Ask TSJ: Blacking Out + Waking Up in Weird Places

LIFE IS HARD. It seems like every new day brings a new question that, try as you might, you’re just unable to find an answer for. The Smoking Jacket understands this, and we’re here to help. TSJ’s editor, Melissa Bull, and Headshots columnist, Mike Spry, set aside some time in their busy schedules to answer your questions in a feature we’ve cleverly named “Ask TSJ.”

This week’s incredible question comes from a TSJ reader named “Tim”.

Dear TSJ,

I have this problem, and I wasn’t sure who else to ask. Lately, I’ve been experiencing severe blackouts. Oddly enough, they’ve been happening when I’ve been sober. About a month ago I was at the zoo with my brother-in-law checking out the llamas, then all of a sudden it was six days later and I was standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty, which is weird because I live in Cleveland and I’m afraid of large women. Two weeks ago I was buying new slacks at Old Navy, and then in the blink of an eye I was at a Cat Show in Tucson. And I hate cats. And dry heat. And Arizonans. In fact, only a moment ago (it seems) I was on a date with my cousin’s pharmacist and now here I am in a motel room in Seattle writing you this email.

Like so many Americans, I don’t have extended health insurance, and I can’t afford to see a certified psycho therapist. Please advise.

- Tim in Seattle by way of Tucson and the Cleve.


Dear Tim,

I hear you, brother. I once woke up from a hefty bourbon-encouraged blackout in Ypsilanti, Michigan, married to a woman named Dora who made me wear deck shoes and father 3 ungrateful kids, all with soap opera names—Chad, and Thorne, and, well, whatever the girl’s name was. It was a long time ago.

But enough about my alimony payments. Let’s look at your problem, and let me just say that I couldn’t be happier that you didn’t waste your hard earned money on psycho therapy. Ask TSJ is a free service, and we have a 94% success rate in changing lives for the better. Your problem Tim, is that you’re not actually Tim in Seattle by way of Tucson and the Cleve, but rather a character in a George Saunders short story in progress.

Who’s George Saunders? Well, Tim, your bigger problem is perhaps the fact you don’t read enough. If you had read any Saunders (author of such masterpieces as CivilWarLand in Bad DeclinePastoralia, and The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil) you’d know that the man is literally a genius (a recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant) and one of the most imaginative storytellers of our time. Saunders stories revel in absurdism, pseudo-science fiction, and dark humour. And if you take a moment to step back from your issue of inexplicable blackouts (maybe pick up a damn book) you’d realize that your situation is absurd, pseudo-science fiction-y, and funny as hell.

So don’t be down, Tim. Revel in the fact that upon revision and publication, you’ll be a well-known and beloved character to avid readers of The New Yorker the world round!




Dear Timmy,

Are you my ex-boyfriend? Or is just a coincidence your name is also Tim? He also disappeared? To British Columbia? Anyway, don’t get mad. But I’m just wondering if you’re the same Tim? I think you’re totally the same Tim! Hey! It’s me! It’s Melissa! Remember? Remember my dolphin tattoo? And how you said “elephant shoe” at the amusement park so you wouldn’t have to say “I love you” out loud! That was so hilarious!

So Tim! Long time!

Your problem’s wormholes, Tim. Not tapeworm. Not HPV. Wormholes. What’s happening is you’re getting stuck in time loopholes. Different from outright blackouts, wormholes funnel you to other space/time dimensions than the one you thought yourself to be in in any given moment. Right? Oh my god! Totally Star Trek but more Next Generation than the original, because they hadn’t thought much about the tethering, ribbons of energy, nexuses, etc. in the days of James T. Kirk. But they did later, in the movie versions. See?

Star Trek: Generations

Call me?


Lots of love,


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