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.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cazo's

At sundown, a young Hispanic graduate student sits in Yali's café in front of her laptop. Something about her tells me she was probably just as nerdy as I was in high school, and perhaps just as awkward. Probably not the most fluent in Spanish either, and her skin has a middle range of brown. We had met before in a formal context, so I think I'll take a shot at talking to her.

"Hey! How are you?"

"Oh hi. Yeah, I'm doing good," she says, barely willing to turn her eyes away from her work, and barely able to evince the faintest smile.

"Nice, I haven't seen you in a while. How is your research going?"

"It's going good...." she continues to give a canned response that many grad students hold in the back of their pocket when the last thing they want to do is talk about work.

"Have you heard of that new restaurant on Shattuck? It looks super fancy. I think it's called 'Cazo's'? I've been wanting to go there."

The alarms sound in her head, and she retaliates, "Yeah, Ben and I had walked by a few nights ago. He's not very into that kind of food. But yeah, you should try it. It should be nice."

What the naming of names, my cue to leave is apparent, and I don't dare to drag on this conversation, no matter how abrupt. The purple light of Yali's blurs my vision and guides my broken heart back to Etcheverry. Not sure if I give a proper goodbye.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tree Tunnel

The glass paneled hallway that used to lead from Hayden Library to the main complex (Bldg 6?) was nostalgically important for its spectacular and spoiled view of the Boston skyline at night. It is now further north of its original location in a heavily amplified courtyard around what used to be the building filled with lonely chemistry grad students. It is much longer, and the reflected light of the overcast sky shines austerely through the glass as if paying respects to the dead in a marble temple. My blonde lover wears a black designer dress and red lipstick; I lead her down this walkway as she speaks no words but clutches my arm affectionately. I completely understand she is far beyond my league but I relish these precious minutes before they disappear; I pay no mind to the poor fit of my cheap suit. At the lower ovular extreme of the corridor, we look at building 66 as a few drops of rain fall from the sky. We kiss.

This lover must love me given all the patience she demonstrated in navigating the tunnels with my unimpressive self. These fantastic tunnels were dug under dormitory furniture and led directly to the root structures of trees in the national park miles and miles away. Forget any topological coherence; these were magical routes of escaping the hardships at the institute. I remember her crawling into the dirty, awkward crevice formed by one of these interfaces; all without complaint and all to spend time with me. Dressed in hiking apparel, we sat and enjoyed mother nature and spoke no words. We just enjoyed the presence of one another, and the fact that the other was alive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So Far from the Pizza Place

J calls me and offers to meet up in San Francisco at some uncannily expensive pizza place. Pondering the implications of this encounter, I get distracted by three marines on the sidewalk in uniform carrying black plastic tubes. One is hat-less smoking a cigarette.

"Who is going to be there?" I ask.

There is a pregnant pause. "Why should that matter?" she responds.

I disregard the need to know, because I know who's going to be there just from the response. The person who stole her from me. "How long will y'all be there?"

"Uh...," she probably turns and asks her friend(s), as I can hear background noises from the restaurant, "maybe 30 or 40 more minutes?"

I'm not close but can make the last ten minutes if I leave now, I imagine, since I happen to be in the city. I agree to meet up.

This part of San Francisco is surprisingly less dense; it may not be in the city at all. There are diagonal parking spaces painted on the asphalt in front of plain warehouses. Some are clearly abandoned with years of disrepair, showing the effect of rapid construction with no financial follow-through. Probably happened during the recession. Not one human on the street. Squatters in vans. I walk by a beautiful marble sign advertising this particular district, and in the background is an unfinished commercial space with many wooden planks stolen and elsewhere extensive water and fire damage.

A small In-N-Out franchise near a less-popular donut store rests on an incline in this rust belt. Maybe I should bring them a burger? I decline, and descend the Aztec steps. I see all sorts of people wearing the white and red paper hats, in stark contrast to the urban decay in the periphery. The SF skyline can't be seen at all; just trees. Where is this?

I'm now stuck in a petty theme park. The monorail ride is a half-baked loop through hastily painted murals and drab groundcover shrubbery. It runs through an on-site fast food restaurant, with sauce bottles on the tall tables blending in wit the atrocious red and black wall paint. This is my excuse to look up directions to the pizza place in San Francisco. Some platforms offer an exit on the other side. This one is located uncomfortably close to the main loop of the giant coaster. After finding some way out of the theme park, I realize the time has already passed. I don't bother looking for the MUNI. I don't bother calling J back.

---

Throwing forks and knives at the middle school classroom bulletin board with the teacher in presence. Learning is certainly not the priority here. I try a fork but I miss. Chairs are stacked as the day comes to an end, but I am adamant at sticking at least one utensil. I manage to throw one butter knife through the legs of a chair into the wall. Despite this victory, I earn the glares of everyone, including the teacher (my 8th grade history teacher). Why am I an exception to having fun?

Apparently this was a kindergarten, because the teacher aide comes out to scold me and threaten an expulsion. She wears a 90's era blouse, skirt, and stockings, and shapes her blonde hair like some character from a Johnny Depp movie. I mention no wrongdoing, but she feels antagonized, and offers a few expletives in my direction. I threaten to retaliate officially for her verbal abuse. She disappears into the classroom shaking her head, infuriated.

---

At home, I am safe from the repercussions of the kindergarten administrators. Through the glass paneled front door, I see a small Asian boy walk up and touch the handle. I walk up to investigate, and I see X coming, holding a small take-home box and a white plastic bag. He hands me the items and then leaves with the boy (his son?) without saying a word.


I catch him on the driveway. "Wait, what's up? What's wrong? What happened?" I'm trying to figure out if I missed something important. A dinner with our professor?

His behavior and appearance is unlike anything I've seen before. (He is also slightly taller.) "You know what you did..." he tells me, his eyes sickly red and watery. The encounter runs no further.

Inside, I activate the ornate locking mechanism with its many machined brass elements moving in mechanical harmony.