Saturday, November 19, 2011

Memories have mouldered in the tin can of my mind. The years break against the beaches and erode, erode, erode. Sleep becomes less important because being awake is like being asleep. The ailments are remembered well enough that they are the background of every dream scene; the aches ebb and flow as the songs of breakers not far from the shuttered window, not far at all.

Blankets wrap me up and curl me into that little place, that space between the sea and the shore where one becomes the other and the other becomes something more. Pushing sparkling grains up and pulling them down again. It was all sea once. There was no sea once. Neither misses those times, I imagine.

I try to imagine.

Friday, September 09, 2011

It's a Tom Waits kind of evening: low and grey and hanging heavy on the floor like smoke from an arson fire. Seventeen ghosts lie on the floor and one more hangs from a bare light bulb in the ceiling. A mattress in the corner rests on a makeshift box-spring of paperback novels with the covers torn off. This town is the opposite of other towns; all the bars and clubs are open in the middle of the day and no other time. All our work is done in darkness and our celebrations are in light. Been here less than a year and I can't convince myself it should be any other way.

The town tucks in at sunrise for about 4 hours. Those that wish rise in the afternoon to cavort and laugh and frolic. The length of the festivities is not the measure, but the ferocity. These hours pass quickly and it is time again to rest. When the sun sets the town arises to industry. There are not many jobs here that a person cannot perform in low light.

Not all choose revel for their midday waking hours. Those that don't gather in crowds instead gather their thoughts. The people here are unlike any I've met before. Those who share my age have lived twice as many days; two mornings for each of my mornings and two nights for each of my nights. Mistakes are made, from minor to grave, the better part in daylight. The harm done overall is less, as I've observed, but truer, as there is no darkness to muddle the focus of passions and the intent of each flung emotion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poor Don Quixote. He keeps getting his ass handed to him. After a particularly sound thrashing he finds himself unable to get up and begins to recite dialogue from the books that inspired him to become a wandering knight.

I can relate to this.

I used to drink a lot. And often. It was the first year of college, after all. Not my first year of college, but someone's first year surely. There were many times where I drank too much. There were also several times when I drank waaaay too much. That I cheated death and came away with only the mildest of brain damage, I believe, was no accident.

In everyone's brain is a tiny little glass case containing a single brain cell. Etched into the glass case is "In Case of Emergency Break Glass". There is also a tiny bone hammer hanging next to it. The anatomists teach us that the smallest bones in the human body are the anvil, the hammer, and the stirrup located in the inner ear, but this tiny bone hammer is actually the smallest.

In my brain, that little bone hammer has long been worn down to the handle and tiny shards of glass are everywhere.

When I was drunk beyond all reasoning there was still this lone brain cell running around desperately trying to keep me alive. This brain cell was smart, though. It didn't try to run to the part of the brain that controls my heart, or my lungs, or tells my blood which way to flow.

It ran to my memory of the book Night by Elie Weisel. While my body was failing and I just wanted to curl up where I was and fall asleep, the emergency brain cell would send me the image of a starving Elie being forced to march through the snow while those who could not keep up were shot. I don't imagine my experience can compare to that nightmare, but it was enough to keep me from passing out long enough to make sure I was done being sick and had been able to at least keep down some water.

It is my hope that someday I will be able to draw inspiration from the suffering endured by others for something more honorable than staving off alcohol poisoning.

A boy can dream.

And then his friends burned Don Quixote's books! Jerks!

* * * * *

Google reminds me that is the birthday of Jorge Luis Borges. Love that guy. And he was a fan of Don Quixote. So there's that connection. That is cool. Books are cool.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Twenty-nine years after I was born it took to finally pick up Don Quixote. Poor book has been waiting for quite a while.

I elected to read the translation by Thomas Shelton. This was a pragmatic, i.e., lazy decision as it is the only translation I have in my possession. As translations go, it is supposed to capture the spirit and energy the Spanish text despite being "less accurate."

It puzzles me that there are critics for translations. I imagine there are probably only a very few and they are very loud. These people would have to go around reading a book in the language of the author, then read a translation (probably several translations) and deem one superior. Then we all hem and haw and nod and peer at each other through our monocles.

Or I'd just say, shit, I can't read German or French or Sanskrit so even if this is the worst of all the translations it's still better than the fuck-all I would come away with if I tried to read the original text.

And that's when they took my monocle away and threw me out into the night.

In the case of Don Quixote I am at an advantage since I know Spanish. And I do like this translation because it sounds more like Spanish, even if it is in English. More to do with the phrasing and the rhythm, I suppose. Spanish is a much more fluid language than English; each sentence flows right into the next. It's

And it feels more natural when the characters speak, even in Don Quixote's elevated Romance language. So I'm calling this translation: good.

Now I just sit back and endure the wrath of the linguists.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I call this one "Laziest Comic Ever". The protagonist, upon finding that someone has pooped in his rock tumbler, is shouting his question to the world while gesturing off-panel at the presumably operating rock tumbler.

To be fair, I am not truly lazy. I simply can't draw a rock tumbler. No idea whatsoever. I haven't seen one or even thought of one in years. There are probably different kinds of rock tumblers, what with the natural abundance of rocks and other small hard materials that might presumably benefit from a good tumble now and again.

I'll leave that mystery to the botanists.

I am already at work on a physics-themed Laziest Comic Ever. It's that same guy again, only this time someone has pooped in his Large Hadron Collider. It's almost done but I'm having a hell of a time translating it from Swiss to English.

Maybe someone will yell "Are you sure it isn't a Higgs boson?" This yelling person will also be off-panel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Routine again. Crippled by the glut of information again. I spent the last 15 minutes looking for a picture that matched my mood and by the time I found it I didn't even remember what my mood was. Probably had something to do with Bartleby the Scrivener.

Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!

Walking right up to the edge of the world and peering over.

When I was but a lad my family visited the Grand Canyon. It was snowing and I was wearing a red and blue jacket. One of my parents told me to be careful not to fall in. I said it would be okay; if I fell in they could just pull me out. They said they didn't have any rope. I assured them that they wouldn't need rope; all the people around could just link hands until they could reach me.

I've always been more creative than practical. Yet I do not despair. All these things that are practical now were merely creative once.

Well, maybe not, but it sounds good.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ritual plays a painful part in this writing game. Painful to me because I abhor routine. At least I abhor being aware of routine. Maybe I don't abhor it; probably I just wanted to say "abhor". Either possibility is acceptable to me at this time.

The bath is vital. Er, the shower is vital. I'm far too big to properly relax in these Western-style bathtubs. And there's hardly any room for my Transformers toys. Oh yes, there are water-based Transformers. They just don't get seen much because they're usually float along staring wistfully at the coast or channel or fjord hoping some Decepticons come by with some evil plan involving sunbathing. (I know this feeling exquisitely well.)

The Japanese tradition would look in horror upon our toilets nestled snugly in the same room as our baths and showers. Might as well put the dining room table and the microwave in there while you're at it. Look at us; we're crazy Americans! Let's just do everything where we poop!

This reasoning makes sense, but I don't ascribe to it. Architecture that allows me to take off my pants and leave them off has my full support.

So to the shower I go. I get clean. Scrub away the lingering doubts. Try to, anyway. Then I'm ready.

It is imperative that I remain in my towel as I sit down at the computer. If I put on my nighty-time clothes there is the real and present danger of me simply walking past the computer and falling onto the bed. Being in a towel fills me with a feeling I can only assume is confidence. Also, the dampness of the towel imparts a sense of urgency; the origin of which I am hesitant to explore further.

Thus clean and clad, I can begin. Or in this case, end. It's my bedtime. Another night of dreaming and another 6 hours before I have to put on pants.

As I read over this I must apologize for the disjointedness. In my defense, I've spent the last 2 hours alternating reading the short stories of Herman Melville and watching episodes of the new season of Futurama.

Goodnight kermit!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If there was a time when I wasn't fascinated with labyrinths I do not remember it. Perhaps it began in the flimsy metal shelves of the library at my elementary school when I read all the Greek myths I could reach, or the subtle lines traced through the lives of men in the tales of Borges, or in the mazes of the children's menu at Smitty's that I traced in crayon while I waited for my breakfast of eggs. toast, and bacon carefully laid out to look like a kitty cat.

The art of the labyrinth was in the way that while moving forward, moving inward, the traveler must continue to pass very close to the path he or she had previously traversed, the obstacles they had overcome.

This was not the cathartic path of letting go. This was the constant reminder of where you've been and who you are becoming. Yes, there is a boon at the center but each step now determines what that boon will be.

Now I lie on the floor with my dogs. I scratch their backs with my toes and their tails wag sleepily. I will read a bit and then go to sleep myself. When my eyes close I can almost see the walls of my own labyrinth and in my dreams I hear the echoes of footsteps and laughter from that me not so very long ago, that self I was and still am now, just more so and more so with every fall of my foot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I still yearn for applicants to work with me at HALO Animal Rescue. Half of the job is getting the animals the medical treatment they need and keeping them clean. The other half is learning their behavior so we can find the best home for them, making sure they get enough play time, introducing the animals to people who visit our shelter to adopt, putting pictures and biographies up online, and sometimes you actually get to sit down and do data entry.

It's fast-paced, often stressful, but never boring.

I need people with an almost-unhealthy obsession with saving cats and dogs.

Plus, at Orientation, everyone gets a Chihuahua!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Supposedly being tired and cranky is the best time to write. I have no way to test this; I never feel tired or cranky.

I believe the best time to write is when someone is slapping you in the face because you aren't writing. It gives writing a sense of immediacy. The now-ness of it. A challenge of writing is that every word rockets to the past; each sentence is born to this time but the past is its wet nurse.

Or something.

I finished reading Moby Dick. I think this was the fifth time. It seemed like a braggable number but that breaks down to about once every couple of years since the first time I sat down to read the whole thing.

I almost feel like if there were a four-year degree in Moby Dick, I might at least minor in it. I'd probably get a whale-watching tour out of it.

I'm falling asleep in this chair. It's time to reclaim my bed from the dogs. Then I can dream of whales, and of standing on a whale-watching boat which, when there are no whales to be seen, is a lot like any other boat.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Part of my job is to talk to people about all my dogs and help them figure out if a particular dog is going to be a good match for their family. I've been corresponding with a family and I thought I'd share part of it because...well, I don't know why exactly, I think I just really like talking about my dogs.

The person I was talking to asked me if they should wait for our Adoption Event this weekend when HALO will be temporarily reducing our adoption fees. They liked the idea of saving money but they were worried that someone else would adopt the dog and they would miss out.

I'm glad you were able to meet Chance. A few people have come in to see Chance but no one has followed up with me on their visit, which is fine; when adopters visit us and don't feel like they find the right match we always encourage them to try some of our no-kill partners.

I have a soft spot for Chance. He'd been listed as a stray dog at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control and he'd probably been on his own for quite a while. He was so thin and weak for the first few days we didn't think he was going to make it. The staff here monitored him throughout the day, feeding him a liquid diet of puppy milk formula and wet dog food, and giving him subcutaneous fluids to fight his dehydration. We took blood samples and ran laboratory tests to make sure he wasn't fighting a chronic illness. It was a long road to recovery for our boy and seeing his big goofy smile every day is one of the many things I look forward to every day when I come into work.

What I'm getting at is that I'm sort of biased. On average, the costs we incur to rescue a dog is almost $400. That's an average, of course; some dogs are almost healthy and just need a short treatment of antibiotics to be good as new. Then we have guys like Chance who need that special care and attention.

If you feel that Chance belongs in your family, then I would advise not to wait. You will miss out on some savings, but you know that money will go right into the next dog we rescue after Chance goes home and we have another space in our shelter.

I appreciate the time and effort you are putting into making your decision. It is a big decision and I am always happy when a family is as considerate as you all have been. Remember that we are always rescuing dogs and in my personal experience I find a dog I want to adopt at least once a week.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.



Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Originally posted 8-7-03

Luis, Beth, and I went to the Phoenix Zoo this Saturday. After a fun-filled afternoon of kettle korn eating, paddle-boat paddling, and careening madly about on a two-person passenger bike with Luis screaming in the back, we all made our weary way home. In the car I asked Luis, "So what was your favorite animal?"

"The elephant," Luis said.

"Why is the elephant your favorite?"

"Because he wouldn't tell us where the zebras were."

Monday, February 07, 2011

Originally posted 4-24-04

Before heading out to the bar tonight, I spoke to my friend Mindy from work. We ended up talking for quite a while. She is an interesting girl. In an earlier conversation she had asked why I referred to Luis as "the boy." I told her it was in homage to The Simpsons. It was not unusual for an angry Homer to refer to Bart as "the boy."

It makes sense, because when you're angry at someone you tend to objectify them, or at least strip them down to their most base characteristics. It creates a distance, an impartiality, I think. But what do I know? I'm not really here to break down the psychological significance of The Simpsons. That would take all night.

Mindy asked me if Luis was bothered by being called that. I had to think about that one. "I don't know," I said. "I'll have to ask him."

This evening, Luis and I had driven to Blockbuster Videos so that he could rent a movie. It is a short distance away from my house. On the way, I asked him my question.

"Does it bother you that I call you 'the boy'?"


"Oh. Well, what would you prefer I called you?"

"Jackass." He laughed.

"Shut up, boy, I'm not going to call you that."

At the video store, Luis chose to rent Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. It is one of our favorites. I really need to purchase that movie for my Tim Burton collection. (It's not a truly loyal collection; I refuse to purchase his remake of Planet of the Apes.)

I also rented Kill Bill Volume 1 for Miguel. Also, I might as well watch it before I finally go to see Volume 2.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Originally published 12-7-03

There have been quite a few things on my mind as of late.

The first is, obviously, The Art of Clown Warfare.

A few nights ago, I was making myself a light lunch, (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,) when my littlest brother, Luis, stumbled into the kitchen. He had been sleeping, as he usually does at 2:30 am. I asked him, "What, do you want a sandwich too?"

He told me to shut up.

I asked him if he was thirsty, and he said that he was.

"There is some apple juice in the fridge," I told him, handing him a glass.

He poured himself some, and, still bleary-eyed and stumbly, went back to his room. I abandoned my sandwich and followed him.

Luis has a queen sized bed, so I laid down along the foot of it. The boy is so small, he doesn't even take up a quarter of it. And, like me, he edges up right to the side of the bed when he sleeps.

"Get out of here, they'll here you!" Luis protested as I loudly complained that his bed was uncomfortable.

"Who'll hear me?" I asked.

"The clowns," he answered, with a tone that is usually reserved for imbeciles.

"What clowns?"

"The ones under the bed!"

"Boy, you don't have to worry about clowns," I admonished, "You just have to know how to fight them."

"What are you talking about?"

"Clowns aren't built for speed. They have big, floppy shoes that make it hard for them to run. They usually wear wigs, and you can pull them down over their eyes so that they can't see. Don't try to punch them in the nose, though. That's the most protected spot on a clown."

I leaned in closer, as if to impart a great secret.

"What you really want to do when fighting clowns is to take out one of the clown cars. See, you blow up just the one car, and you're actually taking out at least 20 clowns."

We laughed hysterically at the idea. I left him to sleep, and, still chuckling, went back to finish making my sandwich.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Original Post September 20th, 2003

Friday was "Take Your Parent To School Day"
at Fees Middle school.

No, I do not attend the school myself.

I had promised my youngest brother Luis that I would accompany him on the mystical journey that is a half-day in the sixth grade. I do not have my one o'clock Italian class on Fridays. Thus, I had no excuse for not going. My mother works as a teacher herself, and from what I understand it is frowned upon for a teacher to leave a group of thirty first-graders alone for even a day.

My older brother I know wouldn't go, my sister is in Mexico, and my younger brother is in the Army. But what kind of excuse is that, really? "Lousy brother, running of to fight in Iraq, sticking me with Luis, make me get up all early on my day off," I grumbled.

But I was curious. The rest of my siblings and I had all gone to school pretty much together, so I always caught wind of their antics. But for the littlest Lopez, Middle School and indeed, school in general, was a solitary struggle. I remember Middle School as being a critical time for me in developing my personality. It was a time when I learned to defend myself with my keen mind rather than my fists. (Although, had my mind been a bit keener I might have realized that if I just kept my mouth shut and stopped insulting the larger kids who already didn't like me I wouldn't have had to worry so much about defending myself.) But I digress...

The Plain-Waffle Blues

I arrived at my parent's house to pick the boy up. He was already dressed and waiting for me. We both partook of waffles. Luis ate his plain. Mine were garnished appropriately with butter and syrup. We finished eating and were on our way.

We arrived to his first class 10 minutes late.

"Heh heh, it's all coming back," I thought.

Luis was sent to the office to report in for being tardy. While he was doing that, I sat in the classroom and acted like I had had nothing to do with it (another skill I learned in Middle School.)

When he returned, it was time for "Writing."

The Blue Chalk Blues

Luis is in several adapted classes so that he can receive more attention from his teachers. I too, knew this pain. I was in an very low math class that I lovingly referred to as "Adapted Math." It wasn't that bad though. I made the best boxes and "learning wheels" in that entire class. Of course, that was in High School, not Middle School... but I digress yet again.

The boy was working on alphabetizing words. He was doing okay, but then he hit the words that begin with the same sets of letters, in this case, "snare," "snort," and "sneer." His teacher spent some time trying to make him understand. Then I took over and spent some time trying to get him to understand. But he wasn't grasping it at all, it seemed. I was getting a bit frustrated, and so was Luis.

"Insanity," said Albert Einstein (not the florist, the physicist) "is performing the same action over and over and expecting different results." (I'm probably slightly misquoting that, but I have never been very good at translating German. (The quote I read was in English, but the latter is still true.))

I spied a chalkboard that someone had deviously tried to hide by hanging on the wall. Fortunately, I have read "The Purloined Letter," and ever since I have been excellent at finding objects hidden in plain sight.

"May I use the chalkboard?" I asked the teacher.

"Of course you may," Teacher replied.

After choosing the blue piece of colored chalk, I furiously began to write the group of words down on the board. As I had begun to suspect, the problem Luis had been having was not with the words per se, but it lay in that he was confusing the order of the beginning sets of letters. After getting him to cross out the letters that were the same, he could then focus on the "a," the "o," and the "e." He arranged them with little difficulty.

We completed the rest of the assignment like that. He got a 100% on the paper, and you know, I like to think that it was my 100% too.

The Blue Shirt Blues

The next class we went to after that was P.E. (Physical Education, which always sounded kind of dirty to me.) While the kids were changing, I waited patiently with a few other parents. One of them was a really odd guy who kept making jokes about computer tech at his work who was also the boss' son. From what I understood he fried a couple of very expensive computers and the guy assured me that it was all really very funny.

It's strange to meet people that are over forty that you are pretty sure nobody likes.

We were all herded down to one of the smaller gymnasiums by two whistle-wielding gym teachers. Once inside, all the children ran around like mad for a minute and then settled into a pretty tight formation of columns and rows. I was impressed. (My Middle School had little numbers painted on the ground for us to stand on, and even then we would have trouble.) The gym teachers led them in a series of stretches. The class was co-ed, and standing there awkwardly while a bunch of 13 year-old boys and girls did jumping-jacks without fail conjured up the image of a very envious Phill. I immediately lost it, and had turn away so that the kids wouldn't think I was laughing at them.

After stretching, they played a game called "Pac-Man" in which a few kids in blue shirts were the ghosts and the rest of them were the Pac-Men. Luis was given a blue shirt and thus was a ghost. An incredibly slow ghost. If the arcade game had had ghosts as slow as that, I could have beaten it with one quarter. The Pac-Men kids could only move along the lines painted on the gym floor, though, so my snail-paced pal managed to tag out a few, and you know, I like to think I managed to tag out a few, too.

The Spelling Bloos.

Luis had another class which was basically English. He had a spelling test, a journal that he had to write in, writing exercises to do, stuff like that. I guess that first class he had was more to reinforce some of the skills he was learning in other classes.

The boy cracked me up in that class. They were all reading The Pinballs by Betsy Byers. I saw it on their desk. "Oh yeah, The Pinballs! They're called that because they get bounced around from place to place, right?" Luis was surprised that I knew. He was even more surprised when the tests were handed out and the first question on it was "Why are they called the Pinballs?" When I told him I wasn't going to help him with his test, he wasn't so much surprised as he was pissed.

I passed the time by re-reading The Pinballs, which I hadn't read in at least nine years. The book was old even the first time I had read it, having been written in 1977. But I enjoyed it then and I was enjoying it now. The book is about three previously-unfamiliar kids who are all placed in the same foster home. A couple things jumped out at me while I was reading in that class. At one point, the sassy, street-smart, rebel girl states that she read that "Someday everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes."

Was this pint-sized punk foretelling the arrival of reality television and it's strangle-hold on prime-time television? This name-calling Nostradamus?

Maybe it was one of those self-fulfilling prophecies.

But what struck me the most was that throughout the majority of the story the kids are just waiting. Hoping and waiting that their respective parents will appear and all their troubles will melt away.

It reminded me of that time in life when all you can really do is wait. Wait and hope. I know I wasn't conscious of it, but 90% of the time when I was a kid I always felt that I was just waiting for things to happen to me. Now that I am older, I realize, it should be just the opposite. I should be out making things happen. But I don't, of course. I've just gotten so good at waiting.

And it's nice to be good at something.

When the tests were all finished, I was not surprised to see that Luis had just made up answers to the reading test. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had done pretty well on his spelling test. Indeed, throughout the day I had been continuously impressed by what he was capable of. Which is either bad of me, or good of him, depending on how one might choose to look at it.

The Boozeless Blues

The final bell rang, signaling the end of our truncated school day. I drove Luis back home and dropped him off. On my way back to my own house, I stopped to fill up on gas only to discover that my driver's license was missing. I had taken it into the school with me, along with my bank card. The bank card I still had, which was a relief, but I could not find my ID. Perhaps it had slipped out of my pocket when I had been sitting in those little chairs. "Oh well," I sighed, "Maybe it's for the best."

I try to be optimistic. If by some freak chance there is a kid somewhere in that school who looks like me and finds that ID, he's probably going to have a pretty wild weekend.

The End Blues