In a Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place on 08-13-2018

A first glance: a woman singing at a piano, a man drinking next to another woman (her hands posed on the table, smiling more than a regular would, surely she’s his wife, taken for granted), and another woman behind a lamp, maybe beautiful, head drawn sideways into some sadness. Only the women seem to be listening to the music. They all have the same hairstyles.

In a Lonely Place on 08-14-2018

Day two, seeing nothing but the two lamps, too symmetrical not to be intentional. Although the stripes of one are angled like the woman’s head behind it, and the stripes of the other are straight like its corresponding woman (too straight in every sense, I fear). Are the women unknowingly corresponding to the decor? Meanwhile I like the man less and less – something too soft and satisfied. As I wrote that, I first noticed his shadow.

In a Lonely Place on 08-15-2018

Today I’m drawn immediately to the shadow on the chair behind the man, yesterday’s discovery. The shadow pulls me out of the scene and into the world around it, so that now I’m standing with the crew behind a low spotlight flooding in from the left, making that phantom man on the chair, although we can’t see the shadow from where we stand behind the light, because only at the source of shadows do the shadows entirely disappear.

In a Lonely Place on 08-16-2018

Are there still cocktail bars with walls made of curtains? If I ever found a cocktail bar with walls made of curtains, I would never leave it. Something’s hidden. Eavesdroppers to be stabbed as if you were Hamlet, or girls with painted cheeks whispering things you don’t want to understand. Beyond the curtain are what we call dreams, and I would like to sit there sipping a martini as it moved almost imperceptibly behind me.

In a Lonely Place on 08-17-2018

Put the angled piano straight up on the wall, and it would be another fold in the curtain. Nothing more to say than that today, but it was satisfying, as if I’d found Waldo (who I recently learned is called Charlie in French, for no apparent reason). Our tendency towards pattern recognition has undoubtedly created whole religions, and when putting pianos on the wall I understand the primal satisfaction of even irrational synthesis. I build a house in the woods to keep the monsters at bay. Bienvenue.

In a Lonely Place on 08-18-2018

Today I’m only seeing necklaces hanging in parallel. His bowtie seems insufficient, impotent between those shining rocks. Diamonds and pearls, forged in the depths of earth and sea. Granted, it’s a tuxedo, but a floppy silk bowtie? How does he even stand a chance?

In a Lonely Place on 08-19-2018

The singer is beautiful. I hadn’t mentioned that yet, which is how it often is with very beautiful women: because their beauty is so obvious, nobody ever thinks to mention it, like an embarrassing secret we politely keep to ourselves, a philandering husband or an insufferable kid. She’s been lost in this note with her eyes closed for a while, left dress strap lightly indenting the muscle of her shoulder. But of course you’d seen that too.

In a Lonely Place on 08-20-2018

I could say something about the Civil Rights movement, Nina Simone, “A Change is Going to Come”…. This movie was shot in 1950. At the pace of this experiment, King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech would come in the year 449,280, more or less.

In a Lonely Place on 08-21-2018

Today looks the same as yesterday, as hard as I’m trying to notice a change. Maybe her eyes have closed slightly more. What I do know for certain (I think) is that the man’s drink has been at his lips since the beginning of this, which already seems like weeks ago, although it was less than half a second ago. At some point, as you look at the world around you, you will force yourself to see some change, and you will give it significance, in order to make it till sundown.

In a Lonely Place on 08-22-2018

Her martini, or whatever it is, is so fixed that it’s beginning to seem unreal. It’s one of the first things I notice every day (draw your own conclusions), but now I’m even starting to doubt there’s alcohol in the glass, and I’ve also become convinced she’ll never pick it up. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, so I can’t remember the actual fate of the drink (assuming I even noticed it, which is unlikely), but I’m absolutely convinced she’ll never touch that glass. Is that the definition of pessimism, or depression? Lack of faith in change? Also, a cocktail should never be mere decoration. Obviously.

In a Lonely Place on 08-23-2018

I was in Amsterdam yesterday. Today I’m in Paris. I change. The Lonely Place stays almost the same. Really I don’t change.

In a Lonely Place on 08-24-2018

Twelve days into this experiment, each of these words seems to matter a lot, but a thousand days in, they won’t so much. A moment means almost nothing in a film that goes on forever. There must be a mathematical formula, irrelevance increasing over time on a curve towards infinity. Thank God we’re spared eternal life.

In a Lonely Place on 08-25-2018

I used to wear pocket squares, even in my uncompromising form-follows-function days. I don’t wear them anymore, even though decoration, digression, as a style, now interests me more than simplicity. Too much of everything else now is only exactly what it is.

In a Lonely Place on 08-26-2018

Her eyes are like a lizard’s today, vertical slits. I’ve moved into the metaphors now, apparently, slathering on a layer of fiction to help me get through the day.

In a Lonely Place on 08-27-2018

I’m tempted to flip back to yesterday and see why I thought her eyes were like a lizard’s, but I’m trying to keep this experiment as close to life as possible, and you can never flip back to yesterday, despite your repeated attempts.

In a Lonely Place on 08-28-2018

The song must have turned. Her eyes are widening quickly (quickly in her world), her teeth have bitten off a lyric. In front of the blonde woman’s hands, there appears to be a miniature woman lying on her side, head to the right, just beside the lamp. Where did she come from? In a Lonely Place, directed by David Lynch.

In a Lonely Place on 08-29-2018

I’ve been so distracted by the singer’s face (approaching pure beauty today) and then by the miniature woman (still lying on that back left table, or not), that I’ve been completely ignoring the man, whose eyes are suddenly cast down to what may be a fly in his glass. Even at this speed you miss things, and I grow uneasy at the thought of everything else I’ve missed since yesterday.

In a Lonely Place on 08-30-2018

Fly still in man’s glass. Just went into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water to see if one actually looks down into a glass when drinking from it. No. I raise my head with the glass. So there’s a fly in there. But even if there’s a fly, the fly has no relevance to the scene, so we’re witnessing some terrible acting. I’m going to call him Gilles. I realize I’m being hard on Gilles, and have been since the beginning.

In a Lonely Place on 08-31-2018

Major happenings with Gilles’s glass. He’s lowered it to the one spot where it catches the light. Yes, he’s scene-hogging today, Gilles. Though to be fair, for him it was just 1/24th of a second to hog. At another speed, I wouldn’t have reproached him for it. Velocity changes feeling. There’s probably a formula in that too. I don’t think Gilles loves his wife.

In a Lonely Place on 09-01-2018

Gilles’s glass still catches the light, but less. The singer’s lips are opening, her teeth have parted. Her untouched glass casts a shadow I hadn’t previously noticed, and the shadow appears to be cast in opposite directions, towards her and away. Am I repeating myself? I can’t remember.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-02-2018

Someone watching this experiment from the land of one-second-per-second found the singer’s name: Hadda Brooks, born Hadda Hapgood, once called the “Queen of Boogie”. She was married once, in 1941, for about a year, to a Harlem Globetrotter named Earl “Shug” Morrison. Then he died of pneumonia. I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. I’m not sure facts add much to life. This film is in my head.

In a Lonely Place on 09-03-2018

Hadda Brooks was born in L.A. “Highlights of her life included singing at Hawaii’s official statehood ceremony in 1959 and being asked for a private audience with Pope Pius XII.” (SF Chronicle) She also appeared in Sean Penn’s 1995 movie The Crossing Guard. I should stop this. Information is a distraction. I’d prefer to walk into that bar and listen, or at least imagine I’m doing it.

In a Lonely Place on 09-04-2018

Again something missed, so obvious to me now: her earring, diamonds clamped to her lobe like a barrette. Really it’s overwhelming to think of everything I’ve missed, of the other lives I might have lived if my eyes, here and there, had landed only a few centimeters left or right than they did.

In a Lonely Place on 09-05-2018

I’m still annoyed with Gilles for obsessing over the fly in his glass. He’s the only one not listening to the song…except for us. We’re not listening to the song either, which may be why I’m annoyed with Gilles. Neither of us hears the music.

In a Lonely Place on 09-06-2018

I see no change. I’m frustrated. I want some revelation, a new perspective, but nobody ever had a revelation because he wanted it. So here we are.

In a Lonely Place on 09-07-2018

Gilles’s wife’s name is Rose. That’s the name I’ve given her (on the far left, to his right). For months now she’s been dimly aware that Gilles is hiding something. She senses a darkness behind him. In bed at night, this shadow is there. The shadow is there as he stands at the kitchen counter drinking coffee, eyes cast out the window at the phosphorescent hummingbird feeder. She does not want to see the shadow. Rose has always lived in the sunshine, a hummingbird herself.

In a Lonely Place on 09-08-2018

The light traces Miss Brooks’s scalp where she parts her hair. This morning I took this image with me to a cafe in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris. I have been sitting here for half an hour, and I have not seen a single woman with parted hair. Why do women outside the Lonely Place no longer part their hair? Styles return, style is a wheel, but when did women last part their hair?

In a Lonely Place on 09-09-2018

Yesterday I read that Georges Perec wrote a little book called An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. He spent three days on the Place Saint-Sulpice writing down whatever he noticed. I went out and bought the book and read it at the Café de la Mairie on the Place Saint-Sulpice. Later I read that that book was eventually adapted for the cinema.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-10-2018

Rose is being polite. Her mind is making bright lists (even her mental penmanship is impeccable) and wondering what she missed. The woman on the right, however, exotic under palm shadows, is really listening to the song. She’s in the Lonely Place. I used to think that self-assurance was the most attractive quality in a person, but now I only find it attractive when accompanied by a lack of self-assurance.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-11-2018

Gilles has noticed the shadow himself. He was playing racquetball the other day at the club, and Riggs, his partner in the agency, had commented on it. The shadow hadn’t been too obvious under the lights of the court, but then he hadn’t been able to wash it off in the shower.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-12-2018

Is she – Hadda – really playing the piano? Do her arms move? I’ve been so lost in abstractions that I haven’t noticed. Philosophically, or constitutionally, I’m convinced that details are all that give anything a point. And still I miss most of them.

In a Lonely Place on 09-13-2018

The woman on the right is listening, but not seeing. The music accompanies some private obsession. There was a phonecall, a bottle of perfume hurled to the floor, but no tears, because she’s disdainful of tears. Life is a series of situations through which she must infallibly maneuver. I’m calling her Lana. Every moment feels like a mistake. Lana is becoming a woman I knew.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-14-2018

In the indistinct spot on Lana’ s table, I think I can see her hand clasped around a half dozen pencils. So with those pencils did Lana draw the miniature woman who reclines on the table in front Gilles’s wife, the languid banana-sized courtesan? “I’m sorry.” Yes, of course, that’s what she should have said over the telephone, but it would have pleased him too much.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-15-2018

The gleam of Gilles’s glass seems to have stayed on his lip, like a cold sore. Am I seeing things that don’t exist? His partner, Riggs, has disappeared, but no one can know. Their clients – his clients – would leave for other agencies. He hasn’t found the moment to mention this to Rose.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-16-2018

Look at something, even something beautiful, long enough, and it does not become more beautiful. It becomes unsettling. I do not trust these people. Hadda, maybe, but her arms haven’t moved in days, or at all, which makes me think she’s faking it, so really I don’t trust her anymore either, even if I find myself inclined to.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-17-2018

Yesterday I claimed that observation doesn’t increase beauty, but corrodes it, so of course today, for the first time I’ve noticed, a beauty spot appeared on Hadda’s cheek. What I wrote yesterday was obviously nonsense, but somehow we have to fill the time with conviction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-18-2018

Hadda closes her eyes to find a feeling to attach to a phrase. And perhaps Gilles closes his eyes to take the feeling she sings inside. But no, mere thoughts obsess Gilles. Nobody has found Riggs’s body yet, and Rose cooked meatloaf for dinner. She’s probably making mental shopping lists right now. So long as she doesn’t forget his marmalade.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-19-2018

Or maybe a singer should never especially try to convey feelings. Maybe the attempt is enough to counterfeit everything. Maybe hitting the note is enough. Maybe if you’ve got the talent and the patience to do that perfectly, the feelings convey themselves. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-20-2018

Gilles is still looking at his glass. He shouldn’t have another drink, but he knows he will. He had wanted to make Rose happy, taking her here. It’s so easy to make Rose happy, but this was a mistake. He had told her there was a new singer whom he and Riggs might sign. But Hadda Brooks, Queen of the Boogie, does not know Gilles exists. Possibly unrelated, but at this point who knows: I looked at the dates, and her husband the Harlem Globetrotter is already dead.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-21-2018

Why do the folds of the curtain behind Gilles’s head look like two vertical antelope devil’s horns today? For some reason the fictional names I pick off the top of my head tend to end in s, so there’s always the dilemma of the apostrophe, or the full apostrophe s, that second s like the shadow behind Gilles.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-22-2018

“I don’t care, I don’t care,” Lana, in the corner, had told him over the telephone. “Obviously you do,” he’d replied, “or you wouldn’t be saying you didn’t.” Face to face, she would have killed him. Of course he doesn’t care either, doesn’t know how. Their indifference just uses different vocabulary. But really it’s not indifference, or they wouldn’t have been on the telephone. So what now? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-23-2018

An old friend, in town and looking for fun, sits across from me as I write this, so there’s no concentration for (quick glance, first detail I see): Hadda’s lips. Beer or wine? Red or white? More or more or more or more: those are your options in life, really, even if you imagine you might streamline yourself. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-24-2018

Stop thinking about it, Gilles, and take that sip. And for your sake I hope that on set in the ’50s they used real alcohol. Rose is an unremarkable statue, and I’m beginning to sympathize. Your wife arises every morning in a black dress and pearls, a sweet smile on her face that may, after years, finally signify nothing. And maybe as you look into that drink, you long for the crooked-grinned catastrophes.

In a Lonely Place on 09-25-2018

Consistency is an overrated virtue. What we may appreciate most in others is change. Surprise me, especially when one day looks like the next. Of course I probably just say that because I’m in the Lonely Place. Don’t go.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-26-2018

Sunshine in Paris this afternoon, slightly chilly. I’m talking about the weather. We talked about it last night. There are dinners where everything could be predicted with meteorological accuracy, dinners that might as well have been lived at the speed of the Lonely Place. I wonder what the stage hands are doing out of frame.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-27-2018

Life is elsewhere. Yes, I realize that life is where you place your attention, but I’m still focusing on the stagehands out of frame: stained blue jeans, maybe, a murmured joke, a cigarette butt, the camaraderie of work, where the song’s always changing, whistled maybe by Chas in the props department, who drives a red DeSoto.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-28-2018

So we make stories in order to tolerate time, or to put it a bit more aspirationally, to make something of it. Gilles’s partner Riggs has been murdered, but he didn’t do it, but he knows who did. At least that’s the story he’s telling himself. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-29-2018

There is the sense I’ve gotten something wrong, that there’s some glitch in the technology, a bug in the system, a frozen screen. Messages should be getting through to me that I’m not receiving.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-30-2018

No discernable change. If we’d attempted this gastropodic experiment in 1950, when this movie was made, impatience for transformation would have had us screaming into each other’s mouths and birthing rock & roll years before its time. Disco would have been over before I was conceived. We would have torn down the Iron Curtain with our bare hands in 1951.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-01-2018

I sat on a cafe terrace this morning staring at the Lonely Place. Hadda hasn’t opened her eyes for days – weeks? – and so I attempted the eyes-closed experiment at her speed. Did I last a minute? Twenty seconds? It seemed like an eternity, like every 1/24th of a second was a day. You start to hear the world turn. People must think you’re crazy. You start to feel crazy, too, and alive.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-02-2018

If the Lonely Place moves at 1/24th of a second per day, then our brains must move closer to a day per 1/24th of a second, a thousand scattered thoughts in an instant. I wonder how many times in his mind Gilles has brought that glass to his lips in this 1/24th of a second. You’ll notice that I’m obsessed with Gilles’s glass and will draw your own conclusions.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-03-2018

“She hasn’t changed a bit,” people sometimes say of old friends, which is understood as a compliment, but also hints at some unnatural bargain, as if at a certain point these friends chose to stop living lives of any consequence.

In a Lonely Place on 10-04-2018

It should come as no surprise that the more I optimize my life, the more I secretly fetishize inefficiencies. I thought today that I might start praying again, down beside the bed with my palms clasped together, as I did as a boy. How could a minute of that not bring me more than a scroll through my newsfeed, curated and pre-culled, or a set of thirty crunches?

In a Lonely Place on 10-05-2018

You won’t believe what just happened to me.

In a Lonely Place on 10-06-2018

Oh man. Where to start? I could spend a lifetime here. Stendhal wrote that beauty is the promise of happiness. That last shot ran for 53 days. I’d be happy if this beauty lasted for 533. At least that’s how I feel today.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-07-2018

He is Humphrey Bogart, she is Gloria Grahame. I love him in this movie, but it made her my number one. Slow gestures, stoned talk, reluctantly charmed with a twist of the lip, so tough but so obviously doomed. No, let me be scientific: I think her eyelashes have moved, up or down, since yesterday.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-08-2018

Her hand on the table like some beautiful claw (she’s nervous), a smile so faint that I may have put it there myself (she likes him), an empty ashtray (they’ve just arrived), the lemon in his glass, masculine, squared and horizontal, and in hers, feminine, curving down into her drink. Gin and tonic, I’m guessing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-09-2018

Have her eyes shifted? I thought she was looking at him, but now she’s looking past her drink. You can’t pin her down, Gloria Grahame. She’s got her own ideas. I’m riveted. There’s not enough time in the day, not to mention in 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-10-2018

Recently at a Ukrainian wedding I learned that there the wedding band is worn on the right hand, not the left. Bogart had married Lauren Bacall in 1945, but he’s not married in the movie, so you’d assume he removed his, but maybe he compromised and made it Ukrainian.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-11-2018

Bogart’s fist, her beautiful claw. Oh boy. This relationship is not going to be a cakewalk. Not that you’d want it to be a cakewalk. Not that you know what a cakewalk is.

In a Lonely Place on 10-12-2018

She’s looking away from him now, clearly. He’s not paying her enough attention, which he’s concluded is the most efficient way to kindle her desire. I imagine she’s listening to Hadda on the piano, because Gloria Grahame is one who, in the Lonely Place, would listen to the song, self-sufficient.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-13-2018

The face of Bogart’s watch is again telling faint time. Maybe the minutes have been stirred back into existence by the apparent imminence of the lighting of his cigarette. Momentous occasions. The handkerchief in his pocket looks like an iceberg on a moonlit night.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-14-2018

Cigarette lit – I may be developing a gift for premonitions. For several days I’ve noticed the woman hidden behind Bogart’s shoulder. She’s lit even more brightly than Gloria Grahame. Above her is what looks like the shadow of a man in a fedora. Maybe it’s the man who killed Gilles’s partner Riggs. Now I regret that I didn’t have more time with Gilles and his wife. You start thinking you’ll have forever.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-15-2018

That look. Gloria Grahame may surpass me here. Words seem like kid’s stuff. She was married to Nicholas Ray, the director. Then she was married to Nicholas Ray’s son.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-16-2018

How long does one continue looking at the tip of a cigarette once it’s been lit? Humphrey Bogart knows. Man and cigarette. And creeping awareness of all the heartbreaking moments to come. You and your cigarette alone in a room, even if you’re not alone, technically, taking the time it takes, because all the demons with all their fires are coming for you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-17-2018

I thought I might leave this blank today. Travelling and distracted. I thought I might say something about the blankness of some days. But the days are never really blank, and I’m always having this conversation, even when I think I’m not.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-18-2018

Exciting discovery: I had noticed the lemons, hers curving and feminine, his horizontal and masculine, and I had noticed her hand, beautiful and claw-like. But what I had not noticed is that her fingers and his fingers precisely follow the forms of their respective lemons. Could this be intentional, or is it perfect only because nobody ever saw it but us in this instant?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-19-2018

I assume he’s beginning to flick his lighter shut. One make assumptions of physical trajectories even at this speed, even if he’ll have weeks to change his mind. In other words, the speed of an action doesn’t alter our expectations for it. Not sure how that insight could possibly enrichen your life, but there you have it. Put it to good use.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-20-2018

The ring on his finger has come more into the light, the wedding band on the wrong hand, or the Ukrainian hand. But it’s not a wedding band. It’s more like a signet ring, a coat of arms to be pressed into a wax seal. I look it up: his mother was an heiress, he grew up in a vast apartment on the Upper West Side, so there could have been a family coat of arms. His father’s name: Belmont DeForest Bogart.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-21-2018

A man like Bogart gets you thinking about how things should or shouldn’t be done – the etiquette of lighters and watches and cigarettes and rings – but I’m not convinced of the boutonniere worn with the pocket square. Yes, I’m pretending to write an article for a men’s magazine in order to put off confronting that look on Miss Grahame’s face. She’s got a thousand ways to gut you. This is one. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-22-2018

I hadn’t noticed the gap between his arm and his body. Will he light a cigarette for Miss Grahame and reveal more of the blonde under spotlights in the background? Could that possibly be the head and ear of a horse over his left shoulder? Is this story something other than we had assumed it to be? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-23-2018

The faint white slivers of moons at the top of the black of Gloria Grahame’s décolleté. Bring on the night. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-24-2018

When it becomes difficult to find meaning in life (i.e. this 1/24th of a second), we remove ourselves and read about life. I’ve started the original book: In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes. Here’s the epigraph, by J.M. Synge: “It’s in a lonesome place you do have to be talking with someone, and looking for someone, in the evening of the day.” Pretty obvious, if you ask me, evening of the day or not.

In a Lonely Place on 10-25-2018

At this point we have to assume that the shadow off Bogart’s right shoulder looking like a man in a fedora is either the man who killed Riggs, the partner of Gilles (from the shot 3 weeks ago), or the ghost of Riggs himself. I’m going with the ghost. And then you really have to deduce that the hidden woman under bright spotlights is even more significant than previously assumed. Elementary, my dears.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-26-2018

The shadow of the man in the fedora over Bogart’s own right shoulder is the ghost of Gilles’s partner Riggs, who had fallen in love with the hidden woman under the spotlight here, but then so had Gilles. The plot thickens. And this was their mistake: you can fall in love with a woman who seems to live perpetually in sunshine, but never, ever one drawn like a moth to a spotlight.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-27-2018

Smoke appears. Bogart’s still staring down that lighter. The success of any gesture is in the follow through. There also appears to be a tuft of smoke at the top of Bogart’s head, although it could be a few stray hairs. And then the curtain, so perfectly vertical and rigid here that it could have been carved of wood.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-28-2018

Landscape with handkerchief, boutonniere, and smoke. Japanese mountain, moon obscured by fog, wisp of clouds above. I don’t know what the bowtie could be. A bat.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-29-2018

Should we talk about the horse over Bogart’s left shoulder? The one showing a top of an eye and an ear? To quote Shakespeare, who is beloved by this horse (especially the late tragedies), “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends.”

In a Lonely Place on 10-30-2018

The woman under the spotlight behind Bogart’s right shoulder, whom I have begun to imagine in great detail, is often mistaken for beautiful, but the truth is that her obvious vitality is amassed by extinguishing others. She casts shadows of the men she passed through to get to the spotlight. Riggs is dead now, hovering above her shadow in his fedora. And Gilles? Gilles is now hardly more than a shadow himself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-31-2018

Message received today: “Your posts are hilarious. And quite touching, actually. More than Miss Grahame, she’d want you to call her Gloria. G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloria. More like Van Morrison, less like Patti Smith. And he’d definitely want you to call him Bogie. I just have a hunch.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-01-2018

And so I return to the horse over Bogart’s left shoulder and over his right, in the fedora, the shadow ghost of Riggs, so unwise in love. If David Lynch had made this movie, he would have us assume the horse was real, and that Riggs was not dead in any definitive sense, merely relegated to a parallel dimension. Everything is real. So here we go… ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-02-2018

She moves slower than smoke, and with more mystery. Every day I find some new emotion in Gloria Grahame’s face. Love, boredom, anxiety, desire. Today, in this 1/24th of a second, she’s thinking about a man she loved, but doesn’t anymore. It’s that simple. Now she isn’t thinking about him anymore.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-03-2018

I’m trying to read the time off Bogart’s watch. 3:00? 3:15? Could it really be that late at night? Or has the speed of the Lonely Place thrown everything off? Probably we’ve entered another dimension detached from time. Probably.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-04-2018

Bogart’s fingertips are floating off his hands in trails of smoke. When time moves this slowly, fingers may as well dissipate for a moment or two. Faces may as well become briefly unrecognizable. Hair could be lit on fire. You could be a tiger padding softly through the forest. Just for a moment or two. No one would notice.

In a Lonely Place on 11-05-2018

Today she looks so innocent, girlish. She looks as if she’s borrowed her mother’s fancy earrings to play dress-up. Was she really so different yesterday? No, but I saw her that way, so what is it about me that makes her more innocent today? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-06-2018

Today it seems Bogart’s looking down at his iPhone. I don’t like typing the word “iPhone” here, much less with the word “Bogart” in the same sentence. I just looked down to check my messages, but Gloria Grahame hadn’t texted, because Gloria Grahame never texts. She just thinks distant thoughts you’ll never capture. Retweet her thoughts and instantly you’ll have no followers.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-07-2018

We haven’t seen his eyes. We’ve only seen hers. I think they’re in love, because I’ve decided to continue to believe in that magic, but the eyes of new lovers indicate better than anything how the love affair will end.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-08-2018

The tip of Bogart’s cigarette is now burning, a white spot. The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only change forms. So what was lost in the lighting? Miss Grahame looks almost angry today, so maybe the flame was ripped from her, and little by little, as the careless cigarettes are lit, you become colder.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-09-2018

I miss the languid smoking of cigarettes in black and white movies, but then you watch the movie at one frame per day, the way his eyes now seem so aware of his hand moving towards the cigarette for a puff, and the ritual seems interminable, an absurdly long-term addiction distracting him from the life he’s meant to be living. Look up, Bogie! Take the puff and be released.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-10-2018

Now Bogart’s hand, like Gloria Grahame’s, is claw-like. Surely these details could never be directed. Unless there was a director for the movie as a whole, and then practically infinite other directors for each 1/24th of a second, a parallel world of obsessive lunatics unacknowledged by the Academy.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-11-2018

Just take the cigarette between your fingers, Bogie. You’ve got our attention. I’m begging you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-12-2018

The woman in the spotlight is moving slightly out from behind Bogart’s right shoulder. I hadn’t noticed her earring before, if that’s the glint at her cheek. Her dress appears low-cut, because of course it would be. Talk about dramatic tension.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-13-2018

So maybe I cheated, by zooming in today, imagining I’d discover something else (and yes: the embroidered smaller square on the cocktail napkins, which are cloth). You utilise the technology. But you’ve already lost. You failed at the moment, which is gone. And this one. And this one. And this one. Gone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-14-2018

Scientifically speaking, I think that if Bogart put his fingers almost to Gloria Grahame’s cheek, almost touching her skin, just as his fingers all in a line appear to be just almost touching his cigarette, molecules would align to make up the distance, and these two would birth constellations.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-15-2018

We’re ignoring you, Bogart, until you figure out what it is, exactly, that you want. So: Gloria Grahame was born Gloria Hallward. “She particularly felt her upper lip was too thin and had ridges that were too deep. She began stuffing cotton or tissue under it, which she felt gave her a sexier look. Several co-stars discovered this during kissing scenes.” (Wikipedia)⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-16-2018

Gloria Grahame’s marriage with director Nicholas Ray ended the year after this movie (1951) when he caught her in bed with Anthony, his 13-year-old son. She was married to a writer named Cy Howard from 1954-1957, and then married Anthony in 1960. One son with Nicholas, a daughter with Cy, two sons with Anthony.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-17-2018

Bogart’s fingers, finally, are indisputably on his cigarette. Now we can anticipate the moment, in days or weeks, when he moves the cigarette from his mouth and maybe looks up at us. Life goals: essential, but sometimes better left unexamined. At some point everything – friendship, coffee, exercise – is a leap of faith.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-18-2018

Why am I increasingly annoyed with Bogart here? I love the man. Is it just chemicals or hormones or whatever else streaming through my blood? My gut biology? My pH balance?

In a Lonely Place on 11-19-2018

The horse behind Bogart’s left shoulder (I’ve decided to be convinced that’s what it is) cannot talk, but it is extraordinarily sensitive to human speech and seems to understand a wide range of vocabulary. He accompanies the woman behind Bogart’s right shoulder – Britt, I’m calling her, a name that seems to me as overlit as she (not to mention her brittle little heart!) – to most of her important social functions, such as they are.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-20-2018

Britt, the woman behind Bogart’s right shoulder, calls her horse, which is seated beside her, Thumper. She thinks that’s cute. It is Thumper who, in his devotion, on what had been meant to be a riding picnic in Topanga Canyon, trampled Britt’s sometime lover, the agent Riggs, to death. Riggs, in his signature fedora, still haunts them both in the folds of the curtain. Britt is as yet unaware of this, but Thumper sees, and is feeling skittish. Of course there’s more to the story.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-21-2018

I woke up this morning still terrified by a nightmare in which I’d slept for a week, then woke up in a panic, at which point I actually woke up in a panic. But the dream panic wasn’t over missed appointments or lost time. It was because absolutely everything around me, even after sleeping for a week, was exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether I slept or not, whether I existed or not. Oh wait…⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-22-2018

Britt called up Riggs on the telephone one night. She told him she’d been out riding in the hills. She didn’t need to say she’d been riding Thumper. Riggs already knew that. She’d taken him out to the stables one day, and Thumper had refused Riggs’ carrot. Britt had laughed like a horse, and Riggs had wondered what he was doing with his life, but really, at this point, all of this was beyond his control. It was as if he’d become someone else.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-23-2018

Riggs thought it would be over when he was dead. He didn’t know he was going to die, of course, but he knew he was headed towards some definitive disaster. But it just keeps going, even after the disaster. His shadow haunts Britt just as closely as he actually did, shadow-like, in life. He’s still looking for answers, even if he now understands that there are no answers, only stories, and unfortunately this is his story as it currently stands.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-24-2018

I once knew a man who smoked with all five fingers. Elegant in every other way, his five-fingered smoking seemed to indicate a whole-bodied need, and I decided then that need is the opposite of elegance. Yes, it must be trivial to spend time thinking about elegance, but it’s generally a more reliable indicator of character than kindness, bravery, or beauty, if you ask me.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-25-2018

Bogart is trying to erase Riggs and his fedora with his smoke. Any chance he was in on the murder? Also, he’s still checking his iPhone. I don’t know why he doesn’t just turn to Gloria Grahame and say something devastating. Hell, even a dumb joke. But maybe, like me, he’s coming to terms with the fact that about extreme beauty there is really absolutely nothing to say. The proof: I notice her every day, but words become syllables, then letters, then nothing. Silence. There she is.

In a Lonely Place on 11-26-2018

I don’t yet see any ash at the tip of Bogart’s cigarette, so I’m wondering how long it will take a cigarette to disappear into smoke at this speed. Four minutes to smoke a cigarette in the world? So, in the Lonely Place, just under sixteen years per cigarette. Imagine that nicotine high. The high would just become who you were. And even chain smoking, you could live till 400 with little risk of lung cancer, never having smoked more than a mildly rebellious 12-year-old.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-27-2018

The cigarette has left Bogart’s mouth.

In a Lonely Place on 11-28-2018

NSFW WARNING. The consolations of looking very, very (too) closely: with Bogart’s hand moving away from his mouth, I’ve just noticed that the black shadow on Gloria Grahame’s arm, melting into her dress directly above her clawed hand, was created by Bogart’s hand, and that’s their first physical contact. Boom. They’re sneaky, these two.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-29-2018

Lots of research today, keeping busy, being strategic about this. These two paid with their bodies. Six years after this film, at age 56, Bogart had his esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib removed. He died of cancer a year later. Also: Bogart and Bacall both suffered from what is now called Bogart-Bacall syndrome (BBS), “an ongoing hoarseness that often afflicts actors, singers, or TV/radio voice workers who speak in a very low pitch.” Stick with me.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-30-2018

Testing a theory, because I’ll need a few new theories to get through this (and possibly whole new philosophies and religions): love is motion. A few weeks ago, before she froze, I thought I might love Gloria Grahame. But now she’s only beautiful, something I glance at for a moment, then glance away…. I refuse to give up on her. I have faith.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-01-2018

The cigarette is coming away quickly. Bogart’s shadow on Gloria Grahame’s arm has disappeared. Britt, in the spotlight behind Bogart, has said something meant to be charming which she has indicated with laughter that shatters in the air like a champagne glass tossed against the wall. Beside her Thumper does not laugh, because horses do not laugh. He is glad of this, since he remembers the feel of Riggs’s skull beneath his hooves and isn’t in the mood even if he could be in the mood.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-02-2018

Down by the Seine tonight, stars shone in the black water and music floated on the horizon. Study your cigarette, Bogart. Take whatever time you need. Tonight I have cheated the Lonely Place.

In a Lonely Place on 12-03-2018

Britt, behind Bogart’s right shoulder, imagines her life as a movie, and naturally she is its star. She has memorized all her lines so that each comes naturally. Riggs hadn’t even really been her agent, but he’d found her that first role. She’d slept with him for that, and then he fell in love, and wanted to manage her career. Now she’s about to star in a surf picture set in Hawaii. Riggs was against it, of course.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-31-2018

And what I hadn’t noticed yesterday, if it was there yesterday (don’t look back), is the shadow of his cigarette and hand on the sheer silk of her dress, like the shadow of the ghost agent Riggs in his fedora in the background curtains, like a cigarette that belongs to someone else and will haunt the two of them, but you can’t go back.

In a Lonely Place on 12-04-2018

At regular speed I’m sure it’s dashing, but in the Lonely Place, Bogart is looking at that cigarette as if it’s some unidentified object he doesn’t recall having just extracted from his mouth. You need to live at the right speed. Slow something down enough (or speed it up enough, presumably), and life loses its sense. Not that you, reading the 5th second of this experiment on its 114th day, needed me to spell that out.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-05-2018

Britt, still mostly hidden to our eyes, is off to Honolulu next month, and will fall in love with a soulful guitar player onscreen (offscreen there will be beach photoshoots hinting at a romance). Her contract stipulates that Thumper, her horse, travels with her, and this is still a sticking point between her and the studio, given that she gets seasick, carsick, and trainsick, but not planesick, and they claim the airlines won’t accomodate, which is ludicrous, she feels, given that somebody’s bound to have a private jet. I’ve never in my life so much wanted to set eyes upon a woman I’ve decided is a nightmare.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-06-2018

Is it me, or is that whole cigarette glowing radioactively today, like a slot of white fire on Bogart’s jacket? Is it me, or has that cigarette become a character of it own, entirely unlikable? And is boredom the mother of anthropomorphism?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-07-2018

There are days in my life – this is one – where the tape could be played backwards or forwards without making the slightest difference. The cigarette could be moving down or up, and it wouldn’t matter at all.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-08-2018

At his death in 1957, Bogart weighed 80 pounds. John Huston gave the eulogy: “In each of the fountains at Versailles, there is a pike which keeps all the carp active, otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood.” Not sure I follow the metaphor, but tell me more about these fountains of Hollywood! Bring me Anita Ekberg in a black dress and a sturdy pair of water wings!⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-09-2018

Insanity (n) – the result of looking too closely at something. Coincidences become infallible signs. Systems become self-evident. What am I talking about? Just this: the smoke drifting up from Bogart’s cigarette has taken exactly the same form as the lemon in Gloria Grahame’s glass. Is that what chaos theory is? String theory? God?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-10-2018

The Dancing Town. A Devil with Women. The Bad Sister. A Holy Terror. Women of All Nations. Marked Woman. Swing Your Lady. Men Are Such Fools. Racket Busters. Invisible Stripes. Two Guys From Milwaukee. These are a few of Humphrey Bogart’s films I’ve never heard of.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-11-2018

We’re going to have to give Britt’s upcoming Hawaii picture a title. Honolulu Lulu. Aloha Death. Hula Troop. Lei Lady Lei.

In a Lonely Place on 12-12-2018

Off in dreamland, musing to make the time pass, I’ve missed something. Today I entered the Lonely Place, and it was obvious: Bogie’s head has turned towards Gloria Grahame. And isn’t that how it always goes: suddenly, without warning, you notice she’s sitting right there, has been all this time? Decades from now, it will have become an essential feature of the story you both tell, your total cluelessness in the beginning. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-13-2018

Oh man. He’s going for her now, and I’m on tenterhooks, which at the speed of the Lonely Place I had time to look up (not that it helped: “hooks used to fasten cloth on a drying frame or tenter”). Action makes the heart grow fonder, and today there’s too much to take in: as he moves towards Gloria Grahame (Gloria? Do I dare?), he’s going to block out Britt completely and Britt is going to cease to exist. There will just be her horse, Thumper, finally revealed. Ecco equine. I can’t wait.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-14-2018

Britt Langley stars in Hula Troop, an exotic romance set on the fun-filled beaches of Hawaii. A beautiful heiress travels to Honolulu to compete in the world swimming championships and falls in love with a naval lieutenant sailing off to war…. That’s what she’d been promised, but no, it’s this: Fabian Ridgely stars as a handsome sailor, who falls in love with a beautiful heiress/champion swimmer whose supportive friend, poor, is played by Britt Langley. She’s flying out next Thursday, coach, without Thumper.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-15-2018

Riggs the semi-agent (before he died), haunting Britt in his fedora in the curtains over Bogart’s right shoulder, does not stick around because he hopes to save her from Hula Troop, which he knows will cripple her career, but because he wants to understand how she could have appeared to love him, but actually didn’t, not even slightly. In truth, he never really believed in actors or acting (which partially explains why he was never much more than a semi-agent). He believed that emotions can’t be played convincingly unless they’re truly felt.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-16-2018

Good evening, Mr. Bogart. Took you a month, but thanks for joining us. May I present Miss Gloria Grahame. She doesn’t change. She just stays beautiful and inscrutable and perfect, so I imagine we’ll spend another month of you staring at her smooth cheek, but this, at least, will make some sense.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-17-2018

His eyes go wide, his mouth drops open. Finally he comes alive. But she’s a beautiful statue. Will she come alive too? Is love just the improbable occurrence of two people coming alive in the same instant?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-18-2018

Hey, blondie. I wondered what mattered, and then I looked up, and nothing else matters at all. Don’t even look at me. Just stay like that forever, and I’ll stay like this, and I won’t want to live any other way. I’ll give up cigarettes and other distractions. I’ll let the lemon in my glass droop and curl down into my glass like yours. It doesn’t matter in the slightest. It doesn’t. Just this.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-19-2018

I take everything back and beg your forgiveness. Bogart’s timing was perfect. He needed to smoke that cigarette with total concentration for a good two to three weeks. Now so much is happening at once. There are weeks where nothing seems to happen, and weeks where it all seems to happen at once. Look up behind Bogart’s head, the new development of smoke. Thumper the horse is smoking a cigarette. He’s in a bad place, worse than I thought.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-20-2018

You want the song to be playing. You want to hear that voice. You want it to be this moment, right now. You want to be swept away. This is the moment, this 1/24th of a second, the one that really matters. I promise it is.

In a Lonely Place on 12-21-2018

I considered signing up for a neighborhood art class today so that I could learn to paint the shadowy lines on the sheer part of the top of her dress, then make a map of it, and set off wandering through it without a compass.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-22-2018

You’ve spent a lifetime perfecting the art of smoking. Your technique has become iconic. It is one of your major contributions to society (take just one gesture to absolute perfection, and you will become immortal), although it will soon kill you. But turn to that woman in that bar, and a cigarette becomes a clumsy impediment between your senseless fingers.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-23-2018

Gloria Grahame’s head has turned slightly, and her eyelids may have dropped, the first significant movement from her in weeks. Is she preparing to make him work a bit harder for it, after his weeks of smoking, or is she turning towards him too? Stay tuned. Love at 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-24-2018

There is no Christmas in the Lonely Place. Or there may be, but we’ll be long gone.

In a Lonely Place on 12-25-2018

Oh man. She wants the cigarette, wants him, everything. Bogie here is just barely holding on. His face has gone numb. It’s really your only choice with something like her. Shut it all down, batten the hatches, hope to survive.

In a Lonely Place on 12-26-2018

This cigarette was lit 72 days ago. Still it has not sloughed off any ash into that glass tray. That’s a miracle at our speed. Maybe every apparent miracle is something ordinary existing in parallel at a radically different speed.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-27-2018

I don’t think I’ve even mentioned Bogart’s character’s name. It’s Dix (Dixon “Dix” Steele). Here’s how Dorothy B. Hughes, who wrote the novel, describes him: “A young fellow, just an average young fellow. Tanned, medium light hair with a little curl, medium tall and enough weight for height. Eyes, hazel; nose and mouth right for the face, a good-looking face but nothing to remember, nothing to set it apart from the usual.” Be grateful to the casting director for ignoring all that, though I do like “enough weight for height”.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-28-2018

Everything’s happening in the foreground now. Bogart’s shifting to his right, making Britt vanish (towards her commercial flight, about to take off for Honolulu?), leaving Thumper to finish his drink before going off to roam the grassy fields alone, deep in horsey thought. Forgive me if I can’t catch you up on all that backstory in a frame, but then we never catch up with the backstory. All we know is the moment, and the occasional glimpses the moment gives of everything else in history.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-29-2018

Look at her face. Look at him unguarded and in love. It’s a miracle he doesn’t melt into a puddle. his boutonniere soggy on the floor. On my lips I can already feel the cigarette on her lips.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-30-2018

I wrote about love being a matter of timing, a rare occurrence of existing in the same moment as someone else, of having your speeds coincide, and here, look at them: each suddenly seems ten years younger. They’re dancing together across decades.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-31-2018

And what I hadn’t noticed yesterday, if it was there yesterday (don’t look back), is the shadow of his cigarette and hand on the sheer silk of her dress, like the shadow of the ghost agent Riggs in his fedora in the background curtains, like a cigarette that belongs to someone else and will haunt the two of them, but you can’t go back.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-01-2019

She will take a puff. I know it, and that is the dream, to eliminate relentless freewill and be infallibly directed to the next moment, and the next, and the next. To live a life like a movie written by a master. Until we scream.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-02-2019

Just an outline of Britt’s hair remains in the background along Bogart’s right shoulder. Her plane is taxiing along the runway, set to take off for Hawaii, where it’s unlikely that any man will offer her a cigarette like that, his shadow hand moving up her dress, her beauty moving the man to coincide with his darker self.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-03-2019

Tonight when she opened her closet and slid dresses along the rail, did she think, “Something that will match the shadow of his hand on my chest”?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-04-2019

Smoking gave Bogart the cancer that killed him. Somebody, anybody, tell me it wasn’t worth it.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-05-2019

She’s not flinching. He’s kept her waiting. She’s not about to giggle or bat eyelashes. No, she’ll see his poker face and double it. Here she is in the novel: “The girl didn’t move for a moment. She stood in his way and looked him over slowly, from crown to toe. The way a man looked over a woman, not the reverse…. After she’d finished looking him over, she gave him a small insolent smile. As if he were a dolt, not Dix Steele.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-06-2019

“Gloria Grahame’s character is called Laurel (Gray), and this is how Laurel is described in the novel: “Her eyes were slant, her lashes curved long and golden dark. She had red-gold hair, flaming hair, flung back from her amber face, falling to her shoulders. Her mouth was too heavy with lipstick, a copper-red mouth, a sultry mouth painted to call attention to its premise.”Nicholas Ray must have read that and instantly known that the only woman who could play Laurel, and her premise, was his wife.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-07-2019

Even in the excitement of an approaching ecstasy, our minds still wander. I say this because today I’m perversely ignoring the foreground for the background, where Britt’s as good as gone to Hawaii, and Thumper her horse now stares despondently into his whisky.

In a Lonely Place on 01-08-2019

Comedy exists in the instant, too – the quick slip on the banana peel, the twitch of an eyebrow, repartee. If we weren’t in the Lonely Place – if we were living at the speed of life – nobody would dream of suggesting that Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame appear ready to perform a trick where he sticks his cigarette up her nose.

In a Lonely Place on 01-09-2019

She’s enchanted by the game, but for him, it seems to me, the moment is not a game. It’s a hope. Look at his face uncharacteristically open and pleading. When my shadow meets me again at your lips, please let it disappear forever. And then I think about how she hated her lips, stuffed them with cotton, then finally destroyed them through surgery.

In a Lonely Place on 01-10-2019

Researching what I did yesterday, which is as prescient as I seem to get these days: “Grahame’s concern over the appearance of her upper lip led her to pursue plastic surgery and dental operations that caused visible scarring and ultimately rendered the lip largely immobile because of nerve damage, which affected her speech.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-11-2019

Actors have their angles, and we’re meant to look at them from the left or the right, so when she turns, and I notice a nose larger than expected, is that because I wasn’t meant to see it from this angle, or because I’ve noticed the nose and so it’s grown bigger in my mind?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-12-2019

One of the greatest joys of childhood is the uncontainable excitement of waiting. Like cannonballing from a diving board or shouting gleefully at fireworks, we lose this capacity as we get older. But then, so rarely, we briefly remember how it felt. Maybe we even actually feel it. Looking today, I think I felt it.

In a Lonely Place on 01-13-2019

I like her even better for her fingers. I’ve been watching her so closely that I know they’ve drawn up under her hand, even more claw-like, and I like her even better for her nerves. They won’t stop her. They’ll only give her the hint of shame everyone needs to keep going.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-14-2019

“Reading in Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel today:’You won’t change your mind about a drink?’

‘It’s food I want.’

She didn’t want food, she wanted what he wanted. ‘You’ll get it,’ he told her.”””

In a Lonely Place on 01-15-2019

It’s better to use different ways of talking about the same thing than the same way of talking about different things.

In a Lonely Place on 01-16-2019

I did some accounting today. 157 days, 157 frames, so we’ve watched only 6.5 seconds (at 24 frames per second). This moment with the cigarette, I remember now, is why I chose to write about this minute, although seeing it at this speed has diminished, or stretched, some of its charm (at least that’s how I feel today). In any case, the lesson is this: never do the math, because in life the math never adds up.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-17-2019

I’ve been holding off on quoting the movie’s most famous line, but maybe now’s the time: “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-18-2019

When his hand meets his hand (so close), will his head also move neatly into the shadow of Riggs’s fedora on the curtains in the background, and then will he become the ghost in the shadows, or was that the man he’s been all along, all the cigarette work nothing more than a brilliant disguise?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-19-2019

This last moment before her lips touch the cigarette may take a week. It’s hard to maintain that excitement for a week. It’s hard to maintain that excitement for half an hour. Further complicating my satisfaction, it seems they may both be pausing here to savor the game, but at 1/24th of a second, pauses cease to exist, and what was punctuation becomes an impenetrable 2000-page tome of experimental fiction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-20-2019

A quick digression (yes, I’m confident we’ve got the time): this year, late 2018, is 1440 on the Islamic (Hijri) calendar (exactly the same as the number of frames in a movie minute!), but the Islamic year, made by the moon, has 354-355 days, so those moon years are slowly catching up to Gregorian years, which clock in at 364-365, and some quick research shows that in 20912 (a leap year, incidentally), we’ll all be able to wish each other a happy 20912 in perfect harmony. Should be fun.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-21-2019

OK. This is the moment that made me fall in love with Gloria Grahame. No distractions. I shouldn’t forget what brought us here. This is the moment that made me want to spend almost four years of my life on a minute. I spent weeks wishing he’d stop smoking that cigarette. Now I’ve spent weeks wishing she’d smoke it. Here we are. That’s addiction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-22-2019

Shadows move across the land and into the bars of Los Angeles. They have slipped into her bloodstream and darken her from within. Look at her eyes, suddenly tired and smudged beneath. Now I’m watching, waiting with total concentration, for her fingers to come undone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-23-2019

Oh Gloria. I’m going to call you that now because I’ve gotten to know you a bit and have something important to say, something personal. You were a foolish, foolish woman for hating your own lips. Humphrey Bogart’s admiring eyes are upon them. This was your moment, but you must have been miserable.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-24-2019

At the world’s speed, this was one of the most romantic in movies for me, but at the speed of the Lonely Place, the moment now looks to me like one of mutual exhaustion. They’re happy tonight, I recall, but even if you’ve never seen the movie, you have to wonder whether they have the reserves to make it out of the lonely place together.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-25-2019

I feel as if I’m living in Miami. The days right now in the Lonely Place are beautiful and practically identical. Incidentally, it’s surprising that Miami hasn’t birthed dozens of influential philosophers, much more than Vienna, given that if there’s one thing this experiment has taught us, it’s that boredom is the mother of philosophy (among several other things, given that boredom is more or less the only mother here).

In a Lonely Place on 01-26-2019

The shadow of his hand won’t completely meet his hand. The cigarette creates the slightest distance. The light comes from an unexpected place, higher than I’d thought. This is what goes wrong for Bogart in the movie: the light’s there, but he doesn’t know where to look for it. He can’t meet up with his shadows and work it out. She looks as if she’s going to bite off the tip of that cigarette.

In a Lonely Place on 01-27-2019

Today got away from me. But then months have gotten away, years. So it’s not surprising that 1/24th of a second might get away, that this instant might be identical to the one before or after. And now that I just wrote this, I look again, and smoke suddenly trails up from that cigarette, as if every frame is secretly alive, secretly every other. I think that’s what they call Buddhism.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-28-2019

The smoke curls higher, so she must be puffing, and I think of her hatred for her own lips again, because Gloria Grahame’s smoking without her lips.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-29-2019

On Gloria Grahame, Nicholas Ray, and this movie, from the London Review of Books: “It was widely reported that Grahame’s contract contained a ‘Mr and Mrs’ clause, which allowed her husband to ‘direct, control, advise, instruct, and even command my actions during the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day except Sunday, during the filming’. She was forbidden to ‘nag, cajole, tease, or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him’. She agreed that ‘in every conceivable situation his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine and shall prevail.’ Even so, Ray moved out of their home.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-30-2019

I wonder whether stillness, perfect stillness, makes everything look like a sham, like death must be a sham, and whether it’s movement that makes us believe.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-31-2019

I once boarded a gargantuan cruise ship in the Miami harbor. Even from the highway we could see the giant No Smoking symbol painted across its hull. Approaching by foot with our suitcases, loudspeakers everywhere blared the good news: this was a non-smoking boat. Better: the boat’s construction dock had been a non-smoking dock. I was young, but even then I understood the folly of virginal girders, and that soon enough people would want to make everything virginal again.

In a Lonely Place on 02-01-2019

From In a Lonely Place, the novel: “He seldom left the apartment in those days. In the outside world there was time; in time, there was impatience. Better to remain within the dream.”

In a Lonely Place on 02-02-2019

He’s leaning in and looking more vulnerable by the day, wanting more than she appears willing to give. Maybe every love story, in the end, is structured around whoever’s got what passes for the nicotine.

In a Lonely Place on 02-03-2019

Studying Bogart intently today, making him the center of my universe in order to eliminate the universe, and an ear is a funny thing. I’d like someone to explain to me the fetish (artists who cut them off, lovers who long to lick them). A woman once said to me (while smoking a cigarette without hands): there are no explanations, only stories, and I guess this is the only way to understand an ear fetish.

In a Lonely Place on 02-04-2019

I should be telling you about the shifting patterns of smoke, and your potential for self-transformation. I should be pulling you aside for epiphanies, ripping the scales from your eyes every 1/24th of a second. I should be seeing so much that the sun rises and sets in our bones, and we encompass time. I should be a visionary. But I’m not. And we’re exactly the same people we were yesterday, whatever we want to say or do about it.

In a Lonely Place on 02-05-2019

Here’s what’s clear to me today: they hadn’t rehearsed this scene. She hadn’t thought through the mechanics of smoking a cigarette held by somebody else’s three fingers and thumb. And he, in the last couple years of his life, knew he had the chops. He was already Bogart, and didn’t need rehearsals, and this is why he had become an icon. So you just do it. When you reach that place, even the imperfections, especially the imperfections, become an essential aspect of your genius.

In a Lonely Place on 02-06-2019

A quote by Sartre read today: “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Thankfully we’re not alone.

In a Lonely Place on 02-07-2019

On her second week of shooting in Honolulu, Britt, now just a speck of blonde the background, managed to roll a tear down her cheek while thinking of absolutely nothing. This was the cue for a surfer to die. The producer, with whom she is now sleeping, wants her to change her name to Britt Starr, and although the double-double-ending does seem kind of fabulous (even daring?), at the same time she feels it’s important to remain true to herself, which is what she’s thinking when the director calls for a second take and she rolls out another perfect tear.

In a Lonely Place on 02-08-2019

On the table in front of them, their drinks sit squarely in the center of the shadows of their faces, which have been laid down like appetizers. Then the drinks lay down their shadows back to the left, flattened by another light, as if a sun has moved across a sky quicker than the earth can adjust, as if tomorrow is now, or yesterday.

In a Lonely Place on 02-09-2019

If cigarettes were inextinguishable like this, I could write a story about a single cigarette, passed hands to lips, from an L.A. bar and out into the streets, hands to lips up the coast to San Francisco, hands to lips across the sea, friends and strangers hands to lips, until the universe, in an instant, exhaled a single perfect smoke ring.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-10-2019

Okay, here comes the night. It’s in her smile. His shadow up her neck. I am rejuvenated. It happens every time. Patience is the answer to absolutely everything.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-11-2019

Charles Manson: The way out of the room is not through the door. Because then you just go into another room, which leads into another room, which leads into a bigger room. And you’re still inside your cage…. The way out is to be willing, man. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-12-2019

Breathe. You’re at one with the moment. Nope.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-13-2019

When people say they’re trying to live in the moment, I assume they mean trying to live without the ceaseless distancing of oneself from the world. In other words, without internal commentary. I am trying to live in the moment. The problem is that I won’t shut up.

In a Lonely Place on 02-14-2019

I’m starting to wonder if maybe Gloria Grahame wasn’t a smoker, though I find that hard to believe. I want to go back and watch her other movies now, to see if she does it with conviction, but I can’t imagine her not habitually devouring them. Do we have an unfounded tendency to think in movie categories (bad girls smoke cigarettes), or do certain characters really destroy themselves in specific ways?

In a Lonely Place on 02-15-2019

“Everything is too far away in the past, or mysteriously too close.” – Marguerite Yourcenar

In a Lonely Place on 02-16-2019

I was going to tell you about my feelings today, but tomorrow they’ll be different, and I must build on stronger foundations than that, so I’ll build on this 1/24th of a second, then the next 1/24th of a second, and then time will be on my side.

In a Lonely Place on 02-17-2019

Bogart had a vertical scar on the right of his top lip, which is the place he notched his cigarette. The story is that when he was in the Navy, he was charged with transporting a prisoner. When changing trains, the handcuffed prisoner asked for a cigarette. Bogart looked down for a match, the prisoner punched him in the face, and fled. So you can understand why Gloria Grahame’s such a relief, beyond the obvious.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-18-2019

Today I noticed the smoke rising up and up over the pile of her perfect hair and then – and here I can’t be sure – back along the top of her head until a wisp briefly rises and vanishes at her crown. And then as I wrote that sentence, it occured to me how strangely difficult it often is to describe something simple which you can surely see for yourself. So let’s just sit here together tonight and say nothing at all.

In a Lonely Place on 02-19-2019

That shadowed cheekbone, that dress, those wakening smiles. But falling in love with this moment is like falling in love with a millimeter.

In a Lonely Place on 02-20-2019

One half of his bowtie sullenly casts its shadow, the other, finding itself in the light, flashes two dimples. Neither half droops as Gilles’s bowtie once did. I reproached Gilles for it then, but surely it’s a fake, Bogie’s perfect bow. You begin to wonder if you got it all wrong, if there was truth in the drooping, but you can’t accommodate any further revisions right now, so you don’t.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-21-2019

Two important developments to report (either they’re new developments, or my attention has wandered): through the top of Gloria Grahame’s glass, there appears to be something on her dress, like miniature lips turned sideways. A brooch? Or something on the glass itself? And then (and this is a shocker!), around Bogart’s right shoulder the outline of Britt’s head has clearly reappeared. Dying to know what happened in Hawaii.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-22-2019

They’re listening to the same music. Hadda Brooks, from way back in the summer, is still playing the piano across the room. The same rhythm, the same song. That’s what’s giving them possibilities we can’t even see.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-23-2019

They’re coming alive. Their smiles are moving up into their eyes. But in the background, Britt, with her spot of lit blonde hair, is not smiling. Back from the Honolulu shoot, she lost the part by sleeping with the man who, in retrospect, was the wrong producer. Story of her life. For once she just wishes they would be who they were supposed to be. Also, the producer has now been reported missing, circumstances suspicious. “Don’t talk to me about circumstances!” she thinks.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-24-2019

More on Britt, just a speck of light over Bogart’s shoulder: Hula Troop, that whole catastrophe, had been meant to make her a star. Then last night, the ghost of Riggs, haunting the curtains in his fedora, came to her in a dream. “Britt,” he said, “I’m aware that you had your horse Thumper kill me. I warned you against Hawaii. Surf pictures are the Fat Man and Little Boy of movies…..” She frowned. “I mean like bombs,” he said. She snorted. Then she woke up, went into the kitchen, and scooped herself a rare bowl of ice cream just to get away from his dream words.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-25-2019

Apparently Howard Hughes, owner of RKO Studios, who made In a Lonely Place, never saw the movie. He’d think this experiment was crazy, but then he was certifiably nuts. Afterwards, he wouldn’t let Gloria Grahame film with another studio, insisting she take a small part in Macao, which sounds more up Britt’s sleeve, especially now that she’s been kicked off the set of Hula Troop. Britt’s got a fresh start, so to speak, although of course there’s no such thing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-26-2019

Look at the way their faces are made. Cheek-to-cheek, they would fit perfectly, Bogie’s jowl beneath Gloria’s high cheekbone. Which begs the question of whether it’s better to fit perfectly, or learn to accept the terrifying spaces in between.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-27-2019

What is that fern, or desert palm, at the top of Gloria’s right shoulder? Is it the shadow of tufts of her hair, dramatically sticking out in a way we can’t imagine in two dimensions? Her earring? Or is it the weekend she spent with a sweet boy, too sweet, last year in Palm Springs, back when she wasn’t sure she could keep doing this, the loneliness of Tuesday nights, the angry telephones, the whispering mirrors, and had wanted to believe in something good?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-28-2019

They lived at the same speed. They coincided in the Lonely Place, like the Gregorian and Hijri years in 20912. They both died at age 57. I have just turned 45.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-01-2019

Have I written about her nose, larger than expected? I just noticed it today, but there’s a faint memory of noticing it before. I still think it’s beautiful (and of course it is), but imagine how quick love would fade if we could remember everything. That nose, always that nose, every day that nose. Forgetting saves the species.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-02-2019

There is only this moment, this 1/24th of a second, and the only rule is “Look”. 

In a Lonely Place on 03-03-2019

In the world as we currently understand it, only the men who fight to the very top are finally freed for true greatness. To them I’d like to reintroduce the men who love.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-04-2019

I was feeling inspired today and briefly thought that while I’m doing just a minute of In a Lonely Place (where one frame per day will take me almost four years), what if I just went ahead and did the whole movie? Then I did the math: this movie’s 89 minutes, at one frame per day, would last 351 years. Rarely has my own mortality been made so clear to me, but instead of inspiring a sense of urgency, I no longer knew what to do with myself and have wasted the rest of the day in what can only be called extreme fashion.

In a Lonely Place on 03-05-2019

In the Lonely Place, hangovers last a decade or two.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-06-2019

The smoke has wandered down from Gloria Grahame’s hair to snake along Bogart’s right shoulder, as if Riggs, the ghost in the fedora shadowed in the curtains, is inhaling it, and I imagine armies of ghosts out there, purifying the world of its toxins, a spectral filter we fear only because it now contains the worst of us.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-07-2019

The smoke at the cigarette’s tip has now risen very slightly and halos the hint of blonde hair belonging to Britt, whose career feels as if it’s in shambles. At night she cannot sleep. She drives out to the stables, and under the cold starlight she brushes Thumper’s hair in long, slow strokes that leave him shivering. When sleep finally feels possible, she weaves back to her bedroom down deserted country roads, and crashes into the pillows for nightmares of Riggs’s murder, of investigations narrowing like a noose around her neck, and the sweet thrill of killing again, like crushing a cool grape between her teeth. Tomorrow must be different. Every day that she can live correctly, in body and mind, is another alibi.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-08-2019

Thinking of Britt’s alarming bloodlust, reading Emil Cioran: “Our place is somewhere between being and nonbeing – between two fictions.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-09-2019

The days I’ve squandered with Britt have regrettably caused me to miss some of those moments that come but once in a lifetime: his smile has spread to show a gap in his teeth, and from her clenched hand, if I’m not mistaken, her index finger has extended. Gloria Grahame is relaxing, and in registering this, I realize that I’ve relaxed too. There will never be time for all the moments you missed, but nonetheless there will be time.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-10-2019

“You always see something. You never see nothing. If you don’t like what you’re wearing, change the channel.” – Frederick Seidel, “Song to the Moon”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-11-2019

So Gloria’s gin-and-tonic just got up the nerve to turn to Bogie’s gin-and-tonic and ask what his percentages are, as in whether he thinks he’s principally gin or tonic, which is apparently a thing among G&Ts. Nonetheless, Bogie’s gin-and-tonic is annoyed by the question, believing that life in a glass is too short for small talk. When he was young, Bogart’s gin-and-tonic wanted to be a firework, and although he had the fizz, he lacked the height.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-12-2019

For the first time in what feels like years, Bogie’s gin-and-tonic’s mood is hopeful. “Turning a new page,” he thinks, although he realizes that feasibly, there’s not much of a page to turn. Yet recently he’s had this idea that he might actually be climatic, like clouds or rain, not something merely poured. This glass only encapsulates his current form, but he has others, and someday the sun will call him up into a cloud over a river flowing to the sea. And then he’ll be his true self. Not like this.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-13-2019

Gloria Grahame’s gin-and-tonic glances sidelong at Miss Grahame, desperate for feminine pointers. She presses an ice cube against her lemon peel, hoping to curve it ever more seductively. A bead of moisture rolls down the outside of her glass, and although that might be considered embarrassing, she feels a little lighter, a little lither. Now she’s staring at Bogart’s gin-and-tonic, staring so hard, but he’s just oblivious, apparently content to be nothing more than a measly gin-and-tonic. Why doesn’t he have bigger dreams? Why can’t he transport her? She stares even harder. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-14-2019

Someone in the Lonely Place with us writes: “…her big earrings, his handkerchief looking like a shrimp beignet in a Chinese restaurant, his reclining hair, her perfectly shaped eyebrows, his ring, her absence of rings…[this goes on and on and on, and is humbling].” Sometimes you need to have it pointed out, the reclining hair. A friend who sees only what we see in the mirror is no friend. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-15-2019

We have learned that Bogie’s gin-and-tonic once dreamed of being a firework, but Gloria’s gin-and-tonic, if she were aware of this, would surely find it pretentious. They are liquid in a glass only as wide as a mouth, nothing more, but nothing less. They are united by low places, flowing always to the bottom, and then if they can, flowing even lower. If he could simply accept this, he’d be a whole lot happier. But of course that’s just her two cents.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-16-2019

Here’s what Bogie’s gin-and-tonic wants to say to Gloria’s gin-and-tonic this very instant: “You see how the smoke from her cigarette flows like liquid right across the gap between them, as if he’s sucking it in with his teeth? I don’t know, I was just wondering if you’d noticed that.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-17-2019

The lemon peel in Gloria’s gin-and-tonic is not like a parasite embedded in its host. It’s more like a heart or a soul or a sex appeal. The lemon glances through the haze of the gin and the tonic at Miss Grahame’s fingers, still mostly clenched after all this time (all this time?) and she (she’s a she, this lemon peel) wants to stretch out past her limits, until she’s all zest.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-18-2019

“Instead of paying attention to the faces of people passing by, I watched their feet, and all these busy types were reduced to hurrying steps – toward what? And it was clear to me that our mission was to graze the dust in search of a mystery stripped of anything serious.” – Emil Cioran⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-19-2019

As the two gin-and-tonics fizz, while lamenting the uncompromising distance between them, while dreaming of cracks in the glass and ecstatic flow, Bogart delicately holds the cigarette now as if it’s a flower, black gap between his teeth.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-20-2019

If I wrote a self-help book, I would write that you will survive the seemingly endless days of seeing only surfaces – you will! – and then someday you will discover a gap, a break in the surface (which for you will have become as uniform as a starless night). And then I would call your attention to the gap between Bogart’s arm and torso, which may be exactly what you’ve been looking for, but of course this is your journey, not mine, and that’s for you to decide.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-21-2019

Still looking for gaps, tears in the fabric of space-time, escape: the gap today appears below Bogart’s earlobe, the dark shadow there, a portal through his jaw, or more likely straight into the part of the brain called the Pons, realm of the nuclei ruling sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder control, hearing, equilibrium, taste, eye movement, facial expressions, facial sensation, and posture. Which explains just about everything. Come back out when you’re done.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-22-2019

“There are new entrances to my body, their edges outlined in blacks and grays and reds like the entrances to the face of a young girl.” – Monica Youn⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-23-2019

(In the background, the shadow of the ghost of Riggs in his fedora covers the body of Britt, his former lover and murderer, like a heavy blanket. She shudders and makes another New Year’s resolution, three months late. No – make it a forever resolution: always have an alibi, at every instant, now and now. Never let yourself slip, because you know what will happen. Perspiration moistens her forehead, and she wonders how long it will take to be not like this.)⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-24-2019

I’m still here. They are too. Like cigarettes in a toilet bowl, refusing to be flushed, no matter how many times you send down a Great Flood from on high.

In a Lonely Place on 03-25-2019

Bogart’s gin-and-tonic is wondering what would happen to time if Bogart’s wrist moved just a touch and his watch were reflected through the gin-and-tonic’s own hazy cylinder. For a gin-and-tonic time is the principal preoccupation, given that anybody’s thirst means immediate death. So to be in the Lonely Place for a gin-and-tonic, where time moves almost imperceptibly, is paradise. As it would be for us if we were so wise. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-26-2019

Gloria Grahame’s gin-and-tonic stretches her shadow out towards Miss Grahame’s gauzy arm. Not too precariously – she doesn’t want to look foolish in front of Bogart’s gin-and-tonic. And as she stretches her shadow, and looks, she discovers an intense longing to be like that beautiful diamond earring, shadowed so perfectly on a smooth neck, and then she wonders what’s wrong with her to be dreaming of how her own shadow might otherwise be, or if that’s even wrong.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-27-2019

Hooded eyes. The girl was all surface, but now she’s all charm. Love requires change, like a curl of the lips and two hooded eyes. Only what is different will survive.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-28-2019

With the cigarette released from his control, she’s smoking it now with such smirking confidence that he’s got his teeth out. To think that I ever doubted her capacity to subjugate a death stick….⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-29-2019

From the novel: “’You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you, Dix?’⠀

‘Never before.’⠀

Her eyes opened full again and laughter echoed through her. ‘Oh brother!’ she breathed.⠀

He didn’t answer her, only with the look in his eyes.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-30-2019

His hand returns to his lighter, like a talisman you clutch to ward off the vampires, some welcome familiarity faced with this curled-lip bloodthirsty blonde. She is the future to which you belong, but for once let time move slow.

In a Lonely Place on 03-31-2019

I wish I could go back and check the past few days (but time only moves on), because I think the cigarette’s actually getting longer, as if the plume of white smoke at Bogart’s cheek (making him into some ghoulish Sabta Claus) will next be sucked back into the tip, and tomorrow the cigarette will be even longer.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-01-2019

Has the darker shadow of Gloria’s earring moved? Regardless, it now sits on her shoulder like an upside-down alien with two upright antennae. The alien whispers commands into her ear. This can’t turn out well, although who knows. Maybe, for once, these are not malevolent aliens, and their shadow UFOs have landed in our shadows to communicate transformation to the earthbound versions of ourselves. Maybe? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-02-2019

“William James, wondering more than a century ago what is ‘the minimum amount of duration which we can distinctly feel,’ had it pegged around 50 milliseconds [which is 1/20th of a second, or about the duration of this frame]. James cited the seminal work of Austrian physiologist Sigmund Exner, who observed that people shown sets of flashing sparks stopped being able to recognize them as distinct entities around 0.044 seconds.” So now you know. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-03-2019

Hold on. The miniature upside-down shadow alien on Gloria’s shoulder has an announcement: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” These days I walk through the streets of Paris looking intently at strangers for some light of a messiah, but the danger with a willingness to believe is that it occasionally makes an idol of an earring, unleashing alien invasions. So keep that in mind. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-04-2019

In a Lonely Place on 04-05-2019

These days I often think of that William Carlos Williams poem:⠀

so much depends⠀

a red wheel⠀

glazed with rain⠀

beside the white⠀

So much depends upon the loose cigarette I’ve just discovered between Bogart’s thumb and forefinger. Will it rise mouthwards to mirror Gloria’s in an ecstasy of symmetry? Or will it simply be as it is? I’m rooting for the ecstasy, but like a poem outside time, so much can only depend upon This, not Next. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-06-2019

Today’s wonderful discovery: the shadow of her cigarette jutting down from her neckline, as solid as some avant-garde accessory. Related: we would never discover anything if we weren’t blind most the rest of the time.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-07-2019

Of all the skills that look good on film, smoking without hands looks the best. Better even than leaping tall buildings in a single bound.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-08-2019

Well well, Britt, murderess and B-movie actress. You’re starting to let yourself show behind Bogart’s right arm. You’re coming out of that dark tunnel, stepping out to meet the world again. And though I’m always inclined to think the background matters more than the obvious shapes we pretend are the real story, in this case I’m genuinely worried for Bogie.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-09-2019

“Dilemma is the key word. It is always a dilemma, not a situation.” – Neil Simon⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-10-2019

“It is an illusion that we were ever alive, Lived in the houses of mothers, arranged ourselves, By our own motions in a freedom of air.” – Wallace Stevens⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-11-2019

Gloria Grahame’s crustacean claw has finally come unclenched to follow, like a dove, her rising cigarette, and this is all the proof I’ll ever need of evolution. Or God.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-12-2019

You begin to understand meditation, and living in the moment. You realize that a moment, properly inhabited, is too brief for thought. And yet it seems you cannot properly inhabit even 1/24th of a second. Your shirt is too tight. Too loose? Maybe another coffee. Maybe a walk.

In a Lonely Place on 04-13-2019

On days when what compels you most are the parallel curves of a woman’s fingers and a lemon peel, you’re forced to consider how we decide what’s significant. Stare at a pebble for five minutes or so. Odds are good that it becomes a threat to America. A baguette becomes my soulmate. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-14-2019

Months ago (seconds ago), I mentioned the San Francisco glass cutter named Lucchini who made that ashtray. What I didn’t mention is that Lucchini’s ashtrays were notoriously difficult to work with, especially those that somehow made it down the Pacific Coast Highway from home to the bright lights of Hollywood, where they lounged in the foreground of motion pictures, armed with contracts with clauses ensuring they could never be made to accept ashes.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-15-2019

Flashback to 1993 and a restaurant in downtown Richmond called Bogart’s. She lit a cigarette, still conceivable in the last decade of Bogie’s century, and said we should really talk sometime, really talk, not like this, before falling silent to stare at the movie posters on the walls. “We’ll always have Paris,” I murmured, knowing just enough, and not really even that. This was long before I’d seen Moroccan discotheques at dawn – or even Paris. She squinted through smoke and grinned. There was a crowd, we were drinking pink rabbits, and somebody was waiting in a station wagon to take her home.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-16-2019

“You cannot meet someone for a moment, or even cast eyes on someone in the street without changing.” – Carolyn Kizer⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-17-2019

A little-known Hollywood fact: Humphrey Bogart had an extraordinarily odd left pinkie, sharply hooked as if for trout. To rephrase Nietzsche: when nothing matters, everything matters.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-18-2019

Is this the 1/24th of a second he fell in love with her, grinning like a schoolboy, or was he always in love with her, a moment being the only way we know to remember?

In a Lonely Place on 04-19-2019

His pedantic quoting of the planet’s literature having fallen on deaf ears, the tiny upside-down alien on Gloria’s right shoulder (his antenna now retracting in a crisis of confidence) is becoming desperate, and potentially dangerous: “We have arrived on this planet to become shadow earrings and whisper orders directly into your brains!” He’s taking this very seriously, but she appears about to burst into laughter. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-20-2019

The shadows in Plato’s allegorical cave are meant to represent a reflected reality half-perceived by the unenlightened, but tell me Plato, how can you look at the shadow of Gloria Grahame’s hand slashed across the front of her silk dress without attaining enlightenment?

In a Lonely Place on 04-21-2019

Every love story is one of shifting power dynamics, and here’s a theory: watch a couple’s fingers closely, and they will tell you everything about those dynamics. Gloria Grahame’s were tensed into claws, and Bogart was bored, but now that she’s holding a cigarette with such relaxed confidence, his pinky is unsure of itself. So, according to this theory, which may be revolutionary: I fear for Bogie’s heart.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-22-2019

Wait, where did that second cigarette come from? How did I miss this? Is there a miniature pack in his left hand? Or were there always two cigarettes being prepared? How could I have missed something so important when I’ve spent a month observing the previous second? He’s a magician, Bogie, and while I had once thought that if I applied this ludicrous frame-by-frame technique to a famous magician’s most famous magic trick, I would understand his secrets, now I’m forced to admit that some secrets are burrowed even deeper into the universe than time, and that magic exists. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-23-2019

Maybe I’ve been lazy, simply moving words around to pass the time, but today I woke up and simply looked at Gloria Grahame. Take a moment. Right? Just goes to show you the debilitating effects of a routine. Hitchhike to work today. Ask a stranger which cereal to buy. Disconnect to start a revolution.

In a Lonely Place on 04-24-2019

I wonder if that’s a bright earring on Britt, in the background behind Bogie’s right shoulder, or a gleaming earlobe. And if it’s an earring, then is there a miniature shadow alien on Britt’s shoulder too, like the upside-down alien on Gloria Grahame’s? Should I be concerned? Is this how the invasion begins?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-25-2019

This has become an action movie! Bogart’s cigarette just flew up a few inches from where it was yesterday. Here in the Lonely Place, that kind of movement feels violent. I fear he’ll impale the cigarette deep into his skull.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-26-2019

A lot of us out here in the Lonely Place are clutching our popcorn buckets hoping Bogart will light his cigarette from Miss Grahame’s, as much as we suspect it’s probably not going to happen. You’ve got a silver lighter like that, prepped and ready for months, you’re going to flick it. You’re independent, and won’t ask a woman for anything except what she can’t give. So yeah, you’ll flick it, and we’ll groan into our popcorn.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-27-2019

Vaping would have been inconceivable. You smoked for the harm, because you needed a bit of self-destruction to give color to your contentment. The notion that it was good for you to do only the things that were good for you had not yet become the only acceptable point-of-view. Danger had more to say.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-28-2019

I am finding myself, my one true self. Today after watching Bogie and Gloria and their cigarettes for a while, after days of giving the powers of speech and thought to most of the objects around them, I decided that of all the objects, I’d most like to be the curved table with its raised edge, which I’d never, ever before noticed. Talk to me tomorrow.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-29-2019

Today I marveled that Bogart’s boutonniere was still fresh after all this time, then half-consciously decided it must be fake, which gave me a sort of nihilistic satisfaction (everything equals zero in the end), before I remembered that this was the Lonely Place, that the flower was still fresh, that everything must be looked at within its own context.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 04-30-2019

I woke up this morning, noticed something odd about Bogart’s left hand, and counted six fingers. Perplexed, I counted again, and still somehow calculated a second pinkie. Increasingly excited, I wondered if I was being given a sign. Was Bogie in trouble? What was he asking me to do? Had the aliens surrounded the bar? Did I still have ten fingers and ten toes? I sprung from my chair, then stopped and counted one last time. There were only five fingers. Of course there were only five fingers on Humphrey Bogart’s left hand.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-01-2019

Only now do I notice that her index finger must be red-tipped, which is exciting me far more than anything else today, although for some reason the straightness of that finger is also irresistible. Maybe when you fell in love, what you were falling for wasn’t what you thought, but something else that passed too quickly to notice. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-02-2019

I have a confession to make. This morning I cheated. I glanced forward through the next month, and having been briefly granted the power of prophecy, I realized this: nothing will really change unless you start writing the story yourself. So maybe, after all, this is about a ghost named Riggs who haunts the back curtains of this bar in his fedora.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-03-2019

“This conversation is dynastic,” Britt (behind Bogart’s hand) had murmured as Riggs (the ghost in the fedora in the curtains behind her) had continued the career lecture, even daring to call her B-list. This was the night before she killed him, principally because he was like some joyless junior high teacher who didn’t believe in grade inflation, but also because she wanted to know how murder felt, so she could put that in her actor’s toolbox.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-04-2019

During his lifetime, and even now, Riggs has always felt a sexual chemistry with self-involved women. He’s good audience – attentive, admiring – a faceless form in a red velvet theater, until his paramours are encouraged to reveal the extent of capacities previously known only to themselves. And yet these relationships, on the rare occasions he consummated them, always fizzled in the first act. So now he wonders whether his talent for observation, which in his own self-involvement he had always considered a virtue, was in fact a disengagement from the world, which had only made murderous demons of the women he had admired. Perhaps the real demon was Riggs, an anti-demon corrupting the world with his absence. And now he was a ghost (poetic justice) sentenced to his own individually tailored hell, only capable of observing as the world passed through his hands. No. Now more than ever, he must take action.

In a Lonely Place on 05-05-2019

It’s so clear to Riggs now. Even before Britt murdered him (there was a time when he blamed the horse, but he’s past that now; she guided the horse; those two were practically a single organism, such that the hooves crumpling his skull might as well have been Britt’s heels), he was already a ghost. When two people come together, they create something else. Like any chemical reaction, the change in the world cannot be reversed. So choose your lovers carefully, choose your handshakes and your families. Unfortunately with Riggs, when he met Britt, the chemistry turned him into a ghost. And then for good measure she murdered him afterwards.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-06-2019

“Do you like me even just a little?” Riggs had asked, hating himself. “I’m not here to be someplace else,” she had hissed, stubbing out a freshly lit cigarette beneath a sharp heel. He didn’t know whether she was quoting some important thinker – Nietzsche? – or just tired. He took it as a yes. She was tired. She liked him. And that night in his nightmares, alone in his own bed, the heel was a dagger putting out his eyes. The next morning he felt tired, but he had forgotten the incident, and Britt was the whole world as he whistled into his coffee.

In a Lonely Place on 05-07-2019

The night before Riggs died, there had been drinks at Britt’s house in the Canyons. Riggs couldn’t see how she could afford it, but he didn’t want to know the answer, so he didn’t ask questions. In his more vulnerable moments, however, when he was alone and sober, he suspected other men. Abandoning her third Manhattan, she stood, walked over to the mirror, and asked if he was coming to Gino’s. “Of course!” he cried. She frowned at her reflection, causing Riggs to chuckle: she was too beautiful to be so critical of her looks. “You’re sweet,” she said, “but you don’t have to do it for me.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-08-2019

That night a drunken Riggs left Britt on Sunset Boulevard after some shouting, went home (such as it was), and set about shaving his brown corduroy pants. “I feel like I’m wearing a frickin’ pelt in these things!” a neighbor later reported hearing him shout. “Please, Jesus, from now on let me be streamlined. Let me be heartless. Let me be free!”

In a Lonely Place on 05-09-2019

Here at the bar tonight, Britt was meant to meet a new man, a new producer interested in her talent and specialized in glamour roles – not like that distinctly unglamorous Hawaii dud Riggs had roped her into. And because ghosts pass through everything, living in a realm without matter where thoughts also reside, Riggs hears this and thinks: “You wanted Hawaii. You put that rope around your own neck, sweetheart, but I’m the one who croaked. Also, your new producer won’t be showing up, tonight or any other night, ever.” Because Riggs has taken action. He has resolved that for once in his frickin’ existence he will finally haunt someone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-10-2019

It’s not enough for ghostly Riggs to haunt Britt from the shadows of bar curtains. It’s not enough to deny her the glamour roles. He wants to make her a ghost too, touching nothing, passing through everything, insubstantial. Thumper, her horse, whose ear we can see over Bogart’s left shoulder, can live, but in death Riggs will deny Britt the horse too. He will saddle Thumper and ride him across the deserts of Nevada like the last horseman of the apocalypse. That should have an effect on her. Then he’ll see what he does next.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-11-2019

I am interested in the tiniest possible turns capable of destroying perfection, the insignificant occurrences that would terminate even the most incandescent love affair. A lover haranguing an unsuspecting waiter. In an envelope sealed with a kiss, two tickets to Disney World. A judgment of Shakespeare as hopelessly outdated. Or Humphrey Bogart deciding not to smoke his cigarette, but to clean his front tooth with it. Of course that would never happen. Stay with me, Bogie. Don’t destroy our perfection.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-12-2019

Gloria Grahame has turned her head slightly, and the antennae of the little shadow alien who sits upside-down on her shoulder have retracted further into its head. It occurs to me now that maybe the alien invasion, and the end of the human race, is not imminent, but rather this alien has escaped his brutal homeland planet and longs only to assimilate, to be as much like Gloria as possible, which is what he’s always felt he should have been – the best of him.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-13-2019

Watching Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 last night, when Tony Leung started talking about “2046”, I knew that what he meant to say was “the Lonely Place”: “Everyone who goes to 2046 has the same intention: they want to recapture lost memories. Because in 2046 nothing ever changes. But nobody knows if that’s true or not because no one has ever come back.” Oh. You didn’t know? Sorry. Nothing to do now but make the best of it.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-14-2019

To pass through Gloria Grahame’s lungs for a moment or two, wishing you could linger, only to emerge as light as a cloud.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-15-2019

I’m always drawn to a symmetry. Now we’ve got glasses and napkins and cigarettes. Then once I’ve registered the symmetry, it quickly becomes oppressive, and I want it destroyed. Maybe what I really want is to be in the frame myself and thereby force some reconfiguration. Maybe symmetry is my invitation to enter the world.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-16-2019

Yesterday I had mis-typed destroyed, then caught it just before posting: destoryed.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-17-2019

You may be lost if you’ve landed here today. You may have no idea what’s going on, where you should be, or how the story makes any sense. You can leave, of course, but really you can’t.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-18-2019

The bottomlit socket of Britt’s right eye off the edge of Bogart’s right hand. A smile that’s crept onto his face again today, which I didn’t notice yesterday. Gloria Grahame’s fingers, now so long. I understand now why they curled together claw-like for all those months. They say the continents were once one – Pangaea, the supercontinent, containing everything – and parted over millennia into seven.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-19-2019

Here’s the thing: even when he was alive, Riggs dreamed so fruitlessly of Britt (now so tantalizingly close to being revealed beyond Bogart’s right hand) that after a while she could hardly exist in reality. He made her into his own ghost before he became the ghost himself. She sensed this too, and naturally loathed it, because Britt’s least adaptable firm belief is in the inevitability of her own substance.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-20-2019

You can’t know anyone until you know what they want. You can always know anyone smoking a cigarette. For the moment that’s all they want. You can know Gloria Grahame, you can know Humphrey Bogart. Hold on, let me find a lighter: you can know me.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-21-2019

Once upon a time, I foolishly feared Bogart might clean his teeth with that cigarette. Now I understand that he’s employing an elaborate technique: he neatly sets the filter’s tip on his second right top tooth, then closes his lips around it. We’ll need to watch a few more cigarettes, and a few billion more frames, over another dozen lives, to test this theory with any rigor. So I’ll just choose to believe it, which is ultimately the best you can ever do.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-22-2019

A first indication that Gloria Grahame may be at least subconsciously aware of Britt in the background, and of the murderous extent to which she’ll go to attract the spotlight: the smoke from Miss Grahame’s cigarette appears to be heading, like a rival ghost to Riggs in his fedora, right for the beautiful (?) killer’s charming head. Yes, Britt’s the kind of woman who seems to accumulate ghosts like accessories. 

In a Lonely Place on 05-23-2019

She’s looking at his smile, still smiling slightly herself, similar smiles, almost as if her smile is his, and you have to wonder (you don’t, but I do) whether every smile is born from another’s, and there’s only ever been one big smile.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-24-2019

Right now I live in a room with these moments taped to the walls. Each day I write about another moment, and my life changes incrementally. But the other day I used another printer, and on this wall the cracked-glass lines at the top of Gloria Grahame’s dress have become deep and black. Imagine everything you felt today, produced by that printer. Maybe you would experience a pleasing undeniability, but probably you’d just be a jerk.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-25-2019

Time speeds up, making machines of us all. Love dies by a thousand clicks. So smash the machines and silently stare, noticing that freckle for maybe the first time. The hours will again be endless.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-26-2019

In the first version shot of the movie, Gloria Grahame was killed, but then director Nicolas Ray (her husband) changed his mind: “Shit, I can’t do it, I just can’t do it! Romances don’t have to end that way. Marriages don’t have to end that way, they don’t have to end in violence.” This was before the night she pulled a handgun on him, ordering him to “fuck or die”. Also before she slept with his 13-year-old son. So: trust your instincts? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-27-2019

I’m in Mexico City, tracking Bolaño through the streets. Here’s something you notice, even enthralled by fresh surroundings: when everything changes, it doesn’t really. The cigarettes still take weeks to get lit. Which, paradoxically, is an argument for this moment right now. Vamos.

In a Lonely Place on 05-28-2019

Best actor at this point in the proceedings has to go to Gloria Grahame’s smoke, which is really extending itself in its own action-packed death scene (it’s always a death scene with smoke, but this one has got some amplitude). Bravo.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 05-29-2019

Bogie’s dark right shoulder is now perfectly replicated in Britt’s dark shadow at her back. And if the shadow on the curtain across your room is the smudge of my hand, and your leg is the stripe extending from the foot of my desk? Just putting that out there (on the wall over your left shoulder)…

In a Lonely Place on 05-30-2019

Yesterday I wrote about the shadow of Bogart’s shoulder transposed to the back of Britt’s chair. The notion was that our shadows live in a separate dimension, uniting us in ways we can’t fathom. Ridiculous, of course. And yet today Bogart’s shoulder, transposed into Britt’s shadow, has crept into the foreground over Gloria Grahame’s left arm. So who’s ridiculous now? Hmm?

In a Lonely Place on 05-31-2019

Paying radical attention like this makes one into a sort of criminal. After committing a crime, everything matters. Every face is a dangerous possibility, every new day an alibi. We’re on the run. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-01-2019

Repetition is a form of change. Repetition is a form of change. Repetition is a form of change. See? Nothing is replicable. You’re not what you were.

In a Lonely Place on 06-02-2019

Gloria Grahame’s smoke is like the weather. Every day we pay it close attention, checking percentages and degrees, as if this might lead to some fundamental understanding, when what we should really be noticing is Gloria Grahame, who makes the weather.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-03-2019

The shadow of his cigarette, a black line drawn down his chin. Hers, shadowless from this angle. His fingers shadowed on the palm of his same hand. If all we knew were the shadows, we’d know just as much, and potentially more.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-04-2019

Riggs, the ghost in the background curtains, has either taken off his fedora, or has shifted his position while he waits eternally for hidden blonde Britt to become someone else, or has thrown himself into a ghost war with Gloria’s encroaching smoke. Even ghosts, haunting eternally, get impatient.

In a Lonely Place on 06-05-2019

Look at her eyes looking at his, already making plans. Look at his smile, aware of her eyes, even if he’s thinking of next weekend. We can pretend our thoughts have given us control, but meanwhile mysteries are making us.

In a Lonely Place on 06-06-2019

Oh man. I was about to make a crack about Bogie, of all people, needing a Zippo instruction manual, but then today the flash of what I first thought was a reflection must be a flame. Exciting stuff. Genesis.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-07-2019

And Bogie said, Let there be light: and there was light. And Bogie saw the light, that it was good: and Bogie divided the light from the darkness. And Bogie called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-08-2019

What if we were to zap Bogart out of the picture and replace him with Cary Grant, or Gary Cooper, or you, or me? It wouldn’t make any difference. Tonight, at least, and maybe next Tuesday, Gloria Grahame would still be looking seductive, her eyes unmistakably intrigued. So keep loving the ones in front of you. That’s how you make a difference.

In a Lonely Place on 06-09-2019

Two days ago I was celebrating the birth of the world as Bogie’s lighter sparked into flame. Turns out that what I had decided was not a reflection…was a reflection. There was no flame. No worlds were birthed. Our celebrations were arbitrary.

In a Lonely Place on 06-10-2019

I’m beginning to doubt my grip on reality, or reality’s grip on me. Is everything interpretation? Today Bogart seemed to have a sort of folded paper origami in his cramped right hand. I’d never seen it before. I flipped back to yesterday, the day before. There it was. How had I missed it? I kept flipping back through the days, until the folded paper became nothing more than light on his palm. Yet what might have happened next with that origami if I hadn’t looked back?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-11-2019

Gloria Grahame’s smoke is now bigger than both their heads, and soon it will be as big as the room. Soon it will be nothing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-12-2019

​I once knew a man who believed that his every thought, his every feeling, his every instinct was truth ​worthy of total attention. ​Soon everyone else seemed afflicted by the same thoughts, feelings, and instincts, and he had become the loneliest man ​in the world. Nobody’s seen him in years. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-13-2019

She’s inhaling. The tip of her cigarette gleams white, or red in the real world. I think of her lungs, her ribs slightly tighter against silk.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-14-2019

Today her devouring glance appears aimed not at him, but at his cigarette, as if she’s imagining smoking it too, right out of his fingers. He’s no longer a man. He’s a delivery device.

In a Lonely Place on 06-15-2019

Checking in on blonde Britt in the background, slightly more of her revealed each day, I’m alarmed to find that the bright spot of her earring is shadowed on her neck, just as Gloria Grahame’s is shadowed on her shoulder – which we now know is an upside-down antennaed alien bent on destroying the planet. Once you start seeing things, you see them everywhere. You see aliens everywhere. Better to see prophets or saints. Or is it?

In a Lonely Place on 06-16-2019

Either that’s the black shadow of his lighter newly appeared on his chest, or his heart bleeding out in advance of what she’ll do to him, because she’s Gloria Grahame and can’t be bothered to care and will die ravaged by loneliness. One or the other.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-17-2019

The white gash between fingers in the shadow of her hand on her chest, and the block of his shadowed hand moving up her left arm as the shadow of her gin-and-tonic strains to touch her elbow.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-18-2019

Most would move their whole heads back away from the coming flame, but Bogie suffises with a practiced tilt up of the cigarette, a pursing of the lips and a smoothing of the cheek. Elegance is acting with the minimum gestures required. By that definition this experiment is the apex of inelegance. Hmm. I want to be like Bogie. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-19-2019

She’s excited for him. I feel it. Fellow druggies. Addiction’s a shared secret, and we’re all addicts of something. The trick is to find, or avoid, your secret sharers.

In a Lonely Place on 06-20-2019

And today, for the first time, I notice what looks like a gold horsefly on Gloria’s black dress just to the right of her gin-and-tonic. It’s astonishing how much we miss of what’s right in front of us, and I guess there are two types of people: those who’d choose to see more, and those who’d rather see less. I’m both.

In a Lonely Place on 06-21-2019

Yes, I see the flame is lit. I’m trying not to get excited. Maintaining equilibrium. I’ve been here before. I’ve learned my lesson. Patience may be a virtue, I don’t know, but in the Lonely Place it’s a necessity.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-22-2019

I’m not looking at the flame. I swear I’m not. It’ll be there tomorrow. So, self-sufficiency. Equanimous observation. No cravings or aversions. Hold the line. When you slow life down to the pace at which it’s actually happening, you automatically become a buddhist adept.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-23-2019

Every smoker holds a lighter between fingers and a thumb, but have you ever seen one hold the bottom with the thumb and flick the flint with the fingers? Fascinating. Somebody needs to do a documentary on this 1/24th of a second.

In a Lonely Place on 06-24-2019

What has particularly excited me today, apart from an unknown song I heard from the neighbor’s radio, is the way the shadow of the lighter is perfectly aligned with its width and cuts all the way across Bogart’s palm, several times longer than the lighter itself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-25-2019

I honestly have no idea what Riggs – the ghost in a fedora who haunts Britt from the back curtains – is doing. Today I notice he’s suddenly moved down to a spot just over Gloria’s left shoulder. He appears to have lost weight. Does that mean he’s fading, or concentrating?

In a Lonely Place on 06-26-2019

More reflections on Riggs’s movements in the background: first, given that every ghost only eternally haunts the one he loved in life, we can be certain he’s not transferring his affections to Gloria (that might have seemed like a good idea, given the catastrophe of Britt, but then this is Gloria Grahame we’re talking about, catastrophe’s masterpiece). So is he trying to make Britt jealous? Showing her his better angle, or attempting to come at her from her worst? Poor Riggs. He’s got an eternity of bad options in front of him.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-27-2019

Probability guarantees that I’ve misinterpreted almost everything. So maybe we’re the ghosts stuck in time, while Riggs moves freely through ecstatic dimensions. Just thinking that briefly transported me off into an ecstatic dimension, but don’t worry, I’m back. How are you?

In a Lonely Place on 06-28-2019

Look at her eyes. She’s wondering who he is. She’ll never know. She’ll study the signs, as we do here each day, and place her faith in who she thinks he is. And that will make all the difference.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 06-29-2019

Bogart’s bottom lip gleams white today, as if the flame is passing into him. I’ve been reading about quantum entanglement theory, the physical phenomenon of particle exchange between bodies in close proximity, such that one body can then no longer be described as independently of the other. Which explains the spooky premonitions we have about others with whom we’ve most freely exchanged. And now I wonder if the same goes for cigarettes.

In a Lonely Place on 06-30-2019

Each of us is complicit in the fast-forwarded modern world’s conspiracy to direct our attentions only to what’s most obvious. So stop asking yourself whether that cigarette is lit or not. The buzz is surely imminent, and will come and go, but what you’re missing is Britt revealing the real secret off Bogie’s right elbow, which is that she appears to have two sets of eyebrows.

In a Lonely Place on 07-01-2019

Left shoulder, right shoulder. His right, on our left. To describe the frame, I’m always turning myself around and into the frame, then looking back out at myself. Every day, every 1/24th of a second, I steel myself to meet my eyes. Hey. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-02-2019

Gloria has gone away into herself. I wonder what she’s thinking, but I suspect she’s only feeling, because she is nobody-but-herself, and I’ve been reading E.E.Cummings today: “Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

In a Lonely Place on 07-03-2019

It’s a truism that the opposite of love isn’t hatred, but indifference. But the opposite of love is fear. And Gloria Grahame despises fear.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-04-2019

Occasionally, for no reason we can anticipate, everything gloriously coincides. So light ‘em up, the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, head craned to the smoky heavens, acknowledging transcendence wherever it finds you. That’s what he’s got to be thinking, Bogie.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-05-2019

The white rim of light along Bogie’s bowtie was previously undiscovered, like Antarctica, so give us dog sleds and fur and let’s charge for the horizon.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-06-2019

If you accept that time moves at this speed (which it does), then to remain sane you can either parcel yourself out into distractions, or somehow maintain faith in each unpromising moment, until you look back across a vast era that you alone lived. And then there’s the next moment. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-07-2019

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Hot take: what was once the dark rectangular shadow of Bogie’s lighter over his heart is now animated by a flame larger than the one with which he lights his cigarette.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-08-2019

Ooh. Bam! Talk about breaking the fourth wall. Go easy on us, Gloria. The shadow of your hand and fingers on your dress above your right arm now looks like the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and its slit gleaming eye. But you knew that, didn’t you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-09-2019

Reading Albee, Zoo Story, and that iconic line, how sometimes one must “go a very long distance out of [the] way to come back a short distance correctly.” Which if it isn’t the definition of the Lonely Place, must be the definition of romance.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-10-2019

The question I most often get asked about this experiment is why I chose this minute of all minutes. Why didn’t I choose an action sequence from a blockbuster? Great question. Pertinent. Because at 24 frames per second, it’s one of the most romantic minutes ever made. I simply hadn’t considered the importance of timing on romance. Still, look at those two.

In a Lonely Place on 07-11-2019

If this were the 1/24th of a second, you’d always choose Gloria. She sees you. She knows you get the joke. And although there will be other 1/24ths of a second, in which she’ll undoubtedly be an unadulterated nightmare, you’ll always remember this 1/24th of a second. Which is an argument for, and against, the moment. Or, for choosing what to remember.

In a Lonely Place on 07-12-2019

The tip of the nail of her index finger gleams just like the tip of her cigarette, making six fingers, tips aflame, a shapeshifting goddess with supernatural powers if only you look closely enough.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-13-2019

And Britt in the background, not wanting to be outshone by these two foregrounded flames, makes her earring glow brighter than ever before, so that the reflection on her shoulder (which our investigations have shown is an alien masquerading as an earring reflection to whisper commands into the closest ear) shines brighter too. All that shines brighter makes others shine brighter too. Constellations are born, extending out of the frame and across the world.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-14-2019

In a fraction of an instant, her mouth has become a toothless black hole, smoky and forbidding, mildly repulsive. Sometimes you’d like to pay less attention. Then the brain activates: Gloria’s not really like that. She can’t be. She’s beautiful. Isn’t she?

In a Lonely Place on 07-15-2019

Reading Iris Murdoch, who argues for “a new vocabulary of attention”, defining attention as “a just and loving gaze directed upon an individual reality.” Only by lovingly attending to something can we see it as it really is. It takes time.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-16-2019

Smoke lingers on her tongue, making a single bottom tooth, a mouth ravaged by decay. I feel worse for it, so I find the number 6 in the smoke already exhaled and turn it into a sacred sign. Six. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-17-2019

The darkness of her mouth today has caused me to notice the dark shadow of her nose, and the lighter rim of shadow just beneath her nostril, making the nose look as it if could be peeled up off her face.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-18-2019

Gloria Grahame is sucking the souls from our chests into the dark maw of her mouth, and we are liberated to rampage helter-skelter through the nights till we collapse in bewildered exhaustion.

In a Lonely Place on 07-19-2019

Her fingers have sprouted from the side of her napkin like a yucca.

In a Lonely Place on 07-20-2019

Or maybe she’s watching a baseball game on television, and the outfielder just dropped a fly ball. Maybe when your lover looked at you with that face, they were only watching television.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-21-2019

Often as I sit here observing, I’ll attempt to let my brain be what it is, just another organ, like a kidney or a spleen. Sometimes I succeed. Somet…

In a Lonely Place on 07-22-2019

​Sometimes it’s only by paying close and patient attention to the wrong things that we learn to pay attention to the right things. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-23-2019

Today, this 1/24th of a second, Gloria is either catatonic, an obvious candidate for institutionalization, or the most beautiful creature ever to inhabit the planet, hand draped over oxygen as if she can pet the molecules we breathe. Sometimes it’s extremely hard to tell the difference.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-24-2019

PO? P8? Pe? re? Or are the letters made by smoke in her exhalation, which I attempt to decipher before they disappear (certain I’m being told something crucial), nothing more than a fantasy her hair is having of itself, one of lightness and endless transformation. I hope so.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-25-2019

He’s smiling, just enough to indicate a shift, smiling at her in his mind even if he hasn’t seen her in a while, smiling at her delight. What captures her attention? Surely Hadda Hapgood singing at the piano, whom we haven’t seen in months, but still sings. The song is always there, and he hears it too.

In a Lonely Place on 07-26-2019

As her mouth closes, a double curve returns to her upper lip, a line of teeth appear above the bottom, and smoke is released from her cigarette again to write messages in the air that will seem to matter as much as if they were carved into stone, but won’t matter in the slightest.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-27-2019

I get the feeling Bogie’s bottom lip has progressively stuck out these past few days, as if he’s willing to get punched, and because Bogie’s willing, it occurs to me that assuming you’re respectful, a life well lived means sticking out your bottom lip as often and as consistently as possible for things for which you’d be willing to take a punch.

In a Lonely Place on 07-28-2019

His left hand moves towards the lighter, and if to take it from his right. If I were to light a cigarette with my right hand, I would also pocket the lighter with my right. So was he left-handed? But why light it with the right? I could look it up, but increasingly I find myself at war with mere information.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-29-2019

The shadow of her hand today is a rabbit sitting on a white bench contemplating its tail. There is a slight possibility that we tend to find metaphors (and the shadows) most applicable to ourselves. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-30-2019

These days she’s about as beautiful, as feminine, as it gets, but even standing before beauty, we’re constantly distracted by the stories we tell ourselves, narratively fixing problems that never needing fixing, and won’t be fixed, and so today, despite stunning Gloria (I’m an idiot, and so are you), I’m back to the ghost Riggs in the background, now a big ghost Riggs in his fedora directly over blonde Britt, who killed him, and the recently remarked mini-Riggs in the mini fedora over Gloria’s left shoulder. Riggs went out to Hollywood wanting to be a big agent, but with eternity to reflect, he realizes he would have been better off small, and though I don’t know if there are therapists in purgatory, or if God does the trick, clearly it’s all coming out, and that includes mini-Riggs. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 07-31-2019

Riggs was born in Peoria, Illinois. 1920. His father was a mechanic. Riggs’ Rigs. Such an embarrassing name to young Riggs that he needed to believe he was different, that he had a special magic inside, that he could be someone else. At eighteen he escaped on a bus to Hollywood, unable to conceive how he could be anyone else in Peoria, unable to conceive of becoming anyone else unless someone told him who to be and gave him transformative lines to speak. He started wearing a fedora. This was the extent of his personality at the time.

In a Lonely Place on 08-01-2019

Arriving in Hollywood, Riggs couldn’t even get an audition. Confidence graced him only when speaking into mirrors. He felt like an actual person then, like Hollywood. He didn’t have a car, but a roommate did, an actor needing to get to auditions. The car was a lemon, yet Riggs could fix it, not a mechanic like his father – not that – but more like an agent, they joked, making auditions happen, tuning the engine that ran Hollywood. Of course Riggs didn’t want to be an agent either, but it was better than being a mechanic.

In a Lonely Place on 08-02-2019

Death begins the moment anyone fills in this blank: I am a ______. Even “I am an astronaut” or “I am a professional football player”, spoken plainly, implies you have become only that, for eternity, resigning everything else you might become. Yet Riggs was desperate to abandon himself to a blank, anything, as long as it wasn’t his father’s “mechanic”, and so down at the diner where he ate twice a day, he started telling the waitress “I am an agent”. At night he drank bottles of cheap beer to dull the panic. He stared blankly at the frayed carpet, and he was an agent.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-03-2019

And just as her smoke begins to die, his appears in a solid burst, and if I didn’t know how this movie turns out, I would make this another definition of love: exhaling the smoke when the other’s smoke falters, gently picking up the slack, so that there’s always enough smoke to shroud your story in a bit of unforeseen mystery. There’s your new slogan, Marlboro. You’re welcome.

In a Lonely Place on 08-04-2019

Back to Riggs, the ghost in the fedora haunting Britt from the background curtains. After her horse Thumper (his ear visible to the right of Bogie’s head) kicked him in the head and killed him, Riggs went blank for a few days. He can’t remember his own funeral, which is annoying. He wonders if he got a crowd, but tries not to think about it too much. And then suddenly he was haunting Britt, following her everywhere. And then one day mini-Riggs appeared in his mini-fedora and started haunting Riggs. Mini-Riggs doesn’t talk, or at least Riggs can’t hear him. He just haunts, hard and inscrutable. Is he Riggs as a boy? The core of Riggs, whatever that means? Riggs wonders, and wishes he could talk to someone about it, but nobody can hear him either. Sometimes he wonders whether mini-Riggs is the real Riggs, and he’s just the ghost of a ghost, a bloated reflection. Those are the bad days. He hasn’t gotten accustomed to the fact that from here on out, it’s all one long day. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-05-2019

Riggs had thought that in becoming a Hollywood agent he would become himself. Slowly he convinced a few of the desperate actors who hung around the diner to speak to someone else on their behalf. They were only too happy to find an agent, of some sort, and place the burden of their own becoming in the hands of someone else. All across the nation people were gladly handing over their selves to others in the hopes of becoming themselves, desperate to fast-forward into glory, to escape the slow, awful ticking of the present.

In a Lonely Place on 08-06-2019

But being a Hollywood agent brought Riggs no relief. He filled his days with meetings, performing agent-like activities. But life was still elsewhere. He was still elsewhere, like a displaced shadow, like the mini-Riggs within him now released, in death, to haunt from the curtains beside him. He is (they are) there, and I am here, so the book I am reading by Jenny Odell is in our world: “What’s especially tragic about a mind that imagines itself as something separate, defensible, and capable of ‘efficiency’ is not just that it results in a probably very boring (and bored) person; it’s that it’s based on a complete fallacy about the constitution of the self as something separate from others and from the world. Although I can understand it as the logical outcome of a very human craving for stability and categories, I also see this desire as, ironically, the intersection of many forces inside and outside this imagined ‘self’: fear of change, capitalist ideas of time and value, and an inability to accept mortality.”

In a Lonely Place on 08-07-2019

As we learn to pay closer attention to the smoke and the shadows, we develop our capacity to pay closer attention to ourselves. The outward faculty also extends inward. Outward and inward are one and the same. I see you.

In a Lonely Place on 08-08-2019

Another 1/24 of a second passes. Can you feel it? Did we take sufficient care? Victor Frankl has this idea of living as if rescuing each moment as best one can and delivering it safely into the past. Here’s what he also says: “Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”

In a Lonely Place on 08-09-2019

Bogie’s hand is a blur of movement and smoke. She is a statue. Everything changes, but as soon as we’re aware of the change, we cease to see it clearly, while pretending we’re still looking at statues.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-10-2019

You can’t know what Bogie’s thinking. You can never know what Bogie’s thinking. Thoughts are like passing clouds in the blue sky, and Bogie is the sky. But raised in the church, what if it were the bible’s Song of Songs: “Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green; the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine.”

In a Lonely Place on 08-11-2019

Now he is entirely focused on his cigarette, and she is impeccably bored. But from boredom come all great ideas, and so I resolve to be bored today, at least after I’ve dealt with Britt in the background, whose right eye seems to have made a complete appearance, roving the crowd (surely there’s a crowd?), scanning for new career angles to be considered.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-12-2019

We have been in the Lonely Place for 15.2 seconds. In other words, exactly one year. I used to do the math of how many days remain. I don’t do the math anymore. Happy birthday. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-13-2019

Reading Paracelsus today, in my own time, as I watch the proceedings in the Lonely Place: “He who knows nothing loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands also loves, notices, sees…. The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love…. Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about grapes.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-14-2019

Thank God again for the smoke and the shadows, practically nothing, but everything at this speed: the flower that’s now bloomed over her cigarette, the shadow of his lighter, like a tin ashtray cleaved in two.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-15-2019

Man. Especially impatient today for these two to get on with it, and as much as I’ve romanticized their smoking, at some point you’ve got to admit the obvious: never fall in love with a smoker. At best, you’ll always be the backup plan. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-16-2019

Talk about a week full of revelations. The action really appears to be heating up here in year two (second fifteen). Never before noticed: the band of black at his left wrist, like a leather strap, between his watch and the white of his shirt. What could that possibly be? I’m at a loss. The mystery thickens.

In a Lonely Place on 08-17-2019

Staring at today as I become a Buddhist while reading Jane Hirshfield: “​Zen pretty much comes down to three things – everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.”

In a Lonely Place on 08-18-2019

Today I noticed, after zooming in, that the eye of Britt in the background has fully revealed itself, and that she’s covetously watching Gloria. Even the dark corner of her mouth has appeared, and her nose may be bigger than expected. She seems more serious and hardened than I could have imagined, and you begin to wonder whether I’ve gotten the wrong woman. Is it possible her name is actually Suzanne?

In a Lonely Place on 08-19-2019

Someone suggested that today I post some political outrage, hashtagged to mine the likes like gold, then go back and delete the text, substituting something more suitable. But if the Lonely Place teaches us anything, it’s that you can’t go back, and the outrage you manufactured for a moment, craving some brief fame, becomes an indelible part of who you are.

In a Lonely Place on 08-20-2019

Gloria’s smoke today is a jellyfish beneath a single bright star, drawn by a child who’s proudly mastered the five points.

In a Lonely Place on 08-21-2019

The tip of Gloria’s cigarette now looks as if she’s repeatedly bashed it into a flat, hard surface, desperate for something to happen. While the world continues coinciding almost exactly with itself, we rage and rejoice, love and lament. We editorialize ourselves as actors at history’s epicenter. And then another fraction of a second passes, and again there we are.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-22-2019

What is my purpose? You have to wonder how that ashtray’s feeling right about now. You’d like to think it maintains a calm confidence that it has been perfectly made for its purpose, and that its time will eventually come, but I’m guessing that everything, even ashtrays built for eternity, sometimes struggles to keep faith in its eventual utility.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-23-2019

​We’re all the universe pretending to be humans, or smoke, or earrings, or napkins for a little while.

In a Lonely Place on 08-24-2019

Bogie now has an additional smaller dimple (or at least one I hadn’t noticed) just off the corner of his mouth, and his two dimples mirror the ghost Riggs in his fedora back in the curtains and mini-Riggs down to his Riggs’ left. Symmetry’s that old trap, but I’m a sucker for it, so did the dimples make the two Riggs, or did the two Riggs make the dimples? The eternal question. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-25-2019

Britt’s really coming out in the background, a ferny plume of Gloria’s smoke off her right shoulder. Look at her eyes: she’s a spectator, desperate to be Gloria. Yet each 1/24th of a second for all of eternity, she’ll only be nothing more or less than herself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-26-2019

The Lonely Place imposes a scale within which I cannot abdicate responsibility by passively raging against distant autocrats and far-flung horrors, but by seeing the world I experience daily and transforming it by taking some small action. The world may affect me via degrees of separation, but I am here in this place today.

In a Lonely Place on 08-27-2019

Maybe Riggs isn’t a fedoraed ghost in the curtains, but just a goofy shadow, and maybe Britt in the background is a struggling poet with a valiant heart, and maybe Gloria and Bogie will never fall in love, I thought today as I was reading reliable Roberto Bolaño: “Life is a succession of misunderstandings, leading us on to the final truth, the only truth.”

In a Lonely Place on 08-28-2019

Practice what you preach. While I’ve been off philosophizing about attention, rapt with pertinent ideas, a notion of Britt’s other eye has appeared in the background as her head leans longingly towards Gloria. I’d like to crop this photo along Bogie’s arm and post it to Instagram, because that image, which we never would have noticed at any other speed, would kill.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-29-2019

And today Gloria’s smoke off Britt’s right shoulder is the graying head of a man facing the curtains, as if waiting for a movie to be projected into its folds, whereas life and everything that matters is all in another direction if only he knew.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-30-2019

The head of the man off Britt’s left shoulder has disappeared. We have to come to terms with the fact that he was only smoke. Or he was bored, and left. Just as I’m bored today (coincidentally?), but none of us can ever leave.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 08-31-2019

Major movement in Bogie’s hand today. The blur is the proof. But maybe we’ve become too quickly distracted by movement, when our attention would be better spent in maintenance of what should stay the same.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-01-2019

The devil now on Bogie’s shoulder came from smoke he inhaled into his own lungs and then exhaled, feeling briefly exalted. We produced the devils and the gods while searching haphazardly for feelings we couldn’t explain.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-02-2019

Yep, Bogart. That’s a cigarette. You’ve seen one before. So maybe look at her instead. But then I guess the most incandescent love stories tend to be born from states of extreme boredom.

In a Lonely Place on 09-03-2019

When occasionally boredom blurs the days, and you respond by again pretending you might finally become yourself (whatever that could possibly mean) if only you were better optimized, perhaps a line of Saint-Exupéry’s read decades ago will pop into your brain like an easy miracle: “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-04-2019

You’ll be long dead before they ever kiss, but death is only the end if you assume the story’s about you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-05-2019

Bogie’s fat tongue has appeared, like third lip. I wonder what he’s up to. Not to mention that one, two, three, four, he’s about to declare a thumb war with himself. Maybe our insignificant gestures mean nothing, but I prefer to believe that taken together, they reveal everything, all our thoughts and feelings translated into an unconscious language, even if nobody else speaks it.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-06-2019

Gloria Grahame’s cigarette is trying to speak to us. It’s sending up two parallel threads of smoke, as separate as Gloria and Bogie, but be patient, because the threads become one, before they knot together, becoming chaos and confusion, yet ever more beautiful. At least I think that’s what the cigarette is saying.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-07-2019

We’re not moved in any real way by abstract things. We mourn the death of one with more feeling than we can ever mourn the death of a million. Better to draw a frame, making a world containing specifics, which are no less infinite than abstractions.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-08-2019

That smoke must be swirling, but we so quickly forget so much of yesterday that it’s difficult to see how today is any different. Total recall would paralyze us in endless miniature upheavals.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-09-2019

You may be bored with me today. I may be bored with you. We may be bored with smoke and gin, movie stars, murderous blondes in the background, and the head of the horse named Thumper off Bogie’s left shoulder. We may be bored with it all, but if we keep our eyes open, chances are we won’t be bored tomorrow, or maybe the next day.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-10-2019

Today Bogie looks as if he’s finally about to say something, revealing perhaps the shadowy back streets of his mind, because although he hardly knows her, Gloria looks like a woman made for shadows, one who’s walked those back streets alone. Yet there’s always the risk that her mind is a junior high cafeteria. Speak, Bogie. Don’t wait. Better the back streets, even alone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-11-2019

So here we are, trapped in this frame for another eternal fraction of a second, obliged to negotiate these complex, seemingly nonsensical rules which have been established, but as Borges writes, “The worst labyrinth is not that intricate form that can entrap us forever, but a single and precise straight line.” ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-12-2019

Imagine if they’d had smartphones, subtle apps greedy for the continued commodification of individual selves. Our corporate reality sanctions romance, which can be packaged and sold like scented candles, but as corporations endlessly optimize efficiencies, seeking to colonize any remaining stray attention, increasingly they must be at war with love, which is by definition a waste of valuable time. Yet here they are, Gloria and Bogie, day after day, patiently. Love has become our only possible act of resistance.

In a Lonely Place on 09-13-2019

Time sees all things, everything we’ve missed. Time knows which thumb has won Bogie’s thumb war. Time is clear inside Gloria’s jumbled mind. Time knows better than you exactly who you are.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-14-2019

Bogie now appears to be turning his head towards Gloria. Watching these slow weather patterns, day after day, I understand the quiet desperation of the TV meteorologist, daily cataloging incremental shifts in Fahrenheit, who when storms are finally forecast, blares the news in big red letters, then runs out into the flooding streets, shouting incomprehensibly, umbrella flapping, until he’s swept away by the wind, out of the frame.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-15-2019

Has her right eyebrow risen further, or is that just my imagination? Does it matter? At this point she’s nothing more and nothing less than what I imagine her to be. So yes, the eyebrow has risen, saying everything you imagine it might.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-16-2019

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) love at first sight takes years in the Lonely Place. You eventually need eyeglasses to see it through.

In a Lonely Place on 09-17-2019

What if obsession is just boredom moving at a much slower speed?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-18-2019

Bogart’s eyes open, his mouth too, face softening, as if finally prepared to address her beauty, though perhaps what he’s really seeing is the nebulous woman now made of smoke between them, sharp nose, hand on her chin, gazing at Gloria herself.

In a Lonely Place on 09-19-2019

Now his eyes are on her face, and Virginia Woolf’s got the right attitude as she waits with us for him to speak: “What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other….”

In a Lonely Place on 09-20-2019

She’s not even looking at him, but now that his eyes are on her, her eyes are instinctively closing so that she can concentrate on imagining what he must be feeling as he looks at her, so that she can feel it too. He looks so that she can have visions.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-21-2019

And suddenly his cigarette sends up a puff of smoke. I’m riveted. Aren’t you? Look at her mouth today. She’s got plans. Her eyes are going to meet his, and she knows perfectly well that across the nation a thousand cigarettes will be simultaneously lit. He knows it too. Or at least his cigarette knows it. I am increasingly willing to believe in the magic wisdom of our random accoutrements.

In a Lonely Place on 09-22-2019

It was only today, as Bogart turns his head, that I noticed his pronounced widow’s peak, then Googled “widow’s peak”, information being the ultimate form of procrastination, and found that the term comes from the pointed mourning hoods worn by widows in the 1500s, and is also supposedly an omen of early widowhood. You’re welcome. Self improvement. Carry on.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-23-2019

Oh man. She’s only just beginning to target him with her eyes, and he already looks as if he’s been punched in the lip. Pucker up, tough guy. There’s more of that coming.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-24-2019

There was once, maybe many months ago, an upside-down alien with antennae on Gloria’s shoulder, a shadow of her dangling earring. But now that she’s turned her head, the alien has whisked supersonically back to its planet. And yet if you’d moved your head differently, or adjusted your hand, your leg, ever-so-slightly, aliens would have moved among us like spirits, shadows on our skin, bringing wisdom, or destruction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-25-2019

A black hole, apparently, is a region in space whose gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can ever escape, unless perhaps it can be transported into other universes. The obvious candidate here is the black slit of Gloria’s slightly parted mouth. But what if astronomists told us that the black hole was really the black ear of Thumper the horse over Bogart’s left shoulder?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-26-2019

Here we go. Her eyes fearlessly lock onto his, lashes immaculately parallel. If you don’t know how the story ends, don’t look it up. The other day I heard a writer say, “Once we have accepted the story, we cannot escape the story’s fate.” In other words, stories are a trap, my beautiful enemy, whose fates the living must outwit with ever more thoughtful revisions if we have any hope of transcending the inevitable. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-27-2019

Each 1/24th of a second is a place we’ve never been.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-28-2019

Reading in Flannery O’Connor’s journals today: “It does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but the little it takes is long in coming.” The good news is that at this speed, in the Lonely Place, we’ve got a chance of figuring it out in the smoking of a single cigarette.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-29-2019

Bogart was 49 in this shot, Grahame 26. You wouldn’t have quite guessed the difference from the way she’s staring him down. They would both die at 57, he in 1957, she in 1981 – too early, perhaps, but you’d like to think this glance was all it took to align them forever in time.

In a Lonely Place on 09-30-2019

In his bowtie today, there’s a smaller bowtie, gleaming white. They say that if one goes small enough under the microscope, everything is the same thing, and so to make too definitive a distinction between ourselves and the world is folly. I’m the bowtie, bigger and smaller, and so are you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-01-2019

I see no change today. I’m convinced that everyone could benefit from a daily routine of doing at least one thing likely to make them look like a fool. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-02-2019

Almost every day my eye goes first to Britt in the background, whom we know killed her poor lover, the agent Riggs (the ghostly shadow in a fedora haunting the curtains behind her), with the help of her horse Thumper off Bogie’s left shoulder. Clear cut case. I never liked her. Frivolous and self-obsessed. Then a couple of weeks ago, when her eye appeared, enviously eyeing Gloria, she seemed harder, perhaps even malevolent, yet self-possessed. Almost impressive. But now I wonder if Britt might be a reincarnation of the Buddha, eternally calm, without cravings or aversions. So I thought of her today while flipping through some Nietzsche to this: “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-03-2019

Sometimes I have the feeling I’m stating the same one thing each day, only in different ways, just as the image is always the same at first glance, even though it’s different. But what is the one thing? I also have the feeling that if I knew, it wouldn’t matter anyone. The endless iterations and revisions created the one thing, which in turn created more iterations and revisions, on and on and on.

In a Lonely Place on 10-04-2019

His smoke hovers close to his hands today, as if constrained by his centripetal gravity, Bogie holding tightly to himself, knowing that if he relaxed beneath her growing smile he would scatter instantly into a thousand planets.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-05-2019

“Dying is a wild night and a new road.” I keep thinking of that strange, haunting line of Emily Dickinson’s, from her correspondence. And then I look at the shadow of fedoraed Riggs, merely haunting the back curtains, just as he did in life. I think that by reading poets, you subconsciously change the way you live, and die, and Riggs clearly should have read more poetry.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-06-2019

Her lips continue spreading into a smile, more captivating by the day, and I’m faced by the awful realization that the longer a smile continues, the less it means. A permanent smile means nothing more or less than a permanent frown. Change gives everything its meaning.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-07-2019

Smoke obscures his lips today, like a landscape covered in dawn mist. Seen through a haze, the world always feels as if it’s beginning rather than ending. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-08-2019

Her teeth appear. I remember writing about her teeth appearing before. Or was that someone else’s teeth? In any case, remembering the noticing reconfigured my neurons to notice quicker this time, and next time I’ll know the teeth are appearing before they do. Like a superhero, my superpower will be noticing Gloria Grahame’s teeth. Yeah. Just try and stop that.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-09-2019

Their necks today, the sliver of white at hers, which I’d never noticed, like a healed scar or a gap you’d wish to gently slip your hand into, and his, a shadow earpiece and the reassuring tendons and folds of age.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-10-2019

I used to have perfect vision. But you should know that over the past few months I’ve gone half blind. So I may be missing important details. Or I may be seeing things differently than they really are. The doctor says it’s normal at my age.

In a Lonely Place on 10-11-2019

These last few days I’m unwittingly inventorying parts of the head, like a meditative scanning of Gloria and Bogie. Today it’s noses, Bogie snorting smoke from his nostrils like a cartoon bull, and a shadow of the tip of Gloria’s imprinted neatly beneath hers, which I’d never noticed, and only did today because I was first attracted by her smile. I wonder if Bogie noticed the shadow, or missed it as I did for days (weeks? months?), infinitely captivated by the rest of her. Or maybe he wasn’t paying much attention at all, just doing his job.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-12-2019

Sometimes, instead of attempting to note the change, or philosophize about change as a concept, it’s reassuring to know that each day there are changes, even if you spent the day wasting time that was not wasted, because everything was changing regardless of you.

In a Lonely Place on 10-13-2019

But if changes are always happening, whether we notice them or not, it’s also true that simply by directing our attention and noticing, another change has already begun.

In a Lonely Place on 10-14-2019

A few days ago the smoke from his nostrils was like a cartoon bull’s, but now it’s a beak hanging open, Bogie a rumpled bird of prey too jaded to stir from the branch.

In a Lonely Place on 10-15-2019

Is he moving towards her, looking older in the effort, the effort feeding her vitality so that she looks younger by the day? Is that Newton on thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-16-2019

Why is she smiling? He’s been sitting there all this time. Nothing has especially changed. She’s smiling because she’s seeing the future – a word, or a kiss – and whatever happens, her ability to see the future makes her happy.

In a Lonely Place on 10-17-2019

Although significant developments almost never feel as significant as we’d hope, for several days now Bogie has indisputably been moving towards Gloria at rapid speed, blocking out Britt’s face in the background, eliminating possibilities, drawing narrower the frame. He looks at Gloria now as if he were seeing her anew in each 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-18-2019

And her eyes, her mouth, turn towards mirroring his. The Greeks had it right: always, in everything, even a glance, we at our best are forever seeking more perfect symmetries.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-19-2019

Oh boy. The set of his mouth has changed slightly, but significantly, from bracing for a punch to: “Come on now. Stop with the endless smiling and let’s get serious.” My money’s been on Gloria, but you’re a fool if you don’t hedge here and put a bit on Bogie.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-20-2019

Reading a book Harold Bloom edited on Wallace Stevens today as I thought of this seemingly endless experiment: “Stevens was writing a poetry of the mind in the act of finding, losing, looking, finding, and losing the sufficient. The process is endless and essentially goal-less. The wandering mind is observed, even indulged….” And then Stevens, as I searched for meaning within the frame: “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-21-2019

Sometimes I think I can’t keep doing this every day. Sometimes I think that the only way I could keep doing this is if everything became something else. And then I try to convince myself that everything is already something else.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-22-2019

Ursula K. Le Guin today: “In so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void.” OK, so here we go, here is what is: Bogie’s head lightly blurred by smoke and his quickening approach; Gloria’s smile warming, lips fuller; the smoke from her stubbed cigarette against a black shadow in the background: tiny Death wearing a white hoodie; the smoke from his, over thumbs now linked to form a heart when seen from above: a side-turned eye, its pupil constricted to a pinprick. These are just a few of the facts that are…. Keep going….⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-23-2019

I’ve been reading lot these past months at 1/24 of a second, and so now quoting a lot, quotes I’ll forget tomorrow in the next 1/24 of a second, but here’s Toni Morrison in Tar Baby: “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to.” The point being made here, obviously, is about Gloria Grahame, whom you might like to describe, or paint, or remember, or kiss, just like this. But especially when time is slowed to the point that it almost ceases to exist, there is no moment to capture. It is there, whether it is or not, and it is enough.

In a Lonely Place on 10-24-2019

Impatient to find change each day, I tend to look to the smoke, where I’m more likely to find some new and potentially amusing symbol to put into words, but it should be pointed out that in craving progress I place my faith in smoke.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-25-2019

Shifting the balance as his lips move into a spot of light, the smoke from his cigarette a doubled ghost handkerchief. Ghosts upon ghosts, everywhere in the shadows, but the point of it all, I think today, is to enjoy things that are, rather than spending time with things that could be. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-26-2019

Maybe the mirrored smoke handkerchief beside Bogie’s handkerchief is merely the handkerchief’s desperate dream of himself in the future, once Bogie has moved even closer to Gloria Grahame. If that’s the case, then my advice to the handkerchief would be to remember that right now, in this 1/24th of a second, he’s an actual handkerchief, an actual handkerchief in Humphrey Bogart’s breast pocket.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-27-2019

Today I zoomed into her hair until it became a weather pattern on the evening news, a dense, swirling hurricane moving up the Eastern seaboard. Then I zoomed in further and found what appeared to be the head of Che Guevara in a black beret, and then it was 1956 and I was out on the rolling Caribbean puttering towards Cuba through the night. We all have our techniques.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-28-2019

It’s difficult in two dimensions (as it is with one eye closed) to judge the depth of someone, and know whether to expect a line whispered in the ear, a headbutt, or a kiss.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-29-2019

As Bogie leans forward, he has revealed more of Thumper the horse in the background, who seems less horse-like now, even if an ear remains, but I’m at a loss to explain the new squirm of white off Bogie’s arm. Occasionally something emerges which you cannot immediately turn into something you’ve seen before, and maybe the next truth hides only in these initially unidentifiable things.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-30-2019

Smoke again draws my attention today, and Thanksgiving is approaching at my grandparents’ house in a West Texas oil town, Gloria’s own left shoulder now like one of their living room lampshades with the pompom tassels, me a boy dreaming of the mermaid who’s stretched herself out along Bogie’s own left thumb, flipping up her tail, hair unfastened by the sea. Time falls apart, and we’re free. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-31-2019

The shadow of her head touches his, surely altering something within him, thoughts or particles, a cool spot on the forehead conjuring new words to come from his mouth. I went out into the streets wanting to walk through the shadows of others, and make an experiment of myself, but today Paris is a shadowless grey, and I only encountered myself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-01-2019

Sometimes you forget that only seeing is enough, only seeing. So: with Bogie’s left arm lifting as he leans into a shut-eyed dream of Gloria, I see his four jacket buttons, cousins of the three brass tacks beneath his elbow now revealed up the side of his chair.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-02-2019

As she politely remains among the waking, he closes his eyes and plunges into the shadow of her mind, which envelopes him like a dream.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-03-2019

Today they finally touch in two dimensions, and his nose seems to flow into her, expanding its limits as a drop of water does beside another drop, boundaries stretched until the drops leap to become one. Cohesion, it’s called, the attraction of molecules for other molecules of the same kind.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-04-2019

In this 1/24th of a second, as Bogie releases himself into the dream of Gloria Grahame, his borders dissolve, and his nose becomes her nose, another nose, set just above her eye, facing back outward in solidarity with the other nose beneath it. My nose is your nose.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-05-2019

The frazzled tip of her cigarette can’t hold it together anymore. Gloria no longer seems to need it, so it’s abandoning any remaining shreds of self-belief to fall completely, spectacularly apart. That’ll show her.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-06-2019

Look at anything long enough, and it begins to fall apart. Particles exchange. The object becomes infinite, no longer only itself. Einstein thought that space and time are not conditions in which we live, but modes in which we think. Right now I am sitting beside you about to murmur this into your ear. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-07-2019

For those of you riveted by the plot here, some important updates: Bogart’s secret message to Gloria has revealed a new character with a rumpled suit sleeve. A companion to the murderess Britt, who’s now disappeared? I’m not ready draw any conclusions yet, but let’s hope not for his sake. More importantly, what we thought was a horse named Thumper is apparently a ghost of the horse named Thumper. Thumper’s dead? I’m stunned. I felt as if I really knew him. He was dead all along. Tune in next 1/24th of a second.

In a Lonely Place on 11-08-2019

Sometimes, I’ll confess, I consult yesterday hoping to better see today, but that trick never works, and what I see ends up being neither yesterday nor today. Today: Gloria’s lemon seems to be encasing itself in a dark cocoon, or frost is melting on the glass’s surface in sympathy with her lemon’s shape.

In a Lonely Place on 11-09-2019

Their faces now come together in a way that surely couldn’t be perfected, his cheekbone flush with her forehead, her eye to his nose, her nose to his jaw, creating another shadowy face that seems to appear on his cheek, facing Gloria from a slightly different angle than Bogie himself, eyes closed as if dreaming. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-10-2019

She looks as if she’s still anticipating his voice. I’m tempted to start the conversation. I’ll have endless stories to tell once I’ve become Humphrey Bogart. But once the conversation is started, it will go on long enough. Silence is rarer, and says at least as much.

In a Lonely Place on 11-11-2019

Bogie has made a faint sound. A “wuh”? Not even. More the sound of lips gathering in preparation for a W, less a sound than the slightest change in vibration. “What?” “What is?” “What are?” “What will?” It’s too early to tell. Our language at this speed becomes another language entirely, made up of hints and frequencies and imagination, telling whole fantastical stories spanning decades, stories our language would be too busy (and too fearful) to tell.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-12-2019

Kierkegaard says, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future,” so I’m choosing to forget whether Bogie will eventually kiss her on the cheek.⠀⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-13-2019

I’m going to call the man in the background Rocco. We’ll get to Rocco. But zooming in today, I understood that Rocco’s eye, his left, has moved to set itself in Bogie’s ring, and stares at Gloria’s hand, seeing for Bogie, whose own eyes have disappeared. After understanding this, I understood that my elbow is probably yours, my knee the upstairs neighbor’s, who vacuums every day precisely at five.

In a Lonely Place on 11-14-2019

Today her nose seems longer, her chin too, as if she’s wanting to meld into Bogie, whose smoke drifts respectfully aside to give them some space. It’s been a theme these past days: the closer I look at things, the more they fall apart, and the more they fall apart, the more they become one unified thing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-15-2019

Reading Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent, and she has something to say to the artist in us all about this 1/24th of a second: “When people say that nothing happens in their lives, I believe them. But you must understand that everything happens to an artist; time is always redeemed, nothing is lost and wonders never cease.”

In a Lonely Place on 11-16-2019

And he says: “Don’t move. There’s a pudgy little man hunched in the shadows just behind you.” She’s amused by Bogie’s naivete. She’s gotten used to it, the destruction she trails in her wake.

In a Lonely Place on 11-17-2019

Watched cars burning in the streets yesterday. I understood the violence, but it seemed like an anachronism, footage from the ‘60s. Today I came back here to the Lonely Place, stared into the smoke and the shadows, and realized that the next great revolution will be imperceptible.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-18-2019

Today I notice that his shirt has bunched into a long, thin leg, toes perhaps wiggling down around his belly button. I’d like to be able to tell you what that means in the grand scheme of things, to make sense of it all together, but sometimes the greatest pleasure is in letting the long, thin legs be nothing more than what they are.

In a Lonely Place on 11-19-2019

Sometimes two hands become murky sea creatures in the depths of the two gin and tonics set before them, one a dark, spreading sea blob, the other a disembodied sea finger using a lemon as a hat. These are facts.

In a Lonely Place on 11-20-2019

His smoke has formed the letters “An”, and into her ear he speaks, “…Anthology of a thousand and one champagne bottles emptied in succession into a b….” Our words come from places we rarely glimpse and never truly understand.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-21-2019

The lines on the silk of her dress now flow towards Bogie. You are what you wear.

In a Lonely Place on 11-22-2019

I have done all the research on the movie. I have assimilated every possible bit of information and presented much of it here. But the more words you accrue, the less they seem to mean, and increasingly I find myself wanting to live in the place beyond words. So today I considered continuing this experiment only in emojis. 🤢😘🚬💨. Which means whatever you feel it means. Or: her queasy heart leaves her mouth for a cigarette break and exhales tornadoes. Or: in the midst of an existential crisis, he takes her heart into his mouth, and his displaced cigarette flies off in a fit of jealousy. Probably it means both and more. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-23-2019

In avoiding knowledge of what he’s saying into her ear by writing about everything around it, allowing myself distractions, am I avoiding the most important message I’m meant to hear? Or am I eliminating hiding places, assimilating every peripheral element until only the message remains, and I have no choice but to hear it loud and clear?

In a Lonely Place on 11-24-2019

We see the cufflinks at his right wrist now as his whole body turns round, as if he intends to swap places with her, and she now with him – as if they’re dancing, as if the unconscious desire of any dance is to swap places with another, becoming them as they become you, finding only pleasure in the exchange.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-25-2019

Rocco, the man in the background, is a blind prophet with no followers. The napkin in front of Gloria is about to take flight like a magic carpet, carrying its gin-and-tonic off to foreign lands. I’ve always loved that line of Nietzsche’s: “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.” I used to identify with some unsentimental rebellion in that “nothing”, but now I realize the “nothing” could just as well be an affirmative “everything” without any change in meaning. So I fly on magic carpets, sipping gin, to the top of distant holy mountains and present myself as the first ever acolyte to a blind prophet named Rocco. That was today. True story.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-26-2019

Every day her cheek approaches his a little more. The design of an ear is such that to hear one another in a noisy room, our faces must approach as if to kiss. Noise as an aphrodisiac, surely no accident, with silence as the dream. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-27-2019

Maybe tomorrow we’ll cut to another scene. Maybe someone new will walk into the frame. Maybe I’ll discover something important I’d never noticed. Like it or not, tomorrow I will think the same thing, and the next day, and the next. But as Ursula K. Le Guin puts it: “The unknown, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action.” OK then. Here we go again.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-28-2019

Last night I walked through the drizzle along quiet Parisian streets. An old woman in a bathrobe reached out of a ground floor window holding a live little cage, a mousetrap, which she handed to a young man in exchange for an identical trap, but empty. Alongside me a friend spoke about black holes, and binary stars, which orbit one another in a recognizable pattern, such that if you see a single star moving similarly, you know it’s orbiting a dead star. Celestial longing. I don’t entirely know why, but I thought of the Lonely Place. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-29-2019

The head of a black panther has appeared at her neck, looking off to the left. A gray shark has appeared at my right elbow, nodding towards depths I can’t fathom. And you? Everything that matters is never only itself. Everything that matters is a superimposition.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-30-2019

Shall we attempt a line or two? Her eyes are closed in concentration, ready for the message. Do I dare disturb the universe?

Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.’

In a Lonely Place on 12-01-2019

No, I will go. I will speak. I will plunge headlong into this moment that, at the very worst, is only me: “Gloria…. Gloria. I…had to say something. Otherwise your cheek, that shadow on your cheekbone, that shadow was going to shut me up forever.” Is she smiling? Are we connecting? I can’t tell.

In a Lonely Place on 12-02-2019

If this experiment is teaching me anything, other than how to further refine one’s own stubbornness, it’s that when you give yourself all the time in the world, you’re obliged to become introspective. Everything you see becomes a mirror of everything inside.

In a Lonely Place on 12-03-2019

The other day I met somebody for a drink. Research had been done, and this person was concerned about what had driven me into the Lonely Place. I laughed. “But that’s not it at all!” I said. Because look at Gloria’s smile today, at her delight as the secret message fills her ear. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-04-2019

Reading some Borges stories today, I came across this: “We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.” I thought about that for a while, during which time it meant several different things. Then I was sitting here conversing with Bogie and Gloria, who are dead, and was forced to draw the same conclusion about me. But then as I conversed with them, they were also alive. So go figure.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-05-2019

This morning I walked through the quiet Paris streets, metros and trains shut for a strike, pedestrians complaining but secretly exalted. Because today didn’t feel like yesterday, or the day before. Frustrated logistics seemed to present new possibilities. I talked to strangers. A few quoted impressive statistics, having dutifully tuned-in, while on a corner a bum in yoga pants channeled Frank Sinatra, and beside a blinking Christmas tree a pretty North African cried her makeup off while talking into a cellphone sporting rubber bunny ears. Everybody knew what really mattered, but nobody could articulate it. So we moved on.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-06-2019

In speaking into Gloria’s ear, and telling you about it, I’m obviously not actually speaking to Gloria or to you, but neither am I speaking only to myself, which can only suggest the possibility, at least, that I am not only me, she not only she, you not only you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-07-2019

Bogie’s smoke today, down his left arm, is sending us a message. 919 is what I read. So I Googled: 919 code. Turns out that’s the area code for Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of the UNC men’s basketball team, currently ranked 3rd in the country. It also turns out that at 9 is Texas Tech, and at 19 is Wofford, of which I’d never heard, but it turns out that Wofford is in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which I can find no record of Bogart visiting. But he wanted to? More research is required. Because I am absolutely certain that if one sufficiently devotes oneself to a trail of clues, one eventually reaches a conclusion that makes total sense. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-08-2019

She’s really smiling now. I’m smiling just watching her smile, warming to words he may not even be speaking. That’s enough for today.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-09-2019

What would make us satisfied? If he moved around for a kiss? Although at this speed, the kiss would take months, and after a day or two, a kiss would be no more or less interesting than unheard words spoken into an ear. If aliens landed on the table? Same conundrum. The aliens would soon become overfamiliar, domestic companions. So what would make us satisfied? The answer seems clear. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-10-2019

Today Bogie’s smoke seems jealous of his handkerchief again, its silky white solidity, its place nestled next to Bogie’s heart, so the smoke tries to blur the handkerchief, and somehow compromise its many qualities, foolishly forgetting the many inimitable advantages of being only smoke. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-11-2019

I look at the configuration of their fingers and think: he’s got her right where he wants her now.

In a Lonely Place on 12-12-2019

I look at Bogie’s hands and think of the first great magic trick I ever saw, my father seeming to take off his thumb with his other hand. I was flabbergasted and wouldn’t be content until I learned the trick myself. Then, my first unpublished novel, written sometime in my early twenties, was called Separation. And now this.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-13-2019

Maybe the revolution has already come and gone. And maybe we won. Maybe all that is required of us now is to realize it, and then celebrate, right here in this 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-14-2019

At a certain point, the cigarettes cease to exist. This is the place you are meant to be.

In a Lonely Place on 12-15-2019

Reading Sebald’s Austerlitz: “We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.” It’s possible the Lonely Place is a barely conscious attempt to slow down existence until those inner adjustments are made clear.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-16-2019

Only today have I noticed the gravity-defying forward reach of Gloria’s spectacular bouffant hair, seeming to extend out even further now, making Bogie’s ear a part of it, claiming more territory.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-17-2019

For at least a month now, he’s been speaking into her ear, a tale of love and philosophy, novels flowing into novels, whole sacred texts, Alexandrine sonnets and free poetry dreamed up on the fly. In the Lonely Place, there is no small talk.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-18-2019

Some days I find it immensely difficult to say or think anything about a world altered only by 1/24th of a second from yesterday, about which I could have written paragraphs. So don’t blame the world.

In a Lonely Place on 12-19-2019

Sometimes I turn to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, a randomly generated series of constraints designed to invite one to think differently. Inevitably every Oblique Strategy seems to have something to say about the Lonely Place. A quick, random glance today: “What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving.” And: “Towards the insignificant.” And: “Repetition is a form of change.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-20-2019

The days have now become almost indistinguishable. Bogie’s smoke lets itself dance and swirl, as if it’s alone and free past midnight, and the rest of the scene is sleeping. The rest of the scene never sleeps, of course, but just this smallest shift in perception allows the smoke to dance.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-21-2019

I only noticed today that the ashtray had laid down a window beneath it on the table, to look out and contemplate another world and forget itself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-22-2019

I keep feeling that maybe I should be paying more attention to the man in the background, and figuring out his purpose. Or listening intently to hear what Bogie’s saying. But then I read a haiku by Ryokan, which was reassuring:⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-23-2019

The ideal is to take unpredictable actions, which more effectively reveal the truth. If a woman like Gloria, instead of speaking into my ear, spoke into my bowtie, I’d know that either she was the most wonderfully original creature ever to grace the earth, or a nutcase to be avoided at all costs, too cute by half. Either way, the strangeness would reveal more of what we both were required to know.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-24-2019

I’m convinced that eventually every dimension coincides, and always coincided. By that logic, it may well also be Christmas in the Lonely Place. So: Merry Christmas.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-25-2019

We’ve been 500 days in the Lonely Place, or 20.8 seconds. Which is more important?

In a Lonely Place on 12-26-2019

As he leans into her, tensing the tendon at his neck, the tendon also must shift the muscles and tendons of his shoulders and chest, then his belly, his legs, his feet, which consequently touch the floor slightly differently, affecting the kinetic balance in the room, one connection to another, on and on, until surely his leaning into Gloria is felt in Minneapolis. Or here. Now. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-27-2019

His words go into her ear, into the Lonely Place. We do not hear them. It doesn’t matter. She is curious, and halfway smiles. She is being transformed. He is being transformed. Speak, listen, as if today is merely 1/24th of a second (because it is), and all will be transformed.

In a Lonely Place on 12-28-2019

Whoever put the ashtray at that angle, a diamond linking them together rather than a square walling them apart, was right. Every day I make new discoveries. There must be enough for a lifetime right here.

In a Lonely Place on 12-29-2019

I keep finding haikus about the Lonely Place. In truth, just about every haiku could be about the Lonely Place. Here’s one from Basho: “There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.” It’s all right here, one day after another.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-30-2019

If a beautiful woman were to smile at you for a month straight, the smile would lose all its charm, becoming a sure sign of madness. Which is an argument, like it or not, for also appreciating the frowns.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-31-2019

A look back at the year: on January 1, Bogie was lifting that cigarette to her lips, having already lit it with his lips. Wow. That seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-01-2020

Finding that the Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Blake, my old favorite, is a good way to start the New Year, and a good way to conceive of the Lonely Place. A few disconnected lines:⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-02-2020

Today I stared for quite a while at Thumper the horse, off to the right in the curtains, wondering if he might be something else entirely – a flower bud, maybe, unblossomed? – but then I made a firm decision: no, he is a horse.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-03-2020

Endless reflections on their wandering smoke over the past months, as the days have become increasingly similar, until I come to this: without our vices, nothing would ever change.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-04-2020

Never has a suit jacket sleeve been more rumpled than the suit sleeve of the man we call Rocco in the background. Either his arm is made of melting wax, or he just spent three consecutive nights clothed in a sleeper car on a transatlantic train, or he’s expressionist art. Those are our options, at least for now.

In a Lonely Place on 01-05-2020

Open your bibles to the Gospel of John, and you’ll find this: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But if you should find yourself constrained to a narrow frame, ruminating for months on the smile of a beautiful woman, the advisability of various fashion accessories, mysterious strangers, words you can’t hear, and the climactic patterns of smoke presumably once exhaled – with no escape to freedom in sight – perhaps Flannery O’Connor’s paraphrase will be some small solace: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-06-2020

She will never go away. The words he spoke into her ear will always be spoken. The cigarettes will be infinite. The night will go on and on, and music will still play. Everything will always be right here.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-07-2020

Nothing’s moving. Bogart speaks, and I realize that in speaking them, listening to them, or reading them, words slow time down. And the more interested we are in the words, the slower time goes, such that the perfect words, communicated at the perfect moment, would surely stop time altogether.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-08-2020

You realize that every day, whether you think you will or not, you have something to say. We didn’t need to prepare for any of this. This 1/24th of a second was always going to be just this.

In a Lonely Place on 01-09-2020

The upside-down shadow alien who has taken up residence on Gloria’s own right shoulder is trying to hide himself in the darkness of her collar, but his antennae, which are required to stick out of the darkness in order to receive any signals, betray him. Let’s just humor him by pretending he’s not there.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-10-2020

Her smile today seems to extend down across her cheek to become a darker shadow at her neck. And that’s just today, in this 1/24th of a second. Across time, who knows how much further it goes, but I suspect it may be endless, stretching to streetlights in Poughkeepsie, down Paris boulevards, to seaside cafes in Azerbaijan.

In a Lonely Place on 01-11-2020

If every day I instead posted every third 1/24th of a second, or every tenth, or every twentieth, nothing of any significance would be lost, which makes makes me wonder about this 1/24th of a second, and the next, in my own life. The inevitable conclusion is that right now has no utility, and that I’m free. Now and now and now.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-12-2020

There is the sense that, for weeks now, what’s been bothering me are the separate planes of Bogie’s and Gloria’s heads, that they’re meant to come together in the same plane, a united brain, a single organism made of separate people. Get on with it, I think. But then that’s always the problem with separate heads.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-13-2020

It’s been said countless times, most often by Eastern philosophers, that reality is such that nothing exists but now, this moment. Past and future are only imagined, helpfully or not. And yet then I start running mathematical calculations. What is a moment? 1 second? 1/24th of a second? Surely you must go on chopping up moments infinitely, until there’s no perceptible moment left, and nothing exists at all. So where are you then? Still right here. Forever?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-14-2020

I’d been rooting for a kiss as their heads came together a couple of months ago, but I’m so thankful it wasn’t a kiss, because a kiss would have seemed to demand something to be said about it every day, which would have driven us all crazy, simultaneously ruining kisses forever. Kisses aren’t like symphonies or books. They need to end comparatively quickly to retain their best qualities. And then you can always start again.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-15-2020

Here’s something else I’ve learned from the Lonely Place: spend long enough looking at one thing, and you can be absolutely certain that it will become something else.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-16-2020

If Bogart were to write about today in the Lonely Place, and these three people in this 1/24th of a second, this is what he might say: “I’ve got a job to do too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. …I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now…. Here’s looking at you, kid.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-17-2020

Reading some of James Wood’s essays on literature here in the Lonely Place: “I like the idea that heaven might reward us for what we have lost by paying attention to detail, that heaven must perforce be a place of serious noticing. But perhaps we can bring back life, or extend life, here on earth, by doing the same: by applying what Walter Benjamin once called “the natural prayer of the soul: attentiveness.” We can bring the dead back by applying the same attentiveness to their shades as we apply to the world around us—by looking harder: by transfiguring the object.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-18-2020

Today I noticed the three angled flying saucers in the back-right curtains, hurtling down towards the earth. I was reading Jung, who proposed that flying saucers exist, except that they’re not from outer space, but inner space, shared hallucinations generated by the collective unconscious, which knows infinitely more than we do alone. So if you see the flying saucers too, maybe Jung was right, and our consciousness is uniting in the curtains with a message from inner space meant to teach us everything we knew, but had somehow forgotten.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-19-2020

Today the smoke at his suit collar is pretending to be a South Pacific archipelago, and the smoke up from his hand, train tracks more or less parallel. They’re really getting into it. Archipelago! Train tracks! This is it! Whereas by tomorrow they’ll be something else entirely.

In a Lonely Place on 01-20-2020

At the back of her head is now a speck of highlighted hair, or some hallowed light which may have intentions of becoming a halo, which is concerning, because the only angel you can trust is a fallen angel, and their halos are broken by the fall.

In a Lonely Place on 01-21-2020

Gloria’s cigarette needs some help. It looks as if it was desperately trying to become a finger, and thereby transcend itself, then blew its own head open in the process.

In a Lonely Place on 01-22-2020

Gloria’s cigarette needs some help. It looks as if it was desperately trying to become a finger, and thereby transcend itself, then blew its own head open in the process.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-23-2020

If we’re going with Quantum Entanglement theory, as I’m inclined to do, then Rocco in the background and Thumper the shadow horse beside him in the curtains have by now surely exchanged enough molecules that they’re eternally connected. Before long they’ll be a centaur – strange creatures, but aren’t we all.

In a Lonely Place on 01-24-2020

The archipelago of smoke has moved off Bogie’s left shoulder. Now it’s a feeling of an archipelago, and it may find longer happiness in that unbordered state.

In a Lonely Place on 01-25-2020

I have left this place. 22 seconds seemed like a year and a half.