A thief sits in a landscape he stole even though it was already his. He is throwing away everything of value. The sunset. Birds. Wind on the water. This has to be done to make room for the beginning. He throws out ownership and the myth of things. He throws away language and the calliope of symbols. He throws away plastic. Cantaloupes and cardboard and air. He lets his own mouth do the breathing for once.
Wondering a oneness, a silent conclave. Nothing goes hurtling across the sky. Everything and everyone, all shouting down from disappearing clouds. Hands shift in hands and nerves leave them behind, to grieve in their own cradle. Goners get gone.
Distinct in the shadows: these old feelings. The dark awake, when the bright cold buildings meet me at my window. Then a heavy breathe is routed and I am without. Just a shift of thought, a glistening scarf on a velvet chair.
Meek tones in the margins, a paraphrase to busted longing, a mute descent, these coarse cuts. Hear this, and bend in thought. Hear this, and go below. Attunement.
Home is where the cieling is. All blue and far away.
Death and its requisite implications will have to happen whether or not we make it to the edge of the ember. A lonesome stinging thing will see us confused when the windows play tight and envious. I woke up and knew you, and in knowing you knew I was known. Then I lived some more. You watched and panned for me in streams. There was also how the light moved across the floor. It carried vast shoes with it, dust in a teacup, nothing for a sung hero. Our bed had a hand in the drink without losing us. Who falls? Only the story that won't listen. A court will find us holding each other in the storm, laughing.
Elk train vert. A few years ago, no one imagined that the spines (foliage) of pine-trees could be converted into wool. Roanoke ember auroch, bos taurus primigenius. The problem Saxby Chambliss faces is that he has maxed out his support base. What about: “I don’t like you, do you understand?” Keep in mind, keep leaves in mind, keep then, using the habitat template approach, that hydropeaking pressure is related to biological quality elements, such as the ellipse of the half-moon. Lunatic lollers and lepers about, and mad as the moon sit, more other less. When passing a senior center or other facility primarily used by senior citizens, contiguous to a street other than a bleak highway and posted with a standard "SENIOR" warning sign, a local authority is not required to erect any sign pursuant to this paragraph until donations from private sources covering those costs are received and the local agency makes a determination that the proposed signing should be implemented. One thing about this, the longer you last the less you care.
True roaming, the everything way we go. This had me down and I
was down and something made me say go up there and find the bottom for the
plumbing and should you see him or her or that way that they do, then you might
get in the middle the way you want to. That is just the down way of saying this
is the thing. So, I said it. That had me saying it over and again and of course
there was no me to be there, but I said it as I said it and something true
happened. It was a cool treasure and there was a way to extract its great bulk
from the bottom, but it required we go live at the bottom, so was the worth
really inherent in the value? There was no there without us, you have it. Than
me, she was something with something growing, and I stood marbling the hallway
with my smile. Everything hit the eject button at about the same time, and
nothing blasted, it all just heavily drifted upward as a sprint might fuzz out.
Was good. Was real good and everyone cried all along and alone and there was
both of us zanting and melting and skipping away when the prices were told. We
knew they were more so we held our heads out, hands in mouths, fingers getting
wet and our eyes starred the way they do.
My longtime friend and craze-art collaborator, Ben Cramer, and I are pleased to announce the launch of our very first album, Carmelita Velasquez, which you will soon be able to buy on iTunes or listen to for free on Spotify. It's been years in the making and we are simply tickled that it's finally a reality. If you would like an advanced taste, you can listen to it for free in its entirety (free!) by clicking right here.
Our skinny, messy-haired, 19 year-old hero wakes up in
his small and shitty first floor studio apartment to the sounds of “Still Life
With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter” by Titus Andronicus playing on his Red
Firetruck Radio. He jumps out of bed, wearing only his boxers. He does 17
jumping jacks and 4 push-ups. He pulls on jeans, and a T-shirt printed with
the phrase: “I’m all about understanding Anarchy." He tucks some rocks in
his back pockets and reads Emily Dickinson's "I'm nobody! Who are you?"
to his frog (which looks at him quietly from inside a small glass bowl next to
his toaster). He fries himself an egg and eats it out of
the pan, drinking a coke and reading a worn 1977 edition of LIFE magazine.
Occasionally he tears a page out of the magazine and tosses it into the
air, yelling: "Montage!" (Meanwhile, outside, two thieves wearing ski
masks and black leather gloves are preparing to break into and steal his
neighbor’s car.) Our hero, coming to the end of his magazine, yells “To
work! … Or NOT to work!” He quickly ties a blindfold onto himself and sprints
as hard as he can out of his apartment door. He SLAMS into one of the thieves,
whose head slams into the head of the other thief. THWACK! The two thieves fall
unconscious into the street, thieving tools falling out of their hands. Our
hero yells “Sorry...Maybe!” and runs off, zig-zagging, down the street. A beat
cop turns the corner and comes upon the fallen thieves. The cop grins strangely, with a thought bubble reading “Now what?!” while
our hero careens down the block into the distance.
On The Custodial Spirit, and the Excellence of Eric St. Jean and Eva Malone
Several days into my Long Trail trek, I met two 23 year old hikers who had a similar pace to my own: a lovely couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Eric St. Jean and Eva Malone. I was hiking up Bromley Mountain, a pretty ski mountain covered in a meadow of wildflowers, and at the top, near the ski lift, sat Eric and Eva, with a pizza (!) they'd carried to the top. When they offered me a slice I yawped with joy. Fast friends.
(Eva, Eric, and Bruce, an Appalachian Trail hiker and fellow pizza lover.)
Eva and Eric and I managed to hike in synch with one another throughout many of the days, sometimes chatting as we hiked, sometimes simply hiking near one another in mellow silence. When The Long Trail split with the Appalachian Trail, after 104 miles, Eva had to get off, due to a foot injury. She's a great hiker and a bright spirit, but the intensity of her injury required her to make the wise decision to finish the remaining undone section of The Long Trail at a future time, when she's healed.
So, a little bummed, Eric and I moseyed forward, into the mud and rain. We set our tents up alongside each other and spurred each other onward through some gnarly weather, tough terrain, and achy legs. Eric is a quicker hiker and would usually get to a peak several minutes before me. I'd yell to him to "reel me up!" He'd yell "You got it, Matty!" We'd often walk within eyesight or earshot of each other for hours in quiet, just appreciating the sounds of streams and thrushes and the feeling of cool breezes on our necks.
A few days ago, in high winds and damp weather, we came to the top of another ski mountain area, called Smuggler's Notch. At the mountaintop sat a nice looking warming hut and we decided to see if it was open, even though it was summer and there was no ski snow to be found. Wouldn't you know...the door was unlocked and we went right in.
(Eric in front of our happy warming hut.)
But to our dismay, we found the place utterly trashed inside. A large group of hooligans had very recently driven up a Jeep trail and had a clandestine party in the hut. Garbage, spilled beer, and broken bottles were strewn everywhere inside. It made us both sad. So we decided we'd do what we could to tidy it up. There was a large garbage pail and a broom and we got to work. After an hour or so we had the place looking pretty spiffy. We'd thrown out all the refuse that was strewn around and as we cleaned we found 1/2 a chocolate bar, 1/2 a bag of marshmallows, a package of hotdogs, some buns, and a bottle of ketchup. We considered this booty our reward for a good cleanup job and we proceeded to make hot chocolate and cook the hotdogs on our camping stoves. I dried the slightly soggy buns over the stove flames while the dogs cooked, which made Eric laugh like hell. Very tasty cookout! Our bellies full and our good deed done, we slept soundly in the windproof mountaintop hut.
Two days before the end of The Long Trail we ran into a southbound Long Trailer who was having some aches and pains and asked if we had any ibuprofen, since she'd run out. Eric gave her a nice pile of Advil and in return she told us about a secret camping spot up ahead next to a pretty pond that was great for swimming. This was pure trail magic. We hiked the rest of the day, found the nice little spot, called Ritterbush Pond, and swam to our hearts' delight.
(Ritterbush Pond, great for swimming.)
(Eric feasts using his new "woodland chopsticks.")
We had a great sunset meal and camped on a little covered dock looking out over the water. When it rained through the night we stayed dry and happy.
Yesterday, as I approached the northern end of The Long Trail, Eric, who had arrived there a few minutes before me, yelled, "Run it, Matty!" And I charged to the end, bellowing with glee. It was great to share the joy of completion with a new friend.
(Northern Terminus of The Long Trail.)
(Eric sings "Oh, Canada!" at the wilderness border between the U.S.A. and Canada, just a few feet away from the northern end of The Long Trail.)
Eva drove for hours from New Hampshire and met us at the trail terminus. We jumped in her car and proceeded to the lovely town of Stowe, Vermont, where there was a warm inn Eva had booked for us. Much feasting and laughter ensued. This morning they drove me to the Amtrak station in Waterbury, Vermont, where I hopped on the Vermonter train, to ride back to New York. Goodbye for now, Eric and Eva. Thanks for everything and I'll see y'all soon.
There are these stories we tell ourselves, over and over, until we believe they're real. Stories that become grooves and ruts in our hearts and minds until we think we know who we are. Sometimes these stories, these narratives, are positive. Sometimes not. We'll turn certain experiences into full-blown catastrophes, over and over in our heads, until we think we're unlucky, troubled, downtrodden, etc. Or we'll look in the mirror and see affirmations of the messages we've been telling ourselves for so long that it all feels like Truth. But, walking all day, one day after the other, 17 miles per day, and coming to the end of The Long Trail of Vermont, I've had a little chance to watch my mind grab certain tales, hang onto them for a while, and then (often when I get to the top of a mountain, refreshed by a blowing breeze) let go and relax into a less grasping calm. A calm in which I'm not sweatily trying to tell myself who or what I am. A simple, quiet being.
I'm sure this is not new wisdom I'm doling out here. I'm sure we all have this experience, from time to time, of thinking we know who we are and then allowing that knowledge to gently slip away.
I had this narrative in my head that I simply had to wear heavy boots that covered my ankles, or else I would injure myself and be unable to finish my trek. And then I met Dilan and Kelly, two sisters walking The Long Trail. Dilan, a first-year college student, found that her hiking shoes were not very comfortable to her and decided to switch to trail-trudging in her Crocs. Yes, her Crocs! Those light, minimally supportive lounging shoes that are made of foam that's only slightly denser than a marshmallow.
(Hiking sisters, Kelly and Dilan, near the end of The Long Trail.)
(Dilan's Crocs, which took her through the toughest section of the trail.)
Dilan walked 171 miles of the toughest and most rugged part of The Long Trail in those little Crocs, just taking it easy and enjoying the walk in the most comfortable footwear she had.
So, when my Achilles' tendon started giving me trouble, I thought of Dilan and I let go of the narrative that lacing my boots all the way above my ankles was "the only way." I put duct tape and an Ace bandage over my irritated spots and walked on. For over 50 more miles.
(First the duct tape.)
(Then the Ace bandage.)
(Then the sock and loosely tied, more comfortable boot.)
I was inspired by Dilan to let go of my narrative that my shoe must be a certain way. And I relaxed into what became a much more comfortable experience. Maybe on my next hike I'll even try low-top shoes...or Crocs!
This is just a wee example, but there were other times when I'd stew my own brain to its boiling point over various issues and troubles from my paved life, even while surrounded by grand mountain vistas. Often such psychodramas would make trekking over easy terrain feel like I was trapped in a bog. What would it take to get back to the moment, to the immediacy of lived experience? Breathing helped. Cool drinks of water and snacks helped. But even more helpful was simply being attentive to the styles and textures of my thinking patterns until I could see that I often held onto certain negativities for no reason other than sheer force of habit. Sheesh. How ridiculous I am when I am convinced, with white-knuckled conviction, that I know what I am. How foolish to let the shifting web of narratives and my inevitable embellishments define my world. There's a certain clarity, and even a strange security, in letting the stream of thoughts just be a stream...instead of trying to weave them into something permanent.
An Italian-American Spaceman Foresees His Death:
Smashing against ashen walls, alone in space,/
Weirdly wired, mind warping/
Through the void, veering over/
The vapid edge of madness, mumbling aloud,/
"Per aspera ad astra, you young asshole./
It’s a rough road to the stars, Rotando."