You and your salty shores, bitter and sarcastic demeanor. No, I remember quite well. Nights spent in the back of my Jeep, listening to the waves crash and roar against the lighthouse. I swore I could hear you laughing between the tides. You were just as vicious then and you're equally as gorgeous now. Time rarely makes favors for anyone, be it a city or a snarky girl, but damn if you weren't so stubborn that Santa Cruz gave in and let only you in on all its secrets; you now have the city and the boardwalk, its suburbs, and the large ship that ran ashore in Aptos. It conceded its mysteries, idiosychrancies, and quirks.
You weren't leaving so the city gave you Pacific Avenue. It gave you Mission Boulevard. The city gave you the 1, highway 9, and often forgave when you strayed through the 17 to leave its bubble. It knew you'd always come back. But did it know I would? Santa Cruz maintained its hold like a jealous ex boyfriend. It stayed the same because you said you refuse to compromise, so neither did it.
And with a glimmer as gorgeous as that, ink draped along the small of your back, depicting the graveyard you only started getting worked on when we first met, a snarl so sinister the city knew that you and it were one and the same, how dare any man come back and try to take you away.
I'm back, Santa Cruz. And I'm after your girl. You've had your run, you've whethered her skin, calmed her demeanor, and your cool yet humid ocean climate frizzled her hair.
But I'm back, I'm here for the girl. We can do this the easy way, or...
In the north-east bay your ex slams on the brakes to make a right on your street, skidding to a stop as his wheels thrash the curb. His car stalls at his destination, right in front of your house. He chokes back another drunken sob. Your daughter sleeps through it. You hear the commotion outside so you run down the stairs and open the front door. 'My early twenties are coming back to haunt me,' you think, as you contemplate whether or not to 'temporarily' return to your parents house after the lease is up.
As it stands we can only see each other when your ex is taking care of your daughter. Once a week, tops. If you move in with your parents, you said, it could mean possibly even less.
In the south bay I press the accelerator in deeper, ninety is the new eighty. I can't drive fast enough because the air is colder and the trees are slowly drooping and the wind is picking up, there isn't much time. I've overstayed my welcome, the bay doesn't take kindly to unwanted visitors. I roll down the window and think, 'I never much cared for it either. I don't want to be here anymore than you do.'
I pull into the store to pick up something you told me you once liked. I'm a provider. I must be the provider. I'm doing this for you, you know.
"Don't go away. "
If we were to give it a chance, who would break first?
"See these things just happen when you're dealing with the hands on a clock of a woman. Cause it's enough just to know that I won't ever hold you close. And I won't ever smell your skin, again. And I know how I'm supposed to feel. But here I go again, singing, 'Don't go. Stay. Don't go. Don't go away.'"
"Come over, just be patient, and don't worry. I don't want to battle from beginning to end; I don't want to cycle or recycle revenge. I don't want to follow death and all of his friends. So come over, just be patient... and don't worry."
Summer twisted the city in knots. Traffic backs up as the ground shook and car alarms howled from abandoned lots. The rush is upon us, take cover. The leaves grow restless, they're shaking and whistling above you, can you hear them above the noise of wheels whistling through traffic?
I can. Perched just one story above the grass played on daily by understimulated yet overloaded children, my face is dimly lit by a quarter square foot of a fluorescent and artifical glow. I bury my face into this smart phone much like you do. This is how I connect. Can you hear me calling above the hum? Can you decipher the rhythmic pattern beyond the white noise of our century?
I can. The diagnosis is read off of an LCD screen rather than a faxed document yet the prognosis is little changed. So how can you lecture me on our era? How dare you say we've advanced and beaten our oldest nemises? When our cells grow so fucking tired they grow mad: reproduce and split like animals. How dare you compare order to a world without any? We are our own worst enemy and if we don't kill ourselves, our bodies will do it for us. Pussy.
We put up a fight against this cancer. We inject toxin into our bloodstream. Oh you'll beat it alright. You're going to beat it, they say. Can you hear the sound of cells dying? Can you hear the Oncologist read numbers off of a chart, assuring you they're getting closer? "Just a couple more sessions and we'll fucking fry those fuckers clear of your system... be patient." Can you hear the maddening, deafening call of your cells exploding, of mother nature growling, howling, madly laughing as you destroy what's left of what you call an identity?
I can. There's a battle and we're losing. Our own worst enemy stares at us through our mirrors, waiting on our next move. Who will pull the trigger first?
Half past six in the morning and I step outside to a crisp, cool morning greeting. Hello San Jose. Pleased to remake your acquaintance as well. It smells like a forest after a refreshing rain, with the sweet tinge of charred wood. Somewhere last night there was a fire. Not only near the bay but in Los Angeles as well. The smell of recent rain is a fallacy however; California is thirsty, its tongue dry, lips chapped and body charred. Its residents would all be dancing in hopes of rain if we weren't so jaded, if we didn't all think we knew better by now. Sometimes faith had it right. Sometimes you just had to believe.
Like with love. Believe and it shall come. She said I wasn't in love; that it was just an idea. I stand outside and smoke a cigarette, blow my smoke toward the south, ash on the dry land, and smirk. Life was the idea, some of the greatest accomplishments in human history started as ideas. All it took was an idea and a little faith, and the possibilities were endless. The limits removed. Picture it and it will come.
I refuse to be jaded to the point where I give up on ideas. I still wake up every morning don't I? I still dream of impossibilities and am always grateful and in awe of what these silly ideas are capable of turning into reality.
So lift your head up off the ground J. Look up. Imagine a world where your head spends some time in the clouds. And you never know, maybe a cleansing, refreshing rain will start to form, gently washing over your past, shining a dim light where there was once nothing but darkness.
Maybe it takes a leap of faith, but isn't that precisely what we are all here to find out? Because what would the future be if we simply resort to repeating the past, simply comfortable because a melancholic memory of a familiar bed or lost feeling is easier to wrap ourselves into than the possibility of a different future; one filled with the embers, the spark, the obscure clarity and heart pumping possibility, of ideas.
The car struggles against a headwind, heading north towards a dirty bay. Two bridges span across the fog covered salty sea, and every year two dozen people make their final plunge into mother nature's icy grasp below. They let go, the noise above fading into a crash... and then a soft, fleeting hiss. Broken vertebra, fractured wrists, dislocated shoulders, and lungs that slowly fill with water. Flat line. Seagulls fly by unconcerned, a ship's foghorn is blown, a crowd gathers above, all eyes downward, their minds already working out how to tell the story later at a cocktail party where the gazes dart from one end of a room to another, searching. The San Francisco bay is now closer to home than I ever wanted it to be. Los Angeles has been left behind. How many cities have crossed my path like ex-lovers, jealous and full of envy or disgust.
Dot dot dot. I haven't written in ages. My voice has been stolen and recycled. The pages have been left blank and maybe I should just leave them that way. Let someone else carry on a forgotten, unappreciated legacy.
A mess of a February involves waking up with a neck brace in an ambulance. The MRI is loud; its beeps and bangs obnoxious, the monologue in my head pretentious, I no longer write because it has been nothing but drivel since the beginning. Emotional boy.
She said, "Gonna cut out the inane prattle for a while." She had to get back to work. I laughed. Bravo.
I told her I'd use it as the closing lines of my vows someday. But enough of this inane prattle, let's just make out.
She fell asleep after the second period. I didn't have to use my alarm, which I had set around midnight for 4am, because I never fell asleep in the first place. I never fall asleep anymore. I watched TJ Oshie shoot over and over and over and over and I could have been going through some insomniac delusional state of deja-vu, but it happened; I caught it on the replay that aired right afterward.
It's almost noon. I still haven't slept. But enough of this inane prattle. It's time to ice the shoulder again.
Gay men stand outside of a fast food restaurant in Hollywood. They yell at the patrons daring to walk inside. They yell at the sign holders across from them. They fight, straining their vocal chords, letting go of the inhibitions that they carry on their shoulders daily. It's Wednesday, slightly after noon and I'm on a couch lowering the volume on the newscast that sensationlizes this story. I can't take it. I can't take the constant, everlasting and neverending debate. People disagree and they disagree so fucking strongly and adimately that any sense of humanity, or togetherness, oneness, all-one-or-none, fades. How do we carry on, minute by minute, in a world with so much disagreement? Why were we designed this way? It's obviously just a question to a God I struggle to believe in, a "benevolent being" I know does not exist, as the concept alone defines this surreal being as existing completely separate and disconnected from me. All one or none. If we are all one, then we win. But we're not winning.
London 2012: we're clawing at our opponents. We're devouring our competition. We're eating ourselves right up, gold medal and all. It's a race toward the highest tally. Soon we'll realize we're simply left stranded at the finish line, looking about for another soul to confide, celebrate, and enjoy this moment with. Yet our yells of triumph are left unanswered, our calls fall on deaf ears. We're raising our hands in celebration in front of a desolate landscape. No one cares when you're alone at the top.
It takes nearly 400 pages of build up and Franzen, in his brilliant recent novel, can make me break down with the words "It's me. It's just me." And I fucking lose it. My dog comes over to see what's wrong, she's licking my cheek, which are now glistening under the stream of tears. I'm sorry, I say to her. And the book hangs awkwardly between my left thumb and forefinger, tilted heavily to its left side, sagging under the weight of frantically read pages over the last two weeks. This is what its like to dive back in, to fully immerse yourself. 2011 was a hiccup, a momentary lapse of judgement, a year I'm glad to have had only in retrospect, when you figure you must pick up pieces, survey the damage, and carry on.
I don't know what's going to be of the years to come. I know less than I did several years ago on this touchy subject of destiny, fate, or finding ones place within an increasingly entropic world. And maybe that is precisely the key. Maybe it's through this unknowing where a life truly begins to take form; slowly mending itself into something recognizable, something tangible, something fluid, liquid, formed by years of unwept tears, finally being released onto the final pages of a novel, onto words written innocently enough: "It's just me."
I didn't really smoke cigars, but the situation called for, at the very least, holding one between my fingers. I nodded at Jack, the house "butler." Jack was his stage name, but that's how we did it in the industry; when around the set you use stage names. And sometimes even off set. I preferred it that way, otherwise, how would we separate our lives at home from here? Or our past from our present? How could Moe be in this room, right here, dressed in a suit and surrounded by completely naked, drop dead gorgeous, beautiful women, begging to serve and please him? No, that's not Moe. It never was. Moe was a Persian nobody. I was glad to leave that history at the door. Half of these people didn't know me as Moe.
"Sir Stelio," Jack said. "How may I be of service?"
"Grab me a cigar, will you?" I said. "My hands feel empty."
"Sir," Jack assured as he scurried away. He had an actual butler outfit, long coat tails, white gloves and all. I wondered if he was married or had kids. I tried to picture his apartment, a woman waiting at home, TV glaring as he tried to sleep at 2 in the morning. I couldn't picture it. No, that life wasn't Jack's. Jack was a butler, an eternal servant, womanless, houseless, desireless, sometimes fucking women slaves on camera for a high end, niche adult website.
Stelio was a king, a Greek God, fellow master of this house. He had needs, desires, an insatiable appetite for perfection, and a thirst for pussy. Stelio, or I, was the only one that went down on the girls, without giving up the image of power. And the girls fucking loved it, they ate it up, I became popular in the inner circles pretty fast. They asked me if I was willing to do it on camera. Not yet. No, not yet...
Jack returned with a cigar and a tray with several tumblers of cognac. He handed me the cigar and placed one of the drinks on the table beside me.
"No thanks. I don't drink anymore, Jack," I said. And as I said it I thought, Well, at least Moe doesn't.
Tonight she gave me a hug and told me I was her favorite employee. Tomorrow she is off to tour the states with a friend's band. She has a month off, which meant no having to fuck, cum, squirm, please, or have her face showered with semen for a camera. Last night she told me she felt the collective consciousness of the world was turning sour. 'Not just the shitty economy,' she said. 'No, something more.' Yeah, a subtle yet ingrained sadness that radiates from everyone she hung around with lately. 'What is it?' she asked. I felt it too.
I raised my right index finger then, through the smoke that lingered between us, past the sleeping trees and toward the only pinpoint of light in the vast, empty sky. 'See that?' I asked. 'That's Jupiter.' Through the corner of my eye I saw her bite her tongue. She sighed and whispered something.
'Look at it,' I said. 'Just hanging there, staring at us.'
'Wow,' she repeated.
'Just fucking sitting there,' I continued. 'Being all gassy and shit.'
She laughed. Sometimes one random comment from one random person is enough to lift you out of a deep, debilitating funk, even if its passive effect is horribly temporary.
So thank you [young lady], you're one of my favorites too.
Last year around this time I was in a record breaking blizzard in DC, paying a vigilante close to $200 to drive through the snow in his 4x4 to get me to the airport. I was flying to LA.
This year I'm in LA. During a record breaking rain storm I'd usually welcome the weather, but the moon is being shadowed by our earth tonight, putting on a show for the nation, while California is left in the dark. I went outside anyway.
Looking up, the rain splattered across my face, soaking my sweater, splattering drops on my sandals. But it was worth it. Because this year is different. This year promises opportunity, beauty, and the prospect of everlasting love. The final moments of 2010 breathes possibility.
The moon disappears for an hour or so tonight, and I stand there staring at the clouds. It obstructs my view but I know that just beyond what I can see there lies a beauty, a love, a possibility, or something that I could never normally imagine. And being comforted by this thought, this prospect, is just enough that I smile, rain crashing against my teeth, content in a future that, for the first time in a long time, looks brighter than any star.
The girl took her red-eye back to the east coast, leaving me to drive the Sunday night Los Angeles traffic from LAX back north, to the edge of the hills, where Jupiter is visible for a few hours each night. I glanced up and located it before submitting to the week ahead; alone again, twin bed, cold nights, coffee and cigarettes. Two days later, I still haven't unpacked. The suitcase remains untouched and cold in the corner of my room.
Today I told her, over a text message, that I was hungry. I jokingly said, "go buy me a taco." She offered a pizza instead. I said sure.
When you return to the same, desolate routine, you find comfort in the loneliness. Change is always a bit frightening, so we force ourselves to put off any thought of possibility. Distance is key. Let it fade.
Until the doorbell rings about an hour later. And the pizza man says they have a delivery scheduled for your address. And you're bewildered... you didn't order any pizza... "You sure you got the right address?"
"Pepperoni and mushroom for Moe." And it clicks. Yeah, fuck the routine. Fuck comfort. Change can't come quick enough. A 3,000 mile pizza delivery order, after telling her I was hungry, won my heart. May the world begin to spin faster, tearing itself away from our sun, crushing the continent together from centripetal force, so we can be close again, if only for a moment.
Scantily clad laid back on the bar stool looking up at the row of liquor bottles, she squinted her eyes at the top shelf. It was her third night out in a row; it was becoming habitual, something had to give. She gave up trying to read the labels when the bartender approached her. She pushed herself up closer to him and whispered, "Chopin and diet coke, please. No ice." She hated how the ice came from buckets in front of the bar, probably covered in bacteria from all the cups that were constantly crammed into it, left over bar food that had found its way across the counter, dirt and piss and shit from mice or ants or whatever the fuck the bar had hiding behind its walls. It wasn't a classy joint. But ordering Chopin, she hoped, proved she was a classy girl.The bartender made her repeat, "No ice" three times. What is it with guys? Their paycheck comes from two tasks: listening and pouring. It's one-half of the job, she thought, try harder.
The bartender turned his back in order to pour her drink. The back of his shirt read RUMORS. It was the name of the bar. She wondered who came up with it, but instantly lost interest in the topic. She was one of five patrons yet she assumed it was still pretty busy for a Monday night. The jukebox has been silent since she stepped in, but she wasn't the type to pick songs and force an entire room of strangers to listen to what she thought was good music. Let another sap put in the two dollars. She didn't care what played but she was starting to get a bit creeped out by the silence. Any sense that is unstimulated is dangerous territory, it gets the mind going. Maybe she should have asked for a double.
It hit her then, just as the bartender was topping off her glass.
There is beauty in twenty-seven. Out amongst the tips of the hills to the north the clouds roll in like an ancient invasion, the wind teases and chills down to the bone, and the feeling is nothing but anticipation and memory. And it says, as clear as the full moon, Remember it, because it means so much more this time around. There are only so many days left here, in Santa Barbara, in youth, in life as a whole. So go in stride, keep your head up, play things tongue in cheek and go through the motions and if you trip up then get right back up and keep going.
I sat in front of my computer at 5am last night, while she laid on the couch behind me, reciting thoughts that I transcribed and I didn't agree with a word but the irony nearly floored me. Yet I obliged, regardless, because that's how the circle works. That's how things come around. We've come to this point because it was the one probability we couldn't conceive. And it collapsed in on itself, just like quantum mechanics says it should.
But all for naught, or all for the greater good? Either way, it makes sense in some strange way. The way little screws rip through little planks of wood and struts are built, one by one, and connected in what seems to be chaotic indifference only to create a superstructure that couldn't have made sense any other way. We build our own destiny like this, with this.
It's the middle of the night, whether its a second past midnight, 4 in the morning, or getting a call from a girl you haven't spoken to in three years at noon on an unsuspecting Monday. It's always the middle of the night because we're stuck in flux, unable to comprehend even the slightest twist in an unfinished plot in what we consider should be our fluid narrative. But! But! But it's just like time, it's not fluid, it's quantized. Physicists recently understood that the smallest measurement of time is 1/1025 seconds. So what, exactly, happens in between?
I've cut my flight training short ten hours before my Commercial checkride for several reasons. First and foremost, ten additional hours in the airplane with an instructor, including the fuel surcharge, plus the examiner fee for a checkride, means I still have $2000 plus left simply to get my commercial license. Naturally, it seems absolutely absurd to go so far and stop so short of the finish line, but by god, I don't have the money. The income has froze like the credit markets and what I had left, which was supposed to be life savings for my family has evaporated along with the demons that drove the dow to its biggest drops in remembered history. What economy, what broad market, loses 20% of its fucking value in one month!? This is the DOW we are talking about, not a penny OTC stock played like a craps roll in Vegas. But what is done is done, I cannot control this any more than any depressed and suicidal financial adviser, hedge fund manager (part of the problem), or mutual fund executive. I cannot control this any more than the millions who have seen their retirement savings disappear in front of their eyes, have seen a daydream of lazy evenings sipping a cocktail in the backyard with the wife, after 30 years of day to day hard labor where you barely get to connect, to applying for a position of greeter at the local Walmart, or an attendant at the Arco AM/PM across town. Kiss your seventies goodbye, hope you have enough for those medications that keep piling up everyday.
I cut my flight training short because it's foolish to continue to invest so much money, even if you've injected a ton of cash into the path already, toward something that was meant to be a hobby, and just grew its own legs and ran ahead of my own mind. So if I was to continue my flight training, if I take the initiative to complete my commercial pilots license, commit the $2000 to do so and the subsequent $5-7000 needed to attain the next step as a CFI, I need to make sure that this is exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I need to love it. Love it more today and tomorrow than I did when I started. I need to marry the fucking thing.
And I can't quite say I do. I don't think I can. I'm hard pressed to find anything, any field, any trade, any prospect of life where passion creeps out through my pores and the excitement of tomorrow, rather than the anxiety of today, keeps me awake at night. Time to get some acts together.
My father died before I was forced to deal with any of my retinal bullshit. I suppose in one respect I am thankful for that, I wouldn't want him to have to worry like my mom has these past 6 months for something as arbitrary and as stationary as me. But on the other hand I think I could have really benefited by spending a few hours with him, maybe even grabbing a drink at a bar (something I was never able to do with him as I wasn't yet 21 before his accident), and maybe shooting the shit after his realization that I just may be old enough to come clean. I want to hear about his 20s, reading Nietzsche and embracing Nihilism in a 1970s English society. I want to hear how he would interpret my current situation, what jokes he'd make about it (he was always good for a laugh) and how he'd counterbalance my highly spiritual and hopeful and often cheesy mom in the process. I miss my dad immensely. There's no other way to put it than that. I miss the fuck out of him. But am I crazy for thinking he's not all that far away? I'm still waiting dad. I'm more like you than you'd be afraid to admit, babba. Let's get through this one together, and I promise I'll keep quiet, and I promise to keep this one thing between no one but you and me.
The car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel. And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides.
A dark wind blows.
The government is corrupt. We're on so many drugs. With the radio on and the curtains drawn, we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine. And the machine is bleeding to death. The sun has fallen down and the billboards are all leering and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles.
It went like this:
The buidings tumbled in on themselves. Mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair. The skyline was beautiful on fire, all twisted metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze.
I said, "Kiss me, you're beautiful. These are truly the last days."
You grabbed my hand and we fell into it, like a daydream or a fever. We woke up one morning and fell a little farther down, for sure it's the vally of death.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.