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..: stories

..: Neon Antelopes

I never went drinking -- with them, or with anybody else, for that matter -- but perhaps that night I should have, because by the time that they got back they were in a reckless and belligerantly Kantian mood. This was no surprise; having been friends with them all through high-school and roommates with them now for the first seven months of college, I was well aware that there was something about having a pint of Guinness in their bellies that put them, epistemologically speaking, in a phenomenal mood.

I also made a point of being asleep by the time they got back. Although they were enthusiastic concerning philosophy, in their inebriated states their ability to communicate with anyone except each other proved frustratingly blunted, characteristically degenerating to memorable apothegms such as "I'm perfectly dexterized" and "I can talk legibly."

That night, though, through some unseen conspiracy, they proved uncannily persuasive in their drunkenness, and somehow coaxed me into a conversation I would regret for years. I don't recall exactly how it transpired; they made some absurd, self-contradictory claim about God and reality which seemed ridiculously easy to parry and riposte, one which I foolishly failed to resist. They asserted that God was a process of some sort. I countered that God must be static. They agreed. I said that they couldn't agree, because a process must change, and God can't, but they insisted on agreeing with me anyway. I was very irate now, since on principle anybody who agrees is immediately suspect, but moreover, still has to pay their own bus fare, so to speak. Out of desperation I asked them: how can something perfect change ? They looked at each other, looked back at me, and shrugged their shoulders. "Uh-ih-nuh," they grunted in unison.

But I didn't write to tell you about philosophical quandries.

I'm writing to tell you about the neon antelopes.

One of the greatest strengths of the night is its anonymity. All nameless things are nocturnal. In the same way that a rhythm is distinguished -- for lack of a suitable word in English, self-named -- not by its patterns of beats, but rather the silence between the beats, meaning travels in the spaces between words, and, moreover, identity gathers in the spaces between names. Words travel in the reflected light of external arbitration, their currency dependent wholly upon an enforced agreement upon their definitions. Names, however, are uninhibited, gregarious, and colloidal, having no qualms about colluding or commingling; protean precisely because of their anonymity. A name, or one who bears one, can come right up to you, mold themselves into your image -- whether a portrait, caricature, or damning grotesque -- and remain unanswerable, unaddressable.

And names can speak. Better than you can, believe you me. The voice of anonymity is especially profound along the I-5 corridor to Seattle -- starting at around Klamath Falls headed north -- and, as if to demonstrate that its interest is centered in all affairs human, it speaks in music. There are radio stations along that corridor that never identify themselves, pause for neither identification nor commercial. But the music: it is clearly not music of this age, this time; it is clear that you have not heard it before, nor has anybody you know, or could know. Furtnermore, it makes no impression upon your memory; try as you might, by the time the signal has faded, you will not be able to recall a single lyric, not one strain, not a chorus, the timbre of the voice, nothing, absolutely nothing; nothing save that eternity itself sang to you in cobalt blues, phthalo greens, and marzipan, and all you have left is an gunmetal-gray null memory.

And then, around Chehalis, the neon antelopes. In their own way, they struck me as even stranger than the teflon radio. In the darkness at the sides of the highway, you see them glowing gently in the rain as they graze behind a warehouse or timberyard: perhaps seven graceful, minimal arcs of neon-filled glass tubes each, perfectly conveying the form of an antelope, some grazing, some reared up on hind legs, some alertly staring out into the mist.

This file is the closest approximation to the experience; feel free to listen to it at your discretion, because I assure you that doing so will not at all spoil the real experience should you ever have the opportunity to make the trip. It's a song which, ironically, is entitled "Antelope", that I found in Seattle, by a band called "Hex". Since it is a song concerning temporary perdition, listen to it only as a form of anti-catharsis; late on a moody, unquiet night.

I finally found out how something perfect can change, though, but it was years after Seattle.

-- Clinton
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