When I think of my favorite writers, I don’t spend a lot of time imagining them outside. Some of my favorite writers, and comedians, seem to be more of what Jim Gaffigan calls “indoorsy.” I think of David Sedaris, Calvin Trillin, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Bryson, Malcolm Gladwell, and Anne Lamott and none of them write long tomes about the great outdoors. John Muir they are not. If anything, they tend to live indoors, often in or near cities, and talk about their fear, hatred or general distaste for much of the natural world.
Seth Meyers host of Late Night, once commented that he was so often frustrated by everyone’s enthusiasm for the summer season, and for the outdoors in general, because they were constantly trying to get him to go outside and everything he wanted to do was indoors.
I enjoy nature occasionally. It can be exhilarating, at least in short bursts, but much like a conversation with a lunatic, as exciting as it is, it begins to wear pretty thin in short order and you just want to remove yourself from the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible.
I have plenty of amazing memories of my time outside, from cutting firewood in the woods with my friend Bob and our dogs, riding a bike through the mountains of New Hampshire as a teen, camping with my wife and kids when they were young, and surfing in a warm rain in October, also with Bob. I’m glad I got to experience those things but it’s a lot like seeing a tiger at the zoo. After you’ve done it once, there really isn’t much more you’re going to get out doing it again.
There are exceptions for sure. Even though they are fairly common, seeing a pod of dolphins never seems to get old, as if once again, there goes a unicorn. We all seem to feel this way about dolphins. For the most part, we’re all still pretty excited to see most wild animals, probably because they do their best to stay out of sight when we’re around. Rabbits, raccoons, deer, squirrels, snakes, turtles, frogs, robins, hummingbirds, eagles, ospreys and egrets. Some of them are pretty common, but that has never stopped me from stopping to admire them. Look, you might say, a blue heron!
But like Mr. Meyers, most of what I want to do is indoors. Very few people comprehend the vast distances I travel on any given day without leaving the confines of my house or yard or chair. It helps that I have traveled extensively throughout the world, and will do so again once day, once it is safe to do so. I have a full plate of past experiences to draw from, not to mention an active imagination and the ability to visualize experiences I’ll only ever know vicariously. I am largely self contained when it comes to entertainment. I amuse myself, constantly, but I also allow others to entertain me as well. I just don’t feel the need to be in their presence in order to do so. I can read their stories, watch their shows, listen to their recordings.
I sent a few years working in the music industry and saw just about anyone who toured between 1988-1993. I wasn’t that excited to see them in person, and was most often annoyed if they didn’t play the song the way they did on the album, which is admittedly stupid and a bit simple. I might as well stay home and listen to the record, which is exactly what I do now. No offense to the all the musicians out there, but this is why I don’t show up to hear you play in person. It’s not because I don’t like your music, it’s because I don’t like the people who like your music. That’s a little harsh. I have nothing against your fans in particular, I just don’t like crowds and I don’t go out at 10pm to do anything.
David Mamet once wrote that everyone makes their own fun, otherwise it’s entertainment. I supposed that’s true, but I often use the entertainment of others to make my own fun, and I most often do it from the safety and comfort of my own home.