Rigor Mortis


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I wake up to the shrills of a 95-year old leather faced woman audibly weeping, tears being shed over the untimely death of her eldest grandchild. Heroin took another one, unfairly and unjustly. She’s surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, people she’s never met, people she’s known for decades, people she’ll never see again. I learn she raised this boy, the one whose picture is propped up on an end table in a tacky, pharmacy purchased gold frame. His eyes look sad, mismatching his grin that exposes yellow crooked teeth.

I had nodded off, slumping over slightly on an uncomfortable folding chair situated in the back of the floral scented room dotted with tissue boxes. As I try to sit up, in order to shake the drowsiness, my thin sweater gets caught on an exposed splinter, pulling me back in. I can’t sleep for shit these days but I’m calm here at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home, at ease. Everyone talks about popping Melatonin at night to cure sleeplessness, haven’t they heard of whiskey? I try to swiftly free myself from the hold of the splinter by whisking my arm forward, which only forces a thread to unravel as I am released, resulting in a small yet visible hole. Fucker.

No one has taken notice to me here. No one ever notices me at these things. Perpetually invisible. I float in and out of the deepest, most despairing moments of these people’s lives, just as the ghosts of these former tangible beings do, whose corpses are rolled out in wooden and metal boxes after being dampened by tears. I soak it all in for pleasure, learn their stories and fill in the blanks when needed since I can only figure out so much via eavesdropping. I create games, to keep it all interesting, fresh, new: what shade of foundation did they use to create that awful orange, thick texture on their sunken in cheeks, Neutrogena 05 or 08? Did they glue the lips together this time or sew them shut, in order to properly achieve that deceitful purse? Duping the audience into believing that this poor soul died donning a smile.

This has all become an obsession. I fiend for it like an addict – the sadness, the woe, the lost wails: “Why me! Why me!” – although a gripping sense of need assumingly less severe than what this dead boy before me felt during his darkest days, a need he fulfilled, leading him to his untimely death, to his jugular being slashed, to his body being dumped free of blood and the foreign poisons that brought him here tonight.

I feel something as I internally mull over the life story I gladly created for him, a twinge of sadness, perhaps? I don’t typically feel what is supposedly coded in “our” DNA, I defy human nature, asking myself everyday why do I get to stay when all of these interesting people must leave? I’m numb, usually, but when I’m here I feel something.

I’ve had my fill, I conclude, I’m replenished for now. As I make my way through the darkly clothed bodies I force a smile, commanding my eyes to express sorrow and my deepest sympathies at those who try to place me. I tuck a St. Christopher bookmark into my back pocket that has Matthew DiContello’s name etched in script on the backside with the years of his life printed underneath (March 7, 1984- November 1, 2011). It’ll be added to my shoebox stash once I return home, my trophies. I sign my name in the log as I always do, Chloe Clemente.

I walk down 7th Avenue greeted by the crisp cool air of November. The breeze stings, I never dress warmly enough in the fall. The smog of the passing taxis cakes over the scent of professionally arranged bouquets that lingers in my sinuses.

I begin to list in my head, one by one, all those whom I’ve lost to addiction. I can’t seem to find an end to the tally quickly enough. It continues for three more blocks, only to be paused by the neon lights of Pinkberry. I go in because I have to – my life is controlled by needs, wants, desires – and I order up a cup of frozen yogurt with cocoa pebbles. I hand over my VIP card full of holes, a new punch brings me one step closer to scoring a freebie.

I allow my brain to freeze as I inhale my dinner and walk the rest of the way home. The FroYo increases my chill, causing me to shiver and clutch my arms pleading for warmth. I think of what’s on deck. I think of tomorrow. I dread work but yearn for the fresh faces to fill the obituary section of the New York Times website in the morning. The new articles and black and white photographs, depicting happier moments, will wash over those that were there yesterday, sending them away. Not only are they dead but now they’re yesterday’s news. I’ll choose carefully, reading each one once, maybe five times, in order to properly select which funeral home I’ll be spending my evening inside tomorrow night, who’s lost life I’ll mourn along with those that loved them once.

As I scour the latest deaths, my attention is always first caught by the artists’ obituaries, igniting my imagination as I envision my own – “Chloe Clemente: street artist, photographer, poetic writer” – but sometimes I stray towards the more interesting stories instead or, like tonight, drug related deaths. On an adventurous day I’ll coolly honor a high profile obit, just so I can provide myself with a challenge later on when I’ll be told my name must be on “the list” in order to gain entry into this exclusive ceremony. I’ll test my talent for deceit, lie my way into the room as I cry on command, pushing moisture from my tear ducts, in order to catch a glimpse of the famous stiff limbs, freshly deceased.

Selecting only one obituary out of the group, one wake to attend, isn’t easy but it’s a must. I never visit two funeral homes in one day. Two cases are far too much research, too much of getting to know someone just to have to let them go as you retreat from their life’s celebration. I like to at least provide that much respect, dedicating my day to one sole and one sole only, basking in their listed hobbies or previous professions like jazz or French cinema that I’ll discover by Googling their name or looking up an old Facebook page.

The next morning it’s raining. The drops of cool water aimlessly fall from the sky, darkening Manhattan’s mood and lighting mine. I press a pot of Stumptown coffee and hurry to my laptop, refreshing NYTimes.com. New faces, mostly old, sparsely young, pop up as the page loads: a painter, architect, lawyer, doctor, supermarket clerk, politician, student, teacher, appraiser, used bookseller, dancer, model. New York City. America. Eclectic tastes, varied existences, everyone unique, no two alike. These stories intrigue me everyday without fail, complete my thirst for a well-rounded idea of how people are supposed to exist.

Each person, every individual gets his or her fair turn. I devote my attention to all the obituaries, reading every word, never scanning, never skipping. I reread the painter’s obituary, the dancer’s, the model’s, but ultimately find myself returning to Jack Hower: used car salesman, beloved husband, father, and grandfather. So plain, so simple, so intriguing. Born and raised in Queens, haven’t visited there for some time.

I follow my typical routine, making sure he’s right for me, and browse the Internet for some goods, for some additional information and insight into this man’s life. There are a few articles that arise, catching my eye, mostly from local newspapers. He’s a good Samaritan, as so it may seem, having once served as a volunteer fireman and rescuing children from a burning apartment building. You don’t see this simplicity anymore: an average Joe who religiously visited the town tavern religiously, every weeknight, who road a hog with his buddies every Saturday in the summer and who came home to a feast of pot roast prepared with love by his stay at home wife. I hit print with each new discovery, tucking the pages into a yellow folder that I label Jack Hower. I scribble down the funeral home’s address and I stuff it into my back pocket for advisement later.

The red line takes me to work where I man the register and answer the most unimaginable, most unpredictable questions and please for advice at at Purple Passion in Chelsea, my best friend Jo’s S&M shop. She sells anything you could possibly desire, including the generic goods like pet costumes, whips, chains, bondage, you name it, she’s got it. People are into weird shit, and lucky for me, I like stories, so I soak it all in. She let me take on hours when I was fired from my old gig for being an unpredictable now show. She also allows me to leave when needed in order to satisfy my needs, she’s aware of my obsession and supports it, clearly she advocates obsessing over the inexplicable.

I knock on the tinted door and am buzzed in. It is necessary, as enforced by law, to keep the place locked at all times, monitoring those who wish to come in in order to keep out the youngins. I must admit, the best part about this gig is when UPS comes in. If a resident of the apartment complex next door isn’t home, the delivery person will leave their package with us for safekeeping. A note is tapped to their door, instructing them to pick up their package at Purple Passion. It never gets old, the moment they waltz inside, thinking to themselves, “I live in Chelsea, I’ve seen it all,” only to have their eyes unconsciously bug out of their head as they take notice to the extra thick dildos, leather leashes, plastic muzzles, and spiked whips they must pass to get to the counter.

I fill Jo in on today’s Queens based selection and further inform her of the others who passed away. She listens, trying to recall if she recognizes any names of the deceased, she doesn’t. People stroll about the store with coffees, some comfortable with their surroundings, some embarrassed. Some come in half naked, some wear hats, sunglasses, hoods, some arrive in head to toe leather, some come in pastel sundresses. Everyone likes it some way, their way. Everyone’s different and everyone has a freak inside, whether they let it fly or not is their prerogative but everyone wants to experiment sexually and only few are privileged enough to have the confidence to ask or boldness to demand it. There’s something for everyone, outlets everywhere.

These days I surround myself with Jo and her friends who are frequent customers. I find myself not have many people of my own recently and have discovered I fit in better with the creatures of the night, those I never dared to associate with until recently. When my mother passed away I went into darkness, into despair, shutting myself out from old high school friends and those I’ve met along the way. They just didn’t do it for me anymore.

As I catch the reflection of my tattoo off the top of a solid gold anal bead, which rests like crown jewels in the glass case below me, I’m reminded of the night I had it done, the night I discovered my mother lifeless and laying on her back, skin blue after choking on her own vomit. The tattoo is taken straight from one of my favorite books, a drawing of a tombstone with the phrase Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt etched within.

I buzz a man into the store, he reminds me of the unassuming type Jack was. It causes me to create short X-rated blips of Jack in my mind, imagining the blow jobs he sure paid for and hand jobs he got in secrecy under the town tavern’s bar top as ZZ Top blared and 8 balls were hit.

Time has come for Queens, for Jack, for my relief, my refresh, my calmness, my serenity. I escape the bondage and ride the blue line for what seems like forever. Knowing what’s to come makes it bearable. I brought my folder along for the ride, to review the material and bask in his wholesomeness. The funeral home is smack in the middle of a wide, dilapidated street. Bums huddle under an overpass in order to keep dry only to be dampened by the tires spit water at them as they speed past. The moist street causes steam to rise off the pavement, as the evening turns warm in the strangest way.

A fire truck roars outside the funeral home. Jack’s buddies cheer and shout his name before entering in unity and forcing a solemn demeanor, which I’m sure is hard after six or eight pints.

I walk inside and clasp my hands together, squeezing them tightly for comfort, which causes my knuckles to turn white. My adrenaline arrives like a freight train, my heart pumps blood rapidly throughout my body, reaching the tip of my toes with a fierce and unexpected arrival. Nerves, joy, despair, sadness for life, excitement for death, all intertwined, indistinguishable. I inch closer toward the amber carpeted room that fake nailed women and rough looking men trickle out of, instantly smelling the freshly cut flowers and butterscotch candies.

I turn sharply with anticipation, searching, quickly finding his cherry wood casket. My eyes follow the smooth lid trimmed with silver until I arrive at his mustachioed face, skin a bit grey, a bit white, from too much powder, one shade too light for his complexion. His blazer is pinned with medals and flags and pictures of Jack are hung throughout the room. The smell of alcohol penetrates, those with red faces and wet cheeks are the culprits.

There they are, the family: Donna, the wife, Jack Jr., the son, Kelly, and Rebecca, the grandchildren. I smile to those I pass and take a seat in a folding chair in the back of the room, my secure cockpit that allows me to survey the room, dot my I’s and cross my T’s, as I complete the life story of Jack Hower: used car salesman, volunteer firefighter, beloved husband, father, and grandfather. I close my eyes and allow it all to sink in, allow my calmness to enter, peace to penetrate, and I slowly drift off into a starless space.

The Crossing Guard

Every morning he waves his blindingly-neon arm to each and every vehicle that passes by; a hectic motion that tired eyes dreamingly read as spray paint or spin art. He chats with each and every on-foot pedestrian and pats the top of each and every small child’s head as he guides them safely across the street like a hometown hero. Robust, jolly, friendly, eccentric, charismatic, helpful, cheerful, full of life, full of stories, full of waves. Where does all this joy come from? Is it authentic?

It has been a decade and a half since he last ushered me to the other side of Washington Street. The neighboring avenues collectively bask in a presidential theme, even the town’s public schools. What gives this community the right to be so damn American? I recall asking the crossing guard my inquiry one morning. It was hot that day and he wore only a simple yellow sash across his front. I always found myself glancing to where the sash gathered a bit at the top of his swollen belly, leaving a damp spot beneath it. He pondered a bit after my query as we strolled toward the school and said, “I’ll get back to you young man,” but never did.

Today I am parked across the street, sitting in my beat up ’84 Oldsmobile, a car a year older than I am and still running just fine for reasoning unbeknownst to any mechanic. This is a place I’ve been parked times before, yesterday, in fact. I roll my window down a crack and strain to listen to his high-pitched, gleeful chatter with a small child and her attractive mother.

The crossing guard has become an enigmatic character in my life; a staple, an obsession, a constant state of ponder cemented in my mind. I long to decode the mystery that looms above his head like a heavy smog. He’s a sideshow – a freak of happiness. I never in my entire existence saw him have a bad day. Never have I once seen him without a smile. Doesn’t it get old? Don’t your fucking cheeks hurt? They have to rest at some point, and so I sit here as often as I can and hope to catch the moment where his happiness dissipates and laughter vanishes. I started to look for it, anticipating the said moment as a kid and here I am, fifteen years later, still waiting, still watching.

I know his everyday routine at this point. He religiously entertains a daily visit to the grocery store, where I used to man the register in high school and where I obsessed over the fact that he purchases the exact same god damn items at the exact god damn time. He buys a Kaiser roll from the bakery (keyboard code 533), four slices of liverwurst, a single slice of tomato that he gets for free from the deli (“No charge,” he’ll say no matter how many times you’ve heard it before), a jar of pickles, ten cans of cat food (yes, ten), a banana (keyboard code 4011), a ham and cheese Lunchables, three cans of grape soda, and an air freshener. He buys a fucking air freshener every day, those foul smelling tree shaped ones. No matter the day, no matter the weather, at 4:10PM on the dot he comes to the grocery store.

I recall one day at work in particular. We were out of air fresheners (because he bought them all) and seeing the empty rack in aisle six caused him to have a serious fit. I mean you should have fucking seen it – he lost his shit. It was what I could only assume was a debilitating panic attack, so much so that it didn’t seize until some shmuck of a customer retrieved an air freshener from their car and gave it to him.

He lives only a few streets away from me on McKinley Avenue in a carriage house behind the home where his mother used to live. She died ten years ago when I was 16. I saw him the next day at the grocery store, buying the same disgusting shit, and he was still smiling. Aren’t you sad motherfucker? I wanted to ask, but didn’t. The house is set far enough back in the distance where it’s nearly impossible to sneak a peek inside. The porch light remains on at all times, usually illuminating his rusty brown Chevy that has piles of old clothes, magazines, and a home radiator in its backseat. I slowly drive by on my way home from my bartending shift every night at 2AM to have a look, and he’s usually up with all of the lights on – doing what, I have no idea.

If he’s not at his post as a crossing guard, or dawdling around the grocery store, or stuffing his fat face with a burger at Wendy’s (he dines there late night; I’ve seen him many a time when satisfying a beer-munchies craving), he’s at a church, or a temple, or a mass, or a synagogue, or a chapel, or any formalized religious gathering of worship he can get his greedy little paws on. So I’ve followed him a bit. It’s been years of here and there, a once in awhile venture, but yes, I’ll admit, I’ve followed him. I’ve sat in the rear of a few religious buildings, seated in a folding chair or in a pew or kneeling or whatever it all may require (it’s very confusing for me to follow, having not grown up religious family or ever really formally educated on religion, but I do my best to blend in) watching him, puzzled, trying to determine why he feels the need to pray so often. What awful incident would spark the need for so much worship?

So between the smiles and the air fresheners and the indistinguishable religion and constant prayer, I am baffled. I sit here today, Tuesday, and know he’s off to the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately following his trip to the grocery store and after he sits in the driver’s side of his filthy Chevy and devours his single slice of tomato like a rat eating a large, dirty crumb, followed by each individual slice of liverwurst, the Kaiser roll, and the jar of pickles in its entirety. If you thought he bought all of those items to make a sandwich, you were gravely incorrect.

Yesterday, I was fired from my job. Right out of high school, and after leaving my job at the grocery store, I became a full time bartender at the local pub. After eight years of never missing a singly shift but perhaps having one too many shots of Jameson on the sly, they asked me to leave when they caught me on a security camera passed out and asleep behind the bar, telling me I “have a problem.” Maybe so, but today I “have time” and am accompanied by my hazardous friend, Jameson, as I anticipate the crossing guard’s afternoon shift to be complete. I wait for him to walk that final child across the street that will be coming from afterschool band practice, lugging their trumpet or trombone.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ gatherings are long and dull. They last well into the night, which prompts the aforementioned late snack at Wendy’s. Investigation is a possibility tonight. I have a solid window of time allowing me to browse, snoop, and hopefully unveil something that will put my mind at ease and put this maddening fascination to rest. It’s getting colder now so the sun goes down early. His house is set back near the woods. No one will see, no one will hear, no one will know. I’ll walk from my house, with my ear buds in, pretending like I’m going for a stroll. I need to learn of the part of his life I cannot see, the existence I cannot follow. I need to understand the complete world of the crossing guard.

It’s  6:30PM.  He’s  well  into  the  first  half  of  the  Jehovah’s Witness meeting by now, presumably on his third or fourth jelly donut and coffee. A night a few months back, when I sat restlessly in the back row, I watched disgustedly as he devoured six large round balls of dough stuffed with strawberry jelly, letting globs of red goo drop onto his shirt without a care.

I exit my house inconspicuously. It’s quite dark out, only streetlights provide illumination. The air is eerily moist with fog, restricting distant vision but blending me in with the indistinguishable gloom. I realize the tip of my cigarette is creating a floating amber orb so I flick it to the street and resume my invisibility.

I reach his corner and my heart begins to pound, I feel it beating at my breastplate like a raging bull anxious to escape. I slip down the driveway toward the carriage house trying to appear unconcerned, like I’m going for a visit or checking up on his ten cats.

I go for it, breath, and go for it. I try the doorknob and jiggle it with no success. I never thought that gaining entry would pose as a problem; everyone in this town leaves their doors unlocked, including me. I sure won’t be doing so after tonight. The side of the house has a window that is open just a crack. This time I scope out my surroundings; is anybody looking? The fog is still set on the town like a cozy white blanket – if I can’t see them, they can’t see me, right? I slip through the gap in the screen and am immediately smacked in the face with a vicious odor as I drop down to the floor, head first. The floor comes earlier than expected and the darkness makes it difficult to see why. The surface I hit doesn’t seem sturdy enough to stand on; it’s not a table? I catch my balance and come to a seated position as I grab my phone to provide light, which it does, and I am horrified by the sight. I pull my t-shirt above my nose and try desperately not to breathe in too deeply, if at all. The stench is overwhelming. I am standing upon one large pile of garbage, presumably three feet high. A small, narrow pathway is a mere few steps ahead, but I have to crawl on top of the magazines, newspapers, soda cans, Wendy’s bags, and cat food in order to get there. I slide down, sending an unsteady pile of mess to tumble with me. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I expect this. I take photos with my phone to capture and remember this sight, hoping the flash will help discover things I cannot see or don’t want to see in this very moment.

I walk toward the next room. Given the small size of the home, the kitchen comes quickly. I gag as I cross over into the deranged area where the stove is hardly visible. Floor to ceiling garbage, mold, scum, bugs, fungus, soot, muck, grunge, dirt, filth, nasty, disgusting, repulsive. From the ceiling hangs hundreds upon hundreds of air fresheners, all different colors, all different scents. My eyes divert in revulsion to the center of the floor where a stained mattress rests with jars and wrappers but no sheets upon it.

I am unable to breathe; there is no clean oxygen left in this hellhole, not even with the window slightly open. I have to get out, I shouldn’t have come, this was a mistake. Where are the cats? Where are the fucking cats? I see the cans of food, the ten cans a day that accumulated into pyramids of tinned kitty chow, but I don’t see or hear the felines. A brutal feeling of claustrophobia and a wave of nausea sets in due to the sights and smells before me, grips my entire body, and doesn’t let up. I nearly tumble as I struggle toward the exit. I can’t crawl over the garbage toward the window again. I can’t touch it without losing my shit.

The door, the door, let me just get to the door. I light a path with my phone and hear a crunch beneath my feet but don’t dare look down. The door, the door, the door, I’m almost there. I extend my arm and reach for the handle, home free, escape, but instead the door swings open toward me. There he stands, his round body still and backlit by the looming haze as his eyes bled with rage – no smile, no joy, no happiness, no laugh, no wave – just pure and undeniable fury. I open my mouth to explain but he forces me backwards with a strong blow to the chest. I lose my balance and fall back into the filth and sink into a pile of grime. I helplessly rest there as he hovers over me with boiling madness and closes the door behind him.

Kristen Bell: The Ryan Gosling of Talk Shows

It was a normal workday for me. There I was, at some mundane coffee shop typing away on my latest writing assignment as I sipped on an extra small iced coffee simply to gain privilege to the establishment’s sacred Wi-Fi connection, when my life was interrupted and forever altered. The email was no different than the other half dozen or so silly exchanges a day between my friends and I, a simple link accompanied by a self explanatory “LOL.” I plugged in my ear buds, relieving me of the obnoxious sounds of nearby latte slurpers, and was whisked swiftly into bliss as I clicked on the highlighted link. After only a mere few moments of watching, a smile permeated my face and I squealed as I watched the clip of Kristen Bell’s appearance on The Ellen Show that I’m sure you’ve all seen by now. The video depicts her hilarious birthday meltdown after being alerted that a sloth would be attending her party. Pre and post the interview she went on to vividly describe her true love for this furry creature and in addition, captivated me with an oddly amazing explanation of her various emotional levels. As soon as the clip ended I had to replay it, nosey café onlookers were gazing at me with cocked brows as my shoulders shook and tears welled up from laughter. And that was it, from that moment on I was in love with Kristen Bell.

 

Of course I enjoyed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, who didn’t? But somewhere along the way I missed the Kristen Bell bandwagon, presumably since I skipped over the popular series, Veronica Mars. She regrettably lived under my radar all these years. After Ellen, I vowed to never let KBell (yeah, we’re on those terms now) slip through the cracks again. Just yesterday, still sitting in a mundane coffee shop, still sipping the cheapest drink on the menu, I was reminded of this vow when I was alerted that a fresh new talk show clip was posted onto YouTube (they know me so well). There she was again, that silly little KBell, a few weeks later reminding me of her obscenely on point storytelling skills. After viewing the latest clip of her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, I relished in roughly an hour long montage, in review of some of my favorite talk show appearances that I had discovered post-Ellen (plus a bonus auto-tuned version of the Ellen meltdown, amazeballs!), all of which mostly occurred earlier this year during a press tour for her film, Big Miracle and Showtime show, House of Lies. I then realized something that should have been so obvious to me a month ago: Kristen Bell is the Ryan Gosling of talk show interviews – funny, charming and a tugger of heart-strings.

 

With a nod to Ellen, I would like to bring light to various other anecdotes and facts that I’ve learned about KBell these past weeks during her astonishing tales of hilarity and super cute reporting on her current obsessions, which include, but are not limited to, The Hunger Games, Jersey Shore, and doggies (who she refers to as ‘little idiots,’ gah!).

 

  • KBell is a Dog Magnet. I was informed of this during my second favorite interview of the bunch. On 2/1/12 KBell visited Chelsea Lately where she spoke on her magic ability to attracht dogs, a magnetic pull, if you will. This lure occurs so often that she carries treats and a leash in her car at all times in the event she finds another stray (how cute!). She then dove head first into a story involving a recent red-eye flight. The entire cabin was sleeping and out of the blue a puppy came prancing down the aisle towards a very awake KBell. She scooped up to the pup only to find another doggie bouncing after him! She snuggled with the pups, or “little idiots,” as she tried to find their rightful owner. She soon discovers this was none other than A-Rod himself, who she refers to as “Mr. Rod,” and further surmises that he unleashed the cute furballs in order to lure her in for some lady love.

 

  • KBell is a Dance Machine. During her 2/6/12 appearance on Conan, KBell provided the world with a very informative dance lesson, commanding the audience to “peep this” as she accurately performed such moves as “the stewardess” and “the baker,” promising she always portrays a character of some sort while on the dance floor. On another topic, she went on to describe the world of man butts and their two distinct categories: cupcakes or flapjack buns.

 

  • KBell Turns Water Into Wine. Lady Bell continues to display her talent for accepting a small key phrase from talk show hosts and in turn launching into a full feature tale of silliness. This week, on Jimmy Kimmel, KBell basked in sharing two separate occasions where her fiancé, Dax Shephard, challenged a fellow guest at a party to a who-has-the-prettier-feet challenge. Dax, of course, won (why wouldn’t he, he is certainly delicious, as KBell accurately proclaims). She further shares that she hooked Dax into partaking in her obsession for The Hunger Games series by reading all three books allowed to him (imagine Gossip Girl reading Hunger Games to you?! As if!).

 

 

If you’re still not sold, look no further than the videos themselves. If you don’t agree with the fact that Kristen Bell is the cutest thing, well, ever, than I feel you may not have a soul. Disagreeing with me would speak the same as if you were to say, “I do not like dogs.” Nevertheless, next time you see a weird girl crouched over her laptop in your local Starbucks with an itty bitty beverage, shoulders shaking as she snorts and nods along to her computer screen, come and keep me company, would ya? 

 

 

Moon, Or: How You Learned To Stop Worrying

 

You wonder whenever you look up at the twinkling canvas, how is it possible that the moon doesn’t just burst through the sky and fall into your lap, interrupting your seemingly perfect evening. You wonder this each time it’s voluptuous, full, each time you look up and happen to catch a glimpse. It never fails to sweep away your attention like the violent rumble of a passing train.

 

You wonder this now and you think this is it: tonight you are going to touch its fierce craters and greet its star shaped friends. But you are wrong, as usual, you soon discover you’re still living in the same world, with the same name, same friends, same family, no moon in your lap, no new flickering pals to discuss the impending weather and plunging economy. From this you realize how suddenly people begin to chip off – flake by flake – as you get older. Where this thought comes from, you’re not certain, but it weighs down on you and sinks you beneath the algae stained coral, towards the earth’s core.

 

Where do they go when they’re gone? Once they flake off. Up in the sky? Are they among the star shaped friends, being stored for later use? When they’re gone, even though you can’t see them, do they continue on with their own lives or do they sit still, quietly, patiently, waiting for your return, waiting for your rescue? You’re sure they only come out on nights like these, nights when the sky eats at your attention and swallows your soul.

 

You wonder why it’s so early in life that you feel as if you’re all alone, alone so permanently. Is this destiny in play? They’re all alone, you think, as you recall last Christmas, last Thanksgiving. They seemed happy. Hell, you thought you were happy up until tonight, this night, when you suddenly only saw a blank sky, no moon, no stars. Happiness was a mirage, a distant memory.

 

You wonder why it had to happen like this. You were busy searching the sky, asking it why, of all nights, do you have to be masked by fog? Buried by heaps of thick grey. Your attention was grabbed by this hunt, mind occupied by this haunting inquiry, and it caused this, brought you here where you now lay. The car raced to shrills of an action film’s soundtrack. Everything went blank in an instant. You woke up to a flash, to a forced calmness, a state attempted by those hovering over you but no one achieved. Your mind strays now as you wonder if there’s a class for this: how to keep cool in high-pressure situations. You’re sure there is and you decide to enroll.

 

But back to the present, back to the lingering moon, the waiting stars. Can you feel it? How about now? Can you feel the loneliness permeate? It’s sucking you in like a strong current amidst the worst hurricane this season has yet to see. You hear them shout, “Stay with us!” but you can’t seem to grasp the concept, you can’t see a reason to.

 

A white light slowly dilates your pupils. You’re still here, still holding on. You have a few more minutes, to decide, to debate, to make an announcement, by way of breath, if you’ll continue to drift around unnoticed, unwanted, or you’ll sail up towards the canvas and meet your new star shaped friends.

 

Your mind strays again. Did you feed her? Change her water before you left? You chuckle to envision how pissed she would be if her dinner wasn’t served at exactly 5:00 p.m. You wonder if she recognizes the time on the glowing green clock on the oven’s door, the shape of the 4 and its counter parts counting closer towards the inevitable s-shaped 5, alerting hunger pains and sounding howls to ensure all are aware of what this moment means.

 

You remember the day you thought you had to let her go, send her away in peace, and you couldn’t bear it. It was the worst day of your life, one only those who have lived through can empathize with. You remember taking her home, for her last night, and sitting outside for hours, letting her smell the air and feel the crispness of the beginning of winter for the very last time. You remember noticing the clear sky, thinking that’s where she’ll be, another constellation, another helper in lighting your way through the darkness of night. You were okay with that, devastated, but okay.

 

The morning came and you couldn’t believe your eyes: a recovery. You wondered if that was what miracles were, what people prayed for. You think you remembered praying, but you weren’t quite sure if you had done it right, since it was your first time in a long time. The ifs, maybes, and wonders of the world had helped you through that night and the sun shined on her that morning. The doctor couldn’t believe his ears when you called, he was excited for you but shrunk your hope by promising it won’t last. It’s okay, you thought, I’m ready now.

 

Your head shifts on the pavement, drops of cools rain bring you back to the present, to your “situation.” You’re being taken somewhere else, transported with the accompaniment of loud, blaring sounds. The rain has gone but the blank sky remains, the color shifts from blue to red, and your eyes flutter as your body gives it its best shot, its last shot.

 

You can almost hear her, you know she’s frantic by now, she always worries at night when the schedule flops a bit. When you’re running behind you can always feel her relief as your key clicks in the door. Separation anxiety, much? It’s time to go outside, she thinks, waiting for the schedule to commence. Bed will follow, where she’ll watch as you drift off to the sounds of your favorite television show or classic black and white film. She’ll patiently wait for the following day, when we do it all again.

 

You are erupted with sadness as you realize her devastation when it won’t be you that walks in tonight, when it’s someone else who will don a solemn face, explaining to her in a language she doesn’t understand, that she must relocate, go elsewhere. How long would she last after that? Her world would be broken, life shattered, and it would be your fault. You let her down by letting go.

 

You feel an overwhelming blast of energy from those surrounding you. The calmness has shifted into something much greater, much more volatile. You try to bring yourself swiftly to present, but the memories become too good, along with the promise of better places and warmer days. You feel yourself being pulled toward that magnificence. Peace is near, it rests in the air amidst the noises – the beeps, the bells, the shouts, the pleas.

 

You are halfway here and halfway there, nowhere to go but one way or the other. It’s as confusing as it sounds and suddenly you can’t differentiate which way authentic, tangible happiness lives.

 

You see orange in place of the black, in place of the red, in place of the blue. It reminds you of her sweater, the one she has the wear during cool nights because of her escalating age and declining blood circulation. You love that sweater, the way it looks on her, crafting her into a small person comfortable in their favorite top.

 

You imagine what later in the evening could be like, when it is time to hop in bed, turn on the television, and drift away. You remember that’s happiness for you, despite what isn’t here yet, despite who has left, and who will never come back. You know she is happiness for you and you are happiness for her. Isn’t that good enough for now? Until her end, and your new beginning? You’ll take it from there, you think. But you’d rather not waste any more time thinking, debating your fate, for it is settled: it is time for you to return, recharge, and get home to return to original scheduled programming. Feeling her relief will erase all of this and you cannot wait. It will be late by the time you get home, you’ll take her outside and perhaps you’ll both catch a glimpse of the waning moon and its fading friends. You’re confident they will have defeated the clouds by then, becoming enigmatically visible despite their struggle to overthrow the incoming sun. You’ll look up and tell them goodbye, for tonight we won’t meet but soon, soon we’ll be together.

 

Marie Calloway’s ‘Adrien Brody’ Identity Revealed ; A Diary of My Obsession

For the past two mornings (early A.M.’s are my mindless-surfing-the-internet- allowance, in order to get it out of my system before the writing day before me) I’ve been completely obsessed with catching up on the Marie Calloway mini-literary phenomenon.

Morning 1: I Benjamin Buttoned my way through this take over, first by reading Tao Lin’s 2028-word response to ‘shit talking’ he posted on his blog. I followed by working my way backwards through the ‘timeline’ he provided, my last stop being Marie Calloway’s ‘Adrien Brody’, published on Muumuu House.  Unlike ‘shit talkers,’ I found the story to be intriguing, engulfing, relatable and fascinating. Hence the developing obsession.

Throughout the day that followed ‘Morning 1,’ I found myself reflecting back on ‘Adrien Brody’ and Calloway’s writing in general. I found myself frustrated with the ‘shit talkers’ and those vomiting out terms like ‘anti-feminist,’ or ‘feminist’ for that matter, after scrolling through responses on the NY Observer and Gawker article. Further clicks and searches lead me to various literary sites and I wondered why fellow bloggers, of higher stature, felt compelled to dissect something so simple and direct and honest. It continued to haunt me, especially the line “It’s like, how much can you really care about and respect other people when you’re cheating on your girlfriend with me?” and the fact that their connection truly only lasted one day, despite the culmination of emotion. This feeling, the fear of losing something that is always lost, always terrifies me, no matter how hard you try to hold on to it. I recall the recent regret of breaking the marathon of time spent together, and knowing deep down inside that it would never be the same as this very moment.

Morning 2: Stephen Elliott sent out another Daily Rumpus email re: Marie Calloway, reminding me of the prior day’s fixation. He stated in the email “The real ‘Adrien Brody’ is apparently easily recognizable to people who know him.” I clicked back to Muumuu House and began to reread ‘Adrien Brody,’ aggressively, cutting and pasting keywords and anecdotes in order to reveal the identity of the awkward, bald, cheating blogger, referred to here as, ‘Adrien Brody.’ I had a few immediate ideas, based on writers I know or have met, considering the words  ‘pornography,’ ‘Queens,’ and ’40yrold,’ but other components of the story would cancel out my immediate suspects. This was only a job for Google.

The following leads to my discovery, from start to finish:

Google: writer blog pornography postautonomia marxism

Google: writer blog pornography marxism

Google: brooklyn writer marxist

Browse n+1 contributors

Click male n+1 contributors with initials A.B.

Google: blog ‘richard yates review’ marxist

Browse vol1brooklyn.com

Click through vol1brooklyn.com contributors

Google: malcolm harris

Browse http://nplusonemag.com/category/harris-malcolm/

Google: blog “malcolm harris”

Click http://open.salon.com/blog/malh

Back Button, Click http://shareable.net/users/mpharris

Browse shareable.net contributors

Back Button, Click http://bigjournalism.com/tag/malcolm-harris/

Back Button, Click http://gawker.com/malcolm-harris/

Click http://thenewinquiry.com/

Browse contributors of The New Inquiry. Found an awkward bald man. Click http://thenewinquiry.com/tagged/R._Horning

Try to verify:

Google: rob horning university of maryland

Google: rob horning blog

Click http://www.popmatters.com/pm/archive/contributor/68

Google: rob horning richard yates review

Click http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/134640 — Semi-verified

Google: rob horning spinoza

Find ultimate verification: http://postautonomia.wordpress.com :: “postautonomia | “What is Post/Autonomia Today?” Conference: Amsterdam May 19 – 22, 2011 Rob Horning, ‘Marginal Utility’, ‘The New Inquiry’, New York <Social Media as Social Factory: The personal brand as the neoliberal self”

ADRIEN BRODY = ROB HORNING

Horning seems fitting. I now am satisfied.

 

May Happenings Roundup

                                          “Seattle Snooze” by Caitlin Colford

-Photos from Seattle taken with my Rebel SLR, Flood Zone Polaroids, etc.

-My One-Sentence Story published over at MonkeyBicycle

“Untitled”
The wind settled, she fixed her hair, smoothing down the wiry strays, and Leanie waved her first goodbye for the last time.

-My Huffington Post Interview with Ryan Phillippe and other cast members from The Bang Bang Club

-An interview with Jon Raymond (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy & Lucy) over at The Rumpus

-Vote for my video pitch for next year’s Tribeca Film Festival!
<a href="“Life Is An Obituary”

Broom of the Freedom: A David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen Friendship

Originally published on the Huffington Post

Broom of the System vs. Freedom

David Foster Wallace once said, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a human being,” a notion he followed so meticulously while accurately portraying the human condition, through endless dialogue and tangent stories, within the pages of Broom of the System. Twenty years later Jonathan Franzen did the very same within the pages of Freedom, but this time in using lyrical sentences and flushed out character depictions, sharing the journey of a modern family, with all their quirks, scars, and demons far and in between.

David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen have been friends since the early onset of their careers. Pen palls for the duration, their letters have been published and studied by fans and literary aficionados. Post Broom of the System, Wallace wrote to Franzen from a halfway house in the early 90’s describing what a toll his depression has taken on his writing, rendering him useless. He shares his pain honestly, “Right now, I am a pathetic and very confused young man, a failed writer at 28 who is so jealous, so sickly searingly envious of you … and any young man who is right now producing pages with which he can live, and even approving them off some base clause of conviction about the enterprise’s meaning and end.”

Both Franzen and Wallace used up buckets of ink and callused their fingertips describing the pain and anguish that came hand in hand with being a writer, trying to distinguish some underlying significance. “Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.” Franzen wrote in his essay collection How to Be Alone

One aspect the two prided themselves on was truly being able to lock out the nagging world that surrounded them when they wrote, diving deep in to the diverse lyricism of their words — they urge there is simply no other way to write. Whether they knew it or not, through this process, in turn their feelings and philosophical outlooks pour through their main characters within their fictionalized novels, namely Freedom and Broom of the System.

Reading both novels (Freedom first, followed by Broom of the System), which are similar in length, for the first time this year, I was able to form an indistinguishable bond with their main characters, Lenore and Patty. I noticed how these two women were both so heart wrenchingly lonely that they had the ability within themselves to do anything they could to feel alive. While tearing through Broom‘s pages, and going back for a reread of Freedom, I recognized immense similarities between, not only the main characters, but their counterparts as well. I soon thereafter realized that while reading Broom I pictured Patty for Lenore, Walter for Rick, and Katz for Lang, the three main characters were interchangeable.

Lenore vs. Patty

Although disparate, stylistically, I couldn’t help but visualize the same characteristics, mannerisms, and looks for Franzen’s Patty while reading Wallace’s Lenore. Lenore Beadsmen and Patty Berglund are both lost within themselves, living amongst mere idiots in their Midwestern hometowns. There’s a pain that sits so far down inside them that not even their own arm is long enough to reach in to pull it out. They know it’s there, but are clueless as to just what this feeling is and how they should go about diminishing it. Lenore and Patty have a terrible time making sense of reality when fantasy has so much more of a meaning to them. Wallace claimed the idea for Broom sprung from something an ex-girfriend said to him, “…she said that she would rather be a character in a piece of fiction than a real person. I got to wondering just what the difference was.” Now isn’t that just how Lenore and Patty feel?

Both are stuck with “the safe bet,” their significant others, Rick and Walter. They ignite when they are introduced to passion, someone they can fall wrongfully fall in love with, Lang and Katz.

Rick vs. Walter

As accurately depicted by Ryan Gosling’s character in Blue Valentine, “…girls get to a place where they just kind of pick the best option… ‘Oh he’s got a good job.’ I mean they spend their whole life looking for Prince Charming and then they marry the guy who’s got a good job and is going to stick around.” Rick Vigurous and Walter Berglund are the guys with good jobs who are going to stick around. We watch both characters go through a midlife crisis, they cheat on their significant other, the women that they are desperately in love with, and in result this turns them in to enraged lunatics. They loose their minds; Rick handcuffs Lenore in the middle of a large body of water, Walter isolates himself in his Minnesota cabin.

In Freedom Walter says, “You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”

Wang Dang Lang vs. Katz

Prince Charming. The escape. The passion. The carefree bad guy you love and the one you shouldn’t be with. These are the men that both make women intensely, drastically, and unusually happy yet drive them completely batshit crazy.

A line within Broom of the System reads “Words and a book and a belief that the world is words…” Wallace was on his way to discovering something even more profound than those thoughts he had already shared with us. If it isn’t evident enough through the aforementioned comparisons, I can’t help but think Franzen may pick up where Wallace left off, guiding us writers, and the rest of the world, towards a deeper, more philosophical meaning of life by way of characters we can’t help but relate to.

In a New York Times article on the memorial service of David Foster Wallace, Franzen shares that the two did indeed come to a conclusion to a meaning they sought after for so long, “Mr. Franzen said he and Mr. Wallace, over years of letters and conversations about the ethical role of the novelist, had come to the joint conclusion that the purpose of writing fiction was “a way out of loneliness.”