on Dave Awl

by Diana Slickman

Dave Awl doesn't look at things the right way. There is something cockeyed about the guy, his take on things, his assessment of the world around him.Not level. Not plumb. Certainly not straight.

Take, for instance, the plastic animals. Where you and I see, say, a plastic raccoon -- obviously, willfully plastic, with seams from the mold in which it was cast running up either side of it -- Dave sees a grammarian with whom he may discuss Strunk & White and the state of the world. It's not just pre-fab fauna, either. Stones speak to him. Mechanical toys. I can't tell you how many inanimate objects Dave has relationships with.

It gets worse. There's a store you pass all the time, every day. A retail outlet for something you don't need, a store you'll probably never enter, a place you pass on your way to somewhere else. It's got a name but you've never noticed what the name is. It's part of the landscape but not part of your world. You don't see it. But Dave sees it. He's never been in there either. He doesn't need what they sell any more than you do, but Dave sees it. Something deep within Dave recognizes this place as a center of mystery or menace or supernatural power. National Bag and Wig, it's called. National Bag and Wig! A locus of wonder! And he's not the least bit ashamed to tell you about it.

Dave has this particular giggle. High-pitched, fluid, melodic, like a giggle should be, but when Dave starts giggling you know he's about to let loose with something deeply perverse. A song he's written about potatoes with brains made of cheese. A short play in which an actor must hum tunelessly while inscribing circles on the floor with their nose. Some story about a lizard telling people that he's not a balloon. Sometimes you'll catch Dave smiling to himself, with a vague, distracted air about him. Don't ask what he's thinking about. Not unless you want to hear him giggle like a madman and tell you that the isosceles triangle is an agricultural menace.

I don't think he does it on purpose. I think he came that way, with this scrambled circuitry. He sees things differently. Not the way you and I do. And if you're around him long enough, goddamned if it doesn't start to make some kind of sense. Like you're the one who's been seeing things wrong your whole life. He'll get you looking at the world his way. Not level. Not plumb. Not at all straight. But - for all that - true.

Continue to Kurt Heintz's observations on Dave Awl.