Issue #6 March 2016
Detail from Rubble by Amy Casey

Erik Campbell

A Partial Summary: 2002 – 2007

“ . . . You bend the nail
but keep hammering because
hammering makes the world.”
—Dean Young

Papua, Indonesia                   

To my mind it’s wise to take only what you can carry,
whether you’re traveling to your kitchen or Komodo Island.
And unless you possess a refined sense of inevitability
or silly, never ask for directions in India, because Indians
are mostly Hindu and so, for some 70% of them, life is
a circle, ergo, they can pick any spot on said circle, certain
you will arrive somewhere. And you will. Fill your head
with too much Buddha and for weeks you might not be
able to leave the bedroom. If you live in the jungle
where there’s little to do save for reading and walking,
you might wind up watching all four seasons of The O.C.
on pirated DVD and wish you hadn’t sympathized
with the characters and later had to hate them, then yourself.
One can read one literary biography and one book
of New Criticism simultaneously and receive blinding
headaches. Yesterday my Javanese neighbors placed dozens
of egg shells on bushes in front of their house; I suspect them
of mysticism and things Southeast Asian; they suspect me
of drinking, invasion, good teeth, and too much television.
My wife wonders what they did with all that yolk, if
we missed one. Epic. Omelet. Say you find yourself
near Libya in an oasis town called Siwa and a Siwan
tells you that Gore lost the election because he is a Jew.
Try not to kill yourself. Concede that politics is off
the table. Feel blessed your beer isn’t. If you believe
in a personal god I’d suspect you could walk straight
into the jungle barefoot. But I can’t. Observation
taught me that the most powerful god in Southeast Asia,
if iconography indicates anything, is Bob Marley. You will
never see a reality show entitled The Exceedingly Cordial
Chef  because politeness adds 10 pounds to TV personalities,
whereas anger is slimming. You will never see a reality
show. A wise man once said: “No olives, no Athens.”
When Alexander came to Egypt he brought hundreds
of soldiers to ensure that various oracles found a pharaoh
in him. They did. Now this is called Foreign Policy.                         
In New Zealand there is one murderer, universal healthcare,
and people discussing good books on the radio. In Asia
Colonel Sanders looks like Ho Chi Minh, and this is
like a Bavarian Café in a Mall in Jakarta. If you choose
to be Canadian while traveling, study a map of Canada first,
just in case you meet a man from Nairobi who used to live
in Canada (because he had to, because his family was burned)
and wants to discuss Montreal restaurants with precision.
A wise man’s barber once said: “No Athens, no Oedipus.”
If you are Canadian or are feigning Canadian-ness in Egypt
you will doubtless hear this: “Ah, Canada Dry! Big country—
small bottle.” Which suggests that people aren’t funny everywhere
and you might consider buying a map of Atlantis. In Lamu, Kenya,
there are still prophets screaming in the street; I watched one
busily being ignored because little has changed since the Book of “P.”
In Bali, everyone can play guitar and sing “Hotel California”
phonetically, but always in key. I have several Australian friends
who are either abbreviating or renaming every noun
in the lexicon because they want to force the cosmos into
a condition conducive to a good barbeque, and, let’s face it,
mate, there are worse things a people can do. In a hotel lobby
in Perth I noticed that someone hanged a copy of Kandinsky’s
“The Kiss” sidewise. I mentioned this to the concierge
and he told me the manager liked it better that way,
and what’s more, the artist is Klimt. And I had to admit
that some things are improved if sideways (e.g., dead
bodies, certain species of tree). My wife’s theory
is that people who grow up with four seasons understand
birth and decay more tenderly. To which I say I had aspirations
to write my autobiography as told to Malcolm X,
but it’s too late for that as well. You will never find a car
large enough on which to emblazon your philosophy
in bumper stickers and one can find fault and fallacy
in any statement under seven words. In Papua there are
rainbows almost every night around six, but don’t let this
give you any ideas. If you mull over the data you’ll find
that from 2000 to 2008 C.E. The White House had difficulty
with, then, during commercial break, abolished all subject-verb
agreement and, thus, things “just happened” on a regular basis,
principally in places where people pray five times a day.
But The White House has never had any trouble with metonymy.
Everyone, not only the doctors, should take The Hippocratic Oath.
Expulsion from a particular woman’s womb in a certain country
and century should not be confused with greatness when it’s chance
and Magellan and sometimes gunpowder. Everyone’s birth                          
certificate should read, just below the name: “Restrictions
may apply.” It’s too easy to fly over Sudan. Wandering
in the desert doesn’t guarantee a promised land. You can
lead a horse to water; you can make it drink itself to death.
Carelessness can create an attitude of your longitude.
You are an unfortunate superhero if all your fights are with
existential threats. You can see your neighbors at night
eating diner, backlit and happy. Almost ekphrastic.
And every house you’ve ever lived in or seen from the street
is full of bent nails that keep the shaky thing standing.