Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Community Acquired Pneumonia

…When they tell you you’ve got pneumonia, the first thing you feel is more sick.

You think about the drive from Georgia to Colorado, the way you believed you could feel your heart, a bruise, your lungs, jellyfish on either side of it.

You think about St Louis and the Arch and the little cigars you smoked to keep you awake through the night.

The two hour nap in the cold cab at dawn.

Missouri, with its exit ramp porn stores and Kansas, which goes on forever and should have, even in the spring, killed the pioneers with its lack of variance, the unforgiving cop there who could have not written you up for lack of seat belt, or taken ninety down to eight-five, or ignored the fact that you were following the little yellow car too closely, but who didn’t, who spoke through the bad teeth under little a red near-Hitler moustache, who told you, “Your driving is getting erratic” and gave you tickets for everything he could.

Your arrival in Colorado, the picking up of your son, the long drive to the house of his grandparents. Your parents.

You think of the snowball fight at Bishop’s Castle, the scrambling on the red rocks of Garden of the Gods, the night of the blizzard and your discovery that falling snow in the dark shows up beautifully in the flashed photo.

You think of how you’ve been tired some long time, but more so this last few days, this last week …

You think: Here I am, only 33 (my age, it shows in every photo, in every passed mirror, in the reflection that is my father), and already pneumonia.

...And the Doctor, there’s some red rash behind her glasses, beneath one eyes, she’s peering at you sternly, telling you things you should and should not do, and to everything she says, you nod, though you are deciding secretly which of these things to take seriously, and she’s telling you: rest.

And you think: What does that mean, rest. Seriously, you think, what? Do I spend a lot of time in bed? May I drive places? May I laugh a lot? Cry a little? Do I refrain from sex? Masturbation?

And she tells you: don’t get stressed.

…And upstairs, at the pharmacy, there’s an hour wait, and the woman, she can’t find you on the system; she can’t prove to herself that you’re Kaiser; you have no card with you, have left it 1200 miles back; they made no fuss of it downstairs; your standing there, trying to tell her that surely with your social she can look you up…

Thinking to tell her: Look, the Doctor, she said not to get stressed. She said to take it easy. I was standing in line for an hour. And now, you’re stressing me…

But thinking, It’s not her fault.

Handing her your credit card. Saying, Thanks for trying. Saying, Merry Christmas. And meaning it.

…Down the street, there’s a hotel.

…And I am dumb enough—no, dumb is not the right word, it’s Christmas so let me put the good spin on it—and so I’m young hearted enough, to have the urge to flirt with the hotel check-in girl, to after stifling that urge, to ask her, Is there a fitness center here?

Not that I’m in the mood or health for seduction, for working out.
These old habits.

…And I think, as you must have thought if you’ve read much of my blog:

This is what you get when you choose flesh over meditation, smoky bars over your bed, exercise over therapy, pleasure over happiness.

…And I think, as I don’t doubt that you have thought:
Everything you’ve brought upon yourself.
Like this sickness, you earned.
Every disconnect.

No tragedy here.
If anything, you’ve lived a life of serendipities.

…This trip half over.

Those days with my son in the looming house of my parents, where my father keeps it near dark and too cool, where my mother folds her phone card and a bit of cash secretly into my hand, where I don’t battle my father about the lights or the heater, where I return the phone card unused.

The things your mother tries to make you owe her.
The things you father tries to show you he doesn’t owe you.

But for all of it, because of the time of year, because of the weakness in my heart, because of my age, their ages, whatever…

I soften.

…And the Man in the Moon, my father, he drops balloons with a letter and rocks from the fourth floor window, and my son, he gathers up these gifts, he shouts his thank yous, his cheeks are red, his eyes are shining.

…He watches A Christmas Story, the first full length non cartoon movie I’ve seen him watch, enthralled, really, and then, celebrating an early Christmas with those grandparents, he sees my father open a rifle, and he says, “Don’t shoot yourself. Don’t shoot your eye out.”

..My father getting himself this gift of a rifle he’ll probably never fire, the hunter in him retired, and a man who takes the firing of bullets too seriously not to have a death in mind when pulling the trigger, collecting guns even yet.

But that’s ok. We all collect things. Most of us. Anything to hang on our walls. To try to speak of who we are because we do not say it well enough. It doesn’t show on our faces, will not be written on our tombstones.

The dvds by the hundreds in my book case.

…And my son, a collector of Lord of the Rings action figures, and of Spiderman things, when he opens a pair of spider man boots, boots too small, but covered with Spiderman pictures, in a wonderful Spiderman box, my son, who heard from his grandmother, my mother, of a little boy on her caseload who has nothing for Christmas, who has no boots for the snow, my son says that we should give the boots to that little boy.

…And hugging your father when you leave, that slight hug, you feel something you thought not to feel anymore.

You realize, as you go walking with your son through the cold to the truck now completely warm, you still need something from them, your parents, even though you don’t think you’ll ever get it, that there’s nothing to get…and you think, No, even now, there was something, it was small.

…And on the long drive up from their house to the house of the mother of my son, you cough and wish that the wiper fluid wasn’t frozen; you peer through the dirt; you think about the fragments of your life, of any life, and how it isn’t so hard, if you relax into the moment, if you just put it together in your mind.

…These nights without rest.

Not full unconscious, so that I think about what I dream while dreaming it and then I think about what I think, the writer beneath the writer, the narrator wrapped in the narrator, these many near exact duplicate mes layered up on each other.

Always trying to shape, always trying to find the illusion of meaning.
Like a man who prays.

…This trip half over.
Not wasted coughing. The coughing irrelevant to what you’ve felt, what you think.
Not marred by sickness. The sickness just sickness.

…In my hotel room, I’m afraid to take my shirt off, though it is too warm in here, though typically when I am alone inside I like to have my shirt off.

I am afraid to take my shirt off, as though I’ve been invalidated.

And I think of the new Leonard Cohen album, the one I listened to sometimes on the long drive over, and the song, the one in which he builds from something which sounds like vanity to something which is self deprecating, and how as a whole it reads as both, that he knows it is true, his strength, his weakness, that he’s not afraid to speak of them both:
Because in a few songs I’ve spoken of their mysteries/ certain women are kind to my old age/they take me to secret places and undress themselves in ways/then bending over the bed/they cover me up/like a baby who is shivering…

…This hotel, on Christmas Eve, the moon nearly full and rising in the sky not yet dark, how pretty.

Your son not far from you, and you’ll see him tomorrow, in the glee of his gifts, and you’ll see him these next six days, in the light of your presence against his presence, the light you make together, and what you feel, it is good, like joy, like happiness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

happy holiday

…I thought before I left, I’d have time with you. We always think things like that. There is not enough time, and yet most of the time most of the people I know are bored. So what to say to you, whoever you are, at this last moment? I don’t know. I’ll try to blog from the road, from my vacation, from this trip, but that may not happen. Don’t forget me. I won’t forget you. I’ll be back. Not too long from now. You are tired. Your year has been long. There are long years ahead. I wish you rest. I wish you everything good, your heart to fill, love to overwhelm you, cheer, warmth, all the things that are supposed to come with holiday, I’m wishing hard, with my eyes half closed, with the moon a quarter full and the stars around it, with a mist in the cold outside the window, all these omens of magic, I’m wishing…

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Buying Something

One of my students from last year, a truly good guy, one of the best I’ve known, adopted a rat, well, more like he rescued it, saved it…that’s sort of right. You know what, it’s his story. So I’ll let him tell it. The rat, it’s a girl, her name is Herbert and she’s got to have all her teeth pulled out. This is 278 dollar thing and only has to be done if he wants her to live.

Merry Christmas Jared, you're rat's going to die of long and misshapen teeth if you don't get them pulled out in a nearly 300 dollar ordeal.

Anyway, I know it’s a pinchey time of year, but I’d like to give you directions to Jared’s blog where he talks more specifically about Herbert and where he also posts pics and finally his address so that if you feel like dropping a couple of bucks, you can.

I bring it up to direct people toward her and also to legitimize what Jared is doing. I’ve met Herbert. I’ve fed her. My son has held her and always asks on the phone about her. She’s real. So too is her problem. Jared is not running a scam and has sunk a fortune into this problem plagued little rat already.

Here’s his blog’s address:

For my part, what can I do to help beyond dropping him a check myself? Well, for every dollar he receives toward Herbert’s teeth pulling thing, I’ll vow an hour of absolute silence, no talking at all, not including the time I sleep. You all could shut me up for over a week. My students would adore you.

I know, you have no real stake in my silence, but it will still feel like you’re buying something.
If you can think of anything better, let me know. I'll do it.
And I'll blog it all.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ballys. Backtrack: Saturday. Final Exam. The Man in the Moon.

…I come back to the gym strong, stronger, even, than I was before, as if sickness has solidified something in me, and it all goes to prove the myth of what we think are our limitations.

Hardly anybody puts the plates away; or if they do, they put them in the wrong places. I obsessively rearrange plates and dumbbells, break down machines, so much so that occasionally I’m taken for an employee.

There are two types of dumbbells, the ones made of rubber coated plates and the ones made of metal.

The rubber weights bounce off of each other, in a strange springy way. They’re huge, and they don’t make you look bigger or stronger; rather, they make all your arm muscles and your hands look dwarfed.

And the steel weights, there’s the satisfying clink when they touch in the middle.

The rhythm of a good set.
So few of them are good.

…That’s you in the mirror.

You’ll never lift enough to please your father.
You’ll never make enough to please your mother.
You’ll never open yourself up enough to please a mate.

And I know, you think I’m bitching about my own life, but my sporadic use of the second person confuses even me.

…The only legitimate hope you have is to be a good father.
Maybe that’s a false hope.
But you believe in it.
You’ve got to believe in something.

…Saturday, a Christmas party, candles in red paper all up the driveway, everybody inside red cheeked and nosed, the night itself red, but not blood or hell red, but that good kind, that Christmas kind.

You hear the rumor of the threat of a set up but that never seems to transpire, or if it does, it does so subtly that you miss it.

You’ve never had a setup in your life that worked.
Nobody’s ever understood your taste well enough for that.

…How shallow are you? You bring Heineken to parties even though you don’t really like the way it tastes and absolutely hate the way it smells. Still, it is the beer that looks best in the hand, the one that seems to suggest a little bit more about you than a Bud Lite.

I stand there, a stranger to all but three, with my Heinekens, getting more social as the bottles get emptier and fewer.

I find myself saying, twice: What do you do?

A nice party, with two fires, one inside and one out, the hostess’s sisters out of control in a way that could have been scripted, so that I thought for a moment I was being Candid Camera’d, Punk’d, something…

But no.

And the hostess and her boyfriend have a lovely story about how they met in the woods when he was in a kilt.

As the liquor flows, and this collection of strangers, of real estate agents and school teachers grows drunk, the story takes on lascivious twists, the kind that make people giggle with a hand over the mouth, wink so heavily that you turn away before the lid can lift above the bulge.

…TD, he comes up from the South, a break from his all night writing sessions. He spends most of the party talking with a guarded woman with the palest color of blue eyes I have known or could imagine, a face unremarkable beyond them.

And I wonder: if your eyes were a different color, would your life be different?

The more drunk of the sisters starts telling TD that he is cocky. He sort of likes this. It makes him smile in a cocky way.

“Am I cocky?” he demands of me.
And I tell him what he wants to hear though he pretends not to, and I tell him what is true, “Hell yes, you’re arrogant.”

And the sister, she loves it, but she’s angry about something, angry at TD but not me.

And the girl with pale blue eyes, she’s putting on her seatbelt, she’s pulling her head into her turtleneck, and you remember her from a party six months ago, when you gave her and the boy she was devouring a ride home, the way you knew he was in over his head, that he would always be.

He was nice. But he is not here. He hasn’t been here for ages, has been asked to give up on figuring out how to make her his.

He is history.

…Three older men begin to play guitar and sing.
There’s warmth here.
This is a good party in that way.

No wonder you have to flee.

…A quick visit to the Dixie. It’s been awhile. It should have been longer.
You go home.

…And now it is Monday, and I must make up the final I am to give tomorrow.

If a professor were honest, what would he or she ask on the final exam, these attention addicts, these little Stalin’s, these stand up comics?

There are two types. The first wants nothing. They want to get paid. They want to do as little work as possible.

The second type, they want disciples, not students.

Oh, I suppose there is a middle ground, those few who believe they’re doing some kind of good and maybe even do it.

But what would that exam look like?
What color are my eyes?
What was the smartest thing I’ve said?
Did any of your classmates ever bad mouth me? When, and what was said?
And so on.

Your teacher is most likely an egomaniac.

…And then it is the grocery store.
I find myself talking to myself. Like an old man or an idiot.

I pick up a can of soup, read the ingredients, find it vegan. Good, I proclaim it.

I walk another aisle. See some mushrooms in cans, Maybe I’ll add mushrooms, I say to them.

I compare the prices on the organic and non-organic celery. But the organic, I tell the misted vegetables, is not that much more. I’ll buy it.

And so on.

And then thinking back on it (god, I’m always thinking back, always analyzing what has just happened to me for blog worthiness; this is bad; this is dangerous; perhaps it is time to retire, as I’ve heard one other blogger threaten): what is the matter with you, talking to yourself, talking in public like that? Where is your shame?

Thinking: was that not you, four hours ago, at the gym, thinking when the man on the bench beside you begin to groan and grunt, Shut up!

Thinking that he should have learned young like I did to exercise and come in silence.

…My son is expecting a call from the Man in the Moon, and so I deliver.

Suddenly nervous, unsure of my voice, I disguise it with a cockney accent, wondering: can a child even understand things spoken with a cockney accent?

And my son, who won’t speak to Santa on the phone or in person, he tells the Man in the Moon: Don’t be lonely.

He tells the Man in the Moon: I gave you a balloon.

And I remember that, the parking lot, nearly three weeks ago, the string I couldn’t quite nab, the red balloon getting smaller and smaller, pretty in the pale blue and not yet burst against the atmosphere, me saying: The Man in the Moon will take care of it.

My son saying: Who is with him there?
Me saying: Nobody, just him.
My son saying: He’s lonely there.

My son telling me that a divot in the asphalt was from something the Man in the Moon dropped, out his window, out of anger, out of loneliness, my son these days often confusing sadness with anger, loneliness with other emotions, the hard things we try not to learn when we have to say goodbye.

So now they talk on the telephone, that isolated man living in the moon with his coo-coo clocks and clutter, that lonely man with his telescope and cockney accent, he talks with my son, that little boy of four.

And the Man in the Moon, he promises to drop the balloon back down, but with a gift inside, some present from the moon.

And at my son’s request, the Man in the Moon promises never to be lonely.
He promises that when he is lonely, he’ll look down through his window and find my son and think on him and he’ll feel warm.

And my son, who is shy, telling the Man in the Moon, I have to go now.

And then it’s back to the world, him, me, the Man in the Moon.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mark Me. Past Girls. Re-Run. Long Long Way from Home. A Tenth of a List. A Series of Fortunate Sperms. Scotch. Dive. Nemesis. I Came the Stars.

…I like a girl who will mark me.
I know that’s tacky.

I like other tacky things in a women. Panty lines, for example.

…The problem with getting around a girl I like is that it brings into glaring focus other girls that I like that are gone and they get into my dreams and everything gets goofed because they stand there, those past girls, with their past faces, but wearing, for example, the hair of the new girl, or maybe her blouse; or maybe they speak in her voice; there is in any case some mismatched cut-and- paste version of Woman; and she is always telling you how everything can be mended, whatever was wrecked between you, whatever is wrong in you; she’s saying it in a voice that belongs to past and future from a face and figure likewise mixed; and that might not sound like a nightmare to you; but if it’s not why do I wake up with a start?

Not just afraid.
Not just alone.

Is there something beyond fear?Is there something beyond alone?

…Northbound again, back to that town that is a monument to a history you’d like to forget.

One drink leads to another and for whatever reasons all these drinks on all these night take you back to that town.

Eyes forward, hands on the wheel. Up between what they call mountains here and on the ramp and down the road into the Christmas lights of a place you knew two Christmases ago.

…When your were younger you could romanticize the lyrics of almost any song.

Dylan telling you:
You may find yourself tomorrow
Drinking in some bar to hide your sorrow…

And you thought: yes, let that be me.

Give me some war or heist to die in.
Give some woman that will miss me as I go riding off.
Give me a short life of long trails and lonesome tales.

And though you did not grow up, you grew enough to think about it differently.

Now you pray into the void:
Protect me and those I love from evil and mere chaos, for I am not large enough to hold it off.
And break my heart only so that a woman can crawl inside whether I think I want to allow it or not.

You think: don’t let yourself become the person you used to want to be in any of those songs; gather a life unworthy of song; build a life unworthy of storytelling, so full of calm and peace and ease and love.

…And you think about all the odds that must be overcome for a good match.
The laws of probability hard against it.
That she will find you in an unsheltered moment.
That you will find her between men that she calls shelter.
That you will not right away see her in certain lights.
That she will not right away recognize your age or desperation.
That she will live close to you or you to her.
That neither of you has been too recently burned or too far removed from burning.
That the first time you kiss is the justrighttime.
That you had the energy to rise.
That she had the courage to touch.
That your middle name didn’t offend her.
That the tattoo on her ass didn’t turn you off.
That she’s got three of the same kinks.
That you’re mind is open to her slowly opening history.
That you are not too enamored of your control.
That she is not too skeptical of your weakness.
That when cheat she will not know or will forgive.
Vice versa
That you’ll both remain unfocused on the part of the other you cannot see.
That you’ll both remain unfocused on the idea that the other is missing part of you
That she’ll not soon get cancer and die.
That you’ll not soon get brave and put yourself in the place of accident.
That neither sports nor beauty products will destroy you.
That lack of flowers nor overabundance of thorns will not destroy you.
That your dick properly fits her.
That her face climbs properly into your hand.
That other people find you beautiful together.
That she will forgive you for not being the way she wants to believe her father was.
That you will forgive her for being the way you hate to think your mother was.
Etc to near-infinity.

(Not just any match, remember, but the perfect match).

All these accidents of chaos that must line up to form the near-same magnitude of coincidence the like of which resulted in your birth; that one sperm from amongst the millions; and the whole world, it might have been different or not born; you might have been different or not born; and think about it:

All the generations of people that can before you whose blood and thoughts course through you, all the little deaths they avoided, all the near sudden changes of life they missed, so they could be in the right place at the right time to make inthatinstant one who would make one who would make one who would make one like you.

You’re not just the sperm who won the race. You a thousand generations, maybe more , of particular ones, going into particular eggs at particular times, this woman instead of that, and on Monday and not Tuesday, and not just dripping down her leg but deep inside, oh it is boggling--and you should not be, not at all.

None of us.

And now you want to leap a similar fence and find yourself matched for love?

…In truth, it is more likely that first the bullet will find the brain; the steering column the chest; the hard asphalt the soft spot of your skull; the clog the artery; the cancer your lungs.

…One drink leads to another. And the night unwinds.

That’s you, kneeling in the parking lot, a fit of coughing, not even drunk, though you look a drunk, ragged eyes, your clothing not properly tucked, not even pride enough to keep yourself on your feet.

…It’s Christmas in this bar and there is the smell of dead shrimp and you cannot help but be made nostalgic by it, the smell of all your Christmas Eves as a child, it could be human flesh frying and for the love of your innocence and your youth you would still not be able to help widening your nostrils to it and drinking quietly out of respect for who you used to be, and how near beautiful that, and his sad death.

And your hair is too long and your eyes are so puffy as to make you not just neutral but ugly, and for one of the few times in you life you celebrate this ugliness, feel the strength of it.

…The woman you talk to, her eyes are the color of root beer barrels.
You tell her your awful stories, the terrible things about yourself.
She nods. She likes these stories.
She tells you here stories, too.
You wonder how she sees them, what she thinks she is giving of herself in them.
You wonder how any of us, anytime, know what stories to tell; how do we decided what to put before people and what are our motives.

You realize you don’t like scotch.

…There’s another bar, you’ve been to it only once, a sort of a dive, halfway between the town of that old home and the town of your new home.

You know the owner, he’s inside, there’s a woman draped on him. You know his girlfriend, a twenty one year old barmaid, but she’s not working tonight.

She’ll be by, he says. I better behave.

He’s 40. He’s drunk and social, telling you the band is good and the bar is good and the people in the bar are good. He’s been here three years but Chicago is still in his voice and you wonder how it is a man comes to own bar in a place that can’t even be called a town.

This is a place where the girls always dance with girls, and mostly they are not club girls, save perhaps three, but rougher sewn sorts, and hungry eyed middle aged men sit around drinking their beers and still believing the lies of their youths as they watch the girls dance and imagine it has anything to do with them beyond the sullied value of their attention.

And there are the college students, one you’ve had in class a year ago, a big kid, a good kid. The woman who was draped all over the owner, S, she starts working on the big kid, holding his hands and dirty dancing herself low, then shaking her head in front of his lap so that her hair hits it.

He is not sure what to do. He wants to look like he thinks it’s fun but this isn’t his gig. And so he lets his head fall back and waits for her to rise and she will not rise and now her face is in his lap and he holds her hands loosely out to the sides and together they look like some malformed scene of crucifixion in which it is hard, impossible, to tell the crucified from the cross.

…You and S have a shot and another and you sit together at the edge of the small dance floor.

The crowd is varied. There’s a cowboy trying to dance with two girls who are trying not to dance.

A smoky bar, a throwback, with a machine that suddenly spurts out that rotten cherry smelling smoke and then later there are bubbles and the woman who was all over S and then your ex-student, she’s working on a bald man now.

Every woman in this bar is an amateur stripper.

S tells good stories and you imagine the lie of how nice this life must be, a bar owner, a place where you have regulars, where you are in charge of the life blood of the party, where it is your job to stand smiling, shaking hands, where you are the greatest celebrity of that world.

His girlfriend shows up with other friends, drunk and young girls.

And you know your job, you know your role, but you don’t fulfill it.
You’re tired and you want to sleep alone.

…Driving home, that half rage that comes without good reason behind a slow car in the fast lane; and you wonder, who is it that you slam past, that you jerk in front of, flip off in the headlights, who is that hiding in the dark of the cab of that car?

That could be anybody, an off duty cop, your next wife, an epileptic.

That could be your nemesis, the way the Greeks meant it, not your lifelong enemy but a creation by the gods to punish your hubris and who will do so quickly.

…You ask yourself in the dark black do you offer fidelity to one who is removed?

It was a week ago, something like that, and how the clock ticks, and how your fear over this and other things builds, and you how cough, and in your coughing you know the deaths of your ancestors and of your seed.

And finally, you remember, a part of a night, a moment of rest, on a blow up mattress in the bed of a pickup moving through the desert of Arizona, the blanket whipping around you, the friends far away but audible, their voices coming through the window in the back of the cab of the pickup, but of a different world entirely; and it was warm, the air, and there was the smell of dust and something green, and the stars were above, and something made you masturbate; and when you came, in that glorious seven seconds that is all coming, that casts the world in gold, that makes you believe in everything, even yourself, that as it empties you equates to the most addictive goodgoodgood there is , in that seven seconds, the stars themselves were like your seed, were, in fact, your seed, you were so large, so full of the world.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Wrong Way to Go About It.

…In the post section of the last entry, Melissa asks a hard questions. That’s ok. I asked it first. Maybe in my heart I wanted to answer it. The way we kiss someone the way we want to be kissed.

…I think about what it means to live.
To live is to perceive.
to see the sunthegrassthelionsandtherabbitsandthefishesandthestonesandthefreckles
to hear hemusictheheartbeatsthefallingthingsthebreakingthings
to feel theseathebreaththecoldthesplinterasitgoesin
to taste theplumthebitterthesugarthemetalherdeepinsideandherflesh
to smell therainthedeadthelivingthecandlesthewine.

All of these senses. Any of these senses. And for them to spatter on the brain, and for the brain to make sense of them, to find them: painfulorpleasurableorbeutifuloruglyorfrighteningormagnetic.

To live is to be aware.

…Naturally we think that if others perceive us, if they tastesmellseehearfeel us, in any way, in each way, if they are aware of us, our lives are somehow extended.

We will live more roundly.
And maybe longer.

Shakespeare’s immorality.

…We seek ways to project our voices.
We all of us belong to Pirnadello, characters in search of an author.

Me, what I am doing? What do I want?

It’s a good question, the best, and the most telling.
Kiss me the way you want to be kissed.

...My exhibitionism is like yours—anyone who reads and wants also to say—mostly internal.

I want you to know me on the inside of my skull.
I want you to rise and fall with my lungs.

But like an exhibitionist who once found it pleasing for people to see him posed ideally, in just the right light, with whatever imperfections hidden by turn of trunk and twist of neck, I’ve grown bored with that kind of writing.

That was the writing of my youth. When I tried to justify my life and suggest its exceptionalism. When I was the hero of every story I told, or at least every hero in every story I told was me in possibility.

…Bukowski tells us that the are no beautiful women, no strong men.
And as for the immortality, he tells us:
The lies of life, the lies of love
The lies of Blake, Aristotle, an Christ,
Will be your bedfellows, will be your tombstones
In a sleep that never ends…

That not through philosophy or mysticism or religion or love or anything shall we be made immortal.

And that there are not heroes.

Only people.

…In any case, I want you to know me for real.
I want you to see what is wrong.

And I want you to like me anyway.

…And what I bring up in you, hatred or desire, if it’s not spent, what is its value?

If you don’t want to kill me, or kiss me, or go on some long walk, or some short drive; if you don’t want to avoid me at all cost; if this doesn’t draw you to me or repel you away from me, of what value is it?

I don’t know.

…Can I properly answer the questions I throw out? Can I really kiss back the way I’ve kissed and been rekissed?

…Perhaps I seem to wax philosophical. Maybe I come across as if I know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to say. I don’t read my own writing closely enough.

But if that’s true--if I seem to wax wise--it’s only the truth of the tone.

It’s not me:

I know I know almost nothing.
There is almost nothing I can’t be retaught. And haven’t been retaught.
About much I am in the dark.

The bulk of my own mind, the character of my own soul, the depth of my own heart—these are mysteries.

Often, when small solutions accidentally present themselves, I’m not happy with what I learn.

That I could be so un-genuis.
Or so un-saintly.
Or so pained.

And I want you to know.

I don’t want you to find out too late.

I don’t want you to like my photograph, that particular pose.
Or my essay, that collection of craft.
Those false constructions.
Any spin I can give myself.

I want you to like me, opened up.
If it’s possible.
Perhaps it is.
Perhaps it’s not.

But one should try.

…And based on all that, even the first year psychology student would tell you: he writes this blog so that he can learn to accept himself.

And that student would tell you this is the wrong way to go about it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Cure. The Hired Hand. We Were Talking About the Space Between Us All. Angels.

…I’m well enough to write as if the sickness is over.

And thanks to Holly, and thanks to Cheryl. Good advice I tried to follow, and it tried to work.

All that whiskey and near-honey and lemon.

…Last night I watched The Hired Hand. One of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen. People call it a hippie-Western, but that is only because they have to call it something and don’t know how to pretend they understand it without a definition.

Maybe it was the whiskey. Or the sugar water in the whiskey. Or the sleeping pills I took half way through so that I’d go to sleep right after. Maybe it was the fever or the hangover of the fever or the hangover of the sleeping pills and whiskey and sugar waters from the day before, but the movie really got to me.

Nearly wet eyed, not because of the bond between the two men nor the triangle it creates with the once abandoned woman, these figments of someone’s imagination made visible with the bone and flesh of performers; not because of the sacrifice one character will make for another and so on.

But because I’ve never had a friend like that, where you go to die in the dust for whatever it is that cleaves you together; because I’ve never had a woman like that, where she’d wait for you to come back no matter what--and you’d actually come.

Christ, I’m making it sound like a typical Western and me a typical male who wants to weep at sentimentalized vision of the desperado in him.

In any case, I don’t do the film justice that way.
But I can’t let myself so easily off that or any hook.

The Hired Hand, it offers the most realistic and disturbing death scene I’ve ever watched.

…I think about this week of sickness.
Gray night after gray night.
And that one red one.

If anything cemented me to the full fall it was the demon lover.

…She’s not really a succubus, just as opposite; demon would imply that she materializes from hell—and that’s not true of her, though it sounds nice.

You can say she came from Never Never Land
or Oz
or the place where angels sleep and sometimes wake restless and alone.
You could say she popped out of a rabbit hole.

You could say anything that implied more magic than I’m due.

…But the hell, it exists.
That is the space between you and her, those hours implied by miles.
Those inches implied by seconds.

You think: all space is hell.

That only through space is violence possible, an area into which to swing a fist, fire a missile or bullet, strike a knife or match, the hell of pain, that which we inflict and that which is inflicted upon us and that to which we are witness.

And that only through space do we know that which is not us, be aware of the other, that hell of separation even when we embrace.

You think of the idea of some Eastern and Native American religions that Heaven is a state in which the essence of all thing bleed together and form a whole, perhaps a shattered god re-formed, a benevolent consciousness finally repairing from its shattering mental crisis, that cosmic split that gave birth to me and you and all these imperfect creatures.

And you think about how pain can only be created when there are miles between us.

This greed to possess you, though I never will.
This greed to be inside of you, though it will only be by inches and imagination.

Your veins alone laid end to end would reach around the world.
And I mean to know you?
I mean to explore you?

And end to space, and end to distance: you can only be perfectly bonded.
It is all that is left.

But I am not a mystic.
I don’t know better.
I know worse.

…And yet this day, it rains as if it Spring, and I walk out in my long jacket and my thick sweater ready to shiver but the sun is coming down through the rain.

What can not be made clean by all this water and all this light?

…Department meeting.
One hour and a half. I’m bored. I’m coughing still. I’m tired. My mind is soft.
I don’t know what I’m doodling.
And then I see.
It is a series of angels.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


…Not as well as I thought.

I spend the night in the high hot arms of succubus; the brazing morning, the blazing morning, the morning of cough drops and cough fits, rolling against her and away.

…And in the day, the real light, the gray, I am sick.
I tell myself, Go to the gym.
Then I tell myself, No.

This is what the gym was for. So you could go round with your sickness; so that you could dance with your demon lover.

You don’t practice the day of the game.
Either the practices have done their work or they have not.

…She’s not really a succubus; not really a demon lover.
It is just that in this fever she burns.

She is a product of my heated brain; my imagination; of a virtual world; she is a blog; a photograph; a collection of haikus; she is a story I told myself when I was asleep and meant to dream; she is a fantasy I forgot to have and has risen up suddenly to demand her time; she is wispy; ghostlike; and she tells me through her actions that I meant to sweat it out.

Sickness and everything else.
That I meant to be emptied.

…And she almost leaves almost real marks on my flesh and earrings on my nightstand.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Getting Better All the Time. Memory Lane. Even Guinevere Was on Loan. Not Vodka. Rule Number 6. Ghosts of You.

…Am I well you?
The question of my life.
Of any life.

...More than anything, its my head that hurts. A good, clean pain, at the temples, at the back of the skull.

…And I need out of this apartment.
KH tells me whiskey fixes a throat gone soar, lungs gone heavy.
And since I believe everything KH says, I decide on whiskey.

…And further, I decide to go down memory lane, or up the 75, to the town in which I lived with the last real girl, in a house that was fine, in a life that at least from a distance would have looked almost perfect.

But then again, from a grave enough distance, a paraplegic can not be differentiated from a ballerina.

…I go with a fresh face, shaved, as if one begins a new life with a razor.
As if one begins a new life by going to old haunts.
As if any of this has anything to do with a new life.

--But it does.
I feel a change.
The closing of some doors.
The opening of another.

I don’t know it when I’m the road, that old road…and I don’t know it when I’m in the bar, or the other bar…those old bars…but there is almost unbearably good news waiting for me at home…

I just don’t know it.

…And driving up the freeway, this ten mile stretch overly well known to me, too familiar, I ask myself: What are you doing?

Still trying to make myself tough?
No. Just trying to see if I am.

Telling myself: You go drinking in the only two bars you drank in in the town in which you lived with the girl that you will never see again the way one finally steps on a leg that was broken.

How does it feel?

What will it hold?

--The pain is more general.
It is the pain of the idea of that things are temporary, all things.

We want to buy not rent.
But everything goes.
Ask any Medieval writer.

The trick is not to see the amen in the genesis.

Most failures are failures of imagination. We didn’t see it properly, so we didn’t make it.

But there is such a thing as seeing too well. As seeing too far down the road.

There is the suicide note: All this buttoning and unbuttoning.

…I think of the Bighorn Sheep’s skull. My father found it in the mountains, the skull with its miraculous curls of horn. A record for the state, for the world, even.

And though he found it and hung it on our wall, it belonged and still does to the state of Colorado.
“I can keep it for them for my life,” he told me.

But it bothers him even then, that it is not really his.

…This then is something I will not inherit.
There are things anyway that should not be passed down.

…At the Appalachian Grill the bartender asks me if I like bourbon.
He’s got a bottle some salesmen left. Good stuff, he says.

He pours it deep, over three ice cubes, killing the bottle, and when I taste of it I realize it’s been months since I’ve had bourbon.

People are eating at the bar. Men with women. Girls with boys.

The men shoveling food into their mouths, their cheeks puffed out, their jaws grinding. The girls thin and glad to be out.

It stinks of fish in here.

The woman beside me and I talk about charisma. She argues that it has nothing to do with looks and I argue that it more than that but that also good looks help. Or at least extreme looks.

The whiskey is hard to drink. But I drink it.

…Down the street, the Irish Pub.
It’s been nearly two years since I set foot in here.
Nobody will know me. Nobody did then.

The last time I was at this bar it was to begin some trouble that followed me some long time, but that trouble seems minor now, a story I could tell myself over a drink.

And, remembering rule number 6, laugh a little.

Hell, maybe in this bar, I can laugh a lot, about all of it.
About everything.

…My barmaid remembers me, after all.
Her eyes are the saddest eyes I can think of.
I remember that she had a sore foot. I remember that she had a dicey marriage.

Her foot is better.
Her marriage is wrecked.

She is tall and speaks with her German accent and always a smile, but God, the eyes.

…And there is the moon.
And there is the road.
And there are the trees alongside it.

There is this drive.
I used to take it twice a day.
It is not the same drive.

I’m listening to a cd. It occurs to me as it sometimes does with cd’s that I’m hearing it for the last time.

That when I put it back in the album book, I’ll never take it out again.

It’s not sad the way you’d feel with a person.
The cd won’t miss you.

…And I think, what we miss, it’s not really so much the place, it’s not even really so much the person, though we do miss people and places.

The center of that pain though is that version of ourselves that we miss.
That person we used to be when we were in that place. With that other person.

We can’t help but think that whoever that was we were, he was more innocent than what we are now.

And that’s what we miss.

Somewhere on this freeway there is the ghost of me, driving that old drive, thinking the old things he used to think. If I should pass him, I’ll smile over.

Perhaps I’ll wave.
He won’t understand.
He'll know idea what's ahead of him. If he only knew. Poor man.

And I’ll forgive him for just about anything.

…And waiting at home, almost unbearably good news.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sick. A Blond in Your Bed. Gym. Family Lore. Muscles.

--Fever night.
Your brain is burning.
Sometimes you wake with your teeth chattering.
Other times it is too hot.

Your muscles are going taut. You can not get comfortable. Your throat has closed. Your lungs are weak.

Your dreams are strange.

--There is a blond in your bed.
You have the need to tell her something. Maybe you are afraid she is gone. Maybe you are afraid she is not.

You sit up and open your eyes, but you’re not really awake.

You lift pillows, blankets.
Where is she?

There is no blond in your bed.
This was a wish or a fear.

And the night air is blue.

--You stumble to the sink, to the cold water, to the mirror.

How pretty your eyes when you are sick.
How pale your skin.

--You wake for real in the morning, a phone call from LB. You sound awful, she says. I’m sorry.

And you will not sleep again.

You tell yourself: I’ve got to go to the gym. You fumble with your clothes. With your shoelaces. With the keys to the car and with the drive itself.

--Legs, shoulder, triceps.
Approximately two hundred and seventy reps.

Each one a more than normal act of will.
This is good.

In your fever, the people around you are not of the same world.
It is you and the weights and your sickness. And there is no blond in your bed. There was no blond in your bed.

You can see your skin trembling.
You can see your chest heaving.

This a test you like for yourself.

What can you make your body do of which it seems incapable?

--The game you used to play with the heating vent, pressing your fingers on the hot metal, telling yourself, just one more second, or the way you hold your head under the bath water repeating the same refrain.

Family lore: your mother noting a limp when you were five. Sitting you down. Peeling your sock off. Finding a rubber band twisted around the big toe and its neighbor, the toes purple and bulged and unhappy.

The look on her face. “What are you doing?”
“Learning to be tough.”

--These are your arms.
Deltoids. Bicep. Triceps. Forearm.
Sinew and vein.

--It reminds you of the time you were fevered but went rock climbing. That was with MC, years ago, in the Kootenai Valley, and winter wasn’t quite over, but snow was off the face of the rock.

You hiked to an over drop above the river and threw ropes over and with your backpack on begin your descent to the pebbled bank below. Three quarters of the way down, seventy or eight feet from the ground, you saw that you were out of rope. If you went three more feet you’d be off of it.

The face of the rock was too far away. You were hanging there, sick and stranded.

You looked up. Just the overhang. MC couldn’t see you.
And below: the gray water.
The gray bank.

You could feel the backpack pull on your shoulders.
You could feel your forearm stiffen where it held the rope taut in the belay device.

You didn’t have the heart to yell more than once or twice.
There was the sound of the river.

And the shock of emergency melded with the fever and you saw yourself falling over and over. You imagined how the backpack would act as anchor.

Eventually, MC, wondering why the rope never went slack, hiked down and looked up from the bank and saw the fix you were in. He hiked back and lowered and rigged a rope.

You’d been there maybe twenty or thirty minutes, thinking about many things. You can’t recall them now.

--In the gym, you push your shaking muscles.
You do reps against the fever ache.

Your eyes are green on days like this.

--This is your hamstring.
It is separate from the rest of you.
Feel it working.

It doesn’t matter about the pain in your throat. The throb in your chest. The burn along your scalp.

This is your quadriceps.

Would a woman ever love you for that muscle?
Would she sink her teeth and burst the teardrop of it? What kind of bonding that?

This is your quadriceps.

--You think silly things or maybe they are wise.
You think: I am not worthy of love or its opposite.
You think: Not for more than a moment, not for more than a pinprick.

Rising up before you, some gray eternity.
Your ashes will mingle with all the others, the billions.

This is your deltoid.

--And you remember there was a time when you hung there on the rope, thinking you were going to eventually slip the final three feet and be free to fall, that it was, in its way, funny.

And you remembered to laugh.

--And you think of the morning a week before everything crashed.
You turned to the woman and you said, “I think I’m in a time of crisis.”

And this woman, who feared your strength, who feared your seeming lack of need, who feared the illusion you offered that you carried no wounds, you nursed nothing, that pain was somebody else’s burden, she feared all of that imagined strength, but more than that, it was in her face: she feared this moment of weakness more.

“What are you doing?”
“I’m learning to be tough.”