Article: 178819 of talk.bizarre
From: (Jonathan K. Cohen)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Portland As A Synonym For Dis
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 1994 18:51:20 -0800
Organization: University of California, Irvine
Lines: 66
Message-ID: <>
Status: O

I recently went to visit my quondam significant digit's old
friends, who, to a one, reside in the city of Portland, Oregon.
They are all graduates of Portland State University. It's not a
school of the first rank, by any means, and it has been cut back
to the bone by Measures 5 and 8 (two pieces of voter initiative
which pave the way for a speedy descent into barbarism), but it
is one which, like Hunter College in New York, takes in a number
of older students who have, contra the usual mass of undergrads,
lives of their own, impetus to learn, and personalities which
have passed out of the vestigial stage. Such are my quondam
significant digit's old friends.

They share a common trait, however. Seduced into faith in the
redemptive power of the humanities by their undergraduate
experiences, they are now starving to death in the most
Dickensian ways possible. Surrounded at night in their bare
apartments by their volumes of Thomas Mann, Paul Tillich, and
Walter Kaufmann, they linger on in day jobs of surpassing
wretchedness, wistfully contemplating the unreachable conditions
of possibility for couches, TVs, bookshelves, beds. 
One of them actually writes on a Lisa scavenged from his old
department. Most are grateful for cheap, obsolescent typewriters.

On a global scale, of course, their travails are as nothing. Add
exploding shells and snipers to the picture to put such lives
into proportion. But they have one advantage over fleeing
Rwandans, starving Somalis, and mangled ex-Yugoslavians when it
comes to gaining my affection. They're like me, and perhaps like
you as well -- prepared assiduously for a world that never
existed. You can think of historical instances until your brain
bursts -- the nameless soldier in WW1, lurching into
Passchendaele with a copy of Holderlin in his backpack; Holderlin, for
that matter, unshaven, half-mad, staggering towards the French
chateau and kneeling in reverence before the tacky statuary
which, nonetheless, represented the Greek gods; Walter Benjamin,
thinking to himself, "Surely, this brilliant Habilitationsschrift,
composed entirely of quotations, will land me a job at Bern.";
Benjamin, for that matter, who had more Kultur at the age of
twenty than we will have in all our post-literate lives, who managed,
with a gleeful cowardice, to init all those wonderfully linked
brain cells with a little jar of morphine one day before he would
have escaped across the Spanish border from the advancing Nazis,
interred at Port Bou. (About which, one word of gloss:

The possibilities for incompatibility, ludicrous, staggering
incompatibility between people and the empirical world, are
limitless. It's not the ignominy or the so-called poverty that
gets you; it's the sheer maladaptation, gills gasping in air,
head bubbling in water, hand charring in fire. It's in slow
motion, and it will last them -- and me -- for the rest of our
respective lives.


Natura vacui horruit.
   - Lucretius, _De Rerum Natura_.
Hence, Fail To Suck. 

Thanks to all the t.b. regulars, who have done so even on the unappointed days.

Jonathan K. Cohen, Internet Projects, UCI Bookstore, Irvine, CA 92717
email:; book orders:; tel:(714)UCI-3164
UCI Bookstore World Wide Web site: