“To remember and to recollect (said he,) are different things. A man has not the power to recollect what is not in his mind; but when a thing is in his mind he may remember it.” — Dr. Johnson
About two weeks ago, I stood out on my balcony, smoking my pipe and looking up at the stars, as any man should. An orange tabby cat looked on from a chair, while I mused on place and memory. In my nomadic existence, I find place and memory rather interesting concepts. For instance, I hold a particular picture in my mind of the thirteen homes I’ve dwelt in. Every room I’ve called my own and died my daily death, every street and tree surrounding the building. Every odd neighbor or odd moment that took place are remembered with varying degrees of exactness. Yet when I have the opportunity to visit these places, I discover just how faulty my mind’s camera truly is.
As I mused on my balcony that evening, I considered—not for the first time—that someday soon (now just two weeks out from this post) my current residence would be nothing more than a memory. The Desert Schooner I will shortly be abandoned, and the place will only be reached by my mind. It is an odd experience for a man to be both in and out of the moment, for a man to both touch, hear, see, smell, and taste the present all the while contemplating it as an event of the past. It is, in a sense, to step outside of time for a moment; it is to appreciate the moment not merely for what it offers the senses but for what it will provide for the mind months and years down the road.
Recently, I have decided to edit my series of essays written in Manhattan, Kansas, known as the Amblers. Reading these—often poorly written—essays has been much like reading a diary, only better. Every post I read not about my weekly thoughts or feelings so much as about particular moments and how they were interpreted at the time. Someday, when I leave Vegas for good, I will read these rambling Gamblers and have the same experience. And when that time comes, I would regret not reading about my beloved home.
Much like the Ole Midshipman in Manhattan, Kansas the Desert Schooner I is unique in that it is truly wireless. A man should seek to run away from the internet in every possible way. If there is an option to go without the world wide web, a man ought to pursue it with the eagerness of a child running from school at the dawn of summer. For the internet is only a trap and a cage. Thus, the Desert Schooner I, like the Ole Midshipman, is without internet access, cable, television, cd player, or DVD player. And of this morning, the internet has been completely unplugged, as the browser has been permanently deleted from my godless phone.
I think a word of advice might be helpful for the modern man who feels trapped by the internet, so shoved in his face through his phone. There is a way around this. The first* thing a man must do is sanctify his phone. He does this by making his passcode the sign of the cross. Instead of accessing his phone with his thumb-print, he accesses it by making the sign of the cross and thus reminding himself that he enters the valley of shadow and death.
The next thing a man does is reset his restrictions. Now, the trick is both to restrict the internet and yet create a passcode that you don’t know. Some may have other people who know their restrictions passcode. This is noble, but people crack. My memory is more faulty; in a sense it’s already so cracked that it can’t be further cracked, and a forgotten password is forever lost, forever un-crackable. This seems impossible: How does one both set the passcode and forget it? Well, I have good news. A man simply needs to shut his eyes when he creates the passcode, and through multiple trials and errors, move his thumb around until he enters the same code twice without knowing what it was. Once this is done, there is no going back. He must be careful to set his restrictions properly, for he will not be able to make changes, and I hear the process of retrieving lost passcode is rather difficult.
Silence defines the Desert Schooner I. Besides the random woeful mews from my orange tabby, the only noise that enters is that of select sporting events, which enter through a small analog clock-radio. The radio normally rests by my bedside, and I take care to physically move it to the living room when I listen to sports, like the current March Madness tournament. The physical act of moving the radio is important, for it gives me the sense that an event is taking place. Though I am simply flipping a switch, the movement of the radio blends together place and action. I do not simply “press a button” to hear the game; I “get the radio out” and move the dial until an audible sound is detected.
Sometimes, I put my orange tabby in his mesh carrier, grab the radio and a pipe, and listen to the games out on my balcony. Now, this starboard balcony, which also serves as the entrance, is the true gem of the Desert Schooner I. On nice evenings a man may sit outside, smoking and gazing through palms to the black backdrop of the skies. Planes and helicopters constantly collide with stars, planets, and satellites, as trickling water is heard from the nearby pool-fountain. The helicopters are most consistent. At certain moments of the day, they are little glowing beads on a thread in the sky, one after the other, marching in a line as if small elementary children trudging to class. Of course, the setting would not be a Vegas setting if this peace was not perpetually interrupted by roaring vehicles, whirring sirens, and yelling neighbors. But, then, one ought to appreciate Vegas for what it is, not for what it cannot be. And the most stable marriage in this town is the marriage of man and car. “Till death do us part” is no more true than in that sacred union.
And this, I confess, is why I am leaving the Desert Schooner I: to flee from the automobile much like the internet. For the Desert Schooner I is unfortunately an isolated ship. Located on the outer edge of the hood, it is miles from where I spend a good majority of my life. A man should seek to live close to things, if it’s possible. How big would this world be if you rarely left the three mile radius of your home? How much more significant would be place and home? How much louder would the world be if you ambled, and felt, and saw, and listened? Predictions and plans are dangerous. So I will only hope. I hope after my time spent in Vegas that I take and create memories of this home that will be lasting and real. I hope that in the silence of my future place I hear the loudness of my town. For I have learned, from my past two homes, the merits of listening. I have learned that silence creates more noise than noise itself and that heaven enters through the ears. And I have also learned that listening often reveals the mere cling and clatter rumbling between those ears.
Listening, as my bracket bursts into flames,
The Desert Schooner I,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Painting: “Man with a Pipe,”
Oil on panel, n.d.
*Actually, first, if you already have restrictions on your phone, you will need to reset all your settings. This might seem like a pain, but fleeing from the internet is worth it.