Californication is probably one of my favorite shows on television.
To briefly sum it up, the main character, Hank Moody, is something of a washed up author/rock star. An episode generally consists of Hank trying to do right by his wife and daughter, consuming large quantities of alcohol and sometimes drugs, engaging in explicit sexual acts with attractive women, and then generally coming out of all of it unscathed. The plot mainly rests on Hank’s dual nature. He longs for stability at home with his wife and daughter, but inevitably dabbles in sensual indulgences. Despite his conflicting codes of ethics, Hank is an extremely likable character. He is cool. He says cool witty things and so do his attractive and cool friends. People in the show like Hank and people watching the show like Hank.
I’ve always been infatuated with writers like that. Authors like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, even Ben Jonson. Men who are identified as professionally brilliant and personally lascivious seem to hold a fond place in literary culture. And like Hank Moody, these authors achieved significant amounts of success while seemingly defying the “expectations” placed on them by “society.” Their writing details a life of revelry and success. They literally become famous because of their odd mix of brilliance and recklessness.
This approach, however, does not work for an undergraduate student. Ernest Hemingway missed his deadlines. Marshall Simmonds makes his. Hunter S. Thompson played by his own rules. Marshall Simmonds plays by the rules of others.
Over Christmas Break my younger brother, who is a freshman in college this year, asked my parents what he should do with the money he made from selling his books back. I had never asked my parents this question. As far as they were concerned, I had been amassing a large personal library of textbooks since 2007. My parents have since decided that I should use the last seven semesters of book money to pay for my plane ticket to spring break.
My roommate was djing at a bar the Tuesday night before my “British Drama to 1642” exam. I had not started studying before I decided to stay up until 4AM the next Wednesday morning. I woke up at 10, took the exam at noon, and got an A. I sincerely hope that Dr. Thomas does not find out about this.
My roommate was djing at a bar the night before my 15 page research paper was due in History 301 the next day. I had written two pages before I decided to stay up until 4AM the next morning. I wake up at 10 and have class at 2. I cannot write 13 pages of a detailed history on the nefarious figure Squanto in 4 hours. I turn the paper in at 3 and have 10% taken off; I get a B+.
Hank Moody doesn’t feel consequences. Occasionally he is kicked out of his house, or his family won’t talk to him, but these problems are resolved within 2-3 episodes. I feel consequences, small and large. Subliminally I know Hank Moody will be O.K., there are no such assurances in the real world. I am not William Faulkner, I am not Hunter S. Thompson, I am not Hank Moody. I am someone who, despite their most delusional fantasies, has to play by the rules and adhere to deadlines. My most bone headed moments inevitably result poorly. Thompson and Hemingway killed themselves. Ben Jonson was a lush who drunkenly fell out of favor with Charles I. Faulkner was a degenerate alcoholic who probably died from it. Bukowski’s final thoughts on his life: “Don’t try.”
Sometime you have to learn to get it right.