Claire rustled beneath the covers of her washed out down comforter, unable to force herself from bed. It was a dreary day in late October, and the wind pressing the branches against the window frightened her. Embarrassed by the wash of fear that now trickled through her body, she lay quiet and unmoving in the pale grey daylight. The ceiling fan spun in cyclical repetition above her; the blades almost imperceptible.
In the night, she had dreamt of a long, faded road. A thick fog from the nearby lake hovered in suspense over the hood of her car. Something, her intuition unrelenting, told her to stop. "Don't keep going..." but her foot held down firm on the pedal, unresponsive to the will of motion. The car kept moving forward as the road began to narrow. The speedometer tracked mile after mile until finally Claire came to a dead end at a sign that read:
Dalrock Road - Mile 0It was at this particular point in the dream that she had awoke to her current state, in stasis, still beneath the covers. This reoccurring dream always came discretely in the night, always unexpected, and always with a lingering sense of dread. Come morning, it left her feeling on edge with a heavy weight of trepidation that something bad, though she knew not what, was going to happen.
When Claire finally managed to muscle the courage to crawl out of bed and dress herself for the day, she came to the frantic realization that most of the day had already passed. This discovery was slow to be made and it was only once she had walked into the kitchen and her eye had stolen a glance at the microwave clock that her sense of time returned in a flush of overwhelming panic like someone coming to from a disorienting accident. It was at some point, in the early hours of the morning, that Claire had crashed from exhaustion, falling into a deep sleep. The night had been filled with research-heavy reading and extensive note taking as she scrambled desperately to make headway on her architectural proposal that was due for submission. Two long, exhaustive years of planning, stress, and ass-kissing to clear red tape, and even now... nothing was guaranteed. The bids for the contract were highly competitive. She was battling against big money interests. "Sure, it'd be easy to let go," she thought, "had I not poured my life and energy into seeing this come to fruition." However, she had crossed a very definitive line into the dominion of pure obsession; she had resolved to secure the contract at any expense.
In the kitchen, she meticulously scanned through a pile of papers that lay scattered across the kitchen table while she waited for her coffee to brew. She pulled down and replaced various sticky notes stuck to walls and cabinets in the vicinity, re-reading the words she had written and passing over their failure to delineate much of anything but the randomness of her thought process. To an outside eye, there would appear to be chaos strewn about, but to her, the connections were quite clear - to her the world was singed with connectivity.
The coffee whistled on the stove announcing its finality, waking her from an insistent trance that had taken over her. She poured a cup of coffee and wandered into the office as the steam rose from the surface forming clouds of fluid motion. Claire thumbed through the pages of a leather-bound journal that lay open on the desk, sipping carefully at the coffee that was on the verge of burning her hand. She landed on an entry she had written just one week ago:
Friday, October 19th :
It was through the slow process of mutation that I came to be where I am now... like a songbird in my head, repeating the words over and over again. My voice matches the melody. This began before I ever knew what was happening. I missed the clouds rolling in, the thunder in the distance. It was only after standing stretched and drenched out on the sidewalk that I realized I had changed... that I had been drowning in the rain. To be quite sure, you can't be ready for this kind of change. It emerges upon waking when you're drowsy and alone. When you're not willing to turn over. It sounds an announcement through the window, an abrupt morning call to arms. It follows you into the bathroom, dresses in your clothes, and walks out the front door. An imitation of experience. The duality of motion lends no closure and exposes the reality that I am nothing but a passerby, trapped within this vessel for one transient moment. When my goal is to observe and understand, when I hole up in the dark corner of a room, the world caves in around me, and I am thrust forward, full reverse (a demure reflection of the past), into the milieu of action. It imposes upon me while I watch. There is no separation. I am pure impulse.
Claire closed the journal letting her eyes trace the empty wall on their way to a curtain-less window. She stared out the window for one long moment, empty and apathetic to the passing traffic down below, and then proceeded into the bathroom to brush her teeth. She stood before the mirror as the water ran down the drain to the end of nowhere; her hand moving the brush in small repetitive circles over her back molars. With one extended look into her eyes through the mirror, she asked herself one question, "how far are you willing to go to get what you want?”
This question was always with her, hidden deep in the struggle of her efforts, in decisions she had made, in the losses she had suffered.
Claire thought of Boston and of her childhood home in Winthrop. She pictured Yirrell Beach looking north from Deer Island; the fog rising from the sea clouding her memory. It was in that very moment that she spit into the sink, wiped her mouth clean, and walked into the foyer to grab the car keys. She locked the door and left the house with a single destination in mind.
The house on Dalrock Road sat at the bottom of an old lake reservoir, created long ago to manage periodic flooding and to provide water for surrounding towns. This project she had undertaken, an effort to win the bid to build an open studio on the lakeside property, was the largest she had ever taken on. The intricacies of covering all her bases had begun to consume her whole world. She couldn’t escape. The only consolation lived in known that once the proposal had been submitted, she would be able to rest in peace again.
However, the problem with developing a clean-cut proposal lie in navigating a convoluted stream of complicated legality regarding the deceased owner of the estate. After years spent living in a nearby nursing home, he had recently passed, and with no next of kin or distant relative to bequeath the land to, he had requested the inclusion of a detailed clause within his will for the strict re-appropriation of the property.
The house that sat upon the land had been in his family for generations, and after speaking with a few acquaintances, Claire had deduced that Mr. George Sands, former owner of said property, seemed to have a strong distrust of salesmen. Generally speaking, if not most especially, of real estate brokers, with whom he had an extensive history of unsavory run-ins.
Thus, for Claire’s dream to cease its intangible form of existence in her head and materialize within the realm of reality, proper arrangements had to be made. Calculated risks must be taken; a core of ethics must be foregone.
At least this is what she had convinced herself was the necessary course of action in order to “play with the big boys” – a phrase her father always used when she began to cry over perceived injustice as a child. “How far are you willing to go to get what you want?” he would ask her, looming above with an air of unquestionable authority. “If you have not exhausted every option, then you have no business complaining about your position in life.”
Claire had spent most of her life exalting a deified image of her father, and it was only in the past few years that certain circumstances had shed light on his undeniably human form.
The revelation had taken a devastating toll on Claire in the way one feels when the truth is shattered into a million pieces all around you leaving you with no foundation upon which to stand and a disturbingly unrecognizable reflection in the mirror.
Though the weather was mild for a late fall afternoon, she wore a hooded jacket with a pair of gloves stuffed into the pockets. She descended the back stairs content with the belief of being prepared. The cement was still stained from the rain that had moved in overnight and musty moisture hung in the air, just enough humidity to curl the ends of her hair.
She stopped at the corner gas station to fill up her car and grab a pack of cigarettes. This was a religious pilgrimage taken every two days. The man behind the counter knew her face, though they had never taken the proper steps to exchange names. She had a bad habit of keeping an arms length distance from everyone she met.
“The blue pack,” he said, “I know… it never changes.”
He pulled the pack from the behind the slot and placed it on the counter in front of her.
Claire smiled and made an attempt to return his genial familiarity,
“Thank you. Have you been busy today?”
He gave a sharp laugh, thrilled to be receiving more feedback than usual from her, and replied,
“It’s been okay. When I came to work this morning, I found a homeless man digging through my trash outside of pump 2, making a real mess of the parking lot. Other than that, uneventful.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” Claire responded, straining her effort to participate in the conversation the cashier seemed adamant on having.
Her mind was inexorably distracted with the preceding event, with where she was going next.
“Where to today?” he asked as he ran the pack of cigarettes and a bottle of water beneath the scanner.
She lied to him without quite understanding why.
“Nowhere in particular… I just feel like going for a drive.”
He placed the water bottle and her cigarettes in a plastic sack, tied it off, and handed it to her.
“Why we do anything but wander is beyond me,” he said, “Ambition begets vexation.”
She gave a faint smile, nodding her head, then turned to walk through the automatic doors as the customer behind her stepped up to the counter.
She couldn’t say for certain why she was headed to the house. What would trespassing accomplish? But in the moment her judgment was wasted, logic and good sense evading her. Her thoughts floated in a consortium of letters, arranging themselves into words before her eyes: “I am pure impulse.”
The urge to head toward the end of Dalrock Road swept her off her feet like the wave of a siren song. Claire knew there was no turning back; she had come too far, worked too hard, to leave it all to chance. Though she had been to see the property over a dozen times before, she had always been escorted by a member of the real estate firm charged with the deed of delegating ownership under the order of Mr. Sands’ will. At present, she considered the idea that perhaps while alone, clear of supervision, she might be able to uncover a secret, some hidden loophole, allowing her to gain an edge over her competitors. "Everyone has a secret," she thought and though it was a vague notion to proceed upon, her instinct convinced her otherwise. Tonight - this is where she needed to be.
It was a forty-five minute drive from Claire's house in the city to the turn off the highway down Dalrock Road. Although the road traced the shore for several miles, it was by no means isolated from society. A small suburb was fixed at the mouth of the road and while driving down toward Mr. Sands’ property; one passed a house every few acres.
The house at the end of Dalrock Road sat tucked behind a large gathering of trees that surrounded the property to the water's edge producing an aura of privacy that no one dared to penetrate without permission. This was its charm, what put the property on the market, gave it value, and made it a prime piece of real estate. The perceived illusion of solitude.
Claire kept pace at 35mph sure not to exceed the speed limit while winding along through a tunnel of telegraph-wire trees. She had little to no visibility out either side of the car for the sun had begun to sink beneath the horizon. The slow rise of anticipation bubbling in her stomach caused the hair follicles on her arms to stand on end. She carried with her the dark fear of unknowing and the unmistakable feeling that she was being watched.
By this time, the clouds from a nearing cold front had blown in, darkening the sky, and further reducing the light between the trees. Just beyond the sign at the end of the road, she made a left turn onto a little dirt path toward a rickety old wooden fence, engulfed by moss and overgrown brush. She emerged from her car to the pungent smell of wet plant life and burning wood, a smell reminiscent of the Great Smokey Mountains where her father would take her on off years in the fall. When he managed to secure a backcountry permit, he would take her hiking deep into the woods. They would walk for hours, sometimes following the Appalachian Trail, other times making their own route through the trees. Her father always seemed so fearless when she was young; his knowledge of the land and the inner workings of certain systems seemed to comfort her and ease the tension she felt being exposed to the elements. As she grew older, Claire was able to discern that while her father's knowledge was unmatched, his arrogance was the flame that burned his fear, a flame that would eventually consume him completely.
She walked along the perimeter of the fence searching for a breach, a broken plank of wood or someplace to gain her footing and climb over. She remembered, from a previous visit, seeing an opening on the west end of the property. So she doubled back and retraced her steps to find the hole she had been looking for. She felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment standing there alone on the property. From bed to destination, she had seen her plan through to the finish. Watching her idea transform into reality gave her hope for the future.
Claire felt her beliefs revitalized, "...you must take care to be assiduous, grit and determination are necessary factors that will lead to great success."
Looking back now, Claire thought the words her father touted seemed more like the audio of an infomercial than any true advice a father would give to his daughter.
As she walked across the open lawn toward the dilapidated house, Claire felt her nerves begin to tighten into knots, forming pockets of tissue in her stomach. For one brief, revealing moment, Claire resolved to turn around and go back. Then she heard that song again, the melody she could not quit singing, playing in her head. So she continued along the path that she had chosen.
The little old lake house sat overlooking the lake on the far eastern edge of the property. In total, the property spanned twelve acres, the largest piece of land in the area, and hugged the edge of a nature preserve on the southwest side. It was quiet, clean, and natural - things Claire desperately desired to hold on to; things which were slowly disappearing from her life.
As dusk rolled in around her, Claire decided that she would stay the night. She had always felt at home under the cover of darkness. The night presented a welcome comfort when the whole of the masses retreated to their homes. The whole world fell quiet again. She felt privy to the secret silence in the late hours of the turning clock.
On approach, the house was blocked by a few large branches that had fallen in the storm the night before, but she navigated around them in the dark making her way to the wrap around porch which extended half way around the house, fit with rotting plywood after years of exposure. Mr. Sands had not sought to maintain the upkeep of the property. To Claire, it seemed his neglect had been intentional. It was his way of implying implicitly that if the house could not stay in his family then he wanted no one to have it, through any means necessary, even self-destruction.
Witnessing this slow disintegration brought to surface the subtle patterns of depression she had experienced many times before, allowing the world to crumble in around her; the giving up and giving in to the complacency of dull tears. The remembrance of that old familiar feeling of lost hope which had a way of creeping in after months of little let downs. The pain associated with expectation.
Claire entered the house through the back door, knowing that the handle had a faulty lock. Once inside, she lit a slew of candles she found tucked inside a drawer and made preparations for a night of playing sleuth, digging through closets and old notebooks.
The hours passed in peaceful succession before exhaustion came calling in her head. She looked up from the pile of papers lying in disarray across the kitchen table and turned her head casting her gaze out of the window. Backwoods to the border of the water, she watched the moonlight dance like glitter softly sprinkled across the surface. The howling wind was laced with intermittent whistles that echoed across the lake, hanging high in the air like a cry for help with no prospect of rescue.
She pushed her chair back, stood up, and stretched dramatically. Her left leg had fallen asleep after sitting for so long, and she desired fresh air and a long walk to regain the blood flow. Claire pulled her coat from the back of the chair and slipped her arms into the sleeves, digging in the pockets to fish out her gloves. She stepped outside onto the porch, allowing a moment for her eyes to adjust to the night. A quarter moon hung in suspension over the lake casting dim shadows on the grass that shimmered along the length of the dirt path that led down to the water.
She draped her hood over her head, and slipping her fingers into the wool-knitted gloves, began a slow descent toward the lake. She stared out into the openness, inhaling and exhaling with the rhythm of the rippling water; sudden gusts of wind stealing the breath from her body.
As Claire stood along the shore, an uneasy feeling began to stir and build inside of her. The faint smell of sulfur had blown in on a breeze across the lake, and something about its presence disturbed her. It seemed so out of place. Suddenly, the dance of her breathing morphed into the pant of pure panic when out of the corner of her eye she saw the shift of an indiscernible figure. She tried to subdue her fear reminding herself that this was not the first time that she'd thought she'd seen something.
She recalled a time in Winthrop, she had been no more than five years old, when she had buried her head beneath the covers at the sight of a wraith-like figure hovering in the corner of her bedroom. After moments of lying in fear, she had pulled the covers from her face to find that the figure had disappeared, but the memory of that feeling remained.
That same feeling had returned to fill her body now, but this time it tasted different. It lingered on her tongue; it was real. It carried with it the sense of immediacy and danger.
She moved with caution along the water's edge, her pupils fully dilated, holding her breath in an attempt to mute the uncontrollable palpitation of her heart.
Everything seemed familiar, as if she had been here before, made these same decisions, and ran this very same course. The fate of her choices culminating in this one moment over and over again like Atlas tumbling down in endless repetition through eternity.
She begged for her rational faculties to take over. She wished to regain a hold, to stimulate the sympathetic branch of her atomic nervous system, to convince herself there was no danger that is was all made up. But it was hopeless; she was struck down by exasperation and the constriction of overexposure.
Claire followed the dirt path, placing one foot in front of the other in slow deliberate movements. She sought the safety of the house and its four walls lit orange by candlelight, but upon pivoting her foot she became caught in a cloud of sulfur fog that surrounded her like a prison.
Held in rapture unable to move, her diaphragm collapsed taking her breath with it. A figure coalesced from the cloud and the face of woman emerged, changing shape with the passing wind. The moon watched indiscriminately from up above; it had seen many things in the long course of its history.
There is a pause in the interim, before the placid sleep of death, when time seems to stand still, frozen like icicles hanging from the lip of a gutter. Her life did not play back along a film reel; there was no time for thoughtful recollection. Instead time merely stalled and slipped slowly into darkness.
The figure in the fog threaded fingers of smoke around Claire's shoulders. Her resistance was in completely ineffective, and she felt herself exorcised from her body, rising up above the scene, observing as it unfolded down below her.
She watched as the delicate fingers pulled her into the water and held her under.
She watched herself splash and grab at the phantom hands that held her down in silence.
She watched her body turn blue beneath the surface, as her screams trailed off and died in the passing ripples of the current.
Truth be told - I don’t know what love is. The only way I know how to define it is by attaching other concepts to it: compassion, intimacy, empathy, trust, etc. But if you take one of those elements away does the love dissolve? Or was it even there when those qualities converged in a single moment? It’s been painted over, sung about, and portrayed in film and literature in a myriad of different ways. Yet, somehow it still seems unattainable, inaccessible. It lives in the infamous phrase, “love or something like it,” existing in an ethereal realm where I can’t quite grab ahold of it, can’t quite pin down the emotion that arises when the feeling seems to emerge. If ever there existed a pure-form of love, it’s long since been manipulated by mass-market advertisers pandering to a populous constantly on the hunt for it. We all submit to its allure, and bow down before it.
Thus, here love floats warped and twisted above me.
However, despite my confusion and disillusioned sense of the definition of the word, I (like everyone else) have developed my own idea of what love is - and for me, I have never in my life seen more evidence of love than right here on this corner. I feel such an overwhelming sense of community the minute I step out my front door. The people in this neighborhood are constantly looking out for one another. They express general concern and care about the well being of the people around them, which is something I do my best not to take for granted because I know that this is not the common practice everywhere. In other places and in other spaces, people do not say hello. People do not hold open doors. People do not ask how your day was or try to connect with others on a level beneath the surface. The interactions that take place on this corner and in this neighborhood are not the product of affectation. They are real. I have met some of the best people I have ever known right here on this street – from members of the surrounding service industry, to regulars, to the homeless that live down the block. Even passersby of a similar disposition have somehow managed to flock to this corner. I won’t go so far as to deem that an example of the “power-of-love,” but I won’t ignore the experience and a part of me refuses to believe it is coincidence.
I will leave you with a story I feel exemplifies what I mean – Antonio is the parking lot attendant for the Taqueria on the corner right here behind 7-11. Antonio is, on most occasions, homeless. One day last fall as Jim was leaving Mudsmith, he accidently left his rolling bag of art supplies in the parking lot and drove away without it. Shortly thereafter, one of the habitual lurkers in the neighborhood saw an opportunity before him to make a quick buck and stole the bag. Antonio happened to catch the man walking away, and knowing the bag he had was Jim’s, confronted the man. The man denied all accusations and refused to turn the bag over to Antonio without a fee. Antonio somehow managed to scrape up $40 to buy back the bag. The following day, I wandered out of the Bottle Shop to the back lot to smoke a cigarette with Antonio. There he detailed the story of what had happened to me the day before, and asked if I would take him to pick up the bag. It took me twenty minutes to get Antonio to divulge how much money he had paid to get the bag back, and when I insisted he accept $40 from me, he refused. No amount of pleading from me would change his mind, and those of you who know me know I can be pretty persistent. But Antonio didn’t chase the bag down expecting to get repaid; for him, it was all a matter of honor and respect. You can call it what you want, but in my eyes, that is love.
Off the Record
“Ain’t nobody gonna love you like I say I do,” on top of the roof at the Green Room looking out at a clear view of Dallas. Bluesy guitar rifts on a Wednesday night swooning me, making me smile. More people out than I expected. The weather is mild and breezy for dead middle of summer. They got a makeshift wood block bar up and running on the roof now in addition to the single side bar up the stairs around the corner to the right. I parked down by the old abandoned Union Bankers building off Good Latimer and Elm, architect son-in-law of Booker T., then walked down past the 7/11 where a homeless dude on the corner bummed a cigarette from me. Asked me for a light right then and there saying, “You gotta kick me in the ass to get it started.” I keep walking down a ways cut through the candy room (Truth & Alibi) alley to Main Street past Brain Dead Brewery and the knick-knack junk store closing up shop for the night. Adam Hats tower off in the distance to my right. I mosey on down past the tattoo shop lit all aglow in blue neon lights. A few people go in while I walk past several vans parked bumper to bumper in a dead end alleyway behind Three Links. A group (probably a band) are talking deep down in there up against the door and a young guy is sitting on the ground with his back against the grill of a white van at the open end of the alley. “You can tell by the weather…” and I keep on walking. I do. I do cut the corner at Malcolm X heading back toward Elm Street and then I turn left again to walk back to where I came from – digging on the scene. Guy playing acoustic guitar across the street just west of Café Brazil. I hear live music coming from the roof of the Green Room so I dip in there. Get a Shiner at the bar from bartender who tells me his name is Reid. “Let me know if you need anything,” always giving you a name on slow weeknights when you say yes to the question, “Leave it open?” Loyal money, that sort of thing. So here I am on top above the bar. I hear hard rock rifts swimming through the air from Three Links. Heavy drum beats and the singer yells, “That’s what I said! You’re fucking awesome!” More screaming metal music. “All the bands tonight… FUCK YEAH!” he shouts. Normally I would prefer loud over light but tonight I want to chill out to the blues alone at my own table, just listening. A couple of guys down below form the shape of a diamond talking standing next to the parking lot. The Deep Ellum Revival… for the better? Maybe. I don’t know. Investors are aiming to make money off the hype, a buck off the renewed energy. Some parts are getting a bit too upscale for me, I hope what happened to Austin due to ACL doesn't happen here, but to be less critical I’m glad there’s a place like this in Dallas where I can come kick it, relax, write, and dig live music all night. Not be bothered by silly things. Parts of Elm that were under construction all last fall through most of this spring have been cleaned up now. No more wooden sidewalk boards and orange construction cones, we even got new trashcans and black metal benches put up all around the area. City planted new trees, bushes, fresh landscaping. Still the same number of beggars floating up and down Elm Street (if not more) but they’re smart like that, they know where to go to get sustenance. More music in the streets now, which I love. Raw and fun and just for the fuck of it. So when I walk around without plans to go to any bar in particular, especially when by myself, I can just stroll along listening to music. Stop here and there enjoy the jams. There's a new bar with circled red neon “A” next to Off the Record. Don’t know what it is – haven’t been there yet, but I remember seeing the 'Proposed Rezoning' sign out front a few months back. I dig my big round table facing the skyline, but I will probably move in a bit to get another beer and have to give up my prime real estate.
Back from the bar, my table's not taken. It's kind of hot and humid now, probably from the beer I’m drinking. The blues music duo stopped playing, hopefully they will start up again. Thoughts pounce bounce about going down to OTR for SoulFunktion Wednesday, DJ funk, afrobeats spinning til 1am. There goes the Dart Bus #76. Cars stopping and starting, while the blues man begins wailing – “I’m stuck in Folsom Prison,” the new guy playing is covering Cash doing a pretty damn good job too whistling the refrain to bring in the next verse. I'm staring at the crescent moon.
“But those people keep a-moving, and that’s what tortures me.” A break between the blues lets me hear Three Links again, “We’re going to hell, and we’re all gonna party when we get there! This next song is called - Party in Hell." Boom! A ska band on stage now, trumpets blowing down the house. Ska makes me miss Kyle and I'm so thankful he was able to come down from Kansas for the Fourth of July and stay as long as he did, yet still not long enough in my opinion. I always want more but time passes, things change, and you can’t always see the people that you want to every day. I look down at the paint on my tore up black Vans splotches left behind from painting shelves at work today. Sigh. Everything is torn and tattered. (214) 821-TAXI sea green van drives by - do people still use cabs since Uber came to Dallas? Nah, doubtful. And if so, surely not in Deep Ellum. God, the skyline is so beautiful. “Well I see a bad moon rising,” this guy is playing covers as the crescent is setting. I think maybe I should go balls out with Santiago’s moon poem concept. Write one long structured thing from new to full to new cycle. If I had a backyard I’d telescope nightly, but sadly I’m stuck in my apartment. 'Proposed Rezoning, #Z149-249' yet another one. Things are changing around these parts. Now a Doors cover, “Rollllll baby roll all night long.” Best cover so far and the kid on guitar now was actually just standing next to me earlier, real polite saying, “Pardon me,” as he set his beer down on the table I'm writing at while talking to his friend. “Save our city,” he finishes singing now talking to the patrons responding, “I don’t mind that whatsoever” in a thick country accent. I like it. Again, Three Links booms in between. “Alright Dallas we got one more song then we’re getting the fuck outta here.” Ska band is all riled up for big finale. 11:00 pm. Solo blues man up next on the stage, he's good but nothing special – doesn't have the energy that the last guy played with. Which is alright, just the way it goes – most are good, but few are great. The way talent in the world plays out. A photographer pops in with his DSLR and snaps a photo of the skyline real quick, 1-2 click, then he’s gone. I don’t even see where he went. Tatted girl – sleeves down both her arms wearing a wife beater and tight blue jeans with the ends rolled up just above her ankles crosses the street. Long dark curly hair looking real sexy from behind and god damn I can’t not stare at women. I’m such a sucker. My worst vice – I think of meeting her, buying her a beer, bullshitting to take her home. God, I’m just the fucking worst. I’ll never be cured. Kid biking fast with backpack then I hear Pop! Pop! A car backfires but it sounds sort of like gunshots. Nah, it’s all-good-as-gravy. Nothing bad happens while the electric blues are playing. Moon sitting just above the Comerica building damn near kissing the marquee. Traffic on Elm is picking up. It’s after 11 so it's hard to tell if they’re coming or going. Soon I'll close my tab and go down to Off the Record, but it looks dead so I'll just wait and catch the last hour. Helicopter crosses overhead. Couple in the side parking lot are having a serious discussion and I wonder what about. In the same parking lot, a white Honda stalled with the hood popped and a black Ford truck connected with cables is attempting to jump start it. A motorcycle picks up some chick outside of Fuzzy's then speeds off downtown with her on the back holding on. “I got the bluessssss so bad," moaning wha wha wha. Another taxi, no passenger, serious conversation still going down.
Dallas Cop #4008 drives down Elm, Dart Bus #76 circles around again on his route. People filling up the sidewalks busy-busy-busy. It is Wednesday night, right? Crash! Jenga wood blocks fall to the floor. Sounds of Deep Ellum. Bluesy rifts in the background. Honda pulls out of the parking lot – all better. Everything moving simultaneously. Ambulance off in the distance. Crescent moon, half hiding behind the Comerica building, just above the Bank of America tower. GREEN. My favorite mark on the skyline. Another ambulance roars west down 30, actually it’s a fire engine and I can see it whiz by just before the Adam Hats tower on the south side. Another ska band is playing now. Off the Record is still a ghost town... I may not even go, who knows. Wait and see. Dallas Cop #0101. Old guy with white-like blonde hair wearing a black tee that reads 'Biggie was right' is smoking a cigarette waiting on an Uber. You can always tell, and sure enough here comes a cream colored car pulls right up and him and his girl climb into the backseat. Bluesy cover of NWA, “I went front back side to side…. Jocking the bitches, slapping the hos.” Yet another siren in the distance. What the fuck is everyone doing out there? For chrissake be careful. “Don’t quote me boy cause I ain't said shit.” I go to the bathroom to take a piss, and the stall reads 'Eff your beauty standards, be loved.' Bar is starting to wind down, it’s 11:40 except I’m not ready to go home to loneliness. Moon is completely out of sight now. Live music still going strong everywhere. I might stop at Twilight Lounge on the way back to my car after I finish my beer and tab out. Green Room rooftop still poking along, and some Darby Crash looking motherfucker is haranguing in the streets. I hear him screaming ridiculous shit to people passing by. Makes me laugh, but oh poor Darby Crash killed himself dreaming of immortal recognition. How was he supposed to know Lenin would be shot the very next day? Punk rock bad luck always.
Dallas Cop #0185. Come the fuck on now! Three within the hour, can’t they find something better to do? Ska music still pounding down the way contrasting the soft rooftop blues, “Well I don’t believe in God no more, it’s true.” The moon is peak-a-booing. I watch it move, shifting slyly through the skyline. I smell fresh burgers and though I wasn’t hungry I suddenly feel the urge to eat one. Now I hear, “It ain’t me no!” See the whole moon exposed again at 11:52pm watching from my same spot at the round table on the rooftop. Turn my head to look down at “ A” bar. The front porch is empty, the couple is gone. “It ain’t me no!” Skinny scrawny (to the point of malnutrition) homeless woman in a hat and green dress stumbling down Elm talking to herself, I watch her lips moving. It makes me sad, it makes my heart hurt. The breeze blows my hair, and I overhear something about, “Stories on my Snapchat,” blah blah blah more bullshit. Moon is officially down for the count. Ska band playing their final song. The great finale. Live blues still picking on and on. Never stopping as is the custom. Maybe I will just close down the Green Room. It’s the first time I’ve sat drinking thinking about nothing in particular, just watching. No women in particular on my mind but just in the intimate moment of time. “You know nothing in the world ever lasts, gotta take the good with the bad.” Ah yes, truth in the airwaves. I say to myself, okay I’ll stay a little while longer. One lyric = my decision. Dart Bus #76 passing on its route again in hourly intervals. A mad truck honks twice - toot toot or meep meep, whatever you hear in your head ear. Midnight now another helicopter lingering overhead, a group of people do the same in front of Off the Record. To go in? Or not to go in? That is the question. I think no, but oh wait, there they go! One more beer for me, and I’ll follow. One moment longer. I don't want to leave my view, don’t want to part with it. It's so beautiful, but I gotta leave sometime. Can’t stay here forever. Instinct calls, time to go explore a little more.
Down to bottom level, close my tab out with the bartender. Reid remembers my name and I’m impressed and a little pleased. Nice exchange of human interaction because normally this doesn’t happen, except on slower weekday nights like this. I smoke a cigarette on the stoop of Off the Record but nobody is spinning, so I meander down the block a little bit further toward the skyline and catch the last few songs of the last ska band outside the open garage. A girl is singing on stage with a trumpet and trombone wailing, smooth horns accenting the lead guitar and bass. Circle of skankers going full swing inside, and I think of Ryan Bailey who taught me how to skank up in Lawrence. I think of Reel Big Fish at the Granada. I'm leaning against the light pole out front on the sidewalk smoking and digging the music watching two dudes sitting at the picnic table mocking the music but it's great and it’s got good positive energy so fuck the two of them sideways. Another homeless dude, different from before, walks up to me leaning against the other side of the pole saying, “Wow, they are jamming man.” “I know right? Good ska," I respond. He asks, “Wait, what kinda music?” “Ska,” I repeat and he says, “Yeah they be jamming... say you got 65 cents? I’m hurting real bad and need to eat." I don’t have cash but offer up a cigarette. He takes one from me. Prison payments on the street, sadly I can’t afford to give anymore than that anyway.
Finish off my death stick, stroll down to Off the Record. Enter the door to the sound of sick electronic jazz jams. Go pee and FINALLY - some toilet paper. Bar bathroom upstairs at the Green Room had none, which was a total bummer. Step out of the bathroom and head up to the bar, get another Shiner, leave my tab open and sit down in the last seat at the left end of the counter. Gorgeous bartender serves me up. And THIS sound is my shit right here, my kinda music - late night electronic mash-ups. I make eye contact with a girl who sits down next to me, pretty but not my type – her name is Lexi. I overhear that my bartender is new, started working there on Monday. Another bartender is currently training her. He tells this all to Lexi, who takes a shot with him for free. Is Lexi new too? I can’t tell. It’s a weird situation, or at least the vibes I’m picking up on are strange. Whatever I keep my head down writing. He excuses himself to tend to the patrons and boom the funk music starts coming on strong. “The 16-funk ohhh,” my pen starts to run out of ink and it makes me happy that I came out tonight that I am where I am right here, right now writing. The vibes are good and I’m digging the bar just doing my own thing and scribbling about nothing. My pen dies, so I ask to borrow another from the bartender. My hand cramps when I press down on the page. Jake Gyllenhaal is on the TV screen being interview by Jon Stewart to promote his new boxing movie. I saw a billboard earlier this week off E. Grand. He comes from big Hollywood family, him and Maggie, dad director, mom screenwriter. That family must have mad fucking money. I like that everyone just leaves me alone nowadays. I hate being bombarded. I just want to be alone. Alone please. I listen, "That’s random.” I don’t know what time it is – 12:30? I won’t stay for another beer. I’m fixing to leave soon. The male bartender places his hand on my shoulder asking me, “Are you feeling okay?” Not concerned about my well being but rather wanting to know if I'm having a good time. "Yes- thanks I’m great," I say. Lexi leaves, her presence was befuddling – as it turns out, it was to the bartender as well. Her departure elicited his comment, which I had previously heard but didn’t know where it had come from, “That was random.” I wish I knew the story behind that one. I’m just spying. Well really I’m just trying to write my own thoughts but I can’t help it that I see 360 all around me. I love this DJ. He’s really great and knows exactly what to play. How to turn the vibe off the end of a beat and roll into the intro of the next drop in. I might make this a weekly ritual if I continue to get consecutive Thursdays off from work. JFK, John Freaking Kasich – some political bit on Comedy Central plays on the screen. I must admit it's pretty funny. The republican presidential candidate list is fucking excessive. 16 and counting? The next Dugger family. Talk about a split party, sliced and diced, what is their agenda? They’re not going to get anything done this way. Then they flash video clips of Trump talking. I can’t hear what he is saying (no captions) but I’m still laughing because I can only imagine from his body language that it is something asinine. Cracks my shit up actually. Another bit, a headline Neil Diamond to Trump, “Please stop rocking down the free world, #trump2016.” Night show laughs.
There’s a girl dancing alone by the stage in athletic shorts and tall tube socks, another girl in a long black dress that’s draping down to the floor goes up to the bartender kissing him on the cheek saying, “Goodbye, when do you work next?” etc. etc. lots of bullshitting. I saw both of them earlier from the rooftop, popping in and out of bars, once with a food bag in hand and both times D-R-U-N-K. The group of people at the end of bar are closing their tabs leaving me and four other guys sitting there drinking. DJ will quit in 9 minutes, it’s 12:51pm and I am tired. No use in staying to write about nothing. Words about nothing don’t mean anything, do they?
This is one of those times when you really have to stop and assess your backdrop because I have been focusing so much on the past as in what has been done, what I have done, what everybody has done. Practicing first in long hand was something utterly unique and fascinating and right there in the moment because there’s a dialogue going on between you and the paper. You feel what you are writing, the immediacy of it. Every time I attempted to write something on the computer, rather typed (duh), I would freeze up and stagnate my thoughts with verbiage and hesitation – verbiage and word amalgamation, word garbage trying to describe things in just that perfect particular way. Don’t get me wrong I can write fast scribbling off the page in pretty perfect handwriting most of the time (except for when I am super stoned, fucked up and falling asleep at the pen) but the thing is - I’ve sucked that tit dry. My utensil is all out of ink, and I desperately needed another medium to try my hand at. A few weeks ago at work Rusty and I were talking and somehow got on to the topic of him owning a typewriter, an older electric model from the 80’s which he said he used once and never liked so when I expressed genuine interest in taking a look at it with serious thoughts of purchase, he pulled it out of the closet and showed it to me while I was over at his house cleaning as I do every third Tuesday. He told me how much he spent on it $180, then said, “What’ll ya give me for it?” I offered him $80. I try not to shortchange my friends. I’ve found that an honest gesture is always necessary, but he chuckled and told me to haggle him down so we eventually arrived at $60, a very fair price if I do say so myself especially for a once used vintage typewriter kept in great condition over the past forty years with a fresh spool of tape on the roll and an extra one in the box as well. That’s a hell of a steal. Well it doesn’t stop there – the following day at work, Rusty comes creeping around the corner into the packing room and leaning against the carpet counter says, “You know what? Just cause I fell in love with you I’m gonna give it to ya for $50, that’s the price I’d sell it to my sons for.” First of all, that means something. People treating you like you’re their family, letting you in like that. Thinking of you when you aren’t around and really caring and looking out for your well-being. That’s special and something anyone should be thankful for (a reminder to myself not to be such a selfish asshole) But I digress, on Friday I bought that old typewriter off Rusty and synchronicity hit. I had sent Macy a text message wishing her a happy birthday, she thanked me and when I asked how her day went she excitedly told me that her girlfriend had given her an old typewriter as a gift. Same day and everything. The strangeness of life. It’s shit like that, which makes me feel a cosmic underpinning to everything, a full on physics. Not a God thing, I just mean a reoccurring scheme and pattern. And I type about this briefly on that typewriter in a letter I begin writing to Macy. I talk about all of this, all of the above, but in shorter and less blatantly obvious terms. It was implied in my tone. That’s when it hits me, like a jolt from deep within, this exhilarating feeling coming from my stomach while typing. Fast and noisy as the buttons resisted my push, and when I hit a letter the ribbon punched the paper and-- Bam! Click! There it was on the page before me dotted in black ink. There’s just something about the rapid pressing and releasing (call it a mechanical reaction if you will) that shot a chill down my spine and left goose bumps on my arms. So I kept on going until I had filled two entire 8x11 sheets of copy paper then stopped because I had made so many typing errors from moving my fingers so fast that I couldn’t even read what I had written. It came out all garbled and backspaced with overlapping letters. Which was frustrating because I had just uncovered a secret new drug and I was high on it like cocaine wanting to be completely immersed in it and digging it right then and there, but I couldn’t be satisfied with the results my fat, feisty fingers had produced. And until tonight, I had been stuck frustrated behind my pen at my desk wanting and wishing to spice up my writing a bit, inject a little more zesto a la pesto into it but was struggling with staying awake and staying motivated and wondering why I could only produce these half-ass overly affected pieces that only semi-reflected how I felt and were honest and true but were completely limited to the platform of writing by hand. There are certain things like tempo you just can’t tackle with a pen. Keyboard revelations, maybe that is what is driving my generation to a new way of thinking and a new way of understanding life, realizing how integral technology has become in our society and the speed of everything around us increasing and the whole damn world racing. For example – I spend the majority of my free time behind my Apple Screen -- reading, listening to music, studying, communicating, staying in touch with everything, not lost in the Internet but just trying to get as much from it as I can because it is a free fucking tool that gives you thousands on millions of options that have never before been at the fingertips of mass civilization in the entire history of mankind. Perhaps the Internet will be what draws the fellaheen from hiding, pulls em out into society before they fall into their early-unmarked graves giving a voice to the people history would otherwise leave forgotten and unnamed. It is truly fascinating when you sit down to think about it, really give into it, really profit off of it and monopolize the capabilities. Take advantage of it, why not? That’s what it is there for. That’s what makes it what it is, so fantastic, so profoundly revolutionary. Of course I am not naive. There are aspects of culture lost to the Internet and a new wave of crime enabled through networking, but you must take the bad with the good no matter what you do in life that’s true cause if you focus on the negative then that’s all you’ll ever know.
"Deceived entrapment through belief, disclosure would decree."
I take a break to pee but also treat myself to another joint – sit down at my desk and take the lid off my Normal Rockwell pot tin, pinch the weed from the grinder onto my expired health insurance card (irony) then dump the ground green into the perfect roller, stuff it full up to the filter, so fat I gotta use two papers. I turn the roll along, under the marijuana line in the canvas pocket and lick the final edge and spin the tubes beneath my thumbs. Viola, perfect little joint for all your experimenting purposes.
"We're vibrating somewhere, it's shaking us apart. Could I be innocent? No not at all"
Me, I’m the sex tourist – but then again who isn’t? It’s probably the most natural instinct only second to survival, though one could argue reproduction is in a sense the whole goal of survival. Hell, all species naturally fight for survival IN ORDER to reproduce. But if we're speaking of survival in terms of reproduction, it would seem then that humans who choose not to reproduce are going against their natural survival instinct, against that underlying drive to spread the seed and fertilize the egg. Whatever, who cares anyway. It doesn’t really matter cause we’re all just gonna do what we’re all just gonna do.
“Dreams will never come true… and if they ever, ever do…“
Dreams like this are tucked under my arm, and I carry them around all day long. I’m staring at that tree again except this time I don’t have to stare at the paper to see what I am writing. Before I could only look up for shorts burst of times, intermittent intervals, but now typing on the computer I can literally stare at the tree without ever having to look down at the keyboard and it is amazing what I can do with the tap of my fingers. I should take a typing test just to see how many words I can type in a minute. I wouldn’t even need to copy from a script. I bet I could fill at least half a page in 12 pt. Times New Roman (which I think should be the standard font for this sort of comparison because to me it is the most uniform font format, the margins are the most reasonable, most raw, most stripped down) And boom- here I am back staring at the tree and the parking lot of my apartment complex, and I feel great just flowing along to the music in a trance typing down whatever it is I see in front of me. This is an interface I can only imagine Kerouac would have given up his left nut to have, but he was too drunken paranoid and freaking out on the rise of technology and “the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” (TEOTWAWKI) to even imagine the implications for the expansion of human creativity, art, music, film enabled by computers, etc. I mean to be broad, non-specific and all encompassing in order to avoid a page long monologue on the various branches of the aforementioned that have spawned from the spread of the Internet. I can be cultural from my couch. To an extent of course, but the point is I can experience aspects of other cultures that I would have never before had access to without going out there and living it. Like I said to an extent, I’m being reasonable. Again, just interesting to think about.
“I happen to know exactly where I'm going."
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) – Sliced a pig’s eyeball and hit a woman with a car, Wagner tooting in the background. Then what seemed to me to be a satiric rape scene, but hey – that’s Dali and Buñuel for ya. While I’m alive I can only aspire to be as original and true to myself as they were. That’s the shit that inspires me and keeps me going knowing that people before me, long ago and just around the last corner, pushed through all the bullshit in order to express themselves. The romantics and emotionally affected creating to create, for creation's sake. That’s a drive we can’t ignore. That’s what makes us crazy, that’s what drives the like of us to drink as we experiment with the limits of our existence. But see the beauty that comes from destruction. The ultimate paradox. That’s the real love story. Man is absolutely extraordinary, but ultimately helpless to time.
"Mysteries of our disguise revolve."
As Aristotle said, “Philosophy is man’s expression of curiosity about everything” and here I go again on another tangent but it will be this way because I am completely committed just flowing on the rhythm of Local Natives loud through my headphones when ZIPPPPP! A spark flashes and splatters across the sky, a royal purple falling star. My, my meteor. Right on peak time 3 am, but I have to admit I was only half-expecting to see one in the city. It was brighter than the one I saw on my balcony back in August, my god it must have fallen (if any pieces made it to the ground) somewhere over Arizona or New Mexico or even as close as West Texas, I’m no decent judge of distances, but that one hung so long on the horizon and shone so brightly that I can only assume proximity, great size, or high metallicity. Perhaps the weather conditions are ripe (just right) for that particular reaction in the atmosphere, but shit it was fucking beautiful. And since I am three joints deep, down the windy pipe, kept even keel with adderall and cups of coffee - the moment was ethereal.
“When I can feel with my sun hands…”
Addies are the Bennies of the twenty first century except now they come in pill form and are regulated by doctors who finally wised up and manufactured a pure, controlled amphetamine form that when taken in small, timely doses won’t kill you. This enabled them to steal and seal the market. Genius. Now marijuana will soon follow suit. Those baby boomers are toting around their misplaced nostalgia for that war-manufactured idea of morality of what “right and wrong” is. I say misplaced because many of them harbor extremely prejudicial feelings against other cultures and races. Old men like R & J who walk around calling Islamic men sand niggers. Imagine my sickening distaste for their ignorant comments and prejudicial convictions and liberal use of racial slanders around the shop. Needless to say it bothers me to be around them when they chase the tail of the dragon down this path, but what am I supposed to do? Scold them for what they have every first amendment right to say? No, that would be hypocritical of me. It’s enough to just leave it as a great-GREAT difference in opinion. We are all to a vast degree products of our environment, upbringing, culture, etc. but that is a duh-point. Nothing really new here.
“I was feeling nostalgic for the days when my thoughts dripped onto my head from the ceiling.”
Smoking the roach down to the filter, the weed is wet and sticks to my fingers. Listening to Ghostland Observatory it’s obvious music reflects the environment that it is created in or instead (yes, I think I like this better) the environment creates the music. Piano Man, electronic funk punk right out of Austin and I feel Austin in that song and it makes me wants to move there just to get that feeling live and hear the sound of Austin front and center stage. I remember being sixteen and working at the Papa John’s off Coit and Legacy, right there by that Sprouts and Water 4 U store. There used to be a Smoothie King in the space just next to Water 4 U, one I used to frequent religiously with Mel, Lauren, and Dana on days when we had home softball games at Plano. How Mel and I used to split a Redline (we’d pour it into our smoothies and mix it around real good) and we would literally be wired before games, FUCKING WIRED. One time on our way to a playoff game vs. North Richland Hills or some school like that, Mel and I decided to drink an entire Redline each our own but this time mixed it into a Vitamin Water, which in itself has a high concentration of ginseng and taurine both natural caffeine energy sources. Although we spaced our intake over a time frame of five hours between 2pm when we left school and the first pitch at 7pm (dipping class early to go jack around before big game too excited to care about school) when the game began out east in Wylie we were still tweaking. I mean literally, we were experiencing what I can only describe as the low-end buzz of a two bump high listening to Darude-Sandstorm on repeat, my pre-game pump up jam. My right eye kept twitching out at shortstop, the blinding field lights getting the best of my optic sensitivity. BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN, YET AGAIN – shit who can help remembering? Here I am back remembering the main memory that initially kick-started this discussion. I remember being sixteen and working at the Papa John’s off Coit and Legacy. It was my very first job I was required to get as form of “punishment?” or “lesson?” or something like that. Joke be forever on my parents because it was there that I first felt free to explore myself. It was there that I began to test the boundaries to find out what all I was capable of. Of course at that age, you think ‘if not now – never’ (hell, 24 me still clings to this fallacy – though perhaps it’s not such a bad thing) but that setting as an in-store was a teenager’s wet dream. No kidding neither. In the roughly six months that I worked there I had my first drink of beer, hard liquor, smoked dope for the first time popping my cherry on a 6-foot long bong (no euphemisms, but good God let’s all try and imagine that for a second…) got me my first girlfriend, the sassy Sam who was not unlike future women I would pursue in quite a few noticeable ways, guess you could say I got a jonesin for that type of attitude. And the above aforementioned “vices” are just a few of the fresh experiences from Part 1 – Papa John’s in Plano, Texas. This moment in time also marks my first encounter with Ghostland Observatory. It’s clear as friggin day in my mind’s eye. There it is- Roman’s souped up ’07 Honda Accord decked out with two, 12-inch subs lining the trunk, top of the line Sony stereo with new padded speakers able to withstand the bump of the bass through the wires. The sun was setting to where you could no longer see it on the horizon just that left over navy blue fade into nighttime. It was a slow night so we were in and out of the front doors chatting it up with the drivers at their cars, which is just what we did – bullshit in the parking lot. It was while we were gathered around Roman’s car checking out his newest installments that he told me to get my ass into the passenger seat, then rolled up all the windows and said, “Listen to this shit.” I sank into the leather chair as his finger hit play on the iPod, turning the volume up five notches…
“Well I don't come from the city, I came here on the train. In search of something pretty. It's my heart I have to blame…”
Delete.Delete.I.Eat.Meat – Texas electronica for a Texas made experience in the 21st century.
“Well I think that I have found myself out on the floor and I think we have lost ourselves forever more.”
That’s what I mean.
Like I said before, that job was a teenage dream. Hanging out with kids my age that were just as big a goofballs as me. Roman probably the oldest @ 26 but he was a driver and gave two giant fucks about nothing. Mike, the store manager was 24 years old and he was always passed out in the office chair nursing some intense hangover from a wild night he had just woken up from. Occasionally he’d load his pipe and take a hit – this happened in the event of an especially toxic overdose of alcohol or when he was forced to close the shop at 11pm and couldn’t wait to get off the clock to get the party started. Young and anxious just as I am at 24 rushing out the door of Donna’s shop all in order to hurry home saving maybe 10 minutes in order to get super stoned and slip off to some bar all which I would have no trouble doing only ten more minutes later. Then there was Mr. Assistant Manager Aaron (19) and he too was nerdy, always quoting Family Guy with me. He was a genuine guy and did the right thing most of the time. It was his apartment party off Independence just north of Spring Creek that I took that 6-ft. throat bomb off the pink plastic monster bong tilted at a 7-degree angle damn near taking up all the space in their living room. Someone lit the bowl down at the far end instructing me to put my face up against the opening, the circumference so wide my mouth and nose were both engulfed. One and done, 20 minutes later I was sitting on the kitchen counter hurling into a trashcan. What a strange night that was cause there I was a sophomore in high school running off into the night after work not telling my mom or dad where I was going, not answering their phone calls, probably freaking them out even though they knew I was most likely okay, but there’s still that parental fear that I’m not. But I was okay, that time and every time since… luckily. I’ve done some fairly reckless shit. That particular event being about a 3 on the Richter scale of stupidity, if that serves as sufficient gauge of my faulty decision-making skills.
“The happy ever after is at the end of the rainbow."
Two prong lights wrung from hangers on the highway, spaced evenly apart reflecting light off the turtles brightening the road of the late night toll way. Just out for a drive, taking the exit - George Bush Turnpike. It splits east and west and I hang to my right following the narrow on-ramp. Thinking, I need to stop for cigarettes, the planes are flying overhead and everything all looks the same. They say if you’re feeling on edge, take some aspirin. Instead I like to smoke marijuana. Which is what I’m doing now just sitting up in bed, I’ve made a make shift table out of my Shore Sand skim board. It conforms to the contours of my knees and legs perfectly. This board I got in PCB was meant for this very reason! Perhaps that’s desperate reaching for connection.
“Nothing can take away this feeling I create."
I have to keep going and push myself to the absolute limit, just like sixteen year old me except this is a whole new ballgame with a different set of rules. The approach is different and the stakes are far more interesting. The trophy thus more valuable and to win so much more meaningful, but enough of that while I continue doing whatever it is that I think I need to be doing, feeling the urge to type, type, type and dance, dance, dance my little white ass off. Cause I actually can dance decent, mostly accomplished through the act of surrendering myself to the music, just letting loose all the pent up energy I have stored inside me since there is no outlet other than writing to release ME due to lack of time from working. So this is how it manifests itself. Things could be worse I suppose, I could be a psycho killer. Bum, bum, bum, and again the music in my ears sounds the city of its origin – this time OMAHA, NEBRASKA – The Yuppies. Yowza, they are loud and rifty. Super swift. I can hear them sliding all over the stage through my speakers. At times, they have this eerie carnival sound embedded in their melodies, but I love the weird feeling it evokes. I bet it comes from the strong Czech and Polish hereditary influence on the greater area of Omaha and across Nebraska in general, kids who grew up listening to their Grandfather’s polka cassettes, reminding me of the summer my Grandpa taught me how to polka dance in the kitchen of their house. He pushed the table against the wall and moved aside the chairs. The 70s brown-tan, neutral scheme that coated the square tiles on the floor beneath providing me a map which to guide my feet. To get the timing of that tricky half step down, I will never forget that.
“Hold that second, hold the time, hold that picture in your mind…”
What she doesn’t understand is just how stubborn I truly am. When I reference the seven-year courtship of Longfellow and Fannie Appleton, it should be obvious I mean business. “For the resolve to conquer is half the battle in love as well as war," a good piece of advice from one of Longfellow’s friends, I guess I never thought about it like that-- but he is essentially right. What is it about that kind of power? Half the time I’m just a fool like a bard of bitch and moan, tearing down the essence all around, thinking too much on the dirty little details. Oh how I love the dirty little deats. But now it’s 5:48 AM – Tuesday October 21st, I’ve been awake all night on an addy-marijuana binge and now I must fight through the day on fritzy feelings, though this ain’t my first rodeo. Aside from my rookie behavior on Friday night a week and a half ago (yet to be mentioned in this segment) To keep it short and sweet, I drank too much then puked at work on Saturday.
“Remembering the line, an empty metaphor that you savor by yourself. You're never cured."
Expect a high of 82 today, and sunny skies. It’s 6:21, in Dallas. The noise of Tuesday morning begins to rattle outside my window, and I’m listening to Morning Edition streaming live on my computer, eating a giant bowl of honey nut cheerios trying to send myself back into the trance of writing with my eyes completely shut. The screaming truck outside distracts me making me wonder if today’s the day they pick up the trash, but I just can’t seem to get back into it. I keep trying for a few more minutes just crazy typing moving my fingers, following the rhythm of the ignorant pomp promoting his confederate heritage in an extremely tasteless manner. Although I must admit the cadence of his voice is soothing. Jesse Dukes of smooth words on early morning radio. Ebola outbreak still making headlines, how much longer will the news live on tidbits of hearsay and half-information before someone cracks open the REAL details?
“Every age has said, we will come - we'll come again."
Listening to the sounds of morning, the thump, bump, dump of the trash truck in the parking lot banging against the sheaths of metal that house the big bin, and I am half asleep and not real but I only feel like a dream because I’m tired. That’s what my instinct told me to say. That’s what popped into my head just then, and I am doing something miraculous for me. I am lying with my head on the pillow typing every little thought that comes into my head and it’s incredibly relaxing and is almost sending me off to sleep so I should stop soon, so I should stop but I don’t.
October 23rd, 2014
Two-AM Texas highway drives
East on 114 into tang orange city lights
Steering the wheel
Nocturnal human dance
Pop the knuckles
Legs that cramp
Legs that ache
Eyes that twitch
Eyes that shake
All my muscles agitate
Remember to keep a safe distance
Follow the landfill lumps into Lewisville
Big trashy tit bumps
Just another landmark
Of flat dimensionless Texas
From 121 I can see
All the way clear to Dallas
On that three mile stretch
Just before the business exit
Or when hitting the ass end
On that 3040 cross bridge
Drawn into the darkness
Attracted to the hopeless rift
Stuck on everything
That hates to want to finish
Expansion mirrors destruction
Combustion fuels construction
Roof, coated chemical dustland
Must burn down to rise up
Milky white millennial vibes
Spill uncondensed across the sky
Electrically determined life
Sparks alive and multiplies
Ferlingering flow of time
Temporal impulses in the mind
Entanglement of quantum size
Much loss of oxygen
Forget to breathe
The worst disease
So untouchable, I know!
It’s that misty milk miasma
“All I do is write down what I feel."
After talking to Bmac for the last hour, I’ve come to realize what a twisted web we weave. I mean it because when we started talking to each other about the past I am quickly reminded of just how long it is that we have been friends for. And I remember crystal clear the first night I met her at a hotel party back in 2006. Back when Tawni and I were best friends, damn near inseparable. I think I was supposed to be meeting Kara there (that seems correct) It was Flower Mound prom night and a few dates most of whom were friends from softball and such were sharing a hotel room, really celebrating right and responsibly since none of them planned on leaving. I was a sophomore in high school, Tawni a year older and most of the people there, maybe 12 in all, were a mix of juniors and seniors. We were invited to come drink, the staple high school beverage of choice—Keystone. Some Parrot Bay and maybe a cheap bottle of vodka (McCormick’s – the worst) Actually, I remember the vodka because there was an incident where Hayley had hidden a water bottle full of cranberry juice and vodka beneath one of the beds, hoarding it from the group and actually pissing people off when they figured out what she had done. Silly anger over nothing. Bmac walks in, coming out of nowhere in her skinny blue jeans and Pac Sun shirt, just a hooting and a hollering about god knows what and I walk up to her and say, “You’re Bmac? I’ve heard all about you. You’re a fucking legend! We have the same shoes on!” Both of us wearing those clompy white Etnies, the iconic pair with the single red E on the side and black flat skate soles. We were best of friends right off the bat. Boom. And eight years later here we are living together. It’s strange to me when I look back on where I was to where I am now, funny like that Rockwell Knuckles song Play Catch.
“Been knowing them for so long I do not remember meeting them."
Well I done went and got old, but that’s the way it works ya know? Take for instance the other night at Truck Yard when we ran into Miranda and Tawni. They weren’t meeting up with anyone in particular so when I hollered her name, Tawni came and stood by me and we proceeded to genuinely catch up on things. Then later on when deciding plans for the next bar, since Truck Yard closes at midnight, we even agree to go to the same place afterward. Then we sat down one-on-one while waiting for everyone to close out their tabs and finish their drinks, except Miranda got wasted too early and they had to bail just as we were leaving. But that’s what I mean - things change. Tawni and I were friends before we ever came out. We just came to know it simultaneously. Hmm… maybe (probably) that’s what drew us to one another in the first place, and honestly her support made it so much easier for me. Hopefully she can say the same thing about me, comforting. It’s the first time that has occurred to me. I’ve never thought about that before. I haven’t let myself remember the past like that. I pick and choose memories out of the file cabinet, or I think too hard trying to play the back the reel in chronological order instead of just floating on free association like when chatting with Bmac about connections and the old web we made in high school (emulating the L word – which was a meaningful show to our generation because it made us feel more normal in a time when we felt like outcasts) Truthfully, we all had one another to lean on. I wonder if other groups grew up with such a close knit set of friends like we did – real interconnected. Shit runs deep around these parts, everyone knows everyone, and we’re surprised when we don’t. Even me, having been gone and off the map in Lawrence for the last three years, am still somehow affected and connected to the Dallas clique, like two degrees of separation on average.
“Feels like the whole world – is up on my shoulders, feels like the whole world is coming down on me.”
No Easy Woman
Do you feel that I need you?
Where are you now?
Are you staying there the whole time?
I’d say my place
You’ll just call a rain check
Get breakfast with me instead?
Can’t catch a break with Ms. Excellence
Just tell me the truth
We’re coming around
On damn near two years
I have still haven’t kissed you
Though I know some part of you wants me to
Dressed up in stubborn suit
You, oh you
Chasing the tail of little Ms. Hiding Hood
Bet that path of yours is all planned out, huh?
Right now, I’m doing laundry at the Handy Wash in the Bellaire Quarter. It’s 4:54 on a Friday in October. Donna gave me the night off from work. Lounging in the passenger seat of my car sitting in a parking spot facing the windows in full view of the washer-dryers. I can see everything. A Hispanic dad playing football with his son in the open alley to my right chunking the pigskin down range yelling, “Go deep!” I hear the football hit the ground. Smells of fresh linen linger in the breeze gliding through the open windows. “You gotta get yours while you can,” Anthony screams. The fire sprinkler riser room is just within my line of sight. I can see it staring at me out the corner of my eye. It guides my head inside, to watch the people washing and drying, watch them go about their business. And the kids! The kids are adorable. They are playing with the clothes cart and racing around with strollers, pushing their little sisters through the aisles. It reminds me of that dark green plastic wagon I used to tie to the back of my bike with a jump rope and pull Alexa down the block in. Going faster as she giggled, peddling harder when she’d scream. I did it to excite her not to be mean. Remembering. I remember my childhood and feel like I’m gonna ignite…fire sprinkler riser room, whew. Thank god.
“Ain't no party in the sad, sad city.”
Dallas, Texas is another kind of place, and I swear it’s been too long since I’ve retraced…retraced my steps – and here I am on Halloween Eve 2014 watching people run around in costumes from my balcony. What’s become of me? Why am I not lively? Because I have no money, really, and some sensibility. You can’t relive the past, only do the present and think about the future. But I’m tired, so tired, and I just want to goof off and have fun. I can’t seem to do it in quite the same manner as I used to except for last Saturday when I felt a tinge of what I once was when I decided at the last minute to go downtown for Block and it was hopping. I met up with Strut and her brother. I sucked down a joint on 35, was sober by the time I was able to find parking. Snug tight, parallel, almost 12 blocks over. It was so great and we all just danced through the crowd and drank and fluttered like gay little butterflies like we used to do in our youth, and it made me want to hole up for a whole weekend and just look through old pictures and transcribe everything that happened to me because why make up stories when I have plenty from my own distant reality. That’s not bragging either that’s just the way it is, the way it was. So that Saturday at Block I text G (late night at 11:30) asking, “Are you down here?” She responds, “I am not, are you staying down there the whole time?” And I know from intuition that it’s gonna be a crazy night. Her response was the telltale sign. So when we finally find Bmac again around 1am back in front of Sue’s on a whim she asks if we want to roll down at Jaguar’s late night – Strut and I just look at each other, nod and say we’re down. We laugh out loud how history repeats itself, and I wait for G to respond saying, “Rain check? Bfast in the morning?” Though I know it won’t happen but I still hope. Then I’m all, “Fuck it let’s go.” And boom, we’re off. I drive as usual cause I like the control and we gather the troops and start the trek toward the car, smoking cigarettes and giggling all excited like because we know tonight is gonna be a good time. It was. Sick surreal fun. Such a release of tension, paradoxically because when I roll I clench my jaw. However, coincidentally I had decided to buy a pack of gum at the gas station before heading downtown-- so I’m set. We take the back roads to Harry Hines and finally park across the street in big weedy, trash filled parking lot of every back alley industrial district of big city America, in this case Dallas. Wait in line, flash IDs and we’re in. The strip club is still in full swing with a 5-girl rotation going- two poles on stage, two poles on the floor, and one girl up above on the half moon ring of booths. Strut and I leaning against the gate, watching girls dry hump men for money. We pop two tabs around 4AM just as the rotation is about to end – and roll on through the morning.
“Locked into demonic rhythm with the leaves.”
I woke up this morning with a bead in my throat, but I dress and grab coffee on my way out the door. Riding the A-Train all the way into Dallas, just sitting back and watching the apartments fly by. We’re going maybe 40mph, and I’m utterly fascinated by modern day transportation. You pay 10 bucks and ride the E-l-e-c-t-r-i-c rail all across the city, which is a fair price considering the lack of body traffic and for some reason I’m not even sure where to connect at.
Dusty Dart Blues
Waiting on my train to Dallas
Finally the Dart arrives. The cold was killing me. This must be what New York in wintertime feels like. It’s no wonder people have literally died in the streets. I can’t imagine bitter cold bus stops or trains outta town or down in the subway – sure it’s away from the wind but that kind of cold has a way of creeping in. I’m hacking like crazy, probably freaking out the people around me. I am in the second car near the front of the connector, and I didn’t realize how much stopping and starting this thing does. Makes me remember the time we took the train from Jersey to New York City to see a Broadway show when I was playing softball with Glory. When I look up I see fixed cameras everywhere at the Farmer’s Branch Station, must be a rough part of town, I think. Though I know it isn’t. Houses here look just like Flower Mound except it is a brand new neighborhood that we pass with this little garden park and a few picnic benches, scattered grills, whipping past trees sporting Texas “fall” colors. Dark green with desert red and that golden yellow like daisies with crimson tips. Zipping past Primrose Oil Company Ameripipe Supply on Denton Road and we’re actually really high up. The tracks are elevated, modeled after the Sky Rail at DFW, but it works because instead of cramming it through the middle of each city they’ve utilized the air space and expanded upward. The tracks on the A Train are all grounded, but it’s when you switch to the Green Line that you start to climb above the suburbs, and there she is – Dallas! I can see her on the southeast side out of my window. She really is fucking beautiful and an incredible feat of planning and construction. The ability to get something this fantastic up and running in this insane quality of fashion is remarkable. I’m genuinely impressed. The dart is dusty but otherwise clean, metallic, wiry, and smooth. I got picked up at 1:47pm and it hasn’t even been an hour yet. I wonder where everyone is going. There are quite a few people getting on and off as we edge closer to the city and it seems like one couple is getting to know one another on a date ride downtown. I picked the right side of the train to sit because I have a perfect view of the city out my window. This is what makes Dallas exactly what it is – a monster all its own, holding its power in a separate tank, linked but not dependent on anyone else. That’s why it is successful. Its exclusivity. The money made here gets reinvested into the city, not outsourced to other places. Although it does make me sad to see how rundown southeast Dallas is, right there off 30 near Fair Park. Especially considering the fact that the state fair brought in an all time record high profit this year some 44 mil/bil I can’t remember. The 0’s don’t really matter, the point is-- that part of Dallas is a shithole comparatively and some money should be funneled back into that area, but that’s not even what I’m trying to talk about right now. We are going underground through a tunnel system and this is actually really cool and an interesting little trip. I have to pee like a racehorse though and I don’t know when I’ll be able to get to a bathroom next. So guess I have to hold it in, not the first or last time this will happen. Like a free rolling man, I’m taking the train down to Dallas, playing hooky at both jobs although my cold is killing me with runny nose (sinus infection) Dallas really is a mammoth. High voltage no trespassing and we’re off through the medical district, and into the heart of the city, right smack dab in the middle of it. The stops are more frequent, but the view is getting better, and better, and it’s cold as hell. Time? Market Station – Victory Station – all the way to Buckner the final destination. If at first it isn’t right, dunk-dunk again an aura around the city: magenta, green, more of the UV spectrum the flavor of the scene, depth of the field on armchair adventures. Digital is a different way of thinking, it moves so quickly. Can I think that fast, I ask? VFX – visual effects. CGI – Computer Generated Images (metropolis 1927) you have to be an artist and technician at the same time. Digital is no degradation, pixels of 0s and 1s. Technology pushes the art and art pushes the technology.
"She don't belong to you”
So I says to her, “G, be straight up with me – am I too late? It’s really not fair to hang me out to dry like this, especially when you know it gets to me.”
She says, “I do not think I have left you out to dry. In fact, I haven’t said or done anything that can be considered misleading and or selfish. So I’m kind of confused as to your phrasing. But to answer your question – I don’t know. I haven’t been in a place to pursue anyone. Or be pursued. I’m just here. Doing my think with work. I talk to you when I feel I have things to share. I always entertain whatever music or insight you share. And that’s it. I don’t know what else you want from me right now. But if I have made you miserable by my actions- I guess I’m at a loss. First and foremost – I have never wished to belittle nor disrespect your feelings. And I think I’ve been rather fair in regards to that fact. But I’m extremely sorry that is not the case. The last thing I want to do is offend you.”
Me back, “You have not made me miserable – I didn’t mean for the question to come off in such a biting tone. It’s just frustrating to really care about someone and not be able to express that in a way that satisfies me. I guess that’s sorta selfish of me now that I think about it, but I can’t help wanting to be around you.”
Her to me and lastly no responses following, “I guess it’s just hard for me to understand. I mean- I feel like you can’t possibly feel this way. Ultimately I see it like this – we could only slenderly know one another when majority of all our time has been spent apart.”
Me in disparity, “I get why you see it like that, and sometimes I can’t entirely explain it myself, but the fact of the matter is that I have thought about you every single day for well over a year. I dream about you weekly. And that means something to me. You’re the only girl that’s affected me that way. It’s not some surface thing. You just get me. When I’m around you, your energy, it’s electric. It centers me in a strange way. To be more precise with my words. That’s it.”
AND THAT’S IT. No one is truthfully hitting the dark side of the day from the personal point of view. The way Kerouac did, like the public restroom masturbation scene that was bare bones truth reality. That’s the honest sort of shit we don’t tell anybody. When the truest truth is that man has been doing dirty things in dark rooms (caves) since time immemorial. They say prostitution is the oldest profession in the world…maybe because when we first gained awareness that we owned our own bodies we learned that primary lesson of property. That which holds value we claim and the owner is enabled to enact exchange. Like me trying to whore my soul words out to the world in exchange for whatever – Understanding? Money? Appreciation? All are superficial yet all are a part in the whole of it. Funny how that works isn’t it? And at this very moment I glance at the line written in black sharpie on my desk, “The story of man makes me sick.” How perfectly fitting for the self-loathing occasion. With a sharp sigh I roll my shoulders back, take a swig from my beer and fire up the last few roaches – running on that hard-hitting-drowsy-drift-off-to-sleep high, listening to a cassette tape I bought at Josie Records a couple of weeks ago. I happened to stumble upon the existence of Josie Records via the Dallas Observer, which I read weekly when I walk next door to grab a slice of pizza for lunch from Carmines. Marsio, the owner, is this squirly Italian guy with dark hair, small but noticeable gap between his two front teeth, which is the catalyst for his slightly effeminate voice. He means well and is nothing but absolutely (if not overly) friendly toward me. Notwithstanding, I’m not blind to see the man aims to please – if you know what I mean. However, Marsio wasn’t there. Chris was alone working the counter. He works open to close and is one of the most dedicated employees I have ever met, a very cool dude, real mellow and kind hearted. I order my pineapple-chicken slice and salad with house dressing that only Marsio knows the recipe for. Chris once told me that he wouldn’t want to attempt to learn how to make the dressing even if Marsio allowed him to due to complicated ingredients and preparation secrets. When in all honesty I don’t give a rat’s ass who makes it so long as I get to eat it because it is fucking delicious. So there I am sitting in the lobby on a small brown chair with TV just above my head in right corner angled toward the counter 10 feet dead center, and I crack open the observer while waiting on my scheduled slice. Then thumbing through I find the article about the grand opening of Josie Records – new, nearly industrial size warehouse record store. Later that week, I hop in the Envoy and drive down 35 to Spring Valley where I exit and follow it around to a road further east, turn right and take it directly south til it hits 635. The store is snug, situated just before the junction of 35 & 635, almost out of sight. It was everything I imagined it would be. Wide open space with clean crate storage style look, and SO MANY RECORDS! With the work of local artists hung all exhibition on the walls. I bought at random 5 digs:
1) Hydroponic Sound System – Mixed Taped Mentality (CD) [straight outta Dallas]
2) Best of Blues (CD)
3) Mudhoney – Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew (cassette)
4) Ugly Duckling – Journey to Anywhere (cassette)
5) Nervous – Hip Hop GZA/Genius (cassette)
And HOLY SHIT – the mixed tape (5) is so fucking rad. It is smoothly strung together from track to track, with house and trance beat repetition in the background. Just an original sound, tribal feeling to it, the drum and off key horn pull in and out (like circus tunes or weird late night jazz jams) Wu-Tang is on here too now I realize.
“Choose the sword and you will join me – choose the ball and you will choose your mother.
Choose life or death.
I don’t know where GZA pulled that sample from, but it was creepy. Creepy like the beginning of Catfish Billy by Yelawolf (also don’t know what it is he’s sampling) I sent Collins a link to Black Moon – How Many Mc’s (Must Get Dissed) and he was like, “Oh yeah, that’s a classic! Buckshot has a couple albums produced by 9th Wonder. One is fairly new and both are well worth checking out. Also have you heard of Rapsody? She has a great new EP produced by 9th” Never before had I heard of Black Moon, 90s hip-hop, which I am beginning to realize is the core of heart felt hip-hop. It put the soul back into a commercialized genre. Though it’s hard to find anything that isn’t overly commercialized these days. So hearing he is still flowing and working with 9th Wonder whose first song I heard was Streets of Music…“You wanna talk music in the streets?” …Hell yeah I do! And Rapsody is a badass. Her voice is fresh and her lyrics are sick, real on point and honest. I love that he’s into it. Just today I put a CD in the mail for him, en route as I speak… (Well I sent it postal with a stamp, so who knows… spoken like true UPS employee, mad respect for private business – side point) No more I’m back with Hydroponic Sound System’s – Mixed Taped Mentality en route to Collins, he’s gonna freak when he hears it… that D-A-L-L-A-S hip-hop sound is real original and has a feel all it’s own. Like all locations do, but Texas in general, the music is something of it’s own, some kind of monster… not like Metallica, but better metal like Pantera. Then you have –topic, Blue, the Misfit, A.DD+, Kissed Killed, etc. I love it all and could go on and on and on.
“I said it's a wonderful year."
Not to pontificate, but literature of the past is all that I have left. 21st century writing is stalled, dead, so far behind other artistic mediums (music, art, film, etc.) when it comes to taking advantage of the technological tools at its disposal. The ability to manipulate technology and find new ways to connect with people would not be possible without the existence of the Internet and the fact that it allows anyone anywhere to send/put ideas out into the ether. Now whether or not those ideas spread or are built upon is essentially no different than any other publishing platform. People read what they want to read but at least now the unknown writers of the world have an accessible platform to utilize outside of the publishing industry. More often than not one will find that a) it is affordable, reasonably cheap even for the minimum wage worker like me running a site off Squarespace for $20/month, or b) it is absolutely free. There are plenty of webpage services that are 100% free – now of course the page will hosts ads in order to be able to provide that freedom, but that’s a small resignation to make in order to post artwork/writing freely. Not to mention the fact that text is the most basic available option a platform can offer. It takes up the least amount bandwidth and server space in comparison to video, music, or image (JPEG – GIF– PNG) files. The next challenge becomes a means of self-promotion. How do you want to “advertise” your writing, your online portfolio, what have you. You can manipulate tags so that things you write about are sort of plugged by keywords on various search engines and if you’re savvy, you can find ways to use other sites to boost your own. Reddit, social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) blogs, message boards. It’s like anything else on the Internet, you plug the right places and it spreads. Again, this is based on preference. But honestly, speaking for myself, I believe that the Internet allows absolute artistic freedom. I can write whatever I want, however I want, click a button, and lickity-split make it widely accessible to people all over the world for free. And for a writer, writing for the sake of writing as an art form, this is heaven. The Internet is a haven. Now of course you can’t have it all, and the price you pay is profit. Freedom as they say ain’t free. So then it becomes a personal decision such as would I rather make money off my words as a means of my livelihood and subsistence, or would I rather my stuff be out there on the web available to be read? For me, it’s more important to be read than to make money. That’s my own personal preference, and I’m sure some share in that opinion, but my point is- I have this option BECAUSE of the Internet which is an option that was just not available to writers of past generations. Getting published meant being marketable and it came down to the decision of the publisher whether or not they believed they could sell the writing – the intellectual property – will people buy this? And that is still how the publishing industry works, but now there is this thing, this uncontrollable network. I mean the average novel today sells what – 5,000? 10,000 copies? The Internet to me seems so better because it is limitless. Take Kerouac for example… always Kerouac for my examples, he was poor his whole life and was gonna write no matter what, no matter if publishers took him on or not. He didn’t want them deleting/editing his work, yet he had to sacrifice a portion of his ideals in order to make it as a writer. I bet my right ass cheek he would have been delighted with the Internet. Freedom is something you cannot take for granted. Having the ability to write whatever you want, completely uncensored, put anything and everything out there. That relentless honest sharing is what I think will bring writing to the next level. Nobody there to tell you yes, no, maybe so, I don’t know. Whatever. It’s all mine, all yours, all at our discretion. SO- you’d think with this amount of freedom that writing would be taking off, soaring so high in the sky on a million different individual tangents and tinges of creativity that it would be so far ahead of every other artistic medium… I mean music and writing have always been the most pervasive art forms (at least in my opinion from what I have seen and read of history) but where are our innovative writers? Where are the experimentalists of my generation? Not the novelists of the New York Times best sellers list. Not the who-to-watch-for-next kind of shit. Not the commercialized writing but the Eat-Shit-Work-Write. That life. That’s what writing is lacking today. Are our contemporary writers at fault? No, I’m not waging a war against the industry. I think both elements can exist simultaneously (the industry is what it is – commercialization, a money making table) What I’m talking about is just something different altogether. Entirely separate from that. In a sense, writing that retains an edge of purity. Words have been overworked, over edited, overdone (if I am to judge) and if writers really want to take off in the 21st century I think following suit the track of music is our best bet. We’d all be better off by learning something from the DIY musicians. But this is the kind of thing that must start locally and make waves similarly, in spurts that ripple and spread outward into other communities taking that ethic and morphing it, molding it to fit peoples’ own persona and environment. Especially like music in that sense knowing that a city, the place, the location plays a large hand in the style of artwork produced be it music, literature, art, film. This is my personal belief (nothing more or less) but when one becomes consumed by the image or goal of “success” the art lacks a certain rawness, or oneness of essential essence at the center. I’ve run into this very problem myself– trying to form my words into something someone somewhere will want to read. Who are these people? The public? When more often than not the public doesn’t want to read experimental writing, unique hard to get at writing, but rather the story that they can predict. The words that will help them sleep better. They want the fantasy that runs with their minds’ middle meat not the story of the here and now that makes them realize the fantasy is unreal. I know everyone’s reality is his or her own. My real is not your real but we can still relate, yes? That’s what makes the world great despite all our differences we retain the ability to permeate the neural lines and connect. That connection today seems lackluster however…hence the problem that I point to again is what I perceive to be a lack of individualism in literature. But, as often is the case with perceived problems, some may see no problem at all. Some may think things are all gravy and good. To me, the words look uniform.
“I just want for us to have more perspective and that everyone's pain is the same.”
The neons are everywhere… and as I write all this I am sitting on the three-set cement stairs across the street from the Kroger in the Bellaire Quarter, the back alley of the laundry mat and shopping strip off 35 and the 121-business exit. There’s a bum on his bike digging through the dumpster to my left. He waves and smiles at me as he passes by.
Eat-Shit-Work-Write. That’s right.
So what’s left to say? Well we always got something to say, it’s just a matter of saying it in the right way. The feel good way of the brain. Bam! Tell the stories of our lives forever throughout time. Here I am now, looking all around while typing on my laptop. Just a little stoop typer staring at the Long John Silvers, the overstuffed dumpster (trash blowing through the back parking lot) The Kroger across the street, the leaves falling from the trees on the little plot of land still owned by the city, not yet sold to some business that wants to squeeze in here. The Bellaire Quarter. Another Amerikay, Kerouac would say, endless shopping centers with Handy Wash & Dry, insurance companies, tire shops, and Beto’s Style boutiques (style of what- Clothing? Hair? Bah – I don’t care).
“Time will pass and things will change, adjust your face and your name.”
While at UPS today, which I have pretty much written off and mean to move on from due to close claustrophobic quarters with the same four dudes every day since June, I began to think about why Kerouac was so great or rather why I love him so much, in this particular way. It’s that he sketched the mundane every day. He was an exuberant historian of his time period… that’s what we don’t have. Sure we have records of everything. Every little thing on the planet cataloged on the Internet, but it’s all specified and marked as this or that in plain discussion. Then there is the social media portrayal of life, snippets carefully crafted to tell a one-sided story. But no one is telling the truth about the mundane, day-to-day, night-to-night, lonely way we live. Nobody is tweeting about crashing on the couch in front of the TV after binge watching Netflix, the grocery store trips, or Sundays spent lying around the house with family, or cleaning the apartment before work, running the dishwasher, vacuuming up all the shit that you’ve tracked in. The nights spent lost in Youtube videos, Pintrest, or Facebook stalking who ever. We have all done it. We all do it. Yet, we don’t speak of it. We don’t create with it. Things seems to ebb and flow with the fads out of existence. Our culture comes and goes every second. We want it all now, no exceptions. It’s ours and we deserve it. Then we piss it all away tomorrow. This made me think about Marina, the Dominican woman who took me under her wing during the week and a half I worked for APL at the box packing plant off Edmond Lane in Lewisville… stacking Kellogg’s Pop Tarts and Keebler Cookies onto wooden pallets, wrapped in layers and layers of saran wrap then shipped off to one of four Wal-Mart hubs on the north end of Dallas (grueling work really because you’re on your feet the whole time and it’s hot, no air conditioning, loud, hard on the hands and back from ripping open corrugate repeatedly, constantly bending over and lifting). During our 8-hour shift from 2:30 – 10:30pm we would get a 30-minute dinner break and Marina would share her mango with me, tell me to try her white rice with refried beans, chicken, and avocado stirred in. Bland yet so delicious, and I would ask her about her family, about when they moved to America from the Dominican Republic. She explained they moved here in the late fifties, early sixties, the exact date escapes me now. She expressed to me her distaste for the illegal immigrants pouring into the States now from Mexico and other Central/South American countries because her father had to make countless sacrifices to get her here safely in order give her and her brothers/sisters an opportunity for a better life. The right way, the legal way. “He sold everything,” she tells me and I believe her. “These kids sneak through the back door now and want their rights at no expense. Think citizenship is owed to them, that they deserve it. That’s not how it works,” she says. And then she tells me about her life in the big apple, New York City – how she was there on that fateful day 9/11, how her cousin couldn’t be found for several hours following the attack… how she thought he was dead since he worked in the twin tower district. How the city fell apart and shutdown.
So unfalsifiable. So real.
“When I can't speak...”
- Acid Dreams
- The Neons
- It’s Funny Cause It’s True
- What Happened to Me?
So there I am sitting in the tool shop at Donna’s tonight (9:03pm to be exact) when ting! Here comes her text message an entire day later…
She says to me, “Why? Why do you think I make you feel this way? What if I’m merely the catalyst for your own growth and shit, you’ve gone through a lot. And with you stopping softball- your lifestyle, as you had known it for 17 plus years all of a sudden changed completely. Maybe it isn’t me who gets you- maybe you’ve finally gotten yourself. And furthermore- are finally cool and accepting of what you’ve found.”
I respond, “No, this isn’t me projecting and I don’t think I feel anything. I feel it. I’m stubborn and you know how to say things to me in just the right way. You make me laugh, you’re smart, sincere, sexy as all get out. I mean I can go on. Why would I settle for anything less than extraordinary?”
When really I just want to be like, “Don’t front I got you opin, kid.” It does and it doesn’t make sense. I know, I already told her that. I see where she’s coming from. I live my bookish fantasies, but I also live instinctively – and part of me just thinks she is afraid that I’m for real. I mean shit I haven’t slept with anyone in over a year. I never thought that’d be possible for me because I LOVE sex, but I didn’t feel the urge to pursue anyone. I haven’t even kissed anyone, but how do you tell someone that without it sounding like you’re posturing or bragging or some other stupid shit that we do to strengthen our arguments. However the truth is, I don’t want anybody else. I know exactly what I want, and I want her.
“No one tells a believer to give up."
And last night again left me feeling so strange. It started when I woke up this morning and I couldn’t remember what day it was. Instead of getting up with the alarm clock like I should have, I awake to the ringing, tail end of a phone call from Jeff who leaves a message asking me a weird assortment of questions, which only further confuses my muddled mind of late night alcohol drives. Thus, when I finally realize it is Friday NOT Saturday and that I should have been at work 25 minutes ago (it’s literally 7:55am and the store is supposed to be open to customers within the next five minutes) I frantically dress and dip out the front door before calling Jeff back to explain to him in embarrassment what has happened. Which in the end was the correct plan of action because when I arrive at the store I find Rusty desperately trying to pick up the pieces and open up the tills in utter confusion. He’s too polite to call me out on being late, but keeps saying things like, “I thought you might be dead back there or something.” Which he probably thinks because the front gate was pulled down to the floor, unlocked, and pieces of furniture had been moved around. But in reality he knew and understood that I was just running late (very late) and that Jeff was probably across the way at World Gym (or so he always says he is). Well I must admit right here and now I was honest to God NOT in a good mood. That was the situation I walked into this morning, and when the first guy to come into the store gives me hell, while I am still in my jean jacket and black zip up having not had the chance to recover from disorientation and put my work shirt, I snap and give him the cold shoulder in total irritation. The guy knew it too and immediately felt bad for some reason or another and tried to patch the situation by apologizing profusely. Obviously a gentle man, maybe just a bit situationally awkward dropping jokes in the wrong places, but eh, who hasn’t done that? So when I unlock the front door at 18 after 8 and he makes some snide remark about the time, “Man – didn’t know y'all opened at 8:20?” (or some similar sounding bullshit) I snap and handle him harshly. But fuck, I was feeling snarky and wanted to pummel him and point down at him on the ground and say, “Well fuck you lying down! Find someone else to ship your package.” I could have let it roll off my back, been a bit nicer or at the very least neutral, but I wasn’t. So that is that, regrettably.
“The chair is in half!”
“It’s okay we’ll find it.”
“If you really want to.”
“Yeah, but don’t let the dogs in – that’s the thing.”
“Bmac, what am I supposed to do with this?”
“I actually met her when we went to Austin to play in the MVP...oh that’s…erg state (pause) the state tournament.”
“No, no, no All-State.”
“Yeah that’s it. We were room mates, isn’t that weird?
Make it a religious experience as in set my laptop on top of the box used to tote reams of printer paper around in (one I took from work after unloading all the reams into the cabinet) then type wild ditties next to the fireplace while listening to LCD Soundsystem in the living room. Bmac is gone- out with Andrea and Fosha somewhere. They had really been hoping to score some shrooms tonight mostly to celebrate Bmac’s birthday, which was yesterday, but also and most importantly because they have been eager to try them. I’ve been attempting to sniff out a dealer for the past few months, myself included in the matter because I have been itching to do them for the past three years, haven’t tripped since 2011. For one thing, they were out of season until the fall and for another I am not as well connected as I used to be. Shit, Bmac is the one who introduced me to my pot guy who so conveniently lives in the apartment building right next to ours, exactly 57 seconds away. I timed the walk one day. Sometimes nothing beats convenience. And I dumbly think to myself, how many kids have lain on the floor of their apartments staring up at the white (always white) ceiling wondering what to make of their lives? Cause here I am, 24, bent back blinking up at mine. Yes or no - to be. “BUT I ALREADY AM!” I say out loud or in my head or both because what’s the difference I am alone. High on the heels of the unknown. There I go again, wailing away and away with the warmth of the fire’s embrace. A burning log I lit an hour or so ago and am now sitting next to playing the typer and listening to music. It feels good on my left arm and calms me down from my hopeless marijuana high that can mule kick my mind sometimes if I don’t pay close enough attention. That’s what I like though- it keeps me sharp and more aware (despite claims from the haters who argue it’s a spell).
“Oh sometimes I get a good feeling. I get a feeling that I've never, never, never, never had before.”
The sun sparkling spider webs hanging from the balcony poles, watching the apartment kids play kickball. Just the Wednesday before Thanksgiving trying to read and write before I have to go work at Donna’s tonight. We got another box of tools in today on the Early A.M. delivery, which I still don’t understand why they shell out the extra money to have them there that early. They pay $30 more on average in order to get them there in the morning when we don’t work in the shop until 5pm. Makes no sense, but then again maybe Donna never said anything to the sender. A guy in Philly, can’t remember his name, preps the tools and puts the diamond coating on the ball heads before shipping them south to Texas where I intercept them at the UPS Store and take them to Donna’s to be cleaned (really just soaked in alcohol and dried with a hair dryer). Then we buff them twice – once on a buffing wheel just beneath the head to remove grease and dust flakes and then again by hand with scotch brite squares to slender off the remainder of the tool body. On from there, the tools are placed into cut out art foam boards then vacuum sealed into food bags, finally shipped off to Medtronic to be tested and pass inspection before being burrowed into patients’ heads during brain surgery. Lately, I have acted as an independent courier, hand delivering the tools myself taking them all the way to Fort Worth for an extra $20. Thankfully, we received another box of tools from the Philly man. During the recent lull in production I have been helping Donna spackle and paint her bedroom walls. I was getting mud everywhere (all over her carpet) which she kept insisting was okay but I think really bothered her so needless to say I was ready to get back to work. The sun sparkling spider webs blowing in the wind and really what’s the point of everything? —Is there a point to anything?
I’M LISTENING. I’M LISTENING. I SWEAR I AM AN OPEN RECEPTACLE – but no.
No sound. Just sweet Satie playing Gnossienne, 1 - Lent 1. And the light is beating down on my cheek, the side of my mouth and my left eye slightly closing in reaction. But the warmth is there. That’s when I see it is not a message but a feeling. Not a sound but a shaking, an inner vibration. Waving motion of the soul sort of thing. To know you were right there living and receiving the energy. As soon as it comes it is gone. I only went inside for a moment to grab my jacket and go to the bathroom, but when I come back the sun has gone down behind building 14 and my balcony is lost again in the shadows like some tragic myth of Greek/Roman days when the gods confined men to eternal punishment as consequence of their own self-destructive abhorrence. Aren’t all the great sufferers as such? Those stricken by the pain of feeling too deeply, unable to control what comes in through the ether, getting the good with the bad in all aspects of living.
“All this fuss over nothing, reinventing the wheel. All this searching for something that's not real"
SONG LYRICS DIVIDING EACH PARAGRAPH APPEAR BELOW IN DESCENDING ORDER ::
LEANING LINES OF POWER o’er CountryRoad-1200 and Josh Homme moans, “Can’t get no glory on that side of the hole,” what a double entendre! Road clear for miles, not a headlight in sight. The Elder trees box me in, forming a tunnel above, and I’m flying, smooth gliding, o’er the west-face hill. High…stoned…feeling daring, pushing my foot down on the pedal, now at sixty…now at seventy. The speedometer wobbles its sea monster green glow, and the adrenaline rushes through my joints and jolty-jolts. Electrodes spark. Bridges over water really freak me out (I blame the Mothman Prophecies, which I read at an impressionable age, then saw the movie which only made it worse). But soon my worries ease cause the lake is all dried up.
SO, I SLOW TO A HALT for a quick rain dance. Then I hop back in the Envoy, and I’m off again. Meanwhile considering an adventure to Stull Cemetery – I’d like to go there before I leave – but I left my apartment too late in the evening. Though just in time to catch the slatey blue-sky backdrop against a dark green Kansas farmland. An unbelievable contrast, like a painting I saw once at the Nelson, and right as this thought pops into my head, I swear I pass by a barn looking real familiar… exactly like the barn that I had seen in that one painting, but with the hue of hello, uncanny reality. I took a picture just to prove it, to prove I wasn’t losing it. Epic fucking synchronicity and Jung would say something like,
“Yes, I could cite many examples, but such physical reactions are only one form in which the problems that trouble us unconsciously may express themselves.”
(By the way, that’s twice tonight now, that I’ve randomly opened up a book and the page had just what I needed, the secret remedy... or maybe I’m just telling myself what I wanna hear.)
PURPLE LEAVES FADING ALL AROUND ME, the seasonal buds offspring, the branching nodes atop tall peduncles. Healthy, weighted roots heavy with the cold moisture in the air, but deeper…deeper…deeper down, warm, wet, and growing. The smell like musky mud in morning, the dank dew dirt of just-tilled soybean fields. The organic smell of nature – a redundant statement ( yes it's true) but empathetic nonetheless. By this point, I am crossing Clinton Lake, just as the evening tides roll in. Smacking against the receding shoreline. A rainy day in some distant London bay, that’s what this is. But there ain't no rain so… it's just perfect.
I WOKE UP IN A DRAIN PIPE ONCE. I feel what I felt then, right now. It all rushes back to me, the twisted irony of man, the thicket of thoughts but bone-dry riverbeds. The cosmic diversity of people all across the spectrum, billions of minds tick-tick-ticking simultaneously, while we starve from a lack of natural resources and humility. Dwindling, dwindling to the needy hands of the rich AND THE POOR (nobody’s excluded, this is everyone, we’re all responsible) Every-last-one-of-us with two feeble outstretched paws attached to each of our purgatorial bodies. We’re all trapped. You’d think we’d recognize the benefit of respectful collaboration. (Come on errbody, we can totally do this! **Claps hands together like a fine cheerleader**) If two receivers go deep, double cross in the end zone, who will catch the pass – adversity or cooperation? Either way a touchdown, but should the end zone justify the pass thrown? A torn world that’s blind, deaf, and dumb, and as I write in my journal the Talking Heads are shouting, “Blind! Blind! Blind! Blind! Blind!” This is my first time hearing this song, so I pull up the lyrics because it is a sick little jam. I am absolutely giddy to discover David Byrne shares a similar perspective and style. Most noticeably in ‘Blind’ with the AbAb rhyme scheme coupled with short, terse, punk edged lines and an upbeat satirical sense of humor, a dude with a like-minded head. Then ‘Lifetime Piling Up’ starts playing on the Apple jukebox (Ha! And finally an opportunity to drop that, I’ve been a giggly little girl for the past few minutes.) That line, “Why is everybody making the eyes at me?” might have influenced, “Stop making the eyes at me, I’ll stop making the eyes at you,” a line right out the mouth of Alex Turner. But that’s another adjunct, a little bit more evidence, or rather just a testament to the genius of David Byrne. I’ve noticed a number of examples that permeate other genres of music. Many musicians I hold in reverence have taken their cues from the Talking Heads unique sound and groove (little riffs here and there) or they even turn to tipping their cap with a cover song. Cage the Elephant took on ‘Psycho Killer’ making it sound swayley and wonderful, sickly and sweetly sadistic, just like a psycho killer would be. Local Natives wrote a brilliantly reworked version of ‘Warning Sign’ that is so uniquely theirs, musically speaking, that for the past two years I was unaware it was a Talking Heads original. And The Rapture was a punk explosion of the Heads, much less humorous, more a sense of urgency, but that’s no negative by any means! They brought new disco elements into the mix, thus the pool of drool coagulating at my feet… But needless to say so – David Byrne is a rad dude, I surrender the words with the utmost admiration. I would buy that guy the biggest beer at the bar, but I won’t continue to beat a dead horse…But… but, come on… New York folk-disco? What more could anyone ask for?
"UNABASHED LIVING THE ZEITGEIST OF THEIR TIME PERIOD," someone once said something like that to me. And in this particular case, the New York post-punk scene – but screw categories, fuck em and feed em horseshoes. The shit that really matters is that DIY ethic of community and resourcefulness, being able to live your life the way you want to live it while still respecting the people around you, consciously acknowledging that you’re not the only asshole zipping roundabout this great Toilet Earth we shit on. Yet still maintaining a situation you feel comfortable with, while not being rude about it (nobody ever said it’d be easy)
AND NOW I SEE THAT I HAVE COME FULL CIRCLE, every minute counts, so practice-practice-practice. I realize that I’m doing myself an injustice to the cause I claim to represent by not working my ass off with the utmost sincerity. My mother was right, unto that effect (and that effect only, if I let pride get the best of me) Twice times acknowledged – I really do apologize. I’m bitter not angry cause the argument stroked a shorted-circuited wire spitting out twisted electricity of magical magnetivity.
WELL I'LL BE DAMNED, CHRISTEN ME A BELIEVER - Conflict most certainly does breed competition. I almost changed my mind when my daemon lost its playful spirit, the will to win, to be the best. Softball left the sour taste of defeat in my mouth, silently convinced of a dichotomous perspective. No good to force it, cause it's evil-pushers vs. angelic-floaters. So small-minded, geez Louise, little blips of, “No shit Sherlock,” sent I-screaming from the freezer. Cubed precipitates ready to pop out the ice tray, anxiously waiting for the door of perception to swing open. A chance to fill the glass of opportunity, to melt into the water, to ride the esophagus down the gullet – stripped of nutrients and later pissed out as ammonia, just a tricklin trip down the ol urethra tunnel. “You’ve got to go steal ahead, time don’t give a shit.” Sing it Mosshart, right fucking on. God damn I love her whole thing, who she is I mean - what she's got going on. “Don’t write about the dark clouds unless you paint the silver lining.” Blueprint, that’s brilliant. Simplistic, succinct, crisp and delicious - a delectable little tenet. Word up ya slick fuck, I love your music. You inspired me to play around with the verse spitting game, hoping one day I’ll out do Jack the jazz prose king… well, a girl can dream. Jack woulda liked jazz-rock, I think, with its irreducible divisions and splits counterbalanced by hip hop-infused end rhyme. That’s the natural beat my brain bumps to, don’t fight your regal rhythm just go with the flow, follow the concentric circles. Now back to Josh Homme moaning, “But I want something good to die for, to make it beautiful to live.”
[ This transcendental brilliance
Is the better part
- Jack Kerouac, "Bowery Blues"
I nabbed the title from a song by Psychic Heat (Lawrence,Ks). I was driving around at work jamming to them and this story sort of popped into my head. I fell in love with the play on words, and the way the phrase sounds when heard spoken aloud. Especially in the song.
He stared at himself in the mirror and his body congealed into an hourglass.
Time was running out.
Rocking back on his heels, his body morphed again, this time into a roll of quarters - base and cylindrical.
Tezeta seeped from the speakers while the carnival screamed outside.
The form of flesh and bone seemed impalpable.
Slowly, he stretched his right hand out before him, at eye-level, contracting it into a fist rhythmically, on pulse.
What shape was he really?
An unexpected touch on the shoulder shook him from unconsciousness.
“Are you ready to ride the Gravitron, Elden?”
“It makes me nauseous.”
“Don’t be such a pussy, you’ll be fine. Let’s go, Mae is waiting for us.”
The hand on his shoulder belonged to Frank, his brother, two years his senior. Mae was sandwiched between them, the middle child, making Elden the pup of the litter.
Attending the carnival together was an annual tradition; they took it quite seriously. Being close in age, the siblings had developed a unique, indissoluble bond.
They were undetachable.
Elden twisted on his toe and turned to follow Frank down the stairs, out the rickety, wooden door. Sure enough, there stood Mae leaning idly against a sign.
It read ‘House of Mirrors.’
The piercing screech of grinding metal gears and the spastic giggles of monosaccharide-ridden children compounded in mid-air, covering the valley in a sporadic cloud of boisterous clatter.
The sound carries differently in the summer; the heat muffles the waves, hollowing out the volume, softening the pitch.
The scent carries differently in the summer; the heat ignites the smell, blue lilac smoke drifting in the breeze, inhaled through the nostrils – clinging to every nose hair.
Full bloom and full of vitality, the three raced towards the hill on the East end of the carnival, where the Gravitron sat staunch, expectantly.
Mae led the way, her dark hair flowing unhindered in the wind, wafting circles in a trail behind her. The boys brought up the rear, slightly pushing and shoving, shoulder-to-shoulder, reenacting their youth.
It was dusk, and the sun fell below the horizon smearing blues and ashy fuchsia across the sky. A calm covered the valley and enclosed the carnival in homey hug.
Gasping for breath, Mae reached the top of the hill, whipping around to gloat and hiss haughtily down at her brothers.
Their rebuttal - barreling her over in the grass; it was all in good fun and always good fun.
Now face to face with the Gravitron, Elden woefully protested.
“We must,” Mae duly responded, still lying down, her belly flattening the daisies scattered atop the ground.
“It is a tradition.”
She said this while twirling the stem of a weed between her thumb and forefinger.
“You know this, yet you question it.”
“She’s right,” Frank chimed in, spitting a wad of gum from his mouth, “you swore, on your blood.”
Elden recalled the first summer they attended the carnival together:
The year was 1999 and Elden had ascent to the ripe age of ten.
Thus deeming her children old enough to venture out on their own, their mother sent them packing, each with a pocketful of quarters – one for every ride.
Down the gravel road they had skipped and frolicked, roughhousing all the way, until the road met a dead end at a black, cast iron gate.
The lights from the carnival twinkled and danced across the lowlands of the valley, while music, a droning siren song, beckoned the children from beyond the gate.
They huddled down close as Frank slit their thumbs, one by one.
Though serrated, the knife was dulled, but with forceful wedging slowly split the skin apart. Bright red illuminated the inner circle as they mashed their thumbs together in a pyramid. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.
Eight years ago today, three children sealed their fate in crusty cruor.
The days have awoke and slept undisturbed through time.
Mae vaunted her supremacy aloud once more.
“How is it that I beat both of you sorry asses up this hill?”
Mae forever holds the final say.
Already in line, they twisted endless taunts, razzing him across the grass path.
Elden shuffled behind merely delaying the inevitable.
A stale breeze blew through the trees, whistling sharply.
Every hair follicle stood on end – frozen to a point as adrenaline zipped about nervously, coursing through his veins, infiltrating his blood. His stomach sank, turning inside out, curling in knots and tying in place.
Mae stood atop the platform coaxing him with the motion of her hand. Then straddling the entrance to the ride she stretched outward and pulled him across the threshold.
The doorway slammed shut and all eyes adjusted.
The disc glowed in ionized gas – the smoldering nobles, krypton, argon, and neon zapped to life by an electrical discharge, lit up distant faces.
Forty-eight panels lined the wall, top to bottom, each riding on a track designed to shift and slide as centrifugal force is exerted on the body, thus, in turn, weighing down the pads.
A muted trumpet gnawed and gnashed at the air, reverberating from wall, to ceiling, to floor.
In dead center, the carny was seated erect on a stained, charcoal stool - his broad, overbearing shoulders postured in a capital-T. He sported black slacks and a rose-red tee shirt that bore a pocket upon the left breast, fastened all together with white fabric suspenders. A black fedora encircled with one thick, white strip of ribbon with the feather of a robin tucked beneath it sat atop his head, an intriguing adjunct indeed.
The man stared blankly at the beeping panel before him, and a green light flashed periodically, projecting a dot upon his forehead.
With hands joined, Mae towed him along the curve around the central railing stopping in front of two empty pads that Frank had been saving for them.
His feet settled onto the floor and Elden slumped backward against the pad, scanning the room with slight anxiety.
Suddenly sparked with animation, the carny sprung to life.
“All aboard the Gravitron!” his voice was grainy and it cracked in an awkward, rodent tone.
“No need to be frightened ladies and gents…slide back, relax, and I will see you soon.”
The carny reached forward gripping the lever in a swift-habitual motion and yanked back in one fluid pull. The motor roared into motion growling with each subsequent revolution. As the disc spun on its axis, the passengers spun free of gravity.
Elden felt his cheeks go numb while his eyes rolled from side to side.
Tiny marbles in a jar.
Muted music hung weightlessly – each note dangling effortlessly, like a fruit bat on a cavern ceiling. A saxophone bellowed from deep, deep down in the impenetrable darkness, and breaking free from the floorboards, the pads coating the walls slid vertically on their tracks, defying gravity’s force.
Neon dotted the roof in pointillist fashion while a red beam swung around the room searching, like a lighthouse looking for a ship to alleviate the danger of docking.
Spinning faster and faster, a white noise - fresh static - washed over the brassy tunes; the thump of his heartbeat was all that remained audible.
Slowly, he stretched his right hand out before him, at eye level, contracting it into a fist rhythmically, on pulse.
What was he made of really?
Then a soft raspy voice began to sing in a low ring.
Guess it’s just another dream…
that’s slipping away…
each time I fall asleep…
it seems I’m just drifting away.
Drool began to coagulate in the corner of Elden’s mouth as he fought to lift his head, determined to pinpoint the sound.
Colors blurred in a funnel of light, the scene turning like a screw before his eyes.
Across the room a young woman stood with bare feet atop a pad. Her toes gripped the mat as they liquefied into an oily puddle.
He squinted, tried to hone his vision, but it was useless.
Her face was black and disfigured, a Rorschach inkblot
She continued to hum the tune, deep and throaty, releasing a certain roughness in each exhalation.
The Gravitron twirled round and round.
The charged air crackled and a current running through the wires tore away disjointedly, striking the girl, shocking her hair toward the ceiling where it hung in suspension.
Clouds formed, blurring his vision, and his eyes flickered twice before rolling up into his head.
The room turned dark.
The room turned light.
He curled up his toes inside his shoes, feeling for the floorboard beneath them.
The bell rang as the door slid open.
The bell rang once more, and a gale swept through the doorway; funnel cake fumes and blood-curdling screams bombed the chamber.
Then came an unmistakable noise, the mother of all explosions.
In the seconds that followed, the world froze as if caught in amber, preserved in a final snapshot.
A thin line of red trickled from Elden’s nose, it hung motionless for a moment, then disappeared at the swipe of a hand.
His eyes darted wildly about while his brain fought to organize and make sense of an overload of panic-infused, sensory information.
At the core of every being lies instinct pure and true, lolling seamlessly sunup to sundown, driving the direction we go.
Evolution favored intellectual instinct, developing the capacity for precise decision-making at the flick of a pin, but the benefits of primal instinct will never overstay their welcome.
He reflected and finding no escape, his mind detached.
It was at precisely this moment that time clicked forward and the Gravitron was thrown from its base, crashing onto the ground below in a bonfire of flaming metal.
Swathes of fire filled the air while distant chokes were buried in a graveyard of smoke.
The emergency siren moaned.
The cries of a million souls sounding in a siren.
As reported by The National Terror Alert Response Center, a 1 Megaton nuclear bomb has eighty times more blast power than ‘Little Boy’.
The resulting pressure damage at varying blast radii:
Radius: 1.7 miles
At the center lies a crater 200 feet deep and 1000 feet in diameter. The rim of this crater is 1,000 feet wide and is composed of highly radioactive soil and debris. Nothing recognizable remains within about 3,200 feet (0.6 miles) from the center, except, perhaps, the remains of some buildings’ foundations. At 1.7 miles, only some of the strongest buildings — those made of reinforced, poured concrete — are still standing. Ninety-eight percent of the population in this area is dead.
Radius: 2.7 miles
Virtually everything is destroyed between the 12 and 5 psi rings. The walls of typical multi-story buildings, including apartment buildings, have been completely blown out. The bare, structural skeletons of more and more buildings rise above the debris as you approach the 5 psi ring. Single-family residences within these areas have been completely blown away — only their foundations remain. Fifty percent of the population between the 12 and 5 psi rings are dead. Forty percent are injured.
Radius: 4.7 miles
Any single-family residences that have not been completely destroyed are heavily damaged. The windows of office buildings have been blown away, as have some of their walls. The contents of these buildings’ upper floors, including the people who were working there, are scattered on the street. A substantial amount of debris clutters the entire area. Five percent of the population between the 5 and 2 psi rings are dead. Forty-five percent are injured.
Radius: 7.4 miles
Residences are moderately damaged. Commercial buildings have sustained minimal damage. Twenty-five percent of the population between the 2 and 1 psi rings has been injured, mainly by flying glass and debris. Many others have been injured from thermal radiation — the heat generated by the blast. The remaining seventy-five percent are unhurt.
The Gravitron lay crumpled in a mangled heap of fried metal; the motor spewing flame and smoke. The heat and ash seared Elden’s eyes and he squinted in agony trying to regain clarity, but it was to no avail. As a last ditch effort he turned to other senses shouting out for Mae and Frank, ears perked to the space before him, listening. He screamed and he wailed. Nothing. Just the whine of the siren through the valley and the screeching creak of burning metal. There he was, pinned beneath a beam, stewing in the wreckage - helpless and disillusioned.
Who was he really?
It didn’t matter anyway, he thought, I don’t care anymore.
Voices in the distant, a faint murmur – he convinced himself he was hallucinating, easing the anxiety of death with wishful thinking. But the voices elevated as they neared and seconds later two dark figures peeled the support-beam from his midsection. They were dressed in hybrid, dual-purpose black HAZMAT suits equipped with armor. Slate helmets topped their heads, faces hidden behind mask and goggles. The disaster unit.
Each placed one hand on the tattered sleeves of Elden’s shirt and yanked him off the ground, carelessly jerking him around. Paralyzed from the neck down, he could feel nothing. He couldn’t speak; his throat full of chemical smog, his vocal chords singed.
Thing one strained a grunt, “What is the count?”
Thing two answered, “195 and rising, we haven’t even touched the Zipper yet. If you want my opinion, we should have started there. Once the metal cools it’s going to be a bitch to pull those cages apart.”
Thing one shrugged and they stumbled along in silence.
With eyes swollen shut, enveloped in blackness, his consciousness fleeting, they dragged him through the dirt and upon reaching the back end of a utility truck, tossed his maimed body in the bed. His head smacked the knee of another body, the knobby bone temporarily knocking him out.
He awoke to the murmur of familiar voices, Thing one and Thing two. The truck bounced across the rugged terrain of the Earth, hitting bumps and running over rocks. His eyes were caked in dried blood, and unable to move his arms to pick the scabs, he laid dying in despair.
“Do you know where this load is headed?
Thing two shook his head, unsure.
Thing one continued to call out, “Do you know what they are going to do with the bodies? Will they dig a mass grave?”
Thing two sighed in annoyance, “I know as much as you do, but if I were a betting man, I’d say we are headed back to Com HQ where they will be tested for fallout contamination and if they are void of radiation, their organs will be removed and their bodies burned.”
“I thought you had to consent to be an organ donor.”
“Used to be that way, until Executive Order 13666. The need for organs shot through the roof after Congress sanctioned the war on terrorism. IED injuries are to blame. Those fucking Iraqi cadres and their dirty bombs, I once saw a guy get nailed to death. Literally pulverized by quarter-inch nails exploding from a battery block.”
Thing one shook his head, “Well anyway, they are dead. What are they going to do about it?”
Elden felt the rope snag on the last remaining thread, and his mind waivered on the precipice. Taking one final breath, his chest collapsed in. The weight of the world, too much to bear, finally taking its toll.
He died alone amongst the carnage of nuclear corpses in the bed of the pickup.
The truck ripped through the valley leaving the shadow of a mushroom cloud in the dust and the echo of the siren wailing on and on in the distance.