Picnic Apocalypse

Prayers echo through the windows.

Like the stoop conversations. Like the birds who chatter at sundown. Like the hip-hop that bounces off of walls. The prayers occupy that space between singing and chanting. These prayers in particular I cannot fully understand. The words twist and float in Arabic. As much as I do understand though, I understand the feeling of a blessing. God is with us. Goddess dances.

I dreamt of a small city up in flames. I sat on the edge. In a forest. I wanted to take a photo of the bright fire through the trees. It appeared magnificent. Brilliant and sad. Infuriating. It encompassed a dynamic spectrum of emotion. An outburst of flames. Death. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Lots of people hung around doing their thing. Mostly unnoticing. I wanted to yell and scream, “Can’t you see? Can’t you see?” But everyone looked unbothered. I walked closer to the flames to gain a better perspective. Without warning, an enormous flooding deluge of water ran ripping towards everyone.

A river tidal wave.

I ran with an urgent jump, climbing a tree to stay above the rush, but I grabbed a branch that bent under my weight. The branch set me back down toward the oncoming water. The top of the white frothy waves caught my feet and floated me to another tree. The water whispered angrily a message of reassurance. I grabbed onto sturdier branches and climbed to safety to the tippy top of the tree.

I gazed at the smoke-filled sky. When I turned the other direction I saw next to the tree a giant Romanesque archway carved into the side of a cliff. More people hung atop the structure drinking wine, eating bread, cheese, and fruit, relaxed, watching the world burn and flood as though it was just another day.

A picnic apocalypse.

I awoke wondering what the heck is wrong with people? But it’s not just other people. It’s reflections of myself. Admittedly, I maintain a strong desire for joy and celebration, especially in the face of IT ALL. But I don’t want to falter into escapism. Nor do I want to sit back comfortably eating popcorn watching societal breakdown like a movie of fiction.

To be real. To raise the spirits high. To keep an ear to the ground.

Like conversations on the stoop. Like birds who chatter at sundown.

Prayers echo through the windows.

White Rabbit Composite

“I got this voodoo. Yeah. You should see it. I went to the voodoo shop. Uh huh. And late last night, like 2 3 4 in the morning. Yeah. You should see their doors now.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, other than voodoo, or who he was talking to, but it piqued my interest. I only caught snippets of the conversation as he rode his bike by. I didn’t catch a face to gauge his expressions. I only guessed he was talking on the phone. It brought so many questions to mind. Like, what voodoo shop? What magic supplies did you buy? Who are you? Can you tell me about your goddesses and gods? To be honest, it sounded like he was proud of a hex. Can’t be sure though, like I said, I only caught part of his story.

Communication is like that sometimes. Like dreams. Like memories. We fill in the gaps with our own imaginations, delusions, and ramblings.

I stood on a ladder, painting the side of a row home. My thoughts generally caught in the wires, sometimes traveling with the clouds. It’s odd. These days, for extended periods throughout the day, I feel like I am a composite of people. Like, I’m in there somewhere, but others are in there too talking their talk and sharing their memories. It comes with living in the city I suppose. And probably the collectivity of the internet too. The rapidity of messaging. Memes. Pictures and captions. The viral ripple of snapshots and hot takes. I often wonder how we get anything across at all. It’s a deluge.

When I get a moment, I like to sit and see how long it takes to reach a place of silence, and then, of course, I start hearing neighbors talking through the walls.

I had a dream last night that I went to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. I went there of my own volition. I sat for a while, writing down conversations. No one bothered me or asked me why I was there. It felt inspiring, like I was exploring the collective unconscious. Taking important notes. Studying the undercurrents. My mind started blending with the minds of patients and doctors, which triggered a different dream sequence:

I was at the house I lived in for 4 years. In a large park. The sun was setting so I laid down in the tall grass and watched the stars come out. Very suddenly, snow blew over head. I thought it rather beautiful. The snow intermingling with the twinkling of the stars at dusk. It had this As Above, So Below quality of experience to it. I wanted a photo, and tried to capture it, but the moment lasted so briefly. I sat up, and when I did, I saw the house had burned down and the shed was on fire. I went into a panic thinking I had caused the property to go up in flames. “I’m not even supposed to be here. I don’t even live here anymore. They’re going to think I came by and set the place on fire out of revenge. What have I done?” I flashed back to the psychiatric ward where I was now talking with someone. “The house is still there,” they said. “You just had a schizophrenic episode. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I flashed back to the house. It hadn’t burned down after all. A wave of relief washed over me.

I wonder about memory. How true to life our memories are. How colored in they can be by all sorts of various outside and inside stimuli. By dreams. How people can influence one another. How propaganda affects the reconstruction of our memories into misleading myths about the way things are. How rapidly the internet slings thousands of stories and narratives. It often feels like the general consciousness is falling apart. It’s on overload and bursting at the seams. Like everything we once believed is collapsing and people are picking at phrases and empty rhetoric to keep themselves afloat. Like people take to social media to be reaffirmed that their construction of language, their semblance of memories, is real and valid. And it’s true, you exist. All of you in your wondrous unfolding. All of the thoughts and images that arise into your expansive consciousness. But deep down, there is still that panging truth. It’s a losing battle. The ego can’t survive as it once did. The foundations of our story-telling, the way we understand society and how we belong in the world, are being swept up and drastically shifted. This, we know.

And yet, there’s always absurdity; I still sit here and write longhand.

Before the word apocalypse came to mean judgment day, it described the uncovering of a vision. A hallucination, rich with meaning, brought to light. The fault lines cracking and the spirits of the earth arising within our minds bearing prophecies.

It’s not like that anymore. Apocalypse connotes catastrophe.

There’s this other phrase. Folie a deux. It literally means madness of two. More generally, it means a shared psychosis. I think about that a lot in our given culture.

“You think the paint will dry before the rain comes?” A woman hollered from across the street. I didn’t turn around but caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye. She pushed one of those fold-up laundry carts, the klinky metal ones.
“That’s the hope.” I responded.
“Supposed to be what, 6 7 8 when the rain comes?”
“I’ve got my eye on the sky.”
“It looks nice.”
“Thank you.”
“The clouds are coming,” she said.

I saw the mailperson down below. I didn’t see his face, but it looked like he was smiling.

It was a pleasant day. The calm before the storm.

As we sat down for lunch, an old guy drove by with his window down. Leaning out the truck, he hollered, “It’s not going to finish itself!” He cracked a boyish smile that reminded me of my grandfather. He laughed at his own joke.

The radio kicked in every once in awhile, interspersing the sound waves. “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. And the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen’s off with her head. Remember! What the dormouse saidddd! Feeeed your headdd! Feed your hhheadddd!”