Silence, the geography of detachment, so sympathetic, so absurdly bloody. There is no justice.

The Centrifuge Brain Project, by Till Nowak.
Also visit the homepage of the Institute for Centrifugal Research.


Our plan, once we had settled into the room, was to find our way to dinner then the Penn & Teller show at The Rio. Google Maps claimed it was twenty minutes away on foot. Rookie mistake, though, to walk anywhere off-strip. Simply making our way from our room to the street turned out to be our first challenge. Oh Google maps, if only your maps contained the inside of the labyrinthine buildings that make up the cold heart of Vegas, as well as the eerily simplistic grid it’s built upon! Second mistake was to try and cut through Ceaser’s Palace, which looked simple from the outside, but as all roads lead to Rome, so do all halls lead you in intricate twists designed to drag your wallet past as many opportunities to spend money as can be engineered by the human mind. Thirty minutes later it was a victory to find ourselves precisely where we started.

Things became easier once we were back outside, especially once the Rio came into view. The walk was ugly, a rough, isolating half hour along a gritty highway, but any concerns we may have had about finding the place were squashed as soon as could see around Ceaser’s Palace. The building is not quite as large as many of the megaliths, but for what it lacks in overwhelming scale, (and do not mistake me, the Rio could still dwarf almost any building in Vancouver), it makes up in pure, unhindered tacky glam neon straight out of Tron, with external, glass walled elevators and racing stripes of hot red and blue lights that run the entire height of the building. Also featured: a ten story poster advertising Penn & Teller. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to see an advertisement in my life.

The theater was small, a simple black box set-up, with a plain wooden crate open on stage and a steady trickle of people walking up from the audience to inspect it. There was also an easel set up with an envelope on it, (pens provided to willing participants), the most traditional prop for a cold-reading trick. Penn stood to one side, playing jazz on an upright bass, riffing with a piano player who wore large plugs in the lobes of his ears and tattoos on both arms. It was unexpectedly casual. I liked it immediately and our seats were near perfect, centered in the room and close to the stage.

Absurd, political, sublime, or a prank, it didn’t matter, every trick was expertly executed with the same enviable dedication, the same graceful madness. It was an honor to be there, audience to masters of the craft.

a silver locket clockwork heart

I’m in awe. The Lady Anomaly has sent me some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen in my life. Sacred things. Inside the prettily decorated envelope were two thick polaroid prints, (bent as time-travelers might be), a double-sided page of unimaginably exquisite illustrations, a pencil-written letter on a small piece of brown paper, and a slender, wooden Cornell treasure-box filled with dreams, loss, and memories, with an extraordinarily fine goddess of cats delicately drawn on the lid.

My sweet wicked self has been broken open by the care put into these precious things. I want to take her hands, palm up like branches of lit candles, and kiss them daintily in each palm, and never let go. I want to disregard caution, a ghost in love, kneel like the moon and lick the scarred ridges of her burning satin heart. The next time I dye my hair, I will take strands of it and tangle them into the amber beaded threads and silver inside the box, as if to tie us together, coax her elegant bones into my arms all the way from North Dakota.

the fear of being majestically on fire

Water above, below. The boat shifting as we do. Music in my head, songs from the other night. The studio, lit by candles and street lights. Our bare feet against the red wood of the floor as we back up slowly, step by step, away from each other. Running, the sensation of wind indoors. Running without mercy. No reason to flinch, he’ll fall away before I do. He will or get hit. I’ve never done this before, but it feels right. Spontaneous and elemental, my hands on his, we’re dancing again. He fell away, I twisted, we caught wrists. I’d forgotten what it was like to trust someone like this, drowning in the realization of equality. Strangled singing, my voice rising in harmony, wrapped in too many memories. I fade out only to pour back in. Reading by a lantern, insisting he write. His staring whispers to me.

Oh, that evening. That hotel. That city, this one. That damaged morning, this damaged heart.

Get your teenage kicks where you can find them. This is no dress rehearsal.

“We live in our souls as in an unmapped region, a few acres of which we have cleared for our habitation; while of the nature of those nearest us we know but the boundaries that march with ours.”

Edith Wharton, ‘The Touchstone’, 1900

I’m always healing with what isn’t mine, always rubbing cat-like against the ankles of unlikely electricity, always wondering when it will be my turn. I’m a second-hand store princess, worn velvet and pretty hair, glassy eyes gathered into loving arms then left on the bus. The image of country sliding past is an easy one. I have years of it, my head smudging the cold window. My breath a slight fog. Towns made of match-boxes piled into general stores, lonely gas-stations bricked up with unhappy marriages and wrong turns, freckle-faced counters, cheap coffee-ring bracelets, where did we think we were going? Trestle bridges of broken teeth, snapped off ill-guided passion tied with hanks of the promises we thought were important before we got bitter.

Standing on the window sill, a tensegrity structure made of arms and legs, I turn to him and say, “We are that movie we don’t like to watch.” It’s true, we’re a musical. Rent, a friends getting together kind of film. Something we may have never seen but we know by heart. Terrifying, if I let myself think about it. Resurfacing.

Water above, water below. Feel free to go into all the rooms of this house, but for this one. That is all I ask of you. “Thank you for letting me love you.” There was no rain when we sat in the window a story above the street. When we waved, it was through clear air. Though no one returned the gesture, we were happy, a cinematic moment trapped in amber hair. Warm with the lights out, violin playing, rock music, movements curving into themselves, leaving us on the couch, shedding monochrome lives for one perfect night, describing one thousand miniscule pains and comforts in blurry detail.