What Kind of Monster Are You?

Self-fashioned life. No more a monster than Lovable, Furry Old Grover in The Monster at the End of This Book.

“Why should I be scared of you?” asks DC punk guitarist and vocalist Christina Billotte near the end of her band Slant 6’s song “What Kind of Monster Are You?”

Several more of the group’s songs turn up on the eternal mixtape soon thereafter.

“Ladybug Superfly.” “Babydoll.” “Partner in Crime.” “Don’t You Ever.”

Am I a victim of my own desires?

The lyrics to a song of theirs called “G.F.S.” stand out to me today, causing me suddenly to hear the song anew, its references to “stars going retrograde” and “recollection starting to fade” far stranger now than I ever knew them to be before.

The perfect guitar solo on “Time Expired” leaves me mulling my past in the hours afterwards, the song’s words forming a hieroglyph, echoing if not quite rhyming slant with the words on your necklace.

Thursday June 10, 2021

Having completed several books that I’d been reading of late, I hear Frankie’s friend Rachel asking, “What do we do?” Rachel is a YouTuber who makes educational content for toddlers. Upbeat sing-a-longs; skits; introductions to letters, shapes, and colors. Her question resonates. Ever since waking to this morning’s solar eclipse, sun and moon conjuncted in Gemini, I’ve felt the approach of a new pattern. As if to confirm the morning’s feelings of apprehension and foreboding, the air unit kicks out — a problem we determine come evening. But no bother. Lightning bugs greet me as I sit for the first time in our new glider bench on the front porch. Breathing deeply, I contemplate the cosmos. Others are doing what I’d hoped to do: researching green gnosis, practicing re-paganization, hosting conferences on acid communism. Time for something new.

Tuesday June 8, 2021

The pool’s not been what I’d hoped. This is one of the ways that Mercury Retrograde has manifested locally of late, prompting in me a sense of frustration and postponement, despite my knowing that we’ve performed our planting ritual, seeds and seedlings are in the ground, things are growing. Similar processes are afoot intellectually as I continue my wanderings. In my readings, I’ve been moving crabwise among many books at once. Robin D.G. Kelley keeps it surreal with his book Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Thelonious Monk appears near the book’s finale. Kelley went on to write a book on Monk. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Thumbing through the latter book’s index, I land upon “Monk, Thelonious: drugs taken by,” hoping to encounter word of Monk’s relationship to psychedelics, as he’s known to have done mushrooms with Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. Monk came to the psychedelic sacrament a seasoned pro. Reports suggest he was unimpressed. Monk had been arrested years prior for marijuana possession. Police rolled up on him after a Sunday night gig in June 1948. He liked to smoke reefer when he played, and other players in his groups relied on drugs and alcohol to keep up. The meeting with Leary occurred in January 1961. Three years later, Monk appeared on the cover of the February 28, 1964 edition of Time magazine. The cover story’s author Barry Farrell wrote, “Every day is a brand-new pharmaceutical event for Monk: alcohol, Dexedrine, sleeping potions, whatever is at hand, charge through his bloodstream in baffling combinations.”

Sunday May 30, 2021

I wake to an announcement from a “witch of Instagram” whose readings have proven insightful in the past: we’ve entered “Mercury Retrograde.” Her advice for the next three weeks is basically “stay calm, go with the flow, despite feelings of postponement.” And the day is a good one: a friend invites us to her new home, with its beautiful porch and garden. I stroll around admiring the latter’s rocks and stones and many varieties of plants. The place seems magical: an apt terrain for psychedelic psychogeography, with its porch swing and its side porch overlooking the garden, and its meditative loft and its stained-glass window. It reminds me of a house from my past: a house that before my time belonged to a gay wizard. Someone from the home’s past — the wizard or one of his successors — had mounted on the wall above its side porch a cattle skull. Let the home’s stories and images be brought back into awareness. Write it, I tell myself, as if it were a weird tale: flotation tanks, rock boy. A spooky tale, certainly — but not a work of horror. The narrator is a bit like the Edward Jessop character from the movie Altered States: a professor who embarks on a psychedelic journey. The journey occurs during the period of the professor’s tenancy in the home of the gay wizard. Imagine him here recalling it now in retrospect. His spiel is, “It never occurred to me at the time that the place might have been haunted.” This, despite the fact that he grew up only a few towns away from the infamous ‘Amityville Horror’ house, raised by a mother who herself was raised down the street from one of the houses upon which the story of Poltergeist is based. Let our soundtrack be as follows:

Thursday April 29, 2021

The Ramsey Lewis Trio rouse me midafternoon with their “Blues for the Night Owl.” More to my liking, though, is Expansions, a 1975 LP by Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes.

“Expand your mind…to understand…” sings Lonnie’s brother, flutist Donald Smith, on the album’s opener. This LP and another (Jerry Butler’s The Sagittarius Movement) arrive bearing reference to Sagittarius. “Lady Sagittarius.” Let us thank her, as Smith does, “for her Earthly Guidance.” Here I am, meanwhile, at semester’s end, students and I grappling with Philip K. Dick’s downer dystopia A Scanner Darkly. Chapter 15 is for me the book’s nadir, as the book’s third-person narrator recounts the thoughts of cop character Mike Westaway. Mike manipulates others, justifying these actions by claiming that the people he handles — characters like the book’s protagonist Bob Arctor — are already dead.

Wednesday October 2, 2019

There, sing the birds. There, there. Let us materialize and mobilize, let us get up on our feet and go for a walk. Things click: memory palaces are what we’ve built for ourselves, only we’ve externalized them, turned them into digital media devices, software and hardware, computer beings co-evolving alongside an “us” that includes gourds, birds, gardens, neighborhoods, communities — an “us,” in other words, that is both Psyche and Cosmos. Speaking of which: perhaps I should read Richard Tarnas’s Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, with its proposed “participatory epistemology,” in which Nature is a self-unfolding reality, a “living, sensuous and ensouled matrix in which we fully participate and belong.” Up to now, astrology has never made much sense to me. But I have found that outer events meaningfully coincide, both with one another and, more importantly, with inner states of consciousness. Bringing the planets into it and assigning them characteristics, however, just seems a bit messy. Though the “fortune,” I suppose, is the genre that allows us to interact with astrology, playing with it as one would a language game or a narrative system. I’m not yet ready to ascribe to it any more meaning than that.