Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
If you want to really roll
You got to do the thing with soul
Shake the shake with all your might
and if you do it, do it right... Shake!
To presume to speak at all is already dangerous. Best first to make obeisance, burn whatever incense you may have to hand, draw up the circle, huddle in it, wait. Submit.
Talking to a friend once this must have been around 1977, '78 I said something I'd been trying to say for so long I couldn't remember. Trying and not being able to get it out. Not sure if I can now. The words went something like: if I lived for a thousand years I couldn't describe what I've experienced. It would take a year to express the thoughts and feelings of a single minute.
If this had been merely passing observation, the sort of smarmy self-important realization one might write into one's unwarranted memoirs, it would be trivial. Or worse. Yeah? So what. Lighten up. Have a snack or something! But it was said in desperation and the desperation is the interesting thing.
I drank in those days. I drank a lot. Not to forget but to remember. We used to laugh when they said psychedelics led to heroin, but there's a lot of truth in that, though for all the wrong reasons. There is no surer hell than glimpsing paradise. Rivers of silver and turquoise flowing free, snaking the world together in its own dark curious liquid wisdom. Look on the tree of life, of knowledge, unseparate at last, ancient and eternal. Look on your own vision then, within that mind, within some impossibly larger heart loosening finally from the iron grip you once thought was yourself. Helpless, leaving, unraveling out into the night. Dying, being born.
She was so kind to me in those fragile moments. Fierce but never false. Learning to walk again. Learning for the first time colors, elements, seasons, moonrise, where the sun came up. I would go down to the water and pray into it. I would encounter other animals and we would recognize each other.
And now this, I would think. Not the endless tapestry of complexity unbound, but just stupid ordinary confusion. Embarrassing. Not knowing how to hold one's hands. Like posing for an awkward photograph when you're already in a bad mood. Leave me alone. Shall I hold my face like this? Or this? And nothing felt right, and nothing felt true. No surer hell.
So I drank.
They don't call em spirits for nothin, pardner. Certain kinds of music are like sex. You go back for more because you know there's something about that, but you just can't put your finger on it. So to speak. It's not a remembering kind of thing. If you do it right, drinking is like that. I did it right. Or as right as it's possible to do. What this entails is going where it takes you, which can be further than you bargained for. And I don't just mean nights in the drunk tank, or that real bad feeling that something uncommonly weird went down and maybe there are people looking for you.
No, I mean the certain knowledge that comes at some point that you're unmoored anyway. There's no turning back and death is the sound of those falls in the distance. But that's far too melodramatic. Death is the next moment and the succession of moments whose beginning you can never quite recall. Might as well be down for the whole nine yards. Might as well ante up.
The last time I "took a drink," as the oldtimers say, was in the kitchen of my Tokyo apartment in 1984. I knew we were bound to part company, and soon. I was either going over those falls or I was gonna stop. Stop? Stop what? I couldn't imagine life without the connection. Without plugging in. So I got high one last time and I could feel it coming on so strong. I saw what it was that time. I felt it.
Big snake comin' baby. Yeah. Big worm comin' through the sand tonight!
Maybe I'm still riding it. I hope so. Sometimes I wonder, just like you do. How do I know? C'mon!
If you think you can't take it for another second, at least you're asking the right questions. At least you haven't knuckled under, given up, told yourself it was all a dream and after all there's that mortgage payment, presentation, trade show. Whatever it is we waste our lives on. Making dumbbell cracks in gonzo zines, for instance.
Every once in awhile, we have to come through, if you get what I'm saying here. It's an inside joke, hold the irony then lay it back on even thicker. It's a belly laugh though, not one of those thin self-conscious snickers. It's a big ol' Mars Bar, honey, and it's all for you.
Strangely, the desperation's gone. Knock on wood and get my mojo workin. Where's my rabbit's foot? But really. Gone. Something happened somewhere in there and I know I can't say what, even if I had those thousand years. But it's OK. You know those songs that go like "everything's gonna be alright"? A lot of songs say that. Well, they're right. It is gonna be alright. You and I may not survive it, but that's alright too. At least it's alright with me. Forgive me for not mourning your inevitable passing. Think of it as an acceptable tradeoff. Best I can do anyway.
But is it? There's still some sense that I should try to say what it is whatever it is that came, that went, that changed. People ask me to. Hell, even you guys. Actually, only you guys, which is why I keep doing this. And which is nice, believe me. I mean, that you believe me enough to ask in the first place. But I'll let you in on a little something here that I really shouldn't talk about at all. I distrust art.
Yes, I know that's pretty shocking, but I've never been comfortable with the whole idea. Maybe it's because I'm really not a writer. A real writer would make it all seem effortless. You'd get all the insights with none of the peeled-up edges. It'd be second nature to write the real, the truer than true stuff. The stuff that's not just clever e-zine tricks for the terminally disenchanted. All the human tragedy would still be there, of course, but with the rough bits filed off. Honed down. Polished up. Otherwise, it wouldn't be... well, art.
Loops within loops within loops. Such is our entrapment. I thought I said I said I thought I said... Somehow I just stopped caring. Maybe because I finally heard what she was trying to tell me. Maybe because I finally saw the light. Maybe because there really is no turning back.
So here we are. The world is fucked up, true. The environment's in such a muddle. Dear! How will we ever cope?
Dunno. But here's a thing that's interesting. Here's a bit of comedy that's downright anthropological. Look how the natives dress, how they speak. How they defer, without acknowledging they are deferring, to the ghosts of their long-dead ancestors. How they walk reverentially in the presence of money. How they elevate certain magical symbols in times of great collective fear. Yeah, that Y2K thing sure is gonna be a whopper! Better move away to Arizona. Better move to Timbuktu! They hide their pain. They hide their broken hearts.
When context fails completely flatlines it's as if you just landed from another planet. And anyway, you might as well have. Do you remember how all this got going? I sure don't. I do recall one day I was going to the grocery store. This was in Sunnyvale, California, circa 1956. I was maybe nine years old. I stopped stock still in the middle of the road and suddenly knew I was alive. That's how it happened for me. Don't know about you.
But I do know about you. A little. You think you're lurking at a safe distance, reading me. But I'm reading you too. I could be wrong, it goes without saying, but I say it anyhow to defuse the potential creepiness of feeling that I'm stalking you in my rearview mirror. Here's what I think I'm reading.
Some of you are on your fifteenth Major Strategy for Dealing With Life. You discount the others as laughable. You were younger then, naive. Now you've got it nailed.
But hold the phone. Maybe not. Didn't you just recently catch yourself thinking something you can't possibly admit to yourself that you were actually thinking? Didn't you see this and immediately convince yourself it hadn't happened? Fast, huh? The mind is so fast. Yet there are those peeled-up edges again. The Chinese puzzle looks like a lacquer treasure from some ancient dynasty, but then you look closer and the pieces don't quite fit together and they're some kind of plastic. Not to mention that it says "K-Mart" on the bottom. Strange that you'd never noticed that before. So maybe by now you're thinking it's getting time for #16, but you can't imagine where that one's gonna come from. Why else would you be reading EGR?
You're in love and this time it's going to last. Cue Stevie Wonder. You finally left the bitch, the insensitive bastard, and you won't make that mistake again real soon! You're floating in limbo, your emotions unpredictable, unwieldy. You snap at people for no reason, then invent a reason. A really good one.
You're beginning to suspect this is all a bit too random. Or long ago suspected it and now you're not taking no wooden nickels from nobody. You're ready for anything, you've seen it all. You love your kids, you hate your life. No wait. You love your life, you hate your kids. You've even considered Scientology. Or joining the Psychic Friends network.
In short, in fact, in flagrante delicto: you're at the end of your fucking rope. Admit it.
Contrary to popular belief, which is even more obsolete than primetime news, this is not such a bad place to be. It just takes a little getting used to is all. Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have. And I can tell you for a fact that dealing with inordinately large doses of LSD, even when ingested by accident at loud indoor sporting events, is nothing compared to dealing with plain old ordinary garden variety reality. Naturally, some farting is involved, among other humbling functions. But perhaps more important is the recognition of farting, neurosis and suchlike as unavoidable consequences of having incorporated. And I do not here refer to anything with IPO potential.
Perhaps this all seems too pedestrian, though. Maybe you really did learn everything you need to know in kindergarten. If you truly believe this, just go away now. Unsubscribe. Kill yourself. You are a hopeless idiot and you've learned nothing. You are wasting valuable floor space.
But you don't believe it. No one does. No one. Everyone looks up at the stars and wonders. Everyone remembers falling in love. It's corny and you don't like to admit it, but there it is. It's true for your most hardened killers. It's true for your most chichi ennui-ridden webhead hipster neophiliacs.
...yeah? And then what? Then you give yourself absolution. You forgive yourself for being human, for being confused, for not knowing the right answer. You weep for your life. For having been so shut off and hard hearted. You get down on your hands and knees and kiss the fucking earth for having you one more day is what you do.
And then you're free. That's all she wrote. Amazing isn't it, that anything so apparently complex and long-term-debilitating could turn out to be so simple in the end? Trust me on this one: it is. So slap your head, kids, and have a V-8, cause that's all there is to it.
I'm sitting here thinking, "Well, I could end it there..." but knowing full well that's not what you came out for this time. It's too neat, too reductionist. Even if it does add that certain hint of surreal Vermouth whispered across the vodka of verisimilitude, straight up and straight out of the freezer. Hey, I quit. I didn't forget.
Once I was trying to get my head around rock and roll. I mean, I was trying to understand it. People have strong reactions to this music, I reasoned to myself, tapping my foot to the beat like a good little white boy. Uh huh. Uh huh. But I just didn't get it. And I only mention the white boy thing because when I was a young dude, I used to hang out in places where that was very obvious. Painfully obvious. Because I was the only white boy there.
I used to score from this guy who worked in the local grocery on Plymouth Avenue in Rochester, New York. It's all upscale gentrification now, and even that's gotten tacky and frayed. Back then, this was the hood, though no one called it that. It was the black ghetto. Once it had been the best part of town, and many of the slum houses had stained-glass windows in the entryways. I guess I liked it for the same reason I like the net. All the bad people hung out there. People I could tell knew more about how to be alive than the people I grew up around. I remember Friday nights down in literal pits dug into the ground and covered with tarpaper, filled with barbecuing ribs and drunk old blues guys with cheap guitars knocking out shit your ass never copped from no Tower Records, Jack.
And this guy I used to score from started inviting me to these dances. I went to like one dance in all of high school and it was a disaster. I went home early, much to my date's chagrin, and put on some Buxtehude to settle my nerves. But this was different. You'd do up a little Robitussin AC, smoke a little weed, and eventually you got into it. It was dark in that hall and all the chicks were dressed up like something out of a movie. The guys too. They would have, some of them, like powder blue tuxes and outrageous satin cummerbunds, patent-leather shoes you could comb your hair in. But you didn't laugh. You were just a guest, a tourist. You were respectful. Or you died.
And then here came the band. Who were these guys! They could really play. They could sing better than anything I was hearing on the radio. Soul, rhythm and blues. Wilson Picket. Otis Redding. Where had I been all my life? And I was only 18.
This is where I figured out about rock and roll, or whatever you call it that does that. And a whole lot else, I guess, though it's only just now sinking in, now that that world is dead as a burned out supernova ten million light years somewhere back behind yesterday. And the thing would sorta build up as the night wore on, the band getting hotter, the lovers getting hotter, the hall getting a whole lot hotter, until you were dancing your ass off, sweating like a motherfucker, stoned, exhausted and you didn't care anymore, and then the band would know they had you and they'd kick it over the edge, driving the beat like a blinded animal, the lead guitar suddenly sliding up from tasty to insistent to full-throttle roadhouse and just when you thought that was the top, the horns would come in, a whole line of them wailing blasting blowing the fucking roof off and they'd cook like that for so long you could not believe it, as it defied the very laws of God and man, shredded the fabric of space and time, and you'd find yourself shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" like a goddam madman just like everybody else, and that wall of sound, of crazy joyous noise, was all the reason you needed, all the reason you'd ever likely get, and everybody knew it. Which was the whole point. The heart and soul of rock and roll. And all the rest of it. If you didn't get it then, you never would.
I got it. And so do you, or you got no business being here.
get it while you can...
Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time
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