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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


The Mysteries of His System

The Verses in His Life

A Love Story


by Barry Grant



Part Eleven



When you alter a single minor component, the system adapts at once.

--Don Delillo



"Cavafy," declared Audie. George Clinton sunglasses painted in polychrome pastels decorated the handset of the hotel room phone pinned against his ear lobe and lower lip. "We called to say thanks for the tickets and thanks for giving us Johnson’s reservations at the rock and roll hotel across from THE Show. The only rooms left anywhere were eleven dollars a night, which even in this town of cunning discounts is not enough to pay for a room.'

"My pleasure, Audie."

"We love this place. Managers and maids, maitre d’s and maitre da’s, every staff person, high and low, wears masks of pop stars, alive and dead."

"Every one of them?"

"Every one. . ." Audie turned to grin at Prudence as she caught a laugh in her throat. "No, not one of them. . . actually. Prue thought the man who brought up our bags looked like Buddy Holly and that got our minds going. Sorry to tease, Cavafy, but we liked the idea so much we had to try it on you."

"Joni Mitchell placing chocolate pieces on plump pillows bared for the night."

"Jimi Hendrix burning your tires ‘round the first tight left up the parking ramp."

"Lou Reed sneering at a cheap tip."

"Chef James Brown preaching ‘get on up’ to the boys at their burgers."

"Why are we talking like this?"

"Because life is short."


"Cavafy, here’s Prue."

"Dear Cavafy. Thank you for arranging the room and the tickets and everything and for being a sport. Cavafy, do you know A Show?"

"A Show? Sorry princess, I do not."

"We are looking for our friend, Mr. Bell. He’s the founder of the One World Free Vegetarianism Foundation."

"That’s to do with systems?"

"World Peace and Freedom. Audie and I are members. But then he sent us as a. . . What did you call it, Audie?"

"A word-salad broadside against multi-channel sound reproduction systems."

"Mr. Bell is in trouble, and we think he’s at A Show. Our only clue is an advertisement that says A Show is located at the same time and the same city as THE Show."

"What else can you do? Go THE Show and keep your ears open."

"Yes, that’s what we’ll do. Wish us luck. We’ll call when we get home. Love, dear Cavafy, and love to the rabbits, too."

"Good luck, and love always, my princess."

"Oh, Cavafy."

Prudence handed the phone to Audie.

"Keep listening, Cavafy."

"Keep listening, Audie."



Audie and Prudence lay in soft embrace on their The King-sized mattress watching palms in the courtyard sway in the coruscating neon of the casinos across the boulevard.

Ghost images of dead species, Palms held in sun’s embrace, Post-nature. ringed with heaven’s lights. Cage. City. Chance. Profits and notes. Oh perfect moment, perfect life! Thoughts = music. Audie always. Bliss. Bliss. Bliss. Brain waves =  frequencies. We find Mr. Bell. Final lie to silence. Where is Bell? Who am I now? Audie finds Prudence. his true system. What luck. Die Liebe weiss alles!

In thrall to beguiling lights and the true joining of their night thoughts, Audie and Prudence burrowed under the bedcovers, and into each other’s arms.



"Let me fasten your tag." Audie pinned THE Show pass for "Mr. Johnson’s Mate" just above Prudence’s heart. Prudence stepped back, cocked her head, spun on her left heel, and tossed her lilac cape and golden-russet hair into parallel orbits of swirling color.

Audie sighed.

Prudence pinned THE Show pass for "Mr. Johnson" on Audie’s tee shirt. "I think Cavafy is right. We have to keep our ears open," she said as she brushed her hand down Audie’s shirt to smooth the wrinkles and loose threads left by his several attempts to fasten the pass perfectly perpendicular to the zipper of his bomber jacket.

"And ask around."

 "Don’t forget your notebook."

"It’s in my pocket. Oh Prue, I hope I write something."

"Poems come to those who wait." Prudence rubbed the back of her hand across Audie’s lips.

"Systems come. Poems are hard work." Audie grasped Prudence’s hand and dragged his tongue down her long finger.

Prudence sighed.



"Ahh, Mr. Johnson, and, uh, Mrs. Johnson. Welcome to THE Show! We were hoping to see you here. You’re just in time to catch our first symposium, All for Oneness: Consumer Products and Spiritual Experience: Selling to the Soul." The plump, red-faced man sitting at the information booth at THE Show addressed Audie and Prudence with an eager smile.

"Is that really the name?" asked Prudence.

"With two subtitles?" asked Audie.

"We are professionals," replied the man, his smile gone.

"Of course," said Audie.

"Have you heard of A Show?" asked Prudence. "We are looking for a friend of ours who might be there."

"No," replied the man as a crimson flush spread from his neck to ears. He pushed a pulse of air through a pair of protuberant nostrils, lowered his head, and returned to studying the cover of the Hot Mods show issue. He rubbed his hand across the glossy picture of a naked blonde with AVVT 20 DHTs tattooed on each buttock. He said to himself, "If only I had those in my system."



"Mr. Bell is nearby, Audie," said Prudence. She sipped her John Lennon (pink gin, saki splash, rocks) through a twisty straw pierced through a plastic head of Lennon, Sergeant Pepper period.

Audie and Prudence reclined in parallel pool chairs, peering at a huge day-glo Elvis (rhinestone and flared collar period) painted on the bottom of a Stratocaster-shaped swimming pool. The crepuscular sky glowed in the smog-bent light of neon, xenon, and lasers thrown up by the insomniac city.

"I believe you," Audie replied. "Though after seeing every exhibit at THE show and explaining to every exhibitor in every exhibit that I am not the Mr. Johnson, famous hi-fi writer, and hearing so many waves in so many rooms going down before they go up, I wouldn’t believe you if I didn’t know that you know these things." Audie drew hard on his Lennon. He traced the turnings of his straw with his fingertip, grimacing as he locked eyeballs with a bust of Harrison (Bhagavan period) hanging on the glass. "You are not more yourself when you pretend to be someone else. You just have the burden of an additional personality," said Audie.




"Yes." Audie reached across the space between their chairs. He rubbed the ridges of the knuckles on his right hand across the dandelion spore-soft hair on Prudence’s left forearm.

"Read me your poem, dearest," Prudence cooed. She let loose a loud phhhhzzzzzzzzzttttttttttttt as she drew on a mixture of Lennon and air.

"Do you still believe that it is a poem, even though it’s made of sentences I head at THE Show?"

"Yes, you convinced me. Every sentence begins on a new line, so it’s a poem!"


"Read it to me again, dearest. I like it."

Audie opened his notebook with a picture of a famous painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on the cover and read his poem.


Just Like You to Be Looking

    I used to be an optical engineer.
    Until you saw the light?
    That’s clear.
    What would you like to hear?
    Anything that shows off your system.
    That means I have to play everything we have.
    I reviewed it for ___ , but of course no one read it.
    I haven’t seen anything that excites me very much.
    Just like you to be looking at an audio show.


"It’s cute," Prudence said. "People said those things, and it’s real. . . These Lennons are really good." She mixed another round from fixings a waiter had set on a table between the two chairs. The table was a sculpture of Bubbles in uniform, laying on his back with a gilded mirror clutched in his outstretched hands.

Audie dumped his THE Show tote bag onto his lap.

"Look at all these magazines, Prue. Hot Mods, Hertz Machines, Sound Consumption, Stereo Frolic, Hegemonic Hi-Fi ,Huge Hi-Fi! And dozens of reprints, brochures, and white papers. And the web sites! No wonder the poor reviewer complained that no one had read his review."

"An unread story is like an unmet kiss," Prudence said as she nibbled on a Greg Allman cracker. "The man who played cowboy music on his system was very sweet, so nice with a ponytail and big smile. And his boxes, like little lunch pails on display!"

Prudence sat up and shook Audie by his shoulder. "Cowboy music, Audie! The old West. Tumblin’ tumbleweeds! Long dawgies! Audie, you have to get a system that plays cowboy music."

Audie took another sip of his Lennon. "Texas Tophand will be the first recording we play."

"And the room with three sets of speakers, like a family dressed for church."

"And the Playboy cable supports! With those on one channel and Touchdown Jesus supports from that Christian tweak company on the other, you’d really have a balanced system! Ha!"

"And, how about the pretty hostess who put baskets of fruit at the base of those speakers with the speakers on top?"

"Drivers on top, Prue."

"Drivers. . . She said, ‘Doesn’t that sound better?’ And it did! It did sound better!"



"And, the nice young man with pot-bellied speakers, so friendly and eager about his products. Ooh, I wanted us to buy something from everyone."

"Even the man who grimaced when you asked if sea slugs inspired his cable design? Ha!"

"Yes, even him. He did his best, and he had lovely tropical fish."

"They were fake!"

"Audie, who can say where a real fish ends and a mechanical fish begins?"


A fresh breeze had driven the last of the smog down the valley. Audie and Prudence downed the warm remains of their Lennons, reclined their chairs, turned their heads toward the zenith, and lay in besotted bliss as neurons in their occipital lobes fired in harmony with vibrations from distant objects in the night sky.



Click here to read all the
The Mysteries of His System, The Verses in His Life, A Love Story
(Parts 1 to 10)
by Barry Grant