Monthly Archives: September 2009

Your Friend Who Dates The Younger Girls

She moves lithely, smooth, and opens her mouth
wide when she speaks, unless she’s chewing gum,
but still then the slight angle of her jaw
and wetness of her lips make her even
more appealing to the thirteen-year-old

inside. She’s never tired, and I’m sure could
go all night if her parents weren’t so strict.
Age is just a number, like twenty-five
to life, or seventeen candles, or four
more years until she can hang out in bars.

I remember Rugrats back before they
got growed up, on Snick Saturdays with Doug,
and Are You Afraid of the Dark?—she is—
wanting my own big orange couch; and I
remember thinking Winona Ryder

was so old in Great Balls of Fire, not
understanding what the big deal was;
and I remember the 80’s: does she?
Don’t answer that. There’s nothing wrong with a
little range. What will it matter in ten

years, after marriage? You’ll be better off,
beating life on both ends of the spectrum:
still getting those girls you weren’t finished with
in high school; dying twelve years before your
wife; thinking no one will ever leave you.

Bottles and Cans

I set the box down, turn my back to it, walk to the door and hear CRASH! CLANG!, the harsh, concussive orchestra, the echoing collision within glass walls/aluminum chambers, anticipate a soft plastic pop but find it’s drowned out/overwhelmed/consumed by that abrasive cacophony born of late drunken beers, breakfast cans of Coca-Cola Zero, jagged-edge pull-lids still covered in chowdah, all of which feel this crushing urge to prove their worth.

She keeps one hand on a cart/a tank—a prop from some post-apocalyptic time, with ruined treads and bulging sacks of scavenged somethings strapped to its flank—while she squats and sifts through the box. She plays the drum major, conducting a loose percussion section as her hand shuffles through the box/blue box/green box with its tri-angle’d arrow design and the sound slays a single cilia in my eardrum. She looks up at me with sunken, slanted eyes that bleed to jaundice at the edges and offers a glimmer of graciousness, an uncertain/empty smile from behind her dry, sagging lips. Not empty in that vapid way that other people offer—empty in her mouth, where nearly all her teeth have rotted out.

“Sankiyu, sankiyu!,” she slurs excitedly.

I respond with a slight nervous smile. You’re welcome? I never did much worth a welcome. I didn’t realize beer still made folks giddy three days late, especially when there’s nothing left to drink.

No, wait, there’s a little bit left, dripping on her fingers, flowing with the age’d, weather’d patterns/grooves cut into her sandpaper skin/making a medley of sugary juices, mold and soup in the base of the box/puddling on the curb/coating her frail old hands. They looked like latex gloves, her hands, six sizes too small—more like a finger condom used for five and a palm—stretched out, weathered nearly to the breaking point, worn down to a weak, translucent film of thin plastic, filled with pebbles and stapled to her sleeves.

I stand still and silent on the front steps, watching while she finishes her task, tossing empties into her cart with ardor and zeal; the steady clamor of the clinking cans hypnotizes/keeps my attention like raindrops. When she’s finished/when the box is barren, save for the sickening puddle of purée inside, she turns back to me and waves/mumbles “Sankiyu,” again as she pushes her cart up the hill and away; it must weigh 300 pounds, or more, but her fragile, 80-pound frame is determined. She conquers gravity and somehow makes it to the top of the hill. How did I not hear her approach in the first place? I tighten my velvet bathrobe belt. The sharp, discordant jingle/jangle of bottles and cans reverberates down the corridor of rowhouses on the street and I’m amazed it doesn’t wake the neighbors. With one hand, I grab the newspaper; with the other hand, the box/head back inside/wonder if the seven dollars and thirty-five cents she’ll make from the bottle deposit is really worth it.

Burden of Richness

Something very interesting occurred to me the other day when I was walking around in Malibu.  I found myself in an outdoor shopping center, and I really had to pee.  Of course, in Malibu, there are not many public toilets, principally because public toilets are exactly the kind of thing that would attract undesirables, which is to say, the poor.  The poor being those people who can’t afford to have a flunky follow them full-time with a golden bidet and squares of satin, to clean up any sort of messes naturales that the madames et messieurs of California’s golden country might, from time to time, feel the need to expunge.  So I, as a regular person – a phrase I would wager rolls off the tongue of the coastal gentry like peasant might to the lord of an Enlightenment manor – had to go hunting.

As it happens, in this grand outdoor shopping plaza – which boasts not one, nor two, but three coffee houses, half a dozen casual dining establishments, and a host of upscale restaurants including the west coast outpost of Iron Chef Masahiru Morimoto’s restaurant co-owned with Robert De Niro, Nobu – there are no public restrooms.  There’s a children’s playground in the center of the plot, however, which begs the question: where do the kids go when they need to pee?  Apparently, that’s a problem for their housekeepers to solve with wet-naps and empty Gatorade bottles, because restrooms are not to be locally find.  Or maybe the scions of Malibu’s Most Powerful simply don’t urinate.  In any event, in this shopping center, there’s nowhere to go; those who feel nature’s call and cannot dispel it through sheer force of will have a simple, lugubrious choice: either order lunch in a sit-down establishment (and throw it, of course, in the trash after using the restaurant’s commode – these people do not consume calories that are not pre-approved by the white-Oprah equivalent of a dietician), or walk to a nearby mini-mall that on the second floor houses, far away from its multiple high-end men’s sartorial stores, a pair of public toilets, accessible only by a single narrow staircase.  (As with the poor, so go the handicapped; there are no elevators for the differently-abled to reach these distant bowls.)

I followed the directions of pitying shopkeepers to these toilets; as I walked, I realized that I matched, stride for stride, a pair of people who ere walking just three paces ahead.  (That I played, in this scenario, the silent fundamentalist bride was a fact not lost on me.)  The gentleman of this pair quickly scurried to the heads as soon as he mounted the top of the stair flight; his woman lagged behind, burdened as she was with the task of placing her two matching poodles, bedecked in paired rhinestone collars, back on the ground – she’d carried them up the whole flight of stairs.  Far be it from Fluffsy and Muffsy to soil their paws on a public stairwell.

Because of this, I happened to find myself just a step behind this woman as the four of us – she, I, and the hairy, walking munchkins – made our way across the distant, isolated landing, far away from the eyes of the rest of the city.

As we walked, I caught her tense.  She peeked over her shoulder not once, but twice, a gesture only performed by three people: paranoid spies in movies, mall-bound teenage boys wantonly stealing peeks at large-chested girls walking behind them, and people who, for whatever reason, believe that they are about to be violently accosted.

Now, I am not big.  I am 5′ 9″, 155 pounds.  I don’t look like a mugger, I certainly don’t look like a gangbanger – I’m blond, and Jewish – basically, there is no one in the free world who should have any reason to fear me based on sight.  But this woman was sending clear signals that she was bodily afraid of my presence.  And as we got closer, her unease only became more pronounced.  The actual entryway to the toilets was around a corner; as we rounded it, the woman went ahead and actually made a full turn to look at me.  The toilets were to our left; she turned to her right for no other person than to take a last look at me – and ostensibly assure herself that I was not brandishing a shiv – then swiveled a full 180 degrees in the opposite direction to walk into the commode, bringing her twin dogs with her.

I let her go, of course – I mean, I’d been fingering the .22 in my shorts, of course, but I decided that, as the collar was studded with vanity rhinestones, and not diamonds, it just might not be worth all the time and effort of a rape-murder to take the four platinum cards from her Fendi purse.  But it struck me as I was washing my hands in the bathroom sink, after having splashed urine on my hands while peeing in the urinal, that the woman was distinctly afraid that I might mug her.

To me, the thought was ludicrous, for reasons I’ve covered.  But she really believed it – to her, it was a distinct possibility that I might attack her and try to take her purse.  And I figured out why: it’s because she’s well-off.  Because she had so much – and, likely, because her life had become so centered around trinkets and baubles – they occupied her mind constantly.  She was so concerned with the trappings of wealth that they made her nervous – the thought that I might attack her to take her things was a very real possibility to her.  And then I had a realization – the woman was so wealthy that it had become a liability to her.  She was actually carrying her richness as a burden.

What a strange world this is.  Success, and the trappings of it, becoming a real liability.  Never before had Buddhist asceticism made such sense.

Thanks I’ll Eat It Here – Lowell George

Lately I have found myself fixated on death. Not the actual cause or philosophy of grief, but the thoughts before death, the victim’s own self awareness of a death that could otherwise be categorized as sudden and unexpected. Patsy Cline claimed for years she had feelings that she was not going to live past age 30. Cline went as far as to hand write a will on a commercial airline just a short time before her death which coincidentally came in the form of a plane crash in rural Tennessee. Brian Jones went as far as to write his own epitaph before his death at the age of 27 which read “Please Don’t Judge Me Too Harshly”

The reason for these thoughts is the fact that my father, in his last year, had grown more wistful, emotional and responsible. He retired, cleaned out his workspace and displayed his collection of locker 37 memorabilia which he had accumulated over the last 30 years. This collection contained cut outs from the newspaper, pictures of my brother and I throughout various years of awkward adolescence, notes from a younger version of my mother she had ages ago packed lovingly into his lunch. We spent time discussing his music collection and the fact that after he had died I would be left with nothing but good music to remember him by, not the Big Band cassettes my grandfather had left him.

A week before his death my father led my Mother, Brother and myself to a house on a quiet street in Newport. This house was where my father spent a lot of his time until his grandmother passed away around the time he was 6. We stood there quiet in the slim beams of sun while the cold February morning warmed to a barely tolerable temperature. He spoke of the vineyard they kept in the backyard they used to make their own wine and how his Grandmother used to call him “Peaches and Cream Cheeks” due to his rosy young complexion. We waited patiently while he finished a conversation with a mailman we had run into and then made our way back to the car.

At the time I didn’t think much of this journey. My father was just telling a story we had never heard before. After a few months I began thinking more about how he had acted that day. Many animals have an instinct which enables them to be self aware of the harsh fact of death. When Wolves die they leave the pack to die alone. Elephants wander off to graveyards which are designated for the death of their species. It’s tough to know if the actions of my father were due to confusion on how to react to a sudden change in his life and inability to fill time during a retirement, or if somehow he was subconsciously aware of his limited time. A week later, down the street from his grandmother’s house, 3 blocks away from his childhood home, my father passed away. Another seemingly poetic foreshadowing on the end of an otherwise private average life.

Lowell George Died of a heart attack at the age of 34. Hours before, he performed his last song ever, 20 Million Things (to do)

If it’s fix a fence, fender dents
I’ve got lots of experience
Rent gets spent
And all the letters never written don’t get sent
It comes from confusion, all things I left undone
It comes from moment to moment, day to day
Time seems to slip away

But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things
And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

I’ve got mysterious wisteria hanging in the air
The rocking chair I was supposed to fix
Well it came undid
And all the things that I let slip, I found out quick
It comes from moment to moment, day to day
Time seems to slip away

But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things
And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

dot

No paranoia.  Fanatic flashes of anger.  She’d forgotten to pack her little white take-with-water dots for the group’s trip into the woods and she now had to hide her:

random bouts of crying
warm bodily chills of pure joy
new words

The individual brilliancies of every tree, stock to stem, each its own abiding bronchi, caused in her an urge to snap their trunks, tune the rings, and snap them back.  A playful, nurturing sun hid from her its reflection of rays between the gills of wakes on the water, surfing into a shore they used as another hand to applaud a perpetual return to bed.  All thought had given way to the natural realisation of God, suddenly walled, with a reminder that such bliss was made of hippocampus chemicals in flux.  Thus the frontal lobe began its debate on the idea of the unregenerate legitimacy of a so-called natural world.  The Provider’s soil begat background dirt.  The sky was blue.  The trees made nothing but tree, and the sun allowed you to see anything but itself.  Then a person, a person, with a mindless flair for interruption, as natural as feeling sick, broke everything.  Whatever they were about to say, it would be painful and wrong.

They crossed a bridge, the group.  She stopped and peered over the edge with a torso craning steep enough to right-side a troll, then she paralleled the water, twenty buses down.  Her mates assumed she was interested in something they wouldn’t be.  They’d given in to the intensity of her little off-stares before and resolved her mind wasn’t theirs.  They continued to move, callow of their previous crossing’s purpose, now lusted in new conversation about tits, muscles, and tennis.  Their lack of unadmitted knowledge became a cacophony of jabs; subtle, personal pangs flecked the circle, the result of them being kings.  So they laughed.  Laughter is never boring.

They, the bridge crossers, all loved her.  Truly.  Wanted her to catch up, but “please, do not speak, because we’ve just run through the file of things we’ve chosen to hear you say, and most likely, whatever it is, will be painful, and wrong.”  She knew about tits, muscles, and tennis, and although she found them more funny than they, she’d miss the joke, black and grey.  One of them stepped out of their little strings, mams, toids and ceps cloud {from the Greek, gloutos} and mustered a jovial “join us”. Happiness for the sound of her name.

So the devil stopped talking.  Her feet had been forgotten, her knees poised, hands unloosed, head in the water.  She pushed hard against the new weight of her backing half, turning in thicker-than-anyone’s air away from the rails toward the ones she loved back.  She never wanted to fall and she never would, but she felt it and made it her friend, finding those who had fought to have failed.  She was very much alive.  The dots, although sold for the feeling of feeling alive, were prescribed for something else.

100 Days

Left before Decade
Street dead ends; no signs yet for
Apocalypse—quick,

the map should say right
here, turn before it’s too late.
Too late. Brace yourself;

the oncoming wall
won’t yield to golden license
plates. Hit the brakes, pray;

you can’t stop the brick
rain, mortar seppuku, dust
and fire and brimstone-

work gunning down your
roof as though we were the last
Jews in Vinnytsia.

How to Make Love to a Robot

(or Other Synthetic Object with Simulated Intelligence and Emotional Response)

a.

Always carry extra lubricants,
oil to keep the pistons pumping,
pulsating properly, gears grinding hard
while the parts glide smooth like rivers,
streams, greased chains helping you
maintain a steady flow, mechanical rhythm.

Squeaking parts are fine, often preferred.

b.

When establishing a safe word,
try to program it in as a verbal
command function, a voice-activated
off-switch just in case.

Alternatively, keep your robot on a cord plugged into
a nearby wall and give it a hard tug when you think it’s time.

c.

Always give your robot time to warm up.

g.

Despite claims to the contrary,
you will find a nerve cluster or
pleasure center present on most
machines that functions as a
central Gravity Spot.

Apply pressure as needed.

j.

If 01101001001 — 10010110100010101101
10001010001110, 10000101100010 0110110
0101111. 000110101 010 1010001110 101110
011001, 01101 110 0101011110101001 111001;
1010001, but never in the shower or the rain.

Lifetime warranties do not cover water damage

k.

Do not cross wires.

m.

Always position yourself on top of
or horizontal to your robot.

Unless you are seeking auto-asphyxiation
pleasure from being crushed, in which case,
please refer to safeword rule b. above.

p.

Be both gentle and rough; use discretion to determine
the sensitivity level appropriate for each situation.

q.

Keep your robot’s batteries fresh at all times
(Duracell recommended); do not allow your robot’s
energy cells to run dry mid-function or you risk
a hazardous crash, without option for reboot.

t.

Always use protection. Latex or Rubber
boots are recommended to establish proper
grounding and allow residual or excessive
electrical current to flow through your feet
into the ground.

Chainmail is not an acceptable form of protection
and should only be used in roleplaying (see rule b.).

y.

Above all else,
do not remove the screw.