Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Debts

I pay debts in time,
the only true currency
I have to my name.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Found in Translation - Part 3

There's nothing super-wrong about this, grammar-wise (which is more than I can say for this sentence), but the enterprising individual or individuals who decided to market this gold mine phrase forgot that idioms don't always survive translation.



At first I assumed that "angle" was a misspelling of 'angel', but since I don't know what treating someone "like potato" means (not "a potato", mind you, just "potato"), I'm willing to admit that calling someone your angle means something that I don't know about. Perhaps it is the antithesis of potato.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gifts?

"Naughty" versus "nice"?
Seems Jolly Old St. Nick loves
that works righteousness.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Found in Translation - Part 2 (T-Shirt Edition)

The next best thing to tattooing a foreign language upon your flesh is the less permanent option of wearing a shirt that bears said language. Bonus points if you know what the shirt says.

I'm pretty sure these people had no idea.

But they were usually happy to pose for a picture. Usually.*





These matching shirts read, "Harry Potter Wizard". Trying to connect with another culture via the hit book series, I held up my camera, pointed to their shirts, and said, "Harry Potter!" They did not know what I was talking about. Or if they did, they didn't act like it. Maybe the boy wizard pronounces his name differently in China.



Ah, the Union Jack. A symbol of Britain and a beacon of the English language the world over. Especially in New York.



These girls were nice and wanted to take a picture of/with us. So we returned the compliment. Except we sort of did it because of the taller girl's inspirational shirt, which I could only assume was meant to encourage the next generation of Picassos and Monets.



*It may seem odd that I have a bunch of pictures of Chinese people whom I don't know. It is not strange. In China, and especially when we were in Beijing - during a national holiday - it was not uncommon for people to ask to take our picture. Many of them were tourists themselves, not from big coastal cities and therefore not used to seeing Westerners. My height and Lindsay's blond hair were interesting enough to snap a photo. After a few hours, we became used to this. So it wasn't odd for me to start asking to take photos of people I found interesting. More on this in an upcoming post.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Made It

When have you “made it”?
What constitutes true success?
“Made it” is a myth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Found in Translation - Part 1

Please do not deny the following assumption:

You have at least one friend who has a tattoo of a Chinese and/or other Asian character.

Yes? Yes. Now, it might not just be a character. It might be two. Or it might even have the English "translation" underneath it. Something like honor, or power, or love, or some combination of characters that your friend insists mean harmony or balance or stoic warrior or something.

But does your friend speak or read or even understand Chinese? No, he does not. He just thinks it looks "fierce" on his arm.

I discovered that this phenomenon is not limited to Western culture. It exists in China, too. But not on skin. On t-shirts, mostly. And magnets and some bumper stickers.

When I was in China this fall, I took pictures of these things. I will post them until I run out. They are found in translation. Get it? Because I found them and they are translations? And it's like that movie but the opposite? Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dull

Once upon a time
there was a dull ninja star.
His life was pointless.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"It"

Victor Westbury
never left home without it.
(“It” being his gun.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Puppy

If a tough puppy
fought a lazy older dog,
would the fight be close?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Swim!

As the boat capsized,
Al plunged into the water
hoping he could swim.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Arrowhead

He nibbled all day
until the almond looked like
an old arrowhead.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Potato Prep

A baked potato
requires some preparation.
It's not last-minute.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Pandora Thinks

I've been listening to Pandora a lot lately. The idea behind Pandora is simple:
1. You enter a song or music artist.
2. Pandora creates a playlist filled with songs that share musical qualities with your original selection (based on the Music Genome Project).

It's amazing how predictable my music tastes are. Usually I can spot the connection between two songs - it's not hard to guess that if I like Led Zeppelin I will also like The Who. But sometimes the box (this is what I call Pandora) will throw a curve ball at me (actually I've never called it "the box" until just now). I won't see the connection, but I'll like the song. For instance:

Station - Beastie Boys
Song played - "Tuesday's Gone" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Tell me, what about a New York hip hop act overlaps with a Southern fried rock ballad? Was Pandora broken? Joking?

No. Just underrated. The box looked at my selection and thought, "Hm. A Beastie Boys fan. The Beastie Boys' popularity peaked in the early to mid nineties. People care most about popular music when they are about 12-16 years of age. Compiling concert data from 1991-1996, 83% of the Beastie Boys audience was white and 73% was male. So we're probably looking at a white male who was between the ages of 12 and 16 during 1991-1996. Almost the identical profile of Adam Sandler's demographic. So I'll play something from the soundtrack to the 1996 hit Happy Gilmore. White boy'll love it."

Sniff. Why did Chubbs have to die? Why?!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Live, Love, Death

Some say all po'ems
are about life, love, or death.
What about this one?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crab

The tough little crab
crawled out from under the rock.
A heron ate it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeless PATH

A bum on the PATH!
The homeless know about us.
The jig is up, folks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Genius

Well, you’re no genius.
But I have good news, my friend.
You don’t need to be.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bacon

The whole apartment
reeks with the stench of bacon.
No, turkey bacon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Humor

Can you lose humor
the way an unused muscle
shrivels over time?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Desert Island

Are there any more
Desert islands in the world?
(I think they’re fiction.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Juror

Sit on church-like pews.
Use the free courthouse wifi.
Jury duty time!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rotten

It's not bad to hear,
"Last one in's a rotten egg!"
Until you've smelled one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blinking

What is that blinking?
Over there, on the rooftop.
No! A camera?!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ghost Hunters International: Spreading American Cultural Imperialism to the Dead

Channel surfing has become a dying art, I think. Rarely do I cycle through channels looking for something interesting. I just read the program titles after I press 'guide' on my remote. This is progress, but it comes with a price: it minimizes serendipitous discoveries. I don't really watch something accidentally anymore.

In my living room, anyway.

My bedroom TV doesn't have a cable box. It's just hard-wired to the cable. So the only way to find a show is by surfing through the channels, up and down until I find something interesting.

This is how I recently watched about four minutes of Ghost Hunters International. Apparently this is either a spinoff (like Fraiser) or a new take on the original show (like The Suite Life On Deck), which I think consisted of a group of American ghost hunters hunting ghosts in America. Now they've branched out beyond the borders of the U.S. of A. Who you gonna call? Not somebody without a passport, that's for sure.

The four minutes I caught saw the hunters in a castle in Italy. It was night (because why would a ghost be around during the day?). They had night vision and recording equipment. This is the kind of stuff they would say:

Guy: If there is a presence here, let us know. Make a noise or sound.

Then they would be quiet and listen. After a while, the microphones would pick up some tiny bump or something. And in a 500 year old castle in the middle of the night, what else could that be but a ghost?

This was when I started to suspect the title of the show was misleading. These people were not hunters. They had a bunch of recording stuff and cameras and night vision, but I saw zero traps or weapons of any kind. Hunting? At best they were catch-and-release hunters. And that's generous. They weren't really even trying to catch. They were trying to see or talk. Supernatural bird watchers. Or journalists. (But the interview would make for a pretty boring article. "Are you in here, Mr. Marconi?" asked seventeen times in a row with no response is not exactly a hard-hitting effort from the fourth estate.)

This was almost the end of my time on this channel. But then the show cut to another part of the castle. Two new people were "hunting" the ghost of a girl who had died there. Turns out she had refused to marry a man she did not love, so as punishment her wealthy family encased her in a wall and left her there to die, Cask of Amontillado-style. Intriguing.

So I watched. And this is what they said, almost prayer-like:

Guy: We know you're in here, Louisa.
Girl: We know you died a horrible death. And it wasn't your fault.
Guy: We know your love was so strong that your spirit is still here. Give us a sign, a noise, a sound. Something that tells us you're listening.

No response. It seemed a lost cause.

And then a thought occurred. Maybe these ghost "hunters" are good at their job. Maybe they're experts at finding and communicating with ghosts. Their only sin is stereotypical American ethnocentricity when traveling abroad. Think about it. Why would a ghost girl from 1500s Tuscany UNDERSTAND ENGLISH?!

I pictured her floating in the corner, watching these two imploring in a foreign tongue, longing for some human interaction. And just shaking her head, her arms held aloft. Non capisco! Non capisco! She was probably crying.

Let this be a lesson, non-American ghosts. If you really want to address your unfinished business, sign up for an ESL class.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When?

When will I ever
post anything but haiku?
Only time will tell.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tea and Ice

Tea on a hot day
is about as refreshing
as ice in winter.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ability

Mere ability
means nothing if it is not
coupled with action.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tomato

On the windowsill
a small tomato rotted.
No one would eat it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Popsicle

When it's hot outside,
the best thing a kid can eat
is a Popsicle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Violence

Wouldn’t it be great
if the problems of the world
were solved by violence?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Regrets

For one bright moment
Oscar felt like a young man,
stripped of his regrets.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gone

Summer’s just begun.
But like all summers I've known,
it feels nearly gone.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup

"I'll watch the World Cup,
but I'm not calling it foot-"
"Goal!" (Beat.) "Football rules!"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sheets

Alastor shifted.
The pillow suited him fine,
but the sheets were coarse.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dreamboat! featured in "Inside the Lab"

My improv team Dreamboat! was in a show last month called The Lab. The host team, Tesla, invites a newer team and a more established team to perform. Each team is interviewed before the show. Then, using footage from the show and the interviews, they create a short documentary about the night. The intent is to create a record of the indie improv scene in NY.

Here's the video we're featured in. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Calming Power of Music

I've talked about my trip to L.A. last December, but I didn't touch on how I felt when I arrived. Here's an account of how nervous I was, and how I was able to get over it.

---

I hopped off the plane at LAX. I had dressed in layers, because L.A.'s a desert and it can look warm but get pretty cool at night. So I was wearing a cardigan. Even in the airport I could see that my dream L.A., the L.A. I had built up in my head as this perfect marriage between art and commerce, wasn't meshing with the reality. Plastic women and suntanned guys everywhere. It seemed like everyone was obsessed with fame and excess. I have to say, I wasn't sure I'd fit in.

I jumped in a cab. We drove along for a while, and it felt like it was the first time I'd been to L.A. Sort of for no reason, I looked to my right. There, out the window on a familiar hillside was the Hollywood sign. It was all so crazy. Under the metaphorical shadow of that sign, everyone I saw seemed so famous.

By this time my stomach was in knots. I found myself homesick, which I never am. I was missing everywhere I'd ever lived. New York, Michigan, St. Louis. I'd never felt pressure in any of those places. Now I was feeling way too much pressure. I was so nervous. Then something happened that I wasn't ready for. The taxi man (that's what he called himself; he felt cabbie was demeaning) turned on the radio. And a Jay-Z song was on. On the radio, just like that. A Jay-Z song was on. A Jay-Z song. Was. On.

Well, that's just what I needed to hear. It was my song! The song I listen to whenever I feel stressed or pressured or actually when I just want to hear a good tune. The taxi man must have thought I was crazy: I put my hands up. Hey, they were playing my song! The butterflies in my stomach flew away. I was nodding my head. Moving my hips. (Which was hard to do while seated in the back of a cab.) But I had my hands up. And they were playing my song. I knew it was going to be okay. It felt like all those places I had ever lived in were sort of the same as this new strange place I was in. Sure, it was different, but anywhere I was, I could hear my song. These disparate places were all part of America. Wherever I was when I celebrated my song, it was always one thing: a party in the U.S.A. I'll say it again. A party in the U.S.A.

Well, when I actually got to the Disney offices for the meet and greet, I felt like everyone was looking at me. I imagined they were thinking something like, "Who's that guy with the rockin' tie? He's gotta be from out of town." In retrospect, they were right. Wearing a tie branded me as an outsider. But what could I do? It was hard without my friends around me. This definitely wasn't a New York party. I knew because all I saw were Top-Siders. I guess I never got the memo.

Because of this wardrobe disconnect, my stomach started its old nervous routine. Twisting in knots. To make matters worse, I started thinking about my couch and how nice it would be to just lounge around with Lindsay. I was homesick again. The pressure! I had to meet people and at the same time look competent and interesting. I was so nervous. But the DJ there must have read my mind. Just when I thought I couldn't feel any worse, he dropped my favorite tune! (Which is different from my song. My favorite tune is the one I would pick if I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life.) Yep! A Britney song was on! A Britney song was on. A Britney song was on!

So right there at the mixer, in front of everyone, I put my hands up. They were playing my (other) song! Those pesky butterflies flew away. I was nodding my head, like - yeah - like I was in the cab. And moving my hips like - yeah - like I was in the cab. (But it was easier here, because I was standing.) I wonder what the other people were thinking. But I had my hands up and they were playing my song, so I didn't care what anyone thought. I knew I was going to be okay. It didn't matter that it was an L.A. party. I imagined the same party was going on in New York at the same time. I imagined it spanned the whole country. It was a party in the U.S.A. Yeah! A party in the U.S.A.!

But sometimes that week, when I was alone and driving in my rental car, I felt like just giving up and heading home early. Like hopping on a flight back to my hometown that night. Something stopped me every time, though. Every time. I'd flick through the radio, and guess what? I'd find a DJ playing my song(s)! And I'd feel all right.

Just picture me, alone in my rental car with no one watching. I put my hands up! They're playing my song! The butterflies fly away. Nodding my head like, yeah. Moving my hips like, yeah. I put my hands up! They're playing my song, and I know I'm gonna be okay. Yeah! It's a party in the USA. Yeah, it's a party in the USA!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Christopher Street

Large hooker trannies
Stand guard at Christopher Street.
They frighten me so.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nutrición

“Nutrition Facts” is
“Datos de Nutrición”
south of the border.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deep

Why must I be deep?
Can’t I be shallow sometimes?
I’m not a guru.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pattern

Rain squeezed in cold form
slides down heights of stone and steel.
Bright rays bend hues true.



(Today's haiku was written by my dad. My dad appears courtesy of Interscope Records.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Angels

Are angels women?
Are they men? Are they neither?
Yes, that’s it. Neither.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gap

How wide is the gap
between genius and moron?
I bet it’s not huge.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Puppy

His hand was shaking.
He forced his fingers to close
around the puppy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Case of the Missing Husband

"And we now go to our news desk in Singapore where Christine Tan has more on the..."

Her eyes blinked open. Ross Westgate's smooth English accent continued on the TV as she tried to get her bearings. She was in the living room, on the couch. The lamps were still on. So she had fallen asleep watching TV. CNBC...okay, that was on because of the she had been watching American Greed a few hours ago. (Crazy that these Ponzi schemers always thought they could get away with it.)

She sat up. Something was still bothering her. She squinted at the clock on the cable box display, sleepy eyes focusing. 5:10. In the morning. And then she realized what was wrong.

Her husband wasn't home yet.

Odd. He usually wasn't out this late. 1:30 sometimes, sure. Maybe the odd 2:45. But not 5:15. Not the time that most farmers were already at work. Her mind started to get ahead of her. Flashes of him bleeding somewhere in a ditch (why a ditch? She couldn't picture any ditches anywhere near where they lived) leapt unsummoned into her mind. But wait. There was no need to panic yet. They had a system. He would always text her when he was headed home. There was probably an explanation waiting for her in a heartfelt text. Or barring that, at least a timestamp.

She grabbed her phone. Slid it out of its case - it was off. Ah, that's right. She had it on a timer. It shut off every night just after midnight. She powered it on.

Ross Westgate reported that the European air traffic disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano would cost the EU approximately-

She jammed her thumb into the power button on the remote, shutting him up. The bright phone screen sprang to life. She called up the text message menu. There were two unread messages from him. She wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but played it cautiously. She would wait until she knew for sure.

First text: Staying out. Getting a beer after the show. Will txt when I head home. Love you.

So far, so good. That was at 10:45. Hm. 10:45. The show he was at hadn't started until 11. He must have made plans beforehand. But she had been awake at 10:45. How had she missed it? Maybe the second text would offer insight:

Getting on the train. Love you!

Phew. So he was headed - wait a sec. That timestamp. 2:47 am? Two forty-seven!!? That was two and a half hours ago!

Ohno. Ohno. Ohnoohnoohno.

It's a twenty-minute train ride, she thought. Maybe he's...maybe he's...no, no, no, there's no reason it should have taken him this long. Unless he's dead.

She called his cell. No answer. Of course she hadn't expected one. How could he answer his phone from that ditch? That ditch she had never seen anywhere near Chelsea or downtown Jersey City?

Maybe it wasn't a ditch. Maybe it was the train tracks. People get hit by subway trains several times a year. That must have been what happened. She pulled up the browser on her phone. Found the number she was looking for. Typed it in with shaking hands.

As it rang, she thought ahead to the funeral. Where would she have it? Here, or where their families lived, back in the Midwest? And where would she bury his body? They didn't even have plots. Should they have bought plots? They were too young to think about that, right? I guess not, she thought. You never know when it's going to come. Like a thief in the-

"Port Authority Police," said a tired voice on the other end of the line.

"Um, yes." Her voice was shaky. She realized her face was wet. She realized she was crying. "My husband is missing. He was supposed to be home and he's not."

"Has he been missing for more than twenty-four hours?"

"What? No. But he was supposed to be home and he's-"

"Ma'am, I can't do anything..." - was he yawning? - "until a person has been missing for at least twenty-four-"

"But he's not home." Why did this man not understand?

"Ma'am-"

"Well, have there been reports of anyone dying on the PATH tonight? Did anyone get hit by a train?" Of course that was it. He'd be on the tracks somewhere. Probably reaching out for his phone, bleeding and broken, trying to call her. If, that is, he was still breathing.

"No, ma'am. No reports of anything like that."

"Can you check?"

"There's nothing to check, ma'am." This guy was useless. Was she not conveying the gravity of the situation? A man was in mortal danger!

She hung up. She realized she was standing in the bedroom now; she had been pacing through the apartment the whole time. She tried her husband's phone again. No answer. But his phone wasn't off. It rang for the full number of rings, not just two and then to voicemail. She tried it again. Same.

She felt helpless here. She could do nothing. She grabbed her trench coat. It was time to burn some shoe leather.

No bodies on the sidewalk along the block to the PATH station. That was a good sign. Nor were there any corpses at the turnstiles at the east entrance to the station. She needed to get in. Maybe he had been struck by a train here, when getting out. Or maybe he had just slipped and fallen onto the tracks. The next train could strike him...

She hopped the turnstile, feeling like a juvenile delinquent. But it was excusable, she told herself, because she wasn't riding a train. She was just checking the platform...

...which was empty. Empty of dead or unconscious bodies, anyway. There were people. An odd mix of early morning commuters, stumbling college kids, and the odd bum. After a thorough scan of the platform and both tracks, she emerged up the stairway on the other end of the station. Maybe he was there.

Above ground, the sky had gone from black to a dark blue. The sun was coming up. The sun he would never see again. She pulled out her phone. She'd try him one more time. (Ring.) If only she had known! (Ring.) They could have watched a sunrise together! (Ring.) Had they ever watched a sunrise together? There were so many things- (Rin-

"Hey." He sounded normal! He sounded fine! He sounded alive! He sounded upright and not in a ditch!

"Where are you?" She was flat-out sobbing now. Not on purpose. She couldn't control it.

They met at the traffic light halfway between the two entrances and hugged like they hadn't seen each other in weeks and she thought of that picture of the Times Square sailor kissing his girl on V-J Day or whenever it was and she felt like that girl.

It turned out that he sent his first text at 12:45, not 10:45, and his second text at 4:47, not 2:47. For some reason, the genius computers at Verizon decided it would be a good idea to timestamp these texts two hours off. Just to keep customers on their toes. Perhaps to remind them not to take loved ones for granted.

They drew the blinds to keep out the rising sun and went to bed, she happy that he was alive and he happy that he wasn't in trouble for staying out until 5:30 in the morning.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cat and Dog

A cat ate a dog.
But the dog was still alive.
It clawed its way out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hooded

The hooded man blinked.
Someone was following him.
“Great,” he thought. “Just great.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Actually, I Wasn't Having a Bad Day...

I stepped out of the pizza place holding my second slice on a paper plate and chewing the crust from my first. Immediately a dude approached and said, "Sorry to bother you. I know you're probably having a bad day. But could you give me a quarter? I need to make a phone call."

He was late 40s, jeans and a t-shirt, not homeless-looking or anything. Still, I didn't buy it.

"I don't buy it," I said. I walked away.

A few questions came to mind as I bit into slice number two. Was he telling the truth? Perhaps he was. Perhaps he truly needed to make a phone call, but he didn't have a cell phone. There were a number of plausible scenarios that could have driven him to ask me for two bits.

Maybe he dropped his phone on the subway tracks and instead of jumping down and trying to retrieve it before the next train came, he wisely decided it was safer to tell the attendant at the booth that he dropped it. Except when he got there, the booth was empty. No problem, he thought, I'll just go above ground and call the MTA from a pay phone. But when this responsible citizen reached the nearest pay phone bank, he fished through his pockets only to find that he was twenty-five cents short. He only had a dime! Undeterred, our intrepid commuter decided to take a page from Blanche DuBois's book; he would depend on the kindness of strangers. This probably hurt his pride a little, but he knew this was no time for emotions to get the better of him. Of course he would be polite. He would put others' feelings ahead of his own and not assume that his misfortunes were worse than whatever they were going through. For all he knew, the next person he asked for a quarter was on the way to a funeral, or had just been fired and didn't know how he would provide for his family now. And he wouldn't judge people if they didn't believe his need was genuine. I probably wouldn't believe it either, he likely told himself as I strolled away, happy with a pocket full of quarters.

Or maybe he had a phone in his pocket, but he had a pre-paid plan and he was only three minutes away from exceeding it. Any minute now he was expecting a phone call from his son-in-law, telling him that the delivery had gone swimmingly and he was a grandfather! He knew that that phone call would eat up his minutes, so he would be unable to call his drinking buddy, Amos, and tell him the good news. Well, good for him. Bad for Amos, because Amos had picked next week as the baby's due date in the office pool, and that meant he would lose upwards of fifty bucks. Oh, to hear the regret in Amos's voice. What satisfaction! He'd finally get Amos back for the time he lost that Superbowl bet. But how could he hear it if he couldn't call Amos? Hence the quarter.

Then again, the quarter might not have had anything to do with telecommunication. Maybe, like me, he had just eaten a slice or two of pizza. The blind date he was meeting in five minutes around the corner at the bar (just drinks, casual) wouldn't like it too much if he spent two hours breathing garlic breath at her. He found the answer, of course, at a deli two doors down: a gumball machine! Only problem was he only had credit cards on him, no cash at all (why hadn't he gone to the ATM?). He couldn't ask the clerk to change a bill he didn't have. He'd have to beg for money. But he couldn't tell the truth - that would seem weird. He decided a little white lie couldn't hurt. Enter pizza-munching Steve, a man who surely could spare a quarter. Here was a way to turn an evening of garlic words into a night of passion-fruit flavored passion. Except I kept walking.

But probably he wanted money because he was just 25 cents away from a cool fifth of Mad Dog 20/20.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bear/Pear

A bear met a pear
while lumbering down the road.
He ate it at once.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Smart

People are too smart.
The educated elite
is a thing long past.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pavement

What’s funnier than
a cute baby bird lying
dead on the pavement?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Frost

Frost turned to wet dew.
The boys could still smell burnt flesh,
though the field slept now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

30 Rock - The Elite

The link at the bottom of this post will lead you to the 30 Rock script I submitted to this fellowship.

I wrote it last spring, so the characters and story are consistent with the end of last season. Note that this is a "spec" script, short for speculative. Essentially this means I wasn't hired to write it. (And no, it wasn't purchased or produced - I wrote it as a writing sample.)

I love the show and it was a blast to spec. Now to pick one for this year...


30 Rock - The Elite

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seasons

Good thing seasons change.
People are very fickle.
We’d get bored quickly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

ELR Fan Mail #5

I wish I could put this strange encounter behind me, but journalistic integrity compels me to post the following letter.


Dear Esoteric Literary POSER [sic],

I can't believe you posted a semi-dramatized version of the verbal beat-up I administered to you last week. (I say 'beat-up' because everyone else would say 'beat-down', and I am different from and therefore better than everyone else.) Actually I can believe you posted it, because you're the biggest poser I've ever met.

Even your faux-obscure blog title reveals how big of a poser you are. Esoteric? No, you poser, you are not esoteric. You wish. You are, in fact, exoteric. Everyone understands your blog because it's run-of-the-mill, just like you are. And anyone who looks at your snaps knows it.

When you think about it (which you won't, because your mind is too mainstream to begin to conceive of things the way I do), I should be the one with an esoteric blog. I am esoteric. And believe me, you poser, when I say that if I had a blog I would post the most random and mind-boggling content you had ever seen. Except you wouldn't see it, because my blog would actually be esoteric, so that only about six people in the entire world would be able to appreciate it. But even they wouldn't read it, because they'd be too real to lower themselves to read something as ubiquitous and pedestrian as a blog. Plus, I'm too busy being deliberately contrarian to ever start a blog (which from now on I will call a 'bleeg'. Only I can use this word).

I don't expect you to write back to this letter and/or post it on your bleeg. But if you do, I bet it will be in the least original way possible, like in a plural third person. As if anyone else but poser you maintains this (un-ironic) joke of a site.

If I were you, I'd kill myself...except I wouldn't, because suicide is so poser...except I would, because I'd be you and you're a poser. Go watch Avatar and drink a Coke, you plebeian.


Authentically,

"Bearded Gaffing Hipster"
(a.k.a. Ripley LaDouche - my real, genuine, unique name)


Dear Mr. LaDouche,

We at Esoteric Literary Reference appreciate all feedback we receive about the site. Thank you for your correspondence!

We don't know how you found the blog. Nor do we know how you found Steve the other day when you were so randomly but purposefully cruel. But we do know that you read the blog, and for that we applaud you!

We're so glad that something we posted resonated with you. We're sure you'll be happy to learn that you're not alone. In fact, we've received hundreds of letters from other people who enjoyed the very same post you enjoyed. After all, that's our goal: connecting on a personal level with as many people as possible.

In our twenty-nine year history, we've discovered that there are certain fundamental truths about the human condition that people need and want to see displayed and uncovered in various artistic media over and over again. The post you connected with spoke to the need for individual identity within the context of a conforming society. Pressure to be like everyone else in our socio-economic circles can be overwhelming at times, but it's important to strike a balance between maintaining our selfhood and retreating from culture entirely.

Hopefully the post gave you some food for thought, LaDouche.

Try not to suck all the time,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.
(Steve)


P.S. - You used the word 'bleeg'. We don't know what that means.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Drug Store

I have owned a skateboard for about two years. It is styled by the manufacturer as a mini-longboard, which basically means it has big wheels like a longboard but it's short. This skateboard is a handy mode of transportation around my neighborhood. I use it to go to the store, the post office, and anywhere nearby. It's faster than walking. This is the reason I use it.

I do not use it for recreation. I no more consider myself a skateboarder than a casual cyclist considers himself Lance Armstrong or a mom in a Volvo considers herself [insert name of famous NASCAR driver here].

I suppose that's why I was so surprised the other day by the tongue-lashing I received from a stranger on my way to the drug store.

Here's the scene:

I'm walking to the Duane Reade in my neighborhood, carrying my mini-longboard. (I have been skateboarding, but feel like walking for the last block.) As I approach Starbucks, I spot a Bearded Hipster holding a standard longboard. Comes up to about his waist. He is heavyset and has a backpack with a roll of red gaffer tape hanging from it.

I approach and overtake him. I think about complimenting his board, but decide against it; he probably doesn't want to be bothered. Then he spots me.


Bearded Gaffing Hipster: Nice toy.

I turn, smiling. He's looking at my skateboard.

Bearded Gaffing Hipster: Do you know how to ride it or do you need someone to give you lessons?

Note: His tone indicates that he is not altruistically offering to give me lessons; rather he is mocking me because he (correctly) assumes based on my choice of skateboard that I am but a boarding dilettante.

Me: Yeah, actually, I don't know how to ride it.

(Laughing. Ha-ha, self-deprecating.) I turn and keep walking. He shuffles faster and catches up to me. Then he says something like:

Bearded Gaffing Hipster:
I see you have your snaps all done like a poser.

Me: I don't know what that means.

Bearded Gaffing Hipster: Of course you don't.

(And I still don't.) We walk side by side.

Me: Why are you being a jerk, man?

Bearded Gaffing Hipster: Oh, I'm like this to everybody. It's nothing personal.

Me: (emphatic) No. It is personal. You're a person and I'm a person. It's personal.

Bearded Gaffing Hipster: Oo, are we gonna throw down?

I reach Duane Reade and head to the door. Now a double stroller and a short woman (mom or nanny?) stand between us. I shout over the stroller and woman.

Me: You don't have to be a [redacted] to everybody!

Bearded Gaffing Hipster:
Yes, I do!

I enter Duane Reade alone and without closure.


This happened. I make up a bunch of stuff, but this anecdote is not one of those things. I still toss and turn at night, wrestling with one question: why? Why did he choose to berate me so? I felt like a kicked puppy, the victim of senseless random violence, guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (And of being cute/carrying a skateboard.)

I wonder where the Bearded Gaffing Hipster is now? Probably verbally assaulting a little old lady because she doesn't realize her Cadillac "still has the lame factory rims". What a poser she surely is.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Focus

My eye can focus
because my brain tells it to.
How can I do that?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fightin' Hemingway

The phone rang sharply.
Hemingway jumped to his feet,
ready for a fight.

Speaking, like, with authority?

Language is easily butchered, my friends. Try not to be caught holding the knife.

Check it out.

(Link unabashedly stolen from this great blog.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ladybug

The ladybug inched
down the see-saw’s peeling paint.
It was feeling tired.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monosyllabic

There is only one
monosyllabic state name.
Can you guess which? ______.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Saints We Trust

How about that Super Bowl on Sunday, huh? I found this article about what the Saints' win means for the city of New Orleans and thought I'd repost it here. Enjoy!

IN SAINTS WE TRUST

NEW ORLEANS - It seems Mardi Gras has come early this year. Shouts of "Who dat?" echoed through the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter Sunday night as throngs of euphoric fans celebrated the Saints' win over the Indianapolis Colts in the former's first Super Bowl appearance ever. The triumph was remarkable for the underdog Saints, but even more so for the city they call home.

"It's a miracle!" shouted Ray White, a lifetime resident of the Big Easy's Bucktown neighborhood. "Put this one down in the record books. No, forget the record books. Put this one into Scripture!"

White's opinion of the historic win was shared by many revelers on Bourbon Street.

"This wasn't just a football game," explained Allison Higgins between sips from a three-foot beer flute. "This was the rebirth of a city." Higgins, who moved from New Orleans after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and was in town to watch the game with relatives, says the Saints winning the Super Bowl will solve every one of the Crescent City's problems, which many had considered insurmountable until about the middle of the 2009-2010 NFL season.

"I heard the entire city just up and elevated itself. Literally. Nothing - and I'm talking not even Lake Pontchartrain - is lower than fifteen feet above sea level now." After high-fiving a nearby homeless man, she added, "The Saints have done it! Who dat?!"

The win also seems to have relieved racial tension in the Big Easy, a city long plagued by prejudice. "I used to dislike me some black people for no reason other than the fact that they different than me," admits 78 year-old Carl LeFranc, a self-described 'cau-Cajun'. "But when I saw them white folk playing the football with them black folk, it set me to thinking. If they all can work together to win them a sports competition, then it necessarily follows that the City of Nawlins has been cleansed of all her myriad afflictions."

Falling in step with the rest of the city, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans announced plans to ask the Pope to canonize Saints quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton. "Archbishop Aymond has written to his Holiness urging him to expedite the canonization process," reported the Rt. Rev. Paul Kafkin, the Archdiocese's public relations chair.

"Normally you have to wait until a candidate has been dead for five years, but I can't imagine the Holy See wouldn't overrule that," Kafkin mused as he finished spray-painting over the words 'Louis' and 'Cathedral' on the sign in front of historic Saint Louis Cathedral, then adding an 's' to the remaining 'Saint'. "I mean, c'mon. It already says 'Saints' on their uniforms. It feels like we're halfway there."

Even residents of the Ninth Ward, a section of New Orleans all but leveled by 2005's flooding, expressed unbridled optimism. Leroy Johnson, 53, who lost his house, dog, tractor, wife, and ice cream truck in the floods, says he thinks the Super Bowl win will magically cause his neighborhood to be rebuilt. "I heard 'Touchdown Saints!' when I was listening to the game on my transistor radio, which incidentally was the only one of my possessions or relatives to survive Katrina," recounts Johnson. "And right then and there I knew: I'm getting my life back."

The enthusiasm wasn't limited to the Mississippi Delta; it spread at least as far as Washington. President Obama issued a statement minutes after time expired on the Super Bowl game clock. "I offer my congratulations to the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Region on this thrilling night," the statement read. "The way this football team took a struggling city, elevated it onto its shoulders, and made it the greatest urban confluence in modern memory is inspiring to cities worldwide. My fervent hope is that next year the Nationals will rise up and win the Pennant for the District of Columbia. That'll finally sort out this health care mess."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Static?

In the wintertime
static electricity
leaps from my fingers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fingertip

My fingertip skin
gets rough when I play guitar.
It’s not permanent.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Mouse and the Alphabet

Recently I was a finalist for the 2010 Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellowship. This was awesome. I didn’t get it. This was less awesome. But as the poet said:

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

By the same logic, it’s better for me to have been a finalist and not received the fellowship than never to have been a finalist at all. So here are a few good things to come out of the experience, my favorite failure to date:

Reconnecting. The semi-final round required me to list references. Between that and contacting a few friends to ask for advice, I necessarily renewed some relationships. And since I had to go to L.A. for the final round interviews and it was too cold to sleep in my rental car, I got to take advantage of a friend’s air mattress. If I hadn’t gone out to L.A., who knows if I’d have ever connected with that air mattress?

Confidence.
Like many writers I know, I oscillate constantly between feeling like I’m the best (!) writer (!) ever (!) and the stupidest idiot ever to stupid idiot. Fortunately neither feeling is correct. But achieving a modicum of success helps validate my passion for this Sisyphean quest I’ve dubbed a career. Especially for my supporters. And detractors. (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are. Bill. Gates.)

In N Out.
The best burgers anywhere are at this privately owned regional chain. No restaurants farther away from their meat processing plant than it takes for a supply truck to drive in a day. I’ve been to L.A. three times, but I sort of pretend like I’m an In N Out expert. I was shown that this is not the case when I tried to order what the guy in front of me ordered. They were fries with stuff on them. I assumed what they were and said, “Chili fries, please.” The girl said, “What?” And I said, “Those things.” “You mean Animal Fries.” “Yes. Of course that’s what I meant.” Then, to prove I was not some uninitiated rube, I ordered an “Animal Coke”, which does not exist and was therefore not served to me. But I’m pretty sure she figured I was a regular.

A complete rainbow. It was raining when I landed in sunny Los Angeles, but by the time I had rented my car and driven for a while, the clouds began to part. Usually I see only one side of a rainbow, but here was a full arc, rising amid short buildings and plunging down toward the bottom of some Hollywood foothills. Later I was told this wasn’t light refracting through vapor producing a full color spectrum, but that it was actually an experimental hyper-real trailer for James Cameron’s follow-up to Avatar, apparently designed specifically to blow no one else’s mind but mine. (Plot’s being kept under wraps.)

Introspection. The fellowship staff members who interviewed me really pushed me to talk about how I’m unique and how that uniqueness translates into my writing. Like delicious snowflakes, each of us is unique. But I think writers sometimes have a tendency to downplay our specific points of view in our work, which can’t be good. Which character is more memorable: Indiana Jones, who was based upon George Lucas’s adventuring archaeologist uncle*; or Jar-Jar Binks, who was completely fabricated during a bar bet by George Lucas’s drunk adventuring archaeologist uncle**?

Don’t have to spend this year away from Lindsay. I didn’t mention that part before. Yep, fellows have to live in L.A. Which I would have done, of course, but Lindsay’s job wouldn’t allow her to move there with me. It would have been hard. Sort of like college, when we lived five hours apart. But worse, because it would be on the other side of the country, not the other side of Illinois (Purdue to Iowa - essentially a drive through the Land of Lincoln). Also we’re married, not dating. That's different. We've become accustomed to a life together. If we suddenly had to live alone, there'd be some challenges. Who would remind me to shave? Who would reach things on high shelves for Lindsay? How long would it take her to go through our family-sized tube of toothpaste all by herself? (Buy in bulk, the salesman told me. It will pay off in the long run, the salesman told me. What's the worst that can happen? he asked. If only he knew how close we came to a crusty-capped toothpaste surplus!)

Reminded me that I’m not in control. When I have any type of success I find it all too easy to ascribe the credit solely to my effort. After all, I wrote a script that got me to the final round. I did the work, right? Maybe. But I couldn’t have done the work unless I had the ability to do the work. And I didn’t give myself that ability. In case I forgot that, the waiting time after the interviews and before I found out the results reminded me. I had no control over what happened at that point. It was completely out of my hands. Was it God's way of saying, "Not so fast, genius. You're not calling the shots here"? I'm not sure. But it worked.

So it seems I’m supposed to stay in New York*** for now. Which has a few upsides of its own...



* Untrue.
** Patently untrue.
*** Close enough.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Skin

My skin shows its age.
I can only imagine
how my insides look.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tea

Frank finished his tea
even though he was certain
it had been poisoned.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ELR Fan Mail #4

I don’t know why I’m publishing this one, but...

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

That’s six (6) haiku in a row. Uninterrupted by any other posts about anything. And may we also point out that the last non-haiku post was our letter on the subject of haiku? We’re just saying.

Loving your haiku blog,
The Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language


Dear SHPEL,

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

Will you never relent?

Hoping,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.
(Steve)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Caffeine

Can you overdose
(I mean overdose and die)
on too much caffeine?