Frankie’s watercolor and colored marker drawings are my heart’s delight — fields of color into which I gaze. The stained glass of this new temple wherein I dwell. The Time Traveler, though, feels forlorn, shorn of home and family. Perila’s “Fallin Into Space” soundtracks his evening as he re-reads The Time Machine. “Please let the future be otherwise,” he prays, a prompt of sorts entered into the dialogue of days. Some movement forward through time akin to John Dwyer’s “Greener Pools.” “Marijuana tells you what you want to hear,” says a friend. “Ayahuasca tells you what you need to hear.” Another friend recommends ketamine.
Frankie completes a 14″ x 20” drawing in marker and crayon. I tape it up on a wall in the living room. Sitting with it brings me joy.
The Greek word phantázein means “to make visible” or “present to the mind.” Art is the outward manifestation of this process, this power of forming mental representations of things not present to the senses.
Light Amid Darkness
Frankie has been a consistent source of light amid this darkness. Upon waking from her nap yesterday, she asked to go to “Dada’s House,” with “house” sounding a bit like “horse.” Why have I been inattentive to her here in these trance-scripts? She likes Dada’s House. She requests that we go there, cries if we don’t. Cats; playgrounds. Beautiful tall houses ‘round a bend. What’s not to like? Perhaps tomorrow we can embark on a stroller ride ‘round town. Time to stop ruminating. “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” sing The Tams.
By nightfall, my sentiments align with a line from Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings”: “When the praises go up,” he sings, “the blessings come down.” Blessings make us feel, make us like as they land in our lap. Let us ready ourselves with praise.
Time to communicate lovingly, share the love out on the streets, hang with neighbors, chat with artists, bond through shared love of Buffalo Poetics and Black Mountain College. I feel like a lightning bug: if not a social butterfly, still a giver of gifts. 2022 will be a Lovers Year. Right now, though, I feel a bit crushed. Hurt. Heartbroken. Awaiting something beyond silence — some new adventure. For tonight I feel apart from the life I imagined. The narrative coordinates that have held are about to change, thinks the Time Traveler, scalp pricked and hands stigmata’d by impetigo. The hope is that love will prevail. And it does, it does, as soon as I listen to the record of the year: Moor Mother’s Black Encyclopedia of the Air.
Nights and Days
I am uncomfortable. Not yet fully moved, suspended in the liminal state of a pre-furnished dwelling, like flats I’ve rented over spans of weeks in London.
To compensate, I attend to small, daily acts of being. This is my new adventure.
Items to grab: rice-cooker, ladle, plants ASAP.
Sound system assembled, I make it work: I dwell by night.
Sitting cross-legged in the center of a room, I listen to Träd Gräs Och Stenar’s “Sanningens Silverflod—Djungelns Lag Version.” Outside, the sky darkens, day hastening toward night. Kool Keith and Ultramagnetic MCs give chase with “Ego Trippin’” as come evening I prepare my stew. Kate NV brightens the mood with “Kata,” and there we have it: the pride of another home-cooked meal. I plot others while listening to Kikagaku Moyo’s “Green Sugar.” Bakery and fish market each within walking distance. Do as Flo & Eddie sing: “Keep It Warm.”
“We’re all mad here,” says Cat to Alice. “I’m mad, you’re mad.” Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, under house arrest by karma police. “For a minute there, I lost myself,” sings the love-mad subject, swooning tear-stricken. And for that, we are punished. For each of us is that subject. Each of us punished, our demands unmet.
I stage an event of attention by watching How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary about artist Ray Johnson, featuring narration by Living Theater co-founder Judith Malina. Johnson arrived to Black Mountain for the college’s Summer Institute of 1945, and remained until autumn of 1948. After moving to New York, he began to produce mail art. Paper glued to cardboard. By these means, he accrued his fame.
I feel heartened by a recently arrived fortune of the fortune cookie sort: “You are imbued with extraordinary vitality.” And so I am, walking easy, energized like a bunny. Being out is such a relief. Time to dance, sharing air, getting close. It needn’t all be heartache and not-knowing.
West End’s rad: cool houses, some of them crunchy, many lit for the holidays. All things considered, I’m pleased with where I landed. The apartment rests along a hilltop, Hades and downtown short walks away. When I sample a bit of each, however, hoping by these acts to make the night generative, I want none of it.
I could replace curtains in this place, I could hang plants. I could attend to these and other tasks in the days ahead. Tonight I walk the streets of downtown. Tomorrow I paddleboard. Final papers arrive early next week.
Morning mist meets me, air lit by morning sun. Steam billows from a horse’s nostrils as I listen to Eddie Harris’s “Listen Here.” The moment passes, and then I’m there: a friend and I, out on a waterway in a nature-space of great beauty, maintained by a hydroelectric company downstream from a dam. We paddle around, water’s surface gleaming with wind-patterned lines of light. Baptized by the spray of a small waterfall, we ground our boards and hop among rocks.
Chopping carrots and green onions afterwards, I prepare a dinner.
Out on the street I marvel
gaze at houses lit
flowers reaching over fences and walls in greeting
amid the stonework of a neighbor’s garden.
I store my memory palace in a place in the sky.
Welcome to the Dungeon Crawl
What will I do here alone / in a place that is not my own?
I feel cast off, exited west into the wonderland of the West End.
My father, kind and understanding, talks me through the separation, helps me imagine brightness in the months ahead. With a room of one’s own, he says, other hopes become imaginable.
Ready now to be thankful, I walk about the home admiring it, knowing it to be a place of flowers, books, and beauty. S. and F. erected a Christmas tree one evening without me. This is their home now. It remains my home, too, in a sense. But I spend nights in an apartment — and we’ll place the house on the market come spring.
Emo thanksgiving: What more can I say? I whiled away the morning singing along to Cap’n Jazz while cooking dinner for one. And in the afternoon, I walked. See me there beside piles of leaves, humming the words to “Bluegrassish.” Singer Tim Kinsella ends the song pining for Virginia.
In due time, though, word circles back, arriving home again to the house on Shady. D. reflects upon the street name. “You know, when you said that,” he confides, “I remembered that L. lived there. Shady Blvd. She rented an apartment there during her first months in town, before she purchased her home.”
“Wow, how weird,” I reply, unable at first to contain my bewilderment. For L. is one of our colleagues. Could she, too, have been privy to the home’s mysteries? Sensing already in this discovery some hint of the unheimlich, I resolve then and there to investigate.
“I’ll have to ask her about it,” I tell him.
And ask I do.
L. and I meet that very evening, in fact, at a brewery. What I learn from her, however, dispels rather abruptly what I’d been led to believe by D.
“No, I never lived in that house. I never lived on Shady,” she replies when I press her about it. “But I suspect I know who does.”
Because of its stained glass, its gaudy chandeliers, its profusion of mirrors, there was always a liveliness, a vibrancy to the Shady home’s interiors. The home’s mirrors were the equivalent of portals. Black Lodge, the occult-themed bar in town, utilized similar décor—though of course, as the name suggests, with the color removed: the Shady home stripped of its shine, replaced with an abundance of black.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some of us are wondering: Who is the Narrator? Who tells the story, and to whom?
Is the tale told at a remove by a skeptic? By a future occupant who, moved into the home at a distant date, discovers a former occupant’s trance-scripts, the latter having been stored either in a box in the attic or in a time capsule in the yard?
Does the home make similar events occur as these terma or “treasure-texts” reenter history?
Is the story a cautionary tale? A warning? A case study?
Is the Narrator a time detective? Has he been sent from the future to investigate a Text written by one of the home’s former occupants: a wizard who went missing from known timelines after claiming to have devised a working means of time travel?
Is the Narrator a postmodern schizophrenic? Twenty-first Century Schizoid Man? Is part of him a time traveler wanting to go back to live his past differently? What would he change?
The act of retrospection must be dramatized. Let us assume first, then, that the House on Shady Boulevard is a time loop. People who live in the home oscillate to its frequencies. They relive its ecstasies and traumas — though always with a difference. The tale, then, is one told by someone who, years after his time living in the home on Shady, attempts, through writing, to avoid the past’s recurrence.
The Wizard’s Tastes, as Expressed Through Interior Design
In design terms, the Wizard’s tastes skewed toward the epic, the ornate — total art! cosmic syncretism! He hung large antique mirrors on walls in three of the home’s rooms; he filled most of the home’s windows with stained glass, including a large window at the front of the house featuring an image of the Eye of Providence — the latter retrieved, I’m told, from either a former church or a former Masonic Temple. From the ceilings of those of the home’s rooms adorned with foxed mirrors, he added dazzling, many-armed, many-bulbed chandeliers — beautiful, gaudy, dusty old things! The home’s several built-in bookcases may have been of his making as well — as were one room’s shelves sized for storage of records. The most characteristic of his contributions, though, was the imp crouched atop the home’s door bell, or the pair of werewolves carved into the corners of a mantle atop one room’s fireplace.
When Sarah and I first moved in, we hired a team of local movers to help us unload. One of the movers took one look at the werewolves, and one look at the Eye of Providence, and said, “Y’all ought to have a preacher come and bless this place.”