Because I Am, After All, a Professional

Good goddamn, the swine are squealing again. At times like this, a man needs some peace and quiet—some good healthy sleep, too—but when all he hears is the panicked sounds of screaming pork, that is not to be. Mother of sweet babbling Elvis, these ugly days of swine flu seem to have weird implications for me. Oh yes, I am freaking out, against my better judgment, because in my line of work, ladies and gentlemen, I have slathered lipstick on many pigs, so I have been dangerously overexposed. And now, now is the time that they have all chosen to home to wallow.

And why? Because one has to admit one’s mistakes. Because one must stand by what one has done, for good or ill. No no, not in a forehead-slapping self-flagellatory way (though I can do that too, if necessary)—in the way of tried-and-true, mama’s boy repentant weeping; in that way of honest catharsis that can only bring a brilliant, brave, and bold rebirth. A phoenix rising from the mud, as it were—and not unlike our brand-new bestest spectral friend from Pennsylvania. Oh I know, I know—the Keystone State has so much to answer for as it is, but now is not the best time to ask it of them. That land of World Series champions and men on dogs and untold thousands of liberally drunk bloggers is long overdue for a reckoning—but the day for that is not today, because as always I have more important things to whine about.

Such as myself. You see, when all the world’s a blind sow rooting around for acorns, the one-eyed boar is king. He may never actually get wings, but his royalty is not in question, even if he does misinterpret stupid puns overheard from garbled headlines and cable news. And, hell—if he misinterprets that, what won’t he fall for? Indeed, like many otherterminal narcissists, I still get extremely offended when I am unduly administered repeated shocks to my innocence gland—and every snake I’ve ever picked up has always snickered sweetly right before she bit me, as if in sheer unbelief that a superficially intelligent guy like me could make such stupid mistakes.

Well it’s true, and I have, and the problem lies in spec work—that bane of every graphics professional. Spec work is like taking bit parts in Z-grade slasher flicks because you think it’ll look good on your resumé; because you’re so damn flattered that someone—anyone—gives two decent craps about your heretofore undiscovered creative genius. And because (you tell yourself every time) this is the absolute last one like this you’ll do. Last one. Just like Neil McCauley, you know? Just one last thing to take care of, and then you can jump back in the sportscar with the gullibly desperate younger version of Judging Amy holding the gear shift.

But I could never walk away from anything in 30 trillion seconds flat, let alone a measly 30 seconds. No, it was just the opposite—I’d never let a job go, never stop tinkering with it until it was hopelessly overcooked, and then I’d have a crispy carbonized mess with a lot of explaining to do on top of it. And besides, when a job falls right in your lap, and you know the other people in the running are all stone cold chumps you could beat left-handed, you take the job. Yeah, man—you throw down the big clangy gauntlet and wait to be deluged in accolades, and when it happens…oh, now that’s what makes life worth living, my little pork chops. Especially when all you have to do is a five-minute recycling job using a single shard from a previously brilliant work—because hey, in this post-post-post-modern, ultra-self-referential age, why the hell not? Who would bat an eye?

Until the full ramifications sink in, of course. Until the consequences hit home in toto. Until you finally tune out the ravenous, fawning limpets of fandom and truly come to grips with what you’ve done—which I now think I have, and oh God, it’s freeing. It’s just like all those Jesus freaks used to describe confession—all that “let go and let God” malarky—only about a bazillion times better. See, you get the best of both worlds: fame and infamy, depending on the audience of course; immortality, if you’re very lucky. And for a man like me who’s sworn (for the time being) to refrain from producing little mutant genetic copies of himself, well, immortality’s the real payoff to beat all payoffs. Who wouldn’t want to live forever? And I mean besides sexy teen vampires in books we don’t believe?

But enough about all that. I’ve done terrible things, and I’m sorry for them. Furthermore, I have learned how to keep further such horrendous mistakes at bay—and I did it with the help of every coward’s friend: the non-compete, non-disclosure agreement. Oh yes, because in my heart of hearts I will always be a spoiled suburban bureaucrat with the heart of a parasite and the mind of a child. That’s what happens to you when they call you “gifted” at so young an age, folks. That’s what happens when you parlay all that into some truly bipartisan dissembling of language.

Because as everyone knows, straddling ye olde white picket fence may look cool, but all you really get out of it is splinters in the groin. You know, the kind of thing that only happens to big-time suckers. Yeah, because slumming only looks cool when you can leave the slum behind—but in the end all that makes you is a tourist, dude. Trying to look cool is trying too hard. Better to accept your congenital uncoolness and then get on with it, especially in times like these when the fat has long been in the fire.