awareness

Ashley and I did quite a bit today, starting with an “Easter” brunch with her family. Then to the park for some Easter egg hunting with the nephews. After a few hours at the park, she and I came home, packed up some of less essential home stuff, and made three trips to the storage unit.

And so basically I have nothing interesting for you today. Instead, here’s something I read whilst at the park. It’s from The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.

For a couple of years he’d been a used car salesman and so hyperaware of what that profession had come to mean that working hours were exquisite torture to him. Mucho(1) shaved his upper lip every morning three times with, three times against the grain to remove any remotest breath of a mustache, new blades he drew blood invariably but kept at it; bought all natural-shoulder suits, then went to a tailor to have the lapels made yet more abnormally narrow, on his hair used only water, combing it like Jack Lemmon to throw them further off. The sight of sawdust, even pencil shavings, made him wince, his own kind being known to use it for hushing sick transmissions, and though he dieted he could still not as Oedipa(2) did use honey to sweeten his coffee for like all things viscous it distressed him, recalling too poignantly what is often mixed with motor oil to ooze dishonest into gaps between piston and cylinder wall. He walked out of a party one night because somebody used the word “cream puff,” it seemed maliciously, in his hearing. The man was a refugee Hungarian pastry cook talking shop, but there was your Mucho: thin-skinned.

This really cracked me up. There’s being self-aware, and then there’s being hyperaware. Being hyperaware is usually a bad thing. It’s the sort of thing in today’s culture that leads us to turn down the music in our cars when we enter our own neighborhood because we know we judge others by the same. But being privy to someone else being hyperaware, and the compulsions it drives him to, is usually hilarious. This is why we laugh when the bespeckled white guy turns down the gangsta rap.

As an over-weight, balding guy who often sweats uncontrollably, I am all too aware of being hyperaware.(3) It was nice for a moment to laugh at someone else in a similar plight.


  1. This is the name of the character: Wendell “Mucho” Maas.
  2. This is the name of the novel’s main character, Mucho’s wife: Oedipa Maas. It is perhaps the most Freudian name in all of literature.
  3. Which I suppose makes me hyper-hyperaware. Obviously, being self-aware is recursively dangerous. I’m aware of that too. And of course I’m aware of being aware of all of this. It’s ridiculous.
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