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Poetic Labor Project November 2011


RONALD PALMER lives in the Richmond District of San Francisco with his partner Kevin Rolston. His frst poetry collection is titled Logicalogics (Sof Skull, 2005) . He graduated from NYU's program in creative writing (MA, 1993) and also from Binghamton University (Ph.D., 1996). A chapter from his porn thriller, Prick Queasy, is forthcoming from Summer BF Press. The Reluctant PharmaWhore Ronald Palmer's frst real job, besides mowing lawns and chopping wood for his neighbors, was working summers as a mental health worker in the mid 1980s at the now defunct Fairfeld Hills State Hospital in Connecticut. At the age of eighteen, he worked along side night nurses in a locked ward with adult patients sufering from schizophrenia and bipolar disease. (Also subbing occasionally on a separate ward for shell-shocked Vietnam Veterans who had gone berserk; in hindsight, this was only about a decade afer the veterans had returned from the war. Back when a decade felt like an eternity.) His frst career plan was to pursue a Ph.D./M.D. in psychiatry, so it's mildly ironic that now, 25 years since his frst job as a Mental Health Worker, he is a drug representative for a global pharmaceutical company calling on psychiatrists as customers. Between 1988 and 2000 he worked as: a dish washer in a pizza place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire a counselor in a group home for abused foster children in San Francisco a model/extra in national commercials such as Diet Coke and the defunct MCI a room service waiter at Te Mayfair, a fancy upper east side hotel in NYC an advertising trafc coordinator for a Japanese Advertising Corporation called DENTSU on 42nd street in midtown Manhattan an assistant executive at J. Walter Tompson, an advertising company a tutor and instructor at Manhattan Community College for the COPE program for parents in the NYC welfare system a teacher of creative writing at NYU, Binghamton University and Framingham State College during which he moonlighted at Barnes and Noble Bookstore on weekends to supplement a 33K contract salary for a 4X4 teaching load.

An international professor of writing and reading seminars for students seeking an M.A. degree in teaching, a position that few him around the globe from North Africa to Poland, from Bolivia to Costa Rica, Panama to Morocco all during the year in which he enjoyed (what amounted to a writer in residence) a fellowship at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Te Netherlands.

2000-2010: A decade's journey from a post-doctoral stint in the Netherlands to a senior sales specialist position in the world of Big Pharma: In the summer of 2000, Ronald Palmer landed at his parents' house in Connecticut, broke and depressed, without any savings and without any job prospects. He took to reading in his bed while overhearing his parents blaring television set. To his absolute delight, a few months afer repatriation, he got a job as a corporate writer (Free Water! A cubicle of ones own!) at a corporate moving company that handles employees transferring to positions overseas. Te job ofered him health insurance, a salary and a gym membership, all of which aforded him the opportunity to move out into his own apartment (with a college friend in Harlem) and ultimately propel himself into a decade long career as a salesperson. He became Te Avis Guy and sold corporate contracts of Avis-Rent-A-Car all over the Bay Area Peninsula to emerging companies like Google, Netsuite and SanDisk. Eventually he became the #1 salesperson in the country for Avis. (People in stupors pretend to know what they're doing.) Recruited by Pfzer, he sold Viagra for three years in San Francisco before the 2009 layofs and luckily landed at their arch nemesis, Eli Lilly, to sell Cialis to the same doctors/customers in San Francisco. Proprietary and Incendiary : {THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY OTHER} Ronald Palmers place of birth: at the top of the stairs of a two-story house near the railroad tracks on Richmond Hill Road in New Canaan, Connecticut on Tanksgiving Day on November 27th, 1966. Tere was no hospital in the town at the time. A Play in Two Parts. {hear simultaneous thudding sounds of Compliance and Ethics bouncing like rubber balls, one pink, one blue, from the ground of sticky cement.}

Part 1/ CORPOSELF: I am the user. Te user presents with co-morbid symptoms typical of the postlust era {Internet vs. intellect} with tidbits of the customer casino. I am in a state of postlust, porn pills, Viagra and Cialis, fll my trunk. All the doctors want free samples, some of which they actually share with their patients. A creeping out of the target HCP (Health Care Professional) with an irksome, presumed intimacy that would creep out any priest, confated with a false sense of ownership. A creeping in of thought infecting a library of antibodies, my antibodies. My ofce is an interchanging waiting room that revolves around San Francisco, California. In the morning Im in the Castro, in the afernoon, Chinatown, at dinnertime, Im at a big pharma function in the Financial District. I eat so much I make myself sick with cream and kobe beef and oysters and butter cookies and chocolate and wine and espresso. I shit myself on the car ride home; explosive diarrhea when I make it to my toilet. PoetSelf: will you falsely identify the gene in question {or positive as it might be to be identified} PoetSelf: will you pluck out the writer gene, the queer writer gene, the wannabe queer writer gene like a bullet from my chest? How to negotiate being a pharmawhore with the fact that all I want to be is a writer. Even if Im a bad writer. Even if Im a Bad-with-Children type of queer whos Bloods-no-Good for the RED CROSS. Tis is where my post-queer (only out Pfzer rep on the West Coast) isnt as clean as it should be. Teres a queer corporate tension that eclipses my motives to survive, a ghost of my queer always following me, daring me not to return to my 72-year-old parents house. Begging me to hold on to the farce of a six fgure position until the entire industry tilts over the patent clif, capitalizing on a feeling of nausea, of vomiting, of diarrhea, of the tiny orange spiders crawling out of my nose in dreams, digging under my eyelids. Te ghost of my queer fnally gets me to admit that I hadnt been properly prepared to be a tenure track professor. Of fnally fnding that I hadnt been prepared to feel, anything, especially a failure with only one book a decade afer the infamous MFA. CORPOSELF: YES s/he is the doctor/customer/viewer and s/he is stunned into supposition (as a best practice) because I am listening so intently, s/he feels loved victim entranced in the subordination of power, s/he literally cannot move.

Tats my premise, jovial comportment with a hint of sparing-daring. Tis leveraging of ones emotional intelligence can ofen lead to my starting point; my aborted thesis. Im interrogating xer/her/his buying signs while weaving a dramatic closing question to create a positive tension with my premise. {before I even believe it myself, Im quantifying the rate of relapse} Which amps the situation into a need for an emotional exchange even if its a promise to change a belief, a behavior, instead of adjunction with a dopamine agent maybe my handshake will turn into a lifetime prescription especially when s/he is still chewing while treated to a belly full of expensive beef. Lets stop stomping around and dance, said the pornaddict, choking on his middle-aged guilt. PoetSelf: Work has always been torture for me. I have sought out work that I love which is daydreaming in a car looking at the waves at Ocean Beach. Which is masturbating to emergent forms of marine pay per view porn, which is walking around unshaven in a hipster baseball cap with surf company logo in a stupor of my own making. Full disclosure: a dialectic of madness, a postmortem spiritjump: I am your imposter bear. Tripped up by the hipster mystique, I embrace my own oxymoron. Te contradictions begin with dharma of big pharma: two of the biggest in the industry: Pfzer and Lilly: wish I wouldnt have to be so shy, I could fry for this. As my poetself and corpoself strangle each other for time and energy, my poetself asks my corpoself: is publishing my own work pointless? I had Motherwell nightmares about enormous black lemons rolling my of a chopped-of earthquake highway for a very long time. Sometimes the dream revisits me and I turn the black lemons (the size of cement trucks) into pink lemons that burst into a thousand pink bunnies and they tackle me giggling, taking turns nursing on my nipples. Tat is the question. Moot or Mute? Egolibido R Us. Postlust, in my baggage of sadness I jerk of amid the unraveling of this new century. Ive heard the words Al Ki Da more than love ya hon. Especially from my TV. [Or a radio of anti-matter prancing and posturing as microsonnets: sonnetweets.]

CORPOSELF: I suppose I want to admit that WORK IS A FARCE THAT KEEPS GIVING. WORK IS MY S:LFIMPOS:D DUTY TO ASSUME THE POSITION OF SELFTERROR>>>>>>>>>I am the opposite of bravery. PoetSelf: What if our galaxy rejects our history? And Ill sip a lime green iced tea and write a movie in two pages and observe a hummingbird dipping into the rhododendrons below my window. CORPOSELF: A digital rectal exam is really the only way to investigate the prostate, maybe even predict early onset BPH. If I confate the worlds I feel less schizophrenic. My twin is concerned about her anti-psychotic. Her hands are starting to shake during her hospital presentations. So I do a WEBMD search and fnd the long-term efects can worsen attention and produce cognitive dwelling (I mean dulling) but when I go of them I can stop crying at work, She says. And Im silent on my cell phone sitting in the front seat of my company car, a 2011 burgundy Ford Fusion, facing Ocean Beach. I watch four crows chase away a stand of seagulls thinking my life is this black hole of sadness or something dramatic like that yet comparatively, people especially Americans say this: well comparatively were better of as Americans. But are we? Im totally stumped over that one. As I write this OccupyWallStreet protests take over the globe. I just found out on Twitter that protesters in Oakland had to be rushed to the hospital with broken hands after being arrested. I feel guilty all the time. Im afraid almost all the time. IN A WORLD WHERE WEVE BEEN TAUGHT THAT WORK MUST BE A S:LFIMPMPOS:D TERROR OF OUR OWN PERPETUAL MAKING: I memorize the product information on competitive products. I have the Epocrates APP. I must increase my scientifc knowledge so that the customer trusts me more. I must bring passion for the molecule alive with me voice in a strained elevation. I need to create action by injecting positive tension into the interaction. I tried stimulants to up the ante but they only made me more skittish and scanty when Id shoot it would hit the opposite wall of my little green S:LFIMPMPOS:D dungeon. Te guilt I ate served to puncture the punctum. I punted this prankster who sprouted his jetsam. I love the picture of me when I was seven posing on the fireplace with my sisters like a little hustler in training or a vamp vamping around without feeling. Wrapped in a black and brown, leopard print robe, I mean: who was I kidding?

PoetSelf vs. CORPOSELF: Is the new form of sonnetweet driving you crazy with inspiration? A: yes. Is the micro-truncated sonnetweets system of pulsing Jedi {inculcation if hiccuuping joy, a letterplay in two chapters: contras diction of malice vs. joyless?} Or more precisely: {unpacking the proxy, an incendiary whiteness. A stewing witness to the masses, I attempt to transcend queerness out at work Ive learned from experiential knowledge simply opens an invitation to objectify and fetishize my erotic practice, yet possibly also opens an even exchange if initiated with levity with questions like: so are you the top or bottom, JP Marriott, INDIANAPOLIS October, 2011 and to be honest Im a pervert anyway an inverted invitation to open the opportunity to ask my female cohorts: Do you enjoy anal? Do you and your husband have rip roaring jack-hammering anal sex? {Gulp red wine, everyone gufawing} I mean do you use a riding crop on your husband?) And I use this unparalleled, corporate farce of compliance into an implicit condemnation, which I think is a grander way of deepening the ofense, (more appropriately cruder) a croquet unpacking the witness over the pre-sliced, orangeglazed chicken breasts that nobody has to pay for, or rather everyone must pay for, because its a corporate expense.} Expense accounts reign in the land of pain medicine and anti-depressants, but one eats the guilt, bingeing on billionaires to boot, truth is the blockbuster molecule goes of patent this month, investors fear they cant play fake I happen to do false exceptionally well. I fake it so it feels like dwelling in the moment of this add/mission: is a whore to achieve a likefulness? [ballooning contagion, not hiv but more like alogia or aphasia] a kind of tender kinesthesia that Ive developed on the companys dime: to win me, your listener, is to become my voice plus three. Part 2/ CORPOSELF: when the robot glances awayas if contemplating the daily frustration of a mentally ill patient I become the singeing inside, my robot he is

sometimes caught cringing on the pre-programmed content. Robots stealthily woven words make me daily into monster, a monster I never deserved. His comportment invokes ownership of thought, of tone, {Not only intellectual property but think about what were giving away to Google, Facebook, even LinkedIn and youtube or Xtube dot com.} PoetSelf: Im in a danger of enthusiasm, a new euthanasia sinking into my person of the year Hes kissed up with fear. {Were giving our mom away like butter to a pen of hot little piggys. I risk everything to sing at dawn. If I go on in Becketts fashion. If Im going to be honest about how I transcend queerness as a mom.} PoetSelf: No. Erase this. Reject as too weirdly intimate and bizarrely self-efacing, Im too embarrassed to even re-read this admitting as a professor I felt superior yet ultimately degraded in my temptation to eroticize the studentsdesire always on display even if inverted in dark matter desire plugs the air, at least with the ones who make the desks nervous, yet rarely emanate pheromones for more than a week, because the child inside the performance keeps leaping forth to challenge the creep in you, and its never 20/20 when you realize: petulance will get you nowhere. Tere was this chillingly handsome hockey play and I did fi d myself n crotchgrazing but who hasnt? come on sometimes it can hit the ceiling with the absolute and ultimate fantasy when the scent of him near me leaning over his paper might have scent me swooning to prison. I dont even miss him. I guess I wanted to make students think what I thought Was necessary to think. But was I trying to make them better people? Sometimes. Mostly they were numb kids who didnt even want to listen, except for that one in one thousand pair of eyes that shine when they listen at you, and inside youre like: wow this ones going to become something special. I sell myself as surveyor, as talking meat? Te person who prays forever freaks out and shoots his parents. I love when I love stuf, Kevin says, hanging his twin hat on either side of the copper curtain rod. Two men and a dog equal family. Reject: reject.

PoetSelf: Dear Poetry stop trying to make me feel bad for not being inclusive: that's not my gruf, a grifter trying to be so human it hurts. Look on the inside of the leather strap for the euro size, apple eyes, you with the cum in your hair. I'm so hubby hungry I want to Jill myself into ghoul. And then there came the teaching-to-the-test type of thing (try writing when youre staring at the ceiling too worried about which student thinks youre cool and which one thinks youre a total pretentious douche bag for strutting around with your cock bouncing around inside the green silk pouch of your white striped, Adidas sweatpants. All that combined with the fact that the Vice President and over arching Dean of the college are/were myopic and are/were reductive with regard to their demands, in fact their edict, that we as professors should put our own intellectual fingerprints on the students in other words teach them how to think like us, a phenomenon sprinkled over my attempt to transcend queerness in an academic institution {postlust pornaddicts want to know: how does your madness drive your egolibido?} would drive any thinking person insane. CORPO:SELF vs. PoetSelf: My current gig is no less farcical and I think thats what a job is: a period in which the soul becomes robot and leeches all humanness into a jar carried between the lungs, collecting symbiotically an urgency that bursts erratically into being at least within this frst decade of the 21 st centurydecade of terror burns in infamy. And I think Im at least half to blame. Gnashing and gnawing on a pseudo fame like it means something more than ofering a fner curator of ones own erasure. I tweet things like: Tis is not about my other. distraught I internalize the killer the way bread dissolves in red wine AND: Im getting the blinking yellow square does that mean it's still trying? Counternarrative: Tere there, tragic hero. AND:

What happened to the Mexican Dream lilt levels out the evil playing feld Imaginary ancestry AND: Listening to China waiting Is my hobby I love a homey lobby. AND: Big ups to my queer brothers & sisters living in fascist homophobe driven Uganda, what about them civil rights violations mrs Clinton? AND: Lurker poking playing pocket pool with my symphony, a car parked at a curb In a park where Im waiting for a verb To arrive buoyantly Pornocidal maniacs wear down the path to righteousness. Tis is the plague of transparency. AND: An economy of thought: go spend some more money, honey. As in multiply me mentally for the best part of this century, I heard about my dissection of self as other, compartmentalize my sexualself into a guilty savior. I give in; imprisoned I give up. Im impressed by my terror of failure, of having (at age 45) to move back in with my 72 year old parents. Ultimately I chose the corporation over a life wallowing in my own celebratory academics staid compliance within the thought hoarders of tomorrow. (My mother included.) Ill let you shine if you let me blow it all to nonsense. Neuroscience medications and the memorization of the competitive landscape of

each products information sheet, this seizes me when Id rather be reading Paul Celan or Jack Spicer who thrill me mostly because of how confounded I feel when thinking in their pictorials and perhaps thats what Im really seeking. To Step up to a level cerebral fuid swarming in my synaptic clefs, potentiating a dopamine component to being confounded Im sure, a priori or feur-de-lis, whatever the shucks you want from me. Ill give it. CORPOSELF: Incessant self-analysis with an interest in matching the tone and pace of each customers segmentation. Tats how we diferentiate which robot we become. Give me some smart and Ill give you some chum who thinks you really like him. Give me some diary about publishing being pointless and Ill keep wondering weather or not this even means anything to ward of the mute point in our lives that keeps widening. As I hit 45 and continue to fear moving back in with my hoarder mother whos made a cave of emotion out of my childhood home. Im never alone as they say when Im with my iPhone. Freakishly content with my Chinese assembled gadget. Te corporate scientist asks, Is it drugable? Well were in phase 3 clinical trials so well know in about a year. Hes a Corpus Casanova. He rides of on a supernova. Whatever dude. Im the contradiction jerking around inside my own pretending. Poet: Self vs. CORPOSELF: A dialectic post-mortem a spirit jump inspective. Micro, truncated sonnets can be my Tweets: sonnetweets: 1. most chaotic deterrent (agent for helping forget our terror and loneliness) 2. funniest inherent (peculiar to inherit a new form from technology and oddly counter intuitive, broadly corporate like a colony of wasps trying to survive, thinking Ive thought that before then moving on because a little pink door shut of that corner of your brain.) I can see how Hart Crane went insane with this always-pounding-decision between money and ownership of thought. In his case Im convinced he was thrown from the shif no matter how desperate he was an ego like that just doesnt give in that easily. At least now hes free people say about death but Im not convinced yet. Why because we like you why because its the simplest question why because

what am I doing here? Why because you are the imposter bear who dresses himself in the morning and combs the golden gate park for answers in her wounds in her hair in her buses and bushes in her scent of jasmine and earthy eucalyptus in her cinnamon spotted owls that soar from opinion to dominion made of pine and now all the kids say never mind story or selfood or personal narrative but otherwise without the net of its light blue silk falling all over the bedroom all over your furry shoulders, {the bear is happily jagging but no its not my bear, an imposter bear in green funning at me I see him pulsing through the fog running at the seashore, my imposter bear.} 3. neurotransmitter observant {its possible we seek and inspire our own neurotransmitter level or balance our need for a matching synaptic speed of a lover or a mother or someone we live with, otherwise its self prescriptive and we cling to some monkey who mimics our circuitry. I guess its just a semi-fancier way of saying you get what you stay for.} 4. pre-formative client relationships {I already know what you like and Im going to give it to you good. I already know what your favorite drinks are, its in the cloud on your personal history, likes and dislikes not to mention your prescribing habits. Ill swoop down upon the incremental patient and youll prescribe more because I say so. Were like the lemon-favored mafa.} 5. We foat above your window, forever pacing with your ego. I love to become what you love, Ill bring you burgers rare with melted gruyere and fries of the side with a seltzer and a chocolate chip cookie, 6. DELIVERED WITH DARING, I DROP IN A PHRASE WHILE HES STILL FEELING HUNGRY, IS IT REASONABLE TO CONSIDER, DOCTOR? AND I REMEMBER TO FOLD IN A PHRASE ABOUT EMPATHY. READING BEHAVIOR IS MY JOB NOW. MY MIRROR IS SPLITTING WITH ALWAYS OTHER, AND NEVER THE HERO, AND THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY OTHER! 7. heteroclites impotent stamp on everything I know (Letterplay; two characters inside the self, a corporate and a creative make an oxymoronic life during the North American urban development phase of pre-melt San Francisco written under derision of puppy panic during the Blue Angels display over our Richmond District apartment and this afer a morning of puppy Kylie dashing afer her blue rubber Frisbee.) Selling is really just bringing out the safe child in someone and making them feel pretend love

because pretend love is like erotic pictures to men who can pretend so well they feel love from a movie. Because pretend love is so convincing to the neurotransmitters, the chemical cocktail that foods the nucleus acumens is no diferent from being listened to as if someone actually cares, using active listening, echoing the concerns of the target patient, target doctor, in fact sometimes even repeating the statement back to the target/viewer/doctor because especially when what we say is repeated back to the robot he feels the warmth of compassion. Tats why psychopaths are so charming; admit it baby, youre a robot already.

LAURA WOLTAG has worked as an organic vegetable farmer, garden educator, lentic ecologist, writer at a mountaineering magazine, product representative for annie's cheddar bunnies, product representative for amy's goddess dressing (which really burns your eyes if you happen to stare at it for more than an hour. sayin'.), waitress (x4), barista, tutor, custodian, and horse stall cleaner. She currently works for a non-proft and is starting a native plant/ edible gardening/landscaping business with a friend. She aspires to be an herbalist, someday. She very much loved Brenda Iijima's Labor Day response & is thinking this is going to be her Brenda Iijima Labor Day Response Year. Her attached image is also informed by the work of the psychic anarchist sanskritists, with whom she also works -- you know who you are.

MARGARET RHEE has worked as a clerk at a clothing store, journalist, the West Coast Web Editor for Back Stage Magazine, organizer, teacher, go-go dancer, research assistant, babysitter, and for the past fve years: project manager of a PAR project out of the SF jails, for the past three: doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California. For poemas, she co-edited the chapbook anthology, 'Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Asian American Poets' (Achiote Press) and is the managing editor of 'Mixed Blood,' a literary journal on innovative poetics and race, edited by C.S. Giscombe. Her chapbook Yellow/ //Yellow was published by Tinfsh Press in 2011. A Short Note: Te academic industrial complex and the prison industrial complex, as Fred Moten and Stefano Harney write in Te University and the Undercommons: Te slogan on the Lef, then, universities, not jails, marks a choice that may not be possible. In other words, perhaps more universities promote more jails. Perhaps it is necessary fnally to see that the university contains incarceration as the product of its negligence.i How does the academic industrial complex perpetuate silence from undocumented students, those from the working class, silence of the undercommons. Te prison industrial complex keep people in, the university keeps people out. Te university is not innocent. Tus, when included, you are expected to maintain a joyful narrative of entry to higher education. Te university silences where you come from, there is no space for contradiction, we are happy students, happy teachers, happy well acclimated workers. Te university grows fat upon silence(s). Yet, the consciousness that Gloria Anzalda writes so much about, (and in this discussion of labor) refexivity of class/backgrounds, from all positions of the university machine remains crucial. Tus, this paradoxical bind for subversive academics is necessary, to even begin to fathom reimagining the university. Transformation of the university requires the language and tactics of poetry.
i Fred Moten and Stefano Harney "The University and the Undercommons: SEVEN THESES. Social Text Summer 2004 22(2 79): 101-115

By: Margaret Rhee A Poem About Work Here my world is created How to unpack them Make disappear I try to sprint away Paper and ink I try to understand but its all so confusing to me Because it makes itself over and over again And because the more I know the lonelier I become Te second time I went on a plane the frst time by myself Was for poetry Landing in Virginia I knew all at once it Maybe like God with his hands Creating Adam and Eve With dirt, sun, and creatures all around A graduate student once told me, I wasnt cultured or interested Because I didnt know who the Ayatollah was Its not that I dont want to know, its just that I havent traveled much I regret telling him Because I dont think he really could understand Tat there is a lot I dont know My father at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard On a ship that would never move A ship that broke his back He showed me his hands And taught me what it meant to be blue collar My world was so very small I desperately wanted to remake my girlhood horrors into worlds of Not so diferent from my mothers and my own through books

He pulled at his workman shirt, and in broken English Told me I must grow up to be white collar To never work with my hands. To not have my back break To sail on ships that move fast across the ocean And into lands far away My moms hands are thick & calloused too, gruf from holding Wigs and dollar bills in a store she works at in Watts Shes worked at a dry cleaners and Luckys Supermarket She says a job is just a job and sometimes, she Doesnt recognize her hands anymore. She says, you shouldnt study so hard Because her friend in Korea was at the top of her class Ten she married bad and now she cleans houses. My hands are calloused from holding pens My back aches from slightly hunching over daily Taping on mechanical keys I realize all together how much I am Grateful for my books and how much I hate myself My dreams are so thick that I cant hold them In my palms. And I cant swallow them either. But in them, my father is sailing and my mother is not working, and they are very happy. Its quite simple. Except the map leading to the end of a dream Is not only impossible but sometimes unimagined. You must marry well, my mother says, then You wont be like me. You wont have to work at all.

CHRISTIAN NAGLER lives in San Francisco and has worked as a paperboy, a ranchhand, a library page, an intern at a mental hospital, an ESL tutor, a personal attendant, a sub-legal delivery person, a managing editor, a yoga teacher, a freelance writer, a dancer, a community arts organizer, and an adjunct professor of fction writing and art/social practice. I am camping at the northeast corner of Occupy SF, trying to fall asleep while the cars scream by on the Embarcadero. I am thinking about the conversation I had a few hours earlier with the man in the next tent, Ed, who is here because his house in Vallejo foreclosed this spring. He has a German shepherd puppy sleeping in his lap; he talks about his daughter in Virginia, and his ex-girlfriend who lef him because of his drinking, which he has now overcome. I cant sleep. Im accustomed to quiet and dark. I lie awake thinking of something I read: that when the sub-prime mortgage bubble burst over the span of four days in 2008, the movements in the market were 25 standard deviations away from the mean several days in a row. Probabalistically, this means that these market events should have happened just once in the time between now and the moment the universe began times a few billionii. So: low income people in Baltimore and Detroit and Albuquerque and Fresno and elsewhere being aforded the social, numerical legitimacy to aford housesin the cognitive systems of the fnancierswas quite logically the least likely thing to happen in any possible universe. I am growing accustomed to these vignettes. Will I ever have a house? I think. Do I want one? What is a house? * * *

A few months before, I was riding the transbay bus across the bay bridge. I ogled the Oakland port system, the red and blue and green containers arranged in perfect grids on the landfll concrete like time-released capsules in an automated dispensary at the Eli Lilly plant, awaiting vacuum-packing, wrenched open daily to scatter their contents into the tiny, contested squash-courts of manifold synapses. I look at the colossal cable-cranes bearing alof the twenty-ton things as if airlifing patients from one rationalist purgatory into another near-identical one, stacking them twelve-high and a hundred-across on those barges that are like globalisms proper gurneys. Te names: Hanjin and Evergreen and APM-Maersk are like gigantic Lawrence Weiner pieces that materially slide all over the plastic-frosted
ii This is from I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, by John Lanchester, 2010.

seas and arent just dematerialized concepts to be reproduced again and again on gallery walls and in Phaidon monographs. Looking at those barges, I went back momentarily to my Midwest agrarianpopulist family roots and had this thought: its all fancy-pants, all this language about immaterial labor and cognitive capitalism and afective labor and the reputation economy and the experience economy and the economist Jodi Deans idea that we should all get health insurance for using Facebook since the injunction to communicate incessantly with each other about our various projects and moment-tomoment states is an inter-subjective assembly line and the algorithms that make it all work are our foremen, and the bafed alienation that results is the blooming, frustrated fury of the proletariat; that the new golden phallus around which the dance of value-production twirls is relevance rankingiii, so that if we participate in mediated meaning-making in any formespecially if it is performance-enhanced in any way by todays metrosexual grandchild of the adding machinethen we can count ourselves historical subjects of that great primitive swindle that broke the collective heart in two sometime between the ages of Homer and Zola. No, no, no, I thought, ogling the port, it all seems like a theory hatched out of nervous exhaustion, like Hippolyte Tainesiv idea of the minor aristocracy: well-bred people, who, cut of from action, fell back on conversation and spent their time tasting the gravest pleasures of the mind. No, no, I thought, its like George Sorel warnedv: that a prime illusion of the bourgeoisie is the faith that our mild discontent can be/has been/will continue to be theorized, and is thus made useful. No, I thought, despite our thriving micro-trade in logorrheic fantasies we are still as sands in the hourglass or dust in the wind of industrial manufacturing, and much of the fragility of global-techno-capitalist systems and the militant diligence with which they are defended has to do with the necessity of moving very heavy and unwieldy objects vast distances over the surface of the earth. We are still Victorian gentle-persons sufering fts of hallucinatory neurasthenia from the complicated scent of sweat on the bodies of neo-coolies who keep the imperial commonwealth intricate with stuf.

iii Googles algorithm is said to be the single most valuable piece of intellectual property in the history of humankind. iv Sociological literary theorist v I exemplify exactly what I criticize, here.

Tis was, clearly, a few months before the general strike in Oakland, before the march on these ports. * * *

Tere is a feeling I get, some days, afer teaching narrative storytelling that immaterial labor par excellencefor eight hours at a stretch in basement rooms in the fnancial district. An itchy feeling that makes me paranoid I might have bedbugs but then on second thought seems to issue from some overtaxed, scabrous bulb of my cerebral cortex. It is a feeling that leads me to entertain a dramatic sort of thought: what if I am the abject embodiment of the immaterial labor economy? Now, Im trying to understand what that means, that sentence, I sometimes wake up with it, sometimes in a panic, and now when I look at it, it looks narcissistic. Cute, even. For the past six or so years, Ive beenlike so manyteaching writing and art at various institutions of higher learning around the bay area. Te work is at turns sweet and stultifying; Oh, people! People, people, people, people, people. All day long people, people and more people! And myself with all their names in a ledger. So many people that in the evenings I am almost grateful for the hypnotic riddle of personal-isolation technologies, forgiving of their proft margins. People who take out student loans that are predatorily leant to them by a subsidiary of Goldman, Sachs, people who navigate the bureaucracy of veteran afairs so I can tell them to write stories with or against their will. I track the value of their zombie/vampire/free-style rap/romantic fantasies in EasyGrade Pro as if Im hedging currencies on the Forex market. I have no stable contract, of course, and I rely upon the mercy of administrators coupled with my own good-behavior and faith in my robust physical health (no insurance) to keep me going another semester. It wasnt always like this. Right out of college I went into a PhD program in English at Johns Hopkins, where I had something like a $20,000/semester stipend (inconceivable!) in a city where $175 a month for rent is not unheard of due to the market-inconveniences of a 200 year old war between poor communities, police, and institutional forces, as popularly depicted in TV shows like Te Wire, which I havent been able to bring myself to watch for fear of getting too immersed in the past. While at Hopkins, I bought a used 1982 Jeep Cherokee, and when it needed new tires I brought it to a crumbling tire-repair store that was said to have once been the home of Frederick Douglass. Once I ate dinner at a Hard Rock Caf built on the exact spot the frst slave ships docked in the US, so I heard.

How was Hopkins able to pay me so much for spending most of my time in Student Labor Action Committee meetings (we were organizing for a living wage for laundry workers); doing drugs; and sitting in my street-salvaged Ikea armchair writing about trans-historical threads between Mary Rowlandsons 15th century captivity narrative and contemporary accounts of alien abduction, or Archie Comics and the Post-war Nationalist Symbol of the Impotent Adolescent, or William Bartrams 16th century botanical travel logs as precursor to the American porn industry, or queer readings of expeditions to the North Pole, and other such seemingly market-unfriendly formulations? Well, it turns out that Hopkins proximity to the Pentagon supplies it with a steady river of capital (you can go to graduate school there in the Department of Homeland Security Studies, or History of Military Technology, and I once spotted Paul Wolfowitz strolling across the red brick, Federal-style quad), a river in which I naively bathed, though not happily, considering I developed a slight addiction to heroin, which would prove pivotal to my future career choices. When I look back on this time I sometimes think it was complicitys contagion and not my own suburban somatics of imagined inviolability that led me into that bromide-punk-ghetto womb-narrative. Who could say? Back in Berkeley over summer break, I found myself psychologically unable to return to Baltimore. So I moved into a cheap room in a collective house in Oakland run by erotic masseuses cum cult-members and answered a Craigslist ad for a job in Berkeley taking care of a paraplegic man (whom Ill call Jon) for $10/hour under the table. Te work was not easy I was totally untrained and it involved a lot of heavy-lifing, much contact with vulnerable bodily processes, and negotiation of incomprehensibly convoluted power-dynamics. I got along tolerably well, though, with my boss, who was a former Black Panther and LGBT and disability rights activist, and I had some nice moments reading aloud with him from Krishnamurti on his electric bed while he drifed into a time-release-Fentanyl-patch induced slumber. Te maintenance of his fragile existence, however, depended on the small pension he received, as well as the occult whims of the insurance company (they might decide, for example, that the new type of $300 catheter tube was not covered.) When there were emergencieswhich was nearly alwaysthere was ofen only enough lef over to pay me half, or even a quarter, of what was owed. I sometimes asked for help from my parents. Te company my dad worked for had just been bought by Merck, thus splitting his stock options, tripling his fnancial resources, and rendering him nearly high-bourgeois overnight. But when I was unable to endure the Oedipal privilege of that, I sublet my room and slept in my car for three weeks, returning to my room periodically to retrieve books, which I would sell to Moes to pay for gas. I could have stayed in Jons tiny guest room, but I

decided against it out of fear of conscripting myself into round-the-clock unpaid labor. During this time I was also in and out of the tail-end of my addiction, and I sometimes made extra cash by transporting smallish amounts of heroin for a ragged tout named Tim (who subsequently died of an overdose behind the do-ityourself car wash on Potrero and 17thvi) to various characters around the city an elderly motel attendant in the Marina, a ghostly lawyer in Noe Valley, etc. When I think of my current precariousness in the ivory-basement, I am inevitably forced back into refection on the more extreme precariousness of that time in the thriving informal economyvii, driving a car with a cracked axle over the bay bridge, praying I wouldnt get pulled over or careen into a minivan, hoping I wouldnt end up like Tim, who was on the run from a speeding-ticket-turned-arrest-warrant in his hometown of Seattle, dogged by the exiling shame of this contingency and by some dumbfounding psychic wound from early childhood that needed persistent anaesthetizing. Meanwhile I was doing a lot of writing, imagining that an MFA in playwriting might be a good way out of the knot of bio-anxiety my life had become. I got over my addiction, trained to be a yoga teacher, sharpened my self-presentation, and stumbled my way back into the creative class by landing a job as assistant editor at a mysteriously funded literary journal operating out of a little ofce near the ballpark, which paid me an actual salary. I worked there for a year or so before getting fred because I seemed too dour. But by that time I was teaching early morning yoga classes in a short-lived studio in Oakland, and the machinery of MFA applications was already underway. I had been attempting to write plays, but it always came out as fction, so I applied to some generously-funded programs, got in, and went to one.
vi Note: read the fifth review down (David S.) on this link. vii What did I learn from this time: that poor addicts do hard labor. They do some of the heaviest lifting, the most extreme multi-tasking, to keep the furnace of bourgeois morality packed with fuel. What would become of capitalism if there were no symbolic wounds? Addicts do the difficult work of converting the currency between real wounds and symbolic ones. They do it with unconscious affect, which is instrumentalized to the point where it becomes an extra organ. It is an organ that is in turn converted, cell by cell, into a running, abstract tabulation of affect, against the background noise of social systems legal, financial, familial, biological. Believe me when I say it is hard work to rent out your unconscious affect to the hyper-diversified investment bank of bourgeois morality. Its hard enough just to familiarize yourself with the equations that balance the sums of affect with the demands of world-systems. It is true that this sort of labor does not produce anything recognizable, hence the injunction to become a productive member of society. Many who enter into this labor force do so at infancy

Two more stipended years in the psychically complex pleasure-pastures of eastcoast experimental literature where the vines and orchards hung heavy with endowment and where I formed many unrealistic expectations about the ease and stability of teaching thanks to the Brown undergraduates who had received SWAT team-style training towards their places in the cultural economy at Exeter and St. Andrews. Ten I found myself back in San Francisco looking for a job as a teacher. I sent my papers around and got an interview at a commercial art university. I was shocked by the wageI had to give up bars and any hope of having a fashion sense to aford my labor-lifestylebut it was what I wanted to do and there was very little oversight and: if it rained pearls, who would work? Tey ofered me 5 classes right away. I will summarize the next six years of my labor out of a suspicion that it could be easily imagined (and lived a few times over) by many who may have read this far: aborted, confusing attempts to unionize adjuncts with a few other dispirited teachers; revelations of my institutions shadow-existence as the second largest real-estate holder in the city of San Francisco and the fantastic wealth of its Pac-Heights socialite owner; teaching 5-8 classes a semester, so that strangers sometimes approached me to ask: arent you the guy that teaches eight classes?viii; felding the narrative fantasies of oceans of students with bonafde dreams of pop-culture glory, including many, many young veterans for whom Hollywood had been a lover and confdant during unquiet nights in tents in Iraq and Afghanistan. One solemn woman from Oklahoma wrote obsessively of how she had been driven into suicidal depression by her job fring of twenty-one gun salutes at over 3000 army funerals, and how she had once been molested by Donald Rumsfeld. Tis semester I have been advising an acutely articulate middle-aged man who worked as a military contractor in Pakistan and in the CIAs black sites in Germany and Afghanistan. We take walks around the fnancial district afer class and he hisses his fears about the fate of this nation, the blood-retribution he knows gathers in
viii One of my colleagues actually teaches twelve classes every semester. To me this man is the Flexible Personality personified, a heroic, uncomplaining maniac. He is still technically part-time, since thirteen classes, at thirty-nine in-class hours, is still one hour shy of the forty hours required for full-time. We all know, of course, that prep-time doesnt count. Why should it? I could prep in my sleep! We should be paying them for the privilege of being allowed to prep! I find it deeply nourishing.

swarms. He wants to be out of the country, he says, when it comes down. For the last ffy years we have been terrifed of a nuclear bomb being set of within our borders, he says, and now weve pretty much guaranteed that to happen . . . by acting psychotic in every corner of the world. In response to my cautious urgings to continue writing about his experience he says, I know. . . I know how fun it is to kill. I know how well it pays. Tats what I know. Why should I try to make that insight worth something? And then, a week later he sends me this email:
I came here (to this school) to make a flm about my experience. It sounds pathetic, but I decided how to do this, and it is with comic skits. A friend and I are making comic skits about the war, contracting, secret prisons, the USA, three letter agency people, and we are going to put it on the internet and sell it. I expect to be on the cover of the New York Times the next day. Not that I want to be. Film is the way to reach people today, for it to go global. Comedy is the way to tell them the truth. People want distraction and mildly sadistic entertainment. I am lacing it with my avalanche of moral condemnation. It makes me bigger and not smaller. I don't want to be in the role of the angry guy who wrote a book. I would like my funny videos to be played in the secret prisons, and have everyone chuckle, etc. I can make money of of it, enjoy doing it, reach a lot of people, scorch George Bush's ass, and heal myself, all at the same time. All of the little sheep addicted to their little machines... I want to make those little machines work for me.

Teres more of course, earlier jobs, more recent ones. Teres the story of coordinating a small and bafed community art project in El Salvador while the community was (is) being convulsed and turned in on itself by dams, trade agreements, and climate change as if by an outbreak of some geopolitical form of kuru. But Id like to return to the more impersonal issue of shipping containers, the cargo ships that haunt our port like movable mausoleums packed from wall to wall with the carcasses of commodities. Who or what expects me to hold them in mind? Who or what imagines that there is a place in my language for weight, for backbreaking loads that seem so alien to the perpetual motion machine of representation, like lug-nuts in the crme caramel? Who has the notion that I

might know what to do with stufs intrusion into the symbolic, like a spore, threatening to determine the very possibility of utterance, to make languages mantle spongy with the fruiting bodies of material, so that the two grow into a thing at once too specifc and too large, and my own neurochemistry seems to buckle under the tonnagewhat I recently heard called the empirical sublime and yet the terms I have to think this with foat in a sweet sciency brine. Who asks? Marx, one might say, that bearded fgure who spoiled what could have been a fun and proftable century by asking why arent we having real fun. But I do imagine Im having fun for a moment as I march with a few hundred others from New Montgomery St. down to the Federal Reserve where the Occupy SF camp is happening. Tis is the frst week of the occupations. And even though the long, nauseating history of San Francisco seems to live in that musky crook where the counter-culture meets the techno-capitalist, I will accept whatever vibe infects this resistance, because at this point I am willing to take what I am given of spirit. From across the street, though, a middle-aged man yells: Get a job! Get a job! Get a job! Get a job! and its not fun. He is red-faced, temple veins bulging. A woman yells back: Its Saturday! And it is ofen Saturday, Saturns Day, Day of the Strong-armed father, Cronus, Time-man. Does he give us time or take it away? Tese weighty, respectable men and women (the police) and their ideological captors seem set on taking it away again and again, with the ofand grabbiness of a parent liberating a cigarette butt from his toddlers mouth. Who would have guessed that stillness and a continuous togetherness in public space would prove so terroristic? Anyone could have guessed, especially the 1.6 million US homeless people (including 150,000 veterans), whose facticity as material beings, whose strange, historical unwillingness to learn to use the Scholes-Black equation to price derivatives or to use Gaussian copulas to engineer collateralized debt obligations, whose inability to neither purchase data streams from Bloomberg nor feed them into mainframes for the purposes of statistical arbitrage are like silt bars in the enforced liquidity of capital, that river of phantom agreements that is said to be necessary to keep commodities afoat above the impossible stone of the world.

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