Friday, December 27, 2013

"Ours"

We stared up at the sky.

We were looking for planes.

We stopped what we were doing and we looked. I had been sitting in the driveway, wrapping presents, but I stopped doing that. Angela had been reading a book called Lizard Music  by Daniel Pinkwater, but she stopped doing that. Rachel – for reasons less than entirely clear to me – had been attempting to transplant a small tree from one side of the driveway to the other side of the driveway, but she stopped doing that, too.

Our mouths hung open. Our heads swung around in all directions. We were looking for planes.

Wherever they were, they were not commercial airliners. They were not that kind of plane. These planes ripped the sky open. The echoes of these planes between the townhouses cracked and crackled.

At the end of the driveway, an old couple in purple and green sweats had been walking by, but they stopped now, they shielded their eyes, and they pointed.

Angela was the first one of us to spot the planes, there, in that small crack of sky between this townhouse right here and that townhouse right there.

She said, “Mom, are those planes here to drop a bomb on our house?”

I looked up. They were fighter planes. I do not know what kind. The loud kind, I suppose. They were flying in formation, circling downtown Houston. This meant, in effect, that the planes were circling my house.

I said, “No, Angela.”

I said, “I’d say these are probably ours.”

The planes had circled around now. I could see them heading south again, in the small crack of sky between this tree right here and that townhouse right there.

Angela’s eyes grew wide as she turned to find another crack of sky, anticipating where the planes would turn up next. She said, “Those are yours and Belloq’s?”

She seemed a little impressed.

I picked up my tape dispenser, went back to wrapping presents. I said, “No, they are ours. They are America’s.”

Angela looked down. “America’s?”

“Yes, America’s. The military. You know, like Great Uncle Mac?”  I gave her a mock salute, which she did not return.

The planes were circling north again, coming in closer now than before, so they were visible for longer this time over the top of the townhouse right there.

Angela stared up at the planes again, she squared her jaw, and she looked back over at me. She said, “Are you SURE they’re not going to drop a bomb on our house?”

I folded the end of the sheet of wrapping paper over and taped it almost perfectly, but I did not reply again.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Saint Athanasius... On Sainthood

(Translated from the original Syriac manuscript)

Water.
1The true saint holds on to no desire for hydration.  Although water shall be offered, the true saint goes without, for the Lord satisfies all needs through ambient humidity.

2Blessed be the one who knows this and blessed be the one who lurks silently in the corner of the cage, disinterested, grooming fangs and pedipalps, oblivious to the giant fingertips that shove bottle caps of water up to the door, day after day after day.

3The giant fingertips shall smell of jalapeño peppers, of Sharpie markers, and of sin. The true saint shall not be tempted, for the true saint hath no olfactory sense organs with which to smell. The Lord is great, and provides all that is needed and nothing more.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Top Ten Albums of 2013

Not too long ago, a friend asked me how I find the music that I find. At the time, I assumed what he meant was that I listen to a lot of really cool sounds that people like his boss and his neighbors do not listen to. Now, in retrospect, I think maybe my friend was just trying to flatter me so that I would let him borrow my van.

In fact, I ended up letting my friend borrow my van that day, but my point is this: When my friend asked me how I find the music that I find, I answered, “I just listen.”

This was the truth. I just listen. I listen all of the time.

In the old days, I had complicated theories about what kind of music I liked and about what kind of music was worth listening to. I do not have these theories anymore.

Now I just listen.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tarab & Me

Now it was time to go to sleep.

The day had been long and full of lawyers and much yelling, which was the worst kind of day there was, really, unless you counted days with badger attacks and bone marrow biopsies in them. But days with badger attacks and bone marrow biopsies in them were really quite rare, while lawyers were practically a dime a dozen.

This meant that today was the longest and very worst day I was likely to see anytime soon, and although it was time to go to sleep now, the day was not yet finished.

Far from it!

I clicked over to my blog one last time, checking for any new comments that people might have left there. There were none. This was not unexpected, as it was Thanksgiving week, and Thanksgiving week, in my experience, was the slowest week for blogs that there was.

Next, I washed my face and brushed my teeth, taking extra care to brush the very backest back teeth, where the black things with many legs lived. I had it on good authority that the black things with many legs could make a person’s teeth fall out, and I needed my teeth for such things as chewing sushi and for smiling at pretty girls.

After I was certain that my teeth were quite clean and the black things defeated for yet another day, I changed into my nightgown. It was my full-length baby blue nightgown, the one with pictures of pivotal scenes from Lars von Trier movies all over it.

Then it was time to say my prayers. I knelt down next to my bed, I folded my hands exactly as I had been taught, and I prayed for Tarab to come to me and tell me what to do.

Tarab was the dark and shadowy figure that came to my bedside and crushed the air out of my lungs at night sometimes. I had read in books that Tarab might also be something called a “panic-induced hallucination.”  At first, that sounded crazy and scary to me, and it might sound crazy and scary to you, too, but it was real and it was not all that uncommon, really.

It was just something that happened to people with sleep paralysis. People like me.

Still, lately I had noticed that Tarab had been acting differently. Tarab had been acting in a way I could only describe as “annoyed.” 

It seemed as though he wished to give me some piece of important information, or maybe some advice. Although some people might think twice before accepting information or advice from a nocturnal, possibly demonic, panic-induced hallucination invading their bedroom, my life had been taking some strange twists and turns lately, and I figured it was important to take information and advice wherever I could get it. (This is probably as good a place as any for me to mention that Tarab was not  the one who told me about the black things with the many legs that lived in my back teeth.)

I had brushed my teeth, put on my nightgown, and said my prayers, and now it was time to get out the signs.

The signs in question were sheets of colored construction paper and had taken me hours and hours to complete. They were beautiful signs, all adorned with glitter glue and with gold stars and also with special messages for Tarab to read when he came to my bedside in the night.

I stuck the first sign to the wall behind my headboard with a red plastic thumbtack. On the first sign, I had written this: “Welcome to Katy’s room!”

I stuck the second sign right next to the first sign, but this time, to vary things up, I used a black plastic thumbtack. On the second sign, I had written this: “I am paralyzed. I cannot move or talk or write.”

The message on the second sign, although obviously not true at the moment when I had written it, would be true later, when Tarab finally read it. Tarab was going to read my sign!

When I was certain that the first and the second signs were perfect for Tarab to read – all straight and bright and legible from a distance – I stuck the third sign to the wall just to the right of the others. This time, I used a green plastic thumbtack.

On the third sign, I had written this: “Tell me what to do and I will do it!”

With the signs tacked up on my wall, you might believe that my work for the evening was finished at last, but it was not. I had several things left to do.

First, I giggled and danced around the room in my baby blue nightgown, the one with pictures of pivotal scenes from Lars von Trier movies all over it. You should have seen me dancing! I was so excited about Tarab coming to visit me that I felt like a child waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Next, I switched on my stereo. I had set two speakers up near my bed, one on either side of where my head would be in only a few moments. Through the speakers, I played a sine wave at a frequency of 18 Hz. According to my research, this frequency sometimes caused people to hallucinate, and tonight, I wanted all of the hallucinations I could get.

Then, I looked around the room one last time, I sat down on the bed, and I placed a black hood firmly over my head.

Even though I had had such a busy day, I was so excited about Tarab coming to visit me that I thought I might never get to sleep!

I must have fallen asleep eventually, though, because the next thing I knew, I was wide awake again, and I could hardly breathe and I could not move at all.

That is when I knew Tarab was right there with me in my room, standing on top of my chest.

Why, if I had not been paralyzed at the time, I would have squealed out loud in delight!

“What sorts of amazing and life-changing things would Tarab have to say to me this time?”  I wondered. 

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[Check out more cool art by koyamori over HERE!]

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lou Reed is the Answer

(A Play in One Act)

Curtain opens, revealing KATY and DOCTOR BELLOQ naked on a queen-sized bed. They are both drunk or stoned or tired or horny, or (more likely) some combination of all four. Books and compact discs are strewn across the queen-sized bed, on the nightstand next to the queen-sized bed, and on the floor all around the queen-sized bed.

A clock on the nightstand reads '10:08 P.M.'

A phone rings. The ring tone is the Velvet Underground song, ‘Sister Ray.’

The ringing of the phone makes KATY jump. She searches for the phone. She finds the phone and rubs her eyes to read the caller I.D.

KATY:             Oh shit. It’s Dana. It’s my ex. I have the girls this weekend. I have to answer this.

KATY slaps at her cheeks to sober herself up. She answers the phone on speaker mode.

KATY:             […]

DANA:            Hello?

KATY:             (suddenly and with an excess of bluster) Hello-o-o-o!

DOCTOR BELLOQ scrunches up her face and points downward, indicating that KATY should take it down a notch.

DANA:            Um, are you okay? Can you talk?

KATY:             (groggily, head bobbing, apparently falling asleep again already) Uh huh.

DANA:            O-o-o-okay… Well, I was calling about Angela’s science project.

KATY:             Angela’s science project.

KATY looks over at DOCTOR BELLOQ. DOCTOR BELLOQ shrugs.

DANA:            Yes.

KATY:             Of course! Angela’s science project. It’s done.

DANA:            That’s great, ‘cause it’s due in the morning.

KATY:             Yeah. Yeah. She was finishing it up and testing it out when I got home from work tonight.

DANA:            That’s great!

KATY:             Yep.

DOCTOR BELLOQ gives KATY a thumbs-up of approval before passing back out.

KATY also appears to pass out.

DANA:            Okay. So-o-o… What did she end up doing for her project? What was it?

KATY and DOCTOR BELLOQ remain passed out on the queen-sized bed.

DANA:            Hello?

Long pause.

DANA:            (much louder now) Hello? Katy? What was it?

KATY:             (snapping out of her stupor suddenly) Oh, you know… Um, Lou Reed!

DANA:            (pause)Angela’s science project was Lou Reed?

DOCTOR BELLOQ waves her hands at KATY desperately, mouthing the word “No.”

KATY:             (shrugging at DOCTOR BELLOQ, shaking her head) Yeah.

DANA:            (exhaling loudly into phone) How is… How is Lou Reed a science project, Katy?

KATY:             Oh, you know…

DANA:            No, I don’t know, Katy.

KATY:             You know… She got, like, a leather jacket… and a pair of wings, and…

DANA:            What was the experiment part?

KATY:             The wings…

DOCTOR BELLOQ finds a compact disc on the bed and shows it to KATY.

KATY:          …and ‘Metal Machine Music.‘Metal Machine Music’  was pretty experimental.

The sound of DANA sucking at her teeth can be heard through the phone.

DANA:        And what was the idea or the question behind this project? What was the problem that Angela’s science project was seeking to answer or solve?

KATY:             You know… If it is possible to do that?

DANA:            (pause) You mean is it possible for her to wear a leather jacket and wings.

KATY:             Yes. That.

DANA:            And what was her conclusion?

KATY:             It’s possible!

DANA:            (sucking at her teeth again) Well, that’s… That’s a bold step forward for science, Katy. I’m glad that you-

KATY:             (interrupting and raising a fist in victory) Go science!

KATY hangs the phone up on DANA.

KATY:             Okay! I think that went well.

DOCTOR BELLOQ opens her eyes again, looks around groggily.

DOCTOR BELLOQ:             Kates, I just had this weird-ass dream that your ex called you about some science project.

KATY passes out, falls over onto her pillow.

DOCTOR BELLOQ shrugs, rolls over, and falls asleep.

Curtain.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Acid Gravy

“And is the guvment payin’ for that?”

“Now, jus’ who you figger is payin’ for THAT, I wonder?”

“I s’pose we all know where the money for THAT is comin’ from…”

Talking with my Grams, you know exactly where the conversation is headed. It’s headed to the same place where it’s always been headed. The path it has taken every last time it has taken a path.

I give Doctor Belloq the heads-up before the two of us visit my Grams’ place for dinner.

I say to her, “My Grams is like ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,’ only instead of Kevin Bacon, it’s Grams’ money paid out in taxes, and instead of six degrees of separation, it’s probably only one or two.”

Why, most anything you can name in this big wide world, it’s the guvment taking Grams’ money in taxes that done paid for it to be. That woman walking down the street blabbing on a cell phone. The renovations done to the house around the way. Those new Nike sneakers the neighbor kid’s wearing. And everybody down at the grocery store and every soul down at the used car lot and – would you believe it? – even my very own brother’s recent wedding.

“Miss Belloq,”  my Grams says confidentially, “you know our Antony married that Negress.”

That Negress…”  Doctor Belloq echoes without comment.

“Oh!” Grams pokes dramatically at her orange bouffant, hairsprayed up into the exact same tangle into which it’s been hairsprayed up the entire twenty-eight years I have known her, and – unless photographs lie – some time before that as well. “That likely idn’t the… politically correct term nowadays, is it?”

“I always say ‘Negratrix’,” Doctor Belloq bellows in her finest Foghorn Leghorn imitation, so it comes out sounding like, “Aaaaaah aaaaalways sayeee…”

At this, I come damn near to spitting my iced mint julip sweet tea all over my platter of chicken fried chicken.  But soon enough, we have departed the topic of my (Hispanic) ex’s race and gotten right back onto the topic of the guvment’s continued use and misuse of my Grams’ hard-earned retirement money.

Familiar territory at last! For you see, the feds are stealing my Grams’ Social Security checks  – robbing sweet little ole Grams at gunpoint, no less! – each and every month of her life to purchase 7-11 stores for the Asians, to build mosques for the Mohammedans, to send canines up into orbit.

Dogs… in… outer… space!

“Now, jus’ who you figger is payin’ for THAT, I wonder?”

And then the there’s free flavored prophylactics for the wetbacks, and the guvmint whisky for the alcoholics, and the bathhouses like palaces for the queers (“…and when I say ‘queers,’ I am speaking of them disgusting fairies, not you two fine ladies, you understand…”).

Doctor Belloq, never one to mince words or to pull her punches for long, eventually breaks an eternal, unspoken family rule and questions my Grams about all that tax money the guvment’s been so busy stealing. “So Grams,”  Doctor Belloq says, “what would you do with that money if they didn’t steal it from you?”

My Grams freezes mid-swallow, mashed potatoes halfway down her throat. Just stops right where she is. “Pardon me?”

“All that money you’ve been robbed of all these years,”  Doctor Belloq says. “C’mon. Tell us. What would you have spent it on?”

For that single frozen moment in time, I consider faking a stroke.

My Grams – bless her heart, as they say – she gazes off at one of her awful paintings of horses galloping into sunsets and she says something that sounds an awful lot like, “Well, I s’pose I’d use the money to work on my time machine.”

That is what it sounds like she says. But those words would not make any sense coming from my Grams, so it cannot possibly be what she says. Right?

“Your time machine…”  Doctor Belloq echoes without comment.

“You never told me you were building a time machine, Grams,”  I say.

My Grams turns to look at me, slowly, stone-faced, as though I have just interrupted a most important private conversation between her and the good Doctor Belloq. She takes another bite of her food, still glaring. Then, after some more time has passed, she says to me, “You’ve never asked, dear.”

*           *           *           *           *

The time machine itself is set up between piles of dog-eared Louis L’Amour paperbacks, back in the room we all still call “Nancy’s bedroom” even though Aunt Nancy moved away years before I was even born.

And Doctor Belloq, she is now sitting in what looks to be the driver’s seat of a ’65 Mustang that has been attached to a circular track with wires and lights attached to it.

You might say the evening has taken a bit of a strange turn.

“Forward in time, backwards in time, or both?”  Doctor Belloq says.

“I aim to go to the past,”my Grams says as she flips a switch which starts Doctor Belloq’s seat humming around the track. “And before you say it, yes, I am well aware of what Mister Einstein says about the impossibility of THAT.”

My Grams says, “What Mister Einstein didn’t see is… well, all you’ve really gotta do is stay right where you are while everything else runs off into the future around you. Then you can stroll on into the past just as leisurely as you like.”

“Of course,”  my Grams adds, “whenever you’re talkin’ about them old Jew scientists, ‘member their experiments were all paid for at the guvment teat.”

I start flapping my hands around frantically. I say (maybe even out loud), “Did we drop acid or something before we came over here?”

No one answers me.

Still, I do not believe we dropped acid before we went to my Grams’ house for dinner, so I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to amend the statement I made at the start of this blog post: Talking to my Grams, you don’t always know where the conversation is headed, after all.

Usually you do.

Most of the time, even.

The vast majority of the time, perhaps.

But despite all of that, there will always be the night my Grams told us about her time machine.

(And the next time I tell you my Grams is living in the nineteen fifties, I might mean it literally.)


[NOTE: No taxpayer funding was used in the production of this blog post. However, I did get the pictures from over HERE.]

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fauna of East Montrose

I have known some miracle women in my life. Charismatic angels. Blazing, implausible geniuses. Women who by their mere presence in a room would make the whole world revolve around them. Without even trying. Like some accidental axis.

Some of these women have let me get to know them. A few have stuck around for long enough to get to know me. Days, months, a couple for years.

I don’t know why.

And this isn’t me being falsely modest. I really do not know why they hung around for as long as what they did. I do not know what they saw in me while they saw it in me.

I could tell you about Crank, who taught me most of what I know and had bolts of electricity shooting through her veins. Crank could stand out in the street and lean back her head and close her eyes and she could tell you everything that was going on in the whole city, and where.

There was Jeanah who radiated sex and Ruby who radiated love. Dana, who knew no fear, even in the face of my legendary freak-outs.

Perfect Charley who was so physically intimidating that I never learned to talk right when she was around. Astrid – yes, I even knew a girl named Astrid! – who had this freckle on a sensitive spot on her left hip that still haunts me after all these years.

Lisa who attracted birds and Nathalie who had a photographic memory and Cindy who possessed perfect judgment… except when it came to me. There was Diane who could fix anything with just a paperclip and some string. Barbara who always made it rain.

And Casey, well, there was Casey whose gift was that she could lift up anything. People. Cars. The corner of that trailer she lived in. There were no limits with Casey. It didn’t matter what it was, she could lift it. So whatever you might be thinking of daring Casey to lift, do not put money against her, buddy, or I can promise you you are going to be out the cash.

Sometimes I wonder what Casey is lifting now…

But now there is Belloq who is a force of nature. Belloq who is a tornado and a monsoon and a tsunami all rolled into one. Belloq who is pure energy. Belloq who jets around the globe looking for treasures. Belloq who thinks that I’m the fascinating one.

There’s Belloq who is going to hurt like a son of a bitch one day, but what a ride!

What did any these women ever believe I had to offer them?

I really wish I knew, because whatever it is, I’d like to do that some more.

Was it my crazy eyes? My hands that are always shaking? My habit of flying off the handle when staying on the handle would do just fine?

Was it my complete and utter lack of upward mobility despite some waning sense of future potential?

Was it my van?

I can tell a story. I can tell a joke.

I can talk for hours about the fauna of east Montrose. About the red-crested horny hookers of Crocker Street. The three-banded black bums of Richmond Ave. I can tell you the best spots in town to go dumpster diving and which restaurants will poison you like a rat if you ever try.

I can take you to this spot downtown at night where we can climb up a fire escape. From the top of the tower, we can look out at the cityscape from one side and we can look down at a brothel from the other. I’m good either way, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide which.

But could that – could any of that – be what keeps the miracle women around when the miracle women stick around?

I ask you: How did a spaz like me get so blessed?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Katy's Rules for Kicking Ass at Everything, Part 1

By far, the best advice that I can give you is to never buy a van. Skip the pickup trucks, too, while you’re at it.

They’re a trap. They’re a fool’s game. Oh sure, it all seems perfect in theory. A van! Just imagine the next time that you go to move apartments. Your three-seater couch will slide right in there! You can shove your mattress in on its edge and still have more than enough room left over for a dozen-plus boxes, your flat screen t.v., your leg lamp, your original Don Van Vliet painting, your collection of orgone energy accumulators, and your life-sized bronze statue of Pope Pius IX. Hell, you’ll be able to do the entire move in only three trips!

Here’s what they don’t tell you. Here’s what you fail to think about ahead of time: You only move apartments like, what? Once every three to four years? Tops? But you have how many “close” “friends”? Fifteen maybe, each of whom also moves approximately once every three to four years.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Adventures in Sleep Paralysis

I call him Tarab.

I do not think he knows this. I do not think he would like this very much if he did know.

They say that in olden times, people believed that names held power. People believed that if you knew the name of someone or of something, then you held a sort of power over that person or that thing. Names limited the named.

People believed that. I mean, if what I have read is true, they did. Seriously.

Think “Rumplestiltskin.” Think Adam naming all those animals over which he was to have dominion.

I do not think Tarab wants to be named. I do not think Tarab wants to be limited. To be perfectly honest, I do not think Tarab wants me to write about him.

But the way I figure it, you are not going to believe any of this anyway, so I’ve got nothing to lose by telling you nothing but the truth. And the truth – the truth that you are more than likely not going to believe – is that Tarab and I have reached an odd sort of arrangement.

For his part in this arrangement, Tarab gives me information. Answers. Advice. Predictions.

And me? For my part? I give Tarab rum. Oh, and sometimes, I carry out his orders.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dear Dana,

I don’t listen for the gate anymore.

For many years, I did. I listened. Even while I was asleep, I listened.

I’d get home from work and I would take a nap. It was always my best sleep of the whole day! I mean it: It was the only time when I can ever remember dreaming.

But then, an hour would pass, or maybe an hour and a half, and then I’d hear the gate. In my sleep, I’d hear it, and that would be you. That was you opening the automatic gate across the driveway. Then I’d hear the clack from your front tires driving across the metal track for the gate, and that was you. Then I’d hear the clack from your back tires driving across the metal track for the gate, and that was you, too. The whoosh of your car accelerating down the driveway.

I’d hear the sound of your car doors. You.

And the cats would crawl out from under the bed. And the girls would stumble out from their room, because they’d have heard you, too.

And I’d stretch…

Every single day.

Sleep. Gate. Stretch. Repeat.

Then the day came when you were gone, and I knew you were really gone, and I was okay. I swear I was okay! You were gone, and the cats were gone, and for a long time, even the kids were gone.

I knew you were gone, Dana… or most of me knew you were gone, anyway.

But not all of me knew.

In the days and in the weeks and in the months after that, I’d still take those naps. When I took those naps, I would still dream, and you were still in most of the dreams. Of course you were in most of the dreams. Sometimes only as a sort of presence at my elbow – someone for me to narrate my actions towards – but you were there.

Then an hour would pass, or maybe an hour and a half, and something inside me would say, “Katy, it is time to wake up!”  But I’d be waiting for the sound of that gate, you know?

The gate would never open. No clack and no doors and no cats and no kids.

No stretch!

Not in September… October… November… December. And January came – and you were long, long gone by then, even from my dreams! – but these fucking naps would sort of betray me. I was still listening for you in my naps.

I’m not even sure when that changed, exactly, but it changed.

I don’t listen for the gate anymore.

Everything is different now.

In fact, I probably won’t even send you this letter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's in the Box?

“Angela says Cameron Diaz’s head is in there.”

“Cameron Diaz’s head? Wow. And what do you say?”

“I say it’s a cat. But until we open up the-”

[Tongue clicking] “-It’s n-n-not a cat, Rachel!”

“You don’t know that, Angela.”

“Y-yes I DO. A c-c-cat would make noise like scrA-A-Atching and me-eO-O-W-”

“No, we don’t know until we open the box! Until then, the cat exists in a state of-”

“How is it one of my daughters is talking about an R-rated movie and the other one is talking about quantum physics? Can neither one of you just talk about something… age-appropriate? Justin Bieber or-?”

“W-W-WHAT’S IN THE BO-O-OX?!”