restricted access Chapter 4. Shelter
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49 CHAPTER 4 SHELTER I don’t know the particular moment when librarians threw in the towel. I don’t know if they held a convention and decided, “Fuck it, we’re not whispering anymore,” or the yakking of the patrons overwhelmed them or what. But I haven’t taken it well. I miss the old days. It’s as if noise-wise we’ve trampled down the last fence. It’s not the world’s worst problem, I realize. Fish would laugh if they could hear me complain although they can’t because thanks to sonar and the auriferous hungers of mankind parts of the ocean sound like New York City on a summer day. On land it’s almost impossible now to record a full day’s unbroken natural sound anywhere in the world. It’s as if the 7 billion of us on the planet had formed the worst high-school band you could possibly imagine. But that’s just what we are, devoted amateurs—which is to say that the noise we’ve been making isn’t as loud as it could be. 50 ✴ SHELTER Enter the LRAD 500X Sound Cannon. The LRAD, aka Long Range Acoustic Hailing Device, delivers precision levels of hearing loss with a signature blast—a baby crying played backwards combined with two competing sirens—that can put whole crowds flat on the ground unable to crawl away. Alternatively , a Henske Systems unit emits pulses of sound that nail all twenty-two bones of the skull “optionally preceded by legal warnings where applicable.” And so I turn with deep and honest envy to our lunar colonists as I picture them at the moment of arrival. Each in turn descends the ship’s ladder and drops to the ground in a puff. Two or three begin to move about. One scuffing through the dust goes into spasms from the static electricity. But most simply stand transfixed by the almost Trappist silence of the moon. Saying I envy that quiet doesn’t mean I could handle it. Years ago I attended a three-day yoga retreat in upstate New York. I’d never done yoga before, but it didn’t look hard, or at least not competitive, so I figured, Why not? I’d been torching my system with mescaline and scotch and thought it could use a rest. But I did almost no research on the place so I was stunned to learn on arrival that we were forbidden to speak. You could write something on a piece of paper if vitally necessary , but otherwise communication was confined to smiles. My reaction to this discovery was shock followed by panic. I’m not that social ordinarily, but the thought of being mute for Pope Brock ✴ 51 seventy-two hours was like suddenly being encased in a tube. A few hours in I was wondering if I might start shouting or gibbering, uncorking a hitherto dormant pocket of mental illness. By the next morning I was sunk in resentment toward the Zen fascists running the retreat. Then I got sick. As I said, knowing nothing of what to expect, I also wasn’t prepared for how limited the menu would be, most of it variations on one thing, bulgur I think, and the diet change combined with the suddencut-offofbooze,drugsandcigarettesputmeflatonmy cot with a swimming fever. Sick and mute. One thing, however , was clear in my mind. My body craved something and I knew what it was so I hauled myself outdoors and stumbled down the long slope to the kitchen. Several people were there preparing the next round of bulgur. I handed one of them the scrap of paper I’d brought with me. On it were the words, “Can I please have an orange?” The cook—younger than me, almostakid—tookmypencil,turnedthepageover,wroteand passed it back. “No,” it read. The next thing I remember I was blundering down a road away from the retreat consumed with the thought that if I just walked far enough sooner or later I’d come across a place that sold fruit. By that point I wasn’t sure which I wanted more, the orange itself or to say out loud, “I’d like an orange,” but I never got to find out because eventually a car slid up beside me and in perfect silence I was returned Patrick McGoohan–like to the compound. 52 ✴ SHELTER That’s as close as I’ve ever come to living...


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