old school unfiltered digressive blog post

the trail is adjacent to the tracks which are adjacent to the freeway: three disparate choices to answer the north-south question. now imagine this urban aorta, choked with carbon deposits, dirty blood cells forever coursing through it, tied off with a tourniquet of unknown provenance and design.

stop the flow, we said. or rather, i said (and only in my head at that), as i walked the trail empty of the populace, for of course they are encased in the dirty cells choking said aorta and if the city is a heart i guess that places me in the right atrium of this questionable metaphor.

i am walking the dog. he likes the rabbits and groundhogs, but most of all the deer, for he fancies himself le grand chasseur de cerf all because one time he cornered one up against a fence in the woods and thought he’d finally earned the latent ancestral badge of honor awarded through genetics at birth, his herding bloodline transmitted but never having been permitted to establish itself thus far in practice. sadly he was mistaken, however, for his continues to be a largely dull urban existence, devoid of any subsequent deer herding.

so the trail is good for meditative ruminations on metaphorical aortic tourniquets and such other fantasies never bound to reach fruition. for the primacy of the automobile holds fast, and has continued to do so for well over a century now. scourge of the earth though it is, it will never lose ground until the oil dries up. and thus will it facilitate its own demise, being an unsustainable solution to the perpetual problem of transportation, a problem that humanity can never seem to answer in a fully satisfactory manner.

let us consider what havoc the automobile has wreaked, keeping in mind first and foremost that it is a convenience, not a necessity. humanity survived for a much longer time without the automobile than it has with it. and in that time with the automobile, we have breathed in its toxic fumes and polluted the atmosphere with said fumes, changing the climate in the process; we have paved over millions of acres of useful land with impermeable surfacing for the sole purpose of facilitating its mobility, leading to massive amounts of toxic runoff into our waterways; and finally, last but not least, we have experienced its encouragement of some of our most egregious characteristics: aggression, impatience, and laziness.

now let us examine the basic premise of the automobile. it is a selfish machine, for it prioritizes the individual over the group. i get in my car so i can go where i want, when i want, in the shortest length of time possible. all of us in our solitary steel cylinders, hurtling toward oblivion…

sigh. i can’t keep this up. it’s two weeks old by now anyway. who can sustain this focused level of frustrated rage for so long. not me anymore (thankfully). i’ve long since let it die back down to its usual layer of barely smoldering ash but this draft continue to languish, growing further furry layers of word mold (25 to be exact).

today my computer thinks i’m in shrewsbury, pennsylvania. so now my inner voice keeps repeating ‘shrewwwsbury’ in a shrill voice. at least one part of me continues its valiant efforts to lighten the mood.

does anyone even write blogs like this anymore. where a person just spews out unfiltered content. i miss those. it seems as if they are long gone from the internet. now everything is so painstakingly curated to the point where it ends up being completely banal. social media is an easy target for blame, of course. it started out unfiltered, but then everyone became self-conscious, comparing their lives to those of their ‘friends’ and not wanting to seem less cool or fulfilled, not to mention the growing paranoia about offending anyone for fear of public shaming. because social media is now the public forum. meanwhile irl we’re all silently ambling around ignoring each other. strangers don’t talk to each other out there, but online they shred each other to pieces. also, now apparently if you’re outed for anything online your offline life is also officially ruined.

when will these two worlds fully merge, or have they already. for some perhaps, while others of us have one foot in each world and as they each pull away from us our legs slowly descend into a painful involuntary full side split position before eventually…what…we break in half? or fall into the void between the two worlds? and what might that space look like. can we perhaps set up some type of shelter down there and just sort of squat together as a growing community of disenchanted outsiders? i’d be up for that. (no cars allowed, of course).

‘to reduce the fever of feeling’

Outside the wind howls. Inside a trio of snowmen converse in the vicinity of a conference of paper birds. Last night the ‘artsy’ neighbors continued their grand tradition of slamming doors and other unidentifiable objects against floors and walls for several hours between approximately midnight and the archetypal 3 AM hour. Result: current state of apathetic grogginess. Desire for absence of shared walls swells with each passing night of lost sleep.

Days less measureless than before. Crystalline structure of incipient routines inches out beyond the borders of a now worn and tarnished impersonation of L.B. in Rear Window. Except there never was anything even vaguely menacing to observe, only a sea of moment-waves rocking gently against the fragile hull of this origami sailboat.

Return to Pessoa’s words: no novelty in the universal, no comprehensibility in the individual. The old ruse of intentional obfuscation falls flat. But still the urge to fit words together roils inside. Maybe to do it, like Pessoa says, ‘to reduce the fever of feeling.’ Yet if all is unimportant (which it is), why bother describing any version of it. Unless perhaps to merely locate and handle the words themselves. To dive to the bottom, seeking words buried deep in a consciousness whose mirrored surface rests fathoms above undisturbed layers of sediment. Yes, perhaps it is for that reason: to extract anything worth contemplating from the granular level, to slip some small truth from the interstices and examine it from all sides, even if only to then return it unseen.

prairie dog towns: a case study

I never knew if the prairie dogs could leave. They lived in a town inside a park inside a town. There was a fence around their town. It was not a high fence but prairie dogs are not tall. They do burrow, though. That’s one thing they’re known for—building tunnels. So the question for me remained: why didn’t the prairie dogs leave? How far underground did that fence go? Had any of them tried to burrow out, only to encounter the fence? To the untrained eye (mine) they looked content. But I didn’t trust my untrained eye. There were young ones and old ones, so clearly they were procreating. But was there a carrying capacity to this confined town within a park within a town? If no prairie dogs left, would the population not eventually reach this capacity, leading to a crash or other dire consequences? Did the Parks & Recreation Department even have a strategic plan?

Meanwhile, in a nearby state there was another prairie dog town inside a park inside a town. But these prairie dogs were free-range, and their town spread out across acres of parkland. It was a decentralized town, difficult at first glance to even conclude that it existed. The prairie dogs themselves were also less obvious to the naked eye, though apparently no less active according to one news source that named them as likely suspects in an electrical cord chewing scheme plaguing this year’s Christmas display. In fairness to the prairie dogs, though, human vandals were accused of playing an even more significant part in this tragedy. The implication in the article was that the humans knew better.

The other town, the one in my town, was quite elaborate, much more concentrated, presumably as a consequence of the prairie dogs’ confinement. They built up instead of out. It was an odd thing, really, with the fence around it being only a few feet high. The lower part of the fence was made of chain link so the prairie dogs could look out and visualize their freedom. I wonder how the jailers knew what height to build the fence. If three prairie dogs stood on each others’ shoulders the top one could easily leap over.

This Just In: Cursory online searching yielded an article from earlier this year that says some of the prairie dogs have begun to escape from the confined town! The Parks & Recreation director said the fencing is original and is believed to extend to a depth of five feet. But the fence is deteriorating and the city doesn’t have the money to replace it. Note: due to the horrid quality of this article I refuse to link to it. In fact, if anything, my recent superficial review of online regional news outlets from this part of the United States has made me thankful for having put such a great distance between it and me. Apparently, in that part of the country one doesn’t need to be literate to find work as a journalist.

What I wonder is how one town in a region decides to confine their park-dwelling prairie dogs while another town does not. To me this indicates a fundamental difference in world view, and yet having visited both places (and lived in one of them), I would never have guessed that the authorities would be at such polar opposites when it comes to dealing with potentially destructive ‘critters,’ as one diligent reporter so endearingly referred to them. In the free-range town, the Parks & Recreation representative displayed a surprisingly blasé, perhaps even a live and let live, attitude toward the prairie dogs. In the other town, however, the parks director made it clear that the animals were there for public display and the popularity of this display would drive the town to secure funds necessary to fix the fence. This, in my opinion, would be the expected point-of-view in that region, a place where most people consider animals to be: (a) something to eat; (b) something to shoot; and/or (c) something to be confined for the amusement of humans. However, I was apparently not thorough enough in my highly amateur and flagrantly qualitative anthropological research. Although I regret the oversight, I still expect this shoddily constructed case study to ensure my continued membership in the esteemed Society for Purveyors of the Unscientific Method.

yes to sloth reincarnation

I see everything. It’s staggering. Many things are ugly and sad. A few things are beautiful in a superficial way. Some things are ugly in a beautiful way. Or sad in a beautiful way. Or neutral seen through a colored lens of your own choosing. Re: The sky is a lovely shade of cornflower blue / The sky is boring, why is it always blue, but sometimes white / The sky makes me sad / The sky overpowers me with its vastness / The sky enrages me.

Flaws are necessary. Imperfections abound. Everything is so strange. I don’t understand what people are doing. How they are living, existing. Where comes the drive for them to do something. I think I need more sunlight. The darkness slow-kills me with eight-hour stab wounds. My daytime cave smothers me. Who are these people. Don’t tell me. Maybe I need them. I’m not really in a rush.

I can no longer walk ten feet without writing something down. I keep waiting for a lamp post to approach me with violent intent. The suddenness of everything happening around me is electrifying. I’m a festering open sore and the world is my penicillin. But wait, I am allergic. Look out, I’m rejecting the transplant. Maybe I like being alone in a crowd. Maybe the reincarnation is almost complete. Routine comforts and horrifies me. I want it to be different but I’m afraid.

Today was the ice cream social at work. A group of awkward people convened to eat ice cream in a cramped meeting room. Our leader thanked us for doing a good job. It was uncomfortable. We ate our ice cream in silence. Some small talk scratched a flint but the kindling never caught. But there was vegan whipped cream! And organic vegan sprinkles! And vegan chocolate sauce! I ran outside when it was done! It was too late for cigar-smoking man. But expose-her-shoulders-to-the-sun girl was out there. And some bike messengers. I secured a good seat, read another piece in Zone 3. I took the sun and held it close.

As I rode through the supermarket parking lot on the way home, I saw a hearse. Its back window was painted in a colorful stylized manner with the words Girls & Corpses. Soon after, I saw some young runners. I felt a thrill. I felt the sun leave me. This is a true story.

~ FIN ~

hiding under my deck from the insect overlords

Channel 6 anchorman Kent Brockman mistakenly reports on a master race of giant space ants.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Ants. I don’t know what goes on here, but I like it. Actually I don’t care for ants. I particularly don’t like when they start that business of traveling in lines. Nor do I like them crawling incessantly around on my kitchen counter or invading the hummingbird feeders (even though there are no hummingbirds this year? where are they? hello?? I created an urban paradise for you and you never showed up?). But enough about that. I enjoy the idea of an Ant Kingdom. Do you remember the Simpsons episode where Homer gets sent into space? He bumps into an experimental ant farm, letting the ants loose into the space shuttle. Footage of the accident, depicting ants looming large in the camera lens, is picked up by Springfield’s Channel 6 News. Anchorman Kent Brockman subsequently reports that the shuttle has been taken over by a “master race of giant space ants.” Brockman goes on to state: “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.  I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.” On the wall behind him, Brockman has hung a homemade “Hail Ants” sign. Now that’s funny. My roommates and I hung an identical sign in our apartment many years ago. But in reality I’m pretty sure I would not enjoy living under insect overlords. They would likely make me march in lines, which I would hate.

Brockman shows off his obsequious nature.

Mondays are so absurd. Lately I’ve been away from work more than I’ve been at work, which makes being at work now seem all the more ridiculous. I’ve got this sticker at home in a box that says “Why do you work?” I hate that sticker. That’s why it stays in the box. It’s so cold at work and it’s so hot at home and this is a source of perpetual confusion for my body and my mind. This morning it was raining so I suited up in rain gear and then the sun came out as I rode to work sweating in my non-breathable rain gear, as was expected according to this fundamental rule of bike commuting. This evening I rode into the alley and the kid whose grandmother always screams at him was walking toward me, banging a long metal pole of some sort against the pavement. And it was like that scene in The Warriors where David Patrick Kelly clinks the beer bottles together, yelling “Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!” except substitute a little kid for David Patrick Kelly, a long metal pole for the beer bottles, and a cold blank look for “Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!” I got off my bike and I was sad.

But I digress. Here are two mostly unedited short pieces I scrawled in my notebook a few months back while riding south on the light rail. I’m not exactly sure where I was going with these at the time. I think I was pondering the 1950s and the beginning of the suburbanization of America. Maybe imagine these as entries in the American Handbook™ that we give to our insect overlords so they’ll understand us better. If we’re lucky maybe they won’t force us all into subterranean caverns and we can keep our decks and our pools and our acres of green green grass.

Deck: A deck is a popular structure attached to a house. When people tire of feeling closed in, they retire to the outdoors, without leaving behind the comfort and security of their home, the deck being an extension of the house and not a separate entity vulnerable to attack. Homeowners enjoy inviting over acquaintances to sit on their decks with them. Often this is accompanied by a meal cooked “en plein air” on a grill that sits proudly on the deck. The man, clad in a masculine-themed apron, always controls the grill. It is his domain. His wife brings him platters heaped with sanitized animal flesh, which he slathers with sauce before neatly placing on the foil-covered surface of the grill. After the meal, the deck people continue drinking themselves into oblivion before finally driving home and/or passing out in their bedrooms.

Pool: A pool is a status symbol popular among the wealthy. In-ground pools are the only ones that anyone cares about. If heated and covered by a screened room to keep out bugs, so much the better. Teenage girls enjoy laying out by the pool as their bratty brothers plot to splash them with water or inflict some other heinous act upon them. Rich mothers bring trays laden with glasses of cold lemonade to poolside. Their daughters sip daintily before applying more tanning oil. Their snotty sons then sneak up and snap the bikini tops of their pretty daughters. When the man of the house arrives home from a tough day at the office, he may, if of a certain disposition, change into his trunks and swim a few laps. But first he tousles his son’s hair in greeting and gazes briefly and uneasily at his daughter before finally kissing his wife on the cheek. He may then pop open an Amstel Light if feeling particularly spent.

Stay tuned for more entries!

Maybe. Depends on if the ants come, I guess.

my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.

to the man who shouts into the storm drains of downtown

We have failed you. It’s difficult to gauge in how many and in what specific ways we have failed you, and at what exact points of your life this failure manifested itself, but we have indeed failed you. The other night I watched as a Downtown Partnership pseudo-cop insisted you cease and desist your storm drain shouting. You grew aggravated and moved away from her, only to lie down once again on the opposite side of the street and bellow with urgency into yet another storm drain. I sighed and threw my leg over the handlebars for the thousandth time, to ride home through moving blocks of steel traveling at light speed. Reflexes on autopilot, I dodged and parried on two wheels, my lungs sucking down exhaust, my eyes fixed ahead, my mind a tundra of thought.

Apparently my role is not to shout down the storm drains, despite sometimes feeling only a fraction of a moment away from hurling myself prostrate on the pavement, pressing my face close to the cold steel, and screaming into the gaps between those bars, sending all my rage and frustration into an inky oblivion. But is it wrong to covet this role? My own role has been elusive from the start. Inside I am nebulous, my drive and ambition porous like cheesecloth. Raw passion flows through, never anchoring in the tangible, leaving only chalky residue in its fast-moving wake.

I should be helping people like this man. But what is a better life for him? I do not even know. Would he thrive wrapped in the comfort of stagnant normalcy? Where would come the former release of storm drain shouting? How do you change a lifetime of fringe living and what are the consequences? Are we all meant to be doing the things we are doing, living the lives we are living, or are some of us moving by default? The answers, like my role, are elusive.

anonymity in the city

Last night I was reminded of how anonymous I have become again.  When I think about my time in this city, I almost see myself split into two separate people.  I used to go out a lot, and as a result, I was recognized.  I also volunteered somewhere that elevated my public profile even more.  Then I withdrew, at first gradually, but then altogether.  I embraced my inner hermit; I returned to the reclusive life that has always been my safe place.  Even before this latter shift occurred, though, I wrestled with which persona was true.  At the time, someone who knows me well also observed that all this social activity seemed unlike me.  I am by nature a quiet and reticent person.  However, I do enjoy going out and being around people.  It’s just that I’ve never been able to strike the proper balance.  I overindulge in socializing and then abruptly overcompensate by retreating into my shell.  I’ve been on this perpetual teeter-totter of extreme behavior for much of my adult life.  It’s nothing new, but every once in a while I receive some abrupt reminder of the gaping schism between these two personas.  In response, I try analyzing myself all over again.  But I never find any answers.

institutionalized

Due to cat needing vet visits, I spent two days working from home, driving Em El down south for work and picking her up in the evening.  I haven’t commuted by car in years, so it was quite a shock to my system.  Blood pressure rises, teeth gritted, eyes glaze over as you follow the same route over and over.  I’m used to seeing the stupid things drivers pull as I ride my bike, but it’s totally different when you’re driving.  It actually bothers me more, probably because I’m already extremely agitated just from the mere fact of being behind the wheel.  Anyway, it got me thinking about people who commute the same route for years on end.  Every day, a vacant thousand-yard stare fixed on the traffic lights ahead.  The rote of it all would kill me in a matter of months.

So after the storms pass, and the dishes are drying in the rack, I step out into the cool air.  That old cottonwood out back sings its timeless song with nothing more than leaves in the wind and I am so thirsty to hear it.  I want to go to sleep listening to nothing but that.  It takes me back to, of all places, Lucy Park and the hidden trails I found that one day, winding alongside the chocolate brown river.  After a deep and full night of cottonwood sleep I want to wake up to the high fluted serenades of the thrushes.  I want to turn my head to the window and breathe in the meadow breeze as it fills the room.  I am so hungry for what feeds me.  So desperate in this urban confusion.  I keep fitting one leghold trap after another onto these withered limbs.

I can’t stop hearing Bill Callahan sing, “My ideals have got me on the run…towards my connection with everyone.  My ideals have got me on the run…it’s my connection to everyone.”

I don’t even know anymore what my ideals are, if I even ever had a clear idea.  I’m so shifty and drifty, I’m barely able to pin myself down most days.  And I’m certainly not running anymore.  Treading murky water, perhaps.  As for my connections, they are few and far between.  Far in miles and farther yet in states of mind.

I don’t want to become institutionalized.  I really don’t.  I know that much. Maybe that’s an ideal?  It’s something I’ll keep fighting against as long as I have the strength, even if it’s with my last few ounces.

from the bottom of the roiling pond

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, the previous name of this blog had nothing to do with the content.  It was just a nod to a type of wordplay that I enjoy.  I think that many disappointed web searchers arrived at the site as a result.  The new name is actually an old one, the title of an essay I wrote many years ago.  It’s about a common thing that happens between people:  you bond through shared experience, but as the vaporous passion and overstimulation of youth burn away over the slow dull coals of maturity, you perceive the true tenuous nature of that bond.  Either what we need from other people changes as we grow older, or it just takes us awhile to figure out what we needed in the first place.  Then again, with human beings it is rarely a matter of one option or another.  Sometimes other people simply stop giving us what we need, either consciously or unconsciously.  Or we tire of seeking it out from them, realizing we’d sooner squeeze blood from a stone.  I suppose that, in the end, it’s usually a blurry blend of all of the above.  Often when I look around and try to figure out what’s going on in the world, it’s like I’m peering through a jar of cloudy pond water.  I see signs of life and movement, but what it all points toward is beyond me.

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