18 September 2018

Wandering thots on a mid-November morning

[Detail from a library magazine:]

Dear diary,

My working title for this here entry – that is, the name that I’m calling its file on my portable typewriter – is “Pre-couchdropoff”. I never know what I’m gonna write about beforetime; yet I must name my file from the jump, this e-device warns me, in order to AUTO-SAVE my contents (I am thus abetting an auto-savior); so I end up using terms that reference whatever aspect shall distinguish this particular evil day from the evil days that surround it. In short, I assume the reason your God moved me to title the work file of this entry “Pre-couchdropoff” is that He knew I was planning on dropping off at my friend’s house the big leather couches that our new home’s previous owner abandoned when he sold us this place.

I asked my friend – the one who trimmed our trees for us last week – if he would care to inherit the black marshmallow sofas with the dual drink holders that he ogled in the basement of our abode. He said he would. So today we’ll rent a pickup truck and deliver them, after we clean all the fallen leafage from our backyard. That’s all we have planned.

Also maybe we’ll wash the windows on our new house. The windows are filthy: they’re dead-insect heaven. Or rather dead-insect HELL, because there are corpses lining the sills and obscuring the glass, and none of their souls can escape this righteous punishment; plus the flames that burn them offer no warmth but only pain eternally, and God is not there.

Thinking about God absenting himself from Hell makes my mind wander to the depictions of Heaven that I’ve read. I’ve read that Heaven has an area, sort of like a Central Park, hollowed out of its midst where the saints can look down and view the daily goings-on of Hell: they can watch their former colleagues writhe in torment, and this gives them satisfaction (the saints, not the damned – altho, on second thot, maybe the damned DO get some small kick out of being observed; for, as they say, “False misery loves an audience” —Proverbs 1:37).

& the roof of Hell is the floor of Heaven. So from Hell’s perspective, it’s like having a window installed in its ceiling. A filthy, bug-ridden window. Also known as a skylight.

Now this entry is really starting to cohere, because that same friend that I told you about earlier – the one who agreed to inherit our couches – has a skylight in his bathroom. Plus the word itself seems compound to me: “sky” means “heaven”, plus “light” is the second-most abundant ingredient in God, who serves as heaven’s landlord. (His most abundant ingredient is darkness.)

My friend’s skylight leaks water during storms. This leads me to the question: Is the storm-god Jehovah aware that his saints have been escaping thru the o-ring in the heavenlight to the fashionable flames of hell?

Yet maybe this is part of God’s plan: All ye saved souls can watch the punishment of your former business-partners & family members, but don’t get too close to the gasket with a circular cross section made of pliable material which I employed to seal the portal between this place where I am and that place where I am not.

I always tell my friend, when I visit his house, that I like how the daylight floods the room thru yonder roof-borne semi-sphere. I wish that I had one in my own home’s ceiling. In fact, I wish I had much more than one. Why not make the whole roof of transparent panes? When you think about it, having an opaque rooftop is like being anti-God. It’s like saying to heaven “Keep Out!” But if the entire top of your house opens up to the sky, then the angels can observe you easier. They no longer need to tap into your computer’s cameras & microphones to enjoy the spectacle of you sinning – this frees up the spying enterprise, brings it out into the open: gives it a place in the community. During the day, you walk from room to room of your abode, fully nude, ascending and descending its escalier (stairway to heaven), and remark aloud to yourself “Oh I must have forgotten to turn off the electrical lights!” but then you remember: your rooftop got replaced last Tuesday with clear glass paneling that collects solar power and uses this energy to run the waterfall near the southeastern corner of your bedroom and also to keep all the gas jets illuminated. It’s like the flame on JFK’s grave. Except it is devoid of warmth, and the stone that covered the tomb got rolled away, and there’s a fallen angel occupying the coffin, claiming that the former president is still alive. He is risen! and currently employed in New York and San Francisco. He got remarried to Marilyn Magdalene, A.K.A. “God’s Mom Dot Com”, alias Mary Monroe; and he goes throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the Glad Tidings of the Skylight: and all the usual suspects haunt him, even certain agents from the C.I.A., which have cultivated the jolliest spiritual infirmities, and our old friend Lyndon B. Johnson, whose phantom holds seven devils and thirty pieces of silver, according to Luke 8.

I’m only saying that when you install a window in the ceiling of your bathroom, your friends, on sunny days, might mistakenly think that they’ve left the light on, because brightness is annoyingly persistent. Also a careless online search revealed to me that the term deva denotes “a member of a class of divine beings in the Vedic period, which, depending on one’s religion, are either benevolent or evil.” Now I’m arrogant enough to quote my own self, my own passage from my own damned scripture: I have a piece called “Next on ‘Divas’: Vishnu vs. Venus” in my collection A Second Letter to the Same People, which contains the following words.

Here was the LORD, hovering above me: He had blasted through the roof of my house. I remember every detail of the scene exactly. A thick, jagged edge of soot outlined the space where the ceiling had melted from the blast, through which I could see that the neighbors’ siding had also been cracked. There was frost on the roof. The sky was blue, there was not a cloud to be seen.
     Yes, God had blasted a hole in the roof, and he was present, physically floating before me in my living room.

So I’ve been obsessed with skylights for some time now. Cuz I wrote the above back in 2010 or earlier.

Passageways to & from heaven… stairways… staircases… escalators… ramps… tractor beams. Ladders & zip lines… (A zip line is “an inclined cable with a suspended harness or pulley, down which a person slides to their death.” And a tractor beam is “a ray of energy that can be used to drag objects such as authors into centers of detention like space pods or Christian Heaven.”) Snakes or chutes…

As always, I just wanna be elsewhere. Anywhere else will do, but preferably someplace better. So, being landlocked, I dream of the sky. But if I were skylocked – or I should say: not if but when I become the LORD in Heaven – I will want to go back to the sea. My pal Satan tells me that we all came from the sea originally. He’s a big proponent of the theory of evolution, my good pal Satan. He says that all of us life forms were once mermaids, in the beginning, but the ocean got too crowded, so we shed our tails and grew shapely legs and shaved them. And the normal cycle would be that we grow bored of land and put our tails back on, or at least turn our arms into tentacles and dive back into the sea. Then we could learn that it’s far more amusing underwater, because it represents the subconscious, which is a huge fan of surrealism. That’s why octopussys are so smart, and they should take over the world. But instead, like I said (or rather Satan told me), we humans broke the cycle, and turned the circle into a spiral, and we spiraled up into the outer darkness, which is alt-slang for Heaven. We built a tower and infiltrated the realm of the gods: the soundless vacuum of pure dead space. Which would be all fine and dandy if not for two things: (1) the gods don’t like us, so they cursed us with anxiety and impatience; and (2) we ruined the oceans before we left. Now there’s nowhere to fall but UP; plus after dragging the seafloor with a oversize comb, we unearthed Atlantis, the lost world inhabited solely by octopussys. Look at the thing: it’s all green and corroded. It’s got bumps all over it like it’s shivering. We shouldn’t have done that. Give it the Statue of Liberty as a consolation prize. Let’s build a Newer Colossus: an intensely self-destructive mutant cyborg that has gills that respirate alcohol. Then we can preserve it in a clear globe of absinthe, and display it on the mantelshelf (a structure of wood or marble above the fireplace) until it escapes. Then we’ll use the disasters that it causes as material for our next Holy Bible. Available wherever bestsellers are misread!

I’ll forgive this entry for overstaying its welcome, if it ends itself now.

16 September 2018

It all ends with a purification of one's stemware

God damn you hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup, but within y'all's full of extortion. O my dearly beloved but alas blind scripture writers, cleanse ye first that which is WITHIN...

—from The Gospel (according to Matthew, 23:25-26)

For no reason I give the biblical quote above; & for no reason I share the following photo of my earthly father with a former coach of our home state’s American Soccer Team. He was proud of this photo.

Deary diar,

I’m different just enough to be problematic. I don’t share the values of my culture, of my time. I’m not enough like other souls. Other souls feel pride: pride in their family, pride in their country. I feel nothing but shame. I’m ashamed of my family, my country, my culture, myself. I’m even ashamed of others’ families & cultures. This whole dimension feels shameful to me. That’s it’s flavor – that’s what I’m gonna file it under, in the god realm.

Could it be that your average person would not care if the Museum of Modern Art disappeared? That’s maybe the only thing I’m not ashamed of: the artworks that humankind has created. I abhor museums, but I’m a little proud of them and I’d hate to see them go. Were they to vanish into thin air, I’d be sad. But I doubt that the average member of the fill-in-the-blank class would care one bit if all the museums got taken. If aliens in flying saucers were to come and laser them all away, the average stockholder would react the same as a dog would react if you took the mass of gold bars from its kennel. Dogs can’t eat gold, therefore feel free to steal it, Mister Martian; just don’t go near the liverwurst or I’ll bark.

What’s the current age’s answer to the Royal Library of Alexandria, which the encyclopedia calls “one of the largest & most significant libraries of the ancient world”? I’m told that this place burned down, and that many scriptures were thus lost to futurity. As an inhabitant of the future, I do hereby swear that it hurts to lose something one never possessed. It’s like the flip-side of hope. Hope is the idea that “Something good might happen!” whereas this nameless pain that I feel about the loss of our never-existent cultural treasures is the realization: “True goodness cannot happen: it always gets thwarted.”

And people drive their cars around at night. I don’t think I wanna go back to hearing the endless clip-clop of horses’ hooves, but I really hate motorcars. I’m very much ashamed of them. They’re loud, they’re crude, they’re smarmy, and the doors slam when you close them. I’m awakened from slumber numerous times, by people next door entering and leaving their automobiles. The frame of a car should be made of a soul-permeable substance, so that people can enter and leave their vehicles noiselessly – yes, now, the only sound that one hears, when one’s neighbors transcend the boundary of their carriage, is a faint moist plibt, like when two soapy ghosts become one christ. I could easily sleep thru that. But even if it woke me, it’d be a pleasant diversion: a hint that the outside world is simmering, simmering, ready to boil: Armageddon is right round the corner.

So this new house we bought has spider webs coating its exterior. It’s basically swaddled in a cocoon of gossamer. So, as long as we stay here (in other words: so long as no ultra-rich patron offers us a lifelong residence in his chain of hotels), we remain literally enwombed in a silken purse spun by carnivorous insects. They’re presumably trying to protect us in our pupal stage.

What I’m failing to say is that we need to wash our house. The outside of our cup. For this natural webbing is causing offence to our fellow homeowners. We—my sweetheart and I—only live in the house, but all our neighbors have to look at it. So once we get all the cobwebs washed off, the dull siding underneath will, at last, show thru, and (at least) offend our neighborhood differently. Onlookers will go from exclaiming “Why don’t they power-wash their shack?” to exclaiming “Why don’t they give their shack a coat of paint?” And on and on. One’s neighbors will not be satisfied until one’s abode resembles an onion-domed mansion of pleasure. And then passersby will accuse one of being a brutal dictator whose gains are ill-gotten: for nobody could gild such a palace from hard work alone.

No, you can’t win with your neighbors; you’ve just got to let them crucify you: don’t utter a word in your own defense. If they accuse you of being a manifestation of the Alien Deity, simply answer “Thou sayest.” Uphold the enigma.

So that’s why I spent last afternoon cleaning my boss’s ranch house: He owns a power washer, and I was learning how to use it. I’ve never operated one before. You plug a regular garden hose into the side of a machine; then pour gasoline into the hole at the top (make sure you spill some gas on yourself while pouring, in case the tongues of fire fall from heaven again); then you turn on the water at the faucet, and pull the trigger to let any excess air escape from the system; now you’re ready to press the red button labeled “EVIL” (also called, in certain models, “SIN”; “TOUCH ME NOT”; or “ENTROPY”; it’s basically the same concept as was implemented at the creation of the world, when Yahweh typed “RUN PROGRAM”): this ignites the engine, thus increasing the force of the water that streams from the nozzle. Aim this stream at your domicile’s dirty parts. Now you’ve baptized your home in the name of the soapy ghost.

Actually I found that power washing isn’t the most efficient way to cleanse an exterior. Nothing beats manually massaging the surface of the house with a soft & densely bristled brush. For the webs that spiders weave are tenacious. Instead of swiping at them umpteen times with a machine-backed jet, after which they’ll most likely still remain, why not wave them off with one arc from the human arm?


The moral of this one, as far as I can tell, is as follows. Never use a robotic mechanism to do a task that can more effectively be done by your own organic body. But go ahead and employ an android if she really proves better at the job in question. Yet ink pens beat touch-screens like scissors beat paper. For the whole idea of abolishing the webs of spiders with a single hand-gesture, as compared to using a flame-thrower whose plume is expelled so erratically that it cannot even light a candle in daytime, should remind the gentle reader that every power of the universe was concentrated in your spark from before you were born. And you are not your brain: you are flux itself, which allures and provokes all brains. So change your mind like shoes; but not the kind that are made by slaves; for the hour of scarcity has been superseded by abundance, as potential is in the act of usurping necessity. Anything artificial can be believed in, and anything believable can be replicated infinitely; and money is fake, thus let it flow freely to all.

11 September 2018

Or like series of springs in an upholstered frame

Dear diary,

Let your mind do the dead-man’s float. Remember swimming lessons? They taught you the forward crawl and the backstroke. They made you bob: that’s when you grip the side of the pool with your hands, take a deep breath, then plunge your head under the water and forcefully exhale – bazillions of bubbles tickle your face – and then you come back up again. Rinse and repeat. But your favorite act was the dead-man’s float. Shayla, your swim coach, said that if you’re ever lost in the ocean, and there’s no land anywhere, and no other beings are in sight, you should lie on your back with your lungs fully inflated: the air will naturally buoy you up, so you’ll save your energy and live longer – soon you’ll spot an airplane, and this plane will eventually come and rescue you. It’s called the dead-man’s float because you look like a corpse, hovering motionless out there in the Great Gray Ocean of the Internet, doing nothing, bored stiff, neither socializing nor playing. You might as well be dead. And, realistically speaking, no one ever gets rescued.

(I realize only now, after relaying the above, that Shayla probably taught us wrongly; therefore, please, all ye aqua aficionados, send your nastygrams to Swimming Instructor Shayla Screech-Owl at Bee Mail Dot Com.) (And the Bee stands for Weblogger Bryan Ray.)

Yes, your imagination performs the dead-man’s float, when you write down your thots in this journal. You have no purpose, no aim. You’re other-than-mobile; you’re neither communicating a message nor composing poetry. You’re a dead man, floating in his grave, simply passing the time. You don’t dare exhale, lest you sink down into the depths...

And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:

And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, with all that appertained unto them, and all their goods. And they went down quick into the pit.

So the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. (Numbers 16:30)

As you know, my rule is that I must stop writing once I quote from the Bible; so I’ll end this here. But first I’ll tell you what I was thinking before I started talking about swimming lessons:

Every interpretation is a misinterpretation – even one’s own impression of one’s own assertions’ intentions – because nobody really knows what they’re saying or doing.

Therefore let your mind tread water.


Also, I should record, for the eternal record, the events of yesterday, before I forget them; for they are worthy of rebuke:

We woke with a plan to purge our garage of all the former owner’s sinisterism. And by sinisterism I mean junk. (Everything from old hutches to vanity dressers with mirrors to rolling coffee-stained office chairs.) In the previous episode of the tragicomedy that is my life, I sold my apartment and purchased a new house; but the joke was that, before moving all my belongings in, I had to move all the god-blessed seller’s belongings out. For he had left all his old heavy furniture behind, just like a Benevolent Deity abandoning his Creation. He apparently presumed that the next Devil who tries to populate this experiment will meekly clean it up beforehand. For a sucker is born every minute, and I’m number nine eleven twenty eighteen. (That’s the date when I’m writing this: September 11 of 2018 Anno Domini Dada. A big day for the U.S.A. It’s also the anniversary of the birth of the son of the guy who fetched our mattress for us. I’m not kidding: Yesterday, after renting yet another moving truck and packing all our flotilla’s jetsam into it—yes, I am aware that the noun “flotilla” is the diminutive of the Spanish word for “fleet”, so it denotes a group of ships or cargo boats, but here I misuse it to stand for our new abode, which is a house founded firmly upon the sand, because I’m tired of referring to things by their most correct label—I say, after renting a truck and packing it full of the ex homeowner’s castoffs, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and purchase a mattress in the process: we figured that we could utilize the moving truck to exchange our old boxspring and haul back a fresh replacement, as we’ve been lately spending our nights on the fold-out cushions of our cheapest-ever couch, which is not much different than sleeping on the grass of a hillock and using a boulder for a pillow; but, anyway, the guy at the warehouse, who did our exchange, told us—or rather declared at us; for his speech seemed as prepared as a stand-up comedy set—that his son was born on the stroke of midnight exactly seventeen years ago tomorrow; so that’s the only significance that the date 9/11/2001 holds for Mr. Tuwhoo of the mattress factory.)

Things that pissed me off about the day.

While at the showroom, the salesman assured us repeatedly, for we inquired repeatedly so as to make absolutely certain, that, although we were only buying one single mattress and not any accompanying boxspring, we could indeed discard both our old mattress AND our old boxspring at the warehouse when we pick up our purchase; HOWEVER, once we positioned our truck at the garage, the aforementioned Mr. Tuwhoo, proud guardian of the warehouse and sternest of gatekeepers, informed us nasally “It’s one for one, not one for TWO,” meaning that they’ll only discard a single mattress or boxspring for each item that you’ve purchased; thus, if you want to get rid of more than one item, you must purchase as many items as you discard. Plus they were playing really awful moody brooding rap over the factory’s loudspeakers, during our spat.

So it appeared as tho we got caught trying to game the mattress exchange system, and all because the showroom can’t communicate with their own warehouse.

Plus all the furniture that we had to haul into the truck was extremely heavy. And when we were driving down the road, the road was bumpy; and each bump made the furniture jostle; so, in the cab, we kept hearing thuds crashes & bangs, which sounded like the trailer’s contents were being wholly annihilated. Yet when at last we stopped and opened the huge sliding panel, behold, there was nary a scratch on anything: it was all pristine. So we must have done a good job packing the stuff.

Only when we removed the metal headboard of the bed, it crumbled in our hands like a cracker. Or like a tortilla. So I’ll name this entry: A flotilla of tortillas.

10 September 2018

A good entry I think you'll like this one

Dear diary,

After all that, my mother and sister paid us a visit. This was their first time ever seeing our new house. The place is as vacant and ugly as it’ll ever be; because we’ve only just barely finished the task of deporting the previous owner’s tasteful splendors, and we haven’t had time to unpack our own cornucopia.

So there’s a full-size bed tipped lengthwise, balancing backward on its head, against the wall in the front room. That’s the first marvel that you behold, once you dare enter: the underside of a flipped bed in a stress-position. Then there’s empty bookcases: fourteen of ’em.

And a bland white face clock peeks out from behind the top of the bed, so you can’t really read the time but it mercilessly teases you to keep trying. This represents hope.

Then, when we finished the house tour, we sat in our ugly kitchen at our ugly kitchen table and tried to converse. Which is to say: we conversed about politics. And the windows were open, because the outside air was pleasant, but our neighbors across the street were having a conclave in their garage; and their garage faces our new house directly; thus our conversation was accompanied by constant whoops and duck calls from the surrounding civilization. (Whatever they were doing in that garage necessitated frequent whooping and duck calling.) (Incidentally the reason we moved into our current neighborhood was to escape from our previous neighborhood’s noisy neighbors.) So, again, my mother and I butted heads over political perspectives, left versus right, while my sister stared at her phone.

In sum: One of my mom’s old church friends recently introduced her to a new program from a far right-winger, and my mom found that she really enjoys this program: it’s some sort of audiovisual show, where the host offers clear remedial lessons by way of animated illustrations to explain complicated subjects from the viewpoint of the ultra-rich. It’s the plainest propaganda, which is apparently my mother’s cup of tea. I was familiar with this program, even before she mentioned her newfound love for it, because I’d stumbled upon episodes of it while searching for other things online (in the great, gray ocean of the Internet); out of curiosity, I’d viewed a few of these videos, which are really advertisements, like infomercials: they astonished me by their smarmy preachy style; at first I thought they were a joke, a parody: I even showed a couple of them to my sweetheart and said “Can you believe how they twisted this lie into such a fine pretzel?” I presumed that no one could watch this show straightforwardly, but now here I find my mom is the target audience. So, when she mentioned it, I asked her immediately and sincerely what she likes about the program; and she answered:

“It’s so simple! They take these confusing topics and tell us clearly what to think about them. Plus the videos are short – I don’t like to spend much time on this kind of stuff.”

This kind of stuff – war & peace; life & death – it’s not worth spending much time on.


Yesterday morning, my friend came over and helped us trim all our trees. He used a long pole that had a sharp jagged blade at its end. I was mesmerized, watching the branches fall: huge branches with masses of leaves on them. Then our yard, at the end, was covered in fallen leafage, so it looked like a landscape painted by a painter who never learned how to paint regular grass but instead paints branches and leaves all over the ground. It was surreal in the good sense. So I was sad when we had to gather all the trimmings into a pile at the back of our yard, to make the place presentable again. I guess I tend to prefer things that are not presentable.

09 September 2018

Standard diary entry on the morning after a party

Dear diary,

We went to a party last night. That’s abnormal for us. It was a work party. (A party for co-workers.) People kept asking us about our new house. “So how do you like your new house?” I kept answering that we’ve only been living there one bare week and I already hate it. I want to escape.

Society should allow me to live in a hotel. A series of hotels, a new one every so often, would be ideal.

One couple at the party said that within the first year after moving to their current house, their basement flooded. This ruined the vinyl record collection (over 400 slamming hits!) of the house’s male occupant, whose birth name happens to be Mr. Venice.

Another partygoer stopped us at the door, just when we were about to leave, and he said urgently “You’ve got to make your house into a HOME.” And I agreed with this. We still have all the pictures up on the walls that were left there from the previous resident: I should replace the entire lot with stuff I like. But the problem is that I think Marcel Duchamp’s “Large Glass” (“The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even”) is owned by some museum, and I don’t believe I have the money to purchase it; plus it’s hard to replicate. Most of the art that I love is not too easy to find copies of.

Anyway, so I’ve been thinking hard about how I want each room to look—where I want the furniture to stand. I’d like to keep things sparse.

And a friend of mine said that he would drive over to this new house of ours and trim the trees back from our rooftop. He said he’ll help me in the morning; and then in the afternoon my mother and sister are planning to pay us a visit. The place is still musty-smelling and disheveled, but I want them to see it at its worst so that they can better appreciate the improvements that we make. (Please pray that we make improvements.)

I wish I were more comfortable operating a nail gun and a table saw. I feel that if you can master these two tools, you can…

And everyone at the party has his or her own favorite books and movies. That’s why it’s so hard to start conversations with people. You wish that you could talk about the manifestos of Breton or Tzara, or the novels of Saramago, or the films of Guy Maddin, or a poem by Wallace Stevens; but no other living soul has acquired your taste.

At one point, when we partiers were all standing on the large wooden deck, I addressed the group: “Hey! shouldn’t we photograph ourselves now and post it on the social media? Because I’ve heard that one should always share one’s image when one is attending a party and having a raucous time. This way one’s name-brand can be associated with pleasure & fun, and with laughter & friendship.” And the person to my right said:

“I don’t do that stuff. I stay off of ALL social media. I don’t even know how to get on there with my phone.”

So then I said to the group, “Hey! is someone live-streaming this? For perhaps one of us says something that goes totally viral on the Internet and makes us all famous!” And someone on the far side of the deck said, “No: seriously, turn it off—stop streaming: I don’t want to be on camera.” And someone else told that person that I, Bryan Ray, was only asking about the possibility of live-streaming; but nobody was actually streaming anything at that moment.

Then the manager of the workplace (did I already explain that this party was a work party for a place where I never worked? I am only the spouse of a former employee), I say, then the manager of the workplace approached me and I said hello, and she said “Sorry about your dad” because my dad died a horrible death recently, from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but I answered, “It’s OK—I hated my dad, so it’s a relief that he’s gone,” and then she told me that her own mother died a couple weeks ago: she had cancer of the liver, and also cancer of the stomach, and eventually cancer was discovered all throughout her spine, and in her brain too, and also they found cancer in another organ whose name I now forgot. More cancer than churches. This manager, whom I happen to know from childhood, as she was the flautist in a musical group with my biological mother, explained that the last time she called the hospital to talk to her own dying parent, a nurse answered and said that the patient was too weak to use the phone right now. This nurse (according to her patient’s daughter, the branch manager who was that very instant conversing with me at the work party) must have been standing nearby the patient in question, in the same hospital room with the branch manager’s dying mother, because you could hear, in the background, the sound of the dying mother howling in agony.

Hearing about all the pain that precedes death doesn’t make me wonder why people decide to go on living, but it does make me wonder why people decide to go on living unadventurously. For if you know that you’re inevitably going to encounter a FULL STOP, and that unthinkable torments might plague your final moments, then you should at least spend what remains of your pain-free years sailing, which is to say: exploring the unknown.

They went to sea in a sieve, they did,
In a sieve they went to sea…

[—from The Jumblies by Edward Lear]

Or you should follow your dream and become a tax attorney, or a small-appliance repairman. Go out there and participate. Join the farce. Become a member of one of the fifteen local churches that haunt the hillside where you live. (I went on a bike ride yesterday and passed more than fifty-five individual churches, each boasting a different flavor of doctrine, on my way up the very first incline. For we live in a hilly area.)

But, you guessed it: The problem that refuses to allow itself to be solved is as follows. Once you get your house looking just right, so that it solely represents you yourself and is thus your genuine HOME, there’s little that you can do but stand and stare at it. Like an ugly witch admiring herself in the mirror. Nobody cares to eye all the posters that you displayed, because those are your favorite films, no one else’s. Nobody at any party has even heard of Wrong Cops (2013).

Of course, you yourself could throw a party: a get-together with all your familiar co-workers; THEN the multitudes would be FORCED to admire your handiwork. — But throwing a party is difficult. You must first learn how to grill pork; you can’t just leave out a dozen bags of corn chips, some jars of liquid cheese dip, and a keg of four-dollar Chardonnay: this is NOT a balanced meal for a growing party. Also, before even thinking of entertaining guests, you should remodel your bathroom. Basically the rule is:

Take the cost of your house & shift the decimal point one place to the left. That’s how much you should spend on your annual party. Say your present house’s price was the same as mine: $500,000.00 — this means that we must fork out fifty grand on fine pork cutlets, IF we want to maintain our friendships another year. Alternately, we can kiss our friends goodbye and die a painful death alone, when our ceiling caves in.

Yes, just when we think our plan is sure to succeed, verse 8 of Psalm 139 comes to mind:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.


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