blog, poem

XXVI

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that orange juice.

Two hours before, I watched a video of a man yelling into the desert sky, hollering about the urgency of being on the planet. The man cares and you can hear it in his voice. He’s out there yelling “your lungs are temporary” and “this dirt is so special” and “ah!” all loud, all over the desert. Listen to this man.

Listen to him!

Makes me want to shout it out. This earth is so goddam special. Being alive is jazz hands. I am so stoked about this.

Met a chick a couple nights ago who asked if I thought she was a “tit” and it made me laugh out loud. A real good chuckle, as I waddled back to my subaru, hobbling on my achey knee (on account of all the sun-running). That laugh echoed into the chilly night.

Dipped this mint tea bag into the hot water and took it in.

Stop listening to the shitty irony. The type of nonchalance that spews from the mouths of folk who grew up thinking it’s cool to not care about anything. I am so sick of this. I am so vehemently sick of this. Instead, you must rip out your heart and staple it to your sleeve.

I’m calling you out. Give it up.

The only two resolutions I’ve given myself this year are to give more gifts and meet more people. I think about my uncles who would walk around town shaking hands with everyone, holding doors open, making the chat. People love that shit. I love it, too, when the chat is nice and easy. I want to say hey to more strangers.

I’ll run a marathon in february. I’m not ready, but you’re never ready. That goes for it all.

Sometimes you have a dream that you’re waking up next to your old lover, and you don’t think twice about it. You just roll over onto them and fall back asleep in their hair. There’s no doubt that you can love someone your whole life, regardless. I wish we could be more honest about that.

Fuck, shit, and goddam are three words that academia is lacking.

Dallas Clayton is teaching us how to love again.

Wherever you go, leave flowers in your wake.  Leave flowers in your wake, burn pastel memories into the gray.

I’d like the girl I love to be there, at that race. I’d like her to be holding up a sign that says something good, something that gets my toes to the very end. I haven’t been too good about keeping love around, but I’ll work on it. One day, she’ll be there, and she’ll love me, and I’ll love her right back.

You gotta tell people exactly what you want, because traffic is loud and everyone is on their phones. Say it slow and well, and do 80%. Only then will you find your help.

I don’t think we need coffee scented candles, really. You just gotta put a pot of coffee on.

Certain words just grab the eye right, like “occult” and “pestilence”. The best part about writing is juggling around the alphabet and bending up all the rules. Lots of folks tell me I write nice, and I always tell them to read Kurt Vonnegut.

I read more Vonnegut this december. He has a way of springing up from the page and flopping right into your tomato soup:

he was watching the clouds. they were lovely things, and the sky they drifted in was, to the color-starved space wanderer, a thrilling blue.” – The Sirens of Titan

“A thrilling blue.”

That’s a good juggle.

I don’t preach it a lot, but eating vegetables is the truth. Everything else is poison.

Bowling is also the truth. Don’t chill with anyone who doesn’t want to bowl. They’re probably the same kids tweeting about wanting to die (ironically), forgetting that they will (unironically).

When your birthday comes around, take a minute to read all the comments. Chances are, you’ll be taken back to a real happy time with everyone that scribbles on your wall. Chances are, most of these people won’t know each other. But they all know you.

Weed is worth smoking once, but it’s not worth smoking once a day.

I want to give more gifts because it taps into the real warmth. Better if the gift isn’t something you can buy. For some odd reason, I think about the line Bradley sang back in ’95, about giving all your money to charity. The Chili Peppers sang about the same thing. A lot of us teeter on the edge of giving it all away.

I think we give it all away when we run marathons. When we conceive. When we teach a class, when we jump off a bridge somewhere tethered only by our ankles. When we hold up signs in the bitter wind at the end of the race.

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that sweet orange marmalade.

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blog, editorial

Bugs & Features

I’ve been thinking about bugs and features for four straight months.

Software devs have hated the metaphor since the birth of the internet. It’s too extreme; often bug reports are mislabeled as feature requests that need tweaking, or vice versa, and engineers don’t like prioritizing one over the other when needing to fix a program. I want to play with the concept regardless.

The simplest way to describe the difference is this: a bug is when a program is not working as intended, and a feature is when a user wants something from the program that does not exist within it.

In other words, a bug is ordering a beer and getting coffee. A feature request is ordering a beer at Starbucks.

“We don’t serve beer, sir. This is Starbucks.”

The customer understands he is in a coffee shop, but wants the coffee shop to also serve beer.

Another example: you upload a color photograph to Instagram, but it renders in black and white on your profile. That’s a bug. Wanting to upload a photograph to Instagram from your computer, however, is a feature that does not exist: the program is designed to only work through your phone.

For some of us, this is frustrating. We see features as bugs: we want to order coffee at the bar, like the Italians, because a place designed to serve beverages should also serve coffee. Coffee is a beverage, for Pete’s sake!  We want to upload to Instagram straight from our computers instead of emailing ourselves the image, saving it on our phone, then going through the app. To some of us, the features we want out of our programs (digital or not) seem like bugs.

I think this mentality extends into our personal lives and blockades our happiness.

This year was tough on everyone. We lost a lot of beloved artists. We lost a lot of political momentum. Apart from the Cubbies taking the Series and the Queen turning 90, this year was a tough pill to swallow. But I’m here to tell you that, although it feels like a bug, all of this is just a feature.

It’s how it goes. History tells us that. Art tells us that even better.

Ants (literal bugs) at a picnic is part of the picnic experience: it’s a feature of picnics. It comes with the brie and baguette, wicker-basket package.

I hear a lot of complaining. I’ve said many times that it brings me down. I don’t think that we have any room to bicker, even when it feels like we do. Even when your roommate eats all of your cracker jacks. Even when your bus blows a flat tire. I see a lot of my friends succumbing to cyclical nervous breakdowns and self-destructive routines because they are convinced the world’s dominos are stacked against them. I don’t think this is true.

I think it’s a matter of recognizing bugs versus features.

Athletes are very good at this.  Your three-hundred pound nose tackle, “The Fridge”, knows how to manage bugs and features.  The Fridge doesn’t go back to the huddle every down yelling about #53’s fingers in his eyeballs.  The Fridge just wants to eat the quarterback’s knees. He knows that it’s the center’s job to keep him hungry, that the offensive line is a feature, that, in his own words, “it’s just football, coach.”

Similarly, marathoners don’t quit running because of the hills after mile 15. Even if they didn’t look at the course map, they knew it was going to get tough. You won’t hear marathoners complaining about the hills, calling them bugs.

It’s a simple principal when it comes to the physical stuff, but I think we could all be a little better by keeping the perspective in tact with the intangible things. Fights with your lover aren’t bugs in your relationship. Working late hours during midterms aren’t bugs of your career. Going to your grandfather’s funeral isn’t a detour in the trajectory of your life: it’s as much a feature as dying itself. Your professors, your parents, your higher-ups, this year: these things aren’t out to get you. These are features of existing in this world.

Maybe the most charming post I read about bugs and features from a software developer concludes with the idea that it’s all a matter of little details. That the issues, be them bugs or features, are still just issues. It’s hardly worth distinguishing between them because you have to fix them anyway.

I like this idea, but it’s only useful once you understand the difference. The past four months have been a lesson in working with bugs and features, and in either case, I’ve had a problem to solve: How do I manage this challenge? I’ve learned this: bugs don’t deserve any of your energy, while feature requests demand all of it.

In other words, if you want to eat better, do not complain that ice cream exists, because Klondikes are bugs! If you want to eat better, you must spend every waking minute fantasizing about baby carrots. You must build your castle around the beet. You must salivate at the thought of a pea.

If you want to be a better lover, a better friend, an air pilot, a librarian, an early bird, a night owl, a city slicker, or a new resident in the next state over: squash the bugs. Put your shoes on and jump on the crunchy cockroaches.

Heading into the new year, consider your resolutions through the lens of the software developers, through the yin yang of bugs and features. Go forth and eat peas and eat hills and eat knees.

The Fridge believes in you!

 

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Ouroboros

When speaking to anyone, you must assume one of two things: the first is that their mother is dying, and the second is that they just made hot love.

When you assume these things, you will notice that is impossible to complain. I think we are being violent to our friends when we complain about anything to them, and even more so when we choose to be negative to those with whom we are less familiar.

Before you speak to your friends, consider the idea that their mother is dying.

Entertain this thought. Try to imagine what is living in their heart. Try to imagine tying your shoes in the morning, and losing the bunny knot, and erupting, because your mother, your mom, the one that taught you how to eat with a spoon, is not going to be around much longer. And you’ve known this for a while. It makes tying the bunny knot feel like an impossible task.

But you must tie your shoes, and make your coffee, and catch the bus, and go. So you push. And soon you receive a text saying:

“ugh, forgot my fucking lunch at home. kill me”

You bite your tongue. They don’t know, you think, don’t say anything. So you respond:

“mondays”

Such a fleeting, everyday, offhand and hyperbolized and unimportant comment. You know this, and yet somehow you feel worse. Your mother is dying, and kill me sticks to the gray tar lingering on your mind.

When you consider this, you will no longer want to yell at your friends. You will no longer want to complain about your exams, the traffic, the rain, the money on your credit card. You will likely not want to talk at all. You will see the weight they carry and try your best not to add to it.

What I’ve learned is that, no matter what, someone’s mother is dying, and most of the time they won’t tell you.

So you must assume.

You must also assume, in the fortunate event that their mother is in good shape, that your friend just made hot love. Today, he is quite jubilant, and is likely having one of those glowing, hopscotch, blue jay kind of mornings. Smiles and quick steps and holding doors.

You notice their bright yellow mood and squint your eyes through a mix of envy and disdain. How dare you prance about? My car broke down this morning, you sick fuck.

Like with a dying mother, this sick fuck is likely not going to tell you that he just got mega laid, either.

So you must assume.

And when you do this, you will again notice that the last thing that sick fuck wants to hear about is your shitty car battery. This is because his endorphins are raging through the roof on account of all the sweet, savory, sexy, sex he did this morning.

Soon, on account of all the complaining you haven’t been doing, you yourself will begin to notice the blue jays, the rain, the money on your credit card, your aging mother. You will see that you are desperately not unique in the face of a dying car battery. You will see that violence and death are indiscriminate, that traffic is an orgy, that you are now the one giving the exams.

You will see that all this, too, will happen to you (even the hot love).

And so, quite frankly, you shut the fuck up, make your coffee, and go.

It’s Monday.

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Mosquito

Are there moments for you, too, when you accidentally order hot coffee when what you meant to say was iced, but you only realize this exactly after the talkative barista has delivered, by hand, all that lava into the cardstock cylinder, all just a little too late? And you haven’t the heart to say “shoot, I meant iced” out loud, but you’ve certainly said it quite a few times since, in your head, as if it could freeze the cup before your first sip. And the credit card reader feels like doomsday.

And so you’ve accidentally just dissatisfied yourself in a wildly unique way, because your iced coffee was supposed to be a ‘to: me, from: me’ kind of treat, since you scratched a somewhat annoying ‘to-do’ off the proverbial list earlier in the day, and it felt like swatting a particularly obnoxious gnat out of thick air, doing that thing you had to do.

And then you must have a quick chat with yourself about gratitude, because this problem is mostly a non-problem, even though ice cubes would’ve really done the trick.

And do you also feel guilty for ignoring the beggars, knowing full well that you could help, but also cannot help in the way that would be of permanent good use? And ignoring them is likely the best you could do, yet in your head you think, rationally, “it is not my fault, it is not my fault” etc. as you pass them, feeling lucky for putting your headphones in just before you left the coffee shop, if only to save yourself a little bit of that guilt.

And yet, at the same time, you wish you could sit down and chat, and listen to their story. This fantasy occurs to you every single time you pass them on the street. But you must talk yourself out of it because “what if they never leave me alone? what if they don’t stop talking? what if they recognize me next week and need to talk again, or worse, what if they’re actually psychologically batshit, you know, the muttering and spitting type?” and so you just keep the music on and concentrate very hard on looking forward. You realize it’s very hard to not look at something that you’re telling yourself not to look at.

You arrive home and by now the coffee is lukewarm. You lament the $2.00 that you threw away, but remind yourself of ‘gratitude and the man with bugs in his teeth,’ all those conversations you had in your head just now on the bus. So you drink the coffee, begrudgingly. And the only way to redeem the hot vs. iced fiasco from earlier is to browse the web for bedsheets, since, again, you owe it to yourself. And so you buy bedsheets, knowing they aren’t what you wanted, but it feels correct to press ‘purchase.’

And the high of spending money is quickly eradicated by another gnat in the room, which is the paralysis of knowing you cannot afford to spend any more money. But it feels somewhat serene, later, checking your email and seeing an order confirmation for full-size argyle, thread count: a thousand. And you marvel at the technology of the world! You marvel at ‘order tracking’ and ‘write a review’ and the idea of a postman, an honest, hardworking postman, dressed head to toe in uniform, wearing a tragically endearing hat, delivering the sheets to your doorstep, with a smile, as the cogs of this system whir, humming, locked in place, spinning in your favor.

And slowly, this too, feels like hot vs. iced.

And so you sit in this chokehold of needing things that bring you more gnats.

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Thought-Mush

I’m thoroughly convinced that if we could extract a human specimen from the year 1739, a real Post-Renaissancey type bastard, and blindfold him, and place him in the center of Times Square, and spin him around like a child before a dangling piñata, and give him a real quick debriefing consisting simply of “hey bro, welcome to the future”, and quickly untie the knot, and yank that old handkerchief from his gangly and ill-kempt mug, and yell “tada!” like all facetiously and shit, and strike a real good thespian pose full of bent knees and irony, and beam a fat row of shinies at our poor old subject, our left hand out, grazing a chilly New York breeze, well…

Well I simply think that mother fucker would explode.

I think that the sheer shock of our world would send his old gulliver into oblivion, like an uncut potato in a microwave set on HIGH. A few seconds would pass, and the jester in tights would gaze around, mouth open like a great collapsed dam, drool gushing out in pure astonishment of the sights and sounds and suits and suites of La Manzana Grande, and a fantastic hemorrhage would split between his ears, faster than the lightbeams that Einstein spent years dreaming about riding, and the sheer lack of horses and carriages, and the sheer abundance of TAXI 777-7777’s in their wake, would simply send his Latiny-Smatiny brain right through his pantaloons, and the godsent stinky-faced mother fucker would instantly collapse, like a black hole, like The Witch-King of Angmar, like a timelapse of crumpling tin foil set to 1000x speed, you know, like, real real quick. And suddenly that bloke would be inverted onto himself, and we’d still be standing there all hat-and-cane, wide-eyed like the sold-out audience of a legendary comic, right before the punchline, almost ready to squeeze out a roaring HAHAHA even if the joke ain’t funny, even if the next line isn’t the end of the joke. We’d be there, goddamn, just hollering at that poor old soul, our trustee abductee, who simply couldn’t handle, or even fathom, or even understand, the chaos that is our everyday.

Anyway. I think about shit like that a lot. Like, how nuts this fucking world is.

I like girls. I just goddam love girls. I love women. I just love women to death. I really do. I love kissing women and I love looking at a real pretty girl that knows she’s pretty, and I love smiling at a real pretty girl that doesn’t know she’s goddam gorgeous like Aphrodite, and I love dancing with a silly ole eccentric kind of chick, out dancing at the pub, just grooving like a big beautiful fool, her curls bouncing around like a company of cake-and-soda nine year olds at a birthday party, in a jumping balloon, shooting around like springs, for hours and hours. Her hair is bouncing everywhere, and she’s jumping around all silly to the sound of like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons themselves, and I’m just trying to stay out of the way of her noodle hair that has vigorously taken over the dance floor, and the entire bar, and is now flowing out onto the damp roads of midnight, over the whole city, stretching as far as love can take you, and even further, ’till it’s just me and that hair, dancing around to good falsetto tunes of greasy-haired men and the smell of mediocre gin.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to just lose everything you have.

That it would be more relieving than anything, at least after a couple of days. You could find a place to run some hot water into a yellowed-up tub, in a Motel 8 or Hacienda somewhere off a highway, and you could lay there in that godlike hot water and just crack a big ole smile, and start laughing like a fucking madman, like a mad clown, at the trivial nature of owning things. You hear stories of folks who like, lose their entire estate to a fire, and a couple of months down the road they say something heroic like “I’ve never been happier! I have my health, my thoughts and my dog, and that’s all a man really needs anyway!” and a part of you wants to hold a real big bony middle finger up to that plastic smile on the TV set, and curse him for being so typical, just so cliché in the face of his tragedy, but another part of you is just damn jealous that this guy could take his life anywhere, jump on a train and head for the hills, for a city built in the clouds, for Atlantis, for Rapture, just pack up his dog and his thoughts and his memories into a duffle and live in the alley of Nowhere, USA, and you’re stuck with your satanically sharp set of cutting knives, and your discount recliner, and your thread counts and your iComforts, and suddenly you wonder what IS the boiling point of my life? and you semi-erotically, semi-thermodynamically, start to fantasize about your house going up in flames. You crave a good hot bath.

I like to look around at everyone. Sit in the coffee shop and look at every funny face that passes by and makes noise.

I’ve got sensitive nipples that get real hard in the cold, when I exercise, or when I’m vehement, like when a girl sits down quietly and recites her story about being raped to me, then finishes with “I’ve never told anyone else in my life before,” and I start breathing heavy through my nostrils, looking at my lap, and there they are, the nipples, hard as a rock, hard as her past, hard as those bloody visions of vaginal injustice, sticking out through the fabric of my shirt. My nipples also tend to become chaffed when I run, but only the right one, and only when I run real far, and but did you hear that people are still being raped?????

???????

I’ve got a cynic that’s buried in a vision of a better world and a happy life and a default setting that requires me to be nice to fucking everyone I know, even the folks that don’t deserve it, even the ones that have broken me into a million little ants of my former self, ready to rebuild the colony after a real big flood (that’s actually just a curious, yet criminal, nine-year old with a garden hose), but I’ve never been raped, but I was a shaken baby, and god damn it I thought I never would write that down, and now I feel that sudden rush to the heart, to the nose, to the eyes, right before you kinda cry and lose your shit, out of nowhere, but I can’t because I’m in a coffee shop and a sad song is playing, and I’m wearing a pink shirt, and that shit would be too good for anyone watching, headlines read LOCAL EFFEMINATE BOY TEARY IN STARBUCKS, SAM SMITH ON RADIO, but I spent my first Christmas in the hospital, tubes sucking goo and pressure from my skull, needles the size of number 2 pencils gauged into my brain, like The Matrix, pulling the trauma of the shaking and my jelly-like brain right out of me, leaving scars and dents of events I’ll never remember, that I never knew happened, if it weren’t for those scars, and those photographs, and statistically speaking I should be dead, or mentally dead, but yet here I am, and here we are, and I’ve never really told many people that before, and ain’t that just something?????????

I’m going to take a bath to Paul Simon’s Peace Like a River and imagine the love of my life.

~

I know that a lot of folks read The Leaky Faucet. I really, really, cannot thank you enough. Every time one of you comes out of the woodwork and lets me know…well, that’s magic. So if you could do me a favor, my dear reader, and reveal yourself, publicly or otherwise, if you got to the end of this piece, to where we are now. And just tell me your favorite color, just so I know you’re there, that you’re a face in the dark rows of velvet seats, invisible to the bright lights of the stage that is this space.

Just tell me your favorite color.

Grazie mille.

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Uncategorized

Cereal & Milk

Lately, I’ve been living by this mantra:

The mind is so strong!

“The mind is so strong.”

A big dream recently came true for me. Over the next six years, I will be pursuing higher academic endeavors, and be paid to do so, filling my little brain with bigger and bigger things. In response to such huge news, I’ve been thinking about my experience on this rock and all the little things I’ve learned so far. I’d like to share some.

The mind is so strong.

I’ve learned that your personal life is largely uninteresting unless it can be A) related to by means of past experiences or B) related to by means of future experiences. This is something that is widely misunderstood in the stuff we share on the web. I don’t mean to be a nihilist, but most of the things that we consider important are simply not. The sooner you recognize this, the more interesting you become. My rule of thumb: share what you make, including happiness, not what you do.

There is a difference.

I’ve learned that entropy is essentially the trajectory of existence. What I mean is: everything over time becomes completely more and more bonkers. I’m infatuated with this idea.

To understand it, think of a piano: keys, wood, paint, chords, the works. A piano possesses a low amount of entropy because it is highly specific in its order. In other words, there is only one combination of all those ingredients that make a piano.

If you put that piano through a wood chipper, the instrument effectively becomes a mess of splinters and ripped ivories. Its entropy is massive; the piano becomes chaos. And you cannot simply reverse this action: sending the pile of shit back through the wood chipper will not produce a piano, ever.

Our lives begin as baby grands. Our lives end as a million chunks of “what the fuck just happened?”

In between: the mind is so strong!

I’ve learned that you will suffer waiting for an apology,

that you can successfully live, seemingly eternally, in someone else’s past,

that some folks are simply uninterested in being nice to you,

and that all three of these things are out of your control.

I’ve learned that it’s much easier to whine loudly about the things you dislike than it is to be public about the things you love. In other words, it’s safer to tweet and talk shit about the people at your school, or bitch about finals, or generally complain about anything at all, because mutual lamentation is inevitable and celebrated (apparently). But remember: you always have a choice to share happiness and the power to make others smile. Why flood the aether with grunts and moans? Are you creating or destroying?

I’ve learned that a future relationship with my father is largely up to me and I don’t know how to handle that at all.

I’ve learned that creators never die and consumers never live.

I’ve learned that good sex takes shameless confidence and a childish sense of humor.

I’ve learned that loving somebody does not make them a good person. This is difficult to recognize and even harder to defend, but time always tells. In the end, it’s okay to love them anyway, but oftentimes should be done from afar.

And spring-boarding, I’ve learned that I’ll always love some folks regardless. Always.

The mind is so strong.

I’ve learned that running and reading are mostly the same: an exercise in imagination and endurance. A Vonnegut novel is a few mile jog and David Foster Wallace wrote a marathon. In the end, your mind decides how far you go.

I’ve learned that sweet peppers are marvelous snacks.

I’ve learned that you become who you listen to. This is an important lesson, since I think we’re quite innocently unconscious as to whom we choose as mentors. The Italian proverb “he who goes with the cripple learns to limp” pays testament to that. Who are you listening to? Who do you worship? You are their mirror.

I’ve learned that it takes a great deal of effort to be good at something you hate. Inversely, it’s easy to be good at something when you love it. So love it.

I’ve learned that I’m mostly wrong and too young to be wise, so take all this with a grain of salt. I don’t write to teach or preach or pretend to know anything. To quote the Dude: “that’s just like, your opinion, man.” I just write because I love it and I love it and I love it.

I’ve learned that everything is pushing you towards mediocrity; that nothing wants you to be great. Television sells comfort and shortcuts to instant gratification, but nobody is encouraging you to read a book or run for president. Your boss does not want you to be better than him. I’ve learned that the successful ones are the disciplined, and the rest are the distracted.

Finally, I’ve learned that the mind is so strong. What I mean is, you can learn anything you want, and there is so much to know. You’ll live your whole life learning things all the time. That is special, I think, and worth it. I like the ones that see knowledge as an infinite and insatiable frontier. I like the ones who recognize that you become your thoughts.

I’ll be moving soon, and I’m sure I’ll learn some more about cereal and milk and love and death and why we act the way we do. For now, though, I’ll be here, living out some tunes on this baby grand.

The mind is so strong.

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