BLOG THIS! Highly Suspect Wisdom for the Widely Disinterested Masses
I'm fairly sure I know who stole this record. It was just posted in a vinyl forum I'm in. Look closely at what's stamped beneath the title. Freshman year there was a dude in my dorm who lugged his entire stereo, speakers, and many milk crates of records all the way to campus, while most of us just brought a duffle bag of clothes, a couple pretentious books (Kafka, Camus, maybe a rando Fyodor) and a toothbrush. I used to go to Stereo Guy's room, partake of a little Greater Ohio Area Ditchweed, and spin records. Most of his stuff was meat-n-taters classic rock, but he was also into fusion. Which is to say we listened to a ton of Mahavishnu Orchestra. At any rate, one day I swung by for another round of John McLaughlin solos and the dude had a stack of new records. All jazz. Mostly be-bop. I had a radio show at WYSO then (2-4am, everyone's favorite time slot). All of Stereo Guy's new records had WYSO written on the covers in black marker. You could get away with pretty much anything at that school. In fact, most of our parent's hard-earned and grudgingly forked over tuition went not toward academics, but the maintenance of an illusory, consequence-free bubble. However, taking records from the radio station was not covered. "You're gonna get nailed for that," I said. "Nah," he laughed, tamping down the business-end of the cigarette he'd just rolled with the stem of the silver mushroom he always wore on a chain around his neck. A few weeks later, he got nailed. And was immediately banned from the station. Not too long after, there was talk around the music department that someone was pilfering albums from the Listening Room. Could have been a coincidence. Stereo Guy dropped out before the end of the year, and I never saw or heard from him again. This, of course, is pure conjecture on my part, but I would bet my body weight in gold coins captured during the Second Punic War that the same dude waltzed off campus for the last time with this 1968 stereo copy of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" under his arm. How fascinating that someone in the heartland just bought it, three decades later, in their local record store.
Today is Charley's birthday. She is four years old. Later we are having a cake made of veal and also something that sort of looks like veal, before tearing apart a celebratory pile of empty boxes with our teeth. After a dinner of additional veal with some carroty-looking chunks, we will have a few post-prandial waters in lappable steel bowls and tell stories about the old days on the Kansas City Marrow & Mailman circuit. Simultaneously the best and most disquieting thing about Charley is the human-ness of her eyes, a widely remarked upon quality inherent in this particular breed. Her stare speaks volumes. It is tempting to read a complexity there, a higher philosophical understanding of the world and its people, their purposes and flaws. Despite the fact that she regularly displays an unusual intelligence, I have come to believe, like a 1932 ticker tape machine, what she actually has is an endless furl of paper spinning through her head that contains four repeated phrases:
1. "Is that by any chance food, food-adjacent, food related, food-remnant, briefly food-contacted, something inedible I will eat and throw up later anyway, or food?"
2. "Physics and canine physiognomy aside, is there a way that I can get even one increment closer than the already sweaty closeness I am currently enjoying curled like a donut on your lap?
3. Can you open the door for the seventeenth time this hour so I can madly and barkingly chase that non-existent thing again, a quixotic backyard trot which always ends with a resigned piss upon the newly planted?
4. If I could dig a bone-hole large enough to bury this whole goddamned clown show of a world in, covering the existential fallacy of meaning let alone the verifiable meaninglessness with paw after paw of moist dirt, and then tamp it all down with a single dismissive sniff, I'd be on that toot-suite. Oh, you better believe it."
I realize there's little point in imparting this thought, and that it breaks zero emotional or intellectual ground, but, as everyone's favorite pixel obdurate, I'm plowing ahead anyway. I love going into my office early Sunday mornings. I get up while the girls, and seemingly most of the world, happily slumbers. On the way in I've been passing the same ramshackle Sherman Williams store, long boarded up, for years. Recently some enterprising type bought the place and instead of a tear-down turned it into a retro coffee spot. No big deal - new sign, fresh paint, bright awning. It's basically the Airstream Camper version of your local spot. There are tables outside and every time I come flying around that corner (it's at the end of a long straightaway with no parking or sidewalks, the main reason, aside from toxic Sherman Williams primer fumes, that it's been empty for so long) I see people enjoying an early latte. Here's the problem (you already know the problem): There are ten fresh, white tables. Nine are occupied. Eight by young couples. The couples are not cracking wise about last night's The Good Wife, or holding forth on phallic imagery in Vonnegut, or relaying work details that the other (...and then, the new guy? He just marches into the meeting and...") gamely pretends to care about. Or even mid-argument, one more accusation and half a bear claw away from breaking the lease. Nope. They're both staring at their phones. Together. Mutually. Proximally. Necks bent. Thumbs primed. Wheel-spinning tandem bikes of absorption. Every time. Coffee wafts between and pigeons peck around, but as medium was once message, environment is now afterthought. Sure, maybe they're just bored or knocking out emails or something important really does have to be handled right then. I get it. No judgment. Technology is inexorable and those who rail against it are either Ted Kaczynski, insufferably retrograde, or insufferable Ted Kaczynski. But here's my (one, small) point: every time I come zooming around that corner it's a snapshot that reminds me, in a jarringly visceral way, of Edward Hopper's diner. The painterly isolation. A sallow, forlorn light. Two people, two phones, an emptiness that renders attempts to describe the existential existentially moot. Or hey, maybe it's just me. But there is, if nothing else, a fleeting nose swab of sadness. And then I downshift through the final string of yellow lights and careen sideways into my parking spot, forgetting all about it. But this thing, this feeling, exists. No cranking the tunes and pretending it away. For that one second the flash recoils, BANG, and an image is exposed, already submerged in the chemistry bath of my mind, ready for a mixture of red light and silver halide to bring it forth once again, every time.