Midnight Shining Sun (Book/CD)
'Midnight Shining Sun' is the first prose publication by Aaron Berg. The auto-biographical travelogue of over 16,000 words ranges from mystical stream-of-consciousness to gritty nocturnal narratives and broad daylight urban drama. The book is divided into two acts. Act one is a broken, day by day account of a very early tour of the Southeastern United States in April of 2007. Act two depicts Berg's colorful daily life during the last winter he spent in New York City before departing in August 2007 for California's Pacific Coast and beyond.
The first three chapters of the text are included below. The book INCLUDES 14 TRACK CD of songs from Love & Coffee Tapes Volume 1 & 2, a series of soul-drenched folk bootlegs and moody demos by Aaron Berg. "His knack for language both behind the pen and the microphone communicate poignant insights and offer small snapshots of moments in time in a deceptively simple manner...a multimedia experience that’s one part literature, one part music, Aaron Berg offers something exclusively special to people, a tangible experiment that means something to get your hands on as opposed to a quick click of the computer mouse." - Myles Griffin
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[from 'midnight shining sun']
in kitchens in baltimore sometimes late in the night i think of all the women i’ve loved. the ones who left without a word, the ones who burned through me in an instant, and especially the ones i never had. in the living room collapsed on a threadbare rug is a bearded man in overalls snoring with his bare feet crossed. everything is still. baltimore is still. peering outward through an open window a street light blinks from red to green. eventually i notice a hooded man seated under a bus-stop light as if merely a fluorescent shadow frozen between scenes. the entire house smells of dust and rain. the darkened pavement shines like polished ebony between the curtains. the windowsill is almost bare from decades of hands opening and closing its baby blue skin. in the corner a gray cat stares across the floor in silent meditation.
i click on the oven fan. the ambient noise is a sympathetic companion to the nearly transparent cotton curtains swaying seductively against the watery breeze. humidity threatens to overtake gravity. i lean down to light a cigarette on the stovetop. the end catches slowly and then flares out in exhilarated surrender. i cannot stop thinking of you. i’ve gone through all the rest and still your spirit will not leave. maybe i will never know. i don’t need to really.
today in the sun the silver dashboard discs jangled beneath the rearview mirror. the traffic lights cascaded down the unlit slabs of concrete. no one spoke but the luminous periodic waves. today i feel still again as if i may not be moving at all. everything hums with a quiet resonance the way old memories do when they are visited often.
in the early twilight i bought coffee at mcdonald’s. outside rain pounded the pavement until whole arteries of water snaked over the curb onto parking lot ramps and fertilized lawns. the woman behind the register was subdued and greasy, her eyes heavy from countless hours of may i help you headset make change, her uniform the bloodless shell of some repeating image. a wireless intercom utility belt hung at her side. an instant later i am staring into a cluster of faces as my voice spirals and cracks from caffeine heat and dissonant breath. the woman at mcdonald’s still speaking into her microphone, her fingers pressing the hazy plastic buttons like flesh covered pistons in the saturated air. outside water fell in sheets over the quilted concrete rivers painted cryptically in white and yellow. everything becomes still. very still. not a singer but the singer. the eternal passing figure pausing to hear the crashing in the night, lost inside a fabricated sleepwalk where all the demons hammer at their cages and only the ignorant are the lucky ones.
something in you was different. something which words and logic cannot express. something disturbing and unknowable. something holy perhaps. i am traveling now again. traveling is temporary escaping. we are all escaping. desire is the heart’s sense of motion. i suspect this is why i think of you. every man’s journey is certain to be difficult and strange. his only wish is that the heart of a beautiful woman will lie at the center of it.
i pick up the guitar propped against an avocado green kitchen chair by the open window. with one foot on the chair i lean back against the counter and string a few chords together. my eyes are heavy from lack of sleep. gazing telepathically towards the window the yellow-eyed cat across the room twitches its tail like a rubber band pendulum. outside the hooded man beneath the bus stop light rises as i slip into a song i only partly remember. the hydraulic glass door clap of the departing bus below punctuates the gray cat’s swinging tail as well as my slow meandering harmony. the bearded man snoring on the carpet stirs briefly before falling back into a steady slumber. when i think of it now i am not even certain why it is that i want you so badly. perhaps tomorrow your spirit will leave and submit to my command only to return upon request. thoughts are ghosts of feelings. at least that’s how i feel. if we are living in a model what is it that we are supposed to build? a man and a woman can suffer in silence over each other for long periods of time over great distances with little or no contact all on the basis of some one simple twist of life. if that’s not proof of the supernatural i don’t know what could be.
through a doorway at the end of the room another man sleeps silently on top of a loosely made bed his face illuminated by a flickering television. the kitchen plunges into an unexpected darkness as he clicks off the bedside light and rolls over in his wrinkled khaki pants and snorts loudly before settling in to sleep. the electrically powered vacuum tube at his feet continues to circle deliriously through a muted onslaught of looped tape and talking heads. the lamp above the stove glows now like a beacon.
as my cigarette nears the end i take another drag and press it out in the freshly made darkness. returning to my fragmented song my fingers languidly rise and fall on the strings like drunken piano hammers. tomorrow i will be in a different town standing in a different kitchen peering out a different window staring at the same moon. this furniture and these walls will be gone but i will still think of you. i play the guitar softly for another few minutes more before letting my fingers stumble home. a few moments later stretched out on the couch beside the bearded man sleeping quietly on the floor i begin to remember.
[from 'midnight shining sun']
she left london under a starless sky dreaming of the visions that had vanished smiling a sort of hymn whenever she spoke. “addiction is the space between”, a friend told her, “awakening is when circumstance and memory collide.” she smirked and waited before letting her words float seductively across the lawn. “there are no circumstances.”
in new york city she carried her secrets closely. inside a woven suit of colorless thread she slipped covertly among the high-rises her fabric turned tightly around a spindel of sun-colored flesh. the pale blue oceans of her eyes made her seem like a weightless apparition spiraling upward in perilous flight. when you were close her breath receded and returned like the eternal shadow of some unseen tide rippling in and out between the garden and the fire escape. she was a child of the hills raised on a farm by hippies. her mother was a psychic. a real one. the first time i saw her cross a room i could feel within her the peculiar ping-pong echo old souls make when in search of kindred spirits.
hearts are suitcases for the rivers within. memories are rivers between. in the beginning the egyptians believed there was only the waters of chaos. the greeks prophesized that venus was born from the foam of the sea. we shared things sometimes quietly in the kitchen while eating the breakfast she had made. she stood magically over the stove her robe unfastened. the bacon strips spit in unison with her overturned fork. my hair is still wet as she pours orange juice into an argyle glass. downstairs dogs bask in the early sun as neighbors drift silently into the street. one morning was the last. sometimes its hard to say if its you that is moving or only your frame of reference. when there are two trains running but no trains going your way like drunken sailors shouting non-sense at the greenhorn on the dock. dusk is the dawn played backwards. they all grin.
i didn’t see her for a while. then one night i found myself climbing the fence into a gated courtyard across from an eastern orthodox church in greenpoint brooklyn. this is where we first began our orbit. event horizon. the moon’s magnetic gaze made a halo above the teardrop steeple. we knew even then that in time the gardener would return and evict us. companions now but not of the flesh i think of her sometimes and can only hope that where ever she is she still broadcasts on that soulful pirate frequency as if she were a house of pure white light shining at the edge of wide black sea.
[from 'midnight shining sun']
johnny’s van is a blue dodge ram 1500. through the vibrating expanse of dashboard i can hear the engine throbbing a steely baritone. the radio hisses like a ghost of the vanquished rain. baltimore unanimously reflective now. in the rearview mirror i see johnny round the corner from the street. the human brain reverses everything like a mirror. objects in a mirror are closer than they appear. he turns sideways in order to slip by two overstuffed dumpsters and a towering stack of empty pallets. the whole alley smells bittersweet like trash. he slings himself up into the driver’s seat and closes the door all in one motion.
“well boys, we’re outta here. where shall we dine?” we agree on a huddle house diner. the only place open at this hour. snaking our way through a tangle of red brick plazas and parking garages at right angles only the occasional fountain adorned with its own tiny plot of grass affords an oasis from the wasteland of bronze-faced icons and marble pillared banks their institution bones all destined for consumption by a savage mask of green oxygen death. up ahead the mirrored scallop of a suspension bridge unrolls itself like a strand of pearls.
“are you guys drunk or what?”
“what?” with the window down i can feel the water in the air.
the bearded man in overalls lying horizontally on the back seat sits up and leans forward. “do they have strawberry syrup at huddle house?”
“nah man, that’s waffle house.”
“i think so.”
johnny makes a heroic sweeping left across oncoming traffic. a youngish couple in a sports car object by blaring their uninterrupted horn at us. i look over as we curve past in a flash, their hands raised above their heads in exasperation as they shout noiselessly behind the windshield.
johnny looks over as he completes successfully another of his signature maneuvers. “oh...my...god! fuck-ing yuppie douche children.” he straightens the wheel out, ”you know i hate to disappoint boys but i believe strawberry syrup is only at the international house of pancakes.” the bearded man in the back seat pulls a pouch of tobacco out of the front pocket of his overalls and begins rolling a cigarette. “alright well, put something better on than this radio, will ya? my head hurts.”
we hit the bridge nearly empty. looking out across the river the vertical suspension cables whirring past my open window turn the ancient exodus of water into a flickering band of film. when you travel often gradually it becomes apparent that every city is more or less the same city. then after quite a bit more time that every city is the same city. it is hard then not to laugh at history when all the desperate measures of man are added together and still in his oblivious upward climb he fails to see he is both the cause and the effect that all the impending disasters he seeks to avoid are only self-inspired omens sent to remind him that heaven and hell are now and will forever be immediately within his reach. a twentieth-century pop singer once said, “war is over if you want it.” one thing for certain is nations and men have a great deal more in common than either party would be eager to admit and that doing one thing in the name of something else will always yield unpleasant results. and so it is that men must find themselves but can never be found. to separate the madness from the light is impossible. rather the change that is needed is to reach out and kiss the honey lips of death. remember and be here now. eternity is not a long time. it is constant as are we. there is a memory larger than this one where fragments become whole and points form curves.
as we approach the center of the bridge johnny looks out at the murky skyline, ”this river is where francis scott key wrote the star spangled banner while captured onboard a british ship. kind of makes you proud don’t it, boys?” his laugh is a mischievous giggle blended with a mild cough. after you knew johnny for a while you could tell he was pretty well read though he would never admit it. driving with the hood of his sweat shirt raised over his head from the side he looks like a hovering specter. “before that the river valley was a sacred campground for native fisherman and tribal leaders. who knows what those crazy bastards thought about it. about two centuries ago it was the mainline for the ohio baltimore railroad. one of the thickest arteries of train travel in north america. makes you wonder what the land knows that we don’t.” he laughs again.
a few weeks before i left to head south in johnny’s thunder blue automotive i went by train to boston to visit an aunt and attend a graduation at a school in the wealthy suburb of wellesley. earlier in the day we took a guided tour of boston harbor. the young guide recited his monologue through the static on the intercom, his voice rising at the most dramatic parts. “in the american revolution farmers and townsfolk hung lanterns from trees to signal by which means the british would attack.” his voices swells, “‘one if by land two if by sea’ was the call passed up and down the coast by word of mouth.”
the tour was given in an amphibious decommissioned world war two vehicle known as a ‘duck’ for short. the duck was basically an over-sized jeep with a canvas top that could float. many thousands of them landed on the beaches at normandy. towards the end of the tour we moved down towards the water to begin the boat portion of our amphibious journey. along the way the guide pointed out various landmarks. houses of senators, hotels former presidents stayed in, the old public gallows, a soon to be completed children’s museum, and a whole collection of taverns and bars where revolutionary folk heroes drank pints and gave impromptu speeches, their righteous hearts and clenched fists perfectly matched for the odds at hand. twisting through the cobblestone streets on the lowest portion of the battery we eventually came upon a series of boat ramps. the young guide briefed us on what to expect upon converting into boat form. as we slipped down the ramp into the water with a heavy thud he asked if anyone had questions. i wanted to ask him if he thought war was an event or an industry but i got distracted watching the children run up and down the aisle to take turns steering the duck around the harbor.
trying to determine which of the crooked stair steps of the conquered and the conquering you are standing on can be difficult. invasions come in an infinite number of directions. one piling up on top of the other. riding around in circles through boston harbor i thought of myself star-eyed and running with a soul made of wax burning all the while i sweat when i dream of snakes. i waited three hours in the snow for a girl i hardly knew. the human heart amazes me. people who understand the least are the ones who know the most. light and sound are a poor medium for divinity. this does not prevent angels from speaking in unseen spaces. the devil speaks sometimes but i don’t mind. from the blackest place comes the sweetest strand of hope. at least i hope so. sparks of light ripple when i begin again to sleep.
the bearded man in overalls in the back seat clicks a lighter cupping his hands over the flame. leaning forward between the seats he looks over at me in the front, “who the hell was that woman you were talking to?” after our show i got a kiss from a drunken middle-aged hippie woman. i read her a poem because she asked me to. i could smell the whiskey on her breath. up close her face was a painted mask.
“just some local i guess.”
“johnny how many people you think we had?”
“eight. maybe ten.” he looks over his shoulder while executing another of his signature maneuvers.
“looked more like five to me.”
“there was a pair of couples listening in the back booth. you kissed one of them, you didn’t notice?”
“i guess not.”
as we reached the end of the bridge a huge pitch black bird sitting on the metallic guard rail catapults into flight. for a moment i almost forgot how much i loved you until in the huddle house staring into my coffee i thought of you as the sugar melted into the dark.
[Excerpt from 'Midnight Shining Sun' by Aaron Berg ©2010]