Archive for August, 2007

Filming Locations for the Movie "Primer"

The U-Haul facility where the devices were stored in Primer (click for larger, scroll down for more)

I’ve probably watched the film Primer (2004, director: Shane Carruth) twenty times and counting. I’m not into “solving” the plot, as much as I’m just into the mood of the whole film. The picture stars Shane Carruth and David Sullivan, playing two 9-to-5 engineer suburbanites who inadvertently construct a crude device that allows them to travel backwards in time at six-hour intervals, and who gradually become entangled in the complexities the device causes in their friendship. The film’s mind-bending storyline uses no real special effects, and is portrayed in a weirdly calm, minimal style. At times it almost seems like a documentary, but also has a kind of menacing, poetic glow – similar to the best by Kubrik or Polanski. One reason I like the film so much is that it was conceived and shot in my hometown of Dallas, Texas (by people who really live there). Actually, many of the locations used were built after I moved away in 1991, so when I watch the movie, it’s an odd mix of old and new. It’s the film’s little background details – mostly architecture and urban design ones – that have codifiability for me. Watching the whole thing is like witnessing real, dangerous magic unravel out of my childhood bedroom. I was recently in Dallas, and shot pictures of some of the locations used in the movie, along with comparison stills from the film itself. These pictures were taken in July of 2007, which is the same time of year the film was shot (July 2001). The following contains “spoilers.”

The Fountain:
Here’s the nighttime fountain where Aaron and Abe confront each other about growing tensions, while looking for Aaron’s cat with flashlights. The “park” that it’s part of is a kind of glorified office/apartment complex area (I didn’t see another soul around the whole time I was there) and is located a bit north of Addison Circle. The fountain is much smaller than I thought it would be. Also, you can’t tell it’s sunken into the ground from the film. It was obviously under maintenance or something when I visited. For bigger versions of the above shots: here is is now, and here it is in the film. Here it is from another angle, where you can see the pyramid-topped building (Dallas is full of them!) way in the background, which appears lit in background of this same angle in the film.

The Bench:
This is the bench in the plaza at Addison Circle where Aaron is sitting (wearing the earpiece) when Abe comes to speak to him. Addison Circle is a planned living/apartment village cluster in North Dallas that is quite new, and very large. The area has a lot of little parks like this, but this is the bench. If you’re familiar with Primer, you’ll see how much the trees and bushes have grown since this scene was shot in 2001. Personally, I find this bench in this cramped little urban plaza to be as significant a film location as Maryon Park from Antonioni’s Blow Up. But that’s just me. For bigger versions of the above shots: here it is now, and here it is in the film. Here is what you see when you’re sitting in the bench, as comparable to this shot in the film. Here is a shot from the right, as comparable to this shot of Aaron in the film. I was in town for just two days, and had to quickly locate and photograph all these locations in one rushed afternoon – so I didn’t have time to arrange to get on the roof at this spot so I could take a shot from this angle. I actually did try to get up there, but a security guy came out of nowhere and asked what I was doing. I tried turning on the charm, but he wasn’t impressed. The pizza place that Aaron and Abe walk into (Pastazios) when Aaron’s cell phone rings and they think it might be his double – is also right down at the west end of this little plaza.

The U-Haul facility:
Here is the U-Haul facility – a central location for the story – where Aaron and Abe store the devices. It’s right on Dallas North Tollway (which is to the left of this shot), in Addison. It obviously hasn’t changed a bit. There is now a car dealership covering most of the empty field where they parked their cars and looked through binoculars in the film, but as you can see from the panorama shot up at the very top, a lot of the field is still there. To the west (to the right of the U-Haul in this shot) there is still lots and lots of empty field, which I stood in the middle of to take this shot (that’s the U-Haul on the right). The storage unit they used in the film in really is in this facility (see the little red doors in the upper left window?) I would have loved to have gone in there to try and find it, but it was this whole nightmare mess just to get in the front door. Plus, how would I have located the actual one? For bigger versions of the above shots: here is is now, and here it is in the film.

Here’s a closer shot of the U-Haul front door, to match this shot in the film where Abe is loading up oxygen tanks and supplies alone at night. Here are larger versions of the above, now, and in the film.

The Red Column:
Here’s the place with the red column that Aaron and Abe are sitting outside of while making plans on the first day they’ll use the devices together. You’d never guess they were sitting outside a Sonic Drive-In unless you’ve listened to the DVD commentary. It’s located literally right next to Addison Airport – excellent if you’re into plane-watching. Apparently this brief shot was done very early in the morning. I’m pretty sure they were sitting at the table on the left in my photo. The railing in the foreground of the film shot is over to the left of that menu sign, with another table or two between them. For bigger versions of the above shots: here it is now, and here it is in the film.

The Library:
Here is the Richardson Public Library, where Aaron and Abe are often shown researching day trading on the stock market, or walking around. Richardson is a suburb of Dallas, one of the older ones (this library has been there practically forever). According to the DVD commentary, this is where Shane Carruth wrote a lot of the script, and where he and David Sullivan did a lot of their dialogue rehearsing. This particular location has weird significance for me because, when I was a very small child, my mother used to bring me to this library weekly and leave me in the art book section, where I would spend uncountable hours sitting on the floor looking at books about Andy Warhol, the Dada movement or even Charles Addams cartoon collections. The art book section used to be directly to the right of where Aaron and Abe are sitting in this film shot (you can see it’s a wall now, as it probably was when Primer was shot in 2001). The inside of this library has changed drastically since I was a kid. Now, there are a lot of elaborate, Disney-ish, children’s decorations hogging most of interior spaces (obviously a recent addition), but the 70’s modern shell of the building still stands. It’s not a good mix. For bigger versions of the above shots: here is is now, and here it is in the film. Here’s a more pulled-back shot of the room now, and in the film. If you looked directly over the balcony behind where they are sitting, you would see this overhead shot, and here’s how it was used in the film (the carpet has changed) and here’s a shot taken down on the first level, looking left towards that wooden door thing they walk through in that overhead shot. Here’s a shot I took from outside, right next to that fountain (the one you can see outside the back window in that scene, remember the guy with the giant lawnmower?) looking back up at the building – you can see where Aaron and Abe were sitting in the middle second level lit window. Do you think I was thorough enough?


The Homosexual Brain

Gays and Football: The Homosexual Brain

I fell into a bad scene in college. My introduction to it was a guy named Trey. Trey Angles to be precise. Unbeknownst to me, Trey had a reputation for agitating other people in the art department with earnest, no-nonsense watercolor portraits of his favorite football players. During painting workshop critiques, the students and faculty gathered around each other’s work and recited interchangeable debates about their creations being appropriations, not copies, of David Salle or Sherrie Levine. Trey’s work was something they all wanted to skip over, but couldn’t. There lacked a context within which to hate Trey’s giant football paintings. “I think football is really great,? he would repeat blank-faced during critiques, while those around him drowned in whirl-puddles of quotes they’d memorized incorrectly from Artforum. Trey was a prolific artist in the infinitesimal cosmos that was the college art scene in Denton, Texas during the late 80’s. The other art students hated Trey. Trey loved football. We became good friends.

Trey was straight. I, like a lot of gay males, could pretend to pay attention to football only through flat eyes and a paralyzed brain. But one component of our friendship was my secret fascination with Trey’s effortless, reckless, overindulgence in this taboo subject. For me, the world of sports was like a whole new culture on another planet.

Trey’s biggest fix was the Dallas Cowboys. His obsession with the team reached the kind of sharp, knowledgeable clarity that can only be gleaned from enslaving one’s unwavering support to an entity that’s reputation as a winner unpredictably fluctuates in the eyes of others. The team was his ego.

During moments in our friendship, I would sometimes ask him certain questions. Trey would talk a lot of answers. My curiosity with his obsession eventually became insatiable, if only because no matter how much I tried to learn about it – nothing stuck. There was always room for more sports talk in my ears, because once it went through them and into my gay brain, it ceased to exist. And Trey loved to sermonize about sports. My mind became a black hole that he could ecstatically throw facts and trivia into, never worrying that he’d gone to far. I felt the same way about being the receptor. Through our mutual feeding, we each made the other feel smarter, and important.

This relationship reached its apex one Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1988. A mob of people had gathered at Trey’s overcrowded apartment – a central meeting place. There were no girls in the mixed crowd. The requisite football pre-game show blared out of the TV. Trey was centered on the couch, transfixed, breaking his trance only to talk to the TV or other people who were in the same trance. Me? I was distracting myself on the other side of the room with other non-sports types, haggling about the song order on Robyn Hitchcock mix tapes.

Something clicked inside of me, and I had a change of mind. I left my routine pals, and waded across the room through crumpled Whataburger wrappers and empty Schaffer beer cans. I sat next to Trey on the couch.

I told him there was something I wanted to try with him that neither of us had ever done. For once in my life I wanted to watch an entire football game intently, from beginning to end, and know exactly what was happening in terms my brain could understand. That had always been the problem; I possessed the correct equipment, but the wrong drive. I wanted him to walk me through it all and show me what to do. He snapped out of his trance and looked at me with resignation. He’d been expecting this. I told him I wanted him to give me live, real-time knowledge of the opening babble between the commentators on the pre-show, all the way to the victory shouting in the locker room at game’s end, and everything in-between – all while it was happening. I needed every player’s name, number and history, every rule, call, reason for rule, reason for call, fumble, score, reason for score. I wanted to know what “penalty? and “three yards pass? meant, and why everyone was on the field at one point, and why they all left it at another. I wanted him to show me everything.

I had no idea how thrilled he was. We had tried this before, but it has always ended up in awkward fumbling. This was the day it was going to happen for real. Trey tried to hide a smile that spread across his face.

So, when the game started, Trey leaned over and began speaking in my left ear. I kept my eyes on the screen. As the action unfolded, he showed me. The hours became frozen. With deep concentration, I was able to follow every single pass, tackle and instant replay. I strained towards the television screen, almost yearning. It was all so fascinating, like entering someone’s secret garden. Trey would push me back onto the couch, telling me to stay with him. The words oozed out of his mouth and fell onto my now statue-like frame, which occasionally moved only slightly enough to give the faintest indication of a nod. What we were doing felt perverse, extreme. The crowd, the room… everything within our circumference except the television and the two of us, ceased to exist. People tried to interrupt us with offers of more beer or conversation, but we would robotically extend an arm to shoo them away with a shaking hand.

My simultaneous focus on the action and Trey’s mouth reached a finite point, and I began to finally appreciate what he liked so much. My concentration even bled through into the commercials, and even the half-time show, both of which I experienced with remarkable clarity and perception. It was a fascinating new world, but it was hard work. The suppression, the obstacle, had always been there – but Trey had carved a glorious hole in the wall separating us! In those hours, we were the same man. One hour… two hours… three… with overtime the game went well over four hours.

At the end… everyone in the room was growling and leaping up and down in the room, flinging food like primates. The Cowboys had won. As everyone howled and punched each other, Trey was still sitting at my ear, speaking. Wrapping it up. We both remained there for a good ten minutes, contemplating what had just happened.

Trey eventually snapped out of it and jumped up, causing the needle on the Replacements LP that had just been put on to skip and make everyone go “AHHwwwooohhh-lame!? I was still. Facing the screen. My posture had grown horrific, my brow was scrunched nearly below my nostrils, my eyes were pins. I realized I had not moved a muscle in four hours. I had remained motionless on that couch, every molecule of my being tuned to the screen and Trey’s voice. I think I had forgotten I even had a body.

Did I enjoy the game? No. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I could now describe – probably even today – the game’s chronological events and the players involved, like reciting the unfolding plot of my favorite film or play. I felt like I could have a conversation with someone else who had seen it, and talk – really talk, not lie-talk – about it with them. What a feeling, a first… a personal best. I had punched through.

I stood up – finally moved, really – for the first time in four hours. Trey’s living room looked different than it had before. It was bigger. No, wait, smaller. I realized I had the same feeling one gets after hours of meditation, that post-void one attains from time spent being something they’re not. I was looking at the world through new eyes. Dizzy ones. Suddenly I realized I had sat back down on the couch without remembering doing so.

“Mark do you want another beer? Are you OK?? Trey’s brother Ward came up and asked me.

I must have responded – there was a small gap there – because eventually Ward said
“Wha-a-a-t?? to whatever was spoken by me. He also noted that I looked pale.

I felt pale. And I felt the need to go home. But I felt the need to stand up – for real this time – and also noticed something hovering about five feet above my cranium. Oh yea, it was searing, piercing pain. I had a numb, mystified feeling, a consciousness of being badly hurt, but no pain in the ordinary sense. I hadn’t had one beer, or anything, but I felt very odd.

Trey, who had been distracted, turned and walloped my shoulder really hard with a hearty smile, thanking me for the experience. Halfway through his words, his face dropped with concern.

“You blew my circuits.? I said to him with the wrong tone, through insane eyes.

Then I stood up (oh, I was sitting down yet again?) and attempted to walk through the sound-less, over-exposed white light chamber that Trey’s living room had magically transformed into.

All the sounds around me seemed farther away that they should have been. I noticed the walls were rotating, and also beginning to sort of itch. As I was parting through the squawking mob, I looked down and noticed that Trey was holding my hand as I walked through the crowd.

“Whatever… Tom Landry.? I weirdly growled as he lead me to the front door. When we accomplished reaching the door, I nimbly raised my arms, turned around and yelled “Touchdown!? Nobody got it. I went outside. A crisp autumn breeze brushed against my face, and I inhaled deeply. It felt bad.

The next thing I remembered was pressure on the back of my scalp. It was the fingers of Trey, picking me up off the couch (how did I get back inside?) who began to half walk/half carry me from the apartment to my car. It felt like I was wearing roller skates. We shuffled out of the apartment and I tried to push the purple spots away from my eyes, so I could say goodbye to my friends. All I saw were strange gawk-eyed participants at my sports coming-out party. They had closed mouths and weren’t congratulating me. No team spirit.

In the parking lot, he directed me to the passenger’s seat of my car and asked for my keys. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Friends also don’t let friends drive who are suffering from “a-gay-guy-watched-a-whole-sports-game-on-TV-induced-psychotropic-migraine? headaches either. Trey is such a good, good friend.

We turned right on Eagle Drive, passing the cemetery. Trey claimed that after he left me outside, someone eventually found me beside the creek near the apartment complex, wobbling backwards and forwards, half-eyed and white. I checked to see if my wallet was still in my back pocket. I actually couldn’t exactly hear what he was saying because when I looked forward in the road, I was distracted by a warm, embracing white glow coming towards us that made me translucent and also shot laser beams of pain directly into my spinal core.

Trey pulled up to the rambling house I shared with a bunch of art-types, my formal friends, and assisted my stumble to the front door. Everyone was home. States of altered consciousness weren’t only welcome in this house, they were cheered. They helped me to my room. Some of the people in this house hated Trey. “Here hon-neee,? one of my roommates whispered too loudly in dim light, as he gave me two pills from a bottle that he’d stolen from the bathroom at some party. He said he thought they were probably Valium. Taking them made me feel in control again.

I slept for a little under 24 hours. At some point I remember having a very profound dream, about something that wasn’t football. I’ve never had a migraine before, nor since. It’s like a headache that can’t be contained in your whole body so the seams just keep stretching. It makes you crave unconsciousness.

When I awoke it was four in the morning on some day. I walked into the kitchen and drank an entire pitcher of Crystal Light all at once. My roommates were all up, smoking pot. They were looking at a Japanese book about Jeff Koons and listening to a terrible Durutti Column tape. They looked at me and asked what had happened. I looked over. The identity of everyone in the room immediately pressed upon me. I lied and told them that my condition was caused by… mushrooms, bad ones, that we had done too much of. They all burst out laughing and started sharing partially true bad drug trip experiences. I sat down commiseratively, joining in the fraudulent stories.


Shroud of Tantrum

I was recently halfway around the planet at a secret location. The place in question is coveted, privately longed for, and relentlessly dreamed about – but rarely visited – by me. I actually get to go there about once every seven years, but I visit it every day in my head. Only Jim and a handful of people in my life even know about it, and when people do hear about it, they usually say “Oh, that sounds… interesting. But why exactly would you want to go there?” I smile, shrug my shoulders and change the subject; its esoteric qualities and my private obsession with them only serve to nourish the symptoms that qualify the location’s value.

Most everyone has a place like that. They mentally picture it when they want to detach. It’s usually a place that’s understood only by them. If they could just magically teleport themselves there right now – they find themselves saying – everything would be fine. You know the mental drill. For many, the location may be a place they’ve never even been to (or in some cases, nonexistent). Which is why locations like that glom most of their voltage from being daydreamed about.

I daydream about this specific place whenever I have the blues, or the mean reds. But since I can’t just hop in a cab and go there. I often call it up on GoogleEarth and stare at its “live” satellite view, which is kept up in a corner window of my computer desktop, just sitting there. I usually keep this electronic view on while in an upstairs room in our house, where I often work at a computer. It’s a way of visiting the place in little tastes, when I need to. I like to keep an eye on it – make sure it’s safe. Knowing that my private utopia still exists often keeps me from screaming at clients on the phone, or babbling at myself to the walls. As long as I know that being able to go is at least a semi-tangible fantasy (or can dream about the spot while falling asleep listening to Brian Eno albums) I’m reminded that there’s a horizon.

The times I’ve been lucky enough to go have been journeys planned spontaneously, all hush-like and underground railroad-y. Once I’m there it’s like a fairy tale, if only because I get downright theological. How could anything but a supreme being create such a perfect place? I feel in debt to the universe for allowing me the honor of least one more visit. My need to control things is relented because everything magically falls into place there. Nothing can go wrong, and if it does, it doesn’t matter because I’m THERE. By the end of the trip, I can suddenly see an “order” to everything outside of that place, an order that’s logic is only viewable from the perspective allowed by being in the place itself. I always return absurdly replenished and clear-headed.

During this recent visit, I had decided to rent a bike. The extended sensory experience that riding openly around on two wheels can sometimes be, was something I hadn’t done there yet.
The third day of my trip had started out blissfully. I had been out since the early morning, but also had misjudged how far away from my hotel some of the places I wanted to see actually were. It was now late afternoon, and I was trying to make my way back to my hotel. I had blisters. It was taking forever, I was exhausted, dehydrated and sun-fried from riding around all day. Whenever I would stop and punch the address of where I was on my route (a dense and endless hive of interconnected streets, like microscopic cracks on the surface of an ancient vase) into Mapquest, I would worry that the sweat dripping off my fingers was seeping into the spaces between the little buttons on my Blackberry and destroying it. Each time I checked, I realized I was still much farther away than I thought. Again. And again, and again. Gosh it was hot.

I kept mentally picturing the thermostat in my hotel room dripping with icicles as my frozen, shivering hand reached to turn it to sub-zero. Ahhh. But the distance to my hotel almost seemed to be taunting me with that thought. Is this what sun stroke feels like? I wonder if I’m dehydrated? If I wanted to call a cab, I’d have to wait forever for them to arrive, if at all, and I don’t know if my bike would fit inside their small cars. I thought to try and hitchhike a ride from one of the kooky locals. But all sweaty and grimy? No, the only logical course was to just press on. I’d be home eventually. After all, what did it matter? I was HERE.

The bike I had rented was a “hybrid bike” (basically, a mountain bike with 10-speed wheels). If you’re familiar with this kind of bike, you know the wheels are quite skinny, too skinny in my opinion. They’re like sideways tin can tops. If you encounter a substantial groove anywhere along your path, the razor-thin wheels will just fall right into it – lock-in really, like a needle on a record – and without warning rapidly throw the bike on a different course, usually smashing your head to the ground in front of you as your newly-liberated teeth bounce all around you. Not smart. I’ve always thought buying a bike with skinny wheels was a bit like signing a death certificate, but… the sales boy at the bike rental shop had been so blindingly handsome.

So, speeding along blindingly in my “kill-me-please” skinny bike wheels, that’s when it happened. There was a cracked groove in the sidewalk that I saw too late, and my wheel of course popped right onto it without me knowing what was happening. The front wheel violently jerked left and the whole bike slammed downward, as I kept floating forward through space (with a slight elevation, as I kind of instinctively ‘jumped’). There was an adobe wall immediately to my right that I was afraid I might slam into it, so I jutted my hand out to keep it away, causing my open palm to scra-a-a-a-p-e along its rough surface as I flew in the air beside it. Microseconds later, I realized I was descending to the ground cranium-first, which might be extremely bad. So (it’s amazing how quick your mind works here), I rapidly jerked my head down to my chest and quickly bent my knees, in the hope that I would roll forward in the air (those two years being mocked as the decided-by-vote worst member of the diving team in college were at least good for something!) I did indeed roll, which meant I lost track of where the ground was. I hoped for the best. In a flash, I felt the pavement smash hard into my ass (yay! my skull is safe!) which caused me to roll again a few times on the concrete until I flopped to a stop. I heard a few car horns – there was a busy road about fifty feet to my left – my stunt must have been quite a acrobat-ical spectacle to see from a car, a moment of “ta-da!” chaos in a serene paradise. But nobody stopped.

Still planted on my now screaming coxix bone, I turned and looked back through my shredded WalMart sunglasses (fashion tip: don’t ever buy expensive sunglasses, you’ll just end up losing them or ruining them when your head bounces off the pavement in a horrible accident!) I could see my bike laying on its side several yards behind me. I stood and looked down at both my arms. There were several big white scrapes that I’m sure would be raspberry in a few seconds. There was also a bad one on my right leg. I instinctively felt my face with my hands to make sure that one of the now-detached arms of my sunglasses hadn’t jutted under my eyelid and given me an instant lobotomy. It hadn’t. I don’t think. Nothing on my body hurt besides the familiar sting of sweat on skin scrapes. Nothing seemed broken. I was lucky. I then looked down at the pavement, and noticed some weird graffiti I hadn’t seen before (weird for this area).

Oh, that was my blood, lots of it, which was now dripping down my forearms, off of my elbows and making a little Jackson Pollock-style drizzles on the sidewalk. Hmm. Maybe I was hurt. But… ahh! Luckily, I had come prepared! I thought there might be the possibility for a bike spill, so in my backpack I had brought BandAids! And Neosporin! (and Jim thinks I’m too anal!)

I grabbed the tube of Neosporin and fussed over its infinitesimal cap with blood-mottled fingers. Neosporin is usually pretty thick stuff but – and I hadn’t realized this – it had heated up while in the outermost pocked of my sun-roasted backpack, and was now quite thin and runny. I squeezed with the usual pressure, and the entire contents of the tube jetted straight outward to my left, in a line, landing in the grass. Shit. Oh well, there was still enough left, if I twisted and folded the tube really hard (so fun to do with cut, bloody, screeching-with-pain fingers). It was then that I realized most of the blood was coming from the knuckles on seven of my ten fingers, which had all been sliced pretty bad, probably while I was skidding along the ground. The palm of my right hand had also been thoroughly cheese-grated by the adobe wall. So instead, I just took my t-shirt off, and wrapped it around my right hand. Then I took a small-ish white towel I had brought from my hotel room (to wrap around cold bottles of water to control the condensation) and wrapped that around my left hand – the tips of fingers exposed on both.

Oh how perfect! More passersby honked. I stood there – now shaking for some reason – trying to peel the miniscule tabs off of individually wrapped BandAids, which I then assembled chaotically on my other wounds.

I stepped back into the grass and squinted as I looked over at my prostrate bike again. It was still far away from me. The orange sun was shining hard on the beige-colored wall, casting an elongated shadow from the bike, which kind of pointed in the direction of where I had flown off. Looking up at the wall, you could literally see a squiggly, white-ish line, a warped kind of arc, where my hand had scraped as I flew alongside it. The top of the arc was probably ten feet high. In front of where the line ended, on the sidewalk, was the now large collection of dark blood spatters and bloody shoe prints – contrasted on the bright white sidewalk (with sparkles!) – where I’d stood and bandaged myself. I thought the whole thing would make a great photograph. It looked like one of those “solve-the-crime” picture puzzles (‘Can you tell what happened here based on the visual clues?’) With my cloth covered, giant Q-Tip-like fists, I reached into my pack and got out my camera. Hmm… wait. Suddenly I remembered that when I’d landed on my ass, I had basically also landed on my backpack, which held stuff like my digital camera. I couldn’t get the power to turn on at all, even if I rearranged the batteries. Well isn’t that just shit-my-pants fantastic. Suddenly I wondered what was on the other side of that adobe wall. Had it been people? Did they hear my cursing? I put the dead camera away. I decided to just get home. I put everything in my bag and walked over to my bike. I stood it up and moved it along. The wheels were fine. It seemed just fine. Good. I got on, put one foot on a pedal, and CRUNK – I looked down.

Not only was the chain off the tracks, but it was bunched up and dangling like a drop earring near the back wheel spokes. Groan. I turned the bike upside down and started to try and get it back in place. It was really badly twisted. Could I fix it right here with no tools, and bloody stump hands? Would I have no choice but hitchhike a ride with one of the locals? Get in some family’s car, covered in gore? The black, gritty grease from the chain was now getting all over my brown-with-blood fingers, and my left towel bandage kept coming off. More cars honked as they went by. I mumbled stuff under my breath as though I had to keep them from hearing what I was saying. Sweat was stinging my eyes, which I hardly noticed because everything else hurt so much. The whole front of me was quickly caked in black grease as I kept trying to untangle the chain, which wouldn’t do what I wanted. It was like demented macrame. I put the bike upright and tried to move it along while pressing down on the pedal, which sometimes helps a chain pop back in. I noticed that my nose was now running a lot for some reason (I checked, it wasn’t brains). I was really getting angry at this point. Nothing was working. I got the little L-wrench out of the bike’s minimal tool pack, and it fell out of my wet hands and into the grass somewhere, then I couldn’t find it. Just as I was about to transform into the Incredible Hulk, the chain on the bike suddenly popped right into place. Without stopping to contemplate, I just grabbed my pack, and hopped right on the bike, peeling off towards home. I was again going the full speed I’d been traveling when I’d wiped out earlier. I didn’t care. It occurred to me what a really, really black mood I was in.

I pressed down on the bike pedals like a child stomps up stairs to his room in a tantrum. I couldn’t go fast enough. Had my nice digital camera just broken? Had I lost the hundreds of photos I had already take on this rare, special trip? Did I need medical assistance? Was my coxix bone broken? Since I didn’t have any more adrenaline left, I used the energy of sheer rage. I couldn’t believe how long it was taking to get back to my hotel room. It was the worst mood I think I’d ever been in, in a long, long time. It’s the kind of psychosis that visits everyone every couple of years, or maybe once or twice in life – it’s the mood you’re most willing to volunteer manslaughter in.

I zoomed past everything I cherished in this place, mentally scowling at lightening bugs to get the hell out of my way. I tried to run over geese. There was a gorgeous sunset, but I told the sky to kiss my ass. I was actually angrily babbling to myself. My head was like a bubbling tumor ready to gleefully ass-plode all over everything around me. If my mood had been any blacker, the very Earth beneath my wheels would have split open.

A bit tragi-larious, because, on the route back to my hotel I had to pass right through one very particular spot in this faraway place. It’s my “favorite” single place there. Whenever I gaze at this general location on GoogleEarth, and daydream of going, it’s this particular spot’s address I punch in to bring it up. How many hours had I spent gazing at this very spot on my computer from my home a million miles away? A square inch on my screen, and barely an acre in real life; my most cherished small space on the whole planet, where nothing can go wrong and everything seems eternal. So doing a whole “Firestarter” thing while riding through it wouldn’t have been wise, but there I was, annihilated-ly inclined.

I rode right through it like I was raping it. Oh how I wish GoogleEarth had snapped an image at that particular moment; me, as a little blurry blip, ripping through that spot like a bullet through a skull. Oh what a pretty little satellite picture that would have made!

Talk about a brat. Jesus Christ, I felt a retard. The only way I could have turned my feelings off at that moment would have been to steer my bike right into an oncoming truck. Bad moods are complicated, and don’t have on and off switches. They have rudders. You can steer them in a certain direction, and that’s it. I was in the most perfect place I can possibly imagine in the world, in quite possibly the worst state of being I’ve ever felt in my life. Was the place causing it?

When I returned to my hotel, I looked in the mirror. The cloth blobs on my hands looked like cotton candy. My right sock was the color of sashimi tuna. I didn’t realize I’d wiped so much blood on my face, and also bike grease – it looked like war paint, or a self-tanning kit gone horribly wrong. I must have looked like Carrie White bicycling home from her prom. In contrast, I noticed my eyes looked more content than I’ve ever seen them. I tossed all my bloody rags in the trash for the maid.

Days later, I was changing my bandages at 30,000 feet in an airplane bathroom – if for no other reason than leaving little spots of blood everywhere your elbows touch doesn’t go over well in the overcrowded coach class of a twelve-hour flight home. My wounds really weren’t that bad after all, just a lot of bleeding initially. Also, after some tinkering – my camera was fixed, and all my pictures saved.

When I was home and unpacking. I was amazed to find the hotel towel I had wrapped around my left hand. It was crumbled up in a plastic bag. In my rush of post-rage confusion, I must’ve inadvertently thrown it near my luggage instead of the trash, and packed it later thinking it was something important. Crunchily un-crumpling it, I held it up and looked. It was rank, stained with blood, sweat and bike grease.

Immediately, I took it and hung it in one of the empty rooms of our house where I sometimes go with my computer to work (and where GoogleEarth is always available). I just tacked it up it right above the mantle, a perfect spot. Jim said it looks like a dirty diaper. What a trophy! I love looking at it. It’s a reminder that there’s no such place as Heaven, or Hell.