Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We floated in warm waters

When I tell someone I was a weird kid, I never get a look of surprise, but of relief, as if that person is thinking, "Oh thank god, he's aware of it."

How weird is up for debate. To crib from Tolstoy, every child is weird in his or her own special way. But I submit to you that I was a uniquely weird child. I constructed a shrine, of sorts, to the blown-apart memory of the Challenger crew.

Perhaps 'morbid' is more accurate, now that I think about it.

Anyway, about the shrine: I used a small wooden cabinet, which hung on the wall and had slatted doors and dark lacquered wood. I removed the shelves from the cabinet. I nailed a small toy space shuttle, cargo-bay doors open, to the inside. I used Sure deodorant--the aerosol kind, which looked more or less like a caustic version of spray-on snow--to create stars and a tiny swirling galaxy. I cut pictures of the dead astronauts from magazines and glued the pictures around the shuttle and the stars and the galaxy, and then I wrote Reagan's quote about how these seven astronauts had slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God (I believed in God back then, so maybe 'weird' really is more accurate than 'morbid').

So. The shrine. It hung on my wall, nailed into the sheetrock, for maybe a year. It was usually the first thing I saw in the morning, the last thing I saw at night. The frozen smiles of 7 heads, the deodorized firmament, the plastic shuttle, and Reagan's quote.

The Challenger explosion became a minor obsession for me. I read any book I could find on the lives of the seven, I read newspaper articles about the reason for the tragedy, I watched quicky documentaries thrown up by half-assed news producers on 20/20 about NASA, about the astronauts, the surviving family.

From the Challenger disaster, I grew outward. I moved into the Apollo 1 disaster, where three men were roasted alive rather than scattered all over southern Florida. From Apollo, I got into Michner's terrible novel Space, then on to Wolfe's pretty-good novel The Right Stuff.

To me, the space program had always existed. It was like God: perfect, eternal, benevolent. The Challenger disaster caused me to reach back into the history of space travel and come to grips with the reality: it was a violent, complex endeavor, the culmination of centuries of science and math and finance rather than a normal extension of humanity.

As an adult it seems obvious to me that what I was doing in my obsessing over the disaster was coming to terms with death. Also, I was coming to terms with the fact that I no longer believed in God.

There's a book by Douglas Coupland called Life After God. Haven't read it since college, but there's a passage which occurred to me when, in this post, I mentioned the cabinet hanging in my room for most of 1986 and into 1987. I pulled out my copy of the book so I could type out the passage.

As suburban children we floated at night in swimming pools the temperature of blood; pools the color of Earth as seen from outer space. We would skinny-dip, my friends and me--hip-chick Stacey with her long yellow hair and Malibu Barbie body; Mark, our silent strongman; Kristy, our omni-freckled redheaded joke machine; voice-of-reason Julie, with the "statistically average" body; honey-bronze ski bum, Dana, with his non-existent tan line and suspiciously large amounts of cash, and Todd, the prude, always last to strip, even then peeling off his underwear underneath the water. We would float and be naked--pretending to be embryos, pretending to be fetuses--all of us silent save for the hum of the pool filter. Our minds would be blank and our eyes closed as we floated in warm waters, the distinction between our bodies and our brains reduced to nothing--bathed in chlorine and lit by pure blue lights installed underneath diving boards. Sometimes we would join hands and form a ring like astronauts in space; sometimes when we felt more isolated in our fetal stupor we would bump into each other in the deep end, like twins with whom we didn't even know we shared a womb.

My copy of this diminutive book--a collection of short stories, really--was covered in dust. When I blew the dust away, the dust made small galaxies and stars in the hall light.

Today is the day, 25 years ago, when we sent a teacher into space, and watched her explode on live TV. None of the publicity preceding the launch doubted she would rise. None of the publicity hinted she would lose her life.

And then there's god. Well-publicized, predicted to rise again someday. Like Christa McAuliffe, god remains in the air.

On earth, we float around at room-temperature, surprised to bump into a twin, surprised to share the womb with so many others, waiting to be born.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Michele Bachmann's response

Ah what the hell. Yes it's sexist, and apologize, but it seems to me that Bach is not unlike Alex Forrest from 'Fatal Attraction.' I hope Bo has his own private security detail to prevent him from ending up in a pot of boiling water. Reload for updates

10:41PM Teapartynation.com: Some random guys are wandering around in front of the camera, unaware they're on a live feed. GIANT video picture, freeze-framed, of Michele Bachmann behind them. A cozy leather chair, unoccupied, and an American flag. Clearly killing time til the GOP makes its official nonresponse to Obama's crowd-pleasing speech.

10:46: Crazy ahoy. Michele makes her entrance after demanding water, and a lot of mic fussing--this must be what it's like to be in the audience of the Spider-man musical--you can feel the fail before it happens.

10:47PM: HAVE SOMEBODY POSTED AT THE DOORS. No doors must open during Michele's response to Ob's speech. And now she's adjusting her--no seriously--she's adjusting her shoulder-pads, clearing her throat, and doing some shimmy dance.

10:49PM: "I'm here to honor the teaparty and not compete with the official GOP response. The White House promised us that they'd be magical negroes and yet misplaced a lot of jobs. Just after 8 months after Obama did his coup thing and spent every piece of money we don't have [let me point to my handy chart about light bulbs to prove my point] I'm gonna remind you that you no longer have health care."

10:52PM: This can't be real. WHY IS SHE STARING AT MY LEFT SHOULDER?

10:53PM: I think she's serious. Tho oddly, she's got a 'Rachel' haircut, and she's armed with Joan Collins shoulderpads, which would seem to undercut her genuine intent. "We're just beginning to undo the damage done in the past two years." JUST TWO? And now she's pointing, seriously, to a picture of the flag being raised over Iwo Jima... oh, she's done. And she's high-fiving. Not kidding. She HIGH-FIVED someone and asked, "Are we clear?"

10:56PM: Wow. I couldn't type fast enough for that. It was like liveblogging the sinking of the Lusitania.

State of the Union: Fucked


I might crap out, but I'll liveblog the State of the Union for a bit. Reload for occasional updates.

8:44pm C-SPAN: Action shot of Obama and Michelle hopping into the limo-tank. Greg reminded me there's a pint of the President's blood stored in the limo. I wonder what it's like to drive around with an extra pint of your own blood. Also, note from neighbor, who took Waffles out for a walk while we were at work: Took Waffles out. Nice walk. Massive BM. Hm.

8:46pm C-SPAN: Nattering nabobs nattering. I wonder what the SOTU looks and sounds like on real cable.

8:52PM: After an exciting 'Obama arrives at the Hill' door-slamming event, the camera cuts to what's going on in the Chamber, which is Boehner shouting out names like a drill sergeant, and Biden reading a list of porn names, for no real reason.

8:47PM: I LOVE Boehner's pink tie. Very festive. Matches Biden's cheeks.

8:50PM: A C-SPAN 'technician' is explaining social media to the geriatric viewers, to make sure they know they can 'tweet' and 'facebook' their immediate reactions directly to C-SPAN. God, everyone has to have an opinion.

8:54PM, FOX: I'm apparently missing 'Glee.' A rerun with Carol Burnett. Hm. Ah well, there's a representative dressed as an English pea, so I'll stick with SOTU.

8:56PM, C-SPAN: Everyone applauds the dean of the diplomatic corps, I guess because they're all relieved to know there's someone in charge of diplomacy. And now the Supremes descend upon the Chamber, looking rather diminutive and lost. Perhaps they're always promised sandwiches. No Scalia, of course.

8:58PM: Michelle enters, with sleeves. As Wonkette said earlier, all eyes will be on Michelle's box tonight.

9:01PM: Boehner orange factor is low, so I guess the Republicans won't be shouting out random insults this year, which is kind of disappointing. It'd be fun if Obama had a Michael Richards moment and started calling Joe Wilson the 'n' word.

4 minutes after 9. I SAW Ob get into the same damn car as Michelle, and she arrived 5 minutes ago. Did he need to take a leak or something?

9:06PM: The President enters. Hope he shook it off first. Boehner looks constipated while clapping, and the English pea is cozying up to Cantor. I wish the C-SPAN people talked more.

9:08PM: Two minutes of applause. Clearly the President knows how to milk it. No shots of McCain clapping, sadly.

9:11PM: Oh, shit, there's a speech tonight too?

9:12PM: Boehner decided to go with a jaunty pink tie and sedate rust skin tone; Ob apparently skipped the hair dye. Interesting.

9:14PM: WHY ISN'T OBAMA WEARING A FLAG PIN GIFFORDS RIBBON? ANYONE WATCHING FOX NEWS? ARE THEY ON THIS YET?

9:20PM: According to C-SPAN, the word 'China' will appear 4 times tonight, apparently in the first three minutes of the speech. And 'no workers are more productive than ours... we're the home to the best colleges and universities." Which is why we also have the largest service industry, obviously.

9:21PM: Standing O(b) on the line 'we have to out-educate the rest of the world." By bombing them, I suppose. With books.

9:23: "In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives, it's how we make our living." And as an example, he mentions Sputnik. Brilliant. Also, Edison, who worked very hard to suppress Tesla's genuinely innovative ideas. Nice. And on to a roofing company. Next: Joe the Plumber's innovative idea to convince America his name was Joe and that he was in fact a plumber. Frankly, it seems America's greatest talent is hoodwinking others into thinking it's innovative and.... wait, G just declared something was 'an ambitious goal' and applauded. I should maybe listen to the speech, which is clearly not written down on his hand.

9:28PM: Ah. Win the future, Ob says. Education, he says. "Think about it," he says. Follow-up: A quarter of students don't finish college, we've fallen to 9th in the world for degree-attainment, parents' don't love their children. Winners of the science fair deserve to be celebrated more than the Super Bowl champs--clearly he's bitter the Bears lost.

9:32PM: The SOTU always reminds me of the time I went to Catholic Mass one Christmas. Lots of standing and sitting at odd times.

9:35PM: Ob moves from education to the DREAM Act. Lets see how firmly Boehner's butt remains fixed to his chair. Actually kind of impressed he's applauded at all for the Kenyan Muslim standing in front of him.

9:39PM: Ob's discussing high speed rails and general infrastructure. The GOP is not happy about this because they know that'll mean more hard work for the people authorized by the Patriot Act to monitor us. Or something.

9:42PM: Bored. Is Carol Burnett still on?

9:43PM: No. Damn. Trade agreements. Promote American jobs.

9:44PM: Regulations. The teabaggers don't like these things, and so Boehner doesn't like these things. There's a reason they don't like regulations, I think. They have irregular bowel movements, and feel that's the natural state of the body politic.

9:46PM: "I say to the Congress, let's stop fighting the battles of the past two years and build on what we have," or something. Meaning, shut up about the health care thing--it's done and people need help. Presumed response from the Republicans: Fuck that--we have a better plan.... that we'll reveal soon. Very soon. Promise.

9:49PM: To illustrate a point about tossing poor people to the wolves in order to lessen the deficit, Obama used these rather halting words [paraphrase]: "Cutting funds to the poor and education is like crashing a plane into the ground over and over, with blood and bodies strewn about the impact site."

9:52PM: "Before we take money away from our schools... we should ask millionaires to give up their tax breaks. Not about punishing them for their success, but to contribute to America's success." Boehner's tie turned purple.

9: 54PM: "We can't win the future with the government of the past." Greg: So why do you keep hiring Clinton hold-overs?

9:57PM: Haha... he just doubled-down on that terrible idea to get rid of earmarks, and all of congress, and a few Supremes, crapped their Depends.

10:00PM: WAR [insert 'Duck Soup' clips]. Ah good, this is the SOTU speech I'm used to seeing--it's as if GWB had cleared his last lawn of tumbleweeds and returned to the podium. "Taliban" this, "purpose" that, "strangle-hold," "9-11," what to expect in our next decade of war in Afghanistan... Oh god, "we've sent a message: we will not relent, we will not waiver, and we will defeat you." He said that. He actually said it. Somewhere, Peggy Noonan is swooning.

10:04PM: Biden Watch: He's hacking up a furball. The hair implants have gone too far.

10:06PM: "No American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.... so, colleges, start letting us continue to ROTC the shit out of your students. But don't let those students marry. We'll let them die for the country, but I'm still going to defend DOMA." Whatever.

10:10PM: "I know there's no one here who would change places with any other nation on earth." Oddly enough, I could get married AND die for my country in several other places. And awwww, so cute. Obama gave a shout-out to Biden, Biden fist-pumped, Boehner thumped Biden fraternally on the chest, and then burst into tears.

10:13PM: That sucked. How can I tell who to hate if they all mingle and chuck each other on the chin

Hm. Should I liveblog Michele Bachmann?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The lost entries of Ronald Reagan's diary, pt. 2

[Editor's note: A few more lost entries of Reagan's diaries have come to light. As always, dates have been redacted for national security reasons. Any hint that Reagan might have suffered from anything other than pristine logic during his two terms would undermine all governmental actions in the next century.]

[Date redacted]


In the hospital because some young man loved Jodie Foster too much.

Interesting to think I almost got the Robert De Niro part in 'Taxi Driver.' Funny story: I was governor of California at the time, forced to pay the usual lip-service to Hollywood by hosting a celebrity party at the mansion, then beg guests for money. Martin Scorsese came up to me. Of course I had no idea who Martin Scorsese was, so I asked him to bring me a highball. Which he did.

He then told me he'd written a script featuring a rugged, folksy young taxi-cab driver who sees how corrupt the world truly is and sets about trying to right the many wrongs. "Just like you," Scorsese told me.

"Mommy," I asked Nancy, standing to my right, "why is the bad waiter still talking to me?"

Long story short: Marty made his movie with someone else, and I got shot. This story is funny because, rather than push for gun control, I'm going to push for tighter restrictions on art and culture. That'll teach them to not cast me in a good film role.

[Editor's note: Martin Scorsese refuses to confirm this story, and referred us to Elizabeth Taylor, who also has no comment.]

[Date redacted]

Maggie is here! Right now as I scratch out these words into this diary, Maggie Thatcher is sitting in the Lincoln Bedroom, no doubt bolt-upright, considering the decor. Knowing Maggie's eagle eyes, she's already spotted the bubble in the paint (it's a small bubble, just to the left of the portrait of Andy Jackson), and I'll no doubt hear about it first thing tomorrow morning! That Maggie. She doesn't miss a thing, unless it's unemployed.

Earlier this evening a no doubt awkward thing happened, so I've been preoccupied with Mommy for a while, assuring her that her wifely duties are more than satisfactory, and that my husbandly intentions are more than sincere. What happened was, for a moment, Maggie and I were left alone. In the funny little room just off the receiving parlor or whatever--it's impossible to remember what each room in this damned place is called because they all have names. It's like looking at a map of the country--pretty soon, 'Alabama' just seems like 'that place down there with the voters' and 'Vermont' seems like 'that area with all the nuts.'

Anyway. Maggie and I were alone. I was telling her about the time I saved Britain from the Nazis [Editor's note... oh never mind. What's the point?]. "Mags," I said, "you have a lovely country. It suits your eyes."

"Oh Ronnie," Mags replied. "And the Grecian 5 in your hair quite brings out the soft timbre of your elegant voice."

I didn't know what she meant but I liked it, so moved from the chair where I was sitting to the loveseat where she was sitting, and brushed a hand against the soft curve of her mottled neck.

"Ronnie, don't," Maggie gasped, touching her fingertips to the area on her pale white skin I'd touched. "We shouldn't."

"Shouldn't what?" I asked.

"My brush doesn't need clearing," Maggie said.

"But maybe I could invade your Falklands."

Which of course is when Nancy came into the room. Such a misunderstanding! Maggie was forced to invade Falkland Islands on her own.

[Date redacted]

Sometimes I wake up at night and look at the woman next to me and ask myself, "Who is this woman with her sharp features and bird-like angles?" Then I think, "How does a nose that small produce such an ungodly racket of snores?"

Tonight, Nancy awoke as I stared at her. She asked me if something was wrong. I told her 'no,' but then I unburdened myself.

When we were done, Mommy reminded me to have the staff burn the sheets and replace them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The lost entries of Ronald Reagan's diary, pt. 1


Editor's note: These are lost entries in Reagan's presidential diaries. The dates have been removed for security reasons and for legal reasons. For more information about Alzheimer's Disease, go here. For more information about insane leaders of the people, go here.

[Date Redacted]
Did the State of the Union tonight. Looking out at all those Democrats reminded me of the orgy I accidentally attended once just before ‘Bonzo’ was released.

I remember it like it was yesterday, which is to say not very well. Ha. A little Gallo's humor. I shouldn't drink wine.

It wasn’t supposed to be an orgy, but McCarthy showed up and Ed Hoover was already there, in a powder blue dressing gown, so things kind of went south, leaving me to sit in a corner with a soda water and contemplate my relationship with my wife, whom I’d recently divorced because she didn’t appreciate my desire to abandon my stalled film career in favor of public office. As I sat there watching McCarthy do unsavory things to a minor starlet, all I could think was, “Well. Gee.”

“Well. Gee.” Two words that changed my life.

Also that night, I realized powder blue was a terrible color for a hairy man. Imagine how horrible the ‘70s were for me. Powder blue everywhere, as if Edgar was taunting me from the grave.

Now that I think of it, I think I married Nancy to combat my distaste of powder blue. Her severe blood-red wardrobe was and remains a comfort to me.

One more thing about the orgy: Nobody blackballs like McCarthy.

[Date Redacted]
Regan just reminded me of something I forgot. Then he reminded me to forget it. I nodded and pretended to know what he was talking about. Then remembered I have another 'a’ in my name and am not named 'Donald,' so finished shaving.

[Date Redacted]
Horrible news.

Went to feed the beast today. I hate the press the way I hate Communism and Elizabeth Taylor (I will never forgive her for insisting on that homo Clift over me for ‘Place in the Sun,’ though it was probably a wise choice. Audiences would never buy me having sexual congress with someone like Shelley Winters). [ed. note: Reagan was never up for the role of George Eastman in George Stevens’ ‘A Place in the Sun;’ it is not clear why Reagan disliked Elizabeth Taylor. When asked about Reagan’s feud, the indestructible actress quipped, “It’s no coincidence his first wife was named ‘Wyman’” Also not clear: what Taylor meant by her quip.]

The first question asked of me, by that guy with the bad toupee from ABC, was something about Contra-altos. I told him I knew nothing about opera. Now there’s a scandal because the elite liberals in the media think a man who leads people should know something about culture.

I ask back, "If I spent my time worrying about culture, how could I create a culture?"

The toupee guys follow up was this: "Sire [sic], are you aware of the culture you're creating by ignoring the Contras?"

My answer: "This is off the record."

Toupee guy, I think his name is Regan Donald's son, assured me we were now off the record.

"The Contra-altos are lucky to be getting paid at all. No one likes opera."

That told him.


[Date Redacted]
Mommy told me tonight that her astrologer... [ed. note: Entry incomplete]

[Date Redacted]
Hudson died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t remember.

Take that, liberal media press persons who don’t think I know culture. That line above is a direct quote from Camus’ The Stranger, which Ron jr insists on quoting at me every time I take a trip France. Or Africa. I don't remember.

[Date Redacted]
Turns out Rock Hudson, who starred in that terrible movie opposite That Woman with Violet Eyes about oil, died of being homo. People seem shocked that homo living kills.

Funny story: I wanted the role Hudson played in that movie because it seemed to me a nice way to promote the benefits of oil. Again, That Woman refused to allow producers to cast me. My career could have taken off like a gushing oil well but she blocked my casting and so here I am, alive and President of the United States and joyfully having occasional sex with my female. In Reykjavik.

Take that, That Woman.

[Date Redacted]
George told me he is running for president. I told him he better buy some Nikes! We laughed, then I explained what Nikes were and he suggested a great shoe store in Cleveland specializing in flat feet so I dispatched an aid.

Speaking of aids, I wish the beasts in the feeding pen would stop asking about them. What do they want me to say about aids? They’re just there, they aren’t a major news story. Maybe the contra-altos need aids? Ha!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Destination Part 3

Here's part 2.

This is the final part, btw.

3.

They were moving. Tu knew they were moving because he could feel the cab hitting every bump, every pothole, could feel every turn the cab took.

His eyes were closed. Tu’s eyes were closed because it made him too sick to watch the city crawl past.

The driver. Eyes open.

They were slowly progressing along the edge of the island now, the edge of the nameless city, and if Tu opened his eyes he would’ve seen the river, frozen and ragged with ice, a ghost river glowing from the city lights with points like draped napkins jutting from the surface as if all the characters from the depths were expected to have a dinner party. There was an ocean somewhere, a great expanse of water and life, and snow fell onto that ocean and disappeared.

The icy river Tu didn’t dare look at emptied into that ocean.

Above the ocean were clouds. Within the ocean was a current.

Tu, barely conscious, wiped at the corners of his mouth where a top lip closed in on a bottom lip.

“Never do the night shift,” the cabbie said to himself.

Back to the river: waves were frozen mid-crest, so that the surface preserved the rough, jagged nature of water in motion.

Back to the sky: clouds meandered through it, self-contained grey balloons set adrift in a black sea.

Back to the cab: warm, comforting. Tu used his arms to cradle himself, and drifted in and out of sleep as the cabbie pushed the cab along the edge of the island.

Just before his shift, the cabbie kissed his son on the cheek. “I’ll be home as soon as I can,” the cabbie told his boy.

No answer. The boy wiped the kiss from his cheek.

The cabbie checked his rearview mirror, which was pointed at the kid in the back seat and not at the traffic stalking him. The kid was slumped down in a small part of the back seat, legs tucked into his torso, arms folded around him so that if the cabbie wanted to he could slap a stamp on the kid and shove him into a mailbox. The cabbie thought of his own son. Wished he could do the same with.... no matter. The kid was in the back seat, and his son was at home, and he, the cabbie, was behind the wheel of a vehicle moving along the west side of the island along an iced-over river.

“Where do I want to go,” the cabbie thought.

Then the cabbie thought, “Why do they always ask that question as if they’re doing me a favor.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Destination Part 2

Here's part one. This story, btw, is a total cannibalization of a story I wrote years ago, with an old woman in Tu's place.

2.

Tu leaned his forehead against the cab door’s window. He watched the city slide past as if it were a film strip, the segmented sidewalk a series of frames. This shot: piles of garbage bags awaiting pickup. This shot: a naked tree scratching at the sky. This shot: a homeless woman curled into a fetal position on top of a subway grate. A cross street, a break in the film.

Everything was laced in pale orange. Everything glistened.

The cab had gone five blocks. The cab stopped. The cabbie swiveled around to look at Tu, and Tu looked at him. The cabbie’s windshield was wet and glowing a bright, fragmented red from the traffic light.

“I gotta let you out soon, kid.”

“Don’t.”

“Then tell me where you want to go.”

Tu considered, again, the possibilities. The great Center, to admire the lights and wander anonymously in the crowds of anonymous tourists? The piers? “I want to go where you want to go.”

“Where I want to go. Kid. You need to get home. Where the fuck do you live?”

“Take me where you want to go. Seems fair. You spend all your time driving assholes around who could care less. So. Go. Where do you want to be right now?”

Behind the cabbie, the windshield became a textured green lawn.

“Light’s green,” Tu informed the cabbie.

“Gonna be honest, kid. It’s been a helluva night. Consider yourself lucky.” He turned back to the steering wheel, shifted the cab to drive, and accelerated slightly. “Until I get a fare.”

“Until you get a fare,” Tu said, “or until you get a destination.”

“There ain’t no destinations, kid. There’s just a series of departures, far as I’m concerned.” The driver turned off the avenue onto a cross street.

Tu recognized the street. He used to walk with Joseph, admiring the townhouses nestled tightly together like baby birds in a nest, their pointed facades like beaks reaching up for nourishment. “We’ll live here one day,” Joseph told Tu many times, making a grand gesture. “Tu Erikson,” adopting the voice of a gameshow announcer, “one of these houses could be yours!”

Kiss.

“Your kid,” Tu said. “My age. Boy or girl?”

“Boy,” the cabbie answered. “He’s home. In bed. Sober.”

“You love him?”

“Yeah.”

“He love you?”

“Yeah, kid. He loves me.”

“But does he appreciate you?”

The cabbie didn’t answer. He’d reached an intersection, turned onto another avenue, continued heading south.

Frames of the filmstrip flipped past again. A dog without a collar. Another homeless woman. More garbage bags.

Then: “No. He doesn’t.”

Tu thought. Said, “Tell him I think you’re a great guy.”

“I’m a lot of things. I ain’t great.”

“Oh. Man. Everyone is great. Even assholes are great. I’m great. You know that? I’m great too.”

The windshield was red again. It looked like a the center of a geode. The cabbie turned, again. He looked through the plexiglass, and he looked for a long time. The windshield turned green, then amber, then red again. The cabbie said nothing. Green. They remained still. Amber. Tu felt the machinery of the cab in his spine. He lifted his head from the window and stared back at the cabbie.

“What is it, kid. Girls? You have a bad night?”

“Too?” Tu asked.

“Fine, you got me. I had a bad night.”

“Too.”

“This is why I stick to the day shift,” the cabbie told himself. “You got any idea how fucked up people are when the sun goes down.”

Tu nodded. “During the day they keep it together because... I’m gonna throw up now.”

The cabbie slammed the gearshift to park. “Open the door.”

“I’m trying.” Tu reached out to search for the handle. His fingers brushed against it several times.

“Open the goddamn door kid. It’s rude as hell if you puke in my cab.”

“Urrgh,” Tu said. Scraped at the door. Closed on the handle.

“Goddammit kid.” The cabbie opened his own door, got out, and rushed around the back of the cab, cursing as he went. The cabbie opened Tu’s door and leapt back as Tu shot forward from the waist and strained out the multitude of purple liquid he’d consumed at Cora’s apartment. The liquid shot from his mouth at the speed of sound and smashed into the asphalt.

When Tu had finished, the cabbie whistled respectfully. “Damn kid. You should hire your stomach out as a reservoir for the Department of Water Supply.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Destination

1.

Tu lurched down the sidewalk of a nameless city. It was after a party and well after midnight, so that the residual alcohol in his blood and the pale orange glow of the streetlights distorted his vision just enough to make the sidewalk rolling ahead of him appear to vibrate.

The usual hum of the city during civilized hours had died away. Instead there was the thud of his pulse, the sighing of the occasional passing car. Not much else. Ambience in the city only lasts as long as three AM. After that, there’s just a lonely, unusual quiet until the garbage trucks wake the city again.

Even though Tu lived a few blocks from Cora’s apartment, where he’d sat earlier on a shag carpet, legs folded beneath him and a purple drink in his hand, he decided to grab a cab. Tu stood at the entrance of his building. Stared at the glass door. Shut one eye to focus on the lock. Fingered the keys in his pocket. Turned away to the street, lifted an arm.

And stood at the curb like a wobbly statue.

His view was of the street and the repeating rows of traffic signals and jittery streetlights and the perspiring asphalt leading through the canyon of spires and oblong boxes with windows lit and windows dark, angles and arches, and there was a black perspiring sky mirroring the street. And not much else. Certainly there were no car headlights approaching.

So he stood. Arm up.

Cora had been cold. Which was nothing new. She was often cold to him. To everyone. A few drinks into the evening, Tu asked her, “Sweetie, why are you being such a bitch to me tonight?” and Cora responded, “Because one good bitch deserves another.” Tu smiled, pretending Cora’s answer was a bad joke, a turn-of-phrase requiring a pity-chuckle.

“It isn’t something to smile at,” Cora said.

Tu’s arm hurt. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing at the curb lifting his arm above his head, but his thinned blood was having trouble making its way through his arteries to his fingers, then to his hand. So he dropped his right arm. Lifted his left.

He wanted a cab ride. And only when the yellow car at last glided up in front of him did Tu realize a vital point: He had no cash. He had no cards. Tu decided to accomplish one of the more elusive, but not impossible, tasks of city life: convincing a cab driver to donate a free ride. For charity.

Tu reached out for the door handle. There were two handles, one above the other, so he had a 50/50 chance and blew it. He shut one eye, and the two handles became one. He pulled, opened, stared at the interior, hesitated.

The back seat of the cab was vinyl, was black, was scuffled and dark, was sectioned off from the driver by a thick plexiglass. The plexiglass was scratched and stained. Tu wondered how the plexiglass of cabs got so scratched up--did people claw at it during terrifying trips through the city? Were wild animals regularly using the city’s cabs to escape the local zoos?

“You getting in,” the driver said. Not asked. Said.

“Yeah,” Tu replied.

“Anytime soon.” Again, a statement.

Tu crawled in head first. His feet disappeared into the cab. With some effort he maneuvered himself into a sitting position, put his hands in his lap. Sat there.

“Might want to close the door.”

“Right.” Tu reached out, grasped the first thing his fingers touched, and pulled.

“Garbage bag, kid.”

Tu looked at his hand. A small white bag of garbage was clutched in his hand. “Yeah. My garbage, by the way.” He dropped the bag to the gutter, concentrated on the door, and managed to pull it closed. “I’m a bit drunk.”

“No shit.”

“I don’t know where I want to go.”

“That makes two of us.”

“Ha.”

Tu leaned back, feeling the cab’s motor tremble through his body and the gentle heat against his skin.

“Kid. Look. Here’s how this works.” The cabbie turned slightly in his seat to look through the plexiglass. Tu thought the driver was handsome. He couldn’t make out any of the driver’s features, but they were handsome all the same. “I take you somewhere. Guessing your apartment. And then you pay me. And then you sleep it off, and I go on my way.”

“And we never see one another again,” Tu continued, “we live out our lives. But we shared this one moment and this moment will be a part of our past. Got it.”

“You ain’t drunk. You’re high.”

“Both.”

“Kid. I got a kid your age, so I’m gonna be nice.”

“Okay.”

“I ain’t a lounge or a lobby. Tell me where you want to go, and I’ll take you there.”

Tu considered his options, which were many. The Park might be nice this early in the morning--no one would be there so he’d have the whole place to himself. A museum would be nice at this hour, if he could break into one and wander around without the tourists bothering him or the police arresting him. Maybe Joseph was still awake, Joseph his ex, Joseph Cora’s brother, maybe the cabbie could drop him off at Joseph’s place.

“Drive to the Heights,” Tu said.

“Which Heights?”

Tu thought. “I don’t know. Pick one.”

“Kid. Look. Where do you live. I’ll drop you off. Christ.” The cabbie pushed a hand over his face and mumbled something to himself.

“Fine.” Tu sat forward. He placed both hands against the plexiglass and brought his face as close as he could, which was not very close, to the cabbie’s blurred face. “Go where you want to go. Where do you want to go? Take me around til you get a new fare, then just let me off there.”

“Jesus.” The cabbie mumbled something again. Then he said, “I should take your ass to the nearest precinct.” Then he turned, put the cab in gear, and Tu felt the cab move forward away from his building.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 'Ted Williams' Phenom

Right. So. You've probably seen the video of the homeless guy with the Don Pardo voice by now, and you're probably very happy for him. Yes? Yes. Guy with a druggie past who fell from grace and lived on the streets for decades, lost his family, lost his future, suddenly gets a second chance.

Two days ago, Williams was panhandling in Columbus, OH, which, I imagine, is very low on the list of major American cities one would want to be panhandling in. Today, he's fielding job offers like his namesake fielded pop-flies (I assume--I have no idea what position the baseball great Ted Williams played; I just know he was a baseball great, and had his head removed and cryogenically frozen after death).

Two days ago, Williams was a member of the great unwashed, forgotten society, just some guy with a hardluck story, a camouflage coat, a tent in the woods and a cardboard sign. Today: media darling.

Fitzgerald was wrong. American lives always have second acts.










Here's hoping there's not a third act. To rip off Chekhov: If there's a crack pipe hanging on the wall in the first act, it better be fired up by the third act or you have no story.

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