[blue rare] Passable Machines: On the Durable Shabbiness of Being

[blue rare] Passable Machines: On the Durable Shabbiness of Being

There are seemingly countless ways in which I am imperfect.  I have never, for example, been much of one for structure or planning.  That whole left brain, linear thinking, attention-to-detail stuff has never come easily to me.  Also, I tend to be lazy and forgetful.  I go to bed too late, and I don’t function well until early afternoon.  And I’m never at my best past about 5 p.m.  I have tendency toward hedonism, am impulsive, frivolous, and careless with money.

Not surprisingly, these character traits have caused me some grief over the years.  But sometimes they provide obscure and unexpected benefits, as well.  The pleasure I take in idleness, for instance, has enriched my life with countless blissful hours that might otherwise have been wasted on climbing one ladder or another that would inevitably have led me to find myself in some place that I never wanted to be in the first place.  Instead of smoking weed on the beach or watching Italian horror films, I likely would have met a lot of people I didn’t want to meet, done a bunch of meaningless things, and talked a lot of shit.

For another example, I recently took a clobbering from a certain adorable little coronavirus, which left me with a protracted period of brain fog.  Fortunately, many years of daydreaming and woolly-headedness had prepared me for the feeling of semi-lucidity, otherwise I might have panicked.  As long as I am able to function well enough to fulfill certain requirements on my existential hierarchy of needs, such as operating a blender and ordering Indian takeaway, I know I will be fine.

I often like to think about all the ways I, you, and all of us together are imperfect.  There’s a line I love from a song by Doug and the Slugs (one of the greatest bands to ever hail from Vancouver) that goes “When it comes to the possible, I’m a passable machine”.  I take this to mean that we are all of us are flawed beings, but somehow we find a way to be good enough to get by.  I would take this a step further, and suggest that it is our flaws and our foibles—the regrets that haunt us, the scars we bear, the myriad ways we find to fuck up—that are frequently the most interesting, poetic, and, yes, human things about us.  We all are like cars that have traveled countless miles down rough and dangerous roads; we may have stalled a time or two, but we’re still rolling; the cracks in our windshields and chips in our paint jobs are badges of honour.

Amongst my many personal idiosyncrasies is a weird reluctance to part with—perhaps even a love for—objects that have been treasured but are worn out and broken.  A threadbare black pea coat from the 1980s, with mysterious stains from punk clubs and long-ago parties.  A pair of once-stylish, out-at-the-heel leather boots.  A comfortable-but-ugly armchair with squeaky, broken springs.  All those beautiful, battered things with stories of their own.