Do you have to experience pain before pleasure has any meaning? Not today. We took it easy in the morning and then headed into town to go to a spa at a hotel. The facilities were on the open roof top, surrounded by the towering mountains. To begin with we were the only ones using the spa as all the other idiots in town were off pretending to enjoy skiing. It was, of course, very cold outside, but there was a heated swimming pool and jacuzzi and after a swim, I sat in the hot tub for about two hours, reading "Breakfast of Champions" by Kurt Vonnegut on my Kindle. It felt ridiculously decadent as well as surreal but it was highly enjoyable and relaxing. I wasn't even too scared by the possibility that I might drop my electronic reader into the bubbling water. It seemed apt to be reading Vonnegut in these strange circumstances. He is wise, humanist, pessimistic and yet somehow life-affirming despite all that. I love the way he strips away the pretences of life and civilisation, as if taking a step back from the world and observing the stupidity of the things that we think are normal and the things that we think are odd. He is thus brilliantly funny but also disorientating. I've read all his books before, but am slowly working my way through them again and they do not disappoint. I had largely forgotten this one so could enjoy it all anew. It made me laugh and it almost made me cry. Vonnegut is dead now, of course and it is one of my regrets that I shared this planet with him for a few decades but never got to meet him, or attempted to contact him. If he was alive and I had one question I fear that having read this book I would have had to ask, "Is your penis really 5 inches in diameter?" as he claims. It would be a terrible waste and yet then again, somehow perfect. Just as I wasted my one question to Richard Pryor by slyly asking "Where do you get your crazy ideas from?" assuming he would get the joke that this is the most inane question that all comedians get asked. But he didn't get it and just said, "From observing things in life."
And being in an outdoor hot tub surrounded by mountains further flipped my brain away from reality and heightened the experience. Even though Vonnegut is dead he is still making me think, making me laugh, making me cry. Given the nature of his work there is something apt about that too. Given we have to go eventually there's something awesome and magical about being able to make an impact on others. He doesn't exist any more and yet there he was, in a hot tub with me in Chamonix. It'd be nice to think that stuff I wrote could make people laugh when I am no longer here. If you're reading this after I am dead would you mind just laughing at this bit? A forced laugh will have to do for me. I wish I had a tenth of the insight of Vonnegut. I think he might be the greatest writer of the 20th Century. Maybe the greatest man.
The wife and I mainly kept ourselves to ourselves today and it was most enjoyable. We walked a mile or so through flurrying snow to a local restaurant and had a great meal, before heading back over pavements now piled with fresh show that squeaked as we walked on it and glistened as if full of a million tiny stars. The snow settled on my head and my coat turning me into an abdominal snowman. I may prefer the mountains to the sea. Today certainly threw up some unusual experiences that felt like magic. Real life is better than magic. Because it's also real. As far as we can tell.