The Refraction of Agential Space in Relation to Self-Motivation, Self-Mutilation, and Pleasure, and what we, as Consumers, can do to Prevent __________.
The first time I stood next to James I was under a North Beach Italian restaurant waiting for the rain to stop and for the greeter to stop pestering me. I was wishing I was back at Fisherman's Wharf watching the silver statue men pretend their hands were fireballs and their mouths Gatling guns.
The rain was coming down steadily when he dropped his newspaper on my foot. I kind of chuckled. I nudged it over towards him and acted like I was going to bend over and pick it up, but he made sure to stop me. I assented, and we stood there for awhile until he started talking to me about the Magnificent American Trio, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, because I looked like Billy Budd. MAT, he assured me, would continue to be referred to as the true “Dads of American Literature,” even if “grand” and “greats” started piling on top of the original title. The problem, I was told, was that there wasn't even any unit of measurement for Americanness back when they were around, so there isn't much of a way to prove to you skeptics that these three fellas were out patriarchal-y--and more importantly--legitimately pounding the dime bookstands with their truth and their American values. It was good for us, dammit.
The rain stopped as he started to talk about how Al Quaeda hates MAT more than anything and that's why all those guys in those planes would rather die than have to read House of Seven Gables, “Major Molineaux,” and that Lincoln lilac poem--which they would have had to do eventually if things had continued as they were going--but he didn't finish because he was going across to Columbus and I was heading up to Kearny. As he hassled away the black shadow that was James, silhouetted by Chinatown's red lamplights, looked a lot like a dancing peach tree.
James and I were lucky enough to meet again the next day, though quite impersonally. This was in the Chronicle:
NORTH BEACH-- Last night around ten p.m., a man was caught masturbating in the alley between City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio Café. When detained, the man claimed democratic innocence, shouting, “this is America! How is it possible a man can give his life for this country in some damned colonialist war overseas and not even be allowed to finish, especially if he wants to do it to pictures of the preeminent American heroes?! Ahh, humanity!” To the man's objection police seized what they have called his “motivation”--a postcard-sized picture that combines the images of Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne into what they have termed “a nineteenth century American literary-god version of Uncle Sam.” It is unsure whether the man purchased the picture or created it himself. The man was not drunk or intoxicated in any way, Police said.
Given the history of the alleyway--Jack Kerouac Ave.--police are considering the possible activist side of this behavior, but they are at a loss as to what this literary masturbation-protest could possibly mean.
Police have not identified the man, though he has been charged with public exposure and fined a total of $659.
I sat at my table for a minute and then read the story again. It was the same as before. There was no way this wasn't the James from yesterday. I wondered if he meant what he did.
I went to the alley the next day after work to see where James got arrested. I had a feeling he'd be there, claiming his spot or something, but from afar I could see he wasn't, which was nice, because I didn't want to have to see him.
But there were a lot of people there against the wall, some on Vesuvio's side, and some on City Lights'. I couldn't tell what they were doing, but since I could tell James wasn't there I kept on going.
I started to hear a cheer rising from the area, and saw that the men and woman were all shouting as they stood against the two walls, their heads jerked up, to the left, right, and down. Their eyes were either shut or way too wide: “No more war! No more war!…” But the chant was not uniform and crisp--there were trailers and moans, changes in pitch. Every once in awhile someone would shiver and shake and then they'd walk away, finally raising both hands to fight along with the chant. I wondered why they weren't into the chant enough to cheer.
But then I knew it all, horribly.
“No more war! No mOoOOOooore…”
Legs shook! and head jerks up! eyes closed and a long moooooooan before grabbing pulling grasping at a single brick on the wall out of breath and hunched over chanting quietly
Hands and arms moving hips too sometimes until the above one hand pumps the air while the other pumps below and skin curly hair coils and ugly and Keanes and North Face and trash and all looking up at the street sign
Jack Kerouac Ave
More moans and half-assed chants no one falling but some losing balance hands up then down heads jerked up to the sky someone shouting yes yes! Instead of no and everyone else eventually agreeing
A senior angry at this amusement park use of the body and goes towards the big church and Francis Assisi's replica angrily shaking his head
A bookstore employee coming out laughing and shaking head.
A waitress joining the wall people
Chanting gone, only moans now the banner NO MORE WAR waves in the wind but it could be blown by the moans and bellows
People gathering to watch self love-in perhaps to self-love later
James, that landslider
Protest war dead people?
Truly alive people grabbing and grabbing and grabbing then releasing ecstasy until it splatters on the wall and splashes guilt up onto their faces
A husky bearded man has rage in his eyes but pumping continues then drops his jaw moans shakes pauses rages again punches the wall then walks away shaking his head unable to walk at first but then resumes path strongly
“Its adaptive,” Tracy said, lowering her voice like she's serious. “The theory is that we've adapted it to convince ourselves of happiness no matter how angry or guilty we feel about ourselves…or how meaningless.”
“Okay, so say you're gonna start like a blog or something.
“When you start it you're really into it and are kind of hopeful, but you realize that it can fail if not many people will look at it or post on it or whatever. But later, once you've invested a lot of time and effort into it, no matter what, you're gonna just assume it will work out because if it doesn't you'll feel like you wasted a lot of time. And nobody wants to fuckin' feel like that, like some foaming diseased rat or something--except this would be worse than being a rat because you would know that you're just a rodent. It would be like animorphing into a rat.”
“And you're moving that to the big scale…?”
“Yeah just transfer that to life.”
"But there's no beginners time to life when people look at the possibilities of failure. There's no metaphor between early on in the establishing of a blog and childhood…you never consider failure…you're the happiest ever when you're a child.”
“No no no…you're missing the point because what you just said is the point...”
“Think about it. You went to high school. Then college. And now you got a job. And then what? What are you gonna do then? Retire?”
“Yeah I guess so. I'll probably die too.”
“Yes!” She banged on the table with the hand that wasn't holding her drink and cigarette and nodded furiously. Her bob bobbed.
“Death? You're gonna stress death? That's not too original.”
“Well that was fuckin' confident…what, are you and death into some kind of mutually sick s&m domination game or something? Are you, like, comfortable with it?”
“Well of course not…I don't wanna die.”
“Exactly! No one wants to die. That's fuckin' crazy. But its unavoidable!…Do you get it now? Depression Realism, that's the name of it, it pulls up the corners of your mouth to make you forget you're gonna die and make sure you have some kind of worth in your life…besides retirement,” she added, taking a drag out of her cigarette and smiling into a sip of her vermouth.
“Okay so what about enjoyment, pleasure?”
“Hey…good…I don't wanna be a pedagogue…what…are you asking if you can ever actually be happy?”
“Well yeah, you can…of course…If you couldn't ever be happy and you were going to die anyway wouldn't you just want to get the whole thing out of the way and smash your head through a railroad tie?…or maybe shoot yourself in the heart with a hollow-tipped bullet while you were watching on an ultrasound?…then you could see it fuckin' explode!” She banged the table with both hands this time, finished with both her cigarette and her drink, and stared at me with huge animal eyes. “But if you're happy, there's got to be a difference between a pure, objective happiness and some societally instilled version…there's got to be real or created…”
“And what the hell does it matter whether your happiness is real or created…either way you're happy and either way you've got something to do with it…it doesn't come into you…you've got to physically pull or pump something to make yourself happy.”
“Yeah, but you know the feeling of, like, a really good day, you just wake up and are smiling, maybe because the sun is shining…”
“Okay, alternative hipster, but what's the difference between the sun making you happy and society making you happy? They're both outside of you…they're both created.”
“Okay…well the societal one takes away from your individuality…”
“And just like that you're a Capitalist.”
“Fuck you, sophist.” Her head fell down and she looked at the floor, kind of fidgeting with her bracelets. “Well there are some things that bring you pleasure that you can just do…just yourself.”
It was kind of late when I left Tracy's and I had missed the last direct bus route, so I hopped on the BART at Mission and took it up a few stops. There were a couple guys next to me talking about James. I could tell by the combination of their age (mid-twenties) and their conversation topic.
“Well, if I was gonna masturbate to an author I'd probably pick Jodi Picoult or James Patterson… I guess R.L. Stein, Stephen King or Michael Crichton if I was in the mood for some kinkiness…you know, a little horror or some monsters…”
“Jodi Picoult?! Those are all rape books…you're sick!”
"Hey, you know what my dad always said: pussy's pussy…”
They burst out laughing hysterically, holding their messenger bags with the two Davids inside and leaning their fixed-gear bikes against some empty seats. They stood by the door, maybe going back to Berkeley or something. It was only me and them in the car. They knew I'd been listening and decided to include me.
“How about you, man…what's your masturbatory choice?” I guess my clothes gave me away as a confidante.
I thought about maybe saying T.S Eliot, Celine, or Hemingway, but I decided I'd join their laughter. “I don't know, probably C.S. Lewis. I'm really into super-kind Christ lions and boy-kings.”
“Haha…you're sick man!…I read those when I was a kid…”
“Yeah, me too…my mom made me when she made me go to Sunday school…”
There was a pause and then they continued talking between themselves. They'd exhausted the topic, and my fixed-gear-less inclusion didn't fit any more.
They remained on the car when I got off at Market a few minutes later and walked back to my apartment. I made some oatmeal then went to bed.
And it was all fine! Colors and colors and faces on wheels zooming in then out, eyelids baggy hanging then stretched tight and plastered because of rapid movement. In and out in and out, there are five, six, seven, eight of them. They're like pistons, eight pistons, neighboring heads never moving in the same direction, opposite, opposite, powering something, maybe an engine…their lips are disgusting, and its all the same face, in and out, in and out, eight times over, four at once coming in, lips never able to kiss me because of the speed with which they move, plastered back then sloppily lurched, just like the eyelids. The skin is saggy, injury prone, seems like it could tear like a cardboard box, with oil spots that look like they could squirt off, and now the spots zip off and tap me on the head as I sit in a black history month chair, knocking on my forehead. Old, the elderly, the man from the alleyway, the old disgusted man, and now he's disgusting, pumping in and out, in and out, his head times eight pushed up, down like a piston, but now the pistons are turning into bodies, continuing the movement, but bending at the knees instead of the metal arms like oompa loompas turned sideways, but much older and much longer, almost reaching me from across the street with their sharp, stern stabs of their eyebrows, which somehow withstand the massive effect of air while the lips and eyelids still expand like they're making room for ping pong balls and contract like they're making caricatures. The heads are shaking like eight bobbleheads. In and out in and out never stopping, only morphing changing into hate of the bearded man, who hates himself why isn't that enough because there's a god, and now god hisself is bringin' his cracker ass down hea to reg'late a bit 'fo' all these sinners burn in the hands of an angry, angry judgment day god, using war protests as an excuse for self-degradation and pleasure! Pleasure is for men like the old piston man, happy and withholding, withholding and happy, inseparable as he gives me a kit kat and then takes it away, getting off on being withholding but going to heaven to party with god and both Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, looking down on Sammy Hagar because he makes all that tequila, but definitely fuckin' partying' with the Boss, and also Sinatra, and Bette Davis for sure. As James watches form his huge, erect ivory tower it comes:
IN head one: “boy” OUT.
IN head two: “when” OUT.
IN head three: “I” OUT.
IN head four: “was” OUT.
IN head five: “in” OUT.
IN head six: “the” OUT.
IN head seven “war” OUT.
IN head eight: “she” OUT.
IN head one: “was” OUT.
IN head two, “all” OUT.
IN head three: “mine.” OUT.
IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT INLOUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT.
22 years old
graduated from Notre Dame
hometown Minneapolis, MN
aspirations: twice, actually
favorite grass: bermuda