Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

images from grimm's maerchen, 1956

my sister - many years ago - gave me this amazing little book for christmas. i had it out because i was practicing my german, and realized other people might like to see some of the wicked cool pictures.

grimm's fairy tales in the original german, published in the mid 1950's, which she tracked down somewhere i don't even know where.

here are just a few humble snapshots of the gorgeous pen and ink work in this excellent little book.

may we all recieve gifts this awesome, and also give them.

Friday, June 29, 2007


the mosquito - the fool - did not realize the paint was not truly skin. it landed on the luminous breast of the maiden, all aglow in the perfect spotlight. the mosquito - the fool - dug the needle into the craquelure veins, sucked the blood.

it wasn't blood. it was old canvas and dried oil paintings.

the mosquito - the fool - flew away believing in the painter's masterful strokes. she found her mate, and laid her eggs with the blood food from the painting in a small patch of water in the old, leaky roof.

for years, afterwards, these moths were everywhere. they had mosquito-like bodies - small and dainty and jagged angles - but they had the dusty puff and gorgeous wings of moths.

guests go home, and find moths hiding in their clothes.

hiding in their hair.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

clerical matters preclude me

clerical matters preclude me from a genuine update today.

here's an old picture i found hiding in the digital camera that i think is fantastic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

i was going to do something else, but then i saw this:

something new was added to my page:

under Editorial Reviews:

Book Description
The debut of a brilliant new voice that will change the fantasy genre forever.

An intricate web of stories weave together to tell a tale of revenge, justice, ambition, and power. Zhan has been sent to find her grandfather, a man accused of killing not only Zhan's family, but every man, woman, and child in their village. What she finds is a shell of a man, and a web of deceit that will test the very foundations of a world she thought she understood.

A tale of revenge that grows into something more, Last Dragon is a literary fantasy novel in the tradition of Gene Wolf and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. J.M. McDermott brings the fantasy genre to new literary heights with a remarkable first novel that will leave critics and readers alike in stunned awe.

About the Author
J.M. McDermott graduated from the University of Houston in 2002 with a BA in Creative Writing. He resides in Arlington, Texas with an assortment of empty coffee cups, overflowing bookshelves, and crazy schemes.

Let me go on the record and state this very clearly: I DID NOT WRITE THAT! I wrote the biography. I did not write the book description. I don't want to call the guy a liar, but it would have never occurred to me to say my name in the same breath as Gene Wolf and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I'm trying to track down who wrote that. They deserve a cookie.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

inclement weather so...

since it's raining cats and dogs, i thought i'd explore what my apartment looks like for a cat. i can't very well go for a walk out there.

here is a cat:

this cat hates me. he hides from me. all the time. here is what my apartment looks like to him:

my lovely apartment - and it is a lovely apartment - does not look so very lovely when i see it through a timid cat's eyes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

no words

my parents lent me a digital camera for the week that i may photograph my sister’s cats and send them to her whilst she prepares for deployment.

here is a picture of massimo, lord of destruction:

here is a picture of diva, who will be abducted shortly by a large alien in a denim jacket:

now that I have appeased the lolcatz crowd, i shall move on to other things.

since, i had the camera, i carried it with me for my urban wanderings.

i am fascinated by construction sites. out at the edges where i live, urban sprawl eats forest and park and old buildings. to improve land we must first destroy it entirely, strip it to the nude rock and smother it in layer upon layer of trash and sweat and steel. Someday, this spot of ground that used to be a marshy thicket will become something tall and proud and clean with manicured gardens and trash cans and the miracles of indoor plumbing three stories above the ground.

here is a series of photos, that i hope tell you a story worth more than my thousand words.

tomorrow, I’ll find new batteries and new wastelands.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

on the feast day of john the baptist

a thousand men upon a thousand and more predicted the end of the world. a thousand upon a thousand women, too. in fact, the world should have ended a thousand upon a thousand times by now.

i am amazed at the longevity of our doomed universe.

however, i suspect that all the predictions were true. we who are bound by time ought not to bind the cosmic in this way.

the world is not created external to the self. it is created by the senses that experience the world. thus, each person carries inside of them their own god-like nature, creating the world by touch, by taste, by sight, by smell by other senses we have not found to measure.

every time a vessel of senses drops into numb, the whole universe is destroyed.

every birth is a creation. every death is the end of the world.

god is life.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"it's a small town," she said...

white's funeral home sent a large, glossy card to this weatherford student whose good grades got mentioned in the newspaper.

left side of card:
"congratulations, and best wishes! the recent article in the paper about you did not go unnoticed here at white's funeral home. please feel free to call on us for your pre-arrangement and funeral needs."

right side of card:
"congratulations s_____ r______ on having been named to the honor roll for the 2006 fall semester at tarleton state university! your community is proud!"

back of card:
"white's funeral home, serving weatherford and surrounding communities for four generations."

in summary: the funeral home sent a thinly veiled advertisement to a college student by name, encouraging her to arrange for her funeral right now, today.

she said, to me, as if it wasn't apparent, "it's a small town."

Friday, June 22, 2007

plastic acrobat

a single straw in a red plastic lid rolled around the parking lot listlessly.

with the sturdy lid, and the sturdy straw, the wind blew it end over end and all around, like a master tumbler.

this acrobat flips over and stands on its hands (the short end of the straw),

then jumps to its foot

(the long stem of the straw).

tumbling and tumbling in the wind,

the straw and lid bowed and leaped into the black backstage below a honda.

there was no encore. also, there was no applause.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

new security guard talks about his new gun

"you know they're going to get me some bullets next week. when they do they're going to have to give me some bullet-proof shoes."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

summer solstice

summer solstice is june 21.

in another life, we lit bonfires into the night. maidens bathed in the glistening rivers. men with large beards drank mead and punched each other because of those glistening maidens. you were one of those maidens, and i bloodied your father's nose that night, but he laughed at me like i had just punched a tree. he was so drunk he couldn't feel a thing. by morning, i had his blessing and bruises all over my face.

in another life, we dressed as kachinas and danced to the sun. in the back of our minds, we worried about the size of our crop in the morning. we worried about our children in this age when nobody remembered the old dances when the spaniards came to teach us of the feast of st john with the edge of a whip. we didn't want our children to forget the way of the corn peoples.

in another life, you left me for the temple of vesta every solstice and this was the only time all year long you could go back to the place where you happy. before i was too drunk all the time, and the kids were grown and gone and i'm here chasing after temple prostitutes screaming your name, and the names of our children that i haven't seen in so long.

in another life, we went together to the church to pray to st john that christ may return, and call us both home to his light. we are so old now, and all this summer fills our bones with memories of other feast days, other feasts. and we prayed that winter may come for us, quietly.

in another life, we were just monkeys, staring at the sky. we didn't understand why it seemed like time had slowed down so much in all this heat. we sat on a branch and looked up at the sky and felt like we had all the time in the world now, in all this sun. we made slow love in that heat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

save the earth, save himself

a homeless guy walked past the ritzy museum district cafĂ© in the early morning when men in suits – like me – and women in gym clothes staggered up to the espresso machines for open eyes.

7:53 am, and the homeless guy is up and moving hard. He’s got plastic bags in his hand that look full of trash. He doesn’t look people in the eye. He goes straight to the trash can. He peers into the cans. He darts around a little, like he’s still too proud to rummage deep. He sticks a pencil down into the can – deep into the can. His shoulder-length hair brushes against the edge of the can.

he emerges with a single soda can caught on his pencil. He sticks it into a bag. He walks fast. he avoids the contractors speaking Spanish like old friends around someone’s gorgeous white chevy.

remember the observation of poor places: when paper is too valuable to throw away, we are in the third world. In America paper is everywhere. In Europe paper flaps around like pigeons. In Calcutta, streetkids look for anything fibrous, like paper to recycle it.

this homeless guy is dumpster diving for old soda cans.

watch yourselves, voting public, for if soda cans is too valuable to throw away, paper isn’t far off.

still, if i had been sitting on the patio, i’d have stopped the guy to give him a dollar. i would have told him that i wouldn’t have given him a dime if i hadn’t seen him saving the world one soda can at a time, and wished him god’s grace. maybe next time, i’ll be sitting outside and i’ll see him again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

radio and good batteries

been reading up on liberation theology among the Jesuits of central and south America.

according to liberation theologists, the mistake of marxism was the exclusion of God. to bring about global peace and universal happiness, citizens must embrace Christian Marxism – and be “liberated” from the evils of capitalism, tyranny, and etc.

often, young Jesuits who are actively engaged in improving the material realities of the poor and oppressed fall in with the proposed “liberators”. sometimes this involves guns, and killing.

firstly, this is theologically flawed and rooted in the same urge as Marxism. those people over there have lots of money and stuff. those people over on the other side do not have money and stuff. the people with money take power, and do damaging things to poor people. the poor people, naturally, must be liberated from their oppression in the here and now.

theologically, i do not recall any incident wherein Jesus Christ “forced” salvation upon anyone that was not already dead or mentally deranged. In fact, he only seemed to heal living people, who had asked him for healing or had a family member ask for healing. basically, everyone who was able to get up and go to Christ received liberation. them that didn’t go looking for their own salvation often did not acquire it. liberation theologists are often deeply involved in socialism, or at the very least anti-capitalism. often, they are trying to “force” liberation upon others by the overthrowing of global systems.

Christ did not overthrow Rome. he did not overthrow tax collectors, or usurers. He overthrew the market in the temple, but that was physically located inside one temple, one time and was deeply related to the profiteers of religion. He didn’t overthrow all marketplaces.

and what’s so liberating about the overthrowing of global systems? by forcing liberation upon people, we are treating people like children who are incapable of coming to their own conclusions, their own little rebellions.

furthermore, speaking about the evil of power creates that evil, in a way.

governments exist because large numbers of people believe in the authority of the government. by rising against that government’s authority, verbally or violently, one ends up acknowledging the authority of the government. by defeating rebellions, governments assert authority. by fighting them, governments assert authority.

after all, one must acknowledge the power before one can destroy the power.

in liberation theology, i see large numbers of jesuits and fallen monks and nuns and priests falling into the intoxicating delirium of wordly power. For every man denigrating the wicked government, that is a man filling the room with the notion of the government’s power. with every man writing odes against capitalism, that is a man that places capitalism at the center of the world.

liberation theologists, i challenge you not to not speak of any power on this earth, if it is truly evil. quietly refuse to acknowledge the power by refusing to give it a name of power. act as if the guns have no bullets, and the uniforms are merely men in costumes playing strange games. pretend like government wickedness is simply there, in the air, like bad weather. do not try to stop the rain. distribute umbrellas. bring men together to dig canals to let the rain flow to the sea in peace.

the rain will stop in its own good time. even rome crumbled to dust on her own excesses.

bad governments do not watch the centuries of centuries. neither do good governments, actually. these things will rise and fall on the rules they have placed for themselves.

governments exist because people believe in the authority of the governments. churches do, too. when people stop going to the church, the church falters and fails and drifts quietly into the dustbins of history. this pattern of power can be applied to bad governments as well. if you wish to liberate people from authority, do so by liberating their minds from belief in worldly power.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


huh. i don't think it's translated into japanese. still... that's freaky.

think like a criminal

let's play science fiction writer for a minute and a half.

watch this inane promo video for microsoft surface:

now, if i were a criminal, how would i use this device to rob people of money? i'd put it in their chair, under a thin pillow so every time a man sat down in the chair, his credit cards and vital info would flow out of his pockets and into my palm pilot. i wouldn't even have to hide the surface somewhere (firewalls, i imagine, might pose a problem). i could just muck up the data stream a little. seriously, people become far too dependent on technology. if someone's getting directions into their palm pilot and plopping it into the map tool on their dashboard, all kinds of chaos can ensue when a gang gives people wrong directions.

the more dependent upon technology we become, the less able we are to escape when our street smarts give us warning blips. when our vital tools fail, who will have the wits to survive?

how can this surface kill a man? lace the top of it with arsenic or poison - something low tech - and let someone touch the screen and lick their fingers on salty food.

what will happen when the houses aren't clean, when the rats and cockroaches crawl over the top and defecate upon the console?

also, how would one use such a tool to make beautiful art, and music. naturally, we didn't have to wait very long for that. the moment tech emerges from the metallurgist's womb, someone has beaten it with drumsticks.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


the absence in this post is actually an invitation for any reader to post their favorite metaphor about being tired.

Friday, June 15, 2007

after “the anger of achilles” by jacques-louis david

clytemnestra gazes down upon the boy
warrior, achilles’ face – her tearful eyes.

achilles doesn’t see the matron, or his bride
he reaches for his sword, his sharp pupils killing king

agamemnon, on the right of them all,
gives achilles one proud look
king agamemnon knows this boy won’t swing

someday, the proud stallion will buck
today, the boy will half-unsheathe his sword
then, he’ll stamp away

clytemnestra knows this, too.
and her eyes carry that sad accusation:
iphigenia is just a deer to those men
“you, achilles, anger because agamemnon
did not ask your permission first
with something you thought was yours

“if you truly loved iphigenia,
you would swing that sword.
after your ceremonial anger, agamemnon
is still the king; achilles,
vassal, bequeaths bride, boat,
life, for the man that kills his daughter
as easily as he tossed her
to patrocles’ murderous lover.”

iphigenia looks away pale and grief-stricken

also, relieved

Thursday, June 14, 2007


pictures came back from germany. by popular demand, i've scanned some and i'm putting them up here.

i'd like to thank everyone that took photos when it wasn't me. especially the pro photographer that i ran into at eastside gallery in germany who seemed to put way too much effort into trying to make me look good with disposable camera tourist photos. ("seriously, dude, the light will never be good enough to make me look like anything but what i am, so quit playing with the damn angle and take a photo already!")

a toddler took this photo in the streets of Wiesbaden. Behind me is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that gets dropped from the tourist stuff, though this is more beautiful than the Lutheran church in the marketplace and just as old: St. Boniface's Catholic Church.

in the english gardens with r_____ b______, we decided to walk to that thing over there.

look, we're almost there!

victory is ours! we walked to the thing over there. this is what it looks like from the inside. notice the columns like teeth and this thing i'm standing next to like a tongue, announcing in marble the greatness of kings. that king, actually, wasn't so great...

three blocks from my hostel and one from the place where the horrible wall used to stand in the beating heart of urban berlin, there's a large goat farm. all around us, ruined skyscrapers wax and wane. imagine turning a corner in queens, and walking into a large goat farm.

this is the sniper tower. young men drank vodka with high-powered rifles waiting for their chance to kill in the name of communism. it looks like a mace, to me. an old medieval weapon, and a symbol of authority, and a young man sat inside with vodka and cigarettes to keep him warm, and a rifle that probably had a woman's name when he talked to it. the state was his mother, his lover, his one true friend.

now, with much fanfare and huzzah allow me to show you the face of the man who made the call on the glorious day the wall came down. there's a book about him, and i'm holding it. look the details up for yourself.

hm... where did the eastside gallery go? ah, there it is:

the pictures always finally return the moment one starts to forget the adventure. digital cameras are so instantaneous. old cameras with film always seem to come home from the developer at just the right moment to refresh the mind of the adventures.

end of transmission.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

young girl extrapolates upon aphrodite in the kimbell art gallery

why did they change her name?
that wasn’t very nice of them. she already had a greek name.
that wasn’t very nice of them at all.
she was born in a seashell and made of ivory.
maybe they were jealous of venus, the woman made of ivory, so they changed her.
they changed her name.
that wasn’t very nice of them.

(the girl was far too young to think of having her own name changed, but someday i suspect she will understand why beautiful woman full of love will think changing their name is very nice indeed, and she will never remember her youth when boys were gross things and soldiers were mean – as she described them in the paintings – and the beautiful women can only be beautiful if they are ivory pure. i hope part of you remember, little one, this confident innocence.)

things kids say, things kindergarten teachers say

-he was crying. i asked him why he was crying. he told me that he was sad because he didn’t have anybody to have sex with. what do you say to them when they say something like that?
-you're five. You haven't known anyone long enough to want to have sex with them.
-exactly. I mean…
-maybe when you're in the third grade…
-but you can’t say something like that. what am I supposed to say that kind of question?

this book is on the table between them, because they are studying for a graduate class.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

robert shirtliffe, and the tipton poetry journal

(this poem originally appeared in the tipton poetry journal issue #4. please support literary magazines of quality like the tipton poetry journal, linked in the column on the right.)

"Robert Shirtliffe"

Deborah Samson had the longest hair in Massachusetts
until the drums filled her ears with tears, them boys
marching all away to die, them beautiful brave boys
she closed her eyes and woke up Robert Shirtliffe

dread: but that British saber had Robert Shirtliffe on the edge
bullets singing songs for Bobby Shirtliffe of the bluest eye
three years in mud and rags got beat through skin
them threadbare particles from flesh to blood to bone

to brain, a fever in her mind where no one knew her name
little Bobby Shirtliffe spilled out from her hair
in the doctor's room where the girl opened her eyes
saw a dress on a chair, wondered who it's for --

them good boys of autumn, marching off to war;
Bobby off to rose puddles, to stream beds -- to nothing at all

Saturday, June 9, 2007

a board with a nail in it

a large board with a nail in it has fallen into the center of the six air conditioning units. it's a very long board, about twelve feet long, that fell from the awnings. the board with a nail in it leans over, stuck in the tubes of the ac units.

it leans its nail over right at head level like a fishing rod.

i haven't cut mysell on the nail, yet.

there was a time when lockjaw killed people who cut themselves on rusty nails in a week. anybody passing by and pulls the axe from their back pocket and cuts down this dangerous hazard.

these days, no one thinks to take down the board with a nail in it. it just sits there, reaching its claw out to the sidewalk.

Friday, June 8, 2007

khaled hosseini reading

a beautiful woman walks out to the stage, places two bottles of water on a table between two brownish, reddish leather arm chairs.

a tromp l'oeil behind the chairs - an opera is in town - looks like a long, cubist hallway and a black door at the top of stairs.

khaled hosseini is visibly nervous. the large, gorgeous bass hall is as crowded as if a tony-winning musical was in town. khaled looks around like everyone isn't supposed to be here. he is just a simple doctor who wrote books in the wee hours because he enjoyed it. his wife forced him to send his books into the world. he never wanted this fame.

he looks around, and he is even more nervous than the young women that come to the microphones to ask him questions with trembling voices.

best quote of the evening for aspiring authors: "when you can't hear yourself in the dialogue, you know you're doing well."

if you want to know more, you should go to events like this for yourself.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

three poems in a house

three poems in a house


i had a dream about my dishes
they were all dirty
covered in rotting yellow crisco
maggots and germs and that


like a petri dish

i was taking them out of the dishwasher
i put them in the cupboards and drawers -- smiling


i wake up in a glass jar
all the world outside bends
and stretches

they are just normal people
but to me they are monsters


i drink coffee from my cup
and you drink tea from yours
but in my cup i taste tea
and in yours i see coffee

that makes it all
mine --

all mine

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

dust jacket

i do not like book dust jackets. they’re ugly. they’re bulky. they make a beautiful hardback look like it’s in disguise as a paperback. dust jackets get in the way when i am reading. they catch on fingers and flop around everywhere.

i take the dust jackets off. i throw them away. perhaps i shorten the lifespan of the book, but the only thing that truly extends a book’s lifespan is continued readership. whether the artifact remains alive is not nearly as important as the words inside of the artifact thriving in the minds of mortals.

when i let a book die of dust, I suspect i will have to purchase it again someday. thus, i am extending demand for the books that i love enough to purchase in hardback.

let there be dust.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

nyc in the bloodstream

i’ve been reading all these blog entries about book expo america, and i’m sorry i missed the event. perhaps next year i will make certain to attend. in the meantime, let me offer this humble prayer to a city i do love very much, (though i have only visited her on a few occasions, and have never hunted for an apartment in the late spring months or been to sunday brunch with people I know only because I slept with their best friend the night before so I am really no New Yorker at all.)

still, my grandfather and great-grandfather lived there, and my great-great grandfather washed ashore there from across the sea. like Ireland - like Africa – NYC hums in my bloodstream.

NYC, our secular mecca. a whole continent turns east in the morning and the evening when television screens feed us sunrise from times square, and the day’s world news from a tower of cable.

and now, a brief prayer to be recited by everyone that must leave New York City from Newark

by the jersey shore, we sat and wept
from the dirty windows there we hung
electric guitars by strings. we wept,
wept for the mind dust that spills over
empty streets behind junkie footsteps
tracking forget-me dust, as we sleep far away

my cabin stewards beg me for songs
of Broadway. but how can i sing
of love in newark, new jersey?

if i should forget you, Manhattan
may my tongue forget the f-word
may my right palm forget self-abuse
if i should think of anything but Manhattan
girls, with their high heels and chewing gum.

happy the drag queen that cuts
my midwestern, phantom-singing boss
in the family stones to castrati him!

Monday, June 4, 2007

engine sounds

i sleep with my windows open, even when it gets hot. i do not like to casually run an air conditioning unit.

i like to feel connected to the world around me, even if the world is a little inconvenient, or uncomfortable. i open windows. i have some quiet fans to simulate the circulation that architects and designers no longer build into the living spaces now that we seem to prefer to live inside walk-in refrigerators.

i like to feel connected to the world around me. i like to listen to the night sounds of frogs and crickets in the marshland and pond thirty yards from my window. i hear the jets soaring like steel angels in and out of the air force base half an hour from here. i love the lonely night trains howling to the moon like frankenstein wolves.

alas, the people in my building do not share my penchant for sleeping below open windows and sweating a little into dreams. my neighbors have truly begun to run ac units, late into the night.

the building ac units are all below my window.

i can’t hear bugs and frogs.

i dream of buses and planes and the whiny grind of the starship engines winding down, down, down in low orbit. i dream of flying, driving, and flying, and driving. i close my eyes and i’m a teenager again sleeping on a blue knight bus somewhere between denver and a drum corps show. i’m dreaming of people i met on planes, and the conversations we had that my conscious mind has forgotten.

also, i’m dreaming of the engines of time grinding lines down faces.

an actress i met once shows me photographs of her face. she’s young, like when i met her, but the pictures are lined up like the freight train trailers on the long, long mantle, and she moans like a train whistle because these pictures show her aging into dead bones. she points at the eyebrows arching and all the wrinkles like clay animation squished flat and adjusted again, badly. she points back in time, sadly, when she was young and full of hope, and the engines of time don’t let me hear her speak her valedictions to her lost hope.

sometimes, there are crickets in my dreams, when the ac units stop for a while, and the bus stops and the plane hovers still and the spaceship ejects my bod pod into the gorgeous night sky. I get to look up at the dreamscape’s night sky and hear the crickets and frogs again, singing love songs to the springtime, and falling in and out of love without ever laying eyes upon their beloved. they just hear the night music, and that’s how they find their love, and i get to dream about it for a little while again.

this doesn’t last long.

sometimes, the faint, faint sounds of people I don’t know making love invade my sleep or wake me. embarrassed, i smother my slightly sweating skull with thick pillows to block the sound until the air conditioning kicks in again to drown all soundwaves in engine hum. that’s not all bad, i guess.

above all else, though, i hear the engines rumble and groan like trapped ice elementals moaning for freedom from inside the magician’s machine.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


muse of pointlessness, inspire my pen to whine like a plebian. i shall now fall into the swamp of rambling reviewer blog entries for a moment. regular readers need not worry, this is a one day affair. tomorrow we will return to the normal pace of things. today we will castigate the sandwich makers.

in the shopping complex where i walk to linger in cafes and type out my mindspace, three separate sandwich chains, like three professional wrestlers against ropes, squat the edges of the buildings and stare at each other.

i decided that it was my leafy-green duty to compare the vegetarian sandwiches at quiznos, subway, and schlotzky’s.

firstly, quiznos was the overall winner, despite a sandwich that tasted bad.

most importantly, their staff seemed to “get” veggie food prep. they changed their gloves. they used a fresh knife for cutting. they seemed genuinely careful about cross-contamination, and had the cleanest work station, even on a busy afternoon. they asked me questions about preparation that indicated their concern. (“is it all right if we toast it in the same machine as the meat sandwiches?”)

that’s a very, very big deal, and a big kudos to the staff for their competence and consideration in veggie food prep. good job, guys and dolls!

if only the sandwich tasted good. the folks behind the counter asked me if i wanted the veggie sandwich made like they usually make it. having never had theirs before, i consented.

when i actually bit into the sandwich, it was so overstuffed with black olives that i felt like i was eating one giant olive. i couldn’t taste anything else because olive juices had oozed all over everything. their much-vaunted toasting of the sandwich didn’t seem to do anything at all but bake the olive juice deep into every single iota of sandwich.

despite the problems with the flavor of the normal sandwich, i wouldn’t hesitate to return there to special order another one without olives. cleanliness and veggie consideration are ultimately more important than something as easy to fix as removing olives.

these guys are the overall winners, and the best just because of that.

still, i encourage quiznos to reach out to vegetarian taste-testers so they can adjust the balance of their “normal” sandwich to something that doesn’t taste like a giant olive.

schlotzky’s was just bad. schlotzky’s was a complete, across-the-board failure.

the preparation of the veggie sandwich was a nightmare for strict buddhists and vegans and anyone concerned about cross-contamination. looking over at the preparation of the sandwiches, staffers didn’t change their gloves after handling wet meats to handle the vegetarian sandwich. they tried to cut the sandwich with the same knife they had just used to cut some peppery, beefy thing that had left little blackened and meaty bits all over the blade.

i looked odd, straining my neck to see over the counter, but i’m very glad i did it.

i wasn’t their favorite person after asking them to remake the sandwich with gloves that hadn’t been swimming in meat juices. they were not friendly about having to remake the sandwich, and looked at me like I was a lunatic (which i am, but in this case i was only being a vegetarian). the staff were also confused by my insistence that they shouldn’t use that knife visibly covered in bits of beef to cut my sandwich. i told them that i didn’t want my sandwich cut, because it seemed explaining cross-contamination would have taken too long. heck, they didn’t get it when I explained the gloves, why would they get it with the knife? they looked at me like I was the guy making their job difficult for no sane reason.

also, and unsurprisingly, the staff had never made a veggie sandwich before. they had to sift through their cheat sheets to figure out ingredients. they should have looked harder, because ingredients that i was told would be on the sandwich were visibly not there. (olives, bell peppers, lettuce).

when i finally got an uncontaminated sandwich, which was missing certain vegetables (i wasn’t going to send it back again over olives and lettuce) I bit into the sandwich. this time, i couldn’t really taste anything sandwich. schlotzky’s had some kind of odd Italian spice baked in the bread and in the mayonnaise-like topping that smothered everything. that’s all it tasted like. i was eating damp Italian seasoning.

fresh vegetables don’t need to be smothered in layers of spice and sauce to be tasty. maybe your dead chicken needs a muscular flavor so it doesn’t taste like dead chicken, but my cucumber and onions are naturally delicious. what’s with all that goopy spiceness? my fresh vegetables are the same things you omnis add to chicken to make chicken taste better than just chicken. schlotzky’s, i object to your crass attempt to make everything in the veggie sandwich taste like not-veggies. you are not emerille lagasse. you do not need to “kick it up a notch”.

honestly, how can one completely mess up a simple recipe of fresh vegetables, cheese, and bread? how can one mess up every single step of a sandwich from cross-contamination in the prep room to unfriendly-to-veggies staff to bad taste in the end product? that’s impressive, schlotzky’s. your failure is so total as to make me suspect it is intentional. how else could such ruinous failure occur in every single part of an assembly line process from the prep room to the tongue? clearly you are actively trying to alienate every vegetarian in the city. thus, when i am with friends, and they want to go to schlotzky’s i will veto them ferociously and insist upon your competitors, and you will laugh haughtily at your success!

i challenge you, schlotzky’s, to reach out to your staff and teach them the ins and outs of vegetarian food preparation in an omnivorous kitchen environment.

also, get some taste testers who are actually vegetarians. your meat-based taste testers seem to prefer the one that doesn’t taste like vegetables. vegetarians tend to like things that taste like vegetables.

subway is the clear and resounding taste winner. subway put the most vegetables on the actual sandwich, and seemed to carry more different kinds of appropriate toppings. they also let the customer choose which kind of mustard or dressing or mayo to use, having no standard topping, and how much to put on without having to “special-order” anything. thus, my sandwich ends up tasting like delicious fresh vegetables.

the sandwich, with more veggies, is also more filling and a better value. instead of trying to win me over with a toaster oven or gimmicky italian-style spices, subway wins me over by giving me more of exactly what i want: heaps of veggies, in any combination i feel like having today.

alas, subway your delicious veggie sub is marred by a problem similar to the reviled schlotzky’s. staff members often don’t think to change gloves when preparing a veggie sub after preparing an omni sub. i must actively interject to remind them of the needs of veggie customers. “hey! i don’t want my sandwich sliced by that dirty knife that had just carved through three turkey subs and something with more dead animals on it than a hunter’s trophy room!”

fortunately for subway, the customer is encouraged to stand near the assembly line and direct each step of the food-making process. unlike schlotzky’s where i must strain my neck to observe the assembly line, subway encourages me to correct errors of cross-contamination and assertive olive-ing.

yes, i am annoyed at subway, but i’d go back. that is the clearly superior-tasting sandwich, after all, and i’m willing to bark at staff to get it.

in summary, and the reason i bring this here to my virtual megaphone: vegetarian food preparation requires some thought and slightly different assumptions.

when preparing food for a vegetarian, try to think like one for a moment, before you begin. don’t cross-contaminate. just don’t. don’t add spice to the vegetables as if the veggies were one of your bland slabs of dead hormone-juiced chicken-like birds.

remember, people, vegetarian bodies forget how to process dead animals. Even cooked, kosher meats make us extremely ill. (ask my sister about the time cross-contamination at a restaurant woke her up in the night to quite a disgusting surprise between my door and the bathroom. or, ask my brother why i don’t eat anything i didn’t physically watch him prepare.)

Saturday, June 2, 2007


i dreamt about this time
i flew in an airplane above greenland
between la guardia and frankfurt

the pilot came on and told us to look far below
greenland is neither grass green nor glacier white
it’s black, in fact, that late at night
i couldn’t tell greenland apart from the ocean
in that plane, miles over the water
or ice sheets?
whatever it was,
it might as well be black, cloudy sky

then, because this was also a dream,
we’re upside-down
and i’m looking down at the night mouth of heaven
we’re in space, flying too high, all spun around
broken circuits
lunatic pilots

when the sun rises, we’ll see
the moon
a white wasteland, curving out to a black horizon
like greenland

Friday, June 1, 2007

pre-order your copy now!

HEY! look what I found whilst googling myself like a smarmy git!

pre-order your copy today!

about the cappuccino machine of the hotel intercontinental in addison, texas

the capuccino machine, like the stalwart guardian of the long counter of the hotel intercontinental's restaurant bar, doesn't actually move at all. it has long ago forgotten how to steam and wail and storm out the beverages at breakneck speed. no one notices the machine's quiet forgetfulness because it looks so dignified there, so solid.

at set times, strong men massage the old machine with silver polish and soap. the milkwand rolls around like an elephant's trunk. the water warms and flows like a salute. inside, the water is still steaming hot, gentle inspectors, and one need not concern oneself with investigating the tired gears and pipes behind the steel.

the machine looks out at the whole restaurant, where happy people in expensive suits drink orange juice and coffee that came from brutish, industrial machines hidden in the kitchen like ugly ogres.

the cappuccino machine, my soldier of the morning, secretly dreamt of action. once upon a time, the espresso and steam flowed faster than milk and not a soul in the hotel opened an eyelid without the young machine's help. not anymore, quiet guardian.

ah, but i raise my hand to the waiter, and point at the stalwart little box that stares back at me. i'll let the guardian remember the years long past for a few humble moments of milk and ground bean.

soldier of the morning, i lift this cappuccino to you.