Chase Scenes
An Amended Travel Essay with Photographs from North Dakota

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I am writing these first new words in a notebook from a gas station in Bismarck, our first stop after the airport. The tooth is different than the paper I am writing my big project on; it is cheaper, slick, flat. I am writing in pen also, which feels sloppy to me. Sloppy because it is permanent, perhaps it is irresponsible. Yet I would like for this to be something different, perhaps a fresh project in itself. I wrote a document of our trip to Rapid City and environs last spring. It was very straightforward. I just got out of the swimming pool here at the motel in Madora, the Americinn‡. What a poor name. Joyce would be a languid floating flower in his grave, or perhaps Lewis Carroll, whoever popularized the so called portmanteau word, the sway it has over popular American culture is repulsive, that and misspelling. Why a convenience store would be more appealing as Kum-n-Go rather than Come and Go is a mystery to me, as great as the portmanteau fast food shacks like Mrs. Winners / Del Taco or Long John Silvers / A&W or how about why does Long John Silvers even exist anymore. In the pool I floated on my back. There will be one less sheet in this book as I just tore out a sheet to remind myself to take the camera battery out of the charger before I leave for the hike tomorrow. Sixty nine (69) sheets. Dare I write that much? Could I do it before Sunday night? It is Friday night right now. I fear that I will be asleep soon. The warm water in the hot tub…

Composition at home directly onto the machine feels odd. I had made a note to myself upon the third or fourth reading of the typed version of the text to develop a note for this page that details the irritating man who began watching television loudly in the lobby of Americinn. I should do this here although I do not feel a strong urge to chronicle that episode. It was very frustrating. In the vast landscape, in a little empty town, through the wall of our room, the ‘Dacotah Suite,’ the noise of a man loudly watching television in the middle of the afternoon in the public lobby of the motel, barged. I propose that sonic infringement upon my aural space, my personal right to silence, is tantamount to physical assault. I just got onto the internet to look up the definition of ‘tantamount’ after having included it in the previous sentence. I indeed used it correctly, yet it took me four minutes to accomplish the task because the internet is never, no, I do not want to get into this argument about time wasting, but how, in this form of composition, directly onto the keys, do I treat these things I choose not to, these threads I choose not to lay out toward the heart of the labyrinth, do I abandon them midstride, do I delete them secretly, a covert diversion from my fluid posturing, what of typographical errors, I believe I just answered that myself when typing ‘typographical’ starting with a ‘y’ instead of a ‘t’ and returning to fix it. This cannot compare. This is a world of distractions, this electric world, this world of comfortable beds and stocked kitchens, of warm soft cats and more books than at which a stick could be shook, and on these keys I do not feel the same sparing quality of each word. The visual precision of watching these characters fill the screen fights with my urge to blurt and traipse by creating such pristine crispness in the text. My sloppy handwriting is perhaps the ideal editor, and perhaps, after this brief experiment, which no doubt will resurface in the next twenty-three (23) pages of notes, I should retire to the yellow armchair to annotate in pencil, the next few sheets before I am distracted by my bed.

no, the uncomfortably hot water in the hot tub, slowed down my circulation. My extremities are lethargic. My right hand is frisky at the moment as it writes, but my feet and toes feel etherized propped upon the coffee table in our room. As I floated on my back in the pool I pulled my ears beneath the water to tune out the roughhousing children and the little girl who was afraid to get in. I held air in my chest. The train is coming by now. Which train? Burlington Northern Santa Fe. It went by four (4) times while we walked around Bismarck. Good god it sounds as though it is bearing down on our room! There, the whistle has passed. Saved by the Doppler effect, or at least alerted to my salvation. In fact the train is across the parking lot, and across a creek, a murky tan coloured creek‡. The water is opaque, perhaps it is filled with peanut butter syrup. Later. Earlier? The ceiling above the pool was wood, there were deep glu-lam beams. It was an indoor pool, obviously. I thought back to that pool at Mammoth Mountain, although as I floated I thought more about how I slept on the floor of a walk-in closet in our chalet, there were so many of us. I lay in there eating VONS brand Cheerios and listening to Burzum’s ‘Hysset Vis tar Oss’ or whatever, and Sort Vokter’s ‘Folkloric Necro-Metal’ and reading Swann’s Way. That was in 2000, January 2000…

chase 01

This train perhaps shadowed route 94, within a few miles, for its entire trek across North Dakota. I know for a fact, because I slept through its nocturnal howling, that it ran by both Bismarck and Medora, all of North Dakota for me. I picture now, sitting in Georgia, what was so visceral a disturbance to me in North Dakota. Not the hooting of the engines jarring me in the motel rooms, but the vision, when standing by the tracks after taking a coffee in Bismarck, of the countless wheels sliding clearly along the rails westward. I stared into them, and I will no doubt intellectualize the sensations now that I am so distant. I stared into the space between the wheels, a space of time sliced through by wheel after wheel. I pictured in a split second it cleaving my body in twain, my head from my body. It was horrible inside. It was the fear of no control, of the accident, the fear that you are not finally in control, that I am not, and that the seconds that that train carried beneath it, were the same seconds that separated me from it, and me from the someday inevitable. Yes, in words it loses its gut, but I cannot go back.

Its 2006 now, April, late April. I have one more volume left in ‘In Search of Lost Time.’ Those damn French bastards. You see, 2 pages ago I said I wanted to experiment. What is that even? Like I don’t cross anything out and write in pen? Well does that mean I type the wrong title to that Burzum album because I know for damn sure I spelled it wrong. Its strange because I can clearly picture the title, ‘Hvis Lyset tar Oss’ or ‘Os.’ I believe it means ‘When the Light Takes us.’ Or perhaps ‘When the Light Leaves Us.’ But what is the value in such experimentation, or in such process, is there any for me, for the reader‡? In fact I believe Roubaud wrote in such a way in The Great Fire of London although slower, and he was smarter than I, and perhaps knew his text would be read, I choose to not have such burdens placed upon me I can be in that pool and in that closet and I can mention here that those cut-rate Cheerios gave me viscous hallucinogenic gas and that I kept that little stifling closet shut and wallowed in it and yet here I am, 24 hours into my trip to North Dakota and what of it. Perhaps the realization that there is a pool here, and that I have been to a gas station where my father bought me this notebook. Perhaps. No, it is so obvious…

chase 02

I feel that I was using the term experimentation rather glibly. I did not establish a sense of what it stood for, what it was gauged against, and whether it had to be hatched externally or internally, that is, is my desire to experiment, or does my desire to experiment, mean that I should do something new for myself, for the moment, or new in the contemporary context of writing or memoirs, or is it that my desire to capture the distraction, or the visual quality of the mind’s, of my mind’s focus. I have read. Wait… my mind’s focus is experimentation in the context of my own writing history. I have read that the space in the visual field that the eye can actually focus on is minute, perhaps the size of a poker chip ten feet (10′) away. The eye is always, is constantly moving in fluttering scans across small spaces to produce the illusion of a broader zone of focus, and between discrete zones which can never be perceived together, do they even exist in the same place, can you corroborate it?

but I feel like those French bastards took away all the fun of reading their novels by laying bare the mechanisms, like, “you see, this is automatic writing” or “chronology is bourgoise,” and hell I even spelled that wrong, I can’t spell anything without the dictionary, no, without the internet, dictionaries are for Scrabble and bantering about what other animals are marsupials, the internet is where you find words to write with. I’m slowing now, I’m getting self-concious of the process, I’m letting myself hear the voices going up and down the hall outside the door. The children from the pool, go back to the pool children, you seemed so much to enjoy it. I also would like to state that a very clear sign that you are in a barren, desolate, and abstract land is that you can see definitive shadows of clouds on the ground. You see them ahead of you, their complete form, then you drive into them and then out, then they appear in their entirety in your rearview mirror‡. I believe everyone is here in this hotel in order to kill things. Except for the children and their mothers, they are here to enable their fathers to kill things. Or perhaps they are here to kill my night’s rest. It has been a long day of driving through clouds. I want…

chase 03

The Doppler effect does upsetting things to the sound plane engines make, jet engines, as they pass over my house. The sound tends to deepen in such a way that it forms a visual arc of the plane falling from the sky. My house is in a flight path from the Atlanta airport. In fact we flew over it on the way out to the Twin Cities. I was comforted by my recent memories of standing on the lawn and seeing up through the trees the slightly darker than sky coloured plane bellies coasting ably through empty space, that none had crashed into my house, and that we would not. The sounds empty from the night, the diving sounds of jet engines leave me listening to ‘The Wardrobe’ with two (2) lamps on in my room. Perhaps this music will someday carry this moment for me, or many moments. I believe the first song is a reworking of the carnivalesque theme from ‘The Elephant Man’ which I was just watching. On our drive down the Enchanted Highway, two lanes over rolling North Dakota prairies, we listened to the soundtrack from ‘The Straight Story’ and what it brought along to me was both the film, its confrontation of vast mortality and insignificance but also this little room I am now back in where I have listened to it so many times. Now, were I to listen to it here, I shall, I am placed not here, where I was brought when I was not here, but back to the car driving through the pure sunlight of the empty North Dakota sky, my delight at the green and red faces and gold bodies of the prairie pheasants, their heads bobbing up through tall grass, the peace I felt in relaxing and stepping off the beaten path with my father, and the haunting silence of the giant 20:1 prairie pheasant sculptures that were part of the Enchanted Highway’s draw. I feel the peace that Straight felt looking up at the night sky with his brother, of passing through cloud shadows with my father, and sharing, while in the secrecy of my mind, sitting back in my room on a dark night like this one.

to turn on the air conditioner under the window and check out for the night. Who knows where I shall start again tomorrow, perhaps where I land, or perhaps I shall return to Bismarck, that is the beauty of such a French process, no? No, I just got out of the pool again. I tried to think about that other indoor pool but I guess you can only do it once, then if you write about it that pretty much kills it.‡ I did think, on the long walk today, about what I should write when I got back tonight. All I could think about was laying bare this process, and saying, no, writing things like “you see?” It always began to take on this didactic turn in my thoughts, addressing the readerly ‘you,’ but not in an inclusive way. Perhaps I cannot write inclusively, or ‘for’ anyone. When I did it last summer in South Dakota it sounds like ‘What did you do this summer?’ Like my travelogue to the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, complete with my autograph, no, not my autograph, complete with the autograph of the manager of the Travelodge in Slidell. They did not have a pool there. I remember that being tremendously upsetting for my sister and myself. I don’t think the Travelodge chain has ever really resecured, or recovered, rather, from that letdown in my eyes. If I were to see a Travelodge next to a Motel 6 or Knight’s Inn I would…

I’m sitting on a chair in my living room that is from my grandparents’ house. I have been back in Atlanta for two days. I have spent the past two nights typing until after one AM (1AM) on this project which I schemed to abandon handwritten in a kelly green Mead notebook. After typing out this text and reading it several times I have clearly concluded not to abandon it. In fact, I am quite intrigued about this additional concurrent footer, which I think will by virtue of its paratextual convention, be sheet bound, whereas the body narrative, although logorrheic, is free to roam from sheet to sheet. The danger I foresaw is real. The text eats my time while drawings lie unfinished on the board to my right, and the materials that spawned this text grow ephemeral yet strangely more clear, precise. Back in my comfort zone, I see all of the fragments and locales in a similar light to the intrusive memories that plagued the writing on the trip, they are the stuff of my past opened to analysis and perhaps my fear of ‘taking it home with me’ was that even the most recent memories from the trip, the ones I feared would disintegrate if not reduced to words, and whose absence from the remainder of the above flowing narrative forms the most pressing reason to continue working down here, would, immediately upon landing, posses the critical gloss of my armchair autobiographer’s perspective.

take a room at the non-Travelodge, even if the Travelodge had a pool and the others didn’t, for I do not care so much about pools now. Even though that is all I can write about. In Bismarck you, or I, it was I after all, who could see out the window of the Radisson, the edge of the city in all directions from the ninth floor. The gridded streets petered off into scrubby prairie or fell into the Missouri River. I could also see an old Spanish colonial train depot and the ‘Provident Building’ which in the dark had a barrel on top of a post on its roof which lit up red like a, well like something red. I am very tired and my similies aren’t flowing, I can’t even spell simile. We hiked quite a ways today, twelve (12) miles and change in the north unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It was a bizarre hike. We were bumped from the trail, or discouraged from the trail by a grazing bison who lurched toward us‡. The trail and the environs were very muddy. It was a very deceptive mud, very thick. At times a dry crust would form over it and when I would step into it I would break through and begin sliding on the goo beneath. It was like hiking on cream cheese. That is a simile that I thought up on the fly. At the time on the hike I was more concerned with intellectual pursuits like how…

chase 04

To avoid the bison, who was standing atop a flat plateau area across which the trail passed, we were forced to climb down to a broad, muddy creek bed. When we clapped to alert the bison to our presence he had taken two steps toward us and watched us with his bloodshot eye as we scrambled back down the side of the plateau. At the lower plain we could not see the top of the plateau; it was about fifteen feet (15′) above us up a steep incline. Into the creek two (2) beavers scrambled and we skirted the plateau between its sheer wall and the creek headed for the opposite slope which we hoped to ascend on the other side of the beast. I was afraid the entire time that I would see the bison’s woolly head appear over the ledge, or that I would hear its hoofbeats advancing in a gallop that consumed the steep incline just before it ran me through with its horn. My father suggested that we move our backpacks to the fronts of our bodies to protect our chests, but I fully intended to leap into the deep creek with the beavers at the first shadow that was cast from the top of the flat plateau.

to structure this text and how to make it lofty and critical. That word is so hollow. People at Georgia Tech used to talk about ‘critical architecture.’ I found myself as an impressionable kid beginning to feel like I could form an understanding of what that was, what architecture would have to be to be critical. I felt that I could even begin to recognize it, as if the forms and materials of someone like Thom Mayne were somehow thumbing their nose at something. What good is that? Here on that walk, and perhaps in this writing, in the Medora, ND Americinn‡, which is becoming less critical by the college ruled line, and certainly in the days I spent in LA, forgetting what architecture looked like, I can perhaps understand what those Tech guys were talking about, or what they should have been talking about. And I refuse to use the word critical. There. I will choose another adjective. I choose ‘productive,’ and it modifies ‘practice,’ not form or style. Productive practice. For what you are reading is clearly formless, see, I am writing to ‘you’ again when I should be detailing the historic center of Bismarck. But making the practice of your life productive is to turn it into something other than the…

In the motel, or, the motel and the airplane were chambers for composition. When I can tune away the slight issues that gather in these spots, either the noise or paranoia, I can race my pencil against my thoughts, a futile chase. I hardly would let up and I would allow the tension of the narrative or my voice to go limp, to drop away because I was merely enjoying the movement of my hand. That analogue conversion of thoughts to lead on paper is disturbing, the space that it creates, the almost automatic manner in which the hand operates. It is the same feeling as when I become aware that I am touch typing. The vocation of my hand is horrifying, I feel as though they are not controlled by thought processes because I characterize my mind as a slow twitch machine that plods across issues, weighs its output, and wastes time. The lightning processes, the strobe that breaks the operations of the hand into millions of individual decisions, analyzed while I continue, analyzed at such a pace and with such little effort that I may continue my plodding, ponderous composition, that I may project out a few words or toward a theme or tone, while my hands do some other mind’s bidding.

summary or rehashing of its form and content, even when it is bound into something that has the illusion of being transformed into a new entity. That is the costume of style. Certainly I can have a voice, but, here, in this vomit, it is untempered. I am not even attempting to communicate anything, or even use correct spelling. My handwriting is growing appalling. Slower I can’t get it out so I speed. Where am I going, back to Bismarck? No. I keep thinking I feel ticks exploring beneath my underwear. After, no, during our hike, we were under attack by wood ticks. We each flicked at least fifty (50) ticks from our clothes and skin. They would just appear. Even after I felt that I had eradicated them one would appear in my chest hair, or even if I knew them to be gone, I would still feel them stealing through thickets of my hair. I need to stop, my wrist is sore. No wait, that is a weak way to leave a seam to stitch onto. Shall I talk about how I remember nothing of Swann’s Way‡? It is humorous that. No. I keep thinking my father’s eyes are opening. He is putting his feet up and I am listening to Darkspace…

Yet I do not remember Swann’s Way. I have an image in my mind yet I don’t know if it is from the book. At dusk, out across rolling green landscapes, a stand of trees, enormous live oaks, lies at the crest of a hill and flowing down its side. At the base of the low hill a large home stands. It is white and artificial light glows from all of its many windows. There are breaks in the tree canopy through which the richly coloured dusk sky breaks. Young Marcel has snuck up the hill where looking out beneath the canopy he can see into the upper story of the home. He sits in the shade, then in the shadow of twilight and watches the evening life trot, no, wander on through the house. I believe it is Swann’s house. I don’t know if he is watching Gilberte. Its plot context does not concern me. It is the glow of the home at dusk, washing out on rural lands, across knee-high grasses, and the security and shelter of the trees with their early darkness, that I carry with me as a composition.

I haven’t grown up much. I am not going to turn back the pages to see what the last real subject I had been writing about was. I will merely go back to Bismarck, Friday morning, momentarily. To our stroll around the little capital city. I was expecting it to be like Rapid City. A frozen in time high plains town, divided into blocks with utilities running up the alleys and Mayberryesque storefronts from all the eras until the storefront succumbed to the box. Why open your store onto the street, display your goods, if your sign is draw enough, BestBuy, Walmart, Target. Your logos say more than a pyramid of toilet paper ever could. I thought it would be pregnant with a satisfying nostalgia. Yet Bismarck is Rapid City without the self-consciousness‡. It doesn’t pretend to care that someone who doesn’t work at the hospital or the Provident Building might be passing through. I am dying to look back to how I started this and why I am just now getting to Bismarck. I sha’n’t though. I’m not sure if I made that pact with myself. I think it just started at the top of this page. Although there is a sense, with the pen, the misspellings, the general formlessness of the text, that it is seeking an analogous relationship to…

chase 05

These places aren’t so different in the end than somewhere like Athens, GA or Olympia, WA with their planning structures and aesthetics. What changes is the role of the sun, or at least my perception of it. I feel as though we are closer to it. Which may physically be the case but not significantly enough to alter climate [I do not plan to do this anywhere else as there is no reason to countermand my own thoughts and impressions, but as I typed the previous sentence I have come to believe that it is factually inaccurate and that the distance away from the sun caused by the Dakotas’ distance further away from the equator than Athens, and therefore physically further in space as it is ‘further back’ on the spherical globe, is greater than the difference in elevation between the Piedmont and the High Plains, so that Bismarck is most likely further away from the sun than Athens, although possibly not Olympia]. Bismarck and Rapid City feel so exposed, as if they are on a collision course with the sun, having just entered the proximity at which the radiation would bleach everything into sandy consistency and flash shadows burning into the sidewalks. I am lying on my bed in Georgia attempting to perform this comparative geographic analysis. But as these relationships, or the formal relationships of these towns suggest, the comparison is not so easy. I feel, although I distrust my thoughts and memories, I don’t know if I can even picture Bismarck now, especially now that I have mentioned Olympia, that I am picturing all of the same images, for each town, and pulling filtering screens before each with different pallours of memory, isolation, disinterest, love, capitulation. And the image turns from a streetscape, to a sheet of glass reflecting different suns, to a washed out gird of squares, empty washed out memories that I struggle to inflame with melodrama before I lose interest and turn out the light above the bed.

the development and structure of the trip. Not the geographic or chronologic track, or the geographic and chronological for in a travelogue they track one another. The structure of the head trip. Which happens to unfold in a more documented fashion when I am actually documenting. There are of course tangents that my mind takes during the day which will never be documented‡. I see that my father is suffering from phantom tick, he has gone to sleep yet he keeps reaching up to feel around his hairline. The little bastards. When we were stopped by a ranger on the last leg of our hike, which followed the main road for some four (4) miles, which we chose because the ticks were getting so bad, he said that they will choose a spot on a stick or blade of grass and hold on with two (2) of their legs. The other four (4) float free and when something brushes past them they just latch on with those four (4) free legs. He had watched them do it. The part that is hard for me to reconcile is that there must be millions of ticks just hanging there by their two (2) legs until they die. Unless they can eat bison shit, then they might be saved. If not, well, they must not be able to survive that long without blood. We wondered what good they were. What good is anything, any animal that is. Ticks are parasites. Are…

On each page that I visit I remember back through the trip. The way in which these footnotes compose information, and the type of content they require is very different from the running text above. The footnotes, as they do not flow, require compact, closed scenarios or cases. As I land upon each I attempt to run back through the trip with a sensitivity to small capsule narratives that I have not yet documented. I usually cannot think of one until I begin to write. These little compositions generally are born more of their, no, of the conditions under which they are written, such as now, in front of the Equitable Building in Atlanta. The protesters are still here. Their first day was last Thursday, the afternoon I left for the trip. I could not focus at work that day, the impending air travel spooking me a bit so I pulled together all my gear with the intention of leaving for the airport straight from lunch. I sat out in the sun for about one and a half hours (1.5 hours) reading Titus Groan and watching the protesters. They stand against a construction company who is fitting out an office in the tower. I must confess that they bring little sympathy out from me because they appear so singularly disinterested. Each day there seems to be a foreman of some sort who manages the group, he is well-dressed and often has a video camera. The rest of the group appear as if they might be working for their lunch. They are not only an unsavoury group, they seem to have little or no passion for the cause, many listening to Walkmans or only trying to hand out leaflets to women. One of them is the short man who sells pirated DVDs on MARTA out of his backpack which he wears on the front of his body, either for ease of sketchy access or because he has been stared down by a mighty bison on the sage flats of North Dakota.

humans not parasites? Of course we have civilizations, we are productive. But as I watch the bison spend the entire day eating grass I wonder what good the productive capacity is in us‡. When the ice caps melt and raise water levels by four hundred feet (400′), and EPCOT Center is under three hundred feet (300′) of water, and every coastal houses’ shingles are littering the surface of the embiggened oceans, what good is this notebook. Should I not have spent the whole day eating dry roasted peanuts? Or reading instead of writing? Or saying “yes” instead of “zuh?” There are trees planted on the top of a flat hill outside of Bismarck that spell out “BISMARCK.” The landscape of North Dakota is so flat that you could not possibly make it out from the ground. I just flew over it en route to Min/St. Paul. We are high above the clouds now that we raced from Medora along route 94. They closed in on the airport as we approached. When we were visiting the art deco WPA era state capitol on Friday after our Coffee Break, I saw a plane fly over the grounds. It looked low and it hung an east over the capitol office tower. There must be only one flight path out of Bismarck for that is the one we just took. From the…

chase 06

This issue of human value, or in general, the value of our existence in general, must be weighed at the level of the individual, and I believe can only be weighed by the individual themselves. As far as I can say, humans are the only organisms that are able to reason through judgments such as these, so, it would stand, that we cannot then, if only responsible for our own beliefs and purpose, judge other types of organisms on their usefulness, bison and wood ticks for example. The frames of reference are too discrete and incomparable. There were moments in the hike where we would muse about “eating grass all day,” perhaps it was an awful existence, in my frame of reference, but the peace under which these creatures currently lived was certainly preferable, and I daresay of more value to them as organisms, and of more value as organisms to the environment, than their poor contemporaries being harvested for Ted Turner’s restaurant chain. The man leafleting directly to my left just successfully obtained a woman’s phone number. Apparently she is “staying with her sister out in Stone Mountain.” I wonder, were I to ask the man why he thinks he is of value, not in any context, not ‘to other people,’ ‘to commerce,’ or ‘to the intertwined systems of nature,’ what his answer would be. Would it be different than my answer? What would my answer be, I cannot say. It would most likely be bloated and circular, meaningless. To actually answer these questions I think it is first necessary to answer a question, a fundamental question, does anything have value outside its capacity to perpetuate your own life, or to perpetuate other systems, and then, what is the value in their perpetuation? There is some of that circular logic I feared I would have no recourse to avoid and no ability to rise above.

air it was clear how much of the city the hospital monopolized. It was an incredibly utilitarian city. I would call it gritty but it was meticulously clean. It was gritty in the sense that it was quotidian. There was no affectation or posturing to appeal to anyone save the people who needed it to survive. The folks popping in and out of Coffee Break buying their regular flavoured drinks held a small town familiarity on their sleeves that, as I watched them silhouetted against the glass storefront, not the pane that was covered from head to sill in flavoured syrup, contrasted to the bleak wide streets with ‘For Lease’ signs and empty storefronts. Perhaps they chose this desolation as their town aesthetic. It would not be so easy to sell out‡. From the window of the hotel I could see a TGI Friday’s, Staples, and Pier One, crouching outside the perimeter, waiting for the last picture show to play so that it could smother the town in signs and seal up all the windows. Bismarck was not somewhere that needed more than one of something. The coffee shop we had sought out for our introduction to the city was long gone, Coffee Break was fittingly visible from that intersection. So if they had planted an additional ‘BISMARCK’…

chase 7

I have been back from North Dakota for five (5) days now and I stretch my memory during this compositional process to recall episodes that I am neglecting. I believe I shall list them here for the sake of the remainder of the footnotes, first I should like to mention that the man leafleting just to my left was just barking very loudly like a dog. I wonder what sort of impression we used to make in the mid-1990s when protesting fur stores. We received a balanced share of positive and extremely negative attention. I remember one instance in front of Lenox Mall in Atlanta where a man in a pick-up truck threw a large piece of meat still on the bone out of his window at us, then proceeded to drive up on the sidewalk at us. And although we most likely looked like fools, I can be sure in saying that, at that moment, we all felt and exhibited passion for the cause we were standing for [I don’t know if I was inspired by the glances upward in the page where my mind may have trained on “sell out,” for I did mention in the note that “at that moment” we all felt strongly, because it was not long after this period of time that we were having regular protests that some of the most vocal animal rights activists began to do such things as eat meat or become interested in survivalism and hunting in the spirit of Ted Nugent, real roughriders and plainsmen, or whether the thread was inspired merely by the ineffectual protest being staged amidst my composition]. No, I shall not list the episodes for your sake. Maybe I can say “you” now with more ease as I feel that one week of composition, for I didn’t start writing until Friday night, although the notebook was purchased Thursday night, yet I am no longer writing in the notebook but on the proofs of the running narrative, is worth allowing ‘you’ to read, and as I have already had some initial positive feedback I surely intend to share this. And even though I have been back for five (5) days I don’t believe that excuses me from the initial impulses regarding the construction of the text. The ‘I’ of last Friday night would be very disappointed.

sign for airfarers such as myself, I would have been surprised. That was quite a closed episode. I set up with the sign and the flight and closed with a nice return to the initial image. But I am still on the plane. We must be taking a different route back because we are flying over a fairly large city. On the flight in we saw nary a bulb or auto. It disturbed me. The blackness. I believe this might be Fargo, ND. Let me look for a planted monogram. I have no clue. I haven’t seen the film recently enough to make a judgment. The clouds have thinned out so I can see the ground. Although my internal gyroscope is thrown off by the haze at the horizon. I think I feel out of control‡ flying. I have a helpless sense that were I to see something amiss. As we took off from Bismarck I noticed that the flaps were down. I had a fear that this would not allow us to accelerate fast enough or it would drag us to the ground shortly after takeoff. I wondered whether I could shout to get the flight attendant’s attention. Or whether I should. I did not. And here we are twentyseven thousand feet (27,000′) over eastern ND, and I am about to order a tonic water. I have drunk the following things on this trip,…

I have been thinking about these pieces of writing a great deal today, in fact thinking of the writing more than the portions of the trip which are fading from my memory. Perhaps it is that the running text has diverged so far from the keys that might have recalled to me some moment in the trip or that as a source of urgency the trip has petered out. I recall continuing to work on documentation about my trip to Mexico City some two weeks after I had returned to Los Angeles. At some point, maybe about the same distance I am at from the trip to North Dakota, the concerns shifted from actually remembering the trip to a material concern for the process of memory, would these memories be safe, was I already losing them? And after this short spell the remaining stragglers in my documentary process turned back outward, but to a different and more banal locale and theme, my daily life in Los Angeles. This transition, or transformation of my interests is not to say that I had forgotten the details of the trip, or that I am forgetting them about North Dakota, but that these experiences, and the delusion that you are still living them, that they have not yet turned to memories, which I regard as rather safe storage now, has a relatively short half-life.

a sprite, one soy latte‡, for which I coyly asked if Coffee Break had soy milk. Although in Bismarck, Rapid City’s ‘simple’ cousin, and we had not even seen a grocery store from which one might buy soy milk, the man behind the counter, probably in his early to mid forties (40s), was pierced beyond the capacity one might have to recognize his human form. One would think that such a man would carry this elixir, or at the very least, some soy milk syrup. When I ordered the drink at last he asked me in mild shock if I did not want some flavour. I said no. But immediately a textual theme was cemented for this description. I was ably prepared to remark, perhaps in passing, about the hundreds of syrups bedecking the shop. Perhaps I would have even tied it into the man’s obsessive, no, apparent obsessive behaviours foregrounded on his half-metal visage. But now I am free to discuss the intrusion of syrup into this man’s world view. It was in fact the lynchpin of fine coffee beverage drinking. Every person that then came in proceeded to order bizarre concoctions which have been more eruditely satirized in other avenues by intellectuals such as Steve Martin and probably someone on the…

chase 8

It is hard to write the way I like to write with a cat on my lap. I prefer to have the page in my lap, which is easier if I am writing in a hard book, but these proofs I have been writing on now seem rigid enough, just so, to sustain my light miniature script. There are twenty-three (23) sheets of paper here, one third (1/3) of the final number of sheets that were left in the notebook, if I had written one less it would have been more difficult to write here. As it is I am having to place the papers on a table and reach over the cat with my right hand to write. I am continuously petting her with my left hand so that she won’t leave, or so that she won’t attempt to get onto the table to eat the beets which are growing there. I found that my ideal setup for composition was at a coffeeshop in Athens, GA where they had small, relatively low circular tables. I would pull my chair so far up to the table that its central support pole was immediately between my thighs. The table was so small that it almost disappeared beneath my open book. It, no, the level of it was somewhat higher than my lap but actually this was a more effective level for the curvature of my arm and the angle of my wrist, and I could write smaller because it was slightly closer to my eyes. The table was so small however that I did not have room for my soy latte, served in a clear glass stein, which I had to rest on a neighbouring table when one was available.

‘Blue Collar Comedy and Cross Burning’ specials. Yet my pleasure at entering into such a ripe environment was not complete for upon ordering a plain bagel, two of which were stored in a Tupperware sandwich package, I asked if they did not have any peanut butter. They did not. But as if snapping out of her real world fog and reentering the sweet walls of Coffee Break; the girl behind the counter offered that they did have “peanut butter syrup.” I feel that nothing more needs to be said about that scenario, and we are beginning to descend into Min/St. Paul. The Twin Cities is what I shall call them because I cannot spell the name of the one that starts with ‘M.’ I do not mock these places lightly. In a sense I am confronting my own stereotypes and I am generally thrilled to encounter locations and establishments outside my norm. They provide more cause for me to note them than would a place that sold Black Metal records or French novels. For certain I could find something to say about these places but it seems, on trips such as these, that I relish more the chance to eat an iceberg lettuce salad in Trapper’s Kettle, Belford, ND‡. And merely describing it as this is not sufficient because it allows those past…

chase 9

I keep meaning to consult a map to see whether the town was Belford or Belfield. At the end of our long hike and relatively long drive through ranches and oil fields, back from the north unit, the town was a welcome dose of civilisation, although not the sad shock back to chain restaurants and chain motels and open businesses that we would have suffered had we drove on to Dickinson, or Dickenson. There was a single restaurant at the interstate commercial district that was clearly marked ‘Restaurant’ with its name, Trapper’s Kettle, hardly visible in weathered copper over dark wood. We gave other options not a second thought and dove right in. It was an incredibly large restaurant with odd furnishings such as a salad bar in a canoe and bristly rope lariats wound across the back of each chair. Everyone seemed to know each other and people would make the circuit from table to table saying “good evening.” A rotund man in overalls spent more time at each table appearing to have meaningful conversations with each group. We speculated that he was either the mayor or the preacher. I don’t know if there was a center to the city set apart from the highway where there might be another eating establishment. I recalled being in Mexico City and getting chastised by my colleagues for eating at VIPS, a south of the border Denny’s clone where I ordered the most bitter lemonade concocted on the planet. They felt that it was not an ‘authentic’ experience. It was in Mexico was it not? “Where do you think Mexicans eat; where do you think Belfieldians eat?” Although I felt rather uninspired eating at Trapper’s Kettle, and I could have found the fare anywhere else, I was in North Dakota, and these were real local people, not curiosities. Who am I to question their validity, to smirk at their Saturday evening social?

associations to continue to stand in for this new iceberg lettuce meal. As we descend into the Twin Cities I am still of the mind that they are almost exactly the same as Portland, OR. I have no sense of why I would form this association. In fact it is more than an association because I picture getting out of the airport and taking the street car into the city, strolling the alphabet district, and going to Powell’s. Is it because it is a medium-sized city? It is north of some line in the nation? Because I want all cities to be like Portland? And surely it will remain a Portland clone, at least in my interior compositions and scenarios for it, until I see it for myself. My father described it to me rather clearly and, no, qualitatively, and I still persist in my delusion. You see, this shows the folly of my rich description of Trapper’s Kettle for you will certainly flesh it out with all the Cracker Barrels and Stuckeyses that you have fallen upon. Perhaps watching closely as we descend‡ into the Twin Cities shall shake me. I am in the World Perks Club in the Twin Cities airport. It is not the same one I was in last year when on the way back from Rapid City I…

chase 10

The sun is going down in Atlanta. I am on my porch with a black coffee. The air is filled almost constantly with the sound of jet engines. [I don’t know if it has always been like this since I moved here or if the increased frequency of my travels as of late have awakened a need in me to look up at the planes flying and be reassured by their not falling out of the sky into my neighbourhood.] Just as one drifts into silence, to the north, and the birds’ twilight songs arise, another cascade of deep whirring and metallic tearing of the sky into a solid being bored through washes across my house. All day I worked in the yard on the vegetable garden and the house. I worked myself into a rhythm with the planes, my enemies. At such a distance, and with such distance, having no plane tickets currently booked anywhere that I would have cause to fixate on, I can look at the planes, slightly darker than the sky they skirt, as beautifully heroic vessels, a parade of possible endings, Bismarck, Portland, Rome, Los Angeles, flames.

realized that I had left my camera on the plane. I had lost all of the supplementary materials from the trip. Many photos of iceberg lettuce salads lost. What just now entered my mind was that whoever ‘claimed’ my lost camera must have waded through all of these photos. My impressions of the Black Hills and the Badlands. Did they take some time to reconstruct my journey, form character sketches of my father and myself? How accurate were they? How comprehensive and personal were they? The text I wrote to accompany those photos would have added very little to their experience other than to corroborate the chronology of the trip, yet it would not have grounded that trip in any other continuum of character than the one forged on that trip. I am here for only a short time longer in between writings as the journey nears its end, I have been weighing what I hope this text will accomplish as of yet I recall only detailing one tableau in the trip. Does the actual composition need to cease when I touch down in Atlanta?‡ The man next to me is rehearsing Italian phrases from his guidebook. I remember one from my voyage. “Ha une camera?” Sometimes it repeats in my head uncontrollably. It is a thought that rides next to everything else as I go through…

Yes, it consumes, as feared. But I embrace it. There is an integral passion in the fluid composition of my life. Yes, more academic pursuits, drudgery, distant thoughts and sterile actions fall by the wayside for, what, one week? I will most certainly finish this short work by tomorrow night. As we raced out of Atlanta, climbing to the west and looping far south around an enormous stormfront which had hit Atlanta by the time I had reached the Twin Cities, apparently striking a plane from the Atlanta airport with lightning, our path through space took us through such enormous caverns of cloudscapes, we would penetrate into gothic voids with grey ceilings and continuous folds of flocculent halls and tunnels, when the clouds would drop away creating an opening to the earth, the sun reflecting from outside of the storm system off of the ground and back to the underside of the clouds would fill the void with the most ethereal shade of yellow I have ever seen. It was pure lemon afternoon sunlight [made into solid vapour by consuming the clouds as they embraced our jet]. Is that memory not enough to warrant losing one week of my life, that commission to paper for when my mind turns to vapour, not worth another layer of graphite on the misguided drawing taped to my desk?

a given day, like the spell in college during a large project push when I would stare at the X-acto knife blades that were wrapped and packaged in foil like sticks of gum and pictured taking them out and chewing on them. Even when they weren’t in sight I pictured them in this way. It made my teeth numb. “Ha une camera?” means “Do you have a room?”‡ For some time on this flight, or at least during the ascent, I believed I might not write any more on the trip, as it was my thought to only write while out of my home environment, the safe world where I compose empty, detached texts. I wanted this writing to be a vehicle of flux and whim. I almost just wrote “I wanted this writing to be about…” I caught myself. It is easy to slip into such lazy traps, especially when I now, having skirted that phrase, take note of the fact that this text is necessarily not ‘about’ anything, it exists somewhere, it seeks to be within a certain sphere of origin, that being the underlay narrative of my trip to North Dakota. But I almost stopped the composition because of my concern about flying. We are bouncing about again here at thirtythree thousand feet (33,000′). The wings waver like a diving board. I listen to ‘Trans-Europe Express.’ There is a patchwork cloud cover allowing me to make out the scale and…

When I landed in Rome I had nowhere to go. I had not booked a pensione, did not have a map, and had not slept in thirty (30) hours. It was late morning. I went straight to San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane, which I had learned the address of, in order to see the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa [which, of course, is actually in Santa Maria della Vittoria]. The way the light, which barely fell onto it, from the cupola and the bizarre arches that awoke it, playing across the gold rays and he pale face swept away my temporary homelessness [I cannot, in fact, remember the light at all, and only picture the statue as I see it in photos], I loved the smell of the dank basement crypt where I stood completely alone and silent. I wandered the streets ducking into every albergo and pensione. “Ha une camera?” There was nowhere to stay in Rome. I began to grow despondent, then horrified, and then it began to rain. I finally found a place, the clerk scoffed when he told me the rate, three hundred dollars ($300) a night. I put down my credit card, delirious, and went to my room and fell into an uncomfortable afternoon slumber. When I awoke in the dark, my body was hot and my eyes and sinuses felt cramped. I walked the rain wet streets in the dark, tried to phone home on a payphone and stood in front of Saint Peter’s, the antique yellow light reflecting in the glimmering wet piazza. It was empty and late. I walked back to my room through the rain. The room was stifling and white. I opened the window overlooking a small courtyard and climbed out onto the roof with a chair from the desk. I sat in the dark. The night sky was almost blue. I could see only up. A plane flew across the opening in the roof. I was completely alone and silent.

composition of the ground below. Again I can not see the horizon. I attempt to recall whether it is possible to see the horizon from an airplane. I think this is what they call ‘atmospheric perspective’‡ in art history courses. As you will note in the photograph I just took, the blue sky above the clouds meets the somewhat blue ground in a blurred band of white, the collapse of the clouds in perspective coupled with the haze of distance. When that ranger pulled us aside on the road of the north unit, he, after bringing, no, asking my father his profession, mine seemed to interest him less, posed the question as to whether the seas were wilderness. He lamented the paucity of true wilderness in North Dakota, most of it, he claimed, lay in the two units of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Although my father said that people travel all over the oceans, I proposed that it is not a suitable comparison. On the land, the occupiable space is only a surface. As I look out the plane window there is not a point which looks untouched by human intervention, save for the stands of trees along a meandering river. The seas also have an occupiable surface which is traversed and sometimes cultivated for utility and pleasure. However, they also consist of a volumetric component which, although accessible, could hardly be said…

chase 11

Things, all things in all measures, grow hazy as they recede into the distance, any kind of distance. How long do we hold on to them, retain their form. It is always in memory, whether it is a sound, an object, a person, or even a memory. These things that have turned into memories slip away as well, into shells around shells, around memories of memories. When they are written about, described, reminisced upon, they become physically something else once again. They occupy space and a more current time. The process of recession and recall, losing the horizon in the haze and returning to it a form, perhaps the horizon of the sea as light becomes visible breaking through the clouds to play across it, gives you comfort when you lose your equilibrium, when there is nothing left to support you when everything that you try to fix upon has been washed over, only the hum of the engines that follow you, that propel you, are constant, only feelings, warmth, love, contentment, fail to turn into intangible haze.

to be thoroughly exploited or even explored. One would have to construct a very savvy definition of ‘wilderness’ to even describe what the terrestrial characteristics needed to be. He also mentioned that the day was ‘Earth Day.’ It was the day of our long hike which I found pleasing, for, although I have a sense of appreciation for conserved lands and ‘wilderness’ all year round, it is not ever so concrete to me as when I am exploring a national park. Breaking through the treeline as we climbed the north slope of some badland formations and emerging into a broad, high, grassy prairie that spread rolling out all around us filled me with a profound sense of humble awe. To the east a group of bison grazed. I could see a few reddish calves romping while the dark adults were head down to the grasslands. To the southeast the continuous golden green was pocked by white spots and patches, the telltale signs of a prairie dog town‡. Looking back down the grassy slope to the treeline and the badlands below I thought about how oblivious I was to this landscape I now trod. We had walked all around the bases of the sedimentary formations without a thought as to what was above them, or atop them, or even whether we would find out. It was the…

chase 12

“Why do things have to die?” Why can’t everything exist in a state of equilibrium, the barter system I wondered if Bismarck could bring itself to operate on, without any single participant needing to sacrifice itself to maintain, equilibrium. Why could the prairie dogs not be left in peace? Why can’t a second, if there is a second, where nothing dies, nothing feels pain, nothing is anxious, be protracted, held onto, dwelt within, for all the rest of the seconds. Or that is the final second. Close your eyes. It would mean that you slip away, that you forfeit your power, you slip lower, equilibrium, there are billions of wood ticks in North Dakota, you must sink for each of those wood ticks to rise just a bit, you must be annihilated, your consciousness annihilated, you see with the prairie breeze across your carapace, it is a vision of feeling, your consciousness is grey, equilibrium is not a state in which the strong remain strong and the weak remain weak, the bison cannot eat the grass forever, the prairie dogs cannot eat the grass forever, the planet would be bald, and you and I would starve, if there was nothing to stand in their way, or ours.

delight of having an experience that you were not expectant of touch you and awaken within you a pleasure that you felt was lost as you grunted up the muddy slope.‡ I notice that I am transferring again. Of course the preceding musing should be in the first person. Did I revert to that comfortable didacticism out of an intense will to connect and to share? Or was it just sloppy and lazy. I am having my fourth tonic water of the trip, one for each flight. I also just ate a peanut butter granola bar left over from the hike. I had to take the peanut flavoured one which we did not eat because my father and mother’s household is peanut free in order to welcome their grandson, my nephew, who is allergic to peanuts. The association is causing me to wonder whether someday it might be fitting to invite my nephew along on one of these expeditions, it has been a wonderful way to share a bond with my father but also to explore the nation’s tucked away spots. Perhaps as a vegetarian he will also appreciate the dinner of the backwoods martyr, the iceberg lettuce salad. I fear that we are probably halfway through the flight at this point. We…

chase 13

I don’t feel like I captured that moment at the top of the grassy plateau adequately enough. I think I may have been still too close to it. These, or, this is the distance, the detachment that separates the writer from the diarist, although I fear calling myself either, or anything at all. I had walked, climbed into another world, distant in all measures, time, space, consciousness; if innocence and dawn are a place, they are rolling upon native grasses, they touch the sky completely at all points, they are found by accident, one cannot seek contentment or solitude, in the search for quiet and regression one finds only distraction and stress, always, for in seeking I establish implausible standards, contentment, in the home, as the silent cat innocently looks out the window in an overcast sky [she does not know the disarray she looks out across], as I read at two AM (2AM) by lamplight in a dark room, or at the most bustling moments in a busy street on foot, walking just to feel the air cool your back, my back, is fleeting, generally once it is recognized it is gone, but the landscape on that high plain sustained the feeling by its very continuity, had it not ended, my wonder would have continued, but it was me that left it, it is still there, perhaps overcast slightly, like Atlanta today, Sunday, like Bismarck one week ago, getting closer, the silence of Medora, tucked behind badlands and empty, closer, the tracks of bison north, the breeze blowing the tufts of their wool shedding for the summer and carrying it through the air in high currents to the top of a plateau, a narrow worn trail with bison hoofprints and a small herd, some creatures nestled down in the high grass, their heads slowly moving from side to side, slowly and deliberately turning a horn to the sky, an ear to the precipice, two figures ascend quietly and make their way around the opposite hill and safely out of sight.

passed by Chicago several moments ago and I have a wealth of supplementary episodes to implant in the frenzy of indelible ink. I have not determined yet whether I shall terminate composition at the end of the trip, when I reach Atlanta. Although it would give gravity to the project of writing this it would also sacrifice some episodes to memory, where they will disintegrate.‡ Medora was a ghost town. Apart from the Americinn and the Badlands Motel across the street, which appeared to be hosting the ‘Women’s Retreat’ at the community center, and the sole eating establishment, The Iron Horse Saloon, the town was empty and closed until the season began. We were dreadfully off-season. When we walked into the saloon, through a screened in patio on which were stacked tables and chairs, slid to the sides, the beerlights were covered with dust and the plank floor was uneven, the two women behind the bar looked rather put out and surprised, like when Dustin Hoffman first enters the pub in ‘Straw Dogs’ or when the Three Amigos first enter the pub in ‘The Three Amigos.’ Although, looking back now the whole state seemed to have a sort of cold “you should know how things work ’round here'” posture to it. From the young lady cashier at the Copper, no, no, the Trapper’s Kettle to the…

chase 14

This is the penultimate page. The morning of your last day traveling is always, my last day traveling is always far different than the arrival home or the actual end of the trip. It contains a certain listless emptiness, a pointlessness to my actions, will any of this be remotely memorable, the trip is effectively over. It was like the afternoon before I left, a somewhat nagging fear of the flight bolstered by a localised ennui, this place, for the next few hours, has nothing left to offer me, and I can contribute little to it. So I find this penultimate note. It is Sunday evening, almost exactly the same time one week later as I penned the above lines on the airplane. As in all travelogues there is a sort of race, either with in situ writings where the text constantly chases you, me, through actions and locales while I jog in place, or the post facto writing in which you chase your memory. My goal, after deciding that my joy to be home last Sunday night should equal my thrill of being dislodged for three (3) days, was to make two (2) texts, or in fact one (1) that was three (3), the two (2) are in situ and post facto, but the materials they address and toy with are neither, they are a race against my greater memory, an attempt to latch associations onto more recent events so that they will not dematerialize. I don’t know what will happen to any of them. All of these moments they ride and the places they transfer over are in flight, they must land somewhere.

syrup-minded barristas at Coffee Break. The people were not unpleasant. It was more that they were used to a series of people who knew the ropes, and, especially at this early date, were slightly bemused by clueless greenhorns like ourselves. I have gotten distracted here. Perhaps it is the aimlessness of the project or that I have forgotten which episodes I have slipped into the streaming mess thus far. We are on our descent into the Atlanta airport and I believe, for my own benefit, I will terminate the text there. The last thing I need is to inject another ill-conceived time burglar into my daily life. I have enough projects that I am already not putting the respect and depth of thought toward. This one, although it could clearly have a manageable extent, that being the satisfactory address of all materials, thoughts, and locales that filled the seventytwo (72) hours I was out of sorts. Yet, now the, no, now our altitude has gotten low enough that I had to put away my headphones, I have to listen to babies blubber and their parents bicker and talk about their friends, and their friends televisions.‡

chase 15

There is nothing more to say about North Dakota now. Perhaps even more completely than they would had I merely mused upon them in the context of the trip, any episodes that I have neglected have escaped my memory. I suppose talking to my father, or hearing tales of other peoples’ travels might cause them to resurface, [or reconstruct themselves from some partial edges of memories sketched concretely here, into something that I had not even experienced], but that is not the concern of these writings. These were never meant to be comprehensive, always unfinished and digressive. The smell of burning wood fills my nose at dusk on this Sunday evening in Atlanta, dogs bark, it is unseasonably cool, I feel, as I write these lines, in pencil, without fear, that I am back in my body, back in time that runs with me, two abreast, another jet engine hides in the sky.