Monday, February 18, 2008

ephemera

Ephemera, n.
1. A fever of one day's continuance only.
[1913 Webster]


Self Loathing and Salvation at the Seventies' End, on Acid

I am transfixed by the excessive make-up on the homely girl sitting next to me. Color has taken on a familiar and peculiar quality; things are sharpened and outlined with a current of acidic light about the edges, as if superimposed on film. Everything has a blood-filled look. The physical world is flattened out before me, I’m viewing it on a screen in my mind, and all is roiling beneath this surface, masking some teeming atomic boil. I have developed novel abilities; my focus is now superhuman. I can see the molecules binding things together; I can see the space in between.

My new screen-vision is faulty; an area of distortion moves about it, a ball rolling about on a suspended sheet of plastic. For a moment I understand, perfectly, the space-time continuum. Just as quickly it is lost to the ether. The girl’s face won’t stay still, swelling outward here and there momentarily. The ungainly contours of her face are shifting endlessly. All of this as she sits perfectly still. Later I realize it. She's terrified too!

The two of us make up the back row of the sparsely peopled classroom, where we take cover from humiliation. We never spoke; we never made eye contact. We studiously avoided giving any hint of recognition of each other. We are cowering through high school, developing strategies to avoid being caught out in the open. We fear even the sympathy of kindred souls.

I am overwhelmed by empathy for the homely girl, for the pain of humiliation that has nowhere to go and must continually consume our rapidly diminishing innocence like an electrochemical reaction. Our batteries are already low. But I haven’t named these things yet; inside it can only resolve in self-loathing and a heightened sense of this vague, maddeningly pervasive fear.

Now the walls are breathing, like we’re inside a great bellows. I can hear it; nobody else can. They don’t have my heightened senses. My hair is straw; my skin is cardboard. I marvel at their touch. I want to flee. I need to get out of the constricting room, away from the bughouse that is our school, out of these filthy clothes. I want to shed my skin. I feel filthy, right down to my core. But there is no escape because everything is implicated in the fraud. Everything and everybody is newly exposed; ugly, mean, common, false. None of us are real; we are mere representations and facsimiles. Just like the false plastic veneers all about us. We are projecting these images like holograms; they shimmy and stutter occasionally. This too I now see clearly.
The interior of the room, dusted with a film of harrowing school-room light, is a deliberate, menacing kitsch. Everything looks ugly and cheap, second-rate. It all looks as if it’s about to fall apart, to burst at the seams. Everything is about to melt into one formless, indistinguishable mass.
I'm not sure how I will be able to continue, having seen this. I'm beginning to worry. I need to move, to shake this presence somehow. I can't escape but I can keep moving. It seems like I've been sitting in class for hours, yet only five minutes have passed. And I'm starting to peak.

Mr. Hino, the Born-Again history teacher, is oblivious to my condition. Every Pearl Harbor Day Mr. Wong--being Chinese, and therefore duty-bound--recruits a class to launch a paper-airplane surprise attack on the Japanese Hino, assailing and pelting him in mid-period. He takes this like he takes most minor indignities, with slightly annoyed, patient grace.
Mr. Hino is rightfully appalled at the condition of the youth he tends, and still he has no idea how degenerate we are, the ignorant, oblivious contempt we have for decency. He has no idea how far the rot has progressed, because no one does yet; it is overtaking even itself. He doesn’t know the levee has already been breached, and it is only now a case of water finding its level. He will not be here to see its later stages; he will not suffer the realization that it has no end, no breaking point, just an infinite, endless degradation. I do hope Mr. Hino never looked down to find there is no bottom.

But, God bless him, he is forever looking upward. He occasionally tries to better us, railing, gently, against decadence. Today he announces a special guest. An alumnus from a few years prior has come to give us a talk. An eminence of a sort, he is a local legend; a gang-banger known for his oversized arms ("Chops" was his nickname) and his bravery. He is regarded, in the highest praise granted one of his milieu, as being "crazy." Chops is impressive too; squat and powerfully built, with a jet black pork chop moustache and heavy lidded eyes giving him a look of latent ferocity. He wears the basic cholo uniform of the time: khaki pants, plain white t-shirt. He’s here to tell us the tale of his redemption. In the throes of my chemically-induced paranoia, I’m about to be scared straight. I‘m panicked anew.

Apparently Chops laid waste to the dowdy suburbs of Norwalk with no lasting consequences, and it would take a purely accidental brush with death in the army to open his eyes. Something about a failing tank turret threatening to decapitate him and a prayer answered. Chops finishes his testimony by asking for volunteers to rise and pledge themselves to Jesus. A whole new dilemma! Rise and risk being torn to shreds by your fellows; remain seated and renounce God. For all but two of us, God proved less fearsome than the mob. The bell rang.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

By Way of Explanation

It's hard to resist, and my indifferent pose is revealed as hopelessly false as I now recourse to the "sorry for the lack of posting...", er, post. But since debasing oneself should be, like any worthwhile pursuit, done thoroughly, I will do it right and proper:

Sorry for the lack of posting. If I wasn't already prostrate before you (see above), and still pretending to be peer to my more successful and capable brethren, I would employ one of their words and say I am "blocked." But I suspect this wouldn't be accurate in the sense that professional writers use the phrase. If anything's blocked it's my capacity to care and any faith in the efficacy of care. I'm beginning to suspect that caring is very bad for one's health. Like that creepy doctor on late night television selling the mysterious product (does anyone out there know what is meant by "that certain part of the male anatomy"? for the life of me I can't figure out what these people are selling), I have personally researched my product. Unlike the doctor, I cannot stand here and brag about the results. Care is a (insert epithet inferring incest here) as far as I can tell. Oh cruel mirror's proofs!

It's just too painful to watch, much less respond to, the Commodore of the Straightjacket Express (with Maverick off the stick, the bus has fared considerably better than any airplane the Captain ever piloted) gloating as only a mean and vain old man redeemed can, noticing that the newspapers started cropping the less favored candidates out of the photos weeks ago (what sort of madness is at hold at the New York Times, when after its humiliating snookering and cooptation by the War Party, it heaves a great grey sigh of relief at the prospect of McCain vs. Clinton?)--de-selecting them on the basis of polls and the primary votes of somewhere around one percent of the country. The haste to stamp the "safe" (more madness, the Orwellian inversion of that word here) candidates with the imprimatur and get on with an election that is rendered, if not quite meaningless at least safely limited in its meaning or potential to change (verb, as opposed to the hollow lure that is the noun, "Change") anything significantly, is perhaps the most telling of the various phenomena associated with it all.
No, it will take a younger, stronger, more capable person than I to flail away futilely at this impermeable edifice. Retreat is the only option. I would rather be thought this much a coward than that much a fool.
The elites win, and they drag along some ill-informed, fool faction or other to do the heavy lifting. It matters not whom. C'mon to the trough, all who profit from the war trade, all you race hustlers, ambitious young men and women looking for a future. Forget what you've heard. We're hiring, and you don't need to be human to apply. It's business as usual and the potential is limitless.