Friday, November 20, 2020

2 Minutes. GO!

You ever see a group of kids split up a windfall? Doesn't matter what it is. Candy. Games. Most of the time, the kids will find a way to split it equitably. Sure, maybe one little asshole kid wants to take it all, but they shame that kid. I've watched kids split ice cream cones they didn't have to. I've watched them include every kid in the game so no one gets left out. Around age nine or ten, we start conditioning kids to be competitive. Then, we encourage the kids to exploit opportunities. To look out for themselves. We set them against each other and sit back and watch the breakdowns. The suicides. Some of these kids will make it through high school. Some will rebel. Some will go about accumulating as much as they can, even at the expense of others. 

Ain't that a damn shame. 

A lot of folks go to churches, put money in the offering plate. They feel good about it, this kind of sanitized charity. You don't actually have to get involved. Don't have to actually smell any homeless people. Don't have to see any old women crying. You just put a fiver in the plate and leave pure. Maybe twenty. I don't know. I ain't been in a church to worship in thirty years. I guess I should account for inflation.

All those ruthless CEOs making money for their shareholders and feeling good about it. Surely, that trickle down goodness gonna work. Surely. Doesn't matter anyway. The shareholders don't know about the dirty shit, and the CEO feels good as long as he is creating profit. That's a side-run around morality if I've ever seen one. 

But go ahead and keep letting hate lead the way. Keep separating yourself from your actions and your neighbors. Keep smiling, Jack. This is all about you. Pay attention. That's what they're telling you.

Fuck everyone else. YOU matter. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

The silence is thick, deafening. You got a voice-box and a heartbeat, right? You gotta have at least a teaspoonful of empathy in you somewhere, or were they fresh out when you got pushed out the factory? There's only so much injustice you can ignore. There are only so many times you can keep your head down before people are going to assume that you ain't ever standing up for nothing. 

Seems real sad. Seems empty.

I may be full of frustration and a little anger, but I'm in here swinging with my heart, man. I'm not making safe decisions and watching my stock options. 

I see you there with your safe thirty-year career plan and your compromises. I hope the bonuses buy some of your soul back, if you had one to start with. I hope the new car distracts you from the vacuum in your chest. I hope your kids call you out when they get old enough to see what a hypocritical, safe, clown you are. 

You think you're polite, and that's the funniest part. You excuse your cowardice by keeping up appearances

Hitler depended on people like you, and Trump does, too. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

You better be here when we need you, but don't talk too loud or act too interested. Don't express concern or expect us to share it. We're just trying to get from point A to point B without encountering too much resistance. Look, thinking is hard. Questions lead to more questions, and who the fuck wants that? 

Or talk loud and carry no stick at all. What we don't need are folks who want change. Change is hard. It takes work, and it gets messy. We don't like messes unless they're the kind that put you in your place. Storms. Fires. Civil unrest. All gravy. Equality? That shit requires compromised capitalism. How you gonna stay wet without that sweet trickle down.

Don't look at all the old folks dying. Don't worry about the colored folks. We are a country chosen by providence. This is the purity of the American, white, race. Ask not what the confederacy can do for you! Do not let them have their wombs! They will breed weakness into the great, Christian homeland. They are like Jews. The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one! The victor will never be asked if he told the truth! Blood and soil!

Blood and SOIL!

Friday, October 23, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

The day the sun burned out, no one cried. No one was cold. They were shocked and angry. The simulation was revealed, and the people's wrath was pure and beautiful. They hung the Governor from an old oak tree down by the Civic Center. They burned cop cars. They took what they wanted, justice for what had been taken from them.

The buildings burned, and they would have provided heat if it was necessary. But there was no need. The sun was up and running within a few hours. The weather machines never stopped. Hunting parties set out to look for them. No one was in the state-run bars. The buses did not run.

The churches boarded up almost immediately. The gig was up. They burned with the rest of the lie foundations. The harbor was poisoned out of spite. People burned the forests just to see if the trees would catch fire. 

When the gas was released, most everyone died immediately. Those who were spared, by circumstance or evolutionary advantage, felt themselves fracture. They could not handle the death - the corpses. Only the puppeteers in their fortified offices made it through the purge unscathed, licking their teeth, and waiting for the populace to forget. 

And on and on and on and...


Friday, October 16, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Did the story hurt your feelings? Were the characters just like awful people you've known? Were you set back in you chair, reeling, processing emotions and contradictions that you didn't know existed inside of you? Were you transported? Did you have your assumptions challenged? Are you a different person than you were before you read that shit? 

Thank the fucking author!

Did the song make you cry? Did it make you miss your ex? Did it make you want to get up and fight? Did it make you want to lay down and die? Did it make you feel? 

Turn up the radio and buy the goddamn album!

Stop trying to force morality on everything or you're going to ruin it. And stop with the hypocrisy. Stop watching TV shows where kids get raped and then getting offended because a gay librarian used the F word too much in a novel you're reading. 

You're OK with your politicians being scumbags, but not the invented characters that are meant to entertain and enlighten you...what the fuck is that? Seriously? If you want to read Dr. Seuss exclusively and never turn on your TV, do it. But don't tell me you're going to spend six hours watching Tiger King and then get offended by a story. That's dumb. You gotta know that's dumb.

If you're cool with reality being a nightmare, but you want your internal fictional world to be full of bunnies and unicorns, there is something wrong with you. 

Get it?


Friday, October 9, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

The cars keep rolling, folks inside them like they aren't driving murder, assured that they will make it from point A to point B. Maybe they're missing the point? Maybe the whole fascination with cars is wrapped in death. Hurtling through space at 90 mph, I am here, now, alive and assured of my living by my proximity to bone-smash, blood-bath horror. Maybe it's all another way to breed complacency.

You don't matter any more than anyone else. The freeway don't care what kind of car you drive. Nor do the paramedics. They just see another broken bag of human.

We tell ourselves pretty stories about airbags and social distancing to ward off the horror. Sure, it's logical. It's also a talisman. Talismans. Charms. Incantations. Religion. Spells. 

Fuck your God or shoot your God. Placate your God and betray her. You will find worship in the destruction you use to honor others.

Maybe it's all stupid, and this is just another two minutes on a sunny afternoon. What do you expect to find here? Truth? Decency? An echo chamber? Misery you can relate to? Come on in. The show has something for everyone. 

Pick a color, red or blue...

Friday, September 25, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

They are vermin, and they are devouring us from the inside, these thoughts, this hate is corrosive; look at the spittle-flecked faces, screaming. See the veins throb in their temples. Man, we all just need someone to hate. Someone to love? Fuck that shit. Hate is potent. It feels good. It's real. It's truth. Scoop some enmity into your brains, folks. Don't stop spewing ugliness until you feel clean. 

How are we ever going to recover from this? Say the white folks. They just want to go back to being able to pretend that their pretensions of equality mean something. The government? Please. Put Nancy Pelosi in a locked room with the President. Keep 'em in there; they are opposite sides of the same coin, and it's fucking disgusting. Let them eat cake. Let them have home haircuts. Make Chuck Schumer and Pence trusties. 

Misery loves company and half the country ain't about to get comfortable unless we're all fucked. It's so unreal, this death spiral. All these "patriots" with their boots on the neck of our country. All these pickup-driving Luddites with axes to grind, trying to make the world back into a Boo Radley nightmare.

Mostly, I'm tired of being so disappointed in the stupidity folks use to buttress themselves. We can't agree to wear medical masks. We can't agree who matters. We can't agree that bitching on Twitter doesn't do shit. The future revolutionaries are going to be embarrassed telling our stories.  

They're gonna say, "2020, man. American jumped the shark."

Friday, September 18, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

It was a time of change, 2020. A time of silent staring into the corners of the room. You walked down hallways and heard gentle crying. Or a child talking to her doll, explaining (hoping) that everything will be OK. It's just a lot of smoke. It's just a country that is being torn apart. It's just a president who doesn't care. It's just our darker-skinned neighbors being maligned and murdered. It's just pandemic. It will be OK. You hear this coming from an eight-year-old, and it hurts. It burns in your chest. Eight years old is old, man. They're going to remember all of this. They're going to know. 

It's hard to wake up to a nightmare every day, reaching for your phone and hoping things got better. Hoping things get worse? Man, it gets twisted up when you're stuck between destruction and Resurrection. It's like those college relationships you keep trying to fix when what they really need is a long, lonely walk. Let's just say fuck it, and blow the country up. Let's all hug each other and try to understand. Let's start fires and accelerate this shit. Let's bury our heads in the sand. Let's all commit suicide. 

I hear the Trashcan Man laughing all day long, and it's hard to take.

And why did I quit drinking? Seems almost cruel to make someone go through all this fully conscious of what's going on. I'm OD'ing on fear and anger. It's inside me and it's burning me out. It's like when you open an old battery compartment and inside it's just rust and what used to be batteries and you wash your hands real good and throw that shit away. That's what it's like inside me.

And I know that I am one of the fortunate ones. I live in the Bay Area where we try to love each other and be decent humans. I'm white. I'm a man. I'm tall. I'm 42. I have a family. I'm a big, old, white man with a broken heart, who tried telling anyone who would listen that this was coming. 

And here we are. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

There is no horizon; everything is oatmeal, but without any positive connotations. It ain't gonna warm you up, keep you full, sit like lead in your stomach. No, man. This oatmeal air is gonna strip the paint of your car, poison your lungs, make your eyes burn so you look stoned all the time. But you don't feel stoned. You feel anxious and trapped and pissed off and stupid. 

This air is gonna get inside you and sit there for years. 

You ever look outside in the morning and wonder if you're getting cancer? You ever think, aah, smells like premature death and chronic lung problems this morning. Want to hit the beach? And it's like we're punching ourselves in the face because we still fucking live here. Maybe we should bail this smoking ruin and move to a part of the country more dominated by hate?

Our fuckhead president won't even acknowledge what's going on. That we watched our friends lose the house they poured their heart into. That kids are wheezing while their stressed parents are putting together boxes full of birth certificates and baby pictures and grandma's jewelry. That folks are trying to stay safe while some of our fellow Americans are all, "yeah, but it's just California. Fucking commies." Good luck getting along without California, you fucking idiots. Good luck. I'm sure y'all will start growing your own produce. 

The left side of the country is on fire. That's it. It's not like you don't know, even if the Prez ain't talking about it. You see it. It's there. And if you care, you care. If you don't, I don't give a shit. I'm done trying to explain it. 

There's not enough air.

Friday, September 4, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

All I want to talk about today is TIME. The way it works and the way it doesn't. The way it slows to a trickle and then comes at you hard like some kid figured out how to get into the hydrant. Today is a pretty important day because my firstborn is twelve, and that feels real old. Feels like I've never not been a parent at this point. I know I used to be a social deviant, but now I'm all Dadded up - can barely remember it.

 It's fantastic. It's also intense. It's been many years since people were excited about my parenthood. No more, "how is it being a parent?" with excited smiles. No one mentions it any more, like you're so deep in it no one wants to address it because it could be awful, could be so hard, could be leading to a divorce. Thing is, it's amazing. Every second of it is so fascinating I can't look away. My family is tighter than a championship team. We're firing on all cylinders, and we coat everything in laughter. 

Sure, we get mad. We cry and we get frustrated because that's what people do. More likely, we're telling stories or singing or building something together, even if it is made of imagination. My daughter likes to be all: "Tell me about when you were a kid!" and I want to say: "Screw that boring nonsense, tell me how it is for you being a kid right now!" So, then we tell stories.

I can't imagine motherhood making me love my wife any less. We're definitely better as parents than we were as "adults." We don't adult that well, but there is a surprising lack of adulting required for raising kids. Much more important to have empathy and some creativity. Anyway, my wife was wonderful when I married her, and the kids shine a spotlight on the best parts of both of us. Maybe I never grew up. Maybe I hope my kids never grow up either. So it goes. I don't care what you think.

Time does go by fast. It's true. So, I'm going to keep slowing it down. Breaking it into pieces and stepping back to see how the light reflects off the shards. You can go ahead and keep thinking years in the future, America. I'm gonna think about today, today.

Friday, August 28, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

I'm tired to writing the same old things, but the world won't change. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I'm just like kids down at the beach - loud, confused, hyper-focused. I don't know, man. Maybe I'm trying to put rules into a game that wasn't designed for them. Maybe I'm hoping the dog will learn how to talk, but the dog keeps shooting people in the back. Fuck if I know, little old me. Full of punk rock indignation, staring at my contemporaries who look at me like I'm a simpleton. Like, dude, you never stopped being an asshole and being an asshole doesn't pay

I'm like, check your definition of asshole, asshole.

I don't want to play this adult game of moral compromise. I can't. It's not in me, and I don't want it to be. I don't care how many jobs I lose, how many friends back away, how many doors close before I get my hand on the knob. I don't want to be part of the club. I've seen inside it a few times, for real, and it's fucking disgusting. Plastic-surgery freaks geeking on money and power and fetishistic-power-shit. Paper skin over poking skulls, wet, yellow eyes, tongues darting. 

Fuck that scene, man. 

I'd much rather hang out with a bunch of tired folks. Sore backs from working. Grease under their fingernails. The kind of folks who find someone to love and hold onto them, because that's what really matters and it's free. They sleep like puppies, and they smile in the morning, and those are my fucking people. Black, brown, white, tan, what the fuck ever. Singing songs and telling stories. In languages I understand and languages that make me sit back and go: God, that's beautiful. Maybe I could write in that language. Read the stories. Maybe I could learn. 

That's where I want to be. I'll be there if you want to join me. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

The Blue Jays are tripping the fuck out, man. They don't like the smoke, and they're not shy about letting everyone know. They're like, man, what the fuck are you guys doing inside? You should be getting the hell out of here; y'all don't have wings. You're slow, landlocked. We can jet when we need to. 

The dumb-asses are planning trips to the beach. If their house isn't currently on fire or in the direct line, they want to get away from the smoke. Tahoe? It's gonna be rough for all those folks fleeing their burning homes. Hope traffic ain't too bad. 

The unhinged are giddy. They are thrilled to watch the world burn. Some of them make the fires worse, start new fires. They are powerful in the chaos. They feel bigger than the flames. 

A lot of folks are shit-scared. We've got a virus and fire and we're waiting on the swarms of locust. They're probably coming soon. We know the President is laughing, and it's hard to swallow. Go ahead and let it burn, that land of fruits and nuts. Liberals roast up real nice. 

I guess I'll pack a bag today. Hug my girls as often as I can. Make sure all the windows are still taped up. Check the fire reports. Hope we don't hear the siren from our phones that means get the fuck out. I wonder if we'll move this year, leave this once-a-year-fire-festival.

Just like everyday, we'll smile and pretend the world ain't going up in flames. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

It's a glitch. It's a malfunction... That's bullshit, it's truth peaking out behind the sly magician's instruction. It's the way it was designed, only you can see all the working parts if you squint. See the malice behind the intent? That's collective consciousness, and that's shit is for rent.

They come right out and say it if you're patient long enough. Senility brings changes, exhumes all the ugly stuff. The racist mumbo-jumbo and the crimes that need confessing. Soon you find that all those smiles were simply window dressing.

The game was always rigged, it's a facet of design. You'll never know when you cross it, if you can't see the line. They're arbitrary, changeable, hateful little things. Why don't they ever listen when the caged bird sings?

America is drowning in a bed of its own making. This is simply fallout from all the selfish taking. There are just too many cowboys and too much fenced-off land. There now comes a time every day where you have to make a stand. 

We can't sit by and watch while it all goes down the shitter. America is a lot of things, but we've never been a quitter.


Friday, August 7, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Chippers are better than junkies, but they're weak; they can't commit. They are slackers, and it's best you stay away from them. You need someone who can go all in. You need the kind of man who drinks before you go to the bar. The kind of man who squeezes your hand a little too hard when he's mad in public. A lot too hard. You need a man who is willing to lie to you. 

You need a woman who has lots of secrets. It's charming. Women are complex, see? Find you a woman who is having three emotional affairs, but won't have sex with you. Cougars are the best; try to find you a woman who treats sex like a game. 

You need kids who are locked into their phones, seeking validation from creepy weirdos pretending to be rock stars on the internet. If you play your cards right, you have a promising future shilling for massive corporations by forcing your body through filters and altering your mindset to one of pleasant cardboard.

America can be everything we want it to be. It can be rich for the white folks, horror for the people of color. It can be opportunity for the few and oppression for the masses. It can be rich politicians smiling through sex-trafficking parties. 

All you have to do is lower your expectations, cash in your morals, and keep looking out for number one. 

Vote? Shit, that's optional. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Don't sit down. Stand up. You got thoughts in your head! Get 'em out! Let everyone know what kind of person you are; that shit makes things easier for us. Us being the rest of us, the not-yous. The not yous have a stake in all this shit, too. It's not just you, standing on the top of a mountain, shouting truths into the sky. Peep this: there are so many people; they all believe different things; they value different things. You can't speak for all of them.

Speak for yourself, so we can start dividing into camps. 

And maybe it ain't about one camp fighting another. Maybe it's more like: yo, we don't want people like this in our camp. It's just like family reunions. Uncle Jeb keeps getting wasted and hitting on the cousin's? We stop inviting that fool.

My camp is really simple. In my camp, you cannot put your pleasure, motivations, or anything else above the well-being of others. If it doesn't hurt anybody, then you do whatever you want. No one cares. If it hurts someone? We're running you out of the town on a rail.

And hurt comes in fists and words. It comes in missed job opportunities, failed promotions, mortgages that don't happen, cops that can't see past their ignorance and hate, rapes and harassment. 

Yeah, honestly, Capitalism isn't going to work in my camp.

In my camp, we're going to try to help each other because when we're all doing well, the camp will be an awesome place to lay down your head. It will be a place where no one goes hungry unless everyone is starving. It will be a place where we use our own individual skills to better the community. I can write stories, songs, and teach your kids to read and write. 

I need people who can cook, clean, build, inspire, soothe, listen, talk and more.

I need you in my camp. Is what I'm saying. 

But you're going to have to stop the divisions. We don't call is Socialism. Communism.

We call it human decency. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

There ain't enough podiums, but why the fuck do you care? Your trophy. Your moment. Why can't you just enjoy running the race? The streets are lined in Poplar trees. The air is thick with birdsong, and small children clog the sidewalk holding signs of encouragement. They aren't trying to decide who has the biggest sign. The best sign. They're happy to have a voice, be alive, and be part of something bigger than themselves.

Money. Food. Security. There could be enough of that too, but it doesn't serve the interests of the few. A lot of those rich fuckers have figured it out. It doesn't matter if you are good or decent. It doesn't matter what your fellow man thinks of you. It doesn't matter what kind of footprint you leave in the sand. If you build a big enough pile of money, the regular people can't touch you and you don't have to hear their cries and laments.

If you're a white man, you've got all the special armor in the game. Already. You can assault powerful women in front of the whole country, go on TV and talk about your wife and kids; everybody is going to be all, "damn straight - shouldn't have to apologize for "passion."

I'm awful sorry the rape happened, your honor. I'll apologize for the actions of my penis, but not my passion.

This is the world we are raising our kids in. I have two daughters who could look at AOC as an inspiration, and I'm not saying they don't. I'm saying they also see a representation of they way white men treat the world through the way she has been treated. They grab everything by the pussy, figuratively or not. At church potlucks. In schools. At work.

They have always been they same; they take what they want.

Like it belongs to them.

Friday, July 17, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Everybody thinks their glass is half empty. Or half full. I'm like, man, why do we gotta keep our liquids in glasses? Pour mine in a trough; I'm cool with sharing. Pour it back into the river, so I can get down the with the mornfog deer, the fishes. I don't want anyone corralling any part of me.

If you don't let them put you in a box, they can't say how much you fill it up.

I went to the bookstore in my mind to look at all the self-help bullshit books I've ignored. The stores are full of them. Be a corporate warrior. Be the perfect multi-tasking Mom. Manifest your success through mid-day mantras and money will come out your ass.

Where are all the books about how to lift your community up?

The golden rule was always lame in language, but the intent was pure. If you think it doesn't matter, you best be real sure.

Put your fucking phone down and look at the clouds. Sit and talk with someone you don't know and see what happens. Try listening. It's the thing you do during a conversation when you shut your fucking mouth for a second.

It helps to make sense of things if you make them all about you; it's easy. I know. You take the stance of the world against you, and everything you decide to do becomes a stand. It's invigorating. It gives you purpose for every single selfish thing you do.

It's a scam.

Go ahead and forget about the glass, man. Forget about your water, your blood. Think about the river. The pond. The ocean. All the animals sharing that shit. Ain't no fishes saying, my part of the pond seems less empty than that poor fish's. They're huddled up under logs and hidden in grasses because they know that there is some evil shit in the water.

And that evil matters more than any one fish.

Friday, July 10, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

At the end of the street, under the hedges, the kitten sits and tracks the ankles passing by. It is near noon, and the street is bustling with black socks on their way to work, strappy high heels on their way to adventure, work boots plodding mud clods through the streets on their way to job sites. The kitten is not hungry because people are kind to kittens. There is a touch of fear, but it is healthy; a genetic gift.

About to leave school, we have Andrew. Andrew is nine years old and he's flat terrified. It is this way every day when school ends; at school there are friends and games and things to focus his mind on. There are even a few teachers who care. Or seem to. At home there is 1) a father who lost his job 5 months ago and started drinking hard pretty soon thereafter 2) a mother who is never home because she works two jobs now 3) an older brother that everyone thinks is "a little rough" because they don't want to think about the realities.

Andrew's brother is ... troubled. That's what the folks at school say. He's got anger problems. He is too focused on drawing dicks on everything with a Sharpie. He is mean to animals, but he's just rough around the edges. He touches other kids in ways we don't like, but he has impulse control issues. He's a good boy at heart. He comes from a good family. They have their issues. But. Good folks.

The job that Andrew's Dad lost was an insult. He traded 20 years of his life in a factory for existence, back problems, and at-will termination. The Corporation that owns that factory has given it's executive board bonuses every year since Andrew's Dad graduated high school.

Mom does hair. Only now she does hair and she also works at Target in the evenings. She hates everyone except her family and doesn't consider that a problem. She doesn't consider it racism that she hates the fucking Mexicans she works with. She doesn't see misogyny in her disdain for bitches. She hates black people for being loud; she'll tell you in a voice so loud the heavens will crack.

When Andrew walks by the kitten, he hears a sound. The first sound the kitten has made all morning. Down on hands and knees, and clicking sounds with the tongue, and the kitten is in his arms and he is giggling and smiling. The whole street disappears. And Andrew tucks the cat under his shirt. His parents don't care enough to make him give it up. They eat dinner and Andrew goes to bed with that kitten, and his brother is allergic to cats!

In the living room, Fox News is on and Daddy is on his second six pack. He was only going to drink one. He can ring Mom up and ask her to get another. But Andrew's got an ally now. Y'all don't have to worry about Andrew. The kitten will foster the tenderness in that boy. Cats live just long enough to get him out of his parent's house for good. Maybe even get him settled somewhere.

Don't worry, y'all. He named the kitten. Billy.

He's black and beautiful.

Friday, July 3, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

You say you'll meet me halfway, but you never move an inch. Reactionary breakdown. You are reflex wrapped in selfishness, you take. You take and you give only enough to keep the givers giving. You are repugnant in your moral swamp, you stink of death and cowardice.

Wrap yourself in rags or riches, it don't matter. You put up walls to keep others out because you are insecure in yourself. You are full of hatred because you despise yourself, your lot, the people you came from and the people you feel you are stuck with.

You waddle and sweat and curse your way through life like it owes you something. You get out of life what you put into it, so stop being an asshole maybe?

Did you get paid? Is your stomach full? Are the shows you like still filming? Are you able to fill your loneliness with enough men in tight pants and helmets doing shit you were never able to do? Shit you like to talk about and pretend you did.

Are your kids scared? Shame them and demean them; make yourself feel bigger. Maybe every once in a while you drop the word "nigger." But you're just joking. It's just something to say, right? You have black friends at the plant. You're golden. They know you're just fucking around!

Do your kids know? Do they believe the same lies you believe?

Look. You can say you're one thing, but I'm gonna judge you by the way you act. The way you treat the people you love, the way you treat the people you fear, and the number of people you hate. Hate is poison. Drink it deep, but don't think it doesn't change you.

We see you. Red hats or not.

We'll remember.


Friday, June 26, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


I took a break this morning, went down to the beach, stood on a tall rock, tried not to fall. Did yoga. The sun bounced off the cliff face, throwing rays into the late afternoon, while my girls pretended to be mermaids, singing and chirping and complaining about sister things. I listened to the birdcall and the sound of the waves licking the rocks. I tried to visualize the sturgeon and striped bass that forage under the water and mud for shrimp and crab. It smelled of healthy brine, of life.

I tried to stop time and examine my place in it. I looked at my life on a timeline, plotted the steps and missteps, thought about all the paths which will diverge in all the yellow woods of all our futures. I thought about what is at the core. What matters. Love. Empathy. Justice. Understanding. I did not fall, but I allowed for that option. I was happy not to fall; the rocks did not look inviting. They were green and slick, but sharp enough that they would have changed me.

I watched sandpipers skip off the tops of the breakers: heard the gulls cry their lost-love sea-songs, screeched laments and horrors. I focused on my breathing and pulled the warm air deep into my lungs; felt my heart beat, sending blood through my veins. When I felt like I was focused on nothing as much as one can be focused on nothing, I asked myself what had happened this week. What mattered. I thought about y’all. My wife. Kids. My friends. My family back east. I thought about the stories my students are writing. It seemed right. Maybe it is right. I thanked the beach, and I will return to it.

Friday, June 19, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Dear Me with some faith and hope,

I know you want to believe that the people pulling the strings want to keep all the yo-yos spinning. It's not true. They want you to keep staring, they're keeping the tension up. Dude, those yo-yos could fall at any goddamn time. You need to accept that it's a sham. You're right, man. You're 100% right. Adults are assholes, politicians are criminals, Cops are degenerates, and no one really cares. Not really. Not the president. Not his wife.

The people with morals are obvious. You see 'em. Sometimes they're assholes or too passive or afraid of confrontation or too combative, but they give a shit about something. You're right about the people who appear too put together. The ones that never offend anyone and ooze through life. They're doing shit behind the scenes that you can't even imagine yet.

Brother, you are not a bad guy. You're not. You're mad, but there are good reasons to be mad. You don't like bullshit, but who likes bullshit? Why is being into bullshit desirable? You're not broken, man. You don't need to punish yourself so much.

Music is more important than almost anything else. Words, too. Books and birds and songs and fishing and friendship. Those are the things that matter. It's not on you, the fact that other people can't see it. It doesn't make you simple or strange.

Beware of the fucking Christians, man. I know you believe in some of the principles and you want to think all those Sunday mornings meant something. Some of them are OK. There are a lot of wolves in sheep clothes. A lot of pederasts in white robes. A lot of crooks and drunks talking pious bullshit. They're sick. Beyond help. Don't try, just watch your fucking back.

I'm sorry the world is such a pile of shit, but you can't fix it all. Fix the streets around you. Fix the relationships you have. Worry about making the lady at the bakery happy. She's lonely, and she cares when you crack jokes. It means a lot to her.

Email your Mom. She worries, and worry is poison. Hug your friends and tell them you love them. Don't drink so much. Stop trying to kill yourself. Take a deep breath, bud. Just breathe.

Sincerely,

Me whose heart was broken, healing

Friday, June 12, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

How much is your life worth? Seriously. To you. It ain't worth shit to anyone else. Maybe your family. The motherfuckers you bowl with. Shoot hoops with. Shoot heroin with. But nobody really cares, man. Ain't like we're running out of people. They're coming out of the goddamn woodwork. We're thick with 'em. We're choking. Can't breathe.

I mean it ain't like you're famous or pretty. You're just a human being. No one cares about the thoughts you have and the fears you harbor and the hopes you've defaulted on. Dude, look. The whole world's a fucking whore. You're just a John.

You think God cares? You think he's out there? If he is, he's laughing a sick fuck laugh while his creation destroys itself. That's right. Clearly a Him. A white Him. In case you were wondering.

You think the kids are gonna care? Fuck, man. The kids are carving pathways through their brains. They're courting anxiety disorders and nerve malfunction. They want their legs to twitch when they try to sleep like mine do. They have Xanax and ASMR porn. The fuck they need you for? They don't care about themselves, you think they waste time wondering about your wrinkly ass?

The Cops don't care, man. That's clear. Straight up; everybody was all: hey, maybe you should think about the way you treat black people. The way you beat black people. They're not just meat, black people!

And those motherfuckers came back angry. Wounded! They shot tear gas into the face of incredulous humanity. They beat on Moms and kids and even black men. Who'da thunk it!

You can go to a Trump Rally, but if you get sick and die, that's on you. Ain't nobody give a shit about you. Don't try to convince yourself otherwise. We care about the stock market. We care about flags. We care about ourselves because we don't think anyone will care about us.

And we toss and turn, trying to find comfort in the bed we made.


Friday, June 5, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

We can't let the dust settle, whip it up; stir that shit to a frothy loam, ignore the slack-suited simpletons slinging side-street sermons.

Don't let yourself be soothed. Don't let them blow smoke on the bruises, the cuts, the indignity.

Put your fucking flag away!

Goddamn it, put your flag away; nobody is attacking nothing. We're trying to make it mean what it is supposed to mean.

Don't look into their eyes. Don't look into the blinking cyclops eye in your living room. Don't turn your head. Don't drink it away or try to excuse it.

Listen to your kids. Your kids are mad, and they have a right to be. They've figured out there is a big world beyond the trailer park. Beyond the gated subdivision. Beyond your closed mind.

Believe none of what you hear until you have chewed on it, digested it.

If your neighbors avert their eyes, you're probably making headway. If your neighbors smile grim greetings and shake their heads, congratulations, you found a relatively nice place to live.

Why aren't you mad? Why are you so mad and directing your anger in the wrong direction? Man, anger is a magnifying lens. It focuses. Take the warmth of the sun, and turn it into fire.

You know that hot rush of clarity you get when you're angry? That's truth and justice, and it's beautiful. Stoke it carefully, share it with your community, and we can make our communities places we want to hang out in. I promise. You just have to stare into the heat without blinking.

Without turning away.

Friday, May 29, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


American Cop

Everybody freeze, now thaw; don’t worry son, just the small hands of the law. The small minds of a few programmed automatons, the diminishing returns of oaths vomited from lurid mouths. It don’t matter where it started, but it started in the South. 

The underworld is full of darkness, and the confederate flags wave from rusted pickups while black children play. Just another day.

It’s a disease, this hating, this anger. It’s cultivated inside you, curated. They say, come on down to the outrage store, pick a minority to blame it on! Don’t matter, brother. It’s all a con. 

Epstein didn’t get killed in the street, but then again, he wasn’t forging checks.

Don’t you know you can’t trust Science? The answers you seek are in a book of fables, stories told by hucksters and visionaries, twisted by Kings and Kindgdoms. For Profit. 

Salavation ain’t free, boy.

You want security? Find a scapegoat. You want Happiness? Bezos will trade you some for a little more gold to line his coffers. Or he says he will.

I’m sick of writing this bullshit, and I think I’ll stop. This is a day to see the American Cop. Do you see him? White face with square jaw over schoolboy war fantasies and hard-boy tattoos. See this fucker? This fucker is going to kill a dude in broad daylight. In the street. With witnesses. On Camera. Because he FEELS small. You see that fucking fascist? And the guy next to him. And the two guys accelerating the murder? You see him? Good. I saw him, too. And I’m not going to let y’all forget this time.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Listen to the night song, creeping

Dark shapes moving on gentle breezes

This is the promise, given

You will die here

And tomorrow, when yesterday

Roars into your ears

Like an angry child

And red-faced guardians abound

You will sit here, by the fireside

Hearing the new sounds

The fat man is coming, smelling blood

You are a cheap suit on a mannequin

You are propped up on poison

You are a disappointment, and you stink of sadness

You are the damsel who seeks out distress

You are twisted human longing,

and the world has heard your screams.

Friday, May 15, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Celery

Mom is super tall, covered in smile. Most of the time. Sometimes, the smile is gone. Sometimes, the smile being gone is a message in a bottle; sometimes it is a cannon blast across the bow of your misguided ship. Sometimes, the wooden spoons whips the air into song, crashing as it lands. Sometimes, you’re sitting, looking at the way a Grey Blue Heron stands.

Sometimes, it’s celery stalks in water. Different food coloring, and you watch it climb up the veins. You do the same things with Queen Anne’s Lace, and it looks gaudy, but who cares. Orange flowers, Green flowers, Blue flowers. Sometimes, you’re running through the acres out back, ducking limbs or plowing through them because you just want to run.

It’s always hot in the summer, and it’s like the heat amplifies everything and mutes it at the same time. The days fall in on themselves and you’re eggshell-walking through them like time is made of warm mud. Can’t even see through it. Sometimes, it makes Mom so mad. You don’t blame her; there are lots of things to be mad about. Legitimately.

Hell, you’re mad.

But mostly, it’s one long afternoon without promise. One stretch of drudgery. One hike through the tangled nonsense of your subconscious. And you stay hoping. Hoping that Mom will keep smiling. That the silent ghosts won’t pull her away like they always do. That you can just cut up some flowers and turn them stupid colors and smile, no wooden spoon in sight.

 

Pretty Dress

You’re looking everywhere but at that pretty dress, because when you look at it, it makes you feel things. You can see other folks staring, and they all got their reasons. Lyle is staring because he’s practically an ape; it’s lucky he’s not humping her leg. The rest of the men are taking quick glances or trying not to look because, I mean, hell.

A lot of the women are pointing cigarettes and bayonets. Ice eyes. Smiling lies. Hell, a lot of women would like to see her drawn and quartered. And that makes sense, too.

Not me.

I’m looking at Loraine in that pretty dress, and it looks just wonderful. Man, you can tell exactly how she felt when she bought that dress. The way she looked at it when she tried it on at Kohls. Brought it home. Called it the Unicorn Dress. One of a kind.

That dress wasn’t a dress. That dress was a little girl’s dream. About Los Angeles, and parties, and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. It was about paparazzi and glamourous red carpets with cameras going off like little explosions. And it was never going to happen, but that didn’t make it sad. That dress was a rose that grew through barbed-wire. It was a newborn smile, and it was a warm cup of coffee on a winter morning. It didn’t make me lusty. It didn’t make me angry.

It made me glad that there are little girls who dream.

Friday, May 8, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

It was 1997, and I was driving around the streets of San Francisco in a beat up, hand-me-down geo prism that barely made the trip from San Diego. I was new in town, and I felt like a fraud, so I would pick out a neighborhood and just start driving, smoking cigarette after cigarette and stopping for a drink as necessary. It was phenomenal to be young and in San Francisco, and the night was like one long, wet kiss. I had music, I had good books, there was weed everywhere, and it was all mine.

And then I almost got arrested. It happened like this.

I was on one of my drives through the nighttime, and I was in North Beach, home of beatnik writers and drunken deviants. I drove for a while, and then I got out to walk around. And I was no longer in North Beach. This was a recurring problem. I have zero sense of direction, and it is never wise for stoned dudes with no sense of direction to aimlessly cruise complicated city thoroughfares.

So, it was late. Probably close to midnight, and there were some hookers on the block and some crackheads on the corner. It was real fucking authentic, so I decided to take a stroll.

Lose the car and slide out onto the sidewalk, cigarette up, and I’m walking. Head down. Collar up. I walked fast in those days, but suddenly there was a woman damn near jogging beside me, and she was wearing a mini-dress and big, gold hoops.

“You looking for some company?”

“Nope, thanks.”

“Hey man. Can you do me a favor. Dude has been following me, and it’s freaking me out. Walk with me?”

So, I look back and there is a no-shit creepy fucking dude about half a block back looking at this woman like she’s a pork chop, and I’m the mongrel dog that stole it from him. Of course, seeing how I was raised on southern chivalry, I asked her to marry me and we moved to the country. Or I offered to walk with her. Who knows. We didn’t get fifty feet before the whole goddamn world turned red and blue. Fuck. Then there’s a fat, sweaty cop right out 1970s casting in my face telling me I’m going to jail. The chick is yelling at him that I was being a gentleman. I’m imagining calling my Mom. Hey, Mom. So, I’m in jail. Well, soliciting prostitution, but here’s the thing…

Eventually, the cop relents after we both explain to him repeatedly that he is beating up the wrong tree, almost literally (cops like to get handy with hookers and nineteen-year-old punks). I don’t even have any money. I’m afraid to fuck girls that don’t fuck for money, let alone those who do…

I don’t even know how I got home that night, riding a wave of adrenaline, no doubt, and I didn’t learn a goddamn thing from the experience. But I didn’t go to jail. I went home to the Mission, got drunk with my roommates and ate tacos. A success story.

Friday, May 1, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Sunlight

Daub of hope for your morning, sir? Spot of optimism? Here, let me rest this feathered lightness on your cheek. The storm is coming, and you must remember. Underneath the skin, wires run. Slick, refractive reverie. You are inches from oblivion, and you have no metrics – your head is a bloviated side-prank. Your ornaments hang off you like cheap linens. Bit of paint will fix everything, and everything has a place, everything in it. Don’t look too close at the body language; this illusion is not made for inspection. Sit down and follow directions.

Rub this lemon juice into your eyes, your abraded skin. Let the sear speak. You are callow and weak. You are drowning and no one wants to save you. Remember that optimism? That smear of hope? You need to hold onto that. Never let go. It should be enough for you. You’re an American, right? So, dream!

 

Cold

Adam was dying. He knew he was dying, and it bothered him, but not as much as it would bother most folks. Adam wasn’t at peace with death, but he was not surprised by it either. The dogs had died, and he would die. The death of his dogs had severed the connection that Adam felt to life; to the goodness of what life had to offer. With each death, he had moved closer towards it himself, and he was ready.

The pain was there, but it was outside him. For days, it had been inside his body like a storm, a chaotic fever, but now it was hovering on the periphery of his vision and he could take an accurate appraisal. He laughed at it, a desperate, fearful laugh that clutched at strength and missed.

As the dawn teased the day, Adam’s life ebbed away. The forest sighed and shook its shoulders. The animals were curious, then hungry, then sated. The night and day continued marching and the life spirit drifted into other clearings as the life force intended.

And there was beauty.

Friday, April 24, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Fear

The dream is always the same. There is noise and blood, and the air is thick with it. The blood is in your eyes, your mouth. You taste iron, and you feel it run down your throat and, in tracks, down your face. You try to call for help, but your voice is lost in the gurgle of blood and spit and panic. Your heart races, that feeling you get when you know you’ve really hurt yourself, but you need to act quickly. Stay calm. Stay focused. Spit the blood out fast enough, and you might be able to get a few words out. Clear your throat. Spit and yell. There is no one there to hear you. The dream makes no sense, but there is no wonder in your mind. The meaning of the dream sits on the fence of your subconscious: a fat, alley cat smiling. It knows something you don’t. The cat knows everything, but you never will. You will continue to be a conveyance for blood and terror. Until your eyes open.

They probably will.

 

Medication

The ones you want aren’t the ones you need. That’s the first paradox. The second is that they want you to keep your mind straight, unless they’re the ones bending it. There’s a pill to make you happy, but it comes with a price. There’s a pill that makes your hair grow, but it might make you blink twice. There are pills and powders and potions, there always were and there always will be. There’s all kinds of nooks and cranny’s in the world of pharmacology.

Advil is medicine, just like Cocaine. Benadryl and Dramamine? They’re one and the same. The most deadly? That’s Tylenol, you can buy it at school. There are lots of sly lessons for you to learn, fool.

Everything’s medicine. Every show, shot and smile. The world is wide-open, you can see it in style. The side effects vary and may be intense. You may just start stuttering and lose all your sense. You may end up naked and covered in puke. Or you could end up a tenured professor at Duke.

If it’s crack, bribe the cops, if it’s pills bribe a doctor. She’s heard it before, trust, none of it shocks her. And her prescription pad’s magic, it will fix all your pain. Ask all your junkie friends, and they’ll tell you the same.

 

Childhood

The table is so high and, sitting underneath, you can watch the knees walk by and they won’t even know you’re in there. A dozen brownies stuffed down the front of your shirt. Aunt Irene can’t try to kiss you on the mouth. Grandpa can’t try to convince you to recite the poems he made you memorize.

The air smells like homemade peach pie, and the wind is shifting just right that it rustles the cornstalks and whips conversations through the fields like precocious ghosts.

You just stay under that table, boy. You really should. Trust me. It doesn’t get better. It gets harder and more complicated and you end up going places where everyone ignores the kid slipping under the tablecloth with a plate full of cookies. You’re going to wish you could go under there with him, but you can’t because people are suspicious. And jail’s not fun.