20 May 2007

benign smudge

the chris driver complex

they call it the chris driver complex. it returns to you in post-apocalypse psychology, after your religion and ideals have been ground to dust good and proper, to pave the way for the propriety of a blank buzzing confusion. the confusion was blooming in william james’ day, when the dentist was enlightening, but now the blooms are wilted, expired hallucinations when you did acid and tetris and things made a good deal more sense, like you were practically the protagonist in a faust adaptation, player one, charmed, the magnetism of the brash and stupid child, wearing hackneyed magnificence like a tattered hat, cocked like clockwork. that punk never needed the chris driver complex, but you do, when your charm wears off. the weight of ecstasy’s chemical windowsill is still above you, and you lost your job, and theoretically (it’s as solid as evolution) there’s still enough wealth to go around in 2007 to justify scrambling for the luxury item called dignity with its bling accessory pride, because didn’t your guardian angel, that wizened hustler, give you her coupons for the liquidation sale of a closing canadian superstore?

so you visit the store. you’re in submission to the angelbitch, she holds the whip. she thrashes you with a smile, tone of voice, self-assured flip of hair, cryptic sensuous blond. you’re in a massive steel hangar of shelves for super-sized consumer goods, eerie and quiet and you hide your coupons and look around, ostensibly for nothing but maybe socks and underwear, but for some reason you can’t bare to buy any of them, every action is embarrassing, and you would buy something but none of the checkouts seem occupied, and you don’t want to take too close a look and look like an idiot, some weirdo, is this place even open, what are these people doing, should you be here? buying is out of the question, let alone applying. no applied physics here, it’s creepy, forget it, go to wal-mart, it’s the devil you know, lay low and buy some socks and forget looking for work.

times like these, you know your hang-ups are going to leave you twitching under the noose before long, leaving only neurotic kneejerks of denial and escape, the most satisfying being your cartoon version of the world, which grows from kernels of truth to corrupted operating systems. post apocalypse offers a lot of space to go bonkers in, if you were a plug-in preset, you’d be “ruined city reverb”. that’s why you turn to the chris driver complex, like your cat turns its head to the can opener. it goes with those well-fitting shades, plaid-tinted, blocking the more punishing frequencies of sunlight, the clarity that hurts too much. bespectacled, the stubborn facts that divert agnostic froth no longer appear. “the way the world really works” is laughable, unknowable. the way it seems to work is a tragic but noble defeat, a framed oil-painting of slow suicide in muted blue and red.

the charm of the chris driver complex is its ability to build gorgeous and riotous delusions that would make great movies with the right cinematographer. paranoid, yes, yourself as the center of every societal ill, systemic fuck-up, twisted vendetta, modern amphetamine-enhanced animal instinct. but with the evils must come angels, not the whip-wielding ones, but platonic fags with soothing voices who regale you with tales of narcotized tranquility, personal paisley visions, narcissistic and masturbatory, what you’re best at, loving the one you’re with, alone with only yourself to respect yourself in a desperate swoon for cock-eyed cock-rocking tranquility, dreams under duress, the best kind of reveries, because the harsher the reality, the more brilliant the fantasy.

so chris driver regains control, on the ironic occasion of a trip to the grocery store. he’s the character who was you, who imagined himself employed in a worse-case scenario sisyphean hamster-wheel stock job, where they were out to get him with their nasty looks and comments, saying everything he worried they thought because why hold back now that his supports are gone and he doesn’t have a fucking friend in jesus, time for him to know who he really is, the dirtball loser pussyboy, because that is the truth and the truth is good and beautiful, so beautiful how ugly he is and he can either accept that or drown in delusion. so now you’re applying for that hypothetical job, except for real this time, because you fell through a hole in the market economy, even though the economy is supposed to be good.

well, it’s good for somebody but not you. you lost cachet, along with your wallet, on the floor of some bar, maybe one of those blackout nights at the royal, and then you lost your job. and what didn’t kill you left you weaker, with more reasons to be afraid, all drama queen bollocks, skin irritation of experience, the new crop of fears, more nuanced, sophisticated, and plausible than the superstitions you left behind, but still mockingly contradictory. you never thought the dregs had undone so many, and now you’re networked with the creeps and the ruined. you were reaching for angels but they pulled away like the promise of the last term politician and the offer from mastercard and the flirting eyes of the jessica alba-resembling hippie girl back when you might have had a shot. now you’re parasitical on the economy, unemployed, needy, and using drugs to fill the void. better than tv, i guess. now you’ll reach for yourself instead, why not? player one is game over, let luigi take over the pixilated level-one palace, extra code conjuring game genii, meta-programming the human bio-computer to grant it the respectability of a sense-deprived scientist.

you’ll need to forget the angelbitch sadist you’re supposed to buy with your zastrozzi credits and learn to love the good fags in your head, intoxicated and good and sick, but your chosen perversity, maybe healthy, maybe lao could justify it, it’s gotta balance out something, right? and second person might as well be first, in solipsism.

benign smudge

somehow i've convinced myself to go to the grocery store. that's the plan, anyway. it's been said they offer niches for the aspiring working man. rumours. i don't know what to think about them. but the pressure has progressed to the point where i must look like i'm doing something.

round the bend is the hospital. i wonder how many people are lying on their death beds. you can smell the crematorium from here, masked with solvents. seven stories of gray, smoking medical waste. and the sky above... hey. wow.

crushing blue bliss, unexpected. this was to be a stoic walk, the completion of a chore. and here i am, in reverie. it's that shade of blue. when colors arrest my attention, my synapses are pulling shenanigans, deja-threads. what is so damned special about this blue? is it simply paying attention? but what caused me to pay attention in the first place?

it reminds me of dream geometry, the distorted entanglements of my town, an association relevant in a years-old dream i can't remember remembering. what fascinates me is that there is a warped cartographical coherence to the parallel representation of my local community - alleys that twist into wooded embankments are navigable again, such that they form memories, actual memories! scenes of dreams - and somehow that blue sky is an artifact of the dream geometry, what's it doing here? the confluence makes me glad to be here, renders everything else pointless. gotta file it away, maybe something can be salvaged from this trip. it’s like the video game i was going to design, based on finnegan's wake - not so much in content as architecture. dream geometry, an unconscious collected, a cubist pastiche - the mind of the townsfolk rendered in texture-mapped polygons, so fine i can’t detect their edges, so fine they blow my mind.

closer to the grocers and my heart rate climbs. but there is a benign smudge on the shades. the smudge will protect me from the beady alien lenticels, looking from everywhere. some of them are clever, they hide under the chrome of car chassi. most don't need to be clever, only survey this grudging march to supplication. the shades are to protect my identity. i feel a little different with them on, they are a costume. shades for a slushy, overcast day, almost feels like halloween. my toque is pulled tight, a little hair sticks under the cloth. and the grocery store comes into view. valerian, pot, shades, and pressure won’t be enough, i prophesize.

i’m here, but i’m not a customer. god i wish i was a customer. i envy those innocent faces, happy consumers, taking dignity for granted. i see the desk but i turn down the aisle. i can pretend to be a customer, for now. the commercials are playing out of the speakers, i can’t get them out of my head. i can’t get them out of my head. i can’t get them out of my head.

okay, enough stalling, i’m like chris driver, stockboy, holed up in the ice-cream bin alcove that is his bunker protection from the very present grocerking reality. i should head back to that desk to look for someone to talk to, about this almost incomprehensible attempt to worm my way into the system.

but i see the pharmacy. it comforts me. pleasant associations. smart medicinal white, precise to fractions of a milligram, i could use the whole enterprise to bleach myself invisible. resume for a pharmacy. fuck the bakery, i could be a brash young turk, demand a job behind the counter despite my lack of experience... behind the counter. behind the counter is where i would flower. me and the pharmacy, sitting in a tree – kay eye ess ess eye en gee – yaiya, the pharmacy. vicarious medicinal mind-warps with me clean and sober, behind the counter. i should work at a pharmacy. the pharmacy. cause i’ve been on the consumer’s side of the counter, a connoisseur of cough syrup and the unique perspective it brings, the dark horse from the drugged world, haha.

valerian, pot, shades, and pressure aren’t enough. i walk out the door, nothing accomplished. but i feel better, i feel relief. pride even. i’m back to myself, on my own terms. so i chose personal atrophy over improvement. but i know my way back to the plywood house, the place where nothing’s ever finished. it’s not even a half-way house, more like a third. the best third.

gotta see carlos now. gotta see carlos. yeah, so it’s a crutch, so, fuck it. everybody uses crutches, they’re cheap, they’re fabricated in china, they’re medicinal, they were foretold by the i-ching, the right hexagram on the right day. grace uses crime blogs, among many chemical crutches. the horror of real-life murder and child abuse can be an escape. even big problems, the dark hued part of thinking big, gets you beyond your own immediate personal complaints and frailties.

speaking of escape, time to smoke that roach i brought along. the bowl i inhaled hours ago isn’t doing it for me anymore. i can’t decide if it will be better to be sober for carlos or not. so i’m going to be stoned. carlos, maybe there’s a touch of asian in him – gook smart, latin cool – the kind of look only a mutt could pull off. his casual ingenuity is a catalyst for the most thought-flattening personal visions, and the moods and aesthetics they demand you extract from subconscious ether… oh hey, i think that second stone kicked in. it’s better than the first, more manageable.

gotta see carlos for my vr fix. he renders my visions with integrity. but the thing is, he takes my money. he’s a free agent. and he’s mainlining me. an intelligent person, surely he sees this thing is more addictive than heroin – and much more expensive. it’s draining the coffers of the plywood house, robbing my fellow fuckups of what little they have these days. i am like a crackhead, i’m stealing from my family. but they’re imaginationally impoverished, they have no visions to realize. so that money is better in my hands, for my visions. someday i’ll give them to the world, someday. but today they’re mine, i’m paying for them. i’m the producer.

so maybe carlos likes it at the top of a pyramid, but it’s a small pyramid cause this town is off the radar. but who can afford to be amateur, these days? he’ll take my money, sell me my crack. but this isn’t a chemical, it’s light. on a screen. sound. dreams. vcr dreams, back when we were working with magnetic tape, to spool film through our sleeping skulls, emerge wet with more definition than should be, in lovecraftian terms. those early days were like cthulhu, man. i still get chills.

carlos, he’s the tom sholz of cutting edge vr. he’s going to cheer me up with an expensive rendering of today’s entry into my local dream geometry. it’ll be worth every penny. maybe i’ll side order a magic window into the cornwall woodsprite matrix. no, actually, forget that happy fantasy. today i want a nightmare, something to conquer, my way, not theirs. i want the chris driver complex, i want demons in the grocery store, security guards glowering at the door, mobsters scheming on the upper floor. i want a grocerking game, i want a hell to counterpoint heaven.

might as well call it what it is, the grocerking thing. if i’m going to have it rendered, i’m going to have to describe it, to start with, to form a porthole into my thoughts. from there he gets the associations and the process accelerates. the associative network is the catalyst.

it’s one of those abused nelson apartments, up a metal fire escape you’re sure is going to collapse under you one of these days. and today i have a tip for carlos – a bottle of hornitos i bought at the liquor store beside grocerking after walking out the doors. i wonder if he’d drink it with me? i don’t think so. i’m still benignly smudged.

“what’s with the shades?” he says, finally looking up from his laptop.

“i needed something extra today.”

“hey, whatever gets you through the day.”

“so, i’ve got some new head stuff for you.”

“oh yeah? glad to hear – novelty is good for the pool, vital. you don’t mind that i seeded some of your mind’s aesthetic units? they have this novelty factor that is pretty kickass to behold, it’s increasing the efficiency of my facsimiles. there’s this new breed of randomness emerging and i love it.”

i don’t quite understand. “well… i did sign that over to you in the contract, didn’t i?”

“that’s what my copy says. i gotta say, it was worth the discount i gave you on your last commission, cause your material is golden for this sort of thing. you got the goods, homeworld boy.”

he called me homeworld boy, again. should i be proud? cause i am – that narcissistic streak again. i can’t believe i came here stoned, it just makes me all the more tripped out. not sure if that’s good.

“some of the scenarios i’ve rendered for people lately have been getting fantastic results – and reactions. getting up there in fidelity with what i’ve done for you.”

now i don’t feel as special. i was always the fidelity man, some illusory bond.

“so what’s this new head stuff?”

“let’s start with the grocery store,” i say.

“which grocery store?”

“oh you know, the one i hate. that fucking store. i thought about storming the pharmacy like it was capture the flag.”

“okay wait, let me record you talking this time,” carlos says, opening a series of windows on his laptop. “i wrote new software last night, i think i can use the modulations of your voice in combination with its signature shape to feed into the evolution of the rendering.”

two beautiful hours later, i’m playing a mockup version of the game on his auxiliary comp. carlos has stolen the pharmacy flag and is sticking it through the chest of my lieutenant stockboy who is holding my left flank at the ice cream bin alcove. he squeals childish laughter, takes a swig of tequila, and pauses the screen.

“this game is good, really good,” he says.

“you’re telling me?” i’m laughing. carlos is the only one who understands. probably because of his intimate connection – he not only sees into my mind, he reflects it digitally.

“of course i’m not appreciating it like you are, but in a way it’s even better for me – the surrealism, the absurdity – you can’t imagine what it’s like when it’s not indigenous to your head. of course, this is gonna be a niche market thing, but there are certain tastes – certain people who would get huge mileage out of this, sophisticates… people who are hip to the underground vr scene – these villains of yours…”

“woah, hold on a second… markets? what? this is mine. this is for me, this is one of my most sacred fantasies. how can you even bring that kind of shit up? i’m no lawyer, but i looked very carefully at the intellectual property clause, last contract. you can’t commercialize this fucker.”

“hey, we haven’t written a contract on this yet,” carlos says.

he’s right, goddamnit. how did i let my thoughts get siphoned off like that? i shouldn’t have come here stoned. he’s a fucking weasel, that guy. but i can’t help love him. how can you not? this is all wrong anyway.

“i’ve never rendered anything as good as this,” carlos says, glazed. “and i’ve seen your reaction. i know the fidelity factor is through the roof. i want more rights to your material. i wouldn’t mass market or anything like that. you know how i work, i’m underground. but i’m not one of those fucking anarchists, i’m not about free information. i have selected clients. trusted clients. like you. hardly anyone would get this thing anyway – in fact, you know, most people wouldn’t even be able to see it, let alone play it. they’d see it as noise, it would be noise to them. the people i’m talking about – it’s a handful. and who knows where they are? nowhere near here, i’m sure. they’re collectors. you’re a painter, right? you’ve sold paintings. why can’t you sell some fantasies?”

“you’re selling them. i fucking paid for them. in experience, in degradation, and shattered hopes, and repressed rage, and obsessive compulsion. and in cash! what’s this one gonna cost me? with all the extra integrity, six hundred? seven?”

“yeah,” carlos laughs. “well you wouldn’t be selling them. but you’d be the author. doesn’t that appeal to you, at all, that i’d be selling you to the connoisseurs of the fringe minds? i’m talking elite, in the way that counts. i’ll tell you what, you’ve got to get to know at least one of these collectors, then you’d be all for it, i’m sure. i’m going to do something that i really shouldn’t, because it just isn’t done, but i’m going to give you access to her hard drive.”

“who’s? what?”

“this woman i know, she’s gonna love you. through the window. but first, i’ll let you be the voyeur. no one has seen her, but you’ll get to know her through her collection. we’re playing a game of some kind. no one’s admitted to it yet but it’s happening all over the scene, one of those things that hasn’t been defined yet. she’s such a shadow, a goddamn witch, she freaks me out. but i’m getting a sense of who she is, through the kinds of personalities she collects. i mean, stuff you’d never think of, stuff like… well, the grocerking, the woodsprites, but in conjunction with… well, anyway, what i see in the gestalt, what can be seen… is something i can’t begin to put into words, or even scenes – but i’m imaging a whole new genre of realization now - superscenes, like superegos, it’s something even grander than what i’ve been doing. you’ll see too, if you follow where i’m pointing, maybe you’ll even participate. look, i’ll burn this realization, even though it’s just a proto right now, and with it, i’ll give you an ftp addy. then you’ll see. this is the deal i’m offering. i could just delete the work i’ve done. but i don’t want to do that.”

“i’m sure you could weasel your way around the legal issues anyway,” i say.

“i made the law but that doesn’t mean i’m gonna break it,” carlos says. “c’mon, you know me. hey, thanks for the tequila, by the way. it’s pretty tasty.”


Tasha Klein said...

hey. i just read this. wish there was like a part 2. oh well. maybe in the future, someday.

Tasha Klein said...

u probably won't even know that i left a comment, 5 years later, lol
: )

Hector the Crow said...

hey tasha - actually i will know that you left a comment, i have blogger set to email me when i get comments... i don't know if you'll get my reply though... anyway, thanks for commenting - that was a scene from a novel that i've never written, just jumping into the middle of my tangled conception of what it might be - so there might be a part 2 if i ever get to writing the thing

raynaud syndrome - albums left on the table - only the coldest toes to go - doesn't much matter - you've lost it - it's rick'...