Cosmo

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Through ten incendiary and mercurial stories, Cosmo will take you on a wild ride over the churning waters of pop culture and the malaise of our solitary existence.

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10 Slices

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Operation Smile

ePub

OPERATION SMILE

 

 

 

This is authentic, Crystle thought. The turquoise scrubs, the sky-blue smock. The military watch and the brush cut. The man spoke slowly, deliberately, gestured emphatically with his hands. She noted the fine polish of his fingernails, his trimmed cuticles, the skin softened by constant scrubbing. This is a man who cares about his appearance, she thought. That’s refreshing; I could talk to this man.

It was significant that Commander Kubis didn’t seem nervous. Most men were nervous or jittery around her. It didn’t matter that they fought wars or made policy or saved lives, worked with living tissue, bore immense responsibilities. When confronted by all that beauty and poise, most were reduced to stammering, wide-eyed children. The only men who weren’t usually nervous were the actors and millionaires, because for them, she assumed, beauty was simply functional, like furniture.

‘Take a look around you,’ Kubis said, smiling. ‘And don’t be afraid to get a bit close and cozy. Even on a day like today, there’s lots of work to do.’

 

Jobbers

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JOBBERS

 

 

 

Amid a pile of paper plates, pizza boxes and the crumbly remains of breakfast, I stare down at the July ’91 edition of WWF Magazine. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts glares back from the glossy cover, his cocked brow just oozing evil. WWF Magazine is a regular sight in our house. Eddy, my eight-year-old brother, saves all his change to run down to the convenience store every month to grab the new edition. He has me read the articles to him. On this month’s cover there’s a headline about The Ultimate Warrior – Eddy’s favourite wrestler – and his ongoing feud with The Undertaker, who’s one of the most feared heels in the World Wrestling Federation. To Eddy, wrestling is literally life and death, especially when the Warrior is involved. Of course, as his big sister, I know better – I know it’s absolute horseshit.

From where I sit at the table, I can hear Gorilla Monsoon – black, hyperactive poodle, bought for forty bucks two weeks ago from a retired steelworker on East 22nd Street – whining non-stop in the spare bedroom. Gorilla isn’t properly housebroken. Mom and Uncle Keith (not really my uncle – he’s Mom’s boyfriend, most recent and longest lasting) are throwing a party tonight. They want Gorilla locked in the bedroom because if we let him run around the house he’ll piss and shit all over the floors, and for now it’s just too hot to keep him out back, especially with all that black fur. Gorilla’s so spastic that neither of them wants to deal with his jumping and barking, so his prison sentence extends until the end of the bash. Knowing Gorilla, and knowing Mom’s parties, the puppy will be yelping until three in the morning.

 

Journey to the Centre of Something

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A fictionalized version of actor Matthew McConaughey descends into a surreal, stupefying desert of the soul.
 

This Is Not An Ending

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THIS IS NOT AN ENDING

 

 

 

Claude Brazeau: His name is Pierre Lebrun …

911 Dispatch Operator: Does he wear glasses?

Claude Brazeau: No. He stutters.

– 911 emergency telephone call, April 6, 1999, 2:39 p.m.

 

‘Hey, Terry,’ says Joel, a shipper. ‘Ask Scabby what kind of bus it is.’ ‘What kind of bus is it, Pierre?’ asks Terry, a mechanic.

Pierre Lebrun feels a lurching drop in his stomach, a stinging rush of blood to his ears. Although his eyes are lowered, he can still make out the blurry shape of Terry’s smile: a looming, left-leaning grin. Without looking up, Pierre reaches across the central workbench of the garage and wraps his hand around a Black & Decker vise. To calm himself, he thinks.

‘Yeah, Scabby, I think you know what I mean,’ Terry says, taking a sip of his Timmies.

Pierre drags the vise closer. He stares hard at the wooden workbench, watching hazy, oil-stained hands stumble over tools. Someone drops a screwdriver. Someone sorts noisily through rivets and washers. A piece of brake mechanism lies cleaned and gutted on the far side of the hangar-like repair shop, awaiting the strong, dexterous fingers of its operators.

 

Frankie+Hilary+Romeo+Abigail+Helen: An Intermission

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FRANKIE+HILARY+ROMEO+ABIGAIL+HELEN:
AN INTERMISSION

 

 

 

By Frankie, I mean, of course, Francisco James Muñiz IV (1985– ), son of Francisco ‘Frank-a-hey-ho’ Benjamin Eugene-Wallace Tyler Muñiz III (a Cuban-born restaurant owner of Puerto Rican descent), and Denise (ex-nurse of mixed Irish and Italian heritage), now divorced. The particular Frankie who, after watching his older sister Christina’s sterling performance in her Knightdale, North Carolina, high school musical, decided to pursue a career in acting, and who first got his chops as Tiny Tim in a local theatre production of A Christmas Carol. The home-schooled Frankie who slogged through several no-budget productions (The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, etc.) and commercials and made-for-TV movies (e.g., To Dance with Olivia, 1997, starring Louis [or Lou] Gossett, Jr.) until his role in the David Spade/Sophie Marceau romantic comedy Lost & Found (1999), which, though roundly panned by critics, raised him in the eyes of Hollywood casting agents and facilitated his first big splash at the awkward age of fourteen in the Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, a mid-season replacement in which Frankie played the eponymous leading character with such aplomb and earnestness that he was nominated for Golden Globe Awards in 2000 and 2001, an Emmy Award in 2001, and was awarded the Hollywood Reporter YoungStar Award for his overall performance in the series. Malcolm in the Middle being the long-running comedy series detailing the antics of a middle-class family modelled after a sort of ‘dysfunctional American post-nuclear’ (perhaps best epitomized by The Simpsons), lauded and known to push specific target-audience envelope thresholds and known as the vehicle that enabled Frankie to star in several feature-film productions through the early to mid-2000s, such as My Dog Skip (2000), Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), Big Fat Liar (2002, matched with actress Amanda Bynes), Agent Cody Banks (2003, alongside actress, singer and activist Hilary Duff), Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004) and Racing Stripes (2005, voice only), as well as to make numerous cameo appearances, such as in the films Stuck on You (2003), Stay Alive (2006) and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007). The Frankie who, over the last few years, has been transitioning out of traditional Hollywood acting roles, experimenting with various producing gigs (for example, producing in 2006 the film Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman, an interactive animated feature based on the popular ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novels, for which he also provided voice-acting alongside actors William H. Macy and Lacey Chabert) and expressing a desire in print and online media to do some ‘growing up’ outside the limelight. The Frankie who has decided of late to pursue an exciting and rewarding career as a professional race-car driver (ever since gaining his driver’s licence in 2001, Frankie has been consumed with a powerful love of driving and of cars [no doubt influenced by his father, Frank-a-hey-ho, who similarly indulges in car adoration but has publicly expressed fears regarding Frankie’s safety behind the wheel] – a love which has led to the purchase of several exorbitantly expensive automobiles [a total of nine in Frankie’s first year of licenced driving], such as the white 1995 Volkswagen Jetta from the film The Fast and the Furious [2001], a 2002 Cadillac Escalade previously owned by Penny Hardaway of the New York Knicks and a 1950s Porsche Speedster). The Frankie who, after more or less committing himself to the sport, took first prize in the 2005 Pro/Celebrity Race at the Long Beach Grand Prix and promptly signed a two-year contract with Jensen Motorsport, allowing him to race between the years 2006 and 2008 in the Formula BMW U.S.A. Championship, the Champ Car Atlantic Series (including the Las Vegas Grand Prix), the Sebring Winter National SCCA race, and drive for the PCM/USR team, finishing in the top ten in three races and completing the 2008 season in eleventh place (also bringing home the 2008 Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award for his gracious and honourable conduct during the year’s competitions). The particular Frankie who, in 2005, was briefly engaged to hairdresser Jamie Gandy (a woman who bears a passing resemblance to Frankie’s ex-co-star Hilary Duff and whom he met on the set of the film Stay Alive) – an engagement that was swiftly called off due (in part) to Frankie’s hectic racing and travelling schedule, which left him a grand total of only forty days at home in 2007. The Frankie who is also currently engaged to Hollywood unknown Elycia Turnbow, aka Elycia Marie (a five-foot-four vintage clothing store-owner [standing one inch shorter than Frankie] tagged by many bloggers as ‘super hot’) who, in early 2011, reputedly assaulted Frankie and damaged numerous expensive artworks and pieces of furniture around his mansion in Phoenix, according to a 911 dispatch call made by Frankie himself, who was reputedly embroiled in such relationship stress and drama that he was pushed to hold a pistol to his head and threaten to commit suicide. The resilient Frankie who is currently mending his relationship with Turnbow/Marie and denying any ongoing suicidal urges, and who, among other appearances and racing projects, is currently playing drums for the rather middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly rock band You Hang Up.

 

Wide and Blue and Empty

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WIDE AND BLUE AND EMPTY

 

 

 

June slips into her refurbished office room at 10:49 p.m., full mug of decaf steaming in her hand, and logs in to ICQ Messenger. Finding Chris offline, she minimizes the ICQ Messenger window (heart sinking slightly, but only just – their ICQ date is set for 11:00) and begins a game of e-solitaire, promising herself she won’t wait for more than fifteen minutes before logging off and heading to bed.

It is silent on the second floor of June’s 2,000-square-foot, semi-detached, four-bedroom home – a property of nine-foot ceilings and deep-set cold cellar, two-car garage and oak floors, gourmet kitchen and walk-in pantry – as she waits for her son, Christopher, living across the province in a tiny apartment in Ottawa, to log in to ICQ and to chat with her. June mouths the word warily – chat – feeling a delicious tingle of anticipation. Having bought the internet only three months prior, June still approaches the web as a wild and newfangled landscape, still tinged with the risks of danger and provocation. Every time she logs on she feels bold and daring, strangely and surreally modern. She feels especially sophisticated considering that she, fifty-four years old and feeling absolutely ancient, could actually be in a chat room, and that soon her son might join her and write her text messages in real time, his written phrases appearing in a cute pc window with its accompanying Uh-oh! sound bite. It wasn’t exactly how she envisioned the future, but it was certainly exciting.

 

The Land of Plenty

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THE LAND OF PLENTY

 

 

 

Date: February 9, 2005

To: Szychszczecin, Gary ‘gary.szychszczecin@subway.ca’

From: LNC ‘l.c.royale@sympatico.net’

Subject: Re: Advertising Arrangement

Dear Gary,

I’ve been considering your offer. It’s a deal, man. You’ll be helping me more than you can fathom. Sincere thanks to you (and your father) for thinking of me in my time of need.

So how about we jump right in. How’s this, for instance:

If I decide to buy the small veggie subs (and by small, I mean the modest six-inchers), and I politely refuse those thin bricks of processed cheese (American cheese, they’re called in happy commercials) or even the smallest dollops of mayonnaise or oil (called ‘sub sauce’ by those in the know) or other fatty and high-caloric sauces (Chipotle Southwest, say, or Sweet Onion, light of my life), and I have this assembled and rolled in Nine-Grain Bread with its roughish, earthy exterior and thin particles of flax seeds, then I can begin a new life – not necessarily a longer or more worthy one (for who can foresee the stupidities and vagaries of time: public transit dragging, falling ice, penis tumours, high-profile legal betrayals), or even a life remembered by a generational fetish group, or one preserved in pigeon-shit-splattered iron and bronze or in the pages of rotting, useless books that stand with jutting chins before the last fire or storm wipes away their synthetic inks, but a life that is now and then touched by beauty, and goodness, and occasional mercy, because SUBWAY, you obviously know the secret – that life is shit.

 

Last Words

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LAST WORDS

 

 

 

The doctor points to an X-ray of my lungs, circles an area near my trachea. The office air goes queer – pressurized, headachy – as she opens her mouth to speak. Tumours, she says, delicately, as if invoking the name means invitation. Here and here and here, tapping the photograph, signalling the first signs of a cancer that may spread from my lungs to my throat and to my brain. Or not, she adds, careful; we can’t predict the process of the disease. So, they might otherwise head south, passing through my capillaries to leech into my stomach, my liver, my pancreas. They may shrink, or they may just stay put, grow to the size of ripe plums in my chest.

Who knows? Once you’ve got a weed, I’m thinking, the whole lawn is lost. I’ve spent enough time gardening, knees and hands stained with soil, to know how the whole grisly show operates. One arrogant yellow bloom pokes its tufty head out of so much healthy green, and then there’s a legion. But these weeds aren’t happy yellow dandelions, won’t fade to spidery white filaments that blow to bits at the end of summer. And I can’t simply rise and retire, put away my tools and abandon the manicured fight. No, the next few months will be shadowy, elusive, spiked with the brooding talk of tumours: morbid entanglements of humour and tomb.

 

Transcript: Appeal of the Sentence

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TRANSCRIPT:
APPEAL OF THE SENTENCE

 

 

 

… the sentence itself is a man-made object, not the one we wanted of course, but still a construction of man, a structure to be treasured for its weakness, as opposed to the strength of stones’

– from ‘The Sentence,’ Donald Barthelme

 

With regard to my appeal of the sentence: yes, I am well aware of our ‘relationship’ being, in plain language, non-existent; and yes, I can admit to accusations of infatuation and obsession, even though such allegations have been framed in a largely provocative and erroneous manner, laden with dangerous, predatorial connotations, suggesting that I possess some sort of skewed psychosexual mania (or worse, the likelihood of pedophilic desires); and yes, I admit to such accusations in full awareness and acknowledgment of the grave fact that we are indeed ‘unacquainted’ (in a rather delimiting interpretation of the word, I must note), despite my numerous letters and telephone calls and emails to her agency, Cunningham Escott Slevin Doherty (CESD), and to her publicist, the inestimable Meghan Prophet, and to her music label (Hollywood Records) and to the Disney Corporation (to wit I have not yet received any written or oral response but soldier on in the hope of expressing my deepest gratitude and my sincerest congratulations on her innumerable successes and innovations, even though [thinking rationally] I knew these efforts might be futile due to her immense responsibilities and extremely busy schedule, regarding which I could testify at length if only brevity were not a factor, if only you weren’t already so weary with listening), so for the sake of such direly required and oft-requested succinctness, I shall plead with the court on this day that my interest in Ms. Cyrus is purely scholarly, and in good will, and that I have been cruelly maligned by certain lawyers, Cyrus family representatives and members of the immediate and amalgamated Cyrus family at large (read: William Ray, Leticia, Brandi, Trace, Christopher, Braison and little Noah, though he could not form the terrible accusations but is known to live, in a childish sort of way, ‘in fear’ of my return), as a ‘delinquent,’ ‘stalker’ and ‘predator,’ and, though the precise words were not spoken, as some sort of ‘sexual deviant’ – for I insist that my sexual preferences abide by the straight American medium (even, one might say, particularly puritan, given my noted reluctance to engage in auto-erotic acts of any kind after the recorded period in Tennessee), that my study of Ms. Cyrus’s life and work and charitable contributions has indeed been both consuming and ‘enflaming’ but only in the strictest intellectual sense, for surely I would not bother to know the petty details of her birth and education, her conceptual circumstances and humble origins, if not for strictly intellectual fulfillment, for surely if these were outré masturbatory phantasms I could have simply downloaded some leaked cellular photograph, leered at an innocuous patch of film in grisly slow motion (made obscene by such slow motion), and had my way with myself, so to speak, forgetting the details of Ms. Cyrus’s birth: that she was born on November 23, 1992, the same day that the last deadly tornado was seen in northeastern North Carolina as part of that cold, late-season outbreak that affected much of the southeastern part of the United States, ranging from Houston, Texas, to portions of the Gulf Coast states, from the Ohio Valley to the Carolinas – a deadly maelstrom of end-of-days leanings that narrowly skirted the edges of southern Tennessee in late November as if fated, destined, preternaturally aware of Miley Cyrus’s imminent arrival into the world, allowing Leticia ‘Tish’ Cyrus (née Finley), most worthy mother and vessel, to deliver through the harrowing pains of labour in peace, granting her that small but significant respite from worry or fret over natural disasters, Oz-ferrying cyclones, flying cows or cold-cellar emergency deliveries, in that place and time so very different from my own (notwithstanding all possible action on my behalf to violate the sequential workings of the world, bound by laws of immutable, inhuman physics), as I was (as the court has duly recorded) ‘beginning a new life on the west coast in full accordance with the law away from the forbidden person[s] and property,’ leading to my recorded confessions of anguish and pained sobbing over my missed opportunity to cradle Leticia’s hand, kiss her wrist (strong, slim, adroit) or wipe the beads of sweat from her forehead (lined, now, by another three symmetrical creases since that long-gone November day, or since our initial encounters in high school, where she ruled the narrow halls with a sort of haughty, southern authority, now bearing the lines of motherly latitude that I have often watched, slightly sheepish at my fear of their integrity, timid of their magisterial power over my daily musings and nightly terrors, in photograph and in glossy tabloid over state-appointed distance, obeying the court’s order to stay away and sow ‘wilder’ oats), missing my chance to watch the wailing, mewling Miley emerge from the womb and into the light; and these are issues that have, as stated, embroiled me in irresolvable frustration, leaving me to feebly imagine that I was there to witness, oh lucky witness, her headfirst slide into the charged, electric air of that great city (my city, my air), home of the Grand Ole Opry at the legendary Ryman Auditorium, the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’ where I watched my first rhinestone-studded cowboy band, its state home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Belcourt Theatre, canonized television shows like Hee Haw and Pop! Goes the Country, and, of course, legendary country singer William Ray Cyrus and Leticia Finley, who married secretly in Nashville on December 28, 1992 – obviously over a month after Miley was born, a fact telling of the nature of their marital commitment, revelatory of their appropriate interpretation of the sanctity of marriage, portent of William Ray’s understanding of paternal obligations, for the young family lived on a 500-acre farm in Thompson’s Station, a bucolic Elysium, just a short drive outside of Nashville where the grass is really green and the willow trees do catch the sunlight red and yellow and dappled and holy and all things make music and imbue the simplest sentiments, the most casual words, with the soul-buoying charge of choir-based anthems: words such as Destiny Hope Cyrus, written in indelible ink on a Tennessee birth certificate, now stored in a locked drawer in a sprawling mansion in Los Angeles forever removed from my fond gaze, spelling out its secret message to anyone perceptive enough to read it: Destiny the inevitable fulfillment of a family’s dream, Hope the means by which the dream would be achieved, and Destiny and Hope thus together representing a portentously American knot of dreams – knotted and entwined like the veins and tendons mapping Miley’s country-rough hands beneath the Tennessee star-scape; Destiny being, of course, the softer sister of Fate (fate implying the cruel predetermination of Calvinist dogma, the Oedipal tear at the incestuous iris, the natural fall of dying leaves blown from cold autumnal branches: souls of the dead eager to line circles of a just and appropriate Hell); softer still in its insistence and encouragement of active participation on behalf of the subject, saying life is what you make it, saying reach for the stars, saying Destiny is my vague green light beyond the storm, always in the becoming, the manifesting, our boats borne ceaselessly back on waves of Hope – and so, charged by the harmony of the farmstead, the serendipity of the marriage and the ineluctable bond between her parents, I declare that Destiny Hope Cyrus is answered hope, the answered hope of a modern America: a nation of willing, striving and gaining, of proud immigrants running millions of blunt needles through department-store linens, raking through the sodden shit of dog parks, scrubbing bleach against porcelain urinals stained in the daily rub of living, or driving up and down the apocalyptic California coast between blurring redwoods and whitecaps trying to dream their way back into the homeland nectar of the south; and who amongst them, these proud brown-bodied working people, these people sentenced to punishments beyond the scope of their crimes, who amongst them would not gain or profit from the weight of such a name, a name so pregnant with purpose, a name like a tiny pilot light of great expectations, ensuring that destiny and hope were forever entangled and inextricable in Miley’s memory, forever a part of who she is, was and will become, her past, present and future, bound in one time, one memory (two memories, if you count mine, which cannot forget), without even mentioning her public moniker, Miley, merely one of many milestones on a winding highway of public support and love from William Ray, who comments, in interview after smiling interview, that ‘[Miley] was always smiling, she was always letting you know she was happy – such a happy, smiling, laughing baby’ (and who can’t help but smile, who can’t help but picture the tiny limbs and giggling, cherubic face of the dancing, playing child, innocent of all woe and sadness, loving with a sort of unrestrained golden-retriever sincerity that crushes the heart and makes one moan and beg for William to get to the point and relate how they called her Smiley, smiling himself as he says this, saying ‘Smiley’ was her nickname around the house, but she had problems with the word – it just didn’t come out right, ’cause of the lisp and all – so she could only say ’Miley, right, and so this name sort of stuck – and though this may sound silly (the remnant of an affectionate nickname adorably debased by a toddler’s lisp), it tied Destiny Hope in a sort of electric, unspoken current to Ms. Cyrus’s first creative distortion, her first calculated move toward self-actualization and identification, her first mumbled gesture of authenticity: somehow more American than Destiny or Hope; somehow more attuned to the shifting, sliding ideals of the end of the century, as if such a small baby could already ascertain that the ideal of personal authenticity was inexorably obliterating any ethical or moral insistence on the True, or the Good, or the Just, ascertained like one of Pound’s cultural antennae – invisible lightning rods of anticipatory wisdom who walk among us – our artists, our visionaries, our prophets, those who speak for and to us (us, of course, being the gibbering, howling masses who have not the radar for such subtle vibrations of change, present company included); and again, to make myself perfectly clear, this praise is made not to exclude William Ray from this conversation of prophets (and please cogitate on the careful and fair way in which I speak of him, considering the accusations at hand), not to ignore his own contributions to culture by becoming the successful singer-songwriter and actor he is, recently promoting songs like ‘Runway Lights’ and ‘Nineteen’ on his twelfth and latest and ravishingly patriotic studio album I’m American despite how many of his peers failed along the way, dragged down by drugs or misplaced ideation or a destructive desire for fame or wealth or the adoration of an asinine fan, or, most commonly, through a simple lack of natural talent, or talent squandered through a lack of repetitive labour and the sacrifice of all other comforts, through work, through an intense study of the history of pop music, which in truth is littered with these marginal, forgotten, tragic fossils, who burnt up too fast, or too soon, or who never had a break, who now play (if they play at all) in obscure cover bands or in the shadowed corner of a university or college bar, crying into their pints of lager, memory mingled with false projections from a foggy, denuded prime in which William Ray was always the better man, the better musician, the more successful singer-songwriter who never crashed and burned, who found God and Family, who made wise investments with his millions and fathered a child who would eventually eclipse his own tremendous fame – even though, let us not forget, he penned a cultural zeitgeist, lyrics and melody so indelible upon the contemporary psyche that I don’t have to repeat the refrain; you’re probably humming along now, remembering where you were when that all-too-human heart tore across America and made line-dancing a feverish act of rebellion – not to again insinuate in any way that Miley’s home life was dissolute or depraved, but rather evidence of her household’s musical surroundings – Miley’s first intimations of childhood being performative and lyrical, surrounded by the tenor twang of William Ray’s incredible ear for the melodious hook, of Leticia’s graceful additions at harmony, their first hound dog, Butch, baying and barking in the late haze of marshmallow campfires, the chaos of bullfrog and cricket chirping a chorus through the rural, moonlit nights, the sweet smell of cornbread and fried chicken and ribs wafting heavy from the truck-stop restaurant on the blacktop that bisects the highway (close, you might note, to my one-time residence, so very close to Thompson’s Station), the large matronly server humming to her young, acne-ridden employees, don’t cheat ’em on the sauce, give ’em what you’d want yo’self, and all the guitar towns dotting the roads and highways of Tennessee dripping with gospel and country, blues and bluegrass: American music, miserable grace of working pain and lost love, salvation always out of reach, Faulknerian abnegations of time coruscating the worker’s cheek, oh Jesus oh Jesus give me rest, it been so long, such a long time now Jesus, and John Steinbeck a million miles west singing about the plucked guitar and the keening fiddle and the mournful, forlorn harmonica, a reminder to forget divisions of skin colour and class because according to the dream we all labour in the fields in the morning with the promise of the sun and then descend willing or not into the sorrowful vicissitudes of night (and how cruel the nights are on the west coast, how sea-blown and breezy, saline and flat), with Guthrie a dying dream in the Grand Canyon and Dylan a wisp of a ghost on the road and Miley’s musical inheritance thus mingled with AM Gold and Casey Kasem, porch-lit jam sessions with William Ray’s drier friends who didn’t end up snorting everything on mid-nineties bar tops and who still enjoyed the night air and the way a guitar met a voice, the way the first and third fingers of William’s left hand could spread confidently across the fretboard of his trusty and worn acoustic, his right hand balled to a fist around a pick, a two-year-old Miley sitting at his feet playing with the reflected light of beer bottles and tuning pegs and the amber halo of a single bulb where perhaps her first high-pitched song was sung, the first formative springboard, perhaps, leading to her choir practice and solo work at the Thompson’s Station’s Baptist Church, her acting debut at age nine, her later acting classes at Armstrong Acting Studio in the wintry grey depressions of Toronto, Canada, her minor stumbling roles on William Ray’s incredible television series known as Doc (2001–2004) and the Oscar-nominated, Columbia Pictures blockbuster Big Fish (2003), and all her persistence in pursuing the Disney character who would change our lives – convincing through dogged insistence those hard-hearted corporate executives and casting agents (who have treated me with august indifference or open hostility, it should again be noted) that she was the one, the true pubescent morning star, the future flagship of the company, the deal-maker of their top-secret series later named Hannah Montana to be released in early 2006 about a young girl bearing the unfortunate burden of being an immensely popular singer and entertainer with legions of fans and incredible wealth (though wealth tied intelligently to her wise and mature father, played in the sweetest of turns by Miley’s own father, William Ray, who was auditioned at Miley’s behest only after she was granted the role) but also determined to live a normal teenaged existence with typical experiences (like studying for exams in tiny denim short shorts, flirting with young male specimens with contemptible hair and gossiping with her loyal friends over the pink telephone), and to try to balance these two divergent and utterly conflicting lifestyles, and, most importantly, keep her pop-star celebrity identity secret and safe so as not to endanger her normal adolescent existence – a show that connected with millions of young children not because of its intricate and unique plot lines or biting dialogue, but because of Miley, that zestful whirlwind of ambition and national pride and bodily health, who was characterized by Disney Channel president Gary Marsh as possessing a ‘natural ebullience,’ and the ‘everyday relatability of Hilary Duff and the stage presence of Shania Twain,’ and I could go on in praise, the breath is full and moving, but these heads are nodding and shaking, and time has evaporated and made your faces turn sour, brought forth more beads of sweat to spread beneath your arms, has made your asses uncomfortable, and time is playing its game on me, and though brevity is the soul of wit I cannot in any eventuality be discerning, and so for Miley this means everything there is to know about her, every footprint and signature of that rare and robust and developing flower, the great surging abundance of a singular person in defiance of information reduced to partial rounds, the unfair impatience of quarters and divisions, of only the bottom line, of making some information the best information when there is no end to it, no end to its fullness, its baffling richness and generosity, no end to each storied detail, to what I can say before I’m dragged perhaps kicking and biting from the premises, leaving the sentence to remain on account of a half-strangled, half-finished appeal, dismissed and aborted in the eyes of the law like so many twisted, discarded, abandoned children, the children of my life and my land, though I in no way have ever acknowledged or agreed to a single word of my sentence – a sentence that from the standpoint of reason cannot make sense (not that any substitution can make it sensible, sentences do not make sentences make sense, I was taught; it’s our punishment and a just one, living in a sad and decadent place that can wilfully and systematically ignore that incorruptible beauty, that brief parting of clouds in a low and grey unrolling regiment, a girl who will never breathe or grow or cry those big crystal tears again in quite the same fashion, so here I am to receive them, proud to receive those tears and that recorded laughter, receive those one-in-a-million emotions, be witness to this once-in-a-lifetime unfolding rose the way all tween and  teenaged girls are momentary parting petals leaving us lonely and rocking to the radio’s ambient whispers, knowing ourselves to be uncomfortable and sad and obscene, shaking in the hours of our starving nights, waiting for our sentence, hoping against formidable despair for the return of our shared horizon, the note and pitch met perfectly, all the jumbled naveté and fragility of youth transfigured into sense and communion by one song, one note that forgives and heals the guilty chaos of our days, making sense of our loneliness, our perjured feelings, our sickness and our poverty, how we shall never be beautiful, how our heads will run over with unbearable secrets and how we are sentenced to this, serving us right – when the song should end, be cut down, finished, and the singer not go on singing).

 

Lonely Planet

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LONELY PLANET

 

 

 

I

 

Ryan can’t remember his dreams. It’s been this way for two and a half years. He used to have so many beautiful, exciting nights – charging with elephants across marshmallow fields, fucking childhood friends in the stands of enormous monster-truck rallies, even dipping into libido-charging bouts of lucidity, wherein he could suddenly fly, melt time, be happy. Now, though, there’s nothing – not even the faintest, most ephemeral glimmer. But Ryan’s done his reading on nighttime emissions. He knows perfectly well that if you sleep, you dream; knows that he is no exception. And thus he figures these curious memory gaps can mean only one thing: that some seriously malevolent shit must be running amok in his subconscious.

Ryan guesses that if he could remember his dreams, he would call them nightmares. He feels he has good reason: despite the gaping dissolves in his memory, each morning is marked by a sense of dread so acute that he whimpers. He whimpers before he opens his eyes, before he is aware of himself as a being, distinct from his sticky mattress, the rattle of his ceiling fan. Whimpers as the sensation of waking life, consciousness, Ryanness, materializes in the slow, plodding minutes of awareness.

 

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