Friday, February 17, 2017

Imaginary You

I was imagining myself as a being with different parameters of perception. I was aware that I was observing you while creating you and I was imagining you doing a thought exercise being willing to trade your current life for a life in which you wake up early every morning and have a great day, an incredibly great day, every single day, but you always wind up, during the last five minutes of the day, shuddering and screaming in stark terror, fully aware of the most frightening possible experience that you had never before imagined is suddenly occurring. After five minutes of it, it doesn’t matter where you are, what you knew, what you think you knew, what you didn’t know, or why you couldn’t possibly understand what you couldn’t possibly understand. Beyond that, whenever, the next day, some things become so obvious about your predicament that you came up with a catch-phrase: It Is Exactly What … It Is made you mildly famous as a C-level amateur meme generator on YouTube and, unfortunately, what made it impossible for you to walk around in public without being harassed in some form, usually by douchebags, the type of douchebags who hang out on message boards and Facebook and Twitter, and they yammer and the they stammer and they tell you they’re pissed, not even at you, just some generic “you” who happens to have been born some time 25—no, 50—no, no, 25—no, no, no, no, Dude: it’s 50 or greater— Well, it can’t be less—Do you even read what you type? How can you ask a question like that when the point trying to be made is that anyone born into any societal or ethnic or economic or racial or any other category from somewhere like The Princeton School of Telling You Who You Are identity compendium of subcategories beyond subcategories when you can’t even tell the difference between a “generic” you and the real you, the you that constantly invents itself and rocks out without any memory of what the fuck was just going on, oh my lord, sweet, sweet Sweet Sweet!

But those five minutes are inaccessible in memory each day, every day and yet there’s no way for anyone who does know—friends or family—to change your last moments of consciousness each day, meaning you'd be terrified nightly for five minutes which will be followed by a coma of sorts until you wake the next morning—who knows where or how you got there? Do you want that life? Percentage wise, it’s a great deal. No matter what anyone knows about the last five minutes of your every-night, they will never be able to make you experience anything bad on any day, ever, because everyone of your days begins wonderfully no matter what happened the night before and no matter what anyone believes they are going to do to create a bad situation, intentionally or not. The zen of the universe has said, “No, this one exists in this pattern for eternity.” No one else but you know and, so, no one believes you; well, better said that they believe you sincerely believes you’re forgetting, but that it must be pathological or, oh, some such psychological word that means you’re fucking cuckoo-cuckoo.

That could be you. Think about your life now. And now stop thinking about it in terms of the patterns you’ve identified that make up your day. Routines, if you will: Route to work, favorite restaurant or bar, checking your communications device for digital information flooding your Instagram, your Twitter, your or your Tendr. That you, this you I’m creating as I’m asking you to imagine that what I am writing is actually happening and you have awareness of my awareness of everything your imaginary you is experiencing at all times. I am, in some confused way, the god of your imaginary self. So, to best prepare myself for this task, I never thought about that until now and so it turns out to have been unimportant. Telling you what didn’t happen is sometimes as important as telling you what did. It wasn’t long ago that you felt embarrassed at the thought that I knew it. And then you cried when you realized I not only knew but also experienced, through my body, through my consciousness, and through whatever “else” that exists that has any possible use or meaning as possible or probable candidates for experience as a de-longated French Pole. But … you also cried when you realized, “If he’s writing me this letter, this letter that … now that I think about it, is long overdue! Why the hell didn’t you tell me?

But of course, I’ll say, This is your imaginary you speaking. Who could have told you anything at all other than me? Seeing as how I’m imagining you imagining that you can live as I’m describing while being the object of my observance, I’d say “me.” I’m not judgmental, I’ll let you know that. I don’t interfere in any way. In no way, shape, or form has my imaginary experience of what imaginary you experiences been a source of friction between us. I dug you. It was cool. I hurt when you hurt and I hurt about exactly what you hurt about. This isn’t about empathy or sympathy or judgment or anything like such concepts as they can’t exist in this imaginary world where I imagine you most often live. 

That was easily the best place to put to use my battery-activated mind. I call him Pudge Jocket Marl-Bone, the Fish Stealer. He goes by many other names, however, most of them you have never heard; in fact, if you heard some of those other names that you haven’t heard then all of your most cherished memories would be destroyed.

So, you think you got off lucky? I mean, I was imagining me imagining you imagine yourself as if you were following the instructions, both hidden and explicit? Remember, if you can, that your imaginary you always wakes in the morning completely unaware of the last five minutes of the night before. Imaginary you is able to recall all of your memories each day of your life except for those precious, few minutes right before sleep. In every terror experience which had been going on for years, every other minute except for those five minutes of panic attacks, catatonia, psychosis, The Jumping Frenchman of Maine, and coprophagy (at least one feeding during every five minute terror). Neither must I say that things are far too sweet. Nothing told no one about the picture at the park of me eating in the dark while sitting on the bark of a log as it was dislodged from the shore and swept up in the fierce upper current of the Upper Maw Maw Bi-Hi-Tiki-Mai-Tai, the river known by locals for its mystical healing powers but also for the Bark-Backed Biddle Puss, easily the most famous for rigor in recent wild wet water rides; it’s the type of river sometimes thought about in a snidely fashion by people who constantly tell themselves, in not so many words, just how lightly and fairly they believe that their use their subtle self-deceptive ethical mechanisms enabling them to love the thrill of white water “log-barging” makes them superior to anyone who hasn’t or won’t do it. They lie, they tell stories about their new-found powers, the powers they “discovered” they had after watching an investigative documentary about synesthesia or by seeing God in the form of a talking billygoat. 

There’s no reason to go on with this. But then again, there was no reason to not go on with this. At that moment, I tasted what it meant to be free: the power to choose. Whatever I prefer. Whatever I reason. Whatever I feel. Whatever I want. Whatever you want. Whatever you need. Whatever I need. Whatever we need. 

So, what did I do? I decided to stop writing.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Amsterdam 89: Deja Vu

I visited the Van Gogh Museum again and went back to the wheat field. I looked at it from every angle in the room, up close, far back, diagonally, standing on nearly every square inch of floor space I could to see whatever I could. Some seemed to think I was crazy or perhaps just an asshole, but it was important for me to figure out what the man had done. I wasn't trying to figure out how to paint his style; I was trying to get inside his mind. I wished I could dim the lights and change the position of the painting. It was a gift that the Museum existed at all, but there was an oppressive air of control prohibiting me from interacting with the paintings in all the ways I wanted. I did my best to get around the restrictions, including lying in the floor and slithering to find new perceptual angles. That brought unwanted attention from security. I tried to explain, but they insisted I remain upright. Art fascists.

When I left the museum I rode my bike to the northwest to make a purchase at Inner Space on Spui. Mild temperatures and a light rain, pretty standard fare for March. I wondered if it would be a good idea to shroom at the Van Gogh. Would I create an international incident by licking a painting to get a better feel for the man’s work? Seemed silly while musing, but I also felt a hint of deja vu. Tickling colors? Why was I thinking that?  

I thought of these things and more as I raced down Leidsestraat, dodging tourists and locals, pulling ahead and falling behind other cyclists on their ways to their ways. I hit Rokin and turned left onto Spui. I had chosen to go to Inner Space because I wanted to pass by Schuim to see what it looked like during the day. It was as I imagined it; no evidence of having caused me to decadently carpet bomb the city.

I locked my bike when I arrived at Inner Space. I felt strange because I hadn’t been to this particular shop for some time. Being in this area of the city while sober felt odd. It wasn’t my neighborhood and Spui was not a favorite street of mine. I bought two doses favoring movement and sensory intensity, thinking they would be most useful for painting. 

As I rode home, I felt tension, something amiss. The day had seemed strangely familiar. Even though I wanted to shroom and paint, something had been percolating just under the surface of my awareness. Time was tricky that way and seeing specific sights eliciting certain thoughts created an aesthetic wave flowing toward latent desires. Without work as a dam preventing the stream-of-consciousness flow of my day, I was floating toward the open sea of possibility and, unlike most days, it didn’t feel good.

As I turned onto Vijzelstraat, though, I knew I wanted to put myself in mind to see differently, to move differently, and to create using a different style of painting. I wanted to work on that canvas diligently, to see what changes I could make, to learn as much as I could. I had thought that I might leave it as is, but the fire to create was much too powerful. Reaching an outcome, creating a finished product, was completely uninteresting. I just wanted to paint and paint and paint and paint, not for any purpose other than to become immersed in the process. I was increasingly committing to the philosophy that composition was useless for learning or obtaining fulfillment.

I kept thinking how awful it would be to study for a doctorate only to be satisfied in the final moment of attaining the degree. If time was meaningful in life—and it had to be—then the ten years of study had to be worth immeasurably more than a ceremonial day of conclusion. How empty the following day would be! What now? For a scholar just as much as an artist the process of endless experimentation and learning had to be the goal. If process is goal then every moment is the fulfillment of the goal. The credentials ceremony would likely be a nuisance, an unwanted interruption. 

As I turned from Vijzelstraat onto Kerkstraat, I recalled a similar feeling toward holidays and special events. They broke up the continuity of day-by-day spontaneity and possibility and, most importantly, of self-determination. I had a few friends who felt similarly and in that we shared an unusual bond, but friends and family I otherwise valued had often made me miserable. But that wasn’t true. I chose to acquiesce. I tried to find compromises with others, particularly with S., but she was a traditionalist, immature even in her desperate need for orderly mile markers of celebration throughout the year: birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and so on. 

Neither she nor the others who “celebrated” seemed enjoyed themselves. There were always responsibilities that caused stress. Food had to be prepared, decorations had to be set up, vacuous rituals had to be observed. There was rarely a celebratory attitude or expression during those events and yet people adhered to them year after year, mired in a perpetually arrested social development.

What I was realizing in Amsterdam, though, was that I had gotten stuck with a certain circle of friends and family while I was with S. I had spent thirteen years of discordant rituals interrupting the flow of possibilities. The travel around the states and especially to Europe were the only celebratory and spontaneous events that followed the gravity of want toward the sea of possibility and, with S., they were always followed by screeching halts into stultifying traditional gatherings.

I recognized my choice to pursue the opportunities I had to work as I did made my everyday exceptionally different from most. But I hadn’t seriously considered how such a divergent path had led to such radically different values. More importantly, how had I denied myself life in order to remain committed to a woman who was clearly wrong for me? And I was clearly wrong for her because try as I might I couldn’t emotionally connect with those traditions. As far as I could tell, though, they were designed to prevent emotional connection and genuineness. Well, at least for her and at least for those who were with us during those events.

As I entered the apartment and put the shrooms in the fridge, I thought about how myopic she had been in her pursuit of career ambitions. For her, holidays and birthdays were necessary breaks to recall an otherwise lost tradition of spending time with family and friends without competition for success and status. I was far beyond her in terms of being free from the normative constraints she needed for stability, but there was something within me while I was with her that believed that would change over time. It was a delusion fueled by an unexamined commitment to loyalty, a sense that she would eventually break free and want to go down the same path I was seeking. Deeper than that, though, I had allowed a ruthless insecurity, a deep-seated belief that I was unworthy of being loved, to cage me. It all surfaced as our separation neared. I doubted I would be able start from scratch if our relationship ended and so I clung in desperation to a relationship that was over even after it was impossible to deny. Evidence and rationality cannot coexist with the fear of heartbreak, but once the delusions are shattered they mercilessly tell the story of reality.

As I sat ruminating, I realized that I had succumbed to an analytically-induced melancholy. Rethinking the past to understand it was futile, especially when I had discovered not just “the way” but “the many ways” to live life as the producer of my own theater. I recognized it as the tension I had felt earlier. Apparently, something had needed to be felt, but I had blocked it by trying to compartmentalize a neat little story about the past. What struck me then was the realization that I would be leaving Amsterdam soon. I had a couple weeks which should have seemed plenty, but at the moment I was just sad that this wouldn’t be my life forever.

I didn’t want to lose what I had gained, though. Neither chroming nor painting seemed to be the right thing to do. I wasn’t in the mode or the mood any more. I was in Amsterdam and the idea of sheltering myself in my apartment seemed like the worst idea imaginable. I wished, for a little while, that I could somehow connect to those traditions that others seemed to have that gave them a sense of grounding, a sense of continuity, and yet without ending possibility. In fact, somehow opening up new possibilities after orienting oneself in the world again. That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen Daniel for a while. It had only really been a week or so, but that had been one hell of a week. I needed a holiday to come back down to earth, to ground myself again, and if Amsterdam was Christmas then Bloem was the North Pole and Daniel was Santa Claus.

As I rode across the Magere Brug I felt a nostalgia for the future. Paradoxical as it seemed, it was true. The cozy beauty cradled me and I knew I would remember the moment as a milestone, one that could creep up at any time the rest of my life. “Stay with me forever,” I proposed. I wanted to marry the street and the canal. I remembered Sterre's proposal to the street and that the street had accepted her. Why not me this time?

As I turned off from Nieuwe Kerkstraat onto Plantage Kerklaan I felt joy. I was heading home, my real home, Bloem. Daniel would be there and the visualization of him pouring a beer from the tap seemed more real than the mist drizzling on me. I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that even though I would be leaving soon I would definitely return. The thought left me humbled.

As I crossed the bridge spanning Entrepotdok I sped around to the east side, parked at the bike rack, and locked up. I went inside through the side entrance and saw Daniel sitting with Piper at a table near the front of the cafe. There was an empty chair facing the door. Piper looked like she always looked, a mixture of mystery, wide-eyed wonder, and innocent sexuality. She rose as I walked toward her and gave me a hug and a kiss. Daniel gestured for me to have a seat. Isa and Tom were working the tables. I wasn’t sure who else was inside, but I doubted there were any customers except for a stray or two typing on a laptop upstairs. Isa motored by with a tray of empty glasses and dishes. 

I asked Daniel how he had been. He shrugged. Both he and Piper seemed quiet and contemplative. I gazed outside at the canal and the three of us sat silently but intimately. After a time, Daniel’s expression changed and he smiled at me. “It’s good to see you. It seems like it’s been awhile.” I said, yeah, work and whatnot, underplaying the reality. I asked if he had been busy. Again he shrugged. “Up and down. Not unusual this time of year.” A few customers came in through the front and Daniel excused himself to serve them. Isa came to ask me what I wanted. I ordered the special for the evening, barely paying attention except to note that it was halibut. I told him to bring a bottle of white wine, too. He nodded, rose from his knee, and walked back to the kitchen, re-tying his apron as he did. 

I turned my attention to Piper and asked why Daniel had been so quiet. She made a face that said, “I don’t know if I should talk about it.” I became concerned and Piper, sensing that, said, “He and Sophia …” She trailed off and I remembered that they had broken up. Shit, in my self-absorbed post-work binge I had forgotten. Daniel’s attitude of nonchalance had been just a deflection of deeper, painful emotions. I was saddened, both for Daniel and Sophia.

“So, they’re definitely through?” Piper nodded, but added “Who knows? Seems like it.” I asked how she had been and she mentioned school, work, and not much else. What I had taken for quiet intimacy between the three of us had been, perhaps, just a projection of my own sense of peace and connectedness. Or, maybe, there had been an intimacy, but of a type that huddles around sorrow. Piper’s silence now seemed flat. Flat for her, anyway. Preoccupied. I asked what her plans were for the rest of the day. She raised her beer and smiled causing me to laugh a little.

“You know,” I said, “I was just thinking about that night with you at your apartment.” She took a drink and looked at me casually but quizzically. “The night you, Sophia, and I went dancing.” Her eyes lit up with recognition and she nodded. “I had a great time all night, but it was especially wonderful to be alone with you and talk quietly.” She cocked her head to the side and squinted a little as if I had said something bizarre. “Well, you had been reticent to invite me up and Sophia pretty much pushed you into it, but once we got up to your place it was … well, I enjoyed being with you.” She waved her hand like it was nothing, but smiled and said, “I was glad you came up.”

After another long silence, Piper said, “I’ll probably see Sophia later. She’s pretty upset.” I nodded. Shit. Again, I felt selfish. I was having a hard time thinking about her personal concerns as well as Daniel’s. Whenever I saw her, I found it nearly impossible not to think about asking her out. I really wanted to be alone with her again because it felt … so … good.

Of course, this was probably only the third or fourth time I had ever even conversed with her. Maybe it was because of how I was in Amsterdam, how I had become in Amsterdam, and maybe I was projecting something onto her that was actually just a part of me, but her presence seemed so rich, so full that our meetings made me feel as if I knew her well.

Truth was, I barely knew anything about her life, her past, but that also seemed unimportant. Being present, observing and participating together while together, that was important. And, after all, those were the moments that would become our past, whatever our relationship would be in the future.

Again, I wondered if I was creating the feelings from within me without any relation to her, Daniel, Nina, Casper, and everyone else with whom I had mad a connection, but there was something about each one of them that … history was something to be created rather than recalled. In some strange way, these people had learned how to live today over and over and over again as if they had never lived before that day. That, that thought, was clearly my own rather than the way things actually were.

I wondered why that should be and I thought of the earlier deja vu of tension, of recalling my past, and then the entirely nostalgic deja vu of the best of times in Amsterdam. Before Bloem, before Daniel, I had been extremely lonely. I had even been suffering from an acute social anxiety, one that was masked by coke and Vanessa. The shrooms had helped me pop out of my aloneness, but it was finding Bloem that had led to the end of loneliness. That was the nostalgia. No, more than that, that was the emotional ache I felt in the morning while riding home after buying the shrooms. I missed my favorite place in the city, the one where I had met almost all of my real friends in the city. Not every close friend, but most and, really, the most important. I had drifted from why I had come back to the city and my emotions let me know it. It was my intellect that had fucked up the message, ruminating about S.

But maybe not entirely, because those thoughts of holidays were thoughts of how I had never felt at home in the way that I had been told or taught that I was supposed to feel at home at certain  times of the year, in certain places, and with certain people. It dawned on me that Bloem was the first place that had ever felt like home. At least as far as I could remember, certainly as an adult. Hell, since childhood and maybe, in a real sense, more like a home than anywhere during my childhood. And these people, they were at that place I felt at home. They were why I felt at home at Bloem and it was because they were always there. Well, Daniel was almost always there and everyone else spoked out from Daniel and always came back to the center, which was Daniel, again and again. I had gone from the lowest of lows in my life to feeling more sound, secure, and at peace as I had ever been, and it was now quite easy to see why. But I also acknowledged that it was the shrooms that opened me to the possibilities when the opportunities arose. No wonder this was my true home. There was nowhere else that had this combination in exactly the way I needed and wanted it to be.

As I pulled out of my reverie, I noticed that Isa had brought my food and wine. Piper had a plate of fries. As we ate and drank, our moods both improved or improving, we talked about our love of the city. We shared an amazement that we were living in Amsterdam. She said she wanted to buy a windmill and turn it into a bar. I laughed and said I would be happy to drink beer all day every day at her windmill. It felt like we had had this same conversation in the past, but it felt fresh, anyway. 

Isa took my plate and empty glass away when I was finished and I ordered a beer. Daniel came out a bit later with three beers. He motioned for me to join him for a smoke and we went out the side door. Daniel was still quiet and I didn’t feel like mentioning Sophia at all. He seemed a little more energetic and I let it sink in how much he enjoyed his work. He really got a boost from it. At present, it probably took his mind off of her.

We want back inside. Piper took off after drinking her beer. There hadn’t been a lot of turnover at the tables but there were a couple of mini-rushes as the evening carried into night. I spent most of my time chilling alone at my table, drinking beer, and listening to people quietly speaking Dutch. I chatted intermittently with the table next to mine, but it was intermittent, just casual talk about being an American in Holland. It was pleasant, though, and I wasn’t in the mood for more than that. 

By ten o’clock I said goodbye to Daniel, Tom, and Isa. I had a brief thought about waiting until closing time to ask Daniel about how to hook up with Piper, maybe find out what days or nights she worked at Gollem II in the De Pijp neighborhood. I wasn’t sure where it was, but she did say I should stop by when she was working. 

I decided against sticking around, as much for Daniel’s sake as anything. I had spent too much time thinking about myself and he seemed to mostly need space, quiet. I unlocked my bike and rode home, parked, and locked up my bike. I unlocked the street door, emptied Susan’s mailbox, and ran upstairs. I noticed a postcard and saw it was addressed to me. There was a picture of a beach. The Dutch Antilles. Susan had written on the back, hoping I was having a nice stay. I thought it was sweet and when I unlocked the door I put her mail in the closet box—it was over halfway filled. I placed her postcard next to my laptop. I looked outside and saw the light of dusk darkening the view and felt content. I loaded a bowl of G13 and spent an hour listening to jazz with thoughts of Bloem dancing in my head.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Children Who Haven't Any Toys


Yes, dear?

Can we watch the document’ry ‘bout the children who haven’t any toys again, please?

No, Timmy, Aunt Agatha is going to show us a slide show of stills featuring the burning oil fields of Iraq while your cousin Mathilda plays Prince’s “Purple Rain” on the flute.

Oh, but Mummy, we did that for Christmas last year.

Yes, Timmy. We call these repetitive events “traditions” and we do them to orient ourselves in the world in order to gain meaning in our lives.

But I want to watch the African children with no toys.

*Sigh* You know very well that we do that on Halloween.

Jenny at school told me her family sometimes watches two movies at Christmas. She says that both of them are about happy things. Can we do that this year?

This family will never watch movies and we shall never celebrate happiness through fiction or myth. That’s what led to the nuclear arms race which nearly led to the obliteration of all of humanity.

What are the two of you little slogginses going on about.

Oh, Agatha, it’s just Timmy. He’s rambling about African children with no toys and propaganda about happiness.

Dear me, that is frightful. Timmy, what on earth has gotten into you this year?

I don’t know. It’s not that something’s gotten into me, though, I don’t think. Oh, you meant that as a metaphor. Well, I don’t know why, but I don’t want to watch the slideshow of oil fires for Christmas.

What is this, lad?

Don’t overreact, Agatha. It’s not unknown for a boy to display misogynistic behaviors before puberty, especially during the seasons that present existential challenges for those with penises. 

Perhaps if you hadn't stopped homeschooling.

Yes, but that only begs the question: Is it nature or nurture for boys to hate girls and want to rape their mothers?

I should say it’s neither lest there’s something of a psychopath brewing.

Oh, no, Agatha, we’re not having this argument again. You know very well that I spent four years in the Antarctic studying spores. The science is incontrovertible! Males are uniformly psychopaths who can only acquire empathy through a childhood of rigorous and ceaseless exposure to documentary filmmaking and other visual arts somberly portraying death, destruction, and famine.

Yes, I’m very aware of your failed dissertation.

Failed? By a sexist postcolonial university run by sociopathic ethnocentrists!

It was Tufts.

Precisely. I won’t sit here and listen to this claptrap any longer. Do you see the look in Timmy’s eyes? He’s practically erect thinking of how he might rape me while strangling you. Your behavior is appalling and your speech is littered with eighteenth-century European ideas about race and class.


Yes, dear?

Does this mean we can watch the document’ry ‘bout the children who haven’t any toys?

Absolutely. Agatha, get the hell out of my house and take your latent Protestant values with you. And, Mathilda, stop playing the flute. All you're doing is learning how to suck cock from the side!