I record a voice memo, pleased as I am with the wordless sounds of cicadas and a niece playing with water in a toy sink in my in-laws’ backyard. Mood alters, though; weight returns the moment I consult Facebook. The latter brings upon its users an atmosphere of bad feeling. “Glunk” goes the sense-board. My father-in-law cooks up delicious pastrami sandwiches (red onions, pickles, provolone stacked on kummelweck rolls, the latter a regional specialty here in Western New York). Mood enhanced, I utter thanks to the chef. Eyes closed, I open them again onto Wells’s The Time Machine. The Time Traveler sees the Dreamachine flicker of day’s interchange with night “like the flapping of a black wing” (18). Days flicker past in much the same way here, as one scrolls through these Trance-Scripts. Take comfort, though, reader: for as the Traveler explains to those caught up in his journey, this unpleasantness of moving “solstice to solstice” merges at last into “a kind of hysterical exhilaration” (Wells 19).
It rains through the night, but we stay dry in our tent. I sleep comfortably and wake to a world of sound. Daddy long-legs spiders gather in the dry space between the breathable net of the tent’s roof and the tarp above. Breakfast is delicious: pancakes, sausage, Canadian bacon, maple syrup, bread made with cardamom and dates, purchased the morning prior by the author’s aunt and uncle from a farmer’s market in Bolton Landing. Tent goes tie-dye with the addition of a blue tarp. I reflect for a time on the pyramidal symbology of my surroundings: zippers, seams, poles all tending toward apex as we await windows of sunlight. Respite from the rain. Camping educates desire. In my case, it teaches me the value of nooks, coves, hideaways. My nephews lead me to a hollow formed beneath the roots of a tree, down near the edge of the lake. “Bookmark it, note it down, save it for later,” thinks the time traveler. “The image may be of use to us elsewhere in our journey.” News arrives soon thereafter: another inch or two of rain expected in the night ahead.
Wake up, little bunnies! Mr. Gloom, be on your way! Beaches, pools, campgrounds: ’tis time to have fun. Picture the garden as it ripens. Imagine those tasty veggies, those delicious leaves of lettuce. There are reasons for our bellies to feel full again. Pizzas and milkshakes in New York; salads here at home. Meals will become again things we savor. We’ll go motorboating; we’ll become godparents (ceremony in a church — the whole bit). When I wake each morning, it will be to the light of the sun as it shines on the roof of my tent.
I eat fresh whipped cream off the tip of a ripe strawberry. I lick the chocolate shell of a vanilla popsicle. The subject who writes is a series of appetites, while also being one who breathes, listens, senses, and perceives. There is an erotic charge to the text; the latter is an extension of love’s body. Whispered amid the frequencies of the official narrative: the secret history.
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?