The Dalai Lama
wouldn’t harm a
fly. That’s his religion.
He probably wouldn’t even euthanize a pigeon.
Just did the bathrobe ice-bucket walk in a new and trendy South American hotel. There were no witnesses. I had to light my way with my phone, such was the gloom. It must be a trend to have gloomy hallways in hotels. There used to be an excellent blog by a commercial American, called “Hotel Hallways”, which was all about hotel hallways (carpets, lighting &c) the length and breadth of America, but it expired about five years ago. I don’t think he ever did the bathrobe ice-bucket walk, though.
There is a furtiveness about the walk. Not in doing it – doing it is the opposite of furtive – but in talking about it. There aren’t really polite words… it sounds vaguely obscene however you approach it. The disrobing, the suiting up in the hotel bathrobe. You’re donning a cultish vestment, giving up your identity to the hotel. You’re about to parade yourself naked but for the inmate’s garb. Also there’s something about bathrobes in general which evokes inbetweenness. You’re not supposed to wear them to do errands (like fetching ice). Their social purpose is to show that you’re indifferent to the social setting. So you feel rather like a nudist.
Then there’s the exploratory aspect. In a hotel, your room is your world, and you’re surrounded by other worlds in painful proximity. To walk the walk is to violate this order, to willfully voyage between the worlds, sure of your purpose though unsure of your destination (for the ice machine is never where it ought to be). You are an explorer. Not so many years ago you might encounter another on the same quest and exchange a circumspect nod, but that is rarer and rarer; the practice is falling into desuetude. But there remains the proximal thrill of passing all the doors, of violating, briefly and proudly, so many thresholds. In fact this pleasure only increases as hotels become increasingly private spaces, the guests pressed up against their screens with their backs to their doors, knowing nothing of the fellow in the bathrobe with the bucket pacing the corridor, or the superiority of iced drinks.
The proper stance is to hold the bucket in the crook of the arm and to walk with the hips broad, the knees slightly bandy, in the manner of a sailor cock-a-hoop with his little cask of rum. This gives you the necessary confidence and presents a friendly disposition to anyone who might see you. In the event of passing someone (which as I said, is an increasingly infrequent occurrence in this introverted age) you say “good evening”, nod, smiling, winking if you have the facility, and “just looking for some ice” or something very similar. If by some syzygy both of you are on the same quest, a mere nod will suffice to establish your eternal kinship.
Remember, when you locate the ice machine, not to overload your bucket. You want to be able to hold it suitably on the way back, and besides, the chunks will be small, and it won’t last very long in your overheated room, and your supply of booze, unlike the ice from the great glowing, humming machine, will soon run out.
It’s crowded and gay down there, with a masturbating jazzband.
– Nabokov, Ada, or Ardor
The cicadas have an urgent descending thrum to them, di-urp di-urp di-urp. Backing them is the ticker-ticker of the sprinklers, the frantic cymbal-brush of summer here, heard too infrequently in rainy 2014. Some large insect is beating its wings, or thrashing its carapace against the walls or the blinds, and now and then a helicopter flutters by with a mucky thrub, thrubba thrub thrubba.
I awoke from dreams of frustrated congress to the usual cat-riot and stinging headache. I’m still not used to the emptiness of the house. Theoretically I can occupy myself for a whole day, but there is a sure cost to my sanity. I opened the shutters, fed the cats, shat, did dishes, and chose a novel to read. It was “The Sandman” by Miles Gibson (1984), a funny and erotic wander through the career of a commonplace London serial killer. I liked it so much I’ve just bought his other six or seven novels second hand.
I ate leftovers. Now I must hide the alcohol and hoover because tomorrow I turn over the fort to our fortsitter, sexagenarian Kim. She hid the alcohol herself last time and apologised for it, so I figure I should do her this favour. Excuse me while I put away this double vodka. Note, there should be a comma after the first alcohol. I don’t need to hide the hoover, and it’s lucky I don’t as it’s a pretty conspicuous item of household electronics. Ah, do nothing day. If I lived alone I’d be well-read, but a roaring drunk.
I was tired of having a cold and didn’t want to go into the office, so I stayed home responding to emails like a dead frog responding to electric shocks. The cats were inert and the house felt very empty – so empty that by 11:30 I had had enough and cycled to the bookshop for succour. I had 20% off one book as my birthday fell (falls) (will fall) in this month, so I had to buy an expensive book. I got The Book of Legendary Lands by Eco (hardback) and also Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook which may help me write a story one of these days. Two books where you’re really paying for the production values more than the text, but still worth reading, and I was in a production values mood.
I ate out twice today, God forgive me, as Pepys would say, sushi for lunch and a pizza and two martinis in the evening. I read the Eco both times. At dinner I listened to the conversations at the bar, which are much more audible when you’re solo than with a family. I heard every word, but I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it, it was a Biblical mess. The Rockies game was on the TV, and I kept hearing the talk at the bar as commentary. I suppose baseball and bars have been so close to each other for so long that their languages will have come to resemble one another?
Riding home, I fumbled for my rear light and met with empty space. I had hit a monstrous perturbation in the asphalt on my way to the bookstore earlier and heard a distant clacking, but checked the usual culprits and nothing had fallen off. It was the rear light, a very trusty one. God damn it! And so, covered in cats, to bed.
It had been raining for a long time, not in an unvarying way, but intermittently gently and pelting. Probably when I stretched one nude leg and one arm out of the front door to grab the newspaper off the porch I lingered a moment in the gray light listening to the drips plopping from the eaves and from the drooping leaves of the dogwood tree. Some drips would have got onto the paper and brought out the heavy scent of newsprint in a smear.
On the other side of the inlet, we found ourselves standing under the Device to Root out Evil, not entirely by accident as it was one of my favorite places, especially on a rainy day. The never-ceasing rain fell on the sea and muted a float-plane which was just then lumbering, doggedly, into a sky unwaveringly gray. I had done the crossword which is how I know it was a Saturday. Our children I’m sure were jumping in puddles somewhere and there was the smell of our waterproofs and your rich hair and the soft delicate exterior of your ear.
At the Starbucks in São Paulo airport where everything is made of corrugated cardboard and suede, surrounded by humans and luggage. I keep glancing at the intricate gantrywork of the ceiling expecting to see a small bird flittering to and fro, but no.
(or a big truck passing by).
Sounds. No-one knows why.
Ringing of bells. Rattling of keys.
Velocities as diverse as opinions at the fête.
Get on your knees,
submit to the mother fuckers!
Count seconds to the thunder
and consider yourselves at ease.
– The dishwasher suddenly turns on
– Cats, like a squeaky door ten stories tall
– The Sprinklers, switching on with a placid hiss
When you walked out of the jungle wearing nothing
I thought all of my kingdoms had come at once.
Putting down my elephant gun was second nature,
third was entering a state of trance.
Then you spoke in that tongue like wet gravel and foam,
and I knew I’d never return to my willowed home.
Thick stubby plants coated with nodules cloaked you,
also the shadows cast by what seemed like two suns,
until you emerged into the llano, warily sniffing,
projecting that lethal nonchalance
which I suppose you acquired from enslaving people.
Grimly I decided I would be the last to topple.
I readied a fortification – a trench dug with a mattock
and a mound reared by sinew and puke and purest brawn.
I made it brown to counteract your yellow and orange
(brown being the only harvestable pigment)
and I bade my people kneel at the lighting of the lamps;
I instructed them that no lady or gentleman be exempt.
If only day had broken and you had smitten us entirely!
The citizens go about their business, pumping gas,
but there’s a region of thorns close to the surface
producing nightmares in filigree and glass.
The first, and deathless, nightmare, is when you emerge,
horrible, and we all fly, and all mortal things diverge.