I spent two weeks with a famous person and all I got was severe depression and a penchant for cocaine


Herman Melville and I started talking online almost a year ago.

I sent Herman Melville an email with the subject line “I love you” with a screenshot of him as my desktop picture attached. Herman Melville replied “I love you too. Sent from my iPhone.”

I was in high school then, and our burgeoning interactions were the highlight of the gossip in most of my classes. My friends had read many of his and his roommate’s articles, as well as seen their documentaries. They were incredibly invested in the interactions between Herman Melville and myself. Things evolved from our first, minimal interactions with frequent texting and phone calls. We even video chatted once. I went to college in Portland but had friends on the east coast. I made plans to spend New Year’s with my friends in New York City, where Herman Melville lived. Because of how much we had interacted I felt comfortable asking Herman Melville if I could stay with him for a week. He said yes.

I spent the first five days at a friend’s apartment just south of Herman Melville’s. Herman Melville was spending Christmas with his family in another state. When he got back to the city he gave me the defining “come over” text I had been waiting months for.

I took the G train to Herman Melville’s apartment. I had to lug a large black suitcase through 20-degree weather, multiple metal turnstiles, and frequent catcalls. I reached Herman Melville’s apartment and he buzzed me up. Once I reached the fourth floor I called him and then texted him I was “already lost” and “how do I work this thing.” He didn’t respond but several seconds later popped his head out the door and we both said “hi.”

I entered Herman Melville’s apartment, set my things down and sat on one of the two couches. I looked at him and smiled. I had seen the apartment in pictures and it felt “unreal” sitting on his couch, in his apartment, looking at his face. I felt excited and afraid. We made small talk. It was difficult. He ordered us pizzas and we spent the night watching episodes of Intervention projected on a wall. We stayed on our respective couches, drinking vodka. I learned several days later that he disliked drinking alcohol and felt almost flattered that he endured several teacups of vodka. He only had three cups in his house, two of which were mugs belonging to his near-constantly absent roommate. The night I met him was the night I first tried cocaine. I didn’t like cocaine but for the remainder of my trip I couldn’t stop asking for it. I developed what could be described as a “penchant” for it.

In addition to vodka Herman Melville and I took a capsule of 1-ethynyl-1-cyclohexanol, a vaguely effective analog of alcohol. Herman Melville told me that a Supreme Court Justice or maybe a mayor had been addicted to it. This was the first “zany drug” that Herman Melville and I took together. The second was Ambien, later, as the night neared morning. Somehow we both ended up in his bedroom, a small cave constructed of plywood. It felt cozy. I volunteered to sleep on one of the couches, “testing the waters.” He said I didn’t need to. We both got ready for bed. By the time I returned I was feeling the effects of the Ambien, heavily.

I got under the rust-colored paisley duvet and put my face close to his. I felt afraid, mostly because I had never been that close to him. If I had thought about it too much I would start to panic. Herman Melville’s face seemed too big. “Are all faces this big,” I thought. The Ambien made me think he was a robot and that his face was bleeding. His eyes, nose, and mouth had become separate entities that I struggled to put together while he kissed me. We had sex that I later described to my friend as “nightmarish”, but that, in the moment wasn’t unremarkable or bad.

What ended up being two weeks with Herman Melville has become a blur to me, even though I’m writing this only a week after. We had a routine of waking up anywhere from one to three in the afternoon, getting breakfast, usually at some place “just around the corner,” a phrase Herman Melville used to describe any restaurant, bodega, or market within five-to-six blocks. He called me pet names. I have never gotten used to pet names. “My sweet,” “my little corgi,” and “my Philip Seymour Hoffman.” This was before Philip Seymour Hoffman died. Herman Melville told me one morning that I looked like Philip Seymour Hoffman and for multiple days I told him “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” but one night while brushing my teeth, drunk, I realized he was right. He told me I looked like a combination of all his past girlfriends. We had sex almost every morning, once or twice during the day, twice at night.

The first morning we woke up together, Herman Melville traced his fingers on my skin, telling me he liked that I didn’t have any tattoos. We watched the music video for Ke$ha’s song “Timber (ft. Pitbull)” repeatedly in bed. Herman Melville is eight years older than me. The entire time I stayed with him Herman Melville didn’t change his outfit once. Years from now it wouldn’t surprise me to find out he had become a hoarder. He frequently ordered personal pizzas and neglected to throw out the boxes. They lay stacked in a pile near the door. It was fun and terrifying to learn so many details about Herman Melville. He let me in and allowed me to learn.

Herman Melville didn’t drink coffee or smoke cigarettes. I made frequent trips to the roof of his apartment or walked around the block to do either or both when I felt “static” and would leave when we had disagreements. On New Years Eve there was a poetry reading involving several of my friends that Herman Melville had agreed to accompany me to. As it got nearer the time of the reading it seemed his workload had increased to the point that he wouldn’t join me. I felt upset and said mean things to him in a loud voice then silently grabbed my coat and left. It was snowing outside. I stomped toward the J train. As I was waiting for the signal to change at an intersection I heard a Taylor Swift song Herman Melville and I had listened to together just before the argument playing from inside a bodega. At the same time Herman Melville texted me saying he had finished working and could meet me on the platform of the J train if I hadn’t already boarded. I felt elated. I told him to come as fast as he could. The station for the J train was open air. I stood in near-blizzard weather, anticipating Herman Melville in his navy peacoat moving through the turnstile onto the subway platform.

We missed the first train and realized we would be very late for the poetry reading. My normal reaction to this situation would be to feel anxious, but instead I sat side by side with Herman Melville on the J train, feeling content. When we reached the reading we learned that none of the readers had arrived on time.

We had another disagreement my last night there. The details are fuzzy to me now, but I remember walking in the rain to go to a diner. At the diner I refused to eat anything and cried in front of the waitress for what was probably a trivial reason. At Herman Melville’s apartment I apologized repeatedly for acting like a child while simultaneously eating the leftovers of the breakfast burrito he had ordered. It was about four in the morning. That night he shaved his face and lay next to me in bed. I had fallen asleep but Herman Melville woke me climbing over my body sprawled on the mattress. He pressed his cold, bony body against mine. His shaven face seemed alien and unnerving, reminiscent of the first night, when we had Ambien sex. I ignored this feeling and we spooned until we fell asleep.

The next morning I woke before Herman Melville, walked to a nearby bodega and bought us both kombucha, then prepared for my flight. It was difficult to wake him. My car had arrived and I was ready to leave. I leaned over and kissed him. He touched my cheek and said something sweet I’ve now forgotten. I left the kombucha on his nightstand and walked out of the apartment.

Two weeks can feel like an eternity sometimes.

Hannah Van Arsdale

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How to Treat Social Media like a Video Game for Maximum Fun

You are drunk and also on amphetamines while walking through Times Square. You overhear people talking in groups as you wander. You do not know any of the people around you, but, being chemically uninhibited and amped up, you decide to walk into the nearest groups of people and join in their conversations, impulsively responding to whatever they say by shouting whatever first comes to your mind inappropriately loudly. Given what chemicals are currently flowing through your bloodstream, most of the things you say end up being wildly inappropriate non-sequiturs that don’t have the benefit of “context” or “dignity” or “coherence”—you are running from one group of naive tourists to another, shouting about boners, and leaving a trail of bewildered bystanders in your wake. Incapable of feeling your face, and perceiving yourself as a cartoon character displaced from television and somehow placed among the three-dimensional living, you scamper wildly around, and though nobody who sees you will likely have an immediately positive opinion of you, they will never forget you (barring Alzheimer’s or obliviousness to your presence due to paying more attention to the gigantic billboards and flashing lights).

This is how I treat social media. I do not care about optimizing my brand, but optimizing my fun. I treat Facebook and Twitter as video games. They are extremely unpredictable open-ended text adventures where I am less likely to get eaten by a grue in the dark and more likely to have sex with attractive strangers. Old-school videogames had the very clear motivating factor of getting a higher score, and thus of getting your name (or representative three letters) as high as possible on the leaderboard. Facebook and Twitter are the same thing. Post relentlessly without regard to how unseemly you may appear. Tweet with abandon. Comment recklessly. Look at your Facebook news feed and consider every new status a creative writing prompt.

Every single person on Twitter who you know in real life will unfollow you immediately, and probably begin to worry about your mental health. This is a good thing.

Accept every friend request unless it is clearly from a bot. Friend every single person who likes one of your comments on a stranger’s status. Go to the “people you may know” page and send friend requests to everybody on it. As more people accept, the contents of this page will change, and you will thus trick Facebook into thinking you know more people than you actually do.

Whenever you receive a notification that somebody has accepted your friend request, immediately post on their wall. Do not think about what you are going to type before you begin typing. Just click on their comment field, start hitting buttons on your keyboard, and, when finished hitting buttons, hit “share” or whatever the fuck they call it these days.

Check to see who has birthdays every day, and post nonsensical gobbledygook on their wall to wish them happy birthday like “hpadyabrithdy” or “asdhpfoihasdfBUTTZ” and see if they are still friends with you the next day.

I don’t, however, recommend bringing actual Facebook video games into your omnidirectional harassment. While comical madness in text is tolerable, and those who don’t like it can pretty easily ignore you, sending people invites to play Facebook games with you is a level of harassment that seems somehow too much. Similarly, don’t make strange, indulgent events (A  DAY OF BUTTS—CLICK ATTEND IF YOU HAVE A BUTT) and invite everyone you’re friends with. These things lack the personal touch of dadaistic harassment through text, and will seem like you’re just half-assing it, putting in less effort to annoy more people.

If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually find someone else on Facebook who is just as into nonsensical dada flarf crap as you are. I’ve found this in the form of Steve Roggenbuck, Buddhist vegan poet who’s just really into a good flarf tweet, if you know what I mean. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find people who find the interactions between the two of you to be entertaining. A great stunt to pull in this situation that you can’t manage any other way is to have a conversation with your partner in crime entirely through posts on somebody else’s wall. Tag each other in the posts and converse through successive wallposts, completely ignoring the comment threads that may appear on these posts.

Finally, hail Satan.

Poncho Peligroso is the 2011 Poet Laureate of the Internet for life. He is a writer/director/actor/yoyoer/poet/ghost/bee/egg who rides atop a stallion made of ethereal flame.

From The Tangential archives: February 2011

Ten Opening Paragraphs for a Review of Jordan Castro’s New Books


“Readers who have been craving a comprehensive examination of the inner lives of pooping poets will not want to miss Jordan Castro’s new books Young Americans and if i really wanted to feel happy i’d feel happy already.”

“Jordan Castro is one of the the Buckeye State’s most promising young poets, but unfortunately it seems unlikely that this year’s Ohioana Poetry Award will go to feeling so retarded/ staring out a window/ at a nice-looking tree/ navigating the internet/ beneath warm blankets/ fall in ohio.”

“In creative writing, there’s a thin line between striving for simplicity and feigning intellectual disability.”

“When the literary historians of the 21st century are tracing the emergence of what might come to be known as the ‘ironic macho’ movement, they’ll surely cite Jordan Castro, the author of such lines of poetry as what are the long-term effects of touching my moustache so frequently and thought ‘i look too good to be doing this shit’ while laying in fetal position on bedroom floor and crying.”

“I recently passed on a story submitted to my site Unreality House, telling the author that ‘This makes me curious about this character, but it feels like a minor episode taken from a larger story—it doesn’t really do much on its own.’ After reading Jordan Castro’s story ‘The Last, And,’ it occurred to me that perhaps I’d been dismissing an entire genre.”

“This morning I read a short story by Nancy Hale that explored the inner world of an American youth circa 1934. She had never imagined such violent sensations as beat at her; inside she was like the summer itself—sultry and fiery, and racked by instantaneous thunderstorms. This afternoon, I read the poem ‘Young Americans’ by Jordan Castro. I feel incredibly high/ after ingesting adderall, marijuana, vicoprofen, and alcohol/ and linking a recent publication on my twitter feed.”

“Whether or not he succeeds, Jordan Castro has made a bold stab at lifting the mantle of coffee-as-personal-brand from the shoulders of Agent Cooper.”

“When you read a lot of alt lit, you might find yourself wondering why you’re reading this flat, unemotional narrative instead of more traditional, colorful literature. Then you hit a passage that’s somehow snuck in from that world—like, say, nighttime is my mirror/ and i don’t know how to face it—and you remember why you needed a break from trad lit.”

“When I Instagrammed a photo of my iPad featuring a page from Jordan Castro’s book Young Americans and then, while I read the book, the author liked my photo and then sent me an e-mail saying ‘Thank you for posting re Instagram,’ I felt as though I’d been baptized in the Church of Alt Lit.”

“Jordan Castro’s if i really wanted to feel happy i’d feel happy already is the first book-length work I’ve ever read to feature exclusively ironic exclamation points.”

Jay Gabler