Joel and I re-recorded this song in lullaby version for Casey’s daughter Sparrow…
Standardized tests: as accurate for testing proficiency within a discipline as Mad Libs are for predicting ocean tides. And I’m relatively good at taking standardized tests, but all that supposes is that I am good at consuming a lot of information at once and then throwing it back up on command, when it really counts. Bulimia for the brain. Those tests are a joke. A stupid trick. A hula hoop. And I have never been able to hula hoop, not even slightly. So maybe this is just some suppressed childhood envy bubbling up. All the good times I missed out on. Hip-throwing a plastic, circular, tube around my waist. There was a competition during the middle school Field Day to see who could keep it up the longest. Even at that point I was wise to the fact that I couldn’t pretend to hula hoop my way out of even the most confused, nervous-tic-motion national convention. Then the gym coach ready-set-go’d and I threw it once around my waist and it rattled on the ground like a big, empty coin. I stepped out of that bogus device and headed towards the monkey bars. And there they were, all spaced evenly across the cement basketball court, one hundred kids spring-loading each knee to knee exchange of balance as the fluorescent orange and pink and blue circles blurred in time like Saturn’s rings come flying loose around small, giggling, celestial bodies all taunting one another. There were candied tongues in different colors, red, purple and green, all sticking out at the stiff angles of concentration. From above, those hundred or so hoops spinning out of sync must have been almost nauseating to watch. And that is why a bird most assuredly shit directly onto the head of Amy Anderson, who once silently farted something awful in homeroom and then blamed it on me. 6th grade would become the worst year of my young life after that day. And she must have collaborated with Chef Boyardee to do the amount of damage she did to me, to us all. Sure, I had farted plenty of times inside and outside of class before that particular day. But it’s easy to escape the ridicule when you laugh along with everyone else because there wasn’t a smell and because it made a hilarious noise, like a balloon’s deflating flaps with a high squeak at the end. But when it is not funny, when it is something that creeps out amidst the class without warning, burning everyone’s eyes and nostrils like ammonia mustard gas and immediately your skeletal, hateful, teacher who looks like a lot of pale raisins sown together suddenly spins her eyes crazily behind her glasses and then berates you for a horror you didn’t create while at the same time hissing and spraying a cloud of air freshener into the room, there is no coming back from that. Not even a final squeak can save you at that point. You just sit in your cold desk while the chemical flower-mist descends from the green-glowing fluorescent bulb-lit sky into your hair and mixes with the air, now a hybrid stink. Something like fermenting daisies and week-old death. That’s the moment that kids find solidarity. They rise up in a tide of sneers, their bonds cemented together by processed pizza dipped in ranch dressing and years of abusing chocolate milk. In high school Amy and I had become pretty good friends. At some point, well actually it was senior year and only a month out from graduation, Amy confessed everything to me one day in statistics class. ”You remember that time in homeroom?…” she said. ”Barely,” I replied. For a long time in middle school I had wondered why she had screeched, covering her mouth and nose with one hand and vehemently pointing a finger into my face with the other. That year was doomed. And then suddenly it became one of the best stories I can remember. I have to say thank you to her for having the guts to tell me. She didn’t have to and if she hadn’t I probably would have erased that entire year of my life from memory, knowingly or not.
And anyhow, standardized tests were stupid then and they are stupid now. I was put into the Academically Gifted program when I was in 5th grade because of a standardized test. I made and painted a plaster mask of my face in that program. I did a book report on Robert Louis Stevenson. There was our teacher, Mrs. Houser, a genuine saint and bless her soul, who let Ryan play his Garth Brooks tape while we worked on projects. What the administrators in North Carolina didn’t take into account was that I had gone to private schools all but one year in Austin before moving to NC. Even the public schools in Austin were light years beyond that school. If I appeared sharper than a lot of the other students it was only because I had (my parents) and the luck to have received a far superior education up until that point. That and I had no issue with taking that sort of test. Some do. People learn in very different ways. It’s a shame that particular ways of learning are often excluded simply because they are not in line the with current, standard model. Teachers do not hold the position they are oftentimes due within our world. One moment you are hula hooping for life and eternal glory, the next your are a highly educated and underpaid state employee administering standardized tests. Or maybe you’re fabulously wealthy for something exactly as trivial as spinning a circular tube around yourself all day.
I’ve got three weeks left and then I’m officially a graduate.
I believe this: You have to construct the meaning within your life for yourself. And when that has all but become senseless, as it often does, you must reconstruct the meaning someplace else. And again. And again. You must constantly remind yourself that there are wonderful things worth living to see. You’ll miss them all if you are careless with the hours you have left. And if you haven’t experienced the truly heinous parts of this existence, get ready, it’s only a matter of time. If that isn’t today, you can be all the rage. You can be a fire spitting out the embers of luck and of kindness, sparks that fall onto your friends and make them your wicks, and like the great Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind” and “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” All the laughs and the kind words and good books and time spent thinking to yourself, tuck it all into your shirtsleeves and your pockets and everyplace that you can and fall asleep determinedly and proudly that once again you saw the day to its close. You saw some wonderful things.
Some of the people you’ll come to know complicate what you do.
Other people you’ll come to know make everything seem like magic breakfast at the window of dawn. They may also fly sometimes:
A Russian constructivist poster project for a History of Design class. How I forgot Jack London in this thing I don’t understand. And I didn’t include Tolstoy because he is Russian, I included him because he is Russian AND he sure could write…
Some recent notes:
Graduating in less that two months. Thank you to the several University of North Carolina, Asheville faculty that have meant so much to my time here.
As he sprinted wildly towards the altar, Pete was praying his ass off. I hate writing by hand. In calmer times he would wonder silently to himself why it was that nobody prayed outside. Or at least it never seemed as though anyone was praying out of doors. With the right kind of eyes, going on a picnic could quite possibly be considered a prayer. Putting on new socks. Screaming in your car. Fishing. Roman candles. Cutting out the people in your life that no longer bring you any joy. Making something, anything. Prayers, all. In that frenzied burst down a blood-colored vein of carpet, between pews varnished to an otherworldly gleam, he passed through the descendent rays of a stained-glass window and if he had been frozen there, suspended in time, a vision that can only be imagined by a specific era of us who’ve grown accustomed to high-speed photography, bathed in primary colors, we would have seen a slight foam leaking out the side of his mouth, his eyes windswept and bleeding moisture out deltas of crow’s feet. And only for that moment, within a mural of sunlight bastardized by a monkish translation of holy scenes, would Pete’s outward appearance reflect the nature of his inward state. All the rest of his life was calm pretense, an easy surface of water winking in the sunshine. The sunken ship sleeping below, just a hull and a mast: a home for dark, salty creatures. I hate writing by hand; I’m part machine at this point. A keyboard is my pair of glasses, my wheel, my telescope. We are many things, but natural is not one of them. Tents. Highly developed technology each time we go camping in the woods. I would never get anything done if I had to write by hand. In order not to suffer heavily in the most beautiful season of the year, I’m a slave to allergy medicine. Not natural. The lady vacuuming the carpet only noticed Pete as he cleared the whirring shop-vac like a deer over a fence. She fell back into a pew and cursed aloud, though to her benefit the vacuum was so loud that only God heard her reflexive blaspheming. I suppose that still counts though. Watching Pete’s mad race, frozen with terror next to the altar, the ghost of Aliester Sparrowfoot, the venerable abbott himself, actually left his body momentarily, so arresting was the sight…hold on, here is the problem, what is it that we are photographing when we travel? I’m never going to transcribe this story onto the site. My penmanship has always been an angry scrawl. What the hell do all these tourists need with a photo of some ancient gold candle holder? And old Bible. The ruined wall of an old ruin. A nameless hotel window. A gargoyle with a melting face. What are we remembering except for the memory of taking the picture? Who is ever going to see it? Film was a wonderful handicap. When you had 24 or 36 chances, you’d make goddamn sure you were actually looking at something through the viewfinder. There was always a chance you had completely blown the picture. If you had, there was no second chance. Then in the negatives you sometimes found 18 screwed up, out of focus pictures. Two completely black. And 4 brilliant photographs, exactly how you’d imagined them.
So I was goofing off in a very old, very popular Cathedral in Lisbon, writing down what I was actually seeing with what I wanted to see. And it digressed into film nostalgia and disgust for the labor and look of my handwriting. And then there is the obvious contradiction. I’m often one of those tourists taking photos of things I like to see. 90% of it will never be seen by eyes other than mine. I profess my love for the keyboard and my disgust with autofocus and photographic data infinity. Somehow, and I think this applies to a lot of us, when we dedicate time to something(s) that we love, we assume to have somehow captured the true essence of it while the others are only fooling; they are just playing stupidly. Your music collection. The books you’ve read. Your photos. Your job. Whatever you’ve built. And I have to remind myself that if it weren’t for the immense collision of countless minds that came before, I would not know the things I know. All those authors. All those eyes and all those lenses. I’m glad I can borrow all this history for my own sake.
I suppose I need to finish the story about Pete. The thing with Pete is that he was always so morose, a real drag to be around. And if you start this life with a negative polarity, chances are you’re going to break up into something that nobody outside your family wants to be around. And what happened to send him careening into the eye of the cuckoo? He found out that everywhere he looked he was faced with uncertainty. There was not one thing that he knew for certain because his mind was always changing. The world was always changing. And at one point he half-heartedly came to terms with this. But then another thought struck him. Without all the bad in the world, there wouldn’t be any way to classify the good. How would anyone know they had it easy if they’d never see how shitty it can get? And with that thought comes this one: in order for anyone to do any good, there has to be some form of evil to push against. So if there is divinity and destiny at work, the bad guys are just doing what they were always meant to do. Talk about drawing the short straw and not even knowing it. And so Pete decided to take it to the heart of the matter. At the end of his near-Usain-Bolt-like flight Pete struck the altar with a magnificent boom, exploding fully. A cloud of red mist was the only remnant of his passing, though it soon dissipated, falling into the carpet. The shop-vac would make short work of Pete later that afternoon. The abbott and the cleaning lady never told a soul about what had happened. No matter your speed and determination, when you run headlong against thousands of years of meticulously constructed tradition, you are likely to become vapor.
I don’t know anything of providence. I only know imagination that sometimes becomes reality.
There is a forever expanse of whitespace to the right of, and below these words. And there always will be.
This wont be as good as I’d wish. This will not be as good as he deserves. You shouldn’t think about it, just write it. I know. We have this conversation every time you are in that chair. Right here…looking at this bright, white screen. Just push down on the keys. I am…only, this time it’s different. Before there was always the black, sleeping figure curled on a bed behind me. You mean, behind you? Yes. My black anchor to this world. The dangerous looking canine who was not. Gandalf. General Grievous. Rune. He had so many names. You are speaking about the awkward, dark creature with the kindness in his eyes. Yes. Sometimes his long face would come sneakily up between my ribs and arm, his amber eyes telling me, in their way, one of two things: ”food please” or “lets go outside”. And the only time there was not kindness in his eyes, it was because a squirrel was somewhere nearby. He nearly caught up to several. There were always too many trees around. Yes, there were. He only ever got worked up over two things: fireworks and squirrels. And where is he now? He is in the earth. And you are not? No, I am not. I am here walking around and sweeping up all the memories from my mind, trying to brighten them back up, adjust the exposure and put them some place important. Some place permanent. Inevitably though, a majority of those memories will slip into the folds of tissue that hold all the other nothing. Each moment I’ve ever spent doing anything is there. Folded in on itself, specific atoms arranged so that from time to time an image, or the reverse of an image is cast in illumination. It’s a long hallway without a ceiling. It’s raining a warm rain in this hallway. It’s a shame that the only time I find the door that leads into that long hallway is while dreaming. Otherwise, I can only look through a thousand different keyholes and catch the image of one memory or another passing by. In his last hours, a rife-shot, or a firework, or a car backfiring, boomed far in the distance. True to form, Rune lept out of his slumber like he had been electrified from the great beyond, barking and growling, pacing around like he had new eyes. He looked at me as though to say, “I told those sonsofbitches…right?!” You told ‘em alright pal. Then he walked back to his bed, spun around three-four-five times and fell back asleep. The leaves talked amongst themselves.
Several hours later, around evening, Rune fell asleep for the last time. My dad and I buried him under a young, pin oak tree. Later, as the sun passed away in a brillance only known to that specific part of the world, my dad gave me his compass saying, “I bought this in 1971 right when I got out of the army. I want you to have it”. It would be very difficult to miss the symbolism. He has always been helping me find my way, and so he is still. I used to play with that compass when I was very young. And here I sit, looking at the needle pointing north, looking at myself in its small mirror.
Each time I enter my apartment I expect to see that old dog asleep on his bed, or looking at me in a warm, familiar way. And each time I forget that he is not sleeping on the other side of the door. My heart hangs heavy these last days. He was my permanent friend the entirety of my adult life. Things will never be the same.
I have written about it before, but sometimes the absolute worst choice is the only right one. And the next time you blink, a decade may have passed. There is this moment where you are standing with your friend at the ocean dreaming about all the things you’ll do. He bolts up and down the beach, scaring the lunch directly out of the hands of two, tiny Asian women. You laugh and apologize and there you sit, the two of you, watching the horizon. The next moment, you are staring up under a tree, trying to accept that you are seeing the very final moments of your friendship as they disappear. After the green and gold chandelier of leaves blinks in the wind a few more times, you’ll never know each other again. And so that’s how my final day with Rune was. We lay on his bed under a tree and watched as the wind blew our memories around. The leaves talked in whispers amongst themselves. Rune and I had silent conversations. I put my leather bracelet on his arm that I bought in Lisbon and wore until it smelled like an old towel. The “hand of protection” was pressed into it. I didn’t know what that meant at the time I purchased it, but now I do. And now it is Rune’s. In the end that is as much as I could do for my old friend. To let him know that we had been the luckiest of creatures to have found one another and shared such long years together. And then I let my friend go. And if there is anything to greet me when my final day under the leaves comes to an end, I sure hope it’s that black figure. Running towards me like some nightmarish firestorm, when at the very last moment he hits the brakes, coming to a sliding, smiling, stop. He leans against my leg. Just like always.
For the last ten years of my life. Rune.
On a trip to the U.S. National Archives I found a mandate created by the U.S. government in the 1970s explaining how the Department of Motor Vehicles was to be updated. Here is part of that mandate:
Section 9 and 3/4
a) State DMV offices to be housed within half a mobile home (or provide the appearance of having been constructed with the reclaimed interior of a low cost, pre-fabricated, mobile home, i.e. the main character’s living quarters in the movie Sling Blade)
b) Wages paid to DMV officers will be sufficient only enough to perpetuate and sense of dull compliance. Employees will continue their existence only to spite every living creature.
c) The DMV will be a singular, monopolized, state entity. With no competition, every citizen will be forced to personally attend a smelly box where the spirit-crushing, black orb-eyed, worker-squids speak in slow motion and slavish tones about “alternate forms of identification”.
d) Erroneous Alternate Forms of Identification section to follow this mandate.
s) In the event that general morale within the United States reaches levels too high to be considered proper, it is essential that the DMV replicate an atmosphere of pain and discomfort. Additional note: see seven plagues mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
f) The unofficial DMV office employee uniform should range from the “nursing student dropout” theme to the “Mr. Belvedere”. The official DMV office uniform should be on part German brownshirts, one part Canadian Mounty.
q) An unnecessary 45 minutes of processing time will be added to each transaction to further detract from public morale and provide each DMV employee with time to multitask. Multitasking restricted to complaining to another DMV employee while looking at funny cats on the internet.
r) Literature residing within DMV offices is restricted to literature about the DMV.
j) Recipients of licenses, license plates, registration, or motor vehicle forms of any kind are required to be sad and broken by the end of processing. A fit of unbridled rage is also acceptable, though DMV officers retain right to arrest any such individual, further poisoning their humanity.
k) Each DMV employee is required by law to have tattooed above their heart the DMV slogan: It is my eternal duty to confuse, condescend, and snuff out any persistant spark of happiness.
z) Dumbass front plates are to be sold at each DMV location. Examples are as follows: Princess. 2Fast4u. Smile. Honk4luv.
5) Fascist posters with the symbols of state pride and DMV authority are required background images at every DMV office location.
&) Each DMV employee will also be made a notary public. Additional note: Notarizing means the notary possesses hand-eye coordination enough to stamp a document with a stamp, therefore making that document official. We aren’t quite clear why this is necessary just yet, but we do know we can charge a fee for something having been made “official” with a stamp.
The mandate went on, but I thought that was the most illuminating section. It’s amazing how advanced the DMV was, even in the 1970s. Sling Blade, the internet, those things didn’t even exist until at least two decades after that mandate was written. It sheds a lot of light on how the apparatus of the DMV works. Obviously nothing of this post is affiliated with the U.S. government, or the DMV. I wish it were true though. It would make so much more sense if this were all somewhere in the U.S. National Archives.
There is villainy everywhere, but it is important to remember that most villains aren’t self-directed. They are created by our belief in individualism and a choose-your-own-destiny ideology. ”Darling, you can be anything you want to be. I mean, anything you want to be within your capabilities and economic access. So no, you’ll never be president, or even a famous lawyer, but you can be one mean as hell DMV worker. Hooray.” I hate the DMV. I hate its employees too. But anyone would be a slavish, hateful, squid-person if stuck doing what they do every single day for 25 years. So while I might despise the DMV to the fullest extent of my ability, (I would rather marry a dentist with spousal-tooth obsessive compulsive disorder than go to the DMV) I have to admit that they are indeed important to the system. Only with super squid-like elasticity could a person swim around in that muck.
I always catch myself imagining that the world is floating, especially when looking at a globe or a map. It looks as though the continents are suspended in vast oceans and somehow they are just too big to move much. It is an easy illusion to have. What we don’t see, the structure of the sea floor that meets the edges of each continent, connects everywhere with everywhere. I think that is the way it goes with a lot of things. We imagine a situation to be this floating surface that just is, that just appeared and now exists how it always has, when really there is a structure and a reason that the surface of this certain thing looks a certain way. It somehow makes sense to me that we all skim around on the surface of things, zipping around on top of the continents, never truly thinking about why we choose what we do.
And deep in the ocean somewhere, a giant squid swims past without a care in the world.
Apparently this man had inherited some small fortune. Sam’s Club or some other grandiose laboratory for hatred that makes available to the U.S. consumer things like 30 pound bags of Slim Jim and blue cheese stuffed chicken breasts. Someone today walked out of that store with one of those bluetooth-handsfree-blinking-ear-lights, an Anime dog sweater and flavored, bottled water. At that same moment in time some kid in southern Louisiana made a toy submarine out of sticks. Unfortunately, all three of the lizards he caught and used as mariners drowned in the sink. Sometimes you have to crack a few eggs to make an… Like some mutant, synthetic terror-bird with a small, grey brain, his multicolored parachute bloomed while the huge, industrial fan fastened to the back of a lawn chair whined overhead. “Goddamn,” I thought. “That guy is going to drop acid on top of us.” Days later I thought about this eccentric lunatic being buried with that parachute airship; he’d complicate future archaeological field work forever. I couldn’t see that far from the ground, but I’m pretty sure he was wearing a pinky ring as he screamed completely unintelligible things down at the parking lot where we stood. The monster fan that propelled him forward canceled out his hexes. What had happened to loose this man’s fantastic rage was a bit cloudy, but word on the street was that he partially owned the space next to the parking lot where a show was to happen that night. He also owned the manor on the hill behind the bar that was putting on the show. I had overheard someone in the bar say that he didn’t want the show to happen because of all the noise. So in response he decided to buzz overhead in a home-built war machine. Too bad for him that it was all the colors of a circus tent. I imagine that’s how Sir Richard Branson might react if people were protesting his New Mexico space port on some sort of religious grounds. Those Westboro Baptist Church Nazis holding signs like “God Hates Astronauts” and the image of Neil Armstrong with the caption “Pontius’ Pilot.” Those Black Metal church burners got it all wrong. I am not condoning what they did in the slightest, but instead of burning down beautiful, archaic, Norwegian churches in the 1990′s, it would be better for history if they were terrorizing those Westboro goons right now. Even if they just showed up to every protest dressed up like gothic mall rats and held torches as a warning. It would be a footnote in history books somewhere, The Battle Between Blind Hatred and a Serious Gimmick. Inevitably they would come to an understanding that they share the exact same beliefs, the only difference being that one group exclusively dresses in black. Anyhow, I’d be on Richard Branson’s side of the whole deal. But since we are talking about Bruce Wayne, the acid thrower, it is important to understand that he was just plain cuckoo. That being said, in the end I believe he was on to something. The problem with that evening was that we had to play this show, and not like a band playing their songs for a few friends and bartenders, but as four guys tricked into playing backup to a meth-smoking, real life representation of Foghorn Leghorn. Imagine that cartoon rooster, but with long blond hair, “I say, I say boy…” and then he shreds in some pentatonic scale on an old fender. He was also our record producer at that time. Swiss cheese ethics is about the best I can do to describe him. From one angle you’d think he’s alright, then you’d move two feet left and realize he’s all full of holes and tastes like body odor smells. I remember drinking several shots of whiskey out of Chris’ flask so that when all the drunk-white-mom-dancing started up, because it was guaranteed to happen, I’d be more prepared. There I was, watching this guy play a truly amazing blues solo over this premeditated and horrifically-funk rhythm progression with an expression upon his face as though he were digesting broken glass. I remember praying mid-set to catch a glint of moonlight reflecting off of that pinky ring, seeing the shadow-man in the sky dropping a homemade bomb on top of us from his lawn chair cockpit. Just as Mr. Leghorn bends the high E string to its limit on the 15th fret, his blond locks flipping back and forth behind him as he shakes his head in denial at his own amazingness, almost like a Ric Flair faint -meanwhile, somewhere in the country Ted Nudgent catches a scent on the wind- the paint-peeling squeal making the guitar store guys go, “ooohhhh” the stage erupts in one tremendous fireball. We are all rocketed into the crowd as human shrapnel. People literally explode from impacting one another. Armageddon begins in the Midwest. The spectacle of a news helicopter’s curious hovering over the destruction all being seen in the rear-view of Bruce’s wild and wacky parachute machine. His makeup kit mirror snaps shut and he buzzes off along the pink and orange horizon. Ted Nudgent squints one eye and tips his hat. Oh, what could have been. No, we played the full set and the hooting crowed drank and swiveled their way into nostalgic molasses. I’ve hated white guy funk music ever since. Not that it was super likeable before. Instead of forever altering the face of soul music and making it better, like what happened with rock music, drugs made an example out of funk.
I wonder what Jamiroquai is up to these days. I think about the main guy sitting at a coffee shop, checking his email, wearing an Native American headdress and a track suit. He has to be a regular somewhere.
In 1996 Graceland was something. I imagine it’s much the same. Memphis, at least the area surrounding Graceland, made my skin itch. I couldn’t wait to get out of that city. My uncle and I were headed cross country from North Carolina to Arizona. It’s no wonder Elvis faded out in a thousand sequins and professional wrestling size belts. When you live in a place that has 37 TVs inside a mirrored basement bar and your main room has carpeted ceilings and the entirety of Africa’s animal diversity sown onto the furniture, well, get ready for practicing karate while wearing the medallions from each major religion…just to be safe. I loved it. That place, for a teenager, was the ultimate unreality. You knew from the moment you walked in the front door that this guy had absolutely zero left in the reserves of his mind. I think Elvis could have been a pretty good imitation Willy Wonka had he hung in there. Some big, grey-side-burned guy in a white cape driving a glass goose across his estate towards the “Cave of Wonder.” Just imagine the musical. It would have been great.
Some guy with a name in a class of mine went too far in-depth into an explanation about yin and yang, only he pronounced it “yin yong.” He pronounced it that way several times in a subtle attempt to show us his meditations and enlightenment badge. Suddenly I saw him wearing one of those glasses/moustache gag combos. On the third time he said those two words with an emphasis on the second, I very seriously considered pulling that green, pleather jacket over his head and hockey punching him repeatedly. And though at first our actions might have seemed contrary to the other, I feel that in view of the cosmos, it would have been a good way to show our deep interconnectedness. His insistence with sharing a true understanding of the subject and proper pronunciation providing the light half of the cyclical motion and my beating the pretense out of him providing the dark. Perfect harmony. Instead of “yin and yong” we could call it “bing and bong” because those are the noises that happen whenever you strike a clown.
My nephew left one of his Star Wars toys at my house. On his leg it says 1983. He’s probably an important bad-guy in my nephew’s imagination, but I’m trying to give him the benefit of a doubt, at least while he is living on my table:
That the magic hour should last forever. As a gold light dies against the outside of the blinds and sends fractured bars of momentariness across my black legs, I think on my friend. It has been ten years next month. And of the man that saved my life, I am certain only of this: he is a magnificent idler. Octavio Paz said it best, “Like all great idlers, he spent his life making up lists of books he’d never write; and as usual among such idlers when they are passionate and imaginative, in order to keep going and not go mad, they write something daily, almost on the sly, in the margins of their great projects, a poem, an article, a reflection. Fragmentation and tension…” I have watched this man in that fragmentation and tension, pulled taut like the strings on which he so often plays. Though they are wound and stretched to an intense tightness, it is because of that very rigidity that vibration is allowed. When striking the structure of a thing, as it moves back and forth in reaction to this it becomes semi-transparent, its exact location impossible to define. And this is how most things go; he seems to be forever striking at the structure, looking to become semi-transparent. I realize that this all sounds sublime and deeply meaningful, but often he is just staring out the window at the world. And who can tell what, if anything at all, is happening is his mind? Back to the obtuse, somewhat pretentious guitar string metaphor: I have to suppose that the meaninglessness of the sounds produced, usually in the major scales, must be calming for his mind. It doesn’t make any sense to me; I prefer the comforts of sleep. In the midst of all this idleness I have witnessed moments, a flash of a few hours and work comes pouring out unchecked. A small dam breaking around midnight. I think this must be what he lives for. That seems like a lot of trouble for the mind. I never have the burden of these types of thoughts; I don’t even know that I am dying. My legs, which at one time only struck the ground to guide the direction of my flight -as if lighting could also be concerned with grace- do not work so well anymore. There is a mutiny happening somewhere between my spine and my back legs. I hope that when I am finally done I will not be put down. What a terrible decision to place upon someone. I would only request that I pass away silently in my sleep, before I can no longer command my feet to walk.
Ten years past the running. I had some friends back then and I always wonder if they made it out. If they did, I hope they lasted a while. It has not been entirely easy since escaping that cell. My left foot was run over twice, the hematomas in my ears, skin breaking open regularly, an overzealous dog biting a hole in my neck, the endless annoyance of others who do not realize that sleeping is the only important thing, moving somewhere new every year, these have all taken their toll. There have been wonderful moments too. I have run untethered and on my own terms for years. I have seen and left the ocean. I have slept in the open air. I have mindlessly watched the trees doing the only thing they know how to do. Of all the squirrels I’ve chased, there was one I nearly caught. Though I’m not quite sure what I would have done had I caught it; probably shaken it violently in my teeth and then looked puzzled when it was dead. The one thing that complicates my mind more than anything about humans has nothing to do with war, or television, or church. Rather, why do they need to make so many hallways and staircases? What is so wrong with just one big room (with an enormous door) that is very close to the ground? And another thing – veterinarian offices always smell weird. That is why I’m so stressed. It has nothing to do with shots.
Thank you Chris, Gay, Liz, Aaron, and all the other friends and family who took to me with such kindness. My life has been long and full. And who knows, I may still have a long while yet.
Finality often seems like something tragic, something to be avoided. Though the truth of the matter is that without this finality, the immense importance held within the hour, the minute, the second would be lost. Tomorrow is just an idea, just a stall.
As a dog you wouldn’t think that my paws would allow me to type this. You’d also be concerned if I learned French. C’est la vie?
- If you rearrange the word “left” only slightly it becomes “felt” -