Oddly, one of my proudest moments was freaking out my friend John back in my fourth year of college. He had just taken some acid, and had brought over his girlfriend and her roommate. (They were mean, and neither here nor there.) I was showing him how great my headphones were. I played "Little Fluffy Clouds", by The Orb, and he stood there listening to it. I knew the speech well. (It was a long sample from a Ricki Lee Jones interview she'd done when she also was on acid.) I could hear just the barest hint of it from the headphones, but enough that I could mouth the words, and act them out with gestures and expressions. He kept taking off the headphones, realizing there was nothing coming through the speakers, declaring, "Stop it!", then going through the same routine. It felt inspired, and I like those sorts of memories. I'm sure we all do.
I had a friend once that I was close to, and as a token of friendship shared with her a link to the second movement of Beethoven's 'Pathétique' piano sonata — which is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world, and generally considered one of the most breathtakingly beautiful. Truly a compliment to one's heart. Because she could speak French, however, she couldn't get over that it was called the 'Pathétique'. To her it was as if I were unknowingly accusing her of being pathetic. What I still think about was that it was probably meant more in the spirit of "pathos". It's a gentle, romantic masterpiece. Karl Haas used to open his nightly NPR show with it. That's how I originally knew it — as a fixture on the classical station.
I'd made my living by my eyes as a filmmaker, despite being almost completely deaf. I'd built a tower for myself with my wealth, so I could look out on to the Atlantic Ocean, practically from the viewpoint of the gods. And then I lost my eyesight.
I could hire attendants, of course. I could still live in my tower—my symbol of hubris and excess. But I was alone with my mind.
I had my memories of the perfect, circular view, two hundred feet above the beach, and much of the time that was enough. But my condition, by definition, was relentless.
The picture windows in my penthouse reached fifty feet. My bedroom was up near the top of the massive space, in the middle, reached via a winding staircase. (I would never have thought how dangerous my bedroom would become to me.) I'd been up there now for over a day, too afraid to leave my bed. No one had come up, everything felt as if it were silent, but there had been a storm raging for days. When there had been people coming by to take care of me, I could feel the wind and the rain vibrating on the massive windows below and around my bedroom floor, and my attendants had signed into my hand to stay inside and be careful. But soon they had stopped coming by, and soon I had become too afraid to leave my bed.
By the time two full days had passed alone, I had to risk investigating the state of things outside. I felt reduced to the over-riding needs for food, and drink, and space to move. My bedroom was comfortable normally, but it had become cramped. My fear couldn't outweigh the drive for essentials.
Now feeling out for the railing, I found the top of the stairs. It was a descent I'd made a thousand times. It could pose no real danger, I was certain. The penthouse would be empty, although I knew its layout well-enough. But something felt wrong. As if there were something wrong with the air. I set my foot down onto the first stair, and it sank up to the ankle in cold ocean water.
I'd slept so horribly, feeling as if I were on pins and needles. They weren't needles, though. Once I was awake I could see that they were little castles on the floor. Like the underwater faux coral in a fish tank. My bed was gone. Standing up on the floor hurt my bare feet. What was that stuff? And why was the overhead light standing upright on the floor?
Pete glanced over at the switchboard, leaned over with one hand — balancing a sandwich in his mouth with the other — and hit the yellow flashing button, calming its insistent peripheral noise. "Do you really think it takes that long to learn the work here?"
Malcolm shrugged. "I picked it up in about a month. It won't take you long."
Attending to the next flashing button, and then peering through the thick plastic casing into the darkness inside the tank, Pete could see movement, clearly, but got no sense of what was moving inside. It seemed to be a kind of viscous black fluid. "Tell me now."
"About what's in there?" Malcolm grabbed the other half of the sandwich.
"Yeah. I've been here a week and a half, and no one will tell me what we're sitting here looking after."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, Pete."
Pete sniffed and took another bite. With his mouth full he said, "I actually would."
Malcolm pointed toward the glass. "Those are spiders, dude."
"What the fuck?"
"I know, man. Those are little spiders. I mean it. There are millions of them."
Pete shook his head in such disgust that it became more of a shudder. "It pays well. But we don't need ever think about that again."
"Yeah, Pete. No question. No one ever talks about it."
Malcolm bit into his half of the sandwich and nodded while chewing. "It's simple, dude. Just don't hit the flashing yellow button. That'll open the tank right on us, buddy. But other than that, there's never anything to worry about. And besides, we'd get another warning light if that were about to happen."
It's about simplifying in order to make decisions. How do I remember that the HTML for an ellipsis is hellip and not ellip? Because if it were ellip, for ellipsis, I wouldn't be wondering in the first place about whether or not there's an "h" in there. Some choices can be reduced to binaries, and that helps with decision-making.
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