The sun isn’t setting. We’re spinning out of its sight. Outside the window a swarm of gnats buzz in a collective frenzy in its slanted high-yellow light, high up here on the second story, fifty feet above the city floor. There’s something beautiful and horrific about it at the same time.
The cloud of gnats, the air conditioner units humming on the roof, and the traffic down below sailing by, I take it all in while punching the letters on the keyboard till they pop back at me with aggression, slapping me in my face, leaving imprints of vowels and garbled phrases on my cheek, so I can finally say, shout actually, ‘See, see! Writing is a contact sport!”
The director calls for the actor who is somewhere offstage.
My keyboard is broken, or rather certain keys are. I can no longer do an equal sign. It might be because when I fall into my prose I hit the keyboard with tall, flourishing motions like a Carnegie Hall pianist, probably harder than they’re designed to take. Time to send it to the keyboard graveyard.
You can tell what a person loves by the things he uses. And throws away. At one point in our lives, if we’re lucky, we are all loved. Used. And thrown away.
Like an air conditioner unit.
Like a potted plant.
From my loft I can look down on my living room, the dinning table three feet away from the couch, the clutter of furniture and gadgets, the pictures of my wife and I on vacation in wooden picture frames populating the walls; it’s the intestines of my life, the inner workings of my mind actualized in a seemingly normal living space. And my loft is even worse, the books everywhere, short stories, stapled and dogeared, stacked on a rickety set of shelves I found on the street with my friend Dwight, candle holders with macintosh red wax melted in the bottom, and collages born of mid-twenties angst, still revered in my mid-thirties ennui, just sitting on the carpet, or leaning against the wall; it’s even more clogged with physical manifestations of my soul’s frenzy than the living room.
I’m fifty pages into Infinite Jest and that’s a dreary prospect for a Friday night. My fingernails need clipping and the pizza gestating in my stomach into gassy spirits of bloated burps remind me that our bodies are organic things full of bile and decay, like a mini Yellowstone park, perfumed and daquiried expressions notwithstanding.
The actor stands and takes his mark.
In a world of invasive marketing, “Intellectual Property”, the M.C Escher-like corporate synergy that puts movie stars on fast food cups, the endless simulacrum of modern life ad nauseum… reproductions and remixes, remakes and tributes, Banksy artworks in museums… with technology and media raising an entire generation in a copy and paste, digitally-altered cultural fun house, how do you know when even your pain is yours? Or perhaps you’re just copying Elliot Smith, or downloading Jack Kerouac into your persona as you slide down the whorl of your own imagination… a Kafkaesque Chutes N’ Ladders plunge into “deep literature” and polemical diatribes against the sacred statues of the town square?
Although you see the tie dye flags flapping on the old Victorians and the Birkenstocks flopping down Haight St. there are no more hippies in San Francisco, they’re nothing but electric sheep dreaming of 1967, the age captured by audio recordings whose scratches and flaws slake a nostalgic yearning bred and branded into our psyches. The needle moves along the grooves as the record rotates and the room closes in inch by inch with every memorized and duplicated lyric. I click on Itunes and select shuffle and Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Nirvana comes on, a song recorded for a TV show. I’m now listening to it off of a computer. It was first written almost 80 years ago by a dude in a shack, probably without even a rotary telephone. And kids these days probably think Kurt Cobain is as old as Jim Morrison and when you think of Rock Music and the course of Humanity, he pretty much is. It’s all too disabling to think about on a Saturday night.
[Beat] The actor looks upset.
The donut shop opens at 4am. You wonder how many poems Charles Bukowski could write in a night. Traffic on the 101 has a hypnotizing, mechanical lull, the whirling grind of our iron dreams. You listen to it whirl away and think about the fresh donuts they put out at 4am.
The year is 2008. The month is August. There is a video camera aimed at your face and a serious man imploring you to shout and an intern holding a boom mic just above your head with one hand so it bobs up and down erratically. He is scratching a mosquito bite on his lower back with his loose hand, the drawing of blood a timeless ballet of man and Pan’s wild things… the audience chortles with their necks snapped back like empty Pez dispensers.
“Stagg Chili is the thickest, meanest chili around!” The actor bellows the lines written down on the cue cards.
You wonder what you’re supposed to yell back, why you’re on top of this horse, why is there cacti everywhere? What is that bull doing in my living room? The commercial comes to a close and you find yourself with your blankets and your knick-knacks, and you think to yourself, it’s about high time you – not stoll, not gallop – but stampede to the kitchen to make a can of Stagg Chile©.
I’ve got 16 spray-painted Buddha statues for sale. 11 homemade crosses…
Sell it all. Copy it all. Steal it all.
When everything is art then art is everywhere.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE GOOD FOLKS AT ARTOFSTARVING™