Thursday, June 30, 2005

these days

"So, what are you doing these days, anyway? You're up all night hammering away at the keyboard - those chapters you sent me last week are in desperate need of a serious reorganisational effort, by the way - but what do you do all day? Is it sleep, then?"

"The day is spent trying to sleep, yes - and read."

"Well, no wonder - you're tossing and turning trying to hold together a world which doesn't exist outside of your own head. Why not try your hand at writing something real. Something, you know, not so fictional."

"But can it not be at least a little bit fictional?"

"I suppose, but if you ask me, fiction is a big waste of time. You should try your hand at - sorry, could you pass the salt? Thanks - you should try your hand at something a little more real - something like photography. I'll bet photographers sleep rather soundly."

"Photography! Everyone is a photographer these days. Everyone in this room right now is a bloody photographer! No, absolutely not."

"Well, it seems that everyone these days is a writer as well. What is this thing you're building, this blog? Fairly common medium these days is it not?"

"That's not writing, that's blogging; there's a gigantic difference. In fact, you could fly a 747, march the Chinese army, or two-step with Michael Moore through the huge space between writing and blogging."

"If you say so. However, in my humblest of opinions, that's a distinction without a difference. And hey, was that a crack at my weight? Very sensitive subject I'll have you know."

"No, no, sorry. Just finish up so we can have her bring us the dessert menu, will you?"

"Right on."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

last track

Your last song will be a short one. Truncated, and abruptly terminated, it'll give the impression of further length without actually doing any such thing. Like a pyramid with the top cut off, it'll imply further height without going anywhere. The end of your days will be just like that. People will say: "But she was right in the middle of," "She was just about to," "She was planning on," but the words will never come; pruned sentences, their growth stopped forever. Eternal life in the wishful thinking of others, all abandoned plans and jilted loved ones.

Childhood is a million paths leading nowhere and everywhere. Empty days filled to the brim with nothing but a bitter liquid future, it burns the mouths of all who drink of it, but leaves them wanted more. You were that little girl once, all bright eyed and cheery, idealistic and sanguine, stealing sips from the cup with a thirst that would soon turn from sips to slurps, from slurps to swigs, and finally from swigs to simple swilling. You were hooked, made delirious by the intoxicating effects of that vile poison. The future: shit - what a crock. If you had known this is where you were going, you never would have left.

So, you're an adult now. A million paths leading nowhere and everywhere. Rats in a maze. You've heard it before, but it still seems so appropriate. Looking around, it's so easy to imagine that everyone else has found their place. And they have. Madly running from point A to B and back again, they all look the same - they all are the same.

And you? You're still fostering a secret addiction: the future. You can't get enough. You drink it in the form of gallons of coffee and pints of alcohol. You smoke it in cigarettes. It's in that McDonald's sandwich you ate this morning, that candybar this afternoon. You've got a stash of it in your pantry, under your bed, and tucked beneath the cushions of your Ikea couch.

You're growing tired of this album - so tired. You long to skip to the next song - and you would if you could only get off the couch. And where's that remote anyway? A million miles away, down a different path. You hum the tune of that slow, sad song, louder and louder, until you can no longer hear the current track. The last track: so slow, so sad, so sweet. So far away. Music to your ears - too bad it's not longer.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

the easy part

Here's what you said to me: "Take it from someone who's made it, kid - gettin' here's the easy part." Out of all the words spoken during that afternoon, I remember those thirteen most clearly. I knew what you meant, then, and I still know, now, but to this day I've had troubling finding a way to use that bit of - what was it? Advice? More wisdom than advice, I suppose. And more insight than wisdom. Insight - ha! Lot of good it's done me these past, what, four years?

God, time flies. Even then you called me kid. Imagine, me, a then twenty-five year old man being called kid. It wasn't condescension, but it wasn't affection, either. What was it - a distant familiarity? Kid - a word used by the old. A word ground sharp by envy. Envy - that's what it was. Your voice rang of it. It was on your breath, bitter and heavy. It dripped from your widening pores, and ran streaming down your wrinkling skin.

Youth - it surrounds, smothers, and chokes you. The endless chatter of young mouths preaching new trends, new ideas, and new worlds - the tintinnabulation of a thousand bells ringing in your ears, all discord and cacophony. Living their lives faster than ever, movin' on up. But to where? Adulthood. Maturity. Oldness. Staleness. "Gettin' here's the easy part" - it wasn't insight so much as it was a threat.


An old man
taps his cane,
biding time.

A little girl
galloping by.

Time plays
its game,
moving quicker
for one than
the other-

and fleeting
in the park.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Right Eye, Reversed

So, what's it mean?

Nothing, really - it's a close-up of a model's right eye, reversed.

I see. Well, why didn't you just use the left eye?

I liked her right, better.

And do you remember her name?

No, and I don't really care to.

Done anything interesting since?

Not particularly.

No, you haven't done anything interesting or no, you haven't done anything at all.

A little of both, I suppose.

You should paint more - you're good at it.

Well, sometimes being good at something isn't necessarily enough of a reason to take something seriously.

Okay, well, I guess I don't really know what to say about that.

Bye, then.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Love, sometimes

You're taught certain things from childhood, onwards.

01. That you will one day be interesting.
02. That you will one day find movie love.
03. That you will one day be smart enough.
04. That you will one day find your place in Jobland.
05. That you will one day be talented.
06. That you will one day have nice things.
07. That you will one day own a perfect home.
08. That you will one day be responsible.
09. That you will one day head a happy family.
10. That you will one day be content.

All of these things come later, of course. Always later. Instead of teaching these things, people should be taught one thing: that you will one day realise you've spent your whole life waiting; and only then does life begin.

Friday, June 17, 2005

ideas in exile

What is it that I write here? Not my greatest work, certainly, but also not my worst. (The very worst is reserved for emails, in which I type as fast as I can think with little regard to form or content.) So, what is it that I write here? I suppose this is a repository, of sorts, for all of my malformed, misshapen ideas - all the ideas which have no other place in any of my other writings. (But this is the easy answer, and even I know it is a lie.) It's a place to deposit random ideas, so that I might have room to think of other things. How many memories can a human brain hold? Is it possible to run out of space? The artist's fear: that this is possible. Too many images. Too many visions. Too much beauty. A mad rush to get ink on paper, paint on canvas, to work out that melody on the piano. Banish them from mind. Ideas in exile.

This morning, I wake early to watch the rain clouds roll in. All misty-eyed and quiver-jawed, too tired, hungover, staring out the window at a grey outside. A cup of coffee growing cold. Wet pavement growing wetter. Trees, already too green, drowning. Saturated. Waterlogged. Like me. My house can't stand the silence, so she creaks in the wind. Her windows rattle. Bored for a century. Memories of last night: too much drink, bass thumping, lights flickering on shiny ice cubes. Yell, dance, drink, ad nauseam. Stock memories, they need no special place to reside, for they are everyone's memories. Dance between the beats unless you want to look like a fool; think between the memories unless you want to be a fool. Why go out? Why leave the house, ever? It's all been done before.

How far is it from my door to yours? The distance is static, and can be covered in an unchanging amount of time, with an unchanging amount of energy expenditure - it matters not when I leave, but which route I take to get there; and, in this case, there is only one. I'll get there, still tired and maybe a little hungover. I'll be wet with rain and my sneakers will be muddy from walking in the alleyway. Oh, and I'll be a little late because I had to get this out of my mind. This important note to remind myself of what I'm doing here - recording memories and ideas, so that I might have room to think of other things. In a sense, I've reminded myself to remind myself not to remind myself. A pointless task. I pull open the front door, and the house gasps for a breath of fresh air. Stifled. I step outside, into the rain, and she is glad to be alone.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Neat 10s

More rain-
trees, already too green,

A bird chirps
from the highest branch-
sad songs,

Lightning close by-
more rain

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Into the Deep

These hallowed halls. You. Your colleague's voice. The rhythmic click click clicking of her high heels on the cold stone floor. What's she saying? Something about a student, Stephen, an essay. She's quoting, you think. But why can't you just concentrate?

Today, in ten minutes, a talk on the Future of Reality. At the end of this hall, you'll turn right and enter the old amphitheater. You know this because you visited the room briefly last week. Musty, smelling of old wood and cloth, dampness, dirt - lies. When was all of this built? Seventeen hundred something, you think. Who built it? An architect, long dead, now nothing but bones in a box beneath the ground. His name is on a cornerstone by the high arch of the front entrance, but you didn't pay it enough attention on the way in to catch it. Same with last time you were here. And the time before that.

At the end of this hall, you'll turn right and enter the old amphitheater. There, your colleague and you will part ways - she'll head to the front row to join the others, and you'll walk up to the lectern to spread your papers out. You'll turn to pull down the cloth screen at the back of the stage. You'll switch on the slide projector to make sure it's working. Rote. There, you'll stand. Confident, alone, with just your slide-changer-laser-pointer-thingy in your hand. What are those called? There must be a name. Everything has a name.

Alone. You remember reading about Derrida's lectures at UCLA. He needed a security team to protect him, lest he get mobbed by adoring students. He was like a rockstar. He was never alone. In ten minutes, you will be on one side of the great divide - a fifteen foot expanse of marble flooring - and all the others will sit opposite. In front of you, the first row, colleagues; serious. Behind them, their assistants and admirers; restless. Behind them, a mass of nameless faces; giggling. As you open your mouth to speak, your mind will be a blank, but for the Future of Reality. A hush will fall.

Afterwards, there will be a smattering of predictable questions. Nothing surprising. An eager, but nervous, boy will approach you as you step down from the stage. You'll shake his hand, and take the book from his outstretched other - a dogeared copy of your first. He intends for you to sign it. Opening the front cover you'll see a price written in pencil: $6.50. You get around. Just as you press pen to paper, the boy will speak. He'll ask: "What if I choose to reject the future reality?" You'll pause, pen to paper, and shift your weight from one foot to the other. You'll bite your bottom lip, staring at that blank page. You'll write: I bid you adieu. Be safe in your travels - godspeed. One adventurer striking out on his own, setting sail for uncharted waters. Envious, you'll close the book, smile, and pass it back. The boy's gonna be alright.

You'll fade into the midst of blazers and pantsuits, tweed coats and scarves. A couple pats on the back. Some random handshakes. Smiles all around. You'll walk, as a pack, back down these hallowed halls, through the great arched doorway, and past that cornerstone. You'll miss the name again. The rain will come fast. You'll pop your umbrella, just like the others, and everyone will scurry off to their luxury cars. You'll sit there, cold and wet, watching rainwater stream down the windshield. It runs with the fluidity of time. Your future is now; this is your reality. You'll turn the key. Predictably, the engine will start. Nothing surprising.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Four paragraphs and five hundred, thirty-one words to say you're not quite forgotten


The capital was a crumbling city in the south of the southernmost province. Large and violent, average and stilled, small and peaceful; it was all of these things. What more would you expect from a city with a one-word name? It was easy to forget about her there. In the small town where I grew up, I would often see her face between the patches of sunlight lazing on the sidewalk, and amongst the cottony clouds lounging in the sky. And it wasn't unusual to catch a flickering glimpse of her reflection in the store windows on the postcard-perfect mainstreet; all the places we had been together, and all the places we never made it to - they had outlived what was us.


So I fled to the city to flee her. It rained that whole first week I was there, and instead of looking for work, I spent my time splashing in the giant mud puddles which lined the street. But I didn't chastise myself for irresponsibility, then, and I don't, now; that week's worth of mud puddle splashing was worth much more than any paycheque I would have received working, and I knew it. There's something infinite in experience which is not present in the mundane paper and ink of a paycheque. Something which can not be squandered. Something which can not be lost. Something which can not be stolen. But something happened between the mud puddles and the hospital. I'm not sure what, exactly, but it had to do with a clearing of weather, a clearing of mind, a clearing of senses. I was sitting on a curb outside of a coffee shop when they took me away.


Each day he came; glowing scrubs, a glowing smock, and a glowing smile. Everything about that man was golden. We talked, or, conversed, rather. I spent hours listening to him, and answering his questions. And he listened to me, and answered mine. Now, in the present, nineteen words stand out: "Time is like money," he said, "it drips away little by little, so slowly you don't even realise it's leaving you." That made sense to me. Actually, a lot of what he said made sense, and before long, I was waving goodbye to the glowing man from the backseat of a white sedan.


Not having an address, I was dropped off outside of a gleaming tower downtown, and introduced to myself by means of my reflection in the dusty windowglass of a bank. I had changed. Large and violent, average and stilled, small and peaceful; I was all of these things. I had left behind the me of an undetermined time ago - that carefree dreamer, that insouciant stargazer - and I had arrived there in the present to be met with another man altogether; a man who knew the value of time, a man who knew not to waste time, and a man who kept his time secure, close at hand. That afternoon, that new man set out to find a job. The sun hid behind a taut tarpaulin of grey clouds. The store windows were quiet. There was not a sign of her anywhere. But still, he searched.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Still Life: a collection of nothing

How could I have missed it? Flower petals unfurling; a slow, sad waltz. The girl at the plant shop told me: "They really flourish when in distress. You want flowers? Snap off a branch, let your cat go at it. Soon you'll have more flowers than you know what to do with - they like the abuse." Sure, I have flowers now, but I can't seem to get my cat to stay out of the tulips. The veterinarian told me: "Cat's don't learn by way of threats or physical discipline. They take such actions as challenges, and such actions will generally make them act out all the more." I guess what he's saying is: cats are not plants.

The cat's meticulous stretch, a yawn, practiced and precise. He's tired because he's done nothing all day; I'm tired for the same reason. The difference: my yawn is a yawn of the defeated, whispering of the failure, discontentment, and anxiety of a wasted day. The cat's is a yawn of the champion, brimming with the pride, smugness, and indifference of a wasted day. As I close up my book and switch off the lamp, I think I spot a twitch across the room. The leaves of the plant. A yawn, perhaps. Contagious.

What is the one thing more exclusive than writing? Reading, of course. One human being sees another reading and feels irritated. Why? They are irritated because they are being left out. Reading is antisocial. Reading alienates. Reading is not for team players. I hear the pick pick picking of a cat sharpening his claws on new upholstery. I turn my head and catch him in the act. I also catch myself before I yell out what I'm thinking, reminding myself: cat's don't learn by way of threats. Cats also don't listen, cats are selfish, and cats are antisocial - cats should really take up reading. I vacate my chair, stalk across the room, and deftly snap a branch from the plant. Smug bastard - take that. How could I have missed it? Flower petals unfurling; a contemptuous, mocking act.