Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let Us Now Praise The Ramones

Where was it that I read someone was driving, then took a hard turn, that their friend fell out of the car, ran, and got back in? To say that this happened to Flannery O’Connor is ridiculous, but it might be true.

After I cut someone off at the airport--a minor foolishness that reminded me of my unquantifiable selfishness--I dreamt that I was being sued and pursued for arrest by someone in Alabama, a state where I do not believe I have ever been. I woke up twice and returned to the dream each time.

I had also just read the late poet C. D. Wrights book, One Big Self, a response to her visit to Louisiana prisons. Aside from an illuminating critique of incarceration in America, It featured the amazing line, “There is no point and we will not shrink from it,” which works for everything.

When I use the bathroom at night, or let’s just say when I used it last night, awakening from a dream in which I was being pursued for a crime I did not commit in order to atone for the bounty of petty and stupid things I have done, the light bulbs were extraterrestrially bright, heavenly bright. I cannot emotionally handle walking from a dream into a bright bathroom without swerving into a very, very religious mood. I need my Snoopy nightlight in there. That I have not seen this nightlight in 18 years makes no difference. 

I am almost convinced that 500 or more useful words can be put to exploring a Joey Ramone quote. In a CD booklet the tallest Ramone is recording as having said that he could listen to Johnny's guitar and hear instruments like organ and piano that weren't really there. That occurrence may be called an overtone, or it might just be a nameless phenomenon unique to the ears of those who trade heavily in powerchord and leather.  

I aspire to the confluence of God and Nightmares and singers from Queens. But my program is to simplify, and I still haven’t done this.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shame at the Airport

At writer’s camp one teacher was talking about shame, and how it is different from embarrassment and much different than guilt. A book could be written about these differences, it seemed. Probably one has. Anyway, they were talking deeply about some memoir or another, a form that doesn't grab me that much, though I know I can gain from it, and I daydreamed about lunch.

The next day I left writer’s camp and boarded a flight back to Chicago. 

It was a good flight because the large man in front of me did not once try to recline and crush my legs. I was almost certain he would. He did some adjusting, and at one point he looked back at me to assess things. I think he saw my height, which is only inconvenient on airplanes, and as one tall man to another—although he was bigger than me, like a football player—he decided to let me keep my leg space. A significant gift, I think.  

And then when we landed, while waiting to exit the plane, I tried to cut off the guy in front of me.

He caught me, put an elbow that stopped me in the gut, and he and his friend left ahead of me, rightly. In the jet bridge, he said to his friend, “I knew from when he stood up that kid was going to try that crap. I’m sorry, but that’s just not how it’s done.”

And then the speaker looked back at me. My armpits blasted sweat. I said a some Our Fathers and Hail Maries to raise the shame temperature and maximize this moment of self-loathing. Catholicism raised me to optimize these reminders of original sin but I forget what step two is.

When I was standing on the plane I was thinking to myself, sometimes you get hurried or upset, and you see there is the option you want, and then there is the right option. The latter is the one you will not be humiliated by. Choose rightly. Do not cut anyone off just because you’re anxious or excited. Everyone plane passenger feels that way after landing.  

At least every other day I remind myself that I have a certain way of seeing myself—which is likely inaccurate—and I’m the only one who can make sure I live up to be that person each day. I’ve been thinking about this more often since November when a stranger gave me the middle finger as he passed me on the Webster Avenue bridge. I was at the side rail watching the leaves in the water, for whatever sentimental reason at 7:30 in the morning, and a cyclist glided past and lowered one hand to give me the finger. I think he had enough room to pass freely, but maybe I was wrong. You don't just give people the finger, you need a reason.   

I had just come back from a good trip at writer’s camp where I learned much and felt proud of myself for learning and then, boom, I get on a plane and I try to cut off those guys. And two old people, too. Jesus. A couple that the guys let proceed before they stood. I wasn't sure if I was going to mention the old people, but I tried to cut them off, too.

Once I was off the plane I watched the two gentleman walk toward the baggage claim. I shifted my backpack and a button flew off my jean jacket. I walked away from it, then spun around, snatched it off the airport carpet and threw it in the trash.