Sunday, April 26, 2009

Back And Forth

“This is how you do it… see?” The tall blond man pulled his racket back as the tennis ball came towards him, he stretched back and then swung at the ball with precise violence. The ball went flying over the net ferociously, it bounced off the green cement and then flew back against the tall wire fence that encircled the tennis court. “See? You can’t hit it softly. That just won’t do. You can’t be afraid of it. Here, try it…”
The tall blond man walked over to where his son was standing. His son was eleven years old, blond as well, dressed in long pants that didn’t allow him to run as freely as he could have otherwise. The man handed him the racket and looked to make sure that the boy was holding it in the correct way.
“Make sure your grip is tight, make sure you don’t let it get weak as you swing, make sure…”
The boy nodded and walked towards his position at the edge of the court. The tall blonde man signaled and his friend on the other side of the court threw a very easy ball over the net. The boy pulled back his arm and swung awkwardly at it. The ball bounced off the edge of the racket and flew back towards the blond man, who caught it easily with his hand.
“You see what I’m telling you? You can’t swing so tentatively! You can’t be afraid of it! Look… it’s soft! It won’t hurt you!” He threw the ball softly at the boy and the boy caught it easily with his hand. He nodded, acknowledging that the ball was indeed very soft. Then the blond man walked over towards him and he stood right over him, creating a cone of shade around the boy.
“Look, I know what it’s like… you hear me?” His voice was a bit softer now, almost a whisper. ”I was like you are now. Once I was afraid of things, of girls, of men, of people in general, of little balls…”
The boy looked up at him, squeezing his eyes and wondering if the friend on the other side of the court would be getting impatient. He didn’t want to make a scene. He just wanted the whole thing to be over as soon as possible. But his father was still talking.
“I was like that… you know?… afraid of everything… and you know what happens when you’re afraid of everything? Nothing… that’s what happens… nothing at all… you swing at the ball and it just bounces back at you… and nothing happens at all… no game, no back and forth… no back and forth at all…”
“Let me try again then… let me…”
“No, you have to listen now… when the ball comes, you have to set aside all your fear and swing at it with all your strength…just set your fear aside… if you learn to do that here… you’ll do it anywhere… but here is where it starts…”
He stood back and nodded towards the friend who was waiting on the other side. A new ball came flying towards them. It flew easily over the net in a wide arch, with such a slow grace that it almost seemed suspended in the air. The boy pulled his racket back and brought it flying around his body, driving it directly towards the ball that was flying at him. The ball missed the racket by only a few inches and flew back into his father’s waiting hands.
“Not good enough, see?… Don’t get me wrong…I saw you trying…but it’s just not good enough…As long as you flinch, as long as you hesitate, then there can’t be a true game, and it’s only when the back and forth begins, that’s when the game has started… then we can talk about winning…but right now you can’t even play a real game…”
He pulled the boy aside gently and then stood where he had stood. He pulled back on his own racket and looked across the court. He nodded to his friend and the ball came at him with swift violence. There was an audible zoom as the man brought the racket around and a clear pleasant explosion of air when the racket met the ball. The ball went flying violently again, bouncing against the court on the other side and then bouncing again off the fence, hard enough to make the fence shake. The boy liked watching it happen and he smiled. The man turned towards him, there were long drops of sweat dripping from his forehead onto his face. “That is how you do it…see? When you can do that, without fear… that’s when the game begins.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Of Shoes, Mystical Artifacts And Colfax

What do you kiddies want to hear about today, hmm? Shall I tell you about the time I was buried under an avalanche of discarded mismatched sneakers in the back of a Goodwill in South San Francisco? South San Francisco is not real San Francisco, and there are lots of old unstylish low lying houses and low income apartment complexes and liqueur stores and gentleman’s clubs with signs over their storefronts manufactured in the 1960’s, and one of those dull yawning caverns of a Goodwill plopped down in the middle like the center of a grotesque flower, all the other haunts of the impoverished derelicts, and professional sex workers splayed around it like drooping petals. This is all off of the route 130 bus line and very near to a BART station and I make it sound even worse than it really is. People probably only get knifed outside of those places every other night or so, and during the day, if you’re there, you’ll only just get a very dirty feeling that will make you want to rush home and wash that intangible filth away.
I was once in a place that was much, much, more dangerous, where people were knifed in broad day light, probably about once every three hours. That was in Colorado, and the street was an infamous stretch whose name has now been blotted out by the many years in which I have lived without thinking about it, but now that I am trying, the gears in my head are grinding real hard so that my neighbor down stairs bangs on her ceiling with the tip of a broom and shouts “quiet up there!” Little bits of recollection are coming loose in my watery mind like bits of milk scum left in the bottom of a coffee mug that was poorly washed before being used again.
The street drifting to the center of my mug is called East Colfax, and nobody that wasn’t completely insane and didn’t have to be there was there. I, sadly, was part of that first category, the “completely insane”. Particularly I was lured there by the presence of the area’s largest magickal supply store. It was Kmart for Wiccans ,Thelemites, alien abductees, and Christians converted to New Agers (you will find that there’s hardly any difference between the converts and the original, but the Christians hate the New Agers, and the New Agers pretend that they love everybody, even the Christians. Actually the Christians pretend to love everybody too, but in their version of that lofty feeling, you can kill anyone that’s a Muslim or a Satanist and call anyone who isn’t a member of your church one of these before killing them and consider it God’s will, whereas the New Agers like to think that everything is okay and everybody is okay and things are just fine, and all we need to do is picture ourselves bathed in white light and it will all get better. Another related point of conflict between the two is that the Christians know that there is a devil creeping around acting refined and educated, urging you to vote for a black president and buy a hybrid vehicle, while New Agers are sure that there isn’t and he just sits with them in drumming circles dressed all in white, grinning and waiting for them to drift off into a peaceful bright white slumber so that he can rape them and steal their wallets.)
The thing that I don’t recall, no matter how I scrape at the sides of the cup, is the number of the bus route that led to that esoteric super store, nor do I recall the name of the store itself. At any rate I was 18 years old and rode the bus and had to get off and walk a block or so before arriving in heathen heaven, were they carried 64 different tarot decks, some imprinted with photographs of your mother doing various unhallowed things. Tra la, la, I skipped up the street, a slightly cynical veneer covering my country bumpkin naiveté so that I would melt in the mouth not in the hand, and a woman with scraggly hair, missing teeth, and fresh bruises all over her face stopped me and asked,
“Are you walking?” I looked down at my worn sneakers and, just like Crissy from Three’s Company probably would have said, I answered,
“I was on the bus before. But yeah, now I’m walking.”
“Oh good,” without missing a beat she continued, “Because I got these two guys in an alley over here…”
Those gears I told you about in my head started grinding. My jaw dropped.
“Oh. I’m walking, but I’m not walking. Sorry.”
And away I went, off to the gun shop of Isher, otherwise probably known as Merlin’s Beard or The Glitter Star Rainbow Cauldron, or something like that.
The clerk was kind of a mean mediocre middle aged fellow with a moustache and no interest in being helpful, and whether this was because I looked too rough or seemed too sweet, I’ll never know, because it’s always hard to see oneself, even when looking back through the pools of antiquity. It is not surprising, however, that the whore I met on the way took me to be one of her own profession. When she caught sight of me, she saw an extremely skinny girl with long bare legs and a shaved head wearing army fatigue shorts and a tank top, and my eyes were still a little bruised from a car accident I had been in a month or so before. So perhaps the cranky old fake wizard thought, as she had, that I was just some cranked up prostitute choosing his store as a momentary refuge from the broiling sun outside. I bought something unnecessary and completely forgettable which probably changed the course of my life to come and made it back home without further incident, but wrapped in a slowly developing state of shock. (I told you that I was a small town girl out for a dip on a big dirty city street).
All in all, compared to East Colfax Blvd. in Denver, South San Francisco along route 130 is like downtown Disney, but compared to downtown Disney, South San Francisco along route 130 is like East Colfax Blvd. If you have to choose between these three destinations, pick downtown Disney, unless you’re looking for toothless hookers and illegal drugs.
As for my experience in the back of that Goodwill, I can’t tell you very much about the avalanche because it hasn’t happened yet. Now that I think of it, it will be unpleasant trying to chew my way through all of those shoes while I wait three days for emergency rescue workers to dig me out, and drink cool aid from a thermos strapped to the back of a trained rat named Bernard who is accustomed to being lowered down wells and sent into collapsed buildings to offer refreshments and a game of five card draw to disaster victims while they wait to be unearthed. I think perhaps I will skip the whole affair and get a pair of shoes at Payless instead. Hell, just to make sure, I think I’ll go to the Aerosoles shoe store in Union Square in real San Francisco. There they’ll wrap my purchase in hot pink tissue paper and lower it into a stripped gift bag so that when I leave I’ll be smiling like it’s my birthday. So dearies, you’ll have to settle for this story about the time I took the bus to the Unicorn’s Mystic Haven on East Colfax and nearly started my accidental career as a two dollar hooker, and excuse my while I count my shiny nickels and prepare for a shoe shopping trip in Fancy Frisco.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It was too hot. That was the one thing that was clear. Too hot to be out here. Too hot to be wearing three layers of clothing: the undershirt, the sweater and the regulation light blue button up shirt. Too hot to be standing and trying in any way that he could think of to look like he was actually busy, like he was concentrating on something, like there were urgent things for him to do, and not look like he was just standing, out here in the sidewalk, away from the cool tranquility of the museum’s halls, and just standing here alone, bored, tired, with nothing to do but look at the people walking by him, maybe wondering who had decided to put this poor guy out here, what was he there for really?
He stretched lightly and looked around, up at the slight rustle of the branches, at the tall thick trees that lined the sidewalk across from where he stood. He tried to remind himself that there was a reason that they wanted someone out here, as invisible as it might be, he was indeed serving a purpose. It was a strange dangerous world and right when you least expected it, something terrible could happen, and maybe then, they would say: “Thank god he was there to stop it! Imagine if he had been inside?” and then he would smile full of pride and they would look at him with great admiration, because he had saved them all, and that had been his role all along, if they had only paid attention, if they had only known, if they had only followed the chain of logic all the way to its conclusion.
He was in fact ready to be a hero. If the opportunity didn’t come along, well, that wasn’t really his fault. If he was truly ready, then he was a hero already, and as he thought of that, he puffed his chest out and ran his hand over his shaved head and breathed a little easier.
Just then, three girls in bicycles were about to cross the street, just a few feet away from him. He looked over at them. One had long curly brown hair and another had short blonde hair and a third was a little full figured but still pretty cute and he smiled at them and nodded but they looked right through him, as if he was a pillar on a building, just another fixture of the landscape. He looked right at them, letting them know that he was an avatar for authority, for the one authority that ruled over this little land of trees, and buildings, and displays, and air conditioning, and he was not smiling anymore, but still they didn’t look at him, even when they rolled by, so very close to him and even when they stopped their bikes only a few feet away.
They were discussing where to go next, and how much longer to keep on riding, and he could hear it all from where he was standing, and he was right there, so close, and he wondered if maybe they were looking at him off the corner of their eyes, maybe they were having wild thoughts about this handsome man in uniform that was standing right there, so close to them, so available, maybe their thoughts were not unlike the thoughts he had, but they wouldn’t dare to look straight at him, because he was so strong, because he was so powerful. If that was the case, then that was ok, he could understand that, he could see that he could be pretty intimidating, what with his blue uniform, and his radio, which crackled every once in a while, and his shaved head, and his strong muscular body. It was not in vain that he went to they gym four times per week, and he knew that any girl that was truly a girl would notice, even through the three layers of clothing that were making him sweat too much.
Just then he worried that maybe they had noticed the sweat on his forehead, even though they seemed to be looking up the street and talking amongst themselves. He didn’t want to disgust them, not at all. He reached up and wiped some of the sweat with his long sleeve and he was surprised to realize how much he was truly sweating. It was coming down his forehead in big long drops, and, if the girls were looking at all, they would have surely noticed. Maybe that was why they were now going away. He could see their asses pressed against the bicycle seats as they rolled up the sidewalk away from him, and he wondered if it was the sweat that finally had made them go away, if it was the sweat that had disenchanted them with the handsome guard that stood before them, keeping them safe.
If it had been the sweat, at least he could rest easy in the thought that it wasn’t his fault. He did not choose the uniform, he did not choose to stand out here, he did not choose the shift or the hours. He was just a man ready to be a hero and he would go wherever they told him to go. He couldn’t expect these girls to understand that. And it was just too hot, too hot to be out here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Biscuits For The Devil

I wriggle my way through the dark earthen tunnel. Little roots, probably those of dandelions, tickle my face like coarse living hairs. The truth is that I had been warned against sticking my hands into holes dug in the ground. On the school yard, we children dug through the sand until we reached a layer of Indian clay. It would have been very fun to dig up some of this stuff and play with it, but it was rumored that hell lay just beneath that layer of clay, so when its ruddy hues could be seen, all digging stopped. I was never one to push my luck when it came to frightful mystical warnings.
My sister and some other girls from the neighborhood went into the bathroom to call Bloody Mary, locking the door behind them. They would turn down the lights and turn in circles chanting her name and then face the mirror to see if it would reflect her gruesome face. I would not go in. I stood outside pounding on the door begging them to stop, hot tears streaming down my full young cheeks.
She was my younger sister. I was the elder. I had been sent to a Christian pre-school so that something of human spirituality could be imparted to me without my parents having to confess their own ignorance, their own fear and confusion.
My father did not believe in the Christian story of Genesis. He held that a race of Alien beings, called the Annunaki, had come to this planet in search of gold which played a crucial role in their technology. They used their advanced understanding of genetics to engineer mankind by synthesizing their own DNA with the DNA of the apes that already inhabited this world. We were created to do the dirty work, the mining of that much needed gold. Despite this idea, my father was strangely superstitious. Despite this idea, he sent me to a Christian school.
My mother had never read the Bible. She had scarcely ever been in a church and certainly had not been in one since marrying my father. They were married by a judge in the town hall. My mother wore a blue dress. She told me that if anyone asked me what religion we were I was to answer that we were Christians. If they asked which church we attended, I was to say that we studied the bible at home. We did no such thing.
My sister did not attend the Christian School for more than a week. She hit the other children and was sent to sit to the picnic benches with her head down. I, being a good Christian quite naturally, sat with her with my own head down although I had done no wrong.
So you can see that crawling down dark earthen tunnels represents a dramatic change in course. Otherwise, the first line might be that I am building a flying machine to join the choir of angels that sings gods praise and makes it rain when they weep over the sins of mankind. I have gone through a sort of metamorphosis to be wriggling through here today.
I will be honest with you and explain that it is not that I have rejected all that I learned at that tender age. It is that I embraced it more deeply than others. I let the truth dig down into my heart like a shard from a broken mirror. There it sits keeping a space for me to reflect on the nature of my existence as a human animal.
Spirituality is an affliction from which I suffer where no other member of my family does. It is very strange that a choice that they made for me has set me so far apart from them. As an ostracized member of my own family, I am on my way to visit a man who found that his kin felt one way and he felt another. They rule the seen and he guards the hidden chamber at the heart of existence, endlessly polishing the mirror fragment that lodged itself there as it has within me. This is what makes him “otherwise” than they. This is how it is that we are two of a kind.
While Red Riding Hood is delivering a basket of goodies to her grandmother, I am inching down past the Indian clay with a basket of biscuits for El Diablo.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Rex looked down into his blue wicker basket. What was there to understand? He wasn’t the type that usually got all worked up and went off half hopped after some bunny opened their big mouth and said something that ruffled his fur, but Trixie had managed to make his blood boil. He ran a paw over his whiskers and flattened his ears back.
“You don’t get it.” She had said.
“It’s meaningless, that’s all. Rabbits leaving eggs. It’s the most ridiculous occupation a rabbit could have. Really sort of demeaning.” He’d answered her in his calm monotone way.
“Ah! I’ve had enough. I can’t listen to this anymore. You don’t know anything. I don’t know why I listen to you. You don’t hear a word that I say. You don’t understand anything! I’m moving out! That’s all there is to it.” Her fur had stood on end, she was so furious, but seeing no reason to stop, he kept going anyway.
“Well, where are you going to go? I’ll forward your marshmallow chicks to you.”
“What the jellybeans is that supposed to mean? Forward my Peeps? I…” she’d shook her little lemon yellow head and trembled all over with furry abandon. “I’m going to stay with Beck. He really understands Easter, unlike someone else I know. How’s that? Ha!” and she had hopped away.
Five minutes had lapsed since her departure. Rex looked into his work basket and felt the white hot rage course through his veins. There was nothing there to understand. It was completely meaningless. An empty ritual that he and Trixie and a gazillion other rabbits built their lives around. He loved the summer and the fall when it was all over with and he could almost forget who he was and pretend to be a regular rabbit. The winter filled him with dread of spring, and spring… well, it was torture.
Some rabbits had to slave away over vats of hot chocolate pouring it into molds made in their own likeness or in the likeness of a chicken or even a cross or a human male nailed to a cross. Others prepared jelly beans and marshmallow confections. Then there was the manufacturing of plastic eggs.
All of it was really hideous as far as Rex was concerned. Completely appalling. Being born into a proud line of Easter Bunnies clearly did not necessarily qualify one to be good at it. Why? He asked himself. Why wasn’t my mother an ordinary jack rabbit? I could have spent the last few years nibbling clover and out running from coyotes instead of palling around with the multicolored egg crowd.
They were all so proud of it. It was like being born into nobility or into a mystical priest hood. Making candy and delivering candy. That was all that it was about. The things that vexed him so were the details hinting that it might be about something more, the particular shapes of the candies, the stories, the date upon which they made their big delivery. None of it added up in a way that made Rex feel that his existence was meaningful. It was mumbo jumbo. Now Trixie was gone too. Oh well, he was fed up with these small warren girls anyway. He needed to get out of town, have a look around, see the world.
“That’s what I should do.” He said to himself. Then he sat the little electric blue basket down. His mother had taught her children that it was an honor to bear the basket, a great privilege. Lots of rabbits carried their baskets around with them throughout the year just to make sure everyone knew that the rabbit they were looking at or speaking to was an Easter Bunny. Common conies admired them so.
“I’ll leave it all behind me.” He said and with that he scampered out of his burrow into the cool moonlit night. After twitching his nose and testing the air he bounded away across the meadow. He stopped when he reached the top of the hill and looked down upon his old home.
For a minute he thought he should run back down and find his supper in the usual place, nibble a dandelion or two and get home before dawn. He let the idea slide away down the hillside with the shadows. His mother, Trixie, and the others would not understand his choice anymore than he understood theirs.
The moon, who had been listening to his thoughts, whispered into his ear, “And that is okay dear. It takes more than one type to make the world go around. I don’t understand my brother the Sun, and he does not understand me. It isn’t important. I do what I will do and he does what he will and you too must do what you will do. We don’t necessarily have to see things eye to eye. In fact, it is necessary that we do not.”
Rex twitched his nose and thanked the moon for her kind wisdom.
“Goodbye.” He whispered to the valley below. Then turned his back on it and ran on into the mysterious night, the moon caressing his back.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The destroyer laughed, looking up at the blackened heavens. All above was a blanket of glittering lights, the stars hung in the sky, low, like fruit waiting to be picked by a youngster with sticky hands. The destroyer laughed. The stripes on his sleeve attested to a long-distant past, the battles he had survived, the men he had killed and the ones he had saved. The captain beside him shrugged, he could not laugh with a man who so resembled a skeleton, a creature that had once only existed in the minds of little boys. But the apparition before him was real, as real as the worries that clung to the edges of his being, as real as the wind that brushed close to him like the wife he used to know. There was nothing he could do, he was a powerless lump of skin, shrouded by white flesh and a baggage of pain that rested on his shoulders like heavy bricks. Another chorus of laughs strung his ears, the captain raised his head, following the gaze of the destroyer to the flashing lights above. The stars where out of his control, just like the ship. Above, they moved by the whims of other forces, they would never answer to firepower, they would not respond to taunts of abuse or even soft kisses. Just as everything else, they were beyond his sphere of influence and it was pointless to wrestle with that simple truth.
He shook his head regretfully, and looked to the destroyer. Before him was a tube of metal and steel and white teeth painted like a picket fence. This was no man, but there were no other words to describe this being of decrepit laughter and sickly smells.
The ship bounced reassuringly. The waves were calm, the ocean was a baby asleep, its dreams moving quietly with the sharks below. The captain looked at his watch, the second hand moved slowly, too slowly, as slow as death seemed to approach his hell. Dawn herself seemed just out of reach. Why did she tempt him so? His memories of her were soft… bright golden rays that chased waves from their mountainous forms, pink clouds that announced the rising orb. He watched the movement of time. The hand moved slowly.
The destroyer let out another laugh.
The captain knew he was engaged in a battle that he could not win. The forces were too strong, too violent… even for a man like him. He still had shreds of a conscience, he still felt pain. The others did not.
He was surrounded by a horde of strangers who looked more like vampires and walking skeletons than the humans he remembered. Was he the lone survivor in a game of savages? For a second, he debated his own will. How long would it be until he became like them? How long could his stomach growl before he began to feast on human flesh? Before he went into the ship’s chambers and found the softest girl available and he began to chew on her breasts, bite by bite. There were plenty of girls below, their pastel dresses stained in blood and soot. There were plenty of them, plenty of food for a ship full of animals, hungry cannibals that had not seen the beauty of the moon for years.
The stars continued to shine, but the moon had begun to punish them, taking away their light, blinding them to the movement of a larger time, a larger cycle. Without the moon, they would have died on the sea had they not come across the lost ship, after months adrift.
The lost ship was like a gift from a maker who had given up on existence. When they had climbed aboard, they discovered the ship had a full belly of ample women and their men were too soft to stop the destroyer. He had walked right up to the captain and in minutes had turned him into their first meal in weeks. With the captain gone, and a pile of soft men who knew nothing of true savagery, they made a stew of the men and brought the women aboard as prisoners, as food to be stored til the next meal was needed. Now, with ample supplies, each man, each thing resembling a man, could have what he liked. A nipple, an arm, a piece of a lip. There was plenty for all. The old captain heard the belly of the destroyer rumble, the thing laughed and began to walk towards the lower chamber of the ship.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Machine Without A Master

Do you hear the bell toll? Listen to it ring; ding dong, deep and mournful. It began when there was a hand to pull its ropes, and it will stop when the hand is gone. You can read in the news today that 41 people were taken hostage in an immigrant service building in New York State. Some were shot and are critically wounded. You may also watch videos about a called received by 911 in which a woman shouted “Die, Die!” as she stabbed her toddler to death. In the pictures of the week, there is a photo of a man with a bloody mouth and naked baby dolls pinned all over his white dress shirt. At a glance you might assume that he is protesting abortion. A closer inspection of the caption below the image will reveal that he is in fact a performance artist that has positioned himself outside of a courthouse where a man is being tried for imprisoning his daughter in a windowless cell for 12 years and fathering eight children by her. The farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia are systematically being placed on suicide watch after a seven year drought has turned their ranches into desert wastelands. The frogs of the world are dying en mass. The economic fate of all the lands of this earth was discussed at the G 20 summit yesterday, the problems of a failing global economy were to be resolved in one day by clean learned white apes in designer suits. The president of Brazil has declared that those responsible for the economic collapse are all white with blue eyes; there is not a single black or brown man among them. You can read it all in little lines of text on the Internet if you are not afraid of the virus that was released on April 1st . You can watch video upon video, look in magazines, scan the headlines of newspapers, search every where for the equations whose final result can only be a fading civilization.
What are we really?
Animals that hold the fate of a world clutched in our greedy frightened paws. Because we shower and use chemical body products and shave the hair from our bodies, we forget what we are, we forget that we have risen from the mud of this earth and that it will swallow us again. If you listen in the hallways of public spaces, you will hear the frightened self centered conversations of these animals. Our prized linear intelligence, an abnormality that sets us apart from the rest of the creatures that cohabit this whirling globe with us, makes us fly in random confused patterns, like those lost bees we read about months ago, crashing and burning without direction, without a clear purpose, without a place to land.
Our personal disease is a secret sickness that infects this entire glass snow globe, but its very nature demands that we not take heed, that we blatantly ignore our left hand slowly bringing the revolver to our temple, finger poised over the trigger. We will not hear the bell, we will not hear the shot ring out as we gently squeeze it while holding our martini glass poised in the right hand. That line we began about God and his design will end abruptly and fall flat into the dead silence of that moment in which there is no longer a hand to pull the rope.
The endless void will yawn and swallow our collective dream back up into its eternal stillness, a moment of deep sleep between the cycles of dream. The lands that we have trod upon, and imagined were separate from us, will turn over inside of us as unborn children in the womb of an unsuspecting mother. God’s design will disintegrate with our tongues and will be replaced with the endless machinations of half formed equations that we will pour through the emptiness like water over the mill wheel, mere grease for the ceaseless clockwork of a mysterious hidden gauntlet. This fading dream touches upon the realm of nightmare just before we startle awake and find that the design called for death, but never for paradise. Evaporated mirages break upon an even more startling reality. Silence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Look, Explode, Hide

"LSD says look. Explode. Hide thought."
I look down at the crumpled yellow note held in my dry bony fingers. The penmanship is terrible, difficult to read. It looks more like the results of a seismograph than a message written in English. That is the language that I speak. My head is bald, wreathed by a thin crown of fine gray hair. My eyes are blue and sunken into my face, surrounded by dark hollow circles. Gaunt cheeks flank a pointed noise. My lips are thin and dry. I speak and read English. I live in North America, on a planet that in English we call Earth, but if you can read English, then you know we call it that. I live on the fifth floor of a narrow brick apartment building on a street called Kesling in the city of San Francisco. I am standing on the stairs between the fourth and the third floor listening to an old woman cough through the thin walls. In my hands I hold the nearly illegible note. Under the square panel emitting meek electric light above my bare skull it reads;
“LSD says look. Explode. Hide thought.”
I have already read it 376 times since I found it this morning on the doormat inside my door. The mat says “Welcome”. It always says that. No matter how many times I step on it. It was purchased at a store called Anna’s Linens and Things with a visa gift card which the phone company sent to thank me for signing up for their service. The visa gift card was orange. It had a value of $100.00. With it, I also purchased the pair of shoes that I am wearing now, the same shoes I use to step on the mat. They are brown suede loafers.
The note had been intentionally placed there. Slipped under the door? I don’t really know. I look at the palm of my right hand. There is a very faint charcoal colored speck on the ridge aligned with my pinky. It looks as if the tip of a graphite pencil were lodged in my hand. It appeared inexplicably one morning 5 years ago. I had not stabbed myself in the hand with a pencil. I suspect that I have been tagged by Aliens. I do not venture to imagine what type of aliens or for what reason they tagged me. I merely suspect that some alien being placed it there to track my comings and goings as a North American biologist might tag a bird, or a frog, or a whale.
I look again at the note and read its message. Is it from the Alien? I don’t know. I dismiss the idea.
What is LSD? I put the note in my polyester trouser pocket and descend the next flight of stairs. Then the next. Are they the initials of a person? Is it the drug? I have never taken LSD. When I was young I was acquainted with another young man who attended the university at Berkley. He took LSD and tried to jump from a moving roller coaster. He had long blonde hair. His name was Herb. Herbert Mason, a biologist. I no longer have his telephone number, or I might call him to see what he thinks about the note.
No, on second thought, I would not. Hide thought, it says. So maybe I should also hide knowledge of the message which provokes the thought. Between the second and first floor I stop again and take out the note. The paper is soft and wrinkled as though it had been crumpled and un-crumpled again a thousand times by some nervous hand. It was in this condition when I found it. I am adding to the wear. I am still holding it when I reach the first floor. The sound of the old electric elevator whirring upward makes me cringe. The gold faces of the mail boxes stare at me with cyclopean keyhole eyes. I take the key out with my free hand. I open my box, the one with the number 513 embossed on its surface. I look. The box is empty.
I close and lock the mailbox and face the black wrought iron gate at the other end of the courtyard. Beyond it, cars drive on the street. A man walks by in short red shorts and a blue polo shirt. He is wearing a white terry cloth headband. The fountain in the center of the courtyard trickles softly from fount to basin. Its tiles are blue and white. At the gate, I look once more at the note.
“LSD says look. Explode. Hide thought.”
Then I put it back into my pocket and push open the squeaking gate, stepping out into the whirlwind of color and noise that is the world outside.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Surfer

The waves crashed in on him like a pyramid shattering, crumbling with the force of kings rising in their tombs. Glass ceilings of aqua blue held him down. Tendrils of slippery green hair pulled the wisps of his fleeting soul into the fury of the waters, there would be no escape. Not for his body. Not for his ego. Not for the whisper that came from his heart. His hands reached to the surface, he could see the blue of the sky in the distance, he could almost feel the sunshine of the day, but the seaweed pulled tighter on his legs and the last of his breath was gone.
He lay on his hammock, imagining his death in such detail that his body had begun to react. His palms were sweaty, his heart thumped laboriously, he managed a weak smile, but palpable fear still clung to him like imagined seaweed.
He had the nagging sensation of helplessness, it always made him remember the fat white woman in red shorts and the oversized white T-shirt that draped her shoulders. Sixteen years ago she had walked among the white crested waves, walking slowly as each foot sunk into the crumbly sand. It was her presence that he remembered, the fleeting glimpse of a woman… he watched… as her shape became smaller and smaller. She was not very pretty, she might have been once, but life had made her into a fat tourist, into one of many who crowded the shores and dotted the exuberance of the water with a drop of middle America. But still, although she was perfumed by consumption and betrayal, he noticed her, out of all the others that came in shorts that exposed their varicose veins and white legs that jiggled with every breath, he noticed her. And it was her body that later showed up on the same shore, bloated and even whiter than he remembered. He had seen her breathing and six hours later, he had seen her dead. It was she, even though he had spent a thousand lifetimes in the water, it was she who taught him to respect the strangeness of the waters. He had thought it before. He had thought he believed it before. But it was only with the vision of the bloated woman that he truly learned the lesson. Without a word, she had taught him. The waters were like a seven sword wielding bandit crawling in the night, a force to love and admire, a threat to respect and fear.
The world’s largest waves crashed to life on the rocks by his home, his home that existed between two skinny palm trees that aimed for the sun and bore no fruit as a sacrifice to their god. The dingy hammock was his bed, chair, and sofa. It was his dresser and meditation spot. The accumulation of his knowledge and possessions hovered between the two trees, and like the trees, he swung alone, without a coconut for company.
He had chosen the small spot between the trees to be closer to the cave of flowers. From his hammock by the water, he could see the black mouth of the cave, and although he could not see it with his eyes, he knew that the fragrant red flowers grew beside its black gaping mouth, there and there alone. And although he could only imagine it, he new a small group of women journeyed daily to gather the red offerings of the soil and work within the depths of the cool cave.
The women of red flowers were the most sacred of treasures that the island bore. Every woman here adorned her hair with flowers; pink and yellow and white, the flowers rested in their black hair like jewels upon velvet. Soft shades of perfumed petals opened up to deep shades of yellow in the center, where their sex stood out to the waiting bee, calling it, teasing it, begging it to come, nature herself naked, her legs wide open and full of yellow life. The waiting whore, exposed and unashamed, just waiting. Waiting to give, waiting to be taken.
But the women could not be taken this way, at least not the ones who wore red. And while all the women on the island were beautiful with long black hair that shined even in the moonlight, and although they were all lighthearted and playful and a delight to every sense, the women with red flowers bore something else. They held the image of the fire, they held the sacred rites of the ancestors in their thighs, these women, these precious few women were closer to the source. By divinity, by birth, by the love of the moon, theirs was a magic source. Whether in this lifetime or the thousands before, they carried something that he could not shake, it held him. He could not begin to understand, that he knew with confidence. He was the grayest rock on the path of their greatness, if he could be their servant, if he could die for their ability to continue, he would take his last step, his last breath, ride his last wave.
The day was hot and sticky and the thick scent of flowers came to him on the light wind. Journeying from the cave high in the distance, it slithered down the mountain and wrapped around the trees and filled his nose like a snake of sweetness. It entered him and his eyes closed with heaviness. He sunk deep into his hammock, imagining it was the liquid arms of the ocean. His ears heard crashing waves and his hands reached for the tendrils of seaweed that held him and his mouth, which opened for a breath, was filled with rushing white foam.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Frog God

Crystal blue drops of rain in the shape of vases from a musty smelling antique store spill down, then pause, suspended, before kissing the ground. You are there and so is grandmother and that rabbit she loved so much, the big fat one with floppy gray ears and long thick fur. The three of you stand beneath a red umbrella adorned with white polka dots so that it resembles a toad stool.
After a moment, I realize that it is a toad stool with big white gills poised just over your heads. The rabbit’s whiskers twitch and his nose wrinkles, breaking the spell which held the rain in place. The droplets crash down and shatter like blue vases leaving liquid blue fragments everywhere. You step out from under the toadstool and beckon to me with a long pale crooked finger. I recognize your hat, tall and black, the long hair trailing down your back and the dark tinted spectacles that hide your eyes behind their rectangular window frames.
I gasp. It is undeniable. You are you, the god I made of graphite and tears on some long ago afternoon at a stained kitchen table bathed in the dirty yellow sun filtered through a gossamer drape that hung over a skylight above the front door. You, the spirit whose voice emerged from the static and consumed a telephone conversation blotting out the other ordinary caller. You, the idea that murmured that the morning star was a gentle fallen angel that loved wild things and music and even humanity. You, walking away from me across the green spring grass, tender and fragrant, wet with broken blue glass.
I hurry behind you with my bare feet, my white sun dress swishing around my legs. Am I young again? I am always young with you, as young as I was when I made you to show me the way. The grass is soft under foot, the blue rain has left it warm and wet.
I glance back at grandmother stooping over to pet the rabbit as I walk. She waves me on with a dismissive gesture and coos to the bunny munching contentedly upon tasty vermilion blades. Your coattails are waiving behind you like the winking forked tongue of a serpent. I follow.
Down an embankment beyond young slender trees with white skins there is a river gurgling along. Its banks are littered with dead frogs the size of my palm, yellow bellies turned up towards the black sky. You sit down and weep. Tears warm my cheeks too. Our tears, small and seemingly insignificant trail down the bank winding around the corpses to join the river. Fed by our tears, the river swells, pushing the frogs further from its lively center. When our tears cease its waters recede again, leaving the frogs well out of its body.
You rise, brushing sand from your legs and coattails. You look at me expectantly, as though I should do something now. Fright shivers over my flesh leaving it goose pimpled. Then, on impulse I pick up the nearest stiffened frog and kiss its dead lips. In my hands, it wriggles, blinks, and croaks. I leap with joy. You smile. Then on hands and knees I crawl from one reposed amphibian to the next, turning them over and kissing the life back into them. The river grows noisy with their joyful croaking and splashing.
Soon you yourself are in the water up to your waste wetting your coattails. Wet sand is caked to my hands and knees and the hem of my dress. The river is alive with activity. You are swimming around like a frog, the other amphibians take turns diving from your shoulders into the river.
I crawl down to the water’s edge, slide out of the soiled shift and slip into the water too. It is icy cold. You paddle to me and place your hat on my head. The water is as black as the sky peeping at us from between the lace of the canopy overhead. That lace is reflected in the water, as are our torsos rising from that liquid mirror.
I plant a kiss on your lips and you slowly sink beneath the surface until you are gone. The river’s current begs me to come along with it, winding away from the wilderness into the farmlands down stream. I wait for you. The river realizes that I will not come and runs on without me.
Time passes with it, but I remain. The frogs entertain me with their symphony. At last I feel the bubbles rising from the river bed. They tickle up and between my legs and burst on the water’s surface, an undeniable sign that you are coming back to me.
The bubbling grows in force, spreading my legs wide and lifting me from the water. I am straddling something white. A horned head rises before me and I am lifted from the water on the back of a beast that delivers us back to shore with a powerful leap. I flatten myself to its back to prevent myself from falling. The black hat topples from my head.
You are not yourself as I knew you last, but it is you, nonetheless. You are you, the white bull that carries me away from the murmuring river and trumpeting frogs at a gallop. I cling tight to you as we thunder through the forest letting the wind dry our white bodies as you run. We fly westward into the thickening trees and deepening wood, away from the farewell song of river and friends, away from grandmother and the rabbit and a field watered with broken glass.
We fly into a wilderness with no path but the one we make.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


She walked the streets of the sprawling city, looking for the perfect bit of trash. She of course, did not call it trash, that was a word her mother used. To her, they were all orphans, forgotten remnants, alone on the sidewalk, waiting to be found, hoping for a loving home. In her purse, she had small plastic baggies full of used cigarette butts and empty matchbooks and carefully folded pieces of old newspapers. With her eyes trained towards the ground, she walked past blocks and blocks of the famous fashion quarter. Hardly ever did her eyes wander to the plate glass windows that held the spectacle of mannequins in a static state of style. Hordes of fashionable young women walked by her, their high heels provided the music to her quest. She heard them, she heard their squeals, their chatter, their laughter, but their image went past her like a blur. When she wasn’t crossing streets or waiting for taxi cabs to pass her like yellow bats out of hell, her eyes were fixed to the sidewalk, to the cracks where litter seemed to gather for the party, to the gutters where she always found delight, to the 90 degree angles where cement sidewalk and storefront always met. A perfumed woman passed her, both their minds fixed on a particular obsession, an accumulation of things…one looking for new things, the other searching for the forgotten.
She took in a big breath of the city air. She had not been out here for a while. Over the last few months, her free days had become fewer and fewer, until she was only able to hit the streets on a dedicated mission every couple of weeks. Yes, she did walk the streets every day, gathering milk and eggs at the market or taking her mother to the doctor, but it was never the same when she had a destination, the needed the space and time to make the day about the journey, when all her attention could be on the sidewalk and its treasures. She carried her containers with her in a little metal push wagon. There were glass jars and small cardboard boxes for leaves and plastic forks. What she found was categorized and organized. She didn’t wait for later.
She stood on the street, amid gray soldiers in business suits and delivery drivers and creamy white women. Those women were like her sister, they would never see her collection as tasteful, even after a careful explanation. The women who gathered new handbags and French perfume just could not understand why she carried the remnants of the city with her. She had tried before, years ago when she was still figuring out her methods for categorization, when she was just beginning to feel the itch of the hunt.
Today, she was walking along the many jewelry stores of the fashion district. This is where people with piles of money came to buy piles of things. This was her favorite hunting ground. In the center of extreme consumption, she delighted in the salvage. She would not let the wrapper be forgotten, she would not let the grocery list find its way to the sea. She had their brother and sisters, she had others like them, she was the orphan hunter, the subculture collector.
She spotted something round and green, she stooped over, calm, with the grace of a rescuing angel… she picked up the small bottle cap in her gloved hand. Against the brown of her leathered fingers, the cap glistened with beauty. She turned it over and over, feeling as best she could the ridges along the side, the light of the sun reflected off the green metal and gleamed. Fifteen years ago, she would have walked by the cap, oblivious to its existence. She too, had been a fashionable, perfumed woman. She would have never known its temporary home, she would have walked by, never seeing its green, never touching its shape, never pausing to see what was there.
Tasteful? That was a question that the germ-a-phobes and the critics could debate. Her days had become fewer and fewer, she didn’t have time to waste with questions. She knew what she needed to do. She knew her place among the denizens of the city. She was the self-appointed historian, the archivist, the matron. The women and men of the city might never know she had been here. On her walks, she took away any signs of her voyage, tucking them safely in her cart, either in a box, bottle, or plastic bag. She gave them a home, and the fashion district might never know she had passed by.