IF SHIT IS NOT LIFE, THEN WHAT IS?



We get back from vacation and it’s pouring down rain. I give you a couple of kitty treats, then pick you up to pet you. That's when I see the cut on your tail, a deep, wide cut, full of pus. We take you to the animal hospital to get it cleaned out and stitched up. In the morning I hear you scrabbling around under the bed. I get down on the floor and drag you out and put you up on the bed with me where you look cute but miserable wearing the 'Elizabethan' collar that they sent you home with to stop you from licking the wound. I sit there with you for a while, listening to the rain, and then the dog Frank comes in and jumps up on the bed with us. High on opioids, desperate for Frank’s particular brand of love, you fling yourself at his face. Frank, always kind to you, licks your head and your neck and your ears. You purr and rub against him, in --there’s no other word-- sluttish ecstasy. I watch; a voyeur of cute, and it’s nice to see but then I smell shit. Most days the dogs manage to bring shit in on their paws, no matter how careful I am to pick it up. I bend over and lift Franks paws to my face, one by one, until I find it. I get some on my nose in this way, and on my hands too. I get out of bed and clean his paws with a wet soapy rag and throw it on the floor for the laundry. I wash my face and my hands and get back into bed. I figure there’s shit all over the floors by now and on the blanket but I'll deal with it later. You rub up against me then and as you do I smell a different, worse, shit smell. I lean in close, looking for it. It smells bad, and then I see it–– dried shit, caked all over your  hindquarters, your asshole, your butt. I get another wet soapy rag and try to clean you. It’s hard work and not very effective. I go through a few rags trying and after a while I guess you smell a little less bad but at any rate I’m tired of trying and it’s tormenting you anyway, poor guy, so I give up. I put some towels down on the couch and put The Purrrrfect Video on for you to watch and take your mind off things. I set you down on the towels and plop down next to you to keep you company but you’re too excited by the movie and keep jumping off of the couch onto the coffee table to be closer to the TV, rubbing your now-wet-still-shit-covered butt all over the coffee table. I get up again and take the shit covered blankets off the bed and throw them on the floor for the laundry and go outside and find the shit Frank had stepped in and pick it up. Some gets on my hand. I leave the dogs outside, go back in and wash my hands, then get the broom and the mop and clean the floors and set you back down on the couch and spray down the coffee table. I go outside again to check for shit in case the dogs have gone while I’ve been cleaning. I wipe off their muddy paws as well as I can and smell them––they smell alright but I get mud on my nose and when I let the dogs in the floors get muddy, there’s mud everywhere now, but at least it isn't shit. I wash the mud off my face and hands which is dumb because I have to go do the laundry now and I know I'll get shit all over my hands again when I pick up the dirty, shit covered rags and blankets. I wash my hands after doing the laundry and then I wash the dishes and take a shower and make coffee. Everything is coming along. The house is clean, not shit covered at least, and the dogs are cleaner and the coffee table and I don't have shit on my hands or face and you’ve settled down to sleep... maybe the shit will dry up and flake off on the towels while you do, I think hopefully. I get the dogs their kongs and fill them with peanut butter so they'll keep quiet for a while. It’s been a bad start to the day but everything is okay now, the coffee is hot and smells good and I carry it carefully over to the old easy chair so I can sit down and drink. But as I sit  the chair breaks beneath me and I fall on the floor and the coffee does too, fuck I say to myself and get up off the floor. I look down at the mess–– the coffee cup isn't broken but the chair is, the legs have split off completely and flown across the room. I pick them up and the seat of the chair; it was a big, wide chair, sturdy enough I had thought but now it’s broken, and it was my butt, my weight, that has broken it too, and as I look at it I feel fat, fatter than I've felt since the time I got stuck in the satin dress at the vintage store and had to ask the salesman to unzip me. I put the pieces of the chair aside and get a soapy wet rag and clean up the coffee and throw the rag on the floor for the laundry. I look at the dogs, wiggling and wagging by the back door. It’s still raining but they’ve finished their kongs and want to go outside and play in the mud. Resigned, I let them. What does it matter anymore, I think, it's always mud, and shit, and no coffee. Fuck it, I say and sit down on a different chair. This one is more comfortable anyway, I say. After a minute I get up and make some more coffee, then sit back down, carefully, and drink. It tastes pretty good. After a few sips I begin to feel better. Really, I think, who the fuck am I to complain?  Encouraged by the coffee, the clean house and the sturdy chair beneath me, I become  philosophical. I think about you, my poor little shit covered invalid of a cat, going around, unnoticed, with that painful open wound while I've been on vacation. And here I’ve been, bitching about a little bit of shit! At least I  didn't get my tail near sliced off and have to get stitches and wear a fucking Elizabethan collar. I think about it, then put down my coffee cup and get up and go over to you where you’re sleeping on the couch. I sit with you for a while and pet you and smell your butt, carefully. It still smells bad, I go and sit back down, carefully, at the table. The rain pounds down on the roof. I drink some coffee. Frank barks, outside. Maybe, I think, this would be a good time to look at my writing. I’ve been on vacation, free, and lazy, but now I’m back to my shit covered muddy life of spilled coffee and dirt and laundry, and it’s time to get to work.

SOMETHING


something squeaked in my bed last night 
"eek! a mouse!" I thought 
I jumped up and turned on the light
only to see
the baby beside me
farting
I'd forgotten about him
my new bedfellow
he hasn't been around very long

SANDWICH IS


Listen now, I got somethin' to say:

I know I used to be all like- "Nachos are the shit!" ...I'd rant and rave, and wax poetic.
And it's true I got crazy into Burritos, for a while, but truth is they've gone out of style.
(And Pizza had its place, no doubt... even though it made me fat)
But now I've got it figured out: Sandwiches, is where it's at.
(You might think this shit is whack, but Sandwich is, and that's a fact)
Since we was kidz,
back in the day
all melted cheese, an' PBJ
So join with me,
In praise today:
Sandwiches!
Sandwiches!
Sandwiches!
Hooray!


SEE THEM PATATAS AND CESAR CHAVEZ POTATOES


See them patatas?
They look straight up wack
All brown and wrinkly
But on them I'll mack
'Cause truth be told
They be tasting dope
Put 'em on my plate?
You know I won't say nope


Cesar Chavez Potatoes:

heat the oven to 360.
take a big fat cast iron pan.
throw 2 tablespoons of high heat canola oil in there.
chop 3 or 4 organic yellow wax potatoes into thirds and put 'em down in the pan on their flat ends.
bake 'em about 45 min. or until the bottoms turn all brown and crunchy.
poke 'em with a fork.
what you want here is for the skin to be wrinkly
the flesh to be soft
and the bottom to be quite crispy
put some salt on 'em. make sure it's damned good salt.
every ingredient in these potatoes is integral to how great they are. they are crispy, they are creamy, a chewy skin, and salted, with damned good salt.
add pepper too.
I think the potatoes being organic probably makes them taste better
but if you want to poison yourself with pesticides
go ahead. All I know is
Cesar Chavez would've approved.














THE LOST ART OF LANYARD MAKING


Possibly there is something that annoys me more than hearing writers talk about their "craft" but I can't think of what it is, at the moment. I start with this disclaimer only because I'm loathe to proclaim with confidence that "nothing annoys me more than...etc" when it could very possibly not be true. There is probably something. Maybe even one or two things. Like over-priced shitty coffee, pre-whiskered jeans, cheaply made furniture from ikea, mini-coopers, cell phones, broken condoms, and Kobe Bryant. Those things annoy me. But not quite as much as writers talking about their craft. Come to think of it, the word "annoy" annoys me. (I prefer "irritates" but I'm trying to be more broad-minded about it, so, for this monologue at least, I'll stick to being annoyed.) I could probably have said that "few things annoy me more than hearing writers talk about their craft" but again, putting it like that kind of exaggerates its––possibly undeserved potential––of winning a place at the top of my shit list. (I also kind of hate the term "shit list" but am not in the mood to think of a better one.) In any case I think we all know that this effort I'm making to be honest and fair about how much writers talking about their craft annoys or irritates me is fairly pointless. I'm annoyed––and you're probably getting annoyed too, by me I mean, and I think we can agree that some things are more annoying than others.

When writers talk about their craft, and it happens a lot, I just sit there, avoiding eye contact, and try not to squirm. My thoughts inevitably turn to the lost art of lanyard making, or perhaps the glu-ing of those colorful little macaronis onto pieces of construction paper.


As long as we're on the subject, it also annoys me when writers talk about their "art". I wish I weren't so picky about the words writers use to describe their art or craft. (Hey, they said it, not me.) It irritates me to be annoyed by these things. I know I'm being a complete bore about it and that probably you've thrown aside this blog in disgust already. I'm sorry to hear it if that's what happened and I'm sure it's all my fault. Actually now I'm starting to feel almost ashamed. Who cares if people want to talk about their "craft"? Let them! And I, though I must suffer, will take comfort in the fact that, should I find myself exposed to such language, can always find solace in being a Martyr.


If you've read this far, let me try to make it up to you by presenting the following–– a short essay in which P.G. Wodehouse talks about his cra–– I mean, writing. He's great. (Hey! did you know he calls himself P.G. because unfortunately his parents named him Pelham Grenville, and as he says, who would want to go around calling themselves that?)


Preface to Thank You, Jeeves

This is the first of the full-length novels about Jeeves
and Bertie Wooster, and it is the only book of mine
which I tried to produce without sitting down at the
typewriter and getting a crick in the back.

Not that I ever thought of dictating it to a 
stenographer. How anybody can compose a story by
word of mouth, face to face with a bored looking 
secretary with a notebook is more than I can imagine.
Yet many authors think nothing of saying 'Ready, Miss 
Spelvin? Take dictation. Quote No comma Lord Jasper
Murgatroyd comma close quote said no better make it 
hissed Evangeline comma quote I would not marry you 
if you were the last man on earth close quote period
quote Well comma, I'm not the last man on earth
comma so the point does not arise comma close quote
replied Lord Jasper comma twirling his moustache 
cynically period And so the long day wore on.'

If I started to do that sort of thing I should be feeling
all the time that the girl was saying to herself as she
took it down, 'Well comma this beats me period How 
comma with homes for the feeble-minded touting for
customers on every side comma has a fathead like this 
Wodehouse succeeded in remaining at large all these
years mark of interrogation.'

But I did get one of those machines where you talk
into a mouthpiece and have your observations recorded
on wax, and I started Thank you, Jeeves, on it. And after 
the first few paragraphs I thought I would turn back and 
play the stuff over to hear how it sounded.

It sounded too awful for human consumption. Until
that moment I had never realized that I had a voice like
that of a very pompous school-master addressing the
young scholars in his charge from the pulpit in the 
school chapel. There was a kind of foggy dreariness 
about it that chilled the spirits. It stunned me, I had 
been hoping, if all went well, to make Thank you, 
Jeeves, an amusing book - gay, if you see what I mean
rollicking if you sill follow me and debonair, and it was
plain to me that a man with a voice like that could never
come within several miles of being debonair. With
him at the controls the thing would develop into one of 
those dim tragedies of peasant life which we return to
the library after a quick glance at Page One. I sold the 
machine next day and felt like the Ancient Mariner
which he got rid of the albatross. So now I confine myself
to the good old typewriter.

Writing my stories I enjoy. It is the thinking them out
that is apt to blot the sunshine from my life. You can't 
think out plots like mine without getting a suspicion
from time to time that something has gone seriously 
wrong with the brain's two hemispheres and the broad 
band of transversely running fibers known as the corpus 
collosum. It is my practice to make about 400 pages of 
notes before starting a novel, and during this process
there always comes a moment when I say to myself 'Oh, 
what a noble mind is here o'erthrown'. The odd thing is
that just as I am feeling that I must get a proproser
and seconder and have myself put up for the loony bin,
something always clicks and after that all is joy and
jollity.

P. G. Wodehouse


THE ANSWER



In which I give
a (rhyming) holler
to the world's
finest baller:

Number 3?
no mortal he
just watch him play
and you'll agree–
though he's all
of five eleven
it's clear to see
he's sent from heaven

He's got the game
he can't be stopped
he takes his aim
and makes the shot

Compared to some?
he might be short
but no one tops him
on the court!

Ball in hand
he just can't miss
(unless he's talkin'
'bout practice)


































GO STEPHEN



We were lying in bed. It was late. James was trying to sleep, but I had started talking about Stephen Fry. At first it was just the usual stuff– his brilliance, his new show, but then I remembered about his love life.
–I just don't understand, I said. It all just seems so sad.
–What, you mean how he's married to someone 30 years younger?
–Well yes, but it's not just that. I mean, I don't know the kid, but I looked at his instagram, and it's just like, a bunch of selfies of him lying in bed with tousled emo hair.
–I hate his instagram selfies, said James, who hadn't seen them, but is always agreeable.

I started to get worked up.
–I just don't get it! I said. --I mean, Stephen Fry, man. He could be with anyone, and he's with... I mean, who is this guy, this kid, that he chooses to spend all of his time with? What do they even talk about? It's so sad!

James was quiet. I thought he had fallen asleep.
–At least he gets to tap that ass though, he said dreamily, after a minute.
I considered this. A picture, in my mind, of the large, bumbling, 60 year old Stephen, hopelessly groping his young, lithe, gold-digging playboy... I couldn't quite see it.
–Does he though? I said. ---I bet Stephen has to beg for it, and then the little bastard doesn't even put out.
James seemed saddened by the thought.
–Aww, no... they gots to get down, he said. --They gots to!
–Okay James, have it your way. I just think he's being taken in, that's all.
–Yeah, he's being taken in. For the ride of his life. Go Stephen!

SHE'S GONE CHILAQUILES


I'm thinking about writing a book, not super long, but interesting. It'll have a lot to do with food. I guess it'll be Mexican, mostly. I read a great blog about Pizza where the writer is pretty consumed with eating and talking and writing about Pizza. I'm thinking, hey, I can do that! I also eat food, like it, and so on. The title of my book will have something to do with Chilaquiles. Like, Me Gusto Chilaquiles. Or, She's Gone Chilaquiles. Or maybe just, Mucho Chilaquiles.
As part of my research, but also for inspiration, I'll be eating lots of Chilaquiles. I think they come with red or green sauce. I'll try both, but I already know that I'll go for the red.
I wish I could write a good, interesting, not long book about Chilaquiles, because man are they good. But that pretty much says it all. I mean I guess I could make analogies about things like how their soft and creamy center reminds me of...and so on, but really their soft and creamy center just reminds me of cheese.
So I'll have to fall back on writing about what I know best: me! A delightful subject, when taken in moderation.
I certainly look forward to the task at hand.

REFLECTIONS OF THE DAMNED


I have been lying here sick in bed all day and I have had a lot of time to consider and to reflect. And what I am reflecting upon right now is why some bottle caps are twist-off and some are pry-off, and the conclusion I have come to is that the beverage (now that's a weird word, isn't it? bev-er-age) companies who sell the twist-off kind of cap are trying to make their product seem more accessible, and that the companies who use the pry-off kind are trying to seem more fancy. For instance if there is a pry-off cap on my ginger beer then it will seem more legit, like a real beer.

But it is not a real beer and that is something else that I would like to talk about. I am lying here in bed and drinking a ginger beer ("brewed with real ginger!") but it is not a real beer. I don't really want a real beer but that is neither here nor there because I had to pry the top off the bottle of my ginger beer and it sucked because of all the extra effort involved, and as a sick person who is just trying to stay hydrated that is not something that I appreciate. What I hope for the future of our society is that all bottles can be opened in a clear and unambiguous way– perhaps distinct instructions that can be read before purchasing would be useful– because, as a matter of fact, sometimes I feel quite taken in.

In case you don't yet comprehend my point please understand that what I am trying to describe to you today is the jarring feeling and ensuing frustration you get when you go to open your soda and realize you need a fucking jackhammer. 

DEAR HUSBAND


Dear Husband:

I never see you anymore
Just your back
Gone out the door

I'm not sure
What I have done
But I'm alone
And have no one
To hear me kvetch,
Whine, and complain
So won't you please
Come home again?

TOAST



I like Toast.
Kinds of Toast that I like:
Toast with Butter.
Toast with Jam.
Cinnamon Toast.
Irish Toasts.
Whiskey.

HERE, THERE, AND UNDERWEAR


"My cunt-ry, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing..."

Oh cunts are here
and cunts are there
hidden under
underwear

some are big
and some are tiny
some are dry
and some are slimy

some are pink
and some are brown
–so many kinds
of cunts around

some are icky
some are sticky
(some are waiting
for a licky)

some are bloody
and some are not
some are oozing
gooey snot

some are clean
and some diseased
some smell fresh
some have "bad breath"

but

whatever kind
of cunt you've got

use it well
don't let it rot.



FIRST DATE


My first date with James went pretty well. I told him how much I loved hot tubs. 
–I have a hot tub at my house! He said.
I got very excited. Not every guy comes with a hot tub, I thought. This might be the real deal. 
I decided to fall in love with him if I possibly could.
–I’m afraid it doesn’t exactly work though, he added.
I tried not to look too crestfallen, then went ahead and fell in love with him anyway. 

Although a hot tub certainly would have sweetened the deal.

AMBITION


I wasn’t planning on going to college. By the time my high school held its annual “Career day” for the sophomore class, where you go around from professional to professional (plumbers, policemen, nurses, etc.) to get the low down, I had pretty much already dropped out. I went to school for three classes only: Choir, music composition, and lunch. I loved music. At lunch I got to see my friends. Neither of these things would advance a career. I had ambition though, or a plan at least, clearly defined and considered. I wanted to read books and play music. I would work part time in a used bookstore. I already knew I wasn’t a big fan of work, so the bookstore had the double attraction of being not only full of books but an easy, unexacting way to earn money. In fact the image I came up with when I thought about it was of me, sitting behind a counter, reading. No customers or bother. Maybe a cash register, just off stage. 

My parents both loved to read, and my dad was a writer. They'd taken me to bookstores growing up. One of them in particular, called Lost Horizon– made a big impression. Long and narrow, it was tucked under an archway in an old Spanish building downtown. When you went in it was like you had walked into a vault, with tall ceilings and towering wood shelves full of books. It was dark and dusty and beautiful.

Sometimes the bookstore would host readings. The room would be full of people then, and a sort of hushed buzz. The warm lamplight, and mismatched folding chairs, arranged in rows in front of the podium, made it feel cozy and cheerful.

I never paid attention to what was being read. What struck me were the readers themselves, their voices or the way they spoke, their hair or their clothes or the way they were standing. I listened to them without hearing what they said. I looked at the people around me. The frizzy grey hair of the woman in front of me, the way she would suddenly start awake– with a little shake of her head– every time there was a pause in the reading, then gradually nod off again. And I was uncomfortably aware of the guy with the goatee sitting next to me, brown corduroy pants, thin legs crossed, one knee over the other, bone over bone. I would sit and listen and look, not curious, just observant. 

At the back of the store was a counter. There, next to the cash register, the store owners had put out a basket of oatmeal raisin cookies. And there was a thermos full of hot apple cider– you could buy a cup for a dollar and sprinkle it with cinnamon and carry it back to your seat and then drink it, slowly, trying not to burn your tongue.

The readers read. I sat and drank my cider and didn’t listen and took it all in. Afterward I’d complain to my parents about how boring it was. But later I realized that it was to these people, this environment, that, if to any, I belonged.

I ended up going to college, if only because at the last minute I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to be with my friends, who, rather luckily, had all ended up at the same school. I enrolled as a music major. I did work hard at the violin while I was there but as far as academics went I just couldn’t seem to pay much attention. I was too busy doing things like teaching myself how to make rice crispy treats in the cafeteria microwave, or taking solitary walks through the flat Ohio farmland, such a foreign landscape to me then, where I noticed the way the snow clung to the dead corn stalks in winter, and thought about boys.

After college I got a job in a used bookstore. It was in the ground floor of a big Victorian house, full of old paperbacks and quiet corners with little wooden tables where you could sit with a hot drink and read. The store had been around for a while, but had recently been sold to new owners. The new owners, a married couple, were neat and prim– conservative looking. They had just moved up from the city. They were nice enough, at first. They had a teenage daughter who worked at the bookstore too. One day I was talking to her about a band we both liked, and I mentioned that I had seen them. She asked what it was like, and I said something like, ‘really awesome, I was totally high.’ Anyway she must have reported me to her parents because the next morning on my way out to work I got a phone call. They told me to never come in again, that they didn't want drug users working for them. I reeled. But when I realized that they were trying to protect their daughter from my devious influence I felt slightly victorious. Anyway it was too small of a town for that kind of treatment to go unnoticed– and when I told my friends and family what had happened they all rallied round and boycotted the place, in some cases for years. That made me feel good but I was also bummed because such an awesome bookstore was now lost to me. After I got fired a rumor started going around town that these fancy new owners had moved up to our little town to escape a bad reputation in the Bay area, where they were known as the owners of a shady porn distribution company. That their conservative front was nothing more than that, a front. The rumor remained unsubstantiated but I got a kick out of it in any case.

The end of this story is that later on, much later, I bought a used record store. We sold records and lots of 'zines. A few books, too. Talk about living out your dream! There I would sit, day after day, legs up on the counter, my favorite Bach (or metal, or motown) record on, reading. Once in a while a customer would come in, and only then would the cash register, still over there on stage left, slowly, reluctantly, come into view. It was time to put my down my book, and work.

BAKING FRY PIE


Sex is the ultimate expression of love, right? I mean, that's how all of us hopeless (or, in my case– hapless) romantics get played, you know? But still. It bothers me, in a (necessarily) theoretical way, that I can never have sex with Mr. Stephen Fry.
No, don't picture it. Too late? Ah, well.

How then can I express my total devotion to this minor Deity? Mr. Fry is not only gay and married to another, but I find him generally––and it pains me to say this, but there it is––unattractive. Even given the opportunity, I wouldn't be able to, so to speak, get it up for him. And vice versa.

You may ask, what does any of this matter? And you'd be right to, for we all know this is but a––forever to be unfulfilled––fantasy, and one of, (since we're dealing with an outsize Fry here) totally outrageous proportions.

I understand your (rather nearsighted) lack of sympathy. The thing is, I must have operable fantasies, the kind that play out all golden-hued and triumphant. And, in the face of the––seemingly unsurmountable––problem with this one, I have come up with a solution.

The solution is.... pie! I will, in my minds eye, bake Mr. Fry a pie! (Apple, I think.)
Because the way to a man's heart is through his stomach! And who doesn't love pie? Oh wait, my husband isn't a big fan. Hmmm... trouble in paradise? Ah, well, nothing a little feeding-Fry-pie-on-the-sly can't assuage.

"Oh, thank you so very much, this is quite delicious!" Fry will say, (I can picture it now) as the cinnamon glaze dribbles down his chin.
I will offer him the use of my napkin.
He will look at me gratefully, and... Hey! Get out of here! This is PRIVATE. Goodbye!

TIM


I got a job walking dogs. It's the best job I've ever had. It pays pretty good, and I get to hang out with dogs, and boy do I love dogs. They're great.

I was walking Tim today, who's a beauty– a brindle Greyhound, sleek and tall, his coat a mottled black and brown. I almost matched him– with my reddish hair and a black sweater. We looked pretty good together, I thought. Either way he's a good looking dog and one that I'm proud to be seen with. I don't feel the same way about Etta and Duke, a pair of amiable, but ugly, Pugs.

Tim gets a lot of attention. Today a guy stopped as we passed and turned around. He was about sixty, plaid shirt tucked in to his belted Wranglers.
–That's a beautiful Greyhound, he said.
–Thanks, isn't he? I'm his walker, I said.
–Is he a rescue?
–Yeah.
–That's wonderful. I used to live across from a guy who had a Greyhound farm.
–Oh really? Was he good to his dogs?
–No. He had a pickup with a big cage and he'd take the dogs out to hunt wolves. Wolves and coyotes and rabbits.
–Oh.
–He used the Greyhounds as the sight dogs, you see, and then he had a team of scent dogs, bloodhounds, and they'd surround the wolf or coyote and kill it.
–Oh. God.
–I only went out with him once, to see that, and then I said 'never again', because it was the worst thing I ever seen, the way they massacred that animal.
–That's horrible, I said. –Tim was trained as a hunting dog but I guess he wasn't very good at it so they got rid of him. He's the best trained dog I've ever seen. Look at the way he heels to me.
I turned around in a circle, while Tim, keeping apace, without prompts, stayed with me all the way around.
–He sure is pretty to watch, said the guy.
–Yeah, I said, but I've got to say he's not the smartest dog I've ever met. I would call him bird-brained but I think most birds are probably smarter than he is. I'm not sure Greyhounds are all that intelligent.
–They're not. I have racing pigeons at home and they're much smarter. About the only dog less intelligent than a Greyhound is an Irish Setter.
–Oh yeah, but they're so pretty! What they lack in brains they make up for in beauty. Like Tim.
–He sure is a looker.
–Yeah, I said, you should see us together when I'm wearing my brown pants! We're really something.
The guy laughed. –Good talking to you, he said. –Bye Tim.


A POEM


We drove down to Florence in the middle of October. We thought the weather would be good but it wasn’t. The air was raw with sleet, the ground black and wet. We bought some fingerless gloves and set up under an archway in front of the Duomo. We started to play. The sleet turned into snow. My fingers were  numb with cold, but I willed them to make the necessary movements, to press down on the strings, until the notes were audible. A couple of people stopped to watch but most walked by, heads bent against the wind. It was a far cry from the warm Saturday nights in Seville, the cheers of the crowd. I knew we had to play our best if we were going to make enough money to fill up the truck and drive somewhere warmer. I tried to make the songs sound good. “Okay,” I’d think as I played, “this is a sad part, so think about something sad. Feel sad. But remember it picks up again soon, so keep in mind that there’s a sort of joy in the fact that I can feel at all, even grief. Make sure that comes through.” 

After a couple hours Jesse had had enough.
–Fuck this, he said. It’s straight embarrassing.
–I know. It fucking sucks. But I guess we can’t expect to be rock stars all the time. I mean, we are busking, you know. Not the most dignified profession in the world.
–Oh, don’t I know it. Anyway, let’s call it, okay? I think we have enough lire to fill up the truck and get a few groceries. Either way my fucking fingers are falling off. I seriously don’t think I can play anymore.
–Me neither, I said, relieved.

We bought the cheapest food we could find. I felt the injustice of it. Shouldn’t this money, that was earned in a such a poetic way, and yet under such shitty conditions, with every kind of discomfort, be spent on something better? That the money earned by such effort should be spent on stale crackers and canned tomatoes was –flattening– and it was with a pang, for sure, at the grocery store, that we watched our hard-earned coins quickly dwindle away; but then again– we could eat.

–Gas is more important now, said Jesse, we’ve got to get the hell out of this shithole.
–It just seems so unfair, I said. I mean, I really went for it in that last song, you know? It was like, fucking heartbreaking. And it was snowing! I feel like we earned something more, like we should be buying fine liquors and expensive cheese, not canned green beans. I don’t even like green beans. Where’s the poetry in that?
–I know, kid, I know, said Jesse. Tell you what. Next time you really put your heart into it and someone throws us half a lire, I’ll keep it and just give you a handwritten poem– all about like, snow, and sunsets and shit.
–Shut the fuck up.
–No really, you’ll like it. Now... where’s that can opener?

DOOMSAYER


The train was running late in Cleveland. It was almost four in the morning. I sat in the waiting room, head nodding, until it was time to board. I slept, briefly, in my clothes, before I had to get up again to change trains in Chicago.

Union Station was crowded and noisy. I wandered around, lugging my heavy bag. My shoulders ached. I was tired and dirty, a stale taste in my mouth. I felt irritable. I wanted to be alone and rest.

The waiting room in Chicago was dreary enough. The brown carpet, the low ceiling, studded with neon lights– a cold glare. I stood and looked around for somewhere to sit. I saw what appeared to be a quiet corner and made my way to an empty chair. I sat down, relieved, it was good to have a moment's respite. I closed my eyes.

Suddenly I heard a voice. It was big, booming– sounded like it was right in my ear. I opened my eyes. A very old man was moving, slowly, toward the chair across from me. He was using a walker. An oxygen tank trailed on the floor behind him.

–Hello! he bellowed, not quite shouting. He looked pretty lively despite it all.
–Hi, I said.
–The end is near! he said, grinning from ear to ear.
I raised my eyebrows.
–There's something coming, he said, whether you want to hear it or not. 

He lowered himself, slowly, into the chair.

–Something's coming! he said again. –It's gonna be big! It'll be the end of everything bad... all the criminals, all the druggies, all the religions! Everything is dying; famine and drought, and the people think that politicians can lead? Politicians can't do anything about this! There's no leader can change what's coming!

I wasn't sure where he was headed with his prophesying, but it all sounded very mysterious and wise and I found myself nodding my head in agreement. 

He smiled at me.
–Only a miracle can help now, he shouted.  –And that's what it's gonna be... a miracle! People think religion can help them? Religion is useless! Donald Trump is an ass!

At this, the guy sitting in the chair next to me, who had been listening silently, nodded too. –Donald Trump is a total clown, he said.

I turned back to the old guy.

–I have cancer! He was yelling now, still cheerful. –I shouldn't be sitting here! I've had cancer for three years! I'm living proof of miracles!
He looked at me. –Have you heard that cats have nine lives?
I shrugged.
–Well that's what they say you know, and if it's true then I'm on my third! he said, and winked.
He paused, and then, with some effort, he stood up.
–The world is coming to an end! he said, looking around the room. –People need to wake up and stop following leaders! But everybody has their head in the ground!
This seemed directed at the other people sitting in the waiting room, most of whom were ignoring him.
–Well, I said, I guess I don't think you should hope for much. It's the human race you're talking about here, you know?

Both of the guys laughed.

The call for boarding came on over the intercom.
I stood up, put my backpack on, began to head toward the door.

–Good luck with your third life, I said as I passed the old man.
–Thanks! he said. He was beaming.

I got on the train and found my seat. I thought about the old man, his walker, his cancer. I thought about how good natured he was, despite it all. He was clearly nuts, but still. Thinking about him, my crabbiness lifted. I stretched out, and decided I would try to pull myself together.

BUNS OF TITANIUM


My Buns, you know
Are much applauded
Indeed their fame
Is widely lauded:

"The biggest, boldest ones” –They call

Critics agree– “Best buns of all"

"An incredible tour de force" –The Boston Globes

"From a promising beginning; a final triumph" –Buns.com

"A work of... staggering genius" –Literally Review


Now here's your chance
To see them live
So come up close 
And don't be shy
But turn your trained, discerning eye
Upon this work
Of which I'm proud
(Photographs are not allowed)

Not Buns of Steele
Nor Lead nor Gold
My Buns: the ones
That broke the mold

There they sit
Above perenium
May I present
Buns of Titanium!














ON LEAVING PORTLAND


I didn't like it when it felt like I had slept with everybody in town and like I had to invent circuitous routes when I was out walking around just to avoid awkward encounters. Hanging out with you is like playing Frogger, said my friend. It seemed like I could never take the straight path to anywhere– there was always someone to avoid.

I didn't like the freeways and that there was nowhere to hike. I didn't like the long drive across the city just to get into some trees. And the trees were always full of yuppies, jogging. I didn't like joggers. I didn't like the health-conscious, the exercisers, the fit– although I was exercising too I guess. But I wasn't a yuppie. I wasn't wearing spandex for one thing. I didn't have a nice house or a career...

I wanted to live somewhere where I could just open the door and go– just walk, fast and up. I wanted to see mountains and trees and rocks. I wanted to let the dogs run. I didn't like opening the door at my house– the meth heads over there in their yard, yelling at nothing, the fat man across the street who sat, day after day on the porch of his rotting house, head slumped down against his chest– quiet. One night the ambulance came and took him away.


THE RUB


The preschool where I teach is in a huge old disused high school. There are a few different classrooms. Sometimes the teachers bring their classes to play together in the big gymnasium. I was sitting in there with my class the other day. Another teacher brought her class in. She sat down on a bench across the room. We watched the kids play. After a while she got up and walked over to me. She looked worried.

–I just don't know what to do about Ben, she said. 
I looked over at Ben. He was chasing behind another kid and grabbing at her butt. She was laughing. He would grab, then throw his head back and cackle, a mix of devilment and delight. It all looked perfectly normal to me. I tried to look concerned. 

–Oh geez, I said. What's going on with him?
–He's totally obsessed with butts! It's so weird. I don't know what to do. Every time I try to talk to him about it he just starts to laugh.
For a second I thought maybe she was joking. But she looked too worried.

–Obsessed? I said.
–Yeah.
–Wow.
–I know.

I felt caught. I wanted to express my sympathy with the child, but something told me I'd better not. After all, I was a teacher, a position of great responsibility, one that surely required an impeccable moral character, and this other teacher clearly found the idea of butt humor disturbing.
I tried to think of something helpful to say. 

–That is weird, I said, but I remember being kind of like that when I was little, too. 
–Really?
–Um, yeah. I mean, I grew out of it, of course!
–Yeah. I'm sure it will pass.
–Totally. 

We watched Ben. He was still chasing and grabbing and cackling.
His teacher was quiet a minute.
She leaned in close.
–He also told me that... that I have a "big" one, she whispered.
Aha! I thought. So there was the rub. I tried to look shocked. I was sympathetic, if only I could tell her how much. But it wouldn't do, and I knew it.

–Oh my god! I said.
–I know! It was so inappropriate.
–Yeah. Geez.
I thought for a moment.
–Maybe you could teach him to say "I like Big Butts and I cannot lie." I said. I knew as I heard the words coming out of my mouth that my sham had failed. I didn't have an upstanding moral character and never would.

She looked surprised.
–I don't think that would be very appropriate, she said.
–Oh! I know, I said, I was just kidding.

SANDWICHES: THE INSIDE ANGLE


Hello, and welcome to Sandwiches: The Inside Angle. 
I have three wonderful Sandwiches that I like to make and eat and I will tell you all about them right now. (I hope you're excited!!)

BUT FIRST: Please remember to toast your bread! Sandwiches are much better on toasted bread. It's really important to me that you don't fuck up the Inside Angle by putting your fillings between cold, flaccid slices. I mean, they don't have to be crunchy but at least warm them a little, at least, thanks.

Okay, sorry. I mean... anyway. Here's some Sandwiches:


1.

Please make this spread. It's unbelievably good. Then put it in your Sandwich and add other stuff.

Here, like this:

Dump a jar of Veganaise in a bowl. Cut a half-cup of cilantro really fine, mix it in. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, a dash of soy sauce, a few drops of olive oil, two drops of maple syrup, a squirt of mustard– the condiment not the powder. Add 1-2 Teaspoons chipotle powder, depending on how much you like chipotle. Mix. Adjust to taste.

Now toast some good white bread, like, a French Batard, or whatever. Spread with the chipotle mixture, add avocado, red onion, tomato, butter lettuce. Hell, even a cucumber might be cool– for the crunch.

2.

Make this one on a Baguette. This Sandwich is good because it's a Bahn Mi. That means Vietnamese for good Sandwich.

Dice a half inch of ginger and a clove of garlic, mix in a bowl with a touch of olive oil and a pinch of sugar and a lot of tamari sauce. Slice thin strips of extra-firm tofu. Marinate in the soy ginger mixture. Fry marinated tofu on med-low heat, turning occasionally, for a couple minutes.

Put the tofu on the baguette with some veganaise, grated carrots, red onion, cilantro, basil. This mixture is strong. Maybe you'll want to tone it down and add a little lettuce. Maybe not. But either way, look! You've made a sandwich.

3.

This Sandwich is good because of how garlic and olive oil and rosemary taste together on Bread. They taste awfully good. It's kind of special.

This Sandwich is made with Ciabatta. And olive oil. They go good together. I like the way the olive oil kinda hangs out in the little airy pockets of dough. Ciabatta is kind of a tough bread, chewy-like and with a crust so crisp it can cut you. Yeah, Ciabatta (Chapata en Espanol) can really handle olive oil the way say, oh, any other bread just... can't.
So please, use Ciabatta.

Now do this: mince a glove of garlic and put it in a little bowl with some olive oil. Hey by the way, if your olive oil isn't super good strong fancy extra virgin (unlike like your mom) olive oil then your Sandwich will suck so for god's sake use good olive oil. Chop up a little fresh rosemary and add that too. Let the olive oil garlic rosemary mixture sit, over there in its little bowl. Then slice some really good sweet Italian red peppers. Slice 'em thin. (You can find them at the market. They look like Bell peppers but longer and thinner and darker red. Or you could just use Bell pepper but I'd really rather you didn't.)

Toast a couple slices of Ciabatta, not too much. I mean don't toast them too much. You can use all the Ciabatta you want. I mean, I don't know how many Sandwiches you are making. Maybe you're having guests or something. Maybe not. Either way it's time to spread the olive oil garlic rosemary mixture on your toasted Ciabatta and a maybe a little cheese like jack or parmesan. Then put on the peppers and then some black pepper too and then you should add a couple of those withered wrinkly-skinned black olives like you get at the deli. Don't use any other kind of olive because that is not this recipe and I don't think it would taste good. Those wrinkly olives taste good in the Sandwich because they are pretty mild, almost sweet. Or you could just have them on the side. I like them. I know other people who like them too who don't even normally like olives.








THE ARTIST

Hello. It's been a while since I wrote anything here. You may have been wondering what's become of me. The truth is, I've been off re-inventing myself. And now I return. What as? You might wonder, and rightly so, for I just told you that I have been re-inventing myself.


The fact is, I've re-invented myself –and very successfully I might add– as a Sandwich Artist.

That's right. I've been making an awful lot of sandwiches lately and they are really super and they just taste great. I've done a lot of research and have come to some very important Conclusions, regarding Sandwich Art. 

Like about Bread. For example: you never want to have bread that competes with or drowns out the flavors inside your Sandwich. Consider Rye. Rye is just too strong. It is great as buttered toast. But you should never use Rye in a Sandwich unless your filling consists only of cheese and onions. Same goes for Sourdough, a mighty good dough but if you're using Sourdough as Sandwich Bread be careful! (There are specific combinations wherein it shines and I will get to those later but for now... watchout!)

Bread is 2/3 of your sandwich. Buy good Bread, you bastards. Beware of bread that is too sweet or too floppy. Those characteristics usually mean shit bread. You never ever want to use shit bread in your sandwiches because then your sandwiches taste like shit. It's simple math and as a Sandwich Artist I speak from experience and authority.

Also, I really hope you're not the kind of loser that uses gluten free "bread", because then you're fucked. I used to be like you... my doctor told me not to eat gluten and I became very sad, saddened, because, as I liked to complain to my friends "life is not worth living without bread". What is YOUR life worth? Nothing? Fine, then use gluten free "bread". I'll use crusty chewy sourdough and airy floury ciabatta. I'll use Dave's Killer bread and die happy. I am a Sandwich Artist.

...stay tuned for next time when I discuss fillings, in "Sandwiches: the Inside Angle"


NACHO QUEEN


Of Nacho makin' I'm the queen
They taste so good, almost obscene
(They're fuckin' hot, know what I mean?)
I just can't help but toot my horn
'Cause they some straight up nacho porn

They're cheesy crunchy creamy too
Salsa on top but I ain't through
I bake 'em up 'till there's a crust
(Add jalapenos, cause that's a must)

My Nacho's tits, My Nacho's tight
They're lookin' fly, all cooked just right

It's time to eat so open wide
You're gonna put that shit inside
You have some first and I will follow
I know you like it when I swallow

EULOGY


The little slut
with the big butt?

She slept with all the dudes around
then did the same
in each new town

And when she'd done
with all the fun
(and had her fill
of all the cum)
What (not who) was left to do?
She'd had her cake
(and ate it too)

She ate and ate
and ate right through
foods rich, and fried, and baked,
(like cake)
she ate her weight in Nachos, too

So, as we're gathered here today
You must believe me when I say
(Because, you know, it's quite legit)
...a ton of sin
did she commit

'For the wages of sin
is death...'

Her wage was earned
you know in hell
that ass will burn

Guilty of
the sins of flesh
that slutty glutton,
now, at rest.