Monday, January 23, 2017

Blue-green acrylic

I live in an underground dwelling excavated directly into a grey sandstone formation. I'm in the middle of a coordinated viewing of a Netflix documentary with my father in a different part of the cavernous abode while I simultaneously work on a painting.  I tell him over the intercom to pause the show so I can use the restroom, and he gives me a weary, yet patient, response.

My hands are covered in a dark blue-green acrylic paint that heavily resists any scrubbing with soap and mineral water. I resort to touching an old ice cube tray to physically transfer most of the stubborn pigment, but this is only partially effective. It gets on my cheap white apron from Amazon.com. Anyway, I waste a lot of time trying to deal with this issue.

Oh no, is Dad asleep by now? Have I failed him? I stare at the newspaper clippings posted randomly on the cave walls, which are dimpled and wavelike, like the inside of a melon that was thoroughly scooped and enjoyed at a party. Or,  a material that has undergone shot-peening.

---

This black belt doesn't have enough notches on the skinny end...

Looking in the mirror. My hair line is receding in a circular manner around the temples but below scalp.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Daily Val's

Fifth-wheeling at the reunion. My friend is adorned in a beautiful white dress, which I'm certain is well within her aeronautical budget. She feels sorry for my single-ass and offers to dance with me instead of her husband. I can't let myself be this pitiful, I think to myself.  I refuse her offer and dance with some other person, who probably also has an S.O. of sorts, not caring how I look or of the consequences. She's some hot white girl; we cop feels with each other while drunkenly dancing something related to a "waltz."

I don't get her number. I get very drunk. Blurs of people I doubt I know.

---

La Val's and Daily Pint hybrid restaurant on the sidelines of le Tour de Berkeley. Cyclists make it to Euclid and begin the long steep climb.

Fans in the restaurant, all discernibly Latino, try to run out through a single opening in the facade, reminiscent of escaping a fire at a club. However, in this claustrophobic commotion, everyone is smiling and laughing. Devoted fans run up the hill to rally their suffering heroes. All the while, my original friends have gradually disappeared without me noticing.

I watch the cyclists suffer on the intense grade, impossibly navigable, that looks more like a glistening black wall that has become lopsided from eroded soil.

"Yeah, man, that climb is tough!" I say to some dude next to me.

"Why aren't you participating, then?" He retorts.

"Haven't trained enough...." I take a defeated sip of beer.

One black participant in green and red spandex takes a breather to the side and shakes his head side to side. I walk outside to the route but most of the bikers have already passed. The somber eucalyptus trees lay steady and silent in the late afternoon and the road is still wet from the rains earlier in the day.

For some reason I'm at the restaurant for a very long time afterwards.  The raucous crowd eventually leaves, one girl remarking on its embarrassing behavior, and it's just the closing staff that remains. Time to leave, I guess.

My bike has a flat though! It's my nice bike too, prone to getting stolen; I can't leave this behind. Shit. I begin to fix the rear tire, and the employees don't seem to care or just are too exhausted to interact with me. After all, it's raining outside right now, and they probably don't want to leave me out in that.

The tire heavily resists fitting over the lip of the wheel and seems to deform through as many degrees of freedom as possible. It even seems to have plastically deformed beyond the diameter of the wheel! I consider it a failure and gather my sparse belongings as the light of the morning shines through. "Why the fuck did I bring this?" I think to myself as I rummage through my bag.

The employees have all left. Can I leave this place without setting off an alarm? I begin my walk downhill on Euclid. I pass by soaked fat tire bikes in the public racks.

---

Date with S. at the AMC theater, where Neon Indian, dressed plainly in a white shirt and jeans, is the third wheel. At the cashier's counter, I try to pay separately for our tickets, but he rushes in with his credit card and talks to the clerk about some obscure online deal. He gets one slip of paper from the cashier and what looks like a small and colorful advertisement or coupon.

"Wait, dude, are you sure that paper lets all three of us in?" I ask.

"Yeah, it's fine" he says.

I hope we're not too late for the film! But then I realize that we're in no trouble since they haven't let the long line of people into the theater yet. Which is unbelievable given my horrible time management that day.

S. takes this as an opportunity to talk. She mentions how It's hair has grown longer and bushier and that It looks a lot different. I tell her to stop. I don't want to hear about It. She stops, but continues to mock my peevishness and my petty triggers.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hurricane winds, yellow leaves


Lupe the barber offers refuge from the storm
His old, unnamed companion dressed in black
Cracks crude jokes in Spanish that I need to get home
They're waiting on me to cast bets at the track

Hurricane winds send the yellow leaves flying
Shed from shade trees cut like clipped ginger roots
Whirled with the dirt in saffron street lighting
Severed fingers reach higher in continued pursuits

Yet time turns slowly among these brown-painted boards
Cringing face of anguish at my snail's pace to piss
Hydraulic seats that lift when you sit, and candies no more
Looks of disappointment at their hometown prick

---

I'm suddenly in the northern tip of Colton near the intersection of Mt Vernon and La Cadena by Valley College, in view of the plastic cheese torta place, which is now closed and filled with employees on cleaning duty. 

I continue on my way down Citrus for my illicit tryst. K is there on her bed, wearing a red shirt. I cannot remember what we talk about, but it's certainly playful.

It gets late and she needs to sleep for work. I tiptoe out of the house, understanding that I now hold the sacred identity of Edward James Olmos. As I split the magnetically-bound screen on my way out, I remember to leave my new, puffy pillow as my offering to the family hearth. I bow and let the magnets rejoin.

I step on the wet evening grass in my fuckboi shower sandals wearing a Dodgers hat and loose white shirt with Adidas shorts.

---

Entrance of the imaginary AMC theater in the Inland Center where the Sears used to be.

It's here.

Menacingly tanned skin. Black clothing. Focused and evil countenance. Friends with knives and few diplomas.

I don't want it to see me. I abort my movie-going itinerary.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Postmaster's Examination

I follow the map at night just as the itinerary stated, taking a poorly-lit and backtracking pathway around Palo Alto's wire fences and laboratory research district (now-emptied).

There are two main entrances to the letter carrier examination offices. The one on the right is filled with people at 5 or 6 round tables, and, given the high activity around the whiteboard and paper easels, it seems like they are deep into a lesson. I guess I'm too late to enter there, so I choose the one on the left.

I'm told by the proctor to sit at the plastic green patio table to the left rear of the room, which has pockets of white residues just like the one I grew up with. I take my seat.

J. is there. Awesome. It is seated right next to me with some previously-unknown assortment of friends. I make it clear that I don't want to make eye contact or acknowledge its existence. It may or may not be reciprocating--I don't know---but it does nothing to make the unfortunate seating arrangement any less awkward. There is certainly tension in the air.

J. leaves with the postmaster's assistant to the rear examination room.

Soon the office is dark and empty except for the postal clerk, and I have not yet been summoned for my appointment. Did J. sabotage me?

I leave the office and accept that I've just wasted a bunch of time. I follow my itinerary exactly in reverse.

---

L. has an advanced early 2000s, pre-smartphone alarm clock she uses for her new job. The handheld device has a PC interface that allows her to dictate specific schedules, frequencies, alarm rings, intensities, and aggressiveness, and allows for sleep-scheduling and coordination with her supervisor. The PC GUI has the UC Berkeley color schemes and font with the Windows 8 "metro" tile layout.

An "Aaliyah" music video is playing on the screen of the old white television set, whose resolution is anachronistically high-definition. (I had no idea she was of mixed Indian and African descent!) Wearing a neon blue tank rimmed with neon green, she dances in a middle-eastern style with a crew dressed in black in front of a robin egg blue backdrop. Her lyrics are unintelligible.

L. falls asleep.

---

I'm on the sidelines at the end of the parade in Walnut Creek, where the flower-adorned floats are directed back to their warehouse garages. I see the survivor, the hero of the parade and the namesake of the float (mounted on a modified car-hauler).  She wears a cropped white top and white track pants with sporty blue flourishes, which match the white jasmine and honeysuckle decorations. I think the theme of the float is centered on skiing and snow sports given the nature of the incident.

I notice horizontal marks on her right rib cage.  At first I thought they were part of a tattoo, but then realized they were scars, certainly of self-harm and not from her recent tribulation.

She notices me and waves, and we have a substantial conversation for several minutes. The other float-riders do not seem so accepting of our talking. They are all exclusively of Anglo descent. A deadpanned middle-aged man, possibly the manager of the float, blocks our view of each other when coordinating with the parade staff, although this seems purposeful in my eyes.

I wish her goodbye, and never mention the scars.

To my left, I see M. with his luggage. "Dude, you better get yours before the float takes off," he says in a departure when his typically nonchalant manner. I scramble to the float; after all, I can't lose my valuables and miss my concert. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dead Man's Switch

Having traveled very lightly to Boston, I have little of my own resources to be an adventurous human being. My friend lends me his rusty bicycle that is permanently locked in an inconvenient gear.

I depart with this fixie towards the Institvte, getting passed by grandpas in hi-viz spandex and plenty of flashing lights. Traffic on Memorial is very slow before the circle; it must be rush-hour. I ride in the dirt pathways near the MIT boathouse with a cadence more befitting of a cycling race.

A reach a warehouse in Cambridge near the "NW" buildings and make my way inside. Former president George H.W. Bush along with an unidentified woman crawl through a hole where a warehouse window used to be and join me on my escapade.

There is unlikely tributary of the main corridor to building ES, with a weird atrium part holding room numbers 40B-42C. One door opens to a room with no foundation, just dirt, and my presidential guests laugh. Other doors open to very old and beaten classrooms.

---

The police chase ends in the hills of Los Angeles at a home that must have been quite an upscale abode in the eighties. The culprit exits his vehicle and tries to escape through a backyard, only to realize this house has been built on a dangerous cliff. Understanding his impasse, he pulls out a dead man's switch.

Just as the officers arrive to apprehend him, his face cringes in anguish as he lets go of the button. A massive black mushroom cloud of smoke envelopes Glendale in the blink of an eye, spreading laterally like a spring from hell.

Crude weapon.
Lives changed forever.
New government.
New way of life.

Rainbow Elixir

A bus drops off me and a group of comrades in the middle of a city for an evening scavenger hunt. I waste no time in seeking the items on my list, which have been strewn about the metropolis in the most difficult ways imaginable. I make a run for it on the cobblestone sidewalks. The illuminated bridge is visible in the background.

Obliquely shaped houses in the Outer Sunset are like playground slides dotted by yellow rectangles of active windows. Cars occupy the streets like strewn bread crumbs. Roof tiles grow like scales. Teenagers stargazing on top of them like the offspring of opossum.

My first item is somewhere in the public garden. I navigate the dark muddy thin, non-intersecting trails in my sneakers to an area enclosed by a red brick wall with wrought-iron decor. A small group of twenty-somethings are having a wine gathering on a muddied blanket in the faint light of the park lamps; the same light that reveals tacky ceramic wall fixtures, like a sun with a human face. The horror when I realize that I'll have to dig through the mud in order to find the needed plastic trinket.

Made in China.

Continuing on may way through the garden, the sun rises and reveals a much more beautiful trail, meant for hiking. It illuminates the strata of red, purple, and sandy-colored rock where small slides of particles are created upon contact with the procession of REI boots.

There are young, friendly people here, but I remain a loner and fallow one trail all the way to a hotel resort.

---

She and an unidentified friend lay in lounge chairs in a shaded area by the pool and sip colorful mixed drinks with fruity garnishes and little umbrellas. I greet her and she gives me a short, tantalizing reply, along with a small finger wave that does not interrupt the coquettish sipping of her rainbow elixir. The movement of her eyes is obscured by novelty blue sunglasses with purple lenses, intermittently traversed by thin locks of her wavy hair. I can't fire-up my natural tendency to generate small talk, as I immediately feel out of place without some drink in hand to fill in my void of manliness. I leave for the bar, telling them I'll be back.

This hotel is a labyrinth of wide empty corridors, featuring unmanned bell desks and an abandoned horse-racing lounge with dusty, rotting cocktails left unbussed. Arriving at some semblance of a bar (in trunks and sandals) I order a vastly overpriced bottle of Bud Light or something.

Things become very blurry. I cannot find my way back to the pool. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

TV Source Shuffle

New students in the classroom with an overhead projector in the middle of their poetry slam.

The guys in the audience are awful. It is unanimous among them that it is okay to interrupt the performances with taunts and horseplay, to the point that the performance cannot even proceed.

To think that I was derided for simply turning on the desk lamp! I make of point of not fraternizing with these people.

---

First day in the military. I unknowingly head down to the pool to train in the flotation survival class. The especially-forgiving officer asks me if I was sorted into this group by the prefect. I say no, and he tells me to head over to that person, first. This guy is not wearing a uniform but rather a mechanic's overalls. He assigns me to be LeBron James' personal attendant. I begin cleaning his sneakers while he makes fun of me online.

---

Six 90s-era projector televisions line the front of the classroom in orange-stained wooden shelves, while four more line an adjacent wall in cheap white particle board stands. Some of the screens are connected to the desks with cables, but mine has the master outlet. Not wanting to hog all the screens, I try to arrange some of them to be used by the two other guys in the room. Using the remote, I shuffle through the input options (VGA, HDMI, S Video...) but the harmony among all the televisions is not so good.  They become out of sync, and the screens show the following:

  • An Italian children's program
  • Professor's home videos with 8-bit intertitles
  • A Jason Statham movie 
  • A black terminal window from my computer executing code installing an SMS interface (probably a DOS virus)
  • My friend's CFD simulation

Turns out my friend's laptop only used VGA. His technology is not as good as mine, but his work is far more refined and publishable.

My other friend remained undistracted and focused on his work, which required no extra screens. 

---

I head up to the bathroom. Unfortunately, a man rigged a device in there to do the unthinkable. I close the door quietly, and I do not alert the authorities.

The other bathroom is closed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stairwell

At night, leaving my apartment, the seemingly harmless military device rests on the augmented top floor landing. It is comprised of several 1/2 inch diameter pipes in an automotive shape with space-age motility and, most importantly, advanced anti-personnel capabilities. I pass by the inactive machine unharmed, but I understand that in order to make it to the lobby unscathed, I need to move quickly before its owner turns it on. Rather than step foot on the stairs, I slide down the metal banisters on my belly with a quick pace. Rounding the square corners feels like an exhilarating roller coaster. Reaching floor 1, I realize this is the unfrequented fire escape level with the alarmed doors. Knowing these just lead to the garage, I quickly find an alternative.

I make my way to the dodgeball court at the Z-Center. A 30-something bearded graduate student in a blue sweater with white patterns holds a newborn baby still bloodied from the biological process. Another crew-cut man wearing boots, combat fatigues, a white shirt and army-green vest tries to attack them, but the nerd is very adept at blocking his hits while holding the infant. I try to attack this offending man and rally the onlookers behind the glass panels for backup, but the man had cast a spell that makes my words gibberish to their ears. The man escapes the court and makes his way through the labyrinth of stairwells. The Polynesian spectators continue to watch me with crazed expressions. 

---

Riding atop a mass-produced black bicycle from Walmart with bulky tires and thumb shifters, decorated with a gaudy off-brand logo from some Chinese conglomerate. Cruising somewhere near the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina, I begin to circle around a body of water, figuring my path is some sort of loop.

This is not a loop. I begin to pedal through shallow water, feeling great force on the pedals and the lower lengths of my pants getting drenched. The mud on the bottom is unforgiving, and when I finally escape the water, I have to climb the steep embankment on my most lenient gear ratio. My whole weight of my body lies on the pedals.

I prop the kickstand in front of my date's apartment. As I walk to the door, I notice pedestrians wearing black leather in the summer heat–meandering souls in this overpriced facade, trying to figure out what to do with their time to be anything resembling a productive human being finally weened from their mothers. Her relatives open the door for me, and see no harm in letting me in.

"Yeah, I'm here to see...Katherine?" forgetting that her name was something else beginning with a K. Her uncle, wearing a white ball cap and cargo shorts, ignores this horrendous error and continues to escort his young children out the door. I continue to wait with the awkward lack of hospitality filling the air.

The bicycle, after being unmonitored outside for more than 20 minutes, unchained, has most likely been stolen in silence. K never comes down to see me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Unlikely Security

San Bernardino, near the Inland Center Mall, in the old Circuit City parking lot.

Bearded middle-eastern/Pakistani man with AR-15 stands in the median. He wears fatigues and a tactical vest with multiple magazines. Baby-faced, his intention is to protect the multifaith healing service in the wake of the Istanbul airport attack yesterday. However, I can't imagine the shocking impression he strikes into the passing motorists. I myself feel like his loyalties can switch any second, and that life is more temporary than the media-fueled thoughts and prayers. 

Peace protesters walk along the crosswalk at every red light. I see many of the Jewish faith (in both ancient and stereotypical clothing) calling for the protection of Muslims from retaliatory attacks by an enraged gentry. LGBT and anarchists also appear to take part in the demonstration. The tacky building housing the shoe store is visible in the background in its prefab neon glory. 

Yup, the vigilante guard is in fact the Arrowhead Regional shooter; still alive. 

Back in the parking lot, I see a burned white woman. At first, her scars are limited to her arms and parts of her face. Then, as the conversation with her less-affected burned friend deepens and the fervor of the grieving crowd increases, the burns become more extensive. Her hair disappears and her left eye is gone. The conversation between the two is not in any way affected. 

Comic book store, hair cuts, Chuckee Cheese. 

---

Back in Boston, in front of the house. I try to take a picture of it at night, especially since the front yard was extended to provide room for a gorgeous cemetery. Luckily, street-sweeping has ridden the sidewalk of vehicles, and I can get a wider angle. 

In need of a shower, I walk inside with a towel for which I used no fabric softener. Having been gone for many years, I know little to none of the active brothers, and it's been so long I don't know where any of the showers used to be. Some are drunk, and they mock me using the three years worth of stories handed down to them. One puffs up his chest and walks arrogantly. 

A shower on the third floor seems available, but I am warned by some brothers to stay away. (They don't tell me why.) 

On the fourth floor I find A1 and A2 and kindly ask if I could use their shower. Theirs is actually a bathtub and the only privacy is one of those semicircular curtain rods you would find at a medical clinic. I close the curtain to shield A2 as I undress (since she's a lady) but I don't really know or care where A1 is. 

My bathing is rather cursory and mostly consists of a gazing stupor. When I snap out of it, I am largely dry and my shorts are on. We all proceed to have dinner with one another downstairs. 

Mashed punpkin paste with peanut butter.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Patio Hose

Moonlighting, hosing down the Starbucks patio out back
Long orange tube wrapped serpentine in the rafters above 
Hipster fellow remains static with water run amok
Barely enough slack for fighting rude coffee stains 

This perfunctory job merits the finest of spirits
And the divinest of women at the dive next door
Park benches function to lower the limits
My drunk stupor exhibits (when the beer hits)
"I implore you to tell me a name, while imbibed!"
 
Apologies for missing the Potrero Hill picnic
The bay bridge traffic was awful, insane
Wish I would've tried, since a woman was there
The knowledge of whom I'd be privileged to gain

My curly-haired friend from our time in Cambridge
To whom I regaled these feelings inside
"Pale ale reveries flood your brain with her image
Her essence, to you, I can barely describe!"

The patio hose leaves no table dry
My baby blue office is now a Best Buy

Xerox feeds eight and a half by eleven paper formats
And folders with names of hopeful interns, engineers
Keen on working for Tesla's manufacturing plants
Some labels are coded by college and year
Some with the "Doctor" for which we've persevered
Sadly my moniker is not as it appears
"Excuse me sir, at your avail, can you come over here?
My name is not Russian; there's no "y" at the end"
"You mean to tell me you're applying for VP of sales?"
Says the recruiter, "A post held by the best in all of the land?"
All of a sudden, it hits me; my ego sets sail
But my temperament hardens, I demand he amend
My title so sorely suffered for, the many times I failed
On my pitiful journey to contemptuous ends

M. carries a board of strong rainbow colors
Laid gently on the table, sacrifice at an altar
So modestly sure of his impending success
Caresses the palette with which his career will not falter

I remember plants grown from the seed
Their pots rich with dark soil
Growing taller by the day, indeed
The watering of which I was undoubtedly loyal

Hacked at the base by some unknown assailant
I try in vain to stick the stems to the roots
But with my children beheaded, cries of pain and lament,
The soil is a grave for young plants and carrots