At some point in Cannery Row, Steinbeck talks about a group of quasi-hobos waking up and how the first thing they all do is pass wind, as all men do first thing in the morning (this is a paraphrase, but it’s pretty fucking close). I always thought it was a funny thing to include in a book, especially one by such an esteemed author. For those of you who are too young or stupid to gather the meaning of the phrase, passing wind is an old timey euphemism for farting, and I for one think it’s great that a classic of modern American literature has dedicated a passage (heh) to describing a bunch of stinky hobo morning farts.
It’s also struck me as more than a little bizarre. When I first read Cannery Row, I was a mere whelp of a thing and, while I’d heard the mighty, trumpeting farts of older kids and the earth shaking baritone ass-blows of my dad, I really didn’t think of farting as anything too involuntary, except in situations like when you’re trying really, really hard to impress someone or a girl is maybe about to take off her bra. Farting was, in my adolescent mind, strictly something that happened when you wanted to wow your buddies or in moments of great stress. Farts are funny to everyone and to a kid, they’re doubly awesome because they’re either so available on-demand or completely treacherous, and both results are decidedly hilarious to someone nearby. Oh, young farts. You’re such a whimsical thing. Sigh…
But then I matured (physically). At about 29 or so, I read Cannery Row again and this time I was more baffled by the passage on farting. I had become a man (and a quasi hobo of a man at that) and I had no understanding of this ‘every guy farts in the morning’ theory that Steinbeck was putting out there. Sure, my farts had aged and ripened in their basso and their aromatics, but essentially farts were still just hilarious. Farts had become more powerful, in that now, as a group of men, my colleagues and I could really ruin a good time with a well placed ripper (I once entered our van at an inopportune time immediately following the detonation of a five star, tree-shriveling asscloud and immediately and uncontrollably barfed on the ground. There was no time to even register what was going on. Man farts are not to be trifled with), but they were still not the ethereal staple of my morning ritual that this great American master had so specifically outlined. I chalked it up to a weird, grossly poetic slice of brown-tinted Americana and/or the changes in food prep and diet in general since Steinbeck’s time and left it at that.
Until recently. In the last 2 years, or maybe even the last year, I’ve come to understand and appreciate that Steinbeck is no less a master when describing morning flatulence than he is at describing granny’s gnarled, hardened hands or the tears in the eyes of a dying man. True to his prophecy, morning farts now come with a swift brutality that I dared not dream of before. No longer the sweet, tooting puffs of yesteryear, these are brutal symphonies in long, extended movements that can be heard from two rooms over and blow shower curtains right off their rings. These farts are not choices. These are the inevitable-as-the-tide morning farts that come swiftly in the night like a pack of midnight marauders and wake me with their urgent and ruthless demands. The only move is to stagger to the bathroom and blast off in there, praying that you don’t wake your spouse (or that you do, because honestly, farting someone awake from a room away is still amazingly funny).
These are dark farts. These farts are like the truly depraved internet porn that you feel guilty for finding satisfaction in. These farts are brassy, personalized and universally repellant. And, unless you are a lesbian with no male friends or a nun, they will happen to you or someone you love. This is a promise as sure as that which states that Steinbeck is a great and true writer. He has immortalized the manfart morning and lo, it has come to pass.
I recently spoke to my brother in law, who is 33. His morning man-blasts have not yet taken him, which I kind of expected, based on his relative youth. I warned him of the impending farts. They come suddenly and without warning and when they do, there is no mistaking them and there’s no going back. It’s a rite of passage to be sure, but in the same way that getting fat or growing back hair or developing flapjack tits is a rite of passage, in that it’s hilarious, but it’s also kind of nasty.
Now, for those of you who are older than me and still haven’t developed the morning farts, let me be the first to say that you’re either an un-American bullshit artist or you’re overdue and each day could be your last. Either way, get stoked, because you’re about to blast off on the loudest, most sustaining, enduring and fartastic journey of your newly enveloped-in-vapors life.
Have a good Monday.