Next stop: The Western Lands
19JUL2012 – If no one had told me I’d be leaving New York City, how much longer would I have been able to tolerate it? Walking the tight rope with that feeling of always being graded or judged, every day being cranked down and dialed in. Conan, what is best? “Tie it off, burn the rest.”
Never let the pure parts of your soul see the sunlight; never let those parts know what they’ve been missing out on. Focus instead on the leper sore sidewalks, the warm smell of bulging black trash bags fermenting in the sun, the fluttering butterfly of disgust that erupts in your stomach when you grab the vertical bar in the center of a subway car and experience residual human warmth, the germ-covered calling card of a fellow stranger subjected to yet another week of annihilation. The subway is a mobile warehouse where all the faces of the world are stored.
There is the faintest hint of a wind tonight, as though someone took a pinhole camera, photographed the breeze in a much cleaner place, brought it back here and made a bad mimeograph of the image on a machine they’d rescued from a burning pile of shit, and then stapled those to all the telephone poles within a three block radius.
Stayed up till 5 a.m. working on that last entry. I haven’t pulled an all-nighter in ages. I hope I can keep it going. Writing is the best opiate I know. I don’t even care if I’m any good at it. All I want is the feeling of words coming out of my fingertips like high-speed miniaturized airstrikes called down over the battlefield of the keyboard. Each time my finger makes contact with a letter I imagine a tiny explosion; the faster the keystrokes, the more fervent the war. The onslaught is relentless, and none of the generals can even remember what they’re fighting for.
Now sitting in the restaurant in the lobby of The Jane, lingering over breakfast coffee. Feels good to be without a schedule for a few days. My architectural and design vocabulary is pretty poor — I don’t know the difference between a niche and an alcove — but I’m pretty sure that gold figurine surrounded by incense and flowers is Bob Newhart. New York is a weird fucking place. Despite the mountains of screaming dirt, the blocks of jabbering desperation, the gravitas of towering concrete, I’m sure gonna miss it…
Later that day. I walked the High Line, took some pictures. I’ll never finish my NYC bucket list, but I’m glad I marked that one off. Now in a cafe somewhere in midtown drinking iced coffee, scribbling in a notebook and listening to Iron Maiden. Ducked in here when the skies grew dark with the threat of rain. Watching the droplets hit the ground. It’s coming down pretty fast now; oxygen scrubbers on a one-way spring-cleaning. The tiny particles of debris ripped from the air are packed safe inside each droplet, then set free upon impact with the earth.
Gave two bottles of water to a homeless guy with an unusual medical condition. His eyes were rimmed blood-red, and they bugged out of his skull like that scene in Total Recall where Arnold gets ejected onto the Martian landscape and can’t breathe. When I reached into his sphere with the bottles, he looked up at me. His smile was just about the most genuine I’ve seen in a long time.
In the two years I spent in New York, I learned to appreciate the push of life happening all around me. I felt as though I were a diver in dark water. I couldn’t see what was happening, but I could feel the displacement of something big passing close by, circling me, and sizing me up. And in those last frozen seconds when there’s nothing to do but watch, the open jaws appear, moving forward like blooming flowers in the morning fog. It’s over before you can react, posture or make a big show of things. Were we capable of eating strawberries at that depth, they’d be the best fucking strawberries you’d ever tasted. I knew I couldn’t stay here, and I wouldn’t want to. I’m not that sadistic.
Of all the billions of (chicken salad) stars in the universe, the mind-boggling possibility of (tuna fish sandwich) life on other worlds and in other (coffee drinking) dimensions, no one else has written this same sentence (eleven billion, four-hundred million, six-hundred thousand and twelve). There. My voice was unique for a moment…
It’s easy to lose perspective, to grow bored, to stop caring, to hurt someone, to bully them in some way because you’re tired of feeling small and trapped. It’s easy to forget about the stars, and that we are part of them. It’s easy to forget about the forces of electricity and gravity, battling it out all around you at every second of your entire life. It’s easy to lose your way. We don’t have time to give a shit about the way our brains work. We just want them to keep our hearts beating so we can go to work and earn movie tickets or put gas in our cars.
The future will be here in three minutes. It’s in a holding pattern above the earth right now, waiting for clearance from a control tower. But should the future make an emergency crash landing, it will most likely do so in New York City. And not in sterile white advertisements with a flashy graphic user interface used by wealthy housewives to purchase green tea on their cellphones during their twice-weekly post-yoga social circles, but in smart phones stolen from elderly subway riders; in wireless copulations; in Filipino phone cards used up and abandoned on the streets with the rest of the trash; in mangled text conversations between oversexed, over-stimulated and under-parented 13-year-olds. There’s a flash of lightning outside; no time to count the Mississippi’s. Whatever it is, it’s coming in fast.
Some days I feel as though I am throwing myself face first against a wall, over and over again, expecting good answers to fall out of my mouth instead of bloody teeth. I feel as though I don’t know what questions I should be asking myself and even if I did I know, I feel I lack the concentration needed to put them into practice. Self-analysis is like taking a motorcycle engine apart in your head, turning the pieces over and over, holding all the tools in your imaginary hands, and never once breaking concentration. I am easily distracted; t-boned by a runaway thought, hijacked by a passing breeze or ambushed by sexual thought, a single dirty frame on the perpetual film loop of the Primal Directive. I want to break out of the cycle and make more of myself.
The Jane Hotel is a strange place, a series of Bohemian cubes linked together by dark wooden hallways so narrow that two grown adults can’t pass each other in the hall without one of them having to hump the wall. The rooms are tiny, modeled after shipboard cabins. A brass peg on the keychain is inserted into a hole near the light switch. This activates the room’s electricity, so there’s no waste. The bathrooms are communal. The bathrobes are miniscule. I feel like Shawn Connery in that James Bond flick where they tried to make him Japanese.
I refer to the occupant across the hall from me as Classical Music. It’s on all the time and there’s a blue bathrobe wedged into the doorframe that prevents it from closing completely. I picture some old hippie in there, just doing his thing, hoping a nice hippie lady will hear his music and knock on the door with a bottle of wine so they can fuck like it’s 1967 again. There’s another room down the hall. Television Man. The set is always on and it’s always loud. Like someone trying to hide from not only their own thoughts but the thoughts of everyone else on earth.
The moments of a human life are spent in the options provided. You can have any kind of car you like, so long as it’s black. We can’t deadhead like characters in Cory Doctorow’s “Down And Out in The Magic Kingdom”, die for a few thousand years and come back when things are more interesting. We can’t climb into a machine like characters in Rudy Rucker “Spacetime Donuts” and shrink between molecules, falling downward through the quarks of the ‘donut until we become the universe itself, falling back into the local galaxy, aiming hard for our own planet, appearing gigantic in the sky as the God or Goddess. Instead, we spend our one-way days dreaming, waking up, going to work to earn enough money to buy a girl a drink on Friday night in the hopes we can persuade her to stay with us as we grow old and die. Birth, school, work, death. Somewhere in between those chapters, we grow up, grow old, grow tired, grow close and grow apart, always in the process of being reborn metaphysically and dying a thousand deaths from embarrassment each time we forget to check for spinach in our teeth.
I’m flying to California tomorrow. This journal is almost full. I fight for a place to sit to finish it off; a bench on the corner of 8th Ave and 14th Street: I want tonight to end in bullets, in release, in redemption, in understanding, in your eyes. It’s only those first few seconds with you that I want, when everything is new, before either of us has said a word. It’s only those seconds I really know what to do with. After we’ve said hello there isn’t much left. I want different things than you do. I’m on a different path. It’s inevitable. At every odd moment I am full of need for you, for your warmth, for your smile, for that part of you that can drive away the cold. In the even moments I’m full of self-preservation, bracing myself against you, resisting you, aware that I’m programmed to want you, and that none of this is real. I know that once we are together we will only grow in the Choking Way, like high-speed footage of ivy plants fighting for the same ray of sunlight, snaking, struggling, suffocating and devouring a tree in the process. Be alone, stay alone. It’s for the best.
It doesn’t matter who reads this. What I did, I did for me. What I thought I thought for myself in order to make myself stronger, stranger and more powerful than I was on the last pass through. I want to give away my fear like a Japanese lantern set adrift on the river. I keep going deeper into my brain because I want to see what else is in there, like a sadistic magician pulling silk scarves from the ass of a shivering rabbit.
Someday they’ll throw these notebooks away. Someday they’ll burn these years of mine, and all my fears and drunken questions will rise up in the delicate moonlight like black moths to the lunar flame and choke the living shit out of a firefly on their way out of this world, because no one gets out of here alive.
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