Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm So Close, I Can FEEL IT.

This story is the first chapter in the book I've been knocking around for the past couple of months. I don't know why I'm posting it here, since I intend to print the fucker, so I guess I'm looking for feedback of some sort.

I really don't know what I'm doing here, and I suppose that would be the over-riding concept of the book itself.

Leading the Blind

Back in my diaper years, our family of five lived a modest life in a little town called Alief, which had, around that time, just recently been swallowed up by the ever-expanding tax-base monster of a city named Houston. We were a lower middle class, Caucasian family, which was doing well to keep ahead of the bills. My father worked as an Offshore Structural Engineer, which anywhere near Houston during the late seventies and early eighties meant that he worked designing oil platforms, docks, piers, or anything else that touched water and dealt with petroleum of any sort.

In the early eighties, after the oil crunch hit and dried Houston to straw, that market lost its footing and floated overseas. That meant that my father had to follow it in order to earn the money our family needed to make those meager ends meet. My memory of that time is certainly not unpleasant by any stretch, but it is spotted with threats that we may have to uproot and move to strange places with names like Australia, Norway, or San Francisco.

Whenever a threat was not looming, my father was working in even stranger sounding places like Korea, Japan, and India. He would be gone for long stretches of months at a time. Upon returning from said places, my father would always bring back toys, wondrous photographs, and tastes for ever-weirder foods like sushi, curry, or kimchi.

In all honesty, it did not bother me a whole lot that my father was not around. I do not mean this in a cruel, “I never really liked the man” sort of way. Far from it. It simply never occurred to me that he was gone, or that he may not return. Lucky for me, he always did return, so I never had to face up to my oblivious approach to the whole thing.

My brother was not blessed with my fortuitous ignorance. Even though we are twins, my brother was always able to pick up on the subtleties of such circumstances. Subtleties which were far beyond the grasp of my toddler mind. He was keenly aware that my father was gone, and that there was no solid evidence that he would return. Being but a small child of assumed limited conceptual capacity, he was not made privy to any information concerning my father’s actual whereabouts, or any proper timetables that demonstrated his pointable return. All he knew was that the old man would go very far away, for very extended periods of time, and no useable details of these journeys got passed down the family pecking order.

This, understandably, upset him a great deal.

One balmy Alief afternoon, my brother decided that enough was enough. He was incapable of continuing to play with toys, or watch network television while the family collapsed around him. He had to do something.

Even then, at the blessed age of four, my brother was ahead of the curve. He chose to do what children three times his age usually did when confronted with situations that appear to be beyond their control.

He had to run away from home.

To this day, I have no idea why I agreed to go on such a poorly planned journey. We were four. He had no map, no knowledge of the complications surrounding securing housing or sustenance, and more importantly: he had no new location to which we would be traveling to. A complete hack job, thrown together on a tantrum-fueled whim.

It must have sounded like fun though, because I remember being pretty upbeat about the whole thing. We had not yet entered elementary school, so we really had not been far beyond the boundaries of our own lawn. And when we did cross that line, we were shrouded in the shell of an automobile. We had certainly never gone very far from home by foot, and had never, under any circumstances, done so without parental supervision.

Those were simpler times, which is a phrase I have always heard my parents utter whenever discussing their childhood. My father would make ludicrous claims such as “one time, your uncle and I cut through some fence, jumpstarted a bulldozer, and ran it into a lake. Just to get back at the construction company for stealing my bike.” To which he would always affix that clever caveat-capper: “but those were simpler times back then.” As if that helped make any sense of the previous story.

Regardless, it is a loaded phrase, and I never imagined myself using it. But I am. They really were much simpler. So simple that my mother felt little trepidation at the thought of two pre-pubescents wandering the neighborhood with bags of our own toys. So little fear that she felt comfortable enough to go ahead and lend a hand.

“You want to run away?”

[red-faced, snot-screaming reply ] “YES!”

“You want to raise holy hell and cry about it?”

[vibrating, stuttered response with double the snot ] “YEEEEEESSSS!”

“Well, I’ll help you pack your bags then.” Such a helpful mother.

She helped us cram toys into a sack and a small powder blue suitcase, which actually belonged to our older sister. I probably cried during this process, but only because my brother and mother were visibly upset by the whole thing. I honestly had no idea what was actually going down. I just wanted to make sure my favorite toys made it into my sister’s suitcase, since that is what I planned on carrying out into my new life as a toddler hobo.

It is all about having your priorities properly sorted in such situations. Hobos should always be sure to have only their favoritest toys. These are the rules of the road.

Everything was packed and outfitted to specification. So my mother showed us out the front door. My brother defiantly passed through the threshold and headed straight for the street. I followed just behind, probably grinning with excitement, waving back. But just as we were about to step down the curb and into the gutter to cross, my mother shouted from the doorstep.

“Don’t cross any streets, okay?”

Streets? What the hell does a kid who still wears diapers know about “streets”? Sesame Streets? Whatever mom.

We agreed not to cross any stupid streets. No problem. Where we were headed, there would be no stupid streets, or stupid rules, or any other stupid street rules.

From the front porch we went right, and started to follow the curb toward the end of the block. We were on our way. Defiant and rebellious, at such a young age. I had no idea what the hell it was we hoped to find, why we were so damned adamant about leaving, or where we wished to end up. But I bet I really needed to pee. And I probably went ahead and did it in my pants, to save time on our journey. I was crazy smooth like that.

Around the block we went as my brother continued to rant with escalating fury about things I had no ability to comprehend. Like unraveling the intricacies of String Theory to a new puppy, or explaining an unfamiliar yet potentially violent emotion to a half-wit brother. I was completely incapable of comprehending, but happy enough to pretend.

The houses in that strange world beyond the sight of our mailbox were different than those on our street, but just slightly. We lived in a neighborhood which when developed, obviously had but four floor plans made available to buyers. “Color” was the chief design element with which people tried to differentiate their homes from their neighbors’. White or red brick? Brown or Green trim? Of course, if color failed to set your house apart, you could always try and outgrow the length of your neighbors’ impressive forests of St. Augustine creeper grass. “Mine’s the fifth green house on the left with the grass that hides a Volkswagen on the driveway.”

We trudged past differently painted homes of familiar architecture and fascia, moving rather slow due to the heat and burdensome luggage. Turned the fourth corner, still following the curb, letting the wild road take us where it may. My brother had quieted down considerably by then, focusing more on the trek, but he was obviously still seething.

The heat was starting to get the better of me. I felt tempted to abandon my sister’s carry-on with all my favorite toys therein. It would have been difficult, and potentially near-fatal, but I somehow knew I could survive out in the real world without my favorite Hot Wheels and a uselessly random selection of Lincoln Logs pieces.

Amidst my internal discussion surrounding the potential jettison of said toys, my brother stopped in front of me. A look of confusion poured over his face. I followed his line of sight and recognized the house in front of us. The misshapen hedges and cracked sidewalk were rather familiar. As was the brown color of the trim, the big tree with the perfect foothold for climbing, and our mother’s station wagon in the driveway…

My brother’s face quickly crumbled, moving from confusion to defeat. But then he mustered up some pride and marched up the lawn to the front door as if he had a full speech prepared and was completely ready to let it fly on our mother. He pushed his way through the front door, threw his things on the floor of the entryway, still sweating from the mix of vein-bursting anger and the mid-day sun. But instead of taking a left and heading into the kitchen where my mother was banging pots around, he bolted down the hallway to the right. My mother called out to him as he did so, “you boys didn’t cross any streets did you?”

“NO,” my brother replied with disappointed defiance, aware that we had been beaten by our own agreement.

“What’s for lunch mom?” I obviously had a different take on things.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fucking Me-Me-Memes...

At the request of Impulsive Compulsive (an anonymous request… can we get some names going around here?), I am actually going to answer a goddamn meme. I respect her writing, and her fierceness (good word to describe her and her wiley ways). For anyone who does not know what a meme is, I’m not going to wikipedia-link it for you. It’s a chain-letterish variety of navel-gazing that only works on message boards, “about me” sections of webbish display, and here… in bloody blogland.

Five Weird Things About Me.

[here goes the navel-gazing part]

1. I use water on my cereal. That’s right. H-TWO to the fucking O. I prefer it that way. Milk spoils, which makes me feel like a wasteful asshole when it happens (which occurs EVERY time I buy the stuff). Milk also gives me horrendous gas, which however hilarious that might be to me, the others in my elevator have little appreciation for it.

2. I firmly believe that I am the stupidest person I’ve ever met. Actually, I have no idea whether or not this is weird in itself, but when coupled against my overwhelming optimism as far as my abilities go, and my relatively strong sense of confidence, well, it just ends up sounding weird. “Hi, I’m a complete and utter idiot. Now listen close to this complex and endearing story I’m about to tell…” Fucking pointlessly weird. But that’s me. Can’t run from myself.

3. I hate to touch door handles. This is a self-preservation method, actually. People are dirty. Their hands are even dirtier. My hands are dirty enough, and I’d prefer not to mingle mine with others.

4. I do not believe that anyone should be judged by the company they keep. I describe this as “weird” only because other people find it weird. There is something redeeming about every person you’ll ever come across. Perhaps it takes a weird person to see that in others. Again, I don’t see this as weird per se, but it apparently isn’t that common, and due to that, I suppose it is “weird” by definition.

5. Desserts are of little interest to me. I cannot be bribed or tempted by way of refined-sugar products. Not that I hate the stuff, I just don’t care about it. Chocolate in bar-form is alright, I suppose, but I wouldn’t pay money for it. Ice cream holds no power over me. Cake is actually fairly repulsive. But if you gimme fried pickles or quality liquor, and I’ll be yours forever.

[here's the chain letter part]

I want to see the following suffer through what I suffered through:


MMMMM... Bella!

LyCAN, or LyCAN'T?

Glitz n' Giggles

And because she's already ahead of the curve, I'll just link to Pretty Creative Alibi's list.

Please don't actually do the meme for my sake. Do it for the kids. Think of the kids, damnit!

Making Their Ways

Last year I entered a short story contest. I knew about the contest for well over two months, but kept putting it off in favor of other projects. Well, as it always goes, I waited too long and when that friend called to ask me whether I had submitted anything, I had a grand ol' two hours to submit.

So I took a real story of mine, warped it with a cliched angle, and submitted the thing. Nothing ever came of it, and I forgot that I had done such a hack job.

Today, as I was rumaging through some old files, searching for a Word template for a friend, I stumbled upon the worded beast. There it was, the Frankenstory, a patch-worked piece of disjointed concepts, typed up and ready for rejection. Awesome.

I dubbed it: Making Their Ways. Here 'tis.

Pacing the filthy subterranean platform of the Manhattan bound 7 train like a zoo animal, Charles repeatedly mutters to himself the single word: “step”. This continues for no less than thirty minutes as he waits for the tardy train to screech through, but he does not notice that so much time has passed, as he has been in a constant state of emergency since he gave up the hero’s fine wine. “Step, step, step,” he continues to repeat, though not in sync with his footsteps.

His once proud frame, thick and manly during his creamier years, is now gaunt and wretched. His back has a slight hunch, knocking a full two inches from the 6’ 4” height displayed on his New Jersey Identification Card. His beard is a clumsy mistake, more a product of neglect than a fashion statement. The dark and dreadful dreads of hair that protrude from his cabbie hat are inspired by the same laziness that built his dreadful facial hair. His clothes are equally shabby, and not in a “rustic”, “cleverly casual”, or “vintage thrift” kind of way. His quiet chanting is periodically interrupted by a whispy coughing fit that begs for expectorant. But if he had any cough syrup, he would probably shoot it straight into his veins, since that is the only form of consumption which consumes his murky mind.

“Step, step, step…”

Just as a mild-to-profound shaking fit begins to make its way from his left leg north, a familiar gust of humid wind begins to pull through the subway stop. The train is approaching, and he has every intention of boarding it. Sweaty arm pits, missing front tooth, jitters and all. The car is full, but Charles manages to squeeze on to the last car of the caterpillar train, continuing his mousey “step, step, step…” mantra. No one appears cautious to his arrival, and the train lurches forward toward the island of metropolis.

“I really need to get a job today. Charles, we must get a job today. We will be… step, step, step…” he thinks to himself as an old lady seated below him drops her umbrella and is forced to stand up in order to retrieve it. “Step, step, step…” he murmurs when he sits in her newly vacated spot. She turns back around and notices him in her seat. He is rocking, ever-so slightly, acting as if he had been sitting there all along. She turns back around and grabs a hand-pole. The expression on her face is one of indifference, a look that appears to have been chiseled into lava rock rather than an expression made by a sentient being. She would obviously be more than happy to trade a seat for the right to not have to speak with Charles.

Once the shakes have subsided, Charles’s mind begins to wander in seemingly endless directions, steered by various dark feelings of loss, his physical needs, and a sense of depravity brought on by a rather long list of physical and mental disorders.

“I checked the papers, but the classifieds section labeled: ‘available six-figure position for smack addict with an active criminal record,’ was curiously empty this week.” A grin pours over his cracked lips as he muses at the idea of such a position, and that it would be advertised in The New York Times. Ha! Hilarity, or something like it. “I bet he’s listening to something new and hip,” he comments to himself while staring at a young, bookish sort of fellow standing near the door. This twenty-something child has a blue iPod with earphones the size of peanuts, which are delivering noise of some sort to his brain. “I bet he is listening to some of that crazy punk-sounding stuff that lives in Alphabet City. I cannot remember the last time I heard music. Music that I chose. Music that was music to me. I only hear one fiddle. God, just a quick dip, just a fast load, one for the road… and that will get my mind right so I can handle this money situation. Jesus… step, step, step…”

The cold sweats were returning, and his teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. An Asian woman with bags of wrapped fish edges an inch in the opposite direction. A business man in a full wool suit, reading the pink-papered Financial Times takes two steps backward from Charles, without ever looking directly at him. “Step, step, step… For Christ’s sake.” The business man throws a disapproving, raised-brow eye toward Charles, acknowledging that he heard his Lord’s name used in vain.

The door between cars slides open, letting the sounds of the tunnel fill Charles’s car. A middle-aged man enters the car, zipping up his zipper. “Oh, that’s nice, Zipper Guy,” Charles assumes he was urinating between cars, and turns his thoughts back to the nerd’s iPod and power to control the music. “I bet he is listening to Rod damn Stewart, that little prick. I bet he has turkey on Thanksgiving too. I bet people with success and interesting stories about traveling are there when they cut that turkey. I bet they have gravy. I bet they don’t vomit every time they take a piss. I bet he has Fleetwood Mac on that thing. My God, just one hit and I’ll be straight, I swear, to get my head right and do this… thing. Step, step, step…”

The car is bursting and thick with mid-day travelers, yet the Zipper Guy navigates through the crowd as if possessed, pushing to the rear of the car. As soon as he reaches the other end, the door from which he entered re-opens. An unnaturally tanned woman with bright blue eye shadow, pink lipstick, four-pound-ornate-as-hell earrings, and teased-to-the-brink-of-liftoff "poofball" hair, enters the crowded car. She scans the motley group of riders, making eye contact with everyone including Charles (whose mouth is curiously gaping-wide open. Her sense of purpose is a force none of the thirty or so occupants of the car can ignore. After a few uncomfortable seconds of her blinkless stare, picking among them, her glare steadies and her eyes purse-up like a mole’s, focusing on the car’s most recent addition.

Zipper Man is propped up against the rear door, clutching a tattered duffle bag as if it contained his soul, and his baseball cap is over his face as if taking a siesta.

"You little bastard," she bellows through the car, still blinkless. "Do you want me to tell all these people what you were doing you fucking pervert?!" Her middle-aged lipid deposits vibrantly rippling through her body, accentuated by her unnecessarily tight, bra-less halter top and two-sizes-too-small pink Lycra stretch-shorts. "Fuck you, you sick son of a bitch," she adds.

Unfortunately for Zipper Man, he had entered the last car of the train. He has nowhere to go. The next stop is his only savior. He remains motionless, continuing the siesta masquerade.

Charles continues to chase his thoughts as they flutter and bounce around the grey matter of his poisoned brain. “I bet that kid’s dad says supportive things. Like, ‘go get’em champ!’ Or, ‘that’s my boy, playing the saxophone solo, I am so proud’. I only remember dad telling me that if I ever turned gay, he would kill us both to put me out of his misery. I bet he has Def Leopard on there too. Turkey with gravy and yams and all that country-goodness crap. With napkins and polished silverware. Why did I ever leave San Jose? Jesus… Step, step, step…”

The incensed woman continued her tirade, subjecting the entire car to her hostilities. "Do you want me to tell them you were jacking-off on the train?" her voice becoming more irritated in reaction to Zipper Man’s apathetic attitude. "You need help you sick fuck," she goes on, in what appears to be an attempt at a more personal attack, with the hope that he will respond. When that does not end in success, she begins moving through the car, much as he did earlier, irreverent of the current inhabitants. Her eyes are so laser-focused on him, one would swear she is trying to burn that cap right off his face in order to expose the shame she so desperately believes should be underneath. Or, she simply wants to beat him like a circus monkey (she has enough low-grade, "corn gold" nugget rings on each hand to put him in a coma with little effort).

Charles marvels at the passion this woman has for her cause. He also wonders what her mother looks like. He feels sure that the daughter is little more than a hastily drawn caricature of the mother: sketchy on detail, out of proportion, and completely lacking in substance. But his mind flutters back to the student’s music and benefits. “I bet his trust-funded apartment is in Brooklyn where all those hipster-types live, with those stupid looking mullet-hawk hair cuts, tight jeans, and vacant expressions. A single bump won’t do me any real harm here. I just need to figure it out. I just need to get around this thing, and… step, step, fuck.” He puts his fists into his eye sockets, straining himself. “Damnit… Step, step, step…”

Beyond the confines of Charles’s brittle mind, the tension in the car is escalating as the angry woman pushes her way toward Zipper Man. But, before she has the opportunity to pop that cap off his head and put a few nugget-ring imprints on his scrotum, Zipper Man’s prayers are answered: the Lexington and 42nd stop arrives.

As soon as the doors open, everyone pours out onto the platform like they’re running from the bulls in Pamplona. The woman, submerged in her disgust, is not properly positioned in the car to pursue the object of her current hatred. Zipper Man slips into the chaotic crowd with a marksman's accuracy, and a Wimbledon ball boy's urgency. Gone. Charles rises, slowly, and is the last person to vacate the last car on that 7 train. He is not completely sure why he is exiting at this stop, but he knows there are things to be done nearby.

The only remnants of the Zipper Man’s episode are the irritated woman's screeching demands for "the authorities", bouncing off the moldy-slime covered tiles which line the subterranean 7 train platform. Meanwhile, all the witnesses of the event ascend the seemingly endless stairs leading to the cement-floored and glass-ceilinged world above. At this point, Charles’s group of travelers have become their own collective being. Emotionless, in some form of urban mass-consciousness, methodically cleansing their psyches, purging the previous ten minutes from their memory, shoveling it all into their collective subconscious. Just like always, doing what survival demands. As soon as the conscious-cleansing process is done, "Fuck me, it's hot," Charles mutters to himself, "I really need to find some coffee. Then I’ll get this thing taken care of right here. Step, step, step…"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

After Monday, comes TRUESDAY. And snot.

My weekly is up at austinist... Too high on Benadryl to post anything right now.

My word, being high on Benadryl at work sucks. Big time.