Undated letter-poem from some time in December 2013, but recalling an event that occurred ten years before:
One wildish night, per my insomnia
I slowly walked towards Them,
down a winding cobbled path lit
spottily in orange patches
by old magnesium lamps. Nobody
was about: the distant fortress
of dense pines undulated like
a painting in a dream. In between,
meadow grass moved, or seemed
to, whose tawny and gold gills
were now glazed sea-violet,
overlain with the moon’s diluted whiteness.
In the middle of a field stood a waist-high boulder.
Splayed on its ridged stone: a giant crimson
Leather volume from an antique encyclopedia,
The pages yellowing, curling, sea-damp, reeking of
Cramped attics and moldering oak. Crisp, black air
Blew pinecone ash and lichen spoor in my eyes.
The volume was “Q-S”; the “Q” section was surprisingly long.
But hit a cryptic crescendo with “Quiddity” —
I picked the book up with feigned nonchalance and strode back to where I had come, acting as if I had set out that very night with the intent of finding that book and having found it, could now return to my lodgings, feeling fulfilled with myself and the accuracy of my intentions.
Mission complete: pages and pages of inaccurate taxonomy!
(And so we seem to migrate from mystery to mystery, asking ourselves whether the world of the living is haunted itself by the living, or if the dead just intervene thru those they abandon)
So I suggest therefore we resume our nocturnal, encyclopedic projects, no matter how misguided they are,
Yesterday’s desert sky was one of the most dramatic I’ve ever seen. One half was clouds barring the sun, the other was quiet rainfall and sliced rainbows. Incredible — and it was breezy and humid and very sweet-smelling outside.
from a piece I’m really sick of editing:
"I followed her words across murky borders, my heart in my mouth, my face defenseless. I didn’t know about the smell of death or a sister’s anguish or the beauty of a scapula or blinding snow light until she explained them; or how to cook like a poor person or how the hospital crouches when the fog rolls in, or why you should make a horse head out of duct tape, until she revealed it all in great, unstinting detail.
I hadn’t seen Cat People, Scarlet Empress, Django, The Piano Teacher, Pickup on South Street, Detour, Stalker, Isle of the Dead, Carnival of Souls, Duck, You Sucker!, The Great Silence, Nosferatu„ I Walked with a Zombie, Suspiria, Written on the Wind, The Big Combo, Imitation of Life, Black Orpheus, Night of the Hunter and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast until she got us both in our skivvies, heated up some wine and made me pay attention to the tragic and absurd characters on the screen and how their desires were upending their lives.
Scenes from these movies spilled into our bed days, our pointless walks, our operatic fights, our nail-scratching showers and soup-making experiments; our lives accrued more words and images and scenes from celluloid fantasies, without the advantages of staged lighting and melancholic scores. Thus, our lives were considerably improved, or so I thought.”
Walking Las Vegas, Day One, part two….
Walking Las Vegas Part One: a new photo-essay project.
As a passionate walker, as well as a former privileged denizen of pedestrian-friendly cities like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, yesterday I began a new photo project where I walk Las Vegas, despite the boredom, humiliation and heat exhaustion this might entail.
Las Vegas, outside of the Strip and The Fremont Street Experience is a famously un-walkable city I’ve discovered, but my goal is to challenge and subvert this premise by all means. I welcome any insights towards this goal. Any suggestions, warnings, or neglected, pedestrian-friendly attractions too.
Since yesterday, Aug. 9, was a mild 85 degrees with beautifully dramatic cloud cover, I began my project in earnest and walked from my local grocery store, Sprouts, all the way to Sunset Park and then back home, (which is very close to Sprouts). I loaded up with granola bars, water and juice and plenty of sunscreen. And revved up my shitty camera, and prepped my sweat rag.
Once at Sunset Park, I strolled around a bit, called a dear friend and chatted and then ambled back home, occasionally ducking into a strip mall I had never entered before, only to find much of it shuttered or closed. After all, it was also a Sunday, and nothing seems more lonesome that a forlorn Sunday strip mall in Vegas.
All told, my walk took a couple hours, and for almost the entire time I was the only person walking on Pecos, the main artery that takes you from Tropicana to Sunset. In fact, looking down other streets, it seemed I was the only person walking at all. Luckily the street signals still acknowledged my status as a pedestrian, albeit an unreasonable and uncouth one. But occasionally the sidewalks would disintegrate into rubble and rebar-jagged gravel piles which were still, however, quite navigable if you watched where you stepped.
The photos I took, although shoddy in quality, might suggest the eerie sense of abandonment and forgoteness that animates much of Las Vegas, especially outside of the Strip.
But there is beauty too, I think, perhaps obscured by the monochromatic landscapes, and of course, there are bracing contrasts and weird tableaux if you keep your eyes peeled.
Such walks through seemingly uninteresting terrain offers possibility for what all that vacantness might contain, if anything. Confronting potential boredom, plainness and repetition challenges the imagination, I think, maybe even strengthens it. (This is one of the principles of those restless 1968 kids, the Situationists, but they had a much more lurid and visually compelling playground: Paris.)
Here is the route of the first installment.
I will add a few more photos in the next post.
Thanks and enjoy!
P.S. Not sure if the captions work on here so here’s a few descriptors:
a) I have no idea what the now closed “Gypsy Junkies” once was…b) the Homeland Security office is 3 photos above it, very unsettling…c) “The International Academy of Film and Television” seems like a front for something…
another work letter poem, about lunches, freight elevators, weird radio stations….
Stoical freight elevator operator
Taps topaz buttons and tunes in
To a Zoroastrian radio station.
Buildings harbor secret conductors
Venting dreams in the caboose
Backs of things persist rewardless
But he controls the flow of parts
The reward is more life tomorrow.
Hungry between floors I turn buoyant
But the stomach is an ill-fitting cog
On dreary three 3 o’clocks when the fax
Machines jam and the free cola’s flat.
Insisting on hard copies is no mystery:
We need relics to remind our fingers of
Another body’s miraculous solidity.
Working: the word carries so much silt
Of lunches become high stakes getaways.
Spree down confetti of dead memos. Seed a
Nomadic city, this alluvial hideaway
In curdled milk, lard traps, intestinal
Bacchanalia. Galley’s clamor of pigeon
Rapids: all busses amniotic and sentient
As city hall construction mud.
Viral phones hold my eyes open
I feel your defiant reticence down
The wires of these bunk devices.
I am sorry even as I cry Help and Fuck and
Stop and Now—living with Sorry and Nice,
No lunch is ever reckless enough
A set of philosophical paradoxes, somewhat exaggerated, that ruined one of my lunch hours at work…then written out in an attempt to make sense of them and mailed euphorically to dear Fabienne D_____.
Philosophy in the Office
Labor, to its credit, exposes basic farces we must face:
Existing, we move as arrogant & ageless gods,
Fleshed mind built for reveries and enchantments
To idly think thru things that can’t be untangled
Without centuries of logic-defying inquiries:
What’s critical is our undying critique
But then we must act! And not thoughtlessly!
Because: surprise, Time is death’s body; thought is rot.
Thus duped by necessity,
We must engage disrupt insist on force
Inflict love merciless and unflinching
In spite of suffering delusion and destruction
Urge fruitless mortality onto yourself and others
(But not others! Not friends! Not lovers!)
Participate gladly in your own erosion
In limiting light, things done and undone
Blaze harder, brighter for being scarcer;
To love selflessly in raw animal ardor
While erecting walls to safeguard your least desire;
To be self and society; Alone yet Other;
To embrace fatally while fleeing for your life;
To escape into the jailing arms of
Who you want to live without
But cannot! Will not! Even in disease, ennui & betrayal!
Cherish the hope of never having to!
The enduring privilege of compromise.
Then, as a coda: To be deserted, cruelly with the
Pictures in your head.
Memories wild and false— but spirits, dreams & trivia too.
“Parading under their veil of names”
Discipline them, pummel them,
Invest them with hard-won identity;
But then: to make such letters
Centrifugal, dispossessed, migratory
Forces blithely forgotten so you may dirty your hands with the
Shallowness of living (all hands!)
Nothing to it but remembering how to forget:
And then, always-already fatally, doing it, again—