Saturday, March 15, 2014

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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

encyclopedia of the second hand: body

Talk about how much your body weighs, talk about how tall it is, name where it was born, name when it was born, tell the color of its eyes, tell whether it was vaccinated for small pox, polio, tuberculosis, or any other disease for which at the time it was six man was supposed to be prone, tell what language its tongue feels easiest with, its ear can take in the sounds of and not even notice how it puts them together back together as a thing said, even supposing that in the machinery there is reception and representation, even supposing the ear itself in its winding to hear pure sound without on the inside whatever you call the inside the context the mind the geist for God’s sake the attitude has already been set for semantics,  tell about its shoe size, waist size, neck size, all the way up from the little shoes it fit its little feet in fascinated with the little foot measure black with its degrees picked out and the little moving curved metal brace to roll up just to the toes and the other straight metal flanges to put on the sides of it, manufactured always has noticed this in Syracuse, NY, all of them, tell about the dressing room curtain drawn and it looking in the mirror turn around smooth down the pants does it fit how does it look, tell about how it walks, whether it has seen itself in a video, how it thinks of itself in a video if it has seen itself in a video, how it analyzes its movements of arm, hand, hip, buttocks, whether effeminate, whether effeminacy is feared, effect on it of hearing its voice, effect on it of seeing painted portrait of itself by itself, tell what it likes to fuck, tell what it sees in other bodies, tell how it prepares to have sex, tell what kind of things in terms of situations, nudity, particular part of the body of other contact is desired with, how contact is desired, positions such as female, leaning over desk, skirt hiked up, fantasized about, what particular part of its body, dick lips tongue hands, it desires to be especially contacted, tell of its complex issues with its asshole, any piles problems, any problem with hard stools, any problems with excretion that have led to the assimilation of laxatives, purgative medicines, or any other kind of shelf or prescription drug, tell of its relationship with the medical industry from after the scene of its birth, in which, though a player, it was not of a maturity nor by the players perceived in terms of any kind of past history that would make its particular ipseity one to be accounted for by the provocation of any kind of sign or comment to elicit, as has been done innumerable times since at parties, in traffic jams, in beds, its own opinion in terms of some production of signs up to and including slight shifts in the musculature of the face conducive to the rictus of the smile or frown, the slight squeezing of the eyes, the wrinkling of the brow, safe in the instance of that primitive exterior moment, that of a cry (heard) and a response (mother’s, recounted afterwards, subject to question as the kind of memory that would escape the tumult of labor and its result, and also doubtful given a sum of opinions given out at other times about the aesthetic appeal of the infant, to wit having none, or most of them, until about four months, indistinguishable one from the other, but given as you were a beautiful baby), tell of dizziness suffered, nausea from various doctor detected or girlfriend detected or wife detected causes, poison ivy and other rashes, tonsils taken out, fracture of a bone (age of four, accident, tricycle) set, minor case of herpes attended to, fever quenched with bedrest and drugs the contents of which were not at the time a matter of interest, headache once and paralyzing pain, origin unknown, for two days, too sick at the time (in New Orleans) for it to get up off its cot and call anybody to help it until Jan, curious what was up, came over, tell whether seen (itself by itself, the verb reflecting itself) in dreams, tell of fading image in memory, tell angle of vision of things seen in memory and inference of preferred angle of vision, if any, tell probable cause of death, if foretellable, tell lifetime habit of illegitimate drug use, terrible and never do it again, I promise, tell boredom suffered by, sitting (in cars, waiting rooms, in the little official scoop chairs of every office and cafeteria, in booths at hamburger places, at bus stops, in trams, on trains, in planes, in the little compass afforded by the one hundred dollar ticket For ride from Austin to New York), lying (in hotel rooms, recently, after sex with its mate, also recently, on nights of absolute insomnia, recently again), or walking (passage from one place to another in a number of towns, Gladstone Georgia, Austin Texas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, New Orleans, Louisiana, among others, as resident, passing scene unmemorable to the eye that does not even take it in enough that, given a thorough grilling regarding what seen even two hours after these passage states, would not be able to inventory). Tell about the files it is in, files at U.T., art department, grade transcript, letters of recommendation, high school record from one file in Gladstone to another in Austin, the data, file in the Student Financial office, amount borrowed student loan, file  in  the IRS office presumably the one in Austin, tell that it knows people who work there, big thing to do if you want to earn bucks and not work after they lay you off for some months, life style that it approves of and others it knows need, do their real work, waste time, sit around smoke pot, talk about projects, wait for the IRS to hire again, the  file at the NEA, little dark slides of its work, Kath’s shots of the Metamorphosis pieces, forms filled out, form letter award of this Southeastern Young Artists Grant, the file with Doctor Endo, x ray of foot, costs for operation, its mother is Doctor Endo retired last time staying with her cause of Dad,  its Dad dead, a file with Doctor Swoon, the dentist, says here you haven’t had that last wisdom tooth out, hungry to take out its teeth, little moneygrubbing son of a bitch, above it little silver pick in its hand, won’t give him that satisfaction, every cleaning it’s a reminder, picture he’s conveyed of the tooth with a malign rhizome, sunk in the jaw, major operation soon if not removed now, the tooth now some inward borer, so hostile, down in the jaw’s dark towards bone, there is a file with the Blue Cross,  there is a file with the Albuquerque Police Department (complete with a two side views and a frontal view of  face, light glabrous on the obviously damp forehead, patchy skin color as in a late night party shot which when they come out you wish hadn’t been taking, all that gaping and grinning, the deadly flash of light, the skin has he caught  some tabloid disease, eyes blue but all pupil and that pupil lit white with the flash into which countless eyes have glared or narrowed or blinked in vain, a cloud of witnesses,  the file with self’s dealer letter from her your recent work isn’t moving, I don’t know how you expect, and on, until I think your plan, though wonderful, is just not going to be possible, but earlier letter, earliest, I am looking forward to showing you in a venue which is uniquely open to young artists, dated March 15, 1986, a file with Julia’s lawyer, a file with Julia’s accountant, recommended that man a certain merging of its and Julia’s assets, not all of them by any means,  a file with the Western States Mortgage Company, a file with the BankAmerica Visa and the Dallas Southwest Sun Master Card and the Sears credit department and Charette’s Art Supplies and Shell gas company and Texaco gas company going through the plastic that is laid to some account against it feels the very recesses of its being, a file in the Zen Ranch Home Office, its wedding to Julia, June, 1989, got a call recently voice on the other end  a  recommitment special, a woman’s voice,  it’s very popular, asking simply because fascinated by the whole working of this Christian Shaman thing,  the second time around, she said, it’s a party, goes to that what do you mean, what do you people mean by party, the file at Quetzelwood, admission, signature Julia Early, the file with Doctor Vaughan, yellow legal sheets, Vaughan’s notes from sessions with it, answers to questions such as what do you feel about your father dying like that presumably in some short hand of Vaughan’s on sheet, otherwise was there a point to it? Tell that in these files the commonality locating information about it must be some attempt in a net more abstract than the net of a hunter thrown over a wild beast but with many of the same characteristics to present in the end a schema of scenes from the life of, frame by frame by frame, even this hotel the Ten Peso Inn, signing in the flash of one card and another,  the look over them, expecting what the clerk never does, that he’d look up and compare the face in the photo on the driver’s license with the face of the man that gave it to him, no, the data is more important. Tell how it and self are one and the same, tell about that pact the title and clauses of which are forever unknown, the language of it mapped into some known and useable language internal to the system, Erlebnis, as it were, and yet the classic problem of that translation making it unknowable whether that mapping can ever really be affected wholesale, yet the whole instrument of which is to bind in a dualism as real as the twosome made by Br’er Rabbit and the Tarbaby or Jesus and Our Father who art in Heaven self and the body, tell about how odd it would be to make the separation, answering for instance this call as you could have with the body of Street Early offering that to the person waiting on the other side, happening to say Street, why are you in Albuquerque, I thought you were flying home, must be she’s heard the message you left on the recorder, don’t know, I just felt like I needed to be alone this weekend, Mexico City, they did love the piece, but I got very, confused I guess is the word, to finally okay I’ll see you Tuesday, to love you but the phone is down cutting off that last bit of routine, tell what was married, what legal agent,  till death do us part not included in vows made, as it happens wrote the vows under Kath’s assurance that the whole ceremony could be staged as we wanted it, combination she said of pagan and Christian elements, most disturbing to Mrs. Early,  and given this the unspoken premise of the marriage but any vows made otherwise in the shadow, so to speak, what other vehicle does death ride?  Tell envy at the moment of sinful messiah, hours in here watching for the news from Waco, itself  struck with admiration about the starkness of the separation made between an American society it can no longer recognize as livable, the FBI, their white vans, the tanks, the ATF, its least favorite government org, after maybe the Narcs, out there, the perimeter around the compound, and a particular madness which can only be parasitic to that abjured whole, only speak that debased language. Tell what thought concerning question of responsibility, moral sorting out of, division of between some self  transcendent to the particular now and thus subject to punishments and rewards in the future for actions within the past and the it  tripping  and falling, the it in the car, poisonous drunk, weaving from lane to lane.  Tell how  this is finessed. Tell how self is  accessible via it, compare to  the way astronauts in a space capsule are accessible to ground control, comparison covering a certain maintenance of systems, targeting, orientation, shielding. Tell self is not filled in, so to speak, not told about in a very rich way,  but simply given as a part of the world: employed, married, buried, such are the uses of making the tie between self and it absolute. Tell question occurring to it by the by,  do iron bars make a cage?  Do various mental exercises, in pursuit of conceptual clarity, such as: I am hungry, my brain is hungry; I am thinking, my Dick is thinking; I am shitting, my heart is shitting;  my heart is broken, my armpit’s heart is broken.  Think of how it has a  self living in it in some way and using such casual or desperate language about it as to make it unproblematic to locate it, claim it, put himself when the occasion arises in such relationship to it that self is at once separated from it and described by it, tuck the body safely in a file, in a bed in a ward, behind the bars of a cell. Say if  it would claim that, on examining as naively as it can what its self is, there is some agent, some you, playing the Deep Throat who can provide all the information we - self and it - want about it. Tell idea occurring to it that you are a spy on the life of it. Ask do you mind if I call you you? Tell suspicion sometimes you forget your mission, or who you are working for, and you come in from the cold to no debriefer, whatever betrayals on your conscience for no confessor to hear told, bitter abstinences, futile binges.  Ask if it makes any sense to think of it and you as having separate lives, or if the dependence here isn’t as straightforward as dream’s on the dreamer, that one-way channel.  Tell how, when a child, it would  sometimes talk to different parts,  feet, look at its  feet in the bathtub and it’d think of them as fish playing around, stomach,  when it had a stomach ache, or when it was shitting. thinking of the stomach as having something against it, it'd say please. sitting on the toilet it would pretend to be in agony, putting hand on belly, please it'd say, drawing it out, PLEA-EA-EASE! imitating some gangster dying in some movie it’d seen on TV, childish games, years ago, put away, biblical precept followed. Tell how it now speaks to a more amorphous force, when in situation of urgency requiring it to speak to itself, say coming out of that hotel last December bleeding. How it said to itself its all right. How it kept saying that to itself, in the car, aiming downtown for hospital.  Tell how it goes through a distinct cycle of appearance, has asked others about this, how it will notice things about itself in different ways at different times, scholar of its skin, its face, its stooped shoulders, the Talmud of  bathroom mirrors. Tell of after-effects of urination,  when it urinates, sometimes  a drop or two of urine left in the urinary tract and how these drops will come out, will drip out, will slightly wet its underwear.  Theorize, given the line of facts we have pursued so far, that everything that is self is your body, to say self is to imply body, the image of a separated self,  of some atomic unvisualizable  thing, that is self and at the same time is not your body ‑ a soul, a ghost, blithe spirit of whatever substance, a point of vantage, the swerve of the atom, you at the end of the brainstem ‑ is an illusion it sometimes is subject to about itself, tell where this comes from, the need for a controlling metaphor, a story it can tell itself, desire for an instrument to name that point it reaches between different readings of itself, between the log of readings which is vaguely the whole book of consciousness and the voyage itself, which is itself, the body, up on its hind legs and reading  about itself, self’s prose mirrored in it’s eyes.

Elia meets Karl Marx at the South Sea House

    When Charles Lamb, a scholarship boy at Christ’s Hospital, was fifteen, one of his patrons, Thomas Coventry, had a discussion with a...