duty free

I have been given a bottle of Cachaça Sabiá. Tonight I drank it and then shaved. Imagine me, sugar-drunk, hacking at my neck with a Mach 3, singing the old Brazilian songs! That’s inaccurate—that’s not how I shave. Today on the street we saw a man use a whip to whack a cigarette out of someone else’s mouth—three quick strokes toward the nose, in between much verbal build-up. That’s how I shave—with a whip, and cigarettes, and another man. After I shaved I went back to practicing that gesture they have here, the one that means “Yes, I am enthusiastic about doing that” or “Hurry up over there.” You whip your index finger into your thumb and the middle one, and even without any snapping it sounds like you’re snapping. You snap your wrist, but that’s it—nothing above the wrist is snapped. It’s done best by the guy who’s moving to San Francisco soon, the journalist who’s changing jobs to be a test subject at a newly opened psychedelics-research institute, where he’ll be working with Quilty—just kidding! Quilty will not be administering treble doses of jimson weed to him via eye dropper twice a day, for no pay—the whole operation’s volunteer-run. The eye dropper will have been donated, and inappropriate for clinical use. Not long ago the gesturing journalist brought back two hundred lucid-dream-inducing pills from a seminar in Hawaii. “You can do anything,” he told us. “You can fly; you can fuck.” “But when you wake up, do you still feel tired?” my coworker asked him. In America, his gesture can’t mean much besides “There’s something stuck to my hand,” but I will learn it.

Continue reading “duty free”

Howdy, quoinstone

so says wordpress–it doesn’t know how I feel! Reading those words is like picking up a giant corded telephone and setting it on a skillet until it switches to that “hang me up” flustered-stutter tone and then mashing it against my ear. Reader, it is 8 a.m., my resolve is dwindling, my ear is pinking, somewhere MG is working my accent into his video-art script. Should I… should I write a video-art script?

[a birth canal. CT is asleep.]

okay, good, we’ll shoot that on friday. I might as well be trying to write on an abandoned hubcap with a retractable trash spear, on a highway median that is really a carpool lane. My community-service supervisor sent me there out of pure amoral curiosity. He stopped the city van in the road and told me to get out and I did, and now I’m crouching down, my trash spear retracted, trying to inscribe something worthwhile on a scratch-resistant hubcap. In a minute I’ll be run over by a modular home, or a boat; I can only see the truck, and the veiled shape behind it could be anything. Googling trash spear I remind myself that I’ve lost my ability to understand plot summary (“Part of Hammer’s scheme to get Ann back and to satisfy his personal antipathy towards all the inhabitants of the Bronx is to start a big gang war. To this end, he recruits Ice, with the promise that with Trash out of the way he can assume his rightful role as leader of the Riders. Ice gives him Trash’s spear because Hammer knows that Trash is going to Ogre for help in locating Ann (she went and got herself captured by the Zombies, after they were able to drop a cargo net on Trash)”–what?? Is this real? Every time I try to read it I feel like I’m being annoyed by a piece of op-art, or attempting to walk up one of those Escherian staircases that math and science classrooms made sure I understood to be relevant to precollegiate academics. “Chris’s craggy face is familiar from his roles in Django Strikes Again and Manhattan Baby, the Fat Man and Little Boy of his career.” Is that good or bad?).

Let’s talk, instead, about the November 2006 issue of artforum that’s in the bathroom: “How were heretofore undetectable elements going to emerge, disappear, reemerge, and coalesce to become truths, the always provisional, procedural, multiple truths of politics, science, art, and love?” Can Bronx Warriors help us answer this question? I need help, seriously.

make a frame of your house

when you’re proofreading, it’s good to think about how best to combine quotes from the DeLillo novel you have with you with lines from the Jeezy songs you’re listening to. [CMS 6.63]

“The island illusion, that solitude and wisdom invented each other, is a very convincing one. Day by day I seem to grow more profound. Often I feel I am on the verge of some great philosophical discovery. Man. War. Truth. Time. Fortunately, I always return to myself. I cruise the city by my lonesome, open invitation for anybody wants some.”

“I took B.G. into the living room. It was a party and we didn’t want to talk to each other. The whole point was to separate for the evening and find exciting people to talk to and then at the very end to meet again and tell each other how terrible it had been and how glad we were to be together again. This is the essence of Western civilization. We don’t talk in the bedroom, we whisper in the kitchen. Call me paranoid, I think the walls is listenin’.”

“Taste and smell can safecrack memory in the shadow of an instant, and in that pantry, nibbling dry cookies with the compulsive fervor of a penitent seeking the message of his past, I returned to a tight hot room in another town, the kitchen fumed up, jamming Tupac, my Benihana on, working two pots. I turned off the lights and went upstairs.”

I am not depressed, either

1

Just awake. Yesterday, at 10:52 p.m., unbeknownst to me as I sat admiring a haphazardly mustachioed Quilty eat a cheese sandwich (right? Was it?), somebody sent me an email saying that my prior message to him was “nice but doesn’t tell [him] anything.” He pushed right past my niceness like it was a floor-to-ceiling segmented curtain separating him from a pen he’d lent me, he slapped it away from his face like he would a cobweb, like it was me leaning in to kiss his angry Wyomingite lips and leave a fusty gloss on them. I wrote him back a minute ago but won’t send my message until tomorrow, when I am restored to my impenetrable den of niceness and cannot be seen to be reading emails at weird hours. Right now there’s an 85 percent chance that my reply will agitate him so greatly that he will storm out onto the streets of Cheyenne, BlackBerry in hand, and cast that impassive messenger at the nearest reminder of the nebulous pleastantness that I embody and he eschews, so maybe I’ll rewrite it in the morning. If you hit a living thing in a High Plains state with an electronic instrument, they shun you for one month. You’re sent out onto the most lonesome snowmobile trail with a hand axe and a sack of apples and you wait. The snowmobilers are told to avoid the trail and it’s mined, just in case. Sometimes at dawn you’re awakened by a distant blast, as you’ve wisely retreated well away from the access paths and their buried dangers, but even out there you can hear it when some unthinking Canadian sneaks out of the lodge before the trail markers are replaced (at night kids steal the minefield signs) and rides past the last redemptive turnoff onto a bad spot and goes up in a dull puff of ski-pants stuffing. It’s a crazy horrible waste, sure, but this is how society is maintained.

After a month you can come back and for every apple you have left the state’ll pay you a thousand dollars. Most people who saved them keep them, though, handling them like talismans inside the too-big jackets they’ve been given back, offering up the hand axe instead, saying don’t you want the axe, I had to cut a toe off with it in the second week, an ugly frostbitten toe that looked ready to drag me after it like a black beetle towing one hundred times its own weight across the soft dry crumbly earth toward a burrow you don’t return from, but the state won’t take an axe back.

2

mystery, surprise, unpredictability, and fun part one

“They’re gonna open a night school in the living room,” my landlord says. He stamps his boot in the puddle it’s built on the carpet. “All right,” I say. “Same rent, though,” he says. “That’ll be fine,” I tell him. We shake hands, and he leaves. Through the window, I can see him strapping on his snowshoes and bounding off–he’s so fast in those things I’d never get away in time, not when he stops by every few hours and it takes me twenty-five minutes to cover a mile out there, he’d catch me in a drift and have me strapped to that rescue sled he drags around and back in the flat before I’d made it halfway to a neighbor. Besides I dribble prints every few inches when I go out, so let’s say somehow I locked him in then enjoyed a full day of freedom before his uncle grew anxious and came looking, still he’d have me within the time I’d need to really conceal myself, to double back or dig in and fake a trail for him to follow after, so I don’t bother. Better to stay warm and dry.

I work from home, sorting amateur pornography for cnn.com’s user-generated content section. There’s eight of us who do that, more than any other news portal can afford, and that’s why a plurality of 29-46 year-olds still consider us to be their most trusted source for current events and pornography when taken together. I know this–I know that a person in his or her third decade is more likely to look to us for this sort of sustenance than to anyone else, I feel the gravity of their inclination teeter on my gut. I read the annual reports, and I know they’re wrong–“the average cnn.com reader expects to be apprised and aroused”–who writes that? What are they talking about? We give them a different thing, and nobody knows it.