Sunday
Oct192014

Where I've Been

It all started when I choked on a Burrito Mexicano and I don’t mean a little. I’m talking blocked windpipe, stuck, stopped. It was like letting go of a helium balloon. Trust me. My kids, fighting over salsa verde, appeared in the vivid luminosity of lastness. Everything erupts in shining presence as the maw of death licks his hungry lips. Farewell, little ones. Don’t fight. It’s only salsa. The world is a rainstorm of salsa verde and free refills. Be good. Go light. Be kind and gentle stewards of the earth.

You know the sounds zombies make when they’re feasting and slurping on brains? It was like that. The sound. The Burrito Mexicano yacked from my throat, shot clear across the dining room, and stuck with a goopy smack on the window at Baja Fresh. All the people wondered what the hell. Life kept happening.

Fuck me, I thought, I need a free refill.

*

When a Burrito Mexicano almost kills you in a Baja Fresh, it changes you in your most deep and hidden places. Maybe you grasp this on an intellectual level but only the initiated can truly know in the heart of all their chakras. To make a long story short, blogging, Twitter, and Instagram were, just like that, robbed of their meaning. I was newly overwhelmed by an insatiable hunger to live life, do things, go outside, hit up the mall. There were innumerable bones from which to suck marrow. That might sound gross but have you ever tried bone marrow? Then don’t hate. Stop being a judge in a glass house who ignorantly disses marrow.

I found a place to live in the desert deliberately, or at least hang out for awhile. I needed a Bodhi Tree to sit beneath but I don’t live in Nepal or Bhutan and airfare is ridiculous, so I sat next to a cactus and called it good. I let my eyes go blurry and prepared myself for a direct confrontation with the true nature of suchness. If you can’t relate to the lofty nature of my ambition, try choking on a Burrito Mexicano at Baja Fresh and get back to me. It’ll fuck with your aims. Anyway, I’m trying to let body and mind fall away and dissolve into the ceaseless flux with neither beginning nor end but there’s these stupid birds going chicka-chicka! click! chicka-chicka! I mean WTF, birds? Don’t get me wrong. I’m trying to let things ride with an easygoing John Cage vibe but I need to speak my truth: these annoying desert birds—they’re pissing me off. First of all, they’re harshing my direct confrontation. The next thing you know, I’m musing on John Cage, a zillion miles away from the Great Matter. Then I’m angry and, worse, I’m getting angry about being angry because—dammit—a burrito almost killed me and my ardent attempt to enter the Treasure House is being thwarted by a couple birds and John Cage. Fuck it all to hell.

*

I’m not around much anymore. I sit still and quiet in the mornings until everything vanishes into the deep and empty oblivion of forgetfulness until Tingggggggggg, the world arises with a bell and nothing more is needed than the ever-strange thrill of being-this. There comes a time when the moment occurs with the force of all time and what an uncanny honor—to be a temporary expression of the unspeakable.

How will you express it? Smile, help, chew your food slow and careful.

Sunday
Sep212014

Cutting & Mending

“Stop,”

she said and I did. I looked into the mirror. Behind me, in front of me (mirrors are like that), she opened a drawer and removed a pair of scissors. In front of her, too, was a mirror and there we stood, back to back in the slippery world; I could, if I tilted my head just right, see her back and her face, depending on which reflection held my attention. I’ve been wondering, lately, about the nature of attention, reflecting on the way things appear in its focus and where, or if, things are when they don’t appear. If a tree. But here were we, over and over, infinite, all in an instant, stopped. Me, wondering to what end she held all those scissors, numberless, dizzying, too many to count.

“Don’t move,”

she said and I didn’t. She had been called by the hair, out of control, on the back of my neck to remedy the situation. The scissors’ cool metal on my skin made me shiver but the extent of this shivering, considering the circumstances, was excessive. It was akin to the experiences of being watched in a public place, déjà vu, the jarring realization that you will one day die, the sudden emergence of a pristine childhood memory, being drunk, the shudder of orgasm, and the sneaking suspicion that you are somehow always more and less than what you are. The shiver rippled. That is to say the whole room trembled and nothing was certain. The edges of things—called into question, forgotten. The cool metal of the scissors came together with the heat of her focus on the back of my neck to create a balance that conversed with the earth and sky, sun and moon, this, that—

snip

“I won’t cut you, baby,”

she said and I believed her, though I closed my eyes and counted my breath. Here, in this bathroom as she slowly and carefully cut the hair on my neck, I felt the etching of what would inevitably be an indelible memory and a knot of jumbled thoughts knocked against my teeth.

I wanted to say things like I know this sounds weird but I have always been so miles away from everything, you know? Like, for instance, a coffee cup. I could grab it, sure, bring it to my mouth and take a drink but, still, it’s so ‘out there’ like everything else, everything, out there, and me ‘in here’, alone, really and truly alone, you know? Cut off, from everything, especially people. Sometimes, rarely, I would, you know, try to explain this to someone and they would think I meant lonely, like I had this feeling that would pass but, no, I’m talking about being ALONE, all by myself, always, and—I’m sorry if this isn’t making sense, but—right now, here, I don’t feel like me. Like I, me, am not me, as if those scissors cut away the distance between me and things and me and you and everything. It’s like I am. It’s like this is. The whole thing, you know, is maybe what people call—I don’t know—‘love’ and this, right now, isn’t me talking but, instead, maybe it’s the stars mumbling in their own awkward way about illumination and the shining that lights the way and—

snip

I wanted to say things like that but I didn’t. It was just scissors on my neck and her concentration.

snip

And freely cut hair, reflected endlessly, held aloft for a moment by the entirety of the world.

snip

Until it began its infinite descent to the steady tile and things resumed their clarity and distance, supported now upon a foundation of selflessness and intimacy.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Swings

When you were pushing your daughter on the swing, you forgot about the rent. You forgot about your taxes and your credit cards and the broken towel rack in the bathroom and the hangnail on your right index finger. You forgot about work and working out and the bad dreams you’ve been having about a wicked pack of oil slicked witches chasing you through an endless concrete maze lacking both entrance and exit. From a pop psychological perspective, you were not a symptom of your issues. You were not abandoned. You were not the victim of a God fashioned after the constraints imposed by your drunk and raving stepdad. Your inner child was not wounded. You were not hounded by the sense that you’re not okay or good enough or worthy of love. Nor did you smother yourself with positive self-talk about all your admirable qualities and the good things you deserve. You did not obsess about, or feel compelled, to have a drink—just one drink, to take the edge off. Indeed, you forgot you had an edge. From a less conventional perspective of our psychopathologies, you were not possessed by demons or haunted by ghosts and you weren’t the numinous vessel through which bloodthirsty gods of war erupted, blindly seeking power and vengeance. You forgot to worry about the future’s uncertainty. You forgot to dwell in the muck of the past. You even forgot to remember that your car was low on gas.

Come to think of it, when you were pushing your daughter on the swing, you forgot about yourself entirely and, in the ecstatic release of this blessing, you forgot you were even a you at all, that such an odd little thing called you existed. Where did you go? Pay attention. Because here’s where it gets interesting and twisted. When you were pushing your daughter on the swing, some vaster You, the great big You that, indeed, contains you and everything else, but frequently—too frequently—gets imprisoned by your persistent identification with It, freed Itself from your unusually imperial dominance to inhabit the perspective of your daughter and, as a result, you forgot yourself in the service of this You that loves only to wander through the exotic forests of otherness.

And you were swinging! As the chains binding you to the swing set moaned with their predictable creaking like the bones of the very old, you were swinging, wildly to and fro, screaming Higher, Daddy, higher, screaming WHOO, and laughing. You were swinging and your long yellow hair sailed behind you like a superhero’s cape and the big yellow sun hung in the perfectly blue sky like a painting that sought only to explore the magic of juxtaposing a vivid yellow circle on a vast blue canvas. You forgot that math was hard and that school was a drag and that it’s becoming more and more difficult to navigate school’s social demands. Some girls are mean. Some girls are nice. Who are you? You forgot that your parents are divorced and how confusing it is to somehow be a member of the same family while blurring into the scenes of two new families. You forgot about your big brother, how much you admire and despise him. You forgot that your dad always goes to those meetings and you don’t really understand why but you’re glad he does. You forgot you spilled mustard on your blue dress and that you can’t find your hairbrush under your bed or anywhere and you even forgot that your braces make your whole mouth sore.

Come to think of it, when you were swinging, you forgot about yourself entirely and, in the ecstatic release of this blessing, you forgot you were even a you at all, that such an odd little thing called you existed. Where did you go? To the mountains! As you reached the highest point of your backward arc, you swooped forward and, freed from yourself into some vaster You, you were a bird launching into the air and flapping your wings, trafficking with airplanes and clouds, thinking big thoughts as big as the sky. Look at you! You can fly anywhere, anywhere at all, but the city and all its cold angled concrete and people bore you to death so you fly to the mountains where the rock is red and yellow and as constant as hope. You belong in the mountains. The mountains are home. For only in the mountains do you fit like a carefully built nest in the branches of a humble tree. You feel free in the mountains. There, you can finally relax and sing and, unafraid of men with guns and other predators, forget yourself. Come to think of it, as the idea of yourself as a bird gives way and blurs into your surroundings, you yourself are the entire range of red mountains covered in blue sky and we, too, are all of this.

Wednesday
Aug062014

All Rubble

If there were such a thing as another option, we would advise you to keep moving. But there is no such thing. So keep moving.

Move, go, move until you yourself keep pace with the moving, merge with the moving, and then what? A daffodil, perhaps, on a windowsill, into which the whole world pours? A nice start, yes—pretty—but already gone.

So how can we say it? A flash of lightning? A thundering kaboom? The fire? All this. A clap of shine that shelters the darkness. A clap of darkness that shelters the shine. Applause!

But goddamn how we yearn to wash our hands of words and yet, at the same time, we can’t stop talking. Talking too can shine, does shine, has its time and then it’s gone, like wilting daffodils, forever.

Live every moment like a punch in the face. Get knocked out.

People will tell you to let go and let Whatever, but this assumes some selfsame you who lets go and remains, now bereft of something and probably crying, boring your friends. What if, instead, you let go of you, the you that holds things? If you let it all go together, it would all go together.

Wind, rivers, music. Blue balloons that vanish into blue skies. Like that.

But, then again, you letting go of you makes for a tricky jam. Because then you have to, in order to get the job done, let go of the you that lets go of you, too, and—wait—we’re making us dizzy. You really are infinitely persistent. So maybe just fall, or drop? Collapse, and die?

Dying takes practice.

So when things fall apart, fall apart with them. Stay falled apart. We know, we know. This is the last thing you wanted to hear. But what, if you would just stay falled apart, would be left that wants to hear something, let alone hold on to something that would need letting go?

No. Fall apart with the falling apart. Fall apart together. Whatever.

 

Sunday
Jul202014

This Is Not A Life

“So hey, um, thanks for being part of, I don’t know, the whole trip,” I said, groping for appropriate words. “You mattered, you know? You mattered big.”

“My pleasure,” he replied, strangely comfortable with the nearness of death. “And thank you, too, and Jon—you keep a good thought, will you?”

“Will do,” I said, nodding, manically wondering what to say when you part ways the last time, finally saying without thinking, “Take it slow, Jerry.” Eye contact. “You take it slow.”

Smiles.

Michigan. It’s always so good and fucked up. Childhood. Family. Old friends. Cancer. 

*

But tomorrow morning I will get on a train and go to the Art Institute of Chicago with a beautiful woman to see a Magritte exhibit and we’ll find secret places to hide and make out because being alive is no less beautiful for all its pain and suffering and lack of coherence.

People get cancer. Planes crash. We're all going to die. But this is not a life. This is not a life. This is not a life.

There are lines of poetry everywhere and songs to sing in the car and Magritte exhibits that display, among others, a painting of The Lovers (1928), two people with cloaked heads, unknown to each other, blind, ignorant, and yet—and yet—kissing with surreal abandon.

Beauty wins, death. May kissing trump despair.

Sunday
Jul132014

On Straightening

When all the happy teeth of your mischievous smile were covered the other day by your shiny new braces, I remembered brushing your hair. But that doesn’t make any sense at all, I imagine you saying without hesitation. No? Well maybe it doesn’t. But that’s the way I think, all over the place, all the time. Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody? Well I do and, for all we know, it does make sense. Let’s see if we can straighten this out.

When you were a little girl, I used to give you baths, which I loved when I wasn’t consumed by myself and my own ambitions, which was often but, nonetheless, there was always a part of me that stayed aware of loving to watch you play with cups and water and I loved the way it felt on my big hands when I washed and conditioned your pretty hair. It was after the bath when things got ugly. I went downstairs as you dried off and put on your pajamas. Solemnly, you descended the stairs with your detangling spray, a comb, and a brush. Your mouth was a straight line and your eyes were half-lidded. You walked straight to me and turned around, rigid, like a soldier. I doused your hair with the spray and so it began. First, the comb to rake through the bigger tangles and then the brush. You tried to stifle your outbursts but sometimes you squealed as big raindrops formed in the clouds of your eyes and rolled down your cheeks and God it killed me to hurt you.

One of the many beautiful things about primal cultures and children is their convincing ability to inhabit a world of amazingly creative theories of causation. I don’t look upon this ability in a disparaging way at all. I admire it, respect it, yearn for it, and fundamentally believe that it’s a truer way to dwell in the shelter of the world than the diminished world merely understood through the lens of science and its useful discoveries. People used to have gods that oversaw almost every form of activity and nearly everything they did was a prayer. They made sacrifices to influence the harvest. Mimicked myth through ritual. Created idols to protect their homes and sleep. Attributed good fortune to the goodwill of deceased ancestors. Danced for rain.

It’s been almost 4 years and you don’t talk about the divorce much; you never have. But I imagine you might shoulder the burden of your own ideas about what went wrong in your secret and magical way of making sense. What did you do wrong? Were you perhaps mean to the cat? Did you steal cookies? Did you think a horrible thing in anger that you quickly wished you never thought and couldn’t think away? Or maybe you stepped on a crack or forgot to water the plants and your parents got divorced. And though I wrote above that I admired this ability to live in a world where what happens occurs in the realm of art, one of my deepest desires is for you to know and understand in the deeps of your bones that nothing you did caused your parents’ divorce. That blame lies solely with me. Your dad made sacrifices to all the wrong gods and incurred the wrath of their vengeance. And, even though I’ve told you so many times that we’re both sick of hearing it, I remain always on the ready (when you are) to discuss my mistakes with you, to make amends, and set things straight. God, it killed me to hurt you.

But eventually the brush would slide through your long yellow hair like a hot knife through butter and I could see your body slacken with relief. And I would keep brushing for a good long while because I knew it felt so nice to have a brush running through your shiny clean hair without a single snag or snarl. Loosened up, you would climb on my lap and start telling me your funny stories about the way things appear and happen for little girls. The cat likes to sing when she thinks no one is listening but you have heard her, on more than one occasion, sing I Shall Be Released by the big glass slider. When you fell off your bike and skinned your knee, you yelled at your bike and now she doesn’t feel much like riding no more. If you ever get scared at night, you just talk to the moon, which makes you not scared, because the moon is maybe your best friend in the whole world next to Maddie. And I would just listen and love you, brushing and brushing your long yellow hair until it was perfectly straight.

Now it has come to my attention that a smart little girl has taken to sneaking a peek at what her daddy writes on the Internet, so I will break one of my rules—a magician should never ever never reveal his tricks—and explain to you exactly why your shiny new braces reminded me of brushing your hair. You start with the braces. They straighten your teeth. I brushed your hair to make it straight. But these are just metaphors for the constantly ongoing need to straighten things out with the people you love. I am ready when you are. Now turn that thing off and go to bed. I love you. —Daddy

Originally published in Brain, Child Magazine

Wednesday
Jul022014

Bardo

There will come a night when she falls asleep and leaves the light, on. It’s not a typo. Question that comma. Let that comma make you stumble, stop, and wonder. Why is it that we’re so drawn to what’s wrong? Why do mistakes stick out? Further, if what appears most vividly to us is that which is out of place, what do we notice when everything is supposedly in place. Is that even a thing? Is that an event inside of which you frequently occur? Nothing wrong here. Everything’s cool. No? Me neither. Because it seems to me that consciousness itself—what it’s for—is a tool for noticing what’s wrong with things, situations, other people, and punctuation.

For instance, she fell asleep and left the light, on. The comma looks like a mistake— yes—but it’s intentional because it wants your attention to cluster around the way sleeping leaves the light. Light, here, is synonymous with consciousness. She’s asleep. She left the light. She’s unconscious. But also? She left the light on. Damn. Now who has the problem here? Me, awake, or her, sleeping? This is why Dostoevsky said consciousness is a disease. Well, Dostoevsky had bigger problems than his girlfriend falling asleep and leaving the light on, but you get the picture. This is also why Whitman said “To die is different than anyone supposed, and luckier.” It’s going to be sweet. No worries.

Nonetheless, the light is still on and this won’t do—not at all. So I get up, walk around to her side of the bed, reach, for, the, lamp, and—stop. Again, what the fuck with the commas? Well, they denote a kind of distracted reaching for the lamp because, as I reached for the switch, I was caught completely off guard by the light spilling on her face and dripping all over her pillow. Does this ever happen to you? Please tell me it does. When you, alone and undetected, see something so beautiful that it sort of zaps your rational capacities and you think incoherent things like: But the. How? This. From nothing. How does it? All these silver rivers are too impossible to flow just, this, way. And yet. And yet. It hurts so exquisitely—this being rain, falling.

Who can say? But I think it was the splash of contrast between her dark hair on the starkly white pillow. It’s a violent collision, isn’t it? The way everything is—how we slam against nothing and appear. This, all this, is the orange sparks of something colliding with nothing and it becomes our story only through the telling, what we notice and how we use commas. So delicious to be something, anything, I thought, stunned, and perhaps not so sad that it all, disappears, as I clicked the light, off, and everything.

Sunday
May182014

How To Save The World or Twin High Maintenance Machines

Be generally despicable. Scoff at common sense. Ignore people who tell you the way things are. Ignore them some more. Ignore them until you can no longer stand their pinched faces and then tell them to put a sock in it and go straight to hell. Accept all their punishments with an impish smirk. Smile when you’re spanked. Laugh in the courtroom. Put your collar up and walk hunched over in the rain. Do not care about being very wet. Scowl a lot. Mutter incoherently to yourself and the moon. Listen closely to people’s problems with you, ask them to clarify the qualities that make you intolerable, make sure you know exactly what they mean, and then cherish those qualities. Cultivate them into a wild teeming garden of things people despise. Hail Satan. Hail Satan, tonight.

When people tell you how to be, what to think, and that you can’t be a writer unless you’re willing to be a great marketer, pause. Stare at them with no expression for an unreasonably long time until they begin to question their safety. Then say I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, but I’m afraid you mistook me for a street whore selling her ass for ten dollar rocks.

People will hate you. You will sometimes be inclined to internalize this hatred, agree with them, and turn on yourself. Resist this inclination and murder your judges. This is a metaphor. Do not take things so literally. Question the plausibility of truth and substance. Question these things until autumn arrives, all the leaves fall from the trees, and blow like mad through the raw and empty streets.

And then wait for her. Maybe smoke some cigarettes and develop and kick a few drug addictions. She might be a little while.

But when she arrives, you’ll know. Like you, after a long life of scoffing at common sense, she will be delightfully uncommon. She will be “delightfully” uncommon because she will have scoffed at common sense with more kindness and grace than you. Though she will not—like you—be a scoundrel, she will feel like one, for feeling unworthy of love is the price of admission for emerging individually from the mire of them. Because you are both laws unto yourselves, it follows that you will appear sexy as fuck to one another and devour each other with violent ecstatic abandon. Enjoy it. You deserve it. Remember all those hunched over walks in the rain?

But what’s this got to do with saving the world? It’s not as if you started a charity that received enough donations to cure a disease or carried a message of hope that restored peace to all nations. Okay. Fine. But let me tell you something. One of the worst things a person can do to another human being is to intentionally seek out what makes them unique—indeed, their essence, the thing about them that defines them and should be nurtured and loved and celebrated in order to flourish—to find that thing that sets them apart, hone in on it with abusive accuracy, and systematically dismantle it with hatred until they themselves despise the very things that make them special and loveable—this is the way the world ends, one person at a time.

So how then do you save the world? Well. Save yourself. Insist on being yourself at your own great expense and settle for nothing less. And then wait for her. When she arrives, you’ll know. And though she will be unwaveringly graceful and kind, she will not trust you or believe that you love her because the price of tenaciously being herself has stripped her of the capacity to risk indulging in such vulnerable luxuries. Do not worry about this. Love her anyway. First, love who she is for who she is, which will be incredibly easy because she is all you ever wanted. Next, love her fear and doubt and lack of trust without condemning it. In fact, love her because of it, because of its crucial role in protecting the woman you love. Love it all. Love it all. Love it all.

And finally, stop scowling and let her love you back. Grab an umbrella. Stay dry—both of you—until the rain stops and the sun comes out and then look up. Go ahead. Look up! My God you saved the world.

*

You are going to make it through this year, if it kills you.