Saturday, January 31, 2004

Des souvenirs 

When Megan, Steven and I lived together last year I did a few paintings based on photographs I had taken during our great European trek of 2001.

The painting of Megan was done from a photograph of her brushing her hair in front of a series of mirrors in our room. We were in Orléans, my hometown during my study abroad, and the cheapest spot we could find was this self-service hotel called "Formule 1." Imagine a single story Motel 6 that has no human employees, only doors that open and close if you know the entry code that you receive upon payment. Even the bathrooms require no maintenance: after each use, the door locks temporarily as hot liquid disinfectant is hosed throughout. Weird. To avoid the hassle of having to use all of the electronic entry-and-exit equipment, we figured out that we could just leave our window unlocked. Hey, it was much easier than the front door. Each room had its own sink stashed in the corner, and the accompanying mirror was actually two planes at right angles to one another. Standing back a bit produced an interesting infinite reflection effect, magnified to an even greater extent if one opened the window into the room. If you looked through the window panes at the mirror, the infinity effect was compounded by reflections from the window's glass surface.

Francisco was a Texan we met while scavenging for a hostel at dawn our first full day in Amsterdam. We had just spent half of the night on the street before caving in and getting a hotel room (for an entire four hours). Thank god we did, though, because the hotel t.v. was broadcasting an old BBC program called 'the Magic Roundabout,' which to this day remains a part of our canon of stoner legend. Not to mention that for that entire first night of Amsterdam revelry the only food we had was a single protein bar and a third of a pack of Mentos. The following morning we set out at an ungodly hour to ensure that we could actually find a hostel. While waiting for one, La Canna, to open (and we were one of the first people in line), we ran into Francisco. We got fries, shared with Francisco, and we all decided to hang out together for the next few days. We all went in on a room, and it turned out to be the fucking coolest spot in Amsterdam: the top room at La Canna. The painting is made after a photo I took of Francisco sitting in the window, backlit as he smokes with his headphones on. We had this three day tradition of, in between active touristy things, coming back to the room to get lit up, listen to music, nap, then wake up refreshed and ready for more weed and tourism. At one point I woke up from a doze, looked up to see Francisco off in contemplation (AMSTERDAM!), and snapped one of my most memorable shots ever.

Sometimes when the music's right and I'm not doing much of anything I default into these memories. The three of us have all talked to one another at various points about , not simply how amazing the trip was, but also how we collectively acknowledge how amazing it was to simply live somewhere else, together, for a while. It's odd how strikingly this short period of my life, not even two months, rises above the plain of absolutely everything else. And what does that mean? What am I to take from this observation? Is this a template for the way life will be, a mass of similarity with the occasional yet massive experiences? Is it the peak that one realizes in witnessing has already passed? Holy shit, I hope not. Is it an encouraging example of what I have to look forward to happening agin in the future, a motivating knowledge to propel me into my endeavors? Or is it a direction in itself, an extrema of happiness and contact serving as an early warning to get out while I can and seek these places and habits that are so fucking cool? I have to try hard to remind myself that I shouldn't superstitiously impose these kind of "what's the innate purpose" questions, to realize again that those intense feelings and uncertainty are evidence enough to realize that Europe was and is all of these things. Stop being so simplistic and recognize the tugging and shoving between all sorts of causes and effects, effects then causing reiteratively, and so on.

But, goddamnit, behind all the rhetoric I just want to go back.


Friday, January 30, 2004

A flirting disaster 

Boy, oh boy, do I wonder at the myriad convictions that individuals so colorfully and energetically display.

I don't even know where to begin, so I'll simply state an exemplar conviction of my own: drug use is a tricky subject about which there can be no correct superlatives; by proxy, if one demonstrates an adamant and vocal position to this effect, it is categorically interpreted as a character flaw (one worth exploring, no less).

Friday morning the sun emerged from a near two-week absence, and I celebrated by taking an apple and some study materials down to our front stoop. It was breezy and cool in the shade, but when the light caught a gap in the slow clouds one could feel the heat accumulating on one's skin--suffice it to say that I was in a good mood to match in magnitude the break in drear. When the handsome nerd passed and read the title of my book aloud, I couldn't help myself but ask him to sit and share my apple, and I won't hesitate to admit that I sat a little straighter and smiled a little more coyly when he turned on his heel and made his way up the steps.

We chatted about public health, oddly enough, and he was interested and inquisitive. He mentioned his work in some sort of creative industry and I secretly swooned at the potential of being someone's muse. He confessed that he felt his work left him too uninformed about current sciences, and I positively fluttered with eagerness (I even felt a little sweat forming on my upper lip). For almost two full hours I chatted with this perfect stranger, and our conversation veered wildly and with abandon from politics to Halloween, ink pen preferences to funniest porn story, even venturing into the boring domesticity of the classic contacts versus glasses dichotomy.

It was when talk drifted into vice that things changed, rather abruptly, in fact, with a question about recreational drug histories. I was prompting, as one could imagine. His smile, as if tripped and sprung by some tensed trigger, snapped into a blank and unreadable formlessness, a neutral horizontal line.

After a momentary pause, mine slowly sagged away from its happy state into the same closed-mouthed gesture of ambivalence, casually masking the apprehension that was building with every passing moment. I imagined the hundreths of a second on a digital stopwatch, racing, a blur, with the growing silence. I couldn't stand it any longer, the stillness still locked in a direct stare.

"Is that improper territory?"

"Do you use drugs?" he replied, as quickly as possible and without pause after my ice-breaking question.

"Judging by your response, I expect that you won't be open to much discussion about what your question actually means," I offered, not yet resigned to the inevitability of what I expected would follow.

"Ah, so you do. You're right, there isn't much room for negotiation."

"Yep, sorry to disappoint. Mind if I ask why it's such a negative?" This was all I could offer. I liked the guy, notably so, so I couldn't bear tearing into him about the ambiguousness of his prejudice, about misconceptions that he obviously held, about his feigning self-righteousness... but, as I did then, I digress.

"A drug is something you use to solve problems without human effort, and I think that's a bad way to live."

"I hadn't heard that rationale before, it's an interesting variant. I mean, technically a drug is any biologically active compound used to modify physiology, like your multivitamin and the food you eat even, but it's an interesting position. It doesn't allow much room for variation, though. It's sort of nominalized, a bifurcation of a continuous variable."

"Is it? Or are you rationalizing your own drug abuse?"

At this point my interest switch is flicked down into the "off" position, as the absolutist character flaw mentioned above has been gloriously unveiled. I try to think of a closing statement that won't get me in the mood to argue.

"Listen, (sigh), you're nice, you're very interesting, I like you... as such I would like to avoid causing this to degrade into an unpleasant ideology war on my stoop. I think you're wrong, terribly wrong to make most of the assumptions that your position requires, but I'll leave it at that. Is that okay?"

We shook hands, he stood to leave, and I went back to my book. I smiled bitterly at the weirdness of the situation, the randomness of it, the succintness of the entire event, beginning to end in just under two and a half hours. All of this surrealism and I didn't even think to offer him a joint.

Wooster Collective 

I noticed today that Wooster Collective has finally done an interview with Al Padrino. You know what? Maybe you shouldn't even read the interview on account of it being a lame piece of shit. The WC interview is usually pretty standardized, and I'm imagining they just let most of the artists they contact fill in the blanks themselves, to the incredible detriment of the reader. In Padrino's case we get an earful of crappy rhetoric and faux-jargon. For example, when asked to describe his style, sir replies: "I call my style Post-Contemporary Vandalism...that's for the academic suckaz and ignorant scholars...but in reality my style is like the art of fighting without fighting...like bruce lee meets ghandi or something...mixed with a dash of street sublime..." Uh, yeah dude, "fighting without fighting" sounds pretty self explanatory, so don't worry about, you know, expanding your description to something a little meatier than a single mangled sentence. And that "or something" really hammers home your artistic conviction. I suppose all of this is valid in an artfully paradigmatic sense (come on, it is New York City), but, damnit, it's also an obvious wank. Just look at his pretty.

While you're there go ahead and browse around some of the other artists' works. It's a huge compendium of everything from tried and true anonymous street art to hyped-up pretentious gallery fodder, but more of the former and less of the latter. May I suggest WK's gigantic murals (il a grandi en France), Andy Goldsworthy's sculptures in nature (appearing here as someone's inspirational muse), and Murphy's zeitgeist-y rebrandings.


Thursday, January 29, 2004


The good boys and girls of interest, personality and taste have banded together and formed DCFüd, an ambitious foodie blog to rival the best of them. Entries are neatly categorized (e.g. restaurants, drinks, recipes, etc.), the writing is solid yet diverse, and, contrary to popular belief, many chefs do not spoil the stew (case in point: within three entries one finds talk of a potent sob-inducing avant-garde saké, the recipe for a simple orangesque chocolate mousse, and a therapeutically non-emasculating set of instructions for manufacturing a quiche that I'm sure would garner raves from metrosexuals and hog-farmers alike).



The good boys and girls of interest, personality and taste have banded together and formed DCFüd, an ambitious foodie blog to rival the best of them. Entries are neatly categorized (e.g. restaurants, drinks, recipes, etc.), the writing is solid yet diverse, and, contrary to popular belief, many chefs do not spoil the stew (case in point: within three entries one finds talk of a potent sob-inducing avant-garde saké, the recipe for a simple orangesque chocolate mousse, and a therapeutically non-emasculating set of instructions for manufacturing a quiche that I'm sure would garner raves from metrosexuals and hog-farmers alike).



It has now been four days since I sent out my first plea to Blogger for assistance in un-fucking-up my page, but I still haven't heard a peep out of them. Don't most organizations send out conciliatory "we got your complaint and put it in the queue" messages? Blogger should start doing that. [Update: Steve at Blogger worked his swift magic and all is better. Praise Steve!]

To top it off I've been a little ill during the same time frame. Last Friday I could barely detect that odd coppery taste that so often presages a throat malady, and by Monday morning I had inflated with all sorts of mucous. And let me tell you, mucous and beards are mortal enemies. I've actually had to go and buy a pocket mirror so I can make sure I haven't got any visible snot before I talk to students at the help desk. NyQuil is delicious and makes my head feel sparkly, but I'd rather not experience the speedy jitters and menopausal hot flashes that DayQuil causes. Over the counter drugs are seriously hardcore, especially when one considers how cheap they are in general. I think the next time I want to drink, I'll save a few bucks and buy a $4 bottle of off-brand dextromethorphan-containing syrup instead of an $8 six pack. If only it weren't linked to arythmia and kidney failure.

Now that my tax woes from last year have been settled I've re-started the ugly process of completing FAFSA. If anyone out there is a master of FAFSA information, please give me a call. I swear, the organization of internal deadlines seems to have been designed to intentionally conflict logistically with both tax dates and external university deadlines.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Up to speed 

Belated Thanksgiving wishes to all, of course, and I hope that your extended weekend is providing the same sort of refreshing pause from work or school as it is for me. I've reached a certain point, though, where the pleasant boredom calms to simple boredom, which will soon multiply into god-awful boredom (but I love being bored, so no harm done).

Wednesday night my roommate and I went to Millie & Al's for the dollar draft special and got totally shit-faced, which I hadn't done (publicly or privately) in a long time. Her friend Christian joined us around drink seven or nine, and even he managed to drink himself over the line of reason. At some point we departed to go to the Common Share, but I left them to their pool-playing selves after one drink to walk home in the weird warm rain.

I made sure to drink a few glasses of water before bed, which helped remarkably well for Thursday morning, which I can't quite say for the roommate (who didn't even remember where we had gone after the first bar). She left to visit family in the early afternoon and my other roommate had left to do the same earlier in the morning, leaving me with the house to myself, gloriously devoid of any bad radio hits. I celebrated by inviting the Italian neighbor up for a drink and some music-talk, and he brought this bizarre, delicious Tarantula tequila (it's turquoise) that had us singing aloud to Morphine in no time at all.

After a nice nap in the sun on the deck, I dressed and hopped on the bike for a ride down to Eastern Market to celebrate a posh Thanksgiving with Robert and Steve, the gentlemen who hosted me upon my arrival in this city, and a few of their friends. Their friends are chatty, loud, dare I say brassy folk of diverse mixté who have many stories to tell. For the majority of the night I aligned myself to avoid political discussions and, once the fire was going, absorb the maximum comfort from the hearth. Invariably, though, the crowd thinned and Steve, as he is wont to do, ever so casually brought up my sex life as the next topic for general discussion. Fair enough, I'd come as the libertine guest who is inoffensible, but it didn't make it any more fun to have a few strangers chiming in as effective therapists or, in a stranger sense, encouraging mothers.

Shortly thereafter, I took to the bike again and rode back to Columbia Heights against a fierce, cold wind. The Italian neighbor was still awake, still drinking Tarantula, and, sniff sniff, what's that smell, Antonio? Needless to say, I stayed with him for a couple of hours until I was sufficiently exhausted, still noodle-legged from the ride, to climb three flights of stairs to my bed.

Yesterday morning I spent painting and dawdling on otherwise meaningless tasks, eventually signalled by the setting sun to get dressed for the next Eastern Market dinner party, at which I'd been requested to attend as something as a go-between. Fatigued from the previous days and not too teribly interested in biking to and from Eastern Market again in the cold to a party where people I don't know talk about real estate, I decided that I'd only attend if someone called to give me directions, and so I continued painting through the night with hot chocolate, a couple of joints, and my roommate's DVD stash.


Monday, January 26, 2004

This is why I always played catcher 

My right shoulder feels the size of a grapefruit this morning. I should have known.
Yesterday, Gina drove us to Horsehead Lake, a tiny (but impressive) lake that has been installed at the foot of the Ozark National Forest with the help of a mighty earthen dam. It had rained intensely the day/night before, so all of the inlet channels streaming out of the hills were this interesting milky blue in their deepest spots. The in situ rock that comprises 3/4 of the lake's retention walls is a nice mixture of thin, layered slate and rockier white stratifications of limestone (I'm guessing this is the source for the water's vaguely milky appearance). The beds of the swollen feeder streams are lined with plenty of worn-smooth stones, and there is a sizeable swampy area (a mini-delta?) where lots of grasses and berries are growing. While the folks watched the niece play with rocks and sticks, I took the opportunity to steal off into this marshland. My goal was to make it all the way to the other side of the lake so that I could clamber up the perfect steps of the exposed limestone cliffs, but I got caught up in the beauty of the swampy area and never made it all the way across. I interrupted a beaver apparently trying to collect all of the sticks he (or she, I suppose) that had been loosened from an upstream dam during the heavy rains and subsequent runoff. I found the remains of a skeletonized deer (and I also decided that a ribcage, and it doesn't matter the source animal, is a fucking scary thing to stumble upon). I found a rock shaped like a squat mushroom. I climbed a partially downed tree to get across one of the wider sections of the inlet stream, and when I hopped off it on the other side, I sank ankle-deep into the peat.

Having been gone for a while, I started jogging back toward my family, hands full of cool shit I'd found to show my three year old niece. The dew point was so high and the temperature so moderate that, by the time I reacehed them, my mom pointed out that condensation from my breath had collected on my beard around my mouth. My dad and I started pitching rocks at a tiny cement depth marker in the lake, refusing to leave until we'd hit our mark. It took us longer than we'd expected, hence the grapefruit shoulder. I can't believe I used to play baseball.


I've enabled comments. Feel welcome.


Sunday, January 25, 2004

Driving, windowlicking, gossiping 

Drove up to Clarksville in the rain yesterday. I notice now that road work in that direction is progressing toward some eventual goal so it doesn't irritate me as much. I even saw a few people out working in the rain. I also saw a precariously deformed section of the barrier wall where, likely from a massive impact on the other side, angular portions of cement slabs poked grossly into the lane, so I guess I can't say too much.

I also determined that Aphex Twin and the Gossip should team up for some remix action. I'm thinking that "Windowlicker" and "Arkansas Heat" could be mixed to bombastic results. Although I took a load of CDs to keep me entertained for the drive, these were the two that I kept coming back to. Allmusic.com describes "Windowlicker" as "eerie lounge-porn music ." I want an eerie lounge-porn radio station. While I'm on the subject of allmusic.com, I should also mention that, although "Arkansas Heat" is rating-less, the Gossip's debut album "That's Not What I Heard" gleaned a striking four and a half stars out of a possible five. Neat, eh? Searcy gets on the map for something other than a fucking massive Wal-Mart distribution center.

Driving home this afternoon was amazing. The plain was still covered by a hazy blanket of low-hovering clouds when I drove past the nuclear power plant in Russellville, where the vapor column punched directly into the low clouds just about thirty feet above the cooling tower's opening. Just a few minutes later I felt the sun warming the back of my neck; I turned around for a second to see a completely cleared sky sporting the full, revealed spire of said industrial steam. Brilliant. The sun was high enough in the sky that it quickly warmed, meaning that I could lower the windows, turn up the Aphex Twin a bit more, and chill out behind the wheel with the company of an electrically blue sky.


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