DFW Part V

I understand that these David Foster Wallace posts have been lengthy, but I’m doing this cliff-noting as a type of personal archiving as well as for those that are unable to get their hands on the actual text.

We have finally come to the conclusion of the essay A Supposedly Fun Thing That I’ll Never Do Again.

The earlier DFW posts concerning this essay can be found here (III) and here (IV).

Chapter 13

Tibor (his table’s server) advises and recommends, but without the hauteur that’s always made me hate the gastropedantic waiters in classy restaurants. Tibor is omnipresent without being unctuous or oppressive; he is kind and warm and fun.

Many pages later he is hilariously beaten at chess by a nine-year-old girl. He then rebounds by meeting with Winston, the ship’s ping-pong-pro (the 3P,) for a game of ping-pong.

Winston only moonlights as a 3P. His primary duty on the Nadir is serving as Official Cruise Deejay in Deck 8’s Scorpio Disco, where every night he stands behind an incredible array of equipment wearing hornrim sunglasses and working both the CD player and the strobes frantically till well after 0200h., which may account for a sluggish and slightly dazed quality to his A.M. Ping-Pong. He is 26 years old and, like much of Nadir’s Cruise and Guest Relations staff, is good-looking in the vaguely unreal way soap opera actors and models in Sears catalogues are good-looking. He has big brown Help-Me eyes and a black fade that’s styled into the exact shape of a nineteenth-century blacksmith’s anvil, and he plays Ping-Pong with his thick-skinned paddle’s head down in the chopsticky way of people who’ve received professional instruction.

Outside and aft, the Nadir’s engines’ throb is loud and always sounds weirdly lopsided. 3P Winston and I have both reached that level of almost Zen-like Ping-Pong mastery where the game kind of plays us- the lunges and pirouettes and smashes and recoveries are automatic outer instantiations of a kind of intuitive harmony between hand and eye and primal Urge to Kill- in a way that leaves our forebrains unoccupied and capable of idle chitchat as we play:

“Wicked hat. I want that hat. Boss hat.”

“Can’t have it.”

“Wicked motherfucking hat. Spiderman be dope.*”

“Sentimental value. Long story behind this hat.”

*DFW footnote: Winston also sometimes seemed to suffer from the verbal delusion that he was an urban black male; I have no idea what the story is on this or what conclusions to draw from it.

Insipidness notwithstanding, I’ve probably exchanged more total words with 3P Winston on this 7NC Luxury Cruise that I have with anybody else. As with good old Tibor, I don’t probe Winston in any serious journalistic way, although in this case it’s not so much because I fear getting the 3P in trouble as because (nothing against good old Winston personally) he’s not exactly the brightest bulb in the ship’s intellectual chandelier, if you get my drift. E.g. Winston’s favorite witticism when deejaying in the Scorpio Disco is to muff or spoonerize some simple expression and then laugh and slap himself in the head and go “Easy for me to say!” According to Mona, he’s also unpopular with the younger crowd at the Scorpio Disco because he always wants to play Top-40is homogenized rap instead of real vintage disco.*

*DFW footnote: The single most confounding thing about the young and hip cruisers on the Nadir is that they seem truly to love the exact cheesy disco that we who were young and hip in the late ’70s loathed and made fun of, boycotting Prom when Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park” was chosen Official Prom Theme, etc.

It’s also not necessary to ask Winston much of anything at all, because he’s an incredible chatterbox when he’s losing. He’s been a student at the U. of South Florida for a rather mysterious seven years, and has taken this year off to “get fucking paid for a change for a while” on the Nadir… Winston says he’s had the chance to do some serious ocean-gazing and soul-searching during his off hours these last few months and has decided to return to U.S.F. in Fall ’95 and start college more or less all over, this time majoring not in Business Administration but in something he claims is called “Multimediated Production.”

“They have a department for that?”

“It’s this interdisciplinary thing. It’s going to be fucking phat, Homes. You know. CD-ROM and shit. Smart chips. Digital film and shit.”

I’m up 18-12. “Sport of the future.”

Winston agrees. “It’s where it’s all going to be at. The Highway. Interactive TV and shit. Virtual Reality.  Interactive Virtual Reality.”

“I can see it now,” I say. The game’s almost over. “The Cruise of the Future. The Home Cruise. The Caribbean Luxury Cruise you don’t have to leave home for. Strap on the old goggles and electrodes and off you go.”

“Word up.”

“No passports. No seasickness. No wind or sunburn or insipid Cruise staff. Total Virtual Motionless Stay-At-Home Simulated Pampering.”


*Footnote: Interfacing with Winston could be kind of depressing in that the urge to make cruel sport of him was always irresistible and he never acted offended or even indicated he knew he was being made sport of, and you went away feeling like you’d just stolen coin from a blind man’s cup or something.

On Cruise Director Scott Peterson-

Scott Peterson is a deeply tan 39-year-old male with tall rigid hair, a constant high-watt smile, an escargot mustache, and a gleaming Rolex- basically the sort of guy who looks entirely at home in sockless white loafers and a mint-green knit shirt from Lacoste.

The very best way to describe Scott Peterson’s demeanor is that it looks like he’s constantly posing for a photograph nobody is taking.


David Foster Wallace tries hard to describe his experiences while withholding judgments. And though judgments are made, he redeems most of these coarse situations by applying the same level of severity on himself as he does others. On top of that, he balances any unpleasant reporting by making it a point to praise those he finds good-hearted and good-natured.

This essay examines so much about us. Culture, world perspectives, existentialism, community, and wealth/luxury/class are all given their due. And when paired with his essay on the 1993 Illinois State Fair (Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All), the observations on American Leisure only become that more three-dimensional.

Yet, the conclusions are fair and constant. Whether on a cruise, at a state fair, the mall, a ballgame, or simply walking the streets, you’ve experienced situations that led Wallace to label us as “the world’s only known species of bovine carnivore.”

Given those assignments and an examination of anyone’s day-to-day life, it’s an observation that is hard to argue against.



One Response to “DFW Part V”

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