Saturday, October 3, 2015

Artisan Chocolate Kiosk

Running at full pace across a poorly paved parking lot like the one by Golden Gate Fields in the marina. I dodge puddles and concrete parking bumpers, and I jump over a 90's era blue Mazda that seems to intentionally swerve in my direction. There's a small quaint Italian restaurant at the extreme of the lot with a nice outdoor dining area lined by trellises of grape vines.

I pick up the chicken parmesan sub that I ordered online and I can't wait to eat it, although the restaurant seemed to have very few patrons and possibly a low throughput on the food in their kitchen. As I walk out, I see a stocky mafiosi harassing a man about an apparent misuse of words. He frequently references a standing plaque with all the acceptable combinations of prepositions and proper nouns, all color coded for particular ranks of individual. I start to believe this restaurant might be a front for some money laundering scheme.


There is a specialty chocolate and cigarette kiosk to the left of the franchise coffee shop. No one is in line at either, and I am craving milk chocolate with crushed almonds. I walk in front of the glass case with a menagerie of European imports and shamelessly high-priced yet generic-labeled organic artisan brands. Oddly, there is also a small library of budget paperback textbooks like the sort you would buy at Vick Copy. This is compounded by the uncanny arrangement of cigarette boxes in the background. This must be a strange duty-free at some airport.

A tall black man in his early 20s wearing a dark baseball cap runs behind the counter to re-assume his tasks after taking a break. He ties his apron and I feel bad because I'm actually not ready to order. "What will it be? Marlboro 100s?". "Uh no, I need some more time..." I take a few steps back. To spare the awkwardness of my presence, a solicitor comes carrying a courier-style backpack, and asks the vendor if he can take a survey. The worker responds plainly as he takes the clipboard, "Okay fine, that will be $7.50, cash only," as if this was a normal service conducted by the strange kiosk. I'm astounded these otherwise unseen polling agencies have resorted to such a questionable sampling procedure.


I am in the midst of a vert tight multi-point turn in the Valley College parking area. Dad is in the passenger seat and there may be a third person in the back. I manage to maneuver in three points and try exiting onto Rancho Avenue, but Dad stops me.

"Alex, you want to avoid the Rancho Avenue incline!" Dad says. He may be referring to the fact that the next U-turn is miles away, like the road next to Ocean Beach in SF. He tells me to park so we can instead bike the way there.

A tandem bike appears under me, and I'm worried because I think I have forgotten my cleated road shoes. However, I look down and see the pedals on this bike are normal. I start pedaling but Dad doesn't help me out. To make things worse, I feel like the tires are deflated. Approaching Mt. Vernon Ave, we come across a another cyclist who pedals even more slowly than us.

I drop off Dad and return to the Valley parking lot, searching for my car. (Crap, it's been a while; maybe I got a ticket.) It's not in the location where I thought it would be, and I begin to panic, believing it to be stolen. I look down the horizon to see a fractal distribution of parking lots on the complex plane.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Driving in the Hills

The last ten minutes of sunset graces the loneliness of the Berkeley Hills.

I'm driving my car along tortuous Grizzly Peak Road with my girlfriend in the passenger seat. She is stoic, and does not say a word, penetrating my peripheral with a neutral, ominous stare. I enjoy the sight of the pink and orange trees and the thrill of being so close to the cliff.

I start driving faster along Skyline Boulevard in the uphill lane. It's not as if I'm angry, but I am definitely feeling the onset of a frenzied mental state. The riskiness of my behavior becomes my raison d'ĂȘtre.

I start driving faster, cutting the double line on blind curves and getting very close to the fragile rail on the right separating Pinehurst Avenue from a shear drop below. I apologize to my partner for risking our lives, but I do not change this mode of operation. It's this insane feeling of wanting us to plummet from the edge, just for the experience.

She doesn't say a word.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Snow Boulder Interchange

Dad is driving my car and I'm in the passenger seat. This is an especially long journey, longer than Sacramento or Portland from the bay. There are unknown passengers in the back seat; one is perhaps my sister. The freeway is dark; everything about the road is unfamiliar and intimidating, yet decorated with calming blurs of brake lights.

Snow is now falling on the freeway. There are no tire chains on my feeble sedan, which is especially unsuited for this uphill and dangerous endeavor. (I feel like this might be the I-80 on the way to Lake Tahoe.) Huge snowballs block the ramp of the interchange (the one needed to take us back home) along with a poorly-built snowman. We stop in live traffic (although there are essentially no cars) to clear the path as snowflakes fall from above. I toss four or five of the boulders over the railing while Dad takes care of the others. I hear whimpers down below from the possible culprits, although it is creepily dark and no one in their right minds would be down there. We continue on our way down the road, which in this darkness may very well be a wide hiking trail.

I'm driving now, and the sun has risen. As we approach an underpass, my sister informs me of an event she is trying to schedule, but I'm too focused on driving.


In the portable classroom, O tells me he was the main impetus for me getting into MIT. He's only giving me a second chance at baseball because he cares for me. He employs that mildly-condescending yet trustworthy tone like he always has, and mentions the shame that I didn't bring my glove or cleats to Berkeley.

At the Ken Hubbs field, I'm the only one benched. Actually, I'm the second umpire for this exhibition. I have to pay extra attention to the game now. Our adult team is called the Dodgers apparently.

It's the first at-bat, and the first pitch results in a bleeder to right field. I indicate a fair ball. Due to the poor lighting and exacerbated by poor fielding ability, the right fielder can't find the ball. I keep pointing to it but he can't see it. When he finally does, he hurls it towards third but just throws the ball away. This results in an inside-the-park homerun from the overweight batter.

I escape my umpire duties to walk around elsewhere. I try to avoid the glances of other parents and take the long way back to the dugout.

Parents now occupy the outfield to help the piss-poor team. I see a van-driving house-mother throw the ball very delicately. This is beyond embarrassing.


I'm now in a cottage in the outfield. Buckets with various preserves of fruit, including strawberry, are strewn about on the floor. Irritable people rub it on their bare bodies in some bizarre nature-worshiping ritual. I choose the strawberry, apply it, and leave.


I see M. the alpha-douche wrestler from high school. He attempts to harass me but I fend him off successfully with a few jabs and kicks.  However, my next enemy, by Leno's Rico Taco, is a short and stocky thirty-something boxer from Mexico, dressed as if he's going to church. He's far more intimidating than the six foot wrestler, just from his deadpan expression alone, and I don't think I can successfully fight him. He knows this too, and closes quarters, enough for me to see the fresco details of his pigmented face.


A family leaves on a small plane for Israel carrying blue Star of David flags. They wave goodbye to the father, who is the only one who has to stay. They make insinuations of the various things to come in their lives.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Street Pilgrims

Waking up around who I presume are friends in San Francisco. I had stayed the night. They are already dressed and leaving. I look around for my jeans and black Deftones t-shirt. 

An aspiring Andy Warhol and his cultish entourage take a stroll through the city on a mission of self exploration. I think about taking a photo of their departure but I fee it would cause a cosmic disruption. 

K. Is also here and mentions that she is driving back, but apparently there's a surreal situation on the I-80 east causing interesting paradigm shifts. She assumes I drove myself, which is not the case. With the occult occurrences in mind, I do not ask her for a ride back to Berkeley, and decide to make the trek on MUNI and BART. 

I follow the movement of the pedestrians, who look like pilgrims on their way to some monument. An overpass appears with these pliant worshippers that move monotonically and uniformly. 

A white haired woman in her 60s with a cane and red sun hat is taking very focused steps in front of me. She is too slow and I have to move around her. An Asian lady to my right smiles and says to her: "Just get on with it already!"

Back home I inspect my closet. Or perhaps my deceased friend's closet. 

"No, take everything. I'm not going to be using these," I say as a woman picks out clear binders and vinyl records from the shelves. She gathers them for a goodwill donation. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Coffee Grounds

I search for more pillows to add to my bed

White wire basket towers stretch to the ceiling

All varieties of fluff on which to lay my head

I find two that are blue, gold zig zags in stitching

Anxiety spreads through this big box store

An unflinching minx makes trouble, not sounds

The colors I have chosen are far from adored

Her mouth opens and out pours wet coffee grounds

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fight Near the Weedy Field

Late at night, I climb from the ground level of the cyberpunk mall to
the shop above. It has a menagerie of bracelets made of colorful rocks
and stones (perfect for my girlfriend) but it's actually closed. Due to
viewing angles, getting back down to the ground level looks harder than
how I got up. How do I avoid looking like a criminal? How do I avoid
falling to my death? Pedestrians are outside unaware of my predicament.
Large illuminated advertisments give company to the modern, rectangular
city lights.


Desperate for dress clothes, I run down to the small haberdasher in
Colton. There is a board in the window serving as a makeshift storefront
cage. A polynesian man gives me a look that says "No customers are being
accepted right now."

It's around 7:00 pm, so I'm not surprised. Trying my luck, I run to
another store. They are actually in the process of closing, but offer me
one last chance to look around. Nope, I can't find anything. The female
Hispanic clerk messes around with desk electronics and shakes what looks
like a DVR, as if looking for an item caged within.

I leave the store, and outside it very quickly transitions from sunset
to evening, like a cartoon, bringing the skyline into full nocturnal
glory within seconds. I walk down on the righthand side of Meridian road
to get a picture of the city lights along its cross street, Rancho. To
my left, walking in the opposite direction in the weedy field, is a
white man of similar height wearing a beige trenchcoat. Like many of the
transients one would find in Berkeley, he is talking to himself and
making sudden, uncontrolled movements. He notices me, so I don't make
eye contact. However, he starts angling his path backwards and towards
me, which makes me nervous. I start walking faster, but I do not run,
because I refuse to let him intimidate me any further. He lunges at me
and I get in a defensive posture. I then begin delivering a series of
kicks, which fail to make contact. He is not impeded. The fight does not

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.