An eight months filled with weekly migraines, near miss moped accidents, reef break far too big and dangerous for my skill set, and living in a tent on the patio of a seventy six year old gay insane Jehovahs witness pedophile. Well the pedophile part was never confirmed so that really shouldn’t be part of his title. Me and my half Hawaiian half Philippino face tatted street kid roommate/patio-mate that was either really on meth or really on the run from the samoan mafia had our well educated suspicions. But I woke up one day and my vestibular function had snapped back into place. My balance was back, my full vision was back. The eight months thoroughly fucked my head in to a place that genuinely scared me enough to never drink or smoke again. I now take relatively good care of myself and my head since my eight month sentence was handed down by destiny where i found myself immersed in the truest loneliest abyss I’ve ever been trapped inside. I come from a stock of small yet fiery germanic men. When I was younger I had a saying that i’d rather be knocked on my back than back down, thus my high rate of head injuries. I was naturally a tentative pacifist but i adapted to my environment relatively quick after being taken advantage of a few times in my early youth.
I was burnt out on alcohol by the time I could legally buy a drink because of the day my neighborhood buddy swiped his older brothers expired id. I don’t make too great of a first impression in Scandinavia because about 98% of the total of my girlfriends brothers cousins parents uncles are of the burley viking that drink healthy amounts of aquavit demographic. I have grown semi-comfortable with the fact that some of them probably think of me as the skinny long haired Californian pussy that doesn’t drink, and if i didn’t have 8 concussions to my name i’d be guilted by my remaining pest of a sense of little man syndrome into perhaps proving otherwise. Instead I’m out here exercising different strands of my psyche. I live in a part of the capital city that was once the most dangerous part of Oslo but is now the most trendy thanks to our familiar friend gentrification. Roughly six months out of the year I live in what is essentially immigrant housing with Bulgarians, Polish, Nigerians, Irish and a peppering of sometimes semi down on their luck, sometimes less affluent Norwegians. I’m the only American, and the only sore thumb of a Californian by far. The Norwegian government wont give me a work permit or a school visa because my work experience doesn’t include very much molecular engineering or oil industry management and i got mediocre grades in school because who the hell gets good grades in Hawaii. I studied philosophy in university like a sunburnt stubborn cunt because it jived seamlessly with my romanticized ideal of a surfed out, ardently unapologetic for tracking sand into your classroom but still prepared for the conversation because i read the book at the beach type student. I hold no visa so i can only be here three months at a time before i crawl back through customs with my tail between my legs seeking short assignment, high wage work so i can hop on another plane out of cali as soon as financially possible.
Recently on my wound licking trips home i’ve had a long running joke where i prod my dad and ask him about when it was that he turned into such a domesticated house cat. My parents moved from Ashby and Telegraph, the heart of the most bustling part of Berkeley California up to Lake county after I had secured shelter in the form of a 1979 Chevrolet caravan in the driveway of my Vietnamese friends family home in bumfuck San Leandro. It has two gas tanks, sleeps six supposedly and i cant drive it with any peace of mind because i haven’t paid the registration in seven years. Seven years of back registration plus the penalties would put me in over my head until it was my turn to croak of a broken heart as the ominous realization that i was a casualty of capitalist american dreamland dawned on me. While my mom has settled in to the slower pace of life, my dad hasn’t. He lived a wild life in la and Berkeley most of his 67 years before settling down and becoming a father dangerously close to the tipping point of his biological clock. He likes being able to go mess around at flea markets, witch stores, used hole in the wall bookstores and dimly lit cafes with the old local crazies. He’d rather wake up on a Sunday to blend in and eat hot dogs with the degenerates on dollar day at the horse track than partake in anything resembling brunch at a golf clubhouse. He says all people want to talk about in Lake county is football and how to install insolation and pour cement. Since he doesn’t have much stimulation up there and no one to talk to about all the weird shit he likes to talk about I’m inundated with months worth of occult history, astrological stock market formulas and reincarnations of ancient Sumerian shapeshifters as soon as I putter into town. I’m down for it.
It just strikes me as strange that the life a man has lived, loved, and grown accustomed to for decades can be stripped from him and placed on the back burner for a woman that doesn’t care to understand much of what he’s ever really stood for. If its not what we want why do we fight for it? Are we biologically wired to fight for the right to be tamed? The temperature in the house is a few degrees too cold. The oatmeals a little too watery. Is turning into a wool sweater clad house cat on a leash part of the organic progression from boy to man? We subconsciously know what we’re getting into while we’re following that deep subtle longing that comes before and is blurred by the initial high from the prize of the catch. We know its gonna root us to one spot and we’re drawn to it even though its our biggest rational fear.
I’ve seen Scandinavia as a microcosm of the taming effect comfort has on our spirits. I don’t mean to paint it as something negative necessarily, and i’m also only aware of it because of its effect on me personally. Some of the wildest dudes i grew up with are now some of the most laid back dudes i know. They glorified independence and making their own rules, being free and having to answer to the fewest number of people possible. But when we have that freedom we seem to be in a constant scramble, fighting to attain the one thing that most times ultimately seals our position as stuck.