Chasing Down the Apocalypse (Eclipse)

The New York Times hyped it like crazy. So did my friends. “The eclipse is the thing, man. We gotta go!”

I thought little of it until I was driving home to Toronto and, on a manic whim, instead of sticking to Interstate 80, I veered down 81 toward Virginia and the eclipse.I calculated that I could get as far as Roanoke, Virginia, which I learned through my app would have 92% coverage, and that sounded like something indeed, far more intense than 84%, which is all I would have had if I stayed my course.

Electronic signs began to appear at the side of the road. Solar Eclipse today 12-4pm. No stopping on shoulder or ramps. The interstate was heavily traffic, trucks lining the right lane as far as I could see, but it seemed right. We were all journeying down together, a convoy, to see this astronomical event. I listened solely to Off the Sky, brooding electronic music, perfect for the approaching darkness. I reached the Virginia border, only 234 miles to Roanoke. Only. Ten minutes later, I realized that was well over three more hours of driving which meant another three hours back. I was getting in deep. I focused on the music and the historic moment to come – the sky darkening, animals scattering, humans collectively moaning. It was going to be something, to be sure.

I gassed up less than a hundred miles away, ready to talk to the cashier about the moment to come, but she and a man from Texas were talking in amazed terms instead about the cost of cigarettes in New York. “$15?! That’s two meals for me! Who would be dumb enough to pay that?”

Back on the highway, it got suddenly dim. I looked up. Just a cloud. I drove madly – I needed as much coverage as possible! – until 2:35, five minutes ahead of the full 92% and pulled into a gas station. A van pulled in and two bikers. I looked up. The sun looked the same. I went into the store and bought a can of Chipotle Pringles. The woman looked tired, bored, completely uninterested in this remarkable event. I went back outside. The light began to dim. It cooled quickly, at least 10 degrees below the high of 95. Two people came around behind their van and donned polarized glasses and looked up. Another took a picture of them. “Eclipse!” I looked at my watch. It was 2:41. It had passed. Had I missed it? I wasn’t sure. I was going to borrow their glasses but was afraid they might be the unsafe kind and so looked into the sky again. It was getting hotter, brighter. Yes, it was over. It was eleven hours – a eight-hour detour in the end – to get to Toronto. I listened to nothing for a while, just the tires clicking over the asphalt. And I thought about the next eclipse, only seven years away. I can hardly wait.

Anne Imhof’s “Faust”: Weird and Not

Anne Imhof’s “Faust”, German’s 2017 entry at the Venice Bienalle, offers little on the surface, except the surface.
It’s more about the people watching than the performers – all the legs passing by.And the arms and hands. And then it is high above on a glass platform.

And that’s just weird.

Writing Camp: Day Seven at Kenyon College

A writing guidebook doesn’t exist, and if did, it would confuse.

A story can’t be someone reflecting about their self. That’s boring. Same with the Uber Voice. Boring. The first person is interesting because it looks out at the world. The third person examines others in detail as well as, of course, the self. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority. Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Half of us are firsters. Half of us are thirders. In the end, first and third person is mere grammar. Boom, boom.

Writing Camp: Day One at Kenyon College

I’ve arrived in Ohio for a writing conference or, as my niece calls it, ‘camp’. This is actually – her favorite word – a more accurate description given not so much the bucolic atmosphere as the bleak accommodations. It’s the sort of place – despite the well-placed trees and 200-year history – that does not inspire as much as subdue. My best work from the day: The fucking earnestness of discussing the horrors of the world when they are so far away – that deeper feeling of humanity, the western mind – is what is wrong with this fucking world, pretending to care, to love, to be willing to die for, when the truth is, the time will come – it’s called 5pm – when they don’t care because the children have come home and a favorite show is on. And that is all.

Being at a writing nadir, more interested in my video poker than figuring out what I should be writing next, I need more than new writers who think they might be interested in writing but aren’t quite sure.I know I am being judgmental, but I really have to get out of my sci-fi quagmire!

Porter Airlines Deserves to Be Expediaed

There are those who talk of Porter Airlines as a quaint raccoonish airline with prop planes, retro uniforms and free beer, forgetting their essential problem of flights perpetually delayed and cancelled. Returning home to New York, we had yet another cancellation and decided to make the nine-hour drive instead – a prescient choice given that the re-booked flight was also cancelled the next day. The only problem was that we booked on Expedia, who lulled us into believing that they would refund us automatically. Nine days later, no refund posted, I was subjected to the limbo of hold and repeat until, almost an hour later, they released me from their specific hell. And so I propose that Porter merge with the Expedia so they might be grounded together.

Mount Lafayette to Mount Everest

I’ve climbed a few mountains, including Mounts Baker (10,781) & Rainier (14,411).
And now I want to try out Everest (29.029). Sure, it’s more than twice the height of anything I’ve tried, and that hundreds have died in the attempt, but it’s my kind of thing, a straight-ahead venture of just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a simple thing. Just go up. Until the air is so thin that I might dream of being something else, maybe even touch the face of the gods. I’ll start with New Hampshire’s Mount Lafayette and take it from there.

Too Many Spongy Black Fungi

It was the black fungi’s texture more than anything that was intimidating – and the volume – but I like mushrooms and so ate them all while working on a screenplay about taking psilocybes at a Grateful Dead concert and expected to go on a massive involuntary trip. But it wasn’t like that

I just felt wonky and, after reviewing a few more pages, drifted off to my deep-jungle Carlos Castenadian dream-past, escaping savages in dugout canoes only to be cornered, the spears and arrows raining overhead, and then sunk by a polar bear at which point I decided to wake myself up, not wanting to be mauled, roasted or whatever was to come next. I lay in the cold stillness to consider how much we were ahead of that, that I shouldn’t be so concerned with the extra demands at work, just be happy for what I have, even if a tribal chief of the worst order was at the helm of the country, and felt like that on my way to work, until a wave of exhaustion hit me and I wrote this instead.

Post-Pop Idol, Vulvana, reflects on “Manitou Island”

Shortly after the burial ceremonies, Vulvana interviewed with Entertain Me Magazine: Our technological society offers nothing but self-denial and self-annihilation. Under the leadership of Gerbi Norberg, his mother Norma Butler-Norberg, the medicine man Asawasanay and the village elder Pamequonaishcung, these people have decided to forge their own course. They are returning to the essence of life, the earth itself. They are redefining human progress. They’re throwing away technology, building a society where the family and community are not just political promises.This is a land to which the forgotten people can go, you know, what Victor Hugo called the miserable of the earth, the dispossessed. This is their land. This is where they belong.

Friendly Fire: University Band

In his second year at university, Gerbi was in a rock band, Friendly Fire. Like most bands, they had more energy than talent but were booked almost every weekend in the university bars. Gerbi played bass, sang backing vocals and wrote most of the lyrics.Two crowd favorites were Green Desire (I don’t know what it is I want/ I just know it’s not what I got) and Death Squad Jump (How high can you jump?/ Do you want to die?/ Is this the night to die?/ Do the death squad jump!)  Friendly Fire brought a tremendous change to his social life. he was awkward as hell, but he still managed to become a campus slut. His worst moment might have been when he was caught in a hotel room hallway with his track pants down and this girl he had just met pressed up against the wall. He just walked away, never talked to her again.

Canada’s Soul: Reflections on the Trip

I wrote copiously, much of it drivel, during and after my cross-country hitchhiking trip in 1983. The only bits worth anything were my notes on what happened – car types, driver descriptions – as scant as they might be, and my expenses:

June 21: Joe Louis & Pepsi ($1.05), 2 milks & water ($0.70), Quarter pounder w/cheese & root beer ($3.50), Auberge des Jeunesse ($5.50), Bottle/red wine ($6.50), Smokes ($1.90) July 16: Donut & OJ ($1.60), Smokes ($2.00), Big cookie ($1.00), Apple ($0.18) , The Return of the Jedi ($5.50), Alphagetti ($1.00)

I met a hippie who everyone called The General. “So I came home last night and there was smoke everywhere, even out in the fucking hallway. So I went into the bedroom and kicked the bed and yelled, ‘Wake up, bitch!’ I asked her where the smoke came from and she said, ‘Out of my camera! Out of the fucking camera!’ Turned out she was cooking bacon and fell asleep. When she left for work the next morning, I yelled after her, “Goodbye, bacon burner!'”
I found three commonalities throughout Canada: 1) War memorials 2) Globe & Mail Newspapers 3) An abundance of pornography. (Bus driver: “You writin’ a dirty letter?”)

And finally this…Contemplation of how extremely solid the earth is. Just try hitting it.