Sunday, August 31, 2003

You want Chicago? I'll give you Chicago.

I'll give you a 16-ounce can of Old Style for the purpose of recovery. Because it's 8 p.m. by the time we get back to headquarters and we've already made a wide-looping circuit of the city on foot. Behind heavy eyelids we find new strength. We've been here before — the third day in — and we know the final homecoming is at least five cab rides away. Ben irons a shirt. I sit on the black leather sectional and make the conscious decision to lose consciousness at all costs.

After a flurry of phones calls, we have several choices and we take one, walking out into the dark street and pushing into a cab and we're away. The cabby drives fast and loose and lets us loosen with liquor in the cab without complaint. And cigarettes. The closed quarters fill quickly with smoke, so the windows slide down at four corners and we release the fog into fresh night air. It is half past 10. Maybe later than that. My circadian rhythms are clueless here. My sense of time stolen by three, four nights on the bender. I stick my head out the window and make another decision. This one to keep it together at all costs. A wine bar materializes on our left and we roll to a quick stop. I think it's Diversey. We push out and light cigarettes and stumble in.

Inside the place is darker than outside and the vultures are packed in wing-to-wing. Flapping furiously. We get drinks and join them, looking for two familiar faces in this dark place. Darker than outside, but we find Ally and Radvansky's Sister sitting at a tall table with no spare stools. We wedge ourselves against a short pool table and get into character. Finally.

Ally and Ben are blood, so she's off limits. Radvansky's Sister, on the other hand, is fair game. Because you see I don't know Radvansky. And I didn't write the rules. So I do my best. And she's smart with a beautiful smile. If only talk were harmless. At this point I can't help but worry. We order another round. The wine bar makes gin & tonics out of fire. The waitress pulls them out of ether and we suck down the flames. The burning is exquisite.

We're out of time and patience. The vultures have taken to loud shrieking and the doorman is still letting them in. I watch this unfold in horror. We get out by the skin of our teeth and find a cab and beat a hasty retreat. This ride as fast as the first. Faster. Windows down again and the four of us are pressed in thigh-to-thigh. I am unable to decide what makes it all so beautiful. I convince myself that it's everything. It. Is. Everything.

The trees closing in around us are made of fingers.

Captain Furious greets us outside. The lady at the door of the next club has a clipboard and the bridge of her nose is impossibly long. Furious gets us in and I take a wrong turn and I'm alone. Surrounded by strangers. Cursed night blindness. I find my party after much gnashing of teeth. We sit at a table populated by the finest. None of them seem to know we're there. But wine is gratis. I quickly take a carafe and set about making good on the first decision. Ben joins me. Ally. Radvansky's Sister. Captain Furious. They join me too. We are all happily making decisions.

We are all faces illuminated by green spotlights.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Saturday. Monday. Work. Mystical forces that mankind will never fully understand have conspired to rob me of my Labor Day weekend. And while idle talk of an extemporaneous camping trip may have just been idle talk, I am not crazy about the spectre of missing out when just last night my previously tangled roots found purchase in good soil again. (Runner-up: Worst Metaphor of the New Millennium.) And but so as I sit here it’s lunch hour Friday and Pending Workloads are peeking out from every corner and I’m surrounded and whatever battalions of mental resilience I could marshall against the coming storm have taken off for afternoon margaritas somewhere in my brain’s frontal lobe. I’ve never been happier. I shit you not. Because my heart pumps for absolute stress. And coffee dominates my machinery.

This is why I love the business I’m in.

It’s not every night you can drink that many gin & tonics and emerge unscathed. But the extraordinary becomes ordinary when you’re wearing a shirt woven of magic. And that was me last night — sitting, standing, sweaty glass cooling my palm as I set about becoming one with my inner ear.

Dave G was in full effect. We ate burgers of meat at Humperdinks and I polished off a vat of porter while a guy with a lip ring and portable ashtray told us about his adventures in vomit diving. And yes, that’s the best I can explain it. We paid the bill and went back to base. Went back to base and then hit the road, again, this time heading south on 75 toward — you guessed it — Xpo. And no, no singing this evening. I needed a night to collect my thoughts and focus on the drink at hand. Dave G asked me if Gupta is a common name. I told him it is. This is the truth as I know it.

And the truth as I knew it took shape in the following moments. The Wonder Twins showed up and it was wonderful. I ordered another drink and settled in. Etc.

Magical shirt, fly me home.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

You want Chicago? I’ll give you Chicago.

I’ll give you a half-block walk to Jaimito’s Burritos on Clybourn, where illegals scurry lengthwise behind the counter and slap cold tortillas on hot metal. Prices are reasonable. And yes, convenient. A big white bag of tacos to take back home for the day. The day mostly spent in a living room waiting for the rain to stop. Watching movies already watched. Worshipping TiVo and tossing spent cigarettes into tall dinner glasses and leaving every spilled container for later. It’s probably 5 p.m. before we catch on a gear. We head out when the sun splits the cumulous. North and Clybourn, where a new city is growing from the dirt. Some of the history has been buried under condos, but rusty fencing and red brick peeks through. And I’m old enough to remember it as it was anyway — vacant lots and gravel and grass with low-rent in between, this part. Far enough east to not be west. And now west is steadily being consumed, project by project. Crate & Barrell. Starbucks. Whole Foods. Etc. Some of the former tenants linger, but their homes are slowly dying. We pass one as we step out of the electric gate onto the cracked pavement. Stopping in the Copa for Marlboro Reds and wooden matches, we pack it, light one each and pick a direction. Traffic is constant. Southeast the Hancock, blurry with his tips gone, and the majesty of his children still visible around his knees. We head due west on narrow streets where puddles spill downhill and underground and the ozone smell lingers and lifts and cleans the air on its way out.

Ben lopes along and complains as I take pictures of everything. But I tell him I need to remember it all as it is. For posterity, I keep saying. My habits haven’t changed. I still peer up toward the first floor windows and picture myself in that room with that furniture. Wonder what kinds of jobs get people these kinds of homes. Wonder why no one told me before I made the wrong turn. Wonder if they did. I never listened and can’t remember.

Count the things I now appreciate: one, two, three and stop counting. Because I simply can’t count that high. The way the line of brick hugs the curb. The way the black metal fences curl around tree trunks. The low-hanging limbs in my face. The uncanny parking jobs. Tightly packed down both sides of this block and the next. For miles. Here, every bumper sports the war scars of the parallel universe.

Soon, we reach LaSalle and the Sushi Cafe and stop to replenish resources. Early July, and the breeze is cool and all the windows and doors are open and our table clings to the edge of a tall step and seems like it could float on over to the middle of the street. Women, girls in summer clothes populate the sidewalk. Jogging, walking in their summer clothes just to be walking, jogging in the sweet air of post-storm. Midwest beauties all of them, those girls, I remember watching butts for hours and falling out of my chair at times. And the bike lanes are busier than the street. On Saturday this area, just north of North and LaSalle, is for recreational purposes only. Washing it down with the last of the hot saki, I wipe the edges of my mouth and pay the bill with the taste of the good stuff lingering in the back, just under my brain.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I remember walking along the edge of the beach water to meet her. The moment would beg for sickness and nostalgia, but for the absence of eyes. Her eyes. Mine. Gone. And we grappled with that fact for months as we stumbled along. I remember telling her how much I loved it there. There, when she was smiling under the corner clock at Marshall Fields, stamping out new footprints in the short snow. I could feel her presence on my shoulder and it came as the smell of cold, untouched air. I knew from our short history of vision that her hair was brown and eyes, too, they were brown. Our blindness kept us from experiencing new things. Across the street we could hear the children sliding by on ice skates. We held hands as the little ones scrambled between us. Maybe our eyes were just closed, because through my lids I could still sense clouds blocking the sun and the shadows of passersby. We waded out into traffic with a crowd and arrived on yet another block, this one near the theatre. The red lights of the marquee crept in and we found our way further, inching toward the el platform until we passed the music store and up we went. I dropped my ticket on the stairs and she continued. I called to her as I fumbled at my feet, then on my knees with my hands, searching. A crew of departures stampeded down the steps and she was separated. I could feel her waiting at the top of the stairs, but I couldn’t open my eyes and the screeching rail above swallowed every word.

I think she got on that train, but I’ve never been sure. I didn’t open my eyes until weeks later.

My eyes are wide open and the coffee, hot. Today will be busy. Events have conspired to leave me hopelessly behind in my work. Everything will be fine, but it’s going to take much effort. Once more into the breach ...

Last night I heard a monster outside my bedroom window. He called himself Emily Straw. He told me we went to high school together. Next thing I knew it was morning and the radio was on.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I sort of promised yesterday that I was going to talk about Contempt. Give my impressions and what not. And that’s normally something I’m not too crazy about doing. Especially because this film was made in 1963, and so many great critics and even more lesser ones have had 40 fucking years to dissect every aspect of the piece. And what, now I’m supposed to come along and tell you what I think when anyone who knows anything about The Cinema is already looking down his nose at me? I mean, c’mon Mike. Godard? Duh.

But I hadn’t seen any of his movies before that wonderful evening, three weeks ago, when his Breathless stared back at me from the shelf. We, the three of us, watched it and I liked it and that was that. It was different and I liked it. But some of the innovations Godard made with that film have pretty much been bastardized by everyone since. And but now “Contempt” comes along and just blew me the fuck away. I didn’t know what I was watching at first. And Godard flipped every expectation I had about how a movie should develop in the opening minutes. And on it went. In beautiful Cinemascope. Fritz Lang: (“It’s only good for snakes and funerals.”) So yeah.

I listened to the commentary track last night and it was some critic pointing out a lot of stuff and making some assumptions and deductions and observations. A lot of it was very interesting; a lot of it was pretty obvious. But upon watching the movie with the actual sound down and the commentary blaring, I was struck by how beautiful “Contempt” is. I haven’t seen many movies that look so good. Beautiful, beautiful. And Bardot, with that thing we all want. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

One thing I haven’t heard brought up yet in any of the reviews I read is the similarity between the dissolving relationship in “Contempt” and that in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” There was even a line in the movie that echoed one in the poem so closely that it could not have been a coincidence. I wish I could remember. I should have written it down. A strange thing: dialogue so good you want to write it down. It’s not like underlining a passage in a book. A passage in a movie. Like this one:

“I thought Camille could leave me. I thought of it as a possible disaster. Now, that disaster had happened.”

“We used to live in a cloud of unawareness, in delicious complicity.”

This is too much to take on in the morning.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Last night around 7:30, a thunderstorm blasted through Dallas and knocked out power to most of my apartment complex. And as I sat, candles roaring, in the flickering darkness of a wasted Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder why Dallas is so different. And why what happened in NYC would never happen here. Because while New Yorkers take public transportation and have an attitude of mutual coping during times of strife, Dallasites drive the drive and alienate themselves from one another. You can see it in the way we get to work. We sit in our cars alone, wary of other drivers. These terrible expressions on our faces, like life is in the back seat beating us down with a quarter staff. The morning commute is sad. And if the lights went out at rush hour, we would all be home with the doors locked within two hours. No street parties. No sleeping in the bosom of a skyscraper. None of that. No. We’d go home. We’d lock the doors. Because the much-ballyhooed Southern Hospitality is, in all likelihood, a myth created by inhospitable southerners.

I woke up this morning to the sound of people yelling outside. The power is still out back home, so I came into work early. To get this done because there are other things to do.

Maybe later I’ll talk about Contempt. Lorie was right. Hella good movie, that.

Friday, August 22, 2003

More bad news: The great Wesley Willis is dead. The king of the stock synthesizer beat. The captain of animal fucking. A true schizophrenic. Crazy like a Magikist.

Cut the mullet ...

Thursday, August 21, 2003

It's only 10 p.m., but the night is already a total loss.

I sat outside in the twilight and thought for a minute and a good thought occurred to me. The solitary pathlight, trunk black iron, cast its sulfer glow. It was fucking poetic and shit. And white clouds, background black, innocuous but with a hard look that makes me think of exorcism. So I was thinking, thinking only because I was trying to think my way out of it. And maybe it's not such a good thought. And it's probably pretentious. Pretentious like the word itself. Pretentious, which Entertainment Weekly recently named "The Word Which, By Virtue Of The People Using It, Is, Like, Totally The Most Ironic Word Ever." Drink six. Seven? Trouble with a capital T. Too late to go out and too early to turn in, I have to make this turn and hope it turns out well. To continue ...

Cheap wine makes the couch rock. There are people I drink wine with. People who think it leads to certain ruin. Others who think its inebriating properties engender a sweeter fate. I think, as usual, I'm somewhere in between. And so tomorrow we always recover. And if not then the next day. And the next day. The day. The night. A place to sleep. Then do it again.

Remember what I said? Remember. Don't write while listening to music.

I would not have done this were Kruxy not at the helm. But here goes. I’m a dirty fucking sellout with a heart that pumps for jaywalking.

The Rules:
1. Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3. You'll update your website with my five questions, and your five answers.
4. You'll include this explanation.
5. You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

1. You're at the CDC unsupervised. What specimen do you steal?

I’ve never been to the Centers for Disease Control, so I’m not quite privy to what kinds of exotic plagues they’re packing in that joint. A nice post-Victorian rodent virus of some sort might clean the palate nicely, although Monkeypox has a certain phonetic quality that most other candidates lack. In the end, I’d probably pocket a few office pens and some CDC stationery. Then I’d tap a dash or two of Rheumatic Fever into the office coffee pot.

2. What kind of work is out there for a “Pantagrapher”?

Well, I do get a lot of offers to headline at rural strip clubs. Back in the Roaring ‘20s I was known throughout Central Illinois as “White Margarine,” and I made my name doing naked backward triple gainers off the shoulders of a highly medicated Asian elephant. But those days were officially over after an ugly scene with a young spinster named Heddy. Which confrontation left my kneecaps hopelessly askew. Since then, I pretty much bounce around doing odd jobs.

3. What's your favorite "girly" drink?

For the most part, I really don’t dig anything frosty or colorful. And I detest fruity drinks like Vodka-Cran and such. But just this past Monday night, I had the most delicious frozen Margarita at Chuy’s. So it’s either that or breast milk.

4. What's so wrong with Eugenics anyway?

Nothing, as far as I’m concerned. Haven’t you ever seen Gattaca? I mean, check out that dim lighting and bold architecture. That’s the kind of world I want to live in — noir as fuck.

5. No Alcohol, Nicotine, or Caffeine: How long would it be before you killed someone?

That depends. What is the method of this deprivation? I mean, I’d kill a baby and throw its carcass into traffic if I thought that would get me a drag off someone’s cigarette. But if, say, there was suddenly no A, N, or C in existence in the world, then I might just have to throw myself into traffic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Another brilliant idea wasted. Wasted because I couldn’t lean over and grab my pad before I fell asleep. As the delta waves took hold it came to me in a flash and I considered shaking myself back into reality and jotting it down and thereby preserving one of the greatest post ideas ever conceived in the history of posts. But my Midnight Confidence told me that sure, I’d remember. It was too good to be forgotten. Make a mental note. Think about how easy it is to wake up to total recall. Easy. Yes, that’s better. Much better. Now go to sleep. Don’t worry. Leave it all to me.

Stupid Midnight Confidence. You have robbed me of more than several brilliant strokes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Sunday I woke up. And that alone is a miracle of minor proportions. We were at Xpo Saturday night until the lights came up and we were herded out en masse. H pulled a disappearing act of minor proportions and is therefore directly responsible for me wandering out to the patio and making a fool of myself. My poor night vision directed me toward a table of familiar faces. Alas, up close, the joint was stocked with strangers giving me quizzical looks. They started throwing beer cans at my face and I retreated into darkness like the Hunchback. So somehow we all ended up going in different directions. I went the wrong way. Along with Alberto and Melanie and a mélange of unbelievable characters. This while Mindy and H took the correct turn and headed into mysterious territory for a swim or two. I don’t remember parting, but I remember following the wrong car and arriving at the wrong place. Melanie opened the front door and I knew right off I’d made a terrible error. We marched on in and through the house, mutts at every turn. I decided to suspend judgement and give it a shot. We sat, six deep, at a little cabana in Melanie’s back yard while dogs of all breeds ran roughshod over the gathering. Stinky pups, but cute and friendly. We settled in and drank frozen margaritas of minor proportions. We the people, not the dogs. And we listened to folk songs on a tabletop stereo. The fantods crept in quickly. I cannot abide that kind of music in the early morning hours. It is the soundtrack to nightmares. All phone calls landed wide of their mark so I took off at like 4 a.m. for the safety and comfort of home.

The things I do and the people I meet. That’s pretty much all this is.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The weekend could be mapped on a bell curve. Saturday night was the high point. Went down to meet Heather and Alberto at the Zora Lee house at like 7 p.m. I had spent my Friday night in bed. I was well-rested and ready for action. Alberto sat and ate soup while H got dressed in the Hottest Outfit of the Year, according to People Magazine. I paced in the living room to Stereolab.

Dave G and Rebecca came out minutes later. After H had twirled a twirl and Alberto finished his Chunky. We were hungry, all of us, so it was off to Oak Cliff to forage. H rode with me. The music was good, of course, because it was my music and I have impeccable taste. The windows down on the highway. Warm air blasting my hair back. Eyes trying to spot dark curves at night. Oak Cliff needs more streetlights. But so we meandered a bit and found our way. Parked and walked. We chose the place with the high ceilings and the down-home atmosphere. A woman played guitar to candlelight. Right there inside. Right there by the ficus. It was our waiter’s first night. He was nervous.

I told Alberto to capitalize. To give the guy a hard time about the margaritas. But in the end everyone stayed pretty low-key and non-confrontational. It was OK, but the food was very good, indeed. And that bread and butter. Like butter. On the way out I rubbed some on my nipples for later. Heather stopped and had a cigarette. We all did, really. And I expect to see her interview with the man outside. Anyway, we got in cars and headed off to Double Wide to see the show.

H had to drive because the roads were too dark and twisty. She got us to DW in one piece and we headed inside the place and groped for spots in the dark. My memory fails me. Next thing I remember was H introducing me to Mindy, who walked over from the bar in a scene from a movie. Or that’s the way it seemed. She has a sister named Mickey. I shit you not. We three hunkered down and talked about how useless our majors were. English. Geography. History. History? H, really, I can’t remember. We agreed that we’d all made disastrous life decisions. And that if we could go back we wouldn’t change a thing. We got up and out and checked on the band. I paid $5 for major disappointment. It was not my kind of thing. After that there was a lot of walking back and forth between the sections of the place. Back and forth until we agreed to hit Xpo for the night cap. I don’t know how we got there but we did.

Then we danced ...

And so the rest doesn’t matter. And I don't have the time anyway.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Tonight, The Polyphonic Spree will be playing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. If you miss it, you are gay. Also, be sure to get your tickets for their Sept. 19th show at the Granada before the Great Southwest Blackout.

Last night was in like a lamb.

After work I went home, napped hard and woke up still feeling listless and uninspired. But I had made promises the night before. And I was confident that once I got out and about and had a drink or two, a better mood would fall into place. So I rushed Alberto and we got to Xpo a little bit too early. He tried to figure out his digital camera while I attended to the Guinness, the beer, the double shot of cold SoCo. I’d eaten quite a bit during the day and I was confident in spite of my fatigue. Confident I could drink my drinks quickly without passing the point. And I think I handled myself with aplomb. I think. Next came Jenna or Joan or Jade. Yes, Jade. Sheepish and demure, Jade is the lead singer of a punk scream nightmare. Her band sings at the Double Wide (Xpo’s theme twin, which I have not yet had the pleasure). So yeah, Jade on film looks nothing like Jade in person. Up close she was riding a bike, smiles ten feet tall, and wearing something thick and soft and brown. On film she’s clad in red plastic with goggles and boots and a mouth three blocks wide. They sing a song called “Anal Intrusion.” I don’t ask questions. I avoid an introduction even. Another drink, and my tab gets fatter.

The place started to fill out with the usual suspects. And some not so usual. A newspaper intern who, I’m guessing, is like 12 years old swaggered in with his entourage at like 10 p.m. They sang Rawhide later and I can say without hesitation that it was the worst rendition I’ve ever heard. But I’m not a music critic. Details. Whatever. In minutes I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. I had achieved a state in record time and kind of felt like I was being thrown to the wolves. I dealt with it. Another drink. But I signed up for the same old song, just to be safe.

Calluna showed up fashionably late looking quite nice and fashionable. But by then I was too far gone. I hid it well, but it was already in me. Drizzle as a skizzle. Next thing I knew I was front-and-center, reprising my role from last Thursday and losing my trellis several times. I slogged through it. My voice was not my own, but I came out alive. Got an enthusiastic hand-grab/shake from a girl who wears the greatest glasses of all time and sings like a genuine coal miner’s daughter. I went and sat down and talked to some people I’d never talked to before. And I wasn’t in the mood and I’m thinking now that it must have sounded very forced. But I’m probably wrong.

I snuck out under the cover of conversation. While wide eyes and sideways glances surrounded me, I got up and reached the door in a split second. I couldn’t breathe until I got outside and the cool night air threw me a lifeline. I don’t know what my problem is.

The drive home was unlike any other. The trees were thick in mist with leaves of green fabric. Streetlights were enveloped in an orange haze and the streets beneath were illuminated by lightning bugs. Swirling beneath the wheels, those flashing circles of light. I witnessed all of this. The window open. The music a bit too loud. The others apparations. The drive a bit too long.

The path around the village familiar, but strange.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I’m kind of burned out today, but I’ll do my best. Like that innocent man who was in prison for all those many years and made the most of it and didn’t complain and eventually was exonerated. He’d read hundreds, maybe thousands of books. He’d worked hard on his own appeals. But he got out of the joint with nothing. Maybe some pocket cash and a lead but his people, as he knew them, had all moved on to different lives. It had been 15 years. And then some days.

He didn’t despair.

He got himself a job at a factory outside Detroit working a foil stamp machine. Did a short circuit as a motivational speaker, but lost his taste for that halfway down the East Coast. He couldn’t explain to people how he did it. And that was really the only thing that got him down in the following years — the fallacy of self-help. Because when those folks sat in an auditorium or board room looking and listening, they weren’t helping themselves. They were sitting and listening and waiting for the magic story that would yank them out of whatever rut it was they were in. But so he returned in winter and worked in the factory again every day for 10 hours a day, pulling down a lever with a black plastic ball at the end, sticking his hand into the gears and pulling out the card sheets. He never lost any fingers, like some others before him. Because he had an uncanny ability to concentrate like a circus performer. To make some impossible movement that was precise and accurate and the same every time. And so he’d reach in and pull out the card sheet. Every time. The same way. And his fingers stayed on his hand the day he retired. And he left the factory and the rest of his life spread out before him.

Not quite sure what happened to him after that.

So you see. I’m going to do the best I can. Like that guy who was in prison all those years for a crime he didn’t commit. Just like that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I got a good, solid handshake and a pat on the back. And man I've never been the recipient of so many compliments on my work in such a short amount of time (unless you count my stint as a table dancer in Upstate New York, but hey, those guys were drunk). The new bosses sat with me and we designed pages on the fly. Input spanned the gamut of workplace emotions, but in the end they walked out with smiles. And the pats on the back. The handshakes. A lot of things in life provide pleasure. And no two pleasures are the same. Each comes with a different face and affects you to a different degree. Making out with a hot professor during her office hours populates an entirely different universe than, say, making all the green lights on your drive home. But so yeah, I'm feeling pretty nice. They told me to go ahead and pack it in early, so I'm writing this from home while I wait for the others to get off work. So we can meet up at the patio and exchange ideas. Or just drink beer quietly and listen. Go outside and look at the sky. There's some good climactic karma come to rescue us from two weeks in the geographic oven.

What are you gonna do with your slice?

A real quick post while I wait for late stories to come in. And it will probably consist largely of nonsense seasoned with flummery. Because today is Wednesday. The great day. When everything is blooming with possibilities and women tear their shirts off in the street whenas I snap my fingers. Cool breezes have converged upon the Southwest, for the time being, creating ideal conditions for either a catastrophic locust infestation or a pleasant evening of patio drinking at Ozona. Maybe both. But if a wayward locust should fly into my dollar draft, I shall curse the Four Winds and pound my fists and snap my fingers until all shirts are off. By late afternoon the temperature should be hovering somewhere around 80 degrees and the bubbles in my beer will precipitate dreams of bottomless cheeseburgers and bottomful waitresses. But for now I must make a hasty retreat because bosses of all shapes and sizes are lurking.

Wish me luck. Nothing rhymes with luck.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

It’s 11:15 and shit is hitting fan like gangbusters, whatever gangbusters are. Our office is filled with new faces. I don’t know the names of half these cats and they’re all up in my elbow room. The immediate area’s population density has shot up rodentially. Some people are freaking out. Some are not. I am not. Freaking out, that is. Today Wick came into the office and was holding a page that needed to be corrected. A page he designed alongside my less-talented colleague. She being out on a smoke break, I asked him if he wanted me to help him do the corrections. And he just stood there. It was then that I said something I would not typically say to my boss of bosses. But sometimes you just have to have a little faith. Walk up, assume the karate stance and let fly with some humor disguised as venom. A savvy journalist like Wick appreciates that kind of thing. Because deep down we’re all a bunch of wry, sarcastic bastards who drink and smoke with relish. So as he stood there indecisively, I blurted it out.

“You trying to stare me down, tough guy?”

And I got the laugh I was looking for. It’s all in the delivery.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Everything I watched this weekend had subtitles. But not everything was letterboxed.

Breathless — Good flick, but I don’t know what kind of brain trust decided to put a Jean-Luc Godard flick on DVD without letterboxing. That just seems wrong to me.

Traffic — Last time I tried to watch this movie I fell asleep. This time I stayed awake but just barely. Preachy, moralistic drivel. But with great acting.

8 1/2 — Every time I watch this movie, I become increasingly convinced that it is perfect. Perfect, even when you start it at 2:30 a.m. because Alberto and Heather were tardy, making it stretch your evening to a mind-blowing 5:30 a.m. finish. Nonsense. But we made it, all of us. Just barely.

I'm busy this morning. Please excuse me.

"The money was stolen. I’m not rich; but I love you.”

Friday, August 08, 2003

That’s what Crystal Curry said. And it did. Crystal: communist, columnist, reporter, writer. And the beneficiary of a $15,000 fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Because she’s a poet. And a good one. And while poetry is not for me, I can respect that. Though the moving-from-Seattle-to-Iowa part trips me up a bit. But those artists, man, they’re some rare birds and they do some strange shit. Like moving to Iowa from Seattle. They get to do crazy shit like that and make it come off all natural and shit. (Shit, because today has been a different kind of day and all other words are escaping me.) I mean, who can make that kind of cross-country circuit seem like a natural progression? That’s right: a poet. Or an interstate drug trafficker. Crystal may be both. Though I seem to remember her preferring ouzo and vodka. She had a roommate named Heather who had a strange majesty about her and wire hair that knew no bounds. A boyfriend named Jim who rarely spoke but who could play the pants off some spades. Another friend named Becki whose mercurial pathology will never be fully understood. Yes, my friendship with Crystal has been one of the stranger ones. But all the better. She is a character who needs to be immortalized in fiction some day.

Speaking of writers, Calluna Vulgaris is polishing her craft. As dirty as that may sound. And former Huskie Summer Zandrew is also doing some good work.

170-2. It’s written in pen right there on my left hand. And what does it mean? I’ll tell you: Secret code for Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” And now it would seem I have some explaining to do.

Last night as most people were getting ready for bed, Jaime and I headed down to Xpo Lounge. I was tired and fatigued only two hours earlier, but a happy-hour-going-away party replete with dollar well drinks and familiar faces breathed new life into this lung. And so the good feelings got me back out on the road, heading south toward Exposition with an eye on watching other people who are not me exhibit their musical chops. Other people who are not me. And it started innocently enough. We sat at a two-top and drank Shiners and in minutes Alberto came in hugging every warm body on the map. A flurry of hello kisses and at-long-last handshakes, the whirling dervish that is ABVega made his way to our table and sat and convinced us that this was nowhere we needed to be sitting. So we headed across the bar to a table reserved for the Sugarbees, and no one seemed to pay us much mind so we got comfortable and drank another couple. We were joined by one huge guy, another with suspicious eyes and one I’d met before but whose name escaped me. One by one, people of all walks broke into song. The volume overwhelmed the sound system, but no one seemed to pay it much mind. It was just enough to dull the rough edges of the worst voices.

My better judgement was fast asleep. We drank some more.

And then somewhere along the way I decided that I really needed to participate. Heather once tried to trick me, though I don’t think she’ll ever admit as much. And last time I flipped through that song book, it was a stall tactic. And back then I found nothing to change my mind. I wasn’t in and that wasn’t going to change. If only she could have seen me last night: Attacking with military precision. Paul Simon. Kodachrome. Good choice, they’d later say. I’ve known every curve of that song since I was young enough to get away with wetting myself in public. I wrote the number on my hand and waited for the urge to pass. But it didn’t. Next thing I knew I was facing a sign-up sheet, writing it down and walking away. A couple drinks and two shots later — it seemed I was waiting forever and that every next turn was my turn and the anticipation was killing me softly — DJ Mr. Rid called my name and I walked up and took the microphone like Iggy and the first subtle chords of the tune started bouncing off the walls. And with every verse I gained momentum. And every liquid face was colored by colored light. And when I heard a cheer I heard a cheer and kept on plugging away. And when a few decided to dance it only reinforced my backbone. And then in seconds it was over and I walked back into the petals on a wet, black bough and a kindly transvestite promptly spilled his drink on my back. But s/he was very apologetic about it. I took the shirt off for later and J and I headed back to The Village shortly thereafter.

This morning I got to work two hours late but I don’t give a flying fuck. I’m flying high with the faint taste of liquor lingering somewhere in the back. And I’ll be back this afternoon with more. More news. From the Great Midwest. And the most unlikely Iowan ever to populate Iowa City. But at least she has a good excuse. And like I said, I’ll explain it all when I get the time.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Why today, of all days? Silly fatigue done crept up on me and applied a sleeper hold. I try to fight it but my lids are heavy. Too heavy. And this week has been a whirlwind. The good kind, sure, but good times still, they can take a lot out of you. Maybe it’s the heat. That’s reasonable. Yesterday was hot/hot. The day before: hot-hot. And today Mother Nature is displaying her sense of humor. 107? 109? No matter. This heat is laughable, as long as any and all laughter takes place indoors as the AC hums, pumping out those sweet BTUs. I’ve got to move closer somehow. Gotta get me some fresh BTUs. Some freon-flushed air. The vent is 10 feet away and still I can feel the sweat trickling down my sides. The backs of my hands feel like they’re in direct sunlight. Every crease in my skin feels chapped. Every movement makes the energy gage plummet. No matter. No matter. And no matter what I try to tell myself, my body can’t be tricked into thinking this is acceptable. My body’s code of conduct only has one bullet point at this point: Jump into ice-cold water pronto. I feel like I’m in Jacksonville Jaguars training camp. We may lose a few. But they’ll be weak. And they’ll deserve it. They feel the heat. And they get fired.

Tired. Thirsty. Thursday.

People aren’t just going to show up. There has to be something. Drink specials. Charismatic wait staff. Hot single chicks. 0% APR. Sale. Clearance. Everything must go. Red tag. Blue light. So please show up. That’s all they ask. But there has to be something. So they hire interior decorators. Slick menus on high-grade paper. Buy one, get one free. Coupons. Exchanges. Leases. Hundreds of different ways to convince you that no, you’re really not getting screwed over. Not here. You need this. And that gets people off their seats and out the door. In the car and on the road. Going to get this something that got them out of the house. Rare. Imported. Finest in all the land. Maybe a wink and a nod and a smile. A handshake. Once they get there keep them there and make sure they get what they want. Or convince them. Hold their hands. Offer coffee. Friendship. A million different uses. Discontinued. One size fits all. New. Improved. New and improved. Soothing. Chef’s special. Delicious. As seen on TV.

And here it’s only 10:30 a.m.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

One drink. Two drinks. Three drinks. Four. It’s hotter than two rats fucking in a wet sock. I swear during my last cigarette break my hair burst into flames. We just had a meeting with the ad staff and I told them what’s what. How it’s going to be from here on out. But then no I really didn’t. We’re moving to our new offices on Oak Lawn over Labor Day weekend, which means that I will be named King of Scotland in no time. Which is just my roundabout way of saying that I have no clue what this move will mean to the daily operations. No, not yet. Everyone is trying to figure it out but the fact is we just won’t know until we’re in the fire. The fire we didn’t start, by the way. It’s been always burnin’ since the world’s been turnin’.

Do a good deed today. Call an old friend and catch up.

I stuck my arm out the car window during my lunch break and the fucker evaporated. Seriously. Science tells me it will grow back twice as strong. But that’s what they told Tony Saunders.

Today has been a great day, from an occupational standpoint. And since the occupational standpoint is the one paying the bills, the good news has colored every other standpoint. If I thought you were at all interested, I would explain the whole thing, but it would quickly degenerate into technical mumbo jumbo. And I’d have to make pie charts and flash presentations to get the point across. So no go on the mumbo jumbo. You’ll just have to find a cozy spot in the dark and play make believe. I do it all the time. And I wear a pinwheel hat just to project the right image. So yeah, my day had hit new heights before noon and I’ve been a scrappy little fuck ever since, running around the office punching people in the face and putting my cigarettes out in their coffee. Just to get my point across.

Tonight is dollar beer night at Ozona. Green plastic tables, bird shit and sunshine. It’s a painting. And in the middle of that painting sit my friends and I, steadily throwing back pints and talking trash about our subjects. Alas, the Flying Buraglios have called in sick with haircut appointments. But the rest of us will plow ahead. Because we must. We must. We must increase our bust.

Yeah, I read that book.

I woke up this morning but it was a struggle. A Task. I dreamt last night that I was at the Outlook Hotel. Bleak and deserted. And I kept using the word “slattern.” In the dream. I think it all means I need to change my oil. Or cut my fingernails. Because dreams are fucking profound.

What’s also profound is the fact that it’s August and the Cubs are only 2.5 games out of first place. Now I know not many people dig baseball these days. But late last night in San Diego, Mark Prior shut down the Padres for six innings, the bullpen held a narrow lead (with stellar relief work that included Mark Guthrie pitching two of the gutsiest pitches ever pitched in the history of guts) and the Cubs emerged unscathed with a 3-0 victory. It was, like, totally slattern and shit.

So it's Wednesday. Hump Day. Let us pray. And celebrate.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Jamie and I hit Half Price Books Sunday because I am a sick individual and no matter how many books I have yet to read, I can’t help but buy more. Pale Fire is still sitting on my bookshelf giving me dirty looks and stealing my good pens while I slumber. Frankly, the book scares me. Reading it will be a huge intellectual investment. You don’t breeze through Nabokov. You just don’t. And I know this. And it scares me. So here’s what’s coming next:

V by Thomas Pynchon (OK, he scares me too)

The Columnist by Jeffrey Frank

Kafka: The Complete Works

Infinite Jest by the great David Foster Wallace — (I have now bought this book four times. DFW should be jerking off to pictures of me when he collects his royalty checks.)

Monday, August 04, 2003

I had a great idea for a television show last night. I call it “Quantum Leper,” and it will air Friday nights on UPN. The concept is similar to that of “Quantum Leap,” which was a totally awesome show that I’m pretty sure I never actually watched. I just heard that it was awesome. And that it was about this guy who, incidentally, traveled in time and stuff. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awesome to me.

And but so my show would kind of pay homage to the original. Only the main character in “Quantum Leper” has leprosy. So every episode is a race against time as the Leper (let’s call him Clamp), has to solve the Big Mystery of the Week before his limbs start falling off. (And I know, lepers don’t actually jettison their limbs, but this is television drama, not “Accurate Science Hour” — which, incidentally, is another show idea of mine.) And after every episode, Clamp has to travel back in time to regain his limbs and solve another Big Mystery of the Week. So Clamp never travels forward in time because that’s just a stupid idea. Plus, if he goes forward in time he will arrive in the future with no limbs. That might make a good Halloween episode, but it’s not part of my vision. It’s part of my peripheral vision, which, incidentally, will be covered in-depth on “Accurate Science Hour.”

And I realize there is a huge plot inconsistency in this story. And if anyone can point it out, I’ll pay you half the royalties I make from the show, incidentally, when it goes into syndication. Because it will. Go into syndication, that is. That is all.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

One beer and then some. It's 11:15 Saturday night and I've opted in. Today was just too hot and the three short trips I took, well, they took everything out of me. And this getting-to-sleep-after-4 a.m. nonsense has got to be put to a stop. Then again, no. Last night was well worth it. But I don't want to be one of those people who just rehashes Friday nights. Counts drinks and tries to make it sound like something it wasn't. Not right now, at least. 12:30 looms nigh. Jamie's gonna' be getting off the copydesk and there may be more drinking to be done. So tired though. And I'm reminded right now of an old rule: Never write while listening to music. It makes my prose a bit sentimental. And it never sounds right. And I don't want to be one of those people. Trying to make it seem like something it's not. But there I go again. This damn song.

She's Calluna Vulgaris and she leaves for NYC tomorrow. Cool thing. Your nicknames will furnish a one-room story sometime. I hardly knew ye. But glad I did.

Hm. See? Never sounds right.

Music makes my prose a bit sentimental. Repetition makes me breathe.

Friday, August 01, 2003

I have a difficult time making sense of things sometimes. And for good reason. The way I see it, a lot of people do a lot of things because they want to be perceived as being a bit more sophisticated than they really are. So they kind of adopt things from other people who really are hip and sophisticated. (Hip and sophisticated being determinations made by the observer, the one whose hipness and sophistication is suspect. That being the case, their H/S informers are typically the same kinds of pseudo-hip sophisticates who doubt themselves. Doubt themselves just as much as the people who suckle their creative teats .... fuck it. I’m losing my train of thought trying to explain this shit. Just trust me on this. If you’ve ever trusted me before. It’s crystal clear somewhere in my mental library.) They copy things. And sometimes the things they choose to emulate just baffle me. Seriously.

Like the resurgence of the word “gourmand” in culinary literature. It seems every food writer this side of the Mason-Dixon has adopted gourmand. And why? Why, when there’s a word like “gourmet” out there that means almost the exact same thing and is more accessible to a wide audience? Why? Because some asshole decided gourmand sounds cooler than gourmet. And I wish I knew who that person was, because I would very much like to punch him in the face. Because his offspring are pimping out gourmand like it’s the freshest pussy on the continent. When all it is is an ugly sounding word. Gourmand. And to make matters worse, there’s the fact that gourmand has a double meaning which makes it less appropriate for most contexts than gourmet. Gourmand, as I always knew it before this nonsense, was a word people used to describe a glutton. Someone whose appreciation for food was more quantitative than qualitative. As it turns out, gourmand can also describe someone with a refined palate. So I wasn’t as right as I thought I was at first. So it does fit the bill, but why make gourmet the bitch? Especially when there’s no confusing etymological issues to trip over. The question that’s at the crux of this whole goddamn conflict is: What did gourmet ever do wrong?

Like I said, it’s difficult to make sense of this. But I lose sleep over this shit on a regular basis. Just because some hack decided to resurrect gourmand for his masturbatory amusement. What a fuckface. Like Billy Ripkin.

You dig?

I have hereby posted my 26 things (when you get there — because I have no doubt that you're going — click thumbnails to view entire photo). Check it out and change your life. Quit smoking. Marry a horse. Then start smoking again. Also, check out other entries in the 26 Things International Photo Project. Mine is entry #160. Because 160 is Bible code for Club Shiznit.

By the way, be sure to viddy Dave G's contribution as well, if for no other reason than the fact that he helped me set this whole thing up.