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Friday, December 02, 2005

Prologue and Chapter 1 of CLOWN


I don’t know who’s going to read this. The guy said to use all the paper I wanted, and to just tell everything, especially what was going on in my head.
I started writing three hours ago and I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind because it just keeps on coming out. After the Timothy McVeigh bombing all these magazines had headlines basically asking “why is man evil?” I’m not saying I’m evil, or why some people are, but I can explain myself, at least. I mean I can explain the why from my perspective. Anyway, I guess nobody is allowed to tell people what I write and all, but I don’t want you to think I suck either.
I want you to know I’m not sugarcoating anything or trying to make myself look good. You need to keep that in mind because if you judge me the way you’d judge a person who was just trying to make you like him, then you’ll hate me. Some of what I’ve already written kind of scares me so I assume you’ll be really freaked out or whatever. But remember, I’m not saying I think I should think this way, I’m just saying I do.
This is honest.

Chapter 1. Tuesday Morning.

I didn’t dream at all the night before, or if I did I don’t remember. Psychiatrists say you always dream, and if you think you haven’t that just means you forgot. This dream book I bought says that if you could remember every detail of every dream you’d ever had, you’d understand everything you’ve ever not understood about yourself. I thought that was great. Then I realized it wouldn’t necessarily mean you could change or improve yourself.
Would an evil man who didn’t know he was evil until he discovered it through his dreams want to change? If you were evil you wouldn’t care in the first place, right? Maybe that’s a bad example. What if you were a coward, and had acted cowardly often enough to know it, but had somehow fooled yourself, rationalized it away, so that you didn‘t? Would you be able to change when you found out? I don’t know. What if you learned you were weak willed, or plain stupid? I don’t think you could do anything about either of those.
So would you want to know you were stupid? I mean you’re already stupid, isn’t it worse to be ignorant too? Or is ignorance of the fact that you’re stupid bliss? I had a friend back in Hawaii, real local bruddah-bruddah kind of guy, named Mike, who said this about a friend of his: “I tell you wat, brah; he stay stupid but he knows he stay stupid. ‘Dat makes him almost smaht.”
I thought that was pretty good. I’d rather know too. At least I could be almost ‘smaht’ if I knew.
Anyway, I didn’t dream at all the night before, or if I did I don’t remember. My cell phone’s alarm function rang me awake at 6:45 a.m., and the sun already filled my room. During a Seattle summer, assuming there are no clouds, the sun shines for 15 or 16 hours a day. It was September 5th and I knew I could look forward to sunlight until after nine that night. Hawaii’s weather is wonderful, I mean we never have Seattle’s long winter nights, but we never get the crazy-long summer days either.
Lately I’d awoken with what I call the ‘gloom and dooms,’ this powerful sense that I’ve forgotten something crucial and won’t remember until it is too late. They come and go, there’s no controlling them, and I had them bad. I lay on the bed, stared at my white ceiling, and tried to remember what I’d forgotten. Eventually I recalled how often I feel this way when I wake, and that I never remember anything, so I got up for work. Every time I get the gloom and dooms I waste ten or fifteen minutes lying in bed trying to figure out what I forgot. Every single time all I remember is that I never remember anything except for the fact that I never remember anything.
Nobody knows how anyone else’s head works, but I believe my brain is less attached to my ego, my id, than most peoples’. I get caught up in these cyclic thought circle jerks all the time. You’d think, when I woke with a gloom and doom, that I’d remember there’s nothing to remember right away, but I don’t. Or I’ll be with a group of people talking and forget I’m with a group of people because I’m so into what they’re saying. So I stand there with my mouth open and my eyes wide. I look like an idiot when I stand like that. I know because two different people have told me so. But I can’t seem to help it. My brain’s not attached the way theirs are. The way yours probably is.
I live next to the University of Washington. The UW campus is glorious. That’s a big word, I know. It deserves that kind of word. Almost everything is made of red bricks. Half the buildings look like gothic cathedrals, the other half have different styles, but stay with the red brick motif, and are nearly as beautiful in their own ways. And between the buildings are meadows and squares and massive evergreen, pine, and magnolia trees. Almost sixty thousand students attend UW every semester, more people than live on the entire island of Kauai.
Since I’d moved to Seattle, just over three years before, I’d always lived around UW. A lot of the students don’t know how fantastic it is because it is theirs, but having attended the hodgepodge ad hoc nonsensical colonial / 70’s industrial mix that the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus is, I can’t help but be in awe of the UW campus. I lived there to be near that beauty.
Plus housing around there is cheap.
The bad feeling I’d awoken with still bugged me after I’d dressed and shaved for work, so I decided to walk through the campus. Usually I just walked up 19th to The Ave. Walking through the campus was less direct but I had time and thought it would cheer me up. I entered the campus on the north side, from the area called Frat Row because it is a neighborhood of fraternity and sorority houses. At seven there were only a couple of students out and about. It was like walking through a park or museum. I didn’t feel better. Instead I felt like an invader. No, like an unwanted tourist. Who was I kidding? I didn’t belong there.
Eventually I cut east, toward the Ave., where I would catch my bus to downtown Seattle and my workplace. The eastern entrance of UW is guarded, or overseen, by a titanic statue of George Washington, in cloak, with sword. I approached the back of the statue wondering if George ever felt like just quitting, just falling on that big ass sword. As soon as I’d passed the pedestal he stands upon I looked up to see George’s face, but for some reason I couldn’t meet his eyes.
I felt bad for him, forever vigilant for a bunch of kids who probably wouldn’t bother to wipe the crow crap off his feet. And I felt even worse when I thought that he might see what the students were like. See how weak and unworthy they were. A bunch of idiot kids who’d never . . . and then it hit me, hard, that most of the kids at UW probably did deserve to be his legacy. It was just I who did not.
And that sucked. Who needs epiphanies when you can’t make amends? I walked away from him, ashamed.
Near my regular stop there’s a poster shop. They change the posters in the windows at random times and I liked checking for new posters and then really studying them. I like studying movie posters as if they’re fine art pieces. I separate the poster from the movie and look for the message, for the “social significance,” the “play of light,” and whatever the hell else I guess people who like paintings and other visual art look for. I know dick about paintings and sculpture, I just guess what people are supposed to be trying to find, and I started doing it one day just because I got bored waiting for the bus. You’d be surprised how much you can get out of a movie poster if you take it seriously.
The same old Angela’s Ashes and The Hurricane and Raiders of the Lost Ark posters shared the window. They’d been there for a couple of weeks. The first two were photos, artistically done, powerful in their own way, but still just photos. And I’d already played my art game with the Raiders of the Lost Ark poster.
I checked my watch and tried not to think about Big George. Then I took another look at the Raiders of the Lost Ark poster. Basically it shows Harrison Ford standing in the foreground on this little hillock, sort of phallic, and he’s holding a golden head above him and it is shining and there are all these huddled figures around him and a girl is on her knees with her arms wrapped around his legs. And, you know, you look at that and you think of yourself or imagine yourself or tickle yourself that you’re Harrison Ford and this hot chick is on your legs (or if you’re a woman maybe that you’re the hot chick, I don’t know, whatever) and you’re surrounded by all these huddled lesser types that are deferential to your superior manhood. It isn’t something you think about. It just works. I guess it is how escapism works generally.
But this time I looked at the poster and then looked at my reflection in the glass. It was a trick of the light and where I was standing. If I made my eyes focus on the window glass I saw a clear reflection of myself, but when I squinted a little I saw Indy through the glass. Indy’s face has this strong chin. My face is almost chinless. I’ve got like, a nubbin in the middle, but in the middle of such a small chin it doesn’t count. I squinted. You’d call Indy swarthy. Focus change. I’m pale. He’s got full, brown hair. Focus change. Wispy, receded, dirty blonde. Indy’s a man’s man, burly, strong. I’m a... wimp. Thin. Soft. It was a trick of the light. The reflection was different enough from a mirror’s reflection that I could look at myself as if I didn’t recognize my reflection. I saw myself as others see me, or as I’d see a stranger.
For the first time in my life, at the age of 27, I realized that I was one of the weak, deferential, afraid-of-the-main-man, huddled figures. In poetic terms, I was one of the people who “lead lives of quiet desperation.” I’d imagined, as a kid, even as an adult, even the day before, that I was like Indy. Never had I imagined that I’d be one of those deathly pale, rib protruding, kowtowed, weak men.
I stood there, mouth agape, eyes locked onto the poster, trying to grasp exactly what had happened to me, until the bus came.


Here's the link if you'd like to purchase it or learn more.

That is http://www.lulu.com/content/182896 for those who prefer to cut and paste into their browser.


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