enough for a cheese sandwich.

rich tried to buy a bass guitar from skip's music today. the salesman, the one who made the stupid comment about throwing a rock to hit the fender factory in mexico, was there again. the bass my cousin wanted to buy was listed at $749. rich asked the salesman for a discount, and the salesman said he would see what he could do. he went to his computer, pressed some buttons, and then he told my cousin $650 (i think). rich said this was still too high and that the other salesman from yesterday offered him the bass for $545. the salesman said, "well, make me an offer." rich said, "i feel kind of bad, you know. i don't know how much to offer you guys." the salesman replied, "well, just anything reasonable. enough to buy a cheese sandwich so that i don't starve to death."

umm, you're a white male. i think you're gonna be just fine.

on the way to guitar center, i saw a man on the street corner holding a sign that had a phone number with the words: "free list of bank repo homes." "jesus," i said, "there's a man holding a sign with a phone number for people to call to get a free list of homes that have been repossessed by banks." "yeah," my cousin replied, "times are getting tough."

i saw harold and kumar escape from guantanamo bay the other day with my other cousin. we paid $7.25 a pop (matinee price) to laugh maybe once the entire hour and a half that we were in there.

i got an email from my aunt saying that circuit city, hollywood video, and a few other businesses were going out of business, and that we'd better use our gift cards while they're still functioning. i didn't have any gift cards for any of those places.

my mom complains every time she buys an avocado. mahal (expensive), she says, $1.75. in watsonville, i always bought really ripe and juicy avocados for under sixty cents with my food stamp card.

my dad traded the independent film channel, the sundance channel, encore, and a few others in exchange for the filipino channel. we watched the singing bee, the filipino answer to don't forget the lyrics. none of the contestants were any good.

i bought a boy named charlie brown on vinyl, as well as a few other records. despite being unemployed and having no income, for the first time in a long time, i didn't feel guilty about my purchase.

when the economy is in the drink, the entire system on the brink of collapse, and love nowhere to be found, music is all you need.
i wish.

that something amazing would happen.
the red balloon.

i saw this short 1960's french film last week called the red balloon. it was a short film about a six-year old french boy who finds a red balloon on his way to school. all these other french boys were running around the streets completely unsupervised. as usual, i wondered why real life in 2008 couldn't be that simple and free. "why are they all allowed to run around the entire town like that?" i asked my mom. "back in the day," she said, "there weren't any kindappings or murders or anything like that." i know that couldn't possibly be true, but i also know that kids back in the day were allowed to romp around a lot more, typically unsupervised, than today's children are allowed to.

i don't know what the red balloon is supposed to symbolize. i once wrote in some red balloons in a story. in the story, there was a picture of a woman holding red balloons. i think it was around that time that i realized i would never be able to finish a short story. i couldn't. in retrospect, it was stupid to think that my professor could teach me how to drastically improve my writing in a quarter. i don't know why it took so long for someone to take me under his wing. i was there for four years, and all i wanted to do was write, and they made me take fucking origins of western civilization and biology and art history and other bullshit required classes. i know, you're probably sick of hearing it, but whatever. i'm sick of writing it, but i will anyway because i can't sleep. sometimes i have tons of things on my mind, bits and pieces of memories, or else something horribly negative, and i have to put it all down because maybe if i put it all down, i won't have to think of them anymore.

i think it was midway into my freshman year that i realized i wasn't special at all, and that being accepted to a small private school didn't mean shit. it came with the insight that this institution didn't give a shit about me; it just wanted my money. and how fucked is that? does anyone ever think or say some shit like that, as opposed to the usual adage, "get a good education so you can get a good job?" a good job is an oxymoron. how fucking ridiculous it is that we have to pay so that maybe, just maybe, some asshole or some corporation might employ us? we get ourselves into debt to work our asses off, and we're lucky if they'll insure us. oh, and they'll tax your income, too. i've never understood paying the IRS for working. what we're doing and what we have been doing is saying yes, i'll go to school, and then i'll go to school some more, and then you can pay me whatever you feel like, and then you can take whatever you want out of my wages, too.

sometimes i think we deserve it. we are a sorry lot. the past eight years can attest to that.

i remember my first rejection letter right out of college. i applied for an americorps position to work for the mockingbird times, a newsletter by and for homeless youth. i failed the interview and i received a rejection email, along with another email from my professor stating how "disappointed" he was that i didn't present my research to faculty. i remember feeling hopeless, that i had done what i was supposed to do for the past sixteen years, and now i couldn't get some stupid volunteer position. on my way out, i kicked the library door open and sat on the steps with my girlfriend. bellarmine had cleared out and there were only a few lights left on in the dorms. it was a humbling moment, thinking that maybe i wasn't cut out for this.

that's the thing about going and going and going. you'll either be really excited that you've gone so far, or you'll be really disappointed that you've been on the wrong track for quite some time.

this past year will always be remembered as my year of rejection. how it no longer has the same effect it once did, since most programs, jobs, and other things that require applications usually suck anyway. i mean, college was great, but then again, so are hookers and trips to disneyland and any other really expensive things. my hope is that statements like that will make future generations weary about getting into debt in order to be a potential capitalist slave.

there's no one really to blame for this illogical, diseased system. no fingers to point, except maybe the middle one, straight up, parallel to the closest mirror. fuck you for being hopeless and frustrated and for giving in so easily. for saying things like, "when are we gonna fix this?" and then not doing anything about it. for your paralysis and constant worry about what other people think. for your inability to lead and take action. for letting them get to you, letting them win.

let it go.
win or go home.

music was really the only thing i ever spent money on. now that no money is coming in, i find that i don't really need to spend any money on music at all. i already have a ton of albums i haven't listened to, and these days, i find that i'm often too lazy to pick a cd out, and instead, i choose to listen to the mix 96. i never know what i'm going to hear, and if it's something as good as crowded house's "don't dream it's over," i'll end up singing along.

i used to force people to listen to music i was listening to. i don't know why that is. maybe it had to do with being insecure and thinking that if i impressed someone with the good music i had, maybe that person would think i was awesome. when i got to college, though, everyone was burning cds. i was one of those people who would make more cds for other people than listen to the actual cds people would make for me. yeah, i was that much of a snob. and it was completely unwarranted too, since i was listening to a lot of crap. but whatever.

my mom's friend from college has been staying with us this weekend. apparently, this woman got a divorce after 30 years, and now she's just kind of traveling around, reconnecting with old friends. the first thing she said when she saw me was, "you look like your dad." "yeah," i said. i haven't really said much else to her. i guess i'm just afraid of talking to people who end up having some sort of existential crisis or make some sort of life-changing decision. i just can't imagine sleeping in a bed with someone for thirty years, making a home, having kids, paying bills, going to work, watching tv, having arguments, buying clothes, decorating christmas trees, carving pumpkins, watching the fireworks, taking out the trash, sharing meals, and reading quietly, and then poof. all gone. no more. and it wasn't even death that did it. it was a divorce. and jesus, she's a hardcore catholic, too, praying before meals and asking a strange boy in his twenties if he's coming along to church.

i can't imagine it. thirty years of looking at someone while thinking, this is the person. this is it. i'm going to live everyday with this person and die with this person by my side. and then it's oops, i didn't really want that. i'm going to visit california and sleep in a guest room in a house where they never run the goddamn air conditioner. i'm going to track down some old flame who may or may not already have a family of his own (yes, word on the street is that's what she's doing). i just don't get it. how much arguing and frustration and sadness does it take for someone to finally give up? i hope i'm never in a position to find out.

i have some shit i need to repeat. i don't really want to, but i have to because i have nothing else to write about. one of them is about how weird it is to be back home with nothing to do. it got to the point where i hung out with my little cousin this weekend, and he would make comments like, "god, i'm so bored to death," or "well, i'm really bored." i wanted to say something like, "how do you think i feel? i'm twenty-five and i'm hanging out with you on a saturday night for christ's sake." but i have to at least attempt at being a good role model and emotionally restrained and mentally balanced and all that other crap, so i couldn't say anything.

my other cousin told me about gina, the girl i worked with at tower and then more recently at kelly services. gina worked the night shift and would sleep until four or five in the afternoon. once, during our fifteen minute break, she confessed, "some days when i don't have anything to do, i just sleep and sleep. i know it's bad, but you know, i'm not doing anything, so why not just sleep?" it was a pretty sad confession, but i couldn't say i couldn't relate. anyway, now gina works for the dmv, and she told her sister that nobody cool worked there. everyone there was really old and whatnot. her sister's response was classic: "like you're cool?" i definitely wish i had a younger sister who could put me in check like that.

i have to admit i'm not cool. i'm not one to dance with young hipster bitches at the rickshawstop before a plastiscines concert. i'm not going to make my hair look like cristian's from project runway and wear those eighties-style glasses when it's dark out. i don't know how to get the bartender's attention, and if i do have a few beers, my prostate gets inflamed. yes, i'm so cool that i'm constantly aware of my prostate's condition. i'm so cool that a little bit of ice cream will make me run red lights and jump out of cars to find the nearest restroom. i'm so cool that if i say something even slightly stupid or out of character i'll think about it, as well as what i should have said, for years afterward.

i'm so cool. i'm living the dream, man. i'm finally a statistic.
there's a crack right here.

a japanese couple arrives at my door. they're here to buy my 500 cd shelf. i have it on a dolly, ready to load it into their white van. the woman inspects it. she says something in japanese to her husband. "will you take $25 for it?" he asks. "no," i say almost instinctively. first of all, i hate it when craigslist people lowball you at the last minute. it's one thing to offer a lower price when you email someone, but it's another to offer a lower price to the seller's face. "it's not as big as she thought it would be," he tries to argue. "well, it's 500. it fits 500," i say. "and there's a crack right there," he says, pointing to the tallest shelf. truth be told, there is a crack, one that i noticed when i posted it, but what difference did it make? "it doesn't really matter," i say, "since the cds will cover it." he nods. the woman still looks peeved that she's not getting this shelf for $25. "will you take $25 for it?" he tries again, a broken record. "no," i say. "i bought it for over $80, and i purchased it only a few years ago. i'm already taking a $50 hit." the woman reluctantly hands over $30.

it's good to win every now and then, no matter how small the victory.
ever heard of making a living?

i came across this craigslist post in the jobs section:

We're looking for a FRIENDLY, ENERGETIC SUPERSTAR Administrative Assistant/Receptionist to work 40 hours a week at a post baccalaureate certificate program for $40,000 a year plus individual medical, dental, retirement and paid vacation day benefits.
Compensation: $40K per year plus benefits for the employee.

this was posted by project pipeline, the nonprofit organization in sacramento where one can earn his teaching credential after two years of teaching in a public school. as a public school teacher, i would've made less than 33k/year, and almost half of that would've gone back to project pipeline for classes and books. according to their posting, their receptionist makes 40k/year. less than 33k/year for teaching, 40k/year for filing.

lesson learned.
j'aime le plastiscines.

parce'que ils sont très magnifiques.
what an english major can do.

as i've already stated in previous posts, i didn't think the one english major night our college hosted was sufficient. moreover, faculty should've arranged something like that earlier, say, freshman year, and not at the very last minute when we were all panicking about being jobless and in debt. what's more is that all these websites that claim english majors can do anything is full of crap. editing, advertising, and publishing jobs are hard to come by, and you really have to know someone who knows someone if you don't want to end up making copies, doing coffee runs, and feeling like a complete waste of space. so, i have compiled a list of realistic things that an english major can accomplish once he/she becomes unemployed and has to face the fact that nobody outside of academia gives two shits about literature. note: since i've only done the first one, i was unable to comment extensively on the others, and thus had to rely on ineffective sarcasm.

1) americorps. americorps volunteers work in schools, for nonprofit agencies, as well as religious and environmental groups. members receive a living stipend as well as $4,725 after one year of full-time service to pay off student loans or to use towards tuition. health care coverage is provided, but as my teammates and i have discovered, not guaranteed.

2) peace corps. a more intense (i think) version of americorps, performed for two years in a developing country. members receive $6,000 after two years of service.

3) jesuit volunteer corps. more volunteer work. yeah, you'll soon see that nobody really wants to pay you.

4) teach for america. teach in an inner-city school and get the minimum salary while you become disillusioned with the public education system. note: the interview process apparently borders on ridiculous, and very qualified applicants are frequently rejected.

5) graduate school. stay in school as long as possible. it's better than the "real" world.

6) law school. ditto.

7) community college. take random classes like pharmacology and the history of nicaragua.

8) post-baccalaureate pre-medical. programs for those of us who forgot to switch to pre-med during our junior year.

9) nursing. ditto.

10) jet programme. teach japanese kids in japan.

for those uninterested in a negative ending, ignore the following paragraph:

so, there you have it. if i've forgotten anything, please let me know. it's time to admit that a b.a. in english won't really get you anywhere, except maybe back to living with your parents. your grammar skills (come on, you still don't know when to use "who" vs. "whom"), your communication skills (didn't you choose to major in english because you'd rather read a book than talk to people?), and your critical thinking skills (completely relevant in a country that runs two hour blocks of deal no deal on a weekly basis) mattered only when you were writing papers to gain the approval of some old, white self-important "scholar."

and those interested in a rare, slightly optimistic ending, read on:

i don't regret majoring in english. i seriously doubt i could've enjoyed anything else. i don't know how others do it: accounting, organic chemistry, religious studies. who are people kidding? were they not paying attention when holden ended up in the psychiatric ward? were they not taken aback when jane found that old hag in the attic? were they not completely swept off their feet when ignatius tried selling hot dogs? there are whole worlds out there, and others would choose to spend their time looking at numbers, dissecting cadavers. i simply don't get it. if you don't read, there's no fucking hope for you. none at all.
it's a windy day.

if i had a kite, i'd fly it.
3704558 upside down is asshole.

and 58008 is boobs. i never found this funny or even slightly amusing, so why i have i done it more than once? why have others shown me this on their calculators? there's another one. you tell the person to spell "i cup." that makes the other person say, "i see you pee." when the joke got old, though, i would play dumb and spell out "i" as "eye," and thus ruin the punchline. "e-y-e c-u-p." it didn't make any sense, and so the other person would have to say, "no, say 'i' and then spell 'cup.'"

i went to another state interview today with the department of california veterans. i might as well have said, "eye see you pee," or shown them "boobs" upside down on a calculator and walked away. that's just about how well it went. when i arrived, the interviewer made me take another mini-test. "it's real easy," she said. i should've responded, "so was college." instead, i took her stupid little test, keeping in mind that i had already passed the office assistant exam with 100% nearly two months ago. i put some stupid fake accounts in numerical order, one through six lowest to highest, and then i alphabetized them by last name. i think these little additional tests i've had to take in addition to the placement exam are pretty fucking ridiculous. by subjecting job seekers to this superfluous task, they're essentially saying, "you may have passed our main test; you may have a strong educational background; and you might have been able to fill out a decent-looking resume; but we suspect you're lying about everything, so put the fucking numbers in order."

first question: "what do you know about the california loan assistance program?" fuck. i hesitated for a second, thinking i should probably come up with some vague answer. "actually, i don't know anything about it. at all." the three interviewers (god forbid the state could entrust a single individual to conduct a job interview) scribbled some notes, and the woman said, "well, that's alright." yeah, i thought, that's alright for someone who isn't going to get this job. i wasn't disappointed with bombing yet another interview. the real disappointment was my inability to find free parking, and thus had to shell over $2.00 to the green tumor on the sidewalk.

maybe i should just prolong trying to find a job or going back to school for as long as possible. i'll work just enough to buy tickets to do something every now and then like see harold and kumar escape guantanamo bay by myself. i'll be like henry darger, except i won't draw. i can be like that icelandic guy who lives with his mother and collects rocks that make different sounds. i'll cut my own hair. i'll find junk on the street, fix it up, and sell it on craigslist. i'll plant a tree and watch it grow. i want to be like that guy in the movie baraka, the one who takes one slow step at a time on the busy sidewalk. i want to be insightful like timothy levitch and say things like, "there go commuters, running to their destinations and from themselves."

i could easily spend a lifetime trying to figure out why 3704558 upside down is supposed to be funny. it'd be better than proving to others that it comes after 58008.
where crushed dreams happen.

i've been watching the nba playoffs again. i stopped watching around 2002, the year that robert horry made that three pointer that killed the kings' chance of ever winning a championship. the only good thing that could've ever happened to this crummy town, and that goddamn will smith look-a-like had to ruin it. but last year the warriors beat the mavericks. for some reason, i found that interesting, and i watched and i believed until the jazz finally shut them down.

i think i watch basketball now because there's not really anything else stereotypically masculine about me. i wear small t-shirts and i sing better in a falsetto voice. i listen to sad bastard music and i don't drink alcohol. so, i lie on the couch and watch four quarters of a bunch of dudes trying to put a ball through a hoop. at one point, a few years ago, i started wondering why people continued to watch basketball. i guess i still do wonder about this. what's so fascinating about ten guys, mostly african-american, throwing a ball around for forty-eight minutes? chomsky once said that the sole function of organized sports is to distract the public from knowing what's really going on.

but is it really a distraction, or is it a mere reflection of what's been going on? we strike, and then we strike some more. occasionally, they strike back. but it's been a blowout, a clean sweep for hundreds of years; we are the michael jordan of government-sponsored violence. where genocide happens.

my mom told me that my classmate from high school, sam warburg, is number 142 of tennis players in the world. "if he won in mexico city," she reported, "he would've won $35,000." poor sam. i'm sorry he didn't win and that he couldn't add $35,000 (slightly above what i would've made for a full year of teaching) to his savings account. where old classmates who become much more successful than you happens.

i've been thinking a lot about what i want out of this life. my goals and desires fluctuate daily, sometimes even hourly. for a while today it was to have an empty house to myself and to play the guitar and start a garden so that i'd never have to go to the grocery store again. i'd like for it to rain. it hasn't rained in this area since january. and people still let the water run when they're doing dishes. i can't talk, though, since i take long, luxurious showers. in the middle of a hot shower, things make sense. i think about things to write about. i think about how i wish i'd never have to leave the shower. where the only ephemeral physical pleasure i receive amidst the drudgery of an unforgiving twenty-four hour day of meaningless existence happens.

alright, that was a bit negative. people who know me, though, know that i'm really not that much of a downer. in fact, at work, i even thank the old women for handing me more tests to grade. on the outside, i'm soft spoken and polite, but on the inside is a different story. i guess we're all like that, though. where my final and desperate, half-hearted attempt at being a part of the human race happens.
x-zylo ultra.

i bought aimee an x-zylo ultra for her twenty-seventh birthday. this is further evidence that i don't understand humanity at all, nor my place in the world, not even at the most basic birthday-gift-giving level. i first learned of the x-zylo ultra on a camping trip with my cousins. we threw it around quite a bit, and when it got dark, we wore headlights (the kind miners wear) on our heads, and threw the x-zylo around some more. i had a great time. who wouldn't love an x-zylo ultra?

i had completely forgotten what the x-zylo ultra was called, so i'm trying to mention the x-zylo ultra as many times as possible, so that i will never again forget what the x-zylo ultra is called. i tried to google "mini-frisbee" and "different types of frisbees" to no avail. finally, i remembered that my cousin had told me that he thought it was sold at rei. thus, i visited rei's website and browsed the kids' toys section. yes, this is where i browsed to find my twenty-seven year old friend's birthday gift.

deep down, i think i made the three hour drive to watsonville at the last minute to throw around the x-zylo ultra with friends at the park. aimee invited me to her birthday party a few days ago, and i immediately said yes, knowing fully well that my weekend would otherwise consist of watching the nba playoffs and trying to cover the band of horses' "st. augustine." i like driving now, anyway. long trips give me the chance to listen to albums i never took the time to play completely through. the cure's disintegration was one of them. thank god i never sold it back.

rachel and aimee didn't know how to throw the x-zylo ultra. i tried to show them, but my teaching skills are less than stellar. they threw it underhand, flung it sideways, and watched, disappointed, as it flopped a few feet in front of them. i showed them the proper way. "hold it like this," i said. i made a c with my hand and held the x-zylo ultra by the circular ring. "bring your wrist back like this, and when you let it go, let it go with a snap and let it roll off your fingers." rachel threw it as if she hadn't heard a word i said. flop. i felt kind of bad, watching them struggle with this piece of hard plastic, thinking that my gift now looked like some stupid happy meal toy.

rachel eventually got it and made a few good throws. mostly, though, i threw it back and forth with a six year old boy named jose. he got the hang of it real quick, and so we launched it to each other. our fun with it ended, though, when i launched it right into a big mexican guy's face. jose, who was closer to him, just stood there, stunned. there was a moment of panic where i thought the guy was going to come running over to put me in a headlock. i stood there, kind of laughing to myself, but eventually i walked over and apologized. "it's alright," he said. jose and i walked back together. "it hit him in the face?" he said. "yeah," i said, "we'd better stop for now."

aimee had a pinata and lots of food: beans, rice, salad, and chicken. later, the newest addition to the watsonville americorps group, bonnie, showed up. bonnie works at the food bank, and she went to a private school called reed in portland. talking to rachel, bonnie said, "watsonville is great, but i want to be somewhere where i can network. i mean, i know i'm not going to live here forever." i cringed at the dirty word she casually dropped in conversation: "network." she didn't really seem the ambitious type, though, so i forgave the faux pas. she told me that after she graduated from college, she went to argentina and mexico. now she's in watsonville, living at the kilburn house with her friend from college, tommy.

it was getting cold, so i said i was going to sit in the sun. from there, bonnie and i made finger puppets with the felt and glue aimee purchased from true value. i made a panda bear and a frog. a few yards away, two soccer teams were going at it like mad. i looked up just in time to see someone score a goal. there were people in lawn chairs sitting on the side. other families were having their barbecues, and children were running through the grass and playing on the playground. jose and aimee sat next to us and painted each others' hands. jose drew a mexican flag on aimee's hand, and aimee wrote jose's name on his. david, aimee's boyfriend, lay down in the grass. wind kept blowing the paper plates off the picnic tables. lucy, the three year old girl aimee brought along, kept looking at me strangely, as children often do. when i smile, sometimes they smile back, but usually, they just keep on staring.

i stared, too, at everything around me. i took everything in, as i tend to do these days. it was a perfect afternoon, yet a sense of tragedy emerged within me. it was the feeling i get when i have to say goodbye to someone or some place. thinking. perhaps naively, why can't life always be like this? why does it always have to be florescent lights and direct deposits and proficiency in microsoft word? why does there have to be insecurity and inequality and an end to all things?

just make your hand like mine; bring it back, and when you let it go, let it go with a snap.
if i am lost, it's only for a little while.

i can understand this desire to just work and come home. it's a good feeling to fill the day with meaningless tasks and then come home to sleep, eat, read, watch cable, do whatever. complacency is king; mediocrity rules. it's almost as though i want to enslave myself, or at least deprive myself of any freedom, so that i can enjoy the freedom i have when i'm not working. when one experiences too much freedom, though, someone like myself, a product of catholic schools and suburban lock-your-doors-and-don't-make-eye-contact living, he begins to doubt that he deserves freedom in the first place. we live in a country that had its roots in adventure, revolution, and freedom, but we'll die in this mental gated community.

yesterday, they told us workers that we'd have the option of coming in at 7:30 am, a half hour earlier than usual, to catch up on test grading. as usual, i told myself i would get there at said time, in order to make an extra $7.50 for the half hour of work. when my alarm clock went off at 6:15, i hit snooze. four minutes later, i reset the alarm to 6:45. i felt guilty. i never work, and the few days that i do, i refuse to do anything extra. i'm being lazy, i know. i've grown up in a family and community that does not tolerate laziness, and i have to admit i am lazy. i think the whole reason for obtaining a college degree was just to ward off any doubt that i might also be unable to follow directions.

darwin, my eldest cousin, is the black sheep of the family. he never got his driver's license, and he always did poorly in school. i heard that when he was a kid, he stole money (hundreds of dollars) from his sister, claire, and spent it all on candy. as a punishment, his dad drove him to juvenile hall and told him to get out of the car. darwin was forced to walk back to their apartment. darwin never got his driver's license. he hung out with rosemont thugs who smoked dope and wore big, puffy black jackets and white sox hats. later in life, he married a girl in the navy named connie, and they seemed to be doing well for a while. i heard that while she was at work, darwin would come along with her and sit in the car the entire time. obviously, it didn't work out. the few times he showed up for family gatherings during the holidays, he would immediately dampen the mood and make things awkward.

once, he bragged to me about doing ecstasy, and another time, he told a long story about how his friend ron had to hide his gun in the glove compartment, since there were a lot of cops at the mall. as the years progressed, darwin became more prone to ghetto-talk, sounding as uneducated and unsophisticated as everyone had already branded him since early childhood. another time, he allegedly broke into my aunt's house, stole my cousin's money and gift cards, and ordered comcast porn. my aunt installed a home security alarm after that. when i was a senior in college, things became even worse for him. apparently, he got into an argument with his mom and he even threatened her. as a result, she threw him out. from then on, he was unemployed and homeless. he showed up to my uncle's house around christmas time, and my uncle told him he couldn't stay there. claire was living with my uncle at the time, and she let him sleep in her car.

i remember hanging out with my cousin late one night, and as i was leaving, i saw him reading the paper in the backseat of claire's silver civic. there i was, a college boy on winter break, learning about dante aligheri's exile from florence, italy, wondering what it would be like to never see family again, to never have a home. and here was my cousin, in his early thirties, experiencing just that.

i can't be angry with my family for never giving him a chance. after all, they did give him chances, plenty of them, and he always blew it. my family even paid for him to live in a type of care home for a while, and he got himself evicted for going through his house-mate's belongings. each time my aunt or my mom brings him up, they always say the same thing: "he needs a professional evaluation." he's living in montana now, and he has two kids. i don't know how he got there, or even what he's doing.

sometimes i think the only difference between me and him is a piece of paper i got with my name on it.

what if my parents had split up? what if i didn't get to go to private school? what if my dad had constantly belittled me in front of his friends, calling me a loser? what if my younger cousin had told me that not only could i not stay at his house, but that i had to get the fuck out of there? what if i didn't know how to file for unemployment? what if my only friends were a bunch of pot-smoking, 40-drinking lowlifes who didn't know how to communicate on the most basic level? what if i couldn't pass a simple driving test? what if i was lost, and i had absolutely nowhere to go? what if i felt like this world could swallow me up any minute?

there sits that piece of framed paper on the shelf, collecting dust.
black kids are kinesthetic learners.

this is my third round of grading tests. the prompt this time asks would-be teachers: if you had the power to add a course to a school's curriculum, what would that course be?

i still think it's absurd that i'm being paid $15 an hour to read one page essays and bubble in scantrons, but i won't complain. i'll remember this temp job for the smell of coffee at our long grading tables, the recalibration sessions, and the old men hesitating at the urinals. sip, sip, sip. pause. pause. whizz. pause. dribble, dribble.

there are only two other scorers who look like they're under fifty, but we tend to stay away from each other. one is a tall black man who always wears a cool looking hat and goes outside to smoke. the other is a girl with long black hair. i overheard her say that she has a masters in school counseling, but she can't find work anywhere.

lunch is provided, and i usually eat it by a tree closest to the door. yesterday, i had this thought that all of my life was a continual preparation for solitary confinement. would i crack? have i already cracked? how would i handle a torture situation? if someone held a microphone to my internal dialogue, i could have my own traveling show. well, maybe that's what this is all about.

i don't like waking up early to drive all the way to natomas. granted, i've only had to do it once a week every three months, but still. i have great respect and deep pity for all daily commuters. like mr. arnold said on the wonder years: "i fight traffic; i bust my hump all day; i fight traffic again; i come home." i don't like sitting all day, either. i like reading. when i'm reading, years can pass. but when the essays are bad, my mind starts to drift.

a writer said that he would create a kinesthetic learning class. he immediately lost my attention, and i thought about the first time i heard about kinesthetic learning. a fellow writing center consultant, corey, who conducted research on kinesthetic learning, told us that african-americans were, in general, kinesthetic learners. i imagined her, this scrawny white girl, holding hands with a group of african boys, telling them to twist around and shake their asses if they ever wanted to learn something. i thought about the part in stuffwhitepeoplelike where the author says that white people tend to know what's best for the poor.

i thought about mr. ingoglia, my social justice teacher, during my junior year, and how ridiculous it was for him to try and teach a group of lazy, apathetic, homophobic, and sexually depraved boys lessons about social justice.

i thought about how sitting for eight hours hurts my ass, and how barbara ehrenreich said in bait and switch that humans weren't meant to sit for long periods of time. our bodies are meant for moving around or reclining.

i'm going in again tomorrow. maybe something different will happen. if not, there's always the end of the day to look forward to.
little crumb.

there was this girl in my french class. i forgot her real name. her real name didn't translate properly into french, so maria leon, our french teacher, allowed her to choose her own name. she called herself miette (translated: little crumb). i think she got her name from the main character in the city of lost children. miette always sat at my table along with two other outcasts who didn't know any french at all, and who didn't really make an effort to learn. i remember her most, though, for all the strange things she said and did.

once, she grabbed a handful of her hair and started sniffing it like mad. "what are you doing?" i asked. she looked startled, as i was normally quiet, and definitely not one to question strangers sniffing themselves. "do i smell like pho?" she asked. "what's pho?" "it's like a vietnamese noodle. i just had some pho and now i'm worried i smell like it." "no," i said, "you don't smell like pho." another time, our french teacher asked us to call out some stereotypes we had about french people. "they're very boisterous," someone offered, "bon vivants!" "they like to drink a lot of wine and eat big lunches," said another. then, miette sheepishly raised her hand. "they're really good lovers?" maria couldn't believe what this girl was suggesting, possibly admitting, in front of the entire class. "what was that?" "they're good lovers," miette repeated. maria laughed uncomfortably, as did the rest of us. "umm, i'll let you find that out for yourself," she said.

at graduation, miette kept looking my way. after a few minutes, she finally came up to me. "hey," she said. "hey, how are you?" i asked. "good. i wanted to thank you for being my math tutor," she said. puzzled, i looked at her and tried to remember if she had come into the writing center during the past year. math and writing, after all, were easily confusable. i clearly remembered her, though: the pho, the comment about good french sex, the failed attempt at communicating in another language. i wouldn't have forgotten if little crumb had come to me and asked for help with her writing. "what are you talking about?" i said, "i was in your french class!" she slapped her forehead, something she did quite a bit, now that i think about it, whenever she couldn't remember how to say a certain phrase, or even how to answer: "ça va?" (the answer is 'ça va bien,' if you're good, 'comme ci comme ça" if you're just alright). "i thought you were my math tutor!" she said. "french class. that's where i remember you from." she walked away, obviously embarrassed.

it was exactly how i wanted to remember her.
stares into space like a dead china doll.

today, i will actually do some things. i will return fun home and goodbye, chunky rice to the library and pick up living poor. i will buy some t-shirts that will help me not look like i'm sixteen. i will apply to various programs that will take me far away from my personal quagmire. i will stop regretting, and i will look forward.
adapting to unusual circumstances.

at this point in life, i am again faced with horrible, stupid questions in order to apply for things that i'm ambivalent about. but i have to do it. i must answer them. it is required. i've tried doing nothing for the past eight months, and it didn't suit me well. the question this time is to describe a time i've had to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

i don't really know how to answer. so i'm blogging about it. this is a brainstorming session because it's all i know how to do: ramble and ramble and hope that at least part of what i've written makes some sense. my first instinct is to talk about how, as a minority, i've always had to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

i've gone to private schools my whole life. now that i'm struggling in the "real world" to find some sort of meaning, i feel like i'm continually confronted with the condescending sonny, who calls his brother, michael, "college boy" in the godfather (yes, a&e has been playing both the godfather and the godfather II nonstop for some reason). in private schools, kindergarten through college, i was always one of the few non-white boys. i don't really know how i "adjusted" though, since i've not really known any other way.

i dealt with stereotypes, obviously. i actually fell into them, since i was good in math at one point. then, when the numbers turned into letters, i couldn't follow anymore. mostly, i knew to behave in school. i was terrified of having ugly, old white women (namely, our grade school principal) scream at me. i knew that technically, they couldn't physically harm us, but i think that in some cases, a certain tone or one's diction is far worse than any corporal punishment. for instance, when i accidentally mumbled "fucker" right in front of my p.e. teacher, ms. goss, i think that a firm slap to the face would've been much comforting than her glare followed by her all too inhumane command: "don't ever say that word again." she didn't talk to me again for the rest of the year. i had been her favorite, i think, up until that point.

i felt that we filipinos were a strange lot. our parents all knew each other, but that didn't necessarily make us a close-knit community. there was noel and edgar, my academic competitors, and they were what filipinos would call, yabang (show-offs). edgar had a little too much filipino pride; he drew philippine flags constantly and mano'd to elders, including my parents (mano is when you take someone's hand and put it to your forehead, as a sign of respect). noel, on the other hand, mostly hung out with the white boys and lived in a super clean house. his brother had a massive collection of pornography stored in his bedroom closet and a suspicious body massager underneath his bed.

and then there was joseph, my smallish, bespectacled friend who liked to draw and who hated school as much as i did. we were friends, i think, because we both liked reading comic books and tormenting my younger cousin, byron. then, in fourth grade, dong came along. as soon as he got there, a rumor spread that he had been kicked out of every public school in the sacramento area, and that he was a terrible troublemaker. later, he would confirm this, as well as reflect on the experience of joining our class: "i was like, 'what the fuck is this?' i'd never seen so many white kids in my life!"

in high school, the asian kids drank a lot and smoked a lot of dope. in retrospect, i like to think that this had something to do with their oppression, their collective feelings of inferiority, but then again, the white kids most likely drank more and snorted harder drugs. i didn't really want to be a part of any of it. i didn't really want to do anything. i didn't want to play sports or party or smoke dope or go to class. none of it felt right. all i wanted to do was wake up.

naturally, there were general feelings of inferiority and great despair. most of us hung out by a red picnic table, and when the cafeteria was built our senior year, we hung out at the table closest to the exit. some boys played cards (pisoy-dos was the most common game), while others did homework. dong and joseph and some others would talk about the grouch, hieroglyphics, and other local hip-hop artsts i knew nothing about. at the time, i was already aware that i was a minority within a minority group, but i didn't know how to branch out. after freshman year, i assumed it was too late. i couldn't have just gone up to a group of white boys and try to fit in. could i? sometimes i saw the nerdy group sitting underneath a giant tree on the east side of campus. i thought about joining them, but i worried that they would talk about cosines and magic the gathering.

in my mind, i didn't belong to any group. i didn't belong in that school, in that city. i belonged somewhere rainy and depressing, full of angst and rock 'n roll.

so that's where i ended up going to college. the documentary hype, which i had seen five or six years prior, was also a deciding factor, specifically a live performance of the fastbacks performing the song "k street." i don't know what i was thinking. when i seriously and thoughtfully reflect on my previous twenty-five years of existence, everything i've done seems like a harebrained scheme based on compulsion and poor logic. i don't know what i'm doing now, and i don't think i ever did.

there are many things i should've done. i should've stuck up for daniel. i should've danced with jenny right away. i should've eaten lunch with the nerdy kids. during that car ride in the philippines, i should've made my uncle stop the car, and i should have refused to leave until the poor and sick and dying were taken care of. how can we go on changing doorknobs on cabinets and watering our lawns when the global rape continues? sometimes i think that i want to fight for social justice not because of selflessness and helping others out of the goodness of my own heart, but because of my tangible hatred for those on top (yes, spike tv is playing the entire star wars series nonstop).

what is the root of my paralysis? that, i think, should be the real question, since all of my life has been a series of adapting to unusual circumstances.
i haven't seen you in a while.

today, the girls at washington mutual were wearing green t-shirts that read, "whoo hooo!" at first i thought it might be because of st. patrick's day, but then i realized we were already in april. i wanted to ask, "do your shirts say 'whoo hooo' because the dollar is now worthless or because wamu is headed for bankruptcy?"

i hate the new mcdonald's commercials. one commercial shows a bunch of coworkers sitting around talking about how the dollar isn't looking so good, and then another coworker shows up with a cheeseburger from the dollar menu. thus, they go from talking about our troubled economy to how it's not so bad when you can still buy a burger from the dollar menu. in another commercial, a bunch of boys are driving around while trying to find the cheapest gas. they all complain about how gas is so expensive, and then they finally pull up to a mcdonald's and extol the dollar menu.

i also hate the carl's jr.'s commercial where the guy and girl are sitting on the bleachers eating chili cheeseburgers. the guy gets chili all over his stupid face. in another commercial, a guy cleans chili off his pants with a fry and then he eats it. the burgers really look like someone just took a shit in them. and then finally, there's this one. i wonder what goes on in their marketing department. i imagine a room full of twenty-somethings, sitting around masturbating, hamburger buns for the boys, hot fries for the girls. they shoot each other comments like, "mayo? oh, i'll give you some mayo."

i don't understand heterosexuality from a woman's perspective. for the most part, all the men i know and have known, are disgusting, lazy perverts. i'm no exception. take a look at any single guy's bathroom; i guarantee you'll find a stream of dark brown ooze and hair leading to the drain. and then i hear about married guys who still play xbox and watch the nba. i don't get it. what's more is this business about "playing the field." again, most guys i know aren't even spectators on the side. we're more like those guys who drive past a soccer field and ask each other, "are they playing soccer or lacrosse?"

be grateful if you meet anyone in this world. even if you make a friend, consider it a miracle. the world is a dark and evil place, charlie.
speaking words of wisdom.

"enjoy this time, man."
"you know how i worry. you know how i am."
"i don't get you. sometimes you're so pessimistic, there's nothing i can do about it. and other times, you'll be surprisingly lucid."
"orthopedics? you really need to know what you're doing."
"pre-med? tell him that he needs to have a goal, look at the percentage of students who went on to medical school."
"he had a friend who did peace corps right out of college. he said it was a really good experience."
"i guess she reads your blog. she said she was really worried about you."
"you're miserable, and you're not doing a thing about it!"
"i think you're both immature."
"so when are you moving to sf, man?"
"come back and visit! let me look at my planner."
"should we be spending our time doing this?"
"driving there seems counter to what we're doing. i think we should walk."
"do you ever get that feeling when you run into someone you know, and they've just got that look on their face like they feel for you, or that they know what you're going through? yeah, then you know what i'm talking about."
"we'll have ed call in the prescription to pops, that way it's covered under the insurance. all you'll need to pay is the co-pay, and it's only $5."
"she said after april, there's no more first class."
"try to run into me."
"that your compost pile? looks like a big pile of garbage."
"what's up, man? wha'choo upto?"
"it's looking good. you should plant some vegetables there."
"north american scum."
"go ahead, live with your mom the rest of your life."
"we had season tickets last year. we couldn't even give them away."
"sorry ass brad miller."
"she's like an old lady. she's a southern belle!"
"joblessness eating at the grey matter?"
"i've given them your references. i've done my part. it's in their hands now."
"i hate to say it, but i'm probably never going to live in one of those big houses."
"i don't want to live there. there's too much chaos."
"i asked him if he collected unemployment, and he just looked at me. like a fucking idiot."
"you know where i am. you know who i'm with. so please, stop calling me."
"what else have we got to live for?"
"i thought you don't want to teach?"
"you can go, you know. we don't want you here."
"i just need you to tell me that it's over."
"i'm sorry, i...i can't go on."
"everyone's over here. do you want to come over?"
"treat this time like it's a vacation."
"you look so...chessy."
"it was a life-changing experience. seriously."
"don't tell anyone this..."
"you would probably find your calling and then just write it off as trite and meaningless."
"i'll kick his ass. i don't give a fuck."
"don't envy me."
"don't be like me."
"you're just gonna work in a record store?"
"at some point, you know, you're going to have to get a real job."
"umm...yeah, sure."
"yeah, that sounds cool."
"you should go. you know, if you don't do it now, you probably never will."
"if you're always going to be negative, then prepare to live the life of harvey pekar."
"i'm sorry."
"i don't know what to do."
"you could...no, nevermind. i don't want to tell you what to do."
"don't take it out on us, okay?"
"i could totally see you living in brooklyn."
"they put themselves out there, you know. sometimes you have to initiate things on your own."
"i talked to that girl again today. i asked her if she had a boyfriend, and she said, 'yeah, he's sitting right there.'"
"it's good to not burn bridges."
"those guys don't want to talk to us. they're not going to want to hang out."
"it'd be nice if i had a girlfriend. i get lonely sometimes."
"beggars can't be choosers, you know. you've got to pick and choose your battles."
"sometimes i catch myself. i don't want her getting jaded so early, you know?"
"so remember: rinse, soap, rinse, toner, lotion, suntan lotion. everyday and every night."
"why is she buying old vcr tapes?"
"i've got some things of yours."
"i've got some things of yours, too."
he didn't buy anything.

mom was all upset because my dad forgot to pick up some things from the philippines. she said, "all i asked for was hopia and bagong, and he didn't get it." she'd been pouting about it for the last ten minutes. i snatched the plastic bag she was holding and i said, "you're always irritated. what is wrong with you?"

grace said it was good she didn't move out because she didn't have money or a place to stay. she'll be thirty next year.

my uncle is dating a woman half his age.

at the sfo, a little girl ran to me, and she hugged my legs. she stuck her head in between my legs, thinking i was her father. someone in her family said, "that's not your dad!" and they all laughed. i had to laugh, too.

my dad was gone for two weeks. we didn't talk during that time. we sure as hell don't talk now. he's wandering around the kitchen as i write this.

i contacted an old friend via messenger. he works for verizon. he said he would be in san francisco in the near future, and that we should get together. i wrote back, "definitely," knowing that it would be otherwise.

my dad doesn't talk to his two sisters who live in town. this hurts his feelings, but he doesn't do anything about it.

mom and i got into an argument last night, but nothing was resolved. it ended with her saying, "i know you'll do whatever you want. you're twenty-five; you're an adult now," to which i replied, "i don't feel like one."

i've got some missed calls on my cell phone i haven't returned.

how are people supposed to live like this?
how good is the good god.

her atheist friends vehemently proclaim that there is no god. she doesn't like them, and for that reason, she thinks to herself, there must be some higher power. it's foolish to think otherwise. and then her christian friends proclaim the goodness of god and all his creations. she likes them, and for that reason, she thinks to herself, there probably is no god. who are they kidding?

sometimes he thinks he's talking to god. it's right before he goes to bed. he's not praying, exactly. he used to pray; he used to pray a lot. but now it's guidance he's searching for, and sometimes, he swears that god is listening and that god is talking to him. he asks simple things, like what must i do to become a good person? what must i do to have peace of mind? he waits, patiently. sometimes it takes an entire night. and then, slowly, the words enter his mind, and they seem satisfactory. so satisfactory, in fact, that he could not have possibly made them up. for the moment, he's swept up in the idea of a guardian angel and others: mother mary, wise men, holy men, and happy people dancing.

alas, morning comes, and there is no more glory, no more beatific visions, no distinct communication with the holy one. the answers, which were once so perfectly clear, so life-changing, turned to dust, and have become nothing more than a pleasant dream forgotten. he can't tell people that he talked to god. look what becomes of the others who claim such nonsense: martyred, institutionalized, saved. he doesn't want that. he's not looking to be saved. all he wanted was for god, or this idea of god, to be a personal, sacred thing. not something bought and sold, or discussed, debated, and analyzed endlessly on am radio and sunday morning television.

god wasn't about putting on your sunday best and sitting still, kneeling, and standing for an hour. god wasn't about eating stale wafers and drinking cheap wine. god wasn't about heated conversations, turning red in the face, or testifying. god wasn't old pages and stories passed down from generation to generation. god wasn't about is there a god, or is there an afterlife, or is god god or is god dead, or is god alive in our hearts and in our souls.

he used to pray. he used to pray for good things for himself and for others he knew. he used to tell god things like he'll do his best, and ask god for good luck on tomorrow's whatever. he used to relay messages to god to contact those who had gone before him, and ask god what was in store for him. when in danger, he asked god to help him. he would say things like, "thank you for life and everything you've given me. i love you, i love everyone in heaven, and i love everyone on earth." he wondered if he was supposed to say he loved those in hell, too, but he wasn't sure, so he never said it.

later on in life, he realized the emptiness behind those words. did he really mean them? was it just a chant? when words are said too often, do they become meaningless? he wasn't sure, so he just closed his eyes. the gratitude and requests had subsided.

it is this uncertainty, this empty feeling now, which lulls him to sleep.
cherry pie.

i'm trying not to be whiney. i don't know what my original intention was in creating this blog. maybe it was to prove to myself that i could actually stick with something. maybe it was to prove to myself that i could be a writer, and that my creative writing degree was worth something after all. i know that i wanted to remember the students i worked with, how terribly sweet some were, and how others were awful, and how all of them were tragic. i finished dan brown's (not of da vinci code fame) book about his first year of teaching a fourth grade class in the bronx. it's called the great expectations school, and i highly recommend it. he captures perfectly those great moments of insight, the kind of stress that drains blood from your face, the way administrators talk down to young teachers (making the latter feel like students themselves), and the overall hopelessness of the education system. the book is more or less what this blog would have been about, had i been more willing to put up with so much bullshit.

i hate being uncertain about things. the feeling is like drinking a tablespoon of robitussin. doubt tastes like bad cough medicine. sometimes i'm perfectly okay with it, and other days, right before going to bed, i think, my life is ending one day at a time, and i'm squandering every day i'm given. i know that i could just up and go, possibly even pull off an into the wild (except i wouldn't go to fucking alaska), but my biggest fear is that i'll just end up where i started again. it doesn't feel right, being home and doing nothing. it's completely surreal to feel like i've transported back to the late nineties, back to my early teen years, completely hopeless, wanting out, but stumbling in the dark, searching for an exit. the scariest thing is that it could happen again at any point down the line. the marriage fails, the company downsizes, the health insurance runs out. it's nothing new.

now, just some random anecdotes: my mom told me that sometimes when she's driving, she'll remember a scene from the novel, a confederacy of dunces, and she'll start cracking up. one time, sam told my mom that his dad made hard-boiled eggs to go with chicken adobo. "one for every member of the family," he said. my cousin aileen once had a boyfriend in college who died of leukemia. my uncle's sister, cheryl, makes really good cherry pies. once, she made me one for my birthday when she found out how much i liked them. i fit all my paperback books into two drawers in my desk.

i'm bored with the things i'm writing about.
the pleasure of defeat.

ucla and unc lost in the final four today. when unc was down by fifteen points with less than two minutes to go, i asked my mom if she still wanted to continue watching the game. "of course," she said, "the agony of defeat."

i think we ought to teach our children the importance of losing. get them young. the bigger the defeat, the better. every game should be a blowout. that way, they'll be ready for the "real" world, in which they'll be better able to face the things they will begin losing: phone numbers, car keys, friends, their sight, and eventually, their hair, their teeth, their homes, their savings accounts, their dignity. prepare them for the losing battle against their boss, corporations, the government, etc. let them know that once they've lost everything, there will be nothing left to lose. and that's what freedom is all about.

in school, we lost more games than i can remember. i've re-watched some old j.v. basketball games, and boy, were we terrible. there are long segments on the tape where no one on our team scored. every shot, even if it was wide open, or a breakaway layup, seemed like a prayer. the funny thing was, practices always went well. i could hit three pointers when there was nothing at stake. our team seemed unstoppable at every practice, and we played our hearts out. but, for some reason, once the weekend game rolled around, we were a bunch of hacks. i know that for me, once the ref blew the whistle, and people in the stands were cheering, my arms and legs turned into jello, and i became unsure of every move.

i remember feeling angry or really defeated whenever we lost. and we lost a lot. both in soccer and in basketball. boys on my team, including myself, were the biggest sore losers you could find. right before the usual "good game, good game," slapping hands ritual with our opponents after a crushing loss, lucas cook said, "check it out," and he spat in his hand. i watched as his saliva transferred to the hands of the winners. i thought about doing it myself once or twice. hard to imagine that we were already so passive-aggressive at that age.

i liked recess/lunch games much more. they were kind of like practice, but nothing counted, so we could always play our best. still, things would get pretty heated. since i was tall, i was always matched up with anthony bellizzi. he yelled a lot and turned beet red whenever he was upset about something. once, dong, visibly upset with something anthony had done, threw the basketball at his head. "oooh, that hurt," anthony mocked. dong threw it again, harder this time, at his bulging stomach. anthony didn't say anything after that.

another time, we challenged the a-team. basically, our class was divided into three categories: rich white boys who made the a-team (noel being the only filipino, but, was he really?), poor minorities who played on the b-team, and the leftover poor white boys, who, i assume, watched wwf and went to monster truck shows on the weekend. there were definitely some white boys who didn't deserve to play on the a-team, and dong made a point of calling them out every chance he got. in fact, a boy named alex, who didn't even try out for the a-team because he was on crutches during tryouts, got a spot. i didn't really care, since i was inconsistent during games, and thus never saw myself as an a-team player. anyway, when we challenged the a-team, we lost. great, i thought, another win for the rich white kids.

it didn't matter, though, because once we got to high school, there were boys bigger and stronger than any of us. everything we had done up until that point was just worthless scrimmage. i decided i didn't want to play anymore. i didn't try out for anything. i like to think that, at the age of fourteen, i was already preparing myself for the pleasure of defeat.
another post to make the previous ones go away.

sorry about the posts getting boring. i've probably already said everything i've needed to say. i don't know what else there is to say. i'm bored, though, and it's only eleven, so i'm writing. sometimes, if i write something i feel is adequate, i can go to bed feeling like i've accomplished something, no matter how small.

today, i tried to visit a new orthodontist, one who works closer to my parents' home, so that i might get two brackets from my teeth removed. these brackets were put in place by my original orthodontist, dr. m (i should probably stop using last names if i'm planning on defaming local characters), when i was in high school. i never really liked going into his office. most of his patients, as you can imagine, were very white and very sociable. i was neither, so i always assumed i would receive substandard treatment. this one time, i ate an m&m mcflurry before my appointment, and his assistant shrieked at how filthy my mouth was. "do you brush your teeth?" she condescendingly asked me. "yes," i mumbled. another time, dr. m installed a neckgear set to correct my overbite. it was an awful contraption: a piece of rough, black material to support the neck, attached to two strips of plastic on either end, which were pulled taut by two silver hooks, the ends of which hooked into brackets on my upper molars (pictured above). when they had finally installed the neck gear, the assistant brought me to a mirror to look at myself. i almost cried. "merry christmas," she said. it was early december.

i wore it on the car ride home. i looked at myself in the sideview mirror. i'm an ugly monster, hated by god, i thought. a bit dramatic, but give me a break, i was thirteen. even though i only had to wear it at night, i hardly ever did. this pulling of the jaw, coupled with my acne medication, retin-a, made it extremely difficult to sleep. i strategically tried to wear it as much as i could right before an appointment, hoping that lots of hours made up for missed hours would create some sort of instant progress. it didn't work. i was instructed to wear it for at least three more years.

after the neck gear/braces fiasco, it was back to the retainer. i hated them, too. no one was meant to have metal in his mouth, i'm sorry. real people have really crooked, fucked up teeth. even through college, dr. m recommended i wear the retainer, and attach rubber bands to the two brackets still glued onto my teeth. i know if i ever went back there, he would make another casting for my teeth, and i'd have to wear a retainer until the day i died. it never ends with these guys. they leave some shit in there, and they've got customers for life.

so with that, i tried to visit someone else. he checked out my mouth, seemed unfriendly (after all, he knew i chose dr. m over him), and told me to go back to dr. m. i don't really want to, for reasons already stated. in addition, he's really strange and a little too clean-cut. i can't quite put my finger on it. the whole thing just reminds me of the tim watley episode of seinfeld, where jerry notices all the hardcore adult magazines on the coffee table, and later thinks that he's taken advantage of while under the gas. and all of dr. m's assistants are just like dr. watley's: they look and act like young, perky playthings.

i'm going to be stubborn and not go back. when i'm insured, i'll find a dentist who thinks orthodontia is as big a scam as i do, and one who thinks that unnecessary surgery (i.e. removal of wisdom teeth) shouldn't be so commonplace. it's about time i received proper treatment.
to be this way.

i don't know you. i don't think i ever knew you. we hung out mostly, i think, because of circumstance. in other words, we were brought together out of sheer loneliness, birthed from our inability to branch out and create our own separate social circles. we don't even communicate. not really. we only quote movies and other people to express what's going on. when we were young, we both talked of leaving this place; we talked of travel, of adventures, and of meeting hot, foreign girls who played guitar. we swore we would never sell out, never become like those who had gone before us, strangled by their pierre cardin ties, suffocating from the lack of ventilation in their 8 x 8 cubicles. we were bigger than that; we had better plans. one might find us jet-skiing on the beaches of france, or rocking out at the hammerstein ballroom in new york city. we were going to throw elaborate parties in our four-bedroom houses, and cruise the highways with the top down. there would be girls in bikinis and cocktails and giant waterslides.

okay, maybe i've gone a bit far, but you've gotten the point. no, we weren't supposed to stick around this place and look for things to buy, things we don't and will never need, as an excuse to leave the house. we weren't supposed to get caught up in remembering all the terrible things, all the injustices that have happened to us. we weren't supposed to be doing the same things we were doing a decade before. it wasn't supposed to be this way. maybe this is my fault. maybe i've let us down. maybe i've been expecting too much. but i can tell you're sick of it. because i'm sick of it, too. there are black cancerous bricks building up inside of us. it's time to change things.

don't you think it's time for a change?
crumbs off the table.

on the first night of explosions, rich and i were near the stage, and the place was super packed, so we decided to sit and wait until the crowd cleared out of the catalyst. "this place is a fire hazard," rich said. i agreed. we sat on a bench on the side of the venue, and we waited a while. i decided to call rachel, and rich pulled out his camera to look at pictures that he had taken that night. we were both so distracted by phone and camera, respectively, that we hadn't noticed that the club had finally cleared out. it was at this point that a group of security guards and bouncers motioned for us to leave. they were laughing and cracking jokes, obviously directed toward us, but we were both so distracted that we had no idea what they were saying.

as i walked up the stairs to the exit, even though i was still talking on the phone, i couldn't help but think, so this is the way it's always going to fucking be, and my heart sank. we would never get to be the entertainers, the superstars on stage; instead, we were, and would always be, crumbs swept off the table, or in this case, bench. as elliott smith once said, "the only shit that's left behind."

it's like a lesson dr. painter delivered in her ethics class once. i don't remember who the philosopher was, but it had something to do with "the wheel of fortune." this philosopher discussed the absurdity of our existence by showing us how ridiculous it is for one person to starve and toil in misery for a short life, while another basks in wealth and prosperity for a long one. the conversation was immediately redirected to multimillionaire athletes. one student spoke up. "yeah, of course they deserve their million dollar salaries! they practice everyday and they work hard! they deserve wealth and fame for their achievements!" mrs. painter shot him down right away. "even more than doctors? doctors save lives, but they don't make nearly as much as athletes!"

i sat there, listening. that's all you could really do in a stupid private school filled with stupid, pointless discussion, especially when things got heated. so, what's the fucking point, dr. painter? considering this whole wheel of fortune business. the wheel of fortune has landed me in your terrible ethics class. while twenty blocks north of this school, poor minorities are shooting up and shooting each other down, we're sitting in this air-conditioned classroom, talking about whether shaquille o'neal deserves a paycheck for what he does. mexican laborers break their backs all day and you tell young students, mostly white, that their beliefs are unsound. people die every fifteen seconds from starvation and disease, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and i'm drawing a smiley face on the inside of my $48 textbook.

i'm an ordinary person, a crumb on the table. the wheel of fortune has been good to me in that i recognize as much.
what have i become, my sweetest friend?

defeated and frustrated. singstar and idol. state jobs and compost piles. wamu statements and youtube videos. sleeping in and refusing to get up. long distance calls and isolation. library books and handkerchiefs. on demand movies and things to sell on craigslist. hopelessness and occasional moments of lucidity. infrequent clarity and overall obscurity. late night aim sessions and blogging. insecurity and silent resentment of others. updating resumes and lowering expectations. irritation and envy. "what are we doing?" and "it's time to grow up and be men, not little boys." the futility of recounting childhood memories and the frustration of not being able to get it right. wishing for role models and wondering why others haven't gotten their shit together. not feeling like an adult and definitely not dressing the part. wanting to fall in and just keep falling and thinking about superhuman powers, smashing fists into the pavement, or else diving in headfirst. acoustic guitar and singing to no one. minimalism and boredom. lack of creativity and lists. unfinished, unsent applications and uncertainty about the future, about anything at all. a strong desire to just disappear and boredom. fiction and this is getting a little too real. voicemail and snowman slippers. an inability or unwillingness to communicate and a need to just get through the day. dreams and family get-togethers. cold, clammy hands and allergy attacks. nothing to look forward to and taking out the trash. mom's pity and the colbert report. black and white cat and unmade bed. no more talking politics and feeling like a fool.

reading blankets. thus far, very, very impressed. way better than that watchmen crap, anyway. could be on par with pekar. we'll see how it ends...
your dreams are the only
things that save you.

we (yes, there's a mouse in my pocket) were talking about school recently. i couldn't tell you anything i learned in college, and especially high school. ask me about historical events, dead russian authors, theological issues, and i won't have any answers. it reminds me of the time i was doing a first aid/cpr workshop with my americorps team, and i told francesca how what we were doing was completely pointless. "these kids aren't going to remember any of this," i said, frustrated. "look at them. if i lost consciousness in front of any of them, i'd be dead within minutes." "yeah," she agreed. "i mean, if you're not practicing these skills on a daily basis, they're going to disappear." it all has disappeared.

my old roommate said that he had a friend that once told him it was completely worth getting into debt for school. "think about it," he argued, "the irs, the government - they can take away anything you put on credit: your tv, your house, your cars, anything. but if you've got your education, and you can't pay it off, then what can they repossess?" his little story carried some weight. but, as you probably already know, i go back and forth.

what's the point of going to school if you have to question whether or not what you're studying has any value? most people, i think, want(ed) to be artists, painters, musicians, poets, philosophers, actors. science might save you and good business will make you thrive, but would you really want to be part of a world without music and literature and art? i don't know. maybe you're a philistine.

to future graduates, you're screwed either way. you can study what you're passionate about. but you'll find that once you leave, what you've learned will have little or no value. the other option is that you can sell out early and make all the lifeless suits proud of you, make a comfortable yet boring life for yourself. nothing but paperwork and excel formulas.

here's where i undercut my authority and say that i have no idea what i'm talking about. why did i study french for a year? first, because it was a requirement. second, because i really liked the film amelie, and i thought all french girls would be as cute and creative as audrey tautou's character. it wasn't to fulfill some prerequisite to get into a graduate school program. it wasn't so i could be fluent, and communicate with other non-english speakers.

that's my problem. i don't have a plan. i've been doing what i want all of my life, and a lot of people make me feel bad about it. but maybe they don't. maybe i haven't really been doing what i've always wanted. maybe it's just all in my head. maybe it's my attitude. my attitude sucks, i know it. a friend once told me, "it seems like you're always figuring things out too late."

all that's certain right now is that i like to play the guitar. i like to write, but i don't edit, and i don't know how to publish. i don't know how to stick to a single thought. these aren't paragraphs you're reading. this is all just ranting at the top of my head without any idea what good writing is supposed to be.

people tried to tell me what good writing was. maybe it helped a little. but people always emphasized getting published. "he's a good writer," a friend will say, by way of introduction, and i, of course, downplay it. "i'm alright." and then the mandatory follow-up question arrives: "have you been published?" "no," i say, sheepishly.

the fact is, i don't know how to do it. i know it helps to be really fucking good, but how fucking good do you have to be? i started reading lit magazines at one point, shit like other voices, glimmer train, fiction, etc. and i don't know how they did it. they were obviously focused; they had a plan; they knew what they were doing. they were probably also well-connected. i won't play the race card here.

me, i'm just spiraling out of control, and i keep writing to distract myself from the fact that one day, i'm going to die. and worse yet, before that, i'm going to have to get a job. a friend of a friend said that she does what she does at full speed because she "just doesn't want to become ordinary." it makes me think about what it means to be "ordinary." i thought about the film, ordinary people, and why it might've been called that. maybe it's because we're all taught to think that we're ordinary, when in fact, we carry around all these different things with us everyday. our dreams, our hopes, our fears, things remembered, our regrets, that teacher we hated, that accident we survived, the fact that we know people who have died, the fact that we get up everyday and move around and communicate and learn. that's supposed to be a fucking miracle. but we've forgotten it. maybe we don't practice that skill set enough.

i'd like to write a book. i'd like to be extraordinary. i'd like to play guitar and be good at it, and get credit when credit's due. i'd like to feel accomplished, brave and strong, and i'd like to get along with people just fine. i'd like to never have to worry about being ordinary. i'd like to not suck at life. i'd like to not have to go quietly into that dark night.

bon soir.