Paranoia at 70 mph

I am not a big Jim Carrey fan. That fact does not make me very popular with my peers, but I can’t help it; as much as I admire his comic intelligence (I certainly won’t call it genius), I can’t stand the elasticity of his face. Which is sort of his thing. If you don’t like the way he stretches his face into comical over-exaggeration like a kid playing with a wad of Double Bubble gum, then you probably don’t like most of the man’s work. The exceptions are his non-comedy movies, namely Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and The Truman Show—both of which I think are amazing. The Truman Show in particular; maybe because it was the first non putty-faced Carrey movie I’d seen, or maybe because it contains less elements of psychological uncertainty and does not leave me dizzy with confusion about the validity of my memories.

Which is not to say that The Truman Show is without metaphysical implications—in fact that is part of what draws me back to re-watching it every couple of years. It is a great film, simultaneously heart-warming, funny, sad, and dark, all with some terrific performances by serious actors—but the plot is the best part. A man whose entire life is a sham?! A conspiracy that everyone is in on except the rube at its center?! How crazy is that? ….or worse, how real  is that?

OK, look, I’m not paranoid. Which is a bad way to preface any statement, granted, but for the most part it’s true. I love a good conspiracy theory, but only for the entertainment value (think Da Vinci Code, Big Foot, and every story about aliens) and I exhaust very few brain cells pondering new world orders or wondering if someone is out to get me. But what if everyone is just watching me? Now that’s believable! I would make great television. And how would I ever know, because everyone is in on it. Not just the government, or the Free Masons, or Robert Redford and his nose-tipping cronies, but EVERYONE. There is not a single person that I could go to with my theory because everyone around me is part of the cast; and honestly, why would I want to break the fourth wall and ruin everything??

This was the first thought I had while watching The Truman Show, and it was little more than a funny idea (I was sober at the time; all bets are off if you watched this movie stoned—and the same goes for Groundhog’s Day!! Consider yourself warned). Anyways, it didn’t really sink in until I was in the middle of a 14 hour solo roadtrip from central California to eastern Washington. Roadtrips are part of my history, my family culture, and my identity to a certain extent, so the trip itself was nothing crazy. But it was my first time driving for so long by myself. For those of you who have never spent extended time alone, unmoving (except for imperceptible flexing of your ankles and the drumming of your hands on the steering wheel), without an adequate supply of good music, let me explain a few things: first of all, it is a learning experience. Not in a character-building way like learning to make a fire from sticks or fix your toilet, but in a deep dark self-exploratory way. The farther you drive down that endless highway (and God, the fucking highway through northern California is endless), the farther back into your own mind you will go. You will discover parts of your consciousness that you did not know existed, because they are usually too lazy or ashamed to make themselves seen. But in the utter solitude that is your insulated car flying down an unmarked strip of pavement in the middle of nowhere, these strange parts of your mind will poke out their little noses and sniff the air.

OK that sounds far worse than it is. Or at least, than it is for me. Maybe some of you have serial-killer parts of your mind that would never manifest themselves except in the unholy petri dish conditions that are a lengthy solo roadtrip. NOTE: if you fear that may be the case for you, STAY OFF THE ROAD! Stop at rest areas! Or fly! With friends! Never be alone! You know how everyone keeps telling you to be yourself? Well, don’t!! Not if the real you is way more of a psycho killer than the pretend you that’s been doing fine so far.

Alright, now that we are all significantly gripped with fear that we are surrounded by potential sociopaths and/or harboring one within our own subconscious, let’s get back to story. After about 9 hours on the road, having exhausted my ill-prepared iPod library and nearly smashed the radio for trying to force cowboy country into my ears, I began to feel my mind melting, exposing the inner parts of it that are usually covered with a protective layer of names, dates, times, celebrity factoids, social customs, and other such detritus that my brain picks up in the daily course of social interaction. These inner parts were unused to sitting in the spotlight of my attention, so perhaps they went a little haywire, but the scene in my head played out a little something like this:

Bum daaa, bum daa, buh-dumb, buh-dumb-dumb. Man, that beat is sick, I need to remember that. Hmm, I wish I could just say stuff out loud and have something write it down. Like record it for later. Will my phone do that? Did I just say that out loud? Wait—why don’t  I say this all out loud? “Yeah, I can just talk everything I think. Why not? Hellllooooo ayyyyoooooaaaooh! Wow I sound weird. Maybe I look crazy…but nobody can see me. What if they could see me right now? Ha ha ha, ohh man, do I look crazy laughing to myself. I guess I’m glad nobody is watching.” Oh shit is that car watching me?? No, no way…right? But what if every car is watching me—shit, what if everyBODY is watching me? Just watching me go crazy, talking to myself, singing to the radio…maybe even someone is narrating!! I hope it’s Morgan Freeman. Or maybe David Attenborough, like it’s a nature show. No. No, no, please no. I am NOT down to be on TV. “I’m on to you…wait. So everybody is in on it? Like everybody? That would be the only way that this could work…so my friends are in on it too? And my family? That was how it was for Truman. Wait, was that his real mom in the show or an actress? Where did they get this baby? I should really re-wa—…did they film him masturbating?? He was always being filmed, even when he was sleeping, so yeah I guess when he was in the bathroom too. What was this show rated? Maybe it was on HBO. I’d be down to be on a show most of the time, but maybe not all the time. Just like for part of the year, so it could be seasons! …oh wait, that’s just reality TV. Kim Kardashian beat me to it. Man, that’s embarrassing.” Maybe I should go back to thinking. Wooooah, what if they could read my thoughts???! And then turn it into images, like some sort of iTunes visualize shit. “Now that would be a dope show.”

This continued for about an hour until my voice got hoarse. (I had also forgot to bring anything to drink—for someone who has roadtripped many times, I sure am a terrible packer). Eventually I stopped at a rest area and took a nap, thus resetting my brain and burying the subconscious thoughts that had set me on the path of paranoid insanity. After a couple more hours the radio started picking up signals from actual civilization and I listened to non-country music until I arrived at my destination. None of the people in passing cars stared at me, but also I had stopped talking out loud. Maybe I am a Truman Show-style star, but it is bad art to have your character speak everything he thinks—leave something to the imagination. I don’t want to be cancelled.

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