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).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Faux Roman Concourse

Nighttime In my Focus, with blue LED lighting in the panels. My unknown bearded chauffeur in a baseball cap pulls out and makes a three point U-turn on Bancroft avenue from Spieker plaza, and begins driving downhill, westward. He’s not interested in the features of my automobile—because he already knows them—and he doesn’t tell me where he is driving. It is possible we have just left a social event in that area.

---

It is now daylight. The blind corner of the faux roman concourse, with all of its ornate panels, is walked instead of driven. At the end of the esplanade there is a cattle watering tank at the base of a grassy hill, which has a step-function periodicity reminiscent of a novelty slalom course in the summer time. The neon pink straps on our backpacks do not reflect the stolidity of our faces as we begin the hike. Nothing else is visible at the apex except the blue sky, and it is warm.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Coffee Cart

I cross-registered at the nearby women's college to take a few courses in the humanities. They hold some classes in the old fallout shelter, which is five stories tall and constructed mainly of steel beams and corrugated metal sheets. A few sliding doors in the main corridor have a yellow radiation trefoil. I'm not exactly sure if such materials are actually housed in here.

I see a few girls getting coffee at a cart nearby; one of them is C. and I'm happy to see her. I say hello and open my arms to embrace, and she does a quarter turn as if to respond to me but she is interrupted by her friends. I swear we made eye contact, but she is unable to evade their grasp. I interpret this as a cold shoulder, and I go on my way in an awkward, melancholic defeat, my arms crossed. Looking in a mirror, I notice I am a bit scruffy with an emerging neck beard and dry, wiry hair. Untamed brows, bags. No wonder.

It is five minutes until my next class but this being my first day, I'm not sure where the lecture halls are. I look at my schedule and see that the room is in 1-163, but to me I don't know if the numbers correspond to a building, level, or whatever. One hallway leads to a large hangar-like area, completely empty and illuminated with large warehouse-grade fluorescent lights. The stairs descend two stories a flight, and at the bottom I become more suspicious I am not going in the right direction.

Two minutes until class. I don't know where the classroom is and I have to piss really bad. These classes take attendance, too. Shit. I take a hasty, panicky leak.

I see old characters from undergrad in the smokey hallway emanating from the hangar. I shake some hands. Long time no see.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Parking Lot

They messed up on our order. That delicious food is for my sister. They completely forgot to include mine in the bag. Anything open right now? No just Stater Brothers maybe, says Dad, who is irritated with the incompetence but is too tired to act on my behalf.

I'm an adult though. I drive over to the market. I spend about half an hour staring at nothing near the front of the store in my black quicksilver t-shirt. Then I snap out of it and grab a hand basket.
I make way around the different aisles, managing to mostly buy junk and not actual food. Peanut butter Oreos. Near the delicatessen a white man in a baseball cap tailgates me, stalking me. I have to maneuver to the wine section to avoid him. He has a little daughter of about three to four years old. Very strange.

I carry out my groceries just as the store is closing and I navigate the parking lot maze, which is surprisingly full at this time of night.

Great, I actually see a fast food place open. Yet once again I space out and by the time I regain my bearings even this place has closed, the neon lights turned off. I'm starting to get really hungry and I only bought junk food. I can't even find this bag of junk food. Did I put it in my trunk?

Still looking for my car, I notice that both my keys and wallet lie on the grass in the lamp light. Nothing has been stolen, though. It's a miracle. How did I drop these in the first place? I press the door-open button on my key repeatedly and continue in search of my car. I don't dare use the panic button. Some cars light up but it is a coincidence; none is my car. Drivers stare at me.

Wait, now I'm in the passenger seat of my own car? I mean, that does look like the panel and steering wheel, but I'm in the passenger seat. I insert the key into the ignition; it fits. I start the car and release the brake but I'm in the passenger seat. The car rolls a bit. I awkwardly enter the cockpit and get a foot on the brake pedal. I'm near a tire store illuminated with fluorescent lamps. Yet when I put my foot on the accelerator I am back in the dark parking lot. There is a fog and light mist. What's going on? I keep day dreaming.

I see E. jogging on the raised road to my upper right, in the same direction I'm going. Despite this, she does little but acknowledge me; she does not join me on the road below and continues on her way in a very efficient and ambitious manner. I must seem to symbolize some sort of incompetence or inadequacy in my behavior. I continue running among the diagonal parking spaces and cannot find my car among them, pressing buttons on my key fob. There is a wood-paneled motel to the left.

Hmmm, a Thai restaurant with a plethora of well-dressed clientele. I awkwardly weave through their packed arrangement in my overly casual get-up. I exit on the other side, where there is a sprawling yet desolate cyberpunk shopping district. This steel-lined distraction is not what I'm looking for. However, I notice that the restaurant is multiple stories, and I see several classy diners enjoying their meals through the windows. I repeat my awkward foray across the dining tables and start jogging again.

I run down dark Alcatraz to the intersection with San Antonio Mountain Rd, seeing the rich people head northbound on the four lane highway to their high altitude abodes. I head southbound where the lanes quickly merge to two and there is minimal street lighting, just like Alcatraz. Soon enough, this road becomes a hiking path, and eventually even this trail greatly narrows and disintegrates into a poorly maintained and brushy route. Also, keep in mind it's dark, and it would be menacingly dark if it weren't for the brilliant moonlight. Just like Tilden without a headlamp. Having had such bad experiences in the wilderness before, I forsake this shortcut. Furthermore, I am inconvenienced with this cumbersome pillow, which would not fare well amongst the jutting branches. I choose the route through the metropolis instead. (These vast distances covered so efficiently!) I take a right on Alcatraz at the intersection, leaving mysterious San Antonio behind.

Once again back in this parking lot I am antagonized by a mentally slow yet physically agile black man, who follows me around in close quarters making rapid movements with hands and uttering aggressive-sounding nonsense. I get rid of him after assuming a fighting stance; we are near a public bathroom/shower, and he disappears inside of it. There is a long line of blonde white men to these showers. One of them begins to mock me, and in a rage I begin a tirade of pronounced threats. He instantly becomes shorter in stature, and although he is quieted he is not defeated. I search through this facility (I don't even know what I'm looking for anymore.) One exit is actually a balcony overlooking the posh Emeryville shopping center. What the fuck! I turn around and try to find the exit of the bathroom but this is a continuous topological labyrinth.

I never get food. I never find my car. I never go home.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cabaret Singer

I see her, French cabaret singer, singing on the television screen.

Red, green, violet lights illuminate her face and the band in between.

This is part of a commercial, and I'm in it, too, as part of the crowd.

She finishes her performance, smiling, proud, reaches for my hand as I
scream praises out loud.

Commercial paused, I cross the television plane, into the capitalist
fairy tale universe within.

Becoming a younger me, they envision me and the singer in our youth, in
a garden.

On a stone bench, this little girl, a white dress; me running on the
packed dirt road,

A young boy, in blue shorts. I run fast towards her siren song where the
sun doth shone.

She grows taller, into a woman, and I into a man, dressing finely to the T.

Each other chasing playfully, in Grand Central Station, divinely she
runs and smiles at me.

The subway stairs are flooded with honey, trapping Nintendo characters
and the grandfather clock.

We continue to run as Yoshi melts in agony, screaming murder, while I
still hear her talk.

The rainbows flock into a pinwheel well, which spins and spins like a
psychedelic maelstrom.

It spins and spins and captures all matter, all light, nothing escapes,
including her song.

The lyrics take shape as they enter the rave, each one in block letters,
it's some type of sign:

It's the name of the company, the corporate sponsor, its logo prominent
as we two lovers die.

---

I climb to the top of the flat-roofed building, home of suspected
communist infiltrators, by way of the garden trellis, as the other
agents move around to the other side to place wiretaps. When I reach the
top, I realize the building is not very stable, swaying from side to
side as I attempt to crawl forward. This does not mesh well with the
secret nature of our investigation. I begin to hear yelling and shots
fired from below. I think we've been spotted, and I need to get down.
But the trellis has disappeared and I'm forced to consider unlikely
options for descending the four story drop into the dark street below,
made clearer through the light-pollution of this cloudy night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Exam

I scramble to grab a pen, eraser, and three very sharp pencils in the
dark. I take an Uber to the Tenderloin, home of the night club venue of
my engineering exam. Aggressively dodging human sludge, we let the
bouncers check our IDs and proceed to the right, away from the rave, up
the stairwell to a corporate corridor. The test taking facility is on
the left, and consists of six or seven round tables, each for two
students. The proctor hands out the blue test booklets, and I wait for
him to commence the test. My eyes are on the clock. He never calls time,
yet, students have begun penciling their responses. What! I am already
fifteen minutes behind for this one and a half hour exam. I look at the
question sheet; there are about seven or eight. The first deals with the
porosity of snow and compressibility. Harmless, I think, let's move.
What, another thirty minutes have passed by! I see D. on my right
handing in his exam, making a face that clearly explains "that wasn't
too bad," and walking out confidently. I am paralyzed. I cannot meet
pencil to paper. More students hand in their exams and, as usual, begin
talking about it as they leave the room. My professor sits at front
seemingly occupied on his computer, but in reality, his patience for me
to finish is waning. I can't breathe. Failure is better than this
suffocation. I begin changing my life's itinerary, but then subside into
motives of cowardice. My body spills anxious droplets of honey onto the
shiny white plane below me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Have Headphones, Too!

I've been invited back to the institute to my friend's Master's thesis
presentation in aeronautics. The main lobby is revitalized with green
marble tiles and columns and the students sport a crisp utopian flair in
their brass-buttoned coats. We gather in 6-120 to a considerable
audience of graduate students and a spectrum of faculty members. For
some reason, I'm under the impression that I should be editing the
technical information of my friend's slides. I get nervous, knowing
nothing about the content, and fumble the keystrokes on my computer. I
insist on using the HDMI interface from my laptop to the media control
center in the rear of the auditorium, as opposed to using the VGA
connector at the presenter's podium up front. Looking behind, I see my
friend laughing. Don't worry, he has everything under control.

---

In my office, I see my old colleague. Yes, I have headphones too now!
Just like you used to wear when you were writing your thesis. More
things in common than the few we had before! And good news!: I factored
in the precursor contributions for all levels of the decay chain. You
could see the Bateman characteristics emerge beautifully in the stream
of equations on the video screen, with all initial concentrations fully
defined and no loss of generality in the Heaviside terms.

---

Walking down Haste towards Shattuck. What? We're going to the game, and
you're not wearing Raiders gear! That's a black-and-white Mars Volta jacket.

---

Driving on the dusty and empty avenue in Newport Beach, I accidentally
enter the right turn lane. Once I pass the plastic pole barriers, I turn
on my blinkers and illegally merge back into the travel lane. I continue
down my secret shortcut by the railroad tracks only to discover the
owner of the recycle yard has blocked the road with his wooden gate. My
car has become a motorcycle, and I dismount to speak to the butch woman
with short, curly blonde hair who is about to ride hers. She understands
my predicament and points to the dirt path at my right. It leads right
to the end of my previous route via a hiking trail. I thank her and
carry my motorcyle by hand through the alley.

I pass by a ball field lit by floodlights. Shit, I'm late to practice.
The infielders are already warming up; I feel quite ashamed and don't
know how to smoothly engage with the exercises. What punishment will
coach devise for me? He doesn't make eye contact. There's my research
colleague fielding a ground ball. I had no idea he even played.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Shave

I walk up to the mirror to shave before my date. My beard and mustache have grown into handsome layers of laminar fungi. I put down the razor and use my fingers to instead peel back the layers that have grown so comely on my face, revealing up to three different species living in harmony. They peel like an orange rind from its soft ovarian body, or more tangibly like a strong adhesive bandage.