Man with toilet plunger

If you were to visit the universe where Odin is still sixteen and ask him what the chances were that he would one winter day when he is much older be standing on a street corner up the street from the Israeli embassy in Vienna with a toilet plunger in one hand and a baloney sandwich in the other, waiting for his three crow friends to show up, he would tell you, infitesimal.

And yet, here he stands.

Such is life.

He can see the crows a block away. They observe him cautiously through the falling snow.

Odin removes his hat, and the crows fly closer. Nothing like testing a theory empirically, thinks Odin, and tears the sandwich into equal pieces and tosses them to the birds.

Apparently, toilet plunger + hat + man triggers something in the threat center of the corvid brain, because the normally friendly crows don’t take the food until Odin walks away.

Odin needs to unclog a toilet later in the day. Hence the plunger. He went to a shop on his lunch break to buy it. Before that, he looked up the German word for the tool, only to discover there is no single German word.

Suction cup is Saugglocke.

But toilet plunger, they say one thing in one part of Germany, and another thing in another part, and probably something else in one part of Austria, and something different in another part, and the Viennese no doubt have their own expression. So on his way to the shop he tries to figure out the best way to say ‘suction cup on a stick for toilets’.

When he gets to the shop, a small, old, packed-to-the-rafters metal-and-household-goods shop, he is relieved to see he is the only customer. He says the most natural thing he can think of, I need one of those Saugglocke things to unclog a toilet.

Large or small? Says the woman running the store. She is lighting something with a long butane lighter.

Odin finds the toilet plunger display and removes a large one. Large, he says.

She asks him if he wants a bag, but he declines. He has been looking forward to walking through town with a naked toilet plunger.

In some situations, a toilet plunger is as good as a scepter.

No beggars accost him, and no one gets too close at the traffic lights.

No one crowds him at the bakery where he buys the sandwich.


Dramas are cheaper than comedies

Man, it’s freezing out.


But Odin doesn’t wear his hat when he goes to the store. He doesn’t want to make it any harder for the crows to recognize him, and he thinks a hat might do that. It sure freaks out his cats when he wears a hat.

So, no hat.

He buys honey-roasted peanuts and a baloney sandwich in a poppyseed roll. The crows meet him at the bench. Not immediately. He stands there for a minute eating peanuts before the first one, the grey one that reminds him of a duck, Huginn, appears on a telephone wire and swoops down for a piece of baloney sandwich.

Then the second grey one swoops down from the left and fights over another piece of sandwich with Muninn until Odin tosses them a couple more pieces.

For a while, they all hang out, eating silently.

Odin feels particularly unstuck in the multiverse today. All day, he has been slipping easily from one to another.

He is at a movie premiere with his daughter. Standing in the cinema lobby, they crack jokes and watch people, observing the different tribes that show up at movie premieres – the movie actors, the journalists, the photographers, the fans, the weirdos.

They wonder if they should buy popcorn. They agree popcorn should be handed out free at movie premieres. They count uncanny botox foreheads.

Botulinum toxin is the most lethal toxin there is, his daughter says. 100 mg would be enough to kill everyone in the world.

Like Odin himself, Odin’s daughter is a fertile source of useless facts. This makes Odin smile. He has been smiling all evening.

You might want to use 200 mg, though, just to be sure, Odin says.

His daughter has another thing in common with him, too: she attracts nuts. Odin realizes this when a little man appears in their personal space and asks her if she is an actress in the movie they are about to watch.

She laughs and says no.

The lobby is very crowded and noisy now, and the man talks fast, so Odin catches only a portion of what he says, but he hears him say that a local film festival always shows dramas, but never comedies or action films, because dramas are the cheapest. He has something white in the corner of his mouth.

Probably food.

Is that right, Odin says. He moves to stand between the little man and his daughter.

So they show dramas. And documentaries. Documentaries are even cheaper than dramas.

For a while, he tells them about a movie he recently watched. Odin runs through his entire repertoire of things you do to signal a conversation is winding down, but nothing works.

Finally, Odin says, well okay then, grabs his daughter and walks with her to another corner of the lobby.

At one point, Odin gets the autograph of an actress his daughter and he both like.

At another point, they watch the movie. It is okay. It is a comedy, not a drama, and they laugh a lot. Afterwards, the cast come onstage and talk for a while, then Odin and his daughter go home.

Although Odin is unstuck in the multiverse, he is not entirely without control.

On days like this, he can slip almost effortlessly from one universe to another.

He is in his car, realizing it is snowing.

He is riding a train.

He is someone else, in 1972.

He is a man waiting for crows.

He is watching a beautiful woman.

He is playing Arvo Pärt with his daughter – she plays the piano and he plays the cello. Then they give up and he switches to the singing saw and they play it that way, and laugh and laugh.

He is digging post holes with another man, holding a heavy motorized auger between them.

He is back with the crows.

What say the hanged?

Live it up.

What say the slain?

They say live it up, too.

Careers in Science: Oneirology

Honey, if you want to be dreamy, you gotta get up early.

The oneirologist has this epiphany climbing the subway stairs, way over on one side by the handrail because a train has just disgorged a load of passengers who are all coming down the stairs like the oneirologist is a salmon.

And as he climbs he watches them and some look relaxed and some, one mother in particular, are hurrying. The woman is hurrying and dragging a little kid by the hand, as if they have two minutes to reach a connecting ride. And the oneirologist thinks, you can be efficient or you can be dreamy. Then he thinks of his daughter, who is both efficient and dreamy. So he sort of revises his thought to be less absolutist. If you want a fast commute in the morning, you have to be organized. If you want to be poky and dreamy, though, you have to get up early and allow yourself a lot of time.

The oneirologist couldn’t live any other way. This is why he goes to bed so early at night, so he can get up early and dink around.

The oneirologist likes to watch what happens to the light outside as he drinks his coffee.

The oneirologist likes to listen to the evolution of the sounds in the house as people and animals and garbage trucks start their days.

The oneirologist likes to do some stretches and pushups.

The oneirologist likes to scramble eggs.

He likes to write a little in a journal.

Last night, on his way home from meeting a friend at an advent market and drinking hot winter punch and catching up on things, the oneriologist was accosted by a lot of beggars. The first one got all his change, the ones after that were out of luck.

In one instance, as he waited for a street car, being accosted by one beggar prevented him from being accosted by another beggar. He watched a woman, who was giving off strong vibes of psychological trouble, preparing herself to accost him, when a man swooped in from out of nowhere and began telling him a story. This is known as the narrative method of panhandling.

Unfortunately, the oneirologist is hard of hearing, and it was noisy, and the man was speaking fast, and in dialect, so the oneirologist resorted to empty phrases to keep the conversation rolling:

Is that right?

Oh, that really sucks!

Man, no fooling?

He wanted to give the man money, but was out of change and said so. He apologized a second time as the man left. The man had his pride and said, no problem!

There but for two months salary and a suit go I, thought the oneirologist.

Two months salary, a suit and manners. He thought. And a bath, or a makeover.

But, otherwise.

The oneirologist recalled a recent visit to a jewelry store to buy a Christmas present for someone who had, fortunately, specified exactly (exactly!) what she wanted.

The sales clerks had ignored him for fifteen minutes. Normally, around Christmas time they are swarming you, right?

They would have ignored him for longer, until he left, but he grabbed one by the suspenders, or whatever, and dragged her to the brightly-lit glass display case and said, ‘that one there,’ and made his purchase.

It had been a Saturday, and on the weekends the oneirologist dresses in a more casual manner, and had looked rather bummy right then.

But still.

Even a five, if he’d had a five, he would have given it to the guy.

At night, at the Large Hadron Collider

At lunch there is a pause in the drizzle and Odin walks to the store. He gets a sandwich and chips, although he always regrets getting chips, even though he has plenty to regret this week already, much of it linked to his inability to handle emotions properly.

There is a ‘plink’ as the grey crow lands atop a blue compact car.

It’s always a blue car. Maybe the crow prefers blue, maybe there is just a high incidence of blue cars in this neighborhood. Do car colors vary by neighborhood? If so, according to what factors?

Odin shares a ham sandwich with two grey crows and one black one.

There are a lot of pedestrians passing on the sidewalk and Odin tries to time tossing pieces of sandwich so no one notices, although he is not sure why. Huginn and Muninn also seem to be pretending not to know him when people pass, although they probably don’t know why, either.

What say the slain?

At night, at the Large Hadron Collider, when the scientists are all asleep in their beds, the janitors and cleaning women do secret research of their own. Closing all the doors to keep down noise and turning on only one light in ten, they fire up the LHC and seek experimental evidence for the multiverse.

It started with the idea that additional dimensions might be undiscovered because they were too small, and the realization of a cleaning woman that the real reason might be: we didn’t realize what we were really looking for.

What if love was one of the missing dimensions?

After this, other missing dimensions were quickly identified (posited) and found.

Most basically, we (and everything else) consist of strings vibrating in the previously-known dimensions, and in the additional dimensions. Strings vibrate in dimensions including love, and the sacred, and the random and the accidental. They vibrate in beauty and surprise.

The LHC janitorial staff is looking into the following dimensions (and the particles associated with them):

[Dimension - Particle]

Love – Lovoton

Sacred – Sacroton

Surprise – Bikkuriton

Random – Chanceoton

Accidental – Accidenton

New – Novelton

Similarity – Alikeoton

Opposite – Oppositon

Eroticism – Eroton

Orgasm – Orgaton

And so at night, when the scientists sleep, the janitorial staff does its research. In the dimly-lit vastness of the LHC they learn that when you collide a Loveoton and a Sacroton you get a Bikkuriton and a Chanceoton. When a Bikkuriton and a Chanceoton collide, an Accidenton and a Novelton result. A collision between an Alikeoton and an Oppositon gives you an Eroton and an Orgaton. A collision between an Orgaton and an Eroton produces the original Loveoton and the Sacroton.

The janitorial staff work all night on their research.

Yet in the morning, when the scientists file back into work and don their white lab coats and protective goggles, the sleepy janitorial staff have gone home or to their second jobs, and the LHC is spic and span.


What say the hanged?

Someone said on the radio yesterday that, toward the end of the Middle Ages, people were worried about the collapse of civilization and the end of the world, and convinced that the end of the world was a literal possibility, and that the only thing preventing the collapse of civilization was the Church, and the hard work of scribes, copying out one manuscript after another, and things like that.

And then, despite their best efforts, it did come to an end. Medieval civilization came to an end, but the world did not.

Instead: Renaissance. An explosion of enlightenment and prosperity.

All that ended were some dark ages.

Could it be, that is what’s happening now all over again?


Maybe this is why you’re so tired sometimes when you wake up

Odin like goes into your bedroom when you’re sleeping at night? And stands at the foot of your bed?

Odin can see really well in the dark, even with just one eye. Remember, the other one’s down at the bottom of that, that pond of wisdom that giant guy drinks out of every day. Who’d want to drink out of a pond with an eye in it?


Look, he stands there, Odin, and looks at you sleeping there in your bed, he stands there in those black clothes and that belt  and boots and the one eye scrunched up  and looks at you with the other, piercing one and the long white hair and he doesn’t even try to whisper when he says, child you are beautiful and blessed and full of grace.

He holds up a hand when he says it, a hand that has held many a sword and old weapons like that.

Child you are beautiful and blessed and full of grace. Being a god, his voice wakes you up and you’re like, whoa, it’s Odin.

Beautiful and blessed and full of grace, and life is short so always do what makes you smile. Within reason, of course, you know the drill, but here is the thing: never wait until something is perfect, because you are beautiful and real and the beautiful and real are never perfect, only the creepy and fake are perfect.

And Odin stands there, like a negative image of Cab Calloway in a white suit,  and he holds out both hands and says, ‘inky dinky do,’ and does a little dance step, a sashay, to the left. Your ten-gallon aquarium burbles in the corner of your room, fish all fast asleep.

And the monsters under your bed stick out their heads and say, ‘inky dinky dee,’ and before you know it Odin is doing this call and response number in your room with the monsters under your bed and in your closet, the one in your mirror and the ones in the shadows cast on the ceiling by your curtains, even the little fellows in your wallpaper who, when you stare at the wallpaper long enough, march in long, crooked inky-black lines around your room like jerky 1930s animated cannibals only these are not racist imagry, they are not flesh, they are made of coal and ash and fire and lava, demons, or a cross between imp and demon and they dance with their little spears and Odin sings, ‘wagga wagga yappa do’ and they repeat it and the monsters repeat it.

And you sing along.

It’s a long number, and when it’s over, Odin says, when you wake you’ll forget all this, but remember what I said.

And you say, inky dinky do.

And Odin says, no, before that.

And you both laugh.

This happens about five times a week. Maybe it’s why you are so tired sometimes.


At the bottom of a well

Odin is sitting on the bench waiting for Huginn and Muninn. He sees a lot of black crows around, but no grey ones and wonders if the grey ones have migrated.

The day is cold, it would be a good day to migrate.

Odin just read a book in which the main character spends some time at the bottom of the well. It is the second book he can remember reading in which this happened, and finds it a striking location for reasons he cannot define. Then he tries to remember other locations in literature that have impressed him, and can think of practically none.

He can think of four, off the top of his head: a well, the roof of a parking garage, a dragon’s cave, a forest. Three of those appeared in Haruki Murakami stories. Then he thinks of a fifth: the pit in the sand in “Suna no onna” (The Woman in the Dunes) by Abe Kobo.

Then he thinks of Gregor Samsa locked in his room.

Otherwise not much occurs to him.

Then he spends some time thinking of locations he can remember from his own life. He can remember a few. And the more he remembers, the more he remembers.

Muninn, the black one, finally shows up and gets a piece of chicken sandwich for his trouble. He swallows a piece of chicken, then gives Odin a dirty look and coughs it back up. Muninn looks at the piece of chicken, and tears it into smaller pieces before eating it again. This relieves Odin, who was worried that Muninn may have gotten a bit that was too spicy. It is curry chicken after all.

What say the slain?

A man decides to climb a tree as high as he can. He extends a ladder and climbs to the top. Then he pulls the ladder up after himself and wedges the base securely against a limb and climbs further up and pulls the ladder back up after himself. He repeats this until he is so far up the tree that no more branches would support him or the ladder further up.  He stands there and looks at things and looks at  a construction crane which is now at eye level almost. He extends the ladder and leans it over until it makes a bridge between the crane and the tree.

Carefully, for he is high up, he crawls toward the crane. Then there is a gust of wind and the crane shifts slightly and the end of the ladder falls from the top railing of the crane to the one beneath it, a distance of about two meters. It makes a loud noise and jars the man but he hangs on tight. Below the railing where the ladder now rests is nothing.

The man resumes crawling toward the crane but the closer he comes, the more his weight makes the end of the ladder shift and when he stops he thinks he can see that only about a quarter of an inch is still resting on the frame of the crane. He begins to turn to head back towards the tree but that makes the ladder shift, too, so he sits there still.

Sometimes Odin wonders about art and creativity and the point of it. The point can’t be financial.

What proportion of creatives would be better off financially working cleaning offices or stables instead?

He guesses one does it for the flow. It must be a good feeling to be a conduit.

Or they do it to give their suffering purpose: when you do it you’re creative and when you don’t you’re depressed.

What say the hanged?

When you look back and see a blank, remember: in this universe the interesting stuff is in front of you, and buses come from the side so always look left and right before crossing streets etc.

Things that come from the side: buses, streetcars, trucks, cars, carriages, motorcycles, pedestrians, horses, mules, rollerskaters, skateboarders, scooters, runners, mailmen.

Things in front: creative success, love, gratitude, self-knowledge, utopias, experimentation, improvement, laughter, knowledge, enlightenment, change. Also sometimes buses etc. so stay sharp.