Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time

Next week we're taking a family vacation to Hocking Hills, an area in Southeastern Ohio filled with trees. And caves. And various forms of water.

In other words, it's pretty nature-intensive. This is quite out of character for the Tennants, whose vacations are usually urban-centric affairs packed with pre-planned activities from dawn to dusk.

But this year we've opted for something more idyllic. Which is fine with me. The thought of just relaxing together as a family is strangely exciting. Our life is usually measured in degrees of chaos, so living in a cabin for four days and occasionally indulging in various forms of outdoor activity (ziplining, fishing, hiking, etc.) will be a nice change of pace.

(NOTE: When I say we'll be living in a "cabin," don't get the wrong idea here. This thing is basically a nice hotel suite in the middle of the woods. It has a hot tub that fits six people, and also a TV, so we won't exactly be roughing it. Except if the TV only has basic cable. Then my kids will consider it child abuse.)

Anyway, we're going to spend some time in the wilderness, or at least a reasonable facsimile of the wilderness, assuming the wilderness is characterized by small groups of Midwesterners walking around in shorts in an unsuccessful attempt to enjoy nature and get away from other Midwesterners.

The other night we took a little family trip to our local library, and Terry checked out a book to take with her on vacation. I thought this was an excellent idea. I never get to sit and read and relax, so I got two books of my own.

Both are Kurt Vonnegut books. I love Kurt Vonnegut. I think he was a genius. He was also an atheist, which I suppose just shows that you don't have to agree with someone's personal philosophy to enjoy something they've written to express that philosophy.

I was an English major in college, which meant I spent large amounts of time with pretentious young undergrads who wore berets and sat around discussing existentialism. I never considered myself an especially artsy person, but there are works of art that genuinely move me. Usually it's music, but occasionally I will be touched by writing.

Much of the writing that touches me was penned by Kurt Vonnegut. In so many of his novels and short stories, he manages to tap into a universal feeling of loneliness and maybe even hopelessness with which I can relate, at least somewhat.

The title of this blog post is actually the first line of the second chapter of one my favorite books ever, Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." If you knew that already, give yourself five English major points and feel free to apply for a job waiting tables, which is where I suppose many of those English majors I knew in college are working now.

Anyway, by this time next week, I will probably have finished "Slaughterhouse Five" for the 10th time or so, and will be well into a separate collection of Vonnegut's short stories. Assuming I don't get eaten by a bear or something. Nature, in case you haven't noticed, can be extremely unforgiving.

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