Home again. Home now is Amtrak. This month
I'm riding the rails, a post-modern hobo; have laptop, will travel.
I've been reading Glas this trip. That Derrida is a nut. We've
gotten sidetracked in Fruedianism now, perhaps the single inexcusable
tendancy in his philosophy. But heck, he married a Psychoanalyst,
so what would you expect? Still, there's a lot of really good material...
So this is what my head is doing, at 4:46AM (central time/GMT -6),
somewhere in eastern North Dakota or Minnesota. I am riding the
Empire Builder, which follows the Lewis and Clark route, circa 1805.
Lewis and Clark were discovering the Northwest Passage while Hegel was
sending the Phenomenology of the Spirit to press. Meanwhile,
almost exactly 200 years later, I am sitting on a train watching the
tracks all merge. I do not see the relevance in emphasizing the
difference in all these systems. Derrida employs freudian phallocentrism
to Hegelian readings of the New and Old testiments. I apply a
different set of tools to the same. Where is the truth?
The truth is in the question.
And what is the
No, seriously, what is the question? I don't know anymore.
For me, it is "How do I talk about it?" Not so
much 'what is the it to talk about?'. Nevertheless, I have to
face the fact that there are exceptionally few people who have now read
this far. For very few people have the time, patience, or desire
to do so. So now what is the question? It wraps itself around
a'coupla' days later; What day?
Date: 3rd of May, 2003
Rolling down the new Amtrak "fast tracks," Feeling
rockstar. Still reading Glas's dual narrative reading... narative
reading... narative reading.... Something is horribly write
or wrong in that other than spelling... Outcast is pumping some serious
bass into my ears, while I tap on my laptop; this line involves an outlet
at every seat and Gardenburgers. Amtrak is learning.
Its now twice in Chicago that I've completely neglected to be a tourist.
It occurred to me as I was leaving that they have a really tall-ass
building downtown with an observation deck which I visited as a child;
a freshly recovered memory of that trip.
Feeling so rockstar after my visit with Jess in Chicago. Jessica
and I have this very unlikely relationship. We're pretty sure
we didn't get along back when we were "friends," but not a
single point of controversey survived the crucible of time. We
have about nine years of common history, yet no memories to get in the
way of the present. So this visit I brought her a sari from India,
however the future involves Japan, so we quickly dispensed with the
past and changed costumes. We dressed up in Kimonos, watched anime
(the first episodes of Ranma 1/2), went to the liquor store for
Saki, but had to settle on Sapporo; The final costume change of the
evening was a return to America's heartland: wife beaters, cammoflage
shorts, leopard print cowboy hats, switchblades...
After a noontime breakfast Bloody Mary (two days in a row) with Smoked
Salmon Benedict (I had the eggs florentine) and mimosas, I boarded this
train to Ann Arbor, from which now I write (sic.). I think We're
due in half an hour. The funniest thing about this whole visit
was going with her to the gym to work out together. Jessica has
gotten it into her head to train for a marathon, much to everyone's
mystification... Coincidentally, I've gotten it into my head to
lift unnecessarily heavy things for pleasure. We, on our separate
tacks, have reached this bizarre convergence and ran with it.
Well, she ran. I lifted heavy things. Its amazing how forgetful
we can all be when we want to be. I'm sure if I could remember
correctly (or more likely were she to recollect), there are probably
reasons Jess and I shouldn't be friends. And certainly we shouldn't
have everything in common. Ah, time. I'm reminded of a hundred
monkeys with typewriters for some reason.
I'm doing a horrible job documenting this trip. Seattle was great.
Somewhat a blitzkreig visit it was. I went, drank, left; I don't
really remember that much about it; must mean I had fun. So far
I'm making up for the last two months of "responsible" living...
Who am I kidding. All these arbitrary lines and definitions.
What separates all these states and states is less compelling than the
Can't think. The screwdriver and Johnny Cash, Outcast and Derrida,
Jessica and Chicago, Seattle and Berkeley have scrabbled my head.
Just in time; Jackson, Michigan was the last stop. Now June Carter and
Mr. Cash are talkin about goin' to Jackson... but its not clear if that
is THE Jackson they were singing about... Josh awaits me at the
More incoherent ramblings... I have a HUGE NDA covering Ann Arbor.
So I don't know even how to begin this section. Howzabouta date?
Date: 6th of May, 2003
Cleveland is just like I remembered it. Middle America at its
most middle. The urban landscape between there and, well, a ways
around, was fabulous. As the early morning sun broke the morning
sky into, the clouds marched steadily eastward low in the sky, while
Amtrak crawled along the tracks on the outskirts of town. The
low, sad, lighting and urban decay created a landscape of Haiku waiting
to be discovered. Someday I will take a vacation to Cleveland.
Cleveland and Siberia. I hear punk is huge in both places...
Spring's verdent fields, rural Ohio now, and lots of train traffic.
The staff on the train all seem to be zombies. Nothing is quite
animated enough. Deciduous trees are bursting into leaf with that
passionate green which defies even the flattest light, or dirtiest window
in its insistence. But everywhere, marks of mankind and develepment.
So many layers and textures on the east coast. I always forget
how that affects me. The overlapping schemes of generations are
most apparent from the train, behind the facade; the unintended facade
facing the wrong side of the tracks. I can almost taste the mottled
brick and grey overcast sky. I loose myself in imaginary explorations
of abandoned factories. I think of the boys who threw the rocks
to break out the windows on the third story. Baseball playing,
all-American boys. The ones for whom I registered Communist.
Junk yards with rows of school busses, rusted red to compliment the
peeling orange. smashed up cars, their hoods up as they were in
the dealership at the beginning of their lives. Now advertising
the parts from the whole. Something so beautiful about the
detritus of an urban-disposable society. It fills me with visions
and dreams of potential. Inventions, materials, textures,
photographs. I see so many photographs everywhere...
Ann Arbor was a little too much for my head. More emotion than
I've dealt with in a long long time. Everyone in Seattle keeps
that shit locked down. But between Josh, Amelia, David, and myself,
we've all gone way too far together. Josh has grown up.
Its scary. Wisdom is starting to trickle out from the corner of
his eyes, and he honestly and humbly seeks advice, contrary to his past
confrontationalisms. He has also spent the last several months
being turned into a pincushion; Two dragons cover his back, reach
down to his knees and wrap around his side. One in color, one,
black and white. Fifty hours of self-inflicted torture, followed
by a week of painful healing. In short, this means he's been in
self-inflicted pain for the better part of this year, on top of everything
I'm going to be so emotionally spent in two weeks time. Thank
god half this month is being spent on the train... lets see... something
close to 12 days on the train this trip in total. Farmhouses
line the tracks, undulating hills half tilled, rusted oil dereks and
hay bailers litter the landscape. One big fucking poem this morning.
Its 7:55 AM and I have not slept. Derrida has started to entertain
me. I can speak his language, finally, I understand his untent.
intent... though the former is probably more correct....
Glas is one of the more complex emotional landscapes, one of the most
unnerving books I've yet to read. One column runs on for fifteen
pages analyzing Hegel's interpretation of the Last Supper complete with
implicit racial slurs toward Jews and Judaism (Derrida is Jewish now
that I think about it...) and their philosophical blindness to the light
of christ; meanwhile on the second column of every page is Jean
Genet's very literate and bizarrist, theatrical account of buccal coition,
homoeroticism, death, murder, rape, trial, punishment, prison, and more
death; Both columns are thoroughly infused with Freudianism,
castration anxiety, Oedipal complexes, phallic imagery... Meanwhile,
the undercurrent of the whole text is the performative demonstration
of a new method independant of the ideas being explored.
Overall, Its the perfect thing for one such as me, at four in the morning,
while the civilians sleep on the train all around me. Its quiet
on Amtrak at night; strangely calm, but for the obese man behind me
who snored all night, pausing occasionally to hock up phlegm.
I can't express how complex the texture of Glas really is. You
really have to be pretty well versed in Linguistics/semiology to get
it at all; and one should also be facile in Freud, Hegel, The
Bible, all of Derrida's prior works (hence, plato, Russeau, etc. ),
etc. I don't think I've ever done so much background study just
for one book as I have for this. I've even dedicated six
days: travel days, captive days; to read the first 80 pages in one column,
100 pages in the other... But enough about this... You'll
notice I haven't even begun to touch on the actual contents of
Pittsburg. Last time I was here was to visit Erik at Carnegie
Mellon. A week from today I will be visiting him in New
York. Time does some amazing things. Before he was just
a college student. Now he has a Corporate career and a midtown
Manhattan apartment. I'm still essentially in the same boat as
before. Car, train; same boat... Pittsburg, the Appalachian
mountains and... the New River is it? Anyway a big-ass river.
I'm right now War-Train-ing. Looking for wireless access points
by train... Just a survey, really... sorta like catch-and-release
fishing... caught two so far... three; one WEP-enabled, two not... at
80mph don't do me much good... If I was a true geek I'd have the GPS
Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo... for the record, that celebrates a 1860s
defeat of the French... So everyone gets drunk. Jesus. Even
the MEXICANS beat the French... But Josh and I did our part and
drank Guinness all afternoon, had a heart-to-heart, Then caught up with
Amelia and David... On another infinite aside, I realized that
Mahayana Buddhist studies is to me as PlayStation 2 is to most boys
So this evening I should be hanging out with Karl, and then the following
evening with my family. Then a week from today in New York, a
month from today back in Seattle, two months from today in Japan.
Now I'm figuring I may as well really rock it out at this point; get
a second train pass and go visit some friends in San Diego, cross over
to Mexico, check that off the list, Then head up the coast to Seattle...
One zone Amtrak passes are cheaper I think... The goal here is
to wear myself out so that when I get to Japan I stay put. As
a child my parents used to trick me into running laps around the outside
of the house while they "timed" me. Now, I've adopted
sorta a similar motif, running laps around the country to tire myself
Well, I'm gonna try to take a nap now before we get into D.C. and I
have to amuse myself till Karl's off work... He's out in Fairfax, and
I have to figure out the metro system; or see if he wants to come into
the city. I hope we make it there before all the museums are closed!
I am travelling with my uber-lite, library assault pack. I have
one book on Japanese Buddhism, Glas, and my laptop... oh and some trailmix,
my toiletries and a change of socks. I keep dumbfounding myself
with the bizarre subsets of packs I acquire...
Right now I have the option of taking a bus to D.C. and getting there
quicker, and making the museum thing happen. But you know what?
I'm riding the train for a reason...