A Goal for Goals
By Joseph Auslander Jr.
I find it’s nice to have goals. I have tons. I collect them. I used to have a rookie goal to be an Imagineer for Disney, but I traded that in 1999 for an overly-pretentious goal to be a filmmaker. Then, in college, I accidentally burned my filmmaker goal with a match I was using to light a joint. I was a bit disappointed about that, but not so much that it kept me from my favorite hobby of goal making. Even though I had lost a few big ones, I still had plenty of other goals to keep me on track. Admittedly, most were ones that I only paid attention to in my greatest hours of boredom. Some of these were my Razor-Tipped Martial Arts goal and my dust-and-coffee-stained Drawing goal. Then there was my Glittery Porn Star goal, of which I still devote many hours of daily study to, but otherwise keep locked up in a shoebox underneath my bed.
I’m like a dirty child of the swamp with frogs in my pockets; I compulsively need to find big and small goals to take with me. They fill me up, give me purpose and often get me to where I’m going. Conversely, they also add a great weight of expectation to my life. As much as I may need a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes there are too many directions to choose from and it’s too bright to see.
A few years ago, in Boston, I decided to lighten my goal-obsessed load a bit. I had made myself slippery with drink to throw off my monkeys for the evening. It wasn’t long before I was quickly reminded of an old familiar goal that adhered solely to alcohol. This was the soggy Let’s Play a Few Games of Pool and Get Muddled at an Irish Bar goal. Seeing as I was in Boston, this was both a short-term and an achievable goal, so I didn’t try too hard to shake it. You have to give yourself a few freebies from time to time.
I wish I remembered the name of the bar I ended up at. I’m sure it had a “Paddy” and an “O’Something” in it. The pool table was small and worn, the lights were dim and flickering, and the company was local, except for me. The O’Bar had a delicious selection on tap, one of which particularly stood out to me. Remembering a goal I had a few nights back to order a Boddingtons next time I found a place offering it, I requested the ale. When the brew hit my lips, I thought perhaps I had gotten the wrong brand. It was stale, thin and painful to drink. But it had been a long time since I’d had a Boddingtons, so I kept sipping it and thinking, hmmm, this doesn’t taste like I remember it. Then I’d take another gulp and it still wouldn’t taste right. I started feeling a bit sick, but took another slurp and Nope! Still tastes bad. This continued until the glass was practically empty and my mouth tasted like someone had rubbed a monkey’s armpit all over my tongue.
With the pint three-fourths empty, I felt I had done the proper research to have enough confidence to tell the bartender that the beer had gone bad. I offered my constructive complaints, he looked at me, then looked at the nearly empty glass and said, “Well, it was the bottom of the keg, so I’ll buy your next drink, but next time, you might want to come to me a bit sooner.”
I indicated to the Guinness tap for my replacement pint and then began to explain to him why I had felt the need to drink so much of the foul ale before coming up. I said that I was primarily concerned about implying a lackluster quality in service in such a fine establishment, and had needed to be one hundred percent sure before placing the complaint. I went on to say that I tend to imagine things sometimes and—
He cut me off by plopping down a pint of Guinness in front of me. He stared into my eyes with an expression that accurately communicated, “Shut up and drink your free beer.”
I don’t argue with telepathic bartenders, so I smiled, took my beer, and put some quarters down on the pool table. The Boddingtons goal, minus one, but the always-present Free Beer goal made up for it. Later, I played a few games of pool and my Irish Bar Pool Playing goal found fruition. I decide to press the envelope and see if I could accomplish the Win at a Game of Pool goal. I played a curly-haired fellow named Lee and his cousin Allysun—she was a shark. I played a well-endowed Swedish girl who referred to herself as Sheri and an Irish lass called Vogue who played like she had spent her formative years raised by green felt and chalk. Mitch, a friend of Lee’s with a Red Sox logo tattooed on his left calf, also played, but to put it mildly, he held the cue from the bottom of the bottle and could barely talk.
The agreement was whoever won would receive a pint from his/her opponent. I ended up playing five games of pool, all of which lead to victory. That was five accomplishments to the one goal of Winning at Pool and one more to the Getting Rocked at an Irish Bar. The girls I had played were by far the best in the group. Without a doubt, they were much better than I was, but each of them ended up throwing in the towel by scratching on the eight ball. They told me it was incredibly dumb luck on my part, the word “dumb” emphasized. I tried to explain to them that I had employed mind control tactics to win, but they just laughed as if I were joking. Then I told them I had learned these tricks from the bartender, and they almost believed me. By three a.m. I had played and won five games of pool and was two sips away from being sloshed. I had gotten a free beer, and five additional victory beers. If you add that up it may only seem like four goals accomplished in the evening, but since I’d won five games and gotten five victory beers, I multiplied two of the goals by five each, which brought me to twelve goals in one night. Having been so productive, I found myself without any more accomplishments to tackle. At that point, either it was having no goal-powered compass to steer by, or the inebriation from the six and three-fourths pints that made my head began to spin. I needed something to ground me, give me a purpose, to set my path, but I was too slippery. I tried to focus, but my goal to focus was laughing at me.
* * *
I woke up, after dawn, in a nest of aluminum foil, beside an alley I recognized to be two blocks from the hotel where I was staying. My emergency Find a Place to Rest goal must have kicked in as I was making my way home from the O’Bar. As I peeled the foil away from me, a small, folded piece of paper fell out of my breast pocket. It was a note from the Swedish girl, Sheri, asking for a rematch and giving me her digits. The default Get Home Safely goal was a minus one, but the subconscious Get the Swedish Girl’s Phone Number goal seemed to have trumped that.
Thank goodness girls can’t resist a goal-oriented man.
* * *
Joseph Auslander, Jr. is a U.S. citizen currently living in Wellington, New Zealand. He has spent the last six years traveling around the world on boats, but has recently given it up to pursue a love affair with the written word. You can follow his adventures on his blog.