Thursday, January 23, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


The air is thick and warm, and the sand is impossible to look at; so white, it reflects the sun, blinding you. Keep your eyes closed to a slit. Don’t let the whole world inside. Look up into the sky and watch the birds just glide. I don’t know about time, but, man, Florida is on your side.

Florida ain’t gonna judge you. We grow ‘em weird, and we know it. We’re not concerned about your old life, let it go. You’re in Florida now, which means your life has finally started. Or ended. Really, it’s irrelevant.

The humidity will straight murder you. You will question your life choices. You will cower in the shade, but the shade don’t love you. The shade is a mirage. Humidity don’t care nothing about shade.

Your skin will burn, and your feet will become calloused. You will turn into a sea creature, an abandoned seashell. The sun will baste you and prepare you for your final sleep. But don’t worry; Florida don’t care which promises you keep.


He pulls another tissue from the box, crumples it, sends it to the corner of the room where the trashcan lives. He is not using the tissues anymore. He’s just pulling ‘em. Like he’s at a carnival, and if you pull enough tissue, you win a prize. He’s working on his jump shot. He’s killing time dead. He’s got all kinds of thoughts in his used-up head.

The tissue hits the trashcan and BOUNCE. It’s gone, man. That tissue is a memory. It fell into the cracks of the physical world. Right now, a Leprechaun is using that tissue as a pillow. Sure as shooting.

The voices are audible, but the boy does not listen. Out in the living room, it is all crying and casket. It is black cloth and bad coffee. It is too big for the boy to wrap his mind around, so he doesn’t. He pulls another tissue from the box, crumples it, and throws it to oblivion.


The light is in flux, and the room is dark one second, light the next. The passing cars strobe across the walls and explode in the corners. There is life and death in this room. There is steady breathing. There are twitching eyelashes that scrape the soot from off the night.

There is peace in this room. Gentle silence. Softer than the absence of sound. Sit down and soak it in. Let it pour through you. Open yourself, drink it through your skin. Let the calm become you. Or you become the calm.

This is what happiness sounds like. This feels like tranquility and hope. This is a brief and blinking moment of optimism. Grab it. Appreciate it. Feel it in your chest when you close your eyes. Surrender to it because it is truth and beauty. It is art, not made by man. It is honest.


Beneath the wavering boughs, under the robin egg sky, twisted in the sounds of the trickling water, a girl sits, reading. She is covered in shade, and she is smiling softly to herself. There is a breeze that licks the treetops back and forth against the sky. This girl closes her eyes sometimes. She likes to picture the world of words. She is stepping through the closet to Narnia, to France, to history. To the future.

The sun is warm on her skin, and the shadows dance through the high limbs, shifting with the coming night. She hears birdsong and smells the pine trees, sap softening in the summer afternoon.

The trees will watch over her, as they did her grandmother and her mother. As they did countless generations of birds and snakes and bugs and lizards. The tree is a sturdy Mother. No one is going to chop this tree down. No saw. No industrial logging machinery.

When the world explodes, the tree will smile, watching its legacy in the rear view. Sated.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

You need to back up off me. You need to recognize, fool. This is my side of the sidewalk, and you can’t have none. This is my box full of repurposed air I’m breathing, get your own. This is my show and my friend and my place to do what I want. There’s no room for you. I need it all. Every bit of it. It won’t ever satisfy, and I’ll just keep wanting more, chasing that feeling of freedom. That fear.

I don’t need it, but you can’t have it. Look. There is a boy playing in the grass. He is frightened because the big people are yelling. His eyes are stained and smeared and his breath is ragged. He wants to bury into the rich dirt and dig until he is submerged. And you want to take that from him. Understand? Do you get it?

Back up off me.

Taste this. It tastes weird. You’ve got to read this article, it’s going to make you so mad. I have an unpopular opinion that everyone actually agrees with, can I beat you to death with it? Let’s talk about my mortgage. Let’s talk about professional sports teams. Your sister’s not here? Let’s talk smack about her. Let’s wrap ourselves in dogma until we drown, choking on our misconceptions. Let’s set our imaginary saints against each other and die sinners. Let’s take more than we need just because we can. Let’s be loud for no reason. Let me hide inside this cheap fortress of lies and innuendo. Let me hate because it feels good. The anger is so cleansing. Let me throw myself against this immovable object, just to feel the thud. Let me make assumptions. Let me deliberately misunderstand. Let me put my me-ness over you. It’s the only way.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

Back to 1997. I'm living in a small town in rural Pennsylvania. I'm way out of place, but the hippies have befriended me. I'm like a freakshow that tells good stories and likes to complain about the liquor laws. I am missing California like you would not believe. Then, the ring my friend Katie gave me broke. I broke. I decided a tattoo would have to suffice and went to the shitty biker tattoo shop with a broken ring and $200. I lucked out. The tattoo took three hours, but the guy was good. Really good. It was by far my best tattoo at the time.

I'm there with a hippie chick and probably someone else, but I only remember the chick because she got her tongue pierced, too. So, three hours in the chair and my nerves are scraped and electric and I'm happy. Tattoo dude tells us he's getting into piercing and will do both our tongues for free including jewelry because he's learning. Well, what the fuck, eh? What the fuck.

So, we both say that we're in. She goes first and it's fucking brutal to watch. When the clamp is put on her tongue, she starts sweating. When the needle goes through, her body goes rigid like she's been fucking electrocuted. Awesome. I don't care too much because I'm drunk and high and spun off tattoo pain. Still, Jesus. Foreshadow much?

So, he sits my scrawny ass in a chair and pulls out the clamp. The clamp looks a lot like barbecue tongs. Dude is shaved head and lots of ink and probably tastes like Meth is you lick his face. I don't know for sure. Neither of us licked his face. Not that I remember. Anyway, this dude clamps my tongue and pulls it tight. He takes the needle and SHOVES it right through the middle of the clamp. My body goes electric and my eyes are tearing up. Dude puts the barbell in and starts to screw the ball on the bottom and drops the ball. Literally.

As he realizes that he dropped the ball, he lets go of the barbell and it shoots up out of my tongue. No Bueno. Blood is pouring down my chin and chest, and he's asking me why the blood is so thin and I'm thinking, yo, my blood is like half vodka. It is what it is. He's apologizing and offering to do it again and it's so socially awkward I can't think of how to say no. He picks a spot a little farther up and shoves the needle through again. Puts the barbell through. Starts to screw it and DROPS THE MOTHERFUCKING BALL AGAIN! Barbell pops out. For the first time in my life I contemplate killing someone other than myself.

More blood. What. The. Fuck.

Guy is clearly geeking out now and my tongue is straight fire. He pulls it out to look at it and instantly assures me that he won't have to pierce my tongue again because he can, "see the hole this time" so he'll just use the spacer. Dumbass me doesn't realize that the spacer is just a blunt needle that will hurt just as bad. I let him violate my tongue a third and final time. This time the barbell works and I am officially tongue pierced. Out into the cold evening, I follow a chain of cigarettes home. Gargle with Listerine. Sleep

The tattoo dude told us eating would be rough for a day or two. Listerine. No worries. I'm checking in with the hippie chick and we're both complaining about the pain and not eating. Solidarity. Tongue is jacked, but I expected that. All is well in the cosmos until the third day when I see hippie chick eating onion rings. Crunchy as all hell. I can barely take sips of water. Suddenly I realize that I'm really fucking hot, and I realize something is wrong. Hippie chick munches on.

So, I go back home and drink a few stiff drinks and then take a handful of Advil and a handful of Unisom because that's how I dealt with my problems in those days. Sleep will fix it; I just have to knock myself the fuck out for long enough that sleep can work its magic. I smoke a cigarette and lay down.

(You've been very patient; here is where the story gets good.)

When I wake up it's probably about three in the morning. I sit bolt upright in bed and everything comes into crystal focus because I CANNOT BREATHE. My perennially stuffed up nose is barely pulling air and I can't take a breath through my mouth. Holy shit. I run down the hall and into the bathroom. The bright lights are a goddamn assault. My heart is pounding and my vision is getting fuzzy at the edges; I look into the mirror and my tongue is so swollen that my jaw is maxed out. It's like I've got a tennis ball in my mouth. I try to pull my tongue out, but the barbell is nowhere to be seen because the swelling has expanded beyond the barbell. Swallowed it. Now, I'm starting to panic, the light is too bright. I'm gonna die in the fucking bathroom.

My mouth is a mess of spit and blood, and I can't get a hold on it. Struggling, I finally manage to twist my tongue enough that I can see metal, but I can't get a grip. Blood EXPLODES all over the mirror when I squeeze, but I cannot get a grip and my fingers are slippery and I'm starting to see sparklers and now it is pretty evident that I am going to fucking die in the bathroom in the middle of the night because I'm a fucking idiot. And it already looks like a murder scene.

As my head starts to nod, I realize that I have one more chance. I dry my hands on my boxers as best I can, wrench my tongue out of my mouth, and squeeze. The balls pop out. I squeeze them harder than I have ever squeezed anything in my entire life and, finally, one turns. I keep turning until the pressure from the swelling meets the last thread of the barbell and my body EJECTS the barbell along with another splash of nice, thin blood. I grab the sink and sink to the floor, gasping. Bleeding. NOT laughing. Not even smiling. I make it back to the bed and pass out for another 7 hours, covered in blood. My roommates ask me no questions.

The next day, I called the tattoo parlor and I don't remember a thing I said. My tongue was back to normal size. I know I was super pissed. I might have told him I'd come down there. I don't know. Something stupid. He was just another jackass like me. A sorry jackass. And then:

"Man, I really am sorry. Tell you what. Come on back down here in a few days and I'll do it again."

Thursday, December 12, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

I don’t necessarily want to tell, but it’s too good of a story to keep to myself. This was back in 1997, and your humble narrator was high on mushrooms and standing atop a cliff somewhere in Pennsylvania. This was nothing unusual. I suppose you want to feel like you were there. So. It was maybe eight people. Seven hippies and me. It was a fogged over day. It made me happy. Like I was in San Francisco instead of Pennsylvania. The forest looked like a forest. A pretty one. Many cigarettes were smoked. We toted our butts. There was probably liquor.

None of this matters is the thing. Not when you’re standing on top of a cliff high on mushrooms and running from a bunch of angst-filled, drug-addled years and childhood memories. I could hear my Dad in my ear, and he was saying the things he used to say in those years. A lot of questions. Most of them boiled down to: You are Bad. That’s not a question, I know.

So, this cocktail of anger and drugs and hangover and hippie rage is standing at the top of the cliff, and I decide that I will climb to the bottom. Into a ravine. Maybe about 300 feet down. I know I can do it. I plant my white Chucks into the rock and start going. Hippies are amused. But bored. They don’t understand anything I do, ever, anyway. But they have good drugs and find me entertaining.

So, it’s late afternoon and all is right with the world. I’m making steady progress and I’m LOCKED into what I’m doing. I have FOCUS and I am GOING TO MAKE IT. I am filled with a racing glee at this point. I am king of the world. Suck my dick. I am God.

And then the rock changes. It starts to crumble. Pathways disappear in seconds. The hippies are aware of what is going on. The girl who would become my girlfriend I would cheat on is yelling at me from the top to come back up. Two of the craziest hippies are running through the trees yelling like archetypal savages. It’s weird. And wrong. And right.

And I have to get to the fucking bottom. This will make more sense if you have ever dipped your toes in the psychedelic damp – I had to complete my quest. I was nothing if I backed out. I was a fraud. Pussy. My Dad was right. My idealistic notions were bullshit. But I was stuck. The last rational part of my brain knew it. There was no way I was getting down that cliff alive.

I’d like to give you the exciting conclusion you deserve, but I lived. I eventually decided that I didn’t want to die on a cliff in front of hippies. I didn’t want to die in Pennsylvania. I climbed up and hated myself more and more the closer I got to the top. I remember doing a jump across a gap onto a rock that must have been two feet square. I can still feel that. The terror. Didn’t die though. And didn’t redeem myself either. I sat in the back on the way home and got drunk by myself. Drunk enough to take more mushrooms.

And I don’t remember much after that.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

St. Louis, 1983, repentant.

You are the birth of a grave disaster, lost in dark night, cast in plaster

Your skin is smooth, reptilian

I want to know your stretchmarked stories

I bet you have a million

Relax, and let the blackness in

Ochre evening breaks in the folds of your peasant voice

You are insignificant like me

Let’s be insignificant together

Friends, fair weather

Let me touch your auburn hair

Smell the perfume you lay upon your breast

Slit your throat with an old straight razor

Let gravity do the rest

I want to sing in the purest voice

I want truth, so I can beat it to death, senseless

Leave it gasping, dying

If you’re not bleeding

You’re not trying

I will live forever in every song

Where heartbreak drips through stiletto slits

Come, sit down and put up your feet

I’ll tell you the story, and keep it brief

Slipping past the lion’s teeth

Quintessential misery

Thursday, November 21, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!


Stand in front of the bright light – hands to your side, like... What you know about anything and what you want? My parents are mad and it’s all a long con. I’ve got this guitar, and I came to get my angst on. I’ve been neglected by the system, all those childhood tricks, I missed em. I’m ready to scream into the vacuum. I have. My guitar. And it is loud.

I stand in front of the blank faces; pretty money standing mandarin slices. Tell me your name, Helen. Give me a focal point to yell in. I’m going to bash my face into these strings, screaming, why do we do. These. Things.

And at the end of the night, no end in sight. You can close your eyes and your soul shuts tight. You can smile and forget that everything ends in the long, slow light. Turn the amp up. Strike the chord. If you bleed hard enough, the world will stop. But just for a second.

Garage sale

I’m a little bit of this boy’s life. Buy me and cast me aside. Sacrifice me to the spiders and dustbowl attics. I am hope and introspective joy; I am a barbie doll. I am the shaded knoll. I am the best you that you thought you could ever present.

You can buy me for 75 cents.

I loved this book, but you can trash it. Talk me down in price and pretend it’s rational. That belonged to my grandpa and there’s only one.

I’m a fire sale, I'm burning. I’m crumbling, but you can profit. 
Here’s my porch, now get the fuck off it.


The wind will shake the boughs free; I want to see what the ravens see. I want to be gone, long past epiphany. My life will be the story I want the world to be. Syncronicity.

The sun will pull the clouds into bluegreen nightmare straights. The cry of the gulls is cutting to the bone. You’re confused. Irate. Just smile, son. We all know you got too much on your plate.

And the chorus is coming, the end is written on all of our faces in technicolor. Your name is regret. You smell like gasoline. You are hanging from the last thread of prophecy.

Smell of Sulphur. Taste of regret. You will all be gone by sunset.


You sit on the cold concrete, and you piece it all together. The best you can, at least. Grand projections, dreams and introspections. The whole thing was planned out, and it fizzled like the last birthday candle on a soggy cupcake. Maybe we should rethink this. I think we made a mistake.

Nobody's looking but you feel hot eyeballs on your neck and they’re crawling up to your hairline and shit, you got lice, you got scabies. No one is ever going to love you, but maybe…

Maybe nothing. Nothing's gone. You tried to speak, but you got it wrong. You forgot the lyrics when you learned the song. And I’m the reason. And I don't belong.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

Soft skin and sweet whiskey breath, she asks me about Reno. I'm fucking sick of telling that story, so I tell her I been thinking about her which ain't true, but sounded alright. The shadows dripped down the walls that night. Small paper deception in the corridor, ace tucked inside the folds of my mind.

We picked up speed.

You were alone and I was alone. She and I were lovers but we never learned our parts.

I collected bus transfers and butts to rebuild. You were a queen, baby. That princess shit. Had it all going on. Like you wanted to apologize for cussin' - she was pure hellfire when she wanted to be. She could do it all. You were it, baby. You were her.

She said, let's do it slow, hand on my dick so light it was like spider feet. Don't worry, baby. We'll get there. Got to take it slow. She showed me the scars on her stomach and tried to apologize, but she looked good to me. She looked fine. Pretty. She said her boobs were small. You said you couldn't do it like the black girls. They have big asses, you said. You were right.

But it was fine, honey.

You keep saying relax, but I can't. This is the most important moment that the world has ever known. How the fuck I'm supposed to relax?

Her hair and your hair fall across my shoulder like gentle feathers, smell of goodness, earth and hay and sunshine. Relax. Never could. I tried once, and I paid the price. They hurt me. But they taught me.

Never let your guard down.

And we died together on the side of a highway in Indiana, Jesus crying from the busted radio. Head rolling on shoulders born up under the pressure of a thousand heartaches. We were reborn in Tulsa. We experienced dread in Tampa. Syracuse was the breaking point. It was all over by the time I got to Little Rock.

She and me. You were there. Don't act all high and mighty. The road's got lots of secrets.