One Note Song (UG)

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Official UnderGuide EntryEvery journey has its rhythms. I found mine in the rumble of streetcars in Portland.

Somehow, the motion of an automotive has music. A train rattles as it moves, each tie adding a note. What of the note being the same? The important thing is that it repeats, like the long awaited tolling of a clock tower, signalling the end of, what? A class, the evening, another hour of waiting… but it is movement that is remembered in the notes - a reminder that ahead lies something, perhaps the destination. The notes, and the accompanying swinging of the rail car, each invoking the other; it is a loop that ends, always, and without crescendo, when the train stops, unlike the other loops that we have built around us that bear us ceaselessly forward into more construction, more progress. A train has no karma.

So also with a bus. In its motion it transfers the curves of the road to your body, and gives you something of it. The grunt of an engine straining against the wind, or a slope, the jolts of acceleration, the stops that indicate a town has been reached, and a crossroads must be traversed - all these are symbols of the journey, and the worlds one has journeyed through. Indeed, automotive motion that measures the land also gives you a measure of it; as the notes sink in over the hours, the journey becomes the song, the metal contraption a minstrel. The best journeys are when one is borne, and a one note song has more to it than its notation.

Flight travel reduces a journey to a line between two points. One is robbed of the intervening distance, and the kinks in the road that actualise it. One might as well be faxed to the end, and to me, the destination of a trip by air always feels like a simulacrum at first. One does not know how one reached here, one does not know how the city was constructed around oneself, and it feels like an exact copy of the original that has lost all resemblance to it. One has arrived, certainly, but where? The city feels ethereal, lacking in substance, and its walls might as well be made of gossamer for all the impact they have. Only movement can make it firm again, can restore to the destination its story of creation. A city must be entered through its gates.

Where are Portland's gates? I don't know that I found them. I did find some rhythms, though. The tram, and its flock. The riverbank with its gentle waves lapping deadwood, uprooted from goodness knows where. The incorrigibly stoned hippie we saw three times on different days. Four days of tea, cigarettes and vaporous murmured words. And the endless drone of a fountain, like the hum of an engine 30,000 feet in the air. Strange how the one soothes, while the other grips the soul in a vice.

Strange also how some people touch with greater facility than others. Strange how converse with them is easier, freer, lighter. Strange how names & origins cease to matter, and just the moments of exchange remain. Strange how touch and the hope of touch bleed into one another until the point of contact becomes internalised, inseparable from oneself. Rhythm and pain play wondrous tricks with one another, like microphone feedback that sustains itself, breaks in unmusically in the midst of a concert, and ruins language, with an avalanche of uncomfortable moments. The two seek one another like lost lovers, and the orgasm of their union releases awesome energy. For the person in the center, of course, it is all only a display - but what a display! It merely made my teeth chatter. O ye reader, keep these two away - you might find eating opium easier to confess.

But Contact is always a Wonderful Thing. It is said that when you touch, the world touches back, and when you love, the cosmos loves you back. That is a myth. The world does not usually know you're there, and who can say that love is not an economic contract with one's self image? What is not a myth, however, is a flicker of recognition that ratifies contact when it takes place. In a world of unknowns, where the Unknown has retreated into its far mountains and post-modern discourses, a moment of recognition signifies the existence of a like knower, and of something known together. It is confirmation that negotiation is possible, and that reality can yet be constructed.

She had eyes the colour of mint julep, and I never wanted her to stop talking.

And what did I do? I laughed, ate 5 types of squid and went home.

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