|Discourse on the Method
Author: Guede Mazaka
In all honesty, he didn’t start with the Walkman till after he was assigned to Boston.
Beforehand, he worked New York for a while, sliding along the slick gold-lighted streets of uptown, and tramping through the muck-sucking hellholes of downtown. Everywhere he went, there was the jungle music of rap and fractured rock and something that wasn’t really music. More like the city beat itself—a kind of lowdown dirty-faced pound that beat at hips and head. Not quite the pulse of darkness’ heart, and anyway, Paul wasn’t dumb enough to let his rearguard get cut off and drop straight into total immersion. If Kurtz had had season tickets to the NY Philharmonic, maybe he would’ve remembered he was supposed to be a good little straight man.
The labels are bad enough—Paul barely accepts homosexual—but the kitschy stereotypes they stretch around themselves like ugly pink mesh are even worse. Streisand. Jesus. Someone should’ve broken her nose, saved her the trouble of that surgery, and then washed her up river. God knows her maudlin caterwauling deserved it more than some of the battered-faced corpses Smecker had to write up. Liking men never made him feel the slightest need to get in touch with his damned feminine side, if he’s got one, and he’s not real impressed with people that do. Idealism or not, it’s a black, terrifying world out there, and even the women start to grow balls after a while. Usually about a week before the men.
New Orléans had better taste in music, all right, but it was still the wrong kind. That city tapped its slow, lazy rhythms into the soles of Paul’s feet and dragged successively longer on the downbeats, as if trying to lure him down to the side of the road for a quick nap. Hot, humid nights and sticky-hell days, with street music and club snappiness all having the same off-kilter rhythm. Drove him nuts with his itch to correct it.
But Boston? Boston’s got no music in the historical district, aside from the fifes and little pittering drums of the re-enactors that sometimes muddle in it. It’s too respectable up there. And down there, Boston’s nothing but industrial grime. The stuff’s better than soundproofing—nobody’s ever heard anything. Rape and kill ten feet away, and the sharp-eyed gossips on the corner declare they heard fuck all. By now, Paul knows to clear his schedule three days down the line to deal with the revenge-killing that’s not really a revenge-killing, because no one knows what it’s about. And his last date saw his copy of Poe’s Dupin stories and asked if he was a fan of Sherlock Holmes as well. Hardly.
There’s not nearly as much humanity in modern-day Boston as there apparently was in 1890s London. Oh, Paul can look out the window of his car and watch all the shells meandering about, but the only real people are the ones whose hands are moving those shells like street-corner carnies. Where’s the clue, sir? Think it’s under this one? You sure?
Fuck, no. But Paul’s learned to work with uncertainties. Most of the time, he’s right. Gets him enough attention for him to have the choice of watching his goddamn back from everyone, or for him to start walking like the cat that walked by himself. The wilderness isn’t a vacuum, however, and he’s not an animal. He needs to remember that.
And so there are two little earphones feeding the crystallization of high civilization into his ears, the structured passions and the ordered genius of revolutionaries long dead. Because that’s the only way for anyone who disagrees with society to find safety at the nightfall.
One long decrescendo.