Thursday, September 9, 2010
I turn and look at Charles’ hand. The can is upright and I think about the forces inside his body which must make the beer spill onto his lap soon: blood pumping at a slower pace, muscles giving over to nothingness, fingers forgetting the purpose of objects. His mouth hangs open innocently, which reminds me of my Uncle Jim, asleep after every family dinner. Charles stirs, tips the can, wakes up and catches it at a 45 degree angle. His face registers shock and relief. We glare at each other for about 30 seconds without malice, without silent greetings, without meaning.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
He could only brace for what lay ahead by thinking of the squirrel dancing in white underpants. His son begged him to replay the clips until the dancing floored the boy with uncontrollable giggles. “Thkrul” was difficult to pronounce without front teeth, but Mr. Dancy-pants had become a weekly ritual. Barnabus Tilson felt his waistband for a well-tucked shirt, adjusted his belt, and straightened his crisp collar. He washed his hands, again, as he checked his shaved mug in the men’s room mirror. With squirrel’s dancing in his head, he returned to the previously crowded lounge to find a lone woman.
“Hello, MaryBeth Donahue?”
“Yes! Bar, so nice to finally meet you. From Jane’s description, I didn’t think you would be quite so tall. Please call me Beth.”
“Alright… Beth. Our table may not be ready… I am happy to buy you a drink.”
“Thank you. That would be nice.”
Her eyes grazed him completely, before the blue-grey glance made itself over to the list above the bartender - who suddenly appeared, to take her request. He imagined this happened often - people suddenly poised for command. It made her a formidable head of school. “I am glad we could meet before September.”
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
“Not something I ever thought I'd post on Facebook, but the more of the masses I tell the less individuals. Mom passed away yesterday at 6:35am. It was peaceful and since her body was no more a habitable place really the best thing. She will be cremated Friday and we're planning a remembrance party for mid-September.”
I am young, preadolescent. Their house on Grant Street; the Canned Foods Outlet parking lot; the generous backseat of an ancient car. Ferried between school and choir; Julie embarrassed by her sisters (one with Down’s, one just a brat). Thanks for the ride, Ms. Kaiser.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Crossing the Westside highway, a beautiful brunette, who was shaking her umbrella off, nearly punctured my eye. I stepped around, hearing the words “I’m sorry.” “No problem.” I replied. I walked across and into the open rain again. Drenched and walking, the umbrella girl kept pace with me. As I reached Greenwich street, I stopped for traffic. My peripheral vision caught sight of the umbrella girl making her way to the front of the pack until the rain stopped falling on me. A smirk broke on her lips as I glanced at her. “It’s the least I owe you.” She said.
Consider an equilateral triangle. It contains a patchwork of my life. I have an infinite stack of these triangles onto which I may parcel my life. Life experiences are the currency of friendship and I barter these parcels with my friends. A nail connects all of my triangles at their center. When handed out, each triangle rotates around this fixed point to a slight degree from the previous triangle. The points of the triangle that don’t overlap are experiences that only you know. Everything else is known by all. The more life triangles I hand out, the less unique I become.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The alarm sounded as I was emerging from a dream. I had been sprinting through a field, heading toward a delectable flank steak my roommate had prepared. I shook the sleep from my eyes, hopped off the couch and stretched deeply. It suddenly hit me: a profound need to urinate. Immediately. I’d had a lot water last night after eating the granola bar I found under the couch. “Damn it!” I cried to my roommate. “Let me out!”
Jessica heard her dog begin to whine. He grew insistent. She’d just replaced the living room rug – again. She reached for the leash.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The old tribe met up tonight, joyous yet politely restrained, something I, for one, was conscious of, perhaps remembering too well how unleashed our expression was when we were friends as kids. We sat round the round table, throwing memories into the mix, like ingredients to a delicious slumber-party concoction, instantly resurrecting long lost feelings in our seance summoning the spirits of little girls. It was a gift to us all, lending a break from current circumstances, good and bad. It's nice to go on trips, some of us perhaps more eager to return than others. I myself could have lingered...
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Face frozen, hands shaking, face flushes, stomach drops, brain swirls, breath catches, lungs paralyze, voice disappears, butterflies dance.
"Did you hear what I said?"
Mind races, eyes drop, eyes lift, tears well, eyelashes blink, jaw clenches, goosebumps pop, fingers clench, head jerks, ears perk, muscles tighten, nerves tingle, memories shuffle, cheeks redden, eyes close.
"I said, every time that I look at you, you take my breath away."
Heart races, hope rekindles, desires pulse, butterflies explode, hearing ebbs, muscles loosen, eyes open, relief trickles, breath returns, butterflies sleep, lungs loosen, eyes shine, grin emerges, tears fall, eyes meet.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Today I found an espresso in the most unordinary of places. A tiny New York alley, a rusty fire escape, and a small window. Inclined to order two, sadly, “just one” I said. The coffee was aromatic, warm, and it glowed. Suddenly, coffee for one seemed just fine. Before long, a second cup appeared just at arms length, down the bar. Its bouquet was alluring. I savored that moment as memories of other coffee houses journeyed through my head. I found the courage to take a sip. It was the zenith of espressos. For now, it will be coffee for two.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I sat at her desk and couldn’t help but notice her striking good looks, a perfect arrangement of nose freckles on a chiseled face enveloped by golden brown skin. She possessed the kind of beauty that would instinctively force a man down on bended knee in the hopes of calling her his own. I glanced at her prominently placed business cards, which read, “Nixzaliz Tavares, Personal Banker.” “Nixzaliz? What an interesting name,” I quipped. “Greek,” she stated matter-of-factly. Although the conversation had run its course, I asked for her business card with the intent of gazing at this Greek goddess again.
101 words may be too many to string together when words are not your thing. To a writer, 101 words - just 101 words - is like a sweater that's too small -- there's not enough material to go around. This is why I like the constriction of Twitter's 140 characters; it's a challenge (for me anyway) to be concise and still aim for a narrative.
I've invited some brave souls, my friends, to participate in authoring 101-word stories. This is not new. Sites like 101 Words offer a platform for budding and established writers to publish their short stories.
So in collaboration with some brave souls, I'll be posting stories in the coming weeks -- stories assembled in such a way that they serve as succinct reflections of the writers themselves. If you feel moved to contribute, I - we - welcome it.
-House of G
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I have World Cup Fever (a.k.a., FIFA Fever), and I am conducting a relationship with a Panasonic flat screen.
I once played soccer/football/futbol as a kid, so I'm not an adult newbie to the game. As a soccer player I sucked. I didn't even look cute in my uniform. My parents did spawn one kid that played well: my sister. And yet she has never contracted FIFA Fever. She's too consumed by baseball (yawn), and planning her wedding (I'm not allowed to yawn at this).
During the 2002 World Cup I watched games unfold in bars in Europe. Perhaps this is where and why I learned not to be so constrained about my emotions during a game. During the 2006 World Cup I lived in San Francisco, which boasted an inordinate amount of Americans interested in soccer. My friends and I had no problem finding places to watch games with other enthusiasts. These soccer venues had names like O'Malley's, O'Reilly's, and O'Neill's. My favorite was Martin Macks in the Lower Haight. They even served beans on toast. During those days I drank more pints than normal while the sun still hung in the sky, and I often found that after games my voice was oddly hoarse.
During the World Cup, in a pub, sitting on a stool, in a soccer jersey, or other patriotic accoutrement (I favor headbands) no one sits still or stays silent. Everyone is editorializing, scowling, exuberantly jumping up and down, screaming, and during the more emotional moments, shedding a tear or two. Maybe that's just my behavior.
But, seriously, who didn't well up when North Korea's Jong Tae-Se sobbed as his country's national anthem resoundingly filled Ellis Stadium in Johannesburg before the match with Brazil? (I thought all North Koreans had learned as good proletariat children how to block their lacrimal glands when moments of human emotion pierce their propaganda-blazed armor.) This is just one example.
A soccer game is a 90-minute narrative in motion (with added time). It's the only game that from the opening kickoff to the final whistle blow includes a colorful cast of characters (on and off the field), a conflict of highs and lows across the pitch, climactic goal attempts and blocks, and a resolution that can still end in a draw. Critics like to point to a conclusionary tie as nonsensical and a reason to hate the game. I pity those fools.
A soccer game is not predictable. Even if a team has the best individual player (or a few) in its lineup it has to work cohesively in order to set a rhythm that allows for the end perfection of a goal, or a human shield-in-motion that stymies the other team's assault on the penalty box.
A soccer game during the World cup is not just another soccer game. National pride is at stake, and it all takes place on a global stage. I'd even argue that soccer, more than any other sport, is unifying. It connects people whose love of the game transcends individual circumstances across continents, from favelas, pubs, living rooms, standing-room-only storefronts, to high-brow lounges. It knows no economic class, skin color, age, or favors a particular political ideology. Differences, for around 90 minutes, are swept aside.
Individual ego also has to be swept aside or it can blow up a team's chance to advance (mon dieu, Les Bleus!); it's the collective that matters. And we, through the teams we cheer for, see ourselves in that collective as it plays and pushes itself to physical and mental limits -- and possibly beyond to soar to greatness.
The World Cup will end on July 11, 2010. Afterward, normalcy will prevail. Until then it's me and the flat screen, or O'Hara's down the street, and my sequined patriotic headband. And, my equally fevered roommate (with matching headband). My days are scheduled around ESPN, and my quest for the perfect American flag bandana continues. Viva World Cup 2010, the first World Cup in Africa, and may the best team prevail in hoisting the golden orb, the FIFA trophy, and may it not be Brazil. OK, fine. If Brazil is the best team.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Are New York men a different breed than the California variety? Can I get through this post without sounding like Carrie Bradshaw?
I am new to the Tri-State area. I am a transplant from my home state of California. There are differences. But there's an indefatigable maxim pertinent to any state and social setting: when guys get drunk they hit on girls. There is a corollary: when girls get drunk they hit on boys.
In this post I will focus on the former dictum in an attempt to help my genuinely clueless and mostly well-intentioned brethren not screw up the first five minutes of talking to a group of ladies, or one in particular. You can screw up on the first date, or beyond, but if it's the first date you'd like to clinch, please stay with me. I may or may not be relying on a recent outing with lady friends. Like, last night.
How Not To Hit On A Collective Of Ladies (or one in particular)
a) Do not brag about how much you make per day without any prompting [and within two minutes of introducing yourself]. P.S. Revealing your per diem salary rate is weird and unimpressive. Talking about your involvement in initiatives to end genocide in Darfur, for example, means you can extricate yourself from your own ego bubble and personal shit. This is impressive.
b) Do not immediately reveal that you are looking for a wife and to "spread my seed", and that you want to take said wife and products of the aforementioned seed back to Toronto. Toronto is cold. And, not every woman is instantly game to jump on the matrimonial bandwagon. With a stranger in a crooked tie.
c) Do not offer that you hope to have a fortune of $20,000,000 when you retire at 65 to live the life you believe you are entitled to in your golden years, but that "it's really not that much", because "bonuses these days suck". You know what sucks? The patronizing look you gave us when we said that money isn't everything.
d) Do not confess that you are driven to achieve great wealth because of childhood issues that have driven you to fiercely compete with your brother, as your fun-guy-party-mask slips and reveals a vulnerable adolescent clad in Brooks Brothers. One more thing: Cain & Abel stories are so out of context at a beer garden -- especially as you keep talking and we drain our mugs dry. And remember, we only met five minutes ago.
e) Do not express surprise when we demand compensation for a mini therapy session or another pitcher of beer due to your hijacking of the "conversation". Attendance at a beer garden usually involves good brews, merriment, glass mugs that are hard to lift, and maybe even french fries. It doesn't, and shouldn't, involve vomiting deeply personal issues to a group of strangers. Even if they are wearing lip gloss, and might have some empathy....which is quick to evolve into...pity.
f) Do not express even more massive surprise that any of the ladies you are attempting to charm hold MBAs, and then try to recover by asking "but tell me, what do women REALLY want?"
Dear resident of Toronto, with your pretty BlackBerry, and your new-lucrative-according-to-you job at a financial services company in Manhattan:
Desperation, in any form, is never, not ever, really, never, ever appealing. Not even when it's cloaked in a really nice black suit with an awesome tie, or slightly numbed by pitchers of beer. It takes some serious pelotas to just appear in front of a group of ladies, sit right down, and introduce yourself. As a residually shy person, I give you props.
You may be obsessed with making money, and really, to each his own. We all have our obsessions and gaffes and quirks, but my advice - if you want any hope of locating a wife and unfurling your seed - is that it's best to keep the dark stuff, the skeletons, the vulnerabilities, in your back pocket during those initial delicate moments of social interaction with the lip gloss crowd -- rather than splay them out on your Italian wool sleeves, leaving your target audience covered in a thick scum of *too much information*.
My advice: keep it light. Make us laugh. Maybe offer us another pitcher of beer. Don't draw an immediate spotlight to your intentions [we can already guess]. We don't like to pull a verbal smack down on a stranger during a ladies' night out. But, we will.
The Ladies with the pitcher of Hefeweizen
Sunday, February 14, 2010
A good friend of mine is a kindergarten teacher. Her stories on the kids are fascinating -- their antics, their parents, their obsession with stickers, and most of all, their truth zingers. There's no honesty more brutal, or deft, than the kind of skinned truth delivered by a 5-year-old not yet conditioned by social graces.
My friend, who loves her job and wouldn't want any other, also hates Valentine's Day with the kind of passion that, if harnessed, would be enough to shift a pair of tectonic plates. It's the only holiday she wishes were banned from the school calendar. Not because of the holiday's high sugar content, but because it always, always involves pain. She walks away from the day cursing Hallmark and drenched in pathos.
She's explained it to me this way: 5-year-olds are in some ways exactly like adults. They may be smaller and wear cartoons on their clothes, and have an unnatural fondness for apple juice, but they still have feelings and emotions like grownups. They just aren't as equipped or accustomed to managing their feelings and emotions like their more jaded adult counterparts.
[Quick side note. We all know grownups who never developed the emotional fiber to tackle any feeling more profound than fear, which might explain the mind-bending support for Sarah Palin. Could we also blame a case of stunted emotional growth on a long-ago Valentine's Day involving a metaphorical heart stomped to metaphorical gore right over glitter-strewn carpet? My friend would answer with a resounding "Yes".]
This is why when a 5-year-old has a crush, and the crush does not respond in kind (which, arguably can happen on any day of the year, but let's face it: the likelihood skyrockets like a motherfracker* on February 14), said 5-year-old experiences the exact same kind of shattered-to-the-core heartbreak adults get drunk over, and adult poets get really drunk over. But, a heartbroken 5-year-old obviously can't choose alcoholic obliteration, or a myriad of other vices drawing on the over-hyped Seven Deadly Sins, and sugar cookies don't just make it all better. At least not right away.
So every year, among the paper hearts and associated craft provisions, my friend is on high alert for code red heartbreak: the kindergarten version. All she can do is offer kind words, a hug, and pray that any trauma profoundly felt is washed away by the pebbly sands of time. She knows, though, that kids can hold on to the memories of early heartbreak with a fierce tenacity that outlives childhood, roosts comfortably in adulthood, and then occasionally leaks out in one form or another after a few cocktails.
I don't remember feeling wrecked as a kid by Valentine's Day or unrequited love. I was one of the lucky ones; I was never heartbroken before I had braces. And if I broke some kid's heart back in the day, I don't remember. I do remember the heart-shaped, pastel-colored candies that tasted like a combination of mild, mint toothpaste and envelope glue. I remember red-foiled chocolate kisses, sugar cookies, heavily frosted cupcakes, the omnipresent red punch, and that washing baked goods down with that red punch resulted in a weird, unsavory aftertaste.
These days, my Mom is my standing Valentine. She has given me a card and chocolate ever since I could talk, even when I was in college, and even when I railed against the corporate greed of retailers. These days I also conveniently use the day to polish off a box of chocolates, generally in one sitting, and justify my sweet gluttony on the fact that I achieved it on a holiday.
Happy Valentine's Day.
*I don't endorse use of the word "frack"; it's just plain leotarded. But, my Mom might be reading this.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I finally realized that my break from life (and as a corollary, contributions to this blog) has reached the one month and one day mark. For shame. I've dusted off Christmas, turned my back on (most) sweets, which have debauched my waistline, and am now ready - with drawerfulls of clean clothes - to face a new year.
I'm taking on this New Year with renewed verve, a new plan, a supportive family, freakingly fantastic friends, and a career spigot that has turned up the professional juice. More on that later.
I don't know about you, but in 2010 I'm ready to never hear the surname Gosselin again, and hoping that healthcare reform leads to insurance reform. You can't have your yin without your yang (it would be unwise) and genuine healthcare reform cannot occur or be sustained without some ass-whippin' on the insurance front. I am also smarting over paying $400 for a basic medical test my insurance company refuses to cover.
In 2010, I do not care if Kathy Griffin F-bombs her way through primetime TV every night for the next 359 nights, hope that one of my favorite books, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is awesomely adapted to the big screen, that my friends the Linnebur-Smiths sell their house so they can move to New York City, that my sister kicks ass on her upcoming test, that Angelika Makkas won't rescind her invitation*, and that when I wake up tomorrow chocolate in all forms will appear repulsive to me.
I wish for many, many more things, silently and brazenly, but I mostly wish this: May this New Year bring you and yours more of the good than the bad, lots of love and gut-aching laughter, the kind of change you hope for, and many spirited and synchronous moments that convince you the universe is nothing if not on your side.
And with that, I leave you with two new songs to get the year started off on a portentous musical note.
*Vampires must be invited into a mortal's home in order to enter. Otherwise, they remain barred, in all their pale undeadness, at the front door. Upon having an invitation rescinded, vampires are physically forced to leave a mortal's hearth and home. It's only fair. Mortals get to keep their sacred spaces vampire-free if they so desire, while vampires get immortality and astonishing strength (apparently).
If you remain as unapologetically enamored as I am of the Twilight series, I highly recommend two things: HBO's True Blood series, and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. Those two recommendations lead me to this: I have one more New Year goal: To read enough Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to make up for all the vampirically-themed forms of entertainment I continue to pursue and digest. It's only fair. Part of me can be intellectually if bleakly engaged, while my more torrid side continues to be delighted and thoroughly entertained. By vampires.