he is lying stupidly on the living room floor, his teenage son and
wife hovering over him. he speaks: "i am reporting to you from
somewhere inside my head. there are ridiculous fantasies here, and
cruel caricatures of my loved ones; stock footage of domestic violence
and mass transportation accidents. the walls are a duller gray than i
could have imagined, but occasionally movies are projected onto them
in oversaturated color. loudspeakers page various people i haven't
seen in years, or inform me of some upcoming blue-light special."
the television is on. it is tuned to a game show entitled
"Was This Really Necessary?"--which consists mainly of
people embarrassing themselves in highly uncreative ways.
the reception is poor; the contestants are heavily ghosted,
and flickering static plays across their faces.
"postcard from the visual cortex," he continues. "in this aerial view
you can see the distorted retinotopic map. the lateral geniculate
nucleus is to the north of the picture, next to the businessman
smoking a pipe. in the distance, a light rail car travels out of the
city along the western optic nerve. incoming data--the city is
experiencing some sort of earthquake--it has turned around one hundred
eighty degrees, presumably to avoid some particular view. wish you
were here. love, dad."
the tv reception is so bad that signals from a different
channel intermittently overlap the game show. it appears
to be a documentary of some kind--no, a talk show, about
glass houses and the stones that love them. the audience
is clearly bored and inattentive, but they applaud
furiously upon demand. the host is oddly soft-spoken,
almost shy, but given to inappropriate fits of rage in
response to mundane, uncontroversial statements.
by now his voice has grown hoarse, fading. "my megaphone," he coughs.
"where's my megaphone?" "i'm right here," says his wife. "repeat
after me:" he says; "in 1963" ("IN 1963" she shouts) "i came to the
state of california" ("I CAME TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA") "as a
failed architect." ("AS A FAILED" etc.) "i had grandiose but vague
structural visions; my plans had gaps, fuzzy or scratched-out lines,
regions in which i doodled or drew simple cartoons.
"i needed a simpler job, so i went to work in the department of
sanitation. but my grasp of trash disposal seemed equally vague. i
found myself unwilling to throw certain articles into the truck--
anything with handwriting on it, for instance. of course, these
artifacts were often stained, blurred, illegible; but to dispose of a
handwritten artifact of any kind shows a casual disregard for one's
"meanwhile, my obsession over saving things out of the trash reduced
the efficiency of the disposal process. the other workers saw me as
an imbecile, which is perhaps correct. eventually i ended up here,
spouting nonsense on the carpet." ("SPOUTING NONSENSE ON THE
CARPET.") "is this thing still on?" he said, tapping his wife.
his son is no longer paying attention; he has become
distracted by a still picture on the tv, of a female model,
half-dressed, posed exploitatively. incongruously, the
sound accompanying the picture is of a congressional vote
on foreign economic policy. the son gains great pleasure
from closing his eyes for awhile, listening, just listening,
then opening his eyes to watch the woman for a few seconds,
then closing them again. it's just a little bit of heaven.