Two books have given me a glimpse of my own childhood through another author’s eyes. The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz especially (his book Odd Thomas also has some elements), and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Coraline has some elements too). I’ve felt aspects of it in Hearts in Atlantis (Stephen King) also, but Moonlit Mind was the closest to home. The pervading sense of personality and violence, of being a child and someone trying to kill you. It’s so helpful that these men are willing to write about childhood and violence in the way they do – with such candor – not to shock, but to tell. Someone should tell. Someone must. It gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to write it, or at least tell someone all of it, the parts I never tell, the parts I don’t know how to tell. It’s a flood. Who could want it?
New York City is only home (the way Midwesterners mean home) to people who leave – a home to regret. To people who live there, it’s alive – it’s changing – it’s Mecca – an immigrant zone – drawing an endless diversity of pilgrims. Pining for the old neighborhoods – which aren’t there anymore – misses the point. Most of the crap came from one wave of immigration (Italians, Puerto Ricans, Irish, whatever) trying to claim they owned their romanticized stretch of it – just like Jerusalem. In the clean ghettos they ‘policed’ their own, and in the dirty ghettos they robbed their own, but both attitudes kept the other pilgrims out, until there just wasn’t enough turf left to sit on. The West always does that when it invades a country – tries to make it an ethnic colony. But New York is more resilient than that. It strenuously resists categorization.
[Thinking of the film Blank City.]
The night is glorious. The sky is midnight blue and muddled black, the moon is just a sliver shielded by clouds, the wind is roiling in the open places, and you can just feel the frost coming for us. Only the thinnest shirt, tonight, almost nothing. The air is wonderful. I can breathe.
Dusk is upside down. The light comes from below, and the dark rides on it like a sea of algae in the diver’s view, the nightshade drifting on the dense surface above. An orange blue glow swims along the skyline roofs, under a blanket of black silence, clearly waiting for its moment to weep privately in the dark. Ink blot clouds punctuate the sky like blotches of age on skin. Nomadic wisps migrate like herds, moving off in advance of oblivion. The air is soaking up the last of the day, full now like a sponge perched over the city, gently pulling like the last precious tug of a kiss, bursting slow into a shambles of color.
I want to go out. I don’t know why the color and texture of night draw me like crowds at a cafe. I feel, for a moment, like I am allowed to be me. I am soft, wide-eyed, open. Yet I feel passionate and intense, and still yet assertive, witted, dominant and agile. I’m hungry. I want to go out. I wonder if anyone else is looking up, disheveled in the day’s dying breath.
Asher judges a mind by how big it sees the world. If it pretty much instantly has new data mapped out, so that the person is just pinning things on an existing grid, it’s not a peer. If it can encounter whole new countries and approach them with an open-ended mind, then perhaps. For Asher, it’s really easy: when others first encounter the differences between him and others, if they try to explain them away, or ascribe them to “just needing to be different”, then they view the world as a fairly small map which they can grasp easily. Asher realizes this, because Asher himself is a world.
As two young men walked up, a couple of girls at the coffee shop said, “There are those two guys again. They’re going to keep coming around all the time, now. They think because we hung out the last three days with them, we’re their girlfriends now.”
Asher, who was fixing a PC on the spot for one of the girls (never leave a downed PC behind), responded “You ARE their girlfriends. Those are the rules. You hang out with them three times, and you’re their girlfriends.” When the girls protested, Asher added, “It doesn’t matter if you know the rules, like the rules, or agree with the rules. The rules work anyway. You’re their girlfriends, now.” They laughed and Asher smiled a long smile.
I’m breaking in a new barista. She said something quite familiar tonight: “Asher, you have no filter.” Indeed. Another one gets the imprint. 🙂
Asher often amuses himself by playing with people the way a kitten plays with a moth or a hamster. Occasionally, when he’s done with one of them, he’ll lay him or her at the feet of one of his friends, and go find another. Other times, also much like a kitten, he’s equally disinterested and would prefer to bask in his own inner thoughts.
Asher’s latest amusement is in agreeing with his critics, which seems to frustrate and bewilder them. If someone says he’s weird, he replies, “Yes, I’m delightfully idiosyncratic.” If they wave away something he’s said with “whatever”, he’ll say, “Well, it might as well be that, then.” To the charge of arrogance he has many replies, but all of them are some sort form of gratitude and agreement. In the end, Asher has said, “it’s more fun to play with things that are slightly stunned and off-balance, especially if you can set them bumping into each other. If not, just as good to eat them.”
The weather is perfect. Usually, Asher doesn’t care about the weather. He never brings it up, and never complains. Being too cold or too hot is for other people; Asher compensates.
Today, though, you can reach up and touch the clouds. The buildings are swimming in them. Black, purple, grey, and furious, rolling in like foot soldiers of the storm. Asher loves it. He must go out. Even if it’s a tornado, he has to go out. He’s leaving… now.
“Go where people are.” – Mr. Glass, in Unbreakable
Sometimes Asher’s superpowers only work when he’s in a crowd. In the film, Unbreakable, Mr. Glass suggests that sometimes people of extraordinary ability become more of who they are, more of their true selves, in crowded places. At least, enough is pushed out by the pressure, that it can help them discover who they are, even if it’s who they are in a deep well of solitude.
Besides the fact that, if he’s ‘on’, Asher is really good with crowd “management”, he can actually work best in crowds, if history is any gude. He’ll sit down in a vast, open cafe or coffee shop, with people everywhere, and in a fury of creativity and need, he’ll work. He’ll write. For those who might have been wondering, this is still true.
New crowds, however – the first time – make Asher merely watchful.
I found a new coffee shop. Apparently, it’s going to fit reasonably well. I have three, now, and am scouting a fourth. Different hours, different times, different purposes. The least comfortable contrasts are generations and subcultures. All but one appear to be haunts for the young and the young middle class – the conformists. They still think some things are weird, and fear finds their faces easily, fear of being touched by the unknown. So many hippy outfits, but underneath is a kind of fascism. The other is more of a hippie place, with lots of older people, and it’s far more accepting, with a wider latitude for the bizarre. Of course that can be a mixed blessing. But it’s like home-cooked food, or dining at a mom and pop place – you expect unpredictability and inconsistency, and it’s part of why you like it. The rest is the Starbucks impulse.
When I’m nice to women and pay attention to them, they like me, find me charming, and show interest. It’s when they really get to know me that they change their minds.
In most cases, I skip straight to that part. 🙂
Asher turned a few times, and stretched in his sleep, clutching the pillow, and going from fetal position to back and back to fetal. Someone was there, occasionally watching him toss, and knowing it was time again, at last. Twilight, and Asher was waking up. He felt her brushing past his leg hanging off the bed, touching his hair for a moment. Dusk, and he opened his eyes, he was the sole body in the room. And it was an ordinary room, ordinary sheets, with the cool air pouring in hard – the only way he can sleep – and the sound of the ceiling fan was like a metronome. But she hadn’t left. He’d have known that much, if he thought about it in the front of his brain. But she stayed in the softer parts of his mind, like a suggestion, and he flexed and felt strong. Dark, and the moon was half in shadow. He was himself, and he stood up and went out.
There was a large party of us that landed on a shore. The settlement was wiped out. We were exploring the ruin. I knew somehow that we needed torches, so I told anyone who would listen to make them. The problem was that we didn’t have but a little gasoline and some branches and somehow it felt as though we didn’t have much time. I could sense evil. Could sense death approaching. And then even though some of the howls were far off, I knew there were wolves in among us. I was trying to light a torch. As it so often is in my dreams, I run more slowly than in real life, drop things, make more mistakes, cannot turn when I need to turn. Whatever is required to defend myself, I cannot make my body respond adequately. It feels like amputation. I couldn’t get my torch adequately lit. You could feel the wolves… in the perimeter, so to speak… upon you but not upon you. Close enough that proximity was a challenge. They were unafraid and intent and confident. And I felt it behind me, turned and saw the yellow eyes. [Read more…] about Dream Last Night
Asher was added to Dr. Peter Jones’ Hall of Fame for discovering his hidden source code. Honestly, it took me a little while to think through the problem. I used the Holmes method, and at last came to the necessary truth. It was a little less diabolical than I actually thought it might be, but still pretty damned diabolical. I’m proud to be among his distinguished listees.
(from Browning’s poem)
Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,–
How such a one was strong and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,