Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Believe That's Me: The Best Posse Joints of the 90s




In between stretches of searching for oxygen and petting my dachshund, today I've been thinking about the posse cut, a long-honored tradition in hip-hop. "The Symphony" is the gold standard, but I want to focus on the 90s, which is when the posse cut really flourished.

Without further adieu, the top 5 posse joints of 1990-1999:

5)



KMD and Brand Nubian, friends.


4)



Creeping up like Vietnamese in army fatigues.


3)



Check, check, check it.


2)



Nocturnalist journalist

1)



'Nuff said.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lemon Grass



I don't know what I'm returning to, but it smells nice. It smells like home. Baby powder. And smoke.

All right. I'm on my back. My hands are raised. I'm covered in blood. I'm going to miss church on Sunday. The porch light is flickering. Dogs are barking. A flashlight is shone in my face. I can only blink.

"Gorbert ma spa? Jaspen waspell? Ha! Garven! Jakekelin! Bie!"

"Why did you shoot me?"

"Helbur gaan ry vaneth. Meeteek! Meeteek!"

I am accepting my fate. I wish it wasn't like this, but it is. I just wanted to get the morning paper. Fuck, I'm dying.

"Glepoit?"

"I can't understand what you're saying."

"Wes! Wes gorblack! Wes gorblack!"

Fine. Everything is fine. I'm leaving now. I don't think I'll be coming back.

"Basser! Hyter skiR!"



Sunday, February 08, 2015

Monopoly



I was back in Canada for ten days this past Christmas and New Year's. On Boxing Day, the 18th Letter and I went to play glow-in-the-dark mini putt at Putting Edge. After our game was over, we played pop-a-shot, and then the R murdered some bugs in Alien: Extermination.

After that, we had some time, so we went over to Indigo to browse. And there we decided that we'd combine each of our 10-dollar gift cards to buy Monopoly.

Best decision ever.

My phone got screwy, no SIM card, apparently, so I couldn't call home for a lift (I would have driven, but I didn't apply for an int'l driving permit), and R had left her phone at home. So we walked back.

Best decision ever.

It was cold, but not too cold (it was hellishly windy, though). The walk home was probably 4-5 kilometers, and we just chatted about stuff. I have a thousand fond memories of the times I've spent with my daughter, and that walk home has to rank in the top 10. No, 5.

Going home is weird for me. I grew up in Burlington, but I've spent the last 15 years in Korea. Everything looks so small there; there are no apartment blocks that obstruct the sky. Everything is so spread out.

So we walked and talked, me carrying a plastic bag that contained our Monopoly board, and R telling me everything. As we walked, I saw the neighborhood where I grew up through her eyes. Some things had changed, but overall it wasn't that different.

That's what growing older is, right? Fashions go in and out of style, and makeup styles might stamp a period on the era, but underneath not a lot changes. The street I walked up as a thirty-six-year-old father wasn't grossly different from the one I used to walk home on as a grade-school boy.

When we got home, we opened up the game. The 18th Letter was eager to play, and play we did.

I won't bore you with the details of the games we played (however fun or remarkable they were, and always following the rules), but I must say this: If there is a heaven, I hope they have Monopoly. We can take turns being the banker. And you can choose your piece. Just don't pick the cat; the cat always falls over.

GO.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Tangerine



I'm on a bus. I'm breathing heavily. I shouldn't be this out of shape. I just ran ten meters, probably less, but I can't catch my breath. I'm sitting next to the window and the purple paisley curtain is blocking the sun. I'm trying not to freak out (I'm trying not to freak out, I'm trying not to freak out). A toddler is screaming, "Give it! Give it!" and his screaming is putting lightning bolts into my brain. There's a foul odor of spoiled food and soiled diapers. I want to vomit.

But I have to be somewhere, so I don't get off. I tap my foot instead. It's the only thing that keeps me grounded. I might fly away otherwise. Gravity.

There is no such thing as beautiful. It's an amorphous concept. A broken knuckle or a caved-in skull can be beautiful. So can a door rotted by erosion. So can a mosquito.

I'm so tired. There's a wheel inside my head, and it won't stop spinning. Its spokes are made of crimes and cruelty.

I have to constantly remind myself that I know how to walk and how to breathe. "Hey, dummy," I tell myself, "it's not that hard." Walking and breathing are the easiest things in the world. So why are they so hard for me?

I get off the bus and enter a coffee shop. Or maybe it's a cafe. I don't know the difference. There are people talking about stuff. They look very serious. I order a regular-size Americano. I hope I pronounced that correctly.

The coffee is hot and bitter. I enjoy it. I stare out the second-floor window. Outside, people are coming and going, this way and that way. What interesting lives they must all lead. That woman looks like a dentist. I bet that stocky guy with the leather briefcase is a former bodyguard who got fired for sleeping with his client's charge.The woman pushing a stroller has a fake baby and a bomb inside of it.

I finish my coffee and take the subway home. I like the subway. It's honest; it doesn't try to be something it isn't.

When I get home I feed my dog and take a tangerine out of the refrigerator. I lie down in bed and peel it. The rind is mushy, but the sections inside are still sweet. I name each one as I eat them.

Jessica

Bianca

Julia

Uta

Cathy

Nancy

Paula

Good night, ladies.

I have a stomachache when I awake. I try to throw up in the toilet but am too late and have to use the bathroom sink as a substitute. Any port in a storm. Cleaning that later is going to suck.

It's raining outside now. I'm in bed. I'm counting how many fingers I have on each hand.  Five on both. Next I look at the light fixture above the bed. It looks like an apparition that will steal my soul. Maybe it already has.

The last three issues of Samurai Rabbit were never published.

They never will be.

Z is the letter of




Sunday, February 01, 2015

Such Complete Intoxication!


I've been racking my addled brain for the best way possible to explain the depths of my endless adoration of XXTRA Flamin' Hot Cheetos to you, Constant Reader, but, perhaps shamefully, all I can seem to do is eat more Cheetos.

If nothing else, replace 'girl' with 'curls' in Survivor's High On You and you'll get the gist of our relationship.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Oral History of Glowstring


Sid DelMaar (Producer):

It was called "authentic." "Masterful." "A performance for the ages," and all that bullshit claptrap you see on TV commercials and on the the cover of DVDs and Blu-rays. Or on the back, if you're not yet at the top of the buzzword-addicted, shitty-critic food chain.

In twenty years, some narrator will be saying in a bass voice, "Aaron Klein was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jimmy Yates, in which he played a young man coming to terms with losing his voice after being hit in the larynx with a baseball." They'll make a documentary of an okay movie. It was pure Oscar bait, but Aaron made it into something honest. God was that a performance.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish (Writer):

It's a good movie. I definitely recommend it. Caveat: I worked on the script. I wasn't the main writer, but I made some suggestions that made it through to the final draft. I think the best change that I made was to change the character of Jimmy from someone who gets hit in the throat by a foul ball as a spectator into the starting pitcher. It wasn't a real fucking story, so why not?

It made 11 million its opening weekend at the box office. Not a wedding reception, but not a funeral, either. We'd wait to see the VOD numbers. Aaron Klein was a star on the rise -- kid has eyes like wet icicles -- and we were confident we had something special.

Vanessa Scotchson (Actress, "Hilly Dodd"):

Robert would come out of his trailer screaming, "We have him! We have him!" I thought he was on coke or something, but now I realize that Aaron's performance was that good. They saw it in the dailies.

Robert J. Sachs (Director):

I was doing coke. A lot of it. [Laughs] But I was more high on this kid Klein. When I saw his audition tape, I knew he was the one we wanted. Sid knew it, too. But it wasn't until that first day of shooting that we realized we had lightning in a bottle. I was fucking elated. Are you kidding me? No other actor could have played that part. It was manna from heaven.

Jean Dupris (Casting Director):

The studio had two big concerns. One, Aaron had a SAG card, but he was completely unknown. He'd done a few commercials and had a few lines in some DTV movies no one had seen. That's not unheard of: an actor having a breakthrough performance in his first leading role, but it makes the studios nervous. They want something reliable. Two, during the audition recording, before he started saying his lines, the guy looked like he was going to piss his pants in fear or have a nervous breakdown. That was the studio's biggest fear, that he was mentally unstable or had maybe some drug issues. He kept swallowing and tapping his feet nervously. His hands were shaking, and he could barely hold on to the script pages. But when he started reading his lines, my god. He turned into another person! He was confident. He had presence. I've seen a lot of actors fall into a role at the drop of a hat, but I've never seen that kind of transformation. It was supernatural. Sid and Robert can back me up on that. I sent them the tapes, and we agreed that we were going to go to war if we had to to put this kid in the movie.

Robert J. Sachs:

That audition tape! Sid and I were in Vancouver working on reshoots for Pale Sepulcher. Jean sent us the audition. She starts, "Don't try throwing anything pretty, Yates. Just get this last strike and then it's on to Pittsburgh. And Aaron goes--

Sid DelMaar:

"I'll throw it so goddamn sexy that you'll be hard by the time it hits your mitt, Carrington..."

Robert J. Sachs:

"Now get back behind the plate and watch me pop your fucking cherry." Jesus Christ! What a line! And he ad-libbed it!

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

That is true. It wasn't in the script. The original line was, "I'll throw it so goddamn pretty the whole stadium will turn to try and look up its skirt. Now get back behind the plate, Carrington, and watch me put some lipstick in your mitt." Aaron definitely made it sexier. [Laughs]

Paul Duncan (Writer):

I wrote the first two drafts. After that, Mark Winter, whom I'd worked with on two previous pictures, was brought in. The story was basically guy loses his voice, guy loses his job, guy gets depressed and starts spiraling downwards, then gets motivated to give it another shot and ultimately finds redemption. That was the skeleton of the script. Without any further details, that's a story that sounds dull and one that's been told a million times. Those first two drafts weren't as simple as that, but something unique was missing. Mark suggested we get rid of the third act, more or less.

Mark Winter (Writer):

I wanted to go dark. I was in a pretty dark place myself. I was going through a divorce and was drinking a lot. I wanted Jimmy Yates to die miserably and have the closing music an upbeat pop song as a fuck-you to how I was feeling. I was still drinking, but I sobered up on it being totally mean. I still wanted to get rid of the third act, though.

Sid DelMaar:

The third act was shit. We went over and over it, and it was like a Chinese finger trap. But we had to end the fucking picture!

Robert J. Sachs:

We brought in Curvy. That's how he got his nickname. We tried to call him The Closer, which seemed apt for a baseball movie. He didn't like that a bit, so it became Curvy. He didn't like that name either, but he didn't hate it. 

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

The name bothered me because the movie isn't a baseball movie. Sid and Robert didn't consider it a baseball movie, either. There's no more baseball after the first act! But they kept calling me first The Closer and then Curvy, and I couldn't fucking stop subconsciously inserting baseball analogies into the rewrite. It was beyond distracting. We finally came to an agreement that they could call me Curvy if I completed the script to their satisfaction, and I could call them whatever I wanted if I couldn't. And so now those assholes always call me Curvy. [Laughs]

Sid DelMaar:

We premiered at TIFF. Robert and I got lit on gin and tonics in the hotel bar before the show. It wasn't our first rodeo, but we were terrified. What if everything we believed this film was was a lie we were telling ourselves? It didn't help that when we sat down in the theater Aaron was blanched. His knees were knocking together. He looked like a six-year-old afraid to get a shot at the doctor's.

Robert J. Sachs:

I sent the new script pages to everyone the day after Curvy came on board. There was a third act, but it was very different from what we wanted, even though we didn't know what we wanted. Jimmy Yates didn't kill himself [Editor's note: In the original script, Jimmy Yates runs onto the field during a baseball game and shoots himself in the head on the pitcher's mound], but there was a shoehorned romance angle I wasn't fond of.

Vanessa Scotchson:

I wanted to be in more of the movie of course, but I realized it would kill the narrative. I emailed everyone and gave my honest opinion. It was a shitty idea. I didn't want to be hated as a person because a scriptwriter had tried to use my character as a spare tire to fix the movie's problems.

Robert J. Sachs:

Vanessa's shortened role is very bittersweet for me. She's one of the greatest actresses we have, and all of her scenes were brilliant. Bless her, she bit the bullet on the picture. She could have kicked up a fuss. I like to think that her soul remains in the finished film, like the scent of perfume left behind on a blanket after a daliance.

Vanessa Scotchson:

Did he really say that? God, that's Robert. A lot of sociopaths hide their malice behind charm.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

We had to shoot. Something. Aaron sent me an email after Vanessa had bowed out that said, "Why doesn't Jimmy learn sign language and become a sign-language teacher?" "You can't be fucking serious," I wrote back immediately. That sounded like the stupidest idea to fix this movie, and I had a lot of bad ones. Some including robots. "Who cares about a baseball pitcher who loses his voice and goes on to teach sign language? It's a shit idea. My beagle could come up with something more creative than that."

"I'll buy you a coffee and we can talk it over tomorrow morning. Keep writing if you think you have something better," he replied.

Sid DelMaar:

So Aaron convinced Tim to make Jimmy an ASL teacher. Convinced everybody. Eventually.

Robert J. Sachs:

Tim called me down to the hotel restaurant. When I got down he just pointed his finger at Aaron, who was making these hand gestures. They were fluid. He was break dancing with his hands. But I didn't know what the fuck was going on, you know? I called Sid.

Sid DelMaar:

I knew he was using sign language, but I didn't know if he was using it correctly. It looked authentic, but so does a plastic snowplow to an Ecuadorian.

Robert J. Sachs:

"Knock off the spastic shit and just explain what the fuck you're doing, Klein!" That was Sid. The kid wouldn't budge. He gave Sid a napkin that read, "I'm not talking until this movie has premiered. Get an interpreter that knows ASL if you have something important to say. And let's finish this fucking movie."

I saved that napkin. Sid didn't care much for the bravado it contained, and I tucked it into my breast pocket when he wasn't looking. It might still be there; I don't know because I lost the jacket.

Sid DelMaar:

The TIFF buzz was deafening. The snowball started rolling down the mountain.

Aaron Klein [Actor, Jimmy Yates]*

I called my mom. I was frantic. I couldn't even tell if people hated my performance or loved it. It was like I was stuck in a garbage can for three hours with lid held on tight. That's the worst I've ever felt in my life: waiting for someone to judge me and tell me if I did a good job or not. I thought I did a pretty good job, but I don't know. It was up to the arbiters of art now."

Robert J. Sachs:

We had a cinematic rarity. All the bullshit that we hated and kept being fed by the studios was about to be reversed. This was a film! It was magic! They hated the title, though. So did I.Glowstring? It had no meaning. It sounded so cloying. I wanted to change it two weeks before Cannes, but by then Aaron was in the hospital.The title stayed. I'm glad it did. It makes no sense, but few things do.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

The original script was titled Foul Ball. How awful is that? For a while it was Playing Catch, which was even worse. Aaron suggested Glowstring. I can't remember if he was high or not. He rarely was, but sometimes he'd partake, especially during press junkets. We needed a title, and it stuck. It's an awful title, but it weirdly fit the picture. Maybe Aaron knew some deeper meaning behind it. If he did, he never told me.

Edith Klein (Mother, Aaron Klein):

Glowstring. My lord. Aaron used to have nightmares as a kid, and sometimes he'd wake up screaming in the early morning. I'd go into his room and lie in his bed to settle him down. After a few minutes, or sometimes a few hours, he'd get tired enough to fall back asleep, and then he'd say, "It's okay, Mom, I can sleep now. The glowstrings are coming."

Sid DelMaar:

Oscar Night was such a...it was scary. We were nominated for Best Film, which I knew we had no chance at. Bob was nominated for Best Director, which he had no shot at, either. Curvy was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, but he was fucked, too. Daedalus was going to kill us. It was a juggernaut. But Aaron had a chance as Best Actor. The press was already calling it a pity party award if he won, but fuck them.

Edith Klein:

Aaron was really frail. He was throwing up every twenty minutes or so. His eyes were so sunken in his head that they might have burrowed into the back of his skull. "Mom," he said, "I have to be at the ceremony." 

Robert J. Sachs:

I remember Jake Gyllenhaal opening that envelope. I was thinking in fast forward, and my eyes were watching his lips in slow motion. You form an A with your mouth open, and a D with it partially closed. It's a subtle difference, and I was waiting to see which appeared. When I saw that mouth open wide, I stood up and started clapping. I knew.

Sid DelMaar:

He looked like a skeleton. He practically was. But that acceptance speech -- if you can call it one -- will live forever.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

He was signing. No one knew what to make of it. He could barely hold the statue, so he put it down by his feet and started signing.

Sid DelMaar:

You could hear the entire audience shifting in their seats. Coughs, rustling. It sounded like a wave of crumpled paper slowly being blown down the aisles.

Edith Klein:

I have the acceptance speech. Aaron gave it to me that night and told me he had it memorized. It reads, "Thank you for this honor. I am so thankful. You have bestowed on me a great honor. Thank you to everyone I have worked with on this great film, and thank you to everyone I have encountered in this great life. I have been blessed. And lucky. Maybe it's the same thing. I think it's more of the latter, but I have never been distrustful of luck. If not for it, where might I be? Unfortunately, unluckily, my time around here seems to be up. I'll be gone soon, but others will go on, always building on this great cosmic snowball of life. You are all pretty."

That's how it ends.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

There's one more part from that acceptance speech that Aaron tagged on at the end. I know because it was on the napkin he gave me in the hotel restaurant in Toronto before Rob and Sid sat with us. It says, "When I win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I'm going to sign my entire speech." The last part is a post-script confession: "I got a Polaroid camera for my eighth birthday. I took a picture of my dick and shamefully hid it in my bedroom ventilation duct. Maybe it's worth something now."

Maybe it is.


* From Klein's Esquire interview, published 2 weeks after his death.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Bad Dreams are Only Dreams



2007. February. Recently separated, divorce papers filed, lawyer hired. Waiting. Had to get a job at a hagwon because I needed an apartment. Because, despite the -- cursory, unsympathetic -- advice of my lawyer, I had to leave the apartment my ex, daughter, and I shared for fear of my own safety. I was the victim of domestic violence for several years. Having the opportunity to look back nearly eight years later, I'm confident that I made the right choice. I think my ex-wife would have murdered me had I stayed.

I was hired at a language school and worked hard, as I always have (well, at least in adulthood; I was a pretty big slacker as a teen), while the slow process of the divorce took its time. I lived in a one-room apartment with a single bed, a small CRT television, a pinewood desk, and little else. It got good sunlight, though. I swapped a basement apartment in which I'd originally been placed in the same building with a fellow teacher for it. That place was dark and dank (and the previous tenant hadn't paid his water bills, so I had to shower, in winter, in freezing-cold water. That makes you reevaluate some things). But some people prefer to live in the dark, god knows why.

I had support during that time, but not a lot, and it's curious to 2015 me how I was able to make it through a period that, today, I can't fathom tackling. I'd email my mother and give her updates; Kmork, that beautiful bastard, gave me a laptop; I'd chat on the phone with my now-wife*, who was in Australia, every night; the teachers at the school I worked at were good friends, and eventually I explained the truth of my divorce after months of lying that my wife and daughter were in Canada.

2007. June. Arbitration. The arbitrator suggests that I relinquish child custody and all of my earnings. My lawyer is furious and cancels the hearing.

2007. July. Arbitration. Having requested joint custody of our daughter and half of our total savings, I am granted the latter. My ex-wife is given full custody and I am to pay 300,000 Korean won monthly, which I will gladly do because it is for the support of my child. I am given bi-monthly visitation rights. My lawyer tells me this is a victory of sorts. He can chew on a car tire.

Five minutes later, I'm sitting on a stiff wooden chair more fit for an interrogation room than a courthouse. My ex-wife's lawyer emerges and explains to my counsel that I have been granted full custody. It takes interpretation and a little longer for me to comprehend this change of events. When it finally clicks, I am ecstatic. I could punt-kick a skyscraper.

I reenter the arbitration room. I am told by my ex that the reason she has given me full custody is because her daughter looks too much like me. She can't stand to look at her. So much for motherly love.

I have remained here in Korea in the years since. My parents (and siblings, and more relatives and friends than I can name) have taken great care of my lovely girl, for which I'm eternally grateful. I will always find time to go home, to be with my rainbow. Hopefully, someday, it will be a permanent stay instead of a vacation.

XOXO
ROY G BIV


* That sounds terribly reductive, and I apologize. Pineapple, as she will pseudonymously be called henceforth, is my dear, precious wife and love.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Frozen 2



"Aren't you tired, Orson? It's a long ride back to Stonebridge, and the temperature is falling."

"I don't 'get' tired. Tired gets you killed, or at least it used to. Fall asleep while hunting back in the day and a fucking sabre-toothed tiger'll eat you, you know? My aunt Candice was over at my folks' place over the holidays and was talking about how her massage chair helped her sleep between ten and fucking twelve hours. Who does that? This country is going to shit, and it's because everybody's lazy. No one has a fucking priority. They just want to put on their Snuggies and hibernate like fucking bears. It's depressing. We turned the foundation of this world from shit to gold once upon a time, if you can believe it, and now the pillars of our triumphs are collapsing because of lazy assholes who don't want to work hard for anything. Also because of the queers. Up is down and down is up. Suddenly I'm a Nazi for being offended by seeing a picture of a cock in another guy's mouth? Like somehow seeing a cock in another guy's mouth and being offended makes me the villain? We're all doomed. You need a fucking Ambien to fall asleep, you're a retard and need to be culled is what I'm saying. Darwin. Survival of the fittest. There's no participation award in life. You have to snatch it like a hyena making off with a cheetah's prey. The one's that don't starve. If you want something, you fight for it. That's life. That's what living is. You don't ask for pity and pop a couple dozen pills and hope the magic of medicine will make everything all right later. You use your fucking brain and think, 'How can I turn this disadvantage around?' You reach into your 150,000-year-old survival instinct toolbox and try to find a way."

"What about compassion? Studies have shown that animals across a broad spectrum of species possess compassion."

"It's a deformity. A living thing's hourglass is turned upside down and toward death the minute he exhibits compassion. We have Mongoloid babies and people breathing through tubes because of this nonsense. What a waste of time. What are they contributing to this world, Rebecca? Absolutely nothing. They wouldn't even have realized if they had died during labor! They know nothing about the world. They are like an obstacle or a fence: you go around it, over it, or you tear it down so that it is no longer in your way."

"Something's always going to be in the way."

"So you say. I'm pretty sure history will reveal that the strong will steamroll over your limp-wrist liberal attitudes. That gap year in Europe turned you into a flamethrower with no fuel. All of your ideas are snowflakes that melt before they hit the ground."

Rebecca stood up.

"Thank you, Orson. As always, it has been a pleasurable chat, but I must insist that you leave."

She began clearing dishes.

"You're kidding. I've had two bottles of wine and it's driving snow outside. I'll freeze to death."

"I'm sure you won't. Survival of the fittest, Darwin, and all that...

Now get the fuck out."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ROY G BIV (Part 1 of Maybe)



"Do you have everything?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure? You haven't left anything behind?"

"Dad, yes," Rachel Madison said.

"You have your lunch and all your books?"

"Yes."

"I'm not going to have to drive back here and then drive back to the school because you forgot something, am I?"

"No."

"Ray, go through your checklist. I'm not moving until you're positive you have everything."

"Dad!"

"Checklist!"

Rachel sighed defiantly and searched her memory of this cold February morning. She was sure she had everything for school. Then --

"Oh, shit, wait," she said and darted out of the car and back into the house. When she reemerged, her head was hanging solemnly on her chest. She opened the backseat door and sat down.

"I can't find my ballet stuff," she said.

"Ray, we had a deal. You stop losing stuff and I stop having to try to find it, remember? This is, what, the third time this week? First it was your science textbook, then it was your daily planner. By my count, this would be your third strike. You know what that means."

"Just drive. I don't need to be late for school on top of everything else about this crummy morning."

"Crummy. Hmm. That's a lot less colorful word than the one you used before."

 "Sorry."

"Eh, it happens. But I get to take back the two dollars I put into the swear jar last week for calling the ref of the Bulls-Sixers game a bad word, deal?"

"You called him a motherf--"

"Hey now, I know what I called him. No need for a reminder."

"Jocasta is going to murder me."

"No she won't," George Madison said as he reversed the car down the driveway. "Why would she without a motive?" He put the car into drive and picked up a faded pink drawstring bag from the passenger seat. "Looking for this?"

"Daddy!" Rachel shouted in elation. Then, "Wait, how long did you know it was there?"

"Since last Thursday when you left it there after we stopped by Subway on our way home. Take better care of your stuff, kiddo."

"I will," Rachel said.

"I'm giving you a Mulligan here, Rachey. The call has been reversed. Looks like you're still sitting on two strikes."

"So, milkshakes later?"

"Milkshakes later. Have a good day at school. I'll see you at four o'clock."

"Bye Dad."

"Bye."

---

George didn't mind sitting in the ballet studio waiting room. Usually there were other parents he could make small talk with: Mike Olynyk, who worked for a cable company; Emily Barnes, who taught third-grade math out in Noble Square; sometimes Jenny Conrad showed up, and they'd talk about pleating. George had no idea what pleating was -- his best guess was a Greek philosopher -- but he listened raptly to Jenny speak on the subject. Her blue eyes were as big and deep as a pristine Olympic swimming pool. George was in love with her, but he was in love with her the same way people are in love with Marylin Monroe or Elvis Presley. Or Jesus Christ. Jenny Conrad was real, but she was not available. She was married to a radio station executive and had two daughters, Gracie, 4, and Francine, 12, the latter with whom Rachel shared ballet class.

None of these regular parents were there on this particular Tuesday night, however. Not even George, who had fallen asleep not long after returning home from work that day. He woke up on the sofa just after five-thirty with a foam food container filled with chicken bones resting on his chest like an unfunny approximation of funeral flowers.

"Oh, shit," he said as he threw on his jacket and snatched his car keys.

---

"Kid, I'm sorry."

"You always are."

"I fell asleep watching Family Feud."

"How many strikes is that for you?"

"For the week?"

"For your life."

"Hey, low blow."

"Jocasta wants to talk to you."

"Well why didn't she say so when we were just in there?"

"Obviously because she didn't want me to hear it. Maybe she wants use foul language. Maybe she wants to have sex with you."

"Rachel!"

---

"Mr. George, hi again."

"I'm just George. My last name is Madison."

"Okay. Mr. Madison, Rachel has trouble with her feet."

"Like...how? Her feet look fine to me."

"Her pointe shoes are decrepit. The ribbons are all ratty, like mice chewed on them. And the heel is falling apart."

"I'll fix it."

"Mr. Madison, can you sew?"

"No. At least not professionally. I'll learn. Is that what you wanted to talk about?"

"With the right direction and support, she could go to Juilliard."

"I'll keep that in mind."

---

"What did she say?"

"Your shoes are fu-- damaged. They're damaged. They need to get fixed."

"I knew that."

"Well thank you, Einstein. I didn't. And I can't afford to buy you a new pair of shoes. Which makes me an asshole."

"Dad?"

"Yeah, what?"

"Two bucks in the swear jar."

"I know."

---

"Try this milkshake. It's really good."

"Mm, that is good."

"I like good stuff."

"So do I. Know what I like more than good stuff?"

"Basketball?"

"Funny girl. Besides that."

"What?"

"Better stuff."

"Like what?"

"Better grades."

"Here we go..."

"Ray, your teacher called. The last time you turned in a homework assignment Muhammad Ali was still Cassius Clay."

"Who?"

"Exactly! Kid, you need to smarten up. You're my baby girl, and I love you and everything, but you have to see the picture through the trees...the big picture. You have to work harder. Get stuff done. Elbow grease."

"Does that hard work include falling asleep and forgetting to pick your daughter up from ballet? Because I think I could handle that."

"Get in the car."

"Can I drive?"

"No."

---

"We asked a hundred people. Top four answers are on the board. Name the most embarrassing situation for your dirty parts to be exposed."

"What does he mean by dirty parts?"

"It's a double entendre."

"What's that?"

"Ask me later. RED CARPET!"

"What's a double entendre?"

"What?"

"You told me to ask you later. Now is later."

"MEMOIR! Sorry, sweetie, what?"

"Never mind. I found it on Wikipedia."

"That's good. SEX TAPE!"

"I'm going to bed."

"NSA SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL!"

---

"Ray, wake up, kid. Time for school."

"Mnidonwannagotaschooltoday. Cannijussleepin?"

"Not on the itinerary. I don't want to go to work, either, but we all have our fate. The sword of Damocles hangs over both our heads."

"Can I drive?"

"Maybe when you're older."

"Who's Damocles?"

"He was before your time. Mine, too. He played jazz. Had a cleft lip, but he played the trumpet better than Gabriel."

"Who's Gabriel?"

"He's an asshole, don't worry about him. Have a good day at school, Small Fry."

"Have a good day at whatever you do, Big Fry."

---

Saturday, January 10, 2015

RFturn



I'm home again. I have a screwdriver in my jeans pocket. It doesn't talk to strangers. I found my way upstairs, and now I'm opening my bedroom door. Coffee cup on the dresser; dirty worn-out socks; a gummy worm covered in dirt on the carpet. Life is a shame, and enjoying it is shameless. I want to become a noun.

I saw a crucified rat yesterday. It had a burdock in its mouth.

Before he became a world-renowned architect, Joseph Stalin used the play the guitar. Acoustic -- this was long before electric. I met him once, in Sweden. He was wearing a funny hat, and he had a cold sore on his upper lip. It looked like an elephant clitoris. We drank wine and sang songs about dragonflies.

Oh, precious queen. When will the thunder cease and the hills be green? Is there a taxi cab to drive my heart home? And when I arrive, will I be alone?

I've never skied. I don't drink milk. When I was eleven years old, I drowned my baby brother. That was the first and last time I played submarine with a human being.

There's a jigsaw puzzle of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night glued to the ceiling. One thousand pieces. I glued together each piece, too. I made it, and it cannot be unmade. I started it, and I finished it, and then I glued it to the ceiling. It's the first thing I see before I fall asleep and the first thing I see when I awake. I hope it stays there forever. It better.

Today I'm taking a bus to Boston. It's chilly. I have my winter cap and my mittens on, though! There are faces in the bus's paneling. Dr. Ernstrom calls that pareidolia and says that I'm acutely "involved" with it. He tells me that's not necessarily a bad thing, that my brain is playful. But I shouldn't get too playful. That's what the medicine is for. Two pills: one white, one pink. One to fight, one to think.

But god do they make me constipated. Sometimes I feel like there's a lump the size of a orangutan skull stuck in my anus. Other times, everything builds up and I just have to release.

We're moving. I put my head against the window and fall asleep.

A chocolate-chip mint ice cream cone. I go to take a taste, and a mouth with razor-sharp fangs emerges from the cone to attack me. I wake up. I have wet myself.

"Oh, Christ," the man beside me says in disgust. I tell him I'm sorry and try hard not to stare at his mandible ant mouth. At our next rest stop I throw my underwear and trousers out in the restroom garbage can and retrieve a fresh pair of clothes from my backpack: a pair of white slacks and a pink Hannah Montana T-shirt.Then I go to the counter of the diner and ask for a glass of water to wash down my pills with. The waitress has a huge smile and large breasts.

I get back on the bus. Two young men at the back are discussing baseball.

"No way he averages .400 next season! You're crazy! If he does, god as my witness, I will suck your dick."

"Is that a promise?" I blurt out. My mouth is always outrunning my mind.

"What the fuck did you say, asshole?"

I slink in my seat and try to turn invisible.

"Leave him alone; he's retarded," the woman behind me says. "He doesn't know any better."

"Fuck I don't," I whisper sideways.

"South Station!" the driver yells. I grab my bag and disembark. A cab takes me to Back Bay. I pay the driver and walk up those familiar steps.

A woman opens the door. I don't know her.

"I'm here to see Raymond Mills," I say. "I'm his son."

"Who?"

"Raymond Mills. He's a professor at Emerson."

"You must have the wrong address."

The sky is pitch-black and snow is threatening to fall. The clouds are pregnant with precipitation. A car starts then stalls somewhere nearby.

"It would appear I do. I'm very sorry for disturbing you," I say.

She shuts the door. As it closes, a thin wisp of black smoke escapes and circles my sneaker.

"Hi, Dad," I say. "Sorry I couldn't have visited sooner. I've been away. But now I'm back."