Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Low-angle drifting down a small city street, American, but reminiscent of Europe in a past time, we pass double storeyed buildings standing shoulder to shoulder. They are filled with small shops and cafes and the bustle of a Saturday crowd.

A BUTCHER hangs a ham in his shop window and wipes his hands on his apron.

The sun is shining and it looks like spring.

A cozy old kitchen is laid out with party food – trays of homemade hords d'oevres on the white stone counter. A pretty middle-aged woman known as the HOSTESS rolls dough.

In the living room a handsome middle-aged man known as the HOST polishes crystal lowboys and sets them out on the bar. Then he cuts limes, carefully.

Low-angle, the doggie door on the backdoor swings open and a jaunty, French bulldog, our hero and known as DOG, trots out into the dappled day.

Making a swift left, he trots purposefully around to the front of the house.

He trots out onto the street, makes a right, and heads into town.

Dog trots down Main Street past legs and light posts. A GIRL leans down to pet him. He receives the affection but keeps moving, collar jangling merrily: Dog has somewhere to go.

Dog trots past a YOUNG MAN and an OLD MAN playing checkers and drinking coffee.

Dog disappears around a corner.

The old man double jumps the young man and reaches the far side of the board.

OLD MAN - "Ha! King Me"

His eyes light up. The young Man Kings him.

Dog reappears around the corner, a bigish WHITE PAPER PACKAGE held by the string between his teeth. He holds his head high to keep the package from dragging.

Dog trots past the checker players, past legs and lampposts.

He turns back to the house, returns to the back door and gently drops the package on the stoop.

Then he turns back, panting slightly, and returns the way he came. His toenails CLICK on the sidewalk.

Dog passes the café again and turns the corner. He passes two DOGS tied to a lamppost. They stand up to greet him, but he trots past.

Young Man and Old Man play checkers. A WAITRESS brings them sandwiches.

A furious BARKING as the two dogs tied to the lamppost strain at their leashes. Dog races past them around the corner, another WHITE PAPER PACKAGE swinging from his mouth.

Dog passes the checker players and the BARKING receeds. Dog returns to a trot and goes home, again.

Dog drops the white package down beside the other white package on the stoop and returns to the street.

Hostess slices garlic into paper-thin slivers. Host comes in.

HOST - "Do you need any help?"

Hostess smiles at him.

HOSTESS - "You could set the table."

HOST - "We are eight?"

HOSTESS - "Yes. We’ll need the silver steak knives."

HOST - "Sure."

Host goes over to a wooden silver chest and opens it. He takes the knives out of the velvet.

Dog trots past the café. The checker players have moved on and the table is empty.

Dog turns the corner and trots past the dogs.

He trots up to a shop door, and from his dogs-eye view, we can’t tell what kind of store it is.

The door is closed.

Dog sits by the door, tongue lolling and waits, patiently, blinking in the sun.

The bells jangle on the door and stockinged female legs walk past a big brown bag swinging beside them. But Dog pays no attention, and keeps his gaze fixed on the inside of the shop.

Then a pair of man legs in black trousers walks over and stops in front of dog. A hand reaches down and pats Dog on the head.

MAN - "Good dog."

His other hand reaches down and gives Dog a third WHITE PACKAGE.

Dog takes it carefully between his teeth. And trots away, again.

Dog drops the third package by the other two on the stoop and heads out, again.

A slender old woman, known as SHE GUEST pulls creamy stockings up over her legs.

A slender older man, HE GUEST, ties his tie in the mirror in the same room.

She Guest gets up and goes over to her husband, showing him her bare back in her dress.

SHE GUEST - "Could you do me up, please."

He Guest gently zips up her dress. Then he takes her arm.

HE GUEST - "Ready?"

SHE GUEST - "You bet."

They walk out of the bedroom, arm in arm.

Dog trots up the street again, and passes She Guest and He Guest as they buy a fistful of spring wildflowers at the corner store.

Dog trots past the café, where TWO MEN play cards where the checker players used to sit.

Dog trots around the corner.

The other dogs are gone.

He comes to the shop, and sits by the door, again.

This time we see: it’s the butcher shop.

The butcher looks up and sees the little dog sitting by the door. He smiles, and picks up a final WHITE PACKAGE, smaller than the others.

He comes over, and opens the door.

He bends down, and pats Dog again.

BUTCHER - "Such a nice, good dog."

He gives Dog the package.

Dog takes the final package string between his teeth and trots away, again.

She Guest and He Guest walk up to the house, holding the flowers.

Hostess turns on the gas stove. Host comes in and gives her a tinkling glass garnished with a lime.

HOSTESS - "Thank you."

She takes the drink, and opens the back door and looks down at the three white packages.

She smiles and bends over, picks them up, looks around for Dog, but he’s nowhere to be found. She comes inside.
She opens one of the packages to reveal:

A beautiful marbled steak. She opens the other packages: more steak.

HOSTESS - "Such a good dog."


HOST O.S. "I’ll get it."

Hostess puts the steak into the sizzling pan.

With his little white package, Dog trots into the backyard. He looks at the stoop; the other packages are gone.

Dog trots past the stoop, and out the back gate.

He trots up the flower-carpeted hill behind the house to a shady tree.

He sits in the shade of the tree, the house in full view below him.

He gently pulls the package string with his teeth and the package falls open:
Inside is a little piece of steak for him.

He bites into the and chews, contentedly, and looks out at world around him.
More guests walk up to the house. Dog chews happily.

The sun sets, and the lights of the town blink on one by one.


Thursday, April 20, 2006


"There's been time this whole time. You can't kill time with your heart. Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still" --david foster wallace "forever overhead"

I will come back slowly to settle, to sleep and to rest. Just not yet, I'll linger on the sunset shore of glittering ephemera, one last dinner under the palm trees, one last push of that perfect cock, one last breath of folly, one last dicing roll and then I will come home, come home to sleep and rest and remember. Just not yet. One last ride in the dark prince's black el dorado down dirty streets diamonded with broken glass, one last dawning drive down that famous boulevard until dream becomes a tired word. And then i will come home to seal in the quiet, to draw down the shades to rest, to sleep and to die. But not yet, not just yet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Charming menu items from the Blue Coyote in Palm springs.
"Lechuga Envuelve - Diced chicken with green onions, water chestnuts & seasonings served in cool soothing lettuce cups."
"Chile Rellenos - Your choice of crispy or fluffy cheese chile Rellenos."
cool soothing lettuce cups
crispy or fluffy cheese
what more could you want?

A Real Peach

Friday, April 14, 2006

Input, Output and Mental Boxes

There’s a drawing by a pair of Victorian futurists done in 1899 about what New York would look like in 1999, and in many respects it is accurate – a teeming metropolis with tall buildings crowding the streets and airships crowding the sky. But in two respects it is incorrect and both have to do with the limits of imagination caused by technological boundaries. The skyscrapers all have large bases predicated by the requirements for building in stone and the airships are based on a floating balloon model. The first of these ‘mistakes’ is based on building techniques of the time and was exploded by the introduction of structural steel which enabled architects and engineers to build vertical boxes of almost unlimited height hung with curtain walls of glass. The second mistake was less dependent on a breakthrough of materials, instead a conceptual breakthrough made by the Wright brothers which created the airplane on a bird model instead of a balloon. Both mistakes highlight the conceptual boxes that people fall into in the first instance by what is possible and in the second by what is conceivable.

So where does that leave us? Postmodernism has long evolved by fracturing existing artistic forms and by creating new images based on a collage of old ones. In the era of the digital image and the internet, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when a concrete representation- an image- was hard to come by – Railroad companies sent painters like Moran and Bierdstadt out into the wilderness to paint landscapes of the western wonders of Yellowstone and Yosemite in order to bring back to congress to bolster the argument for creating a national parks system. These days, images of these same natural wonders are replicated endlessly in vacation snapshots and advertisements. It’s a new era of ‘since recorded history’. The era when minutia is now recorded and preserved.

A Flood of technology limited by having something to say. In the old days there was a religious preoccupation the permeated the arts – in a painting ‘Jesus’ was the input and the output included the discovery of linear perspective, illuminated manuscripts, the miniature, expression of the rounded human form. The new preoccupation is with the self and the details and textures of personal experience. The input is ‘me’, the output includes the memoir, the self portrait, where else will it lead?

In any system, there is an attempt to balance the input and output, the concern being that if one were to overpower the other the system ceases to function. In foreign trade the gap between input and output is the deficit. In accounting the gap between cost and gross is the net. In aesthetics, too, there is a kind of ‘culture system’ in particular in our visual ‘age of the image’ where the input is raw material in the form of ideas, images, photographs, and art. The output are the collaged media projects which fill our theaters, billboards, TVs and magazines. Often times these media projects can themselves be original and what people call ‘fresh’ in which case they become inputs themselves. The output then becomes that film’s effect on industry. Sort of a cat chasing its tail situation.

We are at the edge of but the edge of what?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


A collection of quotes from the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s
Primi Decem Anni Jubilee Catalogue. Itself a collection.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology has been described as “incongruity born of the overzealous spirit in the face of unfathomable phenomena”

“…the learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar; guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life”

“In its original sense, the term “museum” meant a spot dedicated to the muses—“a place where man’s mind could attain a mood of aloofness above everyday affairs.”

“As noted by B.J. Jackson in The Moveable Dwelling and How It Came to America, the verb to dwell has a distinct meaning. At one time it meant to hesitate, to linger, to delay as when we say “He is dwelling too long on this insignificant matter.” To dwell, like the verb to abide (from which we derive abode), simply means to pause, to stay put for a length of time; it implies that we will eventually move on.”

“ We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrievability of its moments and events... There is only experience and its decay… --Geoffrey Sonnabend”

“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection –Marcel Proust”

“Ants Viires, the noted Estonian historian, responding in 1975 to Hubble’s view of an ever-expanding cosmos, wrote in his Puud ja inimesed: puude osast Eesti rehvakulturis,

‘…time ravages everything, our person, our experience, our material world. In the end everything will be lost. In the end there is only the darkness... And despite the apparent fullness and richness of our lives there is, deposited at the core of each of us, a seed of this total loss, of this inevitable and ultimate darkness’

Against this flood of darkness, against this inevitable annihilation, certain individuals are called upon to preserve what they can. And those of us who hear and heed this call to hold back for a time some small part of existence from the inevitability of entropic disintegration have come to be known as collectors.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


It was four in the morning. I was nineteen and standing in the kitchen on the curling linoleum, rolling a yo-yo down and up the string. It was the kind that lit up while it was spinning. Elisa was leaned up against the stove staring at the luminous toy.

“Let me try.” She said, and I gave her the string. She’d been my best friend since the beginning of high school and it made me feel lucky. She was sweet and sarcastic and she did this thing with men, she listened and played it cool and curved around them, drawing out their yearning and tucking it around her like a dark blanket and I learned too, drafting off her like trucks do on the freeway, one nosed up right behind the other, sheltered from the rushing air. She could have had any of them, but for some reason always picked ones with a meanness in their hearts.

Little Erica and Val sat drinking bottles of Mickey’s Big Mouth by the window that faced into the alley, and none of us had slept. We were waiting for Big Erica to come with the van so we could go to Mardi Gras, a twenty-four hour haul down into New Orleans. I picked up my camera, an old Cannon with a manual light meter and detachable lenses, and rolled it up in a sweatshirt so it wouldn’t get rattled around on the road. My photography project was due in two weeks, and I was looking for carnival inspiration.

“When we get there, I’m getting a Bloody Mary.” Said Val.

“I’m going to eat a pound of crawfish.” I said.

“I want six pounds.” Said Little E.

“I want six Bloody Marys and a crawfish etouffe.” Elisa said, rolling the yo-yo across the floor.

Then Big E sauntered through the front door, holding the car keys and a hammer.

“Let’s go.” She said and we all got up.

Big Erica was six feet and Little Erica was five ten. Val was close to that with furls of hair curling down her back, and Elisa had a fish tattooed to her shoulder the size of a fist. They were the kind of girls who made bets and bought their own drugs. Bold, beautiful girls, and I was one of them.

When I was with them, I had a sense that I could be always rising, full of the thrum of being young in a world that was glossy. I could throw myself carelessly into the dark crazy places where something small and oddly shaped inside my heart wanted to be, but still be protected from pain. I could learn to be myself without being alone, abandon without being abandoned, and it seemed then, that if we stayed together, we would be safe in all our recklessness. Somewhere inside I knew this was just a story, but I liked it.

We loaded the van for the trip, and by then the sun was up and shining. Little E jammed the cooler in last and Big E popped the hood and hit the starter motor with the hammer. The van stumbled to life behind me as I went back down the alley to lock up the apartment. Inside, the phone was ringing, and I almost didn’t get it but at the last second I did.

“Laura?” It was my mother. She sounded angry and I got nervous and immediately felt bad for being me and doing things that would make her afraid if she knew.

“Carl Lowry is dead.” She said. She said it flat out of nowhere in that bleakest coldest sentence, and then she started to cry.

The words caromed around in my head and I tried to put them in order but they wouldn’t stay down. “What?” I asked like some dumb animal, because it was a beautiful day and we were going to New Orleans and my cousin Carl was not supposed to be dead. I sat on the arm of the pleather couch and looked down at the cracks rivering through it, dirty and aimless.

Carl was scrawny and played bass in saggy brown corduroys, his hair hanging down in strings, and wanted to be a rock star. He was an ivy leaguer who had just gotten out of rehab for heroin, but none of this explains how bright and fierce and tiny he was. At Christmas time, Mom told us about his ‘drug problem’, and got so upset she couldn’t swallow her chicken and went on about him and kids and drugs, and I told her not to worry because I knew about drugs and she didn’t. Besides, he was smart and just like tons of people I knew and nothing bad ever happened to them.

“He came back to New York for the weekend.” She said through the phone. “He went downtown with this girl and they drove by this – I don’t know ‘haunt’, or whatever they call it— and seeing it was too much for him, I guess. He stopped in to get something, and when the girl woke up in the morning, he was blue and dead in the bed, next to her.” They were words that didn’t fit in her mouth, and they came out like stones, ugly and cold. When she was upset, she got mean,

The word stones hit like some familiar forgotten smell on the street, when it yanks you from that place and back into another, with all its brutal sharpness. Carl Lowry is dead hit with charcoal smoke and the smell of sweaty polyester, and my mind yanked. Then it was Carl and me behind his parents’ summer house running for cover during a game of kick-the-can and him playing me in chess even though I didn’t know how, because he was smaller than the others, like me. Him writing ‘smoke dope’ on his lacquered blue skis in liquid silver pen. And the white piano and the cat and the black and white floor tiles in the kitchen of his apartment just up the street from the Dakota Hotel. The images thrashed in disordered neon out from the dark, without grace, because consciousness is only a baby in the world; so when memories try to speak, they can only cry.

Little E honked the horn on the street and I looked out the window at them laughing and smoking in the sun, and it was me alone in there with that terrible black telephone.

“Come on, Peeper” Val cried. She called me Peeper because of my photographs.

My mother heard Val through the phone, and I told her I had planned to go to New Orleans with my friends.

“Go ahead.” She said.


“Go and have a good time. Funerals are lousy, anyway.”

It took forever to understand what she was talking about but then I got it that she meant me going to Carl’s funeral wouldn’t make it better, because he was dead and I should go with my friends, because we were all alive. I got it that she was telling me to go because she loved me.

“Just think about him some time while you’re down there.” She said.

I said okay, and told her not to cry and put down the phone.

“What took you so long?” Asked Big E while she gunned the van down the shattered streets of West Philadelphia. I shrugged and watched Little E rub balm on her lips in the visor mirror.

We drove down through the coal towns and blue ridges. We were driving south, so it got warmer and the red buds on the red-bud trees pushed out into the world, getting fatter by the mile, and it was like each hour was a day flipping forward and we were driving into the future, which we were, only faster than usual. I didn’t say anything about Carl at first, because I didn’t know how. I started drinking in the back of the van and pricked myself with his name and each time it hurt and I wanted it. The black-barked trees were whirring past the window and the redbuds were growing and bursting on the other side of the glass, but it was also Carl kicking-the-can over and over.

Finally, somewhere in Tennessee, Val told a stupid joke, I mean a really terrible stupid joke, and I started to laugh. I laughed and then I didn’t stop.

“It wasn’t that funny.” Said Val.

But I was shaking and laughing about this joke where a clown laughs his head off, he’s laughing, ‘ha ha ha’ and then his head falls off and bonks down onto the floor. “What goes ‘Ha ha ha, Bonk?’ A clown laughing his head off.” I tried to tell her that this joke was that funny, and there came tears streaming out of my eyes. Everyone got quiet then, and looked at me, so I told them about Carl.

Elisa put her hand on my arm, and I fell asleep. I woke up somewhere in Alabama with my head lower than my heart, so my face was flushed and I was dreaming my brains were made of silly-string. They were leaking out of my head and being stuffed back in again by someone I couldn’t see, but who I knew was a true and loyal friend.

Finally we crossed the Pontrachain Bridge and coasted into New Orleans. The air was hot and heavy and smelled like dirty steam. There were people clotting the streets and balconies, and a river of floats streamed up Canal Street. Ribbons and banners flapped on the buildings in purple, green and gold which are supposed to be the colors of justice, faith and power in some order. Partiers in coruscating colors and joker hats drank beer and shouted in the streets, their necks loaded with dozens of strands of sparkling plastic beads. The locals surfed the French iron balconies in frothy dresses and well-worn tails with glasses of mint and bourbon. And there were these religious types darting around the edges, calling for repentance. One was shouting that Mardi Gras was their idea in the first place, which it was. They carried crosses and used all these loaded and epic words like the rapture and smite and hell, but no one was listening and they seemed to me like those little dogs that bark at cars.

“Fuck crawfish etouffe,” said Elisa. “I want a Hurricane.” And we descended into the feeding crowd.

We stayed up all night drinking and dancing to the music that spilled from the bars and clashed in the streets. On the beer-slicked street, we skitched on a fire truck and we flashed out tits for beads, so soon our necks too were loaded. We thronged and surged, until our shoes were covered with beer and black and we could hardly stand. I kissed a coltish-boy-man in the crowd, with eyes like green crystal rocks, and my stomach fish-flopped with the rush of living. But then the crowd shifted and the man-boy and I slipped from each other, off in opposite directions. When I turned to look back, the street was dark and it was the country again with Carl and me running for cover in that game where winning and losing sit glisteningly together in a dented, chancey can.

We slept off the morning in the van, and in the afternoon shreeped around the old city looking for vampires. Big E saw one sleeping under a rock on Prytania Street and pointed him out.

“We’d need a stake.” Said Val.

I took a picture of him, instead. “If that picture doesn’t come out, then we’ll know he’s real.” Said Little E.

“But then it will be too late.” Said Big E.

“Too late for what?” Said Little E, but Big E was already up the street, and didn’t answer.

We wandered on, and I took my photographs. We turned down a cobbled alley and I shot an old mule-driver driving this rattling mule cart towards me, his face slack, eyes glassy like there was nothing for him to look at in this world, at all. Later, a fat red man, dressed like the Pope, leaned out of his balcony and cried, “Show us your tits!” and poured a cheap bottle of Popov down on the half-naked girls below. A group of men holding crosses and wearing sack-cloths that covered their faces picked their way between puke and passed out fraternity boys, trying to get on with what they originally intended, and I shot them all. I took pictures of old madams with painted faces who looked like attic dolls.

In the mossy afternoon, we walked through the Lafayette cemetery, and I stopped and watched as my beautiful girls were walking away from me, linked arm in arm between the stones. An image of retreating girl heads, dappled shining hair and dappled lichen stones. They got farther and farther away and I wanted to run after them because watching them go made my chest hurt, but I stood there and took a picture of them, instead. There were an impossible million of things to see in New Orleans but these were the pictures I took, because Carl did too many drugs and he left me behind. No more chess or running in the dark, I held those memories alone and somehow I was photographing that.

That night, the streets were blocked off with blue wooden police barriers and the people were channeled like salmon. A Cherokee Jeep nosed through them on Chartres Street, the people inside looking out the windows at the crowd, smiling and snug in their rolling fortress. It was a family from Ohio somewhere and the father was playing little-big-man and honked and horned his way into the wasted crowd, which made the girls inside laugh, until the drunks on the street started rocking the Cherokee back and forth and their smiles straightened into grim little lines. Gently at first they rocked, then the crowd swarmed up over the jeep and pounded the windows and heaved the thing back and forth like a boat thrashing in the wake of some God-awful whale. The man at the wheel gunned the jeep but the drunks had picked it up off the ground and were carrying it down the street like a float, wheels spinning uselessly against air.

“Let’s get out of here.” I cried as the salmon surged and the Cherokee lurched towards us.

I jumped the police barrier that was blocking off the main street for a parade. Elisa flew right behind. I was flying towards that open, empty street when a bull-necked cop snatched me out of the air by the throat. I was so startled that I pissed in my pants, an incontestable hot stream runneling down the seams of my jeans. My poor mother. Another cop grabbed Elisa as she flew and they started dragging us across the street. I looked back at the crowd for the others, but they were gone.

Elisa, who didn’t always do things that were the best for her, took a swing at the huge cop who was hauling her off. He threw her to the ground and ripped off her mantle of hard won beads, leaving bruises the shape of little synthetic pearls across her neck. Then my cop was on her and they slammed her into handcuffs, leaving me behind. They pushed her up against their car and I stood there dumbly, pleading.

“She’s good. I promise you, she’s good.” Over and over, smelling like piss and beer. “She’s good.” I cried and pleaded over and over like a lost lamb who only knows one word, baaa.

Finally, the cops got tired of us and my bleating and they let her go. She stepped through the wreckage of her beads and rubbed at her wrists and I figured we’d better get back to the van. When she was twenty-three, Elisa had a schizophrenic break and now walks around on Thorazine every day and sometimes I wonder how something like that gets started.

By the time we found the van, the sky was graying up towards morning, and the others were already there. We decided it was probably a good time to leave. We drove in half-hour shifts because we were each too spent to follow the bewildering yellow line for any longer. We stopped at Graceland and the woman at the gate squinted at us through cat-eyed glasses and told us the place was closed the first Tuesday of every month and acted surprised that everybody doesn’t know that. We walked around the house and Val tried to climb into the graveyard by the kidney-shaped pool, but an alarm went off and the cat-eyed lady came running out of the guard shack and Little E got fed up with us all and drove us the rest of the way home through three different rush hours.

Back at school, it was colorless and foggy, and sad mounds of dirty snow clung to the lampposts and the shadows behind the library. The bruises on Elisa’s neck healed over quickly and the carnival seemed impossibly far away but I still couldn’t stop thinking about Carl. I developed the pictures in the darkroom, but the chemical bath was too cool and the negatives turned out pale and hazy. I used red filters and high contrast paper, but the pictures kept coming out gray and fuzzy, like they were taken through gauze. But the images were there, startling and ghostly, and it seemed that Carl was in them all. He made the mule driver’s eyes look like pupil-less holes and the girls in the cemetery look just like the stones.

I handed in the photographs in an expensive black box made of acid-free fiberboard. I was proud of them for all their grayness, because for the first time I felt I had captured some meaning in images on film. Becky gave me a C. The pictures didn’t have the gloss of studio lighting and the blacks and whites that express technical prowess and the proof that I had arrived. I told her that the images, to me, seemed to be worth something in themselves.

And she said, “To you.”

Becky was a teacher with boxes and categories to check off. She wanted prints that spanned the gradient. She didn’t like gray negatives. Her face was gray. It wasn’t the images, but the prints she was after.

“No one who hires you for a wedding is going to care about your pictures if they can hardly see them.” She said. “I’m sorry.”

“I wasn’t planning on taking wedding pictures.” I told her.

But she still invited me to the year-end party at her apartment. She lived by herself in a walk-up just south of the bridge. She had converted her bathroom into a darkroom with a sink running the full length of one wall. The shower and the toilet were still in there, and I imagined her dressing in the red light, her mornings reduced to faint, but crisp, blacks and whites.

I left the girls at the corner of Twenty-Second and South. “Don’t be long.” Little E cried. “We’ll meet you after at Al’s” and Big E waved. Elisa pulled a leaf out of her hair as they headed out, and I didn’t know it yet, that she would get lost. I didn’t know it then that we wouldn’t always be five and there would be no more drafting, and the links between us were fragile and precious.

I climbed up to Becky’s apartment. We ate apples and a fat white cheese cut into squares on toothpicks and drank jug white wine. We chatted and this guy Jake showed his boring, proficient images of eggs piled up with children’s alphabet blocks, but he looked lovely and reminded me of the colt-boy in New Orleans. Afterwards, Becky showed us a series she did of her cat. In every one, her cat was asleep in the same exact, lazy pose – sprawled on his left side, head resting on his curled paw—whether he was in the window or a wheelbarrow or under the bed, but the blacks and whites struck out of him, sharp and clean as a bar code.

Later, after most of the wine was gone, Becky showed us another set of photographs, pale faded pictures of her twin sister’s death at the hospital. She told us it was when her sister began to die that she started taking real photographs. I looked at her ghostly images and the back of my neck flushed up and I felt like I’d been had. Her pictures and my pictures were really the same thing and she didn’t see it at all.

Becky was maybe a little drunk and went on to tell this story about how she was bringing her sister’s ashes to the memorial services in a suitcase and put it down on the curb to hail a cab when some gutter punk ran by and snatched the case. I got creeped out, and went into the kitchen with a plastic cup holding the last of the warm white wine. I opened the freezer for some ice, and saw her cat in there beside the ice cube trays. He was lying in that exact, photographic pose –striped head on white paw—and I realized that the cat had been dead in all her photographs. I think I looked at that cat for a long time.

“I couldn’t put him in the dirt like that. So I kept him, and I take his picture and it’s almost like he’s here.” Becky said to me from the doorway.

The way she said it was so lonely I though if she could have, she would have kept her sister in there. And maybe Carl’s mother would have liked to put him in that freezer, too. Because to want to preserve something is love.

“He does look like he’s sleeping.” I said, standing there looking at the cat’s stone frozen tail, and it occurred to me that maybe everyone was born heartsick, not just me.


You said on the phone you wanted me to move you. That my writing needed to have a piece of me in it to really move you. A need, an urgency, the pressing compulsion that makes me who I am. A piece of me you didn’t sense in the script I sent you. It was about a man who ran away from the thing he loved most – music – because a member of his band was so displeased with the man and the band, that he killed himself. A story about how misery and lost love makes better art. I am not a man and I am not in a band, but I do believe there was a piece of me in that story, and I would like to move you. So I will tell you about me.

I will tell you what it is about me that moves people to like me, to be extremely loyal, in fact, almost ganglike in their affection and protection of me, because it seems to be the essence of me at the moment. They are like that because I need them to be. I am liked because I need to be liked. And I have figured out how to be liked, because of my need.

To be generally ‘liked’, a wide variety of people are required to like what they see to be ‘you’. To achieve this, you need to realize what makes a given person ‘like’ something and then according their affinities, act in a way that is pleasing to them. Mind you, this goes beyond being polite and attentive, which may seem at first a solid bet --and it is, if you are just trying to get by at the holiday party-- but being innocuous is not the same as being sought out, invited, liked in a deeper sense. What is pleasing to them may not be innocuous or polite at all, and by tapping into their private pleasure you transmit a silent, ‘I get it, man’ signal to them, which pleases them in a deep quiet way and because of you, they don’t feel so alone in the world. Then, they will like you. This works. I’d say I have a 95% success rate in getting people to like me, at least for the amount of time I concentrate on ‘being liked’ by them. It can be exhausting, but it is the only way (other than being extremely good looking. I am fairly good looking which helps, to be sure) to be generally liked by the variety of people you need to have like you, if you have the kind of psychic back-story, which makes being liked a pressing need.

Of course, it is this kind of pressing need, because the way your worldview is structured (a structuring your mind has taken on according to the psychic rewards and punishments contained in your back-story) requires this ‘being liked’ piece of machinery in order to operate. To fucking survive. So the word ‘need’ is actually being used in the truest sense, not in the sense of ‘I need to lose weight’ or ‘I need to quite smoking’ which are just things you know are aesthetically displeasing or unhealthy, but don’t at the moment actually need to do anything about (because you don’t actually do anything about them) unless you are dying of emphysema or coronary occlusion, at which point it is too late to do anything and at which point the need technically becomes a ‘needed to have…’ a past tense true and urgent need without ever having been a present true and urgent need, which poses the question ‘if something never actually existed in the present (tense) can it actually exist in the past (tense)?’ And then we can get into the whole deconstuctionist debate concerning the word ‘actual’ as it is contained in this question and the connection between ‘language’ and ‘reality’, which I will spare you from here, because it’s not that relevant to my need, which is the point of the story. That plus the fact that I feel my handling of the past/present/need/reality discussion above has sufficed to give you the piece of back-story ‘I graduated from a Prestigious University’ which will help you in understanding that my need includes being liked by teachers and parents.

Except that I was a philosophy major and when it dawned on my parents that I was going to be broke for the foreseable future, they were not at all pleased. They were angry. But this will be covered in greater detail in the ‘running away fantasy’ part of this story as the compensatory reaction when the need to be liked is not met.

This back-story, when completed, will ideally explain to you why my being liked is this kind of true, urgent need. It is a drive. I think you called it ‘passion’ on the phone. Of course it will be a sad story. I will call it ‘The Story of Me’. Or maybe just ‘Me’.

“This guy’s life is fucking insane. Just insane.” Somebody just said that outside. Sorry, thought it might be relevant. I saw this singer the other night, playing in the basement of the Middle East in Cambridge, which is a Middle Eastern restaurant, but more importantly has a large basement where Indie rock bands play. Her voice was captivating and ethereal but she kept stopping in the middle of songs, and saying sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry over and over, quiet and fast. The crowd kept telling her they loved her and when she finally felt safe I guess, she relaxed and finished her songs. And I bet they were as beautiful as they were because she was sorry.

Of course, I don’t think I’m some kind of split personality psychopath, which it may sound like I am because of all the above calculations about how to get people to like me. I’m not being snyde or dishonest or disrespectful of them, but I was a henpecked one, a strange one, a teased and picked and stripped one by the pubescent horde as a child, and it was a badness I would rather not repeat. And I do ‘forge real bonds’ with people. I have intimacy issues (I.I.) because my need to be liked makes it difficult to operate after a rejection (from a person I am actively concentrating on to feed my need to be liked, not rejection in the general sense from say a faceless magazine publisher about publishing a story called ‘The Story of Me’ or ‘Me’), and of course the closer the person, the more intimate the person, the more effective the rejection is in debilitating me because my need has grown along with the relationship and could even at this point be classified as the ‘need to be loved’ which I will save for later when I describe the extreme reaction to the need to be loved not being met, and the A.I. (abandonment issues) which have developed because of it, which of course plays into the ‘running away fantasy’ in a really twisted kind of way.

The ‘need to be loved’ subset of the back-story will contain painful little scenes, where ‘I don’t love you’ is told to me in the bluntest of fashions. One with a boy and then two or three with men, I will describe later in all their grim detail. I think the grimmest one was telling the boy I loved him when I was throat deep in the thrum of adolescence, and it didn’t come out that well. It was winter and cold and dark and we were walking to my dorm together. We were talking very seriously about our friend Jack Bent who had dropped out of school and was riding around the country on a Greyhound and sending us these manic letters about all the loons he was meeting on the road. We were worried about him but also secretly jealous of his freedom and we talked with great earnestness and heat, and our arms kept rubbing together and there was that sense of being truly close to someone at that moment and I couldn’t stand it anymore and I blurted out ‘I think I’m in love with you’. He stopped and thought a moment, panicked, I imagine now. Then he said I was infatuated with him, and talked about infatuation versus love as an idea as a way to end the painful interchange, as if I didn’t know the difference. As if my heart wasn’t fucking breaking and I wasn’t feeling like a stupid exposed sniveling vulnerable asshole at that moment, standing in the snow and wishing I could just die right then and spare myself the misery of living with that piece of back-story implanted in my brain forever reminding me that I wasn’t worthy of being loved. That I didn’t even know what it fucking was, that I had it confused with ‘infatuation’ which is something reserved for rock stars and far away idols that this boy was arrogant enough to obviously consider himself in comparison to me. As if love was a ‘concept’ instead of the deepest biggest booming inside the heart of every person who’s ever been born.

Hence the running away fantasy. When you need to be liked, being the object or anger, disapproval or scorn is very uncool on the nervous system, and must be taken care of. The Running Away Fantasy (R.A.F. or F.A.R. backwards for those of you possessed with a palendromic heart) kicks in most often when someone in my immediate surroundings is displeased with me, with or without the right to be so, and there is no place for me to physically or emotionally remove myself to. As a kid I sometimes hid in the closet when these situations came up, which is okay for a kid. As an adult, I have also at several unpleasant parties hidden in closets, which people think is weird. I have learned that physical distance and hiding doesn’t help very much. This is the fantasy part; that you can successfully run away from pain. When I employ the RAF, which is less conspicuous and weird than hiding in closets, I imagine I am free to leave, and that none of the hassles of being broke and lonely and frightened will follow me. There is no need to explain how this fantasy works in the case of uneven love: for those who have felt it will understand perfectly, and for those of whom who haven’t, I submit you are liars.

I will probably also include my emotions concerned with being very close to my mother and then going to boarding school at a tender age. The back-story scene which most poignantly captures this in my mind, even if it’s not the most dramatic, is of my mother and I standing in the parking lot behind the dorm after I had brought my trunks and bags and posters of rock stars inside. We were saying goodbye and didn’t actually say much because we were both trying not to cry and looking around awkwardly. There was an old New England style red barn behind us. The doors were closed and had a single supporting diagonal two-by-four across the door, which was also painted red. I remember looking at it and noticing that there weren’t the usual two two-by-fours forming an ex and painted white like classic New England barn doors have. There was just one diagonal two-by-four on each door, and it was painted red. The asphalt was cracked and very gray. I hugged her, and she hugged me and we hugged and I remember it being a short hug. Not very hard. The kind of hug you give someone you don’t know that well or don’t really feel like hugging, or the hug you give someone who is already gone.

I will not include men I have left because they are dull or boring or don’t otherwise interest me, because in those cases it is me changing the focus of my need, rather than my need being denied head on. It’s me wanting then having and losing interest, a method of intimacy, which in itself is probably related to the back-story of the unloving boys and men and the development of I.I. as a counterpoint and way to shield the need from this kind of rejection. And I will not include my present and longtime lover, because we are hiding out in the same cave, mutually and ganglike protecting each other on a level, which has already reached into the soft belly behind the I.I.’s protective dragonish scales. I will not include him, because we are still in the cave, and I like it there.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I was telling you about what happens when I ‘forge real bonds’ with people, in relationship to this need to be liked and all the maneuverings I described above (so you won’t think I’m a psychopath). There are people who like a way of being that is quite natural for me, a way of being which isn’t tiring at all, a way of being which I like to be, I feel good being. There are people who tap into my private pleasure and transmit a silent, private ‘I get it, man’ signal to me, which pleases me in a deep quiet way and I transmit it back and underneath the skin of the visible world we are tap-tapping back and forth ‘I get it man’… ‘did you catch that?’… ‘sure did’… a morse code pulsing under there like shared blood and because of them, I don’t feel so alone in the world. I am happy when I am around them, I got through great lengths to keep in touch with them and to be good to them and listen to them and connect with them and nurture them, as they do me. I believe in them. They are my friends and they like me freely.

My friends. My eyes are tearing up even now thinking about them. I am thinking about Jessica in Texas who I will call this afternoon. She has these big blue eyes, flecked with gold that really look at you when you’re talking. Her look is bold, Bling!Bling!, but at the same time she is extremely tenderhearded, and sensitive. She’s this person who sits with the darkness, lives with the shades of doubt and fear and lostness, and right in front of them, she steps into the light. Light yellow light is the kind she likes. And in those times, when she steps to the light, she is light. I want to drive to Texas right now even to see her. I will call her today! Hooray! I am back in her good graces. Once I kissed her brother in a frat house basement sticky with beer and puke and asked him about something that Jessica told me as an absolute swear-to-god secret. It was a disturbing secret, which I can’t tell you for reasons relating to my need, which will become obvious when I illustrate this piece of the back-story. I was trashed and kissed him and then her swear-to-god secret just fell out of my mouth. As soon as I heard it in the air I tried to take it back, and started crying, gulping air, hysterical to take it back. I ran back to the dorm, hysterical in that trashed college kid kind of way. My mascara would have been running if I had been wearing any. Busy being hysterical, I lost my keys and had to climb through my friend Big Erica’s window to get into the dorm. After that, there was a huge terrible mess concerning Jessica and anorexia and serious depression and dropping out of school, during the course of which she decided me telling her brother her honest-to-god secret was extremely displeasing, and she withdrew her friendship from me and didn’t speak to me for two years. An unforeseen but obviously sensed consequence of telling the honest-to-god secret. Hence the hysteria. The need was extremely displeased.

I will conclude the story with a meta paragraph to wrap things up, arguing that while I.I. (intimacy issues), A.I. (abandonment issues) and the ‘running away fantasy’ (F.A.R.) are all very human, very universal and very comprehensible coping strategies when the need to be liked is not met, yet their unique combination in my soul, as created by my own personal backstory (the keys of which I have furnished for you) could be nothing other than the piece of me, the need, drive and passion you were looking for.

By then, you will have noticed there have been multiple music references in this story about me and my need. I will title it ‘The Story of Me’ or ‘A Story About Me’ or maybe just ‘Me’, I haven’t decided, yet. I have included these music references so you will be able to see the connection between my ‘need’, a piece of me, not only in terms of the character’s ‘inner drive’, but also in terms of the physical reality (the music world) in which I chose to set the piece. Also, after reading this story you will realize the heartwarming ending where the man goes back to playing music after realizing that ‘running away’ is a fantasy, an illusion, is deeply involved with my need and the coping strategy of the ‘running away fantasy’ I employ when my need to be liked is not met. The other fantasy in play in the story is that after realizing the futility of the running away fantasy, the man gets over it, which hasn’t happened to me yet, even though I’d like it a lot.

And of course, in telling you about me, you will realize I am trying subtly to influence you to change your opinion about whether or not this script has a piece of me in it. Which it needs to have for you to be moved. Which you would very much like. My attempt to influence you probably won’t be successful, but I want it to be because I want you to be moved, because you would like to be moved. The script is not me, however, so I do not need you to be moved, be pleased and therefore like the thing that moved you. So don’t worry if you don’t change your mind, I won’t freak out or anything.

There are many other sad little stories related to my need to be liked, which I won’t get into at this moment, because I think you get the idea. I believe I could even cast my whole sad life in this light were I to really think about it. I say hello to doormen and smile at sales clerks. I am helpful. I agree. I keep quiet. And don’t imagine because I can talk about it as a response to a ‘need’ I recognize in myself, that it is not sincere. Everything I do to be liked is sincere because I would die to be liked. I do agree, I am happy to keep quiet, I am helpful. I like smiling and being smiled at, because it matters. Even you like me. You’re a busy man. You agreed to read my script, and you did it, and then you told me how you really felt about it, even though you didn’t have to. You’d help me send it out, vouch for me, even though you gave me advice about the flaw in the script (not having a piece of me in it) because you said you didn’t want me to get hurt. And you mean it. Because you like me. And now you know why.

Another possible back-story: I am twenty-eight. I have been out of college for six years. I’ve had three jobs. Two of my bosses are now dead. One from leukemia, the other from living the high life of a wealthy Chelsea fag, or maybe a bad heart, no one ever gave me the details, except that he was far too young to die. My sister’s godmother jumped off a building. Her husband is a prep; pink and green and alligators and all that. My godbrother offed himself with a speedball. My father is the godfather of a girl whose father, whose last name was ‘Slaughter’, shot himself in the head after getting laid off from a prestigious financial institution.

In high school, I was in a band and the stoner-boy-genius base player of the band that was better than ours started seeing double one day, and the next day he was dead on the table with a brain tumor at seventeen. And my friend Peter, beautiful Pete, took himself out with a shotgun in a fit of teenage rage over his second DWI, while my neighbor’s son drove into a tree blind drunk at eighty miles an hour. Another neighbor’s husband died from septic shock after a routine gall bladder operation, because they sliced through his colon without realizing it, and his own literal shit leaked into his blood and poisoned him.

When I was second grade, the whole elementary school gathered in the yard for a memorial for this kid Billy Lambkin, who had graduated to junior high the year before. They planted a little tree and put this little gray granite plaque beside it in front of the school and then Mr. Mac, got up to deliver a eulogy type thing but started weeping instead. I was confused. I was seven. And then somebody told me what was going on. Two bully kids had been teasing Billy in the junior high after gym class. They threw one of his socks up onto the lockers and Billy climbed up there to get it. But then, somehow the entire row of lockers tipped over and fell down on top of him, crushing him to death. I mean Jesus, what a terrible story. To die for socks or shit or sorrow. They are all terrible stories. And none of them even include old age or murder and terror and war. Why is it all so precarious? And what are we supposed to make of it in the meantime?

Hazy Haikus

Fluorescent rabbit
Nibbling stained-glass colored grass
Blue gene alchemy

At a London Pub
I’ve polluted the Boodles
Splash of memories

manhattan stomach flue

I puked:
At the Beauty Bar
At the Harvard Club
On the street at 3rd Ave and 15th
On the street by Gramercy Park
In a trash can on Park Ave in the twenties.

In reminded me of stomach flue in Amsterdam where I puked
At a house party by one of the Canals
In My Hotel Room
At the Airport

The details fade but the memory of puking remains