It is a cryptic sense of failure--nothing is so confusing, vexing, as the black pit of this beast. His is a mouth of disgust and I am longing, though unconvinced by my clearly pseudo hedonism, for a separation from the heightened attack of mis-numbers. This is a death. And they are admiring and staring at only the ever glaring peak of absence, a truthful stare into the misery of absolute denial, emptiness.
I am not in death, surely, but against my better self, I am without a doubt, in bounty. I owe too, she declares. It is a price of self-pity which I am un-eager to repay. We have too many hands, of a distant reclamation, perhaps an authentic re-connection with the lurid hands of impostors (ha!). This is hell, he admits, again, casually.
I am not in death.
The wind blows them away unless you poke holes in them first.
In the busy microcircuits of my mind I am constantly gathering myself
from the remembered present, and everyone I've known is there to lend a hand.
Whether or not I loved them, or they me I am constantly constructed
in a conspiracy several thousand years old of colluding parties like
wind and particles and great migrations,
and then I'm gone--
unknowable to all investigating forces.
But what if you can't see the pattern? I can't see it but I know there are trees outside the window living their lives without pronouns, no possessive; once I was high and watched them grow in fast motion on the TV and right then and there I knew a truth: we are not alone. I have seen fungus sprout from the brain of a dead ant. I have shaken hands with people who fuck children. There is a porousness to all boundaries, DFW was right, and if we don't feel the holes we will fall through them: holes in the head, in my heart, in other people's eyes and intentions, and what do you hate the most? "Other people's needs," said the comedian.
I am afraid too. When I die I think I won't ever be me again. What a loss! So huge I can't imagine myself without it. And then there's all the pain, and regret, which is worse. But right now I can reach through the screen and find you. If you take apart these words maybe you can write something else with the letters. Maybe you can press yourself into the alphabet and leave behind a career. Before you disappear. I am trying to point without pointing. Close your eyes. Open them.
They put long barrels of trash here, Mada. Where once I sat and wondered (in glee), now it is only long barrels of trash.
“The distance from the audience to the event is a factor in news judgement. What happens in your own town is more important to you than an occurrence in another town. If your own Boy Scout troop changed its cap style, that would be more newsworthy in your own town then elsewhere.”
--JOURNALISM pg. 7 of the Boy scouts of American Merit Badge Series.
When I left Miami, guns left me too.
My beloved shotgun remains in North Carolina where a friend shoots it, on occasion, at tree stumps.
My pistol remains in New York State –but, by no means, by my side. I live in New York City now. Guns are criminal items. I seem to recall a friend whose Brooklyn apartment caught fire while she was in it. She escaped, frazzled and sans cats. When firemen discovered the charred remains of several handguns in the wreckage of charred furniture and felines, she was doomed. The guns weren’t doing anything in her apartment. As far as I know, they hadn’t done anything in their past aside from sit in a bag some rich kid drug dealer had left there.
But they were there. And that was enough to put her in jail.
Guns are terrifying things in New York. During my Special Patrolman training (I am an Urban Park Ranger) our NYPD instructor told us never to touch guns, for any reason. “If you find a firearm,” we were warned during out pepper spray training seminar, “put a trashcan on top of it and wait for the police to arrive.”
Though I have been issued a baton, handcuffs and the powers of arrest, the notion of giving myself—or any Urban Park Ranger— a gun strikes a chord of lunacy. No psychological profile is necessary to become an officer in the Urban Parks Service. Furthermore, some thirty percent of my graduating class (there is a Park Ranger academy) had been arrested at some point or another.
Beyond our general lack of mental balance, the notion of carrying a gun in our job seems outright ridiculous. The worst crime I ever witnessed in Central Park was a drunken disorderly pissing on a tree in plain sight. I yelled at him until he left. Though I never patted him down, I was able to conclude from his lack of functional pants, that he was not carrying a firearm.
To our credit, no one in the Urban Parks Service has used his or her baton –beyond one nutjob who beat a suspect in cuffs; he no longer works with us.
I’m letting all of this be known simply to let you know that guns are bad here. For most people, they are not things you own or think about owning. You may fear them. You may even fetishize them. But not own them. Never. Are you crazy?
I recall having dinner with friends (a non-profit organizer and an art handler) who spent the better part of an evening talking about what a slimeball one of their cousin’s had brought to a family reunion. The poor bastard had mentioned, while sledding in the Berkshires, that his father had given him a gun that had been in the family for generations.
The cousin had later confronted them, in tears. “Please,” she pleaded. “He’s not that bad.” But they could not be convinced. Nobody decent owns a gun.
I forget how different things are once you pass a certain latitude.
On a recent road trip, the signs began cropping up once we hit North Carolina. It was a certain brand of bumper sticker which would become increasingly prevalent as we continued south. “I’ll take my freedom, money and guns,” it read. “And you can keep the change.”
Whatever else you may think about the Obama administration, he as provided a healthy shot-in-the-arm to the gun industry. People are buying up guns with a frenzied gusto, believing, in earnest, that he will surely outlaw them. On several Asheville area print ads, tag lines urged potential customers to “buy ‘em before they’re outlawed.”
As we continued South, through Georgia, gun shops began appearing along the roadside with a bizarre frequency. They were advertised on billboards along I-75 urging drivers to turn off at upcoming exits –as though they provided an essential service: bathrooms, food, a place to sleep. And guns.
Once in Miami, guns began to pop up in all kinds of social situations. While drinking beer in the very suburban living room of an old homebrewing pal, I suddenly found myself sitting before a small arsenal. Handing me a glass of Heffeweizen, he struggled, tensely with the magazine release on a Ruger bolt-action .22 that he had purchased for his son. “I wanna take him out to shoot some jugs of water,” he said. “I want him to know what they can do.”
No situation seemed inappropriate for guns to make their appearance.
My girlfriend’s father, in the midsts of a breakfast table discussion about his misgivings about taking anti-depressants brought out his pistols (a .357 revolver and a Ruger .380). He too struggled with the magazine release –though he stored both of his weapons fully loaded.
Despite his recent battles with significant psychiatric problems, he is currently on a waiting list to renew his concealed weapon permit.
His son, my girlfriends’s brother, likewise lamented the difficulties in procuring a concealed weapons permit. Despite having his hours cut back at work and encountering difficulties in making ends meet at home, he described plans for buying a handgun, in addition to spending hundreds of dollars on requisite classes, FBI fingerprinting and background checks.
The most alarming case of Florida’s gun mania came from a young attorney. I’ll call him Larry Espositio and tell you that, after becoming a licensed lawyer, he decided to just hang out in Miami and teach sailing to children.
He exhibited a jerky, nervous energy when he spoke and sometimes made jokes that involved screaming at you.
Esposito had grown up in an academic family in Coral Gables. Even in Miami, this demographic is typically hard sold on guns and the wisdom in owning them. Nevertheless, when Larry’s grandmother died he spent nearly a thousand dollars of his inheritance on firearms. They were a good investment –he reasoned. If, one day, he came to his senses, he could count on selling them back for (at least) 80% of his original investment. I didn’t want to tell him that something you lose %20 of your money on cannot, in any real way, be considered an investment. He now owned four guns, a fact he was never comfortable discussing in front of anyone.
“Not in public,” he would whisper, when I prodded him to discuss his gun love in a bar.
Weeks earlier, while driving in Miami, an incensed driver had rammed into his vehicle, pushing him off the road. Esposito kept a handgun in a Crown Royal bag under the driver’s seat. “It fucked me up,” he said. “If he had tried to kill me, I would have shot him and then run into a closet, balled up into the fetal position and cried about it.”
Luckily the driver drove on and Esposito’s gun remained under his seat. Besides, that guy coulda had a gun.
If this piece goes online, I can already predict the response. A phalynx of comment dropping morons will unleash a volley of peudo-patriotic nonsense.
I am vexing as an entity, because I like guns in the sense that they are fun items for me to play with. From a policy perspective, however, anyone with half a brain could tell you that they are an incorrigible scourge.
People are very stupid. Every year, busloads of them chop their fingers off unclogging lawnmowers, get their genitals caught in vacuum cleaners and crash heavy machines into one another every second of the day.
Miniature cannons are not a good idea for these creatures—everyone agrees with that.
A lot of people, however, believe they are a good idea for “me.”
And, who knows, they just might be.
Every time I go down this road, someone hauls out the quote “an armed society is a polite society.” They believe that, rather than limiting guns, we should be making them readily available to all.
More guns=less crime + more freedom.
Get ‘em into the national parks to cut down on all those picnic basket snatchings. Put some in the employee parking lot and people will stop stealing shit out of the minifridge in the break room. Pack a gun into every purse in Miami and date rape will go the way of the Do-Do.
Hell, if every airline barf bag on September 11th had contained a loaded .357, those planes never would have crashed into the world trade center.
As Florida’s CCW continues to be honored in more places and more people come to want them, this theory will be put to the true test –though I doubt it will yield positive results.
While all the fearmongering is good for the gun business, I wouldn’t believe the hype. The gun industry has won the war, for now. While it seems unlikely to me that Florida and other libertarian states will be able to have their CCW’s honored in New York City any time soon, Obama hasn’t seemed to want to do anything about the assault weapon-toting protesters showing up to his town hall meetings.
The barbarians have lined up at the gates.
Don’t worry Florida. You’ll get there.
Let us consider these limits. Take Thomas Nagel, for example.
It will not help to try to imagine that one has webbing on one's arms, which enables one to fly around at dusk and dawn catching insects in one's mouth; that one has very poor vision, and perceives the surrounding world by a system of reflect high-frequency sound signals; and that one spends the day hanging upside down by one's feet in an attic. In so far as I can imagine this (which is not very far), it tells me only what it would like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But this is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat.
Nagel's question -- what is like to be a bat? -- is often repeated in scientific articles on the nature of consciousness. What is not stressed, however, is the closeness between this question and another one perhaps more relevant to the quality of our lives: what is like to you? Your early development is guided by the genes we share and the variations within your body, and as your brain grows it is changed by your experiences, giving rise to a morphology unique to you and you alone. If I try to imagine what it is like to be you, I may very well get farther than Nagel when imagining hanging upside and emitting high-frequency sound. But returning to Nagel:
... I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task. I cannot perform it either by imagining additions to my present experience, or by imaging segments gradually subtracted from it, or by imagining some combination of additions, subtractions, and modifications.
So many middle classmates, and yet all these empty spaces! I count pigeons between the electrical wires,
they don't carry conversations through the wires anymore--
all our voices must find each other through unbounded space.
It's hard not to think of you sometimes, and just now I guess I closed a door
I didn't know was open
which explained the draft,
I wanted to sing a song that was specific, and unique
to my throat; and whatever physics said about its shape
the precise measurements of my hollow spaces
and how they related to where I am full
was only as interesting as the handwriting
of a beautiful poem.
Like the way my voice sounded when I lay in the basement
and told a friend which girl from class
I secretly loved.
Now I enjoy taking a moment to add them all up and see what I find.
The difference is between taking a moment to make something
and making something of a moment,
which is what I do each day thanks to the specific foldings
inside my head that so many hands have touched,
fingerprints like handwriting: unique--
all of them
He travelled all over America and never thought much of anywhere but Brooklyn.
"Cleveland is shit," he said, from behind the wheel of his Lincoln Town car. "Chicago is Shit! Everywhere is boring, boring."
"New York," he continued. "Is a powerful city. You feel alive here."
Fred stopped drinking recently and lived alone. He had a five year old daughter, whom he wanted to spend more time with. Sometimes, he went to the saunas. His favorite was the old one. He didn't quite know why. It was reasonably priced and old. He liked the fact that it was old.
To pass the rest of his time, he went to the Safeway Car Company's dispatch center and worked the board. When he was really lonely or bored, he would drive the car.
A night before, I had met Fred over the phone when I called for a car to pick me up at a Haitian restaurant in Canarsie.
When the driver showed up, I couldn't believe my eyes.
It seemed as though Danny Devito's Penguin had died and come back as some sort of a woman. She Wore a New York city shirt and a schlubby jacket. She had dandruff and a bald spot. The fat of her face and body seemed to be launching a full retreat from the rest of her.
She led me to the car and then excused herself. "I gotta use the toilet."
She ducked inside the Haitian restaurant and left me sitting in the back of the car for a good twenty minutes with a broken window cracked open on Avenue L.
"You're still here," she said as she slouched back into the driver's seat. "My stomach ain't so good. That's why I only drive a couple nights a week."
She was quick to anger --particularly when you mis-named the neighborhood you happened to be passing through or put on aires regarding the most appropriate way to get from A to B.
She had been born in Marine Park and now lived alone in a place in Kensington. She pointed out every KFC we passed. "There's a Kentucky Fried Chicken outfit right there," she said, as though noting glorious city landmarks..
The initial ugliness that she projected as a human specimen only swelled as she spoke. Everyone black (the Haitian restaurant, the man who stole her car, the types you hadda pick up when you drove a yellow) struck her as predictably malignant and bad for her. She couldn't stand spicy food or driving for more than two days a week.
During her off time, she slept and watched Direct TV. She watched the movies, only. Her favorite was "An Affair to Remember." Her other favorites all belonged to the same ilk--breathless romance of a bygone era. It was her only humanizing quality, you could say. Or her only pretty one.
When pressed for a hobby, she said that she read sexy novels, when she was in the mood. Her favorites were written by Joan Rivers' sister --she was so hot, she hadda write her a letter. She hadn't ever done anything else with her life --cept drive a yellow. That was terrible because she had to pick anyone up who hailed her, by law.
"With a car service I don't have to pick you up if I don't want to," she said. "Fuck that. I can tell just by looking' at you if you're gonna be ok. I use my women's intuition."
SHe projected an Aristotelean ugliness. Or maybe it was Dickensian --the spirit of South Brooklyn Present. Whatever it was, it wasn't exactly human. In this way, the ride felt like a dream and every dark and depressing detail of her life only fed my desire for more. What was the weirdest thing that had ever happened to her while driving a car? A guy ("a black guy, of course") had punched her in the face, stolen her car and smashed it into seven vehicles before abandoning it in Queens.
Fred knew her well. He hated her in fact. Every night he offered the rest of the drivers a thousand dollars, cash, if anyone would fuck her. Every night, they offered him $2,000 back.
"She is shit," Fred said. "Disgusting."
THey had fired her a couple of times. "She fucked up a car though," Fred said. "So they took her back. She owes them money."
As we neared the end of the ride, I asked Fred what he weirdest thing that had ever happened to him was.
"Three people fucking in my cab," he said. "Some people need to fuck while you drive fast. It's a sickness."
Fred told them to just keep on fucking. It had happened a few times, he said. On the weirdest occasion, they had asked him to join in.
Fred said no. But he didn't tell them to stop. If you tell them to stop they complain. If you let them keep going you get tipped, big.
Afterwards, on the walk home I felt a peculiar sensation in my chest and somehow recognized that it was connected to the way the wet trees were making me feel as if they were all I ever needed. I don't remember if I used the word love, but why not put it out there now? Aren't we going to die, like the leaves outside Ferlingetti's pennycandy store -- crying too soon, too soon? So why not love a Batgirl, even if she does only date assholes? She's got an asshole, I've got an asshole -- we're a perfect match! And in the meantime, there's the lesson here, which isn't that it's better to go out than stay in or that the endless endlessness makes no promises to carry your personal ass, monkey-tortured soul, or god with it as it flows and so it goes--
No, the lesson is nothing can be reduced. I'll say it again: It was Halloween in Brooklyn, 2008. There are 8 million people here. Count them.
how it hurt
to see all our bones
and the air
turn to dust
swept into oblivion
after a very short time
(and then, right after, I was back; the lamp shook as I typed
the strangely pleasant awareness I had of my breath
lifting my ribs letting them go