Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Einstein's Theory of Relativity

HER boudoir smelled of myrrh. And jasmine. And distantly of something else. Saffron maybe? He was nervous. He had never visited one of the great courtesans, had never been with a woman who had trained her lifelong in the courtly arts. In fact, he had never really been with a woman before at all, save for frantic gropings in various cars, movie theaters, none of which ever led to an act that could be called consummation. Simply put, he was nervous about his performance. This was akin to dropping by to show a coloring book to Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn. He looked around the room. Tapestries softened the walls and the light was a gentle amber pool spilt from a tasselled lamp. HER bed invited with great thick bedrobes of silk and down. Pillows were piled high. He imagined for a moment that SHE must use them as support for exotic sexual positions, then thought of body fluids, blushed and tried to think of something else. He studied HER cosmetics table. Bottles of all sorts of sizes and shapes were grouped in interesting tableaus, and a partly opened baby blue box from Tiffany's seemed to call him over for a peek, but he was paralyzed. Nervous. Inside, his heart beat like a gazillion canary wings. He envisioned his chest as an aviary, suddenly bursting open, red songbirds flying out to the four winds leaving his spasming carcass behind. Outside the door, he heard a rustling, and thought perhaps that SHE was coming in, his nervousness heightening but for a moment, until the rustling passed on down the hall. His mind was all over the place. He remembered in this order: a Playboy he had found under his father's bed, a book of anatomical drawings in the school library, a filmstrip shown in middle school that extolled the virtues of abstinence. None of that helped. He was a mess. Let's face it - he was an accountant, not a lover. Accountants were smart, not suave, or debonair, and certainly not sexy. He thought of a quote having to do with Einstein's Theory of Relativity, a quote from old Albert himself - "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." Relatively speaking, he had been in the boudoir for 165 days. That was his last coherent thought before the door opened.

One from the past: "Trips" 1/6/99

[My old Art Director, Kevin, liked to toss a twist into the game and give me 5 phrases instead of words, or a combination of phrases and words. "Trips" is one such example]

Thin red Line
Deep Blue
Purple Helmet
Redrum is pretty on my wall with lipstick
tow trucks with stars painted on them

The clouds blacken and slide low to the horizon, weighs down the day and turns the afternoon to a thin red line. I starts leavin' the deep blue; the tab's kickin' in. I feels the familiar tingles in my gggut, the almost cramping, almost excitement and hair beginning to rise on the back of my neck. Things grows bright. I throws on my sweater and vikes cap (my purple helmet) and trundles out into the snow. Everything's solid white and people, buildin's and cars are just textured slabs that lifts up and moves around in the blank background. And I watches it all like some sort of weird mmmmovie. People's diggin' out of the snow and tow trucks with stars painted on them and stars on their roofs drives up and down the street chopping up the dusk into wedges of yellow starlight and I'm jus' wanderin' through their moments like a little bit of astrology that goes unnnnnnoticed. I heads out toward the pier, my face hurtin' from the cold. I walks by an old man, hood up on his DeSoto, he – bent over into it. He's wearing a dirty quilted jacket and a sock cap shaped like the receptacle of a dirty woolen condom. I has this insane and uncontrollable urge to slam the heavy hood down on his crooked back. there's just something vulnerable and easy about him. I ppppauses. Begins to edge forward. Then he suddenly lifts up from the engine and says "Redrum looks pretty on my wall in lipstick." I says "Huh?" he says "Oil's running pretty low on my dipstick." I says "oh" and walks on, shaking from hhhhow close I got to slamming his old man back in the engine compartment of a '43 DDDDDeSoto and shakin' from the cold and shakin' from the acid that's definitely tweakin' up the control knobs in my head.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

NONSOD: Tough Child

Tough child
With bosomy gone grace
And painted face,
Cast prematurely into a world
Swirling in contradiction.
I glimpsed you on the street
Mistook you for woman
Arched in my seat, double-took another look
To see you now for truth as some man’s daughter.
One who had gone lost, who never new laughter
But only cold breathless desire and appetite.
On that bright day I felt overcome for a moment
Sad, ashamed – ashamed for a world gone callous
And cold, that same world that you embrace,
That welcomes you with toothless cynic’s grin
And loves you for what you think you want to be
And never for what you are.

Good Friday 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

NONSOD: Ginsburg Streets

They were crimes against their mothers
Sad burnt minds, clambering up the crying streets
and jarking in the nasty nights like so many forgotten dogs.
And they were lost. Lost. Lost.
So they made their music out of trashcans and disorganized thoughts
And made babies out of haste.
And they made their livings out of hate
And more hate. Out of hate that fueled itself like some
Giant abominable seed – hate feeding bloating hate until it blossomed
malignant and frightfully beautiful in the night
And the fat people all sat by and watched
And clapped their fat hands over their ears in the booming
And clucked their teeth and shook their heads
And made nicenice in their cozy houses where they didn’t have to care.


Tangled up in blue
Polka dots

He felt like the Ancient Mariner. Water, water everywhere and nary a drop to drink. How had he come to be in this predicament? He stumbled through the jungle - a great riot of growth with green upon green upon green. At the lowest level were mosses and fungi and vines. Next came powerful palms and grasses and philodendrons. Then trees. And trees on top of that - full-sized trees growing in the tops of full-sized trees. Glancing up into one of the rare bursts of sunlight, he had once caught sight of what looked like an orchid - a small burst of white and yellow tangled up in blue. But that could have simply been an illusion. He was thirsty. God, was he thirsty. He stumbled, caught himself. Huge fronds loomed in front of him. The fronds probably held some water, cupped like some great, green alien hand beckoning for him to sip of it. But he feared the water there - feared the little bugs that might live there. He remembered a tale he'd read in his youth, Likundu? Likundo? Something like that. About some man, deep in the jungles of somewhere, afflicted with some horrible parasite, something that made great carbuncles appear on his flesh, knots that swelled like huge blackheads until finally a very real, tiny human head popped out - a small black, pygmy head, yammering in some strange tongue. The man, feverish and from all appearances dying, kept cutting them off and putting them in a small chest. Tankersly was certain that if he drank the water from the large fronds he would develop Likundu. Or worse.

It had been three hours or so since he saw the tiger. He had to keep going.

How had this all started? How does an esteemed barrister from Boston, a slim, trim, mover-and-shaker find himself deep in the Congo, dehydrated, hungry and running for his life from a terrifying carnivore? These things don't happen to civilized people. These things don't happen to attorneys from Boston for Christ sake! Tankersly fought his way through the thicket of growth. He had no real sense of direction - never had, really. he wasn't sure what good it would do him to know east from north at this point. He just knew he had to keep moving - to run until he found something - anything that looked like civilization. Or be eaten. Suddenly, and with so little warning he tumbled and fell, Tankersly burst into a clearing. He found himself sprawled on a mossy carpet staring up at the sky. He sat up, rubbed his glasses on his shirt tail and caught his breath for a moment. He was dizzy from falling, from lack of water, from running from the tiger. Stars swam before his eyes. He closed his eyes tightly and saw huge purple polka dots. Tyger tyger, burning bright. He opened his eyes and looked around.

He was in a clearing about the size of two football fields in the center of which was what looked to be the remains of an ancient temple. The structure appeared to be about 50 feet across, square at the base, and tapering to a dull point about 90 feet up. On each face of the "tower," for lack of a better word, was a huge, Africanized human face, mouth open in a perfect "O." Tankersly rubbed his eyes underneath his glasses and looked more closely as he wandered over to the tower. Out of each of the mouths poured what looked like perfectly clear, clean, cool water! The water ran into perfectly circular pool around the tower - a mote of sorts - and stepping stones lead over to where the water poured out. Beneath the chin of each face, almost obscured by a tangle of mossy vines, a door led in. Tankersly had read enough stories and seen enough movies to know that the stepping stones and doors were traps. They would doubtless lead to some gruesome death - darts, spears that shot out of the walls, a great blade that sliced one lengthwise. Who knew what the form would be - but most certainly the paths led to death.

Off in the jungle, he heard the unmistakable low rumbling growl of a tiger.

NONSOD: Equity

Is there really any truth in the concept of "fairness" at the cosmic level?" Is there really some great, numinous equity that governs the universe? Or do we labor under a massive misconception about the nature of things? We human beings want desperately to believe that the afterlife must be, in general, fair. For the most part, we cannot imagine that a child, for example, born in Bangladesh, who lives and dies innocently, could be subjected to eternal damnation simply for want of having ever been exposed to a particular religious dogma. Life comes and goes. Creatures live and die at the whim of other creatures. A child born in Nigeria lives a few weeks, months, years, in misery, then dies, in misery, and that is his or her lot. A child born in Newport, RI lives a long and pampered so-called successful life and dies with loved ones gathered round and that is his or her lot. Life is not fair. So why would the afterlife be? Do whole cultures on this planet suffer eternal damnation simply because the Word has not reached them? Do entire planets of beings suffer damnation because the Word has not reached them? Or is there truly an equity that we simply cannot perceive?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005



At the tightest point, Jok had had to take off his backpack and crawl, pushing it in front him like a dung beetle. It could've been worse, he thought. There was light at least. But he was still lost in the cave. He had thought that, once he finally discovered the source of the light, he would be able to escape the stony prison. But when he had finally made it through the wormhole (as he had come to call it) he found himself in a massive open space - an atrium of sorts. And the light, he discovered, issued from what appeared to be a perfectly round hole at least a hundred feet above him.

He took his time in the room. The room itself was oblong - egg shaped to be more precise. The end where he had entered was somewhat wider than the other end. The walls were smooth, rounded. The floor rounded seemlessly up into the walls which rounded seamlessly into the ceiling. The hole in the roof was centered along the long axis of the egg shape but was closer to the larger end. Directly beneath the hole was a pool of water which was also perfectly round. He wondered for a moment if pool had formed from condensation, but he couldn't find any trace of where water might have run down the walls into the small pool. The pool reminded him of pools he had seen in photographs of the ruins of ancient Roman homes. He thought back to high school. His Latin teacher, Mrs. Teague had had a nervous tic in her eye. He could see her plain as day - "Repeat after me *tic tic* - lacuna es parva." "LACUNA ES PARVA." "The pool *tic tic* is small." "THE POOL IS SMALL."

The pool definitely was small. Jok estimated it to be about ten feet across. The liquid in it was opaque - a milky green - so he couldn't deduce anything about the pool's depth. He estimated that, if the floor continued on its course, the center of the pool would be about 3 feet deep. Jok took the tube of his hydration pack into his mouth, clamped his teeth around the bite valve, and took a swig. The water was cool and he was glad he had plenty. He didn't want to have to test the milky green water in the pool to see if it was potable. It looked acidic. Dangerous.

Jok walked around the cavernous room. The entire room seemed to have been hollowed out of the same homogenous stone - a streaked chert-like rock. The floors, walls, ceiling were impossibly smooth. It seemed that perhaps the entire structure had been made by the long-term effect of water, but, for the life of him, Jok couldn't figure out how that might have happened. Jok wandered throughout the room the air of which felt slightly damp. There was nothing there. Nothing. A perfectly round hole in the ceiling, a perfectly round hole in the floor (filled with water) and a perfectly round hole that led back into the wormhole. There were no insects. No plants. Not even so much as a fungus. There were no stalactites, stalagmites, loose stones. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis. Jok sat there for a moment, he couldn't be sure how long. He couldn't go back. The cave-in prevented that. He couldn't climb the walls of this room. There were no passages branching off the wormhole. This would be a tough problem to solve. He thought back to the day before.

He had been packing through this remote part of the Utah desert many times, but had never stumbled on a place like this. This day, he'd wandered deep into a narrow canyon – one he'd never been in before – followed it for a number of miles, crawled through tight gaps in the rocks, slipped through short tunnels, and, voila, had found himself in what looked like an oasis. No shit. A fucking oasis. Water. freaking palm trees with dates on them. A cormorant standing watch expectantly over the water. Blue skies. White clouds. Oasis. Had a beautiful topless Arabian woman stepped out from behind a date palm, Jok wouldn't have been any more surprised. He had camped there. Pitched his Eureka, made a little fire, eaten his Mary Jane's Backcountry freeze-dried stroganoff and topped the whole thing off with dates. The next morning, he had discovered the wormhole hidden away in a rock outcropping. He had been intrigued by its perfectly smooth, round entrance.

Now he found himself stuck in some great stone egg. Yep, this would be a tough problem to solve. Jok slipped off his pack and removed his boots and socks to let his feet air out while he considered his predicament. He wandered over to the pool. Gingerly, he dipped a big toe in the cool water. It felt good. He waded into it slowly. Jok had just begun to think of how slick the bottom of the pool was when his feet slipped out from under him. He slid quickly toward the center of the pool. As he suspected, the floor of the pool seemed to follow the same curve as the rest of the cavern. That is... until he reached the center. Perhaps 3 feet from the very center of the pool, the bottom suddenly dropped out. Jok found himself sputtering, trying to catch his breath, and treading water in the center of the milky pool. Jok was just beginning to wonder if the pool might offer some means of escape when he what felt like hands grabbed him around the ankles and tugged him downward. Jok's next thought was, yep, the pool definitely offered some means of escape.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Jitterbug Boy


In my business, you gotta be ready. You gotta be ready to make somethin' out of nothin'. You gotta be ready to create that ol' song and dance, that pop and sizzle razzle dazzle. You gotta make wow outa mush and juice outa lemons. You got air? Make marshmallows. You got rain? Make gravy. You got leaves? Rake 'em into a big ass pile and sell jumps for a buck. That's my job. Jumps for a buck. Hop on my brain and take a hey ride.

Last night I was up late weaving magic bullshit into threads of solid gold. I could hear that Jamaican caddy daddy singin' in my brain "Solid gold, mon. Solid gold." And it was coming out like the gossamer threads out of the burnt-out arachnid tracks in Spiderman's wrists. Zip zip. I was flipped on, tipped up, tight-lipped and unzipped. I was sellin' ketchup popsicles to a whole floor staff of a bridal boutique. I was selling funnel cakes to the Atkins crowd. I was selling wheat-germ sandwiches on whole wheat toast to a convention of celiacs, and pogo sticks to paraplegics. I was the jitterbug man. I was on top of it all. I was a gryphon on the top of Notre Dame looking down on the let-them-eat-cake peasants. My shit was firing hot on all cylinders. Arcs across the membrane, 220-volt sparks across my corpus callosum. On fire. Thass how I was, cuz, cuz, thass how I work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Out of the Blue

farm implement
clown fish

It started out as morning exercise. Isn't that the way it always starts out? It's always some innocuous event that gets you - that out of the blue thing you don't expect - the thing you don't plan for. This morning had begun perfectly. Her Brainwave Python kayak sliced through the morning surf off the point at Fort Barry with ease and once the water formed a thin layer between her chilled skin and the neoprene wetsuit, she had been really quite comfy. The sun was just up and the sky was a beautiful blue streaked with just wisps of cloud. Paddling south across the entrance to the bay she could see San Francisco laid before her like a glistening Oz of some kind - the sun behind it in the east. Follow the yellow plankton road. Whatever.

She paddled on, feeling the rhythm of the sea's gentle roll. She'd read somewhere that the Polynesians navigated by studying wave patterns. They could detect wave patterns that had traveled thousands of miles. Now that was being in tune. That was down to earth. Westerners had never really connected like that with the sea. Or the land for that matter. They were too consumed with material crap. She thought back to her grandfather. He'd been a potato farmer up in Idaho - and that's pretty down to earth - yet even so, he wasn't so in tune with his land that he could sense deep patterns. Were there even deep patterns of which to be aware in the earth? God, Idaho had been beautiful country. There was a rawness about it that felt still quite real, unfucked, untethered. She didn't remember much about her grandfather. He'd been a big mountain of a man with a white woolly chest, red face and tough hands. She remembered a few things - a pair of old brogans he wore, a worn red leather baseball cap, some sort of farm implement he used to dig the potatos - a hoe? She wasn't sure. She remembered more the patina of it than the tool itself. It had been worn and shiny. She'd always been attracted to textures. And there was something comforting about the textures of much-used things. She admired the creamy white hull of the kayak carving through water so deeply gray it felt kinship with black. The creamy hull reminded her of alabaster, of marble, of heavy cream. One day her kayak would have the patina of a much used thing. One day.

She looked east toward the coast. The sun was higher. San Francisco was passing behind her. Today, she figured she'd paddle down as far as Half Moon Bay then back. It would be past lunchtime by then and she'd be worn out. But she needed it. She needed to burn some stress. She had a lot to work out these days and paddling was good therapy. Her thoughts wandered back four days to that fucked up night in Palo Alto. She'd met Brent down at Antonio's - that had been their spot even back in the Stanford days. It was the usual sort of evening - beer, foosball, jukebox. It was comfortable. Comfortable. You see, that was the problem. It was comfortable. It wasn't like the Stanford days when they shared DIScomfort with the world, when they had virtually reveled in discomfort, clutched together in mutual disdain for the fuckedupedness of the whole freakin world. That mutuality had made for seriously rabid lovemaking and intense all-night conversations. But now they were comfortable. It was foosball and beer and jukeboxes, and she had just grown suddenly and irreparably sick of it. Like instant food poisoning. Brent had been hurt. He didn't understand what had happened and she could see why not. It was out of the blue.

She look back east one last time, then, expertly whipped the small sleek craft around pointing it back north up the coast. As she did, she looked west out to sea. What she saw concerned her. There stretching across the entire horizon was a fogbank. This was not good, she thought. She glanced at her watch - 10:45. She looked east again - San Francisco to her front barely in view, still shining in the sun. It was doubtful she would make it back to Fort Barry. If she went to shore now, she would be within spitting distance of Pacifica. And Brent lived in San Bruno. That would be the safe thing to do - the responsible thing. Go on in, call Brent, eat crow, get him to take her home, probably end up screwing. Or... she could try to beat the fogbank. The risk there was that she could end up loster that shit. She flashed for an instant on that little clown fish in the cartoon, then on her clean alabaster skeleton at the bottom of the sea, her beautful kayak washing up in algae-stained pieces on the beach. Safe - ride with Brent, eat crow, back to comfortable (stroke) or race the fog, beat death, live on the edge of possibility and impossibility (stroke) hot tea, a fire in the fireplace and naked Brent (stroke) or bones polished by the waves (stroke) foosball, beer and jukeboxes (stroke) or in tune with wave patterns, following them through the fog all the way to Fort Barry (stroke). She redoubled her stroke heading north.

She thought about turning east.

Monday, July 25, 2005


shutter speed
ankle holster

Levi adjusted his ankle holster, stood up from the bed and buckled his belt. He looked for a moment at the fatigued holes behind the one the buckle tongue was in now. The belt was a timeline. Levi could trace his history on the force - all the stress, stakeout food, alcohol - he figured he gained about a belt hole every two years. Six of them were looking pretty wallowed out and he was just about to the end of the belt. That wasn't all he was near the end of. It was time to give it up. He'd seen three partners on the slab and watched two others retire. Time was up, dammit. Shift's over. Yeah, he'd made detective, but he was still tired. He gave himself one last check in the mirror, smoothed out his beard and headed to the living room. There, he did a quick inventory of his bag - film, camera, glassine bags, markers, print kit, evidence markers, test-tubes, pen, graph paper, toluene, tweezers, luminol, superglue, latex gloves. Good to go.

Besides – this business of late was just more than he could handle - at least a regular dose of it. There had always been outbreaks of violent crime. That was the nature of the beast. Levi had given this much thought over the years and had come to the conclusion that the outbreaks came and went according to a broad, complex, incomprehensible pattern. It was chaos theory. Levi didn't believe you had to be a super-cerebral mathmatician to figure that out. Crime came and went like an angry human weather system. "A low pressure system will be moving through the metro area today. We can expect flaring tempers, a number of brutal murders and the occasional violent sex crime." But this thing lately, this was no tempest, this was the motherfucker of all storms. This was that perfect storm thing - the confluence of events. This was mass anger on a ten-year high, sexual tension setting records, planets aligned, weapon purchases up, bullet sales off the charts and - and this was the kicker - ultra, conservative religious fervor thrown in for good measure. The calls were like nothing he'd ever seen - like a friggin' George Romero movie. Beheaded children with symbols carved into their flesh, household pets hung up like strange fruit in neighborhood trees, churches, mosques and temples desecrated. And the goofy thing was no particular denomination was spared. Everybody got to share in the misery. Shared misery - that was the deal. He'd just finished that thought when, as if to confirm his thinking, the phone rang. The phone was never good. His ex quit calling years ago. His son was in a halfway house somewhere in Fresno and never called, and his daughter, well, she wasn't going to call again in this lifetime, that was for sure. So when the phone rang, it was no surprise to discover some more shared misery at the other end.

Levi walked into the blood-spattered doorway and took a good look at the lighting inside - mostly incandescent, but lots of it. He took out his Pentax K-1000, double checked his film speed - 400, set the shutter speed at 60 fps and proceeded to do the job.

One more time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Portfolio Center


Yesterday, I tripped over to Portfolio Center (Atlanta) to address the current clutch of young, soon-to-be wannabes – apprentices all of popular culture, serrations on the leading edge of the communications arts version of phaedrus' knife. It was energizing. They are the yet untarnished and unvarnished, and at least for now, wide open with possibility and those fresh ways of communicating with a population that is decidedly less intelligent than they give it credit for being. I listened to their hopes and dreams, questions and opinions. Drank that stuff in like a cool stout on a fall day.


I enjoy rambling through PC. It really hasn't changed much in the 7 or 8 years I've been gone. Even the students seem the same - all hungry-jivey-intense with sallow faces from hours bathed in the cool glow of their Macs, all of them in some way desperate (in the hip sort of way you can be desperate without showing desperation) to fill that one need Maslow left off his survival matrix - the need to create. The school, as always liberally peppered with excellent work – print advertising concepts, illustrations, cartoons, nudes, radio scripts, package design solutions, photographs, brochures, posters, floors littered with singularly designed chairs - is a jangling-bluegrass/jazzy-Pollock-technofreakadelic-cognoscenti experience. If you have an opportunity to visit, you should. Go there. Forage. Let your mind fill those spaces that were hungry even when you couldn't feel hunger, just a nagging back-of-the-brain pit like you need a cigarette or drink or hit of something.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Finding Dees


I've been a tourist here before, maybe even pitched my little word tent and began. But, if I did, (and I'm not at all sure that I did), It was just once. In and out - the proverbial quickie. Wham bam, thank-you-and-maybe-I'll-be-back-and maybe-I'll-just-be-on-my -way-ma'am. The tourist thing, you see, is standing operating procedure for me. Life-defining A.D.D. of the soul.

Scot-shepherd-restlessness. No roots. Just chaff.

For a moment it's all interesting to me - a challenge - and then, like an infant no longer intrigued with the car keys and looking for something else noisy and bright, I'm on. Gone. So I can't even reassure you that I'll be back here tomorrow, or the next day. Or the next. Maybe.

Today I found Dees once again. Here in the ethernet he is constant as the ticking of a clock and it was reassuring to find him. I read two or three of his blogs, could hear his voice and see the unruly hair for a moment. We had this thing a long time back - a gang of four or five of us. We'd been brought together in the serendipity you have when you're young and in college and still you still allow for the possibility of perfect coincidence. Thereafter we used to gather around the New Year, but even that event became burdened. Our paths diverged.

We're all married now. Wives with birthstone jewelry. Aquamarines and garnets.

In truth, Dees was the only one of us who remained constant - Dees - who was the earthy, centered one most affected by gravity, or most in tune with it – as constant through the mail as through the ethernet where he still makes a nest. I realize I miss Dees. I debate whether I should let him know of this blog (refer back to paragraph number one). RIght now, it's just sort of a one-sided epistolary thing and maybe that's all it needs to be.

I have wheels on my feet and a duststorm at my back. Hey, Dees.