Saturday, December 10, 2005


My circuitous fumblings, by 1997, somehow led me to the door of Stan Riskin. As his gofer I was the assistant to the assistant producer of a television show called Win Ben Stein’s Money. It was a demanding job, heaped a’ plenty with humiliation, but I shouldered it unbegrudgingly.

A lot of my time was spent dealing with automobile or mistress crises, both of which were allotted equal priority by my superiors. Even though I promised myself I would never bear a callous L.A. regard, I did sometimes think of oil changes and overdoses as simple matters of fluids in rotation. There were flashes of Hollywood glamour and celebrity of course, but only ankles and hems from my janitorial perspective.

One morning as I passed down the hallway I heard my name screamed from one of the offices: “Ling, get your bitch ass East coast superiority complex in here". There was a couple of Network suits smirking, I’m not really sure why they used to call me Ling. Anyway, probably another dead prostitute caught in the pool filter or some such calamity.

It seemed that Stein had just found out about this guy over in China, another economics guru with a TV show, and he wanted to meet him; “You did know Stein was an Economics professor at Stamford Ling, didn’t you?” And when I intoned with a smattering of his record in service of the Nixon administration “if class is over professor LING, mind if we get back to the BOOB TUBE that pays our bills?”.

To be honest, the story was kind of touching. This fella apparently had followed a Chinese version of the route Stein had taken to TV fame. As a professor of Economics at Tsinghua University he had been remembered and cast by a former student searching to fill a droll, academic movie role. From there his memorable performance had led to a career in the entertainment industry. Stein, being a Nixon Republican, was like the rest of his ilk perpetually eager to celebrate all things Chinese and was naturally interested in all this.

Since I am Asian and we all look alike, we must all speak the same language. So I was routed from amongst the field of blond, blue eyed excrement lickers to research this guys Beijing contacts. I knew that a friend across town would have an entertainment directory from The People’s Republic, but I decided to have a bite before setting out, something that was always a bit of a challenge on my salary.

The only decent refrigerator in the building was located in the writer’s lounge, it even had an ice and water dispenser built into its door. The suits, with their usual hubris, commandeered the space inside for whatever diet food was en vogue that week. The writers, detesting both the suits and their hubris, spent the day casually and defiantly snacking from these. Swooping in, I descended upon a plump and juicy radicchio and romaine salad in a clear plastic container, and relished it knowing one of my more successful counterparts would probably be blamed for its disappearance. There was a bland, kind of earthy sourness to it which concerned me, but then I remembered that sometimes mushroom garnishes can do that.

The directory itself kind of takes on the dimensions of a steamer trunk after you’ve lugged it a few blocks, but I had such a nice visit with Yansong that the feeling carried part of the burden. As I rounded the corner beyond which my Vega was parked, I noticed a man on the opposite sidewalk flying a kite. Then suddenly I had the strangest feeling, like the mooring lines of worry and concern that seem to be the undercurrent of everyday life snapped between the dock and an ocean liner, and there was some sort of new freedom afoot. Then, just a few metres from reaching the car I was enveloped by the strong smell of bubblegum, and realized that I must have stepped in some. Looking back I could see that each step was trailed by ribbons of it, and as I walked on it got deeper and stronger and sweeter as I luxuriated in the rich pink goo. The sun sparkled on my shoulders, and the clouds and sky rung together like a wet finger grazing the rim of a fine crystal goblet. Taking a moment to drink all this in, I sat on a stoop to watch a flock of zithers in rubber tree underpants….? Then it hit me: You’re stoned out of your gourd.

In school I used to trip really well, but I guess this time they had to take me to the hospital. Anyway, when I woke up I had a shoe-box apartment in Astoria and I was commuting to the garment district to write sell sheets. It’s just miserable work, and I’ve not the slightest how I got here. But every time I come across a strange salad I take a few bites hoping it will get me back.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Steps in learning to shave with a straight razor:

Lather face and stand trembling before mirror for 45 minutes

Begin shaving as per advice

Experience onset of woozy feeling at site of river of blood

Wake up on bathroom floor and repeat process

For the past two weeks I have looked like someone put a set of fake eyeballs in a package of supermarket ground beef. When I asked my pharmacist if he would recommend anything to coagulate razor knicks everyone in line behind me and behind the counter broke out in laughter. Still, on the few bare patches of visible skin I have an unusually close, clean feeling shave.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It takes a village to raise a village idiot

This morning I finally got around to sitting down with The Times after a brief hiatus, but 15 minutes or so into it I was so overwhelmed by the urge to ralph in my hat that I had to put the paper down. I honestly don’t know what’s going on in this country, but I’ll tell you this: we are a bunch of thumb-twiddling morons for letting this weasel of a president walk all over every single thing we hold dear. And you know what? We deserve it. Here’s why:

If you are stupid enough to listen to a president endlessly whine about the importance of sacrificing civil liberties in the name of Homeland Security, then sit idly by while your homeland becomes awash in insecurity, you deserve bush.

If you are a woman who can not see that the glimmer in that Robert weasel’s eye comes from knowing that rusty coat hangers will be jammed into your privates, you deserve bush.

If you are a working man to dim to see that governmental coddling has corporations yanking out your pension, health insurance and Social Security and stuffing you and your putrid family values down the gaping, coal mining rectum of 19th century poverty, you deserve bush.

Don’t get me wrong though. If you’re a billionaire, I’m talkin’ $1 Billion, then you belong behind bush, ‘cause he’s all about you. But be positive you’re in that class first, ‘cause takin’ 999 Million to that party is like showin’ up for church wearin’ nothing but your incontinent grandpappy’s underwear.

But even all that is not the biggest part of the problem. What w has really managed to do is convince ordinary people that they’re also on the receiving end of the corporate bazooka that’s blasting cash up the wazoos of everyone in Greenwich and Dallas. Give a middle manager 20 or 30 grand in artificially inflated holdings and all of a sudden he thinks he’s hobnobbing. That combines so delectably with the truly nefarious part of w’s scheme: that he and his buddies really don’t give a damn about capitalism, the market or even democracy. To them those notions are just a means to an end, their way of preserving their British Landed Aristocratic Plebe Squelching in a “Democratic” society. They think they’re superior, and in order to preserve their heritage they’ve got to convince us to install them into power. And we simply can not lunge at the chance to scatter our life savings over the cobblestones of American labor to soften the footfall of their jackboot fast enough. Doesn’t all this make sense? Where do you think w would be right now if he hadn’t been born into one of the most powerful families in North America? I’m guessing something along the lines of third shift driver at Jed’s A to Z All Night Chicken BarBQ and Towing.

But hey, what do I know. I’m just a bloggin’ rabble-rouser with a two bit education and 80 proof breath. Maybe you put bush there yourself and you’re happy to see him stay. And even if I’m right, what do you have to loose? Just your home, uterus and livelihood, that’s all.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Brooks Brothers Blue is the new Brown

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I am an American and a Patriot of The United States of America. When disaster strikes, this is what I expect from us, the greatest country in the world:
1) The Cavalry: Army, Navy, Airforce and Marines landing on the shores of desperation to save the day and to prove to the world how decisively AMERCIANS deal with adversity.
2) A president who offers answers, not questions
3) American Uniforms wet with the tears of appreciative refugees.
Unfortunately, the people of New Orleans have suffered an absence of all that is AMERICAN.
I am afraid for them and ashamed of us.

Friday, August 26, 2005


I enjoyed living in Treefield Connecticut. I had a premonition that some day my time there would come to an end, so I drank it all in.

Even though the cottage I lived in was a dinky little affair, I took the time to spruce it up and make it homey and appealing. Luckily, a very good friend stuck by me while I did the painting, flooring and detail work. When it was completed I really had something for myself. Far away from the nearest home, I was well nestled in a gentle wilderness.

The guy who owned the estate I was intended to mind came only very infrequently. In essence, I had 35 gorgeously wooded acres to myself. There was of course the main house, but I liked to pretend that it wasn’t there, so I went in only to check the pipes once in a while and to do my wash.

In summer evenings the tiniest beings would fill the air with deafening sound, calling to their mates and serenading me only when I cared to listen. Just outside my door deer would chomp on cheekfulls of shrubbery, fawns by their side in the latest in spotted infant wear. Alone, I would sit nude in a lawn chair or dangling my feet poolside, listening to the padding of hooves and paws curiously noting my scent.

One of the daughters left a large pink float, and I would drift along skyward with a bottle of vodka in hand, the stars pirouetting as my whimsical craft sounded a hollow gnash scraping along the cement work.

There were multitudes of animals everywhere, and I took special pains to drive slowly to avoid hurting them. But I did see one thing on my way home from a friend’s that nauseated me to the point where I could no longer stand the thought of causing an animal to suffer, and I had to stop eating meat.

I don’t want to share the hideous jarring I felt when I came upon the scene, so I’m not going to describe it. I’m just going to make a point of reminding myself, after three years of vegetarian adherence, that each piece of meat I now consume needs to be measured against the memory of those lost treasures.

Eventually I had to leave my cottage and the animals I shared the woods with. I wonder sometimes if they miss me, or just the apples I left behind.

I think that if every New Englander could see the splendor that our glass paneled monstrosities displace, we’d live more respectful, compact lives.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I told him the truth, what I really thought, the first thing that came to mind; which I guess, in retrospect, was the absolute wrong thing to do. I mean, the walk had taken an hour, and though time had elapsed before we cracked through, our conversation had hit a very nice stride. As we made our way through the snow I noticed how his hair and clothes were neat yet somehow unkempt, and thought that that was the product of his being blind, living without a mirror. So the impression kind of followed us into the warmth of the restaurant. I would be late for class or work, can’t remember which. When I asked him the time he produced on his wrist a brail chronograph, with a flip up lid and pirouetting mechanism which described the days passing. That’s when I said “that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen”. He turned and walked away, never having seen the thing himself I guess.

That storm was almost a year before last night’s, and 900 miles South of Stowe. Now, on the lift, I could see rain had mixed with the snow. Below my clacking skis rested the remains of a mountainside turned to ice overnight. The groomers must have slaved through the darkness, running machines over the trails to crush up the shiny surface and render it gravelly corn. In the process all my moguls and landmarks were wiped from the face of the landscape, my hints and reminders into the glades long gone. That was the kind of winter I was having though, disorientation the order of the day.

It wasn’t the ice that left me reeling , I think it was the solitude and loss. It may have been a whole year we were together, yes it must have been so. I had been casual and flippant, inviting the idea of parting into our bed, letting it feast on our trust like a Tartar to veal. I saw nothing but the day beyond, glared unknowingly through both her sorrow and mine.

Jumping the lift wind blew hair in my face, took me back to the blind in Richmond. This very same guy I had seen on many a day, striding with confidence and cane through the vast city streets. Why was he fumbling? When I offered a hand I was grappled in the way blind people do, shunning the palm and clamping my limb just below pit. Before we spoke I realized the reason, saw the snow kept his cane from feeling the curb.

Dropping from the lift towards the tip of a mountain. Getting off the ride well before everyone else. Landing in a clearing alone amongst sloping forest. I skated to get away.

Après ski five hours fifteen shots and one nursing student later I return to my cot. Half asleep I shuffle down the familiar hallway to the bathroom, fall a full flight down the stairs of my new home.

It’s the precipitation. I’m just not together anymore.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Oh what a glorious shimmering day, a bicycle ride, coffee with friends, a jaunt out to a Thimble Island. My plans
resplendent with mirth. ‘Threw my bike in the hallway, leapt to the apartment, then still shower dripping answered the phone.

I don’t know why, but when I’m dressing, especially in a hurry, I like company. I don’t care what; I’ll turn on some nice music, talk with a roommate across the hall or flip through a magazine. But an hour ago I turned on the TV, and that’s when it punched through the fabric of my day and gashed right through my being.

It’s funny how a body is made. A tree branch, a raccoon, a person all assembled so much like all else, with a frame supporting the gross structural weight along with the integral systems contributing to a whole. But us animate things are so different than, say, buildings. We start as tiny bits which seemingly emerge from within themselves, so that even though a rib is perfectly encased in musculature, one never had to be fit inside the other. So I guess, when you ponder, it’s no great mystery that a lurking thirst could be found inside there as well.

I don’t know why, but someone must have made the decision to broadcast the movie just then. It always leaves me dumb, from the moment I hear the music. I just went and closed the blinds, then the curtains over them, and with the lights off poured drink after drink and sat. I don’t care who wrote or directed this one, so intensely personal the thrust behind it seems. To me it has always been so much more than just a film. It somehow manages to heap my long frozen tears into its glow.

Always I realize it is me. And I think then that my arms could never open wide enough to hold such a woman. When suddenly I remember the truly sad part of it all; no such woman exists. She was a sprite. But that’s OK, ‘cause I’m only a cheap Puck.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

All Stars

Downtown there was a bomb scare; pantsuits and ties on the sidewalk. I took the time to mull about, let the small things hit me like raindrops. Hasidim negotiating on Blackberries, plain-clothesmen addressing one another as commander, an unusually attractive woman festooned with chestnut curls in a wheel chair. I luxuriated in hundreds of socially guarded vignettes, like I used to when I smoked pot. My steps fell easily.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


There’s only a few things in this life that hurl my furor into a vortex uncontrolled by man or nature, and almost all of those things can only be done by my wife; specifically when she does them to push my buttons. She knows well and good that I am going to blow my top. That’s how women are. If you are a man, not yet married, and the notion of marriage ever emerges even in casual conversation, RUN.

There are times when there is just not enough cubic miles of atmosphere to fill my lungs so I can yell loud enough. This is especially true at the track when I’m rooting for Todd. Todd Vodka, as almost all of you have figured out, is the horse I trained, know as a friend and race. His place in history as “The Wet Track Underdog of All Time” is well deserved, and not only because of his masters affiliation. I won’t go into detail here, but he was born a quarter-hoof, a bastard just like me. Think of the poetic justice.

A few days ago, after a particularly exuberant revelry in celebration of a win, the barbarous shrew that sometimes possesses my wife started nosing around my laptop. Invading my privacy, in case I’ve neglected to clarify, is a transgression which turns me into a thing which ware wolves would cower from. So what does she turn up? Not only the fact that there is a blogger out there operating under the name of our horse, but also that this individual seems eager to boast of crimes which she has always suspected I myself am guilty of. Coincidence? She thought not.

Now this is the part of the story that split my tectonic plates: She went into my laptop and deleted 17 of my future posts from the annals of time and history; forever. Then she came to the dinner table and said “you wanna’ be a dirty old fart sitting around trumpeting the excesses of your youth, go ahead”. And she harrumphed.

Before I go any further let me just say that my wife is the woman of dreams. We met in a glorious spring and fell together easily. To this day we are, in our seventies, a couple which people stop to watch; our love is that whimsical and glorious. The day we married I wore clouds, sonnets and laughter like an expertly tailored suit in a light breeze. But right now, I’m not sure if I’m stepping out for a breath of fresh air or headed to the shed for my hatchet.

I know this: I am going to torture her ruthlessly, and she will turn her indignation against me and make me feel like a criminal for defending my inclination to enjoy life. She destroyed 17 stories that I slaved for days on end to write, and the world should penalize me with the wrath of Medusa for her doing so. That’s how women think. All of them.

Something deep within has compelled me to share thoughts of my Senior year at Chaote. Stale memories of a certain Claire Lemsoll and her fascination with the results of a procedure I underwent at an early age in accordance with my religion have come to mind. I wonder if the poor dear ever adjusted to life in Paris. You know what?, I think I’ll put this aside and call her right now. But first I have to throw a pair of gardening shears in the pond.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Sometimes celebrities are edgy about their fame because they have not yet learned to deal with all the attendant attention. Others have had trying experiences with unprovoked intrusions into their personal lives. Still others, like many ordinary people, are just edgy by nature. But Patty Hearst, now there’s a woman who has all the reason in the world to be edgy. And that is exactly what was going through my brother’s mind when he took a seat on the train next to her on the way into Manhattan.

If you’re not a fan of Orson Wells or media Moguls of yore, you may not know who Patty is. She’s the billionaire heiress to a fortune amassed by the man who sculpted the news over half a century. Her Daddy’s mere pocket money built castles and shrines to himself that would weaken the knees of Egyptian kings. As the only child of the doting “Citizen Kane”, a man who immortalized himself in Xanadu, Americas most extravagant mausoleum, no earthly sum would be spared in satisfying her every whim. Yet poise and etiquette were equally imparted, so that by her early teens she was quite the debutante-to-be.

Just one year later, though, the world would gaze on another cherished symbol of Ms. Hearst’s personal brand of aristocracy: a photograph of her holding a loaded fully automatic assault weapon to the head of a bank guard as The Symbianeese Liberation Army made off with the loot. Somehow it seems that after the radical group snatched her up for ransom, she caught the Stockholm Syndrome ball and carried it deep into the end zone. It must have been a transformation which astonished even her captives.

Anyway, Dad somehow managed to extract her from all that glamour and reconditioned her brain, but of course he had to have most of her new friends assassinated in the process. And needless to say they were a pretty nasty and vindictive bunch. So yet again Patty knew she was destined to spend the rest of her life in the company of men who carry large caliber automatic weapons. Only this time they were body guards. So the guy in dark shades sitting one seat back and one over was probably fresh from the jungles of El Salvador or Peru.

Several times during the train ride my brother turned halfway towards her, placing his fingertips upon his chin in an inquisitive manner. Intermittently he would crinkle his brow and raise a finger, only to surrender his point. Patty visibly squirmed as he appeared to spend the hour summoning the notion of where he knew her from.

As the train pulled into Grand Central Station my brother just turned and asked, in the most casual of ways, “so, does that mean that Xanadu will be the last stop for you too”?

Apparently she laughed. Very hard. Because my brother never told me this story. Years later he just handed me a folded over copy of Interview where it was recounted, and said “you know this guy”.

Friday, May 20, 2005


It seems like much longer, but to tell you the truth all this has only been going on for a year or so. And when people hear about it they’re always awestruck by the Hollywood notion, but it is really much more of a life style thing when it comes down to it.

Believe it or not, there truly is a flourishing community of “concisountious fugitives” experiencing fulfilling lives on the lamb. We share a network of resources which aid in obtaining identities, employment, housing and other necessities difficult to come by in our situation. The one thing we all have in common is our adamant repulsion to instruments of destruction. We are a collection of non-violent criminals, and any mention of weaponry by one of our number leads to immediate excommunication.

I am told that membership begins and ends in the same way, and having gone through the process of joining I believe it. You see, I thought I was going to get away with my crime and slip back into anonymity. That’s the dream I guess. And I had it for a few days before it all blew up in my face. The minute my name and photo hit the news I leaned with all my might on the panic button, but in those same moments saviors appeared like camouflaged natives emerging from shrubbery.

I had been on TV a few times before, and people did occasionally ask for my autograph, so you can imagine how freaked out I was. When I saw three squad cars coming down my peaceful lane I practically flung myself out the kitchen window and down the alleyway. An hour later, as I was riding the elevator up to Jenn’s apartment, the guy standing next to me casually says “ I wonder if they caught that Battlebots guy yet”, and when I turned to quickly he put out his hand in a reassuring gesture. Then he said “don’t panic, just listen to me carefully. They are waiting for you at Jennifer’s, I have a way out. I am not a cop. Do exactly as I say”. It was like some scene from “Brazil”, he used Jenn’s last name.

Now I’m a pretty average guy, which is the most radical thing I ever dreamed I’d become. I still hold my convictions, but I think I’ve done my part to further the cause. I’m about a million miles away from the walking dungeons-and-dragons pimple farm I used to be. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. I did kind of get a kick out of the slice of fame I received for my gadgetry, and it’s kind of sad to be denied claim to your best performance.


Most people who watched Battlebots on Comedy Central know me as the creator of The Excruciator, a sledge-hammer and buzz saw wielding remote control robot renowned for conquering its robot opponents on the show. But there was a few things the average viewer didn’t know: Non- builders paid me a huge wad to design and assemble their own competitors and teach them the skills necessary to operate them. And, more importantly, I secretly had Jenn hooked up to a remote in the stands, and from there she messed with other people’s controls on their own radio frequencies. In other words, I controlled the whole she-bang.

Well, I had one more secret not even Jenn knew about. Most of the money I got was used for a project I had been brewing for quite some time. I created a team of robots, 22 of them in all, constructed from steel, driven by high amperage motors and painted to look like porcelain. They each weighed 327 pounds and had hydraulic flippers on three sides camouflaged to fit into their benign appearance. They were controlled by a single cell phone frequency which had only one binary command: on. When the switch was thrown on these babies a fear inspiring growl blasted out of them as they went through a sequence of jumps with their flippers. The first jump was only a millimeter, but even that one landed and earsplitting thud as 327 pounds of metal crashed back down and the alternators roared as they geared up for the next, slightly higher jump. By the end of the first sequence, which took eight minutes, they launched themselves 11 feet in the air.

Inside my workshop they were unbearably loud, but in the tiled bathrooms of the Jacobs Javitts Center, where the Republican National Convention was being held, they were deafening. Within eight minutes of activation, plenty of time for everyone to flee, there was a 327 pound high voltage toilet bowl shaped robot bouncing off the ceiling in every bathroom at the convention. If you look carefully at the tapes of news coverage of the second night of the convention around 9:37 pm, you’ll see every TV correspondent put a finger to his ear-piece, pause while listening intently, then give the camera a deer-in-the-headlights glare as his tiny brain tries to comprehend what he just heard.

Anyway, that’s the romantic version of all I did to earn my place here. But to tell you the truth, for me the most remarkable fact is this: One can risk life and liberty to convey an important message and proclaim democracy triumphant. But it is folly to underestimate the extent to which every news outlet is controlled by large, conservative corporate entities, and to overlook the coordination they employ in sanctioning “worthy” events. This is the ultra-right in its vast and scariest form, summoning all available might against an army of toilets. Unfortunately though, even the censorship of it all was known only to me.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Do yourself a favor and rent the original TODAY

They are making a movie out of the historic film, and frankly I think they should be neutored for doing so. If you want to see the most inspirational documentary ever made, make a point of sitting down with "Dog Town and Z boys" before the dirtbags in Hollywood suck the magic out of the era.
P.S. I'm looking around for a good deal on a board with thrusters and medium rocker, and a stick with street wheels.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

“Dead By Wednesday”

The other day while driving the turnpike I noticed a billboard which left me reeling in contemplation. I reflected on my neighborhood, the people I’ve been blessed to know and the place I’ve come to be. For the most part I felt myself whirling towards a conclusion, that joy comes from the summation of smaller delights, is composed in part from the pleasure of routine.

Father Bernard came to mind, a man whom I’ve met only days ago but through who’s work I’ve known almost since arriving here. I thought of bumping into an impromptu gathering of stoop side neighbors on my way back from an interview, and how, across a conversation not to be interrupted, one of the upstairs rugby players gave me an inquisitive nod, let me know he was anticipating my news. I realized how the priest’s garden, which I had frequently walked far out of my way to traverse, was an expression, a cheer to his life, and also a subtle nod.

Yesterday evening, in my neighborhood less than a mile from the sign, an entire city park leapt with Japanese cherry blossoms. Pinkly tinged downy ivory wafting to the sky, a heavenly guild of sweetness falling into me. Under a canopy of this I felt the cascading beauty bring me to tears, enjoyed the mysterious sorrow of weeping.

These repercussions are realer than mortar-fire, louder than youth. The tectonic weight of their message lands home a volume greater than earlier rhythms. They soften molding and unsharable desperations hollering to come across. And they do, in a way, orchestrate a lingering base cord of empathy as the words follow me into dream.

I remembered my teens, my years spent carving unnoticed words into the flesh of my immortality, screaming at mammoth unhearing ears. And I felt what the kid must have when he climbed the scaffolding, probably in the middle of the night, 40 or 50 feet closer to the stars, hatefully gripping the can as he spray-painted the words.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Murano Butterfly

They make you wait, they always do; in their offices, on the phone or having lunch they like to feel powerful, to nonchalantly toss off an apology and excuse, thank you for your patience now let’s get down to business. I don’t mind it at all anymore. I expect it and let them do so. But it is interesting to find that even in this new industry the game still plays out the same old way. Nonetheless, while I was sitting in the waiting room I noticed that my fingernails and cuticles were deeply stained with grease.

A lot of times, when you walk into a motorcycle shop, you’ll see row after row of very fast Japanese bikes with aggressive looking lines and brightly colored paint-job hair do’s. They are nervous racehorses at the gate waiting for you to twist their throttle so they can pounce into tunnel-vision high performance action. All the brands are, for the most part, identical, with minuscule variations in suspension, fuel delivery or styling from one to the other. And then as you walk through the shop, if it is a good shop, there stands in the back a steed. These are the Italian motorcycles, Bimoto and Ducati. They stand in back because they are dear to the shop, and also to a prospective owner.

While I sat in the waiting room I reviewed the arduous task of adjusting the valves on my new friends Ducati, and as I did so I saw the receptionist interpreting my look of pain and frustration as impatience.

The valves on a ducati are an excellent example of just how bizerk Italians are about grace and performance; you see, on any other gasoline engine in the world the valves are driven by a lobe which pushes one down into the cylinder head, then a spring pushes it back up. When the spring returns the valve to its seat there is a small, I’m talkin’ miniscule immeasurable, bounce. Well, for the Italians that’s not good enough. They’ve go the lobe to open the valve, but then they have an entirely separate and maniacally elaborate scheme to both close the valve AND hold it exactly in place. And this is just one aspect of their engine. So one goes about adjusting the delicate valves betwixt and befuddled by a menagerie of parts, and they must be brought into perfect adjustment. But every time you adjust one, the others change their orientation, so back you go. And there are eight of them. This brand of fanaticism is present in every detail of the design of a Ducati. They are beautiful creatures and are the handiwork of dedicated craftsmen devoted to the specie's embodiment.

The pone on the secretary rang, and I was escorted into a comfortable office. “Come in have a seat, so sorry, Cynthia get this man a latté, business, you know how it is, so and so tells me you can write, dialogue even. I don’t see any credentials here, where ‘ya been…?” He takes me for the whole ride. I produce some samples and he demonstrates his familiarity with them, he’s done some research and he’s not afraid to compromise himself by letting me know so. We talk, about work and also money. We take it slow at first.

Sometimes, when I first dismount a Japanese motorcycle, I tremble. They are savage machines eager to hurl you faster than you dare. A touch of your right hand will unleash gargantuan power in the heaviest of turns, sending the thing right out from under you. Their brakes are so efficient that they can flip the bike at almost any speed. An Italian motorcycle, by comparison and otherwise, delivers performance; which is to say that it doesn’t just dump it on the rider. It thrills you with sumptuous power and narrates twisty turny roads. On the freeway at well over a buck and a half it’s nothing more than a pet hummingbird in your pocket.

It’s not a wonder that most people don’t even know about these motorcycles, even if they are riders. They are two or three times more expensive than their Japanese counterparts, and when they sit at idle their complex mechanizations make them sound like a tin box of rocks rolling downhill. But that’s not really it; the reason they sit at the back of the shop is because most people, almost everyone, simply is not capable of discerning the difference.

So yes, since it seems to be important to you I will admit that though the business card said otherwise, the man you met at 2:30 was Todd Vodka. My spelling is bad, my grammar is worse, and my punctuation is horrific. But I am hard-core in the market for a brand new Ducati 999. Are you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Today there was spring, glorious heat and jubilation. I felt it in my veins like a wolf waking to the setting sun. I felt love and passion, but even more so today I felt daring. In the dewy morning air I tossed open my garage door and flung the cover from my motorcycle. I knew budding crocuses had reached it too as I mounted and kicked to hear it start up first try after a long, cold winter. As it warmed to life I crouched by the door to have a smoke, gazing as listless breezes experimented with newly opened windows and portals.

Then, when the revs lowered to operating idle, I whole-shotted out of the damp garage, power-slided in the street, then twisted my right hand to unleash the wind. Fuck the garage door.

After straightening turns at the reservoir for an hour I arrived at Albert’s long driveway. Etiquette be gone, I jammed my thumb on the horn button to see him dashing through the door, wiggling his jacket on with one arm while finishing his breakfast from the other. I smiled as his garage door was flung in my own fashion, and backed my SR500e onto its center stand. With both bikes aspirating we could hardly hear his wife at all.

Moments later all our senses were immersed in the season, saturated in speed and liberation like dreaming cheetahs after forbidden gazelles. Deep into forests then towns, blowing through traffic, sometimes stretching our legs on The Merrit.

I knew that in the quiet of that evening I would, as always, promise to never risk myself like that again. But the visceral joy-ride of it all, pulling into Café 101 to see your buddy sharing the smile, slamming your hand into his, regaling strangers with the end of winter you discovered upon the land. Those, also, are seasons; inside myself.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Things Must Be Done

At the end of this street and overlooked by my bedroom window there is a gas station which closed about five years ago. The two brothers who own it, Sal and Al, are among the most cheerful and likable people I’ve met in my life. If you walk over to their garage they greet you with warmth, and look deeply into your eyes.

Because a large factory down the street went out of business there are no longer many people who need gas to commute to the area. But long ago Sal and Al’s place thrived, and they speak with charmed enthusiasm of the days when the neighborhood bustled with shops and strollers. They are not bitter, there is youthfulness in the way they describe the metamorphosis. I have never once heard them bemoan the changing times.

This is a lazy day insulated by a foot and a half of snow. The low sunlight from my window lofts a paisley curl on the far wall, heat and comfort visibly rising from the baseboard register . As I sit in my wool upholstered chair reading Willa Cather, the sounds of Sal and Al’s plow truck nestle into my blanket. Back and forth the little red Willy’s Jeep goes with its yellow plow. Wordlessly shoulder to shoulder, Al holds the coffee while Sal drives.

In 45 minutes there will not be a flake of snow on their lot. I know this from experience. Also I know that there will be no other vehicles there for quite a long time: or maybe someone will make a U-turn if they’ve passed my street in error. None the less the brothers come here from their nearby suburb every morning at 8:30 sharp. They happily fill children’s bicycle tires with air, read the paper in their Oldsmobile, walk down to visit the elderly. They are addressed by those living here as men vigorously employed.

Besides Mrs. Cather and a formidable role in the demise of two Vegan corn-dogs, I’ve accomplished otherwise naught. My thoughts are sluggish from wee hours spent drunkenly wading through snowdrifts from bar to bar: the two rugby players upstairs joining me as I dove to catch moving car bumpers for a free ride. I insulted a good friend, and drank the median annual income of a household in Central America. This evening when I lay to rest the dishes will do so also, in the sink then as they are now.

It’s dark enough now for sparks to fly from the plow, and I wave to the men behind my Tungsten-yellow window. Tomorrow, just like every other Monday morning, they will visit the barber around the corner.

So for me, the lessons have always been slow to impart themselves. But just now I think I learned this: There is no inherent meaning in anything except that which we place there.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Flexing Charlie Brown Muscles

When I first moved into this small city I was the only one who didn’t know everyone. No matter where I went people where greeting one another, exclaiming surprise and proclaiming their friendship with joy and merriment. In the supermarket people hugged, at the Post Office smiles and news, getting a slice or picking up toothpaste reunions, rendezvous and surprises.

And black people, don’t even get me started on that. I was certain there was some kind of secret joyous conspiracy where every person of color would laugh, reunite or exchange a handshake simultaneously in each and every corner of the berg for hours on end every day. It seemed that I never saw a black person walk a straight line for the necessity of having to veer to this side for an embrace, that for a handshake, over there for a friendly toss of the index finger in acknowledgement.

I had no idea how anything was getting done. By the time one opened his eyes from the euphoria of recollection, there was another waiting just across the isle. And there I stood. Just me. Not a soul did I know. I mean, there was my room mate, a nice Canadian fella with impeccable manners, but should I try to compensate for all this joviality I seemed to be missing out on by overenthusiastically welcoming him home, he had to call his parents just to regain his bearings.

Last night and many, many months later I ate with neighbors. And there I found a soul quenching exchange filled with earnestness, good food and challenging insight. Words like friendship and camaraderie are but scanty threads of ideas which don’t even weave into appropriate description. When I came home another friend had left a message inquiring as to whether I’d be interested in watching a movie he rented, and as I walked down the street towards his house my good friend and Landlord Larry (a black guy) pulled over to share a few ideas.

It took a long time to sink in, but it happened before I knocked on Will’s door:

I’m a resident now. I Belong.