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Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Nonfiction!: I Never Dreamt of a Picket Fence

(Or, “Confessions of a slack-jawed, mouth-breathing knuckle-dragger”)

September 10th, 2006.

I’m limping across the Gelson’s Market parking lot in the snobby side of Hollywood with a brown paper bag sweating grease from the bottom. A few steps ahead is a guy holding hands with his girlfriend. They’re heading home, I presume, or maybe to a party. In my other hand is a Bukowski biography I picked up five hours ago while wasting away time at Borders.

People are everywhere. Inside houses are gigantic TVs. Leather couches. The occupants sip cocktails, smiling and wearing clothing without visual stains. In my bag is a six-pack of Modelo especial and eight slices of bacon, smoking hot and greasy, bought from a liquor and wine shop across the street. My van is parked a block northeast. Both my large toes are bleeding and pussy. Five paces ahead, the girl’s shirt says, “Just what the doctor ordered”. All I need is a beer and a podiatrist. The bacon was $.75 for two pieces.

My friend Brett and I just a few hours ago received an extended deadline from the Sundance selection committee for a short film we shot a few months back, which we’re scrambling to edit, so I’m feeling pretty okay, but three months from now we’ll find out it wasn’t picked up, and I’ll be bombarded (rightfully so) by actors and crew members wondering where their copy of the movie is.

Today is the first day of the football season. The Bears beat the Packers 26-0. My toes hurt but after I open a beer and kick off my shoes I’ll be fine. I average around eight miles a day walking back and forth across Hollywood, but my shoes weren’t built for distance. Accidentally, they match my wardrobe – tan and Navy blue – but I’m not prone to buying things for looks. Three weeks from now I’ll cave in and buy some basketball shoes, but not before my feet – blistered and soar – revolt against my urge to walk.

As it turns out, the beer is a pop-top, not a twist off, and I don’t have a proper popper – this will become an issue one week and a day from this moment. Right now, I’m sitting at the side of the street, van side door open, relaxed, with people shooting me strange looks as they pass. Mostly good-looking girls with nice breasts beneath trendy t-shirts. They all look familiar, like I should know them from TV or something, but I haven’t owned a television in three years. Maybe God just ran out of faces is all. Anyway, I think they think I’m cool in a mysterious way but probably they just think I’m creepy.

I tell myself creepy is part of my charm.

Four hours from now I’ll be drunken slumbering, dreaming of being older, ten or so years older, sitting with my brother Andrew on a bench overlooking the ocean, reflecting on the past – currently the present. Kaiser is there and happy as he always was, although he's been dead now nearly two years (twelve in dream-years, fourteen in dog years). The sun is warm. Birds make casual, soothing bird sounds. Ten years from now I have a new set of problems. We are casual but guarded, and we don’t discuss any of the bad stuff from nowadays.

I’m not sure what my living condition is in this dream, but tomorrow I’ll be hoping it’s better than it is today, in the future.


Andrew carries a bottle top popper on his keychain. He turned 23 seven days ago but he’s wiser than me in many ways, the popper being one. Also, he’s a talented musician, and better looking – close to my height but 70 pounds lighter, slender and with dark, angular features and hair. He’s 120 miles east of here with his girlfriend – Mexican, and with large breasts. Friendly and funny, they’re a good couple but secretly sometimes I worry about their involvement – he’s too young to marry but he’s the youngest child and they’re prone to doing stupid shit.

I worry he’s one of those guys who marries because he’s afraid of being alone.

I suspect I’m one of those guys who’ll be alone because he never married.

And so it goes.

Six hours ago he was at work. Six hours from now, he’ll be working. They’ve got a condo in a gated community with air conditioning and running water, two bedrooms, a parking spot, a leather couch and a TV. A couple of Betas they keep in separate tanks. In three months the Betas will be gone but they’ll have an iguana and a roommate from Alaska. My bacon is fantastic and my van windows are steamed from my breath. I practice breathing through my nose – it doesn’t come naturally given my allergies and my drinking habits. Deep down, I’m hurt anytime anyone is called a mouth-breather. I’m also conscious of my bad posture. Otherwise, my only other fault is I’m way too humble.

The girls walking past are probably heading for the restaurant Birds, or the Bourgeois Pig, a pretentious, overpriced coffee shop where I go every morning to take a piss and to brush my teeth. The Barista is only friendly to me when I buy a drink. Usually I don’t. She makes sure to point this out to the buying patrons at the bar as I leave.

I pop my beer using the van’s open side door, scraping the paint. Probably the Egyptians first came up with the concept of leverage thousands of years ago. Maybe it was the Chinese. I remember reading how we came up with tin cans a decade before we came up with tin can openers. This was a century or more before Ford produced the Aerostar I’m living in. I’m not sure why I’m thinking this but the beer foams up and explodes and saturates my computer. I’ve only made one payment so far so I make sure to wipe it off quickly. I don’t take into account that my fingers are covered in bacon grease. Probably toe infection too, but I don’t like to think about that. They tell me the next step is gangrene but I’m confident I’ll go to the podiatrist before that happens. They tell me it’s worth paying to fix up. They tell me I’ll be better off for it.

I wonder if one can play basketball with only one big toe.

On my return trip to the podiatrist in a couple weeks, he tells me the toes are healing nicely, but I need to soak them in warm water and Epsom salt. I wonder what he’ll say during next week’s visit, three weeks as of this writing, six full months prior to its publishing, when I show up to his office with a huge chunk of one of my toes missing, then I remember I’m already planning on making an excuse to skip out on the return visit, again, just like I did back in March when I saw him for the same problem. Three months from today one toe will be fine, and the other, the nail is beginning to blacken, but the pain and the infection are gone.


My van is parked on this street because the transmission is dying and I don’t want to move it for fear of being stranded somewhere more unruly (less ruly?). It’s Sunday night – typically poker night – and the streets aren’t crowded, but I’ve been drunk or drunkish since noon, since just before the Bears game. I tend to write better when drunk. Or if not better, than at least more proliferate.

My waitress was Darleen. She wasn’t good but she was young and cute, so I couldn’t give her much grief - we all start somewhere, at some point. She brought a Bud Light when I ordered Blue Moon, and it took half an hour. Then, she brought the Blue Moon but it had an orange slice in it, which I asked she omit. By the time she got it right the game was virtually over – the Bears were up 10 – 0 and they were looking impressive. It was a promising start to the season that would end suckily at the Super Bowl ©.

Ten hours ago I was in Griffith Park duct taping aluminum foil to my windows. A dozen hours from now, I’ll be awaken by a phone call from my mother. I tell anyone who asks that the foil is to keep the sun and the heat out - which is true enough during the summer but really its so I can have some privacy while I read and type, or when I feel life masturbating. I’ve been meaning to get one of those sunshades for the front window, but in a couple months my van will be towed away, so the window shade would have been a waste of money.

With all the foil in place blotting out the light I can sleep until 10 or 11. It was tough in the summer, all sweaty and unbearable, but in autumn it’s nice. After the bars close it gets almost cold out. Right now it feels like 11 pm. The clock tells me it’s 8:14. I think it’s the crickets screwing me up – normally my internal clock is spot on.

(Warning: Mom, if you’re reading this, the next paragraph might be tough, but I love you and please don’t take it personally.)

My mom has a habit of calling early the mornings after I drink heavily. This goes way back to my freshman year of college. She calls asking for insight into the future, or at least into whatever present chaotic situation she’s created for herself. She believes in psychic premonitions and believes our family is in touch with whatever resource it is psychics tap into. In reality she’s just lonely and insecure, overworked and stressed out. My reservoir of patience I learned from dealing with her. Andrew puts up with her as well, to some extent. My other siblings aren’t as understanding, although I think they recognize that whatever’s eating at her is genetic. Or, they don’t. I can’t say for sure. My sister’s kids, they’re great, but I feel for what they’re going to have to deal with in the coming years.

With the exception of Andrew, I talk to my siblings only a handful of times a year. At least twice a month I feel like a dick for not calling them more, but I justify this by saying the phone works both ways. Stephanie used to call on occasion but it’s been several months. Chris, I get an occasional message on myspace. As far as I can tell, this set up works out well for all involved. Three months from now I’ll have just returned to the desert from Thanksgiving in Utah, a good time had by all. Definitely less bloodshed than the last trip home, anyway.


As I write, I wonder about who might read this, or where and when. I don’t feel I’ve ever finished writing anything, there’s always room for editing, for expansion or clarifying. I don’t write as much as I’d like, but probably more than the average nobody writer in LA; I’m very sporadic, impulsive rather than compulsive, and I never get around to sending anything anywhere. Five weeks from now, I’ll be editing this, trying to create some subtle through-line to help the reader along.

Three months on and it isn’t working.


This morning, before the Bears game, twenty-four hours before my mother called and interrupted my dream of the future, I awoke horny as all get out. I dreamed of intercoursing a girl I met at the bar – the Powerhouse – earlier in the week. She plays bass in a band and they’ve come to LA to record an album. I replaced sex long ago with masturbation, or by collecting music on my laptop. Instead of fantasizing about how I would ravage this girl should she return my phone call*, I maneuvered my van into Griffith Park and went to work on the windows. I fully expect to jerk off before going to bed. I’m already well into my third Modelo, so add to that the pitchers I downed during the football game and I might just pass out early instead. Also, there’s the off chance that Nate might call me about poker, so I’ll put off pulling it**.

(*: She didn’t but at least I tried.)
(**: I passed out.)


Two years and six months ago I had my quarter-life crisis – a tough three months. I rode to Pittsburgh and spent time at my friend Donnie’s place, sleeping on a couch in an apartment he shared with four of his frat buddies. Since then, he’s graduated medical school and moved to Virginia Beach, and just suffered through his first hurricane only a week ago. He said it wasn’t as exciting as he thought it might be. We don’t talk much, but we’ve got competing fantasy football teams, and we’re both obsessed with Lost. Occasionally he’ll email asking suggestions for movies to watch. Six months from now, as I give this one more pass-over before posting it to my blog, I’m days away from giving him a call on his birthday, which he shares with my mother and my favorite author.

I used to hate the feeling of rooting down, kicking up my feet, relaxing. The idea of stagnancy makes me uncomfortable. I get listless. I feel better moving in the wrong direction than not moving anywhere. But since I returned from Pittsburgh I feel what most people would probably describe as normal, as though I’m moving forward at ease, progressing at my own pace, evolving while maintaining the sensibilities that brought me to this city in the first place. But all around me, the people I know, they’re compromising their identities, mistaking loneliness for love, marrying the first person who has sex with them willingly and on a regular basis. So many people forget so quickly what they loved as a child, as a teen, what they swore they were going to become, what they envisioned themselves doing in ten, twenty, thirty years, and they give up before giving themselves a chance to accomplish anything.

Thirty years from now, I’m going to be doing what I said I would do forty years before.

After concluding my mid-twenties breakdown and flying back to California the last twenty-six or so months have been a breeze – working on films, in television. Working towards doing what I came here to do. I’ve made a few friends, done some writing. My screenplays are progressively improving and I’m anxious to meet an agent who’ll recognize my talent and respect my ambitions. But in the last few weeks a seed has been growing, gnawing inside, telling me it might be time for a change of scenery. I’ve never been to Virginia Beach, so maybe I might strike out that way and experience a hurricane of my own. Chicago might be good, too – not only is it the home of the Bears but there’s at least a dozen people I know who’ll let me shower and crash on their couch without it compromising our friendship. More than I can say about LA.

Turns out three months from now I’ll be back down in Palm Springs, working on my house during the day and pretending to write at night. Sometimes sleeping on my bed, sometimes sleeping on my brother’s living room floor. It’s cold there, but at least he has working indoor plumbing.


(Warning: Dad, see the above warning.)

Boredom hits often, and it hits hard. I remember being twelve, about to leave for Montana for a couple weeks in August with my dad’s dad, to return days before school starts. My dad was a drunk but not prone to violence. Selfish, but not unkind. Apathetic is the word that fits the man he was back then. A lover of music and the social lives of the bar and golf course. At this point I’d been living with him for a handful of years, but readying to leave on this trip was the first time I remember sharing a hug. I think we both felt awkward – I was struggling to become a teenager; he was struggling to be a father.

We stood in front of his office, he probably inebriated or within a hour of becoming such, me ready to strike out on my first adventure as an adolescent. In an hour my grandfather would be picking me up. With a few minutes to kill, my dad asked what I wanted to do with my life. In second grade I told everyone I wanted to be an ornithologist – mostly, I think, because it was an impressive word for a second grader. But that day, in front of his office, I told my father – a civilian telecommunication specialist working and living on a military proving ground – that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew I couldn’t handle a nine-to-five job. I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time, but that’s pretty close to verbatim.

I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.
I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.
I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.

A dozen years from now and I’ve probably hugged my dad half that many times since. He loves golf and I despise all it represents – elitism, class snobbery, destruction of open land, goofy wardrobe and so forth. We both love the Bears and music, and building things with power tools. We lay on the couch with a book or magazine resting on our laps in the identical way. He’s sober going on four years, since just about the time I really started hitting the bottle. I’m not sure what’s stopping me from calling and telling him I’m proud of his accomplishments - maybe it’s the same thing that stopped him from coming to my track meets or from congratulating me for any job well done. I’m not sure about ESP, but apathy definitely is a family trait. I might still be bitter, but I think he’s done a fine enough job at raising my sister Madison, twelve years my junior.

So: Dad, I’m proud of your work in AA.

At any rate it’s been over a decade since declaring I couldn’t handle a regular job and I’ve gone out of my way to prove that statement. Mostly I think I just hate mornings – one reason why the military was never an option. Waking up to an alarm blaring always puts me in a funk. Also, working in the entertainment industry allows me the opportunity of micro-relationships – six to eight week romances with co-workers that begin when the job begins and ends when the job ends. I’ve never been good at one-night stands – too much effort for such little payoff. (See also: buffalo wings; lobster.)

I’m drawn to this business because of the schedule – an inconsistent schedule equals insomnia, which I suffered through for my first two decades (although now I’m prone to oversleeping), and insomnia sparks my creative side. I long for nights of unrest. An inconsistent schedule keeps me from rusting. These days, I’m able to wake up when I feel like it and sleep when I please. It might not sound like much, but it goes a long way toward keeping boredom at bay, and my writing improves, even if it means I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. I didn’t come here to make friends, I came here to make movies.


Looking at old photos I realize I wasn’t as ugly as I thought. That doesn’t stop me from realizing how not ugly I am right now. I think half the reason I want to get in fights is so I have something to blame my face on.


I don’t get stressed out. I came to this realization as my van went up in a smoking disaster during rush hour, 85 miles an hour on the freeway, heading to LA, mistaken about what days I’m working this week. I’ve been living on and off inside my vehicle for the last two years (from November ’04 through January ’05, and from May through October ‘06). 56 hours ago I looked in my rearview mirror and saw smoke billowing out the back, and the first thing that popped into my head was, I’m not going to make it to poker tonight. It was a Monday game – pretty rare, but it was a holiday so everyone had the night off.

I’m sure for most people, having their transmission go out is a shitty experience. It was for me, for sure. Also, I don’t have insurance so that was doubly shitty. And since my van doubles as my home, I’ve got a shitload of shitiness going on all around me. But I managed to get it to a semi-safe area – that is to say, not burdened by gangs or high crime, and within close enough proximity to a subway station so as to not feel ill at ease by lack of transportation.

Tuesday, the day after my van blew its load on the freeway, I walked from the Getty Museum to the Nu-Art Theater in Culver City. This wasn’t my intent, to cause the blisters that make me limp today, that will barely begin healing when I chunk off my toe in a skeezy hotel room a week from now, but the bus system in the LA doesn’t have its shit together.

In two days I’m at a bar, feet blistered and numb from surgery, playing shuffleboard and listening to a 90-year-old woman singing beautifully to an enthusiastic crowd of two-dozen. I’m not aware that all the beer I’m drinking will do nothing to drown out the pain of the toes as they come back to life with large portions of the nail dug out, the soft tissue beneath exposed and stuffed with gauze.


It’s later. This last Sunday the Bears beat the Lions 34-0 and I’m sure they’ll be playing either Pittsburgh or Indianapolis in the Super Bow if Rex Grossman doesn’t get hurt. I’m staying the night at the cheap hotel off Hollywood & Cujenga, across the street from my favorite coffee shop. The hotel has HBO, ESPN and a porn channel. I’ve jerked off twice already – the first time in more than a week – and tomorrow I’ve got a flight to Kentucky where I’ll hang out with my anxiety-ridden mother and incontinent step-dad for a few days. Today is my first day off in a while and all I want to do is get drunk, but I’ve got to wake at 5:30 to get to the airport. So instead of hitting the Powerhouse I’ve finished off my bottle of vodka (Gran Legacy, the bottle says) and I’ve just now cracked the first beer – another 6 pack of especials. I also have a Fat Tire, which I intend to use to put me over the top. In three and a half hours I will wake with a hangover but I can sleep on the train to the airport and on the plane to Nashville. I will ride in the back of a rental car and drink coffee black. Three and a half hours from now, I’ll be getting my first coffee of the day, on my walk to the bus station. 7-11 coffee has always been my favorite. The same guy who sold me bandages a few hours ago will see me again, a little worried, and will ask if I went to the hospital yet. I have not.


In the early summer of a few years ago, either 2000 or 2001, I decided I was going to walk from Salt Lake City to New Orleans. There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but I’ll spare. In the end I drove rather than hiked. Regardless, I managed to get to my destination but I still think of myself as a weak-willed pussy.

My goal was to take however long it took to get there, walking alone across the country and writing my stories, me and Kaiser on the road, dependent on nothing but ourselves, distracted by nothing but nature – working for no one but a slave to nothing.

We drove in a mid-90s Mitsubishi pickup, in July, with no air conditioning. We left the night of the 3rd of July, and some of my fondest memories were acquired during that brief trip – driving through the Rockies, all alone on the freeway as Fourth of July fireworks blew up all around us, Kaiser staring out the window in awe; the sun rising out of the flat black nothingness of the Kansas flats; hanging out with my high school friend Chanda for a week with her college buddies; sleeping in my truck in Metairie, LA for a week, with my dog, broke and wondering what the hell we were going to do; an attempted mugging at butter knife point almost literally the moment we arrived in New Orleans, broke up because Kaiser was an 80 pound pit bull/boxer mix and intimidating as fuck; meeting my brother’s wife and children; and so forth.

I returned home a few months later with my tail between my legs. I hadn’t written a goddamn thing, but I had come up with new stories and a renewed anger toward many of the people who occupied this state, this country and this world. This would and remains to be the source of much of my writing. I always have been and probably always will be somewhat of a misanthrope, although I’ve been accused of being soft and sentimental from time to time.

Skip ahead a couple of years. George Bush steals the presidency. September 11th happens. We’re at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I turn 24 on December 31st, 2003 and fall immediately into that quarter-life crisis. By February I was on a Greyhound aimed for Pittsburgh. Donnie meets me at the terminal and gives me a lift to his place. We acknowledge how I smelled like a homeless person. Four days on a bus will do that to you.

On the bus, unable to sleep for days, sitting between some new-age hippie and a soldier returning from Afghanistan, I read Catcher in the Rye and I wondered why no one gave me that book five years—fuck.


I just returned, limping and bloody, from 7-11. The guy I met a few hours from now is still there. He’s freaking out because I’m bleeding everywhere. I paused while typing to go open my last Modelo (reminder: a pop-top). It slipped, shattering on the bathroom floor, going through my bare foot on its way down. I knew it was bad, but couldn’t help but laugh – if only a camera had been there to see this blooper. I need stitches, or some duct tape and a shot of whiskey.

Six weeks from now and I’m happy to add the scar to my collection.

The hotel only accommodates two towels and I already used one as a cum-rag 10 minutes after I arrived, so I use the other to apply pressure to my toe and now I have none left to dry off after my morning hangover shower – these are the things I worry about as the towel fills with more blood than seems necessary.

As I sit outside the 7-11 applying gauze and band-aids, a guy walks up to me, presumably to sell me drugs. He asks if I need anything. I say, probably some stitches, showing off the damage, laughing with the knowledge that this is really going to hurt in the morning but is right now completely without feeling. This guy, this probable drug dealer, he looks like he’s been around the block a time or twice, a scar above his left eye running a few inches back into his shaved skull, he walks away, wordless, freaked out.

Blood covers my fingers and is beneath my nails. Blood is on the sidewalk, and seeps through my shoe. I would thank god that I’m drunk and can’t feel shit, but it was getting drunk that got me here in the first place. Also, I don’t believe in god.

In the hotel, the carpet is polka-dotted with blood. I’m not sure if they’re going to make me pay to clean it or not, but certainly they’re out one towel – I assume they’re use to cleaning jism – a bi-product of having the EXTSY channel on your TV, but blood is a different matter, so I toss it in the trash with my bottles and the broken glass.

Personally, I can’t wait to see the expression on the poor security guard who asks me to take my shoes off at the airport tomorrow. I wish I’d grabbed the Vicodins from my van when I packed my bag four hours ago. The Valium I’m going to give to my mother. Happy fiftieth birthday, seven months and three days late. I got both these prescriptions when I was bit by a black widow on Easter morning. More on this later.

So after shattering the last one I’m down to one beer– the Fat Tire, one of my favorites, which my wise younger brother wisely recommended to me – and I make damn sure to make sure I don’t shatter it when opening. It’s now well after midnight. On TV, some guy with an average size dick is fucking some blonde with fake tits in the ass. I was working on organizing my music and writing when I fucked up my toe. I’m almost ready for bed, but I’m warm to the idea of writing some more.


It’s 2:21 and I just can’t stop. This is all happening. Time doubles back on itself as I critique my writing, moments after typing it. I’m uninterested in the porn – bad lighting and audio, mostly, and the chick isn’t very hot. I wonder how much blood one can lose before it becomes dangerous, and I’m feeling more drunk now than a half hour ago. It’s almost time for bed.

My brother has to be to work in 7 hours. My mom is sleeping soundly, or not. Drugged, probably. The sun is rising over Virginia Beach. In 13 hours I’ll be in Nashville. The sun will be setting. I’ll be in need a drink and as I scope for the nearest dive bar my mother will worry about my safety, alone in the Big Big World. I’ll ignore her, telling her I only want a beer and some solitude but nothing I say will convince her I know what I’m doing. I’ll placate her and as soon as she and her husband fall asleep in the room next to mine I’ll try to hook up with a Kentuckian but fail.


I was wrong – my hangover never came. However, I fell out of bed hard enough to piss off the neighbors when my cell phone alarm went off. I wish I had the guts to check out my toe, to scope the damage. If only I had a goddamn popper none of this would’ve happened. Four hours after the smash, five minutes after a long, warm shower that will make me late for the bus to the airport which leaves in twenty-two minutes, I tried removing the gauze and band-aid but couldn’t muster up the balls to do it – the pain was excruciating, but also the toe itself felt like it was ready to fall off. It needs stitches both on the inside to keep together whatever meat the toe has, as well as on the outside to pin the gap shut. I wonder if tendon damage is possible. I’m pretty sure a broken bottle – even thrust violently at the floor – isn’t capable of slicing through bone, but twenty-four years and ten months ago an aluminum door sliced through my pinky finger like rice paper, so who knows. I’ll ask my mom when I see her in Nashville, after my flight is delayed two hours in a stop over at Atlanta. She’s a nurse, and would know more about my toe than I would, I think.


Ready for bed, I’m going to go ahead and try to wrap things up, and I'm kind of sad I'm not going to get around to including the black widow story.


I’ve always been hyper-aware of time. I’m convinced this is the cause of much of my insomnia as a kid. That, and the bad dreams and the overanalyzing of everything, and my parent’s drunken parties Thursdays through Saturday nights. Actually, in retrospect, it’s pretty amazing I got any sleep at all. I was prone to passing out in class. My track coach would throw things at me for falling asleep during his fire and brimstone meetings.


My dreams have always been vivid. Four days ago, I was told this is because I rarely fall into the deepest area of sleep, but instead remain in the R.E.M. cycle too long – a side effect of insomnia, I was told. The girl who told me this, she’s normally an idiot and quite irritating, but sometimes she says things that just make sense. This is one of those times.

Most nights I would stare at the clock, bright red and glowing, well past two or three in the morning. Sometimes four, sometimes five. The sun rises. I roll out of bed. Cross the hall to the bathroom for a shower. My vivid dreams, they’re usually about being chased by people I know and like, or know and dislike. Sometimes I’m falling, sometimes it’s all blackness, and me wandering frightened, sometimes I’m trying to run – to save someone, or myself – and I can’t move. Sometimes, I’m in a skyscraper under construction, standing on an exposed I-beam, too afraid to look down, but not able to continue moving forward because there’s someone in my way.

Nowadays, I sometimes dream of basketball and Kaiser and I certainly sleep more than I did 10 years ago, but my dreams haven’t changed all that much.


One year, eleven months and ten days ago my dog died trying to get out of the rain – a product of my neglect, something which I’ll never forgive myself and only recently – maybe six months ago – learned to deal with, although I still dream that he’s at home, waiting to greet me when I arrive. Every time I see the neighbor’s dog, I feel like a failure.

I’m sorry, Kaiser.


Twelve or so years ago I kicked Chad in the stomach during a tiff in seventh period PE. The sound of his breath forced from his lungs makes me shiver. I hear it when I sleep.

I’m sorry Chad.


Seven years and two months ago I packed up and moved to California, eyes wide with ambition. I left Ellen at home to deal with her family, to languish and feel unloved and unwanted, abused. She wanted to be a lawyer; I wanted to scrape the rust from my joints. I’m not sure where she’s at now or what she’s done with her life, but I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry and thought things through.

I’m sorry Ellen.


I’m finishing this up exactly where it started – sitting in my van, eating shitty bacon from the liquor store (which coincidentally I’ve only visited twice in my life), drinking warm beer, thinking about my toe, and about time, and about the short film IRAN I produced, which was submitted to Sundance today, on the final day of our extended deadline. My clothing is soaked and smells like rain, but I love that feeling, and that smell. It looks midnight outside, but it’s 6:47 in the afternoon. I’m out of clean clothes but the laundry mat is too far away to walk, so I have to drive, which means I’ve got to leave when there’s no one else on the road. I’m sick and tired of not being able to move this van.

As I’m leaving the coffee shop twenty-two minutes ago, the clouds burst and dump on the city. A million people disappear instantly. The homeless find somewhere else to be. Cars with windshield wipers wiping madly splash past. People behind glass watch the rainfall, but otherwise I’m alone. I’m cold. Eight hours from now in the laundry mat, I’m waiting for my shit to dry. I listen to an HDTV infomercial on constant loop on the radio, and I’m still cold.


The rain is stopped. People are out and about. A cute British woman just asked where she can find the leau. The people, they’re happy the rains are gone. Me, I can’t wait for them to return, to wash away the piss, the smog, to take away the stench of this place, to leave me alone, if only for a couple hours.

February 15, 2007.

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