Discussion jumps about, though it mostly stays within a vague orbit around how the work that was being done seemed like work that was worth doing. Reflection brings history into the realm of binary: now only good or bad, seen through a vantage point which offers distance and clarity that was not entirely possible when caught up in the whirlwind. But five hours away, that whirlwind is blowing out of control. “We’ve done everything we can to demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint,” says the police chief as those charged with protecting and serving in Fergus, MO take an unprovoked turn for the militant, aiming weapons at spectators and firing tear gas at journalists. “Remember when that thing happened in Nevada with the Rancher and cops showed up and there were people photographed in sniper positions with their guns aimed at law enforcement officers?,” asks a virtual onlooker. “How did that manage to happen there without every single person in that group getting mowed down with SWAT teams and MRAPs and all these fucking military weapons that the cops are using in Ferguson? What was the big difference between those groups? What would happen if there were snipers on rooftops in Ferguson aiming their guns at these police?” “Watching the news & singing along to Marvin Gaye’s little-known remake of his classic, ‘Seriously What In the Everloving F**k Is Going On’ ” exhales Jay Smooth on Twitter. I don’t know. Where does the pressure go? Maybe this will all look different, eventually.
There’s a taco truck on the corner of Wedgewood & 12th where, earlier in the day, I celebrated one of my best friends’ birthdays by buying him a burrito and a sweet tea. We sat on the tailgate of his truck while we ate and talked: It was his direction in life and what he’s feeling balanced by my own, what we’re going through, what we want in life, what we don’t want in life, so on and so on. Later, Salsa on the southwestern edge of downtown for Hummus with Churrasco, a sweet sauce garnishing the still-pink meat, each bite laced with an ample portion of the salty spread and placed over one of the many chewy and savory dough vehicles, washed down by a couple of Diet Cokes. Walking out onto the deck after the meal was over, the instant became one of calming, the restaurant just far enough away from the tourist sector to remain peaceful, and not yet overrun with young urban types who make pornography out of their food, posing it and angling the light for maximum exposure. Who is the picture for? What is it supposed to say? But how can you not take a picture of something that looks so good?
The food was wonderful and I want to remember how good that moment felt despite how much confusion and pressure there is right now, is what this particular picture was supposed to say: Sitting outside with an elbow up on the wooden ledge, stuck between recalling what happened in order to get there and looking forward to the possibility of what’s yet to come, mustering only a smile while just being overwhelmed by it all. The work that seemed like good work doesn’t always end up feeling that way as time goes on. The people who seemed like good people don’t always end up being who you wanted them to be. What we want in life changes, who we want to be with changes, and what we don’t want changes, too. It’s impossible to retroactively be proud of every last action that happened along the way, or reflect without doubt and guilt that you might never learn how to get life right. The current blueprint seems the way to go for now though: keep trying to learn, to experience, to taste, to love, and just let loose a joke and laugh when you have no idea what in the ever-loving fuck is going on around you.
There’s a family two floors down from me, who exist in my world primarily through the noise that funnels upward through the cement and steel staircase that also serves as a chamber of echoes. This family has been visited by child protective services. I have seen the visitations. They seem tense. Sometime in the past month or two this family got a dog. Yesterday I learned that dog’s name is Rocko.
A week, or so, ago I was taking the trash out and I saw Rocko get pushed out the door. It didn’t want to leave. Rocko is a good dog. It scratched at the door, wanting back in, but back into what? Them? Some nights I hear Rocko barking, wanting desperately to not be outside, alone. During the previous week I had heard the angry old woman who lives there yell at Rocko “POO POO PEE PEE NOW!” This continued for far longer than it should have. Five minutes, maybe. It was gross. Rocko is left to shit on the concrete landing pad at the bottom of the stairs. The shit is cleaned up on what appears to be a weekly-ish timetable, not on a basis of whether or not it smells, or whether or not it’s forcing people who are trying to take their trash out to step through shit to do so. That’s the life you want, Rocko?
There is another couple, who has been yelling at each other in the hallway more nights than not this past week. They have many children, though they aren’t very old themselves. I looked up the phone number for security one night, though I didn’t call. I didn’t want to make myself part of it, and I certainly didn’t want to make myself a target of some unseen resentment. Race can appear to play into this all too easily for me to risk involvement. Better just to stay out of it, I figured. Last week I stopped by the leasing office to pick up my mail and I decided against filing a complaint against Rocko’s owner, for failing to clean up Rocko’s mess in a timely manner. What good does that do?, I thought.
Then yesterday I saw a pair of children playing with Rocko. Rocko doesn’t have tags, and certainly doesn’t have a leash. But it was just happy playing with the kids and a ragged little toy in the yard in front of the apartment. It wasn’t running away, like a bad dog would do. And the children weren’t being mean to it, like bad children would do. They seemed happy. Rocko seemed happy. I was glad I hadn’t made the complaint against the woman who gets angry and yells at all of them. What might happen if Rocko gets taken away? If the kids do? Who is left for the woman to yell at? Is there some perverted balance in that equation? Is the pain and anger and confusion that echoes up to my apartment and through the hollow door that barely separates me from the outside world the only thing holding this place together?
A restless mind of late has called for sleeping aids, but despite the deep slumber a knock at the door woke me at three. It couldn’t have been my door, I thought. What if it had been? Who could have been knocking at my door? Is it really three? Maybe it was the old lady who calls on my neighbor for the occasional nightcap. That must have been it. It probably wasn’t my door. Then, another knock.
My body wasn’t ready to get out of bed and acted accordingly when slinking through the doorway of my bedroom out into the hallway. I gently measured my steps so as not to make a noise, and squinted as my face edged closer to the peephole. Sure enough, someone was there. As I thought about whether or not I should say anything the words, “What can I do to help you?” came out of my mouth.
“Sorry, wrong door.”
I didn’t say anything else and returned to bed. My heart wasn’t racing, but it wasn’t still either. It took a while to fall back asleep despite never being fully awake. The what-ifs crept in: What if they were testing to see if I was home to break in?; what if they were seeing if I were awake to steal the car?; what if they came back, what did they want? It’s the invisible, the unknown, what’s on the other side of the door that can’t be seen, that is always the most intimidating.
There was some sort of break-in to the house during the night. My parents had been renovating and the new floors and cabinets looked great, installed though still covered in some sort of protective wrap. There was no longer any sign of damage at a point of entry. A window somewhere felt broken, but nothing appeared damaged. My personal tech items were going crazy though. My phone was hacked and was now receiving a waterfall of incoming calls, caller ID notifications scrolling by, cascading by before I could even react to them. I tried answering using a fake voice and was sometimes greeted with silence, sometimes greeted with a disturbing voice on the other end. I turned the phone off. Something was also wrong with my computer. I decided to sell everything, or at least the computer, to make start fresh. A man walking his dog came to buy the computer and I wanted to show him it was in working condition. When I went in the house to get it I realized there were sizable cracks on the body of the laptop as well as some stickers. I would offer the external mouse and keyboard for free as I hadn’t told him about the cracks — I didn’t know they were there. Wait, did I put the stickers there? I peeled them off in a rush, but once I removed them I realized it was probably a clue as to who was doing this to me. What did they say?
Later, I was trying to sell the computer again to other people I knew — old family friends from Calgary. I had been in talks to sell something to the son of a family friend, but when he left I called a former teammate from my youth hockey team. I made my pitch to sell the computer and he laughed, asking if I’d been drinking. I told him I hadn’t drank in two years, maybe I sounded drunk because of allergies. My nose felt clogged. He said he’d think about it, but in the meantime they — everyone I had spoken with about buying the computer somehow knew each other — were going to go on a trip… camping maybe…? and I was welcome to join, though not explicitly invited. I didn’t understand, but they wanted me to come, and I flash-forwarded to a daydream about what that would be like. It seemed nice. I was in a good place. I felt younger. One friend, a skilled photographer, was showing me how to use my camera better. The instruction was welcomed.
I had a book with me I stole from a Hollywood stall, ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ by Alain Fournier, but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. | Jack Kerouac, On the Road
So much of it has passed through me, barely contemplated and quickly forgotten: The Landscape. How many trips have there been where I was looking out into nothing, when I should have been seeing something? A proper voyeur would lay claim to insight, but instead the experience is simply forgotten. Staring at the page, pretending like the words have any effect, the eyes only motioning from side to side because that’s what a reader’s eyes are supposed to do. With time the landscapes are all forgotten, if they were even considered in the first place.
Photo taken at Lock Two Park in Nashville, Tennessee (May 2014).
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted saying them. A few times a week there’s a police cruiser or private security making a visit to my strip of apartments. But did I really feel like I was beginning to paintbrush all my neighbors as trash, because some refuse to clean up after themselves? I felt resolved to defeat. The situation isn’t great, but it’s all I’ve got. Whether aimless venting or honest anger, the words had to come from somewhere.
A few days prior I had received a call from my neighbor across the hall. He told me the lights were out and it was pitch black in our hallway. I was in a restaurant having dinner with friends and couldn’t hear that well, but I did catch a reference to him being safe because he had his gun. Humor doesn’t always translate over the phone, but either way I was sure he was actually armed.
Yesterday I was sitting at my desk when a loud knock came across the hall. Our doors let a lot of sound in, and someone was pounding on my neighbor’s door. It was an old lady, at least in her fifties who looked at least in her sixties. She was drunk. This wasn’t her first visit of the day. My neighbor wasn’t interested in answering the door so she shouted at him.
After she left I readied my things for the gym, and when I was leaving my neighbor asked how my friend was, the one he’d met. He hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to make sure she was alright. It was a kind gesture. Then he noticed that I didn’t have a light bulb in the fixture outside of my door. He went inside his apartment and got a bulb as he’d been given extras following the “blackout.” He joked again about having his gun to protect him.
When I left children were laying on my car, with who looked to be parents and another man also hovering over it. My neighbor was talking to another old man with a grey beard and as I walked past him I thanked him and he patted me on the shoulder. He was nice today, but my mind was now in paintbrush-mode. I stood for a second in front of the car before I motioned and said I had to get in. The men walked slowly, making me wait. The woman barked orders for her kids to get off the car. At that moment I wished they were all gone. Not dead, just gone.
I drove away and when I was at the gym I grew concerned that my neighbor had seen me leave. He knew I was going to the gym, because he had asked if I was working nights and I’d told him, but now he knew my apartment was empty. Who had he been speaking to? Who else was around? What if they broke in? My gut reaction was fear.
I don’t have many things though, I thought, peddling away on the stationary bike. And I don’t. My computer is about all I have, though I have a camera and television that would probably also disappear in a robbery. Beyond that, all I have of value is me. And no one had threatened me. And no one had harmed me. And while the group with the kids had made me feel uncomfortable, they were there, doing that regardless of whether I was around. The kids just happened to be putting their greasy hands on my car, though it could have been anyone’s car. Now it’s coming to me that I was getting in their way of life, and not the other way around.
It’s not that I don’t belong here, it’s that I’m different. I don’t understand. My neighbor from across the hall has a loud alarm that starts going off every time he opens his door. Our doors let a lot of sound in. I wanted to file a complaint the day the alarm went off over 20 times. A friend talked me off of the idea. Who do you think he’s going to think made the complaint?, she said. My gut reaction is to see the kid hitting rocks with a baseball bat in the parking lot and call security. My gut reaction is to see the clumps of hair trimmings in the hallway and make a complaint. I’m still new here.
Artifacts from a previous life…
The moment You escape the womb the struggle begins over who’s more important, You or Her. You grip to self-importance and fight to pull away from Her only to later take comfort in a series of others. That is, until one too many self-spoiled relationships justifies a brushstroke so careless that it dehumanizes an entire gender. The You remains blind until an impotent rage awakens with the recognition of this unintentionally dismissive internal mechanism. It’s a slow transition, but You try to change. You start to feel new. You do. But even under the guidance of compassion, some form of conflict remains.
Sometimes You are wrong. Sometimes You are right. Sometimes You learn by walking through mud. Sometimes You learn by walking away. Her place in your life changes, just as the Her does, herself. And Her names and faces are all eventually forgotten until there is again only one and the tension is reduced back to an extension of its initial form. The uncertainty returns, only this time it appears as a question: Will the nervous anticipation over who will take care of Her when I’m gone ever be outweighed by the selfish fear over who will take care of me when I am finally alone? Continue reading
I was in New York, or maybe it was New Jersey because I could see the city off in the far distance. This was a new National September 11 Memorial & Museum. In my mind the phrase “hypothetical” was repeated over and over. It was a hypothetical memorial museum. Instead of being a location, a building, with relics, memorabilia, and a gift shop (built on a mass grave), this museum was nothing but technology. The museum was what we saw, not what was there.
From my position I saw an airplane crash off in the distance. Not into the Twin Towers, but into a smaller building. Still a catastrophe, and a tragedy, but one with fewer victims. But that crash didn’t really happen. It was something of a hologram. Perhaps I was wearing an Oculus Rift, but the sensation, the sounds, and the feel was far more intense and realistic than any virtual experience seems to offer. Another plane came directly at me. Both of these vessels were off by a few degrees, their trajectories altered from those that really took place to represent how skilled those pilots were. If the manual calculations were off by even a little, the story would have been different. This second plane crashed less than a hundred feet in front of me, quickly passing right by me in a fiery skid. Again, the sensation was real. This was the future museum. I was actually experiencing what could have been, and what never was, all to better understand what really happened.
Photo taken in Nashville, Tennessee (2012).
Last night I had a dream that a friend and I went to two restaurants in one night, and saw Dan Auerbach at both. The second time, I wanted to put up a social media message about him, but decided against it. People deserve privacy. He was in a strange mood, sitting alone by himself. He had a table full of food — I remember an absurdly large tuna steak — all the more bizarre, considering he had just eaten a full meal at the previous restaurant. My friend and I were just nibbling. When Auerbach was leaving, he looked at us squarely and said something incredibly awkward, snide, and creepy. Then he left, walking in full diva posture. I don’t know what to make of him, nor does that matter, but my subconscious cares not for his attitude.
A sign of pain and trauma? Yes, of course. But scars indicate something else, too.
The dream, now a few days dissolved in my mind, felt like a sign of closure. Laying there at three in the morning, running a quick inventory of what’s real or imagined, it didn’t feel like a burden had been lifted or that anything had been resolved — just that it was time to move on.
To now force resolution feels like I’d be fixing a broken ankle a few years after the fact; the reality that it healed incorrectly or formed a terrible scar overlooks the fact that it still, remarkably, healed.
The feeling, it seemed as I drifted back to sleep, was one of reluctant closure. Nothing I can do will change things. The scar has set. I have no choice but to move on.
Photo taken in Kansas City, Missouri (2014).
I walked into a music festival, only it was in an alley. The construction holding the stage and surrounding booths together was terribly poor, and in many situations used garbage pieces of wood. It looked rough. After a band I didn’t recognize left, 311 took the stage, only the band had taken a different direction, letting one of their old friends “sing,” while Nick Hexum sorta just danced in the background. He could not sing well, and admitted this numerous times — even during songs — but they kept letting him go on, song after song. As he did the already tiny crowd continued thinning out. Dozens of people became a handful.
I was standing at a distance, preparing to leave, myself, when I saw a woman exit the crowd. She was wearing orange hot pants and was a little tipsy. I used to live next door to her and recognized her because she works at the YMCA I go to. She looked happier drunk — as many drunk people do — but also healthier. A little more tan. Cute. As she walked past me I left the show, but quickly remembered I was supposed to meet my dad at KFC — which, by that time, I was running about an hour late to. I was a little drunk, as well, and tried looking up the location on my phone but was having an issue typing “KFC.”
I walked as quickly as I could in what I felt was the correct general direction. Then, instead of seeing the map, I saw that the girl in the orange shorts had had my phone at some point in time. There were photos she’d taken of herself in one of the wooden make-shift outhouses at the festival. Nothing dirty, just her smiling. How on earth did she get my phone? When did this happen? What does this mean? Is she mocking me? It was frustrating and comforting at the very same time.
Then I received a text from my dad saying no one else was going to be at KFC. A wave of relief rushed over me, though I kept walking anyways because how awesome is fried chicken when you’re drunk?