Tuesday, December 30, 2014

who will protect us?

This morning was the usual. Up around eight. Out the door by 8:30 to take F to school. The elevator guy took us down. When the door opened to the lobby, there was a scene. A lady sat, emotionally-withered-looking on a sofa. Two cops stood in front of her. They were consoling her, asking her questions. She looked frazzled. Of course I was curious to know what had happened but knew better than to pry. I glanced at one of the cops. I refuse to mention his race although it was not mine.

In a swift second I saw a weight in his eyes. A sadness. He stood there, protective, articulating a sincere stoicism in his body language. I thought: what magicians these people have to be. A walking bundle of synchronized psychology and strength. To serve and protect.

This lady, her problem could've seemed extraordinarily mundane to some, to others a relatable cause for alarm and sympathy. It must've been some sort of domestic dispute. She could've heard a noise. Her husband could've gone missing in the night. Perhaps she couldn't find a watch, saw someone in her window. A crank caller. A funny smell. Maybe she couldn't remember her name.

I felt sorry for the policemen standing there in front of her. I could feel the stress only they could know feeling like the world is against them. The dirty looks they must get from everyone. New York cops. Who are expected to do their jobs the right way for everyone or else be criticized. Cops who are painted as villains for a few confrontations that've been heavily dramatized by media--by revolutionary wanna-be types who have nothing else as a source of pride but to protest the deaths of names we've been forced to reflect upon. To ignore is a negligent statement, supposedly. But this negative fanfare, painting the people who are called for any hint of a threat to our security...

Who else could we call if an intruder assaults us? Are we now at a time where we must appoint our sturdiest family members to learn jujitsu so we may call upon them on speed dial to lift the violent fists from our faces?

Without traffic laws there would be increased speed in the streets leading to obliterated vehicles scattered among the medians. When our uncles are drunk and wielding a gun. When sociopaths litter the after hour shadows waving broken bottle shivs. When a convenience store has been robbed. When a pedestrian biker has been sideswiped by an SUV on a corner. Who are we to call?

The hypocrisy of our current condition worries me. The on-trend, generalized hatred of the police. Anything generalized scares me. With specific situations we find specific solutions, but with the obvious lack of thought and clarity, within our attitudes of hostility, masses huddled in their easy opinions: cops are evil--we are compromising our safety. Who will protect us?

Us as in little children, mocking any and all authority. We treat our teachers like shit. Our cops. Our spouses. Our children. We neglect our animals. Our health. We say: hey, look, I am the voice of injustice! I am a righteous citizen who knows what's best for every other citizen. But we can barely take care of ourselves. We mourn, an excuse for sympathy.

The lady in the lobby. The cops who were called. Is more of what happens in our interactions with the law? Not a frenzied draw that leads to accidental homicide called murder for sensationalists.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the reverse zoom

Last night I dreamed I had a small part in a Terrance Malick film. We were filming a picnic scene: basket, blanket, in period piece costumes outside on a lush green field. Two actors (can't remember who) beside me, read their lines from a screen. I nervously rattled off my line between the kinetic dialogue exchange. It was the first take and we got to watch ourselves immediately after the director yelled cut. I was nervous as I watched myself. I looked weird. My lips were incredibly red and thin and my face looked like a pale, powdered pancake. My eyes were lidless slits covered in heavy eyeliner and instead of acting natural, I stuttered, looked into the camera self-consciously, then looked away. I was horrified by my appearance and lack of acting talent. I thought: will anyone else see this the way I do? And then everything phased away in a reverse zoom.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

it used to be cholesterol - SEND

It's funny these objects or places that have an anchor effect on our lives. A lighter, a phone, humans even, or to some the bodega across the street, a coffee mug. We're creatures of habit. Attachments are useful. Attachments are a form of gravity. They're placeholders, breadcrumbs on a path of familiarity. Songs that set phases act as bridges which bind the rifts for footing.

Our personal scrapbooks have little value to anyone but ourselves, but these days our scrap booking is not only public but often sloppy. With post modernism being so mainstream these days, as we're compelled to keep things brief and meaningful, stream of consciousness has never been so in. Opinions scatter and merge to reenforce a sense of meaning. Validation is the drug that'll define these times. Algorithms pried for power. Patterns scattershot trying to find life. They avoid atrophy in cozy layers. And the new brain is a cynic disguised as a revolutionary.

Likes, loves--retweets are the cocaine that'll send us reeling for the next fix. Everyone's a writer, a poet, an intellectual these days. We scan our manicured coffee foam for the perfect aphorism. We sip our brewed awakenings--we lol at our own stupid puns and exchange love to those who initiate & follow suit.

Foam from an agitated leaf sits on our upper lip like a mustache: "leaves...change color, our times are changing...I reach for change & finger a hole that leads to a forest - SEND. I reach for my phone & touch your hand instead #love - SEND. My screensaver is of your hand...*holds screenshot of yr hand against my face* - SEND.

What are we doing to ourselves by seeming/feeling more useful then we actually are by complaining. We are witty. We are relevant. Stars in a our shifting universe of attitude. Stars of our own life story. Sometimes anonymous. In plain sight, we are cying for attention.

But if we step outside, the fear is like the weather. We are beholden to it. Ever shrinking and colossal at once, we stew in our detachment - SEND. When we meet we expect the worst. When we're shown light, we are skeptics for the warmth which might be taken away - SEND. But what can we do besides do what others do and this is what we've always done, lest we be crucified for our trend-fucked opinions.

We are Feminists. We are proud to be obese. We group shame, what we used to do to witches, one negative comment and we are banished or burned alive. Our names are beaten. We are distracted. We are blind to that one negative act which perpetuates a triple negative repulse. And this is not helping, the way we get offended so easily these days. This is not strength. This is a generalized decline. Armies devouring other armies and the enemy is a name. The enemy is COPS. The enemy is in DC. The enemy is ISIS. The excuse is racism. It used to be terrorists. AIDS. It used to be cholesterol. It used to be COMMUNISTS. JAPS. JEWS. A conglomerate has parts. And we are terrified as a whole.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

taking apart the Changeling

What did I do today? Well, I rewrote a dozen or so paragraphs from the Changeling--a novel by Joy Williams. That took up most of my morning into the early afternoon.

Why? Because it destroyed me last week is why. I read it in one sitting. Five hours it took me and I couldn't put it down. (I'M NOT BRAGGING. It's not that thick.) And for an hour after I was through, it felt as though I'd been involved in a physically/emotionally violent incident. Fresh complexes hello! I couldn't walk right. I couldn't talk right.

What I really wanted to do was talk about it. But didn't have anyone to talk to. Which is usually the case when it comes to things like this. The looks I get when I want to talk about a book! God. Like I should get over myself. There's no one I know who's read it anyway. I mean I know a couple people who mean to--who've had the book on their shelves for years! But good luck with that. Good luck with the Magic Mountain and the Goldfinch and Infinite Jest. Tell me about it over tea sometime.

Why did I rewrite the paragraphs? To see what it must've felt like to write them of course. Although I realized, like immediately, that these things can hardly be a straight shoot. The paragraphs in the Changeling are heavily manicured. A no brainer, yes. But seeing that taught me something, too. That overwriting is a key; as well as a constant repositioning of things... That the editing process is where actual craft is born--extracted like gems in a cave... That the whittling and chiseling is the refining of raw elements aka 'the purge'. Optimum cohesion equals obsession. Like what's the joy of driving a nice car if the interior's cluttered with dust and a million gum wrappers? Redundancies...

Even the most organized purging...it's like the ice block before it gets hacked into a swan, or better yet-- an ice skating Yeti couple mid-fling and snatch. A hairy visual indeed! And a cold one! Brrrr. It's similar to a fetus finding its features in the womb. Raw potential being culled from the bones and blood of its mother. All guided by a blueprint. A seed. A technique that furls alive through phases. Enough with the metaphors! Okay, okay. (I didn't ask you to come here ya know.)

I'm pasting an example of today's efforts below. To show that I'm not just full of ass talk:

    “I wish I was pretty, “ Franny lamented, yanking at the flowers in a careless way.
    “It is not for human beings to be pretty, Franny,” Thomas said. “We have language and intelligence, which has to be enough. We must leave the prettiness to the animals.”
    Timmy pounced at a lizard near Lincoln's foot, jarring the table.
    “In one of the Greek accounts of creation,” Thomas went on, “the god Epimetheus was given the responsibility for distributing the ingredients of biological creation among all the creatures. He lavished everything upon the wild animals, beautiful fur and feathers, gracefulness and form, strength and agility. By the time he came to man, he had run out of desirable characteristics. Man was left with just weakness and ugliness. It was his brother Prometheus who gave man dominance to keep him from shame.”
    “I don't mind being ugly,” said Tracker, “but I won't be weak.” (187) – (here we go again with the historical wisdom incorporated into a character's knowledge-base which produces the effect of making the character likable by making the character smart/educated, applying learned knowledge into a conversation and also setting a precedent, moving narration along with a story of doom and creation as a parallel to amplify things to come with the shape-shifting mystery of the children. There's also the timeless commentary regarding humans in general. None of this appears to be diatribe. It's tucked within the character's voice.)

The commentary that follows in bold is mine. The take. The idea is to absorb without imitation (which IS flattering, yes but, no) so I write everything down: the paragraphs, my thoughts, and then try forget about it. I mean it's the direct equivalent of doing calculus for fun. I realize that. 

I'm going to take a shower now and join the party known as being alive and healthy in America. If anyone reads his beside me then hello! Welcome! And Goodbye!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

the Believer

My interview with Ken Baumann is featured in the June issue. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

those pop quiz assassins

I've become acclimated the three-hour time difference between the West and East coast. I've become a morning person! Waking up at seven every morning whether responsibilities call for it or not. Teeth brushed, I have my coffee by eight. And I'm hardly counting back in threes anymore. It's eight here, it's five there. I wonder if the sun's up yet. So and so must be sound asleep. It feels like I have a head start. An early riser in America. When I'm productive, in my head, the days leaps by so fast. I'm usually in bed by midnight. When it's only nine in LA. To think, for years I couldn't sleep before 2. I was a night owl, getting an average of 5-6 hours sleep every night. It's more like 7 now. I'm sure this is good for me. I've had more energy to read, which puts my mind in a place where words are easier to reach. I'm much more talkative than I used to be. But there are also more people to talk to.

I had a horrible dream last night. The one credit shy of graduating nightmare. The end of semester assessments were being doled out to my class, although there was no one there but me. I didn't find this strange. The teachers liked me. We were friendly. I was handed my test score, but the number seemed low. I was ashamed! Something like 23? I hoped this was enough. I didn't say anything. Then a teacher pulled me aside gently talked to me about my test score. He pulled out my actual test. It was streaked with red ink. Xs, slashes. Page after page. Murder was the math that it gave me.

I felt deficient. Dumb. As usual per the story of my academic life, I hadn't studied. I would have to repeat the class to graduate. I was going to be left behind! I tried to bargain with my teachers who liked my personality. One point away! I pleaded. Just one point! Can't you let it slide? They considered, but the air of hopelessness followed me into my waking life. Writhing around in my sheets, I thought: retest! I'll study and take it again! Please don't let me fall behind! Give me the point! and then I saw the sun in my window and thought: oh, school was a long time ago. I'm done with school. Thank god. Although a haze of deficiency has stuck with me all morning. Of being an underachiever.

Monday, May 12, 2014

blueish-gray & nowhere to go

I dreamed a flying dream! I don't know how I managed to remember, having only had six hours of sleep (since going deep enough to stick the details usually involves the tail-end of a sleep marathon, 10 hours of solid, maybe 8). It's been so long. But the escapade stuck to my brain like a hundred dollar bill sticks to a well-worn shoe on a cruddy Brooklyn sidewalk.

That happened once actually. When within one week's time I found $100 in front of my favorite Chinese BBQ place, $40 on a Chelsea art walk and $5 on the way to the G on Metropolitan. Right in front of that diner that served a spectacular Thanksgiving plate year round. I swear I could eat stuffing with cranberry sauce once a week. And gravy'd potatoes. Sweet potato casserole with toasted marshmallows. My stomach's growling! New York was bribing me to stay after I lost a job. There were definitely connections that needed to be made in LA. But that's another story.

Back to the flying dream. This one was peculiar and a bit morbid. Somehow I got it in my mind--I could fly. Whether or not I knew I was dreaming, I'm not sure; but I knew I was doing something impossible. I was really trying to make it work! It always starts with a few slow jumps doesn't it? So I jumped, jumped, STUCK IN THE AIR and floated. Arms wobbling between light thoughts or sinking with doubt. When my toes touched ground I kicked off, going higher and higher each time, until I finally caught air and SAILED through the sky like some fucking badass.

At some point I was en route to a 'far off destination.' Can't remember where exactly, I'd like to think I was circling the globe like Superman trying to save Lois Lane from being buried alive in her car. But halfway through the journey I lost my confidence and started sinking closer and closer to the ground, until I was back to bouncing and hovering. Each bounce taking me ten feet vertically.

I bounced like that on a farm for a while before I realized I could no longer fly and I was stuck in the middle of freaking nowhere. Like a damn chicken. The abundant painted trees were a nice touch (if I do say so myself). Without those to frame the scene I might as well have been staring at the lines in a notebook, me as a doodle melting away at the first sign of rain.

The landscape was abandoned, with a wash of gloom as usual. A matte about-to-rain sky turning everything a hostile blueish-gray. I wasn't scared. But I was lonely. The only person in the world, stranded on a gloomy farm. No horses, crickets. Nothing.

Silence can scream louder than sirens in some parts of the mind. No earplugs in sight. Even a sense of panic would be nice in situations like this, since the magnified throbs of heartbeats could blast white noise at the horrendous curse of screaming silence. Lost. And then we wake and wonder where we've been. Hopefully not on some damn farm feeling too heavy to fly.

Friday, May 9, 2014

B is for bad idea

I went to my first al anon meeting the other day. My friend, "Betsy" has been mentioning it to me for weeks. Asking me to give it a chance. She goes to deal with deep-set family problems. Her mother is a schizophrenic, homeless, heroin addict. I mean Jesus. I decided to check it out, support her, maybe learn something about the world. And well, sometimes I drink a bottle of wine before bed. But not every day or anything...

10-step signs about God being a rock for unhealthy addictions said I was in the right place. I was nervous when I got there early and didn't see anyone. Then people trickled in, mostly clean-cut women with bangs and colorful shoes. The epitome of Silver Lake locals. A couple shifty-eyed fidgeters. A twitchy man who could've benefitted from a wet comb and a Xanax. I sat in the back feeling extremely out of place.

When Betsy arrived she sat beside me, said hi with her hand on mine. She moved to a chair in the huddle when the meeting started. I followed reluctantly. The energy of the people around me, mercy. The group took turns reading a paragraph a piece from a tattered hardcover adorned with a shattered-glass type collage of sad, strung-out looking faces. A shitty story about a lady who lost both her parents to drugs and booze. The dad split first, then the mom. Then the poor thing lost her boyfriend to heroin! And she was an alcoholic!

When the reading concluded, the room took turns speaking. Five minutes a piece about the chaos surrounding their lives. It was extremely personal. Some cried. Most vented stories about relationship dysfunction. I didn't move or speak. Staring straight ahead. It was like waiting for a church service to be over. At some point Betsy was sobbing. I crunched her shoulders in an effort to be sympathetic but she shook me off. She needed to cry I guess. I didn't take it personally.

Outside, Betsy and I talked for a few minutes about unhealthy relationships with narcissistic dick heads before we said goodbye. She had a lunch date and I decided to break my latest fast by walking across the street to a familiar brunch place that's been pretty hit-or-miss these days. I splurged on fish tacos anyway.

(this would be a good place to insert a story)

It took two me hours to open that to-go box. But I was determined to live a long life and be healthy! My problems have been furiously kicking my ass for a while but they weren't going to break me!

When I opened the box, the smell of stale fish made me tense. It that wasn't bad enough---THREE FLIES FLEW OUT. I threw everything in the trash. CLUNK. Guzzled a chia kombucha and thought: that's what I get. I didn't even call the place and complain about it. My ability to give a crap has gone fishing til next spring.

The flies were a catalyst. I completely lost my mind. All of the sudden it felt like the blood in my heart was beating through a compound fracture! In a desperate attempt to neutralize what was happening, I texted a friend some lop-sided nonsense. He did his best to help but I felt like a horse's ass. It's only then that I realized, even in this emotional shut down phase--I'm still an empath! I essentially absorbed ten tons of negative energy in that meeting and the weight of it was killing me! Being a shut in makes so much sense. But the loneliness...

Going back to the 'being emotionally shut-down' thing. Imagine...having the inability to feel. Going through motions. Intellectualizing fucking everything. Sad in theory. Tired therefore...I am not angry because my voice is neutral. I know what difficult is. I know what stress does to my shoulders. It creases my brows. My hands are clenched. Relax.

The only nostalgia that makes sense anymore is breezes. Where will the year-round, chlorophyll-rich breezes be in New York dammit... Not that anyone should take that attitude.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

natural disasters

An earthquake rippled underneath me last night just before midnight! Lasted about 5 seconds but my heart's pulse was obvious; its thumping erratic. A surge of adrenaline! I might as well have downed three quick shots of espresso! Fight or flight--my body prepared itself to embrace the impact of collapsing walls if necessary. 

The act of being shaken is so dramatic. I guess the shocks people in the automobile industry count on this. It also explains the absence of “shake you” rides at amusement parks. I mean the rides shake, but that's usually a bad sign, right? Especially if they're meant to whoosh you around in giant loop d loops. I hate roller coasters. But one last earthquake before I hit the road ain't bad. Although I'm not technically driving to New York. 

My tickets have been booked. The countdown begins. I'm thrilled and nervous, giving away furniture, minus a couple bookshelves. I'm keeping all my books this time. Fuck it, I've accumulated an excellent collection this go-around. I'm not giving these babies up like I always do, even though they weigh so damn much. The gifted Kindle (collecting dust in the other room) can bite me for now. I've gone completely digital everywhere else. I will enjoy my paper pages as I enjoy the texture of cheese on my tongue. These tactile experiences help us appreciate our bodies. Our fingers, eyes, tongue, teeth. Every inch receptive to sensual fulfillment. 

On the minus, the smell of a rotted carcass led me to the stove yesterday and today. I thought I'd found the source when I pushed the stove from the wall and found a tiny mouse, attached and dead, on a sticky sheet of glue. I wrapped it in a bag and tossed it, but the smell persisted, and dramatically increased the next day. I pushed the oven again and found a long-dead pocket gopher, as big as my hand, attached to another trap.

There's nothing so visceral as the smell of death in your home. It's an invasion. A reminder of how all things expire, more often under violent, rather than peaceful, circumstances. I'll take these natural disasters as a sign that my time in LA has expired. The extra month here is a curse. But I will remain calm and make the best of it.

Ps. Cinco de Mayo was fun this year.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

in the guise of superstition

The world's trying to tell you something. Whether it's by coincidence, "that's weird, you're the third person to mention candied turnips today!" or something more dramatic like a broken shoelace which results in a missed traffic light, a passed accident en route to your destination--with a "that could've been me" exhale, superseding the mercy of timing.

Superstition in a so-called rational person's mind may rely more on reinforcement, than morbid mysticism, but it exists for everyone. Whether it's minding the idea that boasts could lead to failure, or avoiding that odd number at the gas pump, we must brace ourselves for the specks that divert our attention. We sweep or bury them. Before we're buried by consequences of actions we neglect.

I myself, have been missing texts by people I probably have no business talking to. The texts finally reaching my phone when I power it off and on again. Who are these people? I guess this is the question I'm supposed to ask myself--according to my phone and the complex network of satellites and towers connected to it--it's hilarious when people get angry about a slight delay in communication.

Instant gratification: people pay good money for it. Shorter lines, carpool lanes, high-speed everything. Even Tinder takes the middleman of dating out of the equation of the love/sex exchange. Who needs candlelight anything (aside from the occasional seance participant) when you've got women who swear by being equal in the lust game? We too are visualists. We too are not monogamous by default. Have we come too far to treat our mating habits like those of less sentient lemurs? According to the emphasis on folly in most romantic comedies, the answer is no.

But confusion spikes progress. We will never not be confused. We crave the challenge. We create chaos it if it's not there, to feel alive when complacency follows routine.

Once my mother, on the way to a live-music type Barbeque on a Memphis riverside, would not stop complaining about her meddling friend. I, who pride myself on giving great advice (because I know everything obviously) tried, with many failed attempts, to arm her with practical solutions. "Stop talking to the lady--tell her how you feel," I said, but my mother ignored the advice like a broke relative on payday. Finally, when I told her I was fed up with her wall of impenetrable problems, she looked at me, while driving, and with half-mocking look in her eyes said, "Haven't you ever thought I might LIKE to complain?"

And just like that, I was the dumb one sitting in the passenger seat. My mother, without missing a beat, continued to complain about her meddling friend for the rest of the drive, but by then all I could do was nod, alert with affirmation; interchanging seemingly dismissive quips like "Yes, that's terrible" with "That lady has problems," and for the first time in my life I felt an adult connection to the lady.

My mother could be one of the great complainers of our time and how would I know, since I'm obviously a shittier emotional listener than I could have ever imagined. But to this day, I try to recognize others like her, who complain for: sport, to vent, to socialize.

Without chaos, how do we explore our possibilities for advancement? We side-step ruts by which we have become accustomed. We set boundaries in the guise of superstition. Make rules for ourselves when there are no actual rules to keep us in check. Where would we be without our morning coffee? Ears perked at the fourth mention of Yatzee in an eight-hour day and then it's night again. We fall asleep and do it all over again until we die.

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