I was in an unknown room. It was dimly lit, with some natural light coming through the windows, and maybe one artificial light source somewhere, but I could not identify from where. There was a projection of a three-dimensional bird, like a cartoon bird, a rendering of a bird, flying around. It had a light source that provided its movement. It was just a rendering. It swooped and curled in the air, like a bird in a Disney cartoon. It seemed very happy. Then I was trying to explain to my mother how it worked. I was sitting with her in the dark room, explaining how light worked. I was using a large print of an abstract painting as an example. I think it was by Kandinsky, and had enormous colorful circles drawn around and into each other. I told her that in order for us to see the print, light had to land on it, and either the pigment on the print would reflect the light or absorb the light. The pigment that reflected parts of the light spectrum would be seen, for instance, as red or blue or yellow, and other parts of the light spectrum would not be seen, because they would be absorbed. She didn’t really understand. She didn’t understand that if there was no light, there would be no color on the print to be seen. And that if it was a black print, it would be absorbing all of the light spectrum. Black absorbs everything. Anyway, I was telling her this because apparently they figured out how to project the light of the bird, and somehow the light stopped mid-air, without being reflected or absorbed by a physical object. It just stayed in the air, and I didn’t understand how that happened.
A hummingbird silently flickers
near a flower
like a flapping cloth-cloaked candle
drying out its flame
I recently went to the coast for a weekend of oceanside explorations. The second night I was there, I decided I wanted to go to a bar and talk with some locals. I was near Coos Bay, so I drove into town, found a good place near a church to park my car and return to it later in the night to sleep there, and then went off to the main street to find a bar. The sun was setting and the sky had a fading, dusty grey-blue hue to it. Boat flags rippled in the wind, their ropes clanking against metal poles. For a Saturday night, the town was extremely quiet. It seemed that in the past there was much more activity; I noticed at least two old theatres, their neon signs still affixed to their brick buildings, flashing. Not much seemed to be going on in those theatres. I kept walking down the street. I must have seemed out of place with my black jeans, thrift store faux-Members Only beige jacket and “Save the Rain Forest” tote bag slung over my shoulder. Some kids yelled at me as they drove by. Other than that, it was very silent. I was having a hard time finding a bar, but I finally came across one hidden on a small street. A pink neon strip lined the old, dirty awning which sheltered the entrance. I went in and sat down. Lottery machines, neon beer company signs and other low-light fixtures provided the only ambiance. Everyone was laughing and yelling. Moments after settling, I overheard a few people asking each other, “Who is that?” Eventually, someone came up to me and asked me my name. He told me his cousin was also named Evan. For some reason, he also wanted to tell his friend playing pool that I told him to tell her that I was interested in her and wanted to play pool as well, even though I certainly did not. I didn’t feel like arguing, so I told him he could say whatever he wanted to say. About 10 minutes later, the woman came over to me and asked me if what he said was true, to which I responded that it was not. She told me not to worry, and that he was “an asshole”. We shook hands. After that, I didn’t talk to many people, except for a few outside. They spoke of construction and timber jobs. They were kind of worried about the inevitable big earthquake.
For a while, I just sat and tried to decipher as many words and sentences from the mingling conversations as I possibly could. I frantically wrote exactly what I heard, gleaned from the mixture of voices.
As I did in my journal, I’ll bunch it together here into one paragraph, as I didn’t differentiate who was speaking, and I can’t remember anyway. It can just be another level of misinterpretation… Anyway, this is what I thought I heard:
“That’s the first one to go. It’s the kids that are wrong—It’s the one of those types of plastics. I don’t know, it’s my problem. Super glue… super glue. Give it to them straight. Rolling Rock? I saw Sharpies. I’ll watch your chair. Sharpies! I’m really sorry, my Sharpie. The Sharpies got it… Want Mickie? For a while listen here! Hahaha. It’s almost a shame, you know. I mean, yeah, shower boom. I’ll take the shower, buddy. Hey, I did never said I never shower. Just kiddin’. Sheesh. Well, I got there and I couldn’t see a thing… Pool table. Want some tape? I want some tape. Can I take my drink to the side of my legs? We’re lookin’ at the cottonball. Young people sleepin’ in lines, so much resistance. Jake! Can I tell you something? Yes, babe. I haven’t seen him in years. I’m trying to be with him, and here she is. Ha row. Ha row. Ha row? Yeah, I, uh, had an epiphany there. I had an epiphany. You do that sometimes? I like it sometimes. Thank you. No problem. That was my best, modified, cracked-out encounter I ever had. I remember I did, I said, “Hey, look, here’s the bistro.” She said, “Okay, I’ll get it.” It doesn’t go backwards worth shit, but it sure goes forwards. Old fuck will doin’ it. How ya doin’? Good. Who wants some fuckin’ pizza? Mandy. Pizza! Pizza! I’ll make some pizza. They’ve been talkin’ about pizza for maybe an hour. I’ll call Nadine! Life phone.”
Pillars painted white with cloth squares hanging on them. Cast shadows at their corners sit in semi-darkness, so settled and integrated. Emptiness in the room. Deep brown and muted black. Things act from human interactions, but there’s no one around. Like lamps with their lights and maybe a boiling tea kettle. Certainly a window open. A breeze outside. Dark air. White trim. The book spines blend together in the darkness of the room. What are we doing tonight ? People frozen in their interactions.
Last night I attended a concert at The Waypost by Mark Owens and Theriault, Smith & Green. During the performance, in which the trio played laptop, minimally processed violin and modular synthesizer, Owens wrote frantically on a constantly unraveling spool of brown paper. The paper was fed to him from the spool by an assistant. After being written upon, it was then cut in half, lengthwise, by another assistant, creating two thinner pieces of very long, unending paper. The words thus became indecipherable. I am unclear what the connection was between this dramatic performance and the musical performance, but it didn’t bother me much at all. I became enamoured with trying to make out what was being frantically scribbled onto the paper, watching the paper being satisfyingly cut in half by very sharp scissors (a fantastic sound, I might add), listening to the transparent, airy yet rigid sonic textures being created by the instruments involved, and how the early evening bar sounds of dishes and talking and birdsongs through the open door all mingled together to create a gorgeous cacophony.
About halfway through, I decided to write down in my journal exactly what I thought I saw on the paper, before it fell into a beautiful tumble of hair-thin coils. I couldn’t read everything being written, so I wrote what I thought I saw. Inevitably, this became an interesting combination of what I thought was there, my own mind’s unconscious contribution, and my attempts at keeping up with the wealth of aural and visual information. Therefore, some of the words I wrote down may or may not have been on the paper, and conventional structure is certainly not present.
Later on, I decided to type on the computer what I wrote in my journal. I tried to space the words exactly as I did in my journal. After that, I created two documents on the screen: one with the typed journal entry, and the other blank. On this blank document, I tried, as best I could, to create a more or less prose version of the typed version of the words I thought I saw, heeding to my immediate reactions, but also trying to create some sense out of the nonsensical original. I then went back over this final version and made some minor adjustments for the sake of poetry and flow. Below I have the original journal entry of the words and sentences I thought I saw while Mark Owens wrote them, along with the verbatim typed version of that handwritten version. After those two images is the more or less prose version written while simultaneously reading the first unstructured version.
Word after word, it goes as something with an error. Some whole or some mind fell through its feelings, withering to the length of a mole or a platter’s plaster: through a mouth, taxing a shrink over a penis. America’s pen does little to know his words are better. Dissect each word, heard from then, what was an owl. Written “I” (the letter “I” is some form of “da”), I keep writing; yuk hand ever things. This thing. It just keeps going. Something about the sex or violence in front of their lives—their worlds going over and over, asserting again and again the sporting nature of straightening the kitchen, the animal, inside the animal, or ship. All of a sudden, haha! We are to ask what is beholden. The buildings? Are they molden? Molded? Mold? Mottled? Waves upon waves upon waves, weaves the paper over the sage. Lost in the ether, the paper. The stars, just the stars are something I see eight shy.
A gale matter is tenuous.
Then I am swinging on a soft, thick blue wire, connected to the bridge. I swing in large arcs, under and over the bridge, soaring way up further into the sky and then coming back down, then going up again. I hold on tight, because if I don’t, I will fall.
My first impression of Portland is that it’s gorgeous. I landed in “Downtown” or “The Pearl”, or something, figuring I could initially take advantage of its offerings, such as libraries, Whole Foods, public buildings, parks and so forth. Even though I was surrounded by buildings both old and new, it smelled of wood stove smoke, which was supremely delightful as well as confounding. (I now know the smell is omnipresent, and much more so in the lovely areas East of the river.) The trees lining the streets already had Christmas lights, which I loved, as I love Christmas. (Even though I probably won’t make it home for this one.) The daylight was fading fast, and the approaching darkness highlighted the soft zig-zag patterns of colored lights on the undulating watery surfaces of all the roads and sidewalks. Folks walked about briskly, steamy air from their mouths, doing last-minute Sunday shopping, rushing onto packed buses and tram cars. Church bells rang, a distant train whistled. I walked around for quite a while, wandering into the fancy areas, watching the fancy people in their fancy restaurants, and listening to the muffled talking and clinking of dishes and cutlery. A steady drizzle continued, and the distance was obscured by fog and cut by lights from street lamps.
The following days have convinced me, as many people know, that there is much to explore and discover in this city. Although many people I’ve talked to prior to my arrival suggest there’s a certain falseness or pretentiousness to the younger crowd in the city, I haven’t specifically noticed that, although I can see where they’re coming from. Folks here seem to be genuinely excited about (and contribute to) the abundance of art, books, good food (food carts !), good beer (beer carts !), music, literature, independent shops, and so on. Personally, I am excited about all these things, genuinely. Believe me ! I am also excited about the fog, and the overcast days, and the industrial areas and forested areas waiting to be explored.
Post Script :
I am writing this in the “Quiet Room” of a small library in the Belmont neighbourhood (I think). One of the many things I’ve learned on this trip is that after utilising many libraries in small towns, I have not found many of them to be very quiet. Unless, of course, they are near-empty, which is sometimes the case. Anyway, this one is currently crowded, so it luckily has the Quiet Room. A librarian just informed me that the room will soon be used for reading stories to small children, and that I could stay if I wished. Needless to say, I definitely wish to stay. I’d rather hear a children’s book being read than listen to the talking and coughing and sniffling and ruffling of 30 people.
We started with an informative book about whales. The kids were very good listeners. They loved it. She then read a book about the beach. One kid raised his hand frantically: “Hey, hey, excuse me ! I was watching a movie, and, and, and there was a man who had sand. He was the Sandman.” One other kid knew exactly what he was talking about. “Oh, yeah, and he has a gun that shoots sand, right ?” “Yeah !”, said the first kid. The librarian patiently waited, then said with a smile, “Okay, cool, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this story.” And so we continued the story about the beach.
I do love children’s books, and think they’re so important. Many of them contributed thoroughly to who I am, and what I love. In fact, the only new book I ever bought was a children’s book, as I thought it was so well illustrated and composed. It is called Wonder Bear and has no words. It is about two kids who plant two patches of watermelons. One grows over night, and the other does not grow at all. From the water melon plant emerges a massive polar bear, with a blue bowler hat. From this hat he pulls flowers, bubbles which turn into bubble lions and octopi, and other amazing things. They go swimming in the indigo night sky, and ride dolphins. It’s amazing. Other things happen, but I can’t remember it all. It can be seen here. Speaking of children’s books, I met a girl in Arcata, California, who was there to promote a Halloween book for which she illustrated. It’s called Halloween Ooga-Ooga Ooum and can be seen here. After meeting her, I later stumbled upon it while in the health food store, and found the illustrations to be very beautiful.
My personal favourite children’s book is (coincidentally) a Halloween book titled Tell Me Mr. Owl, and probably has most if not everything to do with why I love so much to wander and explore towns and cities at night. The illustrations in it are very mysterious, and as a child I recall being completely taken into the world of that Halloween night. I didn’t find much information about it online, as it’s from 1957 and has probably never been reprinted, but I did find this semi-functioning page, which has some photographs of the illustrations.