19 January 2011

January Got You By the Short Hairs? Read This.

It's always dark when I get home at night from the studio, and dark in the morning when I wake up. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, my days are literally bookended by darkness.

The blinds in my apartment--blinds are more masculine than curtains--have not been touched for months now.

This short-days-long-nights dynamic is, of course, commonplace in North America. But it's even more pronounced here in the Pacific Northwest thanks to the never ending rain. Yes, it's raining now--right this very second, even as I type this. I can see it falling in great streaks against the dark windows in my kitchen. And I have to go out into it shortly, to get to work. (The photo in the upper left was taken at the time of this writing.)


Maybe I'm getting old, but this January seems to be putting up more of a fight than previous Januarys. I feel like I'm always trying to get to the next day--If I can just get to Thursday, I'll be fine, I tell myself--same way that a climber scaling the sheer face of an ice wall is focused on trying to find a place to put his right crampon-wearing foot.

Obvious metaphors aside, I'm feeling really pretty low these days. Maybe not exactly depressed. Depressed implies that I need professional help. I don't think I'm there. Not yet, anyway.

Once we stopped shooting the show in December and Vic went on vacation for a couple weeks, I holed up in my apartment and drank beer and covered myself in cats. I stayed away from Twitter and tried to avoid contact with anyone who I would normally have contact with. Low point: one night I watched The Human Centipede on Netflix. All of it. Even when the Japanese man is crying and apologizing because he is defecating in the middle piece's mouth.

For decades now, I have been attempting to perfect the Activity Formula (A.F.) for holiday breaks. If the previous paragraph was a scientific experiment, that combination of elements--cats, beer, The Human Centipede--would have caused an explosion that would have destroyed my entire laboratory as well as several surrounding city blocks.

I went to visit my family on the East Coast a few days before Christmas, which basically always requires me to take this byzantine flight path across the country, praying the entire time that whatever mosquito-sized airplane I am in doesn't get blown out of the sky by Old Man Winter. Once I arrived, my parents picked me up at a deserted airport, and I sat in the backseat of their mini-van the same way I did when I was 12 years old. My parents argued and bickered and played Christmas music in the front seat while I drew penises in the frost on the inside of the car's back window.

Ah, Christmas traditions. I wish Normal Rockwell was still alive to paint mine.

On Christmas Day, we drove to Utica where we had our usual Christmas dinner at 2 p.m. sharp at my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Tony's house. I do enjoy the dinners--I always sit next to my Aunt Barbara and make terrible jokes and she laughs. But the Christmas dinner table has gotten dramatically smaller over the decades. Cousins who now have their own families are too busy to show up. A few people, like my grandparents, have died, creating more vacancies. My own brother stopped coming to this dinner years ago, in the name of starting his own holiday traditions with his family (which usually involves him drinking a 30-pack and trying to assemble my niece's toys). We press on with the dinner--there's ham and turkey, and I insist on sampling the flesh of each beast--and make the most of it. We have some laughs, because I sincerely enjoy my aunts and uncles. Let me tell you, there's real warmth at that table.

Yet I can't help but feel like there's something more than a little pathetic about me being there. Or rather, still being there. I've been coming to these dinners all my life. It's just me and a handful of my dad's gray-haired siblings, and the one cousin who is a year or two older than I am and who still lives at home with Aunt Barbara.

After dinner, as usual, we say goodbye to everybody, then make the hour-long drive back to my brother's house in the woods over snow-covered roads. My parents sleep on an air mattress down in the basement next to the pellet stove. I sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom--yes, I offer to trade with them each year, but they insist that they like it down there--quietly trying to level up in Cave Story on the DS before dozing off.

The holidays aren't easy, or restful for me. I look forward to them. But once they arrive, and worse still, once they pass, I without fail wind up feeling completely duped. There is no peace and no rest to be had during this reportedly peaceful and restful time. It's hell trying to travel back and forth across 3,000 miles--6,000 total for me--during the most terrible travel time of the year, all in the name of being one of two last people (me and the aforementioned cousin) who aren't married and have no families or holiday plans or traditions of their own or anyplace else to go. Worse still, it's painfully clear that neither of us have any prospects for any of those things in the near future.

For godssakes, I should be on my second goddamn marriage by now. I should have at least one divorce behind me, and a couple of adolescent kids who are forever reminding me that I have completely ruined their lives and that they hate me and need to borrow money. Instead, what I have are two semi-indifferent cats who I celebrate the holidays with each year on December 23rd by playing Christmas music on my laptop while waving their bird-fling toy at them until they collapse in wheezing heaps on the floor from exhaustion.

You don't have to tell me it's pathetic. I know.

Which is why I've decided to start my One Hundred Things That I Just Love So Much project. Here are one hundred things that have given me enormous amounts of pleasure over the years; one hundred things that, should they suddenly vanish from the planet tomorrow, my world, my life, would be a far drearier place without them.

The recipe for this list is as follows: wake up early each morning and sit at your laptop and come up with at least two or three items that you can add to the list. And, over the span of a few weeks of following this routine, voila YOU'VE GOT ONE HUNDRED.

The only downside is that if robbers ever broke into my apartment they would know exactly what to steal. Note to potential robbers: Nothing on the list has any real-world value. Most sane, well adjusted people probably wouldn't even want most of the things on this list.

One more thing: if January has you by the short hairs too, I suggest you follow suit and make your own list. Before you know it, February will be here. No, I don't have a plan for how to get through February just yet. One month at a time, people.

100. Portal - Valve first-person shooter/adventure/synapse-blowing game.
99. This American Life on NPR (any episode; http://www.thisamericanlife.org/)
98. Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan's 1975 album
97. First Person - a two-season TV series produced and directed by Errol Morris (If you see only one episode, make it "Leaving The Earth" with DC-10 pilot Denny Fitch.)
96. Superbad - Greg Motolla's 2007 movie
95. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" - Joyce Carol Oates's 1966 short story
94. Freaks and Geeks - Paul Feig's short-lived 18 episode TV series
93. The Wall - Pink Floyd's 1979 album
92. Spicy Miso Ramen with chicken at Motomachi on Denman Street
91. Ball Four - Jim Bouton's incredibly funny 1970 baseball memoir

[I'll post the rest of the entries in increments in the coming days. Stay tuned.]


  1. You paint an incredible picture with your words, if it never stops raining and you decide to never leave your apartment again, just never stop writing.

  2. Just a quick lame aside...have you tried the sun lamps. Do it secretly you'll notice a difference in the day to day slog. Instead of ice face sheering it will be more like rock face hoping. I'm a west coaster, so am very familiar January shoot me month. A little man made vitamin D takes the edge off.

  3. beautifully written. I agree with first commenter never stop writing

  4. Your stuff resonates so well with me. I didn't think I was gloomy until after I read it, but I definitely am. The holiday season is a nasty multitude of things. You get kicked while you're down. Then kicked again. And again. I've come to hate the holidays not for what they are, but for what they aren't, in my life. They don't fulfill me in any way.

    I'm going to follow through with your process. I'm not sure why, but I feel as if I HAVE to do it after reading this. Let's see how it goes.

  5. I wind up watching the Temple Grandin episode of First Person at least once a year. Have you ever noticed that some of the more lurid episodes (like the one about Danny Rollins and the Gainesville murders) have become the boilerplate template for crime re-enactments. They almost seem like parody now.

  6. I've been watching Reviews on the Run for years, dating back to when it was just a segment on Electric Playground. I can truly say that you and Vic bring great pleasure into my life for 22 minutes at a time. Maybe it's not much, but your writing is heartbreaking yet funny, and your presence on TV is that of a man who is not afraid to speak his mind. I enjoy your work in both formats immensely, and I hope you derive pleasure from the fact that at least some of us think you're the best at what you do.

  7. I can so relate to this so much its scarey when it comes to the family part. I enjoy watching you on TV and such but i keep forgeting the man behind the TV personality is a human being with day to day issues and needs like everyone else. You expressed them perfectly here. It was such a pleasure to meet you and Vic at Fanexpo back in August. I was the last person on the Saturday to meet you too. You asked how i was doing "i said tired but good"...you noded and said me too with a smile :)

  8. I am assuming number one will be 'feeling sorry for myself on the internet'

  9. You're a good man, Scott Jones. Winter time is always the worst for me, and also the least restful.

    Vancouver is pretty rainy and dreary, but I live in the suburbs of Vancouver where even less happens and it's as dreary.

    The listing things you love is something I've done for years!

  10. Oh man, Scott, you totally have your writing mojo back! Some of the previous blogs were slightly disappointing...sorry, but I had to say it. I agree with one of the other comments about getting a sun lamp (totally worked for me in the past), but I more mostly agree with The Wall - Pink Floyd's 1979 album being on your list! Fuck yeah. Hope you caught him on tour recently doing the album live. He blew me away when I saw him here in Montreal--best show ever....

  11. This American Life + Freaks and Geeks. Amazing.

    Reading this kind of reminded me of Halifax...

  12. Ahhh Scott, I have to admit the sound of rain in January does seem incredibly depressing. As suggested by others before me, get that sun lamp, you won't regret it. Also, is it possible that some of those sad feelings result from the lack of good games being released in January ? Great list by the way. I too saw The Wall Live in Montreal last year and it was a blast. And I couldn't agree more with Freaks & Geeks and Superbad. I will have to look up the rest. Look at the bright side : at least you don't have to pay child support for those kids you never had.

  13. anywhere North of 49th = sun lamp for winter. really. Imagine those up in Fort St. John or even more north. They get like 4 hrs of sunlight.

  14. join a curling team. have fun

  15. "Pathetic" is not what's wrong with your life. "Pathetic" is when you don't want to do anything about it.

    Ditch the "One Hundred Things" crap and ask yourself this question: "what is keeping me from living the life that I want?"

    Seriously. What is it that's wrong with you?

  16. when I'm feeling crappy I watch that Star Wars E1 review that you posted. IT ALWAYS MAKES ME FEEL BETTER.

  17. Quit whining! You work in the games industry; you get to play games for a living. Get yourself a job where you're stuck in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and then come back to me about dragging yourself from one day to the next. ;)

  18. You've got some beauts who ready this site -- zero capacity for empathy, think they have it worse. See the man above.

    Nice to know there's a heart kicking around in there (kidding: we all know you only hate most things because you care so much). It's not a bad quality.

    What's perhaps truly upsetting about this post is the revelation that you don't actually have a 500-pound ex-wife. I will pretend I didn't read that part.

  19. Sorry to hear that you're feeling dreary, Scott. Hopefully the many appreciative comments here help in some way. I know one of my Top 100 things would be Scott Jones' writing. You always crack me up.

  20. I get the winter-time blues too, Scott. But screw the sun lamps... you just need a good hug! I don't like to brag but I've got some mad hug skillz if you are inclined to visit. :)

    I don't care if this offer is dismissed and ignored due to internet anonymity... but if you wish, feel free to shoot me a DM on Twitter for contact info if you're ever interested in a chat. Misery loves company.

    Hope you're feeling better soon.


  21. PS. The Wall making your list is excellent... and I look forward to reading the rest of it.

  22. I wish that we could give "likes or thumps up" to comments.
    Mike's From: 22/Jan/ awesome i got a tear I laughed so hard.

  23. You make yourself vulnerable. You put your readers in your shoes. Winter gets the best of everyone in canada. Short days, long nights, cold, damp, snow. The holidays are hard on everyone. I can't believe your not married.