Glass Mobius Strip by Ekostsov

Essays


Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes:
How I Became a Poacher in the Great State of Texas

I am a poacher in the great state of Texas. I own no gun, and I have never killed an animal, but I am on the record nonetheless, as if I’m some fiercely independent scofflaw determined to feed my family meat through the mean winter and no gawdamn government is gonna tell me otherwise.

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The Wisdom of Dry Socket:
A Tale of Dental Redemption

Several years ago, I had a wisdom tooth extracted, though that clinical assessment does little to capture the lived experience. Properly stated, I was mugged by an oral surgeon who kicked me in the face, knocked one of my teeth out, and shook a few hundred dollars out of my pockets. Poor Tony, I invite you to croon along with me, as this tale of wisdom and woe I commence.

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Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now:
An Introduction to the Art of Arguing Naked

On a recent flight home to San Francisco, circumstances conspired to inspire me to contemplate the meaning of a phrase that has lingered throughout my novels: Argue Naked. In order for inspiration to possess me, however, I first had to experience what the history of all human dignity must surely deem the supreme superlative of airplane discomfort. I’ve relegated the earlier details of that airborne nightmare to another essay, so this essay begins near the end of that ghastly flight, after I’d finally won some comfort, and upon awakening from a desiccant nap.

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A Child of God in Misery:
On the Origins of Spiritual Retardation

The road trip between San Francisco and Austin is much longer than you might imagine and, if you dare to steer clear of the monocultural interstates, harrowing as well. Somewhere East of Taos, New Mexico, the cutting edges of visionary culture blunt into a rusting wasteland of stagnant Americana that relents no reprieve until you roll into Austin, Texas – though even that cultural outpost has lately become a mecca for dude-bros and overdevelopment. Somewhere along the way, for example, a Chase Bank billboard encouraged—without a smirk of irony—to Chase Freedom with their new MasterCard, like some jackass after a PVC carrot under the yoke of high-interest consumer credit, even going so far as to evoke Henry David Thoreau’s transcendental masterpiece Walden.

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The Cathredral of Eternity:
Chaos, Synchronicity, and the Technology of Magic

From imploding economies to hurricanes and tsunamis, from astounding corruption to war and terrorism, from catastrophic climate change to thermonuclear weapons in the Middle East, the clichés of doom that lately populate the course of human events is more than enough to tilt a sane citizen into apocalyptic anxiety. Perhaps I paint too broad a stroke on it, but I’m nonetheless going to venture to say that worrying about civilizational collapse is like worrying about whether or not one’s relationship will end in a painful breakup. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve spent some time worrying about both of these things—one of them even came to pass—and I can testify that no amount of worry could have prepared me for the agony, and the ecstasy, that eventually came of it.

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Eyes of a Blue Dog:
A Tale of Triple Synchronicity

This is not a story about the wow and holy cow of seeing your initials on someone’s license plate, or hearing a word you just learned on the radio, or running into a friend at the grocery store. Without offending the marvel of others, these do not entirely impress me, and seem more like artifacts of attention than bona fide synchronicities. (Although, it did give me pause when one reader wrote me amazed to report that when she was reading Just a Couple of Days, just as the main character looked at his watch and saw that it was 5:55 and wished for peace on Earth, she glanced at her bedside alarm clock and saw that it was, yes indeed, 5:55. So perhaps it counts if peace on Earth is at stake…)

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The Incorruptibles:
A Requiem for a Civilization

During my eight-year stint as a Catholic schoolboy, I had occasion to read some of the books and pamphlets that littered the vestibule of the Church. One of them, in particular, captured my childhood imagination. It was a volume that dealt with a class of saints termed the incorruptibles, saints that were apparently so holy that their bodies did not decay after their death. Remarkable, I know, and even more so when it was revealed that some of their corpses give off an odor of sanctity, a floral sort of jitterbug perfume, presumably, rather than the typical bile-gargling retch of bodily decay.

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Have You Heard the Philosophy?
or, Encountering the Buddha in Disguise

Last weekend, a gentleman on Valencia blockaded my path, demanding, “Have you heard the philosophy?” The pointedness of his question paused me, and though I resumed upon my way once I’d gathered that his bloodshot eyes were pickled in alcohol, I couldn’t help wondering what timeless wisdom I’d hurriedly declined.

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Just a Couple of Days:
Adventures in the Shadow of Babel

It may interest some of you to know that, thus far, Just a Couple of Days has been translated into Spanish, Italian, Polish, Turkish, French, and Hebrew. Curious about the process of translation, I did some research and happened across a wordreference.com discussion board where the Turkish translator of Just a Couple of Days was inquiring if anyone could explain what “wise-assed” specifically meant. Thence ensued a lively discussion with contributors from the US, France, Turkey, Germany, Ireland, and Israel attempting to draw distinctions between a wise-ass, a smart-ass, a smart-aleck, a wise-guy, as well as a klugschitter (a German word whose literal English translation is wise-shitter), which of course led to a spirited debate as to the proper distinction between the verb forms of shit and bullshit.

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Stealing Back Our Own Heart:
An Interview with Tony Vigorito

Ultimately, I think the pursuit of love represents an attempt to steal back our own heart, a heart that has been colonized and vastly diminished by social structures that imply that each of us is in this life alone and can therefore only count on one's lonesome little self. Overcoming this “frozen lake of lovelessness”—as Dante termed the lowest level of his Inferno—requires a form of courage known only to pirates and other pranksters willing to explore outside the narrow confines of the social.

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Always Wear Your Bicycle Helmet:
An Interview with Tony Vigorito

On a perfect morning some years ago, exactly just a couple of days before my first novel, Just a Couple of Days, was to be released, I was preparing to ride my bicycle. On my way out the door—and as I had no consistent habit around wearing my helmet—I thought it might be nice to ride without it that fine day, to feel the wind in my hair, to whiz unencumbered through the atmosphere. I paused at my door for tangible seconds, considering, before deciding that I ought to wear my helmet. Minutes later I collided head first into a car at an intersection.

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Unleashing the Ineffable:
An Interview with Tony Vigorito

Human life has long felt to me like a carnival of distractions vying for our attention, as if attention itself is some form of universal currency out of which reality is constructed (indeed, perhaps this is why we say “pay attention…”). The game, it seems, is to fool us into identifying with any number of external identity illusions that seek to harness our attention, for once we confuse our selves with what our social world tells us that we are, it becomes tremendously easy to compel our participation in any number of palpatine projects that don’t have our best interests at heart, not even remotely. This is a tremendous diminution of human potential—quite like convincing the sun that it’s a candle—for we are each of us far more intelligent than we have ever been led to believe.

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Syntax Sorcery:
An Interview with Tom Robbins

Christians, and some Jews, claim we’re in the “end times,” but they’ve been saying this off and on for more than two thousand years. According to Hindu cosmology, we’re in the kali yuga, a dark period when the cow of history is balanced precariously on one leg, soon to topple. Then there are our friends in the counterculture who believed that last December 2012 we were in for a global cage-rattling which, once the dust settled, would usher in some great spiritual awakening.  I hope they’re bearing up well under the disappointment.

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Love and Other Synonyms:
A Note on Love and Other Pranks

After I’d begun to research Love and Other Pranks in earnest, it came to my attention that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had first published a novel called Del Amor y Otros Demonios, i.e., Of Love and Other Demons, in 1994. I read it immediately, impressed and reassured that it had nothing but three words in its title in common with my current project. Then in 2010, a movie starring Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathaway was released, entitled Love and Other Drugs. Puzzled at the apparently growing frequency of love and other synonyms, I went to see the film, and as it was half a comedy having to do with the release of Viagra and half a drama having to do with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, I reassured myself once again that it had nothing to do with my current project.

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Confessions of a Counterculture:
Contemplations at the End of Time

There are these rumors—perhaps you have heard them—rumors of ancient Mayan calendars and galactic cycles, lots of loose talk about sunspots and geomagnetisms, wide-eyed whispers about aliens and dimethyltryptamine, knowing nods concerning crop circles and conspiracies. An emergent and presumptive science of rapture heralds an onrushing apocalypse, and shadows cast backward through time are already stretching toward our sunset.

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