The Ghost reminds me of me. There it is dancing alone in my apartment, singing “I want you to hold me,” as the Violent Femmes do on their song “American Music.” The Ghost thinks its lovers speak to it through the songs on its radio.
It sets forth each night assured of this, listening as one such lover follows “Gold Soundz” and “A Pillar of Salt” with “Lariat” and “Web in Front.” “If it means I get to hear you singing to me,” reasons the Ghost, “if it means our last words weren’t wasted, then so be it.”
Inspired by the aforementioned, Ghost decides on a whim to live well again. It comes and goes as it pleases amid the timestream of its ghosting, resolved in each instance to rip it up and start again.
“Going back to old sounds won’t help,” thinks the Time Traveler. “Do so and the Narrator stands revealed as a bloody mother fucking asshole.”
The Narrator, not quite omniscient and thus taken aback by the thought, asks of his sub-creation, “You think so?” “What, then?” he wonders. “Do we edit the entries to make me likable? What would we write instead?”
Thus it happens, thinks the Traveler. “The Ghost would have to enter into the narrative,” he says. We know for certain that some such being spoke to us via auditory hallucination, don’t we? And we know as well that it was already there, doing its work upon us in the house, prior to our introduction to marijuana. The latter didn’t invent the Ghost — but it amplified it. It gave it back its voice. Let us open ourselves to the Ghost, then, and recognize it as a potential for apartness within us that is always-already part of us. Once we accept all that is loop-like, all that is like Ouroboros in our nature, we reveal ourselves as we are, infinite: a single, transtemporal, interdimensional being, enunciating itself across time.
Conversations with Frank are always lovely, sprawling, rangy things. Early on in the course of one (perhaps even our first), he disclosed to us that several of the Shady home’s occupants prior to our renting it had been musicians in local bands. “Oh yeah? What bands?” I’d asked, hoping to learn more. That was my first hint, I suppose: Frank, rehearsing the names of those bands. “Golden Dawn,” he’d said. “Tetragrammaton.” The latter, I knew, referred to the sacred name of god in Hebrew. I knew, too, of the longstanding prohibition in some quarters on saying that name aloud. And with that, I suppose, I began to suspect, at least on an intuitive level, that there was something odd about the home’s history, some sympathy for occult or forbidden things retained between roof and ground.
But the oddness, I soon learned, was one that preceded Frank and his musician-friends. Well before any of them had arrived on the scene, the home’s occupant was someone known around town as the Gay Wizard. If the place has a whatever-you-wanna-call-it — an ectoplasmic charge; an occult presence of some sort — that dude is, at minimum, a key link in that charge’s chain of transmission, if not its source.
When I listen again to “Shady Lane,” ears like Adam’s on the morning of his creation, I hear Pavement songwriter Stephen Malkmus sounding not like himself, but like a persona worn by a faraway you. You, dear reader, eyes closed before a cascade of ivy. It’s you, there, singing of worlds colliding. You, of all people, whether with emery board or without, shouting “Freeze, don’t move” and “Glance, don’t stare,” looking at me and thinking me beautiful when I cry.
“Shady Lane — everybody needs one,” goes the chorus. And it’s true. For one can scarcely improve on such a place. And I had one: albeit, “once upon a time.” However timeworn the connotations of that beginning, however hackneyed it may sound, I shit you not.
“For a time I lived differently,” sings the Narrator,
“mind out of time
or in sidereal time
because measured by fixed stars
in a house on Shady Boulevard.”
Granted, it was a strange place, this house — one that left me with many questions. Who from the home’s past, for instance, mounted the cattle skull on the home’s exterior above the porch? Was that the handiwork of the Wizard or of one of his successors?
To arrive at an answer, let us report on ourselves in third-person.
The journey occurred, we report, during the period of the professor’s tenancy, in the home of the Gay Wizard. Recalling it now in retrospect, his spiel is, “It never occurred to me at the time that the place might have been haunted.”
“Yet this haunting,” he says, “if that’s what we’re to call it: I insist, here, that the spirits involved were benign.”
“A benevolent haunting! Fair enough,” nods the Narrator. “Tell us more.”
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:
“The mind attracts to one whatever the mind dwells upon,” reads a page I flip to in a college-ruled notebook pulled from the bins at Goodwill. The moon, waxing gibbous, pulled Sarah and I toward a Halloween party the other night. Appropriately heady, for sure, and with major magic. An altar-top arrayed with small bones. Conversations washed over me, though, to little effect. Appalachian Southern witches. Symbols of an arcane sort. It was the party of my coming out as a wizard. At one point, Sarah turned to me and read me my horoscope from her Witches’ Almanac. Apparently I’m on the verge of making a big decision which will “raise a lot of dust.” The horoscope also promised “nice aesthetics” this month. But as much as I enjoyed the care and attention to detail that went into the night’s revelries, Daphne’s death weighed solidly on my mind. It was hard to muster enough will to speak with others. Speaking of speaking: My students love to speak highly of their parents’ “hard work” launching pizza chains and amassing fortunes on Wall Street. Whenever I hear this shit, I think to myself: One could say the same about vampires. They, too, work hard sucking blood from their victims. But that doesn’t make them admirable. A hardworking vampire is still a vampire — and as such, deserves to get a stake shoved through its heart. And that’s how I feel about rich people. But I’m also no Van Helsing, so to ease my temper, I binge-watch the new season of Stranger Things. Eleven wanders alone in an Upside Down labyrinth. Thresholds between dimensions look like body tissue: uterine walls, placentas. The show relishes and savors the textures, tropes, and technologies of the 1980s. But it’s also fully absorbing in its sympathies and its use of outdated media to elicit a sense of the strange or the uncanny. New Age “psychic” or “telepathic” spaces — astral planes, other dimensions — these were very much a part of that era’s narrative universe. It’s a relief to watch a show that can once again broaden my sense of the potentials of genre. The latter, because sticky with the residue of an era’s affective investments, can reawaken phantom media antennae, exposing subjects to ghost sensations and histories half-submerged.