the life of richie

TODAY

Posted in is by Rich on September 14, 2009

She ate all the chips from a fresh bag of Hint of Lime Tostitos except for a few crumbs, which justified her returning the bag to the cupboard so that she does not have to admit that she ate the entire bag.

Kim once said that, when she was stressed, she too would eat H.o.L. Tostitos –– that there was something about the lime flavor seasoning that kept her calm.

On the window outside is a pornography of bugs in the mid-September evening; there is something exciting about this. The world becomes very blurry and the insect’s tableau vivant very clear in the evening, in the mid-September evening.

On his way to school today, Rich suddenly thought, I want to lay waste to the world and refashion it in Poetry. Government in exile, institutions abandoned –– let there be only this.

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9/11 + 8

Posted in was by Rich on September 10, 2009

How does one begin the story of an end –– when the end could not sustain the means? There is no way (no whys, hows) and words just cut deeper, open wounds (need to heal).

Golchehreh had called to say, “The things I saw –– god, Rich, but I saw everything.” Bodies strewn in the streets, ripped apart and then covered in the dust and debris of heaven when heaven fell –– collapsed onto Eden –– on the eleventh day of September back in two-thousand-one.

There were no words then: that was the end of language come. Arabic, Hindi, Spanish, French –– no system of the symbolic could give credence to the rise of death and horror and lack. To speak of the means to this, the song of the end: two planes, razor blades/box cutters.

Rich watched everything on television live –– as he lived; as his roommates on the subway had just left for Manhattan. The second plane hit the second spire. The Babylonian towers fell to earth, to earth, to ashes, to asphalt.

Sabila observed: “When the first tower fell, my heart sank.” She went right out to give blood; to volunteer downtown.

Lauren came to Queens, arriving through the rod iron front gate and up the stairs; Eros smoking from thanatos, she quoth. She stood like something fresh broken from death; recovered from divine atheism. Sitting with Megan earlier, Rich had seen the mayor on the news, encouraging them all to go out and shop. The Union Square peace vigil was telecast live every hour or so; Rich saw Chris; Chris saw Nina and Leah and Nicole, like a tragic episode of Romper Room. Sitting on the steps in Astoria with seraphic Gabe was the first moment Rich had felt the word again again; the idea of some means to a new beginning. He had looked like a little boy in Rich’s long pajama pants. Later Lauren had worn the same pajamas, looking like someone’s lover waking up in the same nightclothes Gabe had worn the night before; like a lover and not a refugee, come out to Queens because all of the streets south of 14th Street were closed.

Jaime had been getting on the subway when the first plane hit. She tried to get out, but they herded her into the E-train, into the underneath. “I was there,” she wrote on the instant messenger days later –– the words appearing like a telegraph sent out from a nightmare ––

rich: how are you?
jaime: I was there

Katie had boarded a ferry to Jersey –– so frantic to leave Manhattan, the island she used to covet above all other boroughs. “How can you live in Queens?” she used to say; but then she was back on Long Island, wondering, “How can I ever go back?” (Days later she was leasing an apartment in Chelsea. “This is my home now. There is no other place for me but here.”)

If it seems too dramatic to say there are only ends, I could be write. When he lived on Water Street, Rich would look at the twin towers and sometimes, he would sometimes think, with fleeting distinction [H. James], “God, I love this city! Poor dear bad bold beauty; there must be something about her –– !”

The transmogrifying strains of moonlight on the World T.C.

Gone. End. Thousands lost, killed, missing: when Capitalist heaven fell into the asphalt of Eden. But there is another place, some said then, and Rich had cried then that there was a god for some but not for him. I want others to want god now even when I cannot. I thought Tuesday I would again believe in god. I wanted to will myself to –– but maybe that would be disingenuous. Maybe god is not a switch to be turned on in the hearts of heathens when they need something other than themselves: because I am helpless and cannot say anything of comfort to friends, can only say it will be “ok”, when ok means something different now than it did a week ago. What “ok” meant a week ago is no longer so. There has been a schism in the signifier.

With one event the course of history had been changed again: Birth –– sitting next to –– etc. –– etc. –– 9/11 ––

Of course, the course of everything changed –– the daily bread stale and wine gone rancid and changed; but not destroyed; not all.

Will we fight the shadows now? Rich had wondered at the time, not knowing then what he now knows. Will we go to war? I cannot contemplate more conflict now –– the idea that in some city in some country Afghanistan a family could be someday soon wondering “where is father” as the world burns around them. If we would will ourselves to war…(what uncanny madness!)

It was the collapse of time and space.

We are all there, on Tuesday, a part of us lost to that day forever (a part of us remained, to move forward, where there is future still). All the world converged at that time in the Tuesday and all the many myriad not-just-white, not-just-Christian men and women who they found and did not find and even the suspects whom we suspected with our suspicious spleens, even they were almost Americans, a testament to our tolerance: when did we lose our tolerance, drink the stale wine and go to war, sick from what we had bred? Gabe and Rich had been standing outside the theater smoking when his musician friend Alex walked by, saying he would enlist –– music seems too idle, and that was added to the poem, because music and art and creation were needed more then than ever before: certainly more than more destruction was.

But the aim of all life is the end; so too a narrative. But I began saying the end could not hold the means: gyring, spiraling, Yeatsian slouching towards the debris of Bethlehem, manger fluff falling across Brooklyn like snow –– the dismantled crêche-nest of Xerox paper and corporate executives that fell like snow onto Brooklyn in September…

Remains of sanity, of normalcy, swelled in isolate flecks and shards in the coming days and weeks. Gabe, sitting on the steps, in my long pajama pants –– yes, the t.v. still on inside –– yes –– but outside, just the calm and Gabe, next to me, like a little boy come out for the cold. There is life; and when Rich’s roommates worshipped on Sunday in the shoe shops on Steinway street, there was his initial hope, his means to go on, to beginnings and the reconstruction of heaven. I do still want others to want god. For me, there is Lauren and four days of drunkenness to anesthetize the wounds; numb whatever’s left inside. Lauren says that God is love, connecting us, but I want her too desperately to think that there is God-love separating or binding us. I want there only to be us between us.

On that night eight years ago, Rich had tried to buy a Diet Coke at the deli, but could not: seemed too normal somehow. Dare I eat a Snickers bar? All of the foreign bodega owners were the first to put out their American flags. Children played in the streets as the world as we knew the world burned (thought we knew the world once) in the background, the meeting of heaven and hell. The Mister Softee truck rolled around the neighborhood Wednesday night. One learned to appreciate the days and the nights: the sun setting only to rise again. It sounds so clichéd. (We appreciated clichés again.) But without time, it would still be Tuesday; no more Wednesdays or Thursdays or Fridays; only still stillness and silence as walking wounded willed en mass across the Queensborough Bridge or back to Brooklyn or the Bronx, and Jersey. There was not one fall for man and woman, there are, will be many, and we just get up, dust off the debris that Destruction left after creation, and walk home.

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BOXES

Posted in is by Rich on September 9, 2009

Rich calls his friend Anne in D.C. only to find out that she and her boyfriend are moving again. Rich asks, “Are you in the witness protection program or something?” She and the BF just moved three months before. And Anne one month before that. And then nine months. And then. And.

Anne leaves a message a few days later, saying they are settled. Rich has come to suspect that Anne rather likes the process of moving; she’s always had a thing for boxes, after all. (Wasn’t that in a Seinfeld episode? –– something about moving and boxes and when moving, how one’s world becomes boxes.)

Rich takes his new MacBook Pro out of the box, and puts the old PowerBook G4 into another box. Is that all life is, then; just a series of un-boxing and re-boxing?

When Rich’s sister was born, the doctor cut into his mom to unwrap her.

When his grandfather died, the family put him in a “to-go” container and took him home to Central Jersey.

At brunch the other day, Caroline asks for. “I love left-overs,” she says.

When the family travels to London, they often leave on Christmas Night in order to arrive in the UK on.

Rich types seinfeld moving boxes into the Google bar and a new page opens:

When you’re moving your whole world becomes boxes. That’s all you think about is boxes. Boxes, where are there boxes? You just wander down the street going in and out of stores. Are there boxes here? Have you seen any boxes? I mean it’s all you think about. You can’t even talk to people because you can’t concentrate. Shut up I’m looking for boxes. Just after a while you become like really into it you can smell them. You walk into a store. There’s boxes here. Don’t tell me you don’t have boxes. Dammit, I can smell them. I’m like I’m obsessed. I love the smell of cardboard in the morning. You could be at a funeral. Everyone’s mourning crying around, and your looking at the casket. That’s a nice box Does anyone know where that guy got that box? When he’s done with it do you think I could get that? It’s got some nice handles on it. And that’s what death is really. It’s the last big move of your life. The hearse is like the van. The pall bearers are your close friends the only ones you could ask to help you with a big move like that. And the casket is that great perfect box you’ve been waiting for your whole life The only problem is, once you find it you’re in it.

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ON LOOKING THROUGH AN EIGHTH GRADE YEARBOOK

Posted in is, was by Rich on September 9, 2009

It is like looking at a slim volume of telegraphic obituary notices; all of these dead children with bad haircuts. We have not evolved, not grown into the people we are now: these unfortunate innocents were sacrificed to make us, Rich thinks. These people here no longer exist. Because, if our cells continue to die and regenerate, then none of our eighth grade cells can still be present in our current selves; we are fundamentally autonomous from those children with the regrettable fashions in the eighth grade yearbook.

Something so morbid, then, about a yearbook! All of these frizzy-haired little imps gobbled up into the pages; embalmed here, half-formed specimens on a slide; and what necrophilia it is to look back at them, to stare at the awkward dead things staring back; and what is gained from looking back?

His friend, or the dead, former incarnation of his friend Golchehreh appears first.

MEMORIES: STOKES, #14, P.F., hilo, DC, stress, PACE, t-faced, XXAP, complain, G. jokes, B.Walk, yess!bye. FRIENDS: MC, CK, SM, JZ, BW, AJ, JS, NO, JM, PO, LM, TH, SM, MM, secret. ACTIVITIES: Band, NJHS, History, Science, Scoop, Chorus, Jazz Band.

Rich bristles; why, she didn’t list his initials in the “friends” category? We were friends, then! This Golchehreh in the yearbook has a smug, clenched smile on her face, as if she is thinking, “I know fifteen years from now, Rich, you’ll be looking back at this yearbook and get so mad because I didn’t list your initials as ‘friend’; take to blogging about how I didn’t list your initials just for spite.” (Touché, Former Golchehreh; well played.)

Caroline and Golchehreh have both graffitied the pictures in the staff and activities pages. One of the school aides is saying, “I’m an Ogar,” while the librarian warns, “Do you want to leave?” In the group photo for band, Caroline has circled her smiling face and attached the caption, “Bring out the Hellmann’s and bring out the best.” Golchehreh has forced their seventh grade Social Studies teacher to insist, “Hotdogs have rats in them, I like them,” a reference he thinks to Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Amidst the have a great summers in the section reserved for “Autographs”, Golchehreh has included a five-page, Joycean rambling of obscure references to their year; references which have been lost, which no longer signify anything, because he has lost most of the referents:

Well, gee, you cheapo. Excuse me, but is this whole bucket for a nickel. The arab troll. I HATE TED! Well, to start off I would like to say that I always judge you kids higher. We have no case, you win.

Mr. L––, why’s everyone looking at my forehead. Mr. G––, blah blah blah, blah inference, blah radioactive, blah blah, interference. <–– Whatever. [Something in Farsi.] Mr. B––, I hope they don’t ask for their tests.

Ahh, steal, me, never. You can check my bag if you don’t believe me. And furthermore, do you yell at us cause were kids? Ahh, how much is this watergun? The old man at TGIFridays. The weird music on the merrygoround. [Illustration of M-G-R.] I need money for comics, no, I’ve already given enough money for the tip. Ahh, a bart simpson poster, I’ll hang it in my room. Oh my god, Rich is wearing shorts. Why is Mrs. M–– staring at me with her weird expressions. [Unsure face illustration.] Oh great, were getting back our properties test with a class average of 22%. Oh kiddies, I’m not cool. Who does that remind you of. With a nick-nack-paddiwack-give Luce a bone, then well go burn down her home. Even though I never had French but I’ll never forget her. LUCE, oh hi Madame M–– (That wasn’t good) Want a pack of gum? Sure Jesse, I mean Jenn. (GUM, I HAVE GUM. [More in Farsi.] INVU4URAQT <––NOT   Decipher that you [scribbling]. Just joshin with ya. So Richard? You geniusatic science lab illiterate person you, Your speech was good. You didn’t have the na, na snobby voice of someone else theire (wonder who). Just kidding. <–– see me about that   Although you were good, corny though.

Good luck in French II, HA, HA! Not that you’ll need it,………well, maybe you will. Good ole Luce.

We Genesius Geneus, Goli + Rich, made it into both Honors English + Geo. Caroline and Jill are sooooo jealous, HA HA HA! Well I guess I’ve taken up quite enough yearbook. HA! HA! HA! C-ya. KIT [More in Farsi] Y/F Goli (no middle-name) A––

Although physically there might be nothing of that Golchehreh left (all the cells in us dying and retrying), and although the signification of the words means less now –– the meanings all faded like the red ink itself that she has used to inscribe them –– he recognizes her there, his friend, in those words; in the way her mind works. She is there, his friend, trapped in the red ink and the photo with the tight-lipped, prescient grin. But; so then he must revise his earlier notion; just as we are visioned and re-visioned.

A cold draft comes through the open window. Suddenly, he wants badly to be rid of the yearbook; and so is rid of it.

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CAROLINE

Posted in is, was by Rich on September 7, 2009

LABOR DAY; and Caroline’s birthday. Her birthday is always around the first day of school. On the first day of school, in eighth grade, Rich was seated next to her in Mr. G––’s homeroom. That was one of those moments that determines the course of one’s life. Had Rich been seated one seat farther up or one seat further back, the life of Richie would’ve been, but not. Life comes down to just this: just a series of significant moments that chart the constellation of one’s existence…

Birth –– sitting next to Caroline in his eighth grade homeroom –– etc. –– etc. –– etc. –– Death.

In his yearbook that year, she writes, Rich, Where to start?

They started high school with the exact same schedules (later Mr. K–– would accuse them of being too “co-dependent”); including first period French class; and second period Honors Geometry, in that flourescent first-floor room with the inspirational quotes emblazoned above the blackboard that the two friends would commit to memory when they should’ve been minding the cosines and tangents; and were lab partners in Ms. L––’s Biology class: Ms. L––, who kept everything Rich would write in high school and offered up to her those four years, kept it all in a series of files in her cabinet. (Years later he’s told that she still keeps a poem he had written for her in her pocket like a talisman.) Before each animal dissection, Rich and Caroline would christen the organism undergoing examination (Chloe the earthworm; he remembers Chloe the earthworm most for some reason), and then hold a mock funeral for their disemboweled pets, cast the eviscerated scraps into the rubbish bin before the end of the period, and move on with their day. They sat together at lunch; Caroline, he recalls, would usually have a bagel and some salad. (This was before any of us knew to be conscious of our carb intake.) At the end of the day was Inquiry with “M” [, Mr.], and often shenanigans were had in the library if there was independent study time –– in the library, in the anxious, squirmy, uncomfortable dregs of the school day –– and the two would have to be separated like naughty children.

Richard A., to tell you the truth, at the beginning of the year, we were just acquaintances but not “friends”. Now you’re definitely among my list of top 5 friends […] What am I ever gonna do w/out you when summer begins? […] We’ll live, cause we still have our bodacious memories.

Spring break of senior year, in high school, they went to London and to Dublin and Galway to assert their co-dependent(?) independence, staying in youth hostels with Germans, smuggling beer into the Burger King. Rich had written to Princess Diana to ask for an audience; her secretary sent an official note back apologizing for HRH’s busy schedule but wishing the two friends a lovely holiday. And it was a lovely holiday! On Easter morning they went to a service at St. Paul’s, massing with the masses and then eating chocolate bars from the vending machines. In Galway they met up with Caroline’s sister, went to a club, to pubs; did their laundry. They took the bus back across the emerald expanse, staring out the window at all of the vast numinous green and meandering stone walls and hosts of fluffy sheep, falling asleep on each other.

I’ll send you a postcard from the Emerald Isle, she had written at the end of eighth grade; and four years later, they were there! It had been decided one night, the fall of their senior year –– there was such a different expectation about where their lives were going then (or perhaps there were no expectations) –– and, at the Music Pier on the boardwalk, square-dancing with their friend Pat, they sat down to break from the clumsy hoe-down and had decided it. The United Kingdom. Spring break. Decided. Their parents never thought they would actually do it and they did. “Well, I’m sure it’s safer than spring break in Florida,” Rich’s mom reasoned.

Months later, Princess Diana was dead and Caroline was coming back from the Naval Academy.

Years later, Karen would confess to being fascinated by Caroline, when Karen is sitting alone with Rich on one of their porches; a little in awe of her. “I don’t remember much about that time (right after my dad died), but I’ll always remember Caroline showing up at my door with beer and Chinese food. We watched Deal or No Deal together. And Medium.”

Eleven years before that, Rich and Caroline had been drinking beer in Dublin pubs, listening to an older fat man belt out the Spice Girls, Caroline interrogating someone in another watering hole about the IRA; and then sitting in a grotty take-away space shoveling down Chinese food at the end of the evening.

Before she left for the Naval Academy, Rich and Golchehreh had thrown her a party at Rich’s house (shenanigans indeed). There was a cake and everything.

In less than two weeks, Caroline will be getting married. Rich and Moira take her out to a local bar to celebrate. Moira says, “Do you remember when you two came to visit me in Galway and I took you out to my favorite club?”

In a side note, on the last page of the yearbook, Caroline declares: Rich A., you gotta go wild this summer. I’ll see you under the boardwalk with a 12-pack of Coors Light. It won’t fill you up. Okay?

Okay.

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NOT OK COMPUTER

Posted in is by Rich on September 3, 2009

Rich’s laptop has decided it is time to die; and maybe, to take parts of him with it. That same PowerBook G4 that tolerated the many times he watched Notting Hill on it the year in London (one of the few Region-1 DVDs he had, for some reason, with him); was it never able to recover from the shame? he asks his friend Anne.

The seppuku started with the screen vomiting up boxes, turning the desktop into a rectilinear Frieze; his mouse cursor mutating from a stalwart arrow into a sort of fuzzy white die. He rolls it in a main diagonal fashion –– the phantom box starting to resemble Duchamp’s nude descending the staircase.

His brain turning into cubes –– he takes a round, white Xanax.

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SEPTEMBER

Posted in is by Rich on September 1, 2009

Try to remember That year that there were wasps in the classroom; remember that? That’s how the novel starts; it starts: There had been wasps getting into the classroom that first week, come in through the windows –– windows thrown open to introduce the cool September breeze to stifled minds. He remembers that.

The novel has been abandoned; but September is the start of the growing season. We plant the seeds in the ground and watch them take root & grow. Rich puts on his clothes for planting; for working in the Garden. This is what separates us from all other life, after all; we seek to know things and that is what matters, is the desire to know things. In wanting to be better, to be greater than our crude atavistic functions. The duality of body and mind; in the summer, as Thoreau says, we have only feelings and impulses; but in September, we return to the Noösphere, the sphere of human thought. We become utilitarian again and think of greater goods; and we take to wearing socks again.

In September (remember) we align all the other Septembers of books and classrooms, align them like books and classrooms on a shelf; different rooms, different books, of course; but still the same essential element common to all our septem stages. Rich wonders: Do those not in education, for them, does September lose its generative power? Or does it still feel hopeful? Does it still feel like, for others, there are possibilities? Gatsby making and remaking himself no matter how many times we read Gatsby; making and remaking.

In September, it is fitting that we have the Fall, then.

So the Learning Tree keeps on giving and giving; after Fall.

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