Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dear nice girl who works at the Safeway checkout counter,

You're beautiful. And the first question I always ask beautiful girls is whether they think they're smarter then they are pretty or prettier than they are smart. It's a stupid game because whenever a girl says she's smart I tell her she must be a genius because she's so pretty. And anytime a girl says she's pretty I tell her that only smart girls will give you such a candid answer. I don't go to the supermarket very often but almost every time I do your glance catches mine and I know I wouldn't be able to play these silly little games with you.

I think you should know that right now I work at a newspaper. It's a small one and I only work three days a week and I'm not that proud of the writing they let me do there, and hell, they don't even pay me but that's where I pull my 10 to 6. I am telling you this because last night I had a dream that you and I met, and we made fun of all the silly people here in this town who pick up the paper to read my articles every morning and load their groceries onto your conveyor belt at the store every evening. Then I asked how the conveyor belt always knows when to stop at just the right moment. And you told me it's on a foot pedal silly. And that's when I realized you were perfect and I told you and you giggled. I told you that we should run away together to the Olympics because my body may have been built for the desert but my spirit is at home surrounded by the white of the ice and snow and your pale skin.

And you asked me what the paper would do while I'm gone. But baby, no one really gets journalism. Because only 10% of it is really worthwhile, the other 90% is to fill the spaces and sell the ads. I'm a ninety percenter and they can deal without me. So next week we'll be on a plane to Torino, Italy bringing you live coverage of the Olympic winter Games and the amazing array of European grocery products that aren't available on Safeway shelves.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

There were exactly 17 cement steps between my front door and short yellow school bus that picked me up at the curb in front of my house every morning. The first four were covered in the same grayish waterproof paint as the fllor of the porch with the wooden chair swing and potted plants. The next five continued halfway down the small hill between my house and the street, to a perpendicular walkway. Turn left on the flat walkway. Go a few feet. Turn 360 degrees and go down the final eight. Turn right and step off the curb. It’s confusing , I know.

The short yellow bus didn’t stop right in front of each of our houses because we were stupid, it was because at that time the city school district had decided to bus kids from one neighborhood to schools all the way across town in in the hopes that they would mix social classes, races and ensure a good education for all. The plan inevitably failed when all the middle class whites moved a few miles down the road to the suburbs, but for four tumultuous years I took the 20 minutes bus ride into the heart of the city to a school where no one was allowed to go outside on the day of the Rodney King verdict for fear of a riot, where if the doors weren’t locked, disgruntled husbands chased their wives into the gym brandishing a kitchen knife, and where you had to carry around everything of value in a fanny pack because anything left in your backpack in the hallway (say a giant stack of your Favorite X-men trading cards) was fair game for 6-10 year old thugs.

It was there I got my first black eye. One day I just had to reach out and touch Dante's hair. Dante was black and I could't resist the curiosuty to see what his hair felt like because, compared to the wavy mop on top of my head it looked really cool. It was on that playgroupd where I learned that sperm don’t magically fly from a dad late at night to the mom’s uterus, a fact that the health book they let us read in class had conveniently left out.

Back then I was bigger for my age and I had some street cred. Atumble down those very same 17 cement steps left me with a cracked baby tooth and my dentist decided to cap the thing with a shiny silver cover. It was just far enough back in the left side of my mouth that you could only see it when I flashed one of my brilliantly wide smiles and I remember crying for hours when my real teeth began to come in and it finally fell out.

I drive by the house raised up on the hill every once in a while. I wonder what the little kid would think of me now. An idiot with a car and a few guitars and a queen size bed and a part-time job at a newspaper. He’d probably marvel at how far I’d come from riding the short bus. But I, of course, know better.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

When it comes to hearts I've never shopped to own. To be clear, I'm not saying I've never loved. But I've certainly never loved completely. In love and in life I've rented to fit my current situation, my lifestyle, my budget, my inclinations. I take a small bedroom in a big house because it's all I can afford and it's all I need. I'll take a small room in your heart too. I'm a left atrium kind of guy. Make me a comfy little nook and I'll settle in, insulate the walls, curl up under my down comforter and make a little home.

The problem with renting is you never learn what it means to be the owner. You never learn what it means to pay the bills and make repairs and get to know the neighbors. At the end of it all it's the owners who can kick me out anytime they like. The ventricles are the prime real estate. They do most of the work and they pull most of the weight. So tonight my ass is out on the cold pavement of the street again. But I don't have any plans to make these empty streets my home. I won't let it happen every night. I won't wake up with a heartache wondering why I spent the night in a Motel 6.

Someday. Someday I'll meet you when I'm sleeping. There won't be a security deposit. I won't want to rent-to-own. I'll open my suitcases right in your living room and you'll realize that I've come to stay. That I'm making every room in your house my home.

Someday that's where it will end. But today is not that day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Three people asked me this week why an aging giant like me who spends a few days a week working at a newspaper, tries to get some kind of education in a couple classes a week and soon must find permanent employment would ever still want to work at the sorority. They always forget who they're talking to. The first question is always, "is it the girls?" Come on now. Dozens of 20 year olds with BMW's and Mercedes and ski challets and altered body parts? Sure in 5 years I'll be thinking back to these days but right now you couldn't throw a rock without hitting one in the head.

It's not the girls, it's not the food, it's not the friends, it's not the cash and it's not ego boost. Until you spend a night with me listening to that Hobart hum while it cleans the dishes inside and inhaling pine sol while mopping floors until they shine, you wouldn't understand. There's a certain peace somewhere in between girlie squeals and pillow fights. It's a little space where busy hands help me hide from all the voices rattling around inside my head.

Great thinkers have always needed a great distraction. Be it Walden Pond or Central Park or the streets of London or the great Indian ocean or the kitchen of the sorority with the sound of the dishwasher humming in the background and my shoes squeaking on the speckled tiled floor.

I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Through the smudged window in the backseat of my mother's old station wagon the golden plains stretched out for miles. A long time ago there were great herds of buffalo grazing on the land before us. But on those days the only forms that broke the heavy line between earth and sky were the oil pumps that sit atop the wells, dipping their own heads slowly to the earth and rearing back up again. It was these beasts who stood a silent, undulating watch over the road to my great grandmother. They were her protectors.

Despite my mother's tales of my great grandmother's astounding life, for as long as I could remember her home was miles away from the city; a small white room in a small alzheimers treatment center in a small town. I don't know if it was hard for her to be there. If she felt any frustration inside it was lost somewhere between thoughts and words. One of my most vivid childhood memories is watching my mother pretend to understand the incoherent babbling of this woman who with many of her basic faculties, had lost the ability to form sounds into words. We would sit with her for hours and it all that time not a single intelligible word could struggled its way to the surface of all the sounds.

Was this really the same woman my mother had told me so much about? The one who had grown up in the highrises of New York City with chauffeurs and chefs; maids and butlers? The same one who had lost both her father and her husband when each one jumped from their office windows in the first few weeks of the great depression? Who helped her mother take their little remaining cash and buy up a few rundown buildings? Who married again to one of her dead husband's best friends, fought off tuberculosis and buried the pains of the old to give herself and her family a new beginning.

I wonder what she might have said to me if any real words had ever passed between us. The sickness stole her words and her memories but I don't' think it ever stole the glimmer in her eyes. Until the last days I remember it.

I don't have much reason to head out across those planes much anymore. But when I do I like to pull over to the side of the road and watch the oil pumps raise their heads and fall again. Out there in the fields was the only message my grandmother could leave for me. The promise that everything which falls will most assuredly rise again. That this is the cycle that was, that is, that always will be.

Old ladies please, don't try to call me out on my shit. I know what I'm doing and I hate on myself enough that I can see whatever you're going to throw at me from a mile away. Don't try to make me look/feel like an ass when I run the stop sign in front of the grocery store.

As soon as you glance at me from 10 feet away while I'm walking towards the entrance I know exactly what you're going to say. I've already played out every single scenario in my head.

"excuse me, did you know that that was a stop sign in front of the store you just drove through?"

Yes, of course I did.


Bitches please.

You're playing me at the checkout counter too.

"How old are you?"

Twenty something.

You're so cute"

I'll tell my mom you said so. And I'm not paying with cash so ringing my coffee ice cream up thee times isn't going to do you much good.

"Good Looking and smart..."

And right at that moment I thought to myself that it really isn't all poetry, windmills and aeroplanes. Then I opened my mouth:

Lady, if I want any more shit from you I'll squeeze your head.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Dear Ladies of 2005,
I don't know how to go about saying this nicely so lets just put it up front: what the fuck? I know you're all a little crazy because of the media and stereotypes and sexism and hormones and your very nature but usually, even through all that, you manage to get to me and put everything in perspective. It's that little sparkle in your eye and by the end I'm usually floored and awe struck and I don't know exactly how you dropped the ball in 05 but you did and I just wanted you to know it.

Sure 04 was a hell of a year and it's hard to compete with that real, fresh off the boat, big city love. I know I work in a sorority but that has never scared you off in the past and plus you know it just makes me better and making you happy because I get how your minds work. I know I live with two girls but they're harmless and insanely frustrating and the combination of the worst parts of you and I need the rest of you to help me escape.

You blew me off in LA when I worked at one of the girliest magazines and even after my trips to Santa Monica, to the Playboy Mansion, to all the hotspots and to the sandy beaches all I found were phonies, hookers and strippers.

Add all that together and here I am, definitely not alone but still empty. I'm rarely scared to be alone so finding myself in this situation is all the more frightening. I blame you, ladies of 05. I blame you for letting a big one slip through your fingers.

Dear Ladies of 2006,
Yes I know it's been too long since I've cut my hair and I'll cut it for you if you want me to. But only if you promise to bring the glimmer back. The one that makes me smile. The one that makes me want to kiss you when you smile. The one that gets me out of bed to battle the early morning cold. The one that keeps me up late at night with candles and words on the screen or printed on a page or written in a notebook. The one that makes me remember what kind if man I want to be.

Be 16 again. Be happy. Be in the moment. Be willing to take a chance. Be willing to look me in the eye. Be ready to throw it all back in my face. It's all up to you. And in the inspirational words of my father, "don't fuck it up."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

If the guy in front of me hadn't decided to brake just after I'd changed lanes on the freeway this evening I would have probably driven to Canada tomorrow. Instead, I will be scrounging through junkyards for a new glass cover to replace my broken headlight.

Why drive to Canada? Well first I've found myself with an unanticipated amount of free time on the schedule. Then there's all the warm coats that I own. I would probably need all of them layered to survive in the cold of the great white north. Then there's also the realization of how much money I could save my grandmother. It was from her house that I was returning after I spent a few hours collecting receipts and filling out the paperwork to get medicare to reimburse the nearly $10 thousand she spent on prescriptions this year when the unfortunate incident occurred. I also realized how many good blogs I read each week that come out of Canada. And of course we can't forget some random socially awkward blogger party hosted by guilty pleasure Paige and Raymi, who I don't link to not because she offends me or because she already gets a ridiculous amount of blog props but because I'm pretty sure she could beat me up in a real-life fight. If you want to know how to get on my blogroll, don't worry about writing well or looking pretty, or linking me, just reassure me that I could whoop you when we drop the gloves.

I assume, in my own naive way, that all my favorite canadian bloggers will be at this party because they all live side-by-side on the same happy little block where they shovel snow together in the morning and go drinking together at night. Even my four separate trips over the border haven't seemed to shake this image, the one of happy people like the mountie on Due South with his white husky named Deifenbaker (as soon as I'm done here I am totally checking netflix for that shit). I loved every place I visited in Canada. Banff was majestically beautiful. Quebec city was a little piece of Europe in America. Vancouver made me wonder how they got the whole city thing so right and we got it so wrong. Then Montreal showed me that America doesn't have a decent strip club in any of the 50 states.

I could go on to talk about our mutual love for hockey and snow and the metric system and whale blubber but I've gotta go order some netflix and write a letter to my insurance company and call a girl I don't like to tell her we can't go out cuz I got in a car accident... though I have a feeling she won't believe me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I'm not a musician but it's hard not to get inspired with a room like this just begging for someone to light the candles in late evening and let their light guide me full speed ahead into the darkest hours of the night.
I've known for a good long time that music isn't my calling but more recently I've learned that it is one of my greatest escapes. Just a few chords strung together and suddenly I'm Harry Houdini sliding off the shackles, picking the locking gliding out of this prison cell.

We're all here. On the blogosphere. All wanting to take the next step. All wanting to make our lives, make our world, make our words something more. But you want to know why no one is taking us seriously? It's because none of are willing to take that next step. Words will only take man so far and the rest is a scary thought because it's blood and sweat and dirt and feelings but we're programmed to hide those feelingz away because they will lead too nothing good. They want to keep us like this. But blogs prove thas they can't keep us appeased with widescreen TV's and SUV's forever. We'll talk and talk and take until we turn red and then blue but stop living our lives the way we live them with all these stupid things and rules and ideas? They're betting we won't. I'm betting we will. But until then all I've got is a hope that burns like candles in the depths of the darkness and a few chords bouncing of the walls of this amazing room that's both my prison and my release.

Monday, January 02, 2006

You can take a quick look at the old friends who spent new years eve by my side and it's pretty clear that different people have different measures of success. We all grew up in this one tame square mile but we've all blazed very different trails. I, for one, thrive on the unknown. They'll tell you that in 2006 there is no far away. That you can be anywhere in the world in under 24 hours if you're so inclined. It's all been mapped and charted, photographed by a satellite and digitzed onto some map for your procrastination and amusement. But until they rip up every last piece of history and replace it with a Walmart, a highrise or a McDonalds I say that's there plenty of far away. There is plenty of exploration, plenty of discovery left.

The measure of a truly successful year here at the truth blog is the unexpected, uncharted unknown. Did something happen I never expected? Did I take a chance, seize an opportunity? It's not about making dreams come true. It's about taking that step out past where dreams can take you to find out what's just beyond even your own brain's reach.

2005 was.. well it was another success and another failure. If you would have told me a year ago what was to happen in 12 months I would have giggled with anticipation. Or maybe I was just giggling a year ago because I was in the middle of my first real love. On paper it's pretty. Jobs, women, love lost and found, Los Angeles and all the new sensations I've found followed by one last shot to make it all right. And then I topped it all off by learning to kite surf.

But somewhere in there I lost something important. The unknown is useless without the fire burning inside. Without the hope that somewhere over the horizon lies something that will make the past pale in comparison. It's what makes the changes interesting. I don't know if it was LA or knowing that I would spend my fall in the same place 2 years in a row (for the first time in 5 years) or if it was love lost or truly accepting that my sports dream was better left just that: a dream. I just remember waking up one morning and not wanting to get out of bed....ever. I've traveled, loved, lost and grown. What could possibly be left?

If new places and faces and smells and feelings have taught me anything it's that the shapes of home makes a man whole. But no man should be whole until at least 50 or 60. So here we go 2006. Another chance to find a few more of the millions of things that are left, undiscovered, unturned, and unfulfilled. Each year is one step closer to home.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So this was my grandfather's legacy, I thought to myself. The wooden cabinets with the sliding doors was filled with countless coin sets. Five sets for each year, all nicely stacked, dusted and placed carefully in their green and black vinyl boxes, almost all of which had the seal of the U.S. Mint stamped firmly upon their lids.

As my cousin slipped the plastic coin containers from their boxes I realized that under his shaggy, pre-teen haircut his eyes were searching for something more than the value of what lay inside. He was searching for a connection to something. To a man who, in his eyes, always seemed a little larger than life. My stomach not I realized that nothing buried in the damp messy basement would bring him any closer but when I realized that I didn't have the heart to tell him so.

So we just continued opening the boxes in silence. Five Sets. One for each of his grandchildren. Wondering how a tough jew from Brooklyn with not a cent to his name survived all the hate and bitterness, making his way though high school and college with only one dream: success. How he managed through a string of years during world war II on a destroyer gliding across the pacific ocean. How he made his way so far from home, across the greatest of planes to the rocky mountains. How he became a slum lord borrowing money and buying up run-down properties. King of trailer parks and old apartments so akin to his childhood haunts. Wondering whether, like our parents promised, his life changed when the five of us entered this world. And how everything in his life from that point after was done not to find the financial success he had so desperately craved but with the intention of make peace with whatever god he hoped was out there and ensuring that his grandchildren would grow up far away from those Brooklyn streets.

Suddenly it hit me. The coin sets meant something. They weren't his legacy, they were his message. He had come from absolutely nothing and made it so far. The coins were a reminder that a lot begins with a little. And they were a sign of hope; I know he had a hope that he hadn't made it so far for himself. He had made it for us. Just imagine what we could accomplish if the same pennies and nickels he had shined shoes for were encased in plastic, waiting stacked neatly in rectangular vinyl boxes behind the cabinet's sliding wooden door. I hope that wherever he is now, the peace he's been searching for found him.