It’s not important how I got here.
There were a lot of mistakes I made along the way, to be sure. Ignoring the warnings of my guide. Venturing off on an unbeaten path. Relying on Apple Maps.
To say things didn’t go according to plan is an understatement. I got lost immediately. The thing about the rainforest is that it all looks exactly the same. Like the background in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. You just run and run and run, but behind you it’s just tree, tree, something with fangs, tree, tree, shrub, tree. It’s very easy to lose your bearings, especially if you are like me, and can get lost in your own apartment.
But still, I soldiered on, because I had announced to everyone at the camp that I was going to go for a walk on my own, that I didn’t need anyone’s help, and that there was a very good chance that I might be the greatest explorer known to man. I had put two packets of Starbucks Via in my cup that morning, so I was probably a little wired. Also, it has come to my attention that I’m kind of a dick.
And it had very apparently come to the Fickle Finger Of Fate’s attention as well, because after about a half hour of tree, tree, shrub, tree, I took a break from walking.
The problem was, I had not decided to take that break. My brain had no part in that decision whatsoever. Now certainly, I’ve been known to make decisions that didn’t involve my brain. Typically, they contained the phrase, “Yes, another Goldschlager would be delightful.”
This was not that. There was no gold-flecked cinnamon-flavored ipecac in my immediate future. What happened was this: I was walking, and then I wasn’t. My brain checked in with my feet.
“Hey. Feet. I’m pretty sure I didn’t call a time out. We’ve still got all of those trees and shrubs to see.”
“YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP, WE’VE KIND OF GOT A SITUATION DOWN HERE.”
“JESUS, BRAIN, DOWN AT THE END OF THE LEGS, WHERE WE ALWAYS ARE.” “Feet, we are looking down, but we have lost visual. We would also thank you not to take that tone.”
“THAT’S BECAUSE WE’RE STUCK, JACK-BAG. YOU KNOW WHAT, PUT US ON WITH SPLEEN. HELLO, SPLEEN? CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS ASSHOLE?”“OH. MY. GOD. DON’T GET ME STARTED.”
I was, indeed, stuck. What appeared to be just another moist, gross patch of moist, gross rainforest floor, was in fact, the perfect combination of sand, water, and bad vibes.
Having watched hours upon hours of basic cable nature documentaries, I knew two things: 1. Waterfalls look completely awesome in 1080p. Like totally, completely awesome. And, 2. There’s no such thing as quicksand, as we’ve come to know it from cartoons, “Pitfall,” and that scene from the beginning of “Blazing Saddles.”
I had learned that quicksand doesn’t suck you down into the bowels of the earth, never to be seen again. It’s benign stuff. More of an inconvenience. The natural world equivalent of those people with clipboards who try to get you to donate money, but all you want to do is go to Jamba Juice, but you want to be polite, so you stand there for a few minutes and hear their spiel, but all you can think is, “I have to get out of here or I am going to start yelling and never stop.” And then they talk a little more and then you start yelling and then everyone stares at you but in the end you get your Jamba Juice.
I could really go for a Jamba Juice right now, not for nothing.
“Hey, uh, Legs and Waist? This is Brain again. We’ve now lost visual of you guys as well. Do you copy?”
“I said, do you cop-”
“OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE, BRAIN, DON’T YOU GET IT? WE ARE SINKING IN QUICKSAND.”
“Uh, that’s a negative, Legs and Waist, our intel tells us there’s no such thing as quicksand, as we’ve come to know it from cartoons-”
“CHRIST ON A CRACKER, YOU GOLDSCHLAGER BESOTTED LUMP OF SKULL CUSTARD, LOOK DOWN!”
“Oh, crap. Crap crap crap crap. Crap.”
“Brain, this is Bowels. Are you telling us to-”
“What the heck, couldn’t hurt.”
I had to make some decisions pretty quickly. Like, was I going to go out all stoic and stuff? Just stand there bravely, humming a stirring Sousa march as the goop overtook me? Or was I going to flail and scream like a chump?
“HELP HELP HELP! SOMEBODY! HELLO! I’M SINKING IN QUICKSAND! FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL! I WILL GIVE YOU MONEY IF YOU SAVE ME, SOMEBODY! NOT A LOT.”
“Brain, this is Spleen. Did you tell Mouth to say that? Because that was just embarrassing.”
“SHUT UP SPLEEN, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU DO.”
The flailing had only managed to propel me deeper into the muck. Now I was up to my torso. I ceased all movement, a thing that, in many ways, I had been training my entire life to do. I am a champion of stasis, and in this one instance, it really paid off.
And so I just sort of floated there. Suspended in this humid soup of non-Newtonian-fluid. No longer sinking, but also not doing the opposite of sinking. I wondered how long I could remain like this.
I wondered if there was anything I could have done different, besides everything. I wondered why I didn’t ask someone to take this journey with me. I wondered why I even undertook it in the first place.
Then, I thought about every bad move I had ever made. Deciding to wear all black throughout high school. Walking with a cane because I thought it made me look cool. Atkins. The poorly informed dates, the things I said without thinking, the feelings I hurt, the feelings of mine I let get hurt, that play I wrote sophomore year about the punk rock lifestyle that I didn’t lead, the baseball cap that said, “JERK.” The list went on and on. And it plagued me incessantly.
And they were all terrible choices (especially the cane), but they did not result in me sinking in quicksand. Most everyday choices don’t result in the average person sinking in quicksand. If they did, there would be a lot less people. “Do you want to go to Chili’s or Applebee’s?” “I don’t know. Chil- YAAAAAHHHH QUICKSAND”
“If I get out of this,” I thought to myself, “I am going to be less hard on myself about choices I’ve made in the past. Except this one, because this was truly some boneheaded shit.”
“HEY! JOHN Q. INTROSPECTION! FEET HERE. WE’VE STRUCK BOTTOM. SO IF YOU’RE DONE CRAMMING IN A TEACHABLE MOMENT, WE’RE GOING TO TRY TO WALK US OUT OF THIS FETID MORASS.”
I crawled out of the devil’s oatmeal just as the search party found me. And after they made fun of me for the few days, I returned to Los Angeles. Where, after a three-hour Goldschlager binge, I accidentally stumbled into the La Brea Tar Pits and needed to be pulled out by the jaws of life. Shortly thereafter, the rest of my body staged a rebellion against my brain, and my spleen was asked to lead the ensuing junta.
All in all, I’ve had better weeks.