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12/22/00 My Fantasy World
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11/19/00 Laundry in Public
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09/20/00 Land of the Jogger
07/30/00 Noisy Neighbors
07/14/00 Bulk-Shopping Madness
06/23/00 My Backpack

Fool on the Hill

It was one of those days when the psychobabble had grown so bad that I wanted to move out of my skull. I was working on a deadline on a Sunday on an empty stomach. I had a nervous feeling inside like I was missing the Superbowl. I couldn't concentrate on the work itself on account of the junk in my head: car payments, insurance, stock prices, the fact that my mother stopped weaning me too early. I wish our brain came with a volume knob so that we could just turn it down sometimes.

My wife came in to see how things were going, and I bit her head off. Well, I barked it off. I explained to her, in cursory tones, how my burden was heavier than that of normal humans and how I had real work. How dare she bother me with playtime chit-chat. When I saw the ache on her face, I realized that I had gone too far. I felt like I had kicked a kitten.

I had to get out. Hard as it was to break away from the clutches of Responsibility, I packed up my aggression and headed out. I drove to the outskirts of town and found a trail winding up a steep hill. How fortunate I was to have a refuge like this waiting for me whenever I needed it. Imagine the people downtown who never know quiet, just citybabble.

Climbing the hill, I transcended the misgivings that had gripped me minutes before. The dirt squished under my feet from recent rains. It was so...natural. The sage brushed me as I passed and scented my clothing. In time, the trees and shrubbery swallowed me from sight. The hills don't care about creditors or gossip or deadlines. They've seen it all come and go. They are, after all, as old as the hills. I couldn't see what was ahead, a welcome contrast from my daily planner.

I came upon a clearing in the brush and plunked down my backpack. What I found when I turned around was the most extraordinary view in the history of looking: my home town. At the risk of being kicked out of the Man Club, I admit that I let go a sigh. Everything was so small and enchanting. Like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood or the beginning of Poltergeist before people started ripping their faces off.

I saw an elementary school where soccer was happening. Once in a while, the referee's whistle would stop the action. I saw the shopping center where I could purchase food in lieu of hunting and gathering. I saw the quaint church where people distanced themselves from the gorillas. I saw two boys racing motorized cars from their driveway. Everything was peaceful in its distance.

My vision came full circle when I spotted the road that lead to my home. I followed it with my eyes until I recognized the tiny container where I live and the Matchbox car outside. Sitting on a mountain with rocks in my shoes and cattails in my hair, I had never felt so comfortable. So it goes.

Then I remembered my wife, whose face I had pained. I had become lost in the details of my daily grind and forgotten how dead I would be in a hundred years. This old rock wanted to cry. But I didn't, man, I just felt like I could, you know, if I wanted to.

I had gone from the verge of a breakdown to sublime revelation in 15 minutes. In climbing that hill, I had gained the most useful quality a human can have on his journey to the Final Deadline: perspective. From this height, I realized how small I was. The referee whistled again in the distance. Who was I to grumble and complain about my load-I live in paradise. While some children wonder the streets in search of their parents, I'm eating ice cream and watching the Oscars.

It was getting cold. I drew one last breath and took a snapshot of the neighborhood. Yes, perspective is everything. I began my descent to the "real world" determined to remember that life is too important to take seriously. One thing about to-do lists is that they'll never be to-done. The point is to make peace with the process.

That little hike was a blue chip investment. It's available to everyone, right there on the outskirts of town. Maybe you'll climb up there one day and see what I mean.

And to give you a Hollywood ending, I returned to my wife and confessed to being a fool.


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