I’ve been purchasing books, expanding the library with pickings from used bookstores. I step away midday and peruse the shelves at Small World Books in Rochester. 30% off everything in the store, so I come away with quite a stack. Christian Bök’s ‘Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, Henri Michaux’s Miserable Miracle, Ishmael Reed’s Chattanooga, William S. Burroughs’s The Western Lands. Robin Wall Kimmerer reads to me “A Mother’s Work” from her book Braiding Sweetgrass as I drive. Ponds and lakes can be made swimmable again in our lifetimes if we attend to them. Let circles of care widen to take in all.
Little Red Caboose navigates among subways, choo-choos into Brooklyn. Stares out at gasoline alleys. The experience of the railroad platform is indistinguishable from the sights and sounds of the roads that run parallel. Barber Shop. Live Music. Juicy Cajun Seafood. Once aboard my train, I sit beside a window clouded over with sap and soot. An automated voice announces stops as I begin P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. “This station is / Rockville Centre.” “This station is / Jamaica.” I stop in at Catland Books to purchase supplies, but it’s a small shop with limited stock, and the alignment of the place troubles me. Fat Tony sets the tone as I walk an hour and a half west to buy books at Unnameable, body drenched in sweat. Highlight of the day, though, is a leisurely, meandering, late-afternoon bike ride around Carroll Gardens and Red Hook with my brother. We pause before the waterfront, relaxing in the day’s fading light, Ellis Island visible in the distance.
Harried with work, days and days of grading midterms, I stumble free mid-afternoon into observation and contemplative reading of the Afros of the White Panther Party, dining on a side of green lettuce. How compartmentalized the days become under capitalist wage-slavery, I think with a sigh. Oscillations, electronic evocations of reality. Abbie Hoffman and John Sinclair in the midst of the last civil war represented themselves on the stage of history as revolutionary superheroes. But department stores are weird trips, man. Compartmentalized to the nth degree. Objects hung from racks in one thinly-populated zone, dense diverse clusters of people and sound elsewhere. How might we reconnect? I pick up a faceted wood vase and tap at it, questioningly. A voice in a nearby aisle proclaims, “it feels so real!” Materials when touched, not what they seem. And these motherfuckers no longer carry my Heinz Jalapeño Ketchup. Reality becomes ever more standardized, with me too jittery and anxious to connect, strike up conversation with others. As in the song, I become “lost in the supermarket.” It’s at least in part a fear of race and sexuality. But mainly it’s a fear that to others I might seem a weirdo, a creep, a stoner. I wish we could somehow become heads together. How do we re-establish communication across the plastic dome?
Sarah passes on to me along our walk gleanings from her readings on occult philosophy in Elizabethan England. We pass a bluebird, a cardinal, roses, peonies, neighborhood flora and fauna offering to the senses an abundance of sights and scents and sounds as sunlight yellows the greens of a world ripening its way toward summer. Afterwards I purchase a new shirt for myself in preparation for an upcoming trip to Los Angeles—and for once, I allow myself to disengage a bit from the grudge I usually hold (and thus the tensions I usually bear in my back, chest, and shoulders) in reaction to the wage relation, so as to enjoy for a few moments both the cerebral and the sensorial pleasures, the simple bodily procedures and the imaginative comparison and assessment of potential fashionings of self, involved in the act of shopping. Nonjudgmental receptivity of this sort is essential now and then if one’s hope is to grow, I tell myself. In his essay “Eupsychia—The Good Society,” Abraham Maslow suggests as a guide for this mode of being a book by British psychoanalyst Marion Milner called A Life of One’s Own. Milner’s book is the product of a seven-year experiment in introspective journaling — a technique that resonates, of course, with the one informing these trance-scripts.