Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A short bit of fiction about losing an eye and waking up in an alley.

To say that the pain was blinding would be an understatement.

It was all over my face as soon as I woke up. The pain, the suffering, the feeling. All the things that characters in movies shout about when they get plugged in the kneecap. But I wasn’t shouting. Not about the pain, not about anything. I was trying my hardest just to breathe.

In and out. It seems like the simplest thing in the world most of the time, but when you can’t…worse than drowning. It’s not like the oxygen isn’t THERE. I’m not holding my head down in the tub, trying my hardest to bump myself off. The air is all around me, and I want it. I want it as much as I’ve ever wanted anything. But I just can’t seem to get it. Can’t breathe. Can’t see. But I can feel it all just fine.

I move my hands up to what had once been my face, instead finding thick and slippery fluid where my average features used to be. The streaming liquid gets in my way, my sight, my breath, my thoughts lost amidst all of the pain. My hands press against the remnants harder, hoping to feel the familiar contours beneath all of the mess. I hear my fingernails clicking against something, and my hands move into action.

They grab and pry my jaw open as if it belonged to someone else. The jaw wrenches itself against the motion, but my hands are firm, my hands are still strong. And when the jaw itself is open, I lose the sound as well. All becomes lost beneath the unbearable sound of buzzing, as a torrent of hornets stream from my throat.

I try to scream, but I gag and choke instead, the stream of buzzing beasts still flowing with no sign of stopping. I find my legs and run, run anywhere. Run away from myself, from what I had become. They still move from my mouth, stealing my hearing and whatever tiny bit of sight that I had left. But I can still feel.

I feel them swimming through the air around me, slipping about in the oil slick of blood that covers my face, taking their time, not stinging me yet. Not quite yet. But I can still feel them touching me, touching all parts of me, singing the horrifying onomatopoetic song that they’re known for, the sound as terrible and as beautiful as their pulsating little bodies. And somehow I find water.

It’s a small depression at the end of the alley, some oversight in construction made worse by curious people digging out what insides it had left. Leftover storm water fills out its space, making it appear somewhat solid unless your foot had the fortune of sinking into it. My head goes under that surface, and I willingly gulp down the slimy brown water. I keep it down, losing the sound within the icy womb of the puddle. All I know is that I want to drown the little bastards.

Time has yet to show itself to me, so I have no idea how long it is before I pull my head free from the water. The alley is lifeless now, the shadows strewn about in a casually menacing manner. They remind me of that room. But that thought is lost when another stab of pain comes from my face. My hands go up to the surface that is less covered than it was before, and I feel the inside of my right eye socket. Empty. The blood still gobs out of the hole, and I stagger forward, looking for whatever help I can.

With one hand pressed to my socket, I find the help with the hand and eye I have left. My body stumbles out of the alley, towards the glow of the Thrifty that lies across the street. My fingers grip the cold iron of a pipe that had just been waiting there, waiting for me to use it. The glass bangs against my pipe, refusing to yield even though I’m giving it all I have.

The blood still is moving out, streaming from around my fingers, as my other hand moves and works against the glass. When it finally does shatter, I barely even notice. It just seems to give in, it finally stops resisting. It falls before me.

As I step in through the wreckage of my own design, my mind wanders again. Wanders to an image I had, one that set itself into my mind before I even knew what was happening to me. My eyes stray to the clock that glows red on the pharmacy wall. 2:35 AM. It had all only happened a half hour ago. He had slithered in during my shift, the late shift at Kinko’s, just as I was about to step out. My coat was on and everything.

My free hand helps guide the eye I have left, eventually coming across a roll of pure, clean white gauze. I take my other hand off my face, the fingers now sticky with my own fluid, and ball it up to as accurate a size I can manage. In it goes.

The man had only wanted to make some copies, it seemed innocent enough. But when I looked at the papers he wanted, strange things with words barely filling the pages, sentences incomplete or impossible to understand, the image flashed within my brain. An ancient typewriter, covered in ominous shadows like the alley outside. The typewriter is alone and motionless, but the familiar CHUN CHUNK sounds still fill the air around it. The air that isn’t full of swarming, silent hornets.

My hands tremble as they shove the wad of gauze, the surface no longer clean and white, within the space caused by the gap in my consciousness. It had only been a half-hour ago. I wipe the blood from my fingers with the remaining gauze on the roll, tainting it. Just 30 minutes. My hands lead me around once more, until they finally find the roll of silvery slick tape that I had been looking for. It had barely been any time at all. My precious fingers tear off a small square, one just large enough to cover the hole. A half-hour. The gauze has staunched the blood a decent amount, and the tape manages to stick without much trouble. 30 minutes. The tape is reinforced with two more squares, and finally my hands are free.

It’s good that they’re free, because I’m going to need them.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A blog entry.

So I’ve decided to write a blog entry. This was never something that I had expected to do, but today it just seems…it seems like the right thing for me to do. It’s a small thing, really. But that’s just the point. It’s the small things that matter the most. The big things, everything, those are what can be taken in stride, we take them in, we think of them, we say we worry about them. But these aren’t what really mean the most in our lives. It’s the small moments, the countless scratching on the back of our necks…they mean the most. They do.

Today I walked to a Borders. This isn’t anything shocking, it’s something that I do all the time. When I went in there, I decided to walk directly to the small section of wall that features the books by Haruki Murakami. Once again, this isn’t anything strange. But today I was there with a specific agenda.

There’s a person on myspace who I’ve been idly chatting with on the subject of Murakami lately. I told them that my favorite book of his was without a doubt The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. They told me that their favorite was South of the Border, West of the Sun. I had yet to read this book, so as I strode towards the bookshelf, I figured that I should finally get around to giving it a look.

I read that book today, in one sitting. I walked down the stairs and sat in a comfortable chair, one near the selection of comics and manga. I read the book there, although the amount of time it took me to read the book isn’t the point. It isn’t the point at all. This is about the shiver that refused to leave me when I was done. It’s about the fact that Cab Calloway found his way over the live speaker at that very moment, his spectacularly singular crackling voice making the whole experience all the more real. Or perhaps unreal. I can never be too sure.

A book about life and love and books and music. More than just music. Jazz. Pure Jazz. It’s about so much, more than what a guy like me can handle. And maybe that’s what the real point is.

I cried. It happens sometimes, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. But as I cried, I thought. I thought of many things, of life in general. But mostly I thought about the book that I’m in the midst of writing at this very moment. It’s a book that features four principal characters, all of which feature some aspect of my own personality. All of them have something which they always have an unending supply of, as well as eternally dark eyes that do nothing other than draw people into their own madness. The book features many moments of musing on the substance of their own lives, in the pretentious way that assholes like me tend to put things. It also features a man with a large pair of scissors and a weakness for “The Pillows,” fighting a Hindu man on roller blades who swings about a guitar. I thought of this book of mine, and I was ashamed.

Ashamed that in a world where The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and South of the Border, West of the Sun exist, all I could be bothered to produce was some stupid bullshit pulp. And I’m even more ashamed that it’s bullshit pulp that I love with all of my heart. I love all four of my characters, Nelson May, Carl Houd, Max Weiss, and Simon. I love Nelson thinking about everything and nothing while riding in the back of a bus, and I love Carl being brained with a spatula by a British man in the back of a Laundromat. I love Max sitting in a prison cell while knee deep in cigarette butts, and I love Simon walking in a hotel while knee deep in corpses. It’s confusing. But it is part of me, just as the book I read today shall be. So today, I am a man crying in the face of beauty, ashamed of his very own hand.

I don’t suppose that this really means much. But as I said before, it’s the small stuff. That is where the importance lies. After I read the book, I stood up and rested it gently upon the seat. I couldn’t bring myself to put it back on the shelf. No, I had to give someone else the chance to come across the book and discover it for themselves. As I walked out of the store, I remembered the movie “Orange County”. Guess I’m not that original after all.

It was cold when I walked home, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to take the bus, or even put my aching hands inside the pockets of my coat. The coat was one that I bought at Costco a long while ago, and it’s a coat that I’m very fond of. On normal days, I wouldn’t think twice of putting my hands within the folds for warmth. But it didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem like the real thing to do. I just wanted to experience the cold, feel it against my skin, even though my hands felt stiff and my ears fell off. So it goes.

So here I am, sitting here writing this for myself and possibly for people that won’t bother to read it. I might make a cup of tea and watch a movie, I’m not sure yet. Right now, I’m still thinking. About the latest chapter that I’d written for my book. The chapter is titled “…” and it’s only two sentences long.

“A shapeless man cries out through a rainstorm of tears. No one answers.”

In a simple, wonderful way, I’d say that it reminds me of myself. It makes me happy.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A book review?

This isn't a true blog entry. This is something that I wrote some time
ago, for a website which is now dead. But I liked this article too much
to just let it fade away. So it goes.

-Penn Jillette

“All the true things I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.”


As I begin to write this, I have no idea what it’s going to be. It’s
something that I’ve been thinking about all day, while I washed some
cars, while I felt sweat escaping down my back, while I watched “The
Professional,” and wondered why they were playing Jean Reno as Italian.

I want it to be about a book. But like the book, I want it to be about
truth. Truth about the world, truth about religion, truth about me. I
want it to be about art, the artistic, and those people who say they’re
artistic, even if the really aren’t. I plan to ramble, I plan to
preach, I plan to come off as the stupid asshole that I know I am. I am

I’m afraid because the truth is a frightening thing. It scares the shit
out of us every day, so we turn to lies to soften the blow. To make our
peers look at us like they look at everyone else, instead of with eyes
that show derision and disgust, or that morbid curiosity that might be
the worst look of all. We lie to make ourselves feel better as well,
explaining things away, taking the edge off of something that could
otherwise be terrifying. We lie to protect ourselves.

But the truth shall always be more important than lies. Sure, everyone
lies, it’s a fact of life. Lies have their uses and their place.
Parents tell their kids different, to always tell the truth, but while
they do this they lie more than anyone, and as harmfully as anyone. In
their attempts to protect the innocence of their children, they weaken
them towards the world. A lie about truth, is the worst lie of all.

It also happens to be fairly common. The things that claim truth
above all else, usually lie the most. Look at psychics. Look at
evangelists. Look at your own damn parents. Look at Fox News, with
their campaign for “Fair and balanced.” Everyone knows it’s bullshit,
but they don’t care, and just lets them lie to our faces. The liberal
media is no better, claiming to be not sway in either direction, but as
with Fox, the bullshit is the same. And we let them get away with it.

Look at politics as a whole. We need a Mr. Smith, but we get a Mr.
Bush. Governments thrive on lies, which is inevitable. It simply stems
from human nature. The “power corrupts,” quote may be overused by
now, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Bush lies.
Cheney lies. Reagan lied. Old Bush lied. Clinton lies, and he’s just as
bad as all those other fuckers. However, the thing I will give Clinton
credit for is for being a first class politician. He smoothed things
over so beautifully, it could be seen as beautiful. Few things are as
satisfying as seeing someone do their job really well.

So when everyone lies, where do we get the truth? From the ones who say
they’re lying, of course. You can find so much more truth, meaning,
life, soul, heart, and peace from someone who admits from the get go
that they’re lying through their teeth. Which is why fiction is such a
wonderful thing.

The book that lies at the core of this article, rant, bitching,
whining, whatever you want to call it, is from someone who isn’t taken
as seriously as he should be. Penn Jillette, the taller, louder half of
Penn & Teller.

Most don’t take these two seriously because, well, they’re just a pair
of fucking magicians. Entertainers. They do tricks. They act. They work
a profession which is built on nothing else than lying with a straight
face. And when they do it, they show nothing but truth.

That’s the sensibility that transfers to this book, Sock. Penn is a
forty-nine year old atheist from New England (no god and none of your
goddamn business) who has managed to put himself into a book about sock

monkeys, police divers, and murder. It comes together as a whirlwind
pop culture noir, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
This is him.

This is a book that is about living in general, more than it is about
odd occurrences and a search for something. Like Murakami’s masterful
Wind-up Bird Chronicle, it’s about moving through things one step
at a time, as well as taking things into your own hands. But it’s a
book for atheists, by an atheist. It’s a book that speaks about death,
from a man who just lost his parents. A book that’s more frank about
sex than any of those cheesy romance novels that our pumped off an
author assembly line (and by the way folks, Gone with the Wind is not a
fucking romance novel. It’s about fighting the odds and living in the
aftermath of the Civil War). It’s genuine. It is, dare I say it…art.

It is the best kind of art. The art that comes not from book-learned
technical excellence, instead being the kind that stems only from
passion and understanding with oneself. The kind that isn’t trying to
be art at all. The kind that you can FEEL, more than you can feel any
random deity that is supposed to save your soul, or any politician that
claims to be on your side.

It’s about truth, and about argument. Arguments are a wonderful,
wonderful thing. The ability to argue is the greatest thing set forth
by the Constitution, and it’s one of the best things that human beings
can engage in.

Certainly, when we’re in the midst of a real argument, you don’t feel
that way. When it boils down to hate and distrust of things and people,
and you let opinions and insults fly, you make your point and they
counter, and you storm off with murder on your mind. Fuck debates. Fuck
them with their notes and their plans, their sterile feel. I love the
real ones, where logic is the king, but fuck them anyway. Arguments are
where the real human drama comes loose.

The trouble is when people refuse to argue, or debate. When they
decide, “Gee whiz, I’m obviously right, so I’ve got to TAKE ACTION!”
It’s why 9-11 happened. It’s why this stupid pointless war happened,
like oh so many pointless slaughters before it. It’s why Michael Moore
makes movies. It’s why instead of making something challenging,
entertaining, or uplifting, Mel Gibson instead made a glorified snuff
film. It’s one of the reasons why the world is so fucking sad.

I share some similarities with Penn Jillette. We’re both at least 6
feet five inches tall. We’re both Atheists. We both don’t drink or do
drugs. We both don’t like tomatoes. We both have done magic tricks at
some point in our lives. But the similarities end there.

Still, it doesn’t matter. Sock is something that grabbed me, and
punched me in the gut. Hard. It’s about truth in a world of lies. It’s
about Penn, even though he isn’t a police diver, or a sock monkey. Penn
is a man with more balls than anyone I can think of, because he tells
the truth about himself. The hardest thing to do. So why not, as a
gesture of stupid bravado, I’ll do the same fucking thing.

I’m a tall guy, as I mentioned, but I’m really fucking skinny. I tend
to have a half assed beard because I’m too lazy to shave it. I’m 19
years old. I’m a virgin, at least in the finality of the cock-in-pussy
sense(This is actually no longer true). I’ve had girlfriends,
I’ve had my dick sucked, and I’ve been
familiar with a vagina. I find the words cunt and pussy to sound odd
out of the mouth of an American, but Russians can say Pussy and Brits
can say Cunt. I believe in love. I believe in romance, which is
somewhat contradictory, because I’m also a bit of a realist. I’m afraid
of war, and of causing pain to my loved ones. I’m also afraid of
grasshoppers. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m simply a citizen.
I constantly argue violently with my parents, but I love them down to
my bones. Eli is my best fucking friend.

I take English in college, but as you can tell from my submissions to
this site, it’s not something I generally talk about. I’m much more
comfortable talking about movies. I don’t read enough anymore. All I
really want to do is write. Not in the shoveling of cultural snow sense
(<= reference), but in any kind of creative sense. I’m in the middle of writing a novel that I really think I like. I wrote a screenplay two nights ago, locked in a room with a bottle of Dr. Pepper and my best friend. I love violence in movies, but I’m a pacifist. That doesn’t mean I won’t fight in self defense, or even out of anger, it just means that I hate real violence. You already know that I hate booze. I love the rain more than anything in nature. I don’t think I’m particularly smart, but I do think I’m smarter than some people. I’ve been called a genius before, and it really freaked me out. Last year I was roommates with a born again Christian, a pompous movie buff with a stupid goatee, and another serious Christian who insisted on loudly playing show tunes. They knew I hated them and I knew they hated me, which made living together easier. I love the Beatles. There. You know lots about me now. Does that mean anything? Not really. But it sure felt nice to put out there. Buy Sock if you want, and watch Penn & Teller’s show on Showtime if you wish. Doesn’t matter to me either way. This article wasn’t for you, just like almost none of the stuff I put here is. It’s for me, and my friends. And hey, maybe all the true things I said up there were nothing but lies. I didn’t even give you my name. Funny things, truth and lies. You have to keep your eyes open.