Wilderness Years
Fragments/Fictions
Salvaged from Deactivated
Social Media Accounts
2010–2017

The warm cascade of neurotransmitters he received from making false promises dwarfed the inevitable damage to its recipients. That may even have been some of its appeal.

His quest to reduce expression to its essence eventually reduced it to nothing.

Strolling my country estate at dawn, assessing last night’s damage. In the driveway, the burnt out husk of my beloved white 1972 Dodge Polara, crushed as if dropped nose first from a crane; in the fountain, two white swans, dead from apparent malnutrition; on my hands, two blood-caked bandages. Opposable thumbs: the last thing separating man from animal.

Compassion—the only way back.

US has developed the driverless presidency.

Of how you spent the night, waking in the vestibule of a strange apartment building an hour before work, no memory remains. You call in sick for the fifth time in a month.
·
You just need to rest. A day of healing and rest. Around midnight you find yourself in a Thai karaoke bar down the road from your sister’s house. You vaguely remember Norman Mailer writing that scotch is for people who’ve given up hope, and order one. Midway through your second, watching a stoned girl and her catatonic friend wander listlessly through through I’m a Believer, you have your first panic attack.
You’ve always known you’re unremarkable. But now, on your day of healing and rest, curled up on the bathroom floor, you’re spectacular at last.

They weren’t real likes, they were pity likes.

Nicotine chapstick.

Sooner or later, one way or another, the workplace will steal your dignity.

There’s the chair she sat in, facing the door, hoping for a visit.

This was the day he realized everything was a bonus.

Leaving a loved place for what is probably the last time. A place that already exists primarily in memory. There are no more fraught and melancholy words than next year.

Writing about photography—more about writing than photography.

For years I saw him once a day with his after-work drink and loosened tie, desultorily watering the lawn with his free hand. After a few minutes she’d join him, in her Jackie Kennedy white pants, smoking a cigarette and regarding him through narrowed eyes. When he’d finished his drink he’d throw the ice in the bushes before they went back inside. I never figured out if they hated each other or were deeply in love.

He was on best behaviour, but as it turned out, that wasn’t good enough.

Isn’t it about time you drop that veneer of confident expertise and admit you don’t know anything? You can barely keep your underwear clean, for godsake.

Reflected in the cafe window he saw a man who had clearly let himself go; of whom no one would take second notice, nor guess at his former imagined glories.

Maximum number of sounds heard simultaneously:

Powerlessness is next to godliness.

Someone reports that Jeff Goldblum is dining at the Griddle Cafe. He is wearing mirrored sunglasses. Someone asks how tan he is.

A summer day in the late sixties. The rusted 409 is up on blocks next to the driveway. Dad is out back drinking and rage-mowing out under a blackening sky. It feels like something bad is about to happen, but it always feels that way. Within a few months you’ll be hitching to LA. You think you’ll be able to outrun your sadness, but in this life you can’t outrun anything.

So tired, sleep is an exertion.

Rumors of his drowning turn out to be false; after five years of despair he reappears in Southern California to deliver a series of talks before again disappearing. Writing in her journal a woman in attendance describes him as “bathed in jesus light”.

For the third time in as many months, the man at the body shop presented my repairs with an understated flourish. “It’s just like you have a brand new car,” he said. And I thought, how many times in life do you get to start over, as if nothing had ever happened?

What if God is the world stripped of advertising?

You used to drink in order to relax. Now you drink in order to drink.

A cataclysmic burst of electromagnetic energy destroys every digital photograph on the planet.

Standing at the back window, sipping coffee and watching the traffic light change colors in the rain. Your world is coming back to you. Soon it will all be too much—but for now you’re grateful.

Life gave him poison and he made poison kool aid.

Everything is of its time. How glorious; what a pity.

He received the crushing news with a resignation born of decades of unrealized hopes.

As a society, they exhibited a mania for naming, labeling and classification that subsumed the actuality of the thing itself.

This book would have been a labor of hate, never to be completed.
·
She said, you’re a true artist, but not a very good one.
·
Fuck it. I am going down in flames, somewhere out over the ocean. Or somewhere in a bar, in this undocumented summer. That will be my book.

Who knew frontal lobe dementia would resonate so clearly with the American electorate?

Best case scenario: body dysmorphic disorder.

The older couple at the next table, whose lingering self regard stems from the memory that they were considered beautiful three or four decades ago.

Bad day.
Wait it out.
Stay within yourself.
It’s a long season.

He said that the better you got to know someone, the less you liked them. Animals were the opposite. Of course, you could never really know anyone. Each human being inhabited a vast chasm that could never be filled. The best you could manage was a few shovelfuls of dirt, ten miles away and ten miles down.

February in the city, when nobody gives a fuck anymore.

Night lifts over another sleepless dawn, unloosing a cacophony of birds in their vast canopy. Wordless. Hallelujah.

In the morning I hear the long shriek of the hawk, as if to say, I am all that matters. Death from above.

In the dream he caught the eye of someone who seemed familiar, a trusted friend of long ago or a forgotten family member, only to realize with a shock that it was a younger, kinder version of himself—a version he’d forgotten had ever existed. Describing it to them, he suddenly burst into tears. He said that three days after the dream his depression had lifted. The dream seemed rather obvious, he said, but the mind likes obvious. Obvious works.

Mark E. Smith’s use of language was not to simply say something, but to say, wouldn’t it be funny or interesting to say this.

1) thought
2) first draft
3) revision
4) deletion

Decomposed roadkill, returned to earth after months as public spectacle, I salute you.

Later he would remember this as his Year of Watching Tennis. He didn’t particularly like or understand tennis. In fact, he found it boring. But little by little, hearing the ball bounce back and forth, he felt his mind putting itself back together.

If I had to pick just one word? Tired.

Going through her things, they came upon a note.
The note said: I’d kill for a cigarette, or half an hour of sleep.

Richter painting in a starched white shirt—is he just fucking with my OCD?

Things considered, not things concluded.

You’ve found the perfect pair of glasses,
but you still feel like an asshole.

He comes to in the bathtub with no memory of how he got there. He looks in her eyes and sees pity and fear. Has this happened before? Has he already asked her this? Eventually he retains her answers, hanging on like a drowning man, terrified she’ll let go.

The word practice—perfect for cultivating a veneer of respectability while retaining the frisson of artistic endeavor.

Last night, the most wonderful dream: Dad still alive. It was all a mistake after all. He was standing in a sunny field. Tears streamed down my face. He smiled and held out his hand. He said: turn off your television. Stop your drinking. Put aside the things that do you no good.
·
Woke suddenly. Ringing in ears. Shortness of breath. Pain in chest, jaw, upper arm. Poured drink. Turned on television. Acceptance.

The fire came up the hill faster than I could have imagined.
It was already in the house.
·
Three feet of snow in June.
·
All trace of your existence will be wiped from the face of the earth.

He had developed a theory of literature based on cockney rhyming slang. His final work was entitled “Gertrude,” but the book contained no person or thing of that name.

Pity, that is to say, empathy tinged with ridicule.

The things you joke about during the day can fill you with dread in the middle of the night.

If I died right now it would be happily, with your vegetables prepped on the kitchen counter, your carrots and onions on the stove, and the sounds of yard work drifting in the window.

Suffering has made you ugly, which is beautiful.

“Poland was a rainy place with a lot of crows, man, and it was beautiful.”

He got out of bed only when the need for coffee outweighed the pain of existence.

A few more moments of oblivion
before facing it all.

A few weeks before his birthday, with spring just around the corner, he deleted his social media accounts, followed by decades of writing and photography. Was anything more humiliating than vanity?

Popular culture has been slowly preparing us for an unbearable future.

Bliss: cessation of effort.

I think I can safely say, with great pleasure, your best days are well behind you.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

A few weeks after moving in, we finally realized what had been bothering us: all of the fixtures were several inches lower than normal, as if designed for children.

I was feeling pretty shit. Like I had cancer and didn’t know it, or was about to lose my mind. Ever feel that way? Like you have cancer, and don’t know it, or are about to lose your mind? And I couldn’t get that song out of my head.

He said, we don’t use “food colors” for culinary enterprises, or “asian” typefaces for asian ones. That would be akin to performing in drag. We use food-adjacent colors.

Dinner with an old friend and his younger wife. She is lovely and shy, and in compensation you are more outgoing than usual. As you launch into another story about your friend as you knew him in college, a look passes between them and he squeezes her hand. You realize that her reticence is actually boredom and that dinner is, for them, an obligation to be endured as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Your thoughts and words become your prison walls.
Luckily someone has left the key.

Alone in his hotel room he wrote:
I am strong. I am unafraid.
He took a sip of his drink and added:
I am over it.
He sat back and looked at what he had written.
None of it was true.
But for the first time in years, it could have been.

In Hawaii, celebrating the publication of his first book, he let a rip tide pull him out to sea. Predictably it became a best seller and spawned a thousand theories about his death. He’d always seemed more connected to the next life than to this one.

The house is quiet and cold. The washing machine has stopped working, joining the dead car battery, the leak in the roof, and the broken back window covered with cardboard. You sleep in the dark in the blue chair where, in happier times, your cat, Lord Cuntfordshire, once joined you. You have become a joke variant of a Hank Williams song, as interpreted by BJ Thomas.
·
Maybe the worst is over.

On her way to the bathroom she overhears her coworker, an office wit with whom she has occasionally flirted, describe her appearance in unflattering terms. Humiliated, she hurries to the mirror and stares at herself in disbelief. How had she not noticed this before? With her recent weight gain and new hair cut, she bears a disconcerting resemblance to Oscar Wilde. For the rest of the day she can’t bring herself to meet anyone’s eyes, and over the next few weeks becomes convinced that anytime she hears someone laugh, they are remembering her friend’s comment.
·
She begins drinking at lunch. Friends comment she no longer seems like “her old self.” She spends as much time as possible alone in the bathroom. One day she grips the frame of the toilet stall on either side and on sudden impulse smashes her forehead as hard as she can into the sharp edge. After the initial blast of pain subsides, and numbness spreads from her teeth to her jaw and right arm, It feels good. Her inner and outer worlds have reached equilibrium.

The interview consisted of a single question: What is your comfort level with not knowing? After a long pause, he said, I don’t know. The right answer, apparently.

Things you thought were important turned out not to be important.
Things you thought were not important turned out to be important.

After his underappreciated 1967 lp “Blowin’ a Hole thru the Center of your Mind” he disappeared from public view. When he was discovered in a mental care facility 30 years later, he appeared not to have aged a day.

A vulgar preference for the novel over the good.

It was the shortest day of the year and somewhere along the way the bottom had dropped out.

Obsolescence never goes out of style

Your search—iceberg + ronson lighter + beefheart—did not match any documents.

It took years to understand how short a year is.

Such beauty that the only suitable response would be to no longer exist.

What are you looking for?
Just a glimpse. 

What would you do if you could go back in time?
Probably die of embarrassment.

I think about the beach cottage we always rented the first week or two of August. The photograph I took each day, hoping to preserve it all. The older couple we saw every year, who we never saw again. The roadside farm where we bought eggs, vegetables and topnecks. I wonder if the same books are on the shelves. I wonder if it has crumbled into the sea.

Daily hair report: not good.
Tomorrow’s forecast: not good.

Liked, respected, trusted, admired—
Those are off the table, I’m afraid…
Feared?
(embarrassed cough)
Tolerated?
We might be able to work with that.

The best thing about God was all the money.

Watching your neighbor doing Sunday yard work you can almost see the self-righteous thought bubbles about the value of hard work floating above his head, played in his dad’s voice.

Let it go. The world doesn’t need another photograph.

It took him a while to realize that what he thought of as ‘acting like a jerk’ was what other people called ‘being a jerk.’

At the time I was working for a local catering company. Two in the morning, five nights a week, sweating out last night’s alcohol in my polyester black and whites bussing dishes to back alley vans. I was on hold. To the world at large I was nobody. Soon enough I’d be nobody to myself.

He told me that when his drinking was at its worst, the only thing that kept him from suicide was the thought he’d never be able to have another one.

Every human relationship poses the question,
“which of us is the crazy one?”

The situation was fluid. Which was to say, he’d been drinking a lot.

The cat who joins you at the back window to watch squirrels on the lawn; the dog who briefly rests his head on your lap on the bench in front of the food co-op; the toddler one table over, offering her bottle to you—all touchingly unaware of what a shit you are.

A grid system was developed in order to rationalize intuitive choices.

Beloved by millions—and a nasty piece of work.

Fourteen year old girl, April 19, 2009
Today is Thursday. I saw my therapist. We doubled the dosage.
All I can think is one more time from the beginning.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
(Prerecorded laugh track)
why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
(laugh track)

Au revoir, motherfucker.

You’ve won, we have no fight left, it’s your world, which is nothing, less than nothing, welcome to it.

Other worlds they have not told you of, that wish to speak to you.
—Herman Poole Blount

If people keep asking if you’re ok, you start getting the idea you might not be.

Things seem to be picking up at the shop.
Three jobs today.
Total billable hours: .75.
Thy will be done.

I’ve seen you puke a thousand times. All through the nineties when we went out drinking five nights a week—I can’t remember a single one that didn’t end with your chunks on my chucks.  Were you my friend? I put up with you. And now, ridiculously, you’re a republican. I demand reparations.

Life stages
1) unfolding
2) refolding

He couldn’t stand people whose voices sounded as if they knew they were likable.

A belief system that requires a system probably isn’t a belief.

Please, Lord, don’t make me have to be interesting today.

The film was an odd amalgam of ridiculously beautiful and just plain ridiculous. In places, I wept. When the credits began to roll, half the audience erupted in laughter.

The promise of the future has receded into the distant past.

The seventies were shit; the eighties sucked ass; he barely remembered the nineties; and everything after 2000 was lost in a haze of self-loathing.
Things were looking up.

keep your head down
don’t draw attention to yourself
expect nothing
try to avoid being an asshole

August in the city when nobody gives a fuck anymore.

Book II:
After the booze ran out.

With art, he said, it’s not the thing that’s the thing, it’s the thing behind the thing.

Your long-awaited genius grant; your self-designed modernist house; your late career retrospective; your fond encomiums from friends and colleagues: zero, nada, zippo, zilch.

Life had once again forced an unscheduled change of attitude.

He spent most his time sleeping in the patch of sun where the driveway met the lawn. Almost free.

Passing Rockland Psych Center, saw dead dog on side of road.
Wept for next 38 miles.
Just when you think there’s nothing left, there it is again.

The work is inconsistent; not of a piece; in violation of its own precepts; insufficiently committed.

Premium vodka, biggest scam ever

Life happened; he never knew what hit him.

He documented his slow decline into madness with a series of photographic self portraits, continuing until the day he no longer recognized himself.

I recall with nostalgia when the center could not hold; now there is no center.

His electricity was shut off for non-payment on the hottest night of the year. The beer and vodka would stay cold for a few more hours. He held a bottle against his forehead and gave thanks for this small miracle.

1)   no “rocking out”
2)  no Americanisms

Their language has been eradicated, but their food remains.

Saw someone on the street and wondered if she was about the age our girl would be now.
I thought this might be what she would have looked like.
·
If—what a word that is.
You know those movies with large, boisterous families who get together at the summer place, or at the old homestead for Christmas? What a pile of shit those are.

The generative power of creation is limitless and inexhaustible, but I am limited—and exhausted.

Figuratively speaking, he hit the windshield.
Figuratively speaking, it took weeks to clean him off.

Beneath the excitement of travel was a core of sadness, knowing this would become the memory of a place he’d seen for the last time.

If one more subscription card falls out of this magazine, I’m going fucking ballistic.

Petty irritants you will treasure on your deathbed: morning airport smell of coffee, jet fuel, passenger body functions.

He remembered the results of a study finding that over 50% of people you consider friends don’t reciprocate. Although in his case this was more or less irrelevant, he still found it depressing.

We finally came to the end of big, dumb ideas.

A feral hyena pack in a feeding frenzy, heads buried up to the neck in carcass of the New America.

A ghost in a dream in a story by an anonymous author on a deactivated account of a defunct social media platform.

Were you a person of consequence?
Were you even a person?
Did you learn anything?
Was there still hope?
·
Nope, no, nyet, maybe.

Our survival rests on the memory that there was something called light; and upon inwardly kindling a vestige of what may have existed.

All that work, all that time, all those years, adding up to so little.

The personal quirks you’d hoped were endearing turn out to be profoundly irritating to the people around you.

He’d crossed the barrier, he was inside the song.

When you see someone you know on the street do you:
1) make contact
2) avoid contact
·
When you’re in front of a mirror, do you:
1) look
2) avoid looking

That was one of the years I thought I was dying. I took solace in listening to Forever Changes, which Arthur Lee reportedly wrote under the mistaken impression that he had contracted a fatal illness. I look back on this period with immense nostalgia.

It is the theory which decides what we can observe.—AE

Dignity, a fiction.

 “I have a Russian soul” = code for “I drink a lot”

The illusion of control is the source of untold human misery.

The evenings are black and the mornings cold and grey. The only way forward is through it. You’re going to need a little patience. A little humility. A little faith. A little courage. And a little gratitude.

Alcohol consumption had erased much of his memory, but not enough of it.

A novel, left along a road, picked apart by crows.

For a short time you get a free pass,
but then the shit starts to hit the fan.

The only sure method for clearing the mind has unacceptable side effects.

Photograph: a photograph of itself.
Drawing: a record of its own making.

The collection exclusively featured images of mayhem and disaster.

Time reveals in some the bowling ball-head gene, and in others the cinderblock-head gene.

You catch yourself reflected in the liquor store window. Your lean and hungry days on the Sunset Strip are well behind you. Where have you seen that body before? The bloated corpse of Lenny Bruce? On the other hand, Ian Curtis has been dead for almost 40 years. Fuck, even Tony Wilson is dead, and he seemed like he would live forever.

Eggleston’s images seem to contain the threat of imminent annihilation.

With a shocking lack of hesitation, she was gone. In an instant he had been turned inside out and left there, a pile of guts on the sidewalk.
It would have been a year in May, hey hey hey.

He still has the dream in which he’s continued working on his long-abandoned novel and only now, after all these years, realizes he will have to start over. He always wakes with a heaviness in his chest. It wasn’t until after his father died that he recognized the feeling. He’d always sensed life had a plan for him, and he’d been right. There just aren’t any words for it.

A social media tool that annihilates all trace of your existence.

I keep thinking if we could just, like in Brazil or the Philippines… the workings of an entire society based on dream interpretation.
Not try anything. I think I’d be much happier that way.
If you could attain the ideal vibrational state… I’m thinking of that ice you get toward the end of winter. Little piles left over from the piles that melted. Inert little piles that just hang around.
In this state, ideally, one could absorb any number of blows to the face.
·
If you could learn to just hang around; go with it; wait and find out. Like that woman who built an entire miniature town out of cooked turkey neck bones. Prior to this she’d been very depressed; not dressing nicely; not keeping up appearances and so forth. And I don’t know, somehow this turned out to be the one, right thing for her.
I love shit like that.
In the coming year, I think maybe something could happen for me. Something not bad. But only if I don’t want it too much.
It would have to come unbidden.

Bottom line for a majority of the planet? If it’s bearable, that’s a win.

Four deer corpses on the road to Bethlehem.
Wildlife suicide in the new America.

1) artworks you have ruined with personal associations:

First he went into an elder care facility, then she. Their daughter visited a few days a week, often crying on the drive home. And then one day they were simply gone. They were found three months later, wandering the streets of Paris, holding hands without knowing who or where they were.
·
That, it would seem, would be love.

 {German word for missing something before it’s gone}

She was certain she had some form of body dysmorphic disorder, but not of its exact nature. Was she prettier than she feared, or uglier? Fatter, or thinner?

Layers to cover your ruined body, dark glasses for your ruined eyes.

He was hanging by a thread; he felt as though he would disintegrate in a light breeze.

Drifting off to sounds of birds, or the wind, or cooking in the kitchen.

It’s bad, and it hasn’t even gotten bad yet.

Another day on earth;
pray for mercy and hope for the best.

Affliction and disease present the greatest advertising opportunity in the history of mankind.

Except as a referendum on current trends, he barely existed.

After years of rigorously eliminating everything pretentious, self-serving or inauthentic in his character, he realized there was nothing left.

an hour of sleep.
an unencumbered breath.
a clean bill of health.
a kind word.
another chance.

Photography, simultaneously the most self-effacing and self-aggrandizing medium.

 She was rich in spirit, but mainly just rich.

Aside from a small handful of miracles, my life has been unremarkable and my achievements few.

The sole perspective that I may have, that you may not have, in your privileged existence, is of time.

The brief, ignoble career of L. Rand Steiner, chronicler of futility and desperation.

It will need to be a spectacular dawn, because it’s really dark right now.

His last words were, does fish sauce go in the refrigerator, but she didn’t hear them. She was in the shower.

He spent the entire two-hour mindfulness seminar contemplating the drink he would have after.

Old pictures of your family. Who were they? Who were you? No fucking idea.

This is the only place on earth where I have final say.

Increasingly, he’d been thinking about simplifying his life.
Increasingly, he’d been thinking about drinking.

I’ve reached a late August level of nihilism,
and it’s only the first week in July.

Becoming good at something is a kind of loss.

In LA the bottom finally dropped out—a numbing sequence of brilliant days, synaptic movies printed on his retinas, but underneath, blackness. He’d read somewhere that the self was an illusion. This was good news.

Although he had longed for it, after retiring from teaching and moving to a house in the woods, he became severely depressed. The diagnosis: loss of horizon.

Life lessons so far:
1) life
2) life

The annual reenactment of Trump stealing the baby Jesus.

 In your selfie face I see only pain.

Is the thought worth the effort it would take to express itself in words?

Rather than suffer abandonment by her family, she retreated into a fantasy that she had landed in an alternate universe which, however terrifying, was preferable to the cruelty of the real one.

Street photos of narcissists—like shooting fish in a barrel.

Painkiller—what a beautiful word.

His grand opus, a masterpiece of omission.

Public servants selflessly dedicated to destroying as many lives as possible.

With age you become invisible to increasing portions of the population; in compensation, you begin to see them more clearly.

My grandfather’s revolver is in the lower left hand drawer of my desk, hidden under some old papers and artwork. I keep the bullets in a cigar box under the bed. Is there a “use by” date on bullets? They must be at least 50 years old.
·
A few times a month I take the empty gun from the drawer and hold it to my temple. If someone asked why, I’d probably come up with something about “clearing the mind.” The truth is, I just like the way it feels.
·
Last week for the first time I took a bullet from the cigar box, loaded it into the chamber and gave it a spin before holding the gun to my head. I can’t describe the surge of adrenaline as I visualized pulling the trigger.

My note of condolence marked the beginning of the end of our friendship. Evidently grief over the loss of a cat doesn’t yield a permissible amount of insight into the the death of someone else’s parent.

Cocktails on the lawn, alone.

Sitting in a lawn chair with a glass of warm gin, watching tornado devastation on tv. Kind of looks familiar. Kind of looks like you.

More often now he reached for words but found only word-shaped holes, filling them with sadness, anguish, rage, and dread.

It had taken her three days to process his words, and now she couldn’t breathe. It was like she was drowning—drowning in air.

Think about the meaning of any words long enough, and you will lose your mind.

Others experienced his presence as an absence in themselves.

I wonder if you could talk about some of your early influences. I’m thinking in particular of well-known influences.

Well, Dudley Fitts, of course… He was at Andover when I knew him, but I think all the schools had him at one time or another. Of course, he was getting pretty old at that point. His best days were probably behind him. He had some weird theory about transmuting base metals into gold.
And later, at Harvard…

Well, he came with me to Harvard. He followed me around there for a number of years.
You’ve written movingly of your falling-out.

There came a time—inevitably, I suppose—when I felt I had to repudiate his influence. Remember, this was Harvard in the sixties; I was taking a lot of mind-altering drugs, appearing with my friends on David Susskind and so forth, and eventually he became an embarrassment. 
Still, I’m not proud of it; still haven’t quite forgiven myself. I’m working on that. I’ve given myself permission to forgive myself.
To this day, I find myself thinking, “What would Dudley do in this situation?” Or, “What would Dudley think of this?” I try to find myself worthy of his memory. In a way, I guess he’s become my Beatrice—him and Beatrix Potter.
You dangled him by the ankles from your tenth floor window.
That is absolutely not true! Cal Lowell did that. (Shudders) You could always tell when Cal was “going off” — that ghastly smile of his, glasses all steamy…
OK — so I was in the room when it happened…
OK, OK —so I held one of his ankles. But it was Cal’s idea. That was a summer! I’m afraid we all went a little crazy.

You’re hearing the instruments.
You’re missing the music.

Because their abject suffering represented an affront to the fragile belief systems of those around them, they were held responsible for their own misfortune.

On the fifth anniversary of her mother’s death she found a lump on her breast. There was no one to tell; the roommate-slash-fuckup she occasionally slept with had skipped out in the middle of the night without paying rent. She wasn’t close with anyone at work, and anyway, she’d been laid off three weeks earlier. Yesterday she’d thought, “if one more thing happens, I don’t know what I’ll do.” And she’d been right: she didn’t know what to do.

He’d been waiting for a long time to hit bottom—apparently you get a small bounce at the end.

He recognized nothing of himself in photographs or in the impressions he made upon others.

Whatever; if you say so. I grew up poor and afraid. I believe you more than I believe myself.

Smart kid, no longer young.

Shoveling wet, heavy snow in a rage, wind roaring in your ears, you find yourself hoping for a heart attack and thinking, how fucked up is that?

You’ve done your market research and you’ve ended up with your great big pile of shit.

And then, gradually, fear becomes your way of life.

Little soul, you came so far to be here, on the other side of your mother’s skin.

Washington DC Hospital Center Blues

Scientists first noted a sharp rise in animal suicides in early 2012.

The inexplicable burst of popularity he had enjoyed in his youth dissipated quickly as his contempt for his audience became all too obvious.

Professional artist: someone whose profession it is to be known as an artist.

Don’t love your artists, it turns them into monsters.

In retrospect, you never had a chance. You didn’t have the resources. You didn’t have the tools. And as you feel yourself going under, you just want to sleep.

Approaching the age of his father’s death, and exhibiting all of his worst traits and none of the good, he understood that the rest of his life was to be an experiment without an easy conclusion.

Hell is other people’s nostalgia.

The billion flinches that rebuilt your face.

Long after your actions and their results, the residue of your intentions.

A four-way tie between sadness, fear, anger, and hope.

He found himself in that most human condition, afraid.

Second saddest thing in the world: letting go.

You find yourself, at age 38, in possession of an “artistic personality” without the accompanying talent, skill, discipline, or intelligence. In short, an asshole.

Opinions—where observations go to die.

Attempting to escape the feeling is worse than the feeling itself.

He had recently noticed that the act of shampooing also kept his fingernails clean. In this way a glance at his hands provided immediate feedback as to the condition of his hair.
Currently: not good

That was a summer of dreadful anxiety. He carried with him a worn copy of J. Krishnamurti’s Commentaries on Living, Volume 3. He was too scattered and distracted to read it, but in his confusion thought it might somehow shield him from annihilation.

When someone says, ‘People either love me or they hate me,’ it’s usually the latter.

Life is a process of coming to grips with your own hair.

Looking for the few right words that will fix everything.
Maybe next time.

Yesterday: the temperature dropped to 97—the 42nd straight day it has topped 90 degrees.
Metropolitan Forecast: Intense heat and humidity will prevail once again across the region. Wednesday will continue hot and humid. Readings near 100 degrees. Thurs, same. Fri, same.
Horoscope: The best of all worlds may be offered to you soon

Sunday morning, 11:15. You see her out front with a drink and a cigarette, gazing idly at the trees, in love with this life and the pleasures that will shorten it.

When I was about ten years old my Grandfather told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said that whenever he was going through something painful or unpleasant he always reminded himself, it’s what you deserve, you miserable piece of shit, and that always made him feel better. I used to wonder why that made him feel better, but think I’m starting to get it now.

Fundamental error: evaluation of others extrapolated from personal circumstance.

To the few who were aware of his existence he was a joke or a disappointment. He’d relinquished the burden of expectation. He was in the wind. He was traveling light.

She was eager to talk about the most fascinating person she had ever met, herself.

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Can we go back together, one of you still holding my hand, the other still on my shoulder, vanishing around an invisible corner, down a leafy suburban street? I am weeping as I type this. You were Snuffy and I was the Count. The sky was a blue that no longer exists. I want my blue back.

An unfortunate sequence of poor decisions had brought him here, to this chair, in the dark, unable to feel his feet.

She was everything everyone hated about the baby boomers.

Which is less unthinkable—the idea of returning to the beginning, and having to live through it all once more, or being at the end, and never doing it again?

(Seeing it down on paper, it all seems a bit juvenile.)

That couple holding court over there, accomplished, attractive, older (my age?), she a composer and head of a department (the Composition Department, I would guess, if there is such a thing) and he a well-known painter, portraits of John Coltrane on black velvet, in kingly dress—I’d assumed undertaken with some irony, but having once mentioned this in his presence and receiving an embarrassed smile, as if he was embarrassed for me, apparently some internalized form of post-ironic sincerity.
When I am forced upon their radar, they regard me with a vague distaste that doesn’t quite come up to the level of dislike. I’ll show you later on—if we walk in that direction, the flurry of minute physical adjustments as they calculate whether they can safely avoid us without personal discomfort. Since the accident I’ve been pleased to detect a new note of fear in their uneasiness, as if I now represent the additional possibility of freakish misfortune that might befall anyone, no matter how charmed or lucky.
·
I bring this up because I owe my newfound awareness to you, the last time we met, when you mentioned that for you it would be hell on earth to know what other people really think of you. The way you said it, though, I got the impression that you really meant it would be hell on earth for me, and I haven’t been able to shake it.

Only through cat gifs can we subdue our fear of death.

Since childhood she had engaged in small acts of self-mutilation in hopes of turning prettiness into beauty.

Do gorillas throw shit in the wild?

The kind of fuckup that’s so bad, that even if you know you didn’t fuck it up, you still worry that you were somehow the one who fucked it up.

It took him nearly two decades to find a suitably megalomaniacal form for his art.

In the daytime you cling to life with fierce desperation, but you often go to bed not caring if you ever wake up.

Parked in front of a liquor store, a Titus Andronicus song comes on and you find yourself sobbing. One of your grandfathers was maudlin, the other erratic and violent. You’ve always oscillated between the two, but lately there’s been no in-between.

No word from you since our last talk. What it is—you can’t believe no contact. You think less contact. Not no contact.

When someone tells you ‘it is what it is’,
what they really mean is ‘fuck you.’

The possibility of something else entirely.
To be nothing. To be as nothing.

Art that withholds its methods or motives, or is a result of a process unrelated to the final result, or has a clever title that provokes in the viewer an unexpected reassessment, or which through a brutal economy of means affects a disproportionate response, or is so unapologetically stupid that it makes intelligence, craft or elegance seem frivolous.

Be the sound, not the hearing
The breath, not the breathing
The wind…
Did that work for you?
For a while.

Other people present an unflattering mirror.

It’s amazing how far an attractive avatar can take you today’s world.

Exquisite language that only calls attention to itself.

In the future, kimchi will be the only currency.

Things to avoid: mirrors, clocks.

An injured animal under a bush, conserving strength for the struggle ahead.

She had hung on by a thread, but it was an unbreakable one.

I post the memes that make the whole world sing.

We had no money then, and what little we had we spent on drugs. Back when we were still friends. Before I annoyed you, and my hair looked like shit.

In order to preserve energy, his last weeks were marked by a strict economy of means—pointing to an object, a nod yes or no. His final blog entry, posted at 4 am, read “blog entry.”

Least favorite word: trending.

Average photographer + average writer + below average illustrator = good designer

Although he thought of himself as a “regular” there, he always had to wait to be seated. One night as the hostess went looking for his table, he snuck a look at the note next to his reservation. It said asshole.

After years of struggle, he finally broke through the glass floor.

Dry leaves clatter across the driveway. School supplies. Football. Death.

A lot of what is called low self-esteem is simply seeing yourself as others do.

4 am—
What genius first put together the words CIRCLING THE DRAIN?

Today as I rounded the bend into the clearing I ran into J with his three little dogs. I hadn’t seen him in two years. As I raised my hand in greeting it became obvious he didn’t know who I was. At first I guessed two more years of drinking and medications might finally have finished off his memory, but now, thinking of his uncharacteristically clear eyes and almost sheepish demeanor, as if presenting himself too nakedly to the world, I think he was sober. He was sober, while I was still in the fog. When I asked how long they were staying, he was evasive. I don’t blame him. If I ran into me, I’d avoid myself, too.

Stepping out after a dreadful night, you feel the air on your skin and it all rolls over you again: the majesty of life on earth.

The parallel life his father always sensed, shimmering just out of reach, riding a limitless cusp of possibility that never materialized.

We were somewhere in California. Obama was staying with us. It was understood that the modesty of our accommodations wasn’t a problem, now that he was no longer president. He looked 30 years younger than when we had last seen him. How we had missed him! I commented on what a tremendous relief it must be to be out of office. Even though we had been friends for years, I felt formal and self-conscious addressing him. 
·
The next day, we would attend a rally in Oakland. I asked how many would be there. 10, 20 or 100,000, it was thought. Leaving the building, I thought, all we would need to chant would be “Obama.” That would stand for  everything we needed to say.

You spy your father at the Whole Foods, sitting on a lawn chair under a tree. When you ride by hours later, he is still there, chatting with the parking lot attendant. A regular. When did he become the old guy in the baseball cap, talking to anyone who will listen? And what did you think he did with his days?
Not lonely, after all. Brave.

The structure of the language reveals what it has attempted to conceal.

Advertising speaks to fear while promoting the illusion of its absence.

Was it a dream you once liked and respected me? Or maybe I once respected myself. But I won’t give up—I will wait here forever, in this chair, in the dark, with my good friend you haven’t yet met, the cat, Lord Cuntfordshire, in his kingly raiment.

You see an idea where I see a picture.

Certainty, in inverse proportion to intelligence.

The things you joke about during the day can fill you with horror in the middle of the night.

The solipsistic awfulness of the selfie gaze,
as perceived by its intended recipients.

God always has a plan, and that plan is for random stuff to happen.

Surrounded by chaos and devastation, he felt at ease. His inner and outer worlds had reached equilibrium

He may have been a shit, but he objected to the word “total.”

God, not as an entity, but a mental position affording consciousness safe navigation of reality.

Fragments, the only things that hold together.

The fecal transplant/medically induced coma hybrid is the future of healthcare.

What differentiates man from animal: vulgarity.

He hadn’t done an honest piece of work since his unexpected success in 1968. Ego, more destructive than drugs or booze.

One warm summer night when I was fifteen years old, I lit a cigarette on a dry hillside near San Bernadino, California. After all these years, I still can’t bear to confront the  destruction caused by this simple thoughtless act—yet I do, unceasingly. How many times have I gone to bed hoping to not wake up? But dying wouldn’t help; I would need to have never been born.

Brick painted the color of brick, an object turned into a sign.

I’ve been very bitter, and there’ve been times when I’ve been on the brink of closing down and walking away, disappearing into the woods.—Merle Haggard

On Sunday night he put on his work suit and sat in a chair until dawn.

a man
a plan
diazepam

Auction Highlights: Aside from a significant amount of water damage, bullet holes and general wear, the painting is not of particular interest.

This just in: internet preferable to all previous human endeavor.

What were thought to be diseases turned out to be the body’s unsuccessful attempts at healing.

People described as “lighting up the room.” You are not one of those.

Passing the funeral parade, he noticed a woman in dark glasses stopped at a red light, weeping without consolation or restraint. How he envied that dead man.

In the entire history of humankind, we have come up with only three names for tuxedo cats: mittens, socks, and domino.

Life slips through your fingers and comes back together somewhere else. You’re God-intoxicated. Or maybe just intoxicated.

In the dream a doctor told me I was going blind. I ran out into the street, just seeing.
In total, these pictures represent three seconds of my life. Maybe some day you’ll find them. My three seconds. My last will and testament.

When agency people talk about Big Ideas, rest assured that none are coming.

Visible: not a good look for me.

She said, normally people at this level of impairment are dead by your age. Your achievement is unprecedented. You are the Bob Beamon of depression.

Normally he anticipated this cold black season with dread, but this year it suited him. He expected nothing else. It was what he deserved. He was locked in for the siege.

Beneath the zeitgeisty affectations he was an old school creepy lecher photographer guy.

He’d limited himself to taking only extraordinary pictures—and hadn’t taken one since.

Two and a half drinks in, trying to build a fire the way his father did, cursing, hating himself.

Glimpsed in a reflection, he saw himself as he must look to the world: bewildered, as if expecting a final blow to the head.

Sunday morning: half dead but fully alive.

The world’s longest and saddest book: great shit nobody noticed.

Stock characters:
1) man with gangrenous wound.

symptom: fatigue
diagnosis: fatigue

Possibility without expectation.

One afternoon as he was stealing wifi behind the public library a dog ran by and licked his hand. Later he realized that in those 15 seconds he already loved the dog more than he would ever love himself.

Everyone is alone in the new America.

Coercive language that engenders unconscious resistance, for instance, employing the word “usually” instead of “often.”

All music will eventually be drumming.

The holidays, and with them, his annual despair.

He is survived by his twitter feed and beloved iTunes playlist.

It was a period in history when, for whatever reason, people by default ended up in Portland.

He had lately been spending as much time as possible in the company of animals. No animal had ever ridiculed him, nor regarded him with pity, scorn, or disappointment. Well, possibly disappointment. He could live with that.

In the days before Christmas we got tired of having no money. We sold everything at a loss, took the cash and headed south.

In the new America it’s always 2 am.

I never saw him that he wasn’t wearing a shirt with large square fold marks, as if he’d just come out of a store, pulled it from its package, and put it on.

After his death even his journals were found to consist of vague, ambiguous and purposely misleading statements.

Not really a grid, but grid-signifying ornamentation.

Driving back, you remember the hopeful innocent you were just a week ago, still on your way. 

Obituary
In the mid-eighties he appeared in a series of unnamed minor roles in second-tier John Hughes movies. His credit was always listed as “popped collar.”

Each time he stayed inside, each time he didn’t answer the phone or the door, each time he refrained from speaking, he told himself, little by little, I’m making the world a better place.

The criterion by which any activity must be judged: would you rather be asleep?

Over the course of one sunny afternoon a stately ice shelf the size of Connecticut breaks loose and collapses into the ocean. You are dispersing. You have entered the floe.

You fail to avoid an old coworker on street, and just shake your head in greeting. It’s been that kind of year.

Twenty years ago a stranger stopped you on the street and said “Some day you, too, will look like Dylan Thomas.” You thought of it often over the years, but less and less. Now, looking in the mirror, you get it. Not Dylan Thomas, exactly, but someone equally unrecognizable to your inner, younger self.

Hell on Earth:
1) TED talk about one-man show
2) one-man show about TED talk

They expected nothing, which wasn’t enough, for which they were grateful.

A listing vessel with a massive hole in its bow, drifting at sea. That is me, he thought—miraculously still afloat.

Everything I’ve lost, I want back.
Except for the bad parts; those you can keep.

Yesterday Doeg and I went to our special place—to the little dirt area beside the tree. Because of allergies, Doeg has chewed off most of his hair. On the way home, heard a young mother say to baby: look, honey, look at the pretty—recoiling as Doeg emerged from behind the car. Still thinking about the look on his face: apologetic.

When does “verge of collapse” become actual collapse?

In compensation for his collapsing dignity and self respect he found himself engaged in escalating acts of grandiose generosity. 

A late summer afternoon that already feels over. There was a life here, wasn’t there? You can almost still hear it. A wedding; you gave a speech that left no impression. This is how it will be after you’re gone. As if it never happened.

The hero dies at the beginning of the journey
and realizes it at the end.

Sleep—when there’s nowhere else to go.

Thirty years after the loss of their son they still look for him in restaurants—the man at the corner table, laughing with his beautiful wife, waiting for someone to join them.

It somehow works itself out, or ends in disaster.

He hangs on to his beloved hat long after forgetting he once wore it with irony.

When he stepped out to get the paper the sun was shining, and for the first time in months he realized he wasn’t scared. Maybe this was how it was for people. Maybe this was what he could hope for.

51/49, 50% of the time.

The present you ignore eventually becomes the past you cling to.

By the time you get her attention, the bartender already seems annoyed. You’re getting that a lot lately. You expect it, really. You give her a short nod, turn and head out into the rain. You’re coming down with your third cold of the season and there seems to be something wrong with your legs. Your father died 20 years ago today. The earnest, dignified man you remember could be your brother now. Limping home in your wet coat, almost comical in your desolation, you wonder. In 20 years, will anyone raise a toast in your memory?

The story of a blogger, who blogged himself to death.

Everything you think, feel, and say, compounded daily.

You don’t want to get up, but somehow you do. You don’t want to be seen, but eventually you are. You don’t want to speak, but unfortunately you do, regretting it immediately.

The primary function of memory is to fuck with your head.

When the anguish of youth meets the resignation of age.

The new merged corporation will be headquartered everywhere and will cut 100% of its workforce.

Every time you use a smart device you become a little more stupid.

Observed in the waiting room of the School of Osteopathic Medicine:
1) Man in vomit-splashed pajama top, repeatedly asserting that he is both a lawyer and a doctor
2)

So much gravitas, I can’t get out of bed.

The entire universe is made of sub-atomic particles.
Actually, just one particle, moving very fast.
The particle is getting old. The particle is wearing out. At first the disappearances are so small you don’t notice them. And then one day the color blue is gone, and you wonder if it ever existed to begin with.
I want my blue back.

Notes, 4 am
1) the past is a hallucination
2) worst possible combination: eternal life, no god

He was in a dark place. Actually, a black hole.

Posting food on instagram = act of public defecation.

Over the years, when I asked about other people’s work, he inevitably answered not so good. On a few rare occasions he said not so bad. I never dared ask about mine. I knew the answer.

You start preparing for the death of your parents but you never really get there.

The way I like to look at a photograph is to imagine that the person who took it knew that this was the last thing they would ever see.

They mourned their loss and then lived in its ashes.

Mobile medical clinics: healthcare analog to food trucks?

A pet hummingbird to sit on your shoulder.

Something else you said… it left a bad feeling. I’m trying to remember what it was. I meant to get back to it—on account of not wanting my emotions to send destructive signals to my body. Like right now, I’m… rather than letting go, I’m nursing my resentment, which if I’m not careful—
Cancer.
Bingo. Or ignoring it—
Auto-immune.
Exactly. Which leaves us…
Heart attack—of course.

Years later he finally learned to appreciate the flavor of the shit sandwich.

Walking down the street, you’re hardly there. The rest of you—things lost and things forgotten—is currently dissipating in a thin blue-grey cloud somewhere in the tri-state area. It’s never coming back, but sometimes, when it passes close, and you feel a tugging in your chest, and imagine that you hear it crying, you almost remember how it used to be.

Apple is saving all the good stuff for the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Also, there will be a new, good ending to Apocalypse Now.

What doesn’t kill you makes you older.

He sat reading in the darkening room. The book was a true account of an unschooled man who’d devised his own system of mathematics based on a series of dreams. The man in the book believed this knowledge had come from God.
·
He was reading the book with a flashlight because the electricity had been turned off. He put the book aside and took another sip of gin. If only God would tell him what to do. It wouldn’t even need to be God—any benevolent spirit, living or dead, would be welcome.

The few minutes each evening this time of year when the back windows flood with wild monkey light and birdcalls echo through the trees. Something in you lifts and you feel the heaviness of who you are, and the burden you have placed upon yourself and those around you.

Woke up this morning and nearly wept at how lifelike everything was. Picked up a handful of dirt and just looked at it. I picked it up for you.
Every day I wake up to eternity. Tell me if I should keep writing,

Your waking mindset has gradually destabilized your dreams, and now your dreams have returned the favor. Each morning you wake up wondering if this is the day you begin to find your way back.

After his death many of his journal and notebook entries were found to have the notation “FE.” His final post, in its entirety, was “failed experiment.”

Number one problem facing humanity: irony.

Realization: you’ll never get those days back again.
Realization: you don’t want to.

At closing time we patched our wounds, finished our drinks and headed into the summer night.

By April, life has killed you.

Distributorship killed the authorship star.

Art appreciation with a hangover
Jenny Holzer: shut the fuck up
Marina Abramovic: put your fucking clothes back on
Joseph Beuys: take off the fucking hat

Love of jargon, inversely proportional to love of truth.

In her twenties she was pretty, by her thirties beautiful. And now, finally, she was as ugly as she’d always felt.

Bombast: thoughts and images too great for subject.
Paralysis:

The manicured grounds masked an eroding social fabric.

Her family was small and she had no real friends. She supposed that if her parents had thought about it they would have considered her a disappointment. Yet somehow her heart was still bursting with the sadness and joy of living, a sensation so painful that she sought oblivion by any means available.

Another evening of mutual assured destruction.

Marilyn Minter
Johnny Winter
Harold Pinter

With age he bore an increasing air of anger and resentment, as if unconsciously expressing the collective protest of dying cells.

She was his truth, his bellwether and moral compass. Without her he was lost, but also he was just plain lost.

The notes and sketches were without exception more interesting than the final product.

Stockholm syndrome : not just for prisoners anymore.

Art isn’t of crucial importance, until it no longer exists.

Visualize your safe place.
I can’t think of one.

Apparently it’s The Summer of Josh Brolin. If one is to fully engage in contemporary life, one needs to grapple with the notion of Josh Brolin-ness.

Beneath the unceasing parade of brightly colored images, blackness.

The Steiner-Rand hierarchy of acceptance
+3. Reverence
+2. Gratitude
+1. Acceptance
+0. Indifference
–1. Resignation
–2. Resentment
–3. Bitterness

World’s longest book: insults you haven’t forgotten.

I don’t even look in the mirror—why would I take a selfie?

It was the summer of fentanyl-laced heroin.

Self-loathing had almost cured him of hubris.

He didn’t want to be that guy who didn’t want to be that guy.

The only cure for past and future: the present.

2 – 4 am. Waiting for death, hoping for sleep.

What’s really being said is what’s been left unsaid.

He said, my work was always important to me, which wasn’t the same as actual importance. All that work, all those years, adding up to so little.

Tonight R. called from California. He was shouting over loud voices and sounds of things breaking. I mentioned a dream about Dad. Somehow R. seemed embarrassed by this confidence. He quickly changed the subject to an incident in high school when someone had blamed him for something he hadn’t done. After all these years, he still seemed pissed off about it.
·
He gave me a toll-free number for government auctions of cars and boats confiscated from drug dealers. Mercedes $300. BMW $250. He seemed unnaturally concerned that I write it down.
·
Later it occurred to me: R. doing coke again?

The poignance of the indoor cat who finally gets out on Christmas.

He’d always believed you made your own luck, until his luck ran out.

If we admitted how terrifying life is,
would we need more drugs, or less?

Options for aging designers:
1) white jeans/looking like douche
2) design blog/looking like douche
3) gallery show/looking like douche
4) surfing/looking like douche
5) teaching/being douche

We are required to assume the psychological burdens of our economic benefactors.

The world is held together by duct tape and magical thinking.

Fathers, sons, baseball: bad movies

A dream in which someone told me my hair looked bad—a case of the subconscious mind telling the conscious mind what it already knows.