Steve Jobs called The Whole Earth Catalog “one of the bibles of my generation”. He went on to explain in his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, “It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions”.
The Whole Earth Catalog was a kind of “unofficial handbook of the counterculture”. It was, pre-Internet, a way for anyone anywhere to tap into a global economy. Founder and editor Stewart Brand set out to create a catalog- like the then-very-practical-and-universal catalog L.L. Bean- that would showcase all of the great tools of the world to help anyone do things for themselves or learn about big ideas.
Lloyd Kahn was the Shelter editor of the catalog. Kahn, an insurance broker-turned-builder, leveraged his experience with Whole Earth and began to publish his own books. First, he wrote very popular books on dome building. Kahn had become “the spokesman for the counterculture on domes” (his dome home even appeared in Life Magazine), but he took the books out of print when he decided the building style just wasn’t practical and “I didn’t want any more domes on my kharma”.
In 1974 Kahn took down his dome and replaced it with a more traditional handmade home. “Built stud-frame house using recycled lumber, doors, windows,” he writes in his 2004 book Home Work, “Relief somehow to discover old ways can work best.”
Today, Lloyd and his wife Lesley Creed run their own homestead in Bolinas, California where they tend an extensive organic garden and bantam chickens, grind their own wheat, make their own sourdough, spin their own wool, and continue to build their own structures (most recently, a chicken coop with a living roof).
One of the great personalities to cross over from sports to acting, who didn’t kill his wife like OJ, Bubba Smith was an icon of the 1980′s with his Police Academy roles, and his badass Miller Lite ads. He will be missed.
What kind of artist are you?
I makes collages, papercuts, drawings, films and installations. I’m a musician as well.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and are there any particular artists you look up to?
Inspiration comes from so many things, Edvard Munch, Pre-Raphaelites, Black Sabbath, my wife, Dario Argento, sci-fi, hippies, Christian Death, 70′s culture, psychedelic movies, late Matisse, horror movies, Kenneth Anger, Gram Parsons, sex, death, 60′s cults, Symbolists, Edgar Poe….
Any upcoming shows, projects, or adventures?
I’m working on a new book with french publisher Kaugummi, and a solo show to come in NYC. I’d like to have tattoos too.
On hiatus for a week while preparing for his Noise Pop performance, Jason Jaworski’s Notes From A Quiet Crucifixion series is back with a new installment of images, text and songs.
* * *
It was the same in this moment as it had been the night previous. I wrapped my forearm in the blanket I had been using these several nights to keep myself warm and with my hand shielded with fabric I shattered the pane of glass in front of me, easing my right forearm into the the square space of fractured glass, releasing the latch and hook from its place and with careful footing, began to enter the room.
I knock and call out for awhile. There is no one here. I am alone. A farmhouse in West Germany- laying down on what is, for the first time, a comfortable surface for me to sleep on. I take my shoes off for a brief moment and see in them things that would have made me shudder a week ago but now seem normal to my situation- large gashes from my feet’s flesh rubbing up against the wall of my shoes at a constant forming blisters and those blisters having been broken and that flesh having run together with the lining of my socks to form a strange consistency of part lint, part dead skin and part coagulated blood. I clean my feet the best I can and sit down once more, my hands running on continuously and continuously running through. I can see my breath in this space. I lay down on the floor, bag underneath my head acting as a pillow but resembling much more the harder surfaces of a sea animal’s carapace. I stare for a moment, studying the undulation of my breath and the immutable space which separates myself from the ceiling and the sky shimmering starless beyond me.
It is not long before images and dreams start to swim within me.
* * *
I see the people around me see themselves and I see them as if they were here but know that they are not. They are staring at me and staring at me they begin to come into the room that I am occupying. I see other things, distant things and distant memories once far from myself but now encroaching towards my inner self and coming inside myself. It is a curious thing to be alone for so long and to have no interaction whatsoever with the world around you in a verbal realm and instead experiencing everything through the lens of your eyes. Everything that I saw today was burned into my memory- things wild, boring, banal and mundane, beautiful things and lonely things- from the crowd of trees that I see above me as I fall asleep shivering, to the moments of inarguable grandeur of a sky converging downward with hands of cloud dripping and gripping through the rays of a morning sun’s chatter, to those distant stars and their imagery blinking back at me through thousand’s of years’ late light- a silver trigonometry shaping algorithms and equations that I cannot read coherently or decipher, but whose words and conversation I hear and experience fully.
The night is one of those things that makes one think of the world outside of themselves. The sun is gone, having traveled to some other hemisphere and as the earth turns, one’s thoughts gravitate to those plains of persons and people that have affected oneself. I think of my mother a great deal, the parting conversations we had and how long ago it all seemed. Those days were a different life and everything that I’d experienced then was from then and everything I was seeing was being sought out and kept from me. I think of my sister, arms flailing and running around with veins impure and filled with a poison that would later provide the means and basis for a schism between her character and herself. There is no heroine to heroin and this truth is something I will learn later but is a sentence that fits in now with this paragraph and this sentence closing out said paragraph.
The moon high and distant with incalculable light and shimmer. On golden days in my youth I used to run across the street and travel down the border, crossing over to Mexico and collecting forgotten items while running through a random conjecture of errands both asked of me and thought up from me. As a child my leg was split open when my age had yet to reach two digits. I remember looking down and seeing a red stream dripping crimson with rivulets bold in both color and movement. The sharpening pain that comes immediately upon recognizing a wound, my hands reaching for it and finding a metal nail dug into my joint. We were skating at a construction site a mile out from our house. It seemed like the right thing to do: I pulled out the nail and in agony began to scream. I don’t remember much after that, woke up in the hospital, a mother beside me half-angry / half-hopeful and a father smiling and supporting anything and everyone around him.
I see my father in visions in Germany now. I am under the trees, thoughts of a mother and sister having ran through my head previously. Now: a man so perfect for the woman he met and so distant. The family he has and had raised and his children, one a future junkie and the other a future vagrant, both smiling back at him through the glass of a frame he holds in his hand before sleeping, the photograph we are in having been taken more than a decade ago. What is the womb and why is it that we are constantly chasing it? I see it, the walls of flesh surrounding me; they seem to be less agreeable to me than anything else. With a blade fashioned from a festooned memory, I cut around and free myself, a liquid from my mother washing my body out and the light bouncing onto my eyes being the first I see before blinking. A slap and another and then I come to-
A man over me, hands by his waist, screaming something in German.
I am in the real world now.
A blurred image upon awakening then and a blurred image now upon trying to remember.
He is screaming to me in German while I slowly sift through a rolodex of dream imagery I’d just catalogued and experienced- mother, sister, childhood, father. Light moving quicker now and shadows talking louder. We move in and I come back: gashes on my feet, glass around my torso and a stranger whose house I’ve broken into for shelter and warmth standing over me screaming in a language I cannot comprehend.
I look back at him, still screaming and the light behind him from an afternoon sun perfectly outlining in shadow the flakes of spit frothing and tossing their way outside his mouth and onto and around my person.
I reach for the list of German phrases in my pocket from Frank and as my hand makes its way into the cave of fabric around my waist, his foot, covered in shoe and shoe covered in mud, lands itself promptly upon the portions of my wrist left outside my pocket.
He is screaming louder now and further particles of spit fly from his mouth down onto the spaces around me, their portions and running around resembling the vivisections of atoms with their unique nuclei and electrons and so on spinning continuously and constantly but never on or along the same plane.
He reaches into the pocket I was going for and pulls out the list of phrases gentle in their wording, lines of monologue such as:
“It is cold, is there a place for me to stay here?”
“Can I work for you?”
“I am hungry, I have no food and no money, but I can work an honest job to the best of my ability.”
Phrases similar, about a dozen in that same vein on the paper in ink which now rests in his hand.
The man, realizing that I am not a thief, lifts his shoe off of my wrist and extends a hand.
“English,” he says, “that is all that you speak?”
I nod, wiping fragments of earth and mud off of my palm from his foot.
“Don’t have money, little work. Molly, my wife, is cooking. Can have food, need to fix glass though. Glass you broke, right?”
I confirm that I broke the window through a conversation and dialect much slower and less syllabic than my normal speech, thinking it easier for him to understand me.
He nods and blinks his eyes while I do the same.
Leaving for a moment, he comes back with a blanket.
“Sleep. Food, when ready, I let you know, then you wake up, fix glass and then we eat.”
A thousand words run through my head and I choose two, “thank you.”
The sky closed its eye today. For a moment I saw its breath, the fog clearing up and the path in front of me continuing on in endless resplendence. I threw my watch away, tossed it over a nameless bridge while the sun was falling from view. As of this moment I have been walking for an innumerable amount of hours. Time has no use when traveling without rhythm or pattern. I measure each moment in the amount of steps I take rather than the amount of seconds that pass. The road looms and moves long and slurring, a ribbon with unmatched tenor in this or any other moment in my life. I threw my watch over a bridge several hundred paces previous to the events in this sentence. I have been walking, I was walking and I will continue to walk- either until I reach where I am going or until my legs and limbs bleed and I cannot go any farther. If that comes to pass, I will have to wade to my destination, crawling and carrying myself with arms until I reach those streets whose image and name I have studied but have yet to set myself in other than in moments of imagined time and space, the densities of a dream being the things that have carried and brought me here.
I am walking.
I have kept my hands inside my pockets for hours now, continuing to walk, the blood barely circulating through my veins, the cold and its temperatures completely covering me. I feel a sickness washing over me, feel its neck, nape and lips all around me. The woman who I have been imagining comes back to me again, in brief snatches of person- limbs at first, arms, wrists and hands, and beyond that those features of a face before another car drives by me and its lights splash my current reality: I am walking 540 kilometers to get to a city that I have dreamed about since a child, a place whose myth cannot possibly match the one I have built up for it in my head. I see the cities around me, those towns and villages brief on my way and I see them like children congregating in the corners of street and road before getting to the doors and altar of Paris. At times, a person can live off dreams much more easily than reality.
What nameless faces, figures and fugues occupy the mind when it has nothing else to wander on-.
Night now and I have been walking endlessly since Frank dropped me off. Different sets of miles are digested and catalogued by my feet as I’ve begun to find characters and faces in the features of buildings, their architecture, and that other architecture of trees surrounding the path and street.
I crossed the Rhine around nightfall, the sun falling in snatches with patches of light whispering words through the fences of cloud blockading the blue in ventriloquial contusions of movement- unseen strings and vivid color dancing back and forth, as if the fight for day were one battled by clouds contumacious to the spinning of the sphere and the need for night to cover this region of continent and country.
A rain is falling outside my tent and everything that I can see outside is covered in the screen-mesh gauze which lines the entrance/exit of my tent. I try to move my hands but am unable to. Every appendage that juts out from my person is numb- ears, nose, fingers and toes. I can see my breath in front of me and with my breath I try to trace shapes to keep my mind occupied. Dreams have a way of closing in on one’s self, the psyche one of the many endless and endlessly explored hallways of a person. I have been writing every day of my life it seems, however, I have been walking only for one. This was my first night. The stars, when visible behind the clouds, give off an endless shiver of silver, their light reflected in hours’ old reflection of a glinting sun 93 million miles away from where I am and where I am feeling the same amount of distance from the sun from where I want to be. Paris, a few inches away on my map and several hundred miles away. On foot it seems like a destination all at once a mystery writhing and moving; a piece of cloth held by a nameless child whose hands and head are held out the window of a moving car. Cars move by me here just as in that previous sentence’s image and when they do I see their lights like fire- far off they signal out to me, a strange figure walking along the road, and far off further they leave me, going by my back or front side, leaving and pulsing away along the road’s vein at an inexhaustible and ludicrous speed, too fast for my feet to comprehend or ever reach.
I have been walking endlessly and endlessly walking for what seems like forever. It is my second day and all I can think to think of is how grateful I am for Frank who filled my bag with a small amount of rations and food. Upon looking through the bag, I saw a letter from him, covering a small amount of bills and a blade, the both of which gleamed like liquid.
Note: A monolith of roadway that seems as much a wall as it is a flat surface which my feet trudge along upon. I have seen it now, spreading along on the lines and vines of a reality that has since come through in the blight of a mind that cannot stop thinking. It is a breath still lingering on and long, slow slurring and whirring like an endless wind and reverie from a snowless night still freezing in temperature.
The car pulled passed me and stopped. Along the ridge, on the separate lanes spreading out amongst the trees of highway he stopped. I walked towards the vehicle, seeing very little at the time, my eyes blinded and burned, buried under the falling reservoirs that tried and attempted to come through in the vastness of the rain.
He honked once.
I walked up to the window and before I could speak he spoke.
(We’re screaming over the rain right now.)
“Why don’t you get in? You need shelter.”
I thought it over, glanced at the interior of the vehicle and made a decision that ended up changing who and what it is that I was to become after this journey.
He reached over and pulled the handle of the car.
“Come on, you’re getting soaked out here- come in, it’s fine.”
I get in the car.
He begins to laugh and leans over, extending his arm to cover the space behind my headrest.
“Bet you’re surprised that I speak English.”
I hadn’t even thought about it, but tell him yes.
He smiles and begins a long story about his mother and how she always tried to make sure that he knew English, I say nothing and continue to nod as he switches from one story to the next, going graphically into detail about things that his father did to the family before abandoning them. I apologize for no real reason but mean it sincerely. I think of him as a lonely man, one who just needs to talk to someone.
We talk for a brief while and I begin to feel safe in his company. He tells me he’s going a long ways, that he has to go back to his house in the country and that if I want to I can stay there with his wife or when he gets there he could let me out and I could begin walking again. Both seemed fine to me. I decided to decide when we got there and closed my eyes, an action I don’t remember committing but must have done for the next memory and sentence to make sense.
I opened my eyes. The rain was still coming down in small contrails; streams and rivulets of water bleeding and pulsing along the pane of windshield and glass. The car was rocking somewhat heavily. I turned to John who had both his hands on the wheel.
“On the side road- need to take this to get to my house. Don’t worry.”
I wasn’t worried until he told me not to be. A strange emotion- I brushed it off however, realizing that paranoia is something that can destroy a man.
We continued to drive further down the road, winding until eventually reaching a small house.
“Hmm, Lynda must not be here yet.”
He parked the car and turned off the engine, the car shaking itself still, the sounds of the engine purring in harmony with the rain on the roof until stopping. He stepped out and turned to me through the window-
“Watch the mud, it- actually – wait there – I’ll come around to get you.”
I stepped out and closed the door. He came up to me and grabbed me by the shoulders somewhat abruptly and aggressively.
“I thought I said to wait. I don’t want you dirty. Come on, let’s get inside.”
He touched me in a way that seemed to signal what it was that was awaiting me while we walked into that house- a place so foreign to me that it felt like we were the last two people here and the world whirring by outside of us was merely a set for some other film and all the curtains will soon rise and the credits will fade.
Images can remain in the mind forever, premonitions just the same.
We walked the twenty or so feet to his house, the door illuminated by a lone bulb hanging above the faded wood. He keeps telling me how there are no other houses around, how he likes to be here isolated and I begin to realize that there is no Lynda, he has no wife and that I am, as he says, out here alone.
It seemed with every step his body language began to change and his voice dropped. We walked further, thoughts whirring and running by in my head so rapidly that even now they are all I can think of as I recall and recollect these memories.
Strand of thought: The only thing I have to do is keep myself from going inside there and I’ll be safe, as long as I don’t get inside his house, as long as I don’t enter his house I’ll be safe.
I step inside the house.
The door closes slowly behind me and his arm, long and thin, reaches forward for the lamp; thin wires of hair protruding from every pore in a haphazard fractal of direction with wrists moving in circular motions and fingers, twig-like in their lack of flesh, reaching up and pulling the string of the lamp.
Pendular light now invades the room, the lamp and bulb swaying to an unknown meter, the chain clinking with every other movement.
“Take a seat.”
He smiles an unwavering smile, a smile that wont leave his face, a smile and grin that says more than I can put down and a smile that I cannot describe accurately for for me to delve into that memory of that face of that smile would be for me to delve into spaces and regions of thought that have since been buried and extinguished beyond the realm of remembrance.
He pulls out a chair and leans in close to me, his breath being felt on my neck before his utterance of three sentences / statements which I will remember verbatim for the rest of my acknowledgeable existence; every word and inflection suffused with a nonchalance so fully formed in every breath of his that it was beyond eerie, minatory or direful. It felt that I was breathing the same air as all the evils of this world and that all those evils had converged and merged together in the form of this one body next to me.
“You must be tired. Let me show you your room. Best for you to sleep as soon as possible.”
I inhale deeply, deep as I can, and get up with him.
And we walk down a thin hairline of hallway, the corridor stretching through numerous turns and portions of stairway, an Escher-like quest through labyrinthine quadrants, the light leaving my view after the third turn, don’t worry don’t worry he keeps saying, only a few more steps only a few more steps, and we walk with feet shuffling, my hands holding myself up and guiding my walk, I in front and he in back, fuck this is the end fuck this is the end; my hands are running along the surfaces of wall next to me, a hallway too thin for me to stretch out comfortably, still they are there, imagining a place and picture of my surroundings and the fear burning inside me being a feeling all-encompassing until we reach the room and he lights a candle- a flame that burns slow and long, a flame whose ethereal qualities still sing to me and a flame that I watch flicker longer than any other.
I look out the window in back of him: the moon perfectly framed in the pane.
I think of the moon as my mother; the road and destination as some other.
And, though I don’t believe in religion, I begin a prayer.
The candle continues to burn, crying small spheres of wax which harden on the surfaces of floor surrounding us like an ocean of carpet and wood. Our environment is as soundless and vacant as the obsidian hallways that led us here.
He tells me to sleep and I get under the sheets of the bed while gripping the handle of a knife in my pocket, his eyes and gaze sharper than any blade I could ever possess.
It is now my fifth day living here. A night ago, two nights ago, I slept under an aluminum ceiling. Today it will be glass. My windows here are several meters high and all around me large steel fissures stretch from my position to the end of my eye’s view- a z-axis of steel, glass and other elements which make up the building whose architecture I am currently inhabiting.
I haven’t sat down in awhile. I keep moving, going from gate to gate, hoping that they wont realize that I am living here. The only time that I sit is when I sleep and even then it is spare. I don’t know what is out there- beyond the glass doors.
I have been living on the ground level of the Frankfurt International Airport, or, as it is known here, the Flughafen Frankfurt am Main, for five days now. It is strange to thrust one’s self into a situation whose entirety is a mystery. I do not know what it is I am doing, never have I felt more lost and never have I felt more at home being away from home. I have not spoken to anyone in over ninety-six hours and in that time I’ve deciphered and delved deeper within myself more so than at any other moment or time previous to this.
It is the fifth day that I have been living here and every face is that of a stranger. No one familiar here in flesh; the only things that bring me comfort as to their familiarity are those objects inanimate- chairs that I sit on, walls that I lean against, bathrooms that I haunt, sinks that I bathe in and doors that open and close or revolve around like those chambers of a gun.
The workers here seem to have no interest in me. I have been sleeping at Gate 41 for two nights now, my jacket covering my face every time I do doze off and my legs sprawled out in front of me. I go to sleep when the airport traffic is at its busiest, a time that I’ve deduced to be around 11am where I have time to sleep for two hours, then I wander through a small lull for around an hour and a half, get up, migrate over to the other gate, pretend to read a newspaper written in a language that I can’t comprehend and at around 3:30pm another rush begins where I have another two hours of sleep to where it is safe to be passed out amongst the masses without worrying if one will come up and question me.
I have been living here for five days now and in those five days I have studied and seen stretched across from me the faces of persons who are here, in this place, arriving only to leave it. What a strange paradox- a thought which crosses my mind’s avenue while questioning such things as this.
It is the fifth day that I have been living here and already I have begun a system of quiet intricacy which informs my walking and waking decisions. I rarely go up and interact with the employees here. I eat what I can find, the leftovers from a stranger’s meal left unattended like some bag on the top of a previously occupied table. I drink water from the few fountains haphazardly strewn about and when I wander it is mainly within the first terminal for the other seems less occupied and therefore has more chance of my getting caught there.
I woke up to the snow today. The sun is falling down in a spiral pattern. It is below freezing outside and I am beginning to acknowledge my stupidity with coming to a place where I know no one, have nothing, know not the language and left at a time when the weather is winter. A collection of vehicles scurry back and forth outside while workers around abound- waving wands, walking forth or straddling the sides of small trucks to enjoy cigarettes while their breath becomes animate and visible, resembling the cirrocumulus visuals of smoke and cloud; rising together and joining the spaces of mesosphere that crowd above the blue and all those planes start to shrink in size, becoming dots and joining the stars- sewn in together like separate sections of unfinished pattern across the sequined fabric of sky.
I watched this scene for nearly two hours before looking around me.
It has been five days since I’ve been here, feeding off of the plates of strangers as they leave for their flights in avenues of arrival and departure. It has been five days that I’ve wandered here, through the pathways of separate gates and terminals, going back and forth through separate sections of the airway. It has been five days that I’ve been here and I think I am in love with whoever invented the moving sidewalk. What a brilliantly boring invention that catapults a craze of laziness and allows one a Renoir / Régle Du Jeu view of their surroundings.
I am going to meet an angel today. Today, I am going to meet Frank.
In the beginning it felt like any other day, but today I am going to meet an angel.
Around 7:30pm I went to wash up in the bathroom. Upon entering I checked all the stalls to see whether or not anyone was occupying them before locking the main door to the bathroom and turning on the sink until the water was hot enough to bathe with. I can remember staring at myself in the mirror, contemplating whether or not to just leave the airport and walk outside. In the beginning, after I hung myself, I felt that no matter what situation I was thrust into or thrust myself into- that I could manage and meet it head on. This situation however was a little daunting. I stared at my face in the mirror and saw someone else. It took awhile to breathe and bring up the energy to do anything but look forward, but soon I built up a fire and with that fire my desire to burn and go out into the country was heated, started and begun. In delirium, from lack of sleep, food and water, I thought to myself: tomorrow I am going to go out, no matter whether the weather- whether or not I have the proper jacket or if I have the right gear- fuck that fuck everything and fuck it all. I am here. And I will reach my destination. I was going in and out of consciousness when a weight was pressed against the door-
A knock. Then another.
I heard a ring of keys moving and immediately put my shirt back on, washed my hands and straightened up. The door opened and a man who would later save my life came in.
He said something in German which I didn’t understand and then he looked at me, into my eyes, and spoke English, asking why I locked the door. Then he stopped saying anything. I attempted an answer but it didn’t bring any recognition to his face of having heard it. He stared at me for a moment so brief but a moment that in that moment felt like an eternity. Fuck, I thought, I’m caught.
“You’ve been here awhile, haven’t you?” He looked at me and extended his hand.
I stuttered a phrase which at this moment I cannot remember.
“Yes, yes- I’ve seen you before.” He paused. “I’m a worker here, clean up the areas- the food court mostly and the bathrooms sometimes if Edward ain’t here.” He looked straight at me, “so what are you doing here? It’s been a few days? Your flight, where are you headed?”
I didn’t have an answer, am a horrible liar, and decided to just tell him the truth. I told him the truth and in telling him the truth I told him much more than I think he wanted or needed to hear, but talking to someone- I felt this immediate and immense release. Up until then, I hadn’t spoken to anyone since I first got off the flight here five days ago and even that conversation was limited and small as I was talking to a child who had asked me a question that I am still trying to answer to myself.
I told him the truth, told him everything about my situation and he immediately started laughing.
“You’re from California?”
I answered yes.
“Seems so. My name’s Frank. South Carolina and Texas, grew up in a bit of both. You might feel like you don’t belong here, well- look at me!” he laughed, “a black guy from Texas and South Carolina in Frankfurt, Germany. You can’t imagine a thing like that, nope- you got a partner now, don’t worry.”
Before I could say anything he spoke again:
“You been here for a few days now- how you eat and all, how are you getting by?”
I told him barely, and explained to him my patterns of stealing food and leftovers and the places where I slept.
“Well, damn- can’t remember the last time I had this strange of a conversation- in a bathroom no less! What are you doing now, you just going to stay here?”
“Well, actually, before you opened the door I was convincing myself that I was going to go to Paris.”
“You don’t have money to eat, but you have money to go to Paris? That don’t make sense.”
“I don’t have money for either. But it’s free to walk and there’s a road.”
“In this weather? Now it really makes no sense. – Tell you what, why don’t you, well, when I get off my shift- why don’t you come over and meet my wife. She could cook you a meal and we could figure out what to do with you. We don’t have an extra bed, but we got blankets and a pillow or two.”
I hesitated for a moment before diving completely into his offer, confused entirely as to why a man named Frank, a janitor in the Frankfurt airport all the way from Texas and South Carolina was offering me a place to stay at his home in Germany. Nothing made sense and it was beautiful.
We talked for a few more minutes while he cleaned sections of the bathroom and I mopped, every now and then pretending not to when people came inside to use the facilities.
I waited a few hours for him outside the terminal in baggage claim- the first time I’d stepped outside the secured area of the airport. He came down the escalator, dressed in normal clothes, waving at me and smiling that smile of his.
We got into his car, a small vehicle, and drove what must have been a fifteen minute drive to get to his apartment. The whole time in the car I was so surprised at the amount of speech I was spewing- I couldn’t stop talking.
Inside the house:
“My wife ain’t home yet, but you can go into that room, use that shower there or whatever you need, just let me know.”
I was astonished at his hospitality. I thanked him over and over again, using the shower and laying down on the floor, a thin blanket covering me while the heat from the furnace whispered and coughed out its warmth.
I woke up to the closing of a door. Frank was laughing and I could hear him murmuring with someone else. I put my jacket on and walked over to the main hallway, seeing Frank and his wife talking with their backs faced to me. When she turned around her features immediately started to speak to me. She looked like a doll, with eyes and a facial structure that resembled Lillian Gish. Tall and blonde, she put her bags down in the kitchen and came over with Frank to greet me. We talked briefly while Frank filled her in, myself suddenly becoming quiet.
Frank was one of those persons that, when they’re telling a story, all you want to do is sit back, lean in and listen. He had an old voice that carried throughout the apartment and a laugh that echoed down every hallway.
Dinner was prepared rather quickly, a meal I remember eating like soup although it was a plate of vegetables and a strange sausage. I was so hungry then and if I think about it now I want to reach for something outside of this and eat. I just ate.
Night came and I shuffled back to my room after thanking them immensely. Each day felt like this- calm and with little worry. It began to get too comfortable and after four days I began to question whether or not I had fallen back into another pattern like at the airport, albeit one that was much more comfortable.
I sat down with Frank in his study. He had hundreds of books lying around, the majority of them on medicine. He saw me looking at all the books and pointed at their spines before elaborating:
“She grew up out here, but wanted to do medicine in the States. Family illnesses and other things brought her back and at the moment she was to leave the country to come back to the one she grew up in, we were inseparable. That’s the short of it, not the whole of it.”
I smiled. There’s nothing more beautiful to me than a simple love story. Just then, Karin called out from down the hall- dinner was ready.
We walked around in conversation while eating, the two of them holding each other’s hand on top of the table throughout the entirety of our conversation. I took a piece of bread, a roll, and bit a small piece off of it, extending a question as to how they ended up deciding to stay here after coming back instead of returning to the States.
“Well,” he said, “this isn’t that much of a happy story, but if you want to know I’ll tell you, you’ve shared what seems like everything with us.”
I told him I didn’t want to make him say anything that he didn’t want to, that it was alright. I tried to change the subject to another topic, but he kept returning to it.
“One must always face what ails him, lest it kill him. Read that somewhere, didn’t make sense then, hate those old words- lest, whence, thus and thou, but it makes sense now, that phrase. It makes sense for me to tell this story too.”
He looked at Karin and she gripped his hand. They held eye contact for a few seconds before turning back to me, the lamp above us lighting everything in a calm and golden glow.
“Haven’t told anyone this that wasn’t there for it,” he paused, “feels like you should know though.” He inhaled and exhaled deeply, his face attempting to smile that smile of his but doing so unsuccessfully. He began:
“I’m twenty years older than my father, just about, maybe a year or two less. Never was good with numbers. I bet it don’t make sense in the beginning to hear that, but it does. See, my father died when I was about eight or so. Was still a child. My mother, she ran out, didn’t really know what to do or how to handle the situation, how to handle me. I have more memories with him than her. Never saw her after a week after he left us, left this. She ran out and on, her mom came around though, came over and helped me out. My sister died with my father. Three years older than me back then. Car accident. A drunk I would later find out. I don’t know his birthday, my father. Never asked when it was.”
His voice was beginning to grow deeper, inflections and cadence changing from something tragic, to angry, to hopeful.
“After all that, after I grew up, don’t know how I ended up working there, but I started working at a funeral parlor. Seems funny now, arranging the chairs, taking people to their seats and closing the casket after the services were through. Sometimes, after seeing the bodies, I would go to the service even if I wasn’t scheduled to work that day. Seemed like the right thing to do to give someone who has no more time a bit of yours.
It was there that I met Karin. South Carolina. Her brother moved down there to be a musician and his wife, someone that everyone says was a great woman- she passed. Seems everyone at some point is dying.
Karin had come over from El Paso where she was studying, and the first moment I saw her I knew I loved her. She reminded me of no one and I think that’s why I fell for her.” He rubbed his thumb on her hand, eyes looking over, a pot of food steaming in the background.
“We’re children, I know it. Stay that way for a long time, the whole time and the whole while. Someone like you who wants to be older or get somewhere farther away from themself- you need to know that there are people out there that care for you, that love you. Know that they think about you even when there’s so much to think about and even when there’s nothing to think about. Know them, the people who’ll stay with you no matter what, and you’ll know what it is that everyone around here or there is trying to figure out. We just want to be happy.” A drop fell from his face. “We just want to be happy and knowing someone’s out there is all it really takes.”
A deep inhalation.
“Well, after awhile, Karin’s mother got sick and so she came out here to help her out. I never thought that I was one that wouldn’t be able to be apart from someone he loved, but as soon as she left, it was like she took everything about everything that I loved. More than missing her, I missed us, I missed myself and all that I had given her.
So I left, went to go see her, kind of crazy, but that’s how it is when you’re seeing stars. We got married here, in that hallway. Her mother was nervous at first, the race thing came up about once or twice, but after she saw how happy we were it didn’t matter none. You come across things right when you need them and we met each other right when we needed to. Like how you met me- us. No one knows what’s going on, but it’s going, just have to go along with it, can’t fight it.”
I said nothing, just put out my hand to join theirs- our thoughts mingling and wandering like the steam in the background, the lamplight still yellow and their faces still covered in a golden azure.
A few more days pass, a few more nights. Every night, before going to sleep I see myself out on the road, have dreams of it. Frank tells me it’s getting colder, he’s helping me out, giving me tools and teaching me small slivers of German, easy phrases and questions that will go a long way in finding food, shelter and work along my path.
“You really don’t have to do this,” he tells me, “it’s a bit ridiculous. You can just stay here?”
He poses his last statement as a question. I tell him that I have to do this. I tell him how thankful I am for everything he’s done for me and I tell him that I’ll never forget him.
He’s trying not to think of me leaving while all I can do is contemplate and ruminate over the journey that is coming to me. I look at his calendar and pick a date to leave. I mark it down, Frank and Karin agreeing quietly.
The day is here- morning.
A large billowing cloud of fog is hanging over the entirety of the city. Frank drives me out as far as he can while still having time to get back for work. We drive along the freeway while talking quietly to one another as Karin is sleeping in the backseat. A few miles out and he pulls over to the side, turning on his hazard lights. He looks at me and leans in:
“I want you to know that you don’t have to do this although I know that you will. Karin and I, we care about you. You remember that. If it starts to get bad or if it becomes unbearable, know that you have a home here. You don’t have to die for this journey.”
I tell him I wont.
I’m not good at saying goodbye, normally I just leave with a letter or a smile saying everything that I need to say. Attachments are some of the most blinding and uplifting things that we encounter in this life. Relationships with ourselves and with others are similar. It feels as if I’m always leaving- felt it back then, still feel it now. I’m looking at Frank look at me in this memory I have of this moment and all I can think of is how I should have stayed a bit longer with him and Karin. They loved each other more than most couples I’ve met, yet they were somehow lonely together. I can see it, I can see him. She’s snoring in the backseat and we don’t wake her up. I tell Frank to tell her that I say goodbye. I say goodbye to him and attempt to leave. He reaches out his hands and pulls me back into the car.
“You know I wasn’t gonna just let you leave without a hug. Come here-” we hold each other for a few moments, the draft coming into his car and his hazard lights continuing to flash around, a haze rising and receding; red waves on an asphalt shore.
“Remember what I told you now. Be careful, you hear? Be safe.”
My arms are on his shoulders and his are on mine. We are looking at and away from each other, attempting to say everything that we can, relaying everything and every emotion that we feel while using no words at all. I look at him, eyes tearing up and lips trembling. He smiles that smile of his, recalls how we met in the bathroom. I tell him that I was trying to take a shower, clean myself up in the sink. We share in the saddest laughter together, though somehow happier than anyone else in this city, in this country, on this continent or sphere or anywhere. I tell him to give my best to Karin. After a moment, his smile shrinks quietly, as does mine. There is no moment that is too long when saying goodbye to someone you do not want to leave.
We let go,
and I step out onto the path and start walking.
(Frank and Karin, whose real names have been changed for this text, were and are some of the most blindly giving and loving persons I’ve ever met. This text and many others is dedicated to them, what they did for me and their memory. I would not be alive today were it not for them.)
Its kind of like a sunrise, where you can’t seem to tell where the earth begins and the sky ends and it is all just so beautiful and confusing and awe-inspiring and you get a tear in your eye… that is what capitalism in China means to us.
Remember how the Chinese factory worker couldn’t believe the shit he was making for Americans? Now he can’t believe the shit he is making for his wife. The tables have turned.
And its not like this house is in Manhattan… this is a $1 billion house in Mumbai, India, a 27-story tower built for India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. Why is it $1bn you ask? According to Good Magazine, the $1bn house that stands 27 stories has a “health club with a gym and dance studio, at least one swimming pool, a ballroom, guestrooms, a variety of lounges and a 50-seater cinema. There are three helicopter pads on the roof and a car park for 160 vehicles on the ground floors. It’s obviously quite a job keeping all this running smoothly, so the house, if you can call it that, also boasts a staff of 600. And all this for just Ambani, his wife and their three children to enjoy.”