Students and I in my classes cook together. We become responsible for feeding each other. We feed each other. We are mammals and needn’t apologize. The conversation confronts its own material preconditions. The class inches closer to consciousness of itself as a co-evolving organism of self-determining parts orchestrated through acts of care. As we cook, we talk about shared texts, we listen to music together. We enjoy each other’s company amid sharing of a material and linguistic commons. And it is good.
We’re ready for a new one. Little one on the way. I feel like leaning back and releasing wild exclamations, loud laughter, cries of animation and joy. Birds fill the air with song. After a walk through our neighborhood, Sarah and I sit at the counter at our favorite fried chicken joint, dining on breasts and sides. The owner recommends that we play music to entice the little one to rotate. I start thinking song possibilities: Yo La Tengo’s “Big Day Coming,” Fairport Convention’s “Come All Ye,” Apollo 100’s “Joy.”
Perhaps, as Maria Montessori might say, those sounds are too loud, “displeasing to the ear of one who has known the pleasure of silence, and has discovered the world of delicate sounds” (121). Perhaps we should try at a variety of volumes a variety of timbres and tones.
My relationship to food is bound up with my discontent under capitalism. The latter arranges within me a libidinal economy, an internal punishment-reward system, an internal calculus of hours for work and time for play, with no allowance for the planning and prepping of meals. By the time I contemplate dinner each day, cooking appears difficult, time-intensive. When Sarah and I arrive home each afternoon, neither of us wants to grocery shop — so we opt to eat out at restaurants in town, despite the undesirability of most local fare. To will change, I imagine, one would have to plan. One would have to commit to a recipe and buy ingredients. One would have to anticipate one’s appetite –becoming, in a sense, known in advance. It needn’t be a chore, though. It can be as simple and as pleasurable as going to a supermarket and eating more veggies. Kim Gordon can soundtrack it with her song “Hungry Baby,” head frequented afterwards by the owl on her song “Olive’s Horn.”
By these means, we quiet ourselves temporarily to hear the speech of the birds. Ginsberg cranks up afterwards, addressing the nation by way of apostrophe. “America” appears in his poem of that name as an “absent third party.” Those of us who receive the poem find ourselves implicated in this party, just as it occurs to Ginsberg mid-poem that he is America and that he’s talking to himself. Childish Gambino uses the same mode of address in “This Is America,” speaking candidly toward song’s end, confronting listeners with the line, “America, I just checked my following list and / You mothafuckas owe me.”
On this autumn afternoon I don the role of sous chef, chop cauliflower and onions, mix with ground turmeric and paprika, the lot then brewed into a soup. My brother calls after dinner announcing wonderful news: he proposed to his girlfriend. The two are now engaged to be wed. A group-text ensues, my other family members and I all congratulating the couple, all of us filled with joy.
Breakfast at a café near the Farringdon Station, an egg sandwich with fatty bacon and cheese on a panini. Trudging through Jason Louv’s deeply uneven John Dee and the Empire of Angels, I find myself wondering whether Enochian magic isn’t just a viper’s nest full of power-tripping Christofascists. Before I become too entrenched in this opinion, though, my flatmates intervene, commandeering my person for a group trip to the Kathy Acker exhibition at the ICA.
After an out-of-this-world dinner of Chicken Tikka and Awadhi Lamb Biryani at Dishoom Shoreditch (a meal paid for by a friend whose wish is that we live deliciously here in London), I return to my room and experience a weird visitation of mixed import — a tantric transmission that leads me out on a journey to the Atlantis Bookshop and Treadwell’s, in search of what: clues? hints? answers? I note down signs witnessed along the way: “Planet Logistics,” “Everything Must Go,” a Men in Black poster with the tagline, “The World’s Not Going to Save Itself.” Is this a call to heroism, a siren awakening moviegoers to action? Or is the messiah always elsewhere — external, superhuman — shadow-government guardian angel dressed (depending on religious dispensation) either in white or black?
On the train again headed back to London after a lovely time in Cornwall. We toured the hills and fields, dined on regional fare — baps, fish and chips, pasties, clotted cream, cones of Cornish whippy — communed with ducks, geese, crows, and seagulls, not to mention dogs, dogs, all manner of canine, Boscastle is a doglovers’ paradise — plus wildflowers, we mustn’t forget wildflowers, hedgerows dotted with dainty purple foxgloves and daisies, with time set aside Saturday night, after all this Arcadian hiking and lazing about, for a candlelit evening tour of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Among the displays of charms and potions and wishing mirrors, the items that most intrigued me were the colorful Golden Dawn artifacts and the ornate robe worn in rituals performed by Argentum Astratum.
Enunciate, craft, massage into shape. Learn by doing. Note down partial approximations of eidetic imagery. Thirty-one syllable word-clusters, as in the Japanese tanka. Bars of neon form an elongated “C,” the unfinished outline of a cursus. Diet remains for me a site of struggle, a point of contention. Cooking and eating from home have not yet become welcome parts of my practice of everyday life—nor has any decisive shift toward vegetarianism. Old, long-established eating habits are hard to break on a budget. Objects and textures pass rapidly through a set of multidimensional windows or portals, as would an array of illustrations on a picture wheel. Operating an imaginary View Master is a bit like exercising a phantom limb. But see with it we may. A food truck specializing in seedlings and nut bars pulls up in a park, an abstract crayon parrot drawn across its side. Golf courses designed like cakes dissolve and vanish. Front end to back end: “Folks, it’s not a screensaver I seek—it’s a quest, a vision, an account of an inward journey, magic everywhere.” Weird sonic matter wells up, giddy microtonal burblings and hijinks. Is a trope like a lasso? Is language like a rope, fashioned in a circle to ensnare? Or is it a sounding forth in song in response to the cosmos? Let us become like trees shining gently all around. Somewhere in my mind is the Incredible String Band’s “Painting Box.” Somewhere I sing it aloud to a child.
As a lifetime shirker of responsibility for cooking as a necessary component of household labor, the human potential in me for communist love and compassion demands revolution, demands I spend my daily material labor-hours differently. Perhaps in so doing I can model a better mode of being. Toward that end I pull out and peruse Ita Jones’s hippie-modernist “underground cookbook,” The Grub Bag. Brad Johannsen’s other-dimensional cover art is super trippy. (For those seeking more of Johannsen’s artwork, look for copies of his book Occupied Spaces.) Jones writes to today’s reader here in the twenty-first century as if a being from a utopian future, despite The Grub Bag‘s publication almost half a century ago in March 1971. Comrades, this is the book we ought to be reading in our study groups and revolutionary sanghas. The book began as “a food column carried by the Liberation News Service,” the news service of the Movement here in the United States in the late 1960s. Jones gives us her peace brother / peace sister salute by proclaiming on the book’s back cover, “I have always been on the side of revolution, on the side of people struggling to break the chains that oppress them. I support wars of liberation. I am a mystic. I seek to penetrate the nature of nature. I am a poet. I seek meaning. I am part of a generation that exploded six years ago and my creative energy is part of that explosion.”
After landing and grabbing a quick lunch at an In-N-Out Burger near LAX, we drop off our bags at our Airbnb, a pretty little poolside cottage a short walk from the Huntington, and begin to tour the city. Everything near and far looks amazing here in Pasadena: the trees, the hills, the restaurants, the architecture. We spend our first evening admiring the flora while walking the grounds beside the Griffith Park Observatory, and peeking in at Skylight Books, where my eye lands upon a new book in the 33 1/3 series on Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker and Rob Chapman’s Psychedelia and Other Colours. Most of this West Coast ground of being hasn’t yet been “languaged” for me, so it’s a bit like “seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation” (as Huxley says of his experience with mescaline). On the morning of day two, we drive to Santa Monica, landing for brunch at a somewhat mediocre, overpriced crêperie. After just a few short hours here, one detects firsthand the city’s monstrous antinomies, ones Mike Davis evoked so powerfully more than a quarter of a century ago in his book City of Quartz. Walking through Tongva Park, for instance, I observe homeless men and women sleeping on benches beside lush beds of what I soon learn to identify thanks to an app on my cellphone as Lindheimer’s Beeblossom, American Century Plant, Birds-of-Paradise, Tree Aeonium. Out along the Santa Monica Pier, a middle-aged topless man with glistening skin performs a rendition of “People Are Strange” while photographing himself with a selfie stick. Upon our return to Pasadena, we allow ourselves time to swim in a pool and lay in the sun. The day concludes with a dusky stroll through Bungalow Heaven, our wandering met by twin cosmic giggles: an ostentation of peafowl and an outdoor performance by Top 40 rapper Bryce Vine.