Tuesday, January 29, 2013

City on a Hill (the show)

           Jeff was excited. It was morning and Jeff was excited. He had school today, and after school he would eat dinner but after dinner there would be two bands playing in his basement.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clementine and Hess

   The sky was clear and warm and we sat around at Clemetine's parent's house all evening. We had been drinking a few beers and Hess had played guitar the whole time (Hess being a very good guitar player, one of these self taught near-prodigies who can improvise off any piece, loop it gradually into another piece then another, and yet who found sheet music to be utterly abhorrent). We had spent the evening around a small fire talking. We three had never been exceptionally close friends: we had been brought together in high school (along with a few other people to varying degrees in one of those nebulous and shifting friend groups) by a certain sort of weirdness. I won't go so far as to say we were outcasts, necessarily, but had all felt bored or unsettled perhaps by what we considered the mainstream. We had mostly just gotten drunk together (that ranging, freeing high school drunk) then ended up going our separate ways after school, meeting once or twice a year after to drink again and tell stories.
   Clementine's dad had come home late with a truck load of grapes, had gone east over the pass real early in the morning to the vineyards in the desert. It was this thing he did. A hobby; making wine. A real nice guy, he spent most of his time as a forest ranger on the Olympic peninsula. Months at a time out in the rainforest, digging and spotting. I always enjoyed talking to him. We had gathered at his home because the next day Clementine would be heading off to California, then from there to Mexico. She had been living down on the beach most winters making a little money working in a circus, entertaining tourists, living a glorious young ex-pat's life. She would tell us stories that night of her time in Mexico, none of which I would remember.
   It got colder and we put out the fire, dragged the chairs inside. Checking the time it turned out to be later than we had thought and I said I was leaving. I hugged Clementine. Hess said he would grab his bike and walk me part of the way. Hess came from a very wealthy family and seemed to at once to revel in and reject the embarrassment of familial wealth. After we graduated Hess had lived in his parent's basement for a number of years, the dungeon of an arcing, khaki, three story place right there on the lake. He turned his room (and the rooms around it) into a smoke filled nest of ever-humming amplifiers and exotic drums; bizarre paintings and sculptures he made while on binges of grey-market research chemicals. For some time he had abused drugs in a curious cycle: for a year he regularly went through ounces of expensive marijuana in the course of a week. Constantly stoned he made music: ten minute long winding tracks, sometimes just one note played over and over and over again, drum beats fed through daisy chained effects pedals until they stuttered and shifted more to the will of stochastic electric whims than to his own desires. When he stopped smoking (citing the numbing effects and decreased productivity of weed) he began drinking everyday, heavily, and to the point of stumbling incoherence. At one point he was taking large biweekly doses of psilocybin, sitting in empty parks on grey January days talking to trees. This one continued with great regularity for sometime until, driving home one day, he rear-ended a woman at an intersection. When she came out to get his information 'something' (and it isn't entirely clear what) happened. He said he hugged her but then one doesn't often have the cops called on them for hugging a person, and while resisting arrest he was tazed. Hess spent the comedown of his trip in solitary confinement and always recounts those hours as something of a spiritual experience.
    As Hess and I were walking we passed our old high school, a dark dead whale in its summer dormancy. I said,
      "I had this dream that everyone we went to school with had to come back and we were, like, in high school again. Except everyone was older and kind of jaded. We were learning American History and just no one was into it." I told Hess "Made me wonder if, even though we are older now, if they brought us all together, that shitty high school dynamic would return in spite of everything we had learned. Like if that was ingrained in us or what." Hess was staring ahead and making long slow strokes on his bike to stay with my pace. Each push he let the bike angle out to the side, ambling and lethargic, and this gave him the appearance of an adolescent to me, though in no negative way. He was thinking perhaps, then, after a few beats, he turned to me and said,
     "Yeah but...there would still be shootings and stuff. Like, at music festivals. Like at Sasquatch. Get people together and, you know, bad things will always happen."
     I was confused by this, so I said
    "Everyone would have mellowed out a bit, less egos and stuff. It might be fun you know." Hess didn't say anything for a while and it became clear to me that Hess probably wasn't listening, but it seemed like he was completely insane. Suddenly I got an urge to push him off his bike, pin him to the ground and scream
What you just said makes no sense at all! It has nothing at all to do with what i said! right at his face
It reminded me of that moment in many horror movies, like the space movies where the evil alien has the power to take over a person's mind, where two characters are alone and one realizes his buddy has been taken over. As if Hess wan't Hess anymore, that this person I thought I knew for so long was an automaton.
     But this wan't the case.
He was just a guy.
Just my friend.
     We came to a 'T' in the road where Hess would turn left and I right. I told Hess it was good to see him again, that we should meet up soon. Hess just said
     "Bye" without looking at me and, with a few powerful strokes, was already down the street.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review of "Eat When you Feel Sad" by Zachary German

      This book is one of those books that has a great deal of hub-bub whirling around it, composed of German's unusual personality, his non-standard writing style, and some high level praise and endorsements. Considering the book it is fairly short and in most ways uncontroversial this amount of attention seems only to add to this noise. Attempting to remove this from my assessment will be impossible but I'll try to be as objective as possible here. I bought Eat When You Feel Sad after watching Adam Humphrey's documentary following German in the two years following the release of EWYFS. Honestly I would recommend holding off watching the documentary until after reading the book as (if you haven't already done both), while Shitty Youth is a well done sketch of an interesting and apparently erratic personality it can only detract from a first reading experience.
       The book itself is immediately notable for German's style which is absolutely, uncompromisingly and pathologically spare. This is like Lish on benzos (or adderall i guess? i donno...), and while one may think shorter sentences would make an easier read it honestly took me some time to slow myself down enough to get the full experience. Events can fly past you so if you want to enjoy this book it helps to read it pretty slowly. Whether or not German chose this style 'consciously' is an interesting question, I think, and one that I have not yet seen addressed. Regardless his minimal style conveys the sort of mentally unstable ennui that the main character Robert experiences throughout the course of the novel. These basic declarative sentences have proved to be fairly polarizing, people either lauding German as a genius or bashing him as "childish" or a hack. In my opinion it takes a certain amount of restraint to write like this, after all description comes naturally and unbidden when we write, and it isn't always good, or necessary. It does leave something to be asked for however. Some of the sections come off as repetitive, especially when you read "Then Robert did X" and it is the fourth time in the novel he has done X (and the fourth time you have read that exact sentence).
      The story itself is fairly bare: it follows the events of Robert's life over the course of a number of years as he grows up, moves out of his parent's and lives in the city among other people pretty similar to himself. He gets a job but it is only alluded to as a minor inconvenience, the majority of events involve either Robert alone in his home (listening to music, making food or jerking off) or hanging with friends and drinking. It doesn't need to be overstated that this is not a plot driven novel. Even though roughly the same events occur over and over again there is a sort of satisfying development that occurs. In the beginning of the novel, soon after Robert moves to the city, he is totally emotionally numb, maybe even completely emotionally vacant. At the end of the novel though he begins to feel, or at least express sadness. We see Robert cry and it seems like a breakthrough: as if this character that may have been a robot or animal bursts into humanity, and in a sort of depressing but sweet way. Robert does not find love but dreams about it in the novel, and this provides a  counterpoint to the general emotional numbness provided throughout. We hear other character's remarks that suggest Robert is "full of bullshit" and a jerk though we never see exactly what he does to deserve these descriptions. It is as if Robert is cut off from the world in a way, the view we get completely subjective, and we are either required (or perhaps not allowed) to build the world, characters and events that occur around Robert.
     As mentioned above German places the stark reality of young urban living (where happiness and contentment should be just a purchase away, and yet remain forever elusive) in the only way appropriate: starkly, barely, and without adornment. Unfortunately many critics (official and of the comment section rabble type) that I have read seem to assume that this is German's magnum opus, and ignore that not only is this his first novel, but that he published it when he was 21 or so. Not that youth itself should remove one from critical scrutiny but this fact should at least place EWYFS in the "interesting-unusual-and-welldone-first-work" bin with German's potential to put out some serious game changers in the future a definite possibility.

If ever writes again...
                                  which, it looks like, he probably won't...

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Very Terrifying Process of Animal Recognition

            Terrance Trull pulled up to his home, a contemporary, multistory, mixed retail/residential, tired and feeling overwhelmed. He parked in the second subbasement far away and protected from the sun, though on this particular day the high cloud layer has effectively blocked out all light rendering the day simply a lesser shade of night, the darknesses blending together, waxing and waning at semi-irregular intervals.

Monday, January 21, 2013

thththt (a study in parenthetical remarks)

      Under the breaking light Aaron lay, defeated and turned aside as if by a final fist (purely and strictly speaking, this in a metaphorical or allegorical sense, the man himself not having been involved in an altercation or fisticuffs in some time, a week or two possibly). And an arch above him, two columns hard sided and erect: each stroke of sprayed paint which covers them (and there are so many strokes) lay against the concrete, lay as if in wait, lay in neons and blacks, each chip and crack (an army, a host, of deviations) a testament to age and entropy (or entropy's colloquial consideration anyways)... The arch a former double doorway, its guts pulled out and demolished, a fence (flimsy and temporary) in place in an attempt to dissuade that exact action Aaron is accomplishing at the very moment.
      The light anyways: in a cascade, an awakening wash and tint across his face and body (bull-ragged as it is) and the ground as well, its tawny and drab touched surely as the rest, not transformed, no never transformed (as nothing is transformed by light, every object is always the same light or dark, always the same, the light only alters it in our eyes (which are, truth be told, woefully under-equipped to assess these very surroundings with their ambiguous surfaces, their transference and transmittance and reflectance and whatnot, at least truthfully, truth be told)) but rather are...altered, yes altered let us say, altered in a thermal and energetic way, very subtle (very, very subtle but present nonetheless), and Aaron unaware of this on a conscious level but (arguably) though aware in a very deep, very ancient pineal sort of sense, again here we see a change in surface energy and subtle interactions.
      The man then waking after some time. Waking (not as one might expect in the usual protracted 'gauzy' way, the light for example 'silking its way beneath and between his long and grit ridden eyelashes' or 'slowly forming images in his cloudy mind, sleep dimmed and obtuse') but abruptly, anxiety ridden, not with a start maybe, but of a sudden certainly; from a deep REM or REM analogue (the usual eye movements curved and altered (the accelerations lessened, decelerations amplified) to a very alert (if not terribly aware or cogent) wakefulness. This anxiety he feels is a direct (and opposing) product of his actions of the night before,
                                                                              and of this? let no more be said.
      At this point let us consider Schubert's symphony number 9 to have commenced. The great. The sleeping great, as it were.
The single french horn, that single lone french horn dictating the theme, alone and rather timidly. The strings then entering, bucolic, pastoral, hopeful.
      It is of course, a distinct feeling, this anxiety, seething and winding, and twining through and through. Touching (inconsolably) every thought and notion, those just created and those long held, and as the music rises, in the initial allegro (as it builds, the strings and such, the horns and such) his eyes begin to open.

Though...can you know this?
   You in your limited feeling and imagination?
       You in your limited experience and confining logic?
You in your dreams and persuasions? What does the new day bring to you?
But this new day, the dawning and all its glory...
       Oh God! And all its glory!
Listen! Listen! As the strings build and build! Dance and fly!
Here it is! The day
          The Day! Each particle, each God-given particle in its very corporeal existence each twirling atom and it's hoary partner! Dozing through the air in its required path, its predetermined and preternatural step and trace.
          Before Aaron is this ordered mess, this float and draught of meaningless movement bereft of knowledge of itself.

         It makes him sick.
The concrete is a cold mat below him, below his face and hands and body. There was cardboard beneath him but it has shifted and moved and is away and away and away. The is no one on the street now, no cars and no foot traffic. Aaron picks himself up with great effort, the cricks and cracks smoothing themselves out, his legs and joints and other bendy, rended and spent parts settling into shape and their natural orientation after these many hours cold and dormant and locked into wholly unnatural and vile positions, the dull and growing pain signals blocked (obviously) from full circuit-completion.
       Up and over, up and over the hurricane fencing, wobbly and unsecured, though Aaron's own wobble offsets it well, pendulum for pendulum the wild arcing tamped down.
      Down Roosevelt way, and it's low mid century retail space.
      Ah...the day, the very day.
      The 9th of June.
This is the day for Aaron, the annual day of remembering and an annular event for which ritual is baked and limned into the very settled dust of his pores (rusted and shut they are). The sun's bright (so current it is) and the previous night (in the far past, and gone forever) hold him back no more and, grumbling and glum, he picks up pace (though very slightly only) up to the cemetery.
     No money, no money not even a Jefferson's gleam or a Lincoln's shine to poor Aaron's hand and heart, not a slip to transfer or a word to beg (the bus and it's driver will be so very uncompassionate), the ride is not even worth a thought. Yes, yes, this will be a trek, a bit of a journey. The cemetery (land of the dead) is...what? 3 miles hence? South as the crow flies and flaps and dips perhaps but alack, alas, the cut and lock of the watery straight, blocking off and snipping the straight line. Not to mention the hill, rising and rising all the way to the tippy top. Yes this will be some way for poor old Aaron (infertile and barren, not a child to his name and never will be poor old man (though perhaps best off for the unborn...)) but the deal must be done, and in a certain sense Aaron has little say in the day's events, as mentioned earlier (and to expand upon) it is not so much Aaron walking to the cemetery but the day in a way taking him over, controlling him, driving him forward and walking though him. Aaron rarely strays from the university districts, going as far south as the international district and as far west as Ballard (though rarely) this being the case as far back as he can remember in his adult life (almost 10 years now). Yes in a way Aaron is propelled on this day as a piece of bark or a stray leaf (which may have little forward momentum in an eddy of a stream) will, under the right conditions, become caught up in a stray current which exists for a few moments only, and be pulled along with the general tide of the river, only to find a new temporary home swirling in the arc and flow of a trailwater.
     So up Roosevelt he goes, to 45th then taking a left starts and stops and starts again with the lights and the people until reaching University way. Here, Stacks (spun as all hell) is in the middle of the fourway intersection pulling off his hoodie, now whipping it and yelling, yelling, a screaming demon. Aaron crosses and, in the lagging traffic, Stacks finds an exit, cue ball eyes and rapid clenching jaw muscles. He walks next to Aaron, unnoticing, his lips mumbling and head rolling back from time to time. Aaron begins to speak to him but Stacks stops dead in the middle of the sidewalk. \
Stops and just stares directly ahead.
      Aaron walks on, only a few bodies on the sidewalk at this point, no eye contact, they always seem to look away as he passes. It is only once over the bridge, taut webs of metal and brick (almost ancient), that he fully begins to see the world around him, the rusty sleep wiped from him. The elegance of these homes annoys him, stokes him. Makes him feel rated and grated to the seedy core. The trimmed grass and the white windowsills ask to be defiled. The flush bricks and flagstones scream for entropy, to be returned to their home states. Aaron considers himself an 'entropizer' now, never having had a 'real' job. His only occupation to live and travel the world, to bring objects and personalities and ideas down to their most perfect, basic, realized state. To free matter and their inscribed potentials from unnecessarily high levels of energy, to move the universe forward on it's continual and glorious journey toward total equality.
      He kicks over a garbage can.
     To the top to the top, and a right on Aloha, through the stately homes and quiet virginal air. Families now preparing, leaving, moving into cars and off to the city or other parts more distant. Brief glances, Aaron uncomprehended, rife with out-of-placeness which translates to an unbelieving and then to mental blocks. To 15th then back around, the cemetery only blocks away. He begins his approach with great reverence, the air around here imbued with glory and sedition. Along the long fence, wire topped and barb tipped, to the sole gate and in.
     The field of death.
     The great spanning, arcing and rolling field of buried bodies and their requisite monuments, standing stone pieces. Stone pieces buried in the valley of babes, the polished red stones of the Chinese and Vietnamese with smiling faces of their residents enscribed upon. Occasionally a sky reaching obelisk or sculpture. Aaron stumbling and lost now (having come here last exactly a year ago the way), the graves looking the same to him, the lanes and alleys stretching off and down, along and out into repetitive eternity. Here the block of memoria to the crematoriates, panels wall adherent, the volume of the thing implying something inside. The depth behind the wall hinting that the bodies may be more than just ash, full human carcasses (attendant host of worms and blanket of rot) are maybe held inside, or perhaps even the souls (largger still by many oders of magnitude than the bodies) are retained in this small building. Aaron, reaching the highest point of the graveyard, stops. Stares out: lakeward
                                            then to the Cascades,
                                            then Ranierwise.
                  Then down,
                   right there.
     The name intaglioed double deep into the stone so that the shadow and light cause forms to arise within the valley of the stone. Atop the stone a small sculpture, roughly the size and shape of a sleeping cat, the name there causing bells distant and faint to ring within Aaron's head.
       She had been a poet, Swedish born, and lived in America her whole life. She wrote short vibrant poems indicting the architects of the Vietnam war long before it was a popular cause. She had achieved a fame, the forgotten fame only a counterculture poet would hope for. Aaron had met her as a teenager, she living down the hardpacked dusty road from his parents. This being, for many years, only the broken down house kids would throw firecrackers at from moving cars. He could never remembered how it had started but it came to the point that he would skip class, five days a week, to stay with her, in that ramshackle house (she by this time already world-wracked and body weary, though her mind a coursing, buzzing ampule). Some days she spent releasing her angers and hatred of the world to him: uberarticulate rants about the government, the abuses, the evils she had seen. Other days they spent silent, reading and drinking tea. Aaron had been timid and small then and she loved that about him. She gave him books, many books: Thomas, Cummings, Joyce, Faulkner, Ginsburg.
       And he was the one who found her.
       So her returned every year, on this day. As if measuring the decay of her headstone to his own decay (a few events, but genes mostly, had conspired to put him deeper and deeper under the arches (or some equally desolate bed) every night). He spent the whole day there, as they had many years ago.  The first few years his ritual was to spend the day writing (and after she had died, this was the only time he would), releasing a whole year's worth of pent up verse, line after line on loose leaf ruled pages. As the sun would set he would spread the pages out and set them alight, sending the fumes as an offering to her. This ritual became less about writing, maybe a page or two came out through the whole of the day, and these he would not even set alight. Simply left them to rot in the rain or blow away.
      Now he came just to sit, sometimes sleep over her grave. He would watch the sun move across the sky, watch the other visitors (though always to other graves, never to hers) or feel the wind blow across him for a day.