Tag Archives: Spider Jerusalem

One More Day in Paris

imag1762

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader.

I expected there to be some similarities between New York and Paris. After all, they’re both major metropolitan areas full of people stereotyped as jerks but who are actually quite lovely. But I didn’t expect recognition to strike from inside of me. For the first time since I left New York, I’ve felt the insistent tug at the corners of my mind from my old friend depression.

I thought that in traveling, I’d found the cure. Maybe I have. But lying here in this dark room, face lit by the glow of my computer screen, I’m realizing that the waves of irrational melancholy I’d hoped had permanently subsided were actually just a really long low tide. They’ve been building since the middle of last week, when I woke up and stared at the daylight and tried to think of a reason to move. I went through some options: walking under the Eiffel Tower, people watching at the Louvre, going to any of the dozens of charming cafes on the surrounding corners that are all practically identical except for the color of the upholstery and the moustache shape of the waiters, walking around the gardens of Versailles. I closed my eyes and faded into another hour of nightmarish sleep.

This is how it’s been every morning since then. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get, or how much I drink. I’ll still roll out of bed in the afternoon, make the shitty instant espresso that came with the apartment, and slowly and deliberately make myself up into someone I feel good about looking at in the mirror, because you never know who you’ll encounter. Except this effort is usually just for the other metro passengers, and I usually don’t even make it outside until dark because of all the mounds of little requests and questions from people building up in my inbox, hundreds of little fires and I apparently hold the only extinguisher on the planet. And from the moment I open my eyes, I know that I won’t be able to even put a dent in the things that I want to write that day.

I didn’t want to write this today; it’s the only thing that was effortless.

The thing about my flavor of depression is that I honestly don’t know if something is wrong with my brain, or if my feelings are a rational response to my environment. But what could be rational about being depressed in Paris? Or New York for that matter. These are supposed to be some of the best cities on Earth, which I guess makes them the two worst places in which to be alone. Also, I really despise this kind of mass-produced tourism and participating in it makes me feel dirty.

Last night on my way home, I walked past the Notre Dame cathedral. I climbed the bleachers set up in front of it and sat there for a few minutes eating a chocolate chip cookie, assessing it, trying to muster some great thoughts since I’ve been hearing all my life about how impressive it is. It was nice enough. I’ll bet it took some poor slaves like a billion hours to carve all that detail into the walls. As I sat there, hundreds of people filed in and out under a strand of purple and white balloons. And all I could think was, why the fuck would anyone put balloons on the Notre Dame cathedral? Was the building too plain for the host? It simply needed that burst of inflatable plastic to compliment the ominous statues of murderers and con artists who got away with it in the name of religion? What is it about humans that we have to put our mark on everything, regardless of its effect on the overall aesthetic of a work? I finished my cookie, stood up and left without going inside or even taking a picture. It was times like that I enjoy traveling solo, because if someone would have tried to drag me inside it wouldn’t have been pretty.

And the fucked up thing is, a few days prior to this all, I was elated. I was in Paris!!! Between the Musee de Armes and the Louvre, I got to visually absorb a few centuries of history in a six-hour time span. I’ve had fois gras, french onion soup, and more cheeses than I knew existed. I walk out of my apartment, turn left and the Eiffel Tower is staring me down. I have everything I could want in a city like Paris; most people work their whole lives hoping to get here someday, and here I was. And for a moment in time I was content. Maybe even happy—as happy as I used to be in New York. It’s this state of elatedness that attracts the depression, which sneaks in to snatch it from you. The higher you get, the farther you have to fall. But how many times does a person have to fall before they learn not to climb so high (or at least set a cam in along the way)?

I’m typing this now as I sit in bed with a cup of chamomile tea cooling on my night stand, my “Xanax Princessing” Spotify playlist drowning out the murmur of a French gossip rag transmitting through these paper-thin walls, and a copy of Transmetropolitan at the foot of my bed, waiting for Spider Jerusalem to transport me outside of this feeling.

I know I have to leave here soon. Paris is beautiful, but I’m done with it for now. I’m not going to grow here. I’m not going to learn anything about the person I want to become. This city wants nothing from me but my money, and I don’t want to think of Paris in such whorish ways. I guess that thought is enough to make one rationally depressed.

One more day in Paris.

Cismetropolitan

I’ve been reading Transmetropolitan again. It’s about a cynical bastard named Spider Jerusalem who also happens to be an a cutthroat gonzo journalist. He tried to retreat into hermitage in the mountains but the city keeps drawing him back. He loathes it, but he loves to loathe it. It is the seething hatred for all that is fucked up with America that inspires him. The way it’s on display here, ungracefully strewn about the city streets and exposed for all to step around on their daily commutes fuels his pursuits — that and the loads of futuristic uppers he inhales.

SpiderJerusalem

On Friday I had drinks underneath Grand Central with a man who is something of a real life Spider Jerusalem. He collects knives and has the best fake “go fuck yourself” smile I have ever seen — a necessary adaptation for people who are acutely sensitized to bullshit. We sat amongst the oyster-sucking white-collar commuters, talking about fear, throwing back martinis and refilling them with the sidecars. He told me he was glad I’ve been taking on the fear that used to hold me back from writing. “It’s like Oz,” he said, “you had the power all along, my dear. You could have gone home whenever you wanted.” He warned me though, that I need to keep chipping away at the fear every day, lest I become one of the could’ve-beens. There are not many people who could tell me that without me telling them to go fuck themselves, but coming from him I appreciated it.

I thought about this all night, mourning all the could’ve-beens I know, and woke up this morning with my brow furrowed. It’s been that way ever since, save a few hours of solace I found at the Met this evening. I wrote in my head all day long, formulating the phrases that I would later find the time to transcribe, trying to sear them into my mind. I was being beckoned in three different directions but I went to see Side Effects by myself instead. Twenty minutes into the feature, a man stood up and vomited in the aisle right next to me, repeatedly. I moved up a few rows, thinking that there would have to be something in the movie to top the everyday crazy I witness in New York, but the vomiting was the highlight of the movie.

Afterward, I ducked into the subway at Union Square looking forward to waiting for the L train since I had Transmetropolitan with me to read. On the platform, a man was standing in one of the typical performance art spaces with his back against the stairwell. He had two balloons, a pink one above his head and a purple one between his knees, and was slowly releasing the air out of them both, along with two high-pitched squeals.

“Is this guy seriously doing this?” a plain-looking guy said near me to no one in particular.

“You must be new here,” I said back in his general direction.

I leaned against a pillar and watched this performance art. He looked about my age, and was skinny enough that you could see the outline of his ribcage through his grey shirt. Beside him there was a cardboard sign with “fuck the police” scrawled over and over in black marker and a box with various dirty objects sticking out. I wondered if he was crazy or just an artist, then reminded myself there’s really no difference and instead tried to tell if he was on drugs or suffering. When the balloons ran out of air, he placed a harmonica in his mouth and began breathing through it in a repetitive tune. He placed a mask over his head that made him look like a neon pink fly, and removed various baby doll parts. The head rolled out into the middle of the platform, and he dove onto the filthy floor to get it, crawling like an alien or the little girl from The Ring as she climbs out of the well.

Then, obviously, he crawled over to me. For a split second I thought he might be an alien because his hand looked twisted in an inhuman way, but I realized he just had a baby doll foot stuck akimbo on his thumb. He was at my feet, crawling his dirty baby doll hand towards my shoe. The woman next to me ran away, but I didn’t move. It was then I noticed his hands were rubbed raw at some parts, bright pink inner layers of skin exposed. I considered the possibility that perhaps this was his first and last act of performance art, and that he his goal was actually to select one lucky observer to hurl onto the subway tracks a few feet behind me. He touched the top of my shoe, and I stepped back. He looked at me through his fly eyes. Spider Jerusalem would have kicked him in the face. I just shook my head to indicate there was no consent on my behalf. He did a back somersault across the dirty platform, baby head in ragged hand. He rolled around to other people that way for a while. When the train came, I wanted to give him a dollar for disturbing me more than anyone else on the subway ever has, but I didn’t have one, so I got on the train and resumed reading Transmetropolitan.