“Dark angels follow me, over a godless sea, falling on empty silence, for all my days remaining.” – Sting

I’m thinking of things I could do to make a major change. Again. Change jobs, buy a new house, move to Spain and give up pots for paintings. Ludicrous; mordantly hilarious; a predictable reaction to the caged bird feeling stuck.

It’s like every eighteen months I have to devise this elaborate Emergency Escape Plan… pure mid-life crisis fantasy? Or calculated defensive pessimism, just in case I wake up at 4am one day and decide, “Today is the day I’m gonna blow everything up” –? A friend reminded me once that something I said just yesterday seemed like exactly the kind of things I used to say three decades ago, and I think, how the hell can there be a consistent thread there? Like every thought is actually a pre-ordained piece in a larger puzzle, and we think we can see what we’re making from the photo on the box, but it ends up it’s the wrong box; just an Impressionistic illusion in front of us — unshackled and led from out of the cave into the light for the first time — what | if | the | real | box | photo | is | just | black | Courier | text | on | white | and | reads | FREE | WILL | ?

Well, I dunno where that came from, but my red cursor sits here as I wonder on it and goes: blink blink blink. Like, “Yo. What else you got?”

As a love-starved adolescent, I used to literally have disaster daydreams. Big ones, like Mom and Dad eating it on the freeway on the way home, or one of those not-uncommon wildfires coming all the way over the hill and turning the whole house to ash. But also absurdly tiny, personal ones, like what would happen if my DM friend Steve (Hi, Steve!) made my beloved level 13 Magic User, Sorion the Grey, roll the dice on one big mortal saving throw on Friday night and I rolled a six and had to start all over? [Uh huh — AD&D reference. Admit it, you did not see that one coming.]

I always had pretty shitty dice luck.

Or, rather, not “I” — go back up to all those “I’s” above and consider they weren’t necessarily ME. Then, I think, it’s not me that wants those awful things to happen; that sends my mind down those strange alleyways of doubt and wild hope for a phoenix rebirth. It’s that dark angel on my shoulder. [Or, if you prefer more drama, Dark Angel.]

He/she/it is manipulative and sneaky in ways specifically tailored to keep itself invisible to me — whomever “me” is — I mean, I dunno — but in this case, let’s just label it ‘the conscious Self’. [Single quotes because I am still mid-way through my first mug of Emily Murphy coffee and I love callbacks to nobody but me.] [Note: I will genuinely chuckle at this when I re-read it later.]

Yes, yes, sorry. Dark Angel, blah blah blah. I do tend to get sidetracked sometimes.

So: he’s like the Scott Whisperer. Or Aspect X. Or the little guy with the pitchfork, in the Saturday morning cartoons, perched on the left shoulder. (And always on the left — think about that one for a sec.) The dark angel is that thing, or entity, or motivating force that all my recent ancestors would have just wrapped up into the idea of The Devil and conveniently left it at that. (Because why go back to, say, medieval Italian literature, to get all the possible nuance and historical subtext of an idea, when instead you can Americanize it into some kind of plain spoken, salt-of-the-earth simpleton revivalist shit and smugly plow your fields and send your sons off to wars, comfortable in that artificially binary worldview?) (“I hope you know it’s not easy, easy for me.”)

I suppose because it’s a lot easier on the ego and the guilt reflexes to assign blame for that shit to an external source than an internal one. And probably even more convenient or appealing if that source is cosmic, eternal, practically omnipotent; more like a force of nature than something we could be expected to resist with any regularity We all just fall down sometimes because of The Fall. Hey, I’m only human. Don’t blame me; the Dark Angel made me do it.

Well, as a non-believer — or as a believer, instead, in quarks and carbon and genetic expression — I don’t see it that way. Not at all. I try to own that force; to take the responsibility for it. If there’s a Dark Half, he is my dark half. ‘I have seen the enemy and he is me.’ ‘Lord, make me a bird and let me fly far, far away. Away from here.’

Single quotes again. Day one of my ‘weekend’ — off to a roaring bonfire of a start.

But check this out: if I lay claim to the Dark Half, that means the Light Half is all me, too. I get to own my inspirations, my higher motives, my occasional (ok, usually very occasional) noble actions. Even a little of the kiln luck, weird breaks luck, dice luck falls to my side of the ledger. Chance favors the prepared mind, and all that shit.

Somehow, no god to steal the credit actually makes it even more appealing to do the right thing.


I get up at two or three-thirty or five, lately, and have to write out these words. Because they are so much more grounded and hard to come by and less prone to loops here on screen than they were in my head, lying up there staring into the dark. And here’s the thing: it’s not fair to believe that those unwritten words are better than these written ones. That’s the dark angel whispering sweet nothings. The real thing can never compete with the untethered imagination — it is the ultimate unlevel playing field. In my just-waking brain, all the phrases flow together effortlessly; gaps in logic or vocabulary just magically fill themselves in, without even a trace of how they did the trick; stupid ideas get a pass and half-decent ones get blown up into Revelations. They are way too good to be true. They miss the fact that everybody fades at four pm; that each morning’s gloss and sparkle needs each afternoon’s catatonic lapse.

The illusion should never get to fight the reality, straight up. The dark angel wants us to believe that they are the same; that the one we want can simply beat out the one we have, if we imagine it long enough, and intensely enough, that we never actually have to do anything about;;; out it here in the world of coffee and bones. It’s a fight that can never actually be won when one of those combatants is just another sneaky Dream.

“All colors bleed to red. Sleep on the ocean’s bed.”