All the things in my head all at once.

I have maybe 60 entries which are floating on my hard drive in unfinished states. This morning I went through and culled some paragraphs, each from one of 20-or-so different documents. They follow this preface.

I've been writing, but it's hard to figure out what belongs here and what doesn't. My talent is much smaller than my goals--I can't express the ideas I have neatly or simply. My head is completely full.

As the last entry makes clear, I am trying to make a map of my head, to figure out what's making me tick, so that I can take action about it. I've made a few changes. In its way, this entry is another map.

I can't say when I'll be able to write clearly again. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next October. In the meantime, here are my paragraphs:

David Ogilvy died on the 20th of July. You may not have known who he was.

I am as good as the people I love. I could not survive long on a desert island. I would invent friends. Two legs are not enough to keep balanced. Four are better, wrapped together.

Let me tell you a story, you cumstain on the brown sheets on the foulest mattress filled with the dirtiest ticking in the nastiest hovel in the most horrid shantytown in the poorest city in the most wretched country in the world. This is a story about a guy who couldn't write. And he did everything to become a better writer. He begged. He pleaded. He took classes. He read instructional books. He asked for feedback.

Then ol' Red, he cry out to Boss,
"Where's our new boss at?"
The Boss, he sees his shoes and says,
"Your new boss is the cats."

After the trial was over, we would go out and visit him, once a year. He had beautiful daughters, and a swimming pool. I remember that I gave him a ceramic snowman my mother had made for Christmas, and it rested above a bookshelf.

We won't be married. Both of us know this. But she's a good girlfriend and I'm a good boyfriend, and there will come a time when our gears don't mesh anymore, when we have outgrown each other and the buttons no longer close, or ankles poke out of the bottom of our jeans. I'm enjoying it, even so.

For instance, "Business" seems so real--but it's entirely imaginary, much as the stock market is based on symbols which the culture defines as valuable. It fulfills an organizing principle, the tendency that children show to form gangs and clubs, to recreate our tribal affiliations. These clubs search for other clubs, merge with them, either as a parent, child, or consumer. These are lonely hives.

I believed in ghosts. I believed in forces and apparitions, pressures in the night. I believed I could feel what young women were feeling, that the world was transparent and that I could look right into someone else and know what they wanted, who they were. I believed that people could be psychic. I believed that Jesus had died on the cross for me, personally, and that humans could make objects appear, that telekinesis was real. And somehow all these words, people, church meetings added up to a philosophy of nonviolence.

It's good to know that you, the woman upon which I am acting, are past concern about me, until you are in some true and selfish zone where the only thing that matters is your own glittering orgasm, and I am the engine for achieving it. And later, perhaps there is kindness, perhaps there is some holding and compassion. Or perhaps you are sick of me, sad you went home with me, and kick me out of bed. I've had both and I'll take both; both are honest. After all, I am a burnt-out case. If you wanted to give back, I wouldn't let you.

And from the box of fleshy things
(The edible pink chaps!)
She pulled a silver octopus,
A spiny thing with straps.

I learn the slang names for drugs and guns by paying teenage boys to come to my house and speak into a response recorder. The "blue" is a gun, a steel pistol. A "red finger" is a thumb-sized bomb that can take out a car. I take this information, these words, distill it, massage it with custom programs, and it emerges as a small database. The program is sent over a wire to a cop clearinghouse for a set amount of money. The cops take stimulus pills and watch the database through a cop filter, where the words and definitions are wired into their brains. The cops resell old databases to film and TV production firms after six months, where it works its way into the media to provide some grit to police-procedurals.

As a child matches would suddenly go up into flames in our house, no explanation. My mother was a Jungian, and said it was all normal. The pressure from the exterior world smacking against the window like a bird.

The clerk at Tower Records asks, "is Classical Music Section a band? I've never heard of them." After the terrible moment, you gather yourself and try to explain what classical music is, and that it usually has its own area in the store.

They lived not simpler and certainly not better than we. Their age was complex and lonely, the fury over a few motions of the hips as great as our own. Their names are lost. The dog, we know, is named Spider. The woman is unidentified.

No one has parties, so this is a theme event with everyone dressed as their favorite underground comic character. So there are men dressed like characters from 8-Ball. Some women dressed up in Linda Barry masks, all the pimples pasted on in red construction paper. Someone is the penguin from Tom Tomorrow, and there are like three Dan the Milkman from Red Meat. And a giant carrot.

What I want is a mass murder where the cops go to the house of the killer and they find the Bible, they find Precious Moments figurines. The detective says to the TV cameras: "It looks like the killer was a serious churchgoer who spent much of his time making suncatchers." The detective holds up Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The newscasters say: "Tickets to 'Ragtime' were found at the scene of this bloody rampage, apparently from the pockets of the perpetrator." The friend of the murderer would say: "he would listen to U2 over and over again." The newscaster reports: "the President has called a meeting to investigate the effect of American mass culture on teenagers. 'This Homogenization of our youth must end,' he said."

It has been an extremely long time, but I need a purgative, an emetic to get you out of my system for good. You are better off without me, this is for certain. You are absolutely going to be happier without me, for I am so disgusted by being bound by you, by not resolving this, by your endless moods and variations on them which I must tune in like a shortwave radio, signals from all over the world coming at once, I must tune in all of your stations and ENOUGH. Speak to me over the din or let the radio shut off; let it end.

She came over and stood before me. I looked at her from top to bottom. It's only been in the last 50 years, the spiraling gene flaw that produces neanderthalism. So-long recessive, and then to find that an entire generation--10 million children--was born with the wide brow and enlarged skull, but not capable of thinking in abstract terms, suitable only for pre-literate and service skills. A generation of maidservants and ditch-diggers, filling the orphanages.

At the library in the middle of the day, some of the women have that sourness, that depressed and sagging look around the face and breasts that life is not using them well. The men look as sad but not so thoughtfully depressed; they don't know why things have gone wrong, whereas the women watched it happen but were powerless to avoid it. There are also many young men here with beards, faces uncragged and hopeful.

He smiled. "It's a chance to start again. The Dow is up, you know that? We're back to 2010 and climbing fast. Recovery in ten years, a chicken in every compressor. You'll be left behind again, and you have the right head for what we're doing."

Remember when you cut yourself, sliced your hand open with a bread knife, and we had to go to the emergency room? I didn't have a license, and you're screaming the driving instructions, you'd managed to hack a nerve just the right way, your teeth were clenched and you're crying. And I couldn't get it right between the gas and the brake, and you're doing the shifting with your left hand, the pickup jumping over the road and the brakes screeching. Blood all over your pants.

In one fantasy, I enter Armani on 5th and ask to see a shirt, size small. The salesman will obviously think I'm buying it as a gift, and before he can say anything, I've put it over my head, stretching the fabric like a sausage stretches its casing. Then it bursts, the fabric shredding with a loud noise, the $200 fabric rendered less valuable than a dishrag.

Humans are the loneliest thing on the planet. Ants, dogs, and wheat take each other's company. They are never alone, never without associates, until we stomp the ants, tame the dogs, and thresh the wheat. Lonely people: grinders and sorters, mortar and pestle, with a sheath stretched over the pestle to keep the two from touching.

I have nothing new to say. Just a way of saying it close to your ear.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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