This 1845 ukiyo-e woodblock print by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi tells the story of Kawanaya Tokuzo, a sailor who gets caught in a storm while out sailing. During the storm an Umibōzu or “Sea Monk” appears. A Sea Monk is a Japanese ghost that is big into tipping ships. Bound by weird ghost rules it doesn’t tip ships unless someone on the ship actually speaks to it. In a tippy mood the Sea Monk attempts to spark up a convo with Tokuzo hitting him with this quixotic opener, “Name the most horrible thing you know!”. Tokuzo doesn’t miss a beat shouting back, “My profession is the most horrible thing I know!”. The Sea Monk is caught off guard, “Woah, for serious?”. Tokuzo replies, “Yeah, I mean look at this shit?!”. The Sea Monk looks and sees just how crummo it is to sail a ship in a storm and is way embarrassed. It mumbles, “Hey, I’m sorry man just like… as you were” and disappears. Tokuzo says, “Good talk!” real sarcastic-like and weathers the storm.
Moley, if a Sea Monk reared up in front of YOU and barked, “Name the most horrible thing you know!” how would you reply?
Might I say that I love the way you introduce a question. So atmospheric! My gawd Rat, how you bring the elements of history, the supernatural and the sea together is tour de force yarn spinning.
Now, to the matter at hand: the most horrible thing I know. This is a tough one for me, because, as you know, most things for me are horrible. I wouldn’t go so far as to steal from Alvy Singer and say that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable, but a lot of things are. You know my speech pattern, you know the phrase I am most guilty of overusing — for all you peeps who don’t know — it’s THE WORST or The ABSOLUTE WORST. In fact just today I wrote a text that said, “CBC has got nothing on NPR. CBC is THE WORST.”
Hmmmm, but is it the most horrible thing I know?
It is not.
Horrible exists in a number of realms
First up: the realm of eating.
I love good food, I do. And when I can afford them, I love restaurants. I like the idea of eating together. It seems nice. Doesn’t it seem nice Ratty? When you see a long table like this don’t you want to eat there? Now imagine the person sitting beside you eats chaotically and loudly and you can hear him chew? Imagine feeling oppressed by this. Imagine having to strategize when to make eye contact so you don’t appear completely anti-social. Then imagine that for the briefest half-second your eyes happen upon the chaos (READ: the first stages of digestion) that is happening in his mouth. Disgusting eaters, Ratty, are pretty fucking horrible.
I love sleep, I do. But when it eludes me Ratty, it is THE WORST. I have very unhealthy sleep habits. You know how common wisdom says to keep your bedroom free from distractions and to just use it for sleep? Well it’s a nice idea, but I no longer have a bedroom. I have a bed in a room that is also my living room, dining room and study. But even when I did have a bedroom, my bed was a hub of activity that saw all kinds of action: from snacking, stretching, writing, drinking coffee, spilling coffee to roughhousing with the cat, falling asleep to old Judge Judy shows and watching LiveLeak at 2:00 a.m. In short, it was full of distractions, which I’m pretty sure contributed to my insane bouts of insomnia. So sleeplessness, especially when you know you have to wake up in minutes not hours is pretty fucking horrible. In fact, it is one of the most horrible things of all.
It’s like a job interview but less fun. Would you disqualify someone from your dating life because he or she ate a burger with no bun? I would and I did. That’s how over dating I am. Next! On the Alvy Singer scale it is both horrible AND miserable.
But what is the most horrible thing of all? Giant squids? A Portuguese man o war? Pleated pants? The news lately? Donald Trump’s speeches? I can’t choose. I am too busy looking at a beautiful sunset. Leaves are gently rustling in the breeze and light is filtering through my window. I am sitting here with my beloved cat nestled at my side. It’s wonderful. But it won’t last. And that, Ratty, is the WORST.