Sep 18, 2015, 07:02AM

Life in Boxes

Critical thinking is in short supply these days.

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My late wife’s gorgeous signed second printing of the hardcover edition of the Schlangekraft NECRONOMICON got soaked in the flood, but somehow resisted mold, unlike my ancient edition of The Grimoire Of Armadel, a manual for summoning angels of greater antiquity but equally dubious origin. The NECRO just looks older, more weathered and authentic. Armadel sprouted hideous blossoms of fungi from Yuggoth and other blasphemous eldritch horrors. H.P. Lovecraft was a racist. How much you care about that pretty much defines your worth as a thinking human being. Critical thinking is in short supply these days.

I managed to salvage the poetry I’ve been writing since high school. Some of it is pretty good, but who reads poetry? Probably the same people who finished Thomas Pynchon’s Against The Day. All 23 of them. My first edition of that one got damp enough to destroy any possible resale value, but the galley proof survived intact and undamaged, owing to the fact that I never opened the package it was sent in. I thought it was too cute that the publisher sent out the galleys two weeks before the book’s November, 2006 release. It is a huge Gordian Knot of a book, Gravity’s Rainbow on steroids and meth, the most complex and beautiful work of fiction I’ve ever read. There was no way I was going to read that thing in two weeks. Since High Times magazine gave me just 350 words to review the most astonishing work by the most important pothead in literary history, I intended to make it count. I hammered my editor into allowing me to push my review down to February. My argument was that none of the critics who attempted to get a review in by the release date of November 21 would actually have read the book. I predicted that the reviews would focus on Pynchon’s notoriety as a “recluse” (defined by him as “one who does not talk to the press”) and spend very little of the word count dealing with the book itself. I was right. I hoarded the galley as an investment, bought the book the day it came out, spent six weeks reading it, comprehended about two-thirds of it, and wrote my tiny review. I aim to re-read it this winter, but I need to understand the Riemann Hypothesis first. I’ve been trying, but it ain’t easy. Higher mathematics eludes me. I overestimated my life in boxes by a factor of four.

One of the soaked boxes contained toys from my infancy: a stuffed monkey named “Zip” and a stuffed dog with a music box in it that plays “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window”, a curiously ominous song for a victim of a bad adoption. There’s a battered little metal model MG automobile that I cherished. I wanted a real MG more than any other car. I wouldn’t even ride in one today. I drive a Crown Vic P71 because they won’t let me drive an M1 Abrams.

My notes and clippings related to the unsolved Zodiac Killer case got a little damp, but the file is undamaged. I became fixated on the case in 1982, and after an extensive amount of research and interviews with law enforcement personnel and others involved in the investigation, believed the perpetrator was Gareth Penn, a misanthropic lunatic from Mensa, currently in his mid-70s, living somewhere around Seattle. For some inexplicable reason, the Zodiac material was mixed in with journals and photos that my adoptive mother kept to document the psychopathic violence unleashed by my adoptive father on a routine basis back in 1956-57. There are pictures of me, a forced smile just barely concealing my abject terror, a little boy with a penchant for setting fires.

One of the soaked boxes contained relics of the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era: badges and pamphlets, a couple of posters, all soggy wet pulp now, much like the anti-war movement itself. In this post-9/11 era, the angels clamoring for peace and justice don’t stand a chance against the fully empowered demons of the Military Industrial Complex. Endless war is the new normal in America. It’s completely unsustainable, of course, but sustainability is of no concern to the oligarchs here, who are incapable of grasping anything beyond quarterly profits. My pristine copy of the first American edition of Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book got soaked. It was nested with a little cloisonné NSDAP badge from 1933, which I inherited from my Uncle Tom, a very interesting fellow who hung out with Patrick J. Frawley, founder of the ultra-right Minutemen, and Mitch WerBell III, notorious mercenary. He told me of drinking with swashbuckler and fervent Nazi Otto Skorzeny in Paraguay. There’s a whole lot more of my Uncle Tom in the boxes that didn’t get soaked.

The things we keep and those we lose along the way are charged with the magic of memories, good and bad. The tension between darkness and light, destruction and creation, order and chaos is the driving force of life itself. It’s in the nature of the universe to tend toward balance. Things are pretty far out of balance right now, but I’m certain of an impending correction. It’s been my observation that attempts to impose order consistently result in more chaos. The destruction of the temples and artifacts of the Old Gods of the Necronomicon by the proxy forces currently destabilizing the Middle East cannot possibly end well.


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