No title

Okay, that’s why they call hot glue “hot glue”.

Deprivation, isolation, floating

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.

Schrödinger’s everything

Odin stops at a cash machine to see if his new card works with his old PIN. It does. He gets fresh lottery tickets at the tobacco shop and it costs nearly nothing because one of the previous ones won minimal amounts. He decides to get something meaty at the store and on the way there, waiting for a light, existence unfolds for him.

But it’s not so much the world reveals itself to him as he finally understands why he never understands anything.

He can see too many options.

How can you be sure of knowledge if it’s not perfect?

How can you know anything if you don’t know everything.

It goes like this: he is thinking about a story he read that he liked a lot and trying to remember if it told anything or if it showed everything. Because on the one hand, the “show don’t tell” maxim for writing is ideological (and, like any ideology, used to manipulate more than you might suspect although not everyone totally agrees), and on the other he found the story satisfying and on the other he is thinking about writing a story that works even though it tells a lot and is ideological about it.

And he is standing at a light and thinking about telling, like, “we were unhappy because we were poor, or at least I was unhappy” and then he thinks, actually, the only way he ever had a chance to understand anything about people was for them to tell him something because showing — the entire world is always showing you everything, sometimes honestly, sometimes accidentally, sometimes it’s misleading or it lies and you never know which. And Odin never had the feeling that he understood anything, ever, because possible explanations and scenarios spawned in his mind faster than he could evaluate them, fractalling off each other like fever hallucinations you might get peeking in on a grown up party when you’re a sick little kid and supposed to be in your room getting well.

Everything is always Schrödinger’s cat, all the time, for Odin.

How is showing supposed to do you any damned good when so much more can be shown than can be processed or understood with any certainty or confidence, when the meaning of what is shown is so plastic and malleable and speculative, and when, at the same time, showing one thing obscures a dozen more?

It’s not much of an epiphany, but you take what you get.

Odin buys something meaty, but the only crows he sees on the way back to the office are way high up on the weather vane on the steeply part of some big house, or way up in the air, or in the crown of a distant tree.

Luwak epiphany

0002

Photo by Bruce

I was at the doctor yesterday and she asked me how I was mood-wise cause a medication she prescribed can cause suicidal depression. I had totally forgotten. I thought it was the fog and general greyishness. Overall not so bad, though, I said. Actually, really great, I think now. My kids ate dinner with me and it was fun talking to them. The cats were freaky when I got home because my wife is away on a business trip and they were alone all day. This morning I was carrying one around and she stuck her tail into my coffee and I had to decide whether to make a new cup or just drink it. Making a fresh cup would have taken 30 seconds and I didn’t want to wait that long so I just pretended it was Luwak coffee. Then that, in combination with everything else, triggered an epiphany, which I sort of described in a post at medium.com.

Writing blog posts is a lot of fun. Sometimes I am really happy with what I end up with, despite or because of the randomness and accidentiality of them. I am trying to write a novel right now, yet again, and am trying to figure out how to translate blog-type writing into a novel.

A whole bunch of short chapters, I guess.

 

The god of the office and the god of the streetcar

The god of the office is headed somewhere to learn something and gets on a streetcar to take him to the subway, but it is a different streetcar and turns left where the streetcar he wanted would have gone straight, but he looks at the chart showing the streetcar’s route and it will take him to an even better subway station so he decides to stay put and enjoy the ride.

There is a puddle of something under a seat two rows up, that is why the god of the office is sitting in the back row. He is quickly thankful for what looks like a puddle of piss because a few rows up, closer to where he would otherwise have sat, the god of the streetcar is saying something in a loud voice. The god of the office leans over for a better look. The god of the streetcar is in his thirties or maybe late twenties, pig shave, wife-beater shirt, random tattoos, large can of beer, open, despite the fact that it is just after nine in the morning.

And what a glorious morning it is! Vienna never looked this nice. Or, this section of Vienna, which the god of the office has never before seen, has never looked this good to him.

A woman wearing a head scarf gets off the street car and that is the god of the street car’s cue to give his opinion of foreigners, who are stealing jobs from Austrians, and apartments, and although they cannot speak German can somehow communicate well enough when they want to to take advantage of welfare and social services. There are some, in the past, and maybe even present, who would say kill the foreigners, but the god of the street car would not kill them, because he is a Mensch – he would just send them home, every last one of them.

The god of the office, who is himself a foreigner, imagines someone speaking up to the god of the streetcar and getting knifed.

The god of the office notes that no one is seated within three rows of the god of the subway. He looks out the window, where there is a park with large cages inside which boys play soccer. The god of the office is careful to keep his feet well away from the puddle of piss, which migrates slowly here and there as the street car accelerates, or slows, or goes around corners.

The god of the office first wants to tune out the other man’s ranting, but decides to listen closely instead. Because, crazy thing: who knows what something is good for? The universe has funny ways of communicating with us.

The god of the street car says his grandfather said, and he agrees, that politicians should be sewn up in a large sack and beaten with a baseball bat because they are nothing but lackeys of the rich and powerful.

The god of the office raises his eyebrows. When did the god of the street car’s rant take this tack? He does not condone violence such as that detailed by the god of the street car, but otherwise this could be something he has preached to his daughters in the car on the way to town.

Servants of bankers and high finance. The curse of materialism.

The god of the street car is channeling the god of the office!

That is me, thinks the god of the office. Never shall I rant again, for evermore.

Thanks, universe, he says out loud.