Tuesday, April 19, 2011

old friend

hello emptiness.

ive been staring into you for a long time. ive been searching for the answers in you, hoping they would reveal themselves, praying they would emerge from the darkness, like little streaks of light unfolding into great illuminations.

but i havent had much luck. not recently. not in the past few months.

its strange, emptiness, because you are everywhere. in the television. on the radio. at the bus stop where someone tried to dress you up in meaning but only achieved the dull shock of vandalism.

i see you in the conversations i overhear. in the discussions i have. in the text messages i receive and even in the ones i send. i noticed you in the forms i had to fill out when i was in the ER and they told me i had pneumonia. you had stripped me of a diagnosis that would give purpose to what ails me. i thanked you for that, that time. but still it left me with nothing.

a pack of antibiotics and some weak painkillers. a pain in my chest that would eventually go away.

i like you there, emptiness, but for soem reason i feel we've grown distant.

like you dont need me anymore. or maybe i dont need you.

i know you are inside me, but i dont think the answers are there. not this time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

great escape

we waited past the silence. first came night and then came lights out and then came the silence, but the silence is too soon. you have to wait until the silence builds into the white noise of sleep, the creaking of beds as bodies twisted in REM, the steady huff of heavy breathing, the drone of the world outside folding into the still hum of indoors. we waited patiently, lying in our beds and staring at the stucco ceilings, and when we felt it was time, we made our move.

The window wheezed open slowly and Tasi looked at me with wide, panicked eyes and i hissed at him to keep moving. he took his leg and swung it over the sill and his feet crunched softly on the gravel when he touched the ground. i followed after and we tip toed along the side of the house until we were standing in the street with the moon pouring down on us like a spotlight from a tower. we stood still for a moment, breathing in the midnight chill. we looked at the house, at the windows of the house, searching for movement, and there was none. he spit on the ground.

Fuck you, he said, then gave the house a middle finger. i smiled and started walking down the street towards the highway.

there was a cold spring wind circling our necks that loosened the further we got from the house. we walked down the hill towards the sound of traffic. all the homes we passed were dark and indifferent, their manicured lawns flanked in shadows, protected by neatly trimmed bushes. it was lights out for Millbrae, past silence for all its residents. the streetlamps buzzed nervously above and it was the only noise there was. we seemed to be the only ones alive in the entire town, as if it were all ours to escape from. no other footsteps on the sidewalk, no cars smashing down the street. the highway was only a few blocks away and the bus would be there in any moment.

c'mon, i hurried Tasi.

we got to the highway and stood for a moment, watching the cars zooming north and south. there were more lights there, and the air was warmer. we walked along the road, following a knee level guardrail, until we came to a clear passage that would allow us to run across. we waited for a window then scrambled to the grassy median. there we waited for another window then scrambled to the other side, the one going north. the bus stop was in front of a motel, the red neon of the vacancy sign blurred into the florescence of the parking lot lights, bathing the bus stop in a pale orange glow. We sat at the bench, looking toward the horizon for an oncoming bus. Tasi pulled out a marker and tagged the seat next to him and i counted the little bit of money i had.

where we gonna go? he asked me.

i dont know, i guess ill go meet my friends in the Mission, you can come with me.

nah, he said, im gonna go to Sunndale, my aunt lives there.

Sunnydale? i said, damn. Sunnydale was a notorious collection of project houses on the edges of san francisco. a small grid of misery forgotten by the city. id never been there and never wanted to go there. their anger reverberated all the way to the pacific ocean. you can chill with me, i said.

its cool, she'll put me up, he mumbled.

i grabbed the marker and tagged the bus stop sign, then walked over and tagged the bench behind Tasi. in the distance we saw the shape of the bus slowly barreling towards us. i pulled out some money and gave Tasi enough for a one way ride. when we got on the bus it was mostly empty, just an old lady in the front and a drunk in the middle. we sat in the seats furthest to the back, on opposite ends, and opened the windows and let our elbows spill out into the passing night. for most of the ride we didnt say anything. the towns sped by in dim streaks of light. the barely paused as all the stops were empty. we had done it, we had done it. and we were afraid.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

three on the house

i went to a bar after work the other day. i do that often.

it was late night early morning and a guy im familiar with was pouring drinks so i knew it would be a cheap visit. i ordered a whiskey but no beer. i didnt need the suds. he poured it heavy and on the flatscreen was a black and white animated movie with a convoluted plot i couldnt follow. outside the streets were wet from a recent rain. i sat and stared and sipped my whiskey.

at the other end of the bar was a girl with short blond hair and a brassy attitude. she was young and thin and insulted the bartender with a clever smile on her face, a knowing smirk that was at once disarming and still mischievous. i clocked her for a moment then turned back to space.

me and the bartender started a discussion on food. sandwiches, in particular, and where the best deli's in the neighborhood were. there was the 5th ave deli where they grilled their pastrami sandwiches and had a nice array of cheeses from which to choose from. there was the deli on nostrand ave that served their sandwiches on rye and piled them high with meat and cheese and spicy mustard. there were the multitude of delis on every other corner that served the same fare but were consistent and stayed open 24 hours. there was the acceptance of how limited our options were, especially at night, when the stomach grumbles and the mind wanders and the cash in your pocket burns a hole. i told him about a deli i knew, he told me of one he knew. we decided to deliver reviews next time we met.

then the girl came over. the bartender told me her name was shane. she introduced herself and when she asked how i was and i just said alright she feigned interest in why i wasnt stellar. i told her that in life sometimes a rainbow didnt follow the rain and she looked confused for a second then ordered another white wine. she had an attractive face, angular and defined. her eyes were big and her chin was long but it held a proportion that favored her. she let her bangs fall loosely, which i liked. still i didnt say anything. there wasnt anything to say.

a guy to my left started telling me about the spiderman musical on broadway. there was no segue, no introduction, i hadnt even noticed he was there. he just launched into how it was getting a bad rap in all the press, how the production quality of it was beyond any other in the theater district. the songs were better. the acting was good, the costumes and narrative and even the high flying wire acts were all executed to perfection. he didnt understand why everyone was so against it. according to the critics, its an epic failure. according to him, its a smashing success. i listened to him gush about it while nodding, indifferent to everything save the whisky on my lips. eventually he turned from me and began talking to someone else about something else, as if he were never talking to me at all.

shane then whispered in my ear that he was creepy. her breath was hot and sweet from the wine and when she said the word creepy there was a wet hiss i could feel on my earlobes. she explained that he had tried to take her home one night but that there was something about him, something beyond suspicion, a danger, that she couldnt put her finger on. alarm bells went off in her head. she politely declined and he, to his credit, was gracious and accepting of her rejection, but he watched her from afar the rest of the night. and she was afraid to walk home alone, so she spent her remaining cash on a cab just to circle the block and drop her off a few doors down.

it was getting late and i was on my third whiskey. i asked the bartender how much i owed and he gave me a meager total so i tipped him bigger than i planned. he thanked me and then poured me another. i put a napkin on my glass then went outside to smoke a cigarette. when i went back inside shane was on the other side of the bar but as i sat down she came back over and sat next to me. i could feel my legs beginning to wobble and my head was swimming and even though she was painting a target on her chest i decided not to go for it. she was too young. too blond. too skinny. there was no mystery about her, nothing i wanted to find out.

i sucked down my whiskey in one gulp and said good-bye to everyone around me. she looked shocked and disappointed but i knew shed get over it. then i opened the door and went outside and put on my ipod to keep me company. it wasnt a long walk home but i knew it would be lonely.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

new shirt

i was standing at the intersection of broadway and church and the sun was pale and the cars kept turning the corner even though the light was burning red. i stood in front of a newstand being watched by photoshopped celebrities posing on magazines hung by a clothespin. it began to rain.

i wanted to buy a new shirt, one with a quiet modern pattern and no obvious logos and buttons and a collar because its time to finally grow up, so i was headed to a department store that was new yorks best kept secret, even though everyone knew about it.

i felt like a giant lumbering through the doors. my shoulders smothering the shopping experience for others. i tried to avoid touching people as i walked through the crowd. letting the forces of gravity create an orbit around me, allowing my mass to curve space and time. all our magnetic waves attracting and repelling as see fit.

there are voices bouncing off voices and echoing from the walls, the stuttering tone of security tags being scanned. people with headsets squeezing by in stealth precision, saying excuse me only as an automatic response, barely registering their own vocal vibrations. the alarm goes off by the door but not a notion is made by anyone. european tourist calculate the price of jeans in polysyllabic gibberish. and old pan asian couple consider a leather belt.

i get to the shirt section but cant take it anymore. it is noon on saturday and ive finished a midterm. it is cold and my tobacco is low. i have to write another paper but i miss her and cant think so i decided to buy a shirt instead. my phone hasnt vibrated in hours and i have to be in class soon. the train is under construction and running local so everything is slower than usual. there is nothing in my size. im on the brink of emotional collapse. i have half an hour to feel new and feel smart and write a paper and be on time and make the right decision but i cant find my fucking size. there is a tie hanging from a rack of hooded sweatshirts. i take a breath.

there will be no turmoil. there will be no disruption. there will be no spark inside; no supernova of pain and misery.

in my hand is a nice plaid shirt. a clever pattern of earthtones. a subtle statement of colors. the perfect fit.

i will look good in this.

Monday, March 28, 2011


you ever just call up youre friend just to tell them you love them?

not just any friend, but a friend you love.

not having anything to say or any purpose of the call other than just that. to say that you are the one i love. i love you, my friend. you are important to me. know that.

its simultaneously a celebration and a promise. a declaration of faith.

you love them.

just call them and say it.

its easy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Raising Hell

when he told me they were doing a show that night i initially didnt believe him. the legendary Run DMC were performing in san francisco and i hadnt heard about it until that night? the possibility of this seemed slim, considering we both worked in the record industry and we were both avid hip hop fans and to see Run DMC live was the holy grail of shows. this, even though they were past their prime and nostalgia had yet to lift them back into relevance (that wouldnt happen for another two years). still, i agreed to go. it definitely wouldnt hurt, and if he was wrong then we'd already be on the town and surely there would be some other shenanigans for us to get into.

we go to the DNA Lounge at about 9pm, the show wasnt starting until 10. As we approached the box office i noticed, pasted on the window, a hand made sign that read: Run DMC- $20. it was only twenty dollars? to see the group that changed the landscape of pop music in the 80s and arguably launched rap music into the mainstream stratosphere for good? this seemed, for lack of a better term, too good to be true. the fact that there were still tickets available did not lessen my skepticism either. we each paid for a ticket, got our hand stamped, and walked into the club, my friend beaming with enthusiasm and me wary and kicking myself because i had lost a precious Jackson.

the club was packed, which did lift my spirits some. at least i hadnt been the only one fooled that night. the DNA lounge is designed in a very practical manner. there is a fairly large, square dancefloor with a stage at the front, and an upper level balcony that wraps itself around it, allowing patrons to watch the madness from above while sipping on their over priced drinks. we made our way to the balcony as the main floor was too packed, got ourselves some drinks, and began rolling a joint. from where we stood i had a perfect view of the stage. hanging from the back of it was a huge banner bearing the legend: Run DMC, in their classic black and white font. in front of that was set up two turntables, and at the front of the stage two microphones on stands. that was it. i had to admit, this was encouraging, but i still wouldnt believe it until i saw it.

slowly the crowd began to press against each other. i wondered if they would oversell tickets then have the fire department come in and shut down the show. that was a classic shady promoter move i knew and had experienced all too many times. my wariness began to kick in again. it was a healthy mix of people, not your usual hip hop crowd, all races and ages, girls and guys alike. we began to smoke the joint and i let the feeling of being stoned wash over me while i clocked the faces and bodies that crowded the area. i wondered if i was the only one that was skeptical, everyone else seemed to be wearing their happy faces. all eyes were wide. the enthusiasm was thick and palpable.

thats when he came on stage, Jam Master Jay himself. my jaw dropped to the floor. was that really him? still, my outlook was hesitant. maybe he was just going to do a DJ set. not that that would be a bad thing, mind you.

then Run and D came out. the crowd roared in approval. they wore their classic black pants and black jackets and black tshirts underneath, even sporting the hats they were so closely identified with since they early, RUN DMC albums. they looked like they did on the cover of Raising hell, or in the movie Krush Groove. they looked exactly how i, and everyone else in the room, wanted them to look. i marveled at their royalty in silence, letting the crowd do the cheering for me. i couldnt believe it. they were there. i was looking at Run DMC, live, in the flesh.

the facetiously introduced themselves, as if we didnt know who they were, and went into the first song of what would be an hour and a half set. the sound was stellar, rare for a hip hop show, and their set was flawless. you could tell they had rehearsed it hundreds of times. hit after hit after hit. not letting up for one moment, keeping everyone in the crowd standing and cheering and aching for more. younger hip hop acts have to take note of this kind of shit. they new how to put on a show better than most anyone id ever seen.

at one point, after a second joint, we decided to barrel our way down to the main floor. we wanted to feel the energy they were giving off. we squirmed our way to the middle of the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, hardly able to move for ourselves. thats when Run decided to reintroduce the group again. He sited his alternate moniker, Reverend Run, and pointed to the decks to allow Jam Master Jay to get some love. then he asked DMC, what do they know you as, D?

as DMC launched into "King of Rock" a jackpot of excitement erupted on the foor. the whole place exploded as those enormous rock drums, courtesy of John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, thundered through everyone. i was being lifted as the crowd jumped up and down, absolutely mental, along with the track. for a moment a began tearing up. this was easily one of the most exciting moments id ever experience in my concert going career. i was overwhelmed with joy.

when it was over we stumbled from the place, exhausted yet still thrilled with the night. i cant even remember what we did afterward. most likely went home and talked about what we had just seen and felt. it was one of the most satisfying concerts any of of would ever have, and we knew it deep in our bones, as sweat still clung to our flesh. we had seen the legends. they had delivered.

Friday, March 25, 2011

too much

it is so much easier to not get your work done.

to just let it sit in front of you untouched. like peas on a plate. rejected and ignored. my work is unwanted.

but it begs for attention. its a needy beast, always haunting me. i need to get on it.

but i just cant. there is too much. its work overload over here.

serenity now.
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.