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


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ellsworth Theme Park

The Ellsworth tennis court/garage structure and its surroundings are shrouded in darkness save for the faint blue glow of the prolonged summer day. The courts have been modified into an attraction for some theme park, and many visitors wait in queues on a concrete plaza with shuttered refreshment stands. I'm simply trying to find my way out and back home, so I queue behind one of the stairs that I pass by on a daily basis.

A father and his young son are in front of me, and I don't realize that this line is for a ride and that this pair has a special role in the entertainment. (This would be in the vein of the terminator show at Universal Studios.) They climb up the stairs at the signal of an employee, and when I try to follow, the father pushes me back condescendingly without making any sort of eye contact. I, too, have become treated like some child, but I just want to get home. They make their way up to the tennis platform and disappear behind the green fencing. 

This sort of humility happened earlier on Grizzly Peak as I rode by a car accident on my bicycle. A man had parked on the side of the rode and flagged all uphill traffic to slow down, which was no surprise given the awful Bay Area driving habits that probably led to the accident in the first place. Before the bend, I had said "thank you" as an expression of appreciation for his defense of cyclists on that perilous road. But then as I saw the wreckage, he said sarcastically "Oh no, you're fine." How self-centered of me. 

I walk down the silent plaza, dodging several mindless drones, and I find the entrance to the extensive front yard of a beautiful house. Small white lights are sewn into the green bushes to give a magical effect. The concrete walkway is a lovely white and seems as if never walked on or dirtied by the ambient soils. 

Inside, it appears that various living spaces have been allotted to the guests of my friend's wedding. The MIA prima donnas have unwittingly selected whole beds for themselves, while some men have chosen amongst couches and futons. There is the smell of drinking game residue, and my fingers are greasy from the Costco kettle chips. I have nowhere else to sleep save for a closet. Luckily, it is deep, and the shelves serve as hard living platforms. I steal one of the firm orange throw pillows from Pier1 and shimmy into the crevice, then I call it a night. 

When I awake, the house is clean and empty. My mother is in the kitchen, and so is Chico. She says good morning, and  Chico's ears move backwards in excitement. I remember one of the things I would do to get reactions out of him. "Wanna get the light?" I ask him repeatedly, and he follows me fervently down the hardwood hallway. He even stands on his hind legs at one point. I missed you!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dung Beetle Polo

Men in both solid and striped polo shirts at least six feet tall (straight out of an ad for Ralph Lauren in GQ) gather on a track comprised of heavily-packed sand and massive corrugated ABS pipes. Like the dung beetle, their goal is to move massive boulders of clay around the track, according to some rules and regulations, and to score field goals at some unseen posts. For player safety, the unique sunlight-activated formulation of the clay keeps the external surface free of all antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

The first match begins and the men begin rolling around the boulders in the labyrinth in a competitive fury. However, it suddenly appears that the game isn't exactly played as I had presumed. I see smaller colored boulders, like bowing balls, moving around the maze autonomously, and they seem to be targeting the players, who desperately run away from them. The effect of these spheres is enough to incite some to abandon the ball in play. What effect these have, I do not know, but it appears that this is a live-action version of Pac-Man. 

---

The house of decay is dimmed by highly opaque curtains that block the light for the unemployed scum within. Stucco ceiling, frozen pizzas and the experiment child; the letter carrier reluctantly drops by and departs as soon as possible. A commercial appears across the standard definition Sanyo television after the daytime paternity test talk show host cuts for a break to audience applause. A bald man appears in a JC Penny suit with a red tie and displays a montage of photographs of wounded casualties followed by a suffering Jesus Christ. "You, too, can bring us back to the days of....Dial Hope for Humanity in Iraq at 1-800-... and send us your thoughts and prayers. Operators are standing by."

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vacuum Caterpillar

Are you familiar with that sugary peanut butter cereal Resse's Puffs? Imagine the light brown puffs somehow connected together, radiating dark orange spiked protrusions about 2 cm long, and having curious antennae at the extreme. Then imagine such a creation moving around on the carpet elusively as you try to organize your t-shirts, slipping in and out of view and imparting a great sense of vulnerability. That was my situation before leaving my apartment to meet up with my friends. What if the damn thing was poisonous? What if it burrowed under human skin? Fortunately, the Dirt Devil was nearby, and I as I saw the caterpillar-type animal crawl under the circular brush heads, I quickly stepped on the pedal to turn the vacuum on. I then noticed that the creature continued to crawl amid the dust, crumbs, and loose pennies in the clear receptacle. It was still alive and not the least bit annoyed, its spikes not dulled by any measure.

I arrive at the H&M outlet store in Livermore to meet R. I then see E. appear from a rack of discount leather jackets in the dim warehouse lighting. Her face exhibits a mix of both concern, curiosity, and nonchalance. Maybe because my attention was grabbed by a funnel cake stand near the shoes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tiles

A grid of square tiles fills the floor of my college bedroom: the intimate space I retire to after long days at the lab, where I trust my bare body to the covers on my mattress, where I allow myself to engage with my deepest thoughts and feelings. It is the area where I have complete control and sovereignty, which allows me to have comfort and the peace of mind that no one will encroach upon me. I am the boss. I am in control.

Not tonight. She is here. Haunting me in Cambridge. Her evil face plainly illuminated under the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. My sovereignty over all of the tiles has been reduced by the area occupied by her person. She will not move. She does not want to reason, because with her, there is no such thing, and she can never be incorrect. No difference in age can elevate my wisdom above hers. No tenancy over a space does not keep her from trespassing.

I beg her to leave my abode, but she refuses, re-anchors, and attempts to strike me with her left fist. Of all the wrongs she has committed against me, she stills feels like she is the victim, and feels within her right to encroach upon my living space in some sort of megalomaniacal counter-reaction. She clamps her teeth like a hungry wolf exerting chauvinistic dominance over my (now former) territory. She covers more tiles, and I imagine she wants to laugh at how many she is getting away with--laugh at how malleable and submissive I am.

I cannot sleep with her here. I need a diversion, so I gather my laundry in a sack and take it downstairs to wash. (This is my current apartment now.) Once I'm in the elevator, I realize that I've forgotten my detergent, but I decide to move forward. In the lobby, I abandon the sack and decide to check on the garage.

Several black SUVs are parked in disordered orientations. The garage is dark blue from the early morning (it must be 5 AM or something) and there are various tall blonde women loitering around me. I suddenly hear the song "Talkin' Baseball" playing in the background. My sister must be here with her softball team. I look for the characteristic decal on their vehicle but get misled by the ones belonging to the various Cal teams. I never find her.

---

I am at the dojo, testing for the next kyu, but forget an important word: Tatami.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dive

After a warm, sunny hike by the beach, my friend and I sit down near a crag and watch the ebbing of the calm ocean waves. I tie a white string to a large brass rifle bullet and wedge the bullet into the wet dirt. The string tied to my wrist, I dive off the cliff into the water below, barely making a splash, and descend straight down. A snorkel tube makes the upside down descent more comfortable, and allows me to gaze mesmerized at the blues, oranges, and greens peacefully reflecting through the water. I don't stop the descent, because I think the string will pull me back up.

At some point I lose consciousness, and I awake realizing that the string had broken off at some point. Miles below the surface, the air lock in the snorkel is deteriorating, and I need to swiftly make my way back up. I make wide, pronounced strokes through the crystal-clear water, although I am mentally frantic. Reaching the surface, I climb back up to the top of the cliff, and see my friend. The sun is almost down.

"Gosh, you were down there for a while. I was wondering when you were gonna come back," she says adoringly, rubbing my back, although without a hint of concern at my well-being. She shows me the bullet in her palm, and, smiling, says this was a poor choice of rappelling anchor. We put on our packs and make our way back home.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Gorgeous Egypt

Packed clay walkway emanating from the shy red brick temple; it has a beige color with fine parallel scratch patterns as if made by a rake, albeit smooth and painstakingly rounded. The path is dry and desolate save for one or two grown white males with crew cuts moving on obnoxious electronic transportation gadgets. Shame on them for disturbing this photogenic tranquility in the baking sun. I actually try to take a few pictures with my smartphone, adamant about not having these weirdos in the background.

As the sun gets less and less overhead, I walk further and further down the path, admiring the sense of safety it instills in my person. I reach a perfectly flat desert landscape in the twilight, and the scene before me is breathtaking.

In the distance, on the dry sandy plane, coddled between two rolling hills, several massive golden pyramids are illuminated  along with a huge sphinx and other anachronistic yet stone-based skyscrapers. Awesome light from the titanic structures seems to have some divine source and creates a modest glimmer on the fine tiles of mica. It bounces between the structures, onto the sand, and onto me and makes me feel comfortably small in the midst of such a godly creation. The deadpan eyes of the sphinx seem to stare right at me, and although the stone beast is mighty, he seems to welcome my presence as student, as a learner. Perhaps he had laid down the path to lead me here? I cannot fathom the great activities taking place in those pyramids or skyscrapers, so tantalizing far yet within mortal sight.