“Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,
Self-clos'd, all-repelling: what demon
Hath form'd this abominable void,
This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? Some said
’It is Urizen.’ But unknown, abstracted,
Brooding, secret, the dark power hid.”
----William Blake, from “The Book of Urizen”
“Harvest out-of-the-box mindshare… Generate seamless schemas … engage visionary initiatives … reinvent vertical content …Syndicate dot-com bandwidth … Aggregate cutting-edge retailers …Expedite scalable relationships …Organize impertinent initiatives …Target robust content …Monetize user-centric paradigms …”
The Master Clock says 3:20 a.m. in Times Square and the juices are flowing a flood of light, an electrochemical lake of fire. John Milton used wake up this early in the morning, full of the rough alchemist’s equivalent of taurine and caffeine, claiming the muse had come to visit. He had no place to else go. Nothing else to blame. So, he wrote “Paradise Lost” in a fit of insomnia. One might presume an eviscerated synapse, some lose live wire, tapped the sub-current of electromagnetic fuels emanating from the earth, drove him out of his sleep into the transcendental file cabinet of circus animas, a zoetrope zoo found while in R.E.M.-state, when the subconscious is most open to undulating flux of the alien vibe. For primitive folk, such a download was described as the summoning of muses, sweet ladies they are, said to send messages from the North Pole to the willing receiver, and that’s probably better anyway: It’s far easier to believe than a lot of the non-sense I’ve been finding on your TV. But where are these archangels now, when we cannot sleep?
It's 3:25 a.m. in New Jerusalem, the juice is flowing in every direction, toward every pole and polarity, and back again. The muse is no longer necessary.
Which makes the material world somewhat limited in its possibilities. Everywhere but here, that is, where the very life force of the world is sucked up by the big magnet of Metropolis. It’s 3:36 a.m. in New York City. You are not in the suburbs. You can’t choose a night book and you can’t scan the desperate airwaves of the radio. After getting sucked all the way through 3:38 a.m. in America, you can only be still enough to click on the telly to find MTV. It’s all leading to there, anyway. The visions are weird and wild and phantasmagorical and totally applied in meatspace. Milton should have had such easy access to Hades, such an easy substitute for dreaming. Just a little light techno music, and a load of espresso, and then perhaps a stroll down the street toward Central Park, at war with the body’s natural command to get some sleep. The sleepless fiends of Times Square are the army at war with the very laws of gravity. You and the other anti-christs are as numerous as the uncountable stars, hidden by the fog of war, in the Bible-black, starlight-blinded sky.
You analyze----processing, processing, processing----like a computer: God made you in his image, you make the computer in your image, the computer makes … There you are, a wizard, your leg bouncing on frenetic automatic pilot, your permanent maintenance of the universal flux just slightly ajar. Oh my sweeties, all my loves, where are you now? Not one green leafy thing is in your line of sight. Maybe you are finding the Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, the promised glittering city of gold, right there on the World Wide Web. The intermediary is betwixt you and the infinite.
Funny. There’s time for everything when you don't sleep and the weeds no longer irritate you with ceaseless processes that are, apparently, random and chaotic and beyond control. There are books and CD-Rom disks. Poetry to write and read. Short of that, strip clubs right around the corner from any GPS-locatable dot on Times Square. The 21st century beckons but your countrymen are mired in counterproductive slumber. It’s almost quiet enough to hear the hum of the hierarchical layers of this botched Void. This messed up architecture we call material things. If it wasn’t for the steady slow moan of the Whore of Babylon, it might actually be quiet.
What's going on? It’s not the deep doubt of back-taxes keeping you up, nor is it the novel you've written in your head in a guilty display of personal possibilities and desperate failure. What's lingering on is the fuel called caffeine. A lot of it.
It's 3:41 a.m. in America. This vibe is running through you, fully sanctioned by the United States government. You are the lone standing chairman of the bored. Two things split the yearning mind of the past decade. One of them is recovery, the other is full-scale, foot-to-the-floor self-abuse. Everybody is recovering from something. If not, well, get a life! But if you quit crack or cocaine or nicotine or the home shopping network, if you unplug from the Internet for just one day, you still need to fill the anxious Void. That’s what God commanded, after all, when it was reportedly stated, “Be fruitful and multiply.” But the message was so long ago debased and degraded and plugged up with hidden code, we wonder if the Creator was joking, washing his hands of this entire cosmos that is, reportedly, so imperfectly rendered from the original cast off sign to Satan: Go ahead! Ruin your lives. Be fruitful and multiply.
There are few sanctioned methods for filling the Void in our society. But everything leads to imposing order, or a senseless desire for it, anyway, this ceaseless craving. If there’s a blank space, a canvas or a page, we fill it up with our image of Paradise Lost. We are of nature, and so, we abhor a vacuum. We kill the inspiration and sing about the grief, sayeth Bono. We call someplace paradise and kiss it goodbye, sayeth Don Henley. We take a taxi to paradise, listening to all the rock as we roll on, and due to the cold physicality of the hot engine we made, out of the clay of matter, just to get us here, we pave up a parking lot. We park. We move on.
The road to Mythville always leads to where it began. Mythville is everyone’s hometown. Let me explain: Any mythos is customizable, sure, just as New York is “Babylon” to some, the “Big Apple” to others. “In New York,” sayeth the sangin’ Afro-Celtic bard, Bono, “freedom looks like too many choices.” I splooge all three together, calling it, “Harlot’s Web.” Go figure.
It all depends on your first tender step, your first impression, because that’s the basis for all interior design to follow. The path of myth will lead you right back to where it began. Eternal return is a kind of cosmic reaffirmation of truth. Go ahead. Take a step. Everyone will end up, eventually, at the same door.
See how it works?
Moving forward is everything.
On the day we are born, or, introduced to something new, the information overload begins. We process. We file. We search for words, giving words to the many names of everything. They are symbols only. Things don’t change when named. But the power of the word, its distribution, can mean changes are in store.
From Harlem to a halo, the mind is set racing, a slowly growing search engine for superlatives: a desperate need to classify, to find order, hierarchy, ascending and descending. Each moment, asleep or awake, sacred, purgatorial or profane, is an attempt to define the One out of oblivion.
We are born and we yearn, the random access memory of that moment filling in the blanks. The coding of our genetic memory, often mistaken for evidence of reincarnated prior selves, the meta-real thing we are, our essence, our DNA, even the spaces between each code, each word, each image, each impression, is all we have to help us store that stuff. But everything returns, eternally, to where it all began.
Basic needs are we … at birth: an instinctive response to the sudden emptiness of open air, to the cutting of the cord. The desire to reconnect to our root source is a common theme. We awake and we cry. Matter and life and metaphysics blitz us, all of it in flux, all running through us, subatomic particles, bombarding torrents of infotainment, from too many directions. We want to get back to Woodstock.
Even in ancient in 10 B.C., Philo propagated a Luddite yearning for Eden, believing bustling Alexandria to be way too distracting for the contemplative life. Oh, cried Philo, to get back to Qumran, to breath that Dead Sea air and grow vegetables with my Essene brothers and sisters. Or the poet, W.B. Yeats, in “Adam’s Curse,” writing of metropolitan man, undone at the turn of the last century: “That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown as weary hearted as that hollow moon.” Life is an involuntary download that betrays the animal within that longs for a return to a simpler life; the universal server, information overload. We all get cheated, some more, some less, when first tethered to this big wet mesh of mush and rock, fed our first Big Apple. Then we are handed our space suits of mere flesh, a strange stitch of mostly water, eyes and ears that only read certain frequencies, all connected to a tiny, tiny processor.
That processor is the problem. So when the universal server creates man in its image, we create processors with the same programming codes, which returns cyberspace to the image of the Master Server. A dream within a dream within a dream. “I knew that One is animate,” sayeth Yeats, “Mankind inanimate phantasy.”
He knew we will never obtain enough cosmic data, but we still try. That is our nature. To save space on our hard drive, to compress and move on, we map the many streets of Mythville. Compression is a kind of upgrade and archiving the logos is our saving grace. The upgrade allows us to circle the moon without fear, to set a raft down the Colorado River without knowing where it leads, to rest on the mix of words to describe the megalomaniac’s landscape of New York City’s steel towers and glass canyons, all this without going bonkers. We are able, through the profane perfections of art and poetry and mythmaking, to find order in the overload. We frame a myth as an abstract but suitable meme to contain the metaphor.
Trust me, the road to Mythville is paved with good intentions. Your mileage may vary.
I see New York City and see the moon as another layer of “Harlot’s Web.” One might say, “It’s big. It seems very big to me,” and then file it away, content with a point of reference that you can live with. As the poet Bob Dylan once sang, “We all feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of view.” Depends on vocabulary, upbringing, education, marital status, on the total amount of time and attention----career----that we spend loving or hating, ratting on friends, confessing to strangers or talking to telemarketers on the phone about the weather in their state. New York looks like a tickertape parade of disinformation. See all that stuff falling down. Who’s going to clean up this mess?
The megalithic icons of New York float in an ill-mannered jumble of images: How Times Square is just like the Web (a robot thought I have about everything these days), a jarring eyesore of lights and noise and fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. The snake swallows its tail right on this street corner. The mob is running in all directions to then return, after too many bites from the Apple, to devour the very bark off the Tree of Life. The feeling must be a common phenomenon for visitors: If this is the pinnacle of civilization, maybe it’s not so bad the lights will eventually go out. So the law of entropy says.
Later on at Times Square, a few hours after a graffiti shower for some massive promotion about a Broadway show had sprinkled the place, I asked a police officer by a barricade how many street-cleaning machines it would take to clean up the mess. He said he didn’t know. But I could see the Java generator running lights behind his eyes: … Organize impertinent initiatives …
Oh, we can improve things. Make them clear. Intensify the frequencies for better service. Reflecting on the strange words we read, enough to search them out in the dictionary, certainly adds to our bandwidth, the intensity of our P.O.V. We watch television, nod off in church, affiliate with other political animals, join new tribes, march to generals and dance to rock bands, commute or telecommute through Metropolis and back, live whole days in the air without looking out the window to see the puny world down below. We do get lazy and forget to ask questions. Life is an investigation with no apparent crime to solve. It’s so easy to give up on the search. Those who do give up fail to move forward. Something to do with evolution. But more than that, electricity. There are all kinds of electricity, and the real question is: Can you see the sun behind the sun? The forest behind the trees. And all you cyberalechemists out there, trying to scratch out a living: The real question isn’t how to turn our all too wired up lead into gold, but how to turn our gold into soul.
See how it works? I hope so. You can’t believe the trouble it took me just to get this far.
All of this to create a mélange that’s our private mythos? What’s the point? We might ask the Master Programmer for clues? But eternity rarely returns our e-mail, depending on whether your mythos allows for the belief in e-mail from “insert deity/archangel/spammer here.” All we have is this ball speeding through space in a generally dependable direction. The scene of the crime, earth, is being scanned, even as we read, to see if the answer is in the subatomic stuff between the atoms. So help is on the way. Hooray. Hooray.
Although it’s not always apparent, everything seems to be in order. But sometimes we wonder. Sometimes even our myths erode. The energy crisis to keep our icons on the screen is like fuel loss, entropy, starvation, bankruptcy and so on. However, if a myth is close enough to the truth, it will become timeless, outlast even its mightiest temples, intended, as they all are, for self-serving institutional needs, for marketing, for propagation.
Maybe the best mythos at the end of the game wins? Or, the most popular. Then it starts over. Sorry, I have my limitations (and no temple at all), but my sense is the whole mystery has something to do with growing the mythos, like a farm for high-minded content, a databasing of positive logos more than negative, stored in the metaphysical and physical realm for unknown reasons. But reasons, nonetheless. Why? Who knows? Does the bee know why it makes honey?
Are you beginning to see this how this is going to work? Is the busy bee starting to catch a buzz? Hope so. Moving forward is everything.
My coding is unique in only the tiniest ways. So is yours. But all identical enough to get us both this far. Sure, it’s a struggle. Other than a habit on keeping up on mythmakers, it’s hard to keep the collection of angels and devils and deities from completely fragmenting, or going to dust like an Aztec temple. Sometimes the angels of Mythville throw the manna from heaven around in ours head. It’s a metaphysical food fight.
I might put it this way when it’s peaceful in my Mythville: Even if we get it all figured out before our rented space suits are overdue, we eventually get tired, due to entropy, and lose the vision. That’s a daily cycle. The heat of inspired mythapropriation can regenerate, or, form a new party of appropriated myths. Our best mythological archetypes----that is, those with the best streaming bandwidth----I believe, outlast us, until someone else’s myth outlasts these, gets thrown out of town, or simply morphs into something else. Hopefully, the most illuminating myths are like good deeds, or light, and just keep going on forever.
Let me try to explain it in another way. To some, “big” equals “mythic.” Some believe a wise man does not see the same tree the regular guy sees. No real way a regular guy can prove that statement. But a wise man might be able to come up for the technical terms to explain how it’s possible William Blake can speak through me. The ill effects of too much time in cyberspace? Perhaps.
When I look at New York City, William Blake allows me to see the central nervous system of Harlot’s Web. It’s very important, I think, to at least, to paint it Blake.
You may not believe an old dead ethereal ghost-of-a-poet knows how to use hypertext. You may disdain any type of trade of abstract terms for descriptions of visceral terrain. Not from anyone, living or dead. “Big” just might be enough. You might find a fashionable convergence of the two----such as, “Babylon is the central nervous system of Harlot’s Web”----to be obscure, obvious, inaccurate, incitement to riot, or, pure horseshit.
Hey, after a while, you get used to sensory overload. Eventually, you know longer experience that gush of overexcited language when, in fact, “big” will suffice. New York gets to be just another humdrum place to live. It’s amazing what we humans can get used to. Same old song of Innocence and Experience: Once the innocence of a first impression morphs into just a daily experience, New York will keep doing what New York will do----without much need for meteoric blather.
Which is why we need the challenge of artistic abstraction: It keeps the old ghosts visible. Don’t believe in ghosts? Well then, ask yourself this: Does a ghost, or a God, for that matter, require your trust, your faith, to do what ghosts and gods will do? Even a refusal to believe in such things has an impact, que no?
Nature abhors a belief system on vacation.
I have one good story to demonstrate. It’s a true story, one that I tell to my children. My child’s tale is true, too. Even if the lesson is based on recurring dreams I experienced as a child, the useful little chestnut is quite practical, by day or night or twilight: dreamtime.
At about seven or eight years of age, when my brother and I still were sleeping in the same room at our tiny home in the subdivision on the fringes of budding Phoenix, we used to talk before we fell asleep. Sometimes, we planned our dreams. We would repeat the words, “I want to dream of Disneyland.” Or, we would agree to visit our grandma’s house. We were casting spells for nocturnal tele-transportation.
A few years later, I started to have nightmares. I would awake, suddenly, whenever the ghost----a boogey man or, perhaps even an alien being----arose out from under my bed. He would slip out from that nether region beneath the mattress to peer down on me from the footboard. The dreams recurred for years, and the result was always the same. I would sit up, startled by a terror only a child can know. Until I remembered this: During my experiments in dreamtime programming years before, I was actually successful. I could transcendental-ize myself to Grandma Julia’s backyard, with its big pecan trees in South Texas and fireflies hovering around the grapefruit grove, or better yet, to ride the Monorail in Disneyland.
I’m a big fan of public transportation.
Anyhow, I set my mind to address the midnight appearance of my private Mephisto. I promised myself that the next time the golem came out from under my bed----I would beat the living crap out of him. He never came back. He knew better. So did I. Fear nothing and nothing will run. That’s what I always say now.
It’s a good story to tell about conquering our fears. Kids eat it up. But more than that, there’s this: That opaque phantom still lives. I can certainly see his image whenever I think about the dreams. The golem doesn’t need to materialize to have an impact on this material boy, or, anyone else who has heard the story. Welcome to my nightmare. Fear nothing and nothing will run.
If a poet says, “New York is like the moon,” my list (obscure, obvious, etc.) still applies, but the image will fill your mind. Even if you want to edit that, and then, stick the word “Big” in there somewhere. You also may not believe America has even been to the moon. You might argue: If we don’t really know all that much about the moon, what good does it do to compare New York to anything so … grandiose? In an epic sense, my description is not viable in any commercial way, shape or form. Not even a good advertisement for New York, and advertising is everything.
Maybe you dismiss magical thinking on this scale as merely a fantasy. Just play. Or maybe it’s just too New York-centric. That it belittles the Babylonian possibilities of Los Angeles, and hey, Hong Kong has good potential in the leading role of “Harlot’s Web.” Any major glob of civilization, as it streams terabytes of self-serving data, as unique systems of thought and tradition stream tentacles to every other city in the world, offering it’s own uniquely influential central nervous system. Just one big Babylon. Spreading like a disease, or, more kind and gently, like a viral marketing campaign.
You may be the sort of person to scoff at the notion that civilization (well, the only important parts of civilization) marks the official start of each year by synchronizing everyone’s clock with Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. You may say the real global stopwatch clicks first from Hong Kong, from a tiny village in the Congo, or, Oraibi, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement, on the Hopi Reservation. The pueblo in Northern Arizona is a peaceful citadel perched where, a poet might say, they are holding off the end of the world. To a Hopi, keeping New York out is everything. When and if they fail, well, that’s the end of everything. See how it works? All in all, the whole setup seems pretty frail. When the last line of defense lacks any real technology, such as missiles, well, kinda makes you wonder how the Hopi lasted this long.
You also may find it ludicrous for a poet to be a credible source for news and information when his poem links the Garden of Eden and the nickname, The Big Apple. But a poet will write words into his little notebook in any order he or she chooses. The impact will be limited to whoever might be reading: usually, not that many people; unless, of course, the poet is in advertising. If the poet or artists sells out and works on Madison Avenue in New York, then his power as a conjurer all depends on his ability to distribute a clear message as often as possible, as well as the strength of the signal across the broadest possible bandwidth. Another important factor is whether his audience is willing to receive tricky, metaphorical coding. Code is law. Code is everything. For anyone who can’t decipher the code, well Kenneth, believe me, some dogs do get the frequency.
Poets and artists and computer programming engineers and wizards and sorcerers do. One such artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti-style painter who frequently hyperlinked his canvas to the technology storms of Babylon. If you haven’t seen the work of Basquiat, he was like a witch doctor with a can of spray paint for his power stick. He was a soul-sick captive in a city that subjected him to information overload. To handle the overload----and, to add more magic his power stick, as sorcerers will do----he took heroin until he died. But before that happened, he painted at least one untitled work that seems to be about technology and New York. Scratched in black line, with other diagrams and primitive designs are such phrases as “Sun God/Trickster,” a reference to the source and mercurial nature of information, “Global Industrial,” and, more to the point, “The Apple of Sodom.”
People in Sodom (same thing as Babylon) tend to last longer if they get used to being there, maybe not take themselves so seriously, and get out of town more often. ‘Tis better to “buy in” and “sell out” and then take extended vacations. Take a “breather” from that sort of self-inflicted conflict.
By the way, William Blake was an artist, too, and his work is in the same book, by Phaidon Press in London, that I found the Basquiat reference to “The Apple of Sodom.” Willy B. just keeps peeking out and going “Boo!” His wound was self-inflicted. Without a persecutor he would have had to invent one. This was due to his insistence that the ethereal world was more important than the material. He was constantly wishing his life away, believing the mystical and the real could be wed. Other than a marriage of heaven and hell in cyberspace, he’s still waiting for an audience that’s in tune with that frequency. Other than the weird way paranoia went pop at the beginning of the New Millennium, and the way wireless technology fuses the Web with the real world, the boundaries melting into fluidity, the very convergence of every known thing on the Web … yep, we are still waiting in Bethlehem for that rough beast to be born.
That longing for recognition of his signal reminds me of a great line in the film, “Basquiat,” when the artist is told his audience “hasn’t been born yet.”
Fools are born every minute, too. And New York is Harlot’s Web.
If you aren’t one of those dogs who can hear high-pitched signals from as far away as Sirius, or, you haven’t been born yet, then no need to read any further. After all, why should I ask you, the unborn, to believe in puny, poor ethereal me?
Will you be patient enough to press onward when I describe the night a Katsina spirit was picked up, like a hitchhiker, on a late-night drive across the Navajo plain? When I tell you the benevolent soul of my mother protected me one year after she died, vitally real as a spirit living inside the engine of a 1987 Nissan Sentra (which, I fondly recall, had a New Hampshire license plate with the words, “Live Free or Die”)? Where were you when I said the ghost of the poet and prophet, William Blake, spammed me via e-mail, after 173 years of stony sleep?
Still here? Gee, thanks.
That’s a lot of information for any kind of dog to take. And I’m just getting started.
Maybe you can entertain this: That the World Devourer is making its move in the 21st century. That this age-old foe of nature is fed by the corporate nation-state: the Urizen (or it is Verizon?) on the horizon. That The Book of Revelations, by John of Patmos, in the standard-issue, open source Bible, is a networked virus that will eventually lead to the crash of human history. What the Hopi call the Fourth World. Oh sure, you may not believe in the Bible or God or that the end is near. But certainly, plenty of people do.
Enough to have an impact on those who do not. We are all prisoners of their information overload.
Only a poet would make such claims. It’s irresponsible, unscientific, certainly not journalistically PC. But then, this extended and quite confessional narrative doesn’t dwell much on why such statements are true or prophetic. The speculative narrative non-fiction style, what I call dreamtime, lives in chaotic swirls of observation, metaphor and paranoid theory, mixed in a somewhat linear manner and intensified by hyperlink, myth and caffeine-induced overdrive. It’s supposed to work in a way we don’t completely understand. The writer is as surprised to read this stuff as anyone.
Nor is anything here dangerously original. Surely, anyone with imagination or vision can discern the purposes and agencies behind the history (the way a Blake historian put it) that the poet’s readers are witnessing. Poetic imagination is everything. And so is this: Whether the hitchhiking Katsina is real or imagined is of no consequence. The impact on the poet----and anyone who can decipher his code----is everything.
The moon doesn’t ask permission from anyone to influence----my take on gravitational effects----the swelling seas, or, women in the peak of their menstrual cycle: what a poet might call “moon goddesses.” The orb, the poet or New York City needs no permission to work a special voodoo on you, your dog, the born, the unborn or born again----or the president of the United States. Global warming can take place without the permission or approval or sure-fire, written-down proof of the world’s best scientists or their highly paid corporate contrarians. Without seeing a subway, you may disbelieve just about anything subterranean. Not seeing is often disbelieving. But the subway doesn’t need you to believe keep moving uptown. My childhood alien golem doesn’t need to show up again in order to go “Boo!” He’s still there. I can see him. So can you.
Our perception of available information is all we really know. All dreams and the souls of the dead work on the fringes of what we know. As the poet Blake might say, via e-mail: “Man by his reasoning power can only compare and judge of what he has already perceived.” Puts a lot of pressure on the irrational, que no? All that work, jeez, what a mess: just to detect a whole universe of what we can sense, but can’t see. That’s very heavy. The gravitational pull must be enormous.
That explains a lot.
We need more than our five senses to make much use of the sixth. If I were on the moon, I would analyze the overload of incoming data just like I do in New York. I hunger----no, no----I lust for more information from my idea of Harlot’s Web. The more I learn, the more I want. The rate of absorption for such illuminati gets to be incredible.
When in New York, I try take away as many moon rocks as I can carry. My future ex-wife groans at all the crap I bring home. What I can’t carry I take photos of, or more likely, fill up with words in my notebooks about of things that I have described. Usually, the explanation for why I take that photo gets very elaborate. Simplicity is just another word for “nothingness” in New York. In Babylon, complexity is everything.
The sheer effort and energy required to get to New York dictates that this fetishism for such material moonstone has a heavy cost. But it’s all worth it, I insist. To collect rarified things empowers you. We invest it with memory, which processes our experience to design or system of mythic abstraction. It becomes a talismanic charm for whenever we want to conjure the meme again.
We come to New York to collect data, to bookmark it in our minds, to touch fame and feed off the energy----continuing to buy a lot of other stuff for our plugged-in crock pot of potions and spells. But the Big Apple will always make a less-than-even trade. Feeding off us, our traffic, our data. Such cheats are everything on Times Square.
Same for the moon. To return home from a lunar visit, you go around the dark side, feed off the gravity, and slingshot back to a place that’s happy, earthy, human, simple. If you have the right kind of machine, that is. A good machine is everything. Fuel is important, too. So is lubrication. But it’s a hell of a waste of money for all that you get in return. I guess you just have to look at American money, to see the very myths etched onto the bill, to figure out why it works that way.
Nudge nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more. Saaayyyeee No more …
In my case, my information fetish, my Road to Mythville, all went into hyperdrive with a sweet-as-soda-pop energy drink called Red Bull, a fully patented, fully licensed excuse for an overdose of caffeine in a narrow, pressurized can. It cost seven Horus and went down like an artillery shell loaded for the Big One.
Certainly, the FDA had approved the drink as being safe for democracy. But who knows? How much study had really been done? One of its other powerful ingredients is taurine, which we produce when we need adrenaline. What happens to the electromagnetic bursts of taurine, pulsing in our mushy, data-permeated minds, when you add “Gotu Kola Herb” into a product already built for hypertension?
We already know quite a lot about caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a mild stimulant. In mild doses, that is. What if you get up in the morning----presuming you have slept at least once in the last 30 days----and order a triple espresso in a dirty paper cup? It's certainly raw enough to seem dangerous. It's black pit stuff, like tobacco spit or industrial waste, a noxious brew so thick and powerful it makes you sweat at the first sip. Unlike your standard-brand, construction worker's coffee blend. With that big flask, once the thermos is finished, you spend the rest of the morning making trips to the latrine. Espresso has very little liquid to dispose of. There is compression. With very little energy wasted on processing. You get more bang for the buck.
In recent years we've tried, but failed, to find a good reason to squelch caffeine fiends. For caffeine abusers, well, we provide more rooms for that now in the form of coffee houses than all of the opium dens of 17th-century China. The drug increases blood pressure, stimulates the central nervous system, ignites a spark plug in the heart and lungs. But the Victorian elements in our society have found no way to suppress the stimulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps caffeine off its “generally recognized as safe” list, but acknowledges no clear evidence of hazard at normal levels or use.
But it’s 3:46 a.m. in America and the fiend in you is wondering if you are normal and, perhaps, a victim of a conspiracy. This is the way we are to become more productive. If we can focus, without sleeping, then maybe we can compete with the whole emerging, coffee-producing Third World.
It's 3:47 a.m. in America. Do you know where your muses are? Do they live in the alleyways of innerspace, in whatever is bonding the molecules taurine to make us a fast, better, funnier machine?
The Red Bull tea-of-taurus was advertised at the bar and video game arcade called Bar Code, which is designed to appeal to cyber-geeks with kids in tow. The whole drink was advertised on the menu as a boost to higher cognitive abilities, to clarity, to a more focused, compressed brainstem. Adding value to the potency of Red Bull held the same attraction to me as uploading more RAM or throwing back a vial of some mysterious alchemist’s elixir.
At $2 for a mere medicine dropper of the stuff----much more expensive than most brands of tequila----$7 (or Horus) was enough to get an attractive blond bartender gal to put it on ice and tell you her name. Certainly, such high-end pricing had been targeted for the yuppies and upwardly mobile technophiles sufficiently numbed by their work and off-hours in front of the tube. The barkeep kept her story to herself, but what of technophobes?
Had the hired mass-marketing moguls for Bar Code, a virtual arcade along Times Square, New York, considered what might happen to those oversensitive folks, such as myself, whose absorption rate for the information ran faster than, say, those dogs numbed to anything other than what’s on TV tonight. An informational blitzkrieg that only New York City can provide, for newcomers, even visitors in normal states of mind, tends to lead on to think in mythic, epic, hideously cosmic contexts.
I was quite clearly suffering from the kind over stimulation that only Times Square, New York City, can incite. But I go to New York to gravitate toward the lunar outbound. Out of place. In awe. To be in the center of Times Square is to know how it feels to finally make it to the moon. So much trouble. So much technology. So many bookstores with tattered but cheap versions of Nietzsche that inspire repeated trips to the notebook to explain why Babe Ruth was America’s first uberman superstar:
Walking unlimited miles to whiskey
in the bars near Central Park,
Searching for the living
among the dead: History comes
in threes. It's a very
Roman Catholic thing
and there are as many anti-christs
as the incalculable stars in the sky.
Oh great genie, oh Babe, over the fence man,
a poor boy, but genes set right,
fine-tuned antenna to the natural world--
Big boar Roaring Twenty appetites
scorching Victorian-styled city streets,
humming New Orleans Dixieland rag.
Did he command the universal flux
cavorting with whores along Congo Square?
Did he find his Elvis there?
Black holes subtract starlight
and animal magnetism flirts with flash powder.
Walking into the good Cardinal's
he ignites the musty atmosphere,
slouching toward home plate to be born.
Uttering God's inviolate immaculate
sense of a woman's softest parts,
he penetrates the thin veil masking laws
we believe, tentatively, to exist:
He had the heart
of an anarchist.
Certainly, Babe Ruth was the kind of person who liked taste the Big Apple. To me, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is a guilty pleasure. I take it in until I can take no more. If I take pleasure in soaking up knowledge, I most also recognize the dark satanic mills. I begin to think about home.
To know sin and wisdom and every possible thing, eventually, just makes me want head right back to Penn Station. Get outta Dodge in a smoking wake of cigarette butts, flickering neon lights snapped out of sync and saloon girls with their legs in the air. Back to the green and pleasant countryside of New England. Back to Havasupai Canyon. To bird-bath pools made aquamarine and turquoise by rich calcium deposits up canyon, upstream to that mound of ground on the Kaibab Plateau, back to that place the Supai call the “navel of the world.” Where the pure waters start to flow, into a rivet, then a creek, then … Back to Patrick’s Point on the North Coast. Back to my favorite overlook, above the icy cold currents of the Pacific as they crash, in sweet rhythms of moon-mad waves, against black stone and pristine sandy shores. Back to the rural idyll. Back to the Garden. To Woodstock. To your own private Idaho.
Or, lacking that, to the protecting womb of Telluride at 10,000 feet in the San Juan range of Southwestern Colorado, walled off and isolated by 14,000-foot peaks, to where a prophet of another though similar time might write: Great things are done when mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street. To avoid every possible avenue, subway or blind dark alley, and seek, through much reflection and analysis, the clear-cut Mythville within.
I’ll give you the benefit of my loss of innocence with this voice from experience: Be fleeting, like fame, in New York. Take a look and get out of there with enough money in your wallet to get home, rest, dream of gravity, with your sanity and sense of time still whole. Sure, go to New York to get in touch with the famous. Feed your ego: eat, EAT! It will feed on you, too. Trust me, it does. You will lose more than you will receive.
New York is like that big full, not-cost-efficient moon. Just as on the moon, once we arrive, we will become dependent on machines to nourish and sustain us. Wouldn’t want to be there without light, electricity, without the systems that schedule everything from the openings and closings of manic stock markets to commuter vendors to the moment, each day, when hot dog vendors arise from bed and their impossible dreams of fast food franchises. The logic of technology is ubiquitous in New York. There is no trend left to wait for in New York. It’s just one big snowball rolling downhill toward your dream of Eden. To crush it. The big, moonish boot of mankind.
Faithfully, I believe we have been to the moon. I have a copy of a newspaper that says so. Why would it lie? Every article in that July 21, 1969 issue has some tie-in to the moon. Even the sports page. That’s so like New York. The overkill, I mean. New York is our national endorsement for ego, hubris, for fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. In New York, advertising is everything.
New York spams us with everything it knows, and, everything it knows about us. In New York, temptation is everything. The forces of gravitational pull are compressed into advertising, into motivational icons, hanging from the sides of skyscrapers at all angles, as big as your neighborhood grocer, giant grins and girls rivaling----at least in terms of size----the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A video game arcade is a bizarre place to run into anything stimulating enough to invoke profound thoughts. Guzzling Gotu Kola, caffeine and taurine in Bar Code, I thought about just who or what, exactly, is running things from the deep and impenetrable layer of myth. What is the reason to despair when the Beast is no longer in hiding. Isn’t that proof that an iron-clad, compassionate cosmos actually gives a shit. More significant clues to what it all means, you would think, might be frustratingly beyond our fingertips down the street at the NASDAQ headquarters, if we could only crunch the right numbers for chaos and (Pie Symbol). Or, more likely, inside some closeted peep show around the corner.
You know, the Underworld. The Overlord. The Demiurge. The lesser god within the God. Whatever. Such an entertainment venue, at best, provides furious craving for just one more quarter to blow a demon back to digital hell. But the Big Apple, especially someone who has bitten from the forbidden fruit of knowledge too many times, does have a tendency to push the thinking toward megalomania. Such as when a hot dog vendor dreams of owning a McDonald’s. Or when the poet dreamer believes William Blake is calling him from his unmarked grave.
I was writing down the words, “Gotu Kola Herb,” so that I would remember downloading----Ok, Ok, drinking----and I thought of that alchemist’s elixir, and gulped it down. My eyes narrowed with a quick compression on the orgy of techno-pagan icons in a multimedia lounge, restaurant and video arcade. The muse amused me and we both laughed together. Funny, this place seemed to be some kind of premeditated Mythappropriation: a marriage of corporate heaven, and, the charismatic Christian’s imminent Big Brother.
The very worst of all anxieties in apocalyptic culture, the fear that an ISBN unique identifier might be stamped on our foreheads, is tamed, fully licensed and packaged for trendy, positivistic commercial concerns. Co-branding is everything. It cools. It soothes the senses. Makes us docile and compliant and repeat customers. Their memetic icons and are implanted on our brains by repetition, via telecommunications entering every known mammalian orifice. Convergence is a well-supported attack of chess pieces, mate: Game over. Insert another quarter to return, again, to Mythville.
I drank another slug, took a long drag on a cigarette, and considered myself inoculated for the Brave New Databasing to come. To my back were rows of video arcade games. In front, the bar, the waitress in her Bar Coded uniform. She dispensed brain-enhancing fluids beneath a horizontal wall panel simultaneous video displays that streamed pulsing, chimerical patterns of color in tight syncopation with familiar pop music. Nothing new in particular, but the blue light of a roaming overhead projector, which produced circular blue patterns on the bar’s counter to imitate the roving eye of a bar code scanner----now, that was new. Involuntary invasions of personal information harvesting as a source for happy-hour amusement. Even if it was faked up by some graphic art school geek, now that was an inspired idea.
Next, the poet William Blake reached out and spammed me. From two centuries of stony sleep he arrived, right when I needed him.
On the wall-hanging were the following words, “What is now proved was once only imagined.” Bar Code had appropriated the line (Napsterized it, even, since there was no attribution) from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” What it hadn’t appropriated, but should have, from the same passage, was this: “The path of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.”