Living the Social Event Horizon.

Before I offer the rather wildly satisfying anecdote that I want to write about, I need this caveat: there’s a persistent rumour-myth that claims “Jhayne knows everybody” that is patently untrue. There are thousands upon thousands of dazzling people I have never met and will never and, though I find this sad in the same abstract way that birthdays are, that’s just the way it is.

My relationship to this rumour is complicated, as it affects my identity, community, and influence, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. While I appreciate that it allows me to play with social capital in a way that not everyone does, it also flies in the face of my self interest, beating black wings of denial that chase opportunities away. (“Oh, I’m sure she already knows that fascinating person. Spoiler: No, I don’t! But you’re right, I should. Introduce us!). I treat it much like fire, warm and attractive, but requiring a respectful distance. There’s a lot of layers there. Reality – only a vague relative to myth. So it endures, even as I persist in my role as a philosopher-assassin, refuting it to death. And honestly, it persists like most myths because, underneath the hyperblown twaddle, it contains a seditionist seed of truth.

There, now that my denial is out of the way, I’m going to blast it completely with indisputable evidence to the contrary. Probably with a sound like “quash.”

(It’s a terrible thing to share after I’ve just spent a paragraph tearing down the splashy premise this anecdote supports, namely that no one is out of reach of my network, but too bad, I’m new back to this writing thing and I’m going to be a dreadful player until my vibrato returns. There are going to be far too many commas, oblique and post-modern applications to punctuation, unruly mazes of brackets, harrowing mixed tenses everywhere, and wandering, unhelpful, and contradictory mixed metaphors. And you, dear reader, and future me, will just have to suck it up, because this little tangle of connections is just too baroque and delightful not to share.)

So! Livejournal. Bringing it back. Way back. Eight years, maybe. Possibly nine. Somehow I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a scathingly clever Jewish woman who lived (and lives) in Wisconsin. I don’t remember how I found her, probably Warren, same as everyone else, but I fell in friend-love with her immediately. Here in the present, we’re still friends. We didn’t meet until 2012, but our connection was enough for her to hand-pick me to attend her intimate wedding anniversary party in Madison last year and it was enough for me to put my life aside to better scrimp so I could attend. I probably would have stolen a car to go if the plane thing hadn’t worked out, actually. Stolen a car because it would have been less work than hijacking a bus. This is a lady I’ll hide some bodies for, is what I’m saying. For her or her beautiful husband or their beautiful child because that is how I roll.

She and I, we chat sometimes. We discuss disabilities, recovery, life, bravery, creativity, where to get good chocolate, all the usual things. And boys. Oh my, have we ever. She has hers all nailed shut, she’s set for life, but my history? We once sat in a chinese restaurant in Minneapolis and looked at my shoddy relationships and threw our hands up and despaired for at least an hour. Deservingly so. More recently, though, we’ve been talking about family. Bailing my brother out of jail, my dying parental figure, the trials and tribulations attached to both. (I don’t have many local people to discuss topics thickly smeared with emotion). Except our last conversation, which took an even more unexpected turn than usual. I think I had maybe been catching her up on the latest episode of The Lame MisAdventures of My Autistic Brother when I dropped an unusual name into the mix. (We will, for the time being, name him M, which is the most transparent sort of obfuscation possible. Sometimes I’m not entirely sure why I bother. See: paragraph 4.)

“M!” she exclaimed, “His name is M? Where do I know that name?” I am completely taken aback. That was a lot of excitement. Yes, I replied, jotting in a few background notes. He’s in Seattle; I met him though the people I camped with at Burning Man; we’re in the midst of a surprising flirtationship. She shook her head, dark hair flying everywhere, trying to remember. “There was some drama there, oh hell, what was it? I know that name, I know who that is! This is going to drive me crazy.” My curiosity blazed. There was no feasible way it was the same person. None. But the name!

I stopped what I was doing, nearly holding my breath, fluttering panic hanging in balance with mad delight, waiting in paused dread for the revelation that would either justify or cause everything we had been building to tumble and fall. (Running through me like dark water, in which way had I been gullible this time?) I felt weakened the way rust melts iron. How could these two people, from such wildly different backgrounds, wildly different everything, be connected? I love the impossible, but drama is hardly ever a positive word. They would get along, but how would they have met? I couldn’t think of a way. And she was right there with me, overcome by the absurdity of this strange potential connection.

A few frantic minutes later, it surfaced. I laughed in incredible relief. When I had first met her on-line, years before I ever went to Burning Man or started visiting Seattle, her best friend was S, a woman from New York. S was smart and sassy and fun and completely in love with a boy.

A boy named M.

Two degrees apart, a decade away.

Isn’t the world splendid?

I love it.

topical descriptions of life as we knew it

alt-text: i hear smashing glass in my head, ever time i laugh

I awoke a little panicked, aware of a certain dreadful absence of pinging alarm, not quite damning my day job, but coming close to it. The entire morning thing seemed insurmountable. It had been a long, unexpected evening, the sort I am generally familiar with, but never actually had, so all I wanted to do was sleep in. Drinks in a bar, an invitation up, my cue to pass out chastely on half of a hotel bed, that’s how it goes, how it suits my blood. But he was impossibly sweet and it seemed, after an indeterminate sleepy amount of cuddling, that my desire to cling to the familiar had evaporated somewhere, possibly seared from existence by his fiercely protective intellect, and the only path available was towards a new choice.

We went to the Aquarium after dinner later that night, (foreign dishes in a basement, the beginning of my stories, the tragic litany, the darker side of a thousand and one nights), me to crash the party, him with legitimacy, both with an equally sound purpose. Mine was to sneak in, the better to get me into even more later. We split up right away, once it was assured I had successfully bluffed past security, and that was that, I was on my own, a mercenary butterfly released into the opening party of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It’s startlingly easy to make fast friends at the beginning of conferences. There are always a few people who’ve been attending since the dawn of time, but the majority of the crowd are strangers thrown together or people who’ve only known each-other tangentially or on-line, so the ground is primed for the sort of introduction that doesn’t generally fly in public, where you simply walk up like a little kid to a friendly looking face and say, “hi!”.

I almost immediately fell in a lovely women, Shauna, a fellow burner from Berkeley I knew I would like, then together, after taking pictures with the sharks, we found Elizabeth, there for CNN, best characterized by her amazing smile, as permanent as the moon. We chatted about the fish and science and wondered about the whale, elusive and grand, sequestered in an area of the aquarium that the conference hadn’t rented. Occasionally I drifted away, encountering new conversations and faces, making mental notes for later, attaching myself here and there, but made sure to keep swinging back to touch base, so as the night progressed, as I fluttered, I forged a little group with which to found a conspiracy.

Eventually we made a feint at sneaking past security to see the whale, but we’d gained mass, our core blossoming as we went into an unwieldy six or seven, too many to slyly saunter into an area we weren’t supposed to go. Then, sadly, after some magic with the otters and the dolphins, it was time to leave, the staff ushering us past the sleeping octopus and the shimmering glass cube of tiny blue fish that look like living streaks of light to a queue in the the parking lot for the hired buses that were shuttling everyone back downtown. I lost my partner in the crush, perhaps because I lingered too long, loitering in a hope to find him, yet I found surprisingly good company in his wake – Alan, Estrella, and Marc, who I first met inside as part of the attempt on the beluga tank. They wanted to walk, but didn’t know the way, so I put aside my concerns regarding my misplaced self as less important than the possibility of an entire lost group and appointed myself their guide.

The walk home was beautiful, if long. Mostly I fell in step with Marc, who I pressed for details about the Ig Nobels and traded stories of odd employment paths, but got on well with Alan, too, who possesses a Patient Zero level of infectious cheer. By the time everyone peeled off for their separate hotels, we’d discussed several adventures, planned a couple more, and all traded business cards, a habit I was to pick up even more as the conference went on. (The trick is to remember later which card goes to which face).

My fellow turned out to be table camping with the rest of his crew at the hotel bar, which I walked through on a whim, hoping to stumble across where he might be, my lack of cell phone again a strangely crippling artifact of the shockingly recent past. I joined them, of course, and was immediately taken with RJ, a clever young man from Waterloo University who was sitting at my end of the table. I spent the rest of the evening pulling ideas from him, chatting about clean energy and the internet, until the table finally dissolved, leaving me and mine to drift upstairs into the sweet oblivion that promises endless wonder but only ever delivers tomorrow.

as relaxing as a one night stand or an offer to kill a man.

This place feels familiar, I think, in the same way I connect to the silent gestures of the person who lives here. Ikea furniture, matching sheets, off the shelf living. Not quite anonymous, it all feels lived in, but only just, in that way where some apartments function as places to work and sleep but not to eat. I have only rarely been here, and never alone, but I understand. How it was chosen and created, how it came together – the underpinnings of decision, of an entire person, laid out in a cluttered blast. Like most living spaces, it is the best sort of map. Tech casual, male, young adult, somewhere in their thirties. Clever, dependable, very little struggle, not a lot of travel, but enough to have some stories. There are some framed prints leaning against the wall, (probably line art or something Japanese), but half buried behind papers and other detritus, and very few actual decorations.

And so, curious, I look around. I see. An instrument case under the kitchen table, thinly coated in a breathy envelope of neglect, and an electric piano, folded with a basic black stand, equally unused, translate into a desire to be musical, likely long passed. I pick up a book, one of the many casually piled next to the bed, (on the other side, an empty wine glass that I, for no particular reason, believe to have been left there by somebody else), and note that it has been read, but not dog-eared, which I like, because it’s the precise observation I expected and it’s sometimes nice to be right. The whole place is like that, down to the toiletries in the washroom, (the correct, responsible array, but with too much dust on the multivitamins, I’m sure the bottles are still full), and the programs on the laptop, (expensive, a macbook, no stickers).

It makes me comfortable, but wary. I wonder at the wisdom of this visit. I like these places. I like the people who live in them. But. There is a proposal here, an offer yet unspoken, dreadful and heavy, laced with a false, Proustian nostalgia for a life I never had a chance to lead, “where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated”. Not quite a lie, it rests in the back of my skull like an entertaining artifact from an imaginary era, something to dismantle and examine and potentially loathe.

We sit on the polished cement floor by the gas fireplace, turned on with a switch, click, and ignore the obvious question for more prosaic pursuits. I confirm my theories like dominoes, with only a few charming surprises, (which I also like), and gently offer too much history, the most toned down form of my best defense strategy: tragedy, violence, a childhood of poverty and occasional terror. Out of your league, it offers, a way to make a polite escape dipped in sad anecdotes of senseless destruction and death. An excuse for abdication, withdrawal without judgement. Usually this is the cue, exit stage left, pursued by bears, but instead it all diffused in the air, accepted.

I had wondered at myself while walking to meet him, why was I there? It’s not like I had hope, even as I delighted in his company, but perhaps this was it, what I unconsciously expected: this gloriously uncomfortable acceptance. Superficial, possibly, and weak tea, but honest. Trust. Staying would hurt me, ruin me more, a proposition which under the circumstances I could not even pretend to accept, yet the visit was a feast. Within my boundaries, freedom. I woke up feeling absolutely amazing. All I needed was a break. There has been no one left alive to bear my weight.

more people in a week, a slice of old life before I run out of busfare

365: 2012/01/15 - "fashion photographer", a twitpic by Andrew
  • 70 Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies to Watch Out for in 2012.
  • The absolutely epic line-up of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

    Tea today, slumping on Kyle’s couch, a cupcake, a scone, Lisa and Jeremy and Derek and Aleks and another girl, a name I have regretfully forgotten. A drive downtown, meeting Jacquie at work, then a route along water to the Naam, where Hawkfeather and Loren were waiting, and eventually, by chance, Lori and David arrived. Dropped off at Main, upstairs to the batcave, mad scientists lair, mess and matrix, Dragos and Leah, canned peach tea vodka, indian food, and my only christmas card. I should visit more. I miss these people, I miss this place. Next is Sherlock across the street, the Mcbunker, houses named, it’s A Thing, apartments as proper nouns, filled with friends and internet references, people piled in like pillows, pillows lining the floor. I am annoyed at the obvious plot, the awkward scene changes, but the company is especially sweet. Back to the penthouse after, all telescopes and swords, introducing Andrew to his neighbor, a stack of helicopters under the stairs. I am tired, but not exhausted. Chilly, but not frozen. I leave at midnight. I get home before one.

  • They with the same hair from when we were thirteen

    last night:

    Sitting in Kino Cafe on Cambie Street, a place I am far too familiar with from when I was a teenager, out to support an old friend in the latest band she’s in with her brother. I am uncomfortable here, isolated, oddly part and yet not of the lives of the people involved with this evening. We used to come here all the time. The bartender would flirt and pour us drinks, even though we were underage. Fifteen years later, the bartender is gone, off to open his own place on Main St, but the place is little changed. As, too, are the people I am here with again.

    Oddly, like the venue space, she looks almost exactly the same. The clothing has changed, but excepting that, the only thing missing are her braces.

    Her brother, by contrast, I cannot see him as the person he is past the ruin of who he used to be. It’s as if someone has clumsily globbed handfuls of plasticine over the familiar corners of his body, rounding him out into the oddly bulky costume of a stranger. Underneath his new shape, however, it’s likely he is still a liar.

    She is my conduit to these people, to this place. Her I named far more, in certain ways, than her parents ever did, a solid fingerprint the world does not know to see. “I don’t like my name,” she said when we met, and so by the time she was eleven, I had changed it, twisting the syllables until it described her face, until it fit her as well as her own skin. Little Mouse, she is, and for so long now that people commonly ask if she’s Russian. If it weren’t for her, I never would have come. Out of the twenty socially incestuous names I know in this crowd, she is the only one I would call my friend. For the rest of them, it was more that I was sometimes around, though we were all almost constant companions, present for almost every adventure, for years.

    It makes me wonder if I should feel sorry, if there is something I missed, though I would not change our distance. Even through my disasters, I prefer who I am to who they would have me be.

    with thanks to will

    Today on Aardvark, for which I have invites:

    Aardvark said:
    You there? I have a question about **secret agent**.
    Andrew Ferguson said you might be able to answer it.

    (Type ‘sure’, ‘pass’, or ‘busy’.)

    devastation jhayne, she said:

    Aardvark said:
    (From Nikhil B./22/M/Stanford,US)
    How does one get to be a member of KGB?

    (Type ‘pass’ to skip, or ‘more’ for extra options.)

    devastation jhayne, she said:
    write a book about an old man and the sea

    Aardvark said:
    Great — I’ve sent that to Nikhil. Thanks for the fast answer!
    (Type ‘Nikhil:’ followed by a message to add something, or ‘more’ for options.)

    (Tip: type ‘add’ to add **secret agent** to the list of topics you like answering questions about.)


    aferguson says:
    “FYI: Jhayne Holmes just answered Nikhil’s question about **government**. Thanks for the referral!"

    I miss my mad genius poets

    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    I can tell when I’m not being social enough when my cats glom onto visitors like they want to marry them. Little black furry creatures of attention velcro, trying to soak up as much affection as they can, they lay there, leaning on my friends, and look up at me as if to say, “See? This isn’t so bad.” The kitties know what’s up. I’ve only been outside twice since Monday. I’ve been too busy parked in front of my computer, wearing the letters off my keyboard, job hunting and freelance writing, registering with placement agencies and working for the price of a bag of cat food. (It’s not terribly fulfilling, no matter how much I might potentially be getting done.) Today let me realize that If I don’t go out more, if I don’t have company over, I’ll begin to go mad.

    I suspect it’s possible to count the number of times I’ve left the house since coming back from Alberta on an incomplete set of fingers and toes. At first I welcomed the isolation, but now I feel I’m beginning to fragment and fray around the edges. There’s an entire world on the other side of my apartment walls, too precious to ignore, yet here I sit, growing dusty in my daily routine, not sleeping well, not eating enough, forgetting the sound of my name. Simply reading about life isn’t living.

    That said, Howler has kindly volunteered me a ticket to tomorrow’s Workless Party Party, The Enchanted Forest. There promises to be many friends, (some of them performing), body-painting, electric violin, ridiculous costumes, and dancing until all our legs fall off, all of which sounds like just what I need.

    this week’s favourite band: hymie’s basement

    I’ve spent the majority of my day dissolving myself in layers upon layers of technical writing, business plans, copy edits, consultations, proposals, and articles, anything I could use for some concrete writing examples, and you know what I’ve discovered? That joke I have about living the majority of my life behind non-disclosure agreements is more true than I considered. I don’t think of documents as isolated work, but as it turns out, maybe I should.

    Almost all of the design work I’ve done, the packaging, the clever promotions, even the press releases, are locked. Weeks of my life seem to have been swallowed up in what might be considered completely invisible work. Only the trashier articles are freely my copyright – the ghost-written fetish tartlet interviews, the essays on how the McCarthy Era is to blame for Japan’s end-of-the-bell-curve pornography industry – very little I would be comfortable shopping to prospective employers. ‘Course, I don’t show them here, either, for very similar reasons. (It’s the rare page that even carries my real name.)

    Obscene interiors: terrible decor with invisible pornography.

    Which brings me, (if sideways), to something Juan and I were discussing the other day, the self-referential use of digital cameras that’s begun to quietly permeate our culture. People will go dancing, bring a camera, take a picture, show it to everyone, pass the camera around, keep dancing, keep taking pictures, keep pausing to look at them. Micro documentation, preserving a moment while living it. Especially odd considering that these pictures don’t usually go anywhere and are rarely looked at again. They’re hard-drive space.

    What I think is interesting is how people are beginning to tailor the way they act in public for things like photos they know will inevitably end up on-line. I have articles I sign with a pen name, which I thought was almost shallow of me, but apparently I’m not as self-conscious as I thought. I overheard a woman on the bus talking on her cell-phone the other day, passionately discussing how she only wears make-up if she knows there will be “technology types” at a party. She felt “liberated” that she was going to a “hippy house” where no one would have cameras.

    Spaz.Mike had a nice little essay on post-scarcity that I feel relates, about how the web is bringing around the death of celebrity, a topic we hash out together with some regularity, and I’d like to take that a little farther and say that it’s taking what’s left and spreading it thin, sure, but it’s spreading it over us. Our personal narratives have become individual expression painted entirely by collective context. We have begun wearing the behaviour of miniature celebrities, even when we’re not aware of it. Our journals are quietly expanding their borders, leaking out into full scale multimedia presentations that saturate our real life social interactions, as if our constant connection to the network is warping us from observers into the content itself. We The Public learning to manage Being Public.

    Me, I like it. What about you?

    edit: speaking of celebrity vs. real people – Go vote for Mike as That 1 Guy! He’s almost at number one!

    I’m ready for your love

    Canadian chocolate, it’ll break your knees. Wait, what?

    The closer I get to stepping on a plane, the more of New Wave I’m apparently listening to for an ultimate dose of positive reinforcement. Excitement has been building up in my body, buzzing in my chest and cooling my stomach at random moments of smiling memory. It’s so natural, I’m not even worried. Well, not about Mike, at any rate. No – even better. My primitive and peculiar social structures extend over the mountains. I realized today that not only is Calgary home to the man who was my very first boyfriend, but also my ex-boyfriend who’s since been declared a relative.* And, just for fun, they’re friends.

    Oh, my convoluted family, how I love you all. I’m hoping to get to Silva and Amber’s wedding photos soon. They have been languishing, (yes languishing – a person with the right flavour ears can hear them crying), on my hard-drive, just waiting for me to have the time to process them and pick out the good ones. I’m thinking they’ll have to wait until I get back from Calgary, however, as people have continued kindly sending me requests for photos, (I’m at $130, can you believe it?), and those, being monetary, have priority. That I’ve managed to survive the past year without a Real Job is nothing short of extraordinary.

    New York manhole covers, forged barefoot in India.

    *the term boyfriend as used here is inaccurate, but close enough for rock and roll. Also, I am hilarious.