mad drunk genius

I used to have all sorts of problems. Now there's just the one.

Month: October, 2006

Softer the Flying Cat

Softer the Flying Cat sleeps well. Purrs in silence, waves its tail. Wakes up quickly, jumps up high, Softer soars through moonlit sky. The night is Softer’s and its alone, the world is Softer’s and stars its throne.

Softer hungers, wants something sweet. Clouds are cotton candy treats. The Flying Cat zooms toward the puffs, devours till its had enough. Softer’s belly mostly full, it finds a stomach filled with wool. Throat half-parched and organs burst, it dives toward lake to quench its thirst.

Softer breaks the water’s surface edge, stays beneath till God’s last dredge. When heavens come to look to save, the Flying Cat stays in its grave. Damnation settles down instead, and Softer sleeps well in its bed.

Three easy steps to having an artificial epiphany

We can’t all be philosophers and in this day and age, religious experiences are few and far between, sadly. So what do you do when you need to feel something meaningful, but don’t want to put in the time and effort, or partake of a possibly illegal psychochemical substance? I’m glad you asked, because all it takes is three easy steps to be able to achieve an artificial epiphany that can last a lifetime.

1: Stay up longer than your normal circadian rhythm dictates.

This is very important, and by doing this, you can probably manage to get one on your own, assuming you stay up for long enough. It’s really just a (relatively) harmless way to upset your natural brain chemistry and leave you susceptible to “revelations”. Also, totally legal, which is another thing to keep in mind.

But what if you only have a day or two and don’t want to risk being less than stellar at school, your job, or life in general?

2: Make yourself incredibly physically tired.

Again, this is another natural and somewhat healthy way to go about the whole thing, and again, it can do funny things to you physiologically making it easier for you to interpret the mundane in exciting new ways. I know of a fellow who ran a one hundred mile ultramarathon (which caused him to stay up for over 24 hours straight), and when he started driving home, he saw beings crawling through the trees on the side of the road who resembled the character Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies. He subsequently pulled over and got some sleep, but if he’d been a little more open to revelations, he might have taken it to mean he was seeing a parallel dimension of the universe that existed alongside ours inhabited by such creatures.

However, he did follow step three which is…

3: Stay away from other people.

This is tough to stress, but it’s very important. If you are around other human beings and especially if you’re able to have a conversation with them, you can have a more or less objective view on the situation. This is very bad if you want an artificial epiphany because of course if you can ask someone whether something is real or not, the ability to fool yourself into thinking you’ve seen something truly significant disappears.

All three conditions were met several weeks ago. I had stayed up all night working on material for a test  the next day, and decided to go for a jog to kind of wake me up (since I was out of caffeine).

I started out down the road away from my college, a road which eventually turns into the highway. Although it wasn’t as important while I was near the city, the sun had not yet come up and it was actually completely dark. This is a small town, and when it stops, it stops very quickly, so it was not long before I was out beyond all lights except for those heavenly ones above me. Occasionally, there was a light belonging to a particular building on its own, but for the most part it was so dark I had to stay on the line that marked the road’s shoulder. Quite dangerous, especially since I was on the left shoulder, but there weren’t any cars coming toward me at that point.

After I had gone maybe two miles, running the whole way and uphill, mind you, I began to become very tired. The effect was that I began to take all of this in and experience it more acutely. I looked up, to my right and my left, and I saw stars, the moon, and the Milky Way. It was so dark and serene, and as I said, all I could see was the white line marking the shoulder.

Eventually, I came to a place where the straight road finally turns, or at least I got nearer to it. And I saw lights. No, I wasn’t that crazy, I didn’t think they were angels or flying saucers or anything else but the headlights they actually were, but it was visually impressive to me at that moment. The lights would come around the turn, reflecting off several signs at first, and I would move over onto the edge of the shoulder. Then the vehicle would pass by.

However, due to the circumstances of that morning, this was not a mundane occurence as it might otherwise have been. Instead, what happened was that the near darkness around me would gradually disappear until I was almost completely engulfed by light and I could see nothing else. Then the vehicle (usually an 18-wheeler and at that point in the road, going at least 65 miles per hour) would be past me, and a rush of air and speed would hit me loud as thunder. But I never actually saw one because as soon as the lights were behind me, I was in complete and total darkness, pitch black and silent.

This happened several times, and each time I began to feel like I was getting a glimpse at something terribly important. Something to do with the true nature of the universe, or reality, or relative values. Something that was there, but just out of reach.

As I got to the bend in the road, I started to realize that trucks might take the curve a little too hard and cross onto the shoulder, possibly smacking my body and splattering my internal organs all over their grill. Plus, I was awfully tired. It was time to turn back.

When I turned around, I saw the city at the bottom of the hill, shining like a jewel, and I ran toward it, a steady beacon of truth and peace, the sun coming up over the hill to my back just as I reached the edge of town.

I went back to my room and showered, and I was almost shaking. It was there, it was there, it was there, if only I could get my hands on it. But it wasn’t, it was just an artificial epiphany.

Of course, I don’t suppose that little detail means it was any less true.

“Half way … everyone is agnostic.”

Last night (well, yesterday afternoon) I had a dream where I had died. I was still around and able in some way to communicate with people and see what was going on, but I wasn’t all there. It was a dream, it doesn’t have to make sense. Just understand that I was dead, and the dreams in which I’m dying are something much less than the best I’ve had.

When I went back to sleep in the early morning, I was in a suicidal mood. Not really suicidal as in, “I feel like killing myself,” more like I let my mind get ahead of itself and view my body doing various things. It’s like tracing out multiple future paths, but not. Overactive imagination, whatever.

So at first it’s concrete things, slamming my head into a coffee table. I guess not really suicidal, but I can see myself getting up, going into the other room and doing that. I stay in bed, of course, but I see it happening as if it is. Eventually I work up to running out in front of a car, then killing myself with a gun. This is the most romantic, masculine way to commit suicide, after all. Phallic weapon exploding into your head or mouth. Maybe the word I’m thinking of is “gay”, not “masculine”. Regardless, I spent more time on this one and realized I probably wouldn’t ever be able to do it. I guess I might, if I managed to disassociate the moment from reality enough, but even very depressed, it would be really, really tough.

It’s not the moment of pulling the trigger and blood splatter that’s all that frightening. It’s the moment after. This is just a body, whatever happens to it is not so important, especially if I’m not around to experience it anymore. But I’m frightened to be nothing (although my non-self will be a peace), I’m frightened to have lived according to the wrong religion. Hell, I’m even frightened of being part of the right religion. The absolute unknown, the unknowable. It’s scary, and scary enough it makes people realize that, and scary enough to plant doubt in even the strongest saint or ardent atheist. This is not to say many saints did not willingly die martyrs or all atheists cry out to God on their deathbeds. Far from it. But when death approaches, the unanswerable questions start to repeat themselves louder and louder and second guessing becomes unavoidable.

There’s a saying: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Granted. But only if we also accept this:

“Half way between the top of the building and concrete, everyone is agnostic.”

[Original title: ‘Donnie Darko is wrong.’]

False alarm

School set off the fire alarms in the dorms around 11 pm. Insomniac by choice though I may be, tonight I chose to get some sleep early. Unfortunately, after being forced to get up and rush out into the cold night, I was no longer in a sleeping mood.

Apparently I would have been fined for staying inside and treating it like the test it was, but luckily I was smart enough to get properly dressed and grab my wallet, cell phone, etc, before I left, figuring that’s what it was.

I walked over to McDonalds instead of waiting to be let back in, walked through the drive through since that was all that was open. Food was all right.

Walked back to the dorms, everyone was already inside so I went in, too. Couldn’t go back to sleep.

Next time there’ll be a real fire and I’ll sleep through it, I bet.

‘I’m gonna get away from this place some day, you know.’

A teenage boy looked up into the sky and said the words countless teens in countless sleepy little towns have said and thought, probably since the beginning of time. And just as everyone before him had and everyone after him would, he meant it with all his heart, knew without the hint of a doubt that he’d go to exotic places and do important things. He was fifteen, after all, and sure of a great many things.

His youthful outlook didn’t extend to his appearance’ he didn’t have a man’s figure and was still having problems growing a mustache’ he just looked tired. His hair was baked and dusty, his skin was tanned, already beginning to wrinkle, droop, and grow leathery. He had all of the beauty of a blown-out tire on the side of a road. Everything about him looked worn and used. From a distance, he might have been an old man, he carried himself such.

His friend sat on the ground under the shade of a rare tree as the dust from the almost barren landscape whipped by the both of them and stung the little flesh that they left exposed, but neither gave any notice to it. The friend uncorked the large, squat bottle he’d brought with him but waited to drink from it

“God bless ya’, Justin, you was born on this planet the son of a farmer, yo’ father was born on this planet the son of farmer. His father was born and died on this planet the son of a farmer, same as his father before him, same as every damn body far back as anybody can remember. An’ I say planet, but that’s just bein’ generous. You know ain’t none of ’em left this goddamn county, neither. You’s is gonna’ be a farmer just as they is. It’s best just to a’cept it now. Ain’t such a bad life, anyhow, that you got to go on and on about how ‘you’s is gonna’ run far, far away,'” he mocked in a falsetto, “like you always does.”

The friend took a swig of some vile brew that didn’t do much in the way thirst or taste, but helped lower his inhibitions and raise his blood alcohol level, as was his intention. He was also fifteen, but muscular and ruggedly handsome, possessing all the pleasurable attributes of youth. He was already shaving, something which irritated the other boy to no end, and had a disarming smile that came easily, making him well liked almost without exception. He was attractive in manner, more so than appearance, and able to get the favorable attention of women almost twice his age, though the results of this attention led to rumors the boy never acknowledged or discredited.

Justin scowled, an expression that made him look even older and more unattractive, but didn’t look at his friend in the eye. Instead, he preferred to watch the rocket that traced its way up the sky, off above the horizon. He imagined himself in one of them, leaving to go away from this place and touring the entire galaxy, from one end to the other—but his friend kept talking.

“An then you’s is gonna’ get a girl pregnant, prob’ly marry her, have a couple of kids yo’self. You’s is gonna’ have a son that’ll grow up to be a farmer, and a daughter that’ll grow up to get pregnant by and marry a farmer. Then you’s is gonna’ die here. But this ain’t so bad a place to live or to die. They’s is worse places out there, you know.”

Finally Justin gave up his delightful reverie, conceding that for the time being it was ruined.

“No, I don’t know, Dylan. That’s just the point,” he said, turning back around, “I ain’t never been further than twenty kilometers from my own damn house. I come to town with my old man to pick somethin’ up and then I go back and help ‘im on the farm. I don’t wanna’ spend my whole life just goin’ back and forth. I don’t wanna’ spend my life workin’ like a dog just to scrape out a livin’ on some backward planet, in some backward quadrant an’ end up just another broken down old geezer with nothin’ to show for it.”

“Hell boy, ain’t nobody wanna’ do that,” Dylan agreed as he downed another mouthful, “If I had my choice, I’d marry some rich little thing in the Central Planets and have all my cares taken care of till she kicked the bucket an’ I could take the rest of her credits for my own self. But that ain’t gonna’ happen, now is it? As it be, our fates is sealed. But they ain’t bad fates. I hear o’er in the North Quadrant the damned trolls be bombin’ they’s own cities for no reason. Hell, total war is goin’ on on some planets, pirates is razing cities to the ground, people killin’ one ‘nother over land and resources. Now tell me, who in they right mind is gonna’ come out here? People have trouble makin’ enough to feed themselves. There ain’t shit worth takin’. We’s is secure. We’s is secure, you fucker, an’ I’ll take security and boredom over ‘citement and danger every damn day of the week. Nothing gonna’ happen here, nothin’ ‘ticularly good, nothing ‘ticularly bad. An’ nobody from here gonna’ do nothin’ important, neither.”

“Not me,” the boy argued stubbornly, “I’m a-gonna’ do somethin’ with my life.”

“Yeah, says you,” Dylan laughed, “says you.”

“Yeah, says me.”

Dylan drank, but said nothing more. Justin felt satisfied that he’d won that exchange. They let an awkward silence hover for some time, Dylan drinking, Justin looking at nothing in particular until someone else broke it for them.

“Come on, boy,” a man called out to Dylan as he threw a sack into the back of his truck, “We’s’d better be gettin’ on home, lest yo’ momma have my ass for messin’ around in town too long. And you’s better drink the rest a’ that fo’ we get home, ya hear? You know she don’ like it when you drink in front a’ her. An’ when momma ain’t happy—”

“Ain’t nobody happy,” Dylan finished as he got up and jumped into the back of his dad’s truck next to the sack, “Later, Justin.”

Dylan’s father walked around to the driver’s side of the truck but before he got in, Justin started walking up toward him.

“Uh, Mister Rhodes, you seen my old man in there?” Justin asked uncomfortably. Dylan’s father glanced back at Justin before facing away again.

“Well, yeah, I seen ‘im. Listen boy, you’s best find yo’self some place to wait fo’ a while. He prob’ly gonna’ be a long time comin’.”

The words proved all too true. The sun had already sunk far behind the horizon when Justin’s father finally came out of the same all-purpose store as Dylan’s father had, staggering. Unlike Dylan’s father, he had nothing in his hands except a bottle half full of liquor.

“Gawddamn thieves in this town, boy, a bunch-a gawddamn thieves,” his father slurred as he slowly made his way over to the tree Justin had been dozing under, “Did I ever tell you how-”

“Yeah, Pa, you told me,” Justin said, attempting to avoid the same speech he’d heard too many times, “You actually manage to keep any of the money from harvest this time?”

“Don’ you take that tone with me boy, I’ll-”

His father lurched forward and tried to take a swing at Justin, but instead he lost his balance and fell on the ground, vomiting. Justin sighed. He helped his father up and started walking them toward the truck.

“I didn’t think so. Come on Pa, I’ll drive.”

Sick. I’m sick.

Sick to the stomach, sick with hunger, sick of life, sick to death. Sick from head to toe, but it’s all psychosomatic, so I guess I’m just sick of myself. I just wish I knew where the problem came from.

My daughter, she came up to me and said, “Daddy, daddy! What are we going to do today?”

“Nothing,” I told her, “You’re no daughter of mine and I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

She started to pout and said, “But why would you say something like that, Daddy?”

So of course I grabbed her round the throat and slammed her head into the wall until it came open and then I turned her upside down and drank her and ate her in pieces until I was full.

I woke up a moment later and found my fever still raging, along with an erection. I felt guilty for a moment but then consoled myself that dreams are dreams and we can’t control them. Can’t control whether we enjoy them or not, for that matter. On the bright side, my throat was dry no longer and my stomach felt sated. My fever still burned hotly, so I called for my dead mother to care for me.

She came in the room and then told me I needed to rest up.

“If you don’t preserve your strength, you’ll never get better.”

“I know that,” I said.

“Of course you do,” she said, “How else would I know it?”

She led me to the field of flowers and told me to lie down. I did, but then I started coughing up blood and then so much came up that there was a black pool beside me, and out of it rose up my daughter-who-wasn’t, reformed perfectly, though only to the waist.

“Hello big brother,” she said, speaking with hairy lips, “What are we going to do today?”

“I’m going to kiss you, little sister,” I replied, and did so, though she giggled when I attempted to do it in the manner of the French. Then I felt my tongue go inside her, face, too, head next, and then it was all wet darkness and I was afraid.

I woke up and turned on my side and threw up in the bucket beside me, but it was only chicken noodle soup and nothing rose out of it, not even a chicken.

I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, I was in the middle of space, gazing at an infinitely large sphere from the outside. All else was darkness, save this sphere, which was blue and cold. I looked and then awoke, and I have never been more frightened than I was then.

Sleep abandoned me after that, and I spent the rest of the day coughing, shivering, and throwing up food I hadn’t eaten.

The mind can cure almost anything, I’ve heard, but I think mine is too weak even to try.

Are we, then, insane?

“Our common destiny is the sum of our single lives, and each of these single lives is developing quite normally, in accordance, as it were, with its private logicality. We feel the totality to be insane, but for each single life we can easily discover logical guiding motives. Are we, then, insane because we have not gone mad?”
-Hermann Broch

If that’s not a great quote, I swear I don’t know what is.

We live in a truly awful world, this place we call earth and life. Broch wrote that during the late twenties and early thirties of the 20th century, a time considerably more awful than anything I’ve ever experienced, but not nearly as bad as it was going to get in Europe over the next two decades. Somehow, in a world full of people who think they’re behaving rationally, we get things that happen so terrible and irrational we can scarcely explain it, and can’t at all comprehend it.

What was rational about the Holocaust? Or the Rape of Nanking? Or the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden? What makes sense about slaughtering innocent people, be it with bombs, bayonets, or gas chambers? What makes sense about letting it happen in Africa these days after decades of saying “Never again”?

I think you could substitute ideas of “good” and “evil” for “logical” and “insane” quite easily and come to the same conclusion. Very few people actively pursue actions they feel are “evil”, but overall, moral conditions are very bad. Evil is everywhere, perpetuated by everyone all the time.

It doesn’t make any sense. So many good intentions shouldn’t pave the way to hell, I don’t care what the proverb says. With so many people striving to do right, we should be better off than this, but we aren’t. We still turn out stupid and evil and crazy.

It doesn’t justify anything, and we shouldn’t embrace it, either. That would be insane. But no matter how hard we try to preserve sanity and goodness, we’ll always fail, because there will always be people who disagree about what makes sense and what’s good.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, and I have nothing clever to wrap it up with.

This is her story.

She woke up one day and saw God. Then she went back to sleep, because God knows she has better things to do than talk that early in the morning. She woke up an hour later, showered, got dressed, and went outside to smoke. It was cold as hell, but the devil didn’t feel like talking, so she went back inside and made herself breakfast.

After another hour, she was at work, smiling at the people she had to put up with everyday while they smiled back and put up with her. Jesus came by to say, “Hi,” but didn’t have anything important to say, really.

At lunch she decided she needed to diet and only wanted to smoke, besides. Mephistopheles chatted with her outside about this and that, then told a dirty joke she didn’t feel deserved a laugh. When she finished her second cigarette, she went back to work until thirty minutes before she was supposed to get off, and she couldn’t help but stare at the clock and count down the seconds until she could leave.

The half hour passed slower the rest of the day had up until then and by the time she finally did get home, she saw God had tried to call her, but hadn’t left a message. She didn’t bother to call him back.

She ate a television dinner in front of the television screen until she started getting sleepy, then went and got ready for bed to go to sleep. It was another dull day ahead of her, and if she didn’t get her sleep, she’d get so tired she’d forget she was alive.

Che is nervous

Maybe you’ve seen this picture before.

More likely, you’ve seen the red and black version, but I have an aversion to color, in case you hadn’t noticed, so be content with this.

It’s an iconic picture, used for all kinds of things revolutionary, pseudo-revolutionary, commercial, and of course, parodical. People who know absolutely nothing else about him know that that is Che. Who Che is or what he did is unimportant. That’s Che. He is iconic, and he’s looking to the future with the strength and determination that represents millions of downtrodden people all over the world.

You may not recognize this quite as well.

This is of course from the real picture. Do you notice the difference?

There are many of them, but the really important one is the eyes. Look at them and where they’re located in each picture. In some versions, the eyes are even more different. They’re so strong in the first picture, so much more focused on something unseen but uplifting. Now look at the second one. Where are his eyes there?

There just seems to be an entirely different mood between the two pictures. In the iconic one, so strong and intense. In the real picture, worried, tired, and frail. The red and black one completely gets rid of the wrinkles, too, but you can see them mostly gone in the iconic-looking picture here. And even where his shoulders are and the body language. So subtle, but what does it do?

They’re all very small changes, and probably not noticeable unless someone pointed it out to you before (as was done for me), but the difference it makes is huge. It’s no longer real, Ernesto Guevara becomes Che, this abstract thing that has so much meaning put on top of him, he as he actually was ceases to mean anything at all.

Che is nervous and human in the real picture, but human beings die, just like he did. People didn’t feel that his life was important enough so they had to make him into something he wasn’t in order to be useful to them.

I’m pretty nervous myself. With some luck, some day I’ll be on the T-shirts of college Marxists, too.

My roommate just destroyed my childhood

I’d heard him and one of his friends fucking around last night in living room, but I didn’t let it bother me very much and just slept through it like I usually do. I probably should have gotten up and done something but it’s too late for that now.

This morning when I woke up, I found my N64 crunched in in the middle with part of a broken a Perfect Dark cartridge still sitting inside it. On top was a piece of notebook paper with the word, “sory” written on it.

I nearly started bawling right there.

I went to class anyway, tried not to think about what had happened, but it didn’t work. I don’t even know if we have homework today. I wouldn’t have been paying enough attention to know to leave if everyone else hadn’t gotten up around me. I skipped the rest of my classes. I think one of them had a test today but I don’t care.

I don’t think you can understand what I’ve lost. N64’s and used games are easy enough to come across on eBay or whatever, but man, this was priceless. You can’t replace what was inside that cartridge.

When I saw him again, I asked my roommate how it had happened and he told me that while playing Madden on his PS2, he and his friend had gotten into an argument and started wrestling. They’d accidentally gotten wrapped in the cords of my N64 which was nearby and pulled it off the top of the counter onto the floor.

Just like that, gone.

There’s a line in the movie Blade Runner where one of the replicants says something to the effect of, “All these memories gone… like tears in rain.” My Perfect Dark cartridge wasn’t lost in rains, but it was full of memories. Memories of my childhood and adolescence, the greatest time in my life, bar none.

This was the game, understand. This was what I and all of my friends played. Two of my neighbors also had it and we played it so much that we all became really good at it. It’s part of why one of them became my best friend. Other, farther away neighbors didn’t, and most people who came over to visit didn’t either, but they weren’t all that important because they didn’t compile stats like me and my two neighbors did, especially me and my best friend.

See, Perfect Dark keeps track of everything you do in the multiplayer mode. Time spent, kills, deaths, victories, accuracy, the whole lot. Everything you do is recorded for posterity, usually yourself at a later date.

Literally, days of our lives were recorded in that game. Literally. They weren’t wasted, if that’s what you were thinking. No, they were preserved in a time capsule that I could access at any time. Lately, I’ve been the only one going back to look, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still there, preserved perfectly. My best friend could come over and play it with me again and it would be like nothing happened. Or he could if it wasn’t broken.

We haven’t played Perfect Dark together in years. I’m not sure what he’s doing now exactly because I haven’t kept up with him, but I see him in his profile with 4500 kills and that’s him. That’s him as I knew him and I remember all of the stuff we got to do. We played other games, of course, but this was the game and the players recorded in it are us.

But now he’s gone, and I can’t get him back. I can play the game again on a different cartridge and start compiling new stats, but why bother? I don’t want to relive young adulthood.

I don’t know what I’m going to do to my roommate for this, but I consider him a murderer and nothing I do back will be enough.