🎧 Verbal Portrait No. 3 (Audio)

  
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n.b. Welcome to all those new individuals that have tuned into White Noise since last week. If you’re reading this, but have yet to subscribe, join hundreds of fellow thoughtful, inquisitive folks by subscribing below.

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n.n.b. For all you grizzled veterans, you seasoned, longtime readers of White Noise, I come bearing good news: my work is being published! A piece of mine will appear in VOL. 2 of Okay Not To Be.

Okay Not To Be is a zine that features poetry, prose, and visual art from artists all around the world expressing their experiences with depression and anxiety. If you would like a physical copy of this visually-striking compendium (preview here), it can be purchased on Etsy.


Above: A portrait of the artist recording this piece for the 45th time.


They say that the third time is the charm. That we shall see, dear reader.

If you have been with White Noise from the beginning, you will know that I enjoy dabbling in experimental formats, media, and schema. A perennial favorite of mine and of yours (per Substack analytics) is the Verbal Portrait:

From vivid descriptions of my most minute observations, I attempted to create a coherent verbal “image.” Like the pointillistic brushstrokes of Seurat, my words would obfuscate if read individually, but render clarity when taken as a whole. Hence, the idea of verbal portraiture was born.

A Verbal Portrait is a specific, hyper-detailed description of the reality an individual sees in front of him/her.


⬆️ I invite you to scroll back up, close your eyes, and visualize the portrait the spoken words paint for you. ⬆️


Verbal Portrait of a Seafaring Skipper

He was the last of a dying breed, a rough and tumble sort of fellow. A barnacle firmly affixed to the brisk vessel of time, the rapid passing of years determined to pry him off the world’s shining hull. He was of yesteryear, his confidence and competence eroded by the dual ferocity of time and the sea.

His tried and tested vessel easily cut through the undulating rollers. Her bow slid silently, cautiously through unfamiliar waters as a lighthouse’s beam scans the inky darkness. Her sails stood proud, stiff, tall, billowing: the exact opposite of their skipper.

His knotted beard was a blend of brownish-yellow tobacco stains and crumbs, detritus, debris from meals scarfed down long ago. He often exhaled breaths reeking of seaweed and brine. These notes clung to him as stale drink clings to the drunkard, as sawdust does to the carpenter. 

Years at sea had leathered his face and callused his hands. His sun-spotted skin teemed with different hues, melanin coaxed out by the sun’s light. 

That same timeless sun now gently glinted off his smudged, salt-stained glasses. He resembled the fragile spectacles: some worse for the wear, barely held together by a cobbled patchwork of things. Over the years, he had mimicked the water’s rising and falling, seeking his own level.

With each sunrise came rebirth and opportunity. The water resplendent with the sun's dancing rays, the ocean a fluid prism that colored his world. Nevertheless, all euphoria is followed by depression. What goes up…Down. Much like the waves of the sea, of life.

His soundtrack was the haunting clang of the harbor’s buoy and the nerve-shredding keys of seagulls. Darting and diving every which way, the stormy petrels scrounged for the skipper’s refuse: a discarded bit of fish or crumb of stale bread. Salivating and squawking with sharp beaks, their incessant caws rang out as cacophony of hunger and desperation. With gulls as his interlocutors, he didn’t speak as much as grunt. Years alone at sea had slowly eroded what words and phrases once came from his mouth. The solitude of his craft had stolen his gift of gab. 

He sported a cummerbund of blubber; his paunch straining against the rubberized material of his shock yellow slicker. Stiff with age, it more contained his many rolls of flab than kept him dry. Like his world, its color had taken on a tired, blanched look. Ancient binoculars hung loosely, heavily from his neck. These were his yoke. Heavy, but necessary.

On land, he was a derelict. 

At sea, a decrepit deity.

A broken man and his trusted ship.

From a distance, it was impossible to say which was which. 

One mere speck upon God’s deluged, inundated plains. 

Of the sea and so too in it.


The Best of the Rest

After a rather gloomy, heavy year (and verbal portrait, to boot!), below I share some levity from the wackiness that is (unfortunately, an increasingly small part of) the World Wide Web. Like the below, I hope the last days of 2020 and the first of 2021 are merry and bright!

🍦A DIY Puppuccino

🔩 Planned Obsolescence-as-a-Service

💥 Tank you for your service

💉 The Taming of the Flu (Read as: Coronavirus)

🤔 A Philosophical Pastry Problem


Per my about pageWhite Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.

If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email.

With sincere gratitude,

Tom