Saturday, April 20, 2013

10,000 times: The Quest Slowly Takes Shape.

What is amazing to me is that now, two weeks or so into this quest, I still do not know the roughly sixteen words to this song.

[16 times ] 1 going to get molk

That should read going to get milk, but I am keeping track of how often I listen to this song on a notepad on my phone and it's not always easy to type notes into a phone while running after Mr F and trying to retrieve Mr Bunches' cup of milk from the office.

I didn't, when I first started this quest, give much thought to actually how I was going to achieve it, and so time 16 came just after I wrote the first installment: I was at the office, with the boys, and we finished up our other stuff and went down to the car to leave for the day.  I put The Song on on my phone, and then Mr Bunches said

"I forgot my milk,"

which is trouble, I know, because if he remembered it he's not going to give up on it.  I tried to convince him to give up on it anyway.  It might not seem like a big deal to go back up to the office and grab his cup of milk, but it is, because I can't leave them in the car while I go do that.  It's only 30 seconds, tops, but you know in that thirty seconds something terrible is going to happen.  They will get abducted.  Or they will put the car into gear and it will, improbably, role out of the parking lot down the street, take a right, then a left, and then another left and end up on the highway where an 18-wheeler will run them over.  Or they will get hit by a stray comet which will land directly on the car, and even though I will say to people, for the rest of my life, "Look, it wasn't bad parenting that made the comet strike right then and there while they were in the car," they will judge me.

But getting the boys back out of the car means unbuckling Mr F's safety vest-and-bungee cord contraption and getting them to go back into the building and get the milk where it's sitting on my desk and then convincing them that this was it, that we're now leaving again immediately, and Mr F doesn't always understand things like that, which is how I ended up chasing him down the stairs of the office while holding a milk and a phone still playing The Song.

[30 times ] 14 to mcdonalds

That escalated quickly! As I said, I hadn't given any thought yet to how I was going to do the quest, so I kept playing the song over and over as I asked the boys where they wanted to go that day, and they chose "Rocket McDonald's," a McDonald's near us where there is a playland that has a vaguely-rocket-esque tower leading into it.  So we began driving there, a 10-minute drive, and as we arrived there, Mr Bunches announced that he wanted to go instead to "Big Jet" McDonald's, a completely different McDonald's where the playland has (say it with me) a big jet in it.

(The Big Jet is not so big, but it resembles Big Jet, the bad guy from the Little Einsteins television series, and since every McDonald's playland needs a separate name, this one is the Big Jet McDonald's.  There is also, as I said, Rocket McDonald's, Big Slide McDonald's, Farm McDonald's [to get to it you drive past farms] and Krabby Patties, which is the McDonald's nearest our house.)

Big Jet McDonald's is 20 minutes from Rocket McDonald's, which meant a 30 minute total drive, which meant I was correct again that no matter where you start from and where you end up, driving from one place to the other in Madison, Wisconsin, takes 30 minutes.

[ 31 times ] 1 dishes sweetie hates it

It was about at time 31, that first night, as I was doing the dishes (i.e. stacking them in the machine that does 50% of the work.  What society needs is a dishwasherandputterawayer.  I am still willing to do the dishstackinginthemachine) that I began trying to figure out what I was really doing with this quest, and also that I learned that Sweetie absolutely hates this song.

Which I don't understand.  How can anyone hate this song? I can understand not caring for it very much, although it has come to be like a friend to me -- not a close friend, mind you, as I hate people, including songs that begin to seem somehow like people -- but I can't understand hating it.  There's not enough to it to hate it.  It's, as I said, something like sixteen words and the same kind of background chord over and over again and it doesn't even mean anything...

...or does it?

...but this is not about that.  This is about how I am going to proceed on this quest, whether I will give it shape and structure or let it shape and structure me. I only bring it up to point out that, like any good quest, there are obstacles and foes to overcome, and at the outset one of my foes became known to me:  Sweetie, Who Hates This Song.  As I am attempting to listen to the same song, The Song, 10,000 times in my life, I will have an implacable adversary who will seek to thwart me at every turn.  Or at least one who will discourage me from repeatedly playing this song over and over.

[32 times ] 1 from Mr bunches Sunday

But I will have friends on that quest, as well, tiny Gandalfs to help me out at odd times, such as what happened immediately after I played the song while cleaning up, prompting Sweetie to say she hated it: Mr Bunches played it again!  He is on my side.

[36 times ] 4 As I wrote a review on amaxon

That should say Amazon.  Again: typing on a phone, which still beats my handwriting.  (This week, I left a note for Sweetie to pick up groceries so I could make taco salad tonight.  She came to me and said "Why do I need thumbs?"  I answered: "So you can grasp and pick things up," but she showed me the list and I had to correct her.  It wasn't thumbs, it was tomatoes.)

I went and bought The Song that night.  I figured if I was going to be serious about the quest, I ought to at least invest $0.99 in it, and so I did.  I listened to it four times while I wrote my review of it.  Then I went to bed.  YES, AT NINE O'CLOCK ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.

But I had listened to the song 0.36% of the necessary times1

[43 times ] 7 jumping gas warming up and jogging

That should read "pumping gas." I will probably stop correcting these as I go on, because you'll get the point.

I went to work out the next morning, and had to stop for gas, and that helped me get a good jump on the day, and on the quest. Here it was, only about 24 hours into it and I was averaging nearly 2 times per hour, which, as I calculated it that morning, meant that it would only take 5,000 hours to finish, or 208 days.

It was while I was jogging that I really began to think about the two things that are the main points of this entry: One, should I try to do this as fast as possible?  Listen to a song 10,000 times as quickly as I possibly could?

Or should I set a time limit and listen to it in that time, if I could.  Like, say, a year.  I would have to listen to the song 27.39726027 times per day to listen to it 10,000 times in a single year, and while getting to 10,000 as fast as possible had its appeal, doing things for a year is kind of the way weird things like this are done.  As I've pointed out before, doing things for a weird length of time is somewhat suspect.  Nobody does things for "7.3 months" or anything.  As a society, we've decided that whatever you do-- cook Julia Childs' recipes while you cheat on your husband, for example -- if you do it for a year, it has literary merit. I'd kind of like to have literary merit. I wonder what that's like.

Then I wondered if I should instead try to make The Song have meaning.  There are songs in my life that have meaning, for one reason or another.  Some of them are silly songs, like "If I Had A Million Dollars," which I like now mainly because Sweetie and I sang it a lot on our honeymoon, together. (I liked it a little before but I like it a lot, now), and there are songs in my life that are not silly and have meaning, like "True Companion," which I played for Sweetie on guitar when we first began dating and then we made it our wedding song.

The Song seems as though it could not possibly have any meaning, ever, but what if I tried to give it meaning?

[ 47 times ] 4 cleanup Sunday night

Which wasn't going to happen if I listened to it exclusively during household chores, I know.

[48 times ] 1 Monday morning

The other thing about The Song is that even though it has super-simple lyrics, I cannot get them right.  Take the first line, for example.

The real first line is

"I got this feeling on a summer day when you were gone."

but what I have begun singing, for no reason whatsoever that I can tell is this:

"I got this feeling on a summer day when you were born."

That probably means something, and perhaps that is one of the things that will be uncovered on this quest: deeper hidden truths about me that I was never going to learn until I embarked on a spiritual journey, and is any journey more spiritual than one that literally takes me nowhere, physically?

You know, by the way: in all the quests I can think of the only one in which the hero learned nothing about himself, I think, is Star Wars.  YES I KNOW Luke became a Jedi, but that isn't really a spiritual journey the way I'm thinking of it because while he learned about The Force at the outset of his quest and then mastered it...

...hey, how come Luke had never heard of The Force in all his time growing up? Wasn't it a pretty recognized religion what with the Jedi having existed for all eternity and only having disapppeared for the last 20 years or so when Star Wars begins? If the Pope and all evidence of Catholicism were to disappear today, in 20 years I suppose it's possible some kid just born right now today might say "Catholicism? What's that?" but then, The Force in Star Wars still exists, even if some people (Han Solo, that guy on the Death Star who got choked) don't respect it.

[55 times ] 7 times at work including stays comment 4\8

During the day, Monday, still undecided about how to go about this quest, I listened to the song over and over for a while, prompting our office manager to mention that the song really stays in your head, and that her daughter liked the song.

"You must really like this song," she said.

"I'm trying to listen to it 10,000 times in my lifetime," I told her.

[57 times ] 2 waiting at post office 4\8

I have, not counting this blog, told four people so far about this quest: Sweetie, my office manager, and two other people I work with who had heard me playing the song.

Sweetie simply shrugged and, no doubt, thought "So this is what I married," but she knew what she was in for.  It's not like I was a total stranger.

The other three laughed and walked away, refusing to engage me.  That is probably how all other quests started out, with maybe the exception of Bilbo Baggins, which started out inauspiciously as he was running late, the way I remember it.

[58 times ] 1 playing zombies Tuesday night while Mr F goes to the bathroom.

I also inadvertently, or by duress, started another quest about this same time, or maybe two.  One of the Maybequests is the continued effort to get Mr F to go to the bathroom, which is progressing but slowly, and was slowed further this week when we had Oldest Daughter attempt to babysit on Saturday for a while so Sweetie and I could go on a date, but Oldest lost control of Mr F a bit, and had to call us home on short notice -- 15 minutes-- the reason for the shortness being that Mr F had started going poop but then stopped going poop and then had decided to get really messy and try to leave the bathroom, which Oldest should've been able to handle, but she didn't, so we called the date short and went back home to help out, and that incident caused Mr F to be distrustful of pooping, and so all week long he was sort of off-kilter about it.

The other new quest was to recomplete Plants vs. Zombies, the only video game I've ever beat, because after I beat it and could go to any level I wanted, which meant that Mr Bunches could play Zombie Bowling whenever he wanted, my Kindle broke and I had to replace it and that meant redownloading the game and that meant I had to rebeat it all over again, and so I started doing that because Mr Bunches really wanted to play Zombie Bowling, and he was sad.

[ 61 times ] 3 at the star of each mile jogging 4/10

On Wednesday, for my other jogging -- right now, I jog two times a week, on Wednesday mornings and then once on the weekend -- I decided to try the "symbolic" version of The Song, playing it at times that it might start to mean something to me.  My jogging routine currently is to go three miles.  The first two miles I run two laps and then walk one, and I finish by jogging the third mile without a break.  So I played The Song at the start of each  mile, and it seemed like maybe that was a thing.

[63 times ] 2 times drive to work Wednesday

I haven't yet gotten sick The Song either, and one of the things I realized about it is that it's possible, and even maybe desirable, to listen to The Song more than one time in a row.  The structure of The Song is such that it never really seems to end: It just cuts off, abruptly, which means if you play it twice, or thrice, or quadrice, in a row, it doesn't seem to be four times, it seems to be a longer version of The same Song.

It was also at about this point that I realized that there are only two verses to The Song.  I know, I should've come to that conclusion before, but I was only just beginning to actually listen to The Song, and decide if there was a deeper meaning I could parse out of it.

[64 times] Going thru inbox 4/10

You need something to do while checking emails, right?

Granted, The Song is short on words, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a lot of meaning, right? Or that it could have a lot of meaning, since as I've said before, too, Everything Is Symbolic Of Everything.

[66 times ] 2 times writing a letter to a lawyer for 11

That's 4/11, so we're up to the next day now, Thursday, and as you can see my average-per-day is something less than 27 times.  But I hadn't, and haven't, still, made up my mind if I'm trying to do this in one year or the Shortest Possible Time or organically, as it were, just listening to it when I feel like it and seeing how long that takes me to get to 10,000 times.  There are merits to each.

[65 times ] On the way to wedding

I played it for me and the boys as we drove to Middle's Merry-Go-Round wedding.  That would be a Symbolic Play,  I suppose, although I didn't think of it that way.  I just wanted to hear the song, and I hadn't listened to it in a while, by that time -- this was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon and I hadn't listened to The Song in nearly twenty-four hours, which is not good no matter how I shape up this quest.

[68 times ] 3 working out sat 4/13

I should note that despite my trying to decide how best to shape up this whole thing, this quest, that I'm not trying to give it meaning.  In fact, I decided all the way back at the start that one of the points of this is that it would mean absolutely nothing, that it wouldn't matter in the long run whether I achieved it or not.  I'm not raising money for this or trying to draw attention to someone or something (other than to myself, for doing this, I suppose) or trying to find a cure or protest anything.

This means nothing, which, ironically (?) may mean that it means not nothing.  If the point of doing a thing is to not be doing a thing, period, then hasn't that logic eaten itself, or turned itself inside out?

Can something ever be nothing? Can nothing become something?

These are the questions that suddenly I am tackling.

[72 times ] 4 Making pancakes 4/14

But also there are pancakes to be made.

[74 times ] 2 writing a letter 4/15

That is a letter for work. I don't write letters outside of work.  At best, I will write an email to someone outside of work, although I don't really do that because I don't like people and try not to communicate with them directly unless forced to.

Yesterday, I pointed out something to a guy I work with, though.  Another guy we both work with had said "I have so many unread emails in my box," and he laughed.

I pointed out how odd that was.  "If I had a box of unopened mail, sitting on my desk, and laughed about it," I said, "Everyone would be horrified," and then went on to note that we treat emails differently, apparently simply because of the ease with which they can be read or not, deleted or not.

Once, I heard that congresspeople don't care if you call them to complain.  They care if you write them to complain, because writing a letter (back then, in the Olden Days of the 1980s) was harder to do. You had to find paper and sit down and write it out and get an envelope and get a stamp and address it and mail it, all kind of a task back then, whereas to call someone the most onerous part was if you  had one of those rotary-dial phones, which were rare.

That kind of thinking has continued: the ease of communication affects the seriousness of the communication. If I want to seem serious but get the message there fast, I type a letter, print it on letterhead, sign it, scan it into my computer, then email it as an attachment to the person I want to get the serious letter.

Does that make it more serious?

I think so. I think that the extra effort that went into that obviously means I am serious about this, that the fact that I would go to that much extra trouble means that I really wanted this noticed.

Which makes you think: if the medium kind of is the message, and if e-communications are becoming more ephemeral all the time, are we moving to a time when we will again use parchment and sealing wax and fancy calligraphy on the important papers?

There are electronic insurance cards, now, which are easier, I think, to fake than a "real" insurance card, and "real" is becoming less "real" all the time.  What does it mean for something to be real, now?

Is this post real?

It's real, in a sense that it exists, but if I had mailed it to you on a piece of paper I bet that question wouldn't have been so hard.

It's now, as I write this, April 20.  I haven't actually listened to The Song in the past five days, something I realized but hadn't done anything about in that five days.  I was about to say I hadn't done anything for "a variety of reasons" but actually there is no reason I haven't listened to The Song in that time.  It's not as though I did or did not make a deliberate decision to not listen to it.  I just didn't listen to it.  And although I did misplace my iPod for two days, that wasn't a factor at all, as I have access to The Song through the Internet at any time.

I haven't yet made up my mind how this quest is going to go.  But it's interesting to me to see how it goes, anyway.

For example, during the entire time I wrote this post, I didn't listen to The Song at all.  I wrote it in almost absolute silence, which is something I almost never do.


Andrew Leon said...

My wife does not like "True Companion." She doesn't like Marc Cohn. It makes me sad.

There was a park when I was a kid, Betty Virginia park, that had a tall rocket ship slide. Above the slide, it had levels you could climb up into. Unfortunately, it was too far away to walk to, so it was one of those "special occasion" parks.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, and "jumping gas" sounds like a personal problem. Maybe you should see a doctor about that? Except he'd tell you it was a heart attack.

Andrew Leon said...

Luke did learn some things. He learned a lot of things, actually. Most importantly, he learned that even he could become evil (the Cave) and "size matters not."

Briane P said...

I learned something today. I feel as though I've grown as a person.

Andrew Leon said...

But can you use a lightsaber? Because, if you can't, what does it matter?

How far in Spinner are you?

Briane P said...

You've got me there. My lightsaber skills are lacking. Or should that be "lightsaber skillz," to make me seem cool to the kids?