Numbers 1 – 74

by dschapman

1. When I was in the first grade I stole a small toy car from a girl in my class because I liked it so much. I had to keep up the lie for three days before the girl stopped crying. On the third day, after school, I took the toy car to the edge of a very big field and I threw it into the forest.

2. I was going to write a piece titled “Three Suitors” about three beautiful women I thought I could seduce into loving me. I was overcome with emotion, both hopeful and dreadful, everytime I began to write, and rendered unable to write, and so it didn’t get written. I am now down to one suitor out of three, and I think that I am losing her, too. My next piece shall be titled “Suitorless.” Maybe it will not get written either.

3. I have been smuggling journals out of the university library. It began with a journal on metaphysics, which I was going to bring back after I’d read every article. The next day I returned to the library but not with my journal to return. I left with three more under my arm. More philosophy journals. I returned a few days later and left with a few more. Cinema journals, this time, and poetry. Then came the literature, and reviews, and the sociology. And then computer science, theology, physics, agricultural mechanics, microeconomics… Now I have a bookshelf full of journals, and I love them all, and I have nearly fully read them. It is good, how much I have learned, and I have put them to good use. But it is an insurmountably indecent thing, to steal journals from a library, and I am torn up about it. I am torn between admitting my indecency and not giving a damn. Ultimately, equipped with all my new knowledge, I tend not to give a damn.

4. I used to be a very original thinker. I used to think the most original Kierkegaardian thoughts, for example. And then I read Kierkegaard. Or I used to think the most original Nietzschean thoughts – and then I read Nietzsche. It happened over and over again, through literature, scholarship, and art. I would have ideas of my own – until I found they out they were somebody else’s. What does that mean for me – for ideas? I have decided the best thing to do is to stop reading books, so I can keep my ideas to myself. I can claim my own mind for my own.

5. If I were a prolific writer I would write pieces for the journal Popular Culture. I would write about television and the internet. Comparisons, exaltations, explorations, critiques, theses on beauty and value. I would write lavish, conceptual television reviews, and I would write film reviews for every film I saw. Criticisms, though; not reviews. That is what I would like to do. And in the case of television, so often misunderstood, I believe that is what I need to do, if only I could do it.

6. If I were a landscape painter, I would spend my time painting pictures of Cotton Road, that beautiful stretch of countryside in the Mississippi hillside. That, and self-portraits.

7. One time, in grade school, I took my father’s antique mammoth tusk to school with me. I promised him over and over again that I would protect it, and that he could trust it with me. I took it to school and was very careful with it and nobody broke it. I broke it as I was leaving class to wait for the school bus to go home – I knocked it off a shelf.

8. One time my father came to me and showed me his prehistoric shark’s tooth. It was the size of my hand, and it was beautiful. I asked him if I could hold onto it for a while. He didn’t want to give it to me, but I assured him I would protect it. He let me have it. I put it in my pocket and later, when I was playing around, I crushed it in my pocket.

9. The movie theater is dead – and I say good riddance.

10. I used to walk down by the bay with my dog but he kept going to the bathroom in the sea, and I didn’t find it appropriate.

11. Whatever art may have been before Duchamp, it is everything since Duchamp.

12. When one person believes in a hierarchy of aesthetic/ethical/religious and another person believes it is religious/ethical/aesthetic they are speaking of the very same thing. 1/2/3 is 3/2/1, the symbols only changed.

13. I wonder sometimes if there’s ever been anything written worthwhile. And then I read the classifieds.

14. The bible as historical allegory is sound. The bible as literary perfection is sound. As an interpretative medium, it is profound. There is nothing not to love about the bible.

15. If I had a good back, I would be a good doctor. I would study general practice, like Dr. Zhivago, and I would be a better man for it.

16. It is better to have thought and forgotten than to have never thought at all.

17. Sometimes I think of Proust and my heart caves in a little.

18. My mind is sharp because I spent my childhood overcoming a number of undiagnosed mental conditions on my own. That sort of thing takes will. I have will – which isn’t to say that I won, but I have made it this far – so far I am winning. Maybe I am making up my mental conditions – in which case, the struggle has been all the more difficult.

19. In the summer of my twelfth year I knew I was living the best summer of my life. It was not an altogether wonderful summer. But I remember knowing that it was the best. And despite everything since, everything good and wonderful, I can not say I’ve been proven wrong.

20. When I was twelve I was ashamed of myself for never having sex with a girl before. When I was sixteen I had sex with a girl, and I worshiped the very idea of it. By eighteen I had very different ideas in my head, and by the time I was twenty, I couldn’t care less for it. Casanova wore me out. Miller read like a childlike fantasy. Now, I am just waiting…

21. What does this mean: I used to love to eat sugar cookies from a store on the corner. I went down there today and I bought one, the biggest that they had. I wasn’t really hungry but I knew I would want it later. It sat at my desk through the day while I worked up the appetite to want it then eat it. It never happened, and so I took the cookie to the kitchen and left it on a counter. A few hours later I got a bad feeling in my stomach. I wondered if it was hunger, if I had managed to work up an appetite. I thought I should better eat that cookie, before it dries out. I stood up and stretched. I still was not hungry. I didn’t want anything. I walked to the kitchen just in time to see my dog running off, a pile of crumbs left behind it. I was furious. I chased down the dog and I beat him. Afterwards I went back to the kitchen. My stomach was growling and my mouth was starting to salivate. How badly then I wanted a cookie!

22. It easy for me to lose perspective. It is good to have many perspectives, necessary to have many at once, but sometimes you find that you’ve lost one, and you have to go trailing through myriad perspectives to find it again. I have done nothing in my life but do what came natural to me and because of it I have many, many things. The other month I did nothing but read and wander the internet and I made sixty thousand dollars meanwhile. Just a week ago I lost the same amount. A year ago I made seventy-five, pushing for a hundred, but that too is gone. What does that do to the meaning of money? What does that due to a notion of value? Sometimes I run into a friend working hard at a restaurant. I am dining, and I am feeling blue, because that is the way that I feel. It makes me feel strange, sitting there, not even glad by the fact that I made ten thousand dollars that morning – ten thousand dollars! – and not even able to give a damn. And yet, I am not rich, I am not confident, I do not have the things I want, or even that I need… What does it mean?

23. I am down to a friend or two and I doubt them completely. The space that I occupy is quickly pulling itself in. I used to have parts of myself spread out like tendrils or limbs over all of the world. I am losing them all… they are crumbling to dust, uncared for, and I am receding from my reaches, and space is turning black again, turning in upon my efforts…

24. I would give anything for some cookies, the kind that I ate as a boy.

25. If I could write anything, it would be a book of ideas. I would write The Man Without Qualities, except he would be a man without values.

26.  I just don’t know what to do with myself.

27. They say to never look in your rearview mirror, to only keep your eyes on the road ahead. The truth is, however, that good driving means checking all three mirrors every three seconds. And I like to think of myself as a good driver.

28. The only way to survive – to say nothing of succeed – is to contradict yourself.

29. What doesn’t kill you makes you draw the blinds closed and hide in a corner.

30. There have been three dead dogs on cotton road in half as many days. The roadside race is dying fast, the streets are filling with blood, and the buzzards are down from their tree limbs.

31. I am feeling my weight fill out around me, feeling my whole structure sigh into remission. I can feel my body settling in for the long haul, now, sifting and thickening, ready to face the end of it. I want to ask my father what it feels like, what to expect, and when to expect it, growing old. What it feels like, how it happens, how it changes you. But then again, it is surely better not to know, to be spared the dread of expectance. Then again, I already kind of know. I feel it and I am smart enough to know what will happen next. It was never really a secret, after all. I wonder when the energy really disappears. I wonder when your limbs go. I wonder when your hair starts thinning, when it is your mind turns soft and cloudlike. But then again, it is better not to know…

32. I used to be afraid of the police because they were hard on me. They were hard on me because I was abnormal and up to no good. It was good that I feared them. Now that I know how to live I have nothing to fear from the police. Now I am good, or at least I have nothing to hide, because I have already hid it.

33. It is easy to forget that the ancients spoke of ancients, too, that even Socrates was simply a reed in the current of culture of history, a new amalgamation of moments in moments in time. Everyone is ancient in time, and our wisdom is great, and our culture is enviable. The American is an ancient hero, America a golden memory; the civilization that really was beautiful.

34. The only thing harder to believe in than God is Proof.

35. People who believe in their own opinions are blind beyond all recognition. But it is better to have believed a myth than to have never believed at all…

36. Maybe the common people aren’t very good at picking their leaders. Maybe the complicated world of governing the world should be left to those well-versed in it, like nuclear physics to the physicists. Maybe the American system is fundamentally corrupt and inefficient. But never the less – it has been a pretty good run so far. And it could always be worse. A consumerist culture! And how thankful we should be for it.

37. A good man is a doctor; a good thinker is a mathematician. A good boy is a good listener, and a good thought is incommunicable. Good work is the only work worth doing. Etc., etc.,… I am not a good man. I am not a good thinker. I do no good work. Etc., etc.,…

38. “I am living here at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.” That was the beginning for me. It turned me over. “The world is everything that is the case… Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” And that was the end of it. It righted me.

39. I felt bad about some sex I’d had but I felt good at least that I’d had sex. I didn’t really want it anymore, and so it became free to me, and then it was kind of enjoyable again. It was on my mind again, like moves in chess. In fact, I was feeling bad about it, because last time it hadn’t gone so well, and I was a little ashamed. But then I, like Gilbert Grape or Benjamin Braddock, met the mother of a girl I”d known in high school, and I noticed by chance that she hadn’t a ring on her ring finger. Funny thing, I thought. I thought about how people have sex. One day she asked me about something, and I answered something. I gave her my phone number, thinking nothing of it, not until later, when I chuckled to myself, when the possibility of having a little affair hit me like a falling piano. I was dreaming up at the prospects of my own Mrs. Robinson when one day she called me, out of the blue, and I did not act clueless, but I acted very pointed, and from there it was obvious. My own Mrs. Robinson. Isn’t that something! I will not even say that I liked it; but I liked that it was happening. And she is a very beautiful woman… But now I feel about it. And I feel even worse about the rest of it. Will I ever feel good about sex again? Is it good to feel good about it? Maybe I am better off.

40. I met a man in Brazil who made me feel like William Burroughs. I drew his tides into my hands – we watched Lawrence of Arabia together. He writes me letters, now and then; I have never written back.

41. One afternoon I flew down to the keys where my friend and his friend were staying in a trailer on the tip of some key. They hardly had any furniture but they had plenty of weed. Their neighbor was an ex-con with a motorboat and he took us out to sea. I fished and I caught a very big fish and I kept it in a freezer. It was beautiful and the sun was setting. As the sun set we drove into an uninhabited key, inhabited by secret Cuban villages and massive bee farms, beneath fields of weed to make weed bee honey. The villages were the real secrets. The boats – there was a submarine. Someone was living in a yellow submarine. It didn’t seem real.

42. Let me list some examples. Kings of New York; Crispin Hellion Glover; Either/Or; At Close Range; A Man’s Castle; Richard Hamilton; Viking Ranges; Longwood; Django Reinhardt; Lawrence of Arabia; Marcel Duchamp; Arthur Rimbaud; Alexander the Great; John Boy Walton; Birdman; Bruce Springsteen; Tex Avery; George Gershwin; Heavy Metal; Blue jeans; Forrest Gump; Breathless 1983; Popular Mechanics; Cool Hand Luke; Community; Klaus Kinski; Werner Heisenberg; William Addison Dwiggins; Dr. Zhivago; Lucretius; John; Donald Draper; Walter White; William Faulkner; Harvey Keitel; Batman; Bill Murray; Brian Wilson; Ralph Waldo Emerson; The Underground Man; Christopher Wallace; J.C. Leyendecker; Henry Darger; A Death In The Family; Sexus; TI; Sergio Corbucci; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; America.

43. I have no right to complain, to be unhappy, which makes me feel all the worse for it that I do, that I am. On the other hand, I have seen what happens to people like me. I am not without precedent. You would be unhappy, too, if you’d seen what I’d seen – if you followed my precedent.

44. When I was young I would wait by the mailbox at the bottom of the driveway for the bus. There was a young girl who sometimes waited with me. She was my neighbor and she loved me. I would throw rocks at her vinyl backpack until she cried. Some days she wasn’t there. Some days, when I saw the yellow school bus coming around a distant bend, a flash of yellow between hills and houses, I would run all the way back up the driveway, as fast as I could, and dive behind a tree, or under a porch railing. I told my parents that I missed the bus.

45. There was a mannequin in the back of the barn and it had a dress on it. One day I slipped my hands under the dress and pressed up close to it. Close to the cold, dirty plastic. It felt like a corpse in a cheap blue dress. My heart raced.

46. I learned how to make apple pie, just like my mother made, because it was the most beautiful thing I could think of. Like my very close cousin, Johnny Appleseed, I have a taste for apples.

47. Sometimes in the middle of the night my dog tenses up and his hair stands on end. He stands up on the bed, baring his fangs. He is facing inside the house, down the hallway away from my bedroom. He starts barking. I sit up in bed but I don’t turn on a light. What could he possible be barking at? I listen closely. There are no sounds from inside the house. No one is inside the house. My dog jumps off of the bed and scratches at the door to the hallway. I slip out of bed and I open my bedside table. I take out my handgun and hold it close to my chest, feeling sheepish. I look out the window across the street; the streets are silent. I go to the door and I push it open. I look carefully out into the long, dark hallway. My dog plants its feet in the doorway and starts barking. I creep through the hall with my gun held close to my side. What is going on? I shake myself out of it. I turn on a light and find myself in the kitchen, hands gripping tense to a pocket-sized handgun. My hair is pressed flat against my head from my pillow. I laugh and I set the gun on the counter. My dog prowls cautiously around the house, growling loudly. I pour myself a bowl of cereal before realizing that I don’t have any milk. I go back to bed.

48. People love to say that you can’t know happiness until you’ve known suffering, that “it is impossible to be enjoy life unless you’ve suffered from it, too.” People love to think like that. Before I had suffered, I didn’t think it was true – I thought it sounded arrogant. Now that I have suffered, I know it isn’t true. It makes me sick in my head and my chest to hear people talk like that, to speak so stupidly of living life, of suffering. What must the world look like, to people like that? What kind of existence is this?

49. For a time in my life I felt it, I felt it, tectonic changes, universal awareness, I felt what it meant to grow up, what was happening, what was changing in and around me. I watched with eager, dumbstruck eyes while the world came slowly into focus. I knew it immediately. I knew that this was what I had waited for, what I had been promised, had hoped for and prayed for, had doubted, had feared, had not expected; suddenly, I was ready to face up the world. It was a dynamic unraveling of secrets, each more re-assuring than the last. I was lifted off my feet for it. I was filled with ambition. It was more real and dramatic and absolute, this change, than anyone had tried to warn me. It took hold of me like a seizure as I felt the fog of childhood fall out from under me giving rise to the new light of day, of high noon, of man standing still in the desert.

50. I had a chance to give my grandmother a proper goodbye one night but I didn’t take it, because I assumed I would see her again. I even remember thinking, “I really should tell her goodbye, what if she were to die and this is the last time I see her?” because mine is a mind that produces such thoughts every time I say goodbye, or neglect to say goodbye. Needless to say; I didn’t see her again, and I now never will. I wish I’d said a proper goodbye – but do I, really? I knew in the moment that I didn’t that maybe I should, but not to let the thought bother me, not to take it deeply if I didn’t. Because with the automatic thought “What if I never see her again?” I am thinking many other automatic thoughts, motions of awareness that foreshadow and react to many hypotheticals, are aware of many possibilities and maybe ends of possibility. It is a cause for regret, to have ruined your chance for a final goodbye… but maybe not, if in the moment of ruin you realized, automatically and at once, many other moments, many realizations of meaning; foreseeing regret, thinking, “I sure will regret not saying goodbye, I bet, not holding her close and showing her I love her,” does that not negate the fact of regret itself? It does, although I can’t piece together the logic to illustrate how.

51. It wasn’t but two years ago that I realized I couldn’t think of a single regret. And yet now already, just two years since – and it is like I have been living a life full of total regret!

52. I went to India when I was sixteen and I went to Europe when I was seventeen. I intended to cross the Gobi desert on a camel when I was eighteen but something got in the way of it. I will now never cross the Gobi desert on a camel, nor would I ever dream of it. (Always dreaming, dreamt it all…)

53. Examples of printed ephemera: trade cards, airsickness bags, bookmarks, catalogues, greeting cards, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, prospectuses, stock certificates, tickets, receipts, inserts, fliers, notes, longhand, directions, lists, epigrams, fortunes, prizes, business cards, advertisements, packaging, tags…

54. I used to collect keys and whistles. Then I collected miniature figurines. Then I collected video tapes and gray gameboy cartridges. Then I collected mass market paperbacks. Now, I am simply a collector, as most of us are. I collect.

55. If I were to die today I would take with me three secrets. One is dirty, one is petty, and one is profound. And if I ever share them, I will share them in that order, because that is the order I would like to see them die in.

56. I do not deal in proofs. People like to discredit God by asking, “who created God?” (Who moved the prime mover, who created the creator?) Fair enough – but discredit logic thus the same. No, I do not deal in proofs – for who (what) has proven proof? Proof is its own unaccountable metaphysic, paradoxical and meaningless. Proof, logic, God – it is useless to choose between them. Even Nietzsche knew better – he knew it was fiction, everything. Truth as fiction – meaning as fiction – fictitious and real.

57. Christ was a carpenter because wood is the good of the earth. Every good man has been a carpenter since. I am not a carpenter, but I try my best; I am, at the very least, a talented woodworker. And that is close enough to the earth for me. And from the earth – unto mankind and unto the truth, unto value – new meaning.

58. The modern man is a business man. Business is good because it is universal, and because it works. It is a system that one can adhere to, one ought to, for good business. Business is the way of engaging the world, whether or not one comes out ahead.

59. I used to see people. Everywhere I went, I saw people. Not anymore. Now I see everything else.

60. Television is better than cinema and both are better than novels. Television is our collective cultural masterpiece. Traditional filmmaking is good and beautiful too but it has succumbed to the virtue and magic of television. The American people have been freed from the confines of the movie theater and been given a gift of continuous flow of highly saturated entertainment. It is as beautiful a world as any other. The mirror has given way to the waves of unwavering light; the hand-written narrative has given way to the 24-episode serial, and thank God that it could! Stories are nice, but if it’s stories you want, then turn on the television! Culture, entertainment, comforting universality, escape, intention, self-awareness, beauty, significant form, aesthetic subliminity, divine interpretation, the chronicles of the world – then turn on the television!  See for yourself.

61. The objective/subjective distinction is a particularly odious distinction, but most distinctions are odious. All distinctions are fictional, in so far as they are wholly symbolic. The stand for the truth; and there is only the truth, that which is the case, be it truth or untruth, a subject or an object (and isn’t a subject an object itself, after all?).

62. Look at this chair: I just the other day built this chair. I am sitting it as much as I can to better give it patina, to better wear my life in it. When I am dead it will belong to my children and then to theirs, to whom it will be grandfather’s chair, the one that he built with his own hands when he was young. That is, unless some steals it from me first.

63. When I was young I used to play with fire. I did many dangerous things with flames. Forests, caught fire. Haylofts full of mounds of burning black plastic. Aerosol cans tossed into burning barrels, explosions in the night. The worst was when we stole a fifty-gallon container of gasoline. We dragged it out into the swamp. We lit it on fire. It burned good, but surprisingly slow. I poked it with a stick and it burst in a flaming explosion. I poked it again and it burst even bigger and brighter. I kicked it – even brighter. I jumped on it – flames flared up around me and my chest, I stood in a circle of spellbinding fire – and I jumped off. We took turns jumping on it. Then, we decided to jump on it together. We leapt on it, together. The flames flew up over heads, all around us, engulfing us in a burning geyser of plastic and gasoline. We can see nothing but flames; it is like an explosion, it is hot, and it throws us back onto the ground. The hair is gone from my face and from most of my head. My shoes are melted to my socks. A patch of skin the size of my outstretched hand is burned off from my leg, sliding around over a red sea of blistering nerves. I slide it around with my finger, the skin crackles, and slips, and burns… I tell my parents I tripped and I fell in a bonfire.

64.  Once I took up arms against my friend. I had ordered the swords in the mail and they were not real swords for fighting – the blades, though sharp, would dent and dull when you beat them against each other, swung them in arcs over your head, blade upon blade. We fought for hours until once when I missed and his blade fell right into my wrist. Blood streamed from my wrist to my elbow. I did not even notice at first, not until he hit me again and struck on my thumb. I noticed my thumb splitting open and I noticed the pulp opened up underneath. I went and got some stitches, and a week later I pulled them out, feeling healed. I got in a fight and hit my wrist and the wound re-opened, farther and uglier than last time, scar tissue ground up with old skin. I put the stitches back in again.

65. It hurts me to hear people rejecting the world that they live in, to see people unable to appreciate their bountiful world. America will not always be a beautiful place. Our aisles will not always overflow with color and oil and sugar, our shelves spilling over with disposable food. It is one thing to take bounty for granted. It is another thing entirely to reject it. America’s bounty will not last; enjoy it while you can, for you will miss it when you’re gone.

66. The future and the past, as phenomena, are pure fictions.

67. If it is money that you want, then go ahead and make money. And while you are making money, make sure that you are making it to your fullest capacity. Now, if money is not what you want, then by all means, forego it…

68. If you don’t understand good business, watch business television, like Breaking Bad. Money is a system of things. Systems are games and are playable. As for production, you must make a superior product

69. When you reminisce, keep your self in check. Remember that you were never happy, really. It may seem that way now, but that is not the case, and you do better to remember that. Don’t be caught up in painfully fond memories, do not blame your position on a potential differentiation of position; all positions are the same.

70. They say that all philosophy is just confession, that philosophers are only rationalizing their lives in the face of a meaningless, painful world. So be it; this, then, is a confession. I am confessing. (Not to imply that I’m philosophizing!)

71. And I have had nightmares, too. I remember them clearly. I remember one of them, crayon on black velvet, when I was four or five, when my parents left me, and the world turned on me, and they all died in the house failure, and the eyes glowed like fire from the garage across the street. Or giant crabs in endless fields of prairie grass, a highway split between them. Giant claws and monstrous bellies. Or the stork stalking still through the shadows at night, outside the window and inside the hall – or the transparent cherubim with see-through skin and clockwork organs, haunting the city on Christmas eve –

72. My fair share of good dreams, too. And my share of dreams where I dreamed I dreamt nothing at all. Slipping into circles; watching television; admitting with pride that I like to watch television; that I’d rather be watching films than reading books, be watching shows than watching movies, be being and already-become; dreams about women in trains and in coaches, alongside the trees in the mountains a mist softly settles, a sunset slips in between peaks; yes, the world is turning; circling back around again; back into innocence; back into virtue; back into bliss –

73. Let’s talk about television. You’d be fooling yourself if you said you didn’t like it, and you’d be missing a beautiful universe to not quite appreciate it. The highest art form of them all! It is the highest art form of them all – and we as a modern American civilization are honor-bound to believe in it, duty-bound to honor it. It is our culture, and ours to take part in, but some people think – some people, these people with strange misconceptions, people that say things like You have to suffer before you can really be happy – it is somehow indecent. Some people even seem to think it is meaningless. I can think of nothing farther from the truth!

74. When I first became a printer I was watching Mad Men on marathon at night and so I thought and acted in my daily life like a Don Draper, as natural as it came to me, which was to say, natural. I was more interested in the idea of my product than my product itself; I was fulled with creative vision, with distant dispassionate supremacy over a universe purely metaphysical. Once I became a talented printer, though, I suddenly started watching Breaking Bad, so I went on the meth-businessman sense of the world and I decided to take business into my own hands. Mine was a superior product, after all. And I stood by it. Be a good businessman, I said. To my partner, I said, just be a good businessman. I offered a better product at a better price and I demanded the value of my work. I stood by what I did. Stand by yourself, assert yourself, I told my partner. Then I watched The Waltons, and I lost interest both in ideas and in products, and I simply wanted to print.