Lullaby Jumpstart

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


It is a sweltering. It is an ache. Across the fault line of my mind there is this throb that many understand but no one delights in.

Those who share this sweltering are not necessarily friends, because with this throb there is a shame.

We are not crazy.

From the ages of about five until I was sixteen, I assumed it was normal to punch walls, break glass, and cry at least twice a day. Not that I did any of those things, but I had grown accustomed to seeing different members of my family engaging in one or all of these behaviors.

Rampant, if not somewhat violent, mood swings were expected, and even taking out the trash or folding laundry could be cathartic. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, chemical dependency was not the norm.

Many people would call this type of behavior depression. The well educated or perceptive would call this behavior bi-polar.

I called it home.

At times you could find my mother and I in the strangest of places; bouncing checks at bookstores because we were tired of being poor (a strange sort of logic, I am aware), trespassing through abandoned farm-houses looking for the truth, or shell-shocked on the living room couch for two days after watching Awakenings starring Robin Williams.

There was always a breaking point with this behavior. The point where things were a little too much and I would lose track of her for a few days. A string of free-willed precarious escapades was usually a warning sign of an impending change.

It was after work and school one day when my mother had asked me if I had ever screamed.

"What do you mean?" I turned to my best friend April, who had moved in with me at this point, "Who hasn't screamed?

"You haven't Ben," she smirked, "I can tell. Nothing Primal. Nothing intentional. Nothing planned. Come on."

We drove to the middle of a plowed field next to Hunter Farm, long since abandoned and nearly condemned. The house was believed to be haunted. I often ran there hoping to catch a spirit or two.

My mother, unknown to me, used the Hunter field on a regular basis. For screaming.

It was simple really. You stood in the middle of sweltering nothing and screamed, head towards the sky, as loudly and as gutturally as possible.

My mother demonstrated.
It started low, from her toes, and shot up out of her throat. If it had been colored, I pictured purple and black rays spewing up like spider webs. Slowly the colors would mix to grey and evaporate in the air.

Her voice stayed low and growling, never popping up in pitch. And as if pushing a large object through a small space, when the scream had left her, she fell to the ground and caught her breathe.

"There," she said with tears in her eyes, "Ben, your turn."

"I'll pass," I objected, "I don't need to scream."

"Bullshit. Fucking Bullshit. April?"

April blushed and giggled a little.
"Oh I don't think I can."

My mother only stared at April, deciding for her.

April's scream started from her nose, and shot up to the top of her head. It was high-pitched. She sounded like Jamie Lee Curtis's best friend being stabbed in a scary movie.
And Rose could only laugh.

"What?" April giggled, red-faced and breathless.

"Right, so that was your homework assignment from yesterday. I wanna hear when your mother kicked you out."

April glared at my mother and then to me, as if I had spilled a secret (which I hadn't, April living with me wasn't even my idea.) She closed her eyes and after a moment a sound akin to a kettle whistling itself right off the stove began. Higher and breathier than my mother's scream but just as powerful. Eventually her shriek turned to laughter which my mother joined into.

They both turned to me, staring intently.

"What?" I said. "I'm fine."

"Just do it Ben," April begged.

"We aren't leaving until you do it," my mother snapped.

"Ah," I deadpanned. "Now let's get the fuck out of here."

"Do it for real."

"Aaah. Aaahoooohohoh".

"What was that? " April interrupted, "Angry about last nights episode of Quantum Leap?"

"Come on," my mother eyes narrowed, "I'm right in front of you. This is your chance."

I stepped forward toward my mother. My face stopped inches from hers. I reached out in a snap grabbing her car keys. I was home within five minutes, leaving them to walk the fields.

I couldn't tell you when they got back, I had long since fallen asleep and locked myself in my room, but not before ripping all of the posters from my wall and clearing the top shelf of my closet in a single swipe. There would be years of these messes. CD players blaring, broken pottery and destroyed possessions. Bruised knuckles and shins. Bleeding fingers and ripped clothing. Years of this mess, until at some point, I would take out the trash and find catharsis or fold my jeans and find myself alone and crying.

And I am crazy.

When I emerged for dinner, we all said nothing, we hadn't even left the house in the first place it seemed. We joked and flung food and the only discernible difference was that behind my mother's and April's eyes there was relief, and behind mine there was pressure.

We are not crazy.

Now, on a few rare days, I find myself searching for plowed fields in Chicago. An abandoned building, or an empty house. Someplace where anonymity is possible. And distance.

I was foolish I realize. I passed up the opportunity for complete honesty and momentary release. Because now, now I am never sure when to say what is crazy or to bite my tongue. Never clear as to when to be angry or be forgiving.

Sometimes, not often but some days, I feel as if all of my emotions have melted together into one. On these days, these blue moons, this emotion, whatever it would be called, is the only feeling I can muster besides ambivalence. And when faced with the choice...of showing people everything or nothing I get stuck in the middle of the choice...left to simmer. If I were to scream at that moment to reclaim it, I fear what would happen.

We are not alone.

This morning, on my way up from the subway, I was caught behind a business woman who was caught behind a college student. The college student was walking up the stairs as slowly and amiably as possible. He wasn't running late, he passed his test last night, got laid, smoked up this morning...something. But as this business woman tried in vain to get around him and his duffel bag and his gym bag, she became enraged.

At the top the stairs when a wide berth was made, she passed by him, exhaling loudly and muttering something under her breath.

"Bitch," he snapped.

And she stopped.

She turned around.

She opened her mouth and she paused.

Defeat entered her eyes.

She should have said, "How great for you that you have nowhere to be."


"Thank god your life is going swimmingly ALL THE TIME!"

But she didn't and she left.
And as I passed by the college student, who lived his life like me and her and was having a good day, I heard him say,

"Fuckin' crazy."

And I stopped.
Turned to him,
Thought of corn-fields and abandoned building. Broken lamps and cracked walls.

"No. She isn't."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reconciliation Can Begin

After standing in the eleven o’clock rain until it almost shifted midnight, I finally spotted a cab. As I entered the back seat I thanked him quietly and commented how I was doubtful that I would even find a taxi.

“I live on North side. I start North, go downtown. But I like to stay up here. Not many people can get cab late at night on north side.”


I stared out the window, watching each spring drop fall and counted the veins they made upon the glass.

“Montrose and Oakley please.”

“Right away sir.”

And I laughed, as I always do. As many times as I hear it (mostly in the backs of cabs) I will never become accustomed to hearing myself addressed as “sir.”

I adore the rain. If time allows and I’ve nowhere to be, you can find me sitting under an awning, smelling the rain, or taking hooded walks in sloppy clothes on sloppy sidewalks.

The rain now, only served to make me somber. There was a weight to this rain and I could feel it on my shoulders.

Unintentionally, at times, people put decisions on themselves that they don’t really need to make. I was in the middle of one of those times. And as the cab driver kept going down Lawrence past Clark and Ashland, I found myself unable to tell him that he was going the wrong way. That the street that I reside on is a one way street going North.

But I trust him. He’s the cab driver. He probably knows a side street that works better than the way I would take.

“So is night just beginning for you? Or ending?”

“Me? Ending,” I said, “But the next one will be starting soon enough.”

There was a buzz in the air and I wasn’t sure if it was the radio of the cab or the actual atmosphere of the night.

“You?” I added.

“I am just starting. I am night driver. Only nights.”


“Daylight attacks my eyes.”

I laughed to myself, for his statement sounded like a song title. Like the beginning of a poem I wrote in eighth grade.

We drove in silence, for a while, and my thoughts drifted towards the oncoming. An email from home, snowballed with the lack of sleep I was experiencing and the dread of being a failure at twenty-five.

Yes, I thought, If I could go back. Things would be different. I have regrets.

Smirking, I thought of those surveys people put on their myspace profiles. The last question is always “number of things in your past you regret” and I couldn’t recall if anyone had every said anything besides none.

Countless, I thought. That would be my answer. I wonder if anyone ever put down a small number like…three. And they knew…they knew the three things in their life that they regretted. How calming, that must be, to have emotional distance enough to count. Why? Why does it seem that all of my scars, no matter how old are constantly raw? I make my peace. I forgive my trespassers. I reconcile. It’s a talent really. And yet the guilt.

The cab driver came to Lawrence and Oakley and stopped at the light.

She drinks, I feel guilty. He calls and I cower. But we’ve said we’re sorry.

As it turned green he turned left onto Oakley driving down the last section of two-lane street.

“Oh…oh no. Oakley ends here. Yes?”

As he came to a curve in the road he slowed down. My head shot up and caught a view of an alleyway refracted through a raindrop.

“I go wrong way. Yes?”

I look to the meter and read six dollars. My stomach clenched.

“No…no. This is fine. I’m actually really close to home. I can just walk from here.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah…its only…its just a little that way.”

“You said Montrose. That is two blocks South.”

“Yeah not that bad.”

“I drive you rest of way.”

“No really this is good,” my face flushed red as I realized I only had eight dollars total in my pocket. I would rather walk than not tip the driver.

“No…it is raining and it is late. I will drive you rest of way. You pay six dollars.”

“Oh no…”

“Yes. You my first customer tonight. Must start off on good foot.”

“Well..thank you. Thank you.”

He drove through the curve and I told him the best way to continue towards my house. He shut the meter off and I paid him my six dollars, relishing the extra singles in my pocket.

I knew I could trust him. I am a very good judge of character.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “I’m bad with directions. I should have said something. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. My fault. I wasn’t thinking. I should know streets better.”
“Yeah…but I should have said something earlier. I saw that…”

“It is not your job to tell me where to go.”

“Well yeah…”

“No apologize. Stop.”


And he laughed. Loudly, a guffaw really.

With a glance to his rearview mirror he caught my eye.

“You always do that,” he asked.

“What?” I blinked.

“You always apologize for things you didn’t do?”


“But a lot?”


“You so young. You look smart. You are so silly.”

As we neared Montrose and Oakley he slowed down and parked the cab. Turning his torso toward me he smiled,

“Why so hard? On yourself? Why so hard?”

“I don’t…I’m not,” I bit my lip in terror. I hadn’t cried in a while and certainly never in front of a cab driver. But I felt it, the tremble.

“It’s easy. I tell my daughter all the time. Life is hard enough. Why get in the way?”

And now, my turn to laugh. And he laughed with me.

I swallowed, “It isn’t supposed to be this difficult…is it?”

“At times yes. Times no. But still good…yes?”

I smiled, reaching into my pocket.

“Thank you,” I said handing him my final dollars. “Have a good night. Be safe.”

“You too.”

As he drove away towards Western I looked South down Oakley.

Home. I thought.

Some time earlier, in the past that I continually cling to, I had been mugged at gunpoint right in front of my apartment on Oakley. At times, at night I still held my breath when walking home.

As I neared my door I slowed down. Took off my jacket and let the rain’s heaviness beat down on me.

Exhale, I thought, Just breathe out.
And I did, inhaling the smell of spring rain.
There, that is one.

Standing there, at midnight, during the week, in the rain, I knew who was left to forgive.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

11:45 a.m. and I wasn't thinking about Love

She quirked, “Now is the time of the two cent stamp.”

And the wheels broke rust
Started turning,

To think of envelopes,
the letters that never make it
socks in a washer,
Coins in a couch,

The last time I ran,
The mountain of filing threatening
To topple ever so forcefully upon me,
The taste of gum,
And the length of my breath,

Jumping to Thursday after tomorrow
Landing in the dreams
That I imagine I forget.

Past the lightbulbs and coffee I didn’t make,
The porn I surfed at work,
And the moment when
Forever almost kissed me by being a bus…

And it is 1pm before I taste you
Under my nails,
And the guilt kicks in.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Bank by any Other Name

This morning there was a homeless sleeping in our men's bathroom. No one is quite sure how he got there or how long he had been sleeping.
Of was my job to evacuate the indigent man.
Mind you...our fourth floor office is shared with the loan office of Chase Bank, formerly Bank One. Why is it they couldn't call bank security, of which I assume there are plenty, to escort the gentleman away?
No one felt obliged to give me an answer.
As I entered the restroom the first thing, sadly, I noticed was the absolutely repugnant smell.

My eyes actually watered and I had to catch my breath to keep from gagging. Thankfully, that passed in a moment as I have an extremely high tolerance for all things gross. There, in the corner I saw him, sleeping. He looked a lot like Luigi from the Super Mario Brothers video game.
As he was sleeping soundly I began to make stomping sounds in hopes to startle him. Then I went to the urinal, pretended to pee and then flushed it three times. No good.

Poke, poke.
Please don't let him be dead, I haven't had my coffee yet.
"Sir…excuse me you have to…"
He jerked awake and let loose a terrifying and atrocious burp.
"Sir…oh god…jesus…Sir you can't be in here."
"Yes I can."
"You can? No…no you can't."
"I have an appointment."
"An appointment for the bathroom?"
"No," BURP! "For the office."
"An appointment for the office?"
"For that room over there?"
"The bank sir?"
"Yea, I have an appointment at Bank One. I'm with Bank One."
"Okay, you gotta go. Come on. Get up."
"No. I have a goddamn appointment, they are gonna give me a million dollars. Bank One is gonna give me a million dollars."
"Sir…it's called Chase Bank now. It isn't Bank One, it is Chase Bank and please get the fuck out of my bathroom. Now!"
"Can I piss first?"
"I really gotta piss."
"Yes…yes…yes…go…go…piss. Go piss."
He emptied his bladder and spit up a little in the toilet and started to follow me out.
"Sir…wash your hands."

He obliged. And I led him out of the building.
Outside he looked around, left then right, and I was praying he would just start walking away.

"I don't have anywhere to go."

As helpless as I felt, I didn't know what to say. So I took out a five dollar bill and gave it to him.
Upstairs, back in the office, I expensed that five dollars as a "service charge". At least the company was finally giving back to the community.

What a great morning.


Holding back her

Cupping his face-

The dotted line to the light bulbs,

We are all jumpers

"So show me something to enjoy."

Peering over
Different ledges,
Viewing the same perspective.

Never a fall to be had,

Safe in that we know:

Everyone will lose a mother/Go for broke and come up with nothing/Break a heart just to know they have one

So tell him that you love him/you lost her/you're drinking again

Rather have climber's hands, sliced or scarred,
Than weather a fall too far to slow down from

And the wind may blow
Where we stand
Where we peer
Where we sway

And yes,
It should be known,

That there is danger in that distance.

What we share
at such heights,
in common for a change,
To brave and enjoy

Is the view.

Friday, February 24, 2006


This morning was, to be esoteric, McAwful. I woke up, amidst a tangle of bed sheets and comforter, on my floor, in a pile of clean clothes that I had folded but not put away. Stumbled to the show, hitting my shin on the rim of the tub, then stubbing my toe on the sliding door track of the shower. Then , with Noxema in my eyes, a knock on the door from my roommate scared the shit out of me.
“Could you lock the door? I am leaving and I left my keys with Ryan?”
Ow, ow, ow, ow. “Kay…will do!”
“See you tonight.”
“I’ll be there.”
And I thought, Why don’t you just make him a set of damn-dammit keys.

Ten minutes later I was out the door and rushing towards public transportation. Yet again, I was going for broke at being nearly twenty minutes late to work. I can only sneak in for so long before they fire me. Which in one is bad, but in another way…I get out…and unemployment…and a day or two off…and I digress.
On the bus Inconceivably-Tiny-Korean woman was in front of me. Normally, I must admit, she brings me joy in the morning, with the way she wraps her scarves around her head in imitation of no real fashion icon except for the one in her head and the way she hums fairly loudly until she hears herself and then blushes. But today, she wasn’t wearing a scarf or humming and when she got off the bus to head towards the brown line she dropped her fare card, causing me to almost run into her and then scuttlebutted around trying to get into the fare reader. I moaned loudly and tried to run past her but, mostly likely because of her inconceivably short legs, the swagger of her waddle made her almost impassible. Finally with a move akin to a professional basketball player (or as what I could assume is one because I really don’t understand the mechanics of…well…human motion) I slid around and bounded to the top of the stairs just in time to slide in between the train doors.
I blasted my headphones, allowing myself to washed adrift in a sea of Indie-Pop. The album was called “Set Yourself on Fire” which I felt was appropriate because I felt as if I could…or rather set someone else on fire and I neither cared about thinking psychotically or being overdramatic.
Lounging across from me on the brown line was an impossibly cute man. His dark brunette hair, and yes light GREY eyes, struck me from the distance between his single seat to my single seat. I had found him. The man that I would fall in love with on the train this morning. He was rubbing his temples and staring out of the window.
Secret pain?
Life changing-decision?
An itch?

And then he looked. This is the difficult part of CTA courtship. If one is caught gazing, one must take quick analysis of the situation. How is their gaze? Direct? Wandering? Sly? Misanthropic? Vaguely interested?
Then you react accordingly. Most often, when I make eye contact with someone I either appear lost in though so that it appears that my eyes just happen to be looking at the point where their eyes would be looking. Or if I am quick enough, and usually I am not, I do the oh so-patented I-Was-Just-People-Gazing-Around-My-Train-Car-And-For-A-Brief-Moment-Our-Eyes-Met-in-transit look.
His eyes scanned past me and suddenly came back to me. I had no choice but to avert my glance. This could have been an invitation to duel. Yet his gaze held. Steadfast. The little prickling of exciting began to wake me up in the loinal area.
I braved the glance back and he smiled…sort of…rather the corner of his mouth came up as the sun hit his eyes and he winced, but for all intents and purposes it was a smile. It was then that his cell phone rang and he spoke of a doctor, prescriptions and how wonderful “last night” was. At the end of his conversation he said, “Goodbye Melanie” and I decided to fake an aneurism so as to disassociate myself from him. This time my mouth turned up into a corner. In disgust I believe.
Of course. He is not only heterosexual with grey eyes and perfect complexion but he has a great phone voice and a female lover named Melanie.
When the aneurism failed I switched to narcolepsy, so I could seethe in embarrassment alone and in quiet.
I hastily made my switch to the Red Line and was relieved that he did not follow me. I couldn’t bear to avoid him for an entire trip downtown.
On the Red Line I could not finagle a seat, but had prime corner pole position. Which is preferably to back of the seat pole. Immediately my eyes were drawn to my left where, in an outward facing seat an earth-motherish-smiling-curly headed girl sat. Her eyebrow was pierced with indifference and her glasses rivaled mine in form and function. She was making a face…a googly face. As I looked to my left to see what kind of urban creature she would make that kind of face to, I saw him.
The ultimate…impossibly cute indie-boy, listening to loud music, with matching glasses, taller hair-a lip ring, a tuft of grey hair and an amazing cargo-sweater-faded-tee-vintage blazer ensemble. I was in love.
From my right I heard a giggle and turned to see the pierced-earth-mother holding up a Ziploc bag of granola as an offer. I turned just in time to see impossible-indie-boy roll his eyes and return to his music.
Another giggle and earth mother was pulling out a pack of gum and waving it in the air. Impossible-indie-boy’s sigh let me know that he was declining. Then earth-mother leaned to her right to peak around the heavy-set lawyer in between her and indie-boy. I turned to see indie boy craning his head and my heart sank. I heard yet another, slight more annoying this time around, earth-mother giggle and turned to see her beaming and sticking out her tongue.
What are you? I thought…a thirty year old or an infant with bells palsy?
Now it was my turn to roll my eyes in disgust. I decided to avert my eyes and occupy my time. My gaze landed on a pair of monochromatic green chucks. These chucks matched some nice off-color cords. Next to the indie-boy was a very cute and pleasant looking multi-ethnic-hipster-woman.
Green Chucks. Matching Hoodie. Look at those little barrettes in her hair. Ooh…don’t stare…don’t stare.
Then a giggle from behind.
Jesus-fucking-tits-on-a-stick!!! Just because indie boy and girl are on their way to lifelong servitude does not mean that they have to ruin my morning. I should have never “quit smoking.”
In the midst of my mental diatribe I caught multi-hipster’s eyes. They were rolling, with a sardonic wry smile upon her face.
Thank god, I thought, I am not the only reasonable cynic on this train.
As we neared Fullerton and the giggling continued and the sighing and the eye rolling I assumed that I would vomit. I gave myself until Clark/Division before making a mess.
At Fullerton the heavy-set business man turned to leave and as I moved aside for him I caught earth-mother shooting indie boy a wink, followed by the most uproarious laugh yet.
Something has to be done. Something has to be done to stop this torture and raping of non-idealistic relationships.

-There comes a point when you realize you have pushed a limit, only because you are already farther than you intended to be. You don’t remember going there or when you arrived, but you know you have crossed the line. And you would feel guilty if it weren’t for the fact that your stomach is surging from the sensation of having just done something, no matter how cruel or mean, atypical.-

Without a moment of thought I took the place of the heavy-set business man. I took the awkward crotch-in-face-of-sitting-passenger-pole position. I spread my legs into a perfect triangle for stability, puffed up my winter coat and slung my messenger bag out and to the side.
Other passengers filled into either side of me but I remained resolute. As the train began to move I realized what I had willfully done.

Earth-Mother’s line of sight was blocked by me. Indie-boy had no choice but to stare at my scarf. No more giggles. Rolled eyes. Offerings of sweets. I had stopped it. I had killed the love. And try as I might I couldn’t muster a single bad feeling for it.
From behind me I heard the earth-mother shifting left and right trying to see around me, but like General Lee…stonewall.
I turned my gaze to find Indie-Boy looking at me. Trying to look through me.
Our eyes caught and I took another step too far. I shot him possibly the nastiest look I have ever given a stranger in my life.
Seeping from my eyes was pure vitriol and invisible electric anti-love beams struck him in his face.
He began to give a complimentary smile but caught my gaze and fell back.
I am not one of those people, I thought.

And I knew he heard me.

Multi-Hipster girl looked at me with yet another wry grin. She understood my success, but probably assumed me to be an asshole. Which I could not refute.

At Clark & Division the train lurched to a stop and patrons shifted back and forth. Indie boy stood up, looked me directly in the eyes, placed one hand on my should and turned me gently to the side.

“Excuse me, bro.”
“Uh…sure…yeah.” I replied.
He pushed past me, eyes still locked on mine as multi-hipster girl stood up as well. She crossed behind me as I prepared to return my stern gaze to the indie boy.
Behind his eyes I saw a glint and then he smiled. Then, he mouth with barely a whisper:

“You are adorable.”

He was gone. Left me sputtering with two empty seats in front of me. Quickly they filled as I turned to see Multi-hipster sitting next to Earth-Mother hand in hand, head on shoulder.

The corduroys. The monochromatic chucks. The granola. The obligatory tank tops in winter.

How could I have been so stupid. Lesbians. Cunning, cunning lesbians.

I stared, agog, probably longer than I should have at the sight in front of me. At Chicago, Earth-Mother stood up, shooting me a reproachable glance as she kissed her love goodbye.

I got off at Grand.


Why is it? I cannot be happy for those who are in love? Or rather…why can I not express it. I am positively beaming over the fact that my roommate is dating a charming cute man who, aside from his bad taste in movies, is amazingly sweet.
Yet every word out of my mouth is sarcasm.

I swoon every time I hear of my college pal falling in love yet again with another mysterious man. Yet all I can voice is cynicism.

Am I a hidden romantic?

I hate flowers, gushy notes, gifts, the color pink, and baby voices. I despise anniversaries, special attention, and formal dates. I don’t believe in love at first sight…second sight…farsighted….what is love? What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.

No. I can’t be a romantic.

But I do like Love Actually?
But Reese Witherspoon needs to die in my opinion.

Am I jealous? Jealous that pretentious hipsters can find nerve-wracking/fear-inducing anxiety/related commitment and I cannot?
What will happen…will I be alone…I mean what if…and then…if I was…

Well not fucking adorable but…and I shot him the nasties? What the fuck am I?

I am some sort of vitriolic-male-spinster-incarnate.

From now on…the train is for transport and the riders are not friends or potential lovers.
They are passengers.

By my second cup of coffee that morning I had calmed down. My mind had settled on the fact that maybe…while I don’t feel alone…I can’t be with certain people right now. And I am surprisingly ….okay/notokay with that. Finally I could begin to think about other, more important things.

Does’ impossibly cute indie-boy, listening to loud music, with matching glasses, tall hair with -a lip ring, and a tuft of grey-wearing an amazing cargo-sweater-faded-tee-vintage blazer ensemble’ read ‘Missed Connections’?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Colored With A Smile For Once

These things I ate
So long ago,
Have stained me.
Hued me leather and grey
like my father's hands,
the one I've seen up close anyway,
and mother's clay,
that made figurines
in place of bottles.

to make
my signature blue.

now you have stained me,
barely digested this smile,
and I don't mind so much.

blue and brown and earth and grey
can only compliment.

even though I know
you aren't coming back,
not looking at me,

at what makes me a man,
or you so polarized,
I thank you for such a colorful

Rhyme and Lame

I was
I thought,
I am
but not,
your siren.

good at being
almost but
not much more

where to buy,
to find,
the bravery
to quit

it isn't tenacity
what keeps me going
dipped in anticipation,
for the part
where we all fall

the same

for a Monday
the week from next
I won't be lone

i was
i thought
i am
but not


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hair Therapy: A Way of Life

Something life changing happened to me in the course of twenty minutes. To rephrase, something life-changing happened to my hair over the course of twenty minutes. To say that my hair expresses outwardly my inner tormoils and joys is an understatement.
This is not to be confused with vanity, mind you. When I feel like shit, my hair looks like shit. When I am slowly unraveling, my hair is nearing mullet proportions. Yet, in keeping with the balance, when I have that joy inside that makes my butt hairs tingle, my hair looks fucking amazing.
Now yes I use product, sometimes copious amounts, but I do not feel that that changes the empathic nature of my follicles. Because when I am feeling shitty, product only stands to worsen my hair’s physical state; as if my hair reacts better to the outside world (i.e. product) when I am feeling happy.
For quite some time now, I would say the better part of the last year, as I have been careening through a transitional phase, I have been trying to grow out my hair. For a while I was the king, or most likely prince, of the spikey-messy-I-Care-But-Don’t-Care do. At the mere mention of the word faux hawk my hair sprung up to tight attention in the middle. It became accustomed to products such as “hair glue”, “hair cement”, “hair fudge” and the ever popular “Bed Head”. Poor hair.
The problem with the spikey…was that in reality it wasn’t practical. My hair grows at an abnormally fast pace. So in three or four weeks gravity would take over and my hair would adopt a tsunami type affectation. Flying insects would surf my hair, or rather get stuck in the massive amount of gooey product cementing my tidal wave. As it would grow out, my head would begin to look wider and wild hairs would spring out from behind my ears curling around my lobes. So then, to counteract I would cut my hair fantastically short. The kind of short that makes you look at someone and go, “Why didn’t he just buzz his head. I mean really…what is he going to do with that extra 2.47 centimeters?”
What I did with that extra 2.47 centimeters was apply massive amounts of product to it. This time, hair thickening spray. This way, in two weeks time, my hair would have reached the best length for the spikey. And, as that sad little 2.47 centimeters was whipped into submission, the rest of my hair would naturally jump to a point. The effect was optimal good style time. I could usually mold a perfect do for over a month.
Spikey also wasn’t practical, because at the time I was fervently acting. For some reason, even in a contemporary show, directors always decide that your character would not have spikey hair (which is actually the downside of playing younger brothers, geeks and losers…which is/was my type). So inevitably I would have to let my hair grow to the most dreaded phase of all.

The pie slice phase.

When eating a piece of pie from front to crust there is that point where eventually the crust outweighs the rest of the filling and it has no choice but to topple backwards. That is the pie slice phase. When my hair, no longer spikable, and way past the tsunami phase, has no choice but to lay down flat against my forehead, begging to be parted, intersecting my brow at the midway point. The effect is that of a stooge-factor. I look invariably like Moe from the Three Stooges. Or, what I fear the most, I look like a twelve year old boy. Regardless of whether or not I have a five o’clock shadow, goatee, or full beard, during the pie slice phase, I look like I am prepubescent. (Granted, I have always looked excessively younger than my age, but the hair is the most detrimental factor)

So then immediately after I would finish a show, my hair would be sheared to the 2.57 centimeter length and the process would begin again. Inevitably I would end up in another show and so the process would continue.

2.47 centimeter. Optimal phase. Spikey. Tsunami. Pie slice phase.
2.47 centimeter. Optimal phase. Spikey. Tsunami. Pie slice phase.

It was after a particularly long stretch of back to back shows, that my hair began to surpass the pie slice phase. This was new and uncharted territory for me, but as I was extremely busy, I hardly had time to notice. I would shower, wash my hair, throw some “Hair Gum” mixed with “Root Paste” into my hair and run out the door. Even when the hair is not cooperating, product is preferable to at least give the public the impression that this…flat…smooshed…and tangled…is how you intended for your hair to look.
At some point, the back of my hair had grown down my neck into the early and rarely seen, for damn good reason, Sasquatch phase. This had to change. In the middle of a show I did the thing one is not supposed to do. I got a hair cut. A trim really. I went to a salon and asked to only have the back cleaned up. She explained to me that she would need to trim around the ears to make it look uniform. I obliged her, because she was a trained professional. When she went to cut the front, or what some people call…bangs…as I understand it, I had to stop her. And explain to her that yes typically you would trim everywhere as to avoid a bowl cut, but because of my chosen profession I need my hair to look like this. With great effort she put her scissors down and let me leave the salon. It was sweet, really, that she had my best intentions at heart.
Over the course of the show, my bangs…if you will…continued to grow until, they fell flat against my forehead and began to form and sway into chunky, manageable clods of hair.
(Quick preface….in high school I was the king of the wind tunnel look which was long hair parted down the middle and then fluffed up pathetically high so as to achieve an almost “Gleming the Cube” or “Pump Up the Volume” look. I call it…The Slater. The Slater was immeasurably preferable to the other parted down the middle option…the penis head…which I assume is self-explanatory. When I outgrew this phase…thankfully…and was done dying my hair various shades of blue, which always turned teal, I decided to do away with the Slater. Which is where the Spikey was born. I suppose…the constant Spikey was a subconscious attempt to avoid my awkward high school years.)
Then it happened. One day at work, my boss said, “Cool hair.”

Certainly she isn’t talking to me. Certainly she did not just tell this shaggy, unkempt, bowl-cut, clodded excuse for an actor he had cool hair.

“I think you should grow it out. It makes you look…older…no…cooler.”

I immediately ran to the bathroom and began fussing with my hair.

She was right.

My god. I looked cool.

And empathically because of the symbiotic relationship with my hair. I felt cool too.

And so began the phase of growth. I would always make sure nothing was clippered and that the bulk of the length remained. Fortunately, as my hair was longer, fewer directors required it to be cut.
This led to some awkward hair-dos and some equally awkward emotional states. Hoodies became my best friend.
As well, in order to achieve the desired effect (which for the record was “I just roll out of bed and my hair looks this hipster.”) I would also have to get it trimmed to allow the front and back to catch up.
Finally, as my hair entered the final phase, I knew I was close. I began seeing the same woman who knew to take weight out of the top and underlayers, but to leave the length. To clean up my neck but allow the elf-like wisps to continue to grow around my ears. One more trim and my hair would grow to the optimal shaggy phase (of course…optimal for the shape of my face). The optimal phase had many benefits, including:

1) Rarely needing to wash my hair
2) Reducing the amount of product used (which was already happening)
3) On bad days to be able to hide the bulk of my face under a mop of hair and pass myself off as a “hipster-over-the-eye” kind of guy
4) The ability to make small changes in my style that, while almost imperceptible, could change the entire infrastructure of my life and social ability. Imaging that with the movement of one cloddy, tendril of hair to be to go from day to evening and back again. And because of the new thickness and different hair lengths (thanks to my wonderful stylist) my options would be unlimited.

My hair and I were salivating in anticipation.

It is also at this time, I would like to note that the longer hair also made my life, amazingly more convenient.
Typically I am late for work. Which I blame on my hair and the brown line. You see, as I near the El station the eight o’clock train is always leaving. I am usually approximately one minute and forty-seven seconds too late. Which I figure, one minute and forty-seven seconds is about the time it takes to wash and/or style, my hair. With my new longer do, I rarely washed my hair and even more rarely put mixtures of product, if any at all, in it.
The result? I was late to work much less than I previously was.

But, like all fairy tales, this story has its dragon.

My hair had now reached a length not suitable for the stage. I would have to cut it again. It was “too shaggy” to be believable.
I begged, pleaded.

“Please. Please. PLEASE let me keep my hair. I will wear a hat on stage. We can pin it.
PLEASE! You don’t understand I am almost at my optimal phase!!!”

To no avail.

As my stylist, slowly and with great reverence, began to cut my hair my heart sank. My hair was crying and there was nothing I could do for it. But believe me I felt its pain.
“Do you want to make it spikey?”
“No,” I said, “just clean up the back and go above the ears.”
“I know what I said…just do it!”

And now, I look twelve years old again.

Pie slice phase.

After the haircut I realized…

Acting…acting is to blame. Acting is what has always caused me to have to cut my hair. Acting has stood in the way of my sanity. Every time I am in a show and have to cut my hair, I feel self-conscious and doubt every move I make.

Lately, the joy I received from acting is waning. I am finding myself to be much more creative on the page and I honestly rarely ever second-guess something I write. If I do mess it up…it is easy enough to fix. And most importantly my hair can look like whatever I want it to as a writer.

So…after this show is completed I will bid goodbye to acting. Temporarily. Most likely not forever, but for some time. My mind and body needs time to heal. To restore. And I feel that I can only feel great about myself, if I allow myself and my hair to reach that optimal phase again. If even for an instant.

I eagerly anticipate what stories my hair and I will weave. Pun intended.

Excerpt From "Rain"

The Insomniac

She said to me, “Come find me when it rains. We will dance in puddles and finally we will sleep.”
And I thought, Okay, it is spring. By a lake. In a really moist town. Only a matter of days.
Three weeks later, the ground is cracking and I haven’t slept in days. Usually, I push myself to the brink of exhaustion, where a dizzy spell or a head rush, knocks me out and I sleep for forty-eight hours straight. Then the process continues and the crops continue to die.
I feel the town is in a panic. Since the Berkley farm went bust and we lost the upper crust, Starling hasn’t been the same place. Tucked away in a pocket of Indiana that everyone drives by, but few people visit, Starling has been where, through the example of others, rich retirees have come to die. At a time, not even four years ago, Starling was half over-accommodated retirees, a quarter thriving to semi-thriving land and farm owners, and a quarter of laborers to provide for the upper fifty percent.
Every person knew their place. Regardless of the hierarchy, everyone knew everyone. We shared the same picnic tables for Fourth of July. Day to day business passed so unceremoniously that most people failed to notice that slowly, and somewhat painfully, they were disappearing.
Starling is a city dangerously close to Indianapolis. I say dangerously because most of the residents, then and now, assume they are close enough to a big city without ever having to visit it. In a sense, no one seems to think they are missing anything. Though some people work in Indy and sleep in Starling, most people live in Starling and are buried there as well. So certain individuals’ homes are full of gadgets and broadband connections, plasma screen TV’s and brand new SUVs or hybrid cars. Adjacent homes may still have a black and white television, because TV is only used if a president has been shot or skyscrapers crumble.
To that effect, Starling is a city that has never known what exactly it wants to be. Are a retirement community? A farming community? A town of skilled laborers?
The only consensus anyone has come to is that Starling, regardless of activity, is a slow-moving town. Almost as if city officials kept every speed limit below forty just to set the tone of day to day.
For the past three weeks, though, the movement in this town has been non-existent. Melting. This summer we have hit all time high temperatures and haven’t even collected a quarter of an inch of precipitation. Apparently after only the third day of this wave, we broke a record and now Starling, finally will be in a book somewhere.
The Berkeley crops, long since unhealthy were now brittle and couldn’t even support weeds or wildflowers. The ground had become dust and small animals and crayfish lay in the sun, baking into deterioration.

When it was thriving, if anyone could honestly brand Starling as thriving, the centerpiece of town was the Berkley farm; a sprawling two-hundred and seventy acre habitat, with room enough for crops and cattle. Corn stalks, taller than any resident flooded the landscape from left to right. Because the Berkeleys slowly pirated this land over a period of fifty years, they weren’t able to expand outwardly quite as they would have liked. At times their property line veers West for ten or so acres, then shoots North and back East, adding a sloppy rectangle of Corn and soy to the ground plan. If an aerial shot was taken above from an airplane, one would see a veritable checkerboard of land. Anything dark green and lush belonged to the Berkleys. Anything yellow or concrete gray belongs to the other residents of town; save a ten acre expanse on the northern side of town, which belong to the Huntley-Meyer family. Their ten acres, in a line and perfectly kept, has always remained the same.
I remember being twelve and flying over the town in a crop-duster. I could barely hear a word my uncle George was screaming at me, so I could only follow his finger as he pointed.
“-a checker-board.”
“-ley farm.”
“Chess-pieces really.”

I peered down at the ground and viewed retirement pre-fad homes, surrounded by corn, about to be swallowed. I saw two and three story tenements full of economy rooms and studios for the people still employed at the elevator and two remaining factories. Then the Berkley house. The queen. Standing center waiting to covet and plunder another square.
Checkmate, I thought, even though I had no clue how the game was played.