can't wait 'til it's christmas.

back in the day, when i was four or five, my adopted cousin grace was visiting from the philippines. she and i hung out in my room, but i didn't have much to entertain us. it was my idea that we grab the macy's catalog from the kitchen - it was an issue that featured all swimsuits and lingerie - and look it over. it didn't matter that grace was a girl, obviously, because in my five-year old mind, everyone loves boobs. so we leafed through pages, looking at girls' boobs and legs. i couldn't really tell you what was going through my mind. i just liked seeing all that skin, smooth and shiny as it was.

suddenly, my mom barged in. i threw the catalog under my desk. "what are you guys doing?" she demanded. she had that wicked tone in her voice, the one she used when she knew i was up to no good. "nothing," i said, turning pale. "looking at comics," i lied. i was obviously a terrible liar. she grinned. "where are the comics?" she demanded. i knew it was over. she would raid my room like the police until she found these so-called comics. i pulled out the catalog. "mmmhmm," she said, disappointed. i was ready to break down, the guilt was overwhelming. "it was grace's idea!" i blurted out. grace just looked at me. she wasn't angry. it was more like a "what the hell are you talking about?" look.

"come to the kitchen," my mom said. walking down the hallway, grace turned to me. "why did you say it was my idea?" she asked. "because you're a girl," i said. duh. wasn't it obvious? unless she was a lesbian, she was just skimming the pages for some new clothes. worse yet, ate was at the table, waiting for us. my mom lectured me on lying. i expected ate to scream at me. she had a reputation for knocking claire around in an airplane bathroom once. i could feel my number was up.

surprisingly though, she said nothing. it was like one of those moments, one of those stories you read where the adult is so upset he/she can't possibly find words to express himself/herself properly. but then again, maybe she just didn't care. after all, it was just a goddamn macy's catalog. for the next couple of weeks, my mom teased me about it. "magaziiiiiine," she'd coo. "magaziiiiine, magaziiiiine." it was a nightmare. every time someone would say the word, she'd have to repeat it, and i'd know exactly what she was referring to. if there was a pretty girl on tv, she'd say it: "magaziiiiine." catholic guilt much? the joke finally subsided one day. as we were driving to san francisco, we passed magazine st. on 80-w. i held my breath, knowing what was coming. i know that she had read the sign. silence. it ended there.

because of this, of course, i developed a fucked up complex. on sundays, once we received our sacramento bee full of advertisements, i discreetly cut out pictures of women in bras and panties, and i pasted them into a spiral notebook. i did this for weeks, until the notebook was completely full. to add to the suspense, i was still sleeping in my parents' room, so i had to hide my secret stash underneath their bed. i knew if my mom found it, the magazine chant would start all over again. still, i had to keep cutting and pasting. i had to collect them all. they changed every week, after all, and once a picture, a model, was gone, she was gone for good. i couldn't stop.

so every weekend, the notebook would get thicker and thicker, easier to spot underneath their bed. i had to get rid of it. i had to rid myself of the addiction. i would throw it away on a monday, because that's when the garbageman came. and this christmas was on a monday. i remember that once i connected these two things, i sang in my head the line: "i can't wait 'til it's christmas!" i think it was a jingle from a television commercial. anyway, i could finally purge myself of guilt, of sin, of a notebook full of scantily clad, open-mouthed models.

i was too young to realize that nobody worked on christmas day.

i don't know what happened to my notebook, or when it was finally picked up. all i know is that my mom never found it. i still had a chance at being a good kid.

dad went "home" for ten days. with his brother, tim, he flew first class. in tagalog, my mom made us laugh in the car: "you'll be flying first class. what if your boxes and suitcases burst open? everyone will see that you're carrying toilet paper and vienna sausages." norman was there to greet my dad. norman has been working for philippine airlines since the early 90's, which is nothing compared to how long my aunt has been working there: 47 years.

there wasn't much else to the airport run. afterwards, my mom and i met up with tita inday at godzilla sushi. my aunt kept talking like i lived in the area. it was really, really bizarre. "we might run into you guys here," she said. and then, "are you trying to set rich up with any of the girls here?" i had no idea what the hell she was talking about.

on the drive home, my mom was in one of her storytelling moods. she told me about how tita bubut had a fake i.d. and tried to get into dance clubs. i asked where she could have gotten a fake i.d. "probably beng," my mom said. my mom told me about the day lolo died, and how he called the house seven times that morning. apparently, lola was getting a cold, and he wanted my dad to take her to the hospital. "you know how pops is in the morning," she continued, "he's really slow." she said that when bia, their katulong (helper/housemaid), called to say lolo had a heart attack, she knew immediately he was dead. when she got to the rosemont house with uncle rebel, the paramedics were already there, and manang, the other katulong, didn't know what to do with herself. she was pacing the hallway. "i could see it on her face," my mom recounted, "she probably thought that they would blame her for what happened." but there was really nobody to blame, except maybe c&h sugar factory. my grandpa was a diabetic with heart problems, and on january 27, 1992, he died of a heart attack.

my mom continued. she and uncle rebel got lost on the way to the uc davis hospital. when they arrived, they were told to wait in the smaller waiting room. "somebody told me that that's when you know that the person is dead," she said. "when they tell you to wait in the smaller waiting area and that a social worker will be talking to you." when they found out, uncle rebel called everyone. when news reached uncle mike, he started smashing dishware in his apartment. luckily, uncle sisoy (lolo's son, but from a different wife) was there, trying to calm him down. ate, my aunt geraldine, received news in san francisco, but only that lolo had been hospitalized and was in critical condition, not that he was dead. when she arrived at the rosemont house in sacramento, tita lorna, uncle mike's wife, ran out to tell her that lolo was gone. ate sat in her car for a long time, unable to move.

it's hard to imagine these dramatic moments, knowing who these people are. their actions sound like fiction.

my mom told me about uncle ramon, her deceased sister's husband. he led quite a life as a pilot and real estate entrepreneur. news reel: on april 7, 1976, a bac 1-11 was hijacked by muslim rebels for seven days, demanding money and the release of imprisoned rebels. the aircraft ended up in benhazi, libya. he was the pilot on that flight. also, in flight school, he survived a crash that killed his co-pilot. "did he ever think that he wasn't going to make it?" i asked my mom. "yeah, he talks about one time. he said that something in the system had malfunctioned, and they were all expecting to die. they even started collecting his ring, his watch, and the medals from his uniform. i guess that's what they do when they're expecting a crash." "how did he figure out what was wrong?" i asked. "he had presence of mind," she said. "he was able to solve it." another time, he turned ghost-white when a giant, unidentifiable object flew past the cockpit.

yes, my uncle has seen a fucking u.f.o.

sometimes i forget that there's all these crazy stories kept in the family. but accounts keep shifting, and no one seems to be certain about what. i'd like to interview everyone and document the truth. i just want to know what happened to jojo, uncle angel, and i want to know about affairs with canadian women, and abuse, and starting over in a new country, and all of that.

i wish someone else would start talking about hard times for a change.
lying on the couch with nothing
better to do on a thursday afternoon.

lying on the couch, watching a jet streak a horizontal white across a blue sky. stomach full of ettore's strawberry cake, undigested, causing a sick, swirling feeling. think job interviews, blind dates, the moments before oral surgery. a sunlit patch on the top of the couch exposes a thin layer of dust, hair, and lint. tops of the trees are swaying back and forth, back and forth. the refrigerator buzzing, the clock tick-tocking, seconds fading, the lawnmower droning in the distance. earlier, the girl across the street vacuumed the family van inside and out. thorough. think "you're not fully clean unless you're obsessively-compulsively clean." two teams nobody gives a shit about, kings and grizzlies, duke it out at arco arena.

earlier, dad called. mom answered. a short exchange. a hang up. "he wanted to buy a $120 suit," she said, irritated. "so, let him buy what he wants," i said. "but he's just going to wear it on the plane. and there's no money for the windows and no money for the painting." she huffed, then retreated to the bedroom. before, she had said, "maybe he'll just stay there. he might extend his trip. maybe he won't come back. who will pay the utilities?" she asked. i didn't answer. it felt like an accusation. get off your sorry ass. contribute something to this world. do something already. she worked everyday for the past thirty years, days flatlined in stale-smelling hospitals, and yet, she'll always feel poor.

he's still out, buying huggies and other non-reusable, non-biodegradable products for the people "back home." "is he gonna get paid back for all that stuff he bought?" i asked. "no," she said, "it's pasalubong (translation: gifts). you know, you go there, you stay at the house for free, you eat for free. it's not worth it. sometimes it's better to just get a hotel and relax." i thought about the pasalubong they usually brought in exchange for staying at our house: chestnuts, crappy oversized t-shirts, unhealthy candy.

who wants to visit the third world, anyway? we've got it all here. everything.
this is not a bodega.

there's this record shop on el camino, near watt ave. called esoteric records. i don't know how they've managed to stay open after all these years. they carry a lot of used vinyl, most of which looks like it's been sitting on the shelf for the past twenty years. even though tower records across the street went out of business well over two years ago, this place has managed to survive. sometimes i think it would be cool to own my own record store, but then i remember that not even obsessive compulsive types like myself buy music anymore.

esoteric is a really small, dirty place, and this one time we visited, the counter reeked of beer. apparently, it's okay for clerks there to drink on the job. the owner is this big, fat man who is friendly to those who buy from him. he's always got some new clerk behind the counter, guys in their late twenties or mid-thirties, ones who look like they've just crawled out of the sewers of del paso heights.

the place is so small that you can barely move. one of the aisles even dead ends, blocked off by a section of 45's. the setting is reminiscent of the notorious pawn shop scene in pulp fiction. strangely enough, there is a capital city pawn shop next door. i've probably only been in there once. what's the deal with pawn shops having to buzz you in? don't the owners know handguns are concealable? they should have metal detectors instead of a buzz-in system.

i haven't bought anything from esoteric in years. i thought about getting a boy named charlie brown on vinyl, but i didn't. i think the last (and possibly only) thing i've bought from that place was a rick springfield record for a dollar. it's the one with the dog on the cover, the album that has "jessie's girl." maybe it's those small sales that add up and keep the big, fat man going.
smash the state.

fucking assholes. i received my inactive notice letter from the state yesterday. that means that i won't be contacted anymore about any office assistant positions. the reason being, i didn't respond to all twenty-five letters of inquiry i received. did they expect me to go through two whole booklets of stamps? so i called these assholes up, and i told them that i only received one callback for the dozen or so letters i responded to. "yeah, that sounds about right," the woman told me. "you're not guaranteed an interview." well, why the fuck are all your departments wasting paper and making me reply to these non-existent jobs then?

i need to go back to school. this shit is just worthless. absolutely worthless.
proud to be an unemployed american.

i was going to start the entry off with, "didn't do shit today," but i think i've exhausted that one. i thought about going to the library to pick up a graphic novel called american born chinese, and i thought about doing some yard work, but i didn't do either. i don't really know what i did. i don't know where the time goes. i can't seem to find anything to be passionate about. i think this one time i was playing music with my cousin sums it up best.

we (well, mostly me) were disappointed with not sounding right, or else that our songs were too simple, or whatever, and so we (again, mostly me) over-analyzed what we were doing wrong: "we should've been listening to classical music, and learning how to read music a long time ago," he said. or else it was, "maybe it's because of where we grew up. think about it. if you got to grow up in scotland or iceland, some place exotic, you'd be playing something completely different."

i don't really know where i'm going with this. i've just grown accustomed to playing the "what if..." game, or wishing that i had been passionate about something other than music and writing, both of which i never really give myself credit for doing, and both of which i'm completely certain will never be my "calling." every time i see someone who's good at something - music, poetry, art, whatever - i always hear the same thing: "i've been doing this since i was five." what about the rest of us? we went to school and learned to exchange our dreams and goals for "good citizenship" awards. sit still for eight hours, don't talk, and you'll do well. the ultimate dream killer. but there i go again, blaming circumstances and resenting the past for my self-imposed inability to do anything well.

i envied those kids (okay, let's face it, they were girls) in college who grew up without tv's. the ones who at least appeared to act like they knew what they were doing. even if they weren't that bright, and didn't even do very well in their classes, they could at least pretend like they had self-confidence, like they knew what it took to succeed in this world. i think, though, that you had to be slightly insane to go around thinking terms like "surrealism" and "post-modernism" meant anything at all.

i don't know where i'm supposed to find creativity or inspiration. i've forgotten how to become passionate about anything. my whole life people told me the importance of going to college and getting a solid education, but nobody ever talked about what was supposed to happen after that. i feel like i need my high school guidance counselor, mr. seishas, now more than ever, even as unhelpful as he was.

after my first year of americorps in seattle, i visited the career center at the university. the woman there didn't tell me much, since i already had plans to do a second year of americorps. i told her that the first year was upsetting and that i was actually kind of hesitant about doing a second year. she said, "yeah, the first job right out of college is usually a desk job. not very exciting." and she left it at that. i'm guessing she probably hasn't found her calling yet, either.

i know a girl who has a degree in engineering and makes a lot of money working for an engineering firm, but she's not too happy about it. i know another girl who doesn't think graduate school is necessary, but she doesn't work full-time, and she doesn't have benefits. i know a girl who's in graduate school, but says that she only enjoys parts of it. i know a lot of people who thought their americorps service was a total waste of their time. i know a guy who went to community college, and he doesn't think his job is all that great. i know a lot of people who went to school because they didn't know what else to do. i don't think i know anyone who enjoys what he's doing.

does anyone ever win?
am i for real?

we had a get together at my house for easter. i suggested it, since my dad has been whining to my mom about how none of his brothers or sisters talk to him anymore. he's super sensitive, and every time i ask him if he's going to come to a family gathering, he always gives the same response: "well, we weren't invited." his response is completely ridiculous. i don't think i ever remember family members "inviting" each other over for thanksgiving dinner, christmas eve parties, or for the fourth of july.

my dad's side of the family hasn't really gotten together since my grandma passed away in 2002. this split made me wonder if everyone was just pretending the whole time. maybe they never really liked each other. maybe living in the same city, and some in the same neighborhood, for twenty, thirty years, has created some slight resentment. i'm not really sure.

i wonder if any of them are happy at all. before they came here, they probably expected a little bit more than what they received. a better job, an escape from perpetual poverty, educated children who would go on to become working professionals. not expecting much. just what this country had initially advertised. just a chance to succeed.

my dad's going to the philippines on friday for ten days. i don't know what he expects to accomplish in ten days. he bought $200 worth of crap from costco to bring to his family there. i had to get a box from my aunt's house so that we could put all the costco crap into it. i asked my aunt why he needed to bring so much toilet paper. "they don't like the toilet paper there. it's too thin," she said. i played super smash bros. with my cousin. i don't get that game. it's four cartoon characters bouncing around on the screen, making little tornadoes, slashing around with giant swords, and kicking every which way. i don't understand the point. at all. but then again, i do enjoy bust-a-move, so i can't really talk.

one day a few weeks ago, right before i went to bed, i put my arm across my head and thought, wow, so this is it, huh? this is my life now. it doesn't matter if it goes up or down, sideways or diagonally, this is who i am and what i'm doing this very second. i'm lying down in a room that holds everything i own and everything i have collected over the years. this is it. twenty-five years to get to this. even though it was before i went to sleep, it felt like i had just woken up. although necessary, the question "what should i be doing now?" is completely annoying. i know someone who always has an idea of how things should be. even for simple things, like when i got a brown jacket, i was told, "too bad that jacket isn't black." or someone who advises, "maybe you should apply for this, try for that."

mr. cramer, a teacher i worked for at watsonville high, always sensed that i was judging him from the back. i could tell because he would always say, "you know, it's easy to be in the back and think, 'oh, i would've done that this way, or done things that way,' but it's tough, man." the truth was, aside from his inability to teach a subject he wasn't fully competent to teach, he really wasn't that bad. he could be on and tell jokes and make kids laugh. maybe that's all students need. some safe place to hang out with an adult who doesn't act like he's got something stuck up his ass all day.

things could always be done differently. i could've done a lot of things differently. i could've just been holed up at a desk, working on the big book of sudoku. what would have changed? would i have been any happier? i don't think i even know anyone who's truly happy. i know that nobody can be happy all the time because then it would totally negate the concept of happiness, but most people i know aren't happy even some of the time. all that sets me apart is that i choose to write about it.
things could go your way.

the four kids trailed around the rosemont neighborhood on the afternoon of easter sunday. they chased an ice cream truck and ordered astropops, thinking that astropops were the red, white and blue popsicles, but they were actually red, orange, and yellow. they spent their whole lives ordering astropops, forgetting that the red, white and blue popsicles were called blast icicles.

while their families were putting on easter egg hunts for the youngsters, they said that they were "too old for that shit." so they went out with their buddies and walked around the neighborhood (for they were far too young to drive), trying to hit on girls and look cool by smoking. they all shared one cigarette, stolen from a pack that belonged to one of their fathers.

they watched as a pretty girl their age walked by with her dog. they looked at her, and they tried hard to look like they weren't staring. finally, one boy decided he would do something to change this lonely life. he wanted to know what love was. "hey," he said, "you got a number?" the girl turned and smiled, obviously flattered, but she was also a very bright girl. "no," she said, and she walked away.

the boy looked defeated and embarrassed, but tried not to look it. "don't you know," another boy said, and puffed his cigarette. he blew out. "don't you know, things could change. things will go your way if you just hold on for one more day." they didn't know what the hell he was talking about. he was known to quote stupid songs and phrases randomly, so they just let it slide.

the boy decided he would go home. he was tired of looking like a fool, sharing one cigarette with the other boys. he went home and helped his mother hide plastic easter eggs for his cousin's daughter. they put m&m's and jelly beans inside the eggs and coins and dollar bills in the others. by the time the little girl found the plastic eggs and opened them, there were ants marching around on the inside. "just throw them out," his aunt suggested. the little girl did.

later that night, the boy could hear the neighbor downstairs arguing with one of his visitors. the argument was growing more and more hostile by the minute. "i'll cut your throat, you stupid sonofabitch!" the neighbor yelled. "i'll throw you out into the black night!" the visitor remained quiet, and the boy wondered if maybe the downstairs neighbor had become delusional, screaming at a specter. "shut your hole! i'll stuff my foot down your throat if you don't shut up!" the neighbor screamed. the boy wrapped a pillow around his head. i'm sick of this, he thought to himself. i'm sick of this, and i'm going to do something about it, he thought to himself. i know what i'll do, he thought. i'll call the cops. he dialed 9-1-1.

"there's an argument going on downstairs. it's been happening for at least twenty minutes now," he said. the operator said they would send someone over right away. resolve the domestic dispute, the boy chanted. resolve the domestic dispute. twenty minutes later, the police arrived. they pounded on the neighbor's door. "open up! it's the police!" silence. "we just want to talk to you," and officer said. "we're not going to hurt you. just open the door so we can leave." still, he would not open the door. the cops tried and tried, until finally, the apartment manager opened the door.

the boy could overhear some of the exchange. "i didn't hear you because i was sleeping," the neighbor told the cops. "sleeping?" the officer asked. "we've been pounding on your door for the last twenty minutes!" "i'm a heavy sleeper," the neighbor said. the cops talked to him some more. and then they left. goddamn, the boy thought. not a goddamn thing resolved. they'll just get back to arguing again. stupid cops can't solve a damn thing. the boy put his head to the floor and listened. nothing.

he sat upright on his bed. "i hate that faggot," he said. "fucking faggot. i'll kick his ass. even if he's got a gun, i'll kick his ass."

he stretched across his bed, put one arm behind his head, the other across his chest. he stared at the ceiling a while. finally, he closed his eyes and fell asleep. he slept the whole night through.
too much chaos.

"think of the loneliness that is yours. would human company ever take it away? it will only serve as a distraction. there's an emptiness inside, isn't there? and when the emptiness surfaces, what do you do? you run away, turn on the television, turn on the radio, read a book, search for human company, seek entertainment, seek distraction. everybody does that. it's big business nowadays, an organized industry to distract us and entertain us." - anthony de mello, awareness.

i distracted myself from the void with a three day trip to the bay area with my cousin. our mission: to see explosions in the sky three nights in a row. i would recount everything, but my memories work like a compost heap. some pieces turn into rich soil, while others are devoured, or else rot, disappear completely.

before the first show in santa cruz, we met up with aimee at the thai restaurant sabieng. she was with her new boyfriend, david (pronounced 'dah-veed'). he was small, thin, bespectacled, quiet and soft spoken. a good guy overall. i asked him where he worked. "i'm a t.a. at santa cruz." "oh, what are you studying?" i asked. "education." "oh," i said, "are you getting your master's and credential?" "i'm actually getting my ph.d," he humbly declared.

"what are you doing now?" aimee asked me. "nothing," i said. she looked surprised. even i was shocked how bluntly i put it. it felt like i had outed myself, impostor that i am. what happened to all that talk about social justice? what about all those rants about battling corporate america, helping the poor and disadvantaged? i talked the talk, but i didn't walk the walk. i might as well have announced how, at this point in my life, i want nothing more than kristy lee cook to go all the way.

i ordered the duck. "i never really liked duck," rich declared. "the texture is just so strange. kind of chewy." aimee and david agreed. i ate my duck anyway.

earlier that day, rich and i discovered a record store in santa cruz, one i had never seen the entire year that i lived in the area. "how long have you guys been here?" he asked the clerk. "about three years," the clerk answered.

the santa cruz audience was very...young. one kid was talking about how he hoped the show would be like "that one twisted sister video. you know, the one where the dad is telling the kid, 'what do you wanna do with your life?' and the kid says, 'i wanna rock!' (the kid strums downward on his air guitar) and then the dad gets blown out the window." the kids he was with obviously had no idea what he was talking about. they just nodded silently. why are we with such a spazoid?

another asian kid next to me was talking to his friend. "i was in san francisco a few weeks ago for a minus the bear show. you know minus the bear, right? yeah, well anyway, it was a great show. except, you know what i hate about san francisco shows? all the dudes there just do this (he slowly rocks his head back and forth). it's so lame," he said. during the concert, this asian kid rocked his head back and forth slowly, as did i.

after the show, we met rachel at zelda's. she told us about her thailand trip for about ten minutes. how some guy had taken her and her friends to some remote island and they all camped there and got drunk. i could see rachel on this island, bright-eyed and ready to accept whatever life would throw her way.

i can't really recount anymore of the trip. i'm not enjoying writing about it.

i just wanted to add some thoughts that came to me tonight. what is with some people? what do they do? what are they dreaming about? what do they expect things to be?

it's late, and i don't know what i'm asking. i just want everyone to be alright.

but not everyone's alright. and knowing that, sometimes, makes me uneasy.
three nights of explosions.

three nights of explosions await us.
on the gears to make them go.

i went to my first (and so far, only) state interview this morning. first, i showed up to the wrong building. over the phone, i thought the interviewer, alex, had said to go to a building called edd. i wasn't sure, though, so i went to a building that had a sign that read gci. i think. i went in through the main entrance and a young blonde woman asked me if she could help me. "is the address here 9815?" i asked. "no," she said, "9700." "oh," i said, defeated. "where are you trying to go?" she asked. "i think he said edd," i answered. she looked really confused. "i should probably keep driving down that way," i said, and pointed past her island. she smiled, and i left. just another random encounter to add to the list.

i finally found the correct building. it had a huge sign that read: "9815 state of california." i parked my car and walked to the main entrance. there were a bunch of older folks, dressed casually in t-shirts and jeans, standing around and smoking. so this is what state workers look like, i told myself. a middle-eastern looking security guard let me in. "can i help you?" he asked. "i'm here for the interview," i said. "ahh, yes," he said. "you must sign in." i signed in, but didn't put my telephone number. the four other signatures didn't include their phone numbers, so why should i? "you have to put down your phone number," he said.

while waiting, this black woman came through the door in a hurry. just before she made it outside, the security guard spoke. "why are you running?" he asked. "what?" she said. "why you are running away?" he asked. "running away?" she asked, smiling. "the question is: why not run away?" so, this is what state workers sound like, i told myself.

my interviewer, alex, finally showed up. he was a clean cut russian guy, probably my age or younger. we shook hands, and he had me sit down at a cubicle and read over the duty statement. the duty statement was a lot of technical sounding words intended to obscure the true, mundane job description: for $11.97/hr, i would be receiving, opening, sorting, and sending out mail. and sometimes, i might be working with a copy machine. this was great, though. i took a look around. nobody was there. it was empty, quiet. just what i've always wanted: to be left alone.

in front of me was an in memoriam picture of a black woman, who had died at the age of 53. next to it were some quotations from the bible. one quotation was highlighted. i think it was this passage: this was he of whom i spake, he that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. why would anyone put this up in an office?

as it turned out, the department wasn't edd, or cgi, or igc, as i had originally thought, but actually dmg. document management group. they manage documents.

alex and a black girl interviewed me. since i didn't know exactly what the hell i was interviewing for, i stumbled on most answers. "what is production to you?" they asked. i made up something about getting the job done quickly and efficiently, while, at the same time, learning how things could be improved for next time. that, my friends, is production.

what are my weaknesses? i'm too jaded for your scripted, inhumane questions. i can't talk out of my ass, and i can't exaggerate my unimportant, low-paying previous employment. or how about this one: i'm completely reluctant to allow you to dictate what happens to me, or where i will be for a full eight hours per day.

what is a monastic life? it must not include sleeping in, playing the guitar, and watching the full monty on cable. barbara ehrenreich wrote in bait and switch that the longer you are unemployed, the more difficult it will be for you to gain employment. the official term for these bouts of unemployment is called a "gap." so far, my gap has been seventh months. sometimes i'm worried; other times, i think, what does it even matter?

in a half-asleep state one morning, i heard a female voice, and she said: "time is nothing but a ticking clock, and we are running circles on the gears to make them go."

i have no idea what it means, or if it even makes sense. but when i'm half-asleep, anything is sensible, anything is possible.
forrest whittaker is nice.

i forgot to mention that whenever the kids across the street throw a party, all their friends park their cars and run, literally run, to the house. i don't know why they do that, but i felt that i had to share this fact. maybe it's to get the adrenaline rushing; maybe it's because they cherish every moment of freedom, and they wouldn't dare waste a single second sauntering on the sidewalks. i like to think that they see me, that they read this blog, and they think, "we'd better enjoy it now. we'd better get it now, while we're young."

i also wanted to mention this joke that we have running in our household. a few weeks ago, we saw forrest whittaker help some eighty year-old man receive his honorary award on stage. my mom said, "ba it si (sp?) forrest whittaker" (translation: forrest whittaker is nice). then, at the oscars, it appeared that forrest whittaker said something comforting to marion cotillard after she was freaking out over winning best actress. again, my mom said, "ba it si forrest whittaker." so, every now and then, i have to say that phrase. ba it si forrest whittaker.
it's not all bad.

"it's not all bad" are the last words spoken by danny glover's character in the film grand canyon. this phrase pretty much sums up the whole film. running at about two and one quarter hours, the film had its moments. but mostly it felt like it could've used a lot more editing - especially the five minute dream sequences. christ.

self-deprecating sidenote (inserted after forrest whittaker entry): but i'm not really in any position to tell someone to edit his meandering stories.

a good part is when kevin kline and danny glover's characters talk about how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. but of course, we're doomed to think that we're important.

i've been re-reading tony demello's awareness. he says that enlightenment is when you realize that you're no better than anybody. he also says that readers should criticize everything he says.

once, i thought peter singer's concept of speciesism was a real thing. i even scolded some girls about it. while i don't agree with mass production and slaughter of animals, i'll still have a honey mustard chicken sandwich from quiznos. so long as my aunt is treating.

we're taught to believe things, but to be critical of them. it's like that one assignment from dr. brown's class in philosophy 110 when he made us write a one-pager on some bumper sticker he saw that read: "question authority!" was the message a paradox? when someone tells us to question authority, are we supposed to do it?

when i think of people now, especially children, i think about matt groening's drawings of rabbits. wide-eyed, naive yet adventurous beings we are. i think about people getting hopeful about something, and then, as time goes on, they learn that things don't work out they way they initially expected them to. the miracle is that we keep on hoping.

i think about man's search for meaning, and how victor frankl reminds us that we're all connected in our ability to suffer. it's that thought that makes me feel lucid.

no one really knows what he's doing. some people watch tv after work; others fix up their house on weekends. they try to join sporting leagues, or they take up a hobby, learn the oboe.

on tv, i watch a basketball game. tuning in at all is a mystery. fact is, i'm going to see the same thing i've seen hundreds of times: ten men on the court, forty-eight minutes of play. usually, i can already tell who's going to win before it even begins (not the kings - not this season, anyway). maybe it's for nostalgic reasons; maybe it's because there's simply nothing else on. still, i watch. there's a small chance something new, something different and amazing will happen.

this is what we wait for.

earlier, there were a bunch of kids standing on the rooftop across the street. it was the last day of the air show. i spent it at the rosemont house again, scraping the ceiling, putting down plastic, and pulling out base boards. randy found two dead rats in the attic. anne would say things like, "well, my folks, that's how you put up a kitchen wall," and "claire's room was the best. it had so much sunlight." another time, while taking a break, out of the blue, she asked me, "have your parents talked to you about what's going to happen when they die?" gina looked at me, as if death were a new concept she'd never heard of.

it's moments like this where i have no idea what people are thinking. i didn't know whether to laugh, or to inform her that the chance of them going together, leaving me like one of the salingers on party of five was highly unlikely. and then i thought about telling her what my dad said to a religious person who approached him at raley's and asked him if he knew where he was going to go when he dies. he said, "first, i'll probably go to the hospital, then the funeral home, and finally, i'll be in a box."

what are people thinking? we're so capable of random thoughts, bizarre questions, and awkward icebreakers. i could tell someone about the random oyster shell i found in the base of a tree, and i wondered if the wind, an animal, or my cousin had put it there.

even this, just putting english on a webpage, trying to communicate something (but unsure of the message) is amazing. believe me when i say it's amazing. i might not feel that way tomorrow.
and there's no time like now to begin.

my aunt called me this morning, and she asked me to help her remove the popcorn from the ceiling in the rosemont house. i didn't really want to, but before i could refuse, she said she would pay me. as usual, i had nothing planned, so i agreed.

i spent the day with sabrina and gina, and we sprayed the ceilings with a hose, and then we scraped off the popcorn. it was messy, but not difficult. i got to borrow randy's jumpsuit, and it didn't really fit me well. but at least i didn't get crap all over my jeans and elton john t-shirt. tita bing (beng?) showed up and taped down plastic so that the carpet wouldn't get ruined. she asked me how my mom was.

we also took uncle rebel's bed to the mayo's house, so that gina could use it. it's a newer, bigger bed for her. being in the truck with randy and gina, even if it was only for less than five minutes, was kind of strange. it's kind of like those sitcoms, where you never expect certain characters to go on adventures together, but they do anyway. i asked randy how he learned all that handyman stuff he knows. the actual phrase i used, though, was: "taking apart kitchen cabinets and stuff." he said he learned it in the military. in the military, he built government houses; at least, i think that's what he said. i tried imagining him in the shit, taking orders, taking gunfire. i couldn't do it.

when we did the master bedroom, i got this strange thought. i was scraping away what my grandparents looked at every night for a significant portion of their lives. i wondered if they'd be mad. i wondered if this was even significant. i thought i might've read some poem at some point, something about asbestos, how it slowly sank into lovers' lungs and poked holes. but i probably just made that up. and anyway, it was heart problems that took them.

my aunt still makes harsh comments about my cousin's weight, even though she isn't fat. all girls have to look like a more anorexic version of mischa barton, i guess.

the blue angels were buzzing around again. through the living room window, i watched them a little bit. if i smoked, i would've had a cigarette.

on the bike ride home, i saw two latinas sitting on their rooftop, watching the blue angels. and there were three old people, two women and one man, watching from their driveway. the old man had a camera.

it was the first time i've ever seen this place so alive.

all thanks to an air show.
things start splitting at the seams.

i biked to the library just now. it's only the second time i've done it, and it still feels like a big effort to get there. i'm in terrible shape. i never exercise, but sometimes, when i'm feeling especially unhealthy, i'll go through a phase where i try to do something that requires a little bit of effort. the last time this happened was when meagan and rachel received a free guest pass to their gym. they must've noticed my gut because they invited me along each time. so i ran on a treadmill.

i realized the only album i can really work out to is the earth is not a cold dead place. the opening track "first breath after coma" is the ultimate workout song. there's a little bass drum at the beginning to remind you of your slow-beating, neglected heart, and then the song really gets going. and once you realize what terrible shape you're in, and you're ready to give up, the song goes ballastic and you have to move, otherwise, you end up sitting tired, lazy and limp while the guitars and drums are going off all around you. you feel like the unimpressed, anti-social fourteen year old kid you once were during an amazing fireworks show.

biking is a whole different thing for me. i never learned to ride until i was thirteen, and then, since i had no friends in my neighborhood, i never went riding. i figured in three years, i would be driving, so what was the point. but i should've gone biking. everyone should have. there were roads to explore, weird street names like clendenen and tallyho, kids using hockey sticks to slap around a smashed can, and giant trees littering the streets with leaves. but for some reason, still, people opt to stay indoors, if only to play their guitar hero, or watch the local news cover a cat circus.

i'd like to get out more. i'd like to be healthy. who wouldn't?
america's favorite waste
of taxpayer dollars.

for some ungodly reason, the blue angels have decided that sacramento is important enough for them to fly over. all morning and all afternoon, they've been buzzing overhead. the first time i heard of these wastes of airspace was when i was in seattle. i was hanging out in my dorm when all of a sudden the windows began to rattle. i thought we were under attack again.

while i understand the concept of an airshow - a lot of people with nothing better to do, willing to spend $12 for the hope of seeing a crash - i can't understand why the blue angels insist on giving a free show to the general public. and they're not even doing any tricks right now, either. they're just practicing runs, flying circles, making a lot of noise. anyway, should they even be practicing runs when the cost of oil has reached an unprecedented level?

maybe this is just what we need, though. with the outstanding number of home foreclosures, massive student loans, the unemployment rate at its highest level, the declining dollar, and everything else crashing down on the average american, this is the perfect distraction.

another air show.
chairs missing.

i went in for another job interview today. the location was ideal, right off the butterfield rt exit, and i could easily bike there. that's all i've been looking forward to doing lately: biking to my place of employment. this morning i drove there. i didn't really know what i was applying for. the position listed on the ca state website stated: seasonal tax clerk. the pay rate was $8.35 an hour. duties included: opening and sorting mail, photocopying, other administrative duties, etc. no experience necessary, must be at least 18 years of age, must pass a background check.

fine. i'm qualified enough.

so i went to the job interview, expecting 1500 other applicants to be applying for the same thing. as it turned out, it was just me. security wasn't even sure where i was supposed to go. i expected the words "seasonal tax clerk" to trigger some sort of response. nothing. "is this the franchise tax board?" i asked her. she looked at me like i was an escaped mental patient. "yes," she said. "just take a seat over there, and someone will escort you to where you need to go."

the interviewers were about fifteen minutes late. i expected this, since the franchise tax board building is gigantic. from the outside, it looks like a giant steel fortress, missing only a moat, guard towers and satellites. bespectacled balding men with faux leather briefcases hustled about, and women with slacks and snug fitting suits lowered their lanyards to get past the security gate. most seemed to show up whenever they felt like it. some were wearing business casual, while others wore shorts and sweatshirts. people brought small salads and styrofoam cups past the security checkpoint. they looked like they were boarding airplanes.

so this is what a real place of employment is supposed to look like.

finally, an older woman came and got me. i forgot her name. we shook hands. she led me away from the security checkpoint and into a room not far from where i was waiting. so what was the hold up, i wanted to say. i entered the room after her, and there was another woman waiting at the table. "good morning," she said. we shook hands. "oooh," she said, "must be cold out there." "yes," i said, suddenly aware of how icy my hand felt.

we sat and the two woman told me about the job. for $8.30 an hour, i would be setting up chairs and tables for conference meetings. we would ensure that our setup was "ada compliant." i liked the sound of "ada compliant." sounded like a mogwai song. the rest of it, though, left my mouth hanging wide open for the duration of the interview. "we would need to have measuring tape and ensure that all our work goes according to whatever diagram they send us." the younger woman, an asian girl, told me that the hours would vary. "sometimes we might need you at six a.m., and other times we might need you at three in the afternoon." wait, i said. this would be an eight hour shift, and i would strictly be setting up tables and chairs? "that's right," she said. "but there's also another team that does set up, so sometimes it would just be a matter of one of us unlocking and locking doors." the older woman tried to legitimize their professions. "this is important because lately, a lot of equipment has been broken, and in some cases, stolen." i nod in agreement, as if my office supplies get stolen all the time.

it is at this point that i want to take my application from them, point out the part where i have a degree, have experience, and am capable of more than just setting up chairs and tables. but who knows? maybe ada compliance is a tricky son of a bitch, and i'm really not their man.

they ask me if i have questions for them. i really don't, but i have nothing else to do this morning, so i ask them things anyway. what are your position titles exactly? (this comes off more bluntly and condescendingly than i expect). when would the position start? (we don't know). do i have to take a leave of absence after working 194 days? (yes). am i guaranteed 194 days of work? (no). have i come off as a neurotic, slightly arrogant, ungrateful and lazy, spoiled and bitter college graduate who doesn't want to have anything to do with you people? (possibly). when can i start? (we're not sure).

interview over. we shake hands again and i say goodbye rather awkwardly. i shuffle out the door and exit the building. outside, the sun is shining and the daycare kids are playing behind a brick wall.

it's been a productive morning.
reasons for deletion.

i had to lose the myspace account. i was just sick of it. myspace had the potential to be a great online social network, but it turned into a shitty answering machine, a $5.00/hr. telemarketing gig. there are so many ads and banners that i can't tell where one's profile begins and where another ends. and what's with tom? he hasn't changed his picture since the website's inception. and then there was that girl who offed herself because of some deranged neighborhood mother who had enough free time to create a fake account to fuck with her. then people started getting hacked. apparently, "shelbyville" (yes, the town next to springfield on the simpsons) isn't a strong enough password. i don't know how the hackers do it, but they usually prey on people's general insecurities by writing something like, "yo...someone wrote something really suck about you on their blog," and the subsequent link leads to some stupid travel agency, or else insurance group.

the bottom line: myspace is stupid. if you want to contact me, email me, call me, comment. for wooderson music, click the crap underneath "rocking about hard times" and listen there. i'll try to update it as much as possible, so that we can, as a friend once commented, "live on forever."
the last supper club
urban gangster

[unsigned; 2008]

rating: 8.433333
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moments before receiving urban gangster in the mail, i happened to break open a fortune cookie, and the fortune read: “more art in your life will make you feel better.” unlike most fortune cookie fortunes, which typically promise wealth, life-giving relationships, and other forms of prosperity, this one actually proved true. however, one could also argue that the fortune was simply a given, a self-evident truth (i.e. “positive thinking will make you feel better”), and ignore the message completely. the point, though, is that the last supper club strikes me as a band that would concede the message. these mercer island natives’ album is chockfull of dylan-inspired verses and lack of choruses (save for “betty moonshine”); the cavalier vocal delivery hints at early marc bolan; the guitar work and chord progressions draw comparisons to classic sixties rock (see: bowie, vu). on a first listen, the message becomes clear: art doesn’t just make this band feel better; no, that would an understatement. without it, they’d be unable to function.

the sound they create, though, is altogether their own. with so many obvious and apparent influences, urban gangster could have easily been driven to sound like another lsd-laden, psychedelic-stream-of-consciousness written four decades too late. but the last supper club have managed to hold their own, and they’ve created a unique sound that is not only listenable, but likeable. the album starts off with the acoustic ballad “shadowless halls,” a song that evokes late night drives, cloudless and full moon nights, and...alki beach. don’t ask me why; the imagery is just there. as the album progresses, the band reveals a more broad range: distorted but pleasant guitar solos, and overall, solid song structures. “betty moonshine” sets itself apart as the catchiest song on the set, especially those moments when the instruments fade, and the last supper club lets its guard down. another catchy track and personal favorite of mine is “fearless heart of danger.”

“tall woman blues” is a more upbeat number with the most poignant lyrics on the album: i’m a failure in life/but i can show you the way it should be. this particular lyric is a complete paradox: it’s obviously a self-deprecating remark, but the band is having too much fun to let it ring true. it’s slightly akin to a band that wins the local battle of the bands, but still believes they aren’t very good – it’s just that the competition was really that lousy. the john mccain of music, if you will. from a mainstream and commercial point of view, the last supper club is a failure. after all, they’re not selling records, they’re not touring, and their sole review is completely fictitious. but, what they’ve done is they’ve shown us the real tragedy, the real failure: that these days, art isn’t valued for art’s sake. instead, it must be rated by pretentious freelancers and anonymous half-wits. the real failure is that musicians enjoying themselves and making home recordings can’t get their voices heard without agents, managers, labels, contracts, and corporate backing; meanwhile the general populace is spoonfed the new, interchangeable, prepackaged “indie” rock.

the anecdote? listen to urban gangster. it will make you feel better.
why doesn't it happen more often?

last night, i almost lost my grip on reality completely. it's easy to do. it's easy to lose yourself and become completely paralyzed and conspire that the whole world has turned against you. i mean, when the franchise tax board doesn't call you back for a temporary position that makes barely above minimum wage, the world suddenly becomes a dark and dreary place. i understand the real source of my frustration, though. the self-loathing stems from the fact that i don't have to work - at least not for now - but i feel compelled to. i'm aware of this brainwashing that has taken place where i feel like i must be making someone else a lot of money, otherwise i'm a complete waste of space. i'm unpatriotic.

but there are cures. there are woody allen films and barbara ehrenreich books and band of horses records and people who are rooting for you. there's no dignity in self-pity; no answers for whether or not life is meaningless, or whether god exists. i'm here; i might as well try and do something, and i might as well laugh at myself. what else can i do?

it was important for me to see hannah and her sisters today. there's a scene where woody allen's character is watching this black and white charlie chaplin film, and it occurs to him that he has to go on living, god or no god. suddenly, it occurs to him that "not all of it is terrible." and we have to go on for the good stuff, even if it comes rarely and in small doses.

i try to do good. and it's easy to do nothing.

i had to donate all of my adbusters magazines to the library today. it was just something i had to do. i remember the first time i held an issue. it was the no future issue, and i was flipping through it the first time i visited santa cruz bookshop. i got excited that there was finally a magazine that meshed with things i had been learning in school, things i had been thinking about for a long time. i thought it was amazing that all the ads were only spoof ads, taking dead aim at the worst corporations and fast food joints. i thought everyone should be reading this. everyone should be questioning all the junk he owns, all the junk for sale, and where it all goes when he's had his fill. in short, i got a somewhat obsessed, and very self-righteous.

i got a subscription. i read about every awful thing happening in the world, and every time i went to a store, i felt bad for all the shoppers, unaware of how their daily transactions lead to human suffering on a global scale. i tried telling people about adbusters. normally, they'd flip through a few pages and toss it aside. "so, where we eating?"

then, one summer i came home. i knew who would get it. i knew who i could talk to about this type of stuff. my cousin. i casually namedropped it in a conversation. "so, have you heard of adbusters?" "yeah," he said, smiling. "they're fun and all," he continued, "but, you know. we still have to be a part of the system." i was pretty devastated. i thought the revolution would be happening in, like, you know, two weeks. he was right, though, as he usually is. like it or not, i still have to be a part of it.

after a while, i couldn't read the magazine anymore. the writers and material would change, but the message remained constant: don't buy anything and live without dead time. i didn't really need a subscription renewal for that; to renew would be downright paradoxical.

besides, they never published my short, nonfiction story. or the random photos i sent them.

so, au revoir, adbusters. i'm sure we'll meet again, preferably when i'm waiting on someone at an indie bookstore or a barnes & noble (sorry, borders still doesn't carry you). i'll flip through your pages, and i'll hold you up so that the older, well-dressed man reading time or the wall street journal notices. i'll put you back on the shelf where you'll remain hidden; you'll remain an obscure reminder that we must continue to fight to get our voices heard.
the state that i am in.

earlier in the day, i stood in line at comcast with my dad. it was really busy, and the place was packed with people. this rhianna video came on, the song "s.o.s." a few people were watching it. i held the defective cable box in my hand, and i suddenly got claustrophobic. i wanted to get out of there, but i knew that any escape would signal full-blown dementia, an inability to function in normal, everyday social settings. so, i just stood there and waited. y-o-u are making this hard... i want to turn around and yell at my dad. "is this what you wanted? is this what you expected before you came to this country? to be surrounded by a bunch of money-hungry assholes who waste their lives drooling over sluts like rhianna?" you got me stressing, incessantly pressing... "is this why you wanted so bad for me to get an education? so i could afford fucking cable and have a boring, comfortable life?" they were horrible, selfish thoughts, but i listened to them anyway. but i can't control myself, got me calling out for help...

i pulled at the line dividers, a spool of black cloth like the kind they have at airports, and i thought about tolstoy's short story, the death of ivan ilych. i don't know why i thought about that one exactly. in the story, ivan lives leisurely and is a mild-mannered family man. at the end, though, he retires and has nothing to do with his time, so he busies himself by fixing up his house. while putting up some curtains, he has an accident on a ladder and hurts his side. after that, it's all downhill. he gets seriously ill, and the illness eventually takes him. right before he dies, he says that the death he is experiencing feels like he's trapped in a giant black bag, and there's no way for him to get out. when we talked about the story in class, it became apparent to me that ivan was being punished for some form of indecision in his life. he just went through the motions, did what he was told, did what was best for him and his family, and he never really went after what he really wanted.

i hate that image of the black bag.

so, i stand in line, thinking of tolstoy, thinking of ivan ilych. i don't want to have these thoughts. i think they come to me because i want to think that i'm different. i have to convince myself that i'm different, that my thoughts are different, and that i am, in some cheesy, hallmark kind of way (with no offense to sprout) special. i have to persuade myself of these things, otherwise i become just another living shitbag that breathes, walks, talks (though i don't do much of the last two anymore), and who, apparently, returns defective cable boxes. it's arrogance, i know. it's not healthy for me to feel this way... even though no one can read my thoughts, i seem to be sending god (if he's there) a message that no, i don't like what's happening; no, i don't wish to be a part of the hooters, the bed bath & beyond, the circuit city, the coca-cola, the pepsi one, the rachel ray, the giada delaurentis, the save-marts, k-marts, the wal-marts, the direc-tvs, the hd-dvd/blu-ray "war," the kfc, the ps3, the barakmccainclinton orgy. y.o.u. are making this hard...

i would like some kind of order and meaning. i would like to pursue my passionate purpose. what's this "calling" i'm always hearing about? who's calling, and when is this happening? is there really a unified field? s.o.s. please someone help me... we're all made from the same shit, so, how come we don't all get the same results?
that's con-castic!

cable, cable. where do i begin? i guess it all started a few days ago. while flipping channels with my dad in the room, i got curious. what does it cost per month to have seventy-five channels of nothing? "how much are you paying for cable?" i asked him. "sixty," he answered. "what!" i said, incredulous. "rich pays $65 and he has way more features than us!" normally, i try to stay out of technological innovations - my cousins once stared, mouth-agape, at me when i admitted i didn't know what a blu-ray was - but $60 per month is ridiculous for mom and me to be watching the daily show and the colbert report. truth be told, i could give a shit about extra features - i was more concerned about my dad getting ripped off.

i told my cousin about my dad's outrageous monthly ransom to the roberts family, and he was equally shocked and appalled. so, we trekked on over to comcast's only location in sacramento county: natomas.

i've been to the comcast store before. it's this sad little spot in the midst of unnecessary retail and equally unappealing restaurants. think applebee's, think sunglass hut. inside the comcast store, there's nothing but a receptionist desk and a long counter that seats three comcast sales representatives, each one unhappier than the next. we were greeted by a deadpan blonde, possibly in her late teens, early twenties. i couldn't help but think, she might be cute if she quit this job.

my cousin told her my dad's dilemma. "yeah," she said, uninterested and unaffected, "basic cable is $60." rich told her that he only had to pay $65 per month, and his package includes the extra perks: dvr recorder and hd receiver. so, what gives? she said she would look up his account. "actually," she said, "your bill comes to $80." his eyes widen, jaw hits the floor. a classic looney tunes moment. when this finally sinks in, he says, "but the last time i was here, the woman quoted me at $65." "well," the blonde rep answered, "you might've been on a special promotion." "no," he answered sharply, "there was no promotion. she said, '$65' and that was that." the blonde girl continued typing away, looking at the computer screen. i wondered if, during training, they had been told to avoid eye contact with customers, the kind of advice usually reserved for jailers, interrogators, and zoo keepers.

"well, do you know who you talked to?" she asked. ah. the perfect question to undercut any customer's authority. who ever gets a name? we buy, we buy some more, we sign, we get a receipt. who's shaking hands during this capitalist plague? "no, i didn't get her name," he admitted, defeated. as if he were the type of person who goes around making up numbers to get discounts on goods and services, but never has the foresight to brief his alibis and accomplices beforehand. during this long pause, i am thinking, don't they have records of everything? what happened to the unconstitutional wiretapping, the tiresome message: "this call maybe monitored for your security and to improve customer service," the machines and cameras that document every time we shit and masturbate? it's there, of course it's there. but she doesn't give him the name. "she might be in tomorrow. you can talk to her then if you want."

i can sense the shift of energy, the tension mounting. suddenly, i feel bad for this girl, for my cousin, for everyone. here are these two individuals who could be talking about life, love, politics, change, art, music, ambition; i'd even settle for a discussion about a career, old teachers, the weather, childhood memories. but no, not today. con-castic slaves are reduced to talking about digital boxes, premium packages, discounts and promotions, spools of wire, hbo and cinemax, dvr recorders and hd receivers. why it's better to stick with them, rather than bow down to their only known competitor, direc-tv.

my cousin tries one last stitch effort at obtaining the original offer he'd been promised. "i've been with you guys a long time," he says, "is there any way you can fix the bill?" "there's really nothing to fix," the girl says softly, yet abruptly. the good old-fashioned passive-aggressive tone, the kind a woman makes when she's been washing dishes and folding clothes all day while the man sits on his fat ass, drinking bud, watching the game.

i take my dad's digital box in my arms and cradle it, the dying child of creativity.

inside the car, rich calls comcast immediately. i haven't seen him this angry in a long time. i can tell he doesn't like to be cheated, doesn't like to be fucked with - this much is clear. he talks with a representative on the way home. in his frustration, he repeats words, phrases. "is there anything you can do for me," he pleads and, "i'll be with you guys for the long run," etc. i want him to snap out of it, but he's determined. like many of us, he's been led to believe that there's a better deal out there, that if we argue enough with the corporation, we might win.

dropping out, canceling your account - these are hardly options.

not when there's tits and ass on every channel, laughs waiting to happen, reruns stirring the nostalgic pot, and tragedy lurking around every corner. not when you're in the midst of a terribly isolated, suburban wasteland. not when they've convinced you that you cannot exist without them.

my dad's now paying $65 a month for cable. but, come look at all the new shit we can watch.
just give me the claymore.

i finally saw rambo iv last night. i only went because we were supposed to get in free, but we didn't. well, we did. kind of. i paid half price. anyway, it was something to do. it's amazing how jaded and desensitized we all are with movies, especially action movies, that we can laugh through the genocide, blood, guts and gore, the burmese people blowing up, john rambo shooting an arrow through a guy's head. we're all unimpressed. we want more. guy gets blown up, his limbs scatter in different directions. yawn. another guy gets his head blown off by a sniper rifle. heh heh. rambo takes out a whole line of soldiers with a mini-gun. boring. what else is on? we should've watched the other boleyn girl. i heard natalie portman and scarlet johannson do a little lesbian thingy.

are there seriously people out there who still buy into these explosions, this orgy of violence, the bullets whizzing by their heads, the bare-handed kills? i can only watch movies like this now for comedy's sake. seeing sixty-year old sylvester ripping someone's throat out is hilarious. that's fucking comedy. come on. but no, they're not going to let us think that's funny. they're going to spoonfeed us a never-ending supply of spoofs: the superhero movie, not another teen movie, meet the spartans, scary movie 1-4, walk hard. it's getting goddamn ridiculous. tell me, hollywood, how does one spoof shit?

hollywood movies are already shitty. look what's out right now. it's so bad that i have to begin every movie with the word fucking. fucking definitely, maybe, fucking fool's gold, fucking jumper, fucking step up 2 the streets, fucking vantage point, fucking witless protection, fucking welcome home roscoe jenkins. oh, but this isn't enough. let's add spoofs to the landfill. it's like laughing at the kid who's trying just a little too hard to be funny. the kid who purposely falls out of his desk.

blow this kid up, john rambo. blow them all up.

i'm almost finished with the beautiful miscellaneous. it makes me wish i had synesthesia.

i've applied for eight office assistant positions, and i'll probably put five more in the mail.

i watched la vie en rose. edith piaf had a lot of tragedy in her life. i didn't know that.

i recorded four songs in my bedroom. one of the songs turned out okay.

our computer has been really slow lately, probably due to a virus.

my dad asked if we should get a new one. i told him no.

my calling is to keep people from upgrading.
country club plaza.

country club plaza is this shitty strip of commerce that sits on the corner of watt and el camino. i remember there being a woolworth's, and on the lower level, they had a pet store. i liked going to the pet store, but at the same time, i always felt uncomfortable taking that elevator down to a floor full of squawking birds, creepy-crawlers, and blank-staring fish. i've never really been an animal person. i prefer dogs, but i don't think they had any dogs for sale.

when i learned in school that a lot of the civil rights sit-ins would take place at a woolworth's, i really thought that there were once black men protesting on the corner of watt and el camino. maybe there were, but most likely, no.

at woolworth's, my aunt, grandma or mom would usually get a bag of popcorn and an icee. i liked the red flavor. but blue was okay, too.

woolworth's disappeared sometime in the nineties, and weinstock's disappeared, too. ross and gottschalks (i think) replaced them, respectively. i never understood the purpose of changing names. they were changing owners, sure, but they always end up selling the same crap. why confuse us by turning lucky's into albertson's into save-mart? just leave it as lucky's and give the money to the new old white man. the public gets confused easily.

the only time i ever go/went to the country club plaza was when i wanted to avoid people. the only people that frequent that mall are senior citizens and small families. i can safely say that i've never - not once - run into someone i knew at the country club plaza. it's a sanctuary for the socially inept.

in the last couple of years, country club plaza was renovated, and it was given a new, futuristic, artsy makeover. there's now a bootbarn, an offbroadway shoe store, a bed bath & beyond. all the stores are higher, more visible, and their odd, slightly-off geometric shapes call attention to themselves, most probably in an attempt to draw attention away from the gigantic wal-mart across the street.

just recently, my cousin and i went inside. i think the last time i was there might have been 2001 on a lunch break from my 9 hour shift at tower records. we walked around, looking at shoes on sale, viewing bicycle equipment at the sporting goods store, pitying (envying?) the fat man sitting with a vast coin collection spread over half a dozen tables covered with black tablecloth. i walked into ross and took the elevator downstairs, half-expecting to find birds and fishes between the racks of clothing, or the mismatched furniture on sale.

once we left the store and walked back into the mall, i got this strange feeling. like rummaging through the dead's belongings, or walking through school after you've already graduated. the thought that we shouldn't be doing this. we should be moving on. things were supposed to change. why haven't they changed?

trapped in an endless summer.
freckles of light.

from our backyard, i can't see any stars. when i was in louisiana, i could see the stars every night. i liked that.
french girl controversy.

"Marion never intended to contest nor question the attacks of September 11, 2001, and regrets the way old remarks have been taken out of context," said her attorney Vincent Tolesano.

come on. really? we shouldn't question the attacks? it's in bad taste to question things, according to the media. let the french girl talk. i'll believe every word she has to say.
world's wackiest videos.

during this period of heightened insanity, i like to up the ante a bit by watching shows like "world's wackiest videos," or "deadliest police chases," or "most dangerous criminals." whatever show that's on spike tv during the daytime. from years past, my favorite titles, though, would have to be: "when good times go bad" and "you asked for it!" i remember watching the latter with other people once. i think dan rowan would reply to each video by saying, "no! i didn't ask for this!" i thought it was pretty funny at the time.

these videos are stupid, no doubt. but i can't stop watching them. this, in turn, makes me very angry. angry at myself, angry at the producers of the show, angry at spike tv, and angry at a system that promotes unlimited spending and consumer chaos, but punishes those who step out of line in any other way. it makes me wonder what makes these guys just go nuts. obviously, most of them are drunk or on crack, but what about the normal ones? like michael douglas' character in falling down. maybe they were just down on their luck. maybe they just wanted to order some fucking breakfast from the mcdonald's, and that's what finally sent them over the edge.

god love the ones who flee. it's pretty ridiculous when they run. they know they're going to get caught. i've yet to see a video where the guy just gets away. sometimes when i watch, i wonder, why don't they just shoot them down? that's how they did things back in the day. that's how they do things in iraq. you run, you die. but if they didn't run, there'd be no show. people like this chaos. these shows are like the fucking roadrunner and coyote. you know how it's going to end. the cops are going to cuff or kill the "bad guy," but there's always a chance that something else will happen. a shootout, a collision, a stick of dynamite exploding in the guy's face.

i never really see anyone disappointed when there's breaking news and there's some awful tragedy. eyes glued to the screen, but no one really feels anything. we're just absorbing the horror, wondering if it's topped the last catastrophe. how many died in this one? people are just numbers, waiting to be counted.

my cousin just asked me for a good anne frank quotation. i didn't know, so i asked my jewish friend, and his reply was: "i never knew hiding from the nazis could be so boring."

but really, anne frank said, "despite everything, i believe that people are really good at heart."

"so, what are you listening to these days?" i'm sick of that question. aren't we all? who really gives a shit? i know why you ask. you ask so that you can download it and act like you're in the know. or you ask to confirm that you're already in the know, and that you've already heard that shit months ago. big deal. you're a big fucking deal. you've heard it already, good for you.

when we were young, we hated bands that were considered "sellouts." you could tell a band was a sellout if they were heard on the radio, if their cd was sold at target, or if you saw someone really lame wearing their t-shirt. we played music, and we told each other we would never compromise our talent, our dignity. but the truth was, if coke offered us money for a song, we'd most likely take it. if someone was willing to mass produce our band shirt and sell it at hot topic or urban outfitters, we'd give them the green light. if a dj would play our song on a mainstream station, we'd be stoked whenever that song came on. but we lied. we said, "it's all about the music, man. the music is what matters." bullshit. the only reason we picked up guitars in the first place was for girls, money, and fame.

but, obviously, none of that shit ever came. and most likely, it will never come. so now it really is all about the music. there's not really any other choice. anyway, i'm getting off track.

it was stupid for people to get upset that some band was getting signed, or that they changed their sound. i'm guilty of it, too. why do/did we get defensive? there was this idea that playing something on your turntable/cassette deck/cd player was intimate. like you were in some twisted relationship with the band. but really, it was one-sided. we were more like stalkers, our stereo systems elaborate shrines.

so why do we act surprised or shocked still when we hear the concretes on a target commercial? band of horses on an audi commercial? death cab on the o.c.? mogwai on two episodes of sex & the city? kimya dawson in juno?

artists don't give a shit about you. they don't give a shit about me. they're just a bunch of fucking dogs that will love you if you feed and pet them, go to their shows, buy their records.

it doesn't matter what i'm listening to. and it doesn't matter what you're listening to.

so let's just drop it, okay?