entry_217I’m just home from the airport, and the living room where I grew up still smells of cigars and mildew. It’s not my home anymore, but fragments of my family still live here. Cousin Jacob regards me over the rim of his glasses without lifting his head from his bible. “Come on in, mug, take a load off.” Jacob calls everyone by the informal, “mug.” I think it’s a contraction of “man” and… I’m not sure. Possibly “thug.”

I don’t think I’m better than Jacob is. I don’t. But to be honest, I do suffer from the fear that I’ll think I’m better than he is. To some degree I’ve been plagued by this paranoid-superiority complex since I was was old enough to think I might be different from anyone I didn’t make up in my head. Under the burden of these thoughts I endure countless circular arguments with myself on the topic of superiority, particularly when I’m conversing with one of my rural-bred relatives.

You think you’re better than he is.

No I don’t.
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Grown Up

entry_212I’m lying on the floor, languid as a corpse. I practice not breathing, and can feel my heart slowing. Slowing. Then I feel the need to stretch, and I stretch so violently that my molars click against each other like one of those wind-up dentures. The feeling of unmitigated sloth is delicious. I’ve always enjoyed a good stretch on the floor. It’s convenient, it’s flat, and the low viewpoint provides a most favorable perspective of a room. As a matter of personal aesthetic, I’ve preferred an inferior perspective since I was quite young. My adolescent height gains only made me more conspicuous, and allowed me to see over everything at will. Where’s the adventure in that? When one is small, everything is a potential maze, which is one reason why, every now and again, I appreciate a return to a more grounded point of view.

I roll onto my chest, and support myself on my elbows, looking down the carpeted hall. This is how varmints see the world, I think. Varmints and critters, bugs and babies. I wonder how quickly I could pull myself down the hall using only my elbows. What if that were my only means of locomotion? Properly motivated, I suppose I could get moving pretty quickly, but this is an untested theory. It might also cause undue strain to the tissue of my elbows, for example. There’s no way to accurately anticipate the outcome, so naturally I must commit to the task.

I need a trigger though, something to set me off. There must be something from which to flee. And it comes to me: K. is in the bathroom behind me. When she emerges and notices me there on the floor, that will be my cue to move. I’ll gallop down the hall on my elbows, pulling my useless body after me. How far will I get? I decide that if I can make it as far as the cat food bowls, that will be considered safe. Is it an unrealistic goal? I’ll just have to find out by trying, as I would if my life depended on it.

I am completely still on my elbows, waiting for the click of the door. I am poised to start. I’m looking at the cat food bowls at the other end of the hall, and visualizing my eventual progress toward them. I’m noticing bits of cat food on the carpet. I see a piece of something beneath the refrigerator. My forearms are beginning to tingle.

K. is taking longer in the bathroom than I’d anticipated. But all the more reason to be aware of the click of the door knob. It’s imperative that I pull myself to safety before she can catch me. And in thinking it over, I realize I’m not in the right position to start. One elbow should be slightly in front of the other, and my back should be in a natural position, but stiff. There, now, for the first time in three minutes, I’m truly ready to crawl to freedom. It’s a good thing I had this extra moment to get into the correct starting position. A luxury, some might deem it, but I’ll take what I can get.
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entry_209Owing to severe lack of focus I tend to lose anything that isn’t part of my actual body. I tell the ladies that I just have a canny asceticism, but it’s hard for me to maintain an air of wisdom when I’m locked outside my own house four times a week because I can’t remember where I put my key. This is why I keep a spare house key up in the rain gutter. The house is one of those modern designs, made primarily out of a single slab of some foamcrete-like material, so I suppose I could just walk through one of the walls if I pushed firmly enough. In any case, because it’s a slab structure there are no convenient crooks or crannies in which one might conceal a spare key, which is why I’ve taken to hiding it up in the rain gutter.

One drawback to stowing a key in the rain gutter is that getting it down is less than convenient. The stepladder lives in the shed, which in turn lives in the back yard. Factoring in the time it takes to clamber over the fence both ways, key retrieval is a good five minute undertaking. But inconvenience alone isn’t the problem. The problem is that once I’ve stowed the stepladder and return to my front door, the thought will inevitably occur to me: “What would it take to toss this key back up into the gutter?”

I know why I lose things. I think started losing my edge in my teens, not long after my stepfather installed an attic fan in our house. The man was too cheap to pay for proper air conditioning, but, ironically, procured from an old ex-aerospace buddy an attic fan roughly the size and strength of a hypersonic wind tunnel. Most males express mid-life crisis through showy, frivolous trifles. My stepfather fetishized household fixtures and appliances. Hammacher Schlemmer and Brookstone catalogs were his porn. And the attic fan was a particularly unfortunate way for him to exhibit machismo, because the condo we lived in wasn’t much larger than a gypsy caravan. The result is that whenever the fan screamed to life, every door in the house that wasn’t stopped by an anvil was sucked shut. Astronauts know better than to open their facemasks in the vacuum of space, and my stepfather could have learned something from that. The hotter the weather was, the more I could look forward to popped eardrums. By evening my head would be splitting, and I got so used to forcing my eustation tubes open that I must have been blowing brain circuitry by the fourth summer.
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entry_207A red sign on the door can’t be a good thing, can it? But we’re a block away, and though I can’t yet read the single word emblazoned on it, hope drains with each step. And indeed, the truck rental place is closed by the time we’re pressing our foreheads against the glass door. As a result of this we’re not just inconvenienced or put out, but well and truly fucked. These are the situations that nightmares are made of, because now we’ll basically have to rely on the moped we rode in on to move all the furniture–by midnight–which is more than patently absurd. So I should be devastated. I am devastated. But secretly I’m also reveling in it. Not in a way that I would dare put to words, especially not then and there. But there’s no denying that there’s a part of me that relishes the sweet kiss of denial.

And this isn’t just a behavioral singularity, but rather a constant quirk in my character. When I lost a ten page story during a power outage caused by a freak summer hailstorm, I was immediately awash in that unique nectar of panic, and for some time after I was utterly despondent. At the same time I felt as though I had been cleansed. Or, no, that’s not the right word for it. Virtuous, that’s what it was. Merely writing a story out, that’s something anyone can do. But to overcome adversity, to painstakingly write the exact same story twice, out of necessity, surely that was a task fulfilled only by the most intrepid of avatars.
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Once More

entry_204I met Tasha late last year at the rec center pool. I was doing my usual laps, and forcing myself to remain submerged as long as I could bear it. When I surfaced at the pool’s edge, her ankles were the first things I saw. Tasha stood there with a look I could only interpret as expectation, like she was close to remembering me from somewhere else, and only hoped that I would make it easier by remembering first. I could only shrug. “Sorry?” I said.

“No,” she said. “I was just admiring your submarine-like abilities.”

“Ah,” I said. “Yeah, it kind of runs in the family. That and a copious bladder. None of the men in my family urinate but once a week.”

“Which makes you excellent pool material all around, I’d say.”

We hit it off right away. Our rhythm was curiously free of the usual newborn fawn clumsiness, and I felt not the slightest hesitation when she asked whether I was hungry. “Your people do eat, I assume?”

“Of course,” I said. “But I eat only things that I’ve caught and shaken to death in my own teeth.”

“I can’t wait to meet your family,” she said.

It was about a week later, when work week poisons had attained dangerous levels once more, that I paid another visit to the rec center. My routine there is fairly regular, more ritual than relaxation. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised to see Tasha there again by the pool’s edge as I surfaced from my last lap.

She had that same look on her face–it’s unique to her, somewhere between private humor and deep confusion–and I didn’t have it in me to spoil the drama. So I shrugged. “Sorry,” I said.

“No, I was just admiring your submarine-like abilities,” she said. I felt that momentary mental tug that happens whenever I’m pitched out of the moment. That’s pretty much what she’d said the first time we’d met, wasn’t it? And I was immediately won over.
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Small Steps

Jakaranda.tifIt began like everything begins: with laziness, which is the true mother of invention. Let me just say that there came a time when I was tasked with moving a small appliance from one room to another room, and by sheer coincidence I realized at that exact same time that to subject myself to said mission would literally liquify my brain. What could be less engaging, after all, than picking something up from one place and putting it back down in another place? Material transferral has got to be the most cripplingly banal task a person could ever perform.

So it was only a matter of time before the light of reason revealed an alternate path: if carting items from one spot to another is the absolute dullest thing one can do, then carting an item only half way to its terminus must be merely half as dull. Of course it doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it does allow one to take a break from one’s vapid existence long enough to participate in, say, a distracting game of Tetris.

But, armed with an obsessive nature, I’m never fully satisfied until I’ve exhausted every opportunity for behavioral refinement. That’s not about laziness, but it has everything to do with efficiency. In fact, because of my aversion to inefficiency, I quickly devised a way to perform the most meaningless tasks in such a way as to be transparent to my otherwise enthralling existence. Here’s how: If the new door hinge needs to get from the garage to the bedroom, and I happen to be on my way to the dining room anyway, then I’ll carry the hinge half way down the hall–to the point where our paths would naturally diverge–and just leave it there, and then continue on my way. The thinking is that if I move things in very small increments I can actually get work done without expending a precious ounce of surplus effort. The only flaw with this is that it can take a tremendous amount of time before any given task is complete.
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Being You

entry_190A week ago Jeremy was glowing. “Last night I told Sara that I loved her.” He bought us two horchatas, and then ignored his as he recounted the events of the evening.

“Wow. That’s really…. Well done,” I said. I’m always impressed by new love, and I put my hand out for shaking. Now it was official.

“I know. Everything’s just really coming together now for us, and last night I just felt this overwhelming…” he searched for the words, “all-encompassing thing.”

“So there it was.”

“Right. And I have to say, it feels great.” He scooted his glass, now frosted with condensation, back and forth, obsessively.

“Congratulations,” I said. I’d never been as rigorous with my own thoughts to assume that I understood love, which made his declaration–or any declaration of love–all the more miraculous.

“Thanks, man.”

I’d finished my horchata, and the straw sucked spiritedly at the bottom of the glass. “It makes me wonder though,” I said. “Would you like to be her?” The question didn’t strike me as the definitive acid test, but it did seem like a natural consideration.

“To be her? I don’t know, she’s doing pretty well now with the new job and all. I certainly wouldn’t mind that commute.”

“No, I’m not talking about swapping places with her. I mean would you want to be Sara?”

He cocked his head and blinked at me. “What do you…?”

“To live the life she’s living,” I said, “in her skin. I mean, you say that you love her, and that’s great. But I just wonder if being in love with someone–the one–also suggests a willingness to be that person.”

“That doesn’t… I don’t know what you’re driving at.” He laughed and shifted in his chair, looking around the restaurant, as if he might see others listening in.

“I’m asking if you’d be open to the possibility,” I said.

Jeremy sat up in his chair. “I mean, I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I like myself,” he said, making chopping gestures with his hands, “and I’ve become the person that Sara can love. We’re not interchangeable.”

I laughed. “I’m not saying you’re interchangeable. If you were, the question would be moot.”

“The question is moot!” he barked. “Sorry. I just….” He looked around the room again.

“I don’t think you’d be so defensive if the question were moot.”


“And,” I added, “I don’t think you’d be so defensive if the answer were ‘yes.’ I basically asked if you’d like to live your life as Sara, and I infer from your response–from your reaction–that the answer is no.”
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A Hero’s Lament

entry_187Lunch in hand, your hero crosses the cafeteria floor, his adrenaline sloshing around in a body carved for battle. His competitive eyes seek challenge, but there is none here. Rather, conversations about flower pot arrangement, weekend Ikea junkets, commuter expense reimbursement… such discourse is a prescription for warrior atrophy.

Defeated, your hero makes his way toward the bank of microwaves. At the other end of the line, a coworker has just placed her quiche tray at the center of her oven’s turntable, and now enters numbers on the touchpad. Your hero notes that quiche-eater’s data entry skills are pitiful! Her fingers are flaccid and her movements sluggish. In contrast, the office warrior will be able to enter the cooking figures in one third the time. Vegan textured protein pie in place, he slams the microwave’s door shut and hits the digits with the accuracy of a factory robot.

Where she is sloppy, he is precise. Where she is slow, he is fleet. Now your hero finds himself with a relative time surplus. Advantage: hero. Now the question becomes how he will use all this extra time. To bask in his superiority, that’s how. He looks over at his coworker–his pupil–and nods his head, “Take note.” But she is washing her utensils and doesn’t notice.

Acknowledgment of victory is unnecessary however. Your hero is reminded of this morning’s commute triumph, wherein he was able to take the highway offramp turn just inches from the inside wall, his speed even, his path sure, describing an arc of geometric perfection. However, the minivan in front of him took the turn like an overfed cow lumbering down a spiral staircase. While your hero steadied his turn with pinkies on the wiper and turn signal handles, respectively, minivan driver’s path was a series of erratic line segments joined by short, suspension-testing seizures.

The warrior aesthete looks upon such imprecise maneuvering with disdain. Spastic children with buckets on their heads bounce from the walls with greater predictability, and your hero refuses to allow motor skills to grow so lax. His grip is tighter, his eyes keener, and his lips more slick with the sputum of superiority.

Night falls on your hero conducting research into the nature of the modern man’s plight of stifled competition. Taking the library steps in twos, he dashes to the top floor with the grace of a dancer, the speed of a gazelle, overtaking an aged man for whom each step is a lesson in pain. With pity, your hero quietly acknowledges the compounded wages of a lifetime of imperfection, manifest as calcified deposits between swollen joints. “Go easy, hapless wretch,” thinks the youthful paragon.

Though superior in all measurable ways, your hero finds himself winded by the time he reaches the top floor, but refuses to break the silence with audible exhale. A little respiratory discipline is what’s called for here, all the better to impress his audience. They must be thinking, “How is it that a person can dash up several flights of steps and not be out of breath as they make their way to the reference section?” Aha! Through sheer strength of will, that’s how. And as he forcefully holds shut his epiglottis for nearly a minute, your hero’s pulse throbs in his beat-red temples. He embraces sacrificial restraint, that others might learn to refrain from their oxygen-slurping nasal cacophonies, if only in sympathetic appreciation.

And as strobes dance before his fading eyes, your hero recalls a passage from the warrior’s canon: Cowards fear loss of consciousness due to asphyxiation. Heroes welcome it.


entry_170When I say that I enjoy failure, it’s not some clumsy euphemism about the thrill of facing an insurmountable challenge. Neither am I referring to the opportunity to gain wisdom from past mistakes. Rather, I’m talking about the delicious sting of failure itself. The knowledge that neither the sum of my resources nor the strength of my will was enough, in the end, to see me through. And all the better if this truth, that I am unequal to the task at hand, that I am no more effective than a jellyfish in a blender, is witnessed by as many people as possible. Let the world know–I should find no opportunity for extenuation or sanctuary.

I like to feel the full brunt of inadequacy, and not because of any kind of cultural guilt or unresolved childhood issues. I’m not playing reverse psychology with my expectations, or attempting to forestall cynicism. I do not court failure by aiming low, for that would be as pointless as aiming ridiculously high. In fact, ideally I would aim square in the middle, right for that sweet spot, then still fail, forsaken by my very instincts. I enjoy the flavor of incompetence. I do not fear success, I simply have no appetite for it. I like skunk smell. It’s not a fetish, it’s a preference, and if it should lessen your opinion of me, then I’ll thank you to tell me about it in excruciating detail.

That ubiquitous need to succeed, that all-too-common attitude of righteous entitlement, they do not visit my den of blight. I wish to have less–or better yet, to have what is mine summarily taken from me through my own inaction. And I want my friends to watch it happen. “He had it all,” they will say, and I will agree with them. “I know,” I’ll say, “I did have it all, and I deserved most of it too. But in the end I was equal neither to improvement, nor upkeep, nor even to mere ownership.” I will say this to their backs.

Let it break or wither or stop working for no apparent reason, and let me never understand why. I don’t even seek the easy satisfaction of answers. I’ll make do, instead, with failure in any form, large or small. A typo or a train wreck, it makes no difference to me. They say you can’t fail if you don’t care, but I don’t care: I want to fail. I’ll cling till I suffer, a victim of circumstance, a boil of determined resignation.

I know what you’re thinking, but when I say that I enjoy failure, it’s no lie geared to catch you with your guard down. I’m driven to tell this through neither humility nor pride, but rather so that you’ll understand when I don’t live up to expectations, when I fail to raise the bar, or to even find the bar. In fact, the bar is broken, and it’s my fault, and I’m admitting it now. Blame me if you must. No sweat off my back. I am a hapless creature.

But I still got your girl.

Entropy OS

entry_153All around me, decay. Even renewal is part of the decay, because it is part of a continuum I view through clouded lenses, and perceive with synapses beset by atrophy. So it is that I grew tired of playing the portrait to my operating system’s Dorian Gray.

My erstwhile tolerance for this perfect projected environment came to an end when my mouSe stopped working one day and, for the briefest moment, I thought the problem might be with the button on my screen. Now there’s a lovely thought. Of course the @ctual source of my difficulty was the physical contact just under the mouse button, but the initial suspicion proved irresistible to me.

And so it was that I endeavored to craft an algorithm which would, over time, degrade my user expErience in a wholly organic fashion. I wasn’t interested in mere crashes, nor instability, nor the system rot so closely associated with substandard operating systems. I was inter3sted in something far more elegant: an interface that would age as I aged.

I set about familiari2ing myself both with the inner workings of my computer system, as well as the myriad principles of entropy and biodegradation. After several years of consultation and development, I began to see patttterns emerge that I was able to exploit to bring about a synthesis of these two worlds. The resulting algorithm was, to my mind, the perfect balance of art and science, and, upon implementation, the results were both immediate and satisfying.

Some applications take longer to launch, depending on the hour. Other functions seem stubborn at first, but become more efficient after repeated use. Several of the buttons in my most used programs aren’t exactly where they used to be, or hAve become somewHat less defined. Over time I’ve seen several of my preferences go missing completely, while still other, erRrrant control widgets have materialized in the most unlikely spots. Photoshop stares into the abyss, and the abyss stares back, and my images are processed thereafter with increasing re1uctance, competing as they are with obsessive thoughts of obs0lescence.

The way I see it, I’ve evened the playing field. If invincibility remains just out of reach, then mortality it is, and for everything. Eventua-ly my operating system’s color profile wi|| fade, and the cursor will jitter with palsy, but will IIII even notice? I suspect not. The only real concern I have is my tax program’s rather premature inclination toward dementiA.