The Outer Reaches

The Outer Reaches

fiction

“Who in this bowling alley bowled the sun?

Who made it always when it rises set:

To go at once both down, and up to get?” – Edward Taylor (1645-1729)

The desert sky is full of stars.

As the two drive in the big car through the night, they don’t say much to each other.

It had been a hot day, hotter than the days average temperatures of the last few weeks, and they had spent it drinking cold lemon shandy and swimming in the apartment complex pool.

Note cards, held on the fridge by small magnets, saved for later works, read:

Take the desert and make it beautiful.

Take the names and give them weight.

They had been sitting at home during the late afternoon, bored, drinking, thinking about nothing much.

The oppressive heat had held them down and evaporated away any shred of possible conversation. What could have been in those lucid and consequential moments.

On the road, they are young and life is long and the Spanish on the radio in the car is going on about the end of time.

The images of remembered moments, as if recorded in some dusty coffee table book, reflect off of the rearview mirror, like the lights of cars passing by. The book closes and the specter goes, receding into darkness, like taillights moving further and further away.

Deep down, they each hold onto a feeling which tells them they could drive until the wheels fall off.

Until the dark welcomes them, surrounds them, becomes them.

“Most of it is trash,” he says, looking over to her. “But some of it, … , some of it is really good.”

She thinks about this and squints and then looks at him.

“Baby,” and then a slight pause, thinking about the next words, taking joy in the splendid little moment.

“Let’s drive until the wheels fall off.”

He laughs.

“I don’t think that it could be any other way.”

The depth of what they are straining to reveal is hinted at in gestures, in songs, in the speed that the car maintains on the highway.

“Sometimes I think about it all,” she says, “and it’s overwhelming.”

He thinks about this, and then adds, “It gets me too love, but what do we do? What can we do?”

“I don’t know” she says, convinced of her own response, like an act creating space.

Neither of them adds any more to this thought.

They each understand that whatever decisions they make, whether it’s together, or alone, that in the end they are still alone. The odds do not work in their favor.

They drive West, out of Tucson, some miles up the hills, and stop near the side of the road and turn off the car and then get out and sit on the hood.

In the silence, coyotes talk across the darkness of the landscape.

Together, they observe the sky above them, standing in stark contrast to the locus of electric city lights in the valley below. The city, methodical and tough, becomes one with everything and the unknown. No other cars pass by.

“What do you want to do?” he asks, after some time.

‘’We could get pizza,” she says.

“That would be perfect,” he says.

“Then we can go to the Red Room,” she says.

“I like that place.”

“Me too.”

They sit on the hood of the car for a little while longer, feeling small, like the stillness of a quiet corner of a room, patiently waiting out the ordinary moments passing by.

How sweet is life now, in their corner of the universe?

After a small eternity, without a word to one another, they each stand and stretch their legs and then quietly make their way back into the car.

On the drive back into town, something electric, rhythm forward, pulses from the speakers.

In the hills, the coyotes keep up their chatter.

Plum Wine

Plum Wine

fiction

She drives a 1980 Volvo 343 Blue Special that her Dad handed down to her after College.

She sits in her car, down the block from her parents house, trying to figure out where to go for the night. Some friends text her earlier, and they presented options, but she has yet to make a decision.

The waning moon is clear in the sky and the August breeze moves gently through the half-opened windows of the car.

There is an unlit cigarette teetering between her lips and she listens to a song titled Everybody Daylight.

Living, burning
Living free
Living, caring
To complete

She reaches over to the glove compartment and opens it and searches for a lighter. Inside, there is a flyer for a show at The Secret Box. The exhibit is titled The Girls Who Only Smile For Party Pictures.

She isn’t going.

The song ends and then she plays a tape by The Cuts, a group from the early days of the NELA scene. The boy over the speakers sings about the passing of time, about pictures taken, about parties chased and the late night games.

She sings out loud, Put your lipstick on, as she fixed her hair in the rear-view mirror.

She has plum wine and a pack of cigarettes on the passenger seat and nowhere to go.

September

fiction

We’re on a park bench, facing a lake, and though her body is positioned forward, away from me, I can see from the corner of my eyes that her head is turned in my direction. She’s burning holes in me with her eyes, figuring something out, so I turn and meet her gaze.

I look in and she looks back and though we’re physically close, there is a distance. She holds an expression that’s fixed on the line somewhere between anger and joy, and I don’t intend to betray the intensity of this connection.

There was a time when we were obsessed – with ourselves, with each other, with the world. We couldn’t have enough, almost as if existence itself depended on the guarantee of doing, which was no guarantee at all.

We had each other, each with no commitments, yet with the unspoken promise between us that there would be no room for anyone else, no matter the situation.

Hope beaming out for an audience, like red blinking lights communicating across the darkness of the night sky.

We held no illusions about the world, and we still don’t. We knew that it was brutal and callous and simple, so the idea of making real and gimmick-less moments with each was important. Is important.

There is a chill and as we maintain a closed circuit, minute by passing minute, we come to terms with the truth.

It’s too late.

The cold months are on their way and the Fall is about to take over with its short days and even longer shadows. The swimming pools are just beginning to go unused and the leaves are starting to pile up on the top of blue canvas covers. Walks around the block at night, hand in hand, will soon become contemplative lonely journeys with our arms crossed behind our backs, shuffling away in silence, holding on to the present as if there is no promise of a future.

We outgrew each other.
We are outgrown.

Green River

fiction – 

Mike rides like the wind on a night during the last slow stretch of Fall. Cold, fast, and gone before you have a chance to see it move the palms.

From PCH to the 710 to the 5, straight into the heart of the city, we fly down the dark concrete band toward the collage of bright lights which taper up to one elegant and crowning point.

The nights are getting colder and the days are getting shorter and the dark will turn to dawn before we’re all home.

We stop at a bar near the river just after midnight.

We started in Orange County and made our way up the coast quickly towards the blue light bridge. At its base, some turned around and headed back, but a small group went further. Itched for the long ride, searching for the empty streets of the big city.

“I could use a beer,” Nick says, as he takes his helmet off.
“Fuck, I could use a few son,” replies Mike, still seated.

There is a staggered chuckle from the group.

 

The red neon calls us, but as the others make their way in, Nick and I wait outside and smoke.

After a long silence he coughs and asks, “Are you gonna’ see her tonight?”

I mull this thought over.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

I pause again, hesitate, and then reply.

“I just don’t.” I then continue, “There’s nothing more to it than that. It flickers and happens sometimes and then sometimes it doesn’t. It just dries up and fizzles and dies.”

He thinks over what I’ve told him.

“It’s not a regular thing,” I add.

He nods and then takes a drag and asks, “So what do you do about it?”

“I just run with it,” I say, “Let it happen, but I don’t push it.”

Nick tosses his cigarette onto the floor and crushes the glowing embers under his boot.

“Well,” he says, “I’m not one to tell you what to do, but just handle your shit, alright?”

“Alright,” I say, with a grin, “You don’t have to worry about me.”

He pats me on the back three times like an old friend looking out for me.

“You know me man, I always worry,” he says.

“I know. Thanks.”

He starts walking the entrance and I take my time against the wall, waiting, smoking. Watching every car that passes by. Carefully observing the catalog of moving shapes, looking for a familiar one.

CCR plays from inside and I pull out a joint from the case inside my jacket pocket and light it.

Well, take me back down where cool water flow, yeh
Let me remember things I love

The nights are bleeding into days and the days are getting shorter.

EDGE

EDGE

essay – notes about art 

I imagine myself standing in a Vegas casino when these thoughts takes shape, or sitting at the end of a dark bar, drinking something with whiskey, or maybe standing alone in an elevator during the middle of the day.

It seems as if the failure to connect, or the failure of connection, in our current and fashionable attempt, is deep and real and it’s breaking our hearts.

It seems as if we, the people, for some reason, deeply believe that there will never be another shift in the same way that these shifts have happened before.

It seems as if the general thinking is that we can pick and choose our facts, gathered from shoddy investigation, and that all we have to do is fit them into the right scheme.

It seems, it seems, it seems.

There are more, and these thoughts don’t come from nowhere – you can see them in action by just looking around.

 

1.

In the faces of people walking across the street when you’re stopped at a red light. In the looks and sideways glances in well lit grocery store aisles. In the hidden dynamics of late night conversations during a party.

We offer a down-turned look, an interior monologue ripped from a self help book playing on a record skipping inside of our heads, like an echo – I’ll be ok. I’ll be ok. I’ll be just fine – and, when we talk, our speech resembles more and more the tone of the voices that we hear daily in our media and which tell us nothing. No guide to thinking, just how to act, and even a maybe at that.

A nostalgic re-packaging of some imagined past is what we allow ourselves to give. It’s a maze with a map to guide us back from a wrong turn. But it never gets close to the heart.

The true center of the labyrinth.

 

 

2.

Greed and non-thinking have bred a chaotic and fragmented view of the future. A chaotic and fragmented view of the culture.

That view is a symptom of an even more entrenched disease which permeates the core of the whole thing. What is it and can we cure it and can I cure myself of it?

If I throw my hands up, and claim that it’s all bullshit, then what’s the point?

Some analysis would do well here.

A reconsideration, re-cataloging, re-study, of myths with broad concepts and straightforward tools, and then a check against history to see where their explanations break down. This requires patience.

With new tools and new concepts we then carefully redo the experiments and recreate old data sets and attempt to fill in gaps with new information – theories, observations, a mix of both. If the New more clearly articulates and connects than the Old, or vice versa, we junk what’s unnecessary. This is real science.

Minimize error and repeat this process ad infinitum.

But we are bad scientists, and what are these new tools and concepts?

 

3.

An older generation realized once that their bets on truth in progress for the long haul were an illusion. A dream.

We’re waking up now and realizing that we are becoming them, so we take what we can when we can and think that there’s no other way.

We have been taught well.

We delete facts, and crush our own dreams with a set of alternating teeth, turning them into a fine white powder, waiting for the other histories to disintegrate.

Why do we effectively bully ourselves and not fight back?

I can only present an outline for consideration – a sketch of a different pathway.

 

4.

Consider that different people can look at the same set of data from distinct vantage points and draw different conclusions. Yes?

I’m standing in a place now, looking at the data that’s in front of me, and building my own organizational scheme.

This doesn’t need to be abstract or obtuse. It’s a natural human process.

It’s taking me a long time to get here, and I have reasonable thing to offer, but its not for sale.

It has to be earned. You have to think. You might have to construct your own scheme also.

Not just a rebuild of facts that have been destroyed, but a case for a new ordering of information, a new mythology.

How is it working for me?

I don’t know, time will tell. My view doesn’t disregard those of others or even try and overtake them, but is just as valid. Stands right by them. Wants to work with them.

It implements a method now out of vogue, a forgotten idea – intuition.

 

5.

The deepest sorts of revolutions, the deepest sorts of paradigm shifts, are more likely to come from within the culture. They don’t have to be from a radically different place, but where is the proof?

I’m not in the business of trying to show you my point of view without the burden of proof.

I’m applying the method to thinking about the process, but how?

The sustained vision gathered through observation can only be articulated by a careful construction of a proof and that takes time.

 

6.

Alone with myself, I am aware of what I’m saying, and of what I’m doing, but do believe in it?

My myths have been fractured for longer than I can remember, but I’m not a digital native. How did this happen?

When I report on a moment, I’m giving life to something that I have only ever imagined, but have never read or seen, and circling the center has provided me the perfect view.

The route through the process has been jagged, but has also offered more to see.

When I stop and observe the culture, it’s clear that there’s a vacuum, and I’m in a unique position.

 

7.

I see me from the outside carefully weaving a general and well constructed case. I say things to myself like, the time is now, and, even if cliche, the truth is exactly that.

The work is thoughtful and constant – absolutely, every day, for real.

The time is now.

 

8.

This moment is becoming when I am being honest with my worst enemy – me.

My work might not be very interesting and not very good and maybe I’m exerting effort and still have no understanding of form.

Self criticism is just part of the faults of speculation.

Another is getting nothing done.

I am shaping a thing that will in a natural way, a human way. I am reaffirming my own voice within the eye of the storm. From my temporary vantage point.

I am trying to understand if in the realm of stories, compared to others, mine holds up. Am I too late? Is this process just a painful exercise?

Does it even matter?

 

9.

I’m aware of the pitfalls, yet still manage to fall for them.

It can be easier to try and hammer the facts into some ready built structure, regardless of the fit.

Reading over the maps left by people who came from the other route, who started from a place of structure, and searched for a way to break it into pieces, I can learn.

Myth-making can use stories to stitch together the scenes of a fiction trapped in limbo, swimming in the black background of a dream, just out of reach. But that’s just a first pass.

I have to go through my own revolution. An event where the scales are lifted from my own eyes, like a Gestalt shift, the whole landscape becoming something else, something different – completely new.

After this, the image will look different, but I can learn the methods of organization through its careful study.

 

10.

The process is constant.

Without hesitation I can say that this time off my motorcycle has something to do with it. It seems to have painfully created a vacuum, and now, like Borges, I feel as if my task is easy.

I’m living in the right mix of time and space. The best of all possible worlds to fill it.

And, to push even further, a network of people around me grows and allows me to fill that space, and nudge me, and urge me to use my time to work and grow, without judgement.

 

11.

I understand that I am part of something bigger, and that by developing a structure, building a thing, I can, in a sense, reassure whoever I’ve let down. Even myself.

The same people that are still there for me unconditionally, I can show them that I am there for them as well.

I move closer to the edge of an instantaneous transition, a true paradigm shift, and report back.

So, now standing on this edge, I have to make a choice.

Do I jump?

Standing on this edge, you have to make the choice.

Do you jump?

Standing on this edge, I make the choice.

Do I jump?

Objects

fiction

We’re in a cafe with red vinyl 1950’s style booths. There are tiny little jukeboxes on the ends of every table, and Sheryl Crow is wondering if it makes you happy over the speakers. Elle sits across from me, playing air guitar to the chorus of the song, rocking her head gently back and forth to the rhythm. Her bangs move in front of her face, but she looks at me, never losing eye contact.

I half expect her to get up from her seat and stand on the table to drive the point home. She gradually stops and looks away, never quite losing the tempo, and runs her hands through her hair, fixing the strands that have fallen out of place. She turns to me, placing her elbows on the table with her fingers interlocked, and smiles.

You know what the sad thing about people is? she says.

What? I reply, after a beat.

That they want to look into your world. They want to look because they can’t deal with the ugliness of their own, so they turn away from their own, never really facing what makes them look. It’s as if they can’t stand to be bothered by their own insecurities.

I let this thought enter and find a place in my mind where it can settle and carefully diffuse over ideas, strands of thought, never fully articulated.

I bite my lip, and mull over what she said, looking for a concrete example of what she means. The song changes, and Blink 182’s Dammit comes on, and I wonder who picked this playlist.

I away and then back at her.

You know what the funny thing about some people is? I ask.

What’s that? she says.

That they have an appetite for things that they can’t have. Whether it’s objects or other people. Somehow they, we, always seem to desire that which is the other. Other than me, other than you, other than this.

You want to know what’s really funny? she says, with almost no break between the previous thought.

What?

Why is it that Spandau Ballet always plays in the prom scene of every cheese-ball movie that you can remember? That’s the real concern here, she says deliberately tapping her right index finger on the table to the pace of the last three words. Real. Concern. Here.

I smirk, and then look away, crossing my arms, and leaning back into my seat.

You’re not going to make me laugh, I say, looking back in her direction.

She takes her elbows off the table and gives me a deadpan stare. I uncross my arms and look out the cafe window. There’s a lady crossing the street and she’s holding the hand of her little boy and he looks happy to be outside. Next to them is a couple in their late teens and the boy is on his phone, clicking away, and the girl smiles at the lady and her son. When the traffic light changes, they all cross the street together. Breaking the stillness between us, Elle picks up her glass of water from the table.

This much is true. This much is true, I fake croon in her direction.

We both laugh, and she snorts as she takes a drink, and sprays the table between us. Gross and Thanks, I say, from behind a grin.

You’re an asshole, she says with smile drawn across her face. I knew you were waiting for me to take a drink, and I still gave in. I saw it coming, and I still went against my instincts, she says.

Isn’t that the truth, I say.

I help her wipe down the space between us, and then we place the used napkins on an empty plate next to the jukebox.

Do you have any quarters? I ask her.

Let me check, she says, and starts digging through her purse.

I look for Smashing Pumpkins on the jukebox.

Play Peaceful Easy Feeling, she tells me, still looking for a quarter.

No, I say. We always listen to that song.

Yeah, she says, because it’s really pretty. Do you just hear it, or do actually listen to the words? Don’t you want to lay with me in the desert at night? she says.

I turn away from the jukebox and look at her with a crooked smile.

Found some! she says, lifting her hand from the small coin pocket of her wallet.

Yeah, but Mellon Collie is such a good album, it’s been on my mind for the past week, and I haven’t heard anything off of it in I don’t know how long, I say.

She sets the quarters down on the table, closes her wallet, and then in one swift motion, tosses it back into her purse, which she then returns to the seat next to her. She smiles at me, and I continue to search through the list on the other side of the glass for something to play. When I look up, and meet her gaze, she stares right back at me and starts rocking her shoulders smoothly back and forth.

Time is never time at all, You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth, she melodramatically croons at me.

She then lifts her arm up and sings Tonight, Tonight with an open hand, and brings it down slowly like Freddy Mercury bringing a microphone back into his orbit, making a fist as it moves along its path.

Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight, tonight, she emphasizes the last two words with a fist pump in front of her.

We both burst out in laughter and a man on his phone in the booth next to us looks over in our direction.

hypnophobia

hypnophobia

The desk light is on and my watch shows 3:31 AM and the house is silent.

I step out through the doors and onto the deck overlooking the grainy faded shoreline.

As my eyes adjust I resolve the shapes of other buildings near the water and trace their sharp edges in the dark.

Neil Young plays on a radio in the distance and the sound is faint. A burst of laughter from an unknown source rides the cool breeze and then the clink of glasses introduces silence once again.