Friday, December 23, 2005

Freedom? Yeah Right!

Did you out-of-staters know that here in Washington State, voters have voted to ban indoor smoking, making our granolafied state the most intolerant state in the union towards smokers? This new law means that puffers can not smoke in bars or coffee shops and not only that, but must be at least twenty five feet from a door. In other words, in the middle of the street, dodging those smog farting SUVs.

I realize smokers aren't the most popular demographic out there but it isn't really the smoking part that gets me about this law, though I am crushed that I'll no longer be able to spend late nights at the Horse Shoe Cafe drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. No, I'm more shocked that voters feel they can tell business owners how to run their own shop. How un-American can we get!

On today's front page in the Bellingham Herald, there is an article about one business owner who refuses to have his rights taken away. Abel Jordan, the owner of Casa Que Pasa, a popular tequila bar and burrito joint here in town, is allowing smoking at his restaurant. He says he looks forward to fighting his one hundred dollar ticket in court. He says about his restaurant: "Ultimately, it's private property, if you don't want to come into my smoking bar, don't come in."

People making their own choices? My God, what a concept. Do you think we are capable of such a feat, Washingtonians? God bless you, Mr. Jordan. Tell me when and where and I'll be there with my flaming torch and pitch fork.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Outside My Kitchen Window

I peak behind the curtins here in my kitchen, beside my computer table, to see what the weather is like. It is cloudy with the threat of a cold rain. Below me, in the middle of the yard, is my landlord. His wang is hanging out of the open zipper of his buttoned trousers. He's taking a piss. His hands are on his hips.

I guess when your eighty you just don't care anymore!

Have Fun Having Gas

There is this man who works at the convenience store a few blocks from here whose head wobbles on his neck like a bobble head doll. His name is Jason and the store is called the Smart Stop. Everything you can possibly buy at that store will lead to a premature death. Beer, wine, candy, chips, The Bomb beef burrito--a favorite of mine.

In high school, the skateboarders and the pot heads would hang out in the Taco Bell parking lot, laughing and talking while lettuce and tomato would fall from their mouths onto the pavement. Here in Bellingham, the homeless alcoholics hang out at the smart stop. Skateboarding and tacos. I don’t see an obvious connection between the two. A store that devotes an entire wall to the storage of alcoholics beverages such as the Smart Stop and the congregation of alcoholics is a bit easier to understand.

I don’t know Jason. I have never approached him at the counter after laying down a pecan pie and a Steel Reserve and said, “Hey Jason. Good Evening. What did you think about that bill congress pushed through?” I only know his name is Jason because someone told me it was in conversation about the funny rubbery guy down at the Smart Stop.

His sweaters have holes in them. A lot of holes. He has a beard that looks like it is less about style and more about not wanting to shave. He is probably in his mid thirties though his age is difficult to discern. Could be twenty eight, could be forty. He says Hi-Di-Ho as a greeting to costumers as they walk through the door, triggering that HING-HUM bell. And when he speaks, his body starts waving like a gelatin cornstalk in a windstorm. Maybe I think of cornstalks because he reminds me so much of the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Yes, now that I think of it, he is the scarecrow!

The only reason I bring up the alcoholics is because I think they hang out at the Smart Stop not only because it is a beer paradise, but because Jason talks to them and listens to them. Maybe he is one of them. I don’t know. But during his shift there is always a tin of altoids open on the counter, free for the taking.

Jessi and I stopped in for a pack of smokes the other night and were greeted by a bendy Jason, “Helloooo there.” In front of us in line, a woman paid for twenty dollars on pump three. When she was walking out the door, (HING-HUM) he called out to her, “Have fun having gas!” He mouthed the word “wow” silently to himself after the door swung shut, looked at us, and then began to chuckle and sway. He has the best attitude I have ever seen in a convenience store clerk.

“Marlboro lights!“ repeating my order back to me while smacking the pack down on the counter next to the mints. His head was drifting backwards towards the wall made of cigarette packs behind him, while his arms were reaching forward, towards the register. He reminded me of a swirling spiral galaxy. “One book or two?” referring to the books of matches he gives away like candy. Two, I said. Always get two. Jessi and I left the store. Past the bums huddled under Jason’s window, swigging malt liquor out of paper bags in December. They looked cozy. We laughed about the gas joke. I kind of wanted to hug Jason.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Golden Messenger of the Night

The image in the header of my blog comes from a dream I had a few years back. In the dream, which was set in the distant future, the world's population had dropped dramatically and the landscape had become wild once again. The majority of the population lived rurally as farmers and homesteaders. I was a character who lived in a small but comfortable shack similar to the one in the picture. The main road, more of a dirt path, ran through my property and I exchanged goods with travelers going to and from the capital. It was a very colorful and vivid dream and I remember stepping off my front porch into the bright sunshine and looking out over my property covered in wheat and wild grasses and having a feeling of complete peace.

Though the world population had dwindled and we lived a homier existence of quite country life, technology had advanced to the point of invisibility. For instance, I remember taking a shower in my dream, walking into my field, under a tiny rain cloud that formed directly over my head. Humanity had conquered the weather, allowing us to manipulate it with as much ease as turning the hot water knob in today's bathrooms. My shower was very much like the shower the woman in the image is taking.

As I was dressing out of doors, drying in the sun, a man on a golden speeder (similar in design to the ones from the chase scene through the forested moon of Endeur, in Return of the Jedi) crested the rolling hills and then flew over the dirt path kicking up dust, then suddenly was near me. He looked tired and thirsty from, what he told me, was a journey from the capital city. I invited him in to tell me news from the city over a refreshing drink. Inside, he told me the news of a princely man who was doing miraculous things in the city and rising in the political ranks. It was believed that he was the holy one prophesied to return. My heart leapt at this news and the messenger and I were both fidgety with excitement. Though the times in my own kingdom were quite and peaceful, there was still unrest and darkness in the foreign regions of the world. The prince would bring about a final peace. The messenger had come to request my allegiance; the prince had work for me to do.

I felt a great joy in this news and packed my things for the journey to the capital. The messiah had come back at last!

I don't know if it is bad luck to share such dreams or not, but that dream has stuck with me and given me a lot of hope. I have closed my eyes and seen those wheat fields countless times since the dream. I put it on my blog as a reminder to myself of the hopeful times ahead so that I might not waste away ranting and raving but hopefully create a space like my dream farm. Perhaps plant a seed that will blossom into a message of joy. I really do see good things in our future and a return of the messiah.

Dreams. Are they purely personal? Unconscious desires of the ego Or do they allow an individual to peek outside of himself into something bigger? I believe it is the second.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blaghhhhr

Inspired by Malerie's blog, here is my own lists of seven:

Seven Things I’d like to do before I die (in no particular order)

1. Sail over the sea
2. Walk in space
3. Publish a piece of writing
4. Have a family
5. Build a rocking chair
6. Ride in a hot air balloon
7. Shoot a round of golf under par

Seven creatures that I'd like to be for a day

1. A cat
2. A shark
3. A hawk
4. A woman
5. An Android
6. A mathmatician
7. A microbe

Rebirth

I just took a hatchet to my Television antenna in hopes of reclaiming my mind. It is going to be a difficult road to revovery, especially since I have decided to quit smoking today. A contemplative life and clean lungs. How will I survive?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Elimadate

Four girls. One guy. Let's get this party started!

Round One:

Man takes four girls out to the park to talk.
“Tell me the craziest thing you’ve ever done,” the standard dialogue in every episode. Three of the four girls will say something along the lines of, I made out with my girlfriend and I was naked. Three way action baby, yeah. I’m a wild girl and I love to have fun! There is always one girl that is the odd one out. The Christian farm girl who refuses to strip in the park. Oh my gawd, like, what a loser. Your cut!

Round Two:

Things really get hot now. The sun is down and our contestants have changed into their clubbing uniforms. The talking section is over, show us what you’ve got, baby. The three girls left are wild girls but of varying degrees. Two are willing to dry hump on the dance floor, one is only willing to slobber on the guys face. Sorry Girl friend, if you ain’t willing to go all the way then ain‘t getting to round three.

Round three:

Everyone is good and sauced now. Drunken slurs galore. The two mega-sluts now battle it out to prove which one is the bigger whore. Look mom and dad, I am giving a perfect stranger a lap dance on television.

The Final Cut:

Jane, Susan, both of you are fine girls, and I really wish I could take both of you back to my hotel and make hot wild whoopee to you both at the same time, but the rules state that I have to cut one of you, so--Susan, I’m going to have to eliminate you. You gave me a hickey and a boner, but I am pretty sure Jane will give me a hot STD. See ya Susan.

Man and woman grope and lick in front of camera not knowing a single thing about each other, other than that they are both wild, young, hotties.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Big Ad

The commercials out these days are more entertaining than the regular programing. This ad is no exception. It is Bloody huge, and freaking awsome!

Big Ad

Milk Duds Please

I've already bought my ticket for the opening of Narnia. I learned my lesson after Star Wars III and The Return of the King--when all those fantasy nerds were lined up around the block and I had to sit in the front row with my neck bent at a nearly lethal angle. We'll get there early this time...dressed as the Beavers.

I have loved the Chronicles of Narnia since I was a boy and fell in love with the stories again when I read them a few years ago. That there might be another world behind a closet door, or in a nautical painting, or even in the very air around a train station has been an idea that's kept me dreaming. How many hours have I spent at the edge of the world, where the sea ends and the light of Aslan's country shines bright--at work or school or in the middle of a conversation? Narnia is a place I can visit when ever I want. I just have to let my mind wander. And in that sense, Lewis really has created for millions, a refuge--a wood between worlds.

Now Narnia is the hot topic. It is everywhere posters, advertisements, articles, bookstores. Part of me says, great! A whole new generation introduced to an enchanting fantasy. But another part of me is jealous, wants to hold on to the story for myself. That is the snob in me. But it goes beyond snobbery. I fear that Narnia will just become politicized like everything else. Just like my faith. And there are signs that it already is.

Today, in USA Today, accompanying the cover story, is a big picture of Aslan in CGI with the caption, The King of Kings? I had to buy it. I read that an organization for the separation of church and state is up in arms because Jeb Bush put The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe on a state sponsored book list. While the Evangelicals are encouraging their congregations to flood the theaters and tell their children that Aslan is Christ. And while those two camps of boring people war with each other, advertisers and businesses are licking their lips, bringing in the green backs.

The theater has always been my refuge--a place where I can go see my favorite stories come to life, where I can sit in the dark eating greasy pop corn and escape reality for a few hours, allowing the world to melt away, fully immersed in fantasy. There is also a social aspect to the theater that isn’t part of the reading process. It is a place where you can share a fictional world with a group of people in real time--where everyone is on the same wave length; alone and together at once.

The groups of people that I do not want to share my refuge with are evangelicals on a mission to convert and left wing intellectuals who deconstruct the movie out loud. I went and saw the Passion of the Christ and hated it. Not because it was a bad movie but because I felt like I was at church. I do not want to hear "halleluiah" when I am at the cinema. I do not want to receive bible tracks or green peace bumper stickers when I am standing in the ticket line. I just want to be left alone with my fellow nerds while eating milk duds. That's it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weather Channel

Someone needs to step up and challenge the Weather Channel's power. I have been in love with the Weather Channel since it came out years ago. It's like a holy shrine to the weather gods. My main complaint with their site, which I have been visiting every two minutes since the weather turned cold this week, is that it has been taken over by advertisements. And not just annoying pop up adds, but adds that are impossible to click out of. Tinker Bell darting back and forth over my screen, explosions of confetti raining down all over the web page, covering up the radar map--these are just frustrating enough for me to revert to more primative methods of checking the weather, such as walking outside and looking up.

Extra Extra! Read All About It!

If you get a chance, go out and buy this weeks edition of New Scientist magazine (Nov. 26-Dec. 2 2005) and take a gander at the cover story. In it, the author suggest that we will probably not find E.T. searching the physical universe for radio signals but we might find them in the "computational universe"--all the possible computer algorithms that exist.

Am I wrong or has New Scientist let the possiblitity of intelligent design slip through the editors? The following has kept me up at night thinking.

Talking about the complexity of alien signals, Marcus Chown writes:

"...one possible way to search for extraterrestrial intelligence is to look for artificial structures, such as giant triangles orbiting stars. These objects might simply be alien artefacts or a way for ET to communicate across vast tracts of the Milky Way.

[Luc]Arnold's idea is based on the fact that astronomers can already detect planets orbiting nearby stars if they happen to pass in front of their parent star, temporarily dimming its brightness. His work shows that you could distinguish the dimming caused by a strangly shaped object from that resulting from a passing planet, in much the same way that it is easy to spot the difference between objects we have built and natural phenomena--buses and trees, for example. That's becuase nature's artefacts are always more complex than our own. But Wolfram believes this will change in the future as we become more intelligent. 'All artefacts will be as complicated, if not more, than natures's.'

And that is bad news for SETI. The complex artefacts made by an advanced civilisation would be worlds apart from the simple, giant triangles Arnold envisages. In fact, they could look very much like natural objects. Which poses a remarkable question: are the stars extraterrestrial artefacts? 'They could have been built for a purpose,' says Wolfram. 'It's extremely difficult to rule it out.'" (Page 32)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How Do I Write Beauty

Outside my kitchen window, last nights snow is melting in the gutters creating a song of water drips and gurgles I can barely hear over my music playing here on my desk: Dark Side of the Moon, Time. The sun is fading behind the clouds blowing in from the southwest; Clouds that will eventually run into the cold front flowing in from Canada--no passport required.

I've been neglecting my blog lately. I am trying to remedy that. I was sitting here in this swivel chair--in front of my open electric stove, the kitchen doors shut, locking the heat in--trying to think about something to write about. It is so easy to write about things when they are going shitty. It is much harder to write when things are going good. Beauty is hard to define; ugliness much easier.

I could write opinions about my freedom as a smoker being taken away by the voters of Washington State. I can muse about a girl's style who walked to school today in the !snow! wearing a butt revealing mini skirt with a stocking cap on her head and snow boots over her calves. I could write about finding God or defining God. About the University and what a peculiar institution it is. I can write about war, violence, and corporate take over. About feminist and how as a tall, white, Christian, male, I belong to the most hated demographic on the planet. How I am privileged to be in such a demographic and then drown my audience in unadulterated pleasure in my own white guilt. I can write about lost loves and failed opportunities. About single moments or the big picture. I can spill my guts like a patient on a leather couch in a psychiatrist office. Politics, religion, race, sex, drugs, rock and roll, oppression, money, ideals, jokes.

What I don't know how to write about is my own contentness. When I write about the world as an oppressive force against me, the boundaries are clear. It isn't writing, it is tracing. It is entirely different writing about beauty. It is the difference between Creating and Disassembling. Creation. That is difficult. That is a challenge. That is poetry.

"Everything is in tune, and the Sun is Eclipsed by the Moon." --Pink Floyd

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Here's the game. Introduce 10 quirks or idiosyncrasies of yours on your blog,following which you are free to pick five more people to do the same thing."

1. When I do clean the house, I don’t just clean it, I sterilize it. If there is a crumb on the counter or a pube under the toilet, the house is NOT clean.

2. When I am out at a restaurant, especially a Mexican restaurant serving chips and salsa, It is almost impossible for me to stop eating until everything in front of me is consumed and I want to puke.

3. I drink coffee during the day, and wine at night.

4. I hate talking on the telephone.

5. When people say supposeBly instead of supposedly, I cringe.

6. I brush my teeth and gargle about 6 to 8 times a day.

7. I blush easily.

8. I like my steak medium rare. My mom, when I was growing up, would broil steak ‘till it was as tuff as leather. Yuck.

9. From December to March, my favorite channel is, The Weather Channel.

10. I break my eggs on the large end.

I don't have any friends, so anyone who wants to do this, feel free. Jessi, Micheal,Becky.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Modern Mythologies

Last night I watched the Black Cauldron, a great Disney movie. It had all the old characters we've grown so accustomed to in Western culture. The wise wizard, the young apprentice who has to find his warrior strength to battle the dark lord boss who is holding the princess and the fate of humanity in his high tower. Along the way there were fairies and barbarians, Castles and country sides, swords and spells. Hey this character is Luke Skywalker, and there is Gollum, I thought while shoving garlic butter bread sticks in my mouth--archetypal characters.

I wonder what a modern mythology would look like. I don't mean replacing the dark lord with a corporate CEO, or changing the castles to skyscrapers, or the princess to a depressed emo punk, but I mean a new story all together. Would we even recognize such a story if we came into contact with it?

Is the love story, the warriors story, the Good vs. Evil Story, the coming of age story, are they hardwired in us? Perhaps a brand spanking new story would be incomprehensible to us. Will we scoff at it, brushing it off as modern art?

If we are on the cusp of changing as organisms from Homo Sapien to Homo Digitalis, then surly our stories will change as well. And that is what is really exciting, the language, the stories we'll tell in the future!

It really bothers me when people poo-poo ideas because of buzz words in the language of the idea. When people turn off their brain when the word alien or cyborg is spoken. Those words are just sketches, man. The quick sporadic pencil lines beneath the Mona Lisa. We will come up with new words. We are trying to describe now what is not yet possible to imagine. "That is just science fiction!" they say, "quit living in fantasy!"; But science fiction is a bridge between the old mythologies and the new. Science fiction is just one way of speculating about the stuff awaiting us around the bend in the timeline.

Or the religious who reject such ideas because such ideas aren't found in the book of Revelation--they frustrate me to no end. Don't go there Matt, if God would have meant us to fly he would have given us wings. A church member smirking, rolling their eyes because they know the Bible doesn't mention space men or cloning. Don't stray too far from the faith, they'll say. I don’t think there are any limits on the imagination while living a life in Christ. He didn't give us wings but he did give us a burning curiosity and an almost uncontrollable imagination, the tools used to lift us off the ground.

God laughs at earthly wisdom, I've been told. I seriously doubt it! I think God is up there in the clouds looking down, tapping his foot, drinking a glass of wine while bobbing his head to the rythm of the harps and horns--the angelic jazz, "Yes, Yes!" His voice rings, getting higher and higher, almost in song. “They've finally turned over that stone after all these millennium, eh? Good for them, I can't wait till they find the next surprise." says God.


(Dad, this is not about you, our conversation just got me thinking. You are one of the wise ones!)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Not All Galaxians Are Created Equal--For Good Reason

Against too many writers of science fiction

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?

CS Lewis

Yes. Yes. Lewis, thank you for keeping me endlessly fascinated. After I read this, I got to thinking: Why should extra terrestrials be anything like us? As creatures from an alien world with vastly different environmental condition, is it even possible for them to be similar enough to us that we could relate to them? What exactly are humans? So with the real possibility of boring my audience, I’d like to explore my thoughts on these questions.

Let me start with the assumption that humans have two main parts, spirit and body. This is not a particularly obvious fact and doesn’t fit the materialist world view, but I am not a materialist.

These two parts, spirit (or mind) and body, produce different byproducts. The body is nourished with food and water and oxygen. It is a factory that consumes raw material and turns it into energy. Without energy our bodies eventually break down and die. The byproduct of the body then is energetic: mobility and sensory. The spirit likewise produces byproducts; mind states that are emotional in nature. The healthy spirit produces happiness and love; the unhealthy spirit dies in despair and hate. So these two substances, spirit and body, produce very different byproducts; byproducts of a fundamentally different nature. But they also work together. Healthy spirits produce healthy bodies and vis-versa.

So we have two substances, and they interact with each other, but what interacts with them? Is there anything else besides mind and body? The physical environment interacts with the body which in turn shapes the spirit. This is evolution--the physical part anyway--nature. But there is also nurture; the interaction between individual spirits, people talking, loving, voting, collaborating, etc. The most popular belief is that there is a little bit of nature and nurture mechanisms acting upon the spirit-body machine. As far as evolutionist and the materialist are concerned however, the environment, nature, natural selection is the main mechanism driving evolution on this planet.

If nature is the main mechanism then we can expect extraterrestrials from vastly different environments to look and behave very different from us. They may be larger or smaller, have more limbs or less limbs, a heart or no heart…a completely different physiology from our own. A creature living on a gas giant will evolve very different bodies from our own, having different demands for mobility and sensory perception. How then will those bodies shape the spirit if in fact aliens do have spirits.

For me, nature is important, but not the most important. Whether scientifically supported or not, the spirit is the more important of the dual substances. When our body dies our spirit lives. So, nurturing the spirit is the essential point of life. This isn’t that hard to believe really. Anyone who calls for world peace or for social awareness or more charity in the world is actually appealing for spiritual changes in the human creature. And spiritual change does effect how bodies interact with each other. Just look at how Christianity has changed human culture, human evolution; instead of survival of the fittest, the new creed became, love your neighbor as yourself. This allowed for all sorts of leaps in social evolution. We live in a better world because of it.

So what I propose is turning the materialist model upside down. That nurture is the driving force in evolution not nature. That ideas, concepts of the mind are what are really what is changing us. Howard Bloom calls these memes.

God (yes the G-word) has certain characteristics to his being such as Love. God is Love, we say. Love is a spiritual gene. While feeling a spiritual love, we experience physiological phenomena: lightness, tingling, heart fluttering, stomach aching. It’s as if God built us so that we may experience an aspect of Him. We are Loving Machines.

Now what if God is Love, but he is a bunch of other things too, like say, Evol (a word I just made up). So, God has this other great attribute that is just as great as love but we are built in such away physically that we can’t perceive this other thing. I guess what I’m getting at is, God may be like a spectrum, like the light spectrum. We can’t see Microwaves but we can see visible light. Now when humans try and wrap their mind around God they bump into a wall. He is just to big. We are only able to gather so much about God because our minds, our spirits, are built like our eyes are built: to see only a small part of the light spectrum.

Extraterrestrials perhaps have bodies that process different information all together and therefore have spirits that are shaped differently than ours. Perhaps their spirits are able to see the spiritual equivalent of microwaves, Evol. Two species experiencing different aspects of God. What would happen if we met such creatures? It might be much like a bat describing the world seen through his sonar to a man. We would have no frame of reference for such a thing because we do not have a sonar part of the brain.

So to wrap this dribble up let me restate what I’ve tried to say. Aliens and humans are probably built very differently from each other physically due to very different environmental conditions. But surely if you are a theist like myself, you would expect that even if extraterrestrials and humans could not talk about physiological phenomena such as the fluttering of butterflies in the stomach when experiencing love, that surely they would be able to understand universal spiritual truths such as God is Love. But no not so fast. How could they possibly know what love is when they are entirely different spirit-body machines? That is why I say that they might not grasp Love but would know Evol. If this is the case then God is a spectrum and not a point. And this is why it is difficult for us to understand the nature of God, we were built to enjoy a part of the spectrum. We are Love Machines and perhaps in the afterlife we’ll be given a gift: the ability to experience the full God spectrum in it’s completeness.

Ok, I’m going to publish this against my better judgment.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tropical Daydreams

It's cold and wet outside. I'm in the office writing an email about love and aliens and the moods of God. Maybe I'm putting too much thought into to this email. I hear a buzz and a few beeps from the fax line behind me. A fax!

I spin in my chair and pluck the paper, still warm from the magic of the faxing process, out of the tray and read, “Disney World Vacation!” It looks like Walt Disney himself just wrote it with a dripping cartoon paint brush. I read further: Only $99 per person. 1st 50 reservations only! Call now!

Oh man, somewhere tropical sounds great.

Me and Donald duck sipping sodas under palm trees while discussing life as a sailor. Later, I have a wide open grin, my heart tickled by gravity as I plummet 30 stories over a water fall in a hollowed out log. Hurray! I'm buying cotton candy from a man in a hat made of straw wearing a pastel pink shirt and pearl tooth smile. At night, under the stars, Snow White and I dance under the stars on a white sand beach while the dwarfs cook us mushroom burgers on the patio BBQ. A dwarf cousin—Punchy--shows up with tequila, cranberry juice and a blender full of ice. We party all night and I wake up with a splitting headache, not next to Snow White, but Dopey, who after a moment of reflection, recollect that he got all trashed and cornered me, dumping his problems at my feet and then after a guilt trip, convinced me to give him a back rub and then…I shudder.

Oh well, one hour till long weekend. Who needs Disneyland anyhow?

I crumple up the fax and pitch it in the waste basket.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What a Good Book

It is slow in the office and I have managed to hide in my book and have just now finished it. The book is Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller. It is a simple book and I have enjoyed that about it. And now that I am done with it I am searching around for someone to talk to about it, but nobody is in the office. Let me share this passage with you. It is at the end of the book and it sums up what he, Don, has learned on this road trip across the country in an old VW bus.

I think I would sum it up this way: life is not a story about me, but it is being told to me, and I can be glad of that. I think that is the why of life and, in fact, the why of this ancient faith I am caught up in: to enjoy God. The stars were created to dazzle us, like a love letter; light itself is just a metaphor, something that exists outside of time, made up of what seems like nothing, infinite in its power, something that can be experienced but not understood, like God. Relationships between men and women indicate something of the nature of God—that He is relational, that He feels love and loss. It’s all metaphor, and the story is about us; it’s about all of us who God made, and God Himself, just enjoying each other. It strikes me how far the commercials are from this reality, how deadly they are, perhaps. Months ago I would have told you life was about doing, about jumping through religious hoops, about impressing other people, and my actions would have told you this is done by buying possessions or keeping a good image or going to church. I don’t believe that anymore. I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

I saw Donald Miller speak on Western’s campus last month and I can’t tell you how “empowering” (hey, the feminist shouldn’t be the only one’s allowed to use that word) it was to hear someone finally say something sane. Check out his books if you get a chance. He is young and a Christian and very funny.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Soap

It takes a butt-load of cash to be an environmentalist. I had about thirty minutes of free time this afternoon to get my laundry up to the mat. With time as a variable, I was slightly peeved to discover that my brother had jacked my detergent. I could walk down to the Grocery Outlet and pick up a barrel of Tide for thirty five cents like usual but that would really be cutting it close. I had to be back to work in twenty eight minutes. The Food Co-Op is the closest place and my only alternative. So I walked the two blocks downtown to the hippy Mecca of the city.

I walked in, greeted by hairy people, then past the pesto, the olives, the free range chicken, the organic pomegranates, the sticks of myrrh incense, finally arriving at the soap isle. “WTF!” I said through my teeth so that only me and the few near by granola crunchers could hear. A gallon of environmentally friendly laundry soap: $17.99! I don’t even think my wardrobe is worth eighteen bucks. No way. What’s the cheapest deal here? 12.99 for the half gallon, 8.59 for the powder. Ah ok, $4.65. I grab it and go. For that much I could have gotten an oil tanker to deliver a ton of the Outlet stuff directly to my door, maybe even hire a servant to do my laundry but like I’ve said, I was fighting time. I stood in line looking sadly at what I was about to purchase, a container the size of a twenty once bottle of Seven-Up with a very blaan label.

On the walk home I studied the ingredients. Number one: salt water. Number two: plant extract for scent.
Where was the ethyl alcohol or the ammonia ethanol--you know, the stuff that’ll sterilize the f@#k out of your clothes making you feel serene and android fresh.

At the laundry mat, I read the label to see how much of the stuff I should use. One teaspoon , it tells me. One teaspoon of salt water is going to clean my clothes? I think not. I poured half the bottle in and chuckled.

Damn hippies.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Leaf Blowing

"What is that noise?" the professor asks with irritation, as if the sound from the buzzing motor beyond the open window is conspiring against her alone.

"It's a leaf blower." I say.

"My word,” her head pushing through the window—glaring, searching for the person responsible for her annoyance “what an awful noise. Can you imagine being a leaf blower? Wouldn't that be an awful job?"

"I've been a gardener," I say strategically cheerful, "it was quite fun actually, especially at this time of year when we'd rake the leaves in great big piles. I wore the blower on my back all day long--getting lost in that hum--quite hypnotic really. A wonderful job," I assert again.

"Hmm, maybe so." She pouts.

I turn my blue collar up and walk away, off to the copy room to run her copies.

Perception

Andy and I walked to down the street to Fred Meyer in the dark last night. He’s reading C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy which unfortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet, but have been meaning to pick up for some years now. He told me about this one part in the book where the main character is pushed through a portal or lands on a different planet…however he got there, it was a completely new place, one in which he had no points of reference or experience with the objects there. In this uniquely unfamiliar place, language was a useless tool in describing it. And where language breaks down, so to does our ability to differentiate between objects. The only thing the character could perceive in this new world was the movement of colors.

Walking into the soft neon light of Freddy’s, I blurred my vision and tried to only perceive color. It didn’t work all that well. My mind kept saying in English: Rice A-Roni, Swanson, tile, wine, person, fish, meat, cereal.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Antibiotics

I have come down with something. I went to the doctor. He diagnosed me with writers block--Avian writers block. I sneezed. He told me to try list therapy. "Wash it down with a spoon full of sugar," he tells me. Medicine: here it goes.

1.

This summer I had a pet spider name Shelob. She was the daughter of Regina, the spider that made her home in my coffee tree plant the summer before. Shelob made her home on a web in the kitchen window just to the right of my computer monitor. She was a cute but scrawny thing in the spring. I'd stoke her chin and say things like, goochi goochi goo goo, and she'd laugh, her back four legs shacking--her venom sack wagged.

As spring turned to summer and summer into the harvest, I started noticing that my window sill looked like the floor of a bank after a robbery gone horribly wrong. There were dead bodies strewn all over the place and little bullet cases all around. I spent one afternoon, I remember, outlining the bodies with chalk.

Then, for a while, I didn't see Shelob. Then one day, I did. She was enormous. All bloated and blotchy. She looked like a buffet restaurant patron. Her appearance frightened the shit out of me so I got a bottle of ammonia and squirt about four liters of it on her. Looking back, that was probably a horrible way to treat a pet.

2.

I'm listening to Chris Thile. Irishy folk music. Check him out.

3.

The period was an old maid. She liked to play yahoo chess locked in her room on Friday nights and none of the boys ever looked at her, mostly because she never left the house. The semi colon was so misunderstood. She wore black rimmed glasses and drank patchouli flavored lattes. The colon had trouble relating to other women, finding it easier to scratch, bite or punch them. She wore overalls with bare, yellow and dirt colored, feet. The exclamation mark got all the guys. When she went out she wore a red dress with spaghetti straps. When she stayed home she made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with creamy peanut butter and strawberry jam so that the jelly oozed over the crust.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Waking Life

I'm at work. It is 3:27 PM. I recieve an email that suggest that by twenty-oh-seven, scientist might crack open the god particle. A particle that is three levels beneath a lepton. This particle could explain the mystery of mass.

I try to wrap my mind around a scale that small. It makes my face burn and my ears pop.

A professor walks in the office. "Can I get the keys to the promotion room, please?"

My mind is fluctuating at a quatum level. The promotion room? Keys? I ask myself. That sounds like a very mysterious place. I wonder, what is in that room? I have the keys to such a place? The thought occurs to me to hide out in the office tonight and then when the janitors leave, sneak into the promotion room and explore. I almost get the bends as my mind rises to surface level consciousness and I'm suddenly aware of handing the professor the keys.

I realize I am having internal dialogue, and only now do I realize that I've opened blogger and recorded it all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Whoa, Dude.

It is frustrating sometimes, a lot of the times, having a human brain. Oh yes, as far as humans are concerned, our brains are the most powerful and mysterious thing in the entire universe, but there in lies my frustration. I can conceive of a better, more powerful brain; of something more mysterious than my own mind, of a beauty that dwarves my greatest imaginings. I can almost touch it. I can sense it floating a few nanometers above the crinkles of my cerebral cortex.

It is morning and I’ve decided to skip class--again. I went through a passage in Hebrews this morning with pastor Dave concerning a high priest named Melchizedek. When that was done, I made some coffee and read about robots. Now it’s 8AM.

Melchizedek. Robots.

Andy was telling me about these guys on the radio the other night that had a theory about oil. They said we’ve been looking at the stuff all wrong this whole time. It isn’t that oil is dead stuff liquefied, but well, actually, it’s a mystery. We don‘t really understand what oil is precisely, just theoretically. According to the numbers scribbled on their notepads, oil is like water, it’s just here, and the earth is filled with the stuff. What is water really? Whoa. Dude. That’s kinda strange, nobody ever told me that the definition of oil was still up for grabs.

And in this class I’m skipping this morning, it is a writing class, the topic being death and love/sex, we’re discussing sex, in a circle, looking at each other. I’m stuck. I know about as much about sex as I know about oil. I know we all use it, and it is pleasurable and all that jazz but what is it really? If I can’t even wrap my head around water how can I add any insight to a group discussion about something as curious as sex? I’m listening. The conversation yesterday got bogged down by talk of lingerie and blow jobs and liberation and revolution--leaded and unleaded. Yes but WHAT is it? Something big seemed to be missing from the conversation, and it was hanging in the room, in the eleventh dimension.

It is that something that I’m really after, the source of all knowledge. Melchizedek and robots. God and technology. God.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Remembering

There is a tune that enters my mind
after intervals of time
and then exits as a whistle on my lips.
What song it is or where it comes from
I do not know.
It is slow, and sad, and forgetting--
Lost after one time through.
It possesses me for a short time
then wanders away, leaving me wondering.
Such things as these, I believe, are gifts from heaven
A present tied with a silver bow.
Maybe it's just one line from a symphony
I'll play one day in heaven.
Or a seed planted in my heart,
That has just begun to grow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Adventures of A Former Male House Keeper

The theme song from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has been floating in my head like a soap bubble today, bouncing off my brain, making me sway like a drunken master, like a warriors silk robe. The trees are shedding their leaves giving the whole landscape a sad but beautiful ambiance.

***

I loosen my sword in the hilt and tip toe, in my moccasins, over the wet pavement. My robe is clinging to me, water is dripping from my nose and chin and fingertips. I cross into the muddy plains of the park. It is still and silent except for the beat of the falling rain. Dum da-da--da-da Dum Dum. Dum da-da--da-da Dum Dum. The Maple stands between me and the path home. His coat of orange-red leaves has all but disappeared except for near the trunk. The leaves are as smoldering fire against the shadow of soaked branches. He wields the elements, strengthened by the spirit of the season. I approach cautiously with my hand on my sword.

“The way is blocked human!” His voice is like a mighty wind through forests.

“Step aside Demon, I am no human. I am Ramandu, spirit monk--slayer of those things foul and wicked. Be warned.”

He heaves insults and vile laughter at me. His barked skin begins to swirl creating a vortex of energy. From the middle of the energy cloud I see a demon in the form of a faun. He has a pointed beard and pointed ears. “Your powerless against my Will, fool.” he hisses. He dissipates into a moist cloud and disappears leaving behind only evil laughter.

Faster than thought, larger than a man, the mist materializes before me,a cunning trick from the shape-shifting enemy. He strikes. In one move of pure harmony, I unsheathe my katana, lay waste to the forces of darkness and sheathe my sword again. The heavens loosen the clouds and the mud around me beats: Dum da-da--da-da Dum Dum. Light radiates from me as I bow in the mud of the park.

I am Ramandu, the spirit monk. The path is now open.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Did You See That One Part?

We got rabbit ears for our television. That is an antenna. It's been three years with out watching TV! With all that free time, my IQ has probably went up 50 points, meaning I'd almost be of average intelligence 100 years ago--maybe a little below average actually.

Andy and I are addicted to TV already and the really funny part is we only get four channels and one of them is Chinese half the time. And the reception is pretty crappy. But we are still addicted. I find myself watching Perry Mason, Becker, and bad Canadian soap operas. The best show on that I've seen yet is the new Family Feud with Al from Home Improvement.

The thing about a TV story is that it is always lame and you always have to end with: it was so funny. You should have seen it. If your not a TV watcher those stories are pretty unfunny. Ok so here is my TV story. I was watching the Feud and one of the questions was, "Name something that requires constant maintenance." This teenage dude, a real baby faced sort of guy, got all nervous, you know, because his family had two strikes against him, and he blurts out "facial hair."

Another funny one was when a woman from the other family said that she "showered". The question was, "What do you do when your bored at home?"

It was so funny. You should have seen it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hi-Ho Hadario

Dreams are the illustrations before chapters in a book. If my dream last night were to precede a chapter, it would be a little wood block print at the top of the page and underneath it, like a secret, lonely, lake of ink surrounded by plains of pulp, the chapter number with a simple period after it. The picture would be of a man skating in socks over polished marble. He’d be weaving between two women carrying shopping bags. He’d have a boyish smile and upside down curving slits for eyes. The women would look very incensed at the tomatoes, baguette, and tin toy robot, bouncing out of their bags in the excitement. What a wonderful image to start my day, my chapter.

I recently met a co-worker of mine and we asked the usual questions students ask each other, what are you studying? what do you want to be when you grow up? So I asked this girl what she was interested in and it turns out she is studying French. Cool. “What are you going to do with that?” I asked, as if speaking it isn’t enough. She told me that she’s a sophomore and that she’s going to double major in French and Anthropology and then go on and get her masters, her PhD, join the peace corps, and then teach poor kids in French speaking Africa. “What about you?” she asked. “Me. Hmm.” A squirrel caught my attention in the woods and I spaced out for a second imagining what a fantastic life he must have, forging for acorns in the dumpsters and finding instead, corn dog sticks and greasy paper plates incrusted with rubbery cheese barnacles, and cardboard cups with sugary puddles of milks at the bottom. “I’m not sure actually. I'm blown away by today.” She looked at me like I was a serial killer, or maybe more like I was a weirdo shoving Funions and ranch dip in my mouth while wearing a cape and nothing else-- except suspenders--and ski pants--and a Gap sweater…and a chicken-mascot head dress. That was the end our conversation.

I was going through the book of James this morning and came up on chapter 4 verse 13: You who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Whoa.

There is also that grasshopper and the ant parable that warns about fools who waste away their days. Not having a plan is surely foolish, and yet thinking that the future is a real thing seems to be a mistake. I am attacking this from all angles but some how am missing the mark. Let me try one more time.

Give us this DAY our DAILY bread. Amen.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Windows 2007

I doubt this idea is original and that's why I don't hesitated to share it hear on blogger. My avatar, Wu Li the Lotus Blossom, was walking around the wooded paths and flowery glens of Jade Empire, getting in kung fu fights and manipulating chi magic, and I was sitting in my chair here in regular old Bellingham, Washington, United States, North America, Earth, Sol's systems, Milkyway Galaxy, Corner of the Universe, and I was teary eyed not only from the hours I'd spent staring at neon vacuum tubes but also because of the reverence this beautiful computer generated fantasy world was creating in my heart. I turned off the game and took a shot of Saki and ate a bit of fish and rice with chop sticks and then headed down to my secret basement lab and grabbed a huge piece of thick chalk. My hands were receiving signals from my unconscious mind or from Alpha Centari and I began furiously scribbling on the blackboard. When I came to, I was aware that I was lounging in a tiny desk chair with grains of rice crusted in the corners of my mouth and polka dots of tear splashes on my chalk covered jeans. Before me on the board were the plans for windows 2007. A three dimensional world like Jade Empire that one could navigate not with a mouse but with a video game controller. I discovered that instead of moving a mouse arrow over a two dimensional field like pong, my design allowed one to store and retrieve information in a three dimensional virtual space. One could bury secret files in a treasure chest on a distant island or conveniently, on their virtual desktop. And everyone's computer would be hooked together to create one huge universe. I cried at the beauty of it and then went up stairs and have made myself a cheese sandwich and now I am typing.

Book Suggestions

What an awesome technology language and writing is. Especially when carved or inked on scrolls, rock tablets, or in the pages of books. It transcends cell phones, life extension, time travel. How I'd love to meet that first human author when he got that mad desire to look at his thoughts in physical form. To share them with niegbors, with offspring. A true Alchemist! The first mad scientist!

With that reverence out of the way, I'd like to recommend two books in particular that are worth checking out.

1) G.K.Chesterton's, Orthodoxy. I won't give a synapses of the book but I will say that his common sense approach to thought is invigorating. It has given me a confidence in my beliefs that for years I have questioned in the shadows of my modernist college professors.

2)Donald Miller's, Blue Like Jazz. I just saw him read from his book at Western the other night. He blew me away with not only his writing style but his wisdom. He writes about Christian spirituality with a voice that rings true with our generation. I implore you to check out his book.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Flaming Magic

I’m back in school and so am again dragged away from my own thoughts and dreams into a institution of thought that escapes my understanding. Here is an example of my continuing frustration with academia and its’ current ideology. I arrived at my eight o’clock class this morning after a wonderful walk up to school on this, a crisp morning, the second of autumn. The big tree in Laurel Park, my favorite tree in the whole city and a friend, was just this morning, in his peak splendor with a green coat of leaves bursting at the tips in flames of red and orange! Never again will he look as he did this morning and that to me is Awesome, that is why he is my friend. And so there I am in class an overgrown man/boy squished into a tiny desk in a tiny classroom on the first day of a new term at University. Everyone shifted awkwardly and silently in their seats and, if everyone is like me, tried to guess the internal dialogue going on in the mind of the person sitting next to them. The instructor comes in and breaks the silence to the relief of all: a new person to read or submit to. This is all very routine of course. But to my great joy and astonishment a man and women walked in; the woman carrying a peculiar sort of computer-machine. The instructor asked about the machine and we all found out what it was: one of those transcription machines one would find in a courtroom. It turns out, the man was hearing impaired and she was there to type out the lecture for him to read on a laptop in his lap. I was absolutely taken by the machine and how it worked. As the professor spoke, the woman would kneed the keys causing (I suppose) the words to appear in full chunks on the man’s screen. There were no symbols or characters on any of the keys which made it all the more magical. I read more of the professors lecture than I did listen to it. It wasn’t even much of a lecture really, just her talking about her qualifications as a professor and the works she had published. Again, routine first day procedure. But what happened next was what really got me. The eyes are such a wonderful gift and I don’t know what I’d do without them, especially when entire cultural maxims float into my visual frame at once conveying the absurd or the beautiful. I guess what happened next was auditory as well, but I was hearing visually.

The professor put in a CD of a transgender author’s reading from one of his profound works. The instructor labeled him as transgender not me. And he probably labels himself as transgender which seems to me sad, people formulating self identity by such an insignificant detail. “She” told a sad tale about her struggles with culture’s acceptance of her desires to wear women’s clothing. (Hey, wear what you want. If I had it my way we would be wearing capes and Greek robes.) The author told about his 12 year old cousin and how he was also starting to wear women’s clothes. He used the word fagot a lot and told about a friend of his who has enormous breasts which he’s nick-named the Tyrannosaurus Racks.

While She was reading in a deep manly voice, I couldn’t help but watch as the transcribist typed on her curious machine. What did she think of this class, I wondered? How did that machine work, I pondered again? And so, I looked back and forth from the woman, with an incredible skill, to the mental image of a burly man in drag, reading about his confused twelve year old cousin. My mind can’t grasp how an arts department at a university can ignore technological marvels, the magic flames in every tree--in every molecule of the world--the silence amongst strangers on the first day of class, and focuses instead on the inner turmoil of quirky people.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Candy Houses

I’m laying on the floor in the living room with all the couch pillows under my head and my face buried in an old View Master that my grandfather found in basement and gave to me. A 3-D clay Hansel and Gretal are standing, lost in the dark woods with a trail of bread crumbs to mark the path from my crossed eyes. There is something about the encapsulated world of a View Master slide that captures me completely, making me want to live in a diorama, or reminding me that I already do.

Andy’s on the couch drawing and telling me about life at the print shop. He brings up a story he told me earlier, about a woman who had come in for copies but ended up crying. Her daughter that morning had had a violent seizure. “You know what really got me thinking about that woman though? My first reaction, when the woman started crying, was to cry with her. But I didn’t. I mean, I had to bite my lip. I can’t cry at work with all those customers around. It just wouldn’t be normal. I think Jesus said something about crying with those that cry and laughing with those that laugh. How pathetic is it when people can’t be genuine with each other?”

“Yeah, that is kinda sad. Huh.” In fairy land, Gretal gives the witch a good kick in the rear, right into the blazing stove.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Elaine,

1. If you could take a trip in a vehicle of your own choosing (sea ship, chariot, plane, train, automobile, space shuttle, etc.) which would you take and where would you visit?

2. You’re a prisoner about to be put to death. The chef is willing to cook you anything you desire. It is after all, your last meal. What do you order?

3. If Mother Teresa came to you and said, “Hey Elaine, I was thinking’…we should have a party and invite a couple Saints. Why don’t you throw something together?” Who would you invite to your party and why? What theme and mood would the party have?

4. If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? What would you look like?

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

6. What makes you smile at school?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Speedos

Micheal's interview with me. There are rules that will allow you to also participate in the fun. Stay tuned.


1. If you were any race, besides human, from Star Trek, which would you be and why?
I can’t recall the name of my favorite race of Star Trek aliens, but in one episode from TNG, there was a planet inhabited by men in space Speedos and women in skimpy two pieces. All they did all day was frolic around in the park acting like children and getting fresh. That would be kinda cool. But really, I guess I’d like being a Betazoid. Telepathic powers would be cool.

2. If a war broke out, and you had to hide in a bomb shelter, with all the food, medicine, even electricity you could need, but could only bring one item with you (that isn't a person) what would it be and why? I’d bring my violin. I am totally unskilled on my fiddle, though if I had all of my life in pit with nothing else to do, I’d love to master it.

3. If you had a superpower, what would it be, and would you use it for good or evil? Care Bare Stair. Hypothetically, I’d use this rich power for good.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, and speak the language, where would it be? Atlantis. And I’d speak Ebonics there.

5. If you were a type of alcohol, what would you be, and why?
I would be a barrel of 1794 Pennsylvanian corn whisky. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to be a barrel of whisky when I grew up. Plus, in that particular year, those whisky barrels, were at the center of a rowdy farmer’s rebellion.


****************************************************

Now, that was interesting, and fun.

Here's the scoop behind the interview process.

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below asking to be interviewed.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.

3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions

Thursday, September 08, 2005

When The Music 's Over

Scattered all over the floor, are empty tall boys of Olympia beer. Near my head, on top of a speaker, is a bottle half full of stale beer. I pick it up and take a sniff out of morbid curiosity. I guess it’s been sitting there, warming--aging--for a few weeks at least. The jam room is filled with wires. Waves of them splashing against everything old and fusty. These guys have been binging on alcohol and minimum wage jobs for years. Pete, on the drums, has his shirt off and a head band soaked in sweat tied around his head to keep his mullet hair out of his eyes. The middle of his body, where all the important body parts are, is made of beer and bowling alley food but he's beating those drums like every moment is an epiphany. The character in the middle of the room, playing guitar--as pale and sad as a Tim Burton caricature, is Adam. He’s drunk, stoned, swaying with eyes half glazed, half open. Some people always talk but never listen. Bob is that kind of person and he is stealing the musical conversation with an endless loop of funk beats slapped out on his bass guitar. I’m sitting in a worn lounge chair: a stray from the free box in some college kids summer junk pile. I’m surrounded by squalor. Shiny things in department stores inevitably end up tarnished, stained, reeking in the basement, even if does take generations. In millions of years they will be mined as fossil fuels but for now they fill our homes.

The music stops for a moment and the band takes gulps of beer and laugh. I can see through the mini blinds, the flooded streets and the dead cattle and phone poles as floats in a solemn parade procession. The sun is setting.

I think about what music is and realize for the first time, with clarity, that its just conversation using vibrating tools instead of our own living tissue: vocal cords. Musicians with their power cords wrapped around them are cyborgs and when the power goes out the music will change. Acoustic guitar instead of electric. A piano where there was a keyboard. Architectural change will follow; to magnify the tiny voice of plain wood and wire.

The music starts again. Bob starts. A wonderfully mellow ballad for a change. I can see relief and hope start to take shape in our faces. It doesn’t last long. Bob stops self-consciously, looking like he wished he could take back what he just played--like he might have shown something that’s supposed to stay hidden. He laughs and lurches and then starts slapping funk out of his bass and Pete follows with a butt rock beat and Adam blows away, joining the dead cattle.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Yet Another Lord Of the Rings Analogy

I'm standing on a terrace in Gondor. Beside me, Gandolf is contemplating wizardly affairs while puffing smoke rings from his pipe. We're gazing over the fields of Pelinor and to the stirring black-lands beyond. An evil looking green energy swirl is unleashed from Mordor that causes a terrific clap of thunder which echoes throughout the valleys of Gondor. Gandolf looks at me--smoke leaking out from under his bushy white mustache, "So it begins."

Katrina is that evil green energy swirl. The rising gas prices are the Wraith King of Angmar flying on the wings of the Nazgul. The gangbanging anarchist shooting at those that would aid them are the Lord Denethor gone mad, saying, every man for himself! etc. etc.

I have never experienced such a natural disaster so it is easy for me to type, here on blogger, with a fresh cup of hot coffee steaming beside me, about ideals. The events of New Orleans are a wake up call for me though. I would have never expected such behavior in America. Surely Americans ban together and grit and grunt to help themselves and their neighbors, over coming hardships. Right? I’m sad to hear about rapes and killings in my own country.

See, I think our whole way of life is a illusion. Malls and stock brokers, people everywhere demanding customer satisfaction. It takes a natural disaster of "biblical proportions" to break the illusion. We are not customers we are human beings! We face hardships now and then. We might have to fast or go with out a shower. Help yourselves first, aid will come. Are people incapable of helping themselves in this country?

I do not mean to be insensitive to those suffering in the south, I am just disappointed that is all. I fear we are only shadows of our forefathers. Where are the Kings of old?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blogirthday

Today is my one year blogger birthday. In a few years, I'll look back and laugh, did I really keep one of those electric-trend blogs?

Being that I don't have much to say I'll just puke out the stuff in my head.

At the suggestion of a friend I watched Nicholas Nickleby last night. A Charles Dicken's story. It was the best movie I've seen all year.

Today, I went to the theater for the first time in months to see The Brothers Grimm. I was disappointed. I actually fell asleep. I am desperately searching for good storytellers. Hollywood has lost all my respect.

I drove past the Chevron today while the clerk was changing the price on the marquee. $3.07 for regular unleaded. Somebody is getting very very rich at the expense of average Joe.

The most ridiculous thing I have seen in all my life had to be what I saw today at the mall. Abercrombie and Fitch hired a sculpted male model to be a shirtless greeter.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Supermarket Checkstand

I'm waiting my turn in the checkout line at the supermarket, piling my meager dinner ingredients onto the conveyer belt. The man in front of me is an old guy, probably in his sixties. Thick head of white hair, a dwindling muscular build and a dominating posture. The checker, an attractive woman in her early thirties is busy going about her job, scanning the endless river of groceries flowing her way. She glances up and notices the old guy. Even though his back was towards me I could sense a sly smile under his twinkling eyes.

"Weren't you just in here?" She asks in a friendly checker tone.

"Nope, not today." he says.

"I could have sworn you were just in here."

"I visited you in your dreams last night. I know you've been dreaming about me." Man this old dude is totally perving out, I'm thinking and everyone else in line is thinking the same thing. She nervously laughs and goes back to being a scanning machine. He continues on like this and I'm feeling uncomfortable. I'm looking at a little pulp spiritual guide with a picture of sunlight breaking through clouds on the cover, but really I'm dropping eaves all over the floor.

She finally finish ringing the guy up and he winks and flashes a salivating smile that almost drowns everyone in line. "I'll be dreaming about you sweetheart."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Concerning Some Strains of Feminism: A Porch Conversation

It is challenging sometimes living with feminist. I was on the porch talking to my neighbor tonight, smoking a cigarette, yes, a damn cigarette! She said that she would never get married, that she will never have children. Men are perverts, she said. And having children would only contribute to the over population of the world, not to mention wreck her body. Oh what a sad outlook! I pointed to her ovaries. "Monica, your a baby making machine, and that is a miracle!"

Another neighbor of mine, gave me an essay she had written for her feminist studies class to read last spring. It was titled "The Big Penis". I had to laugh at the title and that academic papers could be title as such but the contents of the essay really broke my heart. Her thesis was that there is a great big abstract penis continually bonking women on the head. As if there was this person called "man" (sometimes I refer to him as "the man") and that his only purpose on earth is to abuse women and take away their goddess powers. It is easy to believe in such a simplistic world-view, and I sometimes borrow such a view to make myself feel good, as if there were a wizard behind the curtain feeding us propaganda over the television with the ultimate goal of turning us into cyborgs, but in reality there are over six billion individuals on this planet. Some individuals are more confused or corrupt than others but compartmentalizing men and women--sexism--is as misguided as racism. Monica, there are good guys out there, you just need to meet them! Life and healthy sexuality is as mysterious, powerful, and wonderful as any deep field Hubble telescope or European holiday! And don't let professors tell you otherwise.

The Coming of Autumn

Once punchy,spring-red poison berries,
droop now, in late summer.
Burnt orange bundles sagging
on bent branches:
Bitter buoy bobbing
on waves of overripened air.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Factory Work

Went out blackberry picking yesterday. It was a great time. We baked pies till midnight. I was kinda wanting to go to bed and listen to the radio when it got late, so I told my friend, who was totally gun-ho (is that a word?) about baking the two remaining uncooked pies, that we would just bake 'em in the morning. We'd sit on the porch eating fresh pies and ice cream and coffee--for breakfast. "Ok, ok, dude! Let's wake up for the sunrise and eat pie and ice cream." "Uh...naw. Just come over around 9. That's plenty early." She got on me for being unadventurous. What she maybe didn't quite get is that dreaming is my favorite hobby. I need my full eight hours in to get maximum dream time. "Why wake up early when I can spend the morning having cool dreams?"

Those words came back to bite me. Last night I dreamt that I was a factory worker at a paint manufacturer. I think I spent all those eight dream hours tending to a mixing machine in a drab corner of the plant. Nothing cool happened at all except I had to work a factory job for free! Next time I'm going to enjoy the sunrise.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Alone/Lonely

Today is just going to be one of those wonderfully lazy autumn like days. I'm going blackberry picking later with a friend and then we are going to bake pies later in the evening. Until then, I thought I would jot down a few thoughts that came to me after reading Ann Spam's post today and Jessi's Don Quixote piece from a few days ago.

There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. For some the thought of not having people around is terrifying and they assume that people that are alone must also be lonely. It is unhealthy to always be alone and you can tell when people are lacking in fellowship with others. But there is a distinction between being alone and being isolated. These are qualitative differences. If you lock yourself in a high tower and watch TV or continually surf the internet or spend all your time with your eyes in a palantir, then you are not really alone but wrestling with a shadow of real human communion.

I guess to me there is no such thing as being alone alone. There is always the wind, the trees, ideas, good music. These things are like food for the spirit and I refuse to believe post modern cultural critics when they asserts that the individual Subject is dead or illusionary. For all those people running around performing for or worshiping other men I can perhaps understand their terror at coming to grips with their own self. The self can be a scary thing. If your bored your not alone, if your restless, or lusty, or writing on a blog, your not alone. Being alone for me at least is when I clear my mind of all worldly things and look towards the otherworldly. Or God shows me, individually how blessed I really am and how much farther I have to walk to be entirely in Him. People are a gift from God to individuals and I am continually amazed by the people He puts in my life. Even the people that I think are bad at first are blessings. But the most special relationship to me is the one between my soul alone and the Creator of all things. And I am just beginning to revel in that, and that to me is exciting.

My upstairs neighbors got home from a weekend trip last night and Beth knocked on my door. "Matt did you clean the lobby?" She asked. "Yeah I did." "Oh thank you. Thank you. It looks so good." "Yeah, thanks. I went on a cleaning spree this weekend." She looked at me with concern, "Aww, where you lonely?" I smiled and laughed, "No, no, it wasn't anything like that. I cleaned up for company."

I can't really ever remember being lonely. And as hokey as it sounds, the famous poem, Footprints, means a lot to me.

Family

My aunt and uncle, whom I haven't seen in probably ten years, came to visit yesterday along with my parents. My parents moved my brother and me to Washington from California and all of our extended family when I was eleven years old. I am proud of my dad, that he had the foresight to see that southern California was becoming a pit and how much courage it must have taken to move his family away from his own family and my mothers family and come here alone to a place we had never been. Washington, especially Whatcom county, is paradise on earth in my eyes and I was so excited for my aunt and uncle to see what a awesome region we live in. At the same time I was a little nervous about entertaining family I haven't seen in my adult life. I see family so rarely, maybe that is why I long to be a hobbit. All jitters disappeared as soon as they arrived and we greeted each other with hugs. You can always just be yourself around family and that is what I like.

My Uncle and dad look just alike and it was strange seeing this man that grew up with my dad, who shared in the same childhood experiences, the offspring of my grandparents, and I was fascinated by his behavior, comparing it with my dads. We all went out to Mexican food (me and Mexican food have been having a passionate, lusty, sloppy, love affair for the last couple weeks)at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. We all ordered our food and my aunt laughed harder and louder than I have ever heard a Washingtonian laugh in public, a real honest gut laugh. My family, well the men in my family, my bro, my dad and me, eat kind of like pigs, politely but incessantly. I was amazed at the restraint of my uncle or perhaps it wasn't restraint but a normal appetite unknown to Barry men. He ate about six nachos and boxed the rest! The reason I write about it at all is because of a comment my brother made later when we got home and the family took off.

"Where you totally impressed by how little Uncle David ate at dinner tonight?"

"Yeah, that is probably how normal people eat, we were raised by a disfunctional eater."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Living Tree

One of my dreams last night was very much more than a dream, it was kind of like while sleeping, I awoke in the real reality, like I was Neo waking up in a test tube. What ever it was, it was the closest thing to break[ing] on through to the other side I have experienced. So, suddenly I became aware that I was in a void. There were people with me in the void, in fact everybody was with me in the void--everyone who has ever been. My brother was next to me and we were as we are now, age twenty five and twenty three, except we were holding on, dangling from our parents feet. I, grasping my fathers ankles, my brother, my mom's. They were hanging from their own parent's feet and their siblings were next to them. My cousins were near my brother and me hanging from my aunt and uncle's feet and my cousin's children below them, haning on. And here is a strange detail. We all had ambilical cords connecting us to our mothers and we were all naked. And this living tree as it were, stretched up for a long long ways and not all family lines stretched as far as we were. Some mothers had no children and entire lines of families ended. But our family was strong indeed stretching back to the very begining of the line of humanity. And as I looked up, I could see that humanity was very much like one living thing, growing. And above it all, high high above it all, was a white light, cold and yet full of color and there was far away music almost to quite to hear. I looked at my brother and we hung in the void and then I woke up.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Doggy Style

It is the little things in life, the mundane adventures of the common man that I think are important. Colors, smells, the bus stop. These little things add up, and when we notice them, when we appreciate them, life is richer.

I was walking home from the gym this morning thinking about Angels and what the world, with all of her people moving around at a such a frantic pace, must look like to them. And an image of a Sharpe puppy filled my mind. The puppy’s name was Koggie and I remember him from childhood. He was the neighbor‘s dog. He was a cute dog, all wrinkled. He had this bad habit though of humping my brother‘s leg. He couldn’t help it really and no one beat him for it, just kind of shooed him away--told him, no, bad dog. He was still a cool creature in his own way. Sniffing, slobbering, chasing my brother’s leg--not exactly things that people do but we forgave him and his owners still took him on walks. I fear that when Angels look down on us (especially the pervs who ruin online gaming!) they probably see a creature that for what ever reason, is focused on dry humping a leg rather than getting in mundane adventures.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Laughable

Virgins

Ting

My favorite sound comes on mornings like this one, when everything is quite except for the wind and a few seagulls. From a porch hidden in the trees on the hill, or through an open kitchen window--the sound of spoons tinging against cereal bowls.

The Scouring of The Shire

Been getting back to the gym, which means I again have access to television. Even though I'm pumping my fist while listening to Flogging Molly on the treadmill, I can still see Katie Couric and the rest of 'em smiling and lauging about nearly everything, except maybe during interviews about woman who have survived attacks from male stalkers, then they have the most serious faces. I'm pretty sure it's all an act anyhow, after all, it is television.

One thing I've noticed while watching The Today Show (sound isn't as important in the experience as you might think)is that they have a list of rules for everything. Fashion do's and don't's, rules for traveling, what your children should and shouldn't watch, where to go to school, what to buy, how to act. Who keeps up with these lists? Do they really shape the way people act? Probably.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hair Cut

I decided to go get a haircut yesterday. I should probably go to the barber instead of those metro salons like Great Clips. I have nothing against the women folk, but every now and again it is nice just to go to an old style Barber shop and flip through hunting magazines and talk to the old timers. Men need a space purely for men. Anyway, I walked into Great Clips and was greeted by a cute young girl with shiny stylized hair and makeup and bracelets, rings, and just generally looking hip. I followed her to the chair and sat down. She put a bib on me and a band around my neck. "So what are we going to do for you today?" she asked chiperly. For some strange reason I blurted out, "hmm, how about a flattop." I haven't had a flat top since I was six. She looked at me in a panic and then just stared at me nervously. I could tell she didn't know how to give a flattop. She probably only learned a few styles at beauty school. "I should have went to the barber." I was thinking. Then this older woman, probably in her fourties, peeked from around the corner and told the young girl that she could do the flat top for me. She was like a cowboy of a woman and buzzed the shit out of my head. I'm looking forward to my hair growing back but I do get a kick out of the differences between an old style barber shop and the newer unisex beauty salons.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ray Charles in Charge

I'm off. Going to go buy a pipe and some tobacco and then head out to my buddies property. I'm going to camp under the meteor showers tonight, next to a fire. I've been waiting for this all summer.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Logic

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8889445/

He played Grand Theft Auto
He murdered three cops
Therefore, playing Grand Theft Auto caused him to murder cops.

Hmm... Am I missing something?
I played Grand Theft Auto for a month and though Bellingham and the pedestrians walking around kinda looked like toys for a while, I did not murder anyone.

I played Grand Theft Auto
I did not murder anyone
He played Grand Theft Auto
He murdered someone
Conclusion: playing Grand theft auto does not necessarilly lead to murder.

Could it be that there are more than one or two variables in a person's life and that all those countless and unique experiences in one's life are what make one an individual!? And as individuals do we not have to take responsibility for our own actions? Choice, free will: the foundations of self, of soul, and redemption!

PS... Same goes for the story Micheal posted a few days ago about a Korean man who dropped dead of a heart attack after a four day gaming binge. Perhaps he ate one to many Big Macs.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Lip Smackingly Good

I woke up early and went to the gym this morning and the day just got better from there. Here are some highlights:

I. Had coffee on porch with the neighbors. We talked about food. Food is the one topic that everyone on earth can relate to.

II. Went to the library and read. Being around people when it is quite and they are touching things, especially paper, softly, makes my hair stand up. I was getting high on that hair standing up feeling, when I noticed I was surrounded by about eight old men. Every couple seconds one of them made a disgusting old person noise with their mouth or nose: clearing their throat, smacking their lips, sniffing their snot. It was gross but some how pleasurable.

III. My financial aid award letter came. I am getting tons of grant money.

IV. My brother and I went to Izzy's Buffet. We have been going there about three times a month for a while now. At the salad bar, Andy says to me, "Some people are regulars at bars, we are regulars at a buffet restaurant." He looked scared that we might be considered gay. That made me laugh.

V. I saw a pregnant woman walking her dog and was amazed that I haven't been more amazed by pregnant women before.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Chasm

Before he pushed through the door to his future, Marcus paused to admire his own reflection in the glass. He looked like a professional: solid navy blue tie around his neck, pressed white dress shirt on his back, and a stiff pair of colorless kakis on his legs--a catalogue model. His only regret was that he didn’t have a falcon perched on his shoulder; a man wearing an animal, especially a live one, trained to hunt and scout, is worth a whole office of men dressed in dead plants. But he was confident that the tie, for this situation at least, was an adequate sign of power. After all, this was only a video store. He entered the store smiling inwardly.

“Well hello there. Welcome to Corporate Chain Video. How can I help you?” sung the boy behind the front counter.

“Hi. I’m Marcus. I’m scheduled for a job interview at noon.”

“Right. I’ll inform my manager of your arrival. He should just be finishing up his eleven thirty interview. Browse through the videos if you like. He’ll be with you shortly.”

Marcus smiled, bowing slightly. He appreciated the boy’s friendly disposition after initial feelings of distrust. Turning calmly, he shuffled off to the science fiction section, pleased with his new quest. Surely videos would be free from then on, one of the benefits of working at a video store. A few titles looked interesting: Altered States, The Lawn Mower Man, The Thirteenth Floor. Hovering over the sci-fi shelf, he rehearsed, in his mind, responses to possible interview questions. Questions such as: What is your favorite movie? Can you hand customers videos across the counter with a smile? When can you start? He blinked and noticed the carpet for the first time--purple, with little golden film reels twirling in splashes of green and red. It made him feel cheerful.

“Marcus, I presume.” The voice was chirpy, campy, hiding some deep insecurity. The person who spoke it was a man-child, eighteen years old, with a hint of fuzz over his upper lip. He was outfitted in a purple polo shirt like the boy at the register. Unlike the boy however, his uniform was decorated with badges--medals--symbols of his rank and valor. There were a variety of badges. Some had portraits of famous movie stars such as Orlando Bloom dressed as an elf, while others had slogans such as, “You’re Right” printed in silly fonts.

“Yes. That’s me.” Marcus answered

As if addressing a toddler, the decorated employee spoke, “A pleasure to meet you. I am Clarence, the general manager here. I‘ll be administering your interview. Follow me please.”

Marcus followed him to the back of the store, past the bathrooms, the water fountain, the storage closet, and finally up a staircase to the second floor office.

“Have a seat Marcus.” Clarence’s cheery attitude, if a little overdone, didn’t seem out of place down stairs, where there were cartoon characters painted on the walls and shelves filled with cotton candy and tubs of colored popcorn, but the same attitude was frightening upstairs, a place filled with paper clips, filing cabinets, and a monitor showing a silent flickering black and white movie of the boy at the front desk, opening and closing video cases.

Marcus’s only fear down stairs was that he wouldn’t get the job because he was over qualified for the position. In the stuffy, confining space of the upstairs office, he began to fear all sorts of things: electronic radiation, spiders, his own inadequacies.

“Marcus, let me frank,” his tone was suddenly serious, “the number one trait that employers in the service industry look for in a potential employee is an unabashed enthusiasm for life. If our employees aren’t happy, our guests aren’t happy. You don’t have any mood disorders or conditions that would prevent you from making our guest happy do you Marcus?”

“Uh, no. No, I am generally a happy person.” Marcus wasn’t sure if his definition of happiness was synonymous with the definition stated in the Corporate Chain Video handbook but he wasn’t about to ask for clarification.

“Good! I could tell.” Clarence’s zest was back.

Marcus relaxed in his seat and crossed his legs, mimicking the power position he had read about in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

“Ok here we go. Are you ready to have some fun?” Clarence jabbed Marcus playfully in the arm. “Imagine this scenario. You’re alone in the middle of a vast desert without food or water. In front of you is a great chasm measuring one thousand miles deep, one thousand miles wide, and hundreds of feet across. On the other side of this divide is a bountiful oasis, over flowing with the most thirst quenching water, the plumpest grapes, the fattest lambs. If you can devise a strategy to cross this chasm you will live the rest of your days in unfathomable bliss, if not, you will surely meet a slow and painful death. After a thorough search of your surroundings, you find only two things that might be useful: four planks of wood and an infinite length of rope. Marcus, tell me, how are you going to cross this barrier?"

A sweat broke out on Marcus’s forehead, a response to the panic that was overwhelming his nervous system. He hadn’t anticipated actually having to think during the interview. He took a breath and built a church steeple out of his fingers. Four boards, infinite length of rope, thousand mile deep pit. His mind was racing. Could the universe contain an infinite length of rope? Should he incorporate videos in his plan? Maybe he should say something moral to show what a good guy he was. He thought about suggesting prayer as a solution but wasn’t sure if there was a separation of church and business so he kept his mouth shut. Awkward silence.

“Marcus, don’t sweat it my friend. That was just a warm up question to get your blood flowing. We have teams of psychologist working on questions like these. Each manager is given a full volume of interview questions. See, here at Corporate Chain Video, we want sharp, fresh minds. Innovative minds. I can’t tell you how many applicants I interview that think all this job entails is operating the cash register. Nothing could be further from the truth. The video rental industry is a competitive field. The mom and pop stores are dead. There are only two competitors left: Commercial Giant Video and us. We want employees with solutions. There isn’t a problem to deep, or to wide when it comes to satisfying our guests . I’m telling you we have underground labs full of psychologists working to bring our guests maximum satisfaction. Let’s move on to the next question for now, but continue thinking about that problem and we’ll come back to it. Think metaphor. Ok? Ok.”

Marcus’s lips were a crew of muscles constructing a smile.

“Tell me about your personal strengths. And if you could, why don’t you tell me about some of your weaknesses and what steps you are taking to better yourself.”

“I am curious, driven, and imaginative. I really enjoy working with people, in fact people are my greatest curiosity. I recently completed my masters degree in anthropology and I’m pretty proud of that. As far as my weaknesses, hmm… I am very ambitious. Sometimes my ambition gets in the way of my personal life. You know, there is just so much to do and so little time to do it in. I am very devoted to my work, and well, I look forward to pouring my energy into Corporate Chain Video Clarence, uh, sir.”

Marcus was lying. His major weakness was day-dreaming, but he dare not admit that to Clarence, not in the confinement of this tower. Lately, he had been feeding his fantasies by submerging himself in a massive online role-playing game called Life Quest. Unlike the real world, Burrowstone, the kingdom in Life Quest, was a place were people did walk around with falcons on their shoulders. People with worldly ambitions scoff at gamers who create fictional self-identities, who play in a simulated world instead of a real one. Marcus wasn’t sure that the world itself wasn’t a simulation. After all, how natural was it for a man to wear a purple polo shirt? It wasn’t that he wasn’t ambitious, only that he was ambitious about very different things than most people; like becoming a level ten sorcerer in Life Quest, or doing the crossword puzzle in the paper each morning.

“Curious? Imaginative? Ok, but would you say you’re a leader--a problem solver?”

This was beginning to feel like a visit to a shrink. Clarence was a pubescent kid; he signed pay checks. What right did he have to dig deep into peoples souls? “Yeah, I would say I’m a leader and a problem solver.”

“Can you give me an example of when you felt proud of your leadership ability. A time when you lead a group of people to a successful outcome.”

Marcus had been the president of the rocket club in seventh grade if that counted for anything. It wasn’t like he was Alexander the Great or the Pope. He wanted to mention how he had banded together a rag tag troop of farmers in Burrowstone, and defeated Gloustar, the wizard tyrant who was drying up crops with his wicked spells. The battle had even been mentioned in the official Life Quest fan blog. Marcus still kept in contact with one of the farmers from that epic battle via email. In real life he lived in Clevland and worked at Starbucks. The dark wizard Gloustar was a real estate agent in Tennessee.

“Hmm, well, I am a Sunday school teacher. I lead the children in prayer and song. I am pretty proud of that. I mean, I was also the president of my rocket club in seventh grade.” The Sunday school bit was a lie. How did that slip out? He went to church occasionally. Christmas eve was the last time.

“Good enough Marcus. Fine. Well things are going well. Wouldn’t you say?” Clarence had that addressing-a-child tone again. “Now we’re going to have some real fun.”
On the monitor behind Clarence, the boy cashier was energetically greeting two new guest with a toothy smile. Marcus shivered.

“Let’s do some role playing. We have a promotion for our guest this month in which, for a flat rate, they can rent unlimited videos. Your job as a guest service specialist, is to make the guests feel like family. You know how people are, they have long days at work, have to haul the kids to soccer practice. Life can be very stressful, Marcus. Our job is not about renting videos, it is about making our guest feel loved. Some guests are friendly, others are grumpy. It is important that we treat everyone like family. Our specialist have written a list of conversation starters that we require each employee to memorize. It is quite useful actually. You can even use them on friends and strangers when your outside of work. So, anyway, I am going to pretend to be a guest and I want you to sell me the Super All-Star promotional deal.

Marcus was reminded of a tribe he had read about in one of his Anthropology text books. In their culture it was customary for strangers to share in silence for at least ten minutes before speaking. Marcus had met Clarence less than ten minutes ago and already he had divulged his strengths, his weaknesses, had lied twice, and was now being forced to act. He still wasn’t totally clear how any of this related to selling videos but he needed to pay his rent; the job market was struggling--if Clarence the man-boy told him to act, he was going to. He had to eat. He had to pay rent. He had to advance to a level ten Mage Guild Master.

He was sweating, blushing, shaking. He tried to recall what the guest service specialists usually said to him when he would check out videos. “Hello sir. Did you find everything ok? I’d like to tell you about our new promotional package called the All-Star deal.”

“Super All-Star deal.” Clarence felt it necessary to break the magical-realism of the moment to correct Marcus.

“Uh, yes, yes sir, the Super All-Star deal. You pay a flat rate…”

“Of fourteen ninety five a month”

“Uh, of fourteen dollars and ninety five cents a month. How can you pass on a deal like that sir? For the price of just three movie rentals, you can watch as many movies as you want. Imagine watching a Hollywood blockbuster every night--for free!” Marcus sold himself. He’d stop by the front counter and sign up for the All-Star package on his way out.

“Not bad Marcus. Could have used a little more enthusiasm but once you read our employee hand book you’ll understand what I mean. Well, we have reached the question comment section of the interview. Do you have any questions you’d like to throw my way?

Marcus had a ton of questions but they were questions he wasn’t sure Clarence could answer, such as, was Clarence a real person or was he a robot built by Corporate Chain Video engineers in an underground lab? What was the significance of the color purple? How would he break into the field of anthropology if he wasn’t even psychologically qualified to work at a video store?

“No Clarence. No questions.”

“Easy enough. I think you would make a wonderful addition to our staff Marcus. Two quick things. First, I am not qualified to hire you,” he spoke hurriedly while fingering the buttons on his shirt, “but I will invite you back for a panel interview tomorrow afternoon if that works for you. Three of our area supervisors will be administering that interview. A little intimidating I know, but you’ll do just fine. Second, we only have one counter shift available, but we can get you a few extra shifts as a sign waver. It is the sign wavers job to dance on the street corner dressed as Fluffy, the Corporate Chain Video mascot. It is a really rewarding job Marcus. The children absolutely adore Fluffy. You would be doing a service to the community. We all have to start out somewhere. What do you think? Should I pencil you in for the interview tomorrow afternoon?”

“Sure. Why not? I can wave a sign.” Marcus: a highly educated man, forced to work the street corners dressed as grape flavored swath of cotton candy until something better turned up.

“Wonderful Marcus. Wonderful.”

They both stood up and shook hands. The interview was over. Marcus walked back down the stair case followed by Clarence. The neon tube lighting flickered above them. The stairway was narrow and the ceiling was low. The walls were unpainted and splintery. Marcus guessed by Clarence’s silence that the writers of the Corporate Chain Video handbook didn’t write a chapter on how to converse in a stairwell. He was all smiles and cheers when their feet touched the noisy purple carpet again.

“Marcus. The chasm problem, did you figure it out?”

“No. Not really. The only thing I could think of is pray to God. That can’t be right though.”

“Ah I didn’t think of that. Better than that though--remember the infinite length of rope--fill the pit with the rope and walk across using the four boards as a movable bridge.” Clarence proudly turned and disappeared into the dark hall.

The boy cashier, lit up as Marcus approached the front door. “Did you steal the sun?”

Clouds had blown in and blocked out the spring sunshine while Marcus had been upstairs. The boy’s question was nonsensical but Marcus appreciated the playfulness of it after an initial reaction of annoyance.

He pushed through the door and found himself in a vast desert. In front of him, spread a great chasm measuring one thousand miles deep, one thousand miles wide, and hundreds of feet across. An old weathered tin road sign covered in dust, marked the edge of the pit. It read Corporate Chain Video. On the other side of the great divide was a bountiful oasis over flowing with food, rent money, and a renewed Life Quest subscription. The only resources Marcus could use to cross the chasm were: an infinite length of his own soul and four wooden planks of self respect.