Monthly Archives: January 2010

Places Far From Here

Earth rise

Ashy winter asphalt

This past Friday was the fullest moon of 2010. Ancient alchemists believed the moon was a plant, and the sun a great animal. In Christian iconography, the moon represents the Virgin Mary. When I urinated on that statue I helped to water the great plant.

I wish my dreams were more filled with the shapes of objects that I run and drive past and barely notice. The river’s water flowing past frozen ice. Branches of trees exposed and brittle. Street lights and the electric bus lines. Black inky shadows in dropping sunlight, the wolf moon howling over my apartment building. Perhaps all this is already there but the details are lost to faulty memory. What I remember of my dreams are the people and places from my past. My mom’s house, her drunken snoring in the next room. Chef Lord yelling at me behind the restaurant, the realization that if I didn’t squeeze out some tears I would get punched. The sea of tranquility my dreams are not. Its like Tupac said…

“I never get to lay back
‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the pay backs
some punk that I roughed up way back
comin’ back after all these years
rat-tat-tat-tat-tat that’s the way it is”

In my film I will be the alchemist who combines the beauty of the unnoticed with the real human stuff that leaves a mark.

Ki-duk Kim

A sculpture garden at high tide

Korean director Ki-duk Kim’s films embody the notion that emotional uplift is a minor virtue compared to the raw human experience. That’s also how I see things through the lens of my own years long battle with “feeling good.” In his 2006 film, Time, the character See-hee has her face reconstructed so that her lover Ji-woo does not cheat out of boredom. The plastic surgery takes 6 months to heal, in which time the two haunt each other as strangers at places they visited often as a couple; the coffee shop, the sculpture garden. After this period See-hee reintroduces herself to Ji-woo, and he does not recognize her as the same person. When he does finally learn her true identity, Ji-woo feels betrayed to the point that he takes drastic action. In the end, nothing is revealed in a crowd of faces. Its all in the void.

An article in the Guardian warned that Ki-duk Kim’s 2000 film, The Isle, had caused audiences to exit theaters vomiting. Naturally I wanted to see it. Its the story of Hyun-shik, a visitor to the floating brothel operated by a mute woman, Hee-jin. The attraction between these two leads to the drowning of a prostitute and the sinking of her motor scooter. A fish is filleted, the flesh eaten as sushi, and is then returned to the water where it swims off. Hyun-shik swallows fish hooks to escape the authorities and Hee-jin reels him in, saving his life. Hee-jin inserts hooks into her vagina and tries to drown herself. The filleted fish is caught again, and released again. The dead prostitute is discovered by divers, and these two become outlaws. Its True Romance, South Korean style.

Rowboat amidst the isle grasses

My friend John, who the Herald called a lascivious playboy, and I went to a basketball game at Boston College. Its a big Catholic school. Despite the hooker hassles, John is real crafty, and he directed me down many a back road to the Conte Forum. I parked for free in a muddy lot across the street from the B.C. campus and had to relieve myself immediately. I walked to some trees and stones and did my thing, and as I backed away, realized I had urinated on a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The attempt and not the deed, Confounds us

Oak St in Monday afternoon rain

The actors brought the wineglasses to their lips and drank. They tilted their heads to listen to empty words whispered. It all went slow motion. Suspicion dripped like the wax of Madame Tussauds’ models faces held to a flame, melting into anger, accusations and violence. A mob of silent masked theatre-goers in the gymnasium-as-pine-forest watched the banquet scene on the stage. My vantage point was a window by the spotlight, a floor above, and when it lit up Macbeth like a bolt of white lightning the watchers all turned and followed his gaze up to me. The sea of eyes and mouth-less white masks sent chills down my spine, and I inhaled sharply. In a dream, that’s when I would have woken up.

In Sleep No More, the theater is a school in Brookline Village transformed into another world. The actors speak the language of human bodies and conversations are physical, not verbal. They roam the four floors of the school and attract followings of the masked patrons. I spent most of the time exploring rooms, and found a live eel swimming in a bathtub, a taxidermy dog in a maze of hanging sheets. I stumbled accidentally into scenes like the basement orgy. A female piercing scream is drowned by the throb of techno, the lights go out, a strobe light switches on. An actor disrobes, disappears and reappears wearing a bull’s head, pours red wine down his torso, tears his partner’s dress to shreds. There is sex, a bloody fetus, end scene. The crowd of white masks disperses.

Mass ave Sunday morning

Two hours later the orgy scene plays out again, and what seemed chaotic, random, is revealed to be choreographed with the exactness of a ballet. Yes, I watched the orgy twice, anonymous behind my mask. The magic of immersion theater is getting touched, literally touched, by the story. And you can reach out and touch the real stuff of it. What does it feel like? It feels like anything can happen, and that we’re all in it together. A lucid dream with strangers.

Gorilla Juiceheads

Here She Comes

The Face of Concentration Jennifer, Jwoww: “Oh my God, the gorillas are comin’ out. I see a bunch of like, gorilla juiceheads. Tall, completely jacked, steroids, like multiple growth hormones, that’s like, the type that I’m attracted to. Oh, its juicehead central right now. I’m in heaven.”

Mike, The Situation: “Juiceheads. Big is out and lean is in. It is.”

Jwoww: “I’ve physically seen like twelve gorgeous men pass me. I gotta wake Snickers up to find these guys.”

The Situation: “Thin, thin is in baby. Thin is in.”

Jwoww: “Yo, its gorilla central out there. Get the fuck up.”

Nicole, Snookie: “What do you mean?”

Jwoww: “Juiceheads everywhere. There are so many juiceheads out there, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.”

Snookie: “A juicehead is a hot, Italian tan guy, typically muscly, and loves working out, looking buff, and brawling.”

Jwoww: “Not him, I wasn’t looking at him. I saw gorillas an hour ago. Gorillas.”

Snookie: “Where are the juiceheads? I don’t see any fucking gorilla juiceheads. You woke me up for nothing. Where’s the juiceheads?”

Jwoww: “Not one. You know, I don’t see them anymore.”

Still Taking Pictures

Disgust Makes Me Lucid

Real young girl and the sea

Catherine Breillat’s first film, the 1976 French drama “A Real Young Girl,” reminded me of John Water’s 1972 cult comedy, “Pink Flamingos.” Chickens and sex are a common theme between the two pieces. In Pink Flamingos, a live chicken is crushed between the characters Cookie and Crackers while they make love (the director and crew ate the bird afterwards). In A Real Young Girl, the title character Alice and her mother slit the throat of a chicken and drain the creature of its blood, before plucking all its feathers. The mother reaches into its arse and pulls out the organs, which are then thrown to the other chickens in the yard. “Stupid, aren’t they?” the mother asks, while the chickens tear at the intestines. “Chickens are the one animal I feel no pity for.”

Catherine Breillat has not abandoned the chicken metaphor after all these years. In her 2008 novel “Pornocracy,” Breillat describes a woman’s mons pubis like a “plucked chicken.”

Sticky like a chickens thighs

The top image shows another of Breillat’s metaphors that has been carried forward many decades. At this point in the film, Alice has taken off her panties and placed them on a half-buried dog skeleton up the beach, and she runs to the water’s edge. Alice pulls up her skirt and opens her legs to the surging sea foam. There is a similar scene in Breillat’s 2001 film “Fat Girl,” that I previously screen-captured. The acts of intimacy between each girl and the sea are demonstrative of each film’s larger themes. In “A Real Young Girl,” a film about sexual awakening, Alice chooses to spread her legs. In “Fat Girl,” a film about rape, Anaïs lies passively on her back and lets the waves take her. Breillat seems to be saying that sex is salty, and tastes like chicken.

Found Highway

Concord Ave in winter

I awoke on the first day of my 27th year to the clock radio playing smooth jazz. Someone breathed heavily into a saxophone, there was the tinkling of ivory. The heat was in the 90s, the water pipe directly above my bed practically radiant in the 7AM hour and I lay on my back wearing nothing but boxer briefs, no blankets. The long haired cat stretched out belly up, mouth agape, a strikingly similar posture, one foot over. I had been dreaming about a highway that I driven down once in West Hartford. An elevated highway, marked with green signs, a shortcut through the western suburbs. I had driven down it only once and then lost it forever, now it had returned more than a decade later as a shimmering mirage in the basement desert. When I got out of the car a dog bit my hand and would not let go. The horns and piano melted into a woozy slurry. I reached over and hit the snooze button.

Running threads

It was Monday afternoon and the restaurant was in the process of being put back together after a long, busy weekend. Buckets of ice, bottles for restock, empty crates and boxes littered the bar. The waiters and waitresses rolled silverware into napkins at unset tables. The kitchen madly prepped for service and listened loudly to an iPod belonging to one of the cooks. At the raw bar, a young woman quietly filled out an application for half an hour. As she got up to leave, she handed it over to the bartender Brian, and asked, “Does it ever pick up in here?”

Gristle-y Man

John and his daughter Amelia

John and his newborn daughter Amelia accompanied Brian, Ace and I to the first brunch at Trina’s Starlight Lounge. Not only was it a fantastic brunch, but i out-ate John across the board, a rare and difficult feat. He had two entrees, the double bacon brunch burger with a fried egg and the biscuits with gravy, as well a short stack of silver dollar pancakes. I had the double bacon brunch burger with a fried egg, a short stack of silver dollar pancakes, a bowl of grits, cornbread, hash browns, and three more fried eggs on the side. And then I eyed his baby Amelia and almost ate her too.

I started going to the gym to crank out 1000 calories a day. While running on the elliptical machine I sometimes imagine a kind of gristle ATM where the exercisers can deposit their daily chunk of calories. I sweat a lot (no seriously, A LOT) as the gym is in a basement where the heat is similar to my home, and people get scared. They get splashed. Its like they’re exercising next to a dolphin. Sometimes they move to a machine far away from me. I make a big show of cleaning up. I work out in a bathing suit and when I’m done its like I just hopped out of a pool.

Hoarding pile

I have become interested in American folk music from the twenties and thirties. Right now I would say that this music, blues and soul vinyls, NPR podcasts, David Byrne’s book Bicycle Diaries, the films of the Criterion Collection (started out as a laser disc distributor, funny), the television shows Hoarders and Jersey Shore, and Roly Poly are my main influences.

The Roly Poly Song

My friend George sang this song about my cat. Its Roly Poly’s theme song. The other versions are pretty good too (especially Marty Robbins). The lyrics are:

Roly Poly
Daddy’s little fatty
Hungry every minute of the day
Roly Poly
Gnawin’ on a biscuit
As long as he can chew it it’s okay

Pulls in weeds and does the chores
Runs both ways through all the stores
He works up an appetite that way
Roly Poly
Daddy’s little fatty
I bet he’s gonna be a man someday

A Standard Procedure

french film fat girl

The internet and digital memory place nostalgia a keystroke or phone call away. These memories can be enveloping like a rising tide. I find that when a person exits the day to day of my life that the transition is the hardest time. Because of my unease the irregular is forgotten. Its the routine days that I look back on. Today at work I found myself listening on my phone to a song my grandmother used to request. It would be morning, the two of us sitting across from one another at the dining room table, with coffee and cigarettes. The sunlight through the sliding glass door illuminated the blue smoke rising from our mouths. We would talk and I would stream songs from the internet, whatever she wanted to hear. We listened to young Frank Sinatra and the big bands and Eddy Arnold, puffed on cigarettes, talked and listened to one another and to music. That’s what I miss when I miss my grandmother, not the long days at New Haven hospital, not the smells of the nursing home. I miss those mornings and all the nights we stayed up late to watch the end of the Yankees game together. These memories in my head may be older than the cells that make them up. The days of doing the same things form the groove of a record of those times that the needle slips easily into. Resonant notes are strung together into songs that please with their familiarity upon playback.

You cant go home again

When I think back to my days as a dishwasher in Chicago, I am surprised that I was accepted into the environment and culture as I was, a white middle-class guy from Connecticut, unable to speak Spanish, into a group of Mexican immigrants mostly unable to speak English. The first thing I learned was how to sweep with a broom. To wash the dishes and glassware and silverware and pots and pans and stoves and ovens and hoods etc., and to do it well, brought me great satisfaction. The best times were the weddings every Saturday night and the slow Sundays that followed. The hardest part of the job was not the language barrier, not the social awkwardness; my ignorance was blessedly tolerated. By far the hardest part was giving up the routine. That month after I told everyone I was moving back East because my mom had died was unbearable. Juan Carlos suddenly hated me and always wanted to fight. Luis, an old timer and storyteller and sharp dresser, started ignoring me. It was like I was giving up on them personally. The Union League Club had a policy that if you left the job you could never come back, but I talked to Human Resources and they guaranteed that I could return at will because of the grievous circumstances. Of course you won’t come back, the H.R. director said. You will go on to bigger and better things. You will forget about this place.

Its Rick James’ Hair, Bitch

Rick James kickeroo

Roly Poly’s new toy is a twenty one inch tiger-striped catnip pillow with what appears to be a lock of Rick James’ hair attached to one end. I’m not sure if this made it into Chris Rock’s documentary about African American hair because I haven’t seen it yet but I doubt that a cat toy pillow would be made with fake white people hair. Hopefully, Roly Poly will not learn to attack black people’s heads. Is that so far-fetched? Seriously, someone who sports a jheri curl and enjoys animal print pillow cases probably doesn’t want this toy for their cat. Rick James has been dead for almost six years, but it still feels too soon.

Roly Poly loves it

My friend Ace and I went to Petco today, that’s where I bought it. An employee working exclusively the “cat section” followed us around while we shopped. When Ace went to buy a large bag of Meowmix for $13 the guy butted in and declared, “That stuffs worse than McDonald’s. Its full of corn and will make your cats go to the bathroom.” Guy then recommends a $45 bag of organic lamb feed. I am thinking in my head this guy is out of his damn mind, but Ace actually goes to buy the lamb feed. I’m like, Ace, have you ever seen a housecat take down a lamb? Cats don’t eat lamb in the wild. Your cats may not even like lamb. Guy says, “I have five cats, they love it.” After watching season 1 of Hoarders in the past week, I’m thinking this guy is totally an animal hoarder. I’m thinking, five cats, I bet animal control let him keep five after they flushed a hundred live and dead cats out of his home and garage.

This guy had nothing to say to me, which was smart, because I have been feeling aggressive lately. I bought Roly Poly his food based on the picture on the bag; I tried to pick the feed that looks most similar to kitten chow, to fool him into liking it. Ace eventually settled on a small bag of the lamb feed, to see if his cats will even eat it. The decision emboldened our employee friend. He reached into Ace’s shopping basket and rooted around, came up with a laser Ace planned on purchasing and dismissed it. “This ($3) laser is no good, get the other one (for $10). This one’s crap.” The man probably would have followed us all the way to the register dispensing advice on how to spend the most money at Petco possible except that a weird thing happened. As we exited the cat section, he came to a halt, his neck actually snapping back as if he were a dog wearing a zap collar who tried to cross the boundary of an invisible fence.