Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Mess You Make

Room is messy, why bother cleaning it up if nobody is going to see it, dust coats everything light and dark and imprints the room with a sense of apathy, the ceiling fan will spin for the next 4 months, latching on to dust that impacts the edge of each blade. There are clothes everywhere, mostly clean, piles of old pants that are faded and worn, argyle socks never used, old coats and jackets retired until the winter months, a pile of your favourite jeans and t-shirts haphazardly clustered on top of your new pillow you bought months ago but haven't used. The sheets and mattress pad lie, stained from moisture, on the floor, you sleep on the mattress because what's the difference between damp cloth or damp fiber, same with the pillows, one is covered, one isn't, but they're stained all the same. The blanket started shedding long ago so you tossed it in your closet and used the space as a large trash can. Empty beer and liquor bottles huddle in a corner away from the light and away from prying eyes, some are pooled in a garbage bag that clinks when the laundry on top of it is shifted, there's more laundry, again, this time on top of the nightstand, it's covered in dust too, and layered with empty pill bottles that spill onto the floor and halfway across the room. Your desk is covered in old movie tickets and gum wrappers and more beer bottles, old, unused blank CDs, books, and empty e-cigs interspersed with the real thing. There are important documents tucked between the subwoofer that's never used and the PC tower, like your passport, which also hasn't been used in over a year, and the ticket to the concert you didn't go to because you weren't in the mood that Sunday night, would rather lie in bed and listen to the music until you fell asleep at 7pm. On bookshelves lie used paper plates, crumbs stuck to the white sheen of their surface, pop-tart wrappers interspersed like some Jenga tower. Underneath the bed are torn up, empty envelopes and packages that once held media or books or posters or drugs, it's all been shoved accidentally underneath, where it may never escape from. The closets are impenetrable, things on the floor stacked so high that you can't step inside. The door doesn't open all the way because a moving box from years ago sits in its path, full of things you'll never use nor sell. Somehow you've managed to not lose much in here, but you know it's a matter of time, there's only so much you can throw on the floor until things start vanishing, although at least you know nothing will ever be vacuumed up.

The ceiling fan continues to rotate lazily above, casting a stale breeze throughout the air.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Things Beautiful

It occurs to the present author - one who has spent in inordinate amount of lifespan on reading, music, and movies - that, while there will be things that move the present author, said author will never create something that moves someone else. To wit, various attempts at moving prose have been stymied by a lack of talent. Even if some sort of work the present author constructed moved just one person, it would be most certainly considered a victory. As said victory conditions are impossible to meet, the author will go back to viewing works of art that said author can never hope to achieve. This will, at times, create a deep sadness and frustration in the author, and summon a sort of hopelessness with regards to one's lot in life. Given that, as all things, the present author will die, this hopelessness is cromulent in its existence, and justified by way of the futility of all endeavors.

Monday, June 22, 2015

One Noble Truth

It occurs to this present author that, as a child, it was made clear that the best time in life is that of childhood, that adulthood was less pleasant and more work, and that grade school was the penultimate achievement in personal livelihood. At least, this was the message imparted to said author by parents. It comes as no surprise that, as our many ruminations on "better times" often display, that rose-tinted glasses are always in fashion. To wit, the present author's least enjoyable experience in life has actually been perpetually from around age 9 to the current age of 26, displaying the rather vexing truth that

A) Childhood is not the best time of one's life
B) There is no best time of one's life

Indeed, if one is to buy the first and foremost of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths, in that all existence is suffering, then it would seem to suggest that there is no manner or period of time in which life is at its peak, or is the "good life," so to speak, but merely, a cumulative number of years spent with suffering induced by changing variables. As a child, these variables might be such things as homework, bullies, and school related stressors, while as an adult, they take on perhaps more existential realities, such as the search for meaning, love, a passion, or at least a job that does not render you a soulless husk of a human being.

Perhaps, then, it is best to not give a child the altogether depressing tale that life only gets worse from childhood onward, but that it is, in many ways, a perpetual, for lack of a better word, shit show. At least in that case, the child is made aware that it will not get worse. It simply will not get better.

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Story

The following passages contain one poorly written story; the story that I had previously submitted to Sixfold, and referenced earlier in this blog, this very month. I have decided to retire it from submissions and make it public at this point, as it's definitely not good enough to be published anywhere. Read at your own risk.

The Peculiarities of Feelings
Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick. Time flowed by like the consistency of a mass produced honey substitute, too fast to be the real thing but sweet enough to linger on the palate.

Maria watched the clock hands slowly meander down a translucent plain of existence that dared to categorize time as something that could be observed, noted, controlled. She waited. Waited for results on the final exam she just took, waited for her microwave to “ding” with the familiar tune that would signify that her microwavable pizza snacks were done, waited for love, waited for a lot of things, which was, according to a formerly famous song, the hardest part. We’re all waiting for something, it seemed to her.

She slouched back on a couch that had seen better days, crumbs stuck onto pleather coldness, colors fading away into something that could not be remembered when you tried to picture the room in your mind, and she watched society bombard her. She watched the TV. The TV did not watch back. Images suffocated the frontal cortex and neural pathways until money is shaken out of a wallet or purse and deposited into a temporary dopamine rush that arrives in a small brown box in the post exactly two days later, all thanks to the modern mechanizations of society.

Maria considered herself better than that, but when stress and anxiety copulate, the mind loses track of its own barriers and conspires against what one might consider rational, or self-preservatory, or anything along those lines.

Paint the walls. That’s what Maria wanted to do for awhile. Bland, bland, bland. Beige is bland, everything is bland in beige, the carpet is stained with forgotten memories thanks to ethanol rushing through the bloodstream, but who is counting at this point, just the microwave. She lives here alone, now, anyways, her last boytoy moved out over a disagreement in centrifugal forces relating to but not necessarily congruent with the messages that the TV was still firing off. He had too much stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Collected it. Stacked it. From floor to ceiling he defined his life through fossil fuels molded into consumer goods molded into temporary rushes of enjoyment but permanent losses of green paper rectangles emblazoned with “In God We Trust.” The only God was the stuff. He trusted in that. Maria didn’t trust in him.


Melted processed cheese bubbled with the consistency of artificial slime, layered with salt infused meat products and a doughy exterior that was firm but chewy, the melty explosion of grease and salt and cheese in the mouth was euphoric, a euphemism for orgasmic pleasure, erogenous tongue darting playfully between crumbs and oil. Maria ate them all.

Later that day, she would meet her friend Jake, who would drive his old, rusted car the 7.3183 miles to her house that she rented to own, or some such, contracts can be tricky that way. He arrived, accordingly, about 2 minutes after the pre-selected time - there’s that concept again - like he usually did, which made one wonder if, as the plans these days did indeed take into account that habit, he was really late anymore, and not simply some manner of “on-time.”

Jake is some sort of amorphous blob of a human, undefinable and forgettable in many respects; a bipedal Homo sapiens who looks generic enough that he could star in a commercial for a big corp, you know, the kind that doesn't want to alienate white America with color or equality or anything that causes fearful parents to exercise a few sections of their brain that were cast off over a bad trip 30 years ago in the backseat of their friend's pickup truck, or some other similar location. Location, location, location. That's how it is with all things, really.

“Hey Maria,” he left his shoes on because he stood in the doorway, leaning inwards as if some sort of invisible child gate blocked him from his torso down.

“Hey Jake,” Maria responded, generically, fittingly, that’s how they usually greeted. They had been friends for about six years now, greetings were meaningless niceties they no longer needed to extend to each other, they knew better than attempting to fill the space with empty questions about how each other’s day was. If something was important, it would be shared willingly and listened to willingly. Maria had concluded that that was what friendship truly was.

“You got everything?”


Three hours to the concert. That was the closest major city. Three hours of driving, of rubber and gravel, of random creaks and crunches, of occasional verbal and nonverbal communication.

“So, what did you think of the professor?” That was Jake, referring to a class the two had embarked on in an effort to learn to be more knowledgeable, ostensibly, but in reality it was in pursuit of an $80,000 paper that signified employment availability. As an amorphous blob, Jake could talk without seemingly moving his mouth or turning his head in Maria’s direction, which was good, because driving required utmost attention, would hate to run over a stray squirrel or raccoon or child.

“I think he’s lonely.”

“Hm. You got that impression? I felt a more… nouveau riche angst. Existential crisis, age 50-60. Teaches young people like us to try to cure it.”

“I still think lonely. I think that’s why he talks so much, because now he knows someone is listening.”

Jake quickly swerved the car to avoid a pothole that had been filled with the mud and mire of a decaying civilization.

“You shouldn’t swerve when you go 80, you know,” Maria said, condescendingly. She quickly took off her shoes and stretched her feet out on the dashboard in front of her, light blue socks in contrast to the dark blue 90s interior, no leather, no power windows, no airbags, no CD player, an old car that had seen better days and whose fabric felt cheaper than the rugs one could pick up at a supermarket on discount sales designed solely to ensnare those who felt daily purchases were necessary.

“What about 90?” Jake asked, rhetorically, while simultaneously easing off the gas a bit. The car lurched forward before it began slowing down, as if in protest.

Maria ran a hand through her hair, shook it out, then reclined her seat. She stared up through the sunroof, where the sky was gradually turning royal blue and sunset hues crept upon her view.

The concert was good, exciting, captivating. Music blared from speakers, rattling ear plugs and ear drums, stone faced security in front deaf to the extravagant volume. Maria danced and sang and flirted with random people she bumped into during the in-between time. It was a sensuous experience, concerts, full of hormones and alcohol and drugs and bodies and sounds and the smell of sweat soaked dermis. Maria loved it like she loved the crunching sound dead leaves made underneath her feet, or the taste of the ocean on her lips, or the smell of coffee in the morning, she loved these experiences, these moments, more than the stuff, more than the God, more than whatever other nutrients she subsisted on, because she subsisted on the feelings created with emotional attachments.

They spent the ride home quiet, taking in everything at the concert, contemplating, correlating, processing, understanding that what they experienced was fantastically temporarily addicting and profoundly unprofound in its simplicity, all it was was noise and crowd but they come together so well, to Maria, like chocolate and coffee, or eggs and cheese, or bread and butter, although she considered that last one a bit bland.

“Do you think…” Jake asked, as they pulled into Maria’s driveway, the amorphous blob having actually transfixed his gaze on Maria. As far as amorphous blobs go, he was traditionally handsome, occupying a swimmer’s body and with a wry, cocky crooked smile out of some pulp sci-fi bounty hunter’s arsenal, you know, the one that kids grew up on in the 70s and 80s, but Maria and Jake weren’t that old, so they existed on what they knew.

Maria knew the question, hadn’t been asked it before, but gathered that the time and mood was right, gathered that the question was inevitable, that Jake was still too much a heteronormative guy of average needs and wants. He’d been through the rigor of school and employment, still unaccustomed to failure due to his success in both, unaccustomed to having the opportunity to reach out and touch something he’s never thought about touching as more than caring for as a friend, the seats in the car seemed to groan with embarrassment but he still looked on.

“No,” said Maria, a dash of a smile, a quick brush of Jake’s face, and then she was out, gone from the car, gracefully gliding to her front door, letting herself in, and transmuting to a plane of existence known as sleep, all in about 5 minutes. By then, Jake hadn’t moved, he was still thinking, about life, about the concert, about Maria, about honey substitutes - after all, why were they so bad - about things out of his control that he didn’t understand were out of his control, and so, in the end, he left, he drove away, and also went to sleep.

Maria dreamed of things she couldn’t remember the next day, but the taste of a stranger’s lips nestled in among her subconscious like a comfortable blanket, and so, she moved through time with the rapid sensation of not knowing what would happen next, and yet, to her, that was ok. The clock above her bed ticked blankly, making note of things as they were.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Detroit gets made fun of by people who know not what caused its supposed "downfall" nor care about any sort of return, poking fun at the city in ways that have a strong undercurrent of racism; it was the people who voted "thugs" into power, or the unions who ruined it all, or the culture, or what have you, not realizing that Detroit was a ticking timebomb, at it's peak it was literally the single most sprawling city in all of America, a spacious example of terrible urban planning, and then white flight hit, then college educations became more important, than manufacturing got replaced by service industries, and the city fell to many of the same ills that other rust belt cities have fallen to. People make fun of it because they're too lazy to learn and it's easy to take pot shots, walk around the downtown though, and you'll find Detroit is like any other American city. There are restaurants with copious outdoor seating, rooftop bars, sports pubs, nightclubs, casinos, a monorail that is a small but cheap and efficient public transportation service, a rather architecturally beautiful riverfront, you can walk from Comerica Park, to Greektown, to the RenCen and be surrounded by pedestrians and commercial spaces and things to do. Sure, divert from the center of downtown and you'll stumble upon goliaths of deserted, crumbling buildings, fire damaged houses, empty lots sprawling with garbage and overgrown weeds, no street lights, no people. Nobody is denying Detroit has its challenges. But next time you want to take a potshot at it, realize that there are real people just trying to make a living there, and that Detroit suffered not at their hands, but at the gratuitous racism of white flight and community blocking, of terrible city-wide planning, of bad political leadership, the lack of a top tier university in the city, and decades of manufacturing jobs requiring only high school diplomas being quickly replaced by a need for service jobs and college diplomas. Detroit is still standing, stubbornly, and while it will never, ever be what it once was, it doesn't have to be. It's fine just the way it is. Let the rest of the country laugh at it, if they so desire. Detroit is more hardworking and American than most anywhere else.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lucky in Death

My grandmother on my father's side is dying. She has cancer. Cancer will have taken both of my father's parents, and I can't say that I feel anything but disgust with the illness.

I barely know her, my grandmother, a result of her living in a supremely rural section of the Finger Lakes region in New York state, a good 8 and a half to 9 hour drive from here. I remember the first time I visited, back around when I was seven or eight, and complaining about the "blah" of it all; empty, rolling hills, the very rare farm, and if you're lucky, maybe one other car. She lived in a centuries old house, damp, musty, lots of dark earthy tones, a partially finished basement, and a sprawling yard that backed up to the woods; I would race an older cousin to the tree line. I burnt my fingers there on an old fashioned stove, unthinkingly resting my hands on the scorching hot exterior while talking to family members I did not know. My mother rushed me to the bathroom to run cold water on my hands. I spent the rest of the day inside playing Mario Kart and F-Zero on the SNES with older relatives. I never won.

I've seen my grandmother face to face all of two times in my life, and can count on my two hands the amount of times I've talked to her on the phone. That's probably a failing on my part, not reaching out to her more. She was, and I quote, "on cloud nine" when she received a letter from me shortly after my birthday earlier this year. Now I send her one last letter, one last chance to share with her some of my life, before she passes away. It's an easy letter to write but a hard one to finish. I can not adorn it with "I hope to hear back from you" or "will talk to you again soon" because there will be nothing again.

My dad said his final goodbye to her yesterday, after having spent four days with her, then drove back home, arriving at about 11pm at night, tired, and sad. When he first called me, on Monday, he was crying. I had never seen or heard my dad cry before. I'm 26. I had been with him and his father when the latter was bedridden and dying of cancer, about 16 years ago, but my father, who never wears his heart on his sleeve, did not cry then, or if he did, I never saw it. To hear him break over the phone was pretty devastating, in part because of the strangeness of it all.

But I and my parents are at that time. Grandparents are old, into their late 70s and early 80s, and death becomes something that we all have to deal with. I have been lucky, in many respects, as nobody I have been close to has passed away. This is buoyed in part by not really being close to too many people, but even amongst my mother's side of the family, who I see a half dozen times a year or so, everyone is alive and healthy and kicking right now.

And so, really, the sadness that strikes me is a result of the sadness my dad is suffering; he will soon be without parents, for the remaining 20-odd years of his life. It is hard to imagine what life is like without parents, especially considering the significant role mine continue to play, but I suppose it's something many people end up going through. He will press on, as he always does, and I suspect that the years and decades will go by once again without me seeing him shed a single tear.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Today I Learned I Still Can't Write

Via a contest that the present author has previously mentioned on this very blog - whose existence continues to exacerbate precisely nobody, on account of nobody reading it - this hereto author has received a a rather meaty amount of critiques for a poorly written short story which had been previously submitted to said short story contest of relative repute. And while the present author was in 49th place out of 356 entires after round one, round two was decidedly less kind, as the author of both this blog and the submitted piece was ranked 107th out of 119. The present author was criticized in many ways that are valuable and are absolutely constructive, that we will not delve too deeply into here; but perhaps most excitedly, the piece was called "self-consciously pretentious that it feels like a spoof of a pretentious submission to a lit mag" which is, perhaps, an astute observation. With regards to the other criticism; much of it was to disagree with the stream-of-conscious structure, the relative lack of plot, and some of the simile, all of which, particularly the 2nd and 3rd, occurred to the present author to be true relatively shortly after submittal. Alas, to catch every mistake in a story is impossible, or at least, to a degree of improbability that it is remarkably hard to ever wish to accomplish such a feat. Perhaps it goes without saying that the present author should try a story in which more takes place, less time is spent meandering about weird post-modern metaphor, and, without doubt most importantly, is written to a degree of quality that is slightly more befitting to the general populace, as the previous degree of quality was very arguably decidedly not.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Cards are weird, really. An entire industry dedicated to overpriced paper that says something that we are... what? Too lazy to write out? Too unmotivated? The words are mass produced and we buy them and give them to one another and pretend they mean something. Or maybe it's just that we're all bad at jokes and some cards are moderately funny. What do I know? I just bought two in the last week. I'll write little notes in them, but the whole process takes 5 minutes to buy and edit. Not a lot of time dedicated to something that is supposed to express our love and affection for someone. Yet people will gather in droves to buy them over and over again, hand them over, and say "hah! I do care. let me show you with this card that there exists 1 million copies of and which says something generic." Maybe, for a project, we should all write our own cards, and say something we really mean, not what some marketing guru at Hallmark does.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Discomfort

It has occurred to the author of this post that a life of comfort is also, usually, a life of monotony. That is to say, to be completely comfortable in things usually reflects a lack of change, which, paradoxically, often causes a lack of comfort from ennui, frustration, and inhibited growth. The present author is staging a weekend of extreme discomfort by way of meeting people, for the first time, on both Saturday and Sunday, in a social setting no less, in order to attempt to remove some of the comfort and acquire greater value vis-à-vis human relationships and shared experiences. That this requires the author accrue a non-zero amount of anxiety is sadly true. That the worst that could happen is that the present author's position in life doesn't change - and all involved go their separate ways - while the best that could happen is valuable lifelong friendships, is something that should serve to diminish the anxiety, but will likely give way to stomach acid given time. If you would like to wish the author luck in their social endeavors, please feel free to offer any encouragement, as it will not be totally lost amidst a sea of the author's ineptitude.

Monday, June 1, 2015

On Rusty Skills

To say I am rusty would be an understatement. My social experiences over the last 6-7 years have been almost non-existent, relegated mainly to hanging out with a few people I already had developed a rapport with online, and having them around when I went out to grease the wheels, so to speak. I am not faced with the proposition of going to a social gathering with people I have never met, something I haven't done in... well, a long time, about 9 years or so. That's a long time to go without practice, without developing social skills. Now I am throwing myself into a evening gathering without much of any experience to go on, especially since the person I was the last time I did this is different than the person I am now. And I'll have no friend going with me, truly I'll be out on an island on my own, hoping to ingratiate myself to other people as best I can, trying to act natural, trying to be myself and be cool at the same time, which research shows might be impossible. To say I am anxious is an understatement. But here's hoping I do well. It's been a long time coming.