Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: As soon as we get through “this.”

By Dennis Hinkamp

Three really good suggestions for these days.
by Dennis Hinkamp


Everywhere I go I hear people talking about how things will be when “this” is over. I’m still not sure what this is, but we’re spending a lot of time in our self made fallout shelters with our eyes on the rations. This must be what it is like to be a member of an apocalyptic religion.

Since predictions of a return to happy days range from three months to never, here are a few suggestions for getting through whatever this is for however long it is.

1. Listen to more music than radio news. Watch more movies than TV news. Don’t skip the funnies section of the newspaper. This is hard for me to say because I love the news. I was the high school newspaper editor; I went to journalism school and was weaned into reporting during the Watergate era. I don’t know what this new medium is, but most of it isn’t news; it is fear mongering and yelling at each other. It’s soulless drivel that does not know when to get off the stage.

There was something to be said for the good old days when radio and TV stations signed off late at night. What we have now is 24-hour-a-day news feeding 20-second attention spans.

We also seem to be obsessed with simple numbers. I’ve been waking up listing to the same radio station for the past five years and I’ve started picking up a pattern. It started with reporting the number of deaths every day in Iraq and then it was the daily increase in the price of a barrel of oil and then the daily decrease in the stock market. When any of those numbers start sounding positive they revert to the more negative set.

I can almost imagine them in the newsroom debating on which number sounds worse. “Should we say the highest unemployment in 25 years or would it sound scarier to say the highest unemployment in a quarter of a century?”

2. Live with animals. Animals, especially dogs, generally make us feel adored and superior; what better balm for our battered souls? Pertinent quotes about dogs:

“They are so well adjusted because they are taken away from their parents at six weeks” and “they are always happy because they don’t know they are going to die.” Dogs always live in the moment even if that moment sometimes involves pooping on the carpet. Animals are part of our genetic soup and we need to learn more from them.

3. Grow something. So long as you understand that there is no way you can save money by raising your own chickens and tomatoes. I think all the backyard chicken coops and vegetable patches are a sign that we need to have control over some small something in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. Or, maybe people just need to reconnect with agriculture even if it is in just the 100 square feet of their back yard. I’m just fine with getting steaks packed in dry ice in the mail, but I can personally vouch that everyone around me who raises chickens and vegetables just seem to be the smiliest, slap-happy absurdists on the block.

Dennis Hinkamp is practicing Top Ramen and canned tuna recipes just in case he has to start living like a student again.

This article was originally published on May 29, 2009.