There is no slow lane on the road to Hell

This sort of nonsense is on a par with descending a ladder made of razor wire and Ginsu knives.

“Thank God it’s Friday,” you say? Not so fast, Sparky. Just when you thought things were winding down, turns out I’ve been winding up another episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

This one has its roots in a New Yorker essay I read about a risk-management program gone all pear-shaped. The author, neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, like me an elder of the geezer persuasion, did himself an injury while test-driving an escape ladder and afterward mused at length on the vicissitudes of the calendar, caution, calamity, and consequences.

I had recently been on a ladder myself — not a cheapo folding one, and not dangling from a third story — but happily I made it back to earth without burning up on re-entry.

I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, but if need arose I’d probably do it again, my guiding principle being, “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.” This is why, like Levitin, I have spent some time enduring the tender mercies of the medical-industrial complex.

As Roy Blount Jr. has taught us, fucking up is not what it used to be. That was the lede, word for word, to his essay “I Always Plead Guilty,” from the 1984 collection “What Men Don’t Tell Women,” and it’s a lot funnier than Levitin’s New Yorker essay or even this episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

Blount wrote it in an era not unlike today, in a nation “where major corporations are in charge and there is absolutely no charm left in fucking up.”

Nevertheless, he argued, fucking up is a very American thing — “going into the unknown for the challenge of it” — and urged that we find some middle ground between caution and catastrophe, asking:

“Why do we have to draw back so far from the abyss?”

So, yeah. Read the essay, buy the book, and lend a ragged ear to the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded using an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited the audio on a late-2009 iMac using Apple’s GarageBand. The sound effects are from Freesound, and the blues loop playing in the background is from fredsonic at Freesound.

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13 Responses to “There is no slow lane on the road to Hell”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Too good. Like the doc, I have only one question. Do you now consider it wise to break your fall by grabbing a cholla cactus?

    If you come down here to ride, I promise no trails with cholla on the side.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It was not smart, Pat. But as you know, I will never be smart.

      One of these days I need to inspect the downhill side of that section of trail. I wonder how much worse I’d have come off going over the edge. Cacti, cacti, everywhere.

  2. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Good stuff! I was thinking again while your piece was playing, when is the first time you heard a description about yourself that went, “You know he’s pretty good (at whatever)………for an old guy?”
    Does that increase as you get older or decrease as your abilities wane? Do all old guys like to hear that? It doesn’t bother me and more often that not I take it as a compliment. Do you?

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Hi Larry. It doesn’t bother me either. Sometimes I use a Yoda take on that line and say, “Ride this good when 69 years old you be.”

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      A backhanded compliment like that never bothers me. But when I get it, it’s more equipment-related than age-related. Some young guy on a double-boinger watching me spaz my way up some rocky bit goes, “Yeah, awright, Steelman!”

    • JD Dallager Says:

      No problemo here on a comment like that.

      But if it’s said maliciously, I just reply: “Thanks! The good news is that if you stay healthy you may live as long as I have. The bad news is you’ll probably look like I do. Ride on, Bro/Sis!”

  3. Libby Says:

    Enjoying the podcasts!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Libby. Something different, hey? You wouldn’t believe how long it takes me to generate five minutes of audio. I feel entirely incompetent, like I’m trying to draw a cartoon with a banana.

      But this is a good thing. Breaking new trails through the brain-box.

      • Libby Says:

        More cartoons, more bananas, more new trails! I hear ya’ about everything takes soooo long to do. And, you not only did it, you finished it, got it out there and the podcast is great!

  4. Dale Says:

    I didn’t fall on a cholla today, but I did go vote and being a Donk that usually feels like the same thing in my district. The Donks had one person in the tent and a candidate for local office greeting voters. The Elefinks had about 6 people in their tent, but no noticeable voter traffic while I was there.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Man, the Donks have the get-out-the-vote machinery rolling coal here in ’Burque. I get a half-dozen texts and calls a day. Turnout looks solid at the early-voting location up the road. Just 11 days left before we have to decide whether to join Larry in Italy.

      Herself has been canvassing and working the phones, and I’ve been yelling at NPR and the voices in my head, so we’re both doing our bits for the Republic.

  5. B Lester Says:

    Super production there, just as cool as the content. Tell me about the music, please? Love mellow three-piece intro. And who was the background? Cheers!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      B, Apple’s GarageBand includes a bazillion “loops” you can use to make your own music, from simple to symphony. That’s how I put the funky intro/outro tune together.

      I’ve managed to misplace the original project, so I can’t tell you which loops I used, dammit. But it’s as simple as picking the ones you like, dragging them into a GarageBand project, and then chopping them up and moving them around.

      The background music is called “Blues Loop,” and I got that from a user who calls himself fredsonic at Freesound, which is one of a couple sources I tap for sound effects I can’t generate myself. (The running sounds in last week’s podcast I recorded using a minirecorder and a lapel mic’ while jogging on Trail 365.) ZapSplat is another good source for sound.

      Back In the Day® GarageBand and iMovie used to be linked a lot more closely as part of Apple’s iLife suite, and when I was building a podcast in GarageBand I could tap into iMovie’s extensive sound-effects library for complete jingles and a ton of other useful audio bits. Alas, somewhere along the way Apple decided GB didn’t need that all-access pass.

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