Monday, June 27, 2005

Across Time.

Friday evening. Stimulating conversation. Cold cocktails served in antique glasses. Chilling at home, entertaining guests. Your friend D____ and his boyfriend K_____, the massage therapists, came by to drink some wine, get high, and talk about old times. It’s a relaxing scene, the warm glow of your Moroccan lamps illuminating just enough to keep things mysterious. The thick smoke of sandalwood waltzes throughout the room with its lovely partner, Mary Jane. Tiny dancers. They playfully spin in circles, in and out of our noses and lungs, leaving their invisible footprints all over our hair and clothes.

Idle talk, so inane and trite, but in retrospect, meaningful: worthy of reflection and study. We cover a wide array of topics from the “other-worldly” intelligence of magic mushrooms, to holotropic breathwork and Ken Kesey, from mystics of the sixties to the greatest thinkers of the eighteenth century. However, one topic sticks out in my mind... reincarnation and the cyclic nature of love... some call it destiny.

K___ tells us a true story.

7 years prior, before he knew D___, he came across an old photograph at a thrift store, a large group shot of about 80 sailors, all wearing handsome caps... all dressed in white... proudly standing before the prow of a great battleship somewhere in the South Pacific sometime before World War II. There was an undeniable quality about this picture, sitting there on that shelf by itself among a litany of old photographs. In a faraway tone, K___ tells us how his eyes traversed this sea of faces and almost immediately landed upon two... two men in a crowd of 80, not standing next to each other - in an expanse of monotonous stillness and monotonous colors and monotonous smiles. He bought the photograph and kept it under lock and key swearing to never show his special secret to anyone. He was true to his word.

Seven years later, K____ met a boy. There was something about this boy, something odd, but in a good way. When he was around this boy he felt... young again. An old feeling that had spent the good part of seven years lurking in the shadowy recesses of memory once again burned hot in his veins. K___ was compelled to action. The time was finally right, K___ told himself so one rainy night he showed the photograph to the boy and simply asked, with hidden hope, “What do you see?” The boy examined the photograph for the briefest of instants, looked up, and then immediately pointed to the exact two faces.

A drunken night of casual talk, I never expected to be given this gift, such tender selflessness… such a private, moving testimony, so extraordinary. D___ and K___, star crossed lovers, gazing at each other with adulation and genuine, honest to god friendship: an old friendship that defies time and trends and death. Such a sweet scene so unhurried; a scene void of pretension and self-promotion and materialism. Simply put, a group of friends sitting in a circle immersed to our ears in talk and dreams and laughter, while all around us, the smoke waltzes. A Viennese waltz I’d like to think, circular and rife with life and far-reaching.

I lean back in my chair and gaze across the room at you. We both smile.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Snow and Show in Vegas

A sparkling night, starry skies kissed by the dry light of a thousand watts of electric boog-a-loo neon bliss... the strip. I'm dressed to the hilt in a black Gucci suit, feeling good. Smoked Prada shades reflect the rays of my dilated eyes as a thousand tourists pass me by, snapping pictures of fountains, lions, and “pirates of the carribean” kitschy bullshit. My boys and I in our rented black Deville, looking for thrills, shoot to kill; out of towner's here for the party, hardly sleeping, hardly thinking, just fiending about sniffing another six lines up our manicured metrosexual noses. A couple of bumps or a fat rail, and you're guaranteed to sail. Everything else pales.

“Yo Uncle Vic, what's on the itinerary?”

Vic, who's not really our uncle and only five years older, with eye's never once leaving the road, his shifty gaze forever fixed forward. “Whatever, Kid, whatever you want to do. I'm feeling Drai's or Ghost. Whatchu think?”

My friend Chris reclining in the back, legs stretched out, like a VIP: “I don't give a shit, as long as we get fucking lit.”

“Don't worry about it bro', we're covered. My man from LA will meet us wherever with whatever with WHOMEVER, whenever we're ready for more, Capeesh?”

I sniff once then swallow hard and lick my lips, god how I love the taste of the drip. “Uncle Vic you always take care of us. You always got the hook-ups.”

“Hey you know it Kid, Uncle Vic never let's you down, am I right?"

Us, in unision. "Nope."

"Am I right you little pricks?”

Friday, June 24, 2005

Enter the Ninja, conclusion.

Perhaps it was hubris, or perhaps it was foolishness on my part for placing such reliance in a cheap plastic knick-knack... in a fucking child’s toy, over my own god given senses; in that moment - that wretched, confusing, chaotic moment, Matt and I thought we’d actually make it out of there unscathed.

We made slow progress… it should have been slower. We were careless. We were hasty. Maybe it was because we were impatient or nervous, but we both could feel the fluttering of a thousand butterflies in our stomachs… or perhaps a better comparison would be the uncomfortable scratching of eight thousand spiny legs of one thousand cave dwelling spiders squirming in our 13-year-old guts ready to burst out. Matt had crossed the line. He had defaced public property. In addition we were out past curfew. In addition we could be nailed for “breaking and entering.” In addition, we were carrying knives, vials of acid, and a host of homemade, bladed weapons. If we got caught it could mean juvenile detention or possibly worse… we could be sent to a “pound me in the ass” prison for big boys… for grown men.

“Are you sure this place doesn’t have motion detectors?” Matt softly asked as we inched our way up hallway B-12 into corridor K-2, poking the coals, as a dizzying army of gray lockers whizzed past us.

My eyes remained fastened forward. Our training had led us up to this moment. We had logged endless hours training ourselves to remain focused, to ignore distractions. Fear is a distraction.

“Hey, do you think...”

“Matt, I heard you the first time, Jesus! Let’s discuss this later...”

My eyes remained fastened forward. Our training had led us up to this moment… to ignore distractions. Yet, distracting thoughts kept popping into my brain like the zits that had started popping onto my face that summer. I had read somewhere once the hardest part about climbing a mountain is not the ascent, but the decent. History has proven more people die coming back down the mountain once they’ve reached the peak...

“Stay focused Hermes. Block out the bullshit.”

“What?”

“ I didn’t say anything dude.”

I kept the sound amplifier an arms length in front of me. My trust in this device was ill founded. Like some lucky charm, or a vampire hunter’s crucifix, I held my child’s toy in front of me as Matt and I rounded the final corner that led into the final hallway that invariably led to freedom… to the open starry night. The device continued to give me static. Almost there, not a creature was stirring...

Right as Matt and I rounded that last shadowy corner, right as I inhaled that final satisfying victorious breath, there they were, two larger than life grown-ass men… janitors. The “Spy Tech” microphone was perhaps 4 feet away from the first guy’s chest. The scene was almost comedic. There we were, Matt and I, completely frozen in our tracks. The janitors stood like immobile statues, squinting their eyes, trying to make sense of what they THOUGHT they saw standing right there in front of them in the gray darkness. Two 5’2” kids, dressed head to toe in black... wearing ninja masks. Like a wild west stand off we all stood like idiots staring at each other, daring the other to make the first move. Luckily for us, our training finally kicked in.

I ripped off the earphones and chucked the entire microphone at the first janitor, it dully thumped off his shaved head and landed by his feet. They both turned and kneeled down to examine the dark object lying on the floor. I turned around and took off. Matt followed suit.

“Hey you FUCKING KIDS! Heh, It’s too late, the cops are already here!” The second one shouted after us. By now the janitors were in hot pursuit. Matt and I had a 30-foot head start. My little distraction afforded us an extra 20 seconds. We ran like we’ve never run before. The adrenaline powered our bodies and pushed us to speeds we had always thought were unattainable all those countless summer days we spent training in the hot sun, stopwatch in hand. We were also completely in tune to the other’s movements. Matt was a little bit quicker than I was and he led. We careened down the halls, turning random corners, trying to lose our pursuers. I knew these guys were gaining on us - we were weighted down by our gear, but it didn’t matter. An exit was directly in front of us. I jumped and kicked the handle in. The door flew open. Matt and I emerged into the welcoming night. Like newborn babies gasping for our first breath, the cool air filled our lungs. We continued to run. By this point our pursuers had given up their chase. Freedom.

We ran a safe distance and finally looked back, both of us kneeling, gasping for breath. There stood the high school exactly the way we found it. There wasn’t an army of janitors chasing after us with torches and pitchforks. The parking lot wasn’t filled with SWAT and an army of cops hiding behind their cars with guns pointed at us. Nothing.

We both turned and looked at each other at the exact instant and started giggling. This giggle turned into a laugh. Laughter turned into uproarious hysterics… Matt and I called this insane laughter “laughing profusely.” There we were laying in the damp grass clutching our sides with tears rolling down our cheeks laughing at the “dumbfuck” janitors, an inept system, at our own brilliance, and most of all, we laughed at the idiotic mishap with the piece of shit “Spy Tech” sound amplifier.

The laughter died down as we both continued to stare at the high school.

“You remember ‘year one,’ even Batman’s first mission wasn’t perfect.” Matt assured us.

We were both completely silent now, sitting in the grass, our eyes transfixed on this building, this... living breathing structure, that moments earlier, could have insured a swift end to life as we knew it. If this concrete entity had NOT felt benevolent this night, had it sealed us in... had it swallowed us into it's belly, it would have insured our childhood, so lazy and fun and innocent, would have been irrevocably altered... forever.

Matt and I knew this.

“You know, we’ll be in that shit hole next year dude. We’ll be pee-on’s once again.” I said in a wistful tone.

An uneasy calm. Then the city, as if on cue, replied. About 100 feet away two cop cars came screaming down the street toward the high school with their bar’s lit up and sirens blazing.

“OH FUCK!” We both said in unison as we both jumped up and took off running in the opposite direction.

********

"The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope."

Terminator 2, 1991."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Enter the Ninja, part 2

"Our domain is the shadow. Stray from it reluctantly. For when you do, you must strike hard and fade away...without a trace."

Splinter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1990.


Our first mission was at last upon us: a perfectly clear, cool, beautiful, sinister night. It was our first foray out in full costume, armed to the teeth with all of our equipment. All that week, we’d quietly asked ourselves what trials or excitement awaited us this night. As we unrolled Matt's tent and unpacked our sleeping bags, we’d glance at each other and giggle in anticipation. Our excitement and enthusiasm was unbridled. We were also a tiny bit apprehensive and nervous too, although we refused to admit it. You see we weren't strangers to sneaking out. We had done it many, many times before, running though the neighborhood like hooligans at 3 in the morning, pissing on people's cars, shitting on people's front porches, stuff like that. We'd even done it naked once... another story. But this was the first time we'd be out in full ninja regalia, carrying weapons, fully prepared to hurt somebody if they tried to fuck with us or with the innocent. We were fully prepared to use our lethal skills in the name of justice and all that is right. Matt and I were fully prepared to play judge, jury, and, if needs be... executioner. Our resolve was firm.

We decided we'd start things out easy: a simple “reconnaissance and infiltration” mission. About four miles from Matt's house was a high school. Of course, during the summer, classes weren't in session but there were still summer classes and scores of janitors manning the halls. In addition, there was information. Knowledge. And we invariably knew, knowledge was power. We had older friends and Matt also had siblings who attended the high school, and they in turn had enemies. We had a list of names at our disposal, and it was our goal to break in there and steal their “files.”

Earlier that day, Matt and I rode our bikes to the high school and “scoped” out the premises. We identified the most accessible points of entry and exit. We located the lowest parts in the building structure where we could grapple onto the roof if the need arose. We walked the halls and loosely acquainted ourselves with the layout. Matt claimed he could get blueprints, but in the end, we decided we would run this mission off memory alone. We were still studying the art of lock picking, and saving our pennies for sets of lock-picking tools, so in the meantime we had to make do with an alternate means of entry. Not a problem. We had done this many times in other buildings. We found the most unassuming, unused door in the entire building and then wedged a small stick at the bottom. This prevented the door from fully shutting and kept the lock from clicking. We could then return at a later time and enter the building through this entrance. It was an older high school, and to our knowledge had no motion detectors or sensors indicating a door could be ajar.

Eleven o'clock was lights out. When the time came we would have to change into our uniforms and strap on our gear by moonlight without raising the alarm of Matt's dog, “Oreo” who stood guard inside the house. Consequently, Matt and I had to remain as silent as the grave. Furthermore, we had to avoid clicking on our flashlights lest we raise the suspicion of Matt's dad who was a light sleeper and was always peeking through the upstairs blinds, making sure we weren't horsing around. Between eleven and three we had some time to burn so we'd meditate and focus our “chi’s.” At two am in the morning we decided it was time to begin the agonizing process of “gearing” up. We would have to move very slowly and deliberately - sliding into our black cargo pants and turtlenecks and zipping on our flak vests inch by inch. We laced up our boots and gloves and helped each other buckle up our utility belts and oh so quietly slide on our backpacks. The last step, which we did by candlelight, was to don our ninja masks. When we entered that tent, we were just a couple of rowdy 13-year-old kids. When we emerged a few hours later we were ninja: warriors of the night.

Our first priority was to get out of Matt's backyard. We hopped his fence into the neighbor's yard and then made our way through the neighborhood hugging the houses, staying away from the streets. Hiding behind trees or bushes or lying flat on the grass as cars passed, which wasn't too often at this ungodly hour. It was exhilarating to be out on “patrol” in full gear. We looked lethal. We knew we were forces to be reckoned with. The cool air and the welcoming sounds of the night such as the crickets chirping and dogs barking off in the distance only egged us onward. We were very attuned to our environment, a good ninja is always aware of his surroundings. Every twig or dry leaf or pile of dog shit we were sure to avoid. Our astute ears picked up every sound coming from each and every house we passed be it unattended television sets, or dogs whimpering, or babies crying, or couples fucking. We silently observed all.

We finally reached the high school and made our way to the door we had propped open hours prior. To our surprise, it gave. We wouldn't have to be breaking any windows tonight. There were a few lights on scattered throughout the high school. We knew the nighttime janitorial staff was still here. We guessed perhaps we were dealing with one or two bored, underpaid dudes asleep at some desk somewhere or watching TV, nothing to get too concerned about. Before we proceeded we hid in a shadowy corner to allow our eyes a chance to adjust. I unpacked the “Spy Tech” sound amplifier. It was basically a long microphone attached to earphones. Our progress was slow and cautious at first. The mic picked up dead silence... a steady wave of raw static. We grew braver. We made it to the center of the school - the heart of the complex. It was a wide-open area with a large wall where a huge mural hung bearing the school name and crest as well as a painting of the school Mascot, a Spartan warrior. Matt and I decided we'd split up to further explore the grounds and meet back up here at 0400 hours.

Our goal was to locate the main office. I flitted through the hallways always cautious to stick to the walls. Striking out on my own was exhilarating. I felt like an assassin from feudal Japan on a covert mission to execute a corrupt minister or evil warlord. My movements flowed like water, my mind was clear. Yet at the same time, something didn’t feel right. It was almost too quiet. This was too easy… everything was falling into place too conveniently. I decided to turn around and head back to the rendezvous point. As I rounded the corner I was greeted by a surprise. Crudely and disrespectfully spray-painted on the school mural, in big, black, bold letters... splayed across the proud Spartan warrior were the words:

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!

I looked down and there was Matt squatting over his backpack, gingerly putting away 2 cans of spray paint. I ran up to him and shrilly whispered:

“Matt, you crazy fuck! What are you doing? This was supposed to be a reconnaissance mission!”

“These people need to wake up.” He defiantly muttered under his breath, refusing to look at me as though I was the villain, as though I was the one who had somehow wronged him.

I knew we didn't have time to get into this bullshit. The last thing we needed at this point was for our mission to self-destruct... not now. Yet, I still felt obligated to address Matt's sudden mood swing and his insolence.

“Wake up? Matt, it’s summer break, no one’s even here! Dude, this was totally unnecessary... it wasn't a mission objective... Listen we need to get the fuck out of here.”

“Did you find the main office?” He spoke as though he was in a daze. His voice distant.

“Yeah, I did. It’s on lock down... no windows. I have a bad feeling...”

He suddenly seemed to snap out of his funk. His eyes focused on me and coherence returned to his voice. "OK. ok man, let's get outta here."

We started making our way through the halls working back toward the door we entered through. The shadowy hallways began to blur and tear at the seams. The endless ocean of lockers added to this newfound sense of vertigo and claustrophobia we were both now feeling. Our progress was slow. I led the way with the “Spy Tech” microphone held out in front of me, ready to pick up any sounds well in advance and alert us to any presences: nothing... just static, a steady stream of uninterrupted white noise. Not a voice or a whistle or a footstep could be detected.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Enter the Ninja

"The Kobudera. Ninja magic. Ninjitsu-to, the ability to seem invisible to cause fear and paralysis in your enemies"

-American Ninja, 1984


The summer of 1992 was by far the hottest summer on record. I remember it was also the year of the great grasshopper infestation. Locusts were everywhere. It was a very bizarre natural phenomenon; the “year of the grasshopper” we called it. It was a very innocent time. I was 14 years old. It was the calm before the storm. Long before women, drugs, and all of the bullshit drama... there was the "year of the grasshopper."

It was the summer my friend Matt and I trained to become costumed crime-fighters... vigilantes. We shared a vision, Matt and I. We dreamed we would rid the streets of drug dealers, car-jackers, and crackheads. We dreamed we’d run along the rooftops armed to the teeth with homemade equipment and ninja masks stopping crime as we encountered it, beating the shit out of criminals, and then tying them up and leaving a nice package for the cops to pick up afterwards.

However, becoming a crime fighter is not an easy task. It involves intense training, focus, and hardship. You must hone your body and mind to physical perfection. Matt and I were quite aware of the implications of getting caught or killed. We were aware of the risks and we were willing to log the hours necessary to attain the required level of skill needed to punish the evildoer’s without getting nabbed by the authorities. Our training routine was intense. Every morning we would get up at six am and jog five miles. I’m a lazy fuck by nature, so getting up early during our summer vacation was definitely a sacrifice. We’d then follow up our run with push-ups and sit-ups. Then we’d jump off Matt’s house repeatedly to improve our “landing” ability. The key was always to roll, like an airborne ranger, and have your body absorb the impact, not your legs. After our landing exercises Matt and I would work on our tumbling and gymnastics. We'd practice breaking into a somersault from a full run. We would also practice "kip-ups" so we could quickly flip up onto our feet from our backs. Plus, it looked flashy in a fight. We’d break for lunch, grilled cheese sandwiches and icey-pops, and then finish the day sparring and meditating. We’d study in the evenings. Matt had an old chemistry book and we were always mixing household chemicals desperate to arrive at the ideal “acid” to throw in an opponents eyes or a combustion reaction that would create a “smokescreen” to allow a quick getaway... that would allow us to fade into the shadows whence we came.

We believed a crime-fighter is only as good as his/her equipment. We handcrafted a lot of our own gear. We actually designed and built a fully functional grappling hook. We’d use our hooks to "grapple" onto the roofs of the elementary school and church in our neighborhood. Matt and I also designed and built our own bolos. A bolo, in case you don’t know, is three balls connected by string and joined at the middle. The purpose is to be tossed at a fleeing opponents feet. The balls will wrap around their ankles and trip them up thus immobilizing them. Matt and I also invested in some “Spy Tech” gear. Spy Tech were really just toys aimed at wide-eyed 13 year-olds, like us, and we knew this, but we thought they might still serve a practical purpose despite the fact they were cheap, plastic junk. For instance, we owned a “sound amplifier” which was a microphone that connected to earphones. As well as a “periscope” device used to look around corners.

There was an army navy surplus store by our neighborhood run by a crazy ex-marine named “Jed.” He was the only other mortal soul who was “in” on our insane plot. He was a very helpful dude. He assisted us in designing and building our own utility belts. We placed pouches and canisters in the optimal spots to insure the speediest access to our equipment. Our equipment included glass vials of homemade acid, silk sacs full of fine sawdust and metal filings to toss in an opponent’s eyes, our bolos, nylon restraints, throwing darts, escrema sticks we’d strap to our backs, climbing claws we bought at the martial arts supply store (ideal for fighting as well as climbing), our hooks, and various other brutal ninja contraptions of our own design we replicated from books about ninjas. “Jed” was a weapons expert. He was always willing to give us honest feedback and always insured we’d get the best price for our money, our allowances were pitiful. Also, it’s worth mentioning Matt and I vowed never to use guns. Like Batman, we believed they were used only by the weak.

We trained for one full month. Our confidence grew. Our skills and understanding of the fighting arts grew. Eventually the time came when we needed to test our skills and our equipment in a “real world” setting….

Friday, June 17, 2005

To Picasso's "Woman with a Book."

You cannot see me but I see you perfectly. Sitting there with a pensive expression and a slight half-smile staring off into space. Don’t turn around. My reflection is cast on the antique mirror that hangs behind you, behind the fancy red and orange chair you’re sitting in. I remember you told me once that was your favorite chair in the whole wide world because you found it at a yard sale for only ten dollars AND it smelled like roses no matter how many times you cleaned it… a miracle perhaps? You were always so superstitious. Everywhere we go I swear you see Jesus or Mary in puddles and pastries and bowls of soup. I’m sure there’s a more scientific explanation for this mystery fragrance. I think a mouse might have crawled up inside and died. Of course, I’m too nice to tell you this.

What are you reading? Don’t answer that, I think I already know.

I remember last year when you and I vacationed in Ibiza. A quaint little old woman running a quaint little old bookstand on a quaint little old street, I forgot the name but I remember we kept referring to it as “Ratton” because we counted about 20 rats... or were they small dogs? Anyhow, I bought you a copy of “The sun also rises.”

On the inside cover there should be an inscription that reads as follows:

Mija,

To undiscovered dreams and forgotten troubles.

-H.


What a beautiful day that was. The sun hung in the sky lazily farting its rays as we slowly walked up and down Ratton admiring the rich abundance of eclectic shops and various oddities. I remember the “talk” we had at that corner café which served the most delectable latte’s we’ve ever sipped... even to this day. What was our debate about? Who asked whom out on our first date? Van Gogh and Picasso? Freud and Jung?

That night, after dancing at the club, you and I made passionate love on the beach covered in sweat, wave upon crashing wave of drug-induced bliss. Shrink wrapped in total darkness save the soft radiance of the moon, and the dull, alien glow of our sticks. Your little book sat half-buried in the sand watching our frenetic going-ons...

...as I’m now sitting here watching you watching me somewhere in your distant thoughts.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Racing Age

Step by step, mile-by-mile, eyes fixed forward; jacked into my tunes, drowned in my thoughts. I broke the wall about a mile back -the runners’ high started in my lungs, a slow steady scream, a constant stream, and slowly spreads, like black ink in a full glass. Sweat drips off my brow into my smiling eyes. Oxygen fights to fuel my muscles propelling my mind that in turn keeps me alive: the agony and the ecstasy. A cheap thrill if you will for an over the hill coot with an agenda to fill - the pursuit of youth, and health, and a wealth of sinewy muscles and that elusive eight-pack. I wouldn’t mind hitting a 3-percent body fat either, while we’re at it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Regret

Zanzibar. Now.

A smoky blues bar right on 7th and 3rd. A place to chill and unwind; to shake the knots out. I sit in a corner booth nursing a vodka tonic and a cigar: a twenty-five dollar "Padron" I bought at a store right off Broadway named "Havana John's." The billowy puffs of curling smoke try, with all of their might, to cast me under their spell. To hypnotize me. To control me. To rob me of air. The stick tastes so robust, well aged pre-embargo Cuban tobacco, rolled under the watchful eye of Orlando Padron himself many, many years ago in a sweat shop half a world away... or so I'd like to think.

I'm here tonight to see you. I think I promised you over twenty times I'd come and hear you sing, well, here I am... in a starched, simple white shirt sans tie, top two buttons undone, a black suit coat, and matching slacks. I'm dressed very art-deco tonight, very... black and white. I think the whole joint is cast in shades of black and white and gray except for you, up on that raised stage in an elegant red number that sparkles like Dorothy's ruby slippers. It's almost as red as your pouty lips... but not quite. A perfect compliment to your 50's inspired hair, pulled up in a neat, elaborate art-deco bun, revealing those silky white shoulders I've kissed countless times. This is my home and your voice is my bed. It envelopes me like 400 thread Egyptian cotton. I float in the air high up in the night sky among the dreams, stars, and the cottony clouds of thick cigar smoke exhaled from a million mouths of a million jaded cynics in a million blues bars. You spy me in the dark audience in my dark corner among the throng of admiring hep-cats and big dogs. You hold your gaze and I know you sing to me alone. I know you try, so damned hard, to hypnotize me. To control me. To rob me of air.

"When you left I lost a part of me,
It's still so hard to believe
Come back baby, please,
Cause we belong together."


The chorus in your breathy blues rendition of a popular pop song. You smile as you sing the sweet lyrics, close your eyes for just a second, and slowly nod. I raise my glass to you in an appreciative thanks. Although, I know my presence here will not justify the ills I handed you over the years. I know my pathetic little gesture... it just doesn't cut it. It's not enough. You see, it doesn't erase the fact I moved on.

After your set you come over to my table. I tell you how amazing you sounded. I give you a frigid, careless kiss on the cheek, metal scraping against stone, and I thank you for inviting me tonight. I'm as gracious as an old time movie star giving an Oscar acceptance speech in one of the great movie houses of yesterday. A meaningless song and dance, a display of feathers, and you know it. However it will suffice...

...or so I'd like to think.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Mambo Kings.

part one

2002. On Thursday night we'd always wear black... and our crosses. It was always our favorite night of the week as it was the night we'd hit the Latin club... on Salsa night. It was our lifeblood. At the time, it was the one night we felt completely at home. In our element. Among our kin. It was the one night, out of the five nights we'd go out clubbing, that we could dance the dances we loved, enjoy the music we grew up on, converse with the women we loved to converse with, and talk shit and laugh with our crew, which was mostly composed of Latinos. My cousin, Angel, and I lived for Thursday nights. It was OUR Friday.

I'd usually get off around 9. We'd always meet at Angel's to drink and shower and get ready for the night. It was my job to bring the booze as I was the only one with a car. On my way to Angel's after work, I'd swing by the liquor store and depending on our mood I'd either buy: Bacardi Limon to mix with Sprite, Triple Sec and Sweet and Sour for Long Island's, or a cheap-ass bottle of Tequila and some limes to simply shoot. We were deeply immersed in the club scene back then. We'd go out 5 nights a week, Monday through Saturday. We'd rest on Sunday. Even God rested on Sunday, we figured we should too. Looking back, I think if there were any clubs that were actually popping on Sunday or Monday we would have gone out. On our day's “off” we'd usually “maintain our stables.” Sunday and Monday were date nights. We'd spend these nights with our girlfriend's, or fuck-buddies, or booty calls, or whomever else. Thus the comparison to a stable. We always had 5-6 women apiece at our beck and call. We were real pieces of shit back then. In many ways, we still are.

Anyhow, as I mentioned, we'd all meet up at Angel's every night to get our drink on and prepare for the upcoming night out. We'd take turns showering, blast some rap, Merengue, or Spanish reggae at intolerably high levels, and play FIFA soccer on the old Playstation. Oh, and of course we'd drink, did I mention that? His house was a shit hole. If one were to drive by one would usually find a broken down, powder blue Dodge Dart sitting in the driveway. This beater car belonged to Angel's roommate. We called the Dart “Baby Blue.” It was always in some sort of a state of disrepair. You'd also always find about 2 or 3 motorcycles parked in the driveway... our babies. Angel had zero furniture with the exception of a hole ridden couch we found on the roadside, a mattress, and a big screen TV, and a top of the line, very "hot" (stolen) stereo system. We were broke as shit back then, but happy.

Ironically, girls didn't seem to object to our way of life. In fact, they were drawn to us even more because of it. Perhaps we offered the enticing hint of danger and intrigue. Perhaps they'd fuck us whenever they felt the urge to “slum” or spend a night on the wrong side of the tracks. Or perhaps, they could sense we really didn't give a fuck. Despite our poverty, we were secure in ourselves and our way of life, if not cocky and arrogant. Unlike the rich, pathetic bastards uptown who would kiss their asses and blow wads of cash on them in order to get laid, in stunning contrast, we'd merely fuck them, (and fuck them very well might I add) roll over, go to sleep, and instruct them to let themselves out AFTER they've scratched our backs with their well manicured fingernails. Yes, I'd definitely say we were arrogant. Hey, we were Latin-Italian kings. We loved “La Virgen,” our mothers, and each other. We watched out for each other. And we were damned good looking, all of us.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

American Me

It’s official. I no longer believe in the American Dream. In fact, I think I’ve given up on american ideals such as ambition, success, and independence altogether. The phrase "a dollar and a dream" does not apply to me. I will probably never own a two million dollar mansion and three benz's, or better yet, a bentley. I’ve given up on ever owning a private collection of Italian suits, shoes, and imported polyester hanging neatly and color-coded in a custom-built, unnecessarily large, walk in closet. In fact, I think the size of the house I live in right now IS the size of a closet, and no, it will not be featured on the next episode of "Cribs." I’ve given up on the notion of assigning myself a fancy title such as PHD, Dr., or Entrepreneur. I know I’ll never attend black tie dinners or entertain out of town guests by lavishly spending vast amounts of cash on lobster, steak, cocaine, strippers, and booze. I don’t think I’ll be spending long, languid days at the country club hitting the links and acting like a pretentious asshole resplendent in my “Izod” golf shirt and ridiculous looking shoes. I don’t think I’ll be “flying out of town on business” when in reality I’ll be fucking my mistress and/or pissing away my fortune at the blackjack table. Perhaps I’ll never have that multi-million dollar “dream” wedding, only to become a controlling prick, adulterer, and a wife-beater, and then have a very publicized, messy divorce the following year. Maybe I won’t travel to Hawaii or the Bahamas to “vacation” when in reality I will probably just play golf the whole time and drink, activities I would normally do here at home. Maybe I'll never vote for Bush or Cheney or any of those Republican, right-wing assholes. I doubt I’ll be seen at the Sundance Film festival comparing dick sizes with the likes of Ben Affleck and Michael Douglas. I don’t think I will be getting that coveted invitation to the Playboy mansion, or Puffy’s white party out in the Hamptons. I will never get "punked." My wallet will never house a gold, silver, or platinum card. I don’t think you’ll find my face in the latest episode of “Access Hollywood” or in the latest issue of “Us Weekly.” I don’t think I will be selling my soul to a golden idol and disrespectfully SHIT on those less fortunate than myself all along harboring an arrogant, ignorant attitude that I actually earned this tax bracket, that I actually EARNED my success because my parents convinced me I was unique and beautiful when they signed over the trust fund.

I will probably never be any of these things. Unfortunately, I will never live the American Dream...and I’m strangely glad.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Necropolis

Is there a place where forsaken words go after we have discarded them? An “elephant graveyard” perhaps where all of the sentences that could have been a part of something bigger, something...beautiful, but didn’t, go to die in silence, forever deleted from existence, forever unheard? These sentences lie in the rain like the rusted, skeletal remains of junked out 747’s. The seats, torn and covered in cobwebs, nestled in its belly basked in quiet darkness; the words, forever staring forward with a ghastly, hollow expression of loss and hopelessness, their tray tables forever in an upright and locked position.

Or rather, it isn’t a graveyard at all. Rather, it is a city: a dead city… a necropolis. This city, at first glance, from a great distance, appears normal, with billowing smoke and towers rising up into the heavens. However, as you travel closer you may notice a complete lack of life or movement; an overbearing stillness, except for the winds, that always howl and race in rage. As you travel even closer you may notice decay. The buildings crumble and the windows lack glass. Garbage, refuse, and rock lay scattered in heaps along the streets. Torn flags, remembering happier days once proud and colorful, sway and bow and dance to the gray clouds in a perpetual grotesque dance - a dance begging for sun, for a respite from the acid rain, even if it’s the briefest of instants. However, the true terror dawns upon entering the city itself. Past the gates, that rise 50 stories, ancient and rusted, you will see swarms of them, thousands...no millions...of words, once beautiful, trudging along the streets: horrific, twisted versions of what they once were, or could have been, or what they were meant to be, that is, before being abandoned for something better. They slowly slouch searching for purpose. Longing to be wanted yet at the same time devoid of emotion. Desperately hungering for usefulness in a useless world, the words, once so vigorous, now dead. A million whispers all pleading for help in a million different tongues. Incomprehensible jabber.

It is rumored they wait. They wait for the resurrection. They all carry the false hope, each and every one of them, that one-day they will all blissfully live in a paradise on Earth. Their sentence is eternal.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Coup droit d'autorité

“I’d like to know more about you. Tell me about yourself.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Anything. Everything. Whatever you’re willing to share.”

“Well, I have three tattoos.”

“Oooh, really. Where... dare I ask?”

“Oh, you’d like to know wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, I would. That’s why I’m asking.”

“Heh, well I could show you.”

“O.K.”

“Not here! Somewhere private.”

“When?”

“I have to get to you know you first.”

“You little tease. Getting to know you... Isn’t that what we’re doing right now?”

“Yeah…I guess.”

“Hey, what are you drinking?”

“Vodka Tonic.”

“Want another?”

“You buying?”

“No you are. I’ll have a Jaeger Bomb.”

“...you’re kidding right?”

“Why would I be kidding?”

“Well, isn’t the guy supposed to buy the girl the drink?”

“Do we?”

“Yeah...”

“Where is that written? Let’s break the rules tonight.”

“It’s not written, it’s a known fact. The guy always buys the lady a drink.”

“I never heard of it.”

“I'll bet you haven't. Well... you are cute.”

“Cute?”

“Is that bad?”

“Cute would be a word you’d use to describe a puppy, or a purse.”

“OK you're hot. Better? Although I think you might already know that.”

“I didn't know that actually. Thanks. Hot enough to buy a drink?”

“No. I still think you should be buying me one.”

“How about I make you one... at my place. Let’s go. It’s close...We can get to know each other better.”

“Are you a player?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Oh, you charmer.”

“I know what I like.”

“I normally don’t do this…”

“Neither do I. Ain’t it CRAZY?”

“What about my friend?”

“What about her?”

“She brought me.”

“She’ll be ok. She looks like a big girl, and… hey where is your friend?”

“I don’t know.”

“Exactly.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Isolate Tower

Was it Blake who stated the “path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom?” I’ve seen it you know, this tower, although it was but a glimpse, through a thousand miles of raging waves and clouds. It was the size of a pinhead from my perspective, but so sublime, and irrevocable. It’s a steadfast, ivory, shimmering tower where not a word is uttered in its solemn halls, only abstract ideas and thoughts. Surrounded by rocky shoals and raging waves, the only way to arrive to this forsaken isle is to don wings, like Icarus, cautious not to fly too close to the sun, and equally cautious not to fly too low, beneath the heavy clouds, headlong into the storm. This isle does not obey the laws of the compass, by the way. You will not find it on any of the world-maps man has so obsessively drafted over the past millennia.

I return to the dive bar that forever haunts my dreams. It teems with the same cast of characters: pawns, queens, and kings. Forever trapped in their cyclic dance of regret, lost bets - unwilling to change. I sit in the back in my usual spot, my stein of beer and a bowl of nuts my only company, along with my thoughts. As is typical when I need to think I come here, so I may observe, and drink my fill, pain to kill, rage to chill. The human drama plays out, like a Sophoclean tragedy performed in the round, as the smoke-stained walls buffer the howling winds, offering strength and solace. This structure, unlike its patrons, is structurally sound. Too many questions, not enough glasses. Fleeting answers spoken in riddles and feint whispers. They ask me: what makes a tragic figure? Is it one that falls from a great height, from a position of power, into obscurity away from the light? No evidence left except a broken hourglass, infinite shards and scattered sand, no one willing to sweep up the mess or extend a smile or a hand? Isn’t this what we all fear in the end… no not death, silly... but obscurity?

“The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom.” I’ve studied this phrase extensively over the years, over the drinks, and I’ve concluded the following: the path of excess might assist to bring you here to this rainy isle, a feat unto itself, but to gain entrance into the tower itself? It is in fact pain that shall gain you admittance through those impenetrable gates. Excess is merely a precursor to pain that is a precursor to enlightenment. Tragedy, though, is a VIP pass my friend.