on january 24th, daniel stern passed away. i missed this very sad event because i was in the middle of a very arduous airplane journey.
i recently opened up the latest issue of gulf coast literary magazine, and saw the journal dedicated to his memory.
that's very sad, indeed.
i took a short story workshop from daniel stern as a sophomore at the university of houston. i quote things he said in this workshop nearly every day.
"the most important thing about your character is the guy standing next to him." - d. stern
"get out of your character's heads!" - d. stern
among many, many others. the list of authors who learned from this distinguished master craftsman could extend for pages and pages. also, he left us many, many great things to read.
i only just found out this morning that he has, alas passed away. i was actually looking for him to send him a copy of my first novel. now, i can only hope he is looking down over my shoulder and whispering in my ear, among the hundreds of authors whose prose was shaped by his guidance.
he was a good man. he was a wonderful author. he was one of the best teachers of authors.
daniel stern, rest in peace.
Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
on january 24th, daniel stern passed away. i missed this very sad event because i was in the middle of a very arduous airplane journey.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
i like to guess the flavor of a fruit by its name. especially ones i've never had.
the lumpy kumquat is a kiwi smashed into a puddle of rainwater and rolled into a wad on my tongue like chewing gum.
the winter melon i saw in chinese food, once. i think it tastes like snow white's lips just before she woke up.
and the tamarind is a mystery to a suburban/urbanite like me. frankly, it might be a mammal in the jungle or the name of a mythical beast.
i think tamarind tastes like a burning orange. in my imagination, it sears my tongue.
i breathe golden fire.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
i have orange shoes
a ruined orange suede
individual outlets for orange toes
all ten of them orange
my laces a mess, a big, orange ratmess
everybody stares at them
polite people ignore it, try to look me in the face
people i love (my mother) tell me
take them off
so you can be just like
all the other nice boys
with nice jobs
i can’t interview with my orange shoes
i live without black pinstripe respectability
(i’ll tell you a secret, lovers and friends:
these orange shoes are actually my feet)
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Think about art off a timeline for a minute. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.
Any mention of Impressionism usually revolves around France, and around Paris, and around the late nineteenth century. Also, it usually involves a fellow by the name of Monet, Degas, or Manet. The paintings are clearly gorgeous explorations of the light of the world. Among the European bourgeois classes, sunlight seemed to be working differently than for the rest of us. Gone is the searing heat of Texas, and the distant eye of Siberia, and instead the light seems to splash all over the landscape in tiny photon droplets, luminous and bright.
The thing that's happening in Impressionism is not just the light, though. This is an attempt at a daring realism that didn't exist before this time. Gone are the neo-classical lines, and the paintings as allegories. Instead, Monet attempts to give us these slices of life painted in nature as simple as ships at sea or water-lilies blooming in a pond.
I'll let more qualified individuals go into detail about the masterful brushstrokes used to create these visions of reality. However, I do think we should focus on what's happening in the paintings due to these distinctive brush strokes. The strokes seem to suggest that the light is a glowing cornucopia from the people and landscapes present.
Think about art off a timeline for a minute, though. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.
Now, how does this relate to the art off the timeline? Modernism strives to find the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the… You get the idea. In Impressionism, we have an artistic presentation of one potential beginning of all beginnings. In Impressionism, light reflects off of the objects of the world…
Of course, this beginning presupposes the light. So, I guess I must turn instead to Jakob Mattner's brilliant explorations of light and sunlight. I guess I'll call him the father of Impressionism. Okay, he's still alive today, I know, and he's certainly not in any way affiliated with an artistic movement that precedes the world wars, Foucault, Derrida, and modern photography, but Mattner studies the light that inspires the Impressionists.
Wait, Impressionism also presupposes an eye, too, right? Okay, than Newton is the first artist. He's the one that stuck a needle into the lens of his eye and studied what happened. He's the one who played with prisms and a scientific method to discover the composition of light.
Think about art off a timeline for a minute, though. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.
Instead of viewing these artistic movements of history as dead and passé, approach them as the discovered landscape on a quest to all beginnings, all ends of all creation.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
i'm at this conference, (i told you about it)
i went to this speaker talking about how science art is more art and not enough science. i began to guide him down the path, but he got a little impatient, and i could feel the room turning against me. this was a room of science-types, not art-philosophs.
so, i'll put it here.
speaker talked about how science art is not reflective of science reality. how scientists and artists ought to work hand in hand to create accurate portrayals of the natural world.
but, he's wrong. accuracy is not really accuracy.
he dismissed imagery of the cosmos that was captured by wide angle lenses and given weeks of exposure. thus, no person could view space this way with the naked eye.
ah, but the wide angle lens and long exposure is a more accurate presentation of the reality of the stars - even if our naked eyes can't handle the reality that is larger than men.
he talked about how presenting the sciences with images that are so fanciful and unrealistic does harm to the scientific community by rendering the reality inaccessible and inaccurate and even impossible. he showed images of nanotech painted on covers of magazines with lighting effects and colors and shading - all impossible sub-molecular phenomena - and dismissed this style of art as a poor representation of the reality.
he showed his own piece (quickly, and quietly), and it was flat, unexciting, and a poor representation of the philosophical truth of nanotechnology.
you see, at the quantum level, the philosophy is the real. our eyes, our senses, they are the limited things, broken things, inaccurate things. our senses are not reality. they are interpretors of reality.
a common prejudice among engineers atheists and artists is this false notion that reality is limited by the senses. in fact, reality is unbounded far beyond the senses. to capture the philosophical reality is far more important than staying true to whatever foolish thing that speaker meant when he said "nature".
in the sciences, the philosophy is more real than our own perceptions.
painting with a sense of wonder, and skewed nature, is more true.
i asked him, at the end of his presentation, how he felt his topic of science and space art compared to the explorer artists of the prior centuries. he looked at me quizzically, and gave his blustery stall until he came up with his answer, that these men were more photographers than painters.
i pointed out that in this case, of science and technology art, he is also more photogropher than painter.
he agreed, as if this was the primary point of his presentation.
and it's not.
he and i mean different things when we say "photographer". he says it like a scientist imagining the precision of the lens' eye.
i say it like a journalist choosing how to display the wartorn countryside of foreign battles to make citizens care a thousand miles away. take photos of quantum philosophy, and pull them into our living rooms that we may wonder and wonder.
do not make them real. reality is gone. reality does not exist.
hyperreality exists. it is also an illusion, but it is an illusion that can change the future.
the room was not friendly to me. he was not as smart as he looked in his suit. he was limited by his own perceptions. he refused to think about the artists that painted the savage shores with the terrible giants and the sea monsters and the naked savages smoking pipes and the birds killed but posed in imitation of life and drawn again and the terrible, carnivorous teeth of the horrible hippopotamus, and all the hyperreality that fed the minds of men.
the mingled emotions of fear, joy, wonder, excitement, are all part of a photographer's tool belt. choose the image that reflects the chosen reality. true Reality doesn't care if we get such a thing correct.
if you paint like a scientist, you will inspire no one to be a scientist.
i'm running late to this conference i'm volunteering at
updates have been wonky, and i've been busy.
two days worth of things remixed into sonnets:
tin pan alley, remixed into a sonnet
boy, tin pan alley be the toughest: all
that whisky, wine, and gin. a woman screamed,
no hero, i just peeked around her door
poor annie beat down by a 2 by 4
then pistols shot – fat forty-fours – and no
one shot the pimp to save the girl, they shot
a gambling man whose dice forgot to count
“hey, everybody here be killin’! whisk-
y, wine, and gin!”
this cop all by his lone-
some strolled the lane. he stank like hussy per-
fume, hand upon his gun and he don’t stop
the shooters at the craps and he don’t stop
the bastard swinging boards. this cop dragged me
downtown like i was tin pan alley’s sin.
gambler’s blues, remixed into a sonnet
don’t claim to be no gambler, i don’t know
my dice from bones, but then my baby rolls.
know all of us how love goes? i’m down bad.
that blonde is my hard gamble driving me
to mad. was just a proposition first,
the good old give and take. then woman took
it all and i’m discovrin’ love’s no fake.
don’t claim to be no gambler, i don’t know
my dice from bones. but she knows who’ll be crap-
pin’ out while her sweet ass all come and go.
she left again this mornin’, didn’t both-
er with good-bye. some pretty girls, they love
you good, they never care ‘bout eyes. but i
still love my baby when she makes me cry.
my blonde be throwing sevens, and elev-
ens like a cheat. i’m feedin’ all these snakes.
right. i've gots to jet. see you at the international space development conference in twenty minutes!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
poor lazarus, remixed into a sonnet
the sheriff told the deputy to go
find lazarus, poor lazarus, alive
or dead - oh lord! oh lord! - get lazarus
and when they found him, strung him up between
two mountains with his head held high, oh lord,
they shot him in the chest - oh lord! - with great
big great big forty-five that banged so loud
might scare him dead. they dragged poor lazarus
to town, they dragged his body to the prom-
issory gathrin’, people terrified
these lawmen draggin’ him with stallions, great
big men that left him on the porch, oh lord!
his mother sang “i’ve never seen a sign
like this one, lord! my son! my only son!”
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
st james infirmry blues, re-mixed into a sonnet
i went on down to that saint james infirm'-
ry. quiet folk all watched with their numb yawns
hung black and wide like paper flowers ear-
ly in the morning mists, them fogs of dawn
and snowflakes drifting on the paper sills
their pains all icy fingers, sleeping pills
i saw my baby lying in the room
all sheets; my pretty baby taken to
the basement furnace fire where every low-
ing cow, and every screaming insect fold
their hand, and even lucky souls get tak-
en: chorus girls with roses, dukes unbreak-
ing. i thumbed down her carriage, climbed inside.
you'd best pour me some more of that hard rye.
Monday, May 21, 2007
walking from the southwestern edge of urban civilization to the starbucks just west of a mall, I encountered these things on the ground.
empty cans of soda pop and energy drinks, all caffeine and excitement drained from them and the carnival-colored husks smashed and sleeping where they all collapsed by the side of the road. plastic grocery bags, mostly white. the dead leaves of summer. lost rope. catsup packets, bled dry. cigarette butts, drained of smoke. ruined napkins. styrofoam cups in pieces. a day pass to benbrook lake park, presumed to be for a day that has already passed us by. empty box of condoms, all the lovemaking inside of them gone.
kyle shafer’s receipt from the dry cleaners (1 item, no starch) left on the ground as if his litter didn’t carry his name and location (“and someone else must have left it there, officer, not me”).
broken reflective partition from the center of the highway that’s been smashed away and thrown into the grass. there are no lanes anymore for at least a few yards on that lonely stretch of road.
two small pigeons danced on the ground like scared children below some decorative corporate shrubbery.
a wounded bee, struggling and staggering with only half her body able to move. who knows how long she suffered there before i found her clinging to life and incapable of screaming for help. i prayed for her a moment. then i stepped on her fast. poor thing didn’t deserve all that pain, all that fear.
two dead birds in parking lots smashed flat like feathered crucifixions.
a single worm flailing on the sidewalk, eyeless and ignorant of how come the soft, dark earth has suddenly become hard and dry and hot concrete. i gently nudged the worm with my shoe back to the edge of the sidewalk to help the creature slip into the grass, poor, frightened thing.
lost things. frightened things. dying things. used up things.
also, cars left in parking lots where the buildings are all quiet, all dark, all empty.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
this recipe takes seven days to complete, otherwise the bananas will not be ripe enough to adequately waffle.
one must be careful in how one plans use of the bananas, otherwise no delicious banana will survive to the glorious seventh day.
10 slightly green bananas
2 large mangoes, one of them ripe, one of them green
a whole heckuva lot of oranges (any breed will do)
1 little carton of berry (blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, etc.)
1 medium carton of cottage cheese
1 large carton of vanilla yogurt
½ pound of crushed walnuts
spray-on butter for your waffle iron
1 box of pancake mix.
at least two eggs
a waffle iron (I find it’s easier just to throw them away after one use. they are such a pain to clean.)
1 jar of peanut butter
1 loaf of wheat bread.
1 carton of vanilla soymilk (people who hate soymilk are allowed the use of whole milk, or some form of cream. if you use rice milk, however, your waffle iron will explode in a ball of fire that consumes your entire house.)
day 1: since you purchased green bananas, you should be able to withstand the temptation, as we all know green bananas taste like their own peel.
day 2: combine a banana and an orange in cottage cheese for a delicious breakfast
day 3: put one banana in a smoothie with the mango and the berries
day 4: go ahead, eat a banana. you know you want to. but only eat one.
day 5: using one of your bananas cut in twain, prepare two lovely peanut butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat bread. serve with a cool glass of vanilla soymilk.
day 6: aren’t you glad you don’t have to eat a banana today after all those bananas? chop up a couple oranges into some cottage cheese or vanilla yogurt. count how many bananas survived the week.
if you’re anything like me, you have exactly three bananas left, and boy are they looking ripe. congratulate yourself for carefully planning your banana consumption to ensure that you would have three delicious bananas left for your morning of banana waffle glory.
for the love of all things waffle don’t chop up those delicious bananas into vanilla bean ice cream with walnuts and maple syrup!
day 7: it’s waffle day! aren’t we all ever so excited!
take the 2 bananas that have survived the week. peel them, and mash them up into a gooey delicious mound of banana.
1/2 cup of vanilla soymilk,
a dash of cinnamon,
a dash of ginger,
a dash of nutmeg.
a teaspoon of vanilla extract
two cups of pancake mix
depending on the size of your bananas and the weather, you will have to adjust the levels of milk and pancake mix to ensure the right consistency of waffle. as you develop your skill as a waffler, you will learn how to recognize the right “feel”.
spray your waffle iron with your spray on butter (also, and an important aside, never use this stuff as deodorant in a pinch. it feels really gross if you start to get a little sweaty, and butter doesn’t attract the ladies like you think it would. odd, I know, but the ladies don’t like the guys that smell like butter.)
plug your waffle iron in and make sure it’s getting hot.
use your waffle according to the instructions. don’t worry about how you can’t find those instructions right now. as you are digging for the instructions, the waffle iron will have plenty of time to heat up.
now that you have found the instructions, note how much waffle batter is supposed to go in each waffle spot, and how long that is supposed to take. after all, each waffle iron is a little different.
after each round of waffle, spray the waffle iron with the spray-on butter.
final steps: dice up the remaining, very ripe, mango, also if an orange survived 7 days (they never do) then use that as well. serve the banana waffles topped with diced mangos, crushed walnuts, and vanilla yogurt.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
i just completed editing the advance review copy galley proofs of my first novel.
it only took one cup of tea, six pots of coffee, two shots of maker’s mark whiskey, a quarter-of-a-bottle of bailey’s irish cream, and a single large bottle of very, very bad merlot.
the morning after, i ponder the fate of my first novel basking in the glory of wicked awesome publication. also, and more so, i ponder the fate of my second novel, whilst little gremlins swim in my stomach acids and play loud rap music that booms in my ears.
NEVER KNEW ANOTHER, (and her two sequels), have been sleeping on my hard drive for over a year (admittedly, the third of the trilogy is not quite good enough, yet, and I’m still revising it, but i know what i am capable of and this book is on the path of goodness and few will be unmoved in the many betrayals at the final guard tower).
circumstances have never seemed to favor these three unlucky children of demons. i pulled open the book this morning, and started reading with the galley proofs of LAST DRAGON (a book that sold and is quite good, if I may say so myself…) ringing in my ears.
LAST DRAGON is anti-epic. I took a plot line of some massive ten book fantasy exercise in gratuitousness. Then, I chopped it up with scissors to locate exactly – exactly – how to cram the whole thing into one short novel using poetry, impressionistic writing, careful scene selections, and literary techniques. (what would THE LORD OF THE RINGS be like if it were inspired by surrealists, and it was only four hundred pages long?)
my second novel, NEVER KNEW ANOTHER, was inspired by my struggles in very real poverty in post-enron houston, just after I graduated from college. i wanted to use my newly developed dense, impressionistic, anti-epic fantasy style to give people the emotional color that i had felt down there.
in this sleeping book of mine, my characters are too busy trying to survive, thrive, and find happiness to overthrow governments or discover magical treasure or any of that epic nonsense. in this epic fantasy world, and especially for social outcasts and the working poor, it takes heroics just to lead a normal life.
but, alas, where shall i find a home for my sleeping book? my agent works on it, i know, and i trust him very much. but still, this impotence: i must sit on my hands and let someone else take my baby belle to the ball and introduce her to all the lovely suitors there. not pleasant at all. not in the slightest.
as gloriously happy as i am about my first novel, I feel fear like the ashy lining of a silver cloud. when will my next book find a home? when will I get to do wicked awesome advance review copy galley proofs again?
this little moment of thinking into my virtual megaphone about things that swim up to the top of hangovers is only a prelude to this universal truth. this, ladies and gentlemen, is the truth at the heart of charles bukowski’s poem “born into this”.
i hope i don’t drink myself into the footnotes of that particular poem.
Friday, May 18, 2007
cats are magic
the cats have settled thoroughly into the office area in my little sunroom. they linger there, sleepy-eyed at all the wrong times. they still live in the wrong time zone. mossimo, the cowardly lion, prefers the top of the desk. diva, the acrobatic anarchist, prefers the desk chair.
i discovered, quite suddenly, that the clock on the desk is six hours ahead for no reason at all.
wiesbaden, germany, is exactly six hours ahead of fort worth, texas. these cats are from wiesbaden, germany, and have settled into the red digital glow of a clock that independently picked up the native time zone of these two cats.
no one who came over since the arrival of the cats would have considered such a subtle prank, nor can i discern any reason for my clock to jump six hours ahead on its own.
this is a true story discovered yesterday, just before my arc galleys arrived. i’ve been sifting through the galley proofs on a pleasant texas afternoon and in the back of my consciousness i’ve been listening for the things that go bump in a german night.
cats are magic.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
she’s in the peace corps now, but she drives people up the wall.
she is an uncompromising individual in how one must live one’s life. for instance, she thinks that if you put steak sauce on your steak, you’re a plebian and an idiot. she does not allow for any compromise in the way one lives life. morality is non-negotiable, and spills across every aspect of human experience.
have you ever heard of turkish coffee? it’s supposed to be the best coffee out there – she says it is, anyway. i don’t really know. anyway, she makes me order it. i take a sip, and it tastes like coffee to me. i mean, it tasted just like regular coffee. she flipped out. she took it from me, and sipped it and assured me it was the best coffee in the world because it was turkish coffee. she accused me of having no palette, no taste. she went on and on about it, drinking the turkish coffee i didn’t appreciate that she had made me order, going on and on about how good it was.
afterwards, she decides to get another just for herself. she signals the waiter, and he comes over. she asks him for another “delicious, turkish coffee”.
the waiter gets this confused look on his face. “what?” he says, “you wanted turkish coffee? i thought you just wanted regular coffee!”
she works for the peace corps, now.
though she does get on people’s nerves, her heart is always in the right place and her morals are basically good. her commitment to the proper way of life will probably cool among the refugees and legless children and the child soldiers and the families falling into the awful virus like a whole continent slowly drifting off to sleep.
Or, the experience will further polarize her. She will return from the awful nightmares and the communities that are barely held together, and the rooms of children that dream of being lawyers or actors in a place where a farm is too much to hope for. She will return from this place, and find herself in the lap of luxury again, and become committed to doing the luxury correctly. If so little of it exists in this world, everyone must acquire the most luxury as possible by doing things correctly.
alas, and regardless of her path, i doubt she understands the greatest luxury of all among the proper ways of life: the luxury to dismiss the lifestyles of others. in the peace corps, she will encounter people with no choice to dismiss the way of things. in the first world, especially in the west, one can make so many choices, like steak sauce or regular coffee or nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
two women and one man are with me. i’m sitting next to one of the women, and across from the man. the woman next to me, (m_____), jumped out of the blue silence that followed watching someone barely avoid a speeding car outside our window. m____ said to the woman across from her (s_____), “tell him the turkish coffee story! tell him the turkish coffee story!”
at first, s_____ was reluctant to reveal this story, because it painted her friend (someone m_____ does not always appreciate very much) in a poor light.. m____ insisted and insisted on the turkish coffee story. m_____ assured us that she never tired of hearing this story.
after the turkish coffee story, s_____ told us the story of the people who hired the girl with the hole in her crotch.
later on that night, i heard the story of the many cade’s of minneapolis, kansas. i heard the stories of the evil roommate. i told a few stories of my own, too.
while at a bar, after the movie, i caught pieces of stories from other tables in between conversations of our own, and everyone’s telling stories and telling stories and telling stories. in my living room, my sister’s two cats wandered out from their hiding places – inside the fireplace, and behind my dresser in the closet - and mewed their miseries at us, how they came across the world in a crate and now all these people are here telling stories in the wrong language late into the night.
all of us telling stories and telling stories at a restaurant, at a bar, and in my living room until the witching hour and we’re out of sherry, and some of us have to wake up and put on respectable clothes and go to work in the morning like nothing happened in the dark.
but still we all speak, and the ripples of our sentences bang through the open space. the vibrations remain in the air far longer than we can consciously hear them. walking around, all these sub-audible words merge in the ear drums, down deep where subconscious microphones listen to the garbled dreamspeak of all those drifting stories.
breathe in, and breathe these stories still vibrating in the atmosphere.
check in tomorrow and mayhap you’ll hear the turkish coffee story, mayhap the girl with the hole in her crotch, mayhap something else entirely, pulled from the air around us where all these words vibrate like invisible, living things.
sometimes i take requests.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I can tell she came from Russia, originally, because of the way she stands and the way she looks at the world and the wonderful Russian syrup in her voice. Now she smokes cigarettes in the Mainz marketplace beside a man with a llama’s bridle in one hand and a coin can in the other. She smokes with one hand and gracefully ran her other hand’s fingertips, with her long, red nails, across the llama’s long neck.
When she sees me looking at her, she puts the cigarette in her mouth. She grabs the lapels of my jacket. She says something wonderful in German. I have no idea what she says. Then she says something in Russian. I still don’t understand.
I drop a single Euro into the llama man’s can. I take her arm. She leads me into an alley between a clothing store and a travel agency. We take an elevator up to the top floor. She leads me to a single room apartment with one window. I lean out the window, and the bustling city moves with the anonymous kind of love that happens in any neighborhood – that general sense of well-being while people who recognize each other say hello.
She has an electric pot – no stove in sight – sitting on a table covered with bunched up clothes and receipts and a cereal bowl that had become an ash tray and bits of fruit loops and dried up milk slept beneath this loamy ash from foreign cigarettes and broken, lipstick-stained, cigarette butts curled erotically around cigarette butts with no lipstick stains at all.
I sit down on the bed. It’s the only place to sit. I could reach out and touch her long, black hair. You stand near the table, waiting for the tea to boil, and you light up a new cigarette.
The room stinks of cigarettes and something else I can’t place, but familiar.
The pot screams when it boils. Hot steam runs up the wall, and I notice how the white paint next to the teapot has curdled and bubbled like a second-degree sunburn.
That reminds me of when I rubbed lotion into your back in St. Louis in our puny motel room after we had spent all day walking around and you had forgotten that this one spot on your shoulders was exposed to the sun in this normal, t-shirt when that spot wasn’t exposed in your usual uniform. You had this little line, like a collar of bobbles on your shoulders. I had to be so careful when I put the lotion on you, and it was disgusting to feel all those fluids moving just under your skin.
She gets my attention with a snap of her fingers. She hands me a cup of peppery tea.
She, apparently, speaks a little bit of English. She says “Drink” with the throaty femme fatale way that has warmed a thousand cinema screens. She points at body parts and lists escalating amounts of money.
I give her everything in my pockets, and it’s almost enough for everything I want from her.
When we pretend to move with love, the tea on the table cools while we warm to each other’s touch. When we pretend to strip naked we keep the pleasure masks of our commerce between us, so we do not open up our faces, really, in intimacy. When we pretend to scrape at each other’s skins ravenously, she speaks one small word that could have been German for ‘there’, or Russian for ‘yes’.
Da… Da… Da… Da… Da…
And maybe it’s English, too, and I push that out of my head because I don’t want to think about what her father would think about this thing we’re doing.
I just want one thing from her, and I get it, and she has those soulful, pained eyes and she will never have what she truly desires in life so she will always be beautiful. Besides her beauty, all she’ll ever have is money.
Afterwards, she let me rest in her bed while she smoked another cigarette and watched a reality television show dubbed from Dutch to Deutsch about a whole neighborhood block that has become a walled city and all the people inside lose contact with the outside world, lose all their privacy, and do not know exactly what will keep them in the city or get them voted out.
The show simulates the outbreak of a dangerous plague, and not enough medicine exists to keep the population alive. It’s the end of the world.
Each week fans watch the show and cruise the many dedicated websites with all these life stories that didn’t fit into the one hour time slot. Fans vote to give their favorite people the weekly medicine or to let them be carted off.
Each week these people in the show watch the men in yellow isolation suits appear, take half of them by the arm, and lead them away to who knows where off-screen. The rest get a bottle of pills for the week – placebos, I assume.
With the language barrier and the horrible quality of the picture in the hidden cameras, I couldn’t tell if these people knew this was only a television show.
One night a city block had gone to bed. The next morning concertina wire separated them from the civilized world. Men in terrifying isolation suits handed out placebos and cut off all communication with the outside world, blaming the plague. Each week, half their number got no medicine and they were led away to their imminent doom in a hospital bed.
Men in their spacesuits handed out placebos every week to the ones that had gotten enough votes to survive. They could do whatever they wanted with the pills, and if they didn’t take them they were led away as if they had been voted off. They could give them away if they wanted.
A certain Russian prostitute never seemed to die, though everyone seemed to hate her. She kept finding someone to give her a placebo in exchange for one, long night that European television showed in sensual blips that – the advertisements assured us – had extended into various adult websites available for subscription.
The girl in the bed with me pointed at the girl on the screen. “Schwester,” she said, “Sister, ja?”
I nodded, sadly. I saw the resemblance in a flash. I rubbed her shoulders.
She pushed me away, disgusted that I had touched her.
I put my clothes back on. I nodded my head at her, because I had nothing else that could nod at her but my head.
I left behind a pack of cigarettes, like a placebo from the TV show, but deadly.
On the show, the prostitute earned her life in a horrible apocalypse among people that wanted to feel joy even if it meant death.
Just like as if it were a real epidemic, the very old and very young died fast. By the time I had my foot out the door, there were only beautiful young women, and men with quick tongues and chiseled abs. They fell in and out of love recklessly, tears streaming down their faces as their friends and families died.
In the real world, I left her there, while she rooted for her sister and let the door open and close without saying good-bye to me at all.
Halfway down the hall, I heard her scream in agony. I knew it wasn’t on account of me. Her sister had been led away by the men in isolation suits and leave television and return to the marketplace and smoke cigarettes and live the kind of life where people don’t look twice and when the icy fingers of death really do spread across her face she will only be a smell of perfume and smoke – like burning gardens – and when the men like me smell her, we will – alas – remember nothing.
Monday, May 14, 2007
I remember I shot a gun at a tree. I wanted to watch the ricochet off the tree. I mean it. I just shot at the tree to watch the ricochet. My mother asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I wanted to watch the ricochet off the tree. But, like, I never shot anything alive. I shot things after someone had shot them, like a deer that was already dead, but I never shot anything alive.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
my sister will be deploying to iraq soon. i'm taking her cats for her while she's gone.
in line at petco with my bag of cat food, cat box, kitty litter, bowls, cat toys, cat treats, scratching post, etc, etc, etc...
"wow," said the guy behind the counter, "getting a dog, huh? good for you."
"fish, dude. i'm getting fish. that's why i have these carribean-fish-flavor treats."
"yup," he said, "good luck with that dog, dude!"
sunday afternoon on a stormy spring day was quite slow at the pet store.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I don’t think the world will end with the weapons I’m guarding. I don’t think this empty stretch of damp concrete adumbrates the future of the cities when the war machines level the buildings and all the towers fall into a rubble of concertina wire and dying men in isolation suits and nuclear winter.
I’m in front of the dangerous weapons, watching storm clouds tumble all over each other like lovers wrapped in gray pillows frantically rolling into the moment of the rain.
I think that the end of the world will come when the people choose to leave the cities for the wild places.
Someday people will forget why soldiers and healthcare and schools matter. We’ll just walk away into the green hills like African Bushmen. It happens everyday somewhere, when men and women decide to walk away from homes and civilization and become bums or survivalists. It happens en masse in Africa, Canada, China, South America, and the Pacific Islands. People just collectively stand up, and walk into the wilderness with nothing but a knife and a vague sense of primitive purpose.
And some folks will try to hold on to civilization. We’ll be guarding these places like soldiers until no one knows why – not even us. And cults will form around these sacred spots. And radiation poisoning will claim any who defile the temple. And civilization will start over around these forbidden places.
I tell my fellow guard about how Bacchus made the pirates into dolphins, and they swam away, joyfully into the sea, with a freedom the children of Athena – like us – will never know.
He tells me I should read the Bible and give up all these false mythologies for the love of Jesus Christ. He tells me that he’d love to pray with me.
Friday, May 11, 2007
the opening blast of "moondance" powered through the softness of classical music that no one could hear in the cafe of a barnes and noble.
"hey, is that your phone?" says girl #1
"what?" says girl #2
"is that your ringtone?" says #1
"no. is it yours?" says #2
"what is that?" says #1
"it's somebody else's phone." says #2
a long, long pause while moondance continues to play.
"oh, it's the music! hey call my phone and hear my ringtone." says #1
"maybe when we're bored." says #2
"i can't believe i thought that was a ringtone." says #1
her friend says nothing at all. they drift off into a silence long enough to suggest studying, but there are no books in front of them. closer investigation reveals that they are text messaging hurriedly without making eye contact with each other. they sit together at a cafe, and text message people who are not there.
undoubtedly they say "i am @ barnes with s___", but i don't think they're there with each other. they sit at a table and their only companion is the cellphone.
we parked in an empty minor league baseball stadium. we huddled under a bus hutch at 7:45 looking bored and under-caffienated. no one looked forward to the day ahead. we were all ages, all sexes.
the bus came for us. it stopped on a corner across the street, not at the hutch. we shuffled to the bus with our eyes on our shoes. we sat down on the bus. The bus - unlike any i had ever seen in my life - waited patiently for stragglers to scurry from the cars.
then, the bus drove into the city. i tried to strike up a conversation with a middle-aged gentleman next to me who carried a leather-bound bible as large as a briefcase. he smiled, gave polite, abrupt answers like he wasn't in the mood to chat.
we got dropped off a couple blocks away from the courthouse. we walked below a parking garage in a big school of fish. stoplights and traffic like swordfish cut our ranks. we straggled on, though, to the metal detectors.
two old sheriff's deputies talked about the x-ray of a woman's purse like old country fishin' buddies staring in a boat's radar screen. "it's just little rings. a couple glasses cases."
"i hate that stuff. i just hate that kind of stuff. immpossible."
"oh, don't you worry about that, it's just the silver rings of that there purse. a couple glasses cases."
we stumbled around a corner to a large room. a thousand chairs waited for us. we signed in, sat down. most of the chairs were empty. we sat down. they put on a promotional video to hype us up like we were at some kind of sales meeting, getting hyped up about corporate real estate or something equally absurd.
i noticed something else during the video's presentation of a judge talking about magna carta: we were going to be talked down to all day long. lawyers and judges and administrators were going to be talking to us like school children.
i don't like being talked down to.
when the time came for me to see if i could sit on a jury, the assistant district attorney pulled out huge cards to show us the dui laws of texas. i noticed that these laws were incredibly poorly written. i skewered the law in question. i picked a language argument with the assistant district attorney who was making very poor arguments. i'm sure in a different scenario, the district attorney could argue quite well on many issues. but today, we were being talked down to. he was back on his heels. he stopped, turned to another woman and moved on.
i was recused within twenty minutes of setting foot the court room.
i don't like being talked down to, lawyers of the world. talk down to me at the risk of your own pride.
going back to the car, i didn't bother with the bus. i walked. i got in my car. i drove here where i can get on-line and tell you about my day.
that was jury duty.
i do not think this post was particularly thought-provoking, but it was the bulk of my thoughts this morning. however, since i just found out i was tapped by blogger Dawno for my thinking blog, i feel somewhat sad about this, and shall attempt something more thought-provoking later today.
thanks to Dawno, who has given me this illustrious distinction.
now is my turn to pass the distinction to other authors of thinking blogs.
1) michael j. totten
2) anthony peyton's sea-horse-shaped: a life in japan
3) rachel conquers europe (the pictures alone are quite thought-provoking)
4) adrienne kress
5) neil gaiman
Thursday, May 10, 2007
does the city change the people inside the city by the very way the streets move from streets to streets, how the air fills our lungs with heat or cold or clean or filth, how the people are pressed against your elbows or pressed into your skin or so far away you're drowning in open space, and does the way we move from house to house to house change us?
am i the same man living in wiesbaden that i am living in fort worth?
did i put on a new mask when i traveled through the hostels that i took off again when i stepped of the plane?
alas, sometimes i think identity is an illusion of intellect, like time or death.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
walking over the overpass of bryant irvin at interstate 20, with the very narrow sidewalk area, i saw a blue slipper on the ground.
the slipper, covered in mud like some kind of sponge that had been soaking in a tub of mud until it become slogged in foul mud, patiently slept upside down on the narrow concrete. it was all by itself.
halfway over the bridge, i saw the second slipper. this one had no mud at all. it looked towards the short wall that kept people from falling into the highway and the cars and trucks careening like rockets in texas where people always, always speed on the highways.
i looked over the lip of the bridge, trying to see if there was any splattered blood below, but there was nothing. it looked like someone in slippers was running over the bridge. one slipper fell into a mud patch and eventually the extra weight of mud made it fly loose. the second slipper was lost right at the edge when the sleep-runner tumbled over the side.
i saw nothing below. i looked a while for anything to tell me what happened here, where these slippers pointed to something ominous.
cars and cars drove on casually over the bridge, oblivious to these signs and portents on the ground just outside of their huge steel living rooms driving and driving.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
an old man with hands like gnobby tree roots scribbles on a napkin the letters "T O O E L E" and he tells me a story from when he was in army, in utah.
he said he was staying in this scandinavian town near salt lake city, but up and over a mountain. he said when the mormons came, their fearless leader told these scandinavian settlers to start this town at that spot on the mountain. they did.
this fellow - not the greatest speller or grammarian in the world - had fallen in love with a scandinavian woman. he wrote her letters regular enough.
town didn't have a name, but it had a beautiful woman. fellow scrawled the words "too ele" on the envelope, gave it to the guys that he knew were headed that way.
men wandered up the mountain for their reasons. they had stuff to trade, stuff to do. they walked up the hills with these love letters. they wandered house to house saying "tooele" to all those scandinavians that barely spoke english, anyhow.
fellow didn't stop writing his letters, you know. he kept at those letters.
someday the mapmakers walked over the hills. they pointed at all these men and women in houses and farms laughing in the campfire light.
the people only knew one name for this place. so they named it after the love letters.
the old guy with hands like gnarled white roots who told me this story about this time he was stationed at in the army handed me the napkin, and the pen. he had this look on his face like he was thinking about his youth, when he met his wife, and got his first job out of the army, and made something of himself up until today, where we're sitting in this old church cafeteria on the western edge of civilization sipping orange juice as if it were coffee.
i thanked the man for his story. i didn't ask him what i wanted to ask him.
what happened to her, ele? what happened between her and the man that named a town after her?
Sunday, May 6, 2007
my release date has been moved up since last i heard a release date.
i will actually be in stores in FEBRUARY, 2008.
more info here:
two short order cooks scramble furiously and talk while they work.
"that girl? that fine one? that girl with long hair?"
(the sound of eggs cracking on a grill. sizzling sounds.)
"i'd do her."
two waitresses stare over the stainless steel counter at the cooks. they chat with each other.
"i swear, he has no business fussing."
"calm down, mama. calm down."
"like a waffle? any waffle? you know what i'm saying?"
"need to get high 'fore you get one."
"you know what i'm saying?"
the fine girl, with long hair is talking to her mother three feet from the men that casually discuss doing the girl. both women work as waitresses. the man that mama referred to was her husband - the girl's father - who had once again disappointed her in life.
disappointed in life, the conversations ceased as the two women snatched the food the two chefs prepared and everyone scurried off into the diner.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Friday, May 4, 2007
have you seen my dignity?
i know i left it around here somewhere. if you find my dignity, please give it something to eat. it's malnourished. that's why it ran away. give it something to eat, and maybe give it a bath or something. it's probably not very sweet-smelling right now.
do you know what my dignity looks like? usually it looks like a knight in rugged denim. usually it tools around on an imaginary motorcycle that totally exists because you'd never disbelieve in dignity, now would you? i would never call my dignity a liar. that a-hole rides a motorcycle most of the time. no helmet. golden locks blowing in the wind like some kind of burly lion.
not lately, though. motorcycle went missing somewhere. don't know where. how do you find an imaginary motorcycle? it's like finding wonder woman's invisible jet. my dignity's been stumbling around barefoot in old running clothes. my dignity's been begging for food on the corner like a junkie.
happens sometimes. dignity tends to just up and leave, like a bum chasing trains.
if you see my dignity, feed it, clean it, and bring it back to me, would you? I miss it.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
when the eggs are all invisible, we'll make vegetables and cheese and marvel at the miraculous flavor of omelette. we'll juggle nothing like mimes and marvel at our miraculously sticky floor.
no one will know who can or cannot lick the bowl. we'll all die with cake batter, cookie dough, and brownie mix smeared all over our faces... except for the ones that don't lick the bowl for fear of eating invisible eggs.
then heaven will be on earth, for all the sinners and chance-takers and temptation-makers will be in hell.
and when we are in hell, we will make love to whomever we bump into.
heavenly bodies will look down at the torn, red, satin, funereal gauze that separates hell from the rest of you. our invisible writhing will look like pain.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
surrounded by noise and people getting off work paying bills.
just surrounded. not a spare thought left after all this noise.