Saturday, July 26, 2014

Before and After

Before I begin to boil, I think of zeros. Do zeros boil? What is the temperature of boiling? Why am I boiling?
After I’m brought to a boil I evaporate. Do zeros evaporate? Now that I’ve evaporated, I’m a zero. I can write anything I want.
Before I begin to diagram the intensity of rain, I accrue interest in the milk of paradise. What exactly is the milk of paradise?
After I look up the Milk of Paradise on Wikipedia, I put everything in majuscules because the Milk of Paradise is now the Milk of Paradise. Which is Laudanum.
Before I exaggerate the effects of the river, I describe the river. The river is a tarantula of water walking over the land in mathematical diamonds. Mathematical diamonds are different from real diamonds. Real diamonds look like broken glass and are mined in slavish conditions by men who descend deep into the earth in temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit where silica dust is an ever-present potential hazard so that all drilling dust and loose rock has to be wetted down to prevent silicosis, a lethal disease that attacks the lungs. Mathematical diamonds are imaginary and abstract and resemble the occurrence of bones when it is silver and long like a neck and moves luridly and powerfully over the land making everything shiny and wet and the glint of the water gurgles and burbles in a song of ice.
After I exaggerate the effects of the river I realize I have not exaggerated it enough because it is still walking around in this sentence as if it were Bob Dylan or something.
Before I go to bed I grab a copy of Finnegans Wake so I’ll have something to read before I go to sleep and a pair of earphones to listen to the radio when I’m still not sleeping and I can listen to a bunch of wacky talk on Coast to Coast Radio about hairy humanoids stalking young ranch-dwelling women, wolfmen, dogmen, large predators, ultraterrestrials and Black-Eyed Kids.
After I get up the next morning I make breakfast and watch the news on TV5 Monde, a French cable station. The lead story is about the crash of Flight AH5017 in the desert of Mali carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The camera moves over the ground revealing small debris, a piece of metal there, a piece of wing there, the ground blackened with fire and impact.
Before sitting down to do some writing on the computer, I have to play with the cat. Otherwise he will keep getting on my lap, tapping me on the arm, attacking my feet and going behind the couch to play with the wiring which he knows bugs me.
After playing with the cat, I procrastinate doing any writing by looking up the month of August, 1964 on Tunecaster to see what the hit songs were for that month fifty years ago. I don’t remember most of them except “How Do You Do It” by Gerry and the Pacemakers, “A Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles, “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters, “Tell Me” by the Rolling Stones, “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” by Jan and Dean and “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. It is the latter song that changed the course of my life. I went from being a goofy teenager riveted to late night movies on TV to a serious minded teenager riveted to a late night movies on TV.
Before opening the hatch on my spaceship, I check to see what the temperature on the Martian desert is. It’s 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but with only trace amounts of oxygen. The atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, 2.1% argon, 1.9% nitrogen and full of suspended dust particles, giving the Martian sky a light brown or orange color, which is quite pretty, but also mesmerizing in its otherworldly calm.
After donning my spacesuit, I walk to the lip of a crater and look down to see a swimming pool surrounded by ghostly, holographic figures lounging poolside or floating on inflatable mattresses. I recognize Johnny Carson, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Jim Morrison, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Emily Dickinson, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Sarah Bernhardt. I go down to join them but they all disappear as soon as I get to the bottom. I find this irritating, but what can you do? Sometimes an hallucination is just an hallucination.
Before returning to earth, I check the control panel and fire up the engines. Everything seems to be in order, though I don’t like the rattle coming from the ion thrusters.
After returning to earth, I run for president. I am soundly defeated. I decide to give up politics.
Before going for a run, I check the weather on the computer: it’s 71 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at 58%, precipitation 0%, and wind at one mile per hour. That means I’ll wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a long-sleeved shirt, short pants and running shoes. I’m not into the barefoot movement.
After running, Roberta and I have dinner and watch the first episode from Deadwood. We’ve recently finished the Lovejoy series in which Ian McShane played a roguish antiques dealer and were eager to see him again as the sleazy saloon owner, often referred to as the “slimy limey,” Al Swearengen, who was an actual historical figure and a key player in the development of Deadwood, South Dakota. He ran a notorious brothel named the Gem Theater for 22 years, combining a reputation for brutality with an uncanny instinct for forging political alliances. As McShane plays him, he is cagey, splenetic, devious, tough, callous, colorful in speech and very, very smart. As his character evolves, one discovers sides to his nature that suggest a nobler being hidden beneath the layers of sociopathic villainy. According to the obituary of the actual Al Swearengen, he was found dead in the middle of a suburban Denver street on November 15th, 1904. The cause of death appeared to be a massive head wound.
Before sparkling, my drivel swells into a hammer which I use to build a word house.
After my word house is built, a pair of nouns move in and raise a family of adjectives.

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