Sunday, August 20, 2017

We Are This Sensation That Keeps Happening


How many people live in your heart? I have a population of two million. My back hurts. I’m stuck in this position until my mind spreads its wings and I leave the earth and remember the power of my grandfather’s coffee. Most of my narratives include at least one accordion but this time I’m going to insert a slice of cherry pie and the dream of a silver moon. We are this sensation that keeps happening, you and I, because we’re alive and that’s what happens when you’re alive, you grow a periscope or you don’t, and I mean that in its most metaphorical sense. I like to explain how things work but this time I’m just going to back away and let things happen on their own. Think of this as water running through a hose. The house of language is spinning through space. I’m immersed in language and pushing these words toward you. Why? Because I visited Great Falls, Montana, once. I mean, what exactly goes on the life of an oyster anyway?
These are my experiments in dirt. No, the locomotive isn’t an oval, but it is symbolic. I put it here for the details, which are combustible, and brassy as a T-shirt. The river is full of counsel. We should listen to the water. It seems to know what it’s doing. Water is like that. So transparent, so full of currents and fish. The sturgeons are gregarious and the pickerel are lost. This catfish is a handful of consonants, and this vowel is a creamy discharge. It comes out of the word ‘conduit.’
I’m concerned with the camels. Arthur Rimbaud keeps piling goods on their backs. It’s a long way across the Danakil Desert. The horizon resembles a rugged knife. The salt has the weight of an archaic stamp.
But that was another lifetime ago, before the Beatles or Allen Ginsberg. Today the goats are helping the carpenter of the sky build a beautiful waterfall. This will achieve the humidity of a cardiovascular tomahawk as fleshy folds of indignity boil in the vigilante’s violin.
The air gets cool and dimples the intervals like vespers in a Yorkshire gym. I see no chicken whose shape in chocolate would circumscribe my guests. Ergo, I forego the lanolin, and prepare for transit.
Independent portholes chronicle the passage of Greenland.
I love my desk. Did I mention cranberry? Colors burst out of me. Some of them are charming and some of them are bitter as wormwood, or the chancellors of Germany. These colors drift quietly to the floor and become fairy tales in which the marsh tells tales of thorny sprawl. Colors are just the humors of an icy whippoorwill. There will be more when the kneecaps arrive with their lambent taxis and vegetable hats. Nothing is insentient, not even TV evangelists. Everything grins on the subatomic level. The recitals are sluttish but the diseases are memorable.
The world itself is a fabrication, so why not the crunch of gravel beneath your feet? There are circumstances in which a panacea of light strikes the lake with its ribbons of gold and I can hear the smell of the ceiling and it’s a balm to the axle of my nerves. This is called reflection, and is welcome to the portfolio of life.
Are you aware right now of what’s happening? The mailbox antenna speeds into the sponge of the future spinning strands of the past.
This search isn’t over. There is a bubbly autonomy to these words as they percolate through consciousness.
Where did the goats go?
They’re still here. They’re standing on my head, grazing tufts of Ethiopian coffee.
What would I do without poetry? I’d still have the creak of the door and the laundry to fold.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

Even Nowhere Is Somewhere


I travel the flame of the candle as it flourishes on the wick. The flame is the same golden tint as the light in Rembrandt’s painting of the philosopher seated by a window, and the fire in the adjacent room, under a spiral staircase, which is being tended by an old woman.
The wick is an invention, created, in this instance, for its light, which is dim and soft, and easy to install in a sentence.
I insist on roots. Clarinets enhance my sophistry. A junkyard moan urges conference with apparitions of surf. Is this a dream, or a table? Ingredients of geometry emerge as habits, windows and chairs.
There is this to say about envy: I don’t envy it. It has no geometry. It has no shape. It’s just a perversion of golf. Elevations walk beside it, dreaming of summits and rocks.
Expect secretions. They will come to you as yachts and romance. Shirts will sometimes occur and require buttoning. Corners prove nothing but offer palettes for our understanding. You can inflate them with your perception until they break into sound and develop sentences of their own.
This will walk beside you until we get somewhere.
Decorations don’t really help. They just lead to clutter. But what word isn’t a decoration? All words are ornaments. They decorate silence. The void beneath everything.
Guzzle it. Guzzle the void. It tastes of release, and the relish of snakes.
It was believed in ancient Greece that if a snake licked your ears you would have the gift of prophecy.
My words create a snake. The mouth does this at room temperature. But if the words aren’t spoken, they remain words. Unzipped zippers. Latencies. They only become a snake when the mouth opens and lets the words out in the proper order.
What order? The order of words that create a snake. Imagination that gives it blood and movement. This idea, this approach.
This pattern, this snake. The snake that tells me that being is a flaw in the purity of non-being.
Many suns revolve in the void, said Nietzsche, who knew something about being and non-being.
I rub fat on the glow of a sound.  There is a shadow that is not affected by pain. It is the shadow of the words born in pain. The words make a sound. I rub the sound. The sound glows.
Being is a gerund of carpentry. The white root of a tapped table that jumps into dreaming and is a sign of indolence. The propagation of a Renaissance lung occurring a little to the side like a flourishing bag of skin carrying a sample of air breathed in the light of Palermo. I elect a needle to the tale of my cocoon. I grow into my wings. I break through the skin of the cocoon. I begin the journey in joy. I end the journey in Bellagio.
And then there is swimming. That’s a whole new sensation. It’s hard to tell a joke in the middle of a lake. Especially when you’re drowning.
Don’t drown. Hear the odor of my breath. Exhilaration in the hippopotamus gum drawer. Chameleon falling through a moment of buttermilk. Thin cure for the tongue of vines.
Naked luxurious nothing. I calculate pasta. I’m lazy. I’m cold. I have a chasm in my heart.  I’m equipped to perceive the imperceptible. The disentanglement of time and water. Simple hammers. The flash of the mind. Emotions swarming the end of a dock in total obscurity. You only get one life. And so regret is the echo of everything undone or done wrong. And there are ways to forget that. There are ways to let that go. One way is to concentrate on the moment. Another is to get in a boat and begin rowing. Just do that. Dip the oar, pull it, dip it again, pull it. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself somewhere. It might be nowhere, but it will be somewhere. Even nowhere is somewhere.











Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Heaven Is An Iris In The Eye Of A Cat


It’s a relief to see that the quality of the air is good today. Those wildfires in British Columbia have been raising havoc, days so hazy nothing is visible at fifty paces and the sky is a clumsy shock-absorber sitting at the far end of the bar. The sun got lost in its way east and had to check in at a Motel Six in Bozeman, Montana.
I don’t take the air lightly. I need it for making things. Moths and crustaceans, breath and laughter, chickadees and rust. The taste of things. The taste of raspberry jam. Bananas. Bread. Peanut butter.
Hummus. Cucumber. Hope.
Hope is bittersweet, a little like truffles, but with an angry aftertaste, belligerent and earnest, like a hardware store.
But let’s not get lost in the clouds. I don’t want to spook the cattle.
Some things, however, must be combustible in order to invoke the spirits. The spirits of the air, the spirits of the river, the spirits of fire and earth. The spirits of the absurd, which is laughter, and the spirits of breath, which are words.
Breath and laughter are rubbed together to produce poetry, which no one reads, and that makes it grotesque and private, the way it should be. Poetry fills the air with images and that frightens people. Images conjure thought. Association, interrelation, correlation. Nobody likes to think. Why would they? Thinking subverts the flat and literal and quarrels with the given, the monolithic. Life ceases to be a faked wrestling match and assumes the grandeur of trout.
Dexterity in the civil war wasn’t just a stylistic trait, it was a means to survival.
We all want to pull things out of the air. Rabbits, frogs, Manhattan in the 1870s. But no one wants to risk fragmenting circumambient space. That’s not what the armchair is for. The armchair exists for the quiet parable of our times.
Pulling things out of the air isn’t natural. It leads to enchantment. Enchantment in a disenchanted world can be a thorny predicament for anyone, but it’s especially hard on opera singers and postcards. For others, the goal is elusive, but simpler: it is writing well and taking the inner oak of oneself and floating it among the thieves of social conformity.
We must defend what we love. Enthusiasms are rare. My father gathered glowworms and put them in a jar so that he could read at night. Brancusi carved a bird in flight. Georgia O'Keefe painted orchids, hundreds of them. Enthusiasms are what happens when the universe smiles in our blood. Capitalism doesn’t like that. Capitalism wants you to buy things. If you’re happy and you don’t need to buy something to make you happy, capitalism gets nervous and does something to take it away from you. Capitalism gives you a job.
Imagination gives you everything. A white-feathered dream-catcher in a white Ford sedan. Atmospheres and maps. The solace of fire, the requiems of fog.
I gaze at the Seine flow under the Pont Neuf in Paris on my laptop screen while I wait for the blood to re-enter my leg so that I can get up and get something to drink.
Imagination is what happens when ripples move to the shore in Shakespeare’s sonnet, each changing place with that which goes before.
Water and waves are one, observes Shunryu Suzuki. Big mind and small mind are one. When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling.
Me, I like to float.
I like to go underwater and hear the world and its funny burbling sounds down there close to the sand, which is rippled, and glittery in places.
And then pop back up and there it is: a row of poplars bowing to the wind.
I haven’t done that in a long time, not since the lake became polluted, and I spent a day in the hospital with an infection, nobody knew what, I never heard what appeared in that petri dish they kept down in the lab as I imagined it, something like mildew on the surface, I don’t know, they never told me, they just pumped me full of antibiotics and morphine, until it was over, I was released from quarantine, got dressed, and re-entered the world.
Climate change: it’s made the microbes meaner and tougher and more prevalent. So there’s that.
XRDS in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is on my laptop tonight. Blues roots radio in the birthplace of the blues. That’s the trade-off, I guess. All this technology, all this circuitry, has led us into hell while also giving us twenty-four-hour blues. Which is heaven to my ears.
Heaven isn’t a place. Heaven is an iris in the eye of a cat.
I feel the carpentry of the sky in my knee. I slide a cranky nerve through the weight of the sunlight. The lawn is a big friend.
So is morning. Who doesn’t like morning? People who like the night.
August is the month of moths and hummingbirds, the pulleys of the clouds, the distillation of myriad sensations, the tiaras of configuration, the sparkle of intrigue, the recommendations of trees and the portfolios of the sun.
I rub Athena’s black furry head and listen to Sera Cahoone pluck a Gibson guitar.
The rest of my day is a postmark predicated on circumlocution. Two mugs of coffee and a long wide sentence leading nowhere.






Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Goldilocks Zone


It’s hilarious, how disconnected I’ve become from the land. I never spent enough time on my grandparent’s farm in North Dakota to learn how to work the earth. I know it takes the power of a tractor and steel blades, moldboard and share, to break the dirt into furrows, nice neat rows, lift the sod so that it tumbles back upside down. But then what? At what point do you put seeds in? How do you get those seeds put in? Is there a machine for that? What if the weather is crazy, too wet, too dry, and all that effort is for nothing, nothing grows, it comes up withered and weird, or the hail gets it, or the bugs, or the deer, how do you eat?
It’s mostly all frakked land now anyway. Would I even want to grow anything there? Would I even want to live there? What water would I drink?
So suppose it happens, the economy tanks, money disappears, the currency in my wallet means nothing, it’s just paper with pictures on it, and the money in the bank, which is just numbers, just pixels in a computer, is rendered null and void. No food on the grocery shelves. Hungry people roaming the streets, armed with guns and knives. What then?
Costco sells an American Red Cross 72-hour food kit. It contains 2,100 calories per day for each of four people. Items enclosed include brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, cheddar broccoli rice, chicken flavored vegetable stew, hearty potato soup, and creamy cinnamon rice pudding. But what do you do when the 72 hours are up? Does anything grow in 72 hours? Should I get my .22 repaired? Could I kill and prepare a squirrel for eating? How close are we, exactly, to that kind of scenario? And I’m just talking about economic collapse, not nuclear holocaust. We don’t have a bomb shelter in our house. I don’t think getting under the bed would help much. It’s odd, a kind of amazing Zen joke, that one’s life should dangle from a thread at the caprice of a lunatic imbecile like Donald Trump. Every minute or so comes the phrase: I’m still here. I’m still here. I’m still here. It’s like the beating of a heart, the systole of amazement, the diastole of acceptance. The back and forth of anguish and resignation.
Consciousness doesn’t find it easy to accept non-existence. It’s hard to imagine. How can you think non-existence? You can’t think non-existence and expect to feel non-existence. You can only experience non-existence by not existing.
Until I wrote this, it did not exist, and so by writing it into existence, I have destroyed its prior condition and given it a new condition, which is hypothetical, and pieced together by combination and art. But if you were to ask me why, what is your intent in doing this, I couldn’t say, it won’t alter the conditions of the world, or prevent the madness of nuclear war. It’s a momentary diversion, think of it that way. It’s a rain drop running down a window in a hurricane. What is the meaning of life? I don’t know.
 Nothing is not; it nihilates itself. Being in the world is something different. Being in the world is being in relation to things. Being presupposes a purpose, and that’s where everything goes awry, falls of the table, and bounces into the hallway, where Jean-Paul Sartre appears with a bag of groceries, slips on it, and falls, spilling his groceries.
Fresh Manila clams, tomatoes, corn chips, peanut butter, popcorn.
I like to make things up as I go along and suspend them in freedom, as Plato does, where he makes the image of the absent one appear on the margin of his perception, like a sprint to the lake on a really hot summer day.
There are over 23,000 nuclear warheads currently in existence, more than enough to destroy the world.
And here I am listening to Blondie sing “Heart of Glass” and drying the bedsheets as if anything still mattered, life, civilization, poetry, art, law, purpose, pliers, pizza, olives.
Olives. Now there’s a fruit. Is it a fruit? Yes. Olives are drupes: they have a fleshy outside with a pit in the center. The pit is a seed. In Britain, it’s called a stone. The Dutch call it an Olijfput.
Olives in mythology: “According to Greek mythology, the creation of the olive tree was the result of a contest between Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and Poseidon, God of the Sea, as to who would become the protector of a newly built city in Attica (the historical region of Greece).”
But what good does it do, if I ain’t got you?
Or a place to live. Something like a habitable planet. Round, sweet, marbled and wet. Something within the Goldilocks Zone.
The Goldilocks Zone is what scientists consider to be the habitable zone in the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given an adequate atmospheric pressure. Ask a scientist what is the nearest habitable, earth-like planet and you will not get a direct, specific answer. You’ll get analogies and probabilities and multiple uses of the magical word “if.”
Best answer is an 85% probability that there are habitable planets near Alpha Centauri, which is 4.367 light years from Earth. Do we have enough gas to get there? Probably not. Are there filling stations along the way? Probably not. Are we currently, as it is, kind of fucked? Yes.
But, you know, like they say, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Keys


I have two sets of keys. One is for the car, and one is for the month of August. August is where I store important things like binoculars, or goats.
Sleep is a key to a world of dreams. It is a place of resurrection, a place where things are transformed into other things and things themselves are elegies of what they can never be.
Dreams float in my skull like birds of the Antarctic, albatross and penguins. The penguins do what the penguins do and the albatross glides through my mind like the guitar of Peter Green, a thing of grace and beauty.
I find minerals in Immanuel Kant. Some of them are red, like distress flares, or the morality of animals. Others shimmer like the punctuation of death.
It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.
And ends with architecture.
For instance, the Palace of Westminster, or the airplane sitting at the end of this sentence, its propellers spinning, the ailerons going up and down.
Why? Because it suggests a lofty idea of the plan of creation, and appears to me the most seductive, given a choice between a tuna sandwich and Dead Sea mud.
The minerals in Dead Sea mud, it is said, ease rheumatic pains, and provide tranquility. The tuna fish sandwich is an arbitrary thing like hair, and has meanings that echo with high school gymnasiums, and the enamel of enticing choices, decisions that unfurl into unmitigated profligacy.  
The mud in Ève Angeli’s hair throughout her appearance on Fort Boyard is another factor and should be entered into the poem as the kind of detail that creates ripples of investigation. Who is Ève Angeli? What is Fort Boyard? What is the true nature of mud and what can it tell us about plot and narrative?
Ève Angeli is a French pop singer. Fort Boyard is a French game show in which the contestants must win a key or a clue by successfully completing an ordeal, mud-wrestling an Amazonian woman or answering a riddle while snakes and spiders are poured on their heads. At the end of the show a gate is lifted and the contestants race into the courtyard occupied by three tigers. If the answer to a riddle is provided with one correct word, golden coins rain down. The winnings are given to a charity.
The true nature of mud is friendless as death in a universe of broken promises. This precipitates hell, which is another version of heaven, only upside-down. The contestants in Fort Boyard are eaten by tigers before they can reach the gold. This is both true and not true. It is true in the sense that it could be true but it is not true in the sense that mud is a kind of energy in which the mind finds reflections of itself in puddles and such, and is therefore gold. The mind comes raining down in the form of words and creates a metaphor that can only be mud.
Monique Angeon takes care of the tigers on Fort Boyard. She is from Martinique, and is no stranger to mud. She clears the tigers from the courtyard before the contestants arrive. She is a beautiful woman. The tigers are also beautiful. Their beauty is the beauty of the forest and is similar to mud. Their stripes are black because when the universe was created God’s tongs burned their fur. When God was finished with the tigers, he made lambs, according to Mr. William Blake, who writes to us from Hercules Road, London, England.
Mud likes to hang out in poetry because words like it. The word mud likes the other words and together they create a muddle. A deepening turbidity.
Stirred up sediment. Which is tantamount to stirred up sentiment.
If stirred up sediment is left alone the sediment will settle to the bottom and a clear pool of water will appear. It is the same with feelings, but different. When feelings settle at the bottom of the paragraph the rest of the words fall asleep. Dream arise. And this is a cause of igloos.   






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Smell Of Heat On Marble


A shy hip provides an almanac. Candle language. Drama driven by feeling open. The wind elf satisfies the monastery. Go summer lift the puddle to sparkle.
Begin a walrus muscle plaster. Bear kite memory that hovering is a body of mist. A neglecting season of notebook encounters. Radical swell for a cave of noble pedestrians. Thoughtful need for a planet that forges magnets of Nevada sage.
Fill up the redeeming career time with basement toys. I hope that a sad poplar will be born on the border. Hollow are the words of algebra. Run to the agate bandage and think of a design for the beauty of indecision. My arms swing the world in muslin it's lush and swirling and hitting our prayers with black shadows.
Wire for a map of pain. Palm underneath the weight of its own existence. Slip it where the mat is chained to propagation. The bear implies an embassy of onions, a turpentine Sunday opposite the reach of radar. The plumage of writing flows vague and verdant above the sleep of Big Sur where cypresses whisper philosophies of dirt to the sailing heavens and ants swarm the hills like famished opticians.
Climate caresses the wrinkles of the sea’s evident wish to create sensation, which is presumed to be assuagement, a solace for the traction of time. Wellness logs hover over the mucus of feudalism. Shadow plumage is drama, the narrative equivalent of starting a circus. Asia’s dream of an antenna tangle. Dagger spade needle soak.
And then he kissed me. He kissed me in a way I’d never been kissed before. The house, meanwhile, drinks its coherence from a cup of visibility. Visibility has a strong taste, a bit like Madagascar at twilight, or a banana split in Laramie, Wyoming, at about 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in late July or early August. Opinions stroll through the glaze of a distilled squint resulting in hawks.
This means that roots offer religious truths and paper. Anarchy seduces the Prince of Eggnog and gets naked in reincarnation. Incense hugs the distinction. The story proceeds by writing itself into tarantulas and performing a tarantella on the kitchen stove, which is distracted by an overhead fan. Infinity pauses to bark.
Bee rock browsed in a fever no one would tear up in a million years. Saucy astronomy. Cricket attic cantata muscle. Emotional vibrations rippling in an irrigation ditch. Thermometer during novels written in food budget randomness.
Meaning is sometimes a pillow in which I hear time splashing its hands on a sandstone nose. Sadness sloth. Conflagration twirling. Gun kitten gentle geometry. Prickly prose available for ebullient mustache hunts.
The tongue stirs streams of words which go into the air and do things. The little king lowers himself on a knee below the awning and anoints a knuckle. I worry about the blatant kit of hoping to go fast in a field today. The hot melt to flex a drinking noise. The border has trees and yet a lazy pin is overflowing the image of itself.
When somebody does you a wrong, do you stay out all night long getting drunk, or do you fold yourself into a prayer and roll into the soft oblivion of sleep? Don’t be mean. Don’t lose your balance. Stay home. Squeeze something.
Is it getting better? Gray reason echoes a background of stars and hangs from yesterday, a hum of sonic jewelry. Time is a tenable crust, a shoulder of sun, a street for walking around in pants. Dramatic ripple of well-being that pops into drapery and lets the light come in and destroy the obscurity of fear. Meanwhile I'm sitting here waiting for you to enter my dream.
Flooding metal will want to solder socialism together with symptoms of resurrection. Avoid the north and be a mouth to the table. Habitat stool of milky history, abrupt and wet as a jellyfish. Undertake a beautiful ash, a wagging chameleon handwriting, and multiply. The mohair clarifies the ribbons by an aberrant speculation based on coffee.
Choose a muscle, choose a bone. Take a soldier, take a king. I will be waiting in the hallway. My shoes want to go somewhere. The pronouns are at it again, bending the world to their purpose.
Well, it happens. One must compose oneself. Combine hopping with hoping, imminence with immanence, thyme with time. And there is always sand, always some form of motion to be performed, thumbs raised, gardens tilled, wonders to behold. The sad beautiful clock of the backbone, the embroidery of winds on sandstone.
I undressed my beard bow and threaded the breast of morning with the gospel of nothingness. The cathedral puddle will help us find the consonants we need to soothe our nerves. The swell in the paper is a benevolent face. It appears when sunlight enhances the hardware the elves have so craftily arranged on the table and the face of the sky begins talking about France, each lip a tumble into charm. The weight of the sand will indicate that the weight of the oysters has been splashed by too much ocean, which is what the fingers expand as soon as we enter the waves, and so must be entered into our records, numbers full of wool, creosote falsettos.
It is the force of the wind to be smashed up to the mound. Accidental pedestrian kettles make it feel like a diving board. The process is also a form of sigh, an admission that words occur like sounds in a forest not of my own making. Sauerkraut and radar are enigmatic forms of fez. Carry the planet to the barn where we can get a better look at it.
My nerves belong to sapphire. I'm lazy that's true it’s a theory of hope. Feeling is for making noise. The garden’s distress is dazzling at the top of the pool. The smell of heat on marble is soft as the memory of well-being, and so becomes an occupation, a sport like baseball, but with more pauses, more mustard, more hanging around the dugout.




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Getting Weird On 6th Street


I remember taking a bath in a dilapidated house on Balbach Street in San Jose, circa 1973. It didn’t have a shower. Just a tub. I remember languishing there in the water, a little amazed that warm water could feel so good, when a mouse appeared. I looked at the mouse. The mouse looked at me. It was just that. A simple acknowledgment. The mouse scampered off and I never saw him again. I don’t think I’ve taken a bath since then. I prefer showers. I like the feeling of water hitting my body. It’s like getting splattered with punctuation, semicolons and commas. I come out of the shower feeling clean and grammatical. The narrative that is my life continues with little pauses and thoughtful hesitations. I like to drink time in small shots. None of my memories are all that big. I don’t remember being born at all. Does anybody? What kind of memory would that be, assuming anyone could remember that? One minute it’s dark, the next minute the world is huge and bright and people are looking at you, everybody smiling at your entrance.
Whatever happened to Bobby Darin? Funny, I never really got into that guy, but he did put out a lot of great music. “Dream Lover.” That’s a good one.
“Please Mr. Postman.” The Marvelettes. Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Wanda Young.
Things I have lost over time: my temper, my youth, my parents, my illusions, my direction, my patience, my innocence, a little incentive, a little hubris, two habits, three molars, one incisor, five jobs, two cats, eight theories, nine callings, seven thick glazes, four cars, countless socks, my train of thought, a Who ticket, and a pet rock named Slim.
I also lost a planet, but it wasn’t my fault. I blame capitalism.
“Take Me To The River.” Al Green. October, 1974. That was the year my dad drove me back to my studio apartment in San José. He took a sudden turn to the left off I-5 and headed west on Highway 26 which both surprised and annoyed me. I was eager to get back home and complete a paper on James Joyce’s Ulysses. He was like that. He’d get in a car and take turns on impulse. He liked looking at things. Landscapes especially. He liked taking pictures. It was also the year of the gas crisis and Kohoutek Comet. We’d stop along Highway 101 overlooking the rocky Oregon coast and looked west trying to search out what might be a comet. We never did see it. We spent the night at a motel in Coos Bay. The gas gauge was on empty. We got up early and checked out of the motel. I spotted a phone booth and phoned the state patrol for information about a nearby gas station that might be open. They didn’t have that information. There was nothing else to do but leave, or become residents of Coos Bay until the gas crisis was resolved. Happily, we found a gas station open on the outskirts of town. I finished my paper on Ulysses, my dad returned to Seattle, and Kohoutek became a song by the German band Kraftwerk called "Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie."
“Miss You.” Rolling Stones. May, 1978. I hated disco, but I’ve always really liked this song. It has a bluesy core. You get the coke scene and leisure suits and mirror ball decadence of that era, but with a nasty, visceral bass line and Richards’s open G tuning, it’s not just a song, it’s an attitude.
“Heart of Glass.” 1979. Another disco song that I liked. Can’t explain why. I just like it.
The most exciting thing about 1979 was that it was the end of the boring 70s. I had entered my 30s. Jimmy Carter gave his “Crisis in Confidence” speech, which I agreed with, we had more than an energy crisis, America was destructively materialistic, we had a moral and spiritual crisis, hard to believe now an American president would say such a thing, but he did, and I dug it, but the country didn’t, not at all, Carter and his sweet Georgia smile got booted out and in 1980 we got Ronald Reagan as president and thirty years of ecocide and obesity and consumerism on a grotesque scale that hasn’t diminished in the slightest but swelled like a dead body in a murky pestilential river.
1979 was the year my dad chartered a bus and invited a bunch of people to go see the total solar eclipse in Yakima, Washington. We boarded the bus near midnight. It looked like a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the with Donald Sutherland, which came out the previous year. I didn’t sleep. We arrived at about six o’clock. I brought a shoebox with a pinhole in it to view the eclipse. But as soon as it began to occur and the earth went from blue sky morning back to night and waves of darkness undulated over the grassy knoll and dogs and birds all went silent and I heard oohs and aahs from people I turned around and saw the blackest hole I’d ever seen with little scintillating golden beads around the rim.
I stop during my afternoon run to talk to a neighbor, a guy about my own age, about the horrors and weirdness of everything. He has the same sense of dread and derealization as R and I, a mega-maniacal North Korean dictator with a weird haircut throwing missiles into the ocean and threatening war and holocaust, a broken Federal government, a president with the intellect and behavior of a five-year old, ethics completely missing from all levels of culture, but especially healthcare, doctors have become crooks, the weird sudden scarcity of birds, R says the morning used to ring with the chatter of birds but lately there’s been nothing, few insects, dead bees littering the sidewalks, it’s spooky. I get going, my friend goes back to packing his car for a trip to Salt Lake City, which reminds of a trip R and I made to Boulder, Colorado in 1995, listening almost exclusively to the Cocteau Twins there and back, Allen Ginsberg giving an impromptu talk in a big white tent on the Naropa campus, discoursing brilliantly and vigorously on William Blake and Urizen, the idea that the hyper-rational mindset of the technocratic juggernaut that emerged from the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution had become destructive, so solidified that it didn’t allow for any feeling or generosity of imaginative space, all during a raging lightning storm that slapped up against the Rockies, I worried about lightning running through the microphone cords and lighting Ginsberg into a ball of St. Elmo’s fire. That same week the New Yorker magazine had Ginsberg on the cover, holding a pen to a lightning bolt.
1992. I’m ending a shift at the mailing service where I’ve been working for almost two decades, I have my hand on the doorknob, the radio is playing, I’m about to turn the knob and enter the soothing night air when I hear the opening chords to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and stop dead in my tracks. Wow. What’s this I wonder. I pause at the door and give it a listen. It’s the first song I’ve heard in about 23 years that’s got me excited about music, that hasn’t sounded corporate or swaggering and steeped in the gym-sock stench of hypermasculinity. Hell of a song that guy wrote. Kurt Cobain. Took a lot of pain and made something beautiful out of it.
R was right. All the hotel rooms in the swath of the solar eclipse that will happen on August 21 at about 10:25 a.m. in western Oregon have been rented. Some hotels have canceled reservations so they can charge more money for the rooms, some as high $1,000 per night.
Shit. R tells me she told me about the eclipse a year ago. I don’t remember that. I must’ve been obsessing about something else at the time. Why didn’t it register? Fuck me. I must’ve had a total eclipse of the brain.
There’s another one in 2024. We can see it in Austin or San Antonio, Texas. Or Mexico. But will I still be alive? Will there still be a planet? Seven years is a long time. I can’t imagine a Texas seven years from now. I can’t imagine a United States seven years from now. An Alamo. An Arkansas. A Utah. A Trail of Tears. Bats. Armadillos. BBQ. Getting weird on 6th Street. Willie Nelson. Dixie Chicks. Big Bend. Marfa. Chicken shit bingo on Sunday night.