Boston All in 1

TRACTION

>Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTAMetropolitan Transit Authority, now the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ([MBTA](http://wikipedia.org/wiki/MBTA))

>Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
“One more nickel.”
Charlie could not get off that train.

>Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned. Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax-Hawes. http://www.mit.edu/~jdreed/t/charlie.html

In the old days, way back in 1630, it took two days to get a shipment of frieght from Winnisimet (Chelsea) to Boston, and by ox cart at that. Today, the trip via passenger train takes 10 minutes. This may not be true.

>On a normal saturday in June, 1909,… the number of passengers compelled to ride without seats was 88,490. –Ralph E. Heilman, “The Chicago Subway Problem.”The Journal of Political Economy, 22:10. (1914) pp992-1005.

The first chartered transportation service on the continent was born to replace this frustrating circuitous journey through Malden, Camrbidge, Brighton and Roxbury. A leisurely ferry ride across the harbor. Of what did the Boston air smell? Surely, the stifled city breeze was not yet even a speck on the horizon… What colors were the waters of Boston harbor? The infamous Charles river?

The railroad, it means many things to this people. _Tink… Tink… Tink… I’ve been a-workin’ on the_ the metronomic slaving of sledge against iron, spike inexorably driven deeper into the virginstolen earth. Our ancestors, or perhaps the slaves they brought, or the workers they hired — those who built a country out of blood, sweat and tears. Good ‘ol fashioned hard work. Don’t see much of that anymore, not these days. The few who wield a hammer do so with righteous indignation, and only between catcalling a passing piece of ass.

As if the first railroad workers _didn’t_ ogle women? If they didn’t, it was only because there were none. Whatever version you tell, it is still just that, a story. You join in with all the other bodies. Down, descend into the bowels of the city, hot stale air rushes past, floating to freedom. Further into the holes carved by sandhogs, or those huge tunnel-driller machines that chew through the bedrock pillow, it’s seismic shocks lost to those above. The ground-rodents, if there are any left, are the only ones who sense that something is wrong, something is different. They run into their burrows to hide, safe with the young — but the feeling only grows stronger– deeper, darker, louder. Instinct has failed.

I rode the T to work almost every day of almost every summer since I was 16. A quick, lonely walk down Beacon Street in Newton Center. Beacon Street in Newton Center is similar to Beacon Street in Boston only by name and lineal continuity. My Beacon Street leaves the quaint Victorians for the anachronism that is Newton Center proper. When we first moved here, my parents remember for me a 2 screen movie-theater, a hardware store… an assortment of other stores that sold things beyond boutique jeans and mortgages. Newton Center is the new banking capital of Newton. Who knew there could be so many banks? Everyone I know goes to one of two banks. In Newton Center alone, there are _at least_ 822 separate bank branches. Sky scrapers cast morose inky shadows and blot out the daycare I remember. They have since posted floodlights above the playground, which are used only during daylight hours. The buildings are comprised of alternating shops and banks, one to a floor, a thin winding twisting monstrosity of a structure, all the way up up to the reaches of our little slice of ionosphere.not really, but you get my point

RETAIL

Teenage girls, fresh from inoculations

Uggs are ugly, and are everywhere.

He blow-dries his hair, but his girlfriend has a bulbous forehead.

The asians always shop together, as do the skinny white girls with long pony-tailed hair, but the three black girls are alone.

>The grey one that she left on the bench was the last one

>I know it seems like an excuse, but you’ve never seen me like that —

he’s fat, each ass cheek requires dedicated real estate in his motor cortext. They are anti-. _Fuck conventional standards of beauty. Tattoos creep out of his Finnish heavy metal hoodie, “COBHC”. He is one of the Hate Crew, he proclaims. She has self-conspicuous dreads. Neither look especially comfortable in their own skins; their only hope for avoiding pity is dashed.

_Mommyy wears her fur when she takes me shopping, she says it keeps the dogs away._

>Come this way…
>…I’m coming!

The lymphatic system was a mystery of science until the invention of women’s retail clothing stores. Suddenly, as is often the case, the volume of lymphoma-and-related cases exploded–all were husbands forced to endure retail hell for their post-war wives.

One male sales clerk is clean, and standing too straight to be straight. He fades to the first floor like a wanderlust ancient sarcophagus, poised and stationary in his rigid dimension, arms solemnly crossed across neat t-shirted chest; he is facing off against an imaginary adversary. The Jets and the Sharks.

>This is kind of bohemian…!

An asian girl wears gold flats and jeans, but her lipstick is too pink. She looks surprised because her lips are glowing subtly.

A girl is a relief, etched from soft stone. Her face is caked in color but swarthy skin glows through. Hair shoots, out and unnatural straightened-down burned frayed, infirm and imprisoned. Her legs are darker than the leather of her Uggs and are bare despite the chilly winter afternoon.

Green stripe wags her finger, bouncing to the pretentious indie-share [sic?]. Mellow, reassured; the world is at peace. Spend your money…
>I mean, if you lost eight pounds, you wouldn’t be _emaciated_…

…without reservation.

>I see what you mean…

>I mean, weight _sucks_!

Young asian man, clean-cut-model. Places with purpose his ear-warmers –mufs behind the head. A similarly clad girl mounts the escalator behind him, descending to embrace him. She rests her muffs next to his, and they ride in warmth to the first floor — menswear.

Even the man cleaning the floor conceals his ample gut behind a tucked-in polo shirt. His feet flash with black sneakers, puma’d in yellow.

The North Face® girls swing off the escalator with ease and are carefree. Their hair is the same.

All the men wear grim-set faces–they are _not_ having fun here. Hrmph.

>Please excuse our appearance during renovation

Roxy <3 Syracuse Lax Fresh-faced Emo boy waxes his mope-over, just so-- one strand at a time. Emo boy has a lazy eye. ---

TECHNOLOGY & COFFEE

French music sounds like Klezmer when they pull out the clarinet.

A balding jittery white man plays on his iphone, what is he drinking there is no teabag, must be coffee. He looks like a tea-drinker. An iphone and coffee on a weekday afternoon in Newton. He was raised in New York says his voice.

turns out he was waiting, a dimpled black man with a lilt.

The epic showdown
Blackberry vs. iPhone. the old vs. the new. Rotary vs. shear-tactile. the owners stroke the hard, slick plastic bodies, mouths pursed with the concentration. The newcomer has a Jawbone® on his jawbone. Maybe they are lovers. Now the money clip vs. wallet take the stage. The second man is not American by socialization, his is an exotic voice– or speech impediment (one and the same). The Islands. A voice sweet with the smile of spice, sour with the taste of slavery and diaspora. But the man’s deep dimples reveal neither.

The bald guy moves closer, puts his glasses back on his nose–the case reveals they are folding spectacles, reading glasses.
“The phone was ringing, the IM’s were coming in, emails…!”
And I was like, “And when do I get my money”. They both laugh, appreciate. Left-right, up-down, press click press click — a chorus line of Crackberries. Electronic appendages. A life em bodied in silicon, glass, glossy sex. max sweet love to the iPhone. Dance your fingers across the wet shine of the screen, caress the Cupertino curves.

The man with a Blackberry glares — jealously fondling his, spinning its wheel endlessly _cyclical_.

Their lovers will wonder, _is it them?_ Have they put on weight, or is there some[one] else?

They will swallow the tears of doubt, and fall asleep to the sound of the aching loins and aching heart. _Maybe I should get one of those phone-things_ they will think as the roar of sleep drowns out the pain.

He blogged his commute, which was also his job. While the suits consulted their embedded hearts and minds, he tapped away behind the shiny of his set — righteous apple. ThHe really preferred to write long-hand, the slick moleskine lay dormant in his sidebag, crying, eeling neglected, the wet ink drying along with its tears. but a moleskine would be too obvious. .The other bald man, he sneezed a while ago– his balding head is evolving–a tuft remains over his forehead.

The first bald guy is not yet his lover — they are business colleagues, they met at the cafe in newton, the man is a programmer – a consultant who works from home.

The T, the only subway to go by the eponymous letter, the self-fulfilled debut from Boston’s finest, MBTA.Chicago comes close, but theirs is spelled… the el. Immortalized forever by Charlie’s perpetual ride,

Is it Train or Transport or Taking your soul®?
Streetcar suburbs are green and purple, the commuters run to catch their double-decker diesels, while th einner ringers walk with ease–theirs is a five minute interval during rush hour. The first line to be laid was the messy, underdog, only pseudo-underground green line.

The train was first invented by the Persians. After inventing the wheel in the 10th century B.B.C. and iron, one Hypocampus E Trainicus was tasked with piecing the two together …

when erecting the pyriamids..

First logs, logs as wheels, then logs as axels — a transition that is less than obviously easy as anyone who has spent hours engineering lego racecars can attest.

The cute french girls have nowhere to sit

The greenline is the ultimate suburban meta-metaphor. It describes what it helped create; from the perpetual flux and conflict of the urban core, to the _streetcar suburbs_ where the only tension to disturb the serene peripheral air is the _rawkus_ weekly PTAOr is it PTO? What the hell is the difference? meetings—the only violence, when Billy gets hit by a pitch at his Little League game. Take the car out to the malls by the outer loop, 495. Or hop on the green-line and enjoy Boston, the human city.

Place is what we make it. I am from JoB. Just OUTSIDE ov Boston.a la Zyklon B, Kult ov Worms

Go Away (in progress)

Go Away, far
Far Away.

Chu!I reach my heel back, swift kick to the rockhard gut Chu! Then airborne, squinting through approaching twilight, searching for marmot holes in the impossibly mottled grass. I will never ride as the Mongols do. There is something about being raised on horseback, coming from the greatest horse-people in the world, gyroscopic blood. Raised Wooden saddles, floating inches above the horseback; short stirrups, tied together beneath the belly, that would make our knees lock and scream. They fly in frozen standing stance, slouched to one side, pole-lasso in hand, poised in galloped rhythm — familiar as their own pulse.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate”. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again” to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
Pico Iyer, Why We Travel: A Love Affair With the World

“What a fucking ridiculous place”
—KJC

Vietnam, home of rice paddies and shards of American shrapnel embedded in jungle soil.

Mongolia is nowhere, nothing. Marco Polo and Chinggis Khaan. He is still Genghis to you.

Mongolia gives new weight to the phrase “Golden Years”. Nostalgia on a new plane.

But now’s your chance to see Vietnam. Before it develops they say.

Realize there is something morbidly fascinating about (post)-communism.

Choose Mongolia because you get to spend two weeks herding sheep and goats, and living in a _ger_in the countryside.

To lands returned
To realms uncharted.

Develop some stock answers to the question, Why Mongolia?

You become a minor celebrity in certain circles. Your mom’s email list. Your sister’s friends. Relatives. No-one at your school cares, or they hide it well. It is likely they resent you for out-exoticizing-internationalizing them. This makes you happy.

Go away–far, far away. You are tired of living comfortable. Which is ironic, since for a rich white male, you’ve had it less than easy. Then again, that’s not saying much. You long for culture shock. To be hung by your feet and shaken until everything falls from your pockets.

You want to make sure your Mongolian language skills reach a decent level. Find one of the five Mongolians in Boston and organize private language lessons for th etwo weeks before you leave.

Buy “Colloquial Mongolian” by Alan J. K. Saunders and Jansangiin Batereedüi.

Six months later, the most played track in your iTunes® will still be “Lesson 1, Dialogue 2–Fast”.

Have a sinking feeling halfway thorugh track 2 on the cd. Sample words: Sandal, Kharandaa, Tom, Jijig, Gobi. Goiv? Gobi. Figure it must be a mistake or typo. How can Gobi become.. well the G is swallowed, and calls up from the bottom of your throat, leading to a slippery o that somehow terminates in a soft V. Realize you won’t be learning this language from a book. You need corroboration for these crimes against reason. Wish you hadn’t dropped Chinese.

Enjoy thinking about how you must appear, Mongolian phrases emanating from your throat as you practice to the recordings on your daily commute on the wonderful MBTA.

Be glad you dropped Chinese.

Try not to think about how knowing this language will help you later in life. Fill your head with lots of liberal-arts learn for its own sake bullshit.

Mongolia is fucking awesome, that’s why.

Mongolia&mdash;vast in her emptiness, tragic in her exile from sea and arable land, breathtaking in her humble beauty.

But don’t go for the food

Ode to Pepto
O Pepto, how gracious thou art
Calming the stomach’s sea
Thy fair complexion glows as a rose in Spring
Thy taste, as sweet as the finest chalk.

All romance is dashed,
Upon that first encounter with the infamous phantom
That is Montezuma’s Revenge.

Or the sting of your hands,
As they freeze one morning
In October.


In Mongolia, vegetable soup consists of:
mutton
salt
potatoes
onions (
optional)
salt
cabbage (optional)

In Mongolia, the girls walk home to their slums wearing fake designer jeans and faux-fur-trimmed coats.

In Mongolia, Dogs are not man’s best friend.

In Mongolia, Chinggis Khaan is the God of Gods.

In Mongolia, marmots steal frisbees and other bright white, fast-moving objects.

In Mongolia, your cab fare is computed using a simple formula:
(distancekm*300) / (mongolian language ability) / (number of mongolians with you) + 500 \* (number of gringos) + random \* 100

Big Brother is watching, don’t say the
Wrong thing, look the
Wrong way.

Traditional systems dis-
Integrate. Morals, ethics, freedoms and structures of life on the steppe.Such as traditional land use practices, and the freedom to migrate where one wants.
Yet what happens when Big Brother falls?

Stone Flagbearer
Soviet Memorial

The veil is lifted, euphoria blossoms;
The image of the Tiger mesmerizes,
Nurtured by romancing Western winds.Reference to the assurances from Western advisors that their policies would lead Mongolia to become the next ‘Asian Tiger’.

I gingerly held on to my seat as we bounced through marmot holes and over patches of grass, feet perched solidly on the footrests of my host father’s motorcycle as we sped through the night. The cool air soothed my skin, each molecule a reminder of the authenticity of the moment, and my very mortality. The motorcycle’s lone headlight danced its way across the steppe; I leaned back, resting my hands on my knees, and gazed up at the endless starry dark. My stomach full of боодог (boodog, Mongolian roasted goat), сүүтэй цай (suutei tsai, milky tea), айраг (airag, fermented mare’s milk) and архи (arhi, vodka), I smiled at the uniqueness and beauty of this experience, and drank in the Mongolian night.

Yet change proves illusory, as do the goods
That once lined the oppressive shelves of state-owned stores.
A dissatisfied electorate speaks with their vote;
Old are replaced by new: the heroic Democrats

Stumble forward.
With the suavity of a toddler’s first step, they apply the shock;
Sparks fly, illuminating their fresh faces frozen in naïveté and terror.
With the ferocity of a dead fish the Mongolian economy coughs,
Collapsing into torpor.

I took what must have been my 100th lap around the ger–I had struck a rhythm; long underwear snapping against the canvas roof to the beat of my stilted step. My right foot always hitting harder as it centripetally held me in an orbit–clockwise of course, even when committing flyicide.

31 August, Afternoon

Flies are everywhere. On my arm.

Fuck these godforsaken fucking flies. Wow, I sound angry, no?

31 August, 5:30pm

FLIES AHHHHHHHH
Now Lkhakvasuren is running around the ger rambo-style with a towel in one hand, and my pillow in the other, windmilling her arms.

4 September, 3:55pm

Midday is definitely the worst time of day. It’s hot, and there’s nothing to do. My [host] father usually naps or watches TV, or both, while I make flashcards or do homework. Meanwhile, the flies go beserk. There’s no point in even trying to wave them away.

Right now the only sound is of flies swarming above and around me. A chorus that ebbs and flows to its own chaotic pulse. Usually, I get up every ten minutes or so to clear my side of the ger, if only to lessen the number in my immediate vicinity, for a few moments of relative peace.

It sorta works. At least I don’t feel helpless. My [host] father is going to tend to the sheep now…

8 September, 3:47pm

When this baby screams, it’s like the sun is shattering, screeching-swerving through space. Except less cosmic, graceful, grandiose, or poetic. The shit is just LOUD and SHRILL.

It’s also the witching hour. Or hours. WHen the flies all take their afternoon dose of speed and then go Bat-Shit-Insane all over the ger. Todo: Become zen so I don’t care

9 September, 3:00pm

…they joked that I should give them burzag blah blah, that I was a poor host –pause to kill some flies–

9 September, 3:55pm

Phew. There were 100’s, now there are, like, 20. The war is un-winnable, but I figure I can win a few battles to make their level at least tolerable. And strike some fear into their grimy hearts.

The Herd
One mass, assembled
A stream of fleece
Flowing, bound by ground
Horse and voice

Ger
An architecture whose elegance
Could only emerge from Time’s
Eternal forge, casting
Function, form, philosophy.

Swarms of flies, driven mad by midday sun
Melt silence into winged static.

Timelessness embodied in wooden chests,
The malchins’ mournful voice serenades his herd;
A wood-framed home in a woodless land.

Learn that everything extracted from, or grown in Mongolia goes to China; that everything that can be bought is made in China, perhaps from Mongolian materials. Which you hadn’t dropped Chinese.

Fights

We are walking down the main drag, heading to or from a bar. A man is standing by the roadside. he is a dark shape revealed only in the passing slices of headlights, wearing a shirt that was once white, but is now streaked with red. Presumably blood. His face, also revealed by the headlights is similarly painted — and wears a timid grimace.

He is trying to get home; with one hand struggling to pathetically hail a passing car, as he hunches over into himself.

Food

Don’t go to Mongolia for the food. Unless you like three things: Mutton, Salt and Fat. Then you should rather enjoy the cuisine.

The American doctor at the local Korean Christian hospital thinks Mongolians have high rates of kidney disease from not drinking any water. In the countryside, they drink suutei tsai (literally, tea with milk). Perhaps a more apt name would be davstai tsai (tea with salt). It is the beverage of choice when you’re not drinking airag (fermented mare’s milk, or koumiss), and can be conveniently used as broth for any soup or noodles.
Main Dishes

You have the infamous buuz. Buuz are like Tibetan momos — little mutton-filled boiled dumplings. Except momos are smaller, and have spices and vegetables. Buuz have four ingredients: Mutton, Mutton Fat, Salt, and Onions. For cultures from the colder regions, the highest of culinary achievement is glorious lard.

Put the onions, mutton and fat in a dumpling wrapper. Make into dumpling. Boil. Eat with suutei tsai. Your first bite may be dangerous, you bite into the familiar dumpling shell only to receive an onslaught of flooding ”juice“. Your mouth fills with mutton grease and the uniquely pungent taste of mutton itself.

Mutton is a uniquely fatty red meat, so bad for you that the Mongolian government runs a health campaign, promoting BEEF as the heart-healthy ”other red meat“!

Up next, khuushuur. These are like hot pockets (maybe the calzones), but filled with one thing: mutton — and then fried to oblivion.

Tsuivan. This was my staple dish when eating at the only restaurants that exist outside the city (the capitol). Zoogiin Gazar, Buuz-eria, ”Mongolian National Fast Food“. they serve several dishes, most which are randomly sold out at any particular moment.

I always order Tsuivan. it’s a simple dish — a safe choice mostly, though a few times I was served it with ketchup. Which threw me off a bit. Essentially it’s Mongolian lo mein. take flat wheat noodles, fry lightly with a generous amount of oil, slivers of mutton, and maybe a few veggies. even the noodles will take on the pungence of mutton, absorbed into the oils.

I arrived in Mongolia approximately August 23rd.

On August 29th, I recorded in my journal that ”maybe I just don’t like mutton“.

I had just finished my first week.

First of fourteen.
Cheese

One would think, given the number of livestock (35 million) and their centrality to Mongolian culture and lifestyle, and that all the main livestock varieties produce milk fit for the purpose (sheep, goats and cows) that Mongolia would have developed a robust cheese-making tradition. But no. There are two types of Mongolian cheese: aaruul and ”Mongolian Cheese“. Aaruul is the traditional cheese made in the countryside and dried for weeks in the sun on the roof of the ger. It is hard. As a soft stone. Sure, you could bite it, but you’d be risking a ticket to both the dentist and world of pain. one of my buddies’ host mothers made this mistake. She must’ve been lving in the city so long she lost touch with the culture and forgot how to eat aaruul. Though city dwellers don’t drink as much cuutei tsai so maybe she was calcium deficient (thus the broken tooth).

So aaruul is a hard and very strong-tasting cheese. very salty.

Cheese #2/2 is textured pleasantly, between mozzarella and cheddar. It’s a bit rubbery. looks delicious until you take a bite. And realize it has no taste. Who knew it possible to make cheese with utterly no taste? i always figured cheese got most of its flavor from the cheesiness. y’know, milk (ie. goat vs. sheep vs. cow… all the cheese taste different) and the cultures…

But here was proof of the futility of my self-delusions. Stark in its blandness. My host family laughed when i bought some, and referred to it as davsgui byslag — cheese with no salt. So the one place I would gladly have welcomed a bit of salty tang, of course it is utterly absent.

The one thing that is wrong with all Mongolian Pizza is the cheese — and understandably so. When mozzarella is $15/lb, and you earn $400/month if you’re rich, then Pizza just ain’t gonna be the same.

Not that they don’t try… (Pizza King… )

I stared at the metal bowl placed unceremoniously before us. It was a matte-gray metal pot — like a wash bin – the standard vessel for all cooking outside the ”apartmented gentry“.

I only got sick once in Mongolia. No, twice. Neither were especially severe – as in, long lasting – but rendered me physically weak, emotionally drained, and gastrointestinally anarchic.

Sickness, such as this reminds you of how connected and unified your GI tract really is. We tend to separate at the stomach. The top is for eating, the bottom for pooping. Yet once food passes the halfway mark, it falls under the realm of the nearest escape route. So on that fateful day when I drank a glass of Mongolian Coca-Cola with breakfast (my host father later told me my illness must have been due to that) the contents of my GI tract decided to riot and collectively exited my body.

Luckily (or unluckily, depends who you ask) I never experienced a majestic GI phenomenon known as the Wind Tunnel. When both sides of one’s GI tract decide to exit simultaneously, one is left in an interesting logistical quagmire. Then, a state of vacuum is created in the center of the body as you spew digested and undigested food simultaneously into the nearest drainally-able vessel.

It took me two weeks to learn how to get to school. Every school day we went the same way. From our rooms at the top of the student hostel, we descended to the increasingly frigid streets of UB. A short walk and a wait later, we were aboard a Korean trolley bus, creaking our way down Peace Ave. I still don’t past the east crossroads is a long stretch of empty road, only one stop or its 2.5 km. Then the trolley arrived at the end of the line, the war memorial. That’s what we called it.


Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, overwhelmed by a silent swarm of stars, frozen in a distant dance. The moon, if she is out, burns with epic brightness, casting a cool glow across the shuffling herd, who peer at me with amazingly complete incomprehension.

(I stood outside the doorway to our ger, toothbrush hanging from my mouth. Gazing at the chaotic swarm of stars blanketing the night’s black. Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, punctuated by the glow of distant stars.)

Bring lots of energy bars. Lots.

If, at any point, you manage to perform an act of explosive and/or otherwise notable bowel movement–be sure to proudly proclaim so to your travelling companions. If they fail to recognize you for your achievements (i.e. survival), realize they don’t get it (yet) and have faith that their time will come. Or find new travelling companions.

Develop some form of superstitious logic to explain how best to preserve your gastrointestinal health–if only to maintain some semblance of composure (sanity). The mind does not take well to dreading diarrhea after every meal, arbitrarily.

Halfway home, the bus breathes its last breath. It’s really more of a wheeze. Watch the driver frantically fan at the flames peeking out of a hole in the bus’ side panel as you walk away.

Inner Peace Through Metal [Revisited]

Black is the night, metal we fight
Power amps set to explode
Energy screams, magic and dreams
Satan records the first note.
–VENOM, “Black Metal”(Black Metal, 1982)

When metal is viewed from the outside, the observer first sees its titanic rage. The music is so powerful that it is difficult to get past this quick interpretation… [note]Harris M. Berger. Metal, Rock and Jazz: Perception and the Phenomenology of Musical Experience. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press (1999), p291.[/note]

Some have eyes but still can’t see
Their plastic noise is anything but music to me
Mechanized and computerized
Switch off your brain and make sounds that dehumanize.
–KREATOR, “Love Us or Hate Us”(Extreme Aggressions, 1989)

* * *

A Guitar tech tests a majestically evil-looking guitar while the crowd mills about, postures awkwardly, cheering as the nondescript man plays some scales. The venue is small. Dingy would not be an understatement, and we can feel that we are in gritty Worcester, Massachusetts[note]The heart of the Industrial Revolution. Local companies were known for developing: process to extrude steel wire (see: the American West and World War I); the monkey wrench; the first envelope folding machine, and two textile loom manufacturers.[/note]

* * *

It all began some time between the third and fifth grades with the Smashing Pumpkins’, Tonight, Tonight; I was enraptured. And so I did the next logical thing: after having heard one song on MTV I went out and bought the entire double album… Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I did not understood the title. I couldn’t have… Can one be an angsty 4th grader? Was I weighed down by weariness, my heart heavy with the troubles of the world? What about this melancholic, harsh music appealed to me, not even in my expectedly (clichéd-ly) dark teenage years? Looking back, there is no process to extract meaning from the music. We use our logic and cause-and-effect to posit how I must have felt, what the music would have elicited. The angst seems impossible to miss when you hear the music. I quickly realized I had struck gold; “Tonight Tonight” was just a warmup, quite an epic one at that, but still–very much still a warmup for the main event: the buzz-sawing Zero; the crushingly distorted Bodies; Bullet With Butterfly Wings, with its hilarious chorus, “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage”.

The social waters chilled as I unwittingly alienated myself from peers with exuberant Attention Deficit-fueled abandon. I didn’t inspire active, aggressive animosity; just a general distancing and idle, abrasive needling, teasing.

I was the fastest kid in school. We played touch football every day at recess, and I’d run for the hail mary, churning past the helpless defense. This was before puberty passed me by but took everyone else with it, leaving me small and irrelevant. I had a classic crush on a girl in my class named Claire.

The boys I played football with had figured out my little secret and so, naturally, they felt it appropriate to use this information for their own enjoyment.We were walking out to the football field one afternoon; the teasing banter continued to rain. I’d accepted futility of defending myself, and so tried instead to ignore.

I am my father’s son, and my mother’s father’s grandson; our blood boils hot and boils fast.

* * *

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.[note]T.S. Elliot, “Burnt Norton,” No. 1 of Four Quartets. Published online by Tristan Fecit, at http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/norton.html (June, 2000)[/note]

* * *

Time blurs; I see myself struggling with forces I do not—can not, will never—comprehend. Turn and face the cackling jokester, watching the last flippant jibe float off his lips into the air between us.

He was down, us both
Reeling, my world
Distilled into edged clarity, a cooling breeze across my neck.

One fist clenched to the gut, as I
Watched; spectator to my own
Actions.

I offered him my hand, and he took it; we exchanged looks of mutual disbelief. Maybe I apologized; told him ruefully that he did ask for it, didn’t he.

* * *

Most adolescents begin to break down the ‘fourth wall’ in their teenage years. Humans are nicely equipped with tools for navigating the social landscape. People like me, with AD/HD, are a bit behind. We get there eventually, I’m told; even now, at twenty-two, I only have carefree interactions with a select few.

* * *

There are several major rock stations that are receivable over Frequency Modulated, full Stereo radio broadcast in the Greater Boston Area. Each tries desperately to define itself as THE DEFINITIVE SOURCE OF ROCK!!! in the area, no matter how similar their mindless blathering DJ’s, or commercialized programming.

[T]he politics of music is grounded in the consequentiality of that music for the lives of the participants and other members of their society, and that that consequentiality is always mediated through the participants’ experiences [note]Berger, 1999. p 301, note 11[/note]

There is no metal radio in Boston. Yet the metal scene is far from dead in Boston’s rougher blue-collar ex-urbs. The western cities of Worcester and Springfield are world-famous for their propensity to churn out solid metal.

[M]ost scholars of metal have interpreted the music as an expression of the frustrations of the blue-collar young in a de-industrializing society that neither requires their labour nor values their presence.[note]Berger, 1999. p169.[/note]

So I moved on to a private mini-prep-middle-school (the only school that could keep my ADD ass in line), a climate where working-class music like metal is alien and strange. So I spent those years listening in isolation to crappy alternative rock/Hard Rock radio.

* * *

A fan: [S]ince heavy metal is set apart from the mainstream, it can be a powerful vehicle for those who feel socially marginalized. From the actual sound of the music, to the lyrics, to the attitude of bands and fans, many of life’s oppressive forces are confronted, from the concrete figures of political and social authority, to organized religion, and then on to more abstract concepts—isolation, fear, violence, death. The theatrical and over-the-top posturing of being “brutal”and “extreme”may be laughable sometimes, especially to those outside the genre, but I think that confronting these negative powers, one CAN have a better sense of how to handle them and to be more independent.

I made the transition from dabbling in distorted guitars to immersion in mainstream hard-rock—and eventually, to full-blown heavy metal— during middle school.

Middle school was a stinking sulfurous hell on earth. A bastion of privilege, entitlement and pestilent wealth. And fucking asshole bullies.

And now I was small; I’d gone from 75 percentile to 25 percentile in both height and weight, and into a world where it mattered more than ever.

By 8th grade, I found myself with one real friend, and more than one enemy whose favorite pastime was to remind me of just how many friends I didn’t have. They were bigger than me, so no quick punch to the gut was going to solve anything.From punk (Offspring) and grunge (Nirvana) to hybrid grooving nü-metal (Sevendust) and gothic industrial (Marilyn Manson), my music darkened with each passing year.

* * *

It was my first real experience in romance, at summer camp the summer before 9th grade. Me and this girl’d been going out for about a week, I’d just been informed of the ending of our little arrangement by one of her friends. Devastated, I returned solemnly to my bunk, crawled in bed shoes clothes ‘n all, and turned up the Marilyn Manson (c’mon, it was the closest I had!). My friend stopped by and asked if I was alright. I said sure and he left. I laughed out loud, sardonically, to myself. Of course I’m not ok, I’m lying in bed, clothed, in an empty bunk, at 7pm, and listening to Marilyn Manson…

* * *

The next year at camp METAL, as I know it today, anticlimactically entered my orbit. There was an animal magnetism to these harsh, strange sounds; from the grim solemnity of growling death metal, to the epic and fantastic bombast of its cheerful cousin, Power Metal.

Jesper was 16, I was 14. When you’re 14, 2 years 5% more of your life than it would be to me now, at 22. Jesper was from a band called In Flames, from Sweden, what I now know to be the second most metal country in the world. He had long dark brown hair and a dry, caustic sense of humor. He owned a stunning guitar: a red Gibson SG. Jesper started a band and recorded a song with them. I tagged along and gained my eventual nickname, “roadie.”

The next summer Jesper showed up with a CD and a story. The opening song on the CD, was their song in a strange new form. Gone were the clean luke-warm vocals and mellow interludes. The guitars were thicker, harsher, and the only voice I could hear was all but demonic. Of course he had used the same main riff from the song he recorded the previous summer. There he was in the liner notes, Jesper Strömblad. But the picture didn’t quite fit. The Jesper Strömblad in the liner notes had long blonde hair and was… a different person. Our Jesper told us about the strict Swedish laws — that prohibited minors from publishing music, thus forcing the band to use a stand-in for the photos (and live shows? So he could goto school or something?). In any event, it’s unlikely I believed him then. I believed parts. I wanted to believe. I also don’t remember when, exactly, the illusion dissolved and he shed the identity of Jesper, but at some point he resumed his identity. But never lost that aura.

* * *

The crowd is filled with an unusual assortment of people. They are mostly men, and mostly white. The air is thick with the dropped R’s of anti-suburbia. Some have girlfriends or wives by their sides. The whiteness of the crowd is accentuated by the blackness of their attire: black shirts, black jeans, black jackets, long black hair. There are a few latinos, and one black man.

Maybe.

If he is there, people come up to him with curiosity and congratulations for upending the stereotypes of those who revel in subverting stereotypes (yet never really escape them).

* * *

While it is not clear to me if the motivating power of death metal is generating a vanguard of energetic youth or drawing artistic and creative young people into a trap of naive individualism, I believe that the political significance of musical sound is rooted in the meanings that the participants constitute and the consequences of those meanings for the participants’ lives and the larger society.[note]Harris M Berger, “Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,”Popular Music 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p175. (Emphasis Added)[/note]

* * *

10 more minutes of standing, shuffling for a better spot, and fighting valiantly to protect the spots that are already had. A restless whisper rises throughout the room, it is not clear where it starts, or to what it refers. The stage is now dark. Necks crane and eyes strain to make sense of the fresh, shifting darkness. The shapes on stage begin to congeal into outlines, and the murmur of the crowd grows louder.

The music begins with a soft, symphonic scape of oscillating synthetic tones. The darkly peaceful chords weigh down on the restless bodies, which grow quiet.

tss… tss… ts ts ts tsh

* * *

Not merely a continuous stream, our experiences of the possibilities of the near future and the certainties of the immediate past exist simultaneously with the experienced events of the hair’s present… This living present is the temporal window of the phenomenal world, the arena within which… experiences exist for us as numerous facets synthesised together, dynamic gestalts moving from protention to retention.[note]Harris M Berger, “Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,”Popular Music 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p168. (Emphasis Added). are referred to as protentions, and experiences that have just passed through the now-point are referred to as retentions. Within this living present[/note]

* * *

six taps of a hi-hat later, the destruction begins.

* * *

Metal. I can qualify it endlessly: Death, Black, Power, Progressive, Avant Garde, Symphonic, Viking, Doom, Folk, Nü, NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), Pagan, Christian, Shred, Neo-Classical. It becomes absurd if it wasn’t already.
What remains when the modifiers are removed?In my current context, one where metal is an extremely strange and alien concept, most of the people with whom I interact don’t see much of that emotional core. Finding out that I <3 metal can come as a bit of a shock for those who don’t already know a bit about me. But we all have our ways to excise the demons the world inspires within us. So I wonder, is that all this music serves to do? Does my love for metal extend beyond the realms of negativity?

* * *

Alexi Laiho, formerly the most gifted songwriter in the metal world (he sucks now), is a clown with a guitar as he admits during their epic live DVD in Stockholm, “So you see, basically we’re a bunch of fucking idiots… [proceeds to launch into a passionate stream of typically brilliant, pummeling, yet melodic face-melting metal].”

Poise and hubris in extreme. Superlatives ‘R Us.

Death be not proud,
though some have called thee mighty and dreadful,
thou art not so.
–Children of Bodom, “Follow The Reaper” (Follow The Reaper, 2000)[note](quote originally from John Donne, [“Death be not proud, though some have called thee”](http://www.bartleby.com/105/72.html))[/note]

* * *

A certain bleak cynicism. A morbid fascination with the dark, undesirable; a simultaneous familiarity with the emotional equivalents from a life of alienation and depression. A need for personal reality corroboration; art metaphors reflecting and reaffirming perspective validity.

Metal is about action and action denied; it is about frustration and about exploring and responding to the whole emotional complex that emerges from that frustration. Metal is not a mechanical venting of psychosocial steam… [note]Berger, 1999. p291[/note]

In the metal universe, there can be no pleasure without acknowledging first the pain.

[T]o say that people are driven by their emotion is to say that they are determined by them; metalheads use the music precisesly so they won’t be driven by their emotions, precisely so they won’t be driven by rage or held back by depression.[note]Berger, 1999. p291[/note]

* * *

End of serious 2.5 year relationship. Abruptly. Destabilization imminent or already occurring. I lay on my bed in the holistic organic hippie house and listen to my numbness and the tickle of my stereo spinning up to speed.

A gated gauze of steel shredded, spinal cranial pulses alternate with delicate cymbal splash.

SPI
RAL
ING

IN
TO
DE
PRES
SIOOOOOOOOONNNNNN

XXX

The perfect mix of tone and anti-tone: texture and full, pseudoarticulated power. And they resound through, across the void—a gaping maw of negative space—the phantom tempo echos across in protending waves of crushing.

My face defrosts into a demonic grin as the negative space of the bridge explodes into a mechanized chaos of terrible sound; tension, and release; tapping in somewhere deep wounded within.

Still you cannot bear all this pain
Still you cannot bear to walk away
Darkness still rips silently within
Still you cannot bear all the shame

I listen to the album Buried in Oblivion by Into Eternity in its entirety. Twice.

  1. Splintered Visions
  2. Embraced By ‘Desolation’
  3. 3 Dimensional Aperture
  4. Beginning Of The End
  5. Point Of Uncertainty
  6. Spiraling Into Depression
  7. Isolation
  8. Buried Into Oblivion
  9. Black Sea Of Agony
  10. Morose Seclusion

Alone in your circle of despair
Your dreams are discarded
Clinging to a sterile existence
Self-pity and lingering grief
Depleted and beaten
Depleted and beaten

I manage to summon some non-destructive energy, just enough to drag my piteous self down to the kitchen for some much-needed sustenance.

I have stared my pain in the eyes
Breathed its stale breath
Felt the contours of its face
And lived to tell the tale

* * *

By 20, perspective reaches a critical breadth. Introspection becomes transcendental. Not I need more, but is this it?

* * *

I would be lying if I said I don’t enjoy the look on people’s faces when I casually mention that I listen to metal,
Wait, what? But… you’re not… like… tha head explodes

Difference is gold; nobody wants to wear a generic label, fit the mold.

How many hippie buddhist metalheads do you know?

* * *

In life, I have no religion
Besides the heavy metal gods
–Dream Evil, The Book of Heavy Metal

Does music satiate the same urge, the same hunger, as God? I was at Sunday service at a Mongolian Evangelical church where my host father, the pastor, lamented the youth’s finding God in ‘fun’. He used music as his prime example and mimed it out for the crowd, hands cupping imaginary headphones and head bobbing to an imaginary disco beat, he grinned absurdly, “Xogjim sonsdog…!”[note]Listen(ing habitally) to music[/note] The service concluded with the parish band resuming their places on stage behind the illuminated clear pulpit, and leading the crowd in yet one more enthusiastic round of Jesus-loving song.

But their needs were being filled by the Jesus part, not the music, right?

Then why are there Christian death metal bands?

* * *

I discovered Buddhism; the un-religion; the anti-ism. I saw in it the intense introspection and honesty that I’d been forced to learn through years of social self-discipline, trying to learn the unwritten rules of society for which my brian found itself less than ideally suited. Yet there was also a belief in the ultimate power of human compassion to counteract our toxic egos and thought-demons. I felt a fit with my not un-ironic mix of cynical optimism.

Can I be Buddhist — live a life filled with compassion and happiness, and listen to Death Metal?

* * *

Music is cathartic; it allows one to virtualize the expression of emotions without the usually requisite associated experience. Thus pent-up anger is released when exposed to violent/angry music — as the mind sees the musical stimulus as violence in sonic form, allowing the listener its cathartic effects while avoiding its anti-social tendencies (that is, violence).

But now I am a metalhead. Metal is not therapy, it is part of who I am.

* * *

I step through the doorway; the shrine room swallows me in darkness glowing with dim fluorescent tubes, mounted bare to the wall. My eyes adjust to the cool light and suddenly I find myself face to face with a scowling demon — its face twisted in agony. Beneath his feet were tiny people, frozen in their desperate dash to escape his thunderous ego-crushing step. Then it hit me, all at once, in one contained this is metal thought.

* * *

The music excises the demons; so without the demons, can there be meaningful music? Isn’t it all about the music?

It’s not the music, but the feelings of the people we hear playing that are important to us… it is not the music as a physical stimulus that manipulates our moods, but it is using the music as a communicative offering to influence our feelings in a re-creative process.[note]:Oliver Grewe et al., “Listening to Music as a Re-Creative Process: Physiological, Psychological, and Psychoacoustical Correlates of Chills and Strong Emotions,”Music Perception 24, no. 3 (February 2007).[/note]

Good art conveys the message, conveys a message, makes the consume-er feel as though a message was communicated to them. We appreciate that which tells us what we already know.

Death metal is a creative response to difficult conditions with real benefits for the participants’ lives. In a world with little hope for social change, in a world where class is occluded[note](to use the terminology of phenomenological Marxism)[/note], the liberating emotional exploration of death metal performances serves genuine needs…

Picture the scene. Akron, Ohio, was once the tire capital of the world. Hobbled after years of deindustrialization, the children of tire workers stood that night bathed in the sounds and images of a glorious rage. The room itself, once home to a force for labor equality, is not merely crumbling, but completely unrecognized by the participants. All of the elements of social change are present—rage, community, skills, and talent—yet things remain the same. Death metal is neither an example of false consciousness nor a coping mechanism for the stresses of an unequal world. It is a promise unfulfilled.[note]Berger, 1999. p291, 294[/note]

This music acknowledges the darkness of the world; it is dark, but that is ok.

* * *

[The great Tibetan yogi Jetsun Milarepa] lived in utter solitude, in caves and isolated mountains. His clothes were very poor; he had no nice clothes. His food was neither rich nor tasty. In fact, [for a number of years] he lived on nettle soup alone, as a result of which he became physically very thin, almost emaciated… And yet, as we can tell from the many songs he composed, because his mind was fundamentally at peace, his experience was one of constant unfolding delight. His songs are songs that express the utmost state of delight or rapture. He saw every place he went to, no matter how isolated and austere an environment it was, as beautiful, and he experienced his life of utmost austerity as extremely pleasant.[note]The Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, [“The Reason We Practice Meditation”](http://www.rinpoche.com/reason.html).[/note]

* * *

The tonal dimension of music and the meanings that emerge from it are constituted by the subject’s active, perceptual organization of the sound in time.[note]Berger (1999), p161.[/note]

This is negative space — clusters of machined rips, lip-biting silence punctuates the in-between waiting spaces drawing pulling ears into false-comfort, tension to be delivered cosmically by the protending riff.

* * *

Metal

down

beats

Gods stomping, stampeding, galloping across aural scapes–malevolent keyboards synthesize towards anticipation — and recreate the virtual stimuli that would have instilled such unease.

* * *

What is the meaning of a wrathful Buddha? We see all these wrathful images of Buddhas (gesturing around the temple). But in truth wrathful Buddhas have nine qualities. Their bodies are wrathful, heroic, and frightening. Their voices are laughing, threatening, and fierce. But mentally they are loving, peaceful, and powerful. Like all enlightened beings, their minds are peaceful, compassionate, joyful, and wise. If a being is wrathful on the outside and also angry in its heart, then it is a real monster — not a Buddha. Wrathful Buddhas look wrathful for a purpose: for pacifying, for taming negative forces. [note]Tulku Thondup, “Tulku Thondup’s Talk in India 2003.” http://www.khordong.de/Engl/News/Tulku_2003/tulku_thondup_2003.html (2003)[/note]

* * *

One distorted chord. 1 and 5. Hold.
Channel the oppressive rumble of terrible empty space, of aural impartial Dionysus, the only God in a world of cellular automata. Carve dark the force through air-confined electrocuted sonic chaos. A glimpse of the Dionysian divine.



Draft of a Goat Manifesto

>If you’re short of trouble, take a goat.
_–Finnish saying_

The goat saunters by like a pimp in a cadillac: regal and cool as can be — until one look from a cop (me) and they’re frozen in terror — then back to bizness as uzual.

Several events over the course of human/goat-history have shaped our Goat consciousness, at least in the Judeo-Christian world.(empire?)

First, deomestication: 10,000 years ago.

Goats are not people.Q: Why do we anthropomorphize?
For the same reason dogs dogropomorphize; it is all we know. THough seeing a dog owner crawling around the floor — rope-toy in earnest mouth growling wholeheartedly, neck-snapping tug-of-war juices flowing. One begins to wonder.
nor are they bricks or pieces of lead pipe. No, but are we really wrong to ascribe to them our own abstracted behavioral metaphors? If the model works, then what’s the harm? Now we can’t be kidding or deluding ourselves, creating expression where it isn’t; but neither should we needlessly ignore evidence of emotional complexity beyond that of a brick. Goats are not people, true;(or robots)

But this is dangerous territory. We have already gone this way with our dogs — and those who see their dogs as pals recoil in utter disgust at the thought of eating one of their beloveds. But do we lift the goat and sheep and cow and pig to such a place? Never. To protect our selves from self-condemnation. _You_ try watching ___Babe___ then sitting down for a nice meal of porkchops.

The life of the goat is driven by a raw spontaneity that has little human equivalent outside of childhood, senility or mental illness — and perhaps those hippie free-spirits who dance around in fields all day or drop lots of acid.

The kinetic momentum of a stampede, in the middle of the night, out on the empty step. Not a real stampede, like the kind that killed Simba’s mother. More like a shuffle-pede. One goat gets startled by a thought or a shadow or a gust of wind, and runs, headlong into another goat, who then runs in another direction. Rustling builds, then fades out as the energy dissipates. A self-reorganizing system — to the tune of their own internal “il-logic”.

The herd is ever-moving–a mile, two miles, three miles, each day. Out, then back. Again until grass turns to snow and howling other-worldy winds. Were it not for the endless blue sky resting behind, waiting to thaw the hearts of its people and the soil of its earth –the shoots of grass reawaken and the air is again filled with ambling calls.

The kids lag at the back, always, their short legs iterating walk walk ruuun MAAAA… walk walk walk ruuun MAAAA tongues slightly hanging, human-like in their maaaaah for mother.

Then, the pagan traditions which are eventually immortalized in the Bible (Sheep go to heaven, Goats go bring the plague to thy neighbor so you can return to village bizniss).

Third, medieval expounding on Biblical ideas, and the Knights Templar trials.
>The diuell..dooth most properlie and commonlie transforme himselfe into a gote.
_–R. Scott. ‘Discov. Witchr.’ v.i.89. (1584)_

Goats have had their share of rough treatment over the years. It started as far as we can know, about 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Persia.

The goat and the sheep, two animals locked in perpetual binary harmony. Like some star system, they graze together, but in realms beyond their comprehension take paths impossibly dissimilar.

In the Bible, it was decided that Sheep and Goats were Different and goats Bad.

>Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
–J. R. Lowell, The Present Crisis. St. 5.“Sheep go to heaven, Goats go to hell.”

Must’ve been those pesky pagans. Who worships sheep, anyways?

>They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols [a] to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.
–Leviticus 17:7 (NIV) [a.] or demons

Herd or flock? A herd is a leisurely grazing through lush Biblical hills and valleys. Always following dumbly, sleeping soundly, until snatched in wolf-jaws.

The sheep blankly staring, flatulent falls, curled hair spiked with barbs for spinning and itching. Some have horns, and all follow. Their tails hang down. Some cultures dock the tails of their sheep. Others savor this, the finest piece of the sheep for eating–even if the herders must spend hours plucking maggots from oozing open slow-bite holes. Festering, crusted in shit. All fat.

Goats were given the humble and thankless duty of carrying the sinsread: bubonic plague-ridden clothes of a village into the woods.
>The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
–Leviticus 16:22 (NIV)

You can eat goats.“Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it.” (Genesis 27:9, NIV) Goat meat is called _chevre_. Goat cheese is called _ooh la la_.Why does ice cream taste better in the morning? Are we really so biblically cliché? Perhaps it reminds us of the sweet sucklings at our mother’s (or father’s) teat.

I have an idiosyncratic taste for food. I call it simple, others call it picky, or naïve, or even just boring. I say it’s simple; nay, elegant. But I have done my share of experimentalizing: boiled sheep heart, lungs, liver, blood sausage, spinal chord, fish, sushi, raw beef filet, mussels, fine goat cheese and wine on fig almond cake; whatever. Just give me a slice of sharp cheddar, or pizza; a nice chocolate chip cookie, and I am content. It’s not that I don’t enjoy food – I just need less exoticism to satisfy my culinary appetite, as it were.

Goat cheese–it all tastes the same (except for aaruul, more on that later) like it smells. Pasty, thick, herbal and congealed; like cream cheese gone horribly, horribly wrong. Sour, sickly sweet tart turned sideways, always a bit past not quite there. (It’s not really that bad…)

Now chevre is another matter. Cut up some fresh slabs, throw in a bowl layered with hot rocks; ladle in some water, then cover and let simmer until ready. To seal the seam between the top and bottom bowl, lay wet rags along the crack to keep in the steam.

Pass the time by drinking airag, vodka and singing joyfully. If you are not Mongolian, try to ignore the food-poisoning paranoia-gremlin that turns every gurgle into a prophecy of impending gastrointestinal doom. And drink lots of vodka.

Cashmere is the hair of the goat. Of this fine hair, the holy tabernacle found its curtains.

“I will KILL YOU, fucking GOAT!” I calmly explain, “Then EAT YOUUU!” I kick the flank of my horse gently, and we trot over to the goats that just don’t seem to get the idea of following the herd.

>The damned goates he doth despise; Poynts out his lambs, whose sinfull dyes hee purgde with bloody streame
_–Sir W. Mure. ‘Spiritual Hymme.’ 326. (1628)_

They fan out in directions, wider than my sphere of influence, and are lost in smashing skulls or chewing grass, or staring into space, pondering their own existence.

All it took was a few days herding and now the light I see. The bible is wiser than I ever knew.As it pertains to goats.

On Anthropomorphism and More

Q: Why do we anthropomorphize?

For the same reason dogs dogropomorphize“Are you a dog?” from Milton is a Shitbag, a short film by Courtney Davis http://www.miltonisashitbag.com/; it is all we know. THough seeing a dog owner crawling around her NYC penthouse — rope toy in mouth growling wholeheartedly, neck-snapping tug-of-war juices flowing. One begins to wonder.

Goats have had their share of rough treatment over the years. It started as far as we can know, about 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Persia.

In the Bible, it was decided that Sheep and Goats were Different; those of the Nineties know the refrain: “Sheep go to heaven, Goats go to hell.” So true, indeed.

Goats were given the humble and thankless duty of carrying the sins (read: bubonic plague-ridden clothes) of a village into the woods (i.e. Carrying the “sins” to the next village…).

Words: Fire Truck, Purple, Ger, Goat

The goat saunters by like a pimp in a cadillac — one touch look from a cop and they freeze in terror, but then they’re back to bizness as uzual.

The life of the goat is driven by a raw spontaneity that has little human equivalent outside of: childhood, senility or mental illness — and perhaps those hippie free-spirits who dance around in fields all day or drop lots of acid.

The kinetic momentum of a stampede, in the middle of the night, out on the empty step. Not a real stampede, like the kind that killed Simba’s mother. More like a shuffle-pede. One goat gets startled by a thought or a shadow or a gust of wind, and runs, headlong into another goat, who then runs in another direction. Rustling builds, then fades out as the energy dissipates. A self-reorganizing system — to the tune of their own internal “il-logic”.


Why does ice cream taste better in the morning? Are we really so biblically cliché? Perhaps it reminds us of the sweet sucklings at our mother’s (or father’s) teat.

I have an idiosyncratic taste for food. I call it simple, others call it picky, or naïve, or even just boring. I say it’s simple; nay, elegant. But I have done my share of experimentalizing: boiled sheep heart, lungs, liver, blood sausage, spinal chord, fish, sushi, raw beef filet, mussels, fine goat cheese and wine on fig almond cake; whatever. Just give me a slice of sharp cheddar, or pizza; a nice chocolate chip cookie, and I am content. It’s not that I don’t enjoy food – I just need less exoticism to satisfy my culinary appetite, as it were.

Goat cheese–it all tastes the same (except for _aaruul_, more on that later) like it smells. Pasty, thick, herbal and congealed; like cream cheese gone horribly, horribly wrong. Sour, sickly sweet tart turned sideways, always a bit past not quite there. (It’s not really _that_ bad…)

Now chevre is another matter. Cut up some fresh slabs, throw in a bowl layered with hot rocks; ladle in some water, then cover and let simmer until ready. To seal the seam between the top and bottom bowl, lay wet rags along the crack to keep in the steam.

Pass the time by drinking airag, vodka and singing joyfully. If you are not Mongolian, try to ignore the food-poisoning paranoia-gremlin that turns every gurgle into a prophecy of impending gastrointestinal doom. And drink lots of vodka.

Goats are not people; but are we really wrong to ascribe to them our own abstracted behavioral metaphors? If the model works, then what’s the harm? Now we can’t be kidding or deluding ourselves, creating expression where it isn’t; but neither should we needlessly ignore evidence of emotional complexity beyond that of a brick. Goats are not people, true; nor are they bricks or pieces of lead pipe (or robots).

But this is dangerous territory. We have already gone this way with our dogs — and those who see their dogs as pals recoil in utter disgust at the thought of eating one of their beloveds. But do we lift the goat and sheep and cow and pig to such a place? Never. To protect our selves from self-condemnation. _You_ try watching ___Babe___ then sitting down for a nice meal of porkchops.

Bondage Goat Zombie

Several events over the course of human/goat-history have shaped our Goat consciousness, at least in the Judeo-Christian world (empire?). First, deomestication: 10,000 years ago. Then, the pagan traditions which are eventually immortalized in the Bible (Sheep go to heaven, Goats go bring the plague to thy neighbor so you can return to village bizniss). Third, medieval expounding on Biblical ideas, and the Knights Templar trials.
>The diuell..dooth most properlie and commonlie transforme himselfe into a gote.
_–R. Scott. ‘Discov. Witchr.’ v.i.89. (1584)_

5. Black metal — the most tongue-in-cheek and heavy form of goat bedevilment. (See: bondage goat zombie)

Song of Solomon 4:1
[ Lover ] How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead.

Job 39

1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?

2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?

3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.

Jeremiah 50:8
“Flee out of Babylon;
leave the land of the Babylonians,
and be like the goats that lead the flock.

Daniel 8:5-8
As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power. The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

9-12
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saintsOr rebellion, the armies and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

Capra-cious

Wherefore art thou, goate?

>The diuell..dooth most properlie and commonlie transforme himselfe into a gote.
_–R. Scott. ‘Discov. Witchr.’ v.i.89. (1584)_

>If you’re short of trouble, take a goat.
_–Finnish saying_

The goat and the sheep, two animals locked in perpetual binary harmony. Like some star system, they graze together, but in realms beyond their comprehension take paths impossibly dissimilar.

>Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
_–J. R. Lowell, The Present Crisis. St. 5._

The sheep blankly staring, flatulent falls, curled hair spiked with barbs for spinning and itching. Some have horns, and all follow. Their tails hang down. Some cultures dock the tails of their sheep. Others savor this, the finest piece of the sheep for eating–even if the herders must spend hours plucking maggots from oozing open slow-bite holes. Festering, crusted in shit. All fat.

There is one sheep, who we chase down, whirring in Chinese dirt-biking glory–it leaps blindly forward, eyes panick-stricken; away away, out out, between its legs flaps a blood-stained rag of a tail, maggots feasting deep in its flesh. One by one, the grubs are skewed and drawn from the baying flesh, like pulling a gummy-candy from ones mouth. (?). 10 minutes later, and there is a pile of fleshy naked bodies writhing in the dirt. A dusting of white powder on the wound to disinfect, and the knee is pulled off the sheep’s flank. It bulges to its feet and trots after its departed friends, reluctant victorious “baaa’s” sent back in our direction.

Herd or flock? A herd is a leisurely grazing through lush Biblical hills and valleys. Always following dumbly, sleeping soundly, until snatched in wolf-jaws.

>Lying there, I heard the gentle, drowsy tinkling if a goat-bell, and presently the herds wandered past us, pausing to stare with vacant yellow eyes, bleat sneeringly, and then move on.
_Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals (1956)_

The shepherd stands peacefully-by with crook and gaze–pious and holy–rising tall/towering above the grazing beastss–his eye fastened on the heavenly horizon.

>As the goats,
That late have skipt and wanton’d rapidly
Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta’en
Their supper on the herb, now silent lie
And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown,
Upon his staff, and leaning watches them:
And as the swain, that lodges out all night
In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey
Disperse them: even so all three abode,
I as a goat, and as the shepherds they,
Close pent on either side by shelving rock.
–Dante Alighieri. _The Divine Comedy, “Purgatory. Canto XXVII.”_

The herd is ever-moving–a mile, two miles, three miles, each day. Out, then back. Again until grass turns to snow and howling other-worldy winds. Were it not for the endless blue sky resting behind, waiting to thaw the hearts of its people and the soil of its earth –the shoots of grass reawaken and the air is again filled with ambling calls.

The kids lag at the back, always, their short legs iterating walk walk ruuun MAAAA… walk walk walk ruuun MAAAA tongues slightly hanging, human-like in their calls.

>’I must discipline these idiots,’ Omolo said to himself…’I must beat them today, goats!’
_–Inside Kenya Today. Mar 37/2. (1972)_

“I will KILL YOU, fucking GOAT!” I calmly explain, “Then EAT YOUUU!” I kick the flank of my horse gently, and we trot over to the goats that just don’t seem to get the idea of following the herd.

>The damned goates he doth despise; Poynts out his lambs, whose sinfull dyes hee purgde with bloody streame
_–Sir W. Mure. ‘Spiritual Hymme.’ 326. (1628)_

They fan out in directions, wider than my sphere of influence, and are lost in smashing skulls or chewing grass, or staring into space, pondering their own existence.

General Advice on Mongolia Travel

Bring lots of energy bars. _Lots_.

If, at any point, you manage to perform an act of explosive and/or otherwise notable bowel movement–be sure to proudly proclaim so to your travelling companions. If they fail to recognize you for your achievements (i.e. survival), realize they _don’t get it (yet)_ and have faith that _their time will come_. Or find new travelling companions.

Develop some form of superstitious logic to explain how best to preserve your gastrointestinal health–if only to maintain some semblance of composure (sanity). The mind does not take well to dreading diarrhea after every meal, arbitrarily.

Halfway home, the bus breathes its last breath. It’s really more of a wheeze. Watch the driver frantically fan at the flames peeking out of a hole in the bus’ side panel as you walk away.

I see it all unfold from about, without. A meta-travel. We goto this land for many reasons that are all the same. We run from broken homes, repentant lovers, dead pets.

Flip through the study-abroad brochures advertising semesters in Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam. Flip to the next page.

Now you are in the Exotic section. Beijing, Hangzhou, Dakar, Yaoundé. Wish you hadn’t dropped Chinese. It couldn’t have been _that_ bad.

The Dark Continent and the Exotic East, like two stepchildren. Appreciated intellectually, but when it comes down to the wire, people’s loyalties reveal themselves, and align conveniently with the flows of capital and genealogy.

You have narrowed your selection to two choices: Vietnam or Mongolia. Or Nepal. But you eliminate that because you’ve been, if only briefly. Feel bad for not wanting more to go to Africa. You must be an Orientalist asshole, or something. Make a note to work on that.

Vietnam, home of rice paddies and shards of American shrapnel embedded in jungle soil.

Mongolia is nowhere, nothing. Marco Polo and Genghis Khan. He is still Genghis to you.

Mongolia gives new weight to the phrase “Golden Years”. Nostalgia on a new plane.

But _now’s your chance_ to see Vietnam. _Before it develops_ they say.

Realize there is something morbidly fascinating about (post)-communism.

Choose Mongolia because you get to spend two weeks herding sheep and goats, and living in a yurt in the countryside. This appeals to you, but seems to be lost on others.

Develop some stock answers to the question, _Why Mongolia?_ Your favorites are: _Why not?_ or even better, _Because it’s fucking awesome, that’s why._ Deliver these with an air of definite confidence, as if the subject should require no further exploration.

you become a minor celebrity in certain circles. Your mom’s email list. Your sister’s friends. Relatives. No-one at your school cares, or they hide it well. It is likely they resent you for out-exoticizing-internationalizing them. This makes you happy.

Go away–far, far away. You are tired of living comfortable. Which is ironic, since for a rich white male, you’ve had it less than _easy_. Then again, that’s not saying much. you long for culture shock. To be hung by your feet and shaken until everything falls from your pockets.

_You are going to Mongolia_. Repeat 3 times. The words fail to become any less surreal. Two months later, you will echo this experience in downtown Ulaanbaatar, _You are in Mongolia_. Repeat 3 times.

Wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you don’t seem to be _falling in love_ with this place. _What does that even mean?_

And the food is bad enough to prevent any long-term relationship from developing [past the early stages].

Learn that everything extracted from, or grown in Mongolia goes to China; that everything that can be bought is made in China, perhaps from Mongolian materials. Which you hadn’t dropped Chinese.

You want to make sure your Mongolian language skills reach a decent level. Find one of the five Mongolians in Boston and organize private language lessons for th etwo weeks before you leave.

Buy “Colloquial Mongolian” by Alan J. K. Saunders and Jansangiin Batereedüi.

Six months later, the _most played track_ in your iTunes® will still be “Lesson 1, Dialogue 2–Fast”.

Have a sinking feeling halfway thorugh track 2 on the cd. Sample words: Sandal, Kharandaa, Tom, Jijig, Gobi. _Goiv_? Gobi. Figure it must be a mistake or typo. How can Gobi become.. well the G is swallowed, and calls up from the bottom of your throat, leading to a slippery o that somehow terminates in a soft V. Realize you won’t be learning this language from a book. You need corroboration for these crimes against reason. Wish you hadn’t dropped Chinese.

Enjoy thinking about how you must appear, Mongolian phrases emanating from your throat as you practice to the recordings on your daily commute on the wonderful MBTA.

Be glad you dropped Chinese.

Try not to think about how knowing this language will help you later in life. Fill your head with lots of liberal-arts _learn for its own sake_ bullshit.

_Mongolia is fucking awesome_, that’s why.

More notes on a translator

Wake up early so you and N can get a head start on your day. Head to the market via the “taxi stand” at the main crossroads downtown. Stand by and look uninvolved as she grilles the drivers for rates and times; you don’t want them to raise her rate because of you. Sweep the market, buy some foods–her for the ride back to UB, you for your last two days in Kharkhorin.

On your birthday, stop by a shop in town for a bottle of vodka. Your family will serve you a special meal: öökhgüi buudz and khuushuur (Mongolian dumplings and fried meat pastries without added fat!!!! a travesty!?!). Thank them. You are truly touched. They have forsaken fat for you, what could be more touching? Reflect on what this says about Mongolian cuisine. Or don’t.

Laugh knowingly when they pull out a bottle of vodka. Realize it’s going to be a long night. But this is your chance, the last hope of drawing N out of her awkward shell. You will be wrong. She will refuse the birthday vodka. Be confused, who rejects vodka in Mongolia? She said she drinks, but just “doesn’t feel like it.” On your birthday? Disagree, and let the two shots you’re ahead do the arguing. Engage in a debate. Wonder if its worth the fight.

Meanwhile, your host mother lobbies for opening the second bottle. You tell her _only if N drinks with us_.

Finally, she relents, in principle. Yet she continues playing with one of the kids’ videogames in the corner of the kitchen. Seeing her from afar, she is moping like the seven-year-old owner of the toy would. Her drink sits on the table unattended.

If she drinks, you miss it, and she is none the jollier. Find her sleeping in your shared room.

The next morning be cheerful. Hope _that she had fun last night_. Don’t be shocked if she replies, flatly, _No_. After all, _you made her drink_. Don’t bother trying to explain that it was her choice to make. _You made it impossible for her not to drink_.

Be amused that you have, apparently, just peer-pressured a 30-year-old into drinking on your birthday. Ponder the moral implications, and the hilarity of the situation during your frigid walk to town. Hopefully the thoughts will cloud your mind from the tingling of your stinging face and numbing extremities.

Be thankful you brought _expedition-weight_ long underwear. You never knew such a glorious thing existed.

Try not to think about the fact that you’ve been wearing the same pair for the last two weeks.

—-
___On Rapport___
Try not to complain too much about the cold–even if your translator seems to sympathize.

Also try not to tease her for holding irrational ethnic/national stereotypes during your first extended interaction.

These may, or may not, improve your chances of developing rapport.

—-
___On Translation___
Accept the fact that after words leave your mouth, and before they reach the mind of your interviewees, they will take a vacation of epic proportions to lands unknown and unseen. After which they may not resemble their former selves. _Ever since Jimmy came back… he’s… never quite been the same…_

Realize there are some questions/words/concepts/jokes/idioms that just won’t be understood.

—-

Fragments

From 3/2/08

A Circle

Round curvilinear. A square connected gracefully from midpoint to midpoint with no corners, none. It is a measure of perfection–circumference to diameter always. Circle forms the basis for life; our life, at least. The sun, an abstract circle shining light onto the 2nd most prolific — the moon — both gazing down onto our humble blue-green oblate spheroid (sort-of circles).

A Spiral Staircase

The only way to enter the forbidden chambers are through a secret door, and a dark, dank spiral staircase. Torch in hand, its flames licking the moss-covered stones as they whirl past, you lose track of time and space. Up or down? Moving, or merely trying not to fall as the world spins around you? Never able to see beyond the next edge…
Get one today! 1-800-Spiralz

Classical Music

Through this confluence
of sounds we
gaze into worlds gone by
a saccharine pop ballad
for a lady with corset-fractured
ribs, and impotent, hunting husband.
Play on, as the shark-infested waters rise,
lap across your leather loafers
Yet the waltz swings overtop,
floating effortlessly over the screams of
drowning passengers — conjuring a mirage
of civility amidst the embodiment of civil
failure

Water Fountain, Terrified

Cold, grey steel; a bar embossed, PUSH. Chrome pipes crawled from the wall up, up, into the bowels of this infernal contraption. The stream of water would surely explode, filling the hallway with the roar of rushing torrents–and sucking undertow.

The water fountain of DEATH.

How to Hire a Translator in Mongolia — 3 Times (incomplete)

[disclaimer: since this post has already become the top google hit for “how to find a translator in Mongolia” I wanted to add a quick note to those actually looking for advice in this matter. Do some networking; hook up with the expat community, or local institutions (hit some of the cafés, make some friends). Find out who other people have already worked with. Meet and chat with the prospects. Then, if/when you decide (this is the most important point): GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. and make sure you work out all the details in advance. Especially if your work involves travel to the countryside–should your translator decide they don’t quite like the terms, and want to renegotiate, you won’t have much ground to stand on if you’re halfway to nowheresville, broken down on the side of some (non)-road; if you know what I mean. Not that that’s likely to happen. Mongolians are pretty friendly people. But better safe than sorry. Now, the following is a piece of creative nonfiction regarding a particularly colorful experience I had with translators during my research there.]

First, ask your host institution–they will have a list compiled by the language teachers (who are university grads in their twenties with decent English). A few names will be starred, one of whom is from the town where you plan to do your research. You lay claim to her services.

You meet the prospective translator outside the Wrestling Palace, not far from your student hostel.

Find somewhere to chat. Preferably a grimy _buuz_ emporium Realize she has flawless English, with a British accent! Talk for ages about your research ideas, and get lots of helpful suggestions. Hire her on the spot, and setup a preliminary itinerary and departure date.

Spend a couple days travelling around the factory district where you’ll get a random _in_ at a small skin processing factory named after Chicago, Illinois.

Change your trip destination to somewhere more accessible. Set an itinerary and date of departure.

Meet with your academic director, who will ask you casually about your translator arrangements. Mention her name, and feel uneasy when the AD does a double take, then laughs fiendishly as she hints at some past drama (she worked for the program last semester as a language teacher, and “wasn’t asked to come back”). The pit in your gut gains mass and shape. She assures you that maybe things will be different–since things went smoothly when she was hired by a student for his research…

Decide to take the risk given what you’ve seen of her character so far. Or rather, that you’re leaving in two days and have no other options. You push from your mind the ever-surfacing thought that her english is just a little too good to be working for some college student for $20 a day, let alone working as a Mongolian language teacher at SIT. She could land a real translation job, without having to travel around the countryside.

Breach the subject casually, and receive a surprised and innocent response. _She doesn’t know how she could think so highly of your AD, yet still be the target of such animosity… *sigh*_

Leave the subject to rest.

The next day, meet as usual, by the Wrestling Palace–and hail a car (in Mongolia, every car is a taxi). You are headed to the skin markets outside the city to find a ride to the countryside, and gather more info. You are leaving in two days and are nervous. As a car pulls over, your translator asks you to _Guess what?_ You guess, _What?_ She anticlimactically informs you that _she’s leaving for Beijing in the morning._

Laugh, and interrogate her face for signs of a joke. Feel numb, and laugh, cause _what else can you do?_

She mentions her venture into the _party business_. She organizes New Years parties in the city. Her husband is in China getting supplies.

_Remember the supplies her husband was bringing back?_ Well, turns out they’re stuck at the border, mired in red tape, and she has family strings to pull that might help.

Stare at her dumbly, and continue to hope this is all a sick joke. _You really had me there, for a second!_ You will say.

She reassures you that _Everything will be fine_ since she talked to a friend and past co-worker who is willing to take over. She reassures you that the friend’s English is good, _Better than her own!_

Nod gravely, your eyes are now glazed with cynical skepticism. You have no choice _Can she meet soon? As in, tonight? As in, after you get back from the market?_

Meet at a _Khaan Buuz_ (_Mongolian National Fast Food_), and talk about your research and plans for travel. Feel the pit grow larger as you realize the new translator’s English is far from better, or even comparable. And any rapport you had with the first translator is now replaced with awkward distance.

Decide to leave a day later. You have two days to find a ride. Head to the market, and spend the day mostly chatting with the new translator about life and politics. Realize that maybe your good-natured teasing is lost on her; reminisce about your two days with the version 1.

Head to the market again the next day, with the new translator. At some point she mentions that her schedule has changed. _She totally forgot when she agreed at first_ but she has a wedding to go to. A wedding that falls directly in the middle of your research trip, as you transition from countryside town to countryside city. Laugh some more.

Decide to just roll with things, since… well, you have no choice. Figure you can find a translator in the city.

On your way back to the city on the second day, she will try to re-negotiate her terms, asking for more money. Fight the anger that wells up, and try to explain calmly why you feel this is ridiculous, for her to re-negotiate one days before leaving on a two week research trip. And she’s going to a wedding.

After your week in the countryside–during which you simultaneously try to conduct interviews through confused translation, and try to win over your stand-offish translator, say that _you hope she had some fun, that you enjoyed working with her_. She misses no beat and replies that _No, she didn’t._ Apparently you complained too much. Have a flashback to your first day at the markets in the capital when she manages to completely miss any and all undertones to your teasing. Think again of your first translator, and your language teachers, all of whom manage to catch the signals so lost on her. In shock, and offended, tell her that _you have nothing to apologize for._ And that you did everything you could to make her time pleasant.