Scary Monsters (Ashes 2 Ashes Mix)

Evan Gruzis

Kafka's the tormenting demon

Once you give chase to one idea it inevitably leads to another...and another and another--they dance in little light shows over an infinite void of nothingness. A canyon of echoes--the oblivion of the abyss. Those who want a clearer view follow the ideas to the edge, unconcerned about the lack of safety rails. All they want is to be there, way out at the turning point where creation and discovery are locked in an elegant tango.

The best artworks are those depicting variations on the same pair of dancing robots: they wear masks behind which there is a pulsing inner light as they spin one another into eternity.

Meanwhile the human pioneers of the edge are called sick and crazy by those who remain deep within the homeland empire, creating schedules and clinging to imaginary, brand name parachutes.

Until recently I oscillated between being an artist and being a dependable citizen. I wanted the freedom of living for ideas but I also wanted to be a good person. I didn't care so much about normalcy but being good seemed important--even though, deep down, I knew I didn't know what it meant, and was most likely confusing goodness for politeness. When it comes to morality we are all in a grey area. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone contributes to the problems of the world. If you look back at the events of a person's life to try and figure out why they are the way they are it quickly becomes impossible to judge anyone--even the worst murderer was once a helpless child.

There's also the discoveries of neurology and genetics, which points to chemicals and wiring as the main components of our moods and mindsets--things that are described as being largely out of our control.

For me it was all a vicious circle. I went from being worried to feeling free and then back to being worried again. I seemed to be making progress, however, since the times of being worried or guilt stricken grew fewer and far between. Perhaps I could accept these dark clouds of uncertainty and deal with them within the bigger picture of all the happy, healthy things in my life.

That was easy to think when it had been a long time since I felt the other way. It always hits me unprepared and comes not as one definitive event but as a series of small things--aggravations piling on top of the feeling of being a zero, followed by a bout of self-loathing in which I berated myself for being weak. I condemned myself for pretending to care what other people felt, but the reality was that I only selfishly cared about myself--and the guilt I'd feel if I didn't carry through on what I felt were my obligations.

These feelings were bad enough--it could get much worse if something else happened--something that was beside the immediate point (about me being a loser) but completely indicative of it as well. Something seemingly arbitrary that revealed the barely hidden truth.

The other night that something came in the form of a folded color printout.

I found it when I was starting my latest project and going through old boxes for usable visual art supplies. The last time I'd done any serious visual art was during the RNC protest, when I made my SKULLFUCKBUSH t-shirts and assorted propaganda. Going through that stuff was a trip--but then I found a folder wedged between two others that was even older--pre-9/11 and even pre-Dubya. I looked through the various ephemera as if they were the contents of a time machine. Late 2000 was another era: before I stopped drinking and started blogging and before the world started this wild round of changes. The printout was from a project I worked on for a friend who went crazy shortly after. I helped him write the liner notes for his fake record label's 5th anniversary CD. He thought it was a good gimmick. We made up 15 different bands and pretended the tracks were culled from various nonexistent albums--when really they all came from my friend's network of Macs, synthesizers, drum machines, and electric guitars. He didn't know how to play the instruments, but that didn't stop him from sucking the sounds they made into his computer and back out again in the form of math rock rhythms and hip-hop beats that were wacky yet (mostly) danceable.

The bands had names like Young and Hungry, Nein Nein, Drunk & White, Futurscope, and (my favorite) Girl On Girl.

He created a guitar based track by sampling individually strummed notes and chords and piecing them together using various software. At one point, a friend who actually knew how to play stopped by his tiny studio apartment and played for real. He recorded it and cut it into pieces and sprinkled it around the samples--turning what would ordinarily be the main course into a garnish.

I learned a lot from the way he used things without concern for the way in which they were supposed to be used--he treated everything like a found object. As he got crazier, this extended beyond playing with musical instruments and production software to navigating everyday situations like crossing the street.

In addition to the liner notes I persuaded him to let me create a piece of fake cover art. He was including a pic of each single's supposed cover alongside the notes about its creation. While he liked the visual of the design I showed him he wasn't hot on the lines of text I'd included in the bottom right corner--something that came to me late one night when I woke up from a drunk--something I'd jotted down then and kept returning to... I thought it might be a poem, but I wasn't sure. All I knew was that I couldn't get it out of my head. In the end my friend used the visual without the text, but the printout that I found was of the original version. As I unfolded it and gazed upon it for the first time in nearly a decade, I realized that I'd thought about this image recently. I'd been standing outside the Rem Koolhaas store in So-Ho and thinking about how I liked his big, coffee table books even better than his architecture (which I liked very much) and how my awareness of this preference was an example of what I like to call post post-modernism--a way of being based on being conscious of post-modernism. I stood there in my ripped jeans, sipping a coffee out of a cardboard cup and thinking back in time to a picture I'd scanned from one of his books of an architectural model--a cityscape with colored Styrofoam blocks for buildings, the most prominent of which were a pair of identical towers, standing side by side...

What I hadn't remembered were the words--when I read them again I felt simultaneously vindicated and sickened. It was a sensation that started in my legs and rose up into my gut.

It was terrible. Not from the perspective of it being overly painful, but because of the strange snuffing out of the world around me--as though some important sensory wires inside of me had been disconnected. Something told me that one day I'd discover it was the same feeling one had as one's body began to die all around them.

I folded up the printout and put it in a pile of other recovered art related supplies in a small pile on the floor to the right of my desk.

When I felt myself spinning down the drain a few days later I decided I wanted to look at it again. The sad, sick feeling was growing--radiating out like a tuning fork ache from the calcium bump on the back of my knee--it was feeding on itself--like a twisted cramp deep inside the bone.

It was the feeling of wanting to be heard--a near faithless prayer turned inside out and degraded into an absurdity, "Oh Lord! Please hear me doubt your existence! Please bless this doubt!"

I fought with my bf. I fought with myself. I went to the pile of folders expecting to see it near the top but it wasn't there. Not just the printout but the whole pre-Dubya folder. I felt certain that I'd placed it there. I started looking through the other folders, to see if it had somehow slipped in between one of them.

Just as my irritation was about to boil over into a temper tantrum, a large insect leaped out at me from the papers. It was a giant roach. It stood for a moment, flexing its shiny wings before it started to scurry forward in my direction. I screamed and jumped up, back peddling into the middle of the room. I am horrified by bugs especially a mutant monster like this. Thankfully I've been roach and animal free for years. Before that I'd had my unhappy encounters with unrelenting armies of invaders--but they were tiny and ran for cover when the lights went on--nothing like this queen sized invader who seemed to be on the offensive. I threw a stray sneaker at it and it darted back and ran under my bead. I was horrified and trying to think of what to do next when it ran out the other side of my bed, near the wall lined with books. It crawled up and over the lowest pile--I could hear its spindly legs tick-ticking disgustingly across the laminated cover of Deleuze and Guattari's What is Philosophy? I backed into the kitchen and started looking under the sink for the can of Raid I keep for just such emergencies. I try not to kill things if I can help it, but I was filled with a bad feeling about this bug. Of course I couldn't find it. I could have sworn I'd put it with the other bottles of chemicals but it wasn't there. Of course this would happen when I needed it most. I know that the tough thing to do would be to smash it with the sneaker i threw at it but I couldn't bring myself to feel the crunching sensation of its cookie sized hard shell cracking into pieces leaking yellow goo all over the place.

Suddenly it seemed to realize it wasn't getting anywhere and it hopped off the book and started racing across the floor--heading straight at me. I thought that there was no way it would enter the brightly lit kitchen but it did, zig-zagging across the floor and heading right me.

I screamed and cursed and threw things at it, including a garbage bag filled with recycling. The bottles and cans made a tremendous clattering crash when it hit the floor--I figured I must have crushed the bug but after a minute or two it appeared again from out from underneath the black plastic. Undaunted, it continued to head in my direction.

I ran into the other room and into the bathroom where I grabbed the Lysol that I'd made fun of in a tweet as being "Deathcloud" scent. I ran back into the kitchen and sprayed the it right at the bug. For a moment it stopped--stunned by the chemical blizzard, but then it kept coming, despite the extra light I'd put on..despite the stench of virus killing Lysol.

It sounds wild but I could feel its murderous intention--it was after me. It wanted to give me a heart attack or fly into my mouth and clog up my throat or crawl into my ear and make me crazy. I could feel it. I stepped back and looked at a nearby pair of boots...then I sprayed again-- a fierce chemical jet directly at the monster. It stopped and bolted to the right, where it crawled into an umbrella that had been knocked on to the floor after I pulled down the bag of recycling. I sprayed the umbrella some more, figuring it was dying in there and I'd finish it off. Then I waited for a long time before giving it yet another dose. By now the apartment reeked of Lysol Deathcloud.

I told myself it had to be dead after all of that, but I couldn't bring myself to shake out the umbrella to find out for sure. The idea of it flying into my face was too much for me to handle. I was trembling all over and holding the Lysol like a pistol. It occurred to me that along with the crash of the recycling my screams must have made it sound like something truly awful was happening--however no one came by to see if I was OK.

It could have killed me and no one would know, I thought, as an overwhelming surge of loneliness, defeat and pain threatened to wash me away.

Isn't it a pity? I thought, To be stopped by something so small and silly?

At that moment I heard my phone buzzing on the glass table. I summoned the courage to leap past the umbrella and run back into the bedroom, where I snatched up the phone and breathlessly told my bf about the gigantic roach.

"Please hurry!" I said, feeling out the unfamiliarity of the damsel in distress role.

He was there a few minutes later. I cringed on the far end of the bed while he stood in the kitchen and gave the umbrella a shake. The roach jumped out, and sure enough--it was alive and well. It immediately started racing towards me, as I screamed, frozen stiff.

My BF took a few quick strides and was there--above it on the floor, his shiny black shoe high in the air as he brought it down like a hammer.

once--twice...I had to turn away.

"Thank-you," I said, my head in my hands as he went to gather some paper towels.

"Thank-you," I said again, before repeating it several more times.

"Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you."

The words felt and sounded so different. Perhaps it was because I still had to catch my breath.

Or maybe it's because suddenly the room was so quiet.


...the who cares girl... said...

I never pictured you with a boyfriend. I think--your Sterling character is deeply embedded in my brain, still. Excellent post.

sull said...

not that i enjoy the idea of you being tormented by a huge cockroach with a deathwish... that was a good read. :)

TRUE said...

thx 2 u both!

i've had girlfriends and boyfriends... not too many of each tho.

Bobby said...

I want to make a really pretty kite. I want to climb into that kite. I want to ride in that really pretty kite. I want somebody reliable to fly that kite. You.

Jessica said...

Love this story.

sweaty toes said...

to imagine you squeamish is almost impossible for me to do. i can now though. yeah the bf thing shocked me too. like you, i fall for people rather than him or her. i hate that this is so often talked about like i am doing right now. i don't like feeling sexualized v=by strangers because of my very personal choices. it's tough because i don't ever want to hide and it sets everything back in motion but i also know it's just not a big deal in the grand scheme and that it's only discrimination and fighting against it that forces this all out to be discussed. i don't meet straight people for the first time and say oh he fucks you up the ass eh? that's cool... i'm totally down with that. right on! anyway, i meant to just comment on what a great post this is but then i got all tangled up in the peripheral. bah.


Christopher "C" Myers said...


I have been to your blog a few times. Good stuff. I have started my own and think you might find it interesting. Thanks


Anonymous said...

are you done writing here?

Anonymous said...

oh grow up!

Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.


Unknown said...