the pessimist

 

I just felt like roasting myself tonight

I’ve gone inside myself to try and find out what is in there.  Everyone likes to think that there is a deeper meaning in life.  Rather life being a tragic farce in which you are never truly happy.  Only the illusion of happiness sprinkled in occasionally with boredom and disappointment.  Pessimism seems to be a handy remedy when dealing with existential crises.  What’s the meaning of life?  Who really cares?  The times we are most emotionally stable are in times of indifference.  Learning to let go of the things we cannot control is probably the greatest trait for one to possess.  The main motivation for my writing is based entirely on masochism and trying to not be one of the fucking idiots that I deal with on a daily basis.  I try to think that I’m deep and intelligent but in reality I’m just an insecure misogynist with commitment issues.  I’ve heard that hatred of others is just a projection of hatred of ones self and I believe it.  But once again we come to the “accept the things we cannot change” concept.  I’ve made mistakes that I have learned from and some that I haven’t.  At the very least I try to be aware of myself and remain humble at all times.

 

The Ash Tray

It sat on the table droll and beckoning them like any other empty bowl.  It was white and round with three notches spaced equidistant around it to place a still burning stogie.  There was only one small burn in the middle of it.  The ash tray was emptied out routinely without thought, a reflex, like when the doctor hits your patella with that small rubber hammer.  The way it was filled up was more enigmatic

Large deposits are made on nights when they arrived home late, and still from nightly festivities.  Other times they would sit and inebriate themselves with neat whiskey and no intention of departure from the home or the table at which they sat with the ash tray.  These nights were also similar to reflexes, just reactions from stress at work and being in their twenties.  But on certain nights there was a different kind of ash filling the little bowl.  An experience, a palpable memory of the departed.  There were times when they needed to use it, even if it was only once.

The Cigarette rested between his middle finger and index as smoke idly rose to the ceiling.  A puff, an inhale, a release, and then a flick which broke off the ash and with it sadness and longing.  Heartache followed and eventually anger and despair.  The emotions in the ash tray weren’t always spoken and were far from disingenuous.  A moment of introspection.  The ash in the tray made it heavier with no change in weight, made it deeper with no change in dimension.

It was drunken nights with others or sometimes it was the dark nights alone.  It was always filled with some sort of emotion.  If you looked in the ash tray on one of the days before they emptied the contents, you wouldn’t see them, you would see the ones who had abandoned them.

 

Notes:

The main inspiration that produced this story was actually letting my emotions and feelings get the best of me until I felt the urge to smoke.  The cigarettes were temporary but the ash tray was always there.  So i felt like rather than focusing on the cigarettes themselves I would focus on the place where I deposited them.  The funny thing is I don’t normally smoke but I do use it as a scapegoat sometimes.  Sometimes when I feel longing for a particular someone be it female or family I tend to get down and to get stressed and to think negatively.  I’m not saying that smoking is the most positive outlet for these stresses but sometimes I find myself saying “man I could use a smoke”

 

maps

I found her with her back turned towards me.  The red lights of the stage made her skin glow like a lava lamp in a dark room.  When I came around a second time she was outside sitting on a black satin couch with her right leg crossed over her left.  She looked at me with her lips pursed like her drink was too sweet.  When she spoke, the words came out like a phonograph, soft yet firm and with character.  “I’m a cartographer” she said to me with a tone like I didn’t know what that was.  “I don’t like your latitude” I tried to joke but she didn’t laugh.  There are some nights in Hollywood where you can find a place with live music that resembles something with a soul.  We moved over the black and white keys of the piano and tapped our feet with the percussion.  She had long black curls that bounced when she moved.  Her glasses looked like they were relics from high school, but they still worked, so she kept them.  The black dress she wore told me she had work tomorrow.  She wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense of the word.  She had situational beauty.  The minute hand raced around my watch and as she departed I reached my hand out only to grasp hot air and a few notes from the band.

 

Notes:

This is fiction but I did actually meet a girl one time who told me she was a cartographer.

the garden

A young man and his grandmother walked through the gardening section of a supply hardware store and had a conversation about vulnerability.  The grandmother was old but she wasn’t gone yet.  She knew she was close but she was very strong.  She had always been.  It wasn’t strange seeing them walk together.  The grandmother spent many hours in her garden.  She spent her life raising children and her children’s children.  When there were no more kids to raise she found purpose in the soil and flowers in her backyard.  The young man wasn’t necessarily interested in gardening.  He enjoyed taking his grandmother on little outings as he knew they were limited.  They always thought about the concept of death, but these thoughts were always hidden.

“These Lilies are beautiful.” said the grandmother as she picked one up to smell.

“Whenever I see the roses in your garden they inspire me and give me compassion, stick with those grandma.” said the young man.

“Roses are beautiful.” She said “But they can hurt you if you get too close.”

“Kind of like me, right grandma?” joked the young man.

“I certainly miss when you didn’t have such a tough exterior.”

“Well, I am your grandson.”

They continued to walk among the colorful flowers.

“Do you remember your grandfather’s old property up north?” She asked.

“Of course I do.” he replied.

“A long time ago, you must have been five or six.  You were visiting us and all of your cousins were there as well.  You guys were all playing like you usually did.  That winter a tree had fallen across the stream.  In the summertime when the stream dried up the creek bed filled with thornbushes.  You and your cousins took turns walking back and forth over the fallen tree.  You slipped off the log and fell in the thorn bushes.  Do you remember this?” asked the grandmother.

“No” The young man said.  But he did remember.  He had a vivid memory of this exact moment.  But he didn’t want to feel vulnerable.

“After you fell in, I carried you back to the house.  You were crying because there were cuts all over your arms and back.  My heart wrenched as I tended to your wounds, but I told you to be strong and stop crying even though I just wanted to hug you and kiss your tear filled cheeks.”

“Why are you telling me this?” asked the young man.

“Because I love you very much and you will always be that little boy crying in my arms.” She said

“Maybe one day I’ll get to take care of you like you took care of me and I can see you vulnerable.”

“Being strong is both a blessing and a curse my son, it carries a burden that prohibits you from showing vulnerability.”

The young man laughed and said

“Ok grandma”

The young man remembered the day that his grandmother was referring to.  He remembered it going exactly the way she described, but to him it wasn’t about being vulnerable.  To him the memory was a reminder of how much he loved her.  It wasn’t implicitly apparent to him but that experience among others added a layer to his subconscious.   It made him never want to show weakness or vulnerability.  He wanted to be strong, like his grandmother.  They walked to the car with a cart full of flowers and contentment.  

“Grandma have you heard that ‘the earth laughs in flowers?’”

“My garden is not a joke.” She replied with a smirk.

They loaded the car and drove away.  As he pulled out of the parking lot and accelerated down the boulevard he said,

“Could have fooled me grandma, I can’t help but smile when I’m in your garden.”

What he didn’t see was the pick up truck speeding through the yellow light behind him.  The truck tried to swerve and avoid the car which contained the young man and his grandmother but it was too late.  The truck slammed into the rear end of the vehicle which whipped their heads back and then forward into the steering wheel and dashboard.

———

The cardiac machine maintained a subtle tilde.  The young man sat next to his grandmother’s hospital bed.  He sat with his head down, listening to the beep of the cardiac monitor.  Her face was peaceful but she was enveloped in jumbles of wires and cords.  He looked up at her, grabbed her hand and began to speak.

“I lied grandma, I remember you carrying me to the house, I remember you telling me to be strong.  I’ve tried to be that ever since.  There is something else I remember grandma.  It was a few days after grandpa died.  You were sitting by yourself in the garden and you were sobbing.  It was strange to me because during that time you were so rational and composed even though the love of your life had passed.  I realized now that it was because you were being strong for us.  In your time of great pain, your unselfish strength served as a monument for the rest of the family.  I realize that life has patterns grandma.  I recognize that it’s my turn to be strong for you and for the rest of the family.”  He kissed her hand as the monitor continued, beep…beep…beep.

8-27-15

To preface this piece I have to say what a strange thing writing can do for you.  I wrote this 5 minutes ago on the precipice of falling into a deep sleep.  I’ll spare you the details but I’ve had a long day and many before it.  But I had the urge to write and with it came a creative exuberance.  I couldn’t fall asleep now if I tried.  I needed to write.  Maybe I am loopy, maybe I needed to get something off my chest.  I have been thinking about this for a little while.

8-27-15

I walked down Melrose as the sun beat down on me from above.  It was the kind of heat that makes you look down but simultaneously radiates off the sidewalk so you can’t avoid it.  The only escape is a small sliver of shade created by the traffic light that hangs in the intersection.  Green, I walk.  Beads of sweat drip down my overpriced iced coffee.  This particular intersection has buildings with low profiles, so I’m able to see the rolling Hollywood Hills with their gaudy mansions against a clear blue backdrop.  It’s Thursday and I’m walking into work.

I have a recurring fantasy on different occasions.  Sometimes it happens on the hot mornings as I walk into work.  It happens when I speed through a yellow light.  The moments are vague at times.  The fantasy I am referring to has to do with alternative realities.  This morning for instance I had a strange sensation as I walked into work.  I felt like I was dreaming.  Normally, (at least in my case) dreams have a specific tunnel vision aspect to them.  In that I am only able to focus on what is right in front of me.  Conversely this morning, the dream felt more comprehensive.  It felt like I was living in a dream for a brief moment.  For the smallest amount of time it felt like my whole life leading up to that moment was also a dream.  It felt real, it felt possible.  Like I was off imitating sleeping beauty somewhere dreaming up a grand old mediocre life.  Eventually the feeling subsided.  But the thought is still there.

There is another reality I think about.  This happens sometimes with a sudden jerk when you’re heart drops down into your stomach.  But I mostly think about this when I am speeding through a yellow light.  After the light turns red and I cruise down the street I wonder.  Did I really make it through that yellow light just now?  Did the oncoming truck just hit me head on causing instant death?  Is my life now a subsequent heaven that let’s me experience things that I might have missed.

“Look God I know I fucked up but let me just finish my twenties”  I can picture myself at the gates.

Once again I think about it for a few minutes and then it subsides.  The morbidity of this isn’t as appealing as living a dream but I still enjoy the possibility.

When I use the term alternative reality, I am not using it as a synonym for parallel universe.  I am trying to speak about perception of reality.  There are plenty of examples of alternatative realities that I might have fed off of to create the idea of mine.  The cliche “brain in a vat” reality in which I am a brain floating in a vat in some laboratory.  Electric impulses make the neurons in my brain react to create experience and emotion just like a normal brain would.  It’s like a more mundane version of The Matrix.  There’s the Shutter Island reality or the 6th Sense reality.  Maybe I’m the fucking crazy one on the island or maybe my best friend is Bruce Willis.

My alternative realities stray closer to ambiguity.  The empirical evidence and my personal experience leads me to believe that I’m just sitting here typing on my laptop and I have work tomorrow.  But I will say how much fun it is to wonder about these things.

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”

-Nikos Kazantzakis

fiesta

He stared out of the slanted window on a Sunday morning.  Down his driveway and onto the street he noticed the dew from the morning fog had sprinkled the pavement.  The city was so quiet that he almost mistook his conscious perception as a morning dream.  The kind of dream where you wake up and do the things you would normally do, but then you wake up again.  He wasn’t dreaming, the city was in a coma after a busy four days.  The grey fog was the aftermath of a week filled with an energy like vibrant tinges of red and yellow.

The ceremony always begins with the sunset on the first Wednesday in August.  As the clouds turn pink, the Spirit of Fiesta twirls her dress back and forth with the admiration and love of an entire city focused upon her.  The entire community becomes awakened with the spirit.  The scene is hardly describable.  Confetti eggs are sold on the streets like hot dogs on Hollywood Blvd.  Walking on eggshells takes on a whole new meaning.  Parks and Plazas are no longer fields of dead grass, they are transformed into a festival of sights, sounds and smells, with strategically placed stages, food stands and beer gardens.  VIVA LA FIESTA is chanted through the dry summer air as eggs crack and tequila is shot back.  The concoction of stimuli creates a confidence and credulity in the spirit that the community shares.  Night time brings no end to the fever of fiesta.  The debauchery is mutual among old and young.  

He reminisced over the past four days that Sunday morning.  He thought about why he always made his way back to his hometown for that first week in August.  Its an inexplicable, enigmatic attraction that he has with Fiesta.  It wasn’t just him, throngs of Locals who have since moved on to bigger cities and opportunities always seem to find their way back to Santa Barbara.  He took a walk down from his Riviera home.  As he walked along the sidewalk, back to the plaza which was now a ghostly version of what it was the previous day, he realized it was the nostalgia of Fiesta which keeps bringing him back.  He thought about driving with his family in a crammed minivan to watch his little sister dance Flamenco.  Walking with them and yelling and smashing eggs and eating tacos.  The week always brings him back to a simpler time in his life when the only worry he had was getting to his sister’s performances on time.  He strolled down the red bricks of the street under the red tile roofs.  His nostalgia would deteriorate slowly over the year, like the confetti stuck in the cracks and crevices of the city.  Only to be reignited again come the first week in August.  

morning flowers

His alarm had been yelling at him since 5:30am and still he refused to awaken.  Even when he sleeps with the purpose of waking up early, he ends up rushing to work with a half a cup of coffee spilling as he rushes down the steps of his apartment building.  The fresh Peonies that sit out on the dining room table are pink, white and purple.  They shine in the morning light that comes through the vertical blinds.  He stood there winding up his designer tie.  The stress of his morning is exacerbated by the time crunch.  But the succulence of the flowers doesn’t go unnoticed.  He paused to admire their color and smell them.  The scent of them still occupying his nostrils as he bolts out of the door.

There was a moment in the day, amidst the whirlwind of printer paper and suits.  A moment where he sat staring straight ahead, as if he was looking off into the distance even though there was no expanse in front of him.  He referred back to the morning when he was admiring the flowers.  His heart settled and his mind slowed its pace to a saunter.

The flowers were the first thing he looked for as he arrived home from work.

hi

I wrote this a while ago.  It used to be a lot longer.  At first I had written this whole thing about how i am scared of commitment.  About how I am constantly running away from women, and responsibilities.  I figured out I am afraid of stagnation.  But when I was typing it out it just sounded like I was bitching and you don’t need to hear all of that.  So I trimmed all the fat and left a little bit.  More existentialism for you.  I promise I will write a story or some shit soon.

I felt the moon pulling me in, just like the moon pulls the tide.  It awakened my soul just like it awakens inclement weather.  The moons energy pulled me in simultaneously as I drove south towards it, towards Los Angeles.  The light of it reflected off the crinkled up ocean and gleamed up at me in ribbons.  It all created an a imaginary phone call to me, asking me to write something for heavens sake.  So I used the opportunity to exercise my creativity or recollection if you will.  Considering I had all of these words in my head already, I just had to find them.

Why do humans run when there is no danger?  Science must be set aside when talking about love and fear and life.  Philosophical questions deserve philosophical answers.  In Philosophy there are no wrong answers and I seem to always have no answers.  Only questions.  Something that helps and hurts my perception simultaneously is our perpetual insignificance.  We are but a grain of sand on universe beach.  Smaller than that actually.  Yet when I look inside myself I find things that I never knew were there.  My mind seems to have an endless supply of creativity and imagination.  The problem is translating that to words or paper.  The universe and your soul are congruent facilities.  There are answers inside everybody.  I haven’t found any answers yet.

When Love comes into your life

The following excerpt is from an Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom The Bell Tolls.  In this paragraph the main character Robert Jordan has just made love with Maria.  A woman he met in a guerrilla camp which is helping him to blow a bridge.

“If this was how it was then this was how it was.  But there was no law that made him say he liked it.  I did not know that I could ever feel what I have felt, he thought.  Nor that this could happen to me.  I would like to have it for my whole life.  You will, the other part of him said.  You will.  You have it now and that is all your whole life is; now.  There is nothing else than now.  There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow.  How old must you be before you know that?  There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion.  This is how you live a life in two days.  And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life.  A good life is not measured by any biblical span.”

It is apparent to me that Hemingway is talking about love not  just love.  But the first love.  The kind that makes you want to live another day because you never want to lose the feeling.  The kind of love that makes your heart ache as much as it makes it flutter.  Interestingly enough Hemingway is known for his themes of war and death.  Something obviously has to offset the morbidity of his writing and he has found it in soft tones of love.  His characters seem to fall in love fast and hard.  This one in particular, Robert Jordan, comes into a camp of rebels with the hopes of blowing a strategic bridge held by fascists in order for an offensive to be made by the Republic.  The reason the bridge must be blown is that so no backup reinforcements can make there way to the battle.  Robert Jordan comes into the story with a tacticians mindset, cold and expecting some form of death.  As soon as his love Maria comes into the story his subjectivity changes.  He now laments death and wishes to have his love for his whole life.  In his head he fights with himself about having his love for the future and living with his love in the moment.  “There is nothing else than now.”  he thinks.  He knows death could be imminent.  So why squander a beautiful love, a beautiful moment.  Something that can’t be defined by physical description, something that can’t be bought or sold.  Love is something that comes from the deepest part of human consciousness and is just as hard to explain.  I enjoy how he transcends from “I want to have it for my whole life” to realizing that if he only lives for two days, then that is your whole life.  There is no way to predict the end.  So live your life in the moments that are guaranteed.  The only moment that is assured is now.  So if you love, then love.  Don’t think about it in the future.  Cherish it for what it is now.

The Chucks

“When your shoes have character”

He was doing Spring cleaning when he came across his old pair of white hi-top chucks.  When he picked them up he was immersed into a flood of memories about his life the past few years.

It made him think about the things that passed through his life without meaning.  These dirty white Chucks with the big hole in the left foot and the dirt caked around the out sole were far from meaningless.  You could barely see the red and blue stripe.  He must have wore them for a year straight at one point.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have any other options.  It was that he saw the value in The Chucks more than any of the other pairs in his arsenal.  Each hole or spot of dirt told a story.

They had a synonymous relationship.  It was flawless really.  He was always asking too much of them.  They were always there for him through any weather or outfit.  He and his Chucks were worth more together than they were on their own.  They helped him make his tracks in a new city.  They were his brother when his family was gone.  They were there for him when she wasn’t.  They were with him through life and death.  Through sickness and health.  They had a distinct matrimony.  When people told him to “buy a new pair” it was blasphemy.  To him each hole was holy.  Whether he was walking on stars or through back alleys.  Rough days at the beach or wild nights at the club.  Through fall rain or ball games.  Through complacency and promiscuity. Through  stagnation and inspiration.  Through baked fish or fried chicken.  Through days full of tea or nights full of Hennessy, The Chucks were there.

So he sat in his home, with The Chucks in his lap.  With the memories of his life and the miles that he walked in them.  The things that he had lost didn’t compare to the knowledge that he had gained.  They reminded him of the little things.  They showed him that no matter how bad things get, as long as you keep going you will find a better day.  The old dirty shoes motivated him more than brand new ones.  That’s how you know your shoes have character.