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Tales of the Obliterati

    To understand the origin of the Obliterati you have to go back to the day the Swami came to town. The guru. The yogi. His name is Iyangar or Ashtangar or Ishtar or something like that, and my wife dragged me along to hear him speak at a local college. He is 87, but with the body of a 16-year-old, and he supposedly can still do a handstand on a single finger. He can swallow a rug and pull it back out. He can make his head do a full 360. He can even stop his heart and shut down his kidneys, and essentially make himself die, but then come back to life. It's all in the muscle control.

    After much buildup, the great man came onstage. I kept thinking he would levitate, but he just talked. I got bored. I zoned out. Suddenly something weird happened. My aura left my body and floated to the ceiling. I'm like, damn. This is scary. Down below I saw myself as an empty vessel, a blob, without purpose in the world. I realized what I had become: A man without a hobby.

   All these other people had this incredible yoga hobby, and knew how to empty their minds and think with their hearts and tie their feet behind their head and whatnot. The Swami was like the Hobby King, the equivalent of the person in the philately world who has more stamps than anyone -- like, the postmaster general, basically.

   Then the night was over, and I snapped to. I vowed to find a hobby, or at least a minor obsession, or even something that might be described as a tic.

    Problem is, all the good hobbies are taken by professionals. Like riding a bike: That's called "cycling" now, and you have to ride 300 miles in a single day and wear hideous skintight orange-and-lime-sherbet-looking space-age fabrics. Like to hike? Anything less than an oxygen-free winter ascent of Everest, alone, unguided, literally blind, is considered to be mere walking.

    Even quilting has gotten so competitive that you wouldn't dare go to a quilting bee without packing an extra couple of doses of methamphetamine. (And, by the way, I'm glad to know that the scrapbooking community is facing up to its steroid problem.)

   [Click here to read the entire column, and in particular the exciting story of the origin of the Obliterati.]

   [The blog apologizes for being lame the past week whilst the kitmeister chain-sawed the grizzly. The blog is embarrassed. The blog would be filled with shame if all the space reserved for feelings were not already occupied by self-loathing. The blog is grateful to those who sustained the boodle through difficult times. In the days ahead the blog will be marginally less lame, and possibly meritorious for a few fleeting moments, though there are no guarantees. There may be times when the blog Runs Amok.] 

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 19, 2005; 1:07 PM ET
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