Woodstock’s a special place. We have the best kinds of loonies here: very few zombies, screamers, or aggressive types; no, mostly it’s fascinating, intelligent people who became so obsessed with some idea to the point that they stopped giving a fuck about anything else, including and especially social acceptance, and it becomes like a fake it ‘till you make it thing: you start out sane, just not giving a fuck, but so many hours and days and weeks and months of not giving a fuck, and thinking and doing the things that someone who doesn’t give a fuck would think and do, actually changes your brain chemistry, and so you slowly do lose that grasp on reality that you stopped giving a fuck about having anyway.
I’ll give you two examples: there’s this guy in his early thirties, hasn’t been in long, whom everyone calls Beef. Beef’s nickname was coined by another guy, whose nickname I’m proud to say I coined when I got in: Clint. Clint’s obsessed with this notion that distinct vowels, consonants, and syllables are a fabrication of linguists, paid for by the powers that be. According to Clint’s theory, there are no distinct types of speech-sound, but rather, all speech-sound form fluid wave spectra of infinitely many possible sounds; linguists have constructed language around distinct sounds in order to limit the kinds of words – and therefore thoughts, and therefore broad views of reality – that we can have. Without this linguistic oppression, Clint will tell you, we would be literally limitless as a species. Clint ironically pronounces certain words as these exaggerations of what he views as the logical conclusion of our mechanistic language paradigm. So, for example, instead of “create” he says “cree-eh-eet.” He thinks this is, like, biting satire.
No one knows Clint’s real name, supposedly because he doesn’t want to be boxed-in by mind-limiting sounds. If you piss off Clint, Clint gives you a nickname to punish you with linguistic oppression. This is what happened to Beef, whom Clint further oppresses by calling him Beef-uh, since a consonant not followed by a vowel shouldn’t be possible under our divisive speech paradigm. This kind of bullying – absurd as it is – really rubs me the wrong way, which is why I decided to give Clint a nickname. I got the name from his aversion to having one, which I figured made him the man with no name, played by Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy. On the surface it’s perfectly innocent. It’s praiseful even. Clint Eastwood, especially as the man with no name, is awesome. But it’s offensive to Clint merely by virtue of being a name. Ever since I christened him Clint’s got it in for me, but all he’s done about it is call me Joe, as in Joe Pesci, because I’m a wiseguy. “Joe” hasn’t stuck with the rest of the patients.
“But why did Clint call Beef ‘Beef’ in the first place?” you ask. It comes from Clint’s mock-divisive pronunciation of B.F., initials of Bobby Fischer. Bobby Fischer’s also meant to be ironic, I guess, because though Beef’s just as nuts as Fischer ever was, the basis of the name comes from that quite the opposite of Fischer, Beef’s the world’s all time worst player of a certain game. A handful of the guys here do a further riff on Clint’s joke, calling Beef “Kiss-uh” as in a Clint-style pronunciation of K.S., for Kasparov; Kasparov’s initials are in fact G.K., for Garry Kasparov, but I guess the guys don’t know this, or don’t care, and treat Kasparov’s name as if it were Ka Sparov. No one calls Beef “Deeb-uh” for Deep Blue. Maybe I should start that.
Moving on, in Beef-slash-Kiss’s case the game isn’t chess; the game is none other than The Game we just lost. Let me explain. Within minutes of my arrival at Woodstock, I heard Beef suddenly yell, “I just lost The Game!” I asked him what the hell he was talking about, and he said this:
“There is a game called The Game that everyone on the planet is playing at all times, whether they know it or not. The goal of The Game is not to think about The Game. If you think about it, you lose. Then you have a thirty-minute grace period to get it off your mind before thinking about it again counts as another loss. Also, the moment you lose, you have to announce your loss to everyone around you, thereby making them lose. If someone around you hasn’t heard of The Game you have to explain it to them, and make them lose for the first time in their life – pop their Game cherry, if you will, as I have just done to you. All of your life, you’ve been winning at this Game, and now, this moment, you have lost for the first time, and will lose again any moment that you remember it. Welcome to The Game.”
Whoever introduced Beef to The Game ruined his fucking life. Beef took The Game very seriously and always announced his loss. Beef’s apparently once existing loved ones obviously got annoyed and complained to him, so he decided to stop losing. As is often the case with trying not to think about something, he just thought about it more, making him and everyone around him more frustrated, making him think about it even more. Every time something reminds Beef of The Game he tries not to think about that thing either, and so ends up thinking about that thing more too. He’s gotten to the point where he’s got thousands of things constantly coming to mind all of which remind him in surprisingly specific ways of The Game. He scatters about from person to person, begging to be distracted. He adheres strictly to the thirty-minute window and he’s developed an internal clock, so that 29 minutes after losing The Game he remembers to look at the clock, and realizes he’s got a minute to get it out of his mind; at this point he avoids the clock obsessively, which only keeps his attention to it, so that at exactly thirty minutes, he sees the second hand cross its threshold and he announces “I just lost The Game!” Everyday, depending on what time he wakes up, which is another way of saying what time he first loses The Game, he becomes an alarm bell set on thirty-minute repeat; so say like, today, he woke up at 9:17, so at 9:47, at 10:17, 10:47, etcetera, the whole day, every half hour on the second he announces his loss. If you grant that the thirty-minute window is a kind of lost time, like sleep, not to be counted when tallying Game losses, then Beef’s been losing The Game continuously, without a break of even a second, for months. The tragic thing is that not only is he the world’s worst player, Beef’s also likely the world’s only player who really cares about winning The Game in the first place.
NEXT: 6. Tasha