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, March 31, 2006

King of the dance floor, first telling

[This is part 1 in a 2-part series. This is the story as I first imagined it, hence the "first telling". Part two will be the more succint, but more bubbly and joyous version. The one before you now is the rawer, more emotional form, but which delves off into pointless explanations of character and such, deviating so from the storyline.]

I've been here before. A decade ago, when I was unprepared, and transitioning from hardly a high school adolescent to some overambitious pre-college type, simply by accident. Two weeks, set aside between my junior and senior high school years, interrupting the endlessness of the summers of my youth, and I came to this campus to stay in a small dorm room in Helaman Halls like the thirty or so other students that also came for this scholarship program that trained us in the outdated computer programming language ProLog.

The culminating moment in this experience, as surreal as it still seems to me now, was a dance. A dance that took place on the south side of campus in a small, flat, nondescript building. A dance--for thirty or so people, mind you.

There was a DJ on the small stage. He was older, more fashionable, and noticeably separated from our crowd. There were some lights that splayed embarrassingly across the empty dance floor, empty because most of us were inherently unable to participate in a social gathering such as this; we were at a computer camp, each of us having won the opportunity and traveled from all corners of the nation. It was a group of my peers, a collective, but even so I felt alienated--too timid to attempt friendships beyond the platonic.

Though some, which didn't really persist far beyond the two weeks, were memorable:

My roommate Adam was from Roseville--so close to home!--and you'd think we'd have hit it off better, but he never became an actual friend. Instead he kind of frightened me. He was gaunt and thin, with baseball-player stubble at an age when my face was as void of hair as my father's head. And though we were only sixteen or seventeen he managed somehow to seem both gentle and terrifying at the same time. My mind pictures him oddly, still: standing beneath the darkened doorframe into our room with just enough light (emanating from the floor, for some reason) to illuminate the underside of his cheeks and neck, like a campfire ghost-storytelling where the teller holds a lit flashlight up underneath his face and his eyes are wide and eyebrows high in mock-horror to the point where it's not mockery anymore and it truly becomes horrifying.

Alex *******, from Minneapolis: the mouse-eared and daring, and likely the leader of the nearly nonexistent I'm-outgoing-and-forward-and-liked group. He and I shared something unique, because in one year's time we were both to return to BYU as freshmen, in the same hall in Deseret Towers, on the same sixth floor. Of course I would participate in the pranks he'd orchestrate, usually in competition with the seventh floor. We'd talk girls, school, music--he was bright and had the scores to prove it, riding a full scholarship while I ditched classes, slept in, and never kept up. Even with this to come, we would remain only acquaintances the whole time, just casual buddies and never much more. Last I heard of him Emily had told me she saw him walking on the Vegas strip while on his mission. He's since been removed entirely from my life. Perhaps he's a doctor.

There was Eric *****--a truer friend, though due to his actions only. He was the one who pursued Michelle--easily the best-looking girl in the group, with long, curled blonde hair, an enchanting laugh, stylish--and he was successful. He was always up to something sly, planning little meeting places, moments where the three of us would be walking and I would conveniently disappear, leaving them to the rediscovery of high school summer makeout sessions. He wrote me while on his mission, and even took the time to look me up after the fact, when I was already married; Amy may have even been pregnant at the time. He found us in Cameron Park and called me once while he was visiting his sister. It was awkward, but we found conversation and reminisced for a short while. I've not heard from him since then, nearly five years ago. But I still have his number in my cell phone, most likely invalid by now. Actually I just checked. It's gone.

Then there was Dave ***. He was the one that Ben and I always referred to as The Stalker. I'm quite convinced he was at least partially attracted to me. The next year, he too would track me down, and call me up to try and schedule lunch or some other way of meeting. His voice and mannerisms, and quite frankly, his whole personality, turned me off from wanting any friendship with him, so I'd skip out and not return calls and I'd find excuses. It was like trying to avoid the persistence of a girl with whom you'd rather not have relations. And that's all I recall of him, except that he was short and from Missouri, and in a stockier way reminded me of Jason Priestly.

So this group of us was at this dance. And while there, stalling on that empty dance floor, I somehow began the very odd 1980s-helicopter-at-an-angle dance where I circled around and kept my head cocked, the same way my friend Cameron (he who recently moved to Kentucky) had once taught me. This, even with all my public-dancing apprehensions. And I danced alone.

But the DJ saw me dancing to his music. So in return he sent his attractive, dark-haired girlfriend over to me, like a prize, a possession, who then declares to me that they had seen me dancing and determined that I was the best there, and that she then was to dance with me. This was startling, but believable--definitely believable--because in a few months time I would win my Senior Homecoming dance-off, where my break-dancing moves--lifted from the Let's Break! video I had bought at the thrift store--though amateur, unpracticed and ugly at best overpowered the minds and expectations of everyone there. And I won, evidenced by unprecedented applause. For this feat I would be rewarded a "cd of my choice", and that's why No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom cd still today sits alphabetized on my shelf. It came in the mail two weeks later.

So the two of us danced. Slow and fast, a brief duration. She would smile and laugh and look to her boyfriend onstage as he manned the cliche midtempo dance tracks familiar to us all. He would occasionally smile back. It lasted only a few songs and then she was gone, returned to her place next to her hero on their shared pedestal. He may have been the hero, but I was the deity.

But I realize now what was going on. At the time that I left that night I was excited, confident, a little surprised but not entirely too humble. I had been noticed. I had been picked--chosen--at sixteen, to dance with the prettiest girl, the oldest girl.

But her smile, her laugh: it wasn't evidence of her admiration for me; it was mockery. My dancing was ridiculous, laughable, obvious. In my standing-out they had looked on and been entertained at my expense. The joke was to have her join me. But it doesn't matter, doesn't shatter any of my past or goals or elements of self-concept, because I've come to this realization years after the fact. Though it is interesting to note, that I have always been what I've suspected. These outlandish moments that seem foreign to the self-image I've built are not really foreign at all. I've always been this way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

From the crossing of the desert in the new year's storm

Rainbow, NV

The marriage of corporation and nature

Stormshine clouds coming

Sunday, March 26, 2006



With your head in your hands,
and your heart halved and hoping
for something unplanned and almost unexpected,
you're mapping it out
while you wander about
and your small playground circles the sun.

All your dreams are undone,
and the hopes that you crafted
are gift-wrapped in smoke, wafting high from the fire
you trail behind,
burning threads that unwind,
spreading ash on the streets as you walk.

Your name written in chalk
on the sidewalk in front of
the house on the block, with the strands of white lights,
and the children ignored
as they ride back and forth,
bicycles made of metal and mud.

Steeped in soil and blood
from the battles you'd won,
and the afterparties in the homes on the hill--
now your notice is sent,
you're done paying your rent,
done with fastening flowered lapels.

So you climbed from the shell
that you shed in the alleyway
blinded by years spent in vain in the valley.
That city they built
racketeered you with guilt
and supported its walls with your shame.

But you left all the same
and the bloodhounds laid claim to your things
at the auction that sang your defeat.
Now your fate lies ahead,
but the shining sun spreads
over litter and still scatters the sand.


In your hands,
the dreams of a century,
generations holding on to your arms to be led.

But you fled
and cast them away,
crossed the white ocean plains in search of an immortal lie.

Now your eyes
have clouded with sick sincere
longing for days that are better off left in the dust.

Still you trust
that strange recognizable
surge of conceit in the tide that captures in its wake.

But your memories thrive--
you're not sure you'll survive--

for that fate lies awake,
lies and baits us and waits for us all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

When I lived near the lake

In my haste I left that morning,
my coat on a hook, hat on its top,
and shoes beneath the mantle, still warmed
by the fire's dying coals.

In long johns, with my glasses on,
I trod across the icy dirt in my woolen socks.
Crossed the sparsely laid grass
into the cattails at the edge of the lake.

Until the red at my toes met the lakeshore
where it lapped at them hungrily
and the thicket around me studied me
while it bridged the cloven world.

I waded into the silver waters,
braving the barren and the emptiness,
and I was waist-deep and alone
save for some involuntary shivers.

Out twenty paces, up to the nape,
and steadied by the swaying of my arms
that created fluid motions of white,
back-and-forth, formed of cotton and skin.

The calls of the swallows sang
in the waxing twilight of early dawn.
Light broke over the green-shaded fronds
and those dripping hands of willow.

Still further beyond, and I drank of the lake,
heard the muted sounds underneath.
And the scent of its soil persuaded me
just to see how far I could go.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Easter soon, unlike the last

Middle of February, snowing outside-- And it will be Easter soon, which brings to mind last year's Easter, when we went out for a picnic and other Easter-y activities in Sutter Creek.

This year it will be different. This year there will be solitude, distance, activities in which few of us participate together, at least from my perspective. There will be uncoordinated traditions, new ones springing from the still-beating hearts of the old ones, people will be missed and feelings will bear longing and phone calls will be made, videos made, recordings, journals, words, memories-- It all will find a way to not really happen, but not be missed, and then it won't really fade and will somehow still be experienced together regardless of where we all reside.

So. Last year's. We all seem to love Sutter Creek, why we don't actually live there I'm not really sure. It wasn't much of a spring afternoon--or maybe it was, I guess I don't know what a typical spring afternoon should entail, at least with our family--but it was overcast and gloomy, almost a little too cold, but not quite. The river that runs right through the town underneath that old crumbling concrete bridge poured with full strength, and for a while Mikie and Jarom and I threw rocks at it and watched them sink abruptly, pulling to the left, ready to wash ashore again on some other day, in some other place. A lingering prospector's kind-of-treasure-hunting feeling was in me--that being a silly part of my life at the time--and I still feel it now when I think of last year's Easter, a twang of nostalgia mixed with longing.

We captured Jarom's egg hunt on video--all that enthusiasm, provenance unfounded, excitement that seemed to transfer among us all as we watched, almost tearfully--something so youthful and carefree and joyous, something we'd all been mostly missing and realized it just then, that there's a fragment void in us all, and witnessing a moment of its actual existence temporarily fills that void and causes in us something unexpected and recalled from childhood and even spiritual, magical.

We ate lunch with fervor before trekking out that untraveled road an additional 19 miles or so to Daffodil Hill, a name? a city? a town? A place we knew existed but didn't know of anything else, all except Heather who had been there before. To the rest of us it was enigmatic, and worth venturing down a windy backroad to discover. Upon arrival we found that Daffodil Hill was closed for the season, a sign posted cited this was due to "unprecedented rainfall" and that the flowers were not sightfully in bloom or something along those lines. It was a small ranch, a few miniature windmills scattered about the grounds, picnic tables here and there and other groups of people, emerging from minivans, stumbling upon the same closed farm as we.

In an odd moment, paradoxical for some reason, a gang of motorcyclists happened through--you know the type: leather jackets, bandanas, graying beards and mustaches, doubled up on each bike, man in front, woman clinging bravely to said man's chest and dressed alike in a dual presentation of forthright rebellion and adventure--each stopping at that stop sign before continuing on their bizarre path to an unknown destination as they crossed some forgotten highway road, in the forgotten forests of some tiny nook in the center of Northern California. These roads were built by some, by those with an interest in their being built, and these bikers, bound together in small-town camaraderie somehow--they've found likeminded people where it seems firstminded people, if at all, are unlikely to be found.

And it just kind of sent me this impression--this feeling--that no matter what you think you are, or where, that you're alone but not really, not permanently, because there are just too damn many people around to really be alone. It's impossible. Somehow we'll always find the similarities, the comparisons, and it will make us feel valuable and loved and necessary. And somehow through this we are all still unique, and strive to be so, and are captured in our whirlwind thoughts and lives, somewhere, leaving small traces of ourselves, little bits and pieces that contaminate the places we pass through and the people at whom we stare, or talk to, or affect in any number of countless ways.

So those bikers. They just passed on, and then we took some pictures of it all and piled back into our three-car caravan full of interconnected Placerville-lives, leaving behind everything that only we could leave behind, because others, they leave us behind, in this connect-the-dots matching game of life and experience and influence where no drawing is ever finished and no one ever seems to win.

[Taken from a notebook entry on the day of 19 February 2006]