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BLOT: (15 Aug 2016 - 08:37:22 PM)

A video to commemorate the anniversary of "I, This Thinking Thing"

On July 29, 2015, I wrote a poem: "I, This Thinking Thing". It was the first poem I had written in years. There were many reasons for me writing it, then. I had started talking about poetry with a friend. I had decided to try writing again. I had...feelings...I had to process. Since then, this past year, I have written a few dozen strong poems, meaning poems I readily claim as my own, and rewritten a number of my older poems into stronger versions. In something like an honor of that, I wanted to commemorate the poem that began the trend with a video.

Before I get to the video and that process, let's take a moment to look at something I wrote when I first posted the poem:

This new poem grew out of three things...[one of which was the first of] two conversations I had with a friend. [It] was about the use of the word "I" in a number of her poems, and how I used to use the word "I" too much, and how "I" is dangerous in poetry. Not only does it take all of your existence and compress down into a single word, but it disrupts the reader: they have to either decide the poem is about them, and accept all inside, or read it as merely about the poet, which has its place but must be used carefully. Which means, of course, I wrote a poem in which "I" is essential to the structure because, you know, I am petulant about rules.
I feel understanding your own infinity is a lot harder than realizing you are a complex space-time-event. It is easy to label yourself with multiple labels - nerd, librarian, friend, lover, mediocre dancer, smoker, poet, reader, swamp-rat born, etc - but kind of hard to realize that none of those labels mean anything except as the shallowest of starting conditions. We project ourselves unto the world, but often only in broad strokes, and therefore reduce the world to a pitiful cognitive dissonance... In such, the poem became a love-letter, but the "eventually, someone says I love you" unvoiced love moment is the poet getting comfortable with what "I" might mean, again. Along the way...[the "I"] starts seeing itself as a relationship between others.

And now the video...

When I decided to make the video, it took me a couple of weeks to realize what I wanted to do for it. The first idea was simply to sit outside and record myself reading it as is. The second idea was to take an image of the poem as a whole, and then to pan-and-zoom along the image as I read it out, possibly faded out with my reading of it visible behind. That eventually lead to the idea of a Prezi where I would make the poem into a complex shape being navigated as I read it. That proved more complicated, and more "gimmicky" than I wanted, so I decided instead to make "I, This Thinking Thing" in Google Sheets, which I could then record in a way similar to the Prezi version, but with different sorts of tricks.

Along the way, certain ideas presented themselves, ways to add a visual layer to the poetry. I won't spoil all of the tricks, both those in the poem itself and in the video of it, but here are eight to get you started.

  1. In morse code, the letter "i" is represented by two dots, note the profusion of colons, ":," in the poem.
  2. In the video, the letter's "i" and "u", as well as words representing "i" and "you" (in various ways) are represented by different fonts and colors. This is used in weird ways in places. I'll leave you to find all of them.
  3. The poem combines my undergraduate majors - astrophysics and philosophy - by referencing cogito ergo sum and including a imagery about stars and space.
  4. "between hello and goodbye" are formatted in the stylings of The House of Leaves. In that book, words meaning house are in blue, while words meaning the minotaur and struck out words are in red. Note, there is another trick on that slide.
  5. The word "color" in "a mandala without color" is not only an irony, but a mild tribute to my friend Kelsey, matching the sort of colors she used while working with me at the Salmon Library. She is not the only person to get a shout-out in the poem.
  6. As fitting for a poem inspired in part by I and Thou, there are bits of biblical and mythical imagery, such as "a dreaming clay". The strangest is a reference to the line et in arcadia ego [meaning in paradise, death existed]. Except I have replaced arcadia with imago, both a reference to a stage in an insect's life and to the image (or phenomenon) of things. It also allowed me to make a reference to both Wallace Stevens - "Imago, Imago, Imago" - and Laird Barron - "The Imago Sequence".
  7. The strange vocals of the reading was accomplished by speaking loudly but calmly into a mike capable of recording directional sound held closely to my mouth, so my voice was recorded multiple times in a single take, and then I normalized it and processed it through noise reduction to create a strange warble where the voices were processed into a single voice.
  8. The poem ends with the opening line, a reference to Finnegan's Wake, but also ends with an ampersand, implying that the poem goes on indefinitely and you are only witnessing a small part of it.

There are a number of glitches with the poem and its reading. One of letters i is in the wrong font. Due to Google's attempt to turn three periods into an ellipses, you get weird font twitches in the series of four-on-four periods. You can hear the clicking of the slides in several places. I also intended one of the letters i to be the square-root of negative one. But, all in all, the flaws are part of the whole. And, in the slideshow glitches, I have corrected them in the version shared above.

So, enjoy my strange reading of my strange poem, "I, This Thinking Thing," (which I might note has been rewritten slightly for this version, and I consider the corrections to make this the definitive version.


BLOT: (12 Aug 2016 - 10:36:39 PM)

Poem: "Another Night Lost to Drinking Poetry"

Another night lost to drinking away poetry
Another night lost to drowning memories
Reshaping them into lines, giving them names
Putting them into cardboard boxes, trying to forget
Another midnight coming on fast like a train
As I sit here on the tracks, putting thoughts
To paper, following after words I never know
If I will have courage to speak, to admit
I feel, but I write them all because they haunt
Me and my walks and my quiet summer miles
Lights and horns blaring, seeking an end
To this need to be spoken, wrapping mouth
Around the lines unwritten, the desperate hoping
That I would somehow stop feeling them before
They were poured on pages, typed and dead,
Finally outloud, a tragedy born and bleeding.

I seek to balance the after and the before,
Balance the silence with the life and laughter,
Balance the absence with the time together,
Balance the standing with falling down grace,
Balance the sadness with the happiness once,
Balance the today with the Saturdays gone.
All these photos of you, smiling and laughing,
Become just another grave for a poem's passing,
Become just another tiger stalking through forests.
All the things said, the jokes and the idle chatter,
All the happiness felt, what can any of it matter?
The posters, the verses, the friendly curses,
The angry fights over food and shoes and meaning,
The pouring out over sidewalks and through malls,
Down roads and near ponds, the quiet touches,
The singing the rhyming the reading the breathing
Of hours and minutes and seconds gone away
For a dawn has fallen, run out into rivers
Streaming down to an ocean, a beach of forever.
Such simple enjoyment gone, no matter the reasons.
And some of them were quite good, we needed
Space to process the melting of distance,
To process the labels we had for each other,
I needed to be myself and you needed to know
Who you were in possibility, and to other
Hearts we needed to dedicate our care and time
Because even at its best my heart failed to explain
All the things it washed into you with the rising tide
As you washed into it when the waves flowed out.

You were never my poetry, never my gifts,
You were never my friendship nor my I love you,
You were never my ideals, never my missteps,
You were not even your last harsh words,
No matter how much truth you imparted in them.
Even if I know I am stronger than the weakness
You painted like tattoos on my skin, I am glad
That you got to express my darkness in the end,
Because it was one last argument I won,
A final proof of the things I had tried to explain to you,
And no matter how much more of me there is beyond
The things you said, sometimes cracked mirrors
Are what we look to for our own lost reflection
And I hold this mirror, now, looking back into myself
As a failure of a friend, a failure of parts,
A failure in love, a failure to be a better man,
A machine running down into its own bad end.
Broken and unhealthy, uncomfortable to tolerate
Behind the days you were counting down like sand.
And all that year of things thought so sweet and pure
Became just a mask for the hate you needed
To express in confused parting, became sounds.

So here I am, drinking away another night to poetry
Trying to forget, but finding it easier to forgive
Even when I feel mostly confused by all of this.
(Forgive you, I mean, I'm not sure how to forgive myself.)
I look back, not for the last time, over the horizon,
And wonder what else could have been
If different afternoons talked of different things
But a million-billion pairs of eyes look forward
And I know questions like that have no answers,
For it was what it was, something into itself,
But like all things, it ran out of time to be expressed
And became a ghost of a puzzle, a music box,
A shadow of a year sitting on a dusty shelf,
The ink dries into the past, becomes something else.

Now the next chapter opens up, already here,
Midnight wanes, I close the page and shut the door
Behind me as I head out to watch meteors fall.
I wish it had been a better goodbye, my beautiful friend,
But we barely got to choose the start or the finish.


BLOT: (24 Jul 2016 - 01:02:13 PM)

A Rainy [and largely unplanned] Road Trip to Gadsden

After the emotional intensity of my last blog post, it was pretty clear to me (and probably to several of you), that Sarah and I have some things to work through. Couples therapy, like any therapy, like an medical treatment, is only good when it is in tandem with working through the underlying issues. Things are already improving between her and I, and we made some big breakthroughs this week, but I would be foolish to think that recovery is a given. Part of this recovery, though, was returning somewhat to our roots and returning to some of the things that helped forge our relationship in general. Yesterday was partially about that. Sarah and I used to hike a lot, used to talk a lot, used to get out and play games together. We were best friends before we were a couple, and best friends as a couple, and that's probably what was missing most from the past five or so months of our relationship, the feeling that we were best friends still. So, we took a trip to Gadsden, which was an important part of our relationship back when I was in grad school, and spent a day just relaxing around one another.

On the way down to Gadsden, we got hit by one of the wettest, most sustained rain storms I have seen in some time. In fact, it was such a heavy storm that by time we got to Atalla, we had to take an alternate route to Gadsden because one of the roads was so flooded that cops were having to block off the road. Even the open roads had enough water that some cars were getting stuck trying to drive down them. We eventually pulled over in a bank parking lot, waited for about 20 minutes for some of the water to pour off, and then took a sort of backroads way around to Noccalula Falls. I had briefly visited the park with a coworker during a lull in the 2016 Alabama Library Conference, and wanted to take her there. We get there, it is still drizzling, so we hole up under a pavilion for about half an hour before finally going across the street to a Dollar General and picking up a couple of umbrellas. She has been playing Pokemon GO a bit, so the added protection from the rain meant she could hunt out objects in the rain without ruining her phone. Because of a couple of delays (the stops to avoid the worst of the rain, some stuff I will talk about later, and just taking it slow when we got there) we missed being able to go into the park proper, but we still were able to hike around above the falls and then to take Black Creek Trail for an hour or so as daylight waned and twilight built up.

We got far enough down the trail to visit the river, and then spent a bit down there on the rocks by the water before we came back out in the dying light. It was nice. I'm sad I've not been down there, before, because the trails are clean, well cared-for, and they have lots of nice and pleasing views. There's a mini-golf course and some other activities that would be fun to try (though the rain yesterday would have nixed them even if we had gotten there early enough to do anything about it). I'd like to go back, maybe in the cooler months of the year. Not terribly long ago, Sarah and I spent an anniversary trip hanging out around Gadsden, and while I am pretty adamant about not wanting to go on any long trips this year, travel has a way of draining me, it might be a good place to spend a weekend near our twelfth-anniversary. If you like hiking and haven't been to the Falls, give it a whirl. It's not like black-diamond style trails, more like casual ones, but it is pretty good for the soul.

Getting back up to the top of the trails, and walking back to our car, we saw a number of other PoGo players hanging out in the park. It was kind of nice. Just a dozen or so people, some of them obviously strangers to one another, hanging out and swapping stories. A few were sitting around and enjoying watching the people. I still am not playing the game, but I've been enjoying watching a bit of the future bubble forth.

Completely unrelated to that, we sat down and rested for a moment near this little trolley that goes through the park, and I got to watch some kittens run around and down the tracks. Nothing quite like sitting near a "train platform", in the dark, surrounded by a slight rain shower, watching kittens play, that makes you feel strangely like someone in a Murakami novel. I damn near tweeted the below pic (blurry as hell from the low light and the fogged up lens on my camera) with a message something like, "Watching cats play on a train at night. Help, I'm trapped in a Murakami novel. Send jazz and daikon radishes!" But I didn't, because I figured about three people would get and laugh at that joke, and I was two of them. Some of the reasons for being there, the emotional aspects, only added to the surreality.

After that, Sarah and I went across the street to Kati Thai Cuisine and had some vegan pad thai and some tofu/cashew stir-fry and soup. It was really good. They have one of the best vegan menus I have ever tried, and whole-heartedly recommend them. Then we ran down to Wal-mart so I could get a dry undershirt since the shirt I was wearing had been rain soaked for about four hours, and some much needed body-spray because I smelled like a cave-man, and we came back up to Huntsville. We got in about 11pm, and I lay down to pet my cat for a few minutes, and fell asleep almost immediately. Slept something like nine hours. Could probably still use some more sleep, to be honest.

One of the reasons we were late leaving, and a good one, is that after my post several friends and family members contacted us. Several people reached out and talked to me about divorce, miscarriage, problems having children, adoption, issues with their own marriage, depression, and so forth. I appreciate everyone who reached out, quite a bit. I also appreciate the number of people who said that Sarah and I were the kind of couple that it was surprising to hear were having any problems, since we seemed like such a special pair, but that they were absolutely sure that we could work it out and be even happier together. I think we can. There are certain lessons learned, certain habits learned, in our bad times that I would like to revisit. Like, I enjoyed getting out a couple of nights a week and walking around campus and around town. I think I will do that again, once heat allows. I liked that Sarah and I both had friends that we could talk to outside of the marriage, something I would like to keep up, though it is good to know the limitations of how effective this can be. I also know that Sarah and I being able to get out and have fun together is absolutely vital, and for those who mentioned that while talking to me, thank you. I mean, it was something I already knew, but it was good to have other people tell me.

And so, in the spirit of fun, but also with a hint of sadness, I will end this with a rather...fascinating...photo. Sarah hates bananas. Hates them almost as much as she hates spiders. She hates the way they taste. She gets kind of nauseated when she eats them. Except, strangely, when she was pregnant. She suddenly craved bananas and started eating them. We wanted to share this with her sister (a fellow banana-phobe) and so I took a picture and sent it to Alicia and Alicia's immediate response was, "Stop sexting me!". I've posted the picture below so you can see why such a response was immediate, even though the pic was just meant to be innocent and candid (the fact that is so blurry testifies that it was meant to be a quick Messenger pic and not something we were taking "on purpose". It is truly one of the great Sarah photos. It is also, um, special. I will end with it as a way to remember a great-time that became a bad-time, but a bad-time with hope in it for a better future, but also to illustrate what it is that I am now fighting for, keeping this sex-pot in my life. Enjoy your Sunday, folks.


BLOT: (23 Jul 2016 - 12:37:00 AM)

My soul is the sound of water reflecting light at night

Tonight, as I was sitting down by the duck pond (the one out at UAH) while Sarah was jogging around campus and playing Pokemon GO, a man came up and sat down and just started talking to me. He said friends call him "T" (he said his full name, but I am bad at retaining that sort of information). He was back from Saudi Arabia. He had been a student at UAH a few years ago, played on the soccer team, and then had gotten a job. He reached a point where he wanted to come back to Huntsville because while it had not always been his home, he said he just wanted to be back here because he really liked it here, though in his transition he was living with one friend and had his stuff stored in another friend's garage. He offered me a drink. I declined. He asked me if I was ok. I told him I was, and mostly meant it. We stared at the water for a little bit together, then talked some more. We shook hands, and he got up and left. A few minutes later, Sarah wrapped up her jog and came back and sat down next to me, and I asked her about making this blog post, she said I could. Then we came home.

A collection of materials about having a baby, now gone

Earlier this year, Sarah had a miscarriage. I've told some of you about this. Maybe a dozen. About twice that many people know that Sarah and I were trying to have a child. I've talked to maybe half that number about the impact it has had upon us. I've talked to maybe half that number about it in depth. I've talked to just about no one about how it has hurt our marriage. Miscarriages do that. Sometimes even strong marriages can end because of them. For about five-and-a-half months now, is it made us into something like combatants on opposing ends of a war where both people actually want the best for each other. I became afraid that trying again would hurt her. She became afraid of letting me know how much it had hurt her because she had saw how happy I was in planning to become a father, and she really wanted to try again. Stuff that we had been working towards, like buying a house and planning a future, sort of went on hold in my mind. In hers, those plans of a house and baby and retirement became synonymous with me saying I wanted to stay with her, and my refusing to talk about it became a sign that I was tired of her. We stopped being able to share ourselves fully with each other, started running in slightly different circles, both hiding some of our intense emotions on the topic in stupid fights and long weekends of just sitting on the couch and not talking much. It left a void in our marriage. The past couple of weeks has made this apparent. To both of us. We have started couples therapy, actually started it about a month ago, and have just got to the point where you have to unwrap enough bandages to really face the wounds, and some of those are big wounds. We even discussed the real possibility of divorce, which sounds so unreal to admit.

That above photo was something she took as part of a therapy session with herself. She gets full credit with it, though I helped a little. It was all the bits of hope of a pregnancy and despair of a miscarriage in a single shot. If you click on it, you will see the full-sized version, which is something like 13MB. It is not an easy photo to look at, because it is a lot of suffering thought to be a for a good cause, only now, looking back, there is little to show for it but more suffering. I can't look at it without crying. I'm crying now just looking back up at it. But I am glad it exists, because nearly any pain made honestly open is a pain that can be healed.

Again, some of you know this, some of you don't, but it has been nearly a year since what I call my Real-Bad-Week. A mixture of many things, from heat-induced exhaustion to Sarah being out of town to opening up my soul again to other people to finally coming to terms with Shawn's death, left me a wreck. The fact that I was taking pills to boost my testosterone and Sarah and I had to start regulating our love life to increase fertility chances contributed. I collapsed into myself, becoming sort of manic and depressed at the same time, eventually started therapy, eventually opened up to more people, and then sort of hit a coasting pattern. Sarah's pregnancy, about six months later, was something that made it all seem worthwhile. When that ended in early February, it was like Sisyphus, only as the boulder rolls back down the hill, it crushes him in the process, and now he must get up, ribs cracked and knees ruined, and push it back up again, only he don't know if he can.

Since that Real-Bad-Week, I have actually done a lot to improve myself. My poetry is better. My fiction is better. I have written more good stuff than ever in my life. I have given a significant poetry reading that still gets discussed when I run into people around town. I'm a better librarian. I'm in better shape. I have a better grasp of many things. I know about my limits more. But... I have been a worse husband. I have been a worse friend. I have been a worse brother. I read less. I smoke more. I mope more. My arthritis has moved from a semi-thought in the back of my head to something that has changed my daily routine after a couple of bad flares have left me in a fair state of regular pain. It is not a wash. It is not an equal exchange. In that year, I made a several important friendships. But, this week, one important friendship ended. I will take full blame, because even when a friendship is an entire network of people's shared experiences, I was a big enough asshole to need the wake-up call about just how big of an asshole I had been, even at moments I thought I was being the opposite. Now I wonder how much of that immensity of friendship, all those memories, matters in the shattered silence that is left behind. Again, it feels a little like Sisyphus. A year reduced to being back at the bottom of the hill. Though, this time, it doesn't quite feel like it broke bones and left me tired, more like it taught me a lot about how to push a boulder. It will take me some weeks to process the silence, but I am still glad for being there before it, and I am glad to be here in it, and I will be glad to be here once I have moved on past it. Something I wrote to that friend about a month and a half ago, when I had a inevitable sense that it was ending and couldn't shake the feeling, feels important for everyone that looks back at significant moments in their life and finds it hard to express what they even meant (note, slightly edited to remove specifics, and to sum up the final sentence in a different, more general way):

Life is full of inexplicable dances, and you and I are always only a few waltz steps away from the one meeting that will be the last time we will meet. One day I will look you in the eyes and then we'll say something like, "See you, later!," and we will finally be liars, because we never will see each other again. Things flow as they flow, until they cease, which is another way to flow. Good beginnings are only half the story. How it ends for us is some hours away, and I hope it is very many hours, but hours are like sand, it only seems like a lot of it when you think of individual grains. Looking back at the beach, it is a simple thing to have walked away from, and all the drops of water in the ocean are just a few waves crashing into foam at children's feet. The old phrase, "Can't see the forest for the trees," is such a dumb thing, because as a species we can rarely see the trees for the forest. There have been many good hours with you and I together, but some decade from now, those will probably dwindle to a thought given to months as a whole. Just a year as a single phrase.

When the second anniversary of Shawn's death was looming, Sarah did an immense thing for me. She contacted several of my friends, several of the people I sort of bossed around and uncled and talked to about things, and had them write letters for me telling me how I thought of myself as a harmful darkness but I really had been there for a lot of folks. I still have those letters, and still read them, because sometimes it seems hard to admit you are a bastard, but it is frankly much harder to admit that you are a force of good in this world. For me, anyhow. I sometimes fancy myself a puzzle box wrapped in skin and inside are all these pieces waterlogged and jumbled together, but that is a coping mechanism for me to deal with the fact that I am merely human. I talk a lot of shit about myself, call myself an ugly old man and an asshole and a fool, but that is also a coping mechanism. I know that I have a genius level IQ, am good at my job, am found attractive by a number of people, have helped more people than I can count, and am capable of great change and much greater things than I give myself credit for. But it's easier to talk shit about yourself than to get out there and take responsibility for yourself, and this past year I have relied on the former much more than the latter. To all of you, I am sorry for this. I am sorry for the long weird talks. I am sorry for the buried implications in poetry, and in the "subtweeting" some pretty important things. I am what I am, but the me that has been around lately has been only a part of me, and not necessarily the best part.

Before T came up and talked to me, I had been writing a poem in my head. I wanted it to be sort of a happy poem, since so much of my poetry lately has been kind of confusing and dealing with confusion and such. After he talked, I realized it wasn't a poem I was writing, it was this blog post. However, the poem that will probably never be goes something like this...if you were to say it more of a prose form:

My nights used to be more stars than city-folk can know, a blanket of lights in the sky and me laying down and looking up and thinking I was so small and could fall at any moment into the depths of space, and being both afraid and excited that things were never as small as me. My nights lately have been streetlamps reflecting on water, and the sounds of cars, and again I think that I could fall into the depths of the world outside of myself, being both afraid and excited. I have tried to say that my soul is fire, burning bright and burning flesh and leaving scars where I go, but I am a liar. My soul is the sound of water reflecting lights in the night, my soul is the shape of stars up above the pines, and it is a comfort I am afraid to admit, because it is a soul too big for one man, full of words and sounds hard to understand, and it longs to be known.

T was actually the second man to come up to me today and talk to me about his life. Another, Johnny, talked to me about going through transitions, about growing up poor and then having money, and knowing the value of good shoes and how it can actually change a man to have shoes comfortable to walk and work in. Last Friday, a woman came up to me and talked to me about her life growing up in Caribbean, watching the ocean, and how she had recently visited and spent the week with her sister, and the way her sister had fretted that there was no one to take care of her now. Then a student came up to me and talked about how he was afraid he wasn't going to be able to get food because some stuff had come up, and he was desperate to pick up his grocery order from Wal-mart, and I sort of stood there with him while he was on the phone getting his stuff settled. During Con Kasterborous, this one younger guy, Wyatt, and just talked to me about Doctor Who and fandom and about some of his insecurities of being in a crowd.

I have a gift I cannot explain, that strangers on a regular basis come up to me and talk about their lives in transition, and they give me their name and we shake hands and I never see them again. And it has been extra surreal this week, because I have been sort of sad and trying to understand myself better, and I think these strangers have sort of sensed it. I am glad of this gift, though, because I have met literally hundreds of people because of it, and most of those people I have never seen again, never quite talked to again, but it was each, in their own way, were nice moments.

Last year, I returned to Facebook and I have generally enjoyed it, catching up with friends and family, but earlier this month I left it for three days or so. I am only now getting back into the full swing of it. I have given different reasons to different people - jealousy, fear of hurting people, fear of annoying people, wanting to be offline for a couple of days - but really the real reason is that I simply could no longer understand. All my interactions on there were becoming noise, and it seemed that everyone was just a little bit different than they had been, and I knew I was different than I had been, and some of these differences were big differences, and I couldn't process that, not fully. It was a sign of some of the vast wrongness that had started to take over my life, and this week has largely been me exorcising my demons so that I could be myself more fully again.

As April turned into May, Sarah and I entered into the roughest patch our marriage has ever faced, a patch that just this week came to something like a head in some pretty big fights and really big discussions. Stuff we should have said months ago. Stuff we probably should have said instead of really petty stuff we said to fill the silence. Even with the anger and the sadness, I am now at peace with many of the things said, and my only sadness is that I had to disrupt the peace of people I loved, including myself, before it cold be said. However, in that rough patch, the past couple of months and not just the past couple of weeks, there were some amazing moments. Her getting me those letters is one of the best things that has happened all year. For my part, I tried to let her know that no matter what we were going through, I was there for her, and that the memories of our marriage were just a precursor for hopefully better things to come. I did it in the form of a poster where I tried very hard to show her that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

Many photos of Sarah as a single poster

She really is the sexiest, most intelligent, most special person I have had a chance to know. Eleven years, and not all of them have been good, but maybe in the next couple of decades of marriage, we will look back at this point as a sign that we were meant to be. My only regret is that she had to get saddled with an ugly, foolish asshole like me. heh. *winky face*

Looking back at my blog, which has been sadly neglected as of late, I have found only a single public post talking about my Real-Bad-Week, and it discussed in terms of the I Ching. The image of a man exhausted, sitting under a tree by a lake, unable to move, unable to breathe, waiting for the waters to refill. Since then, I thought a couple of times that my waters had refilled and that I had moved on past that tree, but I realize now that this whole year has been me under that tree, moving around it, pretending like I was strolling about free to go as I please. This week, I think my lake finally started refilling. Properly refilling. It took longer than it should have because the source of my waters is largely myself, and have delayed my process by putting a lot of my own self-growth into the external act of helping people while only sharing myself in selective ways, but I now I realize that it is time, again, to punish the world for allowing me to exist and the best possibly punishment I can inflict is by existing more fully in it again. You asked for it, you bastards. May God have mercy on your souls. In some ways, being told that you are broken and an unhealthy friend and having it implied you are a bad husband is a good wake up call to remind yourself that no matter what you do in life, there are moments that can judge you and those that can uphold you, and really it all comes down to how you judge and uphold yourself after those moments are done. There are times for both. This past week, I was by far my most harsh judge and my moments judged me harshly as failing others, failing myself. Next week, we'll see.

I mentioned the I Ching, above. I have used it way too much this past year, though I am still a bit terrified at how accurate it seems. More than the I Ching, was my "flipping quarter". It is a 1977 quarter that I often flip to make some big decisions, and I ask it yes-and-no questions about life and such. It was probably my least healthy coping mechanism, because it was both me relying on random chance rather than take personal responsibility for things, and it was a way to pretend that destiny was guiding my actions. Tonight, starting this blog post, I asked a question and went to flip it and it hit my desk and then fell into my trash can, sinking immediately below the bottles and the ash and the wadded up paper. I went to dig it out, and then decided that it was its ultimate answer. To just do what I want. To do what I felt was right. Tomorrow, I'll take its advice, one last time. The quarter stays in the trash can, and when I take the trash out, which will be soon, it will be a small victory.

I will end this with a series of messages to various people. Mostly obfuscated.

Good night, good bye, and good luck. Now I'm going to go up and look at Sarah's photo one more time, cry about it one more time, smoke another clove cigarette, and then get some sleep. It has been surreal.


BLOT: (12 May 2016 - 01:56:51 PM)

Today's Moodish Thought, "My old friend, Darkness," or, the "irony" of The Sound of Silence

Quick, let's come up with the perfect song for a trailer for a third series of a show about a depressed detective, and we want it to convey a hint of darkness and facing your demons and capturing Nietzsche's "Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein." What song might convey that?

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision
That was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
Turned my collar to the cold and damned
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
Split the night
And touched the sound of silence
Fools said I do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words
Like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

There are those who will, of course, prefer the original [much like with the Wallander-TV series itself, ha!]. Kina Grannis is missing the more direct religious imagery of bowing and praying and the most famous non-"Hello darkness" line in the song—"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sound of silence"—which slightly alters the song from a bit of a lecture about worshipping modernity obscuring communication [which seems quaint in a post 60s world where "worshipping street lamps" would be considered a relatively healthy outdoor social activity] to a more pure meditation on darkness and insomnia as an act of self-alienation that makes you a stranger on the streets.

Words are clay not fully formed until they become shared thought. This song is an example of that, to me, even besides the fact that it deals strongly with being unheard and unhearing. A quick Youtube search for "hello darkness my old friend" [and ignoring covers/concerts/music-videos] reveals almost entirely videos in which people act depressed, are disappointed, are defeated, are mocked, are lonely, or in some other ways are staring into the figurative darkness, where darkness = bad thoughts. But let's go back to the song itself (and this time I will use the Simon & Garfunkel original):

And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made and the sign flashed out its warning in the words that it was forming

Note that it is not the darkness that is destroying the singers, but the light. The darkness represents the night where the singers can be themselves, representing heartfelt communication while the light is treated like a migraine worshipped as a false god.

As a person who regularly walks late at night when everyone else is in bed, a person who gets out and walks around every town he visits once the people he is with go to sleep, and a person who just sits outside in the darkness with his cat and watches stars, I dig it. Also, I might have ripped it off in half a dozen poems. Still, it is important to note that for some people, alienation is required to accept socialization. If I hang out with people for three hours, I need at least an hour or two of alone time to not grow to hate the former. Call it moody if you will, but taking time to face yourself in the mirror of your own thoughts is vital for folks like me.

photo credit: Instagram/emariegraphy

But here is the thing, I am not saying the others are outright wrong. While I am broadly an intentionalist [meaning that the artist's intention should be considered in art analysis], I am not beholden to it. Art lives in the act of being viewed, read, understood, dismissed, chewed up, reused, and so forth. All art is performance art. All art requires audience participation.


BLOT: (30 Apr 2016 - 02:31:45 PM)

Poem of the Day, April 30: "Thus, Exeunt"

Without comment, the final 10-minute-poem of the day for now...

"Thus, Exeunt"

Eyes must be more than the physical act of seeing
If the dead have them closed, rotting and forgotten
In graves full of names of dates and faces they rarely
Wore while living, landscapes of darkness against
Coffin lids, and eyes must be more than windows
To the soul if the living have them, rushing screaming,
Thrust out into the world full of fleeing confusions,
Landscapes of other people and minor schemes
Against day to day priorities and buildings roads
Glass cars thorns trees stones clouds sky stars

Poetry must be more than the physical act of speaking
Words with lips and teeth and meaning if the dead
Can be remembered for their poetry after breathing
Ceases and naught but good words are spoke of them,
Echoes of lives understood largely through implication,
And poetry must be more than pretty words in rhyme
If the living can bungle them so well, poor choices
And pastoral pastiches of sentimental claptrap
Shared with strangers with the cliche of common ground,
Ill defined tempos and rhythms full of saccharine
Humanity, burning in the hearts that forget

And silence must be more than the physical act of holding
If the dead do it so effortlessly, without trying.
Silence must be more than that simply not living if a
Billion people are silent at any given time, crowds of clowns
With mouths held tight and dry and behind those faces
It is so loud, so very loud, and all failures of expression

So goodbye, Neruda
So goodbye, Hulme
So goodbye, Ginsberg
So goodbye, Blake
So goodbye, Bukowski
So goodbye, Dick
So goodnight, Pound
So goodnight, Joyce
So goodnight, Toole
So spokoynoy nochi, Dostoevsky
So bon nuit, James
[and so long, you other James, the ghostly one]
So long, Aickman
So goodbye, Lovecraft
So goodbye, Vonnegut
So goodbye, Dickinson
So goodbye, Hardy
So good try, Topaz
So much, so sorry, so hard to know what else
Could have had such a so much nothing
So goodbye, thought
So goodbye, sound
So goodbye, sight
So goodbye, ground
So goodbye, landscapes
So goodbye, crowd
And good luck, me

So goodnight to thirty-eight years and we are all just
Dead things living in the past of ourselves, memories
Of a grave that has yet to be dug and all
Of our poetry is just this moment that may be spoken
Into the silence of eyes some time down the road
Or maybe find quiet in the act of being lost beside
The great river, over rocks and rapids it goes
And nothing we can do will make better of it

Thus, exeunt
Thus, exeunt
An ending is implied in the beginning


BLOT: (30 Apr 2016 - 10:16:19 AM)

Being a [relatively] old man at a G-Eazy Concert [April 27, 2016 @ Sloss Furnaces]

Tom, Doug, and Maryam surrounded by a packed crowd.

I get along alright with G-Eazy's music. A Bay-area rapper on the rise, I was introduced to him by my friend Maryam (she of the burning flowers photoshoot) who enjoys him somewhat: meaning her review him tends to be four-stars and two-stars combined but not averaged out. She's had a dream for a bit of getting to see him and meet him and such, and when I found out that he was coming to Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham just one week after her birthday, it made sense to get her tickets as a birthday gift. The initial plan was that we would go with Sarah and Tom [a friend of ours and G-Eazy detractor], though for reasons Sarah dropped out of the concert itself while going with us on the road trip.

Maryam standing by a G-Eazy cut out.

After grabbing some food at Eli's Jerusalem Grill [quick review: yes, go], we headed over to Sloss so that Sarah could drop us off and we could get in line about 6pm. Already, the line was a hundred or more people long. Over the next hour and a half, it grew ten times that size, stretching all the way back and around the parking lot. This section of the night was mostly dedicated to people watching, trying to figure out the weird unknown dramas unfolding around us: the menage a trois of youths in front of us, the couple walking back and forth like they had lost something but never asking anyone to help them look, the high-school looking girl with her bra hanging out complaining about all the high-schoolers in the crowd, etc. Finally, around 7:30pm, the gates were opened and we started marching forward. Oddly, there was a call for us to get into four separate lines [Maryam and I got into one and Tom got into the one next to us] and this become three lines, which then melted into two, and the one line, the leftmost one with Maryam and myself, went slower than the other three that blended together. Who knows.

At this point, a performance art piece began that you might refer to as "young people pack themselves into a small building at a density roughly equating a single loose solid". Cigarettes, e-cigs, and joints were widely smoked. One girl emptied a baggie of some sort of pill. Beer in cans and cups were drunk and empty containers were flung into the crowd [I was hit with an empty pack of cigarettes, one mostly empty beer cup, and some quantity of liquid I still do not the source of]. People started crawling up brick walls around the edges. Elbows were thrown. People smashed into other's people's backsides. Every time someone went to use the restroom or get drinks, the crowd had to wheeze and compact themselves in a slow responding reconfiguration much like a sluggish artificial intelligence calculation chugging along on an old computer. See the photo at the top of this, or see the one below, to get an idea of what the next four hours was like for yours truly. One woman rubbed her ass up against my thigh for half an hour and you have to understand, she was not grinding me on the dance floor, she was merely moving in a space without space, in which every movement was contact. One time I went to grab out my cellphone and I rubbed up against three people on the way up and pulled two people's hair. Another woman behind me threw decorum out the window and proceeded to use me as a tripod for her cellphone to record the show and would grab my shirt and pull on it to hold herself up to see better over my shoulder. One guy basically had his hand on my ass for several minutes because I think he was trying to get his cellphone out, and the space between his front pocket and my rear one was roughly the width of a single layer of jeans.

The crowd.

It is with something like irony that my memory of the concert mostly involves the constant contact with dozens of strangers across hours of being jostled and squeezed, though the show itself was not bad. G played a good number of songs, had a fair stage presence, and played up to the crowd in a good, friendly manner [though his stage schtick felt a bit fake and forced in times, such as his "From the bottom of my heart, this is the happiest I have ever been"]. The two songs I most wanted to hear, "You Got Me" and "I Mean It" were saved for the encore, which helped the whole thing end on a high note. The music was just about the right level of loud, and for all of their immense closeness and shared sweatiness, the crowd was roughly well behaved. Roughly. At one point in time, a failed crowd-surf nearly slammed a young man into the cement near my feet and I managed to get him up. At another, some women shoving their way forward to get a better view basically just slammed people out of their way. Also, see the beer and such thrown into the back of people's heads. Still, the mood was mostly a good-time one.

Knowing Sarah's hatred for crowds, her generally "meh" stance on G, and her need to get up early to go to work the next day, it is best she didn't actually show up to the show, though in some ways I wish she could have been at the back, watching the whole thing like an anthropological event. In contrast, she and I had gone to a Roomful of Teeth concert just the night before, and that one had been calm and collected and beautifully organized, with the crowd happy just to enjoy in thoughtful, weird music. Yet, for all the beauty of the Teeth-show compared to sweaty-animal-stink of the G-one, I will probably remember the Sloss Furnaces show more clearly, because it was truly one of the most unusual experiences of my life.

With that being said, I would go see Roomful of Teeth at the drop of the dime, while actively avoiding seeing another G-Eazy concert unless I can get some sort of box seating. Heh.

Photo credits for the first and third image (the crowd images): Thomas Williams.


BLOT: (29 Apr 2016 - 10:41:24 PM)

Poem of the Day, April 29: "Decades"

So, I only managed maybe 15 "poems of the day" out of 30 possible, but that's pretty good. I have today's poem written, that would have been a poem from a few days ago except I couldn't quite get into the flow of it, and then life happened and I was really tired, so I figured rather than force a "catch up" post with three or four poems, I'd just let a few lacunae birth themselves into non-being. Skipping ahead to today, tonight's poem is "Decades", and is something like a sister poem to "Grotto", which was me looking back to my old mopey teenage self and realizing I'm a 38-year-old mopey self. This one references an odd bit of philosophy: if you only have one life to live, every choice you make kills all those other yous who could have been, therefore you commit suicide every single day, in many ways, and by the time you make it to your late thirties you are a mass-murderer, a serial killer specializing in victims sharing your name and general life disposition. It is perhaps the opposite of my Million-Billion Dougs philosophy, but perhaps the truest form of it. There are not a million-billion Dougs, there is just one, and he has killed the rest. Whether or not he reigns supreme is up to him, or I should say, the him that will eventually be the last Doug alive, one last Doug facing himself, and then he will fade into nothing, probably thinking of himself as a failure, despite outwitting all the others in the only race that matters: the race to exist. [Note: since I've skipped quite a few poems, I've sped up the weird icon that accompanies them so it can reach its final form by the final one, tomorrow.]


Decades are dust on my teeth and my tongue
Catches spit red like blood and drips years my lips
Crack open words and this is all of me, this muddy time
Flowing down my back and an old man I have become
In the very act of fleeing the ire of younger selves,
Grown ugly and tired and a mirror of dreams
I have barely nurtured to fruition, the betrayal
Of circumstance and the air of expedience
The path of least resistance to become the
Not the me of such improbable destinies:
Forks in the road and dice rolls slapping tables,
Glass houses for catch fate quick schemes,
Fool of the cards wild and all hands and feet.
Suicide is living long enough to watch all possibilities
Turn left down the road to better things, a million-billion
Victims of the choices you wear out every day.

Here is me as a scientist and he digs deeper against
Star burnt mysteries and here is me as preacher
And God like a fire tears out my eyes and here
Is me as a family man with children fluttering ground
And a yard and a house and a door with my name upon
And here is me as a mad poet prophesying rhyme
And proselytizing rhyme and here is me as a dead
Man tombstone and there is no big enough apostrophe
To define all that could have been mine but here is me
As this old man and in my pocket are all these decades
Burning a hole and spent and dry despite all the rain
Falling loud outside of my window into the whispery
Scratch of another late night listening to music,
The currency of age and what could have been
Had it not been that that which has been happened
And living is just the masks you wear in remembrance
Of all those done died yous left in those other truths,

Another dead youth to an even older you falls behind,
And all those decades keep falling gravities into sound,
As if it were not really you on the road to the mountaintop,
Seeing yourself seeking one last question then full stop.


Written by Doug Bolden

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