Thursday, December 03, 2009

Horror Vacuui

Southbound 5 at around 4:30, top a crest and the city looms. Downtown is lit eerily by the setting sun. A wash of the magic ochre found mostly in my own dreams. Overwhelmed. I am not looking at the road. I am still not looking at the road. It is so awful and lonely and moving. It all looks like ruins. How do all the cars not crash from awe.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Canon

"There's this tea place in Hillcrest. It would be a great place for you to bring one of your many books."

I had told my new friend about my spontaneous collection of 200-odd literary classics. I had told him about my favorite book, The Magic Mountain, that it was set in a sanatorium in Switzerland before the outbreak of World War I, that it was an allegory for the intellectual milieu of prewar Europe, that it was seven or eight hundred pages long, that well it sounded pretty dull but it was, uh, great. I had offered a self-conscious little silence.

I had told him about something very important, this bookshelf, that fills me with many shades of trembling.

The blonde, a month before - she seemed too pretty for Thomas Mann. She said vague things about him over the music of the bar. Then she pummeled a guy in a wifebeater with her ass.

What to do with this strange impulse, to hear voices removed by centuries and oceans, to make sure others do as well.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Apocrypha

In 2005, I started writing posts that I never published. Some were too specific and remain so. Others were abandoned because for a now unknown reason I was embarrassed to admit that I was in love on the occasions when I was, or because I did not want to betray my own unhappiness, or because I did not want to appear judgmental. In retrospect, these things do not seem so important to me. Here are a few favorites, in chronological order.

~~~

It often takes an hour of wallowing in the dry heat of Kaloustian's class to motivate myself to make a blog entry.

"Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!" proclaims Massoud from the back of the class. Substitute does nothing.

School is ugly. It's like your underwear after a hot day at school. GOD, it's hot and gross and my head hurts and "Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!" Soulless myrmidons patrolling the campus looking for children to bully, grades, grades, grades, the dumb nauseating pulse of the top forty at lunch, the smell of cheese everywhere, hot sun, I VOMIT YOU OUT, I EXPEL YOU FROM MY BODY LIKE A SICKNESS. I reclaim dominion over my life, they get no more anger, no more floorspace in my head.

"Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!"

~~~

Late-night drunken thoughts of far-away places:

• Stepping in front of the car, brushing off sixty years or more like so many irritating flies, breaking down in the sunshine walk home listening to Eminem, of all things, fucking Eminem, Mockingbird, and I have to stop and just wait and cry because this man cares about his daughter and I care about my friend and it's as simple as that, because there's something worth caring about. You fill my heart even though you filled my life with pain.

• Confessionals. I miss you miss you miss you miss you and am not afraid to telegraph it secretly over underground internet wires.

• Hallelujah! Hallelujah anyway. There is something to miss and something to fill.

~~~

Crumble, beast. Disappear into the aether and take my hunching with you. Take the peering, the late-night safaris through wanting, illusion, the vertebrae falling one-two-three to your hypnosis. Gather up your hallucinations, your beekeeper's implements, your commerce of make-believe attitudes. Collect them back into yourself and go away forever.

When I first heard the rumor that Facebook was engaged in a lawsuit that might result in its dissolution, I was anxious - I don't like having my social crutch threatened. Then I started thinking about what would happen if it did implode. Not pandemonium, not any kind of lasting malaise, just a few flashes of anger and panic and then resignation; an exodus back into the world of living mouths, or a collective relapse into MySpace.

I liked the idea. I wanted the spell broken for me. When I realized that Facebook is a millions-dollar enterprise that will probably never be unseated from its privileged position in our lives as young Americans, that nobody was going to come and pluck me up out of my glazy-eyed stupor for me, I considered deleting my account. But then I didn't. Because it's hard to turn away from the promise.

Which is communion. Which is stray comments on pictures from girls of varying degrees of familiarity. One provocation, two provocation, three provocation, then the strike, the set, the reeling-in of new mates and allies. But it doesn't work that way. What happens is the thousand-yard stare, across a virtual horizon where forms move lethargically in silhouette, at the exact geometries of your virility.

So I'm done. I have just deactivated. I'm tired of feeling like a fly drawn to seductive death-glow.

This is not to scold anyone for continuing to use it, though I think on some fundamental level we recognize that it's all bad for us in some way (this coming from the guy who has wasted more than a few hundred breaths defending the whole thing to the 40+ crowd as a breakthrough in communication). It is not enough to touch only the most controllable parts of our lives together. It is not adequate to rifle through the digital laundries of others, hoping for accidental deposits of sincerity. It is not acceptable to me anymore to dwell in cardboard galleries and call it friendship.

This has been a fantasy, a mutually condoned imagining.

So crumble, dreamspace. Crumble away.

~~~

There is lead in between their hands, all over their faces, dormant in the crevices. There is lead in the pavement on which they sit outside the house with the party inside. There is lead all over everybody's hearts, it seeps. See it seep.

~~~

Sometimes you must confront the question: do I love you? Or do I look at you to keep myself feeling broken?

Do I love you? Or do I pound on the seat in front of me as we drive past you sitting on the curb speaking with another guy because I don't know how not to want to pound on seats?

~~~

When they put me under to have my wisdom teeth removed, it went blank. It did not go black, there was no color involved. No anything. Just sudden nothing. A cookie cut out of time's dough. Then I was awake, groggy, adrift in the stimulus-response neverland you reach after enough alcohol. I was laying on a table, my mom was sitting next to me. When my head began to stir, pivoting around to orient itself, she leaned forward. I couldn't speak because my mouth was full of gauze, so she handed me a piece of paper and a pen. Suddenly, I needed very badly to communicate to her just how in love with ______ I was, above and beyond anything else. My hand moved to write, "I am in love with ______," and then my self-censoring reason came back online.

~~~

Olympia, you make me feel like a paper cup caught in a dead bush on the side of the freeway.

Your hush is keeping me awake.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Menagerie

The old language of mystery and mystification is slipping. I came here in narrow hours to try to find it. There is only a lack of light and a lack of sleep.

Remains: jumble of inadequate metaphors straining to describe the harrowing moment of lucidity when there is no longer an institution dangling vulgar carrots in front of your face. Bubbles, rumbling, volcanic tectonic rage: sitting at desks. Waiting. Everything ordained, everything comfortable, everything wrong. Can I go to the bathroom please? (I don't know, CAN you?) No adults left in the world. Nobody to break the bells in half, to draw the curtain just inches aside. Students, wards, anonymous phalanxes, all we have for you to imbibe are shards of fragments of incomplete ideologies. May you lack the faculties to arrange them into any kind of legitimate mosaic-language and may you never escape the maze of equivocation that renders you intellectual adolescents and our culture a true obscenity and disappointment. May you be forever content with the trinkets you have inherited in place of masterpieces. Before all else, may you keep our jobs easy - may you uphold unwavering deference to the power of scheduling and standard-fulfillment. And thank us for the kidnapping. Say thank you. You will be called an ingrate if you don't.

I have graduated and I possess: dreams, jumbled, too much for patchwork? A head full of conflicting, mutually-contradictory, socially reinforced and unshakable truisms, maxims, clich├ęs, parables, proverbs, analogies, metaphors, plots, tropes, slogans, catchphrases that guide to nowhere but exasperation. Deep sickness at the realization that our world is driven by just such idiot semantics. I possess: one very large glass house. But my heart knows what my heart knows. I possess: enough desperation to consider dreams real things and to cradle their fragility in soft and careful fingers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vernacular

I have not written much of any importance in the past few months. My energies have been devoted to a subtle metamorphosis into Pretentious Upperclassman Seminar Blowhard Asshole, an event that would have chilled a younger me. A couple weeks ago I found myself expounding upon the "absence of moral substance in wildlife documentaries," interrupted by the snickering of a classmate who had lowered and begun shaking his head in exasperation. Shit. Oh well. I guess it was inevitable that I would become the thing I hated. Being pedantic is better than leaving every class with a stress headache.

I am not yet prepared to write a summary of my time here, nor to attempt to comment upon what I have really learned, but I can say with very little ambivalence that I regard it as three years of harried disequilibrium, conviction assailed on all sides by various fictions - cultural, social, institutional - that have evidenced worthlessness in their effect upon my intelligence and my happiness. The myth of the manufactured World Citizen, prepared for life's trials by exposure to rarified knowledge: this is a fiction. The myth that success in our society is expedited by intimacy with the classical canon: complete lie. The myth of the pleasure child undaunted in the pursuit of bacchanalia: this is also a fiction. The myth of provincial specialness, of "alternativeness" generalized and self-consciously broadcasted as a means of providing ballast to an unbalanced political reality: the most fatuous story of them all. The bars are filled with emptiness. The campus, lurching creature, wobbles on legs of half-imagined narratives, fragments of sentences, ideas about ideas about itself. It lunges blindly at its adversaries, often unable or unwilling to tell the dragons from the windmills.

But I do believe that to live in America (and I use this proper noun only for sake of experience) is to participate in this commerce of the soul's poor grammar. It is different elsewhere, but not much. Maybe it is the trying, the sometimes optimistic but usually smug assurance with which people here settle for these myths, these incompletenesses, that unnerves me.

I anticipate my Summer in the wilderness with great thrill and equal trepidation. It will be a big, immovable mass in my life's progression. I cherish its circumference, imagined.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wings

I woke up today at four in the morning instead of going to sleep at four in the morning, a small triumph after weeks of insomnia. I enjoyed the early morning light instead of staring at it with bleary, defeated eyes through my blinds. I am home and I feel wonderful.

The sun is out. I am looking out at my back yard full of singing birds and I just remembered that I can open the window to feel the breeze.

Earlier, I walked to the pond where I spent most of my childhood fishing. There was a die-off last year, and it is still recovering. The water seemed barren of significant fish; I managed three small bluegill on a fly. Part of me feels very sad that the ecosystem I knew so intimately is probably altered permanently (many clues suggest the crayfish have grown to lobster proportions in the absence of predators). Most of me knows that, at least for a while, there will always be fish to catch everywhere in the world, and that, in the words of science penis Ian Malcolm, "life finds a way."

One annoying convention of nature writing is authors trying to saturate their experience of wilderness with narrative significance. Our experiences of nature, and the way we think about them, should not be subject to the conventions of plot development, symbolism, or anything else that "teaches" in a linear way. The moment that really moves me is what occurs when I become fascinated by something, and it is purely visceral.

The comic Billy Connolly, who is also a fly fisherman, offered the best description of this phenomenon I've ever heard. "When a fish strikes, it's like making contact, just for a moment, with an alien. I guarantee that the first person to encounter a space alien will have the exact same reaction."

Today I communed with the aliens. I was startled by two birds I now know to be green herons, and a third giant deep-voiced brown thing I still haven't identified. I've been bird watching for almost three years in this neighborhood, and I can identify almost anything I see within seconds. But nature's reserve of surprises is inexhaustible, and so is that perfect moment of humility that overtakes you when you witness something for the first time.

For all the myriad ways to be disillusioned by the world, to be ground down and joyless and suffering, I am filled with such gratitude that that one edge will never dull. I cannot imagine a more effective means of suspending self-awareness than watching a hawk snatch a finch from the air, or hunching in anticipation as a bass scrutinizes a lure with its snout.

Every time I go outside with the intention of observing, something special happens. Specialness is tonic; it transmutes indifference into joy.

I don't know what else to say about it. I'm happy. No plot. Just happy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lungs

Some fish walk on land. Like the catfish. One time, we kept one in a cooler for four hours before getting home and finding out it was still breathing. I don't remember how we executed it.

Sometimes living things just suffer without dying.

When I was two I fished a tadpole out of its tank and brought it over to the couch to watch TV with me. I set it on a cushion and forgot about it. When I realized it was dead, I cried. It's probably the most perfectly sad thing that's ever happened to me.

Usually I don't hear the persistent low whine of pain until I am particularly alone and it's very late at night. Lack of air does not come from a place. If you wanted to put your finger in a hole to stop vacuum from leaking into your room, you couldn't do it.

That tadpole would have had a pretty hard time telling me that it wanted me to carry it in my palm back to its little bowl. Maybe it tried.

I have a hard time falling asleep because my bed feels uncomfortable. I guess because I know where it is, and where it isn't. As well as who's in it, and who isn't.

One time a professor who is also a psychologist told me that I "have depression." Can you really possess the absence of a thing? Maybe that catfish "had thirst."

When I find spiders or silverfish in my bathtub, I nudge them so they run onto my hand, and then I put them safely on the bathroom floor.

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because I am remembering what it feels like to swim.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Lovely Hallmark Greeting

The Vault has closed its doors. They are out there, lunging at imagined adversaries, bellowing and revving the engines of their giant retarded cars with T.I. cranked to full. And they are winning. They will breed with each other, will satisfy the needs of hearts unmuddled by the trappings of self-consciousness.

Weird, weird weird weird that I miss my dating blog all of a sudden, on the eve of the most colossally platonic and lonely day of the year.

Sick of it. Just sick of it, like my marrow is tying itself in knots. Elaborate hopes crushed in special ways. Her never finding out about my fucking charming idea to spend a night cooking something called "Karen A's Chocolate Dump Cake" together because she pretends she never invited the call she ignored. The deliberately unmet glances, the impregnable efface of anonymity segregating everyone from any kind of easy fun. Being ambiently hurt when a doorman asks for my ID after I stepped out only ten seconds before, and responds to my comments about same with an indignant, "I don't know you, man!" Sick of it. Sick of the weekend's insurmountable requirements here in this town, cardboard city full of half-recognized strangers. Like trying to build a happy life with a tub of incompatible legos and an instruction booklet filled with photos of dogs' assholes. And it's not much better anywhere else.

I don't know how not to be disappointed by this all the time. I have a hard time accepting that anyone does.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Counting Back from Twenty-One

Then again, anger doesn't really do much of anything but beget more anger. Another lesson I have been learning over and over again but have always somehow failed to cleave to my inner parts.

I think all I really want to do when I graduate is run around in the woods and teach kids how to catch fish and maybe fill a couple of sketch books. Just do something that doesn't make me feel like a fifth wheel every day of my life.

I can't deal with the demands of being an urban twentysomething. I don't want to get used to seeing destitute people dancing for change outside of bars, or to stumbling home weekend nights to an empty apartment, yelling at people I've never met. The party is fueled by loneliness, and the certainty with which everyone knows this but still indulge in its untruths makes it even more harrowing.

I require the same thing every person does but may not realize: a real community, contact with quiet goodness, functional relationships, family, trees, water, occasional mischief, mirth, things to learn and people to help.

I guess that chasing a career instead of learning how to nurture happiness without expensive implements is doubly foolish in the face of mounting economic catastrophe of unknown totality. I guess it was never that good of an idea.

What a staggering conceit, Supertramp. But I own it now, and it fits me well.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fountain Stopping

Right now I am upstairs and eight years old reading Expedition by Wayne Barlowe in my bunk bed that is now dismantled in the garage. I am home sick from school. Right now I am home sick from school becoming in love with elaborate fantasies involving imagined worlds. Right now I am home sick, from school.

I am reading the thing from cover to cover wrapped up in a feeling of warm security that only comes when you have no responsibilities aside from healing in your bed in your house while your mother cooks you meals and your suspicious father furls his eyebrows over concern for your homework. It is full of mystery. My favorite is the painting of the two-legged alien sauntering along the edge of a forest lit up like a hundred bioluminescent Christmases at dusk. I am warm and making these things real in my heart.

And now I am downstairs alone in my underwear with cold legs at five in the morning and there is nobody in the house. His second and third books contained paintings of Hell so vivid that they kept me awake until past sunrise because I could not stop feeling them in my heart, because parts of them were not so unfamiliar. I am home, sick, from school.

Nothing is different here. It is the same moment. Only I have been gone, lost in extended fantasy. Do not tell me to ignore my thousand overscratched itches that tell me that the whole thing has stood like some kind of offending monument before the judgment of reason. I feel every unmeasurable weight of emptiness that fills the promises of this institution, and part of me disagrees but the wick at the center of the waxy myths smolders. This imagining should not be made real. This piece of paper, this fuck fuck fucking badge of universally licensed trudgery and economic segregation. Something is festering and you can't convince me I don't feel real real ill approaching the last rings of the circus. Like it's all making the world so much a better place, devoting years, years, years upon years to begrudging participation in exercises that mean nothing to anyone. And human beauty still finds a way to poke its blossoms out from between the cracks in the lifeless concrete, but that's what human beauty does forever and ever, and FUCK the concrete, here to eternity, because it covers miles of blooming soil. I knew this from the beginning, pacing at the front of my fourth grade classroom during recess, arguing with my teacher about the fallacies of her curricular agenda instead of doing my tardy homework, the whole thing still like some kind of funny joke I could dispel with rhetoric, before it spoiled to fresh anger, disappointment, loneliness. Before I carried unshakable rage through middle school, until I learned how to quiet it and play the game. And now I'm on the other side looking in, and fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck school. Talk about privilege until your lungs collapse. I don't care. This has been very crippling to some unnamable thing that is precious to me. I am a middle-class white male with a competent mind. I am standing at the top of the mountain. And I am surrounded by broken things, boredom, listlessness, addiction, limitless potential defaulted upon in every crucial way.

The technology, the very fun rap videos, the cars, the everything, I'd give it up in the blink of the eye just to be able to believe in my community and its founding myths for once in my life. This hunger has no bottom.

You tell me I am better, that I am educated because I have learned to sit in a chair for eight hours a day. I am sorry that I hate the things you have mandated me to endure. I am sorry that I have never been able to believe anything you say. You did not keep me warm when I was cold, and you did not keep me close when I was sick. Thank you for encouraging me to thwart my own youth every day of my life. I didn't need your help.

Now I'm going back upstairs to read about sightless aliens hunting with sonar across invented landscapes. And it will be made real. Because it fills my heart with wonder and I am home, sick, from school.