The path of the dedicated semi-professional is a faint and wandering line in the sand of life. It burns like a river of lava in the eyes of the poor geek who's following it, but that changes nothing. It can still be obliterated at any time by a strong wind off the bay.
Be it a musician or a polo player or a stamp collector, the same dilemmas and confrontations with the "real world" await every one of us, and watching helplessly as mean, stupid, talentless thugs get rich all around us is the least of our problems.
The real problem is carrots.
Meet Harold Koop from Dordrecht. He might look like just another giddy old Dutch crank, but Harold has an ace up his sleeve.
He fucking loves carrots.
He grows competition carrots in a green-house in his tiny back-yard, carrots which have garnered over 2500 euros in prize money over the last 5 years.
His living room is festooned with medals and cups and ribbons, physical testimony to the all-out, death-or-glory, devil-take-the-hindmost attitude Harold brings to the table when it comes to growing a carrot.
Go Harold, it´s ya birthday...
Back in November of last year he took his finest ever carrot (a truly jaw-dropping motherfucker which he named "Asmodeus") to an agricultural show in Delft.
Asmodeus blitzed the whole field, collecting blue ribbons in both the "root vegetable" and "open" categories and as a direct result Harold almost got himself lynched behind the portable toilets by a mean gang of rival growers.
Harolds´adopted Philipino daughter, Linda, poses with Asmodeus, Boss Carrot.
There was six of these scumbags, fixing to beat his secrets out of him, to seize his hard-won carrot-knowledge through violence. But right when things were about to get ugly some local teenagers wandered back there to smoke some ice and frightened the carrot-thugs away.
Harold reported the incident to the Judges panel and the ring-leaders were banned from competition for 12 months. Fuck them, fucking hacks! They could have done their worst. Harold would never have talked.
It is rumored in market-farmer circles that the assault was masterminded by this man, Micheal Von Apeldoorn, the Dark Lord of competition vegitables, seen here hatching evil thoughts behind one of his freakishly large onions.
The local papers covered the story and Harold was portrayed as a Galileo-esque genius, beset by ignorant, blood-thirsty scum. Even the ice-smoking kids got their picture taken.
Harold even received a fan-letter from a woman in Gent, who said she'd been thinking about root-vegetable cultivation for years but had always shied away from it until she read about Harolds' tale of heroism and triumph at the Delft fair.
The legend of Asmodeus inspired the formation of a name-sake psychobilly band, who made a concept album about Harolds´exploits entitled ¨Diggin´up the King¨.
So yeah, when you think about really big, shapely carrots with perfect texture and coloration, think Harold Koop. His carrots bring home the bacon...two times.
Unfortunately when we break that 2500 euros in prize money down against the time Harold has invested in research and cultivation over the same 5 year period we find that his carrots have paid out roughly 0.5 cents/hour (well below the minimum wage in Holland). Factor in material expenses, entry fees, transport and accommodation for out-of-town events and we see that his awesome tubers are in fact a financial liability... a big, orange albatross around his flabby neck.
Yes, Harold needs to put food on the table just like the rest of us. But his carrot-knowledge (profound as it may be) is not a particularly marketable commodity. So he grinds away at a dull, poorly paid office job so that he can pay the bills and still have just enough time, money and energy left over to get those fucking carrots really boomin'.
Which is fine, on a day to day basis. But he is nearing retirement, has no savings, a dead car and a giant bill for the latest batch of state-of-the-art fertiliser is on the way.
The pressure is mounting.
God damnit, why does his wife have to keep thrashing away with all that "Harold, it's me or the carrots!" shit?
Why do his kids roll their eyes when he invites them out to the green-house for a look at some promising new cross-breeds?
Why does that rheumy-eyed sot who runs the grocery store have to keep telling the same fucking carrot-themed jokes every fucking time Harold goes in there?
And why do all his careerist friends secretly view him as a coward and a failure and why can't all those smug, bland, overpaid cocksuckers understand his passion?
He just wants to grow some arse-rapingly, brain-crushingly mad-as-fuck carrots!
Is that so wrong?
The noose gets tighter every year, but Harold is powerless. He must stick to his guns. He's invested so much time, so much thought! So, much, in fact, that any possibility for a different life and broader horizons passed away years ago, without Harold even noticing.
But finally, on the day before his 60th birthday, he sees it. The mono-maniacal, conceited, fear-preaching demon that all along has lurked inside the only thing in the world that ever separated Harold from the faceless masses.
"God in heaven," he screams at the pitiless January sky.
"Why did you put this accursed love of carrots inside me!!!"
The more perceptive among you will have caught the drift of this weird, hysterical screed in the first couple of paragraphs, so I won't insult your instincts by spelling out the obvious.
But back in the misty depths of the mid-nineties, when I packed all my belongings into my decrepit Renault 12 and moved to Melbourne with the intention of giving "the music thing" a serious whack, my parents looked on my passion and idealism as a kind of terminal brain-disease which would swiftly turn me into a social cripple, a pauper and a deep source of family shame ... and they said so at every opportunity.
But shit, there were plenty of other "adults" around who told me "Hell yes, do it now. You've got plenty of time to pursue your dreams and still come back to the stiff world if it doesn't work out. I wish I'd made a move like this at your age" ect. ect.
Well, I burned that greasy bridge a long time ago, and now I put my hand on my heart and tell you....If I was the father of a talented 17 year-old who sat in his room practising guitar 16 hours-a-day, I would first ask myself a serious question...
..."Does this kid of mine have the kind of brutal, muleish will-force necessary to carry the flag of music through thick and thin? To keep shredding in the teeth of the gale, looking neither left nor right even while perched on the very precipice of hell itself?!?"
And if the answer to this grave, searching question was "Yes, damn right he does!", I would take a gun, load it, and shoot that poor little bugger straight through the head.
Because when it's got to that stage the brain has already started to calcify around a single, overpowering point of focus that will make the whole idea of "getting ahead in the world" a bad joke for life.
There are a variety of stop-gap remedies that can be applied, but they all fail in the long run and the terrible truth is that there is no final cure.
The organism is doomed. Snuff it out and concentrate on the one that's good at maths.