Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A note of hope

by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

no posts?

It's not because I don't like you! It's just that I'll be posting a little more frequently at my other blog while I'm tour. Go on, go check it out. I'll still put stuff here periodically, mostly about drugs, sex, or magick, but, you know, not for the kiddies. :)

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Random Rules Wednesday

first five random songs off the ipod.

1. Sting Me - The Black Crowes. I hugely dig the Black Crowes. This is a great song off a great album, but not something I listen to much lately. I think I burned out on them.

2. Tin Man - America. One of the pivotal songs of my childhood. "Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man/that he didn't, didn't already have." This song, and actually, most of America's catalog, has this mid-seventies burned-out sadness, as if all the hedonism of the 60's just left them hollowed out and melancholy. And, as anyone will tell you, melacholy is one of my favorites.

3. Cinnamon Girl - Prince. Not my favorite song off Musicology, but it's Prince, which means that it's better than most of the crap out there right now. Another burnout album. Part of the problem I have with music is that, if I like something very much, I'll listen to it to the exclusion of anything else. Over and over, several times in a row, learning all the words, memorizing song titles through sheer repetition. Used to drive my wife crazy. As I may have mentioned, she banned several genres ("sad bastard music" which included Death Cab for Cutie, Pedro the Lion, and Starflyer 59, "all reggae" which she said she couldn't listen to unless she was in the carribean) and artists (Weezer, Todd Rundgren) outright because I listened to them over and over. Just an example of my addictive personality. The only thing that saves me is my ADD, which means I shortly get bored.

4. Holy Water - Soundgarden. Music from my youth. Ah, the sweet dulcet tones of Grunge. I put this on my ipod in a fit of nostalgia, but I haven't listened to it all that much. Some things no longer speak to us the same way they did.

5. Budge - Dinosaur Jr. Yet again, the music of youth. This one aged quite a bit better, for some reason. Maybe because I didn't listen to it constantly over a period of several months. Mr. Macis's voice is whiny, but he plays guitar like a beast, and his songs are always rocking. Except when they drag.

They say that most people stop listening to music at a certain age, that the music one listens to in, say, college, is the music one will be listening to for the rest of one's life. I don't know how people can do that. I get bored, and I'm constantly looking for new music, new thoughts, new sensations. For example.

6. The New Face of Zero and One - The New Pornographers. Now this is good stuff. Fresh sounding, energetic, very much of the moment, with great melodies, unusual structures and progressions. Great stuff.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Creation is not complete

As I was out last night wandering the neighborhood getting snacks I saw a woman and her dog. The dog is a white and black american pit bull, and last night she was standing with it. Pit bulls can have incredibly sweet personalities, if they're raised right, and this woman seemed to be lucky enough to have found one of those. Last night, she stood above the dog while he gazed off into the night, the both of them watching the people and dogs and cars pass by in front of the apartment building. She leaned over and kissed the dog on the top of his broad, flat head, and he wagged his tail and smiled.

Again, this morning, I'm out in the early morning haze, before it gets really hot but where you can feel the heat winding up to really smash the day to pieces, and I see the same woman walking her dog. She looked bored, and just waking up, but he looked perky and happy to be out, his long pink tongue lolling out of his enormous square jaws. It suddenly struck me, in that moment, that she had really lifted that dog up, in an evolutionary sense. Pit bulls can be dumb and mean and scared, and they have an incredible capacity for destruction. This dog, however, seemed well-adjusted and quite intelligent, and I know from experience that that has as much to do with the raising as with the temperment of the dog.

I thought of one of my favorite books growing up, Startide Rising by David Brin, which talks a lot about humans evolving animals in our biosphere through the application of technology - chimps and dolphins are electronically and biologically augmented to be able to speak and reason with humans. I have always thought that is is the job of humans to help the animals we interact with become more conscious, more intelligent. This, in turn led me to think of the story of Adam and his responsibility to "name" all the animals. Why is he given this job?

In pre-lapsarian times (we're speaking mythically, now. Don't start spreading rumors that I'm a literalist) Adam's job, given him by God, was to name all the animals. But really what does that mean? Of course, it's nice to have names for things. It allows us to communicate with each other, without having to constantly resort to "That thing. Over there. No, over there. The other one!" But if you take a moment to consider, there was no one but God, and Adam. This implies another reason for the names. Perhaps names were given in order that the things themselves might learn them. We see, in this story, a hint of the function of humanity. Being conscious, it is our gift to bring consciousness to the world, to make the world more conscious. God, being in all things present, is awakened through our agency. And not big daddy thunder god, but God, consciousness, light.

The story goes that God made everthing, and on the seventh day, he rested. I would posit that, until the world knows itself (and not just animals, but all things) creation is not completed. As it says in the Bible, "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." Romans 8:19

In order for us to create the world, we must become fully concious, ourselves. Until we awaken, the world lies before us, dead as science has always supposed it to be, inert matter. We must make the world live. Spiritual work is not selfish or world-denying. It is the primary reason for which we have come here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Led Zepplin, Magick, and Literary Theory

This is why I love the Net. This article on Led Zepplin IV (otherwise known as the Zoso album) is simply brilliant. I have a difficult time even explaining how deeply I relate to it, except to talk for a moment about Yes.

As a freshman in high school, I was a living embodiment of the truism that boys mature later than girls. I was tall, gawky, awkward, shy, spastic, not too far removed from the nerd who used to cast horoscopes (from the book The Cosmic Informer) and play D&D. Somebody, I can't even remember who, got me a copy of Classic Yes with the Roger Dean artwork (which you can see here) and I was in love. The music was grandiose and the artwork just killed me. I became obsessed, partially because I could sense, in the otherworldly art and the lofty music, another reality, akin to the world created by my (at the time) favorite writer, J.R.R. Tolkien. The whole package hinted that there was another world, a world of myth and quests, of wizardry and romance, that lay just beyond my sight, and that this album (not just the music or the artwork or the lyrics but the whole package) was a gateway to this other world.

And it wasn't just this music, this album, it was this whole genre of early 70's British rock (American rock, for all its considerable charms, never really got the hang of the "other world" thing. I can't think of a single American band that really nailed it, though bands like, say, Kansas, sort of tried...). King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Marillion. The albums were about creating an entire experience, almost a cosmology. And I ate it up.

When you're 14, 15, 16, your entire world resonates with significance. The massive hormones surging through your bloodstream, the wracking emotions that seem to arise from nothing leaving you dazed and blinking, all of these seem to impart to the world a weight. Every experience is fraught with meaning and import. It is the time of sexual imprinting, and the male teenage mind is designed to see the world in that obsessional, magickal way. I mention this because, really, what else is magickal thinking but the creation of significance through the use of the imagination.

So, the article: it's a long read, but well worth it. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

Update: For more insights into my formative years, check out this post about Jack Chick on the 3 Quarks Daily blog. Jack Chick (and the little pamphlets he popularized) was a huge part of my semi-evangelical Christian upbringing, and a huge part of the guilt, shame, and otherwise occasionally twisted meanderings of my soul.

I actually used to collect his pamphlets when I was in college, and had over 80 of them. I think I tossed 'em when I moved to New York. Good times.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Other Scott

So, I need to talk about Scott Pilgrim. I just met him today, and I think... well, I have a major thing for Scott Pilgrim. He's funny, he plays bass, he has all kinds of girl problems, and he's the best fighter in Toronto.

He's also a comic book character. And he ROCKS.

Yeah, aside from the level of homosexuality in the 1st paragraph of this post, which I'm pretty sure I'm OK with, that's my new thing right now. Scott Pilgrim saved my shit today, just when I was starting to get depressed. It's the funniest, most human, most surprising graphic work out there right now, and I'm in love with it. The people on got me turned onto it, and I think the guy that directed Shaun of the Dead is set to do the movie treatment. I know I'm like 2 years behind the curve on this one, but this is such a great book.

It's a american manga (even though it's canadian). I didn't care for the art at all, but it kept surprising me, and making me laugh. It's quite excellent, and if you haven't read it, go out and buy it right freakin' now. It's that good.

Also James' Blog has a great little post about the place of Nosedive Productions (the theatre company I frequently work with) in the theatre world. Specifically, it asks the eternal question (which I have been asking myself of late) "How we gonna get PAID?" Some of my (admittedly, slightly incoherent) thoughts are to be found there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Random Rules - Scot's ipod

Taking a cue from The Onion's AV club, I will, on Wednesdays, play and comment on the first 5 random songs that come up on my ipod. So there.

Kate Bush - "Love and Anger"
I had a roommate in college who loved Kate Bush. LOVED her. He had great taste in music and was, in almost all other respects, a singularly unpleasant person. He was into 4AD bands with beautiful woman singers singing unintelligibly in high, ethereal voices. I was glad that he got me into Kate Bush, though, as it turns out that any entheogenic trips that seem to be going awry can be mellowed by Ms. Bush and her lovely, lovely voice.

The Cardigans - "Heartbreaker"
Don't have much to say on this one, except that these guys were really great, and then put out a couple of really not-good albums. This album, though, was terrific, "First Band on the Moon". It's what happens when really talented musicians who would rather make depressing music try to make ironic pop and end up just making pop. Pop is not ironic! Behold the power of pop!

Immortal Technique - "Peruvian Cocaine"
Interesting in that it uses multiple rappers to create an almost linear narrative through monolouges of the cycle of drugs from picking and smuggling to sales. A great song, but sometimes he comes off a little polemical to me. I appreciate strident militancy, but I feel like he leaves out other points of view...

Dolly Parton - "Stairway to Heaven"
Another great moment in Dolly's re-positioning herself for the ironic hipster audience. Bluegrass meets Zepplin, and I'm shallow enough to think this is pretty f-ing cool. I saw Dolly at Radio City music hall, and saw more drag queens in the audience than I have ever seen in my life. It was like a convention!

Pearl Jam - "Low Light"
This points up one of the problems with my iPod "system" (if such a beast could be said to exist). I like listening to albums, and try to put whole albums on my Pod in an effort to expose myself to tracks I wouldn't normally check out, but when I'm walking around with the sucker on "shuffle" it comes up with songs that I really don't want to hear. Like this forgettable little gem from "Yield". Ah well.

And so we end, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Also, if you have a moment, go check out Author John Crowley's Blog at He is one of the greatest authors in English working right now, and he has a livejournal. That is just so *cute*!

The newest addition to the family

Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to my niece, Ms. Caitlin Rose Larson. She was born on the 26th of June in the year 2006, and she is the most beautiful baby I've ever seen.

Caitlin, this is everyone.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jupiter, Jehovah and Holst

So, this past Sunday I went to church for what will probably end up being the last time this year (while I’m in Boston and on tour I probably won’t be attending, and, as I have mentioned, the current experiment with Christianity may need to be revamped in order to remain relevant to current experiences/desires). I walked to church and turned on the old iPod which I had recently loaded up with Holst’s The Planets Suite.

A bit of background - after studying some in astrology, Gustav Holst decided to write a suite based around the astrologically important planets of his time: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Pluto hadn’t been discovered when he started, so it isn’t included. He wrote each part of the suite to evoke the astrological/mythical aspects of the given planet. For example, the opening is “Mars, The Bringer of War”, there’s “Venus, The Bringer of Peace,” etc.

On my way to church, and feeling in a syncretic mood, I dialed up “Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity.” I hate the title, by the way. It’s gets at the Latin roots of the word jollity, i.e. Jove, another name for Jupiter, but Jollity seems so frivolous, and neither the piece, nor the Thunder God, are frivolous. The music, however, perfectly captures the sense of what is traditionally longed for in the Christian vision of God – a generous, loving, joyful daddy whose concern and mercy is complete and utter. Since Jehovah is essentially a Semitic Thunder/Sky God, it’s very easy to draw parallels. The music is both majestic and playful, the sound of Leviathan gamboling in the deepest oceans. There is a both weight and lightness to the sound that is created, a solemnity that has, at its heart, a deep and abiding joy.

In listening to the piece, I was reminded of Alan Moore’s Promethea. At one point, Promethea is ascending the Tree of Life and she comes to the sphere of Chesed (also know as Mercy), which is traditionally associated with Jupiter. She remarks, “This is bigger than the love people have for each other. This is the unconditional love of the universe for its children. For itself.” and later, a character (I can’t remember who) says that the universe would take a bullet for us, if it could. It is the strong, protective love of the father.

I was struck, as we went through the service, of the prevalence in traditional Christianity of the flip side of Chesed (the qlippoth, for those keeping score at home), tyranny. It is characterized by intolerance for the possibility of ambiguity or other opinions on how to deal with the world. This is what happens when any one aspect of the world is too strongly emphasized. It becomes it’s opposite. I saw this most strongly while talking a number of years ago to my friend Mary (those who have ears, let them hear). I read the book of Revelations under her influence, and saw deep into the heart of the qlippoth of Chesed. I saw a God so grief-stricken at his creation’s fall that he sees no choice but to destroy it utterly. The wrath and sorrow made perfect sense. This is the God that condemns unbelievers to Hell, that licks the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah clean with tongues of flame. This is the God that most of us know, the S&M God fetishized into reality by Goth kids, Death Metalheads, and Fundamentalist Christians.

I don’t know if “God” is really like this. Presumably, even though it is an extreme position, it represents some aspect of the universe that has manifested at one point or another. It isn’t healthy, in my opinion, but that’s just me.

The vision that I saw while reading Revelations, and the vision I had listening to Holst were flip sides of the same vision. But I know which I prefer. It was very nice to have, in my heart and resonating in my mind, a vision of God which is both loving, and majestic, not to mention totally divorced from the vengeful Daddy fantasies of the Fundamentalist Christian Wing.

And, as a side note for all you bourgeoning Qabbalists out there, do take note that Holst’s The Planets is really excellent for invoking planetary energies. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Loki loves you

Had a friend call me “Loki” the other night. The context isn’t really important (a late-night conversation, some advice). Now, too many comic books when I was a kid messed up my head a little about Loki – Captain America fought him, if I recall, and he was the impetus behind the formation of The Avengers (Marvel Comic’s Avengers, not the hip British TV show with Emma Peel). I always saw Loki as the vindictive side of chaos. Even his portrayal in Norse mythology tends to paint him as the fly in the ointment, the uninvited guest, the guy who lays the turd in the punchbowl. But I did a little more research, and found some interesting things...

Here’s what I wrote my friend:

Did a little research on Loki, just to see if there was a match - turns out that there is some indication that Loki is what is called a hypostasis of Odin, i.e. they're the same in the way that the parts of the Trinity are the same. Loki is just Odin in his more... chaotic aspect. This makes some sense, since they are blood brothers, and the connection between them is strong enough to cause all kinds of problems.

The other interesting point is that Odin is the only "top dog" god in any pantheon associated with Mercury. There's some indication that Mercury was top god in the Mediterranean for a while. His symbol was the lignum/phallic standing stone, which you can still find scattered along roads in Greece... but then the aryan/semitic influence came down the pike and everybody wanted big daddy thunder gods. No accounting for taste, I guess.

Mercury/Odin/Hermes all being associated with language gives more evidence as to the Loki/Odin connection. In Odin we have the "positive" (i.e. socially acceptable and cohesive) aspect of language, while in Loki we see the shadow side - tricks, scams, seductions, stories. We also see, in Loki, the ambivalent relationship between the dark, reticent Norse and language. Reasoning, poetry, wisdom, the ability to speak well, these are all prized in their culture, but at the same time they recognize and are afraid of and disturbed by language's power to wreak havoc. Once again the uncomfortable aspects of a given power are shunted off into the "other" and then kept in check (cf. Prometheus. Notice the similarities between Prom. and Loki in their ends, both bound to rocks in never ending torments).

And to bring it back around to me (don't I always?) my friend Chad always used to call me "Spider". In reading the book "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman, I found out that Spider is the trickster god in the African/Jamaican tradition. I have been consciously taking on the more trickster-y aspects of that moniker over the past year or so: charm, stories, constructive chaos. Spider is the well-spring of civilization. He is the inventive part that looks at the work and tries to think of a way to get it done faster so he can sleep with the pretty girls. He is imagination and surprise and the twist ending that leaves you laughing in spite of yourself. So when the runes told you Loki would give you advice, they were talking about it in the only language they had.... pretty cool, huh?

Not that I am entirely Spider/Loki (apparently I also have aspects of Pan, according to this friend – high praise, indeed! I mean, if that’s your thing). I’m just trying to learn to access that part of myself. I’ve met some people who embody chaos much more strongly than I ever could hope to (DH, I’m looking at you). There’s a downside to everything though, isn’t there? Embody chaos, you may find your life becoming unmanageable. Balance is the key. Wisdom and chaos in equal measure, with the occasional wild list to one side, just to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Meet the new blog...

...same as the old blog. I've created a new blog over at that will serve as my connection to my friends and loved ones while I'm doing the touring thing.

Part of the reason I'll be posting at this other blog is to create a sort of clearinghouse of information as I learn stuff about the whole touring "lifestyle" or whatever. There wasn't a thing on the web about how to tour, so I figured I'd contribute to the knowledge base by making something that people could refer back to. So there you go.

I'll continue to post my usual rantings and metaphysical ravings here, but travel stuff will be in the new blog - go there and see what's what, schmecky.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Words to live by

"...the guy who'll get up there in front of people and not be afraid of humiliation is the most powerful guy in the room."

- Wayne Coyne, in July 13th Rolling Stone Magazine

Friday, July 7, 2006

In failure, we may find success

In reading Ramsey Dukes’ very enlightening (and occasionally exasperating) introduction to A.O. Spare’s Book of Pleasure, I was struck by the following passage

“We may not be liberated from failure and misery, but we may be in a position to use it. Knowing the law of duality brings the possibility of distinguishing ourselves from its working. No more the blind slide into despair but rather the studied descent, and the plan to use that unavoidable despair in order to plan the next high point.”

This seemed familiar to me. Anyone who has watched a space opera like Star Trek or the like will probably be familiar with the concept of the “slingshot” in which the gravity of a planet or star is used to increase velocity. As one approaches the influence of said star or planet, one’s speed increases as gravity begins to exert its inexorable influence. The extra speed is used to whip one around the planet and send one shooting off (presumably in the direction one wishes to go) at a greatly accelerated rate.

It seems that, theoretically anyway, one should be able to use ones decent towards failure in the same way. Calculating velocity and relative angles, one might even be able to increase speed as one rounds the corner toward “failure and misery”. It is not just the ability to “plan the high point” that we are gifted with in our failure. Used correctly, our next triumph is contained in our failure! “All” we need do is go with the motion, use the momentum to thrust us into our next venture.

“All,” indeed. Of course, this is very, very difficult to remember when one is in the midst of a failure or misery. Often the tendency is to get “stuck” in the moment of pain. Our relationship to pain is complex. Pain is our greatest friend, warning us of our vulnerability and attempting to protect us from the costs of our reckless wandering through the world. Since it is such a friend (though we don’t always think of it this way), we tend to hang on to our pain. In fact, we’re actually hardwired to remember our pain for a long time, and keep it close. It’s purpose, after all, is to keep us safe, and who are we to deny the accumulated wisdom of several million years of evolution?

Psychosynthesis posits that problems are often caused by a portion of our personality doing work that it wasn’t designed to do, or through certain aspects of ourselves becoming stuck in extreme positions. Consciousness allows us to look at these aspects of our personalities (for example, our memory and the personality that develops around a particularly painful memory or experience) and find other solutions than acting out unconsciously from a place that no longer functions as we’d like.

All of this rigamorale is to say that, for example, when my recent situation ended, I found myself presented with a unique opportunity, which I used for all I was worth. I ended up with a much better job (and hopefully, prospects for other jobs) which will be the beginning of a totally different direction for me.

I hope my friends in difficulties right now (and there are some – those recovering from a so-called “failure”, those who are still stuck in negative and difficult mind-sets due to traumatic experiences, those who are re-evaluating their self-image and attempting to reconstruct a working persona with which to deal with the world) can read this and find some comfort.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Nervous Boy Trailer

Check out this amazing trailer for "The Adventures of Nervous Boy (A Penny Dreadful)". I think it looks pretty amazing.

Remember, this is our last weekend. Do yourself a favor and check it out. See you there!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Woody Allen meets "American Psycho" - my current show

Really, you want to see this one. One of the best shows Nosedive has ever done, and a show I'm extremely proud of. I know y'all are busy, but make the effort - come out, see the show, and thank me later.

The cast is top-notch, there's fight choreography by Qui Nguyen from Vampire Cowboys, it's funny as hell, and heck, maybe you'll learn something, too.

The Adventures of Nervous Boy (A Penny Dreadful)
a new play by James Comtois, directed by Pete Boisvert
June 8-10, 15-17, 22-24 (Thursdays through Saturdays)

The Gene Frankel Underground at 24 Bond Street (between Bowery and Lafayette)

All shows are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

For tickets visit

Adults only. No kidding.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kids, don't do drugs: Part Deux - Tripping and trolls

There may be arguments for vegetarianism that are informed by experience, rather than theory or ideas of morality.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr. Hooper, he dead.

A perfect blending of childhood education and art. Thanks CTW and Mr. Henson (RIP) for this.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

And for my next trick...

Part of the reason I've been so scarce lately. I'm in this, as well as writing an original song for the show. It's the first three weekends (Thurs.-Sat.) in May. Let me know if you're gonna be there!


Stone Soup's 5th original play
The Actors Theatre Workshop
145 W. 28th Street, NYC
May 4-20, 2006

The inhabitants of Penetralia live in the secure knowledge that all business is everyone’s business. A communication system, both advanced and ancient, keeps everyone in the know. But the idyll is forever disrupted by a disturbing discovery, as a mild-mannered Professor fully realizes his mind’s potential. Stone Soup’s fifth original production explores secret-keeping, and the frightening consequences in a society that criminalizes it.

Click Here for Tickets or call 212-352-3101

Thursday, April 20, 2006

We do what we're told

WFMU has an amazing post on their blog about Stanley Milgram's Obedience experiment in which subjects were tested to see how they responded to an authority figure asking them to torture another human being. There's even a documentary! Though I think they unfairly slag Peter Gabriel, it's a must read.

I find myself often thinking of this little experiment when confronted by authority figures in my own life. I talk a pretty good game when I'm just chatting with friends or talking to my lady, but in the midst of the confrontation, I tend to be less strong. I've been pretty well conditioned, I have. I would have to say that the point of most initiation is to come face to face with one's conditioning, and by so doing, learn to overcome it. I hope I shall arrive soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What's goin' ahn

My review of Portuguese duo Dead Combo can be found here at Escrever Sobre Musica e Impossivel.

Tomorrow night I'll be performing with synonymUS at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe with Kelly Tsai. You should come check it out!

And Stone Soup, the theatre collective that I'm currently in rehearsal with for a new play is having a Barking Beauty Pagent to raise money for the ASPCA and for the new show. If you're into dogs in cutsey clothing, this one's for you!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


At church this morning, I was feeling bored. Yes, sadly, I think my current experiment with Christianity will need to have a radical change in parameters in order to remain relevant to my current experiences. But, it was Easter, I sing in the choir, so I was at church. And bored. The priest was discussing the Gospel of Judas (which I think is a fantastic find, both theologically and historically) and altogether missing the point, in my opinion. In his words, this new Gospel said that Jesus “cut a deal” with his persecutors, when it quite clearly doesn’t say anything of the kind.

It actually just says (in my opinion, and IANATheologian) that Judas was in on the crucifixion, not just as betrayer, but as part and party to the plan for redemption, and that his was (aside from Jesus) the most difficult role. He not only had to betray his friend, but he had to be the scapegoat, the one reviled throughout history as the quintessential betrayer. But he did this, and did it well, because he loved Jesus, and Jesus asked him to do it. It reminds me of a Jorge Luis Borges tale that pretty much says the same thing, only Borges goes so far as to say that Judas was the real savior, because not only did his do the hardest job of the crucifixion tale (betray his friend, accept the hatred and scorn of millions throughout history), but he also is still suffering even to this day in Hell. That he suffers for us the tortures of Hell for all eternity that we might never have to experience them.

But I digress. I was bored until we started singing the hymns for the day. And with one line I remembered.

“Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendour, with the royal fest of feasts, comes its joy to render.”

They make think they’re talking about Mary, but we know better, don’t we? Here’s another one:

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green

Though the roots of Christianity may be in some life-denying, rule-bound form of Judaism, there’s a Pagan overlay grafted onto it that makes it quite palatable, if you know where to look. The myth of the dying son/sun is, of course, everywhere in the mythologies of Europe, and in Christianity we celebrate it today, Easter. We decorate the church in flowers and green, baptize babies and speak of the symbolism of new life signifying the death and resurrection of the Christ. But you and I, dear readers, we know they’ve got it backwards. Eternal life is now, right here and now in the renewing of the seasons, in the birth and growth, maturation and “death” of the earth in every year. The good earth, which is both mother and destroyer, shows her good side this time of year. We good children of the planet have a duty to share in the fecundity of spring!

The thinly veiled paganism of Christian ritual did my heart some good, I tell you what. I went out of there with a “spring” in my step and a song in my heart. It’s a beautiful day, kids. Go out there and get laid for Jesus.



And in case you think I'm a bit to hippie-ish, click here to watch parasitic worms crawl from the orifices of their hosts and remember - nature is creepy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Me and Mia - part 2

You may remember a post I wrote last year about Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and their song about bulimia and anorexia. Well, YouTube has a video for the song that inspired one of the best poems I've ever written and you can see it right here - plus any thing that gets more people to hear that song is a good thing: it's AWESOME!

Monday, March 27, 2006

I didn't lose my job...

... it's just, when I got there, somebody else was doing it.

- Bobcat Goldthwait

"It was resolved." :)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Return of the Repressed

I was reading an article about the rites of Eleusis and the ergot fungus. A little background: the ancient Greeks had a mystery religion that centered on these mysterious rites of Eleusis. Plato’s writing on “The Cave” is thought to have been inspired by his experiences at Eleusis, and many of the top intellectuals, artists and statesman were thought to have gone through these arcane rituals, which involved a reverence toward Demeter, the Goddess of grain, and ended with an overwhelming experience of the realms of the Gods and deep insight into Life and Death. OK. The main pharmacological catalyst of these little rites was the ergot fungus, which is often found as purple spurs or knots on grain that has been infected. Now, in small doses, heavy duty hallucinations and insights into reality are reported. At large doses, however, things get a little less pleasant. Boils, seizures, women having spontaneous abortions, massive hallucinations, and death are all reported symptoms of ergot poisoning.

So the Greeks did this mind-blowing exercise for thousands of years, and then the Christians come around, and of course, in Christian theology, nobody gets to alter their brains without permission. The Christians shut the magic show down, and ergot goes underground for a few hundred years.

Until the Middle-Ages, that is, when villages around Europe begin having outbreaks of a terrible infection called St. Anthony’s fire. Symptoms include: spontaneous abortions, outbreaks of terrible boils, seizures, and widespread hallucinations. When the cause is finally tracked down, the culprit turns out to be, you guessed it, our buddy ergot, infesting grain that was sold to the poor.

Predominantly Christian Europe burns from within as the ancient blessing that anchored the Rites of Eleusis returns as a horrible curse. This is what comes from the repression of gnosis. The substances of choice for consciousness altering in Europe then (and all over the West, even into our day), tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, offer precious little in the way of liminal understanding of the universe. Eleusis offered insight into life and death, the culmination of mysteries in an experiential knowledge of the world through entheogens. This is what happens when you blow off the gnosis. It sort of struck me as both a “return of the repressed”, and also a revenge of the Gods that were displaced as the Western world was forced to embrace Christianity.

There’s a story there, don’t you think?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I think my last post was too long

so I'm bumping it down, just to see what happens.

A History of Violence

Just watched David Cronenberg’s History of Violence. I’ve been a Cronenberg fan since seeing Naked Lunch in college. It was part of what made me really want to become a writer in a serious way. I used to sit and smoke cigarette after cigarette (Camel Wides or Benson and Hedges 100’s) until I got this buzzing in my head that almost laid me out on the couch, and I’d sit at my purple Remington Portable typewriter and pound out page after page of stream of consciousness weirdness in an attempt to break through something into somewhere else. A lot of my prose was (and, to a certain degree, still is) a bit stilted, as if the critic were sitting on my shoulder, making sure that I didn’t do anything stupid enough to be interesting. So I would do just about anything to break out of my own head, try to sound like something other than a college kid in a small town who really didn’t know shit.

So, the movie. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this. Go see it.

I got to really thinking about it, and I’m trying to organize my thoughts, here, but it really is about the history, that is, human history, of violence. It didn’t seem to me to be an “anti-violence” movie in a traditional, “violence is bad, kids” way, as much as it asks us to examine our attitudes toward violence, and how humans have handled it throughout the ages.

I’ll just start with what really struck me. The last scene is an amazingly powerful bit of film-making. The main character, Tom, has just come home from what appears to be the final chapter of killing that was required to defend both his family, and, by extension, the life that he has worked so hard to create. His family is at the primal scene of the evening meal. He stands at the door, wounded, outside the circle. He has been estranged from all of them by the horrific acts that he has committed to save them, and by acts that he has done in the past that have come to light through the course of the movie. No one looks at him. His wife looks down, his son looks at his mother, and then away. His daughter, finally, is the one to act. She gets up from the table, gets her father’s plate and utensils, and places them at his seat. He hesitates, and then sits. His face is filled with frightened hope.

His son is next. He is completely at sea, looking at his mother, trying to gauge her reaction. He seems to come to a decision, and he offers his father the meat from the table. Still the father’s eyes are locked on the mother. Will she accept him?

She finally looks at him, her eyes are filled with tears. He watches her with fear and hope and longing. His eyes are red, his whole world depends on her. Not a word is spoken. The screen goes black.

There was something so mythic about this scene. This was the primal scene of the man returning to the tribe, and his petition for cleansing and reintegration. Violence is, and has almost always been, in civilized groups, a taboo. The chaos that it sows requires that it be circumscribed by very strict rules and rituals. Though it may be necessary for the masculine to access that shadow side of violence and rage in order to protect and further the interests of the tribe, there must always be a reintegration in order for civilization to continue. Violence could almost be seen as a contagion in this case – you can’t bring that shit back in the house without undergoing a ritualized cleansing.

And who regulates that cleansing? Well, short of a priestly caste, and going back further in human history (not to mention into the realm of archetype and myth), it is the Feminine that must give the blessing in order for reintegration to take place. Why is it that mothers, sweethearts and wives are held in such high esteem during times of war? What is the role that the feminine plays in the prosecution of violence? Obviously, sometimes violence is required, but if you bring it into the circle of the tribe, breakdown of the whole society becomes eminent. Therefore the Feminine, left behind while the Masculine goes off and murders, must be there when the Masculine returns. And there is a ritual – blessing is not always automatic, nor should it be. In order for the ritual to have power and efficacy, there is a test. The Masculine must petition the Feminine for re-entry into the tribe. For though everyone in the tribe may wish to receive the returning warriors back into the fold, it is ultimately the Feminine that must recognize and certify his fitness. If he is still the Wild Man, still the killer, he brings the contagion with him, and society will disintegrate.

What makes this scene, and this movie so powerful, is not only mythic quality that it has, the sense that this is a reenactment of a situation that has happened, has been happening for thousands of years. It is also that the characters are human, each of them with their personalities intact, each of them of them with their own histories, their own ambiguities and their own relationships with violence.

And the whole movie functions on this level. The story is complete in itself, but there is always the mythic level beneath. The ritualistic aspect of the returning warrior is emphasized in the preceding scene, where, after murdering his brother in self-defense, he throws the gun into a lake, only to collapse on the shore. He removes his blood-stained shirt, and washes himself clean.

Again, working backwards, before the penultimate scene of murder, the lead character and his brother discuss the benefits of marriage. Tom’s brother, a gangster and criminal, remarks that he can’t see any upside to marriage. He, of course, cannot see or recognize the value of the civilizing aspect that Tom’s marriage has. He has built his whole life on violence, and his life is entirely outside of society. Tom’s entire life has been restructured around his attempt to reintegrate into society.

As their discussion continues, Tom’s brother reveals that he tried to strangle Tom in his crib. “Every kid does that, I guess,” he muses. Cain and Abel are indirectly invoked through this simple sentence, as well as the equally ancient myth of Hercules attacked in his crib by the snake – the snake always reminding us of our “lower”, shadow natures.

Tom has tried to flee his violent nature, the shadow. It is not enough to flee it, however. He has to kill it. The only way to kill it (in the form of his brother) is to embrace it (the killer inside himself - the skilled assassin that he tried to flee).

This is an amazing movie. Certainly one of Cronenberg’s best, and one of the better I’ve seen in a long while. Check it out.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Out and About

Since this blog tends toward the more introspective, I thought it best to reveal that, yes, I do occasionally have a life.

Tuesday was a joint b-day party for Piddimus Maximus and my lovely wife. We met some friends, had some drinks (I was on a strict Shirley Temple regimen (ginger ale and grenadine) due to the antibiotics for this ridiculous sinus infection that seems to be my lot every four months or so), a few laughs. It was delightful. Mr. Maximus and I seem to have this thing where every couple of months we’ll get together and engage in these long, intense bouts of conversation that always end up with the two of us saying, “Man, we have to hang out more!” Then we both promptly vanish and are swallowed by the gaping maw of New York, only to be spit up a few months later, “Oh, man, we have got to get together more often!” This is what passes for friendships in the modern age. Thankfully, some bonds, no matter how infrequent, are strong. I’m glad to have a friend in that one, even if mutual business and the meat grinder of the City sometimes make our primary form of communication the email, the text message, the occasional telepathic missive, or even the blog entry.

Last night was the monthly synonymUS performance (as seen on MySpace!). We took a slight break from our usual Sunday night jams before the show, and I think it sort of showed. We never quite hit our groove with the open mic-ers, and though we are gifted enough to be able to do a passable job on minimal rehearsal (it’s sort of our stock-in-trade) I felt like we could have done a lot better. There were moments that were entirely the opposite of what the poet requested, not because we had better ideas, but simply because we never locked in to what they had asked for in the first place. An East-Indian style piece sort of lay there, simply because we never quite found the tonality (and that, I would say, was as much my fault as anything else). A piece in which the poet asked for Soundgarden ended up funk. I was disappointed, is all.

The after-show, was, as always, a joy. We went to a new (to me) place called Esperanto. It was a little expensive and the service blew, but there was a band, everybody was super pretty, the company was lovely and the food was fantastic. Conversation veered from Alan Moore and V for Vendetta to poetics and the sexual politics of message boards. Oscar probably has some pictures up (he obsessively photographed the evening, down to what he called “…the jackson pollack remains” of a chocolate volcano. Sexy!).

Today is Steph’s birthday and she is taking the day off. Quiet, now! Mama’s watchin’ her stories! I’m gonna get her some cupcakes from the Cupcake Café and give her her birthday gift tonight – the box set of the entire Friday the 13th movie series. I know, I know, what a sap I am. And they say the romance goes out of marriages in a few years…

By the way, the movie Incubus starred William Shatner and had dialog entirely spoken in Esperanto (the language invented in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof to foster international peace and understanding – hey, good luck with that!). It was released in 1965 to worldwide indifference.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I wrote this last week. I don't necessarily feel like this now (especially the stuff about Austin), but I figured I'd post it for posterity's sake.


Why does the past come calling today? Why do the grey streets of New York, with their grey skies above filled with grey pigeons flying low above grey canyons of stone buildings, why today do they fill me with longing? When there’s no one else to call, when all the friends are off on their errands and the darkness gets too thick, I return to my pain like a three-legged dog worrying a bone that used to be his other leg. The longing is not for a person, but for a time before, a nostalgia for possibility, a sense that, in a new city, I could remake myself. Instead, I have found myself again.

I traveled twice from childhood to some simulacrum of adulthood. Once when I moved to New York, and once when the ghost of myself finally caught me here, ten years later. He grabs me by the back of my shirt, he shakes me, he says, “You see? You see what you were supposed to do? What were you thinking? What were you thinking?”

The air is clear, or maybe it’s just my eyes. Everything looks sharp edged and defined, and I find myself searching the faces of the people I walk by in the streets. They don’t seem to notice, the beautiful clarity, the perfect dull pearl of the light that turns New York city into the exact movie it was when I first moved here.

New York existed only as a TV show when I was growing up. That pearlescent sheen of soot and smoke, grit and grime was New York to me, only I didn’t know it. But I remember the first day I came here, riding in the back of a cab from JFK towards the Upper West Side, and the day was like this, a fine, cool, grey July day. I looked out the window and remembered a land of Welcome Back Kotter, of Sesame Street, of Barney Miller. In a way, living in New York has been like revisiting the part of my childhood that was only lived in 30 minute segments on TV.

Some people dream of living in New York. I’ve never understood that. It’s sort of like dreaming of having a really nice wardrobe. New York is designer labels and fine leather, it’s Prada or Coach or Louis Vuitton with the perfect hat. I moved to New York because I knew Tucson was kicking me out, and I didn’t have anyplace else I needed to be. There’s no actual reason to live anywhere; you just have to go on a feeling, I suppose.

Sometimes Steph talks about moving to Austin, but I get a bad feeling about that place. It reminds me of the things I hated about Tucson, the superior small town hipsters and their insular clique, the smug superiority. I spent too many years alone in that town. New York, I found friends, parties, love, creativity. Tucson was “How Soon is Now?” land, where you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die.

I even have friends in Austin, or people I think of as friends, but I don’t know, it just seems wrong, somehow. Or it could just be a combination of a backache, a cold, a sinus infection, these beastly antibiotics, a grey day in a city I have grown to love but which I will eventually leave. Perhaps I’m only feeling a phantom of future pain, a remembrance of loss to come.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006


“Sure and still you’re right about your Cheerful Dumb, only they’re not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart are just as ridiculous. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly like themselves, they don’t think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwellin’ on himself and start payin’ attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form o’ self-indulgence.”

- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

My apologies. I forgot I was a drop of water in the vast ocean of the universe. Though I know it’ll happen again, I’ll try to keep relapses to a minimum. Thanks to Danielle for her kind words.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why I'm scared of being a teacher

I recall, with great vividness (and not a little shame), a conversation I had with my father when I told him my ambition was to be an artist (an actor, a musician, a writer, whatever). He looked at me and said, “And what if you can’t make a living doing it?”

I looked him in the eye and said, “Then I’ll die.”

It’s easy to talk about death when you are, as far as you can tell, immortal. I was sixteen, completely in love with myself, and not a little convinced as to my position somewhere near the rotational center of the universe. I knew that I wouldn’t have any problem “making it”, and that, if the world could possibly be so cruel and short sighted as to reject me, well then, that was a world that didn’t deserve me.

Regardless, my father, practical and far-sighted as always, insisted that I learn how to type. And learn I did, and though I may not be the fastest typist I know (my speed tops out at about 65-75 words per minute or so), my ability to put food in my refrigerator and beer in my belly stems, in large part, from the sapling planted by my father when he recognized that his son, while pleasant and sweet, was a bit of a flake. He did his best to prepare me and give me roots, and though he wasn’t entirely successful, he did manage to give me enough skills to keep me fed. For that, as for a great many other things, I am grateful to him.

Having said that, I can say that part of the assistant’s job (or secretary, to use the unfashionable term – probably in another age I’d have been called a “clerk”) is organization, a skill which anyone who knows me for longer than a few days will tell you I sorely lack. Lack might be a bit strong of a word – let’s say it’s underdeveloped, shall we? This underdeveloped skill, the ability to make order in an occasionally chaotic world, is the most highly valued part of the assistant’s trade. If I can keep my boss’s files in order, get him/her to meetings and make sure he/she remembers all his/her phone messages, then I’m a magician, and they pay me well for that. And though I suppose I can do these things, I really just don’t care. Order and harmony are all well and good, but I’m a bit indifferent as to whether anyone else has them. Yes, I am selfish, I admit it, and I have found that not all the promises of payment or the threat of punishment increase my desire to help other people get organized. I will occasionally plunge into the world of organization, but it pains me to do so, and I usually do it only for those that I love. I can often barely be troubled to organize myself, even under the most dire and necessitous of circumstances. Bears have better filing systems than I. Dogs bury bones with more forethought and are able to retrieve them with more speed than I could find you my paystubs.

So, part of the job that I can do to make my way in the world is unpleasant to me. Now, I’ve always considered that people who like to do certain jobs should, by all means, do them. A person who enjoys building should make bridges. A person who enjoys plants might make a good farmer, or a gardener, or an agriculturalist. And so on.

I also set great store by the fact that many jobs are passed down from parent to child. Fathers farming pass down the job to their sons, who may have some sort of genetic information coded in their tiny little genes (farmers have blue denim genes, like cowboys, with thick stiches).

I’m boring myself. Suffice to say, I hate my job and I want to do something else. Teaching is what you might call the family business. My mother and father were teachers (you might even say teaching is what brought me into being, since they met as science teachers at a middle school in Southern Illinois). My sister is a fantastic teacher of first graders, and her enthusiasm and grace with them is a constant inspiration to me to be kinder, to always say please and thank you, and to hold hands when I cross the street. I enjoy working with children (I’ve been a youth leader at church, as well as having been a teaching artist in Tucson and in New York), and I like to talk. So what’s the problem? Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Once Steph is out of school, I can go back to school myself, get a masters in education, get a teaching job, and that’s that. I’m earning my bread and butter doing something that is both noble and rewarding on a personal level. I’ve got a gift for it, and it would certainly sit well with my folks. Why not?

I’ll tell you why not. Couple reasons, actually. For one thing, I see teaching, not as something that you do to pay the bills, but as a vocation, like the priesthood. You teach because you feel that you want to make a difference. People teach because kids need teachers. Some of the most formative and influential people in my life have been teachers – Ms. Close, who told me I could write. Mr. McEaneny, who taught me to always remember who I am and what I represent, Mr. Siedel, who taught me that being a curmudgeon was actually cool, and that I have no idea how much I can achieve if I’m willing to push myself. The last thing this world needs is another teacher in it for the paycheck.

So, if I revere teaching so much, why not use my talents to make a difference?

I’m afraid I might be good at it.

I’m an artist. It’s how I’ve thought of myself since I was 15 years old. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. If I were to be a teacher and be good at it, I’m afraid that I’d be like that Mr. Holland fucker. Admittedly, his music sucked (it took him his whole life to write THAT piece of trash? Buddy, you made the right decision to be a teacher), but the point is still valid. In fact, maybe more so. What if I find out that, hey, I’m a great teacher, I should have been doing this all along, and this whole art thing? Yeah, not so much. Learning that one has been fooling oneself for the past *ahem*20*ahem* years can be a bit of a jolt, and perhaps you, dear readers, might understand my reluctance to rip the veil of illusion.

I don’t want to find out I should have been a teacher. I don’t want to find out that I’ve been chasing an empty dream. Worse, I don’t want to get so involved in what I rightly believe to be a noble and praiseworthy profession that I lose sight of what’s really important – i.e. art.
Want to know the worst part? Part of the reason I want to be an artist – money. I want to be ridiculously famous and wealthy. At the very least I want to earn a decent living from art. I don’t want to starve for my art! Is that wrong? I’m tired of doing other things to earn my living! I’m an artist, goddamnit! Somebody fucking feed me!

Yes, I know the world needs teachers. Yes, I know that it is selfish to put my own goals and aspirations above the good of others and the world. There you go. I am not a particularly “good” person. I want success – money, fame, privilege – or, barring that, at least a home and a family supported by doing what I’m good at and what I love. Or what I think I’m good at. Oh, hell. I don’t know.

So I’m a little conflicted about the whole teaching thing. Lots of people are great teachers, and I know plenty of great artists who make their living teaching, but I’m a little scared that I’ll have to be good at it because it’s important, and I won’t have any free time or energy to make art, and then I’ll end up getting comfortable with it, and forget all about this stupid art thing, and I’ll have to work a regular job for the rest of my life. And really that’s the main thing. I just don’t want to work a regular job ever in my whole life ever. And yet it seems that’s all I’m fit to do. All anybody’ll pay me for, anyway.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Choices (or "If You're so Fricking Talented, Why Do You Work In Insurance?")

Never was a sports fan. When all the kids went around my elementary school with their Dallas Cowboys t-shirts or their Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirts, I wanted to be like them, to fit in. Problem was, I wasn’t particularly good at it. I wasn’t interested in the games themselves. So, good geekboy that I was, I went with what mattered to me – how cool I thought their mascots were.

I remember liking the Dolphins and the Cowboys (was there a team called the Bengals? I recall liking them, too, since they were tigers, and from Ohio). I wore a Dolphins sweatshirt and people would ask me about Dan Marino and I’d pretend to know what the heck they were talking about. I remember feeling confused and trying really hard to be like the other kids and just not knowing how to do it. How do you pick a favorite team? What were the criteria? I knew that just liking the mascot was totally beside the point, in my heart I knew this, but I couldn’t figure out how it worked.

Being a rather strange child I thought about it fairly deeply (as deeply as a six-year old can think, which is sometimes pretty deep). My thought processes gradually evolved over many years and eventually went like this:

If you are cheering for a sports team, then you must like something about them. but what? It’s not like you’re playing the game with them. You don’t get fired if they lose and you don’t make any money if they win (this was before I became aware that people bet on sports teams, which seems incredibly stupid to me. Joe Montana has a bad day and you lose two hundred dollars. Brilliant. Gambling isn’t a sin because it’s immoral – God just hates stupid people).

Is it because you like the way they play, or you think they’re better athletes? My dad always talked about hating Knicks because he thought they played dirty ball and whined when their opponents played rough back. I thought that was a good reason to dislike a team, and that made a certain amount of sense, but there are plenty of people who liked them for the same reason. And as far as skill goes, there are many athletes of equal or, on some days superior skill on other teams, and even the most skilled team loses some days.

It sort of makes sense if the team you cheer for “the home team” but there are plenty of people who are from, say, Cincinnati, who don’t like the Bengals. Why not? Growing up first in Columbus, Ohio and then in Arizona, neither of which had a professional sports team, I myself was bereft of regional loyalties.

I finally came to the conclusion (and though the arguments are a little more fleshed out above, they existed, in nascent form, in the mind of the six-year old I was) that the choice was entirely arbitrary. I didn’t think of it in those terms, I just remember a feeling of loss. I understood something which confused and hurt me, but which I knew to be true. There was no real reason to like a sports team. You could like any team, for any reason, and it would be the right team, for the right reason. You could have arguments in the schoolyard (and, as we all know, kids did, with all the sophistication of a senate debate: “Cowboys rule!” “Steelers kick ass!” “Dolphins suck!”) until the last bell rang, and you would still never convince anyone of anything, and never prove it to anyone that Staubach or whoever the fuck was a better quarterback. This made me crazy, because now my arguments with my schoolmates lacked all conviction. How could I argue, when I knew that there was no way to argue someone out of an opinion that had no rational criteria?

This started to cause me problems in other ways, too. How do you make a decision about, say, ice cream flavors. What flavor of ice cream do you want? I don’t know – they’re all good. Which do I like more? How should I know? I haven’t tried them all, and anyway, what criteria would I use to say, “Yes, I like Huckleberry Crunch more than Rocky Road”? The question “What’s your favorite kind of ice cream?” could send me into absolute paroxysms of self-doubt and confusion. And then the kids who would try to argue the relative merits of one type of ice cream or another – oy! I had nothing to say. Oh sure, I’d argue, but all the other kids knew my heart wasn’t in it.

Then they’d ask me what I want to be when I grew up. When I was younger, it was easy. Space was cool, drums were cool. I wanted to be an astronaut, or a drummer. Eventually, though, I realized that any choice I made was, once again, entirely arbitrary. You could do anything! So how could you know what you wanted, what you were good at, unless you did it? And you clearly couldn’t do everything, or even most things. And what if you did it and it turned out you didn’t like it? I knew most people didn’t really like their jobs. So I’d pick things. A musician, a rock star (two different things, donchaknow), a marine biologist, a minister (I’ll tell you that story some other time), a writer (that one seems to have stuck, for some reason), a comedian. But my choices, again, lacked conviction, because I knew there was no reason to want any one particular thing, except that I wanted it, and that just didn’t seem like a good enough reason.

Maybe, my religious upbringing suggested, God had a plan for us, and each of us was specifically made to do one particular thing. This was comforting, and made a certain amount of sense. But after reading “Being and Nothingness” at the tender young age of 13 and realizing that even the concept of God was arbitrary, I realized I was well and truly fucked. The fact that a billion people in China didn’t believe in Jesus at all broke my brain.

Looking back, I think my failure to achieve any success or reach anything of real lasting value stems primarily from this. I knew that you could believe anything you wanted, do anything you wanted, eat anything you wanted, even die, if you cared to. So why do anything?

I’m still not sure I know. But I do know this.

Last night, a little after midnight, my toilet clogged and overflowed, sending shitty water all over my bathroom, soaking the rugs. I wanted to go to sleep, but I had to fix the toilet, or deal with the stench and filth in the morning. So I stayed up an hour or so, bailing out the shitty water, unclogging the toilet, mopping up the shitty water soaked floor, wiping down surfaces, hanging up rugs to dry. And I realized something.

Sometimes it’s not arbitrary. Sometimes you really have very little choice. Certain choices become unacceptable, and you know exactly what you have to do. Even if you don’t want to, sometimes you gotta clean up shit.

I pulled on rubber gloves, and behold, I was comforted.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Rocking the Suburbs (just like William Carlos did)

Read in Rutherford, NJ last night at a series honoring William Carlos Williams. My friend Ray, who was also reading, and I grabbed a bus at the Port Authority and amused each other talking about movies, the sets we were reading, and the Rate my Poo website (which I have yet to check out. Ray tells me it’s truly something to behold, but I guess I’ll have to take his word for it for the time being).

The bus dropped us off at train station, and we walked the main shopping district up to the library, past a mix of small, funky little shops and the usual suburban whatnot. One store was actually a restaurant called Café Eros that billed itself as “funky, underground Greek dining” which I told Ray was actually code for cunnilingus with a Greek woman. We thought it was pretty funny, but in retrospect, probably not. Given that the suburbs are sort of my "hood" (since all suburbs are really the same), I felt right at home.

We walked past an enormous blue house which I later found out was WCW’s house, past an even larger stone Presbyterian Church that sat on a hill above the road and dominated the landscape, crossed the street and went down some stairs to the library meeting room where we were greeted by our friend John Trause.

The reading was small, and sparsely attended, but what people there were there seemed very attentive and glad to be there. An older, stooped gentleman started things off by reading a few golden oldies from the WCW catalog, and then John introduced Ray and me.

He spoke very highly of us, and I found myself almost blushing. It’s nice to be well regarded by people you yourself hold in high esteem. Sort of a mutual admiration society, but still, it’s cool. You get to say all those things that most people find themselves on their deathbeds wishing they’d said – really, how many people are going to wish when they die, “God, I really wish I hadn’t told all those people how much I liked what they do.”

Anyway, I get up, do my poems (including a brand spanking new piece I wrote specifically in honor of the period of WCW’s work I’m most familiar with, his Imagist work. It’s about a coffee mug. The idea was we’d both write a piece, no more than 10 lines, no more than 5 words per line, about something we saw everyday – I picked a coffee mug. Ray picked the pussin’-out-didn’t-write-it, which is OK, too). It was fun, the audience was tuned in, and by the end I really felt like I had them. My funnier, lighter stuff seems to go over better, and in some ways, it’s more fun for me to read. It’s more emotionally moving to me, too, which is sort of a switch. I always thought, maybe just because I’m immature, that pain is more interesting. Truthfully though, pain is boring, especially in poetry. How many more times do I have to hear a fucking poem about (pick one): a. rape, b. love lost, c. murder, d. child abuse, e. drug abuse, f. parent/friend/loved one/cat dying, before I die? More to the point, how many more times do I have to write those poems? I’m sick of it. The poems that have moved me the most over the past year have been triumphs and battle cries, prayers and hymns. Tears streamed down my face in Albuquerque at the National Poetry Slam, when the Washington, DC team did their poem about trees and plants - it was so beautiful that I cried. To all the poets of the world, stop trying to make me cry by showing me your bleeding hands, and show me something beautiful. We’ll cry together.

(/rant OFF) So I did, as my closing poems, Vanilla and the Nokia poem. Crowd pleasers both, and I was close to tears myself a few places in them. I just missed my lady, whom I don’t really see enough, even though I’ve seen her relatively often of late. Our schedules and our lives hardly ever match up, and I’ve been staying up too late reading/watching TV/answering email/surfing the web. I was heckled by a drunk guy, which is a first for me in the poetry world, and I finished up, plugged PARSE, and got the hell off the stage.

Ray did his set, a nicely structured bit of work in which he alternated thematically similar poems from WCW with his own work. The nearest I can get to describing what makes Williams so great is strength and clarity. There is something crystalline about his work that also bespeaks of great tensile strength. His words do not wilt beneath the weight of his vision. Sometimes, you can hear, even in the greatest poets, the vision overreaching the grasp of the writer, and the words sound inadequate and lost amidst the crushing space of what the author wanted to say. WCW never sounds that way. He always seems to be describing exactly what he sees in a way that conveys exactly what he wants us to see (and feel, and understand) about it. The strength and clarity of his work accented wonderful similar qualities in Ray’s work, and since Ray is such a great reader, himself, it was even more of a pleasure. Great work read by a great reader.

There was an open mic, with a few people reading their work. The poems were of, shall we say, varying quality, with John reading off a few great ones, and my drunken heckler getting up to do his thing. There was an amazing moment when he stood behind the podium, and it was as if he suddenly realized he was drunker than shit, and he was ashamed. It was an amazing moment, I never thought I’d say that shame could be beautiful, but it was beautiful seeing a man awaken from a dream, even for only a moment. Beautiful and painful. He read his own work, and a couple of Poe poems (which makes me smile – I wanted to say “Poe’s a New Yorker, my man! Come back with some more NJ poets, and we can talk.”) which he read with such passion and abandon that I was momentarily stunned. His own work wasn’t great but the way he read Poe was really something: tears and fury, rising cadence and

After the reading we wandered back to John’s car, got a ride back to Penn Station, NY. I loved walking through Rutherford, since I am truly a child of the suburbs, and I had a great time just being out of the city, doing a reading with such a great audience, and hanging with friends. Plus, I got to see WCW’s house, which, given that he was one of the first poets I ever “discovered” and read voraciously, put the capper on a great night.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Stephen King and the Devil

I’m re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing and my suspicions are once again confirmed that King signed a contract, not with Simon & Schuster, but Satan. Now this is a book about writing. A good chunk of it is a style manual. Boring, right?

Wrong. It’s a barn-burner, a page turner. The ideas in it eat away at my brain, and I find myself thinking of them at odd moments during the day, excited for the next time I get to read it. No way does anybody have this sort of effect on folks (and I know I’m not the only one) without some sort of deal with His Infernal Majesty.

Here’s the negotiations on the contract as I imagine them.

“Mr. King, we’re prepared to offer you our standard contract on a lifetime basis. Now, there will be no need to renew or review any of the terms once you’ve signed, as this is a non-revocable contract, not subject to cancellation by either party at any time. As I’m sure you’re aware, the head of our Company is sometimes unfairly characterized as a, well, as a bit of a cheat. Regardless, you’ll be happy to see all the terms laid out here in black and white.”

The board room is tastefully appointed with dark wood paneling and indirect, subdued lighting that glints off discreet brass accents. The giant wood table dominating the center of the room seems to suck the light deep inside it, where it dimly gleams beneath the almost black, glassy surface. The lawyer from “The Company,” wears a simple dark suit. His skin is tan, almost leathery.

“Um, this is great. Just great. But, for the record, what will I get again?”

“Mr. King, let me assure you, no one is more concerned for the success of our clients than The Company. Your success, is, you might say, our success. The greater the rewards in the form of earthly joys and privileges, pleasures of the flesh, as it were, the greater the dividends paid to the head of our Company on fulfillment of the contract.”

“Yeah. Could you just lay it out straight for me there, fella?”

The lawyer laughs a dry, papery laugh. “Mr. King. You are quite the direct one, aren’t you? As we have discussed, upon execution of this contract your writings will become as popular as any author in history.”

“Can you really do that? What, are you gonna round people up and make them buy my books?”

“Oh, Mr. King, there will be nothing coercive about the means which the company uses. There never is.” He paused for a moment, as if amused at some private joke, then continued. “The company prides itself on the fact that all relationships with clients and end-users are completely consensual. In fact,” he says, his voice deepening to almost, but not quite, a growl, “we can’t do business any other way.”

“So how’s it work? Step by step.”

“Well, yes, then. An end-user will voluntarily purchase one of your books, based perhaps on a review or an advertising campaign coordinated by any one of our many operatives in publishing. Once they have opened the book and freely accepted participation in the reading process, we will have an opportunity to be slightly more, shall we say, persuasive. They will not stop reading until they have finished every page.”

“And how do you do that?”

“Well, that is proprietary information, but I can describe the effects of the process for you in a little more detail. At first, the book will be nothing more than a pleasant distraction, something to while away a few hours. With our help, however, that will quickly change. The ideas, the tone, the situations and characters, will begin to echo in the reader’s mind. They will think about reading your book when they are working, or showering. They will read your book deep into the night, dismissing sleep and sex and all but the most rudimentary contact with the outside world.

“Now, this is the most exciting part: once they have finished, we implant a residual energy signature that sets up an emotional resonance whenever they see your name on the cover of a book. It’s a very basic Pavlovian response mechanism, but extremely effective. This creates a ready-made market for additional books, and assures a long life for books already in print.”

Stephen pauses for a moment, staring at his hands. His voice is thick when he speaks again.

“And what do I have to do?”

Again the dusty laugh, like insects scurrying across dry, rotted wood. “Oh, Mr. King! Don’t worry! You have nothing to fear from us. At the appropriate time, we will merely continue the process you yourself have already begun.” Stephen starts a little at this, wipes his nose furtively. “No, by the time the contract comes into force, you will hardly notice any transition at all. Perhaps by that time you will have become so adept with your skills, since, after all, we will merely be amplifying what talents you already have, that you will be able to join our organization in a more…” he pauses, considering his words carefully, “…permanent capacity.”

An idea occurs to Stephen. He waves his hand as if brushing away flies. “Now wait,” he says. “Wait. Now, wait a minute. If you’re just ‘amplifying’ things that I can already do, what do I need you for?”

The lawyer frowns. “Mr. King. We are the foremost representatives of those who wish to be independent and successful. We choose only the most driven, the most talented people to be our clients. If we did not see the potential latent within you, we would never have approached you. You have a formidable gift, Mr. King, there is no question, but natural gifts will only take you so far. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of writers, all of them talented, some of them perhaps even more so than you, who will never reach their full potential. Do you wish to be one of them? Do you wish upon your wife and lovely children a life like the one you had? The poverty, the crushed dreams and deferred ambitions that weigh upon the mind and body like chains? Is this what you want?” The lawyer’s voice seems to acquire a weight that it did not have before. The room grows even more quiet, everything listening to this small, leathery man’s low, urgent words.

He leans in close to Stephen. He is almost whispering, now. “And let me also say, Mr. King, that it would not be wise at this juncture in the proceedings to walk away from the table. No, Mr. King, not wise at all. Our clients include many people in your industry. Many powerful people. It would not do, Mr. King, to acquire a reputation so early in your career of being a difficult person. I do not think that would be wise at all.”

The lawyer leans back, and there is air in the room again. He brushes an invisible piece of lint from his sleeve and smiles brightly. “So Mr. King,” he says, “are there any other questions I might be able to answer while we’re here? I’d like to make sure you’re completely comfortable before we finish our negotiations. I think, if you’ve had your lawyer look over the contract, that he will find it to be,” the smile widens, “completely fair.”

Stephen sits without speaking. The lawyer continues, “I must say, Mr. King, you’re quite the negotiator. Very sharp. I can see why The Company pursued you with such interest. You’ve asked wonderful questions, and really, you’re getting one of the best deals I’ve ever seen.” The lawyer lays a pen on the table parallel with the edge of the contract. “Now, if we’re quite done here, I think we’ll just need your signature to begin our work together.”

Stephen picks up the pen, and it feels incredibly heavy in his hand. The barrel looks like it’s made of the same material as the table, as if it absorbed and held light deep within itself. He stares at it blankly for a few moments, fascinated.

“Mr. King?”

Stephen shakes his head. “Yeah, fair.” he says. He fumbles the cap off the pen, and signs his name at the bottom of the document.

“And sign here, just another copy. Initial here, here, and here. And just one more signature here, your standard indemnity clause. And we’re done!” The lawyer sweeps the pages from the table with one hand and taps them into a tidy stack. Stephen stares at the space where the contract was on the table. Now there is only his reflection staring back at him. The face looks unfamiliar, floating somewhere deep inside the darkness, down there with the light.

The lawyer quickly puts the contract into his briefcase, and snaps it closed. “Alright then, Mr. King? There will be no further need to contact me in the future, but you have my card, nonetheless. It has been a pleasure meeting with you, and I wish you success in all your future endeavors. I’m sure you will be successful. Very sure indeed, Mr. King.”

Stephen continues to stare at his reflection, pale and white far below. Finally, hearing the words, he shakes his head. “Um, yeah. OK.” The lawyer stands, and Stephen stands as well. He still clutches the lawyer’s pen in his hand. He looks at it like he’s holding a snake he is afraid will bite him if he lets go, says, “You want your pen?”

The lawyer shakes Stephen’s hand, smiling a smile somehow wider than the confines of his face, and full of teeth. “Please keep it, Mr. King. With my compliments.”

Friday, January 27, 2006

How to get out of Hell

My good friend Ray gave me a copy of the new Sinead O’Connor album ”Throw Down Your Arms”, and let me tell you folks, it is a masterpiece. She worked with two of the best reggae producers of all time, Sly and Robby, and she makes some beautiful music with them. Reggae music is not an easy sell for most people. Somebody looking like me (white, longish hair, bearded, slightly spacey look in my eyes most of the time) comes up to you, says “Hey man, you gotta check out this new reggae album!” you give them a wide berth. They’re either a wigger, a college student, a stoner, a frat guy, or any combination of those. I can cop to being any one of those at some point in my life, but I do not lie, this is an amazing album. I’ve been a fan of Sinead since Lion and the Cobra, ever since I saw this beautiful bald chick singing about Troy (I think I’ve had a thing for chicks with really short hair since the first Star Trek movie. Long long hair, or really short – either way works for me). Gospel Oak was a really important album to me for a certain period of my life, and I have a feeling this album came along at the right time for another changing time.

Now, reggae’s like the blues, but with more God, less Devil. Plus, any God that’s down with the Rastafarian sacraments is A-OK with me. Like the blues, reggae music is good for when you feel bad – and I’ve been feeling pretty bad, lately. Lots of pressure and stress at work, trying to keep ahead of too many projects in my real life. I don’t know where exactly I’m going with a lot of these projects (and by extension, my life), and the time for decision and consolidation is rapidly approaching. Something’s got to be done. The work thing, in particular, is giving me pain like you wouldn’t believe. So, when I’m feeling victimized (and, no question, a person is a victim only to the extent that they believe themselves to be one) I sometimes entertain revenge fantasies. You know the ones: telling the boss exactly where to stick it, and how deep, screwing the company at exactly the right moment when they depend on you most. Yeah, those fantasies. Not that we’d ever act on them, because we’re far too well trained for that. We’ve got student loans, and spouses in grad school, and health insurance that keeps us in antibiotics when we’re sick. But we still get that slight sickness in our throats, that taste of bile that has just a tinge of blood to it when the boss tells us we need to pick up the slack, and we think these thoughts.

So I’m listening to this new wonderful reggae album, and a song I’ve never heard comes on. The little black-on-grey LCD letters on the Ipod screen tell me it is called “Downpressor Man.” And the lyrics go like this:

Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to?
Downpressor Man
Where you gonna run to?
Downpressor Man
Where you gonna run to
On that day?

If you run to the sea
The sea will be boiling
(x 3)
On that day

If you run to the rocks
The rocks will be melting
(x 3)
On that day

If you make your bed in hell
I will be there.
(x 3)
On that day.

Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to?
(x 3)
On that day?

Simple. The revenge/justification fantasy of the downtrodden and poorly treated everywhere. “Well, you may be on top now, but one of these days, there’ll be a judgment, there’ll be a reckoning, and you will get what you require.” And like I’m so oppressed, right? Still, everybody thinks, at least once (some people, more like once a day) “Man, I can’t wait till you get yours.”

But then came that line: If you make your bed in hell, I will be there. I heard something quite extraordinary, and I don’t know if it was the writer’s intention or not, but there it was. One of the central tenets of Rastafarianism is “I and I”, that is very similar to “Tat Tvam Asi” or “thou art that." It is the ultimate identification of self and God that comes in the awakened spirit and mind. One understands, at one’s root, that one is not ultimately different from God, and that God lives in one, as one lives in God. Now, this idea has ramifications.

Think about it this way: When you condemn one person, you condemn the God that is in them, and, by extension, the God in you. And since God is in you and you are in God, ipso facto – you are in Hell.

Similarly, if one condemns oneself to Hell, through guilt or a gross misunderstanding of the truth behind all religions, one puts the entire world in Hell.

Thinking this, I suddenly saw the verse that ran, “If you make your bed in Hell, I will be there” not as a promise, i.e. wherever you try to hide, I’ll find you and make you pay, but as a plea. “If you go down to hell, I have to go with you. If you act against what you know to be right, you condemn yourself, and by doing so, you kill us all.” This made the song incredibly sad for me, but also wise.

We almost all of us labor under our guilt, straining at the weight of it. Heavy, brown, turdlike guilt, awkward in its bulk and threatening at any moment to crush us under its smelly burden. Some of it was placed there by others, some of it we picked up along the way, some of it we were born with. When I am particularly down with the guilt, I speak with the voice I like to call “The Critic” (not the cartoon). He is vicious, ruthless, and utterly truthful, and he hates everything, and himself (myself) most particularly. He adds to my guilt with his hatred and rage and then turns it on the people around him. He puts the world in hell and then wonders why the place smells like shit. I’ve discovered, however, that there is a way out of Hell. But it’s not easy.

The only possible release is to accept. Everything. Completely.

Ain’t that a bitch.

The only way out is love, complete and total, unconditional, doggy chewing a bone, baby playing with a soap bubble, Jesus on the cross, Gandhi taking (another) beating, Martin Luther King in a pool of blood love. And I don’t care what anybody says, that is damn near impossible, some days. And the worst of it is, it’s gotta be for everybody, including and especially your stinking, horrid, selfish, unreliable, forgetful, vain, lying, cowardly, weak-willed self. Or else it doesn’t count.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

quote for the day

Read at Jonathan Carroll's blog

"Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing."
both quotes from E.L. Doctorow

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Kids, don't do drugs... or whatever

Michael was a hippy. He played guitar and did Tai Chi. He had long, straight, thin hair that hung down almost to his waist. He liked to smoke pot and do drugs. He was my roommate for several years and I adored him.

He introduced me to psychedelic drugs thusly: when I said I wanted to do LSD, he told me that he would not, absolutely would not get me anything more intoxicating than a saltine cracker unless I read the following books – The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg by Joseph Chilton Pearce, and Beyond the Brain by Stanislav Grof. He handed me the stack, told me to read them and went back in his room to play guitar.

I learned a lot of crazy crap from that hippy. I also obtained my first (and many subsequent) dose of mushrooms.

My early experiences with mushrooms were lovely. Numinous, heart opening experiences where I saw the true nature of the universe. The world was a living, breathing, loving creation. I was an integral part of this living creation, and the pain of the world was that we never knew how alive and loving it was.

Yeah, that was until my first bad trip.

Now I liked listening to music on shrooms. I found that it helped me to access those deeper levels of emotion and sacredness during the trip. One time though…

I ate the mushrooms, drank my orange juice, and settled in for a nice trip. But what music should I use? Kate Bush was usually a good bet (The Hounds of Love is a particularly good album) or maybe Spacemen 3 (Taking Drugs to make Music to Take Drugs to). No, I’ve done that.

What about the Smiths? Yeah! That sounds like a GREAT idea! The Smiths…!

…the most depressing, whiny, self-absorbed music ever created. Sad-bastard music before they even invented sad-bastard music.

I listened to, I think, Meat is Murder, and got angrier, and angrier, and angrier. I saw myself through this music, through what listening to this music said about me, and I despised it. I was tired of being an effeminate, ineffectual, weak little hippy boy. The girls thought I was gay, the guys didn’t respect me. I hadn’t had sex in months and I was horribly lonely. I didn’t do what I wanted and I didn’t do what I should. I hated myself and this music represented everything I hated. In a second I was off the couch and had launched the tape-player across the room, where it smashed on the wall like a bomb going off (louder than bombs? whatever). I then found myself stalking around the center of the room in a tight circle, my hands clenched into claws, and this sound was coming out of my throat that I did not recognize: inarticulate, mid-way between a scream and a roar, strangled and raw full of hate and rage. An animal sound, a sick, wounded sound.

This continued for several minutes until Michael, hearing the commotion, decided to check on me. Upon seeing an obviously enraged maniac lurching in increasingly tighter circles around his living room he did not, bless him, call the police, or try to restrain said maniac. No, he actually tried to talk me down. “It’s alright,” he said. “Everything’s alright…”

My jaw clenched, barely in control, I growled, “Go back in your room!” He beat a hasty retreat.

The screaming/roaring/choking continued until I finally fell into an uneasy sleep a few hours later. I slept fitfully through the night.

On waking the next day, I wandered around in sort of haze. I remembered clearly what had happened, apologized to my slightly shaken, but none the worse for wear, roommate (who was, I’m sure, making a mental note to get the fuck out as soon as possible), and went out to fix breakfast.

Now, as I may have mentioned, my housekeeping skills left a bit to be desired. The house was usually a sty. Sometimes, there might have been dishes in the sink. From, say, a week ago. With food on them. Or maybe the garbage hadn’t been taken out. In, like a month.

But today, the house REALLY reeked. There was a smell that was something like rotten cabbage at the bottom of the sink, spoiled milk, and something dead. It was foul, and it was everywhere. Even I, with my ability to ignore filth, couldn’t let this pass. I had to clean it up.

But I couldn’t find the stench. The refrigerator was clean. The garbage had been taken out. The dishes were done. Where was that smell coming from?

I mentioned it to Michael, and he looked at me, a little sadly. “You mean you don’t know?” he said.

“No. What is it?”

“It’s you, man. You released all that shit from inside you. That smell is your anger.”

And I knew he was right. We had to air out the house for two days.

Friday, January 6, 2006

So this is the new year, and I actually feel kinda different

It’s the 6th of January, and I’m writing this outside, next to my parent’s pool. The palm trees sway in a gentle breeze, and the birds chuckle and coo to one another.

It is 85 degrees out, blue skies, dry and sunny. I cannot see a cloud in any direction.

When I was growing up, Phoenix was a punchline. An upstart L.A. without any culturally redeeming qualities to recommend it. Phoenix was where you went if you wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t have the guts to get it over with all at once. It might take you years to die in Phoenix, just because it sucked so much.

Times have changed, or maybe just me. I don’t have anyone to hang out with, aside from my lovely wife and my folks, but I have been supremely content. I’ve been in Rivendell…

Aside from a few small, desperate inconveniences. They’re my fault, no doubt, but still, it’s been trying.

So I get the check from my roommate for rent and sundry expenses on New Year’s Eve – no time to put it in the bank, as we’re leaving first thing in the morning, and why rush? There’ll be plenty of time! I’ll deposit the checks in the bank first thing on Tuesday (Monday being a bank holiday) write a check to the landlord, and have done with it. Easy!

Except I forget my checkbook. OK, no problem, I’ll still deposit the check, get a bank check, mail it out, and still be fine.

Did you know that Citibank has not a single branch or ATM in the entire state of Arizona? No, neither did I. After driving all over God’s green earth to fucking Scottsdale of all places, only to discover that the ATM I was directed to by the ever so helpful Citibank website was not, in fact, a Citibank ATM, but only one owned by one of their affiliate networks. Of course I couldn’t deposit the checks there. Of course.

My brief and, understandably, terse conversation with Citibank revealed these facts, along with the helpful advice that I should “buy a money order and send that.” Cocksuckers. With what money should I buy this money order? And will the extra that I pay for this miraculously purchased money order be reimbursed by the gentle benevolent blockheads at Citibank? No it will not.

Keeping myself in check, I decide to go with this dunderheaded new plan, nothing else leaping forward to suggest itself.

Frankly, I’m boring myself, but suffice to say that the money order was purchased, only I had to buy two, and Walmart kept refusing my debit card, and Citibank told me I could only purchase $1,000 per 24 hour period, and every time I tried to call Citibank to discuss it, my cell phone would die and I had to go back and forth to Walmart four times, and Steph and I got in a wicked argument about money, which was made all the worse by the knowledge that it was all my fucking fault, and had I simply brought the fucking checkbook (or better yet, paid the rent before we left) none of this would be happening. Arguments where you know you’re wrong have the tendency to turn into vicious personal attacks, just to keep the focus off of the fact that a) you’re wrong, b) you’re stupidly defending your wrongs and c) you’re just wrong, wrong, wrong. A process that could have taken fifteen minutes and a stamp took 3 days, 4 trips to Walmart, fourteen dollars to express mail the money, an argument with my wife, two hour-long conversations with various fuckwits at Citibank, and the admission to my parents that, in spite of living on my own for well over 15 years now, I’m still an irresponsible twit.

It was as if the ghost of 2005 wanted to get some last licks in before I could really arrive in 2006.

That’s Steph’s interpretation. My thought is that I asked for this.

Through various methods, I have recently asked that the universe provide me with opportunities to increase my “Strength”, that is, my ability to deal with the world effectively and to control my own character flaws. Now, most of my life, I have had the ability to coast by on sheer luck – good karma, good timing, call it what you will. I watched that rug get jerked right out from under me this week, and I think that that is the lesson the universe is trying to teach me. In watching the lives of my friends and loved ones, I have noticed that the kind of convergence of events like the ones I experienced this weekend happens pretty frequently – people get kicked out of their apartments on holidays, simple arguments escalate into trips to the hospital, promised funds don’t come through, trusted equipment fails. But I was always amazed to watch it happen. But now that it’s happened to me, I realized something. I have lived a charmed life up to this point, and there is no guarantee that it will continue to be so charmed. I have asked to become stronger, and the universe has obliged by removing the net, the net I barely recognized was there, but which I now know was essential. That little bit of wiggle room, that space to procrastinate which I always had because “hey, everything always turns out alright in the end” is gone. The training wheels are off, and now I get to play for real.

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting year…