The first scribblings from the Life-Narrative
Mythopoetics. “One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most literature of our age is undoubtably the decay of Lying as an art, a science, and a social pleasure”— Oscar Wilde, in The Decay of Lying….Orientation Day at VCU, a perfect opportunity for some mischievous mythopoetics from Mr. Baron Ramsey and I. Under the guise of college freshman, we attended a seminar on “Creative Dating,” and never did quite catch the point. We walked in late on a cornball motivational speaker reading off bad pick-up lines, “I like your shirt, its very becoming on you. Ofcourse, if I were on you, I’d be coming too.” Intolerable.
Baron passed notes to girls seated around us, pleading with a sugary schoolboy romance. Stumbling towards ecstasy. Then, we took some time for photo-ops (posing with girls), some boldface lies, and a collection of sour looks from VCU passers-by. Come on, why the sour looks? Pranks are nothing to scoff at— The practical joke may very well be the greatest medium of the twenty-first century. Comedy and immediacy combusting in the suburban home, at chinese restaurants, on the corner of Fifth and Main. And more importantly, sometimes, is the belief in your own magictricks, putting yourself on course for a reprogrammable psychology, a psychology that can still surprise itself. It seems possible to act, in good faith, towards the substantiation of certain crucial lies. Fleshing out self-mythologies, strategic hoaxes, and the epic and sweeping trompe-le-monde (in the manner of Andy Kaufman or Arthur Cravan). I suppose this originates from an altered sense of honesty— obscuring the present for the sake of the possible. Just repeat to yourself: Ã¬I am an aviator; I am a doctor of medicine, I am from the future. Screw these people.Ã®
And soon, after the shenanigans, we prepared for the night, and for Washington. And though I promised the details, I can only say, euphemistically, that the night was complete— No metaphors will suffice.
Monday shines brightly. Classes begin at Virginia Commonwealth University, with Brandon Joyce in attendance, inhuman in their midst. An unremarkable course of events if I were actually an enrolled VCU student (As I may have indicated, I am a poor student at the University of Virginia). Accompanying me are Ms. Stephanie Brooks and Mr. Adam Swisher, two new acquaintances (only Adam is actually a student, Stephanie has joined me in experiment) “Interpersonal relations, or interpersonal psychology founded by Harry Stack Sullivan in 1953, in a controversial work that places human relationships outside of the deeply subjectivized individual…” Dr. J.M. ———- (office at 810 West Franklin) came in with a huff. A colorful spiel, I’ll give him that much. Though he was far too hellbent on the universalization of the Scientific Method, statistically-based blasphemy did have an appealing glimmer: “Of a hundred marriages, ninety will fail, fifty will end in divorce. Monogamy does not work, folks” (The notion smiled upon me). He kept rattling off figures. American Violence…survey says: “The Family is the most violent American institution,” and this before any metaphorical extension. I liked the data, feeling it buttressed MY personal myths of human interaction.
Professor Mahoney, unfortunately, fell prey to the naturalistic fallacy of Victorian scientific thinking: the belief that Fact could ultimately dictate Value and Desire, the idea that some picture of the whole could make the hard decisions for us. He espoused, unflinchingly, that the Scientific Method was the only appropriate tool of thought and life (forgetting how poor a hand Science can be in the court of value and desire, or that science has no room conceptually for human agency- the core of life as far as I’m concerned.)… Someone needs to tell him that those desires most central to us are neither verifiable nor falsifiable; they hold little sway in the empirical world that science tests and elaborates. A description alone, no matter how thorough, cannot wrestle its listeners into a specific action or lifestyle. You must resort to the value-laden: persuasion, strategy, rhetoric, foul language, contrasts and comparison, example, counter-example, metaphor, invention, and when all else fails, brute force. Conflict, anxiety, and dilemma are ineradicable, I’m sorry. Nevertheless, the world will never run short of metaphysicians and holy-rollers with the ultimate world-picture, convinced that their human imperatives are hard-wired into the Universe. I forgive him, though; he’s obviously just excited (and hopped up on amphetamines, to boot). A good guy all around.
In class the issue turns, interestingly enough, to oddball and deviant behavior within the social lattice, within the expectations of social organization. Here I was, involved in an Institutional Parody, attending university classes under false pretenses, and being lectured on MY relationship to the professor, class, and university life. Such precision. By “institutional parody,” I mean, going through all the motions, but carefully omitting the purported telos, or true aim, of the entire process. The only way I can be accused of absurdity is if my accusers admit that the golden ring of university life is not “edification,” but presumably the gold-lettered diploma that I receive on graduation day. Either way, I win. Fun with Anti-Essentialism.
(September dawns)TCB…More plasma and classes: I’m joining the ranks of respectable citizenry… Until the daily flux revealed its furtive plan, after due time with the following individuals: the serendipitous Jonathan C. Arp, the lovely Langdon Graves, boisterous Jaime Freeman, ever-dapper Doug Utley, my brother ofcourse, Nick, Ben, Steve, Anda, Muna, and old friends Joe Moser and Ian Dunford. I now take the time to personally thank these individuals for fostering my newest 48-our delusion. Apparently, on Sunday, the King’s Dominion themepark is hosting local try-outs for “the Real World,” a nationally-televised version of the transcriptive fiasco you have before you (atleast potentially).
Fate whispered, but once the news broke, I crowed with excitement and certainty. After a grilled-cheese and tomato-soup dinner at “the Garden” carriage house, I shared the idea with Joe and Ian. As rumor had it, according to their roommate, the local country bar Little Texas, was “auditioning” the next Real World cast, with a guaranteed ticket to one of the bar-flies present. To the yellow pages, to the car, to the Little Texas Saloon and Grill!… We had our doubts upon arrival. No pomp, no circumstance, just the usual signs of country livin’. Luckily, I asked the bouncer before paying the cover-charge. And from the perplexed look on his bulldog-mug, I assumed we had been misinformed. Had we gone in, chances are, our evening would have ended on a sour note: mechanical bull accident, urban cowboy brawl, unrequited love.
I was wearing a girl’s laced tank-top with a airbrushed Tiger graphic, with “Wild Breed” written over top; given to me by Ms. Jaime Freeman. My hair was in my signature topknot, giving me the overall effect of a sassy Grace street hustler. But, as it just so happens, I value a working intestinal system, and so opted to wait for Sunday…However, this is no mere self-publicity stunt. I fully intend to reveal the possibilities of everydaylife, in bite-size 44-minute segments, and under the omniscient eye of “empty-vision” (MTV) audiences. It dovetails into my latest fascination: public participation in my self-construction. Not that others can simply dictate my beliefs and desires, on baseless whims. Far from it. Rather, I am waivering my right to the human excuse, and turning myself inside out in the process. Contigency has collapsed the self-evidence of my desires, so the suggestion box is open to all. Every belief and desire endures public scrutiny, in a proud instance of American democratic transparency. “The public,” here, is synonymous with public justification, ignoring any of my appeals to pity and human frailty. The inner nag is snuffed. Implicit in this kind of post-human introspection is a Schillerian belief in the plasticity of man (even if these actions are predicated on bold delusions). I am, in the words of Stephen Wright, “donating my body to science fiction.” Re-programming my favorite color? Absolutely, nothing a little associative-thinking can’t handle. Sexual fetish for water-fountains, engineered emotions, new personality traits? Like training a newborn puppy. Moreover, philosophical trouble-shooting becomes much easier when beliefs are openly engaged, rather than harbored.
The Real World provides a legally-binding guarantee of the unification of expression and experience, replete with forced confessionals and breakfast gossip. If I do not succeed (and let’s be honest, coke-addled Television-execs tend to be unmoved by promises of sublimity), my magnificent failure will be had by all, a moment of perfected Anticlimax. And, there’s always next year. This is high-flown self-advertisement, make no mistake, but of a different order altogether. It provides a product, a service actually. First, the consumer may live vicariously through Brandon Joyce “superstar,” day-by-day, and at a low introductory rate. But, then comes the moment of immediation. I would need to convince others that I am not very special, just too stubborn to learn the lessons of the Reality Principle. And I plan to capitalize on my obstinacy. “Sublimity,Ã® as Richard Rorty says, Ã¬is the attempt to make a pattern out of the whole realm of possibility.” This is the pitch— The commodification of possibility; that is, neatly packaged for exchange and manipulation. Unless I have a Robert Downey Jr. lurking deep within me, I would be happy to convert my fifteen minutes into a public tool, an advertisement for intensified being, leaving guest-appearances at the Viper Room to less ambitious Real World alumni.
— Stumbling home in the wee hours of Saturday morning— Quite a sight— Wearing a red thermal undershirt for pants, still damp from a wading-pool bellyflop, with “I don’t understand” illegibly painted across my barechest. Actually, this was the result of a rather casual evening party, but try explaining this to new-comers (Or, to the poor restaurant-goers after I ran in a grabbed a handful of diced bacon from their salad bar, on a dare)…It’s true: I have no respect for composure.
Later that day, Tyree and I drove to our hometown Portsmouth, Virginia, through terrential shit-rain, to celebrate the birthday of Ms. Jolene Updike, with her very-significant-other Mr. Graydon Morris (the full-names of dramatis personae, as always). Birthday cake, cheeseburgers, Jolene’s tinkerbell sister Laura, and the thinly-veiled drug imagery of Disney’s Alice In Wonderland—-we were taking shelter against the elements. I have since learned that many All-American leisurely activities can be enjoyed in a relentless downpour— grilling out, midnight croquet games, themeparks. Playing in the rain, as any child can tell you, is nothing less than a hubristic protest against Circumstance, and against the dictum of Nature herself. Atleast, I like to pretend. Sunbathing in the rain, streetskating in the rain, turkey sandwiches and nectarines in the rainÃ³ the incongruity justifies itself.
Originally, my brother and I had no intention of actually paying to get into King’s Dominion, for the Real World try-outs, especially not during a goddamned tropical storm. Upon arrival we learned that “auditions” ended within the hour. The idea of purchasing tickets at full-admission, on just such a day, suddenly struck us as delightfully absurd, and maybe even delightfully stupid…And, I think, we made the most of our time. As for the prospective of a second call from the suits at music television, the future is unclear.
I did what I had to, presumably. I impatiently filled out the application form, which read like a elementary school yearbook, or a Cosmo questionnaire, one: “What are you most afraid of, boys and girls?” (—overly-happy King’s Dominion employees) “Tell us about your most embarassing moment” (—Real World try-outs, fucking degrading) and the noticeably suspect “Have you ever acted before, outside of school?” I ignored the questions as best I could, scribbling in the margins of the rain-soaked form. We then received a number (218) to await an ensemble interview with five other hopefuls. The questions were the typical talkshow fodder: “Why are sexually potent girls whores, while guys are studs?” “Any homosexual experiences?” “What’s your favorite radio song?”—-I didn’t make an ass out of myself as I had planned— no need, another member volunteered himself for the job, and never once shut his gaping hole the entire interview, the little fuck. Me, me, me, me, meÃ³ god, some people.
However, whenever my turn came, puzzled looks inevitably followed. Prostitutes, medical experiments, desperation, lowflown philosophy—a bit rich for beachbunny blood (alongside several other minor faux-pas over the course of the meeting. Genius here accidentally snapped a Polaroid, while nervously fidgeting with their camera). Afterward, the weather worsened, and our hearts sang—- gutter joy— This was our chance to properly misuse an otherwise overly-engineered Dreamworld. The lines were non-existent. And, since the themepark was little more than a ghosttown, we could finally climb behind the brightly-painted fiberglass facades, around the Outer Limits warehouse, into “Kidsville,” and as the park was closing, we hid inside the hauntingly saccharine Yogi’s Cave—-Silent among the dustmites, Tyree and Brandon crouched, listening to hop-along Disney tunes warning children to avoid fatty-foods. These little moments reveal the true Horror that lurks behind all innocence, once the sugar melts away.
The attendant made several passes, making sure the Treasure Cave was emptied of visitors (while Tyree tried his damnedest to muffle his giggles). My secret hope was to spend the night in this little Hanna-Barbara nightmare, or atleast in the themepark at large. But, Tyree, coming to his senses, complained of hunger and observed, quite rightly, that after an hour atmost the Treasure Cave would most likely lose its weird blacklit charm. I conceded… Walking back through the parking lot, in the downpour, we stopped to take in the panorama with boundless irony. Movie-perfect… “Let’s go home, Tyree, let’s go home.”
When we returned home, we received a gift, a mystery. The moment we unlocked the door, a little kitten leapt out of the apartment and down the staircase— “How the hell did he get in?” Only one other person had a key, my brother’s friend Kate (who swore she had nothing to do with it). Tyree and I scrutinized the apartment perimeter for a crack, vent, window, any possible entrance—-nothing. The kitten had picked the locks, evidently. We later found that the kitten belonged to our young neighbor in number five, and was not a Gift, deus ex machina. I entertained the idea that perhaps this incident was a crucial step in the Great Plan (coincidentally, a few nights before, Tyree selected a card from a home-made tarot deck. It pictured a masterlock, with the caption “Locked” overneath. So there was something to this). Despite my deeply-rooted belief in the autonomy and contigency of human affairs, I still like to string little fairytales over the events in my life. Especially tales that cast me as a plaything of the gods. It just keeps things interesting.
September 13th, supposedly. Children at play. I cannot recount these days in a linear form, you must forgive me— ill-preparations for Dublin, meeting with dear friends before the departure, counting money and blessings. Gray suggested a honest attempt at the cultivation of superpowers, and superheroism. A splendid idea. Telepathy, flying (which was subsumed under psychokinesis, we reasoned), human candle, invisibility, and perhaps a few good deeds, pro bono publico— in the name of the people. I told the group of my groundless belief that I, Brandon Joyce, understood the inward mechanics of flying, due to its haunting and continual presence in my dreams. The dream always proceeds in an identical manner: I begin with a light sprint, then a galloping skip, then the leaps widen, like moon-walking, until I master the floatation with my hands. Like no feeling in waking life —-”The year is 2003, one hundred years after Orville and Wilbur’s historic flight in Kittyhawk, Brandon Joyce achieves the world’s first unaided human flight!”
For posterity and evidence, we brought camera and film. And, to truly prepare for the role, I donned a party-mask, a cape (a towel, actually), wore my underwear on the outside of my pants, and stuffed it with a shirt to emulate the bulging crotches of my childhood superheroes. After several attempted take-offs in a nearby churchyard, we surmised that flight could not be mastered in a day, especially not with the added weight of my crotch, under the burden of my mojo. The night before, huddled in thought, jacked from can after can of the hypercaffeinated superdrink Red Devil, we sketched methods for our telepathic penetration of the Human Mind. (By the way, as I typed the previous sentence, a yellow jacket fell out of my pantleg).
We played an overwrought game of paper-rock-scissors, trying to suspend the usual extrapulatory guesswork and get at the origin of the process. Some modest results, but we were still far from unraveling the human mind, as we had planned. Then, I remembered an adage: align the desires and you align the language. In my head, it had all the trappings of a scientifically controlled experiment. If somehow, someway, we could all live out an identical experience, we would have an overlap of inward experience, to the senses. Imitating the telepathic process. We could then calibrate future experiences based on our personal testimony. It was too perfect, and even better—it didn’t make any sense at all. But, that did little to temper our enthusiasm. We considered the conceptual flipside: align the language and you align the desires— in other words, persuasion—but could not visualize the fit.
Gray has his theories about becoming the human candle. By mastering the oily secretions of the sebaceous glands, and igniting them with a palmed Zippo, or atleast some concealed flint, the superpower would be modest, but great at parties. Even if success was slow in coming, these feats and experiments atleast proved how unwilling we were to compromise our bid for superhumanity. And when we are successful, when I do achieve the first unaided human flight, we can come back and rub it in the faces of the unbelievers, just as I do every night in my dreams.
Jon Arp and I then made way for Charlottesville, to the Belmont dollhouse of Christopher Dameron and Max Katz, crashing there along with Justin Stile. There are many hidden miracles in Charlottesville, Virginia, most often befitting nocturnal creatures with little concern for trespassing laws. Being my first night back in Charlottesville, I felt gregarious. I find Mr. Wil Cather, or Mr. Wilfred Esten Cather III, and Paul Grewal, whose friends are making way to an invite party (See: “Parties are Super-Lame”). With this in mind, I assumed few friends would be made, but we could atleast hide in their bathrooms for an hour, or invent aliases and wrestle on the dancefloor, but it was worse than I expected, however, and so Wil, Jon, and I crawled out the window, to seek out other ventures. Because, frankly, I can think of better ways to waste my time. Eventually, after running into Ms. Laurie Ripper and her friend Briggs, we decided to attend something called “the Communist party,” as official members of the university fascist league, Action Virginia. I’ve never been a real social butterfly at parties, the posture is too stiff, the crowd too viscous, or something. A task is necessary, to focus the energy. Often, housework or dishwashing will do the trick, or cleaning and re-organizing some poor schmuck’s dormroom. Plus, free labor always throws off the economy of the world— “You don’t have to do that, really,” triggering spurious guilt in my host or hostess. “I know, that’s the point.”