Timelines Part 1: Timelessness
My admittedly modest everyday jewelry ensemble consists of:
• One yin-yang-motif earring I’ve owned since the late-’70s. It was given to me by the man who pierced my ear. No matter how hard he tried, the man, a friend to this day who had pieced the ears of several other chums over the years, could not force the stunningly unsterilized leather punch through my stubborn lobe, which was anesthetized only by the bottle of tequila I shared with the man who was trying with increasing might to puncture his way through a section of skin that was captivatingly close to my jugular vein. Eventually, in abject frustration, the man reared back with the leather punch and went through my lobe with a big enough follow-through that the momentum carried the sharp point all the way into my neck. Next morning, my memory was a tad hazy. When I looked into the mirror, the first thing I saw was a long streak of dried blood caked onto the side of my neck. The earring is rarely visible because of the normally shaggy state of my mane.
• A black jade necklace I bought in Guatemala in the early-’90s that sports a Mayan decoration supposedly representing my birth month (December), which might, for all I know, be a message to the Mayan gods to deny me a place in heaven after the resurrection dust settles after the Dec. 2012 apocalypse.
• Since I developed knuckle-swelling arthritis in my left ring finger a few years back, I have stopped wearing my silver wedding band — a Hopi-type-pattern story ring made by renowned Santo Domingo Pueblo artist Vidal Aragon — because I now have trouble getting it on and off.
• When I’m really stepping out, I sometimes wear a copper bracelet, which I bought at a local art shop.
• And that’s it on the personal adornment front … except for my watch.
I don’t think my watch — a basic Timex digital model procured for 40-something bucks at the Albuquerque REI — would even be considered jewelry in most fashion circles, especially given the tattered and soiled state of its Velcro wristband. It is nothing more than a tool that happens to be more visible than most tools.
The question is: Given my life, my lifestyle and where I live, why do I need this particular tool? Why do I even wear a watch? I mean, I could see it if I scurried through life as an investment banker-type in Manhattan, though, if I scurried through life as an investment banker-type in Manhattan, I would likely commit seppuku by day three and, thus, wouldn’t need a watch for long.
I live in the most-mañana’d part of the Land of Mañana. (Read: Those of us who dwell hereabouts can generally meet most of our space/time continuum-based needs and obligations well enough by eyeballing a calendar.) I work at home, in a room that boasts not one but two clocks — one integrated onto my computer screen and one whose main characteristic is its ability to unambiguously roust me from peaceful slumber at 0530 every day. Those are not the only clocks in the Casa de Fayhee. There are two in the kitchen, one on the microwave and one on the range. There’s yet another in the living room, glaring from the cable-TV interface. The guestroom has a clock. I keep one near my weight bench to help keep track of time between sets. Both our vehicles have clocks.
It’s not as though I have to search far and wide to accurately orient myself to Mountain Daylight Time.
My wife, who works in a dental office, does not have it quite so easy. Her 8-5 gig is measured in minute-by-minute increments. If time is lost early in the day, it resonates and multiplies till quitting time. Still, she does not wear a watch.
I, a man who controls his loose schedule almost absolutely, who rarely needs to be anywhere at a given time, do wear a watch, and I basically let that watch rule and run my life. In the summer, I generally hike as early in the morning as I can drag my lame carcass out into the woods. There is actually a practical reason for this scheduling effort: I abhor heat and, if I don’t make it onto the trail before morning’s blessed coolness dissipates, then I likely won’t. Yet, I always strive to get to the trailhead by 6:40 a.m., so I can change into my boots and begin hiking by 6:43 on the dot. If, for whatever reason, or combination of reasons, I don’t hit the trail till, say, 6:46, I get agitated and, well, behind. Late. While I certainly enjoy my time (fuck … there’s that damned word again … you can’t outrun time) in the woods, I am also out there to get the heart rate up. Ergo, I push it, both aerobically and anaerobically. I am a vigorous hiker. When I commit the unpardonable sin of not leaving till 6:46, I verily push myself to the point where it feels like my chest will explode trying to make up those three lost minutes. Why? It’s not like I have to be home by any certain … time.
Now, in my partial defense, I am one of those people who “move better” through life if my schedule is somewhat regimented (and that, admittedly, covers a lot of conceptual ground — everything from “accomplishing more in the way of work” to “getting more and better exercise” to “eating more healthfully” to “achieving more headway in our ongoing effort to make our abode more habitable”). It may seem counter-intuitive to the point of near-irony that someone who comes across in his writing as fundamentally chaotic requires, or at least benefits from, a modicum of regimen, but 1) it’s a lot easier to lead a loose life if your are reasonably tightly wrapped and 2) a lot of the autobiographical pandemonium I present in my writing, not surprisingly, is a result of self-invented-character fictionalization. In other words: Don’t believe everything you read.
Because of the need for total range of motion in all my aching joints, including wrists, when I interface with strength training (twice a week, three times a week in the winter, I embark upon a losing battle with a set of Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells, which is preceded by 15 minutes of dynamic stretching), I remove my watch. One day last week, after losing yet another battle with the weights, I left to take my dog down to the creek (at exactly 2 p.m., as always!) and did not realize till I was halfway to town that I had neglected to put my watch back on! I found myself not just watchless, which was bad enough, but timeless! I suddenly felt completely discombobulated. I literally considered turning around to fetch that damned digital tether.
Again, I stress that I was not exactly right then on my back floating in a sensory deprivation chamber. All I had to do was divert my eyes like 10 degrees and, right there above the CD player in my truck could be found a perfectly workable and mostly accurate clock, which I didn’t need anyhow, beings as there was no place I needed to be and no time I needed, or didn’t need, to get there.
Yet, try though I might to resist the temptation, once I realized I was watchless, my eyes kept darting down to that highly conspicuous non-suntanned band across my right wrist. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I castigated myself for doing so, I kept glancing down at the watch that was not there.
While sitting next to the creek, throwing sticks for my dog and nursing a cigar, once again, I could not help but look where my watch should have been. This, I should point out, despite the fact that I had with me my cell phone, which, of course, displays the time. Moreover, most of Silver City, including where I was then sitting, has the pleasure of being reminded every 30 minutes by the bell tower at the university library what time it is. Plus, again, I point out that 1) I knew before I left home what time it was and 2) I did not have to be anywhere anytime.
Part of my time focus surely comes from the fact that I abhor the concept and execution of tardiness, both on my part and on the part of others. Always have, always will. On the fetid fringes of Dixie, the place I say I am “from,” it was considered bad form to get too agitated about tardiness. People should all be given a courtesy 15 minutes was the operational concept. And that is understandable. After all, who knows, the person you’re scheduled to meet for a tennis date might have been pulled for drunk driving yet again or might have been waylaid by an emergency drug acquisition that would make the tennis more pleasant. Try though I might over the course of five-plus decades, I have never been able to cut people such tardiness slack, an assholey trait to be sure, but there you have it. I’ve even terminated friendships with people who are habitually tardy.
And neither is it a matter of being addicted to the technology. I am not a person, for example, who teeters off into near-terminal disorientation if I forget my cell phone. Matter of fact, I tend to happily leave my phone behind when I venture forth unless there is a compelling reason to have it with me.
No, when it comes to my watch/time fixation, something larger and far more sinister is at work. Somewhere along the developmental line, my otherwise-blissfully anarchistic mindset was inexplicably corrupted. And that corruption is not just social in nature. When I get up in the middle of the night to relieve myself, I can usually guess what time it is within a few minutes sans additional temporal clues, such as, say, the sun rising. Worse: I almost always make the effort to guess and smile when I am correct. On those rare instances when I am off, I feel like something’s sorely amiss in the universe.
I have a regrettable cigar habit, and, on an almost daily basis, I ponder some sort of strategy for giving up stogies. When I still lived in the Colorado High Country, it was easy, at least seasonally easy: Since I only smoke outside, out of courtesy to my wife, Mother Nature provided an annual smoking off season. Rarely did I ever light up when it was 25-below zero outside. I have no such climatic crutch in Gila Country, which makes eschewing my daily couple of Macanudo Ascots even more difficult. Still, I give the matter frequent considered thought.
Similarly, I ponder the notion of somehow trying to jettison my bad time habit. As I indicated earlier, I live in a place where, one would think, such an effort would be made easier solely via environmental influences, or lack thereof. And, as I indicated earlier, I rarely ever have to be anywhere on time. If I’m five minutes early or late for table tennis, it’s not like anyone is even going to notice, much less comment or judge. When I meet chums for beers, we rarely get more specific in our planning than “Happy Hour” or “tonight.” And that works out perfectly. Admittedly, there are times (damn that word!) that require more detailed punctuality, such as doctor appointments (though our local doctors do not generally stress themselves out when it comes to keeping their end of the appointment deal), airplane departures (ditto), court dates (ditto) and, more importantly, when backpacking trip shuttles are being organized and executed.
How does one quit, or at least cut back on, time? Far as I know, there’s no such thing as a time patch or time chewing gum or time methadone. And, if there were, New Mexico, with no additional effort save existing in status-quo fashion, would serve as a perfect poster child.
Whenever I rope someone into providing a food drop for one of my long backpacking trips, my wife tells them straight up: If I am not where I am supposed to be right exactly when I’m supposed to be there, go ahead and call search-and-rescue.
Hello, my name is John, and I am an addict. I drink too much beer, smoke too many cigars and twitch like I’ve been wired to an electric fence on those rare occasions when I forget my watch. I do not get up when the sun rises. I get up at 5:30 a.m. I am never late.
Please help me.
I’m not getting any younger.