This Side of Paradise With Holden Caulfield

Poor Butterfly-Judy Garland & Bobby Cole

I’ve been meditating on the Lost Generation, and associated alcoholic flapper girls with tiny mouths. I thought I saw myself, my position in the world with this wandering brigade of writers and artists, stuck between wars and civilizations, who were born too late in nineteenth, to early in the twentieth century, to really get either. Vestiges of a Victorian past. Knowledge of a present debauchery, excess, fluidity of rule and standard.

I’m currently reading Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, didn’t like Amory Blaine, or F. Scott hiding behind him. Obviously biographical while reading, this was confirmed later with Wikipedia backstory. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda had a notorious relationship. He stole tidbits of her diary for this work, got married on the hustle, the come-up off it. They called her schizophrenic, or whatever, and she wasted away in the asylum until an early death, a prototype of the grungy, burnout pop celebrity. I think the class-consciousness of Amory Blaine is what bugs me, probably out of protection of my own ego. It’s not fun to think of yourself as lower class, less than. Their wealth and opportunity of experience makes it that way though. More over the rampant materialism of my own 1980s Mid-West upbringing carries these same understandings and systems, which I have to acknowledge. I had no Nikes, no shiny new cars, no expensive trips to Disney Land, just Pepsis, and Cosmopolitan magazine, frozen pizzas and box macaroni and cheese.

I think 80s and 90s kids are again a Lost generation, the last of the pre-internet artificial-intelligence/reality generation. We got to see the end stages of the twentieth century, the highlights of that age, cable television, cheap food, shock and awe, GI Joe, Michael Jordan. Music and the Arts in fantastic death flourishes, party like its 1999, before the big reset, the next battle, the next mountain. We get the first glimmers of artificial intelligence and all that, but by the time it arrives we’ll all be on insulin drips, humming the melody of Hit Me Baby One More Time in our State sponsored tiny apartments. The Lost Ones are tired before they start. We want it to stop for a second, take a look around, sentimentalist, romantics, call it whatever the fuck you want, let’s just stop, gorge on each other, engage in an orgy of self. Fine booze, whatever you need, I need. Fine, yes take it away, that’s fine. Watch the glasses. Okay, Christ, sure yes. What version? Baptist, Lutheran? Sorry, I’m a Catholic. Fuck all that, bring the booze back, and can we get the band swinging again. Ignore the rowdies. The poor and the starving. Is there a dusty book to be read somewhere quietly?

I’d like to be in a pit fight with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and JD Salinger. Hemingway could be the ref (and potential traitor at the end) and we would be in a death fight for the love of Zelda Fitzgerald. I would manhandle both with pure animalistic rage, set-off by shared percolating Daddy issues. I’d spit in Fitzgerald’s eye and then choke out Salinger, while I whispered, go to sleep phony, in his ear. Victorious, but bloody, I’d whisk Zelda away, away from the man with the pills and the paddles, away from the screams of desperate people. I would hide her on a farm, like Goldie Hawn in Overboard, give her some healthy babies that ground her, show her the fantastic and the real in another. Let her get the wild out under the moonlight, to dance and make love with a cold night’s breeze, among wild flowers and fireflies; no booze.

Zelda_Fitzgerald_portrait

 

On Dreams

THE DREAM OF SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE

The_dream_of_Saint_John_Damascene_Wellcome_L0041636

At my most sober, center, and worked, I start having the strangest, most detailed, oriented dreams. When things start going lucid, I’m always stuck in a physical space, a movie theater, a mall, sometimes an unfamiliar city, or suburbia. I think my own inherent suspicion and anxiety make it go bad, sour, but there also seems to be something there, watching me, security, the man in black. As a child its a shapeshifting empty, black hole monster, It. With maturity it manifests in real world concerns, personal relationships, physical and emotional harm to self and other. It tries to scare ya.

The movie theater, mall setting is the most common. That’s what really gets to me. Being in a room with all those other people. I start thinking, you want to say that they’re just a figment of your imagination, that its just filler-people pulled from your memory, but in the dream it doesn’t feel that way. They feel real, they react real, slow, life-like, dreamy. What happens with me is I will become suspicious of the authenticity of the whole endeavor, and my subjugation in it. This seems to “wake me” up in the dream, and that provokes a force to come play cop on the whole thing, scare you awake. Scare you awake. Think about it. When you dream there’s a thing in there that wants to wake you up….What?

I’d like to fight it. Knuckles and bones, teeth. I don’t know what that means about me. I can accept maybe its a symptom of my own broken, depressive, scared self. I can imagine others free from this creature, entity. But to what degree? What could you do if you were free in that space? Does it have to be this way?

There’s usually a shake-down with the Shadow Monster. Breath on your neck. Recently they had a futuristic, neon blue probe body scanning systems, armed guards in glossy stormtrooper black. Empty your pockets. But then the vertigo, the flee, the scene has to change. Usually it ends with running, then some subtle torture until you wake up. But what about the moments it bleeds over into reality? What then?

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Bureau_of_Land_Management_horses

 

All the Pretty Horses-Cormac McCarthy

I caint laugh. I think my jaw’s broke.
There aint nothin wrong with you.
Shit, said Rawlins.
John Grady grinned. You see that big old boy standin yonder that’s been watchin us?
I see the son of a bitch.
See him lookin over here?
I see him.
What do you think I’m fixin to do?
I got no idea in this world.
I’m goin to get up from here and walk over there and bust him in the mouth.
The hell you are.
You watch me.
What for?
Just to save him the trip. (183)

On Farming, Nabokov, Internet, Culture, Knowledge, Writing

Last night I stayed up late watching farming motivation, tomato porn videos on YouTube. The guys was showing how you can greatly increase pollination of the tomato plant by fingering, slapping, shaking the plant, and around the fruiting special bits. Tomatoes carry both the males and the females stuff, so by vibrating the former you impregnate the later. I had noticed last night some drying blossoms on my own, think the heat and lack of water zapped them. Video made me realize maybe they were not pollinated and that made them weaker too.

I’v found my part of the stream and it’s having a cooling effect, or a redirecting of my energy from writing/reading to the farm. Not to say I’ve haven’t been doing either. It’s always there, crawling around, waiting. My JD Salinger binge had me noticeably nihilistic, the Camus stretch ruined me, and then the The Feud by Alex Beam about the friendship and subsequent “fight” between writer Nabokov and Literati Edmund Wilson got my haunches up and has sent me spiraling down the black hole of conspiracy world (Dave Chappelle, Kanye, Johnny Deep, may all be MKULTRA victims and clones). Despite Mr Beam’s and everyone else’s explicit statement not to see any of Nabokov’s work, Lolita and beyond, as confessional or biographical, I couldn’t see otherwise.

I know Tolkien was like that, didn’t like any real world parallels pointed out. I get the psychological need to distance ourselves from the thing. It ruins it for some, like the Wizard of Oz, doesn’t allow them to slip into into suspended disbelief. The real question, is there any other mode? Everything seems made up these days. Don’t know exactly why. Has to be the TV and internet, we live in little electronic bubbles of our choosing, inherently artificial, the so-called external reality has begun to mirrors this process. It all begins to break down at a point, like CNN current meme debacle, old traditional barriers start to dissolve.

I read the news, and about the world, like it is regular installments of my favorite Sci-Fi series. I’m using the internet through tethering my phone. And there’s only one spot that works in the house.. The upstairs window facing north. So the bedroom has become the office. It was nice to have the full desktop back, the youtube, all of it. Senior year of High School,  I made this ceramic block with the word “Knowledge” on it. It’s always been sort of a totem for me, a symbol of first principles.  I set my phone on that, pointed out the window, and it works well enough. And I don’t know while getting reintegrated, I realize  current events are just insane, nightmarish, other-worldly. You try to settle yourself down, cut the anxiety with a bit of reason. And if you shut it off and maybe went and wandered a field, or river, or something you could find ways to forget it, but you sort of don’t want to. You want to see where the story is going. How it will all play out. Stories and book are like that. Trying to write “popular” fictions gets me in a similar way. Conjuring up twisted characters and thick drama, set a tone for the spirit and day, which can sometimes feel negative and costly. I don’t like hurting people, fiction or otherwise, which doesn’t necessarily make for great fiction. It could, but you got to work harder for it, I think. Stop being a pussy, is what the shadow self jeers with.

The field almost feels easier. Just different, I guess. Farm work taxes the body, but nourishes the spirit, art work taxes both, and leads the body to lethargy and the spirit to turn manic. I’ve set up an academic hour in the evenings six to seven oclock, then out to the field for two hours to weed, mulch, and water. Balance. Knowledge.

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On America

 

Lady Liberty-Harriet Tubman

447px-Harriet_tubman

 

America is nothing but a base camp. A tent and a fire, laid out on some slab. That is all. A country of highwayman, robbers, charlatans, and the insane, and I love it. It is every place and no place, a final frontier. Because it is a country of immigrants and foreigners, it picks up everyone’s story, and assimilates it. Of course, this process is often ugly, barbaric, and half-baked, but it couldn’t be other wise. America is the Tower of Babel, rebuilt with Elmer’s glue and Popsicle sticks, television on max, Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire in the kitchen, and a pack of geeked out nerds and sociopaths in the garage, playing with concrete and psychotropics, trying to figure out the agenda. The enormity of spaces, of ideas, of waist sizes; limits have never been appropriately considered. We are Fantasy manifest, the settler, the soldier, the capitalist, the cowboy, the gangster, the hippies, the trendy, etc.

It’s okay to hate it, because it hates you too. No one belongs here, so we all belong here. It is Paradox Country. Own slaves, fight and die to free the slaves. Be fearful and xenophobic of outsiders, other cultures, make those black sheep social icons and definers. Rape the planet through Industrialization and figurehead the Green movement. Shining example of a Constitutional Republic, and tyrannical Big-Brother imperial state. Land of the Free, the Brave, the Prisoner and the Drug Addict.

Our characters are the best though, historical and other wise. The later amplified and burned into humanities subconscious by modern and distinctly American Technicolor Babylon. Some of my favorite Americans, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe,  Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Daniel Webster, Walt Whitman, Robert Johnson, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and on and on, but I’ll stop cause it, because its boring thinking like that, and boredom is America’s kryptonite.

Hating America is quintessential America. Faking like you love America, so that you can fight people who hate America is very American too. Anyone can be an American, just don’t think you can have any part in defining it, or your role in it…unless you have a lot of money, and then you can do whatever you want and you’re awesome, but because you’re an American, you will secretly respect, fear, and want to be the Poor, because they’re cooler and tougher. But don’t worry as long as you exhibit this understanding through things like expensively and tastefully destroyed designer jeans, you should be okay. Remember, money!

I can’t end it like that. It would be unAmerican. Let me put on my thick Sam Elliot voice. Americas riding home after a long day of playing, ball field, swimming hole, park, fire works. Gentle wind on warm skin, as your bikes pushes forward, effortlessly under strong legs. Flying with your friends, maybe a younger sister or brother in the pack. Mom told you to watch her. Don’t let her run off. And you didn’t. You made her the star, the center of the whole day. Your friends let her be sassy, and get away with saying all the things you could never say. And you smile as you think about that flying down the road to your house. The lights are dim, Mom and Dad are upstairs, already in bed. They call out to the gang as they raid the kitchen for popcorn and treats and then you pile on the sofa to watch the latest movie. Your friends will file out one by one, back through the syncopated quiet of the neighborhood, with perfectly mowed lawns, except that one, always that one house, and into their homes. You sit there til its late, scrolling through your phone and it feels like the whole world has gone to sleep. And everything is perfect, and normal, and put away. You toss a blanket on your sister, she likes to sleep on the couch, and you head to your bed in perfect peace.

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A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemingway

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. (226)

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A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemingway

“What is the difference?”
I cannot say it easily. There are people who would make war. In this country there are many like that. There are other people who would not make war.”
“But the first ones make them do it.”
“Yes”
“And I help them.”
“You are a foreigner. You are a patriot.”
“And the ones who would not make war? Can they stop it?”
“I do not know.”
He looked out of the window again. I watched his face.
“Have they ever been able to stop it?
“They are not organized to stop things and when they get organized their leaders sell them out.” (69)

Snippets 81

Neil Gaiman-Trigger Warning-From Short Story “The Sleeper and the Spindle”

The old woman passed a mother, asleep, with a baby dozing at her breast. She dusted them, absently, as she passed, made certain that the baby’s sleepy mouth remained on the nipple.
She ate her meal of turnips and greens in silence. (243)

Snippets 80

Neil Gaiman-Trigger Warning-From Short Story “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”

I learned your books. Burned them into my mind. In case the firemen come to town.

But who you are is gone. I wait for it to return to me. Just as I waited for my dictionary or for my radio, or for my boots, and with as meager a result.

All I have left is the space in my mind where you used to be.

And I am not so certain about even that. (139)

Citizen Report Number (Short Fiction)

“I just want to say–”

“Stop it. Don’t do it. You don’t have to say anything.”

“No Tom, honest, let me say what I feel. I don’t care.”

“Don’t care? Jen? Really? We’ll lose the Private Car.”

“So what? There’s plenty of room on Public.”

“Right and canteen, isn’t so bad either, right? No, it’s everything Jen. Once you start down-trending, it’s over.”

Her insides bubbled. This was going wrong. He wouldn’t let her speak. He never let her speak. He continued on. “They say I’m not canned. Say they’ve seen anomalies like this before. Wait for the bounce they told me. Whatever the hell that means.”

She came and sat beside him, grabbed his hand. She tried to look him in the face, but he kept his head down. She tried again anyway. “Listen, I love you Tom. And we have each other, right? Keep your head down low, work on your socials and who knows. You’ll be higher than ever before.”

“My socials Jen? You really want to go there?” He stood up wand walked across the room. She sat there frozen, hunched over for a second, still trying to comfort his warm ghost. “That’s the exact shit Ray and the guys said. Need to get you out to a couple Saturdays, that would help. I stood there smiling like an idiot. But you know what the e-vite never came and when I thought about it. They just sort of tossed it out there. Never said the exact time and place, like before, or other little juicy details about what we’d be doing. Remember that weekend, a hundred point bump off that. For nothing, sitting around drinking beer and eating chicken wings.”

“Of course I remember that weekend. There was Champagne that Friday in the private.” His memories and aggressiveness were testing her resolve. He had been a seven-hundred when they meet a decade ago. Not that she was the type to really care about those things. She had her own issues, a struggling 650. And actually the week they meet, she took a twenty-five point dump, which was pretty devastating at eighteen years old and in your first week of college. But he had been so kind, understanding. It solidified their relationship. “Tom, I’m just saying for us, I don’t care. We will work it together. Maybe you can come to my reading club? Have a date night? Hold hands on the public, show them what atreasure you are?”

Made her skin prickle the way he looked at her. It was the same Tom, but she had never seen him look like this, looking passed her like that. He’d lost weight recently and now his face looked different. Old if she was being blunt. Just standing there, he seemed like some bones hanging in the room, sort of like a scarecrow. “Well, they say there are people.”

“People Jen? A Fixer. That’s what they’re called, a Fixer. Don’t play games with me.”

“Yes, a Fixer.”

“We don’t have the money, or the trade. Besides dear wife, we both know a Fixer can get you locked down.Neither of us would see above four hundred again if we got caught. No, strap the tourniquet on, and hope you don’t bleed out, that’s all you can do.” He stood there looking passed her, through the wall. It was like the mirror and pictures weren’t there either, or anything else, but beyond it, way down the road, something stood waiting for him.

She stood up again and grabbed him. For a second he stood there stiffly and she had to wrap her arm around him, through his arms. She didn’t mind, but smile and snuggled into him. He broke a second later and wrapped her up. They held each other until their warmth and bodies were inseparable.

The walked to their room, and for the first time in years left the wall screen off. They undressed, made love and fell asleep. She woke up in the middle of the night. She was having a terrible dream. A shadowy thing was chasing her. Her head buzzed and her heart was pounding. She felt Tom’s hot body next to her. He was sweating too. She had to be going crazy she knew, because she began to feel paranoid that their air had been shut off. Maybe Tom had tanked so bad that their allotments could be pushed back. She really should study the Lower Levels again. Things could get tricky. She tried to shake it off. She try to snuggle him again, but he turned away, cuddling the edge now.

She got up and took a shower. It seemed unusually short and the hot water ran out. But at that point she wasn’t trusting her perspective. She wrapped herself in a towel and sat at their kitchen table. It was still dark out. She thought about going for a run, she could hope for a physical fitness bump.

First, she went to her page. There she was 679. Somehow she got a one point positive, since when she checked earlier, after getting the notice about Tom. That was odd she hadn’t moved in month. Well, she tried to reason, maybe things weren’t so bad. She felt herself avoiding it, scrolling down to “Spouse” were Tom and his number would be listed. Avoidance caused her to flip the phone over and set it down. She laughed and then almost began to panic, she didn’t want to wake Tom. Have him see her like this, it would ruin him.

They had to look though. Didn’t they? Stay on top of it. Ignoring it, won’t make it go away. She waited, until her breating was under control and flipped the phone over and scrolled down. Tom Mundus-550. She almost screamed, but bit her hand instead. 550? How had he lost another fifty points? Had he been fired? Had someone died? She wanted to pick up his phone, carry it to the room, get his thumb, open it and check his messages. Her mind began to scramble he must be involved in something else, through work, or friends. Something. Over a hundred points in a week. Another few days like that and they would be ruined. She had to do something.

She walked back to the room and grabbed her running stuff. She tossed it on and grabbed a quick cup of coffee and headed outside. She had three hours until she reported down to the Opinion Station were she would do her work for the day. She was currently reviewing Country-Western infused Japanese music, something she found oddly satisfying. She ran with no intention, but slowly she was making here way towards the shady no-man lands of her city. There were places deep inside the mega-cities, which people claimed were free from surveillance. Privacy was paraphernalia and it went for an expensive rate though.

She had no hard currency, outlawed for two decades, her only knowledge of it was from the news. As she got deeper into areas she’d never been before, she started seeing more and more people. She was out of place in her running gear which screamed above a six hundred. People started giving her creepy looks, hungry looks, asking if they could help her.

She slammed into a man out of nowhere. He was old and black. Dreadlocks ran down to his knees. He was smoking and seemed to swallow her in his presence. “Off the beaten path my darling?”

She was out of breath, panicking. Why had she done this? She was a fool. She wasn’t built for this sort of thing. “Lost. I was running, not thinking. Got turned around.”

“Of course. My name is Marcus. What is yours?”

She shook his extended hand and tried to calm down. “Jane. My name is Jane.”

“Nice, to meet you Jane,” he said, with a smile. “Now I think if you head that way, just keep going straight. You will find your way out. Ignore whatever offers are made on your way out. No need to be down here.”

“Right,” she answered. She couldn’t move though. He stood there, taking slow drags off his cigarette. Her heart screamed run, but her mind worked the situation. She was already down here. She was free to talk to whoever she wanted, right? A hundred points in a week! What did it matter. She was lost. So what?

“Fixer,” the word popped out of her mouth.

“Ah, Jane was looking for something,” the man smiled even more. “A little freedom. A little number. Ah. I see. Amazing.” His faced beamed, a light in the dark alleyway. She realized they had somehow tiptoed away from the sidewalk. Marcus seemed perfectly innocent, too nice even, which meant she was freaking out. The words poured out her mouth without thought. “Its not for me, but my husband. A hundred in a week.”

“Very bad. I understand. Marcus help you.” Then he stood there smiling, waiting for what, Jen was not sure.“I don’t suppose you accept E-points though?”

“No Mam. I do not.” There was more silence. He was coming to the end of his smoke. He stubbed it out and it disappeared in his pocket. “What is your husband’s full legal name Jane? First and Last?”

The whole world seemed to stop. She was crossing over. She realized how stupid she was lying to him in the first place now. She began to feel faint. This was bad. She tried to speak, and the words got caught in her throat. “How much? How does this work?”

“His name?” His smile was gone.

She told him. He disappeared. She waited for a while, walking up and down the section of the street. Then she realized a crowd was forming. Then she remembered work. Realized she would be late. She had to stop at the store for clothes, and then the gym for a shower. She would never make it. She had never been late before. It would produce an action report from work. She realized how stupid she’d been.

All day she was distracted from her work. The meandering guitar strings formed a perfect accompaniment to her endless stream of paranoia. They would pick her up after work. She would be locked up, a four hundred when she got out. She checked her score all day. Both of theirs stayed right where they were. 550 and 679. Here number gave her some relief.

The music was booming down the hall when she got home. Something old, big band or something. She got closer, it was Frank Sintra, way old. Bad omen. What was he so excited about? Probably meant he’d lost it, slit his writs and floated around the room dying, to “Aint That a Kick In The Head.” She stood and composed herself. Nothing had happened. She went for a run and got to work early, that’s it.

The place was alive with light and activity. “ Come in!” Tom called rounding the corner. One looked at her knew something was wrong. “You don’t know do you?” He picked up his phone. “Look, 600, was a glitch in the system. Strangest day ever. I woke up. You weren’t there.”

“Running.”

“Oh great. Well, woke up, hurt you weren’t here. I just stared at my number until it was time to go to work. When I got there everyone was just acting crazy. Staring at me, conversations ending second I walked in the room. So all day I can’t work of course, just keep staring at my number, waiting it for it to take another hit. Ray pops in. Tell me to come by his office after work. We need to talk.” He shook off the effect of the memory and went back to finishing their plates in the kitchen. “So I think of running, maybe go underground, go crazy, get a Fixer, somebody. I waited for you to call, to check in, all sorts of terrible ideas went through my head.”

She was dying. Every bit of her wanted to tell him her stupid mistake. Share it with him. It was too much for her to take alone. Why had all this happened to them? Why was he so goddamn happy? He set a plate of steaming spaghetti in front of her. “Take your coat off, settle in for this next part.” She made no movement to take her coat off, but just kept staring at him like he was a stranger. “So yeah I checked it right before I went to him. 550. I almost threw up Jen, honestly. But no, I kept it cool and went and had the meeting. Ray looked all serious when I walked in, but then he broke, started giving it to me. You lucky bastard, unbelievable. Said I was canned, done that day, the order had been filed. There were murmurings though. The double hit on the CRN just wasn’t right. You were shit Tom, he told me, just not that shit. He started laughing at that. Ordered me a beer, finished his story. So they checked on the double hit of the CRN, realized it was an error, double entry of my termination papers, someone really wanted you gone, he said busting my balls. Said after all that, they talked, crunched my numbers, yada yada yada. Think there was apprehension about the mess up with the CRN, said they were thinking of letting me stay on, if I let the double hit go as a fluke. Of course I said hell yeah. Ray was happy as shit. Said I’d be back to 600 with twenty four hours, and there I am! Bam! Said it wasn’t the damnedest thing he’s ever seen, Ray did.” He took a mouthful of pasta and stared at her. “Honey! Smile!”

Her brain was seizing up with contradictory emotions. She had to check one more time. That this had worked. She picked up her phone, went to her page. Her heart fluttered at what she saw. Thomas Mundus-600. Jennifer Mundus-672.

“That’s weird,” Tom said, checking his phone now too. “You’re down five.”

RELEVANT LINKS

China Establishes “Huge” Social Credit System

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans

Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry