24 February, 2009

The Great Saturday Night Heist

I once read something about Janis Joplin, perhaps an interview, where she mentioned or was said to have mentioned a phenomenon that was referred to as the Great Saturday Night Heist. If I recall correctly, it was in relation to a conversation she had had with her father (perhaps the one that initially used the phrase), and the anecdote was used to demonstrate Janis' wisdom about the ways of life, even at a young age. Indeed, Janis was known to have lived a troubled life - a fact that is self-evident through the lyrics in her songs. This idea of the Great Saturday Night Heist, which I think is best exemplified through Janis' music in the song Kozmic Blues (also, perhaps, another phrase for the phenomenon), can be generalized as a form of weltschmerz, a term which I have personally taken a liking to.

"Don’t expect any answers, dear; for I know that they don’t come with age."

But there's also a more specific meaning to the phrase, the 'Great Saturday Night Heist', which is what I'd like to touch on here. The basic idea is also demonstrated, albeit in a more comical rather than tragic fashion, in one of Jerry Seinfeld's standup routines that was affixed to the pilot episode of his popular 90's sitcom.

"You know why we're here? To be out, this is out...and out is one of the single most enjoyable experiences of life. People...did you ever hear people talking about 'We should go out'? This is what they're talking about...this whole thing, we're all out now, no one is home. Not one person here is home, we're all out! There are people tryin' to find us, they don't know where we are. 'Did you ring?, I can't find him.' 'Where did he go?' 'He didn't tell me where he was going.' He must have gone out. You wanna go out: you get ready, you pick out the clothes, right? You take the shower, you get all ready, get the cash, get your friends, the car, the spot, the reservation...There you're staring around, whatta you do? You go: 'We gotta be getting back'. Once you're out, you wanna get back! You wanna go to sleep, you wanna get up, you wanna go out again tomorrow, right? Where ever you are in life, it's my feeling, you've gotta go."

Also, there's a related scene within the episode The Junior Mint:

Jerry: What, you rented "Home Alone"?
George: Yeah. ...By the way, do you mind if I watch it here?
Jerry: What for?
Jerry: Because if I watch it at my apartment I feel like I'm not doing anything. If I watch it here, I'm out of the house; I'm doing something.

It's that feeling you get when you're spending a Saturday Night at home alone, and something tells you that you should be out there, hanging with people, enjoying your life, and that if you stay home you're not only wasting an important opportunity in your life, but that you'll also be more pathetic for it. And while the "Heist" phenomenon suggests an ultimate disappointment even in the empty fulfillment of going out, it's that initial feeling, that drive to go out and live in the first place, that I want to talk about.

I figure it's an evolutionary symptom of our social nature as a species. Something fundamental inside of us drives us to interact socially with the pack and also to pursue mates. Lonerism, from that perspective, is dangerous - it means giving up the protection of the pack, and giving up on the propagation of the species. And so the ancient sociobiological imperative that exists within us urges us, on those Saturday nights we spend alone, suggesting that we could be spending our time in a much better manner.

As an asocial personality, by design and not by choice, I've lived my entire life aware of the difference between the me that keeps mostly to myself and the they that move about in great social circles. It's not a lack of desire that keeps me holed away from the world, but rather certain uncommon psychological barriers which most people don't have a problem with. So all my life I've felt that I've been missing out on...well, life.

Before I started going to school, my older brother hung out with the other kids on the block, and I pretty much followed him/them around. When social life moved from home/neighborhood to the school, we were separated due to age and I was left alone in my own class. I had a few friends over the years, but I didn't make them easily, and I still spent most of my life outside of school at home, feeling like I *should* be out somewhere, doing something. And knowing that all the other kids *were*. And that made me feel inadequate, and crushed my self-esteem. It's a self-defeating pattern.

I remember walking home from the high school one night on the weekend - I don't know if I was just out walking, or actually coming home from some rare extracurricular outing, but it was dark already and I walked by a house on the way home from which I heard people in the backyard partying. Do you know what that feeling is like? You think to yourself, that's the sort of thing I should be doing, but I don't belong in that kind of a scene at all. I'm just going home, and I'll be spending the night alone, doing something uncool. God, I'm pathetic. Some people are secure in their uncoolness. I never really cared about being cool, but I was constantly hurt by the knowledge that I wasn't a part of that thing that people call having a life. Constantly hurt.

Let's fast-forward to college for a sec. College is pretty great in this respect. A lot of the stupid high school social barriers erode, and even the geeks and dorks and nerds end up drinking all night doing things together that they enjoy. But even so, the loners are still alone. I got to do a lot of great stuff in college that I'm thankful for having a chance to do, that I never would have done in high school, and yet I still feel like I missed out on being able to do so much more.

I remember when I first heard about the VG club that I spent many weekends at during those years. I was invited by one of my in-department peers during one of our labs. The funny thing is, in those early days, before I kind of got used to the scene, I would sometimes question myself on the weekends whether or not to go. I'd be standing there, looking at myself in the mirror in the res hall men's room on a Saturday night, debating back and forth in my head, 'should I go, or should I stay home?' It's not like I had anything important or especially interesting to attend to in my dorm room, but even with an open invitation to live this "life" I'd always desired of having, I was still hesitant to engage because of those barriers I mentioned above, which can make situations like those as unpleasant as they should be fun. Even though I knew I'd regret not going, I still sometimes got too nervous and made the choice to stay home. This is the way I am.

Anyway, the point of this discussion wasn't really to talk about my anxiety, even though it's intricately linked. So let's jump back to high school - but a certain special part of high school, in which everything in my world turned upside-down and I had to redefine my understanding of life - senior year.

We touched on above the notion of the 'heist', that 'going out' is ultimately unfulfilling, but I believe there are times when going out can be extremely fulfilling - like the kind of dreamlike fulfillingness that makes you feel like *this*, *this* here, is the reason I am alive, to experience *this*. Well, the only time in my life that I was able to consistently experience that feeling, opposing the more familiar feeling of being a waste of DNA, was the brief period in my life where I experienced deep mutual romantic love with another person.

Don't worry, I have no intention of lapsing into sappy poetics at this point. I'm just saying, even if it's something as simplistic and impersonal as that biological imperative to find a mate and propagate the species, the only time I truly felt that my life was going successfully was when I had a serious and loving girlfriend. When we went out, I felt that I was living life the way I was meant to live it. Hell, even when we stayed in, it *meant* something, because *I* wasn't just staying in, *we* were staying in.

I'm not going to belabor the point (if that's possible at this stage). I have to wonder though, what good it is all for. I know I don't believe in spiritual determinism, but I do like to find my own personal meaning for the things I endure in life. Was I meant to experience that sort of fulfillment? Will I again? Did I only get a taste of it for a reason? To fuel my artistry? Was it only a lucky fluke?

Most people have countless Saturday nights in their life. I had one, once, and it was heisted from me.

1 comment:

  1. I used to feel those exact feelings all the time. Remember when we were walking and we passed that big house with the dinner party that was still going on at like 3am, and I said "I bet Kelsey's there"? That whole thing, the whole Kelsey thing really (back in the day, not anymore) was all about the Saturday Night Heist. I used to feel terrible staying home.

    I got over the original idea of Saturday Night Heist during a magical glorious brief period called college. I too did a lot of social things in college but the strange thing is, it somehow dettached me from all of those people. The mystique was washed away, can't say I know why. Then after the countless times that people dragged me out of my hole to dance in their futile clinging, I don't feel bad what-so-ever staying home alone. Enjoying our own company is pathetic? Ha, at least we don't have anyone to answer to. At least we are free to craft our own perception. Pathetic is relying on other people for your own fucking worldview, like social people do.

    I still believe you'd get over the desire to be around people if you did it ad naseum. I still experience the allure of a Saturday night, every time I step out into the night and the air is warm. But it's got zilch to do with people (other than occasionally you, the only person who's fun to hang with), it has to do with remembering times when life had been exciting. And if it's excitement one wants, hanging out with people has absolutely nothing on trying a new drug. And it doesn't have to be drugs, just going new places, trying new things, walking somewhere I've never seen. You've been living in the same lifestyle for how many years now? I've been living in my lifestyle for 1 year and it's already so damn monotonous I want to rip my face off; if you're anything like me then every last thing in your life must have lost all of its magic by now. But I can go somewhere else, do something different and life is magical again.

    There's always the possibility that we are simply opposite on this matter. But it's hard to read my past feelings on your page and not suspect that you could feel like me as well. I guess I had a period of non-heist Saturdays as well, with my LJ. But eventually it got to the point where I found out it was an empty satisfaction. Perhaps the convergent fates of these experiences you and I had is what caused the divergence of our social ideologies. If that be the case, no offense but you should have chose a neglectful bitch to be your love. One that would try to pull you in again and again to infinity. :P

    I don't mean to sound preachy if I do. The better grasp I have on my own life, the less I can stop myself from preaching to others. That's one of the many reasons why I think it's a good idea for me to not spend too much time with people. I have no intention of not championing my beliefs, but I have no intention of telling people what to do or how to feel. Pretty much all I do with LJ is tell her how to live, albeit passive aggressively.