ticker tape

i’ve begun a diary of my stock market analysis on what we will term a sister blog.

my expectation is that writing down my thoughts on the market will cause me to posture and lie to myself, with deleterious consequences.

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blaine is a conscientious objector — from existence.

we are on the roof of his apartment, near the water tower. i suggest that he jump, but he waves it away as another stupid idea on my part.

the key, he explains, is random behavior. he is protesting existence by refusing it any intelligibility. because we are biological creatures, our brains fool us into making sense of things.

“most people do this. they take a lump of chaos, eat it, shit it out and call that order. i refuse to call the act of shitting order.”

did i mention that blaine is a university president? no? perhaps i should have started with that. also, his wife and young daughter sleep 3 stories below.

blaine sees no irony in his philosophy of abstaining from existence and his job as a university president or his role as a husband and father.

“we work to live.” he says simply. “i’m not in control of my unconscious mind, the part driving my behavior. for that matter, i’m not in control of my conscious mind. my unconscious mind is in control of my conscious mind. but my unconscious mind grants me the illusion that i am in control of my conscious mind.”

“then in what way are you abstaining from existence?”

“i don’t grant anything meaning.”

“you wake in the morning and put on a tie.”

“yes, but it’s meaningless. i refuse to grant that act meaning.”

“then why bother doing it?”

“why bother not doing it?”

“because it takes less effort not to?”

“for me, my job is the path of least resistance. for you, sleeping till noon and drinking all day is the path of least resistance. i don’t put any more effort into it than you do. i’m just being myself.”

i have to admit that i have no idea what he is talking about. blaine is merely another insane person who has latched onto me. the insane do that. i’m an insanity magnet.

next, blaine tells me he’s very concerned about my drinking. it isn’t good for me, and i could be doing more productive things with my time.

“i thought existence was meaningless? what can it possibly matter what i do?” i say.

“it doesn’t matter what you do. it doesn’t matter one bit. everything is futile. but the more you try the more futile things are, and i’m all in favor of that.”

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I can see Rafif at the far end of the bar, a silhouette in the bright light of the doorway. The Great Rafif, raconteur, felon, charmer of women, accidental drunk. He is calm; others along the bar twitch and gesticulate nervously as they listen to his story. I can’t hear his words yet they communicate. Already the room is like a framed image of itself as seen through a wide angle lens, as the conjurer’s murmur of a voice evokes memories of other tales, stories whose details reveal themselves only reluctantly and at long last. A key detail here and there and the mind fills in the rest. The story is told only with details yet the details themselves become lost within the story. An open window here. A nightstand there. From these inanimate objects the world is breathed into being, yet they remain unnoticed in the corner because the mind is busy filling in the remaining scenery. The woman. Was she beautiful?

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the shape of things

the city is necessarily a simplification, a physical place comprised of people, land, buildings, houses, streets, cars, rivers, vegetation, and animals colliding with less tangible families, businesses, laws, boundaries, communities and customs, condensed to a single concept in a single mind at a single time. ever since i quit my job that concept has continually flattened and broadened like a pancake, as if subject to a force from above like a rolling pin.  i’m acutely aware of this mental contortion, because many of my friends and acquaintances have been pushed to the periphery.

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hector had the easy smile of a man who had committed great atrocities. he was a police officer, but he only came around when he was off-duty. he mostly came by just to get high and fuck one of the girls in the chorus in the bathroom. the chorus was the name given by stan for the regular girls who liked to get high and fuck guys like hector in the bathroom.  spengler had no patience for the girls in the chorus and hated hector because he was always getting laid in the bathroom.

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a monday afternoon

spengler leaned against the end of the bar, acting in an unofficial capacity. nobody was sure what the hell he meant by this, so he explained it several times. “what i’m doing now,” he said, stroking his frosty beer mug as if it were a loved one, “is unofficial”.

“what the hell does that mean?” asked pierce.

“it means it doesn’t count.”

“what the hell does that mean?” asked pierce.

“the world is divided into two hemispheres. the official and the unofficial. so i’m clarifying that what i’m doing now is unofficial.”

“what the hell difference does it make?” asked pierce.

“it makes all the difference. we live in a modern world..”

“dude, you live in the fucking 19th century.” said stan, polishing wine glasses behind the bar.

“whatever you do is whatever you fucking do. it doesn’t matter whether you say it’s official or not.” said pierce.

“of course it does. for instance, let’s say today is monday instead of saturday.”

“today is monday.” said stan.

“whatever. just pretend for the sake of argument that it’s monday.”

“it is monday.” said pierce.

“ok. it’s monday. so monday is a more official day than saturday, in general. wouldn’t you agree?”

“i don’t know. it’s monday afternoon and you’re here getting drunk. shouldn’t you be at work or something?” said stan.

“yes, officially, i should be at work, not here drinking beer. that’s why i started out by making the distinction that what i’m doing now is unofficial.”

“but the fact is you’re here drinking beer. it doesn’t matter whether you say it’s unofficial or not.”

“here’s what you two don’t understand about the world. not everything can be official. because, officially, we’re all fucked. officially, we’re all assholes. officially, we’re all going to die. but unofficially…” he took a giant swig of beer while the others waited impatiently for him to finish his sentence, “…unofficially we exist as free, immortal spirits. superior beings. but only unofficially.”

“don’t you have it reversed?” said lauren, sitting at the corner table. “aren’t we supposed to officially be good, whereas we know unofficially that we all suck?”

“no. you think that because you’re a girl. girls have everything backwards. that’s what makes them girls.”

pierce was losing patience. “what fucking difference does all this shit matter? whatever you do is whatever you do. nobody is keeping score. there is no official record.”

“sure, but we have to live as if there were an official record. otherwise everything would be chaos.”

“no, your world is chaos. skipping work and getting drunk on a monday afternoon and arguing that half the world is official and the other half isn’t. that’s chaos.” said pierce.

“no, because officially i’m in a meeting right now.” said spengler, loosening his tie.

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they sat on the fire escape, snorting heroin. it was their friday afternoon routine, that is, on the fridays they had off. how lucky they were — as lovers at least — to have coincidental fridays off. it was like a new form of astrology. half the people got one friday off while the other half got the other. who’s to say one’s destiny wasn’t intrinsically written into this schedule? alex worked in operations while alexis worked in accounting. would they have ever discovered the other also loved snorting heroin in the afternoon if their every-other-friday-offs didn’t coincide?

that was the subject of their heroin induced discussion, while peering down the alley 8 stories below with its verdant hanging ferns and climbing shadows. they took the idea to the next level, though. it wasn’t their fridays off, per se, that had brought them together. it was the pattern, the rhythm, that the schedule locked them in. they weren’t like the other half whose cycle countered theirs. their tuesdays were different. their weekends were different. their way of life was different.

“such a small change” alex continued “changes everything.”

“yes.” agreed alexis. “it all makes so much sense.”

whereas most conversations take a little bit of q&a or quid pro quo or a reframing of minor disagreements in perceptions, this one did not. their frame of mind was one in the same, which only compounded the feeling that it had to do with the sort of people they were, people who felt and understood and perceived all the same nuances of the universe.

“the funny thing is,” said alexis “is that the other half wouldn’t even understand what we are saying even though it would apply to them equally. but they wouldn’t understand because they are different.”

“exactly” said alex. “i was just thinking exactly that.”

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He continued, “You are correct in principle, but here’s how things work in practice. You show respect but not deference. Make no appeal to common sense. The problem with appeals to common sense is that it makes you seem… common. Petty. Like a loser with no power.”

“But people always say they want to hear more common sense.”

“That’s because it’s what they have the least of. It’s the same reason we listen to songs about love.”

“But my argument makes perfect sense.”

“An argument isn’t a real argument in court. Think of it as a seduction.”

“I have to show this asshole respect?”

“No, no. You’re not showing the asshole respect. You’re showing the system respect.”

“I fucking hate the system.”

“If that’s the case, it will hate you back. Think of it this way. If you show respect for the system, the system will let you win.”

“That’s completely fucked.”

“Not if you don’t hate it.”

“So my argument’s out the window.”

“Out the window.”

“Then what do I say?”

“Say you’re sorry.”

“Sorry! That’s an admission of guilt!”

“No, it’s an exercise in manners. It shows class. This is all about class. People defer to those they think are above them.”

“I thought people hated those above them.”

“Only in the abstract. In person, they love them.”

“So I say I’m sorry. Then what?”

“Say you’re very sorry for what happened, but you had nothing to do with it.”

“I can’t say I had nothing to do with it.”

“You can say whatever you want. Say you had nothing to do with it.”

“Nobody’s going to believe that.”

“It doesn’t matter what they believe. All that matters is that they respect you, that they look up to you. They will want to believe what they don’t really believe.”

“This is so completely fucked.”

“All you need to change is your attitude.”

“How the fuck am I supposed to change that?”

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pierce and the great escape

recently i offered to accompany pierce on one of his shoots. i wasn’t sure what i was getting into, but it seemed worth the risk. all we did was walk around town all afternoon sipping whiskey. he took pictures of alleyways, cracks and crevices in and between buildings. “what the fuck are you doing?” i kept saying. “i thought we were going to see some women.” “we might spot some in the wild, you never know.”

he would snap a picture of another alleyway, then look disappointed. i finally realized what he was doing. he was hoping the camera would capture something in the landscape we couldn’t see with our naked eyes. perhaps even an escape. there are streets and freeways leading every which direction but all these passages are only going somewhere you’ve already been. if there were really an escape from all this shit, it wouldn’t be so obvious. there wouldn’t be a sign and an arrow pointing in that direction. if so, men would be crushed to death in the massive exodus.

we ended up some place far to the east, amid a labyrinth of rail tracks, decrepit, empty warehouses, broken blocks of concrete, an abundance of litter blowing in the wind. a landscape of desolation and exhausted  possibilities.

2 girls suddenly showed up in a car. pierce had texted them and scheduled an impromptu photo-shoot. it was a lesson in contrast. the girls stripped off their shirts and made sexy poses in the concrete desert. he took pictures until dusk, as the city gradually rose to circle us in red and white lights on freeways in the distance while we stood like small figurines, i suppose, at its crumbled, forsaken core.

we all hopped back in the car and rode back to the bar for drinks. inside, the girls cleaved to pierce while he tried to explain to me in some incomprehensible language what he was trying to accomplish artistically with the shoot.

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spengler, stan and other neighborhood assholes

although i live in a large city in america, these days my world consists entirely of the space from my apartment to the bar two blocks away. i don’t drive anymore. i slowly read a history of taiwan in the morning, check my stocks,  walk to the vietnamese restaurant for pho soup, walk home through the little park with the dog run, check my stocks again, read some blogs and finally go to the bar and argue all night with spengler about the history and future of music. despite the fact that spengler is 30 and seemingly sensible with respect to other matters, he thinks music died in the 19th century. spengler is an idiot.

then i awake hungover at 10 and live the exact same day all over again, except maybe taiwan will have advanced some and this time my stocks will be down instead of up and i’ll worry a bit about running out of money and having to get another job. maybe i’ll watch a korean movie on netflicks.

i’m rebuilding my world from scratch. i wreaked havoc in the corporate world, wreaked havoc in my relationships and now i’m taking things slowly. for instance, it is of the utmost importance that i convince spengler that he is an idiot. it’s ok if my stocks go down as long as i get a few good jabs in at spengler at night over his beloved janacek.

i’m not sure what other value system to have. girls come and go. there’s no point in worrying about them. i don’t know how to control their comings and goings so i don’t think about them.

stan, the bartender, is a piece of shit, too. i get charged for every drink because he thinks i have money. yeah, i have money, and i’m spending it, and i’m going to end up homeless, you fuck. i don’t see any other way things could turn out. i’m not going back to the corporate world and waking with an alarm again. hell no. i look at some of the homeless people who sleep around where i live. they don’t seem to have it too bad. there’s a soup kitchen nearby. they probably don’t serve pho but perhaps i could adjust my tastes. instead of being the guy inside the bar telling passersby i don’t have any change to spare, i’ll be one of the passersby asking for change. so i change positions in life, big deal. sure, it doesn’t seem like a great deal, but it seems like a better exchange than going back to waking up with an alarm and getting dressed in a panic and walking into an office building with dread and sitting there hour after fucking hour pretending to fucking work when really i have lost all ability to do anything or give a shit about anything.

stan is not amused by my tales and still charges me full price for every fucking last glass of wine. he doesn’t care if i run out of money. he thinks because he tends bar that means he works for a living. good for you, stan. don’t you see that i couldn’t work behind a bar even if i wanted to? that i’m too deranged for such work? you think i could stand there sober for 8 hours and talk to a hundred people without losing my fucking mind?

once again, no sympathy. no heart. i pay my $40 tab and stumble home through the dog run in the park, trying not to step on any dogshit.


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