Dec 22 2017 5:24 pm

slip past the sleeping guard

The busiest shoe shine stand I ever saw was in Washington D.C.'s Union Station. The swiff and snap of the towel, the smiles and pleasantries exchanged, there were three men in chairs having their shoes shined. Perfectly gleaming cowboy boots were arrayed in a line at the edge of the stand. It was dim in the station and the sun shone in through a narrow window at the top of the wall across the corridor and brightly illuminated only the cowboy boots at the edge of the stand on the tile floor and the floating dust in the air about them. Another man was shining a shoe while holding it in his hand, standing up, a woman's shoe, then he applied a polish that was the same color as the shoe. Two more men sat in chairs waiting their turns. One of the shine men removed a pair of shined shoes from a man's feet with practiced expertise and a bit of a flourish. He inserted shoe stretchers and neatly tucked the laces into the shoe before carefully wrapping each one in a single page of newsprint and tucking them together into a cardboard box. The train station was loud and everything echoed and hundreds of people flowed by every minute in all directions.


The difference in scope, in color and timbre, in feeling and racket, between a train station and an airport is dramatic. What does it say about the changing needs, preferences, and values of society that these two hubs of travel are so different? Train stations tend to be older and more worn, they're made of stone, masonry, and tile instead of metal, plastic and glass. The grand halls with elaborately decorated, massively vaulted ceilings seem so oddly extravagant and unnecessary to the modern traveler, but stunning and calming and somehow affirming. The people who use the train station are on the average rougher around the edges and carry more old duffel-bags and suitcases and fewer roller-boards and laptop cases than their airport counterparts. There are more homeless beggars in the train station, more short skirts and tall shoes, leather jackets, big hair and makeup, strollers and bikes, nuns and gangsters.


These differences extend to all horizons in every direction: clattering and swaying across bridges over the northern arms of the Chesapeake Bay watching ospreys feed their chicks on the tips of wooden pilings in their massive nests, a tangle and splay of sticks and grass. The sensory deprivation of high altitude jet aircraft travel above the directionless white space of cloud tops perfectly without acceleration or guidance for the inner ear, the dull, even, constant roar of thin air rushing over the wings. Smiling at the hard cops wearing tattered bulletproof vests and who look only vaguely vigilant but supremely helpful and supremely competent, a deep and worn perspective of humans being humans at this porous interface of the world and a loosely coherent institution. People board the train unidentified and uninspected.


The gloved hand of a creepy dopey doughy subcontracted TSA stand-in rubs against testicles and vaginas, under the folds of buttocks, fingers slipped behind belts and up the backs of necks while the crisp folds of their brand new fastfood uniforms struggle to resist smoothing during the absurd procession of this multibillion dollar security charade. The friendly brusqueness of the train conductor handling things that absolutely need to be handled, barking: "let me see your ticket, next stop is BWI, only exit at these doors, the club car is three cars to our rear." The polished composure and practiced saccharine script recitation by the flight attendant is supposed to give a sense of order and security in an otherwise tubular metallic death chamber hurtling through the air at nearly the speed of sound 38,000 feet above the hard earth. I'm fairly certain you'll never have to use your seat cushion as flotation because instead you'll just go splat.


So stop worrying about 401ks, IRAs, mortgage pre-qualification, debt to income ratio, sale to list ratio, engagement rings, are you sick and tired of wrestling with tangles of Christmas lights every year? Try the new laser lights! Just stick the light in the yard and point it at your house or your tree or whatever you want to vaguely appear as if it’s wrapped in lights! Pick your way around that fresh road kill, that small dog on the road. Slip past the sleeping guard as you flee the compound. Never get sucked into a filing cabinet conveyor by your pant leg. Stop worrying about who was elected president, what someone said about you behind your back at work, who already called chips and salsa for the pot luck.


I want you to start worrying about the relationship between full moons and menstruation, how there’s something irreducibly primitive and mysterious about human beings. Images of ancient fertility rituals should race through your mind where feather clad dancers with painted faces and wild eyes thrust their massive wooden phalanxes into the air and their broad tongues flip rapidly from wet mouths, guttural moans and high pitch yelps create a disorienting cacophony. You latch onto your first passable idea: eat a goat’s penis. No. Eat a skink boiled in wine with rocket weed. Splash beet juice and jasmine on yourself before sleep. Masturbate three times into a bonfire of hickory wood.


Witness: a small city in the Midwest during the super moon where women have suddenly and violently synchronized their menstrual cycles, uteri wrung by lunar gravity like the oyster colonies below Mont Saint-Michel before the tide rushes back at the speed of galloping horses.


Quit your job, sell your boat, move to the edge of the French Quarter. Start a relentless and disciplined psilocybin microdosing regimen and only do street coke on Fridays. Push a crust punk into traffic for panhandling too aggressively. Start a band with a beautiful be-dreadlocked creole baritone saxophonist and feel your genitalia tingle every time he reaches down to grab that thunderous low note.


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