Projects That Will Probably Never Happen
(including my plans for who I want to be)
So, succeeding thus far (all success is development) at this meta-project, I've been thinking that I might try a mini-version of it (which is kind of an oxymoron--a mini-version of a meta-project) as a monthly pastiche for this online journal (since this month has presented to me several novel-like projects that I doubt I'll ever finish, but rather will probably merely add them to my long series of unfinished book-length projects). Furthermore, including them herein does not preclude the fact that I might also include them in a future volume of the Incomplete Works if motivation ever turns me in that direction, any more than it precludes me from transforming these journal pages into books, which I occasionally have been known to do; nor does it preclude the reverse process of making individual books out of the sketchy material of each partial story included either here or in the Incomplete Works, should I suddenly get the urge and find the stamina and tenacity to do so. In other words, I'm leaving, as usual, all of my options open.
I'm currently reading Samuel Pepys' diaries and, despite my penchant for handling my material in idiosyncratic ways like the one I outlined above, this is how I want to be writing right now: Pepys' [pronounced 'Papes', according to the fashion of pronunciation of his times, and not 'Peeps' like some "modern" academicians favor] diaries are incredibly extensive, so maybe I'll stick with the new project I've based on this style long enough to make something out of it. Because once I finish Pepys and start reading someone else, I'm likely going to want to be writing like that other author instead. On the other hand, I often will start a reading project and then set it aside for "a while" and not get back to it for years, so who knows? [As I process this month's raw journal material for inclusion here (it's next month now when I'm posting it), I've already set Pepys aside in favor of Pasolini and Beckett, which is severely affecting the style of this pastiche.]
This is the way I am: I mirror people I want to be (like; over and above the way that "normal" people will feel the influence of others), but only for as long as the influence lasts. Nothing's permanent. And, in that same way, I create titles for the episodes of my life, which fade away with the passing moments, like my personality, titles such as, "I'm Not That Person Any More" (and maybe I never was); that was the original title for this pastiche, but it has diminished in significance since last month's intent (i.e., this month's intent in online journal time), by which I back then (or now, depending on your frame of reference) meant: that original past person [I'm not too sure I know anymore exactly who that is, and maybe I never really knew, maybe none of us ever know who we really were/are, because we all create multiple fictions about our identities, if only when we filter and censor certain experience] that I changed when I changed my past to make myself a different person in my present; that past person(a) I changed myself into, who has changed through the natural course of aging into who I am today, though with a different past than my actual one, making me a different person than I was, maybe even only moments ago, before I made the change; either that past person that I really used to be, or one of the past person(a)s that I previously created.
I want to title my autobiography (which I will never write, because it will always be, of necessity, incomplete...hmmm...I should include it in the Incomplete Works. Great idea) in a way that seems more permanent than the way I title my life episodes, "Diary of a Mad Man" with a footnote that reads: "Angry, not crazy; although, maybe... I grind my teeth in my sleep. Is that enough evidence for you? Anyway, I'm not gay; so don't be comparing me to Cocteau."
As I indicated above re Pepys, occasionally I feel a desire to write in a more conventional way, like Norman Mailer maybe, maybe even starting a single book and working on it straight through until it's finished; but I sober up quickly enough when I realize the amount of work it would involve. I mean, I could write in that very logical, standard style and by that most obvious method; but, apart from the effort, which would require me to go against my basic nature, apply the basic writing education I received, force myself not to express the diverse ideas I do in favor of a specific narrative line, and apart from the fact that it just wouldn't be me, I just wouldn't enjoy myself doing it in the way I enjoy myself now, writing in the style I have, all on my own, developed. And, after all, that's what it's all about, isn't it? Joy. If you think it isn't, then just maybe you're not so smart as you think you are.
Jack London wrote, religiously, 1,000 words a day. I don't count my daily number of words but am instead satisfied if I write something, anything, and edit the previous day's work, and process at least one previous raw journal entry, and proofread something that I want to be done with. I very much like the idea of producing a fixed minimum number of words per day, but like method and style, it would require too much of a single focus, diverting me from the freewheeling expression that I love so much; besides, as it is I probably average far, far more than 1,000 words per day.
I express myself the way I do because this is the way I am. Any other way, though I might enjoy the results, especially if it sold lots of copies that made me lots of money, would not be so satisfying. Yeah, I could work at writing and make some money doing it; but I could do the same thing by working at a job, and I didn't like doing that at all. The problem is, I have only one life, and it's getting shorter all the time. Give me another life or two and I'll try to do it your way for a while; but I already tried doing it your (society's) way for the first 45 years of my life, and that didn't work out so well. Good thing I saved up all that money you paid me. I'd hate to think I wasted all that time and energy. Yeah, doing things my own way is definitely better; too bad my way often turns out to be someone else's that I'm either unwittingly or intentionally mimicking:
This method seems to me to be the natural offshoot of an idea I read about a long time ago, I can't remember where, maybe in Kesey, about a guy who wrote short, terse self-contained paragraphs on note cards.
Never having read any of the explained examples, I nevertheless tried to emulate that style, and with some better success. I still write this way a lot, and then incorporate the paragraphs into longer work.
Now, I want to do both, write the self-contained paragraphs as the building blocks of longer, yet still terse and somewhat cryptic 'Brautigans', adding in dreamwork and my blog book format as well.
As it is, the writing style of my books is an amalgam of Brautigan, Acker, Bartheleme, Koja, and probably a whole lot more authors that I can't quite now remember. They're all in there, elbowing for space.
My most recent 'Brautigan' attempt is an untitled work about a guy living in a mysterious town nestled in the mountains whose sole purpose (the town's, not the mountains') seems to be the support of some kind of institution.
The book is going well (probably because it's relatively short and so less likely to be abandoned). The guy's girl left him at the beginning because his car broke down and she couldn't get anywhere; so he's left on his own.
He meets a girl, has sex with her in an empty church, and falls in love, which he doesn't tell her because he's afraid he might scare her off. Then he learns that she's leaving for college in the fall, and this secretly upsets him.
That's the simple, normal story arc. What complicates matters is that the guy is, maybe, just a little bit crazy. (Of course. Thus the institute.) He thinks he's been to the future where he's a congressman, and he has imaginary friends.
But he's doing his best to act "normally", for his own (therapeutic) sake as well as to maintain the girl's favorable opinion of him. And the girl has a normalizing effect on him--until he learns that she's leaving.
This basic story framework is loose enough and simple enough to allow me to add in all kinds of odds and ends, which is the whole point: I can dump stuff I don't know what to do with into the story as the guy's ideas.
Meanwhile, I'm pursuing several other story ideas, which I'd like to develop and finish; but I don't think so--for several reasons, not the least of which is that they're all basically stolen material that I can't seem to disguise without losing the appeal they have to me. The first of these is a rip-off of the plot of Jacob's Ladder. Now, ripping off plots is no big deal. Literature is replete with ripped-off plots. Shakespeare was a master of the practice. The Sixth Sense already ripped off this one. But the way I rip them off just might be copyright violation: I simply change the story circumstances while keeping the characterizations and interactions basically intact. (I call these little writing adventures "novelizations".) I do this for my own benefit, to have a story I like that I can read and feel in control of, as autistic art. I might never actually be capable of publishing it, but most of what I write I'll never be able to publish, if only due to time and energy constraints.
So here's the idea : A private detective agency, essentially one guy (a la The Mentalist, Medium, Castle, Psych, etc.), someone like Lawrence Fishburn, or maybe someone like David McCallum in Sapphire and Steel; maybe with a femme assistant, a less toned-down version of Joanna Lumley, a reluctant secretary/reception (a la Shawnee Smith in Becker or Annie Potts in Ghostbusters, but more femme) who always wants to be in on the action instead of stuck in the office and so insinuates herself into every case. The name of the agency is "Problems Solved". It's ostensibly a private detective agency, but it has a reputation for handling semi-psychic matters and esoteric or exotic cases. Each case is presented as a problem (to be solved) that turns out not to be the real problem, but only a lead-in to a more complex (esoteric, exotic) series of problems leading up to the big one that is the climax, the resolution of which is the solved case. And (here's where the "novelization" comes in) each case is a take-off of a movie or tv show, rendered unidentifiable via changing plot, story, action, characters, dialogue, etc. First case: Jacob's Ladder. [Actually, all the cases could be based on the Jacob's Ladder (or whatever chosen movie/show) structure/conceit by changing the details once again for each case.]
As an additional, subtextual motive/theme, the investigator can be a sort of semi-other-worldly (angel, alien, time traveler, etc.; or maybe even a gov't agent, or quasi-gov't agent, or future gov't agent, or anti-gov't agent from the future or the present, etc.) whose background and true purpose for being here is totally unexplained (a la Sapphire & Steel); vague hints as to his having a "secret identity" are dropped, but no real information is ever revealed, but at one time or another the hints suggest all of the above possibilities, presented as wild theories by peripheral characters to the femme, who is just a little bit bonkers and, while never confirming or denying anything, plays along, as if to imply that, just maybe, what is being suggested has a ring of truth about it.
First case: The husband of an English woman killed in a car accident in Mexico comes to the agency because his wife was supposed to be in LA on assignment by her employer, a talent agency promoting one of their actors who was up for a part in a Hollywood film. The husband can't get any information from anyone as to why she was in Mexico instead of LA where she was supposed to be.
What's her big secret, analogous to Jacob dying on an operating table in an army MASH unit in Vietnam? She wants to be bad, but doesn't know it? Seems a little thin. She experienced a break with reality and wandered off in search of her long-repressed desire to be bad? Yes, but that's not the operating table analogy, that's what happened afterwards.
The investigator discovers that: she was in a barrio bar and a handsome local guy approached her and had his hand on her butt as she stood at the bar, and it looked to several bar customers like she was not in any way trying to disocurage him; she went with the guy in his car, which was later discovered to have been stolen; she had a gun, a small .38, seen under her coat by the night man at a seedy motel; while she and another woman were at the sinks in the ladies room of a downtown upscale hotel, she confided to the woman, whom she had never before met, that she had not been a very nice person, that she had treated her family badly and her husband distantly, and that she had never felt happy acting in ways that society expected her to.
Investigator: Did you have a good sex life?
[Imagine the English accent of the husband]
Husband: Well, sure. As good as anybody, I guess.
I: How often?
H: Every other day or so.
I: [Looks at him askance.]
H: She was a good sport. [Pause.]
H: Even if she didn't want to do it. [Pause.]
H: She'd give me a quickie any time I wanted it.
The assistant, standing in the doorway behind the guy, who doesn't know she's there, smiles and mugs. The investigator, who can see her, has a hard time maintaining a straight face.
I: That happen often?
H: Often enough, I suppose.
I: Well, that might have been a good sex life for you...
H: [Looks at investigator questioningly]
I: But what about her?
Or maybe instead, she and her husband are in the car together and she is killed but he is not, and he suspects some kind of a conspiracy that resulted in her death; but, as it turns out in the end, he also died in the car crash and his little escapade with the "investigator" was a dying experience akin to Jacob's on the operating table; and the investigator's agency, after he solves the mystery, turns out to be a defunct storefront that no one's used for years.
I'm starting to suspect that maybe Jacob's Ladder is too ambitious for a first "novelization" method project. It's a good idea and will probably work, but it might be more work than I'm willing to put into it right now. The whole point of this project is to develop a method whereby I can dash off copies of a standardized genre/format by mere substitution. Maybe I need to choose an easier source, and do this more complicated drama later. (But later never comes. There is only now.)
As it is now (in my mind), this "novelization" method doesn't look like it's going to work too well. It needs to be modified to make it mesh better with my current style. Unless I can find exactly the right film/show (I'll keep looking while I develop this hybrid method) where a (more or less) one-for-one substitution of images and dialogue can be achieved]. Meanwhile, I can use novelization as a general format, in conjunction with a screen play outline, to plug my own (odds and ends) content into and to develop themes I'm interested in, specifically paranoia v. reality, especially as rendered in films like Jacob's Ladder.
Other possible films/shows for frameworks: 12 Monkeys, Grosse Point Blank.
I have so many more ideas I want to get into some kind of format, though preferably into books. Books are just symbols, I know. Metaphors at best. But they say so much to me. Others' books. My own. They contain...stuff. Content. My own. That which I make my own, that which I echo, that I will learn. My compromise, my life, the truth I lie about that I may spare others pain and myself lawsuits, changing names, changing places, all symbols pointing to what they once were, hidden between an unchanging world once committed to paper and a flux of neuroses no one would ever admit to. I am a part of you who are a part of me forever. We recognize each other because we are so clever. We are books, each of us a vast collection of texts, reading each other. I want to get as much as possible of myself down into a concise, totable, readable product. And as much as possible of you as well.
I am a literal story idea machine. Problem is, I start way more than I (could) ever finish. For every story I actually complete, ten to twenty more sit idly by, awaiting completion. Ambition and my fantasy far outdistance my dedication and production.
This next story is another attempt to write in a style with short, discrete paragraphs like newspaper reporting in order to maintain reader interest and keep them moving on. (The idea is that the unconscious reading mind thinks, "Oh, I'll read just one more paragraph since they're short," whereas, when the paragraphs run on and on, the mind thinks, "Oh, will this never end?") Each paragraph, then, can be one or two contained ideas. This could be another step on The Road to Minimalism [a good title for yet another story, maybe something about how an author begins to tire of writing elaborate, long-winded stories and so, like Beckett, turns to deceptively tiny texts]:
[The intent here (now defunct) was to combine my "micro-novel" method with my "screenplay/production notes/character motivation notes" method (i.e., use the latter to expand the former from a micro-novel into a mini-novel), while maintaining the three separate aspects of the latter (i.e., not allowing the prose to run together or overlap, keeping each aspect as a separate paragraph). Obviously, as we shall shortly see, the project never got far enough to utilize this new method. Maybe later.]
opening frame, pt. 1
A trading post on Othwero, the smallest of three moons of Orowth in the Forlegra system. Bitch Stardancer sits at the bar talking to the bartender. It's not much of a bar, merely a two-foot by twelve-foot slab of wood atop several stacked crates and weighed down at each end by a huge stone from the nearby quarry to keep it stable.
From the open doorway, Bitch's words cannot be discerned. In fact, none of the voices in the place are distinct due to the continual machine din from the quarry, which also imparts a slight but constant shaking and fills the otherwise still air with rock dust.
Behind the bartender, organized shelves of beverages, the bottles and pottery, though covered with rock dust like everything else, belie the general haphazard appearance of the place.
The name Bitch, now in common use around the galaxy, had long ago been a derogatory term applied to female Terrans who were deemed, whether accurately or not, to conduct themselves in an assertive manner beyond what was socially acceptable at the time among males of the species. The name became popular as females discovered it gave them a certain edge in confrontations with males.
At the far end of the room, beyond all of the crates of supplies, three men sit at a table. One of them, the one facing the door with his chair tucked into the corner, leaving him no room to maneuver, the blond, handsome one (the other two are dark-haired, butt-ugly, ragged, and weather-worn), says something that the other two react to by half-standing and leaning in toward him.
Bitch turns toward the men. No one else in the room seems to be aware of the incident; or else they choose to ignore it.1 She saunters over toward the table, careful not to appear too eager. The men are reaching inside their jackets as she arrives. Her right hand finds the shoulder of the nearest man, gently easing him back into his chair.
"Don't you know who that is?" she whispers into the man's ear, though loud enough for the other man to hear, the breath of her words caressing the side of the dirty, stubble face, the hint of his breath threatening to assault her if he would turn and breathe in her direction.
He does just that and instinctively she withdraws her face; but she is careful to maintain the intimate contact of her touch, drawing her hand coquettishly across his shoulder and down his arm.
"Who?" the man asks, the foul odor preceding word meaning.
"That's Eonus Mamick."
Instantly upon hearing the name, the man's face softens, though not in a pleasant way. Its musculature loses its resolve as he transforms from tough guy into eternal wimp, right before Bitch's eyes, like it usually does when she uses this tactic. If it hadn't, then she would be worried. The man, now appearing to be not much more than a boy, looks lost.
"Why don't you apologize?" She says.
The guy's friend quickly departs.
The guy manages to stammer out, "I'm sorry."
"Not to me! To him!"
They both look at Eon, the guy cautiously.
The guy says, "I...I'm...s...s...sorry, Mr. M...Mamick."
Eon meets the guy's wavering glances with a long, cold stare.
"Come on, Eon," Bitch says. "We have to go."
"Eon!" she says through her clenched teeth.
He remains motionless, staring at the guy, who uncomfortably avoids his gaze. Bitch moves around the table to Eon's side and leans down toward him, puts her hand on his shoulder in the same manner as she had with the guy, though not with the same false intimacy. "What's the matter with you?" she hisses.2
"I want to stay."
"You're going to frell this for us. We got business here."
"I don't like being told I have to leave."
"No one's telling you..."
"You're telling me."
"I want to stay."
"I want to know I'm welcome."
Bitch looks at the guy, who immediately looks away. Eon is still staring at him. She moves around the table to him.
"Listen," she says. "Tell him he's welcome to stay."
"Tell him he's welcome to stay. Ask him to stay."
He looks tentatively in Eon's direction.
"W...would you like to...you're welcome to stay, Mr. Mamick."
Eon stands suddenly, causing the guy to jerk away backwards.
"No, thanks," Eon says, suddenly polite and even a bit amiable. "We got to be going." Bitch takes his arm as he semi-circles the table and the two work their way around the plethora of equipment and supplies and exit the shabby establishment.
Though the open doorway, the rock dust increasingly diminishes the vision of their persiflage as they depart.
opening frame, pt 2
The next morning. Eon's face can be seen looking out a glassless window of a two-story wood frame building that despite its height is still not much more than a shack.
[It's a hold-up. Eon urges Bitch to hurry, but Bitch is being personable and reassuring to the off-world bureaucrat assigned to work here who, in this desolate world, is way out of his element and terrified. Eon is the tough guy who people see as the personable one because he happens to be so handsome, while Bitch is the personable one who people see as tough because she is less feminine than other females of her species. Each is, in their own way, a combination of both traits, coming toward a central identity from different directions (which is what makes them great partners).]
end of this scene: Hard-assed workers ambush them outside the offices as they exit. They exchange weapons fire, making their escape by inadvertently setting off a series of explosions with misdirected shots, a foreshadow of the endframe of the story where government star-troopers ambush them in their final hold-up. This is the "carnage left behind" referred to in the next scene.
Bitch is what is called in some sectors of the galaxy a handsome woman. She has a strong face, relatively large nose, big eyes accentuated with the typical tats that replace more traditional make-up, in her case solid black, though other women prefer designs in colors.
She's a big woman by Terran standards, but she doesn't appear to be as large as she actually is. Black leather outfits designed to seem wider than they are tall and her cut-off, ragged chin length hair "style" that she keeps off her face and sticking a bit out to the sides make her body and face appear smaller than it actually is.3
It's those big (looking) doe eyes that command the illusion, accentuated by a high forehead that allows the facial features to appear smaller than they are; even the fullness of the lips that taper down at the sides to a fine point seem small in the space that surrounds them.
She leans over Eon as he maneuvers the photonship through the rock-strewn belt between the moons. If anyone had the cajones to pursue them, they would never overtake them before they got out of the rocks, into the hole, and off into inter-planetary space. Bitch doubted that anyone would bother, not with the carnage they left behind.
"Bet they never thought they'd get held up way out here with all of those machos around," Bitch says.
"Bet they'll get themselves some hi-tech gadgets now."
"We should go back and sell them some."
Eon sneaks into the house with weapon drawn, as if he's breaking in. He startles Glidea. He makes her let her hair down, unbutton her blouse, etc. He approaches her. She looks scared, but then her eyes narrow. She scowls:
"Where were you? You said you'd only be gone three days!"
He wraps his arms around her and pulls her close.
"We got held up."
She pulls back to look into his face.
"Held up! I thought that's what you were doing."
Cut to the next morning:
Eon comes out of the bedroom, groggy. He stumbles across the room and exits the house. He sees Glidea and Bitch together on the porch, heads together as if they're sharing secrets.
"Hey. Are you trying to steal my girl?"
"If she really was your girl, I wouldn't be able to steal her."
The look on Eon's face is a combination of puzzlement and suspicion. He takes a pause. Then, with a dismissive hand gesture, he turns away, saying:
"Ah, take her. I'm tired of her anyway."
Glidea, jumping up, says, "Hey!"
That's all I got so far; and probably all I'll ever get.
But you know the rest of the story.
The last WWI doughboy died yesterday--at the age of 110. So it can be done, and I intend to do it. I'll surpass him by at least a year. (And who knows by then how far humans will have extended their life span.) You might think it's a combination of luck and genetics. Could be. But I've always had the luck, because luck favors the prepared mind. And genetics? I hereby reject my genetic heritage. I adopt George Burns as my substitute genetic grandfather. And I'll be looking around for other relatives. I wonder what that old doughboy's name was.
I'm starting to feel like it's getting to be time to begin to stir, get up and out and around a little bit. How do I know when it's time to switch over from internal, sequestered mode (season) to (somewhat relatively more) external, out and about mode (season)? It just sort comes upon me, comes over me, a gradual mood change that probably mostly has to do with the weather: as it starts to get warmer, I start to poke my head of my (metaphorical) hole; I start to do things I've been putting off doing all winter, not all at once as I've said, but little by little, in fits and starts when it's first temporarily a bit warmer, or when I feel like starting a fire in the woodstove that will adequately heat the house without needing attention every fifteen or twenty minutes, when one or two loads of firewood will keep the house warm for most of the day. Then my projects start getting done again, at first in piecemeal fashion, but more steadily as the warm weather takes hold and doesn't retreat so often. It's the same process as in the fall, but in reverse, when I will find it harder and harder to go out into the yards to put things away and clean things up for winter; if I don't get those tasks done early enough, certainly before November, then the odds get high that they will not get done at all until the spring, when I will try to catch up outdoor organization in preparation for the growing season.
So, anyway, how do I know when my internal spring has come? It's kind of an organic process, slow and developmental. I wish I had a more concise answer for you, but I don't. It relies too much on nature, both that of the outside world and my own as well. It's too complicated a determination to pin down in words. It just happens, gradually; twice every year, if you consider the reverse process in the fall. [Also, let's not forget increasing and decreasing light levels; in fact, that may have more to do with this phenomenon than anything else.] In March and April, some days are winter and some days are spring. It's a good idea to know, upon awakening each day, which is which. On winter days, I work in bed on my laptop; on spring days, I get up and work at my desktop out in the house. In April and May, some days are spring and some days are summer. It's a good idea to know, upon awakening each day, which is which. But I never have to think about it because, in either case, I get out of bed and do whatever it is I'm going to do:
Make progress on projects via (physical) organization of equipment, supplies, and finished products; it works for writing, when I move groups of words around, hither and thither (if only when I process journal pieces; but I do it even preliminary to that, when I make what I think are random notes that I don't know what to do with and then, after a day or two, or thirty or more, I begin seeing connections between the apparently random content and I move this piece here and that piece there and stitch them together with transitions, as I said, even before I start processing them, but certainly as I'm processing and even a little bit afterwards), so there no reason to believe that this organization won't work physically too, since the movement of ideas is itself a physical (brain chemistry) process, which has as a metaphor (simile?) words like boxes used to carry ideas around in and store them away until I decide what the next step should be in their evolution; so likewise should boxes of physical projects, properly arranged, lead to some kind of advancement even when no actual work has been done on the product which is to be the whole point of the project when it has been completed.
Dreams are much the same, containers for content the sleeping mind didn't have the time to deal with when it was awake or doesn't still quite know what to do with while dreaming and so weaves and stitches it all together into a pastiche. Dream images are generated by randomly firing neurons, upon which the (more or less) rational mind (working in "suppressed mode" behind the scenes while the reptilian brain functions in on-call alert mode) interjects coded information into the (randomly fired) matrix. I love my dream machine. I love the surreal content it generates. I almost never have nightmares, but even when I do, I love them too, when I awaken out of them with the dual sense of knowing they were not real and yet still feeling as if they were (because the feelings were real). It's those waking nightmares that I can't stand, the stuff that society conjures up and forces me to confront:
Earlier today, I screwed up by picking up the phone while a message was being recorded, thus causing the recorder to stop. It was a recorded message being rerecorded onto my recorder, and by picking up the phone I not only lost the critical part of the message, but the beep and static prevented me from hearing their return phone call information in real time. The message was something about one of my credit cards. Hope they weren't trying to tell me something important. (Probably not. If they were, they shouldn't be relying on recorded messages. Send me a more permanent message, like an email; or a letter.) But that error of mine is as much their fault too, isn't it? I expected their message would tell me to wait for the next representative, because that's what the first message, yesterday, which had to have been an automated call, said. They set me up and caused me to interrupt their second message by sending me that first message and making me wonder about the nature of their intent. But I didn't interrupt the second message in time for it to redirect me to a real person, if that was what it was supposed to do.
And, anyway, wtf kind of deal is that, calling me and having me wait? That's what Kim used to do, call me and immediately put me on hold, except at least she did it "in person" (which, now that I think about it, is probably even more ignorant). Corporate practices seem to be taking advantage of the new technology to advance rudeness to a whole new level. If I had called them, that would have been different, maybe, but they called me.
In any case, their job is to service me, not the other way round. If they need to contact me, then contact me, don't dump that burden off onto me. Though I'm sure the intelligence behind the automation, the employees, are every bit as taxed in their own personal ways as I am. And what's the worse that could happen? They'll cancel my card and none of the stuff I ordered will arrive. Not very bloody likely, is it? That would mean they'd be complicit in thwarting business.
Not the kind of thing any corporation will allow in the long run. And even if all that should happen, then what? I'd be thwarted in my jewelry making plans? No big deal. They're a lark anyway, and probably a bit daft. I'm way off on another tangent here. Maybe I do need to reassess what I'm up to, spending all this money. But I just did an evaluation, and so far I've only spent $37.
And, anyway, when the time is right... And this certainly has been the right time. And a welcome relief from the drudgery of preparing books for publication. I mean, how much erudite nonsense can one put up with, for how many days in a row. Why, it's almost like having to wait out the winter until better times come in the spring. Yeah that's what it's like. Sort of. I'm better off doing physical things anyway. Physical activity keeps me focused on a real world of nature, and "out of my mind" for a while. (Funny how that term can mean two opposite things.) Anyway, out of sight, out of mind. All I have to do is forget about it. If only this were Chinatown.
The escalating paranoia escalates a bit farther when eBay goes down for a bit in the middle of the night and I think they might have put a hold on my credit card, and my eBay spending. What a relief it was when it came back on and all of my data and purchasing power was still intact. I may be going a little bit stir crazy here. I need to get out and about for a while. But I just don't feel like it.
I feel anxiety, not so much because I have to interact with people, but because I must speak, rather than just wait and react if and when I feel the motivation to do so but otherwise engage in my more typical stonewalling tactics (which I now understand to be a way that I negate social anxiety). I'm quite the proactive person when it comes to dealing with a physical world of objects, but when it comes to dealing with people, I am quite reactive and only put myself "out there" when I feel very comfortable with the social situation I'm in.
So, when I must contact people, I write scripts:
"I got a phone message from the people that do the follow-up
when they detect a lot unusual credit card activity,
and they wanted me to call them back
but my answering machine messed up and I lost
the name and number of the person I was supposed to call."
"I called a little bit ago and was transferred to another dept
but their recorded message said that they didn't open until 8:15
so I'm calling back.
But I didn't catch the name of the dept I was referred to."
And, after each initial little speech I gave, caught up then in the subsequent exchange, and, especially when they asked to wait while they checked my file, I felt completely relieved, even though I was still to be further engaged; because I hit the ball squarely over the net, it was in their court now, and even though I knew they would likely hit it back, it didn't matter, because my return would be a reaction. Even if the unthinkable happened and they got back on the phone and badmouthed me in the worst way possible, it wouldn't phase me, unless I got pissed at them and told them to go fuck themselves, which may not serve my best interests, but the point is that I would feel no anxiety in all of that.
So, whatever the initial cause of the anxiety was back before I made the call, it was not the fact that they might say something I didn't like, because I'm quite competent at handing incompetent people, or even assholes. I've had a lot of practice in my life with incompetence and assholes, not to mention that I can be an asshole myself occasionally and know what that is all about and how to derail one when vitriol is directed my way from him (or her, though that has seldom ever been the case in my experience).
This is all the residue of several dreams, bordering on nightmares, that dealt in some obtuse way with anxiety and paranoia; that is, before I had the dreams, I hadn't realized that the affect had been escalating. And now I do. The dreams, although I can't remember any of the details, were telling me to go and do something about my current situation before it escalates too far and precipitates a full-blown paranoid episode. So I invoke my best defense mechanism and go back to bed and have another dream, which I resolve ahead of time to remember:
[Sometimes I feel like my dreams are real; that is, they seep through into reality as if they were experiences from another time and place instead of, as they intuitively inform me, happening in the right here and now.]
In a back yard, not quite mine, not quite the place I grew up in, very odd yet familiar, and somewhat recurrent (from a long time ago), we're growing things in huge high-walled planters and also digging up behind concrete walls and along a patio, as if we're either preparing garden beds or else excavating for some outdoor home remodeling project, the nature of which I cannot understand.
I'm trying to reconstruct my "location/presence" theory ("fantasy" might e a better word) from a while ago. I never actually formulated it too well and I'd like to make something significant out of it, if I can:
"Other people" talk to me while I'm talking to other other people, as if this first set of others are real people when I know they're not, but are my imaginary friends, "the voices in my head," people I trust far more than I do the real ones (which wouldn't be so hard since I'm not really sure I trust anyone real at all). For example, Kathy Griffin might whisper in my ear while I'm talking to Maureen, "Go ahead. Go for it. She wants you to kiss her now." And, now that I think of it, I almost like Kathy as much as I like Maureen. Maybe more even.
The other night I actually wrote down on a piece of paper, before I tore it up because I was afraid that Maureen might see it, "I am so jealous [did I mean envious?] that Craig Ferguson, saying goodbye to Kathy Griffin at the end of her spot on his show, gets to press his face and lips up against her cheeks. If only I... I mean... That would be so great...to be that close to her." Not that I'm so much more enamored of Kathy than I am of a lot of celebrity women, but she's right up there at the top.
And then there are others who, though not so close to the top, have their qualities that appeal to me in a different way. For example, I would really like to meet Sandra Bernhart and see how far I could convince her to psychologically torture me. I wonder if she's actually as perverse as she pretends to be, or if that's an exaggeration for public consumption. I really want to know; that is, I want to find out through personal experience. I remember seeing a picture of her posed with Alan Cumming. They make such a cute couple, and her vitriol that's so obvious (or obviously constructed?) in other "candid" photos seems to be negated in Alan's presence; but maybe there are other reasons for that, like maybe she feels more comfortable with him because...you know. So maybe the nastiness is not an act, but a real defense against men whom she might feel threatened by and so feel she has to give it back, or give it up front, before they get the chance to...you know: Do unto other before...
Anyway, back to the point: Sometimes I experience what I can only call a slight "fugue" state when I'm in the "presence" of an imaginary woman (and, if I work real hard at it, if I strive to overcome my distance, in the presence of a real woman also). "Presence" and "location" are ideas of mine that I probably should define more accurately, but I'm not so sure I can; they're states of mind, surely, but they feel as if they're not within me, but "out there," evinced either by my own desire to be more than I am, closer than I am, more intimate than I am, or by those same motives in the woman who is the object of my desire.
This is an "attitude", or mood, or atmosphere maybe, or maybe it's just some vague ethereal feeling that I can't describe, because it's so fleeting, and when I experiencing it with a real woman, I'm not in any kind of situation where I want to bother to write or even think it out in detail, being too concerned with other experiences; and later, though an idea of the experience persists, the experience itself has dissipated and I can't get it back, unlike every other experience I have ever had. Most feelings (or whatever) are immediately recallable, but not this one. This is an "attitude" of, for lack of a better word, "openness". It most often occurs just before or during physical intimacy. It comes and goes (so to speak). It's almost (but not quite) the equivalent of being brought to orgasm by a woman who is young and nubile (I don't think I've ever felt this with an older woman before Maureen) and who I know feels the same way that I do. Do I mean I intuit the way she feels? No, not quite; but maybe it is a psychic experience, after all, which may be why it's so hard to pin down.
I haven't felt this experience with anyone real in years, until that first day with Maureen, and then every time thereafter that I was with her. It's gotten so that all I have to do is enter into her presence and I feel this way, but as soon as she leaves, it's gone; or even if I remove my attention from her to try to write down how I feel, even if she is right there with me, it disappears.
Thinking about this all today as I'm doing dishes in my leaky kitchen with a rainstorm raging outside and water dripping into the sink (where I have diverted it from the middle of the room via sheets of aluminum salvaged from an old Heineken mini-keg that I had thought a while ago was just too nice to throw away and from some left over flashing from when I tried, unsuccessfully of course, to fix the leaking porch eave out front, all bent toward a funnel point and hung from cup hooks in the ceiling, a clever sort of Rube Goldberg arrangement), I imagine that water leaks could be a symbol for how insinuating people (whom I like to think of singularly as "society") leak into my life no matter what I try to do to prevent them from manipulating me and trying to take advantage of me. It's a nice parallel, and I think it makes sense: The rigid barriers that I constructed in my youth have been slowly weathering, rotting, and breaking down over the years, leaving me increasingly vulnerable to "social whimsy."
My attention is "diverted" (or maybe it's not really a diversion at all, but unconscious intelligence) by a wayward water drop from the ceiling that has somehow gotten around the aluminum sheets. As I've pointed out any number of times before, one of the major themes of my adult life has been water leaks, both of the plumbing kind and of the roof and basement walls variety. It's seems to be a pattern I can't break; I never seem to able to permanently fix any water leak, no matter how much money or effort or even professional services I throw at it. It makes me wonder why this is, if the Universe isn't trying to teach me some kind of lesson. I remember back to a month or so ago when I diverted the water drips from the roof leak into the sink. I laughed at myself then as I worked, saying, "Life's a trip, ain't it?" This is the attitude you have to take toward these little disturbances of domestic bliss, in fact to all of the annoyances of life. It's a joke, really. And when you get all bent out of shape about it, the devil wins. Water leaks, people trying to manipulate you, barriers disintegrating. Am I destined to lose my mind in just this way, watching it slowly dissipate into the ether of society?
I go to the fridge to get out the cheese and mayo to make a sandwich and I see there the remaining half of a casserole I made the previous evening that I'd forgotten all about, so I think that I'll heat that up instead, but that thought is a delayed reaction that doesn't fully hit home until after I've gotten out the cheese and mayo and closed the fridge door. Then the microwave dings, and I start to go to it to remove my reheated coffee, when I hear a noise out on the street and walk instead to the front window to see what's going on. But it's just my neighbor banging some equipment out of his pick-up, so I return to the kitchen. Now, let's see. What was I doing? Oh, yeah, casserole. So I open the microwave to get out the casserole, but it's not there. So, even though I know I also want the coffee, I shut the microwave and open the fridge--to get the coffee. But it isn't in there, so I shut the fridge and go back to the microwave.
It's at this moment that it hits me that this is that breaking down of barriers phenomenon, like all of the leaks, and like how I feel that I am not so much a separate entity but bleed into others, intermixing personality content, perceiving myself to be where they are when I see them from a distance, perceiving myself from their location as if from their eyes, perceiving them as being up close when they are farther away, close to their face even, feeling the intimacy like I imagined Ferguson felt when he kissed Kathy on his show, my face up close to Kathy's, or anyone's, anyone I happen to be looking at, from whatever distance, barriers dissolving, the image of her face persisting after she has gone, even though the feeling of it dissolved away immediately. I've known that phenomenon, persistence-of-image, for a long, long time, ever since I was a kid, seeing people right there with me, especially when I closed my eyes, inputting their image when they're within sight and conjuring it up later and, in fantasy, as if by magic I conjured up also their actual being, and maybe I did, maybe I do, even more so now, knowing so much more than I did then, feeling so much more, it's all about the feeling really, the thought and the images are extraneous, secondary, subsidiary content. Did I adequately convey this experience?
I think not.
This (kind of) experience exists for me, I suspect, because I keep myself separate from society. But I think I also see it working in "normal" people too, people who (might think that they) do not separate themselves, people who (believe they) are gregarious by nature, when they go off in their minds, seeming to be exhausted from having to keep up the pretense of enjoying others' company, or people who adopt their "social" role and practice it, for whatever reason, while behind their invisible veil they struggle with an unconscious anxiety they would never admit to--because they are sociable people, not subject to the kinds of doubts and insecurities that we lesser folk must tolerate. (If, as you read that last section, you see a little bit of yourself in it, then you prove my point; if you do not, then I suspect that you're lying, probably to yourself. Because, I hypothesize, we're all like that, more or less; and it's only relatively speaking that we call ourselves gregarious.)
I realized, only this morning, while considering my telephone experience with the credit card company yesterday, that staying away from society (i.e., people) does not relieve the anxiety if I still interact via the internet or email, or even for that matter via snail mail; as long as I can feel other people's influence as some kind of (real or imagined) threat, there remains the danger of experiencing social anxiety. The least little glitch in my electronic and/or paper interactions can set off a downward spiral toward paranoia that might take days to resolve as I surmount the bureaucratic obstacles. This happens mostly in winter. Some summers go without a single incident.
Mostly (maybe always), the bureaucratic internet nightmares (as well as the normal non-internet ones), have something to do with corporations, which are the antithesis of human interaction, even when their human representatives think they are being so "personable" (read 'dripping with false sincerity'). We are not a species that is fully evolved (yet) to deal with the non-human aspects of corporate culture. Sure, some relatively few of us have an altered genetic base that enables us to cope quite well in a postmodern age, which may be necessary, but probably is not so positive a twist of DNA.
Take the internet itself, for example. It is every bit as much a common carrier as the telephone system is, so it should be subject to similar rules, regulations, and guidelines. It is not a business tool, it is a ubiquitous means of democratic social interaction. To allow business interests to commandeer it is unconscionable. On the other hand, forget about "net neutrality." It's probably already way too late. The internet has already become a classist operation. Corporations produce top quality sites (more or less; i.e., sites that require high bandwidth cable connections to operate effectively) while the lower classes, if they have internet access at all, are restricted by dial-up connection technology that becomes increasingly less adequate as each year goes by. [This is probably a bad example of my point, since so many people of the "lower" classes have high speed connections; but you get the idea.]
This kind of bureaucratic and/or corporate bullshit that puts ordinary people second behind profits instead of (truly) recognizing the fact that the ordinary public is directly responsible for their profits (corporations prefer to bullshit citizens rather than win them over with the truth) pisses me off and turns me against the entirety of the corporate culture, disregarding (the little bit) of good that comes out of it. So, instead of embracing the inevitable future of the human (or human/computer hybrid) race, I turn away, into escapism, often science fiction where I fight the evil empire or else more personal kinds of fantasy:
A bad guy (or woman) at the beginning of a story, let's say a scientist who is obsessed with the project being worked on to the point of disregarding the human elements of coworkers and victims among the citizenry that the science will affect, has a change of heart, or not so much as change of heart as an awakening, coming out of the overly focused attention to the science when specific people whom s/he gets to know show up and provoke a human reaction; and then s/he turns out to be the good guy. This is a standard plot that is mythic in origin: The bad guy is really a good guy in disguise. If only.
And yet, as I evolve, though often it seems more like devolution, I find more and more of the fantastical creeping into my worldview. It's difficult to keep it out. I want to be a strict naturalist, but so much has thus far been discovered as being natural that hundreds of years ago was interpreted as supernatural that I can only conclude that trend will continue, and even escalate. I consign all of that non-rational (intuitive, etc.) material to a fantasy and science fiction compartment in my brain where I allow it to develop as a separate strain of personality and I abstract from it any developments that seem to be consistent with real world phenomenon and incorporate them into my current lifestyle and/or belief system. I call the interface between these two aspects of mental life "visions":
My visions take a peculiar form, in that they're not visions in the sense that most people might think of when they hear me say that I have visions. People who don't know me so well, when they hear me talking about my visions, might suspect that I hallucinate, when instead what I do is more akin to what people mean when they say, "I have a dream," although I do, in a sense, hallucinate, not "visually," but "fantastically." I do see a future in my visions, which are fantasies that I play in my head like movies. I know that, given enough time, the visions I have will come to be; but that's the problem--time. I know how to make things happen, but in my own good time, without disturbing the universe (too much). And my own good time, no matter how long it will turn out to be, will never be enough. I have way too many visions.
They say that, in the near future, China will be the predominant world power. I believe it. I have (had) a (literal) dream (another form of vision) about it: I'm at home, minding my own, in the living room, chillin', doing digital duties, when a young Chinese guy comes in, uninvited, sits, and works along with me, on his own business, which is similar if not identical to mine. He's a polite guy and I don't mind him being here at all, except for the fact that I think he should have asked permission to enter. Soon, several other Chinese people enter, older people. They act as if they belong here, a part of the family. They make this place their home. I feel a strange antipathy toward them: I like them being here, but at the same time I feel like my personal space has been invaded. Cut to:
The bathroom. I'm standing in front of the mirror, just beginning to shave my head, but imagining instead that I'm giving myself a buzz cut. When I see what it is that I'm actually doing to myself, with about an inch of my hairline shaved back from the front, I stop, experiencing a huge bout of self-doubt. But then I think, "Oh, what the hell. It'll grow back. And, anyway, I can't leave it the way it is now." And all of a sudden I'm looking at Bruce Willis staring back at me out of the mirror.
The Chinese are trying so hard, aren't they? I don't mean the Chinese leadership so much as I mean the Chinese people; for example, here's a short note from an eBay purchase package I received from China:
Thank you for your purchase ! Could you leave me all five stars Positive Feedback ? Thanks... I really want to make friendship with you , I give you a free gift , Hope you could love it ! I think friendship is the most important , Thank you very much !That note makes me want to give a great big hug to whoever wrote it. Here's another one, from an email:
Hi, my friend,Thanks for your kind understanding and cooperation. We will add beautiful replacement to your order. Hope you can get the package soon. We will be more careful of the listing in the future. Just enjoy your time in my store and to the possibility of doing business with you again in the future. If there is anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to let me know. Have a nice day.Best Regards,Be happy, my friend...Maybe it's merely a matter of the impossible literal translation between Chinese and English, and Chinese business is every bit as cut-throat as business in other places of the world; but I feel there's some ephemeral, subliminal message between the lines of those notes that is both genuine and touching. Like maybe the writers feel privileged to finally be allowed to participate in the global enterprise system on an individual basis. I don't know. American business doesn't have that attitude any more. I'm not sure it ever did have it. The American business attitude is something more like:
Look. I know you're an asshole, and you know I'm an asshole, but let's just pretend to be polite and pleasant to each other so that I can continue to take your money, okay?I've purchased a lot of valuable and all but worthless items from both American and Chinese companies and, in my experience, the Chinese are far better business people than the Americans are. Generally, they are quicker to respond to complaints, they do not hesitate and hedge like American companies do, and they bend over backwards to satisfy their customers. We have been conditioned by American companies over the last thirty years (ever since Reagan) to feel lucky if our complaints are merely acknowledged; often we never hear back from them at all. American companies by and large have incorporated a number of delaying practices into their operational procedures, which serve to try to discourage customers from following up on their complaints. They don't seem to care so much any more whether or not you become a loyal customer; they want to get and keep your money right now and to hell with the future, they'll deal with that when it gets here because, really, the future never arrives, it's always right now. American companies have lost their moral and ethical concerns; and I believe the seeds of that evil were sown back when the government allowed them to adopt the policies of incorporation.
As for what Bruce Willis was doing in my mirror, I have a no idea. Obviously, it has something to do with me shaving my head; but Bruce? Seems like it should have been someone more like Zippy. It's all a part of the meta-metaphor, I think: I am split apart, scientist and supernaturalist, Bright and intuitive fantasist; and I find no internal inconsistency, because this is what all humans are, cognitively dissonant, because the phenomena of the universe are way too extensive for the human mind to grasp all at one, cognitively, so we have to compartmentalize it all and deal with each aspect separately at different times. I cope with this dissonance (and everything else) by writing. If I can get it (or something, anything) down in words, I feel good about myself; if it turns out to actually make some kind of sense, I feel even better. I collect most of it into one or another form of pastiche (like this one); but what I really want to do is...
I want to write a book (a novel?) like Pasolini's Petrolio, where the author explains how he is writing the book as he goes along, what he is trying to do, how he expects the readers will react, etc.
My narrow slice for quite a while now has been my little corner of the world. (I have all but given up on society.) I organize my house and gardens from the inside out as if it were all just an extension of my mind (which it actually is). I'm creating a "survivalist" [not as in reactionary pseudo-militia, but a la "survive & prosper," the hanging on, waiting out the harshness of winter/bad times, until spring/hope returns] enclave:
I think of my little 1/8th acre as such an en/exclave; but, if I acted to assert my right by natural law, I'm sure the overriding political power would object and insist that my exclave be defined otherwise.
Ah, but inside my mind...now that's a different matter entirely. For all outward appearance and legal concern, I am a good little law-abiding citizen, but my mind is an enclave.
From time to time (actually, more often than not) I have problems with the organization of my enclave, especially in the winter when the house is cold and I spend most of my time in my warm bedroom.
So I've developed a plan (yes, yet another one) to deal with this problem: first, clean and organize the inner sanctum (bedroom); next, expand the organization out into the bathroom, then into the kitchen, then the office, then the entry, then the living room, then the library, and finally into the back closets; next, move out onto the porch (this part of the plan will take place as winter gives way to spring and summer), then into the yards. At some point, whenever, the basement areas can be included, from front to back.
The whole point here is that the bedroom is the hard-core retreat area, my den, my "cave," my enclave within the enclave (house) within the enclave (property). Whatever else is happening "outside," (in the house, yards, or society) this area must remain secure and impervious to any caustic elements.
In addition, then, all "remodeling" can occur from this multiple POV: 1) the enclave; 2) a "social" (appearance) concern; i.e., the outside moving inward; 3) my various "pursuits" (projects) areas. (As mentioned earlier, projects can be advanced (in addition to the more obvious work) by simple organization.
My concern over the organization of my living area has been a repetitive theme throughout my life, so it's only natural that it would continually find its way into my writing; and yet I worry that it does. But when I think that readers might think that my writing is odd because my storylines are continually interrupted by concerns I write about that have no real relevance, I rationalize my style by rereading a bit of early Beckett: My purpose is personal expression, not story-telling, which is merely a vehicle I use to get to where I'm going. I suspect that this was Beckett's purpose also, at least earlier on.
Furthermore, the ideas that I'm "expressing" don't have to be correct, or even sane. It's not me saying these things, it's my characters, most often the protagonist. It's convenient for me that I have a protagonist who is only sort of my own self whom I can blame for a lot of the craziness I sometimes stumble into.
Am I crazy? No, I'm not. I'm just obsessed. Don't worry. I'll get over it. Then I'll become obsessed again about something different.
I hang with idiots because they mistake me for a genius. Better than hanging with geniuses who might recognize me for what I really am.
I got up three hours ago. Wish I hadn't. I like my dream worlds better than I do this supposedly real one. You people are so...fictitious.
That's a slightly more polite way of calling you all phonies. No, I'm not depressed, just discouraged. Progress is so slow these days.
Yeah, I've been sleeping well. I always sleep well. Just not for so long any more. And only occasionally. I'm tired. I'm going back to bed. To dream some more...
The distance from me where you warmly sleep I span with eyesight dimmed by darkest night up to the wall behind which dreams will creep when I am in my own room closed up tight. That distance when I look at you the same as when you look at me afar, afraid I might not ever close the gap you blame on me, the distance you believe I made.
That was a dream (except for the rhyme, which I added later), but it is also real life (also except for the rhyme). These are the two nodes, dreaming and waking, the antipodes, the poetry and prose of my existence. I have two basic modes. Only two? Yes. But each has so many subtle variations that it can seem at times like I have many different states of existence. The two modes? Well, in and out, of course. Off and on. Winter and summer. Yin and yang. Dreaming and awake. They're all the same thing, really, lacking the same organization that normal people find so easy to keep separate, to accept as the ordinary everyday experience of life; for example, in the summer, I want to hide away, from the necessity to be out and about and, in the winter, I want to be out doing things, except that it's too cold.
Sometimes it's even too cold to go into the bathroom and sit on the cold, cold toilet seat. She never liked to stay over in the winter because I only heated the bedroom at night and the bathroom was cold in the morning. And she hated it when, if I used up the toilet paper, I didn't replace the roll. I spend a lot less on toilet paper now that she no longer comes around.
That's all not me any more, that's someone else. I'm someone else now. [You'll have to wait a few months (or look ahead) to know what that really means.] I live alone. It's better for me. I should have lived alone all my life, but...well...you know. Now I can sleep when I want to and not be wakened by normal comings and goings, and not be pleaded with to "come to bed." Now I can keep all the irregular hours I want to. I can sleep too long (if it happens that I can manage it). I used to worry about sleeping too much. Now I worry about not getting enough sleep. I drag ass every single day these days, and I take naps in the afternoon, which raises my daily net sleep hours to about six or seven. Not nearly enough. So, it seems like nothing much has changed. Nature has replaced her with insomnia, like I've replaced the security of someone else with money in the bank.
And yet, I kind of miss those times way back when we were living from paycheck to paycheck and had to sit down every week and plan out how we were going to spend the money. It gave me a certain sense of control that's been replaced by the "security" of knowing that I have enough money invested to last me for the rest of my life--if I'm careful. You have to be so much more careful when you're on your own.
Another way that I have "changed" (the way I live) is in my relation to the "media":
Over nearly ten years I've spent slowly increasing amounts of time on the internet and slowly decreasing amounts of time watching television, until now I spend most of my waking time on the internet while I'm working, like I used to leave the television on while I only watched an occasional interesting minute or two here and there, content presented to me whether or not I cared for it, whereas now I choose content on the net, researching it when an idea hits me that needs explication. And I buy things I need or want as ideas occur to me, when I can find them as cheaply (including shipping costs) on the net as I would by adding them to a shopping list and going out to buy them locally, eventually, the outing probably taking even longer to achieve than shipping from a distance would.
It's a good thing that I live alone. I wouldn't tolerate now any of the shit I used to get pretty much full time, to the point that I felt I had no alternative but to comply and modify my behavior to conform to expectations.
"Why are you wearing that thing on your head?"
"That...what is that anyway? A hair net?"
"Oh. My snood. I forgot I had it on."
"Your snood!? Who do you think you are? Hines Ward?"
It's better to have visitor than cohabitants; but I've been thinking lately that it might be even better not to have visitors at all. This is just me being me: as time goes on, I act (in ways unseen, even mostly to myself) to isolate myself; it's a lifelong pattern of devolvement. When I was young, before I knew myself so well, by virtue of my family, I was socially involved--because I didn't realize there could be another way to exist, except within my mind.
I was as far as my external appearance was concerned an ordinary kid. You wouldn't know the difference if you looked at me. I wasted all my early years trying to be like the others without knowing it. Life is like that [a box of chocolates]. You never know what you need to know until it's far too late.
I wasted the whole first half of my life trying to "fit in," doing mostly what society thought I should be doing, what I thought I should be doing, having been brainwashed, relegating my most valued motivations to pure fantasy. Now the tables have turned. I'm doing what I think I should be doing and (sometimes) fantasizing about what society wants me to be doing. Obviously, I feel a bit guilty about this. Why else would I still go to the trouble of trying to justify myself by writing about it?
I have two opposing orientations to the way I live my life. The first is obvious (I write about it all the time): As much as possible, I do what I want to do and not what society thinks I should be doing. The second is a bit more complicated: I sometimes (probably a lot more often than I realize) feel that I should hide what I do, the way that I live, from public view, because I feel guilty about it. I will often expend a lot of (semi-conscious) energy trying to justify (rationalize) why I act so differently (even though I know now know why), why I live the way I do, why I "choose" to spend my time doing what I do instead of...whatever other things "society" (my superego) wants me to do, like, for example, maintaining a "clean" or even merely organized house.
I make "compromises" in this regard: I keep organized (and relatively clean) those areas of my property that people can see, including the front areas of my home where they might see into. These two aspects of my motivation (more like my real v. "imposed" motivation) are in continual conflict beneath the surface. As I grow older, I find myself devising ways to spend more time on the former and less on the latter, which only serves to accentuate the conflict, even as it maximizes the amount of time I spend on my own personal pet projects.
I live the way I live because it's the way I want to live. And even if I didn't want to, I'd live this way because it's a function of my genetic makeup. Before I had all of my time to devote to my own peculiar nature, back when I had to work for a living, I still pretty much lived this way, still dealing with the same conflict, although back then it was between keeping my house clean and organized and working at a full-time job. Now I no longer care so much how my house looks (except for the occasional bout of residual guilt that society still manages to impose). So don't presume to tell me how I should be living my life. It's my life; this is my house. You're not my mother.
Yeah, visitors might be getting to be just a social step too far any more.
But there are visitors, and then there are (the) visitors. They might come by way of starship, in which case the crazies are not so. They might come extra-dimensionally, in which case they are not like us. (Or are they?) They might come by way of meteorites, in which case they are us. Mars seems a likely source of origin, if they're our distant ancestors. So say scientists who built a device to sift Martian soil in situ. If they discover microbe DNA, then we're from there. Or vice versa.
It is estimated that one billion tons of Martian rock has been blasted into space and subsequently landed on Earth. One billion. Tons! If there are Martian microbes, the odds are good that some of them hitched a ride. Or vice versa. And microbes on Earth survive in the harshest environments we have, so a trip through space seems plausible. So, if we are to become archaeologists looking for our past in space, that suggests to me...well, what else but a story? I want to write about a sci fi tale, not about the future, but about the distant past, on Mars:
Archaeologists discover evidence of life on Mars many million years ago and piece together bits of the now-past civilization there. But the story is written from the present-tense but distant past POV of the life on Mars that is being discovered by the archaeologists now, and the reader will not know until the end that the story takes place on Mars and is in the process of being discovered by the archaeologists there. It will be written generically, as if on an unknown planet and in such a way as to dupe the non-discerning, narrow-minded reader into believing that it's a story of the ancient Earth.
That story idea is based on a dream I had the other night, which itself was based on an online article I read. The following night, I had a similar dream, except that the aliens were an ancient space-wandering civilization that visited us via telepathy from far beyond our planet. Hey, it could happen. In fact, the dream could have been that very communication. I woke from the dream in awe, but fell quickly back into sleep and dreamed about a guy named Julian:
He was a collector, at first of rare and valuable items, but later, as the dream progressed, of a lot of ordinary, worthless junk. He started out as not-me, as if I were watching his life as an intimate observer, but gradually I became aware that he was in fact me in disguise, which culminated in a brief lucid moment; and, thereafter, I was the dream protagonist, yet it seemed as if I was still an external observer. Julian has seen the shows on television about hoarders, and he's seen the people on Oprah who are chastised and even vilified by their families for being hoarders, so he's careful not to classify himself in that way. He does not hoard, he collects, always with an ultimate purpose in mind, and always, as much as it is physically possible, in an organized manner. Never mind that, inside his house the only place to walk is in narrow aisles between neatly stored collections; and the only places to sit are in the few designated areas where a chair has been strategically placed so that he may do whatever work it is he will do in that area. He is not set up to entertain guests and he wouldn't engage in that sort of frivolity even if he were; so there is no reason at all for him to maintain the typical trappings that people who do that sort of thing maintain.
Awake, I understand the implication: I am a hoarder, no matter how well organized I might keep my house and its collections. (We all have collections; it's just that most of us collect more "practical" items, like household appliances, clothing, cosmetics, etc.) But I can't shake the feeling of the "foreignness" of the dream. In a very real sense, this guy was not me. I'm imagining that he was a "visitor" who was able to communicate his "problem" because we are of a similar mindset. I would rather that this be the case, and lying awake in bed, I feel that strange "presence" that I used to feel a lot, especially when I was a kid, but feel so seldom any more, a "spookiness," like someone I can't see is in the room with me. But, then again, maybe that is, and has always been, just my own unknown self that raises the tiny hairs on his own neck; or elsewhere, like some pendejo.
I lie perfectly still, not daring to move lest I disturb the possession and discover its reality. I'm afraid to fall back into sleep where it can enter back into me; but I do anyway, and I dream about government conspiracies: Agents are trying to get into my house and I can only keep them out by an act of concentrated will. But if I fall asleep or even allow my attention to briefly lapse, they will get in, discover all my errant possessions, classify me as mentally defective, arrest me, and have me committed. (This is residue from having watched The Changeling last night.) The corporations do not want me to collect all of the odd things I get for free. They want me to buy stuff instead, and not cheap Chinese stuff, but American-made, top-of-the-line, costly products. Although the men outside are government agents, I know that they work for the corporations, which are pissed because I live as cheaply as I do and criticize and act to negate the influence of their advertisements in every possible way I can. I am threatening their stranglehold on the citizenry, so they are in the process of installing a dish on my porch roof that will receive their programming. They want to get into the house so that they can hook it up to my television. I'm pissed and want to rush out and confront them, but I know that if I do, they will then have access; that, in fact, is exactly what they want me to do, to tip my hand, which will be just one more bit of evidence they have against me. They're also disturbed that I did not sign up for supplemental health insurance when I applied for Medicare and one of the guys is standing by the door with a policy that he wants me to sign. I'm hiding just inside the front door in a blind spot where they can't see me. The guy starts to talk to me through the door. He tells me that they're not going to let me out of the house until I sign it, because it's just not safe to wander around society without "adequate" health insurance. I tell him I'm not going to sign anything, that I don't believe in the way the society is being run, that healthcare should be a basic human right that no one should have to pay for. This makes him angry and he starts pounding on the door, trying to break it in. The noise awakens me and I hear clattering out in the street, which is probably my neighbor loading his truck, preparing to go out on a job. I continue on with my polemics, now awake, recording it all on my voice recorder:
If the corporo-governmental bosses would just act to guarantee everyone a minimum level of existence (and it could be done, with only the slightest reduction in the income/wealth of the greedy little bastards who work so hard at influencing whomever to direct the flow of capital their way), then the masses would be content to let them run their corporate schemes without interference or complaint. But the bastards won't do that. They have to be always trying to squeeze every fraction of a cent out of every single process and reach into the pockets of every single citizen in every possible way they can imagine to do it in their attempts to, not merely to remain rich, but to corner every possible market so as to have as much as they can possibly get, no matter that they don't at all need the tenth of it. They do it just to do it, and it pisses people off, people who will eventually "get" them if they possibly ever can. If the bastards would back off just to the smallest degree necessary to guarantee every citizen a secure present state of existence, then the masses would leave them alone, being content to live their lesser lives.
But, since the corporates and their pol stooges continue to choose their slash and burn tactics and strategies, then we will get you, motherfuckers, in one way or another. We will turn capitalism on its ear if that's what we have to do. Either back off or face the eventual consequences. Ask the French royalty what will happen. Oh, wait. You can't ask them. They're dead.
In the dream, when the guys were hooking up the satellite dish, I overheard one of them complaining that the only stations I watched and listened to were PBS and NPR, and the other guy said something like, "Oh, we'll be ending that soon enough." Awake, I recognize that he was referring to the Republicans' de-funding attempts. I have mixed feelings about the congressional attempt to de-fund NPR & PBS. On one hand, it irritates me to no end that PBS spends as much airtime as it does kissing viewers asses while begging them for money. If it's that difficult to make ends meet, maybe they should just dry up and blow away. On the other hand, they do run a lot of great programming, not only news and cultural events, but comedy, mystery, and drama as well. The fact that there is not much of a market for it speaks not to how irrelevant it is (which is one of the arguments that conservatives use to try to disguise their real motivation), but to how much more the country needs it. Nevertheless, I would say go ahead and de-fund it if people are so blind as to allow you to do it, if they are so under-educated and unsophisticated as to ignore such a good thing.
But I have to side with saving the media, not (only) because it runs good programming (far better than commercial stations), but in order to try to thwart the conservatives true agenda, which is not at all what they claim it to be, but is, simply, to silence even the slightest hints of progressive politics. The public media is not liberally biased, as the conservatives claim; it goes to great lengths to keep itself neutral and well balanced; which is exactly what conservatives do not want, because balanced means that citizens get to hear both sides, which gives them the opportunity to choose their positions on the various issues, and conservatives prefer that citizens be locked mindlessly into the conservative political dogma, which requires the public not to be exposed to opposing opinions. Whether conservative activists actually believe that PBS and NPR are biased toward the left or they merely choose to characterize the situation that way in order to lessen its effects is irrelevant. The fact that they act against it points directly to a serious problem: Conservatives see the balanced broadcast content and an informed public as dangerous to their way of life. This should be evidence enough that there is something wrong with the current conservative position.
There is a certain amount of traditional conservative thought that I like, the William F. Buckley variety, for example. But the neo-con and post-con conservative movements are just disgusting. They represent to me the fascism that we have worked so hard to overcome. This is why, though I am otherwise on the fence about the funding of public broadcasting, I must come down in favor of government support of its operations. We've got to stop the fascists from gaining any more ground than they have already gained in our great experiment. Don't let them destroy our democracy so that they can more easily increase their private wealth at public expense. Make them earn their riches via true capitalist competition, like traditional conservatives did it, while supporting and not thwarting the democratic process.
Free expression is the essence of democracy. When power blocs act to thwart free expression (which is as inevitable an aspect of human nature as is power-grabbing or the imposition of religious beliefs upon people, both of which the framers of the constitution felt it necessary to include safeguards against), they act to subvert democracy.
My free expression (in addition to polemics like that above, which I become too easily bored with and disenchanted by, figuring, what the hell, whatever I say or write isn't going to make one single bit of difference so I might as well turn my attention to my favorite subject, my own self) most often takes the form of trying to explain who I am and why I think and act the way I do (which, now that I think about it, actually subsumes the polemics); and one of the primary ways that I do that is to create "fictional" characters to speak for me, not unlike I do in dreams; and one of my favorite characters, the main one in fact, is Joachin, the protagonist of my thoughthistory "novels," who, I now recognize, happens to have been Julian in the dream outlined above. I write as Joachin for several reasons, one of which is to fictionalize material that might be considered indelicate or transgressive by people who know me too well; but that's a secondary reason. The most important one has to do with a basic "split" (for lack of a better word) in my personality that demands that I not (all the time) be myself. This is a complicated issue, the explication of which lies beyond the scope of this pastiche, actually beyond the scope of any specific single work; but it can be found as an ongoing subtextual thread through practically everything I write. And, since this basic self-division seems to have reared up here in my mind, I end this pastiche with a Joachin story (looking toward a time when I might include this piece as a part of one of my books):
Joachin thinks that, if you knew him well enough, you'd understand; but you don't, very few people do. So he decides that he wants to try to explain (himself) to you without going into the elaborate psychological details that are the actual determining factors (i.e., he wants to delineate the traits, the symptoms if you will, but not the cause, which is just too complicated to tackle at this time).
First (the most basic trait), he likes the repetition of stringing beads (or of anything else), making the same piece over and over again. It's the same thing he does when he listens obsessively to music, or fantasizes the same episodes over and over again, occupying his mind in recursive cycles. There are a lot of things in life that bother him that he can't control, either because they are way beyond his reach or are things close by that he should and could control but can't quite manage to find the time and energy to do it all; but beading is so close-at-hand and can always be worked on while otherwise doing nothing, resting, watching stupid television while the mind winds itself down. Making jewelry is symbolically putting a tiny bit of the chaos of the world into order.
Second, he likes shiny, glittery, "tasteful" objects that nature produces and humans refine. He collects these things and, in order to justify (rationalize) his collection (so as not to be thought of as a hoarder--the horror!), he tries to make the objects he collects into a socially acceptable (more or less) mainstream artform. He also collects other "attractive" (though this is a very personal opinion; others may think that some of his choices are distasteful or even abhorrent) objects (and ideas, which is what he's doing right now, thinking about how he can make his behavior more acceptable to others); and, in every case, he tries to justify how his collections are not a form of hoarding (because he doesn't want one day to find that his family has dragged him begrudgingly onto Oprah's show). He's like a crow that picks up shiny objects and secrets them away and plays with them. Even if he didn't sell or give as gifts any of the jewelry (or other created objects, paintings or models, for example), he'd still make them. But he has to do something with all the stuff he makes, otherwise it'll just pile up and he will then certainly have become a hoarder.
Third...he's sure there's a third. There always is. Three examples is a standard psychological motive and literary device. He just hasn't thought of the third one yet.
Joachin has been occupying his time in thought, waiting for the mail to be delivered. It finally arrives, more ridiculously cheap jewelry components, purchased on eBay and sent from China.
[Later, reading a first draft of this document, a friend says:
"You should never trust a woman with steel gray eyes."
"Or any other color, for that matter," Joachin will reply.]
That's good? He begins a process that will extend out over the next few days, a typical repetitive behavior he engages in, the parsing of the details of (any given) interaction: Did she, when she said, "That's good," blow him off? Was she, up until that time, impressed that he made jewelry, thinking, based upon the large number of small packages he's been getting, that he made a living at it; but when she learned that he did not sell to stores, did she then decide that it was just a hobby and so meant "That's good" in the way that an attendant would say it to an institutionalized mental patient in praise of the basket he just finished weaving? Did she decide at that moment that he was not the serious cottage industry entrepreneur she first imagined he was, but merely a hobbyist? (He really hates the idea of being thought of as a hobbyist. It's such a non-serious appellation that does not at all reflect his dedication to the pursuit, he thinks; although, a few months from now...)
Or was she, as he imagines, at a loss for further words and said "That's good" in the way he had earlier said, "That's right," in response to her having said, "It keeps us in business"; because what he meant to say, what he even had rehearsed saying, when he thought, when he imagined he might say what he first did to her, that she would respond with something like, "It's my job"...what he intended to say was not "That's right," but, "That's true." Did she then suffer the same kind of awkwardness that he exhibited while pretending to be so cool, so ordinary, so sociable, so normal, when here he is ordering over a hundred tiny packages, most of them costing far less than a dollar each? That, he thinks, is not normal behavior.
He has imagined many times in the past that she is as socially awkward as he is. He bases this opinion on how she looks, a little bit nerdy, how she acts when she's doing her job, and how she looks quickly away when he makes eye contact with her (although that last one could be for a different reason altogether; and he wouldn't blame her, especially if she's already hooked up with someone, whom he's imagined is another woman, because she does look just a little bit masculine; but, of course, she would, she's a mail person, after all, traditionally a guy's job).
She's very precise in the way she delivers the mail, in a way that most of the mail people are not. Most of the other mail people make delivery mistakes and Joachin and his neighbors end up redelivering the mail to each other. Most of the other mail people, do not shut off and lock up their trucks when exiting them to deliver packages. They do not carry an empty mail sack with them when they don't need it. They speed along up the street, hurrying their rounds. She does not. One young guy even left Joachin one of those little slips of paper instructing him that he had to go to the post office to pick up a package that had to be signed for because he was not home to sign for it when it was to be delivered, and yet Joachin happened to be looking out the window that day watching him deliver the mail, and he never made any attempt at all to come to the door to get the signature--because he's a lazy motherfucker who has no regard for either customer service or for the proper way to do his job. She, on the other hand, takes her time; she fills out paperwork in a dedicated way as she's sits outside in her truck; when she exits her truck, she shuts it off, leaves the flashers on, and closes and locks the door; she carries with her a shoulder pouch, even when she has no packages to put into it, which Joachin assumes is what "regulations" dictate, in the same way that they dictate locking the door, etc. These are all signs of the nerdish behavior Joachin is so familiar with, which he extends by assuming her traits also include social awkwardness.
Days later, during another delivery requiring his signature:
"You must sell a lot of jewelry."
"Not really. I don't sell much at all. But I'm trying to expand."
Should he instead have lied and said he did?
Nah. What would be the point? What would that get him?
Jump ahead a few months, difficult and somewhat awkward and embarrassing details forced out-of-mind, to a dinner-date:
This may be nothing new at all, Joachin thinks. It feels like the same old thing; and this lady, Lila, dressed as she is, tastefully, not at all flamboyantly, yet somewhat conventionally, and definitely out-of-uniform, is probably no one special; except maybe that he's been thinking that she is; but then he always thinks that about women he's attracted to. He thinks that maybe he likes her better dressed as a mail person.
"So you're not with anyone," he says, following up on an earlier bit of conversation that was interrupted by the hostess telling them that their table was ready.
"No. I'm not."
"Why? Because. Look at you. Someone's missing out."
"Ever think that someone might be you?"
See? That's the problem he'd earlier tried to tell her about. He just assumes that, if people don't approach him directly and say what's on their minds, then they don't have anything to say to him. He always assumes that people will approach him if they're interested in him and otherwise he just goes along in his own oblivious little world. That's what she did, sort of. It had been a give-and-take, with a lot of awkward pauses where neither of them, standing out at the end of his driveway, knew quite what to say. But she managed to lead the way, indirectly but fairly competently, in that way that women will.
Much later still, in bed, after much has passed between them.
"I think you're afraid of intimacy," she says.
"I'm not afraid of it. I love it. I'm conditioned against it. I'm genetically predisposed against it. But I'm definitely not afraid of it. When it happens, once I'm into it, into the relationship, I cherish the experience.
"It doesn't seem like that to me."
"Well, maybe, that's because you're afraid of it and need to deny and project that fear."
"What do you mean? I'm not afraid. Do I look afraid?"
"Oh, really? Well, I'm not."
"Okay. Prove it."
"How? How can I prove that?"
"I have a way."
"You'll do it?"
"Depends. Do what?"
"Wait a minute. I gotta go get something."
Despite the fact that they have just had sex, he's surprised to notice that he again is hard. He gets out of bed, completely naked, and goes into the kitchen to get a quart Mason jar. She probably didn't notice his condition as he was leaving since his back was to her, but as he returns, full flag flying, she has no choice but to see. He had felt a little bit embarrassed by the display he was about to reveal just before he re-entered the bedroom, but he knew he had to quickly overcome that feeling or else he might be the one who was projecting, so by the time he walked back through the bedroom doorway, he had convinced himself to be proud of his erection. She obviously intentionally does not look at it, but keeps her gaze turned away. He hands her the jar. "Put it between your breasts and wrap your hands around it," he says, which she does, but pulls it quickly away from her body.
"It's cold," she says.
"C'mon. Tough it out. It's not that cold."
She puts it between her breasts again. Next comes the hard part; or, rather, not-so-hard. With a bit of minor difficulty, he bends his penis into the jar. She makes a feeble attempt to push the jar away from her again, but his proximity prevents it. "C'mon," he says. "It's no big deal. And it'll prove your intimacy." So how could she object?
He'd had to urinate since even before they'd had sex, but he'd postponed it, so it wasn't hard...that is, difficult...to begin a few small drips, which prompts the softening reaction, and soon he's in the process of filling the jar. He hoped it would be large enough so that he wouldn't have to force himself to stop midway and could wring out the full extent of pleasure. As he lets go, he watches her face. She glances up at him once but quickly looks back down. He knows exactly what she's feeling, both the warmth against her hands and breasts and the odd conflicting repulsion. "Don't resist the feeling," he says. "Feel the warmth. Let it radiate into you. Feel the pleasure." She does. He can see it in her face as the jar fills up. It stops short of the top and he stands above her, his crotch opposite her face, her eyes closed, chin raised, mouth agape. He starts getting hard again almost immediately. That's the real reason he makes jewelry. Maybe it's difficult to see, the attraction. It's jewelry that brought them together. She wears the turquoise necklace he gave her; she wears it all the time.
[See how he turned her initial criticism of his fear of intimacy around on her? How he derailed her opinion? Okay, so maybe he went a little bit over the top there, but the rest of this two-part adventure he's been trying to document for a while now, as tastefully as he can, is a bit more down-to-earth. Well, sort of.]
Joachin has been trying to understand this next set of experiences for many years, but for some reason he can't quite come to grips with it, it's been defying explication, plagued by a long series of false starts, and he thinks there's no reason to believe this isn't another one of them. He's trying to write this out, again, because he told Lila he would, because he outlined it briefly for her the other night as they lay in bed and she couldn't fall asleep. He started telling her about his past with women, which she had asked him about; but he hadn't gotten very far, only through the earliest teenage years before he got to this and had to qualify it by saying, "This is a long story."
"That's okay," she said. "I'm not going anywhere." But that wasn't true. It wasn't too long before she fell asleep. So the next morning at breakfast, she asked him to continue, and he told her he'd write it out for her while she was at work. So here he is now, associating it with a long list of other contingent events and realizing that, if he is to tell the story well, it might have to become a book-length memoir, or maybe a novel; and he's wondering if any of the material might constitute a betrayal of trust or whatever.
It all started when he dropped out of college and headed to NYC with a buddy, Paul, who had Muscular Dystrophy and was living his life day-to-day. Paul was the one who was heading for New York when Joachin met him on the street, and Joachin just tagged along with him, which was typical of him back then, just drifting. But, actually, now that he thinks about it, it all started before that, with the behavior that led to him dropping out of college; and it could even be said that it started when he was very young and first developing the behavior pattern that slowly graduated into the later behavior; it could even be said that it all started in the womb, but that's maybe taking the matter to extremes. So he decides that he'll just start with dropping out of college and maybe catch some of that other stuff in flashbacks.
He and Paul got a room at the Albert Hotel on the Lower East Side and Joachin got a job with Random House. A while later, they moved to Queens with John and Michael, their next-door neighbors at the Albert. And a short while after that, Paul moved back into the city, deserting Joachin, which Joachin did not think (consciously) of in that way at the time; but if Paul had been a better friend...
But Paul probably felt the same way when he asked Joachin to accompany him back to Manhattan and he declined. Actually, he was getting a little bit fed up with Paul. They had not been close friends before starting out on this adventure and as Joachin got to know him better, Paul began to grate on him, just a little bit, nothing serious, but the problem was accentuated by their flat-mate John, who couldn't stand Paul and belittled him behind his back every chance he got, pointing out his obvious faults and influencing Joachin to allow Paul to leave Joachin behind.
In short, Paul made a play to win Joachin's friendship back from John, and he failed. Not that Joachin had any fondness for John either, though he did like his buddy Michael a lot. But Joachin tends to stay settled where he has settled in until circumstanced change or opportunity presents itself and causes him to relocate; and the circumstances had not yet significantly changed, nor did he see any opportunities back at the Albert.
Working at Random House, Joachin met Maureen, the first of three Maureens in his life, though not at all typical of the other two. Well...maybe not...now that he thinks about it...maybe this is exactly what he's trying to get at but has been avoiding, maybe it does actually go back that far.
A group of employees planned a Friday night out and Joachin and Maureen were included. After everyone else called it a night, Maureen and Joachin end up in a bar on the Lower West Side. It's near to six in the morning. She invites him to her place, but he declines. All he wanted to do by that time was to get home and go to bed. He was only vaguely aware up until this time that she had been putting in the time with him, hoping to seduce him, possibly thinking, in that typical instinctually feminine way, that he was the one who was or at least should have been doing the seducing, although she was a liberated woman (more or less, as we shall later see) and was not above asking him when he failed to ask her.
In declining her invitation, he was acting mostly unconsciously, he will much later realize. He had no idea why he said no, over and above the fact that he was very tired, out the other side of drunk, sobered and exhausted, and all he wanted to do was sleep. He had only the vaguest notion that she wanted him to accompany her to her home for sex. He was, as he often is still, more or less oblivious to the subtle machinations of sexual (and other social) innuendo. And he was totally oblivious to the deeper psychological motives that were playing themselves out. It would take him many years to figure that all out, and when he got sidetracked from his brief history of significant others that he was listing for Lila last night in bed, this was what sidetracked him: He wanted to explain the psychology that was at the beginning of its evolutionary process in the recessed corners of his consciousness, the theories that he was then still in the unconscious throes of developing, the mere inklings that caused him, over and above his exhaustion, to decline Maureen's invitation. But before he gets back to all of that, the detailed groundwork must be laid.
When Joachin, having dropped out of college, was threatened by the overbearing, overburdening government of being drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam, he quickly arranged to go back to school and he left all of those New Yorkers behind, except for Maureen, who told him that he should write to her from his new address when he got resettled; which he did. And not too long after that, only a few months perhaps, she arranged to come for a visit, with Trish, a friend of hers.
Long story shortened, Joachin ended up with Trish, not because he didn't like Maureen. He did. He was far more attracted to her than he was to Trish, and he kind of wished that Maureen and he were the ones to be together; but Maureen assumed, based upon the declined invitation that night in that West Side bar, that Joachin didn't like her in that way, which was not at all true; and back at college, out of the environment that he was learning very slowly to recognize as the sinister influence of the Big City and freed from the unconscious restraint of a psychology he still did not at all understand, let alone even recognize, he was even more attracted to Maureen. But they were not to be, and he ended up with Trish, who was a nice enough girl, but whom he felt little if anything for.
Eileen spent the night with Joachin's friend and, because he was not allowed to have female visitors, Joachin sneaked Trish into his room at the boarding house where he was staying. She wanted to have sex, he knew; but he was too messed up. She later wondered why he allowed himself to "get that way," by which she meant drunk, which is what she assumed he was; but he wasn't. Alcohol didn't affect him in the least way, he thought, when he dropped acid, which he had, earlier in the evening. He used to do that a lot, casually, and usually the effect was just that, casual; but not this time.
In bed with Trish, he saw bugs crawling out of the wall behind her. Her face, up close to his, looked like plastic. Her kisses threatened to swallow him. He had his hand on her breast, which felt like a squid in his fingers. He slipped his fingers under her bra and tried to slide it off the tit, but it wouldn't move. The rigidity of the material didn't make any sense to him, so he pushed harder, thinking to overcome its inertia. But Trish got scared and sat up and said she should leave. He realized he pushed too hard and she probably thought he might get violent, which would never have happened. He convinced her that it was okay, that they should just lie back down and go to sleep.
But he never slept. He lay there wide-awake and stoned out of his mind until morning, when he escorted her to the bathroom and stood guard outside the door lest his landlady show up (although, if she had, he had no idea what he would have said to her). Then they went back to his friend's flat. Maureen and Trish left that afternoon, heading back to New York.
Later that semester, Joachin was kicked out of the college for having failed two courses and because he had been involved in several altercations that required police intervention. The failed courses were the result of his having left for New York without officially withdrawing, and the altercations were misinterpretations resulting from being stoned and seeing things that were (he assumes) actually there. The dean allowed that, since he was so close to graduation, he could graduate in absentia by taking courses at another college and transferring the credits; but he suspects that was just a way of getting Joachin out of his office. Although he acted to initiate that plan, he never finished it up. Acid induced paranoia prevented him from finishing an upper-level requirement, a speech course; he just couldn't make himself get up in front of a class. It was always a weak point with him, and the additional drug anxiety tipped him over the edge.
2. Hissing is her trademark characteristic.
3. Think Pauley Perrette in NCIS.
4. The editorial marks included in this quote are indications where Pasolini marked the text for changes, additions, or integrations not yet done. This text was a work in progress at the time of Pasolini's death.