The death of a moon cowboy

I am a somewhat-youth with ideas and thoughts and too many dreams that sometimes overflow as these little dribblings from my fingertips. I guess you can try to collect and capture them.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The circus: Clayton Hughes, mastermind of nothing [V]

My sister's voice woke me from a dream, one in which I hung from the underbellies of dark storm clouds like monkey bars, swinging from one to the next in quick succession. My clothes were soaked in this dream, and the drips that formed and fell off them were one with the clouds' rainfall. Using these clouds as a method of transportation, I traveled and rained upon the world wide, spying on entire countries and continents as the earth turned in space. I had just been swooping above India when Kat's voice snapped me out of my trance.

"Clay. Clay!"

I shifted position slightly in the dirt and leaves beneath the window, a little bit of soil stuck to my chin, my glasses all foggy and my hands tucked between my knees for additional warmth. "What do you want? What time is it?"

"It's past nine. Mother knows you're out here. Come inside." She was speaking in a sort-of whisper, as if our conversation were covert.

"Well who closed the window? I wouldn't be out here on the ground if it were still open," I grumbled, eyes still tightly clenched shut. I'd never been much of a morning person - I guess I figured as long as my eyes were still closed, I was technically still asleep.

"I don't know, Fas probably did it. You know how he always gets cold at night. Now come in! Mother's made eggs."

As she said this my eyelids thought for a second, considering the consequences, then opened fully wide and took in the new sun and its life-giving light. That split second of awakening each morning always gave me the chills. I sat upright and ran my dry tongue across my drier lips, thinking of the food and drink that was waiting for me inside. That was all that it took to rouse me.

Reluctantly climbing to my feet, I stretched tall with gaping arms and felt warming blood rush to those extremities that had been cramped together, asleep in fetal position half the night. I nodded a good-morning hello to the oak tree whose leaves had gently cradled my head, then made my way along the side of the house and up to the front porch. The garbage bins had already been pulled off the street.

Kat stood there at the front door waiting for me, holding it open wide with a huge ridiculous grin on her face. She bid me enter with a bow and a wave of her hand. I gave her a nod just as I had the tree, but more solemnly, and then came inside, trying not to smile.

"Thank you my dear," I said in a satisfied baritone. As I brushed by her, I tickled her ribs right where she hates it most, and she laughed that mixture of pain and happiness as I broke into a quick sprint down the front hall and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. My sister Katarina and I got along pretty well. She was thirteen and practically my best friend. It didn't feel so silly, even though she was my sister and five years apart from me.

We lived in a humble home with hot dogs in the refrigerator and wilted flowers on the front steps. The five in our family shared three bedrooms: I slept on the floor with my brothers Fastidian and Abel, while Kat and my mother each had their own room; Mother said it wasn't right that a girl share a room with three boys, family or not. Each of us boys got our own mattress, so we weren't completely forsaken, except that none of us could agree on the little things: should the window be left open a crack at night, is the ticking of an alarm clock soothing or disconcerting, who gets the top dresser drawer, that sort of thing.

At eighteen, I was the eldest child and the man of the house. Since school ended I had worked as an assistant handyman to help Mother with the bills, though she didn't really need it. She had a job of her own, at Dr. Hime's office. Dr. Hime was the veterinarian, known throughout Parsons for the grey cat he had rigged up on some rolling walker because its hind legs had been crushed by a car. Mother scheduled his appointments and took emergency phone calls at night – she was able to do much of her work from home. I think she just wanted to instill a sense of responsibility in me by forcing me to hold down a proper job. At least that's what she said Father would've wanted. I was able to keep most of the money I made anyway, but oh how I hated that job.

In the bathroom, I studied the mirror's version of my face and smoothed down the cowlick at the back of my head that flared up each morning, extracting some chunks of highway dirt and windowsill gravel along the way. After hastily splashing down my face and wiping it clean, I emerged into the hallway a hygienic wonder.

Everyone else had already eaten apparently. The half-burnt, half-delicious smell of scrambled eggs and toast filled the whole house. A small pile had been scraped onto a plate for me. I made short work of it.

"Why did you sleep outside, Clayton?" my mother asked as she came into the dining room from the back of the house. She had this way of asking abrupt questions with no filler or extraneous conversation involved.

"I didn't mean to – Fas closed the window."

"Next time you should use the front door and just come inside. What were you doing out there anyway?" The front door. Genius.

"I didn't want to wake anybody up. I wasn't tired, so I went for a walk. Absolutely nothing to worry about."

I said that last part like I was the mastermind of some street gang, carefree and protected from the evils of the world because I controlled those evils, and had thugs to cover me as personal bodyguards at all hours of the day.

"You work at one today, did you know that?"

"Yeah. Don't worry." I hadn't remembered the time. My mother always kept track of my schedule – she was good at that sort of thing. I couldn't keep a calendar to save my life.

"Good boy." She had on her gardening gloves and one of those 1920s flowered ladies' hats with a full wide brim. "I'll just be outside for a bit. Abe, when Clay's done could you tidy up the kitchen?"

Abe looked up from the book he was reading and nodded. Half the time Mother didn't even ask me or Fas because she knew the reception she would get. Abe was a good kid, always doing what Mother asked of him without even considering denying her. I think it was because he was her baby. He was eleven, her youngest, and even though she meant well and tried to treat us all the same, the truth was unavoidable - he was the favored son. But it was hard to hold that over his head since he was always such a good nice kid. His name was really Abel, but we always called him Abe even though that was supposed to be short for Abraham. It was just easier than always saying Abel.

Kat was seated on our comfortable old brown-striped couch with her sketchbook. She always had that thing with her, and she was really starting to become a great artist. I just knew that one day she would be known throughout the world, with oil canvas paintings hung in the Louvre or in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or something, I just knew it.

"Hey Kat, what're you doing today?" I asked, "I've got until 12:30. Let's get the bikes and go digging in the old farm fields or ride through the forest or something."

"Sure!" She beamed with the suggestion and clutched her sketchbook to her chest. I shouted to Abe in the kitchen, "Abe! Do you want to go out on the bikes?"

He shouted back above the roar of the faucet, "I'm going with the Thurston twins to the park. Mrs. Thurston's coming to pick me up in an hour. But I'll go next time, okay – don't forget to invite me!" He was always worried about being included.

"Sure," I casually responded while Kat and I made our way to the garage, where we stored our bikes. We hadn't even bothered to ask Fas if he wanted to come along. Most likely he was going out with Mikey or Anthony or Nate, the miniature gang of tough guy sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds that he always bummed around with. That Fas, he was quite the hooligan. He caused my mother more headaches than her intermittent bouts of insomnia.

There were six bikes in the garage: one for each member of our family. We always used to frequent the Saturday and Sunday morning yard sales, scanning inventories of tattered clothing, splintered furniture and worthless toys, looking for something of value to us. At one point we went on a bike-hunting tangent that lasted nearly three summers - as long as it took to acquire a bike for everyone. And now they just stood there, the whole sorry lot of them, cobwebbed and covered in dust, the occasional rust spot peeking through where it ate metal. They hadn't seen much use lately.

"I'm going to use Father's bike today."

"But, Clay, you can't!"

"Why not? It's not like he's using it. Besides, I don't even like mine anyway. His is much better." That wasn't quite the truth. His was old and hoary, an ancient street bike with thinning tires and a weak frame.

"You just can't, that's all."

"Well, I'm sorry, but I'm sick of my bike, and it's about time someone else sat on this thing before it completely falls to pieces."

"Fine, then. Have it your way." She was defeated.

We separated our two bikes from the sea of handlebars and spokes and pulled them into the sunlight. I brushed them both down, pulling off cobwebs barehanded.

"Ready?" I asked.

Kat smiled, and we mounted our faithful steeds of metal and rubber and rode off in the midmorning sun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The spectre

One night a ghost came between the door's crack,
brushed eerily against the threads at my back.
In each of her steps black orchids bloomed
as she crept and creaked round the entire room.
That darkened room.

She spoke in a whisper, but not from her mouth,
and a chilling wind rose up from the south.
From beneath the house this voice had slipped
where the shadows had accompanied it.

And my sight pierced into her body whole,
to the transparent air that sang to my soul.
In a manner from which I could not fall
it gripped and held me close to the wall.
The darkened wall.

"Oh never you mind or attend to the way
my feet, they hover, my hips, they sway.
A place in the past, this home once was mine.
I vowed to return, and now is the time."

I froze and my arms and legs became stone,
seized by the power she wielded from her throne.
In a sickly fashion she did float,
trailing the netherworld's undead cloak.
Such a darkened cloak.

I steadied my unblinking eyes to the floor
and wordlessly bid my strength restored.
Hands at the wall, the wood they clutched,
and I drew my gasping breath so hushed.

Then suspended high, she rushed to the roof,
and against its beams she perched aloof.
My skin spat and pricked with icy feeling
while above her black mold overtook the ceiling,
and darkened that ceiling.

Again her shrill voice emanated forth,
cracked the stained glass framed overtop the door.
It hurried about in a spectral gale,
smelled of mortuary, bitter and stale.

From her wailing shriek my ears became pained,
and my lobes trickled an imprisoning stain,
A crimson path of mind-numbing fare,
buried deep within to hold her stare.
Her darkened stare.

"Here here, join me in the underworld,
and the fruits of eternity shall be yours!
And now you must lower your head and agree,
that you shall be banished by a banshee!"

My neck, it deadened, head nodded forward
to face the orchids and rotting floorboards.
A binding sign for a ghastly contract.
The spirits below would never retract
such a darkened contract.

And into a sinkhole hurricane
the ground receded in a murky drain.
We rose in the air and through it we leaped
and I joined the earthen minions to reap,
and harvest that dreadfully dreary and darkened harvest.

Electrical storm

The most amazing storm threatened Placerville last nite. It was incredible. I could add up all the ligtning I've witnessed in my lifetime and multiply it by five, and it still wouldn't amount to what I saw last nite. The lights just went on and on forever in a dazzling display. They buzzed from all directions, the sky lit up and the strikes danced from cloud to cloud and from cloud to earth.

I feel like I am some seer or revelator, that I predicted this in my story from the 23rd. Very interesting. I was tempted to go and lay on my car as I wish to do, and experience that storm in its fullest. I was not afraid of the lightning. Strike me if you have to, you can't kill me!

I went out in the rain at home and sang some passionate words and did some cartwheels while the rain soaked my back. It was fun. The smell of rain and slick oiled streets have been missed by us these last few months. Now is the time for it all to return.

Do your worst.

Audio: The Weight is a Gift|Nada Surf
Video: oh, I don't know, some Punk'd, MTV, cable, you know, we're not used to it
Text: not much

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sci-fi space drama warfare

It was a hard working weekend, made of birthday meals, antique fairs, goodbyes, and strenuous moving that lasted far into the wee hours.

We finalized our move as we packed boxes and bins and loaded our many unnecessary belongings into the Gold Key Storage truck. We weren't able to pick up the truck until around 3:00, so Amy and the kids and I went down to Folsom in the morning and hit the strip. When the truck was ready, I went to get it and Dad met me there. He was my gracious assistant through the whole ordeal.

So we ordered this storage unit via phone, at Gold Key Storage - a nice new fancy location at the end of Placerville; we got a 5x10 unit. Turns out 5x10 sounded far larger in my mind that it appeared in person. It was possibly large enough to store a few acorns. But, they did provide a nice large truck, free of charge, to help us move, and they had a special cheap deal for our third month. So we headed to our dusty, ramshackle apartment to clean it up and clear it out. Amy packed and made trips back and forth. Dad and I loaded and loaded and loaded (interrupted briefly by neighborhood hoodlums, a beersome smell and Jack the Marine who was quite kind). Worn and tired, and after many hours, we retreated to Placerville to empty those worthless goods into our new dwelling. We arrived late, oh I don't know, 10:00 or 11:00, and began the process. Once the truck was emptied and stuff was strewn about, Dad and I took the rest of the pile back to Gold Key. We made a nice 12:30 AM In N Out stop, which was delicious even though my belly was overstuffed full of sugared sweets and carbohydrates and more than 2 liters of soda.

We entered Gold Key with an agenda. Finish fast. We worked completely in the dark. Dad unloaded the truck while I stacked and arranged our bins and boxes into a masterpiece worthy of recognition. Unbelievably, we were able to fit everything that we wanted to into that tiny unit, like a circus car chock full of clowns, bursting at the seams. The final few chairs and pieces fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle, and we slammed the rolling door shut around 2:00 AM and parted ways.

I headed back to the apartment to get a few more things, including bathroom necessities, and in my exhausted stupor I ended up hanging around for an hour or so before finally returning back up the hill. I left that apartment in my solitude with a sense of longing, a goodbye blown kiss and a sorrowful glance at the empty pool covered in a toplayer of fallen leaves. Farewells are so hard.

I had to fill up the Gold Key truck with gasoline before returning it. Everything just seemed to drag on, but no matter, I was wide awake. That nite I was finally able to sleep around 4:30 AM. One of the latest nites I've had in some time. And I handled it so well!

Sunday morning Amy thankfully woke up before me and went back to Gold Key to check in the truck, but I eventually had to get out of bed to get ready to teach my church class at 10:30. Amy was able to come with me because Mom offered to watch the sleeping babes, but we were still late, a cruel joke, and I had an additional four kids to teach. We took it easy and they mishandled a poor helpless lizard, but all in all it was a nice last Sunday. Though I was sad. I looked forward to playing the bells with the children in the October presentation. The bells sound so pretty and I love all those kids. So here are my goodbyes: goodbye to Brooke, Morgan, Cameron, Jonah, Meghan, Kimberly, Michael, Graham, Royce, Paige, Kaitlyn, Coral, Kaylie, Tristan, Bradley, Brian, Amber, Meredith! I knew all your names and smiling faces; I brought you treats and you always played along. It was fun. And I'll see you all again. I'll still attend that presentation and you'll all sound wonderful.

Sunday was Mom's birthday. We took her out to Mel's, while Heather was working, and then we walked Main Street Placerville's Antique Fair. The Antique Fair is just an overpriced flea market. The best part about a bazaar, flea market or yard sale is that people are looking to get rid of things. They're willing to negotiate and find ways to make a deal work. But when it's 'antiques', oh these people have a price they definitely want. There's no wheeling or dealing, no haggling over price. It's 'twenty bucks or leave it' attitude. A little tiresome.

I went to Zack and Rebecca's that nite to try and help Zack install his new printer. We had no luck, but I found out he got it working the next day with Epson tech support. Zack, my old good friend. It's so nice to see him. He's got Sylvan and Rebecca and reminds me a little of myself. I see a lot in him that I would like to be. I'm glad we're close for a while and we can be friends again. But I'm sad that I'll be leaving him again so soon. But he and I have retied friendship knots and I wouldn't be surprised to see our productivities ending up on similar pages sometime in the near future.


Audio: Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness|Coheed and Cambria
Video: [nothing, actually]
Text: The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, September 23, 2005

On the night of the autumnal equinox, I was immortal

I had parked next to that huge stretch of field, where the cows wander up alongside the road, their mouths shifting back and forth like two separate clashing pieces as they gnaw, their blank stares taking in the road like mine take in the midnight sky. The only thing that separated me from them was a three-strung wire property fence. I laid out on the top of my car, with its cold aluminum at my back, eyes aligned up above. September still held such warm nights - I'd hoped to simply lie and watch the sky as I tend to enjoy doing, but the atmosphere played a cruel trick and covered the blackness with its pillow clouds. The only things left to see were empty plains, rolling foothills and the clouds obscuring the skyline. They were a mix of tan and dull grey, those muscles of the sky, and they menaced me.

But I stayed put, vowing with all my integrity that I would not rest until the cloud cover ventured on to more inviting territory. The former skywatcher had now become the cloudwatcher. And to be perfectly fair, those clouds were quite intriguing. The shade of the inside always differed slightly from the shade of the outer fringe. The smaller sized of them marched along speedily while the vast hulking behemoths crept without any sense of urgency. I wanted to join them and drift like driftwood in the sea. I wanted to break apart and recombine with other wispy pieces as an everchanging collage, always different, always new but still invariably the same. I wanted to watch with unblinking eyes made of lightning, hear with echoes of thunder, and taste with raindrop fingertips that brushed across the land. Those clouds!

The warmth was fleeting. From the east behind me, a breeze came and swirled around me and caused the cows to balk and turn away. They groaned as they sauntered off to find welcome elsewhere. A lick of water touched my upturned wrist. Another bled into my shirt near my navel. A few more arrived: my bare ankle, my scalp, my palm. So, the rain had come to see me off, had it! Oh ho - but there was nowhere that I would go to seek shelter, no cowardice in me! Not at eleven thirty on this great autumnal equinox, on this day of this year! The rain hastened its pace and sunk its watery fangs into my flesh, tenderly, almost apologetically. A sudden burst lighted up the horizon, followed by the tense roll of distant thunder. My clothing became drenched and my face saturated with the coming rain, that pure nectar of the heavens. My hair lay pasted against the formed steel bracing my head. My brows could no longer protect my eyes as they welled up with the downpour and dripped streakingly across my cheeks in mock sorrow.

A closer strike of light. A louder timpani of thunder. My body as wet as the rain itself. This sweet storm marking the death of summer, the coming of autumn, the season of higan where the walls between the living and the departed opened and the other side of the river of death is bridged for but a few brief moments. Oh storm, do your worst, bring a swarm of spirits to appeal to me, drown me in melancholy. This night is mine! Lightning erupted directly in front of me in the distance, its barren tree leaving an imprint on my eyelids as the accompanying boom shook my eardrums and boiled over me.

I began singing, quietly, one of my favorite songs. "Sleep will not come to this tired body now...!" But the intensity of the storm's volume sang louder, and my words were lost in the howling breeze. I clutched the rails on the roof of my car and secured myself, while smiling open-mouthed upward at the roiling batch of stormclouds, churning and flailing. Join us! they seemed to say. I laughed of eternity and savored the rain that fell into my mouth, the same rain that composed the wine that Alexander the Great had drunk at mealtime, the same seawater that the monstrous squids of the deep inhaled into their gills before being harpooned by seafaring men who knew no better, the same water that entered the soil from the decaying bodies of soldiers who clutched their wounds and died in the act of defending what each of them knew to be most honorable, the same snow that called to me each new winter season, the same tears that my mother tried to withhold as I drove away to find a destiny of my own. The live-giving ambrosia of the gods.

Lightning bit every grain of sand around me; thunder rumbled and roared in upheaving earthquakes, swallowing cities and sending me teetering this way and that on my perch; rain flooded the highlands, drowned the livestock, and nurtured the wildflowers. I watched. I was the clouds.

Then it all lessened and the rain fell more softly. The show of noise and light drifted towards the more inviting territory I had earlier desired for it. The puppeteer in the clouds was prepared to play to another audience. And eventually it stopped completely. I had been within it for not more than two hours. My wet skin and clothing was not uncomfortable, I was still fairly warm and besides, it was nothing more than water. It was harmless and delicious.

I watched in earnest as the clumps of clouds in the west, in front of me, broke apart in their center and formed a v-shaped opening over the road. A single burning bulb of white light was stationed there in the middle of the newly opened sky.

Are you awake tonight, Altair? You can see that I am. Don't worry about me. I can take whatever is thrown my way. I am immortal. I am still here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Slumberyard Court

I slowly pulled into the cul-de-sac, eyeing the fancy unfinished houses suspiciously, rolling up my windows until the cracks diminished entirely. The nearly empty and partially transparent orb of the rising moon hung awash in blues and greys just barely above the distant hills. It looked remarkably huge, even in those final vestiges of daylight. Funny how it always tricks me like that - it looks so daunting, so impressive and intimidating as it first breaches the horizon's boundary. But once it stands attentive, high overhead at its zenith, it always appears fancifully smaller, unimpressive and shrinking in its bath of black sky. Some trick of the eye. Still, no matter what size, I could see it now in the sun's waning light, that meek moon with its powerful head staring down at me longingly. I had a feeling it wished to be here with me tonight to share in my anxiety.

Hello, moon, feel free to join me there's plenty of room here.

I nudged my tires against the curb in front of the court's center house. This building was lacking doors or windows; it stood as a mountain of stacked, treated wood with a partial roof and piles of shingles on each cornertop. She was to meet me here shortly. And I had arrived early, betraying my usual nature. My heart beat irregularly, as if drowned in ephedrine, and my fingers shook subtly but uncontrollably. I wiped my palms against my jeans and stepped out onto the mud-ridden curb. The slam of my door startled a few birds strutting nearby and they gathered themselves up together like a blanket of navy blue silk and took to the camouflaging sky. The bland front yard consisted of piles of dirt, orange plastic barriers and narrow ditches carved in parallels. There was no grass nor rosebush nor tree. I walked onto the barren earth near the front doorway; there appeared to be fossilized bootprints embedded in the mud. I matched my feet into two obvious prints and blew them a kiss.

Oh, hello little house on Slumberyard Court. You shall be ours someday. Someday when you are finished, with your gleaming sparkling fence out front and your flourishing garden, wrapping alongside the walkway made from the stones that she and I gathered atop Lovers' Leap and threw miles down to the ground below to collect again once we reached the base. Your roof will reflect the sinking sunlight like watercolor, the handsome chimney smoke will wordlessly puff and cumulate and rise until it dissipates and joins the invisible air, where I will inhale it back again with heaving breath while tending to your soil, and she'll watch me from the windowsill, smiling and laughing that deliquescing laugh. Oh the joy! The livelihood, the spirit of you, you home you! The life that's readied in this place of mine and hers and ours!

I closed my eyes and stood very silently, soaking in the future. The moon still watched as it inched upward effortlessly with a loving gaze on its face. Its blues and greys were darkening.

Hello again to you. You shall be our welcome visitor in this place, this home. Come as often as you like.

I entered through the doorless doorway and knocked my feet on the wooden floors. Stray clumps of dirt fell to the floor like a misty spray of unexpected raindrops, in little pitters and patters, fits and starts. I kicked them and squelched them waitingly, impatiently, their brown streaks looking painfully stark amidst the colorless void of sawboard.

The background hum of an automobile droned in the air, hovering in the near silence, calling an enchanted cry of metallic precision into the fading sunlight. I stood centered and braced my arms evenly in the windowframe that faced the street. I listened intently. The humming intensified as an unlit car slowly slid into place behind mine, its engine expelling a pausing sigh of relief before drifting into temporary oblivion. My bloodvalves shut down, heart quit pounding and shriveled to raisin, nerves unraveled and quivered bitterly, feet became leaden anchors. She had arrived.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Angels watched me for days

The highways danced by as we traveled a thousand miles or so in my little white Sentra these last few days.

Thursday nite ended my week of school, with an A- on my paper and a terrible test-taking experience in Communications. And even after studying. Ah, well. I do enjoy school though - but bigger undertakings and experiences awaited me.

We awoke Friday morning, finished making preparations before leaving, and then began the less-than-eventful 3 1/2 hour drive to Santa Cruz. Driving is still somehow one of my many passions. It's unexplainable - it all started with the joy that came with listening and fervently singing aloud to loud rock music, windows down, blowing my hair and face about, and letting my headlights illuminate unlit sections of night-darkened road - but now even the simple experience of undecorated driving brightens my day. Even when all I hear are the sounds of children's cartoons, the drone of the whizzing streets, or the irritating shriek of some passenger's side sound, and all with the AC on, no music playing, no windows down, and no solitary enjoyment - everything else that comes with it still unleashes that passion within me. Even when I'm acting stressfully or headached or disregarding, it ends on a high note. That life is mine!

We arrived in Santa Cruz to no fanfare and to the highly dramatized high-end suite at the Sunset Inn - owned by the notorious red Kool-Aid haired Laura - and enjoyed a small amount of relaxation. We unloaded, moped about, and then up and headed for the New Leaf in Capitola to visit Joey. His break was over, so we purchased few items and headed back to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and met up with Mikie. We ate cheaply at a not quite delectable hole-in-the-wall Mexican food joint, and then paced to the arcade. It was pretty lively; we watched an Intel-looking 35-ish Japanese man with hiked up Dickies and a fully buttoned white polo dancing Riverdance-style on the DDR machine. It was excellence. The best part of this evening though was when we attempted the Boardwalk. On a Friday nite in mid-September, the place was deader than a New York stare. The only life we found was heralded in Laffing Sal, the freakish ghoul of a marquee stand-up doll that laughed in Something Wicked This Way Comes reminiscence. We got some good video, let me tell you. The rest of the Boardwalk was quiet, dead, not a soul to be seen. I was wishing that we had a great nite camera, and I would put together a photography book entitled Abandoned at the Boardwalk. The gondola had those lifeless life-size dolls with their right arms outstretched around an invisible passenger. Everything rung with a sort of surreal nonexistence, the moon was full and illuminated enough to substitute the usual shop and roller coaster lighting that was missing. We walked until a barricade barred us entrance. I loved it all though, and I shall use those memories for good.

After our strange journey, we returned to the motel suite and finally found sleep.

The next morning we awoke to a choreographed gathering of Joey, Mikie and I, ready to head across 152 to I-5 at 8:30 AM. True to Beatty family nature, it was closer to 9:30. Amid a detour that took us on 129 to 101 and then back up to 152, and our frequent gas and snack stops, I was surprised we were only 45 minutes behind Heather, Adie and Mom who'd also left that morning. Our midday driving led us to our meeting place at Kettleman City on the I-5/Highway 41 exit around 1 o'clock. After eating and chatting, the caravan again hit the road, completed.

Amy drove now and I took to jotting thoughts and a poem for Mom until we hit Los Angeles. That city of angels. LA. Reminding me of big-city Mexico. I'm so out of place with the large cities that they all tend to remind me of each other. But I love the big city and my limited knowledge of it, in an estranged bastard child sort of way - where I want to be there so badly if only for a short time, but I also want to be the visitor with tourist ambitions and a different type of zeal for life and the surroundings that perhaps the residents lack. We found our interesting, small, antique Guest House Inn where our rooms were as big as my small office. The parking garage was miniscule and concealed underground, with a sharp 90-degree turn upon entry. We got our things together and walked as an obvious group of foreigners down Fairfax and Beverly, past the barnhouse whole foods store and the bars on all the windows, past Farmers Market Place and through street-sized crosswalks. It was a pilgrimage!

We arrived at the LA County Museum of Art for the 2005 King Tut Exhibit. After much waiting in line and security checkpoint meandering (absolutely no cameras allowed), we were ushered in into a nearly acute silence - I suppose that three in four people wore the Omar Sharif-narrated audio tour. The cry of a baby was like a sonic boom or a nuclear explosion in there, which made for quite the parental difficulty. But somehow, some way, I was able to see most of the presentation. And it was amazing. History and its intricacies constantly leaves me speechless. These thousand years old dynasties of Egyptian magnificence and all their beliefs and rituals have survived in some form over the course of time's decadence. There were wooden chests and perfectly precise hieroglyphic carvings, large partially crumbling tombs and golden inlaid daggers, masks, statues and canopic jars. I plan to buy the book to read and view all of the 135 astonishing artifacts in uninterrupted (but far less personal) splendor.

As the night wound its way down and started to tick to a stop, we walked to Swingers for dinner. Well, it was dinner if dinner is considered possible at 11:00 PM. Which it is, so be it. Bella slept amid the incessant noise and blaring jukebox. Swingers was wonderful: delicious food, fine service - I'd return in an instant. I discovered quinoa and tasted some organic eggs and had the most delicious egg sandwich BLT bagel ever. Fine, fine place. That late nite ended with sleeping and crying children, popcorn, and a disoriented Jarom at 2:30 AM.

Sunday morning Mom knocked on the door to startle us awake and hand-deliver the hotel's continental breakfast. Turns out that place used to be an old folks' home. Interesting. We traveled its elevator and stalked its courtyard and hallways. We had a circle of love and appreciation for Mom with the presentations of Amy's scrapbook, mine and Joey's poems, kind words and the like. Mikie planned a special serenade for later. And we left. Goodbye, fair Guest House Inn. Tis a day nigh upon us when we shall return.

The arrow-shot of Santa Monica Blvd. was our guide; we followed it to its bitter end, taking in the sights and sounds of those blood vessels of the big city. The Santa Monica Pier was our destination. We sheltered our cars in a massive, confusing parking garage and met up at the pier. We once again were fascinated by the arcade and its drivel - Joey and Adie became kin with the Japanese DDR professional while they attempted to conquer its hip beats. And oh, so hip were they. We had a ride in the Ferris wheel and its gondola, taking in the ocean and the pierside view and giving Mom an aneurysm as Jarom climbed and looked over. It was a glorious day, beautiful, with sun but not scorching, ocean breeze but not chilling. After some time waiting outside the gift shop as Mom spent her hard-earned money on gifts to treat her children and grandchildren, we took a last stop at the 3rd Street Promenade, via the nearby mall. We met up at La Salsa, a delectable stop, and after Mikie stopped a large crowd in the street to sing "L is for the way you look, tonite!" to Mom, we returned to the cars. We said some goodbyes and each found our way to the 405 and its intersection with the 5, and started the northerly trek that would take us back to our habits and lifestyles.

We made some minor stops on the way home and I was a bit tired but not too bad, and then like that - the trip ended. We were back at the small humble apartment we've called home for not quite four years, which we'll soon depart, granting it our utmost thanks and gratitude. Sayonara. Be of good cheer. We'll meet again.

As usual, I was up late after the stimulating drive home - sick to regret from eating so many gas stop delicacies, yearning for detoxification. My head sunk into the pillow at 2:30 AM, and the clock started ticking again.

Audio: Clarity|Jimmy Eat World
Video: Prison Break (some weird TV show on last nite, may as well have been watching nothing)
Text: The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 18, 2005


There's never a thing to compare to a mother
whose world fills with sacrifice
in nurturing care for her children and others -
the essence of selfless life.

Her ways will the future remember and uphold:
charity, kindness goodwill.
This world will her children sow seeds for the untold
lives they'll influence and fill.

One: Her pig-tailed locks frame her face and smile.
She dances the day away.
She dreams big, with fingertips rich as the Nile.
The world is her place to play.

Two: How she loves to read stories, to play and share
and act with matronly love.
She laughs with enchantment and she listens with care.
Sweetness is what she's made of.

Three: He once wore a firehat, kept little toys,
from home he never was far.
Now he's a father to a baby girl and boy
and he teaches them the stars.

Four: He's involved, strong-willed; he's got magic and might -
easily steals the show.
His presence is contagious, he's happy and bright
and constantly on the go.

Five: He's the last, exploring the shores of the world,
always a guitar in hand.
He's passionate and cheerful, his brows are furrowed,
he loves the mountains and sand.

Through these pairs of eyes she's influenced and given
outlooks filled with desire.
In compassion and love her children have striven
and set the world afire.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Misery loves

Oh, the joy of being a human. We get to deal with the real world, interacting as part of a hopeful social harmonic, engaged in politics and commerce and life, strung along by some unwritten and unsigned contract that we're figured to abide by. We ritualistically awaken each morning, prep our appearances and stomachs, deaden our thoughts and hearts, and then head out for an oh-so-trying day of good, honest, pointless labor, coming back home later in the day to get some much-needed, restful sleep; the cycle starts again the following morning.

We scoff at the less intelligent, the homeless and unfortunate, and at that which inconveniences us or doesn't add noticeably to the enjoyment and spectacle of our day. In this egocentric, circular existence we continue on, walking the virtually endless plank toward the bitter end that eventually beckons for us all.

And as the hobo paces his lonely streets and gathers the forgotten discarded clothing that we have left for him to run across, we pace our own streets, minds indifferently framed, sometimes hardly distinct from his own. We'll make merry and laugh and tell tall tales while other scrounge and scavenge for sustenance, but all the while we scrounge and scavenge ourselves! We're the same! It's a joke for which few know the punchline. There is no black and white, there's simply a mess of gray that is crammed on an endless jungle continent. Every square inch is removed from reality. And we want it that way.

We've got our mastery of circuits, electricity, and day and night. We've got our scientifically manufactured beds to better our sleep patterns. We've got chemically altered food sources - plants, animals, production facilities - so that we can eat and fatten up and enjoy the marvelous predictability of our blessed sense of taste. We're the mowers of man - the reapers of reality, wielding scythes of faked ignorance. We drape ourselves in sheets of debt and reliance upon a world and society that we're not so sure of. But we don't really want to be what we are. We just simply "are", living day to day, looking to those who reside in the mystical upper decks of magazine, television, celebrity and cliché. "We don't want to wake up!" we shout, "Let's go back to sleep; it's peaceful there!"

But live we must. And one day perhaps we'll find a better world, one that we may accurately compare to our own, and we'll notice the true existential faults that have always plagued us like little hidden leeches, stuck behind our ears where we could never see but always hear as they whispered fatalistic sweet nothings and suckled the energy from our minds, domesticating us and preparing us for slaughter in the same way that we chemically alter and numb the lives of the cattle that we liquidate and process into packages of pseudo-life-giving nutrients to be fed to soulless, emptied shells of plastic human bodies in mass quantities, promoting sickness and waste, a paradox to the initial purpose of sustaining and providing fuel to prompt the bountiful, wondrous creations mankind was once known to concoct. "The sun doesn't shine here, it's just photonic bombardment." It's misery, that's what it is! - thinly threaded into lines, weaving as stitches do, connecting the whole of humanity into frivolous, absurd acts of daily behavior and so-called character. Misery. Either real or contrived, but misery nonetheless. Humanity has become a virus, patrolling its wasteland, stimulating it by removing the flourishing and replacing it with landfill, reactor, plastic, decay, chemical, death, explanation, ourselves, waste, waste, waste, waste.

It's. All. Unavoidable.

I, for one, am going back to sleep.


I gave a dollar to a hobo today. He stood at the Sunrise off-ramp, fully sleeved and pantsed in army fatigues with a blue mesh cap on his white, balding head. He was thin and looked unfortunate and I felt for him. I'm not usually big on panhandling. I'm possibly a pessimist, always suspecting that they're falsifying a dire existence and rounding up fifty dollars an hour while I peck away at a keyboard and make a mere portion of that. But this man, he was different. I only gave him a dollar anyhow.

But it made me think: he and I aren't all that different. He may not have an apartment or liquid asset money availability or debt. He may be lonely and sad, or he could be content and fulfilled. Or somewhere inbetween. But he wore lots of clothing on a hot day, he spoke in a crispily quiet speech impediment-impeded tone and said "God bless you sir." That phrase gets watered with meaningless repetition, doesn't it? Sometimes. Not from him, though. He meant it. How I know, ah I'm not sure.

But this poor man wore a grimace and acted miserable to make some money so he could go buy things to get by. I too wear a grimace and act miserably on occasion so that I may also buy things and get by. We're one and the same, and that old sunken man is me some day far removed from my present, when I will stand on a torrid street corner and gaze up at the open blue sky with hollow eyes and a raspy weathered old voice, holding my cardboard cutout of a sign that pleads to passersby, "Please help. Old man in need." And I'll roam by the car windows as they pretend to ignore me and the many problems that aren't theirs, and I'll dream of my youth with memories that I can't really be sure of, and of my kith and kin and progeny who went their separate ways and forgot about an uninteresting old soul who lived once with passion but now had nothing left to offer except burden and duties and an ammonia-smelling room with respirators and oxygen tanks, a fitting funeral pyre for the end of a tired old existence.

Audio: Blue Screen Life|Pinback
Video: nothing since Amelie
Text: newest issue of Rolling Stone

Monday, September 12, 2005

Woman on the moon (The mooness)

I'm chased by a car with one light.
A full moon, branches hold upright
next to liquid backdrop night.

She smiles on me. I drive in peace,
fearless of grinning devil thieves
bearing down, following me.

Lost in my lane, they come aside
and interrupt my midnight ride,
dragging me softly outside.

The moon, her light brightens its glow
and blinds their eyes, while mine alone
are a witness to her show.

They fall, litter the grass and ground.
My ears muffled, the only sound
I hear is my heart's soft pound.

Her voice is meek, it speaks to me
in whispered tones like crashing sea
or ocean sunrise beauty.

"Fear not, I know your kindly ways.
You will find shelter in my rays,
guiding, lighting all your days.

Now speak not, hush, depart this place.
Once awake, these thieves may give chase.
Cloak your tracks and leave no trace.

I bid farewell, we'll meet again,
in times of need, you'll know me then.
Embrace my light as your friend."

Her radiance decreases quick,
concealed by clouds of night, as thick
as low fog or walls of brick.

My feet make haste and leave the scene,
senses aware and mind made keen
of angels watching on me.

And now my faith is placed up high.
It will remain until I die
and join the ones in the sky.

Weakened for the weekend

A milestone in the atmosphere of my life: Jarom went to his first day of preschool. Well, it's preschool by name but perhaps pre-preschool by definition. And he did well, I hear. I'm just bustling up inside with proud-father excitement, but it's also somewhat sad.

My first-born, my sole son, making his way into the real world and the social maze that surrounds us. Before now, he has been truant to it, a happy-go-lucky baby soul, free of worries or burden or responsibility, learning by his mother's side by day and by both parents' sides by nite. Now, though, he will be subject to schedule, routine. He'll learn the behaviorism of society through cliques and classes and camaraderie. There will be bullies and underdogs, tears and torment and accomplishments. And all of this will flow by so quickly, so hastily, while I continue to work and school myself and speed-walk over the pavement that borders the road of life, missing perhaps everything of value to me. The years pass so quickly. And I'm only 25 - 25 years old, that's nothing. That's a blip. A goof, a joke, a universal murmur. But it's life to me. And there's much to do, as usual. Much to be learned and people to pay and shelters to buy and roads to travel and words to arrange and tears to cry and smiles to smile and such stuff.

That's enough of this for now.

Audio: Absolution|Muse
Video: Le Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain (Amelie) [2001|Jean-Pierre Jeunet]
Text: The Road to Los Angeles|John Fante

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Maunderings between two of many

Here is our subject. He is stuck, mind whirling a million miles an hour, the flow of life passing him by as he sits in an easy chair wasteland and contemplates what to do next. This process lasts an entire existence, resulting in an insignificant cycle of birth and death.

Our subject has become captivated with the music and words and activities of others, and in the meantime his own become shriveled and helpless while they scream in quietly pained voices, begging for him to listen. His insides ring out, questioning his intentions and his motivations, his empty stares and deviant thought-processes. They call him ignoramus and poltroon. And so on.

The few words that he deliberately chooses to use and share seem contrived and reminiscent of nothing unique or individual. Hmmm... In rethinking my previous analysis, perhaps "stuck" is a misnomer. It may be closer to "imprisoned", or "stranded".

Let's eavesdrop in on a moment of so-called psychological clarity on the part of the subject's:

'Isn't there enough life to go around?' he thinks. 'Ah, but that is a thing of the past, a primordial notion that begs to be forgotten and prays to open up wasted lines of thinking.'

In this state the subject sits and waits as he always does - patiently hoping that a sincere doctor will wander by to diagnose his condition and prescribe the perfect remedy. This never occurs, but the hope inherent to his condition meshes quite nicely with this faux paradigm.

'It may take decades, but it also may be tomorrow. So I'll sit and wait, there's no need for hastiness or precision. Because all will be made known in time. Yes, this is true! My dear, I know that you can hear me.'

"Maniacal laughter can only bounce so many times off of these padded walls, and yes, that sound is remarkable! I do hear you, of course I do."

'Ah, I see now - that 'he' is me. I'll laugh again. Or, he'll laugh again, I'm not sure anymore! If I were only able to proverbially straighten my arms and reach the keyhole, my life could be meaningful again - in a way that it never was and never has been.'

"These thoughts are meaningless, ho!"

It has never been said that our subject lacks creativity or expectations. What is missing in this equation is the initiative, the compromising of multiple realities and expectations from numerous sources.

'What is missing in this equation is a balance of character! You speak in psychiatric terms and try to prove me a babbling fool! Leave me out of this!'

"Well, has our secret been uncovered? Where is the well-being of all if you tend to your distractions with such valor?!"

'Shall I calmly listen, or is it my turn to speak? Perhaps now I may become the descriptor, the placater. As my mood calms and my words soften, so yours become unintelligible and mine appear academic! It is a glory-bound circle of entwined minds, like Siamese twins or two-headed mythological demigods. It is my turn to shine! Turn off your pretension, and make way for the knowledge contained within me.'

'Ahem.' In a virtual psychosis, our subject battles with his alter-ego - a schizophrenic protrusion that was created by his own internal struggles regarding the outcomes of decisions. May we take from this example and heal our own self-mutilating wars, lest we avoid the fate of our faithful subject here.

"That's quite enough of that. You are the poltroon."

'And take it as you wish.'

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Headed for the hollow hills

Once a grove of white birch flourished here. Weaving and stretching up the hillside and down into the small valley of Nanagut, this place was their home. The unharvested fields wrapped alongside them, chest-high, the color of dried clay.

I remember when Raquel and I would run hand in hand through them after suppertime, make-believing like we were travelers, lost in the encounters that came with new and unfriendly territory. From a fallen limb we'd fashion a bow, flat rocks would be our arrowheads, and we'd hunt the beasts that patrolled the boundaries of our tribal village. In the throes of battle, the creatures cried and attacked, only to be taken down by the heroic war rituals of our people, the Nanagutians - a long-lived and wondrous people, favored by the gods and blessed through our labors.

Were we to become separated in those fields, when the sunlight dimmed and nature reclaimed its land with the shadow of nightfall, we would raise our arms and wave and whistle the only way we knew how: between our teeth, as Grandfather had taught me, and I in turn had taught Raquel. Within moments we'd be reunited, rolling on the good earth, our clothing soiled but our bellies full and our minds at ease. Galloping back to the house, Raquel would always hold her woven hat to her head with one hand, its sole tattered ribbon flapping with the commotion. The frantic nighttime breeze would never take that prized possession of hers.

Now I hold her dear woven hat between my frail old fingers. It smells of cedar and milk and honey, scents that lift my spirits and bring me closer to the heavens than death itself could. Scores have past and I've aged as I should, but my heart has been lonesome all these years. My sweet loving Raquel - her small body held captive by four wooden walls and the dense dirt on which we once left our footprints. This hat is now my prized possession, my treasure. The ribbon is but a dismal remnant of red, and its weavings have long worn thin, but I cherish it above all else. It slumbers in the chest at the foot of the upstairs bed, near the brick I recovered from our house when it burnt and the old journals. Sometimes, on a day like today, I take it from its resting place to hold it close to my face and let my mind turn the creaking wheels of time.

She still sings to me late at night. Her songs deify my home, filling it with life and a magical freedom all its own. As I lie awake, smiling to know she is so near, I catch the aroma of an enchanting sort of birch-flavored incense that eases my eyes and brings about tender dreams.

Those groves we wandered have all but disappeared. Nanagut is nothing more than a raceway for pedestrian values, hopeless pastimes and forlorn memories. They've paved our white groves - the birch, they fought a valiant fight, but lost their hillside perch and became kindling, cords of firewood to be purchased and loaded onto truck beds and burnt. Their smoke colors the day, loosening the sun and washing out its colors. The new youth have never seen the true face of this valley. Their eyes have been tainted with unseen blemishes, filtering out imagination and passion in place of technology and workplace ethics.

But they cannot steal the birch from this old man. My gait may be weary, my hair delicate and silver, and my skin like prunes - but my mind was spawned from memories borne of a happy childhood, limitless daydreams and love.

We shall once again be reunited on the soil of our beloved groves, Raquel. We've much to do under that ocean sky. Just let these old eyes rest a spell.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Split forked tongue (The serpent)

One venture home I stumbled 'cross
a serpent in my path.
Thick as a stump, with gaping mouth,
his red eyes filled with wrath.

He slithered 'round my feet and flickered
with his split forked tongue.
His steely gaze he matched with mine,
a wicked hymn he sung.

He said, "Your ways are cursed, the time
is looming near my friend.
By noonday's morrow you shall see,
you'll come to meet your end."

"But devil dear, it is not you
who'll tempt me by and by.
I have no fear of you. Now leave
me be," was my reply.

With this he hissed and coiled back
and venom filled his smile.
He lunged with otherworldly strength
to smite me with his guile.

I stopped him still, he had not struck.
My fingers clasped his neck.
And now his red eyes swarmed with fear,
"Your mercy I request!"

"It is no fault of mine that I've
been called to take you hence!
Your fate had come. Now spare my life!
I'll owe you my defense."

A twinkling gleam of cunning plan
flashed silent 'cross his face.
This serpent owed me no such thing -
he'd offer me no grace.

So I left him defeated there
astride the earth and dust.
My death defied, the devil died
of fright and lack of trust.

"There's much to do, my devil dear,
you'll not catch me with ease.
In time I'll come, 'til then I'll run
and live just as I please."

Now let this be a lesson to
those fearful of the dead.
When it's time and death does chime,
summon for him instead.

El dia de los muertos

So I've decided that I may come crawling back to BYU, reluctantly of course (and true to my nature). It's just one of many decisions plaguing me these days. I know Amy approves, encourages, expects, etc., so I've sent in my application and am working on filling in the gaps to see if they even want me back in the first place. At the same time, I'm finalizing my CSUS application also, so that my decision may be even more difficult.

Stayed up late again last nite. Also, true to my nature. I feel like I'm backstabbing my inner self when I go to bed early. That's not the Matthew Beatty I know. The Matthew Beatty I know goes to bed around 1:00 AM, no earlier, and can survive peacefully on a mere 5 hours of sleep per nite, every nite. But age applies, and time drags on, and it bring me with it. Sometimes it drives fast and I am pulled behind it in the dust, bouncing over rocks and ground over the asphalt. And that's when I need the most sleep.

Time to order new contacts, so that my dry eyes can try to focus clearly on things like laptop screens. I guess eye surgery wouldn't be so bad, so long as it were successful. But I still stand by the conviction that I'd gladly lose one eye in place of one hand though.

Earful: Rebel, Sweetheart|The Wallflowers
Eyeful: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil [1997|Clint Eastwood]
Mindful: my Communications textbook

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Some sensation

I saw her and my body turned upside down, feet hammered through with nails, impaled into some invisible ceiling, my blood defying gravity and pulsing with vigor at my temples and throughout my arms and hands. I could just feel my face brightening, as if embarrassed without reason. Though no one seemed to notice. Everyone else continued on, purposeful, ignorant of me.

But, oh, the way she walked! A timeless sway that defined only the most graceful of beauties, the most illustrious of queens, the pinnacle of godly flawlessness. I stood there at standstill among the moving ocean of bodies as they flowed across the crosswalk. Her smile drew me in. It was exquisite, Aphrodite incarnate, a beacon and a lighthouse rising high above the cold, bitter desolation that had become my life. It shot warmth like bullets towards me and they entered my skin as broken slivers of shrapnel, crawling through me, racing towards my heart and then stopping it in mid-thump to hang there suspended in awe and sudden immobility, the rest of my poor insides left confused. How could I have missed this before? Where had she come from?

A yellowed school bus slowly barreled up to the driveway, like an impending tank with its gun aimed point-blank at my flushed face. It crept around the corner, ominously overtaking my view of her, and then she was gone, hidden behind that bus and the others that sequentially rolled into place after it. I shifted through the thick of the crowd to the street and waited some more.

"Move, bus. Move."

Time became a gooped liquid around me. My mouth slowed and syllables blurred together as I spoke to the great bus beasts.

"I implore you. Move."

Some wormhole of space-time had enveloped me and decelerated my movements to match the empty air that held my stopped heart. The world had paused slightly, a mere hiccup, perfectly timed for this great moment.

And then the buses moved. Belching stormclouds of spent diesel, they crawled together as a herd, rounding the median fence onto the narrow street and rumbling off into the distance. An empty trampled patch of grass lay nestled against the protruding tree roots where she last stood. I glanced at the rear window of the last bus as it shook and swayed and made a right-hand turn, hoping to see her delicate palm pressed against it and her gentle eyes fixated on me. There was nothing there.

A whispering breeze teased my ears and spoke with hushed cruelty.

"She is gone," it breathed.

"Bah." My trumped-up indifference was as transparent as worn-out lingerie. Mocking me with its quiet laughter, the wind dissipated and left once again only a barren wasteland. An empty street, a quiet schoolyard, a lone void of a heart that had stopped and would remain that way, now, always, for eternity.

I'd have cried if I could've. But for the fear of others watching me, and probable retribution, I kicked a pebble at the stairs and started the long walk home, past the stoplight and the overpass and the old bus stop on 24th.

Listen to it loud

Labor Day weekend. It was nice to get the expected extra day off from work. We didn't much take advantage of it, just spent some time enjoying ourselves and getting out.

Saturday we awoke and took a short bike ride around our familiar block, stopping at the school park along the way and finding that twenty-something bodies don't hang from monkey bars the same way that fresh, more youthful bodies do. My arms were creaky and a little stretched/sore afterwards. I have these monkey-like tendencies, but in my weakened, less-active state and with the weight of my now fully grown body, they aren't as agile as they could be. I should get them to live up to their potential. Hmmm....

Well, that afternoon found us making our way down to Old Sacramento, where they were celebrating Gold Rush Days. The streets were coated in sand and filled with antiquated tents, covered wagons and costumed westerners that ran amuck throughout a temporarily old-west village. The heat was intense, but we pushed our umbrella strollers and visited the candy store, Jarom's favorite Old Sacramento indulgence, while taking in the whole extravaganza. After some time we went through the back tunnel to Downtown Plaza to drift about. We ran into Sean and Kim and made plans for dinner. Though, after wincing at the screams of our beautiful children in the car, we canceled those plans and decided to make it a trip home instead.

That night we made a record by watching two Kevin Spacey films in one night: The Usual Suspects and L.A. Confidential. Both are great movies which I've seen before; film noir-influenced, and I appreciate and love to watch them. In fact, we're watching another Kevin Spacey-starrer tonite: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Due to some tiredness, I've not finished it yet, so haven't made up my mind on it.

Sunday was Sunday. Spent associating with Grandma and Grandpa at Mom's house, eating some good food, although much too much of it, talking and enjoying a real backyard.

On Labor Day, we took ourselves up to the famous annual Diamond Springs bazaar. I'm actually told it occurs twice yearly: once in January and once in September. It's just this enormous flea market/garage sale/merchant's festival that stretches all across Pleasant Valley Road/Highway 49 in Diamond Springs. Half the road is closed off, the fire station is a party, and folks just walk up and down with makeshift shopping carts, buying old worthless VHS tapes, dangly necklaces and pseudo-antiques. We came away with some panda umbrellas, poppers, and a Mexican-influenced child's chair. Not a bad lot for two hours worth of blazing sun on your hair and shoulders.

Now the four day work week greets me, and I'm left to decide the future of my oh-so-vacillating life decisions.

Audio: TheFutureEmbrace|Billy Corgan
Video: L.A. Confidential [1997|Curtis Hanson]
Text: The Road to Los Angeles|John Fante

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fleeting moments stolen from Puerto Vallarta

And so my chin rested in that spot where the oily heads of hundreds of travelers and locals had rested before me, lying back and letting the sun bathe their limbs. Streetwashers routinely splashed small cups of water across the sidewalks, over and over and over, each cup cleaning a new patch of the weathered concrete. I fell into chants of "no gracias" and "nada" as the merchants approached, wheeling and dealing their services and silver. And the sun beat down. The crumbling blocks on the walkways and the yellowed stairs told the tales of generations. But I am just a foreigner, a visitor with visions of endless undiscovered beaches, shoreline-nestled fishing towns, chimney smoke and sizzling fire pits. Photographs capture just a piece, and the rest of the hustling, bustling world lives on.

The blue and white fabric of my rented sun chair left patchwork markings across my skin. I sat up and studied the bluest of the blues, where skyline married ocean in a crash of tide and foam, white as ivory. I longed to wear the same earthen clothing I saw covering their sun-kissed flesh, light and loose, beautiful and apparently freshly weaved from the finest of the cotton harvest or the most tender wool taken from the happiest, fattest sheep. Some life carried on here that defied all that I had previously imagined - a fine little island, accessible only by ship.

A young boy approached me, selling chicle. He was shirtless and as brown as deep cocoa, but his shy smile gave him away. We bartered like civilizations of old, pesos for gum, and he turned and scurried away, clutching the tray of precious goods that hung around his neck by an old leather band. Not so much existed between us, no true barrier of alienation. I saw this boy reflected in me, his childhood flowed as a tributary next to my own as the great stream of life rushed and coursed like the blood in my veins. There was no need for words, my language was his, and his smile was mine. I stretched and turned onto my stomach, wishing to remain in that scorching sunlight as long as it took, until my skin darkened to the color of chocolate.

'We've only been here a fleeting moment, but I've taken that moment and run. And it is mine now; I will not set it free.'

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The circus: Scenic route [IV]

I'd been thinking as I walked. My eyes had grown mostly accustomed to the dark, and I could make out the dotted yellow line that separated the lanes. It became my pathway, a target my feet would follow, one after the other, step by step, as I strode down the center of the road. Parsons was such a nowhere town, it had never hit me as strongly before as it did just then. Middle of the night, middle of nowhere, one restless body casually strolling down automobile territory when it should be slumbering home in bed. Each time I approached a sign or milemarker, I danced across to that side of the road and slapped it as hard as I could. It stung, but the marvelous echoing sound it created was well worth the pain. By morning, I figured my palms would have the indentions of reflectors and rivets permanently embedded in them.

I must have walked three miles, but there were no landmarks worth mentioning and the view was the same in either direction: lonely road, sagebrush and dirt shoulders. Somewhere in the distance on either side were the hollow hills.

Then, on the right, an ominous shadow slowly began to come into view. My curiosity caused me to step up my pace. As I grew closer I saw it was just another road sign, one of the "distance-until-town" variety. It read "Dover - 9 miles, Erid – 35 miles". So I had come this far. I stood there dumbfounded for some reason, reading those few letters over and over again, studying the metallic outline and the green sign, its wooden post and precise placement off the side of the road. This was a modern wonder!

I was mid-into this thought when it seemed there was a piercing heat at my back, like a welder's torch, accompanied by what sounded like an airplane taking off. With reflexes that surprised even me, I practically dove into the brush as a speeding car with its brights on screamed past, flinging up little pebbles and pieces of gravel in its wake. No laughs, no fists out the window, no yelling of "stupid kid!" Did they even see me? It was clearly an attempt on my life! I swore one day I'd take revenge, though I was unable to clearly identify the vehicle's license plate, color, or just about anything particular about it at all. That mileage sign had seen the whole thing though, but it continued to look on, uninterested.

I pushed myself onto my knees and dusted off my clothes, looking back out onto the shoulder. The small patch of dirt immediately behind the sign looked strangely inviting; it was void of rock or foliage, so I crawled on all fours over to it. Once there, I stretched out fully on my back there in the dirt, like a pig frolicking in his mud. My view of the night sky was now uninhibited. There I lay, pleased and covered in dust, as I once again became Perseus, in pursuit of the imprisoned Andromeda, prepared to make battle with Poseidon's monster of the deep and rescue my queen. I closed my eyes, sword at the ready.

Suddenly the full moon shone at its brightest, shattering my vision. It was directly overhead in high noon position, sending its blinding brilliance straight down into my face and eyes. The moon? Had I fallen asleep for weeks, a modern-day Rip Van Winkle? Instinctively, I threw my forearms up to block the glare.

A heavenly voice came down from above, "Son? Are you okay?" This must be a ghostly messenger! Perhaps the voice of Perseus defending his venerable name?

Then the whole of the full moon jerked aside as abruptly as it came. I opened my eyes to find two policemen with flashlights towering over me.

"What on earth are you doing? Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to sleep next to a busy highway like this?" This cop was stocky with a rounding belly, and he had a full brown mustache, neatly trimmed into a perfect structure. It bristled up and down as he spoke, in cartoonish motion. His companion was apparently mute. He was thinner and younger, and kept swerving his all eyes all about, as if he expected to find a sack of plundered goods stashed somewhere off the road.

"You live around here?"

I groggily rubbed my eyes and cleared my throat, wondering how long I'd been asleep. "Yeah, in Parsons."

"So did you walk all the way out here? Do you realize that it is almost five in the morning?" The mustache quivered again.

"I wasn't tired so I went for a walk. But don't worry, it's safe out here at this time of night; I didn't even see one car."

"Wasn't tired, sure!" He laughed like I imagined Santa Claus would, clutching his belly and bending backwards, while rolling up on the balls of his feet. "And I bet you never saw a car. Here kid, get in, we'll give you a ride home. But I want you to promise me I'll never see you out on this road again. That is, unless you're driving of course!" He killed himself with his jokes.

"Thanks officer. And yeah, I promise."

The drive home was uneventful. The mustached man - Officer Mooney was his name - asked for directions to my house, while the thin companion sat in silence. I felt like I was incarcerated there in the back seat, with that metal grille separating the cab from the back. I daydreamed about being a famous criminal, a bank robber finally nabbed after years of running from the law and living the high life. We got home in about fifteen minutes. I guess I hadn't walked that far after all.

"Thank again, officers," I managed as I stepped out of the car. I shut the door as quietly as possible. The squad car drove off slowly. I think they were watching me as I walked up my front steps, making sure I wasn't some runaway hooligan ready to bolt as soon as they left my line of sight.

Once they had turned the corner, I left the porch and went around to the back of the house where I had left the window open. It was shut. So much for my smooth reentry. So I plucked a few handfuls of leaves from the big oak tree in our backyard and made them into a nice little pile right below the windowsill. There weren't very many, but they were fresh and still rather tender, green and soft. I curled up into a ball there in my new bed with its leafy pillow and shut my eyes, trying to ignore the hint of morning twilight that was starting to fill the sky.