People, Structures and Vehicles

A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance


Here are a few things that occurred to me on the last night of the festival in Nevada, when I was walking around with Josh, Erin and Star, about an hour after we’d taken the synthetic mescaline derivative I mentioned a while back:

1. Only two kinds of thing are worth paying attention to:

(a) things that move, and

(b) things that are on fire.

2. People move but none of them are on fire.

3. Vehicles move and some of them are on fire.

4. Structures do not move but all of them are waiting to burn, except the ones which are actually burning.

These seemed like such useful insights that I shared them with my friends, excitedly, and they received them excitedly. We ran off to put them to the test, and almost immediately I tripped over a middle-aged woman in a purple fleece jacket who was lying on the ground.

“Hey,” she said, “you just walked into me!”

“Madam,” I said, “you are neither moving nor on fire, so you do not have my attention, and until you move, or catch fire, you shall not have it!”

She grunted, as if to say, ah, one of them, and went back to whatever she was doing on the ground.

Meanwhile, vehicles were passing us in all directions, and structures were burning. The Exosphere glowed on the horizon like a fiery moon; fire rose from the minarets of the Temple of Memory. We ran from one burning structure to the next, coughing, wildly interested, confident that we had finally understood the world.

When I was at the festival in Nevada, these seemed like very San Francisco revelations, I mean, they seemed like the kind of thing someone who had been living for a while in San Francisco and who was no stranger to hallucinogenic drugs might think of. I felt like I’d understood the world, sure, but the implicit scope of my understanding was: the world of the festival in the Nevada desert. It was only later, when I watched the Twin Towers burn from my window on Fifty-fourth Street, that I wondered if the mescaline had somehow sent my mind forward to axioms which would be true later on… but no, that’s ridiculous. At most what I can maybe say is that even my hallucinations no longer seem innocent. Like everything else from that time they now seem like a migraine’s aura—the weird shimmer that presages pain to come.


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