Josh Haas's Web Log

Cleaning out the crap

without comments

So lately I’ve been feeling a pretty strong desire to write.  The funny thing is, it seems to be combined with an equally strong lack of anything to say.  I don’t think that’s due to an innate lack of inspiration… rather, I think there’s some quite decent writing in me buried under multiple layers of crap.

Insert some mumbled academic point about perfectionism here… what I mean to say is that the only way through to the other side is to just get all the crap out of my system.  It’s a rarefied form of pure agony to sit in front of a blank screen and type garbage, but the upside is that it’s probably good exercise for your fingers, not quite (but almost) up there with piano.

Anyway, since the only way to really be sure you’ve exorcised a demon is if the entire neighborhood witnesses it returning to hell, here are a few chunks of crap I came up with:


Setting the scene: The Charles river. You’re standing on the bridge, concrete and cars going by behind you. Got your headphones on, “I am an American” pumping in your ears. An impossible football throw away, another bridge, stone and mortar, arcs.

The cast: Me, myself, and I. And an iPod.

The plot: Going for a jog. In another month it will be sweaty hot — as is the air barely accepts the heat I’m dissipating.

Not in the scene: a girl, 20 years old, standing by the window of her dorm, on a cell. You don’t know who she’s talking to, but it isn’t someone on campus.

“fours are up!” I call, diving to the ground.


Pink panda bear pansies . Purple petunias eating cheese. Nazi monkey fish liver pirates. Rumplestilkin baby sneeze. These and these I stir together — these and these I stir apart; wander weather wilters better; blink twice and I’ll break your heart.


Mr. Lipstaticker lived on a drive at the end of a long road at the end of a long, windy town. Good day! Good day! He’d say, and walk, mockingly, on by, while all the children stared and cried.


Single, she stood by the window, waiting. Her name was Annie. Out the window, she saw a car drive by. In it — not the guy she is waiting for. She sighs. Stands, and paces across the room, only to turn back at the sound of an engine — no, a stranger’s headlights cresting the hill. Could he have been seriously hurt? Would that be worse?


Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaateeeevver. That’s what she said. Well, not to his face, anyway — not yet — but with her friends, getting drinks on a quiet saturday night, she would bitch about his cheapness, about his looks, about the neighbor’s grunts heard through the flimsy walls of the apartment they shared together.


Once upon a time, there was a boy. I’d like to think he was the silent hero type, but actually he was really more the silent awkward — so out of touch with reality he could barely tell the difference between videogames and life. Well, except that he liked videogames.

We find him sitting in his room, the summer before going to college, staring at his computer and typing an entry on his webpage — I think this preceded blogs, or if it didn’t, he hadn’t heard of them. (Well, there was Xanga, but that was just for the nerdy Asians). He’s upset, because he’s been trying to clean up his room to get ready for college, which looms in front of him like a giant blank– nothing, nothing at all, like the thing in the Neverending Story where the world is falling apart and when you look at it there’s nothing to put your eyes on. What he can see is that every book that goes into the box is himself dying a little bit. He can still taste Italy at the back of his mind, and the bitter-sweet finale of high school leaves him with a strange… love? He feels lost, left out of some vast cosmic secret, shown a glimpse that the world is much bigger than he can ever wrap his arms around.

And then — he’s there. The pure pause of exhilerating strangeness the night before — an unfamiliar dusky landscape that he’ll soon imprint so deep in his brain he’ll never again be apart from it — and then the morning, sleepless, excited, so bright in the light of the fading summer. Move in — taking boxes up stairs, the smell of poster gum in heat. He doesn’t remember his parents leaving.

There’s a peculiar shift when your life changes, as your mind adjusts itself to the complete lack of the familiar. Soon enough you can stop seeing things again, because knowledge reasserts itself, but there’s a gap between the stasis of one reality and the fixedness of the next. It persists, in little cracks and edges, for maybe about six months.

What I really want to do is find those cracks again, plunge in, break it open, live, live, live! Always keep running, always keep moving, never let the familiar imprison you. What would it be like to always be traveling?

And there must be something at stake. People. If you don’t care about people, what is there to care about?

I love you, friend. I love you, I love Harvard, I love my brother, the Charles, my memories of Ashland and the Wisconsin arboretum and devil’s den in the rain. I love you, awkward moment — frozen space of new (if unpleasant) possibilities. When will the rains come? What will wash away the veil of the ordinary from this world? How do we free ourselves from the mundane? What is the path? What is the key? Why do the books and games and stories and songs that point the way become our very prisons? Help, damn it, help bust free of the chains of our own weakness and fear and heartlessness. Put things at stake! PUT THINGS AT STAKE! Without it, life is lost — cheapened, by being preserved. A strawberry stale in the fridge (not the beautiful loss of the dandelion dried on the windowsill). Please, oh lord, oh god — the other that is the reality — the gap between where we are and where we want to be: the silence that swallows speech: the shadow, the hollow men, the brainless smug intellectualism that makes you think you understand when you understand nothing, nothing, nothing at all. Alas, the world has died, and we but trod upon the grave of its remnants, the filthy fucking grave, the empty pit. Why do we take the pills? Why do we drink the wine? Gorge ourselves upon bloated sawdust? What promises were made, that we seek to redeem in this way?

That’s what I want to write. I want my words to pierce the veil in thought, to draw the love, to break the grasp, silent, sodden, deadening — that the world has on you. I want to feel and I want everyone who reads me to feel, to feel miserably, to feel terribly, to feel like they’ve been torn and in their tatters can rise again as real people. God damn all silent hypocrisy. God damn the system. Where is the words that will make it dissolve? What is the book? Where is the reading? Can music free? Can the food that feeds you be the food that kills you? What I do know is that there is nothing I know that is not in the knowing of it the deepest poison.

Words. Damned, pitiful words. What are they, against the overwhelming stasis of the mind? Merely feeders, at best, syncophants that pitch… pitch, on to the flame. And at worse, incohate babble. Useless drivel. Empty times new roman font on a white background, size 12.


What I’m trying to say.

I’m not quite sure how to say it yet. I’ll throw out a few words, and see how far they take me. I want to make the point — be it through essay, stories, poems, songs, I dunno the wherefore or therewhat — that 99.95 of the fucking time we spend our lives not actually living in reality but trapped in a mental bubble. All evil comes from the fundamental confusion of thoughts with that which thoughts reference. I can say it, but even as the words leave my mouth they become empty symbols, the map and not reality. Don’t eat the fucking menu! Don’t, for the love of god, eat the fucking menu! I want you to hop in your car, drive down the street, go into the restaurant, barge into the kitchen, and lick the chicken grease off the fucking counters — just DO not EAT the FUCKING menu!!!!!! Please.

It’s for you, not for me.

I mean it.

I love you.

Written by jphaas

August 21st, 2010 at 1:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized