1. The idea being that there is (in theory) some aspect of my character which would, despite the many differences that I’m sure exist between us, allow for the development of some kind of pathos or sense of kindred spirit between myself and you [the Reader], without whom this column would be little more than a sort of frantic travelogue written by an über-self-absorbed college senior who should probably be in therapy.a

1a. In practice it will be that, but with enough of you [The Readership, that is] racking up the page count, we might dare to call this column a Small Slice of the Millennial Experience, which is, as I’m sure you’re aware, another name for First Rate Journalism.

2. All of them (3+2 unofficial spots) in our Arts section, where I was given the ontologically distressing nickname “Father Arts.”

3. Including underground music in Detroit, sexism and commodity fetishism in Drake’s hit summer jam “Hotline Bling,” Grammy-winning jazz pianist Fred Hersch, student consumer behavior and its influence on local Ann Arbor businesses, the philosophical and political character of eating dinner alone, etc.

4. Fortunately for myself, I suppose — but who knows! Maybe for the rest of humanity, too.

5. I’m hoping that the answers to my many philosophical queries have been hiding down there in a spiritually resonant alleyway of some sort, or maybe under a vase in Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s house, which I have every intention of visiting and whose restroom it is my most profound wish to experience first-hand (since the toilet is, in my mind, the only real seat of genius).

6. Since journalism is a cold mistress who won’t pay for things like this and my parents are warm mistresses who can’t, the only reason I’m able to make this voyage is, naturally, with the assistance of the Big Schliss — or, rather, the University’s illustrious Financial Aid Department (Peace Be With It), which has, throughout my undergraduate career, had much greater confidence in my ability to pay back federal loans than any other entity on this earth or floating amid the ether of the great hereafter. I’m also assisted by our Uncle Sam in the form of an incredibly generous grant through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which provides funding to allow “U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad." Such international exchange, I’m told, “is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.”

7. The first five chapters of whose magnum opus “Infinite Jest” I finished reading for the first time last week; and let me tell you, that is a guy who can sure write a lot of things. Wow. And his footnotes are really something — much more enthralling than your usual, run-of-the-mill marginalia. I, too, often have more thoughts than I could fit into a single sentence, but when he does it, it feels like you’re stepping into a whole new world with a much higher screen resolution. The closest thing I can compare it to is the feeling I get when I look at the Direct Optical guy for the first time after getting my new glasses prescriptions. All of the sudden he’s not only a Direct Optical Employee, but a Direct Optical Employee with a lot of pores and an oddly-shaped little scar next to his left ear, a deformity which I’m sure has some very interesting story behind it that I don’t feel we’re quite chummy enough to be able to ask about without seeming rude. Life is full of mysteries with the right corrective lenses.

8. He won a MacArthur Genius Grant, after all, so I’m sure his Objective Knowledge of the Self speaks for my human condition, too.

9. Keep on the lookout for a TV Notebook from myself re: the various problems with “Californication,” which are too numerous to count here. The most egregious, however, might be that the show ruins the perfectly pleasant idea of watching David Duchovny live out his days as a villa-based sardonic novelist/good-hearted hyper-macho literary enfant terrible by structuring itself around a prolonged, incredibly uncomfortable off-brand Nabokovian story arc wherein the forty-something writer gets his mojo back by way of sex with a 16-year-old girl who quickly turns into one of the show’s principal antagonists. It’s hideous.
10. History and the arts are rife with examples of the types of horrific problems that pop up when we try to get around with (or just plain get around) faulty narratives about who we are and how we got to be where we’re at.a Much rarer are stories about people trying to get around with no such narrative whatsoever; can you name any off the top of your head?b There’s some sort of conceptual barrier there which I’m sure someone has written an essay about at one point or another.
10a. See: eye-gouging in “Oedipus Rex,” drunken arbitrary self-enthrallment in “The Tempest,” the Holocaust vis-a-vis German post-WWI economic/legal sovereignty/national identity crises, death aboard a glacier in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” drunken hotel room stupors in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, drunken run-ins with nationalistic police officers in “Ulysses,” the murder of a perfectly innocent dog in “The Babadook,” etc.
10b. The closest thing I can imagine is a story that doesn’t exist. I’m thinking a remake of the movie “Memento” in which the anterograde amnesia-suffering protagonist never bothered to give himself any tattoos and simply doesn’t give a shit about the fact that he wakes up devoid of a self-concept every day. Instead of catching his wife’s murderer he lays in bed for an hour and forty-five minutes before the screen fades to black.

Now, the question of precisely how private it is in our own heads is, naturally, up for debate. Certain branches of contemporary philosophya are especially concerned with this topic, the general consensus being that you never can get entirely out of the Matrix. A good introductory example of this contemporary philosophizing (featuring plenty of entertaining pop culture references) is Slovenian Marxist philosopher/top-notch storyteller Slavoj Žižek’s “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology” (a film available on Netflix).
11a. Most of them descendants of or in conversation with psychoanalytic theory, which, in turn, owes quite a bit to Marxist theory — especially Marx’s comments re: commodity fetishism (!) which have already received a much more in-depth treatment in my “Hotline Bling” column.

12. You will need to keep prodding them with (sincere) smiles and (sincere) supportive exclamations, hmms and hums whenever they hit dead ends. Perhaps the occasional gentle reminder of why you wanted to hear this story in the first place (sincere yet disinterested curiosity re: your fellow man’s thoughts and feelings). This technique is often called “listening.”

13. There is a high degree of formal similarity between this sort of response and the sort of response you might hear in undergraduate English classrooms when the professor demands that an obviously clueless student give a plot synopsis of the book they haven’t read.

14. Which, if we’re being honest, is a sort of University-sanctioned self-absorption.

15. A brief alternative history of the collegiate narrative factory:
We should remind ourselves, of course, that the undergraduate period (roughly around age 18 to 22) has been, since the middle of the last century, more-or-less universally designated by successive generations of undergraduates (often with the complicity of their ex-undergraduate parents and our pop culture’s borderline-fanatical obsession with 18-to 22-year-olds’ search for meaning) as the time in which American youth must “find themselves,” i.e. spend a few years out of the house, beyond the reach of their immediate family and most of the professional and behavioral expectations placed on full-fledged adults in their economic class and cultural milieu, trying on various personality hats, drinking to excess, experimenting with a palette of hallucinogenic drugs, sampling from a number of atypical sexual and romantic permutations, otherwise engaging in a prolonged, noble rail against the various aspects of the System which have always kept them down, and thanking God all the while for college, which finally shook them free from their cultural programming, dragged them kicking and screaming out of the sheeple herd and molded them into a species of satyric goat-person, carrying between their cloven fingers a Certificate of Completion indicating that their four years of personhood-forging/debauchery have fully prepared them for their choice between a. drifting along the horizonless sea of global capital or b. signing on for the graduate round of university life, in which they will trade in a sizable share of their debauchery credits for access to esoteric learnings of the highest caliber.

16. “Finding oneself” being, again, a sort of exercise in creative writing. “I” don’t exist in my own head unless I take the time out of my day to writea that character into existence.
16a. Or choose from one of the many fine selections of “I” lining the shelves of the post- post-modern Walmart we like to call the 21st century. Current Americans options include, but are not limited to, the Donald Trump Model,i the Bernie Sanders Modelii and, of course, the Undergraduate Model, which I believe I was starting to sketch somewhere back three or four levels of footnote ago.iii
16ai “I” is a natural-born millionaire (despite any appearance to the contrary) whose attainment of incomparable wealth and the state of pure individualism is constantly threatened by the combined forces of the encroaching hordes of unemployed brown-skinned barbarians and their crypto-communist “American” P.C. liberal allies. Comes complete with blonde toupee, American flag pin and one complimentary spray-tan session.
16aii “I” is a person free from the sort of jingoistic, nationalistic, individualistic and capitalistic fantasies that have caused so much harm and destruction over the centuries. “I” realizes that, at the end of the day, we’d be so much better off if we all understood that we’re in this boat together. “I” also knows that if there are bad guys, they wear suits and ties and think money’s more important than building a society where their fellow man can live a healthy, happy, sustainable life. The suits might also be lizard men and, yes, of course “I” has watched every season of “The X-Files” (except the second half of season five, which was far too campy) and can quote lengthy snatches of “Twin Peaks” dialogue from memory. David Lynch is an unparalleled genius, after all. But “I” doesn’t want to talk about “Dune.” And, yes, if we’re being completely honest “I” fell asleep in the middle of “Eraserhead” and has not seen “The Elephant Man.” Comes complete with one complimentary folk guitar lesson and a guest spot on “SNL,” which “I” will accept despite thinking “SNL” is only barely watchable even with the best host imaginable.
16aiii I think it was before the footnotes, actually. David Foster Wallace must have been a really clear-headed sort of dude.