Thursday, November 20, 2014

RETURNS

The arm is pulled, and the tape turns. The arm snaps back with a cold loud clack and the blade cuts the tape like a guillotine. These are the sounds of the Tapeshooter Model 100. I call mine Charlene. She's my little slot machine, this bookstore my casino.

Down here in the dungeon the three of us have our music. Cindy brings her CDs, and Tim's got some old tapes in his desk. Sometimes I bring CDs, too. Cindy brings hers so Tim won't put on the radio. He used to try to make her listen to his weird religion channel. I've been working in the returns department of a university bookstore in Connecticut for a year and a half now, and have another year and a half to go. This is where I'll ride out the Twentieth Century. I can usually tell when Tim will turn in his chair after a series of stepped-up sideways glances and compulsive adjustments of the desk lamp to inquire yet again about the redwoods.

I can tell because in hell everything is always the same. Right down to the damn minute if at all possible, maybe because the forceps flattened the back of his head, or maybe because of his religion channel, Tim has to do certain things in certain ways, or his shit gets all messed up.

In the inner sanctum, the day begins at 8:31, midway down the long dark walk past caged books with the pained strained look on Tim's face, that initial first glimpse, the same every time, speaking of some unutterable horror. Are your parents in the basement, Tim? What have you done with the bodies?

I set my coffee on the area of shelf near where I always stand. My spot, back off. Cindy turns around and beautifully beams.

"Mornin'!"

"Mornin'!"

Soon as I set my hand on that Tapeshooter 100, I put the room into gear. I revved that room so fast one time I tore it clear out of the building. Bopped around the electric sherbet countryside and gave everybody in it the ride of their lives. Long story. Management's had it in for me ever since.

The arm is pulled, and the tape turns.

Tim is department manager. And Tim can never be touched. I don't mean he can't be fired. He's got zero pull there and those over his flat head would gladly chop him up with a Tapeshooter all day long if they thought they could find anybody else to crawl along the walls half as well as he does. I mean he can't be touched because it freaks him out. If there's ever anybody else in the hall, Tim flattens himself up next to the wall and inches along it, bracing himself against invisible storms.

Cold loud clack.

The morning slides along decently greased with Cindy's Fleetwood Mac. Supposedly they'll be getting back together. Kiss is wearing makeup again. Cindy sits at the desk in front of where I stand, usually wearing her long hair down her back. When she's got it down she acts fine, but if it's pulled back that means she's in a mood. And she has shared her share of moods, that is for damn sure. At least she always comes back round, though. Plus she has weirdly sparkling eyes, and she's wearing her hair down today. 

When the CD is done, the sound of dipping oars takes over yet again. All the boxes I've filled with books to be returned to the publishers have to be entered in the system, given a packing slip and stacked on the cart for me to take to the pallet and wrap up later. Soon it will be break time. Tim will want to leave early in order to avoid the crowd. But Tim has another concern: He will do his very best to quickly slip away only when my back is turned.

Forceps.

"Well," says I, hefting tonnage, "looks like I better start entering some packages." Certainly an amiable observation.

"Comin' up on break," says Cindy.

By golly, she's right. I toss my empty coffee in the garbage. Gonna have to take out that garbage. That'll be a trip upstairs. Squeaking down in the seat next to the scale, I record the proper information, turning pulleys and levers, and making electrodes zap. Secretly reflected in the clock before me, I see Tim behind me start to leave.

"And you know," I say, "the thing about the redwoods is how tall they are." I turn around, smiling amiably. "I like the way they're so majestic and serene."

They know I'm here with my girlfriend while she gets her Ph.D. They know that I'm just passing through.

A couple coworkers pass by down the hall where the unread books stay caged. Tim spies this, then taps his calculator to create work sound, adjusts the lamp and, as I can see by his reflection in the clock when I enter another package, tries again to ease from his seat.

Suddenly my back is no longer turned. "I was watching the History Channel last night." Tim loves history, what with all the dead people. "Did you see that thing they did on Nixon?" He also loves Nixon. You have to wonder what he does to the bodies of his parents on the days he hears bad things said about Nixon.

Slim volumes of the Epic of Gilgamesh intrigue me. Not too expensive, plus employee discount. Determining to buy one, I plunk another 70-pound box on the cart, heavy as is allowed--"Hey, I got another perfect score!"--and plunk myself back down to enter a newie. I can see in the plastic face of the clock that Tim's found his chance. I consider suddenly bringing up the topic of Napoleon at Waterloo, but, in a grandiose mood, from the coffee perhaps, I allow the moment to pass.

I'm sure he's stepped up the beatings on the bodies in the basement. Someone has to think of them. Besides, I have a story percolating, a number of books here do intrigue me, and I need a few minutes to jot down some notes.


Monday, November 17, 2014

ESCHER DOCUMENTARY DEEPLY IMPRESSIVE




















METAMORPHOSE: M.C. ESCHER, 1898 – 1972
Directed by Jan Bosdriesz

          
Cutting edge biography of the Dutch graphic artist.
          
Math and art meet in the mind-blowing woodcuts, lithographs and more from Maurits Cornelis Escher. Although he had no formal training in math, his distinctive visual illusions that give the brain a workout are familiar to many as geometry textbook covers.
           
Freely available online, Metamorphose: M.C. Escher, 1898 – 1972 shows how a kid from Haarlem (Netherlands, capitol of the North Holland province) would lay down on the floor in the church and listen to the organ blast Bach, filling the walls, his reflection in the dome above. Good times for young Escher, and he always wanted to find a way to show it.
          
 “I hated school,” Escher says, “but the drawing lessons were always a great relief.”
           
This straight-forward documentary shows the woodcuts in jaw-dropping detail, the brilliance of which is offset by the stark lights and darks of piano keys. We learn of Escher’s love for the southern Italian landscape where he lived in his youth and which he idealized throughout his life, and for the woman he married, Jetta.
           
Mediocre student and fortunate son in a well-to-do family, Escher was able to focus on graphically illustrating an idea using as little as possible to be as clear as possible. The film itself is nearly as evocative and minimalist as its subject, gradually revealing the shifts in Escher’s evolving life.
           
When expressing ideas in woodcuts didn’t initially pan out, he turned to wresting from oblivion images of the daily life he saw around him.
           
Initially Escher considered his most enduring work involving Tessellations—regular patterns that divide a plane with no overlapping or gaps—as “an amusing game” inspired by Moorish tiles. What makes Escher’s work so useful to mathematicians is the symmetry of the endless repetition. A balance in keeping with what the ancient Egyptians called Ma-At.
           
Sketched hands that come out of the paper and into life, sketching each other. Stairs bending in impossible ways. Warped perspectives with the self-rendering artist at the center, holding the distortion in the globe.
           
Eventually Escher’s evolving genius was to link interlocking repeating patterns with human, animal, and fanciful imagery—“figures you can never actually see at the same time because one is the background of the other”—graphically illustrating concepts equally artful and mathematical in a picture too big to see.
  

 Stewart Kirby writes for
    

   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

UP CHUCK CLIMBED THE STUMP



beer in hand and on demand expounding, echoes resounding through the Community Forest. Ostensibly college students majoring in English, we drank McEwan's Scotch Ale and Guinness Extra Stout fortified in the natural turret of a tall redwood stump on a slope over the curve of the road leading up to the Community Forest parking lot, and there in the tree so well known to all stoners, its exterior chainsaw-carved with ancient-looking likenesses of animals and people, we guzzled great beer con mucho gusto and tore with our teeth into garlic bagels, smoking joints like emperors, and recounting tales of deeds done with weird women even as we planned for more.

The chainsaw-carved face of a man with a beard on the very same tree once saw us laughing at dusk coming on when the road stretched out forever from the mushrooms we ate, and all we could do was laugh and laugh with butterfly bellies and bendy knees way below the endless skyward stretch of trees, laughing past the university, laughing to the graveyard, where we made friends with the dead and comforted them before stumbling into a frat house where I'd once lived as the only non-member. The way Chuck went right on in while we talked that night, I figured he must have moved there. He opened the fridge, took out a bottle of wine, drained it outside and tossed it on the lawn, revealing to me as we made our merry midnight way that he didn't really know who lived there.

In the tree Chuck told me all about his waitress friend, young and blonde, who let him show up any hour unannounced late at night. Then he told me about a fight he almost got into, and asked me what I thought he should do the next time he saw the guy. The first big reason Chuck liked hanging out with me was because one time in an English class I had told a guy to shut up. The guy always sat front and center and monopolized class time. Happening to sit behind him one afternoon, I did find myself wishing he'd be quiet. I thought I was fairly polite about it, letting my wish slip out with an honest exhalation. At which point the monopolizer--and I mean everyone was sick of this guy, even the instructor--turned around and petulantly said, "Ex-cuse me?" Once he got all haughty that did piss me off. So I emphatically restated, "I said, why don't you shut up?" He turned back around. After that he got all quiet. And pretty much kept a lid on it the rest of the semester. Chuck loved it. I was his hero, and could do no wrong.

I don't remember what I told him about his fight problem. I think it was one of those times where I couldn't relate because I never would have said or done any of the preceding things that he said and did. He was always seeking my advice. He wanted to know what I would do. How to deal with guys, how to deal with girls. What should he say to the guy next time? Should he throw a punch? How exactly should a punch be thrown? When? Where? Then what? Should he ask a girl out? How should he do it? When? Where? Then what? It was always something, and I usually had the answers.

That night we showed up late at his waitress friend's apartment which she shared with a cute, pert brunette. As soon as we stepped in from the street unannounced, Chuck's young blonde waitress friend gave me a big hug. Chuck pouted at that while we all sat down on a small sofa and watched MTV. Chuck had his arm around his young blonde friend, and she sat between us. Closer to me actually than she was to Chuck. And he kept noticing that.

I looked over at the roommate. Fresh and full, short and shiny, ripe as a nectarine. "Golly," I said, unless I thought so hard she heard, "it's kinda lonely over here. You wanna sit with me?" She was wearing a small tank top and tight little shorts. She looked at her friend. And got the go-ahead. Why she needed to look to her for that, I don't know. She started to try to squeeze between me and her friend, but when that didn't work I did the gentlemanly thing and offered her my lap.

She sat down, leaned back. I put my big hand on her tan thigh, and hugged her with her head on my shoulder. She looked back at me as I flexed my length. "Does it hurt?" she sweetly asked. "No, not at all," throbbing I assured, a ten years-older total stranger having stepped in from the dark.


2


Then there was the thought of breaking down items, utilizing nutrients for the transmission of energy--what is energy? where does it come from?--and squishing out the residue in the form of putrid brown waste like some kind of bug or tank fish, which seemed incomprehensible. Time flew out the window. I could hardly believe there were people all around wasting the night lying on plush and cushy platforms called beds, in boxes within boxes called rooms and houses, and would all remain that way in a regenerative condition like larva until factors changed and they would resume function until once again they wore down, and all of that was normal and they did this synchronized without informing one another. Only I was awake and I was alone trying to remember the concepts of space and time.

Bugs slowly trekked across the living room carpet. A picture on the wall had someone called me, and beautiful reason I could trust called love. My stomach curdled. My legs took me upstairs. I had to be quiet. And I knew I could be in trouble if I didn't pound this fist into this hand. Legs propelling torso back downstairs. And count One, Two, Three. Look at meaningless clock. Time. Say the word. Reality. Mother Father Sister Brother.

Love

I still saw electric JuJu Bees if I closed my eyes. Swam in them uncontrolled. If I closed my eyes I wasn't sure if I wouldn't live. I was dizzy and my stomach gnurled. How could people sleep. Bugs. Consuming flesh seemed unnaturally bizarre. Bugs. The picture on the wall had a likeness of someone called me, and a reason I could trust called love. I had to go upstairs and tell her.

I sat on the bed. "Naomi," I said.

Sleepily she tried to reply.

"I love you," I said.

"What?"

"I love you."

"What? I love you, too."

"It's okay," I said. "Go back to sleep." One Two Mom Dad.

"It's after three." She sat up. "Are you all right?"

"Chuck and I did some mushrooms. I love you."

She brushed back her hair and took my hand. "Are you all right?"

She was love.

"I'm fine. I just wanted to tell you I love you. It's okay. Go back to sleep."

She plopped down, sighing. She needed her sleep. I tried to lie down. It felt like the grave.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"I have to sleep."

I sighed, heavily. "I'm sorry," I said. I needed to be up where there was light. After some time, probably moments, I said, sighing heavily, "I'm sorry."

"Stop saying that!"

"Sorry."

"Oh, god."

"It's okay. Sorry. I love you. I'm all right. Go back to sleep." I got up.

"Are you sure you're all right?" She needed her sleep.

"I'm fine."

"We can talk in the morning."

"I love you," I said.

"I love you," she said.

Downstairs in the bathroom I looked at myself in the mirror. I was okay with it. After awhile I threw up and finally felt calm enough to rest.



3


Getting our joint Master's in Lit and Teaching Writing, neither of us fit the Political Correctness agenda of the time. That being a point of identification, we started really logging in the forest education hours after we were dropped along with a few other guys from the Tutoring Basic Writers class literally because of our all being white and male.

"I needed those units," Chuck kept saying as we headed over to the Community Forest after finding out what they'd done to us. "I needed that money. I know it wasn't much, but it was part of my budget."

"Yeah. Now it'll be hard to get bud."

Having just rented Terminator 2 from the video store, I had to agree that Naomi was right. Chuck did look like the cop who gets his car taken from him by the T-1000. The way that actor looks, plus the way his hands are raised as he gives up. It's a slim moment in the movie, but Naomi made a point to back up the video and watch it a couple times because she's right and she never liked Chuck. Which I always thought was great... 













MORE
SOON

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WHAT ARAZATHRUST SAID

Arazathrust had been up in the hills a long time before he finally came down. Nobody had a clue who he was anymore. It was a shame because he had so much wisdom to share, too. What Arazathrust failed to take into account, however, was the advancement of the globalized world.

"Behold," he said, "I'm so wise, I'm like a bee."

"What the hell do you know about bees?" people said. "They're all dying off because of GMOs. Thanks for reminding us, fuckhead!"

Arazathrust tried again. "Well, forget about that. Man, you see, walks a tightrope."

"Tightrope?" people said. "What the fuck's a tightrope? You mean like with circus shit? Fuck you! You're the fuckin' clown in the fuckin' circus, clown!"

Somebody pulled a gun. Shots were fired. Arazathrust took cover behind a Chevy one ton. On the screen inside the pickup a TV news anchor screamed at a guest. Suddenly the engine of the truck fired up. Engine roaring, the truck jolted back and sharply turned. The skinny guy inside missing teeth had his window down and yelled never to touch his truck. "Raggedy-ass piece of fuckin' shit!" he spat.

Half the people around were addicted to pills. A shot grazed Arazathrust's leg. He had things he wanted to say about eagles and camels and self-overcoming. Grunting as bullets ripped into his side, Arazathrust went down on one knee. Things he wanted to say about poets...the virtuous...apostates...

The backs of heads appeared framed within the rectangular shapes in the sky caused by the fresh grid of chem-trails slowly dispersing as Arazathrust gasped. The small crowd which had gathered took a few selfies. Couple kids kicked him. He couldn't hear their voices, because all he could hear was a loud ringing, but he could tell that they were vocalizing.















AFTER ARAZATHRUST DIED

there was much outcry in defense of the rights of gun owners. This filled TV a long time, and in addition to the hysteria which increased gun sales, another result was also that civil ligation carried out against the deceased netted all appropriate parties tidy sums contingent on sales accrued by the deceased posthumously. The deceased had not only caused great personal discomfort to all present with an act so tantamount to terrorism when he publicly started trying to share ideas as to be close enough to terrorism to count, but he also had some kind of weird writings or whatever back in his cave that they could make money off of.

So they did.

Then there was a movie.

Based on that success, plus the video game and merchandising rights, one of the lawyers eventually made enough money to have his brain detached from his old body and placed in the neo-bone skull of a powerful and durable artificially created super-body. That guy called himself Lord Razar, and lived on a small island which for one hundred seventy-six years he ruled with two iron fists, occasionally obtaining increasingly subhuman caged cargo which he used for a variety of private purposes.





WRITE, DAMN YOU, WRITE

write because you miss your kid
write because of things you did
write because you have some skills
write because you have some bills
write for the people who can't ever stand you
write for the job you can't ever land you
write and almost find out why
write and almost never die
write because your heart is soaring
write because the TV's boring
write the scenes where you look rotten
write about things you've never gotten
write of the bodies you took from the morgue
write of your Saturday mornings with Korg
write until you puke your guts
write so you'll be less the yutz
write with a pen in your goddam hand
write a book so it gets banned
write so you can be a Mister
write and maybe play some Twister
write when you feel your very worst
write with gumption if you durst
write your ass off or be chicken
write or take your cosmic lickin'
write, damn you, write
and it better be good. 
 


Friday, November 7, 2014

LOVE CHILD



     I'd been having a great deal of sex with my girlfriend. She's old enough to be my mother, and I ain't no spring chicken. She told me she went through menopause and everything, so the last thing we expected was for her to be expecting.

     Or so I thought.

     She was cute as hell when she broke the news. We stood in the center of this circle she has on her floor, just holding each other. Looking deep into her eyes I told her, "You're gonna be my baby mama. You bear my seed. Even now, it grows in you. Gotta be some kinda record here." She giggled. Together we marveled at the mystery. Then, glowing with an impish grin, my girlfriend revealed that, unknown to me, she had slipped a Ouija board under the mattress. Plus did some other esoteric stuff. She's got that shit all over the place. I never thought there was anything to it.

     "You know what it was?" she said, explaining why she had operated in secrecy. "I was afraid you might not want me to have your love child." I told her not to be silly. We held each other, naked in the circle the way she likes, while she came up with names for the product of our union, all of which sounded like weird words in some forbidden tongue.

     A few days later, my girlfriend was showing. We were so excited. She had me pull down an old high chair from her attic which looked like it was made sometime in the 1800s, and she started wearing black maternity dresses. The sex was incredible. She cut her usual fun-time intake, imbibing-wise, down to nothing like a good girl. I read Rosemary's Baby to her belly. Religiously, we watched every episode of not only "The Twilight Zone" but also "The Addams Family" as well. The former being my call. I'm the hugest Rod Serling fan ever.

     This got cloying though, of course. After all that kinda crap nonstop, sometimes we had to resort to ETA Hoffmann and Franz Kafka readings just for a breath of fresh air. Then we'd dive into David Lynch and Craig Jones.

     One night about nine weeks later, my girlfriend started screaming. There was a rainstorm pelting outside, and strange, lasting thunder ominously cracked. "Honey," I said through the door to her room, "you okay?" Again with the screams. Well, long story short, my girlfriend gave birth to a weird lump that night, a white-ish thing that looked like a cross between a fist and a brain. It had one eye that blinked. I could never remember whether it was one blink that meant yes or if it was two.

     Our love child being a large one-eyed knotted lump, none of the antique baby clothes fit. I didn't want to say anything or be rude. It did seem a tad askew. I guess my girlfriend sensed what I was thinking, because she produced the Ouija board with a doleful look. The board was all bent out of shape and warped.

     "I wouldn't have been so rigorous if I'd known it was there," I said. She laughed sardonically at that and called me a liar. When I asked whether our love child was a boy or a girl, she said probably.

     "You realize," I said upon retrieving from her attic an ancient dusty stroller, "we're going to get some looks when we walk around town."

     "Who cares?" my girlfriend said, wrapping our blinking love child in wax paper. Bits of lint and cat hair were forever sticking to the raw, brain-like skin. When her black cat, Baggy, short for Bagheera, tried to spray our love child, I was reminded of Baloo and came up with Balloon as a nickname.

     "Balloon," my girlfriend said, shaking her head and chuckling.

     With a finger to my lips I cautioned silence, and we gently snuggled closer keen to observe Balloon interacting with Baggy. The roughly kidney-shaped mass of meat, moist as Spam and just as pinkish, spasmodically inched across the floor emitting thickly muffled grunts of what we took for joy.

     "They seem to really like each other," she observed.

     I was actually a little bit worried for Balloon because Baggy's a regular terror, and when he's had enough of somebody, he lets that be known. Sure enough, Balloon inched across Baggy's tail, and faster than you can snap your fingers Baggy whipped around to scratch. But he never once did. He stopped immediately because Balloon had suddenly loomed, that one lone eye eerily protruding, like one of those caterpillars with the big fake orb on its raised rear end for defense. Baggy backed away. Very quietly.

     "Wow, check out the love child stickin' up for the rights."

     "I guess they had to work it out," she said.

     Strolling around Madrani with Balloon, we went inside the Redwood Palace and showed off our miracle. The owners are really cool and congratulated us. My girlfriend thanked them. "I never thought at my age I could even have a kid."

     "We do have a lot of sex," I said. "Say, do you carry Spam? I have an old Mr. Potato Head eye I'd like to jam into a lump of Spam as a toy here for the kid."

     Grunting joyfully in the stroller, our love child excitedly blinked. Unfortunately, the Redwood Palace was all out of Spam. And this made our love child act like a total turd. You never saw such a meltdown. We were absolutely embarrassed with this outrageous behavior. My sugar dumpling looked at me like it was the responsibility solely of moi to calm down the bobbing ball sack spazzing out in the ancient carriage. Something in her eyes told me if I didn't get this familial public dysfunction under control, pronto, I wouldn't get any of this, that or the other.

     "All right, that's it," I manfully declared, laying down the law. "You calm down right now, I mean it." I looked over at my girlfriend like I'd just jumped a dozen buses on my motorcycle. But when I turned back and looked into Balloon's protruding eye now angrily upraised, something happened. Something that gave me a sense of what scared off Baggy.

     "There's a prince inside our love child," I told my girlfriend squeaking along outside the Redwood Palace.

     "Is there?" she said. "That's great!You know, I knew there was something special about that kid."

     "It gets dizzy when he does that," I confessed under my breath, passing The Avenue Cafe. On the other side of the street, I remembered, there used to be a gas station. The owner was my Little League baseball coach. I still have the trophy from our 1979 championship. And over next to that was where the Post Office used to be a long, long time ago, just like yesterday.

     "It gets dizzy when he does that," my girlfriend repeated, shaking her head and chuckling.

     I felt rather heroic as I ignored her. It did occur to me, strolling past the Burl Barn and the high school, checking out the sunlight streaking bright red up under the great big sexy blanket of clouds, she might have told me that inside our love child there could stand an antique royal fellow clad in tights and cape with a short sword and long-feathered cap.

     "Why didn't you bother to tell me?" I asked heading down the hill out of town toward the grove.

     My girlfriend took my arm. "Welcome to the real world," she said.