Everything Must Go

MZ and I argued about whether he was “giving me a ride” to Alameedy, or whether I was “riding along” during his Alameedy errand. In this way we have become some horrible cross between a Beckett play and the guys in the balcony on the Muppet Show.

As he walked up the ramp to the post office door, I stayed in the alley below walking parallel and cheerfully bidding him farewell. Are you serious? he asked me. He held the post office door open in case I wanted to vault up there and join him in line, talking, ostensibly, about Beckett, or Muppets. In that instant, I felt for him. Then the feeling stopped, and a more diabolical feeling took residence. Then I reeled that feeling in, and flooded the mental cavity with the journalistic observation of my surroundings. Didn’t look back, just ahead: trailing vine, brick, curb, traffic, alluvial fan of high school students issuing from the campus two blocks ahead, burmese food, barber, newsrack.

I have 89 dollars to my name, so I peeled nearly 50% of it out of a machine and wandered into the Pampered Pup, purveyor of pork to poor people, and pate a phot pdog. I pforked over pfour bucks because it included the pchips and pmedium psoda. From there I saw the bookstore across the street, which was announcing it was going out of business. This realization caused the phot pdog to turn to psand.

In that instant, I felt for the bookstore.

The feeling just wouldn’t go away.

About an hour later I was still in there, building a ceiling-high stack of books that I want at their desperation (or actually any
other) prices, while realizing I can’t have them because the cash I’m holding still has to produce dinner by seven, two separate admissions to shows, half a bridge toll and as many drinks as I can eke out of uncouth bartenders who are just at the beginning of their long lives.

The owner of the bookstore had put Tom Waits’ Step Right Up on infinite loop, which I found to be a surprisingly witty stab in the heart of his lackadaisical Alameedy clientele who permitted his business to fail by approving the Horton
urban shopping development which pickled the brains of local developers and compelled them to raise the rents on this street to
stratospheric levels. Neither am I his favorite. He held up my half-off selections of Khalil Gibran (The Prophet) and Jean-Paul
Sartre (Nausea) and asked if I’m bi-polar. I looked right in his eyes and said

Ring it up, loser.

And he laughed and laughed and laughed. I hoped he would laugh so much, seeing that he’s gone mad with grief at losing his bookstore, that he would forget to charge me for the purchase ($8 = 2 pints), but the little thread I’m swinging on snaps right off right about here.

Everything. Everything in here must go. Every Thing. He kept repeating it to each incredulous customer, pointing to the giant, and apparently invisible, correspondence they had tacked up in the windows, in hopes they wouldn’t have to say it over and over and over and over: Everything.

Go.

Like, Must.

I left with a burning in my eyes.

It May Well Be A Song

A cat climbed up what I thought to be a delicate tree outside the studio windows until it could see in, then proceeded to look distressed. I agreed to not assist it, then walked outside and placed food and water at the base of the tree. As I approached, the cat yowled and pawed the air between us. Young, already nursing, detached from her litter. I gave up and went to get the ladder as well.

A tiny woman threw her orthopedic cane almost in my path, then started to crumple forward onto the sidewalk while holding onto the wrought iron gate of her apartment foyer. Permit me, I said, putting the cane back in her hand. She instructed me to the hold the gate open so she could leave the building in her motorized cart-chair-scooter-device, that noun-stumping hybrid vehicle that moves people through places at about three miles an hour as opposed to three feet a day. I did. Off she went. I shook off the thought of her waiting for, then assaulting, another person to assist her in getting back in.

I read an excellent article in the New York Times while eating my breakfast, and momentarily thought that I lived in an engaged time of considered opinion, with daily opportunities for enlightenment and erudition. As I was finishing my coffee I offered the paper to other diners, but no one accepted. Yes, I was little surprised, especially since I had found the New York Times there when I sat down. No one was claiming it. I refolded it neatly and left it on the corner of the table. By the time I poured my coffee out of the glass cup and into the paper one so I could take it across the street into the other studio, the paper had been bussed into a tray with plates and syrup and sausage and napkins and fistfuls of spoons.

The Fugazi song in my head makes all other songs impossible. Still I write one out while waiting for everyone to arrive: A young woman patiently explaining to us what she does, being as she’s an insurance underwriter, and in her experience no one really understands her work, so she’s helping us along, in advance, in case we’re confused, which is very likely, and nothing to be ashamed of, because she’s here to help. Unfortunately we all understand insurance underwriting already. Most of us have made conscious decisions to avoid it and scorn its perpetrators. She misreads our inscrutable silence as an inability to make an intelligent remark about her profession. I look it over and draw a diagonal line through it, then turn the page. At the top of that page I write:

The Ballad of The Way Crossed Singer

Which is about a tedious moment when a woman singing on stage was so involved it appeared as though she might tip over backward. She didn’t, but I imagined she did. I imagined she hit her head on the edge of the kick drum, fell into a coma, and never recovered. I thought about the note that sent her backward and how she would hear it forever. I imagined you could see the note swimming in the still pools of her eyes.

Everyone arrives and the question is put on the table: who has any new pieces?

I say nothing.

Found Photos

Ay yi yi, I’m such a loser. After glibly saying yes when Sue axed me to produce some t-shirts… last April, I look up at the calendar and realize I have two days before heading up to merch them out in between sets. That’s called major time mismanagement and I’m catapulted into denial:

  1. Alan’s remark that it’s quite odd to merch at a private party suddenly seems not only plausible, but clear as a bell, rung by Laurence Fishburne at the end of a Spike Lee joint. The followup remark by Sue that our host encouraged us to merch, in an attempt to recover our costs of getting up there, sounds, by contrast, like the burble of my childhood friend Cindy Walthall trying to get me to recognize “Green Eyed Lady” as she sang it underwater. Cindy was so exasperated at my inability to recognize her rendition, that I think she called me fat. I would have fallen down, but I was in the water, and it’s hard to fall down when you’re… buoyant.
  2. Why sell band t-shirts when you can sell band postcards made from the found photos left under the stairs by that crazy lady who cleans all her pill bottles and donates them to us along with the expired dryer thingies, a bunch of yogurt containers that once held aspartame, hinged meal containers from Boston Market (great for holding dyed pasta!), and trade magazines from some industry focused on digestion? Why? Why Not? Why Why Not?

Sue will tell me, tomorrow, at rehearsal. Maybe she’ll tell me with her hands in the prayer position and her eyes closed. I try to make faces while people are doing that, stopping just as they open their eyes. Then I look very attentive. It’s not mocking… it’s milking the moment for some greek chorus of comedians sitting very very far away. They need no binoculars. If it’s funny it’s funny.

Perhaps I will be fired! I know I sound excited, or am attempting to sound excited, by the prospect. MZ calls it my Short Intention Span: quick acceleration, a huge wash of possibility, effortless recognition… and then It, or I, is/am Done. It’s contemptible, but hard to put one’s finger on because it’s not accompanied by material ostententatiousness. Rushing, rushing, rushing to new experience without the product endorsement or windfall based on hideous speculation. Drat.

The photos have now been sorted into their four basic odd sizes: 4-3/8″ x 3-1/2″, 5-1/8″ x 4″, 4-7/8″ x 3-1/2″, and 3-5/16″ x 3-7/16″. There are three with the faces cut out, two unaltered 4″x6″s, and two exposed polaroids, no image. I estimate the collection to contain about 500 photos in all. In lieu of rush ordering tshirts, I sit with my mouth slightly open wondering why these sizes… seemed exactly the right sizes for the job. And what, until now, was the job they performed? It makes my brain spin directly down to silence.

All of them, of course, are heartbreakingly beautiful: a tv dinner on a kitchen table, a dog wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, the glowing inside of a paper moon lampshade from cost plus, an unmade bed, and dozens and dozens and dozens of pictures of children.

Mysterious. Innocuous. Obviously now in the wrong hands.

I’m nursing some ethical hesitation (the adults remain in the photo, but the child’s face has been cut out) about recontextualizing them with our brand. As if the castaway snapshots of someone well-intentioned have been sucked into the nasty land of Snarky, where the floors are slanted in case you weren’t sure things had turned to Evil, or, more politely, Secular Humanism. I’m saying the photographer is a She, and She did This because She’s Born to It. And I. I take it the Next Level because What Else Can I Do, Being Born To That.

I think they’ll look good on the merch table. Easier to get through airport security than a fifty pound box of ring tees.

Sliding the abacus over, to figure her percentage.

The Last Time We Didn’t Bring The Second Guitar We Broke A String

The bass player is pretending to be a bass player. He’s really a new music improvisational guitar player with recordings coveted by people in Japan. Or Denmark. He’s also the guy with the good recording studio and the long line of improvisers elbow to elbow with the teen punks from coco county waiting to be recorded in it. It’s complex. Like most people: he is so many things, none of them really specifically leading here.

Yet here is the good thing: he’s available and the real bass player is not. So the gig is on.

A few days ago, the new music improvisational trombone player returned from England to see him. She is out of her head. Mad for him. Crushes our stereotype of new music improvisational trombone players from England (and we had one, it was massive) with her roundness, her super sex soaker-ness, her willingness to talk about how great it was with the pretend bass player.

When she says: it.

It is the It that refers to the Big It.

The It we didn’t like to envision around the pretend bass player because he appears, to us, Out of It.

Nonetheless, I sit on the edge of the stage and bask in the little swirl of Life that seems to follow people who are in the first 72 hours of Unlikely Pairing. We’re shocked, or skeptical, or squeamish, yes, but I’m always secretly proud. I like it when hook ups defy reason. It broadens the possibilities for all of us, while softening the inevitable rejections (it’s not you, the universe is… random!).

These are the sorts of things that fill your head before you’re the first of three bands at the $5 show. The sound guy is so noticiably addicted to speed that I decide early on to agree with everything he says, but not too much, because that also might annoy. The guitarist-founders give eachother wide-eyed looks because the juju has already been broken: someone, and although there are only two of them, the someone shall still remain nameless, has forgotten to bring the back-up guitar. I offer my duct tape as A JuJu Repair Tool, but I have not been given (or earned) a vocal mic so only the pretend bass player hears me and laughs quietly at my dark dark… dark humor. For a second I imagine him laughing as I fall to the ground, my big and tall men’s pajama bottoms (which I thoughtfully selected for tonight’s show costume) snarled around my ankles, but I realize it would not, qualitatively, be the same laugh.

Then I shudder and try to catch my man friend’s eye, but he is at the back of the place, bent over the mackie, making sure he has a balanced sound board feed from the sound guy hopelessly, tragically, irrevocably addicted to speed. I silently apologize to my man friend’s hunched back. He never knows what hits him.

To this day.

The pregnant-drummer-now-vocalist is not in the house. We begin anyway, after making a general house call for any pregnant women to come forward and sing along. After the first song, which is so much fun to play, and, I say to you privately, remarkably like the Talking Heads Song You Never Heard (I have learned not to be so free in my associations with the songwriter), the first guitar string breaks, as planned. The pretend bass player provides his guitar while a member of the next band restrings on the foot of the stage. The founder-guitarist laments that the pretend bass player’s guitar is unusable due to its unusual tuning, and he coaches her into returning it to factory presets. I make a note of the fact that a major third on two strings qualifies as unusual, but quickly realize that I’ll never make use of the information. Once it becomes a useless fact, it visits me during every unattended moment since then… like just now. Only I had the good fortune to be writing at the time. Let’s hope that satisfies for a spell. Otherwise, I’ll have to grow (and you, at your option) concerned.

After the second song, the string breaks on the second founder-guitarist’s guitar. I long for a vocal mic, because I feel like filling the darkened, cricket-infested house with my thoughts as repairs are made. So much to share. My head has never been so chock full of ideas. Good ones. I kick my lager over, after foolishly placing it next to the hi-hat pedal. When I bend down to pick it up, my sinuses threaten to explode out the front of my face. Once upright, I realize the cold is now accompanied by a fever. I decide, from beneath my oversize blonde quaalude filled roadhouse girl in red slip wig, that I’m really glad to be alive.

Here’s the setlist:

New Lie*
Prozac**
Viagra
Herbal Remedizer
So Sleepy
Luge
Smoke Ring Day
Queen of Doom
Teacher
Your Therapy
Accidental Death & Dismemberment***
Why Do They Do It?****

*See string one, twanged, above.

**See string two, Note One, ibid.

***Exploratory sonic youthy section peppered with far flung improvisations from mad trombone player from england. Crowd goes wild.

****The only song you want to sing in an IRA bar: it’s about all your friends drinking way too much. If the regulars would only lift their heads from their bidness on the top of the bar, we could make a beautiful connection. They don’t, but I do the Roger Waters thing in my fever and my hands, now blown up like big balloons, reach over to them and stroke their surprisingly soft heads.

Outside on the corner the overflow from the revolutionary cafe and people’s performance space next door mingle with the now largish crowd of people who like women singing quirky post punk power pop and the regulars from across the street at the scariest likka sto in the world. If this is the future of the human race, we are in most excellent shape. Let the poseidon adventure begin. An air heavy with wet is caught in the one or two floodlights illuminating the vandalized signs that encourage us not to stand around annoying the neighbors as we are doing. I fall into a deep conversation with the trombone player about why Bill Hicks is a virtual unknown to American comedy audiences. She cannot believe it. It’s true. Not my fault.

Kirby Grips ends the show with our wigs on. Pretend bass player has long ago loaded trombone player into his mid-size japanese sedan (why does this strike me as further proof of his unpredictability?) for more of… It. Founder-guitarist No. 2 takes her baleful critic of a boyfriend home. He doesn’t recognize the Grips’ cover of the Nirvana song, not because it was an extremely tangential cover, but because he has never listened to Nirvana. I want to take founder guitarist no. 2 in my arms and carry her away to a happy place, far far away. Founder-guitarist No. 1 leads us back to the rehearsal space where we thanklessly unload everyone elses’ gear. The locks are complicated. We wonder if the pregnant-drummer-now-vocalist-now-no-show went into labor. We deflect her self-criticisms and misgivings. I make a note of how detached she is from the joy of the creative arts.

Not that I could use this information.

But at least now it comes into my head completely unbidden.

Driving that unusual guitar tuning out.

Bon Apetit

This could be only my 1,040th bowl of ramen in my lifetime, yet all of them…

All of the all of them…

Have been elective but for one.

G served it after mixing it with a cold can of campbell’s tomato soup, undiluted. I try not to let him forget this, and every year, nearly 20 years on, his reaction becomes more brittle. It does not move me. I am merciless. Or merciful, considering I could also bring up that remark about my breasts outside of the party (like, where the hell did that come from?), the intellectual dismissal that sounded suspiciously like envy, and the time he fought me off with a sword. I mean. Tried to kill me. I don’t mention these things. I don’t mention the things I did right before and right after he did those things.

I stick to the ramen with tomato soup.

His wife can’t believe it. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t prepare it anymore. Anyway, it was horrible, I continue. Just the eleven-year-old boy of it, the look-what-I-can-do-in-the-kitchen- while-my-parents-are-in-acapulco of it. Well, what sort of dishes did you prepare? M will ask, intimating that he’s about to reveal I have no leg to put in chef pants and stand on. I cannot recall, I say, but the Hawaiians are particularly ingenius with ramen. Ramen in Hawaii is a freaking cornucopia.

Not like this bowl I just mechanically mainlandily dispatched. Devoid of campbell’s soup, devoid of delicious things selected by Hawaiians, it quietly serves its purpose of raising my sodium intake to catastrophically high levels. The cat is obsessively interested in it, using a claws-in paw to steer my spoon away from my mouth and toward hers. Too salty, I say, pointlessly to the cat. You won’t like it, I know you. Apparently she speaks no English, nor can she interpret my sometimes broad gestures. Her interest remains unabated. The cat can’t have the ramen because its a cat, M reminds me, the cat, anyone, anyone who will listen, hello.

We ignore him.

But every bowl since G’s bowl invokes the memory of that eye-popping disconnect between my expectation of dinner and the actual dinner. It makes me.. grateful, which is good, no? It also makes me laugh, because, don’t get me started, repetition is the basis of all humor. Year after year, I wait for an entirely new context to introduce the notion of G’s ramen recipe, even working it into an evening that included thai food served in gravity-defying arrangements, like roman copies of greek things swirling around a central axis; a trip to a bar that hadn’t really opened yet, but received us into its darkness where a french-speaking child came to our table with an ornate hand-made book that described all of their specialty gin drinks; back out on the street well after midnight as the lynchian door softly closed behind us, a mesmerizing moment in front of the glazing machine at krispy kreme as G and his wife insisted we load up on a dozen. How much do I need to pay to lie down on the conveyer belt, I asked the counter person, who, somehow, had heard it all before. The bodega had the henry weinhard’s we had grown up drinking right around the time of the tomato soup ramen, so as we cracked them and started eating the krispy kremes, a combination I knew would lead to a really really bad situation about an hour hence, I brought it up.

Last spring, I just looked at him as my ramen was served, and he looked around the table for something to throw, then regained control of himself. A sad moment, yes, for him one reason, for me another. As I cracked my neck slowly, thug style, he gave me the kubrick brow-frow: head down, eyes up, mr. menace. All of his history, his talent, his accomplishment, his potential, his writing, his reading, his wit, his heart and its rancor were brought to bear upon that space between his side of the table and mine.

And all I could think of was how pathetic he was in the kitchen.

The Coke In This Can Is Making A Crinkly Noise

Z’s words were ringing in my head: advice on two subjects.

  1. Better take your passport, and
  2. Just drop the bike off at the shop and have them fix it for you.

But I didn’t want to admit I didn’t really know where my passport was exactly (yes, bad news when exiting the premises quickly: synthetic thyroid hormone, toothbrush, cat, family photo album– god almighty where is my passport?). He would certainly be disappointed, but then, reassured that I was rather consistently, characteristically, dependably absent-minded. Count on me.

So I moved to the bike thing, which included the balancing of home repair v. professional servicing, the ponderous math required to estimate the value of my time, and the compound math of having to figure the value of conducting the ponderous math. In the meantime I picked up a paperback at the store for a dollar, which struck me as so fair, so reasonable, so packed with human kindness that I wanted it somehow to appear in the equation, despite it’s complete unrelation. Math is ready for the introduction of proximal events, surely. Math is bigger than I think, right?

Dark times, yet the book is a dollar.

I looked for a long time at the bike while holding the book.

Then I put the bike upside down on the floor, just in case I wanted to work on it.

It’s not just math it’s space and time. How exactly, if I drive the bike to the store, do I get the bike home. By driving? How will I know whether it’s a good repair if I don’t immediately launch into the waters, get distracted by a new sound around my feet, veer into traffic and get clipped by a passing automobile (they are horrified!), stare at the xray with the physician seven hours later and realize now, no really, everything, and I mean everything from the knee down, has changed. I will have lost my innocence.

So I start looking for my passport. It’s not in the shrine. It’s likely in the top drawer of the file cabinet, but what would I have filed it under? Pointless Software Registration? A very thick folder but it doesn’t hold the passport. I set down near the bike and start to, get this, polish the chrome of the wheel rim. Is this cleaning before the maid arrives? And why =wouldn’t= I put the passport under Pointless Software Registration. Isn’t that =really= what passports are all about?

Days go by (endlessly into the future). I find it under Agreements: Infidelity, which is filed directly behind Agreements: Fidelity. Alphabetical, upon reflection. I set the document on the eticket next to the card I used to purchase the fare, nudging each piece until they are all equidistant from eachother.

Z uncharacteristically leaves two messages from his landing pad in NY. I am instructed twice to purchase the day’s paper so as to capture the Barry Bonds special edition, which his NY friend cannot obtain from his vantage point in Stuyvesant Town. The paper has 4″ headlines about another matter altogether, calling to me with such shrill intensity that I close my eyes before reaching in the box. Surely my issue comes with an angry coiled snake.

Not so. I nudge it so that it is equidistant from the other papers.

The bike is a sculpture now.

I think I’ll read.

Jean Kirkpatrick Is Asking Me Something

A psychiatrist asked me to tell her my dreams, and, because I wasn’t paying for this, I made them up on the spot:

  1. I’m walking about with a Wiley Coyote hole in my abdomen from a shotgun blast… courtesy of the shotgun my father is carrying around.
  2. A fall into the Seine panics me because of the untreated sewage, but I feel better once I realize it’s ink, and I immediately inhale.
  3. Using a trowel–

But it was unecessary to continue. I was quickly prescribed, if not a little pouty because I was going to work in a reference to the Prince of Wales in the banquet section of a Lyon’s restaurant. Only drug dealers sit back there, man.

So, sure. Within a few months, I started dreaming the dreams I manufactured for the psychiatrist. I chortled nervously through them, unwilling to tell all the characters that I had conceived of them earlier and that the tableau was so very contrived. I thought they might… turn on me for breaking a basic dream rule of always being in the passenger seat of one’s unreality.

Years later, I learned that this was a good thing: lucid dreaming. Enlightened dreamers kept encouraging me to establish a threshold of consciousness in the dream by doing something ordinary like checking my watch. If the watch is a rhino, for example, chances are one is afloat. I tried this once, having decided that my threshold would be opening any red door. The doorknob, perfectly formed in brushed aluminum, felt like a *human finger*. The revulsion I felt rocketed me into a state of wakefulness that rather instantly culminated with me leaving the bed, running downstairs, charging through the kitchen, ejecting out the back door into the winter night so I could shudder and watch my breath shoot across the yard in a column of frost.

Sometimes I think I’m still dreaming that dream, and in a blink I’ll be back on the tufted leather sizing up that nut with the prescription pad. I’ll leave with a discreet envelope of product designed to carry me until a pharmacist can fulfill a greater order. I’ll immediately go to a phone to confirm that a small sale can be negotiated now.

I’ll keep the details in my head.

Imaginary.

I’m Reading Last Year’s Papers

Although I Don’t Know Why,

G wrote that his gym had been turned into a morgue, with 15 refrigerated semitrucks lined up in front. I lept back from the screen and immediately fired off a reply with the subject line:

You Go To A Gym?

This was my first clue that maybe I was unable to focus on the matters at hand. I try to hold the morgue/gym in my head, but an
entire corner of it is taken up with G’s autonomic extra-medium metabolism. You mean it isn’t true he hasn’t changed a bit in 15
years? What part of him was he trying to whip into shape? And since when do playwrights work out? What do they think while they… tread? spin? curl? master the stair? I literally shake my head to reestablish the gym/morgue, and, well, it looks just like the regular gym. Dozens of times I’ve been loading my gear into the car after the gig in view of some beacon-lit 3am workout panoramic window zoo, and screamed at them, since they can’t see or hear me in the dark outside their fourth floor treadmills:

You Are Running Towards Death!

My Before the Horror Era sardonic invocation of A Thousand Clowns now mocks me as more blocking, if not complete treason.

G continued. I know, Damn. Here: the rescue dogs were so overwhelmed with the smell of human flesh that they just sat down and whimpered. This kind of made me blink hard, as if hard blinking might shoo away the image that was trying to leave the page and get into my eyes and infect my brain.

No luck, so I told someone about it. Why? So we could be brain infected together? That person had a lot more information about the dogs: their special nose-washing stations, the ones flown in from the mid-west, the price tag for training one of them, their life expectancy. I switched from hard blinking to soft, intermittent drooping. As the recitation of factoids reverberated into a murmuring lullaby, I fell into

My wordless slumber.

When M made it back from Florida, I was seized with joy. Normally I would have enveloped M and done that little thing at the end of the embrace that transgressed the professional boundary:

  1. pressed the wind gently out of her lungs, which would have had an aggressive message, really: “Don’t You Ever Leave Again”; or
  2. spread my fingers over the thin small blades in her back, which you might do to confirm someone is real, when you’re in a psychoactive state… which I was, but not in the way one normally arrives there: “Let Universal Love Vibe Ascend Now”

Get this: I shook M’s hand.

I did this because she’s from the East Coast and she hates the open california showing of the love thing. She’s suspicious of high fives,
unconscious leaning, elbow-guiding and arm squeezes, much less the huggeriffic greetings that pepper our daily existence: her nightmare. I love her, an idea that surprised even me that morning, and so I did what would make her comfortable: a warm and strong, but not too grippy, handshake.

When it came time to let go I fixed her eyes for a beat first, then let go and returned to my physical area vis a vis her physical area. I couldn’t stop myself from asserting my message, I reflected with a small measure of guilt which steadily grew. What does love mean? What does it want us to do?

No answer, so I told someone about it. Oh! my person went on, I was about to burst into tears when I saw she was back home safely, but I know what she’s about. Instead I asked her if she had lost weight, which I know pleased her no end. Same same, no?
I leaned back from the conversation and looked around, just to re-anchor in the moment, to realize what we just done did.

And what it does to us as we do.

Uncomposed, But Music Nonetheless

Slowly, slowly, slowly… and then real quick like I realized how many cups of coffee had elapsed between my first glimpse of Aaron on
the (CNN?) roof and my bowl of black jitter juice vibrating in my hand at the counter of Jim’s.

Have you done this? You are bringing the bottle to your lips and you happen to notice the level of liquid inside and you say:

Hey.

And you start to drink of course, but your brow is a little furrowed as you say:

How much of this have I really had?

But your mind will not reveal the facts to you, because it knows you can’t…

Handle The Truth.

I had watched from the second second to the last possible moment before setting out to open the museum to receive its conflicted
staff, turn them around gently, send them home and give the ones hiding in the workload additional work to hide in. I suffered the observation of skittish security as the bald lady in black dropped envelopes in the night deposit. I sat in traffic created by our
collective need to flee. Then I went to a diner that had subconsciously decided to beat back the horror by playing inane music so loud that the short order cooks resorted to shouting, which made transactions impossible to complete without pure hollering. Would I
like a warm-up?

Yes, please.

So within the hour I was back home, speeding out of my mind, over-medium eggs rumbling menacingly in the gut, stripping off
clothes, shutting down radios, turning televisions to face the wall, unplugged, darkening monitors with violent shoves, spreading out the cool piece of cotton and getting down on the floor to just be low and
unencumbered, silent and uninformed, a typanum of human suffering, sounding to the things that struck it.

Upstairs, through the floor, I heard a chirping. I entrained my breathing to it, then had it taken away later in the day when I learned that was the first broadcast of the sound of the locating
devices worn by firefighters, disappeared in swirls of ash.

The shimmering noise of debris, the damper of precipitate, the padding of feet on ash, and the inarticulate cry…then the pompous
theme music of brand-identified disaster, the wincing howl of microphones in press conferences, and the jarring chorale of
bipartisan leaders.

What to do with this new neural fasttrack between the ear and the heart?

Score it.

Especially Prepared For General Information

I kid you not.

That’s the text at the top of the thing in the package in the bag that we picked up at the place that arranged for us to go over there. I’d provide some details, but it’s obviously important to keep things… General.

The number of days between us and a flight to Beijing dwindle. I have a new facial expression because of it: the cautious wince that precedes an apologetic brow lifting. Why? Well. It all seemed like such a good idea at the time, you know. The waters were rising (or the helicopters were dropping unassembled earth movers into the gorge so they could be built on the spot), the markets were exploding, paul theroux’s little volume was packed with a bizarre arrogance… and I just announced one afternoon that I was going to float down the Yangtze River, would you like to come along?

You said you wanted to. I took it from there. It takes an extensive and complex booking that involves trains planes boats and coaches to bring out personal facts about me. Facts that amount to, um, Remorse:

Golly I hate crowds. Why am I visiting a place with 6 billion inhabitants?

Stupified without language, I quickly enroll in an accelerated university course in mandarin and perform moderately well. Or is the instructor not invested in me because I admitted on my form I was using the course to prepare for travel while she, a polyglot, has committed herself to asian languages for life? My audacity! Did my request to take the course on a not-for-credit basis make her less inclined to review my work, to insist on my mastery of the four tones, the dian vs. pie strokes?

How can I speak, talk, express, dialogue, expound, chit chat when all I can create from the 135 characters I pounded into my head can only be arranged in the form of a discarded draft of a french new novel from the 50s? Tour of 20 or Tour of 2? Anti-malarials, or no anti-malarials? Capitalist running dog or battle seattle anarchist? Victim or perpetrator? DAT or mini-disc? Mini-disc of course but OEM or Clone?

To go all this way to get inside my head, or out of it? For sights that, well, kind of intriguingly, are going to be submerged by the willfulness of my species to create megawatts of power? That’s it? That’s what turns me on?

American breakfast provided… isn’t that cheating?

So I devour everything I can about where I’m going and what I’m about to do. I suffer from overpreparedness, rough guided, lonely planeted, state departmented visa clutching ready: that bug-eyed metabolic disorder of pretending not to be a homebody who dreams, while standing, barely, due to middle-aged back, in oppressive clubs in the middle of the night waiting for the main act to take the stage, of being at home, in bed, with the television tilted in overhead, watching Mad TV…

which I’ve seen once in my life, but it was an idyllic moment I immediately inserted into my catalogue of greener grass items. I could be at home right now, I say to you. I could be at home right now in bed watching Mad TV. And the last part you recite with me, because you’ve heard me say it many times before.

So here I go, stuffing tampons in a ziplock bag so I can use them somewhere between Chonquing and Wuhan, while reading the material especially prepared for general information. Or is it pronounced General Information? An unfortunate moniker for someone with real talent and passion for military service? I could have the General’s packet and s/he mine. I’m feeling a bit of panic just tilting into the thought with you, much less tearing into my bulging plastic folder and checking the name on all the vouchers and tickets. I’m going to resist, of course, because it’s ridiculous. Military travel is booked completely separately from civilian travel. Everyone knows that.

We’ve had some good names, though, which we launch into the overnight air on KPFA: Lisa Snatch, Tad Lowe, Les Messie, and the one you’ll hear before our only listener, a cab driver in Fresno, does: Proscenium Archie, which has more of a blues moniker effect and doesn’t really count, but just sharing it with you makes me step away and laugh. I mean… just laugh out loud. And during that time I forget all about the fact that my passage is too soft, my courage is too beset by tiny kissinger beetles, the sense of adventure is marred, in advance mind you, by the sense of pre-co-option… Sorry. That is so not a word.

dongbudong?