the self is Finite

self

“In the days to come the frail black rebuses of blood in those sands would crack and break and drift away so that in the circuit of a few suns all trace of the destruction of these people would be erased. The desert wind would salt their ruins and there would be nothing, nor ghost nor scribe, to tell to any pilgrim in his passing how it was that people had lived in this place and in this place died.”
— Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015

Beneath the Abyss

 

bw-orion_wm

He clung to a floating fragment of red oak while praying mutely for sunlight that would not come, that would not heed the commands of unseen deities, their jaws agape as they themselves clung to the fiery, looping fetters of distant stars sunk deep in the vast pitch above him, spheres of fire swimming in a black void that is boundless in scope and in era and in awe.

That vile, invidious sun lurking languidly beneath a gelid horizon, taunting him with warmth veiled, abundance absorbed deep into oceans swaggering fervently on the opposite side this impartial planet, this spinning cerulean orb locked taut in endless vacuity, merely one of billions careening carelessly along orbits elliptical and confined and finite.

Damn those hidden deities concealed in myth and ubiquity and damn that furious sun concealed in soot and shade.  He pushed away the floating fragment of red oak and soon floated downward, beneath and beyond that vast, black arc of space, no more to touch the deliberate and measured lumber of infinity.

Latent

Tree Reaching_wm“Age spares us nothing, old friend. Like ancient trees, we die from the top.”
— Gore Vidal, Julian

Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015

A Tale of Two Friends

coffee_wm“Does happiness really have to be this much fucking work?” Carl asked with his eyes clamped shut, forcefully rubbing his forehead with both hands.  “I mean, is it really that hard for two people to live amicably together in the same house?”

“Maybe it’s because human beings are just primitive, hairless animals,” Jack replied, vigorously stirring two packets of sugar into a cup of steaming coffee.

“And I’m talking about two human beings who can actually stomach being around each other for more than a day,” added Carl, opening his eyes and dropping his hands to the table.  “Which, in it of itself, is a goddamn miracle.”

“Although, there are some humans who have lots of hair,” Jack continued, setting the stir spoon down carefully.  “More so than some animals, even.”

Carl glanced up at his friend.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I dated this guy named Jim for a month.  He had this layer of dense, black curly hair that covered his broad chest.  I was ambivalent about it.”

“Are you even listening to me?”

Jack shook his finger at Carl.  “But Jim liked watching Teletubbies.  Every Saturday morning he sat on the couch in his boxers with a bowl of Trix cereal cradled between his legs.  No milk.  That’s just weird for any grown man.  Crumbs would get tangled in that hairy chest of his.  I broke up with him over a voicemail.”

Carl held his hands up.  “What the hell is a Teletubby?”

“Incidental to the story,” Jack replied quickly, shaking his head.  “My point is, we’re all just animals who allow ourselves to be restrained by socially constructed standards and large bottles of Xanax while simultaneously being hopped up on caffeine and false hope.” Jack took a slow sip from his coffee.  “Still not sweet enough.”

“All relationships are built on false hope?”

“And lies,” replied Jack.  “And copious amounts alcohol and/or drugs.  The successful ones, anyway.”

Carl dropped his head and stared at the billowing waves of steam rolling out of his coffee mug.  “I should have drank more, I guess.  Maybe heroin is the real glue to a marriage.”

“Jesus.  Relax,” Jack replied, yanking three packets of sugar out of a small red basket wedged next to a laminated menu.  “So Christopher left for a week.  Not the first time you two have taken a break.”

“It’s permanent this time.  He took his plants with him, too.”

“His precious peace lilies?  That’s irony for you!”  Carl frowned at him.  “Did Chris take your sense of humor, too?”

“You make jokes and tell me to calm down?  That’s your advice?  My relationship of ten years is falling apart.  I’m possibly jumping head-first into the gauntlet that is divorce, and your advice is, ‘calm down’?”

“I didn’t say calm down,” Jack replied coolly, shaking the sugar packets with his right hand.  “I said relax.”

“What kind of a friend are you?”

“I’m the only friend you have you didn’t find on Grinder,” Jack answered, ripping open the packets and dumping the sugar into his coffee.  “And can you and Chris even get a divorce in this state?”

Carl leaned forward to take a sip from his coffee, then turned his head.  “Actually, I’m not sure how that works.”

“Would you two have to fly back to New York where you got married?”

Carl smirked.  “That would be a fun flight.”

Jack smiled back, the spoon smacking the side of his mug as he stirred the coffee.  “You and Chris, sitting next to each other in silent indignation on a packed flight for three hours.”

“Knocking each other’s elbows off the arm rest until it turns into a screaming match on the plane.”

“And the passengers around you turn up their headphones, looking over their shoulders but trying to avoid eye contact.”

“And then the flight attendant makes one of us move to another seat.”

Jack licked his spoon before setting it down loudly on the table.  “And then you get stuck next to some bulbous, sweaty guy who doesn’t believe in wearing deodorant.”

Carl started laughing.  “At which point I just open the emergency-exit door at 30,000 feet and fall smiling to my death, smelling all that fresh air.”

“Or you just hate fuck in the airplane bathroom.”

Carl stopped laughing.  “Wait . . . what?”

“Sex fixes everything, you know,” added Jack, wiping away a few stray grains of sugar crystals from the table top.  “You and Chris then end up renewing your vows with in the middle of Times Square, surrounded by gawking onlookers taking pictures and tweeting the photos of your affectionate renewal-relationship-kiss.  Your mom sees them online and starts to cry with happiness in her pajamas.”  Jack breathed in the steam from the coffee.  “I smell a Rom-Com.”

“What the hell is a Rom-Com?”

“Romantic-Comedy, Carl. Keep up.”  Jack took a long sip from his coffee, closing his eyes in pleasure.  “Ahh.  Perfect.”

“How the hell did we get from divorce to me and Chris hate fucking into the mile high club?”

“It’s your twisted fantasy.  Don’t get mad at me.”

Carl shook his head, picking up his mug then slamming it back down, spilling some of the black liquid onto the table.  “Jesus, I mean is it really asking the universe too much for two human beings who supposedly love each other to get along?  A long, happy marriage lasts for, what, 5 decades?  Is 50 years asking too much?”

“1 year of marriage is too much,” quipped Jack.  “You know, I read somewhere that sleeping in the same bed with your husband or wife is only a recent phenomenon.”

“And what’s 50 years in the whole grand scheme of things?”

“Maybe you two should get separate beds.  That might ease tensions, no?”

“The universe came into existence, what, 13.5 billion years ago.  Earth itself was formed 4.5 billion years ago.  Life itself is 3.5 billion years old.  And two human beings can’t enjoy 50 fucking years of contentment?”

hs-2015-02-a-hires_jpg

Jack snapped his fingers with an idea.  “Or, maybe you should get separate rooms, with a third room you use only for sex and cuddling.”

“Stop joking around!”

“I’m serious,” Jack replied nonchalantly.  “It could double as the guest bedroom, though it might make for an awkward holiday if your mom stays over.”

Carl dropped his head to the table, his forehead smacking loudly on the table top.

Jack rolled his eyes.  “Yes. Yes.  I’m listening.  50 years out of 13.5 billion years, and the universe owes you and Christopher happiness, and we’re all really just alone and insignificant in the universe and blah, blah, blah.”

“You’re an asshole,” Carl said to the floor.

“True.  But this coffee is good,” Jack said with a smile, taking another sip.  “Damn good.  And you’re letting yours get cold, complaining about Chris and jumping to conclusions about divorce just because you had some stupid, blow-out fight about cleaning out the litter box.”

Carl’s head popped up.  “How hard is it to just scoop out a couple of clumps of cat poop once a day?”

“Sounds disgusting if you ask me.  You should have gotten a snake or something.” Carl just stared back.  “Listen.  I’m no Dr. Phil,” Jack quickly added, scratching the back of his neck.  “I’m just a gay guy with a regular shit job, perpetual failed relationships, lots of credit card debt, and an unhealthy obsession with anal beads.  I don’t have all the answers.”

“You don’t have any answers.”

Jack held up his finger.  “But, I’m just trying to say that this is really good joe.  Maybe you should shut the hell up for five seconds and try to enjoy it.”

Carl’s eyes narrowed, then he sighed, picking up his cup by the handle.  He brought the cup up to his nose, the steam warming his face as it rolled over his cheeks.  He took in a deep breath, the aroma of the coffee beans opening up his nostrils, making his mouth water in anticipation.  His hands felt cozy, wrapped tightly around the warm, ceramic mug.  Carl brought the cup to his mouth, his lips parted, and the hot liquid seemed to dance as it slid over his tongue.  He swallowed and deliberately repeated the process.  His chest felt warm, like it had been wrapped up in a quilt.  “You’re right.  That’s pretty damn good,” he said quietly.

“Told ya,” Jack replied with a nod and a broad smile.  “And how many people on this 4.5 billion year old planet get to enjoy such delightful coffee while talking to their best friend?”

“You’re a mediocre friend, at best,” Carl replied, tilting his head.  “And did you say you were obsessed with anal beads?”

Jack smiled broadly.  “Add it to your bucket list.  Trust me.  You have no idea what you’re missing.”  Jack added another packet of sugar to his coffee.

“You’re intolerable.”

Jack leaned back, crossing his arms.  “I think that’s a quote from a book.”

“’You’re intolerable’?”

“No.  That thing you said about happiness being too much work.”  Jack tapped his finger on his coffee mug.  “Who wrote A Tale of Two Cities?”

“Dickens.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure,” said Carl, nodding thoughtfully.  “And it works, too.  ’It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.’”

“That’s a good one,” Jack said.  “Where’s that from?”

“That’s the first line in the novel.”

“What novel?”

A Tale of Two Cities.”

Jack took a sip from his coffee.  “Never read it.”

Black Sky

Black Sky_wm“I walk at random, calm and empty, under this wasted sky.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015

Without Redemption

DSC_0281

 

Daniel opened the envelope with languid enthusiasm, slowly running the tip of his chapped thumb up under the lip of the seal.  It tore away with little protest as he yanked the letter free, the empty envelope falling without a sound onto the hardwood floor.

He carefully unfolded the paper in his hands as he gazed outside, watching clusters of bulky snowflakes tumble carelessly into large window panes frosted at the corners.

There was no need to look down.  No need to read a single word.  Rejection letters are always typed on a single piece of paper and signed with a lifeless, electronic signature.

The envelope felt too light in his hand before he even shuffled back inside his home, before he kicked his snow-covered boots loose next to the burning hearth, before he poured that first glass of Gentleman Jack into a tumbler with the words, Happy Birthday, Dad! etched into the glass with an ostentatious calligraphy he always found gaudy and distasteful.

A pair of round, obsidian eyes blinked in anticipation as Daniel walked back toward the fireplace, scratching behind the dog’s ears and tangling his fingers in the copious yellow fur.  He threw the unread letter into the fire, the ink of the letterhead burning quickly in a flash of green before vanishing into thin gossamers of black smoke.

“No sympathy for the damned,” Daniel said gravely.  Dusty tilted his head in response, his purple tongue hanging to one side.  “Shall we try for ten, today?”  The mutt answered with a wide yawn before slumping his narrow head back between his front paws, his curled-up body warmed by yellow flames dancing atop orange coals.

The whiskey charred Daniel’s throat and thawed his chest as he plucked out a single, blank sheet of paper from a tall pile stacked neatly at the edge of a large, oak desk.  The contorted faces of fervent gargoyles were carved into each corner of the bureau by the steady hands of a carpenter long dead, the antique handed down through three generations in Daniel’s family to the eldest son.

The head of the pen scrapped loudly into the thick parchment as Daniel wrote line after line, the words for each paragraph burned into the back of his skull, seared into place through tedious repetition.

He did, however, change the word renounced to disowned in the third letter, the word remorse to contrition in the sixth letter, and accidentally misspelled suicide in the tenth letter, rewriting the entire proposal with the help of a fourth tumbler of whiskey cut with lukewarm tap water.

He addressed and stamped ten envelopes, double checking the addresses, using a ruler to ensure each line was straight and plumb, and sealing them with an angle-tipped moistener.

The strident ring of the telephone shot Dusty to his paws, and Daniel jerked his arm, knocking over the glass and watching helplessly as it rolled off the desk and crashed to the floor.

We are interested in publishing your memoir, the lady said over the phone as Daniel attentively picked up the pieces of the tumbler, cradling the shards of glass in his left hand.

Would you be willing to do a reading at a local nonprofit that helps homeless, gay youth? she asked just as he accidently sliced open his palm, long streams of crimson snaking their way down his fingers.

Do you have additional pictures of your late son? she asked as he tried to piece together the glass, watching globules of blood fall and explode on the hardwood floor, spattering onto the empty, torn envelope.

Daniel answered yes to both questions, replied he could meet on Monday morning at 9am, then hung up the phone, violently flinging the broken pieces of the tumbler against the wall.  Dusty bolted in the corner of the living room amid falling glass, keeping his head down and watching guardedly as Daniel took a long pull of whiskey directly out of the bottle.

Daniel walked passed his boots and passed the dog and stumbled through the snow into the garage, returning with a large, cardboard box labeled Dillon, written in the same calligraphy that was on the tumbler.  He set the box on the oak desk, positioning it flush with the edge before opening the flaps and looking inside.

The dog pawed cautiously out from his corner, staring at Daniel as Daniel stared into the opened box.  He squeezed his injured hand closed, then open, ignoring the sharp pain as he moved the box onto the floor, pushing it flush against the wall.  He gently ran his chapped thumb along the edge of the desk.

Daniel walked passed his boots and passed the dog and stumbled through the snow and into the garage, returning with an axe, the wooden handle stained with a red palm print.  He swung the axe into the middle of the oak desk, and the tower of blank papers plummeting to the floor.  Dusty jumped back into his corner with a yelp.

On the third swing of the axe, the desk snapped in half with a deafening crack, blasting splintered oak in all directions.  The mutt buried his head under his front paws as the axe continued to eagerly cleave away at the antique desk, leaving deep gashes in the floorboards.

The sun, hidden behind clouds of white, was soon swallowed up by an unseen horizon, leaving Daniel in near total darkness as he slowly tossed broken pieces of the antique desk into hungry flames.  He hunched over next to an empty whiskey bottle laying on its side next to the axe, now embedded in the floor with the handle shooting up at an angle.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to himself, holding a picture of his son to his chest.

Daniel felt a wet nose push up against his elbow, and he looked down as Dusty nudged his narrow head up under Daniel’s arm, licking the wound on his palm.  Daniel scratched behind the ears of the mutt as he gazed into the flickering fire, staring into the gnarled face of a gargoyle which stared back with eyes burning red and smoke pouring out of its mouth.

2 hour limit_wm

“I was sitting in a bar on Western Ave.  It was around midnight and I was in my usual confused state.  I mean, you know, nothing works right: the women, the jobs, the no jobs, the weather, the dogs.  Finally you just sit in a kind of stricken state and wait like you’re on the bus stop bench waiting for death.”

— Charles Bukowski,  No Way to Paradise

Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015

Oileáin Árann

Araan_wm

“His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.”

— James Joyce, The Dead

Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015

Malt Infused Metal

Beer and Metal:  A savagely harmonious combination.  Not unlike peas and carrots.  Or masturbation and razor wire.  Or sex and nipple clamps attached to car batteries.

So, why not cultivate that vicious amalgamation into a metal bar that serves craft beer?  Well, a few Denver entrepreneurs did just that, opening a brewing company called TRVE, the bar rooted just south of downtown Denver on a bohemian stretch of asphalt called Broadway.

Slayer Sink

“Our goal is to give you a rad place to hang out and drink killer beer,” their website reads.  “ . . . our mission has always been to create beers that are beyond the pale. To us this implies new ideas, channeling Loki, and embracing chaos. It means drawing from the sounds and sights that inspire us most in life.”

They used the word rad.  How fucking rad is that?

I dropped by TRVE with some friends to drown my brain in more than a few heavenly hellishly fermented beverages (and only after, of course, we sacrificed a few humans to Loki).

I met an awesome barkeep named Shayna (sorry if spelling is off), who let me sample a few of TRVE’s brutal brews, including Grey Watcher—a Grisette-style farmhouse ale.  It had a strong sour taste that complemented the beer very nicely malevolently.

drinks

Next was a sample of Death Ripper—an amber(ish) ale.  Indeed the drink plunged into my stomach and ripped apart my dark soul, so I ordered 16 more ounces of that wonderfully fiendish refreshment.

As I was sipping away on my hops, I asked Shanya how she got into metal.  Shayna told me that when she was a wee-little kid, her mom would play Judas Priest records.

Shanya added that her mom recently battled cancer and was victorious.  In honor of her mom’s conquest, Shayna had the words Judas Priest tattooed on her arm, the letters in pink (the color for cancer awareness) outlined in black.

And it wasn’t long after our conversation that I heard Judas Priest’s “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” blasting out of the speakers above the bar as I gulped down the rest of my Death Ripper.

Being a Saturday night, the bar was packed with assorted groups of revelers.  There were (of course) small clusters of metalheads, but I also saw a small pack of punks, a few gaggles of “hipsters,” and even a faction of yuppies—all enjoying the solidarity of those who embrace beer and metal and human sacrifices to Loki.

dark

Normally I would feel tremendously uncomfortable sitting in a crowded bar, but Sepultura’s “Slave New World” calmly truncated  my apprehension.  I was even slamming my head forward a few times, careful not to knock over my brew, lest I be charged with alcohol abuse, dragged out behind the bar, and beaten to death with giant pixie sticks—as is the law in Denver.  (We take our beer very seriously in the Mile High City.)

Soon I was on my third (or fourth, or sixth) beer—this time an American stout called Stout O))).  And I mean this was a fucking STOUT.  The kind of beer you eat with a knife and a fork.  Thick as tree bark.  Impenetrably dark.  And a taste that makes you cum in your pants with the first sip bite.

It was when I was eating my stout that a black metal band out of Norway called Urgehal began trouncing TRVE denizens.  Songs from their album Goatcraft Torment tore out of the speakers and fed greedily off the beer-soaked flesh at the bar.

But the most savage facet of TRVE is their strong support for local talent.  Not only does the bar display local art on the walls, but the brewery collaborates with Flatline Audio, a Denver studio that churns out (among other music) metal.

art_crop“Recording time ain’t always cheap,” TRVE’s website reads.  “And there are killer bands out there fighting tooth and nail just to break even. We wanted to help these people out and get their music heard.”

That’s pretty fucking metal if you ask me.

The Denver band, Black Sheep of Kali, recorded two tracks through this collaboration.  You can download the songs for free at their Bandcamp page:  http://flatline.trvebrewing.com/album/judecca-morbus

So, if you ever end up in Denver for a metal show (or to legally buy some pot), definitely check out TRVE.  Just be sure you sacrifice a few humans to Loki before you walk in the door.