This Too Shall Pass

Calendars: coordinates, codes and cups

Arrival HOU. (Photo by Tim Tamargo)

Arrival HOU. (Photo by Tim Tamargo)

DEPARTING PHL:  Repo Man’s got a code.  You too must learn the codes; the three-letter names of every airport.  You must learn the name of the beast.  Pay your respects.  Those said to dwell in the Great Tree of the Endless Jungle are known to eat of the fruit of that tree.  When they return from the hunt, they breathe or expectorate deep into its blossoms and the tree yawns to receive them home.  This is as it has always been, and as it should be.

Waiting for clearance to pull away from the terminal.  It’s flying time again. The belly of this commuter aircraft is full of clean, folded laundry and, looking around me I would estimate, seven cord-wrapped hair dryers, a handful of business-casual outfits, approximately thirty-three additional pairs of shoes and twice that number of toothbrushes in various hues.  Each total set is encased in progressively identical cloth cubes with Chihuahua-grade wheels affixed to one end.

Everything is patient here.  The two men sitting in front of me are wearing matching plaid shirts. They don’t appear to know one another, so I don’t think they planned it and it’s entirely possible they’re too embarrassed to speak out about their wardrobe malfunction, but that makes no difference to the sky god.  Everyone weighs the same to the sky god.

The empty plastic Starbucks cup shoved into the seat back across the aisle from me is especially patient.  It has no other objective.  Plastic cups are extremely low entropy objects.  They are created for one purpose: to hold one drink, one time.  And once that purpose is served, the cup is discarded.  It becomes refuse.  Refused.  Two clean well-manicured hands held up in polite protest: “Oh, no thank you.  I refuse this item.”  Thus begins the hundred year obligation toward decomposition.  A plastic cup is patient like Chuck Norris.  It is born, and it waits in line.  It serves a purpose.  It doesn’t make mistakes.  It doesn’t have credit cards, an Amazon shopping cart, or a favorite beer.  The plastic cup owns two things; nourishment and rot and there is no celebration when it moves from one stage to the next.  There are, at present, no greeting cards available for this occasion.  The plastic cup barely acknowledges its own existence.  From the viewer’s perspective, the cup is only one in an endless army of translucent sleepers.  Waiting.

Another preflight.  Another safety brief.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re preparing to close the doors, so now would be a good time to wrap up that conversation.  During the flight, the captain may turn off the seatbelt sign.  During the flight, the captain may enjoy a spirited game of Asshole with the rest of the flight crew.  During the flight, the captain may get on the intercom and regale us with the story of the time he engaged in relations with his first ex-wife in the women’s restroom at the TGI Friday near the airport.  Thank you for flying with us.”  The co-pilot has heard these stories, one and all.  He looks back, nods his head in agreement.  “Don’t judge, just roll with it.  It’s all part of his therapy.”  The cockpit door closes like a punchline on a punchline.

The engines scream to full power and the aircraft executes a smooth 180-degree corkscrew turn as it climbs slowly in place, the heat waves of the downward thrust creating bacon-shaped ripples just visible against the tarmac.  The landing gear folds up into position, away into the thorax.  The turbines kick in with a fierce blue flame and we are born away on the breath of the sky god.

PORTSMOUTH, NH.  Day two.  For weeks now, I’ve heard people exclaim, “Gee, I wish Autumn would hurry up and get here!”  I don’t know what happened and I’m not assigning blame.  Maybe the lines got crossed.  Maybe the address labels got mixed up, but this is where it’s happening.  Fall is here.  All of it.  And the casualties are many.

There’s a river of pumpkin spice latte about three feet deep running through the center of town, with whirlpools of rotted cream and drizzled sauce congealing in dense puddles by the side of the road.  You can’t move for all the goddamned pumpkins and the absolute stink of burning leaves is everywhere.  It’s like they got so fucking colorful that every tree throughout history plain-ass exploded. Pumpkin pies by the millions are smashed and smeared against the store front windows, much to the delight of the darkness of swarming flies.  You can’t walk a block without seeing people bailing what was once hot cocoa from their flooded basements or expensive motorcars with plastic buckets and a sullen look on their face.  There is a sense of sorrow in the air.  Somewhere close by, I can hear an old woman crying.  I mean to tell you this place is Autumn’d the FUCK OUT.  This is where it’s all been collecting.  Great lakes of apple cider have bubbled to the surface of many lawns and local parks.  The bodies of various rodent float past, washed from their warrens, nests, dams, sports bars, what have you. All of it. Right here.  I hear Hallmark is sending in a response team to cordon off the area and begin gross decontamination.

ENROUTE TO ORF:  Zero sleep last night.  Took a small red pill about an hour ago to deal with some mild congestion; the sweet stink of Autumn takes time to dispel.  Anyway, I think I just grew a new set of lungs!  I feel good, as though I were a fast car, inhaling big through clean filters and exhaling via over-sized chrome pipes.  I’m ready for the flight home.  Get me a large black coffee, a fine-tipped Sharpie, the best of Ozzy Osborne, and home in time for dinner, please and thank you — the phone rings. “Yes? No. Okay. Sure… yeah. Okay. I’m on it.”

I’m not going home.  Not yet.

ENROUTE TO HOU:  We follow the Mississippi River south, as explorers and traders have done for two hundred years, flying above scattered piles of soft white water, waiting.  Everything is patient above 20,000 feet.  Nothing here is hurried. The sky god takes his time.

ENROUTE TO THE LONG NIGHT:  Many hours later, a break room in the Galveston, TX, County Health Department.  I’m eating a cold piece of Little Caesar’s cheese pizza because all the good stuff is gone.  The coffee here is crap.  I’m working a case.  If all goes well, it will sink like a flat stone fresh out of skips.  I have not slept in 27 hours.

(Time passes) Did the job.  Went back to my hotel at hour 28, slept for six hours.  Woke up, checked in.  The operation had been a success, the outpost was already empty.  “Don’t bother coming in.  It’s over.”

I’d rented a brand new Dodge Charger, not even 5,000 miles on the odometer, so I showered, dressed, brushed my teeth and my team mate and I went barreling down to Galveston Island with the windows down, the needle hard to the right and the Texas wind whipping at our clothes like a screaming banshee. I couldn’t even feel the road.  The gods of hot sunlight, blue sky and loud rock music were summoned to drive away the cobwebs of the past two days.

Next day.  The drive back to HOU was uneventful.  I turned the keys over to two sweet little old ladies and caught the airport shuttle, which was being driven by an older black man.  His face was half obscured by amber sunglasses, and his hair was knotted in tight cornrows, like decorative wrought iron affixed to the sides of his head.  He brushed at the leather wrapped wheel with fingerless gloves as he guided us through traffic and told a number of gentle jokes, choosing his words, measuring his audience. He had a soft chuckle, like brushing against dried cornstalks. What was he thinking? Were we crazies from the North?  Who’s to say?

Now at the airport.  Nothing to do but find the gate and fly.  Try to find that same mind space I had on the flight to BOS last week…

(Dead wind signals, the end of electricity.  No one uses that crap anymore, many a robber baron left holding the bag.  Clouds beyond my window like white blossoms floating in a sea of rice milk, confection sugar, and pure cocaine.  The best pilots know where to fly, how to scoop that buzz.  Remember the era of the Density Dial, an invention so wonderful it allowed users to run in the clouds, dive through them, climb them, all with the spin of a tiny wheel.  Early models were cumbersome, too easy to spin the wrong way and fall beyond the sky.  Terrible tiny screams from the mouths of the bravest test pilots.  Maybe they got their chutes open in time.  Maybe. Another sacrifice to the sky god. The next wave controlled their mass with electrodes pasted directly to the skin.  Further augments included a darkened visor, radio receivers to pick up air traffic control signals.  There for awhile, many reports of bodies thumping against the sides of low-altitude commuter jets, followed by a savage giggle, a face in the window: “MY BAD!” Doppler shift screams of jubilance such as you’ve never imagined. Eventually they got bold, started robbing planes in mid-air. Easy, really: generate a field around the plane, kill the thrust, pressurize the bubble and rip open the doors, screaming, “Stand and deliver!  Your money or your life!”  Copper wiring, watches, whiskey, wild women and wonderment were theirs, for awhile.)

The phone is ringing…

Anhydrous Rebreather

Photo by Tim Tamargo

(Photo by Tim Tamargo)

Notes from a commercial flight departing Minneapolis St. Paul bound for Anchorage, AK.

The local time is 17:48, but that only matters until the door closes. The next time it opens, I’ll be four hours in the past and probably really hungry. This is the nature of time travel.

I find myself surrounded on all sides by Seraphim — their golden skin, their golden hair, and their icy blue eyes — no less than twenty teenage German girls on an exchange trip of some kind, and I pity every single heart they’re gonna break. Each one of them is taller and more mysterious and beautiful than the next, in precisely the specific way that a stand of willow trees will sway in the breeze exactly one hour after sunset. When they laugh, they do so with such crisp perfect white teeth. I cannot comprehend their world. I opened my mouth to speak to the nearest of them, aware that my German was beyond rusty.

Guten Abend,” I said.

Mir fünfte Element – höchste Wesen. Mich schützen,” she replied. The doors closed.

VALDEZ, AK – The next day, a rustic hunting lodge on a hillside above a lake. Dense fog and endless, ageless blue-hued mountains. Tonight, there will be fresh fish for supper. Somewhere out there, my meal is still alive.

I woke up today at 0430, wide awake after a long day of flying. I got out of bed and did pushups and sit-ups in the darkness of my hotel room while music played from my phone. I looked in the mirror and decided I looked okay for an old man. Dressed, checked out of my room.

Breakfast in the hotel lounge was served by two diminutive Japanese girls, who asked me over and over in soft sing-song voices if I needed anything else. They reminded me of Lora and Moll, the miniature twin fairies who summon Mothra into battle by singing a prayer. (Mosura No Uta)

“No, thank you,” I said with a polite smile and a heft of my cup. “But your coffee is terrible.”

“Okay thank you,” one of them gushed. The other bowed slightly. Neither understood me. Both of them left.

I took a cab to the airport and made my way to the terminal where the smaller, local flights depart. As soon as I walked into the room, I was met by the stench of chewing tobacco and the sight of five or six “fellers” dressed in woodland camouflage, jawing on about hunting expeditions, the benefits of various rifles, and their experiences of acting as guides to city folk ‘what ain’t got no kinda sense coming out here no way.’ One of them was telling a story:

“…so I sez to him, ‘No, but I gotta fifty dollar bill in my pocket right now that sez you can’t keep yer trap shut for the rest of the hour…’” This drew a fair amount of guffaws.

I boarded a tiny twin prop aircraft about an hour later. The flight attendant reminded me of Laurie Anderson (bonus) and spoke with a thick Russian accent (double bonus.) The flight was short, with only mild turbulence. I stared in happy awe as the landing gear unfolded from the undercarriage outside my cloud streaked window. “Look, it’s WORKING! Someone designed it to work and it’s fucking WORKING!” This drew nervous glances from the other passengers.

The sign on the baggage claim read PASSENGERS ARE FORBIDDEN FROM LOADING WEAPONS IN THE TERMINAL.

Members of my team picked me up from the airport in a beat-to-shit 15-passenger van and we caromed across the uneven gravel lanes and muddy potholes toward a convenience store a few miles down the road. I gaped in wonder at the mountains, and at the beams of sunlight punching alien-abduction-sized holes through hazy fog which served to illuminate selected hillsides here and there. The leaves were like spun gold on the trees. The parking lot of the convenience store featured a large hand-painted sign lettered in unsteady characters: POST OFFICE and THAI FOOD.

The hunting lodge is perched atop a gentle hill on the edge of a silvery lake and composed of accurate “hunting lodge details” to include: passing eagles, large, hand-hewn logs, a gun safe, and various rusted hunting, woodworking, and cooking implements. I wonder, will we someday become a culture that hangs our outdated microwaves and blenders on the walls of our futuristic abodes?

//

NORFOLK, VA – My new home boasts a changing skyline burdened with a billion lights and industrial pathways, like concrete neurons carrying meat and methane messengers between an infinite combination of sender/receiver systems. From my vantage point on the roof, everything I see is everything I understand.

Ships. I know ships. Navigation systems. I know a thing or two about satellites. Cranes. Yeah, I speak infrastructure. I know that bread doesn’t come from deer. I dabble in cause and effect, and I’m an ardent worshipper of the perpetual nuclear explosion some 93,000,000 miles distant which has since bid this night soft adieu, scattering eleventy-zillion soft reflections out across the water like a diamond heist gone terribly south-shaped.

I got comet parts for hearts.

Yesterday, a strange man showed me a close up of the moon through a powerful telescope and I thought I was gonna choke up right there on the sidewalk. I had to stop talking.

These things, these objects, these concepts I can appreciate and understand.

What I fail to grasp are my own emotions. I don’t know how they fit together. Every so often I open the box, re-read the manual (the language keeps changing) and recount the parts but I’ll be a Chinese jet pilot if I know what the fuck is supposed to happen next. It’s entirely possible my emotions were drafted in a studio by IKEA designers with names one might easily confuse with Swedish death-metal bands. Perhaps they were inadvertently swapped mid-shipment and awarded to the wrong end-user.

Emotions are not facts. Emotions are like nailing a fried egg to a tree with a water balloon. Emotions are fireflies to be caught with a fishing net. Emotions are a spiderweb to be untied and re-knotted in the space of seven breaths. (Relax, turn around, take my hand…)

//

I was walking down the street when the flashing sign appeared before my eyes.

PREPARE FOR RANDOM EVENT. Shit, I hate when this happens

As I approached a park bench, a floating arrow directed me toward a picnic basket sitting at the other end. When the random event occurs, I find it best to be still and let the thing unfold around you, lest you get pulled into a neighboring dimension or worse. As I sat down, a flatbed truck raced past me festooned in bright streamers and a banner I could not make out. (Dream rules. It’s nearly impossible to read things in a dream.) Apparently a parade was now missing a float.

I opened the basket and began to inventory the objects: a bundle of Roman candles. A box of strike-anywhere matches.

(“That seems more logical than random,” I thought. The box replied with)

…a package of apple-scented room deodorizers. A bag of peanut M&Ms. A t-shirt from a seaside bar somewhere in Tampa, Florida. A toy compass. A chicken salad sandwich.

(I suddenly realized I was hungry, but you’re not supposed to eat random events. I learned that the hard way. Don’t ask.)

A coffee mug with a broken handle. Yesterday’s newspaper, improperly and hastily folded. Someone’s house keys with a worn and discolored Harris Teeter fob. A watch stopped at 6:04 p.m. There was nothing else in the basket. I replaced the items and closed the lid. “Now what?”

The sign flashed again. AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION.

“Okay, but is this gonna take long? I’m trying to get to the store…”

There was a pause.

DEFINE ENTROPY.

“What do you mean?”

DEFINE ENTROPY, the sign flashed insistently.

“Okay, it’s, uh, the… measurement of a fluid state?” I asked hesitantly. “Like, when you have something that changes from A to B, like ice melting or water evaporating. Or when you stir cream into coffee, or crack an egg, or make toast. You can’t undo those things. It’s how you measure time.” Under my breath I added, “Apparently, it’s also how you measure breakfast.”

There was nothing from the sign. “Look, I really need to get groceries, so –.”

RANDOM EVENT CONCLUDED, flashed the sign. It was safe to move.

//

There was a certain vibe I was trying to harness while living in NYC, like the scent of a memory. It tickled the back of my brain; I swore I nearly caught a glimpse of it darting through traffic, at the other end of a crowded subway platform, or staring back at me from the window of a probably-not-Brooklyn-bound cab, because some cab drivers are lying bastards.

It was something having to do with expired Philippine phone cards discarded in the gutter. It was something to do with cheap technology on display behind the grimy windows and metal cages of corner bodegas. It was something to do with discarded headphones lying in the filth of the rails among the empty Gatorade bottles, paper plates, plastic bags and rat parades. It was something to do with all of the incredible things we never dreamed possible as children, now worn and discarded. Our present tense demands newer, shinier plastic treasures destined for similar fates.

It was the idea that the future was close, so close, represented in my mind by a great mothership of blinking lights, an immeasurable object hovering silently over LaGuardia International Airport, and politely requesting permission to land.

None of the air traffic controllers know what to do. They asked the FAA, who asked the National Guard, who asked the Air Force, who asked the White House who asked the President, who asked the air traffic controllers, “Well, what do they want?”

“I think they just want to land, ma’am. The future is finally here. We’d be foolish to deny that. It’s not going to wait any longer,” said the air traffic controller.

“You realize that if you give the future permission to land then all of our present cultural references are officially dated, and nothing is going to be the same, right?” The president was firm in her tone.

“Yes, we understand this,” replied the controllers.

“And you realize that while we sorta kinda understand the past, and we have a pretty solid grasp of the present, that none of us — and mean NONE of us — have a clue what’s gonna come out of that ship, right?”

“Well, it’s the future, ma’am. No one knows what the future holds. We can guess at it, but that’s about it. This doesn’t mean we’re gonna wake up to flying cars, silver jumpsuits or start conversing in Esperanto. It just means tomorrow is here, but it’s not what we expected it to be.

“Okay.” There was a long pause. “Fine. Let the future land.”

Enjoy your f*cking baseball mitt…

Peering behind the veil at the Something that awaits.

I’ve been a space head since I can remember. I have an early memory of the 4th grade; sitting in an oversized leather chair in my pajamas with my shower-fresh combed hair leafing in amazement through the pages of a coffee table book of sci-fi art and spaceship designs. I’d never dreamed a thing so wonderful even existed. (It wasn’t even my book; it belonged to another kid and he hated it. He’d asked for a baseball mitt, but the little bastard wouldn’t give the book to me.)

So yeah, I was that annoying little kid who ran around telling everyone how far away the earth was from the sun. (By the way, it’s 92,960,000 miles.) One day, a teacher stopped me in the hallway as I was parroting this now-tedious fact and asked me the following question: “What does that distance mean in real numbers?”

What?

“Here’s ten of this, there’s 20 of that, so what does 92,960,000 really mean in sheer size?” My mouth fell open and my brain seized up as I tried to imagine 93 million any-things. Sometime later, I heard something about there being more synapses in my brain than all of the cells in the body, more synapses than grains of sand on a beach, more synapses than the size of the U.S. National Debt. Still later, a kind, older woman whose name I have unfortunately forgotten gave me a second hand copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Last day of school 1988; a bunch of us were sitting along a curb scratching in the dirt with sticks and talking about summer plans, wishing we had money, a car, girls, beer, whatever. Out of left field a friend asks, “Hey, what if the orbits of the planets are just the electrons in a larger system? I mean, what if we’re just atoms in the thumb of a giant?” Boom. I felt a mild electrical shock and the inflight shift of my mental carry-on items that flight attendants are always warning you about. I got up slowly and wandered away (“Hey, where you going?”) until I found myself six or seven rows deep in the corn field that surrounded the house on three sides. I dropped to my knees and stayed there for some time, trailing my fingers through the dry dirt, listening to the cicadas scream, listening to the crunch of the stalks, blinking back the sun and sweat that stung my eyes and just staring at nothing, just trying to hold this moment in my mind.

In that instant, I felt high. I felt as if I’d just caught a glimpse of something magnificent hiding behind a curtain. I knew right then that I wanted to hear more of this, see more of this. I wanted to run toward the explosion. I wanted to feel this shock, always. I have since learned to place myself directly in the path of oncoming astonishment in order to find these moments. As a result, I’ve developed an active imagination.

I am now a grown-ass adult, but when I get a knot in my boot laces, I hold my breath and pretend I’m trapped under water and can’t surface until I’ve unknotted them. When I walk down the street, I subconsciously tap my fingers as my hands swing into direct alignment with random objects – the corners of doorways, the paint-clogged rivets of mailboxes, the cracks in the cement. It’s as if I’m closing a circuit between the objects, and sapping the energy of the city in small increments. (I listen to music with headphones almost always. There’s something about the close proximity of the sound and having the singer’s voice right in my ear that I find immensely comforting. It makes me feel as though I’m carrying them around in my skull.)

LOOKING TO THE SYRIAN SKY: New souls, first time in the oven. Haven’t had time to cook all the way through. Give ‘em a few passes; two, maybe three more lifetimes, they’ll get golden. Right now they’re like student drivers, running around like chickens minus heads, waving that Human card and shouting “YOLO!” like no one had ever thought of it before, as if them getting their hearts busted up had never happened to anyone anywhere, ever. Young, old. Doesn’t matter. Give ‘em the gift of patience and the time needed to learn more perspectives than just their own. They’ll see. Special X-ray imaging cameras from the boys down at R&D will clearly show the rest of us as the strange beasts we have evolved to be; ghost tendrils of compassion emanating out from our chests and great golden rings of Seraphim eyes wrapped around our enormous heads in an effort to always see the next disappointment coming, our chests revealed as layer upon layer of shattered hearts, like exploded onions. Each heart that ruptures beneath the weight of crushed or rejected love blows shiny new dandelion seeds outward which cling to the insides of our ribcage and take root. The heart must survive, but it doesn’t have to be the same one you were born with. Can’t see any of this with normal eyes, of course. It would terrify a new soul. Tongues would crack dry, eyes would cross, bodies collapse like sacks of wet lightning never to fuck or eat again. Or maybe not. No way to communicate or explain any of this, really. No way to know for sure. Gotta wait. Be patient.

“I’m not surprised, Ted! If I was a sheep, I’d be watching my back right now!” (Why?) “Because of the Beast! They say it’s as big as four cats, and it’s got a retractable leg so’s it can leap up at ya better! And you know what, Ted? It lights up at night! And it’s got four ears! Two of them are for listening, and the other two are sort of back-up ears! It’s claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it’s got a tremendous fear of stamps! And uh, Mrs. Doyle was telling me it’s got magnets on its tail so if you’re made of metal it can attach itself to ya! And instead of a mouth, it’s got four arses!”

A funny thing took place recently. I was at a baseball game with some friends. I drank a few beers, ate a hamburger and enjoyed the fireworks. After the game, we walked outside. There was a long white limo with gull wing doors parked out front and we talked to the driver as we stood around debating the rest of the evening. Suddenly, a small crowd of teenage black girls came up to us and stopped short, asking excitedly, “Who’s famous?” All of my friends simultaneously pointed to me; I was wearing all black and a pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses. These poor girls began SCREAMING. They wanted my autograph, and they wanted their photos taken with me. One of them wanted to hug me. “Can you make me famous?” she asked. “I can sing and rap!” Another one shrieked with excitement and fell over. “Stay in school, read books,” I said as I hugged each of these strange girls…

A Secondary Midnight

Cruising altitude, NNW, UA4180: ORF to ORD (TOL)

There’s that feeling again: Okay, I’m on this plane with the rest of my team. The ticket agent cleared me. Gate security cleared me. I open my journal and reexamine the glossy slip of paper, the boarding pass with my name on it. My name. Mine. No one else tried to sit in my seat. And yet, there’s that old familiar feeling that at any moment the flight attendant is going to march down the narrow aisle, stop at my seat and loudly declare that I’m on the wrong flight.

As if. As if two other people not now or ever involved in my mental mania were also on the wrong flight. As if all the people who had a hand in getting me into this seat were part of some immensely complicated, ‘Hey, let’s fuck with this guy’ campaign.

“I’m sorry, sir, you’re going to have to get off the plane.” According to the ancient traditions of the phobia, it would be entirely useless to argue with her. What remains is how I’m supposed to successfully deplane.

“Uh, how?”

“Well, that’s not my problem but you need to go now,” she’ll say, having reached up to the overhead compartment where my bags are stored and shoved them unceremoniously into my arms.

“Is there a back door? I kinda, uh, I don’t want to depressurize the cabin…?”

“Did I mention a fifth door on this aircraft during the safety brief? Were you even paying attention?”

After that, I guess we’d just stare at each other until a solution presented itself, as I never worked out the details beyond that moment. I don’t know where this strange phobia comes from and obviously it’s never once come true, but I’ve been flying since I was eight and I know it’s always been there. Just think, thirty-five years of flying. If I’d been counting sky miles the entire time I’d probably have earned the keys to the Space Shuttle by now.

Half in and half out of the Other World: The secret origins of 9 p.m. rely solely upon an isopropyl rebreather and a Visual Basic backbone… A good spy is at all times pregnant with a redundant copy of himself. In the event of System Failure, the copy will burst forth and complete the mission… Keep your jaw clean, inside and out. Let thy teeth be strong, let thy tongue be clean, let thy mouth be smooth. Forging a [CLASSIFIED] relationship with another human being is a process of wet tendrils not unlike snakes in a Vaseline pit; the squirming, the tightening and flexing, moist tentacles seeking calculated need, deep purchase, and long term life insurance. It is the future sound of slow legs kicking toward pleasure beneath satin sheets, the distant echoes of betrayal and the ghosts of ancient moans focused as present tension of the finger on the trigger, poised. Memories in the wine cellar hold the soft earth boiling, the musty smell of mold and uncertainty. Get to the bottom of everything and swim up from there; lost knowledge sinks quickly and is devoured by bottom feeders; the weight of young love letters, the solemnity of early promises. Monitor all facial expression like radio signals, sitting in a darkened room with stacks of dead cigarettes and empty coffee urns, fiddling with a large, burnished dial, the buzz of the occasional “hit” traveling up the cloth cord and crackling through the worn leather headset.

–awake. Exit plane (with everyone else), gather the bags, acquire the rental.

41 32’ 47” N, 83 36’4” W – Candlewood Suites, Middle of Nowhere

(Google maps: “Uh, actually it’s called Perrysburg. It’s near Toledo, Ohio.”)

Early morning thunder and lightning detonates outside my window. The sky revealed in flashes of intense white light is an electric blue streaked with God’s angry tears. God is crying because he hates Ohio just as much as I do and he’s getting zero return on his investment. He’d probably like to tear it down and start over, maybe run some long-term experiments in green planning or fence off the whole state and grow a massive crop of medical marijuana, but he can’t. Ohio’s bought and paid for. People chose to live here. Did you know that 24 of our Nation’s astronauts hailed from Ohio? What did they know about Ohio that made them want to flee the Earth? It’s a valid question.

So I’m barely awake and attempting to capture both context and meaning of a dream I had less than half an hour ago. It began with me waking up in a strange bed, one located in a rough approximation of my childhood home: 790 Siebert Street, early 1970s, Columbus, Ohio, many years before the place turned into a shithole, according to Google maps.

(Google maps: We never said that. It was probably a nice place to grow up. Things change.)

Whatever.

So I awoke within the dream to an all-caps text message: COME NOW. The message was already several hours old.

Apparently I own real estate in the spirit world. This is where I keep coming back to.

Apparently I own real estate in the spirit world. This is where I keep coming back to.

Shit. I sat up with a start. Apparently I’d been expecting this message but now I was late for whatever ‘NOW’ I’d been waiting for. I looked around. There’d been a wild party in this dream home, and apparently I’d fallen asleep in the center of it. There were broken dishes piled on a nearby table, various slumbering bodies and assorted articles of clothing strewn across the furniture. Additional (classification: conscious) strangers were milling in and out through the open door. I recognized nothing, and no one. Maybe the people who frequent this dream state are using my childhood home as a flophouse. Whatever, I can’t help that. I prefer to deal with things I can actually control.

I swung my feet to the floor and rubbed my face, looking down over my hands at the blue tiles. Blue tiles…? I’m in the living room; this should be shitty beige carpeting. Apparently the party damage extended as far as the removal or upgrade of key design elements of the dream house while I slept. (Was I sleeping in two worlds? If that’s the case, when was I awake in this one? Was it all in the past?) Some of the tiles were stained, and some were missing but I could see ants scurrying across the glossy surface. Ants are supposed to form highways, straight lines. Anyone who knows anything knows that. These ants were marching in identical clockwise circles. The house was obviously fucked, but I had no time to fix it. I was late for the NOW.

I headed outside and raced across the street. The next block over was built on a slight hill, and atop this hill sat a long row of dark and empty row houses; sagging and peeling, choked by weeds and masked by random quilts of ragged plywood. Each time I wake up in this dream neighborhood the sky looks stranger and redder, like something out of an early Star Trek episode. Piles of ancient newspapers and unpaid utility bills were piled high in front of each door. I didn’t care about that. I was looking closely at each address, searching for a telltale sign. In the way that only makes sense in a dream, I knew that the gate was always fluid, always moving. After a few moments of hesitation, I spotted the mark. I charged up the front steps of the second houses and rang the doorbell twice before darting back down the steps and following an overgrown path along the left side of the house and knocking three times on the small wooden gate before the doorbell timer ran down. The gate swung open.

“You’re late,” (someone) told me.

“I know,” I began. I didn’t need reminding. “But –

“He doesn’t like being kept waiting,” (someone) insisted, stepping aside to let me enter.

I looked around. Instead of a narrow, weed choked patch I was standing in an immense cobblestone courtyard surrounded by high timber walls complete with machicolations, a covered parapet walk, gas lamps, wooden benches, a small garden, a fountain and a wide walkway that descended into a great darkness beneath the house. None of it was visible from the street, and certainly not from Google maps.

(Google maps: That’s because you’re dreaming and possibly crazy. We deal in cold, hard, satellite fact. See? Pictures!)

Not shown: Warren Ellis' Secret Dreamtime Love Compound on the neighboring block of my childhood.  (Google maps: ... )

Not shown: Warren Ellis’ Secret Dreamtime Love Compound on the neighboring block of my childhood.
(Google maps: … )

The faces of the houses were just decoration on the walls. This secret structure occupied the entire city block. It didn’t matter that Carla Fourman, the first girl I ever had a crush on, used to live in what was apparently the false entrance of this structure. This was his house now, all of it. I have to wonder if the corner convenience store not three blocks from here where I played my first game of Pac-Man wasn’t a façade as well. Guess it didn’t matter.

“So did he read it?” I turned and asked (someone).

“Yes, but you know what he’s like. Everything is instantaneous, spur of the moment. You’re too late. You missed your window.”

As we spoke, a group of men in brown robes exited the darkness beneath Carla Fourman’s house, speaking quietly amongst themselves and carrying disproportionately large yellow construction cranes slung over their shoulders. Again, in typical dream language, I was led to understand they were going fishing in a nearby pond.

(Google maps: Again, in plain English, you’re dreaming. The nearest body of water, the Scioto River, is thirteen blocks west of where you’re standing. So probably not.)

One of the men looked up from under his hood, his face largely constructed of beard and blue eyes: Warren Fucking Ellis.

I awoke to thunder and reality when I opened my eyes — failing once again to recognize the room, but I definitely heard rain.

Disclosure: I self-published my first sci-fi novel in 2010 and was excited to learn soon after that Warren had posted something about it on Whitechapel.com. (I’m not going to link to the post, it was a long time ago; I guess my dream schedulers are all tied up in land rights issues and nightmare bureaucracy.) Point is, the man who wrote Transmetropolitan was interested in reading something I’d written. Holy shit! I was floored by the news. (Well, did he read it? Did he like it?) Those are good questions. Did he shit out the pieces and force-feed it to a wayward bill collector? That’s another possibility. The answer is D: I don’t know, and probably never will. That lone post board comment would be the last I’d ever hear on the subject. Communications and inquiries via Twitter and email went unreturned. I’m going to assume he wasn’t interested. Them’s the breaks.

Sales of KnoWare Man are non-existent; I’ve started mailing signed copies to artists whose work I admire: DJ Shadow, Sage Francis, Henry Rollins, Clutch, Nick Cave and Aesop Rock so far, because I listened to their albums while I wrote it. I’ve heard nothing back from any of them. I guess I didn’t really expect to, but I like the idea that something I wrote might be on any one of their bookshelves. I recently learned that a copy of KnoWare Man is being circulated around a women’s correctional facility in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At least I know someone’s enjoying it.

 To be continued…

On the road. Again.

You’d think that after all these years I would remember what happens to an Aries each and every Spring.

We are Martians. We are solar powered. We burn brightly, casting a warm and brilliant light for all to see.  We collapse in the winter to preserve our strength, hiding underground and drawing just enough energy to survive from the trickling light of distant of stars that climbs down to us. And each year, as the earth swings back around toward the sustained nuclear reaction in the sky, we rise from the cold ashes and begin anew.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology…

The next two months are going to be heavy with change for me. First, I’m getting a bionic eye installed in less than two weeks. (Kinda sorta.)  That’s pretty cool and all, but it pales in comparison to what’s happening next.

If you know me, you know I’ve been happily and gainfully employed by Alexander Hamilton’s Kickstarter Project for more than 14 years, traveling hither and thither, moving to and/or visiting stranger and stranger lands while doing many an unusual thing. (“Go here. Do that. Speak to no one about this.”)

Within AHKP, there exists an elite team of crisis responders who travel two by two (hands of blue!) to hurricanes, earthquakes, oil spills, wild fires, uh-oh’s and hot messes in general.  “All hazards, all the time,” reads the sign above the door.  I’ve waited a long time to get a shot at the big league.  And last week, while I was on assignment in the scenic Pacific Northwest, standing atop a towering long-silent processor at the epicenter of an abandoned pulp mill, I received the text of a lifetime: Congratulations on your orders.

I’ve been invited to join the Team.

Believe me when I say that it feels like I’ve been asked to join the Avengers, MiB and Warehouse 13 all rolled into one.  I’ll close up shop here in the Western Lands at the end of May and make best possible speed to Norfolk, VA, reporting for adventure on 16JUN.

The next four years will be the hardest but the most rewarding of my career. “Bring your laptop, your camera, your passport, your gas mask, your A-game and pack your enthusiasm, too.” It’s good to remember who I am, to think on where I’ve been and what I’ve already accomplished in my lifetime. And that’s all pretty cool.  But I know that what lies ahead will be even more challenging than I can possibly imagine, and I’m stoked beyond belief.  I don’t care how hard it will get, how tired I will be, or how many long and lonely miles I will travel, because I’m always gonna come up swinging. There really isn’t enough Tool, enough Iron Maiden, enough strong coffee or delicious human adrenal glands in little brown bottles to truly sum up how I feel right now.

That also means I may not have much time/brainspace left over to write or create for myself. (That painstaking,ultra-complicated second novel I was working on, the one about pirate treasure, time travel, multiple timelines, multi-dimensional lizards and the pure and primal pain of heartbreak? Shelved for the foreseeable future.)  This blog will probably gather dust too, but I’ll try to check in when I can; gently obfuscating the truth as I am wont to do where my fictional work is concerned, burying strange truth beneath a haze of alternative futures and infinite possibility.

Winter is over, people. EVERYTHING IS FASCINATING.

Clocks, smokes and cats

Welcome to Sunday. Help yourself to coffee.

It seems like it’s always 11 a.m., like it’s always 8 a.m., like it’s always 2 p.m. These moments keep happening, over and over. (Cue: footage of a factory assembly line, robot arms spot-welding a ring of perfect shimmering seconds along the equator of a spherical moment: empty now, filled later.)

Moments get really good at what they do, and in time they begin to develop a personality.  (They cease being nomadic, they develop agriculture, they discover metal, create tools, weapons, art, invent a currency, …) Eventually, each moment, each hour, each once here-once gone tick of the second hand becomes a straining, shining epitome of itself.  With enough exposure and practice, we can “feel” 4 p.m. (Sometimes it feels “earlier,” and sometimes it feels “later” but 4 p.m. is still just 4 p.m. It has no reason to lie to you.)  Moments come to you like radiation from far away stars. They move through you like ghosts. They leave you with memories.

I am hyper-aware of “fifteen minutes” because it takes four of them to make an hour.  I am hyper-aware of “three hours” because when you pass through four of these gateways you will find yourself exactly halfway through the 24-hour period we call a “day.”  The same applies to “noon,” to “midnight.”

How close mythical 4 a.m. stands to the rail, relishing its prime position in the front row, just ahead of the heaving cosmic mosh pit and right up against the universal stage, watching every morning as each man, woman and child at each successive position on the globe begin to swim up and out of their respective dreams; their inner clocks responding subconsciously to the distant trumpeting wall of soft light which heralds the re-arrival of the re-dawn.  Soon it will be 7 a.m., followed by the thing we call “lunch”, followed by “quitting time”, “dinner” and “happy hour.”  Did we give these things names because we were tired of the numbers?  (What ancient branding firm, which eternal freelancer was hired to name “fire” and “time” and “darkness”?)

Time measures entropy. It measures change. It never stops. Not once. Not ever — except maybe in the first flutterings of a far and distant moment of the future when the last human beings, frail and old and dying, will begin to close their eyes for good.  Eyelids collapsing like a gentle fist; the end of the bloodline, the end of music, the end of architecture and aircraft, the end of pretty girls in sundresses, the end of tall trees swaying in the afternoon sun, the end of love notes and stolen kisses, the end of food trucks and good coffee. (Raise your fists and cry, “Moloch!”)

We gave time a name. Before us, it just “was.”  We give the seasons an identity.  We gave it a fake driver’s license and looked the other way when it began sneaking into clubs.  We told ourselves it was good clean fun, that “it had to grow up sometime.”  But when there is no one left to agonize over the wasted years and love lost in hesitation, when fleeting seconds fade like photographs, when there is no one left to pay lip service to each and every moment, those seconds will finally tick to termination.

The eyes are closed.  The clock stops. The genie is freed from the bottle and bleeds out across the sky.

Mmm, mmm good…

Prometheus was a Southerner, for sure and for certain. What better partner for earthy and sacred Indian tobacco than holy and nomadic fire? I quit smoking many years ago at the polite and repeated request of my lungs, let me be clear on this. And let me next mention that I no more welcome your anti-smoking pamphlets, your links to diseased lung imagery, or any other well-intended wisdom on this matter any more than I’d care to have you approach me at the funeral of a close friend and piously inform me that my dearly departed drinking buddy was a notorious porn lord. (Justice has already been served, mouse mind.  Have some respect for the dead.) But there are still times when I miss the devil’s draw, the sensuous flame, the crackle and crash of chemicals coursing and colliding through my bloodstream.

It was a natural companion to the moment. Birthed from sliding airport doors into the yawning humidity of local time, my bag slung across my body, my head held high and my eyes peeled for vague threats and available cabs. It is then that I miss a cigarette. A welcoming act. A moment to think, to plot, to plan. (Fun science fact: A 6’ 4” man can origami himself into a neat meat cube tucked hard ahead of a screaming, kicking child and immediately adjacent to an unctuous mouth breather whose stale odor and radiating body heat are capable of fast-depleting an entire iPod battery. Trust me, I’ve had it happen!) Lighting a cigarette upon arrival was a pause for thought, a mobile magic ceremony where any evil spirits accrued on the journey were carved away with the monomolecular edge of my psychic knife, cast out and cast away by cast iron, doomed to wander the airport like a phantom panhandler. Tear the ticket in half and destroy the portal.

Walking on the broken backs of autumn leaves, a large coffee in one hand, my camera slung about my neck and headphones plunged deep into my ears, the sky is a precise shade of 05fdf4 and the large black dial in my brain switched over to GATHER, light ‘em up. Yes. This is when my beloved cigarettes are missed.

Hunched in the corner of my favorite dark Alaskan pub on a long and wintry night, the merry tinkle of ice in my whiskey glass, I am surrounded by a candle-lit cluster of questioning faces; one hand stabbing high through the haze as I work to make some quasi-crucial point that applies only to we handful of ambulatory meat puppets residing in some lone corner of the universe, a point probably forgotten in the morning, possibly even before the next round.) Light ‘em up. The metallic ring of a Zippo lighter plays but one note: satisfaction.

Drinking my fourth espresso whilst bashing away at my computer, bare-knuckle brawling with my demons for each and every turn of phrase.  Fingertips sore.  Eyes strained. (Knuckles raw.)  Flakes of white grey ash scattered across the surface of my desk like deadly drifts from a very small nuclear winter as the rising plumes of ghosts turn blue in the evening light. Last time I checked it was 10 a.m. The sun is going down. Hit ‘save’ and light ‘em up.  So it was written, so it will be. Smoking is a human experience.

I remember my first boom box, saving up for months to buy a tape and anguishing at the choice. This album or that? Is the Best Of as good as the original? What if I only like three tracks on the whole album? The long winter bus rides between Harrisburg and Columbus with headphones in, watching the miles whip past, flipping the tape until the batteries died. The coarse plaid of the seat cloth. The scuffs and scratches on the seat back. The Christmas lights and endless slush. Tires turning like radio static. Sitting in the back of the Greyhound with the jabbering weirdos and the raven-eyed old drunks. “Hey, kid. You wanna sip? Come on, I ain’t got no germs!”

There are (awkward) times when I want to ask my friends to consider legally adopting me so that I will have a greater and binding sense of belonging to something. What a burden I must be to them! I’m not called friend by many; the need to belong is nearly equal to the need to keep the population at arm’s length as I fight to maintain and understand my identity. But the moment I open myself up, the moment I reveal is the moment I slam the door shut and lock it down tight. (“No. I never said that. I am perfect as stone. I am self-reliant and unflinching. I make no mistakes. I lean on no one.”)

So it was written, so it shall be.

P.S. Cats are natural knife fighters. Most people make the mistake of watching the tips of their tails flick like a furry metronome. And that’s the moment they strike, lungeing in fast and shivving you hard between your floating ribs, using their body weight to turn the handle over sharp for good measure. Cracks the bone, sucks all the fight right out of you and hurts like a motherfucker. Oldest trick in the book; learned from the Egyptians and practiced on the gypsies. Bottom line, if you know you’re gonna get in a knife fight with a cat, bring a gun.

Or a toy mouse.

Tool – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco

IMG_0781

Closure.

140311 –  The phrase “black magic cameras?” complete with question mark was the last thing I’d written in this notebook, so that’s where I’ll kick this off.  I boarded a bus headed to Oakland around 6 p.m., but realized after a block and a half that my Clipper pass had run dry. (Well done, Mr. Advance Planning.)  Also failing to stock up on cash, I was cursing my luck and preparing to debark at the next stop for an ATM when a large black man with dreads down to his ass, a plain green t-shirt and a wrist wrapped in brown wooden prayer beads stepped forward and plucked three crisp singles from an old leather wallet. “Hey, it’s cool.  I’ve been there,” he said with a smile.  (Thanks again, man.)

In the Spring of 1993, I walked into the Barrowlands in Glasgow, Scotland, with two friends, all of us just young and looking for a good time.  On the ticket was something called Tool, something else called Wool, followed by the band we’d been the most excited to hear at the time: Rage Against The Machine.  I was blown away by Tool.  Wool never really registered, and the only part I remember about the Rage show was an auditorium of angry Scottish teens howling, “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” in their thick brogue, pogo-ing together in a wild sweating frenzy of Doc Martens.  RATM fell by the wayside, but something about Tool resonated deeply and continued to do so for years.

Maps are excellent.

Maps are excellent.

Twenty-two years and halfway around the world from the “Barrows” I’m standing in a long line that wraps all the way around San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, a large green space surrounded on three sides by the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco City Hall, the Supreme Court Building of California, and the Bill Fucking Graham Civic Auditorium. It’s a cool spring evening. I find myself thinking about who I was when I first saw Tool, the people I saw the show with, and where those people are today.

Well, shit. Chad’s gone, but not forgotten. Every time I hear Alice in Chains, Suicidal Tendencies, Pantera (or Tool), he’s standing right there with his Ugly Kid Joe ball cap on backwards, an untucked blue plaid shirt and his battered high tops, moving his bangs out of his face with a puff of air, hands jammed deep into the pockets of his jeans.  Ian’s got his own business now and lives somewhere in North Carolina.  He married a pretty Scottish girl and became a dad.  I met up with him once when I was working in Disco Charlie.  He hadn’t changed.  If anything, he’d become even “more” of the Ian I remember (if that’s possible), just with greying hair.

The line for the show tonight, while massive, is moving quickly. Every few minutes, a measured chunk of the crowd are herded across the intersection of Grove and Polk at the northwest corner of the building, which acts as a kind of valve, making it relatively easy for the event staff at the front door to verify tickets, check bags and pat everyone down in a timely but unhurried manner.  Bag checks might have been the “new normal” fifteen years ago but that’s ancient history.  Now it just “is.”  Everyone knows the deal.  Shuffle up, shut up, open up.  Some of the staff look barely 20-years-old, giddy with power as they bull-horned orders at the line, staggering their words for emphasis.

(*feedback*) “NO SMO-KING ONCE YOU CROSS THE STREET, NO SMOKING!   BAGS OPEN FOR IN-SPECT-ION AND HAVE YOUR OWN!  TICK-ETS! I N HAND!  COME ON, PEOPLE!  LET’S GO! MASH IN TIGHT LIKE WHEN YOU DRAIN A CAN OF TUNA!  MASH THAT TUNA!”

Opening act Failure finishes their set while I’m in line waiting to buy a t-shirt.  Every dimpled, tattooed, pierced, and smoldering hot prog-punk chick in the Bay Area is probably here tonight… After about thirty minutes, the lights go down and the lusty wolf howls and appreciative screams begin. Lights begin to play across the ceiling and the walls.  It feels as though the anticipation has sucked the oxygen out of the room. The first wave of energy is massive.  Tim Leary’s electric blue face fills the jumbotron:

“Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality.  To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself.  Think for yourself.  Question authority.”

Wild flickering laser lights and computer-perfect renderings of conjoined, headless monkeys, a dazzling variety of infinite spirals and themes of eternity now open to interpretation, interspersed with the famous “eye within the eye” motif.  A dense, sweet smelling fog builds.  All the things we see that we cannot say or explain are shown here, presented in light as a code we cannot crack, a puzzle we cannot solve.

1. EULOGY

BOOM.  Afterward, my ears were ringing from the roar and I heard a capacity crowd cheer in the way I’ve never quite heard one cheer before.  Aside from, “Oh, hey.  That’s the sound of people cheering,” how else could this roaring, tearing sound be described?  A bushfire sparked from a million happy matches, a directionless blur of joy, a warehouse-sized helmet of deafening murmurs and explosive appreciation.  Shit was on.

2. Forty Six & 2 

All your face all melts.

All your face all melts.

There was a long pause before those first fantastic bass notes plucked to life and suddenly the entire auditorium was screaming and pumping their fists.  It was as if some prodigal son had returned in the zero hour.  To my inner amusement, all I could think of was this cover version.  When the brightest volley of  blinding strobes began to explode in time with the final drum solo, I saw clearly for the first time the twin sets of speaker stacks hanging from the auditorium ceiling, like banana clips for a thundering, soul-seeking, million-watt fuck hammer of a machine gun firing loud rock music at my face, and yay verrily I did grineth.  Hell yeth.

3. Schism

I remember when this album came out.  Neah Bay, WA, 2002, waiting my turn to attend S.I.N.F.U.L.  At that time, walking into the room and hearing Maynard’s howling voice after all that time was like suddenly running into a close friend I hadn’t seen in years.  It felt like coming home.  It sounded even better tonight over the roar of my melting face.

I don’t have descriptions for each song from the show, but here’s the rest of the set list as best as I remember it.

4. Pushit
6. AEnema
7. Lateralus
(There was a long piece of slow filler here I didn’t recognize…)
8. Jambi
9. Opiate 

Maynard spent the entire show towards the rear of the stage and without a spotlight, facing the backdrop rather than the audience.  Having only seen them long ago on their first tour, I didn’t understand why until I read the following later:

Breckinridge Haggerty, the band’s live video director, says that the dark spaces on stage “are mostly for Maynard.”  He explains, “a lot of the songs are a personal journey for him and he has a hard time with the glare of the lights when he’s trying to reproduce these emotions for the audience. He needs a bit of personal space, and he feels more comfortable in the shadows.” So there’s that.

The feeling after the show was one of communal stun; the ringing ears, the murmuring groups walking this way and that.  I walked around the main floor in a happy daze just taking in the details: friends exchanging phone numbers (“Totally! Give me a call, we’ll hang out!”), millions of red squares of glitter stomped into the concrete floor (dropped from the ceiling during the end of Jambi), the heavy crunch of empty beer cups smashed underfoot like Autumn leaves (as interpreted by an alien who’d only ever heard a distant crackling recording of Autumn but had never actually seen Autumn, much less one complete with its own megawatt-laser show, face-melting music, smoke belching machines and a screaming, joyous crowd belting out songs about inner demons, self-introspection and personal evolution.  Good times.

Later, I ordered a cup of coffee and a lox bagel at a cafe two blocks south.  The two older Asian men in white, short-sleeved shirts, identically parted hair and gold-rimmed spectacles were working the counter as best they could, patiently putting up with the sweating, deafened hoards of hungry drunks.

Drunk guy: (yelling at the cook behind the counter) Hey!  Hey!  Over here!  Can I.. can I have a McBurger?
Drunk guy two: Dude, this isn’t McDonald’s…
Drunk guy: ‘S bullshit… (blinking, unfocused pause) Hey, welcome to America, man!

Staring out the window, chewing, sipping, thinking; I smelled him before I heard him, his mumbled voice like dry gravel scraping across the surface of a dead snow shovel. He towered above me, eyes flicking downward to meet my curious glance as I looked up to see who sounded (and smelled) like Death.

“…so the junk keeps shootin’ back outta my fuckin’ hand, man!  I stick the needle in and it squirts out another hole!  Thas’ bad business!”  He was my height at least, older, maybe younger? Wrapped in a long brown raincoat, grimy woolen trousers and an old pirate hat.  His hands were pure luggage, and his eyes were milky white with droplets of red.  I didn’t blink.  Neither did he.  Eventually he walked away.

I found the BART and headed home.  Good fucking show.

According to this Rolling Stone interview, there are no immediate plans for a new Tool album.

Aztecs in the download

20OCT2013 – Rubette. The woman who owns the corner coffee shop, who makes an epic quad-shot latte and goes through the gentle trouble of twice-toasting my bagel with egg and tomato every Sunday morning is named Rubette.  Today I asked her what it meant.  “It means beautiful,” she said.

I’ve kept a journal since the end of the 90s.  And in ninety-nine-point-bunch-of-nines-percent of those entries, I’ve detailed the location where I was sitting when I wrote it, be it bench, table or bar.  It’s like an Easter egg.  Maybe I’ll get post-mortem famous and people will make a thing of reading something I wrote while sitting where I sat.  That’ll most likely get me fifteen minutes of dead fame, sandwiched neatly between DIY skateboard videos and those giving serious philosophical consideration to the sound a fox makes.

Friday after work, I sat in the Place Where The Wind Blows and tried to discern the patterns from the noise, the random events of my life that hold a greater meaning I can’t define.  (Random being a shorthand expression for a pattern too big for our miracle monkey minds to comprehend.)  The hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do is see myself from your perspective, but I’m grateful that I have the luxury to try.  It’s one thing to sit and think about creating something. It’s another to create something worth sitting and thinking about.

Sometimes I think there’s no point to my writing anymore. It’s like playing mumblety-peg with a fog bank, sword fighting with a forest fire, or aiming myself at a half-formed phantom in the darkness and leaping for it with arms outstretched. Trip the shutter an instant too late and you’ve missed the action. Anyone who knows anything knows that.

“Things used to be simple.” That’s nonsense. The only thing it used to be is used to be. (The phone rings. Ignore it, not my phone. Crazy thoughts, ignore them, not my crazy.)  Time is a blur.  Maybe I was here for this?  Maybe I was there for that?  I had a different heart back then, just as I was a different height and a different weight wrapped in a different skin.  I had the same name but the definition of that name meant something else entirely.  Same URL, but the browser took you to a different website.

A friend I’ve never met in person recently expressed her fear of commitment and I wanted to say something, but didn’t.  Still, I understand it: “What happens when the novelty of Me wears off and you figure out I’m just like every other jackass?  I can’t give you Tomorrow.”

Stand on the high cliff and let the fine sand blow.  Let go of the ashes.  Let go of the wishes.  Just. Fucking. Let. Go.  Stop forcing other people to cave in to your ancient needs. Set your bullshit free. Organize your hands. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but wring your hands. Sometimes that’s the answer, the sound of one hand clapping.

Appearances are fleeting: gotta stop falling in love at stop signs and cafes with strong jawlines and thin fingers. That’s your problem. You see everything. You feel everything. Paralysis by over-analysis. You think yourself stupid.

Can’t unhear a song. You can’t pull it out of your ears, you can’t untangle it from your hair and you can’t back it out of your brain. Every song you’ve ever heard is trapped in the whorls of your fingertips like vinyl grooves, waiting to play against Her skin.

Yesterday, sitting on a green metal bench across the street from the comic book store on Webster: It’s a brilliant, boiling day. The sky is a perfect shade and the breeze is acceptable. The sidewalk is covered in access ports: Water. Sewage. Electricity. Plasma. Garbage cooks in the green metal cage to my left.  I’m jotting down observations of passing strangers. (So you know, not being too creepy…)

Some species of mad man walks right to left, barking in falsetto. He’s wearing a heavy red coat despite the heat. Mad Man stops, takes a powerful drag on his cigarette and shoves it hard from his mouth with his crazy tongue.  An old man shuffles past me in the other direction: white New Balance shoes, shapeless khakis and a t-shirt from Florida. He’s pushing a 3-wheel bicycle. He stops, looks down the street in Confused Old Man style and turns back to the right. There’s a small brown stain smeared across the seat of his pants.  A third man walks past me in a white cardigan sweater, large octagonal glasses and an 8-bit deer t-shirt.  Aliens dress like stock photographs of hipsters.  Not even trying anymore. Phoning it in.

I walked into the pinball museum with my coffee and headphones. Suddenly I am 12 again, thumbing my lunch change into the hard silver mouths of machines. The transparent Spirit of ‘76 is the most responsive of all the machines I play and I run it for almost 25 minutes. And it’s fun for awhile.  But the rooms are loud caves full of human heat and hot breath and the anachronistic roar of Duran Duran is overwhelming.  Back into the light I go.

So I walked to the dollar store and browsed the Jesus candles, marveling at the pile of mom jeans and thinking how amazing it is that it’s the year 2013.  But this is not quite the future I expected.  The Now where I’m standing feels like the future if the Future had gotten bad GPS directions and wound up in Canada, and no one spoke up.

I don’t hate Canada.  I’ve been listening to Rush for most of the day: Fly By Night, Tom Sawyer, YYZ, Limelight and Subdivisions are my favorites.  I remember this kid from high school we called Slam.  He carried his life in a hockey bag, wore a fedora before it became so closely associated with throwing up in one’s mouth and he swore by Rush.  But had I arrived at this future moment direct from 1979, I’d expect to find half the population of the Earth in deep cryogenic sleep on the Dark Side of The Moon while the other half were engaged in mortal combat with robots. (Consolation prize: I suspect I’d have been super stoked by the supercomputer in my pocket that doubled as the Greatest Radio Station in The World.)

Early writers had it easy. There were fewer players on the field back then but all were  hoping to be heard.  You gotta scream pretty hard these days: too many goddamn barking seals and every noisy dickhead’s got a blog or a thing or “like my Facebook page” or whatever, but not all ideas are meant to be screamed.  Anyone who knows anything knows that.

Had a talk with the Old Man of the Mountain recently.  Spent two years in November Yankee with him, eating rice and learning the Five Finger Death Punch.  His speech has slowed down since the last time we spoke. Thoughtful. Full of thought.  He’s gone quite Kurtz, and I half-expected him to mumble something about snails and razor blades.

We started out texting and I was going off on a tangent about inspiration when he said, “…and now you’re ‘writing’ your text messages. I don’t want your words, friend. I want what’s behind them.” Diamond. Bullet. (Points to forehead.)

I apologized. “Sometimes I’m not sure what my brain sounds like against the backdrop of the Narrator.”  Which is true.  I confuse my own thoughts and emotions with those of the Narrator.  I don’t even know who the Narrator is.  We’ve never met.  He keeps odd hours and doesn’t pay skull rent.

Example: (thought occurs) “Is that my internal dialog?  Am I writing my emotions?  Is this just more of my firewall?”  I’d looked into a sensory deprivation tank while I was in November Yankee but the only one for miles was located in some guy’s apartment (according to this article.)

I recently removed Twitter from both of my laptops and my iPhone (yeah, America’s hard) because I was knee-jerk vomiting every dumb thought that fell out of my face into an electronic bucket and slopping it against the broad side of a barn.  My brain had no chance to ferment, to breathe, or gain potency.

So the search is on for a place far from Wi-fi and further still from DIY skateboard videos and those giving serious philosophical consideration to the sound a fox makes. (!)  Just need a week, ten days maybe.  Push the Narrator out of the way and see what’s really on my mind, maybe finish a project.  I’m presently plagued by the “one in ten words captured, lightning bugs and fishing nets” problem. But maybe the whole point is the fishing net.  (Fuck it, brevity and cutups worked for Burroughs.)

No harm in trying: what happens on Earth stays on Earth,

Haiku, handguns and (kinda sorta) lucid dreaming

13OCT2013 – After awhile, the dates cease to matter.  We’re all caught tumbling in the fast-moving wake of the Future, and it’s all we can do to keep up with it.  It’s a big fucker, roaring past with a buffeting whoosh that sucks a cloud of dirt half a mile into the air, and all lit up like a flying oil refinery, rushing overhead in a blur before it leaves us in the stillness of the desert night, climbing high and away until it vanishes into the yearbook of the heavens.

Kinda sorta.

Kinda sorta.

The Old Ways have left this world.

For those of you just joining in, welcome to Sunday.  I know sometimes you have those moments when you’re thinking, “Man, I was sure today was Friday!  Doesn’t today feel like Friday?”  But I’m here for you, champ.  I got your back.  It’s definitely Sunday.  (This is the time, and this is the record of the time.)  Good talk.  Glad we had this moment together.

How I’ve missed the feeling of writing: the faint aroma of cleaning oil as I open the case, the weight of the thing as I heft it in my hand, the bite of cross-patterned metal against the soft meat of my palm.  Pull the slide back, thumb the safety off, and experience the sheer joy of sending word chasing word toward the waiting embrace of the paper hanging down range.  (You cannot destroy matter.  You can only hope to rearrange it.)

I loaded this clip with assorted ammo leftover from my sketch box, so I apologize if it’s a bit MAD LIBS up in this mother: Noun! Adjective! Pronoun! Definite article!  My fingers barely squeeze the keyboard as I coax out a quick series: Noun! Number! Noun! Verb! Celebrity! Adjective! Adverb! Color!  All too soon the slide slams back into the FEED ME position and the air of cordite floats free from the chamber.  Drop the spent clip, slam in another.  This one’s labeled HAIKU:

“You’ll find another.”
That’s an insult to love and
a slight to lovers.’

Another thirteen rounds.  Savor the warm glow of the recoil, the aftershock rippling through my body like a Texas thunderstorm fading into the distance.  One Mississippi, two Mississippi… boom.

Big sigh, long week.  Lost a finger getting a quadcopter unstuck from a tree Friday afternoon, but it’s almost completely grown back.  Won’t be able to do that much longer, might as well enjoy it while it lasts.  Regeneration is one of the first traits you lose when you get older.

Good thing I never opted for millimeter wave radar procedures.  It’s all well and swell being able to see through solid objects, exploiting radio’s highest frequency band to cop a gaze through solid structures and atmospheric obstructions like snow or fog.

Apparently the long-term effects of said trait include irreversible degradation of sensory perception.  Tin cups and white canes become the least of your worries. Your brain loses the ability to properly render enormous cube-shaped sections of your immediate environment, leaving you to navigate reality like Q-bert on government acid.

Using this cube concept where each is approximately three meters square: a speeding automobile moving directly toward you will register in distant visual grids (assigned much higher numbers) before vanishing and then suddenly re-appearing in grids (with much lower numbers, such as) .010 through .008.  It will then skip to grids .005 and .004 and suddenly the front half of the car will appear in .002 but by then it’s too late because what the fuck were you doing standing in the middle of the freeway?

At 65 mph, a car like the one I described earlier (like the one you find yourself being dragged under) won’t come to a complete stop until negative grids -032 through -047 on the opposite side of the axis — depending upon the dietary habits of the passengers, the reaction time of the driver and the on scene weather conditions.  Early studies indicate you’ll only be vaguely aware of the driver’s frantic face leaning forward into your pixelated field of view like he’s trying to activate motherfucking Robocop:  “OH GOD ARE – brzzt – I DIDN’T SEE – brzzt – BODY CALL THE COPS!”

Kinda sorta.

Kinda sorta.

My newly regrown finger is still kinda tender and it’s making me type slow.  It looks weird, all smooth and pink among it’s much older and wiser siblings.  The nail is perfect, like dinnerware in a catalog.  It’s never been chewed on.

To those of you who haven’t been born yet, here’s how I spent my weekend.  Keep in mind, this is before the days of being able to beam medicine directly into the afflicted areas of your body, before the approval of consumer-grade drones, and long before we built that giant brain farm in Colorado, herded all of our life-sentence prisoners into coma pods and foolishly entrusted their combined convict cortexes with the complete control of our ballistic weapons inventory.  (Who’d have thought we’d miss North Korea this much?)

I skipped a work-related party yesterday.  (Thanks, social situation terrors!  I didn’t really want to eat free grilled cheeseburgers in the bright California sunshine anyway.  Thumbs up!)  Instead I hit the farmer’s market for my non-cloned veggies and went to Safeway for the rest.  Then I talked myself into needing alcohol, so I grabbed my notebook and hurried down the block to a place that serves a decidedly wonderful stout.  That was just before 3 p.m.

During the next few hours, I listened to music and thought some thoughts, some of which I was able to translate and arrange in some meaningful order between the covers of a nearly complete (but largely unsatisfying?) journal with the aid of a narrow two-tone cylinder boasting an “ultra-fine point” and passing permanency.

And as I drank my drink, I was caught fast on the knife-edge of the Now, just like you.  I breathed the lost breath of ancients, just like you.  And, just like you, I felt like an alien on an anthropology mission who’d bumped his head, been left for dead and, over time, had almost completely forgotten that he was an alien in the first place but was still trying very hard to extract some greater meaning from an existence spent trapped on this rock.  Just like you.

In the time that it took me to write that last paragraph, the world happened. People fucked.  Someone was born and someone died.  Someone learned about the islands of floating trash on both coasts of North America.  Someone else learned about the secret once-a-day flights to Cuba.  And still another someone gave passing thought to the millions upon millions of carefully-controlled combustion engine explosions happening all around us, (the rise and fall of which are governed by a complicated computer system that transmits simple instructions in yellow, red or green lights.) These explosions are tucked safe inside gleaming metal machines piloted along asphalt neural networks with reckless precision by multi-tasking miracle monkeys wholly obsessed with celebrity vomitoriums, wedding attire, Chinese take out and Facebook updates.  (Hint: That was me.)

Oh! And I had another flying dream last night (this morning? Okay, at some point while I was fast asleep, the cameras beneath my eyelids busy slam-dancing to REM) where I was doing barrel rolls over an unfamiliar countryside, swooping in low over the hills and using lonely country intersections and field color patterns as waypoints and landmarks.  I had much better control this time and I don’t think anyone saw me (despite a near head-on collision with an Army helicopter.)

Kinda sorta.

Kinda sorta.

During my last flying dream, I decided to walk into a library because I wanted to see if there was information on the subject.  (As one does.)  While I was paging through a coffee table book on the phenomena, I became aware of a figure sitting at the table next to me, hands clasped and patiently waiting.  Presently, I looked over at him, noticing for the first time the incredulous expression he temporarily considered his face.

Really?  he laughed, shaking his head. “You’re dreaming about looking at a book about people who fly in their dreams?  You know we’ve been watching you, right? I mean, you must have known.”

He slid the book away from my hands, licked a finger and turned a few pages ahead of where I’d been thumbing until he came to a two-page layout featuring a series of images of a solitary speck in the sky.  He pushed it back to me and tapped the first image. As the photos progressed from left to right, they zoomed progressively closer and by the bottom right page I was able to make out my own face.  There I was, my arms tucked tight along my sides as I rocketed higher and higher, a black hoodie shoved halfway down one arm. Someone had taken photos of me flying. In my dreams. Understandably, I woke up just a tad spooked.

But no, this time was different.  No library visits (no dream library cards. Wait. How the fuck would that even work?) and no smug dream operatives trying to NSA their way into my night time good time.  Instead, I managed to get stuck in an empty concrete room somewhere for a few minutes.  It had a high ceiling and I couldn’t figure out how to reach the doorknob.  I had to stop thinking about thinking, if that makes any sense, until I was able to drift close enough to grab the doorknob, twist it open by rolling my whole body clockwise and pull the handle past me.  The physics of swimming appear to apply evenly to dream flight.

Notes from the end of the journal: “Why are you still doing this?  You’ve been spending too much time in solitary confinement. Sharks drown when  they do not swim. They need the oxygen they draw from the water. You need oxygen. You need fire.  All else is all else.  Leave the drunks to do combat in the haystacks. Start the reactor, Quaid…

You can’t own these moments.  You can only pay rent.

Train of thought like an uncorrelated Mayday…

18AUG2013 – It’s difficult to concentrate in this Sunday sunlit coffee shop with the ghost of Whitney Houston drifting in through the speakers.  I never owned an album of her music beyond a mix tape I appropriated from my stepmother’s Buick Riviera when I was maybe 19? but I couldn’t resist the siren’s call of her voice once I’d heard it.

I grew up lots of places, one of them being a culturally inhibitive penal colony locked in geo-synchronous orbit on the far side of Mars (said satellite doubled as a chocolate factory), but the post-penal year and a half I spent back on Earth attempting to form a bond — any bond — with my step/parents did little more than disappoint me and showcase their general disdain of all things cultural.  They were a species adrift.  I had vague memories of them playing guitar and banjo respectively, in the back yard of 790 Siebert Street sometime during the autumn of the 1970s, but Old Tyme music and the Hee Haw network were all they had time for.  I never met a more repressed duo.  As the years grew on them like moss, they acquired the expression/behavior that all chronoRepresentatives get as they move further and further away from the Era of their Identity: “What the hell is this?  What the hell is that?  And why is everything so loud?”

But yeah so one day I climbed into the passenger seat of the Buick for whatever reason and as I was closing the safety slab after me I heard a woman singing, I mean, belting out a beautiful Milky Way-sized noise from the recirculating oxygen pumps kept safe in her chest; expelled up and out on gossamer wings with Jericho-killing force, an all-mighty clean and clear vocal pearl of wondrous and magnificent articulation jettisoned through a series of wet valves located along her esophagus like the complicated chambers of a sound gun. The notes rocketed out through the Buick’s shitty stereo system (I was always adjusting the car’s bass and treble for maximum clarity and efficiency but always found both dials turned insultingly to the far right why the fuck do I even bother trying to educate you, you hayseed refugee??) and goddamn, that sound just washed over me like I’d never really gotten the hang of (soap + water = shower) before that moment and that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first time I heard Whitney Fucking Houston.

Ignore how dated it sounds. Ignore how jaded you are. Shut the fuck up and listen to the woman sing.

The moment the High Council of Hee Haw diverted her attention I exercised my right as Household Culture Ambassador and squirreled that tape away to my attic lair at the top of the house.  I spent many a long hour lying flat on my king size waterbed (summer temperature 75deg, winter 95deg) with all the red lights on and my prized ear-smothering headphones strapped tight against my hear-holes, eyes shut, floating on nothingness, wrapped up safe in that rising sweet sound. (I’ve never since responded positively to R&B, I continue to loathe gospel, and Soul gives me a nervous tick.  Motown kinda reaches me — I love that swooping, orchestral sound) so I suppose that mix tape found me at a specific place and time when my musical tastes were virginal, brand new in a sense. I would be transfixed by that tape for exactly one week before my palette exploded against the onslaught of 90s industrial and I forgot all about it.

I was essentially a blank slate at 19, having been locked away from culture-at-large as Devil Music was verboten by my Martian overlords.  (To this day, I owe a tremendous debt to two friends who force fed me selections of industrial, goth and various nuggets of delicious that included the fire and brimstone damnation of Nick Cave, the agonizing sweet destructionism of Leonard Cohen, the shrill holocaust dirge of Diamanda Galas, the crypt-sweet wailings of Dead Can Dance, the oddly-twisted song books of Giles de Rais and the complete works of Marquis “What the fuck is wrong with you?” de Sade.)  As it turned out, I liked my music dark. I liked it mean. I liked the sound of heartbreak and loss and murder and destruction.

FUTURE/PAST: It was a sad thing to ride the NYC subway the day Whitney’s passing was announced.  (Likewise MCA, but that’s a story for another day.)  A once sweet smiling piece of Americana had overdosed.  You could see the disappointment on the faces of the riders, and taste the schadenfreude in the vulture screams of the headlines.  Her death was palpable. Real.  Experienced. As the details of her demise unfolded, I thought about that long gone mix tape, the Buick, my waterbed, the red lights in my tiny attic room and how her voice lit up my synapses in that first instant. Her addiction didn’t matter. None of the Bobby Brown bullshit mattered. I felt like someone had murdered my 8th grade girlfriend, but it had been so long ago that I forgot what it felt like to hold her hand. I felt as though I had betrayed her, given her up for wild women and wanderlust. I suppose I did.

PRESENT: We now return you to our regularly scheduled timeline.

Friday night went on for at least a week.  I took a long walk to the other side of the island where I activated my social interaction software and tried my hand at being holo-charming for a few hours with fellow members of the ‘East Bay Nerd Herd’ Meetup.  I quaffed two pints and returned home.  Had a good think about This, That and the Other Thing on the 45 minute walk back to my Fortress of Solitude.

There’s no way to really capture what goes on in my head.  I could spend my 9-to-5 trying, but at the end of the day I’d unscrew my brain and grope about for the Precious, finding nothing.  Congratulations.  If light was a farm animal, it just took a shit in your hands…

And someday those hands will shake.  Someday I’ll lose touch.  Someday I will wear that selfsame lost expression on my face for real, and the madness won’t make sense anymore, not even to me.  I will join the ranks of the chronoRepresentatives. “What the fuck is this? What the fuck is that? And who’s been sending robots to steal my meds?”

Change is the only constant.  You can’t stop change.  Even if you could get your hands around the Great Throat of The Universe and squeeze, if you could bring everything as far as the eye can dream to a screeching halt that, too, would be change.  And at last when your resolve and strength failed and you released your grip on that throat, all life would surge free like cold water from a garden hose, and that would be yet another change.

Not only do I wish I was crazy, but I wish I was crazier still.

Short Attention Span Theater: Apocalypse Now as played out in a shopping mall (seeded by texts/tweets from @MissRubyRedSlipper and @PossibleMachine):

@TWM71: “Too late, too far upriver, can’t go back. You read his dossier. He’s come unglued fm the Army, fm the whole goddamned war…”

@PossibleMachine: “He’s MIA: Missing in Active Sportswear.”

@TWM71: “…so you follow the map, you interpret the recordings.  “The mall will be closing in 30 minutes.”  But that’s just a cover… You can neither confirm/deny a sighting in the Gap in April of last year. But those were his eyes, so wild and dog yellow… the food court is empty, the falafel gone.  You rise slowly from the fountain with determination and pennies in your eyes.  He’s waiting for you, mocking you from his Brookstone vibrating recliner. He wants this to end just as much as you do.”

12AUG2013 – Jet Blue 147 headed for Long Beach, waiting for the Sky Ninjas to clear me for approved electronics use:

(Sky Ninja Alpha wanders the aisle, examining each proffered pair of headphones): “Yes, those are fine.  Yes, those will do. (Stops) No, no I’m afraid those are shit. Able Planet makes shit gear.  The sound is terrible and the construction is laughable.  I must ask you to return those to your bag and consider throwing them away the moment we reach our destination.  If you really want good sound, you need to do your research.  I won’t fine you this time, but if I see you with those headphones again, I’ll see to it your wages are garnished. Thank you. (Moves on) Yes, those will do nicely. Excellent choice, yes…”

Always exciting to pack a bag and walk away from all that I own: plug myself into a new rent-a-cave in a different city and pretend I live in a room guarded by an electronic lock, dominated by an immense bed smothered in cool crisp sheets, and decorated largely by morons.

NOW: Sky Ninjas perform the Air Safety kata in slow synchronicity, demonstrating their lost and lethal martial art: Inflate Vest! (whipping sound) Fasten Belt! (whipping sound) Locate Exits! (whipping sound) Apply Butter Dish to Face! (whipping sound)

Sky Ninja as a D&D character rolls for: Public Speaking skills, Bar Tending skill, and Saving Your Slow Blinking Philistine Bovine Ass When This Winged Dildo Plummets South In a Hurry skills.

I saw Her again.  She was in the departure lounge, and boarded just ahead of me.  Caught my eye and I almost snapped my neck.  She was 5’10” with caramel brown skin, perfect teeth and hard blue gemstones where her eyes should be.  She wore a “Tough Mudder” t-shirt, jeans and running shoes and she carried herself with an upright grace.  She had an aggressive frame and a careful face.  Tousled long brown hair, something vaguely gypsy about her, well traveled, the air of an explorer.  There was a handmade monkey’s fist attached to the end of her brown leather handbag, which had seen some miles meaning she either bought it used or it meant a great deal to her. There was a mighty rock upon her ring finger; seems the great ones are always spoken for.  Her lips, ears and jawline made me weak.  I passed her in the aisle and proceeded toward my seat.  I’ll never see Her again.  Next time, she will be someone else.

The aircraft rolls, picking up speed.  In my mind’s eye, I am running alongside on the tarmac.  Sprinting faster, digging deeper, heart pounding, arms and legs a Steve Austin blur.  At that crucial moment of breakup between earth and aircraft, when she has once again decided to leave him, my imagined self leaps into the air in the style of the Greatest American Hero, waving his arms and kicking wildly.  Ten seconds up: the soft cream of the clouds smothers the intake port, holding a clean white pillow firmly over the business end of the aircraft engine.  Can’t see shit.  Twenty seconds up, the sunlight roars out all lion-like, showcasing every flaw in the mountains far below. We pass the +7 boundary and I relax with a sigh. Not today…

Alternate timeline: I  change my name to Microsoft Pepsi and go on an epic bender.  We’re talking Beowulf on bath salts.  Get on the news.  Cause concern for careful corporate clones in closed conference rooms:

MARKETING LIEUTENANT: “Well, the good news is we’re trending on every social media platform.”

HMFIC: “Good!  Great!  Profits!”

BOARD MEMBERS: (nodding like Muppets) “Harrumph! Harrumph!”

ML: “Well, no.  The bad news is, it’s not really us that’s trending.  Some delirium-damaged dickhead changed his name to Microsoft Pepsi and he’s been camping atop the Golden Gate Bridge for three days straight doing God knows what with a wildly attractive and emotionally available nun in the middle of a mid-life crisis of faith, armed only with a bucket of hallucinogenic Kool-Aid.  So far, he’s resisted every extraction effort by the local police department, going so far as to take a healthy King Kong swing at the helicopters.  He’ll be on t-shirts within the hour.  Hipsters are proclaiming him their new messiah. He’s all over the news.  Our brand is officially mud.

HMFIC: (wailing) “DOOM!”

BOARD MEMBERS: “Harrumph! Harrumph!”

Far too many pilots operating their meat vehicle with their primary navigation system shunted permanently into their exhaust port. Fuck those pilots…

If I had believed I was going to make it this far, I might have applied myself harder to something that could be considered my life’s work, instead of randomly scrawling in a stack of journals, this stream of consciousness resulting in what amounts to an office party rendezvous ‘twixt “afraid-of-commitment” Pen and “not-getting-any-at-home” Paper.

Doesn’t matter what I think, doesn’t matter what I feel, doesn’t matter what I say, doesn’t matter what I do, doesn’t matter what I see, doesn’t matter what I write.  Not only does the Real Truth elude me, hovering just out of view in tiny shiny helicopters, but once I’m permanently offline these words are Ozymandias: King of Shit Town, and Lord of Get a Life, You Pale Child. Trunkless Legs of Nice Try.

I don’t know what time it is, but an early model primer grey Peugeot just drove past the café window.  Does that help?

Nailing fried eggs to a tree,

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