I was driving north from San Antonio for most of Monday, dealing with getting lost as I was leaving Austin and having to backtrack about twenty miles, as well as what seemed like the most ominous thunderstorm of all time, heavy winds whipping my car around and mile-long streaks of lightning flashing all along the horizon. About one mile from the city limits sign of Jacksonville, Texas—still a good hundred miles from home—my car just died, for apparently no reason. After a panicked half hour or so, I got it all up and running, and limped home at just under 60, sure that at any moment it was going to give up the ghost and leave me stranded. Amid all that, I got a text from someone telling me that Robin Williams had killed himself.
I don’t really have too much to say about it, honestly. Just looking around the internet, it’s clear that everybody loved that guy, and everybody has something to say about him. In my younger years I might, out of my most childish, contrarian impulses, have posted something about how I never thought Williams was all that funny, and how I don’t really like his dramatic roles much either. But that’s a shitty way to be, and I don’t want to be shitty.
I would probably, back then, have felt the need to add some tough-love bullshit about how killing yourself is selfish, self-involved thing anyone can ever do, and anyone that does so is being an absolute asshole. Which I don’t think is exactly wrong, but what I really mean by that is suicide is such a dark and insidious thing, and you can’t help but marvel at how someone could be so blinded by their own pain that they would do something so selfish, and you hope that it remains something you will never understand.
Archie’s dying words are to Betty and Veronica: “I’ve always loved you …” The last two panels in that issue are full-page size: the first panel shows Archie’s body being cradled by Jughead as Kevin, Betty and Veronica kneel beside him weeping and the rest of the room also in tears; the final panel shows Archie’s spilled chocolate soda with three straws.
I don’t know why exactly, but I find the recent death of Archie Andrews—he dies in the course of stopping the assassination of his friend Kevin Keller, an openly homosexual United States senator—really hilarious. Well, I do know why: because it’s Archie, which is the corniest thing in the world, and for Archie to be tackling something so serious (I didn’t even realize that there’s an alternate, “more dramatic" Archie comic) is fucking goofy as hell. I knew they had gotten pretty PC over the last few years—adding an interracial romance, as well as gay characters—and I applaud that. It’s too bad they didn’t do stuff like that back in 1963, you know?
I just wonder who in the hell reads this stuff. It’s hard to imagine a kid of any age enjoying Archie these days. But what do I know. A friend of mine, he went to grade school in India, and (and I may be getting this story a little wrong, but this is the way I understand it, so I’m telling it this way) his parents would buy those Archie Digest things you get in line at the grocery store, then photocopy them and put them in big three-ring binders and mail them to him in India, and that was pretty much the only thing he had to read or occupy himself. And I cannot tell you how depressing that seems to me, being stuck so far from home, in a really awful situation, and the only thing that’s available to cheer you up is a bunch of goddamn Xeroxed Archie comics.
HG Wells: When you were setting out to write Leaves of Grass, you wanted to write something very American. you wanted to write this epic poem about America, and the cadence that you used is similar to the cadence of the Bible. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible?
Walt Whitman: Ah, my favorite book of the Bible is that which was sung, steady clambering, that of Job, Job who wandered upon Solomon and walked through the grasses, Job who took the riverboat all the way down from Minnesota, Job, who sat wandering over Fond du Lac, o and over the Christmasing horizon of the spruce trees, all the way out through shivering Montana, o pioneers. O how David caressed Johnathan his beloved. I look at the Bible as I look at my own work, a series of overlapping books, difficult to distinguish, assigned but rarely read…
I listen to a lot of talk radio when I’m driving—I guess I’m doing my part to keep my eye/ear on the enemy—and nothing makes me sadder than when a young person calls in to give mega-dittos to the Doctor of Democracy. “Sad” actually isn’t even close to what I mean: it fills me with an almost bottomless sorrow—how can you be a young person and already be so lost and heartless? How much worse is it going to get?
The two images above were posted on Facebook by this girl I used to work with: I say “girl” here because she was literally about five or six years younger than me, a fact that blew my mind because when I met her, I assumed she was well into her mid-thirties. It’s something that I notice a lot; I don’t know if it’s some kind of Southern thing, but it feels like it is, at least a little. People—well, women, I guess, usually—get old so fucking fast. And not mature, or wise, or anything I’d associate positively with getting old. They get married right out of college (or even high school) to some bland dude who wears sunglasses on the back of his head, and they have a couple of kids, and by the time they’re 25 years old they’re posting Bible quotes on Facebook and hanging a bunch of crosses on the wall, and they’re dead inside.
I’ve talked about this before, and I still wonder if my absolute revulsion for these people is rooted in some kind of intense self-loathing. That Elliott Smith line about how “your world’s no wider than your hatred of his,” can really hit home sometimes. I honestly hope I don’t live my life only in opposition to something, even if it is something that’s so obviously repugnant.
Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body. Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit.
Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.
A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents, he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing.
Imagine: it is September 26, 1991. Jazz legend Miles Davis sits alone in his home, watching this evening’s episode of “Wings”, a corny, whitebread program Davis loves, though he will never admit it. On the TV, Joe is suing Helen for damages she did to his office. The screen goes dark, and a commercial comes on. Davis laughs a raspy laugh. It is the last episode he will ever see.