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the beautiful destruction

Friday, April 29, 2005

Suck Out The Poison

This week has proven to be a colossal waste of time. My mind is so fragmented as of late that it's been terribly difficult to maintain focus—especially at work. I have to write a story, my first for this new job, and I have absolutely no desire to do so (it's a technical piece about airplane landing gears, so it's really no wonder that my interest is less than bubbly). In fact, having to write this piece has caused my mind to flutter in a thousand different

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Pictured: A page from Kenichi Hoshine's sketchbook (2004).

directions—not to mention, make me very aware of the fact that my dayjob is still a far cry from where I actually want to be as a writer. And subsequently, the hustle of spending every remaining moment outside of work trying to further my humble yet satisfying freelance writing career can at times be exhausting. As of now, the reality is very matter-of-fact: My dayjob pays the bills while my freelance work feeds my desire to do more with writing; to hopefully make some sort of contribution for the short time I'm on this planet.

But how can that be done? Sacrifice is a huge component in this process. To achieve something that you attain to you must sacrifice time, forget about the luxury of laziness, and charge forward. But that shit is hard to do. It's difficult to work 10 hours then come home and try to stay focused, fight off exhaustion, and get back to The Real Work. The other piece to this is discipline—a detail that I greatly respect, but have a hard time adhering to. Although, the creation of this blog was part of this solution: write everyday. shake off the bad ideas. keep the contents of your noodle fresh. and wake up the next day purged, refreshed, and prepared to make haste. I suppose it's kind of working. Though I often hate what I write here, and often have the urge to self-censor and go backwards and edit previous posts... but I resist the impulse and assure myself it's better for me that I leave the past alone.

And as far as escaping from this dayjob gig, I first need a hard and fast exit strategy. Because, you see, as long as most magazines pay either A.) Nothing. This is the best kind. You know, the hey I'll give you one copy of the mag and a sticker for your troubles (Oops, I recently did this for my book Young & Reckless... but I feel that I was very thankful and made sure that everybody knew how grateful I was... or maybe I'm just a punk). or B.) 10 cents per word... which leads me to believe I shouldn't value my words as much then... i.e. spewing them forth as if I were discarding snot, dried scabbies scabs (like in the Wonder Showzen that was on the other night), or old underwear with lemonade and brownie stains. BTW - I've been reading Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing letters, and he got paid 10 cents a word back in the sixties. What the fuck?

Oh well, this wasn't intended to be a "Poor me" session. I just needed to clear my head... I wish I could say this helped. I think relief could probably be found in tracking down someone I dislike and beating them about the head with a payphone receiver... but maybe that's just wishful thinking. Oh, if life were that simple.

So here's the moral of the post: If you happen to be a bigshot publisher, magazine tycoon, or media mogul looking for a crafty, somewhat odd-looking, and obsessive-compulsive author, staff writer, or jack-of-all-trades... I'm your fella.

Fuck, that's not really the moral, come on. The moral really is: Live the fuckin' dream. I mean that. Don't fuck around until you're too old and have regrets and a bitter taste in your mouth. So, before I leave, I want to send you off with something to look at and something to think about.

Keep on rockin' in the free world.

Canceled Flight

I recently ran across this hilarious book, titled Canceled Flight: 101 Tried and True Pigeon Killin' Methods, by A.V. Jones. And, since my credit card starts burning a whole in my pocket when I sees these sorts of gems, I may have to purchase this little fella by day's end. But that's between me and my credit card company. So...

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Pictured: A.V. Jones' book Canceled Flight: 101 Tried and True Pigeon Killin' Methods.

Jones has put together a top notch crew of illustrators and photographers, each imparting his or her preferred method of pigeon extermination, for what turns out to be a really clever idea for a book. A couple of my pals—Peter Sutherland, James Jean, and Matt Clark—contribute to this book, and its distributed by the always impressive powerHouse books.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

I read about this film several months ago and was somewhat intrigued. Helmed by wet-behind-the-ears director Niels Mueller, this film, which is based on a true story, finds Sean Penn portraying Samuel Byck, an unemployed tire salesman who in 1974 planned to assassinate President Nixon by flying a hijacked airplane into the White House.

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Pictured: Sean Penn in The Assassination of Richard Nixon.

The film appears to be in limited-release, so you may have to dial up your local art house cinema to see if they'll be playing it. There's also a good review of the film over at Pixelsurgeon.

Holy Shit, Buried Treasure

Holy shit, buried treasure. So these two guys from New Hampshire were digging up a tree when they came across a bunch of rusted tin cans that were buried in the late 1800s and just happened to contain close to $100, 000. What kind of dumb luck is that? Working in the yard never really pays off for me like that. I normally just end up stinking like dirt and feeling pretty sore the next day.

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Pictured: The recently unearthed, century-old booty. Argh matey.

Here's my favorite quote from the story: ''I'm a pessimist; I was waiting until I got a professional review before I jumped to any conclusions," Villcliff said. ''Tim, however, was singing and dancing. He was ranting like a rabid monkey."

I wonder how many people, after hearing about this story, are now frantically digging up their backyards.?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Honorable Mr. Sienkiewicz

For some reason I got to thinking about Bill Sienkiewicz today. For those of you who don't know, Sienkiewicz is an incredible illustrator, probably best known for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. But, if you're a Wu-Tang fan, you may be familiar with his illustration for RZA's first Bobby Digital album.

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Pictured: Bill Sienkiewicz illustration of Tim Burton for Spin magazine.

Comic books really helped get me through the trainwreck that was high school, as I didn't prefer reality at that time (and I still kinda don't), and Sienkiewicz' art always inspired and amazed me. The detailed, frantic lines of his pencil were (and still are) like a rusty dagger puncturing your eyelid—so real, so vivid—capturing facial expressions like a camera lens with a dangerously imaginative, somewhat haunted memory. Or maybe I just admire his ability to see people for how they really are—complicated, savage, and unpredictable. Not that my nod of approval much matters to Mr. Sienkiewicz, but I'd like to say cheers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In A Fractured Society

Today has been a ball buster and it's far from over. So I'll keep this brief. This is more a recommendation than a post. If you've never seen the film Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa, I suggest renting it. It's an incredible black and white samurai film set at the end of Japan's feudal era (Sergio Leone's western A Fistful of Dollars is based almost scene by scene on this film).

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Pictured: Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo

The samurai, now masterless and dwindling in number, have become vagabonds and mercenaries. This story follows Sanjuro, a rogue samurai played by Toshiro Mifune (a genuine badass), who stumbles into the middle of a bloody war between feuding silk merchants. There is also an interesting dialogue about the introduction of the handgun into Japanese society, and how it is supposedly more useful and powerful than the sword.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Let The World Change You...

While The Motorcycle Diaries is not necessarily a brand new film, I finally had the privilege of seeing it this weekend. Based on the memoirs of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and written during an extensive motorcycle trip through Latin America with his friend Alberto Granada during the early 1950s, the lush scenery and intimate character development in this film is incredible.

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Pictured: Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) and Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Gael GarcBernal) in The Motorcycle Diaries.

You almost immediately forget about the subtitles, which is often hard for me to do, and slip into what feels like an extended dream sequence. As Ernesto and Alberto cycle along, the backdrops and characters bubble with life, from sputtering along on beautiful winding mountain roads and walking among Incan ruins, to navigating through overpopulated cities, talking with displaced indigenious people, and struggling to push onward once their money has all but run out—their travels are at once invigorating and heartbreaking. I haven't seen a film for sometime that actually held my interest mentally and visually as well as this did.

Millions Now Living...

Snow flurries, drizzling rain, and freezing temperatures are not normally optimal conditions for a fun weekend. However, with that said, the weather didn't manage to put too much of a damper on things.

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Pictured: Anthony and Damian from the Danny Boyle film Millions.

After getting out of work late on Friday—cursed magazine deadlines—I set about trying to lead a productive weekend. Friday night was game night and our friends Mike and Sugar came over to the house. After some deliberation, conversation, and drinking, we opted to play Scattegories—a game that is rather difficult to play when drunk (at least for me, as my brain activity almost slows to a halt when intoxicated).

Saturday morning it was back to work. Michelle and I finished collating the pages for the second printing of Young & Reckless and assembled a small stack of books in preparation for Art All Night. After dropping off a copy of the book at the Heppenstall building, we also ran across a cool new shop named Divertido that was interested in stocking the book.

On Sunday, we got a late start, enjoyed some french toast, then ran back down to Art All Night to pick up the book and see if any offers had been made. I was stoked to find out that a bunch of people had made offers on the book. So I'll be contacting folks this week and hopefully mailing out a bunch of copies.

We rounded Sunday out by meeting up with our friend Tim to catch a showing of Danny Boyle's new film, Millions at the Oaks. A definite change in pace from Boyle's previous films like Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. But nonetheless, it was entertaining. The religious overtones were a bit much for me, and the ending was somewhat of a trainwreck (new age music always ruins a movie), but overall, I did like the film.

I have another post to make regarding a second film we saw, but it really deserves its own post.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Young & Reckless

For those of you who don't know (which I imagine would be most of you) I recently released a book titled Young & Reckless through my own creative imprint called Poison Control. The book is handmade, limited-run (250 copies), and collects the work of over 25 writers, photographers, illustrators, and graphic designers from across the country.

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Pictured: Young & Reckless: Poison Control Vol. 1

We've already sold out of our first 125 books. And, for the past week, Michelle and I have been working into the wee hours of the night, assembling books and preparing to have some stock on hand for Art All Night, this Saturday in Lawrenceville (steeltown rawks). Anyhow, the reason I began this post was to talk about small press publishing, and how it's a tough but incredibly worthwhile and empowering gig. So, please, support your local independent book shop, zine makers, and small presses. And, at the risk of sounding like a granola-chompin' hippie, be good to one another.


There are definitely some sort of odd circumstances connecting my posts. First, I got this "two for one" deal on religious subject matter (see below). And now, Jane Fonda has popped up here for the second time in a week (see: Labor Daze Part 1). But this time, it's really good. During a book signing in Kansas City (yes it seems the wiley Ms. Fonda has written an autobiography) a Vietnam veteran chose to use Fonda's face as a sort of makeshift spitoon.

Pictured: Jane "Fight The Power" Fonda circa 1970

I think this is the best portion of the story:
Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The Kansas City Star Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her protests against the Vietnam War were unforgivable. He said he doesn't chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.

Now that's an honorable display of discipline and self-sacrifice. Come on, the guy doesn't normally chew tobacco. What a champ.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where The Sidewalk Ends

Since I'm rather freaked out by two religious posts in a row (it was a coincidence, honest), I thought I'd direct your attention to a great article about author/illustrator/songwriter Shel Silverstein over at Salon.com.

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Pictured: Shel Silverstein playing guitar

The Stain Remains the Same

Whether manifesting itself in the bread of a decade-old grilled cheese sandwich or appearing in the streaky window of an office building, the likeness of the Virgin Mary keeps a busy schedule. The latest stop on her whirlwind, globetrotting tour: the Chicago freeway, in the form of a stain on a concrete underpass.

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Pictured: Get your roadside shrine on

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Former Pope Dead, New Pope Not Far Behind

It's official. After a grueling day and a half of deliberation, not to mention a shroud of secrecy, color-coded smoke signals, terms like conclave being thrown around, and an astronomical takeout bill to boot, the 17 wiley yet cantankerous Cardinals have finally chosen Pope John Paul II's replacement. So, ladies and gents, without further adieu, please meet God's lieutenant on Earth (who, by the way, looks older than The Guy who just settled in for The Big Sleep): Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, better known among his ladyfriends as Benedict XVI.

Here comes the Pope
Pictured: The not-so-new looking Pope: Joseph Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI

So who is this guy you're wondering? Well, word on the street has this fella pegged as a right wing conservative with subtle disregard for the rights of gays and women. He's been holding court at the Vatican, alongside his recently deceased pal John Paul II, since the early 1980s. And, he has a somewhat interesting past, specifically his time spent in Germany, where he was part of Hitler Youth. However, don't take my word for it, let the magic of the Internet make up your mind for you: Word on the street

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Pictured: State-of-the-art Pope-detection technology

Strangely enough, I was mildy enthused when I first read the name Ratzinger. But my slight interest was dashed when I realized that Joseph Ratzinger and John Ratzenberger are two totally different people. Oh well.

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Pictured: John Ratzenberger aka Cliff Clavin of Cheers fame

Oh, The Drama

So, upon opening my mailbox yesterday I was greeted by the latest issue of The Drama (now in full color). I was excited to see what Joel and his creative co-conspirators had come up with (Okay, I was also kind of excited because I wrote several short stories for this issue as well... shameless self-promotion). But really, this issue is top notch. If you already know what The Drama is about, then I don't need to persuade you. But if you've never checked it out, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy.
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The Drama / Issue 5 / A-Z

Here's the blurb from The Drama's online shoppe:
The A to Z Issue is here, perfect bound with 64 pages of full color and a 16 page two color supplement! This issue includes: • Wrap-around Cover and 10 page feature/interview with wonderful Canadian artist Geneviève Castrée. • A to Z: Exclusive work by an international group of 26 artists, each interpreting one letter of the alphabet. Artists include: Jordan Crane, Lump Lipshitz, Henrik Drescher, Saelee Oh, Kevin Christy, Lee Misenheimer, Maya Hayuk, Yuko Kondo,, Katsuo Design, Helge Reumann, Frank McCauley, Cody Hudson, Phil Elverum, Matt irving, Dan McCarthy, Evah Fan, Eduardo Recife, Mauro Gattii, James Jean, Xavire Robel, Syrup Helsinki, Sammy Harkham, Rachell Sumpter, Ed Martinez, Tom Gauld, and Matthew Curry. • A photo review of our most recent group show, Row Boats Home. • 'This It', our 16-page comics/writing supplement, featuring comics by Ron Rege Jr, Marc Bell (plus a collaboration by the two!), Steven Weissman, Suzy Coady, Travis Robertson, and Max Hubenthal, and writings by Clarke Boehling, Tim Morris, Kevin Hyde, Mark Capon, and Matthew Newton, illustrated by Florencia Zavala and Garrett Morin. Printed in 2-color on separate paper stock! • And much more.

Check 'em out online too, at The Drama.

Monday, April 18, 2005

You Limey Cocksucker

Well, the weekend is over. My schedule was packed full of things to do, however, the end summary: uneventful, very uneventful. Oh well, not every weekend can be filled with magic and mirth. Michelle and I, along with our friends Tim, Ben, Karen, and Dave, went to see The Shins play on Friday night. This was post-drinking, so of course we were being loud and generally acting like fools. We also met up with some other friends along the way, which quickly gave creedence to the notion that drunk and sober people really don't mix all that well.

Anyhow,The Shins were performing at Carnegie Mellon's spring carnival. The scene was a bit of a clusterfuck (clusterfuck in this case = weird and mismatched conglomeration of people packed together in the same physical space). The sound was bad, but we were tucked off to the one side of the stage, which is not the optimal spot for viewing or hearing a live performance. And when did CMU became like Animal House? There were frat boys and the girls of Delta, Delta, Delta everywhere. I always thought CMU was oozing with rocket scientists, mathematical geniuses, and dudes that can build robots that will eventually take my job. Oh well.

However, the evening wasn't a total loss, because if you were wondering what fashion trend is hot among the kiddies, I've got The Goods. Come closer... ready? Here it is: Preppy collars. Ha, I know, right. How do I do it, you're wondering—stay so fresh while everybody else gets so stale? Yes indeed. You know the M.O., don't act like you don't. It's the three button polo (preferably Le Tigre) with the turned-up collar, preferably worn in a pastel hue. This IS the next big thing. You heard it here first (and don't worry, I had my disposable camera in my fanny-pack, so I have the pix to validate this fashion alert). And I'm not one to pat myself on the back, but... What's that? Oh wait, it's not cool? Shit. But I... Oh, it's lame, kinda MTV-inspired, whore-culture... yea? Kanye West did it first? I thought that motherfucker was known for having his jaw wired shut, and selling lots of records. So this style has been around for awhile? Really? Oh nevermind. I'm always late on this shit.

On to bigger and better things. Here's just some random stuff that I thought some of you folks might be interested in. My friend Peter sent me this link: Kayak vs. Killer Whale. And speaking of dope photographers, check out Peter's work when you have a minute. Also, I am fucking addicted to Deadwood right now. Incredibly well-written, superior acting, and I've never heard so much cussing in a one hour timeframe... you fuckin' limey cocksucker. Err, sorry. This coming weekend is the Pittsburgh Comicon. Look for copies of Young & Reckless (edited by me, Mr. Newton) on sale at the Phantom of the Attic booth.

That's all for now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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Pictured: Black Sabbath


Friday, April 15, 2005


Sure, it may sound stupid, or even cliche, but Fridays are fucking fantastic! And, I don't mean fantastic in a "I'm-gonna-pack-up-my-luxurious-SUV-and-go-fishing-then-play-some-golf-followed-by-dinner-at-a-big-sloppy-steakhouse" type-way. I'm talkin' fantastic in a, "Holy-fuck-it's-almost-summer-let's-make-the-most-of-it-or-die-tryin'-while-we-ingest-shaved-ice-and-stare-at-the-stars-and-sweat-whiskey-from-our-pours-and-smell-like-dirt-because-we've-been-outside-all-day-long-having-fun-and-cheating-death" type way. However, until you are set free from your respective places of employment, I've assembled a medley of pop culture oddities for you to feast upon. This is going to be a weekly feature that I've aptly (and cleverly) titled: FANTASTIC FRIDAYS™.

Here's today's rundown: My friend Horsie just dropped me a note, informing me of an all-new, all-female graffiti magazine from the Netherlands titled Catfight Magazine. The debut issue can be downloaded as a PDF. News regarding the final resting place of renegade journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who committed suicide at his Colorado ranch on February 20th. Funny writing and great photos from Dan Connor. The highly addictive visual distractions of Mark the Cobra Snake. The A-Z issue from our friends at The Drama (containing a handful of short stories by yours truly). Incredible illustration and design from Check Morris. What Is It? the first film directed by actor and Willard lead Crispin Glover, debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The film has been a project almost 10 years in the making. The folks at HunterGatherer recently updated their website with a fresh new design. Keep yor eyes peeled for this crew. The new record from Roots Manuva, Awfully Deep, is on fire. And finally, you gotta check out the debut, limited-run book by Poison Control, titled Young & Reckless—it's a must-have for zinesters, bookworms, and artheads alike. That's all for now. Be nice to one another and enjoy the weekend.

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Pictured: Hunter S. Thompson in a photo by Annie Liebovits

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Labor Daze Part 1

“Getting there is half the fun.” I don’t know who coined this phrase, and I’ve never, before now, much considered it. But it poorly translates when applied to the boredom-drenched, lackluster meanderings of workaday life.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Pictured: The dubious Dolly Parton, lackadaisical Lily Tomlin, and wiley Jane Fonda.

There are countless experiences that yield more tangible and exuberate results. For example: Motoring through the desert, en route to California, talking with your girlfriend while listening to an extensive catalog of music—that’s fun. Enjoying a picnic on the beach in Carmel, the rumble of the ocean inspiring a lazy, mid-afternoon nap—that’s fun too. Hiking through the Badlands in South Dakota, watching as rain sweeps in from the distance… yes, fun. Even driving through Los Angeles, picking your jaw back up and un-scrunching your horrified facial expression as you cruise past L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology—that’s even kind of fun, in a weird, cult-like, pre-apocalypse type way.

However, waking up late on a rainy Tuesday morning, pissing on the bathroom wall courtesy of a pee-rection, taking a cold shower because the hot water tank is on its way out, quickly dressing into nut-hugger dress pants, a blousy button down, and rash-inducing neck tie just to sit in 45 minute traffic for a ride that should normally take 10—that sucks. And of course the monotonous drone of the 8 to 10 hour workday that follows, spent daydreaming of freedom while you frantically toil away at your desk—that kind of crushes your spirits too.

But this is what grown-ups do. And I suppose I’m an adult now, however diligently I have resisted the transformation. And really, work is not something I’m afraid of. It’s what work does to one’s motivation and mental well-being that terrifies me.

In the opening of his book Working, Studs Terkel perfectly defines the nature of work and the worker’s dilemma with one sentence: “This is a book about violence.”

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Pictured: Studs Terkel

I’ve always considered myself to have a fairly high tolerance for pain, which is itself a rather common form of violence—or at least a bi-product. For example, after genetically inheriting the gift of bad teeth from my mother’s side of the family, I’ve managed to endure countless fillings and even a couple root canals (one of which was performed by a geriatric dentist who refused to refresh my Novocain after it had long run out; ouch). But nonetheless, I survived, only twitching a bit and sweating profusely as he tore out the few remaining nerves in my tooth. And however painful that may have been, and however formidable an enemy the root canal was, and still is, it is by far the least of my concerns.

Boredom, and more particularly workplace boredom, in all its ooey-gooey complexity, is my definitive nemesis. Sure, the symptoms are varied, affecting each individual in a different manner. For me, the affliction often manifests itself in much the same way: Mental and physical restlessness, claustrophobic feelings, frequent vending machine excursions, listless gaze, in-depth contemplation of my existence, compiling mental lists of people who have wronged me, fondly remembering my childhood—just about everything short of defecating in my hand and doodling with the excrement.

And this boredom doesn’t set in once I’ve run out of work—because I’m constantly buried beneath oodles of paperwork, menial tasks, and reports. This is boredom generated by process, routine, and pure lack of interest.

So is it fair to assume that the plight of the modern worker is to battle his or her overwhelming boredom? I’m not sure. Because, it would seem, not all people are bored by their jobs (please see: oil tycoons, the independently wealthy, German Barons, porn stars, Brian Dennehy, pirates, etc.). And for those not bored by menial work, I can only deduct the following answers: Lucky, robot, mentally retarded, or dead. (Nothing against the mentally retarded, I know tons of mentally... blah, blah, blah.)

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Pictured: The diabolical Brian Dennehy

Rather, defining the boredom is where I encounter a certain amount of difficulty. It’s about aspiring to do more with life; to travel, to engage in deep, meaningful conversations about politics and religion, life and death, or to simply breath fresh air and exhale without tasting the acidic residue of social collapse and cold interpersonal relationships.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Feathers in the Fast Lane

It began with a careless driver tucked behind the wheel of a beat-up gray cargo van, swerving, cutting off other cars, switching lanes without looking. Next, there was an explosion of brown feathers followed by screeching tires and beaming brake lights—all the while feathers fluttering through the air, floating to the roadway, resting alongside the garbage and debris. The traffic never came to a complete halt, it just slowed, hugged the Jersey barrier for a moment, then continued forward. The lifeless body of the turkey bounced several times on the asphalt before rolling to its final resting place in the center of the fast lane. Maybe the turkey still had a few breaths left. Hopefully it was killed by the force of the gray van's front fender. How terrible it would be if not, lying half-alive while cars trampled your body, broke your bones, crushed your organs.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mules Are Dirty, Like You

There are times, however infrequent they may be, that I impress myself with outstanding feats of devilish cunning and cleaver-sharp wit. And, there are also times that I am amazed at my ability to stand upright and be considered more intelligent than say, a poodle. This morning, as I sang in the shower, belting out a baritone and slightly Ukrainian-sounding version of Erie Canal, I sadly realized that my brain is a cesspool of disjointed and mostly useless information. And, what was even more upsetting (and slightly more pathetic than my desire to sing acappella choral tunes so early on a Tuesday morning) was my inability to recall any song lyrics. It would be safe to assume, especially after a childhood spent in catholic school, that I would at least remember some of the songs I learned in chorus and the countless hours spent sitting, kneeling, and standing in church. What a fucking disappointment. Not because I really care, but just because I was in a singing mood. And really, how often does that happen?

What A Bloody Mess

Nerves. Sometimes they can get the best of you. Myself? Well, I've got a remedy, an elixir of sorts. I just chew on my fingernails until the skin beneath is ragged and bloody, then get back to it—whatever it may be. If that's not enough, then I start tearing at the skin around my fingernails—a choice that normally ends with a collection of hangnails and sore cuticles. Sure, it's an unhealthy habit, and who knows where my fingers have been, but that's my problem, I suppose, not yours.

A bad habit can bubble up quickly, or fester for years, hidden away, tucked in the back of your noggin, waiting for the proper time to introduce itself.

"Mr. Newton?"

"Why, yes."

"I'm an Odd & Nervous Squinting Condition. Pleased to meet you."

"Oh, yes, we met a couple years back, during high school. I hadn't planned on seeing you again."

"Well, I'm back, and it appears I'll be sticking around for quite some time."


Unfortunately, the Odd & Nervous Squinting Condition is quite real and rather perplexing. For example: I'm in the shower, shampooing my hair, and all of a sudden I find my face scrunched into some odd and painful squinting ritual
—one eye open, the other buried somewhere deep in my skull, perilously rolling around in the goopy mess of my eye socket. It began in high school, disappeared for a bit, and now its back. Wonderful.

And while gnawing on my fingernails and fingertips may temporarily relieve my anxiety, this squinting thing does nothing but hurt my face. If it serves some purpose, I am yet to find out. But I imagine it's just some extra baggage I've picked up, a personal "enhancement" that I'm certain will attract legions of friends.

"What did you do on Friday?"

"I hung out with friends at Matt's house."

"Matt who?"

"You know, the dude with the squinting thing, kinda looks like someone's occasionally sticking him with a cattle prod."

"Oh, okay. I know who you're talking about. He's the guy with the weird-shaped fingers that are always kinda bloody?"

"Yep, that's him. Nice guy."