Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I gaze at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Behind layers of ancient caked-on grease and soot I see someone who used to resemble me once.

I can hear the beat. The drums in my head. The tribal, rhythmic, incessant pounding of the drums. I sit on the toilet and cradle my face in my hands. The sound is too intense. Too primitive. Crippling. Quieter still I hear the song of the sirens. Somewhere across the sea on a desolate shore of black sand they sing to me. They beckon me back into their world. Into the savage land. They know that I know the ship is moored at dock, quietly creaking and swaying. A solitary lantern is hung upon the watchtower. The light breeze perpetually smacking it against the wood with a dull clang. Inside the abandoned captains quarters you would find a loaded gun and a snuff box containing all sorts of wondrous delectables.

I know I'm stronger than this.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I sit in my room, sad song on repeat, thinking to myself the irony of it all. Life truly does imitate art, doesn’t it?

There was a place you used to go. Your special place where you’d sit and drink and think and attempt to sift through your shit with a broken plate like a melancholy prospector, so tired, on the fringes of hope. A broken relic. Esoteric. Hollow.

At least that’s my take. I still don’t get it though.

It was a quiet lake up the canyon a ways. There was a ledge with a view where you’d gaze, in the early morning light, at an entire world 300 feet down below, a world free of pain. Soft ripples only hint at the bubbling bliss and simplicity of hungry fish and the day-to-day void of strictly human flaws such as betrayal, heartache, depression… and resignation. Soft lapping waves -

I can only imagine you’d hold cautiously still and feel yourself die moment by moment. With the whispering wind you walk the astral plane, your soul so far far away, thousands of miles away, with your son as he plays. In your mind’s eye you see him pause, and thoughtfully look up to the sky, as you smile down the only way you know how.

Carefully you remove your shirt, shoes and socks. Place your car keys and wallet beside your things in a meticulous line. You approach the ledge, eyes affixed on the distant horizon…

“There must be an angel with a smile on her face,
When she thought up that I should be with you.
But it's time to face the truth,
I will never be with you. “

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ignis fatuus

Christmas Eve, 2004.

“ So why are you here... of all places?”

I take a hard swig from the bottle. Tastes damned good. Especially when it's this cold - near freezing. The room is dark. Surreal. A self-contained, melancholy world. The only window to the outside is a tiny 2' x 2' plate-glass deal above the door. Just beyond the smoked glass I see the wind whip the snow around and around in the night air. A white Christmas it seems... to the delight of children and dreamers everywhere. The snow, as reflected underneath the street lights, is hauntingly beautiful and hypnotic. Tiny tornado mini-gusts, spinning and spinning, as though they waltz. Locked together in a naive, never-ending dance.

“ Well I'm here 'cause I don't have anywhere else to go. I'm not from around here. And well... I fucked up. To make a long story short I'd rather be here.”

He holds up his beer, “ Well merry Christmas then." He takes a long pull and sets his bottle down with a hollow thump. " So what did you do?” His fierce eyes ominously glint at me in the neon half light along with his gold tooth.

I look away. My attention's drawn to the corner of the room. I sullenly eye an old man sitting at the end of the bar next to the ancient Juke Box which whirs and grinds out old rock ballads from the 80's. A guitar solo fills the tiny establishment. The high-pitched scream permeates throughout the atmosphere in a congested cloud along with the thick smoke of the Marlboro Reds I'm chain-smoking. The combination of the music, smoke, and a shaky old ceiling fan which precariously dangles directly above my head create an odd effect: the walls seem to breathe. The whole room is crackling and alive. A stunning contrast to the stillness of the old man as he sits stiff as a statue. He's eerily silent without even a word - or a drink. It's as though this catotonic state can be attributed to the vacancy of his soul as he stares back at me through muffled pits. Beneath rotted lids.

“ Yo. You still here?” A finger snap in front of my face.

“ Yeah. Sorry. What were you saying?” My attention fixes back to the man seated in the stool next to mine.

“ What happened with you and your woman?”

I squint at him beneath my Willy Wonka sunglasses and wipe my nose with my shirt sleeve. I shift in my seat as I take a deep puff from my cigarette.

“ No offense but I'd rather not talk about it.”

I exhale two streams of smoke from my nostrils like a cartoon dragon. I turn away and wave at the bartender. “ Hey another beer over here, Bud light, if you could.”

My gaze returns to the old man in the corner. He seems to be gazing intently at his drink... or perhaps at me, I can't tell. I can't make out his features, even when I peer at him from beneath my glasses. His body is pitched in darkness. The only light upon his face is an unnatural neon blue. A perverted “Rembrandt shadow” that illuminates only half of his face. The other side is almost completely dark except for a small triangle below his eye. His eyes, or the sockets where they should be, are blackened. His grizzled chin is pressed tight against his western-style button-up and his back is hunched. It's an awkward way to sit. I'm reminded of old cowboy flicks and the way corpses of executed criminals are laid out in pine boxes with quarters placed upon their eyes.

As if on queue, as if reading my thoughts word for word, image for image, the man next to me states in a hoarse tone of voice, in a soft, sharp whisper:

“ Death is merciful, for there is no return therefrom but with him who has come back out of the nethermost chambers of the night.”

It takes a second for the quote to register. My rusted brain slowly chugs and spurts to life like an old truck left out in a field, forgotten, for many many years. Realization is quickly followed by a sense of apprehension and then a creeping fear. I catiously turn, fully expecting to find the man standing next to me, or behind me, breathing his foul demon breath into my neck, skull-fucking me with his eyes.

Instead, I find an empty stool. My eyes flit to the shadowy corner. I see an empty glass.

And outside the wind and snow eternally waltz.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005



“ Red,” you say, “ the sun that evening in Berlin. A brilliant, striking, unforgettable shade of Red.”

In this memory for some reason it's always raining.

There we are, you and I, alone in your garage. Your “den” you'd often refer to it as. I remember the shelves of old knick knacks. War medals. Trophies. Fishing gear. Photographs. Everything that truly ever mattered to you proudly on display for all to see. An intricate story behind each item free of charge for anyone willing to listen. Unfortunately, back in those days, there were very few who would listen - who hadn't heard each and every tale told and retold countless times. Unfortunately, family didn't really come around that much anymore. Unfortunately, you were more of a burden than a familial treasure.

And there I'd sit, a wide eyed little neighbor kid, ears pricked not daring to move a muscle or breathe a breath in fear I'd miss even a word. And there you were, an 80-year-old kid, excitedly ducking and weaving behind your torn recliners and rusty filing cabinets firing imaginary guns at imaginary ghosts of imaginary Nazi's who lived on in your memory... and now mine.


“ Red,” you say, “ the dog in the corner, over there... it's fucking red.”

Leather straps drawn taut across your chest and wrists groan and creak. You struggle to stay conscious and more importantly keep yourself from vomiting as the methadone drip slowly works it's way through the vinyl tubing to the I.V sloppily buried into your track-addled forearm. You start to hyperventilate as your eyes roll into the back of your jerking head.

I stay calm. I keep my voice even. “ There's no dog. It's just you and me here. Okay? Everything is fine man... just try and relax... Hey. Everything is cool, I'm here.”

“ F-Fuck you! It's there, oh god! Help me please, fucking get it away from me!!”

With a patient sigh I stand up and walk over to the door. I turn the lights up to their brightest setting. I come back over to your bed and sit down. I dab sweat from your forehead with a cold wash rag and hold your hand in mine as I softly hum one of our favorite tunes we used to sing as children.

We sit for awhile. The room is silent except for my humming, the smacking of your lips, and an occasional whimper.

“ See? Nothing there bro'.”

Your vice-grip loosens and you breathe just a little bit deeper. I place my fingers on your neck and count. It's much slower now. With half-closed eyes you look up at me awaiting more words... more reassurance.

I smile and say, “ Hey let's order a pizza. The food here fucking stinks.”


“ O.K what's a three letter word that could also mean 'coward?'"

“Red,” you say, without looking up from the paper.

“ Pop... red? Are you sure?”

“ Yeah, you never heard that phrase? A red-bellied chickenshit?”

“ Nah. Are you sure you're not thinking 'yellow?'”

You peer up at me. Tiny eyes underneath your glasses. “ That's what I said... 'yellow.'”

Monday, December 05, 2005

an exercise in futility

A drunk, tweaked-out bum spits at me through gapped teeth pissed off I'm lying in his spot. No sound except cursing, hissing, mumbling and the shrill whistling wind and a flapping issue of Time propped between two rocks. How I wound up in the middle of the park at 3 am on a bench is an utter mystery to me. All I know is I have a very hostile meth-head all over me like stink on shit. My mind races. What to do? What to do? What I always do when faced with a sticky situation: a hostile, quick burst of serrated violence and testosterone fueled posturing. If I get lucky he'll back down as in nature when animals settle quarrels through unspoken macho pose-downs and chest thumping. If he doesn't back the fuck up I have to take him out quick before he pulls out a blade and cuts me. These territorial wino fucks always carry knives. They'll protect their precious pissing grounds tooth and nail without fail.

Lightning fast I jump up full height, stare this jag-off in the eye, and ask him what the problem is. He continues to approach quickly closing the distance between us with every passing second. The wind continues to blow and the flip-flapping of that annoying magazine serves as a tympanic accompaniment to the incoherent, rhythmic shouting and guffawing of this grizzled, foul smelling hobo. My eyes shift from his face to his shoulders. I watch his arms, his hands, and to my dismay I find them straying to the pockets of his tattered trench-coat. I gotta make this quick. This fucker's mind is injected with PCP, no reason or common sense, and nothing's gonna stop him unless I knock his ass out cold.

I dash forward and close the distance between us in the blink of an eye. He expects me to swing at his face so I shoot out my right foot and slam my old school sneak into his knee. Between the wind and the rustling mag and the chattering trees there's a hollow pop. For a microsecond I think about New Years, champagne bottles, and loneliness. His situation complicates exponentially. An agonizing 180 degree inversion. His knee cap is now hiding behind his leg just where his hamstring meets his calf. Drugs and adrenaline do wondrous things. He doesn't feel it, holy shit. I follow this career-ending highlight-reel kung-fu quick kick with a fist between the eyes on the topmost bridge of his nose. I need to blind this mother fucker so I can get behind him and lock him up and lay him down. Works like a charm. I wrap an arm around his throat and using his body the same way a stripper uses a pole I swing around behind him. Like in those old episodes of “Dukes of Hazard” where those red-neck good ol' boys slide across the hood of the General Lee. All in one motion I bring up my other arm, press down on his head with my hand, and apply pressure. Both sides of his windpipe are constricted by my forearm and bicep. His hands shoot up to his face trying to jab out my eyes or grab my hair. I bury my face into the back of his head and drop to the ground onto my back. I wrap my legs around his waist as I continue to clamp off his air supply. This is what's knows as a “spider lock.” I'm surprisingly relaxed, rational, and a little bit sad. As his flailing and grunting begin to subside I think to myself this... all of this... could have been so easily avoided.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ad Infinitum

Friday Night

Not any ordinary Friday night, but a Friday the way they used to be. So this was the main selling point. My cousin Angel and I decide to meet at "Ice,” an upscale club, for some drinks, laughs, and to reminisce about old times. Two hours prior on the phone he told me “you're in a rut Cabron, we need to get you out of those shithole bars for a change. You need to live.” So I grudgingly shave, style my hair, don my black suit which I haven't worn for ages it seems, shine up my Zelli shoes, splash on some cologne, take a deep breath, and head out the door. I still can't figure out why I agreed to this though.

As I pull up to the valet I find Angel standing by the entrance with our boys. They're all dressed impeccably. They all look so good... so young. Or perhaps I'm the old one. Ancient like a Sequoia.

“Dude, I feel like I'm seeing a ghost. Why you decide to come out?”

I smile as Diego and I embrace. I tell him in his ear, “I needed material.”

As I pull away he looks at me with a puzzled expression.

We walk into the club. It feels so natural yet at the same time so unfamiliar. Angel and the boys are all in step, in sync, to them it's all a part of the fucking routine. I'm the unwitting outsider now. Angel senses my hesitation. He turns to me and above the beat of the techno shouts: “Same fucking shit man except now we're older. Some wealthier. Some of us are still crazy. But there are always the ladies. A fresh batch of ladies.” I nod and inhale the aroma of cigarettes and perfume.

On the main dance floor I find myself surrounded by an undulating sea of unfamiliar faces. The scene has changed, dramatically. Everyone is so beautiful, tan, toned, perfect. The music drowns out Angel's words. The din of the beat is all I hear and all I see is movement. Flitting images. Dirty Vegas' "Without you." Bleached teeth. Blue drinks. It's all too fast. I'm forced to stop for a second to catch my breath and undo the knots in my stomach. There was a time “this” was what we lived for. This was our domain. This was... living. Yet here I am nervous and afraid.

There is a phrase we used to use, and we'd toss it around so casually: “You can take the dog out of the ghetto, but you can never take the ghetto out of the dog.”

What happens when the dog returns to the ghetto and doesn't want to leave again?

Thursday, December 01, 2005


I ask questions. Like a paleontologist whom cautiously, and methodically, chips and brushes and files away layer upon layer of sandstone, plunging further back into time, thousands of years with every passing inch. Examining bones. Piecing together a coherent story based on riddles, half-truths, and cryptic clues. I prod and poke and smile. I keep the drinks coming so long as he keeps talking.

The topmost layer I find cockiness. Arrogance. Brash assurity. A carefully erected blockade or defense mechanism designed to keep the right people out and let the wrong people in. Bulletproof armor designed to prevent a messy stabbing or a shooting, but imperfect at the same time. This armor may prevent death but it won’t prevent pain. You’ll invariably find yourself knocked on your ass, gasping for breath like a slimy fluke flopping around on the deck of a fishing boat. In fact it’s this “I don’t give a shit” attitude that first drew me to him. I had to invite this guy out for a drink or three. I had to study and dissect him, and then tell the story as it should be told. It’s been awhile but finally someone with a set of balls - solid brass ones, who truly didn’t give a flying fuck what other people thought. They say in life perception defines a person. If people believe you’re a fucking drunk and a loser and a con then you are. It’s a democratic system, the majority always wins. It’s unfair but it’s life. It’s destroyed many. And it leaves permanent scars. Perceptions are near impossible to undo. Was it Obi Wan Kenobi, the Jedi knight, who said “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view?” Needless to say, my new friend, let’s call him “Sam” has been crucified on many an occasion. He’s played the pariah. And he loves it…

Or so he would have you think.

He’d also be the first to tell you he is, in no uncertain terms, a fucking “wino.” He wears his scarlet “A” with beaming pride. He’s let go. He’s embraced it. Why? There was a time it was so much worse. There was a time he was consumed by it, unable to stop, completely intent on drinking himself into oblivion. A filthy apartment void of furniture, in lieu of a sofa or a coffee table or a 32” television there are rows upon rows of stacked empty bottles. He calls it “the wailing wall.” I nod and I tell him I understand, I truly do, of course, he insists I don’t. “ No one can. I saw, with my own eyes, demons and devils.” It was severe. Family and friends tried to help. The intervention only intensified the problem. It fueled it like dry tinder crackling on a campfire. Finally, the ambulance, along with the cops, came to take him away from his purgatory, his wailing wall, because he posed a threat to himself. In a court of law he would have been indicted for involuntary manslaughter, or as he phrased it “voluntary stupidity.”

This is the tale of the tape. This is the story the top layer - carefully catalogued, carbon dated, and labeled – tells. The first mask of many.