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Twisting all the bad things into good

Oct 27, 2013

UNTITLED, 1990




"Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. 
But that was the thing I was born for."
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea


I'll be 38 tomorrow and I still have my baby blanket. It was given to my mother as a gift at her baby shower. I don't drag it around town behind me or take naps with it or anything, but I know where it's at and what it means. It's folded neatly in my bedroom closet.I'd like to be buried with it.
I get my sentimentality from my mother.
This afternoon, she was sorting through and organizing some of her things, attempting to determine the sentimental value of these objects and the memories attached to them.
She came to me to tell me she'd found something, something I wrote, something she thought I should read, something I should then give some thought to.
I asked her what it was.
She handed me a few pieces of paper.
It looked like a walked upon origami figure within an undelivered love letter left for dead and gone and forgotten for nearly a quarter century in some crushed Catholic schoolboy's back pocket. 
I unfolded it and when flattened, the vertical and horizontal creases formed a crooked cross upon each of the 3 wrinkled loose leaf pages that curled yellow at the corners. 
I didn't remember writing this.
But I recognized my own writing.




Untitled, 1990


As the shark circled him for what seemed to be the hundredth time, Keith took a deep breath, not knowing if it would be his last. He prayed that it wouldn't be. In what he thought would be the final moments of his short life, he started wishing. Wishing for another chance. Wishing he could take back some of the things he had done, and wishing he would have a chance to do things he never had a chance to do in this life, that in moments, would be cut short by this monster.
     If he only had the chance to tell his parents he loved them for the last time. He wanted more than anything to thank them for the giant party they had thrown him the night before. His sixteenth birthday party. If he only had more time. If he only had the time to embrace his girlfriend one more time. It was at this moment in his life that Keith realized all the things he had to live for.

     Keith asked himself why he was there anyway. He thought back one year earlier to the 1989 Southern California Spearfishing Championship competition. The outcome was Keith coming in as runner up. But second was never good enough for Keith, despite being the youngest diver in the competition. He wished he had taken his loss like a man. But instead, he wasted all of the last year vowing to win it next year. All his free time was spent diving. Now he wished he would have moved on, and instead of spending the time diving, he now wished he would have spent that precious time with his family and girlfriend.
     But he was here now, and he couldn't change that.
     He was here, at the 1990 Southern California Spearfishing Championship, with none of the other divers or emergency boats in sight. He was all alone.
     The shark circled again and again.
     During this 45 minute confrontation, the minutes felt like hours to Keith. His feet were constantly moving to keep him above water. He didn't know how long he could keep this up. There were moments when he just felt like giving up. This was torture.
     The shark began to swim in smaller circles around him. It was closing in.
     Keith's heart started beating so fast he thought it was going to jump out of his chest. He laid his hand on his chest to feel his heart. Under his hand he felt something cold and metallic. It was his crucifix. The crucifix he was given by his parents for his birthday. He gripped it with all his strength.
     The shark started to come in after him. When Keith saw this, he closed his eyes, gripped his crucifix and prayed a silent prayer, waiting to be taken.
     A minute went by. Then another minute.
     He was too afraid to open his eyes. He then felt a great sense of calmness. He slowly opened his eyes and the shark was nowhere in sight. He slowly relaxed his hand from the crucifix. He then heard a faint sound behind him. He slowly turned to see an emergency boat less than fifty yards away approaching him.
     The torture was finally over.
     Now he would have the time he had been praying for.


THE END



I still didn't remember writing it. 
I had no idea what it was for
If it had been an 8th grade English assignment, it was never turned in. 
It had not been titled.
It had not been dated.
It had not been graded.  
No A+, no F, and nothing in between.
And despite my many mistakes, no red marks.






Oct 10, 2013

A GIRL ABOUT A BOOK: RUINS



"It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him."
Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize Speech, December 10, 1954



4:12 AM MONDAY AUGUST 12, 2013
 

I hadn't slept since Thursday night. I'd barely eaten anything since Friday night. I'd spent most of the weekend at my desk, writing, handwriting, with a pencil, in the dark, torturing myself by the light of three battery operated candles. I hoped four hours of sleep might be enough to allow me to wake up not in love, not insane.
   
4 hours weren't enough.
I was still in love, still insane. I skipped the gym.

When I woke up at 10:30, my first thought was Lisa. I was eating my breakfast, thinking about her, wondering how long this would last. I was distracted by what sounded like the Tin Man being dragged up the basement stairs.It was my brother's metal crutches banging and rubbing the railing with every lame step he struggled to take. He was recovering well from his knee surgery a few weeks earlier. I heard the crutches getting closer so I got up and dumped my cereal bowl in the sink on my way out the kitchen, up the stairs, through the loft, to my room. This house is larger than it looks from the outside. I closed the door and paced half circles around my bed. I took deep breaths.  I shouldn't have written about her. I looked in the mirror and shook my head.
"Don't you cry. Look at me. Don't you fucking cry. You are such a pussy. A little faggot is what you're acting like. What would Hemingway do? Well, he certainly wouldn't cry. Then he'd be Heminggay and he can't be Heminggay because you already are. Works both ways, Heminggay boy. You so wanna sob right now. All you wanna do is weep. Don't even start. You won't be able to stop. Your dad and your brother will know. You won't be able to hide it. Go fish. Go put an arrow in one of your beloved deer in the backyard. Don't talk about this.  Do not write about this. At least don't let anyone read it when you do. Then stop writing. It hurts. It's emasculating. It's finished. So not worth this. Nobody cares. Just breathe, man. I know it hurts. Hurts bad. Just breathe."

If nobody was home, I would've let it out. I would've cried, wept, whimpered, sobbed, dry heaved.

I didn't cry. I wanted to, I really wanted to, but I didn't. I just teared up a little. I held it together. Then I blew my nose. I washed my face. Somehow I made it through the day.

I crashed at 6PM. I slept through the night.

I woke at 6:45 AM Tuesday morning and the song of the morning was already on repeat in my head. It wasn't even a song. Just one line. From a B side.

Lyrics skipping and sticking in my mind are nothing new. Happens all the time. Song lyrics, or some weird random word of the day or some random weirdo's last name, over and over until it slips away to the lost and found box for all the moments that don't make memories. There always comes along a new last name, another word of another day, another first song of the next morning.

Sometimes it's just one line that you can't shake off.

It's a one-liner this morning.
It's by The Walkmen. It's not even one of their 50 best.
It's not even their song, it's a cover.
It's called Greasy Saint.
It's a terrible name, but it's a really good song.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"


I went down to the kitchen and popped the tab on a can of Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper and microwaved a coconut pineapple muffin.
It was a good muffin so I had another.
My poor mother came into the kitchen.
"How can you drink that in the morning?"
She said "Anytime is a good time for straight vodka. Want some, Heminggay boy?"
That's not what happened.
My mom was asking me how I can pound Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper so early in the morning.
She has no idea what I've pounded so early in the morning.
"Tryin' to wake up. I'm freakin' exhausted."
"I don't know how you can stay up all night writing like that."
"I know what I'm doing."
She thinks I'm crazy. She called my writing "manic" the other day.
"You got your nights and days all mixed up."
"I didn't even write last night. I went to bed at 6 and slept through the night."
"Why are you so exhausted then?"
"Maybe because it's 6:45, you want me to do a cartwheel?"
She told me not to be miserable.
I told her I was sorry before she could say what she always says on the rare occasion I'm short with her.
"You're gonna feel bad for being mean to me when I'm not around".
Please don't say that. Don't say you won't always be here.
If I can't handle this, how could I handle that?
Don't remind me that nobody in this house is going to live forever.

It was raining hard outside.
I could hear it tapping at the kitchen window.
It wasn't letting up.
I told my mother I loved her, that I'd see her tonight, to be careful driving.
My mother hates driving in the rain. I worry about her.
I couldn't imagine her not coming home.
She says I get my worrying from her.
She says I'm neurotic.
She tells me she worries about what would happen to me if something happened to her.
I tell her not to say that.
I tell her hopefully I'll die before she does. She tells me not to say that.
Either way, it all ends in heartache.
What a cheap shot it is, this blessed tragedy of life God's bestowed upon us.

It was that kind of morning. It wasn't even seven yet.

I took a quick shower. I had a dentist appointment. More torture.

I'm always running late, even on beautiful days when the rain wasn't coming down thick and angry as if God returned and wept violently at the sight of paradise in ruins.

It was that kind of weather.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"

The world was once a blank page.

My dad was waiting shotgun in the car.
He had a Christian radio station on.
Some pastor was preaching about Acts.
The Apostles. All the greasy saints. All of them maniacs.
A truck in the opposite lane sprayed my window, and I saw nothing in front of me.
I thought 'Goddamn this" but I never curse in front of my parents, and I certainly never blaspheme in front of them, so I said, "This is ridiculous."
My dad thought I meant the weather.

My old man, who I never call "my old man" out of respect, showed his firstborn some mercy by switching Sirius satellite radio from the New Testament to the oldies.
60's on 6.
The DJ showed what a funny God He could be by playing Over You by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.

Such a good song.

That voice.

Why am I losing sleep over you? 
Reliving precious moments we knew.
So many days have gone by, still I'm so lonely, 
and I guess there's no getting over you.

And there's nothing I can do, 
But spend all of my time, out of my mind over you.

What a beautiful voice.

Then came on a song I never heard before, but I caught the artist and title out of the bottom corner of my right eye.
It's The Walker Brothers with The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore.

It was so hard to see, I missed my turn and had to go back.

My dad said good morning to the receptionist.
I sat down and said nothing.
The waiting room was empty.

My father was taken first.

I had about 13 pages to go in The Sun Also Rises.
I didn't expect a happy ending, I still hoped for a good ending. I was disappointed so far. I wanted and expected and hoped to fawn all over it. But I was not in love with any of the characters, then there's the fishing and the bullfighting. And knowing Jake was in love with Lady Brett but could never get with her was not pretty to think about.

I found little to highlight in my library book, but I admired his style.

I'd like to write so subtly.
Short, strong sentences.
No nonsense. No tangents. No fun.

Meat and potatoes instead of the ham and pineapple on my pizza, please.

 A Total Eclipse of the Heart played on the radio in the waiting room.
Not the original. This was worse.
The guy or girl singing sounded as sped up as the music. Probably just trying to keep up. Too much Dr. Pepper or something.

After the song set, all the ladies were instructed to grab their girlfriends and come see Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody.
August 16th to the 25th at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

I knew I couldn't make it.

Life is a goddamn parody.

It seemed the end of summer was the end of the year in the literary world. It must be. I read a few days earlier the most successful writer of 2013, in terms of money, was whatever her initials are, the 50 Shades writer. She earned 90 million dollars.

My writer friend told me the writing in 50 Shades is awful.
"You're a better writer than her" he typed to me.
He meant that as a compliment.
What he was really typing was "And I'm a better writer than you."
Wait until he reads this.

Nobody is gonna read this.
The only person I want to read this never will.
Nothing could be worth this.
90 million wouldn't hurt my net worth though.

Then I could go to Paris.
I could feel alive like my favorite dead writers and rock star.

The dentist asked "Any hospitalizations since your last visit?"
Not yet.
"Any new medications?"
No. Was strongly considering getting back on the oldies though.

She showed me some x-rays
I assumed the skull with the teeth was me.
She said I grind my teeth.
I'm sure I do. Top or bottom?
She said probably while sleeping, that's why I never notice.
It's probably while not sleeping, when I'm writing, that's why I never notice.
She said I needed a filling.
Fulfill me up, buttercup. Fill me up.
Because writing just ain't doing it anymore.
It's making it worse.
Before Friday night, it always helped and was never hell.
But nothing lasts forever.

She said one of my wisdom teeth had to go, so might as well have all of them pulled, because they're so far back it makes cleaning them too difficult.
Take 'em. Take 'em all. I can't eat anyway.
She'd refer me to an oral surgeon for a later date.
August 16th to the 25th works.
Unless this teeth pulling will be at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

She pulled the light over my chair down inches away from my face.
I closed my mouth and opened my eyes.
She told me I was doing it wrong.
Now try doing everything the opposite.

She must have numbed me. I felt nothing. It hurt so bad to write about her.

I was a bad patient. I couldn't help it. I had to swallow. I was a bad person. I bit her finger. Not hard. I couldn't help myself. I had to swallow.

 On the radio, Johnny from The Goo Goo Dolls was singing how everything's made to be broken.  He just wanted me to know who he is. And I did. Just not his last name.
Hemingway wrote "the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills."

The world will have to kill me. I'm not gonna do it myself.

The dental assistant tried making small talk.
She asked if I was in school.
I told her I was too old for school.
Do I like my work?
I said it's alright, but at least I get to do it from home. And I get do it for nothing.
She said I was all done.

The dentist gave me a card for an oral surgeon. She said she'd see me next time.
I said okay.
There won't be a next time.

  I was glad John wasn't there. He was the dental assistant last time. Super cool guy. I just didn't want him to ask me what happened to my Paris plans. He said I was going to love it. I told him I was rerereading my favorite book, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast , and I've wanted to go since 13 July's ago.
He had to admit he was jealous.
He told me about about his fiance, a six foot,  volleyball player. He said she was smoking hot, which is exactly how I pictured her. They met when they were young. They lost touch. He said they "miraculously" found each other again years later.
He was making his fiance's ring for her.
I imagined his tall smoking hot volleyballer thinks that's pretty romantic.
I agreed.
My turn to admit I'm jealous.

I wasn't romantic. I wanted to be, but I wasn't. 

On every Hallmark occasion, my ex- girlfriend before and after Lisa used to bitch at me "You always say how you wanna be a writer and all you write in my card is 'Love, Jim'."

How about I write "Fuck, You"?
Is that romantic?
Because I always used to say "I wanna be a writer" and now that I am, I'm saying "I wanna be a romantic writer", and I'm trying, but I just ain't got what it takes. Not sure I ever did. There was one night, on the beach. Somebody cut my heart out. My back teeth are next. They won't be missed.

Love, Jim

P.S.
On the way home, I saw the light. I had to stop the car.
It was about to turn green when the exterminator in my rear view honked.
I cursed him.
My father said "You seem out of it today."
Strange, because I'd barely said a word all morning before the exterminator rolled up.
"I'm just exhausted. My mind's in overdrive."
"From writing?" he asked.
Yes. From writing. About a girl.

Every letter of her name stings to type.
And writing it with pencil hasn't helped.

When I got home, I had to look for my birth certificate and my passport so I could go get my Pennsylvania drivers license. My passport was in the first place I looked. I was convinced my father had my birth certificate somewhere in his office, but I looked through a few folders I had. I rifled through the closest thing I have to a junk drawer. I found my unread copy of Charles Bukowski's Ham On Rye that my mother got me for Christmas. I thought I'd lost it. I had several expired identification cards from over the years, a few brochures from last October's trip to Italy and Switzerland. I had a few postcards that had been sent to me over the years.

There was one I didn't remember ever seeing or receiving but I knew could have only been from one person. Nobody else I know has been to Machu Picchu. I turned it over to read her message.

It wasn't written to me.

Dad, Mom, and Lori
Super, we're in Cusco

Her handwriting still hurt my heart.

There was nothing about her that I did not miss.

I turned it back to front.
All I could do was watch as the sacred ruins quaked in my trembling hand.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"




Sep 9, 2013

A GIRL ABOUT A BOOK: BEAUTIFUL DAYS


"You are the finest, tenderest, loveliest, and most beautiful person I have ever known - and even that is an understatement."
F. Scott Fitzgerald


MONDAY. JULY 24th, 2000

There was bad weather. It delayed her flight for 3 hours.
It was freezing in Cusco when the girls finally arrived.
Lisa said she looked like a snowman.
She was talking the works. Gloves, scarf, and boggins.

He had no idea what boggins were.
He couldn't picture little Lisa looking anything like a snowman.
Then he could. And she was adorable.

She assumed everything was super, right?
That was her word. Super. 

He liked the way she said it, the way she dragged it out but not long enough to be annoying.
He missed her voice. Her Georgia accent.
The sweetest voice he's ever heard speak his name.

Anyhoo, she was thinking about him and wanted to email him while she was still in civilization.

He'd never heard or seen the word "anyhoo" before.

The next day they would set out on horseback to the temple of the sun and the temple of the moon. She was super excited. 

He assumed the sun and the moon had been worshiped as gods many summers ago.
He pictured both temples in ruins.

She hoped he was having a great day. 


THURSDAY. JULY 27, 2000

Besides the sun and the moon, she had been to "Quenko" which translated into "zig zag". She wrote that the zig zag was the temple where the black llama  had once been sacrificed as the Incan's pacha  to the pachamama, a gift to mother earth, and the blood was poured down from the top, to drip down, via the zig zag to the earth.

He'd never seen so much blood. He'd never heard of the black llama.

Lisa's horse kept biting Peru's.
Sarah's was like derby potential.
Mel's horse had a mind of it's own.
They laughed nonstop through the Andes.

He pictured Mel and Sarah and Peru having long dark hair.
Snow capped mountains all around them.

They'd taken a sunrise hike to this statue of Jesus that towers over the whole city.

He wondered if she prayed while she was there.
They'd never talked about God.

She was thinking of him and she hoped to hear from him soon.
She sent him hugs and kisses. Lisa.

He missed her eyes. How they brightened every time he stepped into her radiant presence. Her eyes, her smile, her whole face gave her away.


SATURDAY. JULY 29th, 2000

They hiked up to see Jesus again and they danced until the clubs closed.
Tomorrow she would go on a 7 hour hike straight up.
She hoped she'd make it.
The day after would be even harder.
She'd send him a message from Machu Picchu, if she made it.  

She'd written him a message but decided to delete it because she was afraid he'd think she was a complete crackhead.

He wished she would have sent it. He would have liked to read it. He would have printed it out and folded it up and kept it in his favorite book, her book, the book she gave him. He would have loved it more than the book. He would have read it over and over. He wished she hadn't deleted it. He wished she'd saved it to send another day. He would not have thought she was a complete crack head. He would have understood.

Keep her in his thoughts.

She was all he thought about.
He couldn't keep her out of his thoughts.
All he thought about was her.

She had hoped to hear from him before she left for the trail.

She was sad that she didn't.

She hoped he was having beautiful days.






Sep 8, 2013

A GIRL ABOUT A BOOK: HER WORD




"Write hard and clear about what hurts"
Ernest Hemingway




SATURDAY NIGHT. JULY 22, 2000


"Me too" she said and kissed him again. "So glad."
 She put the side of her face against his chest.
"Jimmy, I don't wanna leave you."
He kissed the top of her head and moved her dirty blonde hair away from her face.
"I don't want you to either" he told her. "I miss you and you're still here."
She hugged him tighter.
"Don't let me leave."
He laughed.
"What about Machu Pichu?"

Her overnight bag was packed on his bed.

"I wish I could put you in my suitcase and take you with me."
"You wanna put me in your suitcase?"
She nodded her head. "Uh huh."
"Let me get this straight," he lifted her off the ground so he could see her face. She was so light. She wrapped her legs around his back and kissed him. He pulled his head away so he could tease her. "No, hold on, lil one. I wanna make sure I heard your brilliant travel plan right. So you wanna put me in your suitcase?"
She laughed. "Yup."
"You, teeny tiny little Lisa, who wears the teeny tiniest little pair of jeans I've ever seen in my life," she laughed, but they really did look like little kid jeans when she wasn't wearing them. "Adorable little you wants to put six foot one inch me into your suitcase and take me on vacation with you? Is that what I'm hearing?" He gave her a quick kiss she wasn't expecting because she was still laughing. "Because that's what it sounds like?"
"That's my plan" she confirmed. "Isn't it super?"
"Super for you, maybe, not so super for me."

Super. That was her word.

She was super.


On his bed behind her, next to her bag, was her copy of her favorite book. She was taking the bag with her, but she was leaving the book with him. She asked him to please read it while she was away.

"Hemingway, huh?"
He felt her nod her head against his chest.
"You're gonna love it" she promised him.
He didn't know if he could love more than one thing at a time.

She raised up on to the tips of her tiny toes, kissed his cheek, and turned away towards her bag. He reached out and held onto her arm, and then her wrist, and then her hand until her fingertips passed over his own.


He never expected it would hurt so much to write about her.




Aug 31, 2013

LADY WITH THE FADING BUTTERFLY TATTOO



"Scott then asked me if I were afraid to die and I said more at some times than at others"
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast



8/28/13

The wait was almost over.
"71" called the lady sitting behind the counter.
He was next.
"72" she called.
His time had come.
He took his wrinkled up yellow number and his broken down green book and his necessary documents to her.
His height was still 6'1. His eyes still hazel. His vision still perfect.
Only his state had changed.
The lady had a fading butterfly tattoo on the inside of her wrist.
She noticed his book while he filled in the blanks.
"I didn't know Hemingway was able to write a short story" she said.
He began to raise his eyes but never got past her butterfly.
He just kept writing.
"Yeah," he said. "Some of them are actually pretty good."

On his way home, he stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee. It was iced coffee and it was good, strong coffee. The lady who worked there knew how he liked it. Lots of cream, lots of sweetening stimulant, and not a lot of ice.
He sat in the same booth where he always sat and he looked at his new picture on his new license.
He looked younger and healthier and happier than he did on his old license picture taken 35 months earlier. But he was getting tired of waiting for his time to come. He wasn't getting any taller.
He thought about the story he'd been working on. It was the only thing he'd ever handwritten in pencil and he didn't know what possessed him to not just type it.
It was a sad story and he wondered if it was worth the toll it was taking on him to write it.
But he knew it was a good story and he hoped very much to finish it while his vision was still perfect, before her butterfly faded any further.
It was a true story. It was the best thing he'd ever written  and he considered never letting anyone ever read it.
He was not an organ donor.


Aug 15, 2013

CRISIS STABILIZED: Patron Saint Outro



"There is only one thing I dread:
not to be worthy of my sufferings."

This quotation is attributed to Fyodor Dostoyevsky.




MONDAY 9/13/10

Somehow, Jeff kept a straight face when he saw me in daisy dukes and ballet slippers.

"AY! There he goes. What's up, bro?" he asked.

Me? Not much, dude. Just got released from my involuntary stay in a mental health facility, how 'bout you, good weekend? Noles win? You didn't tell anyone about this, did you? Because this kind of shit, this goes to the grave.

Whatever he said, it wasn't what he was thinking.

He kept it to himself. He probably didn't feel comfortable admitting to me that he never knew I had such nice upper thighs until today.


With my personal belongings in one hand, my meds in the other, and a bus schedule in neither, we walked out the same doors I walked in wearing handcuffs 6 days earlier. On the way to the car, I examined my prescription bottles, hoping that someone misread my file and gave me Roxys and Xanax instead of Risperidone and Lexapro.



Jeff asked, "What'd they give you?"

"Some antidepressant and an anti-psychotic."

"Oh," he said, pretending that was normal. "Okay."

He didn't ask if I wanted to drive.



When we got in the Mustang, the top was already down. I reached over my right shoulder for the seat belt, as if anything could kill me, then I looked over my left shoulder towards the empty back seat and greeted an old friend of ours.

"Hey, what's up, Joe Wren?" I asked the ghost of Joe Wren, who as far as I knew, was still alive, probably living in Boynton, helping a friend look for the drugs he stole from him.

Jeff gave me his "should I be humored or horrified?" look that he always follows with,"Oh, no."

Once he was confident that I knew that Joe Wren was not really in his backseat, he laughed. "I thought I was gonna have to bring you back in there, and tell them 'Yeah, I don't think my friend's ready to go home'."

I laughed. "Nah, I'm all better now."

I winked in the passenger side mirror at Joe Wren, who just shook his head.


Jeff would later tell me that it probably wouldn't have been as funny if he did the same thing to me.

Very true.

Nothing's ever as funny as when I do it.


"So, your best friend's crazy" I news-flashed.

"You were always crazy."

"Yeah, but now I got the doctor's note."


Then we went into typical BFF conversation.

"Sorry I yelled "fuck you" when I was being put the cop car."

"I'm surprised you remembered that."

"I remember everything. Even the stuff that didn't happen."

"Dude you were crazy. What did you think was happening?"

So I told him.

About how it all started with the ants.

About a day when nobody came and kept knocking on my door.

About Angel's illusions.

About a dad who came back from the dead.

About the pimps, and the whores, and the dealers, the good cops and the bad cops

About self inflicted scars.

And how we can convince ourselves of anything.

About how an old friend showed up just before I drowned.

And how deep down below the surface, at the bottom of the ocean, beneath the place where the ship went down, we discovered our treasure. It was always there.

And if we start a conglomerate, or corporation, or whatever, don't ask me to be the CEO.

CEO.

I don't even know how to spell it, let alone what it stands for.

I'm not man enough to be the man for that job.

I vote for Jeff Johnson, and so should you.

Jeff Johnson.

A distinguished gentleman.

Jeff Johnson.

The name you can trust.

Jeff Johnson.

The Patron Saint of Best Friends.

He's the greater of the 2.

It's not a slight to me.

Not in my book.

Not if you know Jeff.

If you don't, know this.

He'll take you where you need to go.

He's the only one with character in this character study.

But I can't be Jeff.

Even if I tried, his wife would clean my cuckoo clock. If you're not familiar with the phrase, or you never met Kimmy, I assure you it's not the kind of beating that has a happy ending. Not for me at least.

Plus, I could never deal with having me for a best friend.

Fuck. That.

I got a family.

Fuck me.


Maybe this was life telling me something.

Maybe there's something or someone waiting for me up North.

If it's something, I hope it's worth it.

If it's someone, I hope she's hot.



In the rear view, the ghost of Joe Wren had his eyes closed, and his head back, soaking up the sun. When he saw me looking in the rear view, he gave me a wink and a nod.

He didn't say anything. He didn't have to.

I saw the look on his face. I read his mind.

He was thinking about what he told me so many years ago.

He wanted to tell me he was wrong, that it wasn't too late.

"You can still take the sword from the stone."

Thanks, Joe. I hope so. I'm sure as hell gonna try.

Until then, I can take the bus.

I'm the Patron Saint of Absolutely Nothing.

I can take anything.


And if that's true, if I'm not still delusional, I can take this mess, all these things I'm most ashamed of, and turn it into the thing I'm most proud of.


I think I just did.



THE END






May 3, 2013

Drivers. Writers. Passengers

“That night, after the movie, driving my father's car along the country roads, I began to wonder how real the landscape truly was, and how much of a dream is a dream.”
-Don DeLillo, Americana


     I have seen The Place Beyond The Pines. And, boy, this Ryan Gosling is impressive. Let. Me. Tell. You. Again. My friend teases me, tells me I have a man-crush. She posts his pics and whatnot on my no-nonsense FaceBook page. I laugh, then I hit LIKE, then we engage in some witty banter until she acquiesces. After the clever comments cease, I shake my head, crack an awkward smile, and say to myself, "A 'mancrush'. That's funny."
     Then I delete her silliness

     Because I'm not silly.
     I'm a serious writer type with no time for nonsense.
     Plus, I don't want people to think I'm gay for Gosling. Because I'm not.
     I'm really just a fan of his acting, and his blue eyes.
     Don't you just want throw on some speedos and go swimming in them?
     Yeah, me neither. That'd be way gay.

     The Place Beyond The Pines was great, great story, and great performances by Gosling's co-stars.
     "Avery", was played by another actor with blue eyes, but not like Ryan's. Gosling's are the kind of blue Miles Davis sang about with his trumpet.

     These blue eyes belonged to Bradley Cooper, star of the nauseating headache The Hangover 2 and the B-movie The A-Team. In terms of minutes, Cooper's face chewed  up more screen time. But minutes do not make moments.
     That's why the first name at the end credits was "Gosling".
     "Ryan Gosling as Luke".

    It should have said "Ryan Gosling is Luke".

    Then came the opening credits to another story, this one true, and about 137 minutes shorter.
    Starring me, nearly unrecognizable in the role of a guy who takes things too far, like some method actor who won't break character. Ever.
     It's a stretch, I know. The suspension of disbelief. 
    And co-starring a talented European actress, Swiss Miss, as the young lady friend who is mysteriously not put off by my character's extreme nature. Even more mysterious, and kind of frightening, is that she didn't run for the Alps when the actress playing my aunt warned her about me, telling her I had a dark side. When Smiss Miss told me what I already know, she thought I'd be hurt. I laughed. I thought it was cool. I told her it was true.
     I do have a dark side. And it outshines most people's bright.

    This was not my first matinee.

    It was merely another epic journey, to the OCD, the place beyond the BFE, where most drivers will never go.

    Swiss Miss asked, "Why do you park so far away?"

    I found it strange someone who lives 6 time zones away would consider a few hundred yards (kilometers?) "so far away". I figured I'd try to explain, even though she had already made legible to me that my writing makes little sense to any reader whose native language is not American English, leading me to ponder how much chingy ching ching  I'd lose in International book sales if when I get published, people around the world are too uncultured to grasp my stuff. Perhaps it goes beyond the language barrier because my writing doesn't always make much sense to me, and I speak perfect English. I don't want to come off "uncultured" by saying I "dumbed it down" for her, so I just tried to keep simple my reasoning for parking where less obsessive drivers just aren't neurotic enough to go, especially if there's no shuttle service, because it's just a car, because they're just going to a movie, not a passion play, so what the hell?

     Here's what the hell.

     I'm not like all those other moviegoers.
     I'm not just another driver.

    Because my legs are strong.
    I can walk, I don't mind it, I love it.
    It helps me think.
    Gets the wheels turning. Puts me in overdrive.
    But you can't ask me to to slow down.
    I won't tell you to keep up.
    I'll carry you if I have to
    if you need me to,
    if you want me to,
    if you ask me to,
    if I can.
    I'll try.
    I can.
    My bad back is strong now.

    And it's really not as far off as it seems.

    I can see it now.

    We can't get lost.

     Let them drive in circles,
     cursing strangers,
     wondering aloud "Is this guy coming or going?"
     Not this guy. Me, I just arrived. And I'm way over there.
     The only car in an empty lot.
     
     I'm in the space beyond the pinetree hanging from your rear view.
    

     They bandage their bumpers,
     bragging rights
     for something they never did,
     someone else's victory.
     Their honor student, their sports team,
     Their other car, the clean one, is in the shop
     and they'd rather be fishing than anywhere with their wife.
     Their passengers daydream of riding shotgun in some other car, a clean one, with some other driver,  speeding towards some place beyond the peeling tint of the closed window they could not be sitting closer to. 
     Their doors swing open. Their doors slam shut.
     Their exterior is dinged and dented,
     I could write a short story with my finger on their rear window.
     Watch me.
     Then wash it away. Not just the part people can see.
     Their interior.
     The place where loose change lingers
     where the sweet stench of fading pine surrendered six months ago to a scent so aromatic and ashen, it tastes like drowning, every breath they take is their last, one final gulping swallow of smog before sinking to the bottom of a sick and stale cesspool.
     But at least it doesn't smell like it did that one day,
     so many miles ago
     when it reeked,
     the way new cars often do.  

     They have the movie times printed out on wasted paper, leaving them no doubt where they have to be, when they have to be there, and when they get there late, they blame bad traffic, or the bad weatherman, whose forecast foretold them this winter would be "a rough one", like the one last year, and next year, and every year before and after.
     So they must make up those minutes by saving every single second of a wasted life, speeding and short-cutting, because "the previews are the best part", because coming attractions give them something to look forward to, after today's movie is over.
     Because today is not good enough, and it never will be.
     There's always next Sunday afternoon. New movies every Friday night.
     The smudged screen of the digital clock on their dusty dashboard.
     It's set 7 minutes ahead, but only because they don't know how to fix it.
     They just don't have the time.
     They don't want to miss the best part. And they always do.

     We won't be late

     We won't need to step all over strangers to find our seats in the dark.
    
     We're almost there.
   
     With only a few steps left before the end of our nearly three minute trek, I praised The Place Beyond The Pines, it's ensemble cast, especially Gosling's standout performance, when his mere presence would have sufficed.
     Her response lead me to believe something got lost in translation, as German is her first language. Being that Sarcasm is my second language, I knew she meant what she said. But I couldn't believe it.

     This is what she said.
     "I like Bradley Cooper better."

     Oh. Hell. Nein!

     This could have been the opening battle scene of World War II Part 2.
     But I kept quiet, cool.
     Just like Gos' character in Drive, a character without a name.
     He was just "Driver".
     Go ahead. Check the credits.
     If you think I'm making it up, writing nonsense, wasting gas, words, time, moments.

     After I opened and closed the passenger's door for her, I popped my trunk so she could not see me fuming in my rear view, my head spinning as I attempted to shake off this "Bradley's better" business, while lock-jawing down my ever-present toothpick. It doesn't even come out of my mouth when I brush my teeth.

      I couldn't go on like this. I was becoming like the guy in the movie, the one who took things too far. It was time to break character. Forever. I had to stop taking myself, and my movies, and even my guy, Gos, so seriously. Then I found what I forgot I had been searching for in my trunk.
     So I put on my black leather driving gloves, one at a time.
     Then my jacket, the white one, with the scorpion on the back.
     Before I opened my undinged driver door, I cracked an awkward smirk, shook my head. and tried to chuckle when I said to myself, "Bradley Cooper's better than Gos. That's funny."
     But it wasn't funny. It was borderline absurd, not worthy of debate or discussion.
     So I let it go.
     I was Quiet. Cool. Driver. Writer.
     I did not waste gas, words, time, moments.

     Not on nonsense.




He has another jacket with a frog on it.


Feb 26, 2013

BOOK of TANGENTS: That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore



        A tangent I went off on a long time ago. 
        I guess a little over a year isn't a long time ago.
        Seems like it though. 
       



"I wonder what Piglet is doing," thought Pooh.
"I wish I were there to be doing it, too."

- Winnie the Pooh”



         I used to laugh at them.

         When I woke up in South County, I was afraid I was one of them.
         I was afraid that I was broken.
         I was only bent.
          
         All those psychological conditions that I had only used as a joke ran through my mind along with the images of the people who those conditions would be ascribed to when there is nothing funny intended. Is this schizophrenia? Am I going to be that  guy walking through New York City talking to himself and cursing at nobody. Is this insanity? Am I insane? Like legally? Like the guy in a strait jacket in a white padded room. This is crazy. I am a crazy person? Not a "cool crazy" as in "yo, that dude's crazy as fuck". A broken kind of crazy, as in a woman staring out the window in some hospital rec room, who insists on wearing the same seventeen year old dress everyday because she wants to look her best for her husband and two daughters who never visit because she killed them fifteen years ago, but she only remembers the good times.

        This was psychosis. I was psychotic. I was that guy in Florida walking around his neighborhood, having conversations with nobody and telling strangers that his father died.

         I was humiliated by what I'd said and done.
         I'm the joker who became the joke.
         A storyteller who became his own story.

         Somewhere, in another rec room, there's a woman who can't forget, who has been forgotten.
         She was once happy. She was pretty. She was a wife and a mother.

         A man who walks the city streets of his own reality.
         We laugh with friends as he talks to people as real to him as he is to us.
         He used to have real friends. He used to love to make them laugh.
         He came from a real family. He was once somebody's little boy.

         None of them would have chosen this.
         None of them will wake up one morning and be sane again.
         I suffered a psychotic episode, but I made it back.

         They don't make me laugh anymore. It's not funny. It's sad.
         Their movie is a tragedy, not a comedy.
         Let them talk to friends who are not there.
         They can wait for their family until their last day.
         The friends and family they don't have may be all that they have left of a live they once had.
         They don't have to be the joke.
         I can be a joke because I can still be a joker.
         It's okay to laugh at me because I can laugh at me.

         You can laugh at me because I'll laugh with you.


Feb 24, 2013

BOOK of TANGENTS: It's A Simile About A Simian, Not A Metaphor About A Monkey, Ya Big Dumb Ape

    
One of my greatest pleasures in writing has come from the thought that perhaps my work might annoy someone of comfortably pretentious position. Then comes the saddening realization that such people rarely read. 
 John Kenneth Galbraith


     
   2/24/13

       Early this Sunday morning, around 5am, or as I call it, "magic hour", I realized I had just went off on what is by far the worst tangent I have ever gone off on.  

     I'll even go so far as to say it's probably, no, definitely, the most moronic and absurd thing I have ever written. But, if I told you a monkey had written it, you'd say that monkey was genius.

      I was trying to finish up a story about a stormy night in Philly last month, a story that I still haven't finished.




     Then, what I thought was impossible happened. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I could see the sky getting darker and I could hear the rain falling harder on the canopy above me.

     I reminded myself that "This sucks, dude."

     There was no reason to jot that down in my notebook.

     I have a good memory when it comes to bad things better left forgotten. If I didn't, I'd have nothing to obsessively write about. If I couldn't write, whether obsessively or like a well balanced person who has self control enough to not take things to absurd extremes, well, I don't know what I'd do. Probably kill myself, or just start watching tv again, maybe play video games online, something to pass the time until I inevitably killed myself.


       Just kidding. 

       If I was ever going to kill myself, it would've been circa  Summer 2010, probably end of July, mid August maybe.. I don't know, I didn't really give it as much consideration as I probably should have. Glad I didn't though. Those were the worst days of my life, and until the last week or so, I was confident that the 2 books I had written about those miserable days and the hell of drug addiction and clinical depression might be hilarious enough to rope me an agent and a publisher fiending for something as novel as a memoir about a nobody.  
       
         At the time, it felt like I was writing the Great American Memoir, but when I recently read the early chapters of the book I finished 1 year and 1 day earlier, I told myself that, just like that dark and stormy night I was hiding from, it sucked, dude.

      Sure, a few people liked it and were very complimentary in the beginning, but they soon lost interest when the novelty wore off, which I can totally understand. People have wives, husbands, kids, live-in stepmothers, mortgages.


      I have a blog, even though I'm still not sure whatever this is constitutes a "blog". "Blog". What a dumb word. Not so much when you see it written, but go ahead and say it out loud. "Blog". See? Phonetically, it sounds like a noise you'd hear echoing off your American Standard while you dry heave in it.

     When my dad asked me if I was still getting a lot of positive feedback on my blaaaahhhggg, I told him not like in the beginning, when I never bothered editing bad grammar, spell checking, or structuring the story so it was not one long paragraph.

      He asked why I thought people were not reading, or at least, not commenting, as much anymore, especially if what I assured him was true, that my writing had improved significantly.


     Pretty straightforward so far. 
     But, then, right about here, my shit went bananas. 
     B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
     Ooooh.
     Oooh.
     This my shit.
     This my shit.
         (x4) 
 

     So, I said, "The way I see it, I'm like some monkey with a typewriter."

      Even without a question posed, it was clear by my dad's silence that he was not seeing how his son and a simian fit into the same simile.
     
     I explained myself: "I think most people who read the first few chapters were probably just surprised that some stoner from their Honors English Class could actually write complete sentences. Like, if I saw a monkey who was able to write or type "c0c0 sADD", I'd be pretty damn impressed. But after about 2 weeks of this monkey typing business, Monkey would gain a little confidence, start believing no cage could hold him, getting all poetic and shit, trying to be profound, going off on philosophical tangents like, "I have found the innerworkings of monkey and man not to be mirror images per se, but their resemblance of resolve is considerably closer than even Darwin had hypothesized. It is my conclusion that men of conscience, just like monkeys,will find that if they can sit down to write in reflection of themselves as if they were seeing from the outside, a monkey they've never met before, at their worst, and they may momentarily  forget they are the same monkey, but by the time they stand up, their minds will be free from confusion of identity, and held in their paws, the documentation that if it were to be shared, would allow other monkeys to see one of their own at their best, and at their worst, at the same time. So to man and monkey alike, I say, 'Write your wrongs, right your wrongs. Write your life, right your life'."

     I'd be like, "Whatever. If it makes you happy, keep it up, my main monkey. I'm just not as interested in your sins and yourself as you are yourself. But if you ever get published, send me a free autographed copy. I'm not gonna read it, I've got better things to do than read a mad monkey's memoir, but I hope my request for a free copy feigns my interest about your 500 page epic of a book about your 5 whole days in the South County Zoo. If nothing else, I'll lend it to a friend after I tell them "I never met this monkey in person, but here's a book he wrote that you can borrow and keep, or maybe put it under that short leg on your off kilter kitchen table so it stops wobbling. Or you can read it if you don't have enough of your own problems that you wanna read about some monkey dick's depression, addiction, and psychosis. Yeah, the only thing remotely funny about it is that Monkey is still delusional enough to see his tragedy as a comedy, or a melodramedy or whatever he came up with as a name for his very own personal genre. But who knows? You're a reader, and a psycho, and an animal lover, maybe you'll like it. You know me, I love my reality tv and my porn."

       
     Damn, Monkey just went off on an orangutangent.
     Monkey is so clever, he just makes up words sometimes.
     But that's more entertaining than when he used to throw shit against the wall, and whatever stuck, he called "art".


       

     Yeah. "WTF?" is exactly what I asked myself when I read what I had written on autopilot. I figured after 14 hours of writing, and however many minutes of the last"magic hour" had been wasted on this monkey business, it was probably a good time to give my monkey mind a rest, so I took my monkey ass to bed.

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