What I Think About When I Go to the Job

by Paul Ash, appearing w/Marissa Madrigal at Powell's on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne, Thursday January 29, 7:30 pm

Things referenced in Paul Ash's What I Think About When I Go to the Job: sleep, lack of sleep, various drugs, Chinese food, time, 9/11, Phil Busse and the Portland Mercury, the exciting potential of ebooks, George W. Bush as "self imposed Village Idiot," declaring at your own Bar Mitzvah that you don't believe in God, Charles Bukowski, the attributes of the various spaceships of Star Wars and Star Trek, more drugs, misleading statements from Trident and Listerine and the aforementioned Village Idiot, and the perception (or reality) of Paul Ash as an "absent minded disassociated borderline psychotic agoraphobic narcoleptic insomniac."

It's a mess.

But it's one hell of a mess, and one so clever, entertaining, and original that the intentionally meandering disarray of Ash's words quickly begins to work itself into something resembling a flowing stream of consciousness. While Ash's tone and subject matter jumps about like the needle on a Richter Scale, it's all about relativity--once you get used to Ash's methods, you start to trust him as simultaneous character, narrator, and author.

What I Think About is largely based off of performance monologues by Ash, and if there's one glaring flaw, it's that the book ultimately feels lacking in the characteristic way of rote transcription. But the performance elements that are so clearly missing are a small price to pay for what does translate to the page (namely, the dependable constant of Ash's dark, witty narration).

At one point, Ash lays out a formula he came up with: Ss+So=Si, with "Ss" being the smell that we smell at any moment, "So" being the smell of whatever it is we're actually smelling, and "Si" being the smell of the inside of our nose. Ash asserts that the formula describes "the pull we all seem to have toward making what we're experiencing into what we assume is reality, minus whatever subjective element we're applying at any given moment; which we are mostly willingly unaware of." That's a mouthful, but it sums up what What I Think About does so well: limn a sinister, gleeful, and all too brief examination of one man's perceptions of his (and our) experiences. Yeah, it's a mess--and one definitely worth reveling in. ERIK HENRIKSEN