I’m not sure exactly when the water stopped. The last few days were like – y’know they were like – well, I’d notice this raspy kind of gaspy groan coming from the faucet – kind of like the pipes were thirsty or something. And I got to thinking - Well, I thought, I’ve been thirsty before – way up high…
We were hiking up on Half Dome and y’know we didn’t bring any water – no canteen – which wasn’t very smart, but we keep going because the place is so – y’know it’s so… do you think a place can be…?
And we’re just so thirsty. The light is fading out – and we hear this little stream bubbling out of a spongy rock. And they always say – well, they tell you, don’t drink – you’ll get all sick from that kind of thing. But it was so cold – like it was from outer space. So we drank it and I – well, I really felt that it meant something – something, y’know like a gift or a blessing from the top of the world. Like the way it was meant to be a long time ago.
Then we ran back down that dark trail – all the way back down to the campsite with the tent and the cars and our food hanging up so the bears can’t get at it. Back to where we had something we both mistakenly thought was sex.
Well, I gotta get going. It’s–y’know – I have a job interview and now this water thing. I mean, you get to a point – you’re changing jobs and you just can’t deal with y’know, digging a well or something. Who has the time? This isn’t the prairie – I’m not living off the land. I’m not – well, all I can do is pack a bag. I’m hotel bound – some hotel at the top of the world.
I know I’m in California because the ocean is on my right. It’s sort of a – like you get out here and you see how it is and you gasp. You just stop, because it’s, y’know, really beautiful. But then you drive and drive…
Shouldn’t it be screaming? Shouldn’t California turn to the East and shout some kind of amazing … y’know … amazing … Right now it’s all the expected – y’know – it’s just a collection of ideas about California. It’s not really what it was or is, right? But if it could just – for once - do what it was meant to do, then maybe this country would finally mean something.
If youth is wasted on the young and money is wasted on the rich and education is wasted on the student, then what is being wasted on me? Not this view, that’s for sure. I love it... So who are these people trading in forests for cities? And why do they keep calling me?
Hello there – hiya!
Alliance Plumbing – returning your call.
Yeah, you bet – how can I help you?
You’re having trouble with your pipes?
Let me check that out for you -
(sound of water running)
Nope, no problem here – everything’s great. Water to burn.
Do I have the right number? Did you leave a message this morning about-
Look, let me ask you – just for instance – couldn’t a land mass, when viewed from the air, actually be a coded message?
Like a wetland, or an estuary –couldn’t it be so cleverly terraced and channeled that, y’know - that when viewed from a plane or a satellite, it provides some kind of significant, y’know – significant, important message. I’m thinking of just outside the DC Metro area.
What, like spelling out words?
No, nothing so – so…. I mean more like a topographical code of patterns – the colors and shades, y’know - textures – so when you’re way, way up high –
You’re asking what – if it’s possible?
Well, of course it’s possible. But what worries me is, what happens to these messages over time – right? Deforestation, hurricanes, rising ocean levels – what happens to these messages?
They get garbled, I guess.
Or are they changed? Fundamentally – like - are we now getting a corrupted, y’know – a corrupted, compromised message? Like an opposite translation of some Russian poem?
Look, if you don’t have a plumbing problem…
What if nothing means what we think it means? What if we’ve been wrong all along? And we can never – y’know never -
I’m sorry. (hangs up)
I think it’s time to buy some new clothes. I don’t hang on to anything long, but this is really gotten ridiculous. All I seem to have is this suit – which, y’know - great for an interview - but it’s not my everyday kind of everyday groove. And it’s like – I think I’m missing a lot of stuff. I bet you could probably see my whole life at a lost and found somewhere. I better head down the hill – see what’s doing in town.
So, this is Boston, huh? I always, y’know, thought it would be bigger. The whole thing could fit in a tri-fold map. And it’s funny because I always planned to come here because it seemed so…
But my friends abandoned me and I didn’t think I could face New England alone. I mean, this place must have been – y’know when the first – the very first boats… but everybody thinks that. Everyone thinks they get off the boats and it’s this amazing, y’know this pristine, amazing – but they didn’t want that – they never wanted that. And now…
And now Boston...y’know, it fills up swamps and digs tunnels – but it can’t be naked. If Massachusetts could ever drop its towel and face West, maybe this country could finally mean something. But, then again y’know – Rome wasn’t burned in a day.
I get back to my room and it’s all cleaned - everything’s just been completely cleared out – even my nice view is gone. Just goes to show - if you allow for the inevitable, you gotta live with the consequences. I mean, what was this place before I…what was any place before? But I guess I’ve learned to relax and if that’s all I’ve learned, it’s enough.
Now, there’s some weird sound coming from the pipes – like they’re - like they’re dying of thirst. And nothing comes out of the faucet. No water – no water - no water anywhere. But I’m optimistic – no matter what, this world is still half full.
The park is very full today – the rain has stopped for the moment and people crowd the sun. I walk up to the first man I see and say, “Hello, Johannes!” He greets me kindly – though we have never met. I ask, “How is your leg since the fall?” And he answers, “Oh, that was many years ago - it is completely healed.” Before I can ask after his family and new home in Stavanger and if he misses his sweetheart who has moved to the chiming bells of Spain last winter – before I can ask all this – he has dreamed himself away.
I have changed the color of my house to match my shoes again. Sometimes I turn the whole world one bright color when the pavement starts to depress me. I take stairs two at a time – that’s the way I am. I don’t live in mansions, though I suppose I could. My mind is simple and I like simple things – it’s enough to shift around the small place I have. I’ll move the walls or sit on the ceiling awhile – that’s enough for me - I’m not fussy.
I even work a job and make up impossible deadlines for myself. It can be very distracting and keeps me from becoming a monster. Everyone who works protects the world from their true power.
And I often pretend I am married. I leave clothes around – unwashed dishes in the sink – my husband is messy. It annoys me. I don’t talk about him much because I love him so. It’s enough to know that I have kissed his hands – and stroked his hair – even though my house is always empty in the morning. And at night. I listen at the walls and peek through keyholes – he is always one step ahead of me. Sometimes I make the time go really slow so he can’t move away from me so quickly. There is a soft rain making footsteps in the hall.
Now the streets are thin – the ships are leaving - the seven mountains have closed their eyes. It’s funny that I miss the people. How often did I look away from someone in the street? When did I ever ask a stranger a question before? Why did I never…
I like to see them moving. I like the way they sound – even when they are loud and drunk and believe they are the center of the universe. Everyone should feel that once. But their shouts are fading – the rain is back – and the park is empty again.
My fellow Americans…From our disaster-proof Eastern cities, through vast, impenetrable grain fields, to the fortress shores of our Pacific Coast – we are finally safe. These live pictures are testament to our new life of absolute security. We have chosen the path of the strong. We have secured every avenue of attack and left nothing overlooked whatever. Let us briefly pause to reflect on the achievements, the ingenuity and will that has brought us to this apex of freedom.
No longer must we cower in our homes - or be shocked from hard sleep by warning bells – or switch on the news sick with the belief that the end of the world is come. The terrible apocalypse we feared from missiles, dirty bombs, poison gas clouds, magnetic destruction pulses, waves of fire, enemy disease, airplanes crashing around our ears – are now nothing more than nursery rhymes.
Today, we Americans can go where we want, do what we want – uninhibited - unfettered – without question or apology. Our every whim is mandate without any fear of reprisal. Surely, this begins a new Golden Age – as these live pictures show. We will re-draw the maps, re-write the treaties, and re-make the entire world in Peace according to the destiny and dreams of our forefathers. Let us briefly pause to reflect on those before us who struggled and sacrificed to make this moment possible.
For our ancestors are the true authors of the world we live in today. Their laws, traditions and beliefs form the very reality into which we are born. We fight their battles and keep their alliances. We protect their treasures and borders. Their control over what we think and do is virtually absolute. But what gives the dead such incredible power over the living? Its source is one single, ingenious lie. A lie that pervades every book, scientific discovery, religion and moral code. It is a lie so simple and seductive that its hold may never be broken. The fantastic lie that the living matter – that your life makes a difference.
Through this lie’s power, we plunge headlong into remarkable achievement and bravery. We are willing to toil endlessly - everything done in the belief that the action will leave an indelible stamp on the universe. But what will it mean in one hundred, one thousand, one million years? No, the most important person who has ever lived will have no more significance than the most important ant. Some of you will surely call this the worst kind of pessimism – as if it was my charge to re-write the laws of the Universe. But others of you will see this truth…and do nothing…as these live pictures show.
Now, with our liberty assured, let us briefly pause to imagine a world where we have broken the spell of the dead. Where the living know there is nothing more than today. Where no man can force another to throw his life away for honor, ancient feuds and Country. Will the world descend into a riot of butchering in the streets? The answer is our very humanity. The answer is the true nobility of life. Because, if we can face the void without the cheap buttressing of posterity, tradition and convenient gods - we will know true freedom.
But hasn't this freedom already come to pass? Hasn’t our invulnerability brought us beyond the outpost of caring? Isn't our safety a kind of freedom – and better than that – a comfort? My fellow Americans, it is time to come clean. You have been listening to a coded message – one that has set in motion a future as irrevocable as the past. The enemies are even now launching attacks on our vital targets – the bombs are on their way and our defenses are sabotaged - as these live pictures show.
I have supported this action against us because our absolute safety is an abomination – an isolation in the midst of nations and among men. Too long have we wasted our unbelievable riches on weapons that have done nothing more than erode our good will, destroyed our character and made us the aliens and viruses of this planet. No matter how benevolent our aims, our very invincibility is terror.
In moments, you will step outside into this meaningless world - defenseless. Will you run amok? Have you only waited for this lawless moment to transform into a shark - a rabid dog? What makes you believe that there is no other outcome to defenselessness than blood soaked chaos? And, if you have no intention of killing the next person you see, why are you are certain others will? Will you bolt your doors, barricade your windows, load your pistols – as if humanity is a siege upon itself? Have we always been so close to self-annihilation? Have a handful of commandments and policemen kept us in check so long? We will soon see. My fellow Americans, good night.
(Ich Kann Sie Nicht Verstehen)
Sure, ages ago everything was fireworks, flowers and thrill rides.
Those summers spent at the run down amusement park beach – roller coasters and canned music – yelling kids on the dark ghost train while a trashcan lion roared from a tin speaker in a tree -
“Hold on,” you say, “I grew up in a grim fishing village northwest of Jakarta.” Or, “I sweated my summers walking beans in Scribner, Nebraska.” Or, “I’m from Tierra del Fuego - where July winds howl as cold as Christmas - What do I know about holiday beaches and roller coasters?”
It’s true - there are so many barriers between us, that even a simple, lonely moment is impossible to communicate. But maybe if we experience the world together – vibrate awhile under the same sun – we can find this understanding. Follow me…
This is my city – you might find it familiar, but let’s both pretend it’s totally new. We don’t know the language or the subway lines. We are sightseers, tourists – wanders. Look around - Isn’t this freedom? Complete freedom from the burden of understanding? No meaning – just what you see – what you feel – what is everywhere.
And the people – (interview) Does it matter what they say? (interview - untranslated) Don’t they speak beautifully? (interview untranslated) Isn’t it a fine day? (interview untranslated) Isn’t the city full of wonders piled on top of wonders? Aren’t these people speaking spells? (interview untranslated)
Or do you think… “No. I must understand. What does that sign say? Who is that monument for? How will I ask these people for food, directions, a job, medical attention or the weather? Will I ever understand this country’s language, culture, history, manners, humor, insults, graffiti?” You’re overwhelmed.
Go into the art gallery – sorry, you’ll have to go alone - the guards won’t let me in – and you’ll find out what kind of person you are. Either you are struck stupid by the beauty, absurdity and rage in the painting around you. Or you are gripped by a fear of senselessness.
Understanding eats the soul of art and you are compelled to ask, “What does it mean? What are these splotches or colored oil trying to say? Can’t there be a barn or a tree or a face for me to – “
Sorry, all this talking is making me thirsty (drinks).
Okay…okay…Do you ask the fireworks what they mean? Or flowers? Then why demand it of art or nature or people? We aren’t on this earth long enough to answer all the mysteries - and even if we were, what would the knowledge get us? What profit? Death awaits us no matter how much we understand – as does life.
I cannot understand you - and I never will. Understanding is ruined by its very act. It’s like examining darkness with a flashlight. And while we waste our time fretting over the little meanings, we stay blind to the invisible world connects us all. (various people saying “An Invisible World Connects Us”)
What is this city – my city, your city, this whole world – but fireworks, flowers and thrill rides? Wonders spilling over wonders? It races by to amaze us at every moment. What else is there to understand?
Who Am I? Why Am I Here? (laughter, applause)
Perhaps you have become…unsure.
A person you’ve never met waves at you as if you are old friends.
There is a message on your answering machine spoken in a foreign language.
Perhaps you feel the need to hide something.
Perhaps there is something you desperately want to find out.
You wake up suddenly in a place you’ve never been – slowly you realize it is your very own room.
Now you begin to understand a simple but terrible truth.
We are all the same age. Everyone you know – everyone on the planet – is just one moment away from death. You don’t get any older than that.
Who Am I? Why Am I Here? (laughter, applause)
Things just…hadn’t worked out. She said she wanted to leave everything behind – and Martin was just one part of that everything. Martin had accepted this at first, but then…
“What was love?” he wondered. Thinking back, it had become just a mash of half remembered words, laughs, moans and a riot of other sounds. They were smashed and jumbled like a album being played all in one note. Listen. (a sound) Why is this painful? (sound again) Why is it comforting? (sound again) For whatever reason, Martin played this sound over and over in his head. He thought, “If I can just pull the sounds apart and examine each piece, I’ll figure out what happened. How love starts. Why it ends. Who she was. What went wrong. And the answers to all the mysteries that wake me up earlier every day.” The sound didn’t come apart.
Martin had heard through a friend of a friend that she had moved to a city up north. This city had never held any special interest for him. He knew no one there. He had only a vague idea of the geography, industry and customs – but off he went just the same.
It didn’t take long for Martin to discover this was a mistake. He had never been truly alone before. At home there was family and friends he had known all his life. Even strangers were familiar to him there. But in this new place…
Companionship quickly became a compulsion for Martin. He realized for the first time that it was a need as basic as food or water – but there were stores for those things. Where could he go for friendship?
To bars – the black hole of the clever.
To coffee shops – the curve of the final wave.
To record shops – the hover pad of insecurity.
To book stores – the whitewash of personality.
To art galleries – the suction of dreams.
To malls – the view of the fretting hero chained to a cliff’s edge, left baking in soul stretching anger.
And in all these places he sees people. In the face of every woman he imagines a lover. In the face of every man – a true friend. But in the end…
“Why,” he wondered after a night heavy with failure, “do I need them at all? I don’t even like people. They’re stupid, selfish, vain and aloof. They’re miserable, insipid, bigoted and afraid. They’re ignorant, small-minded, guttural and strange. They smell, they’re boring, they’re pushy, they’re violent.” No matter. Out he went – facing every indignity, compromising every belief in an effort to be social.
What continues to draw him out? (sound) What is unsatisfying in a life spent alone? (sound again) Who can protect him from the day? (sound again) The day that starts every morning earlier…earlier. Waking him with this sound chiming tirelessly in his head – unable to be pulled apart. Until finally one day…
She remembered only in triggers.
Cities: new york, paris, las vegas, san francisco, berlin, omaha, chicago, madrid, los angeles, buffalo, london, tokyo, miami, raleigh, st. petersberg, prague, seattle, warsaw, montreal, toronto, rome, syracuse, bejing, new deli, perth, washington, phoenix, dallas, portland, denver, st. paul, lincoln, arcata, moscow, bangkok, johanasberg.
Images of places printed on top of places – like a whole movie projected in one frame. There was definitely a hotel…or hotels. She could still taste alcohol in her mouth and feel tears on her face – but was there…blood?
Names would flash through her head – or faces – words of things she knew well - and words of other things that – well…she was confused. Some things were…and then others…How could she forget what had just happened? And how could she forget what, at this moment, is happening?
Anger. She wanted to tear out and shower these cities with chipped teeth –fleck the endless roads with blood, urine and copper. Swinging sixteen arms with all her weapons - would this protect her? What could protect her from this night?
She saw…she was seeing …she saw… Were these memories even hers? Certainly, she had never been to (rename cities from above)…but there she was.
Too much life. Too much for her alone. It was getting darker and darker as the images continued to stack upon each other. If only she could pull them apart and make sense of them…
So out of the hotels she ran. Into the streets she ran. Into her anger she ran. Mad eyes seeing only memories. Memories that were less hers with every step. Where to go? Where had she been? Blood. Blessed with tears. Faces. Protection. Anger. Life. She ran out into the cars. Running out into the streets alone. With everyone. As if she…and they…
(Woman and Man Speak Off Camera in park)
W: C’mon – let’s try to make it to the – what’s the matter?
M: Hmmh? Oh, I’m sorry – yeah, let’s go.
W: What’s wrong – you seem really –
M: Nothing, it’s just – it’s stupid.
W: Alright, now you gotta tell me.
M: Well, it’s just that – you see that woman over there?
M: Over there, the one with the glasses?
M: She looks really familiar.
W: Does she work in your office?
M: No – maybe – it’s like I actually know her – from, I dunno, high school?
W: She looks a little young for that.
M: I guess.
W: C’mon, let’s go. (Pause) What.
M: Nothing – forget it.
W: So she looks familiar – it’s – y’know – not that unusual -
M: It’s not her.
M: Well, the weird thing is – you see that guy over there?
W: The one in the hat?
M: The one walking – he looks familiar too. Really familiar. College
maybe – no further back.
W: What’s his name?
M: Mark? No – Martin. Martin…Martin…oh jeeze.
M: Well that guy there – I mean, I know that guy.
M: That guy sitting down – I remember doing something with him– driving…somewhere in California –
W: Okay, stop kidding.
M: Look at her. Don’t you know her? Didn’t we meet her at party just recently?
W: I don’t think so.
M: It’s absolutely clear. And that guy was – I’ve talked to him – about books.
W: That’s it –
M: And her! She was my sister’s friend – or the daughter of my Mom’s
W: This is stupid.
M: And that guy is really familiar – his face – I know it.
W: C’mon –
W: Look – that girl – I’m sure I was in love with her – that’ was a long ago. And that guy in the suit must have lived on my street as a child. And over there – that woman is, my god – she’s so familiar –
W: What’s happening to your voice?
M: Look behind those bushes – that woman at the table, I remember her clearly – crying in my arms. And him! He’s familiar too! There was a terrible argument.
W: What’s happening!
M: Don’t you see? Him and her and that guy over there – that baby – him – her – I know all of them. Everybody looks familiar! Everybody everywhere – I know all of them. It’s like they’re all – it’s like I can’t tell them apart – I can’t pull them apart!
W: Stop! I don’t want to hear it! I don’t want to hear anymore!
Perhaps it is coming clear.
You hear someone next to you say the very thing you’ve been thinking.
You read about the most cruel, inhumane atrocity in the newspaper and understand it.
Let us review the facts:
You and I and everyone else are the same age.
You and I will forgo everything for companionship.
You and I remember too many of the same things to be coincidence.
You and I – as different as were are – are immediately familiar to each other.
Who will protect us from the truth?
Perhaps there is no you - there is no I.
Perhaps there is no day and no night.
There is only one moment – one person – one place – pulled apart to make sense of itself. To examine each facet.
We name what is one name. There are no hotels or streets or lights or memories or bars or books or pictures or churches or shadows or tears or alcohol or triggers or time or people or water or atoms or brains or air or rooms or walls or guns or mysteries or songs.
Now – how can you hide what you have uncovered?
Who Am I? Why Am I Here? (Laughter and applause)