This essay was originally written and performed for Write Club Atlanta, a monthly competitive writing event.
With the possible exception of demolition experts, terrorists and rock stars sitting around in their hotel rooms, no one ever says, “I wish I were more destructive.” But why not? Why has “destruction” become such a dirty word?
I understand that nobody likes to see trees cut down to make room for a retail center in their neighborhood. But many of us, even if we’re too ashamed to admit it, have a little man living inside our head who can’t wait to use his 20 percent off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond without having to travel far from home.
Now, before you start thinking that I’m a right-wing, destroy-the-environment kind of guy, I should mention that I’m so liberal that when someone asks “how’s it hanging?” I always tell them “to the left,” EVEN if it’s hanging to the right. Of course, it usually isn’t hanging at all. It just kind of cowers away like a scared little turtle. Which, I suppose, is probably more indicative of the Democratic party than anything else.
I’m not trying to be political. I’m just saying that we need to stop ignoring or denying the good things that can come from destruction. Or even worse, denying that sometimes destruction is necessary.
Whenever I see news reports about an old Las Vegas casino being imploded, they always include interviews with people who are sad about its demise and proclaim that no one cares about the past anymore. But what those people never seem to mention is how outdated the rooms were or how the stale smell of broken dreams and cigarette smoke permeated the place. Or how the buffet really sucked.
That’s what my first marriage felt like.
Sure, there were good times in the beginning, and there were even moments when I felt like I was continually hitting blackjack, while the sounds of bells went off all around me. (By the way, I’m just continuing the casino metaphor here. I’m not saying sex with me is so great that you’ll hear bells.)
But, after coming down from the high of the grand opening festivities, I started seeing imperfections in my domestic casino. And at first I tried to cover them up. New carpet here, new perks there. Double player points all weekend!! But I knew in my heart that time was up. What used to be the hot spot in town had become a dark, sad shell of itself and the only clientele was little old ladies, chain smoking at the nickel slots.
It’s times like this when you gotta have a cutthroat, bottom-line executive. Someone who has the guts to say, “This place just isn’t profitable anymore. Let’s blow the fucker up and start over.”
Luckily, my ex-wife was that kind of executive.
And yes, at first I was distraught over the destruction of my casino, but out of all the rubble I was able to build a brand new, much nicer complex. And I have to say that, so far, the buffet is top notch.
So, you see, good things can come from destruction, and when that happens, we need to embrace those things. But we also have to realize that sometimes WE need to be the ones causing the destruction. And I’m not just talking about the kind of destruction you see proposed via bumper stickers. You know, shit like “Destroy Your Television!” (Whenever I see that sentiment on someone’s car I always think, “They obviously haven’t seen The Wire.”)
Not that I always disagree with bumper sticker messages. We SHOULD “Question Authority,” and as strange as it may sound I do care to know that you “Brake For Yard Sales,” since that’s a good warning not to be texting while driving behind you. I love myself a little too much to die just because you have a weakness for old clothes and Beanie Babies.
But slapping bumper stickers on your car is a lazy response to real issues. It’s like sitting in your house, listening to NPR and cataloging your Food & Wine recipes, while a War is Not the Answer sign sits on your perfectly-manicured lawn, advertising your pacifism to the world. Besides, sometimes war IS the answer! For instance, if someone rearranges my recipes and files the goat cheese parfait with the entrees instead of the deserts, there is going to be war. And it will be justified.
Okay, so maybe that would be an exaggerated reaction. Although, World War II was started after Hitler stole Churchill’s recipe for eggplant risotto. Either way, we do need to wage war on the things that are holding us back and revel in their destruction, whether it’s bad marriages, the two-party system or our tendency to be blinded by nostalgia. Sorry, but “Footloose” was a shitty movie to begin with, so Hollywood remaking it is not a travesty. It’s just a good reminder that you’re getting old.
But, the good news is that you’re never too old to be destructive. So get off your ass and destroy something. Destroy your nostalgia. Destroy your bad relationship. Destroy your porn. Hell, you can even destroy your television if you really want to.
Just don’t destroy your Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. I know a little guy who would love to have them.