We were going to work on a zine; we talked about it a million times. I could never find the time. You texted me saying “Get it together McCarty.” It was 2011. I tried to get it together, Dear Listener. I tried. I thought it was arrogant; presumptuous! (You’d tell me if those were actually synonyms.) But I appreciated it. Nobody ever pushed me to create, nobody seemed to care like you did. I never told you but it meant the world.
“You should really try to come to George Street tonight, Riverwolves are playing.” I told you that the OLows were playing at Sam’s, and that it was OLD BRO NITE. “Pish posh, Riverwolves need your support .” Who says pish posh. Who says that! “Way to keep jxn alive.” Was that the night you had our State, our City tattooed on your arm? I think it was. You were a true believer. I thought you were absolutely nuts.
February 19, 2012: “We had two copies of master of reality . . . one on hold for you.” After you left, I went up to Lemuria and bought it. I had forgotten about it. You know how it works. Text slides off the top. You don’t see somebody one night you’ll see them the next. Dear Listener, that’s not how it actually works. Dear Listener, you never know when you see somebody for the last time. So I bought it; a friendly penance. I read it and thought it lovely and brilliant and frustrating and memorable and completely over the top. It was just like you. Dear Listener, I’m listening to the record right now, I’m splicing it together with The Sunset Tree in an act of glee and creation. “I checked into a bargain priced room on La Cienaga,” after forever, into the void, forever and ever.
There is something that you should know about me: I believe in myths (you knew this about me; we knew it about each other). I believe in things that aren’t real, I have to believe in things that aren’t real. Your partner asked me to do a record cover for his band: I scratched a word on a piece of paper and slid it into my mouth. People say it’s a גלמי, it’s not real anymore, you just carve it out of mud and run your hands down its side and pray. I told Cody that I wanted to do something special. Dear Listener, I lied to him. I didn’t want to do something special, I wanted to do what people always do, I wanted to scrape my finger into the clay and have it jump to life.
Here is what it says:
Thumb dipped in MERCURY, poet god, speedy trickster, molten luck;
Index clad with FERRO, dark iron, just like your wit polished to a sharp edge, but rust never sleeps, so don’t stop moving, never stop hearing new songs, reading new books;
EARTH, our beautiful little blue marble, all we have and can hold (it turns out there’s no alchemical symbol for Jackson, so this was going to have to work);
TIN for breath of life, our catalyst, the one who fizzes and pops like a bottle of champagne, an eight dollar jug of Ballatore on a Sunday morning, all-caps breath of life, get in your face and demand you listen to this record right now, or the world is going to end;
Pinky with a dash of PHOSPHOROUS, it burns, it burns, it burns, just like you, just like our lives, just like these beautiful little showers of electrons hitting our faces and bathing us and casting our shadow, some of ours longer than others, yours longer than most, I can almost just see you there on the side of the room, a little storm of sparks. Just right there out of the corner of my eye.
There’s an Eye of Providence, just to look out for you, and in the middle of the hand the symbol you knew so well. To some people it says ROCK AND ROLL and to some it says R’N’B and some people use its family name, VINYL, some people can’t read it all. I’ve heard people say spinner but that’s just a noun, not its real name. We call it something different where I’m from.
I misspelled phosphorous, I left a line off. Dear Listener I can’t spell alchemy right. Dear Listener I wrote it all down and I drew the pictures and I carved the glyphs but nothing happened. This recipe was a nice idea but it doesn’t work. I tried but the soufflé fell flat. I don’t know what to tell you, I’m an awful magician. I reached my hand in the hat but I didn’t pull out a rabbit, I didn’t even pull out a dove. Maybe I said it wrong. Maybe if I do it again there’ll be a flurry of white wings against my face, a frazzled feather drifting slowly past my nose. All I ended up with was a picture of a robot hand and a screen full of texts saying let’s make a zine, have you heard this record, I got this book on hold for you, they all say the same thing, over and over, I just can’t quite figure out what it is. Dear Listener, I keep reading it and trying to figure out what it was you were telling me.
Dear boy, don’t you know how much they all really loved you. Mercury! Iron! Tin! It turns out they’re just rocks and drops. Sometimes we might just be a bag of water and some dirty Converse but you always were something magic.
There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be. Dear Listener, there is a better world. Well, there must be. Dear Listener. Dear Listener I am right here.
The symbol in the middle of the hand. I can read it. It needed a name. I named it. Dear Listener, I can’t do Big Magic, I can’t carve a golem and watch it shudder. I can’t build a robot and watch it do maths. But you reminded me, you always reminded me, that all of us can do some Little Magics, and maybe that’s all we can do, but we have to do it, that casting these little spells might be all we have, all that makes it all worth living. Dear Listener, you always tried to get me to mash together some new spells, do a little magic.
Dear Listener, here is my magic, I’m going to try just like you always pushed me to do. You knew when we scratched our symbols on little slips of paper they could tremble and wake. The symbol in the middle of the golem’s hand (a robot golem! I thought you would have gotten a kick out of that), I am going to name it. Here we go. Watch the sparks fly. Hold your breath, now: stick yr hand in the hat: I can feel a slip of fur, feel the ears!? BOOM!!
“Oh yeah, those things, in 45s? Yeah, where I’m from—yeah, Mississippi! That’s right. Yeah, it’s right here on my arm, I love it—yeah, those things in records, you have to have one or you can’t play the song. You gotta have one of those for the music to sound right. In Jackson, where I’m from, we call them Simons.”