Archive for May, 2009

the proverbial tiger in the bathroom.

23 May 2009

at my dad’s birthday dinner he mentioned wanting to see the hangover. my sister was taken aback at first, detailing my dad’s history with movies, how he turned off from dusk till dawn after one minute thirty seconds because it had already grossly exceeded his fuck quota, how he would fastforward through scenes of kissing, and how he still didn’t want us to watch pretty woman.

she had forgotten, however, that human beings can be complicated creatures, unable to be reduced to a sum of their tolerances. i pointed out that he liked american pie an awful lot, and he burst into laughter, reminiscing about teen sex comedies. through the chuckles we heard, when that guy porks the pie, then something indecipherable before emphasizing, he’s porking the pie.

it was a good moment to interrupt, if only to block him from saying pork again in that connotation, so i proceeded with something that had struck me as peculiar earlier, namely the contents of his dvr. around four am the reality show about video game players i had been watching stopped, a message box alerting me that, in order to continue, i would have to cancel one of the programs being recorded. other than me, i thought, who would be taping one show at this hour, let alone two? i scanned the database to determine if they were absolutely necessary, or if i could delete one and go back to viewing the white-knuckled action of people competing to be the best at guitar hero, fingering the chords methodically, without facial expression or emotion, as if their bones had fused with the instrument and they were one with the system.

listed were six or seven porn titles, like gangbangs of new york, ocean’s eleven inches, thirteen going down on thirty, how stella got her tube packed, and, um, mating to sex-hale (okay, these were not the real titles — they were more uninspired, like love beach seven or pillar of romance three or girls on the run). at dinner i brought this up. had my dad, in the absence of my mother, turned to poorly-written scripts and characters that were not fleshed out (pardon the pun)? the truth, although it made my father appear really naive, was much more believable and, thankfully, more amusing. he had recorded the movies because he couldn’t comprehend how pornography could possibly be freely broadcast on television. he had viewed a few minutes of each (i’m not sure why exactly he kept going after he turned the first off) and discovered to his amazement that, yes, they were indeed allowed to show nudity and some amount of sexual engagement.

sometime between my late night/early morning inspection and dinner he had erased the contents of the dvr, entering his sixth decade on the earth a little wiser about man’s inclinations and the scope of technology.


animal identification team.

18 May 2009

so, yeah, there is some kind of dead animal there, maybe an armadillo, anyway, who cares what it is. this declaration, delivered abruptly and dispassionately, was an attempt to leaven the enthusiasm i displayed while telling the story, but, of course, her interest was further piqued. she answered, you have to go back — and i’m coming with you.

we drove together as the events i had just finished describing to her repeated in my head. namely, while knocking on the front door loudly i was startled by movement behind and above me. wrens had built a nest in the porch’s overhang, and the mother bird had moved swiftly to an adjacent tree to chastise me. next her young tumbled to the ground near my feet and tried to hide itself, awkwardly fluttering into the patchy bushes that lined the house.

i weighed that which had transpired, determining that i was responsible for the baby bird. after all, it was forced into this world, before it was prepared, due to my error. however, before i could act as a surrogate — teaching it how to fly, passing nourishment from my beak to its darting tongue, keeping it warm when the temperature dropped — i had to find it. on hand and knees i pulled back tiny branches to get a glimpse within and beneath. i combed the area gingerly, nothing escaping my sight, until something stopped me and i jumped to my feet. just beyond where i was patting the ground sat a large oval mass of fur.

it was too large to be a rat; it’s posture was inconsistent with a sleeping cat curled into a ball. my best guess was that it was a furry armadillo. i was convinced that it had consumed the bird i was charged with protecting, which left me reeling with paroxysms of sadness broken only when my friend arrived home. she suggested that we follow the protocol pertaining to these situations. that is, we poke the unknown creature (she had summarily struck down my armadillo-judgment) with a stick. she, being braver than me, leaned toward the dead animal, nudging it. she jumped back, insisting that the carcass released a foul odor, and i was inclined to believe her as my own sense of smell is not well developed. we parted, she going to work and i to lunch, hoping that the scent wouldn’t linger and, moreover, something larger would carry the source away.

on the return trip, i was scared. not only had i failed at mothering a bird but i had further alienated myself from the spirit world by disrupting one’s final resting place. at this point, i thought, i may as well build a house on an indian burial ground. i imagined an eagle pecking out my liver for all of eternity. on the other hand, i had gone this far, so, upon arrival, i grabbed a stick and walked with purpose, hand covering my nose, toward the spot. i prodded the animal, finding it tougher than expected, as if it were in the process of turning to stone from the inside.

as my courage peaked, i noticed something peculiar and threw the stick aside. i gasped, reaching to grasp the object and retrieve it. the peculiarity i had spotted was a small white tag attached to the leg of a stuffed hedgehog, muddy and water-logged.

i sent my friend a text telling her i’d gone back to her house to find that the animal was a large hedgehog. i told her i had set it on her porch for her. for the next few hours i received messages berating my actions. of course i’m angry; you left a corpse on my steps. why can’t you call someone to pick it up?

later she phoned from home to call me a fucking asshole. she had approached cautiously and then laughed while again wedging the stuffed animal between the house and bushes where it belonged.

every city has its own jersey shore.

12 May 2009

i don’t understand why guys dress the way they do to go out to a bar or club. i’m not talking about the ones who don’t care, wearing khaki cargo shorts and tennis shoes, because no amount of tutoring and guidance is going to bring forth their salvation. my confusion is directed towards the guys who spend time in front of the mirror, applying gel to their short hair and putting on a tight t-shirt with writing about death or some sort of apocalyptic event, about retribution and revenge; in other words, things that keep you up at night, worrying. the shirts are often embellished with sequins or strips of leather, as if they were produced by a first-year art student still learning the mechanics of collaging, and intentionally stained in patches (most notably under the arms — a wise decision with how much these guys sweat).

you may see them in the corner of the room, gently nodding their heads in lax synchronization with the music, a beer cradled in hand. watch them for a few seconds and you’ll see them looking around, as if they’re waiting for someone while simultaneously flexing their muscles (they’re actually interested in who is noticing them). if you’ve ever seen a robed prizefighter on his way to the ring, stretching his neck to the left and right to loosen it and shaking his arms to encourage the flow of blood, then you’ve got an idea. i wouldn’t be surprised if part of their routine in preparing themselves for a night out, after crushing a six-pack of red bull, was to massage baby oil into their biceps to make them glisten even in poorly-lit rooms.

if they can find a button-front shirt to fit across their massive backs, they’ve invariably chosen a white one with a design in black embroidery (or maybe a white tonal stripe to differentiate the shirt from their other one with buttons). these guys are proud of their pectorals, unfastening the shirt until they bulge forth and gleam like a gladiator’s armor. bump into them accidentally and you face almost certain death, especially if you cause them to spill a drink. these are the guys that are interested in getting wasted and knocking out some dude’s teeth first and then, as a distant second, an afterthought, escorting an equally-inebriated lady home with them.

together they stand at the bar in groups, counting those around them, ordering jager bombs for their buddies and the hapless girls who have followed them. they down them quickly and high five or thrust their fists in the air like they have just pulled someone’s still-beating heart from their chest or they roughly grab a girl and press their lips against hers in the least romantic way possible. while performing one or more of these actions they bellow — one of those world-domination roars, like a lion enforcing his position as king of the jungle.

facebook is proof that they pose for a lot of pictures: mugging at the camera, often red-faced, their thick necks tilted to the side due to the weight of their friends’ arms around them. they wear sunglasses indoors and have the tips of their hair frosted. they talk about how they have a vip table with bottle service, as if overspending on liquor is a badge of honor, demanding respect. towards the end of the night they meet on the dance floor for more fist pumping, sometimes becoming aggressive, shoving each other and laughing at any collateral damage.

honestly, i don’t know what to say to these guys, though, i agree it’s naive of me to think they’re reading this writing. i doubt they realize how close they come to becoming caricatures, how tiresome their antics become, how unenviable their positions are. sometimes i like to pretend that one wakes up suddenly on a predetermined day, looks in the mirror and stands aghast at a visage of manicured facial hair, slowly weeping while shaving before crumpling to the bathroom floor, promising never to repeat these transgressions.

the ground beneath her feet.

6 May 2009

i met her for lunch at a mexican restaurant near her house. it was the first time i’d seen her since i spent the night four days previously. that morning i’d been awakened briefly by a loud noise before drifting back to sleep, ruling that she had knocked over a hair dryer or similar device in the bathroom and that i had nothing to worry about but catching some more zzz’s.

i woke up again with her sitting on the edge of the bed looking confused and speaking sporadically, as if she were uncomfortable with the english language. i pieced together her false starts and mumbled phrases, repeating questions until i got an intelligible answer, eventually deciphering that she had had a seizure in the hallway, hitting her head when she fell. she suffered a concussion as a result. the rest of the day was spent in the hospital undergoing a battery of neurological tests.

she had never experienced anything like this before, and, as a consequence, i wasn’t sure how to approach her. i ended up taking the less tactful route. over a plate of arroz con pollo which was still too hot to touch, i began listing the hockey players whose careers ended prematurely as a result of too many hits to the head, some who had enjoyed a few very productive years before crisscrossing over the middle, puck on the blade of their stick, with their head down; others who had such promise, high draft picks who never even made it to the national hockey league because of a jarring blow to the head.

the outcome of her tests was largely inconclusive, but, at any rate, the doctors told her that it was nothing to worry about. her fall was an isolated incident that likely would never be repeated. i told her to proceed cautiously, warning her that science was imperfect, uncertain, and perplexing. she laughed nervously as i continued, comparing a concussion to an earthquake (i had read a book by salman rushdie where he had made a similar connection between strokes in the heart and earthquakes, so i figured i was in safe territory, speaking about facts, albeit cold and hard ones).

i said an earthquake, even minor rumblings that do not cause much damage, leaves a mark on the earth, rendering it forever vulnerable. once hit, the potential for another strike remains tucked away, promising to return with more devastating force. i took a sip of horchata, a milky-looking drink made from ground rice, almonds, and cinnamon, hoping that the pause would tone down my message, making it more palatable, less a doomsday prediction than a concerned friend who often gets carried away once he begins with a theory or a joke. all i knew is that i could not stop yet, before i had finished my analogy and united the two events based on this conceived similarity.

your head is the same way, you know? sure, everyone is telling you that you’ve escaped unscathed and you need not change your life in any way, but buried somewhere in your brain or skull or spinal cord (i told her i wasn’t sure which option since i’m not a surgeon) there was a tiny indelible imprint containing the scribbled details of the occurrence, sort of like microfiche. one night she would fall asleep, tucked into a warm bed, calm and whole, only to wake up the next morning bewildered and unsure of how she had arrived in the hallway. some part, an echo of her past, would be missing, like california drifting off into the pacific ocean.

i repeated the last line about california again for impact and partly because i liked the sound of it and was starting to have fun. we asked the waitress to box our remaining food, then walked back to her car, with me acknowledging that i had not delivered the motivational message i had envisioned. my only hope was that she had forgotten most of it as she was still foggy from the fall (that is, if she were a hockey player, she would have to sit out a few more games while her concentration returned and the headaches subsided).

maybe she would only recall that a guy who once treated her to lunch talked passionately about earthquakes and athletes while she ate.

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