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Friday, September 5th, 2014
1:13 pm - Everyone Moves Away
O' Diary, the man in the antique store has always seemed like a sweet, white-haired old historian. He's closing his store, so I popped in to thank him for the nice times I've had browsing in there and how many compliments I get on the little monk-shaped decanter I bought from him.

He thanked me back and went on a wild tirade about the Communists in power and how they hire people to drive during rush hour to make traffic bad and how they fix roads that don't need fixing to make traffic bad. They want traffic bad on purpose, because they want us all to be funneled into buses so we can be more easily controlled.

"I'm not going to ride a bus," he said, "I don't care what that Socialist, I can't even pronounce her damn name, and she's really a Communist anyway, is what she is, tries to do. I have a truck, and I'm going to drive it no matter what they do."

He meant Kshama Sawant, a local councilwoman.

"She's behind the $15 an hour minimum wage and she says she wishes it were $50 an hour. She also said that if I can't pay it, then she wishes she could confiscate my business and have the State run it!"

I said it was a shame. But what I meant was: it's a shame that he thinks all of those things.

This morning, after a night of drinking and yelling, "I'm the lyrical Jesse James!" every five minutes, I saw the nice lady I walk with from the bus stop. I wished her a good morning, and she said, "It's a bad morning. I lost my ID and Social Security Card, and I hate to say it but we have a cleaning service, and I hate to say it but most of them are Mexicans and those cards are like gold to them."

I said it was a shame, but what I meant was: don't talk to anyone over 25.

*********************************

Some sort of caveperson was buying three two-liters of orange Fanta in front of me. He wore a polo shirt advertising a casino.

For whatever reason, the cashier was totally into him and his sugary haul. She was like, "Oh, this is so good. I have some at home."

They were acting like he'd discovered a crate of nectar from the wreck of the Lusitania.

I just want to pay for my gravy-lovers cat food so a dude I know who loves gravy will let me sleep.

*************************

Took some kerosene to my latest beard. It's been a fun cycle of growth and destruction these last few months.

At times it's like I've been asleep, dull-witted, bewitched, and a jilted sorceress has summoned up a forest of Nyquil-thorned brambles to cover me. Then, the razor's kiss, and I awake with a gentle sigh. Oh, my darling face. My treasure. I've been so lonely without you. Lost. Dull.

Sometimes I liked it. I would look at myself and feel complete. I could picture myself with a brownbottlebeer and a fried fish on a paper napkin. I could see myself listening to country music in a North Florida bar after a day of work.

I would take in the neighbor's laundry to make ends meet. I'd safety pin a single beard hair to each towel as my signature. It's called branding. People remember you and come back.

I'm going to eat some tomato soup today. Of this, you can be certain. It's as sure as US Steel. I'm going to feel the cool of the spoon on my chin for the first time in a while.

Farewell, Forest of Arden.

******************************

"This one's got underwear." He was right, sort of. I was carrying a package of undershirts. I'd promised them to myself. The speaker was behind me. I was on 3rd and Pike. Hell Corner.

Three strange street churches have arisen there. The Jehovah's Witnesses wave their Watchtowers on the North side. Across the street from them, a group whose chief message is: "Jesus was black!" wear dashikis and hand out pamphlets next to a picture of White Jesus with devil horns.

There's also the Scientology church. They have an actual office, and they used to stand in the street, ask you if you were experiencing any stress in your life, and invite you in, but I haven't seen an actual person inside it or near it for a long time.

You see those cameras? They're watching you friend, I guarantee you that.

I usually leave my unfinished coffee on top of the trash, but for some reason, hearing the guy talk about me made me throw it away. Why? Do I prefer to be only an anonymous angel? If my Hand is recognized, do I discard my gifts? Which color Jesus should I ask?

On the bus, a dude swung his arms around. Each one was like the tail of one of those novelty cat clocks. His eyes were moving back and forth too. Like the clock. I tried to read, but he was brushing me with Swiss precision every few seconds.

In the street, I walked home and heard a live band performing Big Star's Third album. I love that album. I could hear the crowd cheering. I'm home now and I can still hear it. Distant and beautiful.

When they get to "Kangaroo," I'm going to put on one of the new undershirts and listen out on the balcony. That's the most beautiful song in the world, you know.

*********************************

O' Diary, one nice thing about owning a cat is that when you move, you can just throw everything you own in the trash. All the furniture, most of the clothes. It's nice, they save you a mint in moving costs. I'm not going anywhere for a year, but it's nice not to have to save up.

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Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
10:44 pm - Beating Like a Hammer
O' Diary, when I was a boy, my father took my brother and I to a boat fair on the Ft. Lauderdale waterfront.

"Fort Lawdy Lawdy" as the locals call it is advertised in Europe as the "Venice of North America" on account of its canals.

It's just a Florida city, though. The tourism board needed an angle since there's no theme park.

The frequent individual boat fairs needed their own angles too, so this one stood out by announcing that no lesser entity than the luminary known as Lee Majors would be "Admiral for a Day."

We lined up at a table of shrimp and clam strips and melon slices and oysters. Oysters of all sorts. Bearded oysters. Cheese oysters. Old oysters.

We ate crackers with hot sauce, and told jokes and stories. We met new people. When the boat with The Six-Million Dollar Admiral came into view, Dad yelled, "Lee! Lee, we want to have your baby!"

*************

I was the sort of kid who wrote poems in class, usually fantasy poems about French knights fighting skeleton warriors. Sometimes I would get to read them aloud if it were a slow day.

It was one of my "things."

Nowadongs, I think lots of kids do that with raps and whatnot. Like, there are probably more rhyme notebooks than there used to be.

But it was less common then, which I don't say to make myself sound special but to illustrate how unusual it was the day I found someone else's poem in the hallway.

It had a sneaker print on it and everything, and the lyrics were sexual. Like, it was like, "My thoughts she rules, she makes my dick drool."

I thought it was an important document. Like, it was exciting to me that there was another poet in school, even though he had normal dude chemicals in his body. That seemed like an advanced move to me, using "drool" to make that rhyme.

I kept it. Mom found it. She thought I wrote it.

I was terribly embarrassed. She wouldn't believe me.

Mom, it's not my handwriting.
Mmm hmmm
Mom, I don't write about sex!
Mmm hmmmm

I wasn't in trouble. It wasn't like she was like, "Go to your room and write the word 'penis' a hundred times to make up for using these curse words."

There was just the sense that she was disappointed with the thought that I was writing, I dunno, horny porny.

It also sucked not to be believed. But kids lie about everything, which is why they're so indignant when they're falsely accused.

If you're a mom, you should probably just assume your kid is lying about everything they do or say after 11 years old, and you'll be right most of the time.

Anydrools, she never believed me. I don't know what happened to the poem. I don't know why I kept it.

My plays have, um, erotic situations in them, and I wonder now if I'm still making up for that long ago accusation. "If I am to be judged a pornographer, a pornographer I shall become!"

Or, it just happened naturally. I wish I had that old poem. I'm gonna dig through my box of forbidden nonsense! I wonder what the author went on to do.

I've never until this moment wondered if he was worried that he lost it. Like, stressed out that someone would find it. Someone did, Drool Poet, and they took the fall. You beat the... rap.

**************

Samurai Cop was sold out and I was in the standby line. First in the standby line, I'll have you know. I was chief of the unprepared. I represented them.

A reporter came up to collect her comp ticket and discovered she had been given two. She gave me the extra. It was like a dream. It was like I was being rewarded for not having planned ahead.

Inside the theater, a pizza whirled on the screen. Bad video of a Hawaiian pizza spinning in place. A girl handed me a bingo card with squares reading: "Three Mustaches on Screen at Once" and "Licks Blade" and "Shoots Own Men."

I have never been more in the right place. I have never felt so catered to aesthetically. Turns out there's popcorn in Heaven.

The movie started and everyone was yelling and counting mustaches. One of my squares was "Villain in a White Suit" and I kept hoping one would show up, because it would mean I would win a DVD of the spinning pizza to take home.

At one point, a bad guy disguised himself as a doctor to sneak into a hospital, but they ruled a lab coat wasn't a white suit. Alas! I was not to win bingo that eve.

******************

I watched a salt-and-pepper pigeon lick up vomit on the sidewalk. It was the 101st Dalmatian on some sort of terrible adventure.

A woman got off the bus singing Phil Collins. She looked right at a man and said, "You will lose the baby!" then she went back to singing and walked into the street. Traffic stopped for her.

Another woman was mad Philomena was getting all the attention, so she yelled, "A man who wears the same clothes every day doesn't have the right to tell me what to do!" It was almost possible to tell which teeth she was missing from her accent.

My arms were full of frames. They ached. A guy in the back was taking up four seats by himself. I sat on his bags. I didn't give a toss. "I don't give a toss!" I thought! He kind of dragged the bag out from under me when I kind of lifted up a little.

My drink had dried cherries in it, but I was terrified they were anchovies. I mean, can you imagine? Earlier in the week, I bought a five-dollar snake from the "As Seen on TV" aisle at the drugstore, and it worked! Like, it faithfully dove down the drain and came back up with a trove of beard hair.

O' Diary, the little sword-pick in my drink looked like the tip of the snake, and the dried cherries looked like the five weeks of hair. That's where my mind was. Is.

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Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
3:53 pm - Big Mama's Red Rooster
O' Diary, pretty wiped out this morning. Hot night. Stayed up too late reading a spray-cheese thriller and singing Cher's "Dark Lady" to the cat. He and I spun around so much singing and purring that I was soon outside myself and seeing myself from outside my body. Through a slit in the curtain, I saw us in an orange stripe of light. We looked happy but crazy.

Sometimes I feel like a mountain will open and a celestial being will emerge who'll be like, "Come, Simon. You belong with us now." Then a moonbeam bridge will extend, and I'll tractor beam all up in there.

And sometimes I feel like all I want to do is eat a sandwich from a chain restaurant and lose online video games to rapping British kids. I just want to see my character turn corners and crumple over dead, then come back to life and run back to the same spot.

Usually these feelings rise and fall during the course of a single song.
Today's a sandwich day, so I went down there to the sandwich place. Took the moonbeam bridge to the elevator.

I went down late, and the usual sandwich lady was getting off her shift. She'd taken her plastic hat off and everything!

When she's on the line, she's pure light: "Oh, isn't it nice when the cheese melts? Please let me toast this for you. You'll like it so much more."

But here, off the clock, she was a Bangkok cutpurse, tough and fashionable. Merciless. I saw her push the manager toward me.

He… could not have been less suited for the role of sandwich artist. He had so much trouble making the sandwich. He tore the bread, fumbled with the wax paper, spilled the lettuce, missed with the mustard.

For years, to describe sad clumsiness, my brother and I would say something was "like watching Mom play Mario Brothers," and this was such a circumstance.

Though, of course, to the British teens waiting to shoot Salmon Oyster later tonight, I'm Mom playing Mario Brothers. They're honing their rappy rhymes right now, I bet. Those little stinkers.

***********************

Up late reading wild, mystical stories and poems about animals. Loyal dogs and clever cats. My favorite passage so far has a man say, with all sincerity, that horses will scan a party for the man with the strongest hindquarters and allow him alone to be his rider.

He says he has often been thrown from the saddle when his mount espies superior buttocks. Oh, how I laughed. Oh, the horse noises I made. It seems I am well-capable of sounding like a surprised horse should the need ever arise.

"I am enjoying our ride, master. The apple you fed me was.... will you look at the ass on that day laborer? Holy hay in a bucket! Dismount at once, master. I will be ridden by that man today, this I swear. Dismount or be thrown!"

Then I read a poem about cats which had the line, "For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business," and I loved that. It also said: "For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer," and I was like, "Hey, Ruggles. Hey, baby pop, are you a clambering camel?"

He pretended to sleep, but I could see a yellow eye sliver. His wary little crescent moon.

***********************
The studiolords jacked up my rent today but not too much. Buncha rentjackers. They want to see how much air they can put in this balloon! Well, I'll show them what sort of animal I can twist into! They shall see my curves! They shall see my rounded angles!

The biggest thing is the surprise that I've been there two solid years. The second year was just a bubble in a lava lamp, man. It just came and went, man. It wasn't even on my radar that it was coming up. But there it was. It knew the whole time.

The gypsy woman said 365 days would pass and so they have. The prophecy! It was foretold in the tea leaves. What have you pulled from the goat, woman? What does it say? The entrails read... they say.... a year shall unfold.

And so shall another! Whosoever renews this lease shall henceforth stay in this studio with bad plumbing for twelve months! Speak the words, wizard, and it shall be so!

**********************
Lot of irons in the fire. The net has been cast for actors, and it's always fun to see what comes wriggling up. All manner of rays and skates with elegant fins and scales a'gleam. Gasping mouths and beautiful eyes. Dignified and hungry. Sleek and searching.

Fun meeting today at work where a trainer had us all try and guess one another's first jobs. Sitting on my Popeye's secret, I felt like a Southern Fried Rumplestiltskin.

Finished that crazy book about the dentist and his greedy wife. It sure had a lot of murders in it. Not too shabby for 1899. I think the ending was supposed to be sad, but there's an obvious out for the main character. All he has to do is take the dead man's bullets, shoot off the handcuffs, and fill the canteen with mule blood. Bang, you're out of the desert and back in our hearts. Fire away, McTeague.

Read a cuckoo-bananas letter in the New Yorker from an angry violinist. She was all het up on account of customs agents confiscating the bows from string instruments. Traditionally, there is a speck of ivory in every bow ever made. Why is this so? Pretty sure the universe would forgive whatever sonic "benefit" having ivory in a bow provides.

"Mmm, it's not quite a G unless I hear an elephant being murdered." - Orchestra Conductor

Regardless, her contention was that American bows now use legal ivory from extinct mastadon tusks, and customs agents are too ignorant to know the difference!

There's just so much there. It's such a layered story! I'd love to know the background here. The crisis in the industry when ivory was banned, the decision to switch to mastadon, the mastadon DISTRIBUTOR...

"Harold! When are you going to haul those old tusks to the dump?" I dunno, Martha, I think they might have a use one day.

Anyway, as Walt Whitman always says: "Lots to think about, lots to shrink about."

***********************
It's just me and a pair of hungover bros at the wooden diner. This is the last Sunday before the play takes over, so I plan on wasting it with bad eggs and worse coffee.

Comfort zooooone.

They're repeating the punchlines in insurance commercials and commenting on sandwich ads. "Guy's acting like that Subway is a baby, yo."

The server is bagging up used gambling tickets and walking back to the kitchen every few moments to see if the food is ready.

The chef's bell is broken.

O' Diary, a used edition of Kenneth Grahame's "Dream Days" with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish? Thanks, Sunday! You windy for this one, willows!

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Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
5:07 pm - Friday Night Lights
O' Diary, I just this moment, with all sincerity, said to a clerk, "I can't believe the savings on this laundry detergent!"

It's been cardigan weather, so I bought myself a fancy new cardigan. I'm like Fred Rogers makin' it rain. On the bus downtown, a woman in a wheelchair waited outside the open bus door. The driver opened up the ramp.

The wheelchair woman didn't board. "Someone needs to push me up!" She just sat there shouting with a mean face. The driver put the seats in position and called out, "There's nicer ways to ask!"

I offered to do it, but the driver said it was her job. She went down there, got behind the woman and rolled her up the ramp.

It was an old-fashioned wheelchair like something from an old British hospital. I thought the city just handed out the automatic ones. Maybe she hadn't filled out the paperwork. Her shirt had stains all over it, they looked like they might have been soup from an old British hospital.

It read "Breezy" on the back of the seat. The driver coughed and choked, and I waited for Breezy's stink to reach me, but it didn't. Why was the driver choking? She got back behind the wheel and we were off again. Breezy didn't thank her.

The woman seated behind Breezy kept up a six-block campaign of shame. "You should have said please to that driver. She helped you. Not sure how you get through life like this, being ungrateful. That driver is just doing her job, and you acted like a spoiled brat, & cetera."

It worked. When Breezy was ready to leave, she said, "I need to stop here now, please, Driver." The shamethrower grunted and went back to her Large Print James Patterson novel. Breezy said thanks on her way down the ramp. A total turnaround.

I got off downtown and got some iced tea. A woman in sweatpants was sitting on the Macy's stairs. She was holding herself and crying. She rocked and sobbed. Macy's wasn't open yet.

**********************

When I was a boy, Pop would take us to a grand old, sprawling old South Florida flea market called The Thunderbird Swap Shop. It was in the parking lot of a massive drive-in theater and stays fixed in my mind as a perfect "Weird America" sort of scenario. Like, all the kitsch of the 70s mixed with the capitalist ideals of the 80s preserved in a bubble of amber on the tip of an antique 60s walking stick.

People sold their busted tools and old books on blankets on the floor or from the bed of their trucks. It was, like, ten bucks to get a spot, and then you could just sell whatever. It was an analog Ebay. You had to get all your shit out of there by 5pm, so they could start showing movies.

My brother and I loved it. The sellers were a mix of leathery Florida goatfolk trying to make Bud-money and retirees from New York with nothing else to do but fleece the marks.

Most of the latter were mean old men who probably made their bones in knife fights over Coney Island turf with a young Ed McMahon. Some of them probably had Larry King's bite marks on their ears or shoulders. Once upon a boardwalk, one of them might have whipped James Cagney with a car antenna.

Now they just sold a mix of garbage from their house or boxes of cheap plastic goods they had shipped down from the Warehouse District up North. I remember one had a bunch of shoeboxes with plastic slot machines set up on them. A sticker on the toy read: Squirting Bandit. The idea was you would jack the handle, and a little head would pop up from the top and spit water in your face.

It was, like, a prank, what they used to call a novelty. I guess the ideal scenario is you would be at your home bar and ask your friend to try his luck at the slot machine, and then he would get a "puss full of river water."

Then he would sputter and flail with a wet necktie while you soaked him with a seltzer bottle. Then he'd offer you a cigar, and when you lit it, it would explode, and then you'd give him some onion-flavored gum, and he'd fuck your wife when you went to the bathroom.

Anyhaw, that's what I guess it was for. Cocktail culture was a little beyond me at that age. I could read, though, and I knew what it was supposed to do. I wanted to see the head pop up, and I wanted it to squirt me.

I pulled the handle.

A tiny head kind of half emerged and got stuck. It was just a hat and some eyes, and it dribbled all over itself. There was no projection or force, it just sort of leaked.

I was disappointed and then terrified when the seller came charging over and yelled: "Serves you right, you little son of a bitch! You touch things that aren't yours and you get firehosed! Go find your mama! Get away from here!"

He had a voice like a filthy coffee mug. His face was last week's Sunday funnies at the bottom of a birdcage.

I think a part of me wanted to let him know I had expected the thing to squirt me, and another part of me wanted to let him know it hadn't worked at all, but the part of me that wanted to get away from him won out.

I suppose, despite the malfunction, the thing actually did work. I pulled the handle and something awful and unexpected happened.

I found Pop, and he was in a good mood because he'd found a new featherbird. This was something he collected. It was a framed bird design made out of bird feathers. He had about seventy of them. My brother and I were good at finding them in the piles of junk, and they only cost about three bucks, so he kept buying them.

I let him show me the birds, and I didn't tell him about the old dude. I was kind of worried he would fight the old man if I'd brought it up. He was kind of like that. Featherbird mornings would turn into Justice afternoons.

******************

I made potatoes and beans tonight in a little cast-iron skillet I got at the Goodwill. It was the Goodwill near where the fancy people die, so it always has once-expensive cookware and still-expensive designer shirts.

It took me a long time to get comfortable using it, and I'm still not really good at it. It just takes practice. I think it took so long to get started, because all my life I've thought of one of these things as an expensive thing not to fuck up with and not as, you know, a tool.

It's not a Mercedes, it's a thing you dump a can of beans in. But the halo of "value" surrounding it cast a long cast-iron shadow.

Like, my cooking in one was sort of set up to be the equivalent of playing "My Dog Has Fleas" on a Stratocaster or lighting my pipe with flaming opera tickets. In homes I've made with people who owned one, I was asked not to touch them.

Anyskillet, I bought this one, brought it home, slaughtered some eggs in it, launched some Hellfire missiles at a sausage in it, and didn't use it again. After roughly seven months of it just sitting on the burner, I got over it and started using it for small things or to crisp up some other things.

I never wash it, and one of my deepest pleasures is sensing the ghosts of old meals while I fire it up. I dance with the brussels sprouts of yestermonth while I'm pushing that day's butterbeans around.

O' Diary, I haven't mastered it, but I have accepted that I'm its master, and it exists to serve me. Now I'm watching Freaks and Geeks, a show I love unashamedly and unreservedly, and eating out of a bowl full of food I made in cookware I've bent to my will.

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Sunday, May 18th, 2014
5:40 pm - Blooper Real
O' Diary, I remember being at an adult party when I was a little boy.

My parents were still married, and we were living in Davie, Fl, so I must have been five or six. My brother was there and two other neighbor boys around the same age. We were old enough to be bored and old enough to cause trouble, but also old enough to be expected to be good.

The house had lots of interesting things we weren't allowed to touch. An antique pachinko board, a bookshelf full of plastic horses, weird bottles, clothbound books.

We were all kind of huddled against a wall in the kitchen not sure what to do, when a stranger walked up, obviously looking at us and heading for us. Dude. Must have been in his 50s, a little heavy, looked like he'd "lived."

We figured when an adult moves toward you with purpose, he wants something behind you, so we started to move away from the wall. Maybe he wanted something on the wall.

He wanted us, though.

He caught my eye, because by being age six I was the leader, and he said, "Yer ugly!"

We were too surprised to respond.

Then he looked at one of the other boys, and my brother, and said, "And you two are uglier!"

The third boy got, "And you're supremely ugly!"

And then he did the "this guy!" thing with his thumbs and said, "But I'm the ugliest of them all! And now yer in my gang! We're the Ugly Mug Gang!"

Then he said, "Now come with me, mugs! We're gonna break mirrors, scare ladies, and curdle the cat's milk!"

We would have followed him through hell after that.

*************

You can always tell when a cashier is bored, because they tell you some random story. I've done that job, and I get it. I always try and listen. I've let people tell me they collect National Geographic magazines while my frozen yogurt melts. I've let people tell me I looked like Stalin and they can call off the search for Stalin, because they've found him shopping for Old Goats Cheese.

Instead of telling the latter that Stalin stole my ancestor's wealth and drove them out of the Old World, and instead of telling the former that the print run of National Geographic is so high that the individual issues are basically worthless, I smiled and played along.

"You found me, comrade."

"Wow, do you put them in those leather binders? Those look so nice on the shelf!"

You have to have empathy, or the whole damn species is gonna crack off the Earth to be replaced by whatever lives in those frozen seas underneath Titan's surface.

However, it’s the wrong move to engage a cashier or service person if they don't engage you first.

Like, "Busy day?" is cool, or, "Thanks, I have my own bag," or "Doing all right?"

But if you think they need your help, you're opening up a can of resentment.

We have a weird thing at work where you have to have security access to the stairwell. For whatever reason, they don't trust the passkeys, and a human being has to stand in there. It makes for a tight fit, but I guess the security folks can feel confident no one has… grappling hooked into the building, eeled through the air ducts, leapfrogged the lasers, straightened their tie, and entered our floor via the staircase.

The staircase shift has got to be hell. You just stand in a concrete cell watching people go up and down stairs with open laptops and with arms full of food from the cafeteria. Most of them stand with a clipboard and pretend to count you, and they retain a kind of dignity, but one of them just sits on the floor. She just lays there like a lump of lady cop.

Some of them speak to you, "Have a good meeting!" "Mmm, lunch smells good today, chief!" but she doesn't say anything. She probably only "activates" if your card doesn't work.

Today, I was struggling at the door with a giant iced tea and a steaming box of bok choy, and she was just staring at the wall, and I was like, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if these doors had cup holders? Then I could put my tea in there, open the door and take my tea back."

Her dead gaze just sank further toward the floor.

I was like, "As it is, I have to hold the tea in the crook of my arm, and I'm afraid it will spill. Ha ha!"

Nothing. I just went up the stairs, and I felt terrible.

I mean, she's obviously depressed, and a corporate dude with a bulging sack of rare foods and organic tea trying to reach out probably isn't… the best avatar of "Cheer up, Charlie."

I'm sure I was just another dark figure navigating the MC Escher painting she's trapped in. Maybe I even looked upside down to her.

****************

They're showing a week of Godzilla movies at the revival house.

When I was a boy, my grandmother took my brother, stepbrother, and I to the movies. It was a weekend where she had us. It was my turn to choose, and since it was 1986 and I was 14, I chose Aliens.

My brothers were younger and nervous about the movie. I was also a little scared, but when you're a teenager, you want to be scared a little. They petitioned Grandma for me to change my choice, and she asked me if it was a "monster movie" and if it was really what I wanted to see.

When I nodded, she turned to the others and said:

"I've seen these kinds of movies. The Hollywood People let a lizard run around on a Monopoly board, and they film it while it knocks over all the hotels on Marvin Gardens."

That made them smile, and we all walked into the theater laughing. I was pretty sure she was picturing a Godzilla movie, but I didn't correct her because the kids were going with it.

The three boys all loved the movie, of course, but Grandma didn't really say what she thought.

Me: Did you like it Grandma?
G: Did YOU like it, Simon?
M: Yes. Very much.
G: Then it was wonderful.

O' Diary, I passed a wall of posters for Mothra and Giant Monsters All-Out Attack this morning, and it made me think of my grandmother.

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Monday, April 28th, 2014
7:20 pm - Border Crossing
O' Diary, one is full of existential angst, and one is full of chocolate

The Penultimate Day

lodz 039

Young Marble Giants

lodz 079

O' Diary, next stop: Dubrovnik

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Friday, April 25th, 2014
10:57 pm - Poland Serial (Now With Milk)
O' Diary, Kinder eggs are super expensive here for some reason. Maybe the chocolate chickens are on strike.

A Walled Fortress!

toru2 023

A Forest of Stone!

lodz 002

O' Diary, just spent the last of my zloty on kawe.

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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
8:34 pm - I Got Into it With a Buffalo
O' Diary, some old-school Brooklyn automatic writing here.

One, Two, Many

wro2 004

Back on Course

wro2 099

O' Diary, off to the gingerbread walls of Torun

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Monday, April 21st, 2014
8:37 pm - A Sleestak in Selesia
O' Diary, I saw so many cities through the window

Silesia Like Sunday Morning

wrowro 005

O' Diary, It's daybreak, but it feels more like a jailbreak!

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Sunday, April 20th, 2014
6:46 pm - Krakow and Everything After
O' Diary, I'm traveling in Poland.

The Flight to Krakow

krakow2 003

A Day in Krakow

krakow2 005

O' Diary, it will always be you.

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Saturday, March 1st, 2014
7:46 pm - Return to Bible Study
O' Diary, not sure why they put a scoop in the pretzel bowl, when I was born with two giant scoops on the ends of my wrists.

Dude was twitching and laughing on the bus. He picked up a free newspaper and balanced it on his face. "I forgot my glasses!" he cackled.

Another man got on and sat across from him. The new man had a fist full of interesting rings. "I like your rings, said Twitch, "you make them?"

"Well,..." started Rings.

"MODERATION!" shouted Twitch, "I'm sure you got a story, but I was just sayin' I like silver. You don't have to answer."

Then he held his hands in front of himself in imitation of a book. "I'm jealous," he said. He was making fun of me. It was my turn.

*************

When my brother and I were boys, our uncle took us to lunch at a diner in South Florida. He was recently divorced. I had a book, and my brother had a GI Joe action figure.

I don't remember the title or which figure it was. If I had to guess, it was probably one of the Narnia books for me and Flash, the laser rifle trooper, for him.

Our uncle didn't seem too interested in either; he mostly loved to talk about song lyrics and what they meant.

Like, he'd be like "When they say 'whip it,' they don't mean like a lion tamer whipping a lion. They mean you have to defeat your problem. It's not about actual whipping. There's no whip. It means to face your problem."

When the waitress came to take our order, he grabbed Flash and made Flash do the order for us. He used a high-pitched Mrs. Doubtfire sort of voice and made the arms go up and down. "Hellooo, pancakes for these boys and a BLT for me."

This was long before Mrs. Doubtfire came out, so it was a voice he was making up.

My brother and I thought it was funny, but also weird.

That was probably thirty years ago.

This morning, I got my breakfast sandwich, and the server was super attentive and smiley and made me feel special, and I realized my uncle was hitting on the waitress.

He made Flash order our flapjacks to try and attract her. That's what was happening at that moment.

*************

In my 20s, I worked in chain bookstores, and at one of them I worked with this awful dude who just could. not. stop. hassling one of the cafe girls. Like, his behavior met every legal and moral definition of sexual harassment.

We had a locker room and a time clock, like it was a steel mill or something. The lockers were for everyone to just store whatever. Most of the booksellers didn't need them. The cafe people did, though.

They would get coffee and milk and stuff all over their clothes, so they liked to bring a change of shirts. An apron can't do everything!

"Only a fool relies on an apron" - Walt Whitman

The locker room was unisex and most of the folks were cool with giving the cafe people privacy to change. It was just their shirts, and also, like, there was no reason to be in the locker room.

But Harry would find reasons to be in there when the blond barista was changing or when she was coming back for a break or when she was running in to grab supplies or when she just was.

He would comment on her body and use words I consider 50s porn words. Words like "busty," and "figure." He would tell her she could make a lot more money in another line of work.

"Here's where the math don't add up, and I been doing a lot of thinking about this in, you know, my spare time, but when a girl with your figure could be making a hundred dollars an hour dancing, why are you making coffee for losers?" - Harry

He would ask if he could wash her shirts. He would ask if he could tie on her apron.

She hated it. Everyone observing it hated it. People told him to leave her alone. It was wrong. It made everyone uncomfortable. He should have been fired. People complained to the manager.

But here was Harry's trick. He would clock out before he said anything. He would put his card into the punch clock as far as it would go before punching, and then when she reached the first button at her collar, he would clock out, and start going crazy.

Gentleman, human being, fellow traveler on earth *clock out* fiend, monster, lech

And the manager said this was ok. She was like, "well, he's not on the clock, so what can I do?"

It was outrageous. But it was also the 90s and also it was this bookstore's business plan to hire living bottles of 2000 Flushes to run these places. They were expanding quickly, you see, and the toilet aisle was the quickest place to get a bunch of managers at once.

I'm sick today, and I was given the day off, but I thought I needed to go in for a few hours to help with a report. I slapped an outfit together, and my t-shirt has a picture of a young man fucking a slice of pizza.

I was like, "shit, I can't wear this to work," and then I was like, "wait, it's a sick day, so I'm technically not there! I can totally wear this. No rules!" and then I was like, "Are you Harry? It's ok because you're not on the clock? Take the goddamn shirt off, you idiot. Why do you even own it?"

O' Diary, then I got a text saying I didn't have to go in anyway. But I'm proud that I would have made the right decision!

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Sunday, January 12th, 2014
4:10 am - Blooper Reel
Had to address the team in a meeting today, and the idea was to discuss how simple projects can have hidden complexities.

In my mind, when I was preparing for the speech, it occurred to me a little ant character might embody the principle I was hoping to convey, and I had a little acronym ready.

It was my turn to speak, I went to the dry-erase board, drew the ant, asked people if they knew what it was.

An ant!

Right, and what does ANT stand for? It stands for… (started writing)

Aint

Nothin'

the next word was supposed to be "easy," and up until I was writing it, I was sure it would work.

Like, I thought I could make an acronym out of Ain't Nothin' Easy that would be ANT.

Seeing my marker waver, my coworker suggested "trivial," so that worked (sorta). But it's like, what was wrong with my brain?

I mean, there's the (is it irony, is this the definition of irony?) irony that my easy acronym wasn't easy. ANE, y'all! What's a picnic without anes?

But there's also the likelihood that "ain't" sounds so much like "ant" that my brain just slipped into satisfaction.

Anyway, I need to stop winging shit.

*************

Figured I'd use the last day of staycation to clean the closets and do some chores. I had to go in to the office to help with a report, so I did, and then I came home, and I was able to purge a bunch of shirts and do SIX loads of glorious laundry. And then....

In the search for more shirts, I found... a legacy.

It seems the time the tea tray got locked in the closet for a few hours (a terrible accident), he soaaakkked my entire collection of tote bags with his supersoaker. The whole back of the closet was the Ganges River, a swamp of ammonia and cholera.

He had dupered up a load of laundry near the door, and I found that at the time, but I didn't go back far enough. I forgot that beyond the dawn of time there is a still-deeper magic.

Bags from The Strand, ruined. My Papa Smurf bag, soaked. The leather bag my father bought me to travel with when I was 15, bepissed. Also, a great big rattling collection of fossilized dupers. A mess for the ages.

Took it all out. Removed my gag chip, cleaned it up, wiped it up, was distressed to find a backpack still DRIPPING. Like, it hadn't evaporated. It was just a stagnant pool of Ruggles' Yellow Distress.

Opened the windows and gave the house an air shower. Have to go buy some baking soda now and turn the place into Arm and Hammer Beach for a couple hours.

Threw out so much history. A famous robe. That bag. Some crazy shoes.

Oh, daddy, I loved that bag. Thank you for buying it.

Tea Tray or pee tray, I love this silver dagger, but gott dang, he sure Third Worlded me.

How have I lived with it for so long without knowing? I haven't needed a tote bag, I guess. Also, my senses of smell, hearing, and sight were badly damaged by the New York subway.

****************

I had a sneak-ticket to go to New York this weekend. I was going to watch the college football championship with a dear old friend and surprise some other friends, but the flight was canceled.

It was a last-minute cancellation, and it put me in a strange mood. There's all the stress of packing and getting ready (I was taking the red eye after a day of work) and all the arrangements for Ruggles and all serious work of deciding what I was going to read.

Then it was canceled, and there were no available flights to put me on. Anticlimax!

So, I went to a basketball game and yelled at the players knowing I was really yelling at the Lord. It was, whatchacallit, transference.

Then there was all the news about Mayor Bloomberg stepping down, and though he overstayed his welcome, he was My Mayor, I reckon. I moved there just before 9/11, so I got the tail end of Giuliani (the Post's headlines the first year and a half I lived there were all about his messy divorce). That was big news before 9/11. He was someone to make fun of before 9/11.

I remember during Bloomberg's campaign, he sent VHS tapes to my apartment building. Like, that's how different the world was. He sent out VHS tapes to folks hoping they would pop them in and watch them and be convinced and vote for him. There was no YouTube.

I saw him only once. My friend, the same one I was going to watch the game with, and I drove out to Staten Island for Groundhog Day. They have their own Groundhog (Staten Island Chuck), and Bloomberg tried to hold it.

They said he didn't see his shadow, but it stayed cold for a long time anyway.

So, throughout my time there (roughly a decade), he was a constant. He rigged it to stick around after I'd left too. Like, he changed the law so he could have an extra term. So, there was some continuity.

But, now he's gone (and so am I) and another friend posted a list of awesome businesses that went bankrupt during the Bloomberg administration, and I had been to half of them. Like, they were all the crusty old diners and record stores and bars that I would hide out in.

So, it was like: The flight was canceled, so I can't go back. But even if the plane had taken off and landed, I wouldn't be back, because it isn't there.

So, a giant portion of my New York is gone, but... that's what New York is. It's constantly reinventing itself. It's supposed to. Otherwise it would be Williamsburg, Virginia or something. I'm constantly reinventing myself. Otherwise, I'd be William B. .... I can't come up with anything for that.

Anyway, I let myself miss it, like just opened myself up and looked at that list, and remembered the places where I had all those good times, and then I bought a romance paperback cover with Manhattan on it, and then I decided I'd taken the day off, and I was going to keep it off and have a staycation in the city where all the bars and restaurants and bookstores I like are still in business.

Moment of Melancholy..... passed! But noted.

*****************

Most folks are still on holiday, so the sad trickle of us getting off at the office bus stop was more like the little bit of coffee that drips out of your tumbler after you're sure you've taken the last sip.

We're usually a mighty, roaring flood, a proper folksflood of industry, but I'm just part of the trickletribe this morning.

Everyone's sleepy and shuffling. Our white collars are still stained with last night's mulberry juice.

There was a box in the middle of the sidewalk reading "PERISHABLE" in large red letters. Everyone gawked at it as they stepped around it. What was in there? How did it get there? What truck did it fall off of? Was it full of giant lobsters, rotten pork chops, misdelivered ant farm?

Further down, a man was yanking a massive rope of garland off of a light pole. A picture began to form. Further still, a massive pile of "PERISHABLE" boxes loomed.

One hadn't been closed properly, and its contents glistened. They winked out its mystery in dazzling morse lightcode.

It's all the holiday decorations being taken down and slapped into storage, an ending on a day of beginning. Two-faced Janus!! We're supposed to see baby new year taking his first steps, but it was an image of a hungover grim reaper still clinging to the calendar with skeletal fingers!

Release us, iron-fisted one! Remind us not of things perishable! Unleash the toddler, that we might look forward! We choose the stench of the diaper over the reek of the burial shroud! To dust with you!

I ducked into the New Place and got an avocado, poached egg, and horseradish sandwich. That'll get Li'l 2014 toddling. Why, he'll be asking to borrow the car in no time.

*************

When I was a boy, I had the original twelve Star Wars figures. I must have been five or six years old. My grandmother had no idea who the characters were, but she made a big show of appreciating them when I would show them off. Her main comment was that Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, the Tusken Raider, the Jawa, and Princess Leia all had capes and the others didn't.

She didn't use those names, of course.

They, the capes, were supposed to represent robes and were these plastic/vinyl deals with holes for the arms. They could be removed, which would kind of stretch the arm holes, but I had to take them off because the way I played with them would tear them up.

My way of playing with them was to sit "Indian style" on the floor, pile all twelve in my lap and scramble them up, like kind of rake them with my hands until they flew out and only one remained.

It was like a Battle Royale, I guess, where you could only be eliminated by being thrown over the top rope, which, in this case, was my legs.

Was it some kind of pre-sexual boy-fun? Who knows? Who can speak with authority in these matters?

I would also wrap them in tissue paper and make them break out by moving their arms.

One summer, we spent a couple of days in a row at Grandma's apartment, and Grandpa took us out for miniature golf. That sweet man wanted nothing more in life than for my brother and I to grow up to love real golf the way he loved it, but all we wanted to do was see the little windmill go around. So, he got some putting practice in but dreamed of future days when he could stroll across the grounds with grown-up grandsons who could drive the ball.

After a trip to Carvel, we got home, and Grandma had all of the Star Wars figures standing on a piece of Styrofoam. She had knit capes for all the figures that didn't have them already. She used white for Luke, and black for Han. The Death Star dude got a grey one, and Chewie got a brown one. It didn't seem weird that a creature made of fur would wear a fur cape. It seemed right.

C3PO's was special, it was a cool gold yarn with flecks of gold in it. Even R2 got a stumpy kind of cap that was more like a yarmulke or a shiek's trailing head scarf.

"Now they all have capes," she said, "and they can all be warm for the winter or go to the same dinner party."

She eventually made capes for the ones that already had capes, so they would match. I loved those soft things. It's such a sweet memory.

The figures are all gone now. Some were memorably washed away in the ocean (I was making them swim, and then they weren't in my hand any more, and I didn't even try to look for them. The ocean was too big) and some I just lost or chewed up or… they're just gone.

I hadn't thought about this for a long time, but this morning, I was walking to work, and a tree wrapped with white Christmas lights glittered and reminded me of 3PO's cape, and it all came back.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2013
8:55 am - Alain Delon
O' Diary, The notice in the wine aisle suggested a specific vintage was "great with frozen lasagna."

Friday night, the bus downtown is a cocktail party. Men with tattoos on their thumbs sip from airplane bottles and debate whether or not Lysol or hand sanitizer gives you a better buzz.

Unattended children tear up advertising circulars while their mothers try to sleep.

The men tell one another how good the Seahawks are and how it's colder in Oklahoma, so you're better off here even though last week they found "someone froze on a bench."

One man keeps asking if Thanksgiving is this Sunday. Another keeps answering, "No, I told you when it was." The man asks if he missed it.

Getting off the bus, one man takes a lesbian's hand and tells her girlfriend, "she with me now, she converted." Everyone laughs, including the lesbians.

************************

The baker wore a formal black body-apron. Spattered with flour, he looked like the galaxy. "That bread pipe is spicy," he said, "it's gonna kick your ass."

I told him I was prepared.

"Ok," he said, "but if you take a bite and complain, I'm gonna kick your ass."

I told him I wouldn't complain. I paid.

"You better not try to kick my ass on some review site," he said.

I told him I wouldn't.

"You know what," he said, "bring it on."

**************

His whole life was 1,000-mile drives where he punished the gas pedal for 950 miles, pulled over to tank up for the last stretch of the journey, saw an application in the window, got the job, sold beef jerky and bottled ginseng for three years, then got into a random stranger's car and whispered, "Just drive, Johnny. Anywhere."

**************

Sometimes I'll get so... struckstricken by a song I hear in the convenience store or cab that it pushes out all other thoughts. I go home and download it, listen to it halfway through (satisfied that I own it), and then never listen to it again.

On purpose.

Months, sometimes years, later, I'll just have the player playing and that weirdo song will float to the surface, and the walls of the house melt away and I'm back there. Back to the beautiful glow of the band-aid aisle!

There's got to be some kind of Cupid figure for this, maybe his bow is strung with cassette tape, and maybe he uses Q-tips for arrows.

*******************

I had a moment at the grocery store where I was like, "Who am I? Shopping for ingredients? To cook something from a recipe? For a holiday?" Then I got home, unpacked the stuff I bought and looked at the recipe again.

I had misremembered almost everything. It said rice wine vinegar, and I bought red wine vinegar. It said to prep one of the items two days in advance, etc. I got the wrong kind of butter.

I was so relieved! Thank goodness! It's still me! I have passed the test and shall remain Galadriel.

***********

I've lived in this apt (Inside the Astor's Studio) for a year and change. The heater's never worked, but I never had a problem with that. I grew up in the Carter administration.

This week, while I was at work, the management company played sugar plum Prometheus and went through the building lighting all the pilot lights and fixing all the furnaces.

I was mostly oblivious to it, though I did leave a note asking them to be careful not to let Ruggles escape.

Last night, a crazy hiss woke me up, and I thought the cat had figured out how to turn the faucet on. That's where my brain went. But it was the heater.

It has all the subtlety of Buster Poindexter yelling "Hot Hot Hot!" or a cartoon animal noticing his tail is on fire and whooping through the scenery to the nearest lake.

It also glows bright orange to the alarming degree that I expect to see Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego hanging up a "Home Sweet Home" needlepoint.

I'm spinning that dial back down to 50 and going back to Cardigan Island. Sir Hiss can sleep through the winter.

***************

Some strange bedfellows fighting at the bus stop. They sat on the bench surrounded by their roller bags and army sacks. She was very clean and healthy seeming. Clear, steady voice, but she was using it to say crazy things. He was old and shaky with a street-sleeper haircut.

They wanted forty dollars from someone on the other side of the flip phone.

It was cold. I was hunched up near a column pretending it would help. Two moms took turns rubbing their baby's cheeks and adjusting his blanket.

The man pawed around in helpless circles while she spoke. Her voice was of the tone and quality of a professional receptionist, but she was saying:

"He gave me one hundred and ten dollars, but then I needed forty fucking more and he didn't have it."

"No, I didn't, and no I DON'T!" he said. He was curving to speak to her cheek hoping the person on the other end would hear it.

"Let ME tell it!" They were both so loud. It was like a play where the director had ordered the doors welded shut. The moms and I were trapped.

"You made me say fuck in front of a baby! I didn't know there was a fucking baby here! If you hadn't messed up and fucked up so much, we wouldn't be in this fucking mess. I'm SORRY. HE KEEPS DOING THIS. SORRY ABOUT YOUR BABY!"

The moms looked at me. I gave the smile that means, "Aw, shucks, ma'ams. Bus'll be here soon, and we'll all be warm and cuss free."

The man asked to tell his side of it, so she gave him the phone. He walked away with it. She stored up her energy. She would need it. Her life was about mustering outrage and exposing unfairness.

************

You stay up late and watch The Paper Chase, because you have a weird obsession with Timothy Bottoms. He seems divine to you somehow.

Your cat, an actual divinity, sleeps through the whole thing. You want to move, but you don't want to wake him. So you are still while you watch Timothy Bottoms make a paper airplane out of his grades.

When you sleep, the cat is awake. You sleepfeed him and crawl back. You mummify yourself in the quilt. You look like Blankethotep. The cat, now your enemy, can't hurt you this way.

When you awaken, you put on your Orlando Magic sweater and pick up a package at the post office. It's a flask you ordered on the Internet. It was $40.

You thought it was made from recycled camera parts, but it is made of deception. It's a piece of shit with a sticker on it. You picture the manufacturer on a beach in black socks and sandals. You picture them chewing on a $40 cigar in their undershirt.

You trudge to a restaurant, absurd-looking in your sweater with your manpurse full of bullshit. You eat Vietnamese food. The broth is excellent, but the coffee is gross. You've ordered Vietnamese coffee thirty times in your life but only enjoyed it once. You keep chasing that high.

On the bus to meet Dagmar for better coffee, a woman with Downs syndrome yells at another woman for being in her seat. There are plenty of empty seats, but this one is her favorite. The seated woman doesn't want to move but doesn't want to fight with an unfortunate. She surrenders.

You read a novel and take great pleasure in the language.

You go to the frame store, but the sheet of paper on which you carefully wrote down the frame sizes you need was left on the bus. You are afraid to buy frames without it. You meet with Dagmar and go to the indie magazine festival.

The magazines are mostly about Betty Boop with a penis or watercolor prints of familiar superheroes with their breasts exposed. You leave the flask on the stairs for anyone who wants it. You write "To: You! From: An Angel" on an attached tag.

You leave and take pictures of the neighborhood. You walk to a thrift store and buy a dish rack.

Dagmar buys you a late lunch at a dim sum place. The waiter comes by with a Damien Hirst art project on wheels. It's full of steaming bamboo dishes of wolf snout and Betty Boop penis. You haltingly order the most familiar-seeming.

You part ways. You go to work. For whatever reason, it's your comfort zone. You make licorice tea and write coupons. You begin to feel like yourself again.

O' Diary, Weird fog day. It looks like the city is a pencil drawing and someone rubbed the Space Needle out with their thumb. It's smeared and barely visible. I've got the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack up to 11 and writing as many coupons as I can.

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Sunday, November 10th, 2013
2:40 pm - Every Day is Like Sunday, Sunday, Sunday (and Saturday)
O' Diary, Such is my hatred for big business, I just read a headline as "Philippine tycoon leaves up to 10,000 dead," which, since global warming is responsible for extreme weather, and corporations are responsible for global warming, is true in a way.

************

You leave work very late at night. It's your own fault. You left early without finishing. You wanted to enjoy dinner with friends. After dinner, your remote login didn't work, so you went back to the office. When you finish, it is late.

There wasn't a bus, so you walk. When you pass the 7-11, a man in the parking lot asks you for fifteen cents. You give him a dollar. He blesses you. This greatly excites a second man. He had been sleeping standing up against the Redbox machine.

He too asks for fifteen cents. You cannot help but think of the famous nursery rhyme about the Chinaman.

The man's hair is teased out. He looks like a chimney sweep's tool. He comes to you with his hand out. You give him a dollar too. He insists on hugging you. He smells like Old Overholt.

"My name is Lydell," he says, without releasing you. "Google me, and you'll see I'm not a bum."

Earlier in the day you took a shower at work. It's another reason you didn't finish on time. In the shower, you found an expensive razor on the tile. You took it as an opportunity to shave. You shaved your face with a razor you found on the floor.

It gave you a rash on your neck.

Lydell's hair is touching your rash. You pull away.

He thanks you for the "hand up" and tells you that earlier the police "arrested a white man for changing in the moon." You thank him for the warning and walk away.

Behind you, you hear him say to a third man, "Yeah, I got it."

You brush your back pocket with your finger. Your wallet is there. You also have your phone and work ID. It is the dollar you gave him that he's referring to.

You're sure of it.
***************

I got a credit card when I was in my teens. Never used it. In my 20s, I kept it for emergencies and never used it, until... one night I bought my girlfriend and I some broccoli bites at Bennigan's. We'd had a hard year. Neither of us had jobs, and we wanted a night out like normal people.

It stands out, because I went from a balance of zero to a balance of $14.74. We also got iced teas.

My balance has never been zero since. Once the credit gate was open, we went out a lot. I would pay the card a little each month (I got a job), but never beat it down. I needed money for other things, and, frankly, it seemed patriotic to have credit card debt.

That's not true. I just didn't care.

Eventually I moved to New York, and needed money in bursts. Lots of emergencies there. And the year I was rich, I figured I'd be rich forever, so I didn't pay it completely off. The balance went up and down but never zero. Then, I got a massive tax bill (NY charges federal, state, AND CITY taxes) and the year I was rich was the year that made me poor.

So... the rest of my time in New York was spent living check to check. Though, of course, I had a marvelous time. When I moved here, it became much easier to save (no state or city taxes here, higher-paying job), but for whatever perverse reason, having debt just seemed normal.

A few months ago, I decided to just kill the debt. I've had lots of opportunities, but I bought paintings instead or went to Europe or, bought a camera lens, or whatever.

But now, I've worked it to where it will be zero by the end of the year. Proud of myself. Those broccoli bites were good, but they weren't worth $12,000 or whatever 20 years of interest on $14.74 was.

Au revoir, broccoli bites. (Unless I win the R. Crumb illustration I'm bidding on, in which case, y'all can sit in the takeout container a little longer)

****************


I dreamed I was an old woman with back-length, straight, grey hair. I was dead. The afterworld was a mountainous, dark place of eternal rain.

Someone drawing it would use the same lines to show the rain as they would to show my hair. Long, straight, silver lines falling.

There was a yellow tarp stretched on a branch. It glowed from a light within. I entered the tent, and it was warm. Inside was every pet I've ever owned. All my long-dead dogs and long-missing cats.

There was no wild excitement. They just looked up as if I'd only been gone a moment. We all curled up together in peace.

I was speaking to them when Ruggles woke me up. I was a man again. I was alive again, but it really was raining. I fed Ruggles and went back to sleep, but the dream was lost.

*************

The onsite coffee shop has a morning trivia question, and the first person who goes for coffee comes back and poses it to the room. Today's was: "Why does the Bronx Zoo receive a daily shipment of blood from the local slaughterhouse?" Metal.

The answer, as all answers must ever and always be, was "to feed the bats."

So, we started planning a musical called "Blood Truck Heist," and will make that the subject of our next work happy hour sketch party.

*****************

Checked out a Filipino food truck for lunch. Just a pretty day for a box of peppery rice with a fat, old egg on top. The egg was like, "I have a big old belly," and I was like, "Yes you do. Yes you do have a big old belly. You want to play with the rice and onions?"

And the egg was like, "Poke me, bro, I'm into it," and I poked him, and his happy golden belly oozed pleasantly into the joyful ricefolk, and they mingled and spun and played. They went to their labors with song, and the sweat of their brow was honest and orange. And I ate it.

***********

Yesterday, on the bus, a Korean lady had an unusual dog. It was white and bearded and had a curiously ridged spine. She sat near the door, and it drew a lot of admiration and attention.

Everyone asked her about it. She said it was a special breed prized for its ability to ward off evil spirits. A man who spoke very loudly and slowly (a punishing combination) was a huge fan.

Over an agonizing forty-five seconds, he shoutsaid, "If...it...WARDSoff....evil SPIRITS....you should...send it.... send.....send him....to.....send him to CONGRESS."

O' Diary, though it was so drawn out, it now seems too brief a treat.

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Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
2:29 pm - Scene II - The Thieves Den
Dewskitch, the prince of thieves, sits on his throne. A hooded enforcer stands behind him. Scuff, a junior thief, has something to report.

Scuff: There's no things to report, sir. It's all clear here. Quiet as a riot in the morning ligh-ut, sir.

Dewskitch: What was that noise I heard with my ears before? Sounded like a team of Mohammedans come back from prayer to find their shoes was stolen. You steal their shoes, Scuff?

Scuff: No, your majesty, I mean I would steal a Mohammedan's shoes if the opportunity arose, but no such shoes were in my sights. Tonight's had as few shoes as a gooze.

Dewskitch: Oh, I do loves smiling, Scuff. I do loves to smile, and picturing a goose with slippers is making my lip twitch northward, it really is, but another kind of pressure is pushing that lip down. Oh, it's a weight on me lips, Scuff.

Scuff: Whazzat, sir?

Dewskitch: I'll tell you what it is. It's the loo you're telling.

Scuff: Loo, sir?

Dewskitch: The L-O-O. The Lie of Omission. Something's happened, and you're telling me something did not happen.

Scuff: Strictly speaking, sir. That would just be a general lie. A loo, sir, would be if I said something happened but left something out, but I am just telling you something didn't happen.

Dewskitch: So it's a general lie as is generally told.

Scuff: Yes, sir, and since you now know and know now, I might as well come as clean as a gleaming soup tureen, and tell you.

Dewskitch: Go on

Scuff: A police caught me with my fingerbones in a lady's pursybag, and trailed me to our lair, sir. Right to our gates.

Dewskitch: So you killed him in the foyer, thus the noise I heard with my ears. Sloppily done, Scuff. Sloppily done, lad. We're going to have trouble hiding that body. Call that scrawny Mrs. Leeks to scrub down the tile, and we can…

Scruff: No, sir, I didn't kill him sir. Better than that.

Dewskitch: We has a strict policy, Scruff. We kill constables here in our con's stable.

Scruff: True, sir, true. Generally, we do. We do. But this was an American policeman.

Dewskitch: An American policeman? You came close to leaving that bit out. It was almost a loo.

Scruff: No, sir. Strictly speaking, it was just what I likes to call a dramatic pause. You won't find me leaving nothing out never sir.

Dewskitch: So, you didn't kill him?

Scruff: No, sir. He's as alive as a hive full of wives, sir.

Dewskitch: Wouldn't that be something. Be a very loud hive, wouldn't it? Louder than a usual hive, I imagine. Where's the Yank, Scruff. No more of your dramatic pauses.

Scruff: He's in the larder, sir. No chance of escape. We cuffed 'im, put him in a straightjacket, tied him up in chains and hung him upside down. Then the brawny Mr. Leeks punched him in the stomach a few times.

Dewskitch: Well, no one could escape that.

Without looking, Dewskitch reaches behind him to summon the hooded guard

Dewskitch: Come along, Billups. Let's go interrogate a Yank and see which direction he pulls my lip in.

The hooded guard cuffs Dewskitch's hand to the throne

Dewskitch: Me freedom of movement!

Scuff: Billups, why you playin' games with his majesty?

The hooded guard removes his hood and advances on Scuff putting him in a sleeper hold

Houdini: Turns out you did tell a lie of omission after all, Scuff. You left out that the American detective was Harry goddamn Houdini.

Scuff: Strictly speaking, I would have had to have known that first for it to be a true loo, and… I'm havin' as much trouble breathin' as a heathen during matin' season.

Scuff falls unconscious

Dewskitch: What the hell do you want with us?

Houdini: After I spend a few pleasant hours with the scrawny Mrs. Leeks, I'm going to come back in here and find out everything you know about a man named…Rasputin.

Dewskitch: Oh, cripes.

Darkness

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Thursday, October 10th, 2013
8:16 pm - Don't Get Excited
O' Diary, it's Transfer Thursday

When I was a boy, my mother took me to a rodeo. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the biggest rodeo in the world. Years later, it burned down in a fire and was never rebuilt.

There was so much to see: bulls, barrels, cotton, toy guns that shot red sparks. While some cowboys were taking a shower, a clown came over to the bleachers where we sat. I knew it was a man, but the makeup made him seemed otherwise. I didn't want to look at him. He held his arms out at his side. They were covered with dark hair. "Watch!" he said.

I looked at him. "Watch!" he said. "Watch!"

He wasn't doing anything. I was a little boy. I looked away. I saw a calf drinking from a mud puddle. I saw a woman with patches on her denim jacket shaped like the United States. Some of the states were missing. They were the ones she hadn't been to.

My mother put her hand on my shoulder. "Simon," she said, "the clown is talking to you." I looked over. "Watch!" the clown said. His arms were down now. In one hand he held an orange handkerchief. He waved it. "Watch! Watch!" We were high in the bleachers, but I could see his eyes, and they seemed to see mine. I watched.

"Watch!" he said and draped the handkerchief over his arm. "Watch!" An announcement came over the PA. Horses were kicking at fences. "Watch!" said the clown, and he whipped the handkerchief off of his arm. He was wearing a watch. His wrist had been bare, but now he wore a watch. He tilted it so the face caught the light.

"Watch!" he said, indicating the watch. The crowd laughed. My mother laughed, so I did. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the biggest rodeo in the world. Years later, it burned down in a fire and was never rebuilt.

***********************

This place is popular on the weekends, so they ask you to sit at the bar. This isn't an issue; the bar has full service. You can get your steak and eggs there as easily as you can get your steak and eggs in the dining area.

If there's an issue, it's the aggressively friendly bartender who calls you "brother," indicates a cocktail menu and asks, "play like a champion today, brother?"

You feel like a champion already from having won a vintage Burger King doll the night before, so you decline. You drink coffee and the bartender wants to know if you feel like "adding a little wang to it." You assume he means whiskey. You compare him mentally to Lampwick from Pinocchio.

You decline with a shy smile. You tell him you have to work. He asks you if you own the business. You tell him no. He asks if the boss is also working. You tell him no. He says, "boss won't know, bro."

The rhyme breaks the spell. If there was one. You settle up and leave. You can't drink during the day. It's too early for Walt Whitman to wake up.

***************

My friend's dog bit me during the Breaking Bad finale. Barking Bad. Small dog, no big deal. It's a rescue from a shelter for abused dogs, so it hates boys and loves peanut butter.

I keep wanting to text him and be like, "dude, my leg below the knee is purple!" or "it hurts to drink water today," or "some liquid dripped out of the wound and skeleton warriors sprang up!"

But it's really not an issue (I forgot it happened until just now in the shower), and he has enough troubles.

*********************

My old friend just texted me to remind me of the time I drove to the Tallahassee ABC affiliate office and asked if I could watch an episode of Twin Peaks I had missed. They had it on tape, and they let me. They even served me coffee. They just set me up in a corner office with a monitor and left me alone to enjoy it.

This was 1990, so I would have been driving my Beetle, and I would have been wearing jean shorts. My hair was also short. I had probably just graduated from high school.

There were a lot of friends from high school I didn't see again until 1992 when Fire Walk With Me opened in the theater. Work and college had scattered us. The 7pm showing was like an unofficial reunion.

*****************

One thing I miss about my grandmothers is how they would defend celebrities. Memorably, one had choice words for the "ungrateful" adopted daughter of Joan Crawford and her "libelous book," and the other wanted me to understand that Michael Jackson had the "mind of a child" and was filled only with "childish innocence in his play." They cared about these people. They cared about everyone.

"Now, you see, Simon. This is just what I was talking about. You tell your friend Spencer not to believe everything he reads. It's just like when I tried to trim your mother's bangs, and she ran and told the maid I was SHAVING her head. This is how children see the world. And wire hangers ARE bad for clothing, good clothing anyway. I don't know Spencer's tailor."

"If your friend Marcus knew what Joan Crawford went through, the things she was made to do, he wouldn't say those things. Like most women at that time, she came from bondage. She was in bondage and she worked her way free with hard work, the kind of work I imagine Marcus has never had to do. She took that little girl from the gutter, and that little girl bit her hand."

********************

I adopted a cat today. He's a Russian Blue. He's an older guy, and the shelter said most people want kittens. I wanted a cool dude who would just relax and be cool with me, so I asked for him, and they said yes. He's 14 years old.

I want a Russian name for him. His tag says "Sprokat," and that won't do at all.

He did not like being in a box on the bus, but he starting purring and rubbing on me about twenty minutes after we got home. So. I have a cat.

*****************

Last night he got right up next to me and curled up and purred until either he fell asleep or I did. He's very active, gathers blankets around himself, pokes around in every corner, purrs a lot, eats the Paul Newman dry food I took a chance on.

There were dupers in the litter box, and I teared up when I saw them. He found it. He used it. Bless his instincts. I got him a little catnip mouse, and he knew just what to do to amuse himself. Batted it, cavorted with it, sang to it, savaged it. Seeing an animal carry something in its mouth is the greatest pleasure there is. It's better than the pyramids. It's more beautiful than the Venus of Samothrace.

What's that, you got tickets for a helicopter ride over Machu Picchu? No thanks, the cat found the calico cloth seahorse I bought him. I'm good.

He does this thing where his hindquarters start quivering, slowly at first, then get really revved up, and he springs across the wooden floor with a sound like a sack of disposable lighters being kicked across a subway platform. He's done it a couple of times now. It's his thing.

So, since he revs up like that, I'm calling him Reverend Ruggles. So… that's the name. He gave it to himself. When I woke up this morning, he was still in my arms, and I said, "Morning, Reverend."

O' Diary, now I've got you where I want you

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Monday, September 30th, 2013
10:22 pm - The Red Carpet Squares Are Lava
O' Diary, I ate too much because I cooked too much.

There's an article folks pass around on my social network that says you should think of your life as eleven consecutive lives. The premise is it takes 7 years to master a skill, and if you're not unlucky, you can live to about 80, so... you can start a new life anytime you want to start learning a new skill.

The skill you've mastered will define your life-segment.

It's kind of a mix between Dungeons and Dragons and Eat, Pray, Love, and it assumes a kind of privilege, but I like it.

I've certainly lived many different life segments, but I'm certain I didn't devote seven years to mastering anything. I mostly just do shit until it gets hard, and then I complain about it, and then I suck at the parts I used to be good at, and then I go on to something else. But only because I've been able to.

On the 14-hour train ride from Romania to Budapest, the German girl I met talked about "the Flow," which is some motivational book from the 80s that discusses the relationship between interest and ability. The main idea is that when you find the perfect ratio between complexity and attention, you reach a pleasurable and productive zone of activity.

So, like, if shit is too hard or easy for you, you lose interest in it, and the idea is to keep yourself surrounded with goals that "scale" in intensity so you can stay in the zone. I think I wrote about this already and said it was the basic principle behind addictive video games.

Like, if Tetris didn't get faster with each level, it would suck, but when it gets too fast, it sucks anyway.

So... this is definitely where I am with certain skills. Like, I kind of stick to writing things I'm capable of writing. Funny plays, personal confessions, arch work emails, etc. It's too hard to write a book. I can't master that skill and move on to my next life-segment. I'm too stuck in the old one and too addicted to... I dunno, instant feedback.

Like, the Tour was designed as an opportunity to be alone and maybe get some writing done, and I'm definitely happy with the journal I kept, but... I never really... shut out the world I live in to devote myself to solitude and serious writing. Also, I was surrounded by new and fascinating things.

I've never had any discipline, really. I mean, I'm better at doing the dishes now and cleaning the house, and I'm decent at work, but I don't... write for a few hours each day like you're supposed to. I'm seven years behind on mastering that bit.

There's no timeline, of course, except the mortal one, but I'm only too grateful for distractions, and that includes chicks and projects. I'll set aside time for writing, get a text from someone I barely know, and scratch the session to go listen to them cry about their ex or their dog or, whatever.

I get a bunch of money after four years at my current job. I "vest," so there's some idea that if I can just make it through the fourth year, I can take a year off to write, but I'm almost certain I would spend it going to romance conventions or coffee tasting parties or apple busting competitions or... anything but what I'm supposed to be doing. I'd start a relationship with a cigarette gal and just waste it all at the races. She heard a tip. It was supposed to be a sure thing.

O' Diary, I downloaded a bunch of early American folk music from the library and I listened to too much of it, because I had too much of it.

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Thursday, September 19th, 2013
6:48 am - Blue Page Roundup
O' Diary, At the new coffee place, the barista doesn't pronounce the "ce" at the end of words. I am encouraged to enjoy my "eye coffee" and have a "nigh day," and I think it is very sweet.

When I was a boy, a friend told me some "rednecks in a truck" had pulled up next to him, rolled down the window, and thrown a snake at him. He said the fangs had torn his ear.

His ear had a scratch on it. I believed him, of course.

Until just now. I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich and the memory came into my head, and I told the tomato soup it was ridiculous.

***************************

I read Flannery O' Connor on the bus as seagulls bark their witch-throat cries. Still raw from last night's mass, they nonetheless find themselves compelled to rise from the shaving-water sea and call out when they spy a promising takeout container or holy hamburger wrapper.

****************************

When the sky is grey and soft like this in morning, I usually say it's like an enormous cat is sleeping on the city, but today it has the color and texture of the pads you rent when you get a U-Haul, the ones designed to keep your wooden furniture from chipping.

The city looks like it's been safely packed and thrown in the back of a truck, ready to be moved. The Columbia Center tower is a grandfather clock, the Smith Tower a vanity table, the PI Globe a Hummel figurine.

Pike Place Market is a boxed lunch. Where are we being taken?

******************************

I read about these rich kids in the 30s who motored around in the countryside having picnics and doing drugs, and having country drug picnics. They were followed by a car of servants. In the car were four, large finished pieces of wood.

They would pull up to the spot under the trees they wanted to mess around in and signal the servants, who would then unpack the wood which they would then assemble into a dance floor.

These kids in the world between the wars traveled through the forest with a portable disco. This really happened. I love this.

I tried to decide what music they listened to, and it was probably a wind-up Victrola that played thick jazz records with spooky vocals, but I went ahead and populated the servant's car with musicians.

I like the image of the servants smoking in the car while it rained and the poor clarinetist who sits with them unsure whether or not he should approach the car of Bright Young Things or wait to be summoned.

*************************************

Had a weird, semi-lucid dream last night where I was hanging out in a house I didn't recognize and playing records with a girl I didn't know. We didn't like the record we were listening to, so we cut it up with wire clippers.

But since I had some kind of awareness/control in the dream, I was like, "I don't think what we just did is going to work. Listen." And then we heard the music from the record playing on a device in a neighboring room.

We weren't scared, but we were kind of angry. So, it wasn't a haunted house, exactly. It was like an annoyance house filled with Bothergeists and Hassleshades.

***************************************

O' Diary, the guy who owns the Mariners died. He never once watched the team play. He lived in Japan. His made his money with Nintendo. He never came here to see his team, and the year they opened the season in Tokyo, he didn't drive across the street to see them either. They were just a stock to him, or something.

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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
12:12 am - Two Llamas Too Many
llama

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Saturday, September 7th, 2013
10:28 am - Dispatch From Brasov
O' Diary, 6am flight from Budapest on the 8th. Immutable. Can't be changed.

Train from Brasov at 6am on the 7th gets you to Budapest at 5pm. That would mean you have to get another hotel, sleep there a few hours and take a 3am cab to the airport.

Train from Brasov at 4pm, giving you another day there, arrives in Budapest at 5am on the 8th. You will never get to the airport on time.

So, your ONLY CHOICE is to take the 6am train from Brasov. 12 hours. No problem. The Romanian countryside is beautiful. If you don't sleep, you will have plenty to enjoy.

You get in the cab at 5am. It rockets through the stone streets of the medieval village blasting 90s dance music. The hilarity of hearing "I GOT THE POW-UH!" as you storm toward the train station is overwhelming. The driver smokes and shoots off Axe Body Spray to mask the scent. He is the funny Euro character from the quirky comedy.

You get to the station with no trouble. You ask for the ticket to Budapest. No Budapest. Um… sign says Budapest, 6am? No Budapest. Only train Budapest is Sibiu. Leaves 8:30. How do I get to Sibiu? No train. Take taxi.

You go outside. The taxi you just left is gone. Plenty of other taxis. Hello, my friend. Where do you want to go? Sibiu? I take you to Sibiu. $100 American dollars. Claudia has warned you about this. Another taxi driver says, "He is dishonest. Come in my taxi. I use the meter." You take this taxi.

The train to Budapest from Brasov was canceled because of the Hungarian football fans from yesterday. The cops didn't want them back at the station. Sibiu is…. not close. Sibiu is far away. You are in the taxi for over two hours. The meter passed $100 American dollars about halfway there. You have no choice.

You thought Sibiu was close, but it is far. It would be like a train being canceled in Seattle and the lady at the ticket counter saying. "Don't worry about it. Just go to Portland."You're also a rich American who has been living on soft pretzels. You can afford it. You decide to just lie back and think of Ink-lant.

Also, the driver is hysterical. He tells you the names of his girlfriends in every little village you pass. He tells you his wife is fucking other men, and that it doesn't bother him as long as she doesn't tell him who they are. He says he practices Zen Buddhism and when you are Zen you know people are just animals and must make love with variety. So, he sleeps with girls in villages and she is free to be an animal. "We are still love," he says.

You don't care about the money anymore. He gives you some sunglasses with yellow lenses, "because they make everything look better." His cab has wireless internet, so you can check to make sure the train is on time. He stops to smoke. The meter is still running. He stops at a convenience store where a friend has been charging his laptop for him. The meter is still running. Will you get to Sibiu on time? You care about the money a little bit.

He tells you he has a son in the hospital. A garbage can is in the middle of the street. He stops and puts it on the side of the road so it doesn't bother other people. He gets back in the car complaining about his countrymen. He says Romanian people don't "think German enough." If they thought German, they would plan better. He tells you they built a road near his home but forgot to put something in the road, so they had to tear it up and rebuild it. "This is Romania," he says, "This story about the road is all you need to know."

You pass a crazy person in a robe on the side of the road. "He is Santa Claus," says the driver. The man's beard is amazing. White and black with braids. It's a triumph of color and design. You remember the old man from the train a few days ago. The sailing man. He got off in Sibiu. Would he still be there? Could it possibly be? There seems little chance. You arrive in Sibiu. The old man is not there. The bill is twice the driver's estimate. You don't have enough in Romanian currency to pay him let alone buy the train ticket.

He tells you he will go with you to buy the ticket and then take you to a bank where you can get more money. The window at the train station door is broken and he sticks his head through it "Heeeere's Johnny" style and cracks himself up. "Hello!" he shouts in English, "Is anyone home?"

You buy the ticket. He flirts with the ticket girl. He says to me, "I am making her smile." He is waiting for a text from his Sibiu girlfriend to see if she wants to have breakfast with him. She does not want to have breakfast with him.

There is no ATM in the station.

You remember you have the Graveyard of Currency in your left pocket. There is more than enough in American money. You pay him in a whacky Happy Meal combo of colored bills from many nations. In your mind it adds up to exactly what you think the meter says. It seems fair to you based on the circumstances.

He wants a larger tip, and you like him, but you remember he is totally ripping you off and probably lied about having a son in the hospital.

You wave to him and leave. He probably brings breakfast to the Sibiu girl anyway. You will never see him again. You have made the train to Sibiu. You have used your resources to recover from a bad situation. You feel good. You want very badly for the train to make Budapest at 6pm as it promised.

You stash your bags. You remember all the children from the Narnia books got into a train crash and were wrenched back to Narnia to stay forever. You sleep.

O' Diary, your hotel is waiting in Budapest. Your cab is waiting to take you to the airport. Your plane is waiting to take you home.

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