There is a certain pleasure that comes with hunt-and-peck typing. For someone like me this is hard to admit since I can bang out sentences in qwerty faster than I could write or at least knock out in longhand that I might be able to interpret tomorrow. My longhand has deteriorated steadily since 5th grade, and my cursive devolved into a mixture of printed letters and curlicues that paid experts would be unable to decipher in Federal Court. And with my introduction to the typewriter, anything I scratched out today with a pencil just goes straight to runic inscrutability.
Hunt-and-peck forces you to slow down a bit. In this way it’s a bit like writing in longhand — the effort to compose is knocked back a smidge by searching for keys that your 10 digits know well but your thumbs need to coordinate with your eyes and poke upon. Eventually, if not already, there will be novels whacked out by thumbs. I imagine the plasticity involved in human brain evolution has already yielded an entire generation of thumbsters whose attention spans have adapted to the digital syncopation. I still fight with spell check and those damn algorithms always guessing at my next word choice. I know which ones I want, thank you very much.
Anyway, slowing down some means considering the words on the page, screen actually, and what might follow them. And typing with thumbs makes it a bit more difficult to edit, something that’s easy enough when you can see a window of type and rely on your every god-given digit. But reducing the entry points from 10 to two — well Proust would have gone bananas. Poor Willy Faulkner and Jimmy Joyce would have gone for whiskey, rum cake, and Irish coffee. And we’d be out an awful lot of incredible sentences. But those fellas wrote in longhand. Joyce would spend a day looking for a single word. Really.
So now at night, before the TV programming that leaves me bored and listless, I pick up my iPhone and poke out some words. A handful that I can save and mail to myself and then embellish on a keyboard that spans the width of my hands, rendering posts such as this. Don’t get me wrong, I love my opposable thumbs, but at heart I am an equal opportunity deployer.
©2017 John Hofmeister. Find more posts at jhofmeister.com/musings.
What is left to me? Having turned 65 I have to be realistic. My mom died at 76, my father at 80. So by all accounts I have some hope of landing in the middle. But then I have done all the things baby boomers do to stave off the inevitable and have gone to great extremes to defy gravity, the pursing of skin, the drooping of muscle. I took up cycling about 10 years ago. Mostly because I was sick of buying bigger pants with each passing season. That and harboring a fear that I’d get fat like guys who love beer generally do. An old friend once told me, yeah, after 35 you put on a pound a year and then you die. I didn’t weigh myself at 35. Maybe it’s buried in the medical records the insurance companies are using as I write to screw me out of benefits. I have a light frame and my BMI is iffy, but no one who knows me would call me overweight. But insurance companies don’t give much credence to how you look. They have charts and calculations, all designed to chart ways to screw you. Luckily I’m on Medicare so their best efforts to screw me and take my money will be somewhat limited.
We all approach our end times differently and alike in our own ways. An atheist by discernment, I have no hope of an afterlife. Not that I wouldn’t want one but the ones I’m familiar with are either too vague to be desired or too boring to be endured. Eternal happiness seems on the surface a great thing, but hey, it’s our nature to get bored with repetition. And praying forever is as close to having a stick in my eye for eternity as I can imagine. The other thing I wonder about is the prospect of experiencing the world without a body. Not that I love my body, but it’s all I’ve got. It’s gotten used to eating and drinking and sweating and shaving and bathing and seeing and hearing and touching. These are all things that having a body makes possible. Of course, having a body also makes it possible to get burned or develop stage 4 cancer or starve or get poison ivy. It’s the trade-off that comes with being a human being. Life without a body would be something else altogether. It might be freaking awesome. But it might be a bad acid trip, too. Who’s to say? I am (or was) close to several souls who have passed to the other side. My mom, some close friends, my only brother. None of them have contacted me about what awaits at the next station. I sort of think that they’d try to let me know about what I might do while alive to make my time in the great hereafter happier, or at least less horrifying. But like most of us who aren’t talking with any regularity with the dead, I haven’t heard from any of them.
The fear of oblivion drives a great deal of belief I’m sure. But for me, oblivion is a return to where I was before I arrived — before I was suited up with DNA and muscle and bone and fiber. I have no more fear of where I am going than of where I once was. So, what keeps you from being a wicked soul who would rape, pillage, and murder, you ask? A fair question I suppose. But it belies the simple human understanding that most of us wish to be treated as we would be treated. With kindness. With sympathy. With compassion. These aren’t hard things to understand. And you can sew them into all sorts of religious dictates as your religion requires. But in the end, we wish to be treated as we would have others treat us. And for the aberrant souls, the sociopaths with damaged lives and sickly DNA sequences, they will always be among us. Life is not fair but random. Life is all we have. The unfolding mystery of being stretches out before us. What we make of our time is ours to shape and own and accept or reject as our souls require.
©2017 John Hofmeister
An essay on innocence, human sexuality, and language.In a galaxy far, far away, I was an altar boy serving in the great pageant known as the Latin mass. As such, I delivered with duty and precision responses to a priest whose recitation seemed no more perfunctory and credible than my own. I was doing what I was trained to do. Whether he did so by training or belief I can never know. Everything back then was a mystery to me. But none more so than the onset of puberty in a world where puberty was something that required repression at worst and discomfited acceptance at best.
At the time, my understanding of sexuality was unusually meagre and late to arrive, in part because I was encouraged to believe that sexuality was nothing more than something to be endured rather than embraced. My own delay in biological development explains my protracted understanding of my own body and its wants. I didn’t understand much about sex until well after all my friends did. This is politely known as late blooming. For everyone I ran with at the time, it was known as retarded.
As an example, the first dirty joke I heard — and which left me mystified — went like this (and which I heard a few decades before politically correct was even a thing): What did the retard get when he jacked off? The answer: Crazy Foam. Upon hearing the punch line I was perplexed. What could this possibly mean? I heard this joke well before my introduction to adolescent masturbation and so was clueless. Upon witnessing my confusion, one friend said, oh Hofmeister, you’re such a dope. Don’t you get it? I didn’t and wouldn’t for a while. This memory calls to mind my aunt who was a nun and who on occasion visited us. She was, much to me and my brother’s amusement, aghast at our using expressions like “queer.” This was yet another failure to understand what words mean, something which children do all the time. I knew that nigger was a bad word, but queer just meant odd. But I digress.
Whether my intellectual delay was a reflection of my late physical maturity or the incredibly repressive and overarching reach of my religious upbringing is hard to say. I only know that as a boy of 13 in 1965, the world of human sexuality was about as close to me as the surface of Mars. It was one which my younger brother knew nothing of either — being a place we had never visited nor knew anything about, the place that connected our young bodies to the rush of desire that awaited us. But knowledge would come of course since not even the Catholic Church could ever hope to circumvent human evolution and the indefatigable needs of boys in full.
So it is that I come to the title of this essay — “And Then You Blow?”
At some point in my sexual education, I came to know what blow jobs were, although I wasn’t aware of their widespread occurrence, but was pretty certain that my pals who knew about them probably weren’t getting them. At least not as often as they talked about them. It was at this time that I was bringing my younger brother up to speed about blow jobs. Jimmy, two years my junior, was a good soul who generally exited the confessional booth worried, afraid, and flushed, having done nothing more than admit to lying to our Dad about something that would result in the good whack to the back of the head.
Explaining a blow job to the unenlightened, let alone someone who hasn’t a clue why a guy might want one, can be problematic to say the least. I opted for the simple description of the act, leaving aside why guys so loved and wanted them. Jim listened intently, taking in this information dutifully as one learns how to bait a hook or get out of walking the dog after dinner. Anyway, he responded to my description as anyone might who is conversant with English — and with what words actually mean — by asking, “And then you blow?”
I don’t recall if I burst out laughing or just smiled and said, no, no, you don’t blow, really. You don’t actually blow, maybe suck would be a better way to describe it.
So, he asked in so many words, why are they are called blow jobs and not suck jobs. I didn’t know. At the time, I didn’t think it mattered. I mean, why do we call getting fucked, getting fucked, when getting fucked is often something we want and something we don’t want depending on the circumstances? Nuance. Language is full of it.
Jim would survive his innocence As would I. And if you care to learn more about why blow jobs came to be called blow jobs, checkthis out. And if this story gives you a sense of why and how our understanding of human sexuality has changed in the last 60 years, all the better.
©2017 John Hofmeister.
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me. Quite of bit of satire, a genre that has become increasingly difficult to work in since reality has become such a farce.