“‘It's very hard living with a man who is learning to play the violin,' she said, handing the detective the empty revolver.” -Richard Brautigan
My friend Larry is a formidable Scrabble opponent. We're usually pretty even, but the last time we played was a holocaust. The prick had subjugated every reachable triple word score, wielded two-letter words like daggers and scored a handful of bingos before I ever scored one. By the time we got to the endgame, I was behind by more than a hundred points, with nothing in my rack but vowels and a board so tight it had all the scoring potential of Gary Coleman in a slam-dunk competition.
So I forfeited.
There is an ongoing debate between Larry and me about the ethics of quitting. Larry, like a lot of Scrabble players, thinks you shouldn't stop until that last tile is played and all points tallied. He says Scrabble-like life-is about the journey; it shows integrity and sportsmanship to see the game through.
I, on the other hand, am a shameless quitter. I have no problem quitting Scrabble when defeat is inevitable. I quit all the time. And not just board games, either. I quit college. I quit women. I quit reading mediocre books right in the middle. I walk out of sporting blowouts. I quit watching the movie if the movie doesn't quit sucking. I start new writing projects without finishing old ones. I quit jobs. I quit friendships. I quit smoking cigarettes, but couldn't hang so I quit quitting. Then I quit again. Then I quit quitting again, and so on-until I had quit and unquit smoking 75 more times before I actually quit.
I even quit music. At 13 years old I tried violin lessons, but immediately started sucking, so I quit. At 15, I took piano lessons, sucked instantly, and then quit. At 16, I took up the clarinet and quit before I ever blew a note correctly. At 18, I took up guitar, didn't suck right away, but then showed signs of sucking, then a bit more sucking crept in, until finally full-blown suckage commenced, then I quit.
Maybe you're thinking, Wow, all that quitting sure is a waste of time. But that's not how I see it. I believe you're saving time by not pursuing the things you can't do or don't enjoy. Life is too short to suffer crummy movies till the end, and to this day I shudder to think of what unspeakable horrors I might have witnessed had I stayed till the end of The Bad News Bears Go to Japan.
And maybe you are thinking, Whatever happened to the ‘Try, try again' theory? The problem with the “Try, try again” theory is that try-trying doesn't always work. I know that your leaders and role models want you to believe that anything is possible if you just try-try. But that's just bullshit. Martin Luther King Jr. try-tried to end bigotry. Marsha Clark try-tried to try O.J. And the San Diego Chargers try-try-tried like all-crap to beat the Jets.
Trying don't always do it. Oh, sure, I could have stayed with the guitar, could have tried real hard to be a great axe-man just like the other zillion aspiring guitarists out there who are trying their nuts off to achieve excellence, yet never pass the level of mediocrity. They waste their years aspiring to greatness and the most they ever get for their troubles is 50 bucks and a pitcher of Guinness for their monthly gig at O'Sucky's.
Or worse, the “Never say die” attitude actually works for them. They strive and toil and-though their musicianship doesn't improve much-all the hard work opens some corporate doors and they eventually become big-time rock stars.
Now you've got this utterly average asshole-and all the utterly average assholes like him-caterwauling their mediocrity on the radios, and the jukeboxes, and car speakers, and polluting your otherwise tolerable existence.
In this way, quitting is a noble gesture. To spare others of your ingloriousness is the ultimate sacrifice. That's why the violin had to be abandoned. There's no telling what murderous clamor my lute might have unleashed upon the world had I continued.
And thank God Jewel is a quitter. I mean, what if she hadn't quit trying to publish more poetry books after the critics trashed her debut, A Night Without Armor. What if she responded to the bad reviews by saying, “When you fall off the horse, you got to get right back on,” and kept releasing more and more poetry books with abominable new poems like “I Love You Like a Person Who Loves a Lot” and “My Van Still Smells Like Poltz,” and inside your head you're screaming, “No, Jewel, no! You got it wrong-if you fall off the horse, then you should stay the fuck off horses!”
And what if Jerry hadn't pulled the plug on Seinfeld? Did you really want to see a 17th season, when Jerry's cute, bespectacled nephew comes to live with him, and George and Elaine fall in love and give each other smooches every other scene, and Kramer's newest stunt is to jump over a shark on water skis?
Some people say quitting is the easy way out. I say the opposite. Quitting is hard. Continuing as you were, using the same tired formula, writing the same tired jokes for the same tired characters-that's the easy part. It takes balls to quit. Quitting means starting something else. Quitting rocks. Quitting is good. I am a quitter.
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