"Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass"
There's no special kinship between those who have experienced something Terrifying. I want to tell you that I feel a connectedness with the droves of people hugging each other just a little tighter tonight in France. I want to tell you that their love is our love, that their suffering is a button we had pressed and have learned to ease off. I want to believe that there's something there that is meaningful, and that 14 years later I would have some sage words to say to assuage the survivors guilt, ameliorate the suffering that hasn't even set in, assay the political setting and describe what the next decades look like in France and the EU vs what they looked like yesterday, to offer something from my experience.

To feel connected.

And no, not this sorry excuse for connection that we all link up on through the Miracles of Technology. Heads supposedly lighter for the glory of Disruptive Innovation. Hearts of cement despite the success of Platform-Focused-Disintermediation. Reducing ever bit of friction from the marketplace except the ones that grab you by your gentle little fucking throat.

Breathe, reader. Feel the pressure grab just a little more. Is your stomach tight yet? Do you feel sick?

Here I am at a party, grab a beer. Nice! Put on my Google hoodie, ya sure did made it bud! And nothing we did mattered, nothing we had mattered. The artifice is stripped back to the studs and laid bare we get to be Japan on 9/11. We get to be tired and ignorant. We get to rub newspaper together to keep hands warm on a commuter train. Rub cold shoulders with indifference and court casual drinks and easy smiles to get through a Tough Work Week.

"I saw a photograph of Cologne in ’27, and then a postcard after the bombs in ’45.
Must have been a world of evil clowns that let it happen. But now I recognize, Dear Listeners,
that you were there..."
Watching my Twitter feed (thanking Camus' Christ that Twitter didn't exist in 2001) feeling like I must be deficient in some way, I must have some strange character or psychological flaw, how could I feel so completely and utterly alone? How could I feel so alien to the emotions that these people were throwing around, sloshing drinks, burning lighters, pumping speakers. Where are the red eyes not from the pressure drop in eyes from getting high but from crying as though there's nothing else in the world that could make you not want to die at this moment? Where are the drinks poured back in stereotypical Irish style, not rising up in song but drowning something dark with dark liquor? And in all of the talk of solidarity, all of the social media posts, all of the typed out outrage, where is the feeling that solidarity ISN'T what we're feeling, what we're feeling is horrified, uncertain, sick, Terrified. Really fucking legitimately scared. Like the world we were promised maybe has never been around, maybe will never come back, maybe is irrelevant. Where we don't put up French flags, but rather white flags and curl into a ball to protect ourselves from an emotion that feels so physical as to be an actual attack from some nameless, faceless entity.

"You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

I'm not asking for it. I thought I might duck out of the party in tears, but I didn't. Thought I might break down when I got home but I haven't. Thought I might call the people I love but I won't.

Because this is just a reminder. Not of the precious nature of life. Not of the fleeting nature of these moments we have. Not of some higher calling to extract Life from each second. Just a reminder. And sitting here, listening to a lifetime of curated songs to make me feel those emotions I returned to, the badges I collect and polish when I need to, only now do I realize that these were an out. These were softer emotions evoked to focus on instead of the deafening void on the other side of reality. Songs to sing to a man condemned to die about losing his prized watch. Forget about time and measurement. Go back to taking mushrooms, a pinball magnet between streetlights, some other Thomas asking to see your hands, more small change at your feet, some trash, a vision of the joys of being a consumer and figuring out every permutation to do exactly that, compressing every emotional construct to bring the lows up a bit and the highs down. I don't get carsick. I'm not as upset as I should be. I'm not sure I feel anything but the profound distaste for what the world has to offer. Inherent rejection of the scheduled content. Today I don't need an indulgent Ativan, I need a reason to come up for air amongst a tide that barely moves what's beneath the surface.

It's a dark night here in the New York City metro. No antenna will light it up. No other facts can compete with a light we can't seem to find for hearts that we put in a safe whose combination we long since burned.

"Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape. 
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house."


Never Forget

When I started having devastating panic attacks in college, I Never Forget.

When I had a film class that showed footage from the day and went to the bathroom and cried in the fetal position on the floor, I Never Forget.

When I got so overwhelmed right after school that I used to crawl under my desk and turn my headphones on and hide in my Boston apartment alone, I Never Forget.

When some piece of shit Burning Man-addled asshole told me that, on my flight back to NYC to not "crash into any towers" and I got so angry I was scared of severely wounding the guy and my brain stopped working and I walked away and didn't speak to anyone for hours, I Never Forget.

When I hear very loud noises, like fireworks lit off on the street and break into tunnel vision, sweating and anxiety, I Never Forget.

When I thought drinks might help me dampen some of the anxiety but found out it just made me feel awful and felt pointless and ineffective, I Never Forget.

When I see people who write books (Extremely Loud and Incredible Close) or make movies involving the event, and all I can think is what impossible scumbags they are, I Never Forget.

When all the alarms in my San Francisco apartment went off in the middle of the night and I couldn't get them down off the ceiling because they were hardwired in so I cut the wires with a knives and then passed out on the kitchen floor in a fever, I Never Forget.

Later in San Francisco when a bus backfired right as I walked by City Hall and casually knew that it was a car bomb [it obviously was not] and that I thusly, finally die by the hands of a bomb, and am in a creepy calm because of course this is the way it will happen, walking down the street, listening to music, unknowing right up to the point I am blown up, I Never Forget.

When I was involved in a medical panel put on by the VA and they confirmed that I have PTSD, I Never Forget.

When I look out the window of my office at the replacement building and think about the person I was when I could look at the old skyline, and how this new person is so heavily shaped by what now appears to be a mere change in architecture, I Never Forget.

When I consider the fact that I find it almost impossible to trust people completely because I assume they will let me down, change, disappear, etc... I Never Forget.

When I am fiercely self-reliant and believe in my capacity to succeed and handle myself in any situation, because I know what I am capable of, I Never Forget.

When no one can break me, because they don't know real existential pain like I do, I Never Forget.

When I handle small situations that break my routine like they are devastating but at the same time can handle massive crises and deaths of people close to me completely dispassionately, calm and with perspective, I Never Forget.

Because when I saw that the world had lied to me for my whole life, that every person, every TV show, every book, every authority figure, every bromide, every bullshit allegory, that every direction was operating under the pretense that this could never happen; when I realized that we are NOT safe, that things are NOT under control, and that everything you love, don't love, know, and don't even know can be wiped off the map as easily as a toddler throwing food off a table; that the machinations of the world can be smashed to irreparable pieces by the hands of just a few devoted people, that nothing is promised; in that moment: I can't tell you about most of the day, or the days that followed, but I can tell you that even then I knew I would Never Forget.

And honestly, I'm fine now. Today is a day that doesn't rip my guts out of my body like it used to. Hell, I had a good day today, and I'm not even surprised. I'm no longer afraid of the date like I used to be. A friend texted me and I wanted to tell him that it's OK, it's passed/past; it's a thing that happened.

But when I see my coworkers do a coordinated moment of silence announced by email.
When I see footage on TV of the event, blaring in the main area of the office while people get breakfast and talk about the weekend.
When I see images of that day being shared, all of it feeling honestly pretty exploitative.
And most of all when I see happy, well-meaning, wandering fools on the internet saying "NEVER FORGET"...

I can't forget that my eyes are brown. I can't forget that my eyes hurt from allergies when it rains. I can't forget that my hair is going gray. And you know, I'm probably not going to forget the single most formative and intense life-changing moment possible.

So if you're saying Never Forget as though that's something that has to be said, I'm a little jealous.

You already have.


A pair of size 7.5, lime green "water shoes." The things smelled to high heaven, dragging in the noxious mixture of teenager foot, pond water, sweat and earth - compounded at some asymptotal angle towards "completely intolerable" to anyone but the owner, as t approaches "throw them out." And what a silly number to remember, sitting on boulders shoring up a lake that never floods to warrant the work of the Army Corps of Engineers (and yet), worried about bugs, interested mildly in toads but never really owning that, never wanting to really grab them, just content to interact after someone else does the hard part. That's a thing too, isn't it, the point at which you realize you really have to handle certain things, like a paint brush on a fence, in order to get them to work the right way. "Who's in control? You or the paintbrush?" Well, most of the time it's probably the toad. The only thing I hate more than washing my hands is having to wash my hands.

7.5. This number stays with you like some room in the house of your brain that is organized specifically for perfect acoustics and endless echoes, long statements lost in some lengthier Lucier's Room, but short quips kept if provided with sufficient Ar Tick You Lay Shun. 7.5. So this is what the world thinks about me. This is what the world calls what I have? At this stage in the game you are a foreigner still to your own body, a bit like Adam and Eve finding out they are naked you are starting to realize this existential bit and new pieces of information have a strong signal : noise ratio. This thing that is growing, it is now 7.5.

And this learning and facility is not just informative in the vague sense, but in fact this way of knowing is crucial to your success. These things you have outside of your brain aren't "you" per se, they are the apparatus that sustains you and allows you to have agency in the world but they aren't really you, in the sense that you know yourself. Your ability to interact with these other components, to know them, to understand them sufficiently, this is what will determine your success in this world, either because of vanity, or communication, or dumb luck.

40 Long. This is a suit size, years later, and just knowing the number, off the cuff, transmits exactly the right sense of being #blessed, which is to say privileged without really accepting it.

"The first numeral is 1, push the button. Good!"

Walking on the esplanade, wondering when you're going to receive some call from somewhere, something that will give you a better sense of lat/long in the global sense. The way that machines struggle with the movement of time and you struggle desperately with those dimensions past 3 -- there are more than enough optical illusions at 3, once you get to 4 there's honestly no way of telling who is even in the game, much less who belongs anywhere in particular. Eschaton, long lobbing shots of skill honed with time and care before you know you're making a choice to learn them. Electing a road of sacrifice before you know what that means and what you could be giving up. Embracing a world that is unbelievably different than promised before you even know how to read the contract for the standard agreements laid out in front of you.

"But you were there... and so was I"

Ha, but oh hot damn were you ever. If there's nothing I have learned in all this time it's that you were there. Part of some cultural web that defined things that we can agree upon, impossible wrongs and untouchable rights that are so easy to accept as long as they are never breached - and at that point we create distance "this situation is different, it's easy to think that way with nothing at stake, you don't know my experience." And no one does, but mostly everyone does. Laser-guided, black and white, strategic points of interest, focal points where light perfectly illuminates with the least work possible, the noise that comes next. And you were there. And you did this as much as anyone. You don't get to just pull the ripcord and wash your name off of the register. "This isn't my battle." No go, Private. Try again.

Well it's coming to your doorstep, didn't you here? The Save the Date is in the mail on beautiful card stock. The photos were done by Jeff Michaels, you simply MUST use him, did you see his photos of Amy's brand new baby as it fell into the world? Did you see his photos of the Schaffer's on their wedding day? Have you heard about his special camera?

FYI, you should pencil in the vomiting / panic attack combo roughly three hours before the ceremony, and the therapist about a week afterwards. Some flashback to early dance sequences, falling in a snowbank, reasonably certain of death, waking up on a floor in someone else's apartment building Eireann, the quiet consumption of drinks and waiting for some sign (if learning about yourself is hard my god trying to find someone else that you aren't just running into at full speed hope for forced osmosis), "Oh my God, Mark, how could he do this to me? How could he do this to me?" full of sobs on both ends because of course, with some red dress on the floor, literally covered in time, and wasted moments of efforts to seem more meaningful to make up for soft whispers that never carried over the noise in a room, looking desperately into someone's eyes to try and see yourself in the reflection. Where am I? What is this, anyway? Sometimes just being at the exceptional place is the achievement, friend. Once you are there it is better to do the job right, rather than try to be exceptional at this place. There is a limit to what is possible, and it is very rarely found with gentle strokes, and this kind of force, exerted sometimes over so little surface area is no joke. It's a bullet, if you're lucky.

5'. 6'. 7.5. 9.5. 11. 100lbs. 135lbs. 165lbs. 185lbs. 170lbs.

These ways of knowing the apparatus that holds us in. Always self-optimizing to try to work in our favor. Feed me. Rest. Empty me. We are poisoned. Drink. Sit down. Rest. But then signals come in that we don't process well. The optimization isn't working. Flickering lights. The pieces are breaking. Gears that moved so smoothly, so MIT designed, start to rub themselves into blades. Cracking a tooth as you try to find the place that is generating these systemic mistakes. Wood. Nails. Glue. Saws. Sleep. Rust. The observations that fall outside of six sigma. The statistically significant rate of failure, realized. Falling on the wrong side of #blessed. Crying on the wrong side of the window. Passing out face up. Two inches too far to the right. 3 months too late. Waiting for a sunrise that just won't seem to show up. So exceptional.

Just do the job.



Someone drops on you the concept that from the day you are born you die a little every day. OK, fine, but no one owns that, not really. It is funny then that we just react so strongly of the thought of dying just a little bit faster. Your life is terminal, but this cancer is even more terminal. Your life is leading at a free fall to some yet to be determined place on the map, but this disease is just speeding up your descent towards the crash site. Some graph where you leave the womb at some flat velocity, first derivative of acceleration flat, until the day that you find out, oh hey, that derivative is ramping and you are reaching higher speeds, trickier patterns, no more doctored data or denials, terminal velocity.

Sinking into a bar chair, sawdust smell mixing with the smell of spilled spirits and music loud enough to displace the dust on the paintings and even the stiffest Dewar's drunk. Cousin Maudlin, down from New England for the summer, eschewing easy evenings on the Esplanade, now standing here I, hat in hand, asking for some kind of cold comfort in black like physiognomy is such a common reference point that other people should read into the context clues--carting around scotched-up red eyes on a IT department plastic cart with a broken swivel wheel and a background chorus "Amy, look at this black mark! It comes all the way from the door towards the stairs... what got in here? Can you call Jimmy over, please, it's unsightly." Oh my god, oh my good god, laughing from the sidelines of someone else's life, spectating free of charge getting the glimpse into someone else's broken moments. Hey Elle, where did you go after our sorority summer? Who is your best man now? How many more downward dogs until Zen - Pax? How many more salads until you get to ring the bell? I'll be in the back room, drinking my half of the beer, right out of the fucking bag, ya know? eyes turned up to Heaven's Gate in mid-flight. But our dear cousin isn't having fun. Learn to wear sneakers and take a deep breath, it just doesn't matter anymore. You'll be fine, and then you won't be, and either way it won't matter in the interim how much you enjoy it, so wear a smile at least. You'll get fewer wrinkles.

And maybe this is what it feels like. Not gutshot pain, not even the pain of a papercut, but an ache that you couldn't point to on a doll but you can visualize as something that is no longer the right color, signals from neighbors ignored, a comical Lucy in the chocolate shop with a more bittersweet ending. There's no pause button on the conveyor belt so the mistakes only compound. Objects with fancy names that you only learn when they have a gun aimed between your eyes. Give me all your money and good sweet lord you will give them your fucking money and everything you've got, Hero, you will weep for mankind dear Hero, you won't save anyone today, darling Hero, and when you wake up with makeup still caked on your face like some literal manifestation of the lies you scattered behind you like some kind of Hansel and Gretel shit trail back to the house, precious Hero, when the day comes when you are just to tired to do the very basic things required for entry into the VIP you'll hear the deafening rumble of sounds that are outside of your sonic range, something that is well higher than 60khz and lower than 10hz and is at some decibel level that would make even the most molly soaked Burning Man attendee fall from their welded precipice of imagined realization in the form of a giant statue of a Priest with a simple man on his shoulder, whispering the truth, the rumble that you can feel in your ears not as a sound but as pressure, sweet Jesus do you feel that pressure, all of the sudden aware of the way you are wearing your clothes the way Adam and Eve became aware of being naked or the first time you went to a party and realized you had no idea how to dress, clothing shifting in the pulsing air of the sound and you, sweet Hero, breaking down into silent tears, a martyr for nothing and for no one. 

I have my own problems and I don't care. Here's my number.

No one told us how to breathe but we sucked for air until we broke through. No one told us how to play but we know how. No one told us how to love but we figure it out. No one told us what it will feel like to die, to feel the slow pull of gravity, ignorant of mass or design, will its realization come in time or are we millenniums away from evolving to the point where we can handle the most basic of tasks, the grand release as the curtains fall and our act comes to a close? Or will we be left to try to put words behind something so simple and binary, that you day you are here and the next you cease to exist, and your only job is your only superpower: to do the best that you can with what you have, as long as you are so lucky to have it, because They can take that from you, and you had better fucking believe that they will.

Good show ya fucking legend! Now a bit more'da brown and tell me a story about life back in Eireann--and Jaysus no fucking Galway Bay this time, OK? I want to to remember it like the stouries, not like the visions, I can handle that on me own. 

And Good God what is that noise?


These are the barely noticeable faux-victories that pass for accomplishments now. Trophy lives.