nonfiction

THE METAMORPHOSIS: SNAPSHOTS OF THE ARTIST AS A CREATURE OF CHANGE

by
Daulton Dickey

[Click here to read Part I]

Part II 

1.

An egg stands on the counter beside a sheathed blade. It topples over without rolling and falls next to the blade, leaning against its sheath.

I grab the egg and stuff it into a carton in the refrigerator.

—Not yet, but when the time comes, we’ll use it.

I shove the blade into a drawer and fall into a lake, which has replaced the kitchen floor.

Unable to swim, I flounder and sink to the bottom.

I can’t hold my breath, so I clench my eyes and wait for death.

My concentration, in that moment, establishes silence, darkness.

“I” disappear as pure consciousness takes hold:

Not darkness, but grayness—the end of a gradient cast by a powerful and all-consuming light.

I sense it but I can’t fall into it, so I try, and I break my concentration and open my eyes.

Sitting half-lotus on my bed, I glance around the room.

I amble into the kitchen and open the fridge and the egg pops out of the carton and rolls and shatters, spilling a fetus resembling me onto the floor. (more…)

The Metamorphosis: Snapshots of the Artist as a Creature of Change

by
Daulton Dickey.

Part I

1.

Night spills from the yolk of the sun and sprays shadows and darkness across the city. Chrome beasts slither up and down the road, screeching and roaring. I stare at a dent in the wall and go blind. Through the topology of darkness, I slip away: my mind and body drop like clothe, but the universe remains. Darkness spills shadows. Chrome beasts. A heart in the window thumps, thumps, thumps. The blinds bounce and rattle in unison with the heartbeat. A skip now and then signifies arrhythmia.

I pull the strings dangling near the window frame and open the blinds. Each blind in the scaffolding transforms into a moth and flutters away. The heart in the window beats, beats, beats. After half a dozen beats, it withers and shrinks and transforms into a dead fly, which lands on its back on the windowsill.

A bounce. Rattle. Skip. (more…)

Ten of Our Favorite Articles of the Year

#1

Andy Kaufman and the Physics of Human Response

andykaufmanoncreatingreality

#2

Andy Kaufman: Architect of Reality

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#3

Tyler Returned, a Story By Jessica McHugh

img_4448 (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Of Poverty and Parasites

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

24852600_522175624816523_6155051481049473096_nI was working the counter when some old knucklehead sashayed through the doors and wanted a thermostat for his car. His complexion told you he had money: he was in his 60s and his face was smooth and more or less wrinkle free. Meat on people who don’t worry year in and year out about food and housing tend to maintain a youthful elegance. His face wasn’t taut or shiny, which ruled out plastic surgery. He was simply a man whose concerned lay outside the sphere of struggling to make ends meet.

Like most people with money who found their way into the part store, he was clueless. He knew the year and the model but not the make or the engine size or the OE thermostat temperature. He somehow knew he needed a thermostat and expected me to procure it for him. (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Fear and Anxiety

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

img_4397So I’m sitting in my car outside the emergency room, windows down, smoking a cigarette. Signs every ten feet or so declare this property smoke free, but for the amount these swine charge me for a visit here, they can lick my sphincter if they think I’m going to haul ass across the street to choke down a square. To be honest, I don’t even know why I’m sitting here. I just got out, after more than two hours. Two long hours. And nothing accomplished.

It’s a few minutes before ten in the morning. I woke up at ten ’til seven, anticipating my alarm, and felt strange: lightheaded, hollow-boned my heart racing. I bolted up and checked my pulse. 130 bpm. How the fuck do you wake up with a heart rate that goddam high? Sweet Jesus, I’m fucked. This is how I die, like my father—a fucking heart attack.

Fear twisted my head in a vice. Tension behind my eyeballs threatened to jettison them from my skull. Every muscle in my body tensed. No, “tensed” isn’t the right word; they seized. And every nerve in my body, every axon in my brain, seemed to fray then scorch. (more…)

Memoirs are Fiction, Which is Why I’m Writing One

by
Daulton Dickey.

img_4375Let’s get the point out of the way first, then expand on it: memoirs are works of fiction. Specifically, memoirs as artifacts of “truth” or “reality” are neither true nor real. They are constructions founded in subjectivity and the malleability of human memories; and as products of the written word, they are constructed using techniques similar, if not identical, to works of fiction.

At first glance, memoirs seem to hold a place separate from fiction and non-fiction. Memoirs appear to some as the vehicles through which truth, in some sense objective, travels.

Memoirs are strictly subjective, incapable of anything approaching objectivity. (more…)

Interstellar Space: When Music Hurts

by
Justin Burnett.

johncoltraneIn my later teens, I happened across John Coltrane’s album Interstellar Space while sifting through neat rows of CD jewel cases in a Half-Priced Books. I almost couldn’t believe my luck. At that time, I was in the red-hot middle of an infatuation with the Beat Generation and everything that typically comes with it: books, booze, and jazz. I was devoted to Coltrane since discovering Blue Train, but fell in love for life after hearing A Love Supreme. I had read somewhere (probably Amazon, a site to which I owe the overwhelming bulk of my musical education) that A Love Supreme marks the borderlands between Coltrane’s early accessible productions and his mysterious, “later” phase. Interstellar Space was firmly in this “later” period and appended with an even more mysterious and enticing label: “avant-garde.” (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 6

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

y.

ddickeyBenzo withdrawal sucks. I wouldn’t recommend it.

In my zeal to wean myself off Lamictal, it didn’t occur to me to taper off the Xanax. Instead, I took the remaining pills over the course of a few days and disposed of the bottle. That I could or would experience withdrawal didn’t occur to me until the symptoms descended on me.

I wasn’t quick to recognize the strangeness as withdrawal, which stoked my anxiety as I experienced topsy-turvy perceptions of reality—that’s the best way to describe it: “topsy-turvy.” Everything felt off-kilter, somehow. Even my visual perception shifted. Imagine consuming thirty cappuccinos loaded with espresso. Too much caffeine made “reality” appear as if I were experiencing it through a camera with a foggy lens and the gain cranked too high. (more…)

Off and On the Road: an autobiographical appreciation of Jack Kerouac

Off and On the Road
or,
How I Got Stoned and Became a Literary Junky
by
Daulton Dickey.

[Author’s note: this is an old piece, written about 7 years ago. I recently re-discovered it and decided to post it in its entirety, and unchanged, i.e. unrevised.]

1.

Lee[1] blew into his hands and rubbed them together, trying to breathe life into his fingers. Scrunching his shoulders, he pulled his coat collar up and squeezed the opening at the base of his throat, tightening the collar around his neck. A smile had attacked his face earlier and it refused to retreat, and he bared his teeth as breath escaped his nostrils and slipped out of his mouth. He looked beside him, at RCannabis-Bankay, and his smile widened.

Ray had a way of smiling with his eyes that seemed to inform his entire way of thinking, his entire worldview, and when he smiled at Lee, grimacing without showing his teeth, his eyes curled upward and mimicked what his mouth would have done—should have done—if he wasn’t so self-conscious. Ray shiver-stomped and jogged in place, half warding off the wind, half dancing in anticipation. Then he glanced at me and laughed. I was standing between them—if viewed from above we would have formed an asymmetrical triangle—and crossed my arms at my chest, burying my hands in my armpits, struggling, fighting, praying for heat to engulf me, to inject colors other than red into my hands and face.

“Man,” Lee said, “this is going to be awesome.”[2]

We stood between two houses, Lee’s and Ray’s, and looked to our right, toward the street, and to our left, toward the back alley. But no one showed up. (more…)

Andy Kaufman and the Physics of Human Response

by
Daulton Dickey.

1.

andykaufmanoncreatingrealityNear the end of his life, Andy Kaufman planned a college tour—but not as a performer. Instead, he envisioned a series of lectures entitled On Creating Reality: the Physics of Human Response. Although he died before delivering a single lecture, his agent had printed promotional material in the form of postcards. The material teased the lecture would discuss Andy’s career in relation to “the dynamics of human behavior.”

No known notes exist for this lecture and its contents remain as enigmatic as the man himself. His career in shambles, Kaufman had hoped to legitimize himself by touring the lecture circuit. Of all the titles and all the approaches to a tour, On Creating Reality seems most apt for a man who built a career on challenging peoples’ perceptions of reality.

To watch an Andy Kaufman performance is to experience the panoply of human emotions and experiences within the span of only a few minutes. Kaufman didn’t aspire to entertain—although he occasionally called himself an entertainer; instead, he manipulated and challenged reality itself. At his peak, those aware of him expressed strong opinions. Many people despised him, which he probably found more exciting than praise. But few people understood him—and it’s easy to assume he liked it that way.

Andy was playing a game, after all, and people took it seriously. Like most games we play in our day-to-day lives, his game wasn’t trivial or inconsequential. In fact, he did more to expose the illusion of objective reality while shedding a light on personality and persona than any artist, philosopher, or scientist of the twentieth century. (more…)