the dada magazine about nothing
N A D A
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The park is quiet at this time. Quaint. 11:42. Before noon. Babys in strollers, kids on swings, the old and decrepit standing in circles monitoring their surroundings. Perhaps they are reflecting on the errors of their lives. The errors of youth. The park is quiet at this time 11:43. Before noon. Not early at all I might add but the hippies don't come out until after 3 and I have already had my coffee and my grapefruit. No they will not be here until sometime after 3 to drink whiskey and smoke weed, stroke banjos in groups of Carhartts and dogs, cracking whips for show, shirtless and glistening, enjoying the well earned sun for even they work harder than I.
(There are two types of people in this world: those who quest for cunt and those who hide from it those who hang in bars and those who live vicariously through books. A caffeine propelled nervous system. A sobriety induced nervous break down.) The back breaking back broken manual labor men converse on benches. I wonder what they speak of. I will never know. My mind wanders from them to the grass and then to the blood stained sheets that veil the day, innocence streaked a pinkish shade of brown. I watch couples walk hand in hand over cigarette laden fields and the pot marked drunks who are just waking up crawling out of corners and gutters beds made of cold and concrete who do their little trashcan dance a prayer for the flat fetid liquid at the bottom of an aluminum can. Dirty mouths that drain and swallow. The day has just begun...
I walk past the grass stained hopeless who hang to benches like leeches to skin who now no longer ask for your cigarettes just gesture widely with their arms outstretched because the world owes them something. It probably does. Though I know that I alone am not the world. I walk on. I make my way to my house and back into my room. A modest room. Dead poets among the dead soldiers scattered across the floor. Whitman’s corpse laying atop of Mr.Cummings. Bolaño lies peacefully in my bed. Is he dead or is he sleeping? (We all know he never slept). An empty bottle of brandy towers monstrously over the melancholy tomb that houses Poe. Am I dead or am I dreaming? Time’s hand now hovers threateningly over 2 pm. The day is still young but I feel like crawling back into bed and masturbating the filth from my veins.
I spent the last of my money on a return trip to Berkley deciding (as the sun, glowing fierce blue, danced over the bay among the cranes of the port, its trash tracing a canvas among the edge) that going anywhere else was better than sleeping in a rusted tube next to a juicehead philosopher named Easy. Later Escaped Nazis crowding the big screen, who contorted their bodies to the form of chipmunks and spider monkeys, shrieking while doing crude renditions of the rain dance. Ever aloof Shia Labeouf, baring his dumbstruck rabid rat smile, smoked cigarettes in the corner making eyes at Argentine Aryans, playing with his switch blade. It wasn’t much better than a prison, still, the universe doesn’t give and take at will as if it were dealing death and chloroform to the flowers, we can’t subvert our dreams with the fun driven chaos of exiles. Denial wasn’t blended or born into our cells. Rather, I smile while whispering (like a prayer): I don’t know if I’ll live to see the end of these guerilla decades. Before closing my eyes I thought about rendering time, waking in the morning I was homeless but, weirdly, not jobless (!?) (laughing in the empty blue streets of Oakland as the city stretched arm’s wide open, gasping for air). I knew almost no one in the bay and, of course, I had just arrived living under steel tubes and tombs that stretched into the scablands which lay like a carpet before the Sierra Nevadas, covered in burns, the backs of churches and a few shelters (when I could muster paying $5 in exchange for a shower and being treated like shit). But it wasn’t bad, and I don’t want to give that impression. It was sunny and I floated place to place like an idiot prince or a deranged drifter (who’s to say?). I tended to meet people who smiled like ghosts. Those that hollowed out spots inside of mirrors possessed by death banging against their skin. A whole play unfolded before me hidden in the blind marble of statues marking the past. The future.
I was surprised, to say the least, when the heroin didn’t burn my nostrils. Coming up the flesh tube with a sensation akin to snorting odorless cheese, damp and clumpy. I fell into the Italian leather of an Audi and watched (I imagined I was dreaming) the cranes rise and fall, upending themselves and clawing the air like dinosaurs adjusting to an aftershock. Azim’s croak tempered by heaves directed my attention (I thought he was being choked!), water rushing down the wrong hole in his throat. Still, he looked nervous sitting next to Shane who was playing with a switchblade (wheel in the right hand, knife in the left) holding forth on the religion of Jainism and his divine importance to its survival, which was apparently on a precipice (he described something about swimming in nirvana, calling it ‘the quicksand’). Laughing, I failed to see him put away the knife and begin to play with the yellow ribbon with plastic beads tied hastily to his wrist. Only snapping back when I heard Shane bellowing, “See this? Around my wrist? Protects me G! Real OG nigga!” “What’s it significance?” Azim asked, “Nothing Dawg, I made it when I was eight at a summer camp”, laughed Shane (who now insisted that we call him Kudo, which he told us was Japanese for demon). After rather politely asking Azim to hold the wheel, Kudo (Shane) began thumping his chest chanting, “I’m a real Blood nigga” (over and over again). When he began flashing the gang sign to passersby, Azim (who had grown up in West Oakland) intervened pushing Shane’s (Kudo’s) arms down. Meanwhile, the night-blue blood-red lights of the California State patrol glistened in the sun, riding on our tail. Perhaps owing to politeness or even, possibly, in some cold stark cave among the frayed nerves and wires of Shane’s brain, sanity held out against impossible odds. He was quick to inform us that ‘Yes! In fact, the car was dirty’ and ‘Yes! Kudo (Shane) had a pending litigation proceeding over heroin possession in LA County’. It remains up in the air as to whether I would have rather gone to jail than see Shane (and he was definitely Shane at this point) cry in front of the befuddled officer. “The Universe is mine G! I’m a real OG nigger, them Crip Bloods”. Kudo, ever exuberant, with the bay bridge breathing like a monolith behind us. I began to wonder what the fuck I was doing here (closing my eyes I dreamed of crooked white teeth, a skyline drenched in gold; the dark waters of the California Baja).
The streets are abuzz with nothing in particular. The droning, indiscernible background noise which can unwittingly drive a man mad. So be it. A few horns and a distant car alarm rise above the subdued commotion. My thin jacket barely withstands the reverberation and gusts of wind. Pleasantly, autumn crunches at my feet like a cold sweat. If these streets led anywhere worth going they wouldn't be here. But I would. This is my outpost at the cold edge of bureaucracy. The pavement would slip out from under me. But I'd still be here, like Santa Claus. This is my North Pole. My mind's feet wander to the parking lot where Lorraine and I had our first date. She'd followed me out of the bar, persistently trying to bum a smoke. I'd already told her like 15 fuckin' times that I don't smoke. There were a handful of patrons standing next to the door as we exited. One overheard the pleadings and offered her the cigarette. She turned to the guy and politely told him she didn't smoke, but thanks. That made me chuckle, like really fucking chuckle. It occurred to me then that she had just wanted me to deny her, to give her something to brood about. The walk from the bar to my car was all 1960's New Delhi. Dilapidated lepers with festering sores limping through alleys to bum change from tourists. These same people, receiving a negative reply, would proceed to follow the tourists for miles. It's a little known fact that New Delhi lepers beg strictly for entertainment value. In all actuality lepers have no use for money. They occupy an underground kingdom filled with virgins, gold, candy, hand guns and cute tasty animals. Our date began as we reach the far end of the parking lot. I stop walking and turn around to face her. Lorraine doesn't look at me, she just stands there waiting. 'Lay down and take your pants off.' My voice sounds calm and authoritative. She gives me a questioning look, then obeys.
Opening the trunk, I examine the chain saw my cousin Merl had given me for my birthday. I'm pleased now that I never got around to pawning it. A grin of miraculous vitality appears across her face when she sees the tool. After oiling and tightening the chain I set it down next to her face and attend to other preparations. Nitrile gloves, Combat Action Tourniquet, gauze, sterile water, alcohol, blanket, sewing needle, scissors and medical thread. 'I wish I could offer you a drink first but it wouldn't be safe.' 'That's alright, I don't drink anyway.' She looks me in the eye for the first time, the grin has yet to leave her face. I sense eager trepidation, but no fear. Placing three fingers above her knee I visualize a perfect arc. The cut must be a clean incision, otherwise severing the femoral artery would invariably prove fatal. Roughly, I shove a reel of gauze into her mouth and tape over it. Her eyes never leave mine. She sheds less tears than men I've treated overseas. When it's all over she's covered in sweat. I sense that she wants the gag removed but that's impractical for various reasons. My gloved hands are covered in blood, as is the rest of my attire. The wound bleeds profusely and time is of the utmost importance. With the CAT I am able to stop the bleeding in 48 seconds. God created the U.S. Army so people like me could train for a higher purpose. The new leg suits her better. Somehow the stump looks more natural on her otherwise mundane body. After applying sufficient alcohol to the wound I dress it in gauze and lift her into the back seat. Wrapping her up tightly in a few blankets, I finally remove the gag.
She looks at me with the glazed innocence of an apple fritter. 'Could I have some tea?' The gnarled buck teeth protruding from her mouth seem to quiver slightly.
What is more terrifying than an afternoon spent watching old home movies? The decades which pass by in a few grainy minutes, your family aging before your eyes. The parties and gatherings which place before you how uncared for, how boring, how disappeared each person is in the present. The uncomfortable interaction between the cinematic layman and the public. The long meaningless glances and unfavorable lighting. The lack of makeup, scenery and direction. Each video a ten minute snippet of time locked into magnetized film (or those evil pits of the DVDâ€™s face). Those videos in which we are absent and, watching many years later, witness the candid opinions of those around us. This phenomena is so new! Home video, what? Fifty years old at this point. To think that there were literally thousands of human generations which lived their lives in only one direction, which were ignorant of these frozen moments, these embarrassing glances into our unrehearsed past. Perhaps worst of all are those we have loved and who have since died. Bittersweet? Just Bitter I think. After death we hold them in such high light. We must after all. We idolize and remember them only as fond or gracious or respected. Then here we watch the videos, maybe five or ten years after they are gone. And we remember. Their mundanity, the same awkwardness as all the others. The mystery of the dead evaporates in a few inches of black iron shavings adherent to a revolving plastic sheet. Then the ends; Mid-sentence or with that fade to white (spiritual almost) like the last vision of a suffocating victim. They always ends so soon, leaving us feeling bereft and bereft time and again.
Seeing a video of my father, ten years ago, agile and laughing. Joking with the others. Now he moves in ratchets, his moods unstable. It happened so slow that it seems like he had always been this way, yet playing this particular video brings the disease into high relief, makes it seem, for the first time, to be something great and imminent and powerful. The held past has given his disease power. Skin degraded. Voices made haggard. Lean bodies fattened. Fat bodies rotted. For all the recorded birthday parties in which you know the tinsel and cakes are now sitting at the middle of a festering landfill, the cake long since digested and integrated into the bodies then sloughed off as dead skin. Faces and bodies popping into frame for a second, the embarrassed pleas for attention, others escaping in horror knowing full well that they well be kept indefinitely in their unflattering form. Everything takes on a forced, uncomfortable, awkward odor. Seeing the friends we havenâ€™t talked to or heard from in years. The friendships which have simply fallen way, the family members who have lost favor and pets who have died. The home movie may be the most awful invention of our species. We are, yes, always a little aware of our mortality. It is this though, the unrestrained use of the objective memory, the thoughtless clasping of offhand moments, which takes the steady decline of life and hands it to us in its most pungent and acrid forms. Its most forceful, convincing and relentless form.
When I was a kid, I knew a girl named Elizabeth. She was a year below me in school, but I still remember having numerous interactions with her. She was weird. Her brown hair was long and always tangled, and she always wore dirty dresses that were a little too long and a little outdated. She lived in the part of Rancho Santa Fe, the suburb of San Diego where I grew up, that was always sort of spooky to me. It was overgrown with spindly eucalyptus and other mostly-beige colored foliage common in a chaparral region. The roads were so windy, most of them appeared to disappear every hundred feet or so, giving a kid in a minivan the feeling that she was on a jungle safari, not a ride to her play date. All the massive, ranchstyle houses were tucked away, really deep into the bushes and trees, behind single-home gates with codes and long dirt driveways. There were lots of horses. I guess that’s why it was called “Rancho” Santa Fe. Elizabeth wouldn’t have been that weird if she had been nice. She was pretty rough around the edges in appearance but she didn’t have anything incredibly alienating about her. She had a retarded sister but if anything that was one of her redeeming qualities. Even as a little kid I felt some kind of not-quite-developed compassion for Elizabeth and her sister. Her sister’s name was Jessica. She was older but her growth was stunted so she was much shorter than Elizabeth. She looked different but she didn’t have Down Syndrome. It was something else. Her face looked old, much older than thirteen or fourteen. Her pale features were small and pinched. Her light colored hair was thin, unlike Elizabeth’s thick brown tangles. She couldn’t speak, she mostly made gurgling grunt sounds, and she didn’t have very good motor skills either. She kind of waddled, like a baby. She made me uncomfortable, but I also felt something for her. She didn’t make me sad, but I realized her situation was unfortunate, being so different. Still, I avoided eye contact so as not to engage her. She was very eager to interact with people but her words were indecipherable and her games didn’t make sense to me.
I felt bad for Elizabeth, for having a sister like Jessica, but compared to Elizabeth, Jessica was a pleasure to be around. Elizabeth was always angry, and loud. She had a big mouth that was in a kind of permasnarl. I remember going to an audition for a children’s community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof, and hearing Elizabeth’s audition song from the lobby of the church, her voice clearly audible even behind closed doors and over the piano. It was loud, almost aggressive. She was also extremely bossy, which might’ve been on account of being the youngest by many years to a teenage brother and retarded sister. I can’t remember if she had any friends. As children, we were all forced to be together simply because of our standing in society. Popularity was truly based on how likable you were, and so regardless of how active your social life might’ve been (which was largely based on parental involvement anyway) you could be grossly unpopular amongst your peers. For this reason, I never knew where I stood. As a loner, I was successful in not giving the other kids a reason to dislike me, but I also didn’t give them much of a reason to think about me at all. Sometimes, on a Friday night like tonight, when I am at home writing a rambling autobiographical essay, I think about my childhood social tendencies, and wonder if there was something I could’ve done to learn better how to interact with other people.
In 1997, the Hale-Bopp comet passed by Earth, and became known as the Great Comet. It was easily visible to the naked eye, and as spring approached, people all over the world could look up at the sky and see the Great Comet’s yellow glow and blue dust tail. On April 1st, when Hale-Bopp passed perihelion, I was nine years old. I only have one memory of watching the comet, though I was alive and fully conscious for the entire time it passed by planet Earth. I remember looking through a family friend’s telescope, as directed by my dad, to view the spectacular sight. I remember not being very impressed. It was the size of a bug in the sky, and even though it glowed brighter than the surrounding stars and its tail signified its epic celestial trip, it looked static to me. I suppose my impression is still significant, considering I’ll be almost 2500 years dead the next time it comes around. I can’t remember if my comet viewing came before or after the 39 bodies were found in that mansion tucked away in our bizarre sprawl of a suburb. The Heaven’s Gate cult had apparently discovered that spooky jungle of Rancho Santa Fe and deemed it a great place to prepare for the hitchhiking adventure of eternity, through the Universe with their extraterrestrial brethren.
As a nine year old, I didn’t find it very weird that thirty-nine adults would all take their lives by drinking a cyanide-pineapple juice cocktail. Adults did strange things all the time, like die or sleep in bunk beds in a big mansion together. Their Nikes, however, were weird to me. What did they think they were preparing for when they chose that uniform? What had they known that I would never know now that they took their knowledge to the great unknown? My mom told me in her serious hushed voice that the mass suicide occurred in the mansion next door to Elizabeth’s house. I wondered if she had seen anything, like bodies being taken out of the house on gurneys, one by one, their features covered by a white sheet, with only their pristine Nikes poking out. Maybe her parents had tried to conceal what was going on to their children so as not to upset them, but while Jessica was happily oblivious, Elizabeth was looking out the window at the grim scene, bodies being taken away one after the other by robotic paramedics. Maybe she saw the news anchors and wanted to go outside to hear what they were saying. She probably would have wanted them to point the camera on her so she could sing her Fiddler on the Roof audition song in that loud, determined voice of hers. I never spoke to her about the events and how she experienced them. I didn’t go out of my way to speak with her ever, in fact, I generally avoided her and her sister. But I’ll always link Elizabeth, that terrible audition song, and her small retarded sister with that glowing static fly in the sky and those 39 corpses dressed for the long journey ahead of them.
I wonder if the Heaven’s Gate cult thought about what it would be like to return to Earth 2530 years later when their ride made its routine pass by Earth. Maybe it wasn’t part of the plan to ride on Hale-Bopp for all eternity or maybe they just assumed the Earth would’ve been “recycled” by that point and all that was left in its place would be a cold dead rock. Of all the billions of people alive in 1997 those 39 were the only ones smart enough to take the ride when they had a chance.
Captain Percival Atkinson’s breath slowly and surreptitiously evacuated his lungs, as if he were still hiding in the ventilation duct. He took a final look at his makeshift barricade. Thank god for replicator technology. He had been able to replicate enough small blocks of steel to have something to weld the door to his quarters sufficiently. “Replicator: Glenmorangie, neat,” he mustered and then, taking his Glencairn glass in hand, dragged his exhausted body to the porthole. He peered out to see nothing, not a single star or nebula, but mere void. Paradoxically he was, in fact, looking at something. A very large, massive something but all he could perceive was blackness. He winced as a deafening blow sounded against the door. The crew had evidently assembled some sort of battering ram and now here they were. There would be no negotiating; there was nothing anyone could do to salvage the situation. They had come for his head. That was all. “How long before the door gives?” he asked himself, and then, “Which is worse, the dying or the waiting to die?” He failed to suppress a shudder as the battering ram sounded once more. The waiting obviously. How to end the waiting though. By dying obviously. How to die, that was the question, since it’s the waiting that’s the problem. Smashing the porthole into the void beyond would be one way. That would deplete the oxygen in the room fast enough. Death, or at least unconsciousness, shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. There was the problem of the pain though. Atmospheric pressure suddenly dropping from 100 to zero KiloPascals would cause quite an earache among other things. Not that he could break the triple paned glass even if he wanted to. “Replicator: hemlock, hot.” What if hemlock actually hurt? The whole point of this is to die less painfully than at the hands of the mob. Yes! That’s it! A lethal dose of morphine! “Replicator: morphine, 200 milligrams.”
“But now that I think about it, perhaps I can do even better. Why not death by orgasm? Surely there must be a chemical to replicate which causes…” Another blow struck and the door now caved in slightly. “Dammit, not much time left.” The captain gazed again out the porthole. There was a time when he would gaze out the porthole into infinity and see just that: the absolute absence of boundary or limit. Now he looked out the same porthole but limitlessness had collapsed into nothingness. Worse than nothingness, for nothingness merely equals zero. The last ten years resulting in nothing isn’t zero, it’s negative ten. And that’s only counting the years. And what of failing to find something immeasurable, a purpose for one’s existence? The loss of the immeasurable would have to be immeasurably negative. Negative infinity. If only there were a mere 360 degrees of possible movement like in Euclidean geometry. Life on earth was so puerile. In space there’s 360 degrees left and right and 360 more up and down. 360 times 360, that makes, let’s see, 129,600 possible vectors. Percival shuddered again and the door to his quarters was now bulging significantly. “No time to philosophise, Percival, you have to die and you have to do it quick.” He took a pen in his left hand and a sheet of paper in his right. “Andromeda Galactic Resource Exploration: The Universe Shows the Way,” appeared at the top of the letterhead. Another blow to the door and now a soldered steel block detached itself. No time for a suicide note. “Replicator: hypodermic.” The door now tore partially open and screams of bloodlust from outside bled through the maw and enveloped the room in a deafening din. It was at this moment that the ship’s auto-anti-mutiny system engaged, and a pre-programed muscle relaxant was released into the air supply. As Percival collapsed to the floor and wet himself along with the rest of the crew his synapses fired, “Replicator: Zyklon B, 100 cubic metres,” but his lips and tongue would no longer obey.
The ship had been in the black hole’s orbit three weeks now. As the vessel accelerated towards singularity, time had been gradually accelerating towards infinity. In the time which elapsed between the urine soaking through Percival’s uniform and the complete breaking up of the ship, every member of his family on earth lived out their lives and died, as did their progeny for the next ten generations. The Confederation of Planets fought and successfully won the War of Alpha Centauri Secession, then lost the War of the Venusian Usurpation. Percival’s sweat was still stinging in his eyes when the sun reached the point in its nova phase where it would swell sufficiently to engulf the earth.
yaw eht swohs esrevinU ehT
ÂŠ 2013 draoB lairotidE adaN devreseR sthgiR llA