I don’t fall in love as often as I used to. When I was young, I ran into something new to love every time I turned around. Like Kurt Vonnegut, like fresh guacamole. Like sex with others, like Richard Dawkins.
Like deeelicious sentential ambiguity.
I find myself falling in love a lot less often at middle age. I need to be surprised, and it’s hard to do that to me anymore. Everything seems derivative. That’s bad, because though some of my old loves (like sex and guacamole) have staying power, most lose their luster with time. I’m still friends with some of my early loves, like David Hume and Tower of Power, but we don’t bump uglies as much as we used to. I need new meat, and I go years at a time without finding anything worth stalking.
But in 2009 alone, I fell for three very promising things: coconut red curry beef, Radiolab, and Tim Minchin.
I don’t like the fact that the things I love are finite. Peek under the religious impulse and I think you’ll find that exact thing — an answer to the human yearning that shit be mortal and the good eternal. When I first recognized Radiolab as my soulmate, I downloaded the complete podcast archive of 63 shows. A few quick calculations later, I realized that 63 was a finite number and wept. I’m now halfway through that archive, and that realization still sniffles a bit every time I finish an episode. They’re making more, but too slowly.
My wife Becca is also said to be mortal. I’ve made her promise to outlive me, something that required less arm-twisting than I would have liked.
I’m not the only one in this house who hates impermanence. I blogged last year about my youngest, Delaney, hearing that Dr. Seuss was no longer alive:
Erin (9): Is he still alive?
Erin: Dr. Seuss.
Dad: Oh. No, he died about fifteen years ago, I think. But he had a good long life first.
As I continued reading, I suddenly became aware that Delaney (6) was very quietly sobbing.
Dad: Oh, sweetie, what’s the matter?
Delaney: Is anybody taking his place?
Dad: What do you mean, punkin?
Delaney: Is anybody taking Dr. Seuss’ place to write his books? (Begins a deep cry.) Because I love them so much, I don’t want him to be all-done!
I scanned the list of Seuss books on the back cover. “Hey, you know what?” I said. “We haven’t even read half of his books yet!”
Feeble, I know. So did she.
“But we will read them all!” she said. “And then there won’t be any more!” I had only moved the target, which didn’t solve the problem in the least.
Which brings me to Tim Minchin’s cholesterol.
Tim is a British-born Australian comedian who (like most great, original comedians) makes that word look flimsy and inadequate. I found him earlier this year through his nine-minute beat poem “Storm.” I listened to it, found it unbelievably smart and funny and posted it on the blog, and then let busyness keep me from finding and having my way with everything he has ever done.
Last week I came across “Storm” again, re-swooned at it, then downloaded the whole live CD on which it appears.
If a 15-track CD — music, comedy, whatever — has three good, two great, and one brilliant track, I count myself lucky. Double each of those at least and you’ve got Tim Minchin’s CD Ready for This?
Since surprise is so much of the thrill, I won’t try to describe any of them specifically. I’ll just say that his vehicle is the comedy song, that his musical chops as both composer and piano performer are insane, and that his comic sensibility and intelligence make this some of the most densely rewarding comedy I have found in a long, long time looking.
It’s not all about surprise, though. Yesterday, while listening to one of the tracks in the car for the FOURTH time, I began laughing/crying so hard that I had to hand the steering wheel over to Isaac Newton for a minute. Listen to the developing intellectual and comic curve of this thing:
(I began to lose control at 2:20 and went over the cliff at 2:36. Thanks for the cards and letters.)
It goes on and on. But here’s the thing: Tim Minchin is going to die. I now have a vested interest in preventing this, or at least delaying it until after my own exit. That way I can cultivate the idea that it will be Tim Minchin who kills me in the end — me 85, driving; he 73, singing.
I had hoped for the same lifelong gift from David Foster Wallace, my favorite writer, who was exactly my age when clinical depression hung him from a rafter in his home last year. I’ll be needing Tim Minchin to stick around longer than that — at least twice as long as his great-great-great-great uncleses and auntses, as he would put it. That’s why I hope somebody is watching Tim’s cholesterol and holding his hand to cross the street (TIP: Traffic in the U.K. goes the wrong way!)
I’m a selfish bastard for even asking these things, really. David Foster Wallace didn’t owe me anything after Infinite Jest — didn’t even “owe” me that — and if Tim Minchin never writes or performs another thing, Ready for This? is plenty.
One of the most unexpected gifts on the CD is the last full song. Titled “White Wine in the Sun,” it’s a straight, simple, moving anthem of the humanist heart — more powerful than any other musical expression of its kind that I’ve heard. And I want it played at my funeral — live would be nice — after which, and only after which, Tim Minchin has permission to die.
Download “Ready for This?” from Amazon
(Note to my brothers: You’re getting a copy for Krismas, so don’t click.)