To The “Human” Who Sat Next To Me At The Orchestra Concert Yesterday…

Screw you.

That was incredibly rude what you did.

You were texting on your phone during my daughter’s performance. You were sharing messages between yourself and the woman sitting on your other side. Your screen, her screen, didn’t matter. You and your wife shat all over the place with your impropriety.

At least, I presume she was your wife. Maybe she was your mistress, or your $80-an-hour hooker. You might have to pay someone that much just to sit next to you.

I know I sure wouldn’t voluntarily put up with shit like that from you on the regular.

Because if that’s how you treat the performance of a high school orchestra, with even less respect than you give a movie, I’d have to be an idiot to spend any more time with you.

I wanted to tell you to stop. I could see your screen, your swiping, your scrolling, out of the corner of my eye.

I wanted to tell you to Put it away, asshole. You were a distraction to me and you were disrespectful of the orchestra members. I get it, your daughter’s portion was complete. And so you figured you owed nothing else to the boys and girls who’d worked hard over the past months preparing for this experience.

Not to mention the director. And the audience members, like myself, who wished to experience their children or friends without distraction.

But you just coudn’t help yourself. You couldn’t wait ten goddamn minutes until the set was finished and it was time to change the orchestras to pull out your phone during the appropriate time.

And speaking of pulling out, I’m now wishing your dad had the night you were conceived. That would have made last night much better.

Anyway – I wanted to tell you to stop. But I didn’t. Why?

Was it because I respected you too much? Nope. You’ll notice that I put human in quotes in the title of this screed for a reason. It’s because I don’t consider you fully evolved.

Was it because I was afraid you’d get mad at me? No again. I couldn’t give a shit what you think of me. Was I worried you’d escalate and beat me senseless right then and there, or maybe wait for me in the parking lot with a few of your buddies? Ha! As if.

The plain and simple reason I didn’t is this: Because I am better than you.

I didn’t say something to you right then because I express respect for the orchestra members. And their director. I give them the attention they deserve, and I promise to do so when I enter the auditorium. I keep my word.

If I had leaned over to you in the middle of the second movement, I would have been no better than you. I would have sunk down to your level, and I do not wish to wrestle with that pig.

Graciously, you and your “wife” decided to remove yourself from the situation at the next break. Good riddance. Glad to see you go. I enjoyed the rest of the performance immensely. I hope that whatever you were doing was worth it. I know you did your best to ruin my experience.

Joke’s on you, though. I’m better than you, remember, so I still appreciated the the performance and the artistry.

But, next time, think again before pulling out that phone. And just don’t do it.

Better yet, just do us all a favor and just stay home instead. That way, you can text all you want and none of us have to deal with your conceit. Everyone would be better off.

Writing Practice 12/12/2018

From Reddit/r/WritingPrompts:

You are a murderer who coats your victims’ bodies in cement and plays them off as realistic human sculptures. One of your “works” just got into a museum…

I’m nervous, I guess. Is that what this is? This feeling of lightness, of electricity in my stomach? The doors will open soon, and then dozens of people will get to see my true skill for the first time. I can’t believe how long it’s taken. Ten years after art school, and, finally, my first gallery show! I’m gonna throw up, maybe. Or it’s just nerves. I can’t tell.

I can see them out there, through the glass doors, congregating. Family, friends, a few old college acquaintances who saw the notice on Facebook or Insta. You know, despite all the hard work, I’m glad it’s taken this long to get here. I wouldn’t be so good an artist as I am today without that development of patience, of skill, of practicing my craft, that took this long. And for that, I’m grateful.

Okay…

Here we go… Doors opening!

The curator welcomes everyone. All of us in this new exhibit, the three artists being displayed here for the first time, are waiting to mingle with our new fans (or those we hope may become fans, at least). Over there is Mindi, who makes sculptures out of discarded books. She re-pulps them and makes them back into tree shapes. And there is Kyle, he’s a visual artist, digital medium, and his things look like kaleidoscopes constantly moving and changing on the half-dozen screens behind him.

I only have the one – Study of Human Figure, Realistic, No. 47. It has been a slog. Personally, I thought I was hitting my stride about No. 30, but it still took a lot more effort to get my name out there in the last three years. No. 47 was quite the willing subject / muse / model. He came for dinner and stayed, perfectly still, just as I needed him to be.

I hear a muttering at my shoulder and turn to find two women discussing No. 47.

“He’s a bit pudgy, don’t you think?” Says one.

“It’s supposed to be realistic,” says the other. “All men look like that these days.”

“I suppose,” says the first, with a resigned sigh and a sip of her win from a plastic cup. “They sure don’t make them like they used to.”

“I wonder how he got such detail with cement,” says the second. It’s obvious they don’t recognize that I could answer their questions, being only two feet away from them. Perhaps the curator should have made some introductions. I make a mental note to remind him for the next opening.

By now, my nerves have dissipated. Men and women have expressed interest in No. 47, have given amateurish critiques of my style and technique, have demonstrated their willingness to be the foppish boors they pretend not to be, and have demonstrated also their incredible pretentiousness they don’t care to hide.

Forty minutes into the show I hear a soft, feminine voice at my elbow. “Excuse me, are you the artist?”

I turn to find a slight woman, mid-thirties, holding the program in one hand, cupping her elbow with the other. She smiles, and I smile back.

“Of course,” I say, and extend my hand. “Bradley, nice to meet you.”

“Anna,” she replies, unholding her elbow to shake. “Pleased.” She turns to admire No. 47 once more. “Impressive. You have quite the grasp of reality.”

I blush. The compliment seems rather sincere coming from her. “Thank you. I admit, though, sometimes my models are not very willing subjects.”

She turns once again and faces me.

“Do you ever seek out new models?”

And now it is my turn to feel empowered. “I do,” I say, and pull out a business card. “I think you’d be perfect. Have you ever considered posing?” She smiles, and tucks the card into her pocket.

”Not me,” she says, and gives me a sly, knowing look. “Perhaps my mother in law would be willing. Shall I tell her to come at eight tomorrow?”

I understand completely. “Seven,” I say. “And have her bring a bottle of wine.” It is now my turn to smile as she winks and turns away. Perhaps, I think, I have found No. 48 much more easily than usual.

Writing Practice 12/6/2018 – A pack of 20 sponges

A pack of 20 sponges is good for…

All kinds of things. And not just the mundane, like kitchen cleaning or washing your car. In a pinch, they can be thrown into a pillowcase and be used for comfort while you sleep. A wrestling team should probably have not just 20, but like 10 packs of 20 on hand, for when the practice gets extra-bloody and they need to keep up.

If you’re on a porn set, and the ladies start doing “tricks” with their parts, then you will want all of those for cleaning up.

A pack of 20 can be a landing pad for a hamster doing gymnastic tricks. Like humans, who vault or do their releases from the high beam and land in that big pit of huge spongy cubes, a small pack would be just perfect for when you’re teaching little Mittens or Chubby or Dale the Guinea Pig how to run along a little balance beam and jump off. Can you imagine how cute that would be, to see those little legs waddling down that little beam, and then to watch a furball the size of your fist take a miniature leap into that little pile of sponges? Soo cute.

A pack of 20 sponges is good for a science classroom, especially when they start to get into the units on chemical reactions. Remember when we were all in the fifth grade, and everyone was trying to build examples of volcanoes? Some baking soda, some other shit, red foot coloring, and a stain on your desk that wouldn’t come out for weeks. Well, with a handy supply of sponges ready, you can head off that stain before it even starts.

A 20-pack of sponges could also be an emergency pack of sanitary pads. Now, they probably won’t work as tampons. At least, not by or with self-insertion. [author’s note: Here I start to laugh at myself while writing.] They don’t have that applicator-thingy, so I imagine it would be kind of tough to do it yourself. Thus it’s a two-person job: one to hold the doors open, one to make the Delivery! (HA HA HA – I’m literally laughing as I write this!)

And the last thing that a 20-pack of sponges is good for is to take with you to a fraternity party. Both men and women can benefit. Women – stuff your bras. You’ll look hotter, cuter, whichever you want. Men – stuff your pants. You won’t look any better, but since you’re going to get plastered and piss yourself, the sponge can ensure you don’t make a mess on my fraternity’s dance floor in the process.

–Peace!

Writing Practice 12/4/2018

From Where The Sidewalk Ends, p 50.

“The googies are coming, the old people say, to buy little children and take them away.”

But I’m not afraid. My mother says I’m too valuable, she would never sell me, not for even like a thousand silver coins.

But I don’t really know if that’s all true. I heard that last year, when the googies came to town, Tommy Spickoza’s mom told them that they could have him for two thousand, and they thought it was a deal. The whisper campaign they sent round after said they would have paid five or more. So if they would pay five thousand for Tommy, how much more do you think I could get? Ten thousand? I’m so much better than Tommy. He’s kind of a mean little guy. He pokes cats with sticks and tells bad jokes. I’m not like that. I hold the doors open for my sister and I don’t chew with my mouth open and I make sure to always write my name on the top of my homework.

My mama says not to worry, because I’m too valuable to her, but I don’t think she understands economics. I may be only thirteen by now, but I understand it much better than her. All us kids do. We’ve been watching the googies come into town and buy some kids, and not others, for a decade now, and we can’t make sense of it. Sometimes they want just the fat ones, and that year they take like the six fattest kids in the whole town. So the next year all the kids were real skinny (we starved ourselves for like three weeks before they showed up, just to help our causes), and that was when they wanted the shortest ones. They took Caroline, and Suzanne, and Jonah, and Zeb, but left chubby Marco, who’d been crying the whole time that he just couldn’t do it, couldn’t lay off the candy bars, and we all understood, Marco’s home wasn’t that great anyway, and even the googies would have probably been a welcome change.

So then the year after they bought the short ones everyone was stuffing their shoes with papers, and hanging by their arms from trees for days at a time to get taller, and wearing short pants to make their legs look longer, and that was when they too two girls, twin sisters, and that was that. We didn’t understand, but still we keep trying to figure out their system.

Braydon thinks he’s got it figured out. He thinks this year they’re going to take three boys and two girls, out of the thirty or so of each who are all under eighteen. “One runner,” he says, “and one smart kid. And the other three are people who do music.”

That’s the part that scares me, the music. Because my flute has been sounding really good this month. Mama says not to worry, I can fake it, or I can just pick up the guitar when they arrive and just be real bad at that, and then they’ll pass me by. I don’t believe her, because those lineups aren’t when they actually choose, Braydon says. He thinks they’re monitoring our every move already, so they know before they even get here what they’re gonna do.

I asked my Mama once about why they (they being the parents in this town, stupid them), have been selling their kids to the googies, and she really didn’t have an answer. Something about opportunities for all to be better, but I think she’d rather just pretend not to know what’s going on. That way, if the googies come for me, she can pretend like it’s this great big tragedy, and get the sympathy votes and pity looks from all the other women in the village, and at the same time her life will be a little easier ’cause I’m not around.

I don’t like her very much, my Mama, and like I said, she might not understand much about economics, but she sure does know that ten thousand silver pieces would feed two mouths a lot better than zero pieces feeds three.

Writing Practice 11/29/2018 – The kami…

The Songs of Trees, p. 100. The kami is both water and absence of water.

It is light and darkness. It is the way of love and the way of indifference. Not hate, or war, for those imply a passion for, or against, something. Thus the opposite of passion is impassion.

The kami comes upon one when he or she is sleeping. It is a breath of night wind, through an open window, even around the cracks in the door. it steals in and silently takes over the soul, infusing its receptor with an air of invincibility, a feeling of all-reachingness, a sussurration of serendipity, a unanimity of thought and action unrivaled in the mortal plane.

The kami is an idea, an ideal, more than anything physical, or even spiritual. For if it were physical it could be defined, measured, captured, tamed. If it were a spiritual, perhaps other-dimensional, it could weakly interact with the objects, the people, the places and things of this world, and we could see its effects. We could see how, like gravity, or electromagnetism, it impacts the world even though it is not of the world.

But the kami does not behave as such. It does not behave at all. It has no pattern to its action, inaction, or combination of the two. It tries not, it fails not. It simply is. And if one were to attempt to understand the kami, to hold its concepts in your mind, to believe that you are external enough, observant enough, independent enough to be able to take in and objectively evaluate the kami, then you are simply showing your ignorance of the reality of the kami and of you.

For even this little we see, or imagine, of the kami is as if through a darkly-veiled glass. We see, we feel, we know, only what it wants us to know. Perhaps the kami is only one miniscule, minute, remote tendril of some great, vast, interstellar consciousness. Perhaps it is magnanimous, perhaps malignant. There is no way for us to tell.

Perhaps the kami is an aggregation of miniature experiences, floating through the ether with no more intentionality than the Yellow River. Again, we have no way to measure, to conceive, to understand, apart from what it has deigned to reveal to us. And should we believe?

There is a camp which says the kami is all it says it is, and we should believe. That this is the first of many steps along humanity’s path to enlightenment: the absence of skepticism. And that from that starting point we shall be able, with the help from the kami and those who follow, to eventually reach that Nirvana so many long for, and so few seek.

But not me. I shall retain my pensiveness, my apprehension. I shall continue to wait. To ask. To wonder. To believe – not in the kami, but in the self, for that, as Descartes so elegantly put it, albeit in not so many words, is all I really can do.

Writing Practice 11/28/2018

She’s a keeper because…

She’s a keeper because she stands in the goal box and faces down the sixty-plus mile an hour wristers from the blue line without flinching. She keeps her composure and her cool when everyone else is getting flustered. She’s a keeper because she’s not afraid of getting hit by a puck. Hell, a puck would be soft compared to the hands and the belts she’s endured over the years. At least with the puck flying at her, she has some pads on, some protection. And some teammates, too, who might sacrifice themselves before the shot comes in and makes contact.

She’s a keeper because this is where she finds her power. In defense, in being that last line of protection. She’s done it for her family – always stepping in front of her little sister and brother when mom was too mad to control herself and started swinging wildly. Stepping in front of mom when the DFS folks came to interview everyone, and making sure that, as bad as mom might have been, they didn’t get split up and moved somewhere that could have been even worse. She’s a keeper because that’s how she sleeps at night, knowing that she’s done everything possible to keep her team, her family, her community, safe and in power.

She has no desire to be offensive. Even the word repulses her – OFFENSIVE. It offends her to think that she might do that to someone else – to hurt, to assault – to offend. She knows it must be done, yes, cheers her teammates on, but the thought of her own actions being the reason her team triumphed over another practically sickens her.

It is a fine line, a distinction she has not really been ever able to articulate. She wants to win, yes. She knows that winning requires scoring, which requires offense / assault / attack / shooting. But she has never felt comfortable there. Instead, she feels comfortable the other way – protecting, defending. Supporting. That’s what she does, and she does it damn well.

Writing Practice 11/25/2018

Did you see that?

It was a clown riding by on a bicycle

No, it wasn’t. It was a Halloween costumed kid on a skateboard. He only “looked” like a clown.

No, you’re both wrong. It was Carrot-Top, and he was on roller blades, and he was drinking what appeared to be a pineapple smoothie. I should know, it was in exactly the same cup my grandmother used to get her smoothies in, from that place down on the corner, you know the one, where we used to go and get the three-dollar popsicles.

Oh yeah, those things were so good. I’d have like three a day in the summer. My mom always asked what I was spending my money on, and I would lie and say “Chicks, mom, I gotta buy them stuff to impress them.” And she believed me.

Nah, she didn’t believe you. She knew you were gay before you did.

Did not! Did, too. She even told me once, when we were like eight, not to pick on you because of it.

No she didn’t! Shut your fuck hole, asshole!

Guys! Guys! Hold on!

What?

What?

What?

Did you see that?

Nope. What was it this time?Don’t say another clown. I certainly don’t believe you the first time. I”m not gonna believe you this one.

Nope. Guess again.

Okay, was it a parade of pre-schoolers? You know, where they hold that rope and all walk single file and look like they’re preparing for five to eight at the State Prison?

Nope.

Was it a dog chasing a cat chasing a rat chasing its mate because it was horny and then hungry and then just having fun?

Nope. But I like your style!

Was it a skywriter in the blue, but instead of saying something like “I LOVE YOU HARRIET” or “EAT AT MACAVITY’S”, it was real big blocks, empty squares, kind of like an artificial algebra problem with geometric shapes instead of variables?

Nope. Getting warmer, though.

Was it a worm, shriveled up and hard and flat, squished by too many feet and left alone to rot by the birds because all the good parts had become toughened in the sun?

Yes! How’d you know?

I saw it on my way in.

Did not!

Did too!

No way! Me too!

Alright!

<high fives all around>

Hey guys?

What?

What?

What?

What?

Did you see that?