scatterings

i like to see chaos subsumed into order. long grass growing tangled then trimmed. but only in certain places, like next to sidewalks, not in parks where i am walking. no, not there. not when i am sitting facing a field and the man comes on his mower, chasing me away, following me through the park, more and more mower men, an onslaught of men joined in mechanised noise and motion. that is what i don’t like. i like to see spread-out papers form themselves into a neat pile or disappear into the recycle bin. bare surfaces. something emptied and discarded. this is not a manifesto, by the way. this is just a monday morning [note: it’s actually now wednesday—ed.]. a morning i rode in rain. traffic altered my route and i passed the central police station, a thriving death star hive, battered tie fighters buzzing in and out from the flight deck, looking to crush, to destroy, to subjugate the populace, meting out their brutal mutilated form of “justice” with truncheons and guns.

last friday was a special day for i heard my first wood thrush of the year. o, how i love the ethereal songs of the thrushes! there is no sweeter music in the forest for me. i used to wake to their flute music every spring and early summer morning, but no more, no more. now, if lucky, it is the much lesser song of another thrush, the ubiquitous robin. not to disparage the robin, but his song is nowhere near as transcendent as the wood thrush, the hermit thrush, the swainson’s thrush…

yesterday i went to a class that was like jungian personality types but with colors and a few more bells and whistles. i am blue-green and my conflict sequence moves from green to blue to red. there are all these diagrams that look like someone made them with a spirograph. they are quite pretty but i don’t know how i feel about being plotted on a triangular graph. there i am…a black dot straddling the line between two types, far off from my fellows (in the group report, i am a clear outlier, there are no other dots near me). there i am…moving across the color scheme as conflict escalates, crossing axes with impunity. look at me go…

ice wrench grip

Clutching the bedside table again. After so many nights with it lodged against my hip. And now while cross-checking your references. The calming effects of copyediting, the sly satisfaction of reducing months of hard labor to a few sentences in need of tightening. I reach in with my wrench and look for loose bolts, as in my ears the sun kills the moon. And now the wind blows. An exchange of smiles is a warm point of light in ice. Now occupied with the business of shuttering another week. So carry me, carry me, Ohio.

indicators and implications

Water main break sends me scurrying yesterday from the building. I tried to stay but the fire alarm went off. I think they were trying to flush us out. Begone, you office trolls! It seems there are water mains breaking everywhere in this city. Our aging infrastructure simply cannot handle a violent shift from warm to below freezing to warm again. Get home, pull up the shade to a turkey vulture gliding overhead. I resent the implication this bird is making toward my general state of liveliness. I am not dead. It’s simply not true. Maybe the vultures should go feed on all the dead water mains instead. Crunch, crunch.

This may sound familiar to long-suffering regular readers, but how one reacts from inside an elevator to the sight of another person walking (hurrying, even) toward said elevator, defines at a base level the kind of human being one is. Most other indicators are largely irrelevant to me; they require too much interaction, too much time to reach a satisfactory conclusion. If I want to know in an instant, a blinding flash, what kind of person a certain human is I will hurry toward the elevator in which she or he stands, looking out at me with either compassion or disgust, and I, at her or him in return with either gratitude or disappointment. What transpires in that brief moment shall inform me of what stuff they [sic] are made. I am reminded of my experience at the revolving door the other day. The simplicity, the stripped-down bareness, of this moment, two humans moving in opposing directions, yet united in one shared motion to move themselves, and each other, forward to where they needed to be. To ignore the sublimity of these moments would be tragic.

my austrian gorge

I rung in the New Year with a vicious bout of gastroenteritis. It felt like 2012 was clawing its way out of my body. And now that it is gone I am empty. Perhaps it is good to start another year empty. Fill me up, 2013.

People say don’t take your health for granted. Every time I am ill I am reminded of this. For the world seen through sickened eyes is not the same as that seen through healthy eyes. One moves through life with somnambulistic motions. Gone are the little tendrils of thought so often coursing off in all directions. A single-mindedness takes over. I must drink some water. I must lie down. I must walk the dog. I must lie down again. Mere survival. Reading becomes impossible. Too much focus required. Staring into space becomes commonplace. Or glazing over in front of the telescreen. Anything to dull consciousness of the ill feelings.

Yesterday I worked from home. I was not well enough to return to the office, but there was work to be done, and I felt capable of doing it. Besides, the last thing I wanted to do was spread this plague to anyone else. I always find that I am more productive and efficient when I work from home. I’m not sure why this is. It may be that I am able to work in front of a window at home. One might think that this would lead to distraction and daydreaming but such is oddly not the case. I find it comforting. My bird friends come to visit, alighting in the crepe myrtle branches and hopping about on the porch roof. It keeps my spirits up and my mind focused on task. At the office I sit in a dim windowless womb in front of two screens, impassively observing my soul die a laborious death, each email and meeting appointment a tiny wound I am too dulled to deflect (in his typically dark style, Thomas Bernhard once wrote: “Instead of committing suicide, people go to work”).

Coming out of illness now, I am feeling tentative. My diet remains bland and simple. I miss coffee. The world still seems an unforgiving place. Outside the wind howls, chilling my weakened frame. But I can read again, and I find solace in Bernhard’s novel Correction. It is the perfect book for right now, with its hypnotic cadence, repetition, lack of paragraph breaks, dark subject matter. I feel poised above a rushing gorge in the Austrian wilderness.

Perhaps this is the worst 2013 had to hurl at me. Toxins now purged, I feel ready.

Soundtrack to this post:

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry — Nothing Wrong
Shipping News — Flies the Field
Metroschifter — Schift-Ship

every morning

[click image to read]

© 2012 S. D. Stewart Erased from Chapter XIII of Nerves and Common Sense (1925) by Annie Payson Call

homophones

I walked on the homophone path today. Here are two of my favorites.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Homophone path

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Homophone path

I saw a man with a large Dallas Cowboys tattoo on the side of his calf. As we neared Dick’s Last Resort, his companion spotted the statue of Dick and exclaimed, “Oh, look!” and steered her man over to be publicly humiliated while consuming his afternoon repast.

Later I heard a young woman say, “She’s going to a Match.com event there tonight.”

When I returned to the lobby, a man saw me coming and did not hold the elevator. He did not look at me, for he was ashamed at what he was about to do, but I know he saw me. I then held my elevator for the next person. Sometimes I see people pushing the ‘close door’ button as I approach the door. Sometimes I stick my foot in between the closing doors in defiance. Every day is a skirmish in the war of life.

There are blobs in the office today. I just heard them capering in the hallway. One blob came into my boss’s office while we were having a meeting. This blob knows there is normally a candy dish on the table, and so she looked for it but it wasn’t there today and so she turned around and walked out. Her expression did not change from one of intense detached focus the entire time. Nor did she speak. Good blob.

possible kalopsic casualty

Last night I swam in a sea of almost-sleep, drifting in and out of almost-lucid dreams, all of which evaporated upon waking. It was the fan, I think. The fan instead of the A/C. What was I thinking. The Siren song of dropping humidity dripped its sugar-sweet serum into my ear holes. Damn you Weather Sirens. It is Wednesday now. My bird-of-the-day calendar displays a sleek Green Kingfisher. I replaced the bulb above my office plant. We are getting new green carpet; it smells bad and looks like it was torn out of some swinger’s 1960s basement rec room. I cringe at the thought of it creeping in all molester-like into my personal office space. My feet will never be the same. Violation! Violation. I am listening to the liferaft again. So help me, I cannot help myself. Do you know what i mean. Do you. Do you really know. I attended a meeting this morning. I was 9 minutes late on account of I was waiting for the coffee to stop brewing. Also my coworker and I were busy trash-talking the last 4 years of our professional lives. I am back to drinking too much coffee again. But I drink the special tea after lunch to try and repair the damage. It appears to work, but maybe not since there was the almost-sleep and that is a heavy consideration. i am eating my lunch now and not smoking a cigar. But I bet that guy is. I’ll bet he is. The liferaft has segued into the bedside table. That is where I keep the 5 books I am currently reading, most of them Kafka-related. But there is Jung, too. And Tessimond. All of my dear friends stacked in a pile within easy reach. With my Moleskine. Sigh. Last night while out walking Farley we saw a cat. It was not a metaphorical cat that might or might not be in a box, dead or alive. It was a real cat and Farley was interested. He stared under the car long after the cat had run back across the street. I want a cat so bad. Nearby to where I live a train went off the tracks in the dead of night. Two college girls were up on the bridge tweeting photos and they were buried under a mountain of coal. They died. I’d like to think this exposes the ills of social media, but I’m not sure. I feel bad about this. That’s why I listen to the liferaft so much. It makes the sounds that I feel inside most of the time. I am perhaps a blurred model of myself. I walk outside and brush my hand against the lavender blooms and surreptitiously sniff. Hey, it’s that guy who is always sniffing his hand. Yes, that is me. I enjoy touching things in nature that look soft. I find them irresistible. I find much of what is around me irresistible. The rest of it can fall off the planet for all I care. The Internet ruined my concentration. I enjoy chasing rabbits of information down their hidey holes. That is really what I do. Often. Sometimes I pass on what I find to others. Sandy Berman taught me that. He is a good man. We used to write letters back and forth. I was an over-excited new library school student. Now I just search for stuff on the Web. My idealism is easily trod upon into a gross paste that I plan to smear on the molester carpet when it arrives leering and panting outside my office door. What you don’t know is that I was just outside touching the lavender. Literally. Between that one sentence and the next. What do you think about that. My hand smells so fucking good right now. Outside there was a truck with bins on the side dispensing free energy bars. The orbs and their blobs were shoving their fleshy flaccid fingers in those bins so fast. But they are healthy nutrition bars. Ha! That is a fucking good trick! I feel so alive today. It made me walk fast. Surf the mania. I am 100% alive and 100% dead ALL THE TIME. I am petting the cat and its back is arched. I’m an out-of-the-box solution, suckers.

lunchtime walk

A man who works in my building rides his bike across the street to the grassy patch in front of the seafood restaurant. There he sits on a portable chair and smokes cigars during his lunch break. I find this an interesting pastime.

People from other countries stroll on the promenade. I can usually spot them before I hear their foreign tongues. It’s usually the subtle or not-so-subtle differences in fashion that tip me off. Others just don’t look American at all. Something in their bearing or gait or facial expressions. Less fleshy and stupid looking.

Tourists swarm the place because it’s the high summer season. Overheard for real: “Should we do Hard Rock?” Imagined rest of conversation: “It’s so nice to go to other cities and see all our familiar places. If things were different it would be scary. Oh look, it’s the Cheesecake Factory. I hear they hate gays just like all my friends back home.”

Here we have the National Aquarium. It’s not like Sea World, but it still makes me think of that episode of The IT Crowd when Roy is dating a girl whose parents died in a fire at a Sea Parks (the fake British equivalent of Sea World). He becomes obsessed with figuring out how, with all that water around and considering the concrete stadium has a total of 12 exits, they could have possibly died in a fire. Much like all IT Crowd episodes, of which I’m not ashamed to say I’ve watched at least two if not three times each, it is hilarious. Of course it’s British. The mainstream American humor palate is so much less refined.

But I digress from my walk.

The harbor smells like a rancid cesspool. I hope the visitors bureau is working on that.

Many women walk around with babies attached to their chests like parasitic blobs.

I don’t walk long. It’s important to strike a balance. If I’m outside too long I feel worse when I go back in. However, at least the temperature in my office is no longer hovering in the subarctic range. That is a plus.

In the lobby I assess the elevator situation. I hate riding with other people in an elevator. I hate everything to do with elevator use, but I will not go into it all here. Building security keeps the stairs on lockdown so even though I only work on the third floor I’m supposed to ride the elevator every time. You can go down the stairs (not up), but according to the sign on the door you’re not supposed to do so unless it’s an emergency. This enrages me. I still go down them, as do others on my floor. Anyway, if there are a lot of people milling around waiting for an elevator I usually go to the other side, which is what I do today. I’m about to enter an empty elevator when a man comes running across the lobby. How can anyone be in such a hurry after lunch that they can’t wait two seconds for another elevator. I’m embarrassed for him. He chokes out a breathless ‘thanks’ before fiddling with his smart phone. They all do. Smart phone fiddling has replaced watching the floors light up on the sign above the door as ‘the’ activity to do in an elevator. I stare at the floor.

red light green light

Shifting synchronicity of traffic lights marks the vague change between these days. Whoa, that one is red this morning. I now recognize that yesterday has become today. Also, I think I’m wearing different pants. Speaking of today, it’s Office Olympics Day, an awkward afternoon-long opportunity to observe one’s colleagues caper with impunity in the insipid name of morale-building. Well, no amount of frisking about can rouse this drone’s morale. Even worse, OO is scheduled to start at the beginning of the usual lunch hour. Whose idea was that, I demand. Tell me, you fools. But it’s like shouting down a dry well of indifference.

This song triggers memories of driving back roads with my sister on the way to buy bootleg cassettes at the Sunday flea market. Poring over the endless rows of tapes by obscure bands, the excitement of finding strange new music coursing through me as the summer sun shines down. That’s really where it started, after all, this mystical journey down a jagged, thorny path leading from the dusty crossroads of early adolescence, a place where little acceptance was to be found. Of course it’s farcical to think anything was easier then. But as I gathered the tools of defense against a harsh world, enforcing my armor with sounds to yield lifelong comfort, the process prickled with the electricity of discovery. And these shocks, so intense in youth, temper as the years wrap gauze around us. I fear it’s the daily doing that does us in.

After the Olympics, which my team did not even medal in despite winning multiple events (team competitions are notoriously rigged at my place of employment), I leave early and walk out into a storm. Louder than bombs thunder strikes overhead. I duck under an awning hoping to wait it out before hopping on the bike to ride home. An Indian man stands next to me chain-smoking. More Indian men stream by, cigarettes in hand. Seems to be a gathering of sorts. Afternoon traffic builds like layers of crusted pus on an angry sore. People run from the rain. Building to parking garage. Building to parking garage. I grow impatient and take my chances. The rain falls on even as the sun violates the clouds. A sudden humidity clashes with cold rain on my hot skin. Drop, sizzle. Drop, sizzle. Red light, green light. Go.

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.

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