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late in the night when the darkness surrounds
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as the mice are a-skitter on their nightly rounds
and outside a lonely sedan is turned on
i wake up and see a strange thing on my lawn
i rub my eyes tiredly and what do i see?
(i forgot to mention this is on Easter eve)
a humongous rabbit is out on the grass
his eyes a dark and empty morass
i don't think he saw me, and i was sure glad
cause this bunny looked evil or at least slightly bad
and though he distributed the traditi'nal eggs
i still live in fear of his powerful legs
i have no doubt he could, if he were so inclined
decapitate me if he found me unkind
and with one single leap from those gigantic jumpers
could give brand new meaning to the old nickname Thumper.
but that night i lived to tell my fey tale
and ne'er again saw that lover of kale.
nonetheless, when Easter comes into my mind,
i live in great fear of all rodentkind.
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12:52: I am currently at the Hayward BART/Greyhound station, half-heartedly waiting for a Greyhound bus that was supposed to be here almost 2 hours ago. This is only the most recent in a series of terrible events. I planned today to take the 1:42 bus from Gonzaga to the Spokane transit plaza, and then the 2:05 to the airport, to get me there in plenty of time for my flight. I just barely got the bus, after having left the dorm at 1:39. The buses were 2 dollars in total, much better than the 25 dollars that the taxi would have cost. So i was in high spirits, but these are always dampened by the harried atmosphere of airports. I was graciously allowed to go ahead of a huge group of girls excited to go to Hawaii in the bag checking/boarding pass-acquisition line. Pass in hand, I waddled my way through security, losing my pocketknife (which i had neglected to remember to place in my checked bag) in the process. Oh well; no harm, no foul. I should have remembered.
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I waited for the plane; it was scheduled for 4:05 but had already been pushed back to 4:15 by the time i checked in. as 4:00 rolled around, it became apparent it would be a little later. by 4;35, however, we were lined up and ready to board. I was near the end, of course, and so i filed in with the rest of them and found a nice aisle seat in the back. We sat and we waited. The lights flickered a bit more than usual. By about 5:30 we were told to deplane (boss, deplane!); the indicator light which would tell the pilots if anything was wrong with the electricity wasn't working, and new parts were needed. They would look for a new plane; it should take "about an hour."
Well, they probably found it in about an hour. But it was about an hour and a half before we would be scheduled to board it, and a half hour after that before we were ready to finally take off. A 7:30, though, we were definitively in the air and on the way south. By this point i had become well aware that my original plans to get from oakland to santa cruz were in peril; the last highway 17 express leaves san jose at 10:40, and i would no longer be able to get there at that time. so with some quick rescheduling with the help of Laura and some 4-dollar-for-15-minutes internet I decided i'd chance a greyhound instead. I had no ticket, of course, but it was the on;ly option outside of a soon-to-be-very wealthy taxi driver. It would mean taking the BART from Oakland to Hayward and getting the bus there at 11.
At first, if you can believe it, i scoffed at this time, thinking it so very within my abilities as to constitute an almost uncomfortably long wait.
We landed at 9:20. I had presciently sat in the front of the plane this time, that i might escape early, and so i got off at about 9:30. The only obstacle then remaining was the retrieval of my checked bag. I strolled to the carousels and called my father, reporting my imminent success.
Then i waited. I waited until 10:20, along with the rest of my flight, in vain. I never saw my bag, but it was no longer an option to hang around if i was to catch the 11:00 Greyhound. So, cursing Southwest under my breath, I jogged to the AirBART, paid the fare in the last 3 dollars of change i had on me, and started the internal cheerleading to just get there already. We arrived at the Oakland BART station and after some confusion, which was cleared up by a man who spoke almost no english, and none with plosives, found the right train. It would get me to hayward at 10:54. I cheered it on as well, and it did not disappoint.
Armed with only an address and a general distance from the BART station, i quickly surveyed the alien landscape around me in search of this mythical Greyhound which would deliver me very nearly to my front door. I found its station with zero minutes to spare (and agan with the guidance of fair Laura), and then remembered my lack of a ticket. Unlike certain rapid transit systems, greyhound insists that you buy tickets in person or online; there are no automated dispensers. They station was of course closed. My only hope was that they would take cash at the door; this was a hope somewhat restricted by the fact that i had none. So i skittered back to the bart station to ask if they knew the greyhound's policies on buying tickets on the spot, which went essentially unanswered, and also if they could direct me to the nearest ATM. They could. and did, and it was a few blocks away at a Lucky's. I ran, encumbered by my two more important pieces of luggage (laptop and backpack), momentarily grateful that i didn't end up getting my larged checked bag at the last minute, and quickly bought a bottle of water, getting forty dollars back as well. I ran back, bust stopped when i noticed a trio of older women still waiting for the bus. I checked my watch: 11:06. Oh well. the waiting game is one i'm fairly good at. By 11:30, the leader of the older women was taking every opportunity to remark upon how strange it was that the bus hadn't yet come. I couldn't help but agree, in a despondent sort of way. I called the posted number, which gave very little useful information, but did list cancelled buses; ours was not among them. I was even able to get online on someone's wireless, which allowed me a brief moment of email checking and the like; I thought that perhaps i would buy a ticket right there online, but of course by that time they thought it should be impossible to purchase a ticket for something that should already have left. In any case, i decided it was time tio stop brandishing my laptop, and continued pacing and waiting. This continued for an hour, after which i essentially made up my mind to just take the bart back to millbrae, caltrain to diridon, and then highway 17 in the morning. But BARTs had stopped running and would not resume until 4 in the morning. So i returned, defeated, to the relative comfort of benches with the older women and another would-be traveler, and (after being accosted by one fellow who was worried that he was out past his probation curfew and needed a cell phone, and another who was upset that his Social Security, which is normally direct-deposited at midnight on the first of the month, had not been, leaving him stranded) started writing this. It is now 1:34. and time to perhaps relocate, as during my writing i have been left alone on a frigid Hayward bench.
2:46: I found a tree with power, so I can write some more and charge the ipod as well. I decided I was tired and didn't want to do nothing while I waited for the barts, and perhaps get a little sleep for the day tomorrow (which will be no great picnic). Also I was getting pretty cold. Fortunately, my clothes were all in my backpack, so one t-shirt went on my head, and another kept my hands company. Soon enough, a third went right where t-shirts should go. I found an out-of-the-way spot near the BART doors that I hypothesized would keep me out of the view of any potential hoodlums while also affording me a level of publicity if anything did "go down." Wrapping my arms through straps of my bags, I set my cell phone alarm for 4 am and closed my eyes at 1:44,
Fifteen minutes later, i had convinced myself that I had no real desire to sleep and that i also had things to do. I realized that on my way back on the BART, i could stop by the airport-- a 6-dollar and probably half-hour detour-- and retrieve my last bag. This would probably be preferable to however they might attempt to get it to me (expensive fedexing? requiring a physical pickup?), and i wouldn't have to worry about it any more. Plus, transportation in the morning is always plentiful, and I just have to be on campus by 10:30 for a meeting, which could even be skipped if need be. So a 4:something departure from hayward, a ~4:30 arrival at oakland again, airbart for 10 minutes, fetching for ten minutes, and airbart back for ten more minutes, and then on to millbrae should still leave me more than enough time to get home, enjoy a shower, and bestow undeserved praise on myself for a bit. Of course this hasn't been a journey of great punctuality, but I'm playin the odds.
Anyhoo, to effect this detour, I will need 6 dollars in cash. So I decided to go back to Lucky's to buy something inconsequential-- breakfast?--and then get some change as well. Lucky's was closed. They did, however, feature an inviting-looking stairwell, which, it turned out, gave access to the upper-story parking lot. Before that, though, it gave access to someone's forgotten bag of Panda Express food and a shielded area. Inquisitive adventurer that I am, i took a gander; this resulted in me also eventually taking parts of a cow, broccoli plant, chicken, rice, and an unopened fortune cookie. The fortune reads, "CHEERFUL COMPANY AND A MERRY TIME ARE AHEAD FOR YOU". I was under the impression that i had just come from all that into just the opposite, but perhaps it was meant for the person who bought the food in the first place. I continued, then, to a 76 station across the way, where I made a purchase through bulletproof glass and a metal drawer. I got beef jerky; the concept of splurging on a normally too-rich-for-my-blood item during my night of hobo-eroticism was too juicy (unlike the jerky itself)- to ignore. I also got my dollars in change, of course, and then went back to Lucky's and its shielded stairwell to regroup. It was then that I had most of the food (the first time I had only had a piece of broccoli and the fortune cookie). I re-tied my t-shirt doo-rag and set off to find somewhere to set up this, my lovely lappy. My powers of observation were tested to the limit as I explored this semi-main street in search of an exposed outlet. None in the Lucky's parking lot-to-ground floor elevator, though it was quite warm and probably wouldn't be used by anyone else till nearly 5 am; i filed this information away in case I needed warmth or privacy at some point. No outlet in the parking lot, though no surprise there. The trees on B Street all seem to have something the size of an outlet, but they are shielded by some manner of plastic that I hadn't the wherewithal to defeat. ACE Hardware had an outlet on their facade; however, it did not provide any power. Newman Park seemed designed more for chess players than yuppies and their lappies. Upper B Street was populated; I chose that moment to cross the street and double back to check the other side of the street. No more facades seemed to feature an outlet, not even non-functional ones, which i found sort of strange. Trees continued to tempt me with blank plastic should-be-outlets, until I found this one. Irma, i call her. She is a pretty tree, and someone has noticed this; to really bring out her prettiness, she has been outfitted with christmas lights. She is the only one on the street so adorned. To facilitate this apparel, the box had been unshielded and the outlets exposed. I used the remaining one to plug in Zsolt here, and then Xavier into him (lappy and iPod). It is now 3:09. Less than an hour remains before loitering in front of the BART may no longer seem fruitless.
I feel like the richest street person ever. This would be true even if i were naked and possessionless, for I have yet to see one clearly identifiable street person here. Bus stations always have their share of ne'er do-wells, but they were all on the move. I did see one silhouette in the distance in the courtyard of City Hall, but was too far removed to resolve the question entirely; i did, however, notice no backpack or plastic bag or shopping cart. Nonetheless, the image of a college kid wearing clothes in silly places (by this point, to facilitate prehensility, i had enveloped one hand in a couple of socks, while the other was wrapped in shirt) on a laptop sitting on the sidewalk, his gadgets plugged into a tree at 3 in the morning in Hayward, is one which I shall treasure always. It is also one which causes me to wonder about the reaction of the Hayward Police to it. Would they be so entranced by its essential beauty? One would like to think so.
3:24: the creepiness with which people can be perfectly nice astounds me.
5:29: I am now waiting at the Oakland airport. deja vu all over again?
yes. I'm even at the same table I waited a week ago for the plane to spokane.
So i went back to the elevator to take in its warmth, then sauntered on back to the BART station (this time i did see a bona fide street person; she fixed her elegant gaze on me with great apparent difficulty, and remarked in that casually aggressive way she has, "'s fuckin cold.") . First one in the gates, snagged a schedule booklet so i'd feel prepared, then waited for the first northbound train. It came promptly at 4:14, all went well, I got off at the Coliseum at 4:30 and was ready for an AirBART!... except they don't start till 5. So i waited till 5, took a newspaper (for which i was later accosted and charged a whole quarter) from the stack outside of the door, and then waited a few minutes longer for the bus to actually appear. Got on with a bunch of other grumpy early-morning travelers, and then arrived at the airport. 5:23 I ask the fellows when the baggage place open. They reply 6, maybe 6:30. They don't know. I have to hope the former or at least the latter. If 6:30 comes round and no baggage forthcomes, I gotta get out of Dodge.
Anyway, in this little pathetic overpriced cafe I bought an appallingly-reasonably-priced hot chocolate and am now whiling away the desperate minutes during which by all rights i should be sleeping and not hoping to acquire my own bag.
Thus far: Bus from gonzaga to spokane airport: 2 dollars
Extra Quiznos sandwich to cover extra time waiting in airport: 8 dollars
airbart: 3 dollars once, twice, and soon to be a third time
BART: 2.15 once and twice, and 4.65 in the hopefully-near future.
Bottle of aquafina to get 20s for phantom greyhound: 1.74, i think
bag of beef jerky to split 20 into 1s for non-phantom airbart : 2.99
.25 for being one of the first readers of the Chronicle today. Weak plot, too many characters.
Caltrain remains to be seen
Highway 17: 3.50 or something
And so the aborted attempt to get home has thus far cost me slightly less extra than i saved by taking the bus initially instead of a taxi. Hurray! It must be that Mercury simply wishes me to spend a set amount on travel before I am allowed home. I shoulda taken the taxi.
7:36: So far mostly on schedule. Got my bag even before 6; five baggage folk were waiting there just for me, and i realized only after telling it that my story was meaningless to them. I showed id, i got my bag, i rushed to the airbart, and then it sat there for 15 minutes before she decided to just take me and the one other guy. Back at the real Bart station, i shared the news of my triumph with the man who extorted 25 cents for a newspaper, and then was off to the 6:23 bart to daly city. got there right on time, switched to the millbrae train right on time, and got there right on time also; got the caltrain ticket, oriented myself, and got the train right on time: 7:32. All that remains now is to notice when we're at Diridon (should be 8:13) and then get a 17 to take me back hoommmmme finally and with maybe some time for cleanup. I semi-slept a bit from Oakland to Daly City, but am essentially running on fumes. although! I have some more jerky left over. Yum time. I am eyeing the fellow to my right, whose side of the train has a sexy-lookin outlet. But at this point I think i can ration remaining gadget power till the end.
8:27: Ahh... finally on the lovely Highway 17 Express, and only 11 hours after I had intended to be. Spirits are high, however. My day's mood is once more dependent on the outcome of the first LGST senior seminar class at 2; I'm not registered because it's full but I need it to graduate, so I can only hope that the prof will find it in his soul to allow my presence. As far as traveling goes, though, barring any ridiculous unforseen circumstances, I am in the clear and very nearly home with what looks like a comfortable time period to spare before the beginning of what, for me, is really only the epilogue of this adventurous day.
epilogue: I arrived home at 9:30; classes all went well, and i'm in the important senior seminar, but a drop of this computer while getting off of the 17 has borked some of the display. it's all under warranty, but what a bitch.
[Written during and after a Greyhound trip to Humboldt. Never got around to finishing and now the end is lost.]
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I sit here an American, a white male with privilege and glasses, concerned more with convenience than survival, a bastion of the decline of free thought in the Western world, and here, in what could perhaps be most definitively America, I am an alien. I am an endangered species, at once shunned and preyed upon, comfortably ignored and ostentatiously avoided.
The family in front of me, waiting near the end of the line, is a (presumably) single mother with two sons. They’re Hispanic; she’s late forties, they’re about fifteen and two. She’s preoccupied, perhaps thinking about the crippling expense that this voyage is incurring, perhaps mulling over job opportunities (or lack thereof) perhaps merely studying a particular chink in the wall marred by decades of indifference. The young son is given free reign, making his bumbling and irrationally excited way around the crowded building, running into people and objects and then looking at them with a fascination unmatched by any “intelligent” person. He has a bottle to gnaw on, and I, having been raised in the gentle home I was, presume that his is a mother who hasn’t the time to breastfeed her offspring, not immediately noticing, of course, that the child is far too old for that; indeed, the bottle itself must have been a security-invoking carryover from his past. The mother makes passing attempts to remove her youngest from the paths of whatever serial killers and dysphoric homeless women might be lurking, but isn’t willing to give up her place in line to save her child from just one of what will inevitably turn out to be many seemingly dangerous situations. Her other son stands behind her, stoic and uncomfortable. Stoic because he is used to the veritable delinquency quarantine that is middle school, though he has since graduated to high school, which thus far has not persuaded him to do anything differently, and in these festering cesspools of bullshit, stoicality is a highly revered virtue among the entestosteroned. He is uncomfortable, however, because he is realizing that the street kid he is trying to look like, by way of spending a great deal of (his mom’s) money more on huge, pristine clothes than on, say, encyclopedias, is not the glorified image he has had cultivated in his mind by those who would have personal worth measured one-dimensionally. Slight flickers of uneasiness escape his monolithic aspirations, but unbeknownst to him, I respect him more for it, for the recognizance, than I would for the clothes, swagger, and stolidity that it invalidates. Having seen his place in the world, as someone who, proud to be low-income (or maybe lower-middle class), has no concept of real poverty, he makes a good choice, and lets go. He holds his brother’s hand. He gently keeps the future stoic in check, adding a silent hand to his mother’s actionless voice.
A couple, one that looks perfect for each other and therefore doomed to failure, make themselves known. They appear to have been together for some time; certainly they’ve been alive for some time, probably both in their mid-40’s. They’re somewhere between Crazy Guy in the Bookstore Who Talks To Everyone and Hobo, fashion-wise. And unstable-personality-wise. They are at the very front of the line. They are talking, then discussing, then weighing options, and then point-counterpointing, and then arguing, and then they walk away, toward the ticket counter and out of my interest.
Family dynamics abound in this place; I am alone. I am coming from a split family, going toward a pseudo-family that I cannot understand, and yet here, either would be as good as the Cleavers.
Some children mingling with each other and various obstacles catch my attention. They’re small, maybe three, a boy and a girl, and I’ll call them twins. The twins are black, and so (thankfully for my left brain) is their mother. Their mother is young, and as such sees no reason why producing offspring should in any way hinder her apparently rollicking sex life. The child-bearing, already years ago (God how time flies), has left no permanent unsightly weight on this tall and shapely woman, and so she is out, with her thong (I assume), pre-frayed, pre-faded, pre-old jeans, her low-cut shirt, and her carefully applied makeup (no doubt with an obnoxious daughter tugging at her pants, not understanding that Mommy needs to be pretty and pick up a new Daddy), to get some. To be fair, I did not observe her chatting up anyone at the time, but given the selection, the real surprise would be if she behaved otherwise. When the children, insistent in their childlike curiosity, got too tiresome, she sent them, cornrows, baggy pants, infantile gangsta glare and all, to the seat next to mine, outfitted with a coin-operated black and white television in what appeared to be bulletproof armor. They went together and got in the same seat, and they did the same things almost without speaking, though it was clear that the girl (Deborah? Delilah?) had the upper hand over the more observant and confused boy. Their mother, having generously provided them with one plastic seat and an inoperative TV to keep them amused, safely forgot about them and went about her business, which I paid little attention to, being more interested in the antics of the children. They turned out to be stale at best, though I recant my previous dubbing of them as twins, it becoming more probable that the boy is younger.
I’m not entirely alone in my alienness. A girl sits down, a girl very much like me, to all outward appearances, and seems similarly uncomfortable. She’s a bit overweight, mostly plain, and ergo has adorned herself with the quintessential plain (and therefore, of course, intellectual) college girl look; not quite punk, not quite emo, not quite goth, but rather more “hey look at me but I don’t care if you do cause I don’t care what people think of me and what do you think of that, eh?” Her hair is slightly artificially colored, and her face as well. In another place, had she been born with one or two different chromosomes, born to her aunt as opposed to her mother, she might be highly attractive, but under the circumstances, I can only be attracted (as is my sometime wont) to the dearth of ostentatious attractiveness. Her feminist-tinted confidence is undermined by her eye-flicks and fidgeting, and I grin a little, pretending to myself that I entirely understand her position.
Two Hispanic guys in front of me are doing their absolute best to break the stereotypes laid down on them; They’re both pretty large, intimidating, short manly hair, shirts emblazoned with things that I no longer recall but which I can assure you were quite masculine, but they have such soft voices… Their faces are anything but intimidating because they’re so used to smiling, their jokes are appropriate and charming, and in an unassuming manner, one of them even engages in small-scale small talk with me.
At the end of the line is a homeless (-looking) man, fitting the bill exactly. He has a round face, with round facial hair, his clothes are layered and tattered, he looks like his #1 most-uttered word is “change,” and his belongings aren’t even in the measly 1960’s luggage that the other people scrounged, but in a good ol’ fashioned black trash bag. He says nothing and disturbs nobody.
As I’ve been sitting here, taking in what surroundings interest me, the subdued din has been punctuated by slapping and crying. The source of this aural intrusion turns out to be a family of some amount, broken down (as best I am able) here:
Two (2) small Hispanic girls, roughly sixish, acting apparently repeatably slappable. At least, one of them does, as the other is out of reach, either physically or legally, leading me to believe the latter and that therefore Small Girl #2 is merely a friend of #1, who, in a few years, will probably become:
One (1) slightly older Hispanic girl, maybe nine, who, having learned her lesson when she was six, remains aloof from the others and watches, until she becomes bitter enough to become:
One (1) yet older Hispanic girl, who, having been privy to this behavior for something around fifteen years, has seen the light and now wears at least three metric shitloads of cheap makeup at all time, along with her (doubtlessly) trademark scowl and:
One (1) similarly aged teen girl, rather whiter than the rest, appearing probably to be a friend of Scowl Girl. She seems to have practice being polite around borderline-abusive families, and pretends to watch the carpet and talk quietly with the Human Scowl, ignoring at all costs:
One (1.5) Hispanic woman, age belied by many thousands of dollars worth of skin products, who is unhappy with her income level, weight, marital status, and offspring at pretty much all times. She is the slapper in this scene, thwacking her (I should hope) daughter for crying, which rather predictably causes little but more crying.
This causes head-shaking on my part, believing that all people are fundamentally like me, and if they aren’t, well then by God they should look inside themselves and realize the folly of their ways. I cheer momentarily for a man (White Male Interloper) who appears to have approached the mother and asked her to calm down with the striking of children, and she responds to him with a calm and rational explanation ending with “These is my children and ain’t nobody else gonn’ raise ‘em but me!” This development provides some circumstantial evidence in favor of Small Girl #2’s being a spawn of this woman as well, but varying inflections, along with the vibe of the friendship between the girls and the interactions between #2 and the rest of the family, still lead me to believe otherwise.
Through a combination of paranoia (wondering why everyone else is in the line and I am not), intrigue (attempting [unsuccessfully] to peek at the ticket of a woman in the line to ascertain her destination), and looking lost (until I am asked by a security guard if I need help), I learn that this line is in fact the one I should wish to find myself in, should I wish to reach my destination as planned. The rest of the populace apparently gleaned this information, during breaks in their aforementioned antics, from the alien noise emanating at irregular intervals from the PA system. I have learned, through years of middle-class traveling, to decipher and understand the speech of airport terminals and airplane captains; this, however, is a new and frightening linguistic experience for me. Sheepishly, but convinced that nobody has noticed my awkward maneuvering, I take my place at the end of the line. The bus soon boards, and about three people ahead of me, a boy is stopped as he attempts to explain the validity of his ticket despite his having already used it. As he tries, futilely, the driver takes a quick count of the passengers remaining. Not a good sign indeed, considering my position at the end of the line, but I make it on with one seat to spare. As it turned out, however, my fears were unjustified; my own failure to think “outside the box” led me to assume that the bus would be considered full when all seats were taken, but I had forgotten the seating properties of the aisle down the middle, which became temporary home to some half-dozen transients. My own seating arrangement placed me next to an unintimidating Japanese boy. I was lucky to land such a catch, thought I, musing that maybe I would even get a little decent conversation in on this, the second leg of my trip. My meager hopes were dashed, though, at the same time as my judgment of him as unintimidating was confirmed; he slept, or at least was attempting to, for the entire eight hours he was next to me. The guy didn’t even get up to pee until he reached his stop. Multiple times, his head started slipping toward my shoulder, and I entertained the thought of proving my American hospitality and openness to physical contact with complete strangers, but when he jolted into consciousness and saw my proximity, he swiveled away and, in his endearing manner, again dashed my aspirations against the wall like so much ceramic diningware.
At any rate, he was not the focus of my attention for this stretch. It was, rather, demanded by Small Girls #1 and 2, who sat together in front of me with White Male Interloper. Excluding the possibility of the fastest recorded wooing of an enchildrened woman at a bus station, this cinched the fact that WMI was, if not an actual father, a father figure of some class. The Small Girls talked, one considerably more than the other, about nothing and everything, in that unique Small Girl way. The real conversation starter, however, was when we crossed some bridge or another, spanning some body of water or another, prompting the impromptu singing/chanting of “Deep, deep, deep, deep, waterrrrrr…,” over and over again for, more or less, ever. The SGs did this in unison, repeatedly, long after we passed water of any depth, until the third or fourth time the WMI told them to shut the hell up. At this point, you must understand, I was completely on the side of the SGs, involved in some youthful playfulness of some sort. After being shushed, however, the more talkative of the two (#1) started singing again, “Deep, deep, deep, deep, waterrrrr…,” and the other would join in again. Eventually the mother yelled from down the length of the bus “WHATTA THEY DOIN’ OVER THERE?” and, at a loss for words, the WMI replied “They, eh… er, dem, uhm, che, ke-singing some, deh, ‘deep water’ bullsh-crap!” His eloquence notwithstanding, I was inclined to agree with his exasperation more and more with every passing refrain. Before my very eyes, however, the mother grew as a person and said “Well, they ain’t hurtin’ nobody.” My heart swelled with joy that these rambunctious and obnoxious little shits might escape a physical punishment this time, and my faith in humanity was restored.
Ten minutes later, the mother made it quite clear that her daughter would be introduced repeatedly and at high velocity to a belt. My heart sunk a bit, but then the whole crew got off, and the bus was ever so slightly quieter.
The majority of the luggage belonging to the Asian guy next to me, along with portions of the guy himself, was removed from the aisle, which was the only way to get to the luxurious lavatory aboard our bus. I realized that I sorta had to pee, but as that would require getting out of the seat and undoubtedly waking my companion with the sight of my ass, thereby confirming his already strong belief in my homosexuality, I refrained. As the bus traveled farther north, fewer and fewer passengers were forced to undergo the travesty of sitting with another person, but as my person was unconscious or at least pretending to be, there was no escape for me. “That’s alright,” I thought. “I am an open-minded and comfortable individual, and there is nothing wrong with sharing a seat with a complete stranger when what few passengers remain each get their very own seat, and, in some cases, row.” I may have been lying to myself, but my fear of confrontation won out, and I waited until two stops before mine, when Young Asian magically woke up, gathered his luggage (a large blue rolly suitcase and what appeared to be a Chinese phonebook), and left wordlessly. All of a sudden I was filled with wonderment. Does he even speak English? Why would he need a phonebook in another language, referring, no doubt, to another locale? Why, even if there were a reason, wouldn’t he keep said phonebook in the ample suitcase? Was he REALLy asleep for eight hours in the middle of the day? Was it jet lag? Was he recently arrived? Was he a spy from Communist China? Had great amounts of steganography been employed in the form of a phonebook in order to convey a four-sentence message to agents in northern California? Would I be forever known as the guy who had a chance to prevent the takeover of Humboldt County, who had figured out the whole scheme, but failed to act? Jesus Christ, why a phonebook?
Time passed, as is its wont, and it did so most admirably, involving not only weeks, days, and hours, but neglecting to neglect the minute minutes or seconds as well. Soon I had cause to repeat my travels in reverse direction. It was early when I caught the bus, me and roughly five other lost souls. Company was similarly sparse for the first few hours, allowing me to read most peacefully. Eventually, however, the bus did start to fill, and I found myself in the unenviable position of appearing to be entirely fine with someone sitting next to me while at the same time dissuading any potential sittees. I could only hold them off for so long. We pulled up to a stop downtown somewhere, and taking stock of the new arrivals I noted their predominant Hispanicity. I sighed with resignation, presuming that now, finally, I would be forced to sit with some heavily tattooed and heartily homophobic immigrant who would make me feel like a completely useless human being if he even knew I was capable of reading. I put my book away and braced myself. A few men and women passed me, finding new and delightful methods of squeezing into already-full seats somewhere behind me, and I thought that maybe I had dodged the bullet when a pair of feet came to a halt beside me. I looked up to see… a white kid, early 20’s, a bit of a red nose, pretty strong resemblance to a younger and more reckless Vince Vaughn. He spoke to me in White Guy Facial Body Language, saying “I can sit here, right?” and I replied with some subtle movements to the effect of “Oh, uh yeah, sure, no problem whatsoever, kind sir.” As he swung his skinny white ass down and into the not-quite cushy seat, he said (in English, this time) “Lesser of the evils, eh?” I chuckled before realizing that I didn’t know what sort of sense it was supposed to make. Who or what was the lesser of the evils? Was it as in “Better the unintimidating white guy with a resemblance to Vince Vaughn than the stereotypical gang member sitting next to you?” Or was I the lesser of the evils, with a scrawny nerd-looking kid being preferable to a family of espanophones? Perhaps it was something completely else, but at any rate the lack of verbal context left me adrift for a while, pondering the ramifications of a misinterpretation if there were a quiz or something later on. Gradually I grew to accept my ignorance, and I continued to read. He was reading too, which left no dearth of excuses not to talk, but he managed to instigate some locution here and there. He was reading Jack Kerouac and I was reading a scholarly and researched version of the The Da Vinci Code formula (scientist in normally obscure position discovers meaning beyond his wildest dreams in ancient writing and is caught up in intrigue and violence, and also falls in love with a slightly unlikely female), so when he asked what I was reading, I just showed him the cover, and he nodded with that look that means either “Oh that one, I should have known” or “I couldn’t care less anymore, since I’ve never heard of it,” but of course it always indicates the latter. He asked if it was good. I responded in the castrato voice reserved for the beginnings of sentences which are being produced with the intent of sounding positive and cooperative but which the speaker has no vested interest in (common such beginnings include “Uhm… yeah,” and “Well… you know…”), and I did so in the vague affirmative. He wasted no time in then recommending his book, a recommendation which I took neither to heart nor to any other internal organ.
[The end by necessity. later events included fake-Vince Vaughn and me (though i wasn't really doing anything) getting into a conversation with a native american man, who first boasted that being native american and a medicine man, he could get all sorts of drugs past authorities (showing us the peyote in his case as proof) because whitey didn't wanna even get into that. He ended up inviting a visibily enthusiastic f-VV to a vision gathering of some sort in the desert.]
I don't know what to say
post a comment
I don't know what to do
I don't know how to change the world
to bring myself to you
I don't know how to start
and i don't know how to quit
I've never known the first damn thing
about how to do this shit
And I don't know
I'm not usually
an extracurricular kinda guy
but someone's been putting out flyers
next to tap dance and gospel choirs
and maybe i'm just super tired
but i'd really like to really try.
so i'll just take this little tab
with a scribbled name and phone number
and I swear i'll call when i get home
and see if i can't see what's up
I don't have a car; but I can take a cab.
I don't have a house; but i can find some lumber.
I don't have real nice hair; but I can get a comb.
I don't have that much money; but i'll hold out a cup.
I know i lack a few required
skills and attributes and stuff
but i learn fast, i swear i do,
the motivation's more than enough
I filled out the application
My references are okay too
but nothing i have ever done
would prepare me to join you
I'll just be here waiting
and i hope you find me up to snuff
I'll understand if i don't make it
it would be sensible enough
[A double-long... I read the first half in the first round, and the second in the second. Probably didn't help the whole thing too much. Read for KPP Semi-Finals, Feb 5, 2007.]
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( mm hmmCollapse )
[Remember, these are meant to be spoken, not read. Performed and thereby retired Feb 4, 2007, for the first night of KPP.]
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( Logic is arbitraryCollapse )
( InformationCollapse )
[As I am wont to do, I started this story and never figured out what to do with it.]
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Halfheartedly he evaded the growing puddles, despite having long ago been saturated to capacity with what he still liked to think of as water. Rain hadn’t really been water for a long while; sure, it was MOSTly water, but so was Pepsi, in whatever crowd-pleasing “diet” flavor they were currently hawking.
It was with no small dose of resigned disappointment that he realized he didn’t even know where he was going; most of the bars were closed by now, and those that weren’t wouldn’t welcome him terribly hospitably. He wandered for no reason other than that that was what he did. He was That Guy, the creepy man who never talked, who wouldn’t look at you in the eye, but that’s fine cause damn he’s weird. Even for here, for now, he is weird. He probably had a name, once, before the Upheaval, but at this juncture it has either been forgotten or unspoken long enough that it might as well have been. His mind wandered back to the rain, and if he thought hard enough about it he could feel his body giving up ions to the pounding solution of hydrochloric and sulfuric and nitric acid and God knows what else.
He remembered the old days; most people could, if they cared to, but he remembered them actively and often. Interspersed with inane movies and media frenzies and dumbed-down global politics, there had been every so often warnings: “Study finds fossil fuels will be depleted in 10 years.” “Agency calls for international cooperation in greenhouse gas initiative.” “Iceland goes hydrogen: asks world to follow their lead.”
And then, one day, gas prices were five dollars a gallon, and then the next year, ten. There was the normal hubbub raised, the indignation over the ghastly price of convenience, but OPEC, for once, could not control the price. Oil was going, and it was going fast. Some soccer moms and alert European nations started buying electric or hydrogen vehicles, but it was too late. When it was finally gone, apart from strategic reserves in the hands of governments and the upper class, those who had made the hubbub were still surprised, still indignant, unsure whether to complain on Larry King Jr. Live or jump out a window. The global economy, a well-balanced juggernaut, did not collapse overnight; rather, like an immense castle it imploded slowly, more slowly than one might expect, and it was certainly not completely demolished. But when 1% of the money in the world supports 200 million people, even a partial collapse is devastating, and when the money of the rich is at stake, the rich take action.
Thus the Upheaval.
James wasn’t a violent man, but with things as they were, the Army was the only choice left. He still felt a guilty thrill, being ferried around in a lumbering (but motorized!) personnel carrier, having been taught since childhood the importance of conserving the precious oil. His mother had been a soccer mom on meth; James couldn’t remember when it started, but his childhood was more structured than those of most businessmen, from his highly controlled breakfast (“Most important meal of the day, honey, no room for syrup”) to piano lessons, violin lessons, soccer practice, baseball practice, all the ingredients for the perfectly well-brought-up child. His mother had been affectionate, but only when he did well.
“Honey,” she would say, “I love you, but when you can’t try your best at practice, it doesn’t feel like you love me.”
But he did. Oh, did he ever, and until he was fourteen he spent a good deal of his time attempting to prove it. The spankings, the disapproving, disappointing looks (far worse than any spanking), the sighs of reluctant resignation, they were all worth it when he made a hat trick one game and she hugged him and said she was proud of him, oh God it was so worth it because he loved her to no end.
Kids made fun of him. He called his mom every day at lunch, always had exact change for the payphone. He preferred to study in the library at lunch (“You’re only at school for six hours, honey. The least you could do is something academic all that time! You can goof off on your own time”) and the few invitations he received to various social gatherings were inevitably met with “Sorry, I have to do homework. Maybe next time.”
(“After all,” she had said, “All you have is from the time you get home until you go to sleep. That’s only three hours [after his training in various disciplines outside of school, classical instruments on Monday and Wednesday, sports the rest of the week] to do all your homework, and I can’t imagine you have time for Bobby’s birthday. Couldn’t you do that history project?”
“But,” he said, planning on following it with “It’s not due for three weeks,” and then she looked at him with that face so full of utter disappointment, his failure reflected right back at him, he was nothing, could never amount to anything at this rate, needed to redouble his efforts, needed her to love him and the only way was to
“Ok, mom. I know it’s in my best interest. I think Bobby just invited me ‘cause his mom—”
“I’m sorry, mom. Because his mom made him.”
“Quite likely. Now, there isn’t time to waste. I’ll bring you your dinner when it’s ready.”
Of course she would. She always did, she always extended this one favor to him, couldn’t have a family meal at the dinner table because we didn’t buy this fine oak table just to smear A-1 sauce all over it, God dammit, and surely you can’t be done with your homework alREADy. This favor was the chink in her machinery, the wrench that would immolate the entire web of control, the termites eating through the support rafters.)
Weekends were even more busy, full of practice and lessons and then when James turned ten his mother told him he could choose what instrument and what sport he wanted to pursue. James was scared of this choice, afraid that he would choose wrongly, and implored his mother to choose for him, choose like she had everything else, she was the smart one, she was the worthy one, she was God. But she insisted, and he was in no position to defy her. He thought about it that night, after rereading the optional chapter in his biology book (“Optional doesn’t mean forbidden, James. It will help explain everything else, and if much more of this talk-back happens, you’ll be going to bed at 8:30 again.”). He finally decided on the oboe and lacrosse, suddenly allowing himself to feel a little excitement about this new, different experience that awaited him, no more baseball, no more piano. Or would it be no more soccer, no more violin? Or was he supposed to choose two sports and two instruments? Or would she let him choose which old sport to drop? He was at once quite worried again, and he dreamt nervously, when he did indeed dream.
He should have known. Not that he was complaining, of course; his mother knew what was best, and he was glad, really, to again be powerless. When he approached her tentatively; when he reported, with muted excitement, his choices for new instrument and new sport; when she nodded with acceptance (approval would be too much to hope for) and continued chopping onions; when everything went as normal and the week rolled by and he was taken to piano and to soccer and he realized that his choices augmented the old regimen, replaced nothing but the free time he hadn’t realized he had, and he sighed with a bit of relief, satisfied that he was not the recipient of undeserved mercy.
It didn’t take too long, though, not too long before even his confined and structured and controlled mind rebelled, just a little. And like a concrete bridge expanded by the sun, crumbling by means of a hardly perceptible lengthening, her grip on his life, his grip for her on his own life, burst into a million shards one day as he lay alone, homeworkless and considered existenceless by the one person he needed to love him (“I don’t want to hear one peep from that room until I come get you at 8:30, alright? Do your homework, proofread it, you know the drill.”), and his bonsai mind, unable to understand its new freedom, grew outwards and inwards and around itself and underground and grew unhindered in all directions. And it, unable now to cope with its very existence outside of the small shell which it had occupied for so many years, lashed out with the fury of a mind incapable of distinguishing between it and joy and anger and boredom and fear.
So now he was on a truck, being transferred from boot camp to the Army base near his hometown (which wasn’t all that near, but the best they could do) and was smiling a little, partially because of the wonderful smell of the gasoline fumes, partially because he was mentally stretching out into his new freedom, it having never even occurred to him that the rules and regulations of the Army were a blight to most of the enlisted men, happy to have succeeded in boot camp, hoping that his mom was proud of him but certainly not blaming her if she wasn’t. And he took a deep breath and leaned back a little, letting slack ever so slightly his impeccable posture, and then everything was white.
[What suckers. I would have beaten evan with this were it not for the time penalty. I am amused that people... like what I write and even how I say it. Which is eminently nervously. but here's the good one that I read from the finals. other one stays with me for now, I'm not so much a fan of the public love poems. Although mine was a pretty damn good idea, even if ididn't pull it off spectacularly. Right.]
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I realized the other day…
I don’t know shit.
Actually that’s a lie, I have believed this for many years.
I don’t pretend to have come up with the most sensational philosophy since eating sliced bread
Socrates was first, yeah? What with the… “Y’all know nothing, and I know that, so I know something, ain’t I phat?”
I attempt, however, to be rather more mild, cause Socrates, you know, was a little bit wild
And his approach was just kinda hostile
I don’t want to convince you, I don’t want apostles
I’m just saying that in my mind we cannot know. Everything I think, everything I see, everything is filtered through the filter of me. And I am constructed of so many parts, from euphonious epiphanies to noisome farts, that there can be nothing pure, there can be nothing untouched, there is no virgin material or milkless cereal, my files are corrupted and my worldview destructed because it all must pass through so goddamn much.
So who am I to say what’s what? That radios aren’t magic, or you’re not King Tut?
Now of course, as I say, I can know no thing, so I cannot claim to be sure of myself or anyone else, and I’m not sure that I even exist because Cogito ergo sum just ain’t cutting it.
All that I sense is reduceable to electricity, that’s what they say to me, that nerves and perception are just a connection like batteries to a light bulb and… don’t you see?
It is impossible to know whether we even CAN know, and to think otherwise will tear you apart between “truth” and “lies.”
Of course it’s impossible to just go around saying, “I don’t know nothing,” cause that’s… not so sane. We have to pretend at least that we’re sure of some basic life tenets and that we exist through the minutes and hours and days, that if we don’t eat we will just waste away, and that if you die there may be no cure.
I suppose that walking around and believing is kinda like physics: useful and achieving. But the knowledge of ignorance is the quantum mechanics, where nothing is easy and everyone panics but all in the end is perfectly spoken for, nothing left out, and everything centered. And once this exists there is no need to be mentored because a tenured professor or distinguished scholar knows no more, actually, than a pretty sand dollar.
Well, sure in the reality we’ve let them create, their beliefs and ours combine to invoke an inchoate mess where if I misspoke I might suddenly be wrong, though my mind knows what’s up but it’s just another filter betwixt reality and speech… that I can revoke it later is just proof enough that knowledge is made-up; impossible to teach.
Not that I’m saying that it can be proved; Logically speaking, that would be a bad move, but I think it’s important that I think I understand that nothing is sacred, nothing is concrete, Hermione IS Hagrid and numbers aren’t discrete.
Once this is reached, once I’m aware that there is no inherent difference between margarine and hair, then I will be free.
This is of course only a hypothesis, but at the same time it seems that anything that is true for me must be, at least in any sense of the word that we can take it; even if I fake it it’s no less valid than electromagnetic waves bouncing off your pallid skin and entering my cornea through legions of particles, dust and air and spores and hair and through the iris, input in the macula and sent via optic nerve to the visual cortex, but of course it first passes through the optic radiation.
Oh you’re unfamiliar? Let’s see if that’s something I can cure.
The geniculo-calcerine tract (aka optic radiation) is but a collection of axoms carrying visual information from the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus to the striate cortex, are you getting this?
See, even that could be totally fabricated, spewed forth from my mind, cerebrally masturbated, or maybe I just stole it from the encyclopedia and brought it here to repeat to you, but the fact is that none of it matters, everything’s arbitrary and thus my world shatters. This isn’t a bad thing, or negative at all, it just removes the protective brick wall
Which isn’t so pretty or smooth as it could be but it seems a lot safer than it otherwise would be, exposed to life as it should be; a blank slate just waiting for a painter.
But the motivational speech is for another time.
Cause I’m running out of minutes and I’m running out of rhyme
So although I’d never tell you what to do
I am a militant agnostic
I don’t know. And neither do you.