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,