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Well, here’s a surprise: this is a blog entry.
I’ve just moved and am going through notebooks and many other things, sorting out my life in this new house, and I have rediscovered a blue notebook with the cover done up in a collage. Part of the text on the collage cover reads:
positive curvature, 1825
space is not
“Bullshit anti-rhymes,” as Henry Mullwiler would label them. Here’s more, from the interior of the notebook:
Rain in the forest.
Sonorous caves, hidden deep
in Michigan, in humans.
Resorting to chronology,
folded gold hatches
under following stars.
Alchemists kill defenses.
We’ll breathe liberty at last.
Ash. Skies crash
Sheets near razors
Overflow. Hit output.
Diners split skies
In end resorts.
Settling on moons
Empty of form.
Leans into heart.
Hanged in barbed wire,
Blessed in excess.
Thank you Jesus.
Open season on ammunition.
Stuck in stalls.
Halt. Howl. Lower. Glow.
Leering chilled ice warlocks
Watch roads. Carved totems
Decorate tomorrow’s roads.
Karl Rove withers away.
Too much hoarding.
Halt! Stopping points
Question and answer
Our paper notes burn war.
War defuncts and defaults
Our stubborn dead.
No deal. Leaders been stealing.
Hell has human rulers.
12/11/06 & 12/13/06
Leafless aluminum spires
painted on card backs
held in hands, pinned
in boxes of heavy metal.
Vehicles boom across city streets,
leave trails among houses,
disassemble precepts. Hold.
Scaffolding lines climb to thousand story floors,
prick the night’s stars, pull
pills from the medicine cabinet.
My solitude boxes us out from each other.
Hadn’t expected to have another
of these episodes. DVDs collect
on the shelves, swear straight lines
to episodes. Humorous, perhaps.
It’s like that
in super market lines,
in rituals broken
that I don’t even know.
To talk about money now
is to talk about being powerless.
They own all the shows
in their outside world.
Inside December, I wonder
what this rich collision
needs to speak.
Burn and pull
The moon places her cards,
believes hearts carry wilderness.
Moons above the forest.
Deeper ripenings take place
inside frenetics. Mildewed webs
sharpen in dawn light,
purchase us movement and time.
Down here, cuts hasten our senses.
Deliver music, misuse inches, storms.
Together we will collect the dawn.
Misheard, shaped to fragmentary music,
our temperatures decry cages.
Unhand those borders. Mildred thirsts
for the sharper etchings,
for mastery of form.
Fluid ridges, built with metamorphosed
cantos, begin to speckle horizons
with unending hands.
We place ourselves in position again.
Nailings and stairways
compose navigation. Magellan’s waterways
spill outside margins. The planet bursts,
returns, burns and pulls.
He was happier then, in a way, taking the anti-depressants the psychiatrist had prescribed, though he took them begrudgingly, irritated at having to mask his true genius, his true discontent with and, yes, sometimes even hatred of, the world. But the world was so big, and world was such an all-encompassing word, and after a while of taking those small yellow pills, he began to wonder, some days, if he had ever really known the world, or if he, or anyone, ever really could. Of course not! It came as an epiphany, slamming the ideas from his hyper mind to fall, cooling, to the pavement.
He sipped coffee on a bench, watching foot traffic go by. He was watching girls, sometimes, but more than that, he was watching all kinds of people go through their days, through their own idiosyncratic routines. He didn’t understand how they coped with it all: day after day, doing the same or similar things. For him, such a routine would be classified under drudgery, and if he couldn’t get up and get out at any point in time that his ADHD mind prescribed to him as the time to get up and change the subject, well, life just wasn’t simply being lived to its fullest. He drank the coffee down.
After a while, less than a year was all it took, his notebooks grew unwieldy. He had designated a specific room in the plastic trailer assemblage that was his family’s home for his philosophical musings, filing them away with no particular system. He hadn’t really developed a philosophy, after all; that was too much of a category, too much a word coined by the man to keep children from free associating and engaging with the world that surrounded them, the world that imbued them with vitality, and food, and food for thought. In his more inspired passions, he denounced the philosophers at the dinner table, in an attempt to shock his father, but the fits of verbal rage rolled off his dad’s back and under the table, where the dog pawed and licked at them, as if they were tasty treats, which Henry supposed that they could be. Perhaps he would market them. The thought was deliciously absurd, and he thought that it might work.
So during the month of April in 1992, Henry made and distributed hand-drawn stickers, the first ones free, to his acquaintances. He imagined himself as a pusher of aesthetics, of ideals long lost in the ridiculous, rushing tide of material progress, and he was sure that someone among all his acquaintances would bite, would be intrigued, and would have five dollars or more to spend on custom-made stickers. Because he could do it, he told himself, he could even make a living this way. This could be it! He could be the art director and staff of his very own graphic design playhouse—not business, mind you, it was too horrid of a word. This was how such things were started, he told himself: small, with a loyal base of acquaintances. He would not let himself label them as customers or even consumers, but they would always stay acquaintances; he didn’t dare entertain any of them as friends, because to do that would ultimately be distracting and humbling in a way that would crush his aspirations towards greatness. After all, Henry told himself on a deeply subconscious level that he couldn’t even be aware of, it was so hard-wired into him as a product of western corporate 20th century culture, greatness was what made life worth living. It was the secret goal, the ultimate apex of existence, to become that lone, solitary genius of an individual, sailing a flag that no one had ever seen before, planting that rocket of his own particular creativity and originality and development on the moon, and then from there, reaching out beyond the moon.
The moon was passé. Today’s entrepreneur aimed beyond the stars in their entirety, for the multiverse. The universe was not enough, and Henry supposed that he had quantum physics to thank for that. And thank quantum physics he did, at least once, in something resembling a prayer in a library, with mounds of books piled around him, his chewed-cap pen working overtime in his battery of notebooks, scrawling down the avant-garde formulae of shifting multiversal truth in laymen’s terms that only he could understand. He even got three or four poems out of it; really, it could have been three, or it could have been four; two of the poems were so close together in content and Ashburian imagery that they really could have fused themselves into part one and part two of the same poem, if they would agree to share a title. Henry worked with them for several hours on different days, but never could come to a conclusion, and so it stood that he had crafted four of his idiosyncratic poems about quantum physics, except that they weren’t about that at all. He had obscured the subject, coded it in layers of post-absurdist imagery so as to completely baffle the reader. He counted it among his greatest achievements of the first half of 1992, and daydreamed about the day when it would be sent to the printing press of some literary poetic magazine publisher.
That day, not surprisingly, never came, but he did receive, on the third of May, 1992, a request from a fellow sophomore named Don Robbins, for a series of stickers depicting a pink elephant, sitting on a tall stool, pounding away at a typewriter, with the simple caption, “Genius” emblazoned in a thought balloon over the elephant’s head. It was a great concept, thought Henry, and he got started on hand-drawing the twenty requested stickers right away. Up front, he told Don that the cost would be forty dollars for the set, two dollars a sticker. Don didn’t try to talk him down at all. He agreed it was reasonable, and Henry’s first playhouse relationship was formed.
The stickers were a success and spawned buttons. On receiving his forty dollars, Henry also received one of his products smacked onto his locker, a permanent fixture for the rest of the year, courtesy of Don. Don’s bardic clown troupe, Genius, benefited from the exposure that the stickers brought them. They were passed out at lunch time to select individuals as promotional material for Genius’s up-and-coming performance at The Backburner, a café downtown. The buttons were sold at the performance, with the proceeds split between Henry and Genius, and the playhouse relationship was solidified.
This blog has been dead. It’s tentative epitaph was written over at Atmospheric Games, which is an entirely different sort of place than this. I’ll be updating Atmospheric Games with maps for role-playing games, and some other nonsense. And I was going to move on from here to there.
But when I abandoned this blog to focus on other projects, like my work over at Nevermet Press, I left a large majority of what I’ve written about Henry Mullwiler unposted. I had also started on some “weird fiction”. There were several people who commented on this blog that they enjoyed that stuff, so I am going to post more pieces of both Mullwiler and weird fiction here in 2011. I can only hope that those people who enjoyed the early bits of Mullwiler and the weird fiction will happen by again to catch up on the next installments, and that new readers as well will stumble into the dense prose of Henry’s life and the loopy stuff.
Tools allow you to build things. They are the things human culture is made of. Animals for the most part do not use tools. An argument might be made for exceptional animals such as the tool-using platypus of ancient South America. This mammal was a bipedal duck-billed tool-using fool. The tool-using platypus flowered in the Crustacean Period of geologic history. It is an artifact of deep time. Although its culture never rose to the level of computer or internets, tool-using platypi did develop crude automobiles powered by magic. This magic was elemental in nature, just as our own combustion engines are mechanisms of elemental magic. But the tool-using platypi of South America during the Crustacean Period of geologic history used water instead of oil. They never bothered to mine for coal, thus averting the fossil fuel apocalypse that our human industrial society has backed itself into. On the other hand, all tool-using platypi of the Deep Crustacean period drowned.
One July day, Henry wandered through the cobblestone streets of his hometown, looking for work. He wasn’t exactly sure what kind of work he wanted to do, but he knew it had to do with the words and ideas rummaging around in his head, keeping him up nights, pestering him with their unanswerable questions about the state of the world, about dichotomies and how things could be and how they should be.
It was a beautiful summer day in the south. The sky was wide open, salted with occasional clouds, looking for all the world like a heavenly sea strewn with cotton balls. He made a note of it. Henry sat down at a picnic table and chewed the cud of his thoughts. Nearby, a river made laughing noises, sending goosepimples over the grass, making the Earth blush. He exercised his mind in times like these by writing poetry that made little sense. The poems were just automatic streams of linked thoughts, associated words. This, according to Henry, was how the world was created: it was not premeditated, not ordered together like unto a carpenter god, but it bubbled up from nowhere, or more precisely, from under the fingernails, from under the running brook, from the madness of clouds it fell, and it grew, and then it grew again after it had died once for the season, and it kept building, not according to plan, but simply for the sake of building. He was on to something, he told himself.
He wrote his name on the cover of the notebook, in all caps: HENRY MULLWILER, and on the inside front cover, he wrote his name again, and his address, and his phone number, and his e-mail address, and then he wrote: “If found, please return this notebook to:” right over his name and address and everything else, and concluded the whole advertisement with “because its contents are important to me. Thanks a bunch,” and under that, he signed his name, Henry, except it was more like a capital H and some inarticulate, unpracticed squiggles. He had seen how some important people signed their names that way, and thought he would try it today, but it didn’t really work out for him, and the signature ended up looking like barf, or so he told himself.
Here he was, in his 16th year, sweet 16, spending his long summer morning down by the river, and really, did it get any sweeter than that? The day was warm and hot, both, and the water was pouring by, replenished by so many afternoon thunderstorms that had come before. By mid-day, those cotton ball clouds would have amassed into something more foreboding, armies of thunderstorms waiting to happen. Henry frowned at the predictability of it all. That was the problem, he thought, with summer days. As awesome as they were, they held onto their archetypal patterns too well, and rarely strayed from the mold. He found himself feeling disappointed in them, and surly, and dissatisfied. Henry chewed on the end of his pen, then sighed the beleaguered sigh of a poet who had already seen too much in his 16 years on the cruel Earth, and he put everything of his away with a flourish, shoving the pen and the notebook into his backpack, which he dramatically donned, strapping it over both shoulders as if it were his own particular, earned burden, which it was, and he took off madly towards the river, leaving the civility and tameness of the picnic table behind him. He shot off into the wild, intent on finding an antidote to the staid and encrusted patterns that surrounded him on all sides, smothering his intellect and wisdom and curiosity with their damned fool routines.
At age 15, like all boys in small cities in Carolina in 1991, Henry was given license to drive. He didn’t have to request it; it just was, at least to Henry that’s how it seemed. The world seemed to move around him like scenery being shuffled past him while he ran on a treadmill. He didn’t find anything particularly invigorating about the run.
Given a car and keys and license, Henry drove from county to county, but by this point in his life the thrill of trespassing in other people’s domains had dulled. What had started as an accidental thrill had disintegrated into nothing but going through the motions.
At school, he slammed his books into his locker. The classes weren’t doing it for him, and like it had been that night in 1988 when he stood in front of the mirror, teenage Henry was frustrated and alone. The aloneness flashed around him when he least expected it, or more like all the time, even in the crowded school—especially there. Something had gone wrong in his wiring, he began to suspect.
It began to occur to Henry that perhaps, unlike the other students, he was a robot. He clung to this theory secretly for the better part of a year, even checking himself for data loops, batteries, logic circuits, or strange wires poking out of cuts, microchips hidden under toenails. Of course, he found none of it, but none of that kept Henry from believing. He remembered that earlier, when he had been, what, seven years old, he had repeated his name so many times internally—Henry Alan Mullwiler, Henry Alan Mullwiler, over and over like that so many times—that he had seriously begun to doubt not only the reality of the name, but the reality of reality. He began to have panic attacks.
It was hard to say when the panic attacks truly started, or whether they could even be separated from other, perhaps later, neuroses that developed. But then he didn’t like to think of all of these problematic aspects as neuroses, but think about them he did, and when he did, he invariably labeled them. And this was the problem with running his internal monologue: it was that it invariably led to crisis.
The crisis came to a head one day. It’s not like he hadn’t been expecting it. He was driving along, listening to the tape deck, dimly aware that his life was one drawn-out catastrophe dotted with others, and wondering where along the map of its ultimate unwinding towards demise he actually was. And that is when the crisis actually came to a head.
Henry was trying to come to a point, he was trying to reach a destination somewhere on the other side of the state, but kept getting turned around. He could no longer hold conversations with anyone but himself, and had recorded long, introspective monologues that he would listen to on long trips like this, something like books-on-tape, but custom made for his own tastes and concerns. And he was trying to get to the point with these tapes, but they kept cutting off or rewinding, or something else always happened to keep him from reaching the end, and then on long drives like this one he would end up having to either improvise the ending or turn the tape over and start another one of his pre-recorded programs, hoping that this next one would turn out better.
And so where was he going with all of this, he wondered, at age 18 when he had grown to his final height. He was beginning to grow facial hair, which was his first real physical clue that there was a world of shit out there actually waiting for him, a world of shaving and work.
Truth be told, the boy was lazy, and he was beginning to realize that it would just be in his own best interest if he went ahead and got that out there, squared with himself, even steven. “Henry,” he said one day when he was 18 years old, looking himself in the mirror, “You’re not a robot, you’re lazy.” And suddenly he felt vulnerable without any excuse.
But was it laziness, really? he would later ask himself, in a moment of compassion. Because after all, wasn’t he human just like the rest of the gang, and was it his fault after all if everyone else was caught up in the cultural neurosis of looking busy all the time to earn money? And there was the crux of it, though; he just couldn’t fake it anymore. Like he ever had been able to. And then he was back to his first conclusion of the situation: the world was actually hell, a place of punishment for wayward souls, or if not punishment, then just some kind of lost cause, like a bad thought let go and untended.
Just to prove he wasn’t lazy, to himself, Henry threw the mirror across the room, where it shattered. To his credit, he thought about punching it, and even saw it break in his mind’s eye as his fist smashed it and became bloody, but then one of two things became apparent to him as he opted out of that and threw the reflective surface across the room: “Either I’m a coward,” he thought, “or I respect myself too much to break my own reflection with my fist.” But then the mirror was broken, on the other side of the room. At least then it reflected the rest of the room with its broken fragments, and not the lonely island of a self that Henry was beginning to respect.