Minutes (San Francisco)

July 24, 2009

• Two 9th Grade girls sat on the bus, reading St. Exupery, each with a large box of cereal in their open backpacks. One was distracted, looked outside, and called to the other, who was sitting a few seats away. “Look, there’s Jade Café! Have you ever been to Jade Café?” “I’ve been the one in New York.” “Oh this makes me so happy. We should take a picture. We should take a picture of me in front of the café.” “We’re on the bus.” “But we should take a picture in front of my café.” “Your café?” “Yes, I’m Jade and this is my café.” Pantomiming. A long pause. “Can I offer you a baked potato!”

Minutes (San Francisco)

July 21, 2009

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• On the bus, towards the back, a young man with a beard exploded with sudden excitement. He pulled out his notebook—college-lined—and searched for a pen. Not finding one, he turned to the people next to him and pleaded for a pen. With pen in hand, the bearded boy started to write, quickly filling up 3 pages of his notebook. Upon completion, he went back through the piece slowly, ready to make editorial changes. The piece was a story—fiction likely—written in rage, or at least an annoyed tone. The main character was a man on a powder blue Vespa with a matching hat, and he was summarily described as “the gayest guy ever.” He “whizzed about town” on a “scooter that would have gotten him pummeled years ago” all the while thinking that “I am going to get so laid tonight.” All the plot turns were not apparent from the seat behind the writer, but it was apparent that Vespa guy thinks he’s better than the rest of us. As the boy went through the story looking for things to change, he only made one change. He changed the sentence “I am going to get so laid tonight” to “I am going to so get laid tonight.”

Minutes (San Francisco)

July 14, 2009

• On the bus, two women sat across from each other and discussed cats. One asked the other if she had ever encountered a cat named “Pumpkin, over on 10th Street.” The other replied that she hadn’t. The first continued, “Yeah, sometimes he just jumps out of the window onto the street, just to say ‘hello.’ He doesn’t jump on me in a bad way; he does it in a good way. Like peaches fall off the tree at the end of the summer. You know. He’s a big fat orange cat, so I call him ‘Pumpkin.’ I don’t know what his real name is. He’s Pumpkin!”

• A man on the bus made the other man try his pen, claiming that it’s the smoothest write he’ll ever have. The second man tried to blame the bumpiness of the bus for the lack of enthusiasm.

• Three guys at the café sat around and spoke of obesity. It was all quite solemn, even the story of the one, who is a resident in a local hospital, of an obese woman who came in, and as he lifted a fold of her fat to help her disrobe found her remote control.

Minutes (San Francisco)

July 10, 2009

 

 

  • At the halfway house at the top of the hill, one recovering who smoked turned to another recovering who smoked, gestured to a third recovering who smoked by himself on the bench in a prostate position with both his hands and arms converging and draped over the crease of his crotch with the cigarette hanging in his mouth and said, “doesn’t he make so much more sense as a tranny?”
  • A gentleman held the door open to an office building for a co-worker who happened to arrive at the same time as him. She looked at him coyly and said “No suit today?” He replied, pleased with himself, “I didn’t know you’d be in at work today.” Secret smiles were had before the elevator.
  • As a man in the wheelchair tried to get off the bus and the ramp of the bus was lowered and the hydraulics of the bus exhaled and the bus kneeled while traffic waited a passenger on the phone said to his quiet mistress “Don’t the handicapped have their own mini-buses for this?”
  • On the 1980’s BBC version of Sherlock Holmes last night, Holmes surprised everyone by falling for a woman named “Irene.”

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  • Last night appears to have been bulk trash night, and the neighbors complied. Someone went around with a can of spraypaint and graffitied all of the garbage. He made art out of old mattresses, and gallerists of garbagemen in orange.
  • Outside the halfway house at the top of the hill, that looks like it belongs in New Orleans but has a name from New England, a fight is brewing where the residents congregate to smoke at all times of the day. Two men are too-close face-wise, and a group of smokers are huddled about them. One says to the other: “I can close my eyes and fuck you in the ass.” He squints. “Yeah, that’s it. I’m taking it in there. And there’s nothing you can do. I’m fucking you in the ass in my head. And you love it.”
  • An older couple approached a young man sitting on a step reading. The old man asked the young man if he was a student. The young man said yes. The old man asked him from which country he hailed. He replied that he was American. The old man, confused, said that he appeared so European with his book and his slight facial hair.
  • A young man was scared away from a flop-house in the Tenderloin, when a man outside with two teeth yelled to him as he was about to walk in: “They’s bed-bugs in there.” As the young man walked away quickly, the teeth yelled after him: “Bedbugs!”

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  • A small man with a small dog and a large sweater-a fleece really-stands as number one in line at the coffee stall, telling all the kids affectionately about his employees in Hong Kong.
  • A large homeless man sits along the wall of the strip club “Touch the Magic” and watches people as they go into the “T & A Café” next door. With his large sloping back along the bent crumbling wall, it is not entirely clear who is holding up who. His shirt is pulled up onto his face like a cattle rustler, or a criminal, creating an airtight seal around his stink. His eyes, which are all you can see, move quickly at the passerbyes, suspicious that they want to steal his stench.
  • A girl boarding the bus for an early morning nursing program is told by the bus-driver that she didn’t put enough money in the till. She looks confused. He points to a calendar he has above his window in his fantasy cubicle to show her that the date is July 1. She doesn’t understand. He points to a flyer beside it which announces new fares starting July 1. She responds that she too could make a flyer at home, and that doesn’t prove anything. She proceeds to her seat a quarter richer.
  • Two strangers who met on the bus find that they have topaz in common. One explains that she used to sell her topaz all along the west coast, but Monterey and Santa Cruz are the only locations she can recall. He explains that he used to be the biggest topaz distributor in the Midwest. He put his kids through college on topaz. She is wearing mismatched shoes. He mourns that he foolishly thought that topaz would never fade.

VICTOR

June 23, 2009

 

Aaron’s uncle Victor had moved to Texas in the seventies to finish his dissertation in a place without winters. Harvard had thoroughly robbed him of his belief in greatness, and he thought he could write something significant if his surroundings were more temperate. By the time that Victor settled in Texas, he was confident about this fact. And though he rarely read, much less wrote, his dissertation, he thought often of doing so often.

Victor met Gerry in the seventies, and they quickly conformed to common-law standards. The plan was not to stay in Texas, or rather to stay not in Texas, so the vehicle was not to put down roots. Victor and Gerry bought a mobile home and forewent the acquisition and interest of equity. Victor was struck one day when his mailman paraphrased Einstein’s thoughts on compound interest.

AARON (pt. 2)

June 22, 2009

The day before Aaron flew, his uncle died. His uncle had been dying for a decade, and everyone already thought he was dead. When Aaron received the call, he agreed. When he realized that they meant that he had died today, he was shocked. But not for the same reason they were shocked. They sent their condolences and asked him to write the obituary.

“Oh, I’m not really good at public speaking. Especially in public”

“No. Not the eulogy. The obituary, for the paper.”

“Oh. Do you know if he served in the Army?” Aaron asked thinking of what to put in the middle.

He didn’t.

The average obituary was 5 sentences, and Aaron had the first and last written in his mind. But what did he do in the middle, he thought? Aaron stood in the airport practicing, writing obituaries for every bald man that walked past. From pictures, he knew that his uncle was bald and he thought that a bald man would have a different second sentence than a man with hair. How could it be otherwise? The man coming out of the bathroom: credited with having come up with the idea of placing billboards on benches, Arnie always thought of new places to hide his messages. His friends called him “Mr. Idea.” The man underlining passages in a soft-bound Bible: before being reborn, Peter was the first person to put a new spin on the art of self-portrait in two centuries by adding just the tip of his erect penis into the busts. His art retrospective included chalk outlines of faded empires. The man who insisted on three seats of buffer zone: his one true love in life was his childhood band, The Tender & The Vulnerable. Aaron created a backup to this exercise, in case he ever found himself in the bar, midway and too far into this story about writing obituaries for living traveling bald men, forgetting where it lead. In this instance he would say that he was writing haikus on those who walked past, rather than an obituary. He once wrote a eulogy for a man who was still alive, and no one understood. A haiku, he thought, would be more defensible.

He wondered if anyone in Smook, Texas would notice if his uncle’s obituary were in the form of a haiku. I bet they clap when they count syllables, Aaron thought. He pictured the diner where he was told the cowboys used to hang out clapping as they read the death notices. He wondered if he could justify himself by adding that that’s what his uncle would have wanted.

Aaron decided to write the obituary on the plane over Texas, or the midland, because that’s what his uncle would have wanted. He secretly hoped that a pretty girl would sit beside him on the plane, because he wouldn’t judge a pretty girl as harshly. If the pretty girl sat next to him, he would get drunk on five-dollar gin and tonics, he decided. He would mention the funeral at the second drink, and receive free drinks and lovely shoulder strokes thereafter. The aging stewardesses would smile when he showed them his license, remarking how young he looked. Apparently, at 64 he would still look like he were 12, or by the stewardesses calculations 24. They thought this attractive. He thought this repulsive.

The pretty girl did not sit beside Aaron, so he spent the flight fighting for the middle armrest. Long ago he had come to the conclusion that it belonged to him. He forgot the logic employed, but the entitlement had taken root. He rubbed his arm against that of his fellow traveler and conquered the shared armrest. The man wasn’t bald, but Aaron wrote his obituary nonetheless. He wrote it in the soduku boxes, presuming that the man had served his country courageously, bravely in war and courageous in peace, and left it in the in-flight magazine for the next passenger to make sense of.

Aaron had a plan for when he arrived in Texas. He planned to cover his discomfort with sweat, remark often about the heat and humidity, and take frequent showers at the motel. This cycle, he thought, would always ensure small talk and an exit strategy. He also played with the possibility of taking advantage of the afternoon nap during times of grief. Though he had little to do in Texas, they would understand the notion of sorrow engendering sleep. It was natural.

At the airport, Aaron’s uncle’s common-law wife waited all day.

(crossposted at http://urbesque.blogspot.com/)

AARON

June 19, 2009

Every time that Aaron walked into an airport, he thought that he’d have stories to tell. The lines of the building always curved in a way that seemed extraordinary, if not meaningful.

With so much space with which to extend, there must have been a reason to restrain the building in this arc. It was always the same—parking lot to a tunnel of sorts, to an escalator, to a transparent gate of windows.

After being cleared by security, Aaron’s gait became more confident.

Through the endless windows, the distance could always be seen, at least three quarters of a mile’s worth. The distance was just enough to bring the eyes out of focus and force a daydream. It was shaved grass for close to a mile, and then a line of trees. Softwood stood between the airport and an unforgiving wilderness that needed to be flown over. It was a zone of confidence, always visible.

In an airport, Aaron dreamt up stores that he thought magnificent. He had no wild dreams about imminent adventures or anonymous eyes behind indoor sunglasses, but the airport gave him a feeling of dull possibilities. For a moment, Aaron stood in a crowded but expansive corridor and tried to pinpoint the element that put him in this mood.

Everything repeated itself around the corner, and yet he always thought that there was something better beyond. He always thought that they should install a series of concave mirrors along the corridor, so that one could see everything at once. Or was it convex.

Along the corridor, all the food would be delicious, except for the food behind the stands before him. He knew from past experience that it would be greasy, but not salty, and he’d have no place to wash his hands properly.

This seemed like the perfect place to experience déjà vu, and yet it wouldn’t occur. Aaron stepped in the bathroom and it was the same as before, but he knew it was different. There had to be at least one toilet that stood unflushed. The smell necessitated it.

In the newsstand and gift shop, they don’t mind if you browse the racks and read the magazines. But they wrap all the top magazines in cellophane, and they judge you more than at the 7-11. At the airport you get used to the fact that everyone is judging you. Aaron thought of riding the Greyhound, but you pay for that kind of anonymity.

(crossposted at http://urbesque.blogspot.com/)