What say the slain?
One day, months ago, during a brief respite from political ranting during a drive into town with Gamma, we listened to a radio program about a
sensory deprivation / isolation / floating tank business in Vienna.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” I said.
Gamma filed that information away neatly and guess what my daughters gave me for Father’s Day?
This is how I found myself sitting on a shady bench in a Vienna cemetery yesterday evening. I was early for my appointment at the Sargfabrik, an apartment complex in Vienna with a theater instead of a parking garage, and down in the cellar a room with a floatation tank.
Floatation (or floating? not sure) tank is what used to be called an isolation tank, and before that sensory deprivation tank.
I prefer sensory deprivation tank, but understand one must market the things.
Like I was saying, I was early as always and took a walk around the neighborhood and disliked the park (too sunny, for one thing, and generally unlikeable, at least yesterday evening, for me, at that spot) so I continued onward and found the cemetery next door and went in and found a shady bench and watched the gravediggers work, and read the dates on the headstones, as one does.
Then I thought, Ah! Cemetery – Sargfabrik, I get it!
I guess the Sargfabrik used to be an actual coffin factory until it was converted into housing.
Then I texted the floating tank guy that I was already in the neighborhood, in case I could get in early, and I did and there I sat, no longer in the cemetery, in the cellar, in a dimly lit, cool room, being orientated.
Epilepsy? he said. Claustrophobia?
Nah, I said.
Goals? Hopes? he said.
Curiosity, I said. Father’s Day.
He looked a little disappointed, (but I might have been making that up, there in the dim light) so I added, maybe get an insight into this deep sadness I lug around all the time that is kinda the mortar holding my world together? Or into this yapping I have been doing with my wife?
Okay, he said. I dunno, he didn’t look real relieved so maybe it really was the dim light after all.
He said he’d knock on the outside of the tank when my time was up, and left.
I took a shower and got into the tank and shut the lid.
I spent a long time getting comfortable which is weird because what could be more comfortable than floating naked in a shallow tub of super dense saltwater in the dark?
But such is life.
I floated there in the dark listening to something hum. Something was fucking humming! What kind of sensory deprivation is this? Maybe it was the ventilation.
More of a buzz than a hum. And not loud, but still.
It wasn’t me.
Then either I got used to it or it stopped.
I listened to my breathing for a while, and to my heartbeat.
After a long, tiring day, I was surprised I did not fall asleep, or even get sleepy. After lunch I had been nodding off at my desk.
I sort of meditated for a while. I hummed a little. My mind was pretty blank a lot of the time.
At some point I woke up, or regained consciousness, or something. So I was out for a while, in one way or another.
Toward the end, trying out different ways of holding my head and comparing relative comfort, I got salt water in both eyes and was really glad the orientator had showed me where the kleenexes were in case that happened. I opened the hatch and wiped out my eyes and closed the lid again and eventually the stinging stopped.
One’s ears are submerged in the tank, so sounds are muffled.
I lay there listening to my heartbeat.
Thump-thump-thump! Then after three thumps it stopped again. Weird, I thought. I tried various positions to hear my heartbeat clearly again like that. Then I did, I heard it again. Thump-thump-thump.
After doing this a few more times I realized it was the guy knocking on the outside of the tank that my time was up.
He went away again and I lay there for a minute, thinking, Well that was an anticlimax.
No jumping out of the tank and running around like a caveman like William Hurt in Altered States. No hallucinations, no epiphanies.
It didn’t even seem all that different from my normal, daily life, I thought.
Then I thought, my normal, daily life is like an isolation tank.
Then I thought, there’s an epiphany for you after all.
Category Archives: Familie
What say the slain?
I got a good night’s sleep last night and as a result feel human today. Although Monday, today is a holiday. My wife is away on business (she texted me this morning that she was still alive, a few minutes after a 5.4 earthquake in Tokyo), the kids are resting and/or studying, the cats are sleeping. So, after vacuuming the downstairs and mopping a few floors I saw no reason not to set up my photographic gear and make a couple alutypes in the backyard.
Initially I wanted to take a picture of the rosebush in the flower bed in front of the house, but it was too windy – the roses would have blurred too much with a 2 or 3 second exposure.
So I picked some roses, put them in a vase and took pictures of them on a table against the wall of the neighbor’s shed, which is white-ish stucco.
I tried a couple different collodions. The first picture uses a newer collodion, which is quite a bit faster than that used for the second picture, it being both a different formula and about a year old – normally, I believe, one uses collodion up after a few months because it gets slower over time and also maybe unstable, but I’m not sure.
I’m just trying different things out. It went well today, I was happy with the first picture, which was only a test really. Less happy with the second, which came out a little dark. They will both get darker again when I varnish them tonight.
Barbecued for lunch today. Tried chicken breasts stuffed with feta and garlic, was good although maybe too much garlic.
After lunch it rained for a while, then when it stopped I set up all my wet plate stuff and shot a few plates. Learning from past mistakes, I went slower this time and got a couple plates that I think are okay, of a bush and a bouquet. Was too windy to shoot much, the bush is blurry as you can see. Too windy for portraits, which was good because the family currently is unwilling to pose for portraits. Not even the tortoise holds still long enough.
I’m eventually going to need a new camera, brass parts are starting to fall off the one I have. Nothing essential yet, but it’s only a matter of time…
Today was my daughter’s 18th birthday and I wanted to take a few plates to commemorate it. I didn’t have much time, so I had to hurry.
That was my first mistake. Hurrying summons the fuckup elves. Never hurry, I know that, but I forget sometimes. Let’s see, what were my other mistakes this time around? First picture of the kid, the plate turned out black and she asked me if I had remembered to pull out the slide (a mistake I made with her in the past). I had not. Second picture turned out better. Third also. Fourth, with her sister and mother, turned out poorly due to hurrying with the posing etc.
I will not post that one.
Finally, putting stuff away, I hurried again and dropped two plates, one of which scratched – my favorite one.
Also, although I made a test plate, and exposures were better this time, I still either over-exposed or over-developed. I mixed new developer last night and it might have been that.
Someday I look forward to having the whole day to shoot in leisure. Maybe someday soon. Anyway here are the two pictures of Tess on her 18th birthday. I had fun. Thanks for being patient and a great assistant, Tess, not to mention great model.
f5.6, 3 seconds, overcast day. maybe overdeveloped? also dropped to the floor, scratched.
f5.6, about 4 seconds, overcast day. overdeveloped? overexposed? also dropped to the floor, but a little luckier.
Knock alarm clock onto floor [x]
Hit ‘on’ button on coffee machine [x]
Realize your wife had already turned it on, so you just turned it back off, so turn it back on [x]
Make coffee [x]
Mop kitchen floor and bathroom floor [x]
Get reprimanded by wife for doing a half-assed job [x]
Check outside temperature, put tortoise out, saying, “You are a very naughty tortoise” [x]
Mop kitchen floor a second time [x]
Write in journal a little [x]
Take shower, get dressed [x]
Go to store for cat food [x]
Drive kid to school [x]
Drive to work [x]
Take a walk at lunch time but fill pocket with peanuts first [x]
When the crow swoops by your ear, feel gratitude at being alive so you can hear the whoosh of a crow flying close [x]
Give crow peanuts [x]
Observe crow hiding peanuts by poking them down into grass and carefully covering them with leaves [x]
Stand there a long time watching the crow, which is big and fat and sleek. Also grey, so grey crow most likely, c. cornix [x]
Buy a sandwich at the store [x]
Give the crow more peanuts until it stops even hiding them and just stares at you, stares you down, then give it part of your sandwich and watch as it throws away the tomatoes and lettuce, throws them with great dislike, and tastes the mozzarella carefully, and flies away with the roll [x]
Wonder why slain and hanged. Were those the only causes of death in ancient Scandinavia? [x]
Develop a theory of the multiverse based on choice, with alternate universes bubbling up like foam, branching off from each other with every choice, a few conscious, most not, most not even imagined or suspected [x]
Think about the foam you used to see on blades of grass in the field in early summer, when the grass was still green, put there by some insect [x]
Realize you just created another universe just now, one in which you actually did think about the grass of your childhood, another where you did not [x]
The crow, however, did not create an alternate universe in which he eats a peanut instead of hiding it, because even though the number of alternate universes is infinite and growing larger all the time, in none of these does the crow eat a peanut, that’s how tired it is of peanuts [x]
Go back to work [x]
Odin goes to the store for a smoothie at lunch. His coat pocket is full of peanuts in the shell.
Believe me when I tell you crows can go through a peanut shell in no time.
Odin gets two small smoothies because they come in bottles he can use to make smoothies at home for Loki, now that he lugged the blender back up to the kitchen from the cellar. The glass jar he used the first time, Loki finally got a janitor to open it for her.
On the way back to the office, halfway up the hill, Odin gives some peanuts to Huginn and Muninn and admires the black storm clouds gathering over the city. There is nothing like that dramatic light, is there, when sun shines on black storm clouds.
He is back in his office before the hail falls.
It doesn’t last long.
Are you happy with your life? Odin’s wife asked him.
He thought about it. He was miserable, but not with his life. It was not his life’s fault. His life was fine and he liked it and he told her that. All the circumstances of his life. Loving wife and daughters. Nice house. Job.
He was just sick of himself. His life was innocent.
He had a dream after that, a nightmare about a beige McMansion. After the dream he asked it questions. Who are the scary men? They are your fears. What is the house? The house is your life.
So maybe he wasn’t 100% happy with his life, really. But it wasn’t his life’s fault it was beige.
What say the hanged?
If you have a twin inside you, don’t stop talking to it or you will eventually forget it is there and it will turn to stone.
What say the slain?
If you think you don’t have a twin inside you, you just haven’t found it yet. Or you forgot it already.
The tuxedo, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, was invented by, or for, the Prince of Wales (Albert Edward, later known as King Edward VII), in 1865 because he wanted a comfortable, yet fashionable, dinner jacket he could wear instead of the coat and tails everyone wore in the evening back then.
Prince Albert Edward of the tuxedo is not the same person as Prince Albert (Albert, Prince Consort) after whom something else is named.
At the time, smoking jackets were popular – after dinner, men would gather in the smoking room to smoke, one supposes, and because they didn’t want to disturb women with the smell of smoke on their clothes they wore special smoking jackets. The tuxedo, also called a dinner jacket in the UK, is known as a smoking in many European languages, including German (in Spanish: esmoquin).
It is called a tuxedo in the United States because James Brown Potter’s wife was a famous beauty Prince Albert was chasing. Prince Albert convinced Mr. Potter to order a dinner jacket. The articles I have read were unclear on whether it was something he communicated to him before Mr. and Mrs. Potter arrived at the Prince’s place, so he would be properly dressed, or if it was more like, Hey Potter old boy, head on down to Henry Poole & Co. and pick yourself up one of these, there’s a good chap. And a short case of Mickey’s Big Mouth. I’ll keep an eye on the missus for ya.
At any rate, Potter introduced the tailless single-breasted dinner jacket, with a shawl collar, at the Tuxedo Club, an elite social club in Orange County, N.Y. in 1886. It caused an uproar. The establishment frowned upon the new style. The local newspaper wrote that those who wore it, “ought to have been put in strait-jackets long ago.”
But by 1888 it had become popular for formal and formalish evening events and that’s all I have to say about the history of the tuxedo.
Longer introduction than I originally planned, but I wanted to get that in about the original tux having a shawl collar and being single-breasted. Pointed lapels and more buttons are later variations, details imported from regular business suits, which sucks.
The tuxedo was originally revolutionary and casual, worn by dandies in the evening, and should absolutely have as little as possible in common with the day-time business suit.
So this week I was at a department store looking at tuxedos (alternate spelling tuxedoes, if you are Dan Quayle) because my wife and I are going to a ball for the kid’s school (they rent a palais in Vienna and it is listed in the formal list of actual balls in Vienna, and not just a prom, okay). We went to the ball once before, a few years ago, and I wore just a black suit and was woefully underdressed, everyone else had on a tux.
And as I wandered around in the formal wear section, I noticed three things: tails are awfully stuffy and over-formal, I have an irrational hatred of lapels on tuxedos, and the sales staff were ignoring me.
I was most surprised to discover that I had such strong opinions about the shawl collar/single-breasted style. I had never thought about it before but there it was, non-negotiable, some mysterious attribute that had always slumbered in me similar, but not exactly the same as, the attributes Tibetans are sometimes said to use to discover the reincarnations of lamas.
It seemed logical and unsurprising, on the other hand, that the salespeople were avoiding me, because it was close to closing time, I had had an exhausting day, my hair was crazy and who wants to deal with a crazy white-haired guy at closing time? I had to physically grab a salesman, who helped me find a suit to try on, but the outlook was grim because it is ball season and everything in my size was either sold out or really expensive.
I tried one on, it didn’t fit, the light in the changing room was too harsh and I looked awful, and when I came back out the guy had vanished back into the woodwork.
The following day I had more luck. I asked an older woman, who works in my office, for advice. She called all over town for me, which was fortunate because the next place I had planned to visit did have suits in my size, but only in purple, and I was looking for black. Instead, she sent me to a rental shop on my lunch break.
It was a nice place. It was small, full from floor to ceiling with rows of tuxedos and ball gowns, and had mostly natural light (more flattering). It was quiet, because it was actually closed for lunch, just me and the seamstresses and the manager; so no pressure. The manager and I discussed surnames, and Celtic names, and tartans, and the best way to select a shop in Edinburgh to buy a kilt (google it, he advised).
The first tux jacket I tried on fit fine. They fixed me up with a shirt, bowtie and cummerbund (Kummerbund in German, so I initially found it interesting that the suit is called a Smoking in German, but we call a Kummerbund a “cummerbund” in English, as if there were a little linguistic trading back and forth going on, but no, it turns out to be even more interesting than that, Kummerbund is also imported to German from English, which itself borrowed cummerbund from the Indian subcontinent, adapting kamarband, from the Persian compound kamar (waist) and bund (closed)) and matching shoes and I was good to go.
You can rent or buy the tux at this shop. The suit was nearly new, yet nicely broken in, so I bought it. They did the alterations, I picked it up today on my lunch break (along with some fruit and vegetables at the nearby market, which my wife called and asked me to get) and it’s hanging out in my car right now. I can’t wait to get home and put it on and let the cats rub themselves all over the trousers.