Robot Holocaust / by Akira Ohiso


LIZARD BRIE in Krylon below the roof line. Taggers hang over the edge and write upside down. This building waits for demo along with Bento Sushi and Goofy’s, a Packer bar that might be finishing out its lease so the developers can begin.

I stand across the street at the bus stop and envision a boxy apartment building, the light rail running down the middle of 15th Ave. NW, the designated upzone away from the swanky Craftsmans in Phinney Ridge and Queen Anne. Ellie texts, “Did you feel the earthquake last night?”

I felt a subtle sway, but thought it was the rumble of a bus or truck. The epicenter of the 4.8 quake was about 40 miles outside of Seattle. Talk returns to “the big one.”

In Seattle, “the big one” is this looming existential threat that we have no control over. There are ways to be prepared, but we can never be prepared for the apocalyptic scenarios that the media often projects. Maybe we gravitate to end-of-the-world scenarios because America as we know is suspect; our historic narrative, the freedoms we profess, the “land of opportunity” sound byte. The patriarchal racist systems that our country was founded on are being challenged by the wisdom of time.

To those that have held and hold most of the power in this country, the threat of shared power is creating dictatorial impulses. Equity to the privileged feels like oppression.

I walk with Ellie and Cy to Starbucks. Cy saw a YouTuber talking about a tie dye frap and wanted to try one. Market Street is busy as people in scant summer attire walk to the Seafood Festival. In the distance is the hazy clamor of food trucks and people.

Bars and cafes spill out onto the sidewalks. Dude squads take up space and talk loud. Families walk in slow moving caravans; strollers, dogs, balloons, ice cream management, blocking bottle-neck walkways, men akimbo, women contrapposto multitasking.

I notice more people of color. If only this was everyday. I notice the diversity and non-binary boundaries of young people. The world moves forward whether America does or not.

I purchase a collection of Basho’s haikus. In the forward, author John White discusses synaesthesia, a perceptual process where one cognitive or perceptual pathways leads to involuntary activity in another cognitive pathway. He says, “It comes in many forms; each sound may actually be seen, not merely thought of, as a color, every color has a smell, each fragrance has a sound, the call of a distant deer be seen as being only one inch high.”

It has been hypothesized that Basho and some of contemporaries experienced synaesthesia because their haikus moved poetically through different cognitive realms. Perhaps, the connections were uncomfortable for Western ideals; oriental, exotic. It must then be abnormal. White states that their Buddhist beliefs, centered around unity and oneness, may have allowed for this liberation from normative cognitive connections.

I channel surf and wipe out when I come to a movie called Robot Holocaust. It’s juxtaposition with today is synthaesthetic.

shut for a while
behind the falls, I will start
the summer retreat
— Basho
Seafood Festival
Tevas, beer, neon tank tops
the mustache is strange
— Akira