Nothing is random, or everything is

“That’s random,” a phrase I hear with some regularity (more than, say, “Your pain is a glorious pink”), has made me feel suddenly lonely, and not even hearing it spoken, but simply remembering hearing it earlier today. Why it was spoken is not interesting, and it carried the usual slang meaning: “I cannot immediately understand that and am not likely to spend time doing so publicly.” At the time, I simply cringed, as I usually do when presented with a conspicuously banal catch phrase, but 6 hours later, sitting down to write, it struck me what a total rejection of the very idea of curiosity the phrase is, how much it is a tool for conscripting others to your idea of what is to be rejected and excluded from experience. It is similar in flavor to the term “inappropriate,” generally invoked for the same reason, or lack of a reason: you are not behaving according to my poorly though-out laws of propriety, but by invoking the mystical talisman “inappropriate,” I can castigate you and your behavior without the need for comprehension. Yay! I don’t know if people are less able to converse with their neighbors in any meaningful way than they were in the past, as Robert Putnam maintains, but it does seem that people try to overcome their loneliness by overpowering others, be it by yelling or asserting authority (and propriety) in some way, more than they used to. I have no data to support that, however, so I responded to feeling lonely in one of the many ways I have developed to deal with 物の哀れ: I picked a number (27), then started counting at the top book of a bookshelf till I got to the 27th book and flipped it open. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The first time, I chose Anne Rice’s “Witching Hour,” a book I disliked so much I couldn’t even finish it. So I skipped to the next one on the shelf,  American Poetry of the 19th Century, and flipped open to the lyrics of the folk ballad, “Have to Walk That Lonesome Valley Alone”:

No shit, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

339) Hugh Cornwell: New Songs For King Kong (ok, this is out of order, but I just bought it at the gig where Cornwell played many solo songs and many Stranglers songs, including all of Rattus. I dig his solo stuff, it’s not as tensely weird as the Stranglers, but it still has the nihilistic surrealism going on, and the band is fiercely tight). 340) Jerry Jeff Walker: Great Gonzos (always felt bad for that dog). 341) The Trebunia Family Band: Music From the Tatra Mountains (Hot damn, feel like dancing on a dirt floor). 342) Charlatans UK: Some Friendly (extra formulaic). 343) John Prine: Fair and Square (a few great songs, a few clunkers, nothing classic, save a hot cover of “Bear Creek Blues”)