THE LABYRINTH OF CEMENTIA.
(C) by Paul A. L. Hall.
HARDLY A DRUDGERY.
Many indeed are the fine -- and sometimes even splendid --
contributions to mankind, if not to civilization itself, that are
all too quickly, in their infancy, stricken down. With what
Shakespeare referred to as "the pale cast of thought", or, more
often than not, second thoughts, great enterprises are brought
down as well as many great contributions which could have been,
and we see such potential breakthroughs no more, even, in fact,
if we -- or anyone, for that matter -- even so much as once saw
their glimmer as one might get away and see the sparkling of the
wind-borne sand glittering in the sunshine mystically as it
hovers above the black beaches of New Zealand.
I've been there as well as to the beaches of scores of
coasts on this cherished blue planet. The contrasts speak
blatantly. You've got to be there to hear it -- to be anywhere
where the speech whispers of things beyond the disease of doubts
and second thoughts of humankind. The human being, after all,
consists of the same dust as the universe and the finest
contributions arguably echo what the human being receives from
the reality of the universe. Such realities bring humankind to
the potential of leaving behind stilted ways and methods to
portray a greater role on the stage of life.
It's the old axiom: you've got to play by the rules. The
imitation cannot snuff out the real thing without serious
repercussions. Worst of all, eventually the imitations and the
un-real either fades away or dies abruptly, also taking everyone
with it who went along for the ride. But each perpetrator each
time thinks he or she can get away with it. The unfortunate
thing is that reality itself is the first victim because the
proponents of fabrications are relentlessly trying to snuff it
out and the best of humankind with it.
And when the sparkle of the best of humankind is so quickly
snuffed out, it affects the whole. Some, maybe most, would argue
that what's gone is gone and that life goes on. How wrong. The
death and absence of any positive contribution diminishes us all,
and the lingering void of the absence continues as a detriment
whether anyone notices it or not. You might choose to disagree.
So what? You can find out the hard way, that's up to you.
You're entitled to your opinion, but that doesn't change reality.
Yet even in the realms of nature the absence can be felt and
missed. It's an abhorrent sensation. It's a grief shared by all
the realms of dust, perhaps even to the uttermost reaches of the
nether galaxies to where perhaps quite disparate zones of altered
physics have elements which might function quite differently to
However, here, my account must needs be of a more local
color and scope, for few indeed would ever dare to entertain any
reality beyond the immediate. In fact, most often the opposite
is true where no reality at all is thought of by the masses
except contrived ones in which there is that ultimate horror of
the absence of anything real and of the universe.
If anywhere on the face of the Earth as well as in the
lexicon of history the sensation of such a ghastly absence on
such a scale is felt, it is in the collective lands of Cementia,
the almost exclusive environs of the being that labels itself
"man the wise".
What wisdom they may own in Cementia is most often
self-defeating. For it is a cryptic world of bland mystery.
Where is it's culture -- it's momentous achievement -- it's
monumental break-throughs into realms of beauty and philosophy
that will truly enrich that unknown quantity that permeates the
creature's very essence of it's being, sometimes referred to as
Certain types of feel-good people who value their own false
sense of security more than a good long stare into the face of
what's really there, might point out a few concessions to culture
made here or there. It may be evident to some limited degree
trying to emerge unobtrusively by some few brave souls struggling
against incredible odds.
It may even be evident, to some minimal degree, as
economically viable and seem to be flourishing, but only in the
form of the "top ten" of it's day or those gone before. But there
is the ulterior motive of certain patrons where it is used for a
ruse or cover-up to attain ulterior ends.
But step out of the clubhouse and where are you? A place --
Cementia itself -- where wealth destroys the pioneer -- the land
of house arrest where to be without a house is to be untouchable
consigned to the horror of namelessness. Yes, Cementia itself --
where you stick with the winner until crisis unravels all and a
loaf of bread is bought with a basket of faded paper magic.
It is enshrouded in secret. And for you young who do not yet
know, I may point out it's collective hush, prompted by fear. No
one dare object, but rather all is crusted over with the consent
breathed by silence itself. It is a pallid silence, in the
realms of concrete where only at best, the rudest of facades may
succeed. Where all the rest is buried in a cryptic profusion of
These are the cowards of conscience, where resolution is
suppressed and enterprise rendered victim to thoughts of fear,
their momentum undone and their action unlaced as the boot from a
corpse. What else will they do? There are no pioneers to follow
at least not any they choose to recognize.
Yet there is a glimmer of hope. For now and then there are a
few frontier-sharp-shooters armed only with what for a loss of
words could perhaps be best described as cultural phenomenon by
the scientist who indeed names the baby today amongst the crowds
of adoring well-wishers awaiting the band-wagons along the
vulnerable streets of the attritted environments.
There is the commando; the ground-pounder of culture still
out there in the crowd, though these trend-buckers be all too few
indeed. Among these few is the street performer. He or she
walks, however briefly, on the stage of life in the footsteps
those troupes once known as troubadours or minstrels, who,
throughout the recent centuries past, whilest the monstrous
sections of the global Cementia were yet in their embryonic
stages, let nothing stop them and, for want of the occasional
courts of nobility or kings to perform before, sang and acted in
In Cementia they're called buskers. The word came from the
theatres of London of this century and the latter, who, to
publicize their indoor shows, would perform segments of them in
the streets and either referred to it as "busking", or were
labeled by others as "buskers".
Anyhow, the name stuck, as so many do because perhaps it's
critics helped it to do so. That was, what seems to us, so long
ago, before human tampering with market and market-places and
before controlled monetary systems and before plastic money and
cheap petroleum power and computers -- before sky-scrapers and
indoor garages and horseless carriages and yet other sorts of
But the streets have changed since then. For below them in
many directions, if not in every direction, there stretches the
subway line: given many different names by the nations from
which these labyrinths emerge, such as the Metropolitan Line, The
Underground line, the Subterranean Way, and so on.
It is there, into the Great Downstairs, that some of the
more desperate of that radical troupe venture. Into the
Labyrinth of Cementia. And it is there where anyone liable to
spend any more time than necessary, begins to confront dozens and
dozens of double-takes. Of dejavu's-'s. Of what-if's and
could-very-well-be's -- of ah-ha's and of oh-no's. Yes, at
least a dozen -- at least twelve each day.
Just so, there are equally twelve questions one must ask
one's self if one is to sing in the labyrinth at any given time.
It must be first of all realized that today is today regardless
of what one would like to think. It isn't any number of
yesterdays, neither is it any one of however many tomorrows there
might be in the impoverished environs of the great downstairs.
It's just today or forget it. It won't work.
But for as many times as today is Today, those twelve
questions vary. Nevertheless the answers are always as
fascinating as they are deep for they are never so much as for
mastery as they are to teach. For even there, beyond the rumble
and distraction, the gravitons of the extreme reaches of the
galaxy still penetrate with their whispers of eternity.
With each today comes a slew of questions -- each of them
almost rhetorical but not quite. They don't give their answers
away, you know. Otherwise so many would not have given up. They
would not have so easily betrayed their place among the stars had
the multitudes of commuters taken enough time to ponder. -- Or
at the very least, to even partially defeat their own fears.
But that's the catch. The slightest pause is terrifying to
the victims of time. For today's dozen questions menace them
all. For those dozen threaten to reverberate within the forests
and hedgerows of each individual's thought reproducing
exponentially into a vast reservoir of lessons to be reinforced
by the lessons of the next today e're they fade out into erased
memories far too difficult to recall in this muddled world where
recollection is exhausted by the viscous colloids of confusion.
The same sort of themes run through them, but then, much if
not most of the nature of the interrogative is unknown. To be
inquisitive, to wonder, to ponder and more yet -- all just some
of the small parts that make up that vast whole of this power of
humankind and other species known or unknown to question and to
inquire. To some it is a sign of weakness, to some it is
pointless or insane, some believe this largely untapped ability
to be a quality or even a virtue. Yet the awful truth is still
there, regardless of what is thought by billions: most of what's
out there is unknown and certainly not understood.
Of the themes of the dozen or so daily questions, some come
under a "why" heading and others are "what if" while some are "if
only" -- but the most curious is "what's that?" -- all these and
more. It's hard to write about them, for the verbal powers of
people these days have disintegrated badly. Also, there's a bit
of a problem with the fact that people think they're "advanced".
Oh, no. At the best, we're still very much all too primitive.
So language was still very primitive even at it's best.
You can't beat experience. But I must describe somewhat, so
let me try. Some answers are free, but for most, you have to
ask. One of the themes is: "Why can't I figure out what's going
on, here?" Another: "Why can't I get through these barriers?"
But the most important ones hover around the question,
"What's that?" Those who begin to ask that gender of question
are getting answers. They are beginning to develop the greatest
power going -- the power of the interrogative. And they are
learning something more. You have to do it the way it's set up
to run in the universe, even if others are not and that's why you
don't get quick-fix results and why others who try will
ultimately fail. So, one runs into the need for patience.
Still, it's hardly a drudgery. For those lessons are made of
bizarre and fascinating stuff. The kind of stuff that makes a
person sit quietly pondering the last slew of them for hours,
delaying his or her departure into the dawn. Full well this is
noted here, for some never depart or ever they can, for the
pondering of the lessons of hundreds if not thousands of todays
in the labyrinth.
And what of them, the ponderers? Travelers or commuters from
the surface may see them sitting there on a piece of cardboard or
perhaps a plastic crate, seemingly in a blank gaze, staring at
some wall or peering into the distance. Of course those of the
surface will never know. Those who remain are oft peering into
dimensions no one else could have ever conceived of. For
dimensions themselves are not always perceived by those too busy
to discover them. There are many more than four or five.
But then, alas, no true lesson can stand on it's own for
very long without being forgotten by all learners in this world.
They are but fragile and brief and fleeting things; an all too
brief marriage between the surroundings and the mind. We try to
capture them in books, but, well -- who can capture an idea? The
mind itself will not permit it.
No, these delicate strands must be woven together with
others or they will soon melt away with the approaching dusk.
And it is almost always a chance discovery, except perhaps among
the very wise, that those delicate strands must be spun together
with many others in order to have even the remotest semblance of
-- let alone the reality of -- any endurance of such lessons to
remain in the mind at all.
Those who have discovered that mental shuttle-beam, that
weaver's tool of the memory, and who sport the robust fabric of
the lessons well-learned, are fewer still. For even chance
discoveries fade away if they are not pursued.
If all that weren't enough, there is a further complication.
In Cementia, often the questions are even less noticeable than
the faintest of hints. And though I may not be as apt at
describing all this as one would like, still and all, I suppose
it's better than nothing. Therefore, considering the difficulties
involved in ever perceiving any more than what the mind tries to
portray as the norm in the vast regions of the labyrinth, I will
nevertheless at least attempt to amplify some of these things for
you here in this work.
They often appear as incidents or experiences or some sort of
extraordinary ingredient in a seemingly everyday occurrence. One
must consider them before weighing their significance, for that
which seems to be an everyday occurrence may very well not be.
It may even be a sort of warning that would shatter a false sense
of security that the psyche would be loath to surrender yet must
to be truly as safe as possible.
The way these things emerge from the norm can be deceptive,
causing the mind to normally ignore them. Attention! For one's
own psyche is by far more often more deceptive than those very
appearances it would prefer to ignore.
One example being the day after New Years Eve of nineteen
ninety-one, when I surfaced from the labyrinth briefly from
busking on one end of the shuttle. It was a quiet new-year's
day. The upstairs is a different world.
Upstairs you can get a feeling of the future. There are
several. The one that could be, provided several million
micro-futures don't mess it up too bad, the one that probably
will be because several million micro futures do mess it up --
plus of course, the hundreds if not thousands of others that will
mess it up by their absence because of some untimely end -- and
there are other futures or varieties or combinations thereof. I
don't have time to get into that now. Anyhow as anyone from the
lab can tell you, if you can get them to say anything, which can
be quite a chore -- upstairs, the sense of future is a sense of
No one talks about it. What's the use? It's too
unbelievable and most would just -- well, just blow it off. It's
the same. The same as not telling them, or even talking about
it. Even though I try now and then as I am here. I handed this
text to someone who read it and liked it, but thought I was
writing fiction. It's non-fiction.
Most just don't say a thing. Some guys scream it out
finally and what happens? They just get more and more
frustrated and finally incoherent. In a sense they're trying to
warn the passers-by -- or maybe rebuke them in an effort to get
them to snap out of it or something.
They know what they're talking about, and a few others
maybe, but that's all. One guy in the Labyrinth of the Cementia
of Paris summed it all up with his never-ending scream: "Mamma!
Mamma!" You could hear him and his woeful cry echo down the
tunnels of the Mayorie D'Ivry line. The one I used to call the
"Ivory Tower". Who can deal with it? It comes to a point when
even the psychologist must -- even if the person were loath to do
so -- admit to the futility of being human, of "say no more, ask
I mean, there are just too many things going on in the
microcosms of Cementia for the human mind to handle, many of
which are mere fabrications anyway. Can you blame the commuter
for just wanting to get home? I don't, even though I know a
little bit more now of the incredible dangers he or she is in the
midst of. A vole facing the owls of a Nordic winter has more
awareness than the victims, potential or already done-in, of the
silent softened feather-wings of time.
No. Most, all too human, dash to their synthetic homes
while back in the Labyrinth, the ponderers just sit there
quietly and ponder the immensity of the unseen. Most of it is
out there, the rest of it is, of course, imagined. "Not my cup
of tea" you say? Oh yes it is. Whoever you are. And your cup,
as it were, is getting fuller and fuller by the moment.
Sooner or later, you too will face it. Taken in small
doses, it's both an elixir and a purgative, but put it off and
it's lethal. To all intents and purposes, it's invisible.
Imperceptibility does not diminish the reality of the hidden.
Most of it is real, some of it is imaginary. Just what is mere
imagination is the problem.
For out there above the population explosion, hiding behind
the concealment of time, lurk the actual predators of man -- and
whether they are entities or mere thoughts past the creases of
the brow, they are as unperceivable as the whisper of a Nordic
owl's wings in the dark winter air.
you're too scared to look, you'll never be able to observe. The
next factor is, never be too busy to take a hint. And quite
often in Cementia, a hint is all you get. But then, oblivion is a
very intoxicating thing. Some tell me so is cyanide in small
doses. With oblivion, the dose is never controlled.
If you get drunk on oblivion, you won't know what hit you.
And neither will anyone else. Here in the very text of this
book I can at least be permitted the liberty of attempting to
warn my own species of the vicious cycle of futility. If one can
sense futility, one should pay attention and heed the warnings
and escape it. Of course the critics will emerge. Everyone
wants some sort of every-day life that isn't brought to an abrupt
But only the plunderers and their trolls would try to
criticize me if I even so much as expressed the least bit of a
sense of futility upon surfacing amidst the high decibel ratings
of the tar-and-recycled-glass floors of the concrete canyons of
Looking for a toilet in Cementia on New Year's day is like
many other perplexities on the top. The library on 42nd street
is closed on New Years. They take a holiday just like everyone
else. Only it may be on such holidays that everyone else has a
chance to visit the library.
As I walked along, there on the street beside the broken
bottles and the litter of the previous night's revelings, was a
torn square of newspaper that had been used as a makeshift
bandage for a bad cut. And there on the paper beside the blots
of blood, and written in all-caps and bold type -- two words:
"SOBER UP". The words were printed on the newsprint before the
fact. There you are.
Is it a hint? Is it just happenstance or are there no
accidents? When taken seriously, even at the risk of being a bit
too extreme, it warns of the intoxication of oblivion,
punctuated in human blood. Of course, you could just blow it off
as an accident.
I took it as a warning -- choosing to walk a bit more
circumspectly, as it were. Sometimes it pays to just perk up and
pay attention. Some say that if one looks for trouble it will
come one's way. I say that if you keep your eye open for a way
out of trouble it will come your way instead of the trouble and
hopefully before you run into that trouble.
Once again, I reiterate, it is courage rather than cowardice
that dares to see. Trouble almost always visits the oblivious
first. Especially man-made trouble. You might think it paranoid,
but there's nothing sick about honest vigilance. The disease is
not in looking wisely, the disease is in not seeing what is right
there in front of you.
So continuing on, being vigilant as best I could, I also
observed a connecting warning a bit later when I surfaced in
front of the museum of Natural History. There, on a billboard on
the picture of some movie actor, I could notice a small triangle
in one of his eyes.
I walked up to take a closer look at it. Someone had stuck
it there. You get a lot of those in the Labyrinth. The
sign-makers. It's like a game of tag between the renegade
sign-makers and the law as to just who gets away with writing
Some people are into information. But sign-making is more
like the art of reminding. Everyone who can read is reminded,
whether they want to be or not, about available stuff whether
they need it or not. No one bothers to take notes for future
reference. The adds are there for that, like it or not. One
person told me it was as if the walls not only spoke to you but
it was also as if they reached out and grabbed you and screamed
at you. And it is even there amongst those legal reminders one
also gets a sense of futility.
But the other sign-makers such as the graffiti artists are a
different breed. Much of it is the handwriting on the wall of
pre-set codes or ancient anagrams saying something only their own
minority can perceive. Some are advertisements of contraband.
Some are like remora, using available advertising to make their
statement without detracting from the host's message.
This guy was a sticker person, but with a novel approach.
The tiny sticker spoke so softly that only the proximate or the
curious would get the message. It was the opposite of the
blatant "sober up" message of Times Square, the one that was
all-caps bold and spattered with blood. Of course, that message
was not sent through any agency. It spoke loudly enough. This
sticker message was the silent type, nevertheless it spoke with a
loud enough impact gleaming there in the eye of that actor. There
in lower-case letters read the caption: "science = death". It was
a gleam in the movie star's eye, the real death from not science,
but from the fantasy it was all too often used to create. They
couldn't have all this unless countless numbers were induced
to contribute their labor and their lives. Partakers of oblivion.
As I said before, it pays to perk up, because none of these
hints or lessons stand alone. Each one weaves together with the
other strands -- the other shreds of evidence -- a hint here, a
clue there, a trace of what's left behind. The finger-prints of
the invisible. Twelve questions of today. Hardly a drudgery.
But then, quite often, a hint is all you get.
The account for the third of January, 1991
I entered the Labyrinth this morning on fifty-first street.
"Good" I thought as I approached the token booth. "No one in
line." There are two sorts when it comes to situations like a
token booth: people who need pockets and people who don't need
The ones who don't need any really keep pockets somewhere
else. Big "pockets" like an office or a home. For the rest of
us, those kind of luxuries ended when they discontinued
coin-operated private lockers in public places.
You can tell who's who. One of the ways is by the bulges in
the clothing denoting pockets. These bulges are really file
cabinets of references on matchbook covers, partially used
napkins, and assorted memorabilia of little value except maybe to
the owner, and some bits of pocket change.
Often the bulges come from years of bits of information the
bearer hasn't had time yet to figure out whether or not he or she
should keep or throw away (or even, if the decision has been
reached to throw it away, where to throw it away, for that
matter). They're too busy. Yes, of course, they may be pretty
occupied with just staying alive and things like that, but
They're too busy pondering the twelve questions. Some of
them with pockets even get to the point of no return, as it were.
The pockets bulge and overflow into bags. Sometimes it starts as
a plastic shopping bag or a colorful back-pack -- the type of
pack intended to give the splash of color to a hiker or climber
or maybe even that unusual breed of bargain-basement vacationer,
But the colorful pack soon becomes encrusted with the
telltale umbers and blackened grime of age which Cementia gives
to anything, buildings or clothing -- and the shopping bags
multiply, and sometimes the vehicles emerge. By that I mean
nothing big, but rather perhaps a shopping cart or baby carriage
or perhaps a bicycle with a small trailer.
In the Cementia of Sydney, each day as I sang beside the
huge cement tree-pots in front of the crown on the wall of the
O.T.C. building on Pitt Street, I would witness such a case. His
head was steadily -- perpetually -- in a deep bowed position. It
was as if he were hanging his head in sorrow and never -- not
once -- looking up. Some old digger in a red antique
crash-helmet, pushing his red pram.
Some call them bag-people. But it could be anyone. Anyone
who begins to take notice and tries to take notes. Whose pockets
bulge to the point of no return. In the labyrinth of Cementia.
Hey! Here I am trying to write it down! Yes, my pockets,
too, might bulge from time to time. But then, I've learned the
trick. I can keep my notes elsewhere. For 25 dollars a book,
they'll keep them in the Library of Congress.
Anyway, most keep their pockets in trim -- maybe during a
coffee break or something. And sometimes, quite often actually,
those coffee breaks last a couple of hours. Even so, when you
don't have an office or a lock-up file, or, on the other side of
a commute, a garage or attic or something back home with
relatives or whomever, then all you've got, in most cases, is the
old pocket and pouch. And those do tend to bulge more and more
if you don't stay on top of it.
The point is, that when you get to a place like the token
booth, and there is a line, especially a line behind you, the bad
vibes begin to fly when you fumble through your pocket for the
change to buy a token. You see, the speedy people associate time
with survival. They panic when they get delayed in the slightest
But I wonder. You know, it just might also be that they're
scared stiff when they are forced to pause anywhere along the lab
without some kind of distraction. They may fear the stillness
least they should even so much as begin to reflect at any time
upon the twelve questions of today -- especially when in The
That was good: no line today at this time at this booth.
I propped my guitar case against the wall and began to
fumble for change once I got my keys out of the way. There was
that two-dollar coin I still had from singing on the Hornsby
bridge in Australia. What else? Mostly dimes. Good there wasn't
a line of speedy people back of me. Anything smaller than
quarters takes too long for them.
I got the token and crossed the barriers. There. I was,
once again, in. It was the number six subway line. I started walking
down the platform. Presently, I came to the connection signs for
the E and the F trains. Great. That meant TUNNELS. As I walked
down the steps, I came to a brightly lit corridor recently done
in tiles. There were a couple of leaks in the ceiling. The
tile-work was rather peculiar. It was a solid wall, but at
regular intervals, the tile radically changed in color.
They were put up in such a way as to suggest to the
passers-by that gaping holes had been blasted in the walls
revealing an unusual scene behind those walls. Where the gaps
were, the tile was laid in such a way as to suggest a thickness
of wall of about two or perhaps three inches or so. Then the
colored tiles arranged in these jagged frames -- all just a flat
wall, mind you -- suggested a seascape.
It was as if, through holes blasted in this implied sea-side
wall, one could peek out at a virtual ocean scene. Each jagged
frame consisted of bottom tiles of swirling blue-green and the
top ones a simple bluish-gray suggesting a cloudy sky above a
horizon at sea.
I continued on past this point, this particular chamber in
the vast Labyrinth of The Great Downstairs, and subsequently came
to some steps.
"Perfect." I thought. "A stream of people from three
But just as I got to the top, there was a homeless man
selling the daily news. He was yelling "PAPER" like clockwork,
just about every five seconds. You see, they do that for a
variety of reasons. Plus it helps take away the pain.
Not an Ideal place to sing. I had been in that situation
before. Paper-screamers. I went through that at the famous
"Entrance to Nowhere" at the corner of the Town Hall stop in
downtown Sydney. There was the perfect spot just above a long
and quiet escalator leading to a corner of a part of a city block
with no buildings on it. The huge department store where I once
was able to buy the cheapest audio cassettes in town had been
That in itself is a bizarre feeling -- to have been browsing
in the top-floor audio section of a department store that was no
more. No wonder the man in the red helmet bowed his head. It's
not like the mountains or the sea. So much of his world was no
more. But then, that's not the only reason why someone wears a
red helmet. My mother couldn't understand my dismay when she
gave me one just like it last year for my birthday!
The Entrance to Nowhere had a plywood enclosure over it
painted gray, which went from the escalator entrance right round
to the street on all sides, looking much like some sort of
impromptu band shell. And there, off to the side, was some
ex-third-world new Australian newspaper-shouter shouting his
clockwork-style chant. What it was I've forgotten but it would
regularly burst in upon some phrase of my song as if to protest
my very being there. He figured he had a right to be there but I
No. Not ideal at all. Too bad. This wasn't going to be
easy. That would have been a good spot. The flow of people, the
"good population-adjusted frequency", was from three ways: from
the right, from the left and from the large cementine staircase.
Well, alright. He's got to make a living.
I walked to the left (to the right if you were coming up the
stairs). There, the Labyrinth emptied into one of the
skyscrapers. It was private property. In the realm of Cementia,
private property assassinates all cultural phenomena.
It's a realm that must needs gravitate toward the hermetic.
The more sterile the environ the more the merchants can profit
from mediocrity and imitation -- the two elements most prevalent
in Cementia merchandise. Were it otherwise, the people would be
more aware of the intrinsic values and would be less inclined to
buy what they didn't need. Yes, Cementia fears inspiration.
And that was private property, like the brass lines beneath
elevated corners of certain buildings which protrude above ground
level on the streets upstairs, where pamphleteers try to escape
the rain. One cannot. It's private property. The sterility is
maintained at all costs.
Would I try it? No. Not there. I could try it, but most
probably, all too soon, someone, one of the property watchdogs,
would be sure to remind me of that -- that it was private
property -- and move me on somewhere in the middle of my third
song, often treating me as from the lowest caste in this very
The results of all of this isn't very impressive. None of
the citizens of Cementia is really very safe at any time. I
suppose they value the illusion of security more. Anyway, the
guardians of illusion are not far away from attacking cultural
things that are not carefully controlled by their own order.
Their tenacity is like the prairie dog weeding out unwanted
herbs. They could keep their worlds of pretend. I was in no
mood to play move-along. The day before had been bad enough, and
this day would have to be different. This was today.
So I returned to "The Cavern of Illusions" where the
blue-green and blue-gray tiles glistened in their bizarre jagged
settings. After briefly pausing to study this chamber, I placed
my open guitar-case in an angular manner and I leaned against one
of the walls and began to sing, accompanying myself with the
twelve-string I had taken with me around the world.
The people flowed past as an ambulant river. The chamber was
rectangular, but the entrances were at opposite corners, so this
"human river" flowed diagonally through the rectangular Chamber
of Illusions with it's maritime horizons beyond the punctured
tile walls which were not punctured at all. Each "puncture"
looked like a window -- except one. That one, more mysterious
yet, was an actual door around which the oceanic-looking tiles
and the accompanying sky tiles stretched the entire length of the
Here, one of the twelve questions of today came into focus.
Where does a river of feet walk? The river walks between the
walls of "The Illusive Sea". La Mere Des Illusions -- La Mere
terrible. Cementia itself is a virtual sea of people each of
which does that which that person believes he or she has to do.
A place where the instincts of man are shattered rendering
it's victims captive to the unreal; a place with an escalator to
nowhere; the rabbit-hole of the speeding hare which leads to a
deadly wonderland from which Alice might never awake.
I sang there for an hour. Very few coins bounced into the
case in the Cavern of Illusions that morning. Passers-by walked
through each in a daze. It was as if most of them never noticed
me. At least most pretended that I wasn't there. I had become
the man who wasn't there.
Perhaps the problem was that I was no illusion. There was no
imitation to catch their eye. Even my guitar, once referred to
as a Japanese imitation of a Martin, had by then become far too
unique, I suppose, what with it's holes kicked in by drunks and
controllers ten years earlier in the Paris Metro and the R.E.R.
It's wash-board effect on the wood next to the strings from the
impact of the plectrum -- the pick -- and from playing in the
steamy climate of Fiji -- could perhaps no longer qualify it as
In an imitation world originality doesn't exist, except,
perhaps destructive things. Concerning that cleverness abounds.
But then, such is the nature of the Labyrinth of Cementia that
very few escape it's desolation to ever become a living part of
the actual universe. And this is a characteristic which is most
upsetting. For it is there, gleaming in the eyes of one's fellow
human beings on some mad dash to anywhere, that one can perceive
the worst portents of that deadly intoxicant, oblivion.
The ambulant river of souls moved past as if I never
existed. It was like a tributary of Styx itself. It is a sea of
humanity upon which still sail the rotting ships of the empires
of old and from which sea rise the coral reefs of cement and
Next to me was a spot where the ceiling was leaking as if a
stalactite was trying to emerge from above. Regularly in
deafening crescendos, the sound of steel wheels on steel tracks
reverberated from everywhere and then would die away in the
distance. At the other end of the chamber, two men were trying
to repair an elevator. The other way up! That chamber of
illusions was a chamber of four doors: the door to the steel
wheels, the door to the sky scrapers, the door to the street and
the door to nowhere.
One door was to the distance, one door to the immediate, one
door to the height and one door to the darkness. I found myself
between them and this sea of living persons as if I were a
spokesman between two walls on a gray beach at dawn who seemed
destined to be of no effect and to be ignored. Fine.
I decided to move on. I had sung for an hour and it was
getting cold. I packed-up the twelve-string. Time to continue
the quest. I went back up the cementine stairs past the
"NEWSPAPER" shouter at the top and this time went to the other
left -- which is the right facing the stairs.
Just some Downstairs talk. In other words, I went the other
direction from the passage I had taken earlier. Now I know why
sailors use the compass. East is East and West is West,
regardless of whether you are in the North or the South.
This was The Cavern of Glass. It was of incredible size. It
would have been a good place to sing. There beside the towering
multiple doors glass doors at the end was a subway exit and also
an escalator entrance going deeper into the Labyrinth. Another
ideal place for singing, but for another homeless
newspaper-shouter beside the escalator.
OK. That was it for a while. I needed a break. It was
time for some coffee and another visit to the hard-to-find
bathrooms of Cementia. I took the middle exit between the
multiple doors of glass and the two-way escalator whose
mechanical steps churned away like some kind of industrial
conveyor-belt for people, some factory belt moving the material
above to the places below or vice-versa, which I could see as I
walked by and peered down, led to the lower reaches of the Great
Downstairs and faded in the distance out of view.
Here is something of value to Cementia. In fact, it's the
greatest commodity. The greatest ingredient in this industrial
process -- this factory mass production of mediocrity -- is the
semi-educated citizen. They must have enough education to buy,
but not enough to find their way out. To many, in fact, to most,
there is no way out.
I took the subway exit. There at the exit were some doors
and a couple of turnstiles. One of the turnstiles didn't work.
A homeless girl was standing there raising some spare change. I
walked up to her while I was still inside, before I used those
there-goes-your-dollar doors to leave the Labyrinth, and, putting
that eventful move off for a second, gave her a quarter. I
consider it union dues. I used to give to the Metro Gypsies in
Paris when they were asking. Same reason.
I was not really so surprised to find she was quite a lady.
She thanked me and then turned to greet one of the commuters on
his way into the Labyrinth.
"Sir" she said, "this turnstile doesn't work. You'll have to
use the door." The person, upon discovering her to be quite
correct, having used the token already, then proceeded to use the
door after thanking her politely.
I met her on the other side and we started to talk for a
little while. Then she reached down into a large cardboard box
and gave me a bag of potato chips. I said that she should hang
on to them but she insisted.
"Besides", she said, with the air of an accomplished
businesswoman, "they're mine".
I put the potato chips in my side bag and thanked her. After
traveling a little farther, I came to an immense chamber under
another one of the Cementia sky scrapers. This was a sort of
eating place with scores of empty chairs everywhere. I assumed
they would be filled by what the citizens call "lunch-time", but
now was the time they call "rush hour". I don't blame them.
I approached someone who obviously worked there and asked him
said, "This way." And walked straight to a
huge mirror wall. It was immense. He produced a key and
proceeded to unlock a part of the mirror which actually turned
out to be a door. It was my first trip through a mirror. I've
heard of Alice through the looking-glass, but this was the
bathroom beyond the looking-glass.
And it was a small bathroom at that. There were already
three in there. "Standing room only." I muttered. It was
curious going through the mirror like that, but I was out of
there just as quickly as I could, the guitar case making it even
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I got a cup of coffee out in the eating room on the other
side of the mirrors. Then I opened the bag of potato chips. I
didn't realize how hungry I was. As soon as I was finished, the
daily dozen question began to come to mind. I snapped out of it
and headed back down the rabbit hole. I had to get back to work.
When I got back to the turnstiles, the girl was still there.
A very disgruntled commuter was walking past her trying very hard
to pretend she didn't exist.
"Sir!" She said, "Sir! -- Sir!" The man walked right past
her, put his token in the turnstile and, tried to quickly walk
through. When the wooden arms didn't turn, he almost did a flip
as he doubled over them. She walked up behind him as he was
trying to recover his balance.
"Sir!" She said once again, "This one doesn't work. I was
trying to tell you. But don't worry. You can use the door over
there because you lost your token." He glared at her as he
walked over to the door and went through.
There was another homeless person standing beside me as I
watched. He, too, was selling the Daily News. "Why don't you
sing here?" He asked. "Lots of people
come through here."
That was a switch. Here was someone selling papers who
actually wanted to share the spot with me. It was kind of him,
but I politely declined. This was much too busy a spot for me.
When you're busking, one thing you've got to get the basics on is
the science of demography. Proxemics is another one. Population
placement and circulation is critical, as well as how small a
place is. You'd be surprised what goes into finding a good
I walked up to the one turnstile that was still working. The
girl greeted me again with some encouraging words. Then she asked
me the obvious.
"You goin' back down?" Then she brought her hand up to her
head and I could hear the jingle of bracelets on her wrist. She
reached -- so it seemed -- behind her ear and produced a token.
She gave it to me and told me not to worry, that she had plenty
more. "Besides," she said, "You doin' a good thing and this town
is so glum, it needs cheering up!"
I smiled and thanked her and was on my way back down into the
Labyrinth of Cementia. But I was all the more encouraged by that
cheerful person who had nothing but a carton full of potato chip
packets and a token behind the ear. I've heard of the widow's
mite but this time it was a token and some potato chips. Same
What do broken turnstiles produce? Alternatives and the
need to use them. There will come a day when the "turnstile"
will be broken. Someone will be there to help you only if you
can see them. But if you keep your eyes on obsessions you will
see no one.
What can be on the other side of your reflection? A crowd.
Sometimes what you need may be hidden by your view of yourself or
It never hurts to ask; you may be talking to the person
who has the key.
I went to the same escalator I had passed on the way out. It
seemed endless -- more so than when I had first looked. I have
been on long escalators before in The Cementia of London, and
there are some dillies in the Labyrinth of the Parisian Cementia,
but this was more like the old chutes of the Labyrinth of the
salt mines of Salzburg, the ones you needed leather pads for,
because and as you slid down, for two hundred and fifty feet or
more, they would get hot.
A multitude of people were rising out of the abyss on the
opposite escalator coming up. "This place is entirely too
crowded." I said, affording
myself the luxury of trying to address the crowd. "We're going
to all have to go back to the farm -- under pain of law."
Someone on the other side snickered faintly in agreement.
Amazing. The escalator did have a bottom after all. I waited
there for the E train, hoping to explore the 42nd street tunnel.
But then I changed my mind and decided to search the caverns of
Lexington a bit more.
Another day in the labyrinth -- and it had just begun.