Falling Out: Ms. Pumpy
Spike’s Senior Editor COLIN LANG went on a voyage … around his apartment. He was not alone – there were devices, music, and his laptop to keep him company. With not much else to see, enjoy the FIRST INSTALMENT of his COLUMN “FALLING OUT”. Hold tight!
It’s 4am and she keeps beeping at me. She won’t stop until I answer. There’s no rhyme or reason; just beep after beep.
In order to shut her up, I swig a little grape juice from the fridge. While kneeling, I realize the old ice box is the most compelling exhibition environment I’ve seen in months. All the choices, it’s great! Isn’t that the freedom curators dream of? A little chocolate with hazelnut crème, then some gouda slices, and back to the chocolate. It’s like a Dieter Roth print in the making. There’s the hum of the stereo, or maybe it’s the refrigerator. I can barely stand to see online what people are making at home. I’m happy for the vegan bowls of this grain plus that vegetable plus whatever protein. Congratulations, really. I’d rather see how clean your toilet looks after all that fibre. When I had headaches as a kid, my mom would tell me to sit on the pot for ten minutes. I would explain, indignantly, that a headache has nothing to do with digestion, shitting.
Records, I listen and listen. They never disappoint, even when I know them. The Sea and Cake is in heavy rotation: Oui, One Bedroom, The Moonlight Butterfly. When the mood changes – it’s always changing – then I turn to Liz Harris’ hypnotizing A I A suite. I’m kicking myself for missing her when she was at HAU last year. It was a hospital visit that side-lined me, one of a few that year. I managed to escape major infections this decade. She’s beeping again. This time for calibration. Am I the subject of the calibration, or is it the device that’s marching on like nothing’s happening? I’m a little jealous of the beeps. I hate her.
Tonight it’s Stars of the Lid. Yes, I realize I’m a 90s cliché, but so what! Noise, I remember from my Hebrew, is also breaking open, something thunderous, falling apart. That seems right. I turn to the closest thing to read on the subject, nothing super thrilling. A tantalizing bit comes from Salomé Voegelin, who tells me: “The body of the sound has moved so close it is my body: I am the host of noise. As if taken over by alien forces noise usurps me and presents me back to myself as the mirror of its insistence.” Looking in the mirror is mostly disappointment or dread at this point. What does she have to say about the noise the neighbours are making? Is that falling apart, falling out? Self-reflection knows no end, apparently.
I’m awake enough to put on something soothing, Tara Jane O’Neil, and the beep has not yet reached its climax, it’s just buzzing, vibrating. Narratives need a climax, or at least the possibility of one. This is starting to sound like a parody of Russian epics. Trapped, by either fate or circumstance, or both. I remember Chinua Achebe’s magisterial Things Fall Apart. That’s the noise I’m thinking of. There’s a children’s pinky-shake that uses the same Hebrew word for noise (there’s lots, actually), but in this sense, as no more pulling at each other, no more falling out, splitting up. Peace is the answer to all of this. Peace seems also noisy these days. Invisibility is suddenly in the spotlight for everyone, and privilege determines one’s exposure to being unseen. A healthy spoonful of Nutella and that should take care of the beeping for the night.
My brother Jacob is making masks in California, working with a laser cutter. Jewish guilt is a tricky thing. It’s social, not like the Catholic kind – why am I so dirty? Instead, it’s your parents saying, “you never call,” or “we just want to look at you.” It doesn’t work right now, but I know I could be doing something other than supporting mom-and-pop record dealers around the world. They’re nice. I get random messages from Greece and England, telling me it’s on the way. Today is the one day of the week they can make it to the post office. How quickly shopping jouissance turns to concern for some dude I’ve never met trudging through the closures and risking viral infection to send me an out-of-print Barkmarket EP.
This should all seem like a well-deserved residency, if you’re lucky. Rattling on, like Ms. Pumpy. That’s what I’ve started to call her, anthropomorphizing something only vaguely lifelike. But that is the machine. It will help us survive. Some of us. A bit of Eritrean guitar music from the 70s, Tewolde Redda, and it’s all ok again. I think Ms. Pumpy can handle the action. Speed is suddenly feeble, impotent. Fast and slow are mixed up, also noisy, falling apart. These metaphors are as cloying as the two-room headquarters. I’m spinning like the records, though not nearly as beautifully. What’s the prayer for LPs? I’m sure there’s one. I’d ask, but it seems moot. Is there one for solipsism?
Colin Lang is Senior Editor at Spike. His new online column “Falling Out” will appear weekly while he can’t go outside.