Vacations of the Pretentious

by Mike Crumplar

An unfinished sketch that I like enough to want to share, but not enough to complete. Was written in summer 2015. Original plan was a story about a lazy trippy vacation dreamscape where these absurdist characters struggle to communicate the most simple of things because of the cacophony of the “Mind at Large” à la Aldous Huxley. Was meant to culminate in an epic trip to the closest Taco Bell.

He gazed out onto Hannaker Lake below which glimmered in the fading daylight. Ah yes, an extended Bacchanalia: surely that will inspire his book in the works. This vacation was the perfect sort of utility of creative energy—the spacious estate of Sheldon Roscoe doubling as a home for privileged post-grad artists of all kinds, the seemingly endless sense of shifting community, that flowed like water itself with people’s ins and outs, arrivals and departures, happening on and off, bringings and takings, and so on, all part of the overarching theme of “oscillations,” that beautiful and romantic life-governing quality of mind. Surely later he would swim in the lake, but he chuckled to himself as he thought of the idea of already being swimming in the lake—suddenly the image of a sweaty and excited Zizek sprung out to him exclaiming with arms raised expressively: “I’m swimming in the lake of ideology!” And so he burst out into a great laughter at the thought of this silly old Slovenian man, not necessarily at what the message was, as of course we are always swimming in ideology as it were, no doubt about that, but rather the presentation of the thought, how it seemed to spring out of the very notion of swimming, as if swimming itself contained a latent metaphor of ideological saturation that inherently leads to the image of a sweaty and energetic Marxist philosopher pointing it out. Thus his laughter subsided leaving just a geeked smile as his mind trailed off towards other trajectories of lakelikeness, other aspects of the representations of the lake that appeared immediately before him, was actively “set forth” or rather “brought forth,” to frame the thought process auf Deutsch, from which the Slovenian sprung into, but not just Zizzy, but also some ridiculous thoughts about whales and leviathans inhabiting the lake (more laughter breaks out—a sudden mindflash of some goofy tentacles grossly tentacling something pervy) to the yearning to surf something, not necessarily the admittedly tiny waves on the shore but a mental surfing, that which he was actually already doing at this very moment, the kind of surfing of a great wave of mind and language like the infamous Finnegan’s wake, which happened to be the term applied to the wave left by the great psychedelic speedboat the “Finnegan” which Sheldon also owned and used as both a base for transporting drugs around the lake as well as impressing his many, ever fluctuating guests who’d rail lines of mystery white powder, drunk off kisses, before dunking their heads into the sacred sober water like planets in collision. But there were many of other images latent in that same lake, some pertaining to swimming as act and others not, namely the consideration of the body of water as something of sheer mass and volume, the product of an almost disinterested contemplation of the, so-to-say, “leviathanliness” of the water, and the whoa-saying to whatever the number of gallons it contains is. But the leviathanliness is not merely quantitative but also a matter of specific qualities, so that if the world is not some sort of bottomless chaos and utterly ontologically anarchic, and well, that’s a pretty damn big if, then this lake could be said to embody some sort of perfection in its gargantuan form, that it reflects a harmony of the world of idea with the same dainty blue clarity with which it reflected the sky to the detail of the little birds flying around, carelessly, like in some renaissance painting heralding the coming of Christ. Like the whale, the birds too trace a sort of primordial ancestry in the dinosaur, so that these little flittering creatures are the heirs of velociraptors and the tyrannosaurs, but now the tyranny has changed to the humans who now have the privilege of leaving their assorted crap all over the world, so that future species of alien paleo-archaeologists may uncover the remains of Hannaker Estate and puzzle over the strange types of trash and the arrangement of the rooms, attempting, likely in vain, to make sense of either sorts of thing, and instead (assuming they even have the sense to view them as relics or texts of an “intelligent” sort of culture) come up with peculiar inferences to the uses and meanings of the various patterns of language and geometry. Thus one can only imagine how puzzling the ruins of various cities of the world, although it is perhaps wrong to suppose that anything will truly survive the great extinction of the humans and remain to dominate the earth over geological eons aside from noble mounds of styrofoam and plastic, floating endlessly and mysteriously, in the oceans and buried snugly between blankets of rock—these great relics are the last silent remains of the great human civilization, relics that shall live much longer than the clever apes who brought them forth. Thus, the assorted trash by the banks and in the nearby woods around Hannaker Lake acquired a sort of charm, their own sort of timelessness, frozen objects of chemical associations that could only be assembled together with the loving touch of human activity and intention, which, in the course of millennia, would lose their original messages such as “Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Kills the Most Germs” and instead be interesting merely for their composition from chemical structures that could not likely be brought forth naturally anywhere else in the universe, and as such our age, our little line in the ever-shifting layers of rock, will be remembered as the age in which these curious chemical structures compose of an unfathomably great, seemingly infinite number of mysterious objects that literally litter the planet. The nature of memory and the act of remembrance are so limitlessly puzzling, he thought, so overwhelmingly immense once he imagined the depth of meaning of a single being, let alone the ever shifting meaning of an infinity of objects in the endless procession of time, time, which is just so goddamn relentless, carving and eroding, like glaciers, or rivers, or… or frankly anything that changes anything, beyond the control of human activity. Suddenly the metaphor in his mind grew too large and unfathomable, he figured that his thoughts on the admittedly bulky and confusing subject of time were unwieldy to the extent where he could no longer remember what he was trying to think in the first place, and that instead of truly thinking about the nature of memory his mind had been most peculiarly deceiving itself, and through this had constructed an artifice of these ideas of memory with the imagery of geology, of the motions of the earth, such that he couldn’t tell what he was thinking about anymore, either a geology of the mind or a psychology of the earth, or both or neither, trailing off into a multidisciplinary mush that hurt his head. But these mental acrobatics were soon forgotten as his gaze was directed once more to the lake, which was becoming gradually more and more rich with wine-reds in the shallows and purples too, with the setting sun against the deep green of the lush vegetation, and he thought of how, in the course of this long day, he had seen a full succession of various color schemes of this exact scene from this exact window, this transcendent sense of constant ‘becoming’ by which Hannaker Lake and the surrounding hills had become his own personal version of Monet’s haystacks, and it was at this point, this day in the late summer, at this very hour, the view had reached its daily climax, its visual crescendo that holds in the time before the sun, in its constant unconscious motion, retreats behind the hills towards California and the Pacific and beyond, until its ultimate return and the reawakening of the scene, perhaps the only thing that was sure beyond any doubt in the world, until the Final Judgement or Global Communism, or whatever it was that people expected him to be expecting in the eschatological sense these days. “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Of course, such divine light and blessedness is really only crudely understood with reference to the Bible alone, subject to the vulgar interpretations of so-called Christians and their villainous Hebrew-priestly-caste exploitation of the sad passions, to such a point that the meaningful potency of the transcendent, apocalyptic light, he thought, is far better and more clearly articulated in the almost pagan, joyous sense of Novalis’ universal Poesie, and the third kind of knowledge of Spinoza, and then best associated with immortal life at the end of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: in spirit the poet will be borne up to soar beyond the stars, leaving behind an immortal name wherever American governance extends and the already-apotheosized Bush family presides over the subject nations of the world—the words of Melville and Pound (oh god, hopefully not whoever we read in high school) will be upon people’s lips, with fame eternal should that metamorphic prophecy remain true. “Hang it all, Robert Browning! There can be but the one Sordello!” he suddenly burst out, with the shakespearean madness of a resurrected Ahab—after all hemp killed him and hemp brought him back (winks)—performed with the emotive excess of a high school play, and then turning histrionically to face the other side of an imagined audience, lowering his tone to the still dramatic tone of a telenovela, tearing up with the joy of a Latina mother at the bedside of a Lazarus-child: “But Sordello, and my Sordello?” After his own mini-soliloquy he just started laughing as uncontrollably at himself, at everything, and at nothing in particular.

“What’s so funny?” a voice broke the yawning thoughts and suddenly he became aware of himself, where he was standing, so that he was no longer inside the lake ontologically but back in his body standing apart from it, that he was being spoken to, and the fact that he was a subject in a world of other subjectivities, to whom he must somehow often recognize and answer to, in an ongoing yet fractured process of mutual understanding by which questions are asked. But he entirely lacked the answer to the question of whatever was funny, as it would require the recounting of a series of specifically tangentially related things, which, while it would be theoretically possible, still seemed an impossibly daunting task, even if he had been able to remember and articulate each of the subterranean connections as well as the sort of lightness that made the existence of these connections themselves comical, and not just as moodless notions. In any case, the particular path of connections on whatever he was thinking was already lost in the surf, and he suddenly felt as if he was trapped in a state of anxiety—before the question there was no demand on his free association of thoughts, but once something was asked of it, that he needed to explain, to make a logical, rationalistic explanation that can be communicated between two perfectly logical minds, souls, if you will, suddenly he felt a specific terror, as if he had been asked a simple question in a foreign language he was supposed to know but had no idea what to say. By the time he had come to some sense and began to think of how to construct a sentence, everything he thought he could answer to the question “What’s so funny?” seemed horrifically abstract to the point of being utterly meaningless, as if there was originally some kind of meaning but it is entirely annihilated in the movement from thought into language, as one would try to adequately describe a color, the passage of time, or an orgasm—all of which are, in their own ways, perceptible and vivid enough that one could try to explain it, before realizing that they are so hopelessly subjective of experiences that it is language itself—aha! Something finally came to mind—“Uh uh just pretty much like language and,” he said, having found a seemingly satisfying answer, but once it was uttered, was just as hopelessly vague as anything else he could have said, so that he was rushing through his mind to try to remember how to better clarify the connection between the fundamental problem of language with whatever it was he was thinking about, but then, upon realizing that every passing moment that the dreaded Other stood there, waiting for some clarification (Ugh! Why?) felt like awkward eternities, he then happened to find salvation once again in his gaze out the window, “The lake,” which was an honest enough answer, and did indeed encompass much of what was funny, although it still didn’t do justice to precisely what was interesting or indeed notable about it. In fact, it would seem like the only way to adequately describe it would be somehow encyclopedic and entail the idea of the lake in a sort of increasing, productive, and unending fullness, and anything other than “the lake” in its meaningful saturation, which essentially is its essence and the wide trajectories of its possible ontology, would completely miss the joke. “Everything… about the lake” was all he could therefore add.

But he said nothing. He laughed. Confused at first, the Other quickly joined in. This time the laughter was somehow different, changed as if through a grammatical declension. He laughed at the Other and he laughed at himself and his laughter saved him from the seductive, sinister tendrils of his own winding thoughts.