At the shop

Man: My wife wants Intimacy.
Clerk: Intimacy or intimacy?
Man: You mean, did she capitalize it? She was speaking. I assumed she meant a brand.
Man: You know that ad with the model reclining in a black dress with a freaky long leg.
Clerk (holds up 2 spray bottles): This is the scent Intimacy. This other one is intimacy.
Man: I think she meant the scent.
Clerk: You sure?
Man (shakes head)
Man: What else do you have?
Clerk: We have a bunch. This is enlightenment, for example.
Man: Small-e or capital-e?
Clerk: Lower case. Here. (sprays man on wrist)
Man (smells)
Man: Whoa, I’m an asshole.
Man: Dude, I mean, a real dick. Ffff. Sshhh… I…
Man: Geeze.
Man: Oh my god. My poor family.
Man: I had no idea I was such a prick. I’m a total prick.
Clerk (looks at spray bottle): Hang on. Sorrysorrysorry. Wait.
Man: What.
Clerk: Sorry. My bad. That was self-knowledge.
Clerk (sprays man with a second bottle): This is enlightenment.
Man: Whoa.
Man: You’re also kind of a jerk.
Man: We’re all jerks.
Man: We’re all like, jerk cells in god’s digestive tract.
Clerk (puts bottle away): That one’s new.
Clerk: It just came out.
Man: It might need a little work.
Clerk: Intimacy, you said?

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.

The Hot Carwash of Self-Knowledge

I had an extra hour on my lunch break so I decided to go to the Hot Carwash of Self-Knowledge, which is like a normal carwash, except a person dressed like a belly dancer does a mind meld with you and says, “These are your pluses and these are your minuses. This is what makes it nice to be around you, and this is what makes it a pain in the ass. This is what is good for you, and this is what is bad for you.”

The Hot Carwash of Self-Knowledge is always right.

Except I got real lost. It was over on the other side of town and I got mixed up on which street to take. I turned too early and when I realized and turned to cut over to the right street it was too late and I nearly went onto the freeway. Then, just like that, I was in FARMLAND and passed a sign saying, “Thanks for visiting Vienna”. I had left the city limits!

I eventually found my way there, but it was an art-supply store and I had wasted two hours trying to find it — all of my lunch break. I bought a few basic book-binding supplies for this secret project and was half an hour late getting back to the office. Fortunately no one noticed.

I would fear that I’m going senile and have to start pinning my name and address to my shirt when I go places, but getting lost is not uncommon for me, albeit that was pretty epic.

It crashes down with the dead weight of a rusty bulldozer falling into blackberries, into the tough vines that pulled it back to earth when it had fought its way heavenward. A tractor freed from gravity, momentarily, rising in an anomalous moment before normalcy brought it crashing back to earth, blade askew.

Sometimes you open the dishwasher and stray metaphors come out, fogging your glasses like steam.