Thursday, May 17, 2012

BEFORE THE FALL

This is the one of the last things I wrote before the stroke. It was intended to be the foreword to a book of collected scribblings called The RED Diaries. Needless to say, that project is now in a state of flux.
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SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE told me that a fistful of Benadryl and a half-bottle of NyQuil can cause intense hallucinations, especially when taken on an empty stomach with a bottle of Coppola merlot and other assorted unmentionables.

Pacing is the key, it seems. The first three-four Benadryl will only make you sleepy, so it’s vital to push through the urge to take a nap and keep consuming, keep swallowing the pink-grey-white caplets until at least a dozen hit your belly and start dissolving alongside the NyQuil (for purposes of this experiment, cherry-flavored elixir was used; it’s unknown if the original green Death formula would make a difference).

An hour in, and suddenly one of the living-room chairs began to sprout shag carpeting from its slipcover. I turned to a friend and started to say, “Can you believe the chair is carpeted” — but the words died on my lips when I realized she was staring at me with vivid intensity, a small mewl of fright emerging from her lips. Or maybe that was the cat pulling his ventriloquism act.

The window blinds started moving, more shag growing from the long vertical panels, and that’s when I got up from the couch, afraid that if I sat any longer, shag piles would emerge from the leather and envelop me, like tendrils of mold covering a piece of old, moist bread.

This isn’t really happening, this cannot be happening, I thought to myself — or maybe I said it aloud, because my guest for the evening started making excuses about the time, look at the time, it’s been lovely but I really must be going back to work now, and before I could tie her up and bar the door she had fled into the night’s chill, or been eaten by the shag. I really couldn’t see past my cold fingertips at this point.

The silence in my apartment was broken by the crunch of more shag emerging from the walls, a sound that made me think of walking over the small, dusty bones of hamsters and guinea pigs. The cat rubbed against my leg and I was certain he could see the poly invaders, so I tossed him in the general direction of the chair and ran into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me. Better him than me, I whispered. Besides, he’s a goddamned cat. He can always use his claws.

Goddamned cat. Always trying to harsh on a high.

At some point in the proceedings I found myself facedown on the floor, my bladder a hard football. Am I dead? The need to piss took away that thought — the afterworld looked an awful lot like my apartment, and I don’t think the gods or whatever require bladder evacuation. That’s just too fucked up for words.

The cat was still here, too. I’m pretty sure cats are banned from the afterworld, and if they’re not they should be, sneaky bastards. Never turn your back on a cat. They only rub against your legs in a vain attempt to trip you so you can hit your head on a coffee table and provide the gato with mountains of raw meat. Towers of nom: that's what we are to cats. Never forget it.

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SITTING HERE IN the aftermath of the BenaQuil trip seems the appropriate place to start the foreword to this collection of jumbled scribblings, two centuries worth of observations about life as we near what feels like the End Times.

I’ve been lucky enough to live through the invention of the internet, the best/worst thing that ever happened to journalists. To hell with the creation of the internal combustion engine, the airplane, radio, television, scat porn … the internet makes all those things seem about as important and enduring as pet rocks.

The ‘net and its appliances have changed every way we live. The alarm clock on my phone wakes me. Facebook tells me who’s doing what and why I should care. I order food online, clothes online, movies online. I can spend all day online and never have to deal face-to-face with another human.

News without papers, video without TVs, porn without the glossy pages, drugs without the back alley — the internet makes it possible to live a rich and solitary life. You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, according to Dylan, and you don’t need a journalist to tell you what’s news. The ‘net feeds our lust for information — HuffPo for liberals, NewsMax for conservatives, CNN for the wishy-washy, Gawker for the snarky set. Who needs to know Someone when we know Everyone and Everything?

But it’s a mile wide and a half-inch deep, the shit we stuff in our heads. It’s the digital equivalent of the frozen burrito and hot fries lunch I used to nosh on from the local Kum & Go (I used to get a large soft drink to go with the burrito-and-fries, but after a friend called the drink a Kum Guzzler I went with water).

My friend Mike Wingo, the photographer, used to joke that any book written about our adventures should be called Shit We’ve Done, Chapters 1-715. There aren’t that many chapters in this tome of the times, but it’s basically just that — the shit we’ve done is the name of journalism and life.

It isn’t always pretty, this tale of woe and whoa, but everything on these pages really happened or should have happened. Reality, like the aforementioned cat, is a sneaky bastard.

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