My train leaves in 6 hours. I know people who know people who have taken the same train just to take it—the journey the destination across the plains and through the mountains it’s so gorgeous, just you wait westward bound on the shamelessly named Empire Builder.
When my dad was a little boy, he took the train with his dairy-farm family to see the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. When I imagine my father’s memories, it’s in the washed out, weird color of our evidence of that time. Many of my dreams have pan shots and slow motion. The future unfolds in my mind as a montage, highlights and shadows of maybe what-ifs, cause effected flipbooked pieces.
The present moment, however, is unmediated by the way we tell stories—no author/authorial tricks or teases, no techniques to enhance or degrade or hide until the final act.
And that’s tough. When you’re the Narrator. To let that compulsion go.
To fail is to live perpetually in the past or the future, trapped in descriptions, in structure, interpretation. Simulacrum. Sitting on the train I’m shaken by the beauty all around me and the heaviness of leaving, projecting the writing of a letter with a fever wanting perfection about sitting on the train shaken by the beauty all around me and the heaviness of leaving. While the lightness of being is just being. Sitting on the train and nothing. Sitting here writing this now and everything.
Part of me is making you see through me, to the point? or to the end? of I don’t see through myself. Necessitated words putting me to work, not a moment do I doubt their relevance or my usefulness, and that’s an unusual thing to want. Fame? esteem? crush ’em all genius? no, I wish to be useful. I want to live truth.
What the hell am I doing haunts me.
And maybe that’s a lie; I know this is right, or approaches it. But I also know Minneapolis is my home—that is to say, familiarity, my person more powerfully a face and a movement than a name and reputation, but still known and recognized, as I notice and nod myself. I will miss the run-ins and unworldly connections between people, place and time, alarming collisions of aren’t you the dude and I remember you too, wow that’s strange wow that’s wow. Waving small at strangers I see around so often it’s embarrassing we haven’t shared words.
By leaving the United States I will become, not for the first time but the first time exhaustively, an American, and I better have some answers. I just hope to have some dignity as I tear apart my country but claim I still love it, and not just the irony, the darkside snarkery and demon bashing, Daily Show deliverance and political actualization through sideline mockery, the smug free ride of I Hate Bush and worshipped first all of your Internet heroes. I love the idea and ideal. The people on the street from the street and from the towers I eye-connect and don’t forget but never see again.
Maybe that means I just love people, love life, but no, I love my country too—and I want things for it. Betterment, equality, justice. Values as I see them, wherever I got them. I want everything for America—sensible healthcare and an economy for the people who live here, affordable education (a prime reason I seek it elsewhere), libraries that are open when people can actually use them with the services they actually need. This is how you get emergency contraception. This is how to understand and stopping hating Islam. This is how to flow into another dimension minus consumption and emotional dementia. This is how to live.
Most of all, I want America to learn temperance. Accountability. Its face before the world was born to wear before the world.
For myself, I want to want nothing, and know I’m no where near.
I found a new place to eat. Seven years ago I moved to the West Bank, lived there two years and was close another two. For the past year I’ve worked there. But I’d never seen the Weinery, a Riverside hole in the wall? how about a rip in time and space.
Stepping through the door was up the back steps directly into someone’s house. Toys litter two of few tables, two shirtless little boys dunking cars in cups of water. “All Things Considered” fights with the heat to conquer the air. What’s more pressing? the sweltering snug around me? or Beirut bombed to shit on the other side of the earth?
Two adults at a table suddenly stop their conversation and look at me startled. I’m still standing at the door and I don’t know what to do. The man too is perplexed, like I really did just walk into his kitchen. Apparently the proprietor, “Um… have you been here before?” “No.” “Oh. I’ll get you a menu.” Specialty dogs and burgers with vegetarian options, mm-mmm. Taking a stool in the narrow room, I order a Maxwell Street with a veg Italian sausage and sweat.
This is the week of one hundred degrees and no A/C. My box fan broke a few weeks ago and I’m too stubborn cheap to buy another knowing I’d need to get rid of it soon. It’s eighty, eighty-five, or I-wouldn’t-be-surprised ninety in my apartment, even at night. When I sleep if I sleep I don’t dream, I hallucinate.
Dust clumps on the plaster ceiling of the Weinery cling whirling from electric fans. On the wall is a swordfish and grizzled deer heads. A piano sits next to the soda machine, the metal kitchen architecture shelving paperbacks and photographs instead of well I don’t know, dishes? Foodstuffs? I look to the children. Three and two maybe, both with in-their-eyes curling blonde hair, the older has a crooked braid at the side like a couple young girls had him in a headlock it’s the future bay-bee, with those pouty lips and lady killer Michael Keaton eyebrows.
His name is Eli. I want to pull a Putin on his belly phhhffffff and run, what do I have to lose? The younger wears his lunch on his face and his diaper hanging out the waist of dirty khaki shorts, barefoot, of course, just how closing he can get until Dad yells get back! it’s a kitchen, see, with hot grease honey yeah hotter than the atmosphere if you can believe.
They play the games only kids devise and understand. I want to grab the foot-tall T-rex and join in. I read the alt weekly and eat my food. It burns my mouth and I like it.
As braid boy plops repeatedly on the piano, I want to take pictures, I want to remember, to share it in a way I fear words will fail me, to look upon with wonder when I am long gone where am I going, where have I been, why did I leave, what did I leave, what have I taken. What have I given.
I bring my camera everywhere, but not my guts. So I snap shots with my mind instead, adding the heat and fried onions to the sounds of NPR and butt chords and children with voices in the range if you weren’t raising them, alludes. How’s that sweetie pie, how’s that dreamchild? What are you trying to tell me.
The old becomes new again. The old become young.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Leave and you’ll miss it, you will never know how easily it’s replaced with new becoming old.
I’ve been writing this entry for a few weeks. I sneaked back to the Weinery once and caught Eli salting a puddle.
Though it seems understood that everyone in the restaurant has parental authority and responsibility oh hey kid leave the ketchup alone I couldn’t bear to drop the hammer. Just squeeze the shutter, secret-pressed against my hip hoping no one sees.
I dreamhallucinate dropping bombs, monks in malls, mauling dogs preventing wayfinding home. Animals who think they’re humans and humans who think they’re gods. I climb inside of paintings upside down and hide in attic spaces. In waking hours, I must write in brightness, ’cause I cry a lot, too. Scream fuck! in my car a lot. Last time every face, place and action with a sickness, my voice into water with the ones I love.
I’ve made mistakes and have let them happen to me, and I’m still paying, I’m still in pain.
But I strive to regret the things I did, not didn’t do. With the movement I make now, I am overcome with the combination of intense vulnerability and invincibility. Do you care? I care so much and nothing can stop me.
I will miss you, Minneapolis. Forgive my trespasses that weren’t for keeps. Thank you for the memories, photographs, imaginings, paychecks and sunburns, stolen breath and dreams. I will hold you and every soul you know in my defecting, heartless heart.