2 June 2012 § 2 Comments
While I’ve been road-trippin’ across the States (chasing festivals and fish up to Alaska), others have been eating faces off the causeways of Miami. The face-eater’s mother said that her son was not a zombie, and the police said the boy was on a drug ‘like LSD.’
Both were lies.
Mothers think their boys can do no wrong, or at least will love them anyway regardless of what they do. This is normal; it does not mean, however, that her son was not a zombie.
Police – law enforcement – are in the interesting position of The Middle Man, between Lawmakers and the Public who, they say, must acknowledge said laws (because lawmakers and The Rich are above, immune, and/or not subject to said laws – obviously). The Middle Men are told to enforce laws, for example, by ticketing those who run red lights, marginally disrupting human trafficking, and revealing internal corruption.
Not everyone does what they’re told. Obviously.
When an opportunity arises for the Middle Man or the Lawmaker to benefit their cause, they tend to take it, much as The Protester or The Revolutionary would. So, when a man eats another man’s face in Miami, the only answer can be either a Zombie Apocalypse, or Drugs, unless the man whose face was being eaten actually wanted his face to be eaten, which is not unheard of – as in the case of Armin Meiwes.
If that opportunity takes the form of a bald-faced lie directed toward an ignorant audience, does the Lawmaker still take it? Again, just as the Revolutionary would take advantage of a President grieving over a lost wife to begin a coup, of course he would; he is above the laws he makes. And, there must be An Explanation for such an act – after all, we do not all go around eating each other’s faces! The public demands An Explanation!
An Explanation is not equal to The Explanation, however. We must remember logic, and the Constant Asterisk: *most people are satisfied with the mediocre, even if the mediocre is a Lie.
What is The Lie?
Police said the attacker may have likely been overdosing on a new potent form of LSD. “What’s happening is whenever we see that a person has taken all of his clothes off and has become violent, it’s indicative of this excited delirium that’s caused by overdose of drugs,” said Armando Aguilar of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police. – WSVN-TV
Bath Salts, or MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or mephedrone) is a new synthetic that is absolutely nothing like LSD. They have virtually no chemical similarities. They are not illegal in many places (though this big scary ‘drug’ story will certainly change that), and can be bought in head shops across the nation. It’s the drug Methheads call ‘fucked up.’ And when a meth head says something is fucked up, it is the job of the rest of us to listen.
The War on Drugs, otherwise known as A Complete Failure, persists, and kills people with its perseverance. Yes, it kills cartel members and small-time slingers, gangsters, and dopeheads, but those are mostly over Human Stupidity and that the materials these ladies and gentlemen are working with are Illegal. These are not so often tragedies as they are Nature-based Population Control. Drug tragedies are the stories of decidedly gullible people experimenting with LSD, a substance they know to be safe (much to the chagrin of the DEA, U.S. Government, et al), and who want to expand their palate. In the safe and controlled environment they’ve created, having heard that Bath Salts are ‘like LSD’ in the mainstream media, they buy Bath Salts and try them, expecting similar effects.
Call it a surprise. Call it bad judgment on the users’ part. Or, call it Social Responsibility on the part of the Government and Media. Not the Social Responsibility coined by Eli Black, the last CEO of United Fruit who jumped out of his NYC office window in 1972, but that of a very intelligent and controlling Government. They Know the effects of LSD, Molly, Ecstacy, MDA, and Psilocybin. They Know that these things Do Not kill people, or make them insane and eat people’s faces on Miami causeways. And They Know that most people don’t know these things.
We’re not going to get into why those other drugs are illegal – it’s not important. What is important is the difference between them and substances like Bath Salts, and the fact that it seems okay that the Media and Government are Perfectly Okay with spreading deadly misinformation.
Believe nothing; until you have personal experience, extensive research, and trust in the depths of your soul that information is accurate, let it wash over you and be as affected by it as you might by an airplane passing overhead.
Spread truth, not just words.
20 April 2012 § Leave a comment
The last thing I want to do, today of all days, is write up another logical and sound argument as to why Marijuana Should Be Legalized. Articles like that always come up around the 4.20 holiday, in blogs and syndicated opinion pieces written by cheeky thirty-somethings from New York, Boulder, and Seattle. They name at least one popular strain, investigate the origins of “4:20″, and someone, in typical journalism fashion, will drop the numbers. Pot gatherings on the quads of CU Boulder and UC Santa Cruz, as well as the inevitably receive mention
We are obligated to do these things, year after year, friend’s arrest after busted party, day in and day out. Otherwise, the Powers That Be will stop listening. They will fill that silent void with control tactics and propaganda that implies that jumping off roofs is smarter than smoking a bowl. Now, cool as Parkour is, it’s a strange thing for the government to endorse, and shows, in yet another ridiculous demonstration, how ludicrous the “drug war” has become. Governments are the only fighters in this war – their enemies are businesses who concern themselves far more with shipping and sales than battle tactics, but I’m sure the occasional cartel Don knows his Lao-Tzu.
Anyway. I’m not calling for the legalization of marijuana; not this time. I’m just going to sit here in my luxurious condo in Fort Lauderdale and lament the fact that so many people are willing to stand for Legalization of Marijuana, but are unwilling to fight for their most basic rights, to vote in political elections, to protest effectively. Take your weed with you, and figure out what you believe, regardless of what they say, or who pushes you around.
All that being said, if it’s for you, smoke weed every day :)
28 March 2012 § Leave a comment
A couple of months ago I went to Panama City with Heather and Victoria, the axis-shiftingly beautiful 18-year-old we’d had a foursome with a couple of nights before. Jennifer, the other girl from the rum-party, didn’t feel much like the long bus trip and three days in the hot city.
I needed new shoes, better shoes than the two-sizes-too-small skate shoes I bought in San Jose. The salesman, Richard, a pushy but friendly cat from Limón, flirted with my friend Eli while I tried on shoes. I wasn’t jealous though, because we both got ourselves into stupid situations in order to practice our Spanish skills, and anyway she’d be leaving the mall with me. I learned that from the glint in her sad mahogany eyes when she nudged her ‘I’m-married-but-if-I-weren’t…’ elbow into my ribs.
Heather and I used those three days in the city to shop and to ‘work on our relationship.’ She was doing more working than I was. She’s like that. We ate ice cream and good food, of course, because one does not eat inferior food whilst with Heather, and our kind host Gabriel, for whom I still have not provided a couchsurfing reference, showed us around town, carted us around shopping (where I eventually got my shoes), showed us the Canal (which likely makes more money off tourists than passing ships), and even let us join him on a drug deal. Talk about a cultural experience!
From his 13th story apartment, high above the dark city with streets full of roaring diablos rojos – red devils – school buses painted with fantastic, colorful designs, souped up to ridiculous horsepower with charming chrome, that squeal brakes for whomever might want a ride, pavos (turkeys, the guys who take your bus fare and tell the driver where to go) hanging out the doors to whistle at potential fares – I leaned over the railing and didn’t reach very far back into my head for the part of me that told me to jump. When Gabriel came out with my drink, he said jokingly that I shouldn’t. I took the rum and smiled.
Panama City reminded me of what I liked about Miami, which wasn’t much. Gabriel liked to drive and smoke his marlboro reds, windows open to the hot highway wind, so we did a lot of that. He was a great guy, to show us around like that.
In Miami, circa 2005, I rode around with my friend Jason at the helm of his once-beloved Acura RSX while he smoked his marlboro reds, summer heat and black metal filling our souls with whatever more they could carry, which then didn’t seem like much.
In retrospect, most of what I liked about South Florida ceased to exist once I got out of his car, bound for the train headed back to West Palm, and black metal and two a.m. NPR couldn’t save me there.
Life got better when I figured out that the more me I was, the more others were them. It was not a one-time lesson: even on wordpress, the more honest and open I am, the more hits the site gets. Isn’t that a strange coincidence? Only a couple of times has it worked against me, and only once have I received a phone call from a friend in tears concerned for my mental state, or for a sordid history I’d laid out. I wasn’t sure which, but the call was a positive one.
I’d rather not get much of a response at all, to be honest, but it feels good when it happens. For example – today as I sat in Ed’s office procrastinating so I didn’t have to write the 300-word travel story for some big-name competition (deadline: three days, entry fee: way too much), a Canadian gentleman walked in and introduced himself. For a while he and Gish talked about unimportant things, and I ignored them.
Later on, as the man with the Canadian accent justified his career in the Alberta Oil Tar Sands to me, perhaps because Ed seemed interested in telling him stories I’d heard before and I wanted to change the subject, I let a video of Buddy Wakefield’s poetry silence the rest of the room, as the short bald man’s work usually does. I take a perverse pleasure in riling up Gish’s emotions: to see him angry amuses me, and to see him moved to tears reminds me to hold a little more hope for the world: even sharks cry. It doesn’t take much to push his buttons.
I needed to go to yoga, so I got up to leave, and the man whose name I’m a little sorry I don’t remember (I was ignoring you for my work, sir) offered to give me a lift to town. We talked obligation for masks on the three-and-a-half minute drive, and as I got out to run to yoga, I shook his hand goodbye, was a pleasure meeting you, etc., and he didn’t let it go.
A few weeks on the road with his parents through the American West taught him what he needed to know about life, and I was glad the lesson had come so easily for him. Personally, I walk around with a chalkboard to take notes, and erase it when something useful comes up. But he held my grip, and I held his, and he tried with his Canadian might to convince me that sometimes it’s better to lay low, to stay off facebook and to not smile so much, because people ridicule and scream and cry about the guy who smiles all the time. I think he saw that as the end of the line.
I held fast to my idealism, let him believe that I believed I was a poet too, even after watching Buddy, and told him without much context to be more who he was, that others would be better for it. I shook his hand off of mine to set him free.
Not that it mattered. I’d been talking to myself.
23 January 2012 § 2 Comments
Went to my first real yoga class today. Took a test at Habla Ya, the local language school, and felt awesome on the pre-test because I knew almost all the answers – that is, until the cute teacher took me into an upstairs room to give me a private ‘demo lesson.’ Of all the times for my Spanish to fail me. At least I understood everything she said, which was quite a bit. After that five-minute infatuation, which I knew even then I wouldn’t follow up on, simply because I don’t have $250 a week to drop on formal conversation and the tendency to be corrected every six and a half words, I met the lady whose property I’ll be working on for most of my volunteer project. The family from Vail and Martha’s Vineyard haunted the pretty coffeeshop in the Floridaesque plaza, friendly as bees and birds, buzzing on four-dollar cups of chocolate caffeine.
I’m in this place. I am a “volunteer” in an organization not so much bent on trying to change the world (not even Obama can do that, apparently), but more focused on people changing themselves, so they – we – can go out into the world and “be the change,” as the saying goes.
I’m in this place, and subject to people who have reached a higher state of being than I. I’m in this place, and joining in the activities that young money and yogis live daily. I feel like I could be one day friends with these people, who I think occasionally miss my cynicism but call me cheeky anyway. I am friends with these people, who seem to know that the way to my heart is a thought-provoking film followed by Lebanese food and hookah and Farkle, which is a strange dice game played by people who like each other as human beings. I am in this place, and I want nothing more than to be in this place.
One of these people, whom I realized then was of the generation I always vibed with best – the 20-something crowd from the mid-nineties, who are pushing forty now and showing no signs of ever having hit thirty – said that now and then he has the thought that “wow, I live in Panama!”
Nevermind that 25,000 other US Americans can say that. Mind that I kind of want to be one of them. I’ve been in Boquete a week, under the guise of exploring Central America with Heather, with whom I’ve weaved life since last summer, lifetimes ago, but also living up to a promise I made myself in Zadar a year ago: travel with intent. Learn where you are, and learn why they are they way they are. Speak the language, wherever it is, and Be There. Be Here. I’m doing that. Absolutely intentionally.
Today I thought: I’m living. Here. Now. I am here, and I love what I’m doing. It feels like I’m high and I’ve come to a realization that no one’s ever figured out before. That I’ve never thought of, and that when I come down from this, I’ll realize it was a stupid and worthless thought, and it was just the drugs talking. Right.
But I’m not on drugs. And for a big change in my travels, I feel that maybe I can accomplish something for myself. That “wanting to be a better person” idea doesn’t have to be one of those bullshit thoughts which seems as revelatory as Jesus Christ frozen on a popsicle, sucking the life out of the party. Whatever. This feels right. And whatever the future is or becomes or wants to be, it can be, will be. But I’m not there now. I’m here, and happy for it.
29 November 2011 § 3 Comments
So the other day, I found Cristo Rey, supposedly a neighborhood of San José even the police don’t go near, mixed with the locals and ended up losing my stuff to a group of crack dealers, some of them as young as 15. It is an experience I don’t need to live again, but I’m glad to have the story.
The old man ripped my backpack from my hands. I fought for it, only briefly because of the movement I heard to my right, and the hill whose climb would lead me to safety was to my left. I booked it.
In my backpack was
1. a metal water bottle. I love these because of how durable and light they are, and that I can write in sharpie on them and it fades eventually to make room for a new favorite phrase, word, or rhyme.
2. a copy of Live for a Living by Buddy Wakefield, a poet I saw earlier this year and whose material I have been minorly obsessed with since, and tried to emulate in my own performances in order to find that fringe of vulnerability I’ve been looking for for years. Oh yeah, the copy was signed, with a poem and a handshake from the author once cold spring night in Alaska. He might be proud to have his material in such a farway place. Next time I see him, I’ll have to tell him the story about how his poetry was lost.
3. a 40-page long letter to one of my favorite people in the world, Fazeela Jiwa, written on coffee paper (which looks really cool, and is an excellent writing surface). I was planning on sending the letter off that day.
4. a sound recorder, gifted me by Carmel, a sometimes-travel buddy and poetess extraordinaire, with which I caught the atmosphere of New York subway stations and their lovingly tragic musicians in the middle of rush hour. It was my dreamcatcher, my sampler, my last way to keep sounds to myself.
5. a blackberry cell phone, gifted by my friend Tony, on which I learned to text with a touch keyboard and had the highest score on wordmole ever. occasionally, I’d even use it to communicate.
5. a camera. Canon SX 120 something or other. I’ve been taking photos and video this entire trip with it, for about four months now, and had more than 100 gigs of digital memories saved on…
6. a terabyte external hard drive, which contained the entirety of my digital existence; all of my photos from the last two and a half years of travel and home in Alaska, videos, all of my typed writing from the last seven or eight years, and countless albums from bands who never seemed to exist outside my little world of music and wonder.
These things were my travel companions. These things. Things. I was tied to them, I required them for the keeping of memories, for storage so as to go through them later and sort them out and make sure that I did this or that. They were my proof of existence to the modernized, facebooking world where everyone shares everything and the only privacy we have left are the looks we give ourselves in the bathroom mirror. I depended on them, and for a couple of days, I was crushed, between fits of laughter for my loss.
and it’s done. They’re gone, and I’m still breathing. Feeling. Fucking hell am I feeling more. Everything around me. My nerves are at peace, taking in my surroundings, the buildings and the rain and the glintorange clouds they call sunset on the far side of the mountains. I’m full of humility and fear of what comes next and I wonder if I’m ready to face it, knowing me and my penchant for ‘adventure.’ I’m at peace, or getting there, and learning how to get along in a world where batteries do not power my day, where that hesitation to pull out the camera to be That Camera Guy no longer pulls at me in moments of intense culture clash and earthquakes. I can’t play with light, or keep the sounds I hear and love. My monologues will be to myself, or the scenery, or the block I’m walking on.
My other goodbyes led up to this one. I had to say goodbye to a lot before I could say goodbye to what I thought was me: a collection of unshared recordings – twenty countries of memories and stories I sought to keep for me alone. Someone had to yank them away.
And twenty countries later, it’s time to start traveling, for real.
27 November 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m a traveler. It had to happen eventually.
My sense of adventure clashes with my gutsense, and sometimes I make decisions that in retrospect probably weren’t the best. Yesterday, I did that, and I paid for it. Thanksgiving dinner was in a couple of hours (two days late, but in Costa Rica, who cares), and I had some time to kill. I went walking around San Jose on a graffiti mission. I wanted more pictures, I wanted to find more work. And I did.
Later, I stood at the bottom of a steep hill, at the dead end of a dirty street. It faded into the trees, but the view over everything south of San Jose was spectacular. I was having a moment when someone asked me in Spanish if I was lost. (mistake number one:) No, no, I’m just exploring. I walked up to the group of guys standing outside a shanty house (which wasn’t really suspect because there are so many here), and they asked me a few questions – what are you looking for, where are you from, do you smoke marihuana. My language skills in this part of the world are nothing to be proud of, but I have enough to get by, and this is how I learn – find people who don’t speak my language, so I can stumble over theirs.
One of them pulled out a joint the size of a sharpie marker. “You found the favela, mi amigo.” He laughed the sort of laugh bullies laugh when they’ve decided they’re going to crush you into a peanut. We talked about weed and Alaska and they asked me if I wanted to buy any. I told them I didn’t have any money, which was the truth, but maybe later, I said, trying to stay peaceful. There were three of them at first, but their number grew by about one per minute.
One of them was covered in symmetrical gashes and scars all the way up his arms and on his neck. A fresh gash across the bridge of his nose bled black. He wore a red shirt and a pony tail. Some of the cuts were green with infection. Later, when they demanded that I lift my shirt to check if I was wearing a wire for the policia, he demonstrated what they were saying by lifting his own shirt. I saw virtually no original skin on his torso. It looked like a tortoise shell, both in pattern and texture. His scardecorated body distracted me from what they were saying. Which at the time was really fucking important.
One of them took a phone call, and I said I had to go. Nos vemos, mae. I got about fifty feet up the hill before one of them called to me. I turned around, against my better judgment. This is where cultural communication gets complicated: the tico gesture for “come here,” or “come back” greatly resembles the one people where I come from use for “go away” or “keep going.” The problem was that I knew the tico gesture, and ignoring my screamingunscarred gut, I went back down the hill.
A very large and angry looking man showed up and with him, a few crackheads whose eyes seemed to be bottomless pits. They looked right through me to their next high, which the large man held out in my face in a sack of little white pills. Quieres?
They asked who I was. My name, what I did. Where I was from. Did I have a camera. Where was the recorder. Are you wearing a wire. Let’s see some identification.
I pulled my wallet from my pocket and handed the kindest of them my university ID. It seemed the least valuable and the most applicable. I told them I was studying here. I refused to understand their suspicion, and when the large man said something, I all but ignored him. The dude was not cool. They demanded I opened my bag. Bolsa, he said, gesturing with his hands the unmistakable movement required to open the backpack I had just closed after showing them photographs of graffiti in their neighborhood, abierto. I told them I wasn’t giving them anything, but I would open my bag if it would make them happy. One of them rifled through it, shook my water bottle and put it to his ear. He seemed satisfied.
What happened between that moment and when the large man grabbed at my backpack, I don’t remember exactly. I fought for my bag, just once pulling it away from him. The great amount of lard that was his stomach jiggled and shook. The guy was in a panic and I heard feet shuffling. They were seven or eight now, plus or minus the crackheads. When the large man reached into the back of his pants for who-knows-what, I decided to give up the fight for my bag and start the one for my life. I booked it up the hill, looking back only once. What I saw was not inspiration to stop running.
Six years ago, about three in the morning, Hallandale Beach, Florida: Hey man, you got a quarter?
I knew what was coming. Six or seven guys, all about my age, walked toward me along the Dixie highway, and I knew that my skin was the wrong color to be in that neighborhood, even during the day, unless it was in a car coming through at forty-five. My backpack, full of books and a laptop, got heavier when they got closer.
Nah, I don’t have —
One of them, who was then behind me, clocked me in the head and I fell down. My backpack protected me from their kicks, just enough. I yelled at them. What the fuck did I do to you? For some reason, I thought a fair judgment could only be made by me that night. They stopped for a second, and I got up and ran north. They chased me down, pushed me onto the cracked concrete, and a few of them began kicking me again. I don’t remember how long it went on, but I remember that 1) they didn’t answer my questions, and 2) a white car passed, going forty-five or so. Fast. One of them yelled “cop!” or “car!” (I couldn’t make out which), and they all ran south, leaving me bruised and bleeding on the sidewalk.
The car had, of course, not stopped. I got up and kept walking. I remember writing on my hand that I’d been jumped, and later, after wandering around Hollywood for a couple of hours thinking it was Jupiter, where I lived, 80 miles away) and eventually I asked someone in Walgreens where the train was. She sent me to familiar ground and my original destination, the Hollywood Tri-Rail station. I looked at the schedule. The first three trains were canceled. It was Thanksgiving morning.
Thanksgiving is a special holiday for me. If I’m alive at the end of it, I have something to be thankful for.
31 July 2011 § Leave a comment
south is the only direction I know anymore. this is where I belong next, though I have no bearing on where I belong now. Fishing’s finished, Alaska’s done with me and though I miss her, she’ll be there for the next million and a half years and probably more, so I’ll have my chance to return if my longing overwhelms.
either way: I left spontaneously, as is my way. the psychology behind that one is simple, but travels deep. I neglected most goodbyes, but this needed to happen. That whole miserable winter disappeared sometime dutring the summer, and I couldn’t stop the post-solstice from consuming me. Walking out to the highway to stick my thumb out was too whimsical… and if I faltered, thought it too long a wait? It doesn’t matter. Here’s some nonsense: I’m on braindrugs and avoiding my notebook like the plague, afraid of what I might write in it. the gaping chasms where from my wisdom teeth once irritated me now throb with the beat of my heart and the stitchstrings make me feel sewn together like a ragdoll. I likely was as some point.
Humbled by the scenery, conversation, and vulnerable stepping stones, I’ve been on a crashcourse with mental recession and dismantling walls I’ve been building brick by brick for far too long.
The lack of detail is at once intoxicating, but there’s no reprieve. It’ll get annoying, because I’m not ready to give any more right now. Let’s just say the end of this leg gets closer and less wanted by the moment.
We made it halfway to Skagway after deciding to not go. oops. what a gorgeous view. picturesque lakes and lush forests, climbable rock, and the great vast yukon, musicless so far. no more for now. there’s too much to decipher. the documentation is incredible, right? like a dying fox’s final wish: roadside sadness in twilight. please don’t go. but do what you must.
24 May 2011 § Leave a comment
a cold name set out on
display to the world:
a to-do list of all the
things we’re made of.
I jumped ship halfway through the battle,
so as to fight for my own side.
I guess no one else was going to.
Jack built his own greenhouse,
after the whole beanstalk thing,
and only giants go to heaven,
did he tell you that?
yeah, he served up tamales
with jalapeno, parsley and cheese,
and grew the finest green
this side of you and your departure.
meet me at the eyelids,
so we can look away
and tell our fibs in private.
they’ll be juicy and fruity
just like the truth is:
I’ve got a saturday lunch at two o’ clock
with the fifth horseman of the apocalypse.
after that, we’re going shopping
for some panic and anxiety.
I tracked down some information
on the goon behind heaven’s creation.
Found him hiding out
in a Minneapolis crackhouse,
passing out pamphlets
advertising the apocalypse
as an internet sensation.
Love in back in business,
said the salesman to the trend.
It’s down the block,
next to the laundromat -
and he pointed to a window
covered in post-it notes and bulletholes,
but had no light inside.
26 November 2010 § Leave a comment
Two guys and a girl sat in a cramped room full of mattresses. A lamp and an end table fit awkwardly in the corner. Blown glass pipes travelled from one mouth to the next, each in a different order, each with a different drug.
The sun shined through the white blinds, and it was in this way that the city overwhelmed them. They could not escape that bleak light, which seemed like mostly reflections anyway. It was grey light and red, bouncing off the bridges and windows. It fed the animals that crawled in the alleys.
The highways were packed with cars and anger. The yells of drivers and honking horns seemed to birth from the depths of the city itself where no real people lived. In that apartment they were alone and pure and free to dream and create and destroy.
They did not know that energy could not be destroyed, only transformed. Their intention to put an end to it was noble enough, but went unspoken. The incandescent lamp fought the sun and today, it won. ‘what is this?’ she asked, inhaling as he handed her a smaller pipe with zebra stripes.
‘a little of this, a little of that – thc, pcp, maybe another acronym or two…’ his Spanish accent showed up more when he was stoned. So did his misery. He did his best to act and look like a drug dealer. Probably because that’s what he was. Despite this, he was a fake. His black wifebeater and khaki corduroys made him look hard, but in his heart he was a peaceloving hippie who hated the town he lived in and wanted to escape from it.
By escape I don’t mean that he necessarily wanted to leave, because he made lots of money there and he liked money as much as he liked peace, if not just a little bit more. So he wanted to escape by other means, and that’s what he was doing with these two, who just at that moment were blowing smoke rings into each other’s mouths and kissing. He wanted to think a different way, to be more pure, and that’s what this did for him. “get the fuck out of here and get a room, guys.’ He stood up and switched off the lamp. That was his signal to them that it was over. It was time to go. Time to deal with the city again.
They didn’t get it. Instead, they were entranced with each other, lying face to face on one of the mattresses, caressing cheeks and giggling and things like that.
Normally he would leave them alone, but feeling particularly staggered today he went to the side of the mattress they laid on and lifted it up, dumping both of them onto the floor.
‘what the fuck is your problem?’ the girl immediately got up. He could see the livid look in her eyes that just a moment ago he wouldn’t have thought possible. He stared back. Her boy get their stuff and took her hand.
‘hey. fuck it, let’s go.’ She followed him. Reluctance and anger washed over her. The door creaked.
They drove through the underpass and the sun sprinkled them occasionally as it found its way off the buildings and through the cracks of the city. It was so very newyorkdramafilm, this drive. They were silent as he drove into the depths of concrete and steel.
(as we drove on the highway into the depths of the earth, the image of the dying sun gleaming off the glass and into us was brilliant and tragic)
22 February 2010 § 1 Comment
Everything is real. The view outside the window. Those are really mountains. The books on the shelves were pressed in Toronto, New York, London, San Francisco. The gallon jug of water on the credenza is to help hydrate the first night – the Crossover – the slow and painless descent into the Numb you will feel for the remainder of your natural life.
Against the rules, I am brought through this world – as a tourist, as a vigilante, as a prisoner – to see and experience it firsthand. No one wonders. No one reads those books. There are CDs, tapes, records and the machines and speakers to play them, but the only sound in the air is that of footsteps. All the people here move slowly, deliberately, with purpose. The restaurant has servers that bring you food, just like Outside.
Interest is against the Rules.
Creativity is against the Rules.
Even the vehicles are real.
The resident rooms are mostly the same. When one arrives, they have a preprogrammed roommate. He will say that he is from a small village in Western China, on the banks of the Nu River, which is the Salween downstream in Burma, or whatever they call it these days. He will say that he trades stones and handmade ornaments for American baseball cards.
He is an American, caucasian. An overweight twelve-year-old from Indiana, Kansas, Southern Illinois with a corresponding accent. China is his story though, and he does not know that it is not true, and the newcomer never questions it. There is no reason for it to not be true, so it is (this is how They judge how fit one is to be released into ‘society’).
I spend my last coherent evening in this room thinking about the future I could have had. Who was I out there?
The first thing They seem to take away is the ability to feel strongly, passionately about anything. I was a poet. A photographer. I traveled to countries where I could not speak the language, just to find out what would happen when I tried to communicate. There was a girl out there. I was supposed to see her today – her name was Katie. We would have driven far into the mountains, or to South America, just for fun. We would have drunk bottles of Shiraz, or Sauvignon blanc, watched a film, laid in bed philosophizing between endless minutes of kissing, or comfortable silence, body worship. I think I loved her. And she will never know that, because I am in this place, and I do not need such things anymore.
The Indiana-China boy is rattling off his story. He is told to shut up, is ignored, and finally he goes to sleep. There is something in my head that is trying to crawl out -
…on the roof, as we tap our heels about -
and I am speaking aloud, to the walls. The sound flutters between them and is ugly. It bothers me only for a moment. I’m a bit tired. What was I saying? I was telling the Chinese boy something. Maybe not.
Lie down on the white cotton sheet bed. Close your eyes. Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and everything will be okay.
You won’t think about war, death, or love. You will feel, of course, happiness and productivity and accomplishment. Teamwork will make you stronger. We encourage the sharing of peaceful stories – stories of simple things. The pleasant breakfast you had in Cafeteria this morning. The fairness of yesterday’s match. A successful day at the Council Office.
I have been shown this world and it is a mistake. It is a crime against Human Nature to breathe this air – this manufactured, cloudcreating air – to feel this constant ease. Passion and wonder are enemies here. The gentleman with the subtle and charming British accent (forever implacable for he never says much at one time) will approach us. He will be carrying a syringe that will represent the end of our lives as we have known them. We will be a part of the Collective Unconscious. It is peaceful here.
We walk past the once-rowdy group of rugby players. They are calmly focused on their sewing machines. White cotton fabric, as far as the eye can see. There is no use for the farsighted here.
This woman I’m showing around is a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. I forget which. I’ve brought her here in hopes of her doing something about it, this criminal place. She seems excited. Her professional, forest green suit and maroon blouse ruffle loudly as she moves about to study the Focus of the residents here. Because I know about the British man and his needle, I tell her to be Calm. Act like a Robot. We are on a Battlefield.
I have not been assimilated yet.
The water in the fountains does not shimmer here. All light seems ambient, from elsewhere. Shadows do not follow anyone. There is little color. no one gets upset when I bump into them as I walk past, or even says Excuse Me, or I’m Sorry. They just go about their business, carrying dishes or whatever. Every room is interconnected. Everything is inside. There are no gardens, no trees. There are windows, and the views seem so real, I could jump out of one and land Splat on the concrete below. And that would be more productive than staying here, enduring the British man with the needle and the silence and the smiles with no source.
We are becoming conspicuous. There must be cameras lurking. They wouldn’t be so pompous to think that whatever their drug or hypnosis is would be so unfailingly effective the results could go unmonitored.
It occurs to me now, my second time in this place, under the cover of my pretend Apathy (for few have a ‘second’ time here), that bringing a shrink into an Experimental Reality may not have been the wisest choice. She is in Heaven. They would not assimilate her if we were caught – they would hire her.
I had brought her in hopes of her understanding the injustice, the prisonlike reality of this place. How everyone acted just the same. How illegal this has to be. Her appreciation and compassion for the fragile mind of human beings would jolt her into action. Her hourly rate would become something tangible, patients worthy of being explored beyond their childhoods of the last part of the twentieth century – the Drughaze Generation, she calls them. Us.
She would be the expert witness in the trial of Their Downfall. She would explain that these people, though seemingly complacent, are being held against their will. That these are Artists – painters, sculptors, writers, inventors of toys and worlds, poets, musicians, collectors, travelers, philosophers, glass blowers, dreamers, and storytellers – people for whom the world exists on a romantic, inspirational level. That their skills and passions and peculiar, aloof perspectives have been taken from them, suppressed, their cognitive awareness arid, transparent.
Playing with dull knives is never fun.
She would explain that while yes, the human brain is malleable, it is considered inhumane to mold one not belonging to you without explicit consent, on an expressed and individual basis. This is an entire society. Reinvented.
To which the defense attorney would reply with a convoluted and rhetorical question about everyone is the place giving consent, knowing full well what the deal was (I will not entertain his vocabulary here). That every artist and musician, whose primary tool is their freedom, yes, every one of them signed on the dotted line. Imagination was too much for them. The art, the music, the words meant so much that they wanted them to just disappear. Vanish.
My expert witness, the shrink, would see though all of this immediately, and pointedly remark on the density of her inquisitor’s narrowminded perspective. Something about materialism and lassitude. She would walk away from the witness stand victorious. The Defense Council would hang their heads in shame, for they know of their loss. And we would have our Dalis back, our Hendrixes, our Vonneguts and Darrells and Smiths and Thompsons and Kafkas. Their deaths were well constructed. Fitting, even.
But they never happened.
I am playing the part, and acting it well. I am the Angel’s Advocate. This is my personal Railroad, my path to Enlightenment. I have made an awful mistake. Judgment has been compromised. So I keep her on her toes, as if there is violent and fiery danger around every corner. I try to keep her attention on the Ethics of the thing, so that her mind doesn’t wander to the wasteland of my own thoughts.
She is in Heaven.
For a few careless moments, I lose my own Focus. We are in a public Living Room, decorated with mass-produced still lifes that use just enough color to get the point across, and not a shade more. On a brightly lit glass shelf, there is a CD player. On another, books. Unread, but dustless.
It’s a bad habit of mine sometimes, to walk into a bookshop and dislocate the entire day, my fingers running softly along the spines of new and old, hard cover, soft cover, special editions, signed, unabridged, annotated, torn, vandalized, read, owned many times but never opened books that make those trademark, lovely soft cracking and tearing sounds when I flip through gilt-edged pages, as if it was an Encyclopedia Britannica – at least then there would be an excuse for it never having been read. But this is Leaves of Grass. On the Road. Huck Finn. Rousseau. Eggers. Shakespeare. This is Blasphemy, Cultural Ruin, the puzzle pieces to my joy and elation.
I’m always looking for the Poetry. Sometimes the section exists, other times I smirk at our absence. Underground Superiority: a façade for my disappointment. Those thin an numerous volumes by authors I’ve never heard of, will never see again. Poems, by ______. Tumbling Down the Stairway to Heaven, by ______. Sunsets: A Collection of Poetry, edited by ______. Through the Mirrored Woods: Poetry by ______ (1976-1993). These are typically the books one can pick up, read one or two haphazardly chosen pieces, and essentially know the rest. Poets tend to stick to their styles, especially in the same book. Consistency and all. Sometimes the style is rhythmic and inspiring and it is quickly realized that a gem of infinitely greater value than gold is spreading wide open for you to indulge in its intimate secrets. That you are holding beauty in your dry and cracked hands. Blood and scars and pen marks, nails cut too short. Ink is your connection.
Moving on to make sure they have the quintessential, my eyes scan the shelves and every emotion is registered and loved and every memory held onto for just a moment. Poe, Dickinson, Ginsberg, Hopkins (often a ghost), Neruda, Whitman. I might open one, flip to my favorites quickly because I know this edition and just so I can see the words in print instead of just in my mind’s eye: Here the Frailest Leaves of Me on 109, Spelt From Sibyl’s Leaves on 86, Lost in the Forest on 132.
I’ll roam the shelves for hours, following only my instincts, smiling at old affairs, remembering the job I was fired from for reading The Savage Detectives, the missed phone call about my grandfather’s death because Hand was talking to the lady in the airport about World War II and I couldn’t peel away for the chiming bells, a marathon romp inspired solely by one unerotic but lascivious sounding passage from Up in the Gallery, the exploration of every available intoxicating substance available in a meager attempt to keep up with Raoul Duke and his attorney. These are the chronicles of my life, and I visit them often. Twain, Thoreau, Hesse, cummings: my childhood friends – Tilbury Town the community I was raised in. Valentine’s 1945 in Dresden my awful family vacation.
I pick up one of the shelved books and flip through the pages – back to front (I’m lefthanded). I read a paragraph, and am lost. My Plight of Freeing Passion has been absorbed by this dangerous book. The shriveler is looking at a couple sitting at a table, studying them. I know this moment will be the end of my life.
I tapdance to the CD player, and intently place whatever CD I first pick up in the slot. The volume is up. I run over to the forestclad scholar, tell her to get the hell out of here. It’s over. Tell the story. Write the song.
She’ll be caught and offered a signing bonus. She’ll probably up the Ativan dose for Pablo. Zoloft for Hunter. I tell her to please give me Cyanide. Quizzical look. I’m done. She’s frightened. Panicked. She runs in her heels for the wide and shadowy stairway. It leads to the real world, one with epic mountains and irritating mosquitoes and grizzly-sounding Aussie poets and homicidal whiskey. One where there is freedom to rhyme in everyday conversation and paint masterworks with tomato sauce. To run your fingers over a flesh and blood sculpture and then go create one from clay. To play and laugh and dream and swear and gamble your favorite hibiscus shirt away. That, over there, is the Stairway to Heaven, and the notes within it may well be the Portal to Aural Expression, or even Divinity itself, but Jimmy Page is in here, insuring the soilent green is fit for human consumption.
Here comes the man with the British accent and the needle. He says something to the tank of a man walking with him.
The accent. He’s from Leeds.