Friday, November 26, 2004

There has been much flailing about lately. Much flailing about and confusion.

One weekend in Chicago, in the middle of the summer when the thick, hot nights just started and we knew the girls were going to be wearing skimpy shirts and drinking heavily at the after-hours taverns, I sat on the couch at my friend's place and resolved to change my life forever. Beginning then, right then, at that very moment. I was hearing the tappity tap of mental piano music urging me on. I came to a quick conclusion. I didn't think things through.

It was maybe eleven o'clock. Ben and Sank stood around the breakfast bar doing their best with the gin and the vodka and the whisky. I sat in front of the TV with a makeshift cocktail and whatever was on went blurry and the pianos started up and the thoughts of skantily clad, drunken coeds making their last, desperate attempts to hook up before last call spurred me to action. And I stood up bolt upright right then and told Ben and Sank that we were destined for great things, that the imminent will had bestowed great things upon us, that destiny was smiling, that yes, I needed another drink and the future was right around the corner.

And I meant, like, right around the corner. After we had smoothed our haircuts out properly and slapped on a bit of the old essence, we huddled near the foyer, said a few words then headed out the front door into the thick, hot night air. We headed out to see about the future and the destiny and the great things around the corner at the Copa. I wore a soft shirt made of some space-age fabric that, the manufacturer promised, would whisk sweat away from my body in a very efficient and space-age way. Chicks would go apeshit. The shirt was dark blue with buttons that you could tell were top notch.

Every time I walk into the Copa, I grab a little box of wooden matches from the bar. This night was no different. I grabbed my matches. I felt prepared. In case all hell broke loose, at least I had my wooden matches. We sat at bar's end, at the corner, in front of the wall of spherical mirrors and the old television. We drank further, the three of us, and I went into greater detail about the fates. These women are ripe, I said. They are rip with all kinds of sexual feelings that we'll never understand. We agreed. We ordered another drink. We began to focus our thoughts. Unfocus focus. Try again, man these drinks are ridiculous. Another round. Yes, yes. Tab this and who this and that. Gin and tonic, please.

Ben began talking to some girl or other. Sank wrapped himself around his glass, a cigarette hanging tenuously betwixt his knuckles. His eyes and brain in no shape for conversation of any kind. When I reached the point that I knew would break me, I ordered again. Another sweaty glass delivered unto me. Thank my lucky stars and hail marys and mantras and goodwill. Raise your glass, I said. Ben rose his glass. The girl, she rose her glass. Sankara remained wrapped around his glass, rapt. The wordplay was getting out of hand. The eyes glassy as ever. The drinks stronger than we. We stronger with every drink. Our hubris knew no bounds. Our plastic cards no limits.

Men with spinning bottles floated behind the bar like priests and fathers and men of the cloth. Our confessions were public record. Ben lost his battle for the forces of good. The girl walked away confused. She could not hang with Ben's deep thoughts, according to Ben. And I will take his word over anyone on the planet.

The tab, you see, was his.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Last night, I entertained thoughts of becoming an actor. They were someone else’s thoughts. They had stopped by unannounced. I put out a plate of crackers and cheese spread and we watched TV.

I don’t want to be an actor. Even if I did, I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I have to admit, the thoughts were pretty entertaining. I could see myself as one of the smarmy drug dealers on a network cop show (The guy who says “I was at the arcade. And I want my lawyer, bitch.” and then rolls over after the interrogator threatens to call his mom.). I could pull this off because I know the streets. The streets and I go way back. You could say I have an intimate knowledge of them. It is almost as if we have been going steady.

I could also pull off the young corporate lawyer who will do anything (anything!) to get ahead; or the small-town rodeo clown who moves to the big city with dreams of establishing a network of call girls that caters to crooked politicians and professional athletes who uncovers a billionaire’s dark secret; or the cashier at the neighborhood diner who always has uncanny insight into the romantic lives of people he’s never met. I could play these roles. I could be these people.

So the thoughts and I wrestled playfully on the carpet until that awkward moment when we collapsed on each other, exhausted. I fumbled with a spaghetti strap; whispered something I read in a book of poetry. Gradually the thoughts became my own. It was the most metaphysical sex I’ve ever had (aside from that long night on a freight train in Peru).

I want to become an actor. First, I will need to change my name.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Enlightening commentary on an array of current issues: Molatar’s Castle.

Link found at The Greater Nomadic Council, an excellent Dallas blog run by one of those guys who seems to know something about everything.

Driving through Biblical rains in rural Louisiana, one can’t help but fret over the state of the universe. This is because — and, trust me, reputable scientists figured this out and it’s pretty much rock solid — rural Louisiana is a microcosm of the universe. Now, I’m not quite sure what a microcosm is, but it sounds awfully important. And if the state of the State of Louisiana is irrevocably tied to that of the universe, then we’re all pretty much fucked. And not in the hole that’s meant for fucking.

I drove through the Sportsman’s Paradise in the driving rain and was nearly driven to madness. Like a lonely cockswain on the angry sea, I guided my vessel toward gentler waters. And when Texas represents gentler waters, you know that things have gone horribly wrong.

The abandoned hovels along 190 caused me some unrest. I wondered when those homes were new. I wondered when they represented the dreams of a family. Or a small part of a bigger dream. The first step of a family. The first step toward the American Dream. The first part of making things right with the universe. And then that family, that family with the dreams and ambition, that family that had worked and sweated to buy this little piece of a bigger dream had to sit in that house as it deteriorated in the humid air of the bayou. Maybe one of the kids made it out. Maybe one of the kids got a scholarship and an education and bought a bigger dream for a new family. But how? How could anyone get out after growing up with their feet stuck deep in that swamp? Maybe they dream smaller than the rest of us. Maybe everything we know about the Possibilities never entered into their Life Equation. Maybe getting fresh milk and a loaf of bread was really something. Maybe staying dry when the rains came provided more than just physical comfort.

There are stores that started and never made it. Newer businesses that you know will fold in time. There’s no traffic. No demand. No market, really. If you have the greatest idea in the world, it will languish here and die with you.

I was happy to be back in Texas. I was happy to park in my circle driveway and walk into my apartment. Happy to cook some food and make a night of it. Potato chips. Soda pop. Remote control. Cigarette.

Happy to be in a kinder corner of the universe.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I’ve been catching myself watching Frontline and C-Span. A few weeks ago, I could rationalize this behavior by invoking the upcoming election. I wanted to be informed. I wanted to know more about politics and government. These programs are substantive. That is, they are made of substances.

But then the election passed. It passed like a gall stone. It was glassy and rigid and it hurt my penis. I got over it, eventually. But I’m still watching Frontline and C-Span and the McLaughlin Group. (I might not be watching the McLaughlin Group. In fact, I don’t know if the McLaughlin Group is even on the air anymore. McLaughlin was getting old. He might be retired by now. He might be passing gall stones. The point I was trying to make is that I’m watching shows very similar to the McLaughlin Group, but whose names I can’t remember. They don’t have zingy infographics like Fox News and CNN, where one is constantly reminded what show one is watching.)

I am still watching these shows and I have no excuse. Do I still want to know more about politics and government? Does my penis still hurt from the presidential election?

Only a doctor knows for sure.

Monday, November 15, 2004

There’s something about the wet and cold that makes me feel like I am experiencing the world the way it was meant to be experienced. Summertime is too fucking joyous; I want my seasons tempered with slight discomfort and I want to see nature and sidewalks and telephone wires through the shifting haze of chilly morning mist. The man-made lakes, steamy in the morning, surrounded by a rotating queue of joggers in sweatsuits and wristbands.

It is all of it good.

I woke up this morning and stayed there, huddled in the covers. There, supine, I thought about Sideways. A funnier movie I have not seen in years. Especially that part where the ancient dinosaurs have a final showdown at the peak of Mount Ranier.

I need to trade in my sentences for new ones.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I predict that tonight we’ll repair to the Meridian Room for martinis and cocktails and ports and lagers. I can see my arms folding and unfolding, my right hand reaching for the cigarette box, my head nodding in absent recognition, a half smile, careful to blow smoke away from the group. Careful to this and careful to that. I can see the bar area — all yellow-brown sparkle and shadow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

But enough about me. How are you doing?

“OK. You know. We went down, me and Scott, to Starved Rock to go camping a couple weeks ago but it rained and the tent stakes just came right out of the ground the second the wind kicked up. So, yeah. We- Oh sorry. Here. Anyway, we went and tried to find a hotel somewhere but they all looked, like, extremely shady, you know and then there was this one, when we finally found one I could stand, the only room they had the door didn’t lock. It just had one of those bathroom stall push-pin things to keep it shut so I’m like ‘No.’ Oh, and so Scott went across the street to get cigarettes and I was waiting in the parking lot and this truck with three rednecks squished in the front just drove up and I was like, really freaking out. Scott had the car keys so I just squatted down behind the front of the car and pretended I was checking the radiator or something in case they saw me. And Scott came back just as the truck pulled into the spot right next to me. I swear, by now it was getting dark and I hadn’t eaten and- You remember how I get, right? Yeah, so I was, when we got in the car I was screaming at him for leaving me across the street and it was totally not his fault. But, you know. We drove, we started driving back north and figured we’d get back to the city by 10 or so and we could rent a movie or something. But no, that’s not the point. The point was that that was like our one night to get out there and camp out before my seminar. So when I got back, Scott was gone. All his stuff was gone.”

Anyone on the face of the planet who tuned in to last night’s Douglas Rushkoff special on Frontline (”The Pursuaders”) is probably as freaked out and depressed and paranoid as I am right now. And I’m talking about Anyone: anyone — anyone (nobody in particular). Because unless you are that guy who hangs out near the southeast corner of the Red Line station just off North & Clybourn selling pull-tab artwork and shouting at pigeons, you possess the acuity to know when you are being fucked in every orifice at once.

My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad.

The day closes in on 10 a.m. There is an insulated paper cup of tepid coffee near my left hand. I have scattered Post-It Notes (©™® etc.) clusters all about. The first one I see reads: “2x3 GF Prime is 2x5 Les Rendezvouz” (I cannot spell in French). My Wabo multi-media speakers are useless, but they look nice flanking the monitor, so I keep them. Inspecting my cubicle, I get the feeling I’ll tack anything (seriously, absolutely anything [nothing in particular]) to the fabric-covered cork walls, as long as it’s not molded of human excrement. I have a mini-cup of French Vanilla half & half on my desk. Don’t ask. It will stay where it is.

Paper clips, keys, wallet, headphones.

You can almost hear the hum.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My college newspaper came out Monday in support of teaching creationism in public school science classes. Apparently, no one had ever pointed out the Huge Gaping Chasm that separates faith (which is faith-based) and science (which is totally scientific) to a single member of the Opinions Council.

Furthermore, (and I never wanted to say anything when I worked there because I was a Team Player or Probably Too Drunk to Care), but “The Daily Vidette” is a stupid name for a newspaper.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I knew there might be trouble when I saw Alberto attempting a windsor knot while leaning against a pickup truck. I didn’t expect to see him there. He didn’t expect to see me, either. I know this because, as I walked up and introduced myself on the off chance he’d forgotten my face, he said, “Mike, I didn’t expect to see you here.” There was much rejoicing. We sprained our ankles in unison. We hadn’t expected to see each other there. There, in a remote Fair Park parking lot.

The Four Winds cooled the air. We walked toward the entrance gate.

Several events transpired on our way inside that I can’t tell you about just yet, because it would ruin the surprise. We did go to the Will Call window and show our IDs and get our tickets and part ways on good terms. I then did enter Gate 3. I found my seat and sat.

I should explain. Last night was opening night for Varekai, a Cirque du Soliel joint. The show found its inspiration in the Insect World, which is right next to the Bacteria World, but is a bit more friendly to the Art World than a hearty batch of streptococcus.

The Insect World. Now this explained a couple of things. Specifically, it explained why the enormous cockroach in the restroom kept shrieking, “Please! No! I’m an actor!” as I pummeled it about the thorax with my umbrella. It also explained the birds. They were everywhere. The woman sitting behind me found one in her purse and mistook it for a Clark Bar. Ugly scene, that.

The show itself was delightful. Much better than my previous Cirque du Soliel experience, which I concede was somewhat tainted by the fact that I realized during intermission I had taken a wrong turn on my way to the main tent and ended up at the Gay Firemen’s Ball.

Good times.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

In my dream last night, I had a simple car with a complicated stereo. Onlookers came from miles around to watch me rock the fuck out of the universe and then rock the fuck right back in. It was one of those moments that makes you turn to your friends and go “Let’s paint each others toenails.”

In more serious news, reports out of the Gaza Strip confirm speculation that the West Bank has broken ground. Sources indicate that free checking will be available to qualified applicants.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

As I sat up late watching the grim ultimate numbers come in, I comforted myself with the knowledge that in some neighborhoods, this ritual is known as “Erection Night.”

Over the next four years, I think it’s safe to say this country can look forward to robust liquor sales; desperate thrashing; walking out on our bills, our families, our friends; taking our balancing act to the train tracks after dark; finally, wrapping ourselves in the warm, protective blanket of government surveillance; and restless sleep.

I hope for the best; brace for the worst. As one astute pundit noted: “In Texas they say 'Give em enough rope and they will hang themselves.' Well, I guess the Republicans have all the rope they need.” Let’s hope we don’t get hanged first.


I’ll move on to more positive things: rain pattering a white flower bulb in the dark; and majestic autumn sunsets peering over the westerly edge of the I-75 canyon during the afternoon drive; and the rich smell of leather jackets promoted from the off-season closet (not to mention the tissues and bent bottle caps forgotten in their pockets); and long mornings wrapped in the sheet and blanket and comforter; and the drunken warmth of 2 a.m.; and books you’ve never read stacked up — waiting. You measure their colored spines, varying thickness against what feels right. Read the long book at the wrong time and it can become a painful blight on the innocent author. The right spine and right length can combine to deliver a memorable treat. We read covers because they promise us things. We learn to read covers after we learn to read books. We learn which promises are kept and which aren’t.

More pleasures: gang after gang of traveling birds silhouetted against dusk and murky cirrus; headlights illuminating exhaust fumes on cold nights at stop lights; a Sunday paper in gloved hands; too hot, too cold, too hot, etc.; mixed emotions and cigarette packs on a wooden bartop with sweaty beers on holiday coasters; friends gone on weekends; mud tracked in; that warm, sunny day that comes out of nowhere.