I’m getting a lot done now, on a steady diet of Study Aids, Scotch, B-12 vitamins and the Tupperware tube of organic, gluten-free cereal I found that tastes exactly like Cap n’ Crunch. After weeks of walking around in a daze I’ve got enough raw, telepathic mind power to take me through the night. Everything and everyone is so beautiful when I’m far away from them, locked up in my very own room deep within the Stoned Goat House. Odious is in seclusion in Bushwick to receive whatever protracted solstice transmission might be coming through and Jesse took off the other week for a visit with people he described as his chosen family who, upon further discussion, were revealed to be actual blood relations. “I prefer not to call them that because we are down for one another for real,” he explained.
The room I’ve been given is barely wide enough for a futon mattress but it’s perfect because I can be alone, with people right outside. The walls have deep, built-in shelves where I found consumer tech artifacts from the early 00’s: a brick-sized MP3 player, a titanium laptop that still boots up and runs Windows XP, and a silver digital camera with a gaping slot in the side where the memory card would go. Apparently these were props for an unfinished film that was set and shot in the house about a girl who worked a temp gig in one of the Twin Towers and went home to this room every night to make seemingly random, compulsive art that no one understood. It’s only after she’s killed on 9/11 that her housemates realize how everything she made predicted what happened. Something about this plot felt eerily familiar, but a search on google came up with nothing. I forgot about it until a few days later when I was looking for a spot to stash some stuff and found a bag of VCR tapes behind a secret partition in the closet.
“Are those props from the film as well?” I asked my favorite girl during one of our late-night meetups under the tree in the basement practice space. As usual she was nearly naked, apparently impervious to the cold.
“What matters is that the lady was redeemed,” she said, with a shrug. I realized she thought that the character in the movie was real, and that the actress who had played the part in my room had actually been killed on 9/11.
“Her art was illuminated by the mega ritual of Ground Zero to which she gave her life.”
The tapes were labelled by date and a span of hours starting on January 11th, 2001 (20:04—23:51) with a new one every week or 10 days going throughout the year until September 10th, (16:10—22:33). I had no device on which to play them, but I liked going through them, sliding the black plastic out of their white sleeves and feeling the weight of secret information in my hand. I found myself looking out at everything as though my eyes were tiny cameras. Maybe they did the movie like this, never showing the woman but filming what she would have seen. In addition to the long pans of the street outside my window, there are the video calls with the housemates. I’m limiting my time in the common areas, so we started Facetiming to discuss whatever house business there is to take care of now that I don’t have Jesse to tell me, but it quickly became more than that. It’s the first time I’ve really talked to any of them besides my girl, and, exhausting as it is to try and find the right place to look on the screen it turns out the words really flow now that I have these walls between us. They wanted to know about my show so I told them how it took me my entire life to be ready to write it, and when I finally did it turned out dope, but now it was languishing on the shelf at Netf*x and would probably never be seen.
“That’s why we do everything ourselves,” they said, “no middleman, no distribution outside of our own decentralized channels.”
I told them about how Odious would agree with them, about how they were always saying artists had to “retain the means of production” if they wanted to keep their art pure. They liked that so I told them about other things Odious taught me, and it felt so good to be talking about my friend that I told them about everything that had happened over the first year of the pandemic. I told them about Heir Max. I hadn’t planned to say it, it all just came out, a part of me felt like I should have asked Odious first but fuck it, here I am posting about it—isn’t the whole point to share our experience as far and wide as possible so others will be opened up to having their own? Now the babies just want to know more. They won’t leave me alone; they leave food and coconut water by my door and wait by their phones every night to see if I have more to say. At first it was a little weird, but I realized they had been waiting for someone like me. When Jesse and I first got here and I saw how they all dressed and talked alike I thought we stumbled upon one of those hippie sex cults that you hear about, but that wasn’t the case, because in order for it to be a cult there needed to be a leader. A master zaddy type who makes all the decisions. It was the opposite at the Stoned Goat House--everything was sweetly and slowly achieved by consensus. They sat in circle wearing their ugly matching satin jackets to hash out even the tiniest detail, down to the side dish on a dumpster dived meal. I’m stepping up to the role of boss bitch/parental figure, someone who can tell them what they should and should not do in a way that didn’t sound made up. Better me than someone else, someone who would treat them like shit because they would believe they were a legit guru. I know it’s just a part I’m playing, a part in the film that’s organically forming from all our video chats spliced together with the footage I take with my eyes from my masked interludes wandering the halls looking for the girl, the one who never joins the facetimes and prefers instead for me to stare at her naked skin in real life, because when I’m doing that for a few minutes I’m not thinking about anything or anyone else. There’s no Odious or Jesse James, even Heir Max recedes though if I tune in, I can always feel him, however faintly. He’s there in the corner of my eye—he’s at the edge of the stairs and the edge of the world—doing his neat trick in which he’s reflected in whatever or whomever I looked at; he is my own desire turned in on itself.
Then came the night after Xmas: the babies knocked on my door and hurriedly explained that it was no longer safe to stay in the house. There was a blur of activity as everyone helped gather my things, packing my vapes and smokes, my notebooks and packs of Japanese pens as well as the Titanium laptop, unable or unwilling to elaborate on what the danger was. I looked out the window and the yellow streetlight lit up the street like an empty stage. There was the sound of drag racing off in the distance but that was it. I knew that instead of just popping the study aids many of them ground them up and snorted them and I wondered if that was behind this. Some kind of mild collective drug psychosis. I didn’t have anything else going on, so I turned up my collar and wandered outside and watched as one after another the babies doubled up on bikes or else hopped into their ancient, rusted cars. It seemed the entire house was evacuating. I looked for my girl but couldn’t find her. They wanted me to get in the the back of a pick-up I’d never seen before. In the time that I’d been at the SGH I’d noticed it wasn’t unusual for cars to come and go, or for piles of cash to appear and then disappear on the kitchen counter or for animals to stay around for a day or two. Someone handed me a thermos they said was filled with green tea and mushrooms. They looked at me expectantly, so I took a chug, the taste immediately confirming the ingredients. Three babies got in with me and we covered ourselves with unrolled sleeping bags and quilts. We drove around the neighborhood for a while, floating past houses lit up with sloppily strewn holiday lights and yellow windows crossed by silhouettes. We were moving slowly enough so that I could catch glimpses inside—a few seconds of an overly bright kitchen or an empty living room where the blue light of a giant TV flashed. It made me a mix of happy and sad to see people living their lives without me. After all that commotion we were just taking a cruise up and down the block. I leaned all the way back and looked up to the sky trying to see some stars but there was only a dark grey tarp thrown over everything. I thought about how the light we saw came from stars long dead, and how in a way this dark sky was a more accurate depiction. When I sat back up again I saw that we were heading to the Brooklyn Bridge, and as we drove fast (though it was filmed in slow motion) across the river the jagged god-fingers of a cloud passed in front of the city skyline and all the lights started to spin. I closed my eyes and it felt like my head was buried in a pile of dry leaves.
I turned quickly from side to side, trying to shake off the sensation. The babies on either side of me took out their phones and pointed them at me.
“What is it? What do you see?” they asked.
“Nothing. It’s nothing,” I said, rubbing my face. My skin felt unusually soft, like if I looked at myself in a mirror, I’d see a web of blue veins. It’s too soft, I thought, to be outside in this rushing wind.
“I’m all alone,” I said, the words appearing in my mind suddenly as cold hard fact.
I opened my eyes and was temporarily blinded by the headlights of a passing SUV.
“I’m alone…bathed…in the yellow light of the show.”
“What show? Who is it?”
I closed my eyes. I wished they would leave me alone. I was getting weary of this game. Ahh, well …what’s the harm? I was still sober enough to see how ridiculous I was, but too fucked-up to stop myself.
Besides, it wasn’t all a lie. There were times back on the desert when I really did feel something moving through me. A strange, unexplainable power that very well might have been supernatural.
I started to dramatize...
“Yes, here it is…something’s coming through now…I’m a member of Kraftwerk, and we’re about to play our first show in the States in Detroit. Motor city. I can see it! There’s the whole 70s vibe—like I'm seeing through a super saturated filter. We’re expecting a small crowd of computer nerds to show up. When they tell us the arena is packed we can’t believe it. Who the fuck is listening to German electro music out here in the middle of the U.S.? The curtain goes up and a sea of black faces looks back at us in anticipation. A flash overtakes my body and I nearly lose composure. But I manage to step out onto the bright, shining stage and walk straight to my console. All at once we begin to play. It doesn’t seem to be an activity that I have anything to do with, yet my hands are moving. The audience starts dancing. Dancing! They are popping and moving like robots in time to the beat. I look up and see a human wave, rising and falling, undulating into infinity. I’m filled with a joy that goes beyond language. Never, in our wildest dreams, had we ever imagined anything like this happening.”
I opened my eyes. The kids were uncertain. They discussed with one another what this could mean, what it had to do with me or Odious, but mostly me, since I was the one with the cameras in my eyes, and this was my story, my movie.
I remember thinking, that was a good one, but as I had this thought, we went further into Manhattan and the energy shifted at the same time that the mushrooms kicked in to the next level, in which the sound of a low flying plane melted across my brain like a slab of butter, and for a second I couldn't remember who I was.
We were picking up speed. I tried to find something to hold on to.
I’m the adult, I told myself. It’s my job to get us out of here safely.
My fear filled mind grasped greedily at everything around me, all the lights and the dirty street corners flashing by with the garbage piled up, the sounds of trucks changing gears and the snippets of silly popular songs seeping out from the cars in the lanes next to us—I was suddenly aware of how dearly I loved all of this, how much every single moment on this filthy grey planet meant to me. It wasn’t even all that filthy, all things considered. Really it’s just old; old and covered with energies I wasn’t ready to dissolve into. We stopped at a light and I thought about getting out. I wanted to be out there, walking across the street with the masked crowd wearing a puffy jacket and carrying a reusable water bottle and darting my non-dilated eyes back and forth, thinking about nothing. I wanted a little more time to waste, like I used to have before Odious. I wanted to not have to give a fuck, to be alone, to go over everything a little more before sharing it with others.
But there was no more time, it was like Odious said, the time of before is already over. I’d come this far and there was no going back.
The light changed and the pick-up lurched forward as the film loop started over.
One day, I thought, everyone will understand what I was trying to do.
Image: William Basinski, Disintegration Loops
Thank you once again for reading. Happy Holidays to all who celebrate. I hope everyone's hanging in there, I know this time of the year is always tough. Now more than ever.
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