When I was young, I’d walk home from school some days on the aptly named High School Road, heading straight down the center of the road stepping on all the worn yellow ceramic pavement markers; parts of their circular shape worn away like slot canyons in Utah, feeling my sneakers slip off their contours like the details of so many memories.
I can remember walking with my friend, David, who’d walk the whole way home on his toes to make his calves stronger: he had huge calves. Later on in life he’d end up managing a bar that occupied that unusual ground between a strip club and airport bar: lots of brightly colored shots and too many teeth in everyone’s mouth.
I’ve been feeling a lot recently that my memories have begun to crystalize in a way that I find a bit unsettling. The ability for a memory to mean lots of things has disappeared and I find myself looking back into a field of statutes. Each memory has suddenly become a monument to a single idea of a single moment, but somehow removed a bit from my own experience of it. It maybe feels a bit like that last scene of No Country for Old Men (or last page depending on how you consumed it) where our memories become dreams, and our dreams become strangers to exactly who we are; just dust sprinkled on tracks of a car long past.
Maybe it’s a bit the feeling of the world becoming very factual in a way. I’ve talked with people who believe fiction is not needed as a genre as there is plenty in reality to look at in wonder. I would argue that the parts of reality we take wonder in, are parts that still have an unknown to them and therefore are fictions in our mind. We converse around these ideas of this “real” thing and in fact are telling stories of the same memory of the present in a different way.
One person tells the story of a road dotted in yellow ceramic disks, while another tells the story of a road that rose and fell with waves of emotion for future ex-girlfriends.
I’ve been having a funny relationship with forgetting these days; the sensation of being on the cusp of suddenly seeing a past self as an Other instead of Me. Which, I guess, is something that happens throughout life, although we hardly see this progress as it is usually the carving of slot canyons of the soul; long nights and days over desert outlooks.
I catch myself looking at people in my life and wondering “who did I once know you as?” and there’s a lot of trajectories that suddenly become apparent, like fireworks shot out of one of those tubes I can hold on 4th of July.
I’ve been thinking a lot of a friend I had long ago, who I fell out of touch with. Back then, word was that he had just gotten in a car and disappeared and maybe had become a chemist, or a professor, or started a company.
Now new words have trickled in of sad posts on Facebook about being a single Dad and the heaviness of a certain type of life. Part of me heard this and hoped instead that he was trolling people in a way that he found funny. I remember long ago when I was in high school I had gotten an email from my doctor (or it appeared to be so) that they had found some unusual things in my blood work that had just been done; this had just been that friend spoofing emails, which back then was as easy as cut and pasting sentences from Wikipedia.
If the medium is the message and we are the collection of thoughts and interactions of a world around us — a medium in flux — we become messages for a period of time that we have coalesced around; a jellyfish caught on the mind’s paddle.
I think at moments it becomes startling to realize this message and to wonder if this is really who we are.
Today everyone was shouting from cars that were fishbowls on wheels; voices were muffled and eyes wide as the panoramic view of the future extended in front of us all.
We glanced with cartoon eyes at each other and hoped that we would never see each other again.
What did we believe in during those sunsets when we stuffed smooth stones between our teeth and lips? I remember you driving wildly into those nights, thinking the roads were extra curved, only to realize later that you had driven through a park playground and up and over an abandoned property overgrown with blackberries.
It was a place with no roads and I watched your taillights disappear behind a seesaw and I think I saw you spit — out the open driver’s side window — slimy dip spit the color of granite from teeth that were daring the future to break them.
With smooth rocks tucked like so much dinner food in cheeks, it’s hard not to feel like everything is a little dangerous.
You spent the night panicking and then back at the apartment, only to fall asleep draped across the back of an Ikea couch; a bear rug discarded in human form: one nose pad missing from your glasses; you grinned fiercely and a whole river of stones fell from your mouth.
At night sometimes people think the tapping on their metal roofs is seagulls dressed in leather jackets dropping expensive oyster shells on their roofs. It ends up most of the time it’s ghosts of people letting stones fall from their mouths.
Lazy ghosts grinning with novocaine lips.
I’ve had the sensation as of recent that I’m laying on my head against a newly installed section of drywall. I’m standing and slumped against the wall with my cheek just a few inches from a tape line that has just been mudded and sanded. That new construction taste is in the air, which if you haven’t familiarized yourself with it as of late, is a bit like if the oldest materials on earth had a bit of a drug habit: it’s both earthy and chemical at the same time.
I wonder if one was to spend enough time around cement mixers, if their lungs would eventually become a Rachael Whiteread sculpture; two human chest balloons gray and speckled in concrete; delicate like dove eggs that breathe on their own and think of their future as birds.
This wall my head is against makes it hard to write. It makes it hard to paint. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever make something of purpose again. I guess that’s the dramatic ebb and flow of process. I think part of what has been on my mind is how I don’t have the desire to write about things in the way I once did. I have a different feeling of voice in my head that isn’t concerned with what it once was, and as someone that grabs desperately onto the past this is concerning to me. It makes me wonder about this current me and if they’re a very interesting person.
This is that large expanse of wall that gives no playful hints at closets or bedrooms, but instead only seems concerned with vantage points and long lines that are parallel but can seem to touch if given enough room to roam.
I have been thinking of being in a zoo a lot recently where the displays are windows in aluminum frames, set in concrete walls looking onto various animal exhibits. The aluminum frames have calking oozing out between them and the thick glass, giving the impression that each exhibit could be filled like a fish bowl, shaken and rinsed of its contents.
Looking at the monkeys they eat fruit in a bored manner, take two bites and throw half eaten fruit bowls to the ground. I think talking to people can be a lot like dressing up as monkeys and eating fruit. People casually discard threads of conversation and pick up others with the interest of clouds discussing precipitation: all is known and nothing is new.
Every once in awhile I lock eyes with someone and watch them carve the contents of a piece of melon perfectly down to the rind with a spoon the color of lightning. They are a surgeon with foods that have high water content. I can hear the spoon like a blade against the onslaught of a five o’clock shadow.
This morning two brown rabbits sat by a freshly dug well in the backyard. One ran by in hi-def and the other seemed a bit pixelated.
I wonder how each of them eats fruit.
I’ve been working the last 3 months on paperwork to build an ADU in Los Angeles. It’s been a slightly opaque (haha, JUST KIDDING, it’s been a muddy river filled with food dye) process which brings into question a lot of things around what politicians mean versus say and the PURPOSE of what people say is important. Never-the-less I’ve tried to just jump into it like a seal learning new tricks trying not to think about its own captivity.
Today I had to resubmit a section of paperwork because it was a scan of a page and not the original, but having thrown away the original, I had to bike to a notary before heading to the department of building and safety.
Signatures on signatures.
I pulled up to UPS and placed my document on the seat of my bike, only to watch it blow away into a puddle. With original signatures called “wet signatures”, the thought that an original document with wet signatures now was a wet document with wet signatures seemed like a good fit of language.
And as I stood there dabbing the document off on my shirt (wondering where this water even came from…) I looked over at a tangled coat hanger laying next to a tree planting and thought about the convolutions that had gone into the process that I was in that simply was a coat hanger at heart: something quite simple to keep a shirt off the floor.
On the bike ride to the building department I pass one of my favorite buildings in LA: the Promenade Tower Apartments. It truly looks like something out of Belgrade or Chisinau; all angles and glass and concrete coming together like a crescendo of a brilliant composer; that soviet-style where it looks both accessible, but at the same time there is zero daylight that reaches its interior. As you get close to it, however, it is absurdly simple. Low resolution and a bit like fitting square blocks in square holes. It is only from a distance that we can pretend that it holds some complex meaning.
I think a lot of human endeavors are like this. We wish to stay far away and make things always seem complex in order to guarantee ourselves something to do in the future. We are terrified of the moment that we must just sit. The complexity and drama is the purpose… outcomes are not really the point.
Endless scrolls on a news feed is a bit like doing paperwork for the city. It is the paperwork that IS THE POINT. All that ink, wet or dry, perched on pages like the front row of a gospel choir singing its own praises.
I just finished reading a short story about a conscious mechanical machine that runs on air: air pushes through it to activate its enormously complex mechanisms. On opening itself up, however, it realizes that the mechanics of itself are actually just recording states of the airflow. In a way, the air itself is the consciousness it believes the mechanics were holding.
I think paperwork is the same. I think a city is just a manifestation of 8.5”x11” paper (or A4 if you’re in Europe) being passed from one person to another. It is all that fiber and ink like strings to the toes and fingers of its inhabitants.
Spring has come in hot and everyone seems intent on making lemonade by squeezing the sweat from the body of their nearest neighbor.