Xina and The Fox – the TV Guide listings

Xina Giatas, covert Russian spy, time traveler and friend of pizza.

Xina Giatas – covert Russian spy, crime-fighting style maven, time-traveler, vinyl enthusiast, and pizza aficionado.

So, I’ve never actually met Xina Giatas. Not in person, anyway. We once shared the same Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood but only really began conversing on Twitter after I’d moved south to a Prospect Park brownstone with my then-girlfriend. We’ve spoken on the phone just three times in as many years. I can’t even be sure she’s real. Judging by the photos I’ve seen of her, Xina Giatas is a time-traveler brought here from the 1950s by a prestigious NYC ad firm to be the spokesperson for incredible hair and creamy skin. I wrote and texted her the following TV Guide summaries for her very own action adventure series during the course of our friendship after she mentioned her love of foxes, vinyl, vodka, and pizza with truffle oil and mushrooms. 

Fox – a creature full of secrets. Where does his telekinetic ability come from? What about his secret history in the Army? And what the *fuck does he plan on doing with all those motorcycle helmets?

TONIGHT: (Pilot) ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina re-organizes her vinyl collection by color. Fox brushes his teeth. (Gene Simmons guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ When Manhattan is threatened by a cyber-enhanced monkey army, Xina decides that now would be a good time to visit Rhode Island. Fox encounters his latent telekinetic ability. (David Bowie guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina opens a detective agency to solve neighborhood mysteries. Fox makes a car payment. (Willie Nelson guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Tempers flare when Fox refuses to cap the toothpaste after he’s used it. Xina tries out for an all-girl hockey team. (Jello Biafra guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina goes on a date with a pizza. Fox wins big in the Cash Cab and takes everyone out for drinks. (Edward Furlong guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina goes undercover as a nun at a remote mountain monastery where the monks are smuggling stolen diamonds. Fox launches a daring hot air balloon rescue when her cover is blown. (Al Jorgensen guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina gets engaged to a pizza. Fox is forced to go undercover as a cab driver to thwart a prostitution ring. (Lemmy Kilmister guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina’s latent pyrokinetic ability surfaces, burning her pizza fiancé to a crisp. Fox loses an eyebrow. (PJ Harvey, musical guest star)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina halts a counterfeit penguin ring preying on cruise ship passengers along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Fox burns the Thanksgiving turkey and orders take out Chinese. (Iggy Pop, musical guest star)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina bumps her head on the medicine cabinet door and unlocks her long dormant alter-ego, a Russian super-spy named Mia. Fox orders out for pizza. (Lemmy Kilmeister guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina does her hair while Fox types away at his first novel; a dystopian tale of a world where hip-hop never existed. (Lars Ulrich guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina takes bathroom selfies on a train ride. Fox wins a spot on a game show but his winning streak is cruelly cut short when it’s revealed that he’s actually a common fox with no grasp of human speech, or trivia. (Stephen Fry guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Fox, still reeling from his humiliating mistreatment by a bullying game show host, builds a rocket ship, fills it with potato chips and comic books, and prepares for a one-way trip to Mars. Xina offers friendly advice and shares her pizza. (Lenny Kravitz, musical guest star)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Fox departs in his comic-stocked rocket ship on a quest to find his people. Xina calls in a favor and throws him a farewell party. (Henry Rollins guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina goes for a ride around Manhattan in a glass-bottomed helicopter sipping mint juleps. Fox deals with technical difficulties aboard his rocket, now hurtling through deep space. (Leelee Sobieski guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina goes under cover to the set of a cooking show in order to foil counterfeit truffle smugglers. A cosmic freak of nature lands Fox on Mars weeks ahead of schedule. (Ewan McGregor guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina fights to save an orphanage by using her spy skills in the UFC ring. Fox makes a new friend on Mars and sends Xina a postcard. (Edward Norton guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Fox meets the King of Mars and finds some common ground. Xina gets involved with a handsome MI6 agent and has to decide between him or pizza. (Daniel Craig guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina treats herself to a relaxing day of acupuncture and sushi. Fox enjoys a splendid picnic of cucumber sandwiches, potato salad and dandelion wine at the base of Olympic Mons. (Samuel L. Jackson guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina roams the city streets in search of meaning and pizza. Fox readies his rocket ship for the return to Earth, but is the Earth ready for Fox? (Social Distortion, musical guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ It’s a very different Fox that opens the hatch when his rocket ship touches down in Prospect Park. Xina throws him a welcome home party and does her best to ignore the glowing eyes. (Trent Reznor guest stars)

TONIGHT: On the season finale of ‘Xina and The Fox,’ Fox, recently home from Mars, pays a friendly visit to his arch-nemesis the game show host and forgives his earlier transgressions with mind bullets. Xina decides she’s basically gonna walk the Earth. “You know, like Cain in Kung Fu; walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures.” (Stephen Fry guest stars)

TONIGHT: On the season premiere of ‘Xina and The Fox,’ Xina returns from her brief stint as an Indy car driver and finds Fox working part time in an occult store, struggling to come to terms with his new Martian identity. (David Duchovny guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina is on the run when the Agency wants to confine her to a secret underground compound for wayward agents. Fox acquires a smack habit. (Lou Reed guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina is reluctantly paired with a double-crossing convict who claims he can permanently clear her debt with the Agency. Fox: thongs, bongs, and a missing $800. (Courtney Love guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina takes the night off to do her nails. Fox hosts an old Army buddy who is not what he seems. (Bruce Willis guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina takes a modeling gig to persuade a former KGB agent to delete her Russian handler, once and for all. Fox sets out to foil a nuclear threat at the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas and winds up on a whiskey bender, loosening his grip on his latent telekinetic abilities. (Ozzy Osbourne guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Shit gets real when Xina survives a car bomb planted by her Russian handler who wants her super-spy alter ego “Mia” back on the payroll — or in the ground. Fox buys a motorcycle helmet. (Tricky guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina gets the goods on her Russian handler and exposes him to the Agency, who promise to leave “Mia” alone for now. Fox buys another motorcycle helmet. (Rick Rubin guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Mia’s estranged Russian handler comes in for the kill while Xina is enjoying the sights from atop the Empire State Building. Fox buys another motorcycle helmet. (William Shatner guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Rid of her handler at last, Xina goes out for victory pizza only to have her latent pyrotechnic ability surface yet again. Fox experiences a moment of clarity. (The Strokes, musical guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Fox explores trancendental meditation and sensory deprivation tanks in an effort to rid himself of the ghost of Mars and get his life back on track. Xina eats a delicious sandwich on a relaxing train ride and takes some selfies in the bathroom. (Liz Phair guest stars)IMG_9731-4

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Free at last of his Martian ghost, Fox is swindled by a cab driver who refuses to take him to Brooklyn, fully unleashing Fox’s telekinetic abilities and causing tremendous damage to the cab. Xina scores big at the thrift store. (Ozzy Osbourne guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ The police launch a citywide manhunt in search of a dangerous and telekinetic Fox. Xina orders in Cuban for a change. (Ray Liotta guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Fox finds sanctuary with a group of Minutemen in the Northern Adirondacks, but clashes with their leader. Xina’s plans for a weeklong getaway to Iceland are hampered when the Agency calls in a favor. (Bjork guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ Xina agrees to one last mission as “Mia” in exchange for a full pardon for Fox, who in turn agrees to a deadly game of mumbletypeg with the psychotic leader of the Minutemen. (Milla Jovovich guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ “Mia” thwarts a plot to assassinate the President and makes a new friend. Awkward tension mounts in the Minutemens’ secret camp when Fox phones in an order for halal. (Moby guest stars)

TONIGHT: ‘Xina and The Fox.’ “Mia” steals a helicopter and stages a daring rescue raid on the Minutemen camp, but Fox has a few loose ends to tie off first. (Bruce Dickinson guest stars)

TONIGHT: On the season finale of ‘Xina and The Fox,’ Xina, free of the Agency’s grip, makes it back to the city in time for happy hour and dance class. Fox, fully pardoned for his telekinetic crimes, buys a fake mustache and gets a job at a record store, happy to have his life back. But will it last? (El-P guest stars)

You can follow Xina’s real life exploits here:

Work site – xinagiatas.com
Tumblr – xinagiatas.tumblr.com/
IG – instagram.com/blonderexic
Twitter – https://twitter.com/blonderexic
Podcast – http://www.rawmeetradio.com/

Each to Each / Saturnalia

A loud monolog in a Los Angeles hotspot, already in progress: “…I mean really! Why should we care if a movie pissed off an entire country? The publicity generated will bring us eleventy-nine wheelbarrows of cold hard revenue carted in by a conga line of Spanish hookers (gestures around him) and definitely the best seats in the house for Sunday brunch, am I right? Hey, garçon! Yeah, I said it; don’t roll that glass eye at me! Do you have any idea who else I’ve pissed off this week? Does the name KOREA mean anything to you? Well, then I’d suggest you step lively with the cocaine omelets and puffer fish waffles! And we’re gonna need more coffee! Haven’t you heard? We’re living (in) the dream!”

Gather round, kids. It’s a very special episode of Flying Time. This week, it’s ORF to ORD to HOTH. We’re presently on the tarmac in Chicago, awaiting permission from the Sky God. I have seen many things and been many places, but no matter where I go or what I do when I fly, I never once expected a foul-mouthed, wisecracking, no-nonsense New York cop with an itchy trigger finger, an aversion to Eurotrash terrorists and a never-say-die spirit to board the flight and plop himself into the seat next to me.

I take one bud out of my ear and speak after a long pause, blinking in disbelief. “Oh, great. You’re that guy, aren’t you? The Nakatomi Plaza cowboy…”

John McClane, hard as nails but gifted with more depth and dimension than was expected of most ‘80s action heroes lets out a weary sigh and a slow nod. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“Uh, listen…” I look around. “Is there gonna be some… you know, some shit? On this flight?” I’m visually assessing the other passengers for their usefulness as allies, foes, or fodder, gauging the distance to the exits, and trying to remember the precise or at least the useful contents of my backpack.

There’s a long pause, and a sidelong glance of resignation. “I hope not. I’m just trying to go somewhere, same as you.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s good.”

“Yeah. That’s good.” I put my ear bud back in and lean back in my seat.

Moments after take-off, I experience a terrible pain; a sudden stabbing, tingling sensation bursts into existence just above my left eye, possibly the result of hallucinating John McClane into existence. It feels like I tripped and fell face-first into a bear trap lined with hypodermic needles and fishhooks; an unwelcome sensation experienced only one other time in 2014. I was on a return flight from AK coming through DFW, when I thought I was giving birth to the Devil through my forehead. I did not see Detective McClane at that time.

Three hours later, everything has gone pear-shaped. We were ten minutes from HOTH when the pilot decided the tail wind was too great to land. “Uh, sorry folks we’re gonna turn back to Chicago…” As he spoke those words, the stabbing pain returned. John McClane did not.

(Remain calm. This is nothing. You’ve been maced, gassed, and divorced. You can handle this…) Back at the customer service counter, there’s one representative per 25 harried passengers. No one in a 50-yard radius is even remotely happy. The next confirmed flight departs on 24DEC, 1030. My debit card isn’t working so I can’t get a coffee, I left my medkit at home (again! Lesson learned!) and the child to my immediate right won’t stop screaming.

“Atlas, I need you to behave, now, Atlas, come here, no Atlas, listen to mommy, Atlas, give me your hand, no, Atlas don’t climb on that…” The mother was harried, worn. Suddenly my night seems like cake in the face of what she’s dealing with. Atlas is doing everything except shrugging.

Thank fuck for the USO and free turkey sandwiches. It’s now 0300. I was stuck here during the blizzard of ’11. I remember pacing the corridor just beyond the door from where I’m sitting now as I talked to a girl on the phone for hours. She meant everything to me and it was a very hopeful conversation. I never wanted it to end. By the time we hung up, I’d forgotten about the snow, about the delays, about everything but her voice and her laugh, which always made me feel good. That was a million miles ago. Now she’s just another rose-colored shadow.

The weather report is calling for whiteout conditions in this area tomorrow. I’ve got a friend in the area who’s promised me her couch and a go at her whiskey. If only we’d left on time! But the pilot wanted to wait for extra fuel, which, as it turns out, we needed because we missed our window to land and had to fly back. I bet the Psychic Friends Network never saw that one coming.

I dozed off in a recliner directly beneath the roaring chill of an air conditioner without a blanket. I did not sleep long, but dreamed fitfully of a woman who can unhinge her lower jaw and cast it out like a spear, latching onto her victims with her perfect teeth as she flagellates them with her eyelashes, which writhe and whip like sea anemone. Eventually her prey ceases to struggle, calmed by tranquilizer darts fired from her cheek guns, which emerge with a whirring click and proceed to pump her quarry with enough narcotics to drop the lead horse in the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby. The feeding begins. It’s a strange old world we live in. CUE RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH

Post HOTH, I’m sitting through the preflight safety brief on the return leg to ORD. I’m comforted by the pilot’s voice, the calculated rundown of airspeed, travel times and temperatures reaching back to us from somewhere beyond the locked cockpit door, the demarcation line of responsibilities. As I soak in the numbers, I study the face of the flight attendant. Her name is Nikki, and she’s beautiful. She has generous dimples, auburn hair and awkward ears, all of which serve to highlight the clean lines of her jaw. She smiles with her eyes when she speaks, which causes them to glitter like wet gemstones. Would I drive Nikki to the hospital in the middle of the night if she needed me to? Would I hold her hand in public? Would I surprise her with lunch or tickets to a show? Could I make her laugh? Yes, I think I would, and could. Would she care equally for me? Hard to say, probably not, but it’s a moot point to begin with as we exchange little more than pleasantries when she brings me hot water for my tea.

This is the extent of my relationships as of late.

Dear 9-year-old me,

On January 5, 2015, at the age of 43, you will be sitting in a tavern in Norfolk, VA, with a good friend and co-worker. You’ll be eating macaroni and cheese with chicken dusted in truffles and drinking a glass of merlot you can barely afford. You and your friend will have spent most of the afternoon and evening walking around your neighborhood playing a virtual game on your smart phones; a combination telephone, video player, jukebox, notebook, calendar, bank, file cabinet, compass, and world map condensed into a device small enough to fit comfortably in the left front pocket. The game is called Ingress, and it’s a combination of Othello, Capture the Flag, and Assassin. You have all of your teeth, all of your hair, and you are still in good physical condition with the exception of the lens in your left eye, which is artificial. You have seven tattoos, and you drive a brand new Volkswagen Beetle that looks like a blob of mercury, or a small silver spaceship. You travel, shoot, write and laugh for a living.

That’s gonna have to do for now.

TWM

Tactical Nuclear Sharpie

The pen poised above the paper; a needle hovers above the spinning record…

Halloween, 2014. I’m at the front of a long wooden second-story room chock full of costumed lunatics and wandering green laser dots. A girl dressed as an abused trailer park wife complete with a length of heavy chain around her waist swats at the disco ball suspended above our heads in order to refresh the pattern of lights. There is a band on stage, “a group of unapologetic face-melters.” The guitarist screams out a searing quick song. The cords on the side of his neck are taut. His fingers are easily the fastest objects in the room.

I am aware of a great shuddering all around me as more costumed women take to the dance floor, pogoing about like a Peanuts gang reunion; post-addiction, post-therapy, and possibly post-funeral for one of the Gang, as though they’d experienced a renewal of purpose, like maybe there’s hope for those kids yet.

There’s a Go Pro camera nestled among the fake spiderwebs like a robot egg. The web is red-lit and draped across the large industrial windows behind the band. Counting the Go Pro and the four heavyset nerds in t-shirts, this is probably the best documented last performance of any local band in Norfolk history.

So many eyes in the dark staring back at me. I reek of campfire, my clothes are heavy with smoke. Looking around me now, taking it in. Who’s the bald guy in the fedora with the Norfolk Hardcore sticker on the back of his motorcycle jacket? We are all driven by character commands, things that we do that make us more like ourselves. What character command propels him to the center of the dance floor, to cock his hat back, plant his feet “just so” and “rock out” by nodding his head in appreciation? Something in his stance, that’s the punchline. That’s what I can’t summarize. It’s as if he were bracing for an ocean wave.

What about the heavy-set guy with the rebel flag bandana wrapped around his head wandering aimlessly through the crowd? He stops at the edge of a throng, spinning one drumstick he’d found somewhere, speaking to no one — to anyone — announcing a demonstration of his skill set to four pairs of deaf ears. “You wanna see that again?” Doesn’t wait for an answer, just launches into another spin. “Hey, we should all go party somewhere!” He blurts this statement out into the crowd, hoping it sticks. It does not. In fact it falls to the floor, unnoticed.

She, dressed as a cat, bumped into me at the back of the crowded room near the bar. “Sorry. Oh, hey! Are you coming over later?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Oh! I thought you were someone else. You’re cute though! You wanna come over anyway?” She winked and walked away. I’m not sure how that was supposed to work out.

This is the extent of my relationships as of late.

Moments later: “Oh, you look tired,” a friend said to me, offhand and airily. “You probably wanna go home.”

“No, I’m okay,” I replied quite amicably. “I’ve just had campfire smoke in my face for the last few hours and — ”

“No, you’re probably tired,” she insisted in a singsong way. “I bet you really wanna go home…”

“No, seriously, I’m okay…” becoming somewhat more annoyed now.

“See? You’re all cranky. You need sleep!”

“I sound annoyed because you’re insisting I need sleep.” My voice was level.

“Well, there’s no need to bite my head off!”

“I’m not, I– ” (Just stop. You’re throwing gas on a bonfire of silly. Smile, nod, and let it go.)

Two weeks pass…

16NOV2014 – Flying time again, ORF to SAT by way of ATL.

(Cthulhu as the Old Spice Man: “LOOK AT ME. NOW LOOK TO YOUR SHIVERING MORTAL LIFE, TWISTING IN THE WIND LIKE THE LAST LEAF OF AUTUMN. NOW LOOK BACK TO ME.”) On the tarmac awaiting clearance, a whipping wet wind at the window. These are the death throes of Autumn for sure.

WE SEE: Autumn being chased through whitewashed, dreamlike streets by hundreds of well-dressed thugs wearing identical rabbit masks carrying chunks of wood, long chains and lengths of rebar from a looted construction site. Autumn runs until it can run no more. Bleeding from thrown bricks, gasping for air, braced against the far wall of a parking garage, one hand up, plaintive. “This is natural,” says one monotone rabbit. “This is the way it has always been. This is as it should be. Do you understand?” The rabbits do not wait for an answer. They close in. The way must be made clear for Winter, for in three months Winter will be right here as Autumn is now, a frail form curled, broken, bleeding, one hand clutching at the sky. The camera pulls back and to the left, leaving us with only violent shadows and a spray of blood along the wall —

Shit. There goes my left eye. It’s bionic. I had it replaced in May, sometimes it needs a reboot. Fortunately it’s a small device. In no time at all, objects in the far distance swing back into focus. I observe ants copulating on the tarmac, and luggage being abused at the next terminal over.

Clearance has been granted. The appropriate spells and incantations to the Sky God have been performed at the small altar on the causeway. A final gust before the doors close brings with it a tuft of chicken feathers. Candles flicker on the altar; fresh flowers and fruit are replaced once a day from the nearest food court. It is customary to wear something blue and tip the pilot. Our lives are in the hands of a stranger.

An almond-eyed woman performs the safety kata; a slow, graceful interpretation of the buckled belt being pulled tight, her thin hands like butterflies describing the gentle plummet of the butter bowl as it falls from the ceiling. Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ pours into my ears. Moments later, the VTOL engines ramp up. The thrust kicks in and the aircraft frame shudders as we rise steadily into the sky, the nose of the aircraft spinning slowly like a compass needle toward bearing 225, west toward Texas. We move forward on the breath of the Sky God.

Misunderstood word of the day: iRat. It’s expensive, but worth it. You take it out of the box. It’s only got one button on it. You turn it on. It sings a little song, asks you what language you wish to communicate in and once you’ve selected a time zone and a Wi-fi signal it proceeds to eat a hole through your face.

19NOV2014 – SAT lounge Alpha 2, cooling my heels. Sometimes an object in motion needs to stay in motion, and sometimes an object at rest needs to sit the fuck down and have a triple shot latte while he waits for his flight to ATL. (My flight? Do I own this flight? Is it accurate to say that I’m assigned to this moment?) The arrow… at what point is the arrow in motion? The arrow is frozen in place at each frame of reference along the way. There’s more to this; I need to have another conversation on the matter with the Old Man of the Mountain: “In my dream… I see a snail… crawling along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving. That is my dream… that is my nightmare.”

I feel strange sitting here in a suit and tie. The phrase, “Does it come in cornflower blue?” springs to mind.  I can smell fried food. I can almost feel the millimeter waves caused by the crunching as they explode against my skin, like ripples from a pebble thrown into the Sea of Japan making their way across the ocean toward me.

I’d ordered pasta and chicken from an Italian place further down the terminal and exchanged looks with the wiry Latina behind the counter. I noticed her big blue eyes, her awkward ears and the hyper-pronounced dimples that framed her bashful smile. And yes, I suppose I smiled back. I couldn’t help it. She asked me how I was doing and where I was from. I wanted to say something meaningful to her, something she would remember at the end of her work day when she was having a beer with her friends. I wanted her to think of me long after we’d parted ways, but I gave her no reason to do so. I opened my mouth, but nothing clever fell out. I was aware of her glancing over at me while I ate, and I turned and smiled at her when I was leaving.

This is the extent of my relationships as of late.

There are pieces of myself that I can no longer carry, pieces I no longer wish to carry, pieces that make no sense to carry. We are in a state of flux in all moments. We are as arrows in flight. Since the day I was born, I’ve swapped out my skin and all of my organs. My hair has grown many miles, my teeth have all grown, and my bones have extended in quiet hydraulic ways. I am a slow-motion time lapse. My thoughts have changed, but my name has stayed the same. The social security number they gave me which acts like a set of coordinates with which to track my comings and goings across the surface of this world — that has remained the same, too.

“Here, this is your birth certificate. This is proof of your live existence. Not you, standing there with your mouth hanging open in shock, your cosmic wetware balanced precariously upon your spinal column solving hundreds if not thousands of calculations per second. Not your memories, not your experiences. No, man, this piece of paper trumps all. You don’t remember when you were born. Someone else was there to see it happen, someone who witnessed hundreds if not thousands of similar events a year, someone who’s probably dead by now. But that doesn’t matter, because all they had to do was interact with this piece of paper. Their signature is your lifeline to a credit history, a house, a college education, a passport. You were born. You don’t remember it, but I’m telling you, it happened. And you cried like a baby the entire time.”

Throw out the net, see what comes back: Pomegranate hollow point, we perform the innate, we escape, we’re all wanted somewhere else. Still sleeping off the front page news. We’re fleeing The Brown, who walks the terminal like a man possessed. This night belongs to you. (Somewhere close by, forty years in the wind, a cowboy and his able-bodied bride. Slow drawl, dust on his boots. (“Mister, I’m sore up for human interaction. I reckon I’d like to nuzzle yer woman’s neck…” A sagebrush rolls past.) Passengers begin boarding. Some of you are complaining faster than we can print complaint forms, the sky belongs to you. Stop at the Wal-Mart while I feast. See the safety of the life you have built. Now boarding our Silver Surfers; worn baseball cap, glad gum chewing, hands manicured, key in the door and there’s nobody home, oven is home and there’s mail in the box. First country — now boarding our customers with gold pans. Feel that hollow! If you board the aircraft, we ask you to stop laughing, just take everything wheeled with you and freak the fuck out. Open the net wider. Nothing to do but sit here and wait, cool your heels, hammer out this strange eventuality, wait your turn. Fingers explode like airstrikes on the keyboard, call in that attack. The code is Almighty, coordinates 090264712. It’s all in here…

Some day I will begin to slow. My eyes will glaze. The Feed will slack. All previous shiny will become as sludge and systems will cease to make sense to me. Know this. There will be no more sitting aboard commercial aircraft in the twinkling darkness with seductive rock music in my ears as the purple and orange glow of sunset falls again, soft lights of the cities below, a present from the present tense. Be here now —

Shit, that’s terrible advice. That’s like telling a soldier to duck all the bullets and listen to the General. I had an aunt once. Marie was her name. Marie spoke in a high-pitch falsetto like the sound of a ghost wind whipping through an empty canyon. In the week before I departed for boot camp for the Navy, she wagged her finger at me in a vague manner and told me I’d need to get strong so I could do pushups for the Admiral. Marie was an odd bird.  I’m sure this was not the strangest thing she ever said. The rest, however, is lost to the time fog.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ can be heard here.

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 to the Sky God.  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.

REROUTE 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 carefully, measuring his audience. He had a soft chuckle, the brushing of dried cornstalks in late summer wind. What was he thinking? Were we two liberal 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…