Zigzagging an empty room. Tracing low ceilings with fingertips, confirming ease of reach. The man before me palmed a lightbulb as we glided through. “Tu pasaporte.” Stamp. “Gracias.” Arrived. Her surprise. Hugs and cries. Then out. That same burnt smell. Quiet arteries of a city, meeting at congested joints. The whites of his eyes stared at me, paced, as I ordered my morning coffee. Three aproned women stood up to shoo him away. “He said you’re beautiful because of your blue eyes and I am not.” A foreigner again. Hidden sugar. Expanding bodies. “He asked me if I was gay… Apparently being over 30 and skinny in Mexico means you’re either gay, or… not living, not married…” Inhalations that choke. Blue toilet water. Fabuloso and Glade plugins. Hives across my neck. He accidentally ran over her foot outside the Casa Azul. Quite a lot of stuff for a communist. Heavy Suburban doors. ¿Bulletproof, por que? I never close it tight enough. A smiling man with long hair in a VW van—full of dogs. Coyoacán. “I went to school there for a year, then they kicked me out.” Down the street from Cortes’s mansion, and La Malinche’s. They must have been fucking. Shivers at the oldest church in Mexico. I touched its wall. I don’t know why. Mezcal. 80s MTV, a cantina where grown men sleep. Huitlacoche, escamoles, caldo de res, elotes, tacos. Up a 1930s elevator, through a hall of agave and aloe, onto a rooftop terrace, an orange sky + mountain view. Some beers, some cocaine. Good people, good conversation. She’s escaping European lockdown. Lived in Berlin her whole life, but still, says they can sniff out her difference. Her high cheekbones, the in-tact femininity. A further East scent. “All the women in my family; PhDs in leather mini skirts.” Then into the tiny penthouse. Full of herbs and handmade clothes and trinkets, two busts, from a friend who passed, towers of books, an AR-15 in the bathroom, or was it an M16?, toothbrushes in an I ❤ BERLIN mug, frames collected from all over the place, without intention, recklessly/beautifully. In a small circle, calm. Everything we need for now. I shared a leather chair with her as she trimmed her herbs. We spoke about lineage, sexuality, past knowledge, pain, the chaos of the modern world. What led to this. “Eventually, a future generation is just going to go absolutely bonkers again, orgies and everything.” “The kids today aren’t even fucking—-maybe their kids then.” “It’s going to be a fiasco.” I’ll be back in a few weeks.
today’s journal entry~~~
Cardboard boxes. Mattress pads of the street, but upright at my door. Before slicing the tape. Everyday. Sometimes even Saturday. And Sunday. I forgot that nothing stops here on Sundays. Okay, some businesses, but most, operating. Always. I’ve been shopping too much on Amazon in quarantine. I know it’s not good. The workers are treated like shit, barely offered benefits, barely paid, let alone time off. Endless delivery. I know those boxes are a total waste. Sure, recyclable, but all that energy. All that mass. Must be accumulating in landfills too. Soaked or spoilt. Bent too many ways. They’re everywhere. Especially here. We take too much. This is where our imbalance stems. Too much in, not enough out, the curl is collapsing in on itself. It’s too heavy. Too much to hold. Too poisonous. It gets inside, and infects like a virus, and at some point you’re believing the truths of the told and the told might not always tell the truth. They only serve a narrow specificity, always incomplete. We’re all blind in infinite ways and so much more than we portray. So much more than we can speak, than we can write, than we can read. Miranda July said on April 20th, 2020, online from her home in Los Angeles, for her City Arts and Lectures interview, that she would fail in attempt to use words to describe this moment, while we’re in the depth of it. COVID-19. Quarantine. Everything has changed, some things likely permanently (maybe later: thankfully). She said to try to describe this current reality would be like trying to describe falling mid-air. Afterward, grounded with more perspective and information to gather. Our little mind machines. But she said, words are her job, and alas, she would try. She’s shocked by our ability to adapt. Experiencing a bit of Stockholm Syndrome herself (a reaction unlikely in Stockholm right now). How could the end of this be near and how will she go back into the world and how will she start seeing other people? There’s really never and always a good time to use words to explore lines and connections across hypercubes. Which point is the best? Hard to say, from any given event, it will always change. We can never see with the clearest accuracy ahead or behind in a hallway that perpetually turns. I don’t know how many used books or records I’ve bought since lockdown. Other things too. Some clothes. Things I hope to wear once I can get out of here. I mean, I do get out, for walks and sometimes for coffee, but I haven’t been to a grocery store in weeks. Just small shops. The Fort Mason farmers’ market on Sundays. For the first time I ordered toothpaste online, something I said I’d never do. Bath salts, bedding, a laminator, a label maker. What else? Too much. Too much in, not enough out. Yet another addiction born of privileged position to get a handle on. It’s stress buying, I guess. But it gives me hope sticking little notes around the city. It gives me hope to see mounds of stories to read, the possibilities. One book leads me to another, and so on, Fibonacci. Still self-serving. Is it a hopeless condition? Manic over-consumption? Even the herbs and weed. To-go cups of coffee. Suppose this state of increased uncertainty, and widespread panic, is making things worse than actuality. So it’s easy to spin into neurosis from time to time during this time, if not its entirety. So people are stockpiling. A transactional means of avoiding feeling something. The anxiety. Well, that’s what seems is happening. (The American dream?) I don’t know. I have to say, my perspective is purely observational and experiential. With a skewed social lens. Been inside most days for over a year, most of my time living in Melbourne. Reading. Puzzling. Avoiding. Hiding. It’s just that now people also avoid me as much as I avoid them walking down the street to get a bite to eat. Really, quite pathetic—the stewing, the sadness, the long showers, the uneasiness, the madness, the heartbreak, and the neediness to mask it—but also, strangely beautiful and metamorphic to spend so much time circling a cube. Unwrapping a box. I haven’t emerged out the other side of this nearly year-long inward trip. (Do we ever?) Hard to say from inside it, but aren’t we always filtering through limits of body? Its relation, its settings. I could say nothing. Yes, silence is an option. But it seems, without thinking about it too much, soothing settles into its favorite pattern. Tea water boils, letters join, and ends stack.
today’s journal entry~~~
It was half-past noon. I got in the car with Charlie with nowhere to go. No destination in mind. Just drove. Down Fillmore, wove towards Haight. Once I got to Buena Vista Park, I stopped, parked. I walked up those steps I haven’t since college and something came back to me walking from the sun into those trees. The ‘Dog Run’ with its dug holes and paw prints. The sandy dirt covering my naked feet in my strappy sandals. Charlie exploring freely. A warm breeze. That dark cypress green, unlike any green I’ve ever seen under any other sky of any other city. People sitting. Small groups. Twos and threes. Some walk alone. I eye the colors of the Victorian houses beyond the trees. Spot my dream apartment building. Black trim. Lofty ceilings. Monumentous of sorts. 555 Buena Vista West. My whole body, happy. I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. Like I never left. But I did. And I’m back, not the same, what’s different? Nothing in the name. It’s the essence, no, that’s also the same. The things around it and in it. The side of the spiral it’s on. Something like that. Something like a woman now, as I loop this same shady labyrinth. But turning up and down paths I never had back in college. Too stoned, scared, I’d stick to the same lower route. I’d sprint straight through, but now I meander more slowly. This time I discovered the lawn at the top. Sunbathers. Another chihuahua. A man eating a burrito. // Back to my car, I drove to Twin Peaks. It had also been a while. Since college, for sure. Oncoming traffic: Fifteen skaters or so bombed past. I breaked and gave them space. At the top, three friends—two girls and a dude—pass around a Swisher, enjoying the view. This Sunday afternoon everything felt as it should, as if everything in the universe still maintains it perfect/chaotic order, as if this isn’t the middle of a pandemic. As if San Francisco never changed at all. And neither had I. But we have, we have. It is. But the bones, the essence, the roots, it’s still the same. // On that drive to nowhere which became the drive to Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, and back, Miranda July was being interviewed on City Arts and Lectures—88.5, KQED— about her new book, a reflection on her past work. The archive of her life. It was only the beginning I caught. Recorded on 4/20/20. Recorded remotely, not ‘IRL’ as it was meant to be. They mentioned the irony, how it was rather appropriate to conduct the interview over video chat, drawing on the recurring theme of July’s work: the way we use technology to connect. ‘The struggle,’ she replied. It is a struggle. We crave each other, but we also crave the space and the noise and the information and the screens, but what do we crave most? It must be the We. But anyway, she was saying, about the pandemic, this reality we’re in, how will it end? In death, in transformation? Words will fail us, but she’ll try to use them because that’s her job. But to try to describe this reality while we’re in it, she said, is like trying to describe falling mid-air. A foolish endeavor. She’d try anyway. Amazed by ability to adapt. At first, she was overwhelmed by the fact that her daughter would be out of school for two weeks, and now, she’s experiencing some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. The interviewer, too. She, in Oakland, but I’m forgetting her name, also feels a strange resistance reaching the other end. “A friend asked me to go for a socially distant walk, and I just froze, like, I’m not ready for that. To spend time with anyone but my boyfriend…?” Me neither. I’m not ready to see anyone. I’m not ready to write about what any of this is like. A week without that small screen. I’m not ready to say much of anything. This morning in qigong practice over Zoom Sally Chang said this year is all about ‘small strength.’ A little bit of the lot of energy. Like a bud about to break. It’s the Year of the Rat. The smallest animal, the first of a new cycle. So now’s a good time to shed, to plant seeds for the coming twelve. // Back to Miranda. Her voice. So distinctly hers. And calming over the radio. What’s a voice but a memory?
Poetry is the shortest distance between two humans.”
Poetry As Insurgent Art
What do environmental experts intuit/feel in this moment? What do they think we can learn from global quarantine?
(My friend Chelsea had an idea I find brilliant: After COVID, we could hold an annual twoish-week global quarantine as a reminder that we’re all on this planet together, we can help/impact each other from close/far, and we can minimize our destruction of the Earth. A reminder to slow consumption, input/output, and focus locally to prioritize health and slowing down.)
‘Paneloux is a man of learning, a scholar. He hasn’t come in contact with death; that’s why he can speak with such assurance of the truth—with a capital T. But every county priest who visits his parishioners and has heard a man gasping for breath on his deathbed thinks as I do. He’d try to relieve human suffering before trying to point out its excellence.’”