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.
@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,