Thursday, May 24, 2012

the last days of empire

There were riots again today.  I stuffed my hands in my pockets, with my collar turned up.  Looking straight ahead, I was determined to not make eye contact with anyone on the way home.  Everyone always thinks that life stops when there are riots and war, but, really, it does not.  Life does not care what we do.  Life... goes on.  

Today, my sole goal was to make it home with my contraband, a book and a stolen packet of crackers.  I couldn’t wait to tear into those crackers.  If I was lucky, Vasily would have left me a mouthful of vodka to wash them down with.  I couldn’t stop myself from smiling, (a little), at the thought.  

For some reason, in these times of crisis and starvation, there was always vodka -but no whisky.  “What a terrible time to cultivate a whisky habit,” I often joked to Vasily.  Or, sometimes, he would tease me the same, as he poured for me a finger of the clear liquid we both generously referred to as “vodka” into the Goya can I regularly used as a cup.  

And that was the odd thing too, the few things that became precious and household in these times of dearth.  I’d seen people around me fall apart over what seemed the smallest thing, (an old bent spoon?), but I completely understood, (the rotting spoon was used to shoot up -when the right (or wrong) drugs could be found).  If my rusting Goya can went missing, times would be no more tough for me than they already were -but they’d somehow be a little bit worse without the minor convenience of my Goya “cup.”

The whole thing reminded me of that scene from Full Metal Jacket, the one where Leonard snaps, (you know the scene -or you should).  But, maybe that wasn’t really right.  It wasn’t so much that my Goya can was a convenience as it was a small bit of “home,” (civilization!), no matter how fucked up that little slice of “home” was right now.  And, if my aluminum “cup” went missing, so might my ability to hold on.  

So, I stole books along with my crackers to bring “home,” and Vasily made questionable “vodka” from god only knew what -I never asked; I just drank.  I figured, if it was going to kill me, surely it would kill Vasily first.  Heaven knew he drank enough of the stuff.
The first thing I saw when I pushed open the rotting sheet of wood that was our “door” was the old bent spoon guy -shooting up.  Thank god, I thought.  Not that he had found some tar somewhere (somehow), but that he had found his old bent spoon.  He’d turned our place upside down for days, in a total freak-out, when that spoon went missing.  

I could never remember his name, nor that of his buddy who mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) vanished exactly when that spoon went both lost and then found, but he was nice, very nice -always friendly; always polite.  He reminded me of Bubbles from The Wire.  Haters are gonna hate, but the reason I loved The Wire is because I knew those streets and those drug abusers, and it always seemed to me The Wire was the only one who got it right -drug abusers weren’t necessarily the scary big bad (black, right? always black, right?) kid jacking you up because you had an iPod and were a total asshole about it; no, sometimes they were perfectly polite people with a wee little drug problem, like the old bent spoon guy.  

I really need to learn his name.  He’s always so nice to me, and I’ll never forget my first few days in the “house,” when I’d been scared and alone, and instead of giving me drugs, he’d given me a sandwich.  (“Don’t ever start, girl,” he’d nodded sagely when I had politely refused his offer to share a needle.)  I’m pretty sure if I’d been capable of it, I would have cried, but, instead, I just chewed on my sandwich, even though I had no appetite for it, while he and his buddies shot up in a semi-circle around me.  

Vasily joined the “house” shortly thereafter, and we became fast friends over our love of drink rather than drugs.  No, we were not ones to judge.  No one in these times was kidding anyone that drink wasn’t drugs too -it was just more manageable, and slightly less expensive.

“Do you remember what it was like in the old days?” Vasily asked me as he poured a finger from his latest batch of “vodka.”

“Honestly, they weren’t that different,” I dryly responded.

We both laughed.  This was an old joke between us.  We had both come from harsh, broken childhoods.  These riots; this war; this depression -all of these things were merely just a return to form for us.  And, unfairly or not, (like we cared), there was a pleasure in watching the mighty, especially those who had never known a day of privation in their lives, fall, and fall hard.

And it wasn’t the ones who were hauled off to have their heads removed from their bodies French Revolution-style that we laughed over and mocked.  No, those murders disturbed us more than we’d ever admit to whomever was tenuously in charge at the moment.  No, we laughed at the ones who had escaped the literal axes of the mobs -the ones who didn’t know how to live without when all they had ever known was not-want.

There was serious pleasure to be had in schadenfreude, and any asshat who claimed otherwise was on the wrong side of the mob.

Vasily and I like to trade war stories while we drink.  Today, I started:

“I used to hide food under my bed, and then I’d realize it would be found, and I’d be in trouble, so then I’d force myself eat it, even when I wasn’t hungry,” I paused to take a sip that made my eyes burn, “That really sucked, Vasily.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he nodded his head in agreement, “We were beaten by the parish nuns.  And the priests...”  He took a drink rather than continuing.  He knew about my childhood, and I knew about his.  We nibbled on my stolen crackers in companionable silence.

“You ever wonder about old bent spoon guy?” I asked before draining my Goya “cup,” which Vasily readily refilled.

“He has a car.”

“What?” I almost spun my head around, but remembered my manners.  Even in times without civilization, there are rules.  Besides “no eye contact,” there is also “no sudden movements, (especially when eye contact may occur).”  People have been shot in more “pleasant” times for much less.

Vasily nodded, mostly to himself, “He says it is time for you to go.”

There it was.  I could feel it in my chest and in my head -the threat of tears.  I was being invited to leave, and I hadn’t even asked to go.

Vasily almost reached out, perhaps to put a hand on my shoulder, but he knew better, and he didn’t.  “It isn’t safe for you here,” his forehead was furrowed in that way of his, “you are the only girl...”

“I know,” I sucked in a wad of air, “I’ll go.”

I never found out how he managed to come by that car, of all things, in the middle of a war and a drug habit.  Actually, I don’t know what happened to any of them, not even Vasily, but, sometimes, as I flutter free in the wind, I realize that I don’t wonder about the man with the old bent spoon, but I do wonder about his name.

the last days of empire (audio track)

the last days of empire (video)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


She sat there, feeling a little shocked and a little crushed.  This was the little tidbit of knowledge she didn’t want or need to know.  

He continued to stir his coffee -nonchalantly.  He lifted his cup to his lips, took a sip, and then set it back down.  His legs were crossed just so.  He looked good, and he knew it.

“It’s just something about you that I don’t like,” he finished so matter of factly, as if he were reeling off a grocery item that he found particularly irritating, rather than commenting on an essential component of her personality.

“Uh-hm,” she mumbled back, nodding her head as if she were some kind of sage, rather than dying a little inside.  Actually, she was dying a lot inside.

When she sat down for dinner later with another friend, she made it almost all the way through her first drink before she finally brought it up.

“Ooh... yeah,” he nodded with knowing in his eyes.

“You knew?” she furrowed her eyebrows, which crinkled her forehead, but he was her friend and it couldn’t be helped.  This was frustrating.

The waiter’s arrival pressed pause on their conversation, but not for long.  He had sensed the temperature at the table and thus deposited their dishes as quickly and discreetly as possible.

He shrugged, “Well, he may have said something once.  Sort of... offhand.”

“But,” she sputtered over her entree, which was rapidly turning cold, “why didn’t you tell me?!”

He hesitated over this one, not really knowing what to say even though he knew the answer.  

“Well, I certainly didn’t expect you to ever find out...”


“...and, wasn’t it better when you didn’t know?” he interrupted her interruption.  “I mean, is this something you really wanted to know?”

She didn’t say anything.

He leaned back.

“Who’s the jackass here?” he asked her, “Me or him?”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the Chair

So, here it is, a spare chair that has no (sensible) place in my apartment, except as extra seating on those rare occasions when I open my door and host others in what is otherwise my solo sanctuary.

Because there is no place for it, here it sits, in a dark (and, hence, fuzzy, poorly photographed) corner, waiting for the chance that someone will need to sit down.

But, it is likely to remain empty for some time -out of place and out of space -much like the sunglasses in this photo:

For some reason, I relate the conundrum of the sunglasses with that of the quandary of the chair, but, really, their situations are only related in that each is misplaced -and doesn't really belong in the places that they are.

Then, what I am feeling is out of sorts, knowing that this chair will likely not be sat in, at least not by those I imagine to be dearest to me, because those who are now nearest to me are soon going to be far away from me -and this rather impractical chair -either by their choice or by mine.

Change is tough. It doesn't help that change is life. No, it doesn't help at all.

For visual reference:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the Sweet Cheese

    this is the story of the day...
the day Little Brie hit the Ritz

It was a rainy grey day, which always made Little Brie want to go outside and play.

She put on her bright pink rain boots, which always swallowed up her little stick legs, making her feet look mighty and big.

How she loved to clomp about, stomping her little stick legs!

How she loved to twirl her big red umbrella!  From under her bright pink rain boots, she made reverse showers of water fly up to the sky.

She was the bright spot in the rainy grey day.

When she arrived at the disco, everyone was there.  Her friend Rochefort pulled her close and, together, they danced without care.

From the DJ booth, there arose such a clatter, Little Brie thought maybe the musicians were mad.  

the Crackers appeared,
and everyone scattered.

Poor Little Brie, in her bright pink rain boots that always swallowed up her little stick legs, couldn’t move very fast, though she frantically pumped her little stick limbs.  

She didn’t move very far.

The leader of the Crackers loomed up before her, waving in one hand a little white palette knife, and a plumed hat in the other.

she punched him
right square in his middle.

He fell over
with a shocked little thud.

The silence was deafening, except everyone could hear the Little Swiss breathing.  Eyes wide like saucers, Little Brie’s friends peeked ‘round from their corners.

The army of Crackers didn’t know what to do.  Clutching their little white palette knives, they whispered and huddled.

The leader of the Crackers, wobbly on stick legs, scrambled to his feet, with all the little dignity a Cracker could muster.

Stick limbs on her hips,

Little Brie stuck out her chin,
ready to fight.

“My dear Little Brie...” spoke the leader of the Crackers with a polite little bow, “...if you would please be so kind -would you please care to dance?”

For visual reference:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Future Came Calling

They sat down and had a cup of coffee together.  He suggested a game of chess, (something she was secretly terrible at), and she agreed.  Why not?  Like the humans who had succeeded the gods at Ragnarök, she felt like she was the answer to the last question, and there was nothing better than to play a little game of verbal chess.

But chess hadn’t been invented yet, so they simply sat in silence together over their cups of coffee.


“Do you think you’ll go out tonight?” he asked, politely.

She looked out over the ruined landscape, wondering why the earth hadn’t regenerated as promised.  “Well,” she hesitated to answer, “I don’t really have anything to wear.”  Her voice trailed off in the cool evening, blending with the smoke of destruction that still hung in the air.

He set his cup down, carefully.  It was, after all, a rather dainty cup.  Certainly dainty for this environment, she thought, like the china that must have gone down with the Titanic.  What must the fishes have thought of *that*?

“What time do you think you’ll be back?” he persisted, still politely.

“Well,” she sighed, “I suppose around 1 or 2...”  She looked at him directly.  “ the morning.”

Without hesitation, he responded, “Oh... I’d much rather you were back around 11.”  He gave her a rueful smile.  “In the evening.”

It was already dark.  What did time even matter? she wondered silently.  “Of course,” she said aloud in patient agreement, but to no one in particular, because he had already gone.


When she returned, she found him on the couch, untied and unbuttoned.  She’d never seen him so casual before -in fact, she liked to joke to her friends that she was quite certain he’d been born wearing a tux.

She set her things down on the table beside the door -just a small bag, and her keys -and kicked off her shoes.  Holding up the hem of her long dress, she carefully picked her way through the ruins to him, dropped to her knees between his, and gently grabbed his chin in her hand.  She tried looking into his eyes, but they were closed, so she warmly touched his forehead instead.  He felt a little sweaty.

He’d never seemed so adorable to her as now.

She whispered something in his ear that no one else could hear, (something that woke him), and he stirred, (a little), and his eyes fluttered open.  “What time is it?” were the first words out of his mouth.

“11,” she lied.  It was firmly after 1 or 2, but it didn’t matter, she’d decided.  She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her chest into his, and he pressed back.  His hands found the back of her dress, and deliberately, (she could feel his hands -large, and warm, and reassuring), the dress slowly came undone.

When she stood up though, the dress did not fall down.  Instead, with one hand she held it up by the front and with the other -she reached out to him.  He took her hand, his eyes and mouth both only half open, and she led him to bed.


When he woke, she was gone.  He looked out through the broken window.  The sun was shining in.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

La Dolce Doggy

Hark! the morning cometh.
Everyday, there is a new squirrel.

¡Buenas dias! 
Cada día, hay una nueva oportunidad.

My dish overfloweth.
And I have want for naught.

Mi plato está lleno.
Y he queremos para nada.

My masters endeavor to give me freedom.
But I seek only the leash.

Mis jefes tratar de darme la libertad.
Pero me encanta mi prisión.

Today, I spent 18 hours chasing my tail.
Gladly, I will try again tomorrow.

Hoy, he perseguido la cola durante dieciocho horas.
Felizmente, voy a intentar de nuevo mañana.

I have forgotten more balls than I can remember.
But for me, there is always another.

He olvidado más bolas que puedo recordar.
Pero para mí, siempre hay otra.

When my masters leave here, they are relieved.
I leave sated.

Cuando mis jefes ir al baño, están vacíos.
Me voy lleno.

I have trained my masters well.
I have only to sit to be fetched a treat.

He entrenando a mis jefes.
Me siento. Dan me trata.

It is my joy to sit... is their joy to fetch.

Estoy feliz que se siente.
Que son felices de dar me trata.

The warden, he is miserable.
He cannot escape his prison.

La guardia de la prisión no es feliz.
¡Mirar a su traje ridículo!

And my dish... has food.

Y mi plato...
...hay comida.

“Beware the dog.”
But they need not fear me.
For I am surrounded by love.

“¡Cuidado! el perro.”
Pero no necesita tener miedo de mí.
Yo soy el amor.

And I have learned the one true lesson.

Y he aprendido la lección de una verdadera.

The world, it is my bone. tasty.

El mundo es mi hueso.
¡Qué sabroso!

And tomorrow... another day.

Y mañana...
...habrá otra ardilla.

La Dolce Doggy
set to the tune of “Loving You,” by Oscar Lopez
inspired by:  Henri 2: Paw de Deux
co-written with:  Z.T.
featuring the acting talents of:  Mouse & Clarkson
production assistance provided by:  A.M. & F.Q.