Last summer, after walking away from the Arcosanti workshop and a relationship turned bitter, I found myself traipsing rather aimlessly from city to city, casino to casino, motel to motel simply in search of something to occupy my time without costing too much (low-limit poker, at which I rate to come out a tiny bit ahead,) inexpensive lodgings with air conditioning and whatever else fortune might toss my way. I wound up spending time in Prescott, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, Oceanside, Reno, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, with a finale in the Black Rock Desert at some overblown company picnic I couldn’t get away from soon enough, despite the presence of dear friends and fond memories. As Neil Young so poignantly sings, It’s easy to get buried in the past / When you try to make a good thing last….

It wasn’t a summer worth writing much about. I spent many hours at the $3/$6, $4/$8 and $8/$16 limit Hold’em tables, just about breaking even. I stared at the ceilings of many cheap Motel 6, &c rooms, wondering where to go next, following momentary whims and weather patterns and the occasional invitation, sometimes sleeping under the stars in Joshua Tree NP or some other place off the highway. I spent some hours pursuing random online research, beginning with an unfamiliar word or technical idea and often winding up in some ontological no-man’s-land, scratching my head over that proverbial left turn at Albuquerque. In honor of his recent passing, I read through the works of JG Ballard, whose words seemed to outline my day-to-day experiences and observations perfectly, his unique tongue the asonorous soundtrack to a mediocre waking nightmare. I had my classical guitar along for the ride, but rarely brought it out for air. I gained weight from long hours of sitting, a diet of junk food and the kind of neo-hyper-quasi-malt-liquor 28-Oz genocide beverages sold only in 7-Elevens in unseemly neighborhoods, and a nearly pathological avoidance of the outdoors, where the sun was waiting with a baseball bat and pepper spray. The creeping, narcotic effluvium of bad television oozed slowly in through my eyes and ears, carefully desensitizing entire regions of my brain to the “realities” of contemporary ultra-violence, incestuous ritual soap operas, Fox News and Adult Swim. I rather enjoyed all this as a sort of poor-man’s decadence, an escape from my own often overworking, over-imaginative mind.

I remained mostly in the desert, only rarely braving the high mountain tops and the ocean. I had allowed my flesh to become attuned to the desert climate, my desperate addiction to air-conditioned environments notwithstanding. The ocean, once my great expanse of solace and renewal, offered no comfort, nor did the overcrowded lakes at high altitudes; these felt like cardboard cut-out imitations of what I had once known, property values rising in inverse proportion to their actual worth as The Sprawl did its slow, inescapable dance of death over the rooftops and through the forests that separated these once beautiful regions from the metastasizing concrete oblivion of the cities of man, which reached out to them with furious tentacles of need, seeking nutrients and moisture.

This weekend I revisited that place, the air-conditioned motel room, not seeking a rendez-vous with the past, but hoping for temporary peace and a respite from the heat. Instead, I felt myself being sucked through a nozzle of inevitability, back to the doldrums of a slow suicide of alcoholism, malnutrition and indolence. I felt the great clocks all quickening, my will slowing to a standstill, my friends all fading into stylized digital impressions of themselves, the New Disease making its final bid for ownership of my body. The hum of the air conditioner over the brassy noise of the television passed on their orders to me from farther up the chain of command, the great chain of being, the food chain… Back on the chain gang, changing, changed.

Three youths, brown with sunburnt filth and diesel soot, held up a crude cardboard sign outside the gas station. “Spare change?”