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.

Monday, May 29, 2006

That familiar feeling

I've been around. Seen these guys before.
Just a bunch of familiar faces
with long hair in unnatural colors
and beards and shark shirts.

These same old dancing shoes:
not yet retired.
They've lasted
longer than I can remember.

Yes, I know everyone here.
It seems so much like home,
so comforting--

am I all alone?
They touch my skin,
transfer some to me, and
then escape. They leave me.
Destroy me.

Oh I am alone.
There's that familiar feeling.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Our synthetic souls

we suckle at invisible airwaves,
latching onto plastics and metals and information constructs.
Our bodies rely on that cherished electricity
and its latticework that spreads and frames the earth:
black cables beneath the soil,
hovering panels and capsules between us and the moon,
towers and wires out in the wind--
supported by once-trees made naked by factories.

we always want and never need.
Our fancy boats coat lakes with a film of oil and exhaust,
but are parked on spotless-white carport concrete 361 days a year.
We walk in synthetic soles and fabrics
that are weaved of fake fiber by calloused, impoverished hands--
theirs is a place where asbestos fairy dust grants humble wishes
and our indifference executes a death sentence.

we somehow become clinically depressed,
our diagnoses a product of unfulfilling lives.
We tote our problems as small typewritten medicine labels
pinned up against our shirts like badges,
next to our poisoned, wrinkle-free skin.
More proud than ashamed, we laugh and drink it off every night,
only to see if it will ever feel any different.

we take a valley (not home) and turn it into a city (home).
Every patch of grass intricately placed,
every block of broken concrete intentional,
every building some sort of sanctuary
or celebration of our supposed success.
The people are merely numbers, and the mayors rejoice
while nearby farmlands are forgotten next to cloned homes.

we are each other's mules.
We refuse burden, lessen it with gestures and fingers,
wishing our pockets lined with litigious spoils.
Then we chuckle at primetime newscasts
while watching handcuffed executives
holding up briefcases to shield their faces
as they are escorted to blinking blue and white taxis.

We horde consumer-end commodities
like they were apples freshly harvested from the orchard.
We are unaware of process or consequence,
only gleeful moments of self-gratification
that end up gracing carefully-selected entries in our diaries.
Then in standing lines at amusement parks
we check our wrists, visibly impatient
as our blood runs pink with cotton candy,
and we devour hot dogs made of thousands of bits
of the lives we line up to needlessly slaughter,
in a weak attempt to satiate our collective gluttony--

But there, in the end,
are our own lives really so different?
Or have we been dying so slowly,
so persistently over all these years,
that this world is the world we truly want--
the world we truly love?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Beachside California

We always expect it will be so much hotter,
and then even with the open stare of the noonday sun
searing across our backs and our ankles,
a breeze sent straight from the sea gives us the chills
and dissipates the beading dewdrop sweat from our brows.

You can see the elastic bands cutting away at waists and thighs,
clinging there so tightly, creating small mounds of skin on each side.
And the plump little teenage arms beam a pale crimson,
embraced by the sunlight and the thick white lotion
that still streaks in thin racing stripes across their backs.

Our towels attract the sand that flings from passing heels,
and so it sticks to our stomachs and gets into our hair,
where it grinds our scalps in little gravelly bits
until we take to the ocean and swim in the frothy tide
as it kisses the beach again and again.

Where the shoreline is left damp we dig for sandcrabs,
following the air bubbles. Outwardly we are brave
but inwardly we hope we don't find any--a vacant shell is enough.
Their wriggling, burrowing bodies always startle us
when one ends up amid the clumped wet sand in our cupped hands.

Sea glass and shells and sand dollars are never abundant,
because everyone searches for something, special to only them,
a keepsake memory that revives the smells and sounds of the ocean.
Bulbs of seaweed and swarming flies hide treasures
from the prying fingers and eyes of both adult and child.

Soon enough the sun turns the horizon a little bit purple
and a little bit pink as it sinks behind it all.
The lifeguard booths and reclining mesh chairs are empty now;
the water is not quite warm enough for our toes anymore
so we clamber back to our towel-carpeted stations.

Saltwater stings our shoulders where the burn is deepest red,
and it dries into a sticky second skin that itches
as we shield each other and replace our suits and shirts.
We pad barefoot from the cooling sand to the welcoming asphalt,
ready to turn our engines and be delivered from the coming evening.

Slowly we return, and we coax our minds into believing
that a Saturday or two spent amused at the beach is just that:
amusement, and that our lives will scrape and fall and burrow
just like those sandcrabs, until we too shed our shells and again
take to the sand, trying always to escape the hands that would trap us.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

U of U

I decided to drive all the way to Salt Lake to the University of Utah campus, for the pink and white ball. It was so strange to see Mike and Chelsea there, but I was ecstatic. The weird thing was, they totally ignored me. It was as if they were upset that I was there and had run into them.

So there we are, all waiting in line in food together, and suddenly they disappear completely. That was that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Seven hours


I slept on the couch, though hardly at all, and after I left I was able to watch the sunrise as it came from behind the Wasatch—that strange situation where dawn comes but you don't really see it until the tip of the sun finally breaks the crooked surface of the nearest mountain. For the first time I had left for the airport with plenty of time, after straightening the house and showering and saying a temporary goodbye to the lit front porch and the small run-down house I find so endearing. Somewhere around Sandy, Robert Hayden and his 'blueblack cold' came to me and I realized how perfectly he had described 5 AM with that phrase. I swear it, I would stay awake all night, every night, if only I could.

So I decide to park in the extended parking, which I've never done before. I usually park in the covered lots (but end up parking on the roof level anyway because airports are inevitably always full). But in extended parking you save four bucks a day. What a deal. The only problem is you have to either walk a mile or take the shuttle. I opted for the shuttle; I had 50 minutes until my flight left anyway.

My shuttle station was the first stop for the empty bus. I thought that was so great. But I didn't know that the shuttle had 14 more stops, we were only the first. So this shuttle loops around this monstrous lot—as full as the covered lots ever were—and picks up group of people after group of people. After 15 minutes of this nonsense, we start finally making our way back to the actual airport. And there in the middle of the road on our way there, another bus had come to a dead stop.

Its driver radios ours. "Gotta make a stop. Jerry, can you get around me?"

Our driver—now known as Jerry—has a little scraggly white beard and longer hair and droopy eyes. The driver's chair looks like it's boosted as high as it could go to accommodate his height. "No, doesn't look like I can."

He tries anyway. But the bus is just too long, and so we end up stuck at an angle, jutting out into the road at 45-degrees against the other bus.

"I can't make it around you." He sighs and sits contemptuously, not hiding his bitterness and swearing under his breath.

The other driver gets out and we see that he has stopped to help a wheelchaired woman into his bus. I recognize her as someone we had just passed a few minutes ago as she drove a van. Wheelchair-bound? How did she drive that van? Maybe it wasn't her that I saw. But see, now this was nice and all, this other driver picking up this woman who is obviously handicapped, but it started to put a significant damper on my arrival time at the airport. And we were just sitting there.

Another ten minutes pass, and the other bus finally starts driving again. You can tell that all of my bus's passengers are somewhat miffed. The radio crackles. "Sorry Jerry, but there was nothing I could do."

"Like hell there wasn't." Jerry says this to the open air. Another passenger voices his opinion: "Tell that to us!" So now Jerry depresses the button. "Tell that to them," he says.

"Like I said, I had no choice," the radio says again. This whole thing had really cast a cloud over Jerry's morning. I kind of felt bad for the guy. But it was the end of his shift, and he stopped inches from the airport to stop and swap seats with a new driver, who was much more chipper. "Hiya gang," he said when he stepped in and readjusted the seat to about two feet below where Jerry had set it.

He drops us off and I run to check my bags and then start towards the security line. This Hawaiian-looking girl also hurries alongside me. I had twenty minutes.

Now if you can possibly even imagine, the Salt Lake City airport's security checkpoint line was not only long, but it weaved through all the elastic-strung standees and pointed like a pistol through the whole west end of the airport, past baggage claim and the seats and telephones and to who knows where, because I never saw the end of the line. What I did see is the Hawaiian girl getting roped into the near-beginning of the line by her friends who had already been waiting. At this point I was getting desperate. If I waited in that whole line there would be absolutely no way I'd make my flight. So I run back towards the Hawaiian and shout to her (knowing that since she had cut in line, she may not mind if I did the same): "Hey! Can I get in there? I'm going to miss my flight!" She looks around and kind of shakes her head no, but then seems to not care and just says something like 'sure'.

So I cut. So what. I'd rather not miss a flight. And never have yet. But the weird thing is, compared to Sacramento, Reno, Spokane—I have never seen such a long security line. Salt Lake City at 6:45 AM on a Thursday morning! What's the big rush, the big deal? Anyway, I made the flight. This sold-out seatless flight where there was pretty much nowhere to sit. I go all the way to the back, where I see one kind-looking woman sitting in the aisle, with two open seats next to her, the very last row on airplane left. I sit next to her, relieved. I like to sit with a vacancy on my right, a window on my left. Barely made it like usual.

Oh yeah, and then these two huge Hawaiian/Samoan (Fijian I actually found out—well, guessed from the huge "FIJI" written on one of the guys' shirts) come barreling down the aisle, veering directly towards me. The kind woman stands—she must have seen only one of them—to let one sit, but ignorant of their surroundings, they both sit.

Seeing this, the flight attendant in the back by the lavatory remarks, "Sir, you've taken this woman's seat."

"Oh I'm sorry!" The one in the aisle stands and makes as if to take a different, very hard to reach seat, but the kind woman stops him and says, "That's okay," and then takes that seat herself.

So there I was, indescribably crushed next to these two huge men. I couldn't sit straight. That is not an understatement. I was essentially molded into the wall and window. These guys were nice and all, but we just didn't fit there, not together as a group of three. The flight was about an hour, and I was just stuck, pretending to write—nope, to listen to my music—one song, to read the in-flight magazine—boring. The greatest part about all this was that these guys ended up being the friends of my Hawaiian/Fijian girl. It was some weird looped moment of karma or coincidence. I was bound to somehow be tied to this group of islanders.

... ...

There's always turbulence when landing in Vegas. Today's wasn't as severe, but even a stewardess remarked on it, "Guys there's going to be some bad turbulence so I'm going to make a quick run down the aisle to pick up trash if you have any." The only two times that I ever seriously considered the fact that I might die on an airplane were both at the Vegas airport, on arrival. So I was intimidated but rather pleased to see that we touched down nicely.

The great Las Vegas airport: home of oxygen bars and shoe-shining booths and slot machines that have no slot. All of this the second you step off the plane. I had two and a half hours to kill.

"Can I see some ID?" Some ID, not just your IDsome ID. I love how they say that. Thanks for the confidence, little security guard lady. I guess I look young, but please.

"No," I said to her, which was pretty surprising even to me, because I almost always show my ID whenever asked, even if I have no plans to drink or smoke or play the slotless slot machines.

"You can't stand by the machines if I don't see your ID." Those sacred machines.

I just leave; it's not really worth it. Besides I don't have any ones or tickets for those stupid slot machines. Instead I look for something to eat. I find this little Blue Grille burrito place. Redefining airport food is their slogan. We'll see about that. I get a Chorizo breakfast burrito—I wasn't in the mood to try to ask for a vegetarian breakfast burrito without all those things I always have to order without, because I'm so needlessly picky.

"What's chorizo?" I ask.

"Spicy pork sausage." She's been asked this question a million times before.

I get it, and it's six bucks and huge and greasy but doesn't taste too bad. I'm on this food-minimalist kick that won't last another few hours but makes me only eat half of it anyway. Now the nasty part about this is that I wrap the rest of the burrito in its foil wrapper and put it back in the white bag. After arriving at my dad's house later that night to sleep, the entire white bag would be orange with grease. That chorizo grease. The tortilla itself would also be orange. And what's even worse is that I'll be so hungry after unwrapping it I'll end up eating it.

I go get a soda from Subway, a fountain soda. A really bad idea—it's disgusting, tastes like airport water. Do you know what airport water tastes like? Like it's been sitting in a rusted metal tank for too long, and they threw some pennies in for good measure. Maybe some mercury or blood too. And it's ridiculous what they charge for things at the airport. It's at least double. And somehow they can get away with it, like at a movie theatre or an amusement park.

But I tried to trick them by getting the fountain drink—at $2.49 for a small it's cheaper than the $2.79 20-oz. bottled soda. Little did I know that they actually charge for refills! Who charges for refills? Airports apparently. So this thing may have been a little bit cheaper, but I had to taste metal for a couple hours. And I never even got a refill.

... ...

There's something about looking down from an airplane that's fascinating. How do they get everything laid out with such perfect angles? Farmlands, tract housing, shopping centers, recreational areas, factories. Don't they ever make a mistake, go off course just a little bit and end up it not being squared? Sure doesn't look like it. I know I'd never get it right. My squares would be closer to circles, or end up as trapezoids, something like that. And all the overpasses, underpasses, freeway intersections, entrances, exits—how do they do it? It's really quite amazing.

You just get this perspective from the sky. When else can we look down on what we are, what we've created, to see how truly miniscule it all is? Especially in comparison with the mountains—those huge arteries of the earth; you see how they reach a summit criss-crossing the land, and how on either side they sprawl back down in winding descension until becoming flush with the level ground again. But us—we're all untiring hubbub and activity, trucks and buses and people walking back and forth to wherever it is we walk back and forth to. I try to insert myself into the minds of others, just to think for a second what they might be thinking: the truck driver coming up on the stoplight, the old man on the golf course, the car in the fast lane that passes by everyone else. What would they think if all our lives were to come crashing down on top of them, here in this bird with steel wings and turbine feathers?

But planes never crash in the Nevada desert. They only crash into the clouds, creating turbulence so they can rise above the weather where it's calmer and then crash down on landing gear onto asphalt carpets laid out for them like celebrities. We're all headed for our little celebrity carpets. Right now mine is at the Sacramento airport, surrounded by causeways and bridges and green on all sides.