The Fickle Entity of the Mind

I, at times, have a flighty memory. I am unsure if my mind believes the information to be unimportant, or has to push other tidbits of my cache into the garbage heap to make room for more, but either way, my brain can feel like a grain bag with a small puncture. I try and compensate for this by writing little notes, small ones, especially on the run. A word here, a word there, a small phrase. That is all well and good, but when later comes, and I pull out the paper, without the context of the moment, I wonder, what the hell does “Albatross Latvia” mean.

This seems like my curse. I am smart–it is not conceited to say so–I graduated magna cum laude for my bachelors, and when I am finished with my masters thesis this month I will have a 3.74 GPA. So it is frustrating that I can go into a movie theater, walk out when the film is complete, and a few miles down the road not recall what I just saw…at all. Now this isn’t a medical problem. I don’t have a condition. My brain seems to be selective in what it holds. I am great at trivia and trivial pursuit, so I don’t lack in that department with knowledge, but there are things that I just don’t remember. One area is conversations.

If you know me, then you know that we may have the same conversation many times over during our friendship. It is not that the last discussion wasn’t important, or I didn’t listen, but we may talk about this over and over again. I have gotten into the habit with good friends starting conversations with, “tell me if I’ve told you this already,” and they are good about it, only occasionally goading me on with a wry smile. My poor wife though, she humors me, and doesn’t tell me I’ve told her. I have probably repeated some stories fifty times, and she just lets me go, rambling on as the words pour from my mouth. And there is purposeful repetition.

I have always been a learner through repetition. The only way I can learn something well is by beating it into my head. I have the tenacity and the patience though to learn that way. People amazed me in college, reading the academic journal article only once, and then remembering every little phrase from it. Not. Me. I would read the article, and then go back over it, and then take notes, and then reread the notes. It was always work for me, but pleasurable work. I remember when I did archaeological work in class. We poured through box upon box of pottery sherds from the Richard’s and Nevin’s site in Blue Hill, Maine. I spent hundreds of hours working on these materials with other students in my group. I learned so much about prehistoric pottery this way, I will never forget it.

So for me, memory is a fickle beast. It traps in some, and lets others flit away on the wind. Sometimes I see my mind like a dandelion puff-ball. All the little white seeds just ready for a gust to send them scattering to the wind. Other times, my mind becomes an iron trap, sealing in certain memories, that I will carry forever. And then sometimes, past times kick through the door of my mind, barging in, taking over. So as time goes on, I am sure I will keep writing down little hints to guide my mind. But like Uncle Billy who put string on his fingers, I too will forget the string is even there, or what it is there for. Because, when you have a shitty memory, you have to be elaborate in your mental notes, or you end up wondering, what the hell is “damned romance” or “thunder road”  in reference too–found recently in my notes page on my cell phone.

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The Philosophy of Durden

Everybody wants to be Tyler Durden, even if it is only for a short moment of time. No person alive wouldn’t want that much confidence to well up inside them on occasion and course through their body like a surge of epinephrine, enlivening their inner powerhouse. You want to sit back and say “Fuck it” with an utter calm and coolness that even Frank Sinatra himself could not conjure. We all want the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings that fueled Tyler and gave him his cool, to truly believe the devil be damned attitude rather than a mask we wear. This cool, to look abject danger in the eye with an ambivalence and apathy, is reserved for only those with Ubach-Wiethe disease–but yet they didn’t choose that. In the End, everyone wants to have control over themselves with the fuck all attitude that Tyler Durden lived with.

As the Boeing 777-300 takes off from Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, the Aerflot planes shakes uncontrollably with an extreme shudder of seat, wall, floor, and myself. This feeling–unusual in my flying experience–I wonder to myself, what would my last thoughts be if this hunk of metal dropped out of the sky like a molotov cocktail thrown off a building, bursting into a ball of flames among the trees and apartment buildings on the ground below? Would my last thoughts be of my wife and dog waiting for me at home? Would I think fondly of my family, and smile about the memories? Would I feel apathy or regret, anger or sadness, fear or confusion, denial or terror, or, would I ride that plane down to the ground, like Slim Pickens straddling that nuke down to the USSR, as he dropped the bomb on those cold war Ruskis. I wonder if in that moment, my inner Tyler Durden would materialize, and I would have some insightful pithy saying, forever etched in time, to spit in the eye of death and say “give me seconds please.” One could only hope, because, well, at that point, you can’t change the outcome.

I guess the true cool, the real hip, the James Deans, the Frank Sinatras, the Tyler Durdens, they accepted, instead of denied, moved on, instead of regretted. I think in the end, it is that acceptance of the inevitable which defines the coolest of the cool. Hell, when the world collides with Melancholia, I hope to be sitting on the lawn of some house, its verdant lawn stretching down to the crashing ocean, with my friends and family by my side, my wife and dog right next to me. Drinking the most expensive bottle of rye whisky ever made, we will sit there sipping manhattans made with ruby port, and I’ll dress in a black suit, black tie, white shirt, with dark cruiser sunglasses on, my bare feet feeling those soft, flexing blades of grass between my toes. I will watch the earth spin into oblivion with a coolness reserved only for the classic hip.

In the meantime, I will settle for plane flights with free wine served from the flight attendant’s cart. But, in the event the world spins out of control, I should stock up on whisky. I mean, you never know who might crash the party.

A Luminescent Radiance of Moonlight

She touched me in the waning moonlight, the room a spectral blue hue, as she ran her fingers across the muscles in my back. Her fingertips trailed across my shoulders, and I could feel the lightest touch, as if the wispiest feather blew across my back, dancing in the night’s breeze. My eyes remained shut, but my mind awoke, and a thousand jumbled thoughts ricocheted chaotic, blanketed by the hush of the night. I remained a corpse, a body lying still. No movement, feigning sleep, an unconscious state, all the while afraid to face her thoughts. And then, her voice broke the silence of the iron room, our imagined cell, shattering my sleeping charade.

“I feel empty. Like a part of me is missing. I feel torn, split in two, a fissure running through my heart,” Diana spoke with a hollow voice, all emotion torn from her throat.

I lay there, a hateful, vengeful voice inside my head, screaming at me, maligning her, and I cowered at its domineering nature. I did not say a word, I lay their in the abject silence, which tore a chasm in bed between us.

“John, please, speak to me. Yell at me. Get angry. Be sad, but for god sakes, say something. I didn’t mean to do it. It wasn’t my fault. It’s not like I wanted this. For Christ’s sake, speak to me.”

Her voice cracked as her frustration oozed out. Diana’s pleading became angry yells as she commanded me to talk.

I shrugged off her touch, which had become aggressive, the light feather having blown away on a gale wind, and instead felt like a thorny bush scratching at my back, tugging at flesh and dermis. Standing up, I walked over to the window, and stared out onto the night street. I basked in the cool moonlight as my body became luminescent, a pallid blue nude, like a marble statue, pale, lifeless, cold. I did not care who would see, instead I hoped people would witness us trapped in our prison.

“It’s not your fault, but it is. You knew the consequences of your actions. You can’t ask me to forgive you, when your actions are your own. I did not put that bottle to your mouth. I did not ask you to drink,” I said.

“You don’t know. Don’t accuse me. I am looking for solace, for help. Why won’t you comfort me? I lost just as you did. It was my body, not yours. You don’t know what it feels like, to lose a piece of you.”

Her voice was shaky and accusatory. Rage built up behind her words, a fire building, ready to flashover, and consume us and all of the room in an intense inferno.

“You’re right, I don’t know what that feels like, but I can’t just turn off my emotions. I look at you and see a murderer, a person who took to the bottle, and pulled the trigger. What did you expect would happen?”

“How dare you? We are joined together. You are not allowed to treat me this way. You are supposed to love and support me, to nourish and comfort me, instead you pass condemnation. Your judgement is a death sentence for me.”

“I am not the one who passed the death sentence. I am not the one who could not control themselves, who could not show a little restraint. Only nine months. That’s all you needed, nine months, and you couldn’t even do that. Don’t you see you have a problem. It’s an addiction. The bottle has a hold on you. It comforts you more than I ever can, and controls you, pulling your strings like a puppeteer with a marionette.”

She threw herself out of bed, the covers flying into the statically charged night air, like a fluttering phantom in the pale light. Her body was milky, creamy, ivory in color, and she moved across the room like a poltergeist, angry, vengeful, ready to disturb the room. She floated like a wraith across the floor, moving in between the shadows, her pale body phosphorescent in the moonlight, and then dissolving into the stygian darkness, hidden from all sight as the murkiness swallowed her up. Moving back into the light, she approached me with a face contorted with ire and a hatred that seethed with a coal-fired furnace blazing behind her eyes.

“Who do you think you are? We both suffered this, you do not own all the sadness, all the emotion we have encountered. You don’t get to play judge and jury with me. You think you own this disaster, you think you are perfect, that you don’t make mistakes as well. We all live in this shitty world, a world where we float along in time which we have no knowledge of what is to come. Everyday we try and do what is right, while we navigate the intricacies of of chaos and disaster.”

“The difference is, I did not put the bottle to your lips. I did not force you to come to this conclusion, you came to this all yourself.”

“You sanctimonious prick. No, you didn’t put the bottle to my lips. You didn’t force me to drink, but I did. I had a moment of weakness, and as a result, I will have to live with this loss for the rest of my life. But you don’t get to tell me I was wrong. You were there, you knew what I was doing. You are as guilty as I am. Apathy is not an excuse, and does not exonerate you from any guilt. You think I am responsible for this tragedy, fine, I am, in part, but you can take the lion’s share. Your indifference toward me enabled me, and you watched the tragedy occur. It is as if you wanted me to fail. You were happy to watch this tragedy, if only to judge me, to be priggish in your smug demeanor. Well, you get to live with this. So go ahead and judge yourself.”

Walking away into the inky shadows, her luminous body, electric in the moonlight, evanesced into the inky shadows of the room. Diana was quiet, even her breathing seemed to disappear as her body became one with the dark shadows of the room, and I turned back, gazing out the window onto the quiet street.

After a few minutes I heard something behind me, a rattling of sorts, like a diamondback vibrating its tail, preparing to strike. It was a familiar sound, and I was made to hear it, as it broke the drowning silence of the room. The sound came closer to me through the abysmal darkness, as if she stuck strictly to the shadows, avoiding the pale blue beams of light.

Rattle. The sound was right behind me, and its familiarity struck a cord inside me. Ice tinkled inside the glass as she swirled the whisky around the mason jar. Sipping next to my ear, air passed her lips, causing a slurping sound to grate on my soul.

“Ahhh,” she exclaimed, as if this drink was a glass of water after she had marched through a desert.

I felt her nude body rub against mine as she upended the four fingers of whisky. Embracing me, her whisky lips met mine, and I could taste the stringent flavor of Old Grand Dad on my tongue as hers danced with mine. The perspiring mason jar drop to the floor with a hollow thud, and rolled across the wood floor, ice spilling out from its mouth. In the moonlight our two bodies intertwined, and the anger and hatred melted away into lust, bitterness transformed into passion.

As we made our way back to bed through the ethereal moonlight, a whisky soaked ice cube melted on the floor. The puddle stretched out into the cracks in the floor, breaking through our iron prison. Eventually the ice dissolved completely, leaving nothing but a stagnant puddle discoloring the golden strips. In the darkness, lightened by the luminescence, we forgot our transgressions, soaked in a whisky fog of early morning.

 

Dirty Water Tube Meat

There is something inherently disgusting, yet exquisitely divine about a hotdog. As a New Yorker, I feel it is hard to refuse one, as if you by some unseen force, you are attracted to every dirty-water steam cart you pass by on the sidewalk. Pretzels and hot dogs–and when I say pretzels I mean big, kosher salted, soft pretzels, warm enough to almost burn your tongue. I swear, New Yorkers could live on that diet. Don’t forget the Dr Brown’s soda, with the rat feces flecked across the top and lip of the can. It is as if everything about this operation is unsanitary, filthy, and, unhealthy. But that seems to be the draw. For some reason the cart excuses the unknown ingredients of the tube meat–the chemicals which are poured into the casing, the lips and assholes that are ground together to make nirvana in a bun–because of all this, it is ok.

Now, if you were in a restaurant, and you sat down, that would instantly change the appeal. Could you imagine if you took the cart, and expanded it to a restaurant. The same guy serving you the hotdog, out back as the cook or chef, slinging your food around the kitchen, the same fingers handling money, handling your bun and dog, you would walk out demanding a refund. But there is something inherently mystical about street food, something we just can’t live without. It is as if the pulse of an area is measured by how many food trucks, trailers, and carts can ply their cheap food to the public, without some unknown, intestinal illness, striking the population.

We all love this food, and the cart, well it forgives all this. The big yellow umbrella, it just draws us in. I think it is our inner child screaming to relive the fourth of July, or family barbecues when you didn’t have to host them, but instead ran around barefoot in the yard, chasing fireflies and shooting off illegal fireworks much to your neighbors chagrin. Our inner teen remembers the nights at 7-11, where a buck-fifty bought a big bite, with all the toppings you could get–where the hotdog was lost, awash in a sea of chili and radioactive orange cheese, the greenest, most verdant relish known to humankind floating atop this diarrhea inducing delight. So, I say, here, here, to the most dirty of our foods, handled in the most unsanitary ways, in which we all shrug our shoulders at and say, ‘just one more.’

And then, there is food at a fair……

Killing Time

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I am killing time at the bar, waiting to interview a person for my thesis, and I sit down at the high top table with my beer, and eagerly await the tube shaped meat which is abound with lips and assholes–like my father says “everything but the squeal”–that is still being prepared. The three TVs all have extremely different programs broadcasting on their flat dull screens. To my right, Jan Michael Vincent is sitting side by side with Ernest Borgnine, soaring through the sky in AirWolf, while on the tv above the bar plays an early nineties movie with racially stereotyped characters, track suits, Fila, long earnings hanging off the men’s ears, with high and tight haircuts, their denim jackets missing sleeves worn like a vest. Behind me, the television is chock full of cartoons, Garfield cartoons. Unfortunately this is not the good eighties Garfield but the new crappy computer generated cartoon, which it pains me to even call it that. So, here I am, in this bar, waiting for tube meat of circus grade quality, drinking my beer, sitting across from the sequined torso of a dress form, with a finial in place of its head.

Productive Procrastination

So here I sit, at my favorite writing spot, productively procrastinating, writing in this blog. I am entrenched in my thesis work, and articles, papers, and books are strewn across the quarter sawn oak table at which I sit. As I was engrossed in my topic, writing with a speed only reserved for the manic, I had an epiphany, I have to urinate. Washing my hands, I thought about habits, all the strange habits we have, and then my mind drifted back to my writing.

I have a totem. Yes, that is right, a totem. I would not say that I am a superstitious man, but I like to hedge my bets, and if I think something is lucky, well, I will continue that practice. So I have a totem, and when I write, that object goes with me. You ask, well what is it? It is a marble. The smoothest, most perfectly round marble. It is like a beautiful gas giant floating in the universe, the ochre glass swirling around one pole, while at the opposite end of this glass planet, a glob of olive green coats the other. The equator is like white ceramic, pure as fresh driven snow. I don’t recall where or when I found this, but I remember the day I wrote a hundred pages in one sitting, with that marble in the coin pocket of my jeans, and from then on out, it comes with me to write.

Then there are omens, portents, jinxes, and I found mine. Now, I am not sure if this dull Russian ruble is bad luck, or the fact that I had purpose planned for it so long, and have not accomplished this goal, that bad luck has now attached to it. Either way, this coin is damned. I wore it in the same change pocket for weeks on end, not realizing it was there. Weeks of no inspiration, no writing, sitting, staring at a screen, white paper, pen grasped idly in hand, to no avail of any words. Like an idol that must be returned to ward off the demons loosed, I must affix this coin to the bottom of a glass at a bar I frequent–that has been the intended goal for this coin for over a year now. Maybe my mind knows that it is sheer procrastination sitting in my pocket, or maybe it is cursed. But either way the coin will make its way to its final resting place tonight.

Na Zdorovie!