Volcanic ash pirhouettes down, down, pocking the trees and buildings gray and dusty. The cards are falling on the table slowly as if from a great height, such that I can’t see where they’re coming from and am surprised when they finally land. I’m diving head-first into life’s weirdness, and feel at home. This is the way it always has been for me. I’m okay on the burning fringe, but when the air starts to smell of oases’ palms I start to get nervous and shut down.
What the fuck am I talking about? I’m feeling the pull of travel: wanderlust. Southeast Asia is calling, and I can’t fathom why or how I hear it. I’m hanging out in Washington, DC right now and while it’s neat to be in a place where there’s so much diversity and opportunity, it’s still capitalist America, and I don’t appreciate it. Probably experiencing conditions in other countries will help me appreciate it.
Let’s talk about the people in this coffee shop. There’s a couple sitting at opposite ends of a small table. He’s busy at his laptop…they are friends, but not a couple, I don’t think. She’s reading a book. They aren’t old…well, maybe she’s in her 40s and he’s in his early 50s. He has a dumpy, cream-colored baseball cap and an honest, shaven face. She’s raven-haired and wears a translucent brown barette. Her green coat is slung carelessly over her chair; it’s lining is plaid. He has jowls, but they’re from age rather than any degree of being overweight. He has no sideburns, and she has flecks of silver in her hair. A yellow flower on the table marks the meridian between them.
I’m sitting next to a disused fireplace on the south wall and if I look at an 80-degree angle to my left and across the room, a short-haired fellow in blue flannel is sitting at the bar. He’s got glasses and a thin face, and is reading a book. He pauses now and again to scan the cafe for familiar or pretty faces. His leather jacket is bunched up on the bar, along with his backpack.
On the other side of the fireplace there are two comfortable chairs, both occupied. On the left we have a short-haired fellow in a white button-down shirt. His hair is brown and maybe a little greasy, hanging limply over an encroaching forehead. He is nearly chinless. Like me, a laptop sits in his lap. He has straight-cut blue jeans and white casual walking shoes. I order a coffee, and so does he. A little end table separates him from the fellow on the right, also nursing a laptop. This fellow has expenxive jeans and basketball shoes. He is wearing a gray winter hat and is clearly muscular beneath his black shirt. When he orders his very specifc drink (latte, no foam, no this, no that) he smiles, which casts his cheeks, chin, and a brow in high relief; he has next-to-no body fat, and is more expressive for it. His laptop is plugged into some hidden plug inside the fireplace.
Looking around, it seems that mostly men are patronizing this place this morning. The ratio is skewed at least 2:1, maybe 3:1. I wonder why these people aren’t working on a Monday morning. Am I working? It’s unclear.
Megan has asked that I not follow her here. She sees nothing for our future together. That was tough to take, but has been before so it hurt less this time. We’re still seeing each other for now, but will part when the time comes for us to leave the town we live in now. Every time I spend a year with a girl it’s weird to leave her. It feels wrong, you know? I still have a lot to learn about the world, I think. I’m not in a hurry. I look back on the parade of smiling lovers, all waving goodbye to me, and am thankful to have spent time with any of them. I’ll miss Megan, though. I’ve been lucky to have dated some brilliant women and she’s no exception. I know I’ll regret not being around to see her skyrocket.
The bathroom here is grimy, but so am I.
Back to southeast Asia. Thailand. Thereveda Buddhism = 94%. People just being rather than striving to become something they’re presently not. What class ceilings could there be if you’re desireless? Of course I understand too little of the culture to speak intelligently on it, but that will change. I’m thinking about writing a series of travel journals dressed as novels, a sort of Gonzo-esque account of expat. life in various countries, like Bill Bryson might do but with more of an edge. I really want to paint for a Western audience a picture of themselves as passed through a foreign lens; THIS is what you look like to this culture, America, because THESE are the people you’ve sent here, or something along those lines. Just something biting and blunt (like a good youthful writer might attempt in his endless insolence and pluck) for the masses to see. It feels like a valid step toward establishing the kind of global community I envision when I lapse into “Mad Scientist Dictator” mode. Do I envision anarchy? I don’t think so, but anymore the definition’s been bastardized so much it’s hard to tell. I envision fluidity, an organic global lifestyle that allows people to pass from one sphere to the next and onto the next with as little friction as possible. Misunderstanding feels like a desert of sand in the gears of world culture and my work, if I’m successful, will be designed to act as an oasis mechanic might in the same situation: douche, scrub, polish, replace. Why will my narrow point of view be considered valid? It won’t at first. I’m not going to stop until something interesting falls onto the page, and when it does I assume I’ll hear about it. /churn churn churn
Keep going, Pyle, or you’ll be caught and broken in the trundling wheels.
Oh yeah, the title of this post. Had a brief word with my mother this morning about various things, and it came out that I rely on evil to convey me through the day, and then that I don’t believe in evil as it’s commonly defined. What is evil? Our ancient bestial nature? That part of us that considers daily “What would happen if…”? Is it weird to think that good is so easy to see in everyone all the time that eventually it begins to waft a peculiar, familiar stink? I’ve had to peel friends like onions to find their foibles sometimes, and on occasion this has taken a long time. Finding the darkness in a person is thrilling because it provides counterpoint to their facade, the methodology behind which provides incredible insight into how they operate in other sectors. I don’t know…evil seems really easy to label outside of context but is painted in shades when you look a little closer. That’s what I want to do, I think, when it comes to literature: I want to paint evil in shades like John Hersey, and without casting judgment hold American popular thought up for itself to see and smell.
The only trick left to pull is getting out of here.