Friday, January 26, 2007

For Julia

There are so many reasons to hate Duke University's basketball team. I could devote a blog to them, in fact. But, the end of last night's Clemson game says enough.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


This may sound at first like a contradiction, but the greatest thing thus far about my urban life is the solitude it offers. I should explain, since "solitary" is not, by default, a good thing to most people. A solitary life, in my estimation, is most possible only when one is amongst other people. One can live in solitude next to a loving partner in a happy relationship, as well as when surrounded by neighbors in a community you are happy to call your own -- even when neither the relationship or community are necessarily perfect. For indeed solitude is, at root, a celebration of this fragility, an attunement and attention not to what is lacking in these relationships and communities, to their existence in some perfect state, but to one's place in the midst of their reality, in all its fragility. In fact, it might be that much more difficult, impossible even, to achieve solitude in a horrible relationship and community, for in these one's attention tends to be drawn effortlessly to its deficiencies, and thus to what might fix it. It is this culture of remedy, of self-help and cures, of redemption from weakness rather than redemption of weakness, that is really the culture of isolation -- isolation from the reality that people are, well, people.

Solitude is a form of self-consciousness borne of self-reflection. Too commonly, self-reflection is thought to mean isolation. This is a lie. When one looks in a mirror, one sees something. But this something that we call a "a reflection of me," is only understood as such if we are a part of something far greater than ourselves: a community of others, of other "me's," through whom I can identify myself as "me" and them as "not-me". And people are, if anything, weak-kneed versions of themselves -- even when playing the hero -- of all that they aspire to be, of their confessions and ideals . We, in short, tell the truth when we lie, for in falsehoold are we finally being ourselves; and we lie most tellingly, betraying ourselves most fully without even the benefit of thirty pieces of gold, when we unsuccessfully try to tell the truth about ourselves. It's not that we don't know this truth -- oh, we're well beyond self-discovery and finding ourselves, but two of the self-perpetuated frauds that expose much more truth about ourselves than we'd like to admit.

Solitude draws one's attention to this because it is an intentional living, and thus a life truly lived; one lived aware of oneself as being amongst others who are different creatures, with their different stories, joys and heartbreaks, but all bearing the same weight of his or her creaturely life. It is an attunement to a harmonious dischord. Listen to life in the city, open all your senses to its voice -- for it is a voice that can be seen, touched, and smelled -- and you cannot miss this atonal horror that we can't do without. Such is the beauty, or is it the sublime, we can't stand most of the time, that often repulses and angers us, but that is the torturously cruel heart of life's mad melancholy -- which is to say, this life's capacity to create itself anew.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that urban living has exclusive rights to solitude and creativity. Madness. Rural life may be immediately pastoral, with its dumb simplicity and splendor, sunrises and sunsets, but I am certain that the one with the ear to hear knows better. To see beyond the apparent, we need only watch movies like Fargo, read novels like In Cold Blood or anything by Cormac McCarthy or Flannery O'Connor, or talk to my friend Brad P. about the social injustices & reality of rural poverty. No, solitude, the pulse of imagination and anything resembling hope, is beyond the simple divisions of urban & rural, a fact exposed (ironically) by the the masquerade of solitude in that mediated space between rural & urban, the neither/nor, the medicated isolation of our communities of the car and suburban kingdoms.

More on this false solitude, a solitude that is a betrayal of itself, this "geography of nowhere" (as described by James Kunstler), later.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Road to Nowhere

Figured I should show some love to my thoughts on Cormac McCarthy's new book, The Road. If nothing else, it deserves a link somewhere. Readers, however, are a different story altogether.

Stay tuned for a more substantial post. Should be up later Monday.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Day in the Life

So, it seems the wife & I have survived almost nine full months in the heart of darkness, the belly of the beast, the kernel of the corn – living in the riot-scarred ghetto of Cincinnati. It has been, for lack of a more banal word, interesting. The things I thought I’d hate, or at least fear, do not even register on a daily basis; and the things that I would not have even thought about prior to the move bug me daily.

Most naturally, I suppose, I went in fairly concerned about safety. This has, thus far, turned out to be a non-issue. Granted, much of this might have been due to the police crackdown in the neighborhood following the April 2006 murder spree; or, more plausibly, it had to do with the fact that neither K. nor I buy or sell drugs, and thus aren’t worth the bullet or bludgeon of a would-be assailant. I like to tell myself that my homeless guardian crack addict played some small role, too – the very one who promised me evening that he would “kill” (his words) anybody who disrespected me, K., or “my little girl” (his designation for the dog). I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly support somebody’s crack addiction with a dollar here and there if they promise me protection.

Speaking of crack addiction, I’m increasingly astonished at how many functional addicts there are. I knew that there one could actually live some semblance of a life addicted to heroin, alcohol, and cocaine, but for some reason I thought that with crack all bets were off. My suspicion was that what distinguished crack addiction from all the others listed is that it is primarily the poor addicted to it -- and, if nothing else, money buys functionality, whether you’re an addict or sober. Not yet sure what to think of this.

Less shocking, I suppose, is that our car has not been broken into. It helps that our little Honda is twenty years old and that I’ve wrecked it at least twice; not to mention the fact that we heeded the warning of a neighbor, who once noted that he had a roll of paper towels stolen from his car once, and have since left nothing but philosophy books in the back seat. Thus far, the only minor vandalism inflicted was that our antenna was unduly ripped off. I can deal with that, provided somebody isn’t whipping me with the antenna removed.

What has been an issue – no, the issue is the litter. I used to drive through this neighborhood all the time before living here, but seeing trash when at 30 mph is not the same as when you’re wading through it on the way home. Condoms, used or not; paper plates with pizza crust; chicken bones (it is as though my neighborhood is a fucking hen house and a fox is on the loose); piles of glass, be it that of car windows or liquor bottles. I really should just keep a daily tally of the different things I have to wrestle away from the dog. I’ll have more to say about this in coming posts, though, especially as it relates to the across-the board-decline and neglect of the living space in contemporary America (be it rural, suburban, or urban). For now, suffice it to say, a trashed environment is indicative of a deeper problem that is not endemic to ghetto life.

All in all, life hasn’t been so bad down here. I miss the two-minute walk to the only art-house theatre in town, as well as the only grocery with a decent beer & cheese selection. I miss the sense of security (which is different from the reality of safety) that I felt walking late at night in the relatively affluent neighborhood I used to live. Don't get me wrong, I’m not a martyr for moving away from all that. But, as I'll explore in my next post, I do think it was the right choice to move down here, even if I often regret the decision to do so. There are deeper implications to this admission, but it’s way too late to get into them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Don't Worry, I Lit a Match

My dearest friends, approximately three months ago, on October 12, 2006, to be precise, I presented you with evidence of the existence of God. Since then, as you can well imagine, there has been a lot of soul searching here at Silentio Central. Thus the three-month silence. As one reared in the bosom and by the stern hand of evangelical Christianity, who subsequently stole away from the faith in the deepest of nights, pitch black, in fact, what for the clouds of doubt covering all semblance of light, this revelation came as, not a shock, but as the nauseating onset of something nearly indescribable, something only viewed in a small room with the door closed. Too much truth, like too much starchy food, especially curry, fell upon me, and I was overwhelmed. My cup overfilleth, indeed, and the excess left me feeling, well, a little bloated.

Oh! But fear not. It took repeated probing, but I have, only today, realized that this Lord of the Arse was not due the undying fealty I dealt it. I should say that this was not due to his inadequacy, nor to the fact that this divine sign was filled with only poo. No, this vision of a poop-chute Jesus rising to the heavens made me realize that the Lord was always to be behind me, heard but never seen; or, if seen, seen only in my wake, in what I leave behind for others; or, barring that, in a one-time visit to a website about a dog’s anus that bears a striking resemblance to our popular imaginative rendering of a biblical scene. What I realized, after much strain whilst sitting, a posture due the longest, most pleasurable but often most foul, of thoughts, was that if blind devotion is not due the Lord, it makes him no less Lord. I realized, rather, that he is created, in a series of movements, of my movements, of your movements, of our movements. All together, we squeeze together a fashioning of the Lord, and we leave a prize for others to find! A nugget of ourselves that, upon its exit, is no longer ours, for it is no longer distinguishable from all the others. Sometimes we leave a larger piece, sometimes only a trace – but it is always there. And every bit is but a whiff of the Spirit.

All this is to say, I realized it was foolish to hold it in! To make myself silent is to make myself deadly to the world. Let it rip, I said, these acts of God. I must blog, I said aloud. For to blog is divine!

Pull my finger, and it shall begin anew.