Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sunday, March 05, 2017

full service crossing guard

cafeteria upstairs
we can be a friend to U try us
spill your guts--we listen
don't like a kid--tell us about it
are you being bullied? we beat up bullies
we have shelter from the storm
qualified backpack+carryall technicians
we have training on boogie boards
advice on the summer coming up
we listen to all problems and concerns
free financial advice on allowances
first aid for cuts and bruises
we have kleenex for running noses
we fix bikes+chains
bowling alley+pool downstairs
if you have master card

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

mineral spirits

The first job I ever had, where I kept track of hours and wasn’t paid in cash, was doing construction cleanup in Park City. I was 14 and pretty lucky that my friend Phil had both a license and a truck to drive us to work that summer. But about a week into the job and our commute—40 minutes each way—the tape we were listening to got irretrievably stuck in the cassette deck and that was that. Up the canyon and down: A-side, B-side, A-side, B-side, A-side, and so on, all summer long. Fortunately for both of us, it was The Offspring’s album Smash; things could have been a lot worse. For me, every song on Smash is now deeply drenched in all kinds of summer memory that even bleeds into a lot of other 90s punk too. A strange teenage pastoral-punk-work-commute nostalgia.

Smells too. A certain combination of sawdust, sagebrush, pine, and probably ragweed, wet with rain, evokes a lot of the same from a different corner of the memory. We all have these and could point to plenty more. Birdsong. Moonlight. Rainfall. Woodsmoke. That stretch of drive where you once had to pee so bad. The gas and grass smell of mowing the lawn, with Jimi Hendrix or Swim Herschel Swim scrolling reel-to-reel in the Walkman. The proprioception (body/muscle sense/memory) of the push or tug of the mower. Those mile markers, Voodoo Child, spilt gasoline, all bring it flooding back. And while remembered smells can be very hard to conjure in the imagination, actual smells on the other hand can trigger memories viscerally like no other sense. In The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in the More-than-Human World, David Abram explains:

“The experiencing body is not a self-enclosed object, but an open, incomplete entity. This openness is evident in the arrangement of the senses: I have these multiple ways of encountering and exploring the world—listening with my ears, touching with my skin, seeing with my eyes, tasting with my tongue, smelling with my nose—and all of these various powers or pathways continually open outward from the perceiving body, like different pathways diverging from a forest. Yet my experience of the world is not fragmented; I do not commonly experience the visible appearance of the world in any way separable from its audible aspect, or from the myriad textures that open themselves to my touch. Thus my divergent senses meet up with each other in the surrounding world, converging and commingling in the things I perceive. We may think of the sensing body as a kind of open circuit that completes itself only in things, and in the world. It is primarily through my engagement with what is not me that I effect the integration of my senses, and thereby experience my own unity and coherence.”

I find this profoundly wonderful, sobering, and at the same time remarkably simple. It explains so much about how we work, play, eat, get sick or depressed, go insane, fall in love, learn, forget, and remember. The ways we open or clutter the doors and windows of our perception. But, of course, what I’m talking about here already entails a sort of breaking of this circuit. That is, through a kind of cyborg circuitry of electric wiring, speakers (magnets and diaphragms), and so on. Ex: My ipod is a lovely first generation nano (c. 2005?). Scratched and gouged, encrusted in gorilla glue and smeared with piñon pitch, it has taken on that kind of Star Wars quality of sleek imperial tech, weathered and beaten on a dirty frontier. What follows here is a kind of cyborg accounting (and confession) of some of these tangles in my circuitry over the last year or so.

Building and installing countertops from old 60s bowling lanes: Bombino, Cüneyt Sepetçi, The Reverend Horton Heat, and recorded lectures from Borges and Chomsky.

Breaking and cutting up the old concrete ones.

Work on the tree house last summer: catching up on Scott Carrier’s Home of the Brave podcast.

Taking down an old wooden swing set to cannibalize for scrap: his interviews with Doug Peacock and Jim Harrison.

Varnishing the thing for weather, cleaning the brushes, and the lingering smell of mineral spirits: Prisoner of ZionThe End of the World.

Shoveling wheelbarrows full of horse manure into the garden: Radiolab’s Tree to Shining Tree, and chapters from a recording of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

Shoveling snow: RadioAmbulante.

But last fall, installing a kitchen skylight with Glen (by which I mean mostly handing him up tools), we left the earbuds in the drawer and worked, and talked, or didn’t, until we had the thing done. It was the first October in a while I didn’t get around to carving any pumpkins, but with Glen’s help, we did get to cut a gaping 4’x4’ hole into a perfectly good roof. Very satisfying.

Also, one of my newer obsessions, and today’s soundtrack to writing this post:

Garage-psychedelic Andean cumbias from Mexico City! Enjoy.