Previous Articles

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nothing is Written

Today had been the first significant downpour I’ve seen in Northern California for quite some time now. After a few tense hours of waiting for rain—let alone the tension built from a few years of drought—that little congress of water droplets at last made contact with the parched, trembling lips of Earth.

For minutes I listened to the percussive soundings of the rain drum on the leaves of plants, the pavement, and the pond. Though the drumming of such a found, communal context is, most often, something I’d actively avoid, it provided me with a comfort and relief unlike anything I’ve listened to in a great deal of time.

After the volume of rain gradually faded into white noise, it was then that I heard the earth omit a sigh similar to that of a local, old derelict, who I once saw, make that compulsive—or errant—leap off-the-wagon. 

“Because you are going to die, with or without it,” he waxed to me that day, as my posture waned away from him to a soberer space of the bar counter. At first, I thought that was the kind of logic that had kept him out of institutions for higher learning across the nation; but, as I stand here now, I guess there can be glory in all forms of hydration. 

It was Sunday, November 1, 2015, and in the background the fourth game in the World Series between the Mets and Royals was airing on the TV. As of current, the standings were Royals three and Mets one. 

Much of the media attention, to this point, had favored the Mets because of their rare appearance on this stage of the dramatically unworldly event called World Series. But, the Royals, of Kansas City (which is a place we have collectively just remembered to exist), had been in the playoffs last year and were the better bet to win. In many analysts’s belief they “deserved” it because they earned it. To me, it was much less, all of it plainly revealing the theater of consumerism: a cyclical drama of contradiction and amnesia. 

I am not watching the game. Instead, I am sitting on a porch looking out onto the Ione landscape. Off to the left, floodlights from the Mule Creek Prison nearby garner my attention for a moment before they simply become a part of the scenery. Some days it takes effect that you are living in a community nearly hundreds of hazardous feet away from such notable criminal icons like the Rainbow Man or Charles Manson’s crony Tex Watson. For some reason the peril of it always sustains, taking for granite those man-made walls. 

The day before was Halloween, which really hadn’t made much of an impact here. Ione, being situated in a remote locus of both Sacramento and Yosemite, caters mostly to those who are transitioning from their career lives to the retirement sphere. The town’s population is in the single digit thousands and those few with the many kids are located more on the perimeter where the law is as remote as their civilities. Us here in the nucleus really only saw a few Mormon children in outdated, parentally advised Disney costumes. A few teens rolled on later without costumes, all presumptuous and completely consumed in their indignity. Made me think of that play which declares Halloween to be the most Republican of holidays.

Most of what I see now is a canvas of darkness behind a shimmering curtain of rain. I stare through the glistening veil to detect any movement, to try and find the immediate positive effect of the rain on our dry land. 

Abruptly the cynic voice appears. The voice says that no matter how much rain we receive this year it will never be enough to replenish us. Even more, we have to begin adapting to these changes, because the climate of the world, as we knew it, is changing. What was once normal no longer means anything anymore, in that we are in a phase of a more explicit change, that we are experiencing an age of greater instability—and so it’s said. 

A stream of consciousness whisked me another direction. Just last week I had drove two hours to see my friends’ band play a free show in Mill Valley. I arrived somewhat late, walked through the empty downtown district of the old, rich North Bay town. Walking in through the bar I was surprised to open the venue doors and find about a hundred or so people in their forties and fifties sitting and listening. Being that it was a Tuesday night in a town miles from the locale of the band’s usual pull, I hadn’t anticipated such an audience. 

After finding a free space, which was a considerable effort, I sat and listened. I began to think that the venue was somewhere that many went to after work and that it wasn’t the band that pulled this many people, but the place. Yet, as they began one of the first songs they ever recorded I could hear a wave of excitement from the crowd. I was delighted to find that only after a year they had generated a significant fan base that extended beyond the boundaries of age, milieu, and location. 

I then commiserated the fact that they, in complete contradiction, were to dissolve as a unit in a month or so, that this was to most likely be their last show in the area. A few months ago they came to a resolve that in order to progress as individuals the band had to…well, disband. 

I spent the next few days traveling with them, embracing the joys of their achievements. Nothing about them seemed to indicate that their break would produce turmoil or rifts in their relations to each other. But, you can’t help but feel in those moments that there has got to be someone prudent enough or patient enough to settle them down and remind them of the privilege they built for themselves over the years of hard work. That being said, it could never be me, after the years of watching my towers crumble from the distance, I had no answer to dissuade these collective agreements to end a good thing. Sometimes when there is so much disagreement between a group of people, the only possible agreement left is make it end.

Back here in Ione for Halloween, not wanting to participate in the transgressions and excuses of a masked holiday, my parents had neighbors over for dinner. They were a couple in their forties with a sweet child who has a severe impairment that required a wheelchair and constant attention. The father was an ex-military man who fought in Iraq and now worked for the prison after years of unemployment. The mom seemed nice, never really had a chance to meet her.

They were interesting enough to talk to, despite their extreme Conservative prejudices that leaked out on occasion. We talked briefly about Europe until he saw my guitar. From then it was mostly focussed on the difficulties of playing instruments and new video games that supposedly train and enhance your technical abilities. 

The platitudes and tranquility of it all, along with the onset of the rain, made me reminisce of the year in Europe prior to my California return. How ironic it was to be relieved by the rain, where in Galway I had felt the exact opposite. In a grander, more emotional sense, it makes you feel like your experiences in one location and time could provide the solutions to the ones you are facing now. But, sometimes this just isn't the case. For all the rain I had encountered in Ireland, I could never bring back here. One man’s trouble is another man’s fortune. 

The neighbor, ex-soldier had a great amount of energy, especially for his age. I wonder how incredibly different the pace of his life on the battlefield was compared to what he experiences now. I wonder how similar the dynamics of his constant battle with his child’s impairment, how his training from the army has prepared for such a commanding task at home. 

I couldn’t ever understand his daily thoughts or perspective. I can’t imagine the images and voices he has catalogued, the ones that interrupt the ordinary moments of his life, that he suppresses, that come and go in moments unannounced. 

After dinner they turned on the television to a stand-up comedian with puppets. I could hardly laugh as he exploited Arabs, the elderly, women, and Mexicans with facsimile characters. I couldn’t understand the gall and the cowardice of his act: to not take anything on the shoulder himself, but to pantomime the rhetoric of misogyny, racism, and nationalism. It was complete other-ing and dissociation to a degree of blindness. It was really just the disembodied monologue of a dying empire lying to itself.

Speaking of dying empires, after everyone went to sleep I watched Lawrence of Arabia, about a misfit, flamboyant British soldier who was the outcast of his unit. He was assigned to obtain intel on an Arabian prince, and over the course of a few months, led a band of disputing tribes to join together and continually defeat the opposing Turkish forces through guerrilla raids. After multiple executions and successes done by Lawrence, his hubris and lust for power got the best of him. Despite his friend, Sharif Ali’s, counsel, he soon found himself arrested and beaten in a Saudi Arabian town trying to recruit others into his army. Dejected, he abandoned his tribal army and returned back to the British forces where they persuaded him to lead one last campaign to overtake Damascus.       

Behind me, I could hear chanting from the TV. “Harvey! Harvey! Harvey!”

I turned around as a tall man with a beard and Mets jersey walked onto the baseball pitch. The announcer informed us that Harvey and the audience begged for his return to the pitch instead of giving the call for the closing pitcher. It was potentially a historical moment in which he’d be the second pitcher of all time to close a shut-out game in a World Series. There was no questioning and the coach permitted his return. 

With thunderous applause he took the mound. The Royals’s hitter came up to plate. Harvey threw pitch after pitch to the unconfined excitement of the crowd. If he is able to achieve three outs without any runs in this last inning he will not only make the records but prevent the Royals from winning the series that day. 

He throws and throws, to finally back the first batter down into a Full Count. The final pitch is sent and he walks him. 

A silence ensues after to then elevate again as the next batter takes the stand. Harvey still has a chance at the game. The spotlight is on. It is his moment in history. 

The previous batter stole second. The home crowd cheers, proclaiming his name to the heavens. He threw another curve and the batter makes contact, sending the ball into an empty space far in the left field. The Mets scrambled but to no avail because the first batter makes it around third and finally to the home plate. The game was two to one and there is another man on second. 

The coach emerged from the bullpen and relieved Harvey of his duties. He slapped his palm into his mitt as the audience applauds his otherwise exceptional game. 

Just then the rain fell harder, I returned to look at the black screen before me. Behind me I could here the gradual progression of the Royals making run after run to the home plate. With extra innings, the game was over. The Royals had won.

The sound of rain captured my attention more, I was transported to my small room in Ireland. After months of seclusion, I sat in my room listening to the hurricane force of the weather tear at my ceiling. Scraps of paper and plastic swirled around in the empty parking lot and the streetlight bent almost twenty degrees before my lofted apartment window. Then, as if ripped off by a hand, the ceiling blew open and I was lifted into the sky, tumbling in the flotsam of madness...

A film of white rain occluded my vision. In a fury of water I closed my eyes. I opened them again as the rain settled. I was on a two person canoe, rowing down a winding and reeded river on the border of Lithuania and Belarus with a colleague and friend from New York. In the rear seat I steered trying to not blame him for our lack of progress. I paddled and paddled for hours ignoring him as he relentlessly complained about and questioned the significance of gnats in our ecosystem. Before I was about to “accidentally” whack him on the head, we passed through an ingress to a glorious lake situated in a magisterial glade of the forest. We stood on the canoe, arms outspread and as the sun broke through the clouds we laughed our big adult laughs with childish fervor--just like you see on all those jeans commercials. He turned on an old radio and through the static a faint hum of classical music played. 

My reverie quickly ended as thunder then erupted and rattled the porch. The sky lit up for a brief moment before everything returned to darkness. Stripped from my memory I looked at the book below me. I read the page about the fall of the Berlin Wall but couldn’t concentrate much further than that. 

I turned back to the TV. The camera focussed in on Harvey in the bullpen as he stared, bloodshot eyes, through the fence at the lost game. I wondered what world of regrets eclipsed all the accomplishments he had gained at this point to get him there. I saw him running through those pitches over and over again in his head. His arm a windmill, turning, and turning, and turning.

It made me think of the Tex and the Rainbowman looking at the moon through their jail cell windows, remembering their days of power and criminal success. I thought of the neighbor walking through the hall of his small town at night after tucking in his kid, remembering how he crouched down, rifle ready, walking softly through the red poppy fields of Iraq. Or my friends in their band, drinking to excess and jamming bluegrass music in the greenroom until the club owner asked them to leave, far after the audience had left to their respective homes. I thought of the drunk old man who jumped off the wagon, as he danced on the bar, reigning him the local celebrity for those last few years of his life. 

What meaning did those words have now? Because you are going to die, with or without it. 

With or without it…

Dad turned off the TV and went to bed. On the lit porch I watched and listened to the rain fall. The white static of raindrops became a screen and I saw Lawrence in a vaulted, empty hall, chairs overturned, paper and garments strewn about everywhere, with Auda abu Tayi and Sharif Ali in the failed Arab council of Damascus. 

There Auba tries to persuade Lawrence to return to the desert, but he relents. Audu asks, “Is it the blood? The desert has dried up more blood than you can think of.”

Lawrence replies, “I pray that I may never see the desert again. Hear me, God!”

Audu persists, “There is only the desert for you…”

The rain falls harder. It is a good thing. The water will replenish this arid land, revitalize the plants that have dried, and elevate the river and reservoir levels to a habitable degree. It will not be enough here, but it is better than nothing. 

And these moments perpetuated—individually, naturally, and collectively—are enough to keep all of this going. It may not matter, and sometimes, it may not be good. But there are moments that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. The rest of the time, it is a much need rain and nothing much more than that. Nothing for the history books, just something to keep it all going.

So I sit here, this improbable, tiny cell of light, before a chandelier of rain, enclosed in darkness that extends as far as that possibly could be. 

And maybe that old drunk was right, maybe there is glory in all forms of hydration.

On the white static of the rain, the movie projects again: Lawrence is in a car, transporting him down a desert road. He stands up as he passes a Boudin tribe, then sits.

The young driver says, “Well, Sir. Going home.”

Lawrence looks down perplexedly, “Hm?”

“Home, Sir.”

A motorcyclist then overtakes them as the camera intermittently follows a jeep containing a group of young soldiers chanting Harvey! Harvey! Harvey! as they head into war. 

The camera cuts backs to the desert landscape as a plume of sand lifts into the air. 

Then a close up of Lawrence as he looks onward in silence and I know what he’s thinking, I know exactly what he is thinking just before the rain stops and it cuts to black.
Nothing is written…what a beautiful thing to write.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Permission to Speak

Since I don’t have permission to speak about any one individual, the character I am going to portray is a clumsily surveyed, inconsistently sampled, and lazily consulted gathering of persons into one body, a genderless thrift of a niche, a Nietzsche niche, an ambassador—if you will, or won’t—of the post-college, mid-twenties independent type.

It is the very top-tip of that metaphorical cornucopia; I’m peeking through the weave like a microscope.

A government poll.

Or much like a person in your dream who has the face of your father, the teeth of that British barista you hate, the eyes you saw staring up at you, judging your spare tire in some magazine advertisement, those douche colored eyes, the concave chest of your friend’s that makes you cringe yet fascinates you enough to watch cereal eaten from it politely, the belly button that somehow looks like a calico cat you once had, Tom Cruise’s legs eternal sliding on linoleum floors, and either your grandpa’s foot or a dry bearclaw from that drive-thru café right off Soquel.

So there I was, discussing the future and past with a dream, a dream I’ll name Petri Dish.

Petri has worked many jobs, working many hours, yielding little pay. Petri claims to be a he. I have not seen enough of Petri to know one-way or the other, and he tells me it doesn’t matter anyways. He is probably right.

Petri is a landscaper, a beekeeper, an unpaid intern for many companies without promises, a salesman, a clerk, a barista, a custodian, a waiter, a dishwasher, a telemarketer, an unadmired activist, a misguided activist, a folk enthusiast, an antique collector, an indentured servant, a liquor and pornography savant buried in Kant, a stay-at-home philosopher, resume distributor, tomato dartboard, pop-culture scapegoat, under-paid day-care worker, unqualified professional, prolific interviewer, dirt-faced, bloody knuckled, wine breathed, dark circled, hungered, homeless, legal civilian, rural pavilion, arid hope, and narrow scoped.

Petri is neither clever enough to be simple, nor poignant enough to be complex.  

Petri discusses the insubordination of our promises by the double-knit advisors, the emotional cul-de-sacs in the lack of successes of our achievements as he watches crows drop nuts from the buzzing telephone wires. He chips away more green paint from a jeopardized area of the stairs.

Petri says, “We had to retune the luxuries in life to ones that cannot be refined in a bouquet of shopping malls and budding suburbs, in luxuries we cannot cosmetically augment in loans and monthly mortgage payments.

“Our furniture is recycled from the side of the road, our fine china is damaged and microwavable plastic-ware, our suits and dresses are fifty-percent off and a close-enough fit, our LCD’s are LSD, our organic dining is gleaned from the dumpster of an organic supermarket, our fields are artificial and genetically modified, our taxes file into missile launchers and redistribute across the sandy dunes of the middle east, our chin’s to the moon, our stories salvaged, our starry nights are recital halls full of Iphones, and our enclosed fields hum of naugahyde cows.”

As Petri lights his second pack of American Spirits, he thinks we lie about our lives and the places we’ve been like old sailors, slander mixed feelings over mixed drinks, finish our thoughts about Bob Dylan albums whether you like it or not, vulgarize till it’s moralized, talk about how the whole world is so full of shit you hide at the crack of dawn, talk about how we got more pussy than a midnight alley-way, more Dick than Vietnam, more ass than a toilet seat, write more poetry about our little snowflake hurt, sing in a melody of see-you-laters, stare at a pincushion sky, speak in a simile dynamo (, ignore the reflecting light of stars and concentrate on the instagrams and twits, talk endlessly about pop-culture, leave rainy corners to the bastard taxicabs, never go walking, wake up in the morning just as it yawns into a new day, hung over but we aren’t taking lip from the night before, the Mcbellied-Domino-faced- Taco Bell tolled-bloodshot eyed-Starbuck abusers are climbing up a chimney looking from their presents, St. Nick is on the roof four sheets to the wind disowning the president of America three times before the lotto number shows up, and we all can’t shake that motherfucker who looks identical to us, facing you down and posturing, no matter where you go.  
Petri is a cunning invalid, knows exactly what to say at the exact wrong time.

Petri comes around not making any lasting impressions, something like clouds thumbing cross continental winds.

Petri holds the warmth of a new moment then pours into a new street, polluted in another gutter, then cures and transcends to another day and moves on.

Petri is a terrible charm, and charmingly terrible.

Petri talks of perpetual motion, the capitalist lotion, but it's always too much commotion.

Petri is a giant inhale of nature, a complete utilization of resources, wants to take up more space yet disappear from the crowd, yet be the crowd, absorb the crowd and become all, to be the universe.

Petri doesn’t believe in politics anymore. Thinks the government is run by the corporate fat cats and lizards that only have their own interests in mind.

Petri is a badass sissy, a half-assed renegade, an anti-hipster hipster.

I hate Petri. Petri that slum! That worthless mess of an underdeveloped personality! That’s why you can’t get a job! That’s why! You lazy neanderthal! Lamp post! Facebook gigolo! Farewell concubine! Orchid Slut! Dyanesian Nihilistic Keyhole!  

You didn’t work hard enough in school! You don’t have any life skills! You are a lazy-piece-of-shit day-dreamer that can’t organize or present yourself in an acceptable marketable manner! You are unfit for the modern world. You are obsolete to the eyes of the Baby Boomer throne! Hail to the throne!

You self-conceited, self-righteous, absorbed, defined, confined louse!

I take Petri by the throat I slam him against the wall.

Then the cobwebbed lantern above shakes and the lightbulb busts, little sparrows that were nesting in the rotting eave of the house sprint into the cursing sky, neighbors undressed or still in their drag peer out from every window with cameras, nails unfastened in the wooden boards, the water cup ripples and the water remains still, a belligerent wind just fired from the blowhole of the Leviathan bends the magnolia trees, a maelstrom of petals, leaves, white pages, yellow pages, dust, pollen, smoke, and small children swirl in an easterly gust, lizards and possums are hissing, cats are fighting and screaming, the dogs are barking, horses stare at the moon, monkey’s throwing shit everywhere, mice are eating snakes, snakes eating eagles, all the mother’s in the world are fainting, all the children crying, all the men are betting, the riots emerge from every street corner, the hungry are calling out, the thirsty storm the bars, boxers are knocking out the referees, the mission bells toll endlessly and amplified, the pavement cracks and Satan emerges with Hades and Ra rise akimbo above their children sneering debating what side of town they should erect their chateau.

I looked Petri straight in the eyes. Yet, only saw crooked pair of my own staring back at me. They share the same features of mine, but how different the intent, how imperfect the tilt, those eyes just like mine yet peculiar and unfamiliar.

“What the hell is wrong with you!” I hiss in is his marble face, gripping his sleeve as it trembles in the wind, “What the the matter!”  The acidic blues of the sky now crespicular, pepto-bismol hue.

The clouds reflect off his teeth, his moves like a marionette’s within my grasp.

He stares at me through tears, his clinical smile in the new narcotic pill of night, he whispers, “It’s not my fault…” Sweat coagulates on his brow, cheeks trembling, curly beard disfigured, mouth open, breathing heavily. “I don’t know what happened, why I am here.”

“Get the hell out of here you filth!” I feel the bones direct as an arrows, the muscles flexed as the arch of the sky, tendons tight as a steel pull, shoulders tense as a bull under the plough.

His face is blank, absent, like anti-matter. “I won’t...or more I can’t.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Do you know your unconscious? Ha, well that’s foolish! Ha, how could you? That wouldn’t be un- would it? Wouldn’t even be pre-? Though we qualify that too sometimes… the tip of the tongue, the parapraxis.”

My grip attenuates but I recover my project, lean him back into the wall and growl, “Explain yourself.”

“Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs…What is common in all these dreams is obvious. They completely satisfy wishes excited during the day which remain unrealized. They are simply and undisguisedly realizations of wishes. الحلم ليس وليد كشف يفوق الطبيعة , بل هو يتبع قوانين النفس الإنسانية I had thought about cocaine in a kind of day-dream.”

“Is that Freud?”

“You are about to disown yourself my friend...or lover.” He laughs, his feature dismantles, his frame an indistinguishable heap of matter, and he disappears through the doorway.

And so on Petri went when I realized that he was reciting Dream Interpretations. I also realized that I would end off this piece with the second cheap trick to ending a story: revealing it was all a dream.

I tipped the cornucopia and the polls are out! But, I didn’t commit a literary foul. No, I was only talking to myself because I don’t have permission to talk about anyone else.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Short From a Child's Window

A sun traces edges of eucalyptus on rippling sleeves. And so, today she moves ideally among golden and auburn blades, in a sacred dance, a motion uniform to the undulation of her greying hair and the river passing.

Taking the stem of an apple, she casts its death into the slipstream. Stumbling in the water, it looks like an answer to a question that cannot be answered aloud.

She focuses on a point in space, and as if clarity was to smooth out a quilt, she sees once invisible particles emerge from the folds of the ether. It is here in the eucalyptus that windblown leaves make water of shadows, swirling air smells of turpentine, quails stir under blackberry bushes, and she loses form.

Profound silence is a hum, a cursive for forgiveness, it hears a long sigh as phantom violins softly play the river. She hears piccolos in the robins, stellar jays, and ravens sounding. She hears wind bow in eucalyptus, silent thunder of a sun beating on pines, and mad chuckling of the stream laughing its way through river rock and on down to a sand shore, politely suggesting the river.

She walks back to her porch. Sits on a bench, all the paint is fading, chipping, as the days that have passed. A migration of geese pass in the distance, approaching an instinct, a lake nearly dry, Cameron Park lake, where they will bite at young naked children misbehaving before their negligent fathers who spend their weekends from construction work drinking Miller High Life and equally ignoring scabs and their indifferent wives. The bench, with its mystery of spiders beneath, its society of arachnids within the framework, creaks and moans as she sits, but it sounds with her sighs and that all blends together in a terrible reticence born in thunderous resolution, in nascent absence.

A cigarette burns on her lips right between the words she wished she said years ago. She lets them take form of the smoke as it plays into the day. The church to her left no longer tolls for its survivors, the father stares bored out the window at her as she passes in half piteous remorse, half misunderstanding. Just as his thoughts slip to a love that never met him on the shores of the Monterey Bay, he sees the old lady on the porch look up and he designs God is passing through her.

The cigarette extinguishes in the glass ash tray with its Pythagorean symbols, and the comedy of long history runs its theater. Leaning back onto the house, it trembles, weak from the weight of its punishment, quivering like a muscle on Atlas's back. To a lawn well maintained, she wonders what children would have looked like there. She wonders what it could have meant to have that measurement. Cursing the new boat parked in front of the bedizen house, with its white fences, white columns, corrugates eaves, its banisters of silver vines climbing to the master bedroom across the street, the neighbor looks but never waves, since three years ago.

And as everything gathers there before her, the travels she's had, the partners and education she's kept all to herself, a telephone rings behind the wall and ends. Between the punctuation of that call and the one arriving in her jeans, she picks it up and places the phone to her ear.

“Hello is this Mrs. Callahan?”


“Hi Ms. Callahan, my name is Gola and I am calling to check in on the development of your manuscript. We have, for a limited time, a discount on publishing...”

She places the phone back in her pocket and listens to the violin of the river accompany the piccolo sectional of the seasonal birds.

Approaching the porch is the pastor who nods before sitting on the bench beside her. The sun embalms the streets and illuminates the nature of that silence. She hands him a cigarette and lights her own. They sit watching things pass in their own accord as a child watches poetically from a room that is just waking.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Write To You of Ghosts

Today, we begin with a story of an end.

It is May 3, 2013, my 23rd birthday, and from this porch, I'm in conversation with a ghost.

To the right of me is an empty chair. To left of me, is the house I live in now.

This is a track-home house in an suburb of Sacramento called Folsom. I grew up in this house, or more, I spent the latter years of my youth here.

First with my mother then, my father joining later in a different house.

I returned here after the unsuccessful stint of an independent post-graduate career—a fate I attempted to avoid. Yet, six months with two part-time jobs (independent movie theater and Macy's), a journalism gig that never paid, a growing debt, and an expensive room in some renovated tool shed had led me to a jaded pessimism and depression that no one should have at the age of twenty-two.

So here I write on the porch of this house. I write from the very house that represents something more than a present dilemma, an existential metaphor, or paradigmatic modern fate. I write here because I believe it is the perfect moment for the optimistic narrative that I hold in foresight. I am here with a ghost, with my past, and I swear there is ink in my lungs.

On the porch it is my belief that I am at the runway. I am at zero, the precipice, with a leveled head, eyes focussed and scanning, hands ample, ready, and free, on my toes, well hydrated and well rested, a new persuasion of wind at my back, the road ready to rise to my every step, and the sun never in my eyes. The world opening like the palm of a hand. Eyes awaking for the first time. The first laugh in a crib.

What a place to begin: where it all started: the vessel of history: the porch for understanding.

So I write to you of ghosts. Or one in particular.

Yet before I can begin I must let you know a few things, before I can conjure him, I must recover the bones.

My mother moved to Folsom in 1995. I know this for certain because I was five years old. I know I was five cause it is my belief, that my sister had just turned four and she is almost a year younger than me.

Now, there might be some of you readers who are raising a finger proudly, laughing triumphantly, and saying, “I knew he was lying!” To those of you who are under the impression that I hadn't moved to Folsom till my teenage years, well, you are partially correct.

See, my father still remained in Rescue, the first house, till the age of thirteen. I know that because a sister of mine was just about six, though they say he was a boy. But those details don't matter much now, I saw him run into the screen door and faint.

If you are mistaken, I do apologize, but it's time to get over it. These things are gone and past, the silent assertions and decisive trends are beyond us now. They are with history spinning its own yarn. All windmills and sawmills and watermills.

Originally, as in my origin, I was from a small Gold Rush town near the city of Hangtown. Well, Hangtown is an alternative name to Placerville, California. It is a name that continues because lynched from some shuttered building, somewhere on the southern end of what is figuratively a main street, is a mannequin. The plastic effigy remains in place of a history known to Placerville, a history that assigns Placerville as the first capital of the state, of conjectural administrative authority, before the honor was given to Martinez.

Hangtown is a name derived from a specific occurrence when regular citizens took matter into their own hands. A story that punctuates with three hanging bandits...

Around a harsh winter in 1951, when supplies could not reach remote locations, the few years of peace, dignity, honor and civil equality in the province devolved into rampant murder and crimes. Law and punishment executed, not by those of practice, but of the ordinary people. Those convicted of crimes deemed worthy of death—for stealing primarily, but many of other 'judgement calls'—were either hung or disfigured (such as removing ears in reported cases). Culprits were hung in the town square.

The danger waxed when a group of Australian gangsters called the Sydney Ducks joined the scene. The Sydney Ducks were a group of individuals, primarily of Irish decent, who were sentenced by the queen of England to the terrible consequence of Australia.

Irish are not keen to heat someone must have supposed.

Imagine that decision by the British aristocracy. There is the Queen feeding her lean hounds impoverished babies and jawing through her upturned nose and plastic mouth, “How do we both rid of the Irish and punish them equally?” Three men in tuxedoes, crossed eyes, and dull wits stare at her blankly--probably Scottish. She cannot decide where the criminals must go, “We must extricate the filth, flush them out!” One tuxedoed slave nods and his head falls off, one desiccates and withers away from his last drop of sweat, and the queen shoots the third.

The Irish in question is watching the scene and purports, “Well, you certainly should not banish me to an island that is essentially all sand, like one terrible long beach, or an island so far from you that I will not be able to properly remember your majesty's existence, or an island that will have the best economy in the world a century in the future. You certainly should not send me there. That is perhaps the worst option. Please as long as it isn't something like Australia.”

The Queen can rest her hand on her chin so she does so looking up, to make it seem like she can ponder, she then asks, “Do they have snakes?”

The Irish man throws has hands dramatically at her, falls to his knees, and proclaims, “Oh! For the love of God I forgot about those wicked creatures! Their sinful, syphilitic glare! The temptress of mortality! Foul demon! Vile Serpent!”

Clapping her hands, grinning, and laughing the autocrat, like the clever girl she is, sentences the Irish man and all others that will follow him, “Take him and the rest to Australia! Where they shall live until they die!”

I guess that could be exactly what happened. True fact. Good Story.

I never wanted a crumpet and tea in the desert. If I was hungry enough, maybe. Though, I think an Irish man would rather continue to starve in hell than receive a crumpet and tea from the queen.

Back to real history: the Irish cast-aways, the duck brigade from the British penal colonies of Australia, moved to the base of San Francisco's telegraph hill, originally called “Sydney Town, or Barbary Coast” and were blamed for San Francisco's calamitous fire in 1849. These gangsters formed a community of sailors, longshoremen, teamsters, wheelwrights, shipwrights, bartenders, saloon keepers, washerwomen, domestic servants, and dressmakers.

Because of the ducks, vigilantes usurped political power from the corrupt or incompetent officials in the city, conducted secret trials, lynchings, and deportations, which effectively decimated the Sydney Ducks, unofficially decimating my history lesson.

Now, If I told you I was from Hangtown. See, I was partially honest. And let me tell you why: Rescue is from the same district as Placerville. It resides in Placerville county. As does Cameron Park, though, I have never said I am from Cameron Park, for if you knew of Cameron Park, you knew of Rescue.

Albeit judgement, Rescue is a fascinating adjunct of the Gold Rush community. Rescue is interesting because I lived behind the cocaine kingpin of Placerville county. Yes, I recall days in which the Kingpin's german shepherd would break through the fence and play/flirt/practice with our australian shepherd Rocky. I would crack the venetian curtain staring nervously at their play. After seconds of watching their behavior, the spectating was over by a force only recognizable as my father's grasp. He would say, “Don't give Rocky any reason to be protective.” I couldn't rescue her, and she didn't want to be rescued. Perhaps I wanted to be rescued from the anxiety of losing her? Who is protecting who, and why do we feel the need to do so when the situation does not call for it? Oh, the chaos of fear. The vicious cycle. Rescue me from myself, myself will rescue me.

Back-to-the-matter, Rescue is, in fact, named Rescue because it was the base-camp for the rescuers of the Donner Party. For those of you who may not know the Donner party, or who slept through middle school history, the Donner Party was a group of settlers who were caught in a blizzard, and under their desperate and tragic circumstance they resorted to cannibalizing their deceased. Rescue was the recovery camp for these circumstantial cannibals. Which will be the title of my next punk album.

There I lived, a prelude of baseball cards, model trains, and airplanes.

Then Folsom. A place that seems reluctant to capitalize on any Johnny Cash references. What a waste.

It is time, the ghost I planned to conjure came back to me out of his annoyance to my straying, ambling history lessons. Mnemosyne, the mother of muses, is tired by the weight, she can lift the clouded veil no longer. Art and memory must remain swirling infinitely beneath.

From the porch, I look before me at a yard that once moved. Now it is still. Bringing gentle sorrow and easy melancholy I search for the most important thing in the garden. Things hanging need not be rescued, things too late are right on time.

It is spring and growth is abundant. Profusions of green mask the shadow's hint of a passing.

For the absence of a dear friend and memory is the reason I write today.

Just yesterday, I told my mother that I had started a blog that was the essence of hip: the porches of the world and their stories. I could tell she thought the idea amusingly absurd and charmingly worthless, but she kept that to herself. I told her that much of the reason that I began this project was to build upon the impoverished economy of my qualifications and experience for jobs. I could sequester some of the time I should be applying for more low-wage positions so I can boost my marketable self.

It was then her eyes began to water. She looked at me and said, “You can do me one thing son. You can write a story about Conner.”

I said I would. Yet, I didn't know how. This how I tried:

Sitting on this porch here I said I was trying to conjure you, I said I was speaking to a ghost, but there are complex reasons and excuses to why I strategically avoided you. Reasons I am not aware of yet. Reasons I cannot gather, shape or sculpt even though, or if, I have all the ability to do so. So I write you a book of excuses.

I go in searching, with a flashlight without batteries, I go in trying to rob something from myself. I am reaching in the dark attempting to rescue something that can't be rescued nor wants to be. A memory, a garnishment to describe you or make you manifest in a place you can never be. It is a neurotic state, I acknowledge that. The mere fact that this discussion is happening is a ludicrous production, a whack attempt.

What could I say? What I would say is that I watched you in your last days, limping and scanning the flowers in new bloom in the very garden I sit in now, honey bees, bumble bees and humming birds humming around you. You were in your own particular sanctuary. It was a visible sublimity, an oasis of pure organic neutrality. A place of nondescript, yet one I'll focus the rest of my life describing. Trying to narrow in on the question. To clarify the silence. What I can say is a question. One I asked and cannot repeat again, and to repeat always. The echo of a cry soaring over the planes of our page.

It seems things that are gentle only were. They become hard because things that are gentle belong to you, and you were and are no more.

Yet, just now when I conjure you, I feel the gentleness of memory.

You are in the wind today. A northerly wind. Never in California do I remember a northerly wind. 

And somehow, just now, I just feel the wind for the first time, I had not noticed it today. 

Perhaps it just passed through. And how great that it is northerly. How awake my senses are, I feel each individual strand of hair subject to it. That one on my thigh. That one in my ear. There is a scent so subtle of ash, of old bark now ember. The perfumes of trees and flowers from another garden have transported in this wind. Uncommon aromatics, from a fence that I never cross. I swore I saw a new color.

The borders vanish and I recall your need for impulsive rebellion. Yet how habitual your exercise. One day you ran into the car head-first because vision was not a component of your freedom. You had articulated your freedom to the insanity of the moment. Your passage was given and you went blindly. You ran into the car and returned, tail tucked between your legs.

I recall the passion and loyalty in your eyes. The untempered, purity of your love. A balanced equation of need and supply. 

What you had to take was what you had to offer. 

In the kitchen you'd stare, make defiant moves to sit near by me, or my sister, or my mother, despite the consequence of those actions. That might be the very lesson. The very lesson that leads me to the moment of your passing.

I recall my mothers eyes as she sat in the chair and stared at me. The gradual tides of tears welling in her eyes and she spoke. As she told me of your last lunge out, upward to the sky. Your last leap and attempt at escape. Just after the poison had reached your veins. You lunged out in a rebellion and fell back into the executors arms. You could no longer eat. The cancer had conquered you completely. Limping you couldn't stomach the food; scared you'd stare back looking for us to rescue you, but we couldn't. You hung there in the suspension of your fate. 

You didn't want to go. You had the one's you loved around you, you had those who you cared for, you had your items in their place. You had the garden to attend, your friends and your family to protect. You had not wanted to go when you had to.

I avoided you ghost because I am imprisoned by the gentleness of your memory. I make no references to you for reasons I do not know. Why must all the gentle leave?

Now in the garden before me, on the porch of the house where I grew up, you are everything moving. The leaves and the blades of grass, the ripples of the water in puddles and the birdbath, the trunks of the trees swaying and the movements of light shifting in the glass. Everything is wagging and I see staring at me thousands of eyes, the eyes of the Sydney Ducks, the effigies of the criminals in Hangtown, the Donner Party, all my college friends, sailors, longshoremen, teamsters, wheelwrights, shipwrights, bartenders, saloon keepers, washerwomen, domestic servants, dressmakers, the employers who fired and hired me, Johnny Cash, the miners and forty niners, the british queen and her headless servants, my father, mother, and sister all staring at me.

The wind is at my back and animating the world before me, history is staring me right in the eyes and the ghosts have surrounded me. All windmills and sawmills and watermills. Turn before me, stirring dust, smoke and steam.

I am trapped and suddenly something wild and animal has conquered my veins, the ink in my lungs permeates my veins, I find an opening in the gate and I run for it.

Blindly sprinting in my cloud, my legs become your paws, my skin becomes yellow fur, I'm on all fours and running fast.

Then slam!

Curtains are opening, the pen rises, a pin-point of light dilates, and three hanging bandits...

Today, we begin with a story of an end.

It is May 3, 2013, my 23rd birthday, and from this porch, I'm in conversation with a ghost.

To the right of me is an empty chair. To left of me, is the house I live in now.

This is a track-home house in an suburb of Sacramento called Folsom. I grew up in this house, or more, I spent the latter years of my youth here.

First with my mother then, my father joining later in a different house.

I returned here after the unsuccessful stint of an independent post-graduate career—a fate I attempted to avoid. Yet, six months with two part-time jobs (independent movie theater and Macy's), a journalism gig that never paid, a growing debt, and an expensive room in some renovated tool shed had led me to a jaded pessimism and depression that no one should have at the age of twenty-two.

So here I write on the porch of this house. I write from the very house that represents something more than a present dilemma, an existential metaphor, or paradigmatic modern fate. I write here because I believe it is the perfect moment for the optimistic narrative that I hold in foresight. I am here with a ghost, with my past, and I swear there is ink in my lungs.

On the porch it is my belief that I am at the runway. I am at zero, the precipice, with a leveled head, eyes focussed and scanning, hands ample, ready, and free, on my toes, well hydrated and well rested, a new persuasion of wind at my back, the road ready to rise to my every step, and the sun never in my eyes. The world opening like the palm of a hand. Eyes awaking for the first time. The first laugh in a crib.

What a place to begin: where it all started: the vessel of history: the porch for understanding.

So I write to you of ghosts. Or one in particular.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Today was the First Idea, It was Everything, and Started Just That.

Today was punctuated by a thought. 

My idea came, sat down with me, grinned, lit a cigarette, and chose not to leave.

My idea was favored company, though in slight pretension, an unfavorable circumstance of something that holds favor to your heart and knows it.  

I watched anxiously as the idea stared back with a silence and conviction. Rendering my neurotic behaviors was a sort of pleasurable game to my idea. A brief tremble, bead of sweat was a fine reward.

All was said in my idea's silence, "I know everything." 

Suddenly, in an indistinguishable click or snap. everything poured out of everything, and grew from there. 

Questions moved as they have before, and would always again: 

What is it to wake into the exceptional with an unexceptional mind?

What is it to gaze into the extraordinary with ordinary vision?

What is it to raise the tremendous and tremendously fall?

What is it to volunteer to the plough, when you are no extraordinary strength?

What is it to approach the monarch in a bow, yet not tremble?

What is it to dream of the magnificent to only dream magnificence?

What is it to purpose each moment with ambition to only purpose ambition with moments?

What is it to walk into the stream and to know the stream walks not into you?

What is it to say the same of history?

What is it to be of phenomenon's participance and find that participation was nothing phenomenal?

What is it to be unsubstantial, in the substantial?

What is it to be the other way?

What is it to be the wrong way?

The right way?

What is it to substantiate what is substrate?

What is it to substrate what is substance?

What is it to be dust among quintessence?

What is it to peek through the keyhole and find shame?

What is it to fix what can only break?

What is it to break that can only fix?

What is it to question what is answered?

What is it to answer what is questioned?

The idea laughed, it cried, then in a sigh said to me, "Beyond appetite, thirst, and...libido. It's insatiable. It's madness.

"This matter of letters above, it is the porch of our mind. It is the dim light with bugs of mindless suicide, quick fireworks and detonations of wit, smoke curling in funicular trails, cambial theories, branches of our meditations, fingers resting on knees, heads rested on palms supine, at last, the last pearl of god, eyes distant and amused, lips perched on their own moment, constantly always never arising and never always arising, windows more reflection than transparent, more opacity than sunrise.

"The lawn of perception, the driveway of soul, the street of time, the neighborhood of matter, the city of dimension.

"We talk on the porch of the mind. The insatiable madness, on the demarcation, the line that walks into the house.

"What is it to be the porch but the entrance to the house? The porch is perhaps not the vital limb of what is home. The porch has never been the final resolution to anything. It has never been the seat of atonement. It has never been solution's chair.

"No constitution, treatise, nor armistice was every signed on a porch.

"But it is the announcement. It is the megaphone into the future. It is the throat of Washington's whisper. It is the timid laugh of Lincoln's wisdom. It is the porch. The harbinger and study. The soapbox and howl. The expressions of each thought.

"It is not the ideal but the ideological. It is not the politic but the political. It is not emotion but it is emotional. It is not reason but it is reasonable.

"The porch is the voice of a place in its time. It is the time in its place. It is in all sense modern.

"From each porch across the world. Someone has a story. Someone has a tale that shapes, sculpts, and re-envisions our look on our society, morality, interests, and behavior. Each porch alone is only the entrance to its own mind. But even more, it is the place of expression, of conversation, of discussion. It is the stage for greater understanding, the stage for greater empathy, the stage for great sympathy, the stage for greater knowledge, the stage for greater awareness, the stage for greater confusion, the stage for greater delusion, the stage for greater manipulation, the stage for greater commiseration, corruption, misrepresentation, ostentation, obfuscation, complication, ease, supplication, fright, bravery, martyrdom, greed, diffusion, persuasion, and bloom."

The idea finished. I watched in utter horror as the idea's face searched for my response. I had not the faintest idea what was said to me, and or why, if even that was a remote possibility. 

Yet, judgement made the worse of me in a finer moment. I recognized that somewhere in that cloud, something appeared, or reappeared, something familiar, yet always strange rose and presented itself to me. In the polite, yet brave steps in which we walk into the unfamiliar, I went. For, in this uncertainty,
I knew, hidden in there, was an answer. 

My answer, somewhere there, somewhere in the crowded heart of this world. Somewhere in the mad galaxy of voices, humming one miracle pulse in the heart of mortality.

My idea waved and said, "Come find me and I'll tell you everything."

He opened the front door to my mind. Standing in the doorway I asked where I should look. 

"Every house should start with a porch."

My idea walked in. I ran to the door that opened into my mind. It trembled and shook, columns of lights shot out from all directions, a wind both cold and warm rushed at me in a tidal surge, voices inconsistent, without agency, voices genderless and ageless spoke in profusion, images spun in a dial extending in an infinite tunnel of constellation, and I fell in.

To first look for my idea, was to watch it vanish from me, within me. 

Now I must chase it, starting with any porch I can find.