Friday, May 1, 2009

"Aisle 13"

“Can I help you?”

I had been browsing around a bit in the produce section of the local Co-Op when I was discovered listening in on an employee conversation. They had placed the mundane terms of life in the language of the mythological:

“Someone took a dump in the broken toilet.”


“Someone took a dump in the broken toilet!”

“Who’d do that?”
“I’ll tell you who’d do that. The Antichrist! And this is your APOCALYPSE that you keep going go about. That toilet is broken! No water. Everyone is gonna have to look at that all day long when they use the urinal, and then the maintenance guy is gonna have to work in it.”

The speaking employee’s face soured at this point and he began waving his hands in the air making a German umlauty sounding noise when the other employee noticed my attention and approached me.
“Can I help you?”
“Um, yeah, maybe. I’m looking for an ingredient. I’ve got this new cookbook.
The-Magnum-Opus. That’s an interesting looking book. So what are you looking for?”
“Well the first thing is “nigredo” but it might also be called “putrefactio”. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that maybe it is an herb?”
“Hmmmmmm. Our local supplier is now online with their spring product and so we’ve got a lot of new stuff here: Bronze Fennel, Purple Mustard, Purslane, and Stinging Nettle, but I don’t know “nigredo”.
“You sell Stinging Nettles? How can people eat that? It is Poison right? And Purslane is a weed that grows in my garden.”
“Well, that’s true, but Thoreau ate it the other day in Walden, and he’s some kind of American hero to our customers. When I started here, someone gave me a copy of Walden to read, but they had written: “Wake up, Neo” on the title page. I guess activated people are willing to give Purslane a try and—”
“Doesn’t that go completely against the Walden grain to sell a weed that grows everywhere; that Thoreau ate because he needed something to go along with his woodchuck. And you are selling a four ounce bag of it for four bucks?”
“Yeah, but it’s organic.”
“O.K. Sure, weeds are normally pretty organic. I’ll give you that. And I suppose next you’ll argue the merits of industrial-organic farming too.”
“You know using the same large scale, industrial, unsustainable, commercial farming practices, but doing it within the organic guidelines.”
“But that’s good, right?”
Unsustainable is unsustainable even if it has a smiley face on it. Um with the nettles I’ve been told that you can pinch them in a way that neutralizes them, but I don’t know if I believe that. The package says that you have to really cook them, but I also think that the toxins intensify the longer the plant is allowed to develop. Would you like me to go ask our buyer about “nigredo”? Actually you might just try customer service. They know everything, and probably will point you in the right direction.”
“So go to customer service?”
I always find it interesting how much longer conversations are in a Co-Op. Although the idea of commerce is definitely in play, the normal bounds have been agreed to be loosened a bit by the participants. I’m not sure how I feel about that dirty hippy though. Wake up Neo indeed. Yeah right. You know, that’s funny. I heard someone the other day say that The Matrix is the most important movie of the last twenty years.
As I started walking toward customer service in the front of the store I noticed something odd. “Captain Ahab” was stocking jellies and jams. At about the same time I had that thought an employee approached this man.
“Billy. You shaved. What do you call this look? Is this a ‘Captain Ahab’, or maybe it is called ‘Tug Boat Pilot’?”
“No. I just like kissing my girlfriend, and the mustache was getting in the way. It isn’t a ‘look’.”
As I walked by this Ahab, I considered Moby Dick and proceeded toward Customer Service. I had just read Moby Dick this past winter and was more than a little obsessed with it.
What was it to be aboard a ship headed by a madman whose motives were indecipherable? The ship sought oil, but the captain sought something more and stranger than revenge. He sought destruction of truth. He had been blackened by some kind of fire that scarred him from crown to soul and because of that he sought to destroy the essence of life? His only discernable goal was to destroy the sacred animal of his hunting tribe, which in turn would unravel the very fabric of existence.
The truth of the Pequod was isolation. Ishmael said as much. Everyman is an island or isolato or something like that. The only thing today that comes close to speaking to the meaningless alienation on board The Pequod is Radiohead’s body of work.
Radiohead’s whole career has been one of a loosing battle with the idea of meaningless alienation. OK Computer illustrates modernity’s union of plastic, number, and electricity. With Kid A and Amnesiac, one is convinced that the machine is succeeding in destroying humanity’s soul. Hail to the Thief leaves little to no room for redemption. Maybe the thief is Ahab, maybe someone else. “After all it was you and me.” I should say this though, In Rainbows children revivify us.
Meaningless alienation really became symbolically active in the 19th century when the snake in the garden was a locomotive. How does something that unites also divide? Was it literally an  that forced us from the garden? If we looked more closely would we see that “The Tree of Knowledge” was actually an electrical telegraph pole, and our expulsion from the garden is really due to our technology? Or, is something more fundamental the cause? Did we loose something bigger in the garden when we fell (asleep)?
My thoughts returned to Thoreau: “But lo! men have become the tools of their tools.” Radiohead’s response to our modern world then adheres to his notion of art: “The best works of art are the expression of man's struggle to free himself from this condition [slavery], but the effect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher state to be forgotten.” We can’t even conceive of a higher state anymore. Our fall occurs everyday in a Wall-Mart.

From this reverie in the garden I awoke to Radiohead’s “Black Star” playing in the background. I walked by the deli and smelled burning toast. Hmmm. Maybe my train of thought was driven by the song in the first place. Probably. Or, maybe my train of thought was driving the music.
“Can I help you?”
“Um, yeah, I was told that you know everything.”
“Sure. What’s your question?”
“Everything, hmmm? What’s the meaning of life?”
“Well. Life is actually brutally meaningless.”
“Yeah. The only meaning to life is that which we ascribe to it. The essence of life however, is telling stories. We are a very storied people. Mythology, Religion, Novels, Movies, Sit-coms, Soap Operas, Video Games, Politics. This is the language we use to understand our existence. And the point of all that, is communion. Union with existence.”
“What point?”
“Basically, it boils down to Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll”
“What kind of Co-Op is this?
“This is a community Co-Op and you asked. Most people ask but don’t really want the answer. They don’t want to know. They think they want to gno, but they really don’t. Is that all that you wanted to Noe?”
“I’m looking for something.”
“Everyone thinks they are. Maybe you’ve already found it?”
“Did you find it already?”
“Um, no. My cart is still empty except for my cookbook.”
“A full cart doesn’t mean anything, and fullness and emptiness are changing perceptions. Are you seeking “nigredo” by chance?”
“Yes. How did you know that? My recipe calls for it anyway.”
“You said that I know everything. Maybe I do.”
“Can you tell me where to find it?”
“So then you don’t carry it here at the Co-Op?”
“Oh we carry it, but I can’t tell you where to get it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, but you will.”
“Huh? Is “nigredo” somewhere in the store?”
“Yeah. Aisle 13.
“Thank You.”
“But that is not the answer.”
“No, that’s what I wanted to know. Thanks again.”
What an obtuse, vague fuck, I thought as I walked off. I replayed the conversation and tried to understand why he was being so difficult. He looked like he should have been a nice guy, but something about him didn’t agree with me. I couldn’t tell if he was being a smart ass, if he was a dick or if maybe he. . . No I don’t understand. Maybe I was the dick.

I walked past the cash registers and started toward the far end of the store beginning about aisle four. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything. I was in my head. There was no contemplation now. It was just silence. Occasionally I would glance up at the aisle number again returning my gaze to the floor. I walked in silence.
That’s when I saw her: A tall, curvy beauty, with big, raven-black eyes. This was no Snow White, and her dark complexion and hair enchanted me. I don’t know if it was the serpent speaking, but I would follow this temptation anywhere. I’m talking more Persephone, less Magdalene.
I was caught in her gaze, and imagined what was across the silence from me. She was slowly turning me to stone when I finally broke free and readdressed reality. I was in the meat aisle. Aisle 11. The final aisle of the store. I had reached the meat counter.
“Can I help you?”
“Um. . .”
“Would you like a cut of meat? Do you need a piece of flesh? A flank steak, or do you already have a flank stake?What is at stake here? How about a nice rump roast? Life feeds upon death you know. These are the stakes.”
“Ohh, YOU. I thought you worked in customer service. Did you run over here?”
“Am I not giving you the customer, the service you require? How would you like to be serviced? Would you like your girlfriend there to service you?”
“Excuse me?”
“Tell me id-boy do you see how poignant it is for you to mix sex and death here in the meat department? What do you bet that your picture of temptation there goes shopping for apples next? Speaking of pictures of temptation, doesn’t she look just like The Sin herself? And what does it mean that they put an apple in the mouth of a pig before they roast him? Is that what she is going to do to you?”
“Dude! What is wrong with you?!! Who are you? We need to have a talk with your manager. This is highly inappropriate.”
“Gotta go! Ohh and to clarify, this is a community cooperative. You are my manager. How would you manage me? How are you managing me?”
And he walked off, and. . . And, my Medusa was gone too.

So here was an interesting pickle. I was standing in the last aisle of the store. Aisle 11. The meat aisle. Eunus told me earlier that my ingredient could be found on aisle 13. Obviously his trustworthiness was questionable, but he had gotten into my head a bit moments ago and had really flapped me. I was having overtly graphic sexual thoughts about that woman I saw in the meat aisle. Well, she looked pretty young. Maybe woman was a bit generous.
I began to consider my next move. Should I give up on the “nigredo” and then begin my search for the next ingredient? Should I give up on this recipe altogether? Maybe I should go and find that girl. I could talk to someone about how I was just insulted. (Of course Eunus had me pegged and nailed me dead on.) Probably I should just give up on this goofy Co-Op and go to a real store with normal people.
As I was cataloging my options I noticed the music. It was a song by Stephen Malkmus:
. . .

Carry on.
It’s a marathon.
Take me off the list.
I don’t want to be missed.
Its what we all become.
From small minds and tall trees
away from the action.
But all you ever wanted,
Was everything,
And everything. . .
Alright. I don’t have any business following young girls about a store. I’m married after all. Happily. I love my wife. We’re a great team. She’s my V. My eye. My AV. My Vida, my Vivian. My Avé Marie. My lotus. My Rose. My April lilly. My 6, and my 9 and the rest of the dime. My up, and my down and my lost and my found. My Gold, and my Oil and all of my Drugs. The mother, the lover, the giver of hugs. She is my Aphrodite, my Venus, and my Isis. Her worth is indescribable and priceless. Finding her was my first great adventure, which reminds me. She asked me to pick her up some beer.
“Can I help you? You look a little lost pal. Are you looking for something particular?”
The first half of aisle 11 was beer and chilled wine. At the mid point it became meat. The aisle ended with dairy. Body and the blood. I just happened to have wandered a bit back into the beer and wine.
“I’m told to bring home “Black Sun”. Do you carry that?”
“Oh, yeah. We just started getting our summery beers and that one is one of our best sellers.” He grabbed a bottle and handed it to me.
“You want, a summary?”
“No, I guess I’m just a little disoriented. Summer already?”
“Yeah it was kind of a long cold spring. I didn’t think summer was ever going to come. But the sun came out and brought everything back to life. And now it’s scorching us! From the dead of winter we have green again. And I can wear my flip flops to work.”
“Say could you tell me about an employee? I just had a strange encounter with Eunus Noe.”
“Youness Know?”
“I think his name is Eunus, kinda like a male version of Eunice. You know with an “E”. Strange name actually. I think he works in customer service.”
“I don’t think I know this person. What does he look like? They hire a lot of people in this place."
As he was saying this I noticed the word “nigredo” on the beer bottle.
“He kinda looks like me I guess. Maybe he’s my ‘bizzaro’ and that’s why he rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know, maybe I should just drop it.”
“No, let me call Jen.” And he pulled a cordless phone from his belt and dialed three numbers: 4-3-2. “Hey Jen, this is Matt. . . . Ohh. Produce. Sorry. What’s the extension for customer service? . . . 4-2-3, oh, that’s how I blew it. Thanks.
He dialed the correct number and shook his head at me.
“Jen? . . . Say, do you have someone new there with you in customer service today? . . . Just you eh? And do you know a Eunus Noe? . . . No, this isn’t a joke. . . . Um, this guy with me, says that there was this other guy in customer service. . . . Yeah, I’ll send em your way. Thanks Jen. Buh-bye.”
“Say pal, do you think you could go and tell Jen about this person you saw there in customer service. It sounds like someone was where he was not supposed to be.”
And immediately I thought of where my mind and the young girl in the meat department went. I started back for “Customer Service” from the meat aisle and considered life and death.
Part of the mystery of life is our fangs. We are the monsters. Yet, we don’t have the same respect for it, for life, the mystery of life, since we lost our hunting roots. We don’t have rites to celebrate the hunt. We aren’t connected to the things we kill. We celebrate the harvest, but not the kill. We have become mindless killers.
Has our connection to the truth of life diminished since the rise of the supermarket? Meat does not grow packaged in Styrofoam on a tree. It is processed in an industrial manner, but this “matrix” meat was still a living and breathing thing. And we had to kill it to sustain ourselves. Life feeds upon life. Life feeds upon death.
There is a thought that strife is as much a unifying force as love. Could strife be what makes the world go around and what holds everything together? In support of this, the rite of human sacrifice in the Aztec culture was a sign of the respect for the mystery of life and for the constituent force of strife. Life needs the sacrifice of life in order to survive. Our life depends upon the death of something else. We must eat something living in order to be. Yet one should be mindful of this sacrifice.
A ritual to celebrate strife then is and was war. Our mindless society has been celebrating this rite now for some time. Is our penance for the lack of respect we have in our lifestyle and diet constant war? Must we have a war going all the time in order to remind us of the value of life and to understand the stakes? What is the point of our endless wars?

Jesus died so that we might live. He was the sacrifice. But was Jesus an animal-God giving his flesh to us, or a plant-God that is reborn in the spring after its seasonal death? Thoreau advocated for us all to become vegetarians. I don’t know how realistic that was. We do need to be more mindful about what we eat though, and to eat less flesh and more vegetables, but I don’t think planetary vegetarianism is a solution. At the heart of life is death. These are the steaks. Let us prey.
Rounding the corner on 11 on my way back to customer service, I was tickled to see that aisle 11 continued past the front walkway into a little nook that became the beauty section. And from death we have life. I continued past the make-up and the perfume and reconsidered my young, dark lady that I saw in the meat department. She sure was pretty. There was something about her eyes that caught me. Caught was an important word there.
My fantasy with her led me to a place where a rational explanation of my thoughts and impulses would become difficult. In vocalizing these thoughts I would be caught in what appears to be an indiscretion. This is the ongoing strife between my wife and myself. It is the difference between the sexes. For years now I’ve been trying to get her to understand the male animal when it comes to sexuality. The sexual nature of the male animal is so ugly, but she won’t believe the truth of that goaty ugliness. I’ve tried to lift the veil between us, but she just doesn’t want to know or believe that I can become aroused by other women or by pornography.
The problem area for some men is when they try to bring their sexual fantasy into reality. When a man begins to act upon his fantasy, he encounters problems. It is fantasy, not reality. Sex is just sex, but it is the fantasy that sustains the arousal and is the impetus for the initiation of sexual activity. Sex is everything, and everything is sex. But, sex is also nothing. Sex is not even sex, but it is everything. Sex is out there everyday pervading just about every discussion, in just about every topic, selling everything. I think most men think about sex probably 90% of the time. If we are a storied people as Eunus said, sex is our one story.
“Can I help you?”
“Hhhhh. Hopefully.”
“What can I do for you darlin’?”
I was back at customer service and a pretty lady had replaced Eunus behind the counter. She had a lovely smile with straight white teeth. I wanted to trust her and let her take care of me.
“Wow, what a pretty white smile you have.”
“The better to eat you with!”
“Just playin’. Do you need something?”
“I was asked to come and talk to you about someone who was behind that counter moments ago.”
“Oh your are that guy?”
“No. No. I wasn’t behind the counter. It was Eunus Noe.”
“No honey, that’s not what I meant. You are that guy that is going to tell me what was going on over here.”
“OK. Well, I was in produce and I wasn’t having any luck finding something, so they sent me here with the message that you know everything.”
“Not everything, but we can try to get you to the right place.”
“That’s not what I heard. So when I got here, there was this guy in your place and he dealt with me, but was difficult and made me uncomfortable. Later when I saw him in the meat department I learned his name, Eunus Noe. I learned that from a page that brought him back to customer service.”
“I haven’t heard a page lately.”
“Really?” It was just a few moments ago. My sense of time is a little screwy, but it couldn’t have been but 8 minutes ago?”
“No page.”
“Say, who picks the music for this place. Is that a station that you subscribe to, or a CD or what? It is pretty eclectic.”
“Do you want a playlist?”
She said this with such a tone, very self-conscious and slightly robotic.
“I’m sorry?”
“The store just hired someone new to be in charge of the music. The employees have been complaining about it for so long that the store director finally just hired one of the employees to become the programming director for the store. The new guy says that his programming is an art, and it is carefully selected for the moment in which it is played. I think he might be a little full of himself. He also asks that I give out copies of his playlist to anyone who inquires about the music.”
She handed me a white sheet.
“That’s interesting,” I said as I quickly glanced at the playlist. I was more curious about the previous list though, but didn’t want to go into that wormhole. “Thanks. Um do you need anything else from me?”
“I think we are just going to try and forget about your Eunus. We’ll pretend like he was never here. It will be easier for both of us that way. Does that sound good? Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No. I think I’m good.” I wasn’t sure if she thought I was crazy. Like I made the whole thing up!
I walked off looking back and appreciated her smile one more time. The better to eat you with. She had nice fangs.

Now what? Ohh! Damn. I didn’t grab the beer. I looked at it, but I didn’t grab it. I’ve been wheeling around an empty cart for how long now? 20 minutes? An hour?
I started back to aisle 11 to get my wife’s beer. As I walked by the registers this time, I noticed the magazines. The ones facing the aisle were on a tall, rolling, black metal rack that contained nothing but girly/fashion magazines. Now that was evil. Men don’t buy magazines. They will enjoy this density of “T” and “A” however. This community of pretty faces here is designed to tempt women. Look like me!
Here was something though. Someone had folded a magazine open in the top of the rack. No. There were two magazines folded open. In the top two middle slots of this magazine rack—the prime pockets, due to the height and the unhindered view of the cover—was the same article folded open to two different spots. The left slot contained the title page of the article with the command “READ ME!” written boldly in red on the top, left-hand corner. The right slot held the picture on the facing page of the article. In this picture, a cute, young, thin girl stands at a mirror and her thoughts of her body are printed over her various “problem areas”. She is all of 13 or 14 and on her body is printed: “flat chest, fat, flab, pudge, fatass”.
Hmmm. I picked up the magazine, an issue of Ms., and began reading the article, “Out-of-Body Image” by Caroline Heldman:
On a typical day, you might see ads featuring a naked woman’s body tempting viewers to buy an electronic organizer, partially exposed women’s breasts being used to sell fishing line, or a woman’s rear—wearing only a thong—being used to pitch a new running shoe. Meanwhile, on every newsstand, impossibly slim (and digitally airbrushed) cover “girls” adorn a slew of magazines. With each image, you’re hit with a simple, subliminal message: Girls’ and women’s bodies are objects for others to visually consume.
When I looked up from the article several minutes later, I noticed that the rack didn’t contain just girly/fashion magazines. There was also a peppering of progressive, inherent-beauty/feminist magazines. I guess the rack isn’t as evil as it appears. The real question of evil had to do with me. How do my thoughts of male sexuality reconcile with the objectification of women’s bodies? Does the male lust automatically lead to the objectification of women?

But what was worse as stated by the author is how the male lust is training girls to self-objectify. They see their beauty through my eyes and then act to please me. How do I define my worth? What if my thoughts of self worth came primarily from how I looked? Strike that. What if my thoughts of worth came primarily from how I looked according an unattainable sick standard?

The end of this piece posed some interesting questions:
What would our lives look like if we viewed our bodies as tools to master our environment, instead of projects to be constantly worked on? What if our sexual expressions were based on our own pleasure as opposed to a narrow, consumerist idea of male sexual pleasure? What would disappear from our lives if we stopped seeing ourselves as objects? Painful high heels? Body hatred? Constant dieting? Liposuction? Unreciprocated oral sex?
I reciprocate oral sex! This I swear! The last word of this article was handwritten. In the same red ink as the command at the beginning of the article, a final note was written. It said:
To fully understand this phenomenon, google “booty meat”, and then drop into that vortex of teenager self-objectification. Follow the first video link and it will lead you to a hundred more each displaying a young girl filming only her backside in the new dance craze which, likely unknown to her, simulates what a man would see engaged in rear-position sex with a highly activated partner. E.N.
I wondered about the E.N. Did that mean enough?
What the? Really? Were they messing with me?
So I started walking again. Back to beer. I began to notice the music. I hadn’t thought about the music for some time, and wasn’t sure that any had been playing since I left customer service the last time. I didn’t recall hearing the songs that were on the playlist given to me either. The song playing now was “Summer Skin” by Death Cab For Cutie. It put me in mind of fall. Can you believe how fast a summer can disappear once you get past the 4th of July?
That made me think of King Arthur and fall feasts. One of the reasons for going to a fall feast in a mediaeval romance was to have an adventure. This would prompt everyone into going outside for some amusement or feat. Usually, the hero would see and follow a deer into the woods and become lost, but only then would the adventure begin. One had to become lost to begin. They called the deer “harts” though. Thus, follow your hart where it my lead. And what was I following? Definitely not my hart. It’s likely that all the blood had left my heart for another area. This is surely a severe liability in the logic and intellectual construction of males. There is only enough blood to power either their brain or their yang.
I grabbed the beer my wife was after. I then thought that a couple of the sausages made in the meat department would go good with the beer. I put the “Black Sun” in my cart and rolled toward the meat counter.
“Can I help you?”
“Um, maybe. I want a couple of sausages, or is there anything that you are liking right now?
But, as the meat guy began talking, I saw her again. No, this was no little girl. This was a woman. The fruit was ripe. She was at the end of the aisle in dairy, but all I could see was her tits. I was trying to find my brain to answer the meat guy, and she disappeared.
“You know, maybe later. I think I changed my mind.”
“That’s cool dude. We’ll be here if you think of anything you want.”

I knew what I wanted, and followed. I walked on down the hall. I left my cart, book, and beer behind. It should be fine for a second as I . . .

When I reached the end of the aisle, I couldn’t see my dark lady, but did find a petite blonde with enormous breasts looking at yogurt. What was up with these breasts? I don’t think there is a way for a guy not to be breast crazy. Either their mother didn’t breast feed them or tried—to no success—causing a life-long desire/wanting for breasts, or their mother did breast feed them creating a void when the breastfeeding was finished, to be filled with a lifelong craving/wanting of breasts. I was the former.

Before I could consider my actions, I walked across the store looking for her, scanning each aisle as I went.

“Hey Zeus! What’s up? Looking fir yer ‘Hart’?”

“Huh? Jé-sus? My heart? Um, the girl in customer service. Ahh, she thinks I’m crazy. Could you help me set her stra--”

“Ohh. Now that was an appropriate choice. Did you do that?”


“The music.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“This song. Don’t you hear this song? It‘s Blonde Redhead: ‘Tell me where you’ve seen my life?/I look in your eyes and can only see my own complexion./Tell me where you’ve been my life?/I’ve been watching you spring by summer fall when someone called.’ I especially like the next verse. Should I sing it too?”

“Um. No. Can you come with-

“Tell me where you’ve seen my life?/You’ve been biting my hands and knocking me down, down to the ground./Tell me where you’ve been my life?/I see only what you see, face who you face, be who you want to be.”

“That’s really loud, and people are staring at you.”

“Was I off-key?”

“No. I guess your singing was fine. What do you want?”

“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”


“Are you really going to go there?”


“I know where your hart leads.”

“My heart? I’m not really sure what you are talking about.”

“Where’s your cart id-boy?”

“Ah, I must have left it in meat.”

“Are you really going to go there?”

“Where is ‘there’?”

“Aisle 13.”

“I’m lost again.”

“I guess that explains it.”

“Would you please come to customer service with me. I think the girl there thinks I’m crazy, and I would like to set her straight.”

“You are crazy. Go check the apples and you will find what you are looking for there.”

And he walked off. Eunus Noe. I don’t know why I stood there and let him sing at me. That guy might be the devil. I thought about following him, but decided to go back to customer service. I didn’t know what good it would do, but started walking from the back of the store towards the front anyway.

When I got to the front, I thought better about telling anyone about Eunus Noe again. He is their problem, not mine. Let them deal with it. I’m just going to ignore him. I’ll go back to meat, get my cart and book, buy some sausages to go with the beer, and maybe, maybe some tiny red potatoes to go with the sausages.

I was so close to produce though, that I decided to go ahead and get those potatoes while I was here instead of going all the way back for the cart. And, and I guess I was more than a little curious about what he thought I was looking for. He kept saying “my heart” and that I would find “it” in apples.

---Wait. Stop. Hold up here.

-Um, I need to break in here for a second.

So, this is me. The real me. The writer of this story, and you are correct. It is a thinly veiled version of me and my life, and yes, it is all real. All of it. I swear.

My name is Gene and I live in Capital City. I work at the Capital City Co-Op. It is an unfortunate name, and we’ve made T-shirts with a clever CCCP design. I mean who can make that stuff up? It’s a Co-Op with initials that bear more than a striking similarity to the former Soviet Union. I don’t know what irony is, but that is probably pretty close.

So. It is all real. Everything. The characters are people I work with, and I didn’t even hide their identities. My point is . . .

I haven’t written for a while. I’ve actually been quite reluctant to finish this. Now why is that?

Well smart-guy, what is going on here? What is the point to all this?

The dark lady is real, and one of the main themes is obviously sex with an under-theme of sin and infidelity. Actually, I think the work was moving to explore “original sin”, thus I left the quest with the idea of apples.

Eunus is real too. I couldn’t make him up.

So, I’ve been thinking about this young girl a lot, maybe even beginning to explore the idea of “cheating” by using her identity in a fictionalized heroic journey at the Co-Op.

The ending as I imagined it though, is vague. At the end, I’m sure you would have said, “Did he just cheat on his wife, or was that all a dream?”

I know. Cheat. Cheat. All a dream! Everyone hates that.

So, after I crossed over, which I knew would represent a symbolic death, I would run around in the underworld for a while, chased probably. –(Eunus would quip, “chaste?”) The girl would have naturally disappeared on the other side, and as I dove into the “world navel” symbolized by a filthy, disgusting pond to escape my pursuer, I would come to in a red bathtub alone.

The reader would then be left to wonder if all the Matrix stuff was indicative of this fiction being just that, my dream in the tub, or if my dive into the filthy pond was a metaphor for all the sex I was having. My infidelity. Thus all the Ahab stuff early on was a comment upon my dick driving me insanely beyond good sense.

Naturally of course, I would want the ending to hint at the idea of the union of opposites. I had in mind my bathtub guy there being the solidification of a quote I saw in a Joseph Campbell book: “Alone upon the immortal substance of the ocean, a giant figure, submerged partly, partly afloat, he takes delight in slumber. There is no one to behold him, no one to comprehend him; there is no knowledge of him, except within himself.”

So again, is our hero—me remember—remembering what he did, i.e. cheating on his wife, or am I really Vishnu?

Why am I blowing my ending?

I didn’t think that I was actually going to finish this story. See, the thing is, that a lot of creepy stuff has accompanied the writing of this story. I stopped writing because of that. Now I know that I have to finish, but getting there is the important part, even if it means blowing my ending.

It was fear that halted my pen—metaphorically, who writes with a pen anymore, that is so, well, you get the idea. I feared my literal death. I am the hero. This is my journey, and I was about to cross over. What does that mean anyway, “cross over”?

I read something in the tub tonight that confirmed it. In a book about the hero’s journey symbolically illustrated in the tarot by a guy named Banzhaf, I ran across this gem: “The 13th card, Death, is the boundary.” So where does fiction stop and reality begin. This is the problem. What is “Aisle 13”?

And now the weird stuff. Do you remember The Never Ending Story? I like the idea of a book at the right time filling the place of the wise master/teacher. Luke had Obi-Wan, Harry had Dumbledore, and I had Dante and Goethe. Do you remember the premise though? The boy in The Never Ending Story was creating reality as he read. And eventually, he was in the story.

I am having that same experience. I’m creating my reality as I write. Only I worry that I’m about to kill myself. Really.

You followed me around the store. I was supposed to get back to produce, talk about apples, fall, and “the fall”, and then follow that girl across the threshold through a mirror no less.

I think the universe is demanding something from me. Like it wants a sacrifice. As I said, there has been some weird stuff going on in my life.

My right shoulder is always in pain now, and I don’t understand why. I kinda started smoking again too. Just at night, and not everyday. Well it wasn’t everyday at first.

Anyway, I’ve had a few near misses. Things have happened that could have been real bad. I began noticing my near misses after I had switched gears completely, started blogging, and hadn’t written on the story for several weeks.

I almost got run over on my bike. I was at the Co-Op. I didn’t look, and this huge truck had to lock its breaks. It skidded down the road right up to me. They were going too fast. I’m so lucky they saw me and locked their breaks. I don’t know why I’m alive after that. Its license plate read A113. Is that a coincidence? Does that mean I was going to reach “Aisle 13” one way or another? “Clean up on Aisle 13 please.”

A few weeks earlier I watched a car sail through an intersection moments after me. To this day I don’t know if my light was green or not. They were going real fast.

Maybe it’s coincidence, but I think I need to finish this story. I need to do it on my terms. It may mean my death, but I guess at least it will be my choice. Can I willingly face death? I didn’t plan on “Aisle 13” being death, but I guess maybe it is.

Sorry for breaking the 3rd wall. I guess we now resume our previously scheduled program . . . Where was I? Oh yeah, apples . . .

There’s a thought. Why is it an apple that does Eve in? What meaning is packed into that apple? Is it a metaphor for her sexual power that is being awakened for the first time, or something else? Does the tree of knowledge have something to do with “knowing someone” in the Biblical sense? Is “The Fall” merely the end of summer or is it the end of the period of adolescence of Adam and Eve. Their eating of the fruit brought forth children and now they must leave the garden of their adolescence and grow up? Begin the winter of their discontent.

In the fairytales though, it is the eating of an apple that puts the princess to sleep; that kills her. And why must the sleeping princess be awakened by true love’s kiss? Love must awaken the sleeping/dead princess? What does that mean? What is the apple? And what is the snake? What is the temptation? Must sex be pure, and that is why sin puts the princess to sleep but love reawakens her? Or is sex impure and once one’s innocence is lost it is gone forever?

I guess the real question is, what was the original sin?

I’ve heard that “sin” comes from the Greek, and has to do with archery. “To miss the mark.” I also read somewhere that 11 is the number of sin. Put another way, “sin” is a failure of authenticity. What is authentic? And again we return to the notion of real. What is real?

Sin, apples and arrows. That makes me think of William Tell shooting the apple off his son’s head, but what does that have to do with anything? To “sin” in his case would “kill” his child?

Maybe I should have mentioned that I have kids? Hmmm. Again, who is driving who?

My wife took a bite of the apple this past summer. Literally. She went to New York, The Big Apple, for a conference. So if the myth is to unfold correctly, will she, the sinner, somehow convince me to “sin” also? Why do I feel like the sinner though?

New York contains it all doesn’t it? It is the key place. It is the garden, and the apple. The whole world eats from that apple during its fall. I’m talking New Years. Times Square. The Big Apple falls. Is this a commemoration of a myth? Are we celebrating Genesis here? A rite?

If the apples didn’t fall, would there be fruit? Life demands a sacrifice. I guess that was my thought anyway as to why the New Year doesn’t rise. Probably the old year that we’ve all been hanging onto must fall and die to give way so that the New Year will be born. Life from death again. Life from the ashes. It’s a wonder our national bird isn’t the Phoenix.

There is going to be a new “apple” dropping this year. They just recently unveiled it. I guess someone thinks that we began a new age or something. The old “apple” dropped from the years 2000-2007. There was an anniversary “apple” for 2008, as it was the 100th anniversary of this celebration in Times Square. And now we have a bigger, brighter, new ball. They call it a ball, but we all know it’s an apple, right? Was 08 a gate? Where did it lead us?

Times Square. Are they keeping time for us? I’m having a hell of a time getting back to this story. Sorry about that. I did have a pretty weird dream. Maybe that will shed some light.

So it is just like the story I described earlier. I am about to cross over, through the mirror in the produce department at the Capital City Co Op. She is there, but she doesn’t look quite the same. She has all these robes on and wears a brooch that holds her robes together, which has “Us” inscribed upon it. The “s” is in the “u” though, and at first I think that her brooch reads, “is”. She has a rooster hat on her head. Maybe it’s a helmet.

Anyway. I’m looking at salad dressings in the cooler and I can see her in the mirror. Her back is to me and I see that she is either looking at apples or pomegranates. I can’t tell which. They are right together. I hear “The Fall” by ELO but it isn’t coming from the speakers. It is everywhere. I look down for a second, and when I look back up again, she is facing me in the mirror.

She holds an apple towards me. Maybe it’s a pomegranate. I look down again, and then back over my shoulder, my left shoulder. She has disappeared. I turn completely around, and she is gone. I’m staring at where she was, and there is nothing there.

I turn back to the salad dressing cooler on a whim, and look to where I had seen her before, and she is there, still holding the apple out to me, urging me to take it. What I took for mirror isn’t mirror. Or, that is how it appears anyway. The cooler is much deeper inside than it seems from outside. I step into the space and she begins leading me deeper, and deeper, into an unlit portion of the cooler.

At some point I realize that it is the apple that is the light over here. I can’t see anything but this illuminating apple, and it feels like I’m walking on earth.

I reach for the apple, and it is literally hanging on a tree. She is gone. As I go to grab the apple, it falls, and its light goes out. I hear a snarling behind me.

Branches begin crackling around me and the growling grows louder. I run in the darkness. I hear a loud screaming and realize it’s me. I can sense the “thing” running behind me. It sounds big.

I can’t see anything, but soon begin to smell something foul.

I stop running. I turn, and realize that I left the apple behind. I consider going for it, but instead turn and try running again. I move slow and sluggish as if I’m drunk or underwater. I can see the moon reflected upon a pool in front of me. It is not a pool. It’s a foul, stinky pond. There is a trail of both live and dead frogs leading away from the pond.

I can hear the stride and breath of whatever it is behind me. I want to say wolf, but has there ever been a case of a wolf attacking a human? That’s myth right?

I notice a dock near the trail of frogs. The frogs smell of shit and death. What is this place?

I run or attempt to run and reach the dock. I don’t stop. I run until I reach the end of the dock and dive directly into the reflection of the moon. The water is so cold.

Everything gets a little weird when I surface. I’m not in a pond anymore but a pumpkin filled with water. Not any pumpkin either. An orange 1980 Mercury Capri. It is both a literal pumpkin and a car. My car/pumpkin is topless, and stars are overhead. I have a square upon my chest and my belt has the zodiac on it. I’m holding Jimi Hendrix’s guitar in my right hand and am wearing Jim Morrison’s leather pants.

There are two joysticks before me. Each controls that which is pulling me. On the left, dressed in blue, is Barack Obama riding a blue Tron-style light cycle. On the right, dressed in red, is John McCain riding a red light cycle.

I try to control them with the joysticks, but they both pull to their direction. It seems like the pull to the right is stronger, and I really have to fight to keep them from pulling me apart.

As we approach what looks like a giant turkey in the distance, the two candidates stop, get off their cycles, face one another, look at me, and then commence kissing. It is a deep, soulful kiss, and I can’t look away. I note the strangeness of this situation. Black and white. Old and young. But as I’m contemplating this, they explode and I wake up.

Now what does that mean? I haven’t a clue. Sure, we know who won the election. And that probably is why they stopped with the turkey in the distance. But come on, I mean, really. Well that was the dream anyway. Speaking of potential explosions.

My wife and I have been contemplating having another kid. I’m not sure why. Two is plenty right? We are poor too. We are such a bad cliché. I don’t know why I bring this up now. It has been on my mind I guess.

This whole year has been strange actually. We weren’t supposed to even be here. I was sure I was going to get this teaching position is Australia. It didn’t even cross my mind that I wouldn’t.

Well I didn’t get it. And here we are in limbo, in-between, working at a Co-op with a bunch of pot smoking, revolutionary types. All these angry boys do is throw rocks at things.

That is something interesting.

I went and saw the writer Michael Pollan recently. He’s the famous food writer you know. My wife was sick so I brought Eunus. Michael described what he does as a writer as throwing rocks. I think Eunus’ way is burning cars.

After the reading, Eunus came to my house and got me stoned out of my mind in my backyard under the tree. I called it my man-date. I said, “yeah, Eunus was my man-date.”
But what was the mandate?

We talked mostly politics and systems of control. I told him my secret—why I‘ve been feeling guilty. We both have a bit of a Peter Pan thing going. I won’t join with Captain Hook. I’m unwilling to serve on a pirate crew on the high seas of commerce. I think he’s hiding from something too. That’s why we both are where we are. I have nothing, and maybe that’s a good thing. “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

I graduated from college last winter. It only took me 17 years. Someone gave me pot as a graduation present. I quit drinking in 91. I quit all consciousness altering substances at that point too. But, since it had been so long (16 years), I decided that smoking pot at my graduation party would be ok.

I've done it a few times since then. Maybe 5, maybe 7. Each time I always think it is a bit of a mistake. Alcohol freed me from "myself", from reality, and was a wonderful escape. That, along with my genetics was the problem. Pot does the opposite. I'm pretty self-conscious. I have inhibitions. Pot makes reality more real and makes me more aware of myself so it isn't necessarily a very pleasant thing for me. It is a kind of escape, but the feeling for me is like pointing a mirror at a mirror.

I felt comfortable stoned with Eunus though. I told him about the dream, and then about this, my story.

When I got to the limbo point, he said; “Now what? How’s it going to end?”

The better question is whether it all is about to end. Literally. Have we reached the Apocalypse? Are these the literal “end times”? You’ve got the righties rooting for Jesus to kick some heathen ass in a Lord-Of-The-Rings-style final battle, and the lefties are singing ecological and climatic doomsday. There is tension, but will it all explode?

Think what happened this past fall. Our financial system just about collapsed, or did collapse. We are in crisis, but do we know how close to the edge we are? Is the secret that is hidden by the corrupt king in the tower at the heart of the labyrinth that capitalism is dead? When the tower comes down upon its rotten heart what will spring up from its ashes?

Last winter I read Beowulf several times. I needed him to lift the darkness from the land. It never happened though. And here we are back in winter again. We’ve come to the end of the dream, and so now I have to ask you, what was real? Was it Oz or Kansas, Dorothy? How was Bedford Falls different after you went over that bridge George Bailey? “Wake up, Neo.” “The Matrix has you . . .”

It is Christmas Eve now, and I am with her. It is cold and dark outside, and everything is dead. The window is foggy, and it is silent. I can see a star through the window though.

She is on me. Her head is back and her back is arched with her hands and weight supported on my thighs. She rocks gently. I am here, fully in this moment. My breathing is deep, and my heart rate increases with my pleasure. Her eyes are closed but she her smile is tremendous. This grin reaches her soul. I stare at her, at the fullness of her breasts, at the tidal rhythms therein contained. I hear the occasional catch in her breath as she too touches something deep and energetic.

My mind is a flood of images. I see the Capital City Depot, a tall Spanish-style building, a spire, an obelisk on a hill, and think of the Captiol dome down the road. I line up those images in my mind and wonder if the dome shouldn’t be on the hill.

I see an ellipse with two dots inside. This rhymes with eclipse in my mind. This is curious because a circle with one dot is the symbol for gold, for the sun. That circle becomes the moon, and I imagine the Apollo capsule progressing towards its goal. From the Saturn V rocket comes the tiny capsule through the darkness of space. I still see space, but the moon is gone. It has become a point, a singularity. I am the unmoved mover, and this is the big bang.

Now I’m on the Moon. I see a jewel in space. A tiny blue paradise. The sun warms my face. I can see the whole thing. The whole world. I see Jesus in his Mandorla. The books are now closed and put away. This is home. This is life.


Later as the sun rises on a new day, I start music. I play “Xanadu” and walk smiling back to bed, back to my wife.

“Why are you smiling?”

“I have a secret.”

“What’s this secret that makes you smile?”

“The world is insane, but I don’t mind”


“What ever happens, I don’t mind”

“You are not going to talk about the aliens again are you?

--My wife always does this to me, I mean, she takes a bite and now here I go. I’m like all deep and complete and then . . .

“This too shall pass.”

1 comment:


Abe's Axe is a symbol. Like the firey wand of Hermes, it is the conduit for bringing into action manifestations from the creative imagination. He is not killing vampires so much as freeing living dead men. The great emancipator would like to bring you into the 4th dimension of consciousness. He is going to have to kill you to do this, though. Or, actually, just annihilate your ego to transport you. In this instance, his axe is the craft. A craft is both a transport and a skill. The magician's wand is both. A pen can be mightier than the sword. What's your craft? Use your symbol well. . .

Heal The King!

Heal The King!