8.18.2022

Stranded in the jungle

I'm forever finding old writing documents in dinosaur file formats that I can't open properly and have to reconstruct. My computers are always dying. I'm always running out of space on all my devices. I'm forever surrounded by stacks of books and notes I write to myself that get lost or go ignored. I'm like an important poet, but I'm not important and not a poet.

This is kind of poetic though; I wrote it in 1994 and I like it. It's kind of BladeRunner-esque.

"Come in," says he with a smirk and even, perhaps, a drop of wit.
"I've been expecting you all day, in fact, all of my life which, as far as I can remember, is all of today."
    
she pulls up a chair, accepting his invitation, but only as an afterthought.
"I ran out of places to run," says she.
"invariable," says he.  "charming."  she draws out a cigarette.  he lights it, suggestively.

I'm inspired now to write a bunch of small nonsense stories, just whatever can set a vibe and fit on a postcard.

If anyone wants one, send me your address! 

Write "postcard story" or something in the subject line, in case you're finding this years from now during the climate wars, and I can't remember anything because trauma is constant and half my day is spent harvesting water from–


Meanwhile, back in the States ..

Awhile ago I teased that I was about to fuck my life up something serious and yes, reader, that nebula is still pulsing. But as for what I intended that fuckery to look like, I stared at everything too long, and melted it. Such is the drawback of having LASER EYES. Sometimes if you focus too hard on things, you BURN THEM.

What I had intended was, as a brain cleansing detour en route to a bigger goal, to purge about half my stuff, put most of what remained in storage and move into a little interim apartment with virtually nothing in it but a stack of books, my dear cat friends, and a desk, and WRITE. But I was thwarted by how expensive L.A. got during the ten years I've been living in my little rent controlled gang territory turkey shack, and got ripped off by an opportunistic fake landlord, and decided to sort the Big Goal first and then shuffle some other stuff around in the meantime; the Big Goal has always been to throw a dart at an international map, and move. While I'll likely be in L.A. another year or two, I've thrown that dart.

Details to follow, when I've sorted things out a little more concretely.

But I've picked a city. Do not let me stare at it. Don't let me stare at it. Do. Not. Let me–

 

Meanwhile, back in the jungle ... 

Like if I'm going to get any serious writing done, I'm going to start with an empty desk, and about three days in I'm gonna have birds nesting in my hair and a crazy board with red yarn connecting Alternative Tentacles stickers to unraveling cassette tapes & photos of punks kissing; it's just SCIENCE.

Consider yourself WARNED.


Love, yours truly, your Replicant Laureate

 

3.18.2022

escape from the "how's everything tasting" industrial complex

Ok, hey. For reasons, I'm seriously purging my stuff; I was browsing one of my regular thrift stores earlier, and items here & there kept catching my eye until I reality checked: "yeah, those things are cool because you picked them out. You just dropped them off here an hour ago, idiot."

It's not a perfect process.

Necessary though. I'm having a backwards midlife crisis. I've spent all of life so far making impractical decisions, and now I'm you know, fixing my credit (again). Where do you go to tune up your life? I've got no husband to leave. I still listen to punk rock. I left home young and have lived in some cool cities. The wild stuff is done & gone. Now how do I genuinely engage with adulthood without selling myself out? Who can sell me a brain cleanse? (If u say "ayahuasca" you're blocked. WTF do you think I am, a Noah Baumbach film?)

It's time for a rebirth (not in the "find god" kind of way. I've already found Satan, thanks). Can you sign up for some Freaky Friday type situation? put me in some nineteen-year-old's life for awhile - just long enough to go "oops, that was essential," to understand what parts of my life I need to keep, and what I should toss. The Extreme Immersive Marie Kondo Experience. I promise to be a rock star this time. I promise to lay off the acid & learn to skateboard. Just turn back time for me. I deserve it. I've been dealing with some SHIT. I'll come out of it cleansed. I better get everything I ask for, going forward. Cuz I'm still pretty jazzed with my inner world (no small feat) but right now my outside circumstances are a mix of fucking amazing and Entire Ring of Hell. I keep stepping into that hellevator in Angel, and exiting right where I went in.


But the nice things are quite nice, so I'm going to hell in a limo.

if I'd bought this car in 2015, I'd be there already

My show has theme days which is kinda cool - you know, for kids


I could live without Tracksuit Tuesday, but since Pineapple Fridays turned into Muppet Pineapple Fridays, cool, I'll play ... until recently when I saw on the call sheet "tomorrow is Disney show swag day!" Look, buddy, that's too much like a pep rally. I already work on a Disney show. What more do you want from me? That's like going to a restaurant and one bite into your food, being asked (by an actor) "how's everything tasting?" Oh man, it's excellent! thank you for choosing me to be a living ad for your restaurant for a second - I feel like I won the lottery!

(insert Garfield picture. Anyone one will do. Any Garf–)



Seriously, this "How's everything tasting?" thing happened overnight. I eat out a lot because (spoiler) I live in L.A. (great restaurants + nobody has any time.) One day everyone was asking the usual helpful, humble stuff like "how is everything? / can I get you anything else?" and the next day every waiter in L.A. was asking (mid-bite, always) "HOW'S EVERYTHING TASTING??" Let's skip "why?" for now and ask HOW? Did they all get a software update? I thought they were people, but who knows. WHO TOLD YOU THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA

I get what this is all about. Some restaurant owners went to a gross capitalist sales conference or something, and got a corporate pep talk, which was something like "KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS ENGAGED IN THINKING POSITIVELY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE AT THE RESTAURANT" - I mean, hold on, guys. Did you think ahead, did you realize two months later Umami Burger would be asking diners "So, everything's so delicious right!!!!!?" Wait, what??? What if I kicked my fork across the room and need a new fork? THIS ISN'T WORKING FOR ME

MAKE IT STOPPPPPPPPPPPPP

 

mom with a fork in 2017

Stop the capitalist carousel, I want to get offfffffffff

This is in no way what I mean when I say it's time for me to (barf) "engage with adulthood" .. I mean, JFC, I just bought Make Love! the Bruce Campbell Way. No way am I going to do the Wisdom Course (or ayahuasca). No way am I joining Scientology, or CrossFit.

I just want to be me, but BETTER.

More streamlined.

A more minimalist maximalist.

A more productive (ew), happier, calmer me.

 




2.19.2022

Numbers

Ever wonder how many bugs you've eaten in your life? Sorry. Just, there's a certain number of them that are allowed in a vat of peanut butter, for example. Everything done in bulk gets kinda dodgy. It's no good to have so much of something you can't make sense of what's in it anymore. 

I re-watched Good Will Hunting recently. William Goldman (my favorite writer) was accused of and denied writing it, so .. connect the dots. I think he script-doctored it, maybe only a few key scenes, but his impact was huge. A few actors improvised with mixed results, but all in all, a very good script. There's a scene when (legend) Robin Williams is reminiscing about his deceased wife's quirks. (theme of the scene: "She's not perfect, Will. Nobody is. But she might be perfect for you.") I waited for the story I remembered, which was her powdering her feet every night and then tracking it all over the carpet. But it didn't happen. Where was that? In another movie? A deleted scene? The internet was no help. There was a time when you could find anything on the internet. It was an amazing resource. BETTER THAN LIBRARIANS. (forgive me, Mom.) Now it's a junk heap. Impossible to find anything but untrustworthy lyrics and time sucking trash. All the real info's buried in an avalanche of ads and memes.

This, from The Harper's Index makes my point, & that even if you find what you need, it's going to fall out of your brain immediately:

Average number of times people switch between screens or tabs per day : 566

This is where our memories are, in tabs.

The real wife story in that scene was about how she farted at a million decibels in her sleep. (I do this. Where's my Prince Charming?) It's not the farting but the specificity that matters. You watch the scene and the story doesn't stick, but the lesson does. The important things in life are the unique details. But sometimes they're lost in time.

Another movie I gave a re-watch recently: Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! Kate Bosworth snags a famous guy, but his motives are in knots. Her small town real love BFF has given him the cheat code which is to tell her about her six types of smiles. It works, but later she wises up and says something like "you don't really love me. You love the idea of me. Really loving someone is about the little details of them."

There was such a resoundingly great response to "Soup" (6 views) that I thought, what the heck, I'll post another very very old story. Unlike Soup, I'm giving this one a few clarifying edits, like restoring a character name to what I believe it was when I first wrote it (on a typewriter in 1991 I think, first draft MIA), and removing some esoteric references that I don't recall the precise inspiration behind, but suspect had something to do with the twelve hours or so I spent in Acton, Mass. shortly before that with Matt Braman, a strange character that left such an impact on me, I carved graffiti into about fifty trays in his honor at the Macalester College dining hall when I was a freshman in 1991. They said "Matt Braman's honorary tray #1. Matt Braman's honorary tray #2. (much later, when I lost count) Matt Braman's honorary tray # π. Matt Braman's honorary tray # [quadratic formula].

I want to think somebody catalogued them, they inspired copycat Matt Braman trays, and became legend: the Toynbee tiles of cafeteria trays. But really I suspect zero of these trays remain, having been recycled into new trays like people who "go home" become Soylent, like paper money you draw skulls all over becomes pulp and then, new money. I wonder if I could time travel to fall 1991 and watch myself carving them if it would make any sense. I remember the feeling of it. I remember bending a fork tine and how it felt to carve with the fork. Muscle memory. I've never seen these trays, or any photos of them, since. They're just a memory blip.

What rocks though is this guy I met once had such an impact on me that I did all that, and wrote about him later and I'm thinking about him now. It was a point frozen in time that I knew then to be totally present for, and I was, and I absorbed it, and it stuck in my brain. But time has blurred it. If it happened today, we'd follow each other on instagram, we'd exchange numbers on our cell phones. We'd take a photo together. But then. Like sand in an hourglass, those were the days of our lives.

This was the night: I snuck my ex boyfriend Kevin out of reform school (really) and drove him to his home town. We prowled his parents' house like thieves. We met up with MB who was a friend of Kevin's, and drank coffee all night in a diner. Then we sat in my mom's car in a strip mall parking lot and did nothing for a couple hours. No cell phones then - people would just sit around and do nothing, tell dumb jokes. Drive. Draw. Drink coffee. Look at things. Stare at things. Be quiet together, then tell another joke. We were small town punks, broke. That's what small town punx did.

Kevin sat in front with me, I leaned my seat all the way back almost into Matt's lap, and Matt ran his hands through my mohawk, and affectionately scritched the scruff on the sides of my head, like you would pet a cat. Kept doing it all night. He was chronically sick with something and kept coughing up gunk and spitting it out the car door, coughing and coughing. I have no idea what happened to him. I went to college and carved all those trays, and someone at Mac knew him, and I never got in touch, and that was that.

Bits of tales he told that night ended up in this story, but I don't remember what they mean. So for you, I have left them out. They're for me. I've also deleted a few small embellishments I added in a rewrite that interrupt the flow of the story, which wrote itself in a hurry and didn't really want to be scrutinized. I've changed a few tiny things (added the "guyliner" line, for fun), made a few things clearer.

*

It may be nuts but I mainly went to Macalester because their football team sucked; my brother worked in admissions at Bennington College at the time, and his favorite applicant turned them down in favor of Mac; they had a postcard of a punk playing bagpipes. 

close enough.
 

There are no perfect decisions in life. But you gotta make them somehow.

I went to my cousin Rebecca's wedding years ago. She and her fiance had been together six years. The crux of the best man's speech was "(husband) takes forever to make decisions, but when he does, he makes the perfect decision." They got divorced.

My friend Will Grant has a daughter that goes to Macalester, and he was jazzed to find out I went there. (I dropped out, returned, dropped out again, then transferred to art school where I dropped out again)

After she got there, he excitedly told me their sports cheer: "drink blood, smoke crack, worship Satan, go Mac!" That's my school!

I should have asked about the trays. But Mac students are so damn weird. Nobody. Would. Remember.

When I was a freshman I heard all these crazed stories about a guy named Nick Hook. He had sex in the fishbowl (a brightly lit glass walled public skyway in the library). He acted so nuts he couldn't keep a roommate, and had a suite to himself. Things like that. Mid '90s when I lived in Austin TX I met up with a friend who was touring with a band, and Nick Hook was in his band. I asked Nick about it all, and .. shrug. The stories were embellished? they happened / they didn't happen? I don't remember what he said. Who cares?


 

Stories are stories.

So here it is.

 


129th Floor Window

No matter how many times I lick this spot I can't get that damn post-Windex streak to go away. You know what one I mean, the one spot of streaky dust shaped like that piece of hamburger in your mom's freezer, way in the back, with the peeling piece of masking tape on the tin foil covering it, the one that's got a day and a month on it but you can't exactly read the year.

I'm on the 287th floor, and I'm not exactly sure how the windows up here would get washed if there weren't a tree high enough to reach it. Luckily for my employment status, there is one, and I'm dangling from the top branch of it as we speak, trying in vain to get rid of the spot. All I've succeeded in doing thus far is making it look a little more like my grandmother's left calf, instead of that piece of chopped meat.

I do windows.

It never fails to amaze me how oblivious the people inside this apartment are to my presence; they don't notice the balding beer-gutted man in paint-splattered carpenter pants holding onto a branch of a tree with one hand, a bottle of Windex with the other, licking a vein-shaped streak in the middle of their living room window, yet they're considerate enough to offer bird seed to the pigeon that's trying to wind my hair into a nest.

No one offers me any coffee, so I just wipe the streaky spot one last time, reducing it to a squashed-fly-on-the-bottom-of-your-shoe shaped spot, muttering anti-287th-floor-residentisms under my breath, and in my haste to depart to a different floor, lose my footing. I'm free falling, just like the ride at 6 Flags.

It occurs to me briefly that this is perhaps going to be a fatal drop, so I do all the cliche things that people who are going to imminently die a sudden, violent death do, like watch my life flash before my eyes (cautiously, because, being epileptic, I worry that, like a strobe light, it could cause a seizure), and swear a lot.

In super slow-mo I see all these peaks and valleys in the bricks on the side of the building as I fall, ants crawling sideways, up and down, around in circles, spelling out words. They are very good spellers.

"NECROPHILIA," they are writing.

"ONOMATOPOEIA."

"ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM."

"HONKEY."

"FROTTAGE." "CAT."

Everything is all of a sudden falling upward at an alarming rate.

Branches.

Leaves.

Oxygen molecules.

Olympia Dukakis.

I pass the 279th floor.

The 279th.

The 271st.

268th.

I peek in the 265th floor window out of sheer boredom once all my nails are done with this nice shade of burgundy that I found on a ledge a few floors up. I'm also now wearing guyliner. I see inside two blindfolded dental hygienists trying to make a circle on an Etch-a-Sketch. 

They wave.

I realize they are nothing but stolen images from a Steven Wright joke, but they look so happy that I don't want to bring them down by mentioning it, so I don't stop. I accidentally doze off a bit and am awakened with a start with a short, tuba-shaped woman with half a purple mustache and four lips opens her window into my face.

"What floor is this?" I scream. Several floors down a man pokes his cerebellum out the window, severely wounding me with it, and holds out a street sign that says "130th" in Braille.

"I can't read Braille!" I shout to him. Well, certainly not with a cerebellum-impact-cerebellum injury. He tells me in sign language which floor he's on and I don't understand sign language either, so I whip out my trusty English / Sign Language Phrase Book For the Inexperienced Traveler and look it up. I forget a small bit of what he said so from the remaining signs I have to decide between "Your mother is a lame excuse for a goat's spleen," "130th floor," and "cheese." I decide he meant 130th floor, but by then I've fallen down to the 129th, where I hear a gunshot and my kindergarten teacher tosses a bloody, dead brunette out the window.

I must admit I'm slightly embarrassed to see Mr. Griswald because, even though it's been a long time, I remember calling him into the bathroom stall to wipe my butt. He doesn't seem to recognize me though, so I decide since I'm en route to a death so gory the cops will probably have to draw four or five circles around me with chalk, I might as well turn the fucker in.

"Mr. Griswald," I scream at him, falling in sync with his wife, "I saw that! I know what floor you're on! Like Santa Claus, I know you've been bad, and I have it on video!" I pull a Sony Camcorder from my left rear pocket and replay it to him in proof. "And I bet I can win some money with it on America's Funniest Home Videos!" I yell, pointing and raising one eyebrow ominously. I strip-search the body as I fall and find on it bug spray, coupons, and a frozen bagel which I lick and then aim at the 118th floor window.

It breaks a window and lands in a vat of chocolate on the 111th floor. Yuck. Garlic and chocolate.

Hearing mention (telepathically) of garlic, my convertible pocket vampire emerges and, charred by the sunlight, leaps to his death. His aim is off though, and he instead hits a brick which causes his brain to explode and soon the entire 100th floor is covered with vampire pate. I catch some on a piece of bagel that has followed us down. It's pretty good, but I've gotta motor if I'm going to report that dead body on time.

"Anyone got a phone I can use???!" I scream from between the 92nd and 93rd floors. An alpaca on the 89th floor throws a phone booth out the window. We all fall together, the dead gal, a few bagel parts, the phone booth, a headless vampire, and me.

"Thanks!" I tell him, remembering even in times of tragedy to be courteous. Superman comes out of the phone booth, confused, and says spritely, "You're very welcome. I knew the patriotic citizens of the U.S. would vastly appreciate my success in making all American flags fire and bomb repellent."

"American flags are bomb repellent? I don't believe you!"

I construct a large pipe bomb and, realizing I don't have an American flag, poke my head into a window on the 71st floor and ask for one. I'm immediately handed the United Nations flag.

"No, the American flag!" I shout, becoming anxious, then blush upon realizing the American flag is on the back.

"Oh." I set the bomb and wait. The flag is unscathed. I construct another bomb and blast a hole through the United Nations flag on side A.

"Well, what do you know!"

Having bet Superman that he was wrong, I break into the 64th floor and steal a green lava lamp, grumble, and hand it to him bitterly. Superman, triumphant at having pulled yet another swindle, grabs the lamp, smirks "I told you so!" and flies away.

I don't have a dime. I pick the pockets of the dead vampire and murder victim falling beside me. Nada. I search the coin return and the floor of the phone booth to no avail.

"HELP!" I signal S.O.S. in Morse Code. God, hearing my call, peeks out of the 52nd floor window and hands me a dime.

It is Canadian.

I pop it into the phone anyway, prank my neighbor, realize I've lost the dime and call the police collect.

"There's been a murder on the 129th floor!" I tell them.

"Where are you?" they ask.

"50th floor," I tell them.

"49th."

They tell me to come to the station to make a statement but I explain that I'm too busy falling to my death.

"Oh, you're the one that tried to blow up the American flag, aren't you?????" they ask, accusingly. I wince. Superman must've told them, the snitch.

"That's me. I can tell you all the details of the murder and which kindergarten teacher named Griswald on the 129th floor did it, if I don't die first, if only you won't prosecute."

The police wave to me from the 37th floor.

"You realize, of course, we will have to confiscate your camcorder which we've been told has film footage of your attempt to explode the flag and Superman's superhuman powers enabling him to stop you."

As I fly by the 31st floor a helicopter hovers and Superman leaps out, rescuing the dead body on a stretcher, taking the phone booth in the middle of my conversation, the rude bastard, and as an afterthought, grabbing the headless vampire, folding it and putting it neatly into his wallet. The helicopter lifts, leaving me to fall past the 25th floor to my death.

25 floors left??? Talk about time flying when you're having fun. I do, talk about it, that is, and a Mickey Mouse alarm clock glides past me, into the window of the 19th floor. Becoming more bored by the minute, I hope into the window on the 17th floor and ask if anyone wants to play Battleship. Nope. I pull out a deck of blue bicycle cards and play solitaire. I lose. On the 14th floor I stop to go to the bathroom, correct the grammar in the graffiti on the wall, and continue.

As I approach the twelfth floor I scream loud enough to dislodge my left lung and sent it flying around the world seven times, at which point it lands in my mouth and I swallow it whole. It slides back into place and I continue to hyperventilate, greatly disheartened and angered that THERE IS NO THIRTEENTH FLOOR. The shock of this realization motivates me to build one and insert it between the 12th and 14th so that I won't have to edit the floor numbers in the story to ensure that they are all architecturally accurate.

Completing a somersault, then a double axle, touchdown, homerun, and check mate in front of the 8th floor window, I spot a dumpster on the ground below and aim for it. I grab a parachute from a nail on the 5th floor and tie it to myself to break my fall. At the third floor I stop to shave all my body hair so I will be streamlined.

I glide gracefully down to the dumpster where I land on my feet on its edge, facing west, and swan dive into the two foot depth of stale twinkies it contains. Hungered after my exhausting fall, I eat one, step out into the street and get hit by a truck. 

God, having made my acquaintance earlier, allows me to come back to life to write it all down, under the condition that he owns the copyright, he (rather than Robert Urich) gets to play me when it's turned into a TV miniseries, and I promise not to put my feet up on his coffee table anymore when I come over to watch Monday Night Football.

What a swell guy.


2.17.2022

Soup.

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K8. My head's pretty swimmy. Stay tuned for some odd life refinements over the next, maybe, year. I'm about to disassemble my life and reassemble it, better. The process is going to look insane, but the end result is going to be amazing. I may or may not document this, if cryptically.

Meanwhile.

Here's a story I wrote in 1992 or 1993 and which, at some later date, I distributed among friends in the Twin Cities. At the time I felt it necessary to explain that I wrote it before the release of Natural Born Killers, which is in an abstract way similarly themed. Also written just ahead of the ubiquity of piercings in the mid '90s and onward (by 1993, I myself had two enormous rings in my tongue and a face full of steel; a friend's father met me and said I looked like "the front end of a Buick"). The "five dollar brownie" predates the Five Dollar Shake in Pulp Fiction. That's an elite brownie! I grew up in the Reagan era, and the John Hughes film era. "That's a major appliance, not a name!" Two sides of the tracks.

"Soup" appears here unedited, except to change some paragraph splits, swap "espionage" for "carnage" (WTF did I mean? IDK, it was 30 years ago, maybe I thought spies were assassins) and correct the spellings of words like "pretension" and "opposable." I seem to have done a slight rewrite of it in 1994, but I don't have the patience to decipher the recovered WordPerfect file, which reads like a Zodiac confession [sample text: _:W¡‘:’G!UT¢√%îªZ+#ÜbUNË %6 0(<4dxòHP DeskJet 600 PrinterDESKJETC0¿,,,,0¿0ŸP    «"∂fl∑^?h (÷√9    Z ã6Times New Roman RegularX($°°+¨Q!3|x-› É!››  ›SOUPÄ]. 

This could be the edited version actually, as I remember initially calling the narrator "Queenie" (see the * in the story). I like that. Would revert if– you know what? I may be mad, but I'm considering animating this. I don't have to agree with my 1994 editor self. I'm a different person now. Less ... pillage-y.

If you speak WordPerfect, get in touch. And if anyone got this published in their name (ala Morvern Callar, except I'm not dead) and became a millionaire, please send me a roll of quarters. I could use it. 

Before you ask, I am (or was, then) a pantser, not a plotter. It's a miracle this came together, as I remember writing it almost as fast as I could type it. I wrote the first sentence together with titling it "Soup" and then dove the fuck right into this brain cesspool. I didn't even understand then that you could plan a piece of writing or art. I thought that was cheating? Present me is trying to overcome a mix of autistic (solitary, meticulous, obsessed with detail and truthfulness; imagining that a rewrite is a lie) and ADHD storytelling (write/edit/rewrite/re-edit) to arrive at what I think my best recipe will be, some variant of (metaphorically at least) "write drunk, edit sober." That's gonna take some discipline, but I'll be better off for it. Good rule for life too. Throw something up into the air, then sleep on it before deciding where it should land. Never prune something that's still blooming.

Oh. Have I ever mentioned I'm a writer? I feel that I've shown you all this by ... writing. But I'm going to shatter my aversion to committing to it (thanks, Dad) right now and just say it. Done. (Who needs therapy? Not me.)

Sorry to my 1992 friends from whom I stole jokes and anecdotes and unceremoniously stuck them in this text. Among other things, I think someone referred to Bel Wilson as "Snack" once, for instance. Forgive me, Bel. You haven't suffered for my stealing the name "Snack" for this dumb (but brilliant, IMO) story. I think she's also the author of the "free Docs" joke tbh. She's funnier than me. Bel is an excellent writer. I'd say buy her books, but the ones I have are out of print.

This is a love story. I mean, it almost shares a plot with Only Lovers Left Alive. Very standard stuff here. Read it aloud to your sweetie.

Without further ado,


Soup.

Alan wouldn't let me have any of his soup unless I took the labret stud out of my lip and squirted some of it through the hole first. Reluctantly I complied because he was my torrid sex partner and because I really wanted some soup. It was hot and sour soup and I was afraid it might irritate the piercing or might not fit, but it all went through ok and afterwards we went for coffee, which squirted out through the hole quite nicely as well.

The coffee place was a palace of pretension in St. Paul called Castleton's, and it was one of those incense-ridden bad poetry oozin' espresso-and-five-dollar-brownie joints where there was a lot of expensive art all over the walls and it all looked like it was done in watercolor and crayon by six-year-old kids packing bendy Halloween knives with fake blood drawn on the tips, or worse, the kids your parents always warned you about, the kids that ate paste. There were a lot of couches around, and some tables to put the espresso on while it spilled, and to make the place sufficiently bohemian, there were some books just sitting around to put your coffee on as well, and none of the furniture matched. The girl at the counter was wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt with a clever, contrived rip in one sleeve, faded jeans, brand new Doc Martens, and a nose ring that was much less conspicuous than her feeble desires to be hip. Her hair was up in one of those elastic thingees that look like somebody made them out of a curtain left over from some trailer that went up in flames, else I might not have noticed her Bold Alternative Girl Haircut, which consisted of a couple well-kept tufts of really short hair underneath some black hair that might have been dyed.

I said to Alan, pointing at her feet, "Look. Free Docs."

She didn't hear, so Alan, to be an asshole, said to her, "I see you're Alternative."

Totally Original Alternative Girl grinned ecstatically from ear to thrice pierced ear and squeaked, "Do you like Smashing Pumpkins?" and pointed to the big stereo from which it was oozing, behind her and into her big alternative butt from which she pulled her identity. Apparently, Smashing Pumpkins were the only alternative band she knew. I was sure that secretly she would rollerblade back to her healthy suburban home, put on a pair of legwarmers and an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt, listen to an old tape of Rush Limbaugh, and order exercise equipment from the Home Shopping Network.

"I sold crack to someone in the Smashing Pumpkins once," said Alan, sticking his finger up his nose.

Totally Original Alternative Girl giggled and said "cool" and forgot to charge us for our coffee because we were so exciting and slick, so I gave her our phone number and said we were easiest to reach between three and five in the morning. We didn't even have a phone actually; the number I gave her belonged to my eighth-grade biology teacher whose wife left him after he took some wacked PCP. I figured he was probably pretty lonely. I heard he hasn't said anything but "cocksucker" in years. 

After trying in vain to con Counter Bitch into squirting more free coffee out of some sanitary orifice, we left rather quickly, neglecting to return the Castleton's mugs we were drinking out of, and went over to Red Light Billiards to hustle some people at nine ball. About ten minutes before we got there, 1:00 occurred, signalling the end of legal alcohol consumption in public places in Minnesota and therefore also the vicious onslaught of bar patrons wobbling off to their cars to safely drive themselves home or to more prosperous venues for the night. There were plenty of old biker marines with blue amoeba tattoos wearing fishnets, singing along to Patsy Cline, and leaking Jack Daniels from every pore. We jived immediately over to a seven-foot-tall man man with dyed black hair, a red goatee, and a shirt that said "Hampton Beach" on it, and asked for a game. The guy said sure and called us both "dude" so we changed our minds and tried to find someone else to hustle, someone that would call us "sir." 

Logically, the next person we tried to hit up for money was a guy in a pinstriped suit with a very bright paisley tie and pokerchip loafers. He agreed for reasons beyond our wildest dreams to bet fifty bucks on a game o' nine ball with Alan, then asked me, drooling, "What would you do if suddenly a big ape fell from the ceiling and gave you a piece of cheese and then sat on the pool table with his ass right on the foot spot?"

"Fuck him." I'd do practically anything with opposable thumbs, to be honest. 

My reply triggered something in that section of Alan's brain that controls thoughts of bondage and S&M (it's right next to the hypothalamus, but a lot cuter), and his eyes widened with anticipation. It was hard for me to control myself, but I managed to walk calmly to the bathroom, splash a lot of cold water at my face, and concentrate once again on money and pool and money and money and people's credit cards and primates with cute butts, and hustling and more money. 

And sex but mostly money.

We creamed Mr. Poker Chip Loafers. Beat him good. As the winnings got more and more glorious, scary Mr. Pokerchip got more and more pale, yet he bet on and on, reassuring our waning faith in the persuasive powers of a gaping cleavage. Alan played pool and I just generally stood there and looked gorgeous. We made a good team. By around 3:30 Mr. Chip had to start refusing us, and start quick, because we were about to win his watch, which would leave him with basically nothing but his pants, his loafers, tousled hair, nervous sweat, and a quarter. 

Alan won the game by sinking the nine off the four ball and decided to call it a night. "But Alan, we haven't played 'Chantilly Lace' yet," I pointed out, looking sadly at the jukebox and then at poor Stripped-of-Practically-All-of-His-Belongings-Man, who was looking blatantly at my tits. 

"Anyone got a quarter?" I asked, staring The Defeated straight in the eyes with my nipples until he dug frantically in the pockets of his solitary garment and grinned like an idiot as he placed it in my hand, "it" being the quarter, of course, and not the proverbial "it." He left unaware that his car had been towed, and Alan and I bopped wearily to "Chantilly Lace" till the cows came home. Then, careful not to step on all the little cows on the floor on the way out the door, we went home to fuck.

This was a typical night for Alan and I, back in our tamer days, when we thought the way to be happy wasn't through anybody's stomach but was by being perpetually mellow. We cruised by day and looted by night, or we looted by day and had crazy major appliance sex by night, or sometimes we broke things by day and broke-and-entered by night, or sometimes we slept by day and suffered minor gastric disturbances by night, or at the very least we watched cartoons by day and made scary faces at ourselves in the bathroom mirror by night. But we were always mellow, and not one whit of the terrorists that we are today.

 

Today small children walk towards us, look up, scream, and run in the opposite direction. Random passersby collapse from cardiac arrest when they see the bitter tortured eye sockets through which we view their brittle, edible flesh. No one can give us a ride anywhere, because we have been declared an illegal substance, which makes hitchhiking a bitch. Cats don't like us either. Flowers wilt when we look at them funny. 

We pillage. 

We occasionally stay up past midnight on weekdays. 

We are walking terror.

 

So right now I'm busy filing my fingernails to a point sharp enough to cut through the blunt end of a small child, which is something I've tried for weeks to find time to do, so I'm ignoring Alan's incessant pleas that I stop and give him a frontal lobe massage. To occupy himself in the meantime he has taken to wearing wool socks and gloves and running around on his hands and feet, then touching his tongue piercing to the inside of our front doorknob in an attempt to electrocute himself. 

"That never works, Alan. Why don't you try sticking it in the socket or something?" I finish my nails and stick one into the fishbowl.

"What are you trying to do, kill me? Christ, I'm just trying to occupy myself while you file your fucking nails. If you'd hurry up and finish so you can get these knots out of my head, I wouldn't be so– don't eat that fish, that's Liberace! Do I ever eat your rubber pants that you think are Karen Carpenter reincarnated? No! You know why I never eat–"

"Liberace, Shmiberace. Dinner, I call him. Alan, remember the last time I *gulp* gave you a lobe massage?" I wipe the dribbling fish juice off my lips with a stray chunk of frog leg left over from breakfast. "And you're telling me you don't wanna stick your tongue in a socket???"

"I warned you not to touch the soft spot or I'd go catatonic! You know what your problem is? You never listen to me unless I start every sentence with a word beginning with the letter Q. THERE AREN'T THAT MANY WORDS THAT BEGIN WITH THE LETTER Q, WOMAN*!!! I CAN'T TAKE YOUR CONDITIONAL LOVE ANYMORE!"

Just then there's a knock at the door. Alan opens it and screams "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME???" to an old woman with tigers on her scarf selling Reader's Digest subscriptions. She looks at the cracked ceiling, clutches her saggy chest feebly, and collapses onto our brand-new lizard skin carpet. Alan runs frantically to the bathroom and brings back a small mirror, which he holds to her lips. 

"She bit it." He drops the mirror frightfully and starts to drool all over the woman's varicose veins. 

"What good fortune. I was wondering what we were going to have for dinner tonight, luv. Draw a chalk outline around her, will ya?" Alan is a good Mousketeer. He's also a good chef. Hours later, by candlelight, we indulge in sumptuous morsels of colorful varicose-vein-laden crispy-battered Reader's Digest propagandist dipped in buckets of flaming horseradish dip. 

Overcome by Extraordinary Charm (which is one of those chemicals nobody warns you about in human flesh, kind of like the one in turkey that makes everybody fall asleep with a beer in their hand watching football on Thanksgiving), Alan proposes a toast. Overcome by Cannibalistic Lust (which is the same chemical as it is processed by the female digestive system) I wrap my elbow around his, dipping the sleeve of my bowling shirt in the flaming horseradish dip by accident, thus burning a big hole in it, and I grab my mug o' Jägermeister, bringing it clumsily to my teeth *konk*.

"To ... um ... lessee ... to ..." Alan stammers, as yet unsure what to do with his Extraordinary Charm. "To eating," I suggest. 

"To eating veiny old women."

"To eating each other," I say, having caught glimpse of a few glistening day-glo drops of Jägermeister nestled between the rows of brown corduroy on the right thigh of Alan's Sexy Butt Pants. (Every guy with a girlfriend owns a pair of Sexy Butt Pants. Alan's happen to be brown corduroy. I know what you're thinking and shut up.)

"To raping and pillaging," says Alan. See, when I said we rape and pillage, I wasn't kidding. We do take some time off every so often though, since being Walking Terror takes a lot of energy. If you're wondering where the action is, it just happens to be a slow week.

"To ... raping each other," say I, tossing my Disneyland mug into a big pile of bones near our dining room window, where it hits a hippy femur and shatters to bits. I grab a wiry chunk of Alan wrist and drag him over the table, through a big glass bowl full of old lady appendages, to his knees. We roll through broken glass to the kitchen which, by virtue of its amazing array of silly plastic tools and lively vibrating appliances, is my favorite spot in the house to pitch nooky.  

So, after a good week of doing nothing but sleeping, watching TV, playing with condoms and toasters, and finding new and exciting (culinary) ways to violate the mailman, we grow disillusioned with the cannibalistic A-Team watchin', Battleship-playin', finger-lickin' coed naked kitchen-appliance rugby rut we've gotten ourselves into, and set out with whips and chains to wreak havoc on people we don't know.

Here's where the real raping and pillaging comes in.

"Hey Snatch, what does 'pillage' mean exactly?" Alan asks between puffs of a Black Death cigarette as we set out one night to, as it were, Paint The Town BLACK. I ponder. It means we aren't at home coated with peanut butter and chained to the refrigerator. It means we have to eat things like cow flesh and leafy vegetables until we get home.

"It's good for our health, Alan. 'Pillage' means 'eat healthy cows and don't hurt your eyes watching television late at night.'" I slap him.

"Oh. I thought it was the colored leaves that are on trees sometimes." Alan squashes Black Death between his foot and some innocent cute little ants that are trying serenely to build their home.

"No, that's Anchorage. Alan, you got a quarter?"

Alan digs through the pockets of his Sexy Butt Pants (I confess, the only reason those dumb corduroy creatures are his Sexy Butt Pants is that they're his only pair of pants) and hands me a piece of lint kinda shaped like a quarter.

"That's not a quarter, you fuck. It's just a piece of lint shaped like a quarter." I slap him. I am MEAN. Walking Terror.

"Oh," claims Alan feebly. "I thought it was a quarter."

"No, it's just a piece of lint shaped like a quarter. Try again or I'll eat all the Crunchberries out of the Cap'n Crunch."

Alan fiddles in another pocket and pulls out a quarter. I jab Mr. Quarter into the phone and dial 911. Ten thousand years later I'm connected to the police. A guy with moon boots, long red hair and a cocker spaniel walks by. 

"Hi, I'm on 21st and Cooper and I just saw this guy take a big pitchfork and stab it through three nuns and an old lady who were just trying to cross the street without getting hit by a bus. Yup. Yeah, they all died. Um, he's about six feet tall and he has a moustache and moon boots and red hair and a cocker spaniel. 21st and Cooper. Right. I think you should kill him."

Just as I'm scooping the quarter out of the phone a big ole screeching cop car smashes the guy's dog to spaniel bits.

"See, we didn't need the fucking quarter anyway because 911 is FREE!!! I told you we didn't need the quarter!" I chastise Alan and slap him again, barely missing the soft spot on his skull.

A pudgy three-armed cop gets out of the car, inadvertently toppling a bag of donuts into the spaniel bits, where Moon Boot Guy is busy crying over spilt spaniel and doesn't even notice the handcuffs or the firing squad. 

Hungry for spaniel chops, Alan and I head home, taking the scenic route through the suburbs until we find a happy flat with a barbecue. We briefly use their pool and their poodle for Pool Poodle Pederasty Party Purposes, then inconspicuously shove their barbecue into the extra yardage in Alan's Sexy Butt Pants and skip about on our merry way, jingling a tad bit more than most people without backyard barbecue grills sandwiched amongst their naughty bits, but craftily nonetheless.

Several days later, Alan complains incessantly that a particular poodle bit keeps popping up somewhere near the toe of his left boot, rendering it squeaky and, for all lurking purposes, unwearable.

"I need new shoes," he says between gasps for breath one dark and stormy morning whilst I tie him to the barbecue grill and stick quarters in his armpits with superglue.

"Ok then, let's go bowling."

That decided, we walk through several people's backyards, stopping for a brief game of Residential Golf, and run squeakily, melding melodically with the sound of breaking glass and small children shrieking, to GIVE HEAD BOWLING ALLEY AND USED TRACTOR DEALERSHIP (which, previous to a very recent golfing mishap, was GIVENSHEAD BOWLING ALLEY AND USED TRACTOR DEALERSHIP) where we fully intend to include the other patrons in a game of Pedestrian Bowling. We find quickly that during daylight hours when everyone outside is as sly and athletic as we are, strikes and even spares are relative impossibilities. We manage to drag home only one wily-haired child who we affectionately name "Snack" and serve with a luscious cheese dip and some toothpicks with green ribbons on the ends.

We watch the news as we dine, noting that the current Walking Terror Approval Poll sends us four points above the President, so we break out the champagne and share it with the meter man, who we later share with each other. Stuffed full of meter manhood (and various other meter man parts), Alan and I fall asleep snoringly on the electric stove with our lips pinned shut through their rings, some limbs (of ours) tied together, and all the burners on. I dream. 

I dream we're President. President Walking Terror. Or, actually, we have our own limousine, so we're President Riding-In-A-Limousine Terror. The first lady is my Karen Carpenter pants, and we're playing strip bocce on the lawn and painting the White House black. Children are honored to shake our hands, and I squirt hot and sour soup through the hole in my lip at press conferences, as a tension breaker. Kitchen appliance sales soar. The phrase "meat-and-potatoes man" has taken on an entirely new meaning. People all over the country are calling my schizophrenic ex-junior high school teacher asking for the President of the United States, and are told only "cocksucker." Every word has a silent Q in it. On Thanksgiving, rather than watching football and falling asleep, entire families are overcome by sudden bouts of Extraordinary Charm and Cannibalistic Lust. 

I wear a hippy femur through my Achilles tendon piercing in public, and suddenly Parisian runway models are doing it.

I wake up screaming.

"Alan," I say, falling off the stove and bringing him crashing, half-asleep to the bone-laden kitchen floor on top of me, "WE MUST STOP! I HAD A DREAM THAT–" at which point Alan sticks his tongue cleverly into my mouth, interrupting my train of thought entirely and leading me away from even the nagging temptation to run to the bathroom and put soothing aloe on the burner marks on my butt, into the usual world of tight leather constraints and purple jello fellatio. 

Days later, having finally torn ourselves away from our raucous fornicative wiles, we discuss my dream. Fearing cult status and aware of the extraordinary number of people on earth who would opt for mass idiocy in lieu of identity if given the choice, we reluctantly decide to tone down our public pillaging for awhile and, in certain environments, disguise ourselves.

Much later, wearing a plastic nose-and-glasses apiece, we enter Castleton's and discreetly unplug the stereo behind the counter, because all we really want is some peace and quiet and an opportunity to spill some coffee on Kerouac. The Alternative Girl has made us mad by recognizing us, incognito and everything, and telling us how cool we are. The terror within us is writhing, the fear of acquiring blind followers less pathological than ourselves is rising quickly, and our coffee is getting cold faster than we can drink it. 

We are agitated. 

We ponder. 

We realize we can't eat the masses nearly as fast as they fall into the abyss of dictated identity. 

We weep. We write to Dear Abby for help. She tells us to pray. We write to Dear Dotti for help. She tells us to eat her, and we do, but we don't feel any better. We are fighting a losing battle. Every day our public approval rises. Every day more suburban kids kill their parents, eat them, and move to the city to be nearer to the Walking Terror Aura. We are too late. Even suicide at this point would only increase our popularity.

Just as restaurants serving human thigh sausage on pizza open up on every corner, we lose our appetites. Just as sex therapists and talk show hosts declare sex with chainsaws a healthy emotional bonding experience for couples, we lose our will to boink on appliances. Just as Japanese import cars with pitchforks on the grill and electronic scoring systems for pedestrian carnage hit the market, we don't even have the energy to do more than spit on people as we walk by them. Walking Terror, once a treasured catharsis and the sole bearer of our emotional burdens, has become a commodity. Our happiness, once a beautiful bond that could only be shared by two cannibals keen on tickle torture and sadomasochistic rituals involving electrical currents, can now be bought. Our faith in each other shattered, Alan and I go our separate ways.

 

Years later, at a restaurant in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, we run into each other and talk about old times.

By sheer coincidence we have both become accountants, and have both married someone named Butch. We each have two kids and a dog-point-eight. We both vacation to Jamaica each Christmas and have our hair braided by girls on the beach named Zoe. 

We both play chess often.

At the table next to us, a girl with scythes through her head spits blood into her coffee and stirs it with the detached arm of a small child. 

A businessman sitting a few tables away in the non-detached-body-part-utensil-using section complains to the management about the establishment's lax policy on enforcement of public vulgarity. We overhear the manager tell the suited man that there is a Chinese restaurant down the block offering a few dishes without human flesh, and that if he can't tolerate the use of dismembered body parts as utilitarian objects perhaps he should refrain altogether from eating in public. 

A young girl with a Walking Terror For President t-shirt and an entire small child through a piercing in her wrist walks by us, ignoring the child's incessant screaming, and sits in the back of the restaurant next to a Cuisinart donated to the management by the Walking Terror fan club for customers to amuse themselves with while waiting for their food.


We, Walking Terror, look at her in unison and slowly, nostalgically, turn to each other and grin.




1.24.2022

Three Kates in a trenchcoat.

I can't find the passage in a hurry (nor should I; it's best applied to particular contexts) but I think I read this in a Damien Echols book: the first thing race car drivers are taught is not to look at the walls, because if they do, they’ll hit them. I call this to mind any time I’m feeling destabilized by the speed of change in my life; do not look at the obstacles, Kate. Keep your focus on where you’re going, or you’ll hit a wall and flip.

Right now, now, it is one of those times.


At times of frustration or stagnation (much more comfortable to me) I have often thought: what would another person, one with a clearer focus on life, do with this brain, this life, & this body?

There’s another Kate Zarvis, a bad ass in her own right. She’s younger than me, owns a nail salon in Pennsylvania, and is a BODY BUILDER. This is not a metaphor - she’s a real person. Like an alternate universe Kate Z. Solid as a rock. Extremely driven. A little alien to me. Could bench press you. But wouldn't?

That's one Kate.

*

There was a storm called Kate in August, which the National Hurricane Center categorized as a “tropical depression.” Hot and anxious, maybe, but unsure how to act. In need of a catalyst? Angry and misdirected. Stewing. The second Kate. 

 


 

*

In September, Netflix released the movie KATE about an assassin who, just as she’s decided to retire & settle down with a nice guy or picket fence or something, has those hopes dashed immediately by some fast acting poison and has about 24 hours to find out who did it and kill that motherfucker–

Kate number three.




*

So, if someone stronger were steering, what then? 

Actually...

I am that person now. I am incredibly happy with who I am. I won't stop for discomfort. I'm done wasting time. And I am driving. Fast. 

Where am I going though? I don't fucking know. I don't know.


All I can tell you is I better be careful what I look at.