Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Midnight Confessions At The Rendering Plant
Bubbly Creek, the finale of "Shank of The Night", blips of methane forever rising from carcasses of animals (and mob victims) long dead, the former throwaways from the Stockyards, long gone. But the ghosts still ripple in the waters beneath the Ashland Avenue bridge. Several times, I have taken the el here, climbed the fence illegally, and tossed my own detritus into the waters, on the many boards lining the rocky shores, seeing if the currents of the South Branch of the Chicago River would move north, south, or simply leave the tossed items doing pirouettes, like a drowned ballerina. I am cleansing my past, using two scans of items I rediscovered as I continue the decimation of my belongings. The metal object came from a Greyhound bus bathroom door; I had been traveling to Louisville to get picked up by Cousin Slick, and spent much of the latter half of the ride talking to a Cherokee fellow who was going to visit his father, a neurosurgeon, in Elizabethtown. E-town, if you are a local. We were in the aisle seats just in front of the bathroom, I opened the door and the handle fell off. We both made the appropriately shocked looks and I pocketed my interesting new item. I parted ways with the Indian, John Cloud, and went to Shelbyville to watch Katrina destroy New Orleans. I also found a Dick book I had thought borrowed and gone. Philip K. Dick was one of the finest writers alive, even though he was fucking crazy. In a good way, though, except maybe towards the end when he thought a sentient spaceship named Valis was circling the Earth and monitoring him. The first time I felt that suicide would be simple was when I read THE DARK-HAIRED GIRL, which in part included letters from the Oregon Mental Hospital he had been admitted to voluntarily. In MARTIAN TIME-SLIP, he describes his theory for autism in a throwaway fashion, and THE CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON (circling Alpha Centauri, not of my hemisphere, Etain and Steve and Jamie Turner down in Tasmania), where each city is self-contained studies in mental disorders, the Obsessive-Compulsives, the Bipolars, the hapless and the sad, the manic futurists and those with eyes mirroring the empty void. The title story in I HOPE I SHALL ARRIVE SOON is an incredible short story about a man who cannot be "put under" for the ten year trip to his new home on a planet circling the star LD4, and so the ship's computer, with limited access, creates ten years of images into Victor Kemmings' brain, from his own past. But in true PK Dick guilt, the memories keep getting bobbled by memories of helping a cat eat a bird when he was four, the ownership of a signed Fabulous Freak Brothers poster, and images of his first wife, Martine. The trip ends, Martine has been contacted in the Sirius star system and is there to meet him, but in true PKD fashion, Kettering continues to think the reality is computer-induced, he thinks his hands go through a wall, or a TV is hollow, or a bee-sting is visible on his arm, a bee he once saved from a spiders web. PKD was a master of solipsism, the idea being that the universe is only what you can directly perceive; in my case right now, I am aware of my keyboard, a lamp, my Oceanic Airlines coffee mug on a stone coaster from Johannesburg, and my Psycho-Pirate action figure. The rest of the universe, even though I hear wind outside a window I am not looking at, is only an assumption. So...what did I confess to the happy dead of Bubbly Creek? In my late teens, I was walking along Cicero Avenue with my friend Dan, I saw an orange cat and spooked it, it ran into traffic and I watched the rear tire of a burnt sienna town car bing off its head. I went to get the cat, feeling guilty as all hell, and held it in my arms. He was able to walk, but I knew he had a concussion. (There were no veterinarians open at that time of night). I walked with him, talking to him for two hours, he looked at me with knowing eyes, fell asleep, and died. I cry when I think of this despicable moment in my life that occurred one summer Friday night 26 years ago. Like PKD and the weight of memory's madness.