The ChuckleHut

[ Thursday, October 31, 2002 ]

Maybe I should be concerned that so much of what I find noteworthy in my quotidian life occurs on or around the bus. Then again, if I don't want to engage in gossip or onanism, most of my contact with the world happens during these two parts of my workdays. There's very little value to writer or reader in an lengthy description of me staring at my computer monitor or legal pad for several hours at a shot, with exciting (by contrast) but very occasional and abbreviated field trips to the washroom. So I find myself on the bus again, and the experience tends to set the tone (in the morning to work) for my days and (in the evening back home) nights. This may be why the execretory bookend day stands out for me.

When I woke up I was on the ol' 38L inbound, comfortably ensconced in a plastic seat that faced into the center of the bus. A crowd of commuters lined the aisle, reading or listening to music or staring blankly forward... I noticed that the fellow right in front of me was carrying a black canvas attache case with my college seal on it. That's a school that isn't well represented here on the left coast and I had such a good time there I'm always happy to see evidence of it in strange places, so I was favorably disposed to this tall, somewhat overweight, headphone wearing fellow. Until I smelled the rankness of his flatulence. It was just past 8 am and it seemed he'd been breakfasting on vulcanized rubber and fried sulphur. His butt was broad and smug and about ten inches from my face. I was choking on the thickness of the stench. I don't know if or when it ever dissipated; it seemed I could still nearly taste it hours later.

My day did not particularly shine; it barely met my extremely modest expectations at the high point and then deteriorated until I forced myself to leave the office, later than I wanted to, later than I ought to have. My jaw was clenched but the last hours of daylight savings sunlight still lit the sky, which shone a rich azure above me, a pale pink at the horizon towards which I walked two blocks to Transbay Terminal. A small group was already waiting for a 38L that was loitering several yards away to come on down to the platform and whisk us away to a brighter future. We waited together. We continued waiting for longer than I thought was appropriate. Then the starlings started to arrive. (I think they're starlings. These are little black birds that flock together in a mass, a shape that twists and floats on the wind, bending and shifting but never breaking.) There was a flock of about fifty, flapping in unison, swerving madly as one, an enormous airborne amoeba on crank, swooping and dispersing and reuniting in a cohesive unit. Another flock of about fifty joined them, and then several more cognizable masses of birds - soon there were hundreds, maybe a thousand of them, black against the cupric blueness of the sky, performing acrobatic feats and taking our breath with the beauty of their formations. We all stood in the gathering cool and watched them spin and flutter and somehow maintain a unitary contiguity. I've always loved starlings in flight and these ones were putting on one hell of a show. I was feeling better about my fart-started day. Then I felt the cold wet impact as cloacal waste descended from on high to strike me on the cheek. Birdshit splashed onto my glasses, ran down the side of my face. My mouth, incredibly, had been closed, so the damage was limited to external applications only. I wiped off the chunks with the shoulder of my jacket and a fellow commuter offered me, with impressive solemnity, a paper napkin. I tidied up as best I could and stepped forward to a muni worker to ask when that damn bus would stop idling and get me away from target practice central. When my day starts as mine did, I guess I should expect it to end as it did. Execretory bookends. At least I maintained personal control of my bodily functions. So things could have been worse. Now that I think about it, they could have been a lot worse. So I cheerfully retract the above rant.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:11 AM]

[ Wednesday, October 30, 2002 ]

Here's the story that broke my heart. Chad came downstairs to find his parents waking up in front of the television in their southern Maryland home. "Did they catch the sniper?" he asked eagerly. With exhausted relief his parents told him, "Yes they did." Chadwick, joyous, started jumping, gleefully cavorting round the room. (This will be the last year he pretends to still believe in Santa.) "Hooray!" he shouted. "Now we can go trick-or-treating!"

I've blown off halloween for more years than I cared to observe it as a child. This year I will be thinking a lot about children for whom this opportunity is more of a gift than a right. I used to wonder about drugged chocolate and boobytrapped apples; I never wondered if I'd be shot in the street with a sack of dumdums in my hand. Time to enjoy the hell out of the event this year.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:08 AM]

It's been a few days since the concert, but that's only given us more time to reflect on our gratitude, dude. Sourdo'h and Hapless did us a huge and generous favor, and it turned my thinking thus:

Let it never be said of the act of a friend
that an object is dead or one's works ever end.
With a sliver of paper, the air filled with sound -
a mysterious caper on sharply sloped ground.
Even sweeter for being a bolt from the blue,
we were singing and seeing, all thanks to you two.
There's a future before us, new twistings unknown,
but it sings with your chorus - no voice is alone.

Awesome concert, guys - thanks a lot. Meantime, in honor of DavePaige and his estimable contribution to the event, I'll recall my only favorite thing about Shoreline, a venue with the charm and personality of an MRI chamber: over the entry gates are several large signs that describe upcoming events, sponsorships, and naturally, prohibitions - firearms televisions nutpicks icechests all the stuff they don't want you dragging into the ampitheater. One sign is worth a second look. It features a young boy - like Opie from the old Andy Griffith show, cheerful and redheaded and a little goofy in the smile - with hands outstretched. In one hand he holds a very large pint-style glass. In the other he carries a tapped beer keg. He wears a jaunty baseball cap and his eyes gleam with vacant euphoria. A slashed circle covers the whole arrangement, advising us that children are not to be permitted to drink alcohol, or, I guess, to carry whole kegs of beer. The funny thing is, after the Other Ones' set, I saw that kid, squatting behind a beverage cart, wavering and warbling unrecognizeably, his fingers stained with dirt, his eyes more vacant than they were on the sign. Damn that kid parties hard.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:03 AM]

[ Thursday, October 24, 2002 ]

I always loved the freight elevators built into the sidewalks. On my way to work I see the city waking up, some poor souls already stressed and clenched, walking like they missed a meeting, weaving through the gridlocked traffic, and other souls just waking up, from wino dreams in doorways or as fully dressed automatons approaching offices they can't describe, and all the others filling in the spectrum that connects these two extremes; the trucks unloading every form of dream and nightmare onto pallets dollys straining migrant backs, the sidewalks filling up with coffee smells and coffee breath and accidental meetings, cell phone talkers, random dog shit, men in hardhats breaking concrete, an ever-changing pagent, entertainments for the eyes and all the senses... and then amidst it all the steel doors fly open from the earth itself, and from the chasm rises first a metal framework, delicately curved and deeply rusted, dented, tired, solid, creeping up above the ground, and then you see his head, his shoulders, overalls, he's standing on the platform as it rises in the steamy fog, and yes I think he knows how cool it looks, despite the fact he's tired, underpaid, and probably malnourished, creeping up into the sunlight from an underworld of hidden commerce, till the elevator stops and his emergence is complete, the mystery revealed, Adam Cadmon, and he who moments earlier had been an enigmatic lazerus is now another man on crowded sidewalks, waiting for the truck to be unloaded so he can descend again and hoist a latent weight. The bus moves on and all of it is lost behind me. But I always loved those elevators, and I think the men who ride them get off on them too. Someday I'll ask for and get a joyride and the thrill will be destroyed. Until then I watch for sidewalk business elevators, and those ramps down which one slides more sturdy goods. They also look like fun to someone who has never had to use them.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:59 PM]

The crazy thing is that the streetlights do go out around me. Not all of them, not all the time, but often enough that people who've known me for years see it happen when we're together and know what's going on. "Dude, stoppit," they mutter as the glass globe fades to orange, ochre, and then - not black, but a silvery reflective darkness, dusty glass glistening internally far overhead. It all started that night in Greenwich Village when I hit the lamp post and killed the streetlight with my own inherent vital power, channeled through my stalwart arm - an arm that had never killed anything, never had much of an impact on the world. And now as I drive through the big park at night and the lamps go out one at a time as I approach them, I wonder what I'm doing, what bizarre sodium-halogen poison I'm exuding. I wonder whether I am getting charged up with their power and energy, sucking it forth from their concrete and steel conduits - or if it's just evaporating, disappearing into the darkness that precedes me. I once had the opportunity to talk to a public works electrician about it, asked him "why would streetlights go out when I get near them, not all of them, but one or two every month?" He looked at me as if I was an alien just landed from a planet where electricity is food, and sat back as he told me: "No reason. That doesn't happen. You must be imagining it." Let me tell you bucko, I imagine a lot of stuff, but not this. I'm a rolling brownout, and it weighs on my mind.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:59 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 22, 2002 ]

all I have to say is 100 things about myself - check the sidebar and drink hearty
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:56 PM]

[ Monday, October 21, 2002 ]

The miracle of modern technology has yet to trickle all the way down to the hut, so Pea's incisive pie comment didn't come up in an accessible way. But here it is, and bless her heart for uncovering this cultural gem. It goes without saying that pies are both political and erotic. Eat dessert first.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:15 PM]

She stood in the lobby, waiting in her stretch beige pants suit. I had only been told that she needed to talk to a manager; I was pretty sure I wasn’t whom she wanted, but maybe I could help her figure where she ought to go. She was in her fifties, with coarse, brassy hair, her face contorted in a smile that seemed to bear no relation to her other facial gestures. “I’m Diane,” she chirped. “Thanks for coming out to talk with me.” “Hello, Diane, I’m Dan,” I told her. “I’m afraid I don’t know why you’re here; how can I help you?” She seemed taken by surprise, straightened up and pressed a hand up to her neckline. “I am here responding to your advertisement for counselors. You are aware of the position, are you not?” I admitted to her that I knew the job was open but that I was working in a different section altogether; I’d have to refer her to the Operations Manager, who could discuss the opportunity with her in greater detail. “Oh really,” she exclaimed, as she leaned in toward me. “What department do you work in?” I explained to her “development,” what I did for the facility. She placed her palms together, held her praying hands above her heart. “How many people are in your department?” she asked breathlessly. I told her we weren’t hiring. She insisted on learning my manager’s name, to set up a meeting for more information.

She then returned her interest to the counselor position. She said she was working part-time, temporarily, thought she was well-suited for the job because she loved the animals so much, and kept good paperwork and records. She had faxed her resume and cover letter one week earlier and yet no one had gotten back to her; she’d left phone messages as well and thought she’d just drop in to see where we were in the process of recruitment. She started asking questions about recordkeeping in adoptions, and I was obliged again to tell her that I didn’t have that kind of information. She stood up straight, dropped her hands down to her sides, and cocked her head. “Well,” she said, “here’s one I bet you know the answer to, but I don’t know if you will tell me. What’s the salary for this position?” “All I know about that job is that the pay is hourly, not salary. What we are paying by the hour, I can’t tell you. The Manager of this department knows this stuff by heart. I promise I will have him call you.” She fixed me with her gaze, but suddenly one of her eyeballs veered abaft. I realized this eye had wandered all throughout our conversation, going anywhere it wanted. She raised her hands again, palms touching. “Okay,” she said, “it’s been a lovely pleasure meeting with you here today. Please take my resume – I’ve already faxed it twice, but I haven’t heard from anybody here, so perhaps you’d better check to see if it came through. And here’s my card, in case you need to call or page me.” She gestured with a stubby, richly-painted fingernail to the black box hanging from her belt. “So you can reach me anytime. About when do you think that this position will be filled?” “Really, I have no idea. The Operations Manager can fill in all these details; I’ll see he gets this information from you.” Her smile creaked a millimeter closer to her ears. She leaned toward me, arms down near her body, her hands clasping one another at the level of her knees. I could smell her hair spray, saw the line where she’d stopped spreading her foundation. Her left eye swung out to the side; the right one focused on me without wavering. “This meeting with you really made my day,” she breathlessly intoned. “When will you be getting back to me?”

thats just the way it seems to me at [11:52 AM]

We were leaving the car a few blocks from their apartment. As we stepped into the brisk evening a sign beckoned to us both from across the street: 'All Pies 1/2 Off.' We knew these pies, had eaten them gleefully unnumbered times, had shared them with friends both local and visiting, all of whom joined us in our appreciation for their warmth and savory flakiness. "Half off,' she said as I hurried down the nocturnal sidewalk. I hustled her along, we were late, hate to keep 'em waiting, keep those heels clicking and the darkened doorways sliding past us. 'Maybe later,' I muttered insincerely. An hour or so later we were leaving, warmed by vintage beverages, toasted warmly within and without as the seabreeze blew back her hair and painted my glasses with tiny salted droplets. We saw that the pie store was now closed, dark against the darkness. 'We missed the sale,' she reflected thoughtfully. I tried to justify our - my - actions, that it was better that we had moved on earlier, that we should have done exactly as we had. It was superfluous, she needed no convincing. 'I'm not saying we made the wrong choice,' she assured me. 'I'm just saying there was pie.'
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:06 AM]

[ Friday, October 18, 2002 ]

- How's it going?
- Fine.
- Can I lend a hand?
- No, I'm okay.
- I just meant, if I could help -
- Didn't I just tell you I'm fine?
- I just thought you could use some assistance.
- So when I said I didn't need your help, what, you thought I was kidding? You need help with your help.
- Don't get frustrated with me if it's not going well.
- I'm not frustrated, I'm irritated; annd it's with the job, it's with you. I told you I was fine. You ignored me.
- I was just noticing that you're making this job a lot harder than it needs to be.
- If you're so clever why can't you figure out that you're pissing me off?
- This shouldn't be personal. It's about the job. We both want to see it done right.
- And it's obvious that you don't think I'm capable of it.
- Don't put words in my mouth. I know you can do it. I've just got an idea of how to get it done faster and more easily.
- And my idea of how to do it is stupid and clumsy, that's what you're telling me. Here, you take over. I'm finished. You do it like you like it.
- I don't want to take over. I just want to contribute. You're overreacting.
- Either you get out of here and leave me alone and trust me to get this right, or it's all you from here out. I'm not going to have you second-guess my every move.
- Can't we just talk about it for a minute and see what's best? Get the benefit of each other's thinking?
- We could if you cared what I thought. But you don't. If it doesn't meet your expectations it's just wrong. I'm not going to let myself get sucked into that.
- You have no idea what I expect, or hope for, or want. I'm offering you help and you're treating me like some kind of dictator. It's insulting.
- That's funny, me insulting you. You're as much as calling me incompetent. Like I can't manage without your guidance. Well, screw it. If you feel so strongly about this, do it yourself.
- No. I won't take this away fom you.
- Too late.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:42 PM]

[ Wednesday, October 16, 2002 ]

Last tuesday was boy’s night out at the GAMH (with the notable exception of the exotic and lovely Helena). I left work late and went to one of the Tenderloin’s best and cheapest Indian restaurants for some onion bread and some potato bread, and carried it through the sticky sordid streets to the venue. On the way i was careful not to make eye contact with the noisy wasted bum trying to sell sunglasses out of his back pocket; some older dunderheads helped me out by engaging him in conversation, giggling at his anxious antix. I got to the line and started eating; friends started arriving, a good group of hard partiers, 8 of us altogether.... the dunderheads were in line behind us, still chatting with the beggar, who was becoming increasingly agitated. To keep my karma clear and that loud jerk away from me and my friends I gave an elderly crackwench half of one of my dinner breads; she didn’t eat it. We were among the first people inside and took occupancy of a series of tables house right; a staff dude told us we’d be better off upstairs so we relocated and found no seats with a view at all. So we moved again and got tables house left, which were just fine. Without putting too fine a point on things, i was getting very warm and easily confused at this point. The opening band, Estradasphere, was exceptional, much to my shock and gratification. They played everything - boogaloo funk, gypsy guitar ballads, thrash klezmer. At the break two of our party each got their cd, and also one from the sax player from the headline act, a huge muscular handsome wall of a man who walked right past us toward the backstage area - we flashed the cd to him and he stopped to mug for us, waved his hands and waggled his butt around, and gave Ralph a huge bear hug. As Project Object took the stage, the funk quotient rose exponentially. But two of our party were sinking fast. One of us had to take another of us outside for a walk, or more of a sitdownon the stained sidewalk... our friend ran interference for him as the drunkards and losers stumbled over to him, ‘I’ve been there myself, gimme a dollar...’ Still at my seat, I noticed those two were gone when another friend’s head lolled against me; he was pale and sweaty and his eyes were closed. Eventually he asked me to help him to the bathroom, where the men’s was locked but the woman’s was open; i stood guard for him for what seemed quite a long time, during which the other sick friend - now feeling better - found me and we passed the time. When the presently sick friend emerged from the head he was still pale and shaky; we got him outside for some fresh air andimmediately a gent strolled up to sell us a tiny packet of brown leaves, ‘it’s the real shit, my last bag, sell it to ya for 10...’ i had to turn my coldest glare on him before he saw that we were not his market. The pale boy got a little color back and we slowly walked to a corner store for some cold water. As I strolled the aisles two enormously endowed streetwalkers eyed me, appraisingly i thought, but i was a bit disoriented myself; their chill-stiffened nipples followed me like second pairs of eyes - but i had a confused friend to help, no time to chat with the hired help... we got back to the theater for the second set, which ended at 1 am, by which time everybody seemed substantially better. It was an excellent concert, but an even more noteworthy night.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:48 PM]

Yesterday my plane landed at Burbank at 8 am and we took a shuttle downtown. We got off the freeway at Hill Street and drove through Chinatown. As we passed a pedestrian mall surmounted by a big clumsy structure meant to resemble a chinese gate, I saw them standing beneath it, among the shuttered apothecaries and tchochketoriums. The dawn was pallid and foggy; the walkway was nearly deserted; the shuttle was going fast to make up for time lost in traffic. But they were impossible to miss. She was wearing a tight blue sheath skirt that rode high up her slim thighs; her enormous bosom strained the fabric and my credulity. Her friend was wearing a pink mini skirt, or maybe hot pants, and a white jersey burgeoning with mammaries. They were both wearing platform pumps and carried small purses. Their other friend was wearing a fur coat, tan slacks, cowboy boots and a broad brimmed hat. He’d have looked like a pimp even without the hookers. They stood together in the chilly air, laughing. I wanted to ask them what they were laughing at, why they were hanging out in that empty mall, whether their day was beginning or ending. But the van drove on and I will never know what was really happening. Their bodies seemed artificial; their clothes seemed a parody; but the laughter seemed genuine. I hope it was.

thats just the way it seems to me at [6:11 PM]

I am led to believe that starfish have no brains. They have a sucking orifice and a horny beak, but no higher functions. I wouldn’t hold it against them, though. I’d never ask my starfish to do logic games or for an opinion on current events. Starfish are good for some things that don’t require thinking. This is a great comfort to me.

thats just the way it seems to me at [5:56 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 15, 2002 ]

have i been away? or have you simply lost track of the here i occupy? no, you're right, i've been away. the multifarious impingements of modern life have kept me from the hut nigh these many days. Got a car. Went to LA. Caught up on critical and overdue correspondence. Bumbled along with one hand in fiberglass restraints. And there were a few unexpected items that kept coming up and distracting me. Some of this is known. Some will be shared. Some is locked forever in the depths of my darkest heart. The important thing is that Chuckles has resurfaced, and he's confused. So everything is back to normal.

thats just the way it seems to me at [8:11 PM]

[ Wednesday, October 09, 2002 ]

isn't it about damn time to throw another egg at the RECIPE CORNER?

So you think you're too good for french toast, do you? You're probably right, it's usually all goopy and chewy, bland and floppy... are these the adjectives you want in your mouth first thing in the a.m.? Hell no and who'd blame you. Well I would because you're making it wrong, you shameful puppy. Here's what you meant to do when you thought french toast was a good idea:

start out with THINLY sliced WHITE bread. It's a little hard to find but don't give up so easily or you'll never respect yourself. Next whip out the cream cheese - full fat, soy-free, don't play games with the eternal verities - and the orange marmalade. No substitutions - lesser jellies can't stand up to this recipe. Take two slices of bread and smear the cream cheese on one, marmalade on the other; press them together to make a sandwich. Repeat till you have enough for everybody.

Now you gotta make batter: this is delicate work. I use two eggs - beaten well - added to a cup of delicious whole milk - it should be a bit thinner than nog. You need enough for all the sandwiches, so do the math and make your best guess. Add cinnamon, nutmeg (nurtmeg) and allspice to taste; remember the nurtmeg is stronger than it looks. Secret ingredient: also add some orange blossom essence in place of some of the milk, again to taste, my god do I have to tell you everything?

Now you have sandwiches and batter. Heat a skillet with some oil in it till water drops dance screaming on the surface. While it's getting hot, cut the sandwiches into triangles. If you need instructions on this part you shouldn't be playing with the stove. Get a triangle nice and wet in the batter - let it rest a few seconds on each side before removing it to the skillet. Use tongs and a spatula to flip it and fry the edges. Serve with some maple syrup that you've been simmering with dried cranberries or dried blueberries in it at low heat for 20 minutes or so. Now that's french toast even the french would be proud of. of which even the french would be proud. oh shut up.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:45 PM]

now i know what people are looking for when they find me. i just don't know how I feel about it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:29 PM]

Beware the powerful wisdom of the intelligent mind!
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:56 AM]

When I was a tyke I wasn't too impressed with the idea that everybody puts on pants one leg at a time, so I figured out how to put my pants on both legs at once. As long as I can lie down, pants-putting-on is now a one-step process for me. If I'm so inclined I can take 'em off the same way but I prefer to maximize another efficiency instead: though the pants go on bipedally, socks are still are a one-at-a-time deal, as are shoes that need to be tied or fastened. I haven't figured out how to improve efficiency on that score, but I've figured out how to get out of one pant leg and the associated sock all at once without bending my delicate person. So even though it's still one leg at a time, it's two items I can slough off per leg. These are the little triumphs that make my life exciting.... as it were...
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:46 AM]

I'm not artsy. Regardless, I do occasionally do art-oriented things.... courtesy of da lovely bomb, smoldering hotter than ever...
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:12 AM]

[ Tuesday, October 08, 2002 ]

When the Streetlights Started Going Out

It was autumn, and the night came early. We were roaming Greenwich Village, college sophomores who knew not their limitations, nor believed in any. I had never seen the City, but Barry’d been there once or twice, and his buddies really seemed to know their way around. I was straining to receive the maximum in stimulation – visual, auditory, tactile, anything. The wind was chilly on my face, but I was warm from the inside out. I waited at a corner. Old buildings stood around me, marching lockstep in every direction into eventual dusky dark. The streetlights were on and I loitered beneath one for my group to regroup. The lightpole seemed to me so typical of that metropolis: tall and thick, showing age and rust through tired paint but still so solid as to have an air of permanence, as if it had been standing there when Gotham was no more than muddy meadows, as if it would stoically remain well after all the masonry and concrete towers looming in the night were empty, crumbled, ultimately leveled by entropic forces, the streetlight remaining aloof and alone as the island reverts to a state of nature. In the meantime, I stood beneath its glowing orb, traffic speeding by in nearly random patterns, strangely broad sidewalks inviting my wanderings in all the directions at once.
All this rumination took barely a moment as I waited – then the others joined me, cruising forward. I slapped the side of the lightpole as I moved on with them, gloved hand landing flatly on the weathered metal. The sensation I felt was solid and comforting, the sound was deep and resonant. The light itself went out – extinguished at the moment I made contact with the pole. I looked up and saw the glass dome fading, red to brown to empty glittering black. We laughed and walked and let it go behind us.
We wandered the streets for an hour or two, eating and visiting places to buy things. Eventually, we went into a drugstore some good distance from the streetlamp that I’d whacked. Someone needed toothpaste, and my cohorts filtered down the densely laden aisles while Barry and I waited up near the checkout, watching traffic churn along the street outside. A man walked in, confronted me. He wore a tan trench coat, a stained fedora, old unpolished shoes; his face was grizzled and unshaven. “You the guy who knocked that streetlight out on Seventh?” His chin bristled as it jutted out at me. Barry was intensely still. I looked the stranger calmly up and down and answered, “Yes.” “The cops are looking for you, kid.” His cheeks then rounded just a little; hard eyes glittered with unspoken warmth. He backed out of the shop without another word.

Barry grabbed my shoulder. “We’ve got to get away from here,” he muttered. “They are looking for you.”

“No, they’re not,” I told him.

“But that guy just told you that they were,” he replied with urgent tension.

“That was a joke. We’re cool. Be mellow,” I advised him.

Barry shook his head and grimaced, going on about our doom: separate jails, separate states… But when we finally emerged into the cold night air and saw the whole world swirling round us, laughing and drinking and running amok in a million directions, even Barry realized that there would be no manhunt. My misdeed would go unpunished. To this day I bear the onus of malicious mischief. I remain the man who killed the light on Seventh. But in that city of unending action, one less light, I think, was hardly noticed.

thats just the way it seems to me at [6:01 PM]

what I've wound up doing, since I'm having trouble taking notes on the little crap that makes for a good quick blog, is reprinting some stuff I wrote during the last 50 days of 1999, when I gave myself a project to write 25 essays in 50 days. In retrospect they mostly suck, but a few can be salvaged. That's why a shinehead like me writes about his haircuts. The hair on my chest, however, is luxuriant and hirsuitabulous. But that's not barbershop hair.

But I'm getting good enough to take a note or two, like the vignette this am on - of course - the 38L, where two men were talking as I took a seat; they faced each other across the crowded aisle. The speaker mumbled, seemed reluctant, didn't want to be overheard; the listener was pale, blonde, intense, thin, hunched forward in his chair to get every word, every inflection, watching with hungry pale eyes... the speaker, heavy, darkhaired, olive skinned, was talking about how he liked his apartment because people left him alone there; the other man bobbed his head and enthusiastically agreed - "that's right, yeah, privacy is a wild thing..." I got the feeling that he didn't have such a good idea what the other guy was describing. You don't discuss privacy interests across the knees of strange commuters. And some of those guys were pretty strange...
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:54 PM]

I guess I'm not the first to feel this way but the bleached jeans thing is getting old fast. When I see a prissy little thing strutting down the avenue looking like s/he hasn't ever done any real work in his or her life, wearing neew and costly trousers that have been treated so it looks like the wearer has been dragged on the butt over chalkfields and forced to try to rub his or her way through the pantlegs from the outside... well it's just silly looking.

(Present company excepted.)
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:24 PM]

[ Monday, October 07, 2002 ]

sometimes it's the little things that get me going... the purple press-on fingernail on the pavement outside the bus station, maybe ripped from a cuticle or having secretively detached itself, glistening like a tiny tongue amidst the bits of dirt and garbage... where was she when she saw it was missing? Had she worn it for a special event? Did she think its bruised curves made her look glamorous, sexy, not unemployed and nearly homeless, worthy of a second look? Was it part of a special outfit? Cosmetic feature, transplanted, disrupted, gone from an accessory feature of fabulosity to a gruesome amputated limb, waiting for a finger to lift it up and point with it, yes thats it up there just follow my purpleness - knowing that finger has come and abjured and gone - waiting for the dustpan and how long before it disappears in dust?? That special outfit will be long defunct before this fingernail changes color....
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:13 PM]

The Night I lost my Balls to Kissinger

Growing up I liked to meet new people and looked everybody in the eye. I would watch them, how their gaze would hold my own; they’d see me looking at them and then almost always they would glance away or down or, at the most, grin sheepishly. I tracked reactions to my staring. I saw myself as quite the little social scientist.

I’d been living in LA about since I was born, and was accustomed to the presence of big stars. I’d look them in the eye, like anybody else I saw, just to see how they reacted. Oftentimes they didn’t notice. On occasions when they did, they’d usually acknowledge me in some impersonal but pseudo-charismatic way, and then I’d wallow in a misbegotten aura of referred assumed charisma, as if what I’d elicited had been charisma, and that it had left a sheen on me. But it had only been a jaunty nod from Morgan Fairchild or a gruff but cheerful half-salute from Larry Hagman. These really didn’t count.

Then I got an invitation to have dinner at the city’s most star-riddled restaurant. The food was also very good so I was happy to go. The place was packed. We saw Lee Grant and Vanna White and stars whose names I cannot presently recall. After dinner (which was perfect) we repaired outside. I was sitting on a deck, just waiting for the night to end so I could go on home, when my inquiring gaze encountered eyes that did not waver when they met my own. There was no smirk or grin or toss of hair – just two eyes looking back at mine, unblinking. There was no expression on his face. He was a bit more portly than I’d have expected, and a little greyer than I recollected from the news. He was unmistakable. For only a second he looked at me and I looked back at him. I thought: This guy stared down people who controlled the fate of millions. Kissinger was watching me. What was he thinking? How could I justify his interest? I was just a nosy kid. With that, I dropped my gaze.

When the restaurateur came by to gush his charm and garlic over us, I found him tired and transparent. Once he scurried off I was still thinking about Henry Kissinger, that I had been the one who’d looked away, that I could set my eye upon another human being and become so insecure, so conscious of myself that I was overwhelmingly compelled to look at something else, at anything that did not ask me questions with its eyes. I was no longer someone who looked at people in the eye. What that then made me, I was not prepared to say.

thats just the way it seems to me at [12:28 PM]

i'm not that unusual. i'm just like all the other guys who are just like me...
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:33 AM]

[ Sunday, October 06, 2002 ]

Over the last two days I've had the opportunity to see two very different sides of the park. Today, at the free bluegrass festival, there were a lot of babies and tots and a fair number of dogs on leashes. People were unshaven but hygenic; t-shirts bore obscure slogans and memorialized unheard-of concerts. People were packed pretty close but gave each other a lot of room. The music wasn't bad, and was sometimes quite good. We left before Chuck Prophet's set, which is too bad, but as we left we forged against a steady tide of mellow freaks and cute young persons who all seemed to have their cultural houses in order. We can call this 'population A.'

We hung with 'population B' yesterday at the very lovely Evil Queen's picnic. It's not like we were very far away or near a worse part of town. It's the difference between Speedway Meadow and the Big Rec Fields - a dozen quiet residential blocks. But we encountered an entirely different crowd. First there was the old - not elderly - woman sprawled out on the grass, looking uncomfortable and unwashed; she scooted around a lot and after she left stray dogs kept checking out the patch of grass she'd occupied. Then the shirtless hebrephenic showed up, ranting and pacing and smacking the air, inventing and practicing a new martial art, screaming to heaven and rubbing himself against the turf like a dog off leash. Then there were the two gents with TB, relaxing on the sward, contemplatively hocking up thick puddles of lung and tar, so loud the ground seemed to shake and Brett had to start playing guitar to have something else to listen to. And the semi-nude semi-yogi, overtly tan with two dogs off-leash, parked in the shared outfields of two active softball diamonds, repeatedly performing preliminary warm-ups and assuring the frizbee player whose ass got nipped by the larger of his dogs that he shouldn't concern himself, the dog just wanted to be friendly. At one point the hebrephrenic sauntered over to our festive encampment to borrow a lighter, for which he asked with a lengthy and confusing query; before we were able to help him out he'd begun to insult us as rich bitches. As he lit a tired stubby butt, he spat voluminously in the grass near us; after he returned the lighter to us he wandered into the bushes and started thrashing them with fallen boughs like quarterstaffs but he left us alone. A skater youth asked us later for a cig and Jared had him ready to pay two buck for a menthol but she gave it to him for free in the end. He admitted, 'it's a $2 buzz.'

The park is free. It's worth the price, regardless which crowd you hang with.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:44 PM]

I hear that John Lee Hooker, creator of the immortal 'Boogie Chillin',' initially rejected preliminary drafts of that work including, but not limited to, 'Noogie Chillin' and the prescient 'Wookie Chillin'.' Genius finds its way.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:10 PM]

[ Saturday, October 05, 2002 ]

Baseball is in the air, bringing the conjoined promises of injury and liability. A few years ago i went to an A's game and sat about 10 rows in, just past third base. Foul balls were blowing past us with unsettling regularity. Three times the balls sliced the air at the level of my delicate nose, smashed under the seats behind us and caromed like a rabid mole for several moments. The two gradeschool girls sitting behind us would scream each time this would happen, jumping up on their seats and clutching their ankles and knees and each other. When the ball stopped they'd reach down and pick it up with dainty unblistered fingers, somewhat fearfully, as if afraid it would start moving of its own accord. They picked up three regulation balls that way. I had tried to grab one of those balls, a line drive foul off Ricky Henderson. I had no glove, but felt manly and strong as a consequence of my exposure to professional athletics and fermented refreshments. The ball was flying straight and true and i put up my left hand to grab it. I watched my fingers snap back as the ball smote them, uinimpeded by my efforts to catch it or even slow it down. My fingers just got pushd back perpendicular to the back of my hand, and then they snapped forward again, battered but incredulous. It didn't start to sting for about an inning, and didn't stop for about a week. Those damn girls took that one home too.

Ballparks often play 'charge' on the organ to get the crowd worked up. Even when the game is exciting, there's usually not a lot going on. Brief periods of frantic activity are interspersed among much longer periods of quiescence. So they play 'charge' and the whole crowd, in theory, wakes up and remembers that they're at a very exciting and important sporting event and they order their team to charge, bellowing it, screaming it, usually thrice, a big noise - and I just realized that it makes no sense at all, no one is charging at anything, everybody is hollering and the players are still just standing there, waiting for play to resume, neither charging nor being charged... why are we telling them to do something they patently won't ever be doing? "Charge" is not working for me; it's time to retire it. Ideas for replacements?
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:16 PM]

[ Friday, October 04, 2002 ]

Where to Get a Haircut

A barbershop is just a place where guys go for a haircut. The interaction is clinical, usually wordless. A decent barber hews order out of chaos and bestows a shred of evolution onto shaggy hominids. It has nothing to do with the things that are there, the music that is played or the magazines that are read by patrons waiting silently. But when everything is as it should be, these things harmonize and total up much more than the sum of their parts.

I got a real bad haircut once from Frank, a guy in West Philly who’d been around since B.C. (before cheesesteaks). His place had a lovely western exposure and a broad clean cheerful plate glass window, and the great old chairs I’ve always preferred. I asked his price, he said “five bucks.” Couldn’t beat it if I’d wanted. Wish I’d tried. He kept getting distracted by passersby and things on the street and shiny objects. Then again, he also simply gave a lousy haircut. I had to walk around in public acting as if I’d intended for my head to look like that, but it was like a lice treatment gone terribly wrong. Frank’s place had the elements, but lacked the key intangible: the tonsorial muse.

I thought I’d found a decent barber shortly after moving to this town, but he gave out on me. I got a few good haircuts, clean and tidy, nothing unexpected. Then I got a bad one. Nothing hideous, but falling below even my modest standards. The next time I gave him another try, since we’re all entitled to one bad day. But I was treated rudely and my hair was pointing strangely north when he was done. Two loser do’s in a row and I drop my barber. I’ve got to. I can’t stand the ignominy. I’m sensitive.

I bounced around from barber to barber. There are scores of little storefronts like Frank’s where I live, and I just went from one to the next, drifting, floating... my expectations were lower every time I tried someplace new, but there’s no way to tell who’s good and who’s not but by trial and miserable error. Then, in the bosom of the City’s biggest boulevard, I found my Philippino barbers. There are two locations to my knowledge, and three barbers whom I trust. My first discovery was International Dick’s, where I got a barbering unlike any I had ever had before. For one thing, my haircut was entirely acceptable. That’s all a guy ever wants. Nothing fancy, just a clean contour and a lower profile. This guy's technique, however, was markedly superior to any I had theretofore experienced. He had taken barbering to the next level.

Later, I learned that Grand Opening was just as good and they performed the same routine. I think they’re actually called Rick’s, but the Grand Opening sign that’s been hanging on their awning for the past seven years is so much more prominent than anything else they’ve got going that it seems the best way to identify them. Grand Opening has two guys who work in a very small room where the only running water is in a little closet in the back. On the other hand, the chairs are lovely heavy old jobs, and the music they play is pop hits from the late 40s to early 60s.

At International Dick’s, which is its real name, you need to see Francisco. Dick himself does a really bad job and he takes forever. Honestly, he could screw up that badly plenty faster if he tried. A friend went there on my advice, got Dick and not Francisco, and came back with a strangely eccentric bald spot over his left ear and the look in his eyes of a cat that is being removed too slowly from a basin of water. Francisco, though, is a barber in the classic mold. In fact, for me, he epitomizes it. The shop has two old heavy chairs, well apart from each other in a long narrow room. You sit facing a mirrored wall that lets you see the people walking up the boulevard behind your right shoulder. The music is Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra and sentimental songs with lots of strings. Men quietly wait their turn reading USA Today and Playboy, but not the Journal or Hustler.

You sit in the chair and the black drape is thrown over you, settles over you, protecting you from your own hirsute extrusions, granting you a priestly anonymity and removing you from the workaday world. You are in the barber’s chair: you are to do nothing at all, whether you want to or not. The next step involves the wrapping of a small thin tape of cloth around your neck. Most barbers do it the same way, in a tight fold that’s both comforting and suffocating. But these guys make it comfortable, loose and somehow draped so as to minimize the clippings getting stuck against your skin. “How you want it today, my friend?,” they ask every time. The clippers come out without prologue, swooping in arcs round your head. Your hair falls in compact mats that bounce from your shoulders to the floor. As he paces back and forth behind you, the barber swings and swirls the clipper cord with graceful terpsichorean maneuvers. The scissors come out next for layering, firm fingers gripping locks of hair, swiftly comparing and correcting in a pattern crawling to your crown. Then the scissors start swirling, snipping nonstop, like a mosquito hawk or dragonfly that looks fearful but lacks teeth. The drone of the metal tines dragging back and forth against each other is hypnotic.

Ordinary haircuts end right here. At these shops, though, the barber detaches the cloth from your neck, lays it over your throat, takes off the drape and shakes it clean. You know you’re not supposed to get up yet because of the cloth, a gentle garrotte, a soothing restraint. So you relax and wait. The barber throws the drape back over you, reattaches the washcloth in a slightly different, lower, looser way. He gets warm shaving foam and smears it on your sideburns, the back of your neck, behind your ears, everywhere the spirit moves him. I’m sometimes surprised by the locations he picks, but I just let him do his job. He’s a professional; I am but the artist’s canvas. He uses a straightedge razor; Francisco once told me he goes through seven or eight of them a day. After you are closely shaved, he soaks a washcloth in warm water and cups it round your ears, holding it there until reality begins to slip away. He then wipes off remaining spots of lather that are clinging to your neck and eyebrows. Then there is the final touch-up with the tiny buzzing clipper.

And at the end, you get the special bonus, that which tells you that you’ve found the muse’s home: he straps an electric device to the back of his hand. It vibrates vigorously as he kneads your neck and shoulders to dispel all the remaining tension that had managed somehow to survive till now. He keeps at you until you are relaxed enough to stop paying attention. Finally, having done all he could to uplift you from a pitiable condition to one somewhat less pitiable, he carefully flicks all the stray hairs from your head and face with a broad, soft, talcum-scented brush, removes the drape a final time, and thanks you for your visit. You rise slowly from the chair, vibrations resonating in your corpuscles. You pay the man and go outside. The air flows smoothly round your head. You look good and feel better. We all do. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to us: find a decent barber and get a decent haircut. You’ll be glad you did.

thats just the way it seems to me at [2:58 PM]

i just read that "Montana's Libertarian candidate for Senate has turned blue from drinking a silver solution that he believed would protect him from disease. Stan Jones,a 63-year-old business consultant and part-time college instructor, said he started taking colloidal silver in 1999 for fear that Y2K disruptions might lead to a shortage of antibiotics. He made his own concoction by electrically charging a couple of silver wires in a glass of water. His skin began turning blue-gray a year ago." I've never seen better evidence that 'survivalism' isn't. if you really think we've screwed up so badly that the only way to survive is to distil your own eau de vie out of battery acid and old tooth fillings you deserve to turn blue, and to be heartily laughed at because of it. Stan will be blue till he rots, at which point he'd make a good satellite dish. 'hon, hop bak up on the roof and readjust the libertarian, NASCAR's comin' in all fuzzy...'

The article fails to mention where, and what, the azure mr. Jones teaches, or the nature of the consultations he offers. Further research reveals a superficially boring person who, on closer examination, is probably a spy, or 'super spy.' Put together the pieces - combat flight training, lifetime military, work in Iran, inpenetrable jobduties - this guy's a spy. Hell, I'd vote for a spy, even if he is blue.

thats just the way it seems to me at [12:23 PM]

the grooves in the blacktop can set up vibrations that run through the chassis and sound like a drone. I'd like to design something - have someone do it - that would carve those grooves with a little shimmy, lumber along leaving ripples behind, the shorebreak of a zen garden, stretching a mile, or more, the sky's the limit, anyway these grooves would be carved with precise modulations so cars driving over them pick up vibrations that make their cars speak to them: 'put down the phone' or 'i'm thinking of touching you,' 'destroy mommy' or 'john 3:16' - we could make the road say anything. The only drawback is that we couldn't see people's faces as they gaped in wonder, seeking the source of the disembodied voice, so beset with confusion they just plow into a schoolbus full of kids in wheelchairs.

it would be groovy.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:16 AM]

[ Wednesday, October 02, 2002 ]

things aren't presently at maximum enjoyment quotient. however, i just opened one of my favorite books to a random page, as i am wont to do, for a sort of read on reality, like throwing the i ching with a book. my eye imediately fell upon the following passage. i find it instructive, if soberingly cautionary.

.16 venereal disease, VD, social disease, Cupid's itch or Venus' curse, dose [slang]; syphilis, syph [informal], syphil(o)-, pox, great pox, French disease or pox or plague [archaic], Italian or Spanish pox [archaic], morbus Gallicus [L]; acquired syphilis, congenital syphilis; primary or secondary or tertiary syphilis, latent syphilis, constitutional syphilis; paresis, general paresis, paralytic dementia, cerebral tabes, syphilitic meningoencephalitis; tabes, tabes dorsales, syphilitic posterior spinal sclerosis, locomotopr ataxia; gonorrhea, clap or claps [both slang], dose of clap or claps [slang]; chancre, hard chancre, chancroid, simple chancre, soft chancre; granuloma inguinale, granuloma venereum, pudendal ulcer; lymphogranuloma venereum, Frei's disease, nicolas-Favre disease, fifth venereal disease, climatic bubo, tropical bubo; balanitis gangrenosa.

Okay! not only do i feel a lot better, a whole bunch of impertinent querstions are now crowding my brains. Roget's comes through again.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:22 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 01, 2002 ]

dad was opposed to nature and physical activity, except for his weight training in the garage, a spectacle both profound and grotesque in its own right. but already i digress.

dad was constituted such that we didn't do a lot of typical father-son things like football games or camping trips or bike rides. and that was fine with me. it all sounded pretty inconvenient and regardless whether the activities could have been worthwhile under perfect circumstances i knew that doing any of these with my dad would have been embarassing, oppressive, and, in some cases, potentially life-threatening.

so i don't know whose idea it was to take me fishing. i don't think i'd have thought of it, and i sure as hell wouldn't have chosen to learn the gentle craft of angling at the sportsman's lodge in the heart of studio city. it seemed to be a gruesome pasttime and my affinity for underdogs promised to make every catch a tragedy. but i was about five years old and he took me so i went.

the hotel was not as fancy or nice as it thought it was, and the murky concrete ponds exhaled a potent stench. there were dirty stupid trout trapped in the ponds, and a handful of waterlogged ducks bobbing above them. dad rented me a pole - that's the right term, isn't it? - and his face contorted in disgust and trepidation as he baited my hook. i dropped the line into the torpid pool. there it dangled, awaiting only the gaping maw of an errant hunger before unleashing its cruelty.

i was looking for the trout, but this place was clearly making up its own rules as it went. so it shouldn't have surprised me that, instead of a fish, it was a smog-addled duck that dove for my hook, swallowed it down before it knew what it was doing... the duck put up a real bad noise as we started reeling it in. dad looked worried and his hair fell forward over his face. i was upset but i don't remember whether or not i was crying. they didn't let us keep the duck; i wasn't sure whether i wanted it anyway. it had been a muscovy, the black and white ones with tumerous red faces. i felt badly for it, but i couldn't help but think that the duck had been very stupid to dive for my fishhook. but then, had i not put that hook in the water, it couldn't have even happened. so i was responsible but the duck had been really stupid, and that didn't matter because the duck was dead regardless. we left well before our fishing sticks were due back to the hotel.

since then i think i've put in more hours fishing than any other person who has never caught a fish or seen anyone else catch one. ever since i saw someone skin and fillet a live catfish when i was around 15 i haven't been interested in killing fish. i'm comfortable with eating their flesh but i don't consider their panic and death to be entertainment.

and the ducks are still looking at me sideways....
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:40 PM]