A few days ago I went to Baltimore and saw my old neighborhood in Station North, near Mount Vernon. Back when I lived there, it was a derelict wasteland and all the buildings were bombed out and crumbling and there was hardly anyone around. I liked Station North because it felt like the end of the world. And if you really wanted to be part of the living world again, you could just walk a few blocks towards Charles Street, and suddenly there were people everywhere, and good restaurants and bars and an arthouse movie theater, and on and on.

And somewhere between these two very different worlds was Penn Station, a sort of portal to many other worlds. I liked Penn Station. It was real classy inside, and old fashioned in a way only East Coast train stations tend to be. I could walk in on a whim and get a train ticket to DC that cost me all of five bucks. The ride took about twenty minutes and you got to see plenty of forests and little towns along the way.

Exactly ten years ago, when I was having a strange bad time for a variety of different reasons (some of them not unlike the ones I’m suffering through now), I would take that train to DC a few times a week just to have something to do. It meant escaping my soundproof apartment, where I lived alone and was slowly going insane. But mostly I liked the train ride itself. It was air-conditioned and I could look out the window and zone out and listen to music. And when I got to Union Station in DC, I would just putz around and visit all the museums by myself. After the sun went down, I’d make my way back over to Union and take the last train home to Baltimore. I did this dozens of times . . . did it till its effectiveness wore off on me. And then one day I just stopped going. I haven’t taken the train from Baltimore to DC since.

It’s so strange though, because when I was there the other day, I saw Penn Station and remembered the last time I ever rode that train, which was in August 2011. I remember that trip in particular because at one of the stops between DC and Baltimore, this girl about my age got on and sat down next to me. She had a bleach blonde pixie cut and was dressed in a sort of brown Peter Pan tunic with tall black boots. I don’t know! I thought she looked cool. I reckoned she lived in the Copycat Building, or at least went to MICA. She pointed to my iPod and I held it up to show her what I was listening to and she smiled. We never said anything to one another, though of course I wish I had. When the train terminated at Penn Station, we both got up and walked onto the platform. She waved and turned around and walked away.

I know this is so dumb . . . but I remember that girl! I remember her face exactly as it was that day. Why do I remember her specifically? I can recall that last train ride vividly. At the time I did not know it would be my last, and so maybe I have crystalized it in my mind since it holds the significance of being the end of something. It was the end of a lot of things for me back then. And because the pretty girl in the Peter Pan tunic was there at the end of it all, she is frozen in time now too.

Having a photographic memory feels like being haunted or cursed. And so when I see Penn Station and remember that girl I sat next to on a train at night in the summer ten years ago, I have to wonder what happened to her. I have thousands of tiny memories like that in my head, most of them containing friendly strangers who passed through my life very briefly. To remember their faces means wondering about them too. Really, it’s exhausting, and always a little sad because it means feeling time. I think maybe it is hurting me to feel that anymore.

After I left the station, I remember walking through the empty streets to get back to my building. There was an abandoned warehouse nearby, and as I passed it, I heard a band playing deep inside, though I couldn’t see them. I felt very lonely just then. I regretted not talking to the girl on the train. No one knew where I was and I had nowhere to be, so I stopped and listened to them play. If I had known that that was all soon to go away forever, that I would leave that neighborhood and that city and never see any of it again the way it was, I don’t know that it would have changed much. But I remember every bit of it just the same.

i keep having nightmares where i’m sunburned

I have this memory of being in Berlin during my last few days there . . . it was early February, and it was cold and rainy and I had left the house to get some aspirin. In Germany, you can only get medications, even something like aspirin or ibuprofen, at pharmacies called Apothekes. They’re basically on every street and they all have this red “A” symbol on the side of the building. Problem is, they’re only open for a few hours every day, and like everything else in Germany, they’re closed on Sundays. I like going to them and the pharmacists are friendly and speak English. You have to literally go up to the counter and ask them for ibuprofen or whatever, which is almost quaint in a way. And then the pharmacist goes to the back, and returns with a box of whatever your favorite analgesic is, and they ask if you want ten tablets or twenty. Ten will run you like €5, which is pretty expensive. In the US, we’re used to buying a bottle of 500 for the same price. I reckon the reasoning is that don’t want you popping this stuff like candy. For instance when I saw a doctor there, he was very hesitant to prescribe me anything. It’s just how it is. They’re more careful about things like that over there.

Anyway: I lived on this beautiful street in Kreuzberg that was essentially a self-contained universe. Everything I could ever need was in a five-block radius. I had a nice coffeeshop and a pizza place and some good dive bars. My bedroom was above a cute little grocery store, for god’s sake! And right down the street from me, visible from my window, was an Apotheke. I usually dipped in there once a week and picked up a pack of Fisherman’s Friend. I liked the older woman who worked there. She was sweet. She was my German aunt only she didn’t know it.

And I was on my way to see her that rainy day when I saw a small dog leashed to a bike rack across the street from a print shop. He was scared and shaking because of the rain and the cold. I looked around and didn’t see anyone, but I assumed his owner was in the copy shop. I knelt down and put my arm around him and pulled him close to me to warm him up. I figured I’d just stay with him until his owner came back. After a few minutes, an old woman looked out the window and squinted at us. She smiled and waved. I saw another woman who was leaving pass by her, and the old woman said something, and the other woman nodded and came outside. She walked over and started unlocking her bicycle which was next to me. She said something in German and I guess my pause to answer her was just long enough for her to realize I hadn’t fully understood what she had said. The dog was still shivering in my arms.

She switched to English: “This is your new friend? The owner says she will be out in just a moment.”

I said, “Oh, right on.”

It kept raining. The dog would look into the store and make that sad little dog noise. I talked to him to try to calm him down, and I rubbed his fur to shake the rain off of him. I opened my jacket and pulled him inside and we sat there in silence for some time. Eventually the old woman came outside. She thanked me in German and patted me on the shoulder and she and the dog turned a corner and were gone. I stood up and walked the other way.

unbeknownst to us, we were a half mile away from a huge police manhunt

blade runner is about a tired miserable guy who barely wants to be alive who is tasked with hunting down and killing human facsimiles created for slavery who desperately want to prolong their limited lifespans just to live in a world that actively hates them

whoa (lol)

i was just thinking that the hardest i’ve ever laughed in my life was last summer in a 1950s-themed motel in asotria, oregon, where mccune stood in front of our room at 4 am, both of us high out of our minds on these mushroom capsules we ate, him describing the plot to john mctiernan’s THE 13TH WARRIOR, and then reciting the entire viking prayer from the movie, which he apparently knows by heart:

Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother.
And my sisters and my brothers
Lo, there do I see the line of my people
Back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them
In the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave may live forever.

we were cackling like hyenas . . . i couldn’t breathe lol

that movie rules by the way. we watched it when we got back. i love it when something is “dumb” and also extremely well made and cool, which it is!

mccune and i are doing another trip this summer . . . we have decided will do it every summer. i think in july we’re gonna go up to seattle and then all around the national parks in washington state. and you can bet your ass we’ll have a snuff box loaded with uppers and downers and laughers and screamers again!!

FINALLY: here is john mctiernan, director of PREDATOR and DIE HARD (and so on), talking about how you can secretly make Art using a movie studio’s money, and how artists have been doing similar such things for thousands of years. it is very good:

yeah dude!!!!