Monday, April 29, 2013

Speak (No?) Evil


I have laryngitis today. Yesterday I was a little hoarse (straight from my First Grade Book of Jokes) and today I open my mouth and nada…it’s so completely dead, my voice--- that it feels like one of those syndromes---where you inexplicably simply cease having some basic human facility--- like walking or speaking… it occurs to me, having spent so many hours pondering my Mom’s madness—to wonder whether it actually is psychosomatic… which could be serious-- or maybe a kind of ‘spell’ someone has cast on me.  A cranky neighbor? An ex-boyfriend? Etc.

I went to my gym to avoid household conversation—the walk in silence was nice-- and on the treadmill I concentrated on the Knicks.  But after seconds, a girl was tugging at my sleeve--- had I seen her boyfriend… a middle-height guy with long brown hair who would obviously be looking for someone?   I gestured that I had been absorbed in the play-offs, and then was finally pressed into squeaking an explanation of my condition. ‘Well,’ she says, shaking her pointed finger, ‘at least your voice is going to get better.  Like my brother has throat cancer, and he’s lost his voice for a week, and you know what that means’… then I was subjected to what amounted to a scolding, for my apparent insensitivity to her brother and my hostility because I refused to inform on her boyfriend.  I was helplessly searching the room for a trainer, but realized my handicap would only require more explanation, so I just let her vent and tried to mime little cheering motions at the TV. 

Eventually the boyfriend shows up and they get on adjacent machines right next to me, even though the room is virtually empty.. and they have a pretty audible fight that no one else notices because their headphones are cranked and they can’t be bothered—it’s Sunday, the gym is under-populated, everyone with any semblance of a life is enjoying the perfect Spring weather.

The Knicks lose, I venture out to browse a few quiet used bookshops and thrift stores, places where people don’t come to get picked up or be sociable.  It’s actually liberating, this not speaking… I sneak back into my building, refuse to answer the phone, e-update a few friends and my son of my condition, clean up, drink gallons of soup, inhale some steaming water…still nothing.  My son comes in, more NBA playoffs, the laundry, dinner… he is happily monologizing and begins to get silly.  Behind me in the elevator he begins making these sounds--- when the boys were little, we had an episode on the subway with  a Tourette's sufferer.  They never quite recovered from the near-asphyxiating laughing fit afterward and it permanently warped their sense of humor.   Tourettes is something 7-year olds can’t process.  Especially in a city subway.  So after several annoying noises and expletives, I give him ‘the look’.  ‘Oh, ‘ he says.  ‘I forgot you could hear.  You know--- dumb and deaf’?
Is that funny? Or is he really stupid? Like when babies cover their eyes and think you can’t see them?  Is his worldview so simple? Has all that hiphop and texting prevented him from thinking and making conclusions?
I’m not sure.  He gets bored trying to annoy me; his girlfriend is ignoring him, a night home is soporific…. He goes to bed.  

24 hours now-- not even a rumble.  Maybe I do have throat cancer.  I can’t remember what laryngitis is, I look it up on the internet… apparently not much I can do.  Gig tomorrow--- my guitarist will be thrilled that I can’t complain about vocals.  I’ll mouth the back-ups. 

Phone message.  It seems our drummer has ‘ear fatigue’.  The guy slams like a heavy artillery division every night of the week—practices in between… how can this be?  Maybe this is like a science fiction thing—people are losing their senses, one by one…we are being punished by some morally retributive karma for whatever we’ve abused.  My drummer for assaulting all of our ears…and me for my nasty habit of telling the cold truth lately.  I’ve been silenced, like a political prisoner.  I can’t badmouth alcoholic groupie girlfriends and ungrateful entitled kids, the conspiracy theory guy who drove me around last week convinced the Boston bombing was an FBI plot… I can’t tell my mother how much or little my grouchy old father loves her because he’s abusive and she’s demented, I can’t order my Starbucks venti... I’m feeling like an outcast…witchy and strange…

I remember this Twilight Zone episode.  For some reason these are as vivid as Alice in Wonderland in my childhood story-memory banks…In this one everyone was getting plastic surgery and the desired outcome was to have the face of a pig.  Conventional human beauty had become ‘ugly’.  I can think of several women I know who have gone under the knife recently and I have to admit they look a little porcine.  The nostrils--- the pulled skin and pinched expression.  Definitely. Pouchy silicon cheeks. 
Oink.  I can’t even laugh now.

There’s this girl at my gym… she’s a journalist/writer.  For a few weeks we gossiped and giggled; I was nice to her-- she asked if she could review my cd… and then she simply never mentioned it again.  For a week or two I worried. But I saw her today--- she wears tight little shorts and a tank top.  She’s over 40.  Way over.  Who wears this kind of outfit?  Olivia Newton John in 1972? She works out with great gusto and desperation.  Does she know she has cellulite?  Her book actually sucked… it was something about finding a man in New York City.  It was disgusting.  Why was I nice to her?  I hope she hates my album. 

Obama wasn’t really that funny last night.  I don’t like the president joking when people are dying and suffering, and the bombing victims are still in the hospital trying to adjust to the nightmare of their mutilation for no reason they can come up with.  Conan isn’t funny either.  The whole goddamn spectacle of American governmental pomp and the excessive catering.  Michelle Obama’s bangs.  They bug me.  Obamarama.  I used to believe.

This laryngitis thing is afflicting me with meanness.  Maybe that is the ‘meaning’.  I am punished…silenced.  Time will tell, I suppose.  Or I will.  Tell, that is. And for anyone who is offended by any compromising venting I’ve done… well, mum’s the word. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Elephant In My Apartment



Okay…I’m emotionally glued to my TV tonight, listening and not watching, as is my habit...waiting for North Korea to fire off their alleged missile....waiting to see if this is a WMD or a sort of cartoon popsicle-thing as I imagine it, arcing comically into the midst of a PSY video set, gangnam style.  The massive uber-success of that video is weapon enough to piss Kim Jong-un off.  I’m waiting for Time Warner to use this as yet another excuse for my crappy service, waiting for the next hurricane season, the financial jolt that shakes the money-hoarders into another market meltdown, for bird-flu to visit New York City, for the next urban coyote attack, manhole explosion, pipeline meltdown, crane malfunction, police freakout, bank heist--- whatever.  Anything to get our minds off of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy and Jay-Zee’s trip to Havana.  The fiscal cliff is now just another chronic rash, the NCAA playoffs have left a small vacuum in my household; I hate baseball, and have an entire summer of non-air-conditioned nights in which to contemplate suspending my cable so that my son will finally get his own place, if only to watch the Mets.   

My new favorite television song is ‘Elephant’ which has gone from indie obscurity to rockstar jillion download-status because the Blackberry z-10 ads have touched this little band with a magic techno-wand.   It’s kind of primitive and stupid but the way the lyrics are squeezed into that descending chromatic figure--- is a stroke of awkward brilliance. 

Do I want a Blackberry z-10?  I do not; but I’ll bet the members of Tame Impala got some stock options…I’m not sure that they were even aware of what makes us like them… except the title of their new album, Lonerism, was once the designated religious affiliation of Writerless… (a write-in, on my old school applications)…so we are related in some emotional/intellectual parallel universe. 

The sun did a seasonal warming thing yesterday—enough to remind me that summer is not really going to melt the grey ice that seems to have settled into the crevices of my cerebellum like cancerous mold; the Knopf poem-a-day morning email does little but convince me that indeed April can be a cruel month.  And one of my girlfriends, last night, between rounds of intense relationship drama with a narcissistic Broadway actor, confessed that she’s bored.

Bored, I thought—having postponed maybe 4 decades of aspirations while I raised kids and played in everyone’s band but my own-- is not really a state of mind, but being too lazy to fight off the terminally Boring.  What I am beginning to face is despite all of this futureshock and hyper-acceleration of technology… the actual practical urban universe (not to mention several of the Knopf daily selections) is becoming an insipid kind of virtual amusement park. 

My son looks in the mirror when he speaks to me.  I thought maybe this was a symptom of some new syndrome--- tri-polarity, schizophrenic narcissism… but I also realize there is little actual face-to-face dialogue in his world; with all the people absorbed in their phones, walking and texting, driving and scrolling, etc… maybe this is the closest thing to a relationship.  Besides, I am trying not to worry about things.  Pick your battles, my Mom always advised me… I’d sooner complain about the broken door and the wet towels on the bathroom floor.  Mental illness is going to be his problem, going forward.  My parental obligations are winding down.  I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually get grandchildren and his wife will be too busy texting to notice that her husband talks to mirrors.   It could be a Lee Strasberg thing, anyway. 

‘Remember when we had to do all our telephoning before we left the house?’ one of the newscasters just asked, snickering… I still do not have a cellphone, I couldn’t care less who wants to reach me most of the time.  I have been noticing that I do get fewer calls--- my friends are so used to immediate phone gratification that having to wait until I pick up their voicemail is annoying.  Boring.  My mother has forgotten how to use her phone, and travels only in her mind, so she is constantly thrilled when I call.  I’m not sure she knows who I am, but she is happy to hear her name. 

I read on trains—novels, poetry… I find myself gravitating toward thrift shops and miscellaneous estate auctions where there is an absence of marketing and I have to rely on my own brain and eyes to filter searches.  My clothing style is unclassifiable.  My library is unlike those of my neighbors.  My visual memory still works; in fact, I’ve noticed that without labels and tags, even some art experts have trouble identifying anything more than 25 years old.  Google pre-prioritizes image searches; paintings done by formerly real people without websites…get lost in the shuffle. 

Spring is tough for me; I’m a bit of a perennial hibernator now--- a recluse.  I’m practicing Lonerism like a kind of emotional celibacy and it suits me.  It’s not that I’m unloved; I’ve become so accustomed to not being nurtured or coddled, that any extended hand gives me the creeps.  Maybe I was deprived of this kind of relationship, this kind of marriage; I admit to having rejected it, down the line.  It bored me, it threatened me with complacency and mediocrity.  With settling. 

So here I sit, listening to the Babel of my overnight television, preparing myself for a project--- for a subtle creative earthquake, for my summer storm of productivity…
I believe it will arrive…hopefully before the North Koreans scramble our power grid, and before the first serious heatwave drives me into Starbucks, before Kim and Kanye’s  baby, and before I need a cellphone to swipe myself into the subway.  But I can almost feel it now--- a pinch of anxiety… a breakfast visual-- with milk-white linens, pastry…an evaporating blood-scent mixed with blue air…medium rare moons…

And here it is again--- right on cue-- my little Australian trio with their late-night Elephant-in-the-TV refrain…‘too bad your chances are slim’… words of Lonerist encouragement.  We the anarchists of boredom will get what we need.  It is not unwritten.