Tuesday, April 28, 2009

down to the wire

there is my alcoholism. there is the steady rush of traffic outside. there are my cats walking along my desk, lost in curiosity, sniffing at the monitor and carving their scent into my books and files and cd's. pasted everywhere are post it notes with thoughts and ideas or duties and reminders, passwords and confirmation numbers and simple drunken poems and names and numbers to people i hardly even know. there is a bag of weed and a bag of tobacco and a beer and an ashtray that needs to be dumped. there are loose bills, usually small denominations, scattered all around, tucked under things and strewn across others. incense ash lay still like a second skin over everything.there is the current im taken by. and there are the secrets and the guilt that calmly boil that current. there is the worry and the uncertainty and the impatience inside me. the underlying restlessness.

all this while trying to create a power point presentation with a coherent narrative and a clear, concise overview of the Mexican Drug cartel wars. an assignment due on wednesday and an assignment i just started today.

i should have realized the breadth and scope of such a topic would take more time than 5 hours to complete. but i work in strange processes. everything is last minute to me.

shit, i really need to budget my time better.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

double dog daring

I was nine and going on ten years old when the Night Stalker first struck in San Francisco. The news of his arrival exploded across the media. The city was immediately in a panic. He had caused such terror in southern California, slashing across Los Angeles County on a gruesome murdering spree, that everyone in the north, when he finally arrived, was seized by his mysterious presence. The victims that survived had been stricken from the horror, usually raped and assaulted, always left damaged beyond repair. The victims that didn’t were shot and stabbed and sometimes carved and mutilated, dead either way. One had her eyes gouged out. It was brutal.

When I was introduced to the Night Stalker I was in Dions’ living room sitting cross legged in front of his television, a large nineteen each color set that was built into a huge, accommodating furniture cabinet. It had brass handles on fake drawers that didn’t pull out from the bottom, and two doors that folded and closed over the screen. The whole piece was covered in wood paneling, even the fake drawers, which had ornate designs carved into them for authenticity. On top of it they’d set four framed photos of people I didn’t know, sun washed photos so pale you could barely make out who was in them, people in clothes you never saw anymore who were smiling in a moment long gone. Bleached out memories that were fading in color, leaving impressions of which just to stare and consider in curiosity. When I asked Dion who they were it seemed he didn’t know much either. They were just people in another history going on around him. In another life independent of his own. In between the pictures was a small black statue, made of marble or stone, of two figurines entwined in a romantic embrace. Their legs were tangled in such a way that you lost whose were whose by the base of it. On the corner, behind them all, was the biggest piece, a mahogany clock Dion bragged was made by an uncle of his that was serving time in jail. The glaze had worn and its hands had stopped moving but they kept it up for sentimental reasons.

On the floor sitting in front of it, and us, was his Atari video game system. On the screen was a man made up of colored squares swinging from a rope made of colored squares over a dangerous square black pit with an even more dangerous green squared crocodile. The game was named Pitfall but we defiantly called it Raiders of the Lost Arc. It was the grandest novelty to me. All of it. The entire circumstance. Everything in it. The toys of a tycoon.

Dions mom can into the room and said not just to us but to anyone and everyone that was listening, “Keep your eyes peeled, the Night Stalker is everywhere and he’s gonna get you if you don’t watch it.”

We kept playing our video game, unfazed. Who could worry about a crazed killer when high scores were to be reached? What brand of death could distract us from our pixilated entertainment? Dion passed another level and I sat jittery with impatience, waiting my turn. His mother slurred something incoherently about getting what will come to us and left the room, leaving a burning cigarette in the ashtray.

Later we were around the corner, hanging on the porch of an apartment we didn’t live in, letting dusk fall behind the dim illuminations of the street lamps. The Night Stalker was on everyone’s lips like a secret just revealed, a shocking truth still under great consideration. It had been agreed that he would never venture to our neighborhood. It was too dangerous, too insular, too rooted in the resident’s own violence to concern itself with outside threats. Were he to come to our ‘hood he would get bum rushed, mugged, bullied by the older kids that had suffered so much misery in their own short lives that the pain he would cause could only be scoffed at and dismissed while angry black fist rained down on his rotted, sunken face. We only wished he dared come to our district and try to terrorize us, hardened urbanites. We had each other to fear, he was a no one compared to the locals. If it was one thing we felt safe from living in the ghetto, it was that no one could scare us any more than we were already scared. At least not us kids.

When the sun fell behind the mountains we all had to go home. It wasn’t the Night Stalker that forced us inside but our parents that made the rules. Were it up to us we would have waited, surrounded by the makeshift weapons of a littered city street, and greeted him with evil grins. But alas, we could not exercise our courage after the sun went down.

So we went back to playing our video games.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

i need a cigarette

I’m going to visit my brother at his new place in Hermosa Beach soon. I can tell he needs to see someone he knows, to revisit a strong connection, as he hasn’t met anyone out there yet. He is alone in Southern California with only the hazy blur of heat rising like waves to keep him company.

He slaves away in a suit in an office filled with squares and comes home exhausted to a dog that has a farting problem. He eats take out every night and watches too much porn. He has every cable channel and every video game console and gigabytes of music consuming his itunes library but he is always bored and never has anything to do. He walks his dog a lot and drinks more than he should. He sends everyone text about random thoughts he has but only half the people respond if even that much.

Meeting people has always been a challenge. He gets insecure and pretends he’s someone else and so never truly knows anyone, only knows what they know of him, which in the end is half lies anyway. He gets nervous in small crowds and blurts things out which he always regrets but can never fix.

But I know him well and he is comfortable around me.

So I'm going to see him soon. In southern California. We will go to his local bar and drink whiskey and beer. We will try to have an epic night in Hollywood and wind up in a diner, drunk, in the dim morning light, talking about when we were teenagers. We will visit friends of mine in San Diego and marvel at their children and their powerfully simple life as a couple of teachers in a small beach town. We will do nothing but eat burgers and watch TV. I only have four nights there. So we have to squeeze it all in. The entire familial bond. The generation that is us two. The history we are soaked in.

But he is determined to go to Tijuana.

I’m not sure why. From what friends and acquaintances and the media have told me, Tijuana isn’t the place we want to be right now. There is talk of drug cartels and war. Of violence on open corners and law enforcement doing the best they can under the circumstances. They say it is dangerous, more dangerous than usual. All advise I do not go.

Of course, this goes against the grain of my brothers’ logic, which is: What are the odds of us getting shot or murdered in a Mexican drug war? And I have to agree with him there. My life isn’t that spectacular, to where I would die in something as sensational as a drug war, let alone a Mexican one. So as usual, I’m going to go along in my normal well what else is there? attitude. Hopefully, I’ll get shot or murdered.
Creative Commons License
:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.