I have been absent. This blog hasn’t had much of an update in some time, and I have no illusions that this is a bad thing.
Then again, I consider myself a writer—or at least I aspire to be a writer—and a substantial part of being an active, contributing artist in our modern society means having a presence.
Of course, that primarily means an internet presence. The flashy artists, the ones who show up in trendy magazines or are renowned in the lit scene, they live in big cities and can attend live events, buy drinks for fellow poets, or have a one night stand with that cute up-and-coming singer/songwriter. More than anything else they do, they show up.
More than anything else I do, I don’t show up.
I have a measly internet presence. Years ago, a woman wearing too much make-up laughed at me. How the fuck could I even be human if I didn’t have Facebook? It was a naïvely idealist view, at the time. Something I could roll my eyes at and dismiss. But since then, it has become more and more true.
Not that I feel any less human. In fact, in the past year of neglecting the internet—after too many years trying to coyly join in on the party—I feel more alive than I ever have. But then again, as the Millenials say (and let’s face it, Millenials will become the dominant force as Baby Boomers vegetate & die): if you did it but didn’t record it, did it happen at all?
None of it happened. Because life never happened. It is happening, or it is not. Anything besides what is currently happening is either memory or imagination. Life itself is an existential experience, a matter of the present—of being present—of presence—and there we are again, with that goddamn pejorative.
What really gets me about presence is Definition 1.1 in the Oxford Dictionary: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” That is essentially internet presence, although of course, with the narcissistic twist that the internet produces, this usage gets confused with 1.3: “The impressive manner or appearance of a person.”
The first definition speaks to something beyond the self, something beyond the senses. The second speaks to ego, the self, the senses. The way we interact with the internet is that: it’s beyond the senses, beyond the self, beyond the ego—and yet it engages the senses, the self, and the ego. It’s an empty egg, and we’re subsisting on an imagined yolk.
I prefer the first definition. I even take it to heart and let it expand: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.”
Then what is it?
I don’t know. Maybe that is what I am endeavoring to find out.
There is about a six hundred kilometre gap between the place where I pay my taxes and the place where my soul resides, if I were to have a soul, which I know I do because I greet it everytime I pass the gates of Jasper National Park.
Not to get deep or anything. I’ve had a fever for the past week and as per usual, my perception is distorted. Fevers tend to do this to me, which I assume happens to everyone, because of terms like ‘fever dreams’. But no one talks about fever dreams. It must take a real intimate bond to share the reveries that despotic brain-boiling viruses submit the body into—a bond that I can’t even share with myself, because even when I think, post-fever, about anything I had been so deeply embroiled in during my illness, I can recall nothing.
But when I’m in the throes of fever the terror is all too real. I have Proustian memories tinged with Thompsonesque loathing and Burroughsish plot lines. I can remember things I had not thought of in decades. I re-experience events that I had completely forgotten about. It’s like viral fevers activate my memory lobe, which is already fairly active. And when I’m not catatonic with fatigue and waves of vivid memories, I fall into a sweaty sleep that seems as surreal (but acute) as an acid trip—except that I remember these with alarming accuracy, unlike the fever dreams. (It probably doesn’t help that when I am in the depths of sickness I am dosed with dextromethropan hydrochloride-laced medicines to help me breathe.)
The term ‘fever dreams’ does not do the waking daydreams justice, though—sometimes English is such a powerful language with no force—‘fuck’ is its greatest acheivement, and it is considered bad form to use it freely—and even though German usually has the granduer of introducing long-winded words for academics to throw around and pine for how beautifully intranslatable they are, I will go further and shit all over their tongues. I call these hyper-intense, fever-induced trips through memory carfie (from the Spanish, carcel de fiebre, or fever prison, which is much more attuned to how I feel about the whole situation, and doesn’t sound beautiful or musical, it sounds just as awkward and ugly and stupid as it is).
But carfie or not, I had a trip to Jasper planned. The eastern slopes of the Rockies are one of my favourite places in the little bit of world I have experienced, and are a prime location to celebrate both the spring equinox and an early birthday.
It’s a six hour drive. I have done it handfuls of times. But, you see, we have a 2000 sedan with 325,000 km on the odometer and a crack in the oil pan, so our method of transport wasn’t reliable by any stretch. It doesn’t help that after fourteen winters of ice, gravel, and broken pavement, the ball joint of the front passenger side creaks every time you turn the wheel more than ninety degrees. It’s a bad omen, and sounds like the car cries a little bit every time you change directions.
A hundred and twenty-five kilometres down a highway lightly dusted with snow and well-padded with ice is a great time to grab the wheel tight—which was great, because it was just then that the ball joint decided to crack in two and send the passenger wheel off into the ditch. The front axel dipped and threw up sparks as the car skidded around and around and nearly got pummeled into oncoming traffic by the loaded semi who had been tailgating me, waiting to pass.
So there we were on the side of the road—but wait—this never happened—I’m sitting back home eyeing the piece of shit car in the driveway right now—but we did go to the mountains, that was true—and the ball joint is creaky—but—
Fucking carfies, man. One minute you’re careening around the corner in a deathrace with the barricade of a bridge, and the next you’re in Batman pyjamas realizing the mug you’re drinking from has been out of tea for a long time.
Time for a Nyquil nightcap…washed down with NeoCitran…I mean, it’s been years since I experienced my ninth birthday, and the time is probably ripe to re-experience those hours with the linguist who spent weeks trying to get me to pronounce L’s properly when I was five…“But how would you sing la-la-la-la?” “Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya”…She would be so disappointed in how much I mumble now…I wonder if she would enjoy my new word…And I wonder if that guy who robbed me on the bus when I was fourteen still has my hash pipe?
the carousel of memory
smashing the lightbulbs
smiling like my plastic pony
round & round & round &
flattening the ripples of time-space
with the batting of my eyelashes
on & on & on &
it’s too dizzy
for me to think
that must be
why I remember