rich soil in its place.

today, i woke up around 9 and i turned off the hose in the front yard. i left the hose on "drip" mode all night, as smud had suggested i do, if i want my trees to live. the backyard tree flooded again, and i'm pretty sure it's going to die. both the backyard trees look terrible, like droopy replicas of charlie brown's christmas tree. the leaves have completely wilted, and the stakes look in better shape than they do.

after nine months, i finally turned over the compost heap. now the big lump of trash sits against the fence. i was surprised at how the base, originally clumps of wet newspaper, had completely dissolved and left dark, rich soil in its place. the compost heap didn't stink at all (or maybe i have grown accustomed to its smell), and i wasn't disgusted shoveling heaps of it into the newly designated area. i think i could be a farmer. i'd grow tomatoes and watermelons, and i'd sell them on the street corner while i played guitar. that's how people would know me. "there goes the traveling farmer without any know-how, who also happens to be a busker."

i was going through old journals (i'm actually typing them onto the computer, since they are falling apart) and i found an entry where i came across a bunch of notes i had taken about my classmates in my expressive writing class. i found sean reid's name. he said that he didn't know what he was going to do after graduation, but that he wanted to return to ireland or new york, possibly to live. towards the end of the year, he stopped showing up to class because a malignant tumor had formed on his heart, and he passed away that summer. i didn't really know him or anything about him, other than that he used fry's (the main character on futurama) as his avatar on livejournal, and that he had once appeared on the conan o'brian show after conan recognized him in the audience as a "younger version of himself." the last few times he showed up in class, his head was shaved, and he looked skinny and pale. i thought that we would be asked to shave our heads, too, because i heard that happens in other schools when someone has cancer, but no one had thought of it.

i don't know what else to say about that. tonight, i will attend my cousin's eighth grade graduation. lucky her. she'll be off to st. francis high school, and then onto college. she will figure things out.

as for me, i still don't know what my plans after graduation are.
not recommended.

eeeee eee eeee is a terrible book, virtually unreadable. how someone like tao lin got a book deal for this piece of crap is beyond me.
would i? would i?

this entry is dedicated to the top ten moments starring my only female jewish friend, toby:

10) toby and i had father leigh's eng 120: masterpieces of literature class. one day, while discussing a particular story in class, toby raised her hand to speak. "does anyone remember that one story about that green man who was in the woods?" my classmates and i started to chuckle, since the random question carried her signature high-pitched voice and southern accent. nevertheless, she continued to find the answer she was searching for: "you know, that story about that guy. and he's looking for his wife?" by then, the laughter had surged to a new level. father leigh only shot her a puzzled look, and then he continued on to something else.

09) during our senior year, toby and i went to go see sonic youth at the showbox. throughout the show, she continued to pound back some cocktails, maybe some rum and cokes. i remember being shocked at how such a small, skinny girl could handle so much booze. she drank more than anyone, and it was the most plastered i had ever seen her. after the show, we got out into the cold street, and her eyes were swimming around in her head. "what'd you think?" she asked. "it was good," i said, "but i wish they played more stuff from dirty and their older albums." she shook her head in disagreement. "nah," she said, "it was the best set ever!" and then she climbed onto andrew's shoulders (andrew was at least 6 feet tall) and triumphantly declared to first avenue: "sonic youth! sonic youthhh!"

08) through toby, i was always meeting seattle u's weirdest guys. for some reason, she had become temporarily interested in this guy named dave, who i didn't like from the moment i met him. first off, he was at least five, if not ten, years older than us, and he acted like such a normal, boring guy. i don't know what it was exactly. instead, i preferred the company of his big, dumb sidekick, a sixth-year senior/soccer player named ben, who carefully maintained his prince valiant haircut. he was much funnier. for instance, after the four of us went to watch the matrix: reloaded (i think that's what we saw), toby took her sweet time using the ladies' restroom. when she finally came out, ben said, "you didn't tell us you had to poop!" toby frowned. "i didn't poop," she said. then, as we walked down broadway back to the dorms, i made some comment about terrorists, or something, and ben shushed me. "only positive thoughts," he said, zen-like.

when toby finally realized that she didn't want to have anything to do with dave, she handed me her cell phone. "listen to this message he left me," she said. i held her cell phone to my ear. dave left a long-winded comment about being in the library and studying. he ended with, "give me a ring-a-ding-a-ling when you get this." "what the hell was that?" i asked. "a 'ring-a-ding-a-ling?'" we had a good, long laugh at poor dave's expense.

07) somehow, toby managed to hate my roommate more than i did. the three of us had father leigh's english class, and my roommate, anthony, took every chance he got to ridicule her for comments she made in class. he wound her up by imitating her southern accent, after which he would wrap his arms around her, and say, "i'm just kidding. you know i love you." and then he would pretend that he was in love with her, which, in truth, he probably was. toby would break free from his grasp, and i would think, so this is what it would be like to have little brothers and sisters. after toby got away from him, she would say, "i hate you, devil. i hate you." in future conversations, she continually referred to him as "the devil," even when we were among people who didn't know who anthony was.

06) as a native from california, i didn't have the first idea about how to dress for the cold. during the winter, i bought a flimsy green jacket from old navy, one that i thought i could wear over my amoeba sweatshirt to keep me warm. i thought my layering was fashionable, and i was brimming with confidence as toby, the devil, and i walked down pine street to the amc theaters. "how do i look?" i asked. toby took a step back, sized me up from head to toe, and said, rather bluntly: "you look like a refugee."

05) the two of us had dr. brown's philosophy 110 class. dr. brown asked us to bring in jokes, and each day we started class with a joke. the purpose was for us to recognize that moment of insight, that moment the punchline was delivered. this exercise was supposed to help us wonder about our ability to communicate and receive information. i didn't really know any good jokes, so i didn't tell any. toby knew one, though, and she delivered it in class one day.

the story goes something like this: once, there was a girl who was very self-conscious about her hair lip, also known as a cleft lip. the girl went through life thinking that she'd never find anyone because of her condition. likewise, there was a boy at her school who had a wooden eye. both were equally lonely, and they were loners at the school dance. when the boy with the wooden eye saw this girl with the hair lip, he thought that he would ask her to dance, since no other boys seemed to go near her. he walked over to the other side of the room, and he asked her if she would like to dance. to this, the girl replied: "would i? would i?" and the boy yelled back, "hair lip! hair lip!" toby nearly screamed the punchline.

04) during our senior year, toby was really excited to see the final installment of the star wars prequel, episode III: revenge of the sith. i invited jacob because i thought they might bond, the two of them being jews and all. we attended the premiere screening, a midnight showing, and we had to drive all the way to a theater in bellevue. when we finally sat down in the theater, toby asked jacob if he would buy her some candy. jacob asked if she was serious. "yeah," she said, "some starburst or something." jacob said he would buy it if she would eat it. she said she would. so, jacob went to the concession stand and got some candy. when he offered it to her, she had decided she changed her mind, and she didn't take any. jacob and i ate all the starburst candy. then, an hour into the film, during an action-packed sequence involving light-sabers and explosions, i looked over at toby. she had fallen asleep.

03) for christmas and for my birthday, toby always gave me books. on the inside cover of each book, she included an inscription. for example, for naked: "happy 20th birthday! i'd like to introduce you to another david sedaris. he's really fucking funny and you two should get along pretty well. xoxo, toby." any time she was serious about something, she wouldn't hesitate to drop the f-bomb. "you need to listen to marquee moon!" she insisted, "it'll fucking change the way you play guitar!" another time, while walking through a capitol hill neighborhood, we stumbled upon a garage sale. she found a hardcover copy of up the down staircase, and bought it for me. it's a really fucking good book.

02) in the u-district, toby found a quaint coffee shop that showed old movies. the first time that she, tiffany, and i sat down for coffee, toby made us swear that we wouldn't tell anyone else about it. "because then it'll get really trendy, and it'll be full of annoying people." we swore that we would keep our coffee shop a secret, but then broke our pact shortly thereafter. still, the shop and theater served us well during the short time we kept it under wraps. the three of us watched the birds and let my puppets come, a musical xxx comedy featuring puppets.

01) we usually met up in the cafeteria, where i'd find her wearing the colorful scarves and caps she knitted herself. she cut the fingertips off her gloves. "why'd you do that?" i asked. "it's easier to pick stuff up," she said, "and it looks cool." she sipped her tea, and flipped through the pages of that week's edition of the stranger, not unlike a fastidious older woman. we exchanged sarcasm, talked about music, people we knew, and other, small things that had happened to us. "over christmas break, i went to a grocery store in nashville," she said, "and i started talking to the bag boy. i asked him if he was in college, and he said he already graduated. then i asked him what he majored in. he said, 'english.'"

"we're screwed, jimbo," toby said. "we're screwed."
you know what to do.

i just finished watching this documentary on bees, and it basically covered what will happen if and when bees go extinct. it was called extinction of bees: the buzz stops here. i could be wrong about the second part of that title, but it was some kind of wordplay, some type of onomatopoeia. anyway, really early on in the film, the narrator said something very poetic, something about how bees know exactly what they’re supposed to do with their short, short lives. she repeated “short,” and thus, i found it poetic. sue me.

the line really struck a chord with me, though. does that ever happen to you? when you relate to one line, or maybe just a phrase, and it just takes forever to settle in your brain? it’s like how some people can never get over that one lost love, or those last few seconds of the championship game. for me, it’s something as simple as a gentle, soothing voice saying, “bees know exactly what to do.” they visit flowers; they pollinate; they make honey. they know exactly what to do. they don’t try to climb the social ladder or upgrade their wings. they just serve the queen, and they’re quite content doing that.

i’ve never been content. i’ve always been taught to want more, want better. want, want, want, and there’s nothing poetic about it, nothing at all. i’ll be turning twenty-eight this summer, and still, i want things that, with the passing of time, are becoming further and further out of reach. one, i’d like to travel. i haven’t even been out of the western region of the united states. i’ve seen beaches and mountains and snow, but somebody, or something, has decided that isn't enough. i feel compelled to order a bratwurst from a middle-easterner in times square; i feel like i’m missing out if i haven’t climbed the eiffel tower; i need to see bulls butchered in spain.

there once was a time when i was more ambitious. a time when i firmly believed that the world was my oyster, that around every corner, lurked endless possibility and adventure. i can’t say what triggered it. perhaps i had just reached my breaking point, and i was tired of being a passive observer in life. i hated sitting in class, listening to others drone and continually pontificate about literature, art, and philosophy. i could rarely, if ever, get in my two cents because most other students felt that their tuition dollars were more valuable, or perhaps that their scholarships and “honors” status – if you can call it that - built up their egos, made them more prone to dominate class discussions with their worldly ideas and conservative, egocentric views. whatever the case, i became sick of it. any sane person would.

so i spoke up more. hear me. listen, you stupid fucks. i’ve had to listen to you guys all my eighteen years of existence, the least you could do is spare me a few minutes. and so, class after class, i gained more confidence and became more outspoken, and as this transformation progressed, i noticed that the faces of my peers, and often my professors, showed genuine signs of interest, and possibly, quite possibly, even approval. looking back, almost a decade later, i couldn’t even tell you a snippet of what my eighteen year-old self was going on and on about. but it didn’t matter. what mattered was that, for the first time in my life, i felt like i was being heard.

being heard felt great. it was almost like reaffirming that i existed. and the best part was, because i was a liberal studies major, i could say whatever the fuck i wanted. there was no right or wrong. everything that came out of my mouth began with, “well, i think that...” or “well, that reminds of...” and people ate it up. people, at least in my view, thought that i was right on the money. but what did it matter if a bunch of assholes agreed with me? the approval i really wanted was that of lena hernandez. each time i said something, i checked her corner of the room to see if she was nodding her head in agreement, or showing that she was interested in what i had to say. most of the time, though, she was copiously taking notes, and didn’t look up for a second.

what did i have to say to get this girl to recognize me? i knew nothing about her, other than that she might be mexican. how would i conjure up her ambiguous heritage in a religious studies class, especially when we were still studying the byzantine period? “prof, could we possibly just speed things up to the spanish conquistadors?” i couldn’t wait another century, definitely not two. and so, for the first time in my life, i took it upon myself to approach a strange girl i knew nothing about, a girl with naturally curly, shoulder-length brown hair with golden streaks. i would be that guy i never thought i could be, you know, the one on tv who always stops the girl in the doorway, smooths his hair back, and asks in a very straightforward manner, “are you free saturday night?” i’d make her swoon, and then i’d offer to walk her back to the dorms, or her car, or wherever she was going, while i carried her books.

but this is how it went: i waited until she left class, and then i followed her. in my head, i reasoned that it would be weird to be in front of her, only to suddenly turn around and go, “hey!” in that type of scenario, the timing has to be perfect, and you have to play the part of the adorable klutz who bumps into her, scatters her belongings all over the floor, and offers to help her pick everything up. that almost never happens in real life, and when it does, you have to be really fucking adorable to pull that off, in order for her to not become utterly irate with you. i couldn’t pull it off. i don’t know anyone in real life who could. so i waited until she left, and then i followed her. by the time i got sight of her again, she was almost out the building, and i had to power-walk just to catch up. i was only a few feet behind when i muttered an out-of-breath, “lena!”

she turned around instantly, her brown eyes flashing. i still remember that precise moment. she was wearing a violet camisole and faded jean shorts, and i caught her full left-side profile. she was a movie star, a model, but not a sleazy porno-type victoria secret model; no, more like a down-to-earth, wholesome, study-abroad model for anthropologie. the kind of girl who looks amazing and most natural against rustic, deteriorating homes, or else villages made of straw. i suddenly felt like the village idiot. i couldn’t go through with it. i’ve just started to learn to speak in class, how was i going to speak to perfection?

“you’re lena, right?”
“yeah.” she smiled.
i wished then that i had something like a pen or tube of lipstick in my pocket, and i could get out of it by saying, here, you dropped this. but no, this was it. it was time to grow up.
“you’re in my religious studies class.”
“yeah,” she said, “i am.”
i introduced myself, and extended my hand. she shook it weakly. it wasn’t until our palms touched that i realized how sweaty mine was. damn it. “how do you like class?”
“it’s okay,” she said. “kind of boring.”
“yeah.” we started walking toward the parking lot. i was running out of ideas, and she wasn’t helping me any. she was probably used to these failed attempts at flirtation by amateurs like me. suddenly, i resented her, but i managed to keep my cool. “do you live on campus?”
“no, off,” she said, then added, “i live with my boyfriend.”
“oh.” this was obviously my cue to exit, but for some reason, i remained with her. i didn’t want to come across as being a typical guy who was only interested in one thing, even though i was. i was exactly that guy. at eighteen years old, who else could i have been? “how long have you been together?”
“seven months.” don’t care. tell me to go away now, please.
“cool.” idiot. say something stupid like, why don’t you ditch the zero and get with the hero? make her laugh at least. don’t be a creepy, monosyllabic moron.
“well, that’s my ride over there,” she said. she unlocked her ’87 corolla with the automatic keychain. beep. beep. thank god.
“alright, cool.”
“see you thursday.” thursday? what the hell was thursday? oh yeah. class. duh.

i don’t know what it is about bees that should make me recall this particular story. what happens, though, if bees knew that they had other options? what if they outright refused to serve the queen? would they fear growing old? would they think that their time spent on earth was being wasted? would they remember transient encounters, or view documentaries on other species?

since lena, i’ve had a number of equally awkward encounters. some have worked out; some have not. i still wonder about that first time, though, and all the anxiety, sweaty palms, and self-consciousness that surrounded it. ten years later, i continue to marvel at how the loneliness, the frustration of feeling voiceless and powerless, and the fear of growing old and bitter, became so overwhelming that it forced me to move.

even though i had failed, i take great comfort knowing that for the first time in my life, i knew exactly what i was supposed to do.
first, a dumb title in bold.

then, a random picture stolen from google images (always shown above) that has nothing to do with anything.

followed by some writing about something trivial: opinions, observations, and memories.

sometimes, another paragraph (or a few) about something completely unrelated, but equally unimportant.

finally, an attempt to be clever and profound, wrapping things up with a short, blunt statement.

that's about it.
go ahead and tell me.

go ahead and tell me what i'm doing wrong. i'm open to criticism. but not too critical, you know i can take things the wrong way sometimes. i know that more schooling is an option. it's just that, whenever i look at a school's website, the first link i usually look for is "tuition and costs," and the numbers make my stomach turn. after that, i look at requirements, and then there are those three evil letters: gre. most people will tell me that the scores don't really matter, but by the time i start believing them, i remember how long it's been since i've actually had to do a single math problem, and then i get super discouraged. so defeated in fact, that i just close the browser and then i don't visit the page for a long time. by the time i feel like i can actually do it this time, take the test, and apply and get over the fact that i'll be thousands of dollars in debt again, the application deadline has passed.

so, i say "screw it. who needs an mfa in creative writing anyway? it'll just be another useless degree because i'll never publish anything." and then i think, i'll just get a job. but not just any job. because the last time i worked at starbucks, everyone treated me like a freakshow when they found out i had already finished college. they called me "college grad" and eighteen year-old girls taking their first fiction class at ucsc told me to go sweep the floors and clean the toilets. i didn't mind doing it, mind you. i just didn't like being treated any more of an outsider than i already am.

so, yeah. retail is out of the question. if i did work retail it would have to be in another town because i might run into an old teacher, and that would be really embarrassing. not so much for me, but for her, you know. she'd be like, "i spent all those hours with you teaching you and building up your ego, and now here you are, just selling books and travel guides? what's the matter with you?" no, that wouldn't work at all. if that were the scenario, however, i'd have to tell her that i was just passing time until something more important came along, something like going to grad school, but then i'd have to relay all of paragraph one of this essay to her. and then she would just think i was crazy.

and anyway, there are some people that have never had to work retail. i was shocked when i found out a fellow volunteer never had to. he said, "no. fuck that!" with such a disdainful tone that i thought he might be onto something. but some friends say, "just do it. just so you can meet people and figure out what you want to do. who knows? you might even like it." and then i think that i'm so egoistic that i'm too good for retail. but then again, i hate our consumer culture, so why would i want to participate in it? because i know it's easy, and that any manager would be willing to take a chance on me if he only had to pay me $7.25 per hour.

but i think i'm worth more than $7.25 per hour. is that such a terrible thought? that i deserve fair treatment and benefits like health insurance for whatever it is i'm doing? i thought about working at a local record store again because i liked it at one point, but my cousin shot me down saying, "you're just gonna work at a record store?" and he said it like i had completely given up on myself, so i knew it was no longer an option.

maybe i'm not worth $7.25 an hour. maybe i'm not worth a damn nickel. there are people in this world who work for, and live on, a penny a day, why should i be any different? all over the world, there are people slaving away in sweatshops, breaking their backs in the fields, selling their bodies. why should i think myself special just because i read some literature and wrote some papers about it? i'm not special, and neither are you.

let's see. what else am i doing wrong? getting my hopes up for a non-existent state job, perhaps. my aunt tells me i'm a shoo-in, but after nearly ten months, i have my doubts. they all have these weird job descriptions, and they all want someone who has three years of something ridiculous like "management responsibilities and activities that conform to contracting laws." i started some stories that went nowhere, does that count? oh, and i update a blog full of self-defeating entries.

miranda july claims to not have had a "real" job in twelve years. i'd like to do what she does: make films, write books, play in a band. but where does one begin to embark on such a scatter-brained life? isn't that risky? no one i know in real life has done it. i could be the first. i could be a trailblazer, a real trend-setter, as they say. but no. in all likelihood, i will be ridiculed and i will fall apart.

people always say, "the older you get, the window of opportunity becomes smaller and smaller." all i've learned in the past few months is to completely ignore this. it doesn't matter. i'm not going to be a best-selling author or rocket scientist or rock star. i'm just going to be ordinary and forgotten. the sooner i can accept this and get over it, the better off i'll be. all i can do is try my best to win over a few people, and try hard, damn hard, to be uplifting and unpredictable.
smart versus stupid.

a friend and i talked once about what it means to be smart. the only time i ever felt smart was in elementary school, when i continually earned high honors, received flawless report cards, and proved that i was a better speller than anyone around. but then i got to high school, and i found that i wasn't smart at all. i struggled in accelerated classes, and i felt like no matter how hard i tried, i couldn't do very well. so, i stopped trying. i did the bare minimum and received average grades in return. it was a pretty rough transition. i've been thinking about why that is.

recently, i found out that my old elementary school, st. ignatius, was looking for a new fourth grade teacher. i visited their website, and i looked at the school schedule. basically, the fourth grade students go to mass in the morning, then off to p.e., recess, lunch, and then computers or science class. on average, the teacher only performs direct instruction about three hours a day. i reported my findings to my cousin, whose son, lorenzo, will be a fourth grader in the fall. "yeah," he said, "the teachers there do nothing. that's what i'm paying for." his wife, renata, joined in: "and they all have aides. sometimes the aides do all the work. teachers sometimes leave the school for hours to go get food." they seemed upset at the whole situation, and i wondered why they didn't send their kid someplace else.

private schools like st. ignatius offer only one thing: security. children are never allowed to walk home by themselves. my cousin, currently an eighth grader, remarked once, "my friend got caught walking home from school, and she got in trouble." i was driving her home from school, and as she said this, i noticed a small girl, most likely a first grader, crossing the street alone, holding a discman. it's amazing how private schools continue to capitalize on this false sense of security. there lies an unspoken belief that private school kids are more special and precious than all those other miscreants.

i think about the disparity between the lives of children who attended (and still attend) schools like st. ignatius in sacramento, ca, and notre dame elementary in watsonville, ca, versus children in overcrowded, inner-city public schools. the former aren't allowed to walk home, but the latter have no other choice. the former, in their relatively smaller classrooms, receive extra attention from teachers, while the latter get passed on, even if they can't read.

so what does it mean to be "smart?" is it all just a matter of privilege? recently, my friend told me about a party she went to, where a group of young, educated adults made judgmental comments about how "stupid" they thought some people were. she felt that this group of educated individuals will "always be ahead; they don't know what it is to be anything other than privileged and educated." the foundation for the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor.

i feel like i'm constantly sitting on the fence. i've always attend private schools, but i never felt like i belonged there. i have one college-educated mother and a father who didn't finish high school. one side of my family has college degrees and careers, while my other half of the family does not. one of my best friends from high school went on to college, while my other best friend more or less gave up on himself. i volunteered and saw how radically different "the other half" lives. i want to do something creative and worthwhile, but i don't know what.

jill schulz once said, "i wonder what life is all about. it seems to me that we have a few tragedies or we win a few prizes and then it is all over."
last words.

i don't know when this blog will ever end. sometimes i wish it would, and other times, i firmly believe it's the only thing holding me together. in any case, i would want the last words to be simply:

thanks for reading.

but then, of course, i would expect a true friend to follow up with a comment like:

you fool. get it together.
the best shitty job.

keith was a real asshole when i first met him. he didn't say much to anyone, and when he did, he always kept it blunt and short. he wore glasses and always kept a short beard. the first time i worked with him at tower records, he acted like i wasn't even there. when my supervisor, ricky, introduced us, i extended my hand, anticipating a shake, but keith just walked on by. ricky gave a nervous laugh, signaling an apparent inside joke that i was too new to understand. i was dumbfounded, but not hurt. i was more surprised that someone could be so callous towards someone he didn't even know. what the hell was that? who was this guy?

a few nights later, keith would grumble, "so, what kind of music do you like?" i mentioned a few bands, the only one i truly remember namedropping was weezer, but keith remained stoic, as though he was expecting me to name "safe" bands that i felt he could identify with. i didn't try to further engage the conversation by asking what music he liked, as i just assumed he would say nothing and walk away again. the intercom broke the awkward silence that ensued: "keith, phone call, line 4." keith picked up the phone and chatted casually with his friend, stu. i don't remember much of the conversation, but my ears perked up when i heard him say, "i'm working with the new guy. he's pretty cool. he likes weezer." i felt, at that moment, i had finally won the respect of the store's veteran elitist.

we hung out more and more, mostly during store hours, and sometimes at lunch. mostly, keith would recommend "essential" music, and every time i claimed ignorance to, say, a certain pixies or delgados record, both keith and ricky would become hysterical. "how could you not own this?" they would say, or "that's perverse!" defeated, but also curious about these supposedly life-changing records, i would bundle them up with a rubber band and stick them in the holds cubbyhole under "j," and purchase them after work, employee discount included. it was always a thrill to close up shop at midnight, open my new cd, and pop it into the store's main stereo system, where we remaining closers would be subjected to a "planet of sound."

despite our budding friendship and his music recommendations, there was still something a little unsettling about keith. he was, essentially, a sunny day real estate song personified. he played everyone hot and cold, and when he was upset, he didn't hesitate to make it known. i remember a certain occasion when he snapped at a customer: "just be patient." luckily, the customer was apparently used to being treated like a dog. either that, or he just didn't care. maybe he had a real career and simply felt bad for us peons working in customer service for minimum wage.

another time, i was running low on one dollar bills in my register, but as there were only two hours remaining, i figured i could make it through the night. around eleven o'clock, however, there was a surge, and i didn't have enough change for a customer. i called keith over the intercom. it took him a while, since he was counting out in the backroom, so i repeatedly apologized to the customer, who didn't seem to mind. as you might imagine, people buying rap cds at eleven o'clock at night don't really have anywhere else to be. keith finally showed, a stack of one-dollar bills in his hand. he pulled out twenty-five dollars and stuck the wad of one-dollar bills into the far right slot. he slammed my register. "you should've said something earlier," he said grimly. "sorry," i said, "i didn't think i was..." but before i could finish, he stormed off. this left me in a sour mood for the rest of the night.

he never apologized for the incident, and i never expected him to. that's kind of how things worked at the store. he would blow up at a co-worker, and instead of apologizing, he would just start a conversation about music, or else invite him to lunch. the more we hung out, the more we found that we shared the same taste in music, but also an inability to approach pretty girls that frequented the store. "pretty girls make graves. i like the band, but the smiths song is better," he would say.

keith also liked that i called everything "gay." i don't know why i did this. as a former jesuit student at an all-boys school, i hated the homophobes more than the homophobes hated gay people. but for some reason, i found it amusing to insert some gay word into bands and lyrics and just about everything else. it was more than just saying, "that's hella gay." calling things gay became a huge hit at the store, and finally, i was part of the inside joke. and the more vulgar we were, the better. for instance, the opening lyrics to death "fag" for cutie's "styrofoam plates" with a new gay twist would become: "there's a saltwater-cock in your tight, bleeding asshole." likewise, we would get peanut-buster parfaits from fairy queen, and a bean and cheese burrito from "gaytos" (betos).

keith used to play bass in a band called salinger, and they got legendary music producer steve albini to record their only ep. when the band couldn't sell the surplus of records they had ordered, keith gave them away to employees. the songs were pretty good, but merely echoed 90's indie rock influences who barely had more than a cult following themselves; bands like silkworm, sebadoh, pavement, etc. but unlike their predecessors, salinger wasn't really poppy or rocking, or anything at all, really. in essence, the band essentially reflected who keith was, or at least who he appeared to be: moody, in his own world, expressing a deep desire to just be left alone.

keith and i gossiped about the girls we worked with. "lindsay's cute," he said, "but she's got dragon breath." when i told him that our co-worker, moriah, was taking an advanced calculus class, he waved it off. "big whoop," he said, making a jerking off motion with his hand. one day, a girl named adrienne came into the store. she was our co-worker, kate's, friend. adrienne talked to me and keith about music, and how she was excited that she got to meet members of a band called sugarcult. we kept our judgments to ourselves. in count-out, i asked him what he thought of adrienne. he was his usual blunt self, quickly asserting, "she's fuckable." he didn't normally talk about women this way, and i thought that maybe he was trying to be funny. "she seemed really excited to have met sugarcult," i said. "yeah. sugarcult," he said. we both laughed. "why would anyone admit to meeting sugarcult?" "i don't know," he said. we then proceeded to take turns imitating adrienne, claiming to have met such bands as three doors down and matchbox twenty.

i know what you're thinking. what a bunch of judgmental pricks. that's probably the reason you stopped buying records from the store, to avoid people like us. but we couldn't help it. at $6.25 per hour, we had to have something that could make us stand out. instead of building relationships, we built massive music collections. it was like a secret code, or an eternal inside joke, one you couldn't be a part of, unless you were buying agætis byrjun. life was too short to spend it listening to the radio. then again, i supplemented my collection with a lot of terrible girl pop, but that's a different story...

i came back to work at tower two consecutive summers during college. keith was still there, like so many others. he started going out with adrienne, the girl he merely passed off as "fuckable" in the not-too-distant past. they lived together in a one-bedroom apartment in sacramento. my cousin and i visited them every now and then, but never stayed too long, since their two cats, fat louie (from the princess diaries) and mr. arizona (fast and the furious) gave me violent allergy attacks. on one particular visit, my cousin and i were weeding out keith's massive collection, since we were preparing for another amoeba records invasion. adrienne came in to announce that she had gotten a job at kaiser hospital. the three of us more or less ignored her. when dealing with music, nothing else existed.

adrienne left the room, and then keith did, too. my cousin and i were still in our own little world. "why the fuck does he still have these dave matthews records?" "i don't know. pull them out." "eminem?! alanis morrisette?! what the fuck?" keith came back into the bedroom. "adrienne's upset." "why? about what?" "she was upset that you guys didn't congratulate her about her new job." "oh," my cousin said, "should we apologize?" "no," keith said, "it's alright. but you guys should probably go. it's getting late, anyway." "alright. man, sorry about that."

keith and adrienne eventually got married. i was still in seattle, so i couldn't attend. my cousin said he wasn't invited. adrienne kept working for kaiser, making good money. meanwhile, tower records folded, and keith, then working at tower's corporate offices in west sac, was laid off. this, i assume, took a heavy toll on both of them. at one point, adrienne decided that she was going to radically alter the course of her life by joining the navy, and keith had every intention of following her to the naval base in monterey. it turned out, though, that her placement would be in chicago, but this drastic relocation didn't sway him, either.

as the story goes, from what keith told me, he drove with her all the way to chicago in the car he owned, and once there, she jilted him. she kept his car. heartbroken and broke, he was forced to retreat back to california. unsure of what to do with himself, he moved back in with his parents in grass valley, ca, where he continues to work today at the local target. he has plans to move to san francisco with ricky, and the two of them want me to join them.

i have to admit i'm hesitant about it. i just can't envision three music nerds living together. will things be different, or would we still be the same music junkies, browsing the used vinyl sections every free moment we got? i'd like to think that that part of my life is over, and that it's time to move on. but move on to what?

it's hard to imagine that i'm now the age that the two of them were when i first met them at tower, seven years ago. at the time, i wondered about them, even worried about them. who were these individuals in their mid-twenties, still working retail? was there something wrong with them? why didn't they have real jobs and families of their own?

the last time i saw ricky was in september, and he wanted to meet up at the last remaining tower records store, the one located on broadway, renamed r5 records. as we walked through the dark parking lot across the street, he said, "i hate to admit it, but that shitty job really was the best job i ever had." "i know," i said, "i feel that way, too, sometimes."
one man guy.

i listened to rufus wainwright's "one man guy" when i drove to watsonville last week. it made me want to live in a log cabin at the foot of a mountain, shaded by redwoods or whatever ancient giant trees would grow nearby. our pots and pans would be nailed to the walls, and we'd have dirt floors. we'd also have a porch. and on that porch, we'd sing songs you could sing along to, songs like "one man guy."
part of the problem.

i think it's funny how white folks like to pretend that they care about other races and about diversity. what made me think of this was watching brooke white perform "teach your children" with graham nash on idol. in the background, they showed a video montage of poor children of different races in schools and on the playground and whatnot. what a joke. it makes me think about when i worked for the red cross, and how my boss wanted me to co-create a young professionals group. the young professionals group was supposed to be a group of high-profile individuals who would volunteer and, in turn, get others to volunteer for the chapter.

this was the beginning of my disillusionment with non-profits.

so, i was asked to co-create this group with a co-worker, crystal, who had done americorps the previous year and now had an actual job at the chapter. i acted like i had good ideas to get this group started, but mostly i waited for crystal to make clear what she wanted to happen. mostly, i felt like i was getting in the way. i had no contacts, and i had no idea how to get a bunch of relatively young people excited about starting a young professional group. what did it matter to me if this chapter sank or swam? it didn't. exactly.

crystal was well-connected in the community, and immediately, she found contacts for persons who worked for microsoft, the gates foundation, re-max, etc. suddenly, i fully grasped thom yorke's lament from "paranoid android": "the yuppies networking..." together, we sat around tables and bounced ideas around for this young professionals group. through our research, we discovered that other chapters had successfully run golf tournaments to raise amounts up to $30,000. i couldn't help but wonder, why can't americorps have some sort of tournament and give me a real salary rather than a lousy stipend? was i inherently lazy, or was my apathy a direct result of my low wages?

as a sidenote, i should say, as i always have, that americorps has great potential. but the government can't expect to fix entire communities strictly on idealism. volunteers need real health insurance, not discounts or rebates. they need to be treated with dignity, and they need to know that it's really up to them. there's such a disconnect for recent graduates who go into americorps. they're used to following directions and writing academic essays. with no supervision, no accountability, most of these new volunteers are going to hang back and wait for further instructions.

at least, that's what i did for my entire first year. it occurred to me earlier in the year that nobody cared what i was doing, so i didn't do anything. last one in, first one out, with a two-hour lunch break in there somewhere. i had no projects and no idea what i was supposed to do, or what i could potentially do, so i drew cartoons ("kathleen's coffee") and entered my 2,000 something cds into a microsoft excel database. i wasn't a self-starter. but i think it's hard to be when you're on foodstamps and you have no other choice but to feel bad for splurging part of your measly paycheck on a non-matinee movie.

anyway, i've definitely sidetracked. this young professionals group was the stupidest thing i had ever heard of. i really didn't want to meet young professionals, and i wasn't impressed with their careers. with the exception of one extra-caffeinated girl named sara, they looked like an unhappy lot. they mostly sat around and listened to crystal and me talk about plans for the group. the whole time, i could only think, what the fuck are these people doing here? do they really care about volunteering, or are they just looking to meet chicks?

out of laziness or a genuine desire to make me feel useful, crystal decided that i would lead half of the start-up meetings for the group. i really didn't want to, but i agreed. knowing that my next paycheck was going to be $428 (net), and that my college degree read: "english w/ emphasis on creative writing," and the fact that i dicked around all year didn't exactly make me feel qualified to do such a thing. most of the committee members were white folks. i think there was one asian girl, the girl who worked for microsoft, but that was it.

this bothered my boss, lisa, as well as crystal. "we need to think of ways to diversify the group." well, that's tough, since you're looking for well-paid members of the corporate world. i didn't understand this need to diversify. most likely, they weren't looking for any black residents from the central district, where my girlfriend and i lived during the year. what they meant by diversity was probably a few more asians and possibly a clean-cut indian guy who was good at computers. i told another americorps volunteer about their plans for diversification. "look at the chapter," she scoffed, "it's run by a bunch of white lesbians." good old abrasive melissa.

a friend used to tell me that most white people don't understand that they're a part of the problem. that by merely existing and going to work, they are making things terrible for everyone. i didn't really understand what she was getting at until i read white privilege by tim wise. it's brooke white singing on stage while a black face gets flashed on screen. it's comments that your grandparents and possibly even your parents make. it's gated communities and "academically" segregated schools. it's much more than just making a fleeting judgment call that ends with "dude, that's so racist." it's being called someone else's name.

i was sitting in the back of the van with the americorps group once, and someone made some crack about asians. i didn't get offended, though, since i was among "friends." i was used to it by then. as an asian-american, you don't really get upset about it because you don't get it as bad as the blacks or mexicans, and you make yourself think that it's no big deal. and maybe it isn't a big deal. maybe we live in an age that focuses too much on being politically correct, and everyone is already too uptight about everything, so we should just let it go. but maybe that shit lingers, builds and metastasizes to the point where members excluded from the dominant group think that they don't belong there at all.

i remember reading this young adult book once when i was in elementary school. the main character was this boy who told a lot of jokes, and he had a good friend who was a girl, and she would laugh at all his jokes. she had a good sense of humor, but when he started a joke that went, "so there's a polish guy, a white guy, and a black guy..." her face dropped, and she told him that he shouldn't tell jokes like that.

i always wanted to end up with a girl like that.
no, twelve.

today, i watched the french film avenue montaigne, known as Fauteuils d'orchestre in its country of origin. it follows a little nobody who waitresses in a high-profile restaurant so that she can hobnob with the stars. other than the predictable, easily-digested ending, the film was pretty good.
there it goes, slips away.

the hornets lost today. i was kind of expecting them to. "don't get your hopes up," my cousin warned. "that always happens in the nba. the underdog team plays strong, but in the end, they lose." because i now recognize this as true, i vow to never again watch the nba playoffs. that is, until next year, when golden state or the hornets or the kings or whatever unlikely team again makes the playoffs only to lose to another boring team like the spurs or lakers. why do you keep falling for it? because you're stupid, that's why!

tonight, i biked home in the dark. "you're not biking home tonight," my aunt ordered. i told her i would be fine. after all, i had a light. it's weird how i still feel like a kid when someone tells me something like this. it makes me think about my chances of getting jumped, or else getting to an accident, thoughts i don't really want to have. when i worked at tower, my co-worker, keith, got jumped by a group of hoodlums. they stole his backpack and a bunch of cds he had on him. when i opened up his copy of mark kozelek's what's next to the moon? i saw that he had a burned copy in place of the original. "what happened to your cd?" i asked. "i got robbed," he said.

sometimes i get these petty criminals, and other times i don't. on one hand, i understand that suburban living and catholic school can be so dull that kids sometimes have to huff glue and drive 120 miles an hour to their deaths on the corner of arden and fulton. on the other hand, i don't get people jumping each other. if you really want to jack some cds, go to the record store. if you really want to steal money, hold up a bank. why rob some random person? he might have really crappy taste in music, and chances are, these days, he won't have more than a few dollars to his name.

i'm lucky enough to never have been robbed, beat up, or had my car broken into. i can't imagine how i might react. i can only assume that two things would happen. one, i would cower in fear and give the assailant anything he wanted. two, i would get an adrenaline rush and not care and beat this person to a bloody pulp. unfortunately, i think it would all just depend on how i might be feeling that day.

i've got nothing tonight. i'm not feeling it.
make art! make art!

well, what do you think?
what do you mean what do i think? i think it's obvious. he's sorely unhappy.
how can you tell?
he's being really quiet.
but he's always been quiet!
well, maybe he's always been sorely unhappy. ever think of that?

i knocked on the door. she was home. we greeted each other, but we did not hug. we decided we would just get to where we were going. the first house we looked at was really cool. a yellow fixer-upper, dead smack in the middle of watsonville. and at $1150 for a 2bd/1b, it was a steal. a steal for that area, anyway. we peeked in through the windows to see the spacious bedrooms, hardwood floors, and newly remodeled kitchen. the backyard was basically an endless field, nothing but hay and grass and weeds. i pictured the two of us throwing parties, having people mingle on the porch with drinks in their hands. "yeah, we live here," we'd brag. "we're awesome."

i asked her if she'd like to go to manresa beach, where my cousins were holding their bi-annual camping trip barbecue extravaganza. "yeah, but do you think we should check out this house off freedom first?" "sure," i said. we drove along freedom, the scenic-country drive that runs parallel to highway 1 for a good twenty minutes. "it's on a christmas tree farm," she said. "so if you see christmas trees, we must be close." we drove and drove, but there were no christmas trees. at last, we decided it was time to give up.

we headed to the camp site. "it's at manresa beach," i told her, and she told me how to get there. we got to the beach, but i had forgotten where the camp site was located. "do you mind if we wait for david (pronounced, "dah-veed")?" "no, not at all." i got out of the car to trim my fingernails. "the last time i saw you, you were trimming your fingernails," she said. "yeah," i said, "i was." david didn't show. he had gotten to the camp site before us. i began to head toward the camp site, at first in the wrong direction, but i finally realized my error. at last, we found it. we parked in the twenty minute parking area.

david, aimee, and i walked. "they're at site 37 and 38," i said. the year before, meagan and i had tried to visit my cousins at the camp site, but i didn't have the foresight to figure out where exactly they were located. i had no idea the place was so widely spread out, and when i tried to call, my bars dropped, and the "emergency calls only" sign flashed. this is an emergency, goddamnit. we paid $6, we're starving, and we have no idea where we are. this time, though, i learned from my mistake. while aimee and david used the restrooms, i interrupted some campers to find out where to go.

and so david, aimee, and i walked, but this time, in the right direction. marie was the first to greet us. "you found us!" she exclaimed. "yeah, ha. we did." david looked visibly uncomfortable stealing hot dogs from off the picnic table, even when i tried to encourage him. "you can have some more," i said, "there's plenty." he refused. i'm like constanza, i thought, i can always sense the slightest suffering. david and aimee clung to each other, as i thought about what to do. i knew i had to move my car. one ticket, the slightest infraction, the slightest fee, would be a loud, fateful rap on the door of my undoing.

aimee and david decided they would leave, using the cold as an excuse. i had no excuse, and anyway, i genuinely wanted to visit with family for a while. i moved my car and trekked back to the site. my cousins and i sat and chatted, and by cousins, i mean mostly eric. i felt bad when i noticed my cousin, francis, was left out of the conversation, so i tried to start something up. only thing is, i never know what to bring up. i guessed that i could bring up the nba playoffs, but i think that we generally discussed that earlier. "so, have you been busy at work?" "oh yeah," he said, "especially now that the weather's been better. we're seeing all kinds of trauma emergencies. bike accidents, water-skiing accidents, stuff like that." "oh. wow." at this point, this guy named kelsey intervened. "have you guys seen the movie once?" "yeah!"

i couldn't believe this guy, kelsey. he didn't look a day over eighteen, and already he was engaged to this girl, jess, who was sitting next to him. she looked younger than he did. they mentioned things like modest mouse, you and me and everyone we know, and they even looked slightly interested in the bogosian play i returned to my cousin. well-adjusted namedroppers. where do they come from? what makes them think that things will work out?

do you think it's going to work out?
i don't know. he seemed interested over the phone.
but now?
but now he's acting really aloof. like he's not trying very hard.
did he call anyone?
no, i made most of the calls.
what's he gonna do?
he said he was going to sub, or try to work at a co-op.
hmm, that might be good.

eric and i walked down to the beach with uncle nanding and marie's son, eli. "i have to go to the bathroom!" eli said, as we stepped into the sand. i had to go, too, but knew better than to try my luck in a dark port-o-potty. "looking at this really puts me in my place," eric said. i agreed. the dark water seemed like it could rise any moment, and cover the entire world. i thought about that walk rachel, meagan, glenn and i took down the beach, the one that seemed would never end, until finally someone spoke up and asked glenn where he was taking us. "nowhere," he said. "i was just walking with you guys."

the four of us walked back to the camp site. i decided it was getting late, and that i'd better go. in the dark, i walked back with eric's parents, my aunt and uncle. "where's your girlfriend?" he asked. my aunt answered for me: "she's in school." this is all anyone asks me. with no job, no grad school, no conceivable plans for the future, in the words of neil young, "i have a friend i never see." so how about those hornets, uncle?

today, aimee, david and i drove around to look at apartments in the santa cruz area. we went to an open house that had two upstairs bedrooms available. the owner, a short, older woman named patricia showed us around. there was significant water damage to the wall in one of the closets. her house was kind of messy, and there was some old music playing loudly on the radio, like a true deranged artist lived there. she also said that she didn't want us to bring any kitchen supplies. "what did you think?" aimee asked. "i thought it was okay." "she seemed like a bohemian." "yeah." "she's like an artist or something." "yeah." it boggled my mind how a struggling artist could afford to keep a four bedroom house to herself in santa cruz. i voiced this query aloud. "old money, probably," david offered.

we went to the river arts festival. i walked behind aimee and david, their arms interlocked with one another. suddenly, i realized that we were the only three minorities within miles. then came more and more white people. tie-dyed t-shirts. people playing guitar. rasta hats. hookah, whatever that is. soy nuggets. eco-friendly. hybrid cars. tie-dyed dresses. co-ops. veganism and bikram yoga. organic drinks. 420-friendly. community bulletins. a group of four college girls laughing together over coffee. i suddenly thought of that scene in into the wild where the main character decides he's going to get an i.d. card and a social security number, and return to civilization. it's obvious his adventure is over. but then he sees a well-dressed guy his age, sitting in a restaurant, laughing with his girlfriend. that's all it takes. he decides that he doesn't want to have anything to do with society anymore.

sometimes i worry that i'm that impulsive, that isolated, and that the only thing that sets me apart is that i lack any spirit of adventure. it was probably then that i realized i didn't want to live in santa cruz, or san francisco, or anywhere, really. i would like to learn to "live off the grid," as my cousin put it, but i just don't know how. not yet anyway. all that's certain is that i don't fit here, and that my attitude about everything always sucks, and i don't know how to fix it. all i can do is ask you about work, and all you can do in return is ask me about a friend i never see.

so, what do you think you're gonna do?
hopefully i can find a one-bedroom.
you could always live in the dorms.
yeah, but that would be expensive.
i don't think it's that much.
we'll see. anyway, here he comes.

i decided i wanted to take a nap. i had a headache. "it's probably the heat," aimee suggested. "yeah, could be," i said. "i was thinking about taking a nap, too." "okay," i said. i awoke an hour later to the buzzing of my cell phone. surprisingly, the caller was identified as dong. having turned down my last four consecutive requests to hang out in san francisco, i figured he was finally calling to tell me that our friendship was over, and that actually, we never even were friends. "i've found someone cooler," he might say, "someone who can think positively about everything." "that's wonderful," i would answer, "i'm going to remove you from my phonebook now." in reality, he was calling with a guitar question. "is it bad to take off all the strings at once?" "no," i said, "it doesn't matter." goodbye. goodbye.

my phone rang again. i heard only mumbling. "who's calling?" "amy." "oh. hey. how's it going?" at this point, she realized she called the wrong person. "oh," she said, "i was trying to call my friend, james." i hadn't earned the title of friend yet. "no problem." goodbye. goodbye. then my mom called. "when are you coming home?" sigh. "tonight, probably." i have accomplished nothing, mom. i may never accomplish anything. you have raised a son who will forever remember that he was born on a wednesday, the day of sorrow, and he will never do anything with his life. i'm sorry it had to be this way.

it was too bright and sunny to sleep, so i decided to read some more schulz and peanuts. after a few pages, marianna and her betrothed, jerry, arrived. she was pretty, just as everyone had built her up to be. she looked like the girl who worked the bellarmine desk, the only girl my roommate, tony meatballs, and i could agree on. they introduced themselves, and i went back to reading.

from schulz and peanuts:
- he himself would assert only that there was 'something wrong with somebody who has thoughts like that.'
- question: why is it that as soon as a person states his ambition, everyone tries to discourage him? answer: because you're stupid, that's why!
- you didn't think well of yourself, and if you did, you didn't show it.
- almost all of us, if not all of us, have the desire to be somebody. this doesn't mean that you necessarily want to be rich and famous or anything like that, but you want to be somebody.

i read for an hour or two, then decided i would wait until aimee woke up before i left. she caught me reading. "i heard he (schulz) was depressed." "yeah, i think so," i said. my mom had said the same thing. i don't think he was depressed, though. he simply had schulz syndrome: an inability or unwillingness to find his place among others. i think any thoughtful person who is willing to slow down his life will find that he suffers from schulz syndrome. but i don't know. maybe it is depression, what do i know?

i told aimee i was leaving, and that it would probably be easier to find a one-bedroom. i made up excuses about state jobs and uncertainty, and all that other crap that had been weighing on my mind all weekend. she understood. of course she did, she was aimee. jerry and marianna appeared, too, saying that they were going to go play tennis. two people in love, going to play some tennis. i left before them, and filled up my car. gas was $4.11 a gallon. i had no idea until i started pumping. as i drove deeper into the santa cruz fog, i was overcome with a great sadness. i couldn't identify the source.

all i could think about was a line from schulz and peanuts that i had just recently read: "he later recalled a wild sense of drawing close, of being whole and complete, instead of feeling, as he so often did, lost and alone."
scatter the mulch.

early yesterday morning, my cousin and i went to get mulch from smud. on 59th street, while trying to make a left turn, i wasn't sure if i was supposed to yield to a driver in oncoming traffic who was trying to make a right turn. i hesitated, and the people behind me honked. it annoys me when people honk in this town. it's not san francisco. you don't have to be anywhere important. do you know where you are? you're in sacramento. you have no place to be, and there's no reason to be in a rush. it's hotter than hell and it sucks here, so keep your hands off the fucking horn. assholes.

smud is a giant, complex place. there are many trucks there, and lots of people who walk around with hard hats, as though they have very important work to do. "maybe i should work for smud," i said aloud. "didn't they go bankrupt?" "i don't know. probably." we drove in a long, inefficient circle until we finally found the big mulch area. it was basically just a half rectangle of wall with all the mulch pushed up against the wall. there was an old couple with a truck, and they were filling up. my cousin and i filled up two big garbage bags, not even completely full, and we agreed that that was probably enough. "that should be enough," i said. "alright," he said. we threw the bags in the trunk and drove away.

minutes later, we had to pick up our other cousin from school. as we entered the st. ignatius parking lot, i searched for a common bond between us. "i hate being here. even though i don't know anyone here anymore, i still hate coming here." "i just try not to look at anyone," he said. we had some time to kill, so my cousins decided they wanted to see iron man. there isn't much selection in the theaters these days. i didn't object, since i knew that anything playing was going to be horrible. and anyway, in my mind, i've typecast robert downey, jr. forever as editor terry crabtree from his role in wonder boys. crabs was now just going to put on an iron suit and blow stuff up. i could deal.

the movie wasn't awful. it's the kind of movie you could picture an educated adult watching on tbs or tnt on a lonely saturday night. it had to do with weapons manufacturing, and i hoped that it was subversive enough to get children everywhere thinking about taking down raytheon and lockheed and martin when they get older. but it probably wasn't. instead, what they'll probably come away with is that if they work hard enough in life, they can afford fast cars, a giant beach house in malibu, and a private jet full of scandalous stewardesses. god help us.

during the movie, i had nothing else to think about, so i started thinking about weapons manufacturing. while i know nothing about the subject, i know that it's probably a long, complicated process, one that involves a lot of science and numbers and experimenting and money. all that time and energy and money put into something that's just going to blow up. it doesn't make any sense. who do you have to be to say i'm going to go to school so that i can create weapons to be used in foreign lands?

speaking of people dedicating lots of time to something so frivolous, i went with the rich bitch to his friend's rock band party. for those of you lucky enough to stay away from the modern technological era, rock band is a video game for the xbox 360 that is part guitar hero, part karaoke, and part drum hero, if there is such a thing. basically, there is a list of songs to choose from, and up to four people can delude themselves into thinking that they are actually playing the song by pressing colored buttons, hitting drum pads, and singing off-key. as rich's friend and his three buddies displayed their superior ability to rally up 1,000,000 points, i sunk deeper into my existential dilemma, thinking things like, if people can dedicate this much time to perfecting something so trivial, why can't they work together to produce something meaningful? even just making real music would be a start.

let's just fast-forward, full speed ahead into a world where everything is virtual and we no longer have to think, feel, or act. a good start.
pipe dreams, dad. i'm a janitor's son.

my dad called my mom tonight to tell her that he'd gotten written up by his supervisor. for those of you out of touch with low-wage jobs, an employee gets written up whenever he errs or steps out of line. in my dad's case recently, it was the latter. as the story goes, my dad works with a muslim guy, and my dad doesn't like this guy, most likely because he's muslim. in all fairness, though, the muslim has been working for uc davis for two years, and my dad has been there for ten years, so he deserved to feel slightly indignant when the muslim allegedly told him how to do his job. when my dad told the muslim to leave him alone, the muslim reported this incident to their supervisor.

things escalated to the point where my dad said, "fuck you" to the muslim. it's hard to imagine this scenario, since my dad never says anything, and he especially never swears. whatever the muslim said or did, he must've had it coming. and tattle-tale that he is, the muslim again reported this incident to their supervisor, and this led to an actual write-up. my dad claims, though, that he wasn't able to tell his side of the story, and so my dad called up their union rep. the union rep said, next time, just walk away. but they're still going to talk to about it.

it's depressing to think about two low-wage custodians bickering with each other. they should be unified and demand a free education from uc davis for their work. sometimes i'll see my dad lying on the couch, and i'll wonder, is this all you wanted out of life? i know this couldn't possibly be his dream - an educated yet unemployed son, a mother who hates her job and continually has to wonder about the right time to retire. i think about what he thinks about his accomplishments. maybe coming to america and being a homeowner was enough. i just don't get why he didn't ever try to learn an instrument, or write a book, or draw a comic strip.

he took adult education classes when i was in elementary school. he stopped going, though, when the math got too difficult. another factor might've been that the adult education school, winterstein, was located just a few blocks from my elementary school, and he was aware that parents from my school saw his car there. "tell your classmates he teaches there next time," my mom advised. luckily, no one ever mentioned it again, so i didn't have to lie about it.

i had already lied enough times to save face. "my dad's a pilot," i once told my kindergarten class. to be fair, though, at the time, i really thought my dad did have something to do with airplanes. he told me he visited mcclellan air force base once, so what else was i to conclude? a few months later, i realized my dad actually wasn't a pilot. but my classmate, jennifer, must've been quite impressed because she remembered this until the third grade, and i had to unfortunately admit to everyone it wasn't true.

the truth was, my dad was unemployed. he was unemployed at the worst time, too, during those early years of my private schooling where all friendships and social circles were based on a continual game of one ups manship. "my dad's a doctor. what does yours do?" i don't know. "how could you not know?" i don't know. "why don't you ask him and tell us tomorrow." okay. i couldn't believe that teachers would actually make us share our parents' professions with everyone. each time, i squirmed in my seat, dreading the moment i would have to plead ignorance. "my mom's a nurse, and my dad...well, i don't know what he does."

what the hell did he do during those five years of unemployment? he went to to-toy's a lot, some filipino wigmaster who lived near antelope, and he would go to the broker. i vividly remember him dropping me off at my grandparents' or else my cousin's house, and he would say he was going to to-toy's, or to the broker. at the age of seven or eight, i suspected momentarily that he was having an affair, but i quickly brushed it off. our lives couldn't possibly be exciting enough for an affair.

before i entered st. ignatius, my dad owned a store called mike's food store on 28th and capitol. it was a little convenience store run by my dad and his family. i was too young to remember any of it, but there was a little backroom where i once took a nap, and my mom told me not to sleep there ever again, since there were cockroaches. i also remember eating drumsticks from the mini-freezer. it was cool to just take something, eat it, and not have to pay for it. i also remember hearing about the store getting held-up by thieves. once, an fbi agent came looking for patty hearst. there was one point, too, where my dad came home everyday with a five-dollar bill just for me. i saved it up as best i could, but my best wasn't good enough. my savings was gone by the end of summer.

then, when i was four, i was sitting on my parents' bed, and i was watching tv with my mom. he came through the door and triumphantly announced, "i sold the store!" we were both shocked. i can't help but wonder now what he was thinking. i try to recall how the scene played out, but the details are hazy. i could be imagining this, but i think my mom asked something to the effect of, well, what the hell are you gonna do now? and my dad sat down, dumbfounded. his face said it all: i don't know. i guess i really didn't think this through. but i could be wrong. maybe he did have a plan, and it just didn't work out. either way, he was jobless for the next five years.

by the fourth or fifth grade, i could finally tell people that my dad owned a care home. a care home was just a regular home, except that it housed mentally retarded patients. that's what my dad did. well, he didn't actually own the home - his sister, my aunt, did - and he didn't really "run" it, either. he paid a woman named jeanie to live there and watch the mentally retarded women. except they weren't really mentally retarded, like you would think. they didn't have down's syndrome like our neighbor did, and they could function just like normal people. the only thing was, some of them were schizophrenic, and some claimed they heard voices. they also suffered from depression and drug abuse. they also smoked a lot.

my dad's main duty was to drive them to appointments and to pay the house bills. but i couldn't just say my dad was a chauffeur for mentally retarded women. no, he was a "care home manager." people asked what that meant. "it's like a house for mental patients," i said. i tried to sound as vague as possible, hoping that people would picture him with a lab coat and stethoscope, directing his minions to take away the criminally insane in their stray jackets. yeah, my dad works in that big, creepy mental institution located on the hill. the kind of place where they administer shock treatments and lobotomies. it's pretty cool.

that didn't last, though. while he made good money from it, he eventually got tired of the bureaucracy or stigma or whatever it is that attaches itself to successfully managing a care home. he was unemployed again. thus, my answer had to change. "he used to run a care home, but he doesn't do that anymore." that was my actual answer. "between jobs" or "in transition" wasn't yet incorporated into my vocabulary. soon, though, by means of his brother, he acquired a position at enterprise rent-a-car, where the two of them drove cars from one location to another, usually from the foothills to the bay area. what does your dad do? "he works for enterprise rent-a-car." what does he do there? "i don't know."

after a short while, both brothers quit and found work as janitors at uc davis. by then, i was more grown up, and i shouldn't have cared then that this is what he did, but i did still care. all throughout childhood, it was made very clear to me that a good education was necessary to avoid becoming a garbageman or working at mcdonald's. do you want to clean toilets for the rest of your life? no? then do your homework and finish your dinner. how awful. i couldn't tell anyone. i still remember sitting in my college professor's office, and him asking me, that awful question, that personal question that got underneath my skin every time, ever since i can remember, and constantly made me feel bad that i couldn't admit to something so simple. clear evidence that i was ashamed of not just what he did, but who he was.

my mom's a nurse. and my dad, well, he works for uc davis.
what does he do there?
i don't know.
you don't know? how long has he been doing it?
eight years probably.
he's been there eight years, and you don't know what he does?
is he a professor?
no. i don't know, maybe he works in the offices or something.
hah. you should probably find that out.

i could feel my twenty-two year old face reddening. the shame of it all. now i wasn't just ashamed of my dad's profession. i was ashamed at myself for being ashamed of him. i thought about what my grandma, his mother, would think. ashamed of your dad, are you? you should be ashamed of yourself. you know, people up here in heaven don't look too kindly upon scenarios like this. the fact of the matter was that he was working, working very hard every night until 2 in the morning just so i could be here talking to this white man about my half-hearted attempts at short stories.

and now here i am again, writing, while my dad is inhaling chemicals and wringing mops just so we could drive our cars, run the air-conditioner and eat. i owe it to him to do something great, to become one of those people with the quintessential american story: he was just the son of a janitor, but look at him now, they'll say (yes, in scenarios of greatness and victory, they'll do the opposite and leave out my college-educated registered nurse of a mother). the son of a janitor, he is the first filipino-american to win a prize in...and then they would name the prize. it would most likely have the word "honorary" or "achievement" in there somewhere. they would call me a recipient, and this would make my dad very proud.

maybe there's something greater in accepting a quiet life, a life of humility and service. is it more noble to do the work no one else wants to do? how can we be noble if nobody's watching, and nobody gives a shit?

when i was in college, i often thought about how i would come back home and tell my parents, but especially my dad, about all these great short stories, about st. ignatius' idea of the "true self," about the allegory of the cave. i was going to return to the cave and rescue not just him, but everyone, from the shackles of reality television, dead-end jobs, and an unsustainable way of living. i was going to get everyone to rally behind me, and together, we were going to take down corporations, educate the poor, stop the war, and be healthy, well-connected human beings.

but it didn't happen. i forgot that, upon his arrival, the rescuer was ridiculed, and the prisoners refused to leave.

since then, i've been clawing at the dirt, and trying once again to find a way out.
eeeee eee eeee.

weird. so i was just about to head over to the rancho library to pick up schulz and peanuts, but i decided i wanted another book, too. i went to to see related books to the miranda july book i just finished, and one of the books was eeeee eee eeee by tao lin. here is a description of the book:

Poet and blogger Lin's debut novel uneasily documents the life of Andrew, a recent college graduate working at Domino's Pizza while over-analyzing every aspect of his life: past, present and futureless. He drives through the suburbs reminiscing about college life in New York and his ex-girlfriend, stopping occasionally to express his boredom to his best friend Steve. When at one point, Andrew states that he wants to "wreak complex and profound havoc" upon capitalist establishments such as McDonald's, it feels like Lin is attempting the same kind of attack on organized art. The novel, while short on plot, makes abrupt shifts in setting and point of view, and is pierced throughout by celebrity cameos and surreal touches: bears, dolphins (who say "Eeeee Eee Eeee" to express emotion, in spite of their ability to speak like humans), Salman Rushdie, and the president make grandiose declarations that are heavily saturated with the same sardonic wit displayed by Andrew and his friends. The novel dips dangerously into metafiction, with Andrew in the middle of "writing a book of stories about people who are doomed." The characters' repetitive thoughts and conversations become strangely hypnotic, however, and Lin's sympathetic fascination with the meaning of life is full of profound and often hilarious insights.

needless to say, i have to find this book and read it as soon as possible.
over the edge.

at the plastiscines concert last month, the dj played video clips from random movies, and the words "blow up" kept showing up on the screen. there was one movie that looked kind of cool, and i had no idea what it was. "what movie is that?" i asked my cousin. he shrugged his shoulders. then, this evening, jacob linked me to a movie on youtube he claimed was made specifically for people like him and me. it was the same fucking movie! i only watched the first ten minutes because i don't think something this awesome should be seen with youtube quality. i will find the dvd and i will watch it.

my dad's been watching the filipino channel lately. i don't know if i've mentioned this already, but he traded in a bunch of channels (sundance, ifc, encore) just for that one channel. i normally wouldn't mind, but the filipino channel (tfc) is absolutely terrible. they have three game shows, wowowee, game knb?, and the singing bee, and the rest is soap operas. i guess that's how all channels are, but the filipinas on the game shows really get on my nerves. the reason being, they don't talk like normal filipinas. for some reason, the microphone transforms them into screaming banshees.

my cousin wanted to rent a jackie chan film earlier this week. i told him no. it's not just that i've had multiple students call me jackie chan to my face, or the fact that his movies are terrible. the fact that he's the biggest asian-american star in hollywood is a slap in the face to asian-americans everywhere. it'd be like if the only african-american actor continually starred in grape soda commercials, spoke ebonics and had his foot-long cock hanging out his jeans. i feel like this is how americans continue to perceive asian-americans: unable to speak english, good at martial arts, and oblivious to the fact that people are laughing at him, not with him. at least we've still got john cho. granted, his movies aren't masterpieces, either, but i'd rather be a stoner with an indian friend than someone who rumbles in the bronx.

if white men are supposedly obsessed with asian women, then how come we haven't heard of any of these women?
holes vs. humans.

humans: 3
holes dug: 2
holes remaining: 1

dad's decades-old pick-axe broke. i drove to ace hardware to buy a new one. at the store, i looked around at all the different gardening tools: shovels, pick-axes, axes, sledge-hammers, clippers, etc. having played grand theft auto iv for a good portion of the day, i thought about how many times these devices may have been used for evil. i found a pick-axe that would do the trick. i waited in line. a woman and her little girl were at the counter. a worker came between us with his mini-forklift, or automatic dolly, whatever it's called. the woman paid for whatever it was she was buying. "can she have some hard candy?" the clerk, an older gentleman, asked. "sure," the mother said. the clerk brought out a fishbowl from behind the counter, and lowered it so that the girl could reach in and pull out a red and white mint. "say 'thank you,'" the mother said. "thank you," said the girl.

after they left, i placed my pick-axe on the counter, feeling like a real man who has something really important to do. "i hope you're not digging a grave," the clerk replied. i hesitated for a moment, hoping that this would be the day i could magically transform into a compulsive liar and tell him an elaborate story about burying something, something random, like a george foreman grill or a flobee. i had nothing. "no, i'm not. just some holes to plant trees." "oh," he said, "you need help for that." "i've got my cousins." "well, there you go. you provide the brewskis in exchange for some labor." i pictured my ten year-old cousin popping open a bud light, then chugging his share as we watched the sun go down. "yeah," i told him. i paid, then drove back home, where my cousins were frantically trying to break the seemingly unbreakable earth.

it's a real good thing to be dirty and tired at the end of the day. i like to watch all the dirt gather in brown patches in the tub. i have to brush my teeth if i take a nap during the day, especially if i've eaten something. there's nothing worse than waking up to that bitter taste in my mouth. it's good to ride a light bike with solid tires, and to leave the house either before three o'clock, or after three o'clock because that's when the high school gets out, and there's a lot of traffic.

there's something about an old clerk who keeps a fishbowl of mints behind the counter. there's something about three cousins digging and digging, and not really knowing why. and about my aunt looking disappointed when she found out i would not be staying for dinner. it felt not like a monday, but a saturday, as a group of kids ran to the park to play a game. what about homework? i don't have any. what time do you have to be home? whenever.

dad: "is that six feet from the fence?"
yeah. probably.
dad: "did you measure it?"
mom: "you shouldn't work when it's windy like that. your allergies are bad."
it's fine.
mom: "don't go out when it's windy."
i'm going out.

i read a friend of a friend's essay on tumbleweeds. i get defeated sometimes when i read other people's writing, or when i listen to other people's bands. i always think, why can't i do that? why can't i be published? why can't i tour? and when i feel defeated, i tell my friends, "i feel defeated," but i don't use those actual words. they tell me not to worry about it, that what i do is good, and that i should just stick with it. something has to happen. and my other friend tells me things like he can't really take someone seriously if that person doesn't have a loose screw in his head. for some reason, this makes me feel better. if anything, i believe that i have a loose screw in my head, and that i am different from most people.

it is this thought that makes things worthwhile.