May 31, 2010

Moving Beyond Walls

I used to have this job.  When I was there, it felt like I should be doing something else.  What this ‘something’ was exactly, I did not know.  So, I just kept working, doing things better than the last time.  It’s not surprising that a lot of people feel this way.  However, it’s hard to change what you can‘t pinpoint. 

    Part of it was, I didn’t feel like my skills were being fully utilized at my job.  I could leave, but what would I do next?  I once read that nobody has ever been so far into the wrong business, that they couldn’t get into the right business.  Imagine that:  NOBODY. 

    Consider this:  Do all that you can where you are, but keep an eye out for opportunities, and jump when they present themselves.

    Flash forward a couple of years.  I don’t have that job anymore, and I’m doing something else.  According to my wife it’s called ‘nothing’ and based on her calculations, business is booming.  In my defense, I have an immense capacity for sustained focus, but I’m having trouble getting paid to stare at walls.

    The frustrating thing is, I fit the middle-America corporate profile:  White, polite, and makes a good impression over the phone.  The glitch is that I cannot speak German, which excludes me from most of the job market.  In my time overseas, strangely enough, I’ve found that I miss going to job interviews.  I just find something strangely romantic about them.  It’s like the prelude to an arranged marriage.

    “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” the interviewer would say. 

    This was my favorite question.  I’ve never wanted to be someone else, but I did enjoy pretending to be someone else.  Interviewers don’t want the truth.  I’ve been not hired by enough companies to know that. 

    What are you going to say, “well, I’m unemployed, this thirty-minute interview is the longest I’ve been sober in a week, and I dressed in the parking lot before walking in.” 

    “Gee, how quickly can you start?”

    My last interview was a seven hour drive away, but the company put me up in a room at the Courtyard Marriot.  It was a claims position at an insurance company and I was so nervous.  Shortly before the interview, I bent over wrong and strained something in my back.  Hot pain shot up my spine and into my neck.  I couldn’t bend down or turn my head.  All I could do was rotate my torso like Bigfoot.  When I arrived, it was nice to see that everyone else was as stiff and outwardly anal as me.   

Well, I thought.  As long as I’m in excruciating pain, I might fit in. 

    For the interview, my character was based on someone that watched their apartment burn to the ground.  Instead of cursing the world and everything in it, I would find strength in the claims adjuster that dealt with my claim.  “And now I want to do the same for others.”  That was going to be my closer.  I imagined shaking hands, and accepting an offer.  But before that, I had some issues to clear up.  I wasn’t exactly a swoop-in-and-save-the-day kind of guy.  I was the type of guy that drove the getaway car while friends siphoned gas out of untended lawn mowers.  Or, to put it another way, an asshole. 

    But this insurance interview was something different.  A ticket out, if you will.  Not that I didn't love North Carolina, but I saw something different in my head.  I visualized this 'victim turned victor' story until it became true.  I didn’t have to recall prepared answers when the questions came; In my mind, I was already a claims adjuster.  My answers sounded believable.

    Of course, my apartment really did burn down, but when the smoke cleared the reality wasn’t all that compelling:  The claims adjuster asks you to make a list of everything you own--Including, but not limited to jock straps, candelabrums, Halloween masks, boxes of Honey Smacks--with a dollar value.  I sat in a quiet room and filled page after page with these vaporized possessions.  As it turned out, there were things I didn’t even know I had.  And damned if they weren’t more expensive than I remembered. 

    It was my final semester of college, and I was sharing an apartment with two friends.  The fire started in the bathroom of all places, from a faulty air handler.  It was 4a.m.  I smelled smoke on my way to the upstairs bathroom and walked down to investigate.  The flames illuminated the outline of the closet door.  It wasn’t so much “oh no” that was going through my head as “isn’t that funny.”  Of course, a fire ball shot out when I opened the door.  I ran into the kitchen, grabbed a pot of water and threw it at the flames.  Camp fires are one thing, but electrical fires are another.  Water pisses them off.  I had never seen a fire spit lightening bolts before, but it was awesome.  Frantically, I threw the pot at the fire and ran upstairs to evacuate the house. 

    We all made it out safely and were warmed by the flames that consumed the building.  It’s a strange feeling, watching your home go up in flames, but it’s stranger still to see yourself on TV the next day with the subheading describing you as “Local Hero.”  My ego wouldn’t let me divulge how uncomfortable I was with the exposure.  It’s almost like you’re waiting, hoping in fact, for someone to come along and call you out.  “Come on.  Hero?  Really.“  When they never appeared, I stepped into the position.  Perhaps a little too well.  But I was young and a lot was happening in my life. 

    I take that hero title with a grain of salt now, but I haven’t written off the good that came about because of it.  Without that fire, I probably never would have sought out a career in insurance.  The greatest twist of all was meeting my wife, whom I never would have met otherwise if I hadn‘t taken that job seven hours away.  It never ceases to amaze me how these serendipitous things happen, while failing to connect one event to the other. 

    So, what can I do now, sitting here staring at my wall and basil plant?  All the world is out there, waiting.  I’ve cornered the market on ‘nothing,‘ and I'm ready for more.  If I can look back and see the chess moves, what’s to stop me from looking a few moves ahead? 

May 26, 2010

Milan Rules

It is our last night in Milan, and my wife and I are seated in a restaurant with our friends Jesse and Caroline.  A candle sits atop the checkered tablecloth, adding a warm glow to our section of the dining room.  Close your eyes and say “L’Osso Buco” three times and this place will spring to mind.  Despite its Old World décor, Caroline, who has been living here for four years, assures us that this is THE place for pizza.  Had we caught up earlier in the week I might have taken her advice.  The thing is, I have been eating pizza for five days straight.  I knew Milan was a fashion capital, but for some odd reason, it surprised me to see a pizza joint on every corner.  And it’s not just the Italians.  Other ethnicities have jumped on the bandwagon:  Turkish pizza, Indian pizza, even Chinese pizza.  No one is unrepresented.  It’s like the UN opened a pizzeria on the catwalk. 

    I’m asking Caroline about a previous conversation we had on the social “do’s and don’ts” of Milan when our server, a 70-year-old woman with orange hair, presents us with a bottle of wine.  Of course, every country has certain behavior parameters.  Bicycles are king of the street in Amsterdam, for instance, while pedestrians equate to a target with shoes.  Germans, on the other hand, take a crosswalk signal at its word, skipping the whole “look left, look right” deal, they’ll gambol into the street no matter what is barreling down the road toward them. 

    I’m mulling over Caroline’s list as Jesse fills the glasses. As you can imagine, the rules of Milan deal primarily with food and style.  Their taste for food is somewhat traditional; their style, classy.  That said, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly people resort back to middle school. 

    “You don’t leave the house with wet hair,” she said. 
    “What happens if you do,” I asked.
    “People give you dirty looks.  Waiters will look down on you.”

    This may sound harmless, but no matter how hard you wave, a waiter will only see you when he is ready to see you.  The customer is always right is not a common axiom here.  You are in their world, so you’d better style accordingly. 

    The wet hair rule, I feel, is geared more toward women, the implication being that if you are too lazy to dry your hair after a shower, you’ll probably die alone anyhow, so stay home and do us all a favor.  This also explains the twenty-seven umbrella salesmen that bombarded Takayo in the subway after a sudden downpour.  A lot of men use hair product, which can give the impression of being wet, but I’m sure that patting a stranger’s head violates a different set of rules.

    “You don’t wear flip-flops before ‘flip-flop season,’ which has no exact date, but is determined by some unknown fashion circle.” 

    I like this one because it sounds like the premise of a Dan Brown novel:  A city gripped by a mysterious society obsessed with creating a legion of fashion forward citizens.  Aside from the vague timing, the flip-flop rule is a throwback to America’s “no white shoes after Labor day” rule, which has become largely ignored.  The fact that there is a Wal-Mart in Milan, Tennessee, and not Milan, Italy, is no coincidence. 

    “You don’t eat on the go.” 

    Besides apples, which have artistic merit, this is a rule that I agree with.  Good food should be appreciated, not crammed down your throat while passing the United Colors of Benetton.  I’ll take this rule a step farther:  A McDonald’s hamburger was designed to be eaten under fluorescent lighting, not sunshine. 

    When the waitress returns, she places a fine looking pizza before everyone but me.  I ordered a pasta dish with mozzarella and eggplant, but what she sets before me looks like a Terracotta roof tile drizzled with tomato sauce.  It’s familiar enough, but so is the view from our budget hotel, and neither one is really all that compelling. 

    “How’s your…what have you,” Caroline asks.
    “Fine.  Are there any more rules, aside from don’t order this?”
    “You don’t drink wine with pizza.”
    “What are you supposed to drink?”
    “Beer.  The three of us are breaking the rules.”

We all looked around to the other diners in the room and it was true.  All the pizza eaters had a glass of beer.  We were the only ones with a bottle of wine on the table, if that says anything. 

    I used to see myself as something of a rebel.  Rules were a tool used by “The Man” to keep us down.  Depending on your age and social circle, I suppose they still are to some people.  But not me.  Cecil B. deMille said, “It is impossible to break the law.  We can only break ourselves against it.”  This broadened my perspective as far as Milan is concerned.  These rules are more like guidelines.  They don’t so much oppress people as they protect them from social faux pas, holding them to a higher standard. 

    Except for the beer rule.  That’s just stupid.


May 24, 2010

Don't Be a Victim

Thanks to shows such as "To Catch a Predator" a lot of criminals have been taken off the streets.  However, criminals are catching on to online 'baiting' tactics.  They are becoming more brazen in a strange new place called 'offline' or 'the real world.' 

Exhibit 1

Imagine, if you will, spotting a five dollar bill on the sidewalk as you're walking home from work.  You sprint toward it before the wind catches it.  When you catch up to it, there is fishing line attached to the money.  You pull...

Exhibit 2

Just one little tug, and you've pleasured a pervert and become a victim.  

Missed it?  Review image 2.  Here's how it went down...

A pervert lies in wait.  The anticipation builds with each passing moment.  The money is attached to 50 lb. test line.  Money, of course, is the bait.  The other end of the line is attached to anal beads in the pervert's rectum.  (NOTE:  everyone picks up money)  Nature and curiosity cause you to pull the line.  The pervert is wearing Nike Air Max shoes behind those bushes and runs like the wind before you suspect a thing. 

What are you wearing, penny loafers?  You never had a chance.  Sucker. 

In these hard times, how can you fight back?  REALIZE THIS:  There's no such thing as a free lunch; keep an open eye.  Scrutinize.  

May 18, 2010

Justice Files, Part 2

    Over time, the rush I got from hearing, “Sir, please step out of the vehicle” began to dwindle.  By the age of twenty I had read a few books on persuasion and decided next time I would reason with the officer.  A well blended mix of cockiness and inexperience allowed me to believe I could do it.  After all, it has been done before.

According to my sister, within her first year of driving she has been pulled over nearly twenty times without being ticketed.  It became something of a long running joke within our family. 

    “Why are you late for dinner“ my mother would ask. 
    “Oh, I got pulled over again.  But he didn’t give me a ticket, just a warning.  I was doing 70 through a school zone with one headlight.  All he said was ‘SLOW DOWN‘ and let me go.” 

Maybe she had uncovered some kind of Police Whisperer technique.  She could get pulled over drunk, hand the officer a bloody knife and confide in him “lets keep this between the two of us” before leaving him smiling in a cloud of dust.

    My dad purchased a year membership of legal insurance before my first year of college.  The basic concept is that you pay a monthly fee to a company, and if a legal situation arises they provide representation.  From then on, it seemed as if my sister and I were in an all out competition to see who could drive our parents to the brink of sanity.  When I ran a stop sign, she ran a red light.  When I was T-boned by an out of control pick-up truck at a gas station, my sister collided head-on in an intersection with a Jewish woman in a Lexus.

I would call checkmate for a moving violation I received shortly after college.  The charge was ‘Disobeying the orders of a police officer while driving on the wrong side of the road.’  If you read into the charge, it was like the chicken and the egg. 

    “Were you already on the wrong side of the road when you disobeyed his orders, or did you drive on the wrong side of the road against his orders?”

    There was a fire truck in the middle lane blocking the entrance to my apartment complex.  I pulled in behind the fire truck and waited for it to move.  When it didn’t, I waited for oncoming traffic to clear before I proceeded down the left side of the road.  I drove past the fire truck, no problem.  Ahead, a pool of sapphire crumbs sparkled in the road, and further still was a car trapped under an 18-wheeler.  The deflated vehicle peered out from under the trailer, as sad and dominated as a poodle inside the clutches of a love drunk rottweiler.

    Over the radio, I heard a voice holler out, “HEY!”  I didn’t notice anything until I looked into my rear view, where a reflection filled the rear view.  A police officer was pursuing me on foot.  By the looks of his wild gesturing, we was instructing a plane for landing or signaling me to pull over.  I drove into my complex and parked in my usual spot near the front, rolled the window down, and waited to see what all the commotion was about.  The officer approached in a lunging full-out run.  The articles secured to his belt crashed upon his thighs as he galloped toward me.  Something told me to put both hands on the steering wheel.  

“DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME YELLING?!” he shouted, stopping short of crashing into my door.

He was panting heavily.  Before I could answer his question he screamed “LICENSE AND REGISTRATION….NOW!”

A piece of spittle blasted from the officer’s mouth onto my pants. 

“What’s the problem, officer?”  
“I'm not sure what you mean?  I live here.”

    Upon producing both items, he snatched them from my hand and ran back to the scene of the accident.  I had groceries in my car, seat belted into the back seat like a couple of toddlers.  After ten minutes alone I seriously considered taking the ‘kids’ inside for a bath before peeling off their skin and boiling them alive.  I began to wonder if I should I just put a note on my car telling the officer where I went.  “Dear Officer, I got hungry."  No, I can be patient.
    He kept me waiting for about twenty more minutes.  When the officer returned he questioned my sobriety, and I informed him that my own stupidity was to blame.  He returned my license and registration with a ticket.  Before parting ways, he offered some last minute advice for me to chew on. 

"Next time, don't be so stupid."

Isn’t that what the ticket was for? 
    I read the ticket aloud after dinner that night, overemphasizing each syllable.  The words were scribbled lividly upon the back of the citation,  “MR. PELL-E-TIER EN-DAN-GERED THE LIVES OF MY-SELF AND OT-HER DRI-VERS WHEN HE CARE-LESS-LY…”

May 17, 2010

Justice Files, Part 1

    You know you’re a novice driver when a state trooper pulls you over, asks for your license and registration, and you reply “No.  What do you want it for?”  For a first timer, I would describe being inside of a police car a ‘neat‘ experience.  I was sixteen at the time, driving my sister and her friend to school in my mini van when we were stopped.  We were typical late, as in, we would be able to socialize in the hall for around seven minutes before the late bell.  I was not speeding when the cruiser came up behind me -- I was preparing to speed -- that much was certain.  Oncoming traffic had to clear before passing the god-fearing vehicle in front of me.  Herein lies the problem -- it's not illegal to drive a vehicle 55 miles per hour on the highway; however, it is unlawful to do it while drafting two feet behind the vehicle in front of you. 

    As soon as I saw the blue lights behind me I looked to my speedometer -- exactly 55mph.  “What the hell does this guy think he’s doing?"  I said that aloud, dumbfounded that anyone should dare bother me on my way to school.  Maybe I should get his badge number after this misunderstanding, I thought.  Prevent this from happening to someone else.  The officer, however, was certain he had the right vehicle.

    As he finished the ticket, I was uninterested in the trivialities of appearing in court or paying the fine.  I was inspecting the array of gadgets implanted into the cruiser’s dash, overcome with the urge to push colored buttons and flip switches.  What would he do if I pushed the red one?  I could hold off on the buttons, but something inside of me was brewing a rebuttal.  Before exiting the cruiser I snatched the ticket from his hand, opened the door and blurted out “well, thanks for ruining my day,” and slammed the door.  It seemed very dramatic at the time, and I felt as if I had gotten the best of him.

    Of course it wasn’t him who was out of line for pulling me over.  The urge to mouth off to someone ‘keeping you down’ is on every teenager’s wish list.  I just happened to be stupid enough to do it.  What I didn’t count on was seeing the officer in court.  Or the fact that he marked the ticket with a star, a sort of scarlet letter, to remind him that I had been a dick at the time of the incident.  My attorney informed me that the officer wasn’t keen on lowering my charge of ‘following too closely.’   The two spoke in private for a few moments and settles on a deal - apologize to the office, or the charges stick to my driving record and I pay the ticket.  After it was over I did the math:  Each word of my apology cost me $50 a piece.

May 10, 2010

No Stress in Stresa

    We came across a dock with large, comfortable boats moored to piers.  The parking lot was teeming with men in white captain hats embellished with gold anchors.  The only people in Stresa that weren’t asleep must have been these captains and, of course, us.  We didn’t have a chance.

    “Boat, boat,” one captain offered.  “Go to the islands,” said another. 




Photo by Jesse Scott


May 5, 2010

Lost in Delirium

Je ne parle pas François.  I slowly repeated the words in my head.  [I do not speak French. I do not speak French.]  Despite having a French last name, when Takayo and I left for Brussels, Belgium, this was the only French I had mastered.  And by mastered, I mean mangled.  I’m no stranger to foreign lands, but for once, part of me wanted to know some of the local language.  Before we left Düsseldorf, I jotted down some phrases in a notepad and practiced them on the train.  My pronunciations were suspect.  However, for a city boasting the world's best beers, I'd most likely be mistaken for a stroke victim.

    There are some places that seem to ooze character the moment you arrive.  Landlocked in a sea of rolling green pastures, Brussels was like the Flying Dutchman with Marie Antoinette at the helm.  It’s the epitome of a beautiful European city.  We found ourselves in Grand Place, sandwiched between the Guild House and City Hall.  We fought past the crowd into City Hall to conquer the spire, but the monsieur behind the counter told me it was impossible.  Back out in the square, I overheard a man say, “this is one of the prettiest squares in Europe.”  It’s funny, but throughout the trip, those words stuck in my head.  Though it isn’t the biggest square in Europe, it was a place we’d return to many times. 

    We followed the signs to Manneken Pis, the small bronze statue of a boy, well, pissing.  As one of the stories go, (and there are a few) some troops put a two-year-old lord in a basket and hung it in a tree to encourage opposing troops.  The boy urinated on the opposing troops, who, instead of kidnapping the baby and holding it for ransom, lost the battle.  We strolled until we spotted a gathering at a seemingly uneventful street corner.

   They don’t tell you how trivial the statue seems out there in the real world, or that there are hundreds more on display in the Maison du Roi.  The little guys are decked out in traditional, pint-sized outfits from all over the world:  Japanese samurai, Elvis, Vatican choir boy, even a US Union soldier from the Civil War.  Sometimes they dress up the one on the street, but he was naked while we were there.  Everyone just took their picture with the small bronze boy, pissing away. 

    Ma fleur de pantalon à la tirette, was one of the phrases I had written in my notepad.  [My pants bloom at the zipper.]  Considering the outfits, I found it surprisingly relevant.

    Part of a country’s job is to pick a handful of indigenous items, build them up to mythical proportions, and exploit them for economic gain.  In China, for instance, Chinese food has become so popular, that it is just called ‘food.’  It’s the same with Belgians and the waffle, or gaufre.  After biting into one of these bad boys, you’ll never look at an Eggo the same way again.  We stumbled across a van sitting outside the Magritte museum:  Banana yellow, with hand-painted ducks on the side panel, the thing looked like it had rolled out from 1970.  I was instantly drawn to it. 

    There was a man standing inside, jiggling a waffle maker.  Vanilla scented smoke wafted out, and then the jaws swung open like the cover of an old book.  The waffle was an inch thick, and caramelized by the searing metal.  He wedged it between a piece of paper and handed it to me:  Crunchy on the outside, and slightly undercooked inside.  As they say in the waffle biz, it’s the best of both worlds:  A little slab of heaven.  I took mine straight up, not wanting to ruin it with a topping.  A-Team fans may disagree, but this was the best thing that ever came out of a van. 

    We had been in town a few days when New Years Eve rolled around.  Folks gathered at the Museumplein for the countdown.  When we arrived at eleven, an odd video was being projected onto the wall of a museum.  It was grainy footage of Russian soldiers stringing barbed wire in, what looked like, the prelude to the Berlin wall.  Defectors walked with their fingers locked overhead as armed men urged them along with rifle barrels.  We had only brought one can of beer apiece to the square.

     I wasn’t prepared for this shit.  And worse, the crowd was too thick to head back for more beer.  Kids threw confetti and blew horns.  Just before the fireworks display, a few guys climbed up onto the base of a stature and danced for everyone in the square.  Throughout it all, thirty foot soldiers rolled barbed wire barriers, incorporating a bleak element to the festivities. 

    Takayo and I wandered the streets, dodging people and exploding fire crackers until we found the Delirium Café.  There was a barricade holding people back in the alleyway.  We nudged past the crowd to see what the hold up was.  When I reached the opening, I decided to just keep walking.  A security guard threw his hands up.

    “I don’t speak French,” I said in English.
    “Do you have a girl with you,” he asked. 
    “Of course I do.” 

He saw Takayo and let us pass.  That seemed to be the only prerequisite for defeating the road block. 

    Inside Delirium, people were hanging from the rafters.  Of course, the place was full of piss-ants and douche bags, but there were plenty of folks that might have looked to me and wondered, “who’s this piss-ant douche bag?”  Fishbowl glasses of honey-colored beer sloshed atop every table.  Your first instinct might be tourist bar, and it is, but once you get a load of the beers on tap, it becomes apparent:  When it comes to beer, this place is dead serious.  Far from being a beer geek, I asked the bartender what he recommended.      “This one,” he said, yanking back the lever.  “Is a good one that I think is completely underrated.” 

    He chose a blond Belgian ale, brewed by a small local brewery.  Since most of the larger brands--Duvel, Leffe, Stella Artois--are exported, small breweries are stepping up to the plate in a big way and producing some damn fine beer.  There are around 125 breweries in Belgium, pumping out nearly nine thousand different beers.  Some of the finest beers are produced by the Trappist monks. 

    “For then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands.”
    --From the 48th chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Only seven Trappist monasteries in the world produce beer, six of which are in Belgium.  The most popular is Chimay, a top-fermented bottled ale.  Authentic Trappist beers are brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, and/or under monk control.  The proceeds must be directed toward “assistance” and not financial profit.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of the beer my beer master chose. 

    The place was a madhouse.  Takayo and I were standing near a U-shaped bench when a group stood up to leave.  I saved us a couple of seats on the bench.  Takayo went to the restroom.  A group of six filled up the remaining seats.  They were all twenty-something, but only one of them spoke English.  Her name was Natalie, and she translated for her boyfriend, Stefan, who was sitting next to me.  They seemed to be having a good time, so I broke out my notepad.  “Je ne parle pas François,” I said.  “Mais je suis un monstre de mer.”  [I can not speak French, but I am a sea monster.]  I’m not altogether sure why I wrote that down.  However, by the time Takayo returned, everyone was pantomiming and laughing like full-grown lunatics. 

    One by one, members of Natalie and Stefan's group disappeared like camp counselors in a horror film.  We all decided to walk across the alley to a different section of the bar.  At one point, I got up to find a restroom.  It was the strangest thing, but along the way I became inexplicably lost.  The walls began to breath like a sleeping animal, and all the table coasters went cross-eyed.  The bar had become a maze.  I walked for what seemed like thirty minutes, down rickety stairs, past strange woodland-folk conspiring around tree stump tables.  It was the walk of a cold-sweat dream. 

    A wrong turn dumped me into an alleyway.  There was no telling how I got there.  I walked up to a window, looked in, and saw the face of Whistler’s mother drenched in yellow candlelight.  There was nothing there for me.  I continued up the alley like the ghost of Jack the Ripper, balancing on the head of a pin.  It was another dimension, and nothing made sense.  Suddenly I heard a knock on a window.  I looked right and saw Takayo waving.  When I found my way inside, there was a glass of absinth sat on the table, burning like a chemistry set.  They asked me where I had gone, and I didn’t quite know what to tell them. 

    I fell ill later that night in our hotel room.  It was nearly six o’clock, New Years morning.  Unlike those dreams you don’t want to wake up from--finding money, shooting a gun--this was a waking nightmare.  The bed sheets--as well as my face--were covered in last night’s spaghetti.  

    “Call housekeeping,” said Takayo, tossing the linens in the farthest corner. 

It seemed like a good idea.  Hell, by that point, I would have walked off a cliff.  When I pushed 6, a tired sounding woman answered the phone.

    “Je ne bu bu…poly vu…”  [pause]  “I made a mess.”
    “Um, housekeeping, I need help.”  [pause]  “Hello…oui?” 

Perhaps I could have explained it differently, but in my state, the words just wouldn’t come.  The next thing I heard transcends language in every culture.  Click.  Housekeeping had hung up on me. 

     Throughout the day, I opened the window to let fresh air into the room.  Aside from those violent bouts of hurling, I heard the words of an Irishman, not a Frenchman, continuously looping in my head.   

All is quiet on New Year’s Day / A world in white gets underway. 

Although a chorus of truck mufflers were backfiring in my head, the morning light was pale and grey.  Snow fell softly upon the rooftops of adjacent buildings, and the world seemed like a peaceful place.

May 3, 2010

City, Map, Defeat

Six-story buildings curve ever so slightly down the cobblestone street,

like a movie with no outcome.

Have we passed this garbage pile, you wonder.

Her silence waits like a banana peel.

You feel the soot-covered men loading coal

in the pit of your stomach. 

Repent, they sigh. Backtracking is sacrilege, and 

The piss-ant handing out fliers already remembers your face.