“We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind—mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
Now that I’ve figured out how to carry my tripod on my bike, I’ve been experimenting with long exposures at night. Here’s a shot of a couple watching the Expanded Cinema show on the Omni Hotel in Downtown Dallas.
“May I kiss you then? On this miserable paper? I might as well open the window and kiss the night air.”
― Franz Kafka
It’s a long exposure – look at the long, red lines that represent cars driving by in the parking lot. The bright white bar across the center of the photo are the headlights on Interstate Highway 35.
This is what it looked like live.
“When the Deep Purple falls,
Over sleepy garden walls,
And the stars begin to flicker in the sky,
Thru the mist of a memory
You wander back to me,
Breathing my name with a sigh.
In the still of the night,
Once again I hold you tight,
Tho’ you’re gone, your love lives on
When moonlight beams.
And as long as my heart will beat
Lover, we’ll always meet
Here in my Deep Purple dreams.”
—-Parish Mitchell, Deep Purple
“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
—- Albert Einstein
There is something special about standing around in the middle of the night and talking with a bunch of your best friends. To stand around with them in front of a beautiful art museum is extra special.
So special, in fact, that it is something that you would have to text to a bunch of people… people that aren’t there.
“This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. – Murray (WN 285)”
—- Don DeLillo, White Noise Critical: Text and Criticism
“This was before voice mail, recorded phone messages you can’t escape. Life was easier then. You just didn’t pick up the phone.”
― Joyce Carol Oates, Beasts
I used to work a little closer to where I lived. Sometimes, I would go home for lunch… but not very often. One day, while I was home, the phone rang. This was before caller ID – back in the days when people would actually answer their phones. It was, however, after the invention and installation of the answering machine….
…do you remember when these had little tapes in them? Once, I left for a long business trip and when I returned I had a large collection of very interesting phone messages left from a number of my friends and even a couple of cool ones from strangers. I liked these so much I replaced the tape with a fresh one and carried the old one around with me for a year or so. Sometimes I’d listen to it for fun. I know that sounds stupid – but I wish I had that tape now, thirty years later. I’d love to hear it again.
…at any rate, back to the story. I was home, the phone rang, I picked it up. It was a friend. She said, “Oh, I didn’t think anyone would be home. I called to leave a message.”
“I’m home making a sandwich. But it’s ok,” I said. “I’ll hang up and you can call back and leave a message.”
So I did. And she did.
When the phone rang my hand quivered over the receiver. I was torn on whether I should pick it up (as a joke, you know) or to let it ring and let her leave her message. I decided the joke was too stupid (strange, I know – I don’t usually pass up an opportunity for a stupid joke). As the machine picked up, I walked out the door, left for work, and let her leave her message in private.
I never listened to it.
“Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”
― Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
A familiar bit of street, smeared out in time, like a fuzzy memory. All the remembrances of that place are layered upon each other. Some are stronger than others – surprisingly, the strongest are often the oldest.
Because the oldest are the first. When everything is new and fresh.
I remember the first time I walked along – crossed at a light – Ross avenue. The big city was fresh in my young mind. I remember when I first turned off Ross to get to the Nasher Sculpture Center – it was many years later and I wasn’t that young any more (though I was a lot younger than I am now – but I didn’t know that then) but the Nasher was fresh and new. I’ve been back.
“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you”
― Paul Simon
“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road
“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we
imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. That each point of intersection, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction. Proposition, I have fallen in love with Luisa Rey. Is this possible? I just met her and yet, I feel like something important has happened to me.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
“The long triangular grooves on the car had been formed within the death of an unknown creature, its vanished identity abstracted in terms of the geometry of this vehicle. How much more mysterious would be our own deaths, and those of the famous and powerful?”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
Sometimes the world is hidden in the nooks and crannies of the cable television spectrum – especially in the middle of the night.
There are these shows when some bunch of celebrity grease monkeys steal some poor victim’s car and then rebuild it – adding subwoofers that can shatter glass eardrums, lights visible from other planets, and an aquarium in the rear deck— things like that. Hopefully, they also shove in an engine that starts and brakes that stop.
At the climax – the reveal – the dupe is shown his new pimped-out chariot and he cries. He says, always, “Thank you. My life is changed.” The show ends with the impression that everything will be all right now.
I like that part. I am a sucker for redemption. I like to bask in the feeling that it is even possible that everything will be all right (although I know that it is not true).
Think about it. They are talking about a car. A hunk of metal and rubber – a capsule of steel and glass – a rolling coffin propelled by the burning ghosts of ancient jungles.
But maybe they are right. A car is freedom. A car is the ability to change your location at will. A car is sex… and a nice car is good sex.
When I was young, I went to a lake with a friend of mine and we were swimming in the green water, constantly being slightly bitten by tiny fish, and listening to some women talking to each other while they sunned on a worn wooden dock. One asked another if it was OK if she went out and had her hair cut the same way as the other. Then one asked another about her boyfriend.
“I don’t know,” she answered, “I don’t really like the guy, he doesn’t treat me that well, but he has that really nice sports car.”
“After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
Phoenix pushed back on his chair and leaned up against the rough brick wall. He grinned and watched the woman work her way through the bar, staring at every customer, one by one. She was obviously looking for someone. He was the only person in the place by himself – and he wanted to see what happened when she reached his spot. She glanced his way a few times, and it didn’t take long for her to clear the nearest table and look down at him. He willed his face into its most relaxed, nonchalant expression – something he took pride in and had worked on for years.
“Excuse me, but I’ve arranged a meeting here with someone I’ve never seen in person… are you Brett?”
“Why, yes… yes I am. Glad to meet you.” Phoenix had not even had time to think about the lie… it simply came out. And now… nothing to do except go with it. He put on his biggest, broadest smile and reached out his hand toward the woman.
Instead of taking it, she scooted back about half a step and reached into that cavernous bag she carried.
Phoenix had enough time to think, “Oh, that’s why she has such a large purse,” but not much more as the woman’s hand flashed out with a gigantic chrome plated revolver. She raised it and Phoenix’s brain noticed how it gleamed in the uneven light of the bar. He couldn’t do anything else, though. Propped in the chair like that, he was trapped, it would take at least two or three seconds to tip forward and leap one way or the other… but he had less than one.
The gun roared as the woman kept pulling the trigger and slug after slug pumped out and into Phoenix’s chest at point-blank range.
—- from The Smeebage Affair, by Armando Vitalis
I sat around in the bus station for a while but the people depressed me so I took my suitcase and went out in the rain and began walking.
—-Charles Bukowski, Factotum
Ride a city bus at night. Late at night. Look around. Really look around. Don’t read your book, don’t check your phone, don’t turn away.
Look at the people. Open your pores and let the pure atmosphere of despair and regret inside where it will knead your soul. Feel the exhaustion of going home from the night shift. Touch the grease spot on the window where people that can’t even find the energy to keep their heads upright fall. Breath in the ghosts of ancient alcohol and unwashed perspiration. Listen to the giggling and proud talk of the night denizens on their blowzy way home from a night of exhausted carousing. Feel their desperate intoxicated love.
Let yourself enter the mysterious world.
Later, maybe a week later, or a month, or years later, late at night – when you are at home on your prescription mattress and breathing that conditioned – carefully purified and modified – air wafting from ductwork overhead. When you have set your book down on the nightstand after a particularly satisfying chapter. When the glowing red digits indicate you have a good, restful, eight hours before you start mashing the snooze button. When the large, high definition, flat-screen television that you carefully positioned so that you can see it from your bed is showing the double-plays, strikeouts, and home runs from all over the country. When you begin to nod off and feel the dreams welling up….
the people on the late night buses are still there. You are home and so are they. They are still there. They are always there.