Saturday, November 13, 2010

Answer #174 - Yes. And for the space of 3 hours, I had the whole catastrophe figured out

Smoke pours from a stack to the South. It's a coal plant or a nuclear cooling tower.  Earlier in the day, smoke poured from a burning van to the North.  A day punctuated by smoke.

I'm surrounded by big rigs hauling freight East on Highway 70. A day punctuated by trucks.

I'll be in St. Louis in an hour. A day punctuated by departure points.

Three days traveling no less than 8 hours per. A run punctuated by ticks on a calendar.

People keep asking where I played and with whom and when. A tour punctuated with question marks.

I've just booked Alaska in December. This will not be predictable. An album release punctuated by extremes. The first in the deep South. The last in the frozen far NorthWest.
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I don't know. I don't remember where I played and with whom or when. My existence, these last months, is a dotted white line, punctuated by sound checks.

And stops at Subway. And Starbucks. And though I refuse to speak Starbucks Orwellian Italian hybrid, I still drink their stupid coffee.  It's predictable.  I need predictable on the road. A life punctuated by the familiar.

Alaska, in the winter, will not be familiar, but I can't think on that. I've got St. Louis tonight. And I'm lucky. I'm working. And tonight, I'll punctuate the weekend, back in my own bed, because I'll drive 4 hours through the night to do it.

Was it always like this, all this space between punctuations?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Answer #173 - Then We Saw the Flames

His leg, just brushing mine, is bouncing, in an episodic, rhythmic way. On this airline, there are no seat assignments. We were late. Dave's across the aisle, and both of us in middle seats, snuggled between strangers. One of my strangers is twitchy.

He's a college student, maybe. From Purdue, by his whoops and hollers when the stand-up comic flight attendant asks for fans to make themselves known. This airline offers energy drinks for $3. I'm hoping he doesn't opt for what would, I assume, be his second Monster for the day - the first having been consumed upon waking on the couch of the resort he must have stayed in, skiing with frat buddies here in Denver. He smells like a frat boy on ski weekend and is making up for the lost time by reading a text on the Civil War now, while his leg bounces and he chews on his pencil.

I'm reading Then We Saw the Flames, a collection of short stories by Daniel Hoyt, a literature professor I met while doing a show at Kansas State. He's brilliant. I'm unsettled by it, and spinning a little in the possibility of one mind opening another. I find inspiration in other minds more often than not. I wonder what this says about me, that I'm not consulting the raw firmament. Maybe I am, in some ridiculous and ineffable way. Or the firmament is too vast for me, maybe, so I troll for other minds to draw from - at least there's an implication of a far-reaching finite. I've seen all the rounded corners of my own fish-bowl brain, and, though I'm occasionally startled by an unfamiliar corridor, half the time something in it is trying to kill me.  Yes, it's best to wander other minds, I think.

They're handing out bright yellow packets of plane-shaped crackers. I like that plane-shaped crackers exist, though I won't eat them just now. I have a compulsion to hoard things that are given away, for free. I have a collection of hotel shampoos, lotions, and small soaps that is spilling off the shelves Dave has built for them. I don't want to use them, because they were free, and some of them are Aveda or even fruffier Euro brands of this or that. The collection is becoming a little unwieldy lately. Every once in a while I put a couple of the lower-end bottles in the upstairs shower to make room for new acquisitions from 4-star hotels. No one ever uses them. Similarly, I have a collection of plane snacks in a plastic tub in the cupboard. They could if they wanted, but no one ever eats them.

His elbow has crossed past the arm rest and into my personal space. This is egregious on a plane, but how do I explain this to monster drink-snorting bouncy college boy? I'm less charitable than I might be, because I just don't like him. I don't mean not to like him, but he hasn't bothered with eye-contact or acknowledgment of we, the other two Supremes, and thus, he's a poster child for everything that's wrong with the world. In my rock tumbler of a brain today, I can't help but see in him a young George Bush; smaller, silver-plated spoon, and energy drink instead of blow, but all of the hubris and none of the substance, and a sense of entitlement that allows him to extend his twitch into what little privacy I might have in this stranger sandwich.  Just here, I'm an Iraqi farmer. Just here, he is inviting he and his Monsanto buddies to the dinner my wife cooked me, and every dinner after. So you see, I have cause for disdain. It's not disproportionate.

Nice lady from Indianapolis to my right is delicately munching plane-shaped crackers and reading something by someone named Aaron Elkins - Where there's a Will.  I don't know him or his work, but she is very careful and she is very neat, and I think to myself there are probably body parts and messy crime scenes between those pages.  Just a hunch.

But me, just now, I'm feeling the grind and jitter and shackling of no escape. Just now, I'm in day 19, at least, of less than 5 hours of sleep on any given night. I'm tuned to the sub-woofers and sluggish frequencies of the weary, I'm swatting at flying crackers, and Daniel Hoyt is whispering in Latin. I spoke at Stanford this weekend, and I'm no lit. professor. I have no Beckett Compendium, I don't know why Lorca loved Dali so - I love Lorca and I don't particularly love Dali, and I have no language to tell you why.  But Daniel Hoyt could, as he whispers in Latin, and I'll ride the cadence of it through the air above the Great Plains, where he sits below, I imagine, munching red wine grapes and spitting out the seeds.

The mission overflows with false angels and the sting of broken teeth. Our missing parts yell at us. My molar aches from a distant landfill and the angels we never believed in tug at our sleeves, stare us down, and keep us on a trajectory we did not choose. I imagine voices from the clouds. They sing and beg me to join in on the chorus. - Daniel Hoyt