Limitless
Limitless

Limitless

I was having: I smoked too much and had a sore chest. I had a host of companion symptoms as well, niggly physical things that showed up occasionally, weird aches, possible lumps, rashes, symptoms of a condition maybe, or a network of conditions. (Location 117)

I had registered something almost as soon as I left the bar. It was the merest shift in perception, barely a flicker, but as I walked along the five blocks to Avenue A it gathered in intensity, and I became acutely focused on everything around me – on minute changes in the light, on the traffic crawling by to my left, on people coming at me from the other direction and then flitting past. I noticed their clothes, heard snatches of their conversations, caught glimpses of their faces. I was picking up on everything, but not in any heightened, druggy way. Rather it all seemed quite natural, and after a while – after only maybe two or three blocks – I began to feel as if I’d been running, working out, pushing myself to some ecstatic physical limit. (Location 332)

I alphabetized them. (Location 367)

In one go, in one uninterrupted burst. (Location 367)

I became acutely aware of myself sitting at the table, talking, and for those fleeting moments, as I went on hacking a path through the knotty thickets of syntax and Latinate vocabulary, I had no real sense of what I was saying, no real idea if I was being coherent. Nevertheless, it all seemed to go down quite well (Location 1166)

They were all sitting around a glass table doing lines of coke – but still, I was the one out-talking them. (Location 1180)

I spent the day criss-crossing the city, mostly on foot, looking at stuff I’d never really paid that much attention to before, like those mammoth apartment buildings on Central Park West, with their roof-towers and Gothic cornices. I wandered down to Times Square, over to Gramercy Park and Murray Hill. I went back in the direction of Chelsea and then down to the Financial District and Battery Park. I did the Staten Island Ferry, standing out on the deck to let the fresh, invigorating wind cut right through me. I caught a subway back uptown, and went to museums and galleries, places I hadn’t been to in years. I went to a recital of chamber music at Lincoln Center, ate brunch at Julian’s, read the New York Times in Central Park and caught two Preston Sturges movies in a revival theatre in the West Village. Later on, I hooked up with a few people back in Zola’s and got home to bed, finally, some time in the early hours of Monday morning. (Location 1188)

I lost weight. I also lost track, so I don’t know over what period of time I lost the weight exactly, but it must have been about eight or ten days. My face thinned out a little, and I felt lighter, and trimmer. It’s not that I wasn’t eating, I was – but I was eating mostly salads and fruit. I cut out cheese and bread and meat and potato-chips and chocolate. I didn’t drink any beer or sodas, but I did drink lots of water. I was active. I got my hair cut. And bought new clothes. Because it was as much as I could bear to go on living in my apartment on Tenth Street, with its musty smells and creaky floorboards, but I certainly didn’t have to put up with a wardrobe that made me feel like an extension of the apartment. So I took out two thousand dollars from the envelope in the closet and wandered over to SoHo. I checked out a few stores, and then took a cab up to Fifth Avenue in the Fifties. In the space of about an hour, I bought a charcoal wool suit, a plain cotton shirt and an Armani silk tie. Then I got a pair of tan leather shoes at A. Testoni. I also got some casual stuff at Barney’s. It was more money than I’d ever spent on clothes in my entire life, but it was worth it, because having new, expensive things to wear made me feel relaxed and confident – and also, it has to be said, like someone else. In fact, to get the measure of myself in the new suit – the way you might test-drive a car – I took to the streets a couple of times, and walked up and down Madison Avenue, or around the financial district, weaving briskly in and out through the crowds. (Location 1202)

I spent money on other things, as well, sometimes going into expensive shops and seeking out pretty, elegantly dressed sales assistants, and buying things, randomly – a Mont Blanc fountain pen, a Pulsar watch – just to have that infantile and vaguely narcotic-erotic sensation of being wrapped in a veil of perfume and personal attention – Would sir like to try this one? With men I would be more aggressive, getting into detailed questions and information-swapping, such as the time I bought a boxed-set of Beethoven’s nine symphonies recorded live on original instruments, and locked the assistant into a debate about the contemporary relevance of eighteenth-century performing practice. (Location 1215)

Tags: blue

My behaviour with waiters and barmen, too, was uncharacteristic. When I went out to places like Soleil and La Pigna and Ruggles – which I’d started doing fairly regularly now – I was an awkward customer … there’s no other word for it. I’d spend an unconscionable amount of time poring over the wine list, for example, or I’d order stuff that wasn’t on the menu, or I’d invent some complicated new cocktail, on the spot, and expect the barman to mix it for me. Later, I’d go to sets at Sweet Basil and the Village Vanguard and start chatting with people at adjoining tables, and while my extensive knowledge of jazz usually ensured that I came out ahead in any conversation, it would also sometimes get people’s backs up. It’s not that I was being obnoxious, exactly, I wasn’t, but I engaged with everyone, and in a very focused way, on whatever level, about whatever subject,… (Location 1220)

Meeting and impressing a total stranger, assuming a new identity, even a new name, was exciting and uncomplicated, but when I met up with someone like Dean, for instance, I always got these looks – these quizzical, probing looks. I could see, too, that he was struggling with it, wanted to challenge me, call me a poseur, a clown, an arrogant fuck, while simultaneously wanting to prolong our time together and spin it out for all it was worth. (Location 1307)

I wasn’t idle for a second. I read new biographies of Stalin, Henry James and Irving Thalberg. I learnt Japanese from a series of books and cassette tapes. I played chess online, and did endless cryptic puzzles. I phoned in to a local radio station one day to take part in a quiz, and won a year’s supply of hair products. I spent hours on the Internet and learned how to do various things – without, of course, actually having to do any of them. I learned how to arrange flowers, for example, cook risotto, keep bees, dismantle a car engine. One thing I did want to do for real, though, and had always wanted to do was learn how to read music. I found a website that explained the whole process in detail, rapidly deconstructing for me the mysteries of treble and bass clefs, chords, signatures and so on. I went out and bought a stack of sheet music, basic stuff, a few well-known songs, as well as more challenging stuff, a couple of concertos and a symphony (Mahler’s Second). (Location 1327)

The next step from this was to see if I could play music, so I headed off to Canal Street and bought myself a relatively inexpensive electric keyboard and then set it up beside the computer. I followed an online course and started practising scales and elementary exercises, but this wasn’t at all easy and I very nearly gave up. After a few days, however, something seemed to click and I started being able to pick out a few decent tunes. Within a week, I was playing Duke Ellington and Bill Evans numbers, and soon after that I was actually doing my own improvisations. For a while, I envisaged club dates, European tours, rain showers of record-executive business cards, but it didn’t take me long to realize something crucial: I was good, but I wasn’t that good. I could play ‘Stardust’ and ‘It Never Entered My Mind’, passably, and would probably be able to play both books of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ if I worked at it non-stop for the next 500 hours – but the question was, did I really want to spend the next five hundred hours practising the piano? For that matter, I suppose, just what did I want to do? * It was around this time, therefore, that I started feeling restless. I came to realize that if I was going to go on taking MDT, I would need some kind of focus and structure in my life, and that flitting from one interest to another wasn’t going to be enough. I needed a plan, a credible course of action – I needed to be working. (Location 1339)

So what else could I do? I sketched out possible projects. One idea was to withdraw Turning On from Kerr & Dexter and develop it into a full-length study – expand the text and cut back on the illustrations. Another idea was to do a screenplay based on the life of Aldous Huxley, focusing on his days in LA. I considered doing a book on the economic and social history of some commodity, cigars maybe, or opium, or saffron, or chocolate, or silk, something that could be tied in, later on, to a lavishly produced TV documentary series. I thought about putting out a magazine, or starting a translation agency, or setting up a film production company, or devising a new Internet-based service … or – I don’t know – inventing and patenting an electronic gadget that would become indispensable, achieve world-wide brand-recognition in six months to a year and establish my place in the great twentieth-century pantheon of eponyms – Kodak, Ford, Hoover, Bayer … Spinola. But the drawback with all of these ideas was that they were either too unoriginal or too quixotic. They’d each take a lot of time and capital to set up, and there was no guarantee in the end – regardless of how fucking smart I was – that any of them would work, or have enough appeal to be marketable. (Location 1356)

The guy’s name was Bob Holland and he lived on East Thirty-third and Second. He greeted me in boxer shorts, led me down a hallway into his living-room and asked if I wanted a hit of espresso. The room was dominated by a long, mahogany table that had three computer terminals on it and a Gaggia espresso machine. There was an exercise bike between the far end of the table and the wall. Bob Holland was about forty-five, lean and wiry, and had thinning grey hair. He stood in front of one of the terminals, staring at the screen. (Location 1386)

I began to feel somewhat aggrieved, too, as though impatient that I hadn’t already made lots of money from day-trading – aggrieved and in desperate visceral need of things … another new suit, a couple of new suits, and shoes, several pairs of them, as well as new shirts and ties, and maybe other new stuff, a better hi-fi system, a DVD player, a laptop, proper air-conditioning, and just more rooms, more corridor space, higher ceilings. I had the nagging sense that unless I was moving forward, moving up, unless I was transmuting, transmogrifying, morphing into something else, I was probably going to, I don’t know, explode … (Location 1486)