Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Fever + Moby Dick = Questionable Results

Since coming to Kenya, I get horribly sick about once a year. Not at all dangerously sick, not at all seriously sick, just dramatically sick. The kind where I inevitably end up collapsed on the kitchen floor, sweating and shaking and wondering how I’ll ever get back to my bed. I don’t know if it is that Kenya lends itself to picking up more extreme bugs, or if I’m just generally more dramatic in Kenya. I think it’s a bit of both.

Most of the time I was sick I was: sleeping; lying in bed reading Moby Dick; lying in bed thinking of how to win a million dollars.

First I should say, Moby Dick is awesome. But a strange side effect of reading it over several feverish days plus one daytime television session of Survivor while eating toast was this monomaniacal fixation on winning a million dollars.

Can’t say I’ve spent very much of my life thinking of what I could do with lots of money, but once I started thinking about it (and ‘thinking’ is a strong term for the loose ranging loops of fancy), it was hard to stop. Lots of good causes out there.

But how, you might ask, will you win a million dollars? If I remember correctly, I had a 3 part plan:

1) Win Survivor
2) Win an Olympic gold medal.
3) Win a Nobel Prize. Any of ‘em.


#3 – Win a Nobel Prize – I think this was more of an acknowledgment that it comes with a million dollars. Even in my deepest delirium, I had no plan for how to get one.

#2 – Win the Olympics – Yeah. You know, I’m pretty sure a gold medal does NOT come with a million dollars. But for some reason, I thought it would. So I thought about what sport I could ‘realistically’ master in the next 4 years and compete at the age of 33, and I came up with….the parallel bars.
Yep. I think primarily because the announcers would have so many great talking points on me – wow, imagine, such mastery in just a few years! and at her age! and she doesn’t even have very good depth perception!

#1 – But it didn’t even matter that numbers 2 and 3 were pretty long shots, because I was convinced that I had the winning strategy for Survivor. So the episode of Survivor I saw while eating toast was the last of some season (12? 22? 44?), and it was the usual where you had everyone on the jury complaining about how the final 2 weren’t ‘worthy’ and were ‘weak’ and had just ‘ridden coattails’ to get to the end.

“Oh shut up,” I said in my head. I do a lot of talking out loud in my head when I’m sick. “If you hadn’t bloody well knocked out everyone who seemed to be a threat, this wouldn’t have happened. This show is so predictable.”

Later as I was lying in bed, not sleeping, not reading, just lying there as I do when I’m sick, I came up with my grand strategy. Looking back, it’s a bit thin. At the time, it seemed as deep as was necessary. My plan was to go on the show and tell my fellow contestants: look people, our strategy should be to Make Good Television. Somehow, this appeal to their deeper Televised instincts would inspire everyone to greater heights, and instead of just voting out the obvious, we’d vote out the people who weren’t contributing to the overall structural drama. And my contribution would be from constantly doing meta-commentary on the role of Survivor in American cultural life and how we reflected and impacted American life. Which, in retrospect, even if the rest of my strategy succeeded, would likely not keep me on any island for very long.

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