Aimless Splendor, or a Night With Fondue and a Journey to A-Town

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When I look back on the many December’s I’ve lived through, I must admit that the December of 2010 holds a particularly special significance in my memory. I was 23 then, and the maelstrom of my quarter-life crisis was stealthily gaining strength in the periphery.

But it would be another seven months or so before I’d experience the ravages of that storm. For the moment, I was relatively young, and had no obligations to speak of, save for my dead-end job as a counter jockey at a local convenience store. Beyond that, life consisted of open mics, where I’d strum half-competent songs of my own composition on a weathered acoustic guitar, binging “Dawson’s Creek” with my then-girlfriend at my parents’ home, and excessive alcohol consumption whenever the opportunity arose.

I think it was the first Saturday of the month when my ex had decided to host a fondue party at the apartment of one of our friends. It was a small place, the bottom floor of a two story house near downtown. Three rooms. You entered through the back of the house, where you’d find yourself in the living room. The kitchen was in the middle, and just after that was the bedroom. Like I said, it was a small place. But that didn’t stop my ex from inviting, quite literally, everyone we hung out with on the reg to attend this event. There must have been at least 25 people packed into this cramped apartment at the party’s peak. All of us drunk, boisterous, bellies full of carbs and melted cheese. Don’t ask how we managed that. The neighbors surely hated us. Especially because people would regularly venture out into the cold to smoke cigarettes in raucous groups of 5 to 10.

Anyway, in the midst of the revelry, maybe around 11 o’clock, we ran out of booze. Plenty of fondue to go ’round, but not a drop of alcohol. Our favorite bar was about a two block walk away, but they only offered 12-packs of beer for carryout, and at $10 a pop, nobody considered this a viable option. And we live in the great state of Pennsylvania, where all the liquor stores are run by the state government, and close at 9. We had a bit of a problem on our hands.

So it was decided that the most sober of us would drive to A-Town. A-Town was a bar/restaurant located about a half hour away in Hampstead, MD, that also sold liquor and wine in a little annex next to the main restaurant area until 1:00 in the morning. The place had achieved an almost legendary status among our group of friends over the years, in that, before any of us had reached the legal drinking age, we did not know exactly where it was. You’d be at a party, in a situation much like the one we found ourselves in now, and somebody who was old enough to buy booze would collect everyone’s money, leave, and return roughly an hour later with a full stock of liquor.

Our friend Kris had arrived to the party at around 10:30 and had consumed one beer, so he offered to drive. Only, he had never been to A-Town. In fact, the only one who knew how to get there was yours truly, and I’d only discovered its location a week prior when, after an awkward open mic night in Westminster, MD, I’d decided I wanted to buy a case of Pabst to forget the entire affair. I’d only had a vague idea of where it was, and following a long, unsettling drive through the Maryland boondocks, managed to find this proverbial Shangri La.

Of course, I was a slurring, stumbling mess by now, and since this was before everyone and their grandmother had a smart phone with easy access to Google Maps, I’d have to ride along with Kris and try my damnedest to remember how exactly I got there. So, at 11:15, after collecting money from anyone who wasn’t already broke, we set out on our mission.

Now, the rural parts of northern Maryland are frightening, especially at night. I recall driving home one night after spending an evening with a female companion who lived in the area, and subsequently turning onto the wrong road, getting lost for about twenty minutes on a winding, unpaved road that took me through a dense forest, complete with houses that looked like they belonged in a Wes Craven film. Not exactly the kind of place you’d want to be lost in. God help you if something were to go wrong with your car. But my friends were counting on me. I wasn’t about to let them down.

I tell you, I don’t know how I managed it in my inebriated condition, but I successfully navigated Kris to A-Town without one wrong turn. We even got in an epic Taking Back Sunday sing-along to make the drive enjoyable, rather than a chore. It seems almost miraculous, looking back. Even today, I couldn’t tell you from memory alone how exactly to get to A-Town.

We returned to the party at around half past midnight like conquering heroes, with a box of Franzia, and a bottle each of Captain Morgan, Vladimir vodka, and Tanqueray as the spoils of our victory. The festivities continued until well past dawn, when the majority of people in attendance went home or passed out in various spots around the apartment. Those of us who remained awake capped the evening off with breakfast at a local diner.

I guess the point of all this is that there doesn’t have to be a point to an experience for it to be meaningful. In the months following this party, I’d drift apart from my friends as work and my aforementioned quarter life crisis slowly consumed the better part of my waking moments. But still, I remember this night fondly, in all of its aimless splendor. That’s part of what makes being young so great, isn’t it?

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9/6/17

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Waste disorder lyrically in omission.
But a practical revision articulates
that which bombards with stillness.
No frills deconstruction,
you underscore with patience.
Up against dictation
break a dissonant chord.
Here and there a word
wracked by entitlement.
The garden of gross misfortune.
So wait, I have to importune
the power grubbers
with my questioning demands.
Comprehensive fear of nearness,
our habitation.
Mind the bones, not the spasms.
On the cusp in cuffs of fire.
Might this emphasize retreat?

-r. miller

3/4/17

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The patsy raid went better than expected.

Every principle rejected was replaced
with a pillar of colored sand.
You know exactly where I stand:
this land is mine, so sayeth the fine print.
In the end, it adds up to pocket lint.
A mandate straight from the mouths of moths.
So what if I’m soft?
held aloft by simple kite strings
and rings from archaic telephones?
The cronies have their bones to pick,
and the sickening texture of their moral “codes.”
In their frenzy, they’ve overloaded the wagons
with flagons of gut-rupturing wine.
Circumstances never align
the way they’re supposed to,
but with a closed fist and determination,
what compunction you’ll inspire!
It’s astonishing, really,
how easy it is to survive
the dive bomb logic of an apology.
One minute, you’re in it.
The next, you’re flexing.

-r. miller

2/25/17

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Deviation dictates all.
I take this thunderclap for mine own.
So speaks… The coven, salacious.
The tone-deaf monarch breathing heavily.
Around the turn of a screw,
in lieu of hotboxing, these laborer’s fingers
twisting spliffs to engage thoughtfully.
Condescension with a smile.
The way these feminine eyes distress me
and even with a hangover.
I’d downed the wine, flipped the sacrament,
rendered praise unto husky mouths
rife with alphabetic tumors.
The way these feminine hands undress me…
Amid churning stars and specters.
Trees piling on trees. Limitless shadow.
Mine own hands steeped in the boiling nectar.
I only considered the proposal,
the desolate prospect of her windblown song.
We ate of the valley’s festering fruit
and fucked in the grass.
She said these lies were a burden.
More than… The future,
an approaching train, white light
intensifying until only heat.
A remainder, or a reminder.
We carry lethargically on
and summer shoots through every window.
Another lost weekend for the pyre.

-r. miller

2/21/17

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Sleep well or forever hold your peace.
This will cost at least a pinch of sanity,
on a good day. To say nothing of the blips…
One could waste a fortnight slipping

into multi-colored comas
and not even know the difference.
That’s where the fun hides, precisely.
The clock doesn’t just strike, it blitzes.

-r. miller

2/18/17

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A feeling creeps out of twilight’s residue.
It’s a feeling clobbered by the idea
that to get somewhere you have to take it
step by step, an idea which ignores
the existence of the leap.
What a mess I was when you discovered me
discovering the process of linear thought.
It turns out that we both had been caught
in the same tar pit which sits
between will and idea.
We were both still young enough
to conceive a difference, after all
but soon came to find that there was only tar;
the limits were a fabrication, a consequence
of our two minds’ mutual inability
to accept that we were stuck and sinking
without any hope of breaking free…

2/17/17

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“Too often, I find myself playing ghost,”
was what she said, and with that,
an itch came on sweet and sound.
Things fall in and out of place like that
constantly. Sometimes correctly, but
mostly never in the ways we want.
So we go on, telling ourselves
whatever tales need telling,
spelling out the spillage so that
we can better ignore our inadequacies
and sleep our dreamless sleep.
These thoughts roiling the deeper regions
of the brain will never unhinge us
from the sacrificial slab.
The eyes have it, or they don’t.
Meanwhile, she let her robes fall
about her feet and basked in the cold April sun.
A limit had come undone, one
we never acknowledged, but whose necessity
was now apparent in the light
of this new situation. Time for a falling in,
what we originally supposed was a cop-out.
All over, seeds were beginning to sprout,
those we’d scattered and forgotten about,
and truthfully, we were still in the midst
of that forgetting, if only for the convenience.
Spring does a number on a body,
but this is a well-kept secret, stashed
beneath some floorboard
in a parlor outside of time.

-r. miller