Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sand Castle Toys in the Sky

I stroll along the prefabricated wharf near the new financial
metropolis. Red and grey plastic rods and slabs along with concrete
blocks form neo-Brutalist buildings in polygonal shapes like a child's
k'nex creation. They remind me of those ambitious and futuristic
business centers made during the late eighties uncomfortably close to
the smoke-filled freeways in California. An overcast sky blankets the
background along with a mildly tempestuous sea.

Moving around the wharf, I find a bench near the water and bring out my
drawing pad. Shiny plastic forms melt upwards from the horizon showing
what represents five or six mechanical devices used in engineering. They
almost resemble the texture of sand castle toys but have a Dalian twist.
"Look" I say to my father, who sits at my right, "these are used to make
great things." He doesn't say anything, and just stares forward. He's
wearing the dark grey sweater he usually has on for work.

We're back at the resort hotel. A lady appears in an opening elevator
with a stroller. She speaks some quotidian housewife-isms in a Britiish
accent, and I realize she's a television personality in the UK. Potato
chips, or "crisps" if you will, float upwards in the cheesy reality
television opening credits, along with a clip-art baguette sandwich,
right before the title of the program. A bag of these crisps is also in
a bin on her stroller; it must be some motif from the show. Anyway, she
goes on her way down the white-tiled hallway displaying an artificial
smile for any potential photographers.

In their room, Mom and Dad are about to leave for the casino. They're
talking very strangely to me, like they openly want to disown me and are
ready to abandon both me and my sister. I'm not sure what transgression
I've committed against them. I openly petition them for answers. I want
to know what's going on.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

3D Wisdom Teeth

At the MIT media lab, there is an exhibit on holograms and three-dimensional visualizations, one of which employs technology similar to MRI to construct biological innards. Volunteering as a subject, I see my whole mouth of teeth become visualized in the 3D columnar printer, including my worrisome wisdom teeth. They are definitely not growing in straight. In fact, they are impacted at almost a 45 degree angle, and punishing their adjacent members in the virtual mouth.

---

There is an old nerd couple partaking in their tradition of walking to the peak of the national laboratory on their anniversary. They sport elaborate futuristic hydration systems and bionic leg braces. Unlike younger people on a similar physical endeavor, they do not take breaks for water or breath. They also stare forward and avoid both eye-contact and conversation.

In the LBNL parking lot near the guest house, I see a black woman in her early thirties carrying a kitchen knife. She is not using it to attack, but trying to find the man who had accosted her with that weapon. Nonetheless, the person in the blue subcompact car who she is trying to talk to is not having that impression, and tries desperately, and awkwardly, to drive out of the parking lot (which is a closed loop, of course). The black woman looks confused and helpless. To my left, the sun is setting over the bay, brilliantly.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marble Containment

I navigate the narrow SF streets in my compact sedan. Certain lanes disappear randomly, the directions are ambiguously one-way, and I reach stop signs that are located at far too steep of a grade, such that my undercarriage is scrapped. Also, I magically bypass the annoying lane-separating curbs (a-la-Berkeley) and avoid collisions with equally-confused drivers. I’m getting too close to the Chinatown cart vendors on the side of the road. Two Asian ladies are selling hats and trinkets, and I’m worried I might run over their toes as I approach this stop at a 45% grade. They both smile at me.

My car disappears. To the left, I see the two nuclear containment structures built with glittering black marble like a mosque. The marble is cut in prismatic facets seemingly from single pieces, and they reflect the sun with a glittering texture, possibly doubling as solar panels. Due to the economy of space in the city, the secondary side of the plant is built vertically to the right of the containment, like a Brutalist skyscraper. There is a huge Renaissance mural painted on the side: a beautiful painting showing the key figures and events leading up to the war. Brown and olive are the main colors, with some subdued reds and greens interspersed here and there.

Further to the right, anchored in the port, I see an alternative-lifestyle ark inspired by the Treasure Island music festival and Burning Man from decades earlier. I see revelers with no handheld technologies of any sort dancing with ribbons and playing drum-driven music as part of an agglomerated tribalistic world culture that emerged after the massive conflict.

Seeing all this, I step on my skateboard and begin my descent on the the steep San Francisco hill. This would be quite the daredevil stunt, but there is too much drag and friction and I do not travel very swiftly. A boarder to my left looks at me with concern; I think he’s gesturing to my trucks. My wheels may also be stripped.

At the bottom of the hill, I come to a park where I see A. He makes fun of my skateboard, which is clearly entry-level, but I soon begin to skate rapidly on the concrete, barefoot with no special shoes. This is much more fun, although my smoothness and technique are questionable. Dodging basketballers, I try an undulating motion to increase my speed, like a sidewinder, but the desert sand impairs me.

Honor Society

I see M. in a brown suit greeting a number of his colleagues with an air of hubris as he strolls along a landing of the multi-tiered, red-seated auditorium.

I see S., seated, and she beckons me over, encouraging me either to sign up for the society or to give a large donation. I know she wants me to stay, to help fundraise for this questionable “honor society.” But I see individuals here who do not come to mind when thinking of an honors-level performance. Furthermore, key players in that category are noticeably missing.

I leave the auditorium, only to realize that I am clothed solely with my bold blue Express underwear. I have left my backpack in my seat, and there’s no way to go back in to retrieve it. I also do not trust that anyone would safely stow it in a lost-and-found.

Nonetheless, everything is okay at the end of the ceremony. I witness a morose meeting of leadership in the back room. There’s sullen-eyed, restless Eddie, sitting on an ottoman. He and the rest of them interact in a sedated relief that their hard work in conducting the assembly has been fruitful.

I get in an UBER with an unidentifiable lot of them to go back to the hotel. At one point along the way, the driver rides on the wrong side of the road, although painted arrows on the asphalt seem to defend these actions. We reach the hotel, and it comes to time to pay. It is all tied to my credit card, but no one has offered to split. They’re trying to stiff me on the UBER expense! No surprise, not many of them seem to have actual money. Good business outfits, but no money.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fungal Orthodontia

K. is laying on the hospital bed generously accomodated by the local Applebee’s restaurant in the space formerly occupied by four booths in the rear. This came as complication from a controversial new orthodontic technique involving the complete removal of teeth and subsequent grinding of the gums, whereafter stem cells would be used to regenerate new teeth in the bloodied mass. The new teeth did not regenerate, unfortunately, and eventually a yellow-green film began to develop in her tooth-sockets caused by a rare and drug-resistant mycobacterium. Week after week, the film became thicker and had an interesting effect on her behavior. For example, she would be very happy at the sight of her beau’s visitation, and give a wide grotesque smile like sun shining on a similarly-affected tree in the wilderness. Eventually, the disease spread to her face in the proximity of her nostrils and cheekbones, causing wide-open wounds. Despite the horror of this development, she did not appear affected and remained in a zombie-like bliss, like ants with Cordyceps.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Shadow-Boxing

I walk down the hallway before going to bed to shut the blinds in the kitchen. While closing the blinds, I notice a man on my rooftop in the corner smoking a cigarette. It’s dark, but I can tell he’s a fatty with sparse, frizzy hair (almost like a clown), and judging by the striped boxers, white tank and slippers he’s probably coming from bed.

I can’t stand these intrusions into my personal space. Why can’t people leave me alone? I close the blinds with final glimpses of the man through the rigging holes. He almost appears to mock me in his anchored, defiant posture.

Could it be that I’m I being scoped for a robbery? I become very paranoid. Walking back down the hallway I look over my shoulder to the doorway. In the miniscule light from the smoke detector I see a shape resembling a human figure about five feet five inches in height. I quickly rush the object and start throwing punches.

It’s not a person; my fists hit nothing but air. It was all in my head. I was shadow-boxing.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Blue-Green Forest

I wait patiently to cross Shattuck from the Ashby station exit. The vast multitude of tourists makes this mundane task exceedingly difficult, and I want to do it safely, because I don’t want to die. Tens and hundreds just jaywalk as I wait for the white man to illuminate on the sign. When it finally does after 15 or so minutes, I walk 15 feet to cross the street and continue on my way, just to realize that I could have reached the correct building without crossing Shattuck in the first place. There it is, on Adeline, after the hairpin, and there are no cars making those unprotected crosswalks any more dangerous. Please don’t tell anyone of my mistake; they’ll question my intelligence.

---

Light bounces off the lush trees and beams through the textured windows of the woodland home, and covers the walls of the foyer. These trees are a mixture of both temperate and tropical species, and they form a radiant naturalist paradise.  I see XLE walking towards the house after her hike on the trail. In her camouflage shorts and cropped black shirt, she appears covered in dust but still beautiful, as always, and underneath her bun-tied hair, above her new jewelry is the smile that has typically brightened my days. I see her rearranging some items in her backpack, and my left hand reaches for the knob on the door to let her in. We embrace on the porch. But I soon have to leave this mysterious house.

The blue-green tropical foliage lines the suburban road out of this hermit community. Like acrylic paint applied liberally to a canvas of air.

---

Downtime at the conference. I figure I should eat so leave the convention center and start walking down to the commercial district. On my right I see about twenty Hispanic laborers donning sun hats and carrying leaf-blowers and other lawn power tools. They all wear the standard blue and yellow Bk shirts in various international scripts as they march on the opposite sidewalk. Behind them is the shadowy, inclined blue-green rainforest.
Further down, I see a McDonalds Express. Hey, why not? I want a soft-serve cone and a Big Mac. I don’t care that it’s not healthy or the fact that I’m eating more out of prudence than actual hunger. I walk swiftly, as I’m prone to do, and at the entrance of the queue I merge ahead of a family—moving just as quick as I am—with awkwardly low clearance. Three spoiled brats and their mom, wearing Marmot jackets. Greatly annoyed, I concede and let them cut in front of me; anything to quell those looks of privileged indignance.

Waiting in line, I see Jimsoe. She greets me with something to the effect of “That’s my baby!” as if I was her lover or something. She tells me all about her taboo new hobby.

The queue ribbon is moved to inconvenience me. Those bastards.

---

After a six hour drive south, I finally arrive at my birthplace only to realize that the valley has turned into a Himalayan snow-capped mountain range. There seems to be no sign of life anywhere, with not a whisper sounding above that of the wind. I want to take a picture of this and draw a contrast with the inspiring blue-green forest I was at previously, and then share that photograph with (questionably extant) friends. Walking along the southern side of my house, I see Dusty emerge energetically from the piles of snow to my left. Yes! I missed my dog. Getting nearer, he sinks deeply into the white heaps, and I have to reach down a feel around for him. I catch him once only for him to sink yet again into the fluffy abyss.

On the west side of the house, I find that Chico is still alive. He uses his paws to rearrange six oblong granite stones on the rusted bonfire stage. He arranges four of them vertically and sandwiches them with two horizontal. The pine needles from old Christmas trees condemned to burn poke out in between. Impressed that his small body is able to move these rocks, I’m sad that he never looks up at me. I want to hug him.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Damp Bog

Backpacking late into the night, we decide to set up camp on a damp hillside bog . I see my comrades setting up tents, but I mention that I have forgotten certain items, or I cannot find them in the confused mess at our site. While one of them volunteers to find my things on the trail (which is morosely lit by the faint twilight) I walk aside to relieve myself. Unfortunately, considering the downhill nature of things, the fluid flows and pools underneath someone’s tarp. I scurry away between skinny trees, trying to avoid being caught.

Someone has found my sleeping bag, and as karma would have it, it is damp from the misty air. Everything is damp, sweaty and gross. I’m not used to being such a burden on my friends; I thought I was more responsible than this. Rain is coming soon. I prepare for the typical discomfort associated with “roughing it” and the coming night’s “rest.” I can’t imagine why some are bothering to set up a stove—in their stuffy puffed jackets and dirty boots, with dirty faces and mouths. Too unappetizing. I’ll stick to the bars. 

---

Daylight comes and we continue on the trail. We come across three monstrous elephants with large, round, human eyes. They stand at attention in a glade, awaiting the commands of their military trainers who sit bow-legged on their jeweled harnesses. The beasts are about two-and-a-half stories tall and are not intimidated by men, not to mention the bamboo forest they could walk through as if through blades of grass. More frighteningly, they appear to have some intelligence, evident though the exchange of glances between them.

One of the trainers makes several pointed threats. It is 20 miles until our car.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Catilaginous Ice Cream

A pint of ice cream on the hotel bed left for ten days to melt. As I place other items in the freezer, I consider whether storing this carton is still applicable. Hastily reading the label, I discover that freezing is necessary only after opening. I pop the seal and the cap shoots up a few centimeters. Inside is a cartilaginous form of white matter with orange specks covering half the volume. A curiosity. I must be more mindful of what I buy at the supermarket.

---

Leaving the hotel, my friends drive me to their new house in Palo Alto. They show me their new patio swing, painted robin egg blue and rocking gently in the breeze next to a bush. It is a symbol of their new-found success in the tech market, of which I played a miniscule role.

Here, one of my old tormenters is now assuming a much friendlier disposition, asking me questions in frank, not in jest. I am taken aback, and answer slowly. His blonde-haired lady sits in an armchair nearby, watching nonchalantly with an errant gaze.

---

After an intense night of celebratory drinking, I wake momentarily from fifteen or so hours of sleep, rolling on the cot they set up for me in their living room. In a romantic stupor, my old spazzy friend (a new resident of the Palo Alto incubator) and I have tied the knot, despite the lack of any past intimacy. Well, besides a few awkward stares on the bed, of course. In my right hand, I stare starry-eyed at a grainy, clearly-recycled piece of paper with blue stylings. Our nascent marriage is certified, and my loopy signature is readily apparent.

I'm not sure about this. What have I done? Was there a prenuptial? Did she target me in an insane bout of militant feminism? (Truly that college of hers must have taught a few tricks.)

Dozing off, I awake to notice that she has finally arrived; her light is on in her room across the hallway. I see her petite frame lying belly down on her bed, exhausted from work. A strange feeling sinks into my gut, and as if controlled by the atoms of the air, a preternatural affection blossoms from my heart.

Getting out of bed, shirtless and entranced, I walk towards her doorway and open my arms in an embrace. She's wearing a pretty black blouse and her lips are painted a lush red: a feminine visage I've never seen before. Open-eyed, she smiles, but is quick to defend herself from my embrace. Still smiling, she says that before any intimacy, I will have to fight for it.

Confused, I see that in the background, to the left near the window, a old bald Indian man with a white goatee is cleaning his hands in a basin. He starts performing some calisthenics. This is the swami of Hindu Kush! He is my opponent. I limber up and prepare for fisticuffs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Half-Dry Ballpoint Pen

After much lolly-gagging the week prior, I realize I have greatly underestimated the difficulty of my linear algebra assignment. My colleagues in the class have mentioned working for up to eight or ten hours on just one of the four problems, while another just complains about how long it took to find the “trick.” I now see them handing in thick packets at the front of the lecture hall while my stomach drops. One student’s paper has no matrices, just a very intimidating vector analysis. This student has a smile on her face as she talks about the fun she will have this weekend.

I cannot afford anything less than an A-minus in this class, just as much as I could not finish this assignment in three hours. Luckily, I’m friends with a course administrator. Y, in his red striped polo, puts a loopy signature on a form with a black ballpoint pen, half-dry and visible mostly through the depression in the paper. He ridicules my pitiful scholarship, but this is well-deserved.

I am approved to drop the class but need to give the form to the resident pig woman. But now it’s 7:00 pm; I highly doubt she’s in her office. Perhaps an email will do? I struggle to find a scanner. Maybe I can use my smartphone? The halls become an unfamiliar labyrinth.
---
My mom and dad come to visit me for graduation.

“Wait, you guys brought the TV, right?” I ask selfishly from the outright, referring to the old flat screen I’ve been looking forward to obtaining.

“Yes! Of course!” Mom replies as they take suitcases out of a hatchback crossover, which we do not own (and I hope we never will).

In my apartment, they criticize my coffee machine for
  1. Being too small, and
  2. Not being automatic
And while brewing multiple five-cup rounds, they criticize my lack of a girlfriend. I am mostly speechless and engage in fidgety activities (as I’m prone to do).