(In Which Rainscape Becomes a Crossing Guard and Other Diverting Incidents)
by Adam Cooper
This is a work of fiction: names of persons and places, products and divinities bear no relation to real life persons and places, products and divinities with the same, similar, or in some cases quite different names.
I am insane. I no longer doubt it. Allow me to convince you. This morning I found myself desperately trying to put milk in cereal instead of cereal in milk. Always with the same result: the cereal in the milk, and not the other way round. I’d gone through three boxes of Grandy O’s and two gallons of milk before I gave up on breakfast. Last evening I read twenty pages of a novel… backwards. I only realized something was off when at the end of ten minutes I got to the beginning of a chapter. When I conﬁde these things to my friends, they try to soothe me: “look, Rainscape, you’re just a little distracted… Get some rest… Try and exercise a little more… Go out and talk to people… You’ll get over it.”
Yes, I am distracted, I tell them.
I have tried resting, but my dreams are of wayward sentences that either run on in different directions past the point where any period will contain them, or are matter-of-factly stated ambiguities following one upon another until the words, continually so self-assured, become to me so frightfully senseless that I wake up between panting and laughing, not knowing whether I should be terriﬁed or amused, and walk to the sink to throw cold water on my forehead and stare at the frightened and confused expression reﬂected there in the electric light from just outside my window.
Exercise, yes. There’s nothing like physical activity and fresh air to restore the daylight sanity to a maniac, I agree. I go on walks: sun, rain, moon, or windy skies. Sometimes, when I feel myself becoming happy, I skip. Sometimes, when I feel drab and gray, I hum, and try to shake it. One day, not too long ago (I think), I stopped at a busy intersection and watched the streams of traffic each stopping and starting, diverging and converging each in their turns For so long. . . and at last I grasped their dynamics so completely that to my bewildered mind I could only be the traffic director himself—myself… . So I took charge of the intersection and managed it, for a while quite as well as any stop lights in the world. But then I got a little too cocky. It started out pretty innocuously. I was having a splendid time sneaking left-turners into the occasional gaps in the two-way oncoming traffic so that when their turn came the opposite stacks of left turners would be equal, and the flow of traffic perfectly balanced and expeditious. Never have I been such a satisﬁed servant to society. And never have I managed any situation with such grace, such ﬁnesse. For now I began to innovate, to discover the momentary path for every passing car that barely had to slow its pace, much less stop. More and more, the streams of humming automobiles ran without resistance like soft sand through the fingers of my mind. I wove the strands of traffic in a mighty pattern like a Celtic knot, but woven into it the mass and power, the steady thunder of the big Mack truck, and the maneuverable speed of buzzing Fiats and Festivas! The ecstasy! I was a four-headed Janus! I was a Herm! I was the intersection, the exchange of roads, the origin of new directions, the still point of the turning world.
But every Hubris has its Nemesis. Mine came in the form of a Peugeot; yes, a mere cyclist interrupted my apotheosis. You see, traffic direction as a fine art is entirely dependent on the accommodation of contingencies; the medium in which you work is whatever objects are coming down the road toward you at whatever speeds and from four different directions at once. The ﬁrst principle of the art is this; no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. In other words, you have got to ﬁnd a window in the space-time continuum For each one, and that window is going to be limited by all the other objects for which you have to do the same. So, as you’ve got to be continually estimating speeds, sizes, momentums, accelerations, yadda-yadda-yadda, all the time intuiting a pattern in what is potentially chaos, you’d do well to simplify it as best you can. There are some general rules of thumb: like, make sure you’ve provided for the biggest and most unwieldy objects first; if you save them for last you won’t be able to squeeze them in at all. In the hands of the expert the smaller ones start to take care of themselves, almost… and you can work them in with dazzling intricacy once you’ve more or less got the bigger pieces in place; that‘s the really fun part. However you must not let even the smallest tile in your four-dimensional mosaic give you the slip.
Now I’m gettin’ it, that’s what you’re thinking, he forgot to leave room for the bicycle. No, ladies and gentlemen, I provided a needle’s eye for the cyclist to thread. It was a far more ludicrous error that spelled my fate. It was myself that I forgot. As Archimedes boasted to the Syracusans, “Give me but a fixed point on which to stand and I will move the world!” Silly, if you think about it. But Archimedes’ riddle was a joke on me. For in a kind of other-worldly trance, alive no longer to the growl and screech of rushing steel and rubber, but only to the ever-ﬂowering pattern through which they rushed, I found myself within that needle’s eye. The blazing sun off the front reﬂector of the elegant French racer all but obliterated my vision, as with beatific satisfaction I watched the slanting cycle, a faint shadow following that brilliance, as it swerved into its appointed path. Then suddenly my legs were clipped; my head came back to the concrete with a kaleidoscopic explosion of pain. And the cyclist, her ﬂight as perfectly projected as an Archimedes’ catapult upon its target, caught up with me and brought our spheres into shell-shocked collision.
Fate is always contact before sight. If you can gauge its approach, and see it coming at you, you retain some control over the situation. But fate is out of your hands, it annihilates, empties, slices you in half, re-does, fulfills, and empties you again, and all before you have a chance put a word in edgewise. Looking back it is as if that one event had so much sheer velocity collapsed into it that it has never yet stopped happening. So somehow there I am still, stunned, bleeding at the head, in midst of the now and forevermore hopeless confusion of those crossroads, that beautiful girl on every side of me, stunned: the two of us thrust into hopeless proximity by the miraculous impossibility of my happening to be standing right in the needle’s eye of the kosmos, and just then and there forgetting my existence.
by Amos J. Hunt
On the first day of this year, I completed a journey begun three years ago, a journey whose way had scorned the order of life and come near to death. Of course, given such an introduction, the real story of that journey cannot fail to disappoint; but disappointment, too, had its part in the venture; this is a story of the paltriness of our most daring endeavors, as well as of the glory of minor deeds. In the end, the thing may seem hardly to have been worth the doing, or the tale worth the telling. Yet, as some receding gleam of possibility made me continue, so I am moved to give my little account.
To begin near the end, then, with the idea of apprising you right from the beginning of the unromantic limitations of time and space, thus creating a more dramatic effect when they are incredibly disrupted by the mandate of the world-historical moment, I was at a small New Year’s Eve party on Long Island, it was one AM, and everyone was ready to go to sleep. The hosts and half the guests were already in bed, and I—I was sitting downstairs in the lounge chair, chattering away in protest at the too early closure of the party, grimly envious of Samuel, whom the Lord was with, keeping his words from being without effect. My words were having no effect on Sebastian and Finbar, who were steadily, if a little lethargically, making up the couches for the night.
“It’s a shame,” Sebastian said, apropos of none of my prating, “that we have to get up so early tomorrow.” He was alluding to the necessity of making it to a ten o’clock Mass the next day. The natural response would have been to mock Seb’s effeminate need for beauty rest, and in other circumstances, I might have indulged, but it was not possible on this occasion, acting, as I was, under an unseen influence: that is, not those four glasses of spumante, but a little book.
I had been reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and my thought was insatiably fixed upon the prospects of stirring, by the power of speech, some spark—any spark—in another, of igniting another with his own secret intentions. In The Picture, Lord Henry Wotton, the body of all the flippant cynicism for which alone Oscar Wilde is now remembered, deliberately leads Dorian to recognize himself as the living icon of “a new Hedonism,” moving him to begin his unpredictable life of adventure and sin.
I had not arrived at the gruesome consequences of Dorian’s bad behavior, or perhaps the book would not have had such an effect on me. I have a stronger history of being led astray by half-finished stories than I do of learning from whole ones. When I was seven years old, I began to read a picture book called The Snoop, in which a mouse wearing a dress makes herself busy about other people’s affairs, reading their unopened mail, among other transgressions. No doubt in the end she gets hers, but I never got that far.
I may consider myself fortunate that there were no dresses in my size at home, but of unopened mail there was a considerable supply, renewed every morning, not only in the house but also in the boxes placed in front of every house on the street. I methodically collected it, and stored it behind a large piece of plywood leaning against the fence in our backyard.
I didn’t really see the interest of most of the mail, but I liked having it, and I do remember a thrill of wicked glee at the knowledge that, despite her excellent performance, Debbie Jackson would now never receive her “Dolphin” level swimming certificate. (I felt no remorse at this, because Debbie was clearly a girl.) The process of methodically returning the mail, on the other hand, of facing the master of each household alone as my watchful father stood waiting at the curb, was distinctly unpleasant, probably much more so than the unread fate of the original Snoop.
You might attribute my pliable observance of the Snoop’s lifestyle to my age at the time, seven being numerologically less stable than eight, which, as Plutarch observes in his account of Theseus, “is the first cube of an even number, and also the double of the first square. It is therefore an especially appropriate symbol for the immovable and abiding power of Poseidon, whom we call the stay and upholder of the earth.” Perhaps that very nearness to the unyielding determined the susceptibility of my will in that year. Indeed, my age at the present is twenty-three, the seventh prime after one, and one short of the third multiple of eight, being the triple of the first cube, and therefore all the more stable than the double of the first square.
Whatever the reason, on New Year’s of this year I was quite under the spell of Lord Henry Wotton’s yet unpunished misbehavior, and anxious to have an effect. That is why I said to Sebastian, “There is an alternative.”
Now I had his attention, and I was not going to waste it. “Have I told you,” I went on, “about the time I almost went to Manhattan?” I hadn’t, but neither Sebastian nor Finbar were ignorant of it. Nevertheless, they now consented to hear it recounted. So it has been decided, I thought, so I shall give the telling.
In those days, we were known as the Moxie Clan. By “we” I mean Kevin Ryan, and by “Kevin Ryan,” I mean my first roommate and all those more or less under the sway of his comically venturesome irresponsibility. Kevin, the only one I know more fascinated by the first chapters of books than I am, introduced me to what was to be my favorite book for some time. Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller consists of a series of first chapters alternating with a second-person narrative about the reader’s heroic efforts to come to a conclusion, and I read it instead of finishing the Iliad.
As for “Moxie,” that is another story. It is one of the few slang words in the American language whose development is quite easily traced, and has its origin in Maine in 1876, when Augustin Thompson began marketing his “Moxie Nerve Food,” borrowing the name from an Algonquian word meaning, “dark water.” The only difficulty in determining how “moxie” came to mean pluck, courage, and energy would be in deciding whether to attribute it to the tonic’s purported medicinal effects or to the audacity of its advertising campaign. After the FDA made the company tone down its outrageous claims, the advertising genius Frank Archer reinvented Moxie as a soft drink, “the distinctive beverage for those of discerning taste,” while simultaneously marketing it as a spectacular and exciting phenomenon with such legendary gimmicks as the “horse-mobile.” That was a golden age, when persuasion was simply a matter of stating one’s case adventurously. But before I get so carried away that I tell you how Moxie’s reign as the number one soft drink in America came to an ignominious end, let me get back to what this has to do with a little coterie at Thomas More College.
I forget why we started drinking Moxie. It wasn’t because we were balding or impotent. It may have been out of a need for some clear banner to distinguish ourselves from the normals, but I don’t remember there being any of those around. Besides, we weren’t exclusive—at least, I wasn’t; I wanted everyone to acquire the bizarre taste to enter our plucky, courageous little world. Nevertheless, the large contingent of detractors (those who contended that Moxie tasted like motor oil or cough syrup) defined itself clearly against us, and the more enthusiastic elite of aficionados remained distinct from the dabblers and sympathizers.
That is why we were called the Moxie Clan. Yet it was a fitting name, even apart from our predilection for the old dark water. It was our habit to undertake any scheme that occurred to us that might produce unexpected results, especially if our fearless leader thought it might be funny.
One Friday night, after a lecture on the passing of Aeneas from Troy to Rome, our own epic journey was beginning to unfold. In the hall outside my room, where I sat trying to begin a paper comparing Nicias (the Frank Archer of his time) and Alcibiades (who probably had Archer beat: he roused the Athenians to the very stupid expedition against Sicily, which in his mind was just a little stepping stone to Africa—I mean, all of it), I could hear Kevin and a neophyte of the clan, known among us as Hoffbrincker, forming a plan. It was their idea to leave at midnight and arrive in Times Square early enough to spend a few hours of night and a few of morning there before they returned, in the meantime enjoying a full flat of Moxie.
It was certainly more feasible than conquering Africa, but I didn’t see the point of it, and when they asked me to come I told them so. When they argued that even the bums in Times Square are inherently more interesting than anyone anywhere else in the world, I was not sold. Here’s how they got me: they told me that they would not be able to go if I did not join them. Wow. It wasn’t that I would have felt sorry if I had ruined their plan; it was that I had the power to ruin their plan if I chose to; it was the fact that neither the enthusiasm of Kevin Ryan nor four six-packs of the distinctive beverage were enough to move them to action, but I was.
We left at midnight. Our journey had begun. But perhaps in our ardor we had forgotten that every epic begins, not with a single direct thrust at its final goal, but with a radical displacement: ships get wrecked, Troy gets burned, the hero finds himself lost.
Hoffie was at the wheel and going at least eighty, which was fine until that semi-truck going sixty swerved into our lane in Connecticut. Now in that situation, there are two things you could do: you could brake, or you could swerve out of your lane into the lane that the semi just swerved out of, figuring that whatever frightened that wimpy little sixty-miles-per-hour semi will not be a match for your eighty-miles-per-hour Volkswagen. Hoffie, always on the watch for a brave chance, went without hesitation for the latter.
Seconds later we slammed directly into the empty car lying inert across the middle lane.
It was quiet. Smoke poured out of the dashboard. “What do we do?” Kevin said. “I guess we better get out,” Hoffie said. Too dazed to find my glasses, I stepped out of the car and blindly crossed two lanes of interstate traffic to the shoulder. Fifteen minutes later I noticed that I was holding a crushed, empty and blurry can of Moxie in my right hand. Then, somewhere in the night, a tire exploded.
So that was how our travels really began. None of us were hurt, but we all decided to get strapped down on boards by the EMS units and taken to the blurry hospital, where we stayed the night, getting x-rayed and sleeping on the waiting room floor. In the morning, Hoffie’s aunt arrived to bring us over to her blurry home in Rhode Island, where she served us the finest blurry bacon and eggs I have had in my life. In the afternoon, we stopped by some place somewhere to take some things out of the totaled car, and then got back to New Hampshire in time for me to make it to the Boston Symphony. But Manhattan was nowhere on the itinerary. The path was winding that would take me there in time, but I never imagined I was still on it until I found myself telling this story to Sebastian and Finbar in Long Island on New Year’s Day, three years later.
“So you see,” I concluded, “we could leave now, get there by three or four, and make it to an early Mass without having to worry about waking up at all.” I said it for a lark, but I knew I had Sebastian hooked when he said, “Amos does not speak to no purpose,” and started looking for his glasses. I crept upstairs to see who else was up that might be enticed, and found Natalie writing at the top of the stairs. We came back down, and Finbar, too, was dressed and ready.
Now, you don’t really want to hear about the songs we sang in the car, the traffic on the way when the expressway was closed, the diner where we had coffee and rice pudding or the people we met there, our call to Kevin Ryan to inform him of the achievement, the many blocks we walked in search of St. Patrick’s, or the garish hypnotism Rockefeller Center may exercise on the sleep-deprived. I know I didn’t want to hear about it afterwards. But when we did get back to Long Island, and I lay down to sleep at last, my darkening hearing met not the still murmur of a household waking, but the definite, unflagging line of Finbar talking to the hosts and guests who had not come, telling them the whole damned thing.
by Michael Bolin
Objection One: It seems that Canada exists. For we see in the world many people that we call Canadians, who seem to be so denominated from their country of origin. Now this would not be so, if that country did not exist; hence the conclusion follows.
Objection Two: Again, even among Americans, there are many who are said to have gone to Canada. Now motion implies a terminus ad quem. Therefore, etc.
Objection Three: Again, many people celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving. But thanks is properly given in return for something received, which would not be the case if Canada did not exist. Hence it does exist.
On the contrary, stands the authority of Socrates, who nowhere in his treatment of the tyrannical regime mentions Canada.
I Answer That the non-existence of Canada can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is from the authority of Sacred Scripture. For it is written, All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness (Isaiah 40:17). Now Canada is said to be a nation; therefore it is less than nothing and emptiness.
The second way is by a kind of ontological argument. For it is manifest to all that the definition of Canada is that country than which no lesser can be thought. Now it is worse for a thing to exist in the mind only than in the mind and reality also. But if Canada were to exist in reality, one could conceive of a lesser country, namely one that exists in the mind only. But this is contrary to the definition given, by which we know that Canada is that country than which no lesser can be thought. It follows that Canada can in no way exist in reality.
The third way is from the intention of nature. It is evident to experience that nature acts for an end, which we also know from the Philosopher in Physics, II. But if Canada were to exist, nature would have produced something in vain, and to no end. Hence Canada does not exist.
The fourth way is from the convertibility of being and goodness. Since being and goodness are the same in things and differ only in account, it follows that any thing that exists, insofar as it exists, is better than any thing that does not exist. But the land of Oz, which does not exist, is better than Canada; and from this it follows that even less does Canada exist. If, however, someone denies that the land of Oz is better than Canada, we must cease to argue with him, for as the Philosopher says in Metaphysics, those who deny first principles need not argument, but punishment.
The fifth way is from the nature of the first principles of things. For actuality is to potency as being is to non-being. But according to the universally accepted authority of http://www.bacad.com/about_canada.htm, Canada is a rich country with great potential. Therefore also is it great in non-being.
Reply to Objection One: To the first, then, it must be said that not all peoples are denominated from their country of origin. For example, many people have been called “Communists,” but this naming in no wise implies the existence of a country called “Commune.” And this is how it is with those called “Canadians.”
Reply to Objection Two: To the second, according to the Philosopher, motion is said in six ways. Thus, it is not necessary to assume that the act of “going to Canada” is said with respect to local motion; rather, it implies the motion of alteration, as in the common phrase, “going to pot.”
Reply to Objection Three: To the third it must be said that the “Canadian Thanksgiving” ought to be understood in some mystical sense. This is evident from the fact that, even if Canada were to exist, it would have nothing to be thankful for. And from this the truth of the matter is evident.
Original bio from the Feb/Mar 2007 edition:
Michael Bolin once lived in the frigid midwest and now lives in the scorching southwest. He is rumored to be intensely interested in philosophy, though both the source and credibility of this rumor are unknown. He had long noted that all of his friends despised him, and so was not surprised when it recently turned out that they were actually someone else’s friends.
Conspiracy theories abound. Don Sumpey is here to give you the latest scoop on the real poop that plagues your tormented mind with endless what ifs and whose behind is the who behind we don’t know what or dare ask. If you learn nothing else in life remember this: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t harvesting matter from your toilet for black market fecal transplants. The connections revealed in today’s late breaking story have only recently been tied together by a vigilant and tireless network of one, relentlessly digging out the dirt they try to hide where the sun don’t shine. Read on and learn pilgrims. On October 9th, 2009, the unthinkable happened. The bane of Lon Chaney and werewolves of London, the illumination inspiring so many songs, prose and romance, our beloved orb of waxing and waning was assaulted by none other than NASA! According to the Huffington Post, NASA launched the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission, consisting of a Centaur rocket traveling at twice the speed of a bullet (that’s the same speed that Superman can fly, you ignorant Marvel-head) to bomb the moon. The Centaur rocket and an LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) orbited the earth thrice, whereupon they proceeded to the moon. Whilst the Centaur rocket impacted the moon the LRO measured the amount of moon blood, if any, that spurted out. That’s the official story. But c’mon folks. Let’s use our heads here. First, if we needed to collect moon blood samples, why didn’t we just send up a Dixie cup with Neil Armstrong in 1969? And he LCROSS mission had a price of 79 million dollars. You could buy 79 million bottles of water for that price. That’s 263 bottles each for every NASA employee, or filling each of the 563 NASA water coolers 12 times. If you stacked up 79 million bottles of water, they would reach to the moon. Are any of these statistics relevant? Who knows? But for 79 million dollars you could buy the island of Fiji, never mind the Fiji Water Company. They can sell me a Moonpie now and again, but I’m not buying their moon water. As you will discover, their phony story is the only thing here that is all wet. Now lets connect some dots. …………………………………………………………………………….. Now lets connect some more. Dot 1: 2009 – Scientific American reports that last year, British scientists identified regions where water might be found on the moon and estimated that there could be enough to fill one of Europe’s largest reservoirs. Dot 2: 2013 – The Guardian reports US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. As you may have noticed, NSA is just NASA without an A. It should be obvious by now that what’s really going on here is a conspiracy involving intelligence gathering by the NSA and the Brits. The British don’t need to fill any reservoirs in Europe, but they sure as heck would like getting the skinny on the color of the queen’s knickers for their tabloids. That innocuous sounding little LRO was actually spying on everyone in the world and compiling data for three days to be stored on the moon. That’s right, the new NSA Data Center is somewhere deep in the Cabeus Crater, just a 7 iron away from the Apollo Lunar Module. With the addition of so much information to their already huge database, the NSA realized that their Utah Data Center (which has been cleverly disguised for years as a Genealogic Data Center for the Mormons) could not possibly contain this new data since their computers only store exabytes of information. Even with the added information from the LRO being collected and stored in mosquitobytes, (a numeric value that can only be comprehended by Floridians) a low gravity, low temperature storage facility was required in order to preserve the data properly. Now that this conspiracy has come to light I’m sure you’re asking yourself: what do I do? Nothing. That’s right, nothing. I know your first impulse will be to line your home with tin foil and wear an aluminum colander on your head at all times, but believe you me that’s exactly what they want you to do. They want you to freak out and look like an idiot. Not me. I’m playing it cool. The next time I have a thought I don’t want the government to know about or I need to send an email I’m going to go to the nearest convenience store, place my laptop on the microwave, pop in a Moonpie and set the timer for 30 seconds. Remember, that’s 30 seconds! (Moonpie is a registered trademark of the Chattanooga Bakery Company and boy, oh boy, are they good with an RC Cola!) Join us next time when Don answers questions sent in by his readers.
Regular Grub Street Grackle contributor Ogden “Not Bogdan” Nash has a few choice words for our patron avian:
The grackle’s voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
If you wanted to listen to Rictor Jomes bare his heart and reveal his secrets, this is not your lucky day. But if you want to hear him dodge questions and prevaricate, you have come to the right place. Last year I had the sad fate of interviewing Mr. Jomes over the telephone, and I am sorry to say that I am now sharing the first 10 minutes of that conversation with you.
And if for some insupportable reason you want to suffer through more of this kind of thing, then all you need do to further explore Rictor Jomes’s factory of lies is to click this attractive button and relinquish $9 from your bank account:
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