A few weeks ago I picked up Beloved Wife at the main train station. I was early, watched the clock, the minute-hand seemed frozen in the cold. Fifteen minutes took an hour. The clock of the human face behaves in quite the opposite fashion; always in such a rush.
While waiting for Beloved Wife’s train to roll in (it was 11:12 pm and very cold) a dissolute-looking, fat-lipped blonde in a frazzled (but real) fur coat approached me and gestured, by pointing at it, that I should lift one of my headphone cups and engage with her. She could have been the Pottersville version of Beloved Wife, almost. She looked sort of good in an embarrassing way. She asked me in Polish-accented German where she could find the platform for Berlin’s public train transport. When I responded in American-accented German she looked non-plussed and asked if I was “Arabic-speaking”. I said No. She went on her way, wandering down a flight of stairs, when it occurred to me that I had told her to go in the opposite direction of what was correct (my sense of direction being as shitty as it was when I was 10 and had to wait until sunset to sort of know where “West” is). I was early for Beloved Wife’s train so I jogged down the stairs to catch up to and aim the dissolute blonde in the proper direction.
I got to the bottom of the stairs, scanned left and right, found her, some distance away, digging through a trash receptacle, for recyclable bottles (or whatever she was grimacing, elbow-deep, over the trash for). Upon which I thought better of having anything further to do with her. If I’d been 35, I’d have gallantly gone ahead to deliver the information she probably didn’t really want anyway. Am I more of an asshole at 63 (64 in a few weeks) or lots less stupid? You can tell by the way I phrase that Existential Rhetorical question what I think the answer to it is.
I was so stupid at the age of 20, once, that I was crossing the plaza of a blizzard-cleared strip mall, in Saint Paul, when I spotted a beaky old woman, scarfless, gloveless, dragging her tartan shopping wheelie into the hacking bone aches of the daggered wind, and I caught up with her to actually offer my gloves, in response to which she screamed bloody murder, assuming I was planning to mug and/or rape her, I guess. Lesson learned… to the detriment of all the beaky old women, in extremis, I have coldly walked around or stepped over, as they whimpered, in fetal balls, on Formica or tarmac, ever since.
Wife’s train pulled in and I took her heavy bags and we rode Berlin’s efficient public transport train system from the Main Station to the former Main Station, the Zoological Gardens. Something about the Zoo Station (especially now that it has been demoted) always made me think of it as a sneaky extension, of the “hood,” (Moabit/ Wedding), into the generally more middleclass neighborhood, Charlottenburg, into the rear of which the station protrudes. We approached an elevator (Beloved Wife carrying a small bag while I balanced two very large bags containing, on the left hand, an instrument and on the right an even heavier stainless steel tripod).
In front of the elevator stood a tall, adam’s apple-y, punk-ishly dressed male of about 35 who was in charge of pushing a wheelchair carrying a fatter, much older, less able male. The punk-ishly dressed 35-year-old radiated the aura of a Kreuzberg type I like to call “Man of the People”. He was probably no stranger to spraying the Anarchist’s symbol on cash machines and May Day is probably his 4th of July, although I can’t be certain of either, and I will stop short of committing myself to projecting this lazy couplet of stereotypes. But he announced, loudly, as Beloved Wife and I approached the spot in the implicit queue we would take behind the Man of the People and his less-able dependent: “Yeah, look at you two perfectly-able people, wanting to use the elevator when there are people who have no choice but to use the elevator! Haven’t you lazy people heard of the stairs?”
Well, it wasn’t as if Wife and I were planning on squeezing into the 2-meter X 2.5-meter (piss reek) glass room with them. Obviously not. And there were no cripples in the queue behind us. What was he even criticizing? We were queued at a distance. I felt that Man of the People was fucking with us on the odd chance that we (like many middle class Germans would have opted to do) would provide, for him, a mild endorphin rush by sheepishly retreating to find some stairs, or the escalator, or pretend to do so until he was gone.
“Just get in the elevator and go down, okay, buddy?” I said, exaggerating my imaginary 1950s New Yorkness.
A woman on the other side of the platform, who had looked over, to catch the drama, as Man of the People made his absurd speech, laughed. Man of the People flipped me off as a response to the woman’s laughter. Beloved Wife smirked.
“Very good,” I said, to Man of the People. “Good job.”
The elevator rose into place behind him as he then flipped me off with both hands. “Wow. Two! Very effective,” I said, “But now just get into the elevator.”
M.O.T.P. rolled his dependent into the elevator and turned to face me as the glass door slid shut. He then made exactly the kind of faces a 12-year-old would make to “taunt” a rival, while also adding a sort of punk or aboriginal dance of mockery, contorting his upper body and hopping in place. It wasn’t what I had expected and it wasn’t what I would have done had I been him. He was a failure as an “Anarchist” and Man of the People, I felt. Like so many Berliners, he was only playing at whatever it was he told himself he was doing. I had been prepared for him to be some kind of actual menace; I am always prepared to deal with a menace, but all he was… was a post-adolescent. I waved and called out, as he descended from view, still gesturing at me, “Very good! Well done! Bravo! Bye bye!”
The woman on the other side of the platform enjoyed the show: maybe nothing had happened, for her, all week: I think she thought she’d been privy to the proximity of a genuine (such as seen in many movies) New York moment, which I created, deliberately, by using the word “buddy,” which emerged without premeditation. I pretended that the woman on the other side of the platform was the Blonde Polish trash-digger in the frazzled fur coat and this gave the evening a literary completeness.
“What if he’s waiting for us downstairs?” asked Beloved Wife, prudently, as we entered the elevator. “Well then the story will be even better,” I responded. She felt safe. I felt good about her feeling safe. It may as well have been 30,000 years ago. It is all still down to jungle politics.
I’ll be 64 in a few weeks and two moments are looming, each respective arrival of which I must devote some time, occasionally, to pondering. The first eventual moment: Beloved Wife will hit “The Wall” and no longer be (sexually) beautiful to strangers. She will always be beautiful to me, and more and more so every day, and every time I fuck her I will marvel that I somehow ever got the license to do so, but the time will come that she becomes invisible to horny young studs and scowling businessmen alike and I will no longer derive the animal benefits of their sexual envy, and vaguely-implied violence (or mundane resentment), I now enjoy by being her mate in public. I get a big kick out of that silly effect.
The Animal Verities are both sillier and far more profound than the thick Cultural Pretensions with which we shellac the package. My pen is mighty as it might be, at the local scale I live and breathe, but without my gratified dick (and its accoutrements, among which I count my Wife’s naked approbation) what am I? I become bodiless. I become mostly idea. How and when will I meet this inevitable moment of transition, an entire interval, or leap-like removal (old man in an old dyad with an old woman) away from the vital ? Is that looming moment of catastrophic re-assignment more frightening than Death itself? I’m so used to feeling so fucking good as an active Citizen of Planet Good-Fucking that I depend on it.
The eventual loss seems so far away, on the blurry horizon, from where I sit typing this, but how can it be? I understand now that the Sour Grapes of Old Age that I see, in so many old friends and aging writers, is, most of all, a necessary defense mechanism. One day, Beloved Wife and I will only be able to do things like cuddle on the ever-expanding plain of a baronial shut-ins’ bed, reading to each another, or to ourselves, from oversized books, our matchstick bodies nicely covered up in blankets and floral pyjamas. I won’t want to see her withered breasts and she won’t want to see my wizened dick but we will stroke each other’s cheeks, kiss each other’s foreheads, talk about the fuck-rich Past or carefully avoid the subject.
Beloved Wife: 70, Me: 87 (If I stay off sugar/ carbs and away from pharmaceutical assassins… )
Second looming moment to anticipate will come quicker than the above-mentioned one, no doubt: the time will come… in three years or five years or seven (at the most?)… that men will no longer think twice before making a physical move against me or threatening to. They might do things like shout “Watch it, Grandpa, or I’ll kick you into the Baltic from here!” What if I sputter, ineffectually, and cringe?
I’m a lippy intellectual who is not given to not confronting fuckheads in meatspace (the last time I did so, before my Man of the People encounter, was early in 2022, when I shouted to a bus-load of disembarked passengers of all ages, including 30-somethings with ginger facial hair, close up… no further than five or six feet away… that they were FASCISTS) and not a single man has ever made a physical move on me since I was in High School. And that was the occasion that a bully went to snatch my winter hat, the day before the commencement of winter vacation, and I kicked the bully in the head, knocking him to the Formica, and never saw him closer than ten yards distant again). The day is rushing upon me that such luridly defensive physical grace will be lost to me. I will become weak, vulnerable. Prey.
How will I handle this? I ask myself.
Then it occurred to me (even as I was writing this) that when Wife finally loses her looks, males like Man of the People will no longer bother fucking with us. We will both become invisible…
… except to people plotting to rob us on the street.
(Or to young, ironically-misinterpreted, men merely attempting to help us out on the metaphorical plaza of the blizzard-cleared strip malls of the Future)
Who remembers Theresa Duncan? Theresa Duncan was a blogger of the pre-2010s, I think, on whose blog I once commented and with whom I sometimes interacted. 2005 was the Golden Era of lit-blogging. I remember the first time TD came to my attention: she had dropped a self-advertizing comment on the lit blog called The Elegant Variation (meh), I followed the comment to her blog (mission accomplished, TD) and saw that she was beautiful and culturally-conversant and sort of witty/ bitchy in that old “grrrl power” vein (a trope as buried now , under the sands of obsolete mind-control fads, as anything Egyptologists now treasure). Theresa is now such ancient history that she killed herself almost a decade before even TikTok appeared.
Why did TD kill herself? The (attractive female Artiste’s amplified) fear of Old Age or was she, as it was sometimes insinuated, “suicided”? By killing herself (and being followed, faithfully, within weeks, into the afterlife, by her lover, an event regarding which I was actually questioned by a journalist, who made a NEW YORK MAGAZINE article out of the story) Theresa, who was possibly thinking of the limited “immortality” of lingering Google results, instead of thinking it would be smarter to squeeze a solid and productive forty years more out of Life, earned a FACEBOOT tribute page called THE WIT OF THE STAIRCASE. To which I am subscribed. This post, of said FACEBOOT PAGE, just appeared in my FACEBOOT timeline:
To which I wrote:
Bukowski was an occasionally-interesting literary stylist and a horrifically shitty person who only functions as an adequate role model if your goal is to destroy your life while repulsing those around you. Only recommended if you’re a trust fund kid who can afford being unemployable. WSB was an interesting variation on the theme: a bona fide literary genius and a shitty person who also happened to be a wife-murderer and a probable sex-tourist with a thing for very young Third Worlders. Who, after all, are our “heroes” and why? TD never got to the point that she seriously questioned our prefab post-’50s Bohemian Icons. Still wonder how long Bowie will remain “untouchable”…
But that wasn’t the only thing, on FACEBOOT, I took the time to respond to thoughtfully, recently.
I use FACEBOOT as an exercise device, like body-conscious young men, in the 1960s, used those spring-tension hand-grip doo-dads, habitually, while doing other things (reading, Bonanza-watching, phone-talking, jerking off), to build hand-strength. I exercise my writing muscles, and clarify my thoughts, by responding to FACEBOOT posts, as though I’m publishing blurbs or articles for an Alternate Universe NEW YORK MAGAZINE. The following image popped up on my timeline a few days ago, posted by an earnestly intelligent young Artist/ Musician, of my online acquaintance, living in Lithuania:
ME: Ha ha! Erm… Fuck Buddha? My Life has been a joyous adventure with hiccups, detours and a few very interesting pitfalls along the way. I highly recommend LIFE and the big box of endorphins we’re all given to work with every day. Whoever said this LIFE IS SUFFERING thing that is attributed to the symbol called “Buddha” said it when there was no indoor plumbing, most children and many women died in childbirth and warlords could trot around on their battle steeds lopping off the heads of peasants for fun. Time for a Paradigm Change and a new, healthy, slender Buddha with a nice girl (or boy) friend who plays in a band. Life (for us) is fucking DELICIOUS. (Sorry to all of you reading this comment from Haiti, Palestine, Ukraine et al but me being doom-inflected wouldn’t help you anyway…)
HIM: I find that words are rather inadequate to express the paradoxical nature of the matters you discuss. As someone who has been afflicted with a host of chronic health issues for more years than not, I can say that ‘suffering’ can be a way to attain knowledge, if persued to its logical conclusion. Which is to say that it can put into stark perspective what has deeper meaning, and what does not.
Which leads to a number of interesting philosophical conundrums. I too take some issue with the varieties of Buddhism that weigh too heavily upon the self-pitying connotations of that statement. It’s something of a tightrope walk to simultaneously live with the reality of the inevitability of suffering and to be able to contextualise it within something joyful and life affirming. I’d propose that it might be usefully revised to ‘life is (learning from) suffering’.
ME: I think the semantic booby-trap is the word “suffering,” Comrade! I too endured chronic health issues, for most of my youth (asthma, eczema, allergies to over 100 foods and substances, a whole season of my right leg being strangely paralyzed at an 160-degree angle: the adults around me thought it was psychosomatic, or caused by my grandparents’ coal-burning furnace, to which I was exposed on the weekends; it turned out that I lived, from ages 3-13, in one of the most *officially* toxic neighborhoods in North America ). I remember thinking of the “bad stuff” as being temporary and External to Life as a situation; I knew that the problems had *causes* and could be dealt with… first of all by getting the fuck out of those conditions. I propose that once the Technical Issues (bad air/ water/ diet/ sanitation) have been handled, and one situates oneself where Humans are the top of the food chain, and where (more importantly) predatory Humans are not In One’s Face… Life itself, as a Medium, is Neutral-Shading-Toward-A-Net-good. After all, in our biological system, Pain is a warning (ie useful) and Ecstasy is a commonplace. The “suffering” part, now that we’re out of the jungle, is largely Man-Made and not *intrinsic*. I feel that Buddha meme is a buit of a trick, like the Christ saying about the “poor will always be with us”: NO, MOTHERFUCKERS, you are CAUSING “the poor”. It’s a metaphysical alibi. The “suffering” is the work of Bad Actors. These “religious texts” are smoke screens… like the Metaphysical Economics Doctrine that Depressions/ Recessions/ Inflation “just happen” like acts of “god”. No. They are intentional/ directed. It’s all, I feel, misdirection. I cast a jaunduiced eye on these memes I grew up with… my .0002 cents!
ALSO ME: errata: typos galore! Mostly to do with the “u” key being adjacent to the “i” (poetically enough)
OTHER HIM: Inasmuch as there are people who are perfectly happy without regular access to clean water/food/shelter, and people who are deeply unhappy despite being utterly satiated on all physiological levels, I’d propose that the poorly-defined word here isn’t “suffering” but “life.” The statement seems specifically to point to that state wherein there is some kind of holding or reaching, i.e. not letting things go as they will. But IMO this isn’t “life,” this is “death” – holding onto the past, trying to game the future. That seems to define suffering. I’d say getting beyond that bullshit is how one realises “life” for what it really is, essentially as you’ve described above (adventure, not punishment). People make themselves desperately unhappy by imagining that things should be other than what they are; working with things as they are tends to reveal an innate happiness.
ME: Another interesting take… the discussion deserves a very long and detailed and many-voiced approach! Also, this is the only FACEBOOT page/ channel where I can find such exchanges…
ALSO ME: (An unconventionallly-anaytical dialogue on “SUFFERING” would be a worthy text, I think; “Suffering” used to be attributed to “The Devil” but I believe “The Devil” has always been a subliiminal symbol, in the collective unconscious, of the Bad Actors plaguing us from Time immemorial. “The Devil” and the incorrect care and feeding of the Body Machine, in my opinion, will cover most Suffering… that would be my position that’s begging to be attacked, rhetorically! laugh)
YET ANOTHER HIM: Life is samsara (cycle of sukkha and dukkha: joy and suffering). Ananda (bliss) is the transcendence of samsara, realizing that samsara is nirvana. But there’s more to it than cognition. It must be embodied with deliberate practice over time. “Life is suffering” is life-denial.
ORIGINAL HIM: I have the sense that for the most part words are inadequate tools for approaching this great paradox. Perhaps art and humour can come closer. For me at least something that can be equated with the concepts of ‘joy’ and ‘suffering; are equal parts of the warp and weft of existence. To affirm one and deny the other seems somehow disingenuous. The meme highlights how this culture overidentifies with one side of the equation. The Buddhist negation is perhaps a useful counterbalance if employed skillfully. Personally I have found the greatest meaning in inhabiting the paradox.
ME: “To affirm one and deny the other seems somehow disingenuous.” Especially when the “Western” (Nato/Murrkkan/ Liberal) concept of “Joy” consists of a shit-eating grin and a bunch of righteously hollow exhortations (as illustrated in the image above). I think my point is more Reichian and of the “bioenergetic” persuasion. I think that all things being equal (and indoor plumbing/ clean water being available) we have a natural-selection-driven inheritance of In-Built-Ecstasy and only sinister interventions, from Bad Actors, interfere (via poison, perma-stress and mind-control) with that. I think the body itself is The Garden of Eden; add a partner and an imaginative Snake and the sky is the limit. I read Reich extensively (in translation) as a teen… I’ve only genuinely suffered once in my Life (the doctor called it “suicide pain” but it got fixed in a week or so) and I didn’t find it particularly instructive. Being in touch with my in-built-Ecstasy in Living gives me enormous energy. I am FUCKING old (laugh) but can still do what (and how much and whenever) I did at 37. I’m not trying to be contrary, here, and dragging this convo out frivolously… I’m making the case that we make better Soldiers (in the War against the Creatures Scheming Against Life) when we connect with the body-system’s 30-million-year-process-designed resources. Anyway, I won’t gum this thread up any further and Thank You for your patience, all.
(But how can anyone not understand, by now, that all major religions were either commandered, or designed, from inception, to delude, mystify and control Duh Masses, presided over and curated by each respective Ruling Psychotic Elite, who’d very much want to fill Duh Masses with a sense of paralyzed hopelessness and grim acceptance and a willingness to forestall Justice until the preposterous Imaginary Afterlife?)
(I mean: Buddsha, Schmuddha! Jeeziz, Schmeezis! Allah, Schmalla! L. Ron Hubbard, L. Ron Schmubbard! They are all massive and massively absurd cons.)
(But all of my Comrades in this discussion were, after all, quite Young…)
This way to the Slippery Slope toward the Bleeding Edge under the Trial Balloon… those cute little “Voluntary” puppies grow up to be savage “Mandatory” wolves in no time at all. 15 years from now, the terrifyingly futuristic “Assisted Suicide” vans will sport flashing blue lights and armed centurions and room enough for more than one candidate at a time.
4 A SUPER SHORT STORY: THE BATTLE FOR LOVE AND RESOURCES AT NOSTALGIA GORGE
“Parking lots are the landscapes of the modern western genre.”
William Schallert, Vito Scotti, Lou Jacobi and Meredith Birney Baxter are walking, single file, across the desert, in the cool blue light of near-dawn. The insinuated presence of the cresting baby sun, the vast fire-bubble away from whose imminent entrance they are marching, silences the sky. They are headed West. No, not really single file: Meredith is walking a little to William’s right, just slightly behind but close enough, to being parallel to William, that they can chat very quietly as they walk. Vito Scotti is at the rear of the procession by some distance, a look of dissatisfaction (comedic exasperation?) on his impossibly familiar face. Ten paces ahead of Vito is Lou Jacobi, arms pumping as he works to keep up.
Beloved Wife decided to SELFIE herself, today, in the beam of a Blue Spotlight, creating odd photographic (no Photoshop tricks applied) effects. Or maybe those aren’t photographic effects and she has managed, quite by accident, and groundbreakingly, to document the geometry of the KA. Who knows? This is the Woman I embarked on a long-term experiment, with, in the Xmas season of 2004: to watch each other, unflinchingly, grow old. I will continue to report my findings and she, characteristically, will probably keep Her findings to Herself.
8 THE SELECT
POME- THE SELECT
The wink at the heart of the
murderous dream of a world for only
The Select is that
the selection process shall be never
-ending and further that it has already been
quite active from the beginning of sensed