this time for real

Beth Lisick surprised me by asking if I would tell a story at the renowned Porchlight Series. I attempted to exhibit key no-storytelling qualities right then and there, but, well, that failed. Spirits were high. Lots of background noise. She mentioned the theme as she moved off: I Quit! and I said o! for sure, not a problem!

As I left the house I thought: what a problem. I’ve never quit anything in my life. And that, I was so happy to start the New Year with, was also a problem. Quitting might have been, at several points in my life, a most excellent choice. Alas, etc.

There was no story in not quitting. In fact, I should have immediately called Beth to quit the I Quit! and gone on record as being meta. But no, I am not a quitter. And so days later I was pacing in the packed, throwback Verdi Club with a story I had never told to anyone in my life, much less a hall filled with experienced story listeners, who, with their kindness, would shine a light on my total inexperience, which, I think, the series touts as authenticity. And it seemed very likely that everything about this story was about to vacate my mind at any second. I actually didn’t want to tell it. I didn’t want to reveal. Even the story I told Beth when she stopped by to hear my story was not quite this story, so uncertain was I of how to tell it at all. Yet Beth gave excellent advice:

Start with the episode of fake french in kindergarten.

Which I did.

2004.03.02 ears

  • if it weren’t for my brother falling off of a horse
  • mouse-clicks as bloody valentine is transferred to the 8600 and tracked
  • david thomas in my head singing “and every day will be a holiday” over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over


ask another question

Last night someone started reading from one of those little books of questions you can pick up as you wait a few days in the barnes and noble check out line. These books, and books quite like them only representing answers, or parallels, or ironies, seem to always be available there, like bags of chips, only in wee form, calendar form, day-runner form, pop-up form, water-cooler form —

Here’s the thing: last night’s readers scanned the pages without speaking aloud, little looks of disgust growing broader on their faces until they would wordlessly throw the book. Somebody would pick it up and we’d say

*You* read another question.

There may have been no suitable questions in the book of questions. I made up my own:

How did I get here? The room is filled with talk, food, drink, music, laughter and I’m being drawn up into the corner by the ceiling by some Dream Supervisor, moonlighting in the wrong area of human consciousness. It’s New Year’s Eve so everyone is moving in a soft light with vaselined edges, but the provenance is missing. I try to get the Dream Supervisor’s attention, but she’s furiously scribbling on her clipboard.

What was the Austrian medical researcher thinking when he opposed the establishment of a neonatal clinic in Lhasa? Let them die, he said. I was hearing this third hand and I imagined his eugenic-al accent. Still, I did not shriek. I turned my head and opened my mouth, then closed my mouth, my mental picture Koyaanisqatsi-style fast forwarding through the industrialization of Tibet (left side of the screen) and the return of my industrialized neighborhood in East Oakland to wetlands after we are removed by a fast-acting hemorrhagic virus (right side of screen).

and then, in a rush to re-anchor:

Where can I find that hack to permit dubbing new audio tracks onto DVDs? plus the follow-up Does the phase “permit dubbing” always sound like a euphemism of “unlawful tampering?” I need to know, so I can take the work from 2003 and repackage it in 2004.

I asked that last one aloud, and wrote the answers on a piece of paper I can’t find now.

Outside on the deck we assembled in a circle, each holding a candle. While lighting the first candle and each in turn, we were invited to speak of the expiring year, offer a wish for the oncoming one, or not, but, like so many chain letters, do not bust the flow. We didn’t. The neighborhood crackled with explosions, all very, very benign.


It’s impossible to watch the Macy’s [THANKSGIVING] Day Parade on the television anymore. It’s a series of crane shots over theater people who yap and bark inane things to fabulously up-with-people tempos.
MZ wakes and takes in about 30 seconds of it before reporting that the media is extra super brittle to report today that
everything is just fine, in fact, better than fine it’s
fucking great so
Regardless of the implicit metaphor of futility that the giant balloon of a football eluding the giant balloon of Charlie Brown invokes.
The Rockettes just changed the lyrics (and the destination) of the A Train so it evades Harlem.
I cannot watch.
Two years on and I finally get around to my pre-millennial tension.
It’s tricky.

Big Game

Tightwad Hill was mobbed and I had a disturbing case of xenophobia. I’ve been waiting a decade to write about what happens up there from my unique perspective of being an absolutely bottom ranking nobody.

It’ll come. It’ll come. It’ll come.

MZ says this happened after I left:

  1. the people that took my spot eventually joined a Gang of Fifty at the bottom of the hill. The gang would crash the gate tsunami-style, not so much to see the game, but to be in a good position to be one of the many many
  2. people running onto the field, naturally. This is the part I’ve never done. Nothing that has ever happened on a field has ever made me want to run onto it right afterward. Touchdowns. DJs. Burning Men. Easter eggs. Ice storms.
  3. Goalposts were torn down and marched about the place in such a haphazard fashion that it was obvious no one had really thought through the whole project, or assumed a leadership role. What does one do with a big giant goalpost? It was shown on Bancroft later that night on televised news.
  4. Mob ruled. Everytime MZ mentions mob rule, I wonder what he means or if it invokes his desire for it or his horror or if it means every other mob is implicit, nascent in the one he’s describing. In groups I galvanize instead of magnetize. Even if mob was ruling I’d be esconced in another perception of it in which I was completely other.This is a metaphor and I’m unwilling to deal with it.

    Add to my misery the desire to stand on football terraces during matches and not have my identity detected. It’s part of a package tour of the world as a man, driving mars bars from canterbury to jerusalem, showing unexpected kindness to my own kind, and ending up, well, dead from the gross misunderstanding this type of trickery tends to engender.

    There you have it.

Sue Hutchinson Facilitated My Fright

The ink went out of my inkjet right before the check run, when I was trying to print the report now that it had been resized to 19 pages instead of 33 for the fax of the emailed url for the ftp site or, if you had the userid and password, the html which favored, in a teeth gnashing way, IE browsers from wintel machines. Would I accomplish both a/p and a/r and payroll and quarter-end financials? Was that the phone?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, but I could not have known that at the time. However: Yes. It was Sue calling to remind me that we were going to the Parkway and then to 21 Grand. I began to equivocate, recalling that the Parkway movie was being touted as

black blair witch
black blair witch
black blair witch

Twisted! I thought she said Twister! These are two totally different movies!

During the question and answer period after the show, I had the typical sensory overload problem: tingly hands, nausea, and my familiar affliction of instant and irreparable melancholy brought on by seeing people scream relentlessly, hysterically, and, here’s the tricky part, fictively so, like, even if I wanted to help them I couldn’t because…

it’s a fucking movie

No matter. It’s Bob coming over the couch in a latter twin peaks episode, forcing me into wounded silence for a day and a half until I end up sitting on the porch in the fading afternoon light crying and crying and crying.

What’s the matter? Z asks.

The fucking Lynch! I sob. He’s… He’s… amoral!

I was really hurt by David Lynch’s use of subwoofer in lieu of coherent plot. I was really hurt by Constable’s cloud studies. I was really hurt by those Titians showing people getting their old testament heads chopped off. I was really hurt by the scene in Defending Your Life when the toddler cries helpless in his playpen as his parents argue pointlessly and cruelly over his head.

Pi didn’t hurt me. Requiem for a Dream did.

Bjork in Shepherd’s Bush didn’t hurt me. Bjork in Dancer In the Dark did.


Like I Need A Reason

The media reports continue to show people with bandanas covering their faces, but in fact bandana faces were an extremely small minority. It was a march of ordinary people, and, well, ordinary white people when you got right down to it. I pondered this with Miranda, a Yogi For Peace. I think, I said kind of gingerly as
another speaker sped through a 2-minute message and an 8-bar chant, the people who are most likely to suffer losses first are not here today. For that reason, I did not join in the 8 bars of Hell No, when asked Are You Gonna Go?

There’s very little question in my mind: we are not going under any circumstances.

Within a few minutes I’m asked if I’m Gonna Fight. I’m sposed to say Damn Right, but I thought we were not supposed to fight. I open my mouth and close it again, then look at my shoes.

These are the other things I noted:

  • the bart cars from fremont and unpleasanton are long and empty.
    the bart cars from richmond and pittsburg/bay point are short and crammed, jammed, squished and layered with people.
    if you wanted to dismantle the dissenting public, you would simply run these trains to a stadium run by people trained in the Skool of the Amerikkkas.
  • the role of technology and instantaneous communication changes the scope of this demonstration, but also acts as a looming indictment. I cannot reach blair because the cellular service at the foot of embarcadero is maxing out.
  • Instead, I wander from special interest group to special interest group because they contain my friends: women in black, americorps, transgendered punks, two families with mocha bags, and on and on. I wish I had had some connection to the Psychoanalysts Against Instability, but it only took a few seconds reflection to realize I’d have a hard time blending in. If only I’d found some Quakers. We could have shut up together.
  • god almighty people move slowly when in a group.
    I did not receive the instructions about demonstrations, but I would at least think we’d move at a leisurely pace, if the idea was to move. When we assemble to be still, people are constantly on the move: lateral, diagonal, getting up and down, bag crinkling, sniffing, coughing, pulling out eyebrows. Here when the flood of humanity toward a physical destination is the impressive bit… I’m stepping on heels.
    Sorry again.
    Fuck I’m sorry.
  • I am beyond belief.
    I still want to perform direct action through the casting of intelligent votes, but my choices continue to narrow. I asked Miranda if maybe we were spinning our wheels by standing out in the street like this. Maybe we should dig up the street, which is an imprecise metaphor for total revolution. Is this revolutionary? Miranda said that revolutionary doesn’t mean anything anymore, now that it’s used to describe how toothpaste works.
  • For every sign, I wanted to start a conversation. Not practical.
  • My eyes jiggled at the collision of Not In My Name signs with No Blood for Oil signs.
  • Something mildly inappropriate at the block of greens stumping their gubanatorial candidate with their greeny green signs. Everyone else appeared to be identifying with the Human Race, with some points of individual concern.
  • A guy in a Diet Pepsi jacket handing out a cheat sheet for indicting us policies
    Dude. Your jacket. I. You. Never mind.
  • Another guy in a Zabar’s hat. My mind attempts to make a political statement out of it: autonomic demonstration response
  • Stop Our Crazed Government. Take Back Our USA.
  • PEACE: Live In It Or Rest In It
  • Oregonians for Sanity
  • Bush: Inspect Yourself!
  • War Is *So* Last Century
  • Blow It Out Your Ass, Bush
  • No War Go Giants

Upon arrival in Civic Center Plaza, I assume the leisurely pace I had been craving. Back into BART and back to Jingletown, I coerce MZ into burning some fossil fuels in order to connect me with a roast turkey and cranberry sandwich from the tiny alameedy place. It’s the last day of daylight saving, but I spend it dozing on the couch surfing for news reports but in the end permitting a program on Pan Am Flight 103 to spin it’s dramatic timeline into my twilight.

My fall melancholy has officially returned.

Two Hours Every Three Months Is Enough

Numbers soothe me, even though looking at the second grade picture doesn’t reveal a sensitivity to them.

They grew on me.

I carve out time for mental health. It’s actually 100 minutes every 131400 (not to get all rent-y on people): less than 1% of my time.

Not to Harper Index it, but the other 1% in my life is a portion of my gross income spent on live entertainment : 80 shows so far, or 28% of year to date evenings… afternoons… weekends… what’s in a day? Especially if you spend any portion of it waiting to get into the venue.

With no formal training in how to detect the beauty and mystery and meaning and meaninglessness of numbers, I have felt their radiant heat. When things grow a little colder, I draw closer to them out of necessity. I have the uneasy feeling, and here’s where you get to invoke both pi and crumb’s smarter brother, that the numbers are really sounds; and the sounds string together to form poems.

Not to worry. I’ll have a nice 100 minute talk with a professional. It will true the axis.

Trenton Makes

The World Takes.

That train corridor from D.C. to Penn Station is like looking at a giant’s backside as he slowly sinks toward you. It takes four hours or so to be squashed flat in the seat of the ailing recliner, made all the more… scottish by the perpetual grey wet damp of late afternoon.

I thought I was a dog in the chair, about to yelp while nimbly getting out of the way, but I realized I was slightly smaller: an aging cat with a sense of outrage minus the six million dollar leaping ability.

After a thousand blackened back porches of tenements butting up to the tracks, armies of warrior skylarks, monte carlos and K cars in skeleton poses of defiance (there is no escape from your creek bed, no matter how tirelessly you spin your red rims), and tons of crumbling 12 monkey masonry, I was reduced further:

Right past mouse, down to bug. Good bug? Bad bug? Still can’t tell, but possessing an exoskeleton, and a size so confoundingly small that I slip right up in the treads of the mass that descends: alive, surviving, able to tell the tale of the murky twilight of Trenton. Gliding past its own internal 5 o’clock exodus, I saw Trenton’s tentacles elongating in every direction, waving cilia of tail lights, road spray, a heavy breath of civic pride irregularly lit on a span suspended above dark water.

Night was arriving in a way that meant to teach you a lesson.

Upon detraining I immediately made for the crevices.