Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I cringe when someone says "Human Nature"

It's not because such a thing couldn't exist, it almost certainly does. There is nothing magic about our species, after all, we are just a strange electric topology that dreams. No, I cringe at the phrase because it's forever bandied about as if "human nature" could be contained in a slogan, an axiom, maybe a philosophy. This is absurd. Human nature is the novel of novels, the story of billions of people over the course of thousands of years. It is the phase space of every story ever written.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seattle 2011 Part 2

Seattle is like Ithaca New York with an industrial base, ten times the population, and access to a major body of salt water and a mountain range.

I spent all afternoon walking along the waterfront. At one point, this pair of tall young women were walking along the same route I was. We were both stopping to look at the sound, or down at the sea stars in the surf, and so we'd overtake each other from time to time. At one point, as they overtook me, I heard the blond one say to her brunette friend, "I mean, I like cheese, but I don't understand why *you* like cheese."

I almost said something at that point, but I'm pretty sure they'd noticed me, and it seemed weird.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seattle 2011

So, I'm drinking beer in the Holiday Inn hotel bar in Seattle. Don't ask me how I always end up in these places, I once spent 72 hours in Copenhagen and ate half my meals at the shawarma stand in the train station. What can I say, sandwiches were cheap, left me more money for Tuborg.

Anyway, I'm in this Holiday Inn bar. Food is awful. Beer is good, some sort of local pale ale. This bottle blond waitress in a navy blue work shirt is putting up fake cobwebs and orange Christmas lights for Halloween. That sort of place. I'm watching the National League Playoffs on one of the flatscreens. I only watch baseball in the post season because it lets me play politics by proxy via sport. I cheer for leftist cities over conservative cities, free states over right to work states, and teams without unholy amounts of money over the Yankees.

But really, I'm not watching baseball. I mean, I'm looking at the TV but I'm paying attention to two or three conversations going on in the bar. An older woman in a red sweatshirt is kind of sort of flirting with this guy sitting next to her, while her husband looks on. It's nothing really, just the way married people sometimes get sometimes when they want someone new to talk to. She puts her hand on his elbow when she gets up to go to the bathroom. At least, I think she does. I'm trying not to look, and frankly, my peripheral vision is shit in these glasses.

And this kid in the table in the back corner is just killing. He's got friends, and family too I guess, just packed in back there and he's got them all around his little finger. He launches in to some story about how he got cut off from ordering drinks on the flight out here. "I step out of the bathroom," he says, "and the stewardess is waiting for me, and she tells me, 'I can't serve you anymore, we've had complaints'" and then he waits, just this perfect beat before he goes on, "and I'm like, 'FROM THE WHOLE PLANE?'" His voice cracks at the end. The whole booth howls with laughter. I've had nights like his. I know he'll be trying to get that beat just right the next 4 times he tells that story, and it will never be right, he'll try like mad to get it back and it will never quite be right. Sorry kid, guess that's why we aren't professionals.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In which I pretend to be Carver

Sometimes, I still call her up.

When she picks up, I say "I feel like we're all living too much in our heads now, too much in our screens. I'd be happier if I could get in touch with the real world again. Maybe work with my hands. Maybe cook."

"You were never any good with your hands," she says.

"That's cold," I say.

"I didn't mean it like that," she says, and I can hear her smile a little and that makes me feel good, but then she goes on, "I mean you could never cook. Not seriously. Remember that time you stuck yourself with a knife? You're too blunt, all thumbs."

I think about it for a minute, then I say, "it's not me that's blunt, its the world."

"Yeah," she says, "I guess that's about right."

The line is very quiet. You can't hear a dead telephone anymore. I'm not sure I can really remember when you could. How can you tell if a thing like that exists at all, if you can't even hear it hiss?

"You still there?" I ask.

"I guess," she says.

When Rain

I will remember the sky here.
When rain finally comes,
the air itself glows
like some cliche about a pregnant mother.
During the day,
the glow was storm light
but now, Dallas night light
paints sprinting low clouds yellow
orange, and, in one spot over an Addison restaurant
purple, like the ground effect on a low rider.