My Dumb Daily Pilgrimmage: Days 4, 5, 6


Day 4:

Wednesday. I drove. I used Adobe Premiere. I used (and temporarily broke) Garageband. I burned out my eyeballs looking at a computer screen.

Day 5:

I went to the museum. I left my camera at the museum. I picked up my camera at a Tim Horton’s. I used programs on my computer. I burned out my eyeballs looking at a computer screen. I started reading “The Case Against Reparations” in the new issue of the Atlantic.

Day 6:

I watched Gimme the Loot on Netflix. I finished Hill William on a subway train. I waited until 1:30 in the morning to even think about starting this. I question the value of doing this if I’m going to treat it so cursorily. “Some pilgrimmage.” I need to work harder. I am having difficulty concentrating, focussing, remembering details and being present. I wonder if I should consider eating meat again. I believe I am having testosterone issues. The internet says I should stop eating sugar and eat fish or red meat. And/or do high intensity exercises, which I don’t know if I want to do. I’ll cut down the sugar and wheat anyway. I am considering taking a supplement but I am also tired of supplements. I want to pump that sweet zinc into my blood stream. I want my fucking brain back. Eating fish flesh is better than rotting on the vine.

Will God forgive me, tho. According to the Creation Museum, God is the reason that all animals eat flesh in the first place, because he was pissed off at Adam or something (in the literature at the Creation Museum I noticed it is more Adam’s fault than Eve’s, because, you know, patriarchal tradition I guess). So, God’s fault, I guess. He better forgive me. But God has nothing to do with my decision.


Brain, activate. My brain is telling me to tell you that I use underlines, mostly, ironically. Ironically? I like the effect sometimes, I shouldn’t lie. It’s not ironic. But the aesthetic pleasure I get from using underlining maybe has to do with the fact that underlining is basically obsolete and frowned upon in minimalist typographic circles and is both almost totally superfluous and an affectation that recalls days of extreme privation (typewriters). Is that irony. This has nothing to do with anything, except to say that I’m super fucking privileged.

Gimme the Loot is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. It is about two poor, black grafitti artists trying to put together $500 to get into Citi Field early enough to spraypaint the plastic apple that pops up after every Met homerun. Near the end of the movie the two artists are standing on a streetcorner watching the apartment building of a private school kid they were hoping to rob. They watch as she climbs a ladder up into a water tower and disappears. It is a perfect metaphor. She might as well have climbed into the moon.


Works consulted, period of May 21-23, 2014

Hill William, Scott Mclanahan
Gimme the Loot, Netflix
“The Case for Reparations,” Ta Nahisi-Coates, The Atlantic

My Dumb Daily Pilgrimmage: Day 3


It’s possible that today I finished a long poem I’ve been working on since November or December. Could this be a benefit of this pilgrimmage? I don’t know if I would have read Helen Vendler’s essay today (cited below)—I would have wanted to, and then put it off or forgot about it—had I not known that I would be documenting my reading before going to bed. Her essay allowed me to finish the poem, or to conceive of finishing the poem, or to want to finish the poem.

Although it’s true there might have been a better poem lurking inside, had I just retained my focus. I had another ending in mind when I swiped left to check the MLB American League East baseball standings. Of course, I lost the feeling and I forgot what I was going to write.

I need to employ another strategy for these posts. Probably for life. My sense is that, throughout the day, I had more to write about. The day was dramatic, in lots of concrete ways. Or oblique ways. The day shifted around inexpressed or unnamed emotion, and that is both concrete (“I wanted to throw the cup of water across the room”) and not (“I felt like a child crushed under the weight of the sky.”)

I don’t want to write about my life, because that is boring, but the version of my life I could have written here might have been more interesting. Or emotional. Or whole. This is incomplete.

My notes need to be better. I need to spend less time on the internet, because at the end of the day, when I am writing these, I feel wasted, not tired. Wasted. Also, I need to be more proactive. I remember what being proactive was like. Perhaps I am afraid.


Works consulted, May 20th, 2014:

Hill WilliamScott Mclanahan (about 140 pages)
“Murder in Uganda,” by Helen Epstein, in the April 10 issue of the NYRB, and the second part in the April 24 issue.
“John Berryman: Freudian Cartoons,” by Helen Vendler
Too Much of the Internet, including some of God Hates Astronauts

My Dumb Daily Pilgrimmage: Day 2


Instead of writing the first two paragraphs of this earlier today, I turned on my roommate’s Playstation 3. That’s the opposite of the connection I am attempting to create. Later, I played catch until the ball burst through my glove. The glove will need to be re-strung. It has been with me since I was 10 or 11 and I can’t live without it. It is a part of my arm.

I’m writing this now as N plays scrabble behind me.

Last night I dreamt that I was living comfortably near the peak of a mountain. At the top, I performed various daily actions. I went to work. I slept with someone, I think, in a kind of medieval Japanese building. A small creature, about the size of a cat but more like a lizard, grappled with my arm while I sat down next to its chair. I fell down the mountain several times, or threatened to—vertigo, a furious burst of terrifying speed. Once or twice I managed to find a way to slow myself down. Other times the dream simply faded out.

It was hot today and I had many small errands to run. In the sun I aired out the wound on my leg. At times I found it painful to walk—no, not painful, awkward. Therefore I slowed down. Today wasn’t the first bright, sunny day, but it was the first bright, sunny day I spent walking slowly through alleys. I sometimes get the feeling that an entire science fiction novel could be written out of slow walks through bright alleys. Something about the tired concrete, its cracks, the green suggests a wrecked future.

I didn’t read as much as I planned to. I’m working on a movie and I expect a lot of my time is going to be taken by that in the coming weeks. In retrospect, not the best time to start a pilgrimmage.


Works consulted, May 19th, 2014:

Hill WilliamScott Mclanahan (last night)
House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 1
The rest of “Be On Your Way,” Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The Panorama Magazine

My Dumb Daily Pilgrimmage: Day 1. 


I’m reading an article in the McSweeney’s Panorama magazine supplement (in the famous newspaper issue). It’s about a 500 mile pilgrimmage from the French-Spanish border to some point on the Spanish coast. I have distinct memories of reading the article years ago, of my excitement at recognizing the author’s walking partner, another writer, whose is name is now recognizeable to most avid readers (Tom Bissell).

The article is in journal format. The pilgrimmage seems hard. Their feet get torn up, clumsily stiched back together. Bissell complains. The author, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, starts arguments for no reason. Most of the other pilgrims hate them. When I first read the article I must have been 23 or 24, now I’m 28 and the idea of travelling is making me vaguely panicky because I assumed I’d have done more of that by this point in my life. (I basically haven’t travelled at all.)

Reading, for me, has lately been hard. So has been remembering people’s names, recent conversations, basic tasks I told myself I would accomplish. I worry that I’ve let a lot of people down, though I’m not sure how seriously I have done that, yet. My mind is empty and I need to fill it up again. Therefore I will do something hard. I will read more. I will document this in writing. I will re-establish habits that, for some reason or another, I have lost…

Daily I wonder if an easy solution would be to resume eating fish. (For the fat, for my memory.)

Distinct memory of purchasing the McSweeney’s at a Book City. With my ex-wife. Their last copy. The cashier: “Oh, I’m so glad I sold this to people who really wanted it.” We did really want it. What does that mean—does it mean anything that we wanted it? That we somehow communicated this? And that in doing so we briefly garnered the cashier’s approval? I recognize the necessity of small talk but it sticks in my brain as if it has a functional or perhaps even mystical meaning, so I guess I’m really asking.

(When I purchased Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet from the Type Books on Queen, for a year or two afterwards I remembered vividly how the cashier had mentioned that it was her favourite book, how she kept it by her bed and read a passage or two every night, and every time I wondered if she had been flirting with me, as if that moment could be frozen and accessed, as if that time could be retrieved.) (As if I could live an alternate timeline.) (This was my dull, everyday, selfish unhappiness manifest.)

(I never know if people are flirting with me.)

In the article about the pilgrimmage the author describes Bissell as “a cuddly teddy bear who could go off at any moment.” Today I played softball and felt like “a rangy academic who could go off at any moment.” I want to win, though I also recognize the impossibility of having expectations in rec-league softball. I slipped on the first play and scraped my shin, a stupid mistake. I didn’t warm up and my coordination was off all game. In fact I think I might have actually lost the game for my team due to my poor defense at first in the opening innings. I could be sick—it’s possible that’s throwing off my balance. Earlier today I dropped a saucer. A very rare event. Usually, I catch it. Or don’t drop it at all.

It would be more accurate to say I “accidentally launched a saucer out of the kitchen cabinet.” It wasn’t pretty.

After the game, someone I just met, who seemed nice, asked me if anyone had ever called me “André the Giant.” Just everyone I’ve ever been introduced to, since the age of 8 or 9, when it became clear that I would be taller than everyone else in my age group for the rest of my life. I might have done a better job at being a human being had I not mentioned that. She received this unironically.

I feel more underwater than I have been in a long time. Probably I’m drunk on socializing after two or three years in the wilderness. Or in the clouds. Or in a nightmare or a desert. Or somewhere else, maybe. Maybe not even that bad a place. In any case I am undertaking this pilgrimmage in order to return—to somewhere in between. I don’t plan on reaching the ocean.

Lewis-Kraus and Bissell’s pilgrimmage goes from June 11 to July 19, which is 38 days. So this pilgrimmage will last 38 days.


Works consulted, May 18th, 2014:

“Man-Eating Cats,” Haruki Murakami
An article about Paul de Man in the NYRB
About 60 percent of “Be On Your Way,” Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The Panorama Magazine


A Weird, Small Miracle

city-clouds It would be a weird, small miracle if my brain started working. A weird, small miracle would mean that the train I rushed to catch was actually on time. A weird, small miracle are the lights flickering when you think of a long-lost friend. A weird, small miracle is picking up the empty milk carton and discovering it’s full. A weird, small miracle is finding the extra pair of shoelaces you thought you threw out.

None of the above are weird, small miracles.

A weird, small miracle is running into you on the street. A weird, small miracle is hearing you ennuciate my name.

I’ve looked on the sidewalk near my house. At the supermarket. In my dreams.

A Period of Mud


I didn’t think my home had a smell until I moved. My home was a house I was watching. I didn’t take all of my clothes. Occasionally I return to the house and stay overnight. I pull on a new sweater in the morning. The next day I smell different. Like myself, but not myself, because that’s no longer how I smell. How can my smell have changed so much in only a month? A little over a month. I don’t understand it.


The last time I slept at the old house I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible nightmare. There was something deadly lurking in the dark. Heavy, oppressive. It wasn’t, probably, real. But I felt it anyway. And I wished that I had my cats there to comfort me. Or anyone nearby.

Often I’ll have dreams about homes I have lived in. Sometimes a horrible presence lurks in the basement of those homes, basements which are dark, endless. Catacombs, labyrinths. The ground shifts. The walls vibrate with menace. Rarely do I actually encounter anything in these dreams. But I am terrified in a way that is difficult to shake off in the morning.


The presence that I dream is the presence that I felt when I woke up from my nightmare. I don’t doubt that. They are the same thing. Not equivalent. While the two presences might be generated by the same neurons in my brain—and so emotional, imagined, as opposed to corporeal—one is dreamed and one is experienced consciously. Therefore one enters reality, even if only temporarily, even if the experience is limited to my perception. A threshold is crossed.


In C.D. Wright’s poem, “Utopia,” she writes about “a period of mud” inside her. Accompanied by “flies and midges,” oil drums, “someone who may be born to fail” crouched over a cinder block. But beside this wreck is “a time of intense sun,” which is when, Wright seems to be telling us, she is able to write.

The poem might not be autobiographical. It may be that she is always able to write. I am not writing but I am not unable to write. I am able to write. I am in a period of mud. I am haunted by myself, in a way that transcends reality.


I feel afraid. Everywhere. In reality, in my mind, on the page. When I don’t feel afraid, I feel superior, which is not the same as confidence and is just as detrimental as fear. I’m sick of this feeling and it is hard for me to acknowledge or type out.

I listened to myself on a tape recording earlier tonight, and the cringing in my voice suprised me. I didn’t feel like I was cringing when I was speaking, and perhaps I wasn’t cringing. But I was too gentle, and I feel that the gentleness was not becoming on me. It is not who I really am, and goes some way to explaining or at least diagnosing something of what I’ve felt.


A week later. I have listened to the tapes again, multiple times, and I no longer feel as if I were cringing. There’s nothing wrong with generosity or gentleness. The horror or cringing I felt was only in myself. A lack of confidence, I think. Reacting to the things I said as if to say anything would reveal too much. The period of mud is not over. But I am, perhaps, realizing that I need to act more forcefully, because nothing is owed to me. This is positive. I feel good.

For a long time I was content sitting in a corner and acting as if I belonged on another world and that’s where I was going to stay. Maybe I am still on that other world, but I am brushing the cobwebs off and learning how to establish an uplink with this one, the world in which I pay my rent and take care of my cats.

The sun has come out, it feels like for the last time. Temperatures above twenty degress Celsius. It always feels like the last time, the final time, when the sun comes out in the spring. It will rain again, temperatures will drop precipitiously before the month is over. But for now it feels like something has changed, and the period of mud is over, even if it might not be. I think what I should realize is that the period of mud never leaves. That is the true substance of Wright’s poem. The mud exists alongside the sunshine. One does not make way for the other. They co-exist, and to hope for anything else is, perhaps, to hope for death, a life cleansed of variety.