07 November 2019

McCune bought a house in Vallejo. As far as houses go, it’s a nice one. It’s this long blue rectangle on a quiet street and on a sort of incline so you can see Oakland and San Francisco way off in the distance. It has a backyard and an office and two full bathrooms and a fireplace and a Dad Basement and everything. I asked him how he managed to get this thing, what with this being the age of No One Being Able To Buy A House, and he said it was “really easy.” He explained why it had been easy. Honestly, the way he put it, it really did sound easy. I won’t spoil anything for you though.

So I drove to Vallejo for his housewarming party, which was also sort of MccCune’s birthday party, and also a Halloween party. I did not realize it was a Halloween party, and so I was pretty much the only person there not dressed as a Muppet or the Joker or whatever. I drank a bunch of bubble waters and ate from the vegetable platter and wondered just what the in hell I could possibly do with myself there, what with everyone else being a couple in their mid-to-late 30s who I only vaguely recognized from some other party a long time ago.

Which is to say that other than McCune, who was busy making the rounds to greet all his guests, and who was dressed like Nic Cage in MANDY:

. . . I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. So I just sort of putzed around until I ended up in the backyard beneath a pergola, which is a word you only ever use in the suburbs. There was this lonely-looking dude nearby and, sensing that I was also probably lonely, marched right up to me and shook my hand. He said, “I know you from somewhere.” This is always an ominous thing to hear. I reacted how I always do, which is to tense up, and assume the stranger who uttered these words is about to stick a screwdriver in my throat. (I’m like 100% serious. This is one of my paranoid delusions that I just can’t shake.)

To him I said, “Oh no.”

And then he narrowed his eyes, gazing into mine, and said, “You’re the guy from those Pipefest videos!”

(Look, if you really don’t know what that means, then let’s just leave it at that!!!)

Said I: “Man . . . I guess so.”

He seemed nice enough, but he had definitely zeroed in on me because I was the only other Lone Dude Awkwardly Holding A Drink. Sometimes guys like that will try to team up with you so that they don’t have to be alone. I get it. I usually rebuff this sort of thing though, because sooner or later he’s going to ask you if you’re currently watching some TV show you’ve never heard of. And when you say no, you’re in for a real bad time, because now he’s going to explain the show to you. That’s a huge bummer for everyone. I’d rather just suck it up and find the cat, or an empty room or whatever, and wait for relief.

This guy though—he really was going for it. I was eyeing various paths I could take to escape, and he looked back nervously to see what I had been analyzing behind him. He asked me, with sweat dripping down the side of his head, if I was hungry, if wanted something else to drink, how I knew McCune et cetera. He was machine-gunning questions like there was no tomorrow. I started to get nervous when he quickly devolved into “So what have you been up to?” territory . . . an insane angle to play, considering he has no frame of reference for my life at all. To wonder about the recent past of a stranger . . . I can’t abide. I told him I was probably going to throw up, and that I should see to it. I split for the bathroom, where I planned to stand inside with the door locked for three and a half minutes, and then depart again.

But the door was locked, so I kept moving. I walked around the house thinking that I wouldn’t mind having a house, if only to do the sort of thing McCune was presently doing, which was to fill it with food and people, and on and on. McCune had told me the secret, and of course the main ingredient was money, as it always is, and there was just no way I was going to get my hands on any of that stuff anytime soon, if ever. . . . So much for that!

Yes, and so, having worked myself into a pit of self-loathing, I found some side door that was unguarded and walked down the street to get back to my car. The neighborhood was completely silent . . . and man, I’m talking in all directions, even way the hell out there. You could hear a church mouse sigh out there. There wasn’t even a breeze! The parts of Berkeley where I walk every night are dead quiet too, but you’re still in a city, still boarding Oakland, and you can hear helicopters and car alarms and shit, if you really look out for them. I’m here to tell you that there weren’t no sounds at all in Vallejo, manmade or otherwise. It scared the hell out of me for a second, until I Remembered My Own Past, and now this terror melted into a sort of suburban delirium of nighttime comfort that I had not experienced in a while. The silence reminded me of the neighborhoods I used to hang out in in Virginia, where I’m from. I stood there feeling the sad appeal of the suburbs. What a weird thing. As if ancient wisdom had invisibly entered my brain, I suddenly understood why people leave civilization and come to places like this. McCune . . . I mean, the guy has a god damn house in a tomb-silent neighborhood. He can just step out onto his porch whenever he wants and, hey presto, there’s the same quiet unchanging world beyond. Maybe that’s not so bad, when you really get down to it. If the world is a prison, and your house is your cell . . . well baby, then it’s like the fella said: you can make your cell as comfortable as you want. You shut the door and deadbolt it and prison is on the other side. In the cell of your own design, you are as free as you’ll ever be. You don’t have to like it, but you can accept it, make terms with it, and then you can have yourself a good ol time until you run out of time. Even if I never wanted to live in the suburbs of Vallejo, well . . . I wouldn’t dare look down on anyone else who was able to find a little peace there. McCune really did have it all figured out. But of course there was a sadness I felt knowing his house on MLK in Oakland was vacant. In some ways I had witnessed the end of something between my friend and me. He has Settled Down. Guy’s got a house and a wife and a kid, more or less. That is the thing, and I am visitor to this thing, now and from here on out. McCune, bless his heart, he sure was happy to have created that thing for himself. I wanted to cry, thinking about that, because it really was good for him. I wanted to cry because I was happy for my friend. I don’t know. It was a strange spectrum of emotions to slide through standing there on that empty street.

I kept walking towards my car. I could see Oakland way out there in the dark from where I stood on the hill. McCune and I had done a whole bunch of stuff there in the nine years before he left, and now I would go back to it alone. I got in my car and rolled down the windows. I could still hear everyone talking in the backyard beyond the trees. I knew I would never have any of it, and would always be on the other side of the thing. Well, what can you do . . . I’m just not wired to live that sort of life. I mean, we can’t all have it. I decided that was OK. It seemed like the conclusion an adult should come to.

In the yard next to me was an actual boat resting upon a bed of flowers that was filled with Christmas lights and a little fountain. Inside were a bunch of screaming skeletons, and you just know I loved the hell out of that.

04 November 2019

Today was a strange day. It wasn’t a good or bad day, but it was a day. I have written before about that “guest writer” feeling that I sometimes feel . . . which is to say, you’ll be watching a TV show you like, and every now and then an episode will feel off for whatever reason, usually because the characters are not talking or acting the way they usually talk or act, and in ways that you maybe can’t outright describe, the whole thing feels conceptually different from every other episode before or after it. Later you find out this is because there was a guest writer, and they didn’t really understand the show or any of its characters, and so you’re left with this oddball episode that doesn’t fit in with the rest. This strange and lonely feeling that it leaves you with is the result of all the people and places looking the same, all the pieces seemingly in the right places, except your mind knows the difference. You’re expecting a sort of familiarity from it all, but when it isn’t there, you almost feel nauseous.

Well: I sometimes have the life equivalent of this. I will live out a day that on paper looks like any of the other days I’ve lived, except there are little elements to it that make it feel not like my life at all. Something invisible is fundamentally wrong. I don’t know if it’s my brain or the world around me. I see no reason why I can’t be both, though the cosmic clockwork of that coincidence makes me want to puke. At any rate, it is not an altogether good feeling to feel out of place in your own life. I can see all the elements in place, the people I know and the rooms I occupy, and so on, but it just doesn’t feel right. There is something unsettling about it that makes me want to scream out in horror.

What did I do before I went to sleep last night? I watched SOLARIS by myself. I had not seen in a long time. Originally I planned to just watch the first part, but then daylight saving time ended right there in the middle of it, and I gained an hour, and so I watched the whole thing, all three hours of it. Afterwards I felt incredibly sad. I drank a bunch of NyQuil and lay in the dark under my comforter thinking about it. And I thought that maybe SOLARIS was one of the saddest movies I could think of. It’s not just the film itself . . . it’s that it says something to me specifically, what with the whole thing being the sort of psychedelic nightmare that I actually experience every day of my life, in so many words. There are people who are gone from me in the real world who materialize in my dreams and walk around with me. In the dream, I know that they are not real, and they know that they are not real either. Knowing this is terrifying and sad for both of us. If there is anything good about it, it’s that I get to see this person again, what with their real world counterpart being far away or unknown to me or dead when I wake up again. But then it is such a sadness to wake up alone and have this person disappear . . . maybe worse than if they had never visited me in my dream at all.

In SOLARIS, the strange yellow ocean on the surface of the planet creates illusions from the dreams and memories of those aboard the space station. And so the apparition of the scientist’s wife can of course only exist while he is hovering over the planet of Solaris. On the one hand he is tormented by seeing his wife again, and on the other hand he misses her dearly and wants to stay there on the space station just so he can be with her.

It is like this with my dreams. There are a few people who I miss so much, and so of course they populate my mind when I go to sleep at night whether I want them to or not.

The other night I dreamed of my grandmother. In my dream, I knew that she had died almost two years ago. She knew that she had died too. We were at a sort of Christmas party. And seeing her there, we talked a bit, and it was like a reunion almost. She said, you know, “Oh, I’ve been gone a while. . . . What have you been up to?” and so I told her. She showed me the perm she’d gotten for the party. I asked her about the afterlife. But because I have decades of memories of her to pull from, my mind had recreated her perfectly. Everything she said and did is what she would have said and done at a Christmas party in real life, were she still alive. It was a powerful dream because it felt believable. I guess you could say this is a sort of hallucination. It is not real. What’s scary is that I’m starting to have a difficult time telling these things apart anymore.

And so it was that I had a similar sort of dream last night about someone who I love and miss and who is far away. I woke up and wrote to them saying as much. What else can you do?

I spent the rest of my day feeling off . . . I kept thinking about SOLARIS. I was talking to my friend Shaina about this. We were talking about dreams and the intimacy of the things in your mind, and how all you ever really know about someone is your perception of them. And from this you create memories of them, and so on. Shaina is fluent in Russian, so I told her, you know, you gotta watch SOLARIS. She did. She wrote to me several hours later saying she thought it was genius. She went to sleep immediately afterwards, which is what I had done the night before. Maybe she is dreaming about the planet Solaris right now.

Yes, and I have got to sleep too. I feel like hell. I have this lonely feeling is all. I’ll get over it. To be honest, I am afraid to dream tonight. Which cherished friend will show up and walk around the dark places of my mind with me this time??

Something I have always wondered on a Guest Writer Day, the off day I have just had where nothing felt familiar: have I woken up in a parallel dimension? Am I in the Minus World—in Other Ryan’s world? It would probably look the same, and seem near identical on the surface. But of course it would not be my own world. Maybe that’s what is so creepy about it. If it were a completely new world with completely new people, it would be weird but in an interesting way, because I wouldn’t be confused by it looking like something I’m supposed to understand. But here I am, identical to the other Ryan, and yet a pretender in his identical world. It is inverted. It does not feel like my own. There are microscopic differences that make me feel nauseous. So: is he over there in my world where I ought to be? While I am trapped in the Minus World? And, in going to sleep again, like a Scooby-Doo revolving bookcase, do we trade places and go back to our respective universes? Son of a bitch. Who even knows. This only happens a few times a year, so whatever, I can deal with it. I reckon there are worse fates.

31 October 2019

As the sun was setting, I walked from my house to downtown Berkeley to see a movie. I left early so that I could get a cup of coffee and walk around Shattuck until McCune got there. It was nice out. There were a lot of people milling around the square and I remembered it was the day before Halloween.

I walked to the California Theatre and got a ticket from the woman working the box office outside. I had come to see THE LIGHTHOUSE:

Most everyone else was there for PARASITE. I realized this when I walked into a completely empty theater. I was the only one there to see the movie about two weird guys hanging out in a lighthouse. This was theater 3 upstairs, which is usually where I end up, so I walked to the end of the first row and sat down. I like this row because you can put your feet on the wall and there’s no one in front of you. McCune walked in a few minutes later and sat down next to me and we spent the next two hours having ourselves a good old time with this thing. After it ended, and the credits rolled and the automated curtain went down over the screen, I thought to myself: “Well, I guess there really are still a few people out there making anything that’s worth a damn.” What McCune and I had bore witness to there in the dark was a truly bizarre film and, let’s face it, the thing is total box office poison . . . and yet somehow they went ahead and got it made anyway. This imbued with me confidence for a few reasons that probably don’t matter anyway since the whole world is ending. But at any rate, this was a hell of a thing to see exhibited.

MCCUNE AND I PARTED WAYS, and alone I walked north to University Avenue, then cut west to take the long way home. I thought I might do some walking.

Yes, and as I got further away from everyone there, I thought about these dreams I keep having that I am maybe too embarrassed to write down here or say to anyone I know. I dream and then I wake up and childishly carry these delusions around with me because I don’t want to let go of them even though that is the only true path. I spoke to myself because I needed to order my own past out loud. I went through the many years I had spent in Oakland chronologically so as to connect it to the present moment. I saw the deep significance of this city branded upon my very soul! There is a diverging timeline out of Oakland somewhere in the timeline that ruined everything beyond it, and I’m obsessed with thinking about it . . . I reckon I keep circling these thoughts because I hate myself. It is this one thing I see in the center of my dreams, and I see it shining plain, and I can’t change it. And then to torture myself even more, I did a thing I always do, which is to imagine an alternate timeline in which I had not left Oakland in November 2015. I feel something in my body twist up when I do this. I thought, you know, jesus lord . . . all I’ve done in the last ten years is waste a bunch of money and get older. Think of the people I could have met if I had not left! And, perhaps more importantly, think of the people I wish I could have not met in the other places between. . . .

Having seen this film with my old friend, and having drunk coffee, and it being the night before Halloween, and so on, I decided I felt pretty good otherwise, and so I closed the door in my mind where I keep these things and made myself think only about walking. I saw the four palm trees high above all the dark houses and I knew I was only a few blocks from home. But of course I always know I’m close to home when I pass the seashell house:

That god damn thing!

It’s cold in my house . . . I have turned on the radiator Kerwin left in his room when he went back to the East Coast. I don’t know why I didn’t use it last winter, because this thing is great. I ought to sleep but I am afraid to. I have to try anyway.

30 October 2019

if you have a dream about someone, you should tell them when you wake up

28 October 2019

LISTEN: Whether I like it or not, I have been out there observing this wild world, and I have picked up on a recent trend that is giving me nightmares. I feel compelled to make a public service announcement.


Seriously, y’all have got to knock it off with talking on the god damn phone while you’re standing at a urinal, or, worse, sitting on a toilet in a stall in a public restroom. This is absolutely disgusting and I don’t care if I sound like a brat!! How brazen and shameless we have gotten with our hideousness! This cannot be the new normal. I refuse!

And, do the people on the other end know? Man I sure as hell don’t want to talk to someone while they’re hunched over taking a dump in a Target restroom at 7 pm on a Wednesday. Get real.

If I stumbled upon this sort of thing once or twice, I’d chalk it up to a freak occurrence . . . just me momentarily gazing through a glass darkly at the unsound habits of these gross-ass psychos who have no respect for the sanctity of a phone call, let alone the privacy of one’s own bodily functions. But no, man: I’m witnessing this godless atrocity multiple times a week!

We all know I am like Jerry Seinfeld / Howard Hughes weird about germs, but come on. You got your dick in your hand, for god’s sake, or else you’re wiping your gross dumb ass. While talking on the phone! In public! And then, jesus lord in heaven, they just walk out of the restroom without washing their hands! That ain’t right, baby!!

People as a whole are pretty disgusting when you really get down to it, and there’s not much you can do to turn it around. But please, y’all, we need to come together on this one. It has to end. It’s getting weird!