Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A traveling companion


partially written on
a discarded gum wrapper, a bookstore receipt...and yeah, that's another bookstore receipt

I am going somewhere.
One of the odder aspects of traveling is that all the details become disturbingly real. Your eyes seem to grab hold of everything around, picking up data with the sense of immaculate detail of a bargain bin scanner. Clear – but sometimes, the edges blur. It makes you wonder where you really are. How you fit.

So I look. My prying eyes trying to pluck words out of the venerable air, grabbing sentences from any source that manages to grace me the path of my veiled brown eyes without the tender embrace of context to make any knowledge the slightest bit whole.

The cure for anything is salt water. Sweat, tears, or the sea.

“Your father was a bastard (section unseen) as swift
and sure

you only pick the best

They're all that I can hold onto, right now. My head feels heavy, my eyes lidded, pulling me down into a tired world. Even as the taste of burningly excessive caffeine still mingles with the tartness of aircraft cranberry juice on the back of my tongue, I feel myself start to drift; outside of me, things keep on keeping the fuck on. My compatriot and I are shushed by a curly haired dynamo, as she apparently took offense at our having the audacity to speak on the subject of dead dogs in the presence of a six year old boy that we couldn't see. I can see him, now. He's holding something. A book, one that supposedly teaches young minds with a one/two punch of words and colorful stickers.

It's about pirates.

He sits still like a hummingbird, as boys (and boyish men) are known to sometimes do. His mother shields him from the context of unpleasant truths that are going on in the world, as she concurrently denies him the context of the murderous plunderers that he has chosen to idolize. No history, no knowledge of Edward Teach carving men into paste as he sailed wild across watery expanses in Queen Anne's Revenge. No fresh context for the world. It just seems a wee bit sad, that's all.
That's all.

The sky roars on outside, letting horrifying images of dried-out hillsides that somehow manage to terminate into epic towers of smoke drift right on by, while the sound of our velocity through the thinness of the upward air makes it difficult to speak. To connect, in any cheerful manner. I want to reach out, to stretch out my shivering legs. Yet it cannot be done, not yet. For better or worse, the free range words are all. They might do, for now.


partially written on
a previously forgotten piece of work-related notation, a receipt for a box of jasmine green tea, and an old note that was to remind me that I was in dire need of a haircut

Yet again, yet again, I find myself happily getting lost on darkened streets.

Now: It's around 1:17 in the illustrious AM. My friend and I are seated in a curiously warm 24 hour eating-type-joint, where alongside me a boisterous trucker is getting over his drunk by jawing with the staff about the quality of the food. He wants me to try the Chicken Parmesan.

Before: We were out there. Striding carefully like a pair of spectral wisps, afraid to disturb the quiet stillness of the night. It's out there, all around us. Descending from on high like a fluid pressure that does little more than sweep through the streets, completely covering all things. Making it denser. Pressing down. In fact, I might as well say it – in this town, the level of quiet is quite nearly disquieting.

Even for me, even for I, even for the sort of person that I am. The sort of person who has built a sense of personal peace on turns of phrase that are echoed out across the space of empty lanes, orange city lights buzzing down with nothing if not approval. But this...nothing is out here, nothing more than the sudden explosive flash of headlights from down the road; nothing more than towering cranes, swaying lightly against a death-black sky. Nothing but street lamps that suddenly die as we try to walk beneath the oasis of their glow. Not even a flicker. Just gone.

It happened twice.

Now, again: Coffee hot, lights warm. Flames erupting on the other side of the counter, causing a somewhat snarky waiter to announce “Fire!” in a crowded restaurant, yet not in any way that would incite a stampede of people suddenly trying to claw through the solid walls to the get to the quiet air outside, shoving each other out of the way, looking to crush faces into the backs of heads if only to save their own sorry skins. No, it merely flares up, casting temporary illumination upon our faces. This place might be a little bit fantastic.

Let the morning come.

Holy fuck! they have some amazing water pressure in this joint.

Out of the door, down the elevator, out of the building, down the street; it didn't take long, not at all. We're pacing along with a torrential downpour of other sorts of folks, making our winding way through an epic room. Elsewhere, across it all, I can hear the sound of this places favored ultra-caffeinated Guarana beverage being tossed away, the glass bottles sending hollow echoes towards our ears. The sound of it makes us shudder, the first time. Echoes that move like ripples that have forced their way across a stream.

It 's a quick move across the space, all things considered. Passing by ropes, stretched out to serve as guiding arms; passing by gleaming windows, tall like pillars; passing by an old man named Stacy, who looks over us disapprovingly as we chat about things that us whippersnappers tend to talk about; passing by people. So many people.

Places like this always make me feel kind of strange.
I can watch colors bleed out at me from every corner, attached to a host of people that carry with them various tastes, stories and smells. I can watch the things that they do, the games that they play. I can play the games myself. And I do. It's fun, discovering cell-shaded bits where I can construct people with devastating facial hair, and playing dynamic shooters that make it obvious that the developers really have a big wanger for Michael Mann. This place isn't quiet.

In the midst of everything else, I'm sitting back, watching a pair of people connect. Not in any fanciful, sweeping romantic gesture kind of a way – they're just sitting together. A girl and a fella, perched together on the thin bench that finds its place in front of a polished black piano. It gleams. It reflects their faces, as he sits there and teaches her how to play. Neither face is, neither face is smiling. But it seems right, whatever it might be.

He takes his leave and she sits there, alone, feeling out Zelda themes with the tips of her fingers. I ask her to play a specific song, the one that represents the only horse that I ever gave a damn about, never mind that it was never real. I sit beside her and listen to the surprisingly powerful trill of her voice as she tries to pull the song out of her memory. I sit beside her and watch the movement of her fingers as they stride carefully across the ivory. It doesn't mean much of anything, the song or our idle chatter. Yet it seems right, whatever it might be.

I also bought some T-shirts.
So that's nice.


partially written on
a receipt for bulletproof chicken, some sort of prematurely faded slip from the Seattle airport, a stub from “Superbad,” and proof that I bought a muffin on 08/07/07

I am staring George Orwell in the eye.
He has a charming face, one that – despite the sunken lines of hard-won ideals and hard-thought ideas – still manages to look through layers of time: To affect me with his state of whimsy. It's a bit depressing, actually. Not any fault to the creator of ol' Winston Smith, of course. No, the feeling was there before I popped into this bookstore in search of....something, I dunno. But even in here, it's too bleeding loud.
And even right now, it occurs to me that I'm getting ahead of myself.
So then.

This morning, the world began beneath a gray sky. I proceeded to shower and failed to shave, and then stepped into the elevator, only to find myself dominating the middle of a pack of senior citizens. All of them staring, as if I were about to try and hungrily, viciously tear my way through the un-trodden path of their flesh. As appetizing an idea as that was, I instead turned to them and asked that faithful old question: “Why do you suppose that no one reads John Gardner anymore?”

Empty smiles, blank stares.
They didn’t remember him. These days, fewer and fewer do.
It wasn’t long after that, that I was sitting on a cold, hard floor, reading about the frost. That same room, the room of high ceilings and clinking glass. It was a somewhat troublesome place to be. On that cold floor, alone.

There were others there, of course; the world of the winding line that stretches farther than the coasts is nothing new, certainly not to me. There were people on my left, throwing down the blue sparks on the handhelds in their hands (obviously), while the people on my right were chatting in hushed, excited tones about the prospect of the music that was to come, occasionally letting loose an echo of a laugh. And behind me? In the part of the line that had curved its way around, the nature of the thing creating a place beyond my little spot? They were playing Family Feud. It was on a VAIO, one that had clearly seen a season or two.

I said nothing, to no one.
This was somewhat out of character. My old habit in lines like this, in situations like this, is the somewhat dubious procedure (that is to say: Yes, I realize that this is fucked up) of moving through lines like this with the simple act of conversation. I would walk forward a bit, drawn to some sort of something on a someone’s somewhatsamawhozit, and through the act of speaking about it, and then other things, blend into that portion of the line. And then again. And again. And so on.

Rather prickish, you might say. I’d agree, too. But I’d probably still do it. But this time, it wasn’t being done. I just sat there. On that cold, hard floor. Waiting for something to happen.

Whatever did happen on the in-between, my friend and I made it through the day. We listened to a charmingly adorable French-Canadian man talk about historical accuracy in regards to murderous crusaders in the streets of Ancient Jerusalem, and then watched him endear himself to us by way of offhand comments directed toward his creation. We watched something that we’d forgotten about, that still had the ability to make us laugh. We rested our backs against cold, hard concrete. It was the most comfortable concrete that we’d ever experienced.

Whatever happened, we ended up here. In this place, sitting silently as we stare at the opened bottles of Black Cherry soda that are rested right before our eyes. George Orwell looking over us, wondering what to make of this pair of sour blokes. With all of this going on around us, we -- the pair of us, yes -- still feel a stretch away. Looking for something to connect with, so that it might bring us toward the noise, meld us into its psychotic rhythm in a way that makes the pounding in our heads vanish into the depths of the ether. It reminds me of the other night.

Back when we had set ourselves adrift on the streets, waiting to collide with something, anything within the night that fell thick around us like a fog. No one out, few things awake. We wandered into the nearest light source beside us, a sex shoppe/adult bookstore. The door was open.

We talked, a bit. We had a small chat with the lovely tattooed lady behind the counter, who greeted us with a pleasant smile and shared our view on the state of people floating across the streets. No one to see, out there in the cold. No one to go to, to strangely revel in the act of being alone. It was a pleasant diversion, I can say that for sure.

No such luck, right now. Back here with Orwell, back in the world where the normally quiet confines of a bookstore manages to somehow be loud enough to grate at my damnable ears. So with that in mind, the only true solution? Make it fucking louder.

“If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
A hero of mine once said that, in the middle of one of his well-trodden talks. We shall see, denizens of the intratubes. We shall see. After all -- I’m a young man, yet.

We saw.


partially written on
the receipt from a Pizza Hut where I once saw the truly horrifying attempt of a customer trying to hit on the girl behind the counter

Well, here I am. There’s a window in front of me. Looking through it, I can watch the leaves on a paltry sidewalk-tree shiver against a slight wind. I can watch the people similarly planted outside the glass, whose conversation I cannot summarize, seeing as I never bothered learning to read lips.
Other things.

There go the people, walking on by. Making their casual strides as a tallish gent sits in a franchise that he’s actually none too fond of, but, well….they have chairs. Old habits, I suppose.

it’s a place


Sgt. Pepper

across the path


all ate the knuckle-grease pizza, as Blue Planet made colorful observations about marvelous things in the world behind us. Within it, all things seemed to glow.

It was a time, to be sure.


partially written on
something far too faded to make out. But something was there, once.

Outside, the expanse of the sea is a vision of blue.
The blue is so deep that it hurts.
The vast, unchanging uniformity of it.
The sea is best when it’s caught in a storm.
No storms here.
Not for me, anyway.
I have yet to feel Seattle rain.
And I have wanted to.
Honest and true, I wanted to.
It seems that the more I miss it, the less likely it becomes.
Another getting lost in the vast uniformity of time gone by.

It makes me think of the woman sitting beside me, her small hands creased and freckled with age. When we took off, her hand was resting on her throat, as if it were holding back her breath. Her eyes were still like stone. She’d seen it all before. She probably will again. But it makes you wonder: What did she see, the first time her eyes looked out over that stretch of narrow runway, while the Earth roared by outside? What did she feel, when she first looked down to see the frightening blue of the sea?

I cannot keep from questioning the history of weathered hands. I can look over at them, at her. She’s reading something. The pages are set aglow in the arches of light.

was sich seinem Blick

It’s all I can manage to see. It’s not much that I can comprehend. After all: It’s not my life.
Mine is not hers, and mine is not the places that I have been. We move around through hosts of places, gathering things that we tuck away at the back of our minds, so that we might find some use for them in the future that we wish to face. They can give perspective, that much is certain. But the places don’t always make us. We do that ourselves.

And we are, for the moment, home.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess thats as close as Ill ever get to hearing about your Seattle trip, so thank you for that. It was a very interesting recount.

10:37 PM  

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