Chapter 1: cavemen

Popularly synonymous with the German quarter, Yorkville in reality is a much more inclusive section. The names on the newsstands, shop windows, restaurants, bars, and many travel bureaus indicate that Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and Irish also live in this locality……The village is centered around the old Boston Post Road (Third Avenue) between what is now Eighty-third and Eighty-ninth Streets…….First avenue is the most central route through Yorkville.

WPA Guide to New York City, 1939, p.243

 

there were days in yorkville when springtime brought the scent of paprika, of sugar and cinnamon, of warmth and spicy sweetness…then steamy summer rolled in slowly and gently, moist like sauerkraut hot dogs and papaya drinks, throbbing like the rising warm air mirages from the blistering blacktop…then fall clogged drains with yellow leaves and baseball statistics, unceasing gutter rivers where floating popsicle sticks raced against popsicle wrappers on their way to the uncertainty of the sewers…and then winter appeared suddenly one morning, instant snow crowned mountaintops of garbage bags, the chains of the 2nd avenue bus wheels ching-changle ching-changle ching-changling on the gray slush.

there were moments in yorkville when the forgotten detritus of ancestors was discovered in broom closets or under carpets, and nostalgia for oma or opa sent one back into a sepia tone photograph. there were animated conversations between shop owners on the hungarian streets…magyar hentes and the soccer supply store, red shops near saint stephen’s school. german restaurants, windows filled with tiered cakes and steins taller than children…white names like heidelberg, wagner, or schaller placed on dark signs proudly displayed within a wooden tudor motif above a busy beer hall…and the deutsche kirk that rested its weathered structure in a recessed nookstreet, its floors still stained by the souls of the bund whose feet graced its marble before. there were times when the streets became a patch of green and red, faces like ripening tomatoes in st.patrick’s parade grounds…a healthy day of commerce and fisticuffs, mcsherry’s, reif’s, o’reilly’s…the one day when crowds spill out from these tiny bars to revel in the streets, while faux-nationalistic police look the other way, shamrock pins gleaming on their lapels. there were mom and pop things a plenty, bakeries with a history lineage of teenage girls behind the counter…girls who had wondered if they’d be lucky enough to be chosen to pack its famous cakes into white cardboard boxes, tying them off with peppermint striped string from a tarnished wire spool above…bars with kitchens in back, tended by the elderly, their wrinkled skin as sweltering pink as the corned beef they stirred…delicatessens that catered to the goyim, slicing machines and 9-fingered counter clerks writing grease pencil prices on wrapped sandwiches. there were bus stops on every street, primarily the much heralded silk route heading north and south where once stood an elevated train track, a block east its parallel replacement, an unfinished subterranean hollow under the avenue, filled only with the empty promises of politicos and cunning contractors. hidden on side streets were the buses that took passengers east and west, river to river routes that were almost shameful to use…guilty passengers sneaking to the other side…through the gray of yorkville and into the western lands, the brownstoneville place where the academic and the artistic lived but didn’t work. the west side had the centers of ballet, invented by the ancestors of yorkville, halls of music, perfected by the ancestors of yorkville, museums of art, influenced by the ancestors of yorkville, wealthy art patrons of whom yorkville was jealous…yorkville’s forgotten ancestry had created the culture of the west side…its ancestry no longer taking credit for it. on the surface, yorkville held little in the way of native, indigenous artistic achievement…yet in the silent, imaginal bomb factories, hidden away above blind family residential apartments, an underbelly of painters and writers and musicians prepared their weapons…waiting for the unreachable moment when they would become cultural warriors, marching forth in front of the masses rushing to keep up. the artists gathered together at night, with secret knocks and handshakes, with arcane rites bordering on the sexual…violin players who sneered as they resin’d their bows, thinking of when they would strike…sanitation men writing poetry in long verse on the back of trash-picked notepads, capturing the scents of garbage and transforming them into magick words, stockpiling their armaments for the day of reckoning.  the secret dance behind the walls a viennese waltz to a hungarian rhapsody, sung by an irish tenor, oompah’d accordianingly polka-like, gypsified and slow, slovakian…the answer to the brazen arts of the west side would be to transform the east side arts into a mystery cult, complete with processions along ritual pathways…through shops and over sidewalks…onto the steps of brownstones and into the forgotten shelves of the yorkville public library…this machine of perpetual anti-ism remained yorkville’s esoteric invisible college. the secret handshakes and nods of recognition kept an arcadian stream below the surface. these mystic artists maintained  yorkville’s spirt while it had it guts ripped apart by americana.

in an act that signified both pride and the shame of failure, the denizens turned yorkville into the only american place in which they will have lived, which any of their family will have ever lived. the immigrants, products of millions of years of evolution, traveled across oceans on logs and rolled onto the east end shoreline, ragged and tattered, almost naked, hollow-eyed and high. they were under-equipped to handle the mansions that faced the cliffs of gracie. so, to survive, they developed surliness and swarthiness and a resolution that there would be things not worth seeing, and they do their best not to see them…a willed ignorance of the customs that had been there previously. these new cro magnon of yorkville displaced many of the previous incarnations of the yorkville species…some intermingle, living in rent-controlled old-money townhouses with their neander valley spouses, not afraid to pull out the mousterian china and their grandparent’s olduwan silverware when company came by to sit by the piano and twirl their fingers through the thin crochet doilies under the candelabra, or pick with pokesticks at the fire that blazed in the hearth. yorkville apartment houses were stratified, layer-like constructions that followed the riis proclamations by the letter, but not the spirit…dumbbell apartments with minimal ventilation, but light on both sides and absent pits where the fecal garbage privvies lay at the bottom of hexagonal shafts…trash evolved quicker than culture, being picked up weekly from the dented garbage cans that loitered in front of buildings.

the yorkville rat patrol, a band of neighborhood newsies and snoops, smoke signaling and slit gonging at the first sign of trouble, kept a network of polyglot informants and plants and moles stationed in bars, restaurants, movie houses, basements, grammar schools, church vestibules, neighbor’s closets, dresser drawers, and water closets…the tentacles stretched thin as they reached the perimeter. there was great vulnerability on the fringe, especially to the north.

the boy genius could see the vulnerable tip of the tentacle from his window, in a nestled corner of the ignored nowhere that led east to the entrance of the river’s edgeway, bordered on the north by the unspoken imagineauxry line of not-belongitude overlooking the gas station on 96th street. he turned from the gray window view, sat on the floor of his bedroom and resumed playing the g.i. joe book and record that he’d been immersed in for hours…the secret mission to spy island, a record with savages and remote controlled jeeps blaring rock music. he yearned for something more and so he replaced the spy island record with the secret of the mummy’s tomb…amtoltec was leaving an echo curse in a british voice to a pyramidally trapped g.i.joe. his mother tells him to turn the record off. he switched the wrong switch and the record speeds up to 78rpms. he laughed and shut it off. without the stimulus of the stylus on his kid grooves, he became bored. his skinny arms waved wacky and wiry as he sat there in active silence, holding his breath and letting it come out in comical noisy spits, his eyes looking off to nowhere.

-c’mon. we’re go’na wooworths, ya fahtha needs socks.

they left the apartment holding hands in the dark hallway. the floorboards, creaky and covered in flimsy linoleum, sunk in spots and warped in others…each step on the steep stairway slanted to varying degrees of oblique or obtuse angles. it was hard to walk down the stairs without stumbling at least once, the gap where his front teeth once occupied was proof.

his mother headed directly south, without even glancing towards the north…where the other world squinted from behind the dividing line. this was the edge of their world, where the rat patrol recons dared not tread, where an invisible barrier offered little protection from raiding parties. what kept yorkville safe was the magick energy of division, conjured by local shamans…the unspoken curse about crossing the line and never returning home again.

the one person that could pass between the worlds with impunity was the M15 bus driver, lukie…the smartest man in the neighborhood, the buyer of drinks, the purveyor of silks and spices from the northern caravans, the trader of culture, the swift wheeled messenger and distributor of rumor. lukie drove from the south to the north and back again many times each day, heading north on first avenue, looping west on 125th street to second avenue, then back southward again…he circled the two worlds, making it two interlinked parts of one larger creation. lukie became the master of its syntheses, nomadic and untouchable…a king among men.

the boy genius watched the first avenue bus whizzing by, smoke spewing up from its tailpipe, careening north forcefully. lukie’s wild hair, the only visible sign of life on board, streamed backwards against the rush of air…the faint sound of rock music came from the bus…”we come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow. the hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands…”

his mother is walking fast, but slowed down as she got closer to 86th street…the hub of yorkville, it’s agora. people representing yorkville’s tribes plied their wares from first avenue to lexington avenue…to the quiet west of the bustle, the exclusive shops of yorkville’s nobility. but to the east, a hive of working class activities…tool makers, potters, hunters, gatherers, mystics and oracles. they sold their goods in caves recessed at the base of mountainous residential edifices, fluorescent torchlights above, obsidian windows repelling the sun, pebbly carpeting below. this was where the habilenes became the ergasters…craft was language, making possible communication in different tongues. babel was not the tower that reached to god, it was the flint blade that the swede traded with the greek, the adze that the czech traded with the austrian…craft made secrets, and secrets made cultures of secrecy…distinct, unique, different…in need of secret languages to unite them. 86th street was where the craftsmen came with their goods, careful not to betray the secrets of their skill.

on third avenue, up the hill past the small orange enclave run by the berger king, sat    woolworth’s…once the five and dime, now a low-tech department store. woolworth’s was where you shopped if you can’t afford the gimbels sitting up west between lexington and park. people who shopped at woolworth’s were angry people…there was no joy in having to shop there, crowds of poor folk buying shoddy goods at low prices. to the proud, woolworth’s was the antithesis of craft, the hallmark of the serf. its bags were the mark of shame, the heraldry of the peasant…it’s clothing was offensive and dangerous to wear.  many a child had been beaten by schoolmates for having the misfortune to be wearing woolworth’s sneakers or sport a pair of woolworth’s pants. at woolworth’s, the boy genius prayed that his mother wouldn’t buy him anything. he held his breath until they paid for the socks and left the store…his prayers had been answered, and the danger of conspicuous consumption was once more overpowered by the safe inadequacy of poverty.

outside…above the splattered crowds on 86th street…the red letters of woolworth’s flickered at random. the boy genius and his mother walked briskly out of woolworths and, rather than retrace their steps east on 86th, took a quick right and headed up third avenue. they stopped at papaya king…a place where cheap, tasty, but unsanitary…and very unhealthy hot dogs were sold along with its oddly chosen partner…healthy papaya drinks. his mother would drink the papaya drinks to help her stomach safely digest the hot dog with sauerkraut that she just wolfed down, and sometimes to ease the pain of the unrecognized ulcer that was slowly gestating in her stomach. the boy genius…skinny and hungry constantly…devoured whatever his mother could afford. hurriedly, they rushed out of papaya king because she saw it was getting close to the time when her husband would be home from work.

as they shuffled up third avenue with great haste, the boy genius paid attention to anything but the path in front of his feet…stumbling along, holding his mother’s hand, he tilted his head up and down and squinted his eyes through the stringy black bangs that covered them…he was trying to find the angle which will let him see the cavemen who lived in the streets. teacher had just finished telling him that the people in his neighborhood were like the cavemen…they came from the same place and did the same things, only these cavemen lived in newer caves…and you could see that about everyone, if you just looked at things differently. so he tried and and tried but he didn’t see cavemen…though every so often he saw the paintings they left on the walls…glowing in new neon, spray-painted, wheat-pasted…the temporarily permanent cultural legacies of yorkville, to be excavated and analyzed in the future. they whooshed by and he hummed a song and thought nothing of that future…only about how funny things looked sideways and how he wanted to be a caveman himself.

another sketch

“So I’m always in this city…not any specific one, but probably manhattan…it’s big.  And it’s always night time…but…or like the sun has just set…but then it’s suddenly really late.  Like darkness, but in the way that everything was colored black or purple or grey or dark brown…even the sky.  So it’s not realistically night.  But the thing is…it’s like it’s desolate…I mean…nobody around at all.  The streets are totally empty.  And I gotta get home.  That’s the thing.  I have this…like…compulsion to get home…whatever that means.  But weirdly enough, I’m not scared.  It’s desolate and I feel alone…but it’s like…that’s what it’s supposed to be.  Like that’s just my fate, y’know? And there are no busses or cabs…and I’m lost…and I don’t know what direction to go.  But it’s like it’s normal for me.   And the streets aren’t like real streets, but almost like ideal streets…garbage cans, shadows, sterile concrete, but all the buildings have dark red brick…and I feel like my home is some brownstone kind of building…like a whole building, but y’know, like it’s not gigantic.  A little walkup thing.  I can’t ever really get inside it or even find it when I’m dreaming…but when I think about it when I’m awake, I can see it.  In my dreams I can’t.  And I wanna get there…but then I know it’s gonna be lonely, too…like it’ll be an empty house, and when I sleep I’ll be thinking about the fact that nothing is protecting me from what’s outside, really…and I think I still go through that now in my waking life.  Like I want to be able to be in the middle of everything…like being in a city…but I want total safety…even though I know it’s not safety.  But then I don’t want to be too cut off either…and I think that’s it.  I wanna…like…be in a place where I can see everything but it can’t get me.  It’s like when I was a kid and I used to hide in these bushes in the projects where I lived…there was this clump of bushes by the garbage dumpsters near the parking lot…and there was a space enough underneath it for me to crawl through.  Sometimes I’d find boxes…y’know…flat ones…and put it on top of the bushes, like it was my roof…and I’d just stay under the bushes and watch everything outside.  I liked it most when it rained…cause I was there, but I was dry even though everything else was wet.  And I didn’t care if anyone saw me, but I also pretended nobody was there.  Which is weird.  So I guess the moral of the story here is that I pretty much want to be in an impossible place…where…like…I’m in the world, but alone, yet not alone…safe, but only safe from other things that I can see.  I’m kinda fucked up, I guess, in the end…right?  I mean…cause I just can’t really be happy anywhere.  Like if I’m home, I want to be out…if I’m out, I just wanna be home.  How the fuck am I gonna finish out the rest of my life if i can’t settle down?  I can’t keep running home and not finding it, right?  I mean, what do I get for that?  What does anything matter if you aren’t content enough where you are to stop trying to find home, y’know?”

The therapist had been sitting at her simple desk in the green wallpapered room with the dark wood wainscoting and brass accents dotting every piece of furniture, staring at his face and working very hard to nod or laugh or raise her eyebrows or sigh or shrug at the right times, so that the client sitting on the brown leather couch in front of her would know that he was being listened to with attention and that he was not being judged.  They called it ‘unconditional positive regard,’ in her field of work.  Or, at least, the rudimentary beginnings of it.  She hadn’t yet found the thing about him that would give her the anchor; that aspect of him that she could like unconditionally, and therefore would be the place she’d retreat when she was bored, tired, frustrated, disappointed or angry with him.  He had told this same type of story-with little variation-for almost five years.  It didn’t come up at every one of their “once every two weeks-ish” appointments, but it almost invariably came up at some point just after he finally started talking about something else.  This client, Benjamin Nunzio Falk, was 45 years old, married a few times, divorced a few times, and essentially a man with a large brain and no use for it.  He’d never really be happy, she always reasoned to herself, but maybe happiness was not his motivation to go on.  She’d seen that often with other clients—the pursuit of something, but not happiness.  She was the same age as he, and so she felt like she could understand why happiness had disappeared from the map of life nowadays.  ‘You can’t put a price on happiness,’ as the colloquial phrase echoed in social conversations.  But without a price tag, happiness became trivial.  There was little return on investment, there was no way to measure it—and as sure as sunset, there was always someone around the bend who would make you question your happiness if you were bold enough to proclaim it.  ‘Sure, you can’t put a price on happiness,’ she’d offer with a feeling of proud satisfaction at her insight, ‘but if you could, it would be a hell of a lot easier to get!’

a character sketch

There was once a man…a serpent, really…with fixed eyes and a perpetual, mechanical logic, sniffing around the air with organs unseen…as if his skin itself could taste the rain coming three days ahead…as if he could touch the sound of shame or see the nervous tics below the blouse…this was a man…a serpent, really…whose inner aphorisms rose to the surface of his tongue and rolled out in exquisitely timed somersaults that landed across the gap and into listening ears.  This man…this serpent…was motivated by a series of stratified and disciplined desires that fell into a space psychoanalytically unmapped, but residing somewhere between the ego and the id, yet also ever present.  The world of people, he reasoned, consisted mainly of people who spent lifetimes believing that the bliss of ignorance was a superior bliss to any other…struggling to keep themselves from biting the apples that were eternally shining in their periphery.  This serpent of a man…who, to keep his serpent nature and to connect him with an ancient past, shall simply be called Ophis—ancient Greek for serpent—slithered into lives disguised as a disguise that removed disguises…an infinite regress of contingent truths, a hall of mirrors of mirrors.  Once the illusion had completed its encompassing, and all actions measured to predictability, Ophis the serpent man…this archetype incarnate…walked others to the garden, and convinced them that what they always wanted…always and truly…was all that the apple could provide.  Some faltered and fell along the way…some prematurely halting as they started to spot the cracks in the scenery, and securing their place among the lucky.  Yet there were the special ones…the ones whose existences were a series of shoulds and oughts…who live panoptically, being watched or noticed or editorialized at every moment…the ones who believed they were different even as they cookie-cut themselves into the tedium of upright citizenry…it was these who went furthest, and bit hungrily and with a combination of remorse and gratitude…guilt and pride…a sense of immediate and deadly simultaneity…the apple did not show them a truth or the truth, but instead, it showed them what was false.  And Ophis…watching them break down into numerous fragments of emotion…consoled them by reminding them of the only certainty they would ever know again:  You can’t put the apple back on the tree.

Identity is Fiction – let’s enjoy it like fiction

I’m writing a doctoral dissertation…begrudgingly focusing on identity.  As I’ve moved along, I find identity is rhetorical and contingent.  It is intersubjectively experienced, it is the “I” known through the “Other.”  It has no substance, only form.  So forget about social construction…which, after all, tacitly implies an object (i.e., a construction)…I want to stress that Identity is a fiction.  It performs like fiction, is engaged like fiction, and is as useful as fiction.  It can be as enjoyable as fiction, or as terrible.  It can be well-received or rebuffed.  It can be edited or revised.  We act “as if” it is true, real, authentic…pretending it is true for the moment.  We know that it is contingent, but it moves us to act regardless.  We can share it with others, but they may not get it.

And why do we like fiction?  Because fiction is not much different than a game…until we play the game, we don’t know the outcome.  Page 1 is the start of an infinite number of possibilities…reducing slightly with each new page.  Fiction is a safe place to play.

When we are young, we play…we pretend…we are those things we pretend to be, for as long as we are able to refuse the rejection of this possibility.  Play is socialized out of us…pretend is discouraged, as is play.  The vestigial capacity for imagining and pretending morphs into religion.  Which is precisely why religion is formed around, through, or from stories of one kind or another…stories that, like fiction, have to be engaged at the level of imagination first.  But there are codes to prevent if from becoming play.

For the most part, the first forays into adulthood are marked by the addition of responsibilities and roles that make play more and more impossible later.  When we enjoy those roles, they feel like play.

I think about music.  Music is played.  It is enjoyed.  It can be bounded by rules, or it can be free and spontaneous…visceral and unpredictable.  As we age, it becomes a vicarious form of play…which makes us feel those possibilities for identity; for feeling who we are, want to be, were, or will be.  When the elder in geriatric care hears that song they loved in childhood, it wakes that feeling of play.  It remains with us, because it is far more historically rooted than rationality and the death of play.

 

On realizing that there is diminishing honor in an honest doctorate

Doctor Instrumentalis

his fingers adroitly conducted the whispered clicking of the letters and symbols on the quiet keyboard in a chaotic staccato unnoticed by the background figures sitting walking standing talking crowding in the cafe.  there were so many more things he could be doing at this hour, in this place…he could be reading, he could sit staring, he could learn to drink coffee finally.  instead, he engaged his almost permanently furrowed brow in the scrutiny and knife focus of the instant intrusions of letters that appeared to be running a race across the empty white field dominating the screen…their trail of pixel rhetoric remained to be decoded by anyone who could move their eyes quickly enough to see where the trail was heading.  Six years ago it was chasing a dream, five years ago it was chasing a future, four years ago it was chasing some feeling of prestige, three years ago it was chasing a job, two years ago it was chasing crumbs, one year ago it was chasing closure.  today it was chasing a futility realized deep in the marrow…inadequately called a waste of time, as if time was the sole proprietor of existence.  There was also the waste of breath, the waste of thought, the waste of a body whose slow motion dying had started to speed up, the waste of relationships forged in between the past and whatever future could happen, the waste of being a deceptive placeholder for some conception of humanity that was unconvincing at best.  no, time was not the only thing wasted…but it was the shortest rationale he could make.  it was a waste of time.  elegant.  simple.  irrefutable.  ambivalent and morally ambiguous.

though it felt odorless and sterile, the café eventually became determined and truly peopled.  he lifted his head and nodded to the side to try and unclick the stiffened joints in his neck…then the smell of burnt espresso beans began to waft by, and all the little puddles of condensation and ringlets of milk started to glow on the tables around him.  but it was only the exasperation of his eyes, not a message from the universe.  he looked around as if new to his surroundings, shaking off the concentrated stress and letting his mind wander to the contemplation of the paintings covering the brick walls from floor to ceiling.  why does everyone’s face in every painting have to be elongated or exaggerated, and why are the bodies scrawny and sexless and wrinkled and angular, and why are the colors pink and blue and yellow except for the eyes?  awakening to the sights of the other customers at other tables, he saw them also as angular and wrinkled and sexless and scrawny and understood why the paintings went unnoticed.

the typing resumed.  ironic to call it writing.  he wrote before.  with ink, on paper, in notebooks.  now it’s typing being done with writing getting all the credit.  But it was the only way to sneak past the finger pointers and staring scorn.  He was writing a dissertation…not yet a punishable offense, but certainly a cause for ridicule at best, severe humiliation and public shunning at worst.

It was not always so shameful. in past days it was elite.  It was noble.  It was something that elevated one to a lofty tower.  it placed one in the institution…THE institution.  It was very much monastic, as Hesse envisioned, and filled with arcane catechisms and special sacraments…tenure, sabbaticals, publications. it was once the mark of knowledge…the recognition that one has dived to the dark, unfathomable depths of pedantry and minutiae…the ultimate definitive branding of expertise about topics for which an infinitesimally small number of humans had even a spark of interest at some moment.  The PhD…that zenith…was not the top of a mountain…it was, in the end, a maximally condensed unnoticeable atomic point. and at some point in the common era, as more of these points started to converge…and seeing that nothing was being built, despite their accumulation…they began to lose status, as did their progenitors. In a generation, a PhD more often became the mark of commitment to a supreme and irrefutable uselessness.  One no longer spoke of it…those that had them already burned into their life story began to shred their business cards, to remove the letters that were now a painful vestige…a squamous cell tumor that one paid a heavy price to receive, and an even heavier price to remove.  And the numbers began to drop off, starting with the humanities.  And then some of the social sciences.  But then a curious thing began to happen…the counter-degrees of instrumentality began to sprout like weeds…progressive colleges lopped off the liberal arts and specialized in some form of instrumental learning, offering the degree of Doctor Instrumentalis…the I.D….the expert who only knows how to make things work, but has no idea why they are there, what they mean.  No longer did activities contain a history…instead, they lived in an eternal present.  The university became the dispenser of instructional manuals made flesh.

A moment in the future if the Quantoids achieve world domination…

“click. –other news today, a change in the correlation between RBIs and left-handed hitters has caused baseball coaches on 37% of all professional teams to propose a 19.5% increase in the number of left-handed hitters recruited by scouts for 2011.  This just days after declaring no statistically significant increase in runs when using right-handed pitchers.  Fans are crying foul.  82% of male baseball fans are accusing major league baseball of type 1 errors and demand at a validity check on at least 8 factors.  On our phone lines are some of those fans, chosen at random.  We have Ken on the line.  Hello Ken!  Tell us what you think the problem is.  ‘Well, Mike, the way I sees it is dat dese owners don’t want to sit at the table and talk margin of errors, y’know…it’s uh…all dis talk about validity coverin’ up da real issue.  Remember dat multiple regression dey did back in da 90s…suddenly dey act like it ain’t been done.  We know what’s goin’ on, and dey ain’t gonna solve it usin’ just some ANCOVAs.’  – Uh, Ken…I want to ask you, does this change the likelihood of you attending a baseball game in the near future? ‘Mike, I wouldn’t be an American if I didn’t say dat given what’s goin’ on wit all da independent variables, it is highly likely dat I will attend at least one game widdin da next 16 weeks, wit a margin o’ error of .02’ Thanks, Ken.  And now we’ll move on to footb-click”

“Honey, stop hitting the snooze.  You know that will throw off our schedule.  What’s the forecast for the morning?”

“EyeKnow says that the conditions are favorable for eating bacon and eggs, even if you factor in our ages and BMIs.  Also says that there’s now a negative correlation between having sex in the morning and having bad days.” 

“Is that true, or are you making it up to suggest something?”  She giggled.

“Okay…you got me.  What’s it now, 71.85% of my suggestions are just flirtations with no real desire to instigate anything?  I can’t remember.  You got the scope.”

“It’s more than that, but I’ll never tell.”  She giggled again.

“So, should we get up?”

“You know we’re already late.  The news says that for every five minutes we delay in the morning, we’ll experience a 2.3% decrease in our productivity throughout the day.”

“yes yes…I know…2.3% isn’t so bad.”

“are you kidding?”

“I don’t know…let me check…” runs some calculations…”yes, I cannot reject the null hypothesis.”

“You’re sexier when you acknowledge your faults.  Now give me my one kiss for the week now, while I’m still in a good mood.”

“Okay, but a guy at work was telling me that there’s a high probability that we’ll be up to 1.1 kisses per week before the year’s out.  Better get those lips ready!”

“haha.  You’re really funny this morning.  That must mean it’s probable that you’re hiding some insecurity.  Judging by the type of humor, I predict that it’s based on the fact that you’ve gained 3.2 pounds this week.”

“Agreed.  Now, about that kiss…let me check if I want tongue…hmmm…looks like it’s a low-germ risk today, but not looking good for tomorrow.  So tongue it is.”

“Did you factor in my family history of diabetes?”

“Oh…right…crap.  Okay…looks like no tongue for a while.  So let’s kiss.”

They kiss.  They roll out of bed.  No more words. 

He hits the bathroom and thinks…

“The latest research says that peeing first, prior to brushing my teeth, will increase the likelihood of my toothbrush having unwanted bacteria by just under 4%.  But if I wait until after I brush my teeth, my risk for developing kidney problems by the time I’m 50 will increase .003%.  However, when I factor in the amount of water I took in last evening to flush out my system, the increase is much smaller…about .0019%.  Okay, so I will brush my teeth first, then pee.” 

Even more premature literature plucked well before its time

There’s this place you get to when you try, but only catch a glimpse of debilitating junctures for fleeting instants…where you become impotent because you waited too long to make a decision and now you’re simply stuck on the train without the ability to get off anywhere…it’s all non-stop stops.  You can’t jump off.  Worse than that, you become an infinite regress.

So let me explain what happened.

I was once this kid who stayed in his room and read and drew comics and imagined himself getting out of the projects…who believed that if everyone else was doing it, then it was stupid and wrong…who fantasized about being lots of things, none of them what I became.

Then I was this seedling bohemian…there at the scenes, but not orchestrating them.  Dabbling in things that today are nostalgically cool, but things that had scared me enough to only dabble.

Then there was the recurring dreams of running through the empty city, twilight hours, no people…trying to get home, but not knowing where that was, and not being able to walk or ride there.  Early versions had me in a running race in the streets, the kids I grew up with goading me into running in a direction that ultimately turned out to be wrong…and then I was alone.  But then the dream over the years become simplified, and I accepted…it was just me, lost and alone, but not fretting…not struggling.  The fight became dull and uninspired and I knew that lost was the permanent condition.

I have come to one of those junctures now.  I am compelled to write about the past…my past…but am crippled and sick of it.  Trying to write it makes me nauseous, thinking of it hurts…and I want to stop and instead write of a future.  Or better still, I want to write about someone else.  Someone I make up for the purposes of being a life in rhetoric…a person with a story that is not mine, but only my creation.  This is difficult, because I have not been able to write far from myself…the central point is me, and venturing away from me is getting lost.  It’s the dream.  Perhaps it’s the natural evolution…the first part is me listening to others, and getting lost and scared…then it’s me being lost and accepting it as a permanent condition…perhaps it is time to get lost on purpose.

And now another juncture.  Because I live in an information rich world…one that is complex and fast and slippery…and nobody writes the simple story anymore.  So this juncture has me stuck between my atrophied mental muscles and the requirement that participation is strenuous and hyper.  This is a pixilated world now, with no spaces between the pixels…no new territory…no openings, just dots on a giant grid.  This is a time to be stuck simply because every move is pre-ordained, every move is measured and assessed…fame is a meme whose time has come, and its winning by changing the conditions by which fame is recognized and achieved.  What makes fame a great product is that so many people want it, and are perfectly content with its laughably short shelf-life.  There is little that we can do in the physical world that is not susceptible to the panoptical audacity of fame.  So I cannot figure out how to write something that sidesteps ever-encroaching shadow of fame potential.  In other words, how can I write anything that does not make it seem as though I’m writing this for attention?

Maybe fame isn’t the same as attention, though.

Can’t something be a submerged pleasure?

Next juncture is digression…which is the opposite of attention.  If I cannot get the reader’s attention…and by reader I mean you, whoever you are…then perhaps I can get your digression.  Or digress you.  Digression is diversion.  Slight of hand…do it well enough, you forget what you started with.  Which is a form of magic, is it not?

But the magic is rusty, and even I don’t believe my ruses.  I once constructed a painting…consisting of three different panels…where I took some pieces of my stories and glued them to the canvases, painting them rising or falling into a dark, graveyard-like murk…and at the bottom of the frames I had written in large letters “I DON’T” “BELIEVE” “MY OWN STORIES.”  It was a prediction.  Should have said “I WON’T.”  They say hindsight is 20-20, but what is hindsight that validates foresight?

Being creative is a form of polyamory…the forging of contingent relationship with other lovers who live as stories, constructions, songs.  Art is supposed to imitate life, or was it the reverse?  In either case, though, when one of these ends, the other also ends.  The really creative person is always alone at the core, but splashed into the lives of many other people and things.  I am no longer a splash, I’m more like a wall.  There, non-moving, sulking…watching as others are creative.  I am retired.  That should be the revelation of it all.  It’s not writer’s block.  It’s life block.  I have hung up the pen, the brush, the drums…I dream of being lost, but it’s really about having lost the ability to choose to be lost.  Creativity is about choosing a thing to get yourself lost inside.

Getting lost is the problem.  I just don’t know where I live.  Getting lost is not knowing where you are.  So why don’t I know where I live?  Same reason I can no longer write.

Sometimes we get lost in ourselves…we evolve into Narcissus, slowly over time.  And the only angle we have on the world is the one that has “I” as its locus.  It is probably a sign of weakness…maybe disease…when the only way a writer can move from mind to paper is on the grandiose trajectory of “I.”

I is depressing me.  I think it’s a symptom of an illness.