I like to meditate on spice and send emails. I like to look at a can of root beer on a stepladder and then later drink the stepladder and climb onto the root beer. I like being perverse. I like digging in my pockets for change and finding a receipt. It’s a minor form of archaeology. Indications of a recent past. Among my most recent findings was a tiny crumpled piece of paper nesting in my right pocket with eighty-five cents in change. The paper turned out to be a receipt for Rust and Bone, starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, which we saw at The Harvard Exit. The Harvard Exit doesn’t give you tickets anymore. They give you a slip of paper that looks like a miniature grocery receipt.
I miss tickets. The ticketedness of tickets. I like grocery receipts, too, especially long grocery receipts with items scrolling down, down, down in a quiet drama of itemized purchase. But I prefer tickets. I like tickets. And cashews and root beer and obscurity.
I prefer seeing movies in theaters than seeing movies at home, or grocery shopping. But sometimes these things are reversed. I’m never in complete control of what I like or dislike. I once craved ice cream. Loved ice cream. Now I don’t like ice cream so much. I can eat it. It’s not like broccoli. I can’t stand broccoli. I see other people eating broccoli and try to imagine what it’s like to like broccoli. But the taste is too foreign.
Life is raw and life is intense. It goes better with drama. I like that thing Hamlet says to Polonius: Good my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time.
You betcha. Emotions turn our lives into movies. I’m more inclined to think in terms of movies than theater because I see more movies than plays. Though I prefer plays. There are plays everywhere. Even the door to the laundry room is an abstract and brief chronicle of the time.
The door to the laundry room squeaks. Now there’s drama for you. High drama. The drama of squeaks and shrieks and freaks and geeks and profligate squirts of grapefruit juice.
I once saw a girl reading a book in a box office and thought, now there’s a curious thing. She’s probably got a movie going on in her head that is different from the movie for which she is selling tickets. A movie that is probably better than the movie on the screen in the theater. The book she is reading is A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. The movie is Oz the Great and Powerful. Your call.
Yesterday I saw a man eating an apple in the hole of the sculpture at Kerry Park. It’s called “Changing Form” and is by Doris Chase. It overlooks Elliot Bay and the Seattle skyline. People like to stand inside its fifteen-foot high steel form and take pictures of themselves. On this occasion, the man was simply enjoying an apple. He appeared to have at least half of it eaten. He gazed at me. I gazed at him. He took a bite of his apple, and I continued to pound the sidewalk on my afternoon run.
And this afternoon again out on a run I heard the Butterworth crematorium vent blasting the sunny air with someone’s exit from this world. It reminded me of my first real eight hour a day job at the White Center Funeral Home after graduating from high school, and on cold damp Seattle days standing in front of the big metal door of the crematorium after it had been in use, reading Homer’s The Iliad. I had a feeling that Homer’s Iliad would be pointing somewhere different than the White Center Funeral Home. It did, but not where I expected.
Materialism has triumphed over the spiritual. How do I know that? Everybody knows that. Just look around. There are places where goods may be bought in bulk, but no places where it is possible to just sit and think, and play the glockenspiel with a butterknife, and dream of souks and bazaars, places where fragrances evoke an ancient sensuality and cobras uncoil from baskets woven of reeds by the Ganges. Where sadus bathe in the cold water of the mountains and spices are put in jars.
There is a jar on a hill in Tennessee, and it’s going to stay there until someone comes to move it. Inhabit it with their full attention. Because it made the slovenly wilderness surround that hill, that hill in Tennessee, and the jar was round and bare and squat on the ground, and took dominion of the air and hill like nothing else in Tennessee.
And that’s how it goes. Goes in Tennessee. Here in Washington State jars do not take dominion. They get filled with screws and washers and put in the garage, or a shelf in the basement, where a Dayglo poster of Black Sabbath takes dominion of the space, the space beneath the house.
If you rub an abstraction a genie appears. The genie is a silhouette in the fog. There he goes. Fulfilling wishes. The wish of this sentence is that it will end with Snoqualmie Falls, a mass of water hurling over the edge of a rock and falling, falling, in droplets scintillating in sunlight.
And get everything wet in the ensuing paragraph, where bits of debris bob up and down in choppy green water.
Biological functions are humbling, but at least I don’t have to merge with traffic anymore. Our car is gone. This means we get to stay at home more often with our biological functions.
The woman upstairs coughs and coughs and coughs. I wonder what she has. Whatever it is, it must be bad. This is her second week of coughing. Her biological functions are in disarray.
I sift the present for the past. There have been times in my life when I coughed, and groaned, and was sick in bed. And once, under the influence of antihistamine, I became a wizard of hallucination, and created a formula: if prose is rubber, poetry is wax. This formula permits the following phenomena: apparitions carrying suitcases through a corridor of ice, density dreaming that it is pledged to the elephants of effacement, and coarse-grained hermenuetic Dagwood puppets ejaculating ukulele coal.
The ghost of a boat propeller caresses the sky. Naked words molest the mist. Some days I can’t get Antony and Cleopatra out of my head, and some days I see my ancestry in a pile of sawdust.
I find escape in the endless nuance of things. The quiet drama of the ineffable and unspoken. The various hues and whispers and gyrations of air that elude speech. That belong to a different language. You can’t plug a feeling into a wall and expect it to light up a room or power a saw. But it will inform you of things. How the weight of a box of cat food tends to get heavier as you walk it home. How it’s difficult to spend time in a room with people who do not share your vision or values. How the afternoon may be ripped into a thousand words and still elude being postulated as a story. How it resists narration. How it salutes the sky in the form of a bronze arm. The bronze arm of Chief Seattle. The bronze arm of Chief Seattle overlooking an empty pool by the Five Spot Café. The bronze arm of Chief Seattle lifted in reverence. How the unexpected warmth of a March afternoon can feel like a warm egg in the hand. How description is a gift, but can murder a straw. Destroy the purity of a simple image. A thingness. Thingnesses like tin. Like pain. Like pleasure. Like bending to tighten the lace of a running shoe, and seeing a worm on a pilgrimage of undulation. A thingness of nerve and word in myriad perturbation. A story plunged into frustration and skin.