Life on the Commuter Train

There is nothing like coming into the city on the train. It’s all here, inside and out, the buildings thick with cranes, the roads with trucks and plastic, the river wide and dark.

We have forgotten what we never had. We have looked back blind. We have let loose with a broken yarn. We are here, magnanimous and incompetent. Yes, yes, yes. Wait. That is the answer, that sound. It will come again. When we are gone.

The boy across from me eats salted cauliflower sticks, one by one, wiping his fingers on his drooping mask,¬†intent on the next page of The Magician. He pokes his fingers inside again, licking off the last grains, crumples the bag, and holds the book up high, a better filter against the pandemic that anyone knew. The couple beside hold hands, the young man clinging, desperately asking her what she thinks through his tight mask. The girls at the front of the train explode hilariously, talking over one another in a spew, “I felt it touch my lips. That was it. I love weed. I was going to put it into the Pringles. I don’t remember a black bag. I will Venmo you right now. You look so good.”

I think of her, still think that we could make it work. I know it is not real, that she would wander away or lie or deny what she did and said, but still it is the idea of her, the magic of that streaming in, with her in a remarkable circumstance, sucking on her great left breast, marvelous in mass, supple and goose-pimpled, believing in everything, stuck in that, even when she laughs and her friend tells her to turn to the camera for the Tik Tok video.

And then it becomes something else, more wide, more clear, held, the way you might hold a piece of nothing like it was god or truth or love and really believe that. And so yeah, seven dollars for two shots and a mega-can of beer. Fuck me. That’s what it’s all about.

Existential Work Search

I’ve been searching for a full-time teaching position for a year now. I have sent out over a hundred applications and completed a dozen interviews. I have subscribed to several job hunting programs and get job alerts like this:

German and Patient Care Director are further down the page. WTF. I teach film, literature and philosophy. And these are my options?

I’m thinking it might be time to move on to something else. My latest idea is to go back on the road with The Dead and sell t-shirts. My best idea as of now: a silhouette of Phil Lesh with his trademark red, white and blue wrist bands, with a Wall of Sound background. The text: Turn Up the Bass, Phil.

Any takers?

Marvel Letter: Archeology of the Quest

I was 14 when I saved a copy of Marvel Two-in-One #34 with my scathing “I hate this comic” letter in my desk drawer and looked at it every once in a while.

I lost of track of it some time later, through high school, college and work, vaguely sure that it was somewhere in my mess of drafts, articles and rejection letters.

The memory of it came to me years later, but the search was always detoured by distraction and ultimately, the lack of the required energy of such a futile quest. After all it was just an eight-word letter that didn’t even approximate my original message.

It is a funny tale and works for this site and so I blogged on it five years back, working solely from memory and thus erroneously cited the comic in question as Marvel Team #31 (featuring Spiderman and Iron Fist).

It was only recently, in these pandemic days, that I decided to find the damn thing. I knew that it was from one of three comic series (Team-Up, Two-in-One or Iron Fist) and scoured through various blogs and archives for it.

I knew the issue focused on saving kids from a burning orphanage and so keyed on images of orphans and fires. I thought I had found it in an issue of Marvel Team-Up which had a collapsing building and an orphan-looking kid.

I ordered the issue on-line and several others following to ensure that I got the one with my letter too. I knew it was wrong before I even opened the issue. It looked wrong and was. I returned to my on-line search and finally noticed the burning hospital (not orphanage) in the background of Marvel Two-in-One #34 that I knew that I had found it. It was then that I realized my letter was in Issue #40 by looking at the cover.

The memory of walking through the pinewood hallway to my bedroom at the cottage came to me at that moment – the cool, dark air, a distant screen door closing, the feeling of emptiness of seeing my letter in print, edited to nothing – and then the feeling of comics not being what they once had been – a place of wonder – it all came into me like that.

It’s funny how that feeling returned again now, when I had finally found the issue again, at the end of this farcical quest. I had found it last and so what indeed? What’s next?

The Fear III: The Grateful Dead in South Carolina

We drove sixteen hours to a Grateful Dead show in Columbia, South Carolina. I took the graveyard shift and consumed caffeine pills and coffee to stay awake. I didn’t sleep that night nor the next day, and came crashing down in the middle of the concert.

Awful black clouds washed over me as I desperately tried to think of a sane notion and cling to it. I knew this was just a matter of exhaustion and thought that if I just turned as much of my body off as I could, it would eventually pass. It didn’t work. I knew that I knew nothing, that I really never thought about anyone but myself, that no one existed, nothing existed except my nonsensical perspective.

I tried to think of the most basic things possible. Chair. Table. Lamp. These were words. I understood them. I knew what they were. But then the chair would dissolve into a table and the table would melt into the lamp, the lamp would fade to black. There was no substance, no reality, nothing existed. Chair. Table. Lamp. They didn’t actually exist. They only existed in my mind. The black clouds continued to flow in. If a chair wasn’t a chair, then I wasn’t anything. I didn’t exist. I only thought I did.

Chair. Table. Lamp. I could sit in a chair, write on a table, see light from a lamp. It wasn’t my imagination. I could touch them. I knew I could touch them. Chair. Table. Lamp. I had eyes. I had fingers. I knew they existed…the house lights went out. This was reality. A cheer went up. The band was returning to the stage for the encore. The clouds seemed to be breaking up. I didn’t have to focus my wild stare on anything. I could gaze into the soft colored lights. I was going to live. And stay sane. For now at least.

Existential Thursday: Heidegger

The being that exists is man. Man alone exists. Rocks are – but they do not exist. Trees are, but they do not exist. Horses are, but they do not exist. Angels are, but they do not exist. God is, but he does not exist.

The proposition “man alone exists” does not mean by any means that man alone is a real being while all other beings are unreal and mere appearances or human ideas.

The proposition “man exists” means: man is that being whose Being is distinguished by the open-standing standing-in in the unconcealedness of Being, from Being, in Being. (Martin Heidegger)

Slow Motion Brain into Genius

I think that I remember something that I have to know. I remembered it. It was there. I had it in my head. With it, everything made perfect sense. I was there. I knew it. And then I forgot it. I was awake, not as aware. I let it escape.I need to sleep. I know that. And I will. But not now. I’ve whittled the unnecessary parts out of my head. I’ve made my head vulnerable, the heliocentric core exposed, the truth of my existence right there. I only have to remember it again. It’s that fucking easy.