Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Art Of Sleeping To The Sound Of Foghorns

“I am growing weary of your restraint. Please respond. A cockroach was crushed last night in a mousetrap. It was not pretty. I saw the sight. It was ghastly to say the least. Deplorable. I’m sure that there are promises we need to break before this thing ends. Let’s not argue over socks. The words just trickle away like ants on the retreat. When are the windows really clean? Can we have bargains at any price? The afternoons are nothing except wind. I do not want flat tires every time I step out of the house. I can live with moths and the occasional fly, but I cannot live with your indecisiveness. Let us make flotation devices out of our penance. If we are deceived by originalities, if we mulch our souls with deceit, if we play fair at all costs and fly the flag of hauteur over our shame, then we could possibly gain a few yards from boredom’s line of scrimmage. There is hope, but we do not own it. Avant-garde soapsuds leave experimental rings on the bathtub of our tight-lipped world. Please apply for a reversal of fortune as soon as possible. Burnish your most decent thoughts and banish the kitchen tiles from the house. Tune your ocarina. Test out a theory or two. There are grapevines in the basement.” -- Jack Of Hill Bottom To His Lady Jill

She was light-heartedly winging her eyes over the plots of hexagonal lines cut with a marksman’s precision into the ebbing and jutting lumps of the parking lot’s asphalt hills. Never before had she felt this way. It wasn’t one of those things you could like draw back on, something from your memory that could reassure you that, yes, see, this thing here, well, you’ve felt that before, it’s just like that, you see? It wasn’t one of those things. There was no center to it; it just wafted and smoke-ringed its way through her, with a creeping hurl to it, and it was new and real in a way that was almost fantastic, but not quite. She knew that if she thought about it too much it’d go away, so she tried to not focus on the new feeling, and instead tried to allay her sense of fragility about it by casting her thoughts’ scope over to some other more concrete set of emotional circumstances. Something more, well, paltry and stable. Something to keep her from capsizing into the almost unbearable bounds of the unknown. A seagull thumped the sky. A sycamore brandished its leaves like stilettos carving up the wind.

Was there such a thing as a perpendicularagram? Abigail started to cry. It wasn’t a big deal.

“Here’s where you’ve got to start like pinching in, you see? Around the edges.” The thermal underwear inspector ran his hands through what was left of his hair. “Do I have to use my hands?” He hammered at the table a bit with a pen. “Come on. Damn it. Let’s do this to this.”

A whirring moan, almost blender-like, throbbed through the factory’s capacious interior, sending the horror-chills through its current denizens: mostly pony-tailed, bearded, abandoned, white-tube-sock-wearing faith healers. The radio signal cut out. A microphone fizzed to life over the speakers. The lights flickered and went soft, kind of like the tritium illumination of a Rolex at night. Everybody became riveted to the voice speaking to them. It was raspy and squawked above the crush of static sizzling in from somewhere close behind, which added an air of immediacy to it.

“Quiet quakes like misunderstood thunder crashing through the gumption of this so-called hilly terrain. A shiny shoe-button eye falls blindly towards undulatory particles, while the suit-and-tie constrained live of laughter, an auspex nods to sleep, and all virgins are transmuted into here-and-gone dynamos who whittle away the hours praying to Mazda. Gravity playing in the palm of your hand, a sensual grasp of a life lived in general decadence and grave stomping, a mighty river reversing direction, chemically enriched mud, thousands of elemental flowers blooming, a structuralist’s worst nightmare: the core of everything is untamed. We shall all be resurrected as pigeons, controlled by hidden strings and flown like kites, our pneuma fructified by carcass merchants searching for needles in haystacks while wearing boxing gloves. Hopes like kaolin fill in the blanks in the mesh of our cruise-control existence. Create a golem of minor destruction; destroy immediate modes of divine substance. Alienation sinks in. Each worker is caged-off from his fellows. Diffusion of personality and all major obstacles to the consummation of exclusion and selection are parlayed into mercurial degrees of loneliness, which sounds like bad plumbing babbling to the drywall. Pigeon pot pie for all.”

Sigmoid curves slid their way through the grainy dialectic of her vision along with lemnisticatey slots of slithering, fish-belly white globules being swallowed by mouths cut like chevrons into worn poster board. The white lines painted around the outcrop of sheds, which were not being used to gut salamanders anymore, made right-angled trapeziums, and she smiled at the thought of this random illusion of meticulously crafted order. It made her think of a Reuleaux-triangle shaped drill bit drilling a perfect square into the constant motion of what she, and everyone else, considered to be now. A freedom sprang from this thought. Then it felt like a prison, and she abandoned it. At their acme the “hills” of concrete sprouted blackened chards and chunks of what appeared to be scabby lesions having the texture of mush, lava-like almost, and crumbly. It was as if something vicious were knifing through the landscape, something with blades for arms, a mechanical thresher-like thing which spun its many blades in unison as it ravaged away at the world. A spriggy fleck of arugula was caught between a bicuspid and a molar on the left side of her jaw, and it was giving her some mild annoyance, so she fingered around in there, using a longish nail to try to pry it loose, but to no immediate avail. The thought of this foreign object being enmeshed between the folds of her personal property (a solar-powered, fleshy thing that ran on oxygen and was called Abigail) made her squeamish, and there was this whole “unnatural” aspect to it that she didn’t like contemplating. It wasn’t necessarily a purity issue, though there was definitely more than a hint of that to it. She just didn’t like that feeling of having something that was not a part of her corporeal being now lodged inside of her, in a place where she couldn’t extract it, at least not imminently, and a spark of panic flashed and furrowed its way along the pathways of her ocular muscles, destabilizing her aspect ratio, making all the objects around her seem less significant, like blurry cartoon images scrambling on a sky-wide pulsing screen. A steamy and sour vegetable scent was curling up from the pits of her t-shirt, which were wet and a bit yellowed. It didn’t bother her. In fact, it calmed her some to sniff her body’s natural odor. There was something invigorating about it, something…real: the inescapable fact and ineluctable results of being alive. A crow winked at her from the top of the deteriorating chain-link fence.

“I woke up all covered in sun. After walking around, breathing in the good warm air, letting the breeze brush itself all over me, and brushing the lint from my suit jacket, I sat down on a curb and watched the cars go by for a while.”

The night nurses in their starched white dresses look like Rockwell Kent illustrations. Little parabolas of dust keep sweeping through the halls, and the way their equations sound is lonely, though the sound of loneliness is hard to hear. I’ve heard it, but most people don’t. Annuli form on the barriers of my looks, stretched out like a block-long slinky from my eyes. I’ve got the blues, the hospital blues, the sitting-on-my-butt-in-the-hallway blues, and these nurses who keep padding by in their soft-soled nurse shoes are giving me the creeps. I haven’t vomited in 14 days. There is algebra in the flickering of fluorescent lights. The homely doctors in their dirty lab coats will be coming for me soon; they’ve solved the sentential function of my escape. Now it comes down to this because I’ve scarfed down too much bad luck. Tuscaloosa is farther than away.

“I don’t want to fall into that trap, that enteric coated happiness, the kind that leaves you dull and ordinary, that maybe lets you rest easy, but always, always, unaware.”

Diligent, as she always was, Abigail was counting cars passing through the lot. They didn’t stay for long, parking between the rectangular white-lined stalls painted on the concrete’s black. Every time she hit a prime she said a small prayer and closed her eyes, praying for the salvation of these lonely things. The number of cars leaving seemed to form a linear equation with the number of cars coming. She wasn’t sure though. Maybe if she had some graph paper. Maybe then she’d be able to tell all about this feeling she had. There must be a name for it, though she couldn’t think of one. It wasn’t something one could tell about. It hovered. It smeared. It got lost in the coffee grounds of her thoughts. It wasn’t fragile enough to break. It swam and slipped and slurred. Nothing about it seemed real. Corners became dull. She started to think of her head as an old deserted mansion fallen into desuetude. There were many rooms, but they were mostly empty. The floors were all ripped-up carpet and scuffed wood. Worn and scratched oil paintings in rusty frames were hung here and there on the peeling paint of the walls. A chandelier in the large dining room had slipped down its chain to about the head-level of a child. Nobody was dancing.

“This guy used to drive us all around in his parent’s Mercedes with the windows all down blasting classical music all over the neighborhood. He’d drive as slow as he possibly could. Like you could walk faster. He had a lot of speakers in there. It was really loud. Sometimes the cops would pull us over for driving too slow, or for being a nuisance, or disturbing the peace or whatever. The ceiling was coming detached, and it’d get in our hair.”

Space was no longer occupying itself. She grew flighty. Congruent polygons shifted and bumped in the tessellation on the maps of her thoughts, but she wanted equilateral triangles or just a honeycomb thriving with fish heads in a hyperbolic plane of rose-colored water. Then something clunked. Then something clicked. She thought of Tennessee Williams. There, dabbed in midair right in front of her, hung like a flypaper sculpture from a cloud, was a spinning triangle immersed in a wide, primrose, saddle-shaped globule. ‘Sew it up,’ she thought. This was unprecedented; she’d never had such a thought in all her days. ‘I want to go for a swim in a tarn, in an arctic place, a mountainous country somewhere with icy rivers of melted snow where there are too many stars in the sky to count. Trains will run through there, but slowly, like cats crawling along the back of a sofa, and I’ll sleep outside with just my socks on.’ None of this made any sense to her, but she couldn’t help thinking it. ‘Music will play. It will be shuffling, raw, filled with leaves and maple syrup and eclipses and marble cake, and not like the sound of cars parking at all.’ The ilk of space was becoming foreign; there was nothing to take its place. ‘I am not a character in a fairytale.’ This was the last thing she thought.

Moonrise. Car tailpipes shooting out black smoke. Gritty shadows scavenging over the sides of brick buildings. Exhaustion. Relief. Constipation. Windows slamming down. The unrolling of sleeves. Newspapers being left at coffeeshops. A hesitant and curt wave of goodbye. A resonance of longing soaked in amber. Filled trashcans. Colored indentions in the trim of happiness. Compilations of rust. Fog on the horizon stomping in on giant dinosaur feet.

Love makes you do all kinds of things. Some of those things are dumb. Of course. Like this one time. I was in love with this girl named Kirby Mulligan. One time we got in this fight. And she threw a dozen Krispy Kreme maple bars right out the window of my car while we were driving on the freeway. I pulled off on the side of the freeway. She cried. I was hungry for doughnuts. Love makes you act stupid. Like this one time. I was with this girl Jonsy Carew. She flipped out. We were eating BLTs, sitting on my floor, making small talk and stuff, and she out of nowhere gets all crazy, and she starts screaming, “I have moo disease! Listen to me. My mouth keeps mooing. I can’t help it. Moo! Moo! See?” And she kept on mooing like that, like she was some deranged cow or something. She didn’t finish her sandwich, so I ate it. Another time this girl Cyndie Clyde dumped a pint glass full of water on my bed, just because I didn’t believe her when she told me that I’d knocked her up. She didn’t take a pregnancy test or nothing. She said she could just tell. She was very convinced of it. I wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t sleep on that mattress after that. It smelled really bad like mildew. She wasn’t pregnant either. I’ve done crazy things while in love too. When I was dating Leticia Gerber, I made up a new language, like a code or something, that we could speak in. I told her we would be its only two native speakers. She broke up with me on the spot. Another time, when Farah Mountebank and I were sort of seeing each other casually, I jumped on the hood of her car while she was inside of it trying to back out of a parking spot at Rite-Aid, and I jumped up and down screaming, “Reno! Reno! Reno!” until she hit the gas and sped off, and I fell off the hood onto the concrete and hit my head on the parking block. That wasn’t fun at all. Then there was Rhonda Longfellow, who went to live in Ireland for 6 months, and when she came back she had an Irish brogue. I told her to cut out the theatrics. She said she’d just picked it up, and wasn’t even aware of it. I told her you don’t pick up an accent in 6 months. She took all the spark plugs out of my car and keyed, “Dick Licker,” into the hood. The devil’s had his share of my women, let me tell you. Then. Oh. There was this girl Niki Rose. She threw a rock through my bedroom window from the street. Lucky for me it was open. Unlucky for me I was standing near my window. Got plunked on the head. It was a pretty big rock too. Not a pebble by any stretch. Had a headache for a week. And don’t even get me started on the toaster-thrower Evelyn Masterson. Let’s just say that I was fortunate it was still plugged in at the time. Yeah. Love. It can be a dangerous game.

The backward tick of a clock seen in a mirror can be quite hypnotizing. Some people use the word “enchantment.” I don’t. Having a spell put on me. Going into a trance. Those are things I can relate to. And, well, to tell the truth of it, I’ve always been a bit of a Lotus Eater myself. Mindless entertainment? Bring it on. Let me sit and stare and smile, and maybe wipe a stringy dangle of spittle from my lips every once in a while. Exertion is not my forte. I’d rather stagnate and let what come what will. A true Do Nothing at heart, I loaf and lounge as much as I can. Let the commercials roll. My copy of the bible has seen better days.

Clearly he was thinking about the Dodo Bird Effect, about how everyone wins and how all must have prizes. Sometimes it was old newspaper headlines that snagged his attention, like, “Men with bulging brains have time for occasional smiles,” or just random things people had said to him at some point during his life, like, “It’s nothing more than some damn lobate scarps on the moon. Fuck ‘em.” But overall he was calm, strolling in his mind, through his mind, taxying the operations of his wherewithal along on-trod grounds of cerebration to the tune of Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation’s deliberate plop-thudding, almost turd-squeezing essence, which compelled him to list forward and rub the bottom of his chin with the knuckles of his clenched right fist. Contemplating The Dodo Bird Effect often made him do such things. Attempting to repair glitches in his internal operating system was something he was making a fast habit, and it led him to ponder the until-then unidentified aspects of being alive to which he was prone to magnify to proportions way beyond their actual worth in regards to life-living techniques. A fart pompomed its heat-stinking way through his pants. He didn’t even crack a smile. There was something not-so-abstract about thinking things like, “I know a pillow that’s missing your head,” or, “soon is never a now,” or, “the enemy of excellence is proficiency,” or “young women in indoor mating plumage hopelessly chilly on their lunch break.” Faith seemed to him to be the key ingredient to all ways of going through life. He must believe. It didn’t matter what. Results were all that mattered. The end. No more distracting himself from the task at hand. No more clichés. It was all originality and excitement from here on out. Fanfare of rhythm and glissandos of eradicated boredom. Nothing else would do.

With tented fingers more or less tapping at my chest, kind of sucking in my gut, sprouting my abdominals if you will, hard-up with only a layman’s tackle for understanding the incongruous matters of patient-doctor relations, I work a mild smile onto the rigid and absolute matter of my face’s straining musculature. Arlo is a hulking armoire of a man. The fretted stonework of his skin is ribbed with the fading latticed threads of ancient tattoos, and there is always something vaguely sinister lurking about his boxy demeanor, as if even a whiff of him brings the scent of bad news. Talking, or rather, garbling in some cultish glossolalia, I manage to bypass some hint of discomfiture with the whole menacing situation. Arlo speaks to me; his voice is narrow and fit. It serves a purpose: assurance. I think this equates nicely with my hemming instincts. There is something ensiform to the quality of its tone, something that could slice quick, thin strips off of a Thanksgiving turkey. I’m squinting a lot, and blinking more than normal. A surface clean is all I ask for, and Arlo knows this about me; he knows it well. There are four or five second intervals when I shut my eyes tight, flexing my ocular muscles, squeezing, and it makes strange rhomboidal flickers of dancing light maraud beneath my eyelids. This is average-type behavior for me; Arlo knows not to flinch, and instead he skips the bail of our interlocution by rolling and unrolling the cuff of his right sleeve for about 40 or 50 seconds, at a median rate of one roll per 7 seconds. I don’t like his shirt. It’s one of those button-up long sleeve jobs with vertical blue and green lines running across it, and the top two buttons are undone, revealing a sparse sprinkling of chest hair that reminds me of spider webs. A fly lands on the ledge of a Styrofoam coffee cup’s crinkled brim. The cup is lying on its side on the floor, and it’s empty. I have this hankering to kick the cup, to send the fly scurrying away, but I restrain myself. Instead I refocus my attention on reducing all things in my sight to shapes, allowing for an infinite amount of possibilities, since there are spaces between spaces, and spaces between those spaces too. Like light takes up space. I once made a sunbeam out of a newspaper, but everything burned. I am singing in my head, ‘Everything is its own shape. Shapes take up space. If I die who will hold your worried head. If I die you can have my shape. I won’t need it anymore.’ There. There. There. There. Peeling back the layers of vectors and scalars in the field of my vision, I realize I’ve never known what it is to not be extremely tired. Arlo buckets my compassion and parallel parks my sorrow. He conceptualizes grief in Archimedean spirals. Also, there is an ouroboros hiding in his motives. It is not something I tend to dwell on. Swiveling icosagons tear the lashes from my eyelids, and I am left stammering plosives at the wobbling boundaries of Arlo’s shadow.

Penny Astrolabe, never one lacking in brio, had a severe case of apophenia, and often felt as if adumbration were stalking her, scrying the way things would go for her, and basically muddling up her self-proclaimed “innocence of ignorance” attitutude towards all bystanders gawking along the road of her life. It wasn’t as if she thought of herself as being doomed by fate or anything like that. It was just that Penny was an over-thinker. She had problems getting her frazzled mind to calm down. Tomorrow’s problems were always just a day away, and then there was the agitating, if not agonizing, difficulties of feeling taped-together with fribbling awareness, a gongoozler of everyday miracles, a sniffer of new carpet, a one-armed driver, an embarrassed sufferer of borborygmus. And (and this was a fact) Penny, through no fault of her own besides the bewildering charms of her callipygian appearance, was constantly becoming the inamorata of some pencil-neck geek who would spend endless nights trying to nice his way into some canoodling. These nerdy milquetoats, with their desultory and half-assed amorous advances, glommed onto her as if only her unique brand of duende could sustain them, as if her coruscation alone could lead these seeksorrows through the dark nights of their souls. She could never tell if they were smiling at her or with her. There was always something gorgonizing about their looks, as if she couldn’t escape the turn-to-stone character of their eyes. Penny went from one to the next, and they always hung on for dear life to the whims of her passions.

If weightlessness occurs, first check to see if it is Sunday. If it is Sunday then make sure you are not in outerspace. If you are not in outerspace then figure out if you’re underwater. If you’re not underwater then you might have a parachute attached to your back. Feel around for it. Make a case for yourself. Meet your maker with style. Flirt if necessary. Maybe you will accomplish something. Don’t back down. Throw yourself free.

“I don’t know about all that. I don’t grimly stretch out to pander. But, yeah, sure, I love her. Of course. I just don’t like her. It’s just the way it is, like the way I am, and it ain’t going to change.”

Dolores called Penny. She told her to, “Stop long-changing yourself. It’s winter for only so long. Jesus, jesus, jesus…ha!” Penny peered down at her toes. The pink toenail paint was chipping off of her toenails. She thought of the word, “squirmy” and whispered to her hair, “Grow. Grow.” The phone filled up with dead air. About 40 miles south of Key West a dolphin died. Then Dolores continued speaking, unfortunately quite garrulously. Penny put the phone down on the floor, but didn’t hang it up. She could hear Dolores’ small voice clattering from somewhere far away. A derogatory gesture escaped from the velocity of her motion. Action no longer seemed a necessity to living. A bedbug danced away on the carpet. Existing at, or for, this moment nonpareil was a circumstance indelibly stigmatized deep into the recessed folds of her brain, cluttered and capsized with worry as it was, and without hesitation she winced her way through it.

He couldn’t find himself. But that was crazy. Crumbled into pieces. That was his head. And the traffic streamed by with the steady buoyant crush of rapids. Somewhere she was waiting for a taxi. A taxi to bring her to me. To me. A taxi to bring her back home again. A taxi to bring her back to me. A slender and delicate twist of past. A bus banging by. Crowded empty rooms filled with waiting. If I do this now. If I make a decision. If hope pillages what’s left of feet padding up the stairs. If. He couldn’t trust himself. But that was insane. Put back together again. And again. Completely external. Always a quick 0-2. Never enough time to ready himself for what was to come. Or too much. That was more likely. Too much thinking and over thinking and not doing a damn thing. That was his head. Or what was left of it. The real estate of his mind. A cluttered tangle of ruined thoughts helplessly askew and drifting away. When would she be there? When would that car door slam? Sometimes the cars going by would sound like a roaring crowd. Maybe they were cheering for him? The thought gave him a slight chill. The woman in the moon crimped her hair.

Penny thought about Abigail…wondered is she were still alive (either of them)…now…a crease cupcaked into a crown…there she was…sitting softly as one could sit (yuletiding the year away) (burped for a season too many)…okay so now here was where the difficult part always came…that too close almost squishing me, hemming me in, not letting me just kind of try to figure out where and what and who the fuck it really is who I am…here…so that’s something that happens…spacing out and under-eating…close the door…slowplay the information superhighway to get what you want (need)…an Abigail for your dreams…a Penny for your fortune…there are trickles of time that go by all on their own without any loom or cant or even just that stroll by towards rosebugs pigging out on petals…bad company to keep while you’re drunk…Abigail didn’t have any thoughts…queasy now, queasy…so she purchased a small handgun for the express purpose of shooting out streetlights…tailing away...gnawing incessantly at what it is that’s not what it should be (perfectly)…a contraction for hopelessness…then running errands…then smooching deadends goodbye…there is wilderness and it is unprepared for you but you are going into it anyways (because that’s what you do) and if you believe in any of it at all then…oh well…

A xylophone was playing The Rollingstone’s Time Is On My Side. Bert was half-watching the TV, and half-listening to the sound of pigeons cooing on the fire escape. He was very stoned. He thought, ‘Curp, clurp, curp, clurp.’ It seemed like something that a person should think, a thought to have, but he wasn’t sure. Bert had no idea where the xylophone music was coming from. His phone rang, or maybe that was the xylophone. It was hard to tell. He was very stoned. And where the hell was Ernie? Fuck. This was a real mess. Who’d take out the garbage? Who’d be nice to him? The ceiling was close. It was crowding him. The air grew heavy with rice. Doom settled in. Bert’s hands were shaking uncontrollably. The unfolded front page of The New York Times fell on his head. He thwacked it away stubbornly, and it floated away on a tide of miscreant molecules, which he could see very clearly. They looked like éclairs with hundreds of skinny legs, almost caterpillar-like, but not quite. The paper’s steady crinkling seemed to last for hours, like popcorn popping in a giant vat. Almost like that, but more aggravating. He wanted to open his eyes wider, but he couldn’t. Instead he picked up his copy of the bible (the paperback small-type King James version) and hurled it with all of his might at the wall. It split into two at page 516 (Job 36:4). Bert lay back on the floor. He looked all around, and then he closed his eyes. His sweatshirt was making him itch, the mohair against his skin like a scrub pad for cleaning dishes, so he took it off. He lay there on the floor, sweating, blinking his eyes a lot, and thinking about how incredibly slow everything was happening. It was as if the clock had taken him captive, the numbers lulling him into a trance where he was caught between them, everything in slow motion, every thought an entire dream. And he rubbed his hands over his hairless chest and tried to make sense of his body, this long yellow thing with a football head, a synophrys over its big round eyes and potato-like nose. He wanted to make oatmeal. He was really hungry. But Bert couldn’t find any time to move in. Time had disappeared, and there was none left to make oatmeal in. All he could do was lie there and try to hold on. Bottle caps and paper clips floated behind his eyelids; a pigeon danced; a goldfish flew through the sky. The xylophone kept on playing the same song, and the song never seemed to end. He tried to sing along, “Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime is on my side, yes it is. Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime is on my side, yes it is.” Those two lines seemed to last for weeks. Thoughts wouldn’t come or go. There was nothing left to do. He lay there with closed eyes and watched the images perform miracles in a Busby-Berkeley phantasmagoria of flashing lights. Bert was really stoned.

I was contemplating major catastrophes, their effects on my future well being, and also toasting two slices of sourdough bread. The tiles in the kitchen needed cleaning. My mouth was very dry. The overhead light had burnt out, so it was hard to tell what the hell was going on in there at night. Dirty dishes were everywhere. The cockroaches had free reign. I had to open the fridge just to have light to butter my toast by. Things weren’t a-okay all around, not by a long shot. Mostly I just wanted to invent a 24-hour sleeping pill, one that wouldn’t wear off to leave me wide awake staring at walls, my mind astir with idiotic, paranoid notions of what being alive meant. The television helped. It seemed to humor the dwindling structure of my wellness. Commercials gave me a chance to pause, a few moments to reflect, and this kept the clutter down in my head. The triviality of my life was going down three intersecting roads at once, and all seemed to be endless and going nowhere, but I kept on driving, mostly at the speed limit, waiting for something to happen: a car crash, an earthquake, a piece of tinsel falling from the sky. ‘Open a tin of sardines. Make a wish.’ These were the last things I thought.

Diffusion sparked peeping through thumb-soft petals crammed and flattened like dead butterflies between red-tinted glass. Einstein threw his violin out the window. We had trigonometry for breakfast. Calculus would have to wait for teatime. Caramelized glassy protrusions, not so unlike onions really, began to sprout from the rectifications of chin-like curves. X divided by zero was assigned a value of poop, more unlike the real-world value of poop than one (or really any real number) would suppose, which was reflected in the potty-mouthed angles of descent. At this point clarifications of vacuous truths rang or pealed out (without any concrete substance mind you) in the conditional statements of all false antecedents from purely rigmarole functions of sliced sourdough bread awaiting the toaster’s electric heat, not to mention the softening butter frowning beside the bread on the lemon-stained counter (as you see, there was a cup of tea involved, of course, and the squirts of lemon juice did not all land in the cup, and in fact sprayed lawn-sprinkler-like on many inanimate objects involved in the splatter-range area.) A coward pissed with his tail between his legs. Fusty circumlocutions filled the family room with discontent, and the antiquated formations of dovetailing speech patterns regrouped and repaired to the den. The rapidly expanding and condensing forms of glittering phosphenes were all that was left to see. Rimbaud’s philtrum began to itch. A Vervet Monkey winked, whistled, and scratched its vivid blue scrotum, and then scampered across the room, ending up perched on the arm of a couch, frowning and twiddling its thumbs in mild frustration over its inability to adequately express the complicated nature of its loneliness. Hamburger Helper came to a simmer on the stove. Nobody was hungry. Pop art went out of style. Mussolini prayed.

There was this drug you could take that would make you remember everything that happened to you, every little detail of every last moment. It’d all be crystal clear to, just like it was still happening. You could never forget anything, which turned out to be an awful thing. People taking this drug to improve their memory would become horribly unhappy within just a few weeks. It seems being able to perfectly replay and almost reenact all of the bad stuff that happens to one over the course of a life is not so swell of a thing. Sometimes it’s just better to forget, time heals all wounds, etc. The placebo had similar results, but this was said to be due to the placebo effect, which marginalized all the participants in the drug trails, though both groups showed an aggrandizement of crossword-puzzling skills. Not to be downplayed was the inherent nature of all people to try to be something that they want to be while blaming the reasons on them being the way they were on some outside thing, like a drug or the sound of a car alarm. (e.g., it was the drug that was causing all these bad memories to stay put, not these persons’ insistence on reliving the past to try to regain some control over it.) In the end, the drug was banned by the FDA, but only because of its one major side effect: the excessive production of negative capability, which lured its users into the realms of poets and madmen-- not a safe place to be residing in for your average Josephina. Also, those who continued to take the drug over a long period of time began to develop symptoms of extreme anhedonia, misanthropy, and the inflation of their super ego to dangerous levels. The drug also had a slight addictive potential for subjects who were trying to recapture their youth, as they would come to believe that by taking high levels of the drug they’d be able to actually boost their recall of early memories too. This was chalked up to over zealous neuroticism by the clinicians heading the trial, but a few subjects, after taking 4 times the advised dosage over a period of two weeks, began to vegetate, some even going so far as to drool while gazing glassy eyed over and over at the pages of their high school yearbook, which they would hold in their lap as if it were a holy text. How these subjects gained access to such high doses of this drug remains a mystery, but a few of the study’s observers recalled overhearing some deviant physicians on their smoke break uttering phrases such as, “We’ll just dose the shit outta them. See what happens. Who the fuck’s gonna know? Maybe they’ll remember the beginning of time or something.” There was no evidence other than hearsay in the matter, so it was dropped. As a side note, it was reported that many subjects had an increased penchant for solitude, one even going so far as to say he would never leave his room again, and, as he put it, thereby avoid all the miseries of the world.

Bonding with an isolationist. That’s what it was like. Palling around with a hermit. Chasing ghosts around on stilts. Well, maybe it wasn’t so much like that. But it wasn’t your normal courtship by any means. Think about it. This guy was dressed to die. He’d go around in those Broadway coats, his shoes a grimy black, and wearing those Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern three-piece black suits too. What a moper. Didn’t care for the cut of his jib, that guy. A real pay-to-play kind of a jerk, really. But without much more ado, ahem, on the, ahem, subject in question….ahem. So, well, ah, fuck it. Here goes something.

“I’m declaring war on selfishness, but just to satisfy my own ego. Ambivalence is the key to my success. It shatters the attention-span deficiencies in those less worried about big-issue type reassurance. You know, those quick-to-impress dolts who crave the affections of others like a drowning man craves air. Get over myself? That’s out of the question. Toodle-doo and fuck you. I am in the clear; and I won’t be bothered with any minor grievance-related claims. I’m an asshole? Not at all. But you can go ahead and just keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel tiptop. Go ahead and band together with the clemency of a mule. See where it gets you. A crumbling economy and a nurse’s sympathy, i.e. nowhere. Higher standards were created just for me, and I’ve increased productivity and the cash-on-hand factor by tenfold. Go get ‘em? Sorry. Too late. Already got ‘em. Back when this was just a picayune outfit with a steam-belly full of hushed sensibility, I made my waves in the lush folds of currency exchange and rows of cast steel. (Or Rose Of Castile, if you ask Mr. Joyce’s opinion.) I don’t make truck with them fogy folks no more. And I am a really good dancer. That’s helped. Charm wears off, like being born ready, and everybody turns their coats inside out at some point anyway. So I go ahead and play it all close to the vest. Nobody knows. Nobody knows. Nobody knows how it is I’m feeling inside. No price can be put on the value of my privacy. Dance. Dance, damn it! I don’t want to see any feet sticking to the floor. Patience is lost on me. Fuck all that waiting-around, dilly-dally bullshit. Dance! Dance I said! No regrets. It’s all a matter of concentration. Do not lose your fucking focus. I will lambaste every last one of you shit nuggets if you even give me one ounce of reluctance. I’m not bitter, just tired of putting up with incompetence and bad haircuts. Shape to it. My war has just begun. I’ll murder your silhouette if I must. Give me a ticket. Go ahead. Write me up. I might be able to care less, but I doubt it. Sure, there’s going to be a photo finish, but I’ll come in ahead of it. Some of you guys are always going on about this if-it-ain’t-broke-then-break-it shit. I don’t go in for all that. Come on, that surely is not the best you can come up with. If you’re good you can make anything dance, even something that’s been done to death. There must be an inborn defect in your nature to allow you to even contemplate the ramifications of failure. Now, I don’t want to deal with a bunch of Lullaby Leaguers here. There will be no pussyfooting around here. If you think I’ll let any of you get by with that pansy bullshit, well, let’s grab that notion by the nut sac and yank. Nothing’s going to come around to being fragile around here. I can assure you of that.”

A frumpish lady walks nightly by the café. She stirs no drinks there. She makes no chatter with the stevedores. On this night a chain goes missing on her locket. A freight train rumbles by. The moon is playing hooky. Men preen their mustaches. In the distance a taxi’s engine sings to life. Nobody notices a damn thing. There is a yellow ribbon in her hair. Brahms kvetches and pines from the café speakers. A cow farts; the sky falls; the gutters all run with champagne.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Solvitur Ambulando

Sylvia’s favorite mode of transportation is her own two feet. She claims it’s the most dependable way she’s found to traverse the city. Coming from one as peripatetic as Sylvia, this assertion should be reliable. I prefer MUNI for the most part, as I feel even with public transportation’s many drawbacks, it still beats negotiating the many obstacles and challenges of perambulating about the city’s sidewalks. The sweaty clothes, the weather, the dog droppings that may chance to begrime a shoe bottom, and of course the steep hills—especially for one such as I who lives on the top of a fairly lofty one—all are impositions I usually shy from. But, on the other hand, I am also probably the fastest uphill-walker in town. I’ve yet to meet my compeer in this regard. Sylvia tries to out-hustle me sometimes, but falls short, which doesn’t please her. She makes up for it on the downhills though, trouncing me by a good ten or fifteen feet. I am more prone to stutter-step my way down, my knees quaking a bit, while she glides fluidly to the bottom with a flurry of pattering steps. Though she’ll be waiting for me there on the street corner, as I plod my way towards her, and will sometimes hug me when I get to her, as if she’s been away too long and maybe has started to suspect that she might not see me ever again. It’s one of those nice made-up feelings that she disperses in small doses, and it makes me happy beyond belief.

We live in a hilly city of sharp inclines, which provide for spectacular views but also make the walking of its streets a more difficult task than it should be. Russian Hill is notorious for the wills it has broken. Charging up its harrowing slopes—say Jones heading south all the way to Green—is not for out-of-shape poltroons, though its humped acme offers the rebate of an incomparable panorama: the hills of Marin like islands beyond the sailboat-packed bay; the piers lined with old battleships (maybe dreaming of gold-rush days still); Alcatraz and The Bay Bridge; the peaks of the downtown skyscrapers; stone walls overflowing with ivy in orchidaceous courtyards of century-old apartment complexes; wild parrots chowing down on berries in the leafy foliage; and horizontally parked, well-rusted Cadillacs with sagging tops, their flat tires sticking to the rugged, lined concrete like melted licorice.

After catching one’s breath, say on a clear, calm, cloudless afternoon standing on a copse of grass by the old grave of an unknown Russian soldier, when nobody else is around, beholding the plush wonder of the city spread out below, one can become quite rhapsodic, if not downright ebullient, and might even completely convert to transcendentalism. That feeling of conquest, of besting a hated rival, though short lived, is one of walking’s great rewards. At least here, in San Francisco, where the land seems crowded with the potbellies of supine giants dozing off after supper.

There is wind to contend with as well. The intersection of California and Jones is a prime example of one of San Francisco’s many wind-tunneled vistas. Toupees are lost, groceries come un-bagged, and many are those who are brought to a dead halt in their forward progress by the gales. Little kids have actually been lifted and flown like hang gliders airborne across large swaths of the crosswalk’s white lines. It’s fun for them, though a bit iffy for their parents. Dogs have similar issues, their leashes stretched taut, their front paws scratching at the air for help, their owners tugging the poor pups back as if they were flying a kite. The lapels of my jacket will flip up and flap around, and my hair will resemble a thrashed tumbleweed after venturing through this small treacherous zone. I hold my glasses on tight with both hands. I stride with much puissance and bravado, not letting the ruffling of my person prohibit my trek over Nob Hill. As long as I live, the wind will forever be my archenemy, and I vow not to let it get the best of me.

Neither Sylvia nor I have much tolerance for direct sunlight. We try to keep to the shady side of the street whenever possible. No form of umbrageousness goes unappreciated by us. Sylvia vows to invent a parasol hat which will offer complete shade for its wearer at all times, but I have yet to see any results—though she assures me the fault is not in her design, but in the alignment of the stars. I’ve told her she’s miscarrying Cassius’s warning to Brutus, to which she responds by smiling slyly, and then tweaking my earlobe with a flicked finger. The matter has now become moot between us. Besides, there’s a lot of shade downtown during the day, as the skyscrapers spill their long shadows over the street, spreading their amorphous shapes like spilled ink onto their counterparts across the block; and there are always trees and telephone poles to use as temporary sunblocks while waiting for a light to change or tying a shoe, or enjoying a lazy afternoon kiss.

Despite all these obstructions to our walking ways, we somehow manage to put in a good hour or two of foot travel on most days. Sometimes we won’t talk at all; we’ll just listen to things, and look for things we haven’t noticed before: the shape of a frieze or a cornice on a building’s façade; a flowering shrub squatting in an alley; some graffiti spanning a brick wall like wisteria gone mad; a face painted on a fire hydrant; names permanently etched into the sidewalk long ago while the concrete was still setting; discarded objects crammed into cardboard boxes; strange species of moths; mutated pigeons; a wheelchair-bound old Norwegian woman with no legs blending into a stone wall; luckless stray cats with chopped tails; fanny-pack-sporting tourists in shorts wandering around holding up maps and shivering in just-purchased Alcatraz T-shirts; and myriad other types of urban lusus naturae. Then, usually after we’ve just huffed our way up a giant incline and are resting for a moment at a hill’s crest, Sylvia will stop dead in her tracks, and, for no apparent reason, ask one of her patented unanswerable questions, like, “Is it the sound of the wind or the sound the wind makes other things make?” I’ve learned to not venture a guess when it comes to these imponderables, but rather to just squeeze her hand a little tighter and pull her a bit closer to me. It’s better than any answer I could offer anyway, plus it has the added benefit of being quite enjoyable. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Molded into half of the west sidewalk all the way up Taylor Street between Pine and California are the more-than-one-hundred steps of a concrete stairway. This one-block stretch is one of the steepest in the city. Those with less than stellar salubrity, or even cars with engines on the crotchety and frailer side, should probably ponder more than twice before undertaking this grueling ascent. Many are those who have unwisely, with much hubris and overweening pride, attempted to scale Nob Hill’s heights via this path, and many are those who have been thwarted in their efforts, left bent over at the waist, hands upon hips, gasping for breath, and shaking their heads at the immensity of it all. The steps look inviting at first, like a dream cement staircase to the sky: hundreds of tiny levels creeping slowly and orderly upwards. They are not made for those of the long gait though. Whoever decided to construct them must have been somebody of the short-legged variety, as they are too close for most folks to take evenly one at a time, but are also a bit too far apart to take two at a time. I don’t use them, and instead choose to walk up the non-staired sidewalk to their left. Sylvia will plod along up them though, taking them one by one, carefully making sure she touches every last one, not at all concerned about the world going on around her, staring at her shoes, and humming slightly under her breath as she goes. I always think of that song There Goes My Everything when she does this, and will get it stuck in my head the whole way up. I’ve never told her this, and don’t think I ever will, but I like to pretend that she’s humming the same song. 

Being a flâneur in San Francisco takes much heart, esperance, courage, and a little luck. Sometimes Sylvia will wander away, loaf a bit, or skip, peering into odd places here and there in the landscape, as if she were scouting locations for a film, or was an archeologist exploring among the nooks and crannies in the eldritch ruins of a once grand and magnificent ancient city, which actually is a little bit true. So much of our city has been lost over the years, torn down, wrecked and ruptured to make way for condominiums and high rises. But we abide, and move on.

One night Sylvia tugged me by the arm (as is her wont when she’s feeling suddenly inspired) while dashing off down Sacramento’s leeward slope towards Polk, telling me, “I want to show you the glass in this doorway here. Come on. It’s incredible.” She wasn’t mistaken. After what seemed like an airy flight (I don’t think my feet touched the ground but twice) we set down in a sort of open-air vestibule in front of an apartment building. The glass in the windows of the entrance was almost opaque, but had a glistening quality to it, and had the appearance of something riffled, almost like choppy seawater, each pane its own storm of sculpted liquid. Sylvia bade me to look up, which I did, noticing a square cut of noctilucent sky up there above the pillars.

“Wow. There it is. The cloud-smeared sky. Cool.”

Sylvia was holding onto my hand, and, as I often do, I was hoping she wouldn’t let go ever again. She just stood there, smiling and absently looking up.

I cleared my throat, breaking a lilting silence. “You know, until about the 12th century the word ‘cloud’ and ‘sky’ were essentially the same.”

The non sequitur fell to our feet and stayed there, like an ashamed animal that has just misbehaved and knows a scolding should be coming. I decided not to go on. Instead, I looked down at her, watching her watch the night’s verses of clouds and stars skying along through the 8-ball-black firmament. Her eyes were browning towards a melt, and the slip of her thin-lipped smile was languorously sauntering back at me, waiting and watching, at ease and afloat on the serene pool of her face. I held her by the gorgeous nape of her neck and pretended that we were dancing, dipping her some with one hand on her lower back, and she let go a puff of giggle, and everything seemed soft and ethereal and wonderful. The wind, my most rancorous enemy, had gone to bed for the night, and we just stood there, hugging in that doorway, not thinking about much else except each other.

Sylvia breaks the lull. With a hushed murmur she sighs, “I love living here.”

For some reason I think she means the building we're standing in front of, like she’s making up a story about our lives, like window-shopping for dreams. “Yeah. It’s quite a place. It’s so nice I’m thinking of getting another apartment here, just for my books and magazines. Maybe with a view of the Golden Gate. I think they’d like that.”

She dismisses me with a kind smirk. “No. I mean here, in San Francisco…where you are.”

I’ve never heard her say this before. In fact, it’s quite a rare thing for any San Franciscan to say. Not that we don’t; we just don’t happen to utter it very often; it’s something we all assume. But it deserves mentioning, how lucky we all are to live here, and how much we appreciate the city, through all its vasty ups and downs, its fog and foreboding, its splashes of sun and turbulent crashes into the who of what we are-- like me, here; and Sylvia, here too; in this city where we both love to be.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Rejuvenation of 130 Bush Street

San Francisco is a land of comings and goings, of transients and commuters. Businesses ebb and flow, their signs glowing and going dark from storefronts on a whim. One day a great deli will be shuttered, and in its place a Subway will appear. This ephemeral nature of things is nothing out of the ordinary in any big city, and we could bemoan the passing of landmarks almost on a daily basis if we cared, or knew, that they were forever going to be lost. Still, I always find it superbly satisfying when a former august building that has fallen into a state of desuetude is resurrected and given a fresh jolt of life, a newfound energy that makes an old building become something it hasn’t been in decades: a place where people do interesting things.
It seems there’s a revival of the building at 130 Bush Street going on. It’s this really tall slender building that’s squashed between two much broader and much taller buildings. It was built on a lot that was only 20 feet wide and eighty feet deep. Originally it was a necktie, belt, and suspender factory. Built in 1910, its ten stories made it the tallest building around at the time. It’s got a gothic façade and is faced with glazed terra cotta tiles, and each story has hammered copper tiles outside and bowed windows with prisms that direct the sunlight into the narrow interior. The Grant and the Shell buildings smash the thing in from both sides, seeming to squash its narrow frame and cause the bowed windows to bend. It’s a great optical illusion of a sort. Sometimes I stand across the street and stare at it, wishing that inside one of the windows were a gumshoe’s office, or a writer pounding away at his typewriter, taking nips from a bottle of whisky and chain smoking.
Unfortunately the days of Sam Spade and Herb Caen are long gone, but over the past few months their ghosts might be frequenting this wonderful piece of architecture just off Market Street. Despite a decline over the years in tenants, business is coming back, and not just those lunch-hour crowd of diners bolting sushi at its street-level restaurant--which has closed up shop for the time being--but the inspired joie de vivre of artists looking for studios in the midst of downtown’s ruckus and clangor: a place where they can breathe in the atmosphere of city life, bathe in some historical waters, and hunker down to ply their whimsical trade. I went down there to scope things out tonight, and to talk with a few of the newer residents, hoping to find what was behind this propitious trend.
On the top floor lives and works Che Livingston, a floppy, gawky, blond-haired “spelunker of the unknown” who rented out the space in May so he could have a place to, “act like Billy The Kid and spend some quality time alone but still feel a part of the larger cachinnations and barbarous ado of the crowds.” Livingston is a visual artists. He specializes in creating diorama-like installations, which often feature scenes from famous movies and novels, and which he uses all types of assorted material to construct: from toothpicks to flypaper to fishing line, even making tables out of business cards and pamphlets he comes across in his peregrinations along the downtown streets.
“Business men, Starbucks employees, even homeless people have interesting stuff they’re willing to trade for some spare change,” he spurts out between gaping bites of his BLT. Mr. Livingston is one of those who dislike the modern practice of wearing shoes, and goes barefoot whenever he can, like now, while he’s sitting cross-legged on his mildew-soured and flattened futon, which resides among the dust of the hardwood floor. “There’s nothing here that I don’t absolutely need.” This seems to be the case, as his sparse quarters contain little more “furniture” than the futon, a small desk, and a hot plate, which he uses mostly for Top Ramen and spaghetti making. “I’ve got this Chemex for making coffee. It’s really easy to use, and it’s simple and makes great coffee,” he blurts in his ecstatic way, while gesticulating and spitting out crumbs of sourdough, attempting to show me the wonders of the Chemex. The device is not much more than a large glass beaker, the top part fitted for a special bonded filter which holds the coffee grounds. Hot water is poured over them and the drips of hot black liquid gather below to create quite a good batch of steaming coffee. “See? This is what I mean. We don’t really need so much stuff, really.” He seems excited by this, but then again, he is quite excited about most things. I must admit, such enthusiasm over everyday “miracles” is fairly rare in my experience, and I enjoy it immensely. His affection for certain things is contagious.
Other occupants of this building include a tax prep company, a painter who specializes in cardboard art, and a massage parlor, which I was rather timorous, if not bashful, about entering into, so I will just have to go on record as saying the lady who answered the door was rather brusque, and unforthcoming about my queries into her affairs, though pleasant enough in generally dismissing me. There is also a psychic who rents out a small room with a view of the street on the 2nd story. She was congenial, and not bashful at all about her perspicacious skills. In fact this rather bovine-looking lady offered to give me a discounted tarot card and palm reading. I declined this service. It’s not that I am one to distrust the auguries of those in the know about the land beyond; it’s just that I’d rather not know certain things before they happen, as I’m afraid I might misinterpret them and, like the soldier at the oracle of Delphi, run head first into my own demise because of a misplaced comma. I wished her the best (though she knew better than I what was coming) and made my way down the hall.
A slight marmoreal shimmer gleams from the hall floors, which produce a rather eerie echo of one’s footsteps off the verdigris peeling-paint of the narrow halls. This is especially apparent on a night like this, when the moon’s all full and big and shining a wild yellow light through the windows, and the sky’s tossing a few battered clouds around, and the working masses have fled the downtown streets, and about all you can hear between the building's thin walls is the lonely buzz of a few halogen lights, and, on this night, a strange scraping sound, almost like somebody sanding down a rough surface. This sound, I soon came to realize, was coming from the studio of one K.C. Wittengreen.
Mr. Wittengreen is a corpulent, swarthy, hirsute beast of a man, and his flabby, rotund frame seems to take up most of the room in his small studio, where he spends most nights scratching away at the surface of, and then repainting and/or polishing, a varied assortment of old and rusted metal objects. He confided in me he does take in the occasional plastic artifact, but these are rare occasions. His milieu is metal, and he tries to stick to it. At this time he’s concentrating on resurrecting the rusted parts of a swing set he found at the city dump. “There are like mostly these things people just leave, and they’re no good anymore, right? But you’ve got to see them for what they’re not…for everything that they’re not. Well…that’s just what I do. It passes the time.” He scratches his balding head and squints a bit into the dusty light. “I have a lot of time here. I have more time here than anywhere else I’ve lived. I can’t explain it. This place…well, it just works for me. I work better here.” He tells me over a few warm Hamm's that he’s been living there since February, making him one of the elder statesmen of the artist movement at 130 Bush. Mr. Wittengreen doesn’t consider himself an artist though. He claims to be a guy who, “just wants to do what makes me feel more alive, that keeps humming on the inside, that makes life seem worthwhile. Does that make me an artist? Shit. I don’t know. I guess. But, who cares?” I watch him work for a bit, and wander around.
His studio is littered with rust and metal debris. There’s a small makeshift kitchen, which he’s built out of, “the re-sculptured remains of the shit people’ve thrashed and left to rot.” A table made out of abandoned musical instruments; an oven with an old car door cut and refit onto the front and grills made out of the spokes of bike tires; a bowling-ball coffee pot; a rug of old coats; and a few chairs scrapped together out of oven pans and metal poles.
In a corner over a work bench he’s scratching off all the caked-on rust that’s coiling around the swing set’s ladder’s rungs like barnacles. Sweat has drenched his tank top, and he seems to be wheezing a bit. I ask him about the affordability of living his life in this way at 130 Bush. “It’s rough,” he admits through a gathering grunt. “I mean you come here and you expect certain things, and you want to sell your shit, you know? But, well, I guess I got in at a good time. It’s not too bad, the rent they’re charging. The guy who owns this place, well, he’s got a soft spot for those of us who don’t conform.” He wipes some sweat from his forehead. “The city comes to life at night, just like I do. We both…light up.” He laughs at himself, sighs, and then goes back to his scraping. His face did seem to be quite resplendent. I don’t think he noticed when I got up to leave. His powers of concentration were quite stunning.
After I plopped back out onto the street, I went over by the Crown-Zellerbach Building across the way, and gazed back at that wonderfully slim building I’d just been ambulating my way through. The streetlights were orange embers of fuzzy mystery, almost like flying saucers hanging motionless over the sidewalk, though held in place by the swan-neck curves of their poles. And up above those lights were the mostly darkened windows of 130 Bush, where long ago men had worked making belts, neckties, and suspenders, and had looked out onto the city from what at the time was a very high place. Now it seemed puny and ill conceived, strangled between two much wider and taller beasts, not even enough room to slide a hand between its brick and their sides. It looked quite splendid though, like an overlooked beauty hiding in the murk, waiting patiently to be discovered. And maybe now, with a few more windows still left flickering with bulb light each night, it will come back to life at last, thriving with the souls of a new breed of misfit urban artists who still appreciate the small, good things we have in this life, if only we’d take the time to notice them.