28 September 2013

ryanmail

Generally every day during lunch I write a letter to someone far away. It’s a nice thing, to put pen to paper, and to draw skeletons and cats (and skeleton-cats), and to place into envelopes all the strange, flat items I find in my room. Even if the person never writes back, it does something to me—something I would say is altogether wonderful and free of any downsides (how many of such things exist?)—to hear from these people in some other medium, usually through my phone, that they have received my labor and have placed it somewhere safe to keep for-ever.

I told John the other day, while we were sipping bourbon from a hollowed-out skull and chopping firewood at 2 am, that we should get a P.O. box for VIII NOTHING where we can receive letters and packages and boxes containing severed hands. He made a noise, kind of a grunt, that I interpreted as him finding this to be an agreeable idea. The letters we would receive, I went on, would be swiftly answered to whomever had written—that our thoughtful pen-pal would get a one-of-a-kind follow-up letter no later than seven business days after we had scanned their fine work in our trembling hands while standing half-dead and half-drunk in the nerve center of VIII NOTHING (our kitchen).

John grunted again and collapsed into the herb garden, mostly overgrown with mint, and began burp-yodeling “Soul Man” by legendary R&B duo Sam & Dave.

So: next week we will make our way to the swank post office in Downtown Oakland and get a P.O. box. Once we have the address, we’ll share it here, and you can write to us if that is what you feel like doing. We’ll write you back!

Dante is willing to receive mail as well. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? To receive fan mail for a cat? Shit, maybe he’ll respond, too. (Dante is illiterate according to our standards, but we’ll figure it out.)

Want some stuff? We’ll send you some stuff. Just words? We’ll send you more words than you’ll know what to fuckin’ do with.

We’ve got two typewriters in this house, after all. Hmm. We’ll see!

28 September 2013

danters

Y’all knew we had a ship’s cat, right? A ship’s cat is a feline buddy who accompanies sailors and other boat-dudes on long voyages across the sea, primarily to hunt for rodents, but also because cats are cool as hell and it’s nice to have them around.

Anyway, this ship is the S.S. DOOMSDAY, and it’s not actually a ship at all: it’s a big ol’ house in Oakland, California. It’s where John and I do our sleeping and eating and bathing and blinking and breathing. We work on VIII NOTHING there, too. It is our corporate (hah!) headquarters; our citadel of sin; our shelter from the madness of this doomed planet.

And of course we’ve got a cat running around this damn place. That cat is named Dante Greyhame Allan Poe Starsailor, and he’s a righteous dude. (He’s also super weird.) The picture you see above was taken three days ago when I stepped out of my sleeping quarters to put the kettle on; it was high noon and time for tea. There was Dante, splayed out on the couch in an “aw, he thinks he’s people” sort of way. It was terribly funny—I could hardly stop laughing.

He just sat there, gazing at me, as if to say, “Yes? For God’s sake, did you need something?”

I said the magic word after that, which was “hungry”. I phrased it as a question: “Dante, are you hungry?”

Dante seldom meows—only when he’s sad about something—but when he hears the few human words he knows (“hungry,” “food,” “sit,” “Dante!” and “treats” (he’s learning “tuna”)), he chirrups. This amazing little trill comes tumbling out of his throat and he prances about, tail swaying, because he wants me to know that he understood what it is I have said to him and that he would very much like it if I filled his food bowl with whatever tasty noun I think he should have.

And I thought, yes, this little guy, at once my son and confidant and closest companion, yes: he is the official mascot of VIII NOTHING; he is, as John once said, the patron saint of the Oakland literati. I must tell the world about Dante (I thought), because otherwise how will they know?

I met Dante when he was only seven weeks old. I picked him up from some crummy shithouse on Lombard Street in Baltimore and took him home with me so we could be cool bros together. He has been my good and faithful friend ever since.

More Dante news from now on! He’s an important part of this fine enterprise we’re steering into oblivion. Without him, we wouldn’t wake up in the morning (Dante demands to be fed as the sun rises), and there’s no question that we’d be even more unhappy than we already are.

28 September 2013

thedeluge

John Martin must have had a pretty rough life, because all of his paintings make you feel really hopeless and miserable (in the best possible way), though hell, the man sure could do some neat things.

26 September 2013

Gritt looked up at the six-story building his best friend Shark was sworn to protect. He couldn’t help but admit to himself that it was a fine piece of architecture. But more than that, it represented a human institution he felt was of the utmost importance: education.

Dude, yessssssss.

26 September 2013

A lot of jerks have “personal websites”. I guess that makes me Just Another Jerk.

But here’s the thing: on those jerks’ websites, they will often list every jerk talk they’ve given, every jerk interview they’ve participated in, every stupid shred of jerk media that involves them. I ain’t one of those jerks, that’s for god dang sure.

What I am about to share with you, whoever you are (it’s very possible I’m talking to no one), is a thing that is enjoyable on its own, whether I am in it or not. See, several weeks ago my good friend, the polymath genius Tim Rogers, asked me to come over and be a part of a commercial he was making for a videogame whose creation he had absolutely nothing to do with.

Some important-enough people in the marketing department at Sony Computer Entertainment America had seen his infomercials for his own games (here and here) and decided, hey, this guy can do for zero dollars what we do for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars. So they handed him the marketing duties for DIVEKICK, a “2D competitive parody fighting game” which you play with only two buttons.

Tim wrote the script the night before and we filmed it at noon the next day. Here it is:

When I sent it to my family, they said it was nice to finally know that “the guy you were always visiting in Japan is actually a real person” and that I look “completely different”. Welp, OK!

25 September 2013

If I somehow end up in a position of authority in the post-apocalyptic world, the citizens of my nation-state will be issued a copy of Moby-Dick at birth. I’ve been re-reading it recently, and holy lord did Herman Melville know what he was doing. It is the Bible for burned-out believe-in-nothing sad-dudes the world over.

I first read M-D (what the pros call it) during the summer between 11th and 12th grade, and while it moved me deeply at the time, I hadn’t experienced enough terrible bullshit for it to rock my testicles like has been recently:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.

If nothing else, take those last two lines and carve them into your brain. Hell, it’s really all you need to navigate through this miserable fucking place.

25 September 2013

I write super short stories all day long. I guess I wrote this one back in February or March when I felt like a sack of horse shit:

She pushed the magic button and didn’t feel sad anymore. Feeling sad is for losers. You should be happy! It’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.

25 September 2013

Karel stayed in the room, alone with Ellington. He was happy the clouds had dispersed but was expecting nothing more this evening. That bit of an incident over the telephone call had suddenly revealed something he had refused to acknowledge: he was tired and no longer desired anything.

Karel heard water gurgling and the two women laughing in the bathroom, and he reflected that he had never been able to live the way he wanted, to have the women he wanted and to have them the way he wanted them. He longed to run away to a place where he could weave his own story, weave it by himself to his own taste and out of the reach of loving eyes.

And deep down he did not even care about weaving himself a story, he simply wanted to be alone.

Yeah, this book is pretty good.

19 September 2013

gloomyboston

Yesterday I was blazing across the western sky, 30,000 feet or so above blurry topography I hardly cared about, feeling run-down and broken. And I don’t mean that in some small, cutesy way. I mean my insides were putrified, brain and all, from which I still have not recovered (and probably never will). During the flight from Boston to Houston I felt a sickness creep up my throat and I knew I had contracted something from some fucking jerkoff in New England—maybe from holding on to a hand strap on the T, or from touching the railing to steady myself as I ascended from the darkness of the orange line and into those cold, cold streets. Or it could have come from one of my housemates at the “monastery”—we were in close proximity, living like brothers who were also strangers—in which case I forgive them entirely. They were good and decent people. I met few others.

I am in a rotten mood and I feel as though I could get angry or frustrated easily, which is unusual for me, so I have taken to my bedroom to get away from anyone I could harm to write this thing and have put on some good music and lit some candles and incense and have got with me a hot cup of peppermint tea. These creature comforts, which barely affect me anymore (and which were once so powerful), are mostly ineffective tonight. But what else can I do? The alternative is darkness and silence and time spent deep inside my head, which, other than a public space filled with terrible, mindless, screaming human beings, is the last place I want to be.

Something has flipped, a switch—a significant one, maybe—and I feel like I can’t do the damn thing anymore. I carry on with this ageless face but inside it’s all turned to ash. My body has finally caught up with my mind. It aches and is useless to me. I feel like a wireframe outline of a human: a phantom, an empty highway of misfiring nerve endings and fading neon.

I have just opened a matchbook I found in the breast pocket my denim jacket—when did I put this here?—to light another candle, only to discover my own drunk handwriting scrawled on the back of the cover. If anything can be said to even happen at all, then this must have happened three nights ago when I was wandering dead neighborhoods in Rhode Island feeling bitter and insane. As best I can tell this is what I wrote, probably because it seemed important that I remember it at the time:

I see purple lights under the bridge on Pleasant Street . . . and I think, “What? Why?” This isn’t pleasant at all. I was awoken by the cold and my body needed warm blood surging through it or I would collapse again . . . the sign reads “Pawtucket celebrates 200 yrs of freemasonry.”

Well, I’ll certainly use it when I write this piece, which is complete in my brain and has been since the moments erected themselves around me. On a night when I put myself in the way of great peril, and did things which have, I now know, endangered my future on this planet, I had enough sense to jot down some half-decent ideas on train tickets and bar receipts. They are right here on my desk. I am looking at them. As someone who can’t stand virtually everything, especially my own witless rambling, I like these scattered fragments of that awful night. There is no filter, no audience in mind, just reactions to my surroundings—squeezed out, pulp and all, from a strange and badly wounded place. I will save these little thoughts, which I will turn into great big thoughts, for something that I hope will help my musician friends retire comfortably (“I will bleed myself out for you all,” I had told them in a less dramatic way. “I will make them see what they have ignored for so long.”)

It would be fair to say I have lost, or am losing, my mind. “Madness cornering me from every angle”—that sort of thing. What I want now is comfort and to hear beautiful noise and for my body to be restored. That’s not so different, I don’t think, from what I wrote at 3 am in a fit of exhaustion and delirium during that first stormy night in Boston, only six days ago now, but longer ago in my mind, like some half-remembered dream:

Really all I want is a cup of tea and a hug and for some friendly person to walk on my spine.

In the present my cup is empty and my face is leaking. Dante is hungry and he wants me to feed him. My spine is as crooked as a question mark.

I had said to Jon, the Zen monk, on the morning I left: “When a man is weary the world seems unkind.”

“When we arrive at ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and the answer doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said, “then we can do either, or neither—or both.”

Rising from his place in front of the old oven, he wrapped a black scarf around his neck and looked through me. “Remember?” he said. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

14 September 2013

providence

Providence, Rhode Island, ladies and gentlemen: a gloomfest of sad clouds and languid breezes.

Yesterday I experienced what we in the biz call a “non-day,” which is when you don’t go to sleep and then rocket across the Bay Bridge at 5 am with foreign chemicals flaring through your bloodstream and then you get on an airplane and unhappily sit in a small chair for seven hours until you get to Providence, Rhode Island where you wait two hours with a bunch of Patriots fans until a dumpy commuter train arrives to take you to muggy-ass Boston where you transfer to a crowded bus full of college freshman and muscle-head jerks and other morons and you are unceremoniously dumped off in a neighborhood called Allston where you walk a mile in the rain so that you may sleep in total misery on an air mattress in the living room of an acquaintance you barely know who is visibly shaken by how god damn terrible and worn out and fried you look.

Yeah, I had one of those!

I awoke at 6 am to discover that the rain had stopped. Rain, which I had not seen in six months on account of my living in Austin, Texas and Oakland, California (where it is unwelcome or at least fearful of visiting regularly), was one of the few good things to happen last night once I wasn’t walking under the damn stuff. It put me right tp sleep and I was sad to see it had gone away in the morning. But my gracious host (who was named Grace) was leaving, which meant I was leaving too, so she wouldn’t have to explain the continued presence of “that weirdo in the living room” to her poor, frightened roommates. And once I was out the door I knew I would be walking. My sadness subsided—if can ever be said to subside—when I came to senses and realized it was better that my journey be a dry one. And so I promptly ceased my crying and slobbering, in the spirit of keeping things dry, and willed myself from the floor. Grace seemed pleased. She grabbed a mop.

Outside it was gloomy and overcast. I could hardly believe how it made me feel, because it made me feel nostalgic about the East Coast. I sure as hell hadn’t felt that way in some time. And here I had spent the last two years or so paring myself down until there was nothing left—until I was, as the Zen monk I’m staying with just put it, “emanating from emptiness.” I shook my head and dashed the thought (“There’s no going back, old man! And even if you could, you shouldn’t! You wouldn’t! Shut up! Fuck you! Ahhhhh!”). I wandered around Allston for an hour or so, quashing memories as they rose from the ground like weeds, noticing that everyone around me had woken up that day, and maybe every day for all knew, and said, “You know, these pajama bottoms will do just fine for pants.”

Eventually I came upon a place that had been recommended to me by strangers from the internet, a fine little place in Brighton called Cafénation. I stayed there for six whole hours, drinking about a gallon of iced coffee in that time. I worked on this very godforsaken website. I made eyes with a woman across the way, who was writing letters, or maybe just scribbling mindlessly onto a pad of paper. When the kitchen shut down, and the place filled with smoke (still not sure why that happened), I fled, taking the 86 bus to Somerville, which is where the Zen monk lives amongst strangers most of the year.

zengarden

Jon’s “Zen Garden,” where travelers from all over listen to a cool dude talk about cool shit for hours.

But he and I are not strangers: I stayed with him once before, back in December and into January, when 2012 became 2013. He taught me a lot of things back then, and in the few hours I’ve spent with him today he taught me a lot more. He told me that when his brother’s estranged wife took their son away, he told his brother to “imagine him dead.” Why? Because it’s impossible. “You don’t miss him,” he told his brother, “you miss the you with him.” It was important for his brother to realize this.

He also reinforced an idea I’ve been toying with lately, which is that we are all the same person—which is to say we are no one at all. “The concept of ‘I’,” he said, “is ridiculous. It has fled from this brain which is in this body. I’m not there.

Fascinating stuff!

A little while ago, around 2 am, a young woman sent a message to my phone. I had given her a letter on the train from the airport into Providence, largely because I saw her reading The Great Gatsby on the platform, and also because we briefly exchanged glances and I knew within that flash of a moment that we probably felt the same way about a lot of the same things. It turned out to be true, as far as I can tell, because she sounds like a great person. I may “walk around and feel weird” with her (I invited her to do this with me in my letter) when I’m in Providence again tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow I take that poor, ailing train back into Providence so I can go to a festival just north of the city in a place called Pawtucket. Holy lord, maybe it’ll be a good time. It’s called “DUDESMASH,” for God’s sake.

I don’t have a place to stay tomorrow night. Jon, the monk, has the room booked for the 14th, so I have told him I will wander Rhode Island until the sun rises and then take the first train back up to Boston so I can pass out until the late evening, when I am to rise again, this time to see a band I like more than any else, which is Deerhunter.

I have just done some light research, and it seems Pawtucket is less than 40 miles from Boston. I’m not joking when I say I might just walk it. The festival I’m going to, DUDESMASH, will be over by midnight I reckon. If I walk ceaselessly through the strange New England darkness I could arrive in Somerville again in 11 or 12 hours. I’ve done dumber things, that’s for sure.

Stay tuned for news regarding my funeral!