..Hey mr. tamborine man, play a song for me…
…aahh Bob — I have no room in my head for you at the moment; the winds howl for change in the depths of this new darkness, this new emptiness that clogs my beautiful night. Twisted fences sprout in my brain and rips thoughts like the barbs on the wire next to a stretch of rural road. Who knows what lies beyond them now?
The last few months have lacked anything resembling the required dose of regularity that it takes for me to even make sense of a situation, let alone write something compelling about it. Afflicted with a debilitating condition that involves not living close to work, I’ve had to commute over 300 miles a week just to get me to somewhere new enough to think clearly. I realize that this has spawned some entries that are wrought with simile and metaphor, none of which you have understood or made sense of. But it is what it is and I hope we can start to move forward again, now that I’ve fallen off my proverbial cliff, even if I occasionally find myself still falling. Don’t worry about me, though; I’ll be fine.
What I want to get to today is a plan. Like a count before you pull the trigger — you have to have a count — you know, for balance. And you should have expected this, reader, you really should have.
Don’t get me wrong; I separate many things. Nevertheless, it’s made it that much more refreshing to return to the screens of the internet on Monday morning to my readings: jcarrol, who I’ve read since Herb Caen passed on, that aging bastard who is always ten steps ahead of me, except when he isn’t. Morford, the sick, twisted hateomaniac who has yet to say something downright wrong. And Neva, my darling of the fruitful tongue, how I wait for the weekend to pass in order to love your words on Monday, or sometimes Tuesday when Monday passes too quickly. Who can tell us what will come of such things? Shall we stand by waiting for what the future brings? Or fear gifts from southern belles with wedding rings?
And those are just the Chronicle writers. I’ve still got a stack of books haunting me since christmas, including Fitzgerald, Kesey, Vonnegut and some new ones. No, in case you were wondering, not a soul had enough vision to get me more HST. Not a one. And maybe it’s for the best, since that guy has a way pushing me over some edge I can never see until it’s far, far too late.
In spite of this help I went out and got them myself; that’s how self-destructive I can be sometimes.
And the plan? Right. Let’s get back to that since it’s why we’re here tonight anyways. Quit fucking around and talk, man. The plan is and has always been about new horizons. That’s the gist of it, anyways. The city. Europe. Morocco. It doesn’t much matter. It just has to go somewhere. Too many schemes have died on the continental airlines page, looking for tickets out of here. It’s time for that shit to stop. Eventually it will drive me insane with self-doubt concerning my convictions. I have the incentive, the festering ideas that sit simmering on my mind while all the proteins denature. What I need is more drive. Something physical on which to strike my match.
Hold on. The wind is beginning to blow. You know what I’m talking about. Not ‘hold on’ as in ‘wait a sec’. HOLD ON!, as in GRAB ON TO SOMETHING AND GRIP IT TIGHT!
After so much time, it’s easy to forget how to hold on. But when you’ve gone through such times, you’ve gotta hold on; things are getting rough and it’s true that I’ve never weathered rougher times. But I will be forced to again, I’ve learned, so I may as well figure out how to do it right this first time. Things are getting black but I’ll see blacker so I may as well learn to lighten the mood, even in this darkness.
Ah, hell… I’m reading back over that and it’s true: I do a piss-poor job with the setting most of the time. And I shouldn’t — setting is important. You have to establish setting before you dive into the story. Sure, there are many ways to establish setting, so I’m not going to apologize, but I’m just sayin’.
Sometimes it’s not so much a matter of the place, but the situation in which one finds oneself…and it makes sense that you all don’t see it because you weren’t, you know, there. That’s why I’m here, I guess: to see to it that you see it.
Often – much more often than it probably should be – there is alcohol involved. These are usually strange kinds of scenes, filled with the kinds of people and the debauchery that folk where I’m from like to pretend don’t exist between the tunnel and the mountain.
But, on with the setting. I’ve found myself stuck in Orange County for a few weeks, which is so close to where they stuffed the carcass of the living breath of California that you can smell the decay from the shallow grave they rushed to dig. But no one came looking for the body. Not in these hills.
I didn’t realize how close to the edge of the desert I was. Somewhere in between LA and the vast Mojave, sitting on the border of two worlds with a case of Heineken that somebody’s expense account had paid for. It sounds cliche to say it but I was physically lost somewhere in the translation.
At one point in the night I found myself crouched against a wall behind some abandoned government building, huddled from the wind and overlooking a valley of strip malls and dim lights. I hugged my knees as the Santa Ana desert wind had its way with the dust. It’s not saddness that I feel at times like these; it’s closer to a deep curiosity of how the fuck I got there at all.
All around me was something worse than death: mediocrity. Apathy in the face of incoherency is mediocre, I don’t care what county you’re in. It shows, in casual conversations of politics, the ignorance of even obvious facts as opposed to the wishful thinking of the oblivious masses. If knowledge is power then America is lost. There’s nothing else we can do.
Earlier this week, stuck in SFO at red-eye time, I couldn’t read or write; I couldn’t focus properly because CNN was on and the lunacy was too much. I couldn’t handle the random people, the short-sighted conversations and all the commercial breaks in between. It’s beyond my abilities as a human being to put up with that level of bullshit and I may as well lose my ideas of any sort of future whatsoever. Sweeping amounts of luck will be required for things to work at this pace. And if history is any kind of indicator, we will rape everything decent long before anything good happens.
Back in the desert I looked around that old building in the moonlight, which I found was an old Greyhound terminal there at the edge of the desert, a place covered in age and asbestos and surrounding me were ghosts of absurd mustaches and People Magazines stretched all over everyone’s faces, covered in Britney Spears and Brad Pitt’s baby. I felt a violent urge to lose my breakfast when I consider what it means because suddenly, America’s problems seem too few given the conditions on the ground.
I stuck around the bus station long enough to lose the hope of having any at all and made my way back towards the hotel. Even then I knew that there was no explanation other than choice for why that evening had been spent alone. I walked on anyways.
Back at whatever Hilton the corporate travel agent had bunked me in that week I stumbled on steps I didn’t expect to find. Was I in LA still? Houston? Columbus? Kansas City? Orlando? Dallas? No not Dallas – why would I be in Dallas? I travel so much that if I don’t pay attention it all becomes a blur, especially if I drink too much – which I do. I’m pretty sure it was either Houston or LA, though.
In that horrible place, someone had managed to stick what must have been their idea of a palace. I groaned a heavy sigh as I approached a sculpted and molded gob of concrete, a cheesy hunk of bad taste in a land of tastelessness. Medieval steps and stone walls crowded the spacious room that was otherwise filled with light and music from the sad piano playing in the acoustic lobby by the granite-lined elevators. As I approached the music the headache that dominates my waking thoughts these days didn’t lift but it did loosen its hold, its grip. It was a window just long enough for me to enjoy the melancholy music from the depths of some desperate soul, playing for a crowd that wasn’t listening in the lobby of a Hilton palace, lost in the middle of the Los Angeles basin. Man, do I know what that feels like, I thought.
Sounds rushed into my ears like memories on a full-mooned night when no one is around. An idiot laughed absurd noises downstairs and I felt like tagging her across the jaw with a grapefruit from up on the upstairs loft, where I stood listening to the piano. She never said a word, just went on with her ridiculous noises while that old man playing the piano cried his heart out through his ivory souls…
All I needed was the grapefruit, or even a lime and a moment, but the citrus never presented itself and the moment passed just as surely as others have. With the ding of its arrival, I got into the elevator. It swallowed me whole and I emerged on the other side, much as I have been before, frustrated, confused, drunk, and alone.
When will it end, oh lord?