Bad Survivalist: Andrew Farkas
The Great Indoorsman
PART THE SECOND
From A Philosophy of the Indoors—Where I Lived, and What I Lived for: I went to the Indoors because, like Henry David Thoreau, I wished to live deliberately, I wished to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived, but … well, I found I wasn’t exactly cut out for that sort of deal, see, it didn’t really agree with me, so to speak, sounding rather Romantic and bombastic, like it’d take a heartier constitution than I have (the right hombre for the role being several orders of magnitude manlier than me), and require a whole lot more patience, the Spartan life leading to, like, watching ants fight it out and what have you, so I figured the unsucked marrow of life, sure, it’d be just fine encased in the bones of whatever larger being this metaphor is referring to, while in the meantime I’d master resignation, not in a broken and defeated way, not in a fatalistic way, but more in the Falstaffian way of being gloriously resigned to the pleasures and experiences which suit me, those being the modulated wantonness and controlled chaos of the In-of-Doors, where we’re not so concerned with reducing life to its lowest terms because that sounds like roughing it and, I mean, are you kidding me? not a chance, so, instead, here we let the burgeoning human world cut a fairly broad swath through our psyches (never shaving so close as to be intimidating, though), here we admire the Beautiful On-Purpose knowing it’ll never drive us out of our comfort zones and into a corner, forcing us to act (as the out-of-doors most certainly would at some point), and here we finally put to rout the idea that there’s something wrong with living inside, with its temperature control, and comfortable furniture, and lack of rampaging predators or slithering sacs of neurotoxin or airborne stinging pests, for most folks, it appears to me, think of the Indoors not as a habitat constructed lovingly for them, but as some sort of necessary evil that, truth be told, given our collective druthers (whoever stole them in the first damned place), we’d happily escape from, we’d “get away from it all,” as they say, but, really, to where at would we go? I’m thinking it’d just be another space Indoors.
An excerpt from A Guide to the Indoors—Shopping: The Gallery Furniture cafeteria was almost empty. A ray of sunlight slanting through a gigantic window fell yellow on tables that needed busing, recently occupied by a horde of children and their spunky parents. It was a remarkably lonesome moment. Raucous music roared from the 450” telescreen.
Uncalled, a memory floated into my mind of a plush family room where me and my friends celebrate our New Year’s Eve tradition, Bad Movie Night, everyone bringing one entertainingly lousy film, everyone joyously mocking. The trip to Gallery Furniture had been taken in the same vein, the store even mimicking one particular flick quite well: John Carpenter’s They Live (1988), since pasted everywhere were slogans in black letters on white paper espousing capitalistic success via hard work and determination, espousing obnoxious forms of patriotism, espousing eye-rolling and groan-inducing Christian morality, but unlike in the film, these slogans were not subliminal, not hidden by alien technology, no, they were unabashedly on display, including, inexplicably, “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” from Friedrich Nietzsche! Although completely out of place on the walls, Nietzsche would’ve fit in with us as we lampooned the Gallery Furniture coat of arms (which contained both a silhouette of the state of Texas and also the word “Texas” inside the silhouette to further establish the silhouette of Texas was indeed Texas and not some impostor state); the fact that this furniture store for some reason had shrines to Elvis and Princess Diana; the fact that this furniture store had a tennis machine with court and a medieval castle playground; the fact that it not only had a theatre marquee (Coming Soon! Chairs!) and a Vegas style sign, but was also as disorienting to walk through as any casino; the fact that the 450” TV obviously wasn’t enough, so televisions were mounted absolutely everywhere, many of which were playing Gallery Furniture commercials inexorably demanding how delighted you’d be if you came to Gallery Furniture (no mention of what if you’re already on site, begging the question: is there a higher plane Gallery Furniture? a mystical Gallery Furniture? is the vision of Gallery Furniture that I see your vision’s greatest enemy?); the fact that cameras cover every square inch of this emporium, apparently fully embracing any dystopian vision you might have for the place; the fact that if you made a purchase, you received a red, white, and blue basketball completely covered with Gallery Furniture logos, so that you’d have an unimpeded view of that logo no matter how you held the ball; the fact that international flags pervaded, making us think Mattress Mack believes each of those countries is located in his store, which’d make sense, seeing as how his book, Always Think Big, might indicate the world’s population will soon live under one banner: Gallery Furniture’s; the fact that this wasn’t really a furniture store at all, but a theme park dedicated to the outrageous, absurd, and insufferable spirit of this state, typified by Lone Star beer’s ad slogan: “The National Beer of Texas” (italics mine).
But the lesson of Bad Movie Night is that whereas lampooning makes some of the films barely endurable, others come alive, and like their poorly constructed monsters, suck you inside, make you thankful they are the way they are, no matter how ludicrous, because you get to interact with them, you get to jeer at them, though your irony, your vitriol can never raise you above this travesty (so you can look down on it), can never truly get you outside of the thing itself.
But why would The Great Indoorsman want to be outside?
What has the outside ever done for him?
The Great Indoorsman gazed up at the gargantuan telescreen where Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale was speaking rapidly, bopping and juking, about to leap from the two-dimensional world into the store. Forty minutes it had taken to understand the fuck?! I mean, really? Forty minutes. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the Texas-sized breast! Two Coca-Cola brand scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. As the commercials relentlessly foretold, he was delighted, so extremely delighted, there are no small emotions here, intensely, terrifyingly delighted. Because he loved Gallery Furniture. And he knew Mattress Mack was going to save him money. TODAY!
A fragment of The Indoorsiad, or The Epic of The Great Indoorsman—His Education: Now the word of the Lord, or at least of St. Eugene’s Church, came unto me, saying something along the lines of, “Arise, go to Mohican State Park, and commune with nature and your fellow adolescent parishioners, for your slothful wickedness brought on by the Nintendo and the television is repugnant to me.” And although I was already well on the path to apostasy, a path my father had taken up long ago after being labeled a heretic by his grade school priest, after earning the report card assessment, not recommended to continue parochial education, and although I would’ve preferred to redirect this excursion to the waterslide park at Dover Lake, since exercise and sun and interaction with other teenagers could be obtained there, a place made of cement and plastic and metal and rubber and maybe like canvas and terrycloth, a place full of clean, chlorinated water, a place completely lacking in animals, a place not so mired in the out-of-doors, yes, in spite of all of this I chose to heed the call and go canoeing. Plus, I tried to convince myself, it’ll be fun.
And so, instead of fleeing into the basement as I should have, where Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy II and Simon’s Quest and NHLPA Hockey and other like entertainments awaited me, or alternatively where Australian Rules Football on ESPN and music videos on MTV and David Letterman reruns on A&E and other such diversions could be enjoyed, I went down to the end of my driveway and found there a minivan going to the general vicinity of Loudonville, which is close to Mansfield (as the crow, omen of death, flies), Mansfield itself a part of the vacuum that yawns between the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area and the vast sprawl of Columbus, evidenced by the fact that our forebears chose to place a penitentiary in that, I guess, “city.” Nobody lives there, so why not a prison?
Then, after a journey of six and eighty minutes, not one of which was spent by me thinking on the fact that I knew nothing about canoeing at all, that I’d never exhibited a single skill in anything outdoorsy, that I’d left the Cub Scouts with no plans whatsoever to join the Boy Scouts, we arrived at Mohican Adventures, where we found boats aplenty for to deliver us to our ruin; so the adults paid the fare thereof, split us into crews of three, and launched us into the river. Have fun now!
There was that word again: fun.
Later, my education gave unto me a vision of Australia, where can be found, within or surrounding, all of the most venomous snakes and spiders and Muppet-like creatures (the platypus) and octopi and snails and Portuguese men-o-war (justifiably called “floating terrors”) and fish and insects (be they innumerable) and jellyfish (some of which are immortal); so too can be found sharks (in unfathomable varieties) and crocodiles and dingoes and seemingly adorable creatures that, given but half a chance, will fuck you up (koalas and kangaroos). And though nary a one of these beasts hails from the State of the Buckeye (Ohio be praised!), they do exist, and in my vision I was beset by every last one of them, a caucus having been held, a covenant reached, wherein the aforementioned signees agreed to go about their business as per usual, unless given the unlikely opportunity to sting and to bite and to fill with neurotoxins and myotoxins and hemotoxins and nephrotoxins The Great Indoorsman, and then to leave him alone so that he may experience dizziness and convulsions and necrosis and fever and cardiac distress and larynx swelling and difficulty breathing and anxiety and severe headache and backache and nausea and vomiting and diarrhea and paralysis and the glorious impending doom brought on by Irukandji syndrome, and then to be slowly devoured, leisurely devoured while still somehow sensate, now, my fellow horrors, don’t rush, enjoy yourselves, we’ve really been waiting for this, yes, should luck smile upon them, all of the terrifying monsters of the Land Down Under would work together in their ravagement of my person, but only once I reached an age when, it could be said, I should conceivably know better than to be anywhere near them. Thus their contract. But before the scales fell from my eyes, before my education was complete, I tried to convince myself, I tried to agree with the adults: this will be fun.
Fun it was not.
Andrew Farkas is the author of two short fiction collections, Sunsphere (BlazeVOX Books) and Self-Titled Debut (Subito Press), and a novel, The Big Red Herring (KERNPUNKT Press). He has been thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, including one Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XXXV and one Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013. He holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MFA from the University of Alabama, an MA from the University of Tennessee, and a BA from Kent State University. He is a fiction editor for The Collagist and an Assistant Professor of English at Washburn University. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.