Scream

It seems that whenever I am about to ditch the show Girlswhenever I have decided that once again for the last time I have had it with the self-absorption and -importance of the main characters- out comes an episode that is positively moving, which makes me once again believe that the madness-inducing narcissism of every character is some meta-effect that we're meant to feel, not unlike the deliberately terrible ending of Adaptation or that deliberately boring sequence in 2001. Whether or not that is true, the occasional stellar episode keeps me and my wife coming back to the mercurial show.

Incidentals, the eighth episode of the third season, was one of those rejuvenating half-hours, as it hit a few nerves which were exposed after a year of dealing with lymphoma. The lymphoma experience has not led to a blissier, calmer, there-are-no-bad-days kind of me. I don't wake up every morning thanking god or the heavens or even good luck for the miracle of every day, and I still scream at the driver of the car in front of me when his texting causes him to miss his chance to turn left on the yellow. I'm just about the same, only now my venting has to come with a disclaimer: I know I'm supposed to have some new and enlightened perspective, but just fucking go! If anything, getting pissed is more work for me now, since I have to apologize for it.

I have been blessed with a new "moment appreciation," though, which has led to what I guess you could call increased happiness. Despite the fact that my newly appreciated health has inspired me to write more, teach about wine more, and work harder, it has also allowed my mind to pause much more frequently and think shit- this moment is perfect. It can be having a bottle of wine with my wife, or riding my bike home late at night, or just sitting on the couch with my feet up and my laptop on. In fact, one of my top moments of the last year consisted of nothing more than a sunny day and an impromptu bagel sandwich. In these moments, I think that if nothing in my life ever really changed- if I never achieved any of my goals- that would be alright, as life itself is special even when it's not. I guess if you wanted to put it in a more familiar and worn way, you could say that I have become more "in the moment," which is good.

Strangely, though, this newfound appreciation and positivity can be detrimental, as it can erode the restlessness and ambition that drives higher achievement. It's not that pleasant moments make me not want to write, but the acknowledgement of a pleasant moment leads to a heightened appreciation for that moment, which leads to an embrace of that moment, which leads to watching the rest of a movie for the next 120 moments, which leads to going to bed at three and not waking until noon and therefore missing out on valuable work time. I don't shun writing to its face- but I tend to give priority to whatever I am doing at the time, and time is finite.

In the Incidentals episode, Hannah is sent to the Gramercy Park Hotel to write an advertorial for GQ magazine. Her job writing this material is artistically ungratifying, but you can see her easing more and more into the job, as well as enjoying the benefits of steady commercial work. In fact, after the sum of her first paycheck sinks in, she treats herself to a dress that she sees in a window on her way home from work. This scene is only disturbing when you recall Hannah's blanching at taking the job in the first place; she fancied herself a "real" writer, not the kind of hackneyed mercenary that her idealistic self believed should be churning out the kind of, gulp, content that GQ was comissioning. Only once she realized that her colleagues were just as serious as she was did she realize that collecting a check for this job was ok. Sure, she's not working on anything groundbreaking at work, but what's wrong with having a couple of bucks to blow on a dress every now and then?

That's how I feel: I still want to do everything I ever wanted to do, but steadiness and stability don't seem so soulless now. In fact, the spoils of stability: the wine, the unplanned sandwiches, the kisses on a cold night, seem more and more to be life's choicest fiber.

The best scene in the episode, though, comes near the beginning. Adam is at a Broadway audition with a bunch of rivals who look like "him, with a nose job." He's called back in, where he is told that he got the part. This news is followed by nervous, giddy laughter from Adam, and an awkward but light exchange with the casting director. Cut to Adam in the men's room, standing in front of the sink, stuffing a paper towel into his mouth. Once the whole towel is firmly in place, he screams, fists clenched and arms flexed. The first scream could almost be misread as a howl of pain- the second shows that it's from a place of pure joy and deep satisfaction.

Adam practically floats out onto the Manhattan street, and it's such a great moment that it could make you cry. It's why I watch this show: It reminds us that there can be guiltless contentment in the tiny, unambitious things we have to do to keep the bills paid. It reminds us that there can be joy in the small rewards that we often dismiss as trite and materialistic. And in the same thirty minutes, it reminds us to reach for something so ambitious, so seemingly distant, that when we finally grasp it, we can't help but stuff our mouths and scream.

PH

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