encyclopedia of the second hand: Arrogance


     Sometimes  a  desire  will  detach  itself  from   you.

Sometimes a  desire will become hard, impervious,  separate,

like a ball, a  calculus, a cyst, and lay in you, automatic,

wiggling its legs around like a dying bug.  That is what you

feel in the nerve, that bug s movement.  It makes you sweat. 

You  say  to  yourself I don t want to  obey.   You  say  to

yourself  I won t obey.  Your internal dialogue sounds  like

the  usual  script, the kind of thing that goes  on  in  the

minds   of  criminals  and  prophets,  the  merry  band   of

exhibitionists, voyeurs, addicts, beggars, sniffers,  heads,

fetishists,  collectors, gamblers, veterans of  suicide  and

moral cretins of all types. From Isaiah to Jack the  Ripper,

from  Rimbaud to Gary Gilmore. Archetypically it is  the  B-

movie mad scientist shadowed by his gibbering assistant, and

then  there's always the sacred horror movie in  the  serial

killer's  head.   Not  that for a second  you  are  in  that

league.  But you have intimations of that mania,  sometimes. 

You  look back at certain points in your life and shudder. 

You ll have five minutes panic. Because there s nothing you

could have  done about it, that bug kept wiggling its  legs.

You  might say why am I here when you know why, the bug  had

gotten  you  to go, you don t want to admit it.  All  a  big

mistake  you  say.  Afterwards you say why do I  keep  doing

these things, the horror, the horror, out damned spot,  when

you know about the bug good and well. The bug just keeps  on

dying, spastic, in the far reaches of the enormous nerve.  A

nerve like a hospital corridor.

     Okay, so you ve had that feeling before, it makes  your

stomach  hurt, you keep walking hoping it will go away,  you

get  in  a  car and drive and try to  listen  to  the  radio

thinking that if you don t think  you won t think about  it,

if  you drain the ocean you kill the fish. But that  doesn't

work,  of course, the bug is too stupid to be  tricked  like

that,  the  bug has no attention span so to speak,  the  bug

only  has its instinct. What you want to do is step  on  it,

crush it, then wipe it off the bottom of your shoe, all that

compact life popped.  You d like to see that little staining

spot of bug juice, death s watermark.  But you can t do  it. 

You are that bug.


     When  self went off to college his choice was  dictated

partly by the urge to escape, get away from Atlanta and from

his  parents  with adolescent angel wings,  as  he  imagined

himself,  long  blondish hair and slender  hips,  a  Blakean

outlaw,  and divided elementally from the  capitalist  beast

around  him.  Dedicated to failure and  failure's  distance,

that most important of high school discoveries, oh yeah, his

own  distance, like Billy the Kid discovering  the  trigger,

dedicated to whatever curse it was (hoping it was a curse, a

palpable  difference) that seemed the freshet in his  blood. 

Most of his friends at Gladstone High were going to  Athens,

which seemed cool enough, with its camp Confederate trumpery

of white columns and shady porticos, self had cruised around

the  town and eaten burgers with his friends where you  were

supposed  to eat burgers and snuck in and had a  beer  where

you  were  supposed to sneak in and have a  beer,  gleefully

flashing your fake ID in that hangdog teenage way, and  then

the tumultuous drive back to Atlanta, all of you drunk. Self

wanted  autre pays, autre moeurs, which he thought he d  get

in Austin. He’d been there, of course. He’d run away at seventeen,

in a van stolen by a friend from the friend’s father, and they’d made it

to Austin. He’d already met Julia. He’d had a vision of himself and Julia

making the scene. They’d talked on the phone, late at night, when his

parents were asleep.  Mark was the one who finally turned him on to the

idea of going to Austin rather than Julia coming to Athens.

This meant a little family crisis, Dad saying why pay  that

much  tuition  and not go to Virginia, which  is  where  Dad

went.    They  even,  father  and  son,  made  a   trip   to

Charlottesville   together,   self  feeling   very   Stephen

Daedelish about Dad s trip down memory lane, even looking up

an English professor, now retired, who faked a memory of Dad

writing some paper for his class on Melville, fall of  1950.

All  too much - Dad, self, this rather dirty, toothless  man

standing  there in his pajamas in the doorway of his  house. 

Hard not to notice that he hadn t buttoned his fly. Then Dad

and self visited Aunt Lane in Maryland, and then came  home. 

All  this by car, which was a little too  much  post-Oedipal

time with Dad.  Once they were home self said sorry.

     Luckily  Mark  had a bundle stashed away  from  selling

pot,  mostly, at school, so he said he d loan self  tuition. 

He  said  we ll get jobs on the side, it isn t going  to  be

that hard. 

     Once  they  got there Dad started  sending  self  three

hundred a month anyway.



     Freedom and power - these were the dominant factors  in

your   mood  at  this  time,  more  than  mental  images  or

metaphor. You were  actually living in a zone where you were

up  against  these  things every day. You had  no  time  for

trivia,  for mediocrity, for  idleness disguised  as  making

money,  for  papershuffling, for that hesitancy  before  the

consequences, for all the ebbing hearts of ebbing men.   You

felt  in  consequence  very interesting -  as  if  you  were 

making  extremely important discoveries.  You felt like  you

were  a   celebrity, living  in your little bubble  of  pure

access.  Although  it sounds crazy, you felt like  you  were

plugged  into  other  minds,  that  instinctively  you  were

receiving  from the collective unconscious circa  1982.  For 

this reason, the problem of making money took on for you  an

aspect   which,  at  other  times in  your  life,  has  been

mediated by your less  concentrated, less uniformly pressing

purposiveness.   You   didn't   want   to   dissipate   your

inventiveness,  your purity, your year zero,  in   something

minor,  something merely remunerative. Especially since  you

were a star.  It poses a metaphysical problem - stars depend

on  discovery,  the  moment of discovery is  the  moment  of

stardom, but what is discovered is star quality.  Maybe this

is  the ability to be discovered, the zen like emptiness  of

the  infinite regress, mirrors reflecting mirrors.  But  you

were  there,  you knew it, you felt it,  flashing  from  one

tained  surface to another.  So you needed enough  money  to

eat,  to buy paint with, to get gas for the old truck you  d

bought  so that you could go around collecting junk, and  to

buy  books.  You were reading like a madman in a  Dostoevsky

novel  - that is to say, you took seriously  everything  you

read.   Everything  you  read  was about  you,  it  was  the

criteria.  Toss the book away if it wasn't about you, if  it

wasn't  about you the very ink the book was printed  in  was

the  track  of  some  disinherited turd  and  none  of  your

concern.  You'd stay up until three reading a  chapter  from

one  book  and then dropping it and reading a  chapter  from

another  book.  You let the books pile up in  mounds  around

your  bed. You  were willing to make this money by  cleaning

things, hauling,  digging - anything but such work as  would

abuse your brain with  ineffectual and alien concerns.

     On principle you were - and are still - arrogant  about

not earning a  living. Leona Helmsley said that only  little

people  paid taxes,  and at that time you thought  the  same

thing  about  earning  money.   Power  goes  if  you   don't

establish  in  yourself  certain  standards,   let  yourself

become  arrogant  in certain ways. If  you  start   thinking

there is any justification external to you for what goes  on

inside  you, if you fall for that line, you're fucked.  It's 

like  the relationship between the best punk and the  record 

companies.  It's  a  question  of  who  uses  who.  But  you

understood  that  this power was conditional upon a  certain

humility,  upon a  willingness to beg. To mooch. It was  the

thing  of  the two poles  of abjection  and  sublimity,  the

sanctioned things being  untouchable, unclean. God protected

and  unclean at the same time.  And the difficult  thing  is

that  you were always conscious of the  price one  pays  for

the  things one borrows - a certain loss of   generosity,  a

certain loss of self-esteem, a gradual entanglement  in  the

complex  casuistry  of excuses, of  separations  from  one's 

acts, of disavowals ultimately damaging not so much to one's 

honesty  - which is always an iffy thing you can't  put  too

much stock in, since the thing about being honest is it goes

usually with being dishonest about the function of  honesty,

pretending that it doesn t have any, which is an up the  ass

kind of business - but to one's integrity, one's ability  to

suspend  judgement as to the rightness or wrongness of one's

situation-of- the-moment, and to loop out of oneself,  come

back  to one's  present and familiar courses as a  stranger.

Do you know how important that is?  It is everything to find

yourself  the strange buckskinned man on your own  doorstep,

because  once you loose that art is a career and  you  worry

about NEA grants and other such crap. The whole point is  to

usurp the freedom of a character in the funnies.  Sometimes,

not having  enough money at the month's end to pay my  rent,

you would give Dita or Mom a call and ask for money, or  even,

after events that you are about to describe, Annie.  

Annie, Julia's best friend. 

Oh that bug!



     Self is getting ahead of himself - yes, slipping out of

his  own  grasp  like an eel, like  a  dialectician's  magic

trick, naughty boy. Mentioning Margarete already. That wasn't

in the contract now, was it?

     Self,  in his eighteenth year, went West, like  many  a

young  man  before him - Billy the  Kid,  Huckleberry  Finn,

Rimbaud,  we'll count Rimbaud, an honorable  desperado,  for

whom  West  was any dive on the road, any  travelling  freak

show or graffitied message on a bridge.  Since this time  he

no  longer likes to think of himself as having a home.  Self

thinks in imperial terms about himself,  Emperor Street,  he

thinks of his life as a zone of rule having capitals in  the

full imperial sense, cities into  which the whole essence of

the  culture  is distilled:  Austin, New Orleans,  Santa  Fe. 

This flight west with Mark, all his things and Mark's  piled

in the U-Haul  which trailed behind them, attached to self's

huge  blue Plymouth, signified a shift in the whole  balance

of  self's  life. Self had two guides  then:  Patty  Smith's

music  and Rimbaud's poetry, and he felt  obscurely  aligned

with  the  message there.  Il m'est bien  evident  que  j'ai

toujours ete race inferieure. Time to prove it.