If there isn’t yet a dime store psycho-babble term for it, there should be (my agent is nudging me to begin work on the bestselling survivor’s account), but I recognize that we self-justify our life decisions. For purposes of mental health. For me, the phenomenon (shall we babble-dub it. “RIGHT Syndrome,” for Rationalization of Inherently Gratuitous Health-related Thoughts?) often manifests in the cherry-picking of those of the trendy research papers the popular media pick up on that are already in sync with my behavior. Among my recent favorites are “chocolate has anti-carcinogenic properties” and “giving even an instant of attention to Sarah Palin has carcinogenic properties.”
Living gladly with the awareness that I “suffer” from RIGHT, it’s perhaps not the surprise of the day that I’ve come to think it a compliment to my host when I show up smelly, in a dirty, also, though differently-scented, truck. What’s surprising is that it took me so long to shed this vestige of stress in my life. (RIGHT Syndrome is one of those disorders which is not in the least unpleasant to the sufferer, like Asperger’s.) Indeed, as I’ve detailed effervescently earlier in these Dispatches, I used to disparagingly call the “dilemma” my Lady Macbeth Syndrome. This because I find it impossible to fully wash off the goat smell, even when I’m primping for a party or a live event.
The tipping point for me, on my journey toward embracing my RIGHT Syndrome, came early in my goat husbandry career when, after not merely showering but pulling on an ensemble of desert air-dried clothes fresh off the line, I showed up at a local pot luck, hugged the hostess, and heard her say, “Phew! Were you just meditating with the goats?”
If you walk like a goat herder and talk like a goat herder (indeed I spend a lot of time talking about my maddening, endearing goats, as a sort of therapy), maybe you have to accept that you are going to smell like a goat herder.
Or maybe it’s just my RIGHT Syndrome joyfully kicking in. Biochemically, what happens on the cellular level with this splendid disorder is, the instant you justify one of your major lifestyle decisions (say, addiction to ice cream), your body secretes several of the better-known happy chemicals (you know, the ones that also keep you healthy when you eat chocolate). The dopamines. The serotonins. Whatever it takes.
With all that stuff coursing in my veins (at levels, while only a few parts per million, that technically leave me unfit to drive), I’m over the whole “Rural Appearance” dilemma. Even though I caused something of a stir in this realm when I spoke at the wedding of the same Portland friend, Bert, with whom I tossed such an amusing, terrifying Frisbee in the previous Dispatch.
Bert’d had asked me to deliver the “adventure” blessing at the ceremony. It was a nice concept: I think there was also a “health” blessing, a “wealth” blessing and a “constantly enticing love life” blessing. When it came to the adventure side of things, I was really just returning the blessing: in college, Bert had been the one to introduce me to both wilderness and Hunter Thompson.
Imagine my career without this friend! I might actually believe some of what I read, hear and see in old media. Anyway, at the reception, more than one of the attendees, from both groom and bride side, approached me to tell me what a “nice touch” it had been to “go against convention” and wear “hiking boots” to deliver the adventure blessing.
I remember repeatedly and self-consciously glancing down at my footwear in reassessing shock. “You meanâ€¦my newest, finest footwear?” I kept saying, waiting for the Happy Chemicals to kick in. “My unripped, stylin’ gear? These are hundred and twenty dollar real Italian boots. Personally sized by a modern Geppetto in Milan and kissed by three maidens before they set off to do some grape stomping. These f—ers have been on the melting glaciers of Kilimanjaro, for crying out loud!”
Within a few minutes of each of these conversational reminders of the massive urban/rural divide we so sadly see in human endeavor these last five or seven thousand years, my appropriate inner chemistry had been restored. Indeed, these days, supplemented by a wellness routine that includes both goat corral meditation and profound daily ingestion of chocolate, my RIGHT Syndrome is at such an advanced stage as to be essentially perpetual (or maybe it’s that the other categories in Bert’s blessings are looking solid as well). Or that, luckily, most people around me at this point, even at parties, are suchâ€¦pungent, Carhartt-wearing locals that my own, continuing Lady Macbeth reality is generally only noticed at speaking events, which is why I ask to be paid in advance. I think it’s the chocolate, though: I literally eat it for breakfast (cacao nibs in shake), lunch (a palate-cleansing square of 80% cacao organic dark chocolate) and dinner (goat milk ice cream dessert).
Now all that remains is to hope that my vehicle, the R.O.A.T. also enjoys the splendid side-effects of RIGHT Syndrome. Lately, for live events, I’ve been driving on vegetable oil power to places, I notice, where some folks seem to still fetishize a well-groomed vehicle exterior. Like it’s an extension of their overall fashion. Not just drivers of vintage muscle cars (for which I make an exception, sort of like California does in its Smog Law for cool old rigs), nor the few remaining vehicles not stenciled with Realtor logos. I’m talking about, ya know, your average Toyota or passenger Hummer.
Now, I understand the value of grooming, albeit goat-scented grooming. One wants to look and smell one’s best. But if you’re driving in a city on filthy pavement frequented by every kind of creature from rats to lobbyists, what are you proving to me by wasting ninety gallons of water on a car wash? The lobbyists are still going to be in their Hummers when you pull out.
If you sense any vitriol in vehicular observation, it’s not because of some kind of medication designed to control my RIGHT symptoms, not even simply all the patently unnecessary petroleum guzzling, coal burning and water wasting that I wish would stop so we still, ya know, are a species here in this earthly paradise a generation or three down the line. It’s that I don’t want the R.O.A.T to feel self-conscious, as I once did in my Lady Macbeth days.
Of course, I’m (proudly) aware that the same greasy leaks that cause my ride to glue stray bits of New Mexico all over its own exterior like an unintended series of bumper stickers, simultaneously causing it to look like it’s just competed in a tractor pull (for me it’s usually more of a goat hay or an innertube pull), is the same grease that has towed me reliably for five years now. All with about 15% better fuel efficiency than the F-250 runs on petro-diesel. It’s quieter on veggie oil, too. The point is, I strongly believe that it’s the interior — the heart of the truck — that matters. Sure, sure, spray it down, now and then, if you must. I do that, too. It’s called a rain storm. (Let’s leave for another Dispatch the entire issue of dings and what to do about them, other than to say, “nothing, they heal,” in the sense that you not only stop noticing them, but you couldn’t find your car in the airport without them.)
Yes, I’m not worried for myself. I’ve long since grokked all this. I just can’t be absolutely sure that my Wall-E-souled R.O.A.T knows it, too. I hope it enjoys a whopping case of vehicular RIGHT cosmology, as it approaches its 100,000 mile odometer rollover, with hardly a hitch, unless you count my nearly perpetual case of the munches, thanks to the R.O.AT.’s organic and frankly delectable exhaust.
I guess if I’m going to expect the civilized world to accept my Eau de Chevre, I should, in fairness, anticipate equal understanding of the Kung Pao-scented combustion emanating from my Ranch-filthy vehicle (I recently discovered a happy fungus civilization had sprouted in the leftover goat poop-and-hay living under a tarp I hadn’t pulled out of the truck bed in a couple of years). As I see things (or as my RIGHT chemicals are blessedly forcing me to see things), it’s sort of a Martin Luther King dream analog: let us judge people and vehicles by the content of their hearts and fuel tanks, not by their effects on our nostrils, nor the amount of incidental goat poop that might be plastered to their bumpers.
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