Monday, February 26, 2007

The Moment Snaps

It is past sunset, night settling in. We're crawling along in stop and go traffic when suddenly, a sedan four cars in front of me is savagely rear-ended. We enter a moment that seems unnaturally long. The entire back is smashed in, the end of the car now looks like a frog's mouth. Something like that, but before my brain can come up with any other metaphors the moment snaps, things speed up, there is a muffled explosion as the whole back of the rear-ended car ignites in a scorching blaze. Things are moving faster, faster. I can feel the blistering heat from four cars back. I see car silhouettes swerving right and left through thick smoke, one has come to a stop almost directly behind the stricken sedan -- I have a split second to decide where to go, so I swing onto the shoulder and I aim to pass the fiery car on the right. As I get close, the passenger-side door of the car pops open and a teenage boy jumps out -- I think he screams "Mom!" or "Oh No!", I nearly hit him, and he doubles back towards the front, to the driver's side. I keep driving, the fire getting smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror. In the fresh night sky, still deep blue with only one star, there is an ominous black puff of smoke going up.

I get home, and the feelings have been building, they crystallize when I get into the house and I see my roommates; I feel like a coward. Why didn't I stop? I don't know if I could have done anything, but why didn't I stop? I go outside, to see if I can see the column of black smoke, but it is too dark to see. I light a cigarette and I ask out loud, as if God was there, "What the hell is wrong with me?"

Sunday, February 25, 2007


On January 03 at 6.20 AM, there is just a hint of light -- a vague suggestion day is going to arrive. Vampires are hurrying home to their coffins & burial vaults -- but the I15 freeway has been jumping with traffic since about 4 AM, if you can believe that. With traffic like this, it comes as no surprise that quite a few Southern Californian vampires are incinerated while stuck in early morning backups.

6.27 AM now, and the sky has started to turn from cloudy black to the color of plum. At this make-or-break time, lines of cars begin to queue up from the 78 freeway interchange, heading south down the I5. Speeds are dropping, dropping, before the Ted Williams exit traffic moves in the teens. Before Interstate 8, cars come to a dead stop.

At 6.33 the sky is grey and getting lighter. The city begins to hum as surface streets fill up with surplus traffic. All is well, or not -- that last drink of blood in Scripps Ranch or Saber Springs could have been your undoing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Last Flight to Niagara Falls

(I wrote "The Last Flight to Niagara Falls" a few years back, probably in 1997 or 1998. I was thinking about this tribute, or story, for the past few weeks, I wanted to post it, but I couldn't find it. So on this day, I decided to rewrite it as best my memory recalls.)

In the final years of his life, my Grandpa had a continuous series of small strokes. These strokes were so small, at first we barely recognized his cognitive abilities were being eroded away, but soon Grandpa's speech and some motor skills became affected. Because of this, eventually he had to go into the hospital.

He ended up sharing a room with another elderly gentleman, named Mr. Zimm, I think. As roommates, there was a bit of confusion on what was whose, because Grandpa and Mr. Zimm were both on par when it came to forgetful & senile. Some days you’d go to visit Grandpa and he’d be wearing one of Mr. Zimm’s sweaters inside-out, while Mr. Zimm might be wearing Grandpa’s base-ball cap. You’d see Grandpa’s sweater was two sizes too small, and the hat on Mr. Zimm was a few sizes too big. It took quite a bit of effort and considerable protesting all around to straighten these situations out, so eventually (unless it was absolutely essential) we just let these random swticheroos of glasses, shirts, hats, canes, etc, be uncontested.

Mentally, at the hospital, Grandpa could be with you one moment, but then at some point in any interaction he would be away. He roamed free, unrestrained through his life’s recollections, thoughts, and memories, past and present.

But no matter where or when he was, or with who, he was nobody’s fool. Due to the strokes, his balance was not so good, so often the staff would make him use a wheelchair. Because he was willful, he would get out of the wheelchair. So they put a small strap that belted him to the seat. On that day, my mother was visiting.

“These bastards say I should get some air.” said Grandpa. “Lets go to the cafeteria.”

On the way there, mom pushing, Grandpa flew of somewhere in his head and was gabbing happily in the 1920s. But when the got to the cafeteria, the sunlight seemed to bring him back to the present situation. Grandpa looked around carefully.

“Hey!” he whispered to my mother. “Shhh. Hey!”

“What?”, asked mom.

“Keep it down!”, said Grandpa. He fiddled with the loose white strap keeping him in the wheelchair. “See, there’s this thing here…this thing and..if I only had a pocket knife. Do you have a pocket knife?”

“No.” said mom.

Grandpa couldn’t help but rolling his eyes and exclaiming loudly, “Jesus Christ, you have no knife!” Then, quietly to himself, “What I could do with a small little knife.”

Back to the room, after he was helped into bed, Grandpa was back in the 1930s, at his desk for the railroad. Blueprints all around him, it was a winter’s day just started snowing, and he had a deadline with a new set of plans. He snapped on the drafting lamp, looked over sheets and sheets with an expert eye and was dictating, positively cracking along, making some side sketches and notes when my Grandma and his daughter came to visit, but he didn’t notice. Mom tried to talk to him, but he waved at her off while he was still dictating in an expansive way, like she was some kind of clueless, interrupting secretary.

After some time, visiting hours were over, and we said goodbye. As we did this, the blueprints, desk, blotter, phone, pens, walls, office, all meted away. Grandpa asked timorously, eyes full of tears, you are going? Where? Why we did we have to go? Why did he have to stay, wherever he was? Grandma soothed him as best she could.

I heard later, Grandpa deduced that he was staying at an airport. This would explain all the young people, the shift changes, and all the random people coming and going. When he decided for sure he was staying in an airport, it became essential to have a ticket. His ticket was for the last flight to Niagara Falls, where he grew up, got married, had children, and spent some of the happiest years of his life. Over the next few days, when Grandpa had visitors, he would first ask if you had a ticket – the right ticket for the last flight to Niagara Falls. It was essential that you understand this, and NEVER say you didn’t have a ticket. Otherwise Grandpa would get quite upset.

A few days after that I believe it was an intern who forgot to strap Grandpa into the wheelchair, and that day he got out, hobbled into the hallway and was clawing through soiled linen containers looking for his hat and more plane tickets, of which the hat, he had on his head. When they tried to get him to stop he struggled with them, cursed, he had to be gently restrained in his bed. This made him even angrier, Grandpa raged, so a Nurse decided to give him a mild sedative. But with the clogged arteries in his head, the dose was strong, very strong – it made him groggy, his eyes became clouded, Grandpa closed his eyes, he lapsed into unconsciousness.

After this accident, still unconscious, he came down with pneumonia. Grandpa’s lungs filled up with fluid that he could not expel. He slept on, and while he slept I am sure he dreamed countless extraordinary dreams. But the situation could not go on, despite the fact he would no longer ever wake up again so we could say our farewells. At a certain point, his consciousness was free to go wherever it wanted to be, without any restrictions, or any tether to his old worn out shell.

Dedicated to Robert Arthur Evans
11/13/14 - 2/15/97

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Other Things from Ipanema

1. The Yahtzee Game from Ipanema
2. The Hoagie from Ipanema
3. The Ball of Hair from Ipanema
4. The Angry Under Tipped Waiter from Ipanema
5. The Bum from Ipanema
6. The Yellow Pad of Paper from Ipanema
7. The Bicycle from Ipanema
8. The Certified Pre-Owned Sedan from Ipanema
9. The Socks from Ipanema
10. The Ass Pinching Whistling Perverts from Ipanema
11. The Imported Mineral Water from Ipanema
12. The Insane Hooker from Ipanema
13. The Shitty Hotel from Ipanema
14. The Shitty Hotel Robbing Staff from Ipanema
15. The Rubber-Cement Bottle from Ipanema
16. The Doorbell from Ipanema
17. The All Night Poker Game from Ipanema
18. The Bar Tab from Ipanema
19. The Unexpected Phone Call at 3am from Ipanema
20. The Quarrelsome Oldsters of Ipanema

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I Am a Tapper

I am a tapper. I tip tap tappy tap my feet all day long. I try not to, but it comes out, a rapid metronome. Where does this come from? My dad is a clapper and a snapper. He also is a slapper, he'll do a snap clap and smack his thigh when he is in high spirits -- when he feels glad to be alive. I don't think my mom taps, claps, snaps, or smacks. My dad's mother, she whistled. When I tap my feet, it is not because I am glad to be alive, but because I am thinking fast & furiously -- trying to solve problems. So I tap under stress. Where does it come from, I ask again. I do not know.


My face is like your face -- a face you don't want to know -- a face you have come to fear and resent. I'm talking about the original face -- in not knowing it, we are haunted by the not knowing. We therefore live in the Realm of Desire, wanting innumerable things to help us forget the original face, which is empty. And get off my fucking lawn, too, in the middle of the night. Another drunk, stupid kid.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monday morning

Monday morning
I wake up out of a sound sleep
and I feel dead

I'm hung over
I'm tired
I have this bile taste in my mouth

Monday morning piss
Monday morning shower
Monday morning runs
Monday morning cereal & cup of coffee
Monday morning shirt, pants, socks, shoes

Drive my girlfriend to her job downtown
that she hates but can't quit because
it pays our bills

Monday morning driving back for some
reason I see cops cops cops cops
cops cops
I suppose I should feel safe
but why are there so many cops out
on Monday morning?

I get home, parking being a breeze
Monday morning runs again
My stomach feels like I have a boot in it

So here I am now
sitting by the window at the table
in the kitchen

Ready to make my endless phone calls
and I can't take it anymore

I grab the empty coffee cup
and I huck it out the window

It soars through the air
smashing against the neighbors brick wall
just across the way
their kitchen window shoots open
and they look at me

I wave at them
wordlessly, they wave back

I begin to make my phone calls