Distancing #50: Change Your Life


Recently, Ross recommended I speak with his good friend Eric on the phone about gay pornography. Eric, an editor in the field, was kind, and told me several amusing anecdotes about the industry, about its shift from DVDs to streaming, about what narratives he liked best. No dialogue is often a good thing, he said. I spoke to him outside in the late summer heat, and told him a cicada had molted and left its shell, whole, on the side of a mesquite tree. I said it was wild how the bug had just left a whole copy of itself stuck there. He acknowledged this, but I don’t remember how.  

Soon after that, Ross invited me to stay in his guesthouse in the Russian River Valley. I was indecisive about leaving Phoenix, where I’d been living for the past six months, but when Ross said: On Thursday, we’re going to watch Logan’s Run projected onto Eric’s garage, immediately I replied, “I’m there,” attempting a joke to convey that the film was what had cinched my decision when in reality it was the thought of being at my first small social gathering in months that had warmed me—a warmth that made the eight hundred–mile drive an easy one.

What most remember about Logan’s Run is the conceit: everyone dies at thirty. Fewer people talk about the C-3PO–like robot in an ice cave, the inexplicable feral children, or the old man who quotes T. S. Eliot. It’s fine sci-fi. Eric’s partner, Mahea, made plum cake. Something moved in the grass near my chair. I was sure whatever it was wanted my glass of water, so I sat with the mason jar in my lap for the remainder of the movie.

After we watched the film and drove back along the dark, farm-adjacent roads, I got into the guesthouse bed and opened Soundcloud on my phone. The feed suggested Seth Price’s mix, entitled Change Your Life, which he had tagged #Religion & Spirituality. At the start of it, two voices repeat I’m afraid I forgot your question, and the track pans hard; it’s nauseating and disorienting and soon transitions into another short, warbly Price-made soundscape. The two tracks are twin gargoyles at the gate that seem to say Proceed no further unless you feel truly ready to change your life. 

At the time, I wasn’t ready. I went to bed. I walked around the woods. I read Price’s How to Disappear in America, in which he explains how to set a car on fire and recommends wearing a hat at all times. From the outside, Price’s practice is admirable, a model for any creative-minded person. He makes music, books, paintings, video, and I’d like to guess furniture and clothing. Recently a friend used the word galactic to describe what Price does, and I think that’s canny. Price writes: “I’m a person who likes to make things. You do it one after another, unending. It goes on for such a long time: something new, and something else, and something something. Here comes a lot of different varieties of strategies and arrangements, all interesting, all interlocking, mutatis mutandis. Such a lot of things!”

How simple, I thought. No need to find Rilke’s torso of Apollo when you have a fine artist putting free, informative PDFs on his website. Reading his work stirred a real desire in me to make something. Something new, something else. Making something could be simple and fun. I started the mix again. A calypso song came on. This modern music’s got me confused, sang a man who went on to complain about jazz. I now know that it’s a song by Young Tiger, but at the time it felt like there was a ghost haunting my phone, so I put it in a drawer. I went to bed. Outside my window, two men yelled about lamb and meat sauce.

I soon had to leave the guesthouse, and in the remaining time did what I could to soak in the place. I walked to the river. I took a new trail through the redwoods. I made a song. I watched Ross scratch canvas with a stick. Ross called the guesthouse magical, and said it was where Eric had met Mahea. The ideal place to change your life is likely somewhere magical, I thought, and that night I put on the mix, determined to hear it all. Kim Jung Mi is in there. Burzum. DJ Choppa does some sort of X-Files remix. I recognized very few of the tracks, and spent a long time looking at the cover art. It shows a face covered in leaves. On one leaf stands a green beetle, a beetle that reminded me of the cicada, the shell of itself left clinging to the mesquite tree. A cicada only molts once in its life. Pliny the Elder writes: “a cicada bursts its shell about the time of the summer solstice, and then takes flight, which always happens at night.” 

When the mix finished, there were no men outside my window, only the crickets and wind, the darkness. In the morning I left Sonoma in my father’s car. Two days later I learned the area was being evacuated due to fires. Hundreds of thousands of acres burned. Trees, and the beetles that cling to them. From Southern California I texted Price’s mix to a friend. Their near-immediate response was: “How does it sound like it’s coming from everywhere?????” I wanted to know the same thing. I started the mix again. There was a lot I wanted to know. Two voices said I’m afraid I forgot your question, and I understood. I wasn’t getting an answer anytime soon.

— Hayden Bennett
California, day 165

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