2018 Year Enders, Arts & Culture

18 bits of 18 (plus 6)

id m theft able lives in the woods near Portland, ME. He is a hero to the strange, being well known in discerning circles. - DS


A kid, maybe 2 or 3, pointed at me and said “look at that bear!”

As the cashier scanned a bottle it slipped out of her hands and shattered gloriously on the floor, a perfect crash and almost but not quite simultaneously, a perfect splash. She apologized profusely and I told her not to worry because I’d actually found it exciting. She laughed, picked up another bottle of the same thing and jokingly asked if I’d like her to smash that bottle too. I said yes and I tried to say it in a way that showed that I really, really meant it. The smile left her face and we stared at each other for a moment. It seemed like she really considered doing it, even WANTED to do it, before thinking better of it it, scanning the bottle and slipping it into the bag.

A very drunk man kicked a very raggedy, empty trash bag into the store, and then kept kicking it until he’d kicked it into a corner where I’m quite sure he intended to leave it. When he turned around and saw me standing behind him looking upon the scene with disapproval he chuckled and said “look at you, you’re all like ‘no’, come on G, I was just trying to make you laugh”.

I stopped in an old, not quite falling down general store somewhere in rural Nova Scotia. After looking around for a bit, I brought my balloons and bottled water up to the counter and the old man working there asked “you like old things?” I said I did. He told me there was a whole string of antique shops down the road a few kilometers and he thought I would enjoy them. I don’t know how he surmised that I liked old things from watching me poke around his shop for 5 minutes, but I had time and took his suggestion to heart.

Indeed, there was a corner with 5 or 6 antique shops, some were closed, some were open but didn’t appear to have anyone operating them, and one was in a church. The one in the church was full of things, but, like some of the others, had no people in it whatsoever. There was plenty of old furniture, lit via sunlight through stained glass light, some of it stacked on the old neglected pews. It was an incredibly quiet space, I could hear only birds, faintly, and the sound of my own footsteps. In the back of the church behind a bunch of crates and boxes was a pipe organ. Given that it was clear no one was there I couldn’t resist going over to it and seeing if it worked. It did. I could barely reach the keys over the mountain of stuff that was sitting in front of it, so I couldn’t play it particularly well, but I played it nonetheless. I played it for about half an hour until my back hurt from the awkward position I was in reaching over the boxes. No one ever showed up to tell me not to do it and it felt as though no one ever would.

In a very fancy, touristic part of the city I watched an old (and likely very local) man as he dug through a trash can, eventually plucking out a glass bottle. He studied it for a moment as throngs of tourists walked all round him in every direction. He then took the bottle and smashed it over the edge of the trash can then held up the part of the bottle that was still in his hand as though he were going to plunge it into someone and began to scream threateningly, tourists began to scatter and scream as well but half a second later he seemed to forget what he
was doing, lowering the bottle and staring off into space, looking almost serene, his posture now relaxed, as though nothing had happened at all.

The turntable started skipping in a really odd way, kind of like when there’s an accumulation of dust on the needle, but without any of the distortion. I lifted up the tone arm, blew on the needle and a tiny spider, the likes which I’d never seen before, flew out onto the Kool Moe Dee record I’d been trying to play, gave the world its last few leg wiggles before dying its premature death.

In florescent orange paint someone had written “PUSH ME” in a snow bank. I pulled over to take a picture of this and as I did, I could hear someone blasting Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” from a house in the distance.

After a performance in a theater, I was in its especially reverberant lobby, whistling half consciously and enjoying the acoustics when someone else behind me started whistling with me. I didn’t turn to see who it was, I just mimicked their whistle, and then they mimicked mine, getting closer while doing so. We went back and forth whistling like this for a bit and eventually settled on the same note and droned on for a while as I heard their footsteps draw closer to me and gently echo in the cathedral like lobby. Eventually they were right behind me and I, still whistling, turned around to see a young woman with very large eyes, also still whistling. We looked at each other for maybe 10 more seconds, continuing on our agreed upon note, then, when it stopped she put her hand on my arm with with extremely wide (but not at all crazy) eyes said “I want only to tell you that I understand you”

Crawling north on a South Carolina highway in a torrential downpour I saw a large pick-up truck in the south bound lane hydroplaning out of control. It swung wildly to it’s right and then overcompensated back to the left and directly towards me. There was no guard rail between the lanes so when I saw the truck dart down into the concave grassy median I assumed the worst braced for impact. Instead of the truck however something else impacted the front windshield and the drivers side window of the car, whatever it was it seemed to be raining down from the sky and it made the world go completely black for a moment. Listening to the sound I imagined that someone dumped some thick chunky soup down onto the car. As the rain and the windshield wipers struggled to clear the windows and the world went from black, to filthy brown, and finally back to torrential downpour grey, I realized that the truck had hit the median and instead of hitting me, had launched launched a whole lot of grassy mud right at my car. I was still finding bits of South Carolina highway grass under the hood and elsewhere in and on the car for weeks afterward.

Leaving the apartment building I was staying in one very cold morning, I saw several workers standing around an open manhole. One of them was gradually lowering something down
into it while the others stood around not seeming to pay much attention, very nonchalant. Suddenly there was a commotion and a geyser of brown fluid shot maybe 15 feet into the air. Terrified, I turned and ran in the direction I’d been coming from, nearly running into a woman who had been walking not far behind me. She was on her phone and I watched her face as she realized a large man was running toward her, she looked terrified, but as her eyes looked beyond me to see what I was running from, the terror in her face increased ten fold. She then turned and we ran side by side, together in terror for a moment or two. When I slowed down and turned to look for her hoping to share a laugh and she’d vanished.

Near where I was staying in Istanbul was a very old and seemingly abandoned building. Most of its decay and crumble was masked by two massive advertisements for Turkish President Erdoğan (one of which the wind had blown so that only the eye and the top of his forehead were visible). Looking in the windows of the ground floor you could see there were 4 or 5 tables. Maybe it had been a restaurant? I was just noticing how relatively clean it looked in there for a seemingly abandoned place when I noticed one last table in the back in the shadowiest part of the room, but this one had an old man sitting at it alone in the dark. Had I not noticed the dim orange glow of his cigarette burning away between his fingers I may not have noticed him at all. He didn’t seem to know I was there, or if he did, he surely didn’t seem to care.

I walked past this building maybe five times and each time and I couldn’t resist glancing in. No matter the hour, he was still there, barely visible in the shadows, staring off into space. The sixth time I walked by, in the middle of the day, there was a little girl staring in the window. She was wearing a panda bear backpack and waving her arms with deep intention at the man inside. The man looked at her and waved his arms in the same exact manner back at her.

The seventh and final time I walked by, late the night before I left, he was gone.

At dinner there was a small buffet with some kind of noodle dish that everyone was scooping from. I noticed an older man standing next to the table the dish was on, staring right into the noodles as though hypnotized. I watched him for a minute or so, wondering what he could possibly be looking at. After the last scoops of noodles were dished out and it was evident that there was be no more to be served as the pan they’d come in was now more or less empty save for small noodle stragglers and scraps, the man flicked a single noodle that he’d been holding in his hand the entire time back into the empty pan and walked away briskly.

In a Subway sandwich shop, “Hurts So Good”, a song I’ve never particularly liked nor disliked comes on through one of those tiny, tinny ceiling speakers, but in this particular Subway the speaker is projecting directly into one of the 4 rapidly swirling ceiling fans above, and from where I’m standing the entire song is being oscillated, and what with the bass being more or less stripped from it due to the limitations of the speaker, different parts of the song are emphasized such that the organ in the final third of the song now sounds amazing to me.


She did this until someone just outside the open door of the store shouted “THAT’S MY SLICE OF PIZZA YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”…. the girl went silent and we all turned to see this very large, furrowed old man brutishly clutching a slice of pizza and storming off. About two seconds later he was followed by very angry looking skinny old man with wild raging eyes wide open, holding a pizza sliceless paper plate with one hand and cartoonishly extending his other hand out in front of him as far as he possibly could with his middle finger extended. It looked as though he was getting towed forward by that “fuck you” and it would perhaps continue to pull him along for the rest of his life.

I found the following while cleaning out my old car:

-7 billiard balls
-4 shelf brackets
-11 pens
-4 SD cards
-5 hair ties
-1 note from an ex
-17 reminder notes to myself
-12 bottle caps
-1 pin that says “I LOVE VERMONT”
-4 hunks of styrofoam with words written on them
-innumerable strands of blonde (or red, depending on who you ask) hair
-2 flashlights
-3 plastic spoons
-2 plastic forks
-bottle of bubbles
-4 unopened blank audio cassettes
-1 Erik Satie cassette
-1 Black Sabbath “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” cassette
-$0.20 worth of returnables
-$1.23 USD
-$2.74 CAN

I will never forget the sensation of playing my dying friends guitar for him when he could still hear but could no longer speak. I was standing while playing it and it had no strap so I had to pull it close to my body while playing it and through the thick jungle of other emotions the persistent mantra echoing through my mind was “Please, please don’t let one of the last sounds he hears be his presumably beloved guitar slipping out of my (increasingly sweaty) hands and smashing to pieces on the floor”.

My taxi driver tapped himself on the chest and said “Victor, Ukraine!” Then he tapped me on the chest (and swerved out of his lane while doing so) and I told him my name and that I was from the USA. At this he laughed, grabbed my hand and held it for much longer than a standard handshake and said “USA, Ukraine” several times, once again swerving out of his lane.

He again tapped himself on his chest and said “submarine!” Then stuck his right hand in front of my face to show me his stick and poke tattoo of a submarine, maybe an inch and a half long that’d been inked on the top side of his hand just below the web of the thumb. Doing this he once again swerved, and earned himself a prolonged beep from a car he nearly just side swiped.

Unfazed, he continued. Pointing down he once again said “submarine!” Then he thought for a few moments before pointing up to the sky and declaring “Jesus!” then quickly made the shape of a cross over his heart.

A kid, maybe 4 or 5, came up to me and said “you’re spooky but you’re not scary”.

An incredible performer and prolific recorder and release-er of strange sonic collage, id m theftable is a New England treasure who makes all kinds of other art too. Check out what here does HERE and HERE and listen to some stuff below as well… – DS

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