I went to San Francisco today, and wrote the following sitting at an outdoor table at a Market Street café.
It’s been a while, 20th century. Have you forgotten me? I guess the question should be–have I forgotten you? It’s a plausible question, given how uncomfortable my hand feels holding a pen, how I stumble over myself without the aid of spell check or the glow of a screen which suggests a luminous sentience watching over me as I boil away in the crucible of my own head. I know it’s been a while, 20th century, that I had to clumsily ask a lad at the coffee shop where one gets a pen and paper, these days. How inexorably we move from the artifact to the aether. The library at Alexandria has burned; now we have Akashic records, knowledge that only exists if we believe in it. If we have the proper equipment to receive it. Otherwise, there’s only air.
Barely a page and I am already getting painful twinges in my palm. But you should not feel as obsolete as all that, 20th century. Here you still are: a pen with a soft nib whose ink calls itself “amethyst” and a notebook with a red cover that asks, “Name? Date? Subject/title?” I thought it would be clever to title you “Artifact.” I’m sorry, darling. I can’t help myself. You know how I am. It is a beautiful Fall day in San Francisco and I just had lunch with a lovely young Frenchman who, like me, learned to write with a fountain pen–and now he seldom writes by hand at all. Talk about a direct leap from 19 to 21! And yet you are far from a negligible century. Your body count alone is impressive.
I had a vivid dream last night. In the dream I purchased a small white stuffed dog, a poodle I think, about life-sized. Of course life-sized, as it started to come to life. In the eyes first: a glimmering awareness that flickered on and off. Then in the whole head, movement in the face and neck, a hardness and definition within suggesting the formation of a skull. Then slowly, from front to back: limbs, ribcage, ass, tail–all were fleshed and boned. All the cotton batting inside the animal was turning into live, pulsing organic matter. I knew the dog was finished, that he was finally a real dog, when he began to take real shits as opposed to stuffed shits–squelchy, warm, stinky feces instead of small, scentless, fuzzy logs.
“Here you are, you little fucker!” I said to my new dog with great joy. He had teeth that he used to bite. He barked viciously at other dogs. He took an evil delight at tangling his leash on everything, binding my legs to trip me up whenever possible. In short, he was a total asshole, but I loved him anyway because he was alive.
Where have I wandered to, 20th century? Am I still talking about you? I have lunched with your remnants occasionally, 20th century. Gray-haired men in suits who keep themselves fit and never take a young woman to a fine restaurant without knowing the exact location of the nearest hotel. They call me “doll” and ask me what is in my “pretty little head.” I smile pleasantly and seldom answer. It is so charming. Like dating antiques. One day soon they’ll be gone, and I will be gone soon after. One day soon I’ll be gone, and this paper will have rotted away in some landfill somewhere. But if I transcribe this on my computer and post it on the internet, I can make these words not really exist forever.
After writing this, I walked to the Embarcadero to check out Tom Morello’s appearance at Occupy San Francisco. Given that he is the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, his presence was extremely apt. He gave us a few rousing words and then handed out a hundred free concert tickets for his performance tonight. I did not get a ticket because the ticket guy was immediately swallowed by the maw of the throng. Whether I abstained from the tussle because of my belief in civic order, or simply because I felt protective of my broken rib (yes, folks, it’s broken), the world may never know. I did a bit iphone photojournalism from the event, but wordpress is being an ass about letting me put together a slide show. So, I created a public facebook album of my little adventure. Check it out.